Thinking about thinking

Last few days, I’ve been thinking about thinking. I was listening to James Altucher’s podcast interview with Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She is well known for her story of constantly using failure to learn lessons. Her father would ask at dinner table, “What did you fail in this week?” and if they didn’t have anything they failed at, he’d be actually disappointed. He helped her frame it that failure isn’t about the outcome. For them, failure is about not trying. She says if something doesn’t turn out or ends up embarrassing herself, it’s not a failure. Failure is not doing something out of fear. I related to it very much. She also said she goes out of her way to embarrass herself. If too much time go on without embarrassing herself, she feels “Oh, I gotta do something” —and she’d sing in an elevator when other people were there. etc. I liked the idea. Embarrassing yourself is a good exercise to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. (Yes, this is a huge keyword for me) – She also mentioned the importance of being vulnerable. Another reason I love her.

I’m fan of hers not because I want to be a millionaire business mogul, but because she seems like a very down to earth person with an “always-learning” mindset, in which I always strive for as well. I’ve heard her “What did you fail this week” story elsewhere, but what I didn’t know was her need to think alone. She said thinking is her favourite thing to do, and believes it’s so important for us to be alone and think. That’s when all her ideas come to her. She lives 5 minutes from her office, but she’d drive around for 45 minutes before work to do some thinking. In this “always-connected” era, where informations coming at you from all over the place, from your phone’s lock screen to billboards and TVs in elevators, it’s important to be alone, turn everything off, and think.

For myself, I do my best thinking in shower, or while I’m putting my makeup on. Those are pretty much the only time I’m left alone. I’m sure all the moms out there would agree. These days, I have so much going on, I need to literally write things down on somewhere, otherwise my thoughts disappear into the thin air. This is why I have wad of paper bundled with clip everywhere on my desk. I know it looks messy but I don’t care. This works for me.

Driving is also my time to think, just like Sara. I can’t write things down while driving, so I often use voice memo on my phone. A friend – an actor and playwright – said he uses Siri to record spontaneous moments of thought. That makes sense to me too.

And after thinking, I need to write about it. Musicians would create music, poets write poems, painters paint—and writers write.

Experience Japan Unlayered at Fairmont Pacific Rim

I was in Vancouver this week to see the Japan Unlayered, an exhibition on Japanese Art, Architecture and Culture happening at Fairmont Pacific Rim. The event features brands like MUJI, BEAMS JAPAN, Waketokuyama, ACURA and Sakurai Japanese Tea Experience as well as architecture by Kengo Kuma and designs from Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garcons) and Yoji Yamamoto.

When you enter Fairmont Pacific Rim, first thing you see is the Floating Tea Room by Kengo Kuma on your right. The use of “Super Organza” reminds me of the childhood fort in a way, but at the same time there is a sense of serenity.

On your left, is the much-talked-about MUJI Pop-up store. To explain what MUJI is for those who don’t know what it is, it’s an extremely popular Japanese retail chain known for its unique yet simple designs. MUJI is short for Mujirushi Ryohin, which means No Brand, Quality Goods. They don’t market themselves as cutting-edge design company, but rather, natural (a lot of their cotton and paper are unbleached, so they are in beige color) and environmentally friendly. They’re not flashy, yet their products work. Their products often feature simple yet ingenious designs. See the flashlight video here. (As of February 1st, this flashlight was sold out at the pop-up store. I am not sure whether they will be restocked or not. )

I love their stuff. So I was very excited to hear that MUJI is opening 2 stores in Vancouver (Robson St and Metrotown) this fall.

Due to the high volume of interest, entrance to the MUJI pop-up store is currently registration-based, and the spots “sell out” very quickly, but in you have time to line up for few minutes, you can get in. Here’s a quick video of the shop. It is very very small.

Kengo Kuma’s architecture exhibition is just above the RAW bar and lobby lounge. There are many Japanese elements Mr. Kuma uses in his designs, and each of them are explained in detail here. I loved them all, but this one in particular was my favourite:

RAW bar features special Chef’s Plate (Gozen) lunch by chef Hiromitsu Nozaki from the 2-stat restaurant Waketokuyama and Fairmont Pacific Rim’s own Chef Takayuki Omi. I’ve had a privilege of working with Chef Omi (Taka Sensei) in the past, and I am sure this will be extraordinary. Reserve your spot here.

Tea and Wagashi (Japanese sweets) are also served at lobby lounge during the day.

BEAMS Japan, another iconic Japanese lifestyle brand has their own pop-up store inside the Giovane cafe.

I bought this Japanese style towel at BEAMS shop. This traditional Japanese pattern is called hemp leaf. One of my favourite patterns.

Japan Unlayered is free admission and continues until February 27th. Be sure to check it out and experience Japan – Unlayered.

On Joy

At the end of last year, I had picked 3 words for 2017. They are Faith, Create and Connect.

Now I’ve decided to change the last one to JOY.

I have been doing this “3 Words” thing for few years, (like my friend Chris), but this is the first time I’ve decided to change one of the words after I’ve picked them.

I’ve written about the Tea Leaf Reading I went last week.

It was a lighthearted, fun experience-nothing serious or life-altering, but I keep thinking about what the Tea Leaf Reader -Rachel- had said to me.

She told me to embrace JOY. She also told me that word she kept seeing was “Simple”.

Keep it simple, embrace joy” might sound too generic to some of you. I don’t think this is the first time I heard an advice like that, but for some reason, it resonated with me so much perhaps for the first time. Like I was finally ready to take the message seriously.

As an entrepreneur and also a freelancer, my life is always in chaos. I have about 3-5 different type of work I do at all times. ESL agent (helping Japanese international students), Writing, Translation, Consulting, Freelancing, etc etc.

I’ve been pretty good at saying no to clients who doesn’t pay well, or to people who’d steal my time. I got that one covered.

But, for example, I have this one client I do translation for, and they’d email me and ask “Hi Yukari, I have a one-page translation for you. There are only 3 lines. Can you quickly do it for $10?”

Of course, if I don’t have time, or if the project is too big for the pay they offer, I’ll always say no. But my problem was when I happen to have an hour, and if it’s only 3 lines, I used to say yes, because why not make some extra money, even though it’s only $10?

Now I know that’s wrong for me.

I could have used the hour writing. Or reading. Or painting. I might not make extra $10 for writing or reading, but that is much better for me because it will bring me joy. I used to be so practical and pragmatic, and I always thought I might as well work if I have some extra time. I was wrong.

Rachel told me I should always do projects/events/hang out with people only when it makes me real. And then the energy would flow. I should only be doing the things that would ultimately serve me. I shouldn’t waste my time, I should go straight to what I want to do and what I want to accomplish. Life is too short anyway.

So I have started to only do things that will bring me joy. I don’t take on projects I’m not keen on just because I have the time. If I have spare time, I would use it to do something that will bring me joy.

If you read Brené Brown’s books (if you know me, you know I am a HUGE fan), you know joy is so important. People feel vulnerable when they feel joy. Maybe it’s why joy is so undervalued. You know, we treat it like it’s a “fluff”. Joy is important. Just as being brave and vulnerable makes you feel alive, joy also makes you feel alive. Just like Faith, which I’ve written about the other day, leaning towards joy is also an act of courage. Because it is terrifying to actually feel the joy. When you lean into joy… and what if it’s taken away? If you’ve ever loved someone you know the feeling. (More about that on this video)

(Side note: I LOVE the movie “Joy” with Jennifer Lawrence. I saw myself in Joy and resonated with that movie SO much. I know, I know, call it confirmation bias if you want.)

But I’m serious when I say joy is important. Do you feel joy in your life?

With everything that’s happening in the world, we need joy more than ever, don’t you agree?

Tea Leaf Reading at Silk Road

How much do you know about tea leaf reading? I have done it once up in Nanaimo, but I barely remember what was said. The fortune teller told me a lot about my fortune, but the time she spent on the tea leaf reading was less than 2 minutes.

So I was pretty curious when I first heard about Silk Road in downtown Victoria was offering Tea Leaf Reading. The owner of Silk Road, Daniela is a lovely friend of mine and she was generous enough to offer me a session with Rachel, Silk Road’s resident Tea Leaf Reader.

When I met Rachel at the corner of the Chinatown store, what I noticed right away was that tea was served without any saucer. You know, “Western style” in a way. As soon as we sat down, Rachel went to grab me a cup of tea, and it came in an Asian style tea cup without a handle. The tea they use for the Tea Leaf Reading at Silk Road is Berry Victoria, one of my favourites. As the name suggests, it is a very Victorian tea, uses many local ingredients. As we sat, Rachel asked me to take the time and enjoy the tea, which I did very much. (It really is a delicious tea). She also asked me to think about the stuff I want to ask about.

I went to this reading without any previous knowledge of the session and completely not knowing what to expect.

Berry Victoria is a black tea with lavender, rose petals, native bergamot, infused with local berries and vanilla bean. So it not only tastes good but also is pretty to look at. I also love how it’s naturally sweet thanks to the berries.

While I sipped the tea we talked about many different things. Rachel said she’s been doing Tea Leaf Reading ever since she was a little girl, as her grandmother taught her how to read it. She also showed me beautiful crystal sticks she uses to point at various things she sees in the cup.

Since Berry Victoria is a loose tea, with many different things in it not just tea leaves (such as rose petals), the leaves move around in the cup as I sip.

First thing Rachel noticed was a bit of leaf stuck on the side of the cup.

“It looks like a jet.” You know, an airplane! (I love flying.)

For about half an hour, we talked about a lot of different things, and every now and then, Rachel would stop me and point me to different things in the cup. As I keep drinking, the leaves in the cup moves around and changes shapes. Really interesting. We saw a gun, a sphinx, a duck, a flower, and the loveliest of all are an angel with a stick, as if she’s poking on me! I loved that. Tea Leaf Reading, I think, is an art of interpretation.

I wouldn’t bore you with details of my personal reading, but it was such a wonderful experience. I’m not the type to believe everything I’m told blindly – my personal belief about fortune telling is for fun and to get encouragement, rather than putting all the weight of life-altering decision, so this was exactly what I needed.

Rachel is lovely to talk to. If you are interested, you can check our her website at Victoria Tea Leaf Reading. She is doing the reading at Silk Road Chinatown on Thursdays (4:00- 5:30pm) and Sundays (1-4pm). The fee is $30 for 20 minutes and $40 for 30 minutes. No reservation necessary.  You can record your session (I used my iPhone). There are also group sessions, parties and lessons available as well as private session at her own tea emporium. Silk Road offers many free events and workshops too. Check their website for details.

This would be a great thing to do with girlfriends, or with a mom or grandma. I hope try it sometime.


Disclaimer: I have received a free tea leaf reading, but I have not been asked to write about it in any way, positive or otherwise. I did it because I wanted to. 🙂