In 2012, I went to Japan in the summer for a short volunteer trip in the North Eastern region called Tohoku to do some volunteer relief work. Before stepping foot there, it was hard for me not to use the words “tsunami”, “earthquake”, or “debris” when I tried to describe the Tohoku region (which literally means North East). It figures since it was the center of so much disaster and tragedy.

But after spending some time there, there is now another word that I use to more accurately describe Tohoku:


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Tohoku is a place full of vibrant nature and life. The trees, the mountains, and the rivers; you’ll never know the full aspect of it until you spend some time in Tohoku. Seeing it and feeling it made me feel like I got a more complete picture of the region from the deep inside.

I’ve read somewhere that the nature in Tohoku inspired the scenery that was beautifully animated in Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro”. Seriously, if you go there, you wouldn’t be surprised at all if Totoro just walked up to you and said hi (or I guess smiled at you)

All this to say, before I left I bought this shirt to remind me of the great green beautiful nature in Tohoku and a reminder  of the importance of knowing something from the inside & out. Knowing that “inside’ part of Tohoku made me want to share it with others and made it that much more of a precious place in my heart.

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Breaking My Look Down:

I used this shirt as the center piece for this outfit. It’s casual but still formal looking. The t-shirt and collar jacket look is always good for that. I’ve also tried my own philosophy of highlight colors. I’ve tried wearing all dark colors and then one really bright color to highlight it.

Hidden Details in Clothing:

But what I really like about this outfit personally is what you can’t see from the outside. From the outside it’s just a simple jacket and t-shirt combination. But inside of my jacket I have these black and white stripes. Something you might not notice unless I were to take off my jacket or show you (or role my sleeves like I did in these pictures). These black stripes go perfectly well with the black and white bird and branch graphics that are on my t-shirt.

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Clothing From the Inside Out:

A lot of times I feel like my only concerned when it comes to buying clothes is how it looks from the outside. But these days more and more I’ve grown to appreciate clothes in places that people might not necessarily see. Small details or things that only I know matches with something in my outfit.

I like that.

I like it because it helps me focus not just on how this outfit is going to help me express myself outwardly, but it helps me to also appreciate the craftsmanship and design of the apparel itself.

I think there is value to practicing even in small things like choosing what clothes to wear to not just focus on the outside but also on the inside.  It is something I try to apply in my life with how I might judge people, things I don’t understand, and even thoughts that I have about myself and my identity. It’s what I re-learned when I went to Tohoku, Japan.

So next time when you go shopping maybe you can look for that “hidden” design aspect of what you are looking at. It could be the inside pattern of your jean pockets or small linings on  your woven shirt. For me, matching these with something in my whole outfit or making it a “hidden feature” makes me feel like I am adding some creativity, depth, and a certain personal fun!

The Look:

T-shirt: Goo Tee (from Sendai, Japan) the words on the t-shirt are “Hear a Whole Variety of Birdsong Around” (yup, Fobby Engrish)

Jacket: unknown (from Harajuku Japan)

Jeans: Levi’s 511

Shoes: Creative Recreation

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