Entry #44 – Site Revamp

原発が吹き飛ぼうとも 少年が自爆しようとも
その横で僕ら 愛を語り合う

– RADWIMPS, 「あいとわ」
lyrics from lyricstranslate

Hey all, Haku here, how’s everyone doing?

For this week, my main focus was revamping the blog website. I started working on it at the beginning of the week, and the majority of the updates rolled out last night. For today’s journal entry, I’m going to provide an overview of the changes I made and will make going forward 🙂


Why the Changes?

  • In terms of site design and the content of some pages, I was feeling like some of the stuff wasn’t really genuine to who I am and the reasons why I put this blog up in the first place, so I edited or eliminated them.
  • I wanted more control over the design and aesthetics of some areas of the site, so I needed to make some changes in order to do that.
  • I also wanted to make some adjustments to improve accessibility.

Two Things To Note

  1. I’m getting close to 400 posts on the blog. Because of that large quantity, for purposes of time and productivity efforts, I have not retconned all the changes all the way through to post #1. Most of the changes to individual posts went in only for the last couple months’ worth, and some only for the last couple weeks. Over the summer, I may go in and retcon and clean up everything, but it’s not something I’m really going to worry about right now, especially given the fact that the site will probably continue to evolve and change over time.
  2. For page- and site-wide changes, I tried to go in and do checks to make sure that all links and tabs are still working correctly, but I might have missed something. Let me know in the comments or in email if you find anything that doesn’t work right!

Overview of Site Updates

  • New About page.
  • New Longer Works page. Content is now collated by year.
  • The Daydreams, Zuihitsu, Poetry, Short Stories, Gallery, and Journal Entries tabs are now full pages instead of categories.
  • Added alternative text for almost all self-shot images anywhere on the blog.
  • Added images and quotes from some of my work across all blog pages.
  • Eliminated all widgets.
  • Set featured images for gallery posts.
  • Added manual excerpts for poetry posts and journal entries. Excerpts for poetry posts begin with their poem type in brackets, e.g. [Tanka] or [Free Verse], along with the first line of the poem. Excerpts for journal entries exclude the epigraph.

I might continue to make a few more changes into next week. My main focus right now, though, is finishing Chasing Life With You. Everybody take care, let me know how the site updates look!

KT

Entry #43 – Week In Review

<insert awesome guitar riff here>

– PATA, 「So Far」
look it up on Youtube!

Hey all, Kohaku here. Hope everyone’s doing well.

I passed this week trying to spend a lot of time with my friends and family. “Life is short, and you never know what tomorrow will bring”… I am really in this kind of mindset right now. I had a good time reaching out to and talking and playing games with my close friends. Some of them I hadn’t actually seen in months! From now on, I’m going to try to make these connections more often.

For the past few days I’ve been listening to a lot of new/new-ish music – Sads, Siam Shade, Kuroyume… I have Ra:IN’s first album playing right now; surprises me sometimes how good instrumental rock can be. Kizu showed up on my Youtube recommendations the other day, and after reading a bit about them online I started listening to some of their music as well. A lot of their stuff proved to be too dark for my taste and I wasn’t a huge fan of their vocalist at first, but after a while I gave them another try with their single 「黒い雨」and I thought it was actually pretty good. I don’t think I’m going to be putting them on my playlist, though; but Ra:IN and Siam Shade are probably going up. There are so many bands that I have yet to listen to, and it’s nice to be in the headspace where I can be happily exploring new music.

As far as writing goes, I got a lot done this week, which was really nice. I Will Carry You finished in time for my friend’s birthday – I think it’s somewhat unpolished, but the message is there. Like a lot of my other work, there are a lot of parts in it that are highly up to the reader’s interpretation, so I hope those who read it were able to take away something that is meaningful to them. Looking forward, I’m not sure what I’ll be putting out in the week to come; I might try to finish Chasing Life With You, if I have the time to sit down and write properly, but I don’t know if that’s really going to happen. I guess we’ll have to see.

I’m going to go watch some comedy or something. Everyone take care. Lots of love,

KT

Entry #42 – 「Re:construction」Releases Tomorrow

終わらない雨 抱きしめた 
夜が朝を向かえる
心はまだ濡れたまま
傷つくだけ 傷ついて 
解ったはずの答えを
どうしてまだ 問いかけてる?

– X Japan, 「The Last Song」
lyrics from lyricstranslate

Hey all, Kohaku here. I hope everyone had a great week and is staying safe and healthy and sane.

My week started out stressful and tiring, but it’s better now. For the past few days I’ve been trying to relax, recover, and get back into a more creative mood. I’ve been watching recordings of X Japan’s 2008 revival concerts – I’d really forgotten how much I love their live concerts, just the general feeling they give off and what they leave you with. It’s really something. I’m listening to their ballad collection right now as I write. My new set of tuning pegs should arrive later today, so sometime today or tomorrow I’ll be fixing my guitar, trying out new strings and hopefully I’ll be back to daily playing and practicing. I might try to find some new sheet music to learn for piano. We’ve also been watching lots of nature documentaries recently – a lot of the stuff released around Earth Day, and some of the old bigger series like Blue Planet as well.

So, last week I mentioned I’ll be working on a new prose-poetry collection for my friend’s upcoming birthday. I got two parts out in the past few days – if you didn’t catch them, you can check out the first one here. The overall collection is called I Will Carry You. I don’t think it’ll be a full ten parts, maybe just five or six, but it’s going pretty alright so far. I think I’ll have the third part up on Tuesday.

Tomorrow, I have a new poetry compilation for y’all. It’s called 「Re:construction」. Like most of my other compilations, it’s got a mixture of new poems and already-published poems of different styles. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but maybe I’ll give a bit of a very basic summary. The story in this one is about how we construct our lives, how we build up our various walls and barriers and self-limitations, how we construct the patterns in which we think about the world and about ourselves – and it’s about how we can recognize, change, manipulate those constructions so that we can live our own lives in a more loving and less limiting way. When I was organizing the compilation, I really wanted to add the extended poem Meditations into the mix. I ended up not, in part because it’s already been published in a paired work, and in part because it’s just long – but anyway, Meditations is related to the story of 「Re:construction」as well. I would love to hear y’all’s comments on the compilation after you read it, it’s really much more complex and open to interpretation than the summary I just gave, and I’d be very interested to know what other people got out of it. So, please look forward to it and check it out tomorrow when you get the chance!

Hope everyone takes care. Have a good week,

KT

Entry #41 – Tired Updates

消えることのない想いを胸に動かない時計に触れた
優しい太陽の光を浴びた夢は白く夜空に消えた
雨は私の涙、
哀しみは癒えぬまま・・・月の吐息に魅せられて
瞬間を失くして理解る・・・死して意味があることを

– GACKT, rain
lyrics from JPopAsia

Hey y’all, Haku here, hope everyone is doing well. This past week has been quite busy for me. I’m learning a lot and having a good time overall, I just feel really tired out.

Let’s see what’s been going on in my down time – laying around a fair bit, watching comedy, playing games with my family – been watching a lot of nature documentaries actually too. I’m slowly reading Sasha Geffen’s Glitter Up the Dark: How Pop Music Broke the Binary over my breakfasts. Guitar’s been having some trouble – strings are old so I bought some new ones, then found a problem with one of the tuning pegs this morning and couldn’t fix it so I bought a new set of those as well, I’m planning to do both of those repairs at the same time once the packages arrive. It feels so strange to not do my proper morning practice. Recently I’ve been able to play piano more – that kind of makes up for it and it feels really healing, it’s just harder on my shoulder.

You know what, it’s been incredibly hot lately. I’m not a fan of hot weather – just keeps getting hotter though, and we’ll probably start hearing about wildfires soon. If you can safely stay inside and bear the weather there, please do – though I know there are folks who can’t. We have to try to keep up this physical distancing even in the heat. If you do go out, do wear a mask and all. Don’t endanger others’ lives as well as your own!

I need to get started on a new writing project. Prose poetry, I think. A friend’s birthday is coming up in a few weeks and it’ll probably be for that. I’ll try to get started tomorrow and maybe have something good to publish in a few days, so look forward to it!

Y’all take care of yourselves~

KT

Entry #40 – Dinner Party #4

Will you stay with me
風が過ぎ去るまで
また溢れ出す All my tears
Forever Love
Forever Dream
このままそばにいて
夜明けに震える
心を抱きしめて
Oh Stay with me

– X Japan, 「Forever Love」
lyrics from jpopasia

Hey all,

Kohaku here. Is everyone feeling alright? I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and each other during this time. Today’s journal entry, being the 40th, is the 4th rendition of my Dinner Party project.

Links to earlier installments:
→ Dinner Party #1 (full explanation of the project and its history)
→ Dinner Party #2
→ Dinner Party #3

Obligatory blurb:
“The basic premise is to keep a list of 10 famous people whom you admire or respect, people who inspire you in your daily life and work. Then, track how this list changes over time. There are some new people on it this time around. These new inspirations replaced some of the old ones, to keep the list at 10, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like or draw inspiration from those old people anymore. The Dinner Party project is just a snapshot of the 10 people who are most inspiring to you at this particular moment.”

Okay, here we go. New entries since last time are in bold, and all names are linked to their websites/pages on Wiki. In no particular order:

  1. Yuzuru HANYU (羽生結弦)
  2. Yoshiki (林佳樹)
  3. Hans LINDAHL
  4. GACKT (大城 ガクト)
  5. hide (松本秀人)
  6. Hayao MIYAZAKI (宮崎駿)
  7. Jonathan VAN NESS
  8. Haruki MURAKAMI (村上春樹 )
  9. Yojiro NODA (野田洋次郎)
  10. Chachamaru (藤村幸宏)

Recently, I’ve been going back to a lot of my old and steady favorites, especially in music. I think I really need that right now. So there hasn’t been that much in the way of exploring new things, and nothing significant enough to warrant an entirely new entry into my list. For sure, that’s not in itself a bad thing. Doing this public check-in every ten weeks makes me want to have at least one new entry every time, and that does encourage me to keep broadening my horizons as an artist and a person, but it probably won’t always happen, and I know I need to make sure I’m making an authentic list each time and not being unduly influenced.

This time, hide is back on my list. I’ve been starting to listen to X Japan again, since that’s emotionally where I’m at, and I find their music both very painful and very healing. Hide is an inspiration to me for his personality and his skills as a guitarist and artist, made all the more salient by the tragic circumstances of his life and death. I’ve been learning his lead guitar part on the acoustic version of X Japan’s Rose of Pain. It makes me so sad, but also helps me feel better with where I’m at.

And now, what about you? What would your dinner party list look like right now? Who would you put on it and why? Follow the original rules, follow my version of the rules, or just do away with rules entirely – whatever list you make is still going to be important and telling, and I do think it’s a good project to do once in a while.

Right now, with a lot of folks in quarantine or in the hospital, a lot of people risking their lives in essential services, a lot of people losing their jobs and salaries and trapped inside with their families, it makes sense for a lot of people to be feeling stuck. But it’s important that we all do our best to keep moving forward. Keep your eyes on the horizon, that’s what I think – and dinner party is a great project for making sure that that’s the case.

Take care of yourselves,

KT

Entry #39 – 「Mov{ve}ment」Releases Tomorrow

You must be here with me
You are one part of me
You won’t let go
I won’t let go
So every night you hear me say
You are one part of me
But I won’t be you

– HYDE, 「TWO FACE」
lyrics from Genius

Hey folks, it’s Kohaku. I hope you’re doing okay in these particularly rough times.

Tomorrow I will be publishing a new work called 「Mo{ve}ment」. This is a poetry mini-compilation that I’ve been conceptualizing and writing for the past few weeks. Please look forward to it and let me know what you think!

Recently I have been focused on redirecting the flow and purpose of my works… to not just convey a specific, concrete emotion or idea, but to share, to reach and envelop people with a thought or a feeling, even if that thought or feeling is vague and indescribable. Art always is, after all, a mutual, interrelational experience, and some of the best artworks, I think, are those that make audiences think or feel something even if they don’t know how, don’t know why, don’t even know what. Ideas about this started to take form with the paired stories Synchronicity and Affinity, and this concept will be one of my main focuses on the short-term going forward.

I had a bit of a hard time writing this week. I really for some reason had remarkably low inspiration and motivation. But these things come and go, like everything – and I have just come off a high point, I think, since I’ve finished a lot of projects in the past few weeks. So for this week I’ll try to rest and recover and get some new projects started soon.

Is everyone taking care of their loved ones? Reach out to people you know, even if you haven’t talked to them in a long time. Check in frequently on your friends, your family, people around you. It’s important for us – always, but particularly in times of increased danger and stress – to make active efforts to look after those we love. And don’t just say it – do it. When it comes to love, the stakes are high. You never know whose life you might save. Go right now and give someone a call, and make sure you ask how they are feeling and what they may need or want from you. In this world we’ve made, we can’t make it alone.

Take care of yourselves.

KT

Entry #38 – Synchronicity Reflection

風の中に舞う笑い合う声
煌めく夕日は明日への約束
月が映し出す君をみつけた

– GACKT, 「ASH」
lyrics from JPopAsia

Hey all, Kohaku here. I hope everyone is doing well. I haven’t been great mentally and emotionally this week, but I’m positive things will get better for all of us. It’s been raining so much…

The last part of Synchronicity came out on Monday – how did everyone like it? Synchronicity is a story that I think you need to read all in one sitting to get the most impact and meaning out of it. Each part is short, anyway, so it’s not like it would take that long. But anyhow, if you only read a few parts piecemeal, or if you didn’t read it at all, I recommend going back now and reading it at once from start to finish. And then, if you haven’t before, read the short story Affinity. They’re paired, like A-side and B-side tracks, in a way, and I do think there is something to be gained from reading them together. With this project I was trying to convey something that is difficult to put into words, something that might not even be totally clear after reading both stories, so I would love to hear your thoughts on what you took away from it afterwards.

I think that’ll probably be it for this entry. Really, this week was so bland and numb I sat down to write thinking “I’ve got nothing.” I’m going to do my best to heal and take care of myself – you all do too. Hopefully our art will catch up.

Lots of love,

KT

Entry #37 – Hibana: Spark Review

Scream without raising your voice
息を殺して見つめる
黒い瞳の奥神秘に満ちた微笑みを 浮かべる
悲鳴とともに流れる 苦しみを見つめて

Rose of Pain, X JAPAN
lyrics from Genius

Hey, Kohaku here. Hope everyone is doing okay. Today, I wanted to briefly review a Netflix show that I finally got to and just finished watching: Hibana: Spark (火花). I don’t normally review movies or shows or anything really, but I had something to say about this one – so let’s just get to it.

Hibana: Spark is a 10-part Netflix original series first released in 2016. It’s based on the Akutagawa Prize-winning novel of the same name written by comedian Naoki Matayoshi (又吉 直樹), who is the boke of comedy duo Peace. (Full disclosure, I have not yet read the original book, so everything I say is an unread opinion based solely on the show!) The fictional story follows Tokunaga, boke of manzai duo Sparks, as he struggles to “make it” in the Japanese entertainment industry. Along the way he meets older manzai comedian Kamiya, who becomes a mentor of sorts, and together they strive towards understanding and expanding what comedy is, who a comedian is, and how to live genuinely in a conservative, convention-favoring world.

On the surface, Hibana can come off as strange. There is little action, so much of the show seems to be quite slow; there is also limited dialogue. Some camera shots and scenes feel incredibly long, and many of the things the characters do seem very odd and unexplainable. However, I feel that Hibana achieves its good qualities not in spite of, but because of, all these things. I felt that the cinematographers were trying not just to subtly break conventions, as Kamiya teaches Tokunaga to do, but they were on a quest to discover what fundamentally moves people. As I watched, especially in the second half of the show, I often found myself feeling something – not just brought to tears, although that almost happened several times – and I had no idea why. This I attribute not just to the emotional story but the careful cinematography that went into portraying it. I finished the series deeply moved without fully understanding what I was moved about – and not every show can do that. Very few shows, actually, in my experience. This is a series that will make you think, a series you will take something away from, and since this is a trait that so many shows nowadays seem to lack, I found it incredibly enjoyable.

Hibana isn’t for everyone. If you’re going to watch it, enter in open-minded. Be prepared to be slightly put-off and confused at times, and be prepared to reach the end with lingering questions and feelings you can’t name. Watch with some care – it’s not something you can just put on the TV and then fall asleep, and still expect to understand the following episode. Things come back, and as I said, the cinematography is careful, so attention to detail is worth it. For non-Japanese viewers – knowledge of Japanese language is sometimes helpful but not necessary, since Netflix has subtitles, but I would definitely recommend having some prior knowledge of Japanese comedy and specifically manzai (at least the basics, like understanding the roles of the boke and tsukkomi, and see some examples of what manzai is “supposed” to be like so you know what conventions Kamiya and Tokunaga are trying to break). All these things taken into account, I would also say to just not overthink it. Pay attention, but don’t get too caught up in the little things – if something is confusing you, remember it but let it go. I think this kind of mindset would give the best viewing experience.

All in all, I found Hibana to be a very enjoyable, meaningful show. It was entertaining, funny, thought-provoking, and tragic all at once – and most of all, I was moved by it (to the point where I decided to write this review!). If you’re looking for something to watch on Netflix during quarantine, I would highly recommend this.

You all take care of yourselves. See you next time,

KT

Entry #36 – Finishing Taiga

世界は疲れたって 僕にはもう無理だって
宇宙の寂しさを一人で背負い作り上げてはみたが

– Radwimps, 「カイコ」
lyrics from bambooXZX

Hey folks, it’s Haku. I hope everyone is safe, healthy, and well. So much has happened, but at the same time nothing seems to be happening at all – I’ve been getting this weird contradictory feeling recently.

As far as writing goes, I got a lot done this week. On Thursday I published the final chapter of Taiga, hooray! I’m really pretty happy with how the ending turned out, and I’m a bit sad to be putting it down. Probably should have made the final chapter into an epilogue, but oh well, 10 is a nice number. For anyone who followed this story all the way to the end, please let me know what you think!

After I finished Taiga, I kind of ran out of gas. Getting that fifth part of Synchronicity out yesterday was a real pain. I think it’s more related to changes in my physical and emotional health than anything, but anyway, I’m going to try to get back up on my feet this week. Not too sure how much quality time I’ll have to write, but I’ll do my best as always – you all too.

It’s a particularly difficult time right now for a lot of us. From my perspective, I think the most important thing right now is for us to take care of each other. Be human, and remember how to love. And for ourselves, let’s not waste the time we have. Not much happens in quarantine, but there’s still so much you can do – you just have to look.

I think that’s all I’ve got for today. Everyone take care. Let’s all love and do our best.

Until next time,

Haku

Entry #35 – This Week’s Writing, Reading, & Music

ああ 負けないで 泣かないで
消えてしまいそうな時は
自分の声を信じ歩けばいいの

– Angela Aki, 「手紙〜背景十五の君へ〜」
lyrics from Genius

Hey all, Kohaku here. I hope everyone is healthy, doing well, social distancing and keeping their heads up in these rapidly changing times. As I wrote last time, it’s all too easy for people to become divided and start hurting or giving up on each other when life gets tough, so do make sure to stay connected with your loved ones as well as with strangers – don’t forget that we are all human.

Being stuck inside now and not having as much to do as usual, I’ve had a lot of time to write this week. So, I thought for today’s journal entry I’d first talk a little bit about the pieces I published these past few days.

On Monday and Tuesday I published two tanka, separation and chasing you as I. As tanka generally are, these short poems attempt to capture specific emotions in singular moments of time, but also expand that time frame or worldview into something more complex. My day-to-day tanka usually isn’t very good – I don’t spend too much time on them, and often when I publish tanka it’s because I didn’t have time to sit down and write a story or something longer. I also struggle a bit fitting English rhythmically into the structure, and most of my tanka to date has been in English. Occasionally a real gem will come out, though; 永遠の歌 from last year comes to mind. The two tanka this week, as you might expect, had a lot to do with feelings of separation, loss, change, and endings.

On Wednesday I published a free verse poem called reconstruction ~18/25/74~. I had a lot of fun with this one, playing with lines, spacing, shifting POVs and interrelated storylines in a way I haven’t really done before. Looking at the overall story, I think a lot of things remain very ambiguous and up to the reader’s interpretation – but doesn’t that make it more interesting? What do you guys think about the story, about the characters, about the meaning of 18/25/74? I’d be interested to hear what other people took away from it.

On Thursday I published a short story called Affinity. It was my first short story in a while. I really love writing short stories, they’re good fun, but they take a bit more time and energy than most other single publications. Affinity came out a lot better than I thought it would. Put very simply, the story is about the complex relationship between life and death, between desires for life and desires for death, and how sometimes they’re not as mutually exclusive or oppositionary as we like to think. I enjoyed writing the characters and their thoughts against an unclear backdrop of wartime martial law.

On Friday and Saturday I published the intro and first two parts of a new serial prose work called Synchronicity. In a way, it’s a partner or second side to Affinity, although that connection may not be totally clear yet. The epigraph to Synchronicity is a tanka I published some time ago called driver, rider, which gave birth to the beginning ideas that eventually led to this new work. How do you guys like it so far? I think my thoughts and feelings, what I want to convey with this piece, cannot reach you all yet with just these two first parts out. It’s more of a work that needs to be taken in as a whole to be truly understood. I’ll be working on it in the coming weeks and hopefully as each new part is written and published, more of my thoughts and feelings can be realized.

Besides writing, I’ve been listening to a lot of music. Sometime last week or the week before, I finally listened to ToshI’s solo cover album 「IM A SINGER」. I also listened to its sequel, but I like the first one better. It made me remember how much I like ToshI’s voice, and I enjoyed his renditions of familiar songs. For some reason I kept hitting replay, and now Angela Aki’s 手紙〜背景十五の君へ〜 is irreparably stuck in my head! Isn’t it just a very calming and uplifting song? I think the message of this song, to listen to yourself and believe in yourself and keep on living in the present even in the hardest of times, is very important and very relevant to what’s going on right now. Yesterday or the day before I also started listening again to exist†trace, one of my favorite vkei bands. It was my first time listening to them in a while, since a lot of their songs got removed from Spotify and YouTube for I’m not sure what reason (does anyone know? please do tell me). I’m remembering again how much I like their music, especially their 2014 album 「WORLD MAKER」and some songs off 「Vanguard -Of the Muses-」 and 「Twin Gate」. And right now, as I’m writing, I’m listening to Diaura’s 「FOCUS」after just having finished their debut album 「Genesis」. Diaura is new to me; I came across them literally earlier today while I was listening to a random YouTube vkei/jrock playlist, and I really liked their song that happened to be on it, so now I’m going through their discography. We’ll see if this shapes up to be my next music obsession! Oh, and this morning I saw a video on YouTube which was a wagakki (Japanese traditional instruments) band’s cover performance of X JAPAN’s 紅. At first it made me laugh (in a good way), but a minute or two in I couldn’t stop whispering “cool…” haha!

Sometime this week I started reading Yukio Mishima’s Confessions of a Mask. I’m probably 75% of the way through it, so I’ll be done by next week. I haven’t actually read any of Mishima’s works before, although Spring Snow has been sitting on my desk for quite some time at the recommendation of one of my younger friends. Confessions of a Mask reminds me in a lot of ways of Osamu Dazai’s No Longer Human – the prose is blunt, incredibly honest, and at times intellectual and philosophical. I can’t tell if I like this style yet, but it’s a good story, at any rate, and an important one.

Well, I think that’s a long enough summary of what I’ve been doing this week, at least the stuff that directly relates to my writing and art in general. What have you all been up to? In many countries, as in mine, a lot of people are under quarantine or lockdown or other stay-at-home orders – my recommendation is, keep your heads up, love each other, and don’t waste this time. Do something with your new daily life that is meaningful to you, to your loved ones, to the world. We don’t know what will happen next.

Take care of yourselves, as always.

K.T.