Wednesday, August 13, 2014

"じゃね" for now...

My last full day in Japan was in Tokyo, when a bit of the typhoon hit.  It was misty and cloudy all day.  Luckily, right before I left for the wrap party, the clouds cleared into this magical, moody, emotional skyscape.

The party was beyond words.  So many wonderful people who I met through this experience, and whom I'll never forget were there.  People who have literally changed my life and made some of my biggest, most impossible dreams come true!  Everyone treated me with such genuine love and kindness.  It really is such an honor to have been able to work with this team, this Studio, this film!

The night of the party was Sara Takatsuki's 17th birthday!  Here she is looking adorable with her cake from a few days before.  She is like a little sister to me, who I look up to and respect.  I learned so much from her on this tour.

Here I am giving my long speech at the party, standing in front of the "Good Bye" illustration by Toshio Suzuki!

Everyone I worked with on the tour signed little 'tanabata' with farewell messages on this "still" photo from "When Marnie Was There".  I was so moved by this.

Kaonashi, drawn by its creator, singing "Fine On The Outside"!  After this party, we had a small Karaoke hang, that went until 4am.  I'll never forget this night!  

As the airplane took off, my heart was breaking a little, and I couldn't stop the tears from coming.
I'd only had this feeling before when leaving my family in Korea.  But it truly felt like I was leaving another family, there in Japan.  I don't know when I'll get the chance to see all these beautiful people again.  But I cherish them in my life, and will never ever forget them.

A few hours later, I was greeted with a glimpse of the super Moon across the horizon.

And on a happier note, I'll be back in Japan in less than a month!  haha!  To perform on NHK's "Asaichi" morning TV program, to promote the new theme song I wrote for Season 2 of "Soko wo nantoka", and record a new song with Toshiaki Matsumoto for "Minna no Uta".  I hope this means I'll get to keep coming back again and again!


p. a. 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Yohei Taneda Exhibition

I've had the honor of performing at Yohei Taneda-san's "思い出のマーニー"  ["When Marnie Was There"] Exhibition tonight, alongside Takatsugu Muramatsu-san, accompanying on piano!  I look up to these 2 people very much.  They are both one-of-a-kind, incredible talents!

If you've seen the movie already -- or even if you haven't -- you should really see this exhibition while you still can!!  The intricate detail and thought that Taneda-san and his team put into this exhibition is so captivating from start to finish.  Photography is not allowed inside, but I was given very special permission to post photos from the inside to share with all of you!!!  These photos only show a few of the highlights to see when you go in person, and of course it doesn't quite capture all the detail and the actual 'feeling' of being there.  There really is a feeling there... the smell of the wood, the wind in the silo!  Please check this exhibition out in person while you still can!

SPOILER ALERT!!!  If you are planning on visiting the museum... maybe don't look at these photos!  Because it really was so eye-opening to be surprised by every new room, you may want to wait to see it in person first!

July 27 - September 15

Original drawings on display by Taneda-san as well as the Director, Hiromasa Yonebayashi-san.

It really feels like you're there in the Marsh House.

Beautiful hand-drawn wallpaper design

Amazing 3-D replicas of scenes with holograms and day to night changes!

Anna's Memories Room

Here is an original edition of "When Marnie Was There", found in a library in Santa Monica -- of all places!

With Takatsugu Muramatsu-san ~ Film Composer Extraordinaire

With Yohei Taneda-san ~ Art Director and Production Design Genius

From Marnie's Room, with Love,

p. a.

Saturday, August 2, 2014


Matsuyama is a pretty special place.  It's name means "Pine Mountain".  How cool is that?!

As we drove into town, we saw this old building that just looked so cool!  We had to pull over and take photos of it.  Turns out it's an old onsen, with a history stretching back over 1000 years!  Dōgo Onsen.  It ALSO turns out that the onsen from "Spirited Away" is modeled after this onsen!!!  

Our hotel was right around the corner, with it's own Onsen as well, which I totally took advantage of, right after this ginormous and beautifully prepared meal.  

 This hotel also has an outdoor Noh Theater!

More old streetcars in Matsuyama

More Ghibli graffiti!

Me, eating more cakes!!!  >.<  This roll cake is special to the area, with Adzuki filling and a slight yuzu taste.

I have to say, my favorite thing about Matsuyama are the skies.  This photo doesn't give you an amazing view of it... but constantly I kept looking at the skies.  They were always so vast, and expansive.  Even at night, in the darkness, they were dramatic and velvety.  I'm so thankful I got a chance to visit this city!

p. a.

Hiroshima - 24 hours

This was my first visit to Hiroshima.  I felt such sadness as the train rolled in...knowing what had happened here.  As hard as I try, I'll never be able to truly understand the devastation that took place here.  It breaks my heart so many times over just to think about it, to know it.  And it just kills me that after we know how absolutely horrifying nuclear weapons are, there are hundreds of them in existence today.

After we arrived to the hotel, we had 30 minutes before dinner.  I immediately dropped off my bags, and went out for a walk.  I saw some mountains in the dark distance, and I wanted to get to them somehow in this little bit of alone time I had... to think, to reflect, to remember.  I was very happy that I could reach the mountains in about 12 minutes.  And once there, I found a temple.

There was a beacon of light glowing from the top of this mountain.  I wanted to go there somehow.
But alas... my free time was up and I had to rush back to the hotel for dinner.

We all hopped in taxis and drove to Hassei for dinner.

The guy behind the counter was serious at what he did... which was make seriously, super delicious Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki over a hot, hot counter.  Cooking, chopping, sauteing, then wiping clean and starting all over again.

This wasn't the 1st time people from Ghibli had come to stop by.  Below you can see Totoro with a Kaonashi mask drawn by Toshio Suzuki.

Special sauce

Then we all left signatures on the ceiling...  Here is the Director Hiromasa Yonesbayashi, drawing Marnie.

The famous (and truly humble) Masashi Ando, drawing Anna.

Anna Takatsugi, replicating a drawing from "When Marnie Was There"

And then me.
Here's the think... I really can't draw so.... I signed my name and drew a little stick figure girl with a heart balloon.  It's sort of my "thing".  But when I did, everyone was like, "What is that?"  It had nothing to do with the movie.  I didn't know what to do!!!  Anyway, that's how I left it.  P.S.  It's REALLY hard to draw on ceilings!!!

Yoshiaki Nishimura, the Producer, wrote the title of the movie and the date.

And there you have it.

The next morning I did something I never do, which is wake up 3 hours before my lobby call.  I was set on getting to the top of that mountain!  In order to get there, I decided to go by way of the Hiroshima Toshogu Shrine and then the Kinko Inari Shrine.  

Leading to the inner shrine at Kinko Inari, there are over 100 torii and 500 stone steps.  I was wearing fake Toms, and I definitely felt this the next day.  I'm sure if I wasn't a cheapo and wore REAL Toms, I wouldn't have been as sore or guilty feeling about not just buying real Toms.

The toriis led deeper into the mountain.

Then they ended, and straight ahead, lay the narrow, soft forest trail.

I followed this to a crest, and then along a ridge inside the woods, and came across these steps.

Hiroshima today.

The beacon at the top of the mountain is the Mt. Futaba Peace Pagoda.

Constructed in 1966 as a stupa for praying for everlasting world peace and for the souls of the atomic bomb victims.

After taking some time here, I head back down the way I came.

Again, after another interview, I had 30 minutes of free time, and we also happened to be right by a Castle.

Hiroshima Castle

The streetcar tracks throughout the city are still intact.  It's interesting to see the old brick running down the middle of the street. 

For lunch we ate spicy noodles.  These really tasted Korean to me!

You were supposed to dip the noodles into the hot sauce... but I found this really difficult because of the spice.

So I did what any foreigner Half-Korean would do, and I mixed my sauce and noodles together.  :)

Of course we visited the Atomic Bomb Dome, but by the time we got there, I barely had time to finish reading the information board.  And this didn't feel right to me.  All in all, I really wish I'd had more time in this city.  I know I will definitely be back.

We left Hiroshima by Ferry.  

Waving goodbye to our hosts on shore!

Snacking on a yummy mochi-like Adzuki cake

This ferry also brought up sad feelings for me, because of the horrible incident that happened in Korea recently.  I reflected and prayed for their souls as well.

(I'm sorry this post is mixed with very serious feelings.)

There is so much that has happened in this world, in our histories, mistakes made but hopefully never forgotten.  I hope we can all see that we're all just people sharing this planet together... no matter our race, religion, age, or agenda.  We all have the same blood in our veins, similar hearts beating, feelings of loneliness, feelings of hope.  We all were once children who just wanted to play.

p. a.