Looking out into Another World

If I were to design a character building programme, it would involve solo hikes starting with a wild abandonment ... leaving the unsuspecting participant at a foggy trailhead with the company of a huge sign that warns of bear sightings. I would also intentionally forget to provide a bear bell.

Some film captures from my solo travels in Japan last October. I am not one to shoot film, but I picked a disposable cam up anyway just so that if I were to get lost in the forest or fall off a mountain there might be some form of documentation of my folly.

Looking through these photos brought me right back to the moments when I faced an adventure far bigger than myself. 

Traveling solo is not a new thing to me. I embrace the idea and I do oddly, crave for it. This short trip to the countryside in Japan redefined what it really means to be alone. From boarding an hour-long bus ride where I was the only passenger, to alighting the bus in total darkness. I found myself in a remote part of the countryside where roads were not exactly pedestrian-friendly. With one hand dragging my bag, and the other frantically waving my phone (which doubled as a safety light) at passing cars, I made my way to the hostel in hopes that Google maps would not fail me. Arriving at the hostel was another story, where I was put through a crash course on Entomology. I spent the next few days negotiating my comfort zone with these winged and multi-legged life forms.

I'm still waiting for my certificate till this day.

Koya Backpackers

2147-500 Nagakura, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun 389-0111, Nagano Prefecture
 

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The day starts early at 6 a.m. at the hostel. This is my favourite view that refreshes me as I brush my teeth

Saying goodbye to the hostel while it closes for Autumn break, and the owner goes on a 3-day hike in the mountains

Saying goodbye to the hostel while it closes for Autumn break, and the owner goes on a 3-day hike in the mountains

Yusuke-san, owner of Koya Backpackers, striking a pose for my camera before he packed me off and sent me on my way to the train station   It made me laugh when I saw this photo, partly because I forgot that I took it. Also because I could almost hear Yusuke-san's jugdmental remarks about my huge four wheeled luggage bag.

Yusuke-san, owner of Koya Backpackers, striking a pose for my camera before he packed me off and sent me on my way to the train station

It made me laugh when I saw this photo, partly because I forgot that I took it. Also because I could almost hear Yusuke-san's jugdmental remarks about my huge four wheeled luggage bag.

Taking a local train to Matsumoto, embarking on another part of my adventure to the Japanese Alps

Taking a local train to Matsumoto, embarking on another part of my adventure to the Japanese Alps

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I found a make-shift studio near the entrance of the camp sites.

I found a make-shift studio near the entrance of the camp sites.

At Kappa Bridge with the magnificent Japanese alps towering over me

At Kappa Bridge with the magnificent Japanese alps towering over me

Taisho Pond

Taisho Pond

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These amazing colours captured on film

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I discovered that acrophobia and strong winds don't quite go together

I discovered that acrophobia and strong winds don't quite go together

Scaling Mt Fujimidake

Scaling Mt Fujimidake

Atop Mount Fujimidake, I walked on clouds

Atop Mount Fujimidake, I walked on clouds

It would be exaggerating to say that I have been completely transformed due to a single experience. But I definitely departed a braver soul than when I first embarked on the trip. Perhaps one day, I will be able to put this into a good use to pack three sets of clothes for a month-long travel.

(vignettes of my adventure on Instagram  one, two, three, four, five)

Tokyo : Kichijoji

Because it is only right to finish what you have started (not to mention it is bad enough that I am only posting these pictures one year after my trip). So this is Kichijoji.

Unlike Nakameguro (as featured in my previous post), Kichijoji is huge. It is approximately an hour away from Harajuku/Shibuya area. Most people would end up in that area on their pilgrimage to Ghibli studio. On one side of Kichijoji you would find huge malls and department stores, cross over from the train station to the police station and walk right into the small streets to find small quaint stores selling stuff ranging from home wares, fashion to paper goods. 

I do not have many pictures of this place as I was just walking around and taking in chill-out atmosphere of Kichijoji most of the time while I explored a new part of Kichijoji I've never been. When I first visited three years ago my only aim was to visit the super cute Hara Donuts shop (which you might want to check out), at the other end of Kichijoji. 

A couple of nice shop fronts....

I love this picture of schoolgirls huddling together and walking in a group, it reminded me of convent school days when the only world that existed was the one under our little umbrellas.

Inokashira Park

It started drizzling again the moment I reached Inokashira Park which (uhm) dampened the mood just slightly. I mean, I was looking forward to rolling in the grass and flattening all the flowers in the same patch while at it. After about a minute, I decided that I didn't mind the rain. I love how the tiny rain droplets felt when they landed on my skin. They reminded me that I was present at that very moment, as I shared the joy of three friends struggling with the oars of their little boat and the faint scent of fresh greenery that filled the park. It didn't matter anymore.

At this point, you might be wondering if I am making up most of what I have written, especially what I have felt/ thought. Well I might have, or might have not but I am definitely writing from memory. Looking back at these pictures allows me to experience all the feelings and associations captured at that moment all over again.

Mahika Mano

The true agenda in visiting Kichijoji this round was to visit Mahika Mano Hammock Cafe and Gallery. It was pretty hard to get to this cafe as it was hidden in one of the really small streets, a short walk away from the park. So glad I made it eventually and I didn't even have to queue to get in. 

The hammock cafe actually doubles as a showroom for Hammock 2000. This means that you could actually purchase the hammock that you're sitting on while having your tea if you really like it!  For that reason, however, no photography in the cafe is allowed.

The food was not exceptionally fantastic but that's okay because you'd be too comfortable to even get up and ask them to change it. The cake and drinks were served on a low coffee table in front of your allocated hammock. Which also means you shouldn't get too carried away with swinging from the hammock unless you want your tea cups and plates to be sent to the other tables. What I really liked about the cafe aside from their comfortable swinging seats are the tiny windows that they have. The little boxes that look out across the street made me feel like I was in a different world – one where chairs are no longer relevant and getting out of hammock is out of the question. At that instance, all was right with the world. 

And it always is when you are on vacation in Tokyo. ☺

 

Tokyo : Nakameguro

I'm here to pay tribute to nostalgia, with a list of places in Tokyo which I have visited last April and really liked. I'm also doing this up for my close friends who are heading over to Tokyo really really soon. ☺ So let's start with one of my favorite areas in Tokyo – Nakameguro

Upon arriving at Nakameguro station, you will be stepping foot into one of the quaintest areas of Tokyo where time slows down to the steady flow of the Meguro river. Walk along the river and you'll find yourself on a narrow street lined with niche shops, restaurants and cafes. On each side of the river bank, neat rows of trees bendover to reach one another, while the playful breeze skip from branch to branch, sending secrets rippling across the river with every fallen leaf.

I make it a point to come back to this place whenever I am in Tokyo. This place is a favourite because it holds a lot of special memories for me – the only 21 deg celsius day I experienced two Summers ago (a huge dip from the usual 30ish), my first sakura viewing, first craft workshop which I have attended in Tokyo (with Mogu Takahashi) and my first outing with my brilliantly amazing friend Saki. It is interesting how I find myself back in same place but it feels so different every time.

Cafe Drole

One of my favorite places to drop in for a cup of coffee, some cookies and a slice of cake. Their friendly staff will also inform you if they have any seasonal specials – sakura cake was pretty special and refreshing.

I had to skip the cafe this time because I had a more important task at hand – which was to hunt for the next place in this list.

Chano-Ma Cafe

I was specially instructed to look for Chano-Ma and have lunch here on the behalf of Y who couldn't come along with me on the trip. The eggplant omelette sidedish was a symphony of flavors in my mouth, everything was really healthy and tasty. The atmosphere was splendid as well, huge windows which let the afternoon rays in and daybeds that stretched lazily by the side of the cafe. I found out that the cafe is made to be child-friendly for cool mommies to hang out and have lunch with their little kids. What a thoughtful concept!

I felt really pampered when I was there, even though it was slightly awkward to have someone remove your shoes for you. The caramel parfait was divine as well, I almost didn't want to leave but I had a date by the river.  ☺

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You could just sit here and stare out of the windows for hours, watch the shadows shift around the room, people watch or hangout with a book. And soon... it was time for me to meet my dear friend, Stacy (you will see her in one of the pictures below)!

Nill Style Cafe

I remember walking past Nill Style Cafe thinking that it was somebody's house. Unfortunately the cafe is now closed but still a good spot for photo taking – Stacy and I attempted with self-timer camera on our phones and it was hilarious.

We decided to wander around the area to see if we can find interesting shops/cafe that we have not been to as it was not our first time here. We did find some really interesting shops which I honestly can't remember without photographic evidence. But here are some that I do - 

Malmo Art Bird Books 

My きれい~ friend in her luminous fringe phase. 

My きれい~ friend in her luminous fringe phase. 

Possibly the most laid back cafe in Japan, and extra extra points on the cool vibes. The owner basically just left us alone in the cafe the entire time. It was nice to just chill out to the great music, and to be surrounded by shelves of design books that we can help ourselves to. We suspect that this place transforms into a really cool spot in the night. 

Ok Donut/ Soaks

Wherever we go, we are always on the lookout for places to have nice desserts and good coffee. We ended up at Soaks which shares the space with Ok Donuts. We said Ok to both chiffon cakes and "japanese-style" donuts for dinner because who can really say no to them. They have really interesting flavors for the donuts - ginger, tomato, gobo, lotus roots, ashitaba ... just to name a few. These donuts are made of whole wheat grains and they do not contain trans-fat (yipee). The texture is unlike the typical krispy kreme donuts, if you have tried Hara Donuts you'd know what I mean. 

The chiffon cake was soft and moist. According to my dear friend the Chiffon ケ−キ Expert, listen for the 'tssshhhh' sound when you cut through the cake with your fork. If you hear it, it's a MATCH! The evening ended with us in a pile of mush as we cooed over the playful puppy who was playing peekaboo from the sofa behind us, on top of good conversations and dancing taste buds. I'm just really glad to have Stacy's company (miss you!!), it was so much fun to be here with her this time. ♡♡♡

As always, it was pretty tough to say goodbye to this lovely neighborhood but I am looking forward to revisit, to be charmed by the place all over again. 

Tokyo Art Book Fair 2013

This blog has gathered  just enough cobwebs for Halloween! Yipee.

So the waves have finally brought me back to my sunny shores. Actually, since a week ago. My mysterious disappearance to Australia was the result of being sucked into a relentless temptation offered by a budget airline and a need for some quiet time.  I will be posting my photos from my trips bit by bit so there would be something to look at for the next few days.. weeks... months? 

 It is hard to believe that September came and gone just like that. 21st September was a day that I was counting down to since the 1st of July. When the day finally came, I did not know what to expect and almost relieved at the fact that I am present in Tokyo, at Tokyo Art Book Fair as an exhibitor.  By Grace I made it there, and I am sure glad I did. ☺

This year's fair was a massive one, we were one of the 300 over booths at Tokyo Art Book Fair held at a university with the most confusing name at Shinanomachi, Tokyo this year. The event was a huge eye-opener, it was really great meeting independent publishers from all over the world. However, there were a few challenges in being part of such a huge exhibition as well – in trying to stand out and having to set prices at a competitive rate. When I took a break from manning the booth and walked around, it was only then I realized how huge the compound was. I ended up only purchasing two zines on the first day myself. Both were by Taiwanese designers and extremely lovely. ☺

Seated at my tiny corner at the booth, it was interesting to observe the way people interacted with my designs and the display space. It was an incredible experience to see how your design extends beyond the physical material (in this case, the book) and to the environment in which is sitting in and vice versa. It gave me a lot of ideas on how my works can be improved to provide a more wholesome experience. I also thoroughly enjoyed talking to people who took interest in my works, to explain about the concept of my writings and designs even though not everyone who came by left with something in the end. It was a truly humbling experience to meet people who tell you that they appreciate what you do, and my heart stifles a chuckle whenever I see people smiling while flipping through my books. 

 

 

Over the 3 days, we had our fair share of surprises – friends (Saki, Silas, John & Lp) who showed up to give their support, as well as acquaintances who came by with coffee and chocolates, including the man from an antique shop in Shimo who loaned us display items for free. There was also a sweet Singaporean lady who dropped by our booth with her son to show her support when she realized that we are also Singaporeans. Not forgetting Bernice, Stacy and Josiah who helped us packed at the end of the fair and Josiah who carried my stuff up 5 levels to our apartment with his super strength after he learnt that our apartment elevator was not working. So thankful for these people. ☺

This trip was unlike any other trips to Tokyo, mainly because the intention was not for vacation. It is definitely a great experience and something I wouldn't mind doing again. As there is always a first for everything, I am beyond blessed to have this experience to call my own.

Here are some pictures that I have managed to capture amidst the crowd! Hope you guys will enjoy the post, it was not easy typing with both hands covering my ears to protect them from the boisterous roar of the thunderstorm. ☺ 

 

Entrance to Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS   

Entrance to Kyoto University of Art and Design, Tohoku University of Art and Design GAIEN CAMPUS

 

Stamping workshop at one of the tents on lvl 1

Stamping workshop at one of the tents on lvl 1

Cute booth designed like a birdhouse

Cute booth designed like a birdhouse

Random by PY Leong X Wood&Lead

Random by PY Leong X Wood&Lead

Our tiny booth – I had to balance a merchandises on my head and it helped to draw some crowd.

Our tiny booth – I had to balance a merchandises on my head and it helped to draw some crowd.

Customers browsing through  Of Clouds & Parenthesis , a travelogue.

Customers browsing through Of Clouds & Parenthesis, a travelogue.

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LP who gave us a HUGE surprise by turning up with John without notice 

LP who gave us a HUGE surprise by turning up with John without notice 

Michelle, Wood&Lead customer who bought and modeled the tote *___*

Michelle, Wood&Lead customer who bought and modeled the tote *___*

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Click on the image above to watch the video which accurately captured the mood of the book fair. This video was taken and originally uploaded by my friend Stacy who runs a cool site with updates of her life in Tokyo. 

 

Also, Wood&Lead items sold at Tokyo Art Book Fair are now available for purchase, visit Wood&Lead Etsy store now ! ☺