Studio Ghibli: Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば)

Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi o Sumaseba, lit. If you listen closely) is a 1995 Japanese animated romantic drama film directed by Kondou Yoshifumi (近藤 喜文) and written by Miyazaki Hayao (宮﨑 駿) based on the 1989 manga of the same name by Hiiragi Aoi (柊 あおい). It was the first theatrical Studio Ghibli film to be directed by someone other than Miyazaki Hayao or Takahata Isao.


Whisper of the Heart was Kondou's only film as director before his death in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondou would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.

Tsukishima Shizuku is a 14-year-old student at Mukaihara Junior High School, where she is best friends with Harada Yuko  Living in Tokyo with her parents Asako and Seiya, as well as her older sister Shiho, Shizuku is a bookworm and is keen on writing. During an ordinary evening, she looks through the checkout cards in her library books. She discovers they have been checked out by Amasawa Seiji. Over the next few days, Shizuku encounters a young man, later revealed to be Seiji, who often annoys her.



Finding a cat riding a train, Shizuku follows it to discover an antique shop run by Nishi Shiro. In the shop there is a cat statuette, "The Baron", which is one of the main characters in a related film entitled The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し), which was released in 2002.

This might be one of Studio Ghibli's films that I liked to watch the most. It's beautiful! From the music to the animation, the atmosphere, the characters...

I like how it focuses in so "normal" daily lives, but how always something somehow supernatural changes everything, starting a whole new story, as the protagonist says in one of her lines.



The film score of Whisper of the Heart was composed by Nomi Yuji (野見 祐二). At times during the film, Shizuku translates John Denver's song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to Japanese for her school's chorus club. She writes her own humorous Japanese version of the song, called "Concrete Road," about her hometown in western Tokyo. The songs were actually translated by producer Suzuki Toshio (鈴木 敏夫)'s daughter Mamiko with Miyazaki Hayao writing supplemental lyrics. These songs play a role at points in the story. A recording of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," performed by Olivia Newton-John, plays during the film's opening sequence. The song was also performed by Shizuku's voice actress Honna Youko (本名 陽子).

Please watch the trailer below, and let yourself be immersed in this lovely story :)



Also, listen to the main theme!



Studio Ghibli: The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し)

The Cat Returns (猫の恩返し, Neko no Ongaeshi, lit. The Cat's Repayment) is a 2002 Japanese animated drama film directed by Morita Hiroyuki (森田宏幸). A spin-off of Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi wo Sumaseba, lit. If You Listen Closely), it was theatrically released in Japan on July 19, 2002 through the Toho Company. It received an Excellence Prize at the 2002 Japan Media Arts Festival.


The story is about a girl named Haru, a quiet, shy and ditzy high school student who has a suppressed ability to talk with cats. One day, she saves a darkly-colored, odd-eyed cat from being hit by a truck on a busy road. The cat is Lune, Prince of the Cat Kingdom. As thanks, the cats give Haru gifts of catnip and mice, and she is offered the Prince's hand in marriage. Her mixed reply is taken as a yes.

The rest is up to you to imagine, or watch for yourself! :)



In 1995, Studio Ghibli released a film entitled Whisper of the Heart (耳をすませば, Mimi wo Sumaseba, lit. If You Listen Closely), about a girl writing a fantasy novel. Although the girl's life had no magical elements, the film featured short fantasy scenes depicting what the girl was writing of the Baron, a character of her novel, was so popular that an indirect sequel was made, featuring the Baron and another girl, a high school student, named Haru. Muta also returned.


Personally, I think it was a really fun movie! It has lots of interesting elements, and that touch of "curiosity" that is so common to Studio Ghibli's movies. It's really easy to feel attracted from the start to the end of this great work (^^)

Enjoy the trailer below!


Dulcinea Quartet, what a great concert!

Last Sunday, I went to Dulcinea Quartet first concert of their 2015 Japan Tour!


It was held next to the Tokyo JR Station, in Tokyo Tatemono Yaesu Hall, a place where I had never been to, and that was really beautiful!

Actually, it was my first time listening to a quartet performance this close, and I was completely astonished by the players' communication between them.

When playing in an orchestra under a conductor's direction, its completely different. Of course there must be some communication between players to make the music sound smooth and fluent, but if you look at the conductor, it somehow gets in place.

But this performance was really amazing. Despite the difficulty of every piece, all four of them (five, including the shamisen player Ichikawa Hibiki, in one piece) had perfect communication between them, and that made music sound really good.


It was my first time listening to a shamisen (Japanese traditional instrument) live, and it was amazing! It is an instrument I like a lot, it has such a great sound!

I'm not going to spoil too much on their pieces, as there are still a lot of performances coming soon, which I remind, are:

Date
Location
March 30
Tokyo
April 5
Ibaraki
April 7
Aomori
April 8
Aomori

Lastly, I want to thank Dulcinea Quartet for their invitation to this superb concert, and want to congratulate each and every one of them (including Ichikawa Hibiki) for their amazing performance. Hope to listen to you guys someday soon! Wish all the best for your next performances!

Don't forget to support them, and to visit their official pages to stay tuned to updates!

Scientific Evidence Thoughts & Intentions Can Alter The Physical World Around Us

The title says everything.

Dr. Emoto Masaru, a Japanese researcher has given the world a good deal of evidence of the magic of positive thinking. His experiments demonstrate that human thoughts and intentions can alter physical reality, such as the molecular structure of water. Given that humans are comprised of at least 60% water, his discovery has far reaching implications…


The rice experiment is another famous Emoto demonstration of the power of negative thinking (and conversely, the power of positive thinking). Dr. Emoto placed portions of cooked rice into three containers. Then, everyday for one month he said “thank you” to one of them, "you're an idiot" to the second one, and ignored the last one. By writing the above words in a label for each container, he then instructed school children to say the labels out loud everyday when they passed them by.

THE RESULTS ARE UNBELIEVABLE.

Watch the video below to see what I mean.



Is this proof that consciousness and intention can affect the physical world around us?

"The Global Expatriate's Guide To Investing" by Andrew Hallam

Some time ago I read a very interesting book which I would like to introduce to you. Its title is The Global Expatriate's Guide To Investing, and it's written by bestselling author Andrew Hallam.


Yes, as you might expect by reading the title, it is about money, and if you are an expat like me, you should definitely read it.

Our world is becoming more and more global everyday, and the proof of that is the incredible number of 200 million expats who make their living in a foreign country.

Living in your home country might save you a lot of trouble when it comes to managing your money, investing, or even planning your retirement. But when you are an expat, there are many other things which you cannot do in your home country. And that's why thinking about how to make the most of your hard-earned money is of an extreme importance.

In this book, Andrew Hallam explains how the world of investment works. And what you should do about that if you want to be successful in your life.

The book is very interesting and it will even amaze the most skeptical, as it has a really concrete and detailed approach to every field, be it how much you need to invest to reach your retirement goal, or how much did the Canadian stock index varied along the years. Yes, the numbers are there.

However, I'm going to break the standards. I want to share with you, the phrases that got my attention - and there were a lot -, the ones that despite not having numbers in them, "show" a little of our world, and how we live in it.

It's a little long, but here they are:

- Gaining experience (...) is more fulfilling than acquiring possessions.

- When figuring out how much money you'll need, focus on your own lifestyle and need, not somebody else's.

- The first step toward planning your retirement is realizing what you spend today.

- When it comes to money, caution is cool.

- Even with a solid eye on the economy, human sentiment moves stock prices in the short term, not government policies or economic data.

- Many people hire advisors to guess. But speculating is silly (...). Instead of rolling the dice with a soothsayer, trying to predict which market will outperform, it's better to diversify money across every sector at the lowest possible cost.
  Unfortunately, many global expatriates fail to do so. And their retirements pay the price.

- People get nothing for their money from professional money managers.

- Spreading assets among a variety of markets and asset classes increases safety. We shouldn't try to gamble that a recently scorching fund from a specific geographic region or asset class (gold, oil, commodities, etc.) will continue to blaze, just because it did so recently.
  But that's how most people invest.

- Thousands of years ago, a couple of your ancestors pushed their way through jungle foliage looking for their next meal. A tiger attacked from being and ate one for lunch. The survivor told other villagers. (...) So the villagers realized a pattern. Giant cats eat people. Better avoid them.
  Another time, your ancestors discovered which berries were poisonous, which caused diarrhea, and which they could safely eat and enjoy. (...)
  Humans are hardwired to seek such patterns. But while good for survival, these same pattern-seeking tendencies make us lousy investors. We figure if something is rising in price, it will keep rising. And if something drops in price, it will keep falling. But the stock market isn't a tiger or a jungle berry.

- Predicting stock market movements, even with the benefit of hindsight, is next to impossible.

- When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

- Many myths were once accepted: The earth is flat. Touching a toad will give you warts. Gold is a great investment.
  I hope the last one caught your attention. Because gold once served as a trading currency, many people think it's a great moneymaker.

- Come on, admit it - you're better looking than the average person, right? If you drive a car, you probably think you drive better than most behind the wheel. Chances are you also think you're smarter than average. (...)
  Likewise, many people overestimate their ability to manage a portfolio of index funds. Don't get me wrong. It's a simple thing to do. But most people can't do it effectively.

- Consider how much time you spend cutting your toenails each year. (...) Anyone spending more time maintaining an index fund portfolio is doing something wrong.

- Document your costs. They'll start dropping. You won't have to strain yourself with a household budget. But set a monthly savings goal. (...)
  Whether you choose to repatriate, vagabond, or reside in a foreign oasis, your older self will thank you. After all, you're a custodian for a senior. So do yourself a favor. Plan for your retirement.

I think these quotes speak for themselves. That's the power of this book. It has a very easily understandable language.

I'm no more than a newborn Portuguese expat living and soon working in Japan, so there is still A LOT I don't know about "how money flows". But one thing is for sure: I'm someone who likes to think. To think a lot. Sometimes it may be a poisonous trap, but that's not because of thinking, that's because of overthinking.

This said, this book opened my eyes to the society, and it gave me a clear and concrete vision of something that can save people a lot of trouble. Even for those that think it's too early to think about our own life in, let's say, 10, 20, 30 years, well, that doesn't mean we shouldn't spend a few minutes imagining, throwing ideas into the air, or asking older people for advice that might save us later.

And that's why I'm glad to have read this book!


Guest Post: Five Fun and Free Things to Do in Japan

---> The Rising Sky is and will always be open to Guest Posts! <---

Today I present to you a post on "Five Fun and Free Things to Do in Japan" brought by our avid reader Jess Signut! She's a long term expat who has spent the last years traveling around the world! She writes about her adventures in her blog at tripelio.com, so if you're a travel lover as well, don't forget to visit her blog and leave a comment!

Enjoy her article below!

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If you’re looking to go to Japan, you’re spoilt for choice as far as where to visit. Take a trip to the capital city, Tokyo, and revel in its magnificent and modern life. Or take a trip to historical Kyoto, which is home to many important older sights. Or visit Mount Fuji, which many people recognize from pictures. Eat Japanese food, see some wonderful theatre, and explore this beautiful country—but you don’t have to break the bank to do it. Here are five fun and free things to do during your visit:

Learn About Traditional Japanese Arts
Japan is a country deeply rooted in traditional arts and crafts. Learn about the ancient Japanese tradition of origami at Tokyo’s Origami Kaikan, where you will be able to watch free demonstrations on how to make, dye, and decorate origami paper. You can also take classes to learn how to fold origami, but know that you’ll need to pay about $8-17 for a one or two-hour class (depending on how difficult that day’s design is).
Another option would be to visit the Japan Traditional Craft Center, where you’ll be able to learn about and often view demonstrations about Japan’s ceramics, bamboo-works, and other traditional aspects of the country’s crafts industry.

See Historical Architecture
Unfortunately, a lot of the older architecture in Japan was wiped out by the extensive bombings that happened during World War II, but even their reconstructions keep true to the original designs and will give you a feel for traditional Japan. If you’re really looking for impressive buildings, try heading from Osaka out to Himeji Castle or heading to Kyoto, which was once the capital of Japan and which still retains a lot of impressive edifices for you to explore.
In Kyoto, beyond the historical architecture, you can also check out the three Geisha districts, where Geishas continue to entertain wealthy people—just stroll down the streets and you’ll be able to see Geishas moving from building to building. You can also visit Kyoto’s imperial palaces and villas, although you’ll need to fill out an application at the Kyoto Imperial Household Agency Office first and it may take a couple days in processing.

Explore Modern Japan
Part of the modern side of Japan has to do with the widespread bombings that occurred during World War II, but part of it is due to the fact that Japan—and specifically Tokyo—is home to the headquarters of some of the most important electronics companies in the world. Many of these companies offer free showrooms where you can check out their latest gadgets or try out some of their unreleased gizmos. Try the Sony Showroom or the Panasonic Showroom in Tokyo.
If you’re really interested in trying out any sort of electronics—or in buying them—check out Akihabara Town in Tokyo, where you can try out various electronics even before they’ve been released in most countries, as well as purchase electronics for cheaper. If you need to do more research about the products you might purchase, know that you’ll be able to find free Wi-Fi access at most Starbucks and 7-11 locations, although you’ll have to sign up for these networks (using Wi-Fi) before you’re able to use them. Remember that you may first want to set up a VPN to protect your private information, first!

Check Out a Festival
The country of Japan is home to many festivals. The festivals are too many to name comprehensively—there are estimates that there are roughly 200,000 festivals in Japan during the course of a year!—but you can check out a list here. The most popular festivals are the Cherry Blossom Festivals in the spring, the traditional Gion Matsuri Festival held in Kyoto every July in Japan, and the Sapporo Winter Festival where you can ski or snowboard some great powder as well as see intricate snow sculptures of Japanese architecture.

Think About the Past
If you’re at all interested in recent history, your visit to Japan shouldn’t lack a visit to Hiroshima, site of the World War II atom bomb explosion. Here you have a couple options for free things to see, including the Peace Memorial Park and Museum. The park is free, and although the museum charges an entry fee, the price—roughly $0.50 US—is nominal. In Hiroshima, you can also visit the Flame of Peace, which has burnt since the mid-‘60s and will do so until all nuclear weapons are destroyed.

Although travelling can be expensive, your trip to Japan doesn’t need to be. During your time in this beautiful country, visit the temples, visit the museums, visit the local sights—but save a little money for your souvenirs! Maximize your sightseeing by visiting as much as you can as cheaply as possible. You’re guaranteed to have a fantastic time.