Changing This Website’s Identity Once Again

It’s been over a week since I posted an essay here on this website. It looks like what I feared from the beginning came true: my posts are irregular. Throughout last week, I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have the fire in me to keep writing. I had a solid schedule, so why couldn’t I keep up? That was the one question I couldn’t answer, yet I did notice something else that I was doing each day. I was always practising my Nihongo every time I had free time.

I still couldn’t understand why I wasn’t writing more frequently on this website. What’s the difference between practising Japanese and writing? It turns out, it’s a lot. I love writing, and that’s without a doubt. However, the biggest difference is grit.

A professor of mine posted a quote on grit, and I wondered where it came from. So I did a quick Google search and found this TED talk:

After watching it, I was able to answer that one question. The reason why I haven’t been writing is that I don’t have the grit for it. The reason why I practise Japanese each day is that I have the grit for it. In fact, anything that is remotely related to Japan immediately captures my full attention be it politics or pop culture. Looking back over two weeks ago, the most fun I had writing was my essay on Falling in Love with a 1980s J-Pop Idol and the Dangers of Reminiscing.

This got me thinking. I think my website should just be centred on my progress towards living and working in Japan (with the occasional blogs). I feel excited just thinking about it, and at the same time, a bit worried since I have never been to Japan and posting about Japanese things seems a bit wrong.

Yet, I think the benefits outweigh that very small consequence. Working and living in Japan has always motivated me ever since high school. I’m 27 right now, and even though I lost sight of Japan during university, I always seem to be drawn back to it.

The prospect of living and working in Japan gives me grit, and I’m totally happy with having my entire life revolve around everything Japanese.

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

– Angela Lee Duckworth

I Wait for Nobody

A couple of days ago, my mother and I were visiting Churches as a part of Christian tradition. I’m a Buddhist so I didn’t really get into it. We finally took a break in a McDonald’s near one of the churches.

From out of nowhere, my mother told me, “If you go abroad, I might transfer to Cebu.”

I thought to myself, “Okay. I honestly could care less since you’re inheriting grandfather’s land and property anyways.”

But then she followed up with, “You shouldn’t go right away. Maybe it’s not God’s plan that you should go right away. We have to fix some things.”

That pissed me off so much. I wanted to tell her, “I will never wait for you.” But instead, I said, “No. I’m not waiting anymore. I’ve already sent 54 applications just for yesterday.”

***

These sort of things pisses me off so much. I will never wait for ANYONE. I will leave people behind for my chance to achieve my dream. No one will hold me back. When my mother told me to stay behind, I suddenly felt this anchor around my neck. What kind of mother stops their children from progressing in life?

This isn’t the first time she’s stopped me from going overseas. The first time was during my freshman year at DLSU. I was supposed to migrate to Australia with my mother’s friends. I would study medicine and be a nurse. That was the plan until my mother stopped me from going. The second time was when a friend of mine invited me to study Chinese with her in China for a year while we taught English. Again, my mother stopped me from going.

I had an inkling that I was alone in this venture to Japan, and my mother’s words just set that idea in stone. She has lifted that cloud of doubt. I am alone in this.

*Featured image from http://www.us-japan.org/resources/usjapanlinks/education/

Falling in Love with a 1980s J-Pop Idol and the Dangers of Reminiscing

Oginome Yoko is a Japanese pop idol who made her debut in the early 1980s but only garnered attention in 1985. Before I start introducing her to you, I need to tell you how I found Yoko-chan.

There’s a Korean variety show called Weekly Idol where they invite K-pop stars to the studio each week. Around a month ago, Weekly Idol invited CELEB FIVE, an idol group composing of older women comedians. They had been gathering fame in Korea for their single, which can be seen below. (Click HERE for the entire subtitled episode)

I was blown away! These ladies, who are literally middle-aged people, can dance better than most K-pop groups. In the full episode, they explained that the original choreography was from Tomioka High School Dance Club. Here’s an excerpt from Sora News 24 that explains TDC’s performance:

Japan’s economic bubble of the 1980s is a time sorely missed by many Japanese, as a time when money flowed and expense accounts were there to be abused. A group of local high school students, while too young to have actually lived through the period themselves, have now taken the big hair and big fashion of the ’80s and put it into a dance routine that has taken YouTube by storm, ratcheting up millions of views in mere days.

Here’s a video of their performance at one of Japan’s national dance competition:

Seeing the original dance was so amazing! What’s even more amazing is that they’re just in high school! How many professional dancers can actually dance like them? They are honestly so talented. As I watched this over and over, I saw a recommended video, and it looked like they had the actual J-pop idol singing the song along. I clicked it, and here’s what I saw:

Again, I was easily impressed by the choreography. I was also impressed by the singer. I was very judgemental when I saw her because she looked old, and I didn’t think that she could sing consistently. I was proven wrong. She powered through the song and even danced with the girls for a bit. Finally, I found the name of the song, Dancing Hero (Eat You Up) by Oginome Yoko. I clicked the first video I saw, and I fell in love.

A young, cute, fresh face 18-year-old Yoko-chan instantly won me over. Even with her little slip-up, she still was able to perform with grace. Here’s another one of her performance with better quality:

Then I saw another video suggestion of her at 26-years-old. She definitely grew more beautiful, but what shocked me was her voice. Her voice matured so well from a kawaii girl to a sultry onee-sama.

She’s performed Dancing Hero over the years like the one below from 2017 where she looks like radiant ojou-sama *swoon*.

At this point, you’re probably sick of hearing Dancing Hero, so here’s another one of Yoko-chan’s performance called Dance Beat back in the 1980s.

(Here’s Dance Beat in 720p 60fps)

If you made it to this point, congratulations! I initially wanted to title this essay as Finding Oginome Yoko and the Dangers of Reminiscing because I wanted to show you the rabbit hole I went through. I felt like I was being recommended by friends of friends to a girl then eventually falling in love. Does that make sense?

Now, what about the part of reminiscing? Each time I listen to older songs, I’m reminded of a conversation I had with one of my close friends from graduate school. He one day asked me if we could talk about something that happened to him. He told me he had an anxiety attack, which never happened to him before. He thought that he was going crazy since he felt like he couldn’t trust his mind anymore (he couldn’t trust it because he thought he knew himself so well). Then I told him that it was probably a set of circumstances that triggered it. His anxiety could have been a recessive genetic trait and surfaced only now.

He also told me that he wanted to do martial arts as a way to make himself feel better. Then I asked him a question, “Are going to practise martial arts to help improve yourself, or will you do it because you want to go back to those days where you had fewer problems?” He said it was the latter.

That’s the problem with reminiscing. It blinds people of the present day of where they are now. I told my friend that reminiscing is fine; what you want to get out of it is where the problem lies. When I listen to 1980s and 1990s J-pop, I don’t transport myself back in time to where I had anything I could ask for. I use the love that I feel for the music to gather energy and lift me up so I can keep going.

Another danger lies in being stuck in the past. For the majority of my teenage years and early 20s, I was a victim of the past’s temptation. I kept reminiscing about how great my life was and as a result, I wasn’t able to move forward. I wasted 5 years of my life due to my unhealthy obsession with the past.

Many people are victim’s of the past’s temptation, and most of them are older people like my parents. They always dream about what life was like before the changes happened. Maybe that’s just it. People reminisce because they’re afraid of change, and from what I can see, a lot of people who are hoping for change are young or sick of what the older generation has passed on to them.

What do you think? Do you agree with me or not? I wanna hear about it! Write it down in the comment section below.

Featured image from Amazon

Greed in the Castle (part 1) [short story]

On a clear and cold morning over a thousand years ago in the great Cai Empire, the capital city of Cai greeted the early sun with a yawn and a stretch. City guards, dressed in hard rhinoceros hide and turtle shells, began opening the main gate to let in the long caravan of goods and royals. This caravan was ten times the normal amount, for today was Emperor Cai Rong’s birthday.

The road from the gate leading to the castle was wide enough to fit four large carriages and their envoys. Peasants and merchants lined the road and cheered for the royals who were shrouded in curtains made of silk. At the head of the caravan was General Ren Xiuying, the brother of the Emperor. Xiuying was on his large white horse that was dressed impressively from head to hoof. But not as impressive as his rider who don a full ornate copper armour with a sword at his hip.

Xiuying led the caravan to the steps of the castle which stood as tall as the smallest mountain and was covered in red, white, and gold. Since today was a special day, flags and streamers made of silk were hung everywhere. Xiuying was met with the 10 eunuch advisors at the base of the steps. “Welcome home, General Ren Xiuying,” they said in unison as they bowed to him.

“Fu Zan!” Xiuying called. “Where are you?”

One of the eunuchs stepped forward and bowed to Xiuying. “I am here, General. How may I serve you?”

Xiuying slapped Fu Zan’s shoulder and beamed his famous smile which was well-known to all women. “You eunuchs look so much like each other!” Xiuying laughed at his own jibe while the others chuckled along. “Tell my lazy brother that I have come home to see another white strand grow on his head!”

Xiuying laughed some more as he climbed the castle steps. Peasants and slaves unloaded the caravans, and the other royals started to climb the stairs as well.

The air of the grand banquet was filled with food and wine. The tables were stacked with roasted pig, cow, and at least five kinds of bird species. Each one of the guests was announced into the hall and was seated in their respective long tables.

The Empress, Ding Wuhan, and her son, Cai Shuren aged 13, sat at the main table on an elevated platform. One of the Emperor’s concubine, Gao Hong, was also seated at the main table. She was special since she too had the Emperor’s son, Gao Guo 13 as well, who was seated beside her. The Emperor’s five generals were seated beside the main table. Each one was accompanied by courtesans.

Courtesans danced around as everyone else settled in. After a while, they hushed as the Emperor was introduced in the hall. The Emperor was dressed in an ornate silk gown of pure red with a golden sun weaved into its centre.

“All hail the great Emperor!” The hall rumbled as the guests bowed and proclaimed in unison. “May he live for a thousand years!”

“Please.” The Emperor raised his hand ordering the guests to stand up. He picked up a goblet of wine, which was filled by one of the other concubines, with both his hands; his guests followed him as well.

“I have invited you here,” said the Emperor “to partake in this empire’s spoils. We have lived in harmony for 15 years not because of my rule but because of the people. I drink this for more bounty. Long live the Cai Dynasty! May we live for a thousand years!”

The guests responded in kind. “Long live the Cai Dynasty! May we live for a thousand years!”

They all drank their wines in one silent gulp and sighed contented. The Emperor raised his hands and proclaimed, “The night is young, and the barrels are full of wine! Drink and be merry!”

The entire hall laughed then suddenly went still when the sound of a goblet rattled across the floor. The Emperor clutched his chest and coughed up blood. He fell down face first as more blood spilt out of all his orifices.

The hall screamed into a frenzy. People were darting everywhere and trampling over each other. Xiuying, with all the experience of a war general, quickly ordered the guards to barricade the exits.

“No one leaves this hall!” He shouted. “The killer is still here, and until we find out who did it, no one will  leave!”

“Oh! My Emperor!” Fu Zan cried as he collapsed near the corpse. “Who could have done this?! YOU!”

Fu Zan pointed at the concubine who poured the wine into the Emperor’s goblet. Xiuying’s drew his sword and pointed it at her neck.

“What did you do to my brother?” Xiuying’s eyes burned like a fireplace in winter.

“Please, General!” She wept and collapsed to the floor. “I would never do this to my beloved Emperor!”

“Hold your tongue, wench!” The Empress spat from her seat. “You have no right to call him beloved!”

Xiuying kneeled beside his brother. He could smell poison in the wine. “Why would they do this to you?”

He stood up and stripped the concubine till she was bare skinned. As her robes fell, he heard a soft thump hit the cobbled floor. He searched through the robes and found a small corked white vial.

“What is this?” Xiuying towered over the naked and trembling concubine.

“I have never seen that thing my entire life!” She sobbed even more.

Xiuying uncorked the vial and sniffed its contents. It was definitely poison. He grabbed his sword and swiftly dispatched her head off without a second thought.

“General!” Fu Zan exclaimed. “What’s the meaning of this?”

“She had the vial of poison in her robe. She must have poured it in while we weren’t looking. However, I do not think that this is the end.” He inspected the vial and saw the insignia of the royal chef. “Bring out the chef!”

The chef pleaded as well, saying that he’s never seen that vial nor the concubine in his life. His pleas fell on deaf ears as Xiuying sliced his head off as well.

“I highly doubt that these two were the masterminds,” Xiuying said. “We must protect the heirs of the throne! Guards! Escort the princes and their mothers to a room nearby, and do not let anyone near them.”

The guards did as they were ordered to and led the four away.

Fu Zan looked in disbelief at the general’s decision. “General. You sound so sure that one of the Emperor’s closest friends and allies would dare kill him!”

“And you, Fu Zan, sound so suspicious! Do you not fear for the lives of the heirs, or are you wishing for their death as well?”

Fu Zan bit his tongue and steered the conversation back to the Emperor. “The next in line would be Prince Cai Shuren. He’s young and still very inexperienced to rule. The logical idea would be to control Prince Cai Shuren from the shadows, so whoever is closest to him would be suspect.”

“Wait,” Xiuying thought. “The Empress and Concubine Gao Hong are with the heirs! Guards with me!”

The generals, the eunuchs, and a handful of guards ran to the room where the four were held. They were met with two dead guards by the door. Both of them looked like they had ingested the poison as well. Xiuying kicked the paper door down and saw the Empress and Concubine Hong poisoned on the floor. Their dresses were drenched in so much blood, and it looked like they were poisoned as soon as they settled in the room. What was worse was that the princes were nowhere to be found.

“The Emperor and the Empress are dead. The heirs have disappeared. We have a killer in the castle. Heavens help us.”

***

Part 2 coming next Wednesday

Privacy and Fallacy over Social Media

This essay is inspired by The Learning Network’s prompt, Are You the Same Person on Social Media as You Are in Real Life? and from Clara Dollar’s essay My So-Called (Instagram) Life.


Unlike Dollar’s experience with social media, I’m not one to make a persona. I treat social media as a mirror of myself and not a mask. If people want to get to know me, all they have to do is look through my social media. You could say that my social media accounts, including this website, are me.

I hide nothing from people (except for deep family matters, passwords, and security details). Other than that, I’m an open book. But then people might see that as a problem. When is sharing too much of my personal life too much? When do I feel like I have no sense of privacy?

There was a point in my life where I used social media to get attention from people. I wanted people to see me and having this website is probably one way getting that attention. I’m in it for the glory, and Wil Dasovic has a similar mindset when it comes to showing parts of his life.

Dasovic is a Filipino vlogger. He’s a very positive person and super outgoing. In one of his latest videos (linked below), he talks about why he vlogs. He wanted to inspire people to be productive by showing how productive he was. As for me, I think it’s similar. I want to inspire people to do their best by showing that I’m doing my best even with my blunders.

Do you have a persona for your social media? Tell me about it in the comments below! I’d like to hear about it!