How I, serendipitously yet ephemerally, met my
A Story about a Korean girl in a Kimono that stole my heart and fled with it. (It's a daylight robbery!!!)
Day 1. It all started in Kyoto, Japan...
It was a Thursday, the 13th of April.
Geared up for a full day of photography, I made my way to the Ginkaku-ji Temple near the eastern Higashiyama mountains of Kyoto.
After a short tour of the temple, I walked down to a very scenic, sakura filled, road looking for locals dressed in kimonos.
Several minutes into my stroll, I came across a beautiful girl in a stunning kimono. Instinctively, I quickly snapped a picture and noticed that she was looking for a good background to take a selfie; in her beautiful kimono she had rented for the day. The light was backlit and her mobile phone camera performs poorly in that condition.
It didn't take long, but she immediately noticed me snapping pictures of her and gave me quick stare.
Instead of walking away and acting awkward about it, I decided to walk toward her and asked -if I can help her take pictures with my camera; I explained that I would later email the images to her.
She agreed and let me take a few snaps. Immediately after showing her the first few snaps, it was clear that she absolutely loved the the pictures.
She is absolutely photogenic and had an amazing smile. I'm a huge sucker for great smiles. We spent a few more minutes taking pictures and both enjoyed every second of it.
We exchanged pleasantries, inquired about our city of origin and our trip itinerary.
"Call me, Sunny" says she. Her name in Korean is Eunseon. I suppose "Sunny" is her nickname.
She explained that she is from Seoul, Korea and touring Japan alone for a week to celebrate her birthday. This was her second day in Japan. And I, too, responded by saying I had been in the country since the beginning of April and taking pictures during the sakura season.
We walked around for a better part of the hour carrying a casual conversation and taking pictures. I found her to be very friendly and easy to get along with. We have a language barrier, her English is quite-passable but needed some help finding the right vocabulary. It doesn't help that my English is quite atrocious and I speak fast when excited.
Before long, we walked to the end of this very long scenic road along the river.
I asked her to turn around.
Suddenly, a powerful gust of wind blew through the trees, sweeping much of the cherry blossoms across her path. She was absolutely engulfed in fallen sakura. It was like a scene right out of a romance novel.
I quickly picked up my camera and snapped a few pictures.
I spent far more time staring at her than taking pictures. I was just blown away. She is absolutely gorgeous and stunning in every way.
I walked her back toward the main road, added each other on Instagram and parted ways.
I visited another temple nearby, while walking around with a daze after spending time with her. I was clearly struck.
I scouted around looking for more locals in Kimonos to take pictures but I just couldn't quite shake the feeling I had earlier.
That swath of flying sakura blossom have done it. I was just hooked.
Many times, I've thought about going back to the temple where I met Eunseon, but I thought to myself- it's just a picture, I'm sure I'll shake the feeling soon.
Soon turned to later, and I was still walking around astonished.
A few hours passed, it was about 10 minutes to 6pm, I worked up the courage to message her on Instagram and asked her out to dinner. Surprisingly, she said yes and I was on my way!
We had a casual conversation about ourselves over a delicious bowl of ramen. Then headed out for a walk around a park with a famous sakura tree near the Gion-Shijo station.
(Did I just ask her on a date that night? I don't go on dates, so I wouldn't know how to answer that question. Though my friends say it was definitely a date.)
Well, anyhow, we made plans to meet the next morning at the Arashiyama Bamboo forest around 8am.
We had a great time, enjoyed the conversation, and each other's company.
Later that night, we added each other on Facebook.
Day 2. She was late...
Awake around 7am, I got ready and looked forward to spending more time with her.
A few minutes past 8am and radio silence, so I sent her a text. Five minutes to 9am, I get a response back "Good Morning! Sorry, I just woke up". I chalked this one up to her sleeping late, since we were texting until about 1am the previous night.
I decided to go out and find something to eat. Took the train to downtown Kyoto where it was bustling the night before. I exit the train station and everything was still closed. --I Should have known..., most businesses don't open until 11am in Japan.
So I decided to look for a coffee shop and waited for her. Four minutes to 10, I get a message "Okay, I just got up... (ghostly face emoji)". I was a bit annoyed, it took another hour for her to get ready and to get underway.
I was patient, and we met around 12' noon.
We met at the Arashiyama train station and headed toward the bamboo forest. She apologized for waking up late and I accepted it.
It was a pretty hot day and the sun was beating directly down on us. So, we decided to find shade and tour a temple nearby, Tenryu-ji. It is there I learned that she majored in Chinese at a University program in Beijing, played the flute, and a two string Chinese musical instrument called the "erhu". She explained that she likes literature, especially the four great classic novels of Chinese literature.
I am absolutely ignorant about that portion of the culture and had to google it quickly. Google saved me from looking like an idiot.
The only novel I was familiar with was the Journey to the West, since I grew up watching the Sun Wu Kong movies. #TIL, the name of the novel.
This Korean girl is way more Chinese than me. I should be ashamed of myself.
To save myself from embarrassment, I took her to the area of the temple that was displaying the works of artist around the time that the temple was being built.
I was amazed at the way ancient art and architecture designs employed the use of compositional elements. I explained to her the rules of third, rule of space, and whatever basic understanding I had about the rules of composition.
In this cultural period, whether it is in a painting, a photograph, or even an architectural design, the use of the rules compositions are everywhere.
I also explained to her that unlike a painter, a photographer like myself cannot start with a blank canvas and paint in the elements of beauty from scratch with 100% control. I can only capture the beauty that exists in reality and frame it in a way that sets the mood and tone of the subject. Therefore, It is in a sense a captured-truth locked in time. Subtly, hinting at the pictures I take for her.
After touring the temple grounds, we spent a few minutes in the beautiful tea garden with peak-bloomed sakura trees. Naturally, I busted out my camera and took some candids.
She carries herself with a kind of free-spirit and a carefree attitude that interests me. She has a genuine amusement and appreciation for the simple pleasures in life; where as I find them mundane and uninspiring. I may just be more cynical, but this is why I like her.
She sees beauty where I fail.
We found some shade and shared some green tea offered by the temple. It was complemented with a delicious bean-paste snack stuffed inside a wafer.
Over tea, she explained that she recently quit her job as a flight attendant for Jeju Airlines; a smaller Korean airline that flies local, and some nearby international destinations.
"I felt like a robot working in the system" she says, "I would wake up and do the same thing everyday, I hated it". "So, I'm taking Japanese language classes and hope to find a job in Japan or China". "I don't like the Korean [work environment], everyone hates their job".
We went on talking for a while longer, but this is where she hit home with me. Overtime, I've learned that doing the same thing in life and expecting different results is a futile experiment.
I really like that she identified a major unhappiness in life and chose to change it. It would seem irresponsible and impulsive to quit your job because you were unhappy, but she chose to take a risk. I like people that takes risks. I especially like people that do not conform to the norms.
It's only the mavericks exploring the unbeaten paths that will discover an interesting scene. Take risks in life, live a little.
She explains that her friends are in the similar situation where they dislike their jobs but does not act. She is of envy.
We spent the rest of the afternoon roaming nearby hills, walked along the river, and explored the forest area.
After a short hike up the hill, there sits a temple with an amazing view. The monk at the temple has this cute dog named "Sumire", named after a pretty violet flower that grows in this region. Eunseon and I were immediately infatuated with her. I've always wanted a dog but work hours and long travel times would make it difficult to adopt one.
On the balcony of the temple, a few seats were available to relax and enjoy the view. We sat there for a quite some time carrying a long conversation; meanwhile annoying the neighbors who were just trying to relax and take in the view. The peaceful atmosphere of the temple made this moment an utter bliss.
We watched the sun set behind the mountains; it was quite romantic.
A long while later, we noticed that the temple was closing so we decided to head downhill, but Sumire captured Eunseon's attention once again. But, Sumire was not having it. She's trying to be comfortable in her bed all curled up ready to take a nap. All Eunseon could think about was petting her.
The monk at the temple came out to greet us and talked to us for a bit. He was amazed that I was originally from Myanmar, so he pulled out his camera to take a picture of us. (He shoots with a Leica, what a hoot!).
He took a picture of us and sent us on our way.
We soon reached the bottom of the hill and started looking for a place to sit so we can decide what to have for dinner. It was her birthday the next day so I wanted to take her to a nice restaurant.
"Reservation all booked for tonight!" replied every restaurant I called. So we decided to just head back to town and find a quick bite to eat.
On the way to the subway station, we saw a grove of beautiful sakura trees that are absolutely at peak. I thought to myself "there must be just a few minutes of great light left".
"Stop!" I said to Eunseon, "Go stand over there and let me look at your pretty smile".
She obliged and I saw an amazing opportunity for a great photograph. A creamy foreground of cherry blossom bokeh flanked by a cherry blossom background; it was just cherry blossom on cherry blossom. I just stared at her for a few minutes before continuing to take pictures.
I asked her to change her pose from the typical Korean-girl-bunny-ear to something more natural. She had some difficulty understanding my request so I walked up to her and adjusted her pose. (Hey, it wasn't touchy-feely ok? I was a complete gentleman).
Just looking at her smile makes my heart skip a beat. It was a breathtaking sight to see. I thoroughly understood the feeling I had at the moment, and did my best to capture it.
Over time, memory fades, but photography is my way of preserving that memory with that piece of feeling attached to it.
It's like hearing a song you used to listen years-back with an attached feeling or emotion, but long forgot about. Hearing it again after years comes with a rush of feelings and nostalgia. Kind of like remembering the smell of a your old attic or the feeling you had pulling all-nighters on a project you procrastinated. It comes back totally real, even though you had forgotten about it after years. I want those kinds of powerful feelings to stay with my photographs. So, when I run into them years later, I would be hit with a wall of nostalgia.
/begin rant. I try to add a sense of my feelings to all my photographs, whether it is part of the original picture or with editing. I want the viewer to look at my photographs and feel what I felt at the moment. It is probably the only way I have of communicating with someone that doesn't speak the same native language. Feelings are universal, words are learnt. I want you to look at a picture and feel something, instead of just "oh cool picture, nice scene". /end rant.
A bit further down the road comes an incredibly photogenic road. Of course, like always, there are a bunch of Chinese tourist taking pictures with their PVC-pipe-length selfie sticks and their iMat-sized iPads.
I told Eunseon that I see an incredible shot. She pulls out her cellphone for an immediate selfie. (sigh, facepalm, whatever disappointing reaction a photographer can have at this point, I had).
I asked her to stand at the apex of the bridge for a few minutes while we wait for the tourists to clear out. I took some sample shots and started adjusting my exposure for a shot.
This is when I noticed her, right in the periphery of my eye, that she settled into a state of absolute calmness, an essence of serenity, and a epitome of tranquility.
It felt like a scene right out of a fairytale. She was absolutely daydreaming. She just froze, and for that very fleeting moment, she was timeless.
What I wouldn't give to find out what was going on in her mind! I took one last shot, and with my eyes locked, just absolutely stared at her for the next few minutes.
Shortly after, the bridge was clear. There was no one in sight except for some occasional passer-by. We decided to have some fun. I told her I had a shot in my mind with the bridge as a leading line and she can walk toward me on the left vertical third of the picture. I wanted to create an image that represented her adventurous and carefree spirit.
I asked her to give me her purse so it would create a simpler subject, I strapped it around my neck and pushed it left, my camera attached to a long 200mm lens on my right, and a heavy backpack on my back. Walking around with all of that, I was a spitting image of some Chinese-dad tourist.
To put a cherry on top, Eunseon just couldn't seem to shake the penguin-walk. I asked her, over and over again to run back, and walk toward me again. She did it every time with a laughter. Oh, what fun we had.
Finally, I really just wanted the shot and starving at this point. So I told her to stand where I was standing and showed her how to walk. Yes, I was teaching her how to walk with all of that purse-long-camera-lens-backpack strapped all over me. I could not be more decorated. We both turned red laughing so hard.
She finally nailed the walk, posture, and I got the shot. It was great. I loved it. Everything paid off.
We finally wrapped up, took some selfies and was on our way to back to town to find some food.
We caught the first train back to town. It was about a 40 minute ride back, but time passed rather quickly. Guess what they say is true-- time passes quickly when you're having fun.
/rant. Time isn't relative in this situation, we're both traveling at the same constant reference frame /end rant. (Just a peeve hearing everyone always use the line "time is relative" for everything).
We arrived back in town and walked along the river, she asked me what I do for work and what I studied. What a-load-of-a-question that is. She obviously doesn't know that she just poked the sleeping dragon.
Everyone that spent enough time around me, had to endure my mouth spouting all kinds of random facts about the universe. I must have gone on a half-hour long rant about how cool the universe is. She just said "ohhh!!" most of the time, I assume most of it went over her head because of the language barrier. I was quite rather excited to be talking about physics.
We arrived at the restaurant. "Sorry, all booked for tonight" says the host, "reservation only". I was just stumped, I was so hungry, almost encroaching the boundaries of Hangry.
Turned back from the restaurant and tried to get some cell coverage so I can search up alternate options. Luckily, yelp worked. Holy crap, thank you- Yelp. I must have called over 15 restaurants and every single one had said "All booked tonight!".
We finally hit gold with a small restaurant with a incredibly high rating. They serve a special Chef menu set of Kobe and Wagyu beef. I mean, at this point I was so hungry - I could eat a cow. Eunseon looked just fine, she was pleasant and smiling as always. When I asked if she was hungry, she said "oh, just a little". Geez, the composure she had, we hadn't eaten anything all day.
Walked, north, along the river for about 20 minutes and talked about her plans on the birthday (following day). She was wishing upon a star and of course, I had to butt-in and say, "yeah that's not a star, that's Jupiter". "If you were wishing on the brightest star in the sky, your wishes are probably not going to come true because you're wishing on a planet."
So she turned to a second star in the sky, of course I butt-in again and said "yeah... that's not a star either, that's Venus." LOL, I'm such a troll.
Finally got to the restaurant. We sat down and realized, this restaurant only seats 6 people with 3 chefs behind the table. We ordered the set menu for the both of us. The same chef cooked and served the two of us through dinner. The food was phenomenal. The chef picked out the best cut for Kobe and Wagyu. The marbling just melts in the mouth like butter.
We finished eating and were just about to wrap up when she asked if I am a professional portrait photographer. I explained to her that this was just a hobby and I normally take pictures of landscape. The only other time I've photographed people with a purpose was for an engagement project for a close friend of mine, Nash.
She wanted to see the pictures that I didn't have it on my phone. Luckily, I had created a website called shesaidyes.today to host their engagement photos and the proposal video. We quickly made our way to the proposal video and she absolutely loved it. --Hey Nash, if you are reading this, she thinks you can play a guitar and sing. Great job, Nash, now you're fooling people internationally.
Well, this would have been the last day with her if it wasn't for the decision I was about to make in the next 5 minutes.
She asked the plan for the rest of my trip, I mentioned that I am leaving Kyoto in two days. Possibly plan to visit a town near Mount Fuji before heading back to Tokyo, and homebound afterwards. I, too, asked her of her plans. She said she would be seeing her friends the following day (on her birthday), and on Monday. But besides those two days, she would be traveling alone again. She was going to Osaka, a city that I recently visited for 5 days prior to my Kyoto trip.
I absolutely enjoyed her company so far, and from what I can tell, she enjoyed mine as well. I made a downright impulsive decision; dropped the rest of the plans and decided to join her. In a sense, I wanted to see where this was going. In one instant, my plans, that I had been working on for months, changed.
This decision probably tells you more about the way I live my life more than anything else. I am generally very open to making risky and impulsive decisions to pursue once-in-a-life moments without too much reservation. I have a kind of, no regrets mentality, where I would give something a 100% shot whether it pans out or not.
I walked her back to her subway station, gave her a hug, wished her Happy Birthday, and went on my way back to my hotel. We kept in touch throughout the night texting.
Day 3. A daze.
Well, there I had it. I walked around the next day completely dazed. It took me several hours, but it finally hit me. This is real, and I've just committed to changing a huge part of my trip.
I had been keeping up with my friends back home about her. And it was pretty clear at this point that I had a huge crush.
In all honesty, there were times that I thought it was all apart of an elaborate reality TV show. And a bunch of cameras were about to come crashing down on me at any moment. I set my paranoia aside and focused on the moment.
Day 4. Huh, Say What?...
I was off to Osaka after her birthday to meet her.
Checked out of my Airbnb in Kyoto around 10am, I got on the Shinkansen when she texted me. "I just woke up", "Where are you?" She has a kind of impassive usage of the English language over text. Maybe this is just a language barrier thing, it is quite to the point and quick.
We talked about a place to meet and I proceeded to check-in to my hotel a few hours later near Dotomburi. "[I will tell you when] I'm ready to go out" she says.
Just around 2pm, she was ready and we headed out to meet each other. She ended up traveling over 40 minutes one-way, to meet me. And of course, she was about 45 minutes late. I waited patiently. "Maybe she's just trying to look good for you" says Nash. I like your optimism, buddy.
I noticed her immediately from across the street when she was walking toward me. And for, what seemed like a very long moment, I thought she's out of my league. She was absolutely prepared, styled her hair, and matched her outfit. She looked absolutely gorgeous.
One look at her, and I instantly forgot that she was late.
I have a typical casual look, a colored express-polo, a pair of Levi's jeans, a blue polarized sunglass, a backpack full of camera gear, and a scruffy undisciplined hair style -that tells the immediate direction of any local breeze.
Needless to say, "her fashion >>>> my fashion" -Andrew Ziming Dai.
In my defense, I didn't expect to meet an absolutely gorgeous girl and go out with her while in Japan. I was just really thinking about photographing the culture and the scenery. She came out of the left field. It also didn't help that I left some of my clothes in a locker in Tokyo so I can travel lighter.
She walked across the street, "Sorry, I'm late!". I didn't hear what she said. My brain turned off my auditory senses and gave all the processing power to my eyes.
"Huh, Say What?"... I replied. "Uhmm, what?" with a stunned look.
At this point in time, many people had already noticed that there were some changes to my trip plan.
I had been regularly updating on instagram and facebook to document my trip. And for a couple of days now, I had been completely radio silent.
A few instagram followers, who shall not be named, messaged me asking, "What happened?, Why did you stop posting daily?, Did you leave Japan already?" Sorry IG-ers, I fell off the face of the planet and into a Korean drama.
I told my brother a few days later and his first reply was "I [effing] knew it!"
My priorities changed, I switched from photographing the local landscape and scenery to photographing Eunseon. My knowledge of portrait photography is quite limited, aside from what I read in Chelsea and Tony Northrup's book Stunning Digital Photography, I had very little training or experience in working with portraits. I was very happy that Eunseon was willing to let me practice with her.
Eunseon and I first explored the Osaka Museum of History. She mentioned that she is quite a bit more interested in the Chinese culture, compared to the Japanese.
The first thing she was excited to see in the museum was a booth for collecting stamps. It's amazing how simple things absolutely fascinates her.
We quickly made our way through the museum and headed toward the Osaka Castle.
There was about 2 hour of good light left.
By this time, most of the cherry blossoms have fallen and Spring has kicked in with full force.
We found a plum grove garden with full-bloom blossoms in the Osaka Castle Park. The light was absolutely amazing I decided to pose Eunseon for a few shots.
"follow me here" I whispered to her, "stand in here" inside of what is possibly the last cherry tree in the entire garden with sakura blossoms.
And as always, selfie.
Her selfies are entirely composed of three poses. A gentle smile with a slight head tilt to the side, a squint with a slight duck face, and a slight head tilt with her palm on her cheek.
She does this over and over, everywhere she goes.
I find her really cute.
"Be gentle with the cherry blossoms!" says a girl waiting to take a picture. Eunseon was covered in fallen blossoms. It was in her hair, scarf, and all over her shoulders.
Eunseon nervously laughs and shakes it off.
It was pretty clear that the by-stander girl wanted to take pictures with the cherry blossom before they are all gone.
We let that girl have a go at it. She pulled out a massive selfie stick and took a few pictures of herself. No doubt, in terrible lighting because she was facing the sun and had weird shadows all over her face. She was gone as quickly as she appeared.
Many times, I catch Eunseon day dreaming. I snapped a few candids here and there.
She would be mesmerized at something see sees and pays full attention to it.
For those bits of time, she would just live in her own moments.
Look at her! Not a care in the world.
She just carries this care-free attitude that I really envy. She is perfectly happy living in the moment and sincerely enjoys every bit of existence.
She is just Happy.
Many people don't live this way anymore, perhaps they are overwhelmed with personal responsibilities or burdens they carry. I don't really care whatever religion or after-life manifestations you may believe in, as far as the evidence suggest, there is no life after death.
The body is a vessel that is composed of atoms and inter-molecular bonds that is ultimately recycled back into nature from whence you came.
Neil deGrasse Tyson said it better than I ever could, "It is the knowledge that I am going to die that creates the focus that I bring to being alive. The urgency of accomplishment, The need to express love, NOW. Not later. If we live forever, why ever even get out of bed in the morning, there’s always tomorrow".
We all only live one life, try to enjoy it.
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all", Oscar Wilde.
We spent a few more minutes talking and telling jokes. The sun was finally about to set and we decided to head to our next destination.
She finally stepped out from between the branches fully covered in cherry blossoms. She stood still while I moved in closer to help her pick out the cherry blossoms from her hair.
For a while, we got really close.
We walked back toward the subway station to head to the Tempozen Ferris Wheel.
The sun was setting when we finally arrived at the ride. And the city of Osaka is just beginning to light up during the blue hour. It was an amazing sight to see.
We sat in the ferris wheel and enjoyed each other's company.
My brother looked at this picture and said "Oh you finally shaved". STFU Henry.
We walked around for a few more minutes and decided to find a place to eat. Eunseon picked out the best Hotpot restaurant near Umeda station and off we went.
It was probably the best hot-pot I've ever had.
She cooked and scooped the first bowl for me. That was really sweet.
We must have carried a long conversation that the soup eventually boiled it self out of base. The food was great, but the conversation was better.
She opened up to me about her life and explained the difficulties she has garnering support from her parents about looking for work abroad.
I concurred that asian families tend to play it safe and push their children on a more traditional path of life. But, at the same time, parents love their kids and want the best for them. The parents see as far as they have experienced. I encouraged her to push in the direction she wants in life. "Visualize your dream, Imagine the steps to achieve it, and execute with urgency" I said.
"There will be resistance and struggle" I added, "without resistance you will not struggle, and without the struggle you will not grow". "You'll fail a lot in life, but failing isn't a bad thing. Fail often, and fail fast. Learn from it, and grow with it"
We circled back to the conversation we had a few days ago about her friends being stuck in a life they didn't like. My friends "keep doing the same thing expecting different result" she says, "They understand what makes them unhappy but doesn't have the courage to change". But, "I recognized [recently] what I don't like about my life, so I [took action] to change it" she added.
For me, this checked so many boxes in my personality section of checklist. I really liked her even more at this point. She's as beautiful inside as she is outside. It's perfect!
Who said you can't find a girl with all three major aspects; Intelligent, Beautiful, and Emotionally stable. She's sitting right in front of me. If you think girls like that aren't real, you haven't met enough people.
We must have talked for nearly two hours, the restaurant was starting to feel empty, and the eleventh hour approaches. We decided to wrap up dinner and headed back to rest.
I walked her back to the subway station, dropped her off, gave her a hug, wished her goodnight, and made plans to meet in two days. She is absolutely a dream.
Eunseon would be meeting her friends the following day.
Day 5. The plot thickens...
Well, today is a day I have all to myself. I stayed in Osaka a week prior for 5 nights, I've gone to most places in the city and checked off pretty much everything on my bucket list.
I decided to work on my own project instead. Named "Project Dreaming Sunny".
Meanwhile, I've been chatting with my friends back home, Nash and Ziming, and I told them I would take a shot to see how far this would go. I had an opportunity and I am going take it. I had made up my mind a few days back. If I further find Eunseon interesting, I would tell her how I felt about her on the last day. "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take", Nash encourages.
I have decided to tell Eunseon how I felt about her the next day I meet her. But, I would do it in a more visual way. Since I've got all these awesome pictures, I figured I can create something with a good production value; something memorable. I went back and forth between creating a digital content like a video or a slide versus creating a story album; something more physical, more solid, something that carries a visual and mental weight.
Just verbally telling her how I felt would be easy enough to do. But, I felt like I wanted to go the extra mile. In a world where most people just talk and makes promises, I wanted to be different, I wanted to be the person that delivers. I wanted to be that person who puts in a full deposit for something he cared about.
I chose the more difficult route that would take more effort. I decided to write a visual story and compile a photography book that recounted the past week for Eunseon and I.
There is nothing quite like a printed physical material that grips the stomach. It presents itself as more solid and more permanent than a SMS text or an email.
It is a communication of more than words, there is rigidity, stability, and a physical solidity. It can be read and re-read over time. It physically takes up space in your life. Even if you wanted to reject it, it takes much more effort and an act of conviction to remove it from your life.
There is also something about the processing of writing and creating as well. It involves sharing more than words itself, it expresses a kind of honesty that is free from the copy-paste nature of the electronic keyboard.
This is why I chose to create a photo book. To assert a sense of permanence and occupation in her life. And, to outlive the fragility of memories.
Obviously, I left out some parts of the book on this blog since it is a bit more personal. The original book has a total of 20 pages.
It was already 3PM when I decided on a plan.
With less than 5 hours left until the stores closes, I started to plan a way put this all together from scratch. Let's just say this project was an interesting adventure for someone who doesn't speak Japanese.
I searched and visited at least half a dozen print shop that delivers same day. Many of them had reasonable paper quality but I didn't find one I was satisfied with. Try asking for High Gloss Photo Paper with 12mil thickness, 80 lb in weight, and 98%+ Brightness without being able to speak Japanese.
I spent another 2 hours wandering around and searching with the aid of Google. I finally found a shop, in the nooks and cranny of Osaka near Namba Station around the Dotombori area, that seemed to have just what I needed. Upon arriving at the shop, I realized that all the measurements were in the metric system, my imperial system brain had to take a break and convert itself quickly.
The shop owner was very helpful and spoke just enough English to be dangerous. He got me exactly what I needed, but spent almost an hour talking about camera gear and photography. I uploaded all my pictures on my website so I can easily download it and print it at the shop. I had a copy in the SD card and USB memory stick as well.
In retrospect, it would have been much quicker if I had just handed him the USB stick. After he downloaded all the pictures from my webpage to print. He browsed through my other travel pictures, started to comment and ask questions about how I shot every single image. We sat there chatting for a while. He pulls out his Leica and started blabbering about how he prefers the Leica to my Sony. What a Leica Fan Boy! This is my second encounter with a Leica fan in Japan -and probably not the last.
"I don't have time to take pictures often", he says, "Sometimes, I just bring out my camera, take picture of my store, take pictures of the ceiling, and I just put it away afterwards..."
This shop owner is such a crack, he owns a Leica M10, which is like a $7000 USD camera (just for the body), and he just takes pictures of his ceiling. LOL.
"It'll take about 40 minutes for printing", says the shop owner. I told him my plan and asked where I can find a shop that sells stationary and a good photo album. He chuckles and tells me where to go. I would later find out why he was laughing at me; this is japan, and there are stationary stores EVERYWHERE. Some shopping plazas would dedicate an entire floor for stationary. People here are serious about their writing instruments.
I found the perfect album I wanted to use. It is a red hard fabric cover with resealable inserts. It comes with 5 sheets, I decided to add 5 more sheets for more content. Bought some color pens and notecards and some small envelopes.
The idea is that I would write a short visual story and bury hidden notes behind each image. I wrote notes on a card, put them in the brown envelopes, and hid them behind pictures or page titles. This is intended for later discovery. There are so many of these little notes hidden between pages and under images. Some of them looks like they are obviously used for highlights or outlines but carry hidden messages. I like layers, I'm a layers kind of guy. I like depth and complexity. And soon, I would get exactly what I wished for; complications.
Anyways, I think i got carried away. I did have two cups of coffee and I was super wired. I normally don't drink coffee, but when I do...
My last coffee experience produced a proposal video for one of my best friends.
By the time I finished putting all this together, it was pretty close to 11PM. I get a text from Eunseon, "I just got back to the hotel!", we chat for a bit and I replied "I'll see you tomorrow!". We arranged to meet in the morning and had planned an entire day together.
About an hour later, a few minutes past midnight, she sends me a text "I must be crazy... I just found out about going [back] to Korea tomorrow!"
The plot thickens...
I knew it. I knew something would happen. I had told my friend a couple days before that nothing like this ever goes smoothly.
@Nash, I told you so!
It's basically a cookie cutter formula for a typical Korean Drama TV show. Guy meets girl, they have a good time, then suddenly something happens that adds 5 extra seasons.
Eunseon had misremembered her date of departure. She now have to leave one day ahead of schedule.
Well, this threw a wrench in my plans. Lemons!
We changed our plans, and instead met the next morning. She would have to leave early in the morning to catch her flight at 11AM.
Day 6. Moments in Life
Our short time together came to an end as quickly as it had began. In retrospect, I am left with a question, Where is this going? She spent 4/6 days of her trip with me. Just a week before this day, we both had completely different plans and we were both total strangers. Interesting how quickly priorities change.
I met her early in the morning around 8AM. I walked her to the bus stop bound for the airport, handed her the book filled with memories. The bus arrived, I gave her a hug and said our goodbyes.
We have both made an impact in each other's life. It's certainly a memory that will last a lifetime. The best memories are the ones that you never saw coming. She definitely came out of the left field and blindsided me.
Our two worlds could not be further apart. There are certainly star-crossed aspects to our story. We literally live an Ocean apart, with a language barrier, and a large time-zone gap. But I was ready to give it a 100% shot. The promise to see this through is absolutely genuine. It would take a huge amount of effort. But, everything that has ever been valuable, and worth pursuing never came easy. This is a story right out of a fairytale and I would love to see it through.
Where does this go? How does this end? All good questions. Maybe there are more pages to this story, maybe this is the end. Who knows?
This is by far the best memory I have of my trip to Japan. I would encourage you to travel, meet new people, and take a chance. Maybe you get lucky, maybe you get hurt. But, that's life. Create new experiences and feel something new. That's the most human thing we can do in life.
It's like that one quote, "Love like you'll never be hurt, Sing like nobody's listening, and Live like it's your last day".
Go out there, live a little, make new memories.