My Summer Bucket List & Short Notice

Hullo, world!

Life has been a bit hectic for me and as a result, I didn’t have enough energy to post this month…(Not to mention I went on an impromptu camping trip.) Although I’ve had my share of literally break-neck busy July, this July probably wins first place. I had to assess and then reassess my priorities, and even then, things sort of fell apart towards the end.

But enough of the doom and gloom! Today, I wanted to share a bit about the more “sunshine & sparkles” side of July and reflect on the things I could have done better. (I know, usually, this post is reserved for Afternoon Tea, but sometimes a change of pace might be good, IDK.)

i. my summer bu-jo & bucket list

One of the things that really worked out for me was creating a brand-new bullet journal for the summer! I started this in June. Already back then, I knew my summer would become hectic (2 uni summer classes/2 times/week + work on all the rest of the days = disaster, duh), so I wanted a map to help me stay focused on the things I wanted to see happen & also to rest. REST, by the way, is something you hunt down ruthlessly.

Some of the things on my summer bucket list that I absolutely loved doing are:

  • cleaning my bookshelves & making an inventory
  • listening to Brahm’s Requiem (Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45)
  • setting up my notion–daily hub, life hub, university pages, &c.
  • making acrylic photo key chains
  • going to a friend’s place for a sleepover
  • going on a picnic
  • going to the beach
  • starting my annual Tokyo Ghoul & Re: re-read
  • getting cool T-shirts from Hot Topic & UT
  • going to a ramen restaurant
  • starting a new bookstagramme account (@bookish_bishop)
  • summer playlist!!!
  • going on a mini-camping trip….

ii. mini-camping trip & fireworks competition 🙂

And yes, camping. For those of you who don’t know, one thing I loath about summer is the camping trip. Yes, we’re living in the great white north, no, that is not the reason for everyone to love spending long nights in nature. I had work and university and all that, so I really didn’t want to go…

But I’m glad I went.

(And for my mum who forced me to take a break.)

It was honestly one of the most refreshing and faith-inspiring camping trips I’ve ever had. We went with the homeschool co-op group my siblings are in, and I got a chance to lead games, listen to daily devotions by the dads in the group (and the teens!), and overall, had a blast. We went on a picnic by the beach on the last day, too, which was one of the highlights.

Also, we had our first fireworks competition in two. three years…and one of the participating countries was Japan!! Obviously, things couldn’t get better…

iii. going forward…

But then again, this month burnt me out. From the way my mental health took a nosedive (and from the fact I couldn’t muster up enough strength to write this month), I think it’s probably a good idea for me to take a break. I really don’t like how I haven’t been able to post consistently here this year, yet I guess it is a good time for me to think things over–what does posting on SJ Barnard mean to me?

Obviously, I love it whenever I can post here. But because of the way things have been in my life recently, I am not sure if I can be here all the time. Would it be okay for me to post a little more irregularly? Or is it time to take a longer break off? I want to keep blogging, but I don’t know if Saturday works for me anymore. Should I re-arrange my schedule so somehow I can keep blogging in there? And now that I know that my road with writing will probably be slower than everyone else’s, will it be okay to still call it an “author” blog??

*insert heavy silence*

These are some of the heavier questions on my mind. I don’t know all the answers to them, but what I do know is that writing sparks joy inside me. I genuinely want to keep writing even if it’s just me that reads it. And maybe, it’s okay to go from there.

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For the time being, I will take August off and see where God’s leading me to do. Thank you for being there even when I have not been able to “be here” consistently. Do let me know how your summer has been & I hope you continue to have a wonderful rest of the summer!

AH: What Writing Means to Me

Hullo, world!

It’s finally feeling a bit like summer. Yesterday, we went out for a picnic for Canada Day. I had a marvellous time there and hope to do it again. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎

Today, I wanted to share with you one of my all-time favourite authors. Her name is Ayako Miura, and what I find remarkable about her is that she’s a Christian author who wrote explicitly Christian themes and still left a mark in the Japanese literary world. Her most famous work, Hyōten (Freezing Point), set in Hokkaido, won a literary award and was dramatised countless times and was also made into movies in Japan and overseas. Many of her works are only available in Japanese only, which I find somewhat depressing, but hey, maybe it’s that time to learn Japanese!

Jokes aside, I recently came across her essay/reflective work, What Writing Means to Me. The first part is mainly a reflection on some of her famous works. The second part talks about her writing philosophy as a Christian author. The last part featured her thoughts on famous Japanese authors like Akutagawa, Dazai, and Ichiyō. What I thought I’ll do is to share some of the quotes that spoke to me from the second section. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you Ayako Miura’s What Writing Means to Me!

Disclaimer: I’ve done my best to translate as closely as possible, but any errors/misinterpretations are my fault. I also add an honorific “sensei” at the end, which we usually do for teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, authors, and anyone we respect. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧

i. “First, pray.”

This is the basic. If writing is God’s will, He will take care of the rest. 

This was her husband’s advice given to her on the night the story of Hyōten came to her, Miura-sensei writes. He told her it was alright to write as long as she prayed and this has remained central to her writing. What I thought was really remarkable was how Miura-sensei calls her occupation as an author a “writing ministry”. To her, writing is an evangelical mission…which is easily seen in her works that features many challenging theological themes that have continued to intrigue and uplift Christians and non-Christians alike. Prayer is the foundation to build this writing ministry. 

ii. “When writing a novel, I start with what moved me the most.”

If it does not move you, it cannot move the readers. What makes the reader cry, I have cried more over. 

“Faith literature”, Miura-sensei says, “is to entrust your faith into the novel when writing. So it cannot be simply laying out the facts–you must embody faith through your stories and characters.” Again, I love how Miura-sensei uses the word “faith literature” when talking about her work. Something I’ve always struggled with in my writing is the degree of explicitness my faith should be–should I implicitly write it in? What does being explicitly Christian even mean? But through Miura-sensei’s book, I came to realise that the reason her books seem to knock the breath right out of me is that she writes grounded in the Bible. She writes about how the world is one of confusion, and when she comes across a beautiful Biblical concept, she wants to share them with people the way you might want to share tasty food with a loved one. To her, it comes out as faith literature. 

iii. “Next, I write ‘the world I know the most’.”

That is, to “write your problems”. 

As a teacher, Miura-sensei struggled with coming to terms with the abrupt change in the teaching style during and after WWII. This was actually foundational to her journey to faith, so many of her works feature teachers and the limits they have when they come across complicated family situations/moral dilemmas. She also battled many illnesses and spent a long time in hospitals and around doctors, which she attributes as being influential to “her world”. 

I think a lot of writers lose heart when they’re told to write “what they know”. But really, what that means is to write “what matters to you”. What matters to me will come to matter to people because chances are, we all struggle with similar problems. For Miura-sensei, she started with her problems and went deeper by researching/interviewing to see what else she could talk about. And this is what “writing the world I know most” looks like. 

iv. “Lastly, if you have started a story, you must finish it.”

Even if it’s a wonderful novel, if it is half-written, it cannot be published. 

This, Miura-sensei writes, is the most important thing when it comes to writing a novel. Miura-sensei also writes about the importance of keeping a journal. When keeping a journal, you must come to face yourself, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To continue this process, she writes, is what makes us grow as persons. 

I used to have no trouble finishing my wips and used to write stories as presents to friends and families. (Now, I think they were too nice to me, but that’s beside the point.) Some were long, some were short. But the point was that I finished them, so people could read them. 

Now, I have more trouble finishing the work I started. I have grand designs and themes and piles after piles of words, but they’re unfinished–and hence, unreadable. Whenever I feel like I won’t see the end to my current wip, I can remember Miura-sensei’s words… “Even if it’s rough, if it’s written, it’s a novel.” 

And with that in mind, let us keep writing. ( ᐢ˙꒳​˙ᐢ )

Thank you for reading! Have you heard of Ayako Miura? Do you have an author you respect from the bottom of your heart? What are some of the advice from Miura-sensei that spoke to you? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!

June ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ

Good afternoon to you!

I know, I was going to write a blog post last week on my amazing list of Japanese books to read over the summers, but alas, it has yet to see the light of the day. Perhaps next month??

Today, I’m excited to be celebrating my third blogiversary on SJ Barnard!! This year, I didn’t plan anything special because…well, just because? (I totally didn’t forget about it, honest.) If you want to ask me questions about my blog or have any other comments/things you would like to interrogate me on, feel free to do so in the comments below!

So, without further ado, let me introduce to you June ‘22 Afternoon Tea with SJ…

​​-June Afternoon Tea ‘22 Setting-

Location: Wisteria garden

Tea: matcha soy latte, lavender London fog, Editor’s blend

Offered with: Kashiwa mochi, cloud yuzu macaroons, polar bear souffle pancakes with strawberries

Last month, I suffered from a reading slump and a bookstagramme slump. I took the time off to review my reading ethics as well as what kind of content I actually wanted to post on IG. Which was super helpful, because now I feel like what I post and what I read match (wait, it didn’t before??) and I love the new aesthetic. If you’re curious about it, you can find the account @bookish_bishop

May/June Books:

  1. Subculture Literature Theory–Eiji Otsuka 
  2. Yukiguni (Snow Country)–Yasunari Kawabata
  3. Kagirinaku Toumei Ni Chikai Blue (Almost Transparent Blue)–Ryu Murakami
  4. Such Fine Boys–Patrick Modiano
  5. A Grief Observed–C. S. Lewis
  6. The Dragon and the Raven–G. A. Henty
  7. The Song of Roland–Anonymous
  8. The Order of Time–Carlo Rovelli
  9. Watakushi ni Totte Kaku to Iu Koto (What Writing Means to Me)–Ayako Miura
  10. Four Quartets–T. S. Eliot

Currently Reading: Inception & Philosophy, Casino Royale, Imi ga Nakereba Swing wa Nai

More tea, anyone? Recently, I re-discovered my love for matcha latte/frappucinos and am constantly thinking about them. The Kashiwa mochi is a bit late season, but it’s still worth it!

Music 

I have a strange feeling I didn’t listen to much music this month. I did find many classical CDs at the library I absolutely love and don’t want to return; I also got a chance to go to the record store and excavated Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concertos. 

Practising: n/a

Listening to: Shogeki (Yuko Ando), Mixed Nuts (Official HIGE DANdism), Comedy (Gen Hoshino), Brahms Ein Deutsches Requiem Op. 45

Movie/TV Shows 

Have you tried the cloud yuzu macaroons? Yuzu is my favourite citrus fruit, so nothing can go wrong with it! 

This month, I didn’t watch many movies or TV shows, but some of the shows I absolutely LOVE to pieces are:

  • Nanba MG5…feat. Shōtaro Mamiya as Tsuyoshi Nanba, who comes from a Yankee family (which basically means delinquents, although they follow their own rules so it’s not like they do whatever they want to) and wants to spend a normal high school life while trying to hide this fact from his family who’s expecting him to take over the Kanto region. 
  • Waru…feat. Mio Imada (& other casts worth crushing on) who plays the part of a new employee at a traditional Japanese company, she ends up revolutionizing the company structure as she works toward achieving her dream goal of becoming “big” in the company.

Manga/Anime

Okay, so this month, I spent way too much time (and possibly money) on wotakatsu. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it basically means anything to do with supporting the manga/anime/characters/idol group you are currently crushing on. For me, that looked like starting my annual re-read of Tokyo Ghoul (it’s like my third or fourth time), making acrylic key chains, AOT badges, student ID for Nanamin from JJK, etc., etc. I have so many other ideas for wotakatsu this summer and might be sharing them, IDK…(   ¯꒳¯ )b✧

Some Manga/Anime highlights of the month:

  • Oresama Teacher…by Izumi Tsubaki (auth. Of Nozaki-Kun) that I am head over heels
  • (re:) Spy x Family…by Tatsuya Endo that I (and a lot of ppl) am raving about
  • Tokyo Ghoul re-read (again.)…also, Chojin X by Sui-sensei is excellent!
  • Blue Period…a new love! I can’t wait to catch up on the current volume
  • Monster…by Naoki Urasawa. Made for binging and for digging up academic papers on the work. 

If you remember me from two weeks ago, I bravely (?) announced I will be taking it slow, meaning I won’t be writing this month, but spend the time brainstorming and configuring Notion (another new love!!) so I can maybe re-start working from July. I think my brainstorming thing was working well up until like last week, but this week I hadn’t spent as much time on it, so I’m still undecided on what to work on during July. In a way, it feels like a mild brain slog which is always not fun; at the same time, I think I could take this month of rest & hope to come back strong into writing starting July. 

Would you like another cup of editor’s blend? It’s my favourite tea for writing/reading sessions, excellent to be had hot or cold. This month was slow considering academics as well. I was taking an Intro to Hebrew course at my church which was loads of fun & made me realise how theologically deep the Hebrew language was. I want to keep up my learning but haven’t figured out a way to do it yet. I’m also looking forward to my summer term coming up at uni where I’ll be taking poli-sci and philosophy, not to mention my year two registration is coming up. I don’t know, is it just me who finds it a great joy to brainstorm course schedules and plans??

This is completely a side note, but souffle pancakes are best had right after they’re done. We’ve tried many times to make souffle pancakes–and sort of epically failed. I mean, they’re still good flat but that would just be normal pancakes…

Anyhow. 

Life has been exciting because now the weather is starting to hold and it actually looks like summer! I went on a downtown stroll with a uni/church friend, and we had an epic time going around all of the Japanese stores (like Muji, Daiso, Seria, etc.) in the vicinity. I also got to go on a date with Mom (which we hadn’t had for the longest time ever) and we had ramen and went to more Japanese stores (like Uniqlo and wotaku stores). This week has been a mini-vacation for me since I went on a sleep over to a Japanese friend’s house where we spent even more time reminiscing about our favourite manga fandoms. Good times, I say. 

So, life has been good. I can’t believe I’ve been blogging for three years now, and I couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you for being a part of SJ Barnard, and I hope that you have an even better summer ahead of you. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎

Thank you for reading! How was your June? What are some of the highlights this month? Do you have any questions about blogging or about me? What are some of your summer plans? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!