Get Your Art/Writing Portfolio Reviewed by VIZ Originals at 2019 Pop Culture Conventions

VIZ Media reaches the next stage in the development of its VIZ Originals imprint. Aspiring artists and writers are invited to apply for portfolio reviews taking place at some of North America’s biggest pop culture shows. The VIZ Originals imprint will develop innovative, English-language creator-owned graphic novel content for a global market, and is committed […]

via VIZ Originals to Host Portfolio Reviews at Leading 2019 Pop Culture Conventions — Lesley’s Anime and Manga Corner

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Black Nerds Expo 2019

Black Nerds Expo 2019

 

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The Black Nerds Expo on Thursday, February 28 from 10:00AM to 2:00PM at MiraCosta College (1 Barnard Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056) is a space for attendees to explore and celebrate black comics, books, art, video games, and pop culture. This event is open to everyone! Register at http://blacknerdsexpo.eventbrite.com for free!

Here is what the expo will offer:

-Play games

-Meet people in the art, video game, and comic book industries

-Make new, local friends who like black pop culture

-Participate in opportunity drawings for active attendees

-Take Instagram-worthy photos at the photo booth

-Day-of point card to collect comics-related stickers and prizes

-Learn about upcoming projects and releases information in anime, manga, video games, media, and pop culture

FAQs

How much is it to attend the Black Nerds Expo?

It’s free! Just make sure to either pre-register or register on-site for entry.

Why is there a need for a black nerds event?

Could you name at least three black superheroes outside of Black Panther, Storm from the X-men, or Luke Cage? Could you name at least three black authors without searching on Google? Could you name at least one black artist outside of comics? Events such as the Black Nerds Expo is to make aware the existence of black pop culture that isn’t usually shown or celebrated in mainstream media.

 

If I’m a vendor, artist, or would like to table for the Black Nerds Expo, how can I make that happen?

Please email jbanks@miracosta.edu or complete an exhibitor application at https://goo.gl/forms/75SkViyzNwPSFptU2 to register a representative to participate in the Black Nerds Expo. There is limited space, so please contact Jd Banks as soon as possible.

 

How much is it to reserve a table?

It’s free! We don’t want tabling or exhibiting fees to be a barrier for exhibiting. Please contact Jd Banks at jbanks@miracosta.edu as soon as possible since space is limited.

 

If I can’t be there personally but I or my business would like to contribute, how do I do that?

Send any promotional materials (i.e. flyers, postcards, business cards, posters) to the following address by Thursday, February 14, 2019 to give them time to arrive:

ATTN: Jd Banks, Student Equity (MC: #10C)

MiraCosta College

1 Barnard Drive

Oceanside, CA 92056

 

Is it possible to sponsor something for this event?

Sure! We would like to do an opportunity drawing for attendees, so any swag items such as T-shirts, hats, buttons, wrist bands, DVDs, posters, cups, or figurines relating to black pop culture would be appreciated. In return, the Black Nerds Expo will cross-promote your brand on social media and other marketing materials. Please email Jd Banks at jbanks@miracosta.edu for information.

 

Are you providing any stipends or paying any fees for vendors, artists, or representatives to participate in the Black Nerds Expo?

No. Participants will only be provided a table, refreshments, and day-of logistical support.

 

What sort of things would be great to bring as a vendor, artist, or representative to the Black Nerds Expo?

If you are a comics vendor, comics and graphic novels concentrating on black superheroes such as Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern, March, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Ironheart, Batwing, Cyborg, Mister Terrific, Vixen, Nubia, Rocket, XS, Tattooed Man, Afro Samurai, and more would be great.  Find a list of black superheroes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_superheroes. Books from Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Karyn Parsons, John Lewis, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Obama and other black authors would also be great. Artwork can be fan-created artwork of current black superheroes and/or original artwork with black and African-American attendees in mind.

Black Nerds Expo Supporters

IDW Publishing

Right Stuf

Evoluzione Publishing

Black Sci-Fi

MiraCosta College

Jade’s Escape from 2015: A Year of Un-Rewards

Every year, I look up my yearly horoscope to see how well the concocters can predict my future. Not that I believe in it–I think they provide a good, unpredictable laugh–but in some cases, I really really want them to be right.

Here’s what my 2015 horoscope said:

For those born under the zodiac sign of Libra, 2015 will be a rewarding year. The 2015 Libra horoscope predicts that this is a year where it feels like anything is possible and that the life’s rewards are endless. Enjoy your good fortune, but remember luck can change in an instant, so don’t get ahead of yourself. –Sun Signs

 

This overall horoscope was generally…incorrect. 2015 has not been a rewarding year for me unless I count the fact that I’m alive and in decent health despite being a full-time vegetarian living in a fat-packed, sugar-loaded society.

2015 has given me good and bad luck as easily as flipping a coin. In losing 30 pounds this year, my knees have been injured and re-injured multiple times, leaving me skeptical of my legs stability. Though I’ve returned to the States after 5 years expecting reverse cultural shock, nothing prepared me for the reality of the dismal job hunts (3 interviews out of dozens of applications) and misunderstandings from changing languages. In a stroke of luck, I received all my uninsured boxes from being sea-shipped across the Pacific and my Japanese pension without a hitch. On the flip side, the house my husband and I saved up for won’t be available to a couple who doesn’t have residency or military affiliations for another year. My excitement in visiting the Philippines for the first time turned into disappointment as family members constantly poked at my weight and vegetarianism.

This year has been rough, and I’m not afraid to admit that. Between the move from Japan to the States and the readjustment to American life, I’ve had to look at myself and ask, “What do I want to do with my life?” So far, I’ve narrowed down the list to writing and marketing, but both require I go back to school and get papers that say, “Hey, she can do entry level jobs now in so-and-so industry.”

I want to stay positive, but no matter how hard I work, I don’t feel like I’m moving forward. I have to take 2 steps back just to see a future directly in front of me. Part of me wants to lie down and call it a day every day, but the fighter in me says, “Just power through it. You can do it.” I know I can do it. It’s a matter of when, and when feels out of my grasp. Will it be 2016 that’ll see me join a publisher or magazine? Will 2016 be the year I win something, anything, in regards to writing? Or will 2016 be rifled with disappointments and punishments for actually trying?

At least one thing’s already up for 2016–my yearly horoscope:

The Libra horoscope 2016 thus forecasts that this is a year which will be the base for the coming years. So analyze and think well before making important decisions in your life. —Sun Signs

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Last Night in Okinawa

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Last Night in Okinawa

Japanese businessmen with too many drinks and skewed neckties watch me walk up a block of squat business plazas and timeworn bars, most with red lanterns swinging in their wooden doorways. This is Naha City, the capitol of Okinawa, three hours by plane from Japan’s famous capitol, three decades behind what people would call Japan when Tokyo comes into a conversation. Even the powerlines, which have no intention of migrating underground, provide background noise to the drunken businessmen and the beckoning shop owners in this expensive drinking sector of Naha. The men enter and exit their doors, some stumbling with tomato faces and smiles into waiting taxis.

This is my last night in Okinawa, and I walk next to my best friend, a Japanese soccer player who became my first friend in Okinawa five years ago. We were both teachers, me in the loose sense as an Assistant Language Teacher and him as my coordinator who spoke fluent English with a New Zealand flare. Though he left English teaching a few months later, we remained brother and sister in the islander sense, and whenever we saw each other’s family members at the mall, we were meeting another relative, an extended vein from our friendship.

Now, even after five years, I notice Japanese men trying to pry me from my place next to him—seeing a tall Japanese man in a casual shirt and chinos next to a black woman walking in this area is rare, unless this American and hondoujin are lost. This is our area, our yen is better here. Your yen is better over there where you turned off International Street. At those guys, I make eye contact, and they quickly turn their eyes elsewhere. Wherever yen was going to be spent, tonight was my night to let someone else do the spending. I, as a returnee to the States, was not allowed to dirty my own farewell party with my own cash.

My friend leads me to a wooden, four-story business building that looks as tan and old as the other buildings we passed. We go up a flight of wooden stairs and duck under a curtain to enter what my friend calls “my brother’s work”. The shop, a small but clean sushi bar, boasts three tatami areas with traditional floor tables and zabuton, or colorful Japanese cushions. Wooden doors, wooden pillars, and wooden countertops provide the aesthetics rather than hanging paintings or woodblock prints. My friend and I sit at the counter, and from an open doorway with a white curtain, his brother emerges in a white sushi chefs outfit. It is my first time to see him in four years, but through my friend, I always know where he is working. He is shorter than my friend by a head, but his small eyes and humor resemble my friend’s. Before they exchange a handshake, he looks surprised to see me. “Long time no see,” he says with a shy smile. Unlike his brother, he is reserved and gracious in his demeanor.

But it’s my friend who teaches me about the life of being a sushi chef. “Being a sushi chef,” he tells me after we have wiped our hands and cheered over a glass of chuuhai, “takes a lot of training. When we were kids, my brother was always shaping rice with his hands.” Only the best traditional sushi, which consists of a select cut of fish, a dab of wasabi, and a thumb-sized amount of formed rice, could lead sushi chefs into stardom in the industry. “Every day, chefs have to make $500 to $700 a night for the shop owners. Once they make a certain amount of money for the owners, the chefs can move on to owning their businesses.” He is proud of his younger brother, watching him deliberate over the rows of sliced fish in front of us, and in a way, I hold that same pride for this young chef.

The sushi looks different than the usual sushi I used to eat from the market or in a restaurant chain like Hamazushi. The fish are colorful and thick, hearty even, but easy to chew while the hint of wasabi lacks the sharpness of typical sushi, emphasizing the flavors of the fish and the shaped rice as a tasty unit. As I chew the second sushi, I suddenly realize why I feel as if I had skipped something: I did not dip it in soy sauce. It is completely unneeded.

My friend’s brother places sushi after sushi in front of us, lapsing into English for the fishes’ names and joking in Japanese with my friend. We get another drink, and it starts to wash away my senses. I laugh a little too hard, smile a little too much, eat the delicious handcrafted sushi a little too fast. I want to remember the warm feeling that both the chuuhai and Okinawa had given me for five years. People here are warm, and even those with cold interiors have no choice but to obey Japanese etiquette. When Okinawan people speak to me, it feels as if I’ve come home after a long absence, and they’re gently easing me into what I forgotten. Five years ago, I was surprised by this feeling, and every year, I renewed my contract to get closer to it, something akin to my Filipino home in the States. Other colleagues remarked their envy when I admitted I hardly felt homesick in years.

Between the second drinks and red snapper sushi, three Japanese people sit at the bar next to me. Immediately, one of the drunk women says, “You look like a famous singer.” For a while, everyone’s stumped. It’s when our last sushi arrives that the lady announces, “Diana Ross!” For the remaining twenty minutes there, she and her two friends address me as the former Supreme vocalist until my friend bids his brother goodnight and pays the bill.

“Goodbye, Diana Ross!” the three drunk birds say before we disappear down the stairs and into the warm summer streets. Now less business suits haunt the plaza doorways, and the taxis line the curbs. This is their time to strip drunken workers of their last yen. We avoid them and walk to a close-by Family Mart to get some cheap alcohol. At 2 o’clock in the morning, the clerk looks at us with an eyebrow quirked above his glasses. “There might by a typhoon tomorrow,” it says, but his thin lips only utter, “259 yen.”

When we get outside, the wind has picked up, flinging lose plastic bags and what little trash adorn the entire city towards the south. My friend and I cheer and drink our alcohol. As the night grows cooler and windier, our conversation—his kids, my husband, our jobs, five years of being an American sister and a Japanese Okinawan brother—turns into something warmer and sadder. Tonight, I think, let’s drink and eat before it gets too sad. As the lights in some stores dim and metallic doors slide over their shops, my friend and I stand up and smile at each other.

My last night allows me to return to a pair of eyes that can see Okinawa’s beautiful islands, see its people in their chinos and suits, and appreciate looking at all of them together in one place.

Lefties in Japan: Do Southpaws Get Little Love Here, Too?

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Happy International Left-handers’ Day!

Did you know I’m left-handed? My father, my grandfather, my aunt, and my husband are also left-handed. Imagine all the smear stains we’ve gotten on our cuffs, how many artful turns of a paper we did to avoid ruined sleeves, how many decisions we’d have to make–throw left or right?–in our entire lives. No matter how many left-handers there are in my family, there aren’t many in the world (only 10 percent!). Left-handers are just as rare in Japan as in the States, but unlike their American counterparts, they don’t have as much trouble dealing with a right-side world.

In Japan, left-handedness isn’t seen as a conspiracy to make do with the Devil as it is in Western and Catholic countries. Sure, there was a time when Japanese viewed southpaws as impractical because of traditional calligraphy writing. Even though Japanese people still write from left to right when they make banners, the taboo of being left-handed, or giccho, is considered old news.

In recent times, Japanese students use regular notebooks or genkou youshi (原稿用紙), a Japanese manuscript paper for writing essays. This kind of paper has little boxes, each box for one character, and they’re read from right to left. Because traditional Japanese is read from the top downwards, essays are written the same way, top to down. It makes it easier for us lefties to write an essay in Japan, even if they’re apology or detention essays (you’ll see it in manga, anime, or in the discipline office in Japanese schools).

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Poor Houtarou from Hyouka has to re-write an essay he forgot at home.

Of course, left-handers in Japan still face problems in the right-hander world. In contrast to manuscript paper, writing calligraphy on horizontal banners is oriented for right-handers.  I wonder if famous calligraphers like Michiko ImaiShinjo Ito, or Shingai Tanaka ever had trouble writing Japanese characters.

Oh, Flanders, you'll only get orders from Japan. Go online!

Oh, Flanders, the Simpsons and the Leftorium are washed up. Get your butt online, man!

Looking for your real Leftorium? Here are some shops that can help you with your left-handed needs on this fine International Left-handers Day:

1. Lefty’s – https://www.leftyslefthanded.com/ (Special discounts on International Left-handers’ Day)

2. Anything Left-Handed – http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/

3. RU-Lefthanded – http://ru-lefthanded.co.uk/ocart/

4. Left-hand N.Z. – http://www.lefthandnz.com/

#6 of 33 Art Projects: Sketches for Writing

I write different stories for contests, and every day, I get stuck. Sometimes, I can’t imagine a character’s clothing or a certain scene. I draw to brainstorm ideas until I get a clear image in my head.CIMG2850

Costume ideas for a story.

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Scene for a science fiction story.

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First scene from a story…and, no, it’s not a manga.

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Studying glass of water for a T-shirt design.

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As William Zinsser says, “[…] look for your material everywhere, not just by reading the obvious sources and interviewing the obvious people” (On Writing Well, p. 58). I usually draw people I see because they provide material for stories. The picture above are two people I saw at the bookstore. Oh, and I do write in Japanese sometimes. Saves space.

The Princess of Tennis: The True Story of an American Manga Assistant

I finally got my copy of The Princess of Tennis from Jamie Lynn Lano!

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There aren’t many stories (if any) about Western manga assistants working in Japan. Jamie Lynn Lano tells all in this book and on her blog, Jamieism.com. You can buy  The Princess of Tennis: The true story of working as a mangaka’s assistant in Japanon Amazon.

Also, you can help Jamie get to San Diego Comic Con through http://www.gofundme.com/9v7x64.

Short Story Contest Finalist

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I got my “2014 Short Story Contest Finalist” certificate for entering the 1st Annual Little Tokyo Historical Society Short Story Contest. It came with a $10.00 gift certificate to Mr. Ramen’s, a ramen restaurant in Los Angeles. Although I didn’t win the top 3 spots, I placed top 16 out of 60 entries. I’m proud of myself! Writing the story, “Smile’s Sonata”, taught me that there’s another layer to myself that can be drawn out through writing.

And, yes, my name on this certificate is misspelled. 28 years later, and my name is still being misspelled. Lovely!

私は1回リトル東京歴史協会の短編小説から「平成26の短編小説決勝戦出場者」の証明書とロサンゼルスでのラーメンレストランの「Mr.Ramen」商品券をもらった。トッポ3番を勝ってないのに、ストリーは16番でした。うれしいです!「笑顔のソナタ」を書いたら、多く自分の層があることを学んだ。

 

Super Saiyin Level 4: My 4 Years Living and Blogging in Japan

I’m at Super Saiyin status! Yup, I’ve reached 4 complete years of living and blogging in Japan!

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I know, I know. Some Americans have reached city-stomping, moon-transforming monkey status in their tenth, twentieth, or even thirtieth years in Japan. Good for them! For me, it’s an awesome thing: I’m still living my dream! And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

Anime and manga does and doesn’t equal culture.

Just as any media doesn’t fully capture a single culture, it also says a lot about that culture. The Japanese population is mostly Japanese. From the time Japanese people are born until they die, there are certain things that’re taught to them. Did you know that Japanese students take Ethics and Morals in junior high school? And did you know Japanese students are punished more for not following the rules than their grades? No, maybe not. In reality, Japanese people aren’t allowed to stand out. Japan is a collective society, and in a country the size of California housing millions, the population can’t afford to be individualistic. But in anime and manga, you’ll see students who are totally different because of their natural talents or super abilities. In a way, these media are reflections of a country where the hammer strikes down the standing nail.

Design and marketing is on a whole different level in Japan.

Wherever you walk in Japan, you’re bound to find billboards upon billboards, posters behind posters, signs above signs of ads, ads, ads. Even if you can’t read them, these ads are successful at embedding colorful and creative images into your brain. Everything has a mascot (ever hear of Hello Kitty, Kumamon, Pikachu, or Luffy?). When I think of American ads, they don’t compare. Then again, the States has it good with creating recognizable brands. Hmm, maybe I’m wrong… Still, Japanese advertising makes me laugh!

Quality of (Insert a Noun) is cities above the American sense of quality

I’m absolutely in love with Japan’s sense of quality. It shows in mundane things: merchandise at thrift stores are clean and cared for; lunches are freshly prepared by mothers and lunchbox pros same day; fast food actually matches the pictures. So, yeah, quality of life is awesome in Japan. There’s the national healthcare that every working person can receive (OMG, Japan is Socialistic ::gasp::), and the older you are, the cheaper your optional car insurance becomes. Don’t get me wrong, I do miss the States, but some things–the crappy secondhand buys, the fat-salt-sugar-saturated processed food, and the bombardment of unhealthy lifestyles–aren’t living up to my quality of life anymore.

I miss the straightforwardness of the West

Japan is the land of beating around the bush. You can’t say anything directly because it’s seen as unfriendly. Instead of saying, “Why aren’t you wearing an undershirt?” you have to opt for a round-about way of saying things. “Aren’t you cold?” The real meaning: you’re not dressed properly for work! Then again, no one will tell you at the very beginning how to dress for work in Japan like in the States. “Do I have to wear suits? What color? How long?” You have to become a really great observer in Japan and answer the questions yourself. In a way, I find it refreshing. As Haruki Murakami wrote in 1Q84, “If you can’t understand it without an explanation, you can’t understand it with an explanation.” 

American Prince of Tennis Manga Assistant to go to San Diego Comic Con???

American Prince of Tennis Manga Assistant to go to San Diego Comic Con???

You can help make this headline come true without the question marks!

One of my manga friends, an American manga assistant to the popular Prince of Tennis, needs your help! She’s trying to get to the annual San Diego Comic Con, the biggest pop culture convention in the continental U.S. In order to get there, she needs to find some funds.

This is what she wrote on her website and Facebook:

“I was invited to speak at San Diego Comic Con in July!!

The thing is that I need your help. I can only spare the time to come for the one day that I’m invited to speak, what with all of the chaos going on in my life, but I’ll fight hell or high water to be able to share my experiences with everyone. I just need some help paying for it. You know that I come from a poor family, and working for a mangaka didn’t pay all that well, nor does book writing (I wish that it did!).

But I don’t want the money to stand in my way. Instead of a corporation paying my way, I’m hoping that the fans will. That everyone who has heard my stories will chip in just a little bit.

I need your help, let’s help each other, ne?

http://www.gofundme.com/9v7x64

Donate anything, even your pocket change! It’s a good opportunity for Americans to learn how to break into the manga in Japan Land!

http://www.gofundme.com/9v7x64

Galloping to the Goal in the Year of the Horse

Last year, I made 5 resolutions:

1. Lose weight. I managed to lose 15 pounds from July to November by exercising 3 to 4 times a week. Injuries got in the way. I injured my left knee twice in June and July and strained my neck in December. Even though I’m starting from zero again for 2014 (at 154 pounds, only 1 pound lighter than last year), I’ve figured out the exercise program that works for me.

2. Learn Japanese. I had planned to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), but I missed the deadline. Still, this year, I finished one full journal in Japanese, applied for a Japanese speech contest for foreigners, and re-started organized Japanese studies with an advanced course.

3. Save more money. I didn’t save more money this year. I spent more money (yikes!). I did, however, started seriously paying off my student loans and my husband saved the majority of money.

4. Travel more. Because of our savings, my husband and I decided not to travel.

5. Get to reading and writing! 2013 was a good year for me in regards to writing and reading. I won a science fiction writing contest and one of my stories was selected for a science fiction anthology. I also read 32 books out of my Goodreads’s goal of 30 books in a year. Along with my writing and reading progress, I took two very insightful Coursera classes: Comic Books and Graphic Novels (University of Boulder) and Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World (University of Michigan). They helped me improved my writing style and approach to fiction.

Now that I’m staring my 2013 resolutions in the face, I understand why most of these goals failed. They’re so broad! I need concrete, realistic goals, not general ones that can be transposed from me to another person.

So here’s another shot at my resolutions:

1. Lose 25 pounds in 2014 and keep it off. If I exercise 30 minutes 3 times a week every week for a year, that’ll make 144 workouts in a year. This is possible if I look at it as in half a pound a week is lost in 48 weeks (a year). Luckily, I’ve found some great workouts online for free (save money!) and I can put my birthday gift to use (Nike Plus Fitness on Kinect). And, since my husband and I have decided to only eat meat in one meal a day, we’ll be helping each other stave off the pounds.

Ultimate goal: Weigh 130 pounds.

2. Take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). I missed the deadline last year, but I have another chance in July. I have a tutor to help me with this resolution now, and I can concentrate on kanji (Chinese writing system) and grammar through old textbooks.

Ultimate goal: Pass N1 of the JLPT, finish 2 Japanese journals, and pass my Japanese advance course.

3. Pay off 100% of my last credit card, pay off 95% of my student loans, and save at least $1,000 a month. This is totally possible if I ignore the horrid yen-to-dollar exchange rate. From October, I already implemented my student loan pay off. This year, I have to take the reigns of my budgeting plans by creating monthly bill deadlines and alerts.

Ultimate goal: Have $0 on all credit cards, have $700 left on student loans, and have $10,000 in savings.

4. Read 50 books this year and win 2 writing contests. I’ll have to pace myself and read more e-books while I’m at school. I need to develop a writing schedule and stick with it for the year.

5. Create 8 manga podcasts on Anime 3000. I’m a manga podcaster for Anime 3000’s Manga Corner. I was able to release only 4 manga podcasts last year. I’d like to re-vamp the show a little and interview 8 different guest stars. If you’re an anime, manga, or Japanophile podcaster, you can contact me (mangacorner [ at ] anime3000 [ dot ] com) about being a guest star.

How Much of the Snake I’ve Eaten

In January, I posted my New Year’s resolution. Now, six months later, I’m doing a check-in.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Losing weight: Drop 25 pounds.

In January and February, while my husband did a cleanse, I opted for only eating meat once a day. I don’t know if I dropped weight, but my clothes did fit differently–good for not exercising (my husband did, though). Just when we were going at a good pace, my husband hurt his back and the exercising (for him) and the non-meat meals stopped. It goes to show how much being in a relationship can affect your body.

Three weeks ago, I started doing Tae Bo again. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered (I did it last year for two months), but I decided to do cardio three times a week and strength training once a week. A week ago, I hurt my knee, so I’ll have to stick with strength training and minimum cardio. Injuries are the worst!

Plan: Do 30-45 minutes of exercise every other day. Two times a week include a strength training regiment (12 reps, 3 sets with weights), and work on abs every exercise day.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese: Become a more fluent speaker.

I entered an international speech contest in Japanese, but I wasn’t picked. Maybe next year… Every day, I learn a new Japanese word (today’s word is 野良猫, noraneko, or “stray cat”) to build my vocabulary. I also write in a journal in Japanese, and some of my posts on this blog have a Japanese translation. So far, my reading comprehension has gotten easier as well as my kanji.

Plan for the rest of the year: Sign up for the JET Programme’s free advanced Japanese course and get ready for another speech contest (to get picked this time!).

#3: Save more money

I haven’t saved any money (according to my Mint account), but I have managed to slim our daily expenses. Instead of buying many snacks and going out to eat, we cook at home and avoid sugary products like cookies and fruit juices.

Plan: Send a set amount of money to my American bank account and not touch it except for emergencies and bills.

#4: Travel more.

Because of Item Number 3, traveling is out of the question. Sadness!

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

I became a part of a creative writing circle. We get a prompt and two weeks to write something, then we post in on Google Plus. It’s very convenient because I never know how people will react to it. Also, it keeps me on my toes in keeping with deadlines!

Plan: Continue with the writing circle. Win at least one writing contest!

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: http://jadesescape.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257

Time to Take a Bite Out of the Year of the Snake

Per New Year’s and weight gain, I made several resolutions to better my life. For 2013, I have a few, but I’m not just going to say what they are. Many people make that mistake. I want to avoid the talk and just get down to the core of the problem and how to realistically solve them.

Gotta get that fat outta here!!

#1: Lose weight.

Last year, I made this a goal, and in July, I could wear clothes that I hadn’t worn in two years because of my weight. By December, I regained most of the weight I lost five months ago. The most realistic approach to losing weight for me is not stressing out, getting enough sleep, eating more vegetables and fruits, and exercising.

My goal in losing weight this year is 25 pounds. Right now, I weigh 155 pounds–30 pounds over my high school weight–and I want to shed it. This fat represents the stress I’ve gone through since getting married, living in a foreign country without being fluent in the language, and becoming inactive in my local community. The fat needs to go.

My plan is to start with moderate cardiovascular exercises that I enjoy (basketball practice, dance, and jogs) and moderate strength-training regiments at home. I just have to watch my knees (two torn ACL injuries from ten years ago). Right now, my eating habits are OK, but they can be better. I’ll add more dairy products, fruits, and vegetables to my diet from now on.

How to write “learn” in kanji

#2: Learn Japanese.

I’ve come a long way since last year when I could vaguely understand what someone said in Japanese. Now, I’m on my way to becoming a more fluent listener. My goal this year is to become a more fluent speaker. It’s harder than it sounds because I have trouble with what I call the linkers, wa, ga, wo, and ni. I want to master them.

My plan is to study with a native speaker weekly and later take the lowest level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Right now, I have a book for passing the JLPT and I have several workbooks for learning the most basic kanji . In the meantime, I’m working on remembering my Japanese speech for a contest.

Bank on the Pig.

#3: Save more money.

That’s all. Just save more money. This past year, I was able to pay off just about all of my credit cards. Now I want to pay off one of two big debts and continue my savings plan for when I return to the U.S. One thing that has kept me in check is a financial planning website called Mint.com, which gives me a pie chart of all of my expenditures and keeps track of my financial goals.

Let’s get to packin’!

#4: Travel more.

My husband and I decided that in 2014, we’ll return the U.S. Before then, I’d like to visit some other nearby countries on holiday breaks. Of course, this could dig into Resolution #3, but we can definitely make it work without having to spend an arm and a leg. Flying between China and Japan starts around $150 dollars. For a new experience in a different land, I’m willing to pay for it.

Once upon a time, there was a writer…

#5: Get to reading and writing!

In August last year, I self-published The Ends Don’t Tie with Bunny Rabbits. Ever since then, I’ve gone on to do a free book-reviewing website by the same name and started to read indie authors’ books. I still have several books on my list, but I’d like to read up to 50 books in 2013. I only read 26 books in 2012 and 24 books in 2011.

With writing, I’d like to start this year with a great Korean comic review for the Manga Bookshelf column. I also want to finish writing another book and get it published this year. It’s possible to do all this if I use my time wisely. No more Youtube time wasters.

Links

1. Scale: http://www.johnstonefitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Weighing-Scales-1.jpg

2. “Learn” kanji gif: http://nihongoichibandotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/5b66.gif

3. Piggy bank: http://sj.sunne.ws/files/2011/09/Piggy-Bank1.jpg

4. Suitcase: http://henricodoctors.com/util/images/TravelMedicineSuitcase.jpg

5. Books: http://jadesescape.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/books.jpg?w=257

Making the Escape 2 Years Later

Now that I’ve completed exactly 2 years in Japan as an English teacher, I feel more accomplished–and less “escaped” from the life in the U.S. I have a great job, a great husband, and an ever-growing confidence in my not-so-new surroundings here in Okinawa.

Looking back on the past year, things have really changed. I earned my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification, which has made me look at teaching completely differently than when I arrived in Japan 2 years ago. My Japanese has gotten better, and I can hold a conversation using easy language. I’ve even gone from my Japanese study books to reading Japanese comics in their native language (not an easy feat, if you ask me). And finally, I still spend every day playing with my husband (that’s something that hasn’t changed and I still enjoy).

Since this year, I’ve been looking at my future more seriously, more squarely. I’m thinking about things that I’ve always wanted to do, things that I wish I could’ve done, and all that good jazz. But you know, I’ve learned that thinking about things isn’t going to take me anywhere except nowhere. So, just like how I got my butt into shape and made my dream of coming to Japan a reality, I have to get other things in order.

I want to:

*buy a house

*publish a short story book

*lose weight

*help out more with school life

*learn how to play the piano and/or guitar

*improve my Japanese

*learn Spanish

I know I can achieve most, if not all, of these things in a year’s time.

Japanese Writers

When I first became interested in Japan, I was only interested in Japanese animation and manga. It wasn’t until college that I decided to read Japanese authors to get a better perspective of Japan. Although I think that anime and manga are great ways to learn more about a culture, books have a unique way of presenting cultural information in a gentle manner; the reader gets to walk in the footsteps of a Japanese person, not just look at drawings of Japanese people. The thoughts and mannerisms of a Japanese are ingrained in the writing–if readers can read between the lines.

Haruki Murakami

Murakami is one of my favorite writers in general, let alone, Japanese writers. His works are very famous around the world, and almost every book I’ve read by him has amazed me. His most popular books include 1Q84, Norwegian Wood, and Kafka on the Shore. Each of his stories deal with the surreal, whether they encounter dreams, ghosts, or the character’s own tormented psyche.

Banana Yoshimoto

Though I would say that Yoshimoto is a female version of Murakami, her works stand well on their own. She also writes surrealistic stories, such as n.p., Goodbye, Tsugumi, and Kitchen, but she focuses on a situation that leads the main character towards different relationships with people. What I like about Yoshimoto is that her work is really honest and straightforward, something that’s difficult to find in writers nowadays. Her work is easy to digest, but don’t be fooled. There’s always a deeper concept playing beneath the surface of her words.

Kenzaburo Oe

Nobel Prize winner, Kenzaburo Oe, is a well-known Japanese writer with many of his works translated around the world. A prolific writer with heavy themes, Oe captures the depth of human psychology while infusing existentialism into his stories. His works include A Quiet LifeThe Changeling, and A Personal Matter. Although his works are more difficult to read–his audience seems to be for people above a tenth-grade reading level–Oe’s works are worth reading, especially for readers looking to find the gritty side of the human soul.

 

Yukio Mishima

Though this writer, actor, poet, and film director was born in the early years of the 20th century, Mishima’s works still breathe of lives that face the same issues of loss, death, and reality. Similar to Oe’s dark-themed works, Mishima faces his readers with brutal honesty that isn’t easy to absorb sometimes. Still, his books like Death in Midsummer and The Sea of Fertility tetralogy are worthwhile reads.

Amy Yamada

Although Amy Yamada isn’t so popular like Murakami or Yoshimoto, Yamada’s books are engaging and interesting. Her books, like  Trash and Bedtime Eyes, appeal to older women–many of her titles embraces life as a Japanese woman in the U.S. and the relationships she engages in. What I like about Yamada is her confidence in writing about gritty subjects, like sexuality, racism, alcoholism, and interracial coupling. She’s not shy about the reality of relationships, good or bad.

Yasutaka Tsutsui

Author of popular stories that spawned multiple anime and movie titles, Tsutsui’s books are more suited for the complicated teenage mind. It’s not the plot lines that I would suggest books like The Girl Who Leapt Through Time for the teen-book section. Simply, the English versions I’ve read are written at a fifth or sixth grade reading level with the same level substance. Like Murakami and Yoshimoto, many of Tsutsui’s books have a surreal quality, but more fantasy or science fiction is weaved into the stories. Unlike Murakami and Yoshimoto, who use simplistic vocabulary, Tsutsui hasn’t mastered how to create depth in the stories. As I mentioned before, I would only suggest Tsutsui’s books for complicated teenagers.

Writing and How I Hate It

Maybe I’m a little angry. I lost three writing competitions and I’m not exactly enjoying my real life right now.

What gets me isn’t the fact that I lost. It’s the fact that I didn’t get any feedback. “Hey, you’re story sucked because of this and that.” Nothing. Just a copy-and-paste message, “There were so many participants, but we chose only # winners.” Jeez, thanks for the lukewarm message, but let’s not waste each other’s time, shall we? Just say, “You didn’t win.” Don’t lift my expectations with a beat-around-the-bush line.

And you know what frustrates me most? Is that I’m writing at the best of my ability, and it’s like they’re saying, “You’re just not good enough.” I’ll admit, I have an inferiority complex. Can’t help it; it’s just the way nurture vs. nature has treated me. Even my husband said, “Van Gogh didn’t sell one painting when he was alive. Charles Bukowski was rejected so many times before he was published.” All these examples, but none of them are me.

What writing has given to me is a realization that life–real life, not school life–is really not about idealism or principles or even love and feelings like the movies. Life is just a sad existence for man. Good times don’t outweigh the bad times. Life won’t give you money or a clear method in parenting or grant you a magic load in the bank or in your pants. Life is just life. Writing just records it all–the dreary, the blind, the molested, the raped, the stabbed, the deaf, the murdered, the insane, everything. And no matter how good things are, bad will always win out.

Death is bad, so bad always wins out. We’re all living to die. And writing records the life and makes up the dead.

I can’t even write positively right now. It’s like a whole heap of what is writing just landed on my shoulders and entered my head. There is nothing positive about recording reality. There is nothing positive about realizing what writing does. And there’s nothing positive about losing.

1 Year in Japan, 1 Year of Blogging, 1 Year of a Brand New Life

It’s been exactly one year since I started Jade’s Escape as a blog to talk about what I saw my first year living in Japan. At first, I wanted to just show how living in Japan was like, but as I kept writing and blogging, I wanted to do something else. I wanted to show other anime and manga fans that their loves are born from a rigid, yet sensible reality. I wanted to showcase Japan’s beauty in its strangeness and uniqueness.  Lastly, I wanted to show how the U.S. isn’t the greatest place to be in the world. There’s more to experience out there than just the “American lifestyle”. I suppose the best and the worst things come from separating what you once knew and being thrust into a whole new world.

Anime and Manga doesn’t equal a whole culture.

One thing that really irks me is how anime and manga fans think they know Japanese culture just because they watch anime or read manga. Though they may learn more Japanese honorifics than the average person, a fan–no matter how long they’ve been an anime or manga fan–can really know what Japanese culture is like unless they’ve lived in Japan for some time. It’s a sad reality for a fan to be told they don’t know anything about Japanese culture even after ten or fifteen years of watching anime and reading manga. As an anime and manga fan myself, coming to Japan the first time was eye-opening, but once you live here, anime and manga loses its appeal slightly because you’re surrounded by it. In a way, it’s good to realize the differences between anime and reality for fans because they become a little more culturally-aware.

Okinawa isn’t fully Japan.

Let’s get one thing straight: Okinawa isn’t like mainland Japan. It’s location, which is the very bottom of Japan, separates this island prefecture from its bigger and northern prefectures. Many of its culture is influenced from many global aspects: trade from China, wars between Japan and the U.S., and the presence of U.S. military bases. Okinawa shares the same climate conditions as the Philippines, and the biggest export for the southern islands is sugar cane. The people themselves speak various forms of Hougen, or the Okinawa dialect. (If you’ve heard it, it rings very differently than Japanese.) In what I’ve learned from being in Okinawa, the way Japanese is spoken in Okinawa is quite different from mainland Japanese speakers probably because of the dialect here. The dialect even permeates the description of food, which is similar to Filipino and Chinese food. Aside from the location, climate, language, and food, Okinawan people are viewed as the common farmer by mainland Japan people. Still, many of the folks in Okinawa have a very warm nature, like an islander mentality, that’s easy to connect with.

Okinawa soba

Typical Okinawa soba from the Okinawa Times website

I can appreciate nature more.

Every day, I can open my eyes in the morning and see green every where. Never mind my green window treatments. Japanese house uses natural tones and patterns to “refresh the mind,” and trees and plants sprout from the little space that’s available between the concrete jungles. Even at schools, there are gardens and potted flowers every where. You can’t help but appreciate nature in Japan!

Some Americans want to keep their college days going.

I’ll say it: some Americans shouldn’t be in Japan. Hell, they shouldn’t be outside of the U.S. These Americans give other thoughtful Americans a bad reputation. Not only do some Americans drink and party like they’re still in college, they drag out that same feeling that you, as a person who can think above a Neanderthal, can’t fit in with people from your home country. As a minority from America, it’s a very strong feeling, and one that I didn’t feel until I was around certain Americans. I’m not saying that these Americans are only military personnel; I’m saying that some Americans in general never shed the “American mentality”, a mentality that they have certain American privileges when in reality, they aren’t in America. We’re all in Japan, and I say we should give respect to a country that is willing to allow us the freedoms–even more freedoms sometimes than the U.S.

Skin ColorLearning to love my skin color.

I joke around a lot about being “too dark” for a half-Filipino, half-black woman, but really, I didn’t appreciate my cappuccino complexion until I came to Okinawa. I am different from many Japanese people– being that light-skinned entertainers grace every aspect of Japanese life– and I stick out. But I can’t see it as a bad thing; instead, I see my skin color as an external depth to my already-unique personality. My skin color is beautiful, even if stores in America and Japan don’t have my foundation color.

The economy in the United States is pretty bad.

I thought it wasn’t so bad, being that I could get an office job that paid a recently-graduated college student around $20 an hour. But that was before I came to Japan. It dawned on me that the economy in the U.S. was low enough to make me angry at exchanging U.S. dollars for yen. $1,000 quickly became about 77,624 yen, an amount only good for one month’s rent and food. (In essence, I lost money.) And while I live comfortably in Japan, my friends and family in the U.S. are struggling to find a minimum-wage job.

Maintaining a marriage in a foreign country

Falling in love and getting married has been one of the best things to happen in my life, and I’m happy that my husband can be with me in Japan. Being married is a completely different story than falling in love, but the ups and downs can be cherished in a foreign country like Japan because we don’t have family here. Sure, we call home on Skype every week to talk to our families, but not being surrounded by everyone’s eyes or questions can be more relaxing than taxing. We can learn about Japan and Okinawa with as much curiosity as children. And the problems we have, we have a clear picture because we don’t have our families witnessing every detail of our lives. Plus, since we’re newly weds, the experiences in Japan help forge memories for our children and our families.

I’m simply a guest, not a citizen.

One of the strongest feelings I knew without any doubt was that I am not a Japanese citizen. I have certain rights, but they’re human rights, not citizen rights. I can work in Japan and gain a paycheck. I can live in Japan and pay for the rent. I can play in Japan and find happiness. But I’m not a citizen. I’m not Japanese. It’s apparent, and I never expected to be a part of Japan’s society outside of being a spectator and teacher. This feeling is reinforced through the raised eyebrows on Japanese faces whenever I speak simple Japanese words. Or when I hold chopsticks correctly. Or when I know a lot about anything Japanese-related. For the anime and manga fan, the seemingly polite nature of Japanese culture is more of a facade to make sure things go smoothly. However distant I am from feeling like a citizen, I feel more welcomed here in Japan as an English teacher than in my home country as a black person.