30 June 2023

2023 Japan Adventure - Part 7: Nagasaki

I did not expect to take over a month to publish my next Japan Adventure post 😱 I'd like to record my thoughts about this first-in-my-lifetime experience before my memories start to fade, so here's hoping I can power through the rest of my adventure quickly!

Last time we departed Kagoshima and headed toward Nagasaki. It was close enough that we didn't need a day at sea to reach it, so I got to enjoy my second-ever docking event right away, which was a procedure I never tired of the entire trip 🥰

Saturday 18 March 2023 - Nagasaki

The view of Nagasaki growing ever closer was breathtaking.

We passed this little island on the way to the port and I thought it was so unique! Indeed, I never saw another quite like it on this trip. Doing a little research today, I've found its name to be Takabokojima, which means Tall Spearhead Island 🗡️

We could hear the welcome performance before we could see it...

...an epic taiko drumming show!!! 🥁🥁🥁

Something as simple as a banner made us feel not just welcomed but wanted 🥰

Our excursion this time took us to Arita, in Saga prefecture, a town famous for its ceramics. We started with a walking tour of one of the ceramics streets, which was almost all ceramics shops 😯 This was also basically the only day I got to enjoy using my umbrella!

This graveyard was interesting because the walls surrounding it are made from old kilns!

Here our tour group is entering Fukagawa Seiji, the seeming largest and most prestigious ceramics shop in the area. They have made banquet ware for the Imperial family!
My visit here is one of my fondest memories from this entire trip...

...because they sold VOC-style ware and I was able to talk to the proprietor, in Japanese, about why this was so exciting to me! (VOC = Dutch East India Trading Company) I bought this VOC cake plate, one of the spendiest souvenirs of my trip, but totally worth it!

I think the proprietor resonated with my excitement because he disappeared after having an employee show me the VOC section, and then reappeared later to give me these learning materials for free! You see, my excitement came from the early modern period art history classes I took as part of my illustration degree. I'm looking forward to sharing this story with my professor!

On top of all that, my visit to Fukagawa Seiji also ended up being my first experience acting as a translator! One of my fellow tourists was trying to ask the shop's proprietor about the difference between two plates he had shown everyone. She wanted to know if the yellow, opaque one was cheaper than the white, transluscent one. Turned out, the yellow one wasn't cheaper because it wasn't for sale at all. It was the result of a mistake! I have to admit I was extremely proud of myself for being able to help facilitate communication between these two people 😁

After our walking tour, we took a short drive to another fine ceramics shop, Genemongama, which was situated next to a museum and a lovely garden~

My husband, Sean, took this beautiful photo of the garden pond 🐟

On the bus ride back home (🛳️) our tour guide made things fun by running a game of bingo after teaching everyone numbers in Japanese. Afterwards, she gave us all handmade bookmarks featuring classic Japanese imagery 💖

This view of Nagasaki as we crossed a bridge was magnificent ✨

This is the most awesome advertisement for a museum!
We didn't get to go but it's definitely on my list for next time! 🦖

At departure time, the students of Yamazato Junior High offered us a farewell performance 🥰

The band played us several songs, including one from My Neighbor Totoro!

Once again, I was so moved by this generous farewell that I felt bittersweet about leaving!!!

Sean and I got some nice selfies with twilight Nagasaki before we left 🌆

Our ship, the Silver Muse, looks lovely at this time of night, too~

A view of us with the pool and attached restaurants. Dreamy!
We never ended up getting in the pool, though...my only regret!

After this, the ship departed while we enjoyed dinner and dessert, and then we went to bed! Our next stop? A brand new country for both of us: Korea 🇰🇷 I'll be writing about our stay there next time, including our first brave foray into a port city UNGUIDED Σ(っ °Д °;)っ Spoiler alert: It was awesome! Please look forward to it 😄 Until then, thank you for reading and please stay happy, healthy, and safe!

P.S. Here's a bonus photo of my VOC cake plate in its new home! Writing this post inspired me to finally set it out for display. It's on my bookshelf behind my PC workstation (where I am typing this very moment!) so that I can gaze at it every day while I work 😍 Appropriately, it's on the same shelf as my art history books~

27 June 2023

2023 May Roundup

Hello everyone, welcome to another Studio Mikarts monthly roundup! I had jury duty at the end of May and even though I only had to go into court one day--and even though it was a good experience overall--it took me quite a while to mentally recover from a week of being on call. That's why I'm here, on the first day of astronomical summer (for me, that is; hello wintry southern hemisphere friends!) finally sitting down to write my roundup for May 😅 You wouldn't know it was summer from the weather, though. It's a sunny day, sure, but the temperatures took a nose dive a couple days ago and I've had to break out my sweaters again! Weird! At least the cool weather helps set the mood to write about the last full month of spring 🌸

So, let's begin!

Patreon Rewards

In May, I sent out the second piece in my chibi pets series, this time featuring caricatures of my dogs, Aoife and Chappie, both of which were drawn live on Twitch. My Patreon features five tiers that offer illustrated postcards, prints, or both (or none, if you don't want physical rewards!) as rewards that are handmade and sent out by yours truly on a monthly basis 🥰 I hope you'll consider joining and supporting my creative storytelling endeavors! Click here to check it out 💖


Click here to view, comment, and fave on deviantART!

I'm slowly getting caught up on posting to dA! I know I say that pretty much every time, but it's still true! Now I've posted everything through January of this year. I need to pick up the pace to get on top of things, so I'm going to think about how to sneak in more posting time 🤔 Anyway, for this roundup post, I am featuring my Winter Gryphon! It's the second in my seasonal gryphon greeting card series (wow that's a long description, lol). Now that it's summer, it's the perfect time to resume my Summer Gryphon project. I left off at the thumbnail stage, so I've got a basic foundation ready to go. Now I just need to make some decisions and get cracking!


The last art livestream I hosted in May was focused on the Inktober52 "scratch" prompt. It was a Monday stream that actually happened on a Monday! Recently, there have been multiple issues forcing me to reschedule my Monday streams. I hope to mitigate some of the recurring issues (like when the cleaning team arrives later than usual) but there have been one-off things that can't be helped, as well. Luckily, I always seem to have a convenient opening later in the week, so I haven't missed an Inktober52 stream yet!

Click here to check out my streaming schedule, sign up for go-live notifications, and, if you want to support my streaming efforts, join my channel as a subscriber 💖

Charity Fundraising

As a way to make my creative efforts feel more meaningful, and to give my viewers an easy way to participate (no money required, just sit back and enjoy an hour of live art!), I use my monthly unique viewers count on Twitch to calculate a donation that I personally give to charity. In May, I featured The Peregrine Fund, which works to protect raptors in the wild, including my favorite, the peregrine falcon 😍

Nineteen unique viewers joined my streams in May. Based on the formula of $0.10 USD per viewer, with a minimum of $10 and a max of $100, that equaled a $10 donation!

The Peregrine Fund was actually running a special campaign to help California condors, still a critically endangered species, who were suffering terribly from an outbreak avian influenza. This is on top of other persistent killers, like lead poisoning from gun ammunition 😢 It seems like the outbreak has passed, but many birds died. I hope my donation can help with further protection and recovery efforts!

Mika's Monthly...

Now I'd like to offer you some recommendations based on my experiences in May. These are things that got me though the month healthy, happy, and inspired! I am receiving no compensation for promoting these things; they are just things I love and I hope you will, too!

...Workout 🏃‍♀️ I got back to a regular running schedule in May! It feels great! I also changed my schedule around so that my three weekly runs happen first thing in the morning. My reason was to avoid the heat and smog of the afternoon, but I discovered some unexpected benefits that will keep me exercising straight out of bed even when it gets cold again. For one, it wakes me up like nothing else. For two, it keeps my energy levels high throughout the rest of the day, even when I didn't get the greatest sleep overnight. And for three--and most exciting for me--it raises my focus and motivation levels, allowing me to get a lot more done each day!

...Vegan Victuals 🥗 As part of our vegan Memorial Day feast, I made this lemon pepper pasta salad using a recipe from The Best Friends Cookbook. It was extremely easy and equally delicious! I used several of its suggestions for substitutes and additions, including subbing chickpea pasta (high protein!) and adding green peas. Everything in this cookbook is easy to make and amazingly delicious, so I highly recommend it!

...Book 📕 I finished the Andy Serkis narration of The Two Towers audiobook in May. It was just as awesome as the previous one 🤩 Here is my full review from The StoryGraph:

The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien
adventurous dark funny tense slow-paced

    Plot- or character-driven? A mix
    Loveable characters? Yes

5.0 ⭐

While in most trilogies I find the middle entry to be my least favorite, that has never been the case for The Lord of the Rings. This novel, The Two Towers, stands just as strong as its bookends. One of the biggest elements that makes it so appealing are the horse-rearing people of Rohan; they have been my favorite group of mankind in Middle Earth since I was a child. But this time, I also felt the Ents and their trees were just as interesting and awe-inspiring. Perhaps it's because I've become vegan since I last read these books, which has given me a greater interest in and respect for plant life, but I think it's also the idea that the forest and its keepers were here long before any humanoid life, which is rather scientific, since trees did evolve much sooner than mammals in reality.

Before I comment on the audiobook in particular, which was my format this time, I also want to mention that The Two Towers is so much better in its original format (book or audiobook), versus the 2000s live-action movie adaptation. Sam, my favorite character of all, is still nasty to Gollum, but not in the despicable way shown in the movie. His unkindness in the original is much more justified, and he's more shrewd than his movie counterpart, keeping his mouth shut when it's prudent, watching and waiting, looking before he leaps. I found this to be the case for many characters, actually. Faramir is more reasonable and less meatheaded, "wizard-like" as Sam puts it, and even the orcs are more relatable thanks to their long dialogues that give glimpses into their lifestyles and culture.

As for this audiobook, narrated by Andy Serkis, I feel there's not much more praise I can add to what I've already sung in my reviews of his readings of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring 😅 It is simply excellent. I have no complaints whatsoever, and although I feel it might be nice to listen to my old CD and cassette tape versions of the Middle Earth books someday, I might just be too addicted to Serkis's masterful delivery to listen to anything else!

...Show 🎬 My husband and I watch a movie together almost every Friday night and recently we undertook to watch all of the live-action Spider-Man movies starting with the 2002 Tobey Maguire film (wow, I was only in the middle of my first year of high school back then 🤯) and ending with my favorite and my recommendation for May, Spider-Man: No Way Home 💖 I won't say why, but it is totally worth it to do a complete watch through like this! Do try it out sometime!

...Game 🎮 Maybe I missed it when I went over my previous roundup posts, but I think I've never yet featured Pokémon GO here! It's the phone game I play the most, nearly every day. I started on release day and I still remember how I barely had time to choose my first pokémon (Charmander, of course! 🔥) before midnight because of my crazy work schedule that day. Believe it or not, Pokémon GO is what got me running outside for the first time in my adult life! I had run on the treadmill before then, but the introduction of PokéStops to spin gave me a good reason to rack up my kilometers outside! Charmy and I are still trekking together today, along with my 1,800+ other pokémon, including several perfect ones, such as my current walking buddy, Wednesday 🖤

...Music 🎧 This month I'm recommending my newest and the most personally tailored playlist I have, Mika's Power Songs 💪 The songs might not inspire everyone the same way they inspire me, but I built this playlist with very specific ideas in mind and I listen to it almost every workday morning, to raise my energy and put me in the right mindset to get things done! It's only 36 minutes long, so I hope you'll give it a listen and feel the power!

Other News...

...Members-only Discord Server

At the end of April, I set up a Discord server accessible only to Patreon members and Twitch subscribers 😎 After my Japan vacation, it gave me such anxiety thinking about going back to social media (I have so much more time for other, more productive things without it!) but I realized, when I suddenly had to reschedule a Twitch stream, that I still wanted a place where I could quickly and easily communicate with my treasured supporters. I had been considering making a Discord for a while, so that felt like the right moment to make it happen! For my existing supporters who haven't joined yet, I hope to see you there soon! You just have to make a Discord account, link it to Twitch or Patreon, and the Studio Mikarts server should show up automatically 🌟 For anyone who would like a closer connection to me and my creative endeavors (I'm talking WIP progress images, writing and illustration updates, charity updates, even art made by your fellow supporters, etc.) I would be honored to have your support!

...Puppies' Birthdays

Finally, a purely for-fun share: it was both of my dogs' birthdays in May! They were both strays, so the dates are only estimates, but that doesn't matter as much as taking the time to celebrate their debuts on planet Earth 🥳🐶🐶💖

My best friend, Sarah, had sent me a little doggy birthday kit in April, so that's where I got the cute mini party hat and dog bone birthday banner 🎊 Aoife turned three years old, and Chappie turned two the following week~ My husband and I gave them lots of yummy vegan dog treats in celebration 🦴 Happy birthday, girls! I'm so lucky to have you in my life!!!

And that's all for May. Thank you for reading until the end 🥰 I hope you enjoyed reading about my activities and I hope you'll give some of my recommendations a try! Until next time, please stay happy, healthy, and safe!