The Anchor

I’m extremely happy to say I have a short story being read on a podcast called “Kaidankai.” If you have a minute, please give it a listen!

For those of you following along at home, this is the third installment in my series involving a person named Celea, whose job it is to guide lost souls on earth. I have to admit I’m having a lot of fun writing these episodes involving her. The challenge has been to make sure the stories can stand on their own while also being able to be connected to the series for anyone interested in reading them in a row, but I love these kind of challenges.

This story is also a villain origin story for the girl in the story, who is supposed to be a guide like Celea but who might go the other way out of hatred. I haven’t written any stories involving this girl yet, but I might in the future because I’m really curious to see how far she’s going to fall.

If you would like to follow along in the adventures of Celea, I would love if you would read them in this order, but obviously it’s entirely up to you:

“The Bucket Fountain”

“The Guide”

“The Anchor”

Alchemy of Souls

While my main focus is on Japanese dramas, every now and then the story of a Korean drama will catch my interest.

It wasn’t until quite recently that I discovered many of the Korean dramas I’ve really enjoyed have been written by the same pair of writers, Hong Jung-eun  and Hong Mi-ran (apparently known as the Hong sisters).

I watched My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (now on Netflix in Japan anyway) and loved how funny and heartbreaking it was.

I’ve had my eye on Alchemy of Souls (also on Netflix) for a while, too, after reading the summary for it on Netflix, but the preview made it seem like the entire show would be about a woman with the soul of a mighty warrior being forced to work for a spoiled man who doesn’t know she’s really a warrior and how one day she’s going to take him out. The preview made the plot sound ridiculous, but maybe something lighthearted to enjoy.

The preview gave the entirely wrong impression; the spoiled man finds out in the first episode and within about 30 seconds of meeting her that she’s actually a warrior trapped in another body. That alone had my attention and kept me going for the first few episodes, at which point the overall plot had me wrapped up in it, and I couldn’t wait to get to the next episode, then the next.

Both dramas I mention above were written by the Hong sisters, long may they write great dramas. Gumiho is a lot lighter, though that vet seriously needs to cool it with the melodramatics.

After years of casually watching Korean dramas, I’ve learned a few things about them.

  1. They are ridiculously long. Each episode is at least an hour, and there are at least 16 episodes. Alchemy had 30 episodes.
  2. At least for shows the Hong sisters write, seemingly unimportant conversations among minor characters will have a knock-on effect to the overall plot and can prove to be fundamental plot points later on, so there is no skipping in these things.
  3. There will be heartbreak, often set to singers wailing ballads. Several times I thought the ballad ruined the scene. One death scene in Alchemy, for example, I thought would’ve been so much better in complete silence, but I had to listen to a singer hitting those high notes as the character’s hand falls limp.
  4. Metaphors run rampant. Alchemy had people being referred to as bird’s eggs, room-warming stove things, turtles and dogs throughout. And these metaphors will not go away; the main characters will drag the metaphors through their heated, passionate arguments with each other until the end of the series. (“I guess I really am as useless as a room-warming stove thing in summer,” says a character before storming away. That kind of thing)
  5. The fan base for every single actor seems to be absolutely rabid, and it makes me want to not even look up the names of the actors because a lone Google search reveals so much fans have tried to dig up about them that I’m a bit scared.
  6. At least with Hong sisters’ series, viewers are given all the information except in a few rare ocassions. This makes it frustrating when characters do things simply because they don’t have the whole story (most of watching Part Two of Alchemy was me screaming at the screen, “I can tell you who she is!”)

Despite some of the cheesy tropes (I’m looking at you, “Characters who always have tearful breakups because they don’t have all the information” trope), I really liked the relative tightness of the story for Alchemy and how, like in life, seemingly unimportant things turned out to be crucial.

I liked the acting (admittedly I speak about three words of Korean despite the hours and hours of watching this series), and the special effects were sometimes good. The soundtrack was magnificent, as were the sets. All of this made for quite an enjoyable series that hardly ever went the way I thought it would, which I always appreciate.

A clip from the beginning of the series

Surviving Disney Sea in the heat

Disney Sea at night

In July, I joined thousands of people who decided the increasingly insane heat of Japan’s summers wouldn’t stop them from enjoying a Disney theme park.

Two years ago, I made the mistake of visiting Disneyland in the summer, and I’m pretty sure I staggered out of the park hours later in a state of heatstroke. Despite Disney’s best efforts to keep everyone visiting cool with mist showers and parades promising to shower you down, going to any theme park when the outdoor temperature is above 30 C is just ludicrous. I walked away from that experience determined never again to go to Disney in the summer.

Then this summer happened. This time, at least, I felt like I was better prepared. I knew the heat would be crippling – that the sun’s rays would slowly suck the life out of me the longer I was exposed to them. So I spent weeks preparing.

  • I bought ice packs that promised to last 5 hours before melting.
  • I found a soft yet heavily insulated cooler (Disney parks in Japan don’t allow hard-cased coolers) and froze the sports drinks I would enjoy before putting them into the cooler.
  • I caved and bought neck rings I see everyone in Japan wearing this year.
  • I bought several types of sunscreen, including one that comes in a spray bottle.
  • I brought my sun umbrella (while they make me feel like a Victorian British heir, they really do help to keep you marginally cooler) and bought wet wipes that promised to cool my skin by about 3 degrees.
  • I also bought snacks that have salt in them to hopefully help my body absorb liquids.
Mermaid Lagoon

Disney Sea is also blessed with a section of its park being entirely indoors, complete with air conditioning. Called Mermaid Lagoon and based off of The Little Mermaid, it looks like it’s meant for little kids to enjoy, but that didn’t stop a lot of couples and other adults probably trying to escape the heat from enjoying the kiddie rides there, too. It’s a great place to go if it’s raining, too cold outside or ridiculously hot out.

The grand lobby of Miracosta

The true game-changer, however, was that this time around, I would be staying at Disney’s Miracosta hotel, which is right at the entrance to Disney Sea. It’s the only hotel I know of that is actually inside of the park, and it comes with its own special entrance off the lobby (meaning no waiting out in the heat just to get in).

Exterior of Miracosta

There is nothing like having the energy sapped out of you simply from enjoying the rides and having a place right there where you can go and relax for an hour or two during the day’s hottest hours.I loved that I could drop off any stuff I didn’t need as the sun was setting so I didn’t have to carry it around all day. I loved that I could go shopping in the middle of the day, too, when the shops are the most empty and then just drop that stuff off in my room.

The hotel is ridiculously expensive at at least 80,000 yen (547 USD, the yen is so weak right now!) per night, but what a marvelous help it was to enjoying the park.

The Arabian Coast’s double-decker carousel hardly ever has lines and is fun to ride on, especially at night

If you don’t have the ability or opportunity to stay at Miracosta but still want to visit Disney Sea during the summer, I think the best advice I can give is to greatly lower your expectations for how many rides you think you can achieve in one day. There are way too many lines for rides that leave you out in the open, exposed to the sun for hours on end. My tactic was to only go on rides with either really short wait times or that were indoors (Mermaid Lagoon) until the sun set. That meant fewer hours available to use for riding rides, but it also meant I didn’t start showing the same signs of heatstroke I’d endured two years ago.

Take the time to enjoy the food!

I think it’s important to also take lots of breaks even when it’s not the summer. Personally, I think you can enjoy the parks a lot more when you slow down and just soak up the atmosphere. There are plenty of restaurants and a couple of cafes where you can just sit and take it all in for an hour or two to recharge. I also love they have a tram, boats, and a variety of vehicles you can ride on – all of which usually don’t have bad lines. They’re a great chance to just slow down and take a breather.