1. Five years ago, I made my very first blog post in Japan. The original title was “Tokyo Cloud Love” and the post dissected my first few days in Japan. This post appeared on an old website of mine, so I decided to bring it over here, and embellish it with any missing details that I think might interest my readers. Do enjoy!


    I’m finally in Japan! I’ve only been here two days and so much has already happened. The plane ride from SFO to Narita was okay… very long and very tedious… but our neighbors on the plane were pleasant enough and the food was good. I loved the clouds especially… masses and masses of cumulus clouds on the descent into Japan. At one point we passed the anvil of one. I’ve missed these sorts of cloud structures… California doesn’t have much variation with its perfect weather (haha!) so, overall, I actually enjoyed the flight over.



    It’s July here, so the very first thing we experienced getting off the plane was the sensation of our jeans shrink-wrapping themselves to our legs. The humidity is insane right now, and that’s with 98ºF heat on top of it. Walking around outside is sort of like wading through a kiddie pool; the force of the weight in the air is enough to make you sluggish and mild to soaking wet.

    Immigration and Customs in Japan were really time-consuming and inefficient. Our plane got in at 3pm, but by the time I was anywhere near an exit, it was already 5pm. Transportation to Sugamo took roughly another hour or so from Narita, but the trains were super cool. While we were waiting to board, the seats swiveled automatically to allow a swifter cleaning of the train, and the train itself was impeccably clean. In fact, all of Tokyo is incredibly clean.

    We arrived in Sugamo around 6pm, fully ready to just relax and take it easy for a few hours, but that was an impossibility. Despite my asking EAP (Education Abroad Program, through the UC Berkeley system) on three separate occasions about NJ staying with me, no red flags were raised until we actually arrived there at 6pm. The long and short of it was that they told NJ that she couldn’t stay in my room, but they had another room that she could rent for 5 nights. She’s done that, and today she found and leased a beautiful room in Shinjuku (20 minutes away)- it’s actually quite the deal. She’s paying less than I am, for twice the space and a garden. It may turn out that I just spend the night at her place half the time instead of staying here. 84º and humid is not the most awesome weather to have while in a cramped room in Tokyo. Neither of us can wait until we’re in Kyoto. The cities are just too hectic.

    This is how small my room is, by the way:


    I’ll be living here for six weeks!

    The night we flew in I had my first bar experience ever (for those that don’t know me, I don’t drink). I had a beer and some soju (Korean sake)… I didn’t get buzzed though, so at least I know I can drink casually here and not have any major side effects. This is a relief because I’ve been told drinking is sort of part of the culture here. [2014 note: Yes, yes it is.]

    Afterwards, we pretty much crashed––but, with the humidity, my night’s sleep was restless to say the least, and even though NJ rented out her own room, we stayed together anyway, which meant I was practically falling off the size mini mattress most of the night.

    This morning was my placement test, which I did well on. Afterwards I finally got my phone activated. Japanese cellphones are so awesome. Even the cheapest brands here do much more than most phones in the U.S. I’m really excited about finally having one. One of the coolest features is infrared, so when you are trying to exchange info, or photos, or any other sort of data, all you have to do is literally “beam” it so a nearby phone. No input required.

    I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Sugamo, including a really awesome cemetery. Photos at the bottom of the post.

    Tonight Nao invited us to go to the Festival of Light… it was a massive, one hour fireworks show on the canal… roughly ten thousand people were there, and the fireworks were super close. I got some video and pictures, but spent a majority of the time just watching them. It was really amazing. Very slowly, it’s sinking in that I’m in Japan finally, and I’m loosening up to allow myself to enjoy the experience. I have this weird bite on my neck though, that has a three inch diameter of red around it I hope it goes away soon. [Turned out that I was, and still am, seriously allergic to Japanese bugs.]

    Enjoy the photo set from the Festival of Light here, or on Flickr:

    Video of the firework show’s start:



    Five Years Ago Today, I Moved to Japan Five years ago, I made my very first blog post in Japan. The original title was “Tokyo Cloud Love” and the post dissected my first few days in Japan.

  2. Women Destroy Science Fiction, Part 2 (Lightspeed Special Issue)

    Women Destroy Science Fiction, Part 2 (Lightspeed Special Issue) #wdsf


    After falling seriously behind on my reading, I was able to finish the special issue of Lightspeed Magazine this week. In Part 1 of this review, I looked at the Women Destroy Science Fiction original stories, which for the most part, really blew me away.

    This time, we’re taking a look at the reprints and flash fiction. Though the issue included a healthy amount of essays (as part of the…

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  3. Peach Press: Regions of Kyoto (Part 4 of 4)

    Peach Press: Regions of Kyoto (Part 4 of 4)

    The Wards of Kyoto (Part 4 of 4)

    The last three episodes of this series have been about nine of Kyoto’s Eleven wards. In this last installment of the Regions of Kyoto, we will be looking at Higashiyama and Sakyou-ku, easily two of Kyoto’s most famous wards, whether tourists going there are aware of it or not.



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  4. Regions of Kyoto (Part 3 of 4)

    Regions of Kyoto (Part 3 of 4)

    The Wards of Kyoto (Part 3 of 4)

    In the last two episodes, we have looked at six of Kyoto’s eleven wards, mostly in the central and southern areas of Kyoto. This time, we will be moving westward, into the countryside and mountainous areas of Nishikyo-ku, Ukyo-ku and Kita-ku.

    Nishikyou-ku, which occupies the south-western boundary…

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  5. Peach Press: Regions of Kyoto (Part 2 of 4)

    Peach Press: Regions of Kyoto (Part 2 of 4)

    The Wards of Kyoto (Part 2 of 4)

    In the last episode, we discussed Kamigyou-ku, Nakagyou-ku and Shimogyou-ku. In this episode, we will be looking even further south to the wards of Fushimi and Minami-ku, as well as eastward, near Lake Biwa, with Yamashina. These wards skirt the bottom of Kyoto city’s borders like a bowl, when put…

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  6. Regions of Kyoto (Part 1 of 4)

    Regions of Kyoto (Part 1 of 4)

    The Wards of Kyoto (Part 1 of 4)

    Kyoto is a city famous for its temples, palaces, foliage and history, as well as its significant and unique impact on Japanese culture. The first episode of this series, The History of Kyoto, discussed Kyoto’s past and cultural heritage, as well as some of its geographic characteristics. During the…

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  7. Peach Press: The Path to Kyoto

    Peach Press: The Path to Kyoto

    Transcript from the episode:

    The Path to Kyoto

    Without a doubt, coming to Japan to travel, study or work is an opportunity desired by many.

    No matter what you plan to travel to Japan as… whether you plan to only stay a few days or make this country your long -term home, there are many options available.

    The wealth of knowledge and…

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  8. The History of Kyoto

    The History of Kyoto


    In December, 2011, as part of a project on my old blog, I created a massive video detailing the history of Kyoto––abridged, certainly––that tried to focus more on the cultural elements rather than the political. I’ve decided to repost that video here, as I find myself going back to it every now and then. Even though the audio is fairly poor, I’m still proud of this project, and may someday go…

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  9. I was going to go running today. I was going to clean, and wash my dog, and maybe even get a couple more things off my to-do list. But all of those plans were laid to waste when I came home and a happy package was waiting in my mailbox.

    The proof of Writers’ Anarchy III arrived today!

    Writers' Anarchy III: Heroes & Villains

    For the last few months I have been pouring my heart and soul into this book, from organizing the acquisitions system over at Fiction Writers Group, to doing final content and copy editing on each story included in the anthology (after some of my reader panel judges gave them an initial run-through.) I even learned how to set up a pre-order on Amazon, just to give it that fully “traditional” feel.

    However, by and large, it was designing this book that gave me the most pleasure, and I am thrilled to now be holding a copy of this (if I can manage to make this come out without sounding like a braggart) gorgeous book.

    Designing this book was an interesting experiment, and the book has gone through several stages of evolution. I thought I’d share that process here, and some of the insights I gained along the way.


    Due to the nature of the submission call, I originally found these two superhero vectors and set them on a sunburst. These graphics were very popular on the board, and as you can see, the actual title font saw very little change towards the end––I merely changed the Komika style I was using, and altered some of the letters to go vertical for visual ‘pop’.

    Another thing that eventually would figure into the ultimate design is the limited color palette.

    Cover Image Selection

    Two months into the submission call and something was becoming very clear to all of the readers on the judging panel: the superhero image just wasn’t going to cut it. This book was shaping up to be something far more diverse and speculative than we’d first expected. It’s amazing, don’t get me wrong. We’ve got spandex heroes, mad scientist laboratories, werewolves, Egyptian gods, veteran soldiers, a spunky dog––all wonderful stories, but I began to worry about how we could market the book honestly. It wouldn’t ‘do’ to have a superhero emblazoned across the cover, not some monster. Some of our initial options didn’t really speak of the character in the pages.

    Eventually, I had to consider what the anthology was really trying to say. Then, I found an image that just spoke to me. The image that was finally chosen for the cover perfectly encapsulates the heart of this anthology: ‘We are the stories we tell about ourselves.’; ‘It’s not so easy as ‘good’ vs. ‘evil”; in it all, the message of “masks” appeared, and our faceless man became the cover.

    Design Elements

    I wanted a few things to really tie the book together, and those elements were (as I mentioned before) the limited color palette, Komika and Impact fonts, and circles. Circles appear in the stock image, so the back cover also got the dot treatment, as did every chapter heading. I even chose cream paper to add a bit of ‘yellow’ and make it even more uniform.

    In short, the paperback will beat out the ebook, I’m positive. It is a book worth buying in bound form.

    It’s Not Just the Book

    I’m what some would call an over-achiever, and I say this with a wince. It’s not enough for me to do a project just to get it done. I will regularly pour about 300% more time into a project than I say I will. The stress isn’t always worth it, but for WAIII, it totally was. In addition to the bound/digital editions, I also used the same design when making Facebook/Twitter banners for each story, pre-made, shareable tweets, and a book trailer.

    …Like I said, I’ve been pouring my whole heart into this baby. You can view the trailer here:

    And all of the fun banners and tweets on the official Writers’ Anarchy website (which I also maintain). You’ll notice the same, simplified color palette and circles, as well as fonts, are repeated on every banner to help with branding:

    The book is officially released on December 1st, but it’s never too late to get a pre-order now! At under $10, this book is worth every penny!

    Care to Pre-Order?


    Designing Writers’ Anarchy III: Heroes & Villains #bookdesign #booktrailers I was going to go running today. I was going to clean, and wash my dog, and maybe even get a couple more things off my to-do list.

  10. aechlys:

    Ok kids, listen up. I’m about to explain to you, to the best of my ability, why there are 40,000 people protesting in Tokyo’s Nagata-cho as I type this, why it matters, and why you should be talking about it, too.


    What Started This Protest?

    The short answer —> Japan’s Prime Minister…