Saturday, January 31, 2009

Miyako Konbu

Konbu snack, how are you so delicious?

Konbu is a type of kelp commonly used to make soup stock in Japan. When it's cut into thin strips, pickled and salted, it somehow turns into this delicious tangy sweet sour snack that I randomly bought because I liked the package and am now obsessed with.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

51 links

Is there something you're looking forward to?

Let's make paper chains! It was Whitney's idea.

I cut the strips for my chain from fashion magazines. I love it!

Days until Tokyo.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Kajo Park in Yamagata

Wandered into Kajo Park last night at dusk. The castle just kind of gave me the creeps.

Thousands of crows in the trees.

I made friends!

But they creeped me out, too.


For once I made myself turn around before it got dark. Who knows what kind of ghostly weirdos hang around empty castles at night, prowling for young girls to eat?

On the way out, a cat ran up a tree beside me. I squeaked and it turned and hissed at me. I was like all right, I get it. Then a row of icicles fell beside me as I was heading for the gate. I'm sure I narrowly escaped some ghoulish disaster.


Friday, January 23, 2009

I was born in a small town

Guess what, MEKAS is now totally open to non-subscribers! I'm in heaven. Thank you, MEKAS. Poor kids like good stuff, too.

Moving on, do you think this space under my bed is creepy?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


MEKAS just posted a Complete Guide to Japanese Street Snap Websites. YES! I know a lot of you are street snap junkies like me, and it can be hard to find good blogs/sites, so I had to share. I haven't had a chance to look at any of the links yet, so let me know if you find any super awesome ones.

MEKAS is a professional research/analysis website "examining how manufacturers, financiers, designers, stylists, the media, celebrities, and consumers all come together in the widespread pursuit of style in Japan." It's got fascinating articles and great interviews with important people in fashion-related fields. Sadly, a lot of the content is members-only. I would love a subscription but is it seriously more than $1000 for 12 months? WTF?

Here are some other good MEKAS pieces you can enjoy without a schmubscription:

2008: The Year in Trends
Great overview of the biggest fashion hits in Japan this last year.
Subcultural Crossover for Teenage Girls
...recently, there has been a lot of fluid interaction between three distinct youth female subcultures: the aforementioned artsy-cutie girls, the gyaru, and the goth-loli (gothic lolita).
Report on the latest evolution in gyaruo style. I'm obsessed with gyaru/gyaruo lately. In, you know, a scholarly way.
Tokyo Girls Collection
MEKAS is really into the relationship between "high fashion" and "street fashion" in Japan and how recently street fashion seems to be kicking high fashion's ass -- on the street.

You can also read the BLOG to your heart's content.

Oh, MEKAS. 1K a year? Really? I love you, can't you see that?

[Update: MEKAS is now open to non-subscribers so please note that my bitching is obsolete.]

Monday, January 19, 2009

snow, ice, snow, ice, snow

Man I'm hardcore! You know, FYI, I wasn't made for winter. I hate winter. I've never lived in a snowy place, ever. Where I come from it just rains every day from November to April, and we stay inside until it's over. I'm not even sure how I'm doing this. Must be the parka. I love that thing, it's seriously like putting on a tent.

The other day some furious wind and snow rose up as I was walking home, but I had to buy two pumpkins. I don't know why, I already had one at home, but I couldn't talk myself out of it. I think it was a survival instinct. Like, what if that storm had gone nuts and I'd been snowed in with only one kabocha? No way! So I walked a mile in a blizzard with a pumpkin under each arm. That goes beyond hardcore, that goes toward, toward something greater. Thanks, Yamagata, for showing me all that I can be.

You might be sick of mountain photos, but Yamagata's fuckin pretty! I took this around 7:30AM on Saturday morning, walking home from downtown. I was partied out, man. About 30 minutes later I flooded my kitchen with ramen broth. It was pretty astonishing.

Hope you had a good weekend, too!

Monday, January 12, 2009


I'm in love with this used purse I got. I wish the strap was a tiny bit longer but I can still sling it over my parka and not have to deal with it falling off my shoulder so I love it. I also got this sweater for 400 yen. I'm bad at posing, sorry.

If it seems like all I ever do is shop, that's because it's true. I shop, take walks, drink coffee and study Japanese. I was really enjoying this for two months but sometime last week I suddenly got sick of it. Now I'm so bored in Yamagata I could die. Two months is kind of my limit for the countryside. Tonight I finally gave in and threw myself a tantrum.

This picture of my tantrum is hilarious and cheers me up. Don't worry, I'll figure something out.

You know what I don't mind about Yamagata? The snow!

I was afraid the novelty would wear off quickly but it hasn't. This is my first snowy winter and I don't know if I'll ever have another, so I'm savoring it. Yamagata snow is as light and powdery as dust. It's very pretty and fun to walk in. The wind is painfully cold but I like how it scatters the snow like sand on the beach.

I think I would be a lot more bored without the snow and that's a scary thing to imagine.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I love monkeys!

Yesterday I met a girl named Tomoko for lunch.

She took me to a great soba restaurant. Yamagata is famous for delicious soba and I finally got to have some. It was indeed super delicious. The restaurant owner was so nice and friendly to me and gave us extra sides and free dessert. I love kindly restaurant owners in Japan, they always remind me of how great and generous people can be here to foreigners.

Suddenly, Tomoko suggested we drive to Ginzan Onsen in Obanazawa. It was already afternoon so we wouldn't be able to go into the hot springs without staying for the night, but she just wanted to drive there. That made me really happy. I love spontaneous road trips so much. And I had just given her a mix cd, so we had great music for driving, haha.

Ginzan Onsen is really famous all over Japan. TV dramas and commercials have been filmed there. It's full of old buildings and it's beautiful in the winter. It was very quiet when we got there at dusk, and very cold. Even though we didn't go into the hot springs, we felt so relaxed by the peaceful street, the smell of sulphur and the big clouds of steam rising out of the ashiyu.

To get to this waterfall, we had to cross a narrow, snowy footbridge across the river. It was scary and fun. I was sure if anyone fell in it would be me.

I love onsen, especially in rural Japan. Ginzan Onsen was just as beautiful and charming as everyone says and I'll probably return there soon to actually enter the hot springs.

Here's a real picture of snow monkeys chillin in an onsen in Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan.

It's part of a national park famous for a large population of Japanese Macaques. When the snow monkeys get cold in the winter, they come down and hang out in the hot springs all day, then go back into the forest at night. God that's fucking awesome!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

new blue minidress!

It was on sale, okay?! 1,995 yen ~ $20.

It looks so good with my blue flannel and grey knit tights.

Yeah I clean my room, no those aren't panties on the floor, get off my case!

Anyway, it was a sensible purchase because I can put it over pants and a turtleneck for work and look so sweet and proper, BARF

Monday, January 5, 2009

Glass Candy

This video feels just like life right now.

I couldn't complain, except -- instead of a hot sauntering city, imagine this in snowy Yamagata.

I try not to wait for summer all year, but.

January and February are the hardest of times.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

I Love Matthew McConaughey

Straight to DVD.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy New Year

I take off my snow boots for one night and BLIZZARD!

I took a shinkansen to Tokyo on the 31st to meet Chie for New Year's. Taking the bus to Yamagata Station was a little harrowing.

I played it safe and got to the station a couple hours early. I hadn't slept at all.

I felt so comfortable. Shuffling down Toukamachi with sunglasses on, partied out, headed for coffee, I felt like I lived in Yamagata. I was strung-out and moody and invigorated and stoked at the same time. I think that state of mind is so comfortable. I feel comfortable in it.

I did a bunch of brooding at the station. No answers in that coffee cup.

I tried to sleep on the shinkansen but I couldn't stop thinking. It was awful. There was too much to untangle and I was tired of philosophy.

I finally slept for about an hour. I woke up in Utsunomiya. There was no snow. The crowds of buildings looked bright and warm. Before long I could see Tokyo. The sun was low in the sky and I was so fucking happy to be back in the city.

Chie and I met by Hachiko in front of Shibuya Station. I got there early. I couldn't believe how different Tokyo was from Yamagata. I hadn't thought about it. Suddenly I understood why Japanese people think Yamagata is extreme-countryside. To me, it's still a City, because I'm from rural Oregon. But Tokyo is so unimaginably big and fast and full of things. Compared to Tokyo, I don't know what Yamagata is. I don't really know what anything is.

I was so, so happy to be back in Tokyo.

Chie and I didn't really take any photos, sorry. We were so chill the whole time, and we had the strangest trip. The only typical thing we did was go to Meiji Shrine around midnight to pray for the new year.

After that, we wandered around Shibuya for maybe over an hour, looking for love hotels. We finally found Love Hotel Hill after Chie asked for directions. The guy was so surprised and Chie looked cute and serious as he explained, like a young reporter.

Most of the hotels were full. We found one and paid for the room. It was kind of strange. There was no discretion about the lobby. We passed a few couples under bright flourescent lights.

Our floor. I can't explain this hotel. I really can't. It was surgically lit, and filthy, and busted. Some of the doors had sheets of paper taped to them with the room number scribbled on in permanent marker. There were bundles of sheets stacked and crowded along the hallways.

We went into our room and the smell made us step back. We don't know what it was. Mold, stale sex, asbestos, cigarettes, puke, and something chemical. The cheap blue wallpaper was ripped and peeling in several places. The floor was littered with bits of dust and grime. The bed was a plain futon, dressed in one white, wrinkled sheet, and one white pillow.

Dazed and giggling, we made our way downstairs. Chie got her money back. The clerk was surprised. After we got outside, we were in shock. We felt like we'd seen the lowest place in the world. It left us really shaken up! We were shuddering and shaking our heads as we walked through the maze of love hotels in Shibuya, looking for another room. We must have entered at least 80% of the hotels on Love Hotel Hill. If you ever need reviews, you know who to call.

Finally we got a room in the Hotel Eastern. It wasn't great, but we were happy. We had a huge bag of convenience store snacks and two bottles of Corona. We put on the cute teal-striped hotel nightshirts and collapsed on the bed in front of the cheesy retro smoked/gold-trimmed mirror.

Maybe you can't understand how affected we were by that filthy room. For some reason we were really shaken up. We had never seen a place that Bad. And the idea that we were going to sleep on that bed? And the couples we passed as they were leaving the hotel! We thought about what kind of situation it would be if we were ever having sex in that hotel. We felt so disoriented to have suddenly stumbled into that side of the world. After a lot of head-shaking we both passionately agreed that we would rather have someone pee on our faces than have to sleep on that bed. We drank to this with 100% conviction, so funny in retrospect.

The next day we slept late, then left the hotel and went to Harajuku. We found the best jazz bar in the entire world.

It was a beautiful day, as warm as spring. This bar was up a narrow spiral staircase. We were the only patrons. The owner didn't say much. He just made us perfect iced coffees, read the paper, and regularly changed records. He was an amazing DJ. The bar was so comfortable and perfect. We stayed there for the longest time. It was the greatest New Year's Afternoon I've ever had.

Then Chie realized she forgot her hoodie at the love hotel. BACK TO LOVE HOTEL HILL!

For most of the trip we just relaxed in different places and talked a lot. We were both happy to be able to talk about Portland and people and places we know. I'm incredibly happy that Chie and Aya and I are all moving to Tokyo around the same time. They're the coolest people I know in Japan and they both have incredibly passionate feelings for Oregon, where we met while they were studying at Portland State. It's rare to find people from outside the NW who appreciate how great it is, and I'm so lucky to know two amazing girls in Japan who really, seriously get it. I can't tell you how stoked I am. It's just a totally ideal situation.

It was so weird: throughout the trip, we coincidentally went to three different places that I went with a guy I dated in Tokyo a long time ago. Including the love hotel we stayed in! I felt a little haunted by the past. I started expecting to see him any second.

When I got back to Yamagata last night, I was back in Yamagata.

My New Year's Resolutions
  1. Lose 15 lbs
  2. Date a gyaruo
That's about all I can think of. Number 2 deserves its own entry. Later.

Happy New Year!