Category Archives: Lifestyle and Culture

Giving an old lamp shade a BRAND new life

DIY Brande Name Lamp Shade

I found a old lamp shade in the closet. It had a hole on it. I was about to throw it away.

But I gave it a second chance and managed to find a way to give it a BRAND new life. Literally, brand names are now all over this lamp shade.

DIY Lamp Shade

Here’s what you need: a lamp shade(a paper one’s probably better), a pair of scissors, news paper and glue

  1. Cut out letters from news paper.
  2. Think of words that you would like to have on your lamp shade, maybe a theme first. Family? Love? Christmas?Naughty words?
  3. Glue them on until you can’t see your old lamp shade anymore.

lamp shade

Here’s a picture of my finished product.

I’ve tried using fabric to revive an old lamp shade before. I must say that gluing paper on is  a lot easier than manipulating fabric.

Hope you like the idea I just shared. Merry Christmas, everyone! Ho-ho-ho.

Le Salon Jacques Borie

Amazing french desserts at Le Salon Jacques Borie
Amazing french desserts at Le Salon Jacques Borie

Yesterday, we were at Le Salon Jacques Borie located on the 4th floor of Isetan Department Store in Tokyo.

They had a cartful of traditional(at least they looked so to me) French desserts. Some I had seen, some I had never seen and some I felt like I may have tried before but couldn’t remember. My knowledge of French isn’t great. It was a small, fancy-looking cafe. Maybe I would call it a tea room rather than a cafe, but calling it a tea room doesn’t do it justification since the place was not in any way British.

Anyways, I am going to keep this post short. The place was a bit pricy. We chose 3 different kinds of desserts from the cart to share. There were three of us. Each of us got a drink, coffee or tea. It came up to about 7000 yen. Not cheap. But their desserts were insanely good. Part of the reason why they were so good was the reason that there were a lot of fancy dessert items that I’d never seen before. I love food, I love food that’s delicious but I really really love delicious food that I have never seen before.

A RING-SHAPED CAKE MADE FROM A CHOU PASTRY, FILLED WITH PRALINE CREAM AND COATED WITH FLAKE ALMONDS
A RING-SHAPED SPONGE CAKE, IMPREGNATED WITH A CITRUS AND SPICES SYRUP FLAVOURED WITH RUM

Found their English Menu online today. I didn’t not know what I ate yesterday. Someone please enlighten me, tell me what they are in French.

 

 

Did I ever tell you that I’d never seen so many French products before I got to Tokyo? Food, make-up, clothing, interior items and store exterior. French or French-inspired things are everywhere in Tokyo. Coming from Canada, I thought I would have seen my fair share of French things. But since I  lived in Vancouver,  it probably doesn’t apply. The name, Le Salon Jacques Borie made me assume that it’s a famous French franchise, but it actually wasn’t so. The waiter told us that Chef Jacques Borie is a famous chef in Japan. He is/was (at the age of 60-something, he might have retired) the chef at Shiseido Parlour. Shiseido as in the make-up brand Shiseido? You might ask. Guess what, I don’t know. I am still trying to find out if it is related to Shiseido the make-up company or not.

I was lucky today and got to take a photo with chef Jacques Borie himself.
I was lucky today and got to take a photo with chef Jacques Borie himself.

Located in Isetan Department store in Tokyo. I thought it’d be a great place to go and just have coffee when you get tired of shopping. It turned out to be a lot fancier than I thought. Such impressive desserts though. I would go again when I felt the need to spoil myself.

For expensive but insanely good desserts: http://parlour.shiseido.co.jp/lesalon/index.html

expensive but insanely good desserts at Le Salon

My ‘Practical Thoughts’ on Interracial Marriage

A couple years ago, when I attended Japanese language school, the teacher assigned us a discussion topic on ‘international marriage’. Some of us were supposed to speak on behalf of supporting the idea and some of us were supposed to do the opposite. For many of us, in a school where the students are made of 100% “foreigners”, it was an odd topic. I suspected that if anyone of us truly felt strongly about not marrying anyone outside of one’s home country and did not have the openness to the possibility of building relationships with people that came from different places of the world, he or she would not have left his or her home country to study a new language at all. But my suspicion remained a suspicion. The Indian guys in my class felt pretty destined to marry Indian girls.

IMG_1613

Still, ‘international marriage’ was an odd topic for me. Even when I googled this term, international marriage, most of the results that showed up were specifically related to Japanese people. ‘Interracial marriage’, however, seems to be more of a topic worth discussing to me. Vancouver, where I grew up for instance, has a huge Asian population. Many Asian Canadians marry Asians that grow up in Asia. I am not saying that they don’t have cultural differences, but I do see less cultural differences between an `international couples’ who both grew up in Asian families than an ‘interracial couple’ who both come from the same country but grew up in different cultural values taught by their families. Well, maybe I am making this more complicated than it really is. Maybe I say so because I lived in Canada, where interracial couples are seen fairly frequently. Since interracial couples are not as common in Japan as it is in Canada, when Japanese people speak of international marriage, they probably assume that it is the same as interracial marriage. Maybe I am just nitpicking =P.

Anyhooo, back to the point I am trying to make, I am going to write about my thoughts on interracial marriage. This is how I see it. Despite white, black, asian, hispanic or whatever, I think that when it comes to marriage, people should of course go with whatever that makes them feel comfortable because our goal in life is to live happily ever after, not to end up in a divorce. Having the same racial background could mean that you are more likely to share similar values. Nevertheless, even people of the same racial background can  have very different values because everyone’s upbringing and everyone’s life experience are all very different. I think that appearance, on the other hand, is what makes an interracial couple definitely different from a couple of the same race (sorry for lumping people up according to colors by the way).

If I may consider my spouse as a piece of accessory, I would say that I prefer to wear one that does not look too much the same as me. I consider myself an open-minded person, so I would not mind to carry around a statement piece which informs people about that side of my personality prior to them getting to know me. I mean, don’t we all choose the way we dress according to how we like to be perceived on a daily basis? If I want people to think that I am sexy, I’d wear something more or less revealing. If I want people to take me seriously, I probably would not dress like I don’t care about what others think.

I am Taiwanese Canadian. If people guessed hard enough, they can tell that I am Taiwanese or Chinese. But my appearance does not necessarily hint off the fact that I am also Canadian. There has been occasions when people ask me about Taiwan when they found out that I was Taiwanese. Nonetheless, having lived there for twelve years when I was young doesn’t really make me feel comfortable answering questions regarding to it (though I don’t think I feel comfortable speaking for Canada either). When I was with a Taiwanese boyfriend, our appearance made it very easy for others to assume that we were a typical Taiwanese couple. Not that I minded being considered typical, but being a typical Taiwanese couple would mean that we probably would not be able to speak English very well and we probably have mostly Taiwanese friends. And that just isn’t the kind of image that I would like to give out. People judge each other everyday, often not in a negative way. If we didn’t judge others by how they look at all, we would not be able to initiate an conversation adequately. It would be rude to ask a big woman if she’s pregnant, wouldn’t it? I’d like to have people being a little prepared for what my answers may be before we start talking. I’d like to shock less people with my outspoken personality (in Asian standard…I’m not really THAT outspoken).

Being with a partner of the same or different skin color (I’m actually try to avoid using the word ‘race’ since we in fact one ‘human race’) should be a choice. I think it is a choice that is similar to choosing which accessory to wear when you go out so that your personality can be appropriately reflected. Some people will admire your taste, some will not. Some may be jealous and some may just be haters. After all, being with a partner of different skin color is not a choice that the majority makes, not till this day at least. It is like wearing a trendy (at least those who wear it think so) fashion piece that not everyone gets. This is my explanation to what happened to the Cheerios commercial (see below).

Having a partner who has different skin color makes my life easier. It works for me. Go with whoever that makes your life easier, same race or not. If being with a guy who makes a lot of money would make your life easier, I say go with it as long as his qualities that you don’t enjoy so much are tolerable. Do what makes you happy.

There you go, my thoughts on interracial marriage, on my man being a piece of accessory.

Painting the Wall, Drawing on the Wall

I’m into decorating. I’ve managed to turn an ex-boyfriend’s headboard into an art piece. It’s too bad that I didn’t take a picture of my work. I would really like to display it here. He had a lot of used stamps that he wanted to keep and an old headboard that neither of us liked. So, while he was at school, I tore those stamps off the envelopes, dipped them in a mixture made of water and synthetic resin adhesive and pasted them onto the headboard. His aunt came over to ask me if I wanted lunch while I was working on my art project. I think what I was doing was not anything that she was expecting to see that day, not on any other day either.

I figured that if the witch from Hansel and Gretel can be creative enough to come up with the idea of decorating the exterior of her home with candies, I can do something crazy, too!

Decorating the exterior of a house using candies? What a brilliant idea!
Source: http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_mblhqpXHFB1rvxtm2o1_500.jpg

I painted over the wall facing the veranda in my ex-boyfriend’s apartment using white paint. I picked a simple picture that I liked as inspiration. I picked up a small paint brush and just drew on the wall. I named it JJ’s laundry room because that was where the washing machine was.

Wall Painting by Me

That was fun. Maybe I will use the exterior of my house as a canvas next time.

Japanese People and Their Ten-ten Culture

chotto

One of the nose pieces of my glasses fell off. I went in the store where I bought them from to get it fixed. I didn’t know what it is called in Japanese(I did not know how to call it in English either, I had to ask my sister about it). So, I went into the store and said “sumimasen, korewane…. In translation, I said: “excuse me, this is…” I pointed at the nose piece and dragged the last word of my sentence. “Hai, shosho omachi kudasai“, the clerk quickly responded. He understood exactly what I wanted, told me to wait a minute while he tried to fix it for it.

‘Ten’ means dot in Japanese. Therefore, ‘ten ten ten’ in Japanese just means ‘dot dot dot’ in English. I moved to Japan about three years ago. I signed up for a upper-beginner class at a Japanese language school when I first got here. I could speak Japanese somehow due to years of TV-watching, but I was far from being fluent. After taking a displacement test, the upper-beginner class is where they placed me. I was placed in the uppser-beginner class with a number of classmates. My classmates and I always hang out after school, eating, drinking and doing homework together. None of us spoke perfect Japanese and somehow I naturally became the one who sounded out everyone’s order when the waiter or waitress approached us.

Maybe it was because I was often the only Asian person sitting at the table. Maybe my classmates just had a whole lot of faith in me, although we were all at the same level when it came to the Japanese language. Maybe, my language ability is excellent – I acted like I knew what I was doing and somehow any Japanese waiter or waitress would magically understand what I was trying to say. Please read on to see how it done.

Japanese people have a culture of avoiding confrontation – a tendency to avoid conflict. I have known this for a very long time. I wrote an essay and made a presentation about this in my Asian Studies class. I don’t know I noticed this in the first place, but by know I have heard enough people talk about the lengthy meetings they experience at Japanese companies to be able to tell you that it is not just my own speculation. Japanese people in general don’t like making direct comments and it appears that many of them appreciate the beauty of vagueness very much. I was told that the reason behind this is that because Japan has a big population density, they do so that everyone can live in peace and run things more efficiently.

Let’s talk about the lengthy meetings first. I think Japanese meetings become extremely lengthy for two reasons: Japanese’s people’s detail-oriented personality and their tendency to avoid conflict. Japanese workers are in general very detail-oriented. In a western country, more expensive items are often of much better quality than items of much cheaper price. In Japan though, although high-priced products often do come with superb quality, even the low-priced products come with more-than-decent quality – Convenient store foods, 1000 yen lunch combos, Daiso are just a few examples. Japanese product designers would notice the littlest problem that a customer may have and design a product to solve it. A clerk in a Japanese department store is taught to bow(even when no one is looking) before he or she goes inside the employee-only space and respecfully back into the entrance. You can often find stools in the elevators for the elderly. And let’s not start with the butt-washing toiletry. As a customer, I love Japanese products. They are great; their quality are superb; but no one said anything about the processes of coming up with those amazing products being short.

Like I mentioned in the above, Japanese people don’t like confrontation. Especially at meetings, people are expected to express their opinions without pushing others’ buttons. What happens in a meeting is that people have to master a skill called ‘air-reading’. ‘Kuuki o yomu'(空気を読む) literally means ‘reading the air’ in English. In a more proper translation, it means to be sensitive to a given situation. This is probably not a foreign concept to other East Asians. Being a Chinese child, I grew up having being told to always read my parents’ faces in order not to get myself into unnecessary trouble, though I have not mastered it all at, not after 29 years. If reading the air is a unfamiliar concept to you and you live in Japan, I’d tell you to start learning. It is a survival skill that you need in Japan. If you come from outside of Japan and are somewhat familiar with this concept, you should know that the Japanese take it to the next level because being detail-oriented, they can’t help noticing your every little move. Again, I see the beauty in this concept, however, I can’t exactly say it is the most time-efficient way of making communication.

Back to what I was talking about initially. Because Japanese people are so well trained in their ability to read a situation, you don’t actually need verbalize your conversation entirely. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you want to ask a Japanese waiter for something and don’t know how to say it in Japanese, just first, excuse yourself with a sumimasen(because you are a polite person who deserves his or her attention); second, lift, point, or make whatever gesture to imply what you need(because he or she will be reading your every move); and third, begin your sentence and then gradually mute yourself before you get to the vocabs you don’t know how to say(because you don’t have the 5 seconds to waste on looking it up in the dictionary on your smartphone). Oh! Making a I-need-help facial expression helps, too. Your waiter is then likely going to respond by filling your sentence.

For example:
You: sumimasen……(lift your cup a little and make a I-need-help facial expression, don’t forget the mute).
Japanese Waiter: kohee wa irimasuka(would you like coffee)?

If your waiter didn’t guess it right, the first time:
You: Ah….(tilt your head, make a not-that-one facial expression, mute the end of your sentence).
You can continue with the above action while he tries to fill the end of your sentences. Move on to the next step when he gets it right.

Japanese Waiter: ocha desuka(tea)?
You: Hai, arigatougozaimasu(say yes and thank you with a smile).

For those who have an interest in learning more about simple non-verbal Japanese language or for those who do know know how to make a head tilt properly, the video below will give you a pretty good idea:

A little note here. I hope that I did not make myself sound sarcastic. My boyfriend often says that I do. I am not kidding about the ten-ten magic. It really works! Japanese people do this also, though they clearly don’t do so because they don’t know how to say something in Japanese. They mostly do it when they want to reject you. Maybe ‘no’ is considered too straightforward and confrontational in Japan, when a clerk wants to tell you “sorry, we can’t do that”, he or she would likely say “sorewa chotto…(with a mute at the end)” or “muzukashiidesune…”(also with a mute at the end). The first typical answer means “that is a little…” and the second one means “difficult…”. You will almost never hear the word, iie, the actual word for ‘no’ in Japanese. Travelers to Japan and dear fellow foreigners in Japan, I hope my article helps.