25

"Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long."
Psalm 25 on my 25th

 

A quarter of a century...the big 2-5! When I look back on my 24th year of life, I am so thankful for all the adventures the Lord took me on here in Japan. This was the first full year of life I've been away from home and living on my own, so that feels like a big life accomplishment and a push into adulthood! My birthday almost always falls on a school day (aka many in-class celebrations) but this one goes down as one of the most epic days in my life...

The celebrations started off by opening some presents I had been waiting to open*...the first one from my dear friend Liane and her daughter Mina. They gave me some yummy snacks and a big pack of coffee that I took to work. How cute is the wrapping by Mina! 

Next was a letter from Nati who I took almost all my college classes with...so seeing her handwriting again brought the biggest smile to my face! haha. She sent me sparkly AK letters and a rad sticker LION OF JUDAH which has special meaning because her daughter (who I will meet so soon) is named Judah! And if you know....you know that if you ever send a package or letter to Uganda you are supposed to write "God Bless This Package" on it and rumor has it, it will always get to its destination without being opened. Thanks for the love Nat! 

And then there was the big package from my sissy + good friend Adrienne! I popped open the box and first thing I see is this cute letter from Hunty...haha!

BEST CARD EVER! Nothing beats a 5yr old's writing. That's me holding balloons btw. 

They jam packed the box with so many goodies... a new planner, a bunch of adorable earrings, candyyyyyy AND...

AHHHH!!! An amazingly warm and beautiful scarf, a cute new tshirt, and an amazing quilted jacket. Do they know me or do they knowww me??? Bonus points to Adrienne who works at anthro and hooked it up. Obsessed.

 

Then I headed to school for what would end up being a crazy day!

I take the bus at 7am and get to school by 7:40 so once I'm there I make my coffee and spend a few minutes journaling before our morning meeting. It has become my routine and I look forward to it everyday. Gets me in the right mindset. 

 The day started off with 2A singing happy birthday to me in their homeroom before 1st period...and I was given a bag of snacks. The funniest one was from Hideki who gave me "JAM-PAN" (bread with jam inside) with his name written on it. No message, just his name LOL. 

The soccer coach and cool dude Yanagibashi left this card on my desk with candy taped to the back! so sweet of him!

I received the most adorable tiny hedgehog from my 3B class along with two mikans from my student's grandpa's garden. And Steph knows me well and brought me my all time favorite donut from Mr. Donut! 

I taught two classes and then after school, 1A pulled me in their class to surprise me with a beautiful chalk board message and more candy! These kids are incredible. 

Then, the English department sang to me and made me give a speech haha...and Ebisawa sensei handed me this adorable package of two loaves of banana bread!! She is an incredible baker and that gesture was so thoughtful of her! 

Kawamoto sensei's kids (6th graders) made me tiny ornaments!!! SO CUTE!! 

And how cute is this...the teachers remembered that apple pie is my favorite so they brought apple and blueberry pie from costco. tears! 

Kawamoto sensei, Tanaka sensei, and Ikeda sensei...I get the honor of working with these people every single day and I love them so much! They are some of the kindest people I have ever met. 

Half of the english department! L-R:Mashiko, Steph, me, Ebisawa, Kawamoto, Tanaka, and Ikeda. 

A bag full of goodies from each of the A classes. It was hilarious because they basically each put in whatever candy they had in their lunches so I got a crazy random mix of things...

The best one was someone who gave me ONE STICK on gum...HAHAHAHHA

And Steph coordinated this incredible book full of letters and pictures from people at school. I cried. obviously. These kind of sentiments really get me...and this book will be something I treasure forever! 

Wow...so after an incredibly blessed day at school I headed to dinner with Steph, Mina, and Naoya who are some of my favorite people! Of course, my meal of choice was Tonkatsu!!

Naoya and Mina are like family to me and I love them so much. So thankful I could spend time with them on my bday! And the tonkatsu was SOOOOO GOOOOOOOD.

 

Just when I thought all the fun was over...I woke up Friday to more bday love. Funny thing is, since Japan is 17 hours ahead of the states, I almost celebrate two birthdays haha! 

After our morning meeting on Friday, our school principal runs up to the English office to give me a gift!! What! He gave me this adorable 3D card that said "Hope your life will be full of happiness" awww...and then revealed a box with a tiny snowglobe inside that plays music when you twist the bottom...HOW AMAZING IS THAT? From my principal of all people! I couldn't believe it! 

Fridays are always my busiest days...
1st per- conference period...aka prep time
2nd per- 3D, we made Christmas cards with English phrases inside
3rd per- 3C, working on an autobiography project with them
4th per- 2A, they gave their speeches about their time in Torrance
lunch
5th per- 3A, had to judge their reading (they read a passage out loud)
6th per- 3B, made Christmas cards

phew! But the day wasn't over yet...you see, once a year we have an End of The Year party with all the teachers and this year it happened to be on Dec 2nd. It was at the same venue as last year, a super fancy banquet hall. I figured it would be a nice night of chatting with my coworkers and avoiding the fancy seafood dishes served...but little did I know...

First thing they do is announce "YESTERDAY WAS AMIE'S BDAY" (mind you, this was a party for ALL of the teachers at school aka a lot of people) and come out with a hat and glasses for me to wear along with the cutest cake! They all sang enthusiastically (beer had already been consumed) and cheered loudly while asking "AMIE HOW OLD ARE YOU??" haha. Also, in typical Japanese party fashion, I had to give a speech. They all complained though "SPEAK IN JAPANESE!!!" haha but I'm not at that level yet. 

The night wrapped up and I headed home exhausted, but in the best way possible.

I could have never imagined this kind of day, this kind of birthday, which is why it will be a day I always remember. I wrote these words along with the birthday video of my students singing to me and it's the only way I can adequately sum up what I feel "God has an incredible way of orchestrating our lives. When we follow His lead, He puts us places we didn't even know we needed to be at and shows us a world we couldn't even have imagined." Never could I have dreamed up something this good! But that's the God I serve! 

 

"Look at the nations and watch- and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told."
Habakkuk 1:5

*not to mention the packages sent my my lovely auntie Julie as well as my mom and dad! I called the company and I should receive them tonight haha! 

 

**UPDATED 7:28pm DEC 5, 2016

RECEIVED THREE PACKAGES IN ONE NIGHT GAHHH....

MY MOM AND AUNTIE ARE CRAZY/AMAZING. Mom and Dad sent me these EPIC Hunter boots and they happen to fit perfectly (mom magic). Auntie Julie and the Lams sent me this amazing Sparkling grape juice + CANDYYYYYY AHHH!!!! THANK YOU LOVE YOU!

And last but certainly not least...my dear friend Caroline (who I met in Japan last year) sent me this amazing book! Recently she had shared a sermon from REALITY SF with me and it was such a good word. Everyone, go to listen to it (you can hear it HERE). I had no idea Dave Lomas actually wrote a book on it so when I got this nugget of wisdom I had a complete bookworm moment! Caroline, in the short time we lived in the same country, really understood me well and is the perfect book friend in my life!! THANK YOU CAROLINE!!! 

WKND

FRIDAY

Woke up and walked outside to this view...C-O-L-D.  

After work on Friday, a few coworkers and I headed down to Makuhari (1.5 hrs away) to have dinner at Tamaoki's family restaurant. We feasted on legit Nepalese food all night. My favorites were the potato soup and spicy dumplings. So delicious. And it's even better when your friend owns the place! 

 

SATURDAY

Saturday morning I woke up to a package from my sissy! She sent me a few new shirts and fun socks. This one says "LOVE ONE ANOTHER - JESUS" how perfect right? I headed to a local farmers market to watch some students from the light music club at school perform. This is the bus stop I stand at every single morning of my life haha...and let me just say how precious and stylish Japanese children are. Kills me every time. 

The farmers market had a mochi making station, the old fashioned way. This man was the owner so he was pounding it like a pro. 

And this tiny coffee stand serves as a reminder of how miniature Japanese cars are!! Surprisingly I withheld from eating anything at the market because I was preparing for what was coming Saturday night...

THANKSGIVING AT LIANES!!

I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Liane for prepping this incredible feast every year. My highlights were the cranberry sauce from scratch and the most delicious corn bread with honey butter! 

Carey brought his homemade ume (plum) wine and it was so good! Never thought i'd be a fan of this stuff but it is slowly growing on me. It tastes really good with soda!

Thanksgiving crew: Liane's family along with her friend's family, Cary, Kevin, Steph and myself!

Kevin's birthday was last week and mine is this week so they brought us cake! Mina is Liane's daughter and I love playing with her whenever I go to their house. And as the resident kid, she blew out our candles for us. 

How amazing is this giant donut cake from Mr. Donut!? 

The only way to end a Thanksgiving day.

 

SUNDAY 

My friend Meg, from church, invited Miyoe (my other friend) and I over to her house for lunch! Meg is a teacher at an English Conversation School and has the most bubbly personality. On top of that she is a self proclaimed "health nut" and wonderful chef. Miyoe is a lady I sit next to every week at church and she is the owner of several retirement homes. She is a very successful business woman and is one of the most spirit filled people I have ever met. Spending an afternoon with these two was such a treat! 

Meg cooked us this incredible feast...salad with tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, chicken, cheese and noodle casserole, and 12 veggie stew!! We chatted all afternoon and the main theme of our talk was how being obedient to God brings us the most joy. When Miyoe was 45 and her two kids were grown up, she heard clearly from the Lord to start a new business in helping the elderly. She had a lot of doubts and had trouble getting started, but she knew she had to obey the voice of God. 20 years later she has two wonderful retirement centers helping hundreds of people in her community and on top of that, she is so aligned with the voice of the heavenly Father. Obedience brings such joy and produces much fruit!

 

MONDAY - (back to work)

After a great weekend I woke up Monday thankful to get up and go to a job I love. After school, at English club, the 2A students who returned from Torrance last week shared a few of their favorite memories. Kurt and Avhishek shared a bit and had me cracking up the whole time talking about their failed attempt to make yakisoba, the slang they learned ("gas up"), and how they had the coolest host brother because they are "the coolest students" HAHA. 

A good weekend in the books and an even busier weekend up ahead! 

NOVEMBER SNOW

I woke up yesterday morning to....S N O W!! 
Apparently, this was the first time in 54 years it has snowed in November in this part of Japan (hello cold winter) and it happened to be on Thanksgiving day. So instead of spending the day running the Turkey Trot and stuffing my face with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie, I walked to the bus stop in the freezing snow and drank 20 cups of tea to stay warm HAHA. Life is crazy sometimes. 

It may not be three feet of fresh powder...but to a girl from California...this was a straight up winter wonderland! 

The bust was packed in the morning with students due to the weather but luckily the bus drops us off right in front of school so we don't have to walk far. The shocking thing was, some students rode their bikes still! 

This was the view from the English Office. I could NOT stop starting outside...all morning I was just transfixed by the falling snow and I felt like I was right smack dab in the middle of a real life snow globe. 

Shout out to UNIQLO and their Heat tech undershirts/tights/socks for keeping me warm .

The rough part about the Japanese school system is the strict uniform policy. Even in the winter, the girls have to wear their regular skirts...so cold right!? They are allowed to wear some black tights as an extra layer, but most of them just rough it and come to school as is and I don't know how they do it! 

WOWIE WOWIE. It was such a strange feeling watching the snow swirl around the sky, and I realized this might have been my first time to actually watch real falling snow. I remembered a song I heard a few years back at a Christ Tomlin Christmas concert called Winter Snow, about how baby Jesus came to this earth, born on Christmas day:

You could have come like a mighty storm
with all the strength of a hurricane
you could have come like a forest fire
with the power of heaven in your flame

but you came like a winter snow
quiet and soft and slow
falling from the sky in the night
to the earth below

And for the first time, I totally get these lyrics now. The way the snow sprinkled all over the ground. I love that description of baby Jesus. He could have come in a fury, shouting and forcing His power over all of us to because He is the Son of God, creator of all Heaven and Earth so He had every reason to. But He was born a baby in a manger, a lowly birth, no room in the inn. He came so gently, so innocently, so softly...falling snow. It was magical watching the flakes dance around the sky and It shed a whole new light on the birth of Jesus Christ our savior! I love this season and I am eagerly awaiting the days til I'm home for Christmas!

ICHO NAMIKI - GINKGO AVENUE

Wednesday was a national holiday here in Japan (labor day) so I made sure to use my day off to check out some fall leaves! I met up with my friend Nathalie who just so happens to be a California girl, loves SYTYCD, Jesus, Photography and has two beautiful kids...uhm, hello perfect friend!

I met up with Nathalie and her husband Tony at Connel Coffee in Akasaka. I had seen photos of this place before and knew I wanted to check it out, and it was just as fancy and high end as I imagined! The coffee was really good too. After fueling up on caffeine, we left Tony to do some work and Nathalie and I went out for our photography adventure to see the magical land of Ginkgo trees right in GaienMae.

ALLLLLL. THEEEEE. HEEAAARRTTTTT. EYEEESSS!!! This guy agrees. 

One side was bright yellow...the other still green. stunning. God is amazing! 

Cute tiny children in winter coats everywhere. 

We got there around 11:30 or 12 and spend a good 30 minutes in ONE SPOT taking so many photos. It was crowded, obviously, so we had to get creative with our shots which made it fun. 

Real photographers/true friends get on the ground for the shot needed haha! 

50/50 magic 

A little lady and her grandpa :)

Trendy hipsters everywhere with their compact mirrorless cameras, beanies and backpacks...psshhhh so cool. 

Carpet of yellow! At this point I could not stop taking photos...every single direction I looked was magical. A true photographers dream.

"boots and coatss and boots and coatssss." oh wait, that's not how it goes

Thankfully they closed the main street down, creating THE MOST EPIC photo spot. The trees from the center of the street look suuuuuper orange, while inside the trees they seem more yellow. 

Love this one! 

Two old grandpas walked up to me and said, "お姉さん、写真?Sister, photo?” And took this awesome photo of us! We chatted for a bit and they told me they were from Chiba too, and that Nathalie looked 23 and too young to have kids - I agree!

After taking some photos it was time to grub on some shake shack. Tony came back to meet us for this part...aka to stand in line while we took more photos...he's the real MVP! 

unreal right?!!?

rad chick with a rad bike. aka #lifeandstylegoals

This dude was sitting on his tiny chair and painting the most stunning picture of the trees. I didn't want to disturb him so I didn't take a photo of his artwork...but it was a mix or watercolor and pencil and it was so legit. Like, what type of amazing human just casually sits on a small chair in the middle of Gaienmae whilst painting a masterpiece?! THIS GUY.

AND. THIS. EPIC LADY WITH GINKGO ON HER OBI!!!!! This might be one of my favorite photos I've ever taken, and I've taken a lot of photos...

Definitely felt like Disneyland at moments. I will say this...although Tokyo is an extremely crowded place, people are so courteous and kind that it never feels stifling or too chaotic. Even at a place like this, where thousands of people are all holding selfie sticks and taking photos...people would be ducking in and out of the frames like "ohhh I am so sorry!" "excuse me, i'm so sorry!" 

Had to do the classic leaf photo.

Being the natural people watcher that I am, I am always admiring people's fashion choices. Coming from CA, I never knew what people wore in winter so now I just freak out every few steps when I see some cool Tokyolite with an epic fashion sense. #nevernotinspired 

cute old man.

Ok so we ended up waiting about 45 minutes or so for shake shack...but the good thing is we played it like a team, taking turns in line to maximise our time taking photos so it wasn't that bad. The line moved fast and we got a table no prob. 

CHEESE FRIES. ICED TEA. SHACK BURGER. Although in&out will always dominate in the burger+price game, shake shack is pretty bomb and I am a fan.

The burger is really good and juicy...and the sauce they put on it (garlic aioli?) is VERY VERY GOOD.

Nathalie got the "walk in the park" concrete which had some gnarly mix of matcha+yuzu+miso??? She said it tasted even better than it looked!

LOL when your mom forces you to take photos in your puffy jacket.

Then, before we headed out, we did an impromptu photoshoot! How cute of a couple are they?!

love this one. I'm gunna give myself props for only getting like 4 people's heads in this photo considering there were about 927319 people walking around. 

when you bring your fabulous child-dog out to play

You're not a true Tokyo family until you have an electric bike with multiple kids seats on it...and you take a photo in front of the ferrari store lol 

In honor of Thanksgiving (which is today and I am at work) I am so thankful God brought this beautiful and wonderful family to Tokyo and let our paths cross. My heart is very FULL because of the good Lord and all He is doing!! I am also thankful for all of my loved ones back home, for a wonderful job, a Holy Spirit filled Church, and a blessed community here in Kashiwa. God is a good good Father and He orchestrates everything in magnificent ways - far better than we could imagine. 

 

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth
serve the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful singing.
Know that the Lord Himself is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise.
Give thanks to Him, bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His loving-kindness is everlasting
and His faithfulness to all generations.


Psalm 100

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you reading this. May you sense the presence and grace of God so richly as you celebrate this holiday season :) 

MASHIKO

Mashiko is known for its pottery, called Mashikoyaki, and I had a chance to visit this cool little town and took a bazillion photos as you will soon see. I was asked to go with my good friend Mina's mom, Yoko, and her two friends. Yoko is a really talented painter and enjoys a lot of different crafts, so when she asked me to go visit this town famous for pottery I jumped on the chance! 

Mashiko is in Tochigi prefecture, which is apparently famous for Strawberries, Gyoza, and this statue of Ninomiya Sontoku. He was a philosopher and farmer who was acclaimed for working hard and studying simultaneously. This statue is famous all over Japan actually, and many schools have it up on their grounds to remind students to work hard and study! 

Leave it to Japan to make cute Miffy strawberry bread! 

From Kashiwa we drove 2 hours to Mashiko city. The three ladies I went with were chatting about a bunch of interesting things from bakeries, to cooking, their kids, traveling, etc. It was incredible Japanese listening practice for me and I was sitting in the back seat vigorously typing words into my dictionary app on my phone. 

We made a pit stop at a market on the side of the road where I ate the most amazing bowl of Tonjiru (pork soup). The cutest grandma and grandpa were cooking it up in this giant pot with their home grown veggies, so when I ate it I could taste every bit of flavor, freshness and love. They even had thinly sliced onions, red peppers, and freshly graded yuzu to put on top. UHHH...INCREDIBLE. 

How cute is Mio with her giant negi (onion) haha! 

Next pit stop was this sake factory, the first I've been to! 

Mio, Yoko, and my friend Mina's mother-in-law! I had a lot of fun with these ladies. 

Magical little Japanese garden. 

Sigudama...aka giant perfectly spherical cedar ball. This is a common symbol at sake factories, so I learned, because it symbolizes the age of the sake being produced based on the progression of the green leaves turning brown. I think they should put googley eyes on it, don't you? 

Made it to Mashiko city where they have this giant Raccoon Dog that is nakey and looks like he is giving you the middle finger but he's actually holding a tiny cup HAHA. 

Funny side note... my coworker, who just visited Torrance and went to a Clippers game with my dad, is named Mashiko and has the same kanji as this city.

First thing we did was paint our own pottery. We didn't have time to hand make our own on a potters wheel (next time), but we were able to do a Japanese version of color me mine! In proper Japanese traditional fashion, there were only three colors of paint, blue, brown (looks red), and pink. It was kind of fun to have a limited color scheme, and I painted a tiny little vase with  mostly blue and a little pink. 

After that, we walked to lunch and admired some shops on the way. 

The beginning of the Japanese koio (fall leaves). 

Soba and curry combo for lunch = bomb

The main street of Mashiko is very quaint and lined with many many pottery stores. It was endless! 

This store was particularly beautiful with a giant Japanese maple tree in the middle courtyard. 

I wanted this ring, but not for $100! 

How cute is this bread clock? 

This man had a store full of bugs and insects he had caught!! CRAZY. I couldn't stop staring at the butterflies. I mean, we see them all over on prints, jewelry, designs...but when you really look up close at real butterflies...they are stunning. God is truly an incredible creator. 

I thought of my sister when I saw this color scheme. 

Cute little girl on a swing in a vintage shop. How rad is that Tokyo olympics poster? 

Surprisingly, I walked away from Mashiko city having only bought one thing - these earrings. I was tempted to buy many cups and bowls, but I told myself that it wasn't practical for me to have a bunch of dishes I would never use and that I should just enjoy the inspiration without having to buy anything (aren't you proud mom? I'm #becominganadult). But these earrings, I couldn't pass up! 

THESE COLORS...LOVE LOVE. 

We walked around and shopped the rest of the afternoon. It was a little rainy and very cold so we headed back home at around 4pm. It was so inspired by the pottery and artistic impression of everything in Mashiko city and was so thankful to have a day of crafts with three awesome ladies!

Also, speaking of pottery, watch this video about Kintsugi, the art of mending broken pottery together. Straight up sermon message in art form!! 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
2 Corinthians 4:7-9

MOE

Last Sunday, after a wonderful church service with my family at HOPE church, I headed to Tokyo to meet up with a former coworker and now dear friend of mine, Moe (pronounced Mo-Eh). 

But first I had to make a pit stop at Starbs at Tokyo station to check out their Christmas cups. I will say, there is something comforting about living in a country with an actually cold winter. Cozy clothes, scarves, boots and warm drinks! I got the strawberry tea (is that only in Japan?) and it was amazing. 

Moe reminds me of my high school best friends...she'd totally fit right in with us. She is chill, super sporty (volleyball), but also loves fashion and has such a cool sophisticated style. 

First stop was LA KAGU, this super dope shop + cafe in Kagurazaka. Of course they would have a rad coffee cup design and murals on the walls...

Apparently in Kagurazaka there are a lot of French ex-pats so we decided to dive into European culture and eat some savory crepes. Our waiter had the cutest French accent and asked all the people in the restaurant to take a photo with him.

Fancy shmancy duck + pear + cheese crepe.

and the piece de resistance...egg + prosciutto + cheese. nomzzzz. 
Moe lives pretty far away now (2hrs) but if we meet in Tokyo its about an hour for each of us, which isn't bad. Steph and I try to see her once every few months and just catch up. She told us she's switching jobs this year and going into the corporate life in Tokyo which is good news for us because we can meet up with her more often! 

We ended the night with dessert at Saryo, which has a bunch of really good cakes and matcha desserts. Loved spending time with Moe! Tokyo is a crazy place, because although I've lived here over a year there is still so much to explore and SO MANY new places and things to check out. It's endless! 

GOOD THINGS

We all know the madness that has been happening recently in the world and have felt the weight of all the darkness and anger. What's harder still, is when that weight is piled on to the things going on personally, in our daily lives. For me, right now, that's mom's broken foot and grandpa Komae in the hospital. I want to be home with them, reaaaaaally badly...but I rest assured that God has me here - right here - for His good purposes. 

It's hard not to feel anxious at a time like this, but because of God's grace He teaches me to see the light in everything, the beauty, the hope, the good, and the purpose. So I want to share a few good things that are going on in my life here in Japan...because God is my helper and I will give thanks to Him forever.

Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me, O Lord, be my helper
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed by sackcloth and girded me with gladness,
That my soul may sing praise to You and not be silent
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

Psalm 30

Children are a complete JOY and I was lucky enough to spend a Saturday with my good friend Mina's niece, Yui. She's a full force of energy and stubbornness (terrible twos!) but being around her was so refreshing for my auntie soul. We went to the local mall and played in the incredible giant-Japanese-snack area which had me cracking up and their perfectly proportioned giant sized objects of things, i.e this green tea! Ohhhhh Japan! 

I also was blessed to hang out with my good friend Yuki in Tokyo on a beautiful crisp day! She took me to a local beer festival and although it took me 3x longer than the average human to finish that cup, I enjoyed the german food, ambiance, and chatting with Yuki. She works in Honda right in the super fancy Aoyama area of Tokyo and showed me some local spots. She's the best! Then...the next day after work I got to meet Mashiko sensei's beautiful wife and their two kittens (named "Kin and Gin" -" gold and silver") It was the best start to the week. 

Watching Election day was suuuuuper interesting from Japan and the students were way more into it than I thought. We kept the TV rolling all day and had CNN up on the computer screen. In between classes kids would run in and say, "WHO WON? WHO WON?" The blessing in all of this is that Steph and I were able to share some positive insight into an otherwise chaotic day...we kept the kids positive and tried to make it a teachable moment. 

Speaking of Steph and I...

We came to work on Friday literally matching head to toe. We don't live together, but we do spend every working day together so we are doing that weird subconscious twin thing! Maroon pants/tights and a black sweater. ha! I am thankful for Steph though, she is a great coworker and a good friend. God knew we needed each other at this time in our lives. 

Can't go wrong with Udon for dinner and Mr. Donut for dessert. The old fashion donut from Mr. Donut will forever reign supreme as my favorite donut in Japan. 

And lastly, they re-opened a mall in kashiwa and put a GONG CHA!!!!!! I tried this boba chain for the first time when I was in Vietnam last year and it was amazing...so when I walked into the mall and saw it I almost dropped to the floor. There is NO good boba in Japan...so having this in Kashiwa is too good to be true. Sign me up for a loyalty card ASAP.

 

So there are a few snippets of goodness amidst a lot of madness and chaos.  The future seems scary, and to be honest...right now the reality of my grandpa passing and me not being there hurts bad. He is someone I love deeply and he has blessed me so much in my 24 years of life. But...ahhh...I rest. I rest because the Lord above holds all things in His hands. My grandpa will soon spend eternity with the Lord in fullness. fullness: the state of being filled to capacity. What a beautiful sight that will be. 

 

SLOW DOWN

September and October were crazy months. I am so thankful that it's November now and I have a little bit more time to slow down. I haven't been taking as many photos on my camera lately (laziness!) but now that the temperature is dropping I am going to have to do something to keep my mind off how cold I actually am so I'm determined to carry around Joel a lot more. You can take the girl out of California but you can't take California out of the girl!

Went for a walk the other day at my favorite spot, Teganuma. This place is so special to me. It truly is a place of peace and calm where I can see some nature and talk with God. 

I got there just in time to catch a bit of the sunset. 

Gott love some good DOF (depth of field) every once in a while.

Since i'm indoors at school 80% of my week...any spare moment of time out in nature is a treasure to me! Even if it's some tiny plants out by the water. It is so refreshing. My goal is to really get out and make it a priority to see some fall leaves this month. 

The hiragana "め" always makes me think of a pretzel!

I love my little neighborhood and I am thankful for a place right across the street from my apartment to go to and have some time outside. 

 

In other news...is it too early to listen to Christmas music? (rhetorical question) Because I just bought Lauren Daigle Christmas CD...and I'm going to have to bring out all the other good holiday albums to jam to for the next month and a half! 

When you offer free candy...

Since Monday was Halloween I made sure to bring a load of candy (thank you Costco) to fulfill my duty as the American teacher at Ichikashi. Halloween, over the last few years, has started to pick up in Japan but it still hasn't made its way into the school system yet (no costumes allowed!). I told all the teachers in the English department to announce to their classes that if the students came to our office and said "trick or treat" they would get a candy. And sure enough...

A lot of them came! 

 

Then after school, we had an ECC (English Conversation Club) Halloween Party in the 3A classroom, which is the nicest classroom at school! We told all the kids to bring some snacks and drinks and we kicked off the party at 4:00pm...

Riho, our club president, quickly found the Honey Dijon chips I brought from Costco haha. Smart girl. 

Japanese snacks are the best. 

So...my duty was to plan a bunch of games for the students to play. Thankfully, I grew up going to Church summer camp every year, then worked at Forest Home for two summers, and was an RA at APU so you can imagine how many church-friendly-crazy-games I have in my repertoire. (I had to look up how to spell that word)

Game 1: M&M Elevator.
I tied string to some hashis and made the kids put the string behind their ears and pull up an M&M to their mouths without it falling off. They all kept saying "this is impossible!!" but they made it work and it was hilarious to watch how focused they got! 

Game 2: Throw the Mallow
I bought this bag of ridiculously large marshmallows from, you guessed it, Costco. At the last minute I was thinking of how to use them for a game and thought to myself, "hmmm...marshmallows are soft, so why not throw them at peoples' faces?" classic. I printed out these Pumpkin masks and gave each team three big marshmallows each. Every time they hit the pumpkin they got one point. No one was injured in this game so I call that a success! 

Game 3: Find the candy
I played this game so many times growing up...blindfold one person, have their teammate shout directions at them to find whatever object is on the floor. This time it was a bunch of individually wrapped Haribo gummies.

Game 4: pass the pumpkin
They loved this one, simply for the fact that everyone loves a good relay race! These pumpkins were only $1 each at Costco. Over under, behind the back, eyes closed, I tried to mix it up to make each round a little more difficult. They were so loud during this one! 

One of the students, Tats, made his own game by eating far too many gummie bears. His entire mouth was full and he kept shoving them in while his two friends kept cheering him on...boys will be boys! 

After playing the games, the winning team got to be first in line for some cheesecake. We spent the rest of the party listening to American music on youtube and dancing to all the hip hop songs that are going viral haha! 

These girls are awesome! 

The students stayed around until 6pm when we told them it was time to clean up and head home. I loved spending time with them, playing a bunch of silly games, and seeing their happy faces eating candy and enjoying each others' company. I feel so very blessed to call this "work."

Another though: how cool is God to give us experiences in life to build on one another and help us later down the road?! For example, six years ago when I was a summer camp leader at Forest Home planning weeks of games and activities with my coworkers, I would have never imagined that I would use those ideas again as a teacher in Japan.  One of the English teachers here said to me, "Amie how do you think of all these games?" and I laughed because I told her it just comes from all the things I grew up with and it doesn't stress me out one bit to plan them! God sets things up so far in advance, we can't imagine how things will come back into our lives or how two jobs will connect... but after all, God is the one who created us so He knows exactly how our various skills, talents, passions, hobbies will all fit in together to make us the most effective for His kingdom. I love that about God, and I am so blessed by His guidance and wisdom in my life.

Thank you Lord for bringing me here and giving me an outlet for all my icebreaker games and extrovert tendencies haha! 

FEELS LIKE HOME

Truth: the Lord provides
Evidence: (see below)

Recently I had been feeling a bit homesick. Not because I don't fully love loveeee Japan (because I do), but because I've just kind of  missed the coziness of a home, sitting around a big table and grubbin on some home cooked meals. Plus the holidays are coming up so I found myself anxiously counting down the days til I'm back. 

Then, one weekend after teaching my Saturday class, one of my students comes up to me and says, "Amie, I want to invite you over to my house sometimes soon to meet my daughter and son-in-law who are visiting from the states." I tried to play it cool, "Oh sounds great! let's pick a day" but really I was freaking out inside that I would get the honor of being invited to her family home to meet her kids. 

The day arrived and I was so thankful...

She picked Steph and I up at the station and drove us 10 minutes to her beautiful family house. In Japan, people build their own houses and choose the design and layout, so they're all amazing! They fed us some seriously good food; ginger pork, quiche, veggies, kabocha (pumpkin) soup, salad...drooooool. 

The lady, Motoka, has three kids. Her middle daughter is married to a guy from Texas and they came to Japan to have a formal Japanese wedding ceremony. It was so fun chatting with them about their travels and their hobby of bouldering (they're so cool) and the funny differences between Japan and the states. They also fed us home made green tea pudding, with ice cream, and cheesecake.

Chris, from Texas, Motoka's son who is an up and coming singer in Tokyo, Motoka, and her daughter who is so cool and cute! We stayed and chatted until 10:30pm on a Thursday night! haha. We were having so much fun together that we kind of lost track of time. It was such a blessing to spend time in their cozy house surrounded by such good conversation. They recommended so many places in Japan to visit and go hiking at, and I wished them the best of luck with their lives back in American. 

Then, the next day I get a text from a lady at church, Bernie, who has been like an Auntie or Mother to me..."Hey Amie, If you want you can come down and bunk in my house this Saturday and we can take you to church on Sunday!" Wow! I had to teach my Saturday class again but I told her I could come down after that. 

Bernie is from Singapore and her husband Tom grew up in Tokyo (but lived in Singapore for many years). They don't have any kids of their own but they are like a mother and father to so many people at church, and they really are so loving, hospitable, and kind. The picked me up from the station and invited me in their awesome house! 

They made a tatami floor guest bedroom upstairs just so the people who visited would feel "in Japan" and they even had tiny shampoos and soaps in their bathroom that made me really feel like I was in a hotel. They cooked me up the most amazing ramen with homemade dumplings inside! And a side dish of really good tofu. wasabi, and shoyu. They kept feeding me fruit, snacks, pudding, rice crackers, and kept refilling my cup of hot tea. We walked around their neighborhood after dinner and then ended the night watching Korean reality shows on T.V. 

Side note, they even gave me fresh lemon-water in a canteen to take up to my room and have as a refreshing night drink. So cute. 

The next morning I woke up and went up to their 3rd floor deck to have some quiet time and devo. It was chilly outside but Bernie gave me a wool blanket to use so I was more than happy. Plus how cool are they to have a 3rd roof deck?! 

Then, we walked to the bakery 2 minutes from their house and got the most amazing breads! This bakery is called, Queue, and for good reason since there is always a line outside. The breads were by far the best I've had in Japan. Incredible. We walked back home, blasted the worship music, had coffee and breakfast, and then they drove me to church. My favorite part of my time with them was when Tom prayed and said, "Thank you Lord for bringing Amie here. Continue to keep her safe and protected..." simple prayer but it meant so much coming from him. He told me "I think I'm about the same age as your dad, so I can be your dad while you're here!" I felt so loved and taken care of under their protection and they didn't even realize what a true blessing it was to me at this specific time in my life.

The Lord provides.

How funny that in a few days time I had two incredible dinners at two beautiful homes, surrounded by the best people. Life is always an adventure when you're following Jesus and you place your desires, your fears, your anxiety, your joys, your time...in His hands. When I was feeling homesick, I didn't even know what I needed. I thought I would just eagerly count down the days till I flew home for Christmas...but God knows what we need even before we do! He knew I needed a few nights spent in the presence of family and those with such pure hearts of service and gratitude to calm my anxious heart. He knew I needed this refreshing weekend to pick me up and carry me over until I'm home for the holidays.

God is such a good good Father. He knows us so well!

recently...

Steph and I met up with our former coworker, Imazawa Sensei, for Indian food (really spicy, really good). It is always nice to see Imazawa because he has really taken care of us in Japan, and although he works at a different school now, we still find time every few months to catch up!  

And yet another Nomikai...this one was to celebrate the recent Sports Festival and Cultural Festival we had at school. All of the teachers have been so busy recently, so everyone loved coming together to have a night of relaxation and good Kyushu style food. I sat near two of my coworkers who are a part of the unofficial and self proclaimed "若いの先生“ "young teachers" club at school haha. 

Last week I met up with my good friend Mina and her brother Naoya and we went out to eat Okonomiyaki. This one was Hiroshima style, with noodles inside! We also ate ホルモン"hormone" aka intestines which, believe it or not, I actually ate this time. It basically tastes like a thick piece of fat attached to a chewy piece of cardboard (I am assuming that is the intestinal wall) that doesn't seem edible but Japanese people LOVE it. Naoya says he orders it every time and it's the best Hormone he's ever had. Also, how weird is the name hormone? It actually comes from the word "horumon" from the kansai dialect which means "discarded goods" HAHA. 

Okay this is special...Watoto childrens choir came to Hope church again! I can hardly believe it's been a year since THIS POST !! I could not stop smiling dancing and worshipping the good Lord with these beautiful children. My favorite part was talking to some of the kids and leaders after and hearing their Ugandan accent. It's hard to explain, but something about their voices is just so comforting. It takes me right back to my time in Gulu.

After the Watoto concert I headed back to Kashiwa to meet up with a new friend, Yuuki, who Steph and I met via another mutual friend...and get this... he went to APU! How crazy is that? We didn't go to APU at the same time but we knew a few people in common and it just cracked me up talking to a Japanese guy about chapel, cougar den, and donut man! God is a God of connections and He reminded me of that this weekend. Also, the restaurant we went to in Kashiwa has just become my new favorite spot in the city. I mean, if my life were a restaurant it would be this, exactly. 

And the final event of recent was heading into Tokyo and meeting up with my friend Miri. Last year when I was working at the tutoring center, I tutored a lovely lady named Masako. We met each week and Masako eventually introduced me to her daughter my age named Miri - and we became fast friends! Anyway, she recently moved back to Japan and is now working for a company right around the corner from Tokyo station. We met up for dinner on Sunday and went to Shake shack. 

They just opened the third Shake Shack in Tokyo in Yurakucho (right at the Tokyo International Forum) and it was AMAZING. Always a win. Especially those cheese fries. 

I am so happy to have Miri in Tokyo now!! She went to UCR (and UCLA) and her parents live in PV so she totally gets life back home, not to mention shes is obsessed with Disneyland so I now have the perfect person to go there with! YES. 

 

And a few updates about school since, yes, I do still work during the week...

-Yesterday at lunch I brought instant ramen, this new pack I hadn't tried before, but when I made it I instantly smelled the fishy broth. At this point my coworkers were intrigued "oh Amie, you're eating ramen?" (I usually eat a sandwich or something with rice) and they all watched me take my first bite of the fishiness to see if I could do it. NOPE. NOPE. So then I gave all of it to Tamaoki sensei who gladly devoured it in two seconds. The good things is he said "I'll take you to non-fishy ramen next to make up for it" haha. 

-For one of our classes, Steph and I gave them this stamp card and they have to come once a week, make up a question ask us, and receive a stamp to help improve their conversation skills. The questions usually vary from "what did you do this weekend?" to "what is your favorite type of Japanese food" but yesterday...one of the Filipinio kids came up to me and said, "what is your favorite part about being a Christian?" And I almost cried. Not because of the question but because of his face when he asked me, he was pure joy and happiness knowing I got what he got and we both served the same God! P.s I told him my favorite part was knowing the Father's love and living with purpose! 

-Last week our school brass band went to Nagoya to compete in the all Japan High School Brass Band competition and they won the gold medal for the third consecutive year. No big deal. This Thursday and Friday the entire brass band will be gone at another event so half my students will be out of class! Music is absolutely life here at my school and it dominates every other club activity. 

a good weekend

It is officially fall here in Japan people and what that means is a small window of time where the weather feels the closest to socal as it will ever feel and we all experience a few weeks of pure bliss until.....BAM. WINTER HITS and I am frozen 24/7. So October is a beautiful month and I have been taking advantage of it by spending more time out in the city with new and old friends! 

Got to visit my new friend Nami at Jaho coffee! Anyone and everyone in the Tokyo area...go here!! You will not be disappointed. 

This past weekend Steph (back to co-worker Steph...I know a lot of stephs) and I headed into Tokyo to meet up with a few of her friends from CA who were here on a prayer missions trip. Steph's friend Amy had a friend, Nathalie, who just moved to Tokyo with her family...so they all met up with us to hang out for the day. Nathalie has two adorable kids who came along with us and I was in auntie heaven! Being around kids, especially the same age as my nieces and nephews, is so therapeutic for me so you could imagine my excitement. We spent the day on the ultimate Tokyo tour...Dominique Ansel, Nakamegs, Jaho Coffee, Afuri, then ending at Loft in Shibuya! 

Typical Tokyo life...taxi trying to get through a crowd.

After a fun day in the city, Steph and I headed to Makuhari to attend the best party ever...

This is Shun, my coworker and good friend. He is half Japanese half Nepalese and is one of the most hilarious people I have ever met. His parents own a restaurant and they host a sari party every month and this month was extra special because it was Shun's 30th birthday!

We got to rent a sari (his mom helped us put it on), eat an amazing buffet of Nepalese curry + rice + bread, eat birthday cake, and dance the night away with all of his family and friends. It was crazy and SO much fun. 

Shun, his beautiful wife Noriko, and his mom! At work, Shun always talks about his wife and how they met when they were in college and he had long rockstar hair but his humor won her over. Steph and I have been dreaming to meeting her for some time now, so when we finally got to see her I felt like I was meeting a celebrity! Not only is she beautiful, but she is so kind! She made sure that after the party Shun drove us back to the station so we didn't have to walk. How did this guy get so lucky to find a girl like her? Also, how amazing and cute is his mom?! 

 

So that wraps up another rad weekend here in Japan. So thankful for all the new friends the Lord has brought into my life here. How cool is it that God created our hearts to always love and embrace more people? Thank you Lord!

STEPH IN TOKYO

Not too long ago, my good friend Steph sent me a text about cheap flights to Tokyo and the possibility of her coming out to visit. I noticed a three day weekend in the middle of October and told her to aim for that timeline. With only a month or so to spare, she booked her flight to Narita and stayed with me 5 days! 

Steph and I met when we were 14. We were teeny tiny little teenagers chosen to be a part of the 12th Yonsei basketball team. Ever since we were young, Steph has been the planning type. On our Yonsei team she was basically the team mom, planning our Christmas parties, tournaments, and even our senior trip to hawaii together! (pic above from that trip in 2009)  I knew having her in Tokyo would be a breeze, and that she would research all the best places to go before I even had to worry about it.

Sure enough, she came and we hit up some new spots that were all amazing. We cruised all over Tokyo and then spent the holiday (Monday) in Yokohama. 

First stop in Tokyo...RAINBOW PANCAKE. Steph is a huge fan of pancakes and really did her research on this one. I had never even heard of it and I'm the one who lives here haha! Rainbow pancake is located in Omotesando and is famous for these insanely fluffy and delicious pancakes. 

Steph ordered the Macadamia pancakes which were OFF THE CHARTS good. Forsure some of the best pancakes I've ever had. I ordered the seasonal Flower and honey pancake special which was almost too beautiful to eat. They somehow managed to infuse floral taste into the whipped cream (beats me) and the honey tasted magical on the fluffy cakes. 

Good coffee + pancakes...does it get much better than that?

After breakfast we cruised around Cat street and Omotesando on our way to Shibuya. 

Cats street is definitely the place for hispters and fashionistas in the Tokyo area. I especially love the Japanese guys who dress like Justin Bieber haha. 

Steph's younger cousin is a huge TsumTsum fan so we had to stop by the Disney store in Shibuya. Now that I have been to Shibuya more times than I can count...I will say that the scramble still gets me every time. It's always as crowded and busy as you would imagine...and I am always fascinated people watching. 

Next stop..afternoon coffee in Nakameguro. Let me just say, I am so thankful Steph is not only a major foodie but she is a coffee addict as well! The perfect person to travel Tokyo with. 

We looked up a place to check out in Nakamegs and Steph found this place...JAHO Coffee which I had heard of briefly before. It just opened recently and is in the perfect location by the river. IT IS SO CUTE INSIDE I ALMOST COULDN'T BELIEVE IT. TOO TOO GOOD. 

There's also the most stylish clothing store in the back of the coffee shop that sells ridiculously soft expensive sweaters that I can only dream of wearing one day. 

Talk about a cool look out spot. This place will be straight up MAGIC when it is cherry blossom season since all the trees along the river will bloom!

Introducing the newest member into my family...BAOBAO. Issey Miyake is one of Japan's most famous fashion designers and BAOBAO is his line of geometric bags. I had been eyeing this guy for a while so when Steph came I took it as an opportunity to splurge and get me a new Japanese made bag. To say I'm obsessed is an understatement. 

The carrot cake was next level. And the drip coffee? legit. 

I started chatting with the barista and I learned that she lived in the states for many years and is actually the owner of Jaho coffee! So cool. I asked if I could take her photo...isn't she the cutest? And I told her I would be back again soon. Japanese coffee people are seriously the coolest. 

We ended up eating lunch at Afuri at 3pm or so (because of our large breakfast)...so at around 5pm we were due for a snack. We were around Roppongi area and picked up these really good cream puffs (in Japan they call cream puffs "shu-cream" which makes me think of "shoe-cream" and I laugh every time).

We ended our day with Soup Stock for dinner which always has flavorful soup, curry and bread. Can't go wrong with that!

A few more phone my phone...

Another spot we hit up over the weekend was Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki Paris, which was exactly as fancy as it sounds. We ordered the cake platter thing which came with 6 pieces of the most flavorful and beautiful little cakes! We also cruised around Akihabara area which offered us this nice sunset view.  

Monday was a national holiday and we decided to take a trip (1.5 hrs) down to Yokohama. Yokohama is an awesome city with a very chill vibe, which I love. 

We strolled around the red brick warehouse where they were having Octoberfest (went last year), grabbed coffee, and took in the nice ocean views. 

Oh and how could I forget our incredible Sukiyaki lunch with the coolest entry way ever. The meat was amazing and the ambiance of the restaurant really added to the Japanese feel of everything. And yes, that is a raw egg that you dip your cooked meat into. The true way to eat sukiyaki. 

On Stephs's last night here we decided to meet in Ginza (where her hotel was) and she found this udon place online. It was very unique dipping style and tasted amazing! Good call Steph. And we ended the night and our time together in Japan with parfaits from nanas Green Tea. 

It was so nice having Steph in Tokyo for a few days. She is so chill, easygoing, yet simultaneously really good at planning and getting things done. That is probably the best type of person to travel with! 

journal.

Few things excite me more in life than journaling. 

I know that sounds a bit odd, but just ask anyone I've ever lived with (family, roomies) and they know that waking up and writing down my prayers to God is something I can't live without.

When I moved to Japan a year ago, I brought two journals with me. One was a big beautiful lime green one with a fat zipper all around the side. It was from Anthropologie and I went through it in 8 months. The second journal was from my friend Kelcie and it was a beautiful brown one with two buttons on the front. I went through that one in 6 months. So last week I was coming to the end of my second journal and bought a brand new one from the bookstore. It's all white, simple, and doesn't have lines (my favorite. doodle freedom).

Today I wrote on the first page some lyrics from the song Hidden by United Pursuit Band. My good friend Colton, who lives in Haiti, recently reminded me of the beautiful lyrics to that song and this part felt very fitting...

"I want to seek you first
I want to love you more
I want to give you the honor your deserve"

 

Ending one journal and starting the next feels like a very real end of one chapter and beginning of another. The timing is no coincidence and as I begin filling these blank pages, I want the words of this song to echo true throughout. I want to seek God first. I want to love Him more. I want to give Him the honor He deserves. Japan is not necessarily 'new' to me anymore so now that I've been here over a year I pray this journal would be filled with deeper reflection and pure intent in my pursuit of honoring God in all that I do. 

And for those of you who have never tried to daily journal...I highly suggest you do! It has been one of the biggest blessings in my life and one way I stay closest to God. 

ALL OVER THE PLACE

a lot of random things I've been up to via my iphone...literally all over the place...

"leave me alone" was the store's name. brilliant. And my good friend Curtis brought me chick-fil-A sauce THANK YOU CURTIS.

Steph and I pulled off a two-day English camp for the first year international class. We planned a bunch of activities and sessions to get the students more comfortable speaking English. Also, we took four of our girl students to a recent speech contest. Unfortunately, none of them placed but let's just say I would have chosen otherwise!! *They were all amazing!

Bentos delivered old school style to the English camp...and Tamaoki sensei explaining the proper way to choose a drink at 7-11. He chose this LIFEGUARD soda for me while I was getting through my cold. It tasted like extremely flavorful mountain dew. never again.

TAIKUSAI aka SPORTS FESTIVAL was a few weeks ago and it was awesome. 

The game everyone loves is when the girls have to pick up a card which tells them what ingredient they have to stuff their face in. The worst one is the nori (Seaweed!)

My two fellow teachers and I (wore a face mask all day due to my cold)...and the 2A students in a group huddle. 

A few other events recently...I had to help out with a local festival in Kashiwa. It was an international festival so there were a bunch of different cultural dances and performances. The day before, I had a church lunch with a bunch of awesome ladies and Sayumi was the queen in the kitchen cooking up a bunch of eggs to go on top of our Thai food!

Nothing like a good cup of coffee in Tokyo. This one was from Sidewalk stand in Naka Meguro. 

Two good things for the soul...a nice walk outside and a power lunch (Acai smoothie and salad). I would eat that lunch every single day if I was rich and had money to throw around. 

Giant greens in Tokyo and a nice farmers market. 

House plant envy...and the cutest Tokyo kids going home after school.

 

Wowza...September was a wild month. It's almost mid way though October now and my good friend Steph has been staying with me these past few days. I has been so nice and refreshing having her around. The Lord knew that having a good friend from back home visit was exactly what I needed to get me through this crazy season. 

Then, the end of October means mid-terms, a few nomikais, dinners with former coworkers, a halloween party for English club...and then I will be preparing myself for the cold that comes with November. What I am NOT looking forward to is freezing my butt off every day but what I AM looking forward to is being home for the holidays!!! Counting down the days...

BUNKASAI 2016

*i'm so behind on my posts...Bunkasai was almost a month ago!*

Bunkasai (cultural festival) is a BIG deal at Ichikashi and one of my favorite events all year.

Every homeroom designs class t-shirts and decide months in advance if they are going to sell food, do a game, or some other type of attraction. This is a two day non stop party. The first day is reserved just for the students and the teachers. People often say the first day is just a "practice" for the second day, Saturday, when our school is open to the public and things really get crazy. 

This year I just brought my camera around on the first day because I knew the second day would be crazy (I participated in a teacher dance). Ok...welcome to the wild world of Ichikashi Bunkasai 2016...

First event of the day...opening ceremonies and the moment you get to see all the impressive class t-shirts. They always put numbers on the back signifying their birthday, or sports number, and choose a nickname to put on there as well. This year there was a bit of drama when the first year students (10th graders) had the exact style of shirt as the third year students (12th graders) so one of the teachers had to make an announcement saying if they kept complaining about it, t-shirts would be banned next year! In my opinion, the third year students were just jealous because the first year students shirts were a cooler color. haters gunna hate. 

Everyone gets a pamphlet explaining what each of the homerooms are doing. Most of them sell food (beef bowls, icecream, snacks, drinks), make a horror house, some type of game or attraction, or perform a show! It is incredible the things they pull off just using their classroom and a bunch of cardboard haha. 

1A replicated a popular style of gameshow on Japanese TV where you do a bunch of games like minute-to-win-it. For this one they had us kick a ball at big moving objects and see how many we could knock over. I loved how they created a system for the board to roll across the ground smoothly - clever! 

3A did a maid cafe, except the maids were the boys haha! Their skirts were definitely too short but you gotta give them credit for creativity and full commitment. 

They sold boba, performed dances throughout the day, and made everyone pose with them like the maids at cafes do. Hilarious. 

3B has been making a short movie every year so, this being their last year, they filmed their finale! They made their classroom into a movie theatre and showed the 20min production throughout the day. I was so impressed by it! I even made it into the credits for some reason. So cute. 

3C did a crazyyyyy crazyyyy Toy Story Mania cart attraction. A least one class a year does this and it is one of my favorite things. They create four or five separate games in their classroom and push you around (yes one students job is to physically push the cart) as you play the various shooting and throwing games. They try and make it as much like the real Toy Story Mania as possible and it is so legit! Also can we just admire the spot-on Woody entrance.

They even had a standby entrance sign lol! The line for this gets pretty long, and on Saturday there was at least 20-30 people waiting to play.

Loved all the decor. When I was in high school I made some posters for student council and painted a few things for dances, but I would have loved something like Bunkasai. The students spend so much time all working together brainstorming ideas, designating jobs, and creating all these awesome displays...the whole school participates and it is awesome to witness. 

3D did this funny forest themed game and they had me cracking up with their "challenge" sign...especially since I teach them English writing class and I always get on them for their spelling errors!! 

2I put on a high school musical performance in their classroom! HAHA...I didn't get to see it but I heard it was amazing. 

2A did a horror house and had a line outside all day. They were so excited to scare everyone as make their room as frightening as possible. 

all throughout the hallways students will walk around or put signs up to advertise their classroom.

3G did this hilarious play on words with "LIONEL (UNDA) MESSI" because they all love Lionel Messi and in Japanese "undameshi" means "test one's luck" so they created all these stages of luck games that you pass through to make it to the end. When I turned the corner and saw their giant Messi face I couldnt stop laughing LOL. 

selling Yakisoba and ramume! 

2G did a really impressive job with creating their version of Yoshinoya (restaurant chain) by changing it to their homeroom teacher's name...IKEDA-ya! Their design look just like Yoshinoya as well haha. 

They sold beef bowls for 300yen and after two days....sold about 600 bowls! 

Kawamoto, Takeda, Steph, and... Matsuo Sensei who always tries to look tough and scary in front of the kids but is really a softy hahaa. 

Akimoto sensei is the homeroom teacher of 2B and he does two years of preparation leading up to the third year musical he always puts on. So this class has chosen to do Sound of Music next year...so this year they sold "Austrian beef plates" to raise money for next year. They went all out! 

The peace sign is still very alive and well in Japan. 

Another big part of Bunkasai are the performances. The sports class (1S, 2S and 3S) have a tradition of doing a really crazy and over-the-top dance every year. This was 2S doing their routine and it was just as loud, wild, and sweaty of a performance as you would imagine a group of 40 sports kids to do haha. 

The music club also performed and one of my students Soichiro was the MC. He is always so so soooo quiet in class so it was so fun seeing him in his superstar getup and slicked back hair.

The dance club did an amazing job this year. They had like three wardrobe changes, danced to 10 different songs, mixed up the hip hop with the cheer and pop...seriously, I kept thinking to myself, "I could have never looked this cool in high school!" 

2F did an ocean cafe and sold popsicles. One boy even dressed up as Ariel and walked around to advertise for his class. 

And the craft club sold a bunch of keychains, handmade notebooks, stationary, etc. I bought a bunch of cute little things to keep at my desk at work. Love it!

I feel so honored to be able to see a real Japanese High School Bunkasai from behind the scenes. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience to be living and working here...and I am so thankful for everyday I get to walk into school and be a part of life here at Ichikashi. 

a lot.

I have been so MIA from my blog recently. I have so much to catch up on with photos and events...but for now here's just an honest lament of whats been going on in my heart and mind lately

"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tent of the wicked. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. LORD almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you."
Psalm 84: 10-11

Life has been crazy lately. September is always a busy month when you're a teacher (welcome back, cultural festival, sports festival, etc) but I feel like all areas of my life lately have been on overdrive. I arrived at a place recently where my heart was overwhelmed and my spirit was feeling weak and vulnerable. Being on the other side of the world really elevates all of that.

When I faced overwhelming moments as a kid, my parents were right there to bear some of the burden. They would pray for me, hand me tissues, and support me through every bump in the road. Then in college, I faced the typical frustrating moments of anxiety and growth...and I had my strong and fierce web of friends right there with me (you know who you ladies are). We sat on the couch and drowned our tears in prayers, coffee, and sisterhood. 

So where am I now? In Japan. Thousands of miles away from all that's familiar...facing these real life things head on. Is is scary? yes. Are there moments when I ask myself "what the heck am I going to do?" yes. Do I worry and fear? yes. Does God know all the turmoil in my heart and love me deeply? yes. Is God full of grace, truth, mercy, and forgiveness? YES. YES. A thousand times yes. 

Psalms 84 is beautiful. water for the soul. Better is one day in the house of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere. I believe that with all of me. No good thing does He withhold. As humans, we desire so many crazy things.... but God knows what is best for us. He knows what we've been through and He knows what is coming. He is the father of light, the giver of all good things, the creator of this earth and the one who holds all time in his hands. He is the comforter in our chaos and the bearer of all our burdens. I am thankful I serve a God that never leaves me on my own.

This song came into my head this morning...my spirit sings it!

My hope is built on nothing less
thank Jesus' blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
but wholly trust in Jesus' name 

On Christ the solid rock I stand
all other ground is sinking sand
all other ground is sinking sand

When darkness veils his lovely face
I rest on his unchanging grace
In every high and stormy gale
my anchor holds within the veil

 

 

HOUSE VISION

One of my favorite sources for all things art/design/photography/Japan is SPOON+TAMAGO and thanks to their good work I stumbled upon this exhibit in Odaiba called HOUSE VISION 2. Basically it is this super rad exhibit where architects and designers partner with big name companies to create model houses and rooms for the future. Yeah, talk about amazing. 

I cruised on over there on a rainy Saturday with Steph and as soon as we turned the corner and saw the entrance our jaws dropped...we had entered JAPANESE ARCHITECTURAL DREAMLAND. *insert heart eyes*

Tickets were around $15... but to me, it was worth every penny. 

There were about 12 model houses to walk around and see. I wanted to live in every single one of them. 

The first house was a colaboration with airbnb, which is a company gaining a lot of popularity in Japan recently. They happened to hit the jack pot and design the most amazing house ever. dang. Apparently, after the exhibit, the house is moving to an actual location and being put up for rent on airbnb. I gotta get on that!

The stairs were somehow hanging from the ceiling. TOO COOL. 

DOESN'T GET MUCH BETTER THAN THIS. #LIFEGOALS 

This next house was built to work as a communal living space. It had tiny rooms for an office, a bath, kitchen, bedrooms, and tiny nooks for resting or journaling or just chillin. So basically a glorified adult tree house. ughhhh too good!! 

They had this cute little area where you could order coffee and a snack. 

cool dude in cool overalls

The line for this house was too long so we didn't go in, but the outside was what really mattered anyway! I mean, look at that beauty! brilliant. 

There was a partnership with Tsutaya bookstore...which of course always does the dopest collaborations with designers. This one was a win forsure. 

And whats the best way to end a day you ask? Ichiran ramen of course! We met up with stephs friends in Shibuya for dinner + dessert. 

I love that I get to live so close to Tokyo where there is endless amounts of artistic and design inspiration. Thank you HOUSE VISION 2 for giving me a life supply of house envy!

EMIKO - PART IV - LAST

okay I'm sure you are thinking to yourself by now..Amie and Emi sure do take a lot of photos together...but when you put the two of us, with cameras in hand, in one of the best cities in the world we have no choice but to document every moment!

Here's the last installment of our time in Japan together...and we spend our last few days exploring a few new areas of Tokyo that I hadn't even been to yet!

The first pic I took on our last full day in Tokyo was my favorite.

The first place we hit up was Akihabara area to go to a few cool shops that they've built under the train tracks.

Next spot was 2k540 which, in my opinion is the weirdest name, but it is this rad building also under the train tracks that they have converted to a bunch of tiny artisan shops. SO COOL. 

We were in search of coffee by this time...and stumbled upon Asan cafe which had HAMMOCKS! Affogato + hammocks = perfection. 

After Akihabara we decided to do some shopping in kita-senju and found a SHIRO cosmetic store. All of the products are made in Japan using Japanese natural ingredients like red bean, potatoes, sake, flowers, etc. We spent a good 40 minutes trying out everything and becoming best friends with the lady working there haha. Emi bought anko (red bean) face scrub!!! and I bought solid perfume which smells heavenly. We fell in love with this place!

We ended the day fabric shopping, eating musubi, doodling our future plans, and watching the trains pass by at a cool starbucks right on the kita-senju tracks. 

 

TIME FOR OUR FINAL DAY TOGETHER :( 

We headed into Tokyo in the morning to drop Emis luggage off at Hamamatsucho so we could walk around freely. Soon enough, we realized that they day would be a SCORCHER and anywhere we walked we just felt like we were melting. (SO. HOT) We hid inside for a few hours at Starbucks and soaked up our last few hours in Japan together.

The starbs on the rooftop in omotesando is pretty cool with its outdoor terrace. 

That afternoon we met up with my friend Shoki who happened to be in Ebusi for work, and decided to hit up Afuri again since Emi loved it the first time. Emi ordered the vegan ramen which was not only incredibly beautiful but so good! Full of flavor and really fresh tasting. I decided to try something new and got the charsiu rice with daikon on top which was BOMB and Shoki got the superrr red spicy ramen. Afruri is always a good choice. 

By this point we only had an hour or so before we had to head to the airport so Shoki took us to Ebisu Garden Place. Little did he know that was the perfect spot to go because it's the location where they filmed Hana-Yori-Dango AKA the ultimate Japanese drama AKA one of Emi's favorite shows ever! We sipped our Pineapple soda and enjoyed the famous spot. 

Then it was time to say our goodbyes so Emi and I headed to Haneda and had one last Japanese dessert before giving eachother one last big hug and saying bye. Having Emi here was so special and we really did have the best week ever together! It's going to be hard to top that :)

I am so thankful to God for blessing me with a lifelong friend like Emi. We have walked through every life stage together and have grown closer as the time has passed, and that is something I will always treasure. We always have the best ideas flowing when we're together and I have no doubt we'll create some awesome art/fashion/crafts/blogs/photography/etc in the future when we live in the same city again! Praise God for friendship and thanks for coming Em - LOVE YOU TONS! 

EMIKO - PART III

Before we left for our two day Tokyo takeover, Emi and I decided to challenge ourselves by bringing only the clothes we were wearing + pajamas...and we would have to buy a new outfit to wear on Friday. It turned out to be a pretty funny challenge as we kind of put it off until 8pm when all the stores were closing and we were frantically thinking "OKAY I just need to find something!" We pulled it off though, and I say out outfits turned out pretty well..

Emi's stellar outfit. I'm working on a vlog to upload here where we explain our outfits in detail, so stay tuned.

What better way to start the morning then by some green smoothies! After fueling up on the goods...we headed to Shibuya to hit up the giant and beautifully curated LOFT there. Emi had been anticipating this moment for a while since LOFT is the home to all things stationary, books, pens, and little amazing trinket. We spend 2 hours or so there and almost shopped til we literally dropped...and we decided to take a break and eat at the MUJI CAFE near by. We were laughing about how long we stayed in ONE STORE hahaa and so we eventually headed out in search of good coffee.

We went to Onibu in Nakameguro which is the cutest little Japanes-ey coffee shop tucked back behind the main streets. We cooled down with some iced coffee and sat upstairs where we met a really cool Japanese dude and started chatting it up. If you know Emi and I, you now we are both pretty social people...so put us together and we don't mind striking up a conversation with just about anyone! haha. So we were talking to this nice guy and found out he was just traveling through Tokyo to see his parents but really lives in Nagoya and works for a fashion company (cool). He had this really awesome lens on his camera and told us it was a 'pancake'  lens (24mm) and my eyes widened at how perfect it was and get this...the next day I literally went and bought it! (Emi also bought it when she got back to the states!)  haha. So it was a divine conversation because Emi and I got to encourage this guy and tell him his English was so great and we both got a new lens out of it! 

Our next stop was one of the best stores in Nakameguro... Travelers! It is a notebook store and I knew it would be a hit with Emi. We both loaded up on new pens, little notebooks, and inspiration for our doodling hobby. 

We cruised around Nakameguro, checking out the shops, taking photos, laughing about how romantic the place was and picturing all the Japanese dramas that are filmed there! 

Our last stop of the day was Shibuya Hikarie where we met up with Emi's friend from Belgium (who is Japanese!) We ate dinner at this Okinawan restaurant and then decided to just go all out and get HARBS for dessert...

SOOOO GOOOOD. Harbs is a fancy and expensive cafe and they have that one rule you know, "everyone must order at least one drink" and those drinks are easily $7 but you know what...it was worth it! Fruit cake crepe, banana chocolate, and blueberry cheesecake yummmmm. 

A few more from my phone...

Pretending to be fashion people for a moment.

Our very LA "look-at-me-i'm-healthy-and-drinking-my-green-juice" selfie...and the incredibly perfect rice we had for dinner. 

Our friend we met ordering his coffee at Onibus...seriously how cool is the design of that place? and speaking of cool...that couple on the right is straight up LIFE + STYLE GOALS.

 

So after two full days in Tokyo Emi and I headed home for the weekend. Saturday we declared our day of rest and hung out in Kashiwa most of the time. We went to the store to buy my camera lens that I learned about the day before...and since we had some free time to spare, we went to the popular pop-up shaved ice spot in Kashiwa!

We waited about 40 minutes to get a seat inside and ordered the peach shaved ice and matcha...they did not disappoint! Melt in your mouth deliciousnesssss. 

 

Okay moving on to Sunday...we went to church and people loved talking to Emi and hearing about who she is and what shes up to. I loved being able to worship the good Lord with my bestie in Japan!! After church we got a quick snack at Lalaport Tokyo bay and then headed to watch a baseball game with my coworkers! 

awesome pic courtesy of Steph. 

We went to the game with Steph, my coworker Mr. Ikeda and his son kai who I love so much! This is our second baseball game with Ikeda and Kai and we always have the best time with them. They are such a loving and funny father-son duo!

We ended the night in our matching uniforms and a front seat to the fireworks show. And to top it off...the Marines won the game in the 10th inning!! What a weekend!

 

After a nice weekend...we headed to my school on Monday so Emi could meet some of the students and see where I spend most of my time. 

We had a meeting with this group of students to prepare them for their trip to Australia! Emi was able to hear some of their speeches they gave about Australian culture...and of course after class they all wanted to take photos with her! 

After school we headed to Nagareyama-Ootaka for a snack, and whats a better after school snack than a green tea parfait! Nanas green tea never lets us down! 

We ended our night with dinner in Kashiwa with Stephs sister Courtney and our good friend Mina. We went to our local indian restaurant for some good Naan and curry! 

wow...looking back at all the pics I realize we did a lot in a few days time haha. And...there's still one more post to go!