Thursday, March 27, 2014

Japanese hair stylist

Last week I took a big leap. Mainly because I was desperate and fed up but it was a risky move for this hair scared girl. I went and saw a Japanese hair stylist to cut and color my hair. Normally for the first ‘meeting’ with a new stylist, I’ll have them cut it only and make them straighten it so I can see every last bit of my hair in case they need to fix it.


I’ve been known to make many stylists fix my hair after they thought they were done. I’m not in the habit to walk out unhappy… unless of course we discuss the time back in November, but that was an extreme case of ‘the more it was “fixed” the more it got worse.’ Any way, I’m happy to say, it’s been growing back quickly, and November was just a blur now.

My desperate measure came after G-man and I went out to dinner and my bangs that hadn’t been touched since the beginning of December were flat in my eyes. Most annoying thing ever (in the hair department). Oh, I take that back and add incredibly obvious gray roots to the top of that list…and head. har har

Most of you (just about all) didn’t know that I was expected to go back to the states last week, but as is typical, I canceled my flight to stay here through cherry blossom season. Japan is known for their cherry blossoms and the idea that I would have missed it is deplorable. Staying meant though, that I wouldn’t get my hair cut like I planned. After a quick search for my area, I came across a Japanese stylist who spoke English (major bonus) and used to cut hair in California and New York (extra bonus), and she was only 30 minutes away by train (that was high five worthy). I called, made the appointment for the next day and was ready to dive in.

It ended up raining all day that day, but I wasn’t deterred from getting my hair done. In fact, it made for a one-on-one experience in the salon which was quite nice. And let me tell you, this was the best experience I’ve ever had in a salon to date. The service was unmatched and you’ll soon see why.

I was greeted by Ana, her assistant and after she took my coat, scarf, and umbrella to hang, led me to the chair. After taking pictures of my “before”, she prepared me for Yoshiko, the stylist. From there, we spent the next forty minutes discussing the cut and color I wanted with pictures, color books, magazines and explanations, before fully feeling like we understood each other. Yoshiko spoke English, though it was still very thick with a Japanese accent, so we made sure we were both on the same page before she even came close with scissors. She cut my hair dry and once done, began coloring. But before she did, they placed ear muffs on my ears to keep the color from getting on them. Imagine mini shower caps on my ears. Raise of hands how many times a colorist got color all over your ears? I thought it was such a smart idea. After the heater was put over me, Ana came back with a list of beverages to choose from and after choosing hot tea, she left me alone until the timer went off.

Immediately, Ana brought me to the shampoo station where she spent the next 25 minutes washing and massaging my head. 25 minutes! But what was impressive was she placed a light washcloth over my face to protect me from splatters. (I can’t tell you how many countless times I get soaked because the person is carelessly splashing water all over my face.) Throughout she gave the best scalp massage I’ve ever had, and when I thought she was winding down, she lifted my head up, and placed a hot rolled up towel under my neck to soothe my neck muscles as she continued to massage my head. I almost stood up to hug her right then and there. A few minutes more of washing and massaging, she sat me up but told me to stay seated. She then began patting my hair dry with the towel, and continued to do so until it was no longer dripping wet. Do I need to ask how many of you are told to get up and walk back to your chair with sopping wet hair? This was the first time it was ever thoughtfully dried before I moved.

It was obvious to me at that point the attentiveness was beyond anything I ever experienced. Ana led me back to my chair and immediately began massaging my neck. She just spent 25 minutes on my head, and now she’s doing my neck! This woman, I love. She moves to my shoulders, and then lightly pushes me forward and massages my entire back! I did everything possible to keep a blank face like this was a normal experience, but I was freaking out inside over this treatment. >clearly easily pleases< She continues massaging my neck, shoulders, back and eventually moves to my hands and arms as Yoshiko comes back to look over my hair. Ana keeps massaging as Yoshiko and I talk things over. I just want to close my eyes and enjoy everything at that moment.

Soon they began drying my hair. Did you catch the “they”? Both of them; one on each side with dryers, worked on my hair. At that point, I had to begin documenting, and not so discreetly took a picture.
As Yoshiko begins styling it, Ana becomes her accessories. Yoshiko doesn’t use clips for the hair; she uses Ana to hold the hair. Ana is there for whatever Yoshiko wants of her.
Finally, everything is complete. I’m beyond pleased with the result and happily pay. It was a little expensive, but the beauty of Japan (and I’ve been meaning to write a post on this) is you don’t tip. So I paid a flat rate with no pressure, and after they pointed me to the bus stop, I merrily walked back into the rain.

Taking a chance with a Japanese salon was risky, but my hair is so much happier for it. And what’s amazing is they could have given me the worst haircut ever, but I would still have raved over them because of their customer service. It’s a wonder to me, salons in America (or at least the many I’ve been to) don’t take the thoughtful approach and time out for their customers. I know we can get into the fact they rent spaces, and this and that and how it’s so expensive for them, yet, giving your client that extra special treatment goes much further beyond the dollar. Or at least this client thinks so. And because of that, I now proudly add Afrodita in Yokohama, Japan to my list of salons to frequent.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

One small step for me

Whenever I consider venturing out alone in a foreign country, I flash back to my time in London and my fears that kept me in the hotel room. G-man and I had big plans for the one full day we were going to be in London, but he got horrible food poisoning and the option to go out alone was paralyzing. I had never been in another country alone before, and the idea of walking around the unknown, albeit among people who spoke English, wasn’t something I could bring myself to do; much to G’s disappointment. So I stayed in the very small room, while he battled all the effects of food poisoning. Poor guy just wanted to be alone, but I couldn’t do it.

Four years later, I find myself in Japan alone, while G-man works. There are several more levels of difficulty I face than in London, but I was determined to break the little fears I had, and go explore by myself. I made sure I had everything I could think of covered. Several different train times to and from my destination and pictures of maps from the internet had me feel prepared. I don’t have cell service so it was important I thought of everything before I left, since I couldn’t do a quick lookup later.

I went to Kamakura and beside having to ask a station worker about a train, I got there without incident. I was cheering myself on in my head each step of the way as I clicked off each milestone. I walked the busy streets, and found myself at a busy restaurant eating delicious soba noodles and tempura over rice to celebrate my small victory of navigating the trains alone.
If anyone goes to Kamakura, I’ll offer this one tip: Get a map. Get a map of where every single shrine, temple, and grave is, before even stepping foot out of the train station. I couldn’t find where the maps were, but that’s only because I had the restroom as top priority, and forgot everything else, but the map is essential to navigate you through the many streets. There has to be close to 60 places to see, and you have to decide if you want to go East or West out of the train station. Since I’ve gone West twice before, I decided to go East…again, without a map.

I followed the crowds at first, and when I thought I saw what looked to be an entrance, I made my way in. This actually worked well in my favor, but over time, when I was looking for shrines (and following the minimal street signs to them), I noticed I was walking 2-3 times more than necessary because I couldn’t find them right away. I backtracked a lot. Over six hours, I managed to see three shrines, one grave, and one temple. I was beat! Almost at the end of my day, at one of the shrines was a big map of the whole city that showed the location of every place. I tried to follow it but it only helped confuse me more but this gives you an idea of what the city offers.
Here are a few (a lot) from the day. I had a great time and it helped give me a little more confidence for future adventures alone.
The only way I could include myself in any shot was to do a selfie.
The plum blossoms are blooming, which are more sparse than cherry blossoms, but none the less, beautiful.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

I see you seeing me

I planned to go into Kamakura, a city that has a ridiculous amount of shrines and temples, last Friday, for some fun photos, but I decided instead to stay in town and look around. I took the train in, and walked toward one of the two malls in town, and got a quick bite in the food court. Not before the woman joked to the cook about my struggles of ordering, and not before three teen boys openly stared and talked about me, of course.

I chalked it up to looking good that day… it helps ease the mind when it wants me to retreat back to the apartment away from all the scrutiny.

It goes without saying I get lots of looks. I’m tall. I wear knee high boots that for whatever reason gets a lot of looks. These ones to be exact, and maybe it’s because the zipper is on the outside; I don’t know, but they get their fair share of stares. I can’t quite say why I get side glances and quick peeks when they think I’m not looking, but I do. Maybe they’re curious. Maybe I have something on my face (which I honestly worry about when they stare a lot) but I do my best to pretend I don’t see them and go on my merry little way.

I stand out. As much as I wish I could blend in, I don’t; so I keep my eyes forward and ignore the world. There have been a couple instances where they’re friendly toward me, however. When I was walking around town Friday, a construction worker I was coming upon made eye contact, tipped her hat, and said konnichiwa (good afternoon), with a big smile; and I couldn’t help but respond in kind. It was so unexpected that it practically made my day. I never get random acts of happiness by people on the street here.

One thing that’s big in Japan is they don’t eat or drink while walking. Well, there are some that do, but its mainly the very disrespectful ones who aren’t looked on favorably…or the drunk ones. But it’s considered very rude to walk down the street and eat. Even when vendors are handing out samples of coffee or little cakes, people take them, step off to the side, eat them and only when done do they start walking again. It makes it harder to eat and drink on the streets with no trashcans anywhere. You’ll literally find yourself holding your trash for hours if you want to dare eat while on the run.

You won’t see the people walking with their Starbucks cups, or their travel coffee mugs, or their 7-11 sodas either. You just won’t. So when I decided to get a gelato after my lunch Friday and eat it outside to enjoy the warm 46 degree weather, it wasn’t surprising I got a couple looks.


It helps to say I’m an American, so I can get away with it more. American has no respect…but at least I didn’t eat it until I sat down! That has to account for something, I’m sure. And I even tucked my trash in my purse to take back to the apartment with me. That has to account for something too, no doubt. I felt mildly validated when I began walking again and saw an old woman eating her lunch on a bench as well.

After all was said and done, I decided to avoid all trains and make the long walk back to the apartment. It may sound boring, but I’ve been wanting to time how long it would take to walk from a particular train station back to the apartment, so I started my stopwatch and got to walking. I actually loved the walk. It took all of 20 minutes, and that included me stopping to take pictures, and I was amazed it was so quick. What amazes me more is how much I hate walking in California, but love walking in other countries. I have driven four very short blocks to a store in CA, that’s how much I hate walking there.

I still plan to make the trip into Kamakura but I’m glad I got to walk around Yokosuka. There’s so much more of it to see that I’ve only just begun to explore it. Here’s a few more from that day.

about to tour Yokosuka’s port.

the daiei mall (pronounced: die-aye)
steep stairs are everywhere. I’m in stair heaven here with all the potentials I could run up for a great workout.
I’m not sure how much they’re going to like me running them, but I think I found my new “bleachers”.
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Thursday, March 6, 2014


Lately, I’ve been unable to finish a post. I get half way through and stop; and within a couple days what I wrote about has changed completely and the post becomes unnecessary. This has happened twice now, and I wonder if I should write at all since things keep changing.

Lately, I’ve been checking my college website to see my final grade for one of my classes. Two more assignments need to be graded but I’m still at an A and I’m really happy about that. My other class I got an A+, and that served to tickle me to no end.

Lately, I’ve been relishing in these days off from school, but I find I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m so used to being on my computer for hours on end each and every day, that now that I don’t have to, I’m left staring at my screen, lost. I have to force myself to close my laptop in order to go do something, anything.

Lately, I’ve been spending my time in Japan….yet again. This was a very last minute trip. As in, Sunday I looked at flights and Tuesday I was on the plane. Anyone who paid attention would know I was here only two weeks ago, and I admit, even I’m wondering why I went home for two weeks, but I’m here now and get to actually explore. Doing this reminds me of my trips to Hawaii and how they’d be very last minute and even extended. A 5 hour flight to Hawaii vs 11 hour flight to Japan is the only thing that is {painfully} different.

Lately, I’ve declared my love for Singapore Airlines. I can’t stop talking about it; they’re the most amazing airline I’ve flown, and I’ve flown A LOT of different airlines. 15 to be exact…or that’s how many airlines I can remember off the top of my head. I honestly might do a whole post on Singapore Airlines alone, that’s how wonderful they are.

Lately, I’ve had a really bad attitude. There’s no two ways around it. I’ve been in a rather foul mood, which is another reason I haven’t been able to blog lately. With a new bible study, and plenty of God’s help, I’m working on it; but life has been rough (mentally) for me lately, and I haven’t done a good job at surrendering it and not having it effect my every day.

Lately, I’ve been working out and boy has this made a difference in how I feel about myself. I know immediately when I gain 5lbs, and whenever I do, I feel nothing but the worst things about myself. Even knowing it, I was still reluctant to workout, and would beat myself up by the hour. I had to tell myself there were no excuses as to why I was getting soft, and finally began working out again. (I’ve been told I’m overly hard on myself). Now I’ve consistently worked out for almost two weeks, and am getting back to (my) normal.

Lately, I’ve been going through my almost 8,000 photos and deleting the ones I don’t want. My plan is to make photo albums for each trip and category I have so I can cherish them outside my computer. I’ve made two over the past couple years, and have approximately 20 more to go. That’s not daunting at all…

Hopefully I can begin sharing more of the places I’ve seen since being here. I have a lot of photos and experiences I want to share with you, so I’m hoping I can find the motivation to share them.

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