Chasing Life With You (Chapter 11)

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When the sun set that day, events seemed to take a full one hundred eighty degree turn. In other words, things seemed to go back to normal. Katsumi and Tadashi came downstairs together at around five to start prepping dinner, and they both were acting completely like their usual selves – as if the dream, the wild awakening that morning, hadn’t happened at all. They said nothing about it. I watched as the two of them fluidly moved about the kitchen, bantering and laughing, Katsumi with no trace of the prophecy on his mind and no sign on his face that he had cried. Their abrupt reversion to normalcy was in itself strange, but I accepted it without complaint. Forget my confusion; I was just glad that the earlier tension in the house had disappeared.

I turned on a music program on the TV and lounged on the couch. After exploring the contents of the fridge, Katsumi went out to the garden to pick some vegetables for dinner, and he came back with a feast. Tadashi was obviously delighted. He tied his hair back and the two of them set to work, and I relaxed for the next half hour as delicious aromas began to fill the house.

At some point in the midst of this calm atmosphere, I heard Tadashi suddenly call out my name.

I fumbled for the remote and paused the show. “What?”

“Come here,” he said. “You’re gonna learn how to cook something.”

I yelped. “No!”

“This is easy, promise. Just come here!”

“I’m going to ruin it,” I vowed.

“There’s no way to ruin this,” Tadashi laughed. “Get over here.”

I turned off the TV and reluctantly plodded into the kitchen. Katsumi was busy cutting corn and squash in wildly impressive ways; I looked over at him, wide-eyed, wondering how he managed to not cut his fingers off.

Tadashi pulled me over to the stove and gave me a pot. “Put water in it,” he said. “From the sink. Fill it a little over halfway.”

“Okay.”

I filled it up and brought it back over to him.

“Put it on the stove,” he said. “Make sure to center it, okay?”

It turned out that all he wanted me to do was boil some green beans. He’d already cleaned and cut them; he just had me boil them, and that was all. Still, I’d never done it before, and I stood over the pot embarrassed and fuming as I tried to figure out whether or not they were cooked yet. Tadashi stood next to me the whole time, giving basic advice, all the while smiling gently and trying not to laugh.

“See, Chas,” he said when I’d finished, “easy, right?”

“Maybe, but anything harder than this and I’ll ruin it,” I replied adamantly.

Tadashi shook his head. “That’s what everybody thinks about everything they don’t yet know. See, you’re letting me teach you guitar, you’re letting me teach you how to cook – doesn’t it feel good to learn something new? A couple weeks from now you’ll be laughing at how much you underestimated yourself.”

“Boiling green beans isn’t cooking,” I said. “Holding a guitar isn’t playing it.”

“There’s a first time for everyone and everything in this world,” he replied.

I scratched my head. “Maybe, but…”

Katsumi came up from behind and threw his arm around my shoulder, startling me. He looked at the plate of green beans I’d just boiled, and then he looked at Tadashi and threw his head back and laughed.

“You made Chas do it,” Katsumi grinned. “That’s so funny.”

“It’s not funny!” I objected. “Gross, your hands have corn juice all over them, don’t touch my shirt!”

Katsumi ignored me. “You look nice with your hair tied back,” he said to Tadashi.

Tadashi blushed a little. “Thanks.”

“Ahem,” I interrupted, “can I go back to my show now?”

I managed to escape back to the living room, but before long, it was dinner time. As usual, we all moved out to the porch to enjoy the meal. Tadashi loaded my plate with the green beans I’d cooked, accompanied by a dipping sauce he had made, and I enjoyed them thoroughly.

“Aren’t you proud you made something that tastes good?” Tadashi prodded me from across the table.

“A little,” I admitted. “But it’s mostly your sauce that’s good.”

“It needs more salt,” Katsumi cut in.

I laughed at hearing his typical complaint. Yes, I thought, he’s gone back to normal.

After we finished dinner, Tadashi surprisingly brought out a couple of cases of beer.

“We bought it at the market the other day,” he explained. “Do you drink?”

“Not really. I’ll just have a little.”

He poured me some, and then filled a glass for himself and sat back down.

“None for you?” I asked Katsumi.

He shook his head slowly. “No.”

“Katsu drinks alone,” Tadashi explained to me.

He leaned back and started to drink, and the three of us sat around the table in a soft companionable silence, watching the sun dissolve over the trees.

I’d never gone drinking with Tadashi before, so I had no idea how he might react to alcohol. Everyone reacts differently, I knew – some people get crazy, some people fall asleep, and so on. It turned out that Tadashi was a silent but very happy drunk. As the evening wore on and he kept pouring himself more glasses, he spoke less and less, but he couldn’t hide the flushed smile on his face. I watched him a bit warily out of the corner of my eye, surprised at this new side of him that I hadn’t seen before. The feeling of normalcy surrounding dinner had left me.

At some point, as the world around us fell into a deep, glowing darkness, Katsumi struck up a conversation.

“He gets a bit wild sometimes,” he said to me, nodding at Tadashi sitting between us. The person in question didn’t seem to hear a word he’d said, still just smiling absently off into the night.

“Drinking?” I asked.

“Yeah. He doesn’t drink often, but when he does, he drinks a lot. And he gets ridiculously happy. He does it to get happy, I think. To momentarily push away the sadness.”

I nodded. “A lot of people do that.”

“It’s no good,” Katsumi said. “But we all need something like this once in a while.”

“Are you going to let him just keep drinking?”

He shook his head. “At some point, he’ll get really crazy happy and start acting up. After that he’ll throw up and pass out. Happens every time.”

It didn’t take much longer to reach that peak. While I was talking with Katsumi about something or other, Tadashi suddenly started trying to kiss him. Katsumi laughed and pushed him away a few times, but after a minute or so he gave in, leaned over, and kissed him back. I blushed and looked away in amusement. Not long after, true to Katsumi’s word, Tadashi looked like he was starting to get nauseous.

“Take him upstairs, would you?” Katsumi asked me. “I want to stay out here a bit longer.”

“Sure.”

I helped my ridiculously drunken friend to the second floor bathroom, cleaned him up, and got him to bed.

Afterwards, I thought I might go out to the porch again, but as I entered the kitchen I saw outside Katsumi’s lone figure and something inside me paused. I stared at Katsumi’s back and bit my lip, wondering. He was, for the first time all night, partaking in the beer Tadashi had left out on the table. I watched him drink for a moment, nodded silently to myself, and turned around.

After everything that had happened that day, it was no surprise he wanted to be alone.


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Chasing Life With You (Chapter 10)

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Tadashi whipped up some breakfast sandwiches, and the two of us sat down to eat on the porch, trying to enjoy the beautiful post-sunrise atmosphere. Before long, Katsumi came downstairs and joined us at the table. He looked at neither of us and said nothing. He was wearing a loose, comfortable-looking gray shirt and khakis, and his black hair was still wet from the shower. He dug into the meal in silence. I watched him warily out of the corner of my eye. I was trying to figure out what he was feeling, but that was really an impossible task. Considering the way he had woken up this morning, he seemed preternaturally calm… the sea before a storm, I thought. Or is it after?

“Chas,” Tadashi said after a while, “any plans for today?”

“Mmm, I think I’m going to listen to your album,” I replied.

“Cool. Let me know your thoughts, okay? Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“Want to give guitar a try?”

“Oh, sure!”

“Let’s do that this morning. You can listen to the album after lunch. How’s that?”

There was something of a point to his words, some kind of hidden motive, but I couldn’t quite figure it out.

I nodded. “Fine by me. Thanks for breakfast. This sandwich is really good.”

Tadashi smiled. “I’m glad you like it.”

I glanced at Katsumi, part of me expecting him to butt in with one of his typical banterous rebukes, but he gave no indication he’d even heard our conversation. Tadashi followed my gaze, frowned, and focused back on devouring his food.

In the midst of this uncomfortable silent tension, the three of us finished our breakfast and cleaned up. Tadashi beckoned me up the stairs; Katsumi followed us up but then whisked by and vanished into his room. Tadashi looked after him for a moment, quiet and unreadable. Then he met my gaze, set his jaw a little, and led me into the studio.

“Sit down here,” he said casually, pulling out a chair.

I plopped down obediently and watched as my friend crossed the room and picked out one of his acoustic guitars from the rack.

“Let’s go with this,” he said, turning back to me. “I like this one. It should be easier for you to play.”

He pulled over another chair, sat down, and rested the guitar on his leg for a moment to demonstrate how to hold it before handing it to me. I took it, slightly surprised by its weight and size. As I experimented with getting accustomed to this new item, Tadashi began to talk about music, about the differences and similarities between various instruments, about how a guitar actually works, about the sounds a guitar can make. I tried hard to understand what he said and commit it to memory.

For the entirety of the morning hours we spent in the studio, I did not actually learn any chords or try strumming or anything. I simply sat there with the guitar in my lap, listening to Tadashi’s impromptu lecture, asking questions whenever I had them. Tadashi brought over another one of his guitars so that he could demonstrate various things to me as he talked about them, and I paid as much attention as I could. It was a somewhat strange experience for me. I hadn’t learned anything new in a long time, at least nothing as new as this, and I didn’t know how I should feel about it. But some part of me was very tangibly thrilled.

Sometime around ten or ten-thirty, Katsumi walked in. Tadashi was in the middle of playing part of a complex guitar solo in front of me; he stopped midway and stared as Katsumi entered. The black-haired musician ignored us, walking to the back of the room and picking up a left-handed bright yellow electric guitar. He sat down in the corner, set up quickly, and started to play something very fast and very loud.

Tadashi looked back at me. Rather than being annoyed at the interruption, his expression seemed slightly triumphant.

“Thanks, Chas,” my friend said, leaning in close so I could hear. “Let’s stop for now, okay?”

“Okay. Thanks for the lesson.”

I gave him back the guitar and left the two of them in the studio together. Unsure of what to do next, I wandered downstairs and loitered aimlessly around the kitchen for a while, listening to the chaotic music raining from the floor above.

I wonder what he thanked me for… That was kind of weird.

Slightly unsettled, I poured myself a glass of cold water and sat down in the living room. Outside, birds vibrantly chirped about, and upstairs, Katsumi’s solo playing went on and on. As I gazed out the window I thought about the various events of the morning, beginning with that horrifying scream. It was definitely a change of pace from how rhythmically relaxing the past few days had been. Suddenly remembering, I opened up my laptop to jot down my impressions of my first guitar lesson.

Just as I was finishing up my notes, I heard Katsumi upstairs cut himself off. I cocked my head towards the abrupt silence, wondering what might be going on. A few minutes passed, and then Katsumi started playing again, on acoustic this time. He launched directly into a song, and before long Tadashi joined him. The melody was strangely familiar…

The two of them began to sing, and then it struck me.

That’s right, I thought. It’s the song they played for me that first night. What was it called again…

“Unsuitable.”

I sat quietly and listened to the song for the second time all the way through. It was just as beautiful as it had been a week ago. I wondered why Katsumi had chosen to play it – why this song, and why now. I don’t normally try to psychoanalyze people, but his strange behavior the whole morning had been a mystery to me and I wanted to understand it. More than anything, I wanted to know what his prophetic dream had been about – but fat chance of finding out, I knew. If he wasn’t telling Tadashi, there was no way he’d tell me.

Unsuitable…

As the song came to a close, I silently agreed with the conclusion I’d come to after first hearing it: strange name, and strange lyrics, for a love song.

Katsumi didn’t play anything more after that. Without a partner to play with, Tadashi came downstairs to start making lunch, and I sank into the couch to get some work done, trying to put the jumbled events of the morning out of my mind. But it wasn’t happening. I was already swept up within that strange seventh day, and it wasn’t ending anytime soon.

Lunch came and went; Katsumi didn’t come down for it. I helped Tadashi clean up the kitchen, then lay down on the sofa and put my headphones in to listen to their album. “Unsuitable” was the twelfth and final track. I ran through the whole album first, to get an overall feel of it, and then the second time around I opened my computer and wrote down my impressions for each individual song. The style was diverse and captivating, and the technique and quality were on point, as I’d come to expect from the two. Taking in the album as a whole left me breathless with awe at the power these musicians had to convey and control emotions, to inspire and impress, to leave somebody in tears of joy and sorrow simultaneously. And with that morning’s guitar lesson, I couldn’t help being hopeful and excited at the idea that I could be that powerful someday.

I headed upstairs to find Tadashi, bursting to talk to him about it. He wasn’t in the studio or in the workout room, and the door to his and Katsumi’s bedroom was closed. I went to knock on it – but as I leaned in I heard something that stopped me in my tracks.

I couldn’t tell what it was for a moment, but then I suddenly knew: Katsumi was crying.

I stood outside their room in shocked silence, swallowed my excitement, and and fled back down the stairs. My thoughts on the album could wait.


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Entry #25 – Recent Artist Inspirations

Hi everyone, it’s Kohaku. I hope you all had a good week.

There’s certainly a lot of tension in the world right now – in all kinds of places, for all kinds of reasons. The U.S. and Iran, Iran and the Ukraine, Taiwan’s elections, Hong Kong, North Korea – just to name a few. I really wish that humans could just learn to love one another, to do away with war and violence, to tolerate and coexist. Do you think it’s possible? Can we save ourselves? I really wonder sometimes.

Anyway, as promised, I’m going to talk about my recent artist inspirations today. I think art is incredibly important for people to get in touch with their emotions and develop strong connections with each other. Art can teach us love and peace, tolerance and coexistence, creativity and sensitivity. So, I always try to continuously expose myself to new art and artists, and at the same time I make an effort to pay attention to what goes into my own art – whether that’s writing, photography, painting, or anything else.

Most of what I’ve been doing recently has to do with music. Here are the music artists that I’ve mainly been listening to recently.


~ YOHIO

I think YOHIO is incredible. His singing voice is great, in English and in Japanese, and the amount of effort and creativity he puts into his music videos always impresses me. He’s very young, too, and with the quantity and quality of the content he continues to put out, he’s quickly shaping up to be one of my favorite visual kei artists. I’m looking forward to his new album!


~ RADWIMPS

RADWIMPS never ceases to amaze me. Not visual kei, but I first got into them after watching 「君の名は。」 years ago, and have been steadily working through their discography since. From upbeat soft rock jams, to the annual introspective pieces based on 3.11 like 「夜の淵」 and 「カイコ」, their variety of songs and general style and lyrics really appeal to me. Recently I discovered some of their older songs, as well as a lot of songs I’ve just never listened to. I was stunned after viewing the music video for 「光」. It’s a great song, plus LGBTQ representation… there goes my heart. Here’s the MV below:


~ Yellow Fried Chickenz

I started listening to some of their songs again. I think YFCz was a really interesting band. I loved the diversity and quality of the members, and really enjoyed hearing dual vocals. Some of their songs sound a bit crazy, and it can seem sometimes like the musicians were really just fooling around and having a good time, but then out of nowhere they’ll hit you with a tragic heartthrob like 「Mata koko de aimashou」… Look that one up. The video makes me cry!


~ Kiyoharu / Kuroyume

Most recently, I’ve been listening to Kuroyume and vocalist Kiyoharu’s solo works. I love his voice, and the overall sound and style of the band. I can’t say anything much more than that yet, since I haven’t listened to very much for very long, but I’ll be working through their discography in the coming weeks. Kind of late to the party, but it’s never too late for music!


That’s all I can think of for right now really. I want to keep finding more artists to listen to, as well as diving deeper into the works of the artists I already love. How about you all? Who have you been watching, reading, or listening to recently? What’s going into your art?

Take care of yourselves. Lots of love and be at peace.

KT

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 9)

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Several days passed with nothing in particular of note. I ate, slept, walked around the garden, and went on my phone and computer; Tadashi and Katsumi cooked, cleaned, and played music. I relaxed into this lifestyle in a pretty passive way. It was slow and leisurely, like a dream retirement. But of course, it couldn’t always be that way. On my seventh day at Katsumi’s family home, several things happened that would almost entirely change the course of that whole summer.

I woke up that morning to the sound of Katsumi’s screams. They weren’t the crazed, shocked, hysterical type of scream – his voice was full-throated, terrified, and, for lack of a better word, tragic. If I could make up some kind of story about it, it was like he had just come across a serial killer standing over the body of his one true love, bloody knife still in hand. Katsumi turned and ran, and the serial killer chased him. It was that kind of scream.

I bolted out of bed, my heart pounding, and ran into the hallway. The other bedroom door was still closed; I banged on it worriedly. “Katsumi?” I yelled. “Tadashi? What’s going on?”

Nobody answered. I tried the door and found it locked, and resigned myself to shifting back-and-forth in front of it, agitated. What could be happening in there? My storyteller’s imagination went wild, and I choked on my own thoughts. Katsumi went on and on; Tadashi started yelling over him, his words entirely incomprehensible. Nearly a full minute later, the screams and shouts finally abated, and the house was plunged into a deafening silence.

“Hello?” I asked hesitantly.

A few moments passed, and then Tadashi came to the door. He opened it just a crack and looked out at me. His eyes were charged, his expression unreadable; he was shirtless – both of us obviously just out of bed, though I had slept in thin pajamas – and his long blond hair ran messily down his shoulders. For a moment he just met my gaze, his mouth slightly open, struggling to find words. He glanced over his shoulder, defeated, then turned to me again.

“Sorry,” he said. “Everyone’s fine. Hold on and I’ll tell you about it later. Just… go downstairs or something.”

Then he pulled back and closed the door, basically in my face, without saying another word. I was shocked. I swallowed the response I hadn’t finished forming, mechanically went to wash up in the bathroom, and then plodded down the stairs, stunned into obedience. I crashed on the couch, checked the time on my phone – just barely 6:30 – and closed my eyes.

Tadashi came down some fifteen minutes later. He had washed his face, brushed his hair, and changed into a navy blue short-sleeve button-up and chino shorts. He glanced at me almost absently, poured himself a tall glass of water, and chugged it. Then he came over and sat next to me.

“Morning,” he said casually.

“Morning,” I replied, my own voice still slow and tense.

“Woke you up?”

“Yeah.”

“Scared you?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry about that.”

I shook my head. “What happened?”

“Um… Well, first of all, Katsu had a bad dream.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah. But… it wasn’t just a normal nightmare.”

I blinked, surprised. “What do you mean?”

Tadashi was calm and serious. “Chas, you can believe me or not, I’m just going to tell you things as they are, okay?”

“Okay…”

“Sometimes,” he said, “sometimes Katsumi has prophetic dreams.”

I thought about that for a minute. “You mean, like, he sees the future?”

“Yeah, well, not exactly. His dreams are usually of events that are going to happen in the future, but when he wakes up, he rarely remembers them. He just hangs on to bits and pieces, so it’s like a preview, like a movie trailer or something. And later when the event actually happens, the whole dream comes back to him.”

“Uh-huh… So you’re saying Katsumi had a prophetic nightmare this morning?”

Tadashi nodded. “I think so.”

“What was it about?”

“That’s the thing… he won’t tell me.”

I frowned. “Does he normally?”

“Yeah. That’s why I believe that sometimes his dreams are prophetic, because usually when he wakes up he’ll immediately tell me what he remembers, and then later on we’ll both experience the real thing. But today, for some reason, he isn’t telling me what his dream was about, and that worries me.”

He paused and studied my face. “Do you believe me, Chas?”

“That Katsumi has prophetic dreams? Sure.”

“Really?”

I shrugged. “It’s not that crazy. Stories about people who are like that are pretty common. And you aren’t the kind of person who would just go around saying things without having really thought about and analyzed them – so if you believe it, I believe it.”

“Okay,” he said, sounding relieved.

“Is he okay now? Katsumi? His screaming was really something.”

Tadashi nodded. “I haven’t heard him scream like that in a long time… when he woke up he just kind of sat on the bed for a while, not looking at me, not talking. I went to wash up in the bathroom, and when I came back he stood up and went into the bathroom after me. He’s taking a shower right now. I think he’ll be okay, but I have no idea how he’s gonna behave today, especially with you, so…”

“I’ll keep my distance unless you’re there,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“I wish he would tell me what that dream was about…” he murmured with a quiet sigh. “Anyway, are you hungry? I’ll make something.”

He got up without waiting for my answer and wandered into the kitchen. I stared after him wonderingly, then sank back into the couch and closed my eyes again.

It’s too early for this, I thought. But I guess it’s too late to go back to sleep.

And so it was that we got a headstart on that fateful seventh day.


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Next: Chapter 10

Entry #24 – Keep Moving Forward

Hey everyone, it’s Kohaku. How are things, one week into the new year? I hope everyone is taking care.

Recently, I have been thinking… to keep moving forward is one of the most important things, right? You can’t let yourself get stuck in one time or place – you have to keep learning new things, exposing yourself to new inspirations, taking on new challenges, chasing after new opportunities. It doesn’t have to be that active, really. Sometimes you crawl, sometimes you walk, and sometimes you run – and sometimes you need to take a few steps backward, too – but so long as you’re largely moving forward, isn’t that okay?

I was feeling a little stuck, so I want to remind myself to keep moving forward. It’s something I often find myself reminding others to make sure of, too. I think it’s important to not loose sight of that.

Next week, I’ll probably do a post on recent artist inspirations… and maybe I might work on a project. I’d like to do more projects now, as opposed to individual short pieces, but it’s really up to time and situation. I really want to improve myself, in my writing and in other ways. Hopefully I’ll be more free for these kinds of things, in these early weeks of the new year.

Anyway, I’ll at least make sure to keep moving forward. You all make sure of that too. So many people are stuck these days, I think…

Take care of yourselves!

KT

Last Night ~2019~

on this final moonlit night
we look back and ask ourselves:
where are we?
who have we become?
and now, where are we going?

dozens of years have come and gone,
and here we are at the edge of dawn
with what?
can you see?
having locked our memories in chests full of blood,
we can no longer hear our own children’s screams –
how stupid can we be!
thinking we can put a face to tragedy –
as if humans ever understood humanity.
to what we have done, no thing can compare,
and we continue to do it on a childish dare,
putting up fronts of sincerity and sadness,
spray painting over our internal madness.
this world…
a cold desert with no horizons,
no longer a place of life –
it’s a meaningless battleground!
but, after all,
darkness is not something
unknown to man.
you always knew this…
I love you all, but it’s beyond my control –
humanity is determined to rip apart my soul.

day after day, I watch
waiting for the world
to transform into a rose –
perhaps, a rainbow…
tracing your outline over and over again,
my tears become the gentle rain.
you always knew what I didn’t…
we’re burning in the light of day,
living our lives without a say,
still struggling to find the way,
and I know I don’t belong here –
but I’m forced to share this dream.

the world I tried to find
never existed in my time…
so condemned for eternity,
I forever watch this path.
still, chasing the horizon
that will never end for me,
I will close my eyes and say,
“I will not give up hope today.”
your parting words grace my lips
there’ll be no war today, I think –
it’s our love after all.

can we believe in an impossible world?
I can’t live without it…
but tonight I understand that it’s only a dream –
one we can’t reach, one still too extreme.
her whispered words
“you won’t live to see that day”
so I walked without a future…
well, to sprout and bloom and die,
maybe this too is our life.
just like you before me
I know that I’m not here to stay,
but at least I can say I’ve tried –
now, I’m searching for a place to die
just waiting for the right time.

but in that single instant I –
I can only think of you…
I call out for a love that
was never mine to cherish,
reaching out for the days we shared
and the tomorrows we left behind.
promising “one day, someday, some time…”
in the future one of us lacked.
if only they would let us live…
so you said –
can you feel it?
time is slowing down for you
so that you can smile again…
what words!
humanity wasn’t fair to you,
and unfortunately you were human too –
and yet you see that I love you
because our hearts just grew and grew
together, we bend their definitions
expanding what it means to be alive.
was this all not worth it in the end?

someday, the world will understand me
and we can live as we were meant to be –
but right now, in our shared dream,
we are still struggling,
searching for the words to say,
words that might still change the world someday.
at least, for today
we look into each other’s eyes
and we say, “we will not go.”
we say “this is not the end.”
we say, on this day of endless dawn,
the sun will rise again.
this goodbye is not forever…
we will meet again.


Happy New Year, everyone. Lots of love to our one global humanity. Let’s make a good 2020, together.

KT

Best of ~2019~

Hi everyone, Kohaku again! As promised, today’s post is a top-ten best-of compilation of my published work from 2019. It was really difficult to narrow it down to ten. I tried to gather from across my various styles and genres as well as from throughout the whole year, and I also wanted to not have any repeats (so any work within an already-featured compilation was automatically out of the running for anything else). Without any more of my blabbering, here are my top-ten picks from my work this past year. In no particular order:

  1. Songs Without End [Short Story]
  2. lost in time [Poetry, Poem-Song]
  3. 「VANGUARD: Flagbearer of Nocturnal Skies」 [Poetry Compilation]
  4. Another Year Has Gone… [Poetry, General]
  5. 永遠の歌 [Poetry, Tanka]
  6. Photography in Canada [Photography]
  7. Life = Suffering + Love [Zuihitsu Collection]
  8. Entry #4 – Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli, and Art as a Tool for Activism [Journal Entry]
  9. Prologue, To Walk in the Footsteps of Angels [Serial Writing]
  10. Mental Health and the Failure of Our Education System [Uncategorized Writing]

What about you all? What were your favorites from my work this year? I’d like to know, because I really do reflect on my writing and artwork a lot.

Everyone take care. See you tomorrow for my year-end message.

KT.

Entry #23 – This Week's Releases, and Passing Into the New Year

Hi everyone, it’s Kohaku; I hope you all are safely enjoying the holidays!

Tomorrow, I will have a 2019 best-of compilation for you guys. It was a bit of work to compile, especially because I had challenged myself to post something every day since the summer. There was a lot of writing to sift through! But I guess it was good that I did more poetry than prose this year, since it takes less time to read. I narrowed everything down to about 30 pieces, and then cut it to 10, trying to pick from all the different styles and genres. So I’ll share that with you guys tomorrow, and I also want to hear what you guys liked from my work this year too.

The day after, on the 31st, I’ll have another longer work – a piece that will reflect on the year overall, as well as look forward and carry us into the new year. I guess it’s a compilation in a kind of roundabout way, but it’s easier to read it as just one long message strung together. I’m not really sure how it’s going to turn out in the end, but please do look forward to that too!

Also, I might have another something special on the 1st. I haven’t totally decided yet. I guess we’ll see when we get there.

I really wonder about a lot of things at the end of the year. I’ve been told from various people that it takes a lot of energy to go from one year to the next, and some years are harder than others for certain types of people. Whether that’s factually true or not, I can’t say, but it’s not hard to believe. It’s a bit scary how many bad or threatening events in my personal life have begun to pile up right around this time. So I hope you all are safe, healthy, and conserving your energy to make the years’ crossing. Hopefully, we won’t leave too many loved ones behind.

That’s not to end on a depressing note, of course. Are you all looking after your loved ones? Have you paid attention to them? Have you thanked them lately? It’s a good time now to reflect on your behavior towards the people you care for. That’s what the holidays are really about: people, and love. Right? Hopefully, in this coming year, we can achieve our loving dreams and realize our one global humanity and happiness.

Well, I don’t think I had much more to say. It feels weird that this will be the last journal entry of 2019. Anyway, happy new year, 新年快乐, 良いお年を〜! Fingers crossed, I’ll see you again on the other side.

K.T.

Chasing Life With You (Chapter 8)

Table of Contents

Previous: Chapter 7

Next: Chapter 9


Lunch came and went, and in the early afternoon I settled back down onto the living room couch, browsing aimlessly on my computer. Nothing in particular aroused my interest – I was just wasting time. I do that a lot. Meanwhile, Tadashi and Katsumi cleaned up the kitchen and then vanished up the stairs one after another. I checked out the blogs and social media feeds of a few celebrities I like, and then spent half an hour on a pointless online word game.

Just as I was finishing that up and wondering what I should do next, the sound of electric guitars came blaring from the studio upstairs. I closed my browser, raised my head slightly, and listened to Tadashi’s swift, skilled tuning. First he did one guitar all on its own, and then he picked up the second one and tuned it to the first. I found out a while later that he has perfect pitch – no surprise there. Even without that trait, he’s always had exceptionally good hearing. Relaxed on the couch, I closed my eyes and waited for the two guitarists to start playing something.

As the days went by I’d learn to differentiate the sounds and styles of the guitars and figure out who was playing what, but for the time being I just accepted the music as it was, with no names attached. They warmed up for a few minutes, one of them running through some scales, the other playing an exceptionally fast, complicated melody. Katsumi tested out his voice, too. After this was a short pause; then they launched freely into a song. For this piece, there was some prerecorded drumming going on in the background, and Tadashi contributed no backing vocals. I listened with intense curiosity. The pace was faster than the song I’d heard last night, and the rhythm was far more complex; the guitar solos were spaced well apart with some kind of interlude between them, and in a lot of places the two guitarists were playing entirely different rhythms laid on top of each other. Last night’s piece had certainly impressed me, but this one captured my attention in a very different way.

And what about the lyrics? Even though he was all miked up and belting soulfully, I didn’t really catch Katsumi’s voice all that well, so I couldn’t really tell what the song was about. But, guessing just from the tone and melodies, it was certainly on the rougher side. The song they’d played the night before had been more of a soft, introspective, heart-wrenching ballad; this one, on the other hand, made me want to get up and take action, to get in a fight with someone over something I found worth fighting for – at least that’s how I imagined it.

Suddenly inspired, I opened up a new document on my laptop and wrote down my impressions of the song. Maybe, I thought, writing about music wouldn’t be so bad after all. I just had to learn the terminology, get to know the artists, listen to the songs more, and it would be just like any other article… right? And if the music was like this, like what Tadashi and Katsumi had just played, I might even be able to enjoy it.

Before they could start on their next song, I bolted upstairs and poked my head into the studio. There was an intimidating mess of instruments and equipment everywhere. Katsumi, who was adjusting his headset and monitors, saw me and gave Tadashi a surprised, somewhat perplexed look; my friend glanced over his shoulder, met my gaze, and smiled.

“Hey,” he said, turning to face me. He muted his guitar with one hand while brushing back his hair with the other. “You been listening?”

“Sorry to interrupt,” I said embarrassedly.

“That’s okay. What’s up?”

“You said you release your music digitally, right? Is there like a website or something? I have no idea how that kind of thing works…”

Tadashi grinned. “I’ll set you up with it after dinner, okay? Just remind me, in case I forget.”

“Okay, thanks. Also… can I stay and watch?”

He looked at Katsumi; the black-haired musician shrugged. “I don’t mind.”

“We’re just running through some of our old songs right now,” Tadashi explained to me, “so it’s probably a good time for you to listen in, too.”

“Is it okay if I bring my computer and write down my impressions of the songs?” I asked.

Katsumi scratched his head. “Yeah, whatever, but probably best if you don’t publish it – especially not for a real article.”

“Better if you talk to our manager first for stuff like that,” Tadashi clarified. “Otherwise she’s going to give you some trouble for it.”

“Okay, I won’t,” I promised.

I brought up my computer, crashed on the floor in a corner of the studio, and spent the rest of the afternoon watching, listening, and writing.

The two played on for hours without paying much attention to me, a behavior which I appreciated. I wanted to observe everything as it was, without interfering or changing it. The notes I made were nothing special – there was nothing you could describe as technical, no professional evaluation or criticism. I just jotted down how each song made me feel, and that was about it. But I would later come to believe that this kind of emotional, surface-level writing was just as important, and in some ways just as valuable, as the real thing you might find in a music magazine.

While listening, I observed their instruments and the equipment they used, trying to learn as much as possible. Having had no background in music, especially not of this kind, I was basically starting from scratch. It was like catching a glimpse of what life was like in a different universe. Tadashi would eventually explain everything to me properly, but for the time being I just tried to soak everything in.

I wasn’t at all sure why I was suddenly interested in their music. Maybe it was because it was my old school friend making it. Maybe it was because I was living in the same house with them. Maybe there was something special about their songs. I really hadn’t a clue. But whatever the reason, I knew in my heart that this was what I’d been searching for when I had started asking around for a summer place in the countryside – I needed cleansing, emotional and physical; I needed to jumpstart my stagnant life; and I needed writing inspiration. And here it all was.

The guitars, the lake, the people – everything was perfect.

After a few hours of on-and-off playing, Tadashi left to start prepping dinner. Katsumi fell back onto a chair and rested. He was breathing a little hard, but it seemed like he’d had a good time. His voice had come out well, I thought. I made no attempt to strike up a conversation, wondering how hard it must be to sing.

After a few quiet minutes he faced me and asked, “How was it?”

“Great,” I replied.

“Yeah?”

To be honest, I was still slightly wary of being alone with Katsumi. Sometimes he would be casual, sometimes he’d be just as friendly as Tadashi, and other times he’d be too friendly – as I mentioned, wild. But I was slowly getting used to these changes in his mood. I imagined the surface of the ocean, sprawling from horizon to horizon; sometimes it would be stormy and surging, sometimes the shifting waves would be of an average, expected size and shape, and other times the sea would be calm and still. Right now, tired as he was, and having loosened up with an afternoon of music, he seemed pretty relaxed. So I wasn’t too worried about having a conversation alone with him like this.

The worst times to catch him, I’d eventually learn, were either late at night or, in the event he hadn’t slept well, early in the morning. During the day, especially when he was with Tadashi, he was generally pretty tame.

“So you like our music?” he asked.

“I like it a lot,” I admitted. “More than I thought I would.”

“Anything in particular about it that you like?”

I thought about it. “Your vocals… when the two of you sing together. Two human voices singing together, that sound is really powerful, I feel. And you make good use of it. Also, just your personalities, the way they come out in your guitar playing… and the variety of style. The way you sometimes use recorded backing tracks, and other times play alone, that kind of thing. It keeps it really interesting. Each song is different and incredibly unique… that’s new to me. Most of the stuff I hear on the radio or in stores just all sounds the same. So I like the creative, artistic drive behind your music, it’s refreshing.”

“As expected of a writer,” Katsumi said. “You think carefully and speak meaningfully. I like it.”

I flushed. “What’s that?”

“Most people will just say ‘the melody is really catchy’ or ‘your voice sounds good.’ I like the way you think about it and really detail what you like and why it matters.”

“Oh… well…”

“That’s one of the reasons why I like artists,” he said. “They’re sensitive to this kind of thing, and they care about it.”

Artists…

I learned a lot that summer. About Tadashi, about music, about life – but also about myself.


Table of Contents

Previous: Chapter 7

Next: Chapter 9

Entry #22 – 「VANGUARD」Reflection, 「Anniversary」Releases Tomorrow, Christmas

Hi everyone! It’s Kohaku. I hope you all had a great week.

The poetry compilation 「VANGUARD: Flagbearer of Nocturnal Skies」released this past Monday. How was it? I’m pretty happy with how it turned out; there’s some really good stuff in there. Here’s a question – what do you think the message of the whole compilation is? In other words, what did you take away after reading it? Overall messages are important, and while I certainly know how I interpreted it, I’d like to know how you guys interpreted it too.

Anyway, as I promised, there’s another poetry compilation coming out tomorrow. It’s called 「Anniversary ~2019~」, and unlike other compilations, it’s composed entirely of already published material, just gathered and put together in a new format. It’ll be longer than usual, too, and it will have a preface, something I haven’t included since 「DOUBLE-SIDED」. It feels like it’s been forever since then… time really does fly. Well, look forward to the compilation coming out tomorrow, and let me know what you think!

Christmas is coming up, for those who celebrate it. I hope you all are able to spend some meaningful time with your families; I’m definitely doing my best with mine. Take care of yourselves, and reserve the strength you need to make it through the holidays and the end of the year. It gets tough around this time, doesn’t it? For some more than others, sure, but passing into the new year can be pretty rough for us all. Just do your best to keep moving forward.

Anyone have any favorite Christmas music? I don’t like the music that gets played a lot where I live, not because the songs are bad necessarily, but because they play the same five or six songs over and over again, every year, everywhere. I just want more variety, that’s all. I don’t really celebrate the holiday though, so it’s not as if it matters terribly to me. Well, for the past few years whenever it gets around this time, I tend to pull up and re-listen to these two tracks: GACKT’s「12月のLove Song」, and Makihara Noriyuki & Hamada Masatoshi’s「Chicken Rice」. They’re my personal Christmas staples.

I think next week I might talk about my recent artist inspirations. I’ve been listening to new music recently – it’s important to always keep learning and exploring new things. That’s what it means to keep moving forward. Well, until then~

Take care,

KT