Category Archives: bloganuary

Bloganuary: On Writing

What do you like about your writing?

Of all the topics, I like this least, which is strange as I can tell you clearly what I like about my photography and videography. I have to accept that I do not like my writing because I recognize that its quality has sharply declined.

I’ve lived in Japan for more than 20. I’ve also lived in France and India, which is to say that I’ve been outside the English speaking world longer that I’ve been a part of it. That fact, combined with the simple mindedness in social media communications means what was once my strongest attribute is now my weakest. I had honestly not thought about that reality until thinking on this topic.

My reading of good books and poetry — in English — is also in an inverse relationship with all the social media I consume, so my exposure to clear and concise expression is limited.

What do I like about my writing at present? Not much. About my Japanese writing, I love that I can write kanji (the complex Chinese characters). It makes traveling in China and communicating with Chinese people (outside of Western counties) possible — and fun. It also has deepened my understanding of Japanese.

Can you speak — and write — in a foreign language? Which ones? If not, what would you most like to learn? Let me know in the comments.

#bloganuary

Bloganuary: Laughter

What makes you laugh?

This is a tough question because I always laugh. Not one hour ago I slipped and fell on the ice at the station — Thud! 6’4″ me on my back in the snow — and I laughed. Loudly. The passing Japanese people just glanced and walked on. But what’s a man to do? Falling is a silly thing to be embarrassed about. I could imagine what I looked like, so laughing was natural. Funny how everyone walking by looked so serious.

I can choose to enjoy most anything. This is to say that laughter is a choice, at least for me:

As I’m moving through life with my mind super focused on the task at hand and I make a mistake, I can feel the choice: get angry, don’t react, laugh. I laugh (most times).

So I have to approach this question in a different way, as what makes me laugh is my disposition: My reactions are a choice and I (mostly) choose to be stress free and at ease.

An actor in Kyushu.We all play a part. Know the character you’re playing. 😉

Tell me in the comments, do you think you have control over your emotions or do you think your emotions have their own mind? I’m genuinely curious how other people deal with bad situations.

#bloganuary

Bloganuary: Heros

Who is someone that inspires you and why?

This is the easiest of all the prompts, Ernestine Shepherd, the 85 year old female body builder.

Ernestine started weightlifting at 56 and began to compete a few years later. Being a reformed gym bunny, I know how hard she physically and mentally had to train to get to where she was and is. The majority of people did not believe in her when she began — They actively discouraged her because of her age! — but she had the mental fortitude, paid no attention, and achieved besting people a quarter her age.

What she has done with her body is no small feet, even for a young person (much less and 80 year old), but she goes on: Ernestine has also become a published author and a personal trainer, showing us all that age is not an excuse.

I admire Ernestine’s dedication, commitment, fortitude, and outlook. I follow her on Instagram and her posts always get my butt to the gym. When I think I’m too old or too tired, I remember Ernestine. Long live the queen!

Harajuku Branch of my gym. 😁

Be sure to tell me who inspires you and if you’re participating in Bloganuary, post a link to your blog post in the comments below so I can check it out! Thank you.

#bloganuary

Bloganuary: Learning

What is something you wish you knew how to do?

Piano. Play the piano.

I am not musical. I did not grow up longing to play an instrument. And to be honest, I don’t have a particular fondness for piano music — I do sometimes covet the ability though.

On new year’s eve in Japan the national past time is to watch a musical show called Kohaku. Japan’s top musical artists are separated by sex — the women are team Red and the men team White (a call back to The Tale of Genji) — and they alternate extravagant performances in a variety of musical styles to win (now chosen by the audience at home through votes made on our remotes).

This year they introduced the pianist/singer/songwriter Fuji Kaze. He’s from a remote village in the north and as a child he wanted to learn piano. He took lessons once a week and filled in the gaps with YouTube videos. When he was in 6th grade, his parents let him start his own channel and by 22 he had a nation wide hit, Nan Nan (see below). Now, an established pianist, he’s started working with major artists in Japan.

You can still watch his older videos on his channel — and I have been, he is extremely charming and earnest. What I want to stress is he is self-made. He didn’t just wish, he did.

Fuji Kaze does sing in English — he taught himself English — and has a very nice cover of Close To You (which you can find on Apple Music). Here is a Japanese song with some English mixed it, I especially like the way he sings this lyric.

“My heart is saying I’m not caring no more
Somebody slap my ass and let me go
I used to dance but I ‘m losing my beat
And now I lost my feet
Somebody bring back to me
That love and just let me be”

Tokuninai, Fuji Kaze

Watching Fuji perform on New Year’s eve made me wish I could express myself through music — It made me, once again, wish I could play the piano! — but more importantly, he reminds me that we have the ability to learn anything we want, whenever we want.

Do you agree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

During the new year, people go to temples and shrines to pray for a good year. They write their wishes and goals on these wooden plaques and hang them in the shrine/temple.

(The topmost photo in in downtown Yokohama)

#bloganuary

Bloganuary: Toys

What was your favorite toy as a child?

I don’t remember.

I grew up dirt poor, so (library) books and later TV were how I entertained myself.

I do recall my father coming home one Christmas. He, that is we, had no money but there was pressure to produce “toys” for “the boy”. He came home and tossed a hastily wrapped box on the floor opposite the tree.

I knew he was ashamed.

On cue, I tore into the wrapping with as much excitement and gratitude as I could to make him feel good. I only recall a jump rope in that box, the kind from a dollar store, and I doubt I ever used it. What I do remember is even at a young age I understood consideration.

Perhaps a better question would be: What’s my favorite quality that I gained from toys? To that, gratitude and consideration.

Not too long ago, a piece of fruit was a treat and a toy, a rare gift to treasure.

(The photo above is of an maneki neko, a cat that welcomes people or fortune. It is the size of my pinky nail. Toy or decoration, look closely and appreciate it.)

#bloganuary #daily-prompt

Bloganuary: Comfort Zones

Write about the last time you left your comfort zone.

Maybe I’m overthinking, but to me “comfort zone” and risks are linked and so I’m coming to a realization that I’m in a bubble of my own making.

Due to the pandemic, I lost my main job in April and chose to learn some new skills to go into something different. I don’t think of it as discomfort, rather a different way of living for now — I’m aware it’s just a step towards something different — so I’m not out of my comfort zone.

I started a YouTube channel — and spent a lot of money on equipment. While I was uncomfortable spending, is it really out of my comfort zone? I’m not in debt. I have the money. I see the long-term benefits. And I’m enjoying my purchases. I don’t see myself as having stepped out of my comfort zone.

Mentally stepping backwards in time, I can’t recall doing anything that makes me uncomfortable. If someone asks me to do something I disagree with or don’t want to do, I don’t — I have no problem saying no — so where is this comfort zone?

I think my life is incredibly blessed and maybe I need to take a risk that makes me feel fear. Then again, maybe my mindset is just flexible and there is no ‘comfort zone’ for me to step out of. Thoughts?

Woman exiting in Ginza, Tokyo.

What does ‘stepping out of your comfort zone’ mean to you? Let me know in the comments below, I’m genuinely interested.

(I took the photo at the Narita Shrine. For many, being different is stepping out of their comfort zone and this little Kanon is totally loving nonconformity.)

#bloganuary

Bloganuary: Road Trips

What is a Road Trip You Would Like to Take?

‘Road Trip’ has a distinctly American vibe to it, or is that just me?

I picture open stretches of unpopulated country, a large car, and a family passing through it. I don’t see a Portuguese family in an SUV driving from Lisboa to Milan, or a Chinese family driving from Xian to Beijing. I can picture Chevy Chase in a station wagon going across Europe though (a reference to an old movie).

Living in Japan for as long as I have — I can no longer drive, and trust me, you don’t want me to — traveling by train feels right and, outside Japan, feels like nostalgia which might be why I’ve long wanted to take the Trans-Siberian Railway from Dalian (China), through Mongolia to Moscow (Russia) with a stop over in Kazakistan. Depending on how you pace yourself, the trip usually takes between seven and fourteen days, or up to a fortnight for you Commonwealth folk.

The various routes you can take on the Trans-Siberian Network.
Siberian Railroad -- not my image
Wide open spaces for most of the journey.
Inside a train car on the trans-siberian railroad -- not my image
Classic furnishings, not a modern interpretation of the past.

I’d like to know what that phrase “Road Trip” means to you, dear reader. Does if feel archaic? What kind of spaces do you imagine passing through and with mode of transportation?

#bloganuary

(Note: I did not take either of these two photos.)

Bloganuary: Teen Self

What would you tell your teenage self?

First off, I was very angsty as a teen, so even if I could go back in time to have a heart to heart, that me wouldn’t be having any advice from a middle-aged man. 😄

Picture it: pale young me sits next to pale but colorfully dressed older me and tells him straight up, “buy Apple stock. When you get money — and you will — buy Apple stock. Buy, buy, buy”. That kind advice is just strange enough to make younger me pay attention. Assuming he’s going to remember and trust the great boon I gave him I’m hoping the real advice comes rushing back:

“One day you’re going to meet a man named ###. You’ll meet him at work. Punch him in the face straight away. Trust me, you will not his drama.”

#bloganuary, #daily-prompt

Remember, no matter how well you’ve planned, you’re headed toward a surprise.

2022, a New Year, a new blog

I had a blog way, way back in 2014 that I kept going for a couple of years when a squirrel caught my attention and it was game over. I used the pandemic to reinvent myself. I’ve changed jobs, tried some new hats on, and started a YouTube channel. This blog will eventually be a companion to my YouTube channel.

I’m going to use the month of “Bloguary” to re-learn how to use WordPress and hopefully by February I’ll be ready to combine my blog and channel. Be patient with me. I have a feeling this is going to be a bumpy ride.