In this episode, we’re joined by Haruka Aoki, a queer Japanese artist and poet-illustrator, who takes us on a journey of self-discovery and artistic expression.
In this episode, we chat about:
- The challenges of integrating into a new community
- The impact migration can have on identity and intersectionality
- The power of manifestation and the importance of collaboration in the creative process
- The importance of solidarity among marginalized communities
- Issues of performative activism and establishing genuine allyship
- Raising the bottom line for our underrepresented and historically marginalized communities
- Challenges and benefits of social media
- Haruka’s book tour, and upcoming projects
You can find Haruka at:
You can follow me at:
- Instagram: @stevenwakabayashi
- YouTube: @stevenwakabayashi
- Subscribe to my weekly newsletter: mindfulmoments.substack.com
Haruka Aoki: The artists and activists, Alok Menon as a queer and trans person, they receive so many hateful comments and it has been incredibly inspiring to see them talk about how they respond to those comments, which is by showing them, love to realize that these hateful comments actually come from a place of insecurity and fear, but then to look more at the people behind those comments to see the humanity in them. A challenge, but it’s, I think, the right thing to do.
Steven Wakabayashi: Hello everyone. My name is Steven Wakabayashi and you’re listening to Yellow Glitter Mindfulness Through the Eyes and Soul of Queer Asian Perspectives. This episode, we’re joined by our returning extra special guest, Haruka Aoki. Haruka Aoki she/they is a queer Japanese artist and poet illustrator who is local to Lisbon Portugal, New York City, and Kama.
Their debut picture book Fitting in was published by Sky Pony Press in 2022. Their narrative artwork often featured in publications including The New York Times and the Washington Post aims to inspire individuals with both Witt and sincerity as their hand drawn characters engaged in the world around them.
Welcome back, Haruka.
Haruka Aoki: Hello, Steven. Thank you for having me again.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yes, I’m really grateful to have you back and it seems like you just had a adventure over the past year in Portugal, right?
Haruka Aoki: Oh, yeah. Yeah, definitely an adventure. I fulfilled a very long held dream of seven years of moving to Portugal from New York City.
So it finally, finally this year it happened and it’s been fantastic. And when you just mentioned adventure, I thought, well, actually, I had this other adventure of almost three months of being back in the States, which was so surprising. But my work brought me back to the states and now I have fully returned to Portugal as of a week and a half ago.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. So that must mean you really must have enjoyed Portugal, Lisbon, right?
Haruka Aoki: Oh, yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: What made you wanna go back?
Haruka Aoki: Oh, well, everything, the, the slow life here in Portugal is really something that, speaks to my heart and my soul. I feel truly that I’ve come home here, not just to my house or my own apartment, but the, the land here feels like home. And one of the things that I wanted to mention is that I think it was now eight or nine years ago when I saw this seer. So a, a spiritual person who can see into the lives, the past lives of people. I talked to her and she said, oh, you actually used to live in Europe and you were a paint mixer there.
So when I heard that story from her, I thought, oh, so in my past life I used to live in Europe. Interesting, interesting. And now it makes a lot of sense. Now being here in Portugal, I truly feel like I’ve come home.
Steven Wakabayashi: Was that reading in New York or was it in Portugal? In
Haruka Aoki: Yes, it was in New York and it was my mother’s friend, who is the spiritual seer.
Steven Wakabayashi: That’s kind of awesome. Hi. On the side. I need to get that detail to do it too. I’m super into that stuff.
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, me too, me too. It actually, , even related to my, uh, relationship with my partner right now and in this life I should say, where when we were dating more than 10 years ago now, I always would have this bittersweet feeling towards the beginning of our relationship when I was so happy to be with this person, be with my partner.
I would also have this tinge of deep sorrow. And it turned out that in that, Previous life of mine, I think that was about 400 or 500 years ago. I was a man with a lover who was also a man. And we had to part ways. I apparently loved him very, very much, but we had to part ways because of his work. I, I think he was a sailor or he went out to sea and I never saw him again.
But the beautiful thing is that I took care of his child. So I continued to live my life in Europe with his child. So we got to share that, , wonderful child together. Of course, it’s such a sad, sad story, but it’s also a beautiful thing. And sometimes now having heard that story of my past, I understand, Hmm.
Maybe that’s what it was, that. Painful feeling I had even when I was so joyful in my current life with my partner.
Steven Wakabayashi: Wow. That, that is so, that is so fascinating. Just with all that stuff and insights, how has it been like to live in the present moment, but also kind of living through these, like past lives in Europe with your time there?
Haruka Aoki: Mm. I feel like I’m reconnecting with that, that person from the past. It feels like my soul is fuller. Like I trying to kind of understand this other side of the soul that I haven’t seen. So that has been very comforting actually, to walk around here in the streets of Lisbon and think, Hmm, maybe I was here before.
Steven Wakabayashi: And when we were talking about and brainstorming this episode, I think you shared something really fascinating about your time over there in Portugal, which was around the concept of traveling gentrification. Could you share a little bit more about maybe some of your insights that were coming out during your travels there around these topics?
Haruka Aoki: Yes. I think sometimes the best way to see or understand a city is to see what’s on the street and what we call quote unquote graffiti. It’s interesting to see what people are tagging on the streets. , you can kind of see the voice of the people come out on the streets. Um, what I’m seeing is a lot of talk about gentrification, about people feeling pushed out, people.
I see tags on hotels saying, Hey, how many people can live here? Instead of people just visiting and coming in as, as guests. And so I definitely hear that, that cry for help, that frustration. Mm-hmm. And initially I felt seeing that, I was like, Ooh, I, I know how this feels. I’ve been on that side too. So I’m trying to respect the culture and the people here while also making sure that I create my own space for, to nurture my art and to feel inspired.
And I think it, it isn’t just one or the other that it’s, it is possible, especially as a creative person and an artist to, to hold both. Mm-hmm. Both feelings and realities at once.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And I think that’s so valuable, respecting cultures, especially as we travel. I think oftentimes, especially for folks in the west and first world countries, we have a ton of privilege, right?
The privilege to travel, the privilege to work abroad, given the resources that we were born into. And oftentimes we forget that there are many people born into certain limitated limitations of resources. Whether it’s, um, connections, money, capability , I think it’s, something that we always take for granted.
A follow up question for you, you mentioned respecting the culture and the community. What does that look like for you?
Haruka Aoki: Hmm. It’s really for me to getting to know the local community. Who is the butcher in our neighborhood? What are the arts organizations that are close by? And also I think it’s, it’s not just about contributing financially right to the people around me, but creating relationships, lasting relationships.
And I think for me, being a, a Japanese American in Portugal, I want to be able to speak the language, to be able to communicate through their language. And I will be starting my Portuguese lessons in a week. So I’m a little bit nervous about that, but that’s also my way of reaching out and, being able to express myself in a way that can make me feel closer to the people in the culture here.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. I think especially the, the concept of language is so fascinating because mm-hmm. Language is culture in itself and why there are so many of them around this and the world still to this day I think of this beautiful honoring of different cultures, livelihoods, even dialects. Um mm-hmm. Follow up question.
Last part for just the Portugal trip for you is, especially as a queer Asian individual, beyond just Japanese American, I’m just curious if anything came up for you around identity culture, intersectionality, during travels.
Haruka Aoki: Hmm. Well, there is definitely a big queer community here, just right outside of our house.
There was a wonderful little queer festival that happened when I was back here in, in April, and that made me so happy. That made me, even if I don’t know how to say these things in Portuguese, it’s an amazing thing to be able to walk to your local plaza. And there is a drag queen performing that’s a language that I understand and that’s a community that I love and I want to interact with.
So that immediately made me, feel at home and at ease. And as for the Asian part of the queer Asian identity, Yeah, I have not talked to another Japanese person here. There are different, like other Asian cultures, uh, I think that are, that have found their homes here. There’s a, a big Tibetan culture here and that I did not see as much in New York City.
So I’m really just happy to explore and befriend, people from like other, other parts of Asia. And yeah, I think sometimes walking around as an Asian person here, I still do get those looks of like, hmm, who is this person that does not look white? And that is in a way refreshing. I think it comes from a place of curiosity.
I. And I, yeah, it is in a way refreshing because I didn’t get that so much in New York City.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, definitely. Huge contrast with New York City and insane that hustle and bustle, right?
Haruka Aoki: Oh yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: To the space that you’re in. Yeah. I wanna pivot us a little bit to, I think this is really what I was quite fascinated by with our follow up, which was your book that you had just launched, and especially working on our political landscape.
I think what we’re seeing are a lot of book bannings here in the United States, especially around queerness, self identity, self expression, and. The political landscape in the West has been so, so divided more than ever. And especially with your book that celebrates self-identity expression being your own shape in a world where there’s so many individual shapes that wanna look like one another.
I am just curious, what has your book tour been like?
Haruka Aoki: Hmm. Well I should say that most of my book tour was in New York City for sure. So I think, uh, that is important to note because I am not going to the middle of the US and I am in a way protected that way. Both me and my work, our identities are protected because I’m focusing more talking to communities in New York City.
However, it has been really wonderful to reach communities that I actually wasn’t thinking about for this book, for fitting in. It is a picture book and I thought I would be doing mostly readings to children. But thanks to my friend Hoja Kim, who invited me for these readings, he is an artist and a painter.
He invited me to do an, an event at a tea room. So it was a tea tasting, a Japanese tea tasting combined with, reading of my children’s book, in front of an audience of adults. And I think that’s, that was just so fascinating to think of the story, uh, it’s a story about a little square born into a world of circles, and it is a pronoun inclusive book.
To think that this book, which I, I initially had written and illustrated for children, that it could then be read to adults. I think that is a magical thing. The message is not just geared for, for younger people. It, it is truly for everyone. And I think actually all kinds of art is for, for all kinds of people.
And that was such a refreshing, reminder for me.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Have you ran into , any of the difficulties around stuff like, especially on a book.
Haruka Aoki: No, we haven’t run into any problems in person, but it was more, um, this one time we had a difficult time when we posted a video of a drag queen.
One of my co-author illustrator’s, friends who was performing as a drag queen, was doing a reading of our book and we had gotten very, very negative, nasty comments. And that was really hard. Even though that was in this digital space where perhaps you don’t see the people, attacking the work or attacking you, it was still so, so hard.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. That was on social media.
Haruka Aoki: Yes. That was on social media.
Steven Wakabayashi: Mm-hmm. Yep. Why do you think people struggle so much with what’s happening, especially with these books, right? It’s quite fascinating how you’re sharing your experiences where it seems like if you’re reading it, somebody else is reading it. Not a big issue, but mm-hmm.
For some reason people just really struggle with, especially with drag queens, reading books, um mm-hmm. Or even certain types of books. But just curious, in your opinion, what’s coming up for you when you experience these things?
Haruka Aoki: Yeah. I think, um, it is, it’s like the, the insecurity. You kind of see this greater insecurity that these commenters have
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah.
Haruka Aoki: Within themselves, and I know that the artists and activists, Alok Menon, I think their name is. Yeah. They talk about this a lot because they, as a queer and trans person, they receive so many hateful comments, and it has been incredibly inspiring to see them talk about how they respond to those comments.
Yeah. Which is by showing them, love to realize that these hateful comments actually come from a place of insecurity and fear. And I, I definitely have to remind myself of that sometimes because the comments themselves can be so painful. But then to, to look more at the people behind those comments to see the, the humanity in them.
Yeah. I think is, A challenge. Challenge, but it’s, I think, the right thing to do.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, totally agree. I was just having a conversation this past weekend with some folks around that concept, right, where you are holding humanity in one hand. Mm-hmm. And this awareness and the realization that yes, that what we’re seeing is this self-expression of an individual that is all about all the dark, dark stuff that they have yet to work through.
Right? Ego, yeah. Self perseverance, self-righteousness, difficulties, and one. They express all these things. Also, on the other hand, right? Holding the space for anger, holding the space for upset around what is happening. Because what we’re seeing also with legislation, which is everything that’s happening in the political landscape, is harming any communities resulting in pain, resulting in death.
And I think, at least for myself, it’s been not one or the other. Right? But it’s one and the other holding space for both anger and also awareness of humanity and I’m just curious. Yeah. Does that resonate?
Haruka Aoki: Oh, definitely. Yeah. I think personally there is, with my identity, I think a safety where I am not dressed as a drag queen, and I do not, quote unquote look a certain way that can, seem menacing or threatening to some people. Yeah. So I think there’s a huge privilege there, where I can kind of lean back into those safe binaries. Mm-hmm. And yeah, from there, I think it’s, it’s almost like using that identity for good.
I think it’s really important to be able to then create a home or a safe space, a warm loving place for those people who are being attacked. And I think that’s one of the things that I want to do, and hope to do. With my artwork and just as a person, being able to create those spaces for the people who are being attacked.
Steven Wakabayashi: Absolutely. So important. I think we see, you know, where everything that’s out, and there’s also this discussion where, what we see in the landscape, some people ask, well, are things worse than ever? Right. Or are things improving? We’re just not seeing it. Mm-hmm. And my take on it is we’re more connected than ever through social media, through mm-hmm.
Podcasts, through content. And I think there’s not really much room to hide if anyone is really connected to the internet or mm-hmm. Any digital means. Right. And so I think what we’re seeing is really just everyone and everything about everyone and just seeing behind it too. I think with that, my mom always has this great adage that the things we struggle most with other people and sometimes things we hold onto the most with, you know, sometimes we get annoyed by people, the behavior they have anger.
Mm-hmm. Sometimes things that we have yet to discover or learn more about ourselves.
Haruka Aoki: Ooh.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And when it comes to like the identity of self-expression, the adage if we continue it, is really for so many people who are so angry with the freedom of self expression. Yes. Breaking away from binaries, all these things mm-hmm.
Are all facets of things that they are struggle and have difficulties with. Right. With that reflection and others because they have yet to realize it within themselves
Haruka Aoki: Yes. So, very true. Yeah. And , I think I, experienced this today. You know, things still make me uncomfortable and sometimes the urge is to blame it on that other person or that other thing.
It, when things seem to like overwhelmingly beautiful, really, or overwhelmingly agree, sometimes I can feel like, ooh, like, is that too free? Like, is that too flamboyant? Is that too X, y, z? And I think that’s the perfect point to then pivot and be like, Ooh, that’s actually something inside me. Let’s, let’s take a step back and see what that is.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. Yeah. And everyone, and everything is a mirror. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Right? Yeah. Or the things that we. Me too. Same where when I now reflect on things that I hold onto. Mm-hmm. If someone did something specifically that just grows into my mind. Yeah. I ask myself, what is this reflecting and what about this is so sticky for me.
Haruka Aoki: Mm-hmm. I’m wondering, Steven, what, what is like a way to step back? Like do you have any ways to do that? Like journaling or taking a time out of your week to reflect or ways of reflection? Really. I think sometimes I have a hard time figuring that out.
Steven Wakabayashi: Mm-hmm. Good question. So I think a big part of that is reaction, right?
Mm-hmm. When we see something happening and we have this visceral reaction to it. Mm-hmm. Yes. I think the practice of let’s say like mindfulness, meditation, all this stuff is to create a gap between our reaction. Mm-hmm. And, and what actually comes forth. Right? So there’s that internal reaction that we have and the physical outward expression of their reaction.
And so a big part of my practice, personal practice, has been sitting in that meditation, having awareness, and for many folks they attribute a lot of the times meditation, mindfulness to that gap. Mm-hmm. That exists now between, I see it, I process it, having a pause, and then deciding. To and that breath that be in between.
And I think that’s really the difficulty, right? With so much of Western hustle mentality or even just the way that react to things on even social media, right? We, we don’t have that pause and we, as we intake inputs and we have that visceral reaction, we almost feel this need to pour it out directly as we see.
As we feel it. Yeah. And the reality is how we process, what we understand, how we digest things. And the visceral reaction is also largely independent, right? For us, based on our lived and learned experiences. And so I think, while it is valid to feel how we’re feeling mm-hmm. I think the work for all of us to do is really this external expression and recognizing how it might impact other people and perpetuate hard. Mm,
Haruka Aoki: Yes. Yes.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And I always ask myself when there is a reaction that comes out, and then maybe I have this immediate visceral reaction physically right on the out. I’m like, ah, I’m like angry. My voice hastens, my heartbeat. Maybe I articulated verbally, and sometimes I have to just step back, take a pause mm-hmm.
And ask myself like, what’s so sticky about this right now? Like, that phrase has been what’s been able to get me out my own head and just myself, like, what am I really getting stuck on right now versus how am I just feeling? And then using Right. The next five, 10 minutes, justifying it. Mm-hmm.
Haruka Aoki: So true. Oh God.
Steven Wakabayashi: Right. Yeah. And like analogy, like a good analogy is, where I, I say, Hey, your hair is purple right now, and you’re, you’re aware that your hair is not purple, right? And you’re like, oh, it’s not purple, it’s fine. Whatever. Right? Mm-hmm. The comment just washes off. It’s like water off a dog’s back. Right. It just rolls off. But why is it that when someone says something else in particular, right? That could also be very not true about us. Why does that stick so hard? Right. And that’s just like a simple exercise where there are certain things that are just said, and certain things stick more than others.
Mm-hmm. And. Behind that is usually a lesson or insight where we can learn more about ourselves.
Haruka Aoki: Yes, yes. That is, that is very true. I think when the lesson is being learned inside me mm-hmm. Sometimes it can, it can be like a very strict voice, like, oh, why couldn’t you do that better? Or Why did you act this way again?
But when that pressuring kind of strict voice calms down, or I can kind of tell them to stay back a little bit, this other voice that’s so loving, this unconditional love voice comes in and usually they’re able to see that, the, the me now that had been acting out or was stressed out, they’re able to see that.
That other, that Haruka as this really cute thing, like this really adorable. Like, oh, you got, you got mad. Oh, you cute little creature. Or, oh, you’re stressed. I’m, I’m so sorry you feel that way, but you know what? We’re gonna work on this together or we can just hang out right now. And that unconditional love voice is, is so wonderful when they’re able to come out.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, I like that question for you. Coming from New York City, one of the most like hustle bustle, right? Mm-hmm. Hustle mentality. Yep. Going to Portugal, which from your point does feel a bit’s slower. I’m just curious if even like your self talk has shifted or the way that you even process some of these thoughts.
Haruka Aoki: Yes, definitely. I feel it coming in slowly, but there’s this more like a, a main character mindset, if that makes sense, is starting to blossom. And, and I think that main character mindset, it depends how you see it, but how I see it is it’s full of romance. And by romance I mean so much dreaminess and self-love.
So when I am going out for the day, maybe to work on something, I am not automatically going to a, a place where I can work most efficiently. It’s more like, how do I feel today? What am I, what kind of character do I want to be? My own story. And so I dress that way. Maybe I even eat what that character would eat for breakfast and then go to a beautiful library, or maybe it’s a bench in a certain plaza, but to really realize that I can live out that dream.
Not in the future in some, mystical place where everything is perfect, but actually I can do that today. So that has been kind of softening my edges. I think before I would think, okay, like I take the two train to get here and then, you know, I have 30 minutes to do this. Everything was quite planned.
But now I am interested in more creating the fantasy that I want to live in and that I. I can live in, even if it’s in a small way, like eating a toast with brie and honey, you know, like why not?
Steven Wakabayashi: Is that the breakfast your main character eats?
Haruka Aoki: Uh, sometimes. Yes. Yes. Put some crushed, I don’t know, almonds or something on top as well.
It can be so, such, such a small thing, you know, if it’s the choice of teacup or the choice of mug, the music that you listen to on your walk to the library or wherever you’re choosing to work that day. All those little things, I think add to self-love and being okay in the world.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, I love that. And have you noticed while being abroad in a place that slows down a little bit more?
That it’s impacted your work in any way?
Haruka Aoki: Hmm. Yes. Yes. Actually, you’ve caught me in a perfect place, Steven, because I am mm-hmm. Not pitching any, I’m not pitching any projects that have a shorter timeline right now. I’m thinking more about, Hmm, where can my ca career go next? What road do I want to take?
And I’m also working on my next picture book, and that is also a long stretch of time that picture books take. It’s about a year or two usually that it would take. So all of these longer projects are coming into fruition, or I’m beginning on that journey. And as for the actual artwork, that has been changing as well.
Much softer, pastel colors, wanting to create more on paper. Yeah, it has been really wonderful to see them grow, really to see the work grow.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, that’s beautiful. For your next project, your next upcoming picture book, is there anything that you could share with us?
Haruka Aoki: Yes. Well, this picture book idea I have been sitting on, or it’s not, that’s not the right word actually.
It’s more like this idea had been a small fish in my brain and it had been swimming around for a year, and I am so happy that it is starting to come out onto the pages. I had this aha moment actually in Portugal. I had this layover, this 22 hour layover in the islands of Azores, which is west of Portugal.
And really, I only got that flight with the layover because it was cheaper to go to New York that way instead of having a direct flight. Mm-hmm. But again, with creating, like realizing the dream, little by little I thought, you know what? Today feels like a great day to go to the botanical gardens there.
So I went over and I went in the morning right when the gardens opened and it was just gorgeous. So, so beautiful. And that is where my character for the next book, Luca was born. It really, really helped to go there, to feel the ocean, air and kind of understand where this character is from, or loves what they love to do.
So it really helped to, you know, take that little, mini holiday of 22 hours and it’s just surprising what kind of inspiration can come up when you let yourself be open to what the world has in store.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, I love it. That’s exciting. Are we looking at 2024 or is this 2025 project?
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, I think it would be 2024.
Okay. And it’s about, just like my first, debut book, which I wrote with the wonderful John Olsson. This one is, Also very much about, loving one’s inner self and believing in oneself. It’s, about this little, this character that is this humanoid creature with some ocean element. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I think they will be based in the desert, actually.
So lots of Yeah. Gorgeous landscapes.
Steven Wakabayashi: I love it. I love it. And I think, I think in our last conversation you had a lot of things to share around the manifestation of creatures and manifestations of elements that I’m starting to see and shape out, which is quite fascinating.
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, I think It’s just amazing when you allow yourself, like surrendering yourself to various places and ideas what can grow there.
Mm-hmm. Because when you surrender yourself in some way, you’re giving yourself to that place or that idea. And I literally see, like I imagine myself picking a seed from my soul and then planting it there and who knows what happens, right? Like depending on where you are, who you’re with, how you’re feeling that seed is, it changes, and what grows from that seed changes too.
That’s, I mean, that kind of excitement of, ooh, what’s gonna happen mm-hmm. Is so wonderful. I think that’s sometimes truly the joy of living here as a human.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And also I think that reminds me, you had a project recently, right? With the New York Times that was pretty big. Hmm. That you had published this year, was it?
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, it might be. So I did my fifth project with them. Mm-hmm. The most recent one was about block parties. Yeah.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah. And you had beautifully illustrated all of these different photos of the magic of block parties. And what’s so fascinating is I’ve just been dipping into Brooklyn more often, time and time this past year.
And the beauty of maybe some of these unofficial block parties, right? Where people just congregate play music or out celebrating, sometimes you don’t see it as often in Manhattan. Mm-hmm. Without inundation of tourists, but, It’s just so beautiful to see this artistry of music, collaboration, dancing, and celebration.
Going back to like, despite what we see in the world right now with so much freedom, intolerance, and I think innately as humans, we just wanna love Yeah, we wanna carress and we wanna be in community. Mm-hmm. Right. And, and it just seems like block parties are such a manifestation of that.
Haruka Aoki: Yes, I think so too.
They are so, so fun and it, it’s just like a party. Like it is truly a party. And to be able to do something like that, to organize something like that and to participate in a block party is, Again, like the beauty of being alive and being, being a, a part of this world. And actually, I remember when, the first year that I organized a block party with my neighbors and my partner.
We had one person who was very against it. They talked to me for about 20 minutes, kind of raging about block parties and how they’re dangerous, how it invites people who are loud and difficult. It was really surprising to me because, you know, I’m trying to go in with good intentions, but then to meet this person who was like, oh, definitely not gonna add my signature to your list.
Like a hundred percent hate this. But thankfully we had other neighbors, most of our neighbors were very much in favor of having a block party. So we got all the signatures that we needed, and later on, on the day of the block party, we see the guy that was very against it, and he and his, I think it was his grandkids were having a blast.
They were really enjoying it. So, of course, I think, when that happens, there’s a little bit of my heart that was like, oh, come on. Like you were so against it. But then later I was like, oh, I’m glad that I’m glad that he is having a great time. And, you know, sometimes we don’t understand how great things are until they happen, until the example is truly in front of our eyes.
So I’m, I’m really happy that we were all able to enjoy it.
Steven Wakabayashi: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a cute story. And I think it’s like in there, there’s so many lessons, and at least one that recipe with m is this fact that we, the unknowing is scary, right? Mm-hmm. Not knowing something and we create these imaging constructs of it around maybe our past experiences, things that we read, things that we were told, right?
But there’s nothing more enlightening than just simply being with it and being open to the unknown, in your case, be open to these experiences of the block party that may have been a little nerve inducing in the beginning, but then sitting with it and experiencing and realizing, It’s actually joyous.
It’s exhilarating, it’s beautiful.
Haruka Aoki: Yes. And truly, I think our lives as humans is still too short. So we need to really enjoy ourselves here. While we have it
Steven Wakabayashi: yeah. Yeah. I love that great frame and a reminder that life is so short, right?
Does this argument, does this fight, does this disagreement really matter in the big scope of life, right? Where, you know, even tomorrow is not guaranteed, but regardless of that, in 40, 60 years, are we gonna be around? Right? And cherishing every little moment that we have, I think is, it’s so valuable.
And over the years I’ve had friends pass due to different circumstances, and I have this adage that I’ve built with myself that’s been to honor people that have passed by living out their truth for them on behalf, right?
Haruka Aoki: Yes.
Steven Wakabayashi: And just really honoring them as individuals and doing maybe the things that they could have been doing that they’re not around to.
And so at least that’s been able to get me outta my own head. Sometimes I’m like, okay, I’ll go that. You know, even though past Steven may have not. Yeah. That’s, that mortality in the aspect that things are never guaranteed is also such a huge Buddhist Yes. Way of life too, right. That things are ever changing even when we don’t see it.
I think one Buddhist proverb, it’s a little grim, but it’s real, is we start dying the day that we’re born. Mm. Mm-hmm. Even though in the beginning it does appear that we’re growing. Right. Thriving, we’re, but. We actually do begin the cycle of death, right? That, that we’re born, that there is this point in which ourselves, our body, our physical aspect self right.
Just simply moves on right into the next stage.
Haruka Aoki: Yeah. Yeah. It also reminds me of the quote by Martin Luther who said, , even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. And it does feel a little bit weird that I’m quoting like Martin Luther, who is like a German priest from the 16th century.
However, there’s inspiration everywhere. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I totally am that kind of person. Definitely planting apple trees in the, at the end of the world.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, I love that. The You and me both. Invite me. We’ll be planting apple trees together as the world.
Haruka Aoki: Exactly. And a ring of where we’re picking apples,
Steven Wakabayashi: we’ll be enjoying fruits of our labor.
Haruka Aoki: Yes. That last bite is gonna taste so good.
Steven Wakabayashi: Exactly. Oh, so coming up in this new year, what are you thinking about manifesting, aside from the book launch and release creation, is there anything else that’s coming up for you as intention setting for the upcoming future?
Haruka Aoki: Yes, I, when I do intention setting, it is definitely the intention setting is done with intention and I feel myself going kind of back to my roots.
My initial roots in fashion is a beautiful thing. It’s transformation, it’s self-expression, it’s, it is also community. And I would love, love, love to collaborate with brands, especially luxury brands that really are good at creating dreams and beauty. And also hopefully their products are also that way where it is good for the planet or it is made with care.
Those are the people and the worlds that I would like to collaborate and be in.
Steven Wakabayashi: Oh, and also luxury doesn’t have to be just financially, right? Like luxury is very much, or was a thing of TikTok. It’s almost like a way of life. We have intentionality. Yes. You can even make any thing lux, you know?
Haruka Aoki: Definitely.
Yeah. And what’s interesting is that so many of these so-called luxury products, they happen to be very old, old ways of making like linen or silk. We’ve, been creating those types of products for many, many, like hundreds of years. And I think it’s interesting that luxury is not like this moon cloth, it’s actually stuff that is very much from the land.
And it takes time and it’s been loved for ages by so many people and it’s been working for so long. So to me that is truly what is luxurious and it’s it something that lasts a long time and that we can love for a long time
Steven Wakabayashi: And we’re coming to the near of our podcast and a few last questions for you.
The first one being, what lesson or insight would you like our listeners to take away with from our conversation or just where you are in your life right now?
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, I, we talked a lot about dreaming and intention setting with intention and a lot of that I want to say is true. I love to encourage people to not just think of a dream as something that, yeah, maybe one day I’ll do it.
That seems so far away, but you know, maybe like, well, if you, if you truly want that for yourself, my advice is to dream with specificity. Dream with specificity. Can you imagine yourself maybe at a cafe with, with a silk scarf? In which city are you, who are you with? What time of day is it? What are you working on?
What, what is that dream thing that you’re working on? Where are you going next? Like, do you have a date with someone and do you have a show? To go to maybe front row seats to something to really dream with specificity so that you can actually imagine yourself doing those things. And then once you have that dream set in full color in high definition, you can work back from that and think, Ooh, how did I get there?
How did that like, wonderful me get there? And to think of those strategies like, oh, okay, so me in a year is getting like front row seats at some, like a fashion show, let’s say, or a concert. Well, how did I get there? Oh, like, okay, I maybe connected with these people. I. Who are in that industry or maybe I booked a job with ’em.
So it starts to really be clear in terms of how you did get to that dream of yours. Those stepping stones get much clearer once you really illustrate that rich dream and work back to now.
Steven Wakabayashi: I love it. And I also love how that speaks to your artistry too. I think the illustrations just all you do. I always notice there’s just so much attention to detail.
It’s like what scarf are they wearing? What is a material? How does it reflect? It’s just not like gorgeous. Second question. What is bringing you joy lately?
Haruka Aoki: So my friends have been giving me so much joy lately. They inspire me so much. The dedication to their craft really, really inspires me. And on top of that, their kindness.
I recently stayed with a friend, she’s a novelist, Grace Liu. We were in Brooklyn and wow, just every day we would have these small but beautiful interactions, whether it’s working together at a cafe outside under some apple trees actually, and both of us working on our craft. She was working on her novel.
I was working on some illustrations and just this beautiful stretch of quiet time where we can really trust in each other’s friendship. Respect that we have for each other while also in the evening just laughing our butts off, talking about our college years and some of the pretty, pretty stupid things we’ve done together, but just laughing and having a great time.
So I, I just am so inspired by artist friends who create time for joy and realness and their craft.
Steven Wakabayashi: Mm, beautiful. Anyone you wanna shout out in particular?
Haruka Aoki: Yeah, so I was with, the wonderful novelist and poet Grace Li, and recently I’ve been hanging out with a very talented pattern designer from Canada.
Elizabeth Owin, who’s also in Lisbon, which is fantastic. So we were able to do some cafe dates, that then turned into lunch dates. It just keeps going when you have so much fun, the conversation just stretches out into the afternoon. And I think also lately, my friend Dr. Anthony Ureña, who is a sociologist currently at Rutgers University, he is such an inspiration to me.
We talk a lot about, manifestation and reaching for the stars. So those people have been just wonderful, wonderful friends.
Steven Wakabayashi: Beautiful. And then lastly, but not least, if people wanna reach out to you,
Haruka Aoki: So they can find me on Instagram. I am the Cosmic Haruka, and my website is my name, harukaaoki.com.
Steven Wakabayashi: Wonderful. And if you wanna learn more about Yellow Glitter, you can visit our website at Yellow Glitter Podcast com or find it on social media. Yellow Glitter PD. Yeah. And also, if you liked our episode, feel free to give it a review. Reviews are how we get discovered from Apple Podcasts and other podcast platforms, and so give us your thoughts, episode.
I really enjoyed this conversation. I think we touched on so many things, and I also love your presence and, whenever you have a response to any of the questions, I also notice a lot of just intentionality, your words, your answers, and I think I’m already seeing a ton of Portugal’s influence you as a person, as a friend.
And so I appreciate you being back.
Haruka Aoki: Oh, I appreciate you too. I love you very, very much. Thank you.
Steven Wakabayashi: Likewise, our conversation. Hopefully listeners, you take a lot outta this and hoping it’s that opportunity to go travel, go see something new set up, bit more intentionality, your work, voice, your action. And so with that, our podcast now comes to close.
Thank you for listening, and we hope your day can be just a bit more mindful, a bit more intentional, and a bit more joyous. Thank you. So next time. Bye now.
Haruka Aoki: Bye.