The Power of Small Steps

Wow, I’m still coming down from the Kaizen-Ikigai Seven Day Journey that we just finished on Sunday. The lessons were presented in small bite sized videos plus doodling and writing. I was so pleased to meet people from across the continent as well as throught United States. I received many positive feedback from the people who traveled the Seven Day Journey with me. Here’s one from Alice that surprised me but made me happy.

“I never thought washing dishes, cleaning the house and other mundane tasks would be anything more than I wanted to get over them quickly so I can do other things. Learning about the Ikigai philosophy, I now perform those tasks while really enjoying the moment. Just imagine, getting joy out of how sparkly and smooth my dishes look after I wash them with care and love. I say to myself, enjoy this because this moment will pass quickly and never return again”.

On our seventh day, we got together on Zoom and had fun talking, drawing, cutting in a very safe environment. Everyone made a vision board that was very personal to each. I was amazed at the creativity and the affirmations that were placed on each of the vision boards! Here is the one I made as an example. I’d like to show what others made, but decided not to because vision boards are very personal to each one.

The Wait is Over, Artful Giving Community is accepting new members!

Why you should join a community of like-minded people?

You will experience:

  • The joy of being a part of something bigger than yourself.
  • The joy of working towards a common goal of life-long learning.
  • The joy of building skills in art, positive mind-shifts, and making friends.
  • The safety of being vulnerable and navigate challenges together.

Learn more here.

As a member of the Artful Giving Community, these are the things you can expect:

  • Monthly “Make by Hand” art workshops
  • Weekly Inspiration times where I will share with you ideas and projects straight from my art table.
  • Guest appearances of women doing great things in the world.
  • Show and Tell from the members.

Come and join us. Wonderful members are waiting for you inside!

Registration will close on Friday, Feb. 5 at 10:00 PM (PT)

Learn more here.

Your 2021 Plan, the Kaizen Ikigai Vision Journey

Come with me on a seven-day doodle art journey where you’ll make your own 2021 vision board!

What is Kaizen and Ikigai?

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy that values lifelong learning in small incremental steps. Translated, Ikigai means “a reason for being” or “a purpose to life.” Although seemingly different, ikigai is a concept that is very much in harmony with kaizen and its underlying process of continuous improvement.

According to the Japanese, everyone has an ikigai. It is the basic principle in their life and the reason they wake up every morning; it is their secret to living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. Finding ikigai requires a deep and often lengthy search into one’s soul. In Japanese culture, this search is regarded as the most important aspect of their life. It is the point where their passion, talent, and life’s mission intersect.

Once there is a sense of purpose, people find that they are even more resilient to anything life throws at them throughout their lives. When it comes time to retire, most Japanese people are quite different from those in the Western culture in that few of them actually retire. Because their ikigai allows them to thrive in every situation, they find joy in keeping busy and remaining active throughout their lives. 

After my visit to Okinawa, on the southern tip of Japan, I noticed things that distinguished their culture from others that I had previously experienced. After years of studying kaizen and ikigai philosophies, I eventually found my personal ikigai, which was helping people find their inner strength and the courage to live authentic, fulfilling, and contented lives. In simple words, “My ikigai is to support and strengthen the mindset and the skills of the people around me.” Now, as we enter a new and hopeful year, I want to share all that I have learned!

Do you want to go on a journey with me to find and make your own Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021? Do you want to live a happier and more fulfilling life? If the answer to both of those questions is “Yes,” then this is the right course of action for you!  Here’s how to register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey –  

  • Tools needed to travel on this journey:  A sketch book or loose sheets of paper, pencil, pen, colored markers, coloring pencils, crayons or anything else you already have on hand. 
  • I will send out an email each morning from Monday, January 25 through Friday, January 29. On Sunday, January 31, we will meet from 11:00 a.m.–12:15 noon on Zoom and add the final touches to your vision board. 

As you travel this Seven-Day Art Journey with me, you will uncover your gifts, passion, values, acceptance, and purpose for being. You will experience less stress, get more done with what you enjoy doing, improve your relationships with others, and learn to open up a pathway to creativity and abundance. You will reflect, draw, and write! When you have completed your journey, you will have consolidated all of your discoveries and developed your Kaizen/Ikigai Vision Plan for 2021! Bring your enthusiasm, ideas, and join me! 

 Register for my FREE Seven-Day Art Journey –  

New Year’s Memories

As we enter into the new year, reflecting back to our childhood experiences of the past years brings us many good memories as well as some that may be painful. I like to remember the fond memories and bring it with me into the new year… remembering the lessons I learned and putting them into daily practices as I go through the year.

I am sharing with you an article that was published in the North American Post newspaper a few years ago.

My Mother and me

            My childhood memories of year-end traditions while growing up in Kyushu, Japan always flood my mind this time of the year.

            I went through culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the New Year. Lively New Year’s Eve parties, waking up late on January first and watching football games on television while munching on various party foods was so foreign to me. 

            The older I get, the more I cherish my childhood memories and the tradition of 
“starting new with a fresh mindset.” It’s such a good feeling to get enough sleep and rise early on January first, refreshed to face the coming year.

            These are the fond memories of my New Years while growing up in Kokura.

            Starting on the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house and cleaning every nook and corner. Here’s a check-list so be a good girl and do your part.” Without argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers in every room and scrubbed marks off the walls.

            Mother’s To Do list for me read like this:

            Do you owe anybody money? Pay it back.

            Did you say mean words to any of your friends? Apologize

            Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? If not, do it now.

            Do you have any unfinished homework or projects? Complete them.

            Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write it down.

            After I finished my to-do list, it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the New Year on the evening of December 31. Mother and I sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes. As the slippery noodles went down our throats, we listened to the far away sounds of the temple bells as they rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.

            Mother said, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your stomach this year. This is cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”

            I loved getting up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so as to have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food which Mother prepared. 

            Japanese New Years is called Oshogatsu and lasts for three days (Jan 1st – 3rd).

            I take this tradition seriously and try my best to follow through as much as I can with the list Mother made for me. 

            Why not try to follow this list for yourself? I guarantee that it will make you feel so much better. Out with the old and in with the new!

My first art of the year
My first drawing of the year

Editor’s Note: Kay Hirai is a social entrepreneur, author and artist. This column will be regularly published in this paper, and she can be reached through

How to Celebrate Winter Solstice, 2020.

We are living in a different end-of-the year season than we are used to.  Due to COVID, our lives have been forced to hunker down and hanging in for the relief to arrive. Even though, circumstances have forced us to alter the way we operate in our daily lives,  nature stays right on with the preciseness of seasonal timing and changes.

Dark mornings and early nightfalls. Welcoming the seldom peek of the brightness of the sun. The sharp silhouette of bare branches surviving in the cold temperature. These are some familiar signs of winter. We often speak of turning inward during these darker months, becoming quiet and introspective, staying home more often, sleeping longer.  Regardless of our spiritual or cultural heritage, if we live in North America today there’s a good chance we find ourselves caught up, perhaps involuntarily or out of habit, in a commercial swirl known as “the holidays” that leaves us depleted in more ways than one. Perhaps this year, with some preparation and planning, we can plant the seeds for a more intuitive, simpler, and natural holiday season. 

The winter solstice is the day of the year with the fewest hours of daylight. After the winter solstice, days start becoming longer and nights shorter as spring approaches. Winter solstice, which takes place on December 21, can be a profound way to tune into the magic and beauty of the season. Creating a meaningful celebration of the winter solstice can help us cultivate a deeper connection to nature and family and all the things that matter most to us. Winter can become a time of feeding the spirit and nurturing the soul.

Perhaps this year, we can plant the seeds for a more intuitive, simpler, and natural holiday season. With this in mind, I created an art-card workshop that will encourage us to create together in friendship and harmony, beautiful Winter Solstice art cards. What a nice way to celebrate the coming of the new year that will bring hope, love, and joy, don’t you think?

Please join me in celebrating Winter Solstice HERE.

Join me here.

Where Are the Angels?

I hear people saying, “So many bad things are happening now. Why can’t we have some good news for a change?” When I hear such a talk, I say to myself, “If you open your mind, you will probably hear Angels whispering into your ears. Nothing is all that bad. There are so many good things happening in your life, but if you don’t believe that Angels exist, you just don’t hear their joyful whispers.”

Watch my video and let me tell you why you need Angels in your life. .. especially the Angels you make with your own hands!

Here is how you can purchase your own Angels of Joy Make-it Kit.

Get it here.

The price per kit is only $30. + shipping. It comes with a step-by-step video tutorial made by me. Why not buy a second one to give as a gift to a special person in your life? Proceeds will be donated to Pasado’s Safe Haven’s Animal Rescue program. They need your help.

Ole’ and Jacque are my salon’s rescued Donkeys who live at Pasado’s Safe Haven.

I received this wonderful email from a client who purchased this kit. It made me sooo-o-o HAPPY!

“I was able to make these darling Angels from your Angel kit. I seriously wondered if I can even do this, knowing I have two left hands and an uncreative mind. To my surprise, they were easy to make with your detailed instructions. I decided that I’m not bad at all! I love the confidence I gained from doing this project plus I love all the Angels!”

What are you waiting for? Buy your own kit here.

What Do a Homeless Donkey and a Hair Salon Have in Common?

Just who is Babs and how did we arrive at this place?

People are often astonished when they hear the news. They often exclaim, “Studio 904 Hair Salon has adopted a pet donkey named Babs? What’s up with that?

Just who was Babs and how did we arrive at this place?

Babs, who was an abused and disabled donkey who lived in her forever safe home at Pasado’s Safe Haven, an animal sanctuary located in Snohomish County, Washington. When she was rescued by Pasado’s, Babs had been used for lasso practice; people would ride around in four-wheel vehicles and practice lassoing her. After examining her, the staff discovered that she was badly debilitated, blind, and suffering from Cushings disease, an illness that affects the pituitary gland. In addition, she suffered from laminitis, a severe, debilitating ailment that affects the hooves and is sometimes fatal. Through it all, she still managed to steal the hearts of everyone who was lucky enough to meet her and used the classic donkey stubbornness to hold her own against the other strong-willed animals she came into contact with. When the salon adopted Babs, the process was extremely simple. We agreed to donate $35.00 each month to supplement her strict daily regimen of food and health care.  Everything else was taken care of by Pasado’s.

Babs passed on. Before long, two rescued Donkeys, Ole and Jacque arrived at Pasados and we decided to commit to their care.

Watch the video we took at one of our visits to Pasado’s Safe Haven to visit Ole and Jacque.

Linda with donkeys at Pasados Safe Haven
Studio 904 visits Pasados Safe Haven

We are committed to continuing fundraising for Pasado’s Safe Haven and their rescue program. I urge you to come on board and join us in this fun holiday workshop for kids and adults. Saturday, Dec. 5 at 11:00 AM PT.

Register now!

Art + Animals = Compassion

Let me ask you a question, do you think fundraising for a cause is an unreasonable thing to do during this COVID time? I pondered over this question for the last few months. Watch my video to find out what I decided.

I hope you will join me in this fun and whimsical workshop where we will use brown grocery bags and transform them into lovely gift boxes that can be used as a part of your holiday giving. There is something special about making a gift with your own hands and spreading your love and joy to the special people in your life. Register here.

Register here. See you on December 5th at 11:00 AM!

Keep your eyes open for the next email from me. I will be introducing another unique project to for the “Angels for the Animals” fundraiser.

What Kids Can Teach Us

Was there a time when you realized that you love doing something that you didn’t know until you did it? I had such an awakening after I gave the Halloween Ornament workshop two weeks ago. I have never given a workshop that included kids before. I think it was because I didn’t have enough faith that kids would be capable of making the things I taught. Well, I was dead wrong! Some of the kids sent me photos of the projects they did and I got so inspired by seeing their creativity. I’m planning to do more kids workshops in celebration of the holidays throughout the year. What do you think of this idea?

Watch this Quicktime video of one of the Halloween projects I taught in the workshop. I was so inspired after giving the class, I made 20 skulls and sent them to people in my life who I thought needed encouragement. Doing this kind of action made me appreciate Halloween so much more. I realized that there is an opportunity to share your gifts with the world during every holiday that comes around in the year.

Now take a look at the whimsical skulls and bats Ellie and Maggie made. I love everything about these whacky looking creatures… the crown and the feather boas on the skull’s heads, flowered eyes on the bats, and the beautiful colors they used to paint each of the creatures. This is what I call creativity in action. Aren’t they talented? Thank you girls for sending me your wonderful work and I hope you gave them as special gifts to people in your lives.

Hand-Made Holiday Party! Angels, Deers, Bears and Holiday Houses.

This workshop is filled with my favorite art designs that I created and made for myself. I hope you will sign up and join me and give yourself some SELF-CARE. I’d love to help you create beautiful arty gifts that you can share with others. Don’t feel confident about drawing? Don’t worry, I’ve created templates for you of all the designs we will make in this workshop, plus you will receive a replay of the entire class. Register here.