Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 3) - Go For Broke Monument

January 25, 2016 (continued): One of my must visit places I had to see for very personal reasons when I came to LA, was the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo.

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My paternal grandfather, Takao Matsuoka was a second generation Japanese American living in Hawaii, and on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the Americans distrust of anyone with Japanese ethnicity grew exponentially. Even though the second generation Japanese Americans were citizens by birthright, during this time many questioned their loyalty and allegiances.

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

My grandfather, Takao Matsuoka (right), with his father (left).

Over 30,000 Japanese Americans served in the U.S. military during World War 2, despite having family still in internment camps, despite the American anti-Japanese propaganda, and from personal anecdotes from my grandfather - being called racial slurs by fellow servicemen while fighting alongside each other.

My grandfather was part of the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated in U.S. history to this day for their size and length of service. To honor those Japanese Americans who served, and recognize their loyalty despite the prejudices they faced, a monument was erected with the unit’s motto “Go For Broke” as its name. “Go For Broke” is Hawaiian pidgin English used when describing going all in on something and giving it everything you’ve got.

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Inscribed on the front is the quotation from a 100th Infantry veteran:

“Rising to the defense of their country, by the thousands they came – these young Japanese American soldiers from Hawaii, the states, America's concentration camps – to fight in Europe and the Pacific during World War II. Looked upon with suspicion, set apart and deprived of their constitutional rights, they nevertheless remained steadfast and served with indomitable spirit and uncommon valor, for theirs was a fight to prove loyalty. This legacy will serve as a sobering reminder that never again shall any group be denied liberty and the rights of citizenship”. – Ben H. Tamashiro

Below are more quotes from others recognizing the history these Japanese Americans achieved:

"You not only fought the enemy . . . you fought prejudice and won." – President Harry S. Truman as he welcomed the 100/442 RCT home

"Never in military history did an army know as much about the enemy prior to actual engagement" – General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, Pacific Theater, referring to the MIS

"My fellow Americans, we gather here today to right a grave wrong . . . now let me sign H.R. 442." – President Ronald Reagan, Civil Liberties Act of 1988

"The Nisei saved countless lives and shortened the war by two years" – Charles A. Willoughby, General MacArthur's Intelligence Officer, referring to the MIS

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On the back of the monument, inscribed are the names of 16,126 Nisei soldiers that served. One of them being my grandfathers’.

It was incredibly moving being there, seeing his name on this monument. Not only because he was part of a significant point in history but also thinking of the difficulties and hardships many faced at that time while just soldiering on through because there was no other choice.

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I’m a proud granddaughter, but this is not the only reason why I would highly recommend visiting this monument and the museum next door where you can learn more about this part of history. I think it’s more relevant than ever as this cycle seems to be repeating itself again in current day, just with different players. We can all take into account how our own attitudes can affect others, even on a day to day basis.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 3 (Part 2) - DTLA and The Last Bookstore

January 25, 2016 (continued): The next place I wanted to check out was The Last Bookstore which was in walking distance from Grand Central Market.

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On my way there, I spotted another cool electrical box with the Egyptian God Anubis, painted in a way that reminds me of Sanna Annukka’s scandinavian style animals.

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I passed through the Historic Core of DTLA with many beautiful buildings having an architectural style dating back to the early 1900s.

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Upon entering the store, I could see why this was a highly recommended place to visit as it was part art installation/gallery, part bookstore. There were sculptural pieces made of books everywhere in the main room, including the checkout bar station.

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When coming from the front the room to the left is the art/design books section, so of course it had to be filled with little bits of artistic expression. On the walls were these beautiful, largely detailed pencil(?) drawing murals. The back of the room had a large gallery of paintings in different styles, from thrift store chic to modern, contemporary works.

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Even the stairway area had little bits of art thrown in, albeit a bit creepy, even more so when I was editing this image and noticed reflected in the security mirror, that there was a person standing in the stairwell.

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Hanging above the stairs was a gothic-esque sculpture.

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Further up was an art installation reminiscent of something out of Harry Potter, where the books come alive appear to be “flying” out of the bookcase.

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Part of the upstairs has a few mini shops selling cool vintage trinkets, to paintings, to stationery bits and bobs.

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Once you reach the end of the loop of mini shops, there is an entrance to the upstairs part of the bookstore. Here, are even more sculptural book wonders, from little windows, to a lit up cave.

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Also sprinkled throughout are more artsy influenced installations including 3D murals, color categorized bookshelves and various vintage sculptures.

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Their inventory of books is a mixture of new, and secondhand with a few hard to find thrown in. I would recommend visiting whether you’re a bibliophile or quirky art connoisseur!

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On the way back to my car, I spotted a few more representations of DTLA’s eclectic mix of artistic inspiration like this pretty black and white building.

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To the *ahem* creepy.

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To the amusing.

Travel Diary: Los Angeles Day 2 (Part 1) - Venice Canals

January 25, 2016 (continued): After many of the heavy, sleep-inducing, carb-laden meals I’ve had throughout the trip I was craving something lighter and cleaner for breakfast. My plan was to explore the Venice/Santa Monica area so I googled juice places near there. I chose Juice Served Here as they had a few food options as well. There were only a couple of parking spaces out front, the building itself looked like a converted garage with a cool, glass roller door. The interiors were clean, modern with a slight industrial feel.

For breakfast, I chose the juice flight which was a selection of their juices in shot sized glasses that were supposed to be a re-invigoration for the day. There was an order to which one you drank first, including starting with Green Easy (Cucumber, Red Apple, Kale, Spinach, Lemon, Romaine, Green Pepper), to things like Charcoal Lemonade (Filtered Water, Sugar Cane Juice, Lemon, Montmorillonite Clay, Activated Charcoal), to finishing it off with the “dessert”, Cream Party (Coconut Water, Coconut Cream). As someone who regularly made their own smoothies and tried similar juices before, I didn’t mind the veggies in my juice thing as I know some people get weirded out and think it’s gross, but honestly the fruit flavors usually balance out any “green” tastes. I thought each juice had their own unique flavor profile, and the flight was a good way to test out which juices you might prefer over others.

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I also ordered the vegan grilled cheese to round out my meal. Usually, I’m pretty wary of vegan imitation products as it’s never quite the same but thought I’d give it a go. As a connoisseur of grilled cheese and lover of dairy (but trying to cut back on it), this was one of the best grilled cheese I’ve had in my life. It was packed with flavor, with some red peppery bits in it, and a nice amount of creaminess to it. The melty, stringy cheese part was a little lacking because, well it’s not cheese but I didn’t really miss it. Since I am so late to writing this post, I don’t think they have it on their menu anymore unfortunately!

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My first sightseeing stop of the day was at the Venice Canals. I’d wanted to visit as it was the scene to several movies, plus a few YouTubers I watched had also been there, the location looked interesting and artistic so it was definitely on my list. Since I had started my day off early the place was almost empty apart from the residents, so I had it all to myself. The interwoven walk amongst the canals was one of the most peaceful, serene, and picturesque places I’ve ever been. I can see why one resident had to post a sign saying that they’d never sell so stop asking!

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I loved crossing the bridges and stopping to take in the scenery of the canals, each one was slightly different and unique. Funny story, there was a young man who went on one of the bridges and sat down with his puppet and started talking to himself, at first you’d think quite odd but then this is LA so I figured he was rehearsing for some project. Not sure why he had to sit on a bridge to do it but whatever helps the process I guess!

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Each house was decorated in their own unique way, which for my curious/detail oriented mind was like heaven just stopping at each home to see what they had done. The architecture was also unique in itself with some resembling quaint cottages, to clean and modern, to artsy/hippie decor, to some that looked like what I’d imagine was out of a Hansel and Gretel storybook.

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There were also several animal spottings like the ducks gliding down the canals, or in someone’s backyard, to doggo’s chilling on the porch, to crows and squirrels getting their feed on.

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In conclusion, this was one of my favorite places I had visited, as it touched on a number of my top things, arts, architecture, animals, nature, water, the peace and tranquility (especially for my introverted self). It was such an expansive place that I couldn’t see everything thoroughly but I knew if I was ever back I’d have to visit again.

Secret Message: Morse Code Design

I had a little inspiration for a new design project that incorporated my love for typography, but using it in an unconventional form. I came up with a visual morse code design that you could express an inside joke to yourself or to someone else. Each letter is represented by the dot or dash combination to create the word. Now those who know morse code could potentially read it, but wouldn't necessarily think of it in visual form at first, hence the secrecy of it all. 

When the words are repeated, it creates an amazing visual melody, great for a pattern with a hidden message. Check out my initial offerings below, in the form of "Love" and "Savage" (in the urban dictionary sense). They are available in a singular, minimalist word version and in a repetitive pattern on all sorts of art prints, apparel and homeware items in my Society6 shop.

Travel Diary: Portland - Day 2

 January 13, 2016: My second day of the trip started at a place I’d heard many rave reviews about, Mother’s Bistro. I decided to try their special of the day - waffles with peach compote and whipped cream, a side of extra crispy bacon and coffee. While their service was amazing, I think I had hyped the food up too much in my mind and was a little underwhelmed. It was still good, but not outstanding, I’d still go back and try some of the other items though.

After breakfast, I walked my way through downtown - spotting incredible Art Deco buildings (my favorite art movement), little office messages constructed out of post-its, the cold and the creativity was invigorating. I ended up at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, mainly due to my love of vintage signs and typography. After many selfie and angles were taken, I made my way around more of the downtown area, heading towards Chinatown.

The downtown exploration lead to walks through Lownsdale Square, where I was stopped by a Canadian fellow asking if I was a photographer - ended up talking about what we were both doing in Portland and why (see how solo travel sparks many delightful, unexpected encounters). Following the chit chat I furthered my way towards Chinatown, my journey slowing every few seconds as I was bedazzled by the charming historic buildings and street art murals everywhere I turned.

I finally made it to Old Town Chinatown, I love to check out the different Chinatown’s to see what spin that city has put on it (and because it’s probably an impulse in my DNA being half Chinese). Again, the vibrant historic buildings did not disappoint for me, and also once again I was stopped and asked if I was a photographer. They asked where I was from, to which I replied I was visiting from Hawaii, and then got a remark I haven’t heard in a long time, (especially after they hear I’m from Hawaii) was that “I spoke good English”. They were nice, but I had a nice little chuckle to myself afterwards, and was a reminder that some people still think we wear grass skirts and live in tree houses in Hawaii (not kidding, actual questions that have been asked before).

My love for vintage lead me towards the iconic “White Stag” sign, where I took in the views of both sides of the river up on the bridge. The famous Voodoo Doughnuts was nearby, so it wasn’t a really difficult choice to stop in. Their doughnut names were hilarious, especially when you have to say what you want to the cashier, including some *ahem* phallic themed ones. I just got an oreo topped doughnut along with their classic voodoo doll one. Verdict: I think go to visit just to see it but the doughnuts were like regular doughnuts to me, just with interesting and amusing themes. While it was still a little early for dinner, I stopped off at a Stumptown Coffee nearby because when in Rome (or Portland for that matter). It definitely lived up to the hype and was the perfect little jolt I needed.

Finally it was dinner time and I decided to try Grassa, because they make their own pasta for a reasonable price, and I if I had to choose one meal for the rest of my life it would probably be a type of pasta. I decided to go with their truffle parmesan fettucine, and let’s just say this is me every time I think of it. Nothing short of divine! Following dinner, I decided to burn off some carbs with a little retail exercise (a.k.a. shopping) around town. The glow of the neon signs and leftover Christmas decorations was a magical ending to the night.

All photographs taken by my with a Canon 70D and iPhone 6.

Travel Diary: Portland - Day 1

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January 12, 2016: The first leg of my west coast trip started in Portland, Oregon. I had a short stopover in Salt Lake City, Utah at around 5.30am, which gave me nothing short of a glorious sunrise over the snowcapped mountains and rainbow tinted sky. My photos could not do justice to what I saw outside the airport windows.

Landing into a rain filled Portland, I made my way down to the TriMet ticket machine in the airport to purchase a day pass for all public transport systems. Don’t make the mistake I did and think that buying a 5 day pass meant that you could buy it for consecutive days - I had bought 5 passes for the same day. In the words of Homer Simpson, “doh!”. So my first half hour was trying to find other patrons to take my other tickets. What I do recommend is downloading the app on your phone where you can directly purchase an all day pass to all public transport systems for only $5.00 for unlimited rides! Meaning, you don’t have to find a ticket machine or carry around the pass with you.

I had some time to kill before my AirBnb was ready for the day, so I thought I’d explore a little of Portland. I didn’t really get too many great shots since that day was pouring winter rain, plus I was dragging around my roller carry on and backpack on top of that. A little tip, the Greyhound bus station has lockers for rent if you’re ever in a similar situation. Once my baggage was stored, I made my way around town - spotting awesome art, interesting solar panel sculptures, the Pendleton store, Flanders St (Portland has many streets that Simpson’s characters were named after), etc.

I eventually stopped off at the famous Powell’s Books for a little shelter and to grab a coffee and snack from their cafe. Oh man - was I in heaven! Coming from Hawaii, who are only starting on their coffee connoisseur quests and growing up in New Zealand where they take their coffee very seriously - I was so pleased to have real coffee again, all the while washing it down with a delectable almond croissant.

After resting up, my AirBnb was ready, a cozy little room in a shared house, in a quiet neighborhood near town. I dropped off my bags and peeled off my rain soaked clothes and got into something a little more snug as I would be mostly walking around in temperatures where it had just snowed a few days earlier. Being used to Hawaii’s heat, where we throw on a thick sweater and extra blanket when it hits 72°F (22°C), feeling the freezing temps through my rubber boots and having my hands literally frozen stiff was definitely an experience.

The neighborhood I was staying in had a huge murder of crows surrounding it, (I love that term, and since Hawaii nor New Zealand has crows I’m going to exploit it every chance I get) - I kept joking in my head as they were circling and cawing that they were ready to pick at my frozen carcass any time now while walking around. Those pictures of the crows that appear to be in black and white were not altered into grayscale at all and a perfect visual depiction of how chilly and chilling it was at the time.

I made my way back into town for dinner to try the much lauded Tasty n Alder, boy did it not disappoint! I had the grilled rosemary chicken with I believe a sweet potato and leek puree. I even ordered a grown up drink to go with it, a Moscow mule (I rarely imbibe as I am a grandma trapped in a young person’s body). I’m still kicking myself because I completely forgot to get their famous chocolate potato doughnut, which is the main reason I went! Next time, Portland, next time.

All in all, I had a great introduction to Portland and all the great things I had heard were very real. Tomorrow, Day 2 of Portland explorations!

All photos taken by me on my iPhone 6.

Announcement

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Aloha loyal and new readers! Sorry it's been a bit quiet around here and the shop. As with all things in life - just when you think it's going one way, it can turn in an instant and your whole world as you know it has changed completely. I'm still gathering my bearings in all of this so my etsy shop will currently be on hiatus until I'm able to get back to it. However, my work will still be available to purchase through my Society6 shop which has art prints, iPhone/iPad/Laptop cases, t-shirts, bags, etc.

I will be adding new work to my shop as often as I can. If you don't see a piece of mine that you would like to see in the shop or have any questions please email me at info@meganmatsuoka.com and I will look into adding it for purchase.

Right now there is FREE shipping worldwide through Sunday so get in quick! Thank you and please check back at the blog to see when my Etsy shop will be back up and running! 

Kauai | Hanalei Valley and Bay

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I'm in a creative block designing new posters for my shop, so I'm procrastinating by doing another thing on my To Do list that I'm late on... my 2nd round of Kauai pics!

Here is Hanalei Valley and Hanalei Bay. The first looks over Hanalei Valley and is of the taro patches. It was overcast on the day I went to Hanalei Beach and Bay but I kind of like the tone it casts over the beach. The last few images are on the road on my walk back to my car. See, I wanted to park next to the pier but my GPS lead my astray so I parked on the opposite side - 5 miles away. I walked the entire way on the beach towards the pier and then had to walk another 5 miles back to my car. All because I was too lazy to move my car closer to the pier - logic eludes me sometimes.

Also a little trivia - Hanalei Bay is where they filmed part of the movie The Descendents with George Clooney as well as I heard Mr. Zoolander himself is often seen popping into the area a few times a year.