Sunday, June 18, 2006

expectations and stuff

I remember Abby asked me what I miss about home. I miss family and friends that weren't able to experience what I've seen and felt. However I had a hard time figuring out what I missed about the United States. I can't really think of anything to be honest. Maybe certain foods, but nothing that I can't get here in Japan. I never imagined never wanting to go back to the states, and I honestly can say that I have no desire to go back. But that doesn't mean I'm not excited for what's to come for me when I do go back. Tokyo was a great way for me to learn how to get comfortable living within a city, learning the subway system, and getting used all the walking you have to do. New York doesn't seem so big and bad anymore. This trip has only reinforced my resolve to move out of Philadelphia. I'll post one more blurb once departure comes closer to fruition.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Body copy from my book

It’s like when you’re “on the jon” for longer than you’d like, all you want is to finish and move on, but it’s that little nugget that convinces you to stay and push thru. Not to completely alienate the sane, that little analogy sums up my past four years of undergrad at Tyler School of Art. To say that I was ready for a change of scenery would be a grave understatement. I’ll warn anyone whom wishes to actually go forth and read this long-winded narrative that it’s not alot of witty or smart dialogue on behalf of my part. Sometimes you just have to talk about shit to get people’s attention. Call it gimmicky, call it distasteful, call it immature, you’re still reading this aren’t you? Not to get off the subject, to explain all the different series of emotions I went thru the first few weeks in Japan would take much more room this text will allow. Instead, I will try to let the images compensate for whatever deficiency I have in expressing my ideas and feeling in words and speech. This project has gone in several different directions, initially I wanted to do a photography piece, and I guess this is my way of making it into something indicative of a photography piece. Ever since coming back from a visit South Korea four years prior, I felt as if everything I was doing was in an attempt to try to find a way back to asia. On top of that, there were several things that I had to overcome several months prior to arriving in Tokyo. Being in an environment where everything reminds you of a certain obstacle only gave me more desire to simply pick up and leave, and forget everything. Looking back at my state of mind weeks prior, I looked at Japan as a way to try to forget and move on from what was keeping me from looking ahead. It’s safe to say that I wasn’t quite prepared for the experiences I was about to encounter, but at the same time, I was never more ready to tackle them. I had an opportunity to visit Tokyo six years ago, but because of family obligations, I decided to withdraw from the program. Ever since then, I always wondered what I missed out on. Three weeks in, I’ve convinced myself that I made the mistake of not going six years prior. But the very fact that this is just temporary gives me the motivation to do and see as much as possible. I’m in a sort of frantic state of mind right now, hence the indigestion I’ve been experiencing since my arrival.
I remember the very moment I realized that this neighborhood was quite different from the remainder of Tokyo. Coming from a western background, I was to my surprise, very uncomfortable around the unusually large amount of western culture surrounding me. However it wasn’t what I saw that made me take a few steps back. Granted, all of Tokyo is inundated with western influences, but this block could almost be considered a sort of “Americatown.” Visually, the block itself is designed in a more western/european flavor, with no businesses above the first floor. Most, if not all signage is in english. The color pallette is a bit different as well, with pastels and earthtones dominating the sense. Everything is eye level, you don’t have to look up to find anything.However, it was what I felt that made me realize I was in a drastically different part of town. The pace is much more slower and laid back, it lacked the frantic metropolitian pace indicative of Manhattan, Philadelphia, or Tokyo, for that matter. You could say the atmosphere is comparable to that of a European city. Not to my surprise, the Austrian embassy was just up the street. Being familiar and comfortable with such a “lifestyle”, I wasn’t quite sure as to why I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Back in the states, I tended to be more comfortable around caucasian, in fact up until college, I had no friends that were of asian descent. And it’s not a matter of race, but a matter of western lifestyle and philosophy in which I felt a large disconnect with the block. Having come from a korean family, I was familiar with eating habits, taking off your shoes, bowing, etc., things that I had to, in a way, slightly suppress in the United States for the sake of conformity. In a way, I felt more like a “gaijin” when I was on Azabu-juban Street, then when I would be standing at the intersection in Shibuya. I remember the first thing I told myself when I first set foot in Japan. I was walking around in my district of Akasaka, and I remember saying to myself in my head, “I’m back.” Not the most common thing one says to oneself when they first step foot into a foreign country. I was so desperate to leave the states, I remember a year ago, I was seriously researching ESL job positions in Asia, every night I was reseraching which institutions had the best reputations and the best pay. My sister of course shot the whole idea down, explaining how it would ruin my chances of getting a really great design job if I’m not active in the field for a long period of time. I fed into it and sort of abandoned the idea. However, coming to Japan, my feelings have been sort of rekindled. The idea of not actively designing does not scare me anymore. My sister however speaks from experience. But sometimes I feel like I should stop listening to the voice of reason everytime I contemplate making a decision on my own. The reality of my situation is that after this program is over, I’m no longer on a “program” of any sorts. What I’ve learned the past 23 years of life will ultimately be put to the test. It could be argued that I could possibly running away from whatever sort of reality I must face when I come back home : moving out of my apartment, finding a new place to live in New York, and searching for a job. But what is it about Japan that makes me feel compelled to tackle it? My parents tell me because I grew up with asian culture and customs to provide a backbone for myself. My friends tell me because of the beautiful women surrounding me. I’ll be honest, it’s a little bit of both. But being in an environment where you’re really comfortable, at least at my age, is sort of dangerous. You get comfortable when you’re ready to settle down in life, and at age 23, the timing seems just a bit premature. So the big question I pose to myself is where do I feel I “belong”, the United States or Japan? Another question to supplement is where would I be able to pursue a more fulfilling future? I think the answer will come once I stop asking myself “what if”. Living in Japan is not really a matter of “if”, for I’m here right now. So I can either make the most of it or worry about when I leave, which is what I’ve wasted alot of energy on. It’s motivated me to do alot, but like I’ve mentioned before, my mood has been a frantic one at best. If you haven’t noticed, it’s been a struggle for me to find a way to end my long-winded narrative, whether I should approach this with humor, drama or ambiguity. You could say my thought process and growth won’t stop after I cease from writing this particular narrative. And maybe that’s what I’ve gotten out of this experience, that there’s always that nugget you feel that you can push out. It’s about being determined to wait it out and see it thru all the way. Never pinch it short of a full nugget, because you’d only be cheating yourself in the end. You are free to interpret that however you choose, and I will leave it at that.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

my expectations.....

have been exceeded far beyond anything I could have imagined. I could only wish I was able to stay longer. I was talking to my sister about me living in Japan and she said something that was very smart, and it made me think. "The only reason you want to live there is because you've had nothing but a good time, but if you had a job, and you had to worry about paying rent and all that shit, you'd probably hate Tokyo, and on top of that, you can't speak Japanese." The same could be true with wherever you go to visit. I lived in Florida for a year, and surprisingly, I sort of hated it besides the training I received. I lived 5 minutes away from the beach, I would see half-naked girls about everyday, and yet I couldn't wait to get the hell out. I guess I'm still thinking about what my sister said, we'll see how I feel when I sleep on it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


The past 2 days, I've gathered quite a large amount of images. My project is turning more and more into a diary of my personal experiences in Tokyo, rather than an analysis or "narrative" of my block. In terms of the body copy, I've realized it lacks alot of observatory information of the block, in which I do have. The next step for me is to try to find a way to integrate that information with the text I have already layed out.

Friday, June 02, 2006


So here's the plan.........Friday, I reshoot at night, Azabu-juban street. I will also outline my project and write up all of my body copy for my book. I've decided to keep it somewhat type intensive, for I do not want the sound piece the only real narrative in my piece. I feel like I'd better express myself when it's thought thru, I'm not comfortable relying on impulsive dialog as my main source of narrative. Saturday is when I put together my images and the remainder of the book. Sunday I would like to start working on my poster. Friday night is when I'm going to take pictures for the posters as well.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

ok so i got it!

i got it down! the concept, the visual style.....yeah so it might not be the most innovative piece of work i've created, in fact, i got the idea from a flyer at super-deluxe, which was pretty awesome! i was really impressed with not only the work, but the atmosphere and the turn-out. Just another reason to stay in Tokyo.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

update 2

hmmmm......well i'm in the mac lab right now, and so far I have my columns and gutters figured out in InDesign. As for everything else..........I'll get back to this in a few hours.................................................................ok so I'm back. I think I've sort of figured out as to why I was drawn to that block in Azabu-Juban. Yes, I'm sort of backpedaling, but not without a fresh set of eyes. I realized as to why I was so drawn to this block. Although a bit longwinded, just bare with me.

There's no doubt that I look distinctly asian. Born and raised in the United States, I never felt all that out of place, especially since most of my friends were caucasian and I spoke perfect english. Everything about my personality for a long time was largely devoid of asian influence, besides Taekwondo. I never felt any less american than anyone else, and that still holds true to this day. I felt that same sense of comfort in Japan once I arrived, and other than looking similar to everyone else, I didn't really understand why. For two weeks, I was immersed in the city, eager to get comfortable, particularly with the transportation. When I stumbled upon Azabu-Juban Street, all of a sudden, I was thrown back into the states. No longer were the signs in Japanese, no longer was it loud w/ the hustle and bustle of a typical crowd of business men. Like I described before, the architecture and the businesses themselves were very american. And, to no surprise, the people were mostly caucasian as well. The day that I spent on that block, I was very confused, for my comfort level unexpectedly started to wane. My project will focus on my ongoing struggle to figure out why my comfort level in a more distinctly asian environment is different with my comfort level in a distinctly caucasian environment, and whether it's specifically because of my physical appearance or if it's something else. What's hard about this project is that I have no concrete answer to the question that I pose to myself. I have 3 more weeks to figure that out I guess.


A week into the semester, and I boldly state to everyone, "I'm never coming back to the states." I unknowingly didn't think I'd remain in that state of mind. I remember standing on the edge of Kiyomizu Temple, looking out into the forest and the cityscape. Risking the chance of sounding sappy or corny, I at that moment realized that what was in front of me, the space between myself and the remainder of everything else, was the reason why I came to Japan. To be honest, my expectations weren't all that high coming into the program, other than having the chance to come to Tokyo and have a good time. Kyoto made me realize this was more than just a "study abroad program." And I think everyone that experienced places like Kiyomizu, Nara and Todai-ji temple would understand the magnitude of this experience. It's still difficult to organize my thoughts, for I'm going thru mental indigestion. My brain, and for that matter, my emotions weren't prepared for what I was going to experience. I've told everyone I know to go to Kyoto, and more importantly, Nara. I feel like I need to go back to Nara actually, when I'm done digesting, I may come back and explain why.