Back in Tokyo

Lights are wrapped around the trees lining Omotesando Dori, it's beautiful, and reminds me of how close Christmas really is.

I was just settling into Toronto after touching down last Thursday, before an unexpected email from Sugizo's manager arrived two days later, asking if I'd be keen to photograph Luna Sea's LIVE in Tokyo at Tokyo Dome this weekend.

The past couple days had been sleepless with my packing, flight from LA to Toronto, meetings, more meetings, retouching, the pending confirmation for my Tokyo trip, and then packing again followed by the 13-hour flight from Toronto to Narita. I was retouching even on the plane.

It feels good to be back in Japan, this trip marks my 10th time in Tokyo.

In some ways, the familiarity makes it feel like a 2nd home to me now. And I think that familiarity is something really beautiful, for it brings back memories, making those moments feel close and real again, and that feeling is precious, almost like a dream, but real. So much memories here.

Fool's Mate: SUGIZO - 月下の神託

Sugizo - 月下の神託
Fool's Mate, Vol 348, Oct 2010
Interview & text by Sachie Tojo
Photography: Zhang Jingna

Los Angeles (Pg 1-2):
Hair & Makeup: 鈴木美子; Photo assistant: Matthew Chretien
Japan (Pg 3-8):
Coordinator: Chiaki Oshima; Hair & Makeup: Tomoko Ono; Photo assistant: Shunshin

Yay more Sugizo photos~ 

The first shot was taken while I was in L.A. this June.

Sugizo and I met up in Hollywood one day and we discussed about working together again. He knew where he wanted to shoot, so we only had to run through the ideas and outfits.

On the shoot day we drove some three hours out of L.A. for my first trip to a desert. It was so hot the soles of my shoes started coming off at some point and I had to walk around with them flapping all day. -_-

I realized that I probably like shooting in the cold better, though it's probably harder for a model to perform in extreme cold as opposed to heat. (Remember Sugizo trembling as he played the violin for me during the last shoot /sweat)

This one had been more or less smoother in terms of logistics and weather~ And Sugizo's always really nice to work and hang out with. We'll probably go through more photos later when I've a bit more time. :D

The black and white shots were photographed in Japan last December, as the most of you probably already know. Time really flies doesn't it? It really doesn't feel like there'd been much and a good deal of 2010 is already over.

Scans are from the Russian Luna Sea community, stitched together with my original photos for the centre portions that were cut off.

Angel Dreams Wrap-up

The experience of putting this exhibition together was no less painful than doing the first. If anything, only more.

I stayed up till 7am for some 4 weeks. Retouching, organizing, planning. Some days I felt so sick I threw up, I hated it.

So despite having assistant Valerie help run errands, printer pal James check print proofs and installations, I still, on numerous occasions, asked them if I could just not do the show anymore. I felt I lacked so so much, that all I wanted to do was dig a hole somewhere and die.

Then James told me I'd said the same thing while preparing for Something Beautiful two years back, and so all I could really do was suck it up and try live through the process. 

Sure enough, when it was all done, it felt wonderful. I was happy and proud of what was accomplished, like I had overcome a great obstacle (corny as it may sound).

I'd like to thank the Embassy of Japan for their support, the Japan Creative Centre for the absolutely stunning location, and Canon for the epic and beautiful canvas prints.

The exhibition also wouldn't have been possible without the help and support of all my dear friends and loved ones, you have my utmost gratitude:

- Mum, this goes without saying, I love you.

- Valerie, for coordinating everything, like, everything

- Toby, for beta-ing all my flawed writings, putting up with my worst days, drawing my journey story, and staying up with me till 6am, many many mornings... 

- Yip & Asuka -- my dedicated art department advisors, for being there every 3am, helping me decide between images and layouts, when my eyes couldn't see a straight line to be straight any longer.

- James, for helping out with print preparations, proofs, installations and curating. 

- Sugizo, for being supportive and kind. For being the muse since before I even picked up photography. Our shoot meant so much to me, more than what I can express in words, ever. 

- The Moomba Restaurant, for providing awesome catering for my very small and private preview night. (The food was so loved I barely had anything left to bring home after. Blahh.)

And to everyone who took time out to visit the exhibition, thank you. It truly means a lot to me.

The rest is for those who were too far away to make it for the show, please know that I'm thankful for your support too~ <3

A little about the exhibition:

As many of you know, I grew up to Gundam Wing and X Japan.

Gundam Wing taught me to dream, and X Japan inspired my photography.

I worked a lot in the last two years, I've a list of wonderful clients that I'd never even dreamt about being able to work for. But no matter how far I go, it's always been important for me to not forget my past.

Personal work is like an anchor which reminds me of who I am and what I went through.

And this exhibition is a tribute and summary of the Japanese influence that has rooted itself deeply in me since my childhood days.

A special section in the exhibition was the journey room. There was a story of Japanese influence on my life, a wall of outtakes and behind the scene photos, and a display of personal items and things that have made a difference to my work, as well as some drawings of layouts for my Gothic & Lolita Bible photoshoots.

Here you can tell just how much I love Hiroaki Samura, Sugizo, X Japan and Gundam Wing:

And some setup pictures --

And that is all. Sorry for the huge post. Once again, thank you everyone for making this possible~ <3

Sugizo.

Sugizo, Ashinoko Lake, Japan, Dec 2009

This shoot makes one of my most beautiful memories, ever.

I first fell in love with Sugizo when I saw his movie, Soundtrack, when I was 14.  There was certain tension and intensity to the way he played the violin that was different from how he was with the guitar.

When he played for me by Ashinoko Lake in the freezing cold during the shoot, I thought I was going to cry.

It was so surreal.

So breathtaking. So heartbreakingly beautiful.

Sugizo-san, thank you.

Christmas and New Year in Tokyo

I know these are kind of belated, but better late than never right? :D :D

Pre X'mas

I had the blessings to try like, the best brownies of my life.

Freshly baked one unsuspecting morning. The smell was so sinful that I literally couldn't go back to sleep after it woke me up. I went out of my room and stared at my host Glenn till he offered me three pieces of awesomes. I'd never felt sadder about finishing my food when the last piece was gone. T_T


Met up with Kiem and had okonomiyaki and monjayaki, one of those things I must have each time I'm back in Japan. :D

Lights!! I love the illuminations in Japan during Christmas and New Year so much. This was at Shinjuku.

Paper-cut chandeliers in Tokyo Midtown

Went to Tokyo Midtown and saw these these incredible (and huge!) paper cut-out chandeliers. So brilliantly simple and beautiful, and fit perfectly with the aesthetics of the interiors.

We then chanced upon these US$160 strawberries. Like. Woah. *___*

Christmas

Glenn prepared a feast of a dinner for his X'mas home party:

Like, holy cow, can you believe one person prepared all these @_@ I'm out of alternatives for the word awesome, so yeah, awesome. :D

Shopped too at some point of time. Absolutely heartable new pieces:


From top: Helmut Lang soft leather & wool top, Alice Auaa cropped jacket and h.Naoto Dark Red Rum H.Jelly dress. :D

New Year

Got to experience a Japanese New Year!

Sawaka working on our New Year's eve dinner <3

Brandon, Chris, Sawaka and her friends.

Don't know why the boys look so unhappy. I swear I'm not a mean photographer ><

The dishes on the table all have their own meanings (except for the nachos, ha). I can't remember them all, but soba is supposed to signify the wishing for a happy long life or something, I think? (Eat more soba™)

We watched Dead Poets Society. It was my first time. I cried, absolutely loved it. It was a recommended film to watch for Lit class in Secondary one but I somehow never got around to it, because, you know, what school recommend can never really be that great right? How wrong I was :( So gad I finally managed to see it though. I loved this quote so much: "The human race is filled with passion." There was something amazingly powerful to the lines in the film that was motivating and touching. So inspirational.

We made our way to Meiji Shrine a short while after dinner for hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the new year.

In Chinese we call this "people mountain people sea". 

So naturally we couldn't all fit under the roof. So to make offerings (coin toss), instead of getting close to the inner shrine, a huge row of humongous wooden boxes was instead placed in the empty clearing in the courtyard before the shrine for people to make their offerings and praying. (Huge like, if you'd been to Meiji Jingu, it stretches across the width of the clearing between the two large trees. Yeah.)

After saying our prayers we stayed around and ate around the food stalls that were set up along the stretch on the way out of the temple, before heading to the Telecom Center Building in Odaiba to watch sunrise.

And here's 2010!

It was such a beautiful experience, and actually also the first time I've spent a New Year's celebration with friends. I was so happy, thank you everyone for the wonderful company, may 2010 be full of wonders~! <3

Sugizo GIG 2009 ~Next Phase of Cosmic Dance~

Just wanted to post these before they collect too much dust. The experience and memories along with the event was just entirely too amazing.

And one of my favs from rehearsal:

~

His stage presence is just so incredible, one really has to see him live for the experience.

I've still yet to go through the images from our collaboration, the current project is eating up my nights and days like a monster. We're almost 70% done with the dresses for the shoot now, I hope they can be finished tomorrow so I can have Sunday to work on the story.

Honestly I didn't expect January to start out in such an explosively busy manner, I'd said more noes for this month alone than I did the entire of last year. Hopefully I can stick with the resolutions of spending time primarily on personal work, and present the new book and exhibitions as planned.

Just want to say a proper thank you to everyone for your support the past years. I'll be trying my best, so let's work hard together for this new year.

Chase your dreams with ardent passion and never give up.

Be brave, be strong.

Fallen in Tandem

Dolls: 恋月姫 Koitsukihime
Outfit: Alice Auaa
Photography: Zhang Jingna

Was going through the archives yesterday. So so many pictures. This was memorable shoot that I thought I should have posted about but didn't, so here are a few images, also included some outtakes.

It is among one of the photoshoots done in Tokyo last year for Gothic & Lolita Bible. The outfits (there was a black set as well) were made especially for these 90cm-tall Siamese twins dolls for this photo story. I thought that was pretty epic considering Alice Auaa's brand name and all. And of course the opportunity I was presented with for this special collaboration.

The set-up, handling and atmosphere of the whole shoot was kinda tense and stressful. The porcelain dolls cost more than three times my Canon 1Ds MarkIII, and outfit and set changing took more than hours with four people at it. I was also incredibly worried that Koitsukihime would have problems with the images, so in the end it was really a great relief to find everyone involved liking the photographs.

Koitsukihime's dolls are really one of a kind, so so extremely beautiful. It was said that Tim Burton really liked Koitsukihime's dolls too. Alas, I would love to own one myself one day too.