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!