2021 Advent Calendar (Photo Challenge Edition)

The way I am posting this a month after Christmas… But here comes the 2021 advent calendar or the annual self-made photo challenge of my friend Selina and me. For those who have never seen this kind of posts on my blog before, Selina and I prepare 24 photography themes as our advent calendar. From December 1 to 24, we draw lots every day to decide the daily theme and take a photo for each theme. Sounds simple, but it is really fun to document what catches our attention or what we want to remember every day before Christmas.

This is our third year doing this photo challenge, but this time, I couldn’t completely stick to the rules of taking a photo every day. All the 24 photos were taken in December, but probably half of them were taken after or before theme reveals and I matched the photos with the right themes in late-December. I was struggling with thesis writing and trying to meet my academic advisor’s deadline around Christmas in order to get her comments before submitting the first draft of my thesis to my graduate school earlier in January. On some days, I wasn’t able to find an interesting subject for the theme because I holed up in my apartment writing and on other days, I was so tired or sleepy that I postponed taking photos until I had better ideas or inspirations. I lived off convenience store food mostly and even had to take a social media break near my advisor’s deadline because I was so burnt out and had no choice but to force myself to keep writing. Now I have finally submitted the first draft of my thesis to my school though and while the thesis defense and final revisions are looming closer, I still want to get this post out before that.

I am sorry for the long and boring rant, but before going into the photos, I also would like to write here—to keep it as a memory—that I am very thankful for my family and friends in Thailand and Japan as well as Selina (who lives in another country) for all the encouragement. Actually, my struggles will not be over until I submit the final version of my thesis, but finishing the first draft was still a big step and the mental support I receive from them is no less important than academic support. And in spite of all the stress I went through before sending my advisor the thesis in December, I had very memorable Christmas and New Year celebrations. For this 2021 Christmas, I celebrated with my graduate school friends, accomplished my first part-time job in Japan, and got to watch NEO CITY SEOUL : The Link, which is NCT 127’s first concert with live audience ever since the pandemic started. I was still stuck as an online audience since I am not living in South Korea, but it was still great to have been able to watch the concert. NCT 127 members had very packed schedules from the third quarter last year, but they managed to prepare for the concert in short time and delivered great group performances as well as solo stages (bias fangirling time: Doyoung co-writing the lyrics for his solo and Jaehyun composing and writing his solo and working with one of my favorite producers to prepare a special rearrangement of the song for this concert!). I gained strength and motivation from their performances and words during the concert. As for the 2021 New Year’s Eve and the 2022 New Year, I got to meet an old friend again, finally experienced the Japanese New Year traditions for the first time with him and our mutual friends, and watched NCT and SHINee perform during the online concert SMTOWN Live 2022: SMCU Express @ Kwangya.

End of rant and appreciation paragraphs. Let’s see the photos now. All photos were taken in Nagoya and I am sorting them in theme reveal order, not the actual dates I took the photos.

Day 1 (December 1, 2021)
Theme: Funny packaging


Location: Nagoya, Japan

The original theme was funny sweet packaging, but funnily, both Selina and I just went with funny packaging. I chose this cup noodle packaging.

Day 2 (December 2, 2021)
Theme: Rorschach splat on a surface


Location: Nagoya, Japan

I cooked less than five times last December and this was one of those. I made kimchi fried rice and then added cheese and seaweed on top to make a rabbit. The final result looked kind of scary, but I tried…

Day 3 (December 3, 2021)
Theme: Something we use daily


Location: Nagoya, Japan

Study Bunny is a focus timer mobile application. After completing our study hours, we get coins and can use the coins to buy items like clothes and furniture for the bunny. I just started using Study Bunny around mid-2021 to help me study and write better. I am a severe case of procrastinator, so even with the app, I struggled, haha. But it still helps me a lot and I want to keep using it even after I graduate and go back to my salarywoman life in Thailand. If you are interested in getting the app, you can search “Study Bunny” on app stores.

Day 4 (December 4, 2021)
Theme: Sepia


Location: Ikatsu Hachimangu Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

I stumbled upon these food stalls in the parking lot opposite Ikatsu Hachimangu Shrine. I thought this parking lot was just used for parking all these times.

Day 5 (December 5, 2021)
Theme: Cobblestone or interesting patterns on the ground/street


Location: Lucent Avenue, Nagoya, Japan

Nagoya has cobblestone and interesting patterns on the ground, but since I didn’t take any suitable photo for the theme, I flipped this photo upside down… Now we have the ceiling as the interesting floor. I also like the reflection of the passersby.

Day 6 (December 6, 2021)
Theme: Something in motion


Location: Nagoya Station, Nagoya, Japan

The cars (By the way, though the photo makes it look like I took this photo while crossing the street, I didn’t. I zoomed in from the footpath.)

Day 7 (December 7, 2021)
Theme: Something that makes us smile


Location: Nagoya, Japan

While staying in to write thesis, listening to music and trying new drinks from the nearest convenience store were among the sources of my happiness. The song I was playing on Spotify is “Way” by Onew and Punch and it was actually just released on December 6. Onew is my most favorite member from SHINee (one of the two K-pop groups that I stan along with NCT) and while he has always been great at singing, Way is one of my most favorite songs and performances ever from him. Punch is also a great solo artist. If you want to listen to Way, you can on Spotify as well as YouTube.

Day 8 (December 8, 2021)
Theme: Haikyuu!!


Location: Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

Whenever we have a Haikyuu!! theme for the advent calendar, I just have to add Oikawa since he is my most favorite character. So I took my Oikawa nendoroid to Atsuta Shrine, which has just opened up new areas. I actually took this photo in late-December and was surprised to still find fallen gingko leaves and some autumn leaves in the shrine grounds.

I will eventually write in detail about Atsuta Shrine too because I have new things to share since I last wrote about it here in 2019.

Day 9 (December 9, 2021)
Theme: A Deathly Hallows made from any kind of item


Location: Nagoya, Japan

I know this looks nothing like the actual Resurrection Stone in Harry Potter, but I am still proud of my setup for this photo. My SHINee lightstick isn’t shown in the picture, but I was holding it to create the green light and magical effects.

Day 10 (December 10, 2021)
Theme: Something related to winter


Location: Osu Shopping District, Nagoya, Japan

Snowman balloon and Christmas tree.

Day 11 (December 11, 2021)
Theme: Survival plants


Location: Nagoya, Japan

Nagoya isn’t too cold, so many plants still survive in winter, but I think this lone red flower captured the survivor vibe?

Day 12 (December 12, 2021)
Theme: Yellow


Location: Ikatsu Hachimangu Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

Yellowing trees.

Day 13 (December 13, 2021)
Theme: Something in our neighborhood


Location: Nagoya, Japan

One of the things I looked forward to in my neighborhood every November and December: orange trees.

Day 14 (December 14, 2021)
Theme: Pokemon


Location: Nagoya, Japan

My Green figurine made a comeback in this photo, but I had new Charizard packaging to show. I also just got my Mega Charizard Y figurine last year.

Day 15 (December 15, 2021)
Theme: A bridge or a connection between two sides


Location: KITTE Nagoya, Nagoya, Japan

These Christmas trees were reaching out to each other and they both were stunning.

Day 16 (December 16, 2021)
Theme: Gap/hole


Location: Nagoya, Japan

They aren’t really the focus of this photo, but there are many holes in the wall.

Day 17 (December 17, 2021)
Theme: Calm


Location: Nagoya, Japan

Autumn leaves and light and shadow together look calming for me.

Day 18 (December 18, 2021)
Theme: Stationery


Location: Nagoya, Japan

This Rowlet (owl Pokemon) pen is a freebie I got in Thailand before coming to Japan, but I still haven’t got to use it yet. I added the owl charm to the photo because the colors coincidentally match well with the pen. The charm is a gift from my friend.

Day 19 (December 19, 2021)
Theme: Little things


Location: Nagoya, Japan

I think non K-pop fan readers aren’t familiar with this, so I will explain. K-pop albums come with photocards and other items such as postcards, posters, circle cards, bookmarks, etc. Photocards and most of the other items feature each artist’s picture and the back of the photocards tend to have each artist’s signature and message too. In the whole NCT brand, Doyoung and Jaehyun are my favorite members, so I collect their items.

Many K-pop fans also like to arrange photocards and album inclusions and take aesthetic photos of them. This trend started with the fans, but now brands have taken to it too. I think these photos are fun to look at, but when it comes to taking these photos myself, I don’t have that many props and still need to learn more about the aesthetic, haha. I saw some brands and fans arrange photocards like Christmas tree though, so I tried too, but instead of showing the front of the photocards, I wanted to show the back, which I think are underappreciated and not shown often in this kind of photos.

The photocards are from three NCT 127 albums: Neo Zone, Sticker, and Favorite (The back of Sticker photocards is also conveniently green). The pendant cards are from Favorite. The song I was playing on my phone is “Timeless”, sung by my favorite vocalists in NCT aka Taeil, Doyoung, and Jaehyun (Spotify and YouTube). It is one of my most favorite NCT songs and although the song isn’t about winter, I think it has winter ballad sounds (but of course, you can listen to it anytime).

Day 20 (December 20, 2021)
Theme: Minimalistic


Location: Nagoya University, Nagoya, Japan

A single cloud floating above the rows of trees.

Day 21 (December 21, 2021)
Theme: Something Naruto-related


Location: Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

My initial idea: Atsuta Shrine is where the Sword of Kusanagi is enshrined and this sword is the inspiration for Sasuke’s and Orochimaru’s swords in Naruto. An area called Kusanagi Hiroba (Kusanagi Square or Kusanagi Plaza) was also opened last year, so I would just go there and take a picture.

But then I saw this interesting pattern on a Koala’s March snack box and it reminded me of Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Shadow Clone technique) in Naruto, so I cut it out from the box and took it to Atsuta Shrine. Though I was going to take a picture at Kusanagi Hiroba, I came across a tree covering in the shrine grounds that kind of resembled the nine-tailed beast Kyuubi in Naruto and ended up choosing this for my photo.

Day 22 (December 22, 2021)
Theme: Hidden


Location: Osu Shopping District, Nagoya, Japan

Restaurants behind the bushes.

Day 23 (December 23, 2021)
Theme: Poster or advertisement


Location: JR Nagoya Takashimaya, Nagoya, Japan

One of the Christmas banners at the department store.

Day 24 (December 24, 2021)
Theme: Sad


Location: Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

Bare trees reflected on the still water. Not a happy theme, but this is one of my most favorite photos I took for the 2021 advent calendar.

Speaking of sad, since these were my last Christmas and New Year in Japan, this post is also my last advent calendar photo challenge in Japan. I feel sentimental because Selina and I started our annual advent calendar project in 2019 or the first year I moved from Bangkok to Nagoya, but I will be returning to Thailand this March. Of course, I need to graduate and go home and I will continue to take photos in Thailand (not to mention countless other photos from Japan that I haven’t posted yet), but it is still sad that my advent calendar photo challenge in Japan was over.

I have to go back to preparing for my thesis defense now, but that will also be over soon and I hope to continue sharing more travel photos after I am done with my thesis.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar Photo Challenge series (year #3: December 2021).

This post is also part of the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge (week #183: Memorable Events).

5 thoughts on “2021 Advent Calendar (Photo Challenge Edition)

    • This is incredibly late, but I was so busy with thesis writing and moving back home. Thank you very much, Tina! It had been rough, but I am glad to have made it. I hope you are doing great.


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