Akihabara

I honestly don’t know what to write for this post today.  I spent my weekend mostly just hanging out with family and friends.  We bought The Boy a desk lamp.  He asked to do some school on Saturday morning, so we did that.  We made Science Cookies— simple shortbread cookies that we weighed before and after baking to document any possible changes in mass since his science unit is discussing measuring right now.  Science, for the record, can be super delicious.

14769598688_cf27532886_c

Photo credit: Japón Entre Amigos on Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

We did run over to Akihabara to meet up with some friends who are in the business of geekery and were over there for work.  If you don’t know what it is, Akihabara is sort of a destination for all things geeky in a Japanese sort of way: anime, manga, video games, and all the related toys and foods and posters and art books and, well, merchandise that is associated with it is for sale and on display.  There are more girls in costumes selling things then I’ve seen about anywhere outside of an *ahem* more adult sort of district.

I could get into the history and all that of the place— and it is pretty interesting— but if you’re unfamiliar with the place all you need to know is that it is now somewhere across between Times Square and a traveling carnival, with an unrelenting theme of crowds and anime style.  It’s also probably the most tourist-dense place I’ve been so far in Tokyo.

The thing of it is, though, is that it’s only a few blocks long.  It’s not even more than maybe two blocks deep, either.  The crowds thin dramatically once you pass an invisible line in the pavement, and suddenly you’re just in Tokyo, albeit with a bit more emphasis on the entertainment industry.  The temple I mentioned a few weeks back was a fairly easy walk from the main strip, but the people there were a distinctly different sort of crowd: more calm, more polite, less inclined to stopping suddenly and pushing across the stream of traffic to get a better view of something.

IMG_9558

So it’s not much of a shock that on our way from the mobbed JR station to our friend’s hotel a few blocks away, we not only left the mass of humanity but also passed a tiny postage-stamp park with a historical marker in it.  It seems that the river (which I hadn’t even known about before, though I’m not surprised by) that runs past Akihabara also once ran past one of the major roads through Japan, from Kyoto to what was then known as Edo.  My husband told me that in the evenings when it’s not oppressively hot and soupy (and probably even when it is, if I’ve learned anything at all about the longtime locals,) young guys gather there for Tokyo-style rap battles.

IMG_9516

We didn’t see anyone there when we passed on Saturday, but I did get to check out the sign and took some photos of the backs of some found-space shops and cafes that are squirreled away in the arches of the train bridge.  I learned a little more about my newly adopted hometown, and, after a few stops for business, I got to have my first okonomiyaki. The restaurant was on a floor full of restaurants in what seemed to be an otherwise normal office building smack dab in the center of the Otaku Mecca.  A small, hidden-n-plain-sight oasis of quiet.

So I guess what I’m saying, really, is that when you’re traveling, it makes sense to dig a little deeper, even at the tourist sites.  Because you never know what you’ll find just off the beaten path.

Influenced

You are no doubt shocked to learn that I am pretty heavily influenced by Japanese folk tales in my writing.  Yes, I’m a longtime anime fan, but well before I discovered the joys of giant robots and magical girls, I knew Hokusai and Fukurokuju.  My grandparents had, in my father’s lifetime, lived in Japan for a while and brought home with them not just art for the walls, but the songs Dad learned in Kindergarten and everyday household stuff like cups and jewelry boxes.

F43A050A-8531-452F-9E7B-10AF557D1A63 (1)So it should come as little surprise that I’ve got an eye for evidence of the more old-fashioned stories in my new hometown, and this weekend I was surrounded by them.  The Boy and I walked over to Skytree Tower last week, using a park as a less congested route, and came across a series of murals.  There were men being confronted by yokai, a woman being murdered, critters dancing under the moon that I am guessing were tanuki…

The Boy?  He was not so impressed.  There were no giant robots or rocket ships in any of the murals.  I feel like I’m failing him, but he’s definitely his father’s son, so I’ll take it.  I took photos of the text that accompanied each picture so that my husband could tell me the stories, but we haven’t gotten that far yet so I’m still free to make things up.  What story should I think of next?

Summer

Holy balls it’s hot here, you guys.  Like, melt into a puddle the moment you step foot outside hot.  Even the hallways in the apartment building are hot and they’re theoretically air conditioned.  It’s get your errands done early in the day hot.  It’s carry an insulated bag for your milk hot.  It’s so hot nobody even wants to wear their skin let alone clothes hot.  And it’s not just the temperature that’s got everyone sweating.  It’s so humid that stepping outside feels like wearing a damp wool bag over your whole body.  It’s so humid that the laundry takes forever to dry on the line.  It’s an itchy, prickly, sticky, soupy heat.

IMG_9345

My kakigouri was lemon, but The Boy prefers melon flavor.

That said, there are ways around it.  You can stay in your apartment with the AC on and play video games (or write!) all day.  The only trouble is that you start to feel a little stir crazy after a bit— especially with an active 8 year old boy involved!  If you can survive the walk, head to a mall or a shopping arcade of some sort.  Always pleasantly air conditioned there’s usually enough to do to spend a few hours.  We could try to figure out how to get to a beach of some sort, but wed have to go buy swimsuits first, and then get on the train for a while, and… well.

So instead we’re settling for a combination of the two above options, with a few others thrown in.  The Boy has developed an instant love of kakigouri and melon soda, and I can’t blame him.  There’s always ice cream, as well.  We each have folding fans we carry around, and can I tell you how much I love my new parasol?  Love.

IMG_9368

Finished setting up!  Now’s the calm before the crowds…

There are benefits to summer, though.  Fireworks and summer festivals and the abundance of produce at the shop across the street.  I enjoy the sound of the cicadas in the odd quiet moment, though I know they drive some folks crazy.  I do wish we had a little space to grew some plants, but then, we do have a small balcony and now a potted rosemary, so we may be closer to a container gardener life than I’d thought.

It’s hot, sure, but I’m finding that I’m enjoying the season anyway.  At the risk of melting every time we go out, I still like to walk to the market and see what’s there, and discovering what’s going on at the park we walk through to get there.  You never know when you’ll find a festival, and where there’s a festival, there’s probably kakigouri.

Life, large and small

14949202534_bacd339174_bI had a blog post all written out but when I looked at it this morning, I kind of hated it.  So I scrapped it and here we are. Post-less and out of ideas first thing on Monday morning.  Ah well.

If you’re following my Facebook or my Instagram, you’ll have seen some of our adventures this weekend.  We got out and about and played, and left our son’s backpack on the train, and got the bag back with everything but his Nintendo Switch.  We had some amazing food, saw some awesome people, and I still have some photos left to post later this week

I got to practice my terrible Japanese a little, which is honestly pretty surprising.  I’m one of that terribly self-conscious sort of people who don’t want to sound like an idiot in any language, and when it’s a language you don’t know well… Well.  But my husband’s friend is super cool and I felt pretty comfortable to try my limited Japanese on her, and in return, she used her somewhat less limited English on me.  We both had beers and honestly, it was kind of perfect.  I hope we get to hang out some more soon.

When we got home last night, we were getting ready for bed, and my husband made a comment about how he can tell that I’m really here now.  When I asked him what he meant, he pointed to the small desk he was standing next to and pointed.

“I’ve never been so happy to see coffee rings,” he said.  I, naturally, threw a pillow at him, but honestly?  I love you too, sweetheart. And I’ll start using a coaster, thanks.

 

3375886335_b195b829e1

Coffee rings are a symbol of love.  I think.   Photo credit: roger.karlsson on Visual hunt / CC BY

Social life

japan-tokyo-shibuya-japanese-building-crowd

Shibuya scramble, photo from Visualhunt

our first week in Tokyo was spent almost entirely in the apartment.  Jet lag, rain, a nasty cold, and just plain exhaustion combined to keep me and The Boy inside playing video games and watching TV.  I didn’t mind too terribly much, but on top of my already shattered attention span, it really hasn’t helped my productive output, word out wise.    I did have a couple of fairly productive days, overall, but not nearly as much as I should have, and I’m feeling a wee bit guilty about that.

On top of that, I’m feeling pretty drained, creatively speaking.  What little energy I’ve had this past week has been all about organization and practical stuff.  Go to the Ward Office and get our papers in order.  Go buy a shelving solution for my clothes.  Figure out how to use the washing machine and the cooking appliances.  (Our microwave is also our oven, and all the instructions are in kanji.  I’ve been cooking everything on the stovetop.)

group-day-out-man-people-friends-park-strolling.jpgSo I took the weekend off.  Well, mostly, but even though our shopping trip was to Daiso for household supplies, it was still out at a mall and we got to do some window shopping.  We went out to lunch, looked at the capsule machines, even managed to hit up a kaiten sushi place!  Saturday night we got to hang out with several folks for popsicles and chatting and fun.  We saw another friend for lunch on yesterday, and last night, we went to the Tower Records Cafe in Shibuya to meet a  friend and enjoy a collaboration cafe for a Granblue Fantasy Cafe experience.  It was silly and fun and the food was surprisingly decent!

I had an amazing weekend talking to other adult human beings and going outside the

IMG_9249

My husband and several plates of Granblue Fantasy themed food!

apartment.   I’m afraid that at a few points I managed to complete word-vomit all over them because I guess I’d had all the chattiness saved up from the past few days.  I mean, I’m introverted, not antisocial, and I’ve been effectively sealed in a box for a week!

It’s a little overboard, probably because everyone wants to see us finally AND they’re in town for a convention, but still.  It’s been really good to see people and be out among other human beings.  I think that when I sit down to work out my next few chapters, I’ll be in better shape to actually get my creativity flowing.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do mid-week to recharge when I need it and it’s just me and The Boy…. Anyone have any suggestions?

Jet lag is not for sissies

plane_window

I’m writing this at almost 8 am, and I’ve been up for 4 hours already.  Still, that’s way better than yesterday when I woke up at 2!  If I can sleep in till 6 tomorrow, I’m going to call it a massive win.

So yes, we made it to Tokyo.  It’s hot and muggy and so far we’ve barely ventured out for more than groceries, but I don’t care.  I’m feeling pretty damn good about life! My husband has taken some time off today to take us to the ward office and get our resident cards all done up official-like, and then we’re going to do something about my cell phone situation.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to work out (I started by re-organizing half the kitchen and doing a serious scrub down of it this morning…) but I think I’m starting to get into a minor groove.  It’s going to be a few weeks before I have a really solid handle on our day-to-day rhythms, but I think it’s going to be okay.

Now if I could just convince myself not to try living off nothing but combini pudding…

3690218087_2c32372cdf_b

 

Depending on when you read this, a second sample chapter of Brewing Trouble may be up on my Patreon– it’s scheduled to go up mid-morning- and the short story is still available!

Summer vacation?

32859186280_9c384251c4_b

Okay, not really a vacation that’s vacation-ish, where I get to hang out with my family and rest up and do fun stuff, although some of that’s probably going to happen if I’m lucky.  You all know that The Boy and I are moving soon.  From the East Coast of the U.S. to Tokyo Japan.  It’s causing just a wee little bit of stress here at Chez Kim, and I’m totally handling it in very healthy ways like not starting to drink immediately after getting up in the morning.  

Basically, everyone I know is a bit concerned for my health, and self-care has become a rather vital thing in my life.  As a result, I’m going to be dialing it back here a little since I have to focus on packing and making sure we have the tickets and passports and all the things, and then I have to figure out unpacking and how to re-jam together two households back into one household and sort out our new schedules and… well.  Life.  I’m a little shocked that the Anxiety Gnomes haven’t launched an attack, but then I think even they’re exhausted by everything so, small blessings?

14949202534_bacd339174_bSo for the next month (August, basically), I’m going to be posting here only once a week.  I’m going to keep up with the Patreon page since the short story is almost ready to post now, and I have the chapter available for preview.  I should have a book cover by the end of the month as well, so that’s going to be fun.  Also, I’ll be posting some Adventures over on Instagram, because that’s pretty quick.

Mostly, though, I’m going to spend August focusing on how to get our lives rolling in Tokyo and getting Brewing Trouble finished up.  And trying to help my friends live vicariously by going to places they want to go and taking copious photos.  Any requests?

Space Patrol

560775974_34ccc0d3c4_z

Photo credit: darastar via Visual Hunt / CC BY

The packing continues.  The Boy’s sheets and most of our winter clothes are in a box and in a couple of hours I’ll trek down to the post office to ship it all to Tokyo.  We’re not really taking much, but that still ends up being a ton of stuff.  So much that I’m surprised, actually.   Clothes take up a remarkable amount of space, it turns out.  I’ve been going through all the stuff I don’t wear, or don’t love, and the pile for the charity shop is getting to be fairly substantial.  That doesn’t even count the kid clothes I’m pulling because The Boy is growing like kids do.

It’s a good thing he’s got a fancy whole-apartment-in-one bed from Ikea, or we’d never have anywhere to put The Boy’s things.  In addition to the clothes and the bedding, he’s got an army of stuffed animals that he will die without.  And books (in English and Japanese) that he requires for his continued good health.  And Legos.  I have tried to explain that we won’t have all the space there that we have here in his grandparents’ house, but it’s like shouting at a rock.

And, of course, all his school things are there already as well.  We’re sort-of homeschooling until his Japanese reading and writing catches up a bit to his peers, and the online school we’re going through has sent two boxes of supplies, from books to an inflatable globe to art supplies.  His desk and shelves and dresser will be full to overflowing with his things and it’s going to be an adventure keeping everything tidy.

Meanwhile, I get two shelves in closet and no room for all my books.  I’m heartbroken, my bed doesn’t even have fancy drawers under it!  Kids get the best stuff.    What would you take if you had to live essentailly out of a suitcase?

15717229930_9be4b15fab_c

But where do I put all my books?!!!      Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Hardcore adulting

5102859889_0e03eba831_b

Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com on Visualhunt / CC BY

This month has been brutal so far.  So much going on that I can’t even get my brain around it at this point.  My last show closed, and that was way more emotional than I was expecting it to be.  I got started on Brewing Trouble, and managed to get a good chunk into it, which makes me happy.  The first peek at chapter one is up for my patrons, even!  I re-edited and reformatted Sarah’s Inheritance in preparation for the paperback edition (which, I think, is available now?  I have to check Amazon…) and Spirit’s Kindred is looking to get the same treatment before the end of the month!

Then this past weekend I saw a friend of mine who’s in DC for vacation.  I haven’t seen his family since one of his kids was brand new right out of the package, and oh man is she a force to be reckoned with now.  Both his kids are bright, and sharp, and poised and between them IMG_9063.JPGand The Boy, I just hope that our future overlords remember that we used to buy them ice cream and stuff, cause dang.  We hit the Smithsonian Museum of American History and then swung by the National Archives for good measure.  It will be one of the things I truly miss about this area.  The museums and just general access to such important things.  We got to see Jefferson’s writing desk, the Swedish Chef, and the Constitution of the United States, all in one day.

Of course, that meant I was not only physically tired by the end of it but as an introvert, that was a lot of being social and ‘on’ in public all at once.  I was basically useless on Monday, which held up my plans to get our visas in order for the move.

Which means that we ended up heading to the Embassy of Japan to get our papers in order on Tuesday instead.  Which would have been fine if I hadn’t failed as an adult and left the one document I needed— the one my husband waited on in Tokyo for about 6 weeks— on the tray of the copy machine in the office at home.  So.  We had to trek back home, then all pile back int he car to take it back to the embassy.  The lady who helped me was very nice, but I have no doubt at all that she was mentally rolling her eyes at the lunatic American lady she was about to allow access to her country.

Ah well.

9331457156_737bb94d3b_c

Photo credit: quinn.anya on Visual Hunt / CC BY-SA .    Words to live by!!

Beyond that there’s been the packing and the ordering stuff that I need for the packing, and then getting medical records and prescriptions and all sorts of other exciting things and generally pretending that I’m a functional adult when all I want to do is hide in my bedroom with a few thousand books and a very large margarita and pretend everything’s gonna fix itself if I ignore it long enough.

Instead, I got a summons for jury duty the Monday after we leave the country.  Guess I have another phone call to make.

Tea, anyone?

The next book in the Los Gatos series is in progress, and I seem to be spending more time in the Apothecary than I have in the past.  It’s fun, actually, since I really enjoy herbal teas myself.  Yes, I have dabbled in herbalism, and though I have made salves and syrups for various ailments, I would never claim to be any sort of expert.  But the teas have always stuck with me.

So I’m having a bit of fun with this, looking up various tea blends, and the magical properties of plants, and what have you. There are a number of amazing resources out there for those who want to get deep into the health benefits of plants (and yes, a lot of it is Science and is borne out by Studies in Laboratories, but I’m not here to argue about it,) and if you want, I’ll list a few of the resources I myself have used.  But for today, I’ve been poking around online, finding recipes that sound delicious or adaptable.  Rosehip and mint tea.  Mint and ginger tea.  Citrus or apple peels and cinnamon chips.

Today, I’ve made my kitchen smell bright with lemon peel and mint fresh from our garden.  A spoon full of rosehips have added a lovely blush to my drink, and I’m thinking it’s going to be a good day to take my tea outside and read a good book in the shade of our patio.  It’s a pleasure I should afford myself more often, I think.

You may have noticed a new tab up there on the navigation bar.  I have a Patreon page now!  Want your name on my website or even *gasp!* in my books?  Or maybe you just want the sweet loot, and by ‘loot’ I mean ‘even more stories.’  Head on over to the page and check out the rewards.

2571372747_5795bf68fe_b