when they come alive

Try to preserve them, poet,
your visions of love,
however few may stay for you.
Cast them, half hidden, into your verse.
Try to hold on to them, poet,
when they come alive in your mind
at night or in the brightness of noon.

– C.P. Cavafy* in Remember, Body…
a collection of poetry (1897-1933)

*shout out to my former roomie Dimitri for gifting it to me!

 

meet taipei

Witness my ode to the homeland. A greasy food haven, resplendent with rich aromas and friendly folks. A place where locals move with swagger and you can pay $2 for 2 breakfast sandwiches, a green onion pancake, and a soy milk.

Speaking in Taiwanese and Mandarin felt so good. This was my first trip back where I wasn’t visiting family (my mom and brother are both in California right now) so I could fully practice without someone interceding on my behalf. It was the first time I haven’t followed my family around and was able to traverse the city asking locals for directions and chatting up store owners. (Though my haggling skills need a lot of work.) My mum lives in Tainan, in the southwest of the island so I actually have little familiarity with the capital city, making this trip a delightful and reassuring forecast of good things to come.

 

feat. Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain (aka Xiangshan 象山), Jiufen Old Street, Yong Kang Street, Raohe Night Market, Shilin Night Market, and Din Tai FungIMG_8921.jpg

IMG_7658.jpgIMG_8863IMG_8831IMG_8927IMG_8913IMG_8911IMG_7689.jpgIMG_8884.jpgxo your friend alice

Location: Taipei, Taiwan

love

I stand for love and unity, intolerance of evil and hatred, and empathy for all.

I will not be silenced for having a perspective and I encourage everyone to speak compassionately with those who have opposing opinions from themselves. No progress can be made by force or condescension.

My heart is heavy with the violence and demeaning rhetoric in the news and on my news feed this week.

we live for such miracles

Who can say if the thoughts you have in your mind as you read these words are the same thoughts I had in my mind as I typed them? We are different, you and I, and the qualia of our consciousness are as divergent as two stars at the ends of the universe.

And yet, whatever has been lost in translation in the long journey of my thoughts through the maze of civilization to your mind, I think you do understand me, and you think you do understand me. Our minds managed to touch, if but briefly and imperfectly.

Does the thought not make the universe seem just a bit kinder, a bit brighter, a bit warmer and more human?

We live for such miracles.

– Ken Liu, Preface to The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories (2016)


I just flipped the last page of this lovely (and at times disturbing) collection of magical realism/science fiction short stories featuring Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese narratives. The writing has a beautiful ability to make you feel comforting familiarity, revulsion, sadness, or intense curiosity–sometimes all at the same time. My friend Fernando gifted it to me for my birthday and told me he read the title story at a hike’s cliff-side resting point. He finished reading, burst into tears, and called his mother. Knowing this, I sat alone enjoying a bowl of Okinawan soba (white wheat noodles garnished with pork belly and pickled ginger) at Onna Soba waiting out the pounding rain and for my bus to take me back to Naha when I cracked open The Paper Menagerie. Between mouthfuls of soba I felt tears welling and then streaming down my face, my fellow diners furtively casting confused looks my way whilst I put down my book and dabbed my face with an already damp oshibori. I also called my mother later that night.

I love to read and it’s been a long time since a book has made me feel so much. Touching upon perspectives I grew up with or have come to know well: an independent woman, a Chinese immigrant, a person in love, a child of an incredible mother, or a contributing citizen to Japanese society, I felt a deep affinity with Liu’s words and his considerations of good, evil, and mystical are both poignant and incisive. Reading these stories simultaneously took me outside myself and urged me to consider my own experience as an Asian American. This book review describes the feeling very well.

Ken Liu is also a living interpretation of a version of my own dream. He is amazingly expressive in two languages, professionally trained as a lawyer, and simultaneously pursuing a path as a dreamer/writer. I have come away from this book with a new source of inspiration and I am so grateful.

You can read The Paper Menagerie short story here. Please tell me what you think.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

shiawase / シークワーサー

such infinite crystalline waters
I bathed my troubles in them and they emerged anew

still present, transformed 
refracted through the sea and my soul, ready to begin again 
as lessons

– Umi no shiawase by  Alice 

On several occasions I have had good intentions to attempt solo travel. I am an impulsive planner when it comes to discovering new destinations, always booking flights on the spot when I find good deals or jumping on trains to places unknown, and it can be difficult to coordinate these spur-of-the-moment schedules with friends. Each time though, I have happily had friends join along the way, like when I went to Vietnam over Golden Week or climbed Mt Fuji last summer. Or sometimes I go to a place arranging to stay with a CouchSurfing host and they end up being really easy to get along with so we spend the entire trip together, like when I visited Portland a few years ago (shout out to the wonderful Kuenzi sisters!).

This time, I booked a flight to Okinawa over a holiday weekend and found myself alone on a beautiful tropical island where the locals are friendly and have a life expectancy among the highest in the world. I started in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa prefecture, and made my way north up the Western coast to Onna, Nago, and Motobu.

I felt a sense of peace and stillness; away from the noise of emails, conversations, and city life. I felt I could really breathe, meditate, and be alone with my thoughts; no one to entertain but myself. I relished the freedom to go at my own pace, to learn the local bus routes, and chat with strangers in my limited Japanese. The day I flew back I had meals with friends in Tokyo and while it felt nourishing to my soul to bask in the warmth of their companionship, the peace I found in solitude was a familiar feeling that I cherish.

Several years ago, I was in a dark place. For a host of reasons, I had difficulty getting out of bed, finding joy in the things that once made me happy, and interacting with friends and loved ones. Depression feels so personal, and yet, a lack of community or even self-rejection of existing community is what further entrenches this feeling of disconnectedness. I have come away from this experience with a deep empathy for myself and others who have gone through feelings of helplessness. But at the time, I did what many unhappy people do, which was to retreat into myself.

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IMG_8610img_8617.jpgIMG_8513It took me a year and even longer to recover from this mindset and its aftershocks. When I first made the choice to take steps to change my mental perspective, I began to read voraciously alone in my room. I didn’t feel that I could really create anything of value in that state of mind, so I just consumed stories and words. Slowly, as I felt light energy returning, I felt more comfortable venturing outside my house. I began wandering to new neighborhoods by myself, visiting art exhibitions, or taking the train to a different part of town just to visit a particular cafe or ice cream shop. This time allowed me to reflect on myself, free of any distractions and external expectations, to consider each feeling and thought. What were triggers for my sadness? What were my deep intentions? What did I want to feel and how could I manifest the state of mind where I could attract these feelings? How could I honor the people in my life who were no longer with me without wallowing in anger at forces beyond my control? Distance, drifting apart, and the dearly departed; these were all factors that contributed to my sadness. The loss of important relationships and imminently facing a future full of uncertainty. Perhaps this sounds familiar to you.

During this time I worked at a non-profit, participated in peer counseling, and a 200 hour yoga teacher training where many of my class mates were also going through life upheavals or major transitions. The process of learning the asanas and alignments of muscles and bones coupled with intimate revelations from these people helped me to see my vulnerability as strength and to take steps to look deep within myself. Most importantly, I gradually shed the layers of resentment I held close, which had calcified to a hard mass of negative feelings, drowning out all the usual gratitude and joy for life I have. While this journey might have similar elements to others, I believe the process of recovery is necessarily individual. For me, the important steps were to forgive other people, let go of things I could not change and allow myself to feel sadness but manage its reactions, and to above all else, forgive myself for stumbling.

From a social perspective, it may seem like that year was a stagnant waste of youthful productivity and opportunity. But to me, it was a necessary time to really learn to understand my adult self and the many factors that have contributed to who I am today. These tools will stay with me through whatever changes I will face so that I may maintain a self-awareness of my core values and motivations. I learned to change my distorted perspective of anxiety and loneliness into strength, to find magic in solitude, and acquire an intimate knowledge of self.

I feel confident that I’ve reached a space where I am truly comfortable with myself though I am not content to remain as I am in this moment. As Whitman said, we each are large, and contain multitudes, and it is my intention to continue challenging myself to examine these dynamic pieces of self. Sometimes we need the gentle reminder of waves flowing over our bodies, of stillness and seclusion, as a chance to consider all that we are.

Shiawase (幸せ) means a moment when circumstances come together to produce a feeling of fortune, or a sense of deep and long term happiness, and シークワーサー or shikuwasa is an Okinawan (and Taiwanese) citrus fruit. Its bright rind and sweetly tart flavor serve as a memory for me of childhood and now, adult joy.

So thank you to the ocean, and thank you to Okinawa for giving me space to connect deeply with myself.IMG_8529.jpgIMG_8647xo your friend alice

Location: Naha City // Onna Village (Moon Beach, Tiger Beach, Cape Manzamo, Seaside Park Nabee Beach) // Nago Pineapple Park // Churaumi Aquarium, Ocean Expo Park, Motobu, Okinawa

one year all over the world

Happy anniversary to this little blog of mine.

In the year that I’ve had it I’ve visited Cambodia, South Korea, and Vietnam for the first time, traveled to several Japanese cities and islands, and re-visited Hong Kong. This brings my current tally up to 21 countries visited, 22 months living in Tokyo, 26 years wandering all over the world, and 56 blog posts! Fittingly, I am off to Osaka for a short trip with my mate Kelly-chan and her parents this weekend.

I love this space so much. I love the freedom of expression it has afforded me, the opportunity to practice my amateur photography skills and share my personal experiences. It truly feels liberating in a way that I did not expect when I finally worked up the courage to publish my first post. I have so many little anniversaries, and I love to celebrate them all on here (birthdays, japanniversaries, and revolutions around the sun). Most of all, it has nourished my love of writing, both reflectively and creatively. It has reminded me that I really love to write and most delightfully, gives me a forum to do it without any pressure or stakes. Thanks to my friends and family who follow along on my adventures, and thanks to readers on the internet for stopping by. You are loved and appreciated.

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

twenty six

7.7.2017

feat. Erika, Shirley, Kelly, Yusaku, Diane, Ebony, Dustin, Kei, Matt, Midori, Cynthia, Justin, and Fernando (other friends not pictured, I still love you)IMG_6955IMG_6966

I went to work on my birthday this year. I know, tiny violins can be heard in the distance–but since I have a summer birthday I am usually off school or off work because it coincides with the week of a major American holiday. That doesn’t apply in Japan so instead I am taking long weekends to Okinawa this weekend and Osaka the next. Plus I got to have lunch with some of my favorite office boss ladies 🙂

To celebrate this year, I had a tequila & gyoza-fueled party at my house. We introduced a few Japanese initiates into the wonderfully varied college drinking game known as ‘beer pong’, followed by an attempt to go dancing in Roppongi which instead ended up at a costumed karaoke-kan. I wish I had taken more photos but, you know how these things go. I always get worked up trying to say hello to everyone and just manic with happiness that I get to see friends together in one place. Party theme this year was RED and I ended the weekend with my first trip to Disney Sea which is the only one of its kind in the world.

I am so grateful for the beautiful relationships I’ve made in Japan. Community is what makes the experience of living in a place much richer. Thanks again to everyone for coming out!

xo your friend alice

Location: 蔵前 Kuramae, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan

i love it when you call me big papa

I love this old graduation photo of my dad.IMG_6852 (1).PNG

Oh, scholarly Daddio, please bless me with your study mojo and your wisdom for how to eat 3 meals in one sitting. (also, I’m happy I inherited my mama’s face but daaamn my daddy had a nice nose.) Happy Father’s Day to all the big papas out there.

I hope they serve champagne in the afterlife.

xo your friend alice

Location: Taiwan

west and the rest

“The Western scientific heritage is founded upon an epistemological system that prizes the objective over the subjective, the logical over the intuitive, and the empirically verifiable over the mystical. The methods of social-scientific examinations of cultures are thus already value laden; the choice to examine and understand other cultures by these methods involves a commitment to certain values such as objectivity. Scientific discourse has a privileged place in Western cultures, but the discourses of myth, tradition, religion, and mystical insight are often the dominant forms of thought and language of non-Western cultures. To insist on trying to understand nonscientific cultures by the methods of Western science is not only distorting, but is also an expression of an attempt to maintain a Eurocentric cultural chauvinism: the chauvinism of science. According to this objection, it is only by adopting the (often nonscientific) perspectives and methods of the cultures studied that real understanding can be achieved.”

Against the Multicultural Agenda: A Critical Thinking Alternative, Yehudi Webster (1997)

brought to you by the LSAT study grind…some of this material is actually really interesting

xo your friend alice

Location: Tokyo, Japan

(ii) just wanna be with you, hanoi

My favorite part about Hanoi was perching on balconies overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake or the ever present roar of motorbikes on the street below; drinking iced coffee with treacly condensed milk, creamy fresh milk, or decadent egg cream whilst listening to compilations of romantic French chansons or bopping along to the self-appointed DJ’s mix of S Club 7 and Eurythmics. Every single day we visited at least 2-3 cafes. Partly to grab wifi to plan our next stop or meet with our Hanoian compadres, but also just to feel the wind in our hair and sit cross-legged on plush cushions. After kicking up dust all day in Birkenstocks, working on that calf curvature, my favorite thing to do was unstrap my shoes and put my feet up whenever we stopped to drink coffee. That probably sounds really gross, but no one cared and it was so comforting and freeing to be outside of my rules-based existence in Tokyo.

In the course of 3-4 days in Hanoi we visited no less than 7 cafes: Note Cafe, Pho Co (2x because this was my favorite rooftop lookout spot), Cong Caphe (2x as this is a chain), Giang, Loading T (2x because the owner Sun was such a homie), Tranquil Books & Coffee, and Dinh Coffee. I have no regrets.

[text continued below]IMG_7724IMG_7768IMG_7804temple of literatureIMG_6390.JPGIMG_8317IMG_7772on Sunday when the street is open to pedestrians only and a festival atmosphere invades the Hoàn Kiếm District…IMG_7788life is tops at Cafe Pho Co, my personal favorite cafe…IMG_7844IMG_7840feat. my super fly manicure from Orchids SpaIMG_7873IMG_7863little girl practicing her roller blading in Lenin Park (Thong Nhat)IMG_7883.jpgVietnamese Women’s Museum [looking down]IMG_7990.jpgIMG_7969.jpgIMG_7818.jpgCaitlin was my travel partner for our 9 day trip in Vietnam. We met on move-in day for college dorms and we’ve remained good friends to this day, never letting more than a year pass before we see each other, and always in different places (so far Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, Oakland/SF, and she visited me in Tokyo). We both have ambitious dreams and every time we reunite we treat our time together as check-ins about where we want to go next. Most importantly, I cherish the honesty in our relationship. We are both very growth-oriented and want to continuously improve and learn from our human errors and vulnerabilities. As much as friends should be cheerleaders in our lives, they should also be able to point you towards real obstacles and inspire you to overcome challenges. I love that we’ve maintained this beautiful support system and our first international trip together was definitely a friendship level-up. This was taken just 5 days before her graduation from medical school. Congratulations Dr. Caitlin! ❤

IMG_7854IMG_7737IMG_7754IMG_8350.jpgIMG_7942IMG_7939Dan Q. makes a Hanoi cameo…IMG_6561IMG_7875IMG_7994IMG_8392a night at the Hanoi Opera…IMG_7929IMG_7914IMG_7918.jpgIMG_8485IMG_7758IMG_8365.jpgwhen lovely strangers want to take a photo with you…

IMG_8343IMG_8341hello from the Long Biên BridgeIMG_8440One
You’re like a dream come true
Two
Just want to be with you
Three
Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
And four
Repeat steps one through three
Five
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one

‘Back at One’ by Brian McKnight is the inspiration for this blog title. It also happened to be the first dance song my brother Will and sister-in-law Priya chose for their wedding ❤

xo your friend alice

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

ha long(ing iv you) bay

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in Utah going on hikes, swimming, and camping or if living by trails and beaches in California ingrained it in me, but as much as I love the big city, nature is where I am able to rest and recharge most. We took a 2 day 1 night jaunty cruise in Ha Long Bay, an approximately 3 hour bus ride from central Hanoi, and it was as majestic as all the photos I’ve seen.

feat. Nicole, CFranswag, Lara, Thien, and hella limestone karstsIMG_6537.jpgIMG_8082IMG_8105


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xo your friend alice

Location: Hạ Long Bay, Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam

(i) miss saigon

“Like oil on water, my memories resurfaced all the time. Today in Vietnam, one can feel a secretive, inward life that is not visible on the surface and yet is there, all around us.” – Pierre Schoendoerffer, French film director and Vietnam war photographer


I have to be honest. I did not expect to love Vietnam as much as I did. I imagined it the way many travel bloggers depict it — a tropical place with abundant and extremely cheap street food, and nearly as prolific and parsimonious backpackers. This was probably colored by my most recent experience in South East Asia last summer when I visited Siem Reap, an otherwise sleepy town that is dominated by the tourism trade due to its proximity to the Angkor temples.

I admit I am wary of comparatively affluent, Western backpackers using South East Asia as a marching ground for their wanderlust and self-appointed mission to ‘find themselves’ in a mode that can feel exploitative. But everyone, and especially young people, should feel free to explore without the burden of judgment; their experiences shape what kinds of people they will become. Who am I to judge? I belong to this category too. I hope that contact with Asian cultures grants a broader perspective and shapes cultural sensitivity, rather than encouraging hit-and-run tourism due to its relative affordability. But really, I do judge you if you visit a place for the first time and your only memories are from the inner organs of bars. There is more to a place than its booze (even if that is sometimes a significant part of a place).

Vietnam seems deeply affected by the memory of war and the scars of foreign intervention. Agent Orange seemed horrible in history books, but the reality of it was even more gruesome when faced with pictorial evidence at the War Remnants Museum. After seeing this, I declared in my own mind my intent pacifism. And yet, I question myself even on this platform. Is it enough to disavow war? Can a passive pacifist change the course of future armed conflicts? How do you honor pacifism while respecting those who sacrificed themselves for a conflict imposed by higher powers?

I’m grateful to have visited at an age too where I have learned some measure of critical thinking, because I think as a younger person, I might’ve missed the strong propagandist tone of some of these same museum exhibits. The two narratives of national defeat and reunification in Vietnam post 1975 seem equally present depending on who you ask and it wasn’t always clear whether people preferred the pre- or post-war regime.

But, aside from the heavy historical introspection, I am happy to have discovered Saigon is a metropolitan city full of young people chasing dreams. I am grateful I came into contact with Vietnamese peers of my own age group who helped me to see it from the perspective of the ‘New Vietnam’; an emerging economy with a creative and entrepreneurial class. Thanks to my friend Dan, I met supremely kind people with an appreciation for mixed media, literature, and music. Having a connection with young people from far flung places makes your experience seem not that dissimilar.

Since a couple friends have asked, we enjoyed Piu Piu for dancing, The Lunch Lady for the bomb-est streetside noodles (featured on Bourdain’s No Reservations), Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa (beware the light green chilis though!), and this Phuong spot for phở (conveniently around the corner from the Lunch Lady).

feat. Caitlin Franswag, Dan QT, and Molly

optimal hangover food phở real! now I knowIMG_7570.jpgIMG_7576.jpgit was phở-nomenalIMG_7584.jpgIMG_7605.jpgbeautiful cotton candy pink Tân Định Catholic ChurchIMG_7628

IMG_7639IMG_7620.jpgIMG_7669.jpgIMG_7632IMG_7606IMG_7629banh xeo, one of the greatest food revelations I had in Vietnam. it’s a sizzling rice pancake whose golden skin is christened with turmeric powder, then stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts, wrapped in a big leafy green blanket and bathed in chili sauce // we made half day trip out to the Cu Chi tunnel system, about 45 km north built by Viet Cong guerrillas during the Vietnam WarIMG_7693IMG_7682we were there on April 30, the 42nd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon April 30, or the Liberation of Saigon, depending on who you ask; in modern Vietnam it’s celebrated as ‘Reunification Day’, a national holiday poised just the day before ‘Workers Day’.IMG_6219.jpgIMG_7714IMG_7621We crashed at Bunker Bed, Breakfast & Bar, with the dopest host Mike Pham, an entrepreneurial renaissance man who worked with Dan to film a series of videos featuring cultural aspects of Hanoi. Check it out here on CNN! In addition to being a really chill dude, I was inspired by his lifestyle and all the nooks of his place stuffed with all sorts of literature and art. I’ll follow up with posts from Hanoi and Ha Long Bay as well, the respectively quaint historical and natural wonder legs of the trip. (Actually I took the least photos in Saigon. There were much fewer tourists in the city so I felt goofy brandishing my DSLR even if it is small hanging fruit compared to the cameras I’ve seen out and about.)

xo your friend alice

Location: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

spotted in: narita airport

khmer we can 047.JPGwhat if fish could fly?

On my way to Vietnam for the Golden Week holiday (a cluster of national holidays during the first week of May that allows many Japanese employees to take a week off from work)! Squeee! I can’t wait to explore this country and also meet up with my high school friend Dan, whose grandparents and several family members live in Saigon, and also Caitlin and Molly, friends from college. I got smart and booked a non-stop flight that earns mileage this time around, which cost about $100 more than the budget option, but I think is worth saving the extra 10 hours of travel time and not dealing with rude flight agents and random delays (cough china eastern cough cough).

I know I’ll be in good hands with Dan, but any recommendations out there for must-sees/dos/eats in Vietnam? Cảm ơn! (thank you!)

xo your friend alice

Location: Narita Airport, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

dont stop chasin’ sakura

This is a photo diary of my various hanami hunting exploits this season…feel free to skip if you get queasy seeing the reproductive organs of angiosperms.

Hanami means flower viewing, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it becomes a national pastime in Japan during the month of April when the cherry blossom buds come to fruition and yield a magical canopy of flowers. There is no way to capture in words or images the beauty of Japan during this time of the year; an effervescent week of full bloom that ends before you blink your eyes and notice the heavy rains that have fluttered the blossoms to the streets beneath your feet.

“The cherries’ only fault: the crowds that gather when they bloom”
– Saigyo Hoshi, 12th-century poet

feat. Agnes, Kelly, Daniel, and many beautiful strangersIMG_6604IMG_6607IMG_6687.jpgIMG_6644lady’s harmonica club, Yasukuni-jinjaIMG_6668IMG_6639IMG_6698weeping sakura, Imperial Palace

 

someone was here at 6 am to reserve this spot it’s THAT serious, Yoyogi ParkIMG_6704.JPGIMG_6605IMG_6746IMG_6875IMG_6878

 

paper lanterns, Meguro RiverIMG_6877IMG_6918.jpgsalaryman hanami, Ueno Park

 

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IMG_7040IMG_7051till death do us part, Shinjuku GyoenIMG_7066

 

IMG_7129.jpgIMG_7135IMG_7077IMG_7159which way? Inokashira KoenIMG_7008IMG_7064IMG_7119.JPGIMG_5689

 

 

IMG_7061this girl was speaking Chinese and oh so sassyIMG_7101blue steel, Daniel editionIMG_7113IMG_7334
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no photographs, Mt TakaoIMG_7335IMG_7139.jpg

The sakura season this year has been uncommonly, luxuriously long but is mostly over here in Tokyo. The beautiful thing about spring in Japan is that different varieties of flowering trees bloom at their own pace. Every week I look up from the handlebars of my bicycle on my commute and see a newly evolved fresh face ready to greet the day.

xo your friend alice

Locations: on the street in Taito-ku // Kitanomaru Park // Yasukuni-jinja // Meiji Jingu Gaien // Yoyogi Park // Imperial Palace East Gardens (Higashi-koen) // Meguro River // Ueno Park // Shinjuku Gyoen // Inokashira Park // Mount Takao
Tokyo, Japan

the happiest place in chiba

TIMG_5929.JPGhe title is a bit tongue in cheek…
Chiba prefecture is located to the east of Tokyo and primarily known for its bedroom communities, international airport, and industrial and agricultural areas. In the same fashion Manhattanites might (pretentiously) sneer at the bridge and tunnel set, if you will. Gomen Chiba! 
Tokyo Disneyland
was the first international Disney resort to open so I think it’s safe to call it the third happiest place on earth after Disneyland in Anaheim (the OG) and Disney World in Orlando (the behemoth). And while it is deeply commercialized, part of the fun and magic of the Japanese version is that adults and children alike buy into the story and costuming (shout out to Shirley for letting me borrow her Minnie Mouse ears and Shuyi for the polka dot top). And in general I appreciate that living in Japan means I can never be too kawaii. It was pouring rain for most of the day until about 4 pm but when the rainclouds went on their way I was able to snap a few photos. On the upside, I never waited more than 30 minutes for even the most popular rides and my front row seat to the fireworks show had me squealing with delight. I have no shame about my excitement over a place one might deem childish and here’s why…

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feat. Kei-kun, Midori-chan, and big brother William & my parents in the 90’sIMG_7236IMG_7240
IMG_5789.jpgI am very willing to suspend my disbelief. Of course I see the necessity of rationality and logic, but outside of serious and sometimes professional situations, I am more likely to depend on my intuition and feelings. While I have the adult perspective of knowing that the ghosts in the Haunted Mansion aren’t real, I still appreciate the fantasy and the sense of wonder that a place like Disneyland aims to project. I don’t want to be jaded and not get excited about these things. In the name of science or policy, I choose logic and evidence. But in the course of enjoyment in life, I often choose to sacrifice realism and trust imagination. Happily, the distinction between high and low culture is increasingly blurred. Art and experience once defined by exclusivity rather than defensible aesthetic or intellectual value are increasingly bridged by all kinds of folks largely due to accessibility. With access to a computer or library, people anywhere can learn about the culture of far flung places. There is something to be gained from both the alternative and mainstream. (The new S-Town podcast is a captivating reminder of this. Have you listened? I recommend it.)

Okay, that was a long tangent. What I’m trying to say is, if you want to jump up and down and stuff sweets in your mouth while smiling like a maniac at Disneyland–I’m with you!

The rides at Tokyo Disney are nearly identical to the ones I anxiously waited in line for as a tot for the distinctive pleasure that only occasional trips to this fantasy mecca provided as a child. (Peep photos of a beeming baby Alice at Disney in 1995 below.) The infusion of Japanese culture via the menu options (e.g. mochi aliens in Tomorrowland, omurice at the World Bazaar main entrance), orderliness, and story-telling language made this otherwise familiar experience a bit disorienting. At the same time, the genuine kindness and precision with which Japanese culture executes its visions felt very congruent with Disneyland’s vibe. I felt so nostalgic for the memories of my childhood, with the crushing difference of having to return to work the next morning instead of being woken up with a stack of pancakes bigger than my face. (I wish I could track down the specific photo I have in mind–I look so stoked on life!)

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IMG_7296.JPGthis janitor (official title: Showkeeper) drew a spot-on Mickey Mouse face literally using puddle water from the day’s earlier downpour and his mop. apparently it’s a thingIMG_7262This was actually my second visit to Tokyo Disneyland. The first time was on my first trip to Japan to 2004. I remember the outfits being much more scandalous but that memory might also be colored by innocence. Several friends and Disney blogs have heralded neighboring Tokyo Disney Sea as the superior and even *best* Disney theme park out there so I will have to check it out next. For now, another day at the office…

xo your friend alice

Location: 東京ディズニーランド 
Tokyo Disneyland, 1-1 Maihama, Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture 279-0031, Japan

spotted in: ohori koen

I impulsively decided to take a trip over a long weekend to spend the first day of spring in Fukuoka. The impulse was spurred by a feeling of restlessness after my friends left, a hope for early cherry blossoms in the western isles of Japan, and just wanting to take advantage of three consecutive days off work. The trip from Tokyo takes about 5.5 hours on the shinkansen (bullet train). It was my first time visiting Kyushu, so I’ve now seen parts of Honshu, Hokkaido, and Kyushu. The only remaining major Japanese island I’ve yet to visit is Shikoku. My goal is to visit all four before my stint in this beautiful country is over for the time being.

“Both life and death manifest in every moment of existence. Our human body appears and disappears moment by moment, without cease, and this ceaseless arising and passing away is what we experience as time and being. They are not separate. They are one thing, and in even a fraction of a second, we have the opportunity to choose, and to turn the course of our action either toward the attainment of truth or away from it. Each instant is utterly critical to the whole world.”

– Ruth Ozeki, A Tale for the Time Being (2013)

My friend hates having her photo taken, but she gave me approval to shoot anything but her face (which is a shame because it’s a lovely one).

girls x waves

IMG_6545IMG_6540xo your friend alice

Location: Ohori Park, Fukuoka, Fukuoka Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan