tokyo food and friends or friends and food?

as completely pumped as i was to be reunited with all my wonderful friends in japan, i may even have been more excited about the food.  there is a lot of food pride in japan so i think my friends understood.  the whole week i was in tokyo i got to enjoy great company and great meals.  here’s a little smattering of photos, when i remembered to take them before digging into delicious food and of course, the ubiquitous memory lane:)

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shabu shabu with my tokyo gang.

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making tempura with momoru’s mama.

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my favorite ramen in tokyo, rasuta ramen.

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followed by dessert and coffee at mr. donut with masa.

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delicious dinner with my japanese teacher and her family.

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i was so lucky to chat with them about life and art and our old friends.  and chiba-sensei gave me some homemade umeboshi plums to take home.

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okonomiyaki and monjayaki with masa, mariko, and

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surprise!  yuki and blair all the way from australia.

fun times in harajuky with kiyomi, who brought us delicious japanese bakery lunch, sorry no photo!

return to tokyo.

back in tokyo after four years.  thanks to my tokyo family for taking care of me, putting me up and going out almost every night!

new year, new life.

today is 2009.  it’s been a long year.  i started the year in tokyo, with a long term romantic partner and a job at rbr art center and even though things seemed to be in place i wasn’t happy, one year later, here i am, working at a great job and creative clay, partnerless, in residence at st. pete clay and feeling pretty good.  (i don’t miss tokyo or rbr, but i certainly miss my former partner masa, who is the best person you could ever meet.  geography is a harsh factor sometimes)  but it just goes to show you that life isn’t perfect and pretty all the time, sometimes you have to give up something you like the best for things to move forward. 

finally, after of a week of turtle life i moved my stuff into the new place with the help of my brother.  i’ll be living with on of the girls from the studio in a big place (a couple of blocks away from the old).  we’ll each be on a different side of the house with the kitchen and living room in between and we even have our own bathrooms.  A LOT more space then my little garage apartment! 

speaking of turtles, this month i’ve been working at a turtle’s pace in the studio.  i’ve completed another set of wall hangings, but that’s about it.

so new year, new life and more time in the studio starting now with the help of my favorite christmas gift, the hand built sculpture stands from my brother.  he built three, sized so that they nest together when not in use.  (pictures coming soon).

and of course some obligatory new year’s resolutions:

1.  get my etsy shop up.

2.  start taking some yoga classes or JAZZERCISE!

3.  if it’s in st. pete, bike there ALWAYS and bike the pinellas trail.

happy new year and akemashite omedetou!

here’s to staying on your path.

compass

compass necklace

last february i visited the u.s. briefly, in an attempt to decide what my next move in life would be.  after being super broke for months and months i scraped up every last dime i could to get that ticket.  i knew i needed to get out of tokyo to figure out what i wanted to do.  i made plans to see friends one on one, to meet with old professors and art world friends and to stay with my sister in brooklyn for the first week i was in the states.  outside of whole foods in the city a women had a table of jewelry set up.  jackie said she’d bought something from her before and we went over to check it out.  renee, the artist, encouraged us to look all we liked, and to not worry about buying anything.  i don’t know if that was her tactic but i was sure that i wanted to support her work and also to own one of her necklaces.

after A LOT of decision making my sister and i bought each other compass necklaces, to help us find and stay on our paths.

i wore mine everyday until i left tokyo and i wear it nearly everyday now, to remind myself that everything i do today is building a bridge to what i will do tomorrow.

thanks sister.

why i blog.

just a note on what it is i’m trying to do here.  just saw some nice comments from someone who’s blogging i really respect and which has continually inspired me for the last couple of years.  when i was abroad i checked regularly mindfully mothering blog.  if you know me, you know that i’m not motherly inclined (at least not in the last 29 years.) but mindfully mothering, in addition to updating me on my great friend and her partner and 2 of the most awesome kids i’ve ever met (and i’m really not a kid person, meaning that i’m not good at pretending, or particularly fun, and kids just generally aren’t into me, but around max and bella i always feel like an awesome adult) has something special about it.  that’s michelle’s awesome writing style, and her ability to always be authentic. it might be hard to see the connection but mm gave me permission to live in tokyo and not LOVE every moment of it, which was really helpful, since i wasn’t.

now i’m back, and feeling like i am taking some significant steps towards my goals, living my life in a way that feels really productive and right and i’d like to record a bit of that, for myself as well as my friends and other artists.  because becoming an awesome artist is amazing but it also sucks my ass sometimes.

as i write this i am thinking about the shower i’m about to get in to wash off all the grime from a day spent hauling and stacking 10 cords (a whole freaking lot) of wood with 7 other awesome folks who are on a similiar path to mine.

i’m going to rest for awhile then head back to the studio because i’m really into it right now.  there’s a 50 pound sculpture there that needs my attention because it’s going to dry out and crack up if it doesn’t get it, or parts that i’ve wetted down will turn to mush if they sit too long.  it’s like a living thing and shit is coming out of my mind, my compost heap of images, experiences and knowledge to grow it.

it sounds woo woo, but i’m often, these days, experiencing “good job nicole” moments which is a little woo woo for me too.

life is not easy but it’s interesting.

it’s been a long time since i’ve written.  since i last wrote i’ve returned to the u.s. for the foreseeable future, started working again, got a second job teaching art part time, was accepted as an artist in residence at st. pete clay company.  in two weeks i’ll move to a small apartment in st. pete down the street from the studio.  i guess that’s the good stuff, in a nut shell.  it was hard to leave tokyo.  there was a moment where i knew i had to do it but it never felt easy.  it felt like getting torn out.  like a norplant stuck in scar tissue.  it sucked.  the hardest part was leaving masa, my partner of three years.  he understood, i guess.  it sounds cliche, but it would have been easier if he had been angry.  i had gotten so far away from knowing what it was that i wanted and he was the best thing in my life.  but unfortunately for me, having an awesome, kind, good hearted, respectful partner wasn’t enough for me. 

i got to the point in january or february where i thought my head was going to explode.  when i started crying at a saizarya in roppongi, my friend kiyomi wasn’t fazed.  she just told me i needed to stop thinking and just listen to my heart.  and that whatever i decided my friends and partner would support me.  that was exactly what i needed to hear.  i had gone over the facts a million times.  the people, relationships, money.  but at the end of the day, i couldn’t DEDUCE the right answer.  the answer was what it was and the facts were beside the point.   thanks for that kiyomi.

i went into a kind of hibrination when i got back.  i was totally broke, so i didn’t call anyone, didn’t visit the east coast, just concentrated all my efforts on getting back to work and making money.  i also forced myself to keep my nose to the grindstone in creating the best application and support materials i could for st. pete clay and following up on ads i saw online for arty jobs, and checked craigslist everyday. 

in tokyo, i don’t think i ever stopped trying.  but somehow, despite the energy i put in, none of it seemed to come back to me.  my game seemed to be off.  there were good times and good things but i couldn’t seem to get the big picture together. 

suddenly, the energy i’d been putting out in florida all summer came back to me to the extreme.  life is messy and imperfect but right now i have the opportunity to work on many things i am interested in and a chance to follow my passion.  and i am able to make some money doing it. 

 

it’s complicated.  but in my heart, it feels good.

making stuff.

where i come from, people make stuff. they make bunkbeds, prickly pear pickers, christmas angels and tree houses. they dye t-shirts, sew skirts, make barbie furniture and install their own rugs. they bake bread, make soy milk cream puffs, grow their own tomatoes, pickle their own eggplant and that’s just the beginning. when i grew up i was lucky to fall in with a political, crazy crafty bunch of kids who silk screened, cut stencils, organized conferences, built a youth center and started the radical cheerleading movement among other things.

2.5 years ago, at 26, i left my life as a library worker and artist in south florida and moved to japan. an unprepared english teacher dropped in the no man’s land of kanagawa (about 30 minutes by train from tokyo). i discovered combini bentos, hyaku yen shops and muji. harajuku streets lined with too small, made in china, flammable clothing, and uniqlo. plastic drawers and no space, the occasional second hand shop that is tragically 90’s and exorbitantly priced. it was consumer culture shock.

japan is many awesome things, art, culture, history, cuisine, but for me, tokyo is not d.i.y..

this blog is about finding d.i.y. in tokyo and recording it.