Monday, March 24, 2014

japan: my grandfather

I thought I'd post a little something different today and get a little more personal since this is a personal blog. I always enjoy when other bloggers talk about the elements that make up who they are as people, so I thought I'd start with some Japan posts, beginning with my family. People often ask who my inspirations in life are and I'll be the first to admit that my inspirations don't go far beyond the bounds of family but since I have found myself needing more and more inspiration these days, I thought I'd write about one: my grandfather. 

My grandfather worked for the Toyota company when it first began decades ago and was the first person from the company to go to New York in 1957 and open up shop, as it were. The first person. Ever. In the years after WWII, Japan’s economy was in shambles - like the rest of the country - so the only way to salvage it was to get foreign currency circulating within it. In this case, the US dollar. Problem was, basically no one on the international scene even wanted anything Japan had to offer (which, to be honest, wasn’t much). My grandfather described these early exports as primitive - ceramic plates, bowls, silk stockings, etc. So Toyota scraped up adequate funds, sent my grandfather over for six months with a few traveler’s checks and ordered him to try and get the Americans interested in Japanese exports. But this was a whole lot easier said than done because everything about Japanese exports was wrong. When my grandfather would bring samples to potential customers, they’d find something to pick at: the color was wrong, the shape was wrong and (in the case of fabrics) even the weave was wrong. All this time my grandfather was sending back reports to Toyota stating what the issues were and, over a good deal of time, the quality of Japanese goods improved to the point that Americas were buying. Thus, the Toyota Trading Company was born.

My grandfather worked with the international trade branch within the Toyota company, which includes the automobile branch but extends far beyond it. I always forget to distinguish between the two since, growing up, Toyota was always more or less a single entity in my mind consisting of both branches. However, I began realizing that to most people Toyota is merely the name of an automobile maker. So to clarify: my grandfather was the vice-president of Toyota North-America, but presided over international trade which naturally included cars but also fabrics, foodstuffs, etc etc etc. He is currently retired and has been for years though he is still marginally involved in the company. He is part of the Toyota Society, a group of retirees who meet a few times a month for business affairs as well as chummy fun - golf, ma-jung and luncheons. He also is the auditor for his friend’s engineering company, which keeps him busy. Sometimes I think he should take it easy, not to take on so much and to relax more. A big part of me is afraid of when my grandfather passes away and I don’t really want him to rush that day, though it will come when it wants to, I suppose. I don’t know, I can hear the voices of my mom and some friends telling me not to worry about it, about my grandfather’s inevitable death. And I don’t think about it often, obviously, just when I am reminded that he is getting old and that no one lives forever. I will admit that when he passes away, I will be crushed for a very long time.

My grandmother always called him katsuo, a kind of fish that is constantly moving because were it to stop moving it would die. There is a legend in Japan about the katsuo who constantly swim around the world, not because it was afraid it would die were it to stop - it kept swimming simply because it loved movement and didn’t want to stop. That describes my grandfather perfectly, he is always on the go, not egged on by a fear of death. He is always in a suit, no matter where we’re going, be it a quick run to the grocery store or to an orchestra concert in an upscale concert hall. In fact, I have never seen him not wearing a suit in public. A few years ago we went shopping together and came across the men’s jeans section of the store. He paused for a moment, hands clasped behind his back, dressed in a grey pin-stripe suit, black shoes polished and suddenly looks over at me and said, “Maybe I should start wearing jeans, wouldn’t that be different!” with a laugh. I laughed right along with him, trying to picture him in a pair of jeans. And you know what? I couldn’t do it. I am so used to seeing him in his suits, looking perfectly comfortable and casual just as I feel in my jeans and cardigans, that to picture him any other way was nigh impossible. Needless to say, he’s still sticking to the suits. He is a businessman at heart but also a businessman with a heart. Growing up as a teenager during WWII and the years following, he was confronted with the jarring reality of life in a country on the losing side of war (never a fun place to be). For years people were starving to death around him and there was never enough of anything. One thing I always admired about my grandfather was how human he is, how conscientious of others around him whether it was people he came across in business circles, societal circles or someone he passed in the grocery store. He was a very successful businessman, but the money never got to his head. Instead, the images of starvation and struggle remain firmly imbedded within him; his greatest joy comes from making other people happy. We were eating at a very fancy, delicious sushi shop one night and as I ate (with ‘child-like bliss’ my uncle later informed me) my grandfather watched me with such joy in his eyes. My uncle looks over and says with a grin, “Grandpa grew up in a time when everyone starved to death so his greatest joy is watching the people he loves eat good food”.

The war taught my grandfather and those in his generation to persevere and work themselves to the bone because there was no other alternative. He helped build one of the largest and most successful companies in the world, yet still remains incredibly down-to-earth. It’s insane. He is accepting, he is loving, he is understanding and compassionate. I wish that everyone had someone in their life like him, someone to look you square in the eye lovingly but firmly tell you to keep going, to keep on chugging away at life. Someone to whom you can look at and realize that yes, love does in fact cover a multitude of sins - including those that were inflicted upon you.

I hope that someday I can be like him. I don’t know how realistic that is, but there’s nothing wrong with having lofty goals, yes?

Friday, March 21, 2014

travel: what's in my make-up bag

I am about to head out on a week long trip (for spring break woo hoo!) and since I personally love any sort of "what's in my bag" type posts, I thought I would make my own. I'm going to focus on what's in my travel make-up bag!

The bag I use to store ALL my makeup in is an old freebie bag that I got from Clinique years ago, but it's still in perfect shape and I absolutely love the print on it! This one is pretty big so I like to use it to consolidate my toiletries and my makeup into one handy little bag.

And here are my travel makeup essentials! This isn't the whole collection, just what I have to bring with me on trips. I do have quite a bit of Physicians Formula because a) I live right across the street from a CVS (they ALWAYS have good deals on their PF makeup) and b) I have super sensitive, break-out prone skin. I just find that American cosmetics are usually harsh on my skin, so I stick to PF, though I have been more and more tempted to try out bare Minerals and tarte. I'm especially drawn to tarte's adorable packaging.

- Chifure Liquid Foundation UV SPF33 PA++ in ピンク (pink): as someone who is mixed, I have a hard time finding foundations that suit my skin tone in the United States. Fortunately, I found a great match for me in Japan! I have been using this Chifure foundation for years and have yet to have any complaints. I would say it is a light-coverage foundation but it is buildable and works well with any concealers or powders on top.

- Organic Wear Jumbo Lash Mascara: I grew up with a mother who was always really conscious about bad chemicals in everything, so I have always been wary about putting harsh chemically things near my eyes. I also wear contacts, so I want to make sure that nothing irritates my eyes. At the same time I do want to have mascara because I like how my lashes look when curled + marscara-ed. I also love this mascara because it has never smudged on me and I have a very smudge-prone eye area. I usually schedule my classes and seminars all on one day so I need something that stays on for 10-12 hrs and this definitely delivers for me!

-Physicians Formula Mineral Wear Talc-Free Mineral Face Powder in Translucent Light: I was using a Covergirl pressed powder before this one but wanted to try something different. I find it goes on well with a fluffy brush and mattifies the skin well. I tested its staying power on a day I had to go downtown for an interview; I put on my makeup at around 8:30am and rode the bus, walked around downtown for a few hours, had an interview, walked around more, rode the bus back, and when I checked in the mirror my makeup was still looking good! I was glad that the powder didn't cake or break apart like my other powders have done in the past.

- Conceal Rx Physicians Strength Concealer in Light: I think most people are familiar with the Physicians Formula concealers, because a lot of people have raved about them. I have to throw in my own praise because every time I put it on I can't believe how well it covers up blemishes - and as someone who is prone to problem spots on the skin, I approve!

-hair clips to get my bangs out of my face when I do my makeup or wash my face: pretty self explanatory, I think.

-Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer in Radiant: I've talked about this product before and I'm still using it! Great concealer and after switching between two colors a few times, I've settled on 'Radiant' as my color. My only complaint about this product is that the brush tip leaks sometimes and although it has yet to leak out of the plastic cap, I always travel with it in its own plastic baggie just to be safe.

- Physicians Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Blush in Natural: How cute is this? I love the packaging and it's a great blush to boot! I decided to bring this blush along because it is a little more compact than my NudeWear blush and is easier to slip into your handbag if you decide to bring it along. And also, did I say it has super cute packaging?

- Physicians Formula Shimmer Strips for Brown Eyes: Who is getting sick of Physicians Formula? Clearly not me! This is a great go-to small palette for travel and has all my favorite shades, including a gorgeous deep plum color that I use in lieu of an eyeliner. It has all shimmer shades as well because I am a huge fan of shimmer eyeshadow - shimmer all day, every day, please!

-Physicians Formula Matte Collection Quad Eye Shadow in Canyon Classic: But since shimmer isn't always the best option, I have a matte quad as well. The colors are incredibly pigmented and smooth - when I first got it I was a little heavy handed and got way too much of the cream color on my brush and ended up with a white brow bone. Oops. I also use the darkest shade in this palette to fill in my brows when I want my already fairly defined brows to be an even bigger statement.

- Japanese drugstore makeup brand in brown: I can't find the brand name anywhere and it was also a gift from my mother after a trip, so I have no idea where it's from! That being said it's a pretty standard Japanese eyeshadow palette with neutral colors that are incredibly sparkly. Personally, I love it and I use it almost everyday, which is why I am getting close to hitting pan on the two lightest shades!

I also carry two sets of lip products (which didn't get pictured) to switch up my look:

-Julep Lipgloss in Charming and Enchanted
-Revlon's Just Been Bitten Kisseable Balm Stain in Honey and Rendezvous

Phew that was a lengthy post, but hope it was enjoyable! Let me know your travel essentials as well :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

currently loving: nails/notebooks

I haven't been posting a whole lot recently so I thought I'd sit down and compile a few things that I have been loving recently!

The first thing that is on my "love list" is: Julep nail polish!

I've been a member since October and I have loved basically all the colors - those that I didn't like were just colors that weren't necessarily my style so I decided to gift them to friends! So at the end of the day, I have no complaints. Julep is another one of those subscription systems but unlike the beauty boxes, these are just nail polish. They toss in a beauty extra as well each month but usually it's something that I don't mind having such as lip gloss. I have super sensitive skin, so makeup subscription boxes don't really work well for me - even though you can select 'sensitive skin' as your skin type, a lot of the makeup that they send wouldn't work well for my skin.

Nail polish on the other hand (heh heh) is something that I can do! What I like about Julep is that they make their polish without harsh chemicals, and they donate some of their proceeds to charities. Plus, if you don't particularly like the colors that month, you can skip the box and wait until you see something you really do love. I've skipped a few months, so I end up with colors I actually wear quite a bit instead of stock-piling a huge array of colors that just dry out. The subscription system is great for me because I change up my polish every week...that may sound like a lot, but painting my nails is my weekly pamper/de-stress activity. So it's fun to get new colors in the mail BUT as I said before, all the colors I get are ones I love so I have already worked my way through quite a few of my bottles!

This sounds like this is a sponsored post - but I promise it isn't! I just genuinely do currently love this brand!

colors: myriam and cassie
If you want to check out the colors I personally love to use, feel free to follow my Instagram where I like to post my nail colors!  

Another thing I am currently loving is: Decomposition notebooks.

I am a huge sucker for stationary. Actually both my mother and I have a love for stationary that borders on the ridiculous. She always said it was a very Japanese thing to be obsessed with, which I kind of have to agree with since all our Japanese (female) relatives are the same way. Every time we see a cute notebook, we usually end up getting matching ones, or the same notebook in different color schemes. When I was in Michigan about a month or so ago, I came across Decomposition Notebooks in the Ann Arbor campus bookstore and I instantly fell. In. Love. Their designs are absolutely gorgeous! Look at all those gorgeous designs! I made a bee-line for the coffee/tea cup print and regretted not getting a few more. However, my boyfriend was sweet enough to buy three more for me (yes, he got me another coffee cup one because I love me some mugs!) when he stopped in Chicago on his way to spring break. Here are a few more of my favorite prints:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4

Aren't they beautiful? You can see the stationary nerd in me going into a frenzy. The coffee cup print became my thesis notebook and, maybe this is just me, but I feel more productive when I have a really lovely notebook to do my work in. There's something about having cute stationary that makes me want to do my research - even on days like today when it's gray, drizzling, and someone is doing construction work on the radiators in your apartment building.

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