From YouTube Drama to Shibuya 109 Mall, the Top 5 Posts of 2015

Tokyo Skytree and the Asahi Beer headquarters - Tokyo, Japan

Wow! What an eventful year it's been! In 2015, I earned my Master's degree in TESOL, moved back to the States, and most of all, did more writing and blogging than I have in years. In total, I have written 110 posts on this blog; including this one, I posted 67 this year! Furthermore, I've recently started writing freelance, which has given me more opportunities to write, share information, and interact with awesome people. Additionally, I started the Black Women Thrive series here on my blog. Although it's taken a backseat recently, I am going to start sharing stories for the series again once the new year starts!

Before moving forward into the next year, it's fun to look back and review what occurred in the year we'll be saying "goodbye" to soon. Therefore, I'd like to review the top five posts on my blog from this year!
Shibuya 109 mall.

Back in February, I treated myself to a trip to Tokyo for my 25th birthday. In less than a week, I was able to visit most of the major parts of the city, including Asakusa, Odaiba, Ueno, Akihabara, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro. It was an exhausting whirlwind of a trip, and my first time alone in a foreign country (aside from living in Taiwan).

Nevertheless, it was life-changing in a way I can't describe because of the autonomy I had. I was able to take in all the sites without being distracted, make my own decisions about where to go and what to eat, and enjoy the city at my own pace. Not only did I fall in love with Tokyo, but I realized that it's okay—even beneficial—to experience a trip solo. I look forward to writing more about my trip to Tokyo next year. Perhaps I will find myself in the city again in 2016!


Christmastime at Home

These decorations are my mom's doing,
aren't they grand?
I apologize for the sporadic updates these days. As it's holiday season, I have been spending quite a bit of time with my family as well as working on other projects. I will restore my regular update schedule after the New Year.

Like Thanksgiving, this year marks my first Christmas with family since 2011. My actual Christmas day was pretty quiet with just me and my parents. We stayed in casual clothes, opened the couple of gifts we gave each other in the morning, then enjoyed Nigerian food for our main meal. Later that evening, my dad and I took a drive around our neighborhood, looked at the Christmas lights, and had a great discussion. 

I suppose our real Christmas was the day after. We had a few family friends over and ate a great meal—more Nigerian food! A great thing about being home right now is eating all the awesome food my mom makes although it threatens my waistline!


Xuanmiao Temple: Suzhou's Old Centerpiece

Xuanmiao Temple's San Qing Hall seen from the side.
The temple's main paifang or
decorative gate.
The Taoist Xuanmiao Temple(xuanmiao guan; 玄妙館)—"Mysterious Sublimity Temple" or "Mysterious Essence Temple"—dominates the center of Suzhou. Even so, it was not on my class' itinerary! Had I not decided to explore the city center with some classmates, I would have never visited this charming temple. 

Located on Guanqian Street(觀前街), a famous pedestrian lane, Xuanmiao Temple's bright gold paint and predominant gate are difficult to miss. Initially built in 276 AD and named Zhen Qing Dao Yuan(真慶道院), the temple was destroyed during the Song Dynasty, and then rebuilt and renamed in 1264. It was damaged yet again in the 18th century and repaired in 1775. 

玄妙館: 蘇州的老核心




Music Musings: Chara (1998-2005)

Strange Fruits (1999)
Music Musings: Chara (1990-1997) can be found here.

7th Album: Strange Fruits ストレンジ・フルーツ (1999)

Produced completely by Chara, Strange Fruits is a noticeable about-face when compared with its predecessor Junior Sweet (1997).  It's a melancholic, moody album. Nevertheless, it is my favorite album of this time period.

"Atashi wa Koko yo (I'm Here)" and "Duca", the two high tempo tracks of the record, are deceivingly positive. Rather than the simple music box pop tune, I feel the creativity behind "Atashi wa Koko yo" lies in the irony of the lyrics against the positive-sounding music; the chorus goes "I am here [for you], I want to cry forever." Chara likens the inability to grab the sun and sky to the unreachability of a lost love.

Like several of Chara's tracks, "Duca" has a kiddish tone. To the beat of fun, bouncy music, a little girl (the role Chara takes for this song) talks about walking with her father, "new" (step?) mother, and pet (dog?) Duca. As most children wonder, the girl contemplates whether the happiness will fade in adulthood while she enjoys ice cream.

Of the remaining slow, somewhat gloomy songs, "70% Yuugure no Uta (70% Evening Song)"; "Hikari to Watashi (The Light and Me)"; and "Oburaato (Oblate)" are the winners. "70% Yuugure no Uta" was one of the first songs of Chara's that I heard years ago, and I still love how relaxing it is, as its title suggests. The image of contemplation under the rain is depressing, but it's a lovely listen.

"Hikari to Watashi" is a gorgeous, touching song that, like most of the songs on this album, relies heavily on Chara's voice, a musical representation of different forms of pain, losing the "magical" spark of life in this case. It's a difficult song to put into words as, more than music, it's lyrical emotion. I highly recommend giving the music video a watch if you can find it.

"Oburaato" is somewhat of an acquired taste for those unacquainted with Chara's occasional extreme vocals. Her voice winds up to a near whine and falls deep, close to her speaking voice, in a short time spans throughout this track with minimal music. The turbinate nature of the song is a beautiful match to the turbulent nature of the love she describes. 

Top picks: It's a beautiful album as a whole.

Chara Live 97-99 Mood
1st Live Album: Live 97-99 Mood ライブ・97−99・ムゥド (2000)

With the birth of her son in late 1999, 2000 was a somewhat calm year for Chara, albeit not without releases. 

The tracks on this 2-disc album were taken from two concerts: Chara Junior Sweet Tour (1997) and Chara Concert Tour Duca & the Aurora Band (1998). Although I love all the songs on this one, the Junior Sweet tour was amazing; therefore, I'm quite partial to those songs.

Naturally, the songs take on a different flavor in concert form. Many of my favorites like "Happy Toy"; "Watashi wa Kawaii Hito to Iwaretai (I Wanna Be Called Cute)"; and "Time Machine" got a super soulful facelift.

Top picks: "Happy Toy"; "Watashi wa Kawaii Hito to Iwaretai (I Wanna Be Called Cute)"; "Time Machine"