Category Archives: Personal Musings

sometimes i have something to say about me, life and the passage of time – schemes, ideas, holiday dispatches, thoughts and dreams that aren’t too private and other journalling

Diary: What Comes Next? Shambling along on Summer schemes

What happens next? Summertime schemes…

Siding into slacker summer projects at Tsuchida Station

So, the mysterious “operation turtle” is as wrapped up as gonna get
The “healing ramble” project is nervously, bravely & quietly going out into the world at random intervals

Caught up on the “postcards as a service” supporters and dossier customers – a few friends to return correspondence but easy goodtimes

I’m staying on top of the laundry & i tidy up & sortganize like Japan’s version of Marie Kondo :) Continue reading Diary: What Comes Next? Shambling along on Summer schemes

Memo: Still-life at visit to Mac’s Farm

The Story of Ichiro and his mother (of invention) with stamps and hats

“Over the wall” for a visit with farmer Mac / the cafe & market operation is affected by the current emergency status (can’t sell beer/sake or have meals despite the exclusively outdoor socially distance seating) but you can purchase goat cheese and other select gourmet items.

Anyhow, figured we better check on the goats, deliver some Kerouac in Kobe brochures, listen to some records & see the ongoing artifact collection of our life.

Ichiro enjoyed some goat milk yogurt and we came home with some organic rhubarb jam and goat cheese.

While there: spotted in situ, Still Life with Olsons & Zappa

Diary: Bubble Family, making steps…

Fujita Olson bubble gang, each cuter than the last as seen in Yubara onsen

Big moves in our lil bubble compound: My wonderful in-laws Junko & Takushi are getting Pfizerized on Sunday here in Okayama (finally).

They are an incredible support to us with our lil baby who arrived amidst *all of this* and help keep us safe, well fed & amused. Super grateful for them & glad shots are picking up momentum. Of course, they ate a “young 65” – are both fantastically healthy & laden with energy but now we can worry a little less when they need to go “over the wall” into the big weird world.

Im next in line i guess (no timeline) but im the most hermity of our squad as well as extra delicate – no big deal, im well experienced about being in chill home mode with 8 years of #MeCFS – i have hobbies, projects & need lots of bedtime.

Keeping a candle for (arborist)!wifu’s turn as she is often in the outside places hanging out with trees more than humans.

Looking forward to her being able to singing in clubs and community events – Heck eventually will be able to have a little open house when our home construction is finished, invite folks over for tea & jazz. 

Anyhow, that’s the obligatory report with a cute picture of my bubble buddies. Yup awesome each one. Say hello.

PS Ryoko is wearing my sweet handmade Mavili “Catcher in the Rye” hat

Diary: 3 wooden stick projects (sign post, postbox, wind phone)

Mounted three pieces of raw wood into Tsuchida tsuchi (soil) with concrete (or is it cement? – which do you mix with sand and water to make the other?) for 3 different, but vaguely-related, projects:

* sign post with arrows pointing distances to favourite/special places (there is a list but…  need to re-earn my orienteering compass badge so I can point the signs in the right direction. Resisting the urge to be really obsessive about this but worried more engineering-minded friends will come double check my work and you know, if it’s not within 2° of accuracy you know I’m going to hear about it  – I can hear the “well actually…” in my head already. And then any US people who come will be confused by the KMs as well – sigh!)

* post box for (un)secret messages the kura barn >> atelier, lounge & Cascadia consulate

* phone to the wind as a shrine & refuge for conversations with those passed or possibly lost {further evidence}

PS Transplanted two trees today. Super fun being arborist Ryoko’s assistant and father-in-law’s “co-worker”. Yeah, used a shovel and a wheelbarrow and *everything*.

Yes, it seems I’m really “nesting” and getting ready to live here forever.

Kitchen: making Miso from scratch (ready in New Year)

Pretty sure I earned a Japanese merit badge today. Made our own Miso from scratch! Will sit in this old crock (found in the tool shed & same one used for umeboshi last year) for 8 months.

Summary: Soybeans, Salt, Koji & no air.

Here’s how it went down (lousy photos with annotations): 

Soaked for 24 hours and simmered for 4 hours and cooled down

Oh, this is what the salt and koji (culture) looks like

Mince up the beans with a, ummm mincer

Yup mix it all (salt, koji, miso) up

Squish out the air whilst making tennis ball sized chunks

Squish squish squish into the crock, no air remember

Fill a bag with salt to weigh it down and seal off the edges from air

Put on a label and wait for 8 months (cool place please, in our case, the kura barn) check in later to tell ya how it turned out

Diary: Rocking out (buying stones)

Note solar array and tile roof kominka house in background of snap {past / present / future}

 Wife (arborist/ trad landscape designer) let me tag along on some rock shopping expedition. I am amused at logistics of this supply chain as stones from from around Japan and world here to Okayama.

Also for your amusement, 3 types/varieties of stones observed (& sampled) for use at our home project and Ryoko’s work projects

Snaps: Korakuen Gardens (Mother’s Day out)

4 (more) views at Korakuen Gardens, Okayama  – One of three “great, official, significant/something“ gardens in Japan built during the feudal Edo period. Saw turtles in cranes amongst the tea houses, bridges and trees.

Went to hear some old-timey music (recorded some audio “bootleg”) and celebrate Ryoko and Junko (m-in-l) with a pleasant stroll around the park. Stopped for tea and postcards (of course) and Ichiro was the star (of course). {oh i’ll add some snaps of him…}

Anyhow, ergo:


* trad rock zen space

* bridge over placid water


* “crow” castle yonder


* detail of temple roof

Diary: Day out to Ukan village

I mean, how can i not adore all of this scene? {Ukan village, Okayama-ken}

Visited a shodo calligraphy exhibition at a sake distillery with special floral arrangements made by Ryoko’s colleague Oka-san (true salt of the earth tough guy with a deep gravelly voice leather by perpetual smoking and a heart of gold and an artistic sense of nuance and splendour), who showed us around along with his wonderful young daughter Momoka.

Memo: Oka-san is the remarkable florist/builders/designer/arborist who transformed the goat farm barn into a jazz club & wedding altar for #DRO420

Then, we hit up a little community coffee shop in a mountain valley. Our little guy was a star as always and I was the lucky papa along for the ride.

Just was a really pleasant day out in a small town (Ukan, Okayama) where you can stand in the street and not worry about a car coming by.

2nd Wedding Anniversary Riffs (i would dye for you)

April 20, 2021 – back at the goat farm where we met, were married, now with Ichiro (and of course baby goats and tie-dyes) – thanks Reira for snap

Always more to tell you but… Over the past three days we sort of revisited our 2019 three day wedding festivities #dro420 with a little mini-outings, ergo:

* April 21 pleasant lunch and afternoon lounge around at Mac Kobayashi’s Goat Farm including lovely conversations with four generations of his family / daughter Reira snapped some pics, grandson Sosuke showed off his new glasses, mother (84 yrs young) tool a break from cutting grass to hug and cuddle little Ichiro (who split his time between napping and meeting goats) ~ importantly, finally got a photo with all three of us in our “family tartan“ tie-dye made by brother Daniel

* April 20 rolled to a Shinto shrine, not our “official” shrine but a neighborhood location with no people >> wrote some grateful prayers and intentions on wooden tiles, clap-clapped bowed for the Kami & ancestors, >> enjoyed some of the nuanced details and then some artisan roasted coffee across the lane (where Ichi continued the familial tradition of batting eyelashes at baristas)

* April 19 skipped the City Hall registration and went directly to the jazz bar (which was the scene of the welcome party for foreign guests) but this time was Ryoko Olson’s band Mae Maes rehearsal >> I haven’t seen her bandmates in real life since well, probably their last real show at the beginning of “global health meltdown (TM)” though I’ve seen their faces while editing videos. Enjoyed tea and snacks and music #friendship

Now, resting before an afternoon hospital visit while construction continues outside (we’re camped out in the parents beautiful traditional kominka home on tatami mat floor, glorious raw wooden beams above, sliding rice paper doors) >> Ryoko heading over to the nursery school to help with Ichi’s lunch.

Flashing back to everything that happened these last two years and frankly, stunned by it all.

Completely smitten by my remarkable wife who surprises and thrills me daily, head over heels about this healthy happy little fella who is now in indispensable part of my entire existence, and so very grateful for friends & family scattered around the world for continued support & solitarity. Keep an eye on your post box.

The year ahead will be more changes (i mean, obv) but hopefully fewer “big moves/projects” (i.e. endless registrations and paper work and settling-in and construction and shipping containers and complicated transactions) and more “tiny steps” to make life more pleasant and full of creativity and enjoyment / yes, we have a list and involves post boxes, payphones, sign posts, trees, gardens, paint) ~ also health & rest, please please.

So very fondly from Tsuchida Cottage (soon to be Tsuchida Station)

dvo & fam

 

Diary: Grateful for hanami picnic (& projects finishing)

Downtown Okayama – a canal a nice walking pathway with public art and benches / I also love the covered walkable shopping arcades… It really make a lot of sense and rainy cities say… I don’t know, Vancouver. They’re handy here more for shade then showers

Grateful for the usual days (amongst the tumult) ~ Spontaneous picnic along the canal in pleasantly provincial Okayama. 

The happiest I’ve been to see a DHL truck (those who know, know), expensive price for menial tasks

A few BIG projects recently and no doubt wiped me out despite the dopamine of “finishing” something. So, after a (thought at the time but… really not) final step, we purchased a picnic for a spontaneous hanami along the canal in downtown Okayama. 

Just woke up from a nap and has that Napoleon Dynamite thing going on

Of course these days, a day out in public isn’t common but we found an empty bench and enjoyed the blossoms falling and each other. Noting the “usually” in Japan, hanmi (flower watching) is a big deal with elaborate picnics, jousting for prime locations and often drunken revelry – honestly, this is more my speed :). 

weary from a big project with loads of paperwork and complications (and revealed  of some distasteful truths and misgiving) but ahoy i’m here and in love

Note: Indeed, we buy each other hats… Possibly “too frequently”

Riff: about Tsuchida Cottage construction + vids

A few notes originally written to a friend as a letter in Feb 2021 riffing about the “Tsuchida Cottage” (soon to be “Station”) construction project.

Sharing here for my own posterity and remembrance, along with this video of the “wall raising” day (which also included the roof which you can see in this amusing time lapse video).

^ Above: quick video of workers pounding the wall joints together, March 2021

Riff: Notes from Tsuchida Cottage (soon to be “Station” as  the house is long and narrow and feels like a train so this is new “working title”)

Our construction project has started, 2 diligent sturdy men who are much older than you and I (likely), doing incredibly efficient rapid hard work with vigour and precision.

We set up a tea/coffee/snack station inside the house and another one outside, we took gifts to the neighbours in advance of the noise. We insisted, they refused, we pleaded, back and forth… 

The workers, fuelled by french press, gladly did an extra job since they had their adorably sized front loader & moved a bunch of boulders to fill in a retaining wall/drainage ditch without any complaint. A huge help as doing it with a tripod, pulley and a hand wheel dolly means three rocks is a hard afternoon. We gave them extra cakes for this. (there is a time lapse of doing a session last year with my tiny mother in law and pregoo wife, not a sturdy crew). 

When the HVAC man came to discuss the heat pump units (it’s an old house in Japan so no central heating of course and no insulation and a few rooms have these individual heat pumps which are heaters and coolers…) Anyway, told him I want one in my old grain barn which baffled him. {Keep in mind, each of these planning appointments requires all the formalities and tea service with a special cups and the correct “special” snacks etc.} Note: This gentleman has a slightly-dyed red toupee – still trying to hold onto his youthful style.

So I took him out to the barn/studio, up the stairs into the secret lounge and his jaw just about dropped when he saw my Clash London calling poster, stacks of records, 100 pound record player with an iron exoskeleton, a couple of lounge chairs, (he did not grok the exceptional collection of beat literature but that’s coming in handy for a Kerouac exhibition later this year etc. He *then* understood why this is needed/ wanted. But he wanted to put the unit on the wall which outside is the *perfectly preserved unblemished yakisugi wall* (I’ve sent along a photo in the past) but I explained that “the ancestors have somehow passed this barn down to my caretaking and this is aesthetic blunder is unacceptable so we’re going to have to put it here in this corner where no one can see it.”

He told me i have an old Japanese heart and as such, we will attach it to a beam that is prob older than the City of Seattle (colonially speaking) which is joined to the other beams without use of nails and screws so well, it’s not perfect but I will have a humidity control and heat pump and an olden barn to protect a lifetime’s worth of *valuable* books, records and papers.

I then asked him if the heat pump unit comes in something other than white, it turns out they also come in “off-white”. We looked at the catalog of all the different models and it was like the scene and lost in translation with Bill and Scarlet are looking at the menu of all the different kinds of meat and to the untrained eye, they all look the same. The catalog was 30+ pages of air conditioners that looked exactly the same – “The features were different” I was assured. I asked “don’t they come in brown or black?” But alas… not. I also asked if there was one with “a remote control that had less than 35 buttons” on it like maybe five buttons(?) but no, there are so many features but I want an on/off and a temperature control because I am a simple man. But robots win again. 

Anyway, here we are, doing a construction project and it is *completely different* than your construction project where everything picked with intention and care and custom made into a lovely glorious architectural masterpiece. 

In our case, we are adding to the tradition of houses in the generations before, and digging out some old pieces (for example a couple of 1920 era sliding doors for the entranceway), finding a few things at secondhand stores (for example a stainless steel sink/counter which will be the wife’s plant potting station), sourced a potbelly cast-iron stove which brought oooohs & ahhhs from the Japanese architect, scored several furniture pieces including a ultra heavy grand table from secondhand stores and brought down the total price of the project from equivalent of maybe 130,000 to about 90,000 with various resourcefulness (using numbers somewhere between CAD and USD as i can’t get my head around the flucuations). 

Told him we didn’t require television cable outlets, various other knickknacks and accoutrements. The kitchen will be more spacious but simple, not a bunch of fancy cabinets and a three burner stove (an upgrade from our two burner which reminds me of living in my Volkswagen van). Oh and a 2 part sink which was a shocking idea to Japan and required sourcing. I explained i need the space for dishes and space for making pickles – then i seemed brilliant.

Dream is Ichiro will come home with his pals and our house will be the “hangout” – with this in mind, also adding a handwash station right by entrance in a stroke of brilliance and a side access door for muddy kids and their gear. 

Bonus: for enthusiasts, a “slow” version of the time lapse video of wall and roof raising

Diary: Café Poetry, Street cars, Seitai and Curry

As it goes: “Over the Wall” > Headed by bus for some medical treatment (seitai) trying to stay ahead of the “Crash mode”… Head and heart are Genki, just trying to catch the body up… But as someone once sang “two out of three ain’t…” Staying positive, rolling slow, counting the goodness, always grateful.

yup, waiting on a splendid bus

Baby is with grandma, wife is working, yesterday sent more absurdly and unnecessarily complicated paperwork for various schemes and reasons. But hey the bus is on time, has great Wi-Fi and a power outlet at my seat. It’s the simple pleasures.

Oh and this hat – of course – is made by Mavili, the elder gentleman from Georgia (the country, not the state) from whom I used to purchase loads from at Lonsdale Quay market. Recently his son found a blog post from like 2008 and contacted me to say thanks, & his dad is still making hats from home. I am happy to say I have at least three creations of his here in Japan (& many others lost along the way and/or purchased as gifts for distinguished folks).

If you are curious, scarf from an Istanbul souk (was so surprised to see tartans on offer in markets in Istanbul – the Turkish cotton is absolutely wonderful), jacket Uniqlo, satchel from Thamel, Kathmandu.

Btw, the kanji on the bus stop 土田 is Tsuchida, our neighbourhood & means “dirt/soil-field” more or less.

Note: cute cause its me and intrepid elder ladies on the bus. The *secret power* of Japan are these invincible women. Strength, dignity, kindness & grace abounding.

Steeple-chased and sensory depravation / Poetry and Coffee is Everything.  Pen functional if not exquisite. 

Update: Finished my treatment (seitai, it’s kind of hard to explain but it’s not shiatsu, it’s not acupuncture, it’s not massage, it’s not reiki, it’s not chiropractic but a little bit like all of those things sort of but in a calm tatami room)… then in my post-fog, opened a vaguely random door to what turned out to be a blissful little café… Just me at the counter, jazz playing, skilled master made me curry… feeling so happy to find this place that I’m having another coffee and writing some poetry (lyrical even… as a gift for a musical friend).

i mean ¥900 for this magnificent plate in a chill calm place with a diligent proprietor is like some kind of wow (note notebook in bg)

For the record, this was the café… They have one kind of curry per week which makes ordering easy. Stay up to date via @Grillmori Instagram 

Gri(l)mori Original Lunch / even the sign is evokes nostalgia #Okayama

And here is one of the street cars rolling down the tracks… There’s all kinds of different eras and designs represented from “slick modern” units to classic beauties like this one to the obligatory hello kitty themed one, also Chuggington. I rolled one for just 2 stops cause i love the feel (and really every step saved is a big help).

2 street car lines here in Okayama, ¥100 for most on/off rides – enter at the rear, pay, exit from front

Finally, after I got off the street car, right in front of me was a brand new CBD shop/café/lounge. Went in to say hello and all that and great variety of products and displays but wow, a little expensive.  Had nice conversation with the young proprietor (30) told him about my activism at young age and how we eventually changed *everything* in Canada and US west coast. Had some samples (they also have CDB wax and vape device #want) but after treatment, i am bit foggy (like more than usual) so mumbled a bit before making my way back to the bus and back to the stop and home to rest. 

Ready for action (as in riding a bus to do a thing)