I'm trying to get my Facebook page to 4 figures as a Christmas gift to myself! I know, I know, the numbers don't mean anything.... but it would be really, REALLY nice if you could help!
So, there are a couple of ways to help increase my following. One is to invite your friends to like my page directly from the cover photo drop-down menu. This is not part of the competition, just if you are feeling particularly kind and giving in this season!
The second way is to join the Christmas Giveaway over on my Facebook post.
THE PRIZE: A Bikudesigns gift voucher worth Y5000 to shop in anyway you like. Put the money towards a bespoke piece, spend it all in one go or gift the voucher to someone.
THE DRAW: December 24th 2018 by random generator.
HOW TO ENTER: Head over to this Facebook post to join in the fun.
The British School in Tokyo
5-6pm Faculty shopping
6-8.30pm BST Community and friends
Curated by Bikudesigns and Turquoise Port
Bikudesigns: Vintage kimono jewellery
Turquoise Port: Home Decor
Erica Ward Illustration: Art
From Juju With Love: Art
Kamihoseki: Origami jewellery
Anne-Marie Peters Ceramics
A Joy to Behold: Soaps, scrubs and soaps
Jikuu: Artisan-made Japanese cooking knives
Eco Hachi Living: Wax wraps
Swan and Lion: British food including mince pies
Ring and Wraps: cashmere wraps and scarves
Mamam Leatherwork: Handcrafted leather bags
Paradiddle: prints and bags
Vintage Kimonos: accessories and bags
Noox: toys, bags and pouches
Kintsugi: Hand created home decor pieces
Kodomo Paradis: Hand printed tees for kid and adults
This year I made the decision to offer plastic-free packaging at Bikudesigns inspired by the efforts our family has been making to reduce our plastic consumption.
If you see bubble-wrap in your parcel, you can guarantee that it is recycled, perhaps a few times over. All jewellery is wrapped in a sheet of tissue paper, packaged in small paper bags or paper boxes lined with tissue paper. If you would like a recycled magazine envelope please request this at checkout. At in-person events, I'm happy to hand your jewellery over to you to wear or put in your own bag. And I will ask you if you need one of my bags if you have bought a few items...and those bags are made of paper with paper handles.
Thank you to Jo at the Tokyo Chapter for recognising my small efforts to make my business greener. If you haven't read her blog, it's a must read for everyone in Tokyo, with or without kids and anyone getting ready to visit.
Read The Tokyo Chapter blog post here.
Photo credit: Johanna MacGregor
Bespoke Order Pricing
I'm three years in to my business relaunch and things are getting bigger and growing fast. I now have to make sure that I am covering all my costs as well as being paid for my time.
Buying a piece of my jewellery isn't just the raw materials and the time it takes me to make it. The hours of design, discarded prototypes, sourcing fabrics, travel expenses, IT equipment, packaging supplies, website hosting, accountancy fees, utilities, studio rental not to mention the hours of training I have undergone (and the money I've invested) to develop the skills to make the finished item.
I have known for some time that my business model didn't make very much sense. Why was I selling a bespoke piece (designed with the customer, emails going backwards and forwards, pulling out kimono silks and making a single piece at a time) for the same price as one I made in a batch of 10 (which is a far more ergonomic production model)?
In the next few weeks I'll be rolling out online bespoke packages (the elite line of Bikudesigns) for you to order directly. I'm trying hard to streamline the process, and I realise that the new pricing structure may be too expensive for some. But I believe I am now charging the correct price for my exclusive work.
You can still buy off the rack for cheaper than the bespoke line, and cheaper still in the VIP Club. But if you are in the market for something exclusive, designed with you, FOR you, then the bespoke package is for you. And if it's not for you then, I hope you find something you love somewhere else (hopefully in my VIP Club).
This month Tokyo-based adventurer, photographer, graphic designer and jewellery designer Janine Vleugel Naoi talks about the blurred line between work and play and the importance of finding beauty in the everyday.
Where do you come from and when did you last live there?
I’m from Melbourne, Australia. Specifically about 60km from the city in a beautiful beach side town on the Mornington Peninsula. I last lived there about 18 years ago, then moved to Melbourne city where I and last lived about 15 years ago. I lived in Amsterdam for 3 years before coming to Japan, so I've been here for 12 years.
What was your life like as a child growing up in Australia? Did your early life have any impact on how you think/ live now?
Yes, in kind of an opposite effect kind of way. It was a fairly suburban/beachy area, and everyone was into either surfing or AFL football. That really wasn't for me, as I was always creative and never liked mainstream ways of thinking. I was quite shy and doing my own thing, and always felt a bit embarrassed doing the things that everyone else was into.
Did you always have an interest in Japan or did you just want to travel in general?
Having a graphic design background I was always interested in Japanese design for its rich tradition, and on the flip-side, its craziness. I visited Tokyo as a pit-stop going to Europe, and although I loved the week or so I spent in Tokyo, my heart and mind were heading to Europe, so nothing actually happened about "Japan" until I met a mysterious and handsome young Japanese man (haha now my husband).
You are involved in many different businesses with your husband can you tell us about the work you do?
Having a graphic design background led me to eventually work in a communications company here in Tokyo, however having self-employed parents I always wanted to have that flexibility myself (also, Tokyo... need I say more?).
I had the chance to join my husband's parents jewelry design business in 2011 on the condition that I bring in freelance design work to help support myself, and bring new customers. Alongside learning the skill of jewelry design from my father-in-law and eventually designing some of the collections, I take care of a lot of the visual marketing for the business including graphic design (of course ), photography, visual merchandising, social media, online site including our online store, all the way through to dispatching online sales domestically and worldwide. I also sometimes also say "irashaimase" to customers in our Ginza store.
When I'm not doing that, we also have a photography business which started through my graphic design work which started as mostly corporate/commercial work, and now we do a lot of personal portraits, wedding photography, etc. We are also exclusive photographers for Getty images, and ambassador for a few outdoor brands.
On the side, we do some travel consultation which was the result of demand as we made a website sharing our photography about the various Islands of Japan, as well as a website sharing photos and tips on day trips from Tokyo.
Why did you come up with the idea to diversify?
It wasn't such a concrete plan actually, but we took some opportunities along the way.
Our commercial photography work and design work trickled in, and we didn't really have to put a lot of effort into promoting ourselves. When a friend decided to move to Tokyo we wanted to help him to achieve his dreams of becoming a professional photographer, so we decided to promote ourselves collectively. Things really took off after that!
How do you structure your days with so much on your plate?
Usually I use our Ginza shop as my work base and prioritise what needs to be done. We usually try not to take on more than one shoot a day, and as there are three of us (myself, my husband and our very talented friend Sam Spicer), doing this it's not so impossible. Things often run into the evening after our daughter goes to bed.
I bet you have some great travel stories (I seem to remember reading one about leeches) from your off-the-beaten-path business. Care to share?
Haha, this story involves leeches too! We always tend to get ourselves into an off-road driving situation, even though our car is tiny and not at all suitable for off-road driving.
We went camping a few weeks ago and innocently went down an unmarked road beside a cliff face just to see what was there. It was quite a steep road, and our tiny car just couldn't make it back up. Queue panicking 4 year old in the back seat and driver me being ever-so-zen-calm about this silly situation. We tried tree bark under the tires, and with multiple attempts we were finally able to get the car out, only to realise that we had picked up many leeches on our feet and legs in our struggle. The car has a strange rattle now (most likely not leech related).
You obviously have a passion for Japan (leeches excluded) from the locations you choose for the photo shoots, to the jewellery collections to the travel business. If you ever left Japan, what things couldn’t you live without?
The convenience of Tokyo life!
I couldn't live without the healthy diet and tasty seasonal produce, I couldn't live without the convenience of the combinis (convenience stores), I couldn't live without this profound culture that envelopes literally everything, I couldn't live without such diverse nature which is within fairly easy distance from such a major metropolis, I couldn't live without such a wide variety of climates in a single country.
What’s your life philosophy? Does it have anything to do with slow-living?
I try to do things that I love spending time on into the way I can support myself and help others. I try to blur the boundary of work and play, and aim for work that feels like play. I try to find beauty in the everyday, as I feel that this keeps my heart light. I always try to surround myself with positive, optimistic people, and consciously avoid people who drag me down. I strongly believe that good coffee is an essential way to start the day, and a nice glass of wine is an essential way to end the day.
Connect with Janine here:
Photography: www.ippei-janine.com and www.spicer-naoi.com
Jewelry work: www.ateliershinji.com
Islands of Japan website: www.ippei-janine.com/travel-japan-islands
Tokyo day trips website: www.ippei-janine.com/tokyo-day-trips
Jayne Nakata joined me on Messenger this month to talk about her unique approach to coaching. She believes that putting your oxygen mask on first is essential to living your best life. Read on to find out how visualisation can get you to places you dream of going and the importance of letting go of perfection.
Where do you come from?
I'm from New Zealand and I've lived all over the place. Mostly in extremely beautiful places such as Wanaka, Mt Ruapehu and Te Anau. All breath taking, beautiful natural places. My parents worked in the hotels at these places so I grew up in the hospitality industry, going to work in the hotel on weekends to help my Dad if it was busy and they were short staffed. I got my first job at the age of 10, making toast and coffee in the kitchen for the waitresses so they could clear more tables! I left New Zealand 16 years ago and moved to Iwaki City, Fukushima.
What brought you to Japan?
I started studying Japanese when I was 13 at high school. I studied for 6 years, failing my 3rd year at University in Japanese. I decided that I would finally go to Japan for the first time ever and learn to speak Japanese properly. I'd never heard of the JET programme, so I managed to get a job working in Eikaiwa (English language school) and was hired from NZ. I arrived in 2002, in Iwaki and I still live there 16 years later!
Did you always have an interest in Japan or did you just want to travel in general?
I came to be very interested in Japan through my study of Japanese language at high school. But given that it was the early 90s and the internet didn't exist, I really didn't know much about Japan when I arrived! I have to credit my first Japanese teacher for his kindness and patience which made the Japanese language part of my life, I cannot imagine what it would be like to not be "learning Japanese" 25 years on I'm still learning. After arriving in Japan I realised there was a whole culture and country that I didn't know about as I'd been so focused on the "language" so much. That was definitely one of the benefits of actually going to Japan and not just trying to learn from a text book.
And the story of your first Japanese teacher was just covered in a TV show in Japan right?
Yes, if readers would like to view the show, it's here with English subtitles: https://photos.app.goo.gl/PdS6Pp1ZTbmd2hra2
I'd always wondered what had happened to him after he left our school 20+ years ago. I'd tried to find him on google and what not but hadn't had any luck. When the TV show picked up our request to find him, I was so excited as he is was a lovely person and a great teacher. It was very surreal to meet him as an adult and hear about his experience first hand.
If you could go back in time ...what would you like to tell (or warn) your 20 year old self about (for times ahead). (From Johanna MacGregor The Tokyo Chapter)
I'd warn her about not following her own dreams/passions. For me, teaching English was not my dream job. It was the means to get me to Japan and it worked. I am what I would say a 'good' or 'popular' teacher. But it's not my passion and I know I spent too many years doing that because it was easy. I'd say to my 20 year old self to go for the job that you are "not completely qualified for". Playing super safe when you are 20 really is a waste of time as there are soo many chances for iteration for trying other things.
Was there a moment in your life that changed how you live today?
Hmm. I guess it was about 3 years ago when I was desperate to leave Japan. I had a 1 year old, a 4 year old, a great house, a husband with a good job... but I lived in semi-rural Japan and was feeling unfulfilled and lonely. I felt certain that leaving Japan would be The Answer! Surely it was living in Japan that was making me unhappy.
I was trying to convince my husband to quit his job, we'd sell our house and all our stuff and move to New Zealand where surely life would be perfect and I'd finally be able to get a job that would fulfill me. Luckily for me my husband flat out refused. He wasn't ready to toss in his job and try to make a new life for himself in a new country. So that left me with the problem of trying to change my life, even though I couldn't change my circumstances.
I'd been following Natalie Sisson, The Suitcase Entrepreneur for a while (fellow NZer) and I'd joined some online groups on Facebook to try and grow my network. I met Helen Iwata who invited me to join a blog challenge Natalie was running. We set up a small accountability group and the first exercise was to write out our 'Perfect Day'. From doing that exercise, I realised what it was I really wanted. I wanted time in NZ, I didn't really need to LIVE in NZ. I wanted more time in nature. All the things that I'm doing today came out of that exercise. It still blows me away how that one 30 minute journaling session changed the tragectory of my life and I'm slowly ticking off the things that were on there!
Tell us what makes your coaching style unique compared to other coaches out there? What’s your special angle?
I work specifically with Japanese women. I realised that as I was going through my own transformation, I was getting so many questions from the women in my immediate vicinity about how I was doing these wild things! They wanted to know how I could go away for a weekend, travel to NZ twice a year, go out for a run. So I decided that instead of looking out into the internet for potential clients I would serve the women who were right in front of me who needed my help.
The main premise of my coaching is that I lead by example. I want to show the women in my community what is possible even if you life in rural Japan. Even if you have kids. Even if your husband is Japanese. You can live your best life in your own way even though you are Japanese. Of course I coach in Japanese which is very tricky but it means that I can reach anyone in my community regardless of English level and it shows I'm committed to 'imperfect action'.
I started out planning and presenting retreats about 2 years ago. I found that women in Japan really wanted a fun way to spend that 'me time' that wasn't being completely alone either. As I've gotten busier with this, I've decided to focus on helping entrepreneurs to put on their own retreats here in Japan, specifically in Iwaki City, Fukushima. There is a big barrier for people who want to do this, but don't have the language skills or the connections to do it themselves. I love meeting entrepreneurs from different markets and countries and showing them how great my part of Japan is (that hospitality blood runs strong in me that's for sure!).
Shall we talk a little bit about visualisation? I was so amazed at the story from your podcast about one of your idols. Can you tell us what happened?
Ah yes, that was a huge coup for me to prove to myself that actually, anything IS possible. I'd been a fan of James Wedmore and his podcast called "Mind your Business". Last January I was out walking and listening to his podcast and the idea popped into my head that one day "I" would be on this podcast. At the time it seemed so far fetched and bizarre I didn't give it too much thought! I didn't even have my own podcast at that point. Over the last 6 months, I'd thought about how one day I would be speaking on that podcast. I didn't get caught up on the HOW, that was just beyond fathoming how it could possibly come to fruition. But in the mean time I would amuse myself with visualising what my conversation with James would be like when I did go on his podcast.
A few months ago I decided to make the leap and take James' online course called Business By Design. I also decided to jump right in with his Next Level coaching program. It was a big investment for me but it felt like just what I needed at that moment. As part of joining the programme, I actually got a chance to talk one-to-one with James himself. That was mind blowing for me as I'd gone from not being on his radar to being a student and being able to talk to him. At the end of our call, he asked me if I had anything else I'd like to ask or say. So I said to him: "James, I just have to tell you this and if I don't I'll kick myself forever. Yesterday when I got into the car, your podcast started playing on the car stereo. My daughter said to me "Mummy, are you going to talk on this podcast?" and I replied "Well, Yes I am!!"..... James laughed and said "That's awesome! What should we talk about?" Soon I had an email from his assistant booking me for an interview! So I'm grateful for the universe for giving me that tap on the shoulder to speak up and tell him that I was going to be on his show!
So visualisation for me a powerful technique! I'm currently visualising some other things, you might see them come to fruition soon! I'll let you know when they do!
If a woman walked up to you asking for your advice and you only had a few minutes to give them your best tip, what would it be?
I'd say to them to make time to put themselves first. Practice the art of putting on their own oxygen mask first. I think it's a muscle you can build and the more you do it the easier it gets, the more natural it feels, the more everyone else around you gets used to it too and it all just becomes the norm! When you are taking care of yourself first, your whole life becomes easier because you now actually have more to give the others in your life who need you.
How did you get to be so awesome? (from Lindsay Sawada from Setagaya Yoga Studio)
Ha ha!!Thanks Lindsay! Gee that's really lovely to hear! Um....
Let's say, I'm a work in progress and that's OK. I always look back and see who I used to be and how much negativity I used to carry around with me. I guess it's the one thing I can always lean on to help me be more "awesome" is to be positive. Even if I'm actually having a crap day, I can usually turn it around just by finding that teeny tiny piece of positivity in something.
I don't expect perfection from myself either, far from it. I'm kind of a 80% is good enough gal and I think that helps too. But the one rule I have that I try to stick to 100% of the time is to only put out positivity into the internet. I think that it's so important that people can come to my part of the internet and know that it's safe there and it's going to be a pleasant experience.
Want to find out more and connect with Jayne?
Website and newsletter sign-up: https://www.jaynenakata.com/
If I could have a little chat with my former business self, I would give the old me a bit of tough love. You see, when I first started out with Bikudesigns I was a terrible perfectionist. A perfectionist to the limits of procrastination. And I played small. Little old me?
Imposter syndrome, not knowing my worth, comparison struggles, overwhelm, passive marketing, I was the mistress of the lot.
There. I said it. And now, here's the story of how it happened...
Picture the scene:
It's 2008 and I'm working in an international school in Tokyo. Already 10 years in Japan, newly married and desperate to have babies and change my life. Even though I found teaching extremely rewarding, there were parts of the job I found excruciating. And none of those parts involved the kids. Drowning in paper work, justifying everything on paper, recording every move that the children made yada yada yada. Ad infinitum.
So it was then that I knew things had to change. I'd already been using my HUGE teacher summer holidays to develop jewellery production techniques. I'd trained in Tokyo and New York in classical techniques, diamond setting, casting, fabrication and was even an Artist in Residence at a jewellery studio in Sydney. I knew what I wanted to do but I was stuck in a rut.
While I was teaching I started to study ikebana with a passion and worked on building my jewellery (Brit sp.) skills by setting up a 'little side-business'. In my head (and even out loud), I called it 'little' and so, unsurprisingly, it lived up to its name. I believed that, "If I make it, they will come." And they did, Occasionally.
In 2010 and then 2012 came the babies and I was really busy being a mum for several years, but still toying with the idea of being an entrepreneur and making jewellery for a living. And while the littlest was a baby and the biggest started school, I wrote a parenting book, which to this day is still sitting unpublished in my studio. I'm not sure it will ever be in print or in digital format for that matter. I see it as my sanity project, my transition from professional life, to motherhood, showing up everyday to a project that I cared about rather than a mill stone. It was my bridge to working for myself.
In 2015 I could visualise a time that I would have several hours a day to work when my youngest would be in school everyday. I gave myself 18 months to create a viable business that I loved, all created straight from the heart. The old Biku 'little side-business' was gone, and I launched full-throttle into the new incarnation you see today. Well, not quite what you see today, I have grown a lot in the past almost three years and I'm still learning.
10 Steps to working for YOU: The G.Y.O.B. (Get Off Your Bum) Business Model
1. Start from the heart. Find your thing and really, REALLY dig deep as to WHY you want to do it. Be brutally honest with yourself. Can you imagine doing this full-time? Do you have the necessary skills? Are you TRULY committed? Can you talk about it with a passion that is inspiring to others? Do you grin from ear-to-ear when you tell others about what you are planning to do? If you find yourself saying, "I've got a great idea for a business..." run in the opposite direction, as fast as you can!
Don't compare yourself with other people in your chosen industry or copy what they are doing, find yourself and be that.
I can't stress it enough. Putting in the work at this point is the most important part of your new business and it will save, time, energy, money and probably tears in the future...as long as you are truly honest with yourself.
2. Just get on with it. Procrastination is a creativity and motivation killer. Second-guessing is not allowed...go with your gut. And if you were truthful with yourself at the start, this should be instinctual (see point 1) and easier than you think.
3. Launch before you're ready because it (and you) will NEVER be completely ready. In fact, you may start to talk yourself out of launching because something doesn't meet your original vision. Or "It's not as good as her business"... or "Am I good enough?" ... or "This is a bad idea."....etc. etc. Don't give your brain the space to seek perfectionism. Good enough is good enough.
4. Be proud to call yourself what you are and say it loud. Repeat after me, "I am a (insert cool business title)." Make friends within your industry, with your customers and with other entrepreneurs. These guys will be your constant cheerleaders and a great source of help and support. They will help you with your direction and to keep moving forward if they share your passion (that pesky point 1 again?!)
5. Don't worry about what people think about you. If it's right, you'll know. And never forget, your family and friends are not necessarily your customers/ clients. In this instance it really is OK to ignore their opinions. They are just worried for you.
If you are true to your passion and values, your people will find you. Cheer at every 'unfollow' and 'unsubscribe' because that means you are getting closer to your true tribe. Why preach to the unconverted if they are not interested in what you believe?
6. Show up. Do your thing every day without fail (and again with the point 1?) to keep that flow going.
There will be days when you accomplish nothing or make mistakes, these days are more important for your business than 'successful' days. They will help you to grow, show you where you need to put in the work or help you see the direction you need to go in.
7. Play the social media game in a way that you love, doesn't feel burdensome and transmits your brand values. Social media in one form or another seems to be here to stay and is a fab way to grow your core audience. Jump on that train!
8. Learn how to brand from the heart. Not just a logo, or brand colours, your core values and ethos are what should drive your business, and this truth will keep you motivated and on track (back to point 1).
9. When you make your first bit of money, show your biz some love and pay other people just like you to help. Think about your own skills and the time available, then outsource to your heart's content. Logo design (mine is by veraverita.com), website creation, content creation, accountant, social media help, branding, take training courses, find a coach. These can all be deducted for tax right?
10. Enjoy the journey. You will change, you will become empowered. People will be pleased for you, and excited but also envious that you are living your best life. Get ready for the roller-coaster. It's a great ride!
In summary, see Point 1.
Soooooo a few things have changed over at Instamingle for the new season kick-off. The first bit of news is that Edwina has decided to step down from her admin role due to work and family commitments. She assures us that she’ll still pop into the mingles when she can. Thanks Edwina for co-hosting the last 5 Instamingles with me. It was such great fun!
So who is stepping up to the Instamingle plate? You may have heard me talk about one of my business besties Alex Morrow from Turquoise Port who was featured on this blog earlier in the year (read all about Alex here). She is already an avid Instamingler so is keen to work with me to take the meet-ups to the next level. Yay!
I’m beyond excited to work on yet another project with Alex (my work is stocked in her beautiful showroom and we launched The Collective Market in Spring with Gizem from Foodie Tours Japan).
Annnnnd a final piece of news is that Tokyo Instamingle now has a Facebook home. This is a closed group for Japan Instagrammers (or soon-to-be Instagrammers) who are entrepreneurs, bloggers, creatives and anyone who has an interest in IG.
Join the group here for Instamingle events, occasional tips and tricks, Instagram news and updates about brand new Instagram features.
See you over on Facebook Minglers!
Water-loving Kelly Wetherille left Minneapolis in 1997 and has moved around the globe ever since. She has been in Tokyo for the past 16 years and has steadily added a sheaf of skills to her portfolio. Unlike most people, Kelly has found a way to use all of her skills at once to create a multi-hyphen career.
Where do you come from?
I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. For those unfamiliar with the region, the state is nicknamed "Land of 10,000 Lakes," which is actually something of an understatement, but it's a nice, round number that sounds good. So needless to say, I was surrounded by water. Summers were spent boating, swimming, water-skiing and tubing on the lakes, and during the winters I did a lot of cross-country skiing, since the area gets a lot of snow but is also relatively flat.
Minneapolis is a great arts city, second in the U.S. only to New York in terms of theater seats, and with some of the best museums and galleries in the world. It was a great place to grow up, but I think I've come to appreciate it even more since I moved away.
Tell us a bit about what brought you to Japan?
I got the travel bug at a very young age, and as soon as I was old enough to leave the U.S. on my own, I did.
I lived in South Africa as a Rotary International exchange student, and then I enrolled in university in western Massachusetts (at the time, I wanted to get as far away from Minnesota as I could).
During college I lived and studied abroad in London and Quito, Ecuador, and I spent a summer backpacking solo across Europe. But for some reason Asia just never really called to me. Then my boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) asked if I would ever consider going to Japan to teach English for a year or two after university. He had lived here as a child when his father was a diplomat at the Ecuadorian embassy, and he loved Japan and had always wanted to come back as an adult. I didn't really have any better ideas of what to do with my life at the time, so I said, "why not?" Somehow our one to two years has now morphed into 16 years!
So you didn't really have an interest in Japan before you came here?
Nope! I literally had no interest in Japan or even Asia in general. I don't know why - probably I just didn't know enough about the region, but I definitely never saw myself living here long-term. I had put so much time and energy into learning Spanish that I always thought I would be in a Latin American country, but now Japan has stolen my heart and I've realized what a difficult place it is to leave!
How do you think your early life influenced how you are and what you do today?
In so many ways. My mom says that my love for the water started in a water babies class that she took me to when I was just a few months old, and ever since then I have never felt as at home as I do when I'm in, on or near the water. Maybe that's why I love living in this particular island nation so much.
Also, my parents have always been very supportive of me. Growing up, they always told me I could be or do anything I wanted to, and even though my life has always followed unconventional paths, I have always had their support, which means so much to me.
Your multi-hyphen career really reflects this ethos. Describe your work and tell us about your unique angle?
The last time I worked a typical full-time desk job was seven years ago, but even then I was freelancing on the side. I have always loved having variety in my life--it's what stimulates the mind and keeps things interesting--and growing up, I always pictured myself doing some kind of active job rather than a desk job.
For a long time I wanted to be a nature guide or national park ranger, and I still think this would be a really cool thing to do. But for now I work mainly as a writer, editor, content creator, media consultant, website developer (Kelly was the designer behind The Tokyo Chapter blog) and sometimes translator, as well as teaching classes in SUP (stand up paddleboarding), yoga, and SUP yoga (yep, that's right, yoga on top of a SUP board)
Images copyrighted to Quincy Alivioo
WOW! That's a lot of balls to keep in the air! How do you balance everything and make sure you get everything done?
This is something I am still working on, but I have found that one of the hardest things as a freelancer is learning when and how to say no. It's true what they say about when it rains it pours, and so during those busy periods it's hard to turn down work because you never know when a dry spell might hit. But the older I get the more I learn that keeping my sanity is just as important as keeping myself afloat financially, so I have slowly started getting better about turning down a project or job every now and then.
I would love to be able to increase the number of classes I offer each week and to slowly reduce the amount of desk work I do, but at the moment this isn't possible since SUP and SUP yoga are still quite new to Japan and not very well known here. Getting a constant stream of students can be a bit of a challenge, plus you're always at the mercy of the weather (every year I have to cancel classes because of typhoons), so I need to have some kind of backup for times when it's just not possible to do many classes.
Can you share an epiphany you’ve had in the past that changed the way you live today?
I remember coming to a realization as a high school student that I regretted the things I didn't do much more than the things I did do. So from that point forward whenever I am unsure of something or going back and forth on it, I just try it and see how it goes. Whatever it is, if it doesn't work out or if I decide it's not for me I can always stop, but at least I know and no longer have to wonder about what could have been.
How do you feel about Japan?
I love Japan. I am one of those annoying people who is always telling friends back home about what an amazing place it is. Of course that doesn't mean that it is without its problems, but for me the good far outweighs the bad.
I will say that I think I have gotten more patient with the frustrating things about living in Japan (for example, dealing with banks and other institutions where bureaucracy and red tape rule), but I still definitely have my moments of frustration, just like anyone else. But I love the people, I have amazing friends--both Japanese and international--and I love how safe and convenient Japan is.
Tokyo truly is an incredibly easy city to live in but I also love traveling Japan. Even after having visited dozens of countries around the world, still some of the most breathtaking scenery I've seen has been in Japan, and I find that in the really rural places people are even more open, lovely and willing to help than they are in Tokyo. One thing that surprised me when I first came to Tokyo and that still impresses me to this day is just how easy it is to get to some really stunning, rural places from Tokyo. Even just an hour or two on the train can get you to some amazing spots, and I think we are truly fortunate to live in a place like that where we have the best of both worlds.
In search of peace and tranquility in the city. Where do you recommend?
Ha ha, I'm hesitant to give away my secrets! But one of my favorite places to go when I need some quiet time to think or just be alone with nature is the Institute for Nature Study in Shirokanedai. It's not a park in the sense that you're not allowed to play with balls or anything like that, and it isn't manicured at all - it truly is a natural oasis right in the middle of the city. It's also not very well known, so every time I go it is usually very quiet, with just a few families on walks and some amateur photographers or painters working on their craft. I also absolutely adore the garden at the Nezu Museum. It has such as peacefulness to it that it's hard to believe it's right in the middle of Omotesando!
My favourite season in Japan is….
As much as I love summer (yes, even Japanese summers--I'm a weirdo like that) I think I would have to go with autumn because there are just so many things to love about it. The brilliantly colored leaves are just the start. It's still warm enough that I usually don't start wearing a jacket until November or so, and the air gets fresh and crisp. It's a great time to travel to areas outside of Tokyo.
Also, the beaches empty out (only July and August are considered "in season" for the beaches near Tokyo) but the water stays warm, so it's the perfect time of year for SUP and other water sports. In fact, the sea around Japan stays warm for much longer than it does in places like California, thanks to warm currents that come up from the Philippines. My SUP yoga season goes from April through the end of November, which is very long and unheard of in many other places!
Connect with Kelly
Kelly is currently creating a sparkling new website for her media company. Follow along on her social media channels for an announcement.
Although I am thoroughly loving running my fantastic vintage kimono jewellery business, there are times when I yearn to try something a little different.
My past jewellery life was all about precious metals, stone-setting, soldering, stamping, texturing, chain-making, granulation...you name it, I was probably doing it at some stage. And when my kids were babies, it seemed so impossible to do. So messy, so dusty, so noxious, that I put it all on hold.
The tools are still organised and the materials are waiting. My jeweller's bench is set up and ready for action...I just need to tip my hands the wink and we'll be off.
Back in 2009, just before Miss 8 was born, this is what I was up to in the studio. Painstakingly cutting and soldering pieces of silver tube for my 'Bamboo' collection. This was all based very loosely on a photo I had taken in the late '90s of a stacked pile of bamboo (yes, I'm really THAT old!). The perfect circles in varying sizes fascinated me back then and a whole collection emerged from that one photo.
I work in a completely different way these days, preferring to focus on the materials I'm using and what they can do. Experimenting and setting aside, thinking and planning. But I'm definitely the same maker, My pieces back then (and now) certainly evoke 'Japan', but these days in a different and perhaps more obvious way. Yet the sensibility of design, the clean lines, the lack of fuss, the simplicity and detail continues on.
So the gauntlet is cast and I accept the challenge ahead. A new line of precious metal contemporary jewellery will be launched in the Winter (hopefully in time for Christmas).
I'm not going to rush, I'm going to take my time and see where the materials lead me. This time I have no big ideas or grand plans. How exciting is that?
Victoria Close from Bikudesigns jewellery interviews creatives, bloggers, business people and curators to talk about their lives in Japan.