THE HOLIDAYS FROM HOME - FROM MY PHONE

This time at home I was able to see so many peeps and it was so non stop that, mid way through, I completely lost my voice. But aye! No time to slow down. So here's a look back at my time at home. It's hard to keep things in order so here goes nothing...

Started off my time on the right foot with some bomb pizza from the Farmers Market and shopping at the Grove with Karin. (fyi, stores to miss when you live abroad: Sephora, Anthro, Madewell) I was also able to drive up to SB to hang out with my college roomies Abbie and Cat! That drive on the 101 is pure magic. 

Cat has a son named Ezra and he is the best little dude! It was so nice being at the beach and running in the sand with him. While Ezra was napping at Cat's mom's house, we were able to sneak out for some coffee and time to really chat. We caught up on all that has changed these last few years; Cat having Ezra and moving to AZ, Abbie getting a new job and being married to Jake, and my time living and teaching in Japan! We've come a long way since little freshmen in the college dorm together!

I loved being back on auntie duty and also spending time with Jen's family for their Christmas party! At the party we played a white elephant gift exchange game and I ended up winning an entire collection of Paulo Coelho (the author of The Alchemist) books and I had a mild bookworm-freak-out moment! Seriously, such a good gift. Unfortunately I couldn't bring them back to Japan (too heavy) but I will be spending my time reading through all of his books when I am back stateside. 

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is reuniting with these girls - my high school sweethearts! Its crazy the things we've been through as friends...and how blessed we are to still be in eachother lives.  We've been having a Christmas party since we were in high school, and this year, like the true adults that we are, we decided to dress up in onesies. Love my hometown homies!! 

I was glad to be back on some morning walks with the kiddos. Cam and Len are so cute together.

New Years...we were like "where's Cam?" and we find him quiet as a mouse sleeping in the backroom haha.

In&Out with Cam! She just moved to NYC (check our her amazing food blog  UMAMICAMI) so it was the perfect last hang out with her to grub on some burgers. She's been my friend since we were tiny little tots and we share a similar love for all things Japan/Tokyo! 

It was great being back at GVBC for two weeks, especially to see Pastor Steve who will be retiring this year. 

Happy New Years! We actually celebrated East Coast time, which we've done the last few years, which makes everyone happy to sleep early and the kids can feel the magic of New Years Eve without knowing the real time. Also, Hunter hilariously planned his own New Years Eve sleepover at my moms house and said I was attending before asking me. He said, "I just thought it would be a fun idea" hAHA. Then he wrote thank you notes to the people who celebrated New Years with him. this kid! 

creepishly similar faces of me and my sissy (10 yrs apart, mind you)...and the best journal made by Emiko. 

Had to do some damage at Madewell. *thanks Jen Sissy

Eden is the cutest little nugget...and Hunter is growing too fast!! He loves playing outside with every ball possible.

As much as I love Tokyo and city life...I will always be a beach girl. Love this place. 

Cousin bocha time! 

I was able to spend some time with my good friend Nomes (Naomi) who made me this legit fanny pack! We grubbed on acai bowls by the beach and shared teacher stories (she teaches 6th grade)...kinda funny that we both ended up doing the same thing for work! 

My time at home wouldn't be complete without a Laker game with my dad. Loved seeing the new young crew of Lakers play and hanging out with my old man.

 

This is so out of order...haha...but on the days between Christmas and New Years I drove down to San Diego for a little APU reunion with some of my favorite people in the world. Let me try and introduce everyone...

L-R: Zach and Liana (married. live in SD), Marty and Natijane (married. parents to Judah Mae. live in SD), Anneke and Jeremy (engaged. live in Chicago), Eddie and Natty (dating. live in Napa), Megan and James (married. live in Azusa)....phew!! I lived with all these girls senior year of college so it was a treat being back under the same roof as them and hanging with their guys too! so. much. love.

two necessary items while in SD...INCREDIBLE ACAI BOWLS + CALIFORNIA BURRITOS. I could cry.

These are my people RIGHT HERE! Gosh, I can't even begin to explain what a blessing these women have been in my life. They are the perfect balance of wisdom, patience, gracefulness, strength, humor and pure joy! I am a better person because of these ladies. Blessed. 

Two days in SD was so wonderful. We spent most of the time playing with baby Judah and just chillin out. Thank you Lord!

Back in Torrance...one night I was able to meet up with my yonsei basketball sisters Steph, Akemi, Lynz and Alysa! We all met when we were kids and have kept a really strong bond since then. Akemi lives in PA now, Alysa has been in Hawaii the last few years and I'm in Japan... so every time we happen to all be back at home it really feels like a treat. I love these girls! 

Spent plenty of good time with Russ + Jen + the boys + Kac! We were all in Vietnam together last Christmas which doesn't feel that long ago -  it's crazy how fast 2016 flew by. 

HAD TO EAT CHICK-FIL-A. This is straight up the most perfect lunch meal...nuggets, fries, and a frozen coffee. OH MAN. Also blessed to have spent some time with my sista-friend Lexi! The last time I was home was for her wedding! So it was rad seeing her again and catching up on her married life.

A flower for my grandpa. Love you forever gramps. 

And lastly...I took this photo on my last night at home. My grandma lives with us now and before she went to bed I grabbed her hand and gave her a hug. She held it tight for a moment and just smiled at me. I was thankful to have spent this precious time at home. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder! 

THE HOLIDAYS FROM HOME

The Lord is gracious and blessed me with two weeks back home for the holidays. I spent last Christmas in Japan and Vietnam, so it was extra special being back in CA this year. 

Steph and I got a cheap flight with Asiana but we had to go through Korea which added another 2hour flight to the trip. But what helped was getting upgraded to business class thanks to our friend Mina who works for Asiana groundstaff at Narita! Never in my life have I sat in anything other than economy...so it felt like a new world. 

Landed in Korea and our first stop was Jamba! Man, that Caribbean passion tasted better than I ever remember. 2 hours to Korea...a 2 hour layover...11 hours to LAX... and finally...

 

HOME! Little Eden loved all the snacks I brought back. 

Cam's new thing is wanting to be a Chef. It is the cutest thing. He asked for cooking supplies from Santa for Christmas and when he got it he said, "Making stuff!! (what he calls cooking supplies)... It's what I wanted!" 

Every morning my mom does devotionals with the kids, just like she did when I was little. Now with the little ones she pulls them up to her lap one at a time and teaches them this short and amazing phrase, "I will be kind, I will listen, and I will learn to love Jesus." I love that. 

First order of business..a plate of Josies mexican tacos nomzzzz.

Spent plenty of time playing outside with the kids. 

Love Bailey girl. 

Hunter is 5.5 now! Can't believe it. He's a full force energetic-sporty-sweaty-boy and it's awesome. He loves kicking the soccer ball as hard and high as possible, sweating more than a marathon runner, and creating new rules so he wins at every game he plays. 

My mom made plenty of "Komae Chicken" this holiday season. Everyone goes crazy for this stuff for good reason - it's covered in shoyu sugar! 

My sister and her family recently moved into my grandparents house and it was the first time i've seen it since. She did an amazing job adding her own modern touches while still keeping the house that same cozy place we all grew up going to.  I'm so thankful to still have the house in the family (i'm a terribly sentimental person...aka attached to everything) and we had a lovely Komae Christmas there with my dad's side of the fam.

On the Komae Christmas menu... batayaki! A dish my grandparents always made for us kids growing up. It was SO GOOD. 

I mean, look at all those veggies yummmmz.

Her facial expressions are too good.

Cam and Len are bffs and talk in the cutest little sentences to each other. Lenya calls Camden "Tanden" and Camden calls her "Len Len" awww. 

Eden really is like a tiny doll that has come alive haha.

haha this kid!

On Christmas morning I got all cozy before the kids came over with my journal and Starbucks mug my friend Megan gave me. ahh...home. 

My grandparents piano is now at my house and Hunter has been learning quickly! He played jingle bells a thousand times which was cute. I can still hear my mom saying, "no pounding!"

Christmas morning. I love this pic. My parents bought the kids matching pj's last year with their names embroidered on them and they still fit.

On Christmas morning we got all the crew over and had Christmas breakfast. I loved being back with all my siblings, my parents and the kiddos. 

Our neighbors won the day with the best gift from Santa!

classic sibling pic! Love these people. 

Christmas dinner was with the Hirano side...and Kyle brought his virtual reality for all to try. It was a trip!! 

PRIME RIB COOKED TO PERFECTION. 

this plate of food right here...YOWZAHh. 

Our family has a tradition that the kids must perform a little something in order to get their gifts. This year Hunty, Cam, Len and Eden sang a few songs with their jingle bells in hand. 

New Years would not be complete without Mochi.

My mom's job has always been to cut off the pieces for us kids to roll into perfect little mochi balls!

Russ loves his toasted with plenty of kinako on top. 

Put all that glorious mochi in mom's amazing ozoni = the absolute best way to start the new year! 

Mom and Auntie Julie always do an incredible job cooking up our new years feast. I really don't know how any of us are going to follow in their footsteps! 

I mean...it's just too beautiful. 

I did a lot of other things back home...but these were the days when I had my camera around. More pics from my phone in another post. On my last night at home my dad planned to take me out to a surprise. All he said was, "dress warm and bring Joel (my camera!)" I had no idea where he was taking me but my dad is a great planner and surprise thrower so I was stoked!

He told me to drive out to La Canada...but before I figured out what we were doing he fed me and my sissy Panera bread!! Fuji apple chicken salad and French onion soup...the best!!! 

And the surprise was...

THE ENCHANTED FOREST!!! 

They turn Descanso Gardens into a magical land of light...SO rad! I kept thinking...Japanese people would go crazy for this.

Loved spending the night with my dad and sissy.

It was the perfect way to end my time back home. It kind of felt like a dream...being back with my family, seeing so many loved ones and friends, and being there for GPA's funeral. God is so good and really blessed me with the best two weeks at home!

 

GOODBYE, SWEETHEART

My grandparents, Ryo and Jean Komae, were married on December 29th, 1946. 


My grandpa, Ryo, passed away just a few days shy of celebrating his 70th wedding anniversary with my grandma. He was 98 years old. 

In a world full of fast-paced social media frenzy, people getting together and breaking up every minute, viral proposal videos, the billion dollar wedding industry, and everyone posting photos proving their love life is worth the attention...it is hard to imagine what 70 years of marriage looks, let alone feels like. But my grandparents had it. 70 wonderful, truthful and beautiful years. Three sons, nine grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and a life serving the good Lord together. 

That's pretty incredible, isn't it?

I was able to spend the holidays at home in CA, and during that time I also was able to attend my grandpa's funeral service (The Lord's timing is unbelievable). Hearing eulogies about his life, all the people's lives he touched, I swelled with gratitude for this man I so deeply admire and love. He was a great father, Trojan, pharmacist, husband, grandpa, gardener and a deeply devoted man of God. When I think about my grandpa, I think of his faithfulness in all these things. He had a quality so rare these days, that quality of faithfulness to his work, his family, his love to my grandma...and he did it all without needing to prove it to anyone. He was humble before the Lord and because of that he was a strong, strong man. 

A month ago, I facetimed my parents while they were at the hospital with my grandpa and I was able to talk to him one last time. He told me how he knew I was doing what I loved, and for that he was proud of me. I could hardly talk through my tears...and the last words he spoke to me hit my heart like a rocket - "goodbye, sweetheart" 

I thank my grandparents for showing me what true, faithful, God-honoring love looks like. It is the most beautiful and lovely thing in the world because it exemplifies Christ. I am proud to be called Ryo and Jean Komae's granddaughter, and I will live my days making them proud. 

2016 : 16

I took a lot of photos in 2016...but here are 16 of my favorites and the stories behind them.

 

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM DANANG, VIETNAM I woke up to catch the sunrise on one of our last days in DaNang. Jen's family was generous enough to rent out a few of these amazing houses at Premier DaNang Resort and the location was straight out of a dream. The best part was walking 3 minutes to play in the pool with the kids and swim up to the poolside bar to order smoothies. I cried when I left Vietnam because my heart overflowed with gratitude for all the people I got to spend the holiday with. 

GOOD MORNING VIETNAM
DANANG, VIETNAM

I woke up to catch the sunrise on one of our last days in DaNang. Jen's family was generous enough to rent out a few of these amazing houses at Premier DaNang Resort and the location was straight out of a dream. The best part was walking 3 minutes to play in the pool with the kids and swim up to the poolside bar to order smoothies. I cried when I left Vietnam because my heart overflowed with gratitude for all the people I got to spend the holiday with. 

FOR A MOMENT TEGANUMA, KITA-KASHIWA, JAPAN The Sakura bloom for a little over a week and then they begin to fall. That leaves only a small window of time for people to go out and see this incredible spectacle. The time constraint makes you appreciate them that much more. I had free time one Saturday morning and ran out to the park near my house to see the falling petals. The best way I can describe them is this: imagine the softness of snow falling mixed with the joy of a thousand tiny butterflies dancing in the air. I'll never forget my first sakura season.

FOR A MOMENT
TEGANUMA, KITA-KASHIWA, JAPAN

The Sakura bloom for a little over a week and then they begin to fall. That leaves only a small window of time for people to go out and see this incredible spectacle. The time constraint makes you appreciate them that much more. I had free time one Saturday morning and ran out to the park near my house to see the falling petals. The best way I can describe them is this: imagine the softness of snow falling mixed with the joy of a thousand tiny butterflies dancing in the air. I'll never forget my first sakura season.

YATAI FUKUOKA, JAPAN "Yatai" are what they call food stalls in Japan and Fukuoka is famous for a row of them right by the river. These food stalls exemplify Japanese culture in such an accurate way. People sit an inch from strangers, enjoying some of the worlds best food, smoking their cigarettes, drinking cool beer, and watching the night pass by with quick witted conversation about the morals of life and business. ahh...Japan. 

YATAI
FUKUOKA, JAPAN

"Yatai" are what they call food stalls in Japan and Fukuoka is famous for a row of them right by the river. These food stalls exemplify Japanese culture in such an accurate way. People sit an inch from strangers, enjoying some of the worlds best food, smoking their cigarettes, drinking cool beer, and watching the night pass by with quick witted conversation about the morals of life and business. ahh...Japan. 

NO BRASS BAND NO LIFE KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN Graduation Day 2016. The high school I work at has one of the best high school brass bands in the nation. Yep. Over 250 students participate in this highly intense club activity and they produce some of the most incredible music i've ever heard. They arrive at school at 7am to begin morning practice, practice during passing periods, at lunch, and stay until 9pm to practice some more. Their level of dedication and sacrifice for their club activity is unlike anything I've ever witnessed. 

NO BRASS BAND NO LIFE
KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN

Graduation Day 2016. The high school I work at has one of the best high school brass bands in the nation. Yep. Over 250 students participate in this highly intense club activity and they produce some of the most incredible music i've ever heard. They arrive at school at 7am to begin morning practice, practice during passing periods, at lunch, and stay until 9pm to practice some more. Their level of dedication and sacrifice for their club activity is unlike anything I've ever witnessed. 

DAD HAKONE, JAPAN My dad came to visit in March and we spent some time in Hakone, near Mt. Fuji. Him and I have a special bond, especially with regard to things like traveling, outdoor adventure, sports and reading. My dad is the best person to travel with because he is a great planner (prints out all the details weeks in advance and comes with all the tickets in hand) but also knows how to relax and enjoy the easy moments. I love my dad and spending time with him in Hakone will be something I treasure forever.  Also, cool side note: about two years before I took this photo I was sitting in a b&b in Jinja, Uganda with my three friends, Natalie, Danielle and Bre. One night, they were praying for me and Bre heard a word from God. She said, (paraphrase) "you will be somewhere in Asia Amie, you will walk in hard places where there is a lot of blood (which represents hurt and pain), but the blood wont stick to you...and your dad will come visit you there." prophecy came to life in this photo. 

DAD
HAKONE, JAPAN

My dad came to visit in March and we spent some time in Hakone, near Mt. Fuji. Him and I have a special bond, especially with regard to things like traveling, outdoor adventure, sports and reading. My dad is the best person to travel with because he is a great planner (prints out all the details weeks in advance and comes with all the tickets in hand) but also knows how to relax and enjoy the easy moments. I love my dad and spending time with him in Hakone will be something I treasure forever. 

Also, cool side note: about two years before I took this photo I was sitting in a b&b in Jinja, Uganda with my three friends, Natalie, Danielle and Bre. One night, they were praying for me and Bre heard a word from God. She said, (paraphrase) "you will be somewhere in Asia Amie, you will walk in hard places where there is a lot of blood (which represents hurt and pain), but the blood wont stick to you...and your dad will come visit you there." prophecy came to life in this photo. 

NO ONE NATIONAL ART CENTER, ROPPONGI, TOKYO I was walking through one of the best buildings in Tokyo, the National Art Center, when I saw this man and stopped dead in my tracks. What was he looking at? What was he thinking about? Something about it struck me. Maybe it was the way he was facing the window so directly. Or maybe it was the way his hair made a contrast with his dark coat. Or the weight I could almost see sitting on his shoulder. I don't know this man's story but his posture of loneliness and quietness is something I often see in Japan, and is a part of my daily prayers. Lord, you are here and now with these people. May they open up their eyes to see you and their hands to receive your blessings.

NO ONE
NATIONAL ART CENTER, ROPPONGI, TOKYO

I was walking through one of the best buildings in Tokyo, the National Art Center, when I saw this man and stopped dead in my tracks. What was he looking at? What was he thinking about? Something about it struck me. Maybe it was the way he was facing the window so directly. Or maybe it was the way his hair made a contrast with his dark coat. Or the weight I could almost see sitting on his shoulder. I don't know this man's story but his posture of loneliness and quietness is something I often see in Japan, and is a part of my daily prayers. Lord, you are here and now with these people. May they open up their eyes to see you and their hands to receive your blessings.

CITY SOUNDS ROPPONGI HILLS, ROPPONGI, TOKYO When my dad was in Tokyo we went to see a movie together, something we often do at home. We watched Batman vs Superman at the fancy movie theatre in Roppongi Hills. After the movie we walked out to see the view of Tokyo Tower and I snapped this shot. Something about it makes me feel the cool breeze of the city and... strangely enough, makes me hear music. Has a photo ever done that to you? made you hear sound? Because this one does. It's the buzz of a city mixed with the chatter of friends paired with the radio playing in the background from some obscure restaurant down the street. That's the city sound. 

CITY SOUNDS
ROPPONGI HILLS, ROPPONGI, TOKYO

When my dad was in Tokyo we went to see a movie together, something we often do at home. We watched Batman vs Superman at the fancy movie theatre in Roppongi Hills. After the movie we walked out to see the view of Tokyo Tower and I snapped this shot. Something about it makes me feel the cool breeze of the city and... strangely enough, makes me hear music. Has a photo ever done that to you? made you hear sound? Because this one does. It's the buzz of a city mixed with the chatter of friends paired with the radio playing in the background from some obscure restaurant down the street. That's the city sound. 

HOME GARDENA, CA, USA This is the last shot I took of my grandparents in their home. Just recently, they moved to my parents house, and my sister and her family moved into their home. Big changes. When I took this photo I didn't know it would be the last time I'd see them like this together. As of today, grandpa is on his last days, resting at my parents home, preparing to be with the Lord. There's a lot of good to focus on, despite the sadness or difficulty in life, so this photo reminds me of a lot of good times we had together at their home and all the gratitude I have for these two incredible people I get to call Grandma and Grandpa. 

HOME
GARDENA, CA, USA

This is the last shot I took of my grandparents in their home. Just recently, they moved to my parents house, and my sister and her family moved into their home. Big changes. When I took this photo I didn't know it would be the last time I'd see them like this together. As of today, grandpa is on his last days, resting at my parents home, preparing to be with the Lord. There's a lot of good to focus on, despite the sadness or difficulty in life, so this photo reminds me of a lot of good times we had together at their home and all the gratitude I have for these two incredible people I get to call Grandma and Grandpa. 

MORNING NEKO CHICHIBU, SAITAMA, JAPAN I like this photo because of the cute cat, obviously, but it also represents more than that to me. See, I was staying at a friend of a friend's house in Chichibu (2 hours away) the first weekend of December. We stayed up until 2am Saturday night to see the festival lights, so on Sunday the house was quiet with heavy sleepers. But I am a morning person through and through, so I woke up at 7am and had some time to kill for a few hours while the others slept. Two years ago, or even a year ago, if you would have put me in that same situation I would have stayed in the room... bored, waiting for everyone to wake up so we could do something together. But, I'm not the same Amie I was two years ago...so I woke up, got dressed, and walked outside. I felt compelled to go on a walk alone, and although I had no idea where I was going, I happily bounced down the road and had the best solo morning exploring. It was a seemingly small act that spoke volumes about who I've become living in Japan alone...so when I turned the corner and saw this perfectly positioned cat waiting to have it's photo taken; I laughed. As if the cat was like, "it's nice to walk by yourself sometimes isn't it?" What an adventure it is to become who you're supposed to be. 

MORNING NEKO
CHICHIBU, SAITAMA, JAPAN

I like this photo because of the cute cat, obviously, but it also represents more than that to me. See, I was staying at a friend of a friend's house in Chichibu (2 hours away) the first weekend of December. We stayed up until 2am Saturday night to see the festival lights, so on Sunday the house was quiet with heavy sleepers. But I am a morning person through and through, so I woke up at 7am and had some time to kill for a few hours while the others slept. Two years ago, or even a year ago, if you would have put me in that same situation I would have stayed in the room... bored, waiting for everyone to wake up so we could do something together. But, I'm not the same Amie I was two years ago...so I woke up, got dressed, and walked outside. I felt compelled to go on a walk alone, and although I had no idea where I was going, I happily bounced down the road and had the best solo morning exploring. It was a seemingly small act that spoke volumes about who I've become living in Japan alone...so when I turned the corner and saw this perfectly positioned cat waiting to have it's photo taken; I laughed. As if the cat was like, "it's nice to walk by yourself sometimes isn't it?" What an adventure it is to become who you're supposed to be. 

GINZA ANT GINZA, JAPAN My brother in law Anthony, "Ant", came to Japan in May with his friend Jose. We spent a short time in Tokyo together and I snapped this shot of him in Ginza, when they close down the street and let people walk around freely. When Ant, Jose, and Jose's fiance Kazue left my apartment they prayed for me and I cried. I remember hugging them and just being so thankful for their kindness and how they flooded my tiny apartment with the presence of God. I love my brother-in-law and was thankful for our short but sweet time together.

GINZA ANT
GINZA, JAPAN

My brother in law Anthony, "Ant", came to Japan in May with his friend Jose. We spent a short time in Tokyo together and I snapped this shot of him in Ginza, when they close down the street and let people walk around freely. When Ant, Jose, and Jose's fiance Kazue left my apartment they prayed for me and I cried. I remember hugging them and just being so thankful for their kindness and how they flooded my tiny apartment with the presence of God. I love my brother-in-law and was thankful for our short but sweet time together.

LONG SCHOOL DAYS KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN I can't look at this photo and not laugh. I took this at our school's annual Bunkasai festival and this boy was one of my previous students. The day was sweltering and he was sitting outside his homeroom working as a front desk person, checking people in to the game his class created. I caught him in this moment of pure exhaustion and it is now one of my favorite photos i've taken at school. 

LONG SCHOOL DAYS
KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN

I can't look at this photo and not laugh. I took this at our school's annual Bunkasai festival and this boy was one of my previous students. The day was sweltering and he was sitting outside his homeroom working as a front desk person, checking people in to the game his class created. I caught him in this moment of pure exhaustion and it is now one of my favorite photos i've taken at school. 

13 YEARS IN THE MAKING AKIHABARA, JAPAN I'm not sure if I can properly remember a time before I was friends with Emiko, and I think that's a sign you've found a lifelong sister-friend! When she told me she was planning to come to Tokyo I got so witty with excitement and the gears in my head of all the things we could do together started turning. We had a blast exploring a bunch of tiny pockets of Tokyo together and it was a trip that boosted our creativity in a way we both needed. Also, funny memory and representation of Emi... in this photo she is wearing such a cute black and white jumper right!? But would you ever guess that she bought it in the kids section at target?! HAHA. Love her. 

13 YEARS IN THE MAKING
AKIHABARA, JAPAN

I'm not sure if I can properly remember a time before I was friends with Emiko, and I think that's a sign you've found a lifelong sister-friend! When she told me she was planning to come to Tokyo I got so witty with excitement and the gears in my head of all the things we could do together started turning. We had a blast exploring a bunch of tiny pockets of Tokyo together and it was a trip that boosted our creativity in a way we both needed. Also, funny memory and representation of Emi... in this photo she is wearing such a cute black and white jumper right!? But would you ever guess that she bought it in the kids section at target?! HAHA. Love her. 

ROLLERCOASTER SHIBUYA HIKARIE 11TH FLOOR, SHIBUYA, JAPAN (This photo has a long and somewhat complicated story, but I'll try and summarize.) The 11th floor of Shibuya Hikarie is my favorite view of Tokyo. Ever since I first came here, it has totally captivated me and I take every person I can here. In the summer, I met someone who would end up playing a big part in my year...let's just call him S. So S and I went to Tokyo together one day with some friends and so of course, I brought them here. At the time, S was getting into photography and brought his legit camera, Canon 5D MARK III (dream!) and asked me for some tips. I snapped this shot as an example of focusing on the background instead of the foreground and funny enough, it seems to represent the both of us quite well when I see it in hindsight. We had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship (a bit of a rollercoaster) but I learned a lot thanks to him. So instead of looking back on a photo like this with sadness or "what could have been" I look back with gratitude for a good person coming into my life and, unbeknownst to him, teaching me some very valuable lessons. 

ROLLERCOASTER
SHIBUYA HIKARIE 11TH FLOOR, SHIBUYA, JAPAN

(This photo has a long and somewhat complicated story, but I'll try and summarize.)

The 11th floor of Shibuya Hikarie is my favorite view of Tokyo. Ever since I first came here, it has totally captivated me and I take every person I can here. In the summer, I met someone who would end up playing a big part in my year...let's just call him S. So S and I went to Tokyo together one day with some friends and so of course, I brought them here. At the time, S was getting into photography and brought his legit camera, Canon 5D MARK III (dream!) and asked me for some tips. I snapped this shot as an example of focusing on the background instead of the foreground and funny enough, it seems to represent the both of us quite well when I see it in hindsight. We had somewhat of a tumultuous relationship (a bit of a rollercoaster) but I learned a lot thanks to him. So instead of looking back on a photo like this with sadness or "what could have been" I look back with gratitude for a good person coming into my life and, unbeknownst to him, teaching me some very valuable lessons. 

LADY IN GINKGO GAIEN-MAE, TOKYO This is Ginkgo avenue in the Aoyama/Gaienmae area of Tokyo. It's quite magical, isn't it? I went here with my friend Nathalie and we spent hours wandering around taking hundreds of photos...but out of every photo I took, this one was my favorite. Why? Because we just so happened to be walking down the middle of the road, thousands of people around us, when I saw this lady in a beautiful kimono with a ginkgo designed obi walk in front of me and...I snapped this shot. It was the perfect 2 second window of time and she happened to be standing right in the perfect frame. It was an instant that was too good to plan...and produced one of my favorite shots ever. More often than not, the best shots come when you never planned them. 

LADY IN GINKGO
GAIEN-MAE, TOKYO

This is Ginkgo avenue in the Aoyama/Gaienmae area of Tokyo. It's quite magical, isn't it? I went here with my friend Nathalie and we spent hours wandering around taking hundreds of photos...but out of every photo I took, this one was my favorite. Why? Because we just so happened to be walking down the middle of the road, thousands of people around us, when I saw this lady in a beautiful kimono with a ginkgo designed obi walk in front of me and...I snapped this shot. It was the perfect 2 second window of time and she happened to be standing right in the perfect frame. It was an instant that was too good to plan...and produced one of my favorite shots ever. More often than not, the best shots come when you never planned them. 

NIGHTTIME TRADITION CHICHIBU, SAITAMA, JAPAN 300,000 people gathered for this annual festival and it was an incredible taste of Japanese tradition and culture. I had these adhesive body warmers stuck to my back, my legs, and in my shoes because it was so cold..but it was worth every second out there. This festival has been going on for hundreds of years and speaks volumes to the consistency and pride Japanese people have in these types of celebrations. This festival is on UNESCO's Intangible World Heritage list...and now my goal is to witness as many of these events as possible! 

NIGHTTIME TRADITION
CHICHIBU, SAITAMA, JAPAN

300,000 people gathered for this annual festival and it was an incredible taste of Japanese tradition and culture. I had these adhesive body warmers stuck to my back, my legs, and in my shoes because it was so cold..but it was worth every second out there. This festival has been going on for hundreds of years and speaks volumes to the consistency and pride Japanese people have in these types of celebrations. This festival is on UNESCO's Intangible World Heritage list...and now my goal is to witness as many of these events as possible! 

ICHIKASHI KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN This group of kids...this photo...is truly what this year has been for me. Although I've been on quite a few adventures and had a lot of visitors, my daily grind is at this school and with these beautiful faces. God brought me to Japan to love these kids in His name and that is what I spent 2016 doing. And because of that, it was one of the best years of my life. I am honored to be called "Amie Sensei" and I will continue to pursue my purpose here in bringing the gospel of Jesus to this nation.

ICHIKASHI
KASHIWA MUNICIPAL HIGH SCHOOL, KASHIWA, JAPAN

This group of kids...this photo...is truly what this year has been for me. Although I've been on quite a few adventures and had a lot of visitors, my daily grind is at this school and with these beautiful faces. God brought me to Japan to love these kids in His name and that is what I spent 2016 doing. And because of that, it was one of the best years of my life. I am honored to be called "Amie Sensei" and I will continue to pursue my purpose here in bringing the gospel of Jesus to this nation.

 

What a year that was! I am spending the holiday back home in LA and will take a break from my blog while I'm there. God was so good in 2016 and He will continue to be in 2017 :) 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
メリークリスマスとよいお年を!

SOUL FOOD

One of my favorite things in the world is getting lost in a good book. Especially when that book is meaty, full of depth and makes you think! Because that right there... is some goooood soul food.

When I was young, I read a lot. I loved diving into the characters of every teen fiction book and wrapping myself up in the story. My dad would always pop his head in my room and gently say, "reading in the dark is bad for your eyes" while flipping on the light. This enjoyment of books continued throughout high school where I asked my English teacher for her book recs and then read them so quickly my friends would make fun of me. "You're such a teachers pet!" haha. 

Then in college I was exposed to the academic side of reading which we all know isn't the most fun. But luckily I was introduced to a lot of new theologians - aka Bonhoeffer, Edwards, Spurgeon, Kierkegaard, Tozer - all who opened my mind and heart in a new and fascinating way. I was hooked. My Amazon wishlist suddenly looked like something off the syllabus of "CLASS 210: Theology and the Christian Life" #thanksAPU

Anyway, due to the fact that it is difficult to find theology books here in Japan, I have chosen a few others to keep my reading going and my mind working hard to pick a part characters and follow the author's intention. Here's what I've been reading lately..

GOOD BOOKS. I Highly recommend All The Light We Cannot See if you want a good fiction novel. I gave it to my brother to read after I finished it in Vietnam last year and then he lost it, thanks Russ. Also, The Screwtape Letters is always worth reading over again...and again. 

My goal for the new year is to keep reading, as much as possible. I had a conversation with my mom today in which she encouraged me to read all the books we have on our kindle account before I start asking for more. That's a good challenge! 

a few comments on the other books:
The Rosie Project. An interesting and quick read. Light-hearted and the type of book they sell at airport bookstores.
The Invention Of Wings. One of those books Oprah likes to endorse because of its drama. Had my opinions on the way the author connected the characters emotionally, but over all - good read.
The Truest Thing About You. A gift from my dear friend, and a powerful message we all ought to hear. Being loved by God is the truest thing about us. Amen. 
What The Dog Saw. Interesting jorunalistic writings by Gladwell. A random mix of stories, so a good book to keep and read every so often when you need a break.