Tokyo Blog Series: Hair and Japan

Hello Groovy People,

So I wanted to make a post about how I kept up my hair while I lived abroad in Japan. In 2016 I wanted to go natural, but at the time I was too impatient. The idea of doing my hair in a foreign country was terrifying, especially since I was going to keep it permed. The thing about permed hair on African American hair is that if you don’t keep it up, it falls out or has tremendous complications. However, I wasn’t sure if I could find an adequate hair dresser in Japan. After all Japan is known for being homogenous and lacks diversity.

So I began researching before I left America. There weren’t too many places, but from what I saw online they all seemed good. When I went to Tokyo I decided to go to one salon and see how it faired. I tried the first location on my list, called The Room 806. Before I travelled there I called first to ask a bunch of questions. It is always a good thing to ask before you go to establish the tone of the personnel.

I see it this way, are they able to give you honest answers and are they polite? If they are, then that is usually a good sign that you can trust them. I also asked about my hair and if they had staff who could do it. I was assured that the hair stylist was the best and that he could perm my hair with no problems. Now the reason I was nervous was because of prejudice. You often hear people saying that certain people can’t do certain other people’s hair. And for the most part that may be true due to many factors. However, never let such things stop you from giving people a try. So I made the appointment and went to the salon!

I went with my friend because it was my first time and I believe in safety first. Also, if you are alone in any country and it’s your first time going somewhere new, please go with someone!

Getting there was an adventure because it was located in Roppongi. Although not a big part of Japan, it was hard to find the salon due to it not being on the main road. If you have ever tried finding a location with google while in Japan, you may notice that reading maps are ridiculously hard. (I can make a post about that if you’d like!)

After getting lost twice, we finally made it! I met my hair stylist Ico-san (ee-co-san). He was a cool Japanese man who know exactly what I wanted. He took the time to make me comfortable and was so meticulous in trimming and styling my hair. By the time I left it was a few hours, but I did not have to wait for another customer. The great thing about getting my hair done in Japan is that I never had to wait for other customers. No double bookings or late starts! Anywho, Ico-san was wonderful and I gave him a tip (you don’t have to tip in Japan, but I could not hold my gratitude. Also I am very American so Ico-san accepted.)

I must say that before going to Japan I hardly ever went to the salon because of the long waits and not being able to see the stylist I wanted/needed. Luckily during my year in Japan, I was able to see Ico-san on multiple occasions and as a result, my hair was healthy. Well, as healthy as permed hair could be.

Ico-san and I Japan 2016

So if you are ever in Japan and want to get your hair done, please see Ico-san and say Jazzi sent you!

Room806, 5 Chome-16-52 Roppongi, Minato City, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan, phone number: +81 3-5545-5486, Hours: 11am-9pm Sunday-Saturday

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Journey’s End: Radio Interview

On April 19 I had an interview in Brooklyn New York. I spoke about my book Journey’s End. This is the first of many great things happening! Enjoy.

The interviewer is Marilyn Silverman who is the Assistant Vice President, Marketing of the New American Chamber of Commerce. The radio show is called the Writers’ Café which can be reached on their website www.chambercoalition.org

Bucket List: New Zealand

Hello Groovy People!

It is May and in a few months I go to New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go, but the lack of money was a constant buzz kill. With proper planning, and time, a lot of time, I made it a reality this year.

Why was New Zealand on my bucket list in the first place? Well, why not! It is a country full of natural beauty and the filming location of some of my favorite movies and t.v. shows. Those shows were Xena and Hercules, and the movie was the Lord of the Rings (the good versions).

I have a serious case of wanderlust so that is another big reason. Whenever I am in one place too long, I feel the urge to leave and travel far.

I certainly will take pictures to document my time there for you to see.

Until then…

Purpose

Hello Groovy People

The following is a really personal post. My deepest inner thoughts. I may delete it, but since I have such a small following, I may allow it to stay.

When I originally left Japan I did so with becoming a writer on my mind. The goal was to work a regular 9-5 that did not require much mental input so that I could dedicate my energy fully to writing. The job would more so act like a safety net, providing me with an income while I went for my dream.

However, my insecurities and my inability to tune out others led me to pursue teaching. Basically when I published Journey’s End, I spent some money on a spot in BookCon. The idea was that my book would be among the best and be seen! When I finally went to BookCon, I realized that my book was in a section that no one went to, and my lack of understanding marketing led me to believe that I could never compete in the writing world.

So defeated I looked at other options. It also didn’t help that I could not find an office job. So back to subbing I went. People close to me suggested getting a real job and so I planned on going back to school. Subbing, as wonderful as it can be, was not paying my bills, nor was it a decent income with healthcare.

Are you confused yet? I sure was. I was so ready to be fully dedicated to writing, but seeing my book in the back of a huge expo with other titles no one bothered to read was crushing. I felt that I had to go for a job that could sustain me. Yet, my plan was to stop teaching all together. I think the issue is that I give up too easy. I give in too easy. I’ve been conditioned to get a career in teaching because it pays the bills and has healthcare. But I don’t want to teach! Not anymore at least. At one time, yes, I did want to teach. But at this time in my life, I want to change gears.

I am constantly trying, desperately, to please others. To do what is acceptable by society, and the people around me. But what I really want to tell people is that:

Teaching was great and I’ve done it for over 10 years! I may have not been a traditional teacher, but I taught. I am exhausted, I am done and I want to focus on my first love, writing!

But, people don’t get this. They don’t accept this. They think that my thoughts, my desires, my true intentions are unrealistic. Yes, I can certainly fall flat on my face. But until I truly live for myself and try my best, how can I know? How can anyone know? I think I’ve gone through so much hell because I was not fully honest with those around me, or myself.

I think the biggest reason why I don’t say how I feel is because I fear rejection. Rejection in the form of people judging me, telling me I am not realistic. Or they misunderstand my words altogether.

But I am so tired of doing what I think is right for everyone else. Can I be honest? I loved teaching and always will love teaching. But after 10 years of my own version of teaching, I am tired. I no longer feel a passion for it like I used to. Writing has been something that consumed me as a child and I let it go for a more realistic and conventional life. Unlike most people, I truly see the reality of this one life. I don’t want to waste anymore time by pushing my love of writing to the side.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that teaching is what I used to be, but being a writer is me too. Now I want to be fully committed. I want to take classes on writing and seek out agents and publishers. I want to make my dream a reality. Hell, I made living in Japan a reality. I am teaching in a class now due to my determination. I want to say the same for my writing.

My purpose is not just teaching, but writing as well. But the sad part is that I can never say this. Not without the rejection of others. So I’ll do it alone, in secret, in my own way.

Until then…

Feeling the Weight of Doubt

I doubt that I can make changes.

I doubt that I can do my best.

I doubt better things wait for me in the future.

I doubt if I will be here in the future.

I’m being crushed under the weight of terrible thoughts and disappointment.

I’m being suffocated under the weight of my insecurities and loneliness.

I feel helpless

hopeless

overwhelmed and underwhelmed with life

I cannot be stronger because of how weak I feel

what more can I do?

what can I do that I haven’t done before?

if nothing changed then, what can I truly expect now?

pointless and petrified I sit here with nothing to ponder

but my own demise

my own self loathing

self pity

pity party

wallowing in self sympathy

alone

utterly alone

Japan: A Loner’s Nook

Japan is a country with a dwindling population, with more elderly than live births. However, looking at videos of rush hour train service and the famous Shibuya crossing, you might think that Japan’s population is huge! This is simply not the case.

Japan is an island with a terrain that is massively mountainous. As a result, the cities and towns that have livable terrain are densely populated. Hence why cities like Tokyo seem so full of people.

To combat this, the Japanese create cities that are vertical. This means that buildings, whether they are commercial or not, are built up. Even a super store like Costco (yes there is one in Japan) is made vertically. The parking deck is on top, while the escalators drop at about a hundred or so feet to the actual store below. Even the shopping carts, which are just as massive as they are in the States, are able to be placed on the escalators for ease.

Even with densely populated cities and vertical buildings, nature is not neglected. Tokyo has many parks and places full of green. The buildings also have places full of foliage too!

Believe it or not, but if you want peace and quiet from the bustling city, you don’t have to find parks or temples, you can simply go to the top of the biggest mall high rises.

Let’s take Futako Tamagawa, a city where I lived for a year while I taught abroad. Futako Tamagawa is located in Tokyo, and easily accessible from the Den-en-toshi line. With easy access to other places in Tokyo such as Shibuya, and Jiyugaoka.

This is a town for mainly families, as you can’t go far without seeing a mother and her child going about their day. There is a park where you can enjoy a stroll. However, during the day, it can be quite busy. I personally liked going to one of the malls called Rise. There are about four distinct malls in the center of town. You can’t miss it!

In rainy weather, you can go underground, which has a ton of eateries and shops. Yet, if you are in search of solitude, head to the top, and I mean the very top of the high rise mall. Since there are about four different malls, access to each roof top varies.

So, let’s start with the mall, Takashimaya.

Picture from att-restaurant.net

With a unique design, this mall has several floors dedicated to shops, eateries, and a wonderful roof top terrace. As you can see, above the brown siding, there are many green shrubs and trees. You can access the roof from the elevator, or from inside via the escalator until you reach the top floor. There are small man made ponds and even a seating area. You may see some mothers with their children, but if you go in cold weather, you are more likely to find it absent of people all together.

Me in a walk way on the roof
Roof Top of Takashimaya from tokyourbanbaby.com
Notice the green escalator on the middle to the left. Now look below.
Going up the green escalator from the street.

You can also get to the mall from the street level via an outside escalator. Just traveling to the malls and navigating them is an adventure I am sure you can enjoy.

From Takashimaya’s rooftop, you can go into the main mall next to it and go up a few more floors from the elevator. These are positioned on the left side if you were to view the building from outside. Going up to the very top floor, you will notice the quiet, almost deafening sound of silence. Here is where many restaurants are located. (I’ll be sure to post a future article on the structure of the Japanese mall).

On this floor, in this particular building, there will only be a handful of restaurants, so there is little traffic. Go to the right from the elevator, and go towards the front of the building. From there, you will see perhaps two more elevators, which give you access to the rest of the mall. This area will only have two elevators and large windows. You can see the beauty of the landscape.

I didn’t know about this place until a week before I had to leave Japan. So I am sure to stop here in the future. There will be no place to sit here, so if you don’t mind being on the floor, sit and relax in complete solitude. Or until someone tells you, you can’t be there.

View from the top floor of the mall next to Takashimaya

Looking at the picture above, you can see the brown windows of the mall I mentioned earlier. The building I am in now is taller. This building also has a green rooftop terrace a few floors down. Their rooftop leads to the one in Takashimaya. Basically they’re both linked.

Now, if you go down the elevator from where I am, you can go all the way down to the street level. Across the street, you may see KFC. On the left of that, is the area that leads to the train station if you were to make a right. You will also be on the low level of the mall called Dogwood Plaza, located to your left. This mall has several floors and includes many stores, and restaurants. The restaurants are located on the top floor. There is no roof access here.

If you go further into the area that is close to the train station, but keep going forward, you will eventually pass a bus terminal. Going forward you will encounter stairs. Go up and look to the left or right.

In this picture, you are coming from the bus terminal and you can go up more stairs to the left or right. From there you can choose the roof top which usually has little to no people. I suggest the stairs to the right above the movie theater. There are high winds so please be careful. There is also a seating area that many people use for quiet relaxing time. Rarely will you have someone on the phone, or using the space to hang out with friends. So if you don’t mind people being around, this can also be a place of quiet comfort.

If you need another place to relax alone, there is an open seating area not on a roof, but going towards the park. Come from the bus terminal, and keep going straight. Looking below, you can see the area is not very busy. Usually this area is empty even with people walking around. The seats are the grey round mounds on the ground. Awkward at first to sit on, they are not too bad. If you have a bad back, I suggest finding somewhere else to sit.

Many cities offer these types of quiet places of refuge. However, Futako Tamagawa is different in that this place is mainly for families and has little to no tourists. So it is not actually as crowded as other places. Going about your day is easy.

Going through the area on the weekend can be a bit more challenging than the weekday. However, I aways say explore and see what you can find. There are always nooks for lonely people, and you never know what you can find.

I hope you enjoyed my post, I hope you can use it for the future. Also, any questions or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

A Stranger Upstairs

As I lay in bed, staring at the wooden ceiling, I can’t help but think of the old decor. The rustic windows, the floorboards weak from overuse. That smell of dust and dry air. I cling to the soft plushness of my comforter. My head burrows itself into the pillow as my feet bunch up the ends of the covers for warmth. It is particularly cloudy tonight, so there is little natural moon light. The room seems so dark and full of question. My mind races with the thought of what could be. I can barely see anything, so here I wait for sleep to come.

As I drift away to a solemn slumber, a noise stirs my body into consciousness. A bit annoyed, I soon delve into fear as I remember my entire family is on this floor, and not above. With my skin breaking into gooseflesh beneath the covers, I try to establish some reality. The house is old and at times, will create noise from the wood and worn out places.

I try to convince myself of this, and close my eyes to fall asleep. Then, I hear another sound, a breath. Try as I might to convince myself it is only my mind, I open my eyes to see a pair of dark ones staring back at me!

I scream, loud, until it screams too. It is my younger sister. She is covered in darkness, while begging me to let her stay. I sit up, and tell her to leave, but I must admit, I would like the company. 

So here we are, one adult and almost adult sharing a bed. Tucked in close, so close that I feel her quivering flesh. I too must feel the same. I tell her to stop shaking, but she can’t. 

She asks me if I can hear it. I ask her hear what? She tells me it is whispering. I don’t bother to ask what it is. I turn my body over and ball myself up like a small child. She still shakes, but soon my eyes become heavy, and I awake in a room bathed in sunlight. 

It is daytime, finally. After getting dressed, and going down stairs, I see our maids, Hilda, and Beatrice. The cook, Rose, prepares a variety of egg omelets. I ask them if they’ve seen my sister. When I awoke, she wasn’t in bed with me. But they say they haven’t seen her since yesterday. 

During breakfast, my parents eat while their eyes dig through their phones. It is a regular morning, silent and impersonal. I ask them if they’ve seen her. Who, they ask. My sister, I say. With their eyes firmly on their devices, they simply say, no.

She is seventeen, and has a habit of doing what she wants. But we are at a summer retreat in our grandparents home. I didn’t think she would be so eager to break free with all her friends being so far away. Yet, regardless of this, my parents do nothing, but make excuses. She is simply a brat doing rebellious teenage things, they say.

After eating, I go upstairs to see if she went back to her room. Why I didn’t think of this first is beyond me. Upon entering her room, I see nothing but a messy bed, and not much else. I don’t even smell her perfume, something she would put on before leaving, or anything out of place. I close the door and walk out to see an empty hallway. At one end, a window, from the right, a stairway leading down. To the left, a stairway leading up. On the other end of the hallway, a door. 

I go towards the window and to the right downstairs. As I leave, I do so with the ache in my mind that something is not quite right…


The following is a short story. Part two coming soon!

Author is Jasmine Clark. The work is fiction, and shall not be published, or sampled without the author’s permission.