Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Tokushima [Awa Ikeda] :The town that just can't stop dancing.

There is only one spring when you are 16, only one summer when you are 18 and only one winter when you are 21.

I had only one spring when I was 16, a spring I have no recollections of.
However, I believe my summer of 18 is making up for all the memories I forgot to make when I was 16 and the years before that.

Becoming stronger by meeting people who have survived unthinkable disasters, listening to their stories and being touched right in the depths of my soul by their strength; discovering hope and traveling all the way down to the south to discover music and dance really does transcend through culture, race and language. That it really is the language of the heart.

It's been a few months since I have moved to Japan and less than a month before I turn 19 years old. Therefore I want to write down all my traveling experiences within Japan and share not only my story but people who I come across. I want to show you the Japan that isn't written in high school textbooks and tourist brochures.

Although I have been to quite a few places, I will start off with my latest trip to Tokushima in the Shikoku islands, south of Japan since the feeling of the trip is still fresh and alive!

So in Tokushima, I went for the Awa Odori festival which is a type of Bon odori (dance), done during the Obon( a traditional festival/holiday for the Japanese people where they believe during these three days their ancestors' spirits come to visit them).  Awa Odori is quite famous so I won't go into details about the festival because you can actually find out more details from the internet rather than my biased explanation.

  Awa Ikeda was the name of the town where we were planning to dance along with the locals.  I traveled from Tokyo with other members who also were going to Tokushima and participating for the first time. Our team was called 「あっぱ連 」Apparen which stands for the highest and lowest of emotions (although it's really hard to literally translate in English).

Although the dance was traditional and nothing like how you dance in night clubs and studios, the feeling was exhilarating and as much as tiring as any other dance.We moved through the narrow streets. Bending our backs like old men, trying to synchronize our arms and feet while taking steps forward, trying to match with the pace of the drums. And did, I mention smiling throughout all of it? Just as the phrase of awa odori, "Odori was yamerarenai," we literally couldn't stop dancing. The whole mood of the festival was so contagious,

Awa Odori wasn't the only 'first' I had in Tokushima. I experienced a lot of other firsts like buying my first yukata with a whole set for a ridiculously cheap price comparing to Tokyo. Trying out my first senkou hanabi (Japanese firesticks/sparklers however you call them). I also saw my first 'Yankee' or delinquent as you may call. (Bleached hair, pompadour and tanned skin?)

And I thought they were just a myth or characters that existed only in 90s mangas. I couldn't have been more wrong. They were everywhere in Tokushima. It was like the whole population was secretly hiding down there. They were in front of the train stations, in the bath houses and even dancing awa Odori! And before you jump to conclusion, Yankees are NOT bad guys. According to Lily and Kyoji from Apparen, it's a phase kids get into during high school and some, some they just never grow out of it. I guess in a way it's a fashion subculture, as good as gyaru (NO JOKES).

 The footwear for our dance costume was called 'Tabi' made out of cloth and thin like socks. Except they were footwear. As I walked in my tabi, I could feel the rock and pebbles underneath my feet, poking me. It was as good as walking bare feet and I guess, it is also partly thanks to them that I had a wonderful time. As I danced in the street touching the road under my feet I felt like I was embedding my prints in the town, leaving marks that allowed me to connect with this tiny town.

As crazy as it may sound, this to be honest has been a life changing experience. By far the greatest
Yes, there were other times than this trip when I had fun. The type of fun where I felt like I was living the best moment of my life- enjoying it to the fullest. However, this trip offered a different kind of episode. It allowed me to figure out things like, traveling is actually way more fun and satisfying than alcohol or any kind of drug (Not that I have ever tried it though). It allowed me to rediscover my curious younger self who died down somewhere along the path to growing up.  The younger me that had always been enthusiastic towards learning about others culture and the one that slowly developed a reverse mentality once I discovered people didn't reciprocate that interest.  This trip allowed me to throw away my lazy and narrow minded views that I had developed these past few years.

Awa Ikeda is like many other places in Japan that I have yet to set foot in. The town's warmth, degrees higher than Tokyo. There are people like me who already feel like Tokyo people are super kind. However, it's quite interesting that the further you go away from the city, the kindness level just seems to increase rapidly.

As Manabu san, our group leader said, this tiny town Ikeda was 'charming'. This tiny town once famous for their strong high school baseball team. This tiny town where children and elders alike dance to the same rhythm and this tiny town, where I spent my last 18th summer.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

When you promised me an 'Eternity'

NHK lady on rainy days, 
Bananas in the fridge
 and things that don't last forever.

I believe there is a huge difference between being a really kind person or being unable to say 'no' of which, I guess I am the latter part.

I can play nice but there is always the ugly side to me like the rest of the whole where I can't always pass things off. I can't be kind all the times.
I just don't know how to say no.

well, at the end of the day... having that kind of personality did lead me up to grabbing myself an NHK subscription for six months (although I never watch programs).

It was raining that day, as I laid on the futon and casted my mind away to places my feet would have loved to walk on, of the things my eyes would have enjoyed seeing.
Then the intercom rang  in the midst of the thoughts sprawling on the floor in front of me and the rain drops, trailing down the glass of my sliding door.

Through crackles I could barely make out the voice.
She stated her name and business I couldn't catch but I didn't want to be rude to ask again after two minutes of uninterrupted introduction. (That just wasn't allowed in the unspoken law of human nature.) I just told her to hold on and opened the door.
Quickly collecting pieces of myself from the floor, I grabbed my green cardigan and walked outside.

I walked few doors away from mine and waiting near the elevator.
After a minute or so, the door opened and she came out stumbling. A lady in her late twenties probably, drenched in the rain. She didn't see me waiting and was trying to fix her disheveled hair. Once she realised I was standing there, she tried to get herself together.

Like a cat, in the pouring rain. I watched her. She came out of the elevator in a stumbling motion but didn't trip to my surprise.

Helpless and clumsy, she tried to confirm who I was. Once she realised she was standing in front of the foreigner twerp, she shook out of her day dream. she explained herself.

A trap was all I could think. Was that how T.V service providers all tricked their customers into subscribing?

I told her I didn't have a T.V and she took out another paper telling me I could use my laptop to watch. The desperation in her voice, her clumsy manner- I was quite shocked to see someone so clumsy trying to be a salesperson. How many people had rejected her? How long has she been walking in the rain? Would I meet a kind person if I ever took up a job like hers? (In the, end I felt more sorry for an alternative me in another universe than for her who was standing her, dropping papers here and there and I guess that's how I couldn't say no).

That's how I am now subscribed to NHK though I don't watch anything on my laptop.

Moving onto my other topic,

This is to anyone who's 'other half' has promised you an eternity and a love that would last forever.
To teenager who thinks the world of your boyfriend- now is the chance!
RUN! RUN! don't look back! keep moving without letting him know. It's a trap. You would entrust and invest all your treasures and then within a week, you'll find them all withered.

I always believed there was eternity somewhere- mum made it seem like there was.
Parents make it seem so easy to place our beliefs in words we only hear but can't feel.
However, being on my own- I have been hugely shock to discover there is no forever- nothings stay the same or fresh. There was no one to teach me, that I would get hurt if I relied too much on just the word, 'eternity.'

I don't know if this feeling after discovery is of hurt, shock, or pure hatred but the one thing I had trusted without ever a benefit of doubt, just destroyed all my faith in true love.

Why would you give yourself to someone who only uses words of 'forever' when even your fridge can't promise you fresh food forever?

Yes, I thought refrigerators were the answer to the word 'forever'. But coming home to find, wilted lettuces and blackened bananas (that looked like they took a vacation in Hawaii), the little faith I had in the world came crashing down.

Really, what is the use of refrigerators apart from cooling stuff if it can't promise to keep my food fresh forever?
What's the point go even buying one. I feel like I have been made a fool of.

Because of this incident- I'll probably never get married.
I am taking this and forever engraving in the back of my heart as a metaphor for life and a reason to not fall stupidly in love.
(To never lose my level-headedness or rationality).

Gummy Sonam

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Catching souls

How do you breathe life back to what's already gone?
How do you catch a soul escaping a body?

An expired time.

So today, I was walking around Ueno with a friend of mine. We came upon around three people collapsed on the ground in different places at different times. First one was near building, suffering from heat stroke and luckily being handed water by a young troubled security guard who was trying his best to remain calm but as he spoke through his transmitting device or whatever you call it. The other was inside a restaurant  we were walking past.  Under the Noren (The short japanese curtains hung at the entrance of stores and restaurants), we could clearly see him passed out  on the ground- right at the entrance and surprisingly no one seemed to be doing anything. Not the people in the restaurant nor the staffs themselves. So I am just assuming that guy was probably dead drunk.

The third one- wasn't heat stroke nor overdosed on alcohol. We were at the train station and slowly climbing the stairs towards the platform. As soon as my eyes met the ground of the platform, to my left I witnessed a man drop dead in an instant.

I have lived for 18 springs on this planet but this is the first time, I saw life at its end right before my very eyes.  Station attendants ran, put the man (with grey hair) on the stretcher and tried to divert the crazy crowd that was jumping out of the JR yamanote train from the right and charging towards the blue train (I have never seen before) on the left. 

I got onto my JR line on the right and watched out of the window as the two station attendants tried to  get ahold of the man and the third one, trying to get the crowded lining up for the train to move out of the way.

Even after a while, my train wasn't moving and I could barely make out the automatic Japanese announcer apologising and whatnot. So I got out of the train and made my way to the platform on the left side. Only then, did the paramedics come in sight. Three men uniformed in sky blue, running towards me with urgency. (The colour had me fooled!) and one of them, missed the man and went far ahead and his colleague has to call him back. 

They tried to bring him back to life. (Funny I used to listen to  Evanesence plead for life and no one seemed to be doing anything). 

As I slowly got on the blue lined train along with the other passengers. I watched as human beings tried to slow down the cycle of life. 

What was the man thinking when he left his house this morning? Did he know his time would come soon? Without a warning, to collapse at a train station surround by strangers who aren't affected at all for they don't know him. Did he have any idea- wasn't there any signs? What about his dreams?  Did he try to fight against the shutter of his eyes?

The train slowly drew away as all eyes followed the last image of the scene in silence. During the whole time, I couldn't see his face- only managing to catch a glimpse of his grey hair and his white collared shirt. We watched the six men tried their best to change the course of fate but in vain. Oxygen mask and other equipments but the man never lifted a finger. 
When we were out of sight, people returned back to their normal conversations except one, 
that caught my attention. "Looks like Heart attack."

It was only once that I reached Akihabara station that I stopped and realised,  "I may have just watched the death of a man right in front of my eyes" but slowly like million other hapless living creatures, I drowned myself in the crowd  that cannot seem to be able to grasp hold of tomorrow. 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

To the seven year old me.

"Dreams require sacrifices, what have you sacrificed?"

「Dear seven year old Sonam,

Here, grab a seat.
Settle down.
Okay, now I am going to tell you something important-
but before that, I need to clarify a few things.

First of all, no!
You can't get inside the T.V and solve the problem for your Bollywood actors.
Don't spend your time searching behind the telly. There is no secret portal that'll help you tell off the evil mother in law.
It's a waste of time, really!

Secondly, NOPE!
Continents aren't divided by religion and no, Asians aren't just buddhist!
You, little stereotyping brat.(heh)
Asia is made of many vibrant cultures and religions.
But I don't blame you- you'll find out soon enough and you too will fall in love with it.

And lastly,
It's no use worrying about why your best friend has been hanging out with another classmate a lot lately.  Don't worry about getting left behind. Why?
because 11 years from now, you won't even remember your best friend's favourite colour.

Listen closely now,
For now I am about to tell you about you, about me and about us in a future you never saw coming.

Your favourites dolls are going to be locked up in boxes up in the attic, never to see the light or feel the warmth of your hands.
Unfortunately, you won't be able to become the youngest Bhutanese writer but don't stop working on that story ,'The poor father who had a beautiful daughter,"I still think it's by far the best story I ever came up with.
I am taking away your dream of going to high school with your friends.
I am taking you far away from the comforts of home and a familiar environment.
But most of all, I am taking away the definition of 'home' from you.

I'll be honest.
You probably won't like the older you.

Stop keeping count of the things you lose because as every year passes, you are going to lose more than you can count.
You were taught in school that grandpas and grandmas are old so they die- but they never tell you other family members die, pets die and friends die too.

Someone came up with this word YOLO a while back, but I don't get why people would live by it, doing the stupidest things? I mean we only live once so might as well live it right, right?! We may only live once but we have to live through every second, minute and hour.

I don't reflect you- I have stop reflecting you since a long time back.  You can't openly express your  worries or cry whenever you feel like it. (Those pair of invisible warm hands stopped reaching out since a long time back. Tears no longer have the magic they used to have as a kid). You no longer can make friends without worrying if they have any hidden agendas.
I'll be honest- even I think I liked myself back then when I trusted people, was never suspicious of strangers and never doubted a stranger's kindness. However, the years between us taught me adults can be useless, people aren't kind and we have to make sacrifices.

Dear seven year old Sonam,
Never stop being a great person because I was once told by an old couple(friends of mine) that my parents must be really good people. I wondered why they thought so when they hadn't even met my parents. They answered that they knew because I was a good person, because a child reflects what his/her parents are.

And while I think so too,  I am also aware that I am a reflection of the places I travelled to, of the people I met and the cultures I have dived into.

Then there is our dream-
You'll hate me for this. After you finish high school, you'll move to Malaysia to study, It's set that you'll be studying in Malaysia for two years and then off to Australia. While the 16 year old us, is busy attempting to close a chapter to her 'Japan dream', a light sparks somewhere and soon, we're standing at the edge. The 17 year old us finishes a year in Malaysia but halfway throughout the year, she'll just stop.

The thought will hit her hard, it's weight crushing her abilities to think rationally(hehe).
"Do we want to live this way? Choosing the safest option, standing behind the line-
Four years of our youth-probably the last years of our youth, sitting inside the comfort zone,"
While our friends prepare their documents and attend lectures for the degree programs, she will pull away- won't confirm her seat for next year.
She's ready.

Long story short, that's how we jump shipped and ended up where we are right now.
Paying bills in languages we don't understand,
Away from the people who knew us,
In a place where we are almost invisible,
Oceans away from the things we grew up with.

A future that is no longer secure,
It's really scary- and honestly, I have never been more scared than this.
However, the uncertainty continues to pull me in.
Maybe it's my age because it's a given, we make stupid choices at this age but I would like to think, this has been by far the most right choice I have gambled with.

However, seven year old Sonam,
Yes, there were be sacrifices- a lot of them in fact.
Not all will be physically visible but they will disappear, one by one.Things you used to consider dear to you.
But this is Life.
just trust me on this one for we will go on an adventure, fall in love with places and people. In turn, discover our full potential so someday we can paint ourselves with the colours of the cultures we immerse ourselves in and reflect the people we met through this lifetime.

Don't let go,

For most of all we are taking a leap of fate.」

Gummy Sonam

Monday, 5 May 2014

(Food for thoughts: Identity)

"It takes miles of footsteps, food of different tastes, mix of culture and all those different individuals to figure out who you really are,"

The pieces slowly form into shapes inside my head as the images in my vision is inhaled thoroughly.
They become translucent as the copies are filed into my head.
I am at peace.
It's neither the illuminating lights nor the bustling noise of the city.

It's the emptiness.
The calm wind brushing past my cheeks momentarily,

The slow scene, just 12 trains stops away is in an entire different dimension. (Only four stops away while riding the express train).
As soon as I step out,  the noise fades and it becomes lively in my head.

I walk along the bicycle lane as bicycles whisk past me, as children's voice trail off in front of me.
Runners slowly taking over my pace and leaving me behind in less than few seconds.
At times, I play a game- walking within the long white lines painted on the edge of the lane.
(That if I fall out of the line, then it's world apocalypse)

 It's a miracle for someone with a shoe size of 39cm that my feet are perfectly inside the white lines.

I stop by to admire the tiny white home, newly built. The scene has changed from labor workers in their large go-go pants, (just a month ago slamming nails into the walls), to men in dark suits standing outside the entrance as they point upwards to the roof (their voice barely audible) and now, to windows with white lace curtains and laundries hanging from the windows of second floor.

Then few meters ahead an old man sits in front of the gate of his house, reading a newspaper. On a pile of planks, surrounded by his treasure of stacks of books bound tightly in plastic strings, empty brown flower pots and bottles who haven't seen garbage day as far as they can remember. At times, another old man joins him.

Soon few blocks away from my destination, beside the children's park- the lady is there again.
In a white hat and a camo trench coat, she has a white opaque bag in her hand. The chubby stray cats (who could be well mistaken for being owned) rub themselves against her leg and purr warmly.
They crowd over her as she bends down and give them whatever is in the bag.

Our eyes meet-
"Ah, Konnichiwa."
She bows.

After weeks of anticipation, a chance has finally presented itself.  I bow back and try to reply, only to find my voice barely audible behind my hygiene mask desperately hoping that she heard my greeting. However the chance for a reintroduction is gone as my feet have taken steps I can't undo.  I quietly note to myself- "to have a a longer conversation next time."

And then I turn right and slip through the brown gate and before long, I am in front of my apartment as the sight of cars stopping at the red light comes into view and a train crosses the road.

It's then I realize, I am fine without the bright city lights. Yes, at times there is this craving caused by this age for the loud unrecognizable noises and the strange unfamiliar faces but then the green scenery and the quietness that inspires me hits closer to the definition of 'home' more than a city that has a price tag to its kindness.

Gummy Sonam

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Did you know Sakura trees were made by men 400 years ago just for the sake of cherry-blossom viewing?

"It's not just compliments and nice words that takes you higher,
it's also the harsh words and cold treatment that drives you further-"

Blogging from my tiny, bare room on a cold, rainy day-
久しぶり「Long time no see-」

Although it's already the 4th month of the new year, it's the first post of the year for this blog.

I arrived in Tokyo almost two weeks ago with nothing much but a heavy suitcase full of my unnecessary belongings- which I later found out, didn't have any warm jackets. (Apparently I underestimated the Spring weather here.)

I am writing this post today because a few days ago, i received a message from a girl whose dream was to go to Japan but unfortunately, for her- she felt it was a bit too late.
Reading her message kind of overwhelmed me because I remember, being just like her-
Wanting to go to Japan and experience what it's like to live there. [I blame animes and mangas for creating such a beautiful society my younger self could only visit in my dreams occasionally- heh].

Well, the real thing does live up to my younger self's expectation though.

My wanting to go to Japan wasn't just an idea that sprouted a month or week ago.
Years and years of dreaming and hoping did most of the trick.
Promising my younger self, that one day we would be there-
sitting in the train, walking under the rain- carrying transparent umbrellas and sitting under cherry blossom trees.

Yes, at one time-
It became an impossible dream.
I remember apologizing to my younger self that I had let her down, that I couldn't fulfill our promise.

However, now that I think about it.
Those days where it felt impossible, those thoughts that made me give up many times were nothing more than just a trial that makes the result even more sweeter.
As lazy as I am, I know for sure if you have a dream, you have to work for it.
No dreams are impossible because if it was, you wouldn't dream of it in the first place.

*Inhales deeply
Well, now that I am standing here, let me take this opportunity to thank those people who always motivated me to work for it and even during the times I gave up, they waited for me to get back.
My friends, especially from QELC, uncles and aunts in Bhutan, my Japanese senseis, family and of course my stubborn dad who eventually gave in. [Muhahaha- you have yourself to blame for giving me a stubborn personality-]

Those who have been with me since I developed an interest in Japan, you have probably witnessed the crazy things I did for this dream of mine. Thank you for being patient and I promise to take in as much experience as I can during my stay here in Japan and every time, things become hard- I will remember all the words of encouragement.

And of course, before I forget,
yes, it was the people who encouraged me that helped me stand here today but I also have to thank those mean people (oh no, I haven't forgotten you adorable munchkins). People who criticized my dreams and gave me those icy cold shoulders because I was a 'nobody'. Well, two words for you lads as well.
'Thank you,'
For pissing me off so much- it made me work twice as hard to achieve this dream.

Okay before I digress any further- which I already have.
Wear your dreams on your sleeves proudly, announce it to the world but never throw it away completely just because you 'feel' that you can't do it.
It's never too late.
Sometimes, all you have to do is really listen to those corny and cheesy lines from books and movies and actually apply it to your life. (Not the dramatic ones though, please!.There is more to life than romance and unrequited love).

However, if you want to experience the Japanese life, I would suggest you don't only just watch anime and read manga but also start to appreciate the different aspects of the Japanese culture. [*Enters harsh truth]: Yes, we all started from anime and manga but if you re planning to live in japan with just a manga in one hand and a figurine in another- i suggest you rethink your plan because you'll probably get a culture shock from realizing not all Japanese speak your anime lingo.

And remember, the hardest part of living in Japan isn't the language, the train system or the food-
it's the garbage sorting.

Oh, and here! Seeing a dirigible for the first time in real life.

Nothing is impossible unless you are an alien- or a frog, because frogs scares me.


Gummy Sonam
hailing from Hanakoganei

Monday, 11 November 2013

Signs from Above?

Dreams, Signs, Messages-

You know how people over the centuries have received messages and signs in their dreams from the heavens above so they sought out to deliver those messages however only to end up either being killed or only accepted during their last breath?

Well, my friends. I am happy to announce that I have been chosen by my great one to connect the signs.

Yes, Last night I had a dream.
A dream about ONE OK ROCK.
[Image from google]

A dream-so vivid; Pulling other girls' extension to fight for the front row, speaking German(which I am pretty sure was dzongkha). I was pulled up on stage and I started singing ENKA with Ryota. As I shook Taka's hand in a stadium, I kept telling myself to not wake up.
That it would all end.

But then BAM!

11:00a.m (At an unusual early hour) I woke up.
I grabbed my phone from my side table and swiped it open.

All of a sudden  I see a Facebook message from my friend, linking me to a page holding a contest for ONE OK ROCK'S meet and greet in Singapore.
Yes, and while I was busy typing, my brother(OUT OF NOOOOOWHERE) whatsapped me an image of the the contest.
My body became a ball of goosebumps.
I rolled out of bed but only after checking underneath my pillow to make sure Taka's autograph didn't come sucking out of my dream.

There was nothing.

However, my conclusion is
It's ONE OK ROCK sending me signs!!!!!!

The Contest being: Taking picture with a sign saying why we love One Ok Rock.(T__T)
It's like asking my mum why did she give birth to an awesome child like me? (although I am sure there are lesser reasons for that)
However, honestly if anyone manages to give the reason why in less than a day, their LOVE MUST BE FAAAAAAAKE!!!

The funny part is just a month ago, they were holding a fan art contest for the MEET&GREET.

At first, I was pulling my hair and collecting my creativity juice but as I started to pen down my idea, I had this weird feeling. I mean, I love One Ok Rock and their songs. I am willing to stalk them around the world for their concerts but do I really wanna meet them up face to face?
It's like having a crush on Hitler from the photos but would you REALLY WANT TO MEET THE GUY? O_O

Having my dream come true is fantastic but I feel that some dreams should be left unfulfilled.
It wasn't until I heard my mum told my sister that our fates are never meant to cross those of the famous people.
(I think this could also be an advice for NOT ALL but THOSE crazy Kpop fans who are soooo desperate from the moment they get out of bed to the time they get in bed, their minds; intoxicated with Korean idols)

(BUUUUT if any Korean actors or singers are reading this post, three words for you "TAKE A HIKE!"
Thanks for converting my mum and sister into one of ur groupies (T^T))

Well, anyway my point is (or actually was)
That in my head, I already have an image of One Ok Rock and meeting them, I fear might just change those images that I have built up over these years of worshipping them.

However, today everything- everthing that I stood for came crashing down when One Ok Rock walked into my dreams unannounced. I mean I don't even see my crushes in my dream apart from old haunted ships(baby sitting ghosts), getting married to Fox spirits and buring potato fields.

To think that One Ok Rock dared to break down the portal that even relevant people in my life have failed to knock on, I must admit I was taken by suprise.

And for that, I pledge my loyalty and offer my Fan taxes to ONE OK ROCK for eternity.

Gummy Sonam