Nippon

May 27, 2023

I am proudly publishing this post from my new home in Tokyo, Japan.

Though I’ve been working toward this goal for over a year, I told only a few friends about my life-changing move before now. There were lots of questions, so I thought the first thing I could share publicly were answers to some of those questions. An FAQ, if you will.


Q Are you moving there for work, or—?

When people have asked this question, it always seems to end with the word “or.” There’s never a second option. I don’t know if that’s because people can’t imagine another reason, or if it’s because they got caught up in a familiar response to someone traveling, “for work or pleasure?”

While I didn’t move for work, work is how I moved. The short of it is that I will continue to do the same kind of work: icons, playing cards, and fonts. Only the venue changed. The answer to why I moved is more about new opportunities for working, learning, and friendship.


Q Have you been to Japan before?

Absolutely. This would’ve been far crazier had I not. I’ve visited three times before now, totaling about five weeks, to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. I’m hoping I can go to many more places now, more easily than before, to learn and see much more than I could as a tourist.


Q Do you speak Japanese?

すこし。(That means “a little bit.”) I have very limited knowledge in this area. I recognize some kanji visually and other words verbally. A lot of basic words I know today are from making hanafuda in 2019 (colors, numbers, flower names). But I’ll have to step it up now that I’m here.


Q So is this about hanafuda?

Yes, that’s part of it. When I started drawing hanafuda, I was hooked on learning more about it and—by extension—Japan. I would love to study and explore hanafuda more now that I’m here, specifically with regards to materials and technique.

I’d like to try something new. But …also old. As someone who cares a lot about hanafuda, I feel a sense of responsibility to keep doing things in that space. I want learn more about it and hopefully introduce more people to hanafuda through what I do.


Q Do you have friends in Japan?

Yep! I have several friends in Tokyo, Osaka, and a few other places. My friends Nob and Ayumi—along with their two children—live in Tokyo, and I’ve traveled to visit them in Tokyo and also vacation with them in Hawaii.

My friends Airi and Yuki, you may remember as my spontaneous friends I met at Hong Kong Disneyland in 2016. Airi and I have met in more places than would seem reasonable for people who live in different parts of the world: Hong Kong, Osaka, Tokyo, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and Paris.

Nob and Airi are my best friends, and I’m happy to live closer to them.


Q Isn’t it more expensive to live in Tokyo?

Surprisingly, that does not seem to be true. Apartments are definitely more expensive in Tokyo than Osaka (for example), but rent here is cheaper than Portland, let alone San Francisco or New York. A lot of food is cheaper too and more convenient to get to.


Q What about your cat?

Chief became an international traveler! In fact, he had more paperwork to process than I did. Part of the reason it took so long between me deciding to move and actually moving was because of that. He’s getting acclimated to the new apartment now. He’s going to love how much sun comes through the bigger windows.


Q Do you like Japanese food?

A lot of it, of course. If you know me personally, you probably know I shy away from seafood, though. (I grew up in Missouri, please cut me some slack.) So while I may not be super jazzed about sushi, I’m into ramen, curry rice, yakitori, sukiyaki, karaage, gyoza, okonomiyaki, kushikatsu, yakiniku, omurice…

But also, Tokyo’s a huge city (it’s the biggest city in the world!) with lots of food from all over. In fact, I recently discovered my St. Louis hometown salami-maker now exports to Japan. On a past visit, I had some incredible Neapolitan pizza. And Japan’s MOS Burger rivals only In-N-Out, so I’ll be good on that front (in case you were worried). I am a little more concerned about finding a good burrito.


Q Isn’t there a Disneyland there?

You bet. It’s only about 40 minutes away by train, too, so I’m hoping to visit fairly often. I’m pumped to be this close to Disney parks, something I’ve never had before, wherever I lived. To be this close to Tokyo DisneySea—that’s a dream come true.


Q What about Parakeet?

As of today, Parakeet is an international design agency! That is to say that Parakeet is still Parakeet, just with me in Tokyo and Luka in Portland. We’re excited as always to make icons with you.


I hope you can see from these answers above why I made the decision to move. I see some fun work opportunities here, I love my friends here, and maybe a little of it has to do with the proximity to Tokyo Disneyland. But ultimately, I will learn a lot by being in a very different environment than what I’m used to. And that’s exciting for me.

I’m also looking forward to a huge network of trains, universal healthcare, and a society without guns.

I grew up in Missouri, and since I moved out at 19, I’ve lived in California, North Carolina, and Oregon. At 35, I would like to go a little bit out into the deep end, where I can’t quite touch the bottom. I wanna see what I can push myself to do.

There will be challenges, including ones I don’t know about yet. But spending time with my friends here and seeing new things every day will absolutely make those challenges worth overcoming.

I’m sure I’ll want to share all the things I see and learn from living here, so you can expect more about it soon. I’m treating this first week like a vacation, but after that, Chief and I are going to settle into our new home here in Tokyo.