29 August 2023

2023 Japan Adventure - Part 9: Nighttime in Busan

This is finally it, the moment my husband, Sean, and I finally got brave, left the security of guided tours and the familiarity of our cruise ship, and set out to explore the city of Busan on our own! All credit due to Sean--I was so worried about going around in any country without knowing the local language. If I had been traveling alone, I don't know if I would ever have been able to work up the courage. But he convinced me, and I am so grateful because this foray helped us gain the confidence to explore every other port city after this! Our adventure grew twice as epic thanks to Busan!

Click here to read the previous entry featuring our daytime experiences in Busan.

Sunday 19 March 2023 - Nighttime in Busan

First step: take the shuttle from the port to Busan Station!

Although I had technically seen the character before, this was when I started to fall in love with Boogi 😍

Here's a great article about Boogi, Busan's totally adorable, insanely lovable mascot!

We didn't figure out why it's called this, but since I was born in Texas, I loved seeing Texas Street in Busan!

The Rotary symbol, plus the kanji that I can read (most is written in Hangul) suggest this massive monument is celebrating a Rotary Club 100 year anniversary 🎊

Got a can of Korean Gatorade from a vending machine 😄
I love trying foreign versions of familiar drinks~

Busan Station had this cool screen setup (among other interesting monuments and interactive installations) that played a variety of videos tailored to this unique physical format.

We did a lot of exploring inside Busan Station, which is just as much shopping mall as transportation hub. I was on the hunt for this adorable Boogi plushie, which I had seen someone else leaving the station with earlier. My Boogi now lives here in my studio, helping me stay positive and motivated every day 🥰

One of the best interactions I had in Busan was when this shop employee stopped me to make sure I had the QR code necessary to get the English instructions for the card game I bought there 🥰 She totally didn't have to go out of her way to do that for me, so I really appreciated her consideration!

On the shuttle back to the port, ready to call it a night. I loved how colorful and vibrant this bus was 🌈

Waiting for us in our cabin when we got back: immigration papers! We had to follow procedures to enter Korea and then to return to Japan. It makes sense logically, but it still felt weird since we were riding the same cruise ship the whole time 😆

Dreamy big city nighttime vibes 🌆 Goodnight, Busan~

And there you have it, our first true adventure of this trip! While there were some downsides to exploring a massive city in a different country on one's own (the worst experiences were the same ones that have made any trip to Portland, Seattle, or New York City unpleasant, so it must just be a big city thing 😅), we had a great experience overall and it gave us complete confidence to do it again at every port after this. Ironic that the port where we were most out of place and at risk of running into trouble (due to our lack of Korean language skills) was the place that gave us the courage to explore and make the most of our journey!

Thank you for reading the ninth entry in my Japan (and Korea) Adventure series! I'll be back soon with post #10, featuring our second full day at sea as we traveled to Kanazawa. Until then, please stay happy, healthy, and safe!

22 August 2023

2023 Japan Adventure - Part 8: Daytime in Busan

lol, I meant to get these posts done faster and instead it's been over a month since my last one! I guess I just have to accept that they'll get done as they get done 😅 So, last time, we departed from Nagasaki and headed across the Korea Strait to Busan. This was both my and my husband Sean's first time visiting Korea. I only thought of it at the last minute, but I taught myself to say hello in Korean that morning 😊 안녕하세요 (annyeonghaseyo)! Just using one word of the local language made people totally light up in pleasant surprise ❤️ I'm so glad I tried it!

Sunday 19 March 2023 - Daytime in Busan

Coming into port, there was so much cool architecture. Look at that lighthouse!

A couple cool bridges and the first of many skyscrapers (I believe these two are mainly apartments).
The tents at the bottom of the photo are filling a paved, seaside campsite!

I didn't realize it at the time, but this welcome mosaic was my first encounter with Boogi ❤️

While there was no big welcome party, unlike most of the ports in Japan,
we did still enjoy getting our photos taken with these adorable mascots 🥰

Setting out on our Korean shore excursion!

Our first stop was Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, which is like a Buddhist Disneyland, full of attractions and tourists (including ourselves!) 😅

These golden pigs are supposed to bring you luck with money if you put your hand in their mouths.
I wonder what our touching their tails will bring? 😆

I feel like male Buddhas are talked about way more than female ones. That's why I was excited to learn about Haesu Gwaneum Daebul and take my picture with her statue 🤩

There is a row of statues depicting all twelve Asian zodiac animals.
This is me with my year of the tiger!

At the bustling marketplace outside the temple, I bought myself this lucky tiger bracelet.
You can often see me wearing it during my livestreams on Twitch!

Our next stop was this luxury seaside resort, Ananti Cove.
We did a little shopping for snacks and souvenirs, but nothing more worth sharing as photos 😅

Our final stop was Ahopsan Forest, which I was specifically looking forward to!

One reason I was looking forward to it is that I had never been in a proper bamboo forest before!

The other reason is that this was a filming location for Kundo: Age of the Rampant!
Sean and I specifically watched the movie right before the trip to be ready!

When we watched it, and still as of this writing, the movie is free to view via YouTube Movies 🙌 It was like a Korean spaghetti western, a bit violent but really thoughtful and full of adventure, good and evil, and exploring how murky the difference between the two can be. I recommend it!

After hiking through the forest, we hopped back onto the tour bus and returned with our group to the port. Next time, I'll share our adventure in Busan that night, bravely exploring the city on foot, without guide or group 😮 Until then, please stay happy, healthy, and safe~!

15 August 2023

2023 July Roundup

It's so wild to think another month has passed already! We are well into summer here in Boise. We're even getting tiny hints of the dreamy autumn weather that's soon to come. This has been the weirdest summer weather in my memory; everything is happening a month early. Intense heat in July and now cool, cloudy mornings and even rainy days in August. It's been cool enough that I've been wearing a hoodie inside the house this week!

July was a busy month for me (well, every month is busy, really 😅) and I'm excited to share it with you!

Patreon Rewards

July's Patreon rewards featured a digitally colored version of one of my Inktober52 drawings from this year. KABOOM💥 I used both Clip Studio Paint and Adobe Photoshop to color it. Click here to sign up and get rewards like this in your mailbox. It's so much better than junk mail and bills 😁 And you'll be helping me create more art!


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

I finally had someone redeem the chibi gift certificates I've been sending out as birthday presents 🥰 My friend Marty asked me to chibify his lovely cat, Lulu. Marty's mom liked the caricature so much she got it printed on a pillow so she could be with Lulu even when she's not visiting Marty 💕 Creating something that brings so much joy to others is such an honor!


Livestreaming on Twitch continues to go well! I stream art every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The final stream of July was an Inktober52 session featuring the tricky prompt of "teeth" which I think I managed fairly well 😆 Click here to check out my channel, see my schedule in your timezone, and follow me to get updates whenever I go live!

Charity Fundraising

As a way to give myself more purpose when I stream, and to give my viewers a super easy way to turn their viewing into positive change for the world, I take my unique viewers count every month and make a donation based on that number.

We had 21 unique viewers in July (a record for this year, and very close to the record of 26 set in June 2022!) and according to my formula of $0.10 USD per viewer, minimum $10 and maximum $100, that equals a $10 donation to our charity of the month, Food For Life Global!

As usual when this is an option, I checked the box to cover the processing fees so that all of the $10 would go to helping provide people around the world with healthy, freshly cooked vegan meals 🍛💕 According to their donation page, $50 will feed 100 children, which means our $10 will help 20 children!

August's charity is Vegan Outreach, a nonprofit that helps veg-curious folks learn more about veganism and make a smooth and easy transition to a more compassionate (and frankly more delicious!) lifestyle. I hope you'll join me on Twitch this month and bring your friends! Let's make the world a better place together ❤️

Mika's Monthly...

In this section, I would like to share and recommend some things that made my July awesome! I don't receive any compensation for promoting any of these; they simply helped me get through the month happy and healthy 😄 I hope they can do the same for you!

...Workout 💦 I've switched up my workout routine since the last time I featured Ring Fit Adventure in a roundup post but it remains a staple! Right now I'm doing a Ring Fit workout once a week as a supplement to my running. It's my main full-body strength workout and even though I've been playing for years, since you can turn up the difficulty as you get stronger, it continues to help me work up a sweat!

...Vegan Victuals 🍫 I was so stoked when I found a vegan recipe for my FAVORITE dessert from school lunch! So stoked that I made it the very next day! (As an aside, even though it's popular to rag on school lunch, for me, no matter whether it was in California, Arizona, or Idaho, I always loved it!) This recipe was extremely simple and I was able to sub corn puffs for most of the corn flakes (because the corn puffs box was already open) and 1 tbsp cocoa powder + 1 tbsp coconut oil for the dark chocolate (because we had the former two and not the latter one). These treats, which in school were called peanut butter candy, are dangerously easy to make and dangerously delicious 🤤 I could eat a whole pan by myself!


...Book 📕 I finished another life-changing book in July, The Courage to be Disliked, by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi. It's another one that requires an open mind and willingness to act, but I cannot overstate how much and how positively it has affected me 🥰 Here's my review from The StoryGraph:

challenging hopeful informative inspiring reflective fast-paced

5.0 ⭐

First off, I can't help but be amused at the way so many other reviews condemn this book for denying the existence of trauma (specifically, it states that trauma doesn't exist in the same way the past doesn't exist) because they're basically proving the book's point. Trauma is a delicious buzzword these days and no one wants to be told that they can (have to) let it go in order to move forward! I suffered severe abuse as a child and I always thought of it as trauma, as an invisible scar that I can never be rid of. After reading this book, I realize my memories of that abuse are not scars, but baggage I've been lugging around all my life, making everything else I want to do way more difficult than it needs to be. No more. I don't have trauma. I have memories of abuse, the same as I have memories of birthday parties and family road trips. Some memories are pleasant, some are unpleasant, but none will ever again convince me to behave in a way contrary to who I want to be NOW. I dropped the baggage, thanks to this book. If your mind is open, it could help you do the same ❤️

Now, onto my main review! I loved this book! I will recommend it to anyone who seems like it would help. It was super easy to read and understand. The philosophy-style dialogue made it easy to follow the ideas; whenever I started to feel lost (or contrary) it was nice to have the Youth there to raise my objections for me, which the Philosopher always quickly and gently laid to rest. The book introduces new psychology concepts and terms, but also explains them simply, so that I never had to jump onto Wikipedia or Google for help. The only weakness is the awkwardness of the English translation. It's grammatically correct without any typos, etc. but, as an intermediate student of Japanese, I have a strong feeling it was translated too literally from the original. But even with that shortcoming, the book stands strong and I'll be turning back to it (and the multitudes of notes I took from it) whenever I need reminders to strengthen me. I picked it up in the first place because its title resonated fiercely with me. I'm pleased to report that I not only learned how to find the courage to be disliked, but how to find the courage to be happy and to be normal, to be deeply satisfied with the present moment, because that's all we ever really have.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

It's as if you see the world through dark glasses, so naturally everything seems dark. But if that is the case, instead of lamenting about the world's darkness, you could just remove the glasses.
Adlerian psychology is a psychology of courage. Your unhappiness cannot be blamed on your past or your environment. And it isn't that you lack competence. You just lack courage.
If your life, or mine, for that matter, were to come to an end here and now, it would not do to refer to either of them as unhappy. The life that ends at the age of twenty and the life that ends at ninety are both complete lives, and lives of happiness.
No matter what moments you are living, or if there are people who dislike you, as long as you do not lose sight of the guiding star of "I contribute to others," you will not lose your way, and you can do whatever you like. Whether you're disliked or not, you pay it no mind and live free.

...Show 📺 Although I watched plenty of good shows in July, there's only one I liked so much that I held a family party the next week so that I could share it with my siblings: The Super Mario Bros. Movie! It blew me away! I laughed out loud, I shrieked with joy, I was totally captivated. Video game movie adaptations have no excuses anymore; this film absolutely proves that it can be done right. The extras at the end suggested the team was totally up for making a second one. I hope they do!

...Game 📱 Pokémon Sleep came out in July and it was the keystone in the sleep hygiene bridge I've been building for YEARS. As of this writing, I am now on day 28 of going to bed and waking up on time. I have been trying to get to this point for SO. LONG. Never in my adult life, and perhaps even my entire life, has my sleep been so consistent and restorative. Thank you, Pokémon Sleep, for coming out the same year that I set "go to bed on time" as my New Year's Goal 😭💕 If you're interested in improving your sleep hygiene, or at least making sleep a more fun activity, as long as you have a smartphone, you can play this game 😄 I highly recommend it!

The Plus+, which I love, makes Pokémon Sleep even better but it's not required.

...Music 🎧 I finally received my physical copy of Metallica's new album, 72 Seasons, in July! I think it took so long because I ordered the Japanese version. (It was so unusual; the Japanese version was listed on Amazon US, sold by Amazon.com, and somehow it was cheaper than the US version!) I listened to it quite a bit throughout the month, both the files I ripped from my CD and via Spotify. If you love Metallica (they're my favorite band) this album makes for perfect energizing background music while you're working 🤘😆 My favorite song is Lux Æterna!

New Section ‼️ Vegan Artist Tips: Brushes

I've been thinking about how else I could help more animals through my work. As a vegan artist, I have learned a lot about the tools I use and how to select items that didn't cause any animal suffering. I also have a lot of answers to philosophical questions that I'd like to share, not to tell people what to do, but to provide a reasonable option when the "right" answer is murky. So, every month, I'll share some vegan artist tips 🥰🎨🖌️ I hope this section is helpful and informative. If nothing else, may it show everyone that we can make compassionate choices in our artmaking, too!

My theme this month is brushes. It came to mind because I still have a lot of brushes that were made using animal hair and animal glue. While some folks might have given or thrown away their animal brushes when they became vegan, I think that's a waste. Giving away animal brushes that are still in good condition and buying vegan brushes to replace them is contributing to carbon emissions, energy use, etc. And of course, throwing away perfectly good animal brushes is an insult to the memory of the animals who suffered in their making. So I have kept all my animal brushes and I still use them. I take very good care of them so they'll last as long as possible. When they are finally worn out, that's when I'll replace them with vegan brushes 😊

How to Care for Brushes to Ensure Longevity

  1. Wash your brushes as soon as you are done with them. I use a brush cleaner mitt and vegan solid brush cleaner (pro tip: it doesn't matter if you use art or makeup brush cleaner). Just wet the brush, swirl it around on the solid cleaner, and then gently swipe it back and forth on the mitt. Rinse and repeat until the water runs clear.
  2. Reshape the bristles while the brush is still wet. Let them dry in the shape you want and they'll be like new for next time!
  3. Hang brushes to dry with the bristle-end down. Gravity will pull the moisture down and out of the ferrule. This helps keep any glue used in constructing the brush safe from water damage. If you can't hang your brushes, lay them to dry horizontally.
  4. Use scissors to trim any stray bristles. Sometimes the act of painting can bend a bristle beyond repair. Instead of pulling it out (which might pull more out, loosen the entire bundle, and make it likely that bristles will start to fall out on their own) cut it off as close to the ferrule as possible.

What Makes a Vegan Brush or Vegan Brush Cleaner?

The most obvious place animals show up in our brushes is the bristles, which can be made from animals' hair. A less-known place animals are used is in the glue that is used to bind the bristles together or to attach the ferrule to the handle. Brush cleaners often don't openly list their ingredients so it's really hard to tell what animal products might be in them, if they don't explicitly say the product is vegan. Another troublesome question is whether the cleaner or its ingredients were tested on animals. The good news is, all you have to do is search online for "vegan paintbrush" or "vegan brush cleaner" and you will be presented with lots of animal-friendly options! 😄✨

Other News: USWNT Send-off Match

In the first half of July, my husband and I traveled to San Jose, California to enjoy the USWNT send-off match against Wales 🤩⚽ Our hope was to get to see my two favorite players, Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe, face off against one another. That didn't happen (Fishlock didn't even play 😭) but we had a great time anyway!

Can't be sure but I think I got Jess Fishlock in this photo!!

Team USA won this match!

USA was knocked out of the World Cup surprisingly early this time (well, surprising based on past results, not based on our performance during this tournament 😅) so that's kinda sad, but my memories of this match and the little vacation we had (including eating at a bunch of delicious vegan restaurants and shopping at otaku stores!) remain happy 💖

That's all for July's roundup, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for reading all the way to the end! Until next time, may you stay happy, healthy, and safe~!!