Monday, September 30, 2013

Keeping the Faith: Nylon Japan across continents


I am a creature of habit.

Since living in Los Angeles I developed a weekly ritual that  has yet to cease.

Nearly every Sunday, I would buy a Japanese fashion magazine, and read it at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, while drinking a Vanilla Ice Blended, and smoking a Black&Mild. One of those magazines had to be Nylon Japan.

I took this very habit with me to Portland, but made a few changes along the way.

I gave up smoking cigars due to a health insurance premium, and because I felt half-assed about the whole pursuit. Smoking one gas-station cigar a month does not a "smoker" make, however I couldn’t in good conscience tell someone that I was a "non-smoker". After getting tired of the whole neither-here-nor-there business to my smoking routine, I gave it up.

Also, there was no Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Oregon, so I had to improvise. After months of living in the city, I fell in love with a tiny café 25-minutes from my house called Insomnia. Their Iced Chai Lattes kept my Vanilla Ice Blended-cravings at bay, and their quirky atmosphere seemed a fitting place to thumb through pages of sky-high stilettos and glitters corsets.

The only problem with Insomnia is that, contrary to their name, they are not open all night. In fact, they are hardly open at all. Since they closed at 3:00 pm on Sunday, that barely gave me enough time to wake up and drive there (yes, at 26 years old I still wake up at noon on Sundays) so I changed my routine to Saturday, when they were open until 10:00 pm.

One thing didn’t change, and that’s Nylon Japan. Fortunately there is one Japanese bookstore in Portland, so I was able to continue the subscription I have had for the last seven years.

From cafés in Portland and Los Angeles, I dreamed of moving to Japan and living the life I had seen inside the magazine.
Shopping, dancing, crazy outfits, wild parties….
Now I am living in Japan. But instead of crazy outfits and wild parties, I am working full time, writing a novel, training for a marathon, driving on the left side of the road, and navigated through this country and culture with Japanese language skills that aren’t suitable for any conversation taking place outside of a bar.
But I still go to the bookstore each month and buy a copy of Nylon Japan.
And while sometimes the copies pile up on my desk unread, I still visit a café from time to time, and sit down to my usual routine.
The same routine I’ve kept since 2006, across three cities and two countries.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Moments from Matsue

Now that I have returned to my quiet mountain village, I am slowly settling into life in rural Japan, and finding time to appreciate and capture truly beautiful moments here.

This picture was taken on a street in Matsue. 

That day I visited the Matsue castle, some museums, and many historical sites. 
But somehow this house, overtaken by potted plants and vines, struck me as the most beautiful image of the day. 

This is a bit how my life has been lately. 

On the other side fo the world, one of my friends coincidentally described this very phenomenon to me in a recent email:

"It is amazing how your perspective changes when you suspend yourself in a moment of pleasure."

Let beautiful things be beautiful.

Friday, September 27, 2013

JET Application Expenses

They don't tell you this, but applying to JET is not free. 
Sure, there isn't an application fee, but there are plenty of things about the application that cost money. 
Fortunately, I was working full-time when I applied, so these were minor expenses for me. However, had I still been in school or under-employed, these unexpected costs would have been, at the very least, annoying, and at worst, a hardship. 
I wanted to share the list of my expenses for anyone who is interested in applying for the JET Program:

1. Application: 
  • Official Transcripts from 4 schools: $24
    • Obviously, this figure will be more or less for you depending on the schools you attended. This amount actually includes two sets of transcripts, one official for the first application, and one for me to open and photocopy. 
  • Passport-sized photos: $6
  • UPS Overnight mail: $33
    •  You can save money by sending your application earlier and not having to over-night it. However, I do recommend paying to use a traceable method of shipping.
2. Acceptance Paperwork:
If you are lucky enough to be shortlisted or an alternate, you will incur these expenses:
  • More passport sized photos: $6
  •  Fingerprint card: $15
    • I got my fingerprints taken at the local sheriff’s office. I do not recommend that you try to do it yourself. If your prints are not clear your background check will be rejected.
  •  FBI Background Check Fee: $18
  • Fee to mail FBI App: $5
    • Again, I used a traceable method of shipping
  •  IRS Form: $85
  • Fee to mail IRS form: $6
  •   Transcripts with my degree: $4
    • I had to order another copy of one of my transcripts because I technically had not graduated at the time of my application
  •  Add pages to my passport: $82
    •  If you have to apply for a passport, you will pay over $100. In my case, I already had a passport, but it was running out of pages. 
  •  Fee to mail passport: $7
  •  Co-pay at Doctor’s office: $5           
    •  This was to fill out the Certificate of Health, which must be signed by a physician. At that time, I had amazing insurance, so I only had to pay for a regular check-up, and I did not need a chest x-ray. If you don’t have health insurance, or need a chest x-ray, then getting the health certificate  may cost a lot more.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tea at the Heathman

the plant behind me makes my hair look huge
 Its funny how I’ve blogged on afternoon teas all over the world, from Dubai to Canada, but never in my home town: Portland. Just before I was about to leave this beautiful city in the northwest, I paid a visit to the Heathman Hotel for its famous afternoon tea.

This was my second time at the Heathman. Three years ago I had taken my mother to afternoon tea, but this was before I decided to blog every time I had a cup of tea somewhere. What I remembered most about that visit was the delicious vanilla tea I ordered, and thankfully after three years they still had it. 


Tea at the Heathman was a much more laid back affair than it is in other hotels. It is served in a quiet section of their mezzanine, and we sat in deep round booths, which made for a very private atmosphere, so unlike the bustling noise of the Peninsula in Hong Kong or the Bulgari café in Tokyo


Like many traditional tea places, the finger sandwiches, scones, and pastries are served on a three-tier platter.



This was a wonderful way to commence my four-year stay in Portland. Now I will have to look for afternoon tea places in Japan!

Touchdown Tokyo

Every time I fly to Japan, I have this routine of changing clothes in one of the large, accessible stalls in the arrivals lobby. I would do ...