Everything is a Symbol [Crafts]

Hi all,

Here’s a wood ornament I painted and drew yesterday. My dear friend K and I have been doing a lot of crafts like these recently.

Here’s a question: who do you think the two people on the ornament are? It’s completely subjective, like most things. Every person will interpret it differently. As for me, well, who can say? Let’s save that story for another day.

Thanksgiving is approaching. Everyone be safe traveling home.

KT

Subjective Bridges [Painting]

Hi all,

This weekend I went painting again with my dear friend. It didn’t turn out too bad for the second time, hey? Although, it’s pretty plain. I have trouble translating words to images, or even words to music. I guess words have always been my safe space.

You all take care,

KT

Entry #13 – 「C.U. Again」 Reflection, Art and Artists

Hey everyone! Kohaku here. I hope you all had a great week. How’s October coming along?

「C.U. Again」 was released this past Monday. How was it? Even though they were equally personal, I feel like the theme in this compilation was more obvious, or at least more tangible, than the theme in 「HIRAETH」. I didn’t really explain the personal aspects of 「HIRAETH」 all that much, but I decided I’d talk about 「C.U. Again」 for a little bit in this week’s journal entry.

Put simply, 「C.U. Again」 is about a person who is the main reason I’m still alive.

I haven’t discussed my journey with depression much on this blog, even though I’ve been open about it from the start. I consider depression as one of the major aspects of my life – it influences the things I do and how I see the world, and this bleeds into my artwork and writing. Anyway, it’s been a wild ride, and I’m not going to go into all of it, just enough to give some context to this compilation.

I was suicidal in middle school and had been going through a bad time since late elementary school, and this person in 「C.U. Again」 saved my life. Without him, I am fairly certain I would not be here today. I also probably wouldn’t be writing. He did a lot for me, and he is no longer here, and so the poems in 「C.U. Again」 are about him in a general sense.

I’m glad I wrote this compilation, even though it didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. Looking forward, I don’t really have any big writing projects right now. I’m still (slowly) working on the serial pieces like Taiga and Chasing Life With You, but life is getting busier and busier, so I can’t be sure when I’ll finish them. In the meantime, as I said before, I’ll probably mainly be turning out tanka. I also have some visual and musical projects coming up – eventually.

Seriously, why does life get so busy? I wish we all had more time for art. I think the world would be better if there were more artists of all kinds. More art, less war, that’s my policy.

This week, make time for art. It can be anything. Start learning a musical instrument. Do some arts and crafts with your child. Go outside and take some photos of the sunset. Or sit down and write a poem. Really, anything… it will make the world (and your life) better!

Take care of yourselves,

KT

Paper Cranes Progress Update

Hi, everyone.

As we near the end of summer, I’m just about finished with this bag of paper cranes. These are all the color patterns within the red and orange stacks, minus a few that will be coming along soon. I haven’t counted, but there’s probably a few hundred in there! Now, what to do with them…?

I mentioned last time that I want to do a world peace project with my cranes, but I’m still not sure what it’s going to look like. Suggestions, anyone? Let me know in the comments or leave an email!

Take care. Everyone go make some art.

KT

Entry #5 – Recent Artist Inspirations

Hi! Kohaku here. I hope everyone had a really great week.

For this entry I’m just going to be discussing the music and books that have occupied my free time for the past few days.

Here we go!


Music

~ HYDE

I spent some time listening to some of HYDE’s albums that I hadn’t gotten to until now. I put on Roentgen, and it surprised me how soft it was in comparison to his most recent album Anti (which I absolutely love!). I really liked Roentgen and found it to be a good album to just have playing in the background while working. Listening to it does help me focus somehow – I cranked out three new chapters of Chasing Life With You in a single day! I also prefer the Japanese version of Roentgen to the English, but then, HYDE’s English skills have certainly improved a lot since.

I also listened to his self-titled album, the second most recent. It didn’t hit me as much as Anti or Roentgen, but I feel like it’s an album I’ll enjoy better the more and more I listen to it. It’s interesting to see HYDE’s diversity as an artist evolve through the years.

~ L’arc~en~Ciel

I finally put on a “best of” compilation and gave L’arc~en~Ciel a try. Their music was softer than I expected – I thought they’d be more of a heavy rock group. I also couldn’t feel each member’s power as much as I thought I would. I do really enjoy a lot of their songs, however, and I’d be interested to go through the rest of their discography and learn more about the band members.

~ LUNA SEA

I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of LUNA SEA, but I tried them out again and enjoyed a few of their songs. Put simply, I can understand why they’re popular, and I respect their musical skills, but maybe they’re just not my thing. I’m not averse to listening to them, though. Maybe one day in the future I’ll like them more.

~ DIR EN GREY

My first impression was: this band is disturbing…

Probably, this isn’t new to dir fans!

I couldn’t get through a lot of their songs. Dir is definitely a powerful band with powerful members, and the way they express their artistry is intense. I admire their skills in that respect.

I think I prefer vocalist Kyo’s work in sukekiyo to his work in dir, the same way I generally prefer HYDE’s and Sugizo’s solo works. But maybe this is because I don’t know the other band members very well.

Anyway, I’ll have to rack up some courage before continuing on with dir’s “best of” compilation.


Books

~ goodbye, things (Fumio Sasaki)

This is one of my favorite books! I’ve read it many times, and I’d recommend it to anyone. It’s an easy read, though not a particularly fast one, and I like to pick it up every once in a while to keep minimalism fresh in my head.

Take a look at this book if you haven’t yet. If you’ve never heard of minimalism before or are averse to the idea, read it with an open mind. You’ll be surprised how much happier you can be just by living with fewer things.

~ The Woman Warrior (Maxine Hong Kingston)

I have to admit, I didn’t love the book as a whole when I first read it a couple of years ago. It’s essentially several short stories tied together with common themes of being a second-generation Asian immigrant, Chinese legends and folktales, and living as an Asian-American woman. While I wasn’t a huge fan, I found Kingston’s style at least interesting, especially her discussion of “talk-stories” and her frequent inclusion of legends, famous stories, and cultural symbols that would easily be missed by someone unfamiliar with them. Outside of that, the book wasn’t very impactful for me.

There is one story in this book that I really do love, however, and it’s the only one I’ve cared to reread multiple times – “White Tiger.”

Don’t get me started on the connection to my name.

“White Tiger” is probably the most female-empowering story I’ve ever heard. Whenever I need special strength, whenever I feel like I have to become a “warrior woman,” I’ll pick up this story and read it again.

If you’re looking for more books from female or Asian authors, give this one a try. Even if you don’t like it as a whole, maybe one of the stories will hit you hard and give you the power to keep on living.

~ After Dark (Haruki Murakami)

I’m steadily working my way through Murakami’s long list of publications. He’s my absolute favorite author, and the themes he consistently touches on are really powerful.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy After Dark as much as I thought I would. It was still a really good book, though – just not one of my favorites of his. The interesting writing style jumped out at me immediately and successfully kept me hooked all the way to the end. I think that was the best part of the book for me – how Murakami was able to express the mysteries and dangers of nightlife through the ways he manipulated the written word. It was impressive and kind of fascinating. I wouldn’t mind reading it again.


I guess that’s all for today. Now I want to listen to more L’arc~en~Ciel for some reason.

What works of art – books, music, or otherwise – have captured your attention recently? Think about it. And maybe, tell me. I’m always looking for new artists to love and learn from.

This week, try out a new artist’s work. It’s important to always be expanding your worldview and increasing your breadth of knowledge through art, no matter your age. I once read somewhere that the day you stop learning, you die. We are all “students” in this sense.

Take care of yourself!

KT

How’s Your Summer Going? – Artist Check-In

Hi! This is different from my usual posts. I felt like it was time for a bit of personal reflection, so here it is!

Question: How’s your summer going?

Overall, this summer is shaping up to be a very creative one for me. I think it’s great! Here’s a quick look at what that means in terms of my writing.


1 – I’m pushing myself to write something almost every day.

For me, this is highly unusual! In the past, I would just write “whenever I felt like it,” and while I do believe that the writing process should flow naturally, I think taking this season to push myself more will help me grow and expand my abilities for whatever comes next.

2 – I’ve introduced myself to poetry, which is an art form I’ve never tried before.

Because I’m new at it, it’s very difficult, and in comparison with my prose pieces (which I’ve had 8+ years of experience with) I think I have a lot of room for improvement. I’m not happy with my poems, and hopefully I never will be. However, I am finding that poetry is a good way to express my feelings toward certain current events: for instance, Rally for Democracy expressed my thoughts toward the extradition bill protests in Hong Kong, and At the Edge of the Earth reflected my feelings about the tragic KyoAni arson attack a few days ago. It’s not a perfect form for me yet, so I’ll keep working on it!

On a related note, art as a tool for activism has been heavy on my mind this summer… but I’ll have to write a separate post for that one.

3 – I’ve experimented with zuihitsu more.

I’ve loved this genre ever since I read Kamo-no-Chomei’s Hojoki in the summer after 11th grade. Eleventh grade for me was all about social justice, exploring all of the failures of America, all of the false promises, all of the human rights violations, all of the (largely successful) attempts to cover them up. The bitter hypocrisy of the American Dream was weighing heavily on my mind, and I was starting to feel depressed again. For me in this vulnerable state, Hojoki was like a lifesaver. It freely explored many of the unanswerable questions I’d been dealing with for ages, and it painted a picture of zuihitsu as a genre through which I could explore them, too. I figured I’d give it a try, and this project evolved into Life = Suffering + Love, a 25-entry zuihitsu collection I wrote for my friend’s birthday.

My modern, personal interpretation of zuihitsu is definitely different from what the genre was originally, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I believe it’s important that genres evolve with the times, and it’s also important that artists don’t feel limited by the genre/s in which they write (or speak or sing or play or…).

At any rate, while working with zuihitsu initially came very easily to me, I’ve recently discovered that it’s not something I can just write whenever I want to write it. It might sound strange, but zuihitsu is easiest or most natural to me when I’m depressed. If I’m not depressed, it’s harder to convey my thoughts in that genre… so even though I love it and want to keep working with it, I can’t promise zuihitsu as a regular feature or anything like that. There might be long gaps in between zuihitsu entries sometimes, but really, for me, that’s not so bad.

4 – I’ve begun working with short stories.

Believe it or not, short stories are pretty new to me, too! Prior to this year, everything I wrote would be novel-length or at least in a long novel-like style. I wrote my first short story, Life Beyond the Setting Sun, sometime this past spring. It was inspired by a comment my friend made about shadows, as well as “The Chrysanthemum Pledge,” a story out of Ueda Akinari’s Tales of Moonlight and Rain. I spent only two or three hours on it, with very minimal editing, and immediately handed it to my friend the next time I saw her. (She didn’t like it very much, ahhaha…)

Actually, I didn’t like it very much either, at the time. I thought it was great for a first try at a short story, but I think I was trying to do too many things with it, and as a result I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the finished product. However, I did send it to one of my long-distance friends, and he recently got back to me saying he’d read it and loved it. Unlike most readers, who just say “I thought it was great!” or “Meh, not really my thing,” he spent ages carefully detailing all the reasons why he liked it. Because of his words, I dug the story up from my files and reread it for the first time since, and I’ve come to conclude that it’s a pretty passable, enjoyable story, a good first effort, and something I’d be willing to put up on my blog.

My friend’s encouraging words also led me to write a second short story: Songs Without End. Now this one I really like! Actually I was a little rushed to finish it, so there are definitely some parts I’m not happy with. But in the end, I’m pretty proud of it, and now I’m looking into writing more short stories. Even though I’ve only published two, I think short stories suit my style pretty well. What do you think?


That’s where I’m at with my writing so far. This summer, I’ve also reconnected with music on many different levels. Here’s what I mean by that.


1 – I’m exploring and expanding my musical interests.

I’m listening to music everyday, thoroughly immersing myself in new artists, watching videos of their concerts and listening to their songs. Before this year, while I was kind of into music having grown up in a musical household and played two instruments, I’d never really had any famous musicians or genres I really liked, besides a vague “I like songs from the romantic era” and “RADWIMPS is a powerful band.” But at the beginning of the year (or maybe the end of last, I don’t remember, haha), I almost simultaneously discovered X JAPAN and GACKT. I was immediately hooked! And, you know, one thing leads to the next, right? Before I knew it, my playlist also included songs by sukekiyo and LUNA SEA as well as the individual works of artists like HYDE, Sugizo, ToshI, MIYAVI, Kyo, hide, and Chachamaru. And I have a long, long list of bands and artists I’ve yet to listen to!

2 – I’m playing piano more often.

Honestly, I used to hate playing piano… but it wasn’t the instrument itself or the music that I hated. I hated having to practice and perform songs that I didn’t actually want to play. I also hated being made to compete – competitions and competitive pursuits were never my thing. My shoulder also made playing and practicing difficult sometimes, so for most of last year I stayed away from the instrument as much as I could. However, this summer, I’m actually playing a lot! This is in part because of my new musical interests, and also because I’ve taken it upon myself to find my own music. I search up sheet music for songs that I like and artists I know, and then I’ll sight read them for fun. If I really like the piece, I’ll go on to learn it. Of course, I’m not a professional pianist, and I have a lot of room for growth – but being able to play the things I want to play makes me really happy.

3 – I’m exploring music as a way to deal with depression.

Music as therapy has been on my mind recently. Songs, and the human voice in general, are really powerful, don’t you think? Even though the lyrics are sad or the background of the artist is tragic or the melody is melancholy, I always feel some kind of peace in my heart and mind after listening to such songs. I wonder why?

4 – I’m exploring music as a way to connect with other people and the past.

As Ryū says, music is communal. I love making music with other people – I think it takes on a very special meaning. The interaction between musician and listener is also meaningful – in the past I’ve made efforts to learn songs my friends like for their birthdays, and I want to continue doing so. Music is the universal language, that’s what I think. It transcends all barriers and reaches deep into your soul and makes you feel. Even if there are no lyrics, or the lyrics are in a different language that you don’t understand… there’s still something there that is so incredible I don’t know how to describe it. I want to think about this more!


So, this is basically how my summer is going. Writing and music are my life.

As for mental health… I’m doing pretty good right now. I haven’t felt seriously depressed or suicidal in several months. I’m pretty comfortable where I am, and I can recognize when my thoughts are starting to head towards chaos. (Of course, sometimes I can’t do anything about it, but so far this summer, music, writing, and comedy have been working pretty well for me!) Hopefully, this good trend will continue.

Maybe this is off-topic, but I wanted to mention something else. Today my mother made dinner for me and after taking a few bites I told her that it was really delicious. But even as those words were coming out of my mouth, I started to think, Do I really mean that? Of course it was true that the meal was very delicious. But I had a feeling that I wasn’t truly enjoying it to the best of my ability. I was kind of scarfing my food down, without taking the time to thoroughly chew it and taste the flavors. I want to pay more attention to my food from now on and savor it for all the work that has been put into creating it, from farm to table. Towards the end of the meal I also started to think, If this is my last meal, I want to enjoy it more…

Hm, maybe that’s a bit of a depressing way to end this post. But, I’m getting rather tired, so I think I’ll sign off here. This is how my summer is going – how about yours? I hope everyone is doing well.

Take care of yourself!

Kohaku

Zuihitsu #26

Day by day,
I am reminded
Of the simple, healing
Power of music.

Across time,
Instruments change,
Styles evolve,
New genres are born –
But the purpose of music
As art remains the same:
To express the depths
Of the human heart –
To connect us to each other –
To heal our hurts –
To prove we are not alone
In all our pain.

In times of suffering –
Always –
I gravitate to music.
Composing,
Playing,
Listening,
Singing.
Even if the music simply
Gives my pain and sorrow back to me –
Even if it can’t
Give me any answers –
Even if it drives me
Further into depression –
I find peace.

And isn’t that what we’re all looking for, in the end?