Time again to see where I’m at with this year’s goals!

1. Visit a new prefecture (Went to Toyama prefecture last week for another work trip. Even though my sister went to college for awhile there, I had never been.)

2. Finish a crochet project

3. Travel to Saipan

4. Ride the night train across Japan (from Tottori to Yokohama)

5.Cook ten new recipes 

6. Dress up as a maiko (had to do this for work and never would have otherwise)

7. Travel to Sweden

8. Take the lowest level Spanish proficiency test (putting this off as I have work)

9. Attend a non-yoga fitness class (I did a Sawanobori <river walking> day in Miyagi, complete with life vests. I think that counts.)

10. Take a friend to volunteer at the soup kitchen

11. Read 50 new books (41/50; I just finished Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her. Damn that guy can write, reading him is like breathing.)

12. Take at least an amateur class or photo walk to learn to use my DSLR better

13. Write for a new client/publication (Got another new client this month!)

14. Go to 6 shows (been slacking on this! 3/6)

15. Send 12 packages (4/12 Need to up my game here too!)

16. See Takarazuka or similar (I went to see a 舞踊 performance at a playhouse in Kyushu and it was the most cross dressy, vampy, awesome thing ever. Pics to come.)

17. Meet my (adopted) cousin whom I’ve never met

18. Go camping someplace new (Did Miyagi and Chichibu last month.)

19. Spend a night in a Buddhist temple

20. Visit my aunt who got cancer and whom I haven’t since before then

21. Make a cat enclosure in the back yard

22. Figure out why my internet has sucked for four years and get it fixed

23. Find and write about five new restaurants (4/5, did another one this month)

24. Shoot and develop some of the many film rolls languishing around the house

25. Pay off a major bill

Just a few more to go, and only a few more months to do it. 

One of the care workers who came to camp was a 73 year old man everyone called Encho.

Because the kids face different challenges than mainstream kids and the government is responsible for them, at least one representative care worker from each facility came with their group of kids. 

Encho came with a group from Kyushu, where he is the director of five facilities, including infant care facilities. He was placed in my group. 

I loved this dude almost immediately. We first spoke on the train on the way to the camp site. We were sitting together and some of the kids were poking fun, in a good natured way, at a spirited little boy. “Show us your forehead!” they shrieked. “No way!” he shouted. Sometimes they would get in his face and pull his hair back from his face to display a formidable five-head. He didn’t really seem to mind. But Encho said, “No! Stop that! Don’t worry - what a splendid forehead you have.” The little boy, a six year old called “AG,” would take turns pinching his seat mate and making a ruckus. He initiated hand games with me and Encho, to see if we would be good friends. At one point he was pinching and fighting and Encho pulled him in for a hug, to quiet him. AG got quiet for a minute, sat in the hug, then after a minute squirmed away. 

Encho asked me about my work, and when I told him I sometimes worked as a writer for the government, he said, “Is it propaganda?” I told him it probably was. 

Encho found out that I am a vegetarian and told me that, though he eats what’s offered out in the world, he doesn’t eat meat or sugar at home. Encho is a Christian (rare for Japan), but not the pushy kind. He never asked me about my religion or indicated that I should follow his. Later though, tired after dealing with a handful of young, squirmy, energetic kids with minuscule attention spans, he said to me, “They may seem difficult, but God put them here to create love.” That’s something I can get behind. 

Encho and I talked about socialism, about equality, about food for everyone and opportunities for those with less. 

Encho got on his hands and knees and played crab soccer with the kids. Encho hiked for three hours to play in the river before a thunderstorm came. When I told him I hoped to see him next time, he said, “Yes, but I am old. So I don’t know.” 

Encho made me miss my grandpa. He invited me to visit him and the kids at the facility in Kyushu. I hope I can see him again. 

I bought this tub of Oxi Clean in the US and brought it home to use and while I was in the forest for a month N used the whole tub because he thought it was detergent. 

I keep telling him not to do the laundry. He doesn’t listen! I admit I’m a pretty shit housekeeper but I’ve always enjoyed doing laundry. Especially hanging it. The way he does laundry drives me crazy. He pins it up all funky and it gets even more wrinkled and there are always stray socks! Again, I am a crap housekeeper but I like doing laundry, I have my methods, and I don’t lose socks. 

He has plenty of clothes and I do a load at least a couple times a week, so it’s not like he’s running out of underwear or something. I even told him that if he REALLY wants to do the laundry, to please just do his own because if he does mine I just end up with wrinkled shit and mismatched socks. 

My Oxi Clean! That crap is kinda expensive. And hard to find in Japan! Dammit, he can do the dishes all day long for all I care but leave me my laundry! 

Once again, the subway “manners” campaign with its obnoxious ads. I believe the last campaign to have cartoons of bad mannered people who just happen to look like non-Japanese was by Tokyo Metro, and this one is Odakyu, 

  1. Camera: iPhone 4S
  2. Aperture: f/2.4
  3. Exposure: 1/40th
  4. Focal Length: 1mm

Woohoo! I got home from a month in the forest to this sweet package! Thank you my book fairy thenomadsland, you da best. I will think of you when devouring these. xox

  1. Camera: Nikon D5000
  2. Aperture: f/3.8
  3. Exposure: 1/60th
  4. Focal Length: 22mm

Thanks pattyfingersintheholywater for the tag. Five nice things about myself? OK.

1. I’m pretty good in a crisis. I don’t freak out easily. 
2. I’m curious. I’m interested in lots of things, people, places. 
3. I almost never get bored. There’s too much to do/see.
4. I don’t always succeed, but I try to be respectful as much as possible. 
5. I read a lot, and listen to a lot of music, and watch movies, and I’d like to talk to you about them. I try hard not to be an elitist when it comes to that stuff. 

winningintokyo meikoandgabby voyagebound memmoree Five nice things about you!

@memmoree said: showed this to Shu, he is sort of curious about these kinds of things, wonder if adoption practices will ever loosen up and the gov starts thinking about the kids interest rather than their absent parents’ rights

Yes, exactly. The adoption system focuses on the rights of the parent (very strong in Japan) at the expense of the rights of the child. 

Link to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

I wrote a post about this before but tumblr ate it. Trying again.

I’m three weeks into working at a summer camp for kids in children’s homes, aka orphanages, run by a non-profit. The first two weeks were in Miyagi and mostly serve kids in the Tohoku area and the second two weeks are in Chichibu and mostly serve kids from Kanto. 

The kids are, by and large, really awesome. I am actually surprised by how few problems they seem to have, on the surface, adjusting socially. The homes are doing their best to take care of them. 

Still, the situation for kids without parents in Japan is pretty shitty. Human Rights Watch just recently established an office in Japan and the first thing they did was put together a 150 page report on children’s homes in Japan. The accompanying video is attached. 

The stats are pretty bleak for Japanese orphans. They live their whole lives in a controlled environment then at 18 they’re turned out and told to fend for themselves. Most of them won’t go to college. They disproportionately end up in the sex trade and low wage service industry, or organized crime. But the kids that I’ve seen this summer? Are bright, charming, intelligent, and capable, by and large. There have been several sets of twins, and siblings, as well as some kids who have mental issues like autism spectrum or learning disabilities. But most of them are not noticeably different from the kids I have encountered in public schools and eikaiwas. 

pattyfingersintheholywater said: Oh, what was the novel called? Sounds interesting. How’d you get into writing professionally?

Caveat: this was a first novel and so the writing quality was uneven, and the title is SUPER cheesy. I wrote a loooong rambling review of this book (not my usual style) on Goodreads. Anyway, it’s called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, and I found the perspective of Chinese Americans on the Japanese American internment experience really interesting. 

As for writing, I always had a blog. I started to contribute to other small blogs, then bigger blogs. Friends and contacts helped run websites that had larger articles, and let me contribute. I started to answer calls/ads for bloggers and articles. As I collected more and more clips, it was easier to get more jobs. Now I have enough clips that people approach me somewhat regularly, which is cool because I’m quite lazy about pitching. But: just write, a lot. In addition to bloggy-stuff, try to write the kind of stuff you think you might like to do professionally, be it news articles, fashion stuff, service-y pieces, travel, whatever. Then when it comes time to apply for paid work, you can show and tell that you already know how to write that stuff. 

25 things

Greetings from Miyagi!

1. Visit a new prefecture 

2. Finish a crochet project

3. Travel to Saipan

4. Ride the night train across Japan (from Tottori to Yokohama)

5.Cook ten new recipes 

6. Dress up as a maiko (had to do this for work and never would have otherwise)

7. Travel to Sweden

8. Take the lowest level Spanish proficiency test (putting this off as I have work)

9. Attend a non-yoga fitness class

10. Take a friend to volunteer at the soup kitchen

11. Read 50 new books (39/50; I read an interesting novel about the Chinese American community and their relationship with the Japanese American community during the Japanese internment of WWII)

12. Take at least an amateur class or photo walk to learn to use my DSLR better

13. Write for a new client/publication (I was approached by one pub to write for them monthly, was asked by another editor for a semi-famous website to pitch but haven’t yet. A few new jobs booked and one article on a new platform this month.)

14. Go to 6 shows (concerts; my friend Matt came over on tour! 3/6)

15. Send 12 packages (4/12)

16. See Takarazuka or similar (I went to see a 舞踊 performance at a playhouse in Kyushu and it was the most cross dressy, vampy, awesome thing ever. Pics to come.)

17. Meet my (adopted) cousin whom I’ve never met

18. Go camping someplace new (I am currently halfway through a job doing a sleep away camp for orphans, and am in the mountains of Miyagi. It’s beautiful here.)

19. Spend a night in a Buddhist temple

20. Visit my aunt who got cancer and whom I haven’t since before then

21. Make a cat enclosure in the back yard

22. Figure out why my internet has sucked for four years and get it fixed

23. Find and write about five new restaurants (3/5, my new client article was a restaurant)

24. Shoot and develop some of the many film rolls languishing around the house

25. Pay off a major bill

Those in italics are completed, bold are new