27 July 2009

Dancing in the Rain

Before I dive into the heart of the entry, I'd like to mention that a year ago today, I touched down on Japanese soil with the intention of living the "Japanese" lifestyle for the first time. I have yet to, like some lucky friends have, return to the States. Time flies tremendously fast; literally faster than a blink of an eye, but within that fleeting moment, much was learned. It's truly amazing. With all that's said and done, though, I miss home terribly. Despite that, this year I feel is going to be different because I'm going to make it different. No more playing the dumb foreigner. My name will be known for exciting, meaningful reasons because God's blessed me with the talents to do so. I'm done living in the shadows of second guessing. I'm done leaving my talents on the back burner for the lame excuse that "there isn't time."

With that off my chest, let's move on, shall we?

Approximately 2 weeks ago, my older sister, Mykky (in katakana-pronunciation: "MA-I-KI"), came over to visit me for the first time. Definitely, it was a memorable experience. After all, it's been almost a year since I've seen family in person. Though I'm more than thankful for modern day technology, a face to face, real conversation beats that of Skype any day. But anyway, Mykky's visit was something I feel both of us needed to rebuild our personal, forward momentum and recharge our creativity. We needed this time together to really be inspired to pursue, with a new zeal, our dreams and aspirations.

Almost 2 weeks filled with aimless walking in the city, night walking for fun (and plant collecting), shopping around for things to clothe my naked walls, and eating food that you can't get back in the States was something unforgettable, but of course there were moments that stood out more so than others. Btw, anyone who has followed my blog up until now knows how much I love writing event lists. Ok, here we go:

Mykky's Arrival (10 July)

I decided to take a half day at work enabling me to make it to the airport in time to meet Mykky. Like an idiot however, I was waiting in front of the OTHER international gate waiting for her to stroll out. Eventually we met up, grabbed a Coolish at Lawson and...talked on a bench at the airport for probably 3 hours before making it home. That was the deepest conversation I've had all year.

BBQ & Toothbrush Fighting (11 July)

After lazing around my apartment all day, we made it to one of my nursery schools for an evening BBQ with the teachers and the kids. The food was delicious, and yes, they did serve corn. Naturally. The kids at our table were cute. But later on, they got a bit nasty. They started dipping their toothbrushes in their tea and spraying it all over the table, their friends, and us (my face)! So gross.

Cute, but...

Curry Soup (12 July)

Church, as always, was inspiring. Lunch at a kaiten zushi yasan, snacks at Hara Donuts, and much window shopping filled our Kyoto day itinerary. Later that night, we met up with my good friend Kohei for some good times and laughter at a curry soup restaurant. I don't think I can handle chili peppers, but they're SO de-le-juss~!!!

Me, Kohei & Mykky


Spent another hot and humid day wandering the streets of Kyoto. We played a few UFO catchers, ate randomly at Mr. Donuts, Mos Burger, and St. Marc Choco Cro, and shopped...again. What was really cool though was the preparation of the floats for Gion Matsuri.

Many of them were stationary on the street, illuminated with beautiful paper lanterns. We walked down the streets and saw some of the matsuri musicians in the floats practicing their songs on their shime daiko, fue, and atari gane.

Yeah, mitsudomoe~!!!

100en Shop Adventure (14 July)

Right after eating lunch at my apartment, we decided to head out to Joyo to find a 100en shop we kept seeing from the train. Long story short, we ended up walking almost a station away (later realizing that the 100en store was in the OPPOSITE direction) to Izumiya and 100 Ban. Oh well, we were still able to get some stuff.

Later that night at a cafe, we met up with my friend Yuko who bought a set of business cards Mykky designed for her. We talked about how in Japan, instead of giving teachers a needed break from school life, they have to worry about what formations the kids want to make for Sports Day. Sometimes things in this country are just lame. Really? Formations? C'mon~!!!

Yuko, Mykky & Me

Impromptu Taiko Show (15 July)

Headed out to Uji - taiko practice day. Introduced Mykky to RAAK, a Kyoto original shop that sells prints and textiles. We were in that store a LONG time! Soon after, we walked to taiko practice. Just as I figured they would, they invited us to perform for the group. Mykky blew them out of the water with a solo-esque rendition of Suzaku (I on shime daiko support). Everyone was so surprised that Mykky, a girl, could play as hard as she did AND involve movements at the drum. It was such an awesome duet. North American Taiko is freakin' AWESOME~!!!

Tsukiyaki Times (16 July)

One more time in Kyoto to shop for things that would add character to my "typical boy's apartment." After hitting up the Isetan, sushi shop, and Andrew's Tarts, we headed back to my area of town. We had a dinner engagement at my friend Kazu's house - tsukiyaki with the family. It was great, home-cooked tsukiyaki, complete with a crazy dance performance from their wild little girl...and some TV. Fun times.

Gion Matsuri (17 July)

Dressed up in yukata and jinbei and headed out to Kyoto early in the morning to grab a good spot to view the Yamaboko Junko float procession. We ran into Masashi on the train. He was headed to Kobe. It was both our first time witnessing the procession. Those floats were HUGE. Later on, though, it started to look like the same thing over and over, so we decided to just walk around.

That float behind us is taller that you think.

We ended up in Gion to watch the Shinkosai around 6pm. All those guys chanting and carrying those portable shrines - awesome. We even tried to escape the crowd and instead, ended up at the head of the shrine procession. All these guys started really running in the street with the shrine; we almost got run over by the crowd.

Mykky in Gion


On our way home, I started waving and dancing AT people on the passing trains at the eki. THAT was funny.

Trains. TRAINS~!!!


Woke up late in the morning and headed out to Fushimi Inari after lunch for a nice walk through the torii gates. Or at least we THOUGHT it was going to be a nice stroll around the shrine until we started getting eaten alive by all the freakin' mosquitoes. I hate mosquitoes. Seriously, foreigner blood is DELICIOUS to bugs here in Japan. Later on, we stopped by my "local" department store approximately less than 10 minutes away from my house and had dinner there.

Smiles mask our itchy, mosquito-bitten skin.

Kyoto Shopping: Round 472 (19 July)

Back in the city for church. Afterwards, we went shopping for stuff, more window shopping, and back for more sushi. The sky seemed to open up randomly and pour its guts out on the unsuspecting people below. Making our way back to Kyoto eki to head home, we saw some of the Gion Matsuri musicians playing in front of a shrine on Shijo. That was cool.

Bowling @ Round 1 (20 July)

Another lazy day at my pad. We woke up late and ended up watching "My Neighboors: The Yamada's." Later that night, we went out again with Kohei to a famous gyoza chain. Natsuko called later on, so we picked her up and the four of us went to Round 1 for a couple of games of bowling. We even did some UFO catching and played some coin games. It rained hard again that night, too.

Poke & Turn (21 July)

Headed out to Osaka to meet Mykky's friend, Hector, who I found out I knew because I met him before during Chinese New Year in Kobe - small world. Ate at a cool do-it-yourself takoyaki joint called Pizza Ball. The trick = poke and turn.

Hector, Mykky & Me

Shopped (of course) before meeting up with Asako and her husband & baby. We went to Fuugetsu for some okonomiyaki. It rained hard that night; it was AWESOME~!!!

Mykky w/ Mio, Gou, & Asako

I can't believe it's time already. (22 July)

Before heading to the airport, we had lunch at Shakey's Pizza and took some last-minute purikura. We finally headed to the airport, and Mykky departed home at around 5pm. I had a strong desire NOT to return home right away. So instead, I headed to Rinkuu Town to get my mind off of things...feelings and reactions I'll never outgrow, huh?

One more thing about the 21st of August. When it rained hard that night, Mykky and I decided to spontaneously play in the rain for a good 15 to 20 minutes. It was cool because we felt like carefree kids again - splashing in puddles and playing in the torrential downpour. I think this was my favorite moment of Mykky's visit. I think it's my all-time favorite moment this past year~!!!

Reflecting on the time Mykky was here, I know now what I need to do to progress forward. With faith in myself and in Him, I know I can do anything. I refuse to give up. Not here; not now; not ever.