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 #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.

Entry #31 – Feeling Normal; Recent Music and Art Projects

移り行く世界は 片隅の君に会えて嬉しい
溢れそうな思いを 言葉にできなかったよ
いつかまた会えたら もっとうまく伝えられるかな
遥かな虹を越えて
GOOD LUCK MY WAY
信じる道へ

– L’Arc~en~Ciel, 「GOOD LUCK MY WAY」
lyrics from JpopAsia

Hi everyone, it’s Kohaku. Hope you’re all doing well.

A few days ago, one of my dear friends got back in touch with me. They aren’t always around working internet nowadays, so it had been a while since we really talked; I’m incredibly happy. Simply put, they make me feel normal again. They make me feel like myself, and once we had both poured out onto each other all of our recent activities and hardships, I had a sudden sense of relief and a lot of the emotional burdens that had been making me feel not like myself just vanished. So, I’m glad to say that I’m feeling a lot better compared to the past few weeks. What about you all? Who, or what, makes you feel like you – and have you connected with them recently?

Right now, I’m listening to LUNA SEA’s newest album, CROSS. I listened to it once soon after it came out, but honestly didn’t pay all that much attention; I’ve never been a huge fan of LUNA SEA, so I was just casually checking it out rather than really taking in the art. However, this time I’m listening to it much more closely, and I have to say that it’s growing on me! Some tracks are really very nice, and as far as my limited experience with the band goes, the whole album has a very typical calm, dreamy LUNA SEA vibe. My favorite tracks are probably「THE BEYOND」and 「悲壮美」.

Also, it’s pretty unrelated, but one of my friends has been having me listen to BTS’s new album lately, since they’re a fan of the band. It’s not my kind of music, for sure, and I’ve never listened to much K-pop before… I guess I’m broadening my musical experience though, which is always good!

In the past week or so, I’ve been exploring ways to actually use my art, connect with other artists, and put my creations out into the world. I’m thinking of sending my paper cranes to an organization I’ve recently come across called Tsuru for Solidarity. Built on the memories and lessons of Japanese American WWII internment, Tsuru for Solidarity is a social justice project that brings strings of thousands of cranes to protests across the United States to peacefully stand against the detention of immigrants and refugees and related issues. I think their intentions and achievements have been incredible, and since I keep making cranes but have nothing better to do with them, I’ll probably string them and send them along to this org!

As for my writing, I saw a flyer some days back calling for QTPOC (queer and trans people of color) submissions to an art reception at my local Cross-Cultural Center. The deadline for submissions is in three weeks. I’m planning on sending in Love Letters to the World We Made – once it’s fully completed, of course. Hopefully I’ll have it done by then. The writing itself isn’t that hard, and each part of the collection is pretty short, but it’s emotionally heavy and I don’t always want to work on it. It’ll be really exciting if I can get it in for this event though, so I’ll do my best.

Alright, that’s pretty much all I had to say. Have you all been doing anything interesting lately? I feel a little more secure now that I’m moving forward, and I’d love to hear what you are going through, too.

Take care of yourselves and see you next time.

KT

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

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