24/7: 22

Months have gone by since my birthday this year. But the idea to skip it and just move on with my life without writing a story about how my twenty one went, is just nonsense. If you want to assume this whole thing as a total bullcrap then why not. So much has happened for the past year, which adds to the most memorable so far.

July 24th 2017. I remember it was a sleepless night in Bali. Good music, and oh, how people are so much fun when they're wasted. I slept, though it was more of lack of rather than enough. But I woke up to the most refreshing air. The sun felt a lot warmer and the day couldn't get any better.

A couple of months later I got a text to leave for Tokyo, less than two-week notice. Up to this day I couldn't remember what had driven me to deliver those papers to my university office and apply for an exchange semester abroad. After my trip in 2016, Japan has always been something, but to actually fill in those forms, and write an essay about how I, and not somebody else, is the most suitable candidate for the opportunity, wasn't exactly the kind of thing I would do. But I did, despite the occasional eye-rolls of people around. 

I told the news. My friends were all tears and blues, not to mention my parents and families. At that very moment I realised, how lucky I am to be surrounded by people who actually think my absence matters, and how I was very unaware of that. And that's what it was all about. It hit me: why am I not in doubts? At all?

Living in a city for so long, surrounded by the same people, doing the same thing, going to the same place to buy lunch or simply taking the exact same route to reach home. Jakarta has always been a home where I was born and raised. You have that special bond with the city you live in your whole entire life. It's your home. Until you long for somewhere else.

And it's like the universe play tricks on me that I had to get my visa and house fixed just a couple of days before my departure. Not to mention I had no basic language skill to even ask for a simple help, or directions. But over time I was thinking, I was lucky enough because turns out the Japanesethough they look like they don't give a single care about your beingare the nicest people you can be stuck in translation with. I lost my way to school my first month in Tokyo and found myself contemplating too much at the platform while waiting for the next train.

I started to open up and get to know more people. I was one of those people who have this intense anxiety getting to know someone new, which was why I tend to avoid people and unnecessary conversations. But the thing about being somewhere foreign is the freedom to be someone else. One day someone greeted with me over lunch, we talked and to our surprises we shared the same interests. We became good friends afterwards. Then it occurred to me as for why hadn't I started getting to know more people while in here? So I did. I met a lot of new people from all over the world. I made friends in a month more than I could ever have in a year of being in my hometown. Diversity only make our friendship even more dense, and our talks even more broad. Conversation grows like branches in a tree.

I got asked a lot about my name and my hometown, which makes me repeat the answers for just about a million times. I love it. Even when they pronounced it wrong. Even when they made me repeat every two second because God-knows-how-many new people they have encountered in this city. Even when they laughed at me because apparently they have my name in their own languageAlita is for 'little wing' in Spanish. Then they started to ask me about my hobbies and interests, the kind of music I like, the kind of whatever I like. I didn't know what to respond, initially. 'Do I like pop music? Have I always been into sweet or savory food? Photography or fashion? Is it writing? Or do I just love to chatter about my life in order to make myself feel better?'

I live alone in a house in Tokyo. The thought of living by yourself in a foreign city which language you don't speak, with very minimal preliminaries beforehand might sound like a nightmare to you. Can't say it was hard at first, but saying it was easy was an overstatement, either. Of course I needed time to adjust with the environment. Without having anybody around telling you what to do, you got to know yourself better. You start choosing for yourselves, and accept all the consequences of your own decisions. You stopped needing that one person to consult everything with. Therefore living alone is like constantly having a conversation with yourself. And it's up to you whether to agree or not with your own statement like, 'Oh, what do I want for breakfast today? Do I have enough time to make a toast? Nah, I should rush for the train. Gotta stop at the groceries before going home since eating out is expensive. Also I think I should cut off coffee for the week because it has been breaking into my bank account'. That kind of thing.

One of my favorite thing was the poetry class I took in my exchange semester. It has been showering my autumn and winter days with the most beautiful words. I sat on my train reading poems, walked through parks with my poems, drank my coffee at kissaten (Japanese for coffee shops) also with my poems. People might have thought about how much art I have in me for having TS Eliot or Walt Whitman copies in my hands, and on my notes, the whole time. Truth is their language is next-level English and my vocabularies don't compare to anything, really. So every time the class finally discussed the poem, it came like a huge revelation to menot even exaggerating. I'm in love with words, and so the their writings have inspired me to write even more.

The opportunity for me to visit places also adds to my photography obsession. Going to different cities you start noticing how differently people walk, or talk, or dress. Capturing it through my lens has been one of my favorite thing to do. Most of the time I was with my Agnija, of course. But in early Tokyo days I also bought a vintage polaroid camera, impulsively, when walking around Loft Shibuya. I have never had an instant camera before so I thought why not buy something unlike the ones people have. I sticked the results inside a book, along with photobooths pictures, and tickets etc. I started making...a scrapbook. Because why not. Also since polaroid films are hella expensive, I started to capture things that really matters. Or really cute. Hahah!

When I come to think about it, the year of 21 was also very special because I visited a lot of cities this year; some I have been, some I have never been, even some I have never even heard before my whole life. Starting from Bali. Then Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Miyagi, Yamagata, back to Tokyo for farewell, then off to hometown Jakarta, then Bandung for short, Melbourne, Sydney, Jogja for short, Kyoto and Osaka once again, Nara and Kanazawa (the two parts of Japan I've been dreaming to visit!), then end the trip in my beloved hustle bustle Tokyo (where I celebrated 24/7 this year!) before going back home and finish my last semester of study.

Oh yes, I have just one more semester to end my study before being a free bird then continue to see places and write stories.

So I guess... 頑張って?



Tohoku Photo Diary

After finishing my study this semester in Tokyo, I extended my stay to travel around before going back. And it's not that Tokyo was not cold enough for me by that time, I decided to travel up to Tohoku region,  northern part of Honshu island of Japan. This is not the part of the country that I have heard as a famous tourist destination. But after doing a little reading about the area and what it has to offer for the winter season, it actually seemed like an interesting place to visit. The region is made of six prefectures; Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata. However I only got to visit only two, which were Miyagi and Yamagata.

Living in Tokyo, I find Tohoku a little bit inconvenient to travel around, given their limited transportation, its time table to be precise. The area was a little hard to access, including the tourist attractions. Not all of the places were accessible with just public transportation (e.g: trains and buses). A lot of times I had to take a taxi because it's the only way to reach the place, or because it was already too late (it was 5 PM, for God's sake) that the buses were no longer operating. But the inconvenience was nothing compared to the places I got to visitpictures below. A hundred percent will go back here again  as I still have list of places I'd visit for the winter holiday.

Shiroishi Castle

Sendai is famous for their Gyutan, aka beef tongue.

View from Zao Ropeway

The snow monsters!

Zao fox village

Feeding the foxes!



Vintage Shopping in Tokyo

As a fashion enthusiast, all my life I've been reading blogs and watching videos on youtube about people and style, and how they got some of their finest items from a second-hand shop. A couple of years ago I tried to go to the ones in Jakarta, even planned to check some in Bandung. I've heard some famous places for thrift shopping like Pasar Senen and Pasar baru. But after my initial visit, I don't think I'd go there again. I bought some pieces that I never worn up until this day. Sure they are super cheapyou can get anything less than a dollar. I shouldn't expect so much from used clothing but there's something about it that is just not right for me. I mean you can always wash the clothes and all but I've decided thrift shopping in Indonesia is just not for me.

Living in Tokyo for roughly 5 months, I've had the best shopping, if not thrift-shopping experience. Unlike Jakarta, vintage shops in Tokyo are always well-decorated. They'd hang a deer head above the rack beside a wooden clock, or have their shop name written in neon lights. It gets better. The clothes are all curated. Meaning, they don't just throw away all clothes on the racks. They curate things that they think would fill your vintage needs. One rack is filled with vintage Levi's jacket available in all sizes, while the other rack gives you all the pattern you need on your midi skirts. Moreover, the shopkeepers are always well-dressed in vintage outfit as well, giving you an idea on what to buy in the store, if you haven't had one. The price, well, is most of the time more expensive than buying a piece of clothing from stores like H&M or Zara. Tokyo fashion appreciates vintage items so much that they put such high prices on them, sometimes unreasonably expensive. But it will never stop you from finding a nice tweed jacket or even vintage Versace briefcase.

I think the most famous area for these kind of shops is Harajuku. After all the area itself is famous for Tokyo street fashion, having not only the used-clothing shops, but also the Japanese local brands, as well as high-fashion brands. It would definitely take you more than just a day trip to conquer the area.  Another well known place is Shimo-kitazawa, which I first visited because a friend lived around the area. It's a lot quieter and less crowded than Harajuku, which gave me a more convenient shopping experience. Plus, there are a lot of cafes and coffee shops around to chill. The last one, which is by far my favorite, is actually an under-rated area for tourist. The name is Koenji. It's more like Shimo-kitazawa rather than Harajuku. I found a lot of smaller shops here which gave different vibes and styles of vintage.

Looking at all the things below, I just realised that the time I had spent walking around the area was far longer than the actual things I bought. But let me say this briefly, even if you're not buying anything, or not even a fan of trendy vintage outfit, it's still a worth-it place to visit! As I've been talking so much about the experience, let me share some of the things I bought.

This hat...which I don't know the name of (JPY 2000 or USD18.70ish)
The first thing ever I bought because I was way too excited seeing vintage shops in Tokyo, I just have to grab something. I think I got it from Flamingo in Harajuku, but this kind of hat can be found easily in any shop, really, I even found one in an actual store with the same price... LOL. But nothing beats the feeling of having something *VINTAGE* right? Right. I've only worn this hat once or twice, I think. Or three times tops. Which is why this is the only picture I have wearing it. Does it look good on me though?

Dr. Martens Ramsey Creepers (around JPY11,000 I think? or USD 102-ish)
I brought three pair of shoes from home,just becausebut this pair is definitely the one I wear the most while I was in Tokyo. I had a pair of dr martens boots back home which is really uncomfortable for daily wearseriously, I can never tell how do people manage walking in docmarts for hours? This pair, however, is so cozy! I can say that because I walked a lot and was able to survive with these shoes just fine. I love them ever since I laid my eyes on them. Plus, I don't think I had seen this type in store before,I checked, they do sell it online though. Since they were still in excellent condition, I immediately took them home.

Unbranded granny cardigan (JPY9000 or USD84-ish)
Ever since I discovered vintage shops in Tokyo I've been dying to get me a colorful granny sweater/cardigan. And although they always have a whole section for these, it wasn't easy to find the one I want... oh my gosh I sound like a hopeless romantic only not for a guy, but a damn cardigan. I found this in a stack of clothes in a store called "Big Time" in Shimo-kitazawa.  They also have another branch in Koenji. It's probably my favorite here, as it's beautifully decorated, and always playing The Chordettes everytime I came visit. It felt like I'm going shopping in the 50s, everything was just right to set the mood! Anyway, the cardigan was perfectly folded and I could only see a small part of it. I pulled it out and saw that the prettiest colors and pattern ever, so even when I checked the price and found out it was way unreasonable for an old knitwear, I still bought it. I have worn this countless times for the past few months that I swear my friends were already tired of seeing me in this hahah!

Vintage hungarian card (JPY300 or USD 2.80-ish)
When I was walking around Koenji, I stumbled upon a shop that sells a bunch of antiques. They sells vintage old lamps, teeth and eyeballs replica, and a lot of other things I wish I could bring home to add a little creepiness to my bedroom. I was interested in buying one of the vintage photographs, but on a second thought, I didn't think I want to keep a picture of a dead person who lived more than 50 years ago. So I picked this card because I like the pattern, and it happens to be my lucky number seven. Later when I got home I googled about the card. That's when I found out it was made by one of the most successful card company in Hungary back in the 40s-50s era. I couldn't believe I own something that is at least three times older than my age. Something about me and old stuffs.

Tartan skirt (JPY2000 or USD 18.70-ish)
Big vintage shops in Tokyo (e.g: flamingo, big time, etc) always have this one big section of mid skirt, and most of them were tartan. The thing is they put such a high price on this kind of skirts. The cheaper could be around JPY5000. I was right about to give up and just planning to get one from an actual store. But then I found this one from New York Joe and the price was just right (for Tokyo, of course). It's in the perfect length and thickness for Tokyo winter. But I was never appropriately dressed for the weather anyway so nothing mattered really haha.

Silver rings (price depends)
I never wear rings at all. But since Tokyo fashion has so many nice silvers to offer, and I happened to stumble upon a hippie store that sells a lot of nice rings, I thought I just have to buy one. These three rings are the ones I always wear. I bought the one with the stone from a random hippie shop in Koenji. I remember it was only a hundred yen, which is equal to a dollar I think. I don't wanna buy anything too expensive since I still wasn't sure with how it would look on me. Then the big round ring, which my friend said kinda look like a time machine at some point, is from my favorite store Big Time. Silver rings are usually above JPY5000, or around that price. I got this one half price on winter sale, and was the happiest kid for the whole day. And the other one silver onewhich I know you cannot tell because the picture is not clear, but it has a really beautiful carving on itI got it from this one store (the one with the deer head on pictures above) on the street in Shimo-kitazawa. I bought it because I passed the store a lot and just fell in love every time, I just had to get something. Since the used cameras in that store were pretty expensive, I thought I'd add a ring to the collection to remember this very shop. Oh how I miss it already!


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