Tag Archive | L’arc en Ciel

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.


Bravery To Know The Truth

I haven’t posted anything in about a week, and that post was on the serious side. What can I really say? I’m back to the desperate job seeking, money is tight, so I’m not really going anywhere and doing anything special. Not only that, but one of the cats is routinely urinating on the blankets I use at night, and my friend thinks it’s funny because “he’s just an animal who doesn’t know any better.”

So my self-worth has tanked. I was sitting on the sofa last night, staring randomly towards the floor, while my blankets were in the wash, and I was thinking there was no point to washing the quilt covering the sofa if it was going to get peed on again, that I might as well just deal with it since my skin never actually touched the part that got wet. Maybe I should just stop caring when the living room smells like cat urine, and let my friend deal with the smell while I’ve been blessed right now with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel worthy of sleeping with clean bedding. I didn’t even feel like my friend cared, like she would think differently if it was her things getting ruined and she had to clean her bedding before sleeping, but I just had to put up with it.

But that much wasn’t important, other than to say I was feeling pretty miserable. My phone, which was sitting on my lap, alerted me to a new e-mail message: “I can talk in about 30 minutes, if you would like.” It was from my friend in Japan.

We hadn’t talked in about two or three weeks. There was a disagreement between us, which resulted in the usual bout of silence. I had the last words, which I used to get a few things off my chest which had been bothering me, but I knew those words could also be my last words ever so I stressed that what I was saying wasn’t out of anger or spite but my own concerns.

If I hadn’t thought about him every day, then it was every other day. I thought about what I said, and I know how it sounded. When I was feeling weak, I considered apologizing for the things I said, but then I reminded myself to stand behind my words. I had concerns, I needed to address them, and I did, so why turn around and wave it off like I wasn’t bothered? I imagined conversations with him and how they would go. And I often looked out the windows towards the street and towards my car, on the off-chance that he got the nerve to come all this way to see me just to say what he needed to say. At night, I just had to pull the blankets over my shoulder and tell myself to stop trying to imagine that I’m living in some romantic comedy.

I really didn’t think that I was going to hear from him again. I questioned how long it would be before I would stop thinking of him. But then his message was met with a bit of uncertainty on my part, so I responded with an “okay.” When he messaged me later to say he was ready to call, I responded with another, “okay.” It’s not the greatest way to begin a conversation, I’ll admit, because I could have been in any kind of mood to give a simple “okay” and he wouldn’t know if things were fine or if I’d bite his head off. The phone conversation started with telling me he was only going to be on the phone for about a half hour. When he got into what he wanted to say, which was his response to my last e-mail and a few things left unanswered, I started to interject and he told me not to interrupt him. He had things he wanted to say, things I didn’t quite understand, and he wanted to make sure he said as much as he could in the time he had.

At one point, I noticed his voice was a bit shaky. I’ve thought about that a few times over the past day. Was it hard for him to say what he did? Was he nervous? Was he determined? Was he scared that I would escalate the argument and start screaming at him?

After two hours, he said he was ending the call. It was only the fourth or fifth time during that call that he said he was going to hang up, so part of me wondered if he was going to think of yet another thing to talk about with me. We got past the worst of the call, as we started talking about my job search. I was laid off a few days after our argument, and I never wrote to him to tell him about that. I just wanted him to think I was still doing okay, that I had a grasp on life and was taking care of things. So when he mentioned me working, I had to let him know what happened. I think it changed his mood a bit, because the conversation did shift gears. It wasn’t about resolving conflicts and having courage to do so, it was about realizing that I had more pressing issues than how things were going with him.

And then we talked about Himuro, which was the most fun part of the conversation. So it’s no wonder that the conversation as a whole lasted almost two hours. It wasn’t spoken, but perhaps we just miss each other at times like these.

I went to bed feeling a little better about things between us. Well, that and my blankets were fresh from the dryer and they were amazingly warm and cozy. I desperately needed the pick-me-up, and my Japanese friend will never realize how meaningful it was to hear from him at all at that moment.

Well, the sun is coming up. I’m not even tired, but this is exactly what my friend would complain about: my habitual bedtimes that fall in the early hours of the morning. It’s only 6 pm in Japan, which means if he finds this before he goes to bed, I’m going to wake up to a potentially unhappy e-mail from him. So… nighty-night!

My Waifu! ^_^

All right, so after all the views that I’m getting for the entry about Charles (Charusharu), it seems like people out there are curious about him or are already watching his videos. If you haven’t, here’s his latest from his alternate channel:

If he said his waifu was Sailor Mars,… I don’t know, I think I’d be done with the internet at that point, because otherwise I’d sit here and be all, “OMG Sailor Mars is my favorite of the Sailor Senshi and I have her deck from the collectible card game that came out and she’s just my favorite and I…”

Relax, take a breath, don’t be awkward…

Scratch that, it’s too late. I’m already being awkward. Might as well own it!

So what is a waifu? As Charles’ video explains, using a definition from ye olde Urban Dictionary, a waifu is basically your two-dimensional wife, it’s the character you would marry if it were possible to do so. The male version is a husbando. It’s not really limited to anime characters, your waifu/husbando can be a musician, an actor, or a character in a movie or book or television show.

My comment earlier today was to say that my husbando was Hyde from Vamps and L’arc en Ciel. It’s not entirely true.

My husbando, right now, would probably be Kyosuke Himuro. He has a voice like black velvet when he’s singing ballads, and I think the perfect evening spent with him would be spent under the moonlight of a summer’s night with him singing to me. He also has a well-toned body, like he works out and eats a fair amount of protein. Some of his body language suggests he has an ego, which would be nice to be around a guy with that much self-confidence. I like watching his concert performances, because I like his energy and the way he moves along with the songs. He also seems like a bit of a playful badass with a heartfelt side, but I have no basis for that other than his songs and just how he seems to act.

My waifu would probably be Hyde. I know, he’s a guy. But he has a more slender figure than Himuro, and Hyde has also cross-dressed as Harley Quinn and as a geisha-like character, so he’s rather androgynous. Just like Himuro, I wouldn’t mind being serenaded at night by Hyde. Hyde has a slightly deeper, slightly raspy voice, but it’s still nice to listen to. Hyde’s energy on-stage is different from Himuro, in that it comes from Hyde’s shyness and bashfulness. Hyde rocks out to his music just the same, but his dancing and spinning seem to be more of his personal enjoyment of the music. Back to his bashfulness, I think I would have too much fun, every now and then, doing things that would make him blush. I think he would be fun to be around by day, sometimes even at night. If we’re on the same wavelength, he seems like the kind who could tap into my sadness when I’m feeling down and make me feel like everything is going to be alright.

If I had to pick an anime husbando, it would probably be Sebastian from Black Butler. At least if I promise to be with him for eternity, there would be the possibility of that actually happening. I mainly chose him because I’d likely do like Ciel and be a little shit towards Sebastian, taking sarcastic shots at him when possible but knowing he gives as good at he gets. But I’d be impressed by his work ethic and skills, because after all, he’s one hell of a butler. Can you imagine him as a significant other? If he plans a romantic evening, you know that no detail will be spared, and you’d likely have a really classy experience.

Another husbando would be Kyohei from The Wallflower. Okay, so he has his moments where he only cares about what’s in it for him, but at the same time he does care about Sunako. I might not be able to deal with him if he often thinks only of himself, but if he points out when I’m being unreasonable or otherwise lights a fire under me when I want to shut out the world, then he’d be good to keep around. Also, he’s one of the most gorgeous people in the story (not an opinion, that’s part of his character as a “radiant being” or “creature of light”), so if I really wanted to be superficial about my choices, I would go for the pretty boy who gets into a lot of fights because he’s so pretty.

Do I have more on my waifu/husbando list? Yes, yes I do. There’s at least two more, but if it wasn’t so late, I could probably think of a few others.

But don’t tell ME who your waifu is! Go watch Charles’ video and leave a comment over there. No, seriously, watch the video and comment over there, and share the video with your friends. We’re going to get 1,ooo views on that video within a week. Let’s do it!

Kore Wa Pen Desu – How My Scatterbrain Learns Japanese

Mornings around here are hit or miss. Either everyone is reasonably quiet, or I’m just in a very deep sleep when they’re getting ready to leave for school and work, because some mornings I don’t wake up until 9 am or so. Other mornings, it’s either a manic 6-year-old with no volume control regardless of how many times you tell him to be quiet, or it’s a banshee in her mid-thirtees complaining about what does and doesn’t get done properly around here. This morning was a combination of both noisy individuals, but it was fine because I had to wake up at a reasonable hour since a guest was stopping by around 9 am.

With all of this time on my hands, what was I to do? Supposedly, early daytime hours are better for learning things. I’ve only learned to either obey the alarm clock or go back to sleep for another hour. As long as I was awake, I pulled out Memrise and Mindsnacks.

I had the word kore (これ, this) drilled into my head by Memrise. It reminded me that the first phrase Japanese-speakers tend to learn when they’re learning English is “this is a pen.” So, I decided to teach myself how to say “this is a pen” in Japanese.

Google Translate converted the English into これわペンです.

I, however, don’t understand why it can’t be written as これわぺんです. So when I typed that into Google Translate and made it spit the English back at me, it said “this is very confusing.” You’re absolutely correct, Google! It IS very confusing! The hiragana is phonetically correct, so why can’t it still say, “this is a pen?” But I’m here to learn, not to teach, so I’ll have to do some research on that and talk about it later.

The new hiragana I did learn, I could write about it here, but typing the hiragana isn’t going to help me learn the hiragana. The computer already knows the symbol, I just have to type the letters for the sound it makes.

Speaking of, I’m going to get thrown by め and ぬ. One is me (pronounced may) and the other is nu (pronounced new). So it’s not just a matter of looking at the one and thinking, “it looks like no but has a little u-like marking, so it must be nu.” NO! I have to look for the little curlicue on the bottom right of the character in order to tell them apart.

I tried doing the N5 sample questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, just to see if I had advanced at all since the last time I tried looking at the questions. I still have much to learn, because even though I know more of the hiragana characters, I don’t feel as if I have all of the vocabulary learned and therefore there’s a disconnect.

And I don’t remember what word I was trying to commit to memory, but I was trying to put a word into context by putting it in a sentence so I’d remember it. Unfortunately, I noticed I was using Spanish articles. I learned some Spanish in high school, and I guess my mind only wants to have one secondary language. If it happens again, I’ll have to write down the sentence I was trying to make, because I had some wires crossing somewhere and I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Of the hiragana I do have memorized, I have ka (か) down pat. I associate it with my most recent Dungeons & Dragons character Kha’knacca, a tiefling warlock who acquired Hyde (yes, Hyde from L’arc en Ciel) as a sort of pet bard. Well, I’m far enough into Memrise that ka is now its own vocabulary term, and it translates to “mosquito.” Considering how many times people wanted to swat Kha’knacca, I guess か is rather fitting.

I’m watching more Kyosuke Himuro music videos tonight. I tried pulling myself away for a day or two, as my mood had changed a bit, but I’m still mesmerized despite watching the same music videos day in and day out. Also, I want to gaze into his eyes more, because they look like pools of ink from what I can see in the videos. I’m so used to seeing people with different colored irises, to the point where solid black irises are mysterious to me. That has nothing to do with learning Japanese, however, people have added the lyrics to his songs at the bottom of some of the videos. Knowing more hiragana helps a bit, because I can follow along with the lyrics even though I still don’t know kanji. One day, I’ll be able to do Himuro’s songs at karaoke without needing to look up the romaji lyrics, but that’s going to take some practice.

A Vamps song just came on. Hyde, you’re not helping my Japanese education by singing in English! You get a pass for putting dragons and a moon in the video for Replay. You did, however, inspire me to look up some of the first Japanese words I ever committed to memory, so you did teach me some Japanese. I’ll save that post for another day, or maybe I’ll turn a song into a vocabulary list.

For now, it’s late and I must be off to bed. Not that I have anything to do tomorrow, since my interview was cancelled. But there’s more Japanese to learn, and more self-awareness questions to answer. Tomorrow is just another day to do it all.

I Think I’m Learning Japanese

I barely know the difference between ki and sa. I know the hiragana for ki, but I can’t seem to recall the one without the extra line is sa.

The easy one for me to remember is no, because it looks like an ampersand.

I can sort of recall a and i, and shi.

Somehow, all of these characters make words with particular sounds.

If you don’t know Japanese, you can stare at a word such as いただきます and hear silence in your head. That’s my problem. Yet it’s amazing to think that I normally stare at lines and squiggles and form sounds in my mind. At some point in my early development, my parents took me aside and said, “okay, when you see this symbol, it makes this sound.” And if you think about it, that’s also what the Japanese parents have done. We are conditioned to accept that a few lines make certain sounds and words.

I’ve heard it said that Japanese is easier than English. There’s a lot of truth to that, because after you read this, you can say you read this, and if you picked up on the change to the past tense then you’re already aware that English letters can change their sounds depending on how they’re used. In Japanese, a will always be pronounced like in spa, i will always be pronounced like ski, and every other character will always be pronounced one way. So yes, that does make things easy.

However, instead of 26 letters that can be rearranged to form different sounds, there are 48 different characters in hiragana alone. Okay, that sounds like more work. And yet, if you were to write down all of the different letter arrangements for English, you would actually end up with more combinations, leading to different sounds as well. There’s all of these confusing rules about “i before e, except after c” which confuses anyone who’s weird and feisty.

But English is just English. There are just the 26 letters that can be formed and arranged and what not. Japanese consists of three writing sets which are hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Hiragana and katakana are your phonetic characters, both sets are few in number but can show up everywhere. Katakana is usually used for foreign words, like if you look up Final Fantasy in Wikipedia, you’ll see the katakana that’s used to basically pronounce the words using Japanese syllables. Kanji is serious business. There’s over 6,000 characters, but if you know one character, you know a whole word. If you’re handwriting and you have too few or too many brushstrokes, your one word might become a completely different word. Sentences and phrases combine at least kanji and hiragana together, though katakana is still important.

Oh, and if you thought homophones were insane in English, just wait until you learn Japanese! In English, sure, you have their, there and they’re. Those words aren’t far from each other, because they’re taking their things and putting them there. Maybe as a native English speaker, that makes perfect sense to me and I can’t possibly confuse the three words. So far in learning Japanese, I’ve come across niji in a Mindsnacks lesson, and niji as a song title. One means rainbow, and the other means 2 o’clock. The only time you could have those in the same sentence is to say there was a rainbow at 2 o’clock.

It’s a quarter to 2 in the morning, and Niji just started playing in iTunes. Please buy Heart, it’s an excellent L’arc en Ciel album. Meanwhile, my computer is scaring me because it did that. I might need to make my computer less intelligent before it becomes sentient.

Anyway, I feel like no matter what I learn, no matter what seems to be committed to memory, I don’t actually feel like I’m learning anything.

I don’t know how to form sentences.

I barely know any phrases, except for one-word phrases like greetings and such.

I know a few words. I don’t know enough to know the entire context of a sentence without having to look up other words in a sentence. And oddly enough, the words I’m most familiar with are probably the words I’ve looked up on the side.

My goal is to learn Japanese. My plan is to take formal lessons. My dream plan is to do so in Japan, where I can practice what I learn because of immersion. But until then, I have phone apps, a Nintendo DS game, and my computer if I want to use Anki more often than not.

I’d like to walk into a beginner’s lesson, and before class begins I’d like to introduce myself to the teacher in Japanese and basically say I want to be challenged a bit. I should probably know my shit or hold my tongue, because being cocky might cause my grades to be based on higher level work instead of what the rest of the class is handing in.

However, if I don’t have that confidence, perhaps I could introduce myself to the teacher and say something like, “I’ve been trying to teach myself, but I’ve been having issues with remembering the difference between these characters. I’m sure we won’t be up to that point in the lesson, but I’d like to work on it so I don’t fall behind in class.”

If I can at least pass the N5, which is the lowest category for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, then I’ll be happy. I’ll certainly try for the other exams, N4 all the way to N1, but the N5 will be evidence to me that something is getting through.

So with that, join me as I try to hear random brushstrokes. Yeah, it feels like that.

No offense to native Japanese speakers, because you probably had the same reaction to reading English words when you first learned them, so I think we can agree upon something, that English is hard.

Empty Orchestra, Empty Room

I did karaoke img_8ca31b64d0ae-1on Thursday night!

You would think that the mere mention of such an event would mean that it was my first time ever doing karaoke, that I managed to work through some fears so I could face a crowd. Unfortunately, I have a long history with karaoke, which should probably make it one of my least favorite things if it didn’t tap into my childhood dreams of wanting to be a famous singer.

Many moons ago, I was at a wedding for my cousin. I’m not sure if it was her first wedding, but it wasn’t her last wedding. At the reception, they passed around a stapled pile of paper with songs listed on the pages, along with pieces of paper so you could write your name and what song you chose to have performed. I chose a Taylor Dayne song because I was young and obsessed with Taylor Dayne’s music. Of course, none of us knew what karaoke was, least of all my mom. So when my name was called and I had to come forward, I had already seen a few people singing so I knew what to expect. I was pumped and ready to sing me some Taylor Dayne! Some words came up on the screen, but since there wasn’t any music playing, I didn’t think much of it because it wasn’t Taylor Dayne, the words were “Mountain Music.” Surely it’s the company that made the karaoke stuff, right? Nope, it was a country song that I didn’t know at all. I was a young kid, standing in front of my extended family, apparently looking cute and precocious and stuff because I was confused about this song and how to sing it and why I was even performing it! Sometime later, I did finally sing my Taylor Dayne song. At least I think I sang it.

Sometime after that wedding reception, Mom bought me a karaoke cassette that had four Taylor Dayne songs and four Paula Abdul songs, with one side being instrumental and the other side having someone else doing the vocals. I did always enjoy singing along to the original Taylor Dayne albums, but I didn’t often play the karaoke cassette.

For my 21st birthday, my coworkers invited me out to do karaoke after work and to get my first ever alcoholic drink. To be honest, it was my first legal alcoholic drink, with my first ever alcoholic drink being consumed a few days prior. Anyway, I don’t remember what songs I performed, but I do remember an Asian guy singing She Will Be Loved with a moderate accent.

Since then, my karaoke experience has been Singers and SingStar. Singers is an awesome karaoke club in the area that’s open seven days a week. SingStar is a Playstation game. It all depends on whether or not I want to leave my dwelling, or rather it depends on whether or not I want to wear pants or pajamas, that determines if I’ll go out for karaoke or stay in. Singers has the most song choices, but Singers is convenient because I don’t have to go anywhere. Decisions, decisions.

When I lived in New Jersey, I missed Singers. Despite repeated promises to take me out for karaoke, my ex-fiance never followed through, but I doubt anyplace could ever compare to Singers. I did have SingStar, though, to satisfy any karaoke cravings I had.

When I moved back into the area, one thing led to another and I discovered this place called Palace Music Studio. I had to go, not because it was karaoke, but because it promised to have Japanese music to perform in private rooms like they have in Asian countries. Unfortunately their website didn’t even list examples of what artists’ songs you could expect to find, but it did say to make a reservation at least three days in advance.

I decided to try going without a reservation. So last Sunday, I went during business hours according to Google… and the place was closed. Depending on where you looked, whether you looked at Yelp or Google, there were different hours listed. While I was standing outside of a darkened storefront, I read the board that listed the hours and noted that the place was only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Feeling bad for the reduced days of operation, I vowed to return on Thursday.

I figured if they had to reduce the days they were open, then Palace must not get a lot of business. So of course, I returned without a reservation on Thursday. I walked in and was greeted by a guy who was about my age and seemed to be about as Asian as I am, which is to say he wasn’t Asian at all. Mind you, Palace Music Studio is part of a group of four Asian businesses residing at one address, with each of the businesses having a strong Korean/Japanese influence. The restaurant in the plaza is Korean/Japanese, Han’s is Chinese/Korean/Japanese/Thai and what not, Tous les Jours is Korean/Japanese easily. So at Palace, I almost expected to be greeted by an Asian person. No big deal.

So I walked in, asked to do karaoke, was put in a room, and then the guy taught me how to use the controller before leaving me to my devices. The karaoke system is in Korean, with just enough English on the controller that I could navigate my way through the menus. I could choose which country’s music I wanted to perform, and I stayed in the Japan category. Now, I don’t know any Korean, so thankfully there was English on the controller and Japanese characters on the screen once I was in the Japan category. However, for what little Japanese I know, the alphabetical arrangement was a little off, assuming there was some semblance of alphabetical order. The printed book with all of the songs had some order to it, but it was still confusing to me. I found myself navigating on the controller and looking at all of the songs listed, until later on when I felt brave enough to flip through the book again.

I found… Hyde! Okay, we were off to a good start. I sang Hello, only to discover at the end that there was a scoring system. I got a 100, which I assume is the best I could do, but I don’t know what the basis was for the score. I found some L’arc en Ciel, I sang some L’arc en Ciel. I found Tetsu69, which is Tetsuya from L’arc en Ciel, and I sang Tightrope. I found Vamps! I sang Love Addict, which is completely in English! In fact, Love Addict was the only song where I didn’t use my phone. I actually pulled up song lyrics on my phone, because the karaoke visuals were in kanji. A few times I lost my place with the lyrics, and I actually had to use what little hiragana I knew to get myself back on track.

After a few songs, knowing I was nearing the one-hour mark, I decided to wrap things up by choosing one last song. That’s when I spotted Departures in the book. I punched in the number, queued it up, and sang it to the best of my knowledge and ability. Then I packed up, I grabbed the microphone and headed to the front desk to pay for my stay.

On the drive home, I was so giddy! It didn’t matter how well I did, because I was laughing at my mistakes as much as I was patting my back. It was just a great feeling to be able to do karaoke like that, to do Japanese songs that I liked and everything.

After I got back to my friend’s house, she asked me about how karaoke went. She thought I was meeting someone there, but I didn’t, I went alone and sang by myself. I honestly don’t think I have any friends around here who would be willing to do J-pop karaoke with me, at least not willingly. I know a few people who live closer to NYC and New Jersey who would be interested, but then I assume they’re too busy anyway. I’m not even bothered by going alone. Would awful Japanese karaoke performances be better with friends? Certainly. Do I need to bring friends along with me? Absolutely not. I’m quite comfortable doing my own thing, that I’m not hindered by the thought that I need to bring friends along with me when I go places.

When I finally get to Japan, I feel like I’ll survive somehow. I know I’ll post my experiences to Facebook for everyone to see, but I feel like I can otherwise manage without much socialization. And let’s not forget, there’s karaoke, there’s more Japanese karaoke for me to enjoy. The word is a contraction of “empty orchestra,” but I don’t mind the emptiness of the orchestra or the room as long as I’m filled with the happiness from just doing something I enjoy. Yeah, that was sappy. but it worked.


I can’t begin to describe how bright the colors were, but I can try. The sky was a brilliant shade of azure, without a cloud to hide the warm rays of sunlight that were shining down upon the emerald green expanse. My mom and I were on a cliff that overlooked some plains that seemed to go on forever from where we stood. I wasn’t looking at the amazing view, however, I was looking at my mom, and I enjoyed seeing her there with me. I could hear Hyde’s song Horizon playing from somewhere, only to wake up and see it was playing on my computer.

I had that dream years ago when I first got into Japanese rock music and especially Hyde’s solo project outside of L’arc en Ciel. At the time, Mom was still alive, and Dad would’ve been alive as well I believe. I don’t know why my interest in Japanese music faded for a while, aside from saying that something in my life affected my interest.

After moving to New Jersey and being introduced to Mitsuwa Marketplace, my interest in Hyde Japanese music and everything else was brought to life once again. By that time, Mom had passed and Dad had already been deceased. Hearing Horizon once again actually became emotional for me, because I remembered the dream, I remembered seeing Mom and I wished I could use the song to teleport into the dream and live there.

If I ever hear someone perform the song in front of me, my heart may burst. Horizon opens with an acoustic guitar, then gradually adds drums, electric guitar and bass. For each of the verses and for the only English lyrics, the song drops back to the acoustic guitar backing. Unless, of course, it’s still just an electric guitar the whole time and it only sounds acoustic, in which case I’d still enjoy hearing an acoustic guitar version.

The lyrics speak of lost love, of wanting to wake up to a partner and be held by them once more. It’s a romantic loss, not the loss of a parent, though there are days when I would like to wake up to the sound of my mother’s voice (even if she’s yelling at me to get out of bed) and know that she’s still with me. A loss is a loss, whether it’s a parent or the greatest love of your life, and Horizon captures the pain and depression that comes from the grief and the absence. There’s a lyric that, roughly translated, talks about barbed wire wrapping around him, and that it becomes tighter the more he struggles. The more you think about the one you’ve lost, and the more you realize that maybe they’re not coming back, the more it hurts deep inside.

You can find the lyrics at Centigrade-J, but Horizon was released as a single so you can find an official music video for it as well. I recommend buying Hyde’s album 666, because Horizon is on that album along with Hello, Midnight Celebration (which he still performs at Vamps concerts), and a few other songs that are worth hearing.

And you can expect me to talk about other songs that Hyde has performed, but I do have other performers who are worth a discussion. If you’re expecting me to not talk about how a song relates to my life, that’s something I won’t change. I don’t like songs just because they sound amazing, I like music because it connects to my life and emotions. To me, that’s what a good song is supposed to do, and that’s how I want to share my favorite songs with others.