Monday, August 31, 2009

Travel: Japan, pt.2 (blast from the past)

Tokyo: First Full Day | 2006-05-02
OMG I am so tired! And my legs and feet HATE me. It is EXHAUSTING getting around in Tokyo! Especially in the pouring rain. :( It was still amazing though. We had a nice breakfast in the hotel, changed some money and headed off for the biggest Muji store in Tokyo (or the rest of the world, for that matter). However, it took a while for us to get there... the train system in Tokyo is fabulous, but NOT so simple. There are tons of stations and transfer options, but there are several different companies that run the trains, so there’s not always an easy WAY to transfer (you have to buy a ticket for each line... for instance, we were on 5 trains today, that required three different tickets). We had an address for Muji, but considering that most streets in Tokyo don’t have names, we knew it would be difficult - we just didn’t know how difficult! Getting to the right area was easy, two trains, two different lines, not a problem. Once we left the station though, it got interesting - or painful... depending on how you look at it. We went into a building close by and asked a friendly looking woman where Muji was and showed her our address for it - she gave us a local map (in japanese) and said it was about 5 blocks away. As we were walking done the street - it began to rain... my co-worker happened to have an umbrella - okay. But then it began to pour. Sheesh!! Eventually, we got to where we thought we needed to be (partially drenched), but no Muji! We ducked into a building and asked for more directions - and where sent back in the direction from which we’d just come! It was still pretty early though, and this building had an underground mall, so we went down to look around and pick up another umbrella. Back on the street, we went to the building right next to the original one we’d gone into, but still no Muji (believe me, it made sense when we were doing it). Luckily, my co-worker asked a young ‘hip’ looking woman (as he put it) that happened to speak english - and she directed us right to Muji (on the other side of the train tracks from where we were looking). So, it only took an hour and a half to get to our first destination of the day (in total).

The name Muji stands for ‘No Brand’. But for not having a brand, it has established a very distinct look. The store itself reminded me very much of a Japanese version of Ikea. Every thing is very clean, simple and basic. Great design, neutral colors. More clothing than furniture. It even had ‘Muji Meal’ - a restaurant inside the store (we ate lunch there - I had a salad that came with soy sauce on it - weird, but good!). The store is three floors, so we spent a fair amount of time there - it really was very impressive - totally worth the trouble getting there.

Next we headed out to Tokyo Hands (the creative life store - or some tag line to that effect) in Shibuya (retail center of Tokyo). They might as well call it the ‘Everything Under the Sun Store’, because it is 7 floors of literally everything under the sun! No kidding - gardening tools, plants, beakers and test tubes, compasses, bikes, toys, cosmetics, furniture, storage, stationery, art supplies, bags, every single tool I’ve ever heard of and more, lighting, ball bearings, fake nipples, warning signs... I couldn’t even process it all. We were there for at least 3 hours. Of course, it also took us a while to find that as well, but we did it faster this time, and after that I’d gotten the hang of it and we found just about every other place on our list. We spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening going in and out of various shops. We saw some amazing things! And I kept buying these socks with toes on them (like gloves for the feet), and I don’t even know if I LIKE them, but I can’t help it because they’re so WEIRD!

And every Japanese woman I see is a work of art - they all have amazing fashion sense and dress so creatively.

For dinner we had - get this - Tex Mex! HA! We saw it and we had to go - it was too funny. It was called Zest and it was actually pretty good. I’ve found I like to order things that we have pretty regularly in the states and see how it’s different here. I ordered cheese fries and it was an experience. They coated the fries in powdered cheese! I felt a bit like I was eating fry shaped, less crunchy cheese doodles. But it wasn’t horrible! I ordered a veggie fajita thing, but had to send it back because they put mushrooms in it (I’m allergic) even thought they said they wouldn’t - so I ended up going with a Mexican Burger (cheese burger with a bit of chili) and it was pretty good! We collected our thoughts a bit, then headed back to the hotel in the middle of nowheresville (literally an hour from anywhere we need to be on the trip).

And you know what - it’s COLD here! I checked the internet this morning and it said it would get up to 71 - it was no where NEAR 71 all day! The rain let up and was on and off all day. Coming home tonight was almost torture because I wasn’t dressed for the cold! Watch, I’ll dress all warm tomorrow and it’ll actually be hot and sunny out! At least I hope!

I feel like I’m not taking enough pictures! I only took 171 today (really not that much when you consider that 2/3 of them are work related).

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Travel: Japan, pt.1 (blast from the past)

Three years ago, I went to Japan on a business trip. It was all market research, which basically meant I went shopping for three days. With the release on Ponyo, I've been thinking about that trip a lot, because I got to take a single afternoon away from the craziness that is Tokyo and all the shop-shop-shop-hopping, and visit the Ghibli Museum. I thought it might be fun to share some of my thoughts from old emails I wrote to friends and family at the time with some pictures. It was such an amazing and inspiring trip, and feeling nostalgic about it just makes me want to share:

Tokyo at last! | 2006-05-01
And now I can fully relate to “Lost in Translation“. Maybe it’s because I haven’t really traveled on my own in a while (my co-worker doesn’t count, he’s never been here before either), or the fact that whenever I’ve come to Asia for work before there was always someone to take us around - but it’s tough here. Far less people speak english. Oh, and our hotel! While being beautiful and luxurious - it’s in the middle of NO WHERE. I got a Tokyo travel book and its blurb says ”Luxury hotels don’t come more luxurious than this... The only real drawback is it’s location: Odaiba is great for a day out, but as a base for touring Tokyo it’s inconvenient.“ There’s a fantastic view of the Tokyo skyline from the top floor (along with $80 - $100 a meal dining options), but there’s no quick way into the city. To top it off - we started looking up all the stores on our list of places to go - they’re all on the opposite side of the city! Anyway, this should be an adventure - cause we have to take the trains and subways and the map is the most complex thing I’ve ever seen. I’m excited though, it’ll be a challenge and I love maps! I feel really isolated in this hotel, there doesn’t seem to be many foreigners here - I’m really looking forward to getting out and about!
There’s a huge mall across the street, so we went out for Sushi dinner (of course!). It was a local place too, they didn’t speak a word of english, we had to point at pictures on the menu - but it was all good. I also got miso soup - unlike I’ve ever had before, and some sura-mame (gigantic bean, kind of like edamame). We also found a Cinnabon and Starbucks for dessert. ;)
I’m a little exhausted. I must admit, my legs are KILLING me. Walking for two days straight in Hong Kong and then sitting on a plane for 5 hours DID NOT help. ;) I would LOVE to get a massage before I leave. :) I’m aching!!! Ouch.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Update: An Effort to Blog more

This is hard. With so much work do to, it's very difficult to find the time to blog with any regularity… unless I schedule it in. So I'm going to try this approach. We'll see if it works, but as most working freelancers know - the first things to get cut when time runs short are the things you aren't getting paid for. ;)

Lately I've been drawing everyday. Unfortunately none of it has been for fun or personal expression. It's been work, work, work. Work which I cannot share as of right now because it's all concept & development work. :(

So, I'm going to start sharing examples of some of my older work, that's already been released (hopefully on a semi-weekly basis). I'm going to start with examples of a few projects that were released this past Spring. These are dimensional stickers. I was given various themes to interpret and sketched out my concepts for icons that would work within those themes. Here are side-by-side comparisons of my sketches next to the final product.

Baby Toys

New Artist / Preschool

Best Mom / Mother's Day

Unfortunately I don't get to have anything to do with the actual product development and sampling beyond the sketches - but in this respect it's like getting a surprise present every time I see a new design released!