Thursday, March 25, 2010


I was having a crappy day a bit ago, and a friend made a comment about how I am going to my "homeland" tomorrow, so I should cheer up.

She was actually very spot on. Actually, Japan and LA are the 2 places I feel I can call "home."
I lived in Japan longer than I've been in LA so far, but I'm about to pass that mark soon.

What is "home?" Is it just somewhere where you've been for a long time? Somewhere where you really felt like you belonged? I think I tried very hard to belong in both Japan and LA, and was successful in some ways in both places.

Living in Japan was a great experience for me, and while I was there, I made a lot of friends, had insane adventures I had never dreamed of, and brushed up a lot on my Sherlock Holmes skills. I was extremely happy with my social life, but after 3 years, I decided to move to Los Angeles. When I left, I did feel like it was about time to go, to search for my "career" in a way that was impossible for me to do in Japan. While there, I was only able to be an English teacher, an easy enough job, if a little frustrating, but with short hours, great pay, and flexible schedule. I didn't enjoy the job itself that much, as I felt that my real skills lay more in the creative and editorial field. So I left, with the promise of a job working for the Gothic & Lolita Bible in Los Angeles.

Photo from the Gothic & Lolita Bible blog on Tokyopop's website.

My work there was definitely more substantial, and I felt like I was building a real skill set, finally, other than prancing around a room saying "REPEAT AFTER ME! BANANA! BANANA!" to 3 year olds. However, we all know how that ended up. Tokyopop folded and laid off over 90% of its employees, including myself, though keeping me on for one more issue as freelance before they finally ended the magazine.

I went on to other jobs that didn't quite suit me, and which I eventually got laid off from anyway. I felt that I had moved away from Japan in vain. There was no "career" to pursue after all. I felt like I had no real skills, and was floundering in the job market here for quite a while. Ironically, it is not my full time jobs that gave me the most satisfaction, but my interests and hobbies which turned into paying gigs towards the summer of last year.

It's funny, but all along it turns out that it wasn't that I was failing in my job skills, it was simply that I needed to create the perfect position for myself. There isn't an "entrepreneur" nor "coordinating wizard" section on Craigslist or anything like that. Rather, by carving out these 2 businesses, I've been able to get real footing in this city for the first time since I've moved here.

Starting Chubby Bunny Accessories has been extremely rewarding, and has really shown me that I am not "talentless" after all. The concept for the bows started around spring of last year, and really came to a head during my collaboration with Sanrio for their Three Apples event in October of 2009. To my complete surprise, my red Hello Kitty bows were the best selling item of the entire 3-week event! I've continued a solid working relationship with Sanrio and have plans to come out with more collaboration products with them later this year.

Also, co-leading Bubble Punch with Yume Ninja has been hugely successful. We had been helping movers and shakers around LA add whimsy and fun to their events for over a year. Our reputation for outrageous outfits proceeded us, as we challenged ourselves to create even more glamorous and fun garments for every event we attended.

A short rundown of the outfits I've created/coordinated in the past 2 years since moving to LA:

"The Red Admiral." Photographed by William Bradley, retouching by True Mee Lee. This was the first photoshoot I'd ever styled for myself. This was for the MaruiOne photocontest, in which I placed 2nd.

Snow Queen outfit for Rococo Rendezvous, hosted by Zippercut.

For JapanLA's "Shiny Party" event at Royal/T. This also marks the 2nd time I'd assisted in retail display or their pop-up shop.

Circus Tent outfit for Zippercut's "Cirque du So Lame" party at Royal/T. This is one of my favorites. Mot photos don't show it, but the outfit has lights through the hat, "stage" area, and around the circular "tent" itself.

Battling True Mee at zippercut's Crusaders and Haters party. I took inspiration from villains from Japanese Sentai shows for this one. The little white circles are actually LED lights I installed on the costume.

After multiple appearances such as these, True Mee and I decided to buckle down and make a name for ourselves... literally. With the creation of Bubble Punch, we were able to put a name and organization affiliation to our unique projects, and give a reference point to anyone who wanted us to help at their events. Right after creating Bubble Punch, we found we had no lack of projects to keep us busy.

Bubble Punch's first "official" gig under our new company name. Helping Mandy of Zippercut at Japanology at Royal/T

Easily Bubble Punch's most successful event, Hello Kitty's Bats & Cats Masquerade boasted over 1,500 attendees. Photo of me fixing Kitty-chan's goth outfit, which I handmade.

Despite the insane amount of projects I am constantly juggling, there are 2 factors that are essential to my success:

1) My higher (if not sometimes floundering ) sense of self confidence I have gained over the years. Something found with age, I suppose, I am definitely a stronger woman now than I was 5, or even 2 years ago. I see some people who complain of their lack of success in a certain area, but there is a lot to be said for keeping a positive outlook and simply trying your best with the knowledge that it will work out. Losing that sense of positivity was something I had to cope with when I bounced from job to job after my layoff at Tokyopop.

2) The incredible support and love from my friends. This sounds like a cheesy Oscar's speech, but without the support of my friends, I would have no one to critique me on my work, no one to cheer me up when I was in despair, no one to yell at me when I began to give up, no one to help me finish projects when there was one too many tasks. The incredible friends I have found across my travels have helped me grow into who I am today, and I am forever grateful for that.

Tomorrow I leave for Japan for a 10 day visit to my old homeland, where I will be able see my old friends, visit my old haunts, and dust off my Japanese skills. I'm incredibly happy to go back and be able to tell my friends there that I didn't move away in vain, and that eventually, everything has worked out for me in the end.

I've been able to put away my shame at not being able to find a job that's a "good fit" for me. Instead, I am proud to say that my skills are better suited to being my own boss.

And I am happy.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Perfume, J'adore

I have some of their songs on my mp3 player I only use at the gym (great music for running), but it turns out their videos are pretty cute, too! They have a very "typical" style of dancing (, but I really do enjoy the blocked colors and sort of throwback style of their videos.

Their new PV ("music videos" are referred to as "PVs," promotional videos, in Japan) below is their latest. Thanks Jamiroquai(had to google how to spell that)! The moving floor thing NEVER GETS OLD with me. Don't be hatin'! I love robotic/cheerleader style dancing and sequential waterfalls of movement. True Confessions: I was a cheerleader in 6th through 7th grade.

ナチュラルに恋して (Naturally/Normally Falling in Love)

"One Room Disco"
Cute concept with this one, but their choreography can get a bit weird/off. I like when they move to the upper levels. The lighting in this gets a little crazy as well. Good inspiration for solid-color design ideas, though.

"Secret Secret"
It's like a very peppy ad for Pino chocolates =0 They are cute Asian robots powered by Pino (Actually a chocolate shell with ice cream inside). I like the "cameraman's" outfit in this one the best.

Osaka, land that I love.

Recently, Will introduced me to JanneM's flicker profile. This man is a very talented photographer, as well as a neuroscientist of some kind, who now lives in Osaka, close to where Will and I used to live. his photos are making me EXTREMELY nostalgic. A lot of them are just plain beautiful. It took me 3 days to get through his entire Flickr set. It's really lovely, and I suggest putting aside some time to look at them, too, if you're ready for heart wrenching nostalgia to hit you fast. So excited to go to Japan! I'll be going there in a week to visit old friends, be nostalgic, and do a tiny bit of business..

My favorites:

Who needs sign twirlers? NOT THIS GUY. BTW Media Cafe Popeye is awesome.
Signholder by JanneM.

Happy Drunken Salaryman
Party Commuter by JanneM.

Cute asian children
Children and umbrellas by JanneM.

Ridiculously overpriced Hokkaido melons. 15750 yen is about $180USD.melon by JanneM.

Late night ramen at the corner. I think this is the one on the edge of Dotonbori.
Ramen stand by JanneM.

Cute girls selling Christmas cakes. Reminds me of Hagu.Happy salesgirls by JanneM.

Before Will and I started dating, he would come to the bar I worked at on Monday nights and drink there until it closed at midnight. Then we'd get some chu-his and pork buns from the convenience store and walk over to the river and sit right here and stare at the Don Quixote Ferris wheel at night. Good memories.
Don Quixote Ferris wheel by JanneM.

My host bros.
Gigolos by JanneM.

Sakura viewing by Osaka Castle.Hanami at Osaka-jo by JanneM.Hanami parties under the trees by JanneM.

So excited. Overly nostalgic.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Shirley Manson & Elijah Wood For Oliver Peoples Eyewear

Very cute video but... the film quality looks a little off? Oh Shirley Manson, what have you been up to? Your enormous and glorious hair makes Elijah look a little bit like a hobbit, still, I fear.

Do watch!

DIY: How to be the best girlfriend ever. Baked Eggs and Ai no Bento!

Will's birthday was last Wednesday, so I woke up bright and early to prepare him a lovely breakfast in bed, and also to make him a super fun bento :)

DIY: How to Breakfast! Baked Eggs with Bunny Toast

1) Get two ramekins, and put in about 1/2 a tblspoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of milk or cream in each/ put in the broiler and let melt. Take ramekins out of broiler. Then, place 2 eggs in each. If you're a ham lover, put in 2 pieces of lunch meat ham at the bottom of the ramekin before putting in the egg. Add a bit of salt and pepper.

2) Top the eggs with your choice of thyme, rosemary, oregano, cheese (I used mild cheddar), and lots of green onion. Place the ramekins back in the broiler for 15 to 25 minutes, until yolks are slightly firm

3) While ramekins are in the broiler, toast some bread. You can take any shape cookie cutter to make cute shapes once the toast is ready. I made some small bunny bread bites!

4) When eggs are done, take out of broiler, and let sit for 3 minutes. Place on a plate with the toast bites, and service! ta da!

Picture #15
DIY: 愛の弁当の作り方! How to Ai no Bento! (Love Bento!)

1) Steal flat-ish tupperware from roommate. Hope he doesn't notice. Line one side with lettuce or spinach. For the other side, I prepped "containers" for the onigiri using round pieces of wax paper that I taped the sides up of. You can also use cupcake papers for this, I was just too cheap to buy them hehe.

2) Prepare omelette: I made Japanese-style sweet omlettes, which is simply 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of dashi, and 2 teaspoons of sugar whipped up and put into a pan. Usually sweet omlettes are rolled, but to make shapes, I kept it flat. (Right around this time, the broiler had set off the fire alarm, so while I was running around trying to turn it off, the eggs has cooked flat anyway haha). When soft and firm, take out of pan and place on cutting board to let cool for about 3 minutes. Then, I used bunny bread press molds and pressed bunny and bear shapes into the omlette. (yours shouldn't be QUITE as burny as this one..)

3) I had grilled some beef tenderloin the night before for dinner, so I took the leftovers and sliced them up to put in the bento. You can add any protein to the bento, though. Tiny chicken wings are a popular thing to throw in, too! I also sliced up some carrots into mini carrots. I was originally planning to put green "stalks" onto the carrots using broccoli, but I had run out of time...! If you like, you can also divide the meat and vegetables using a piece of wax paper.

4) For the left side, I made some round onigiri to decorate. Onigiri rice is simply regular white rice, cooled, and mixed with a dash of salt, and some rice vinegar. I've seen onigiri rice prepared several different ways in my time in Japan, so pick the kind you like the best :) I mixed the rice up, then dipped my hands in a bowl of water so the rice wouldn't stick to them as I grabbed the rice. Next, I grabbed a fistful of rice and packed it into a small ball. I made 3 to make our "family." I decorated the onirigi using dry seaweed that I cut up using plain kitchen scissors (make sure they are dry!) I made an onigiri tha tlooked like Will, me, and our guinea pig, Niblet.

5) I had the bright idea to try to make a little EVA from Wall-E out of a hard boiled egg, haha. I saw it in this other bento, and threw it in at the last minute. I boiled an egg the night before and stuck it in the fridge over night. I took it out, and sliced off the top 3rd of the egg.Then I took little chunks out under each "arm", and added an oval onto the face. The oval is just a small piece of dry seaweed. I had to wet it a little bit to get it to stick to the egg. Sooooort of ghetto, but it's the AI in the AI NO BENTO that counts!

6) Here's a pic of the onigiri and egg together!

7) and that's it! I added another piece of waxpaper on top of the bento before I closed it up so that the stuff inside wouldn't roll around too much. I also gave Will a bottle of Kewpie Mayo for his birthday haha.

The end!