Category Archives: Ephemeral Tidbits

endless variety of links, resources, tools of note and other bits of interestingness which don’t fit elsewhere (often in process) note: some topics (writing, cannabis, vws…) may live in own category

Japan “opens up”* / A few things about #Okayama

* to tourism (not everywhere, not everyone blah blah blah)

Not my photo, source unknown, but it’s so great isn’t it?

If you are curious, Japan is reopening to independent tourism starting October 11 with visa waivers for people from approximately 68 countries/jurisdictions (previously required sponsored business, tour group or onedegree relative visa with a daily limit on total arrivals) still some requirements for proof of 3x vax /negative tests etc. and yes you gotta wear a mask #Airborne but blah blah blah

The gates are creaking open

So here are a few videos (my others) bundled together to share the wonders of my home area of Okayama / Plus usual other ramblings, ergo:

Situation Basics:

Ref: Nikkei Asia “Starting on Oct. 11, short-term visitors will no longer be required to apply for tourist visas. Before the pandemic, Japan allowed visa-free short-term travel from people from 68 countries and regions, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and the U.S. And with no need to book tours through travel agencies, it will be easier to visit.”

Oh here’s a photo which looks very *Japan* doesn’t it?

Some requirements about proof of three times vaccination and negative test still required and yes to masks (no whining).

Briefly: its “Okayama” not…

I live in Okayama – sorta between Osaka and Hiroshima, close-ish to Kyoto (but you should go to Kanazawa instead) Not close to Tokyo and not to be confused with Okinawa.

We are famous for peaches and grapes, folktales about peaches, the best jeans in the entire world, my buddy’s goat farm, a lively jazz scene, and some great museums, including the incredible “European sampler pack“ at at Ohara museum in Kurashiki (yes, also lots of Japanese art obviously), also the most sunshine of any part of Japan. 

Importantly, the “jumping off point” to go to the inland sea filled with islands of interesting art exhibits and onwards to the fourth of the “main islands” Shikoku with hidden villages, surf beaches and pilgrimages.

Here’s a starting primer (written in 2019 so you know, could use a fresh up):

Here’s everything except the stuff I forgot in 2019

Let’s Go: “Not-To-Be-Missed Okayama Travel Gems You’ve Never Heard Of”

Oh it’s me, self-proclaimed “Okayama super fan“ talking with the effervescent JJ Walsh on her show Seek Sustainable Japan having a casual fun coffee talk about all my favorite things, a great place to start:

JJ makes really fun shows all around Japan talking to interesting people doing work around sustainable agriculture, architecture, tourism and lifestyle

Demin “Jeans Street” Kojima

Among the wonderful things about Okayama prefecture is the town of Kojima with “Jeans Street” featuring dozens of smallish factory/shops making and selling artisan and/or bespoke denim jeans.

sneakers on powerlines are boring, hang jeans instead

The area was originally known for making school uniforms which still happens but overshadowed by very enthusiastic international following for jeans.

Often hand indigo dyed, various weaves & cuts, endless nuanced options, and superior craftsmanship. Not cheap but these are generational-quality clothing items.

Anyhow, this video is an interview and tour with one of the originals called Betty Smith going back to the 1960s. They specialize in ladies jeans in heritage (1970s!) styles, made by Japanese women in a fantastically interesting factory, with a museum and other supporting attractions/tours etc.

Make sure to turn the CC on for English translation.

Record shops: a enthusiast’s stroll

Onwards! this time record shops:

You know I love records, quirky shops and dig “grassroots” creative productions, as such, this fellow named Michael, who also lives in the same prefecture (I don’t know him), started up a channel to share stuff about records and shops and rice fields and here’s him coming into my erstwhile hometown of Okayama.

Unrelated to the video *but* a great example of the “Obi” paper wrapper and Japanese liner notes you’re find with records here
He seems like a nice guy, give his videos some click

He rides the cool streetcar, checks out a few local record stores – several i’ve visited, several are closed on Wednesday he made his outing – so you can see some of my under-appreciated city and where to score some legendary Japanese pressing/packaging vinyl.

Goat farm, my fave place

This is my favorite place in all of Japan, Mac Kobayashi’s goat farm, cafe, market and music lounge (plus my accidental art gallery :))

goats, not doing yoga, listening to music… Seriously, they love listening to the music

Please watch the video below for more about the goat farm and my pal Mac Kobayashi in this exhibit related video (5:34 mark) and of course my postbox haiku paintings :)

Goat farm starts at 5:34 but watch it all

Memo: The painting was “just the postbox”, then i found a matching mailbox and installed at the farm, wrote the haiku onto the postbox, and then added to the painting to complete the meta circle. oh then made postcard prints and a book and mailed postcard of the postbox to the postbox…

Also (of course there is more):

Throughout this archive, you can find videos about the best way to get from the airport (KIX/Kansai) to here, how to get around this area, a language primer plus all kinds of “field notes” about museums in Okayama and other cities (including faves like Nagasaki, Kanazawa & Toyama + Tottori & Shimane aka Japan’s hidden gems.

I probably have miscellaneous archives of trains, in fact I definitely have lots of ambient videos of riding trains around Japan, and maybe some posts about the fantastic nearby city of Kurashiki &/or the local jazz scene. If I don’t let me know cause I can address these topics. All other topics, probably not, I don’t get out much.

Give me a call, we’ll talk about Japan / video by Trevor Williams (oh, I should share his video about Bizen pottery… really though this deserves more discussion

I have nothing to share about Tokyo or Osaka and a few minor unhelpful things about Kyoto. Fortunately, the Internet is jampacked with stuff about those places which frankly, you should just skip for best experience. I mean, they’re great and everything I guess but that’s where everyone goes and don’t you wanna do something unique and interesting? Sure you do.

Your humble correspondent awaits your correspondence

For the most part, you can rely on the posts being rather sloppy, definitely quirky, rather unedited and only marginally useful.

Poetry Reading: Muriel’s Journey “Fire in the Heart” book + round-up

Gist: I read a poem at Word Vancouver online event with a splendid group of poets! Thanks to Isabella Mori and Muriel’s Journey folks for including me, and hat-tip to Kyle Hawke for editing.

me and my “set” ready to go (since the book is called “Fire from the Heart” i set up in front of woodstove with fire painting by Timothy Wilson-Hoey and some candles + my cup mug o’ joe) looking sleepy :)

Tip: buy the “Fire from the Heart: Winners of the 2022 Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize” chapbook and read these poems. Powerful medicine!

Score directly from Amazon Japan for ¥964 {Also available from other country specific Amazon of course}

“Fire from the Heart: Winners of the 2022 Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize”

Event: On Sept 17 (Sept 18 in Japan), i read at a unique & enchanting poetry event: The “Muriel‘s Journey“ poetry prize reading as part of “WORD Vancouver” (prev announced). I read my poem “Alchemists Confer with Hypnotists” (in a slightly different iteration) as awarded the “random prize” (hooray!)

here’s the whole event, stick-handled by Adam, i’m around the 28 min mark

Rehearsal: Because of a typhoon rolling into our area, I recorded a rehearsal video in my beloved barn studio “just in case” and for my own enjoyment and possibly yours.

me in kura studio doing a take about Alchemists and Hypnotists

Poem: i’ll go into it more than another time if curious, but in brief: the poem is about coming to grips with the onset chronic and complex disease and the conundrum of being in lovely/spectacular places – from Jamaica to Suez – but being plagued by pain, anxiety, ghosts and confusion and misunderstanding of friends who didn’t understand… and just wanting someone to help me sleep after being so frustrated after seeing seemingly every kind of doctor possible (and having to make a big long list of everything for various paperwork) so I laughed to myself, “the only type of doctor I hadn’t seen was alchemists and hypnotists.”

Book: Fire from the Heart: Winners of the 2022 Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize (amzn)” featuring: Janet Kvammen, Brad Akeroyd, Jacquie Pearce, Kamila Rina, Dave Olson, Natasha Sanders-Kay.

Buy via Azn for only $8 CAD or better, ask you local bookstore (Iron Dog Books for example) to order from Ingram. If you have a fave bookstore who can hook this up, please drop a comment.

Fire from the Heart with some wonderful poets, and me in a hat transiting the Suez Canal

Special for you: if you order a book from Muriel’s Journey, let me know and i’ll send you a postcard to say “thanks” and you can use as a bookplate or bookmark (or put on fridge). For expedited service, please use my Postal Club form and mention “Muriel’s Journey” in the notes.

Continue reading Poetry Reading: Muriel’s Journey “Fire in the Heart” book + round-up

Exhibit: Shimizu Hian Shodo Calligraphy in Ukan, Okayama, 2021

In April 2021, we visited a shodo calligraphy exhibition at a saké distillery with special floral arrangements made by Ryoko’s frequent collaborator in arboristing & other natural arts, Oka-san (true salt of the earth tough guy with a deep gravel voice, leathered by perpetual smoking with a heart of gold and an artistic sense of nuance and splendour), who showed us around – along with his wonderful young daughter Momoka.

In a previous dispatch, shared some pleasureable scenes of everyday life at the distillery, the deserted street outside, and a tucked-away-in-mountain coffee shop.

This dossier is a round-up of shodo art pieces on display by Shimizu Hian for my (and possibly your) memory, inspiration and edification.

A few notes about the artist: {actually not finding much of anything in English aside from archival auction sites and living years of 1883-1975, i'll work on this} Here's another one of his works listed at Japanese Modernism and another out-of-date auction listing. 

I enjoyed his “less formal and more whimsical than usually seen” style and mixing of words and images seamlessly. Form is meaning and meaning has form.

Also variety of techniques moving beyond the “usual” few bold kanji on white.

The exhibit was on display at his historic sake distillery where we purchased a couple of bottles to go – as is the custom – after enjoying tea with the family.

Takeaway: here is a collection of most of the pieces, in a handy collage to keep close to your heart.

If you know more about this artist, please drop a comment and thanks to exceptional shodo master Yoshiko Yoshida for assistance getting this far. And take a moment to explore the area with us.

Poetry: Reading “Alchemists Confer with Hypnotists” for Muriel’s at Word Vancouver (but from Japan)

I’m reading at this unique & enchanting poetry event. Online & in person in Vancouver as part of 2022 Muriel’s Journey Poetry prize at Word Vancouver..

  • Canada/USA: Sept 17, Saturday, 4-5PM Pacific (7-9PM Eastern)
  • Japan: Sept 18, Sunday, 8-9AM

Tickets are free but you gotta register >> Free tix here: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/word-vancouver-2022-festival-tickets-395743488427

Swan’s matches not provided as the reading is remote through ‘warm media’

I’m reading “Alchemists Confer with Hypnotists” / A poem which came out of my long healing ramble.

Update: you can also purchase a book “Fire from the Heart: Winners of the 2022 Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize” (from Azm below or better from your fave bookstores to order from Ingram) featuring the poems of the various award winners, including me.

PS when you buy your copy, let me know and I’ll send you a postcard to say thanks & you can use as a book plate/bookmark.

Please join me and other compelling poets for free hugs & magic. My heart would be so bright knowing you were at the other end of the screen.

Field Notes: Kyoto’s Gingaku-ji (6 instax-views)

Japan is a land of photographers and places to be photographed. Truly, there’s an endless variety of both the photographers (and of course their equipments) and the places to be photographed.

Among them are the sites of The noted “old capital” Kyoto, usually overrun, quite literally, with photograph-snapping holiday-makers going from Shinto shrine to Zen Buddhist temple to Imperial Palace to endless Torii gates to the Gion district seeking kimono wearing ladies and contemplating water business restaurants gingerly tilted on stilts over river since forever.

This is all to say that you will see much finer photos of the Ginkaku-ji aka “silver pavilion” which, isn’t really very silver unlike it’s cousin the “golden pavilion” which is very gold.

No matter, the buildings are inspiring, the grounds filled with nuanced detail and various stations to write prayers on wooden tiles, have monks inscribe books (or in my case a Cascadian passport) sit for a while on a bench, spot the leaves grass and possibly fish.

And yes, I took some photos both with a Fuji Instamax pictured below as well as a few others with a pocket robot which really should be retired (not really, i’ll use it until it totally stops).

I added the results (commingled with other ephemera, tickets, brochures, cards, scribbles etc.) into a scrapbook – and in my usual recursive documentation, filmed the making of the analog scrapbook, with the luscious sounds of cutting paper and the silence of glue along with punk rock records in the kura barn studio.

But for now, here are six views of Ginkaku-ji. Poorly lit, off-center and perfect. ^^

Resource: Coded Communications, Phonetic Alphabets, etc. / clearinghouse

No doubt in some program or another you’ve heard military personnel/ spies/ special operations operatives communicate using “phonetic alphabets” meaning saying a word beginning with the intended letter so the letter is not misheard –especially with significant background noise or dodgy communication channels with static and what not.

I got curious and it turns out indeed, there are loads of different variations used regionally, in different militaries / organization or different purposes/ services.

What follows is mostly screen captures and random images harvested off the Internet (wikipedia etc for research/ resource/ education/amusement purposes only.

In other words, I didn’t create any of these images, and I wasn’t diligent enough to keep track of where they came from, but I keep on wondering about these things so I’m stashing them here so I can find one I’m curious. Maybe you are also curious.

So consider this a clearinghouse of mostly outdated, irrelevant or redundant information which you could easily obtain elsewhere.

Continue reading Resource: Coded Communications, Phonetic Alphabets, etc. / clearinghouse

Field Notes: Mayne Island (B.C.) Japanese Memorial Garden, 2008

torii gate separates the super & natural

Map: Japanese Memorial Gardens (on Mayne Island)

Note: further reading and resources at bottom

On a snowy day in Dec. 2008, i (along with the dear traveling companion) visited a Japanese Garden on Mayne Island, one of the Gulf Islands between the mainland and Vancouver Island in the Salish sea.

The garden is absolutely charming, a remix of traditional style and Pacific northwest flair with blown glass “balls/baubles/lanterns” intertwined with the trees and Torii gate, and we had the place to ourselves on a short and stormy day.

The garden was made by locals in tribute to their dear Japanese neighbours who were hauled away to internment camps and never returned.

As it goes, this island was settled with Japanese largely from Tottori-ken, the province across Honshu from my home in Okayama over on the Sea of Japan side where i toiled as a mushroom farmer in early 1990s.

I should know more about this topic but as I understand it: once Japan “opened up” to the west during the Meiji restoration, many farmers & fishers who now somewhat freed from the feudal system migrated to the North American West Coast, in this instance, the Salish Sea area, and set up homesteads on Islands on in which are both/either in BC or Washington state {which may have felt geographically familiar to the “Seto naikai/ inland sea” islands}, as well as mainland BC/Washington (and on down to Oregon and California), started businesses and worked as farmers and fishers before the tragedy of internment camps, (which occurred in both USA and Canada).

For a while, I worked in an office in what was once Japantown (now colloquially called Railtown) and often walked by the former Japanese community school where I understand they still conduct Japanese lessons. {Note to self: dig up the pictures of the Japantown exhibit from the museum of Vancouver which are stashed in some hard drive somewhere.} There is also remnants of the Japanese entrepreneurship and diaspora in the fishing port area of Richmond called Steveston.

There’s also a Japanese summer Matsuri festival held in the area oh, I should also mention the legendary Asahis baseball team… so much to say but onwards with the garden right.

The garden is centred round a pond and lanterns, stones and artfully arranged trees placed intentionally.

…and with it being the festive winter season, the trees were festooned with various glass globes, balls, and bulbs adding a touch of whimsy to an otherwise rather-solemn (in this weather and with the backstory) atmosphere.

Continue reading Field Notes: Mayne Island (B.C.) Japanese Memorial Garden, 2008

Museum / Exhibit: Rodin Wing of Shizuoka Pref MoA / Japan, 2017

Along a travel by ship from California to Hong Kong, came a few stops in Japan including Shizuoka which led to a visit to the “Rodin Wing” of Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art 静岡県立美術館 in Oct 2017.

Was exceptionally calm, peaceful and relaxed feeling, examining the cast bronze and wood statues (mostly) with no one else in the room.

Of course, I felt compelled to go for round with the daunting Dante’s “gates of hell” representation and mugging with the various god-like figures with flowing beards

i mean, who is who anyhow?
Continue reading Museum / Exhibit: Rodin Wing of Shizuoka Pref MoA / Japan, 2017

Museum: Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design, 2019 (a sampler)

welcome to Toyama, i really enjoy showing up to a place i know *nothing* about, like a white sheet of paper, filled with possibilities

Blurb: On our extended skinkonryoko/honeymoon ramble, we had a stop in the city of Toyama (capital of eponymous prefecture) which i really didn’t know anything about but turned out to be very pleasant. Besides being a conveniently-located “midsize city” with good transportation of the sort I really like, there was a castle and lots of public art and pleasant accommodations and of course kissaten coffee shops for making scrapbooks.

its all empty and full

While there was a choice of many museums to see, we headed out to the Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design by bus and wow, what a mighty experience. Almost too much for this guy, anyhow… let’s take a lil ramble:

Ryoko hangs with Pablo and Henri, we had the pace mostly to ourselves (wow!)

Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design (map): https://goo.gl/maps/5sMsynNJzaD2GpTB8

TAD (web): https://tad-toyama.jp/en/

Ride along: Rolling Elsewhere: Kanazawa to Toyama, Japan (ambient, excerpts)

Ryoko hangs with Pablo

Truthfully, I am partial to small/quirky/cozy museums and this was quite different… an expansive modern building with many many halls of exhibits (but only some were photo friendly) including (as i recall):

  • Impressional/post impressionist/modern art (Picasso, Chagall, Toulouse-Latrec, Klee, Munch et al)
  • Installation of an urban lonely-ish bar street corner complete with sound
  • An exhibit/installation involving various nets and recycled materials
  • Various giant friendly bears
  • A capsule hotel segment
  • Art made from packing/duct tape by (as I understand it a fellow who works as a custodian on site)
  • Another hall of modernist art (Pollock, Dali, Miro…)
  • A few other installation rooms (a rather disorienting as was the purpose)
  • An incredible collection by an art benefactor of her magazines, prints, brochures, books and what not
  • A collection of 20th century chairs and posters (not about chairs), like high design chairs you *must not* sit upon these chairs (they are not comfortable and on display) – showing the great print / industrial design sense of modern Japan
  • And (my favourite) a collection of items given to a Japanese poet, art critic, artist Shuzo Takiguchi by his other artist friends (like a load of big timers and worldwide interesting cats), all “bric a brać” and seemingly simple one-off creations and sorta – at-first-glance – rather “nonsensical except for the source” items (seemed like was going into my head/archive, exhibit was called “Shop of Objects” or “Notes about things”
  • Another permanent collection from a benefactor couple called Goldberg
  • Also a ‘hands-on” Atelier area, a library, and long halls of upcoming and legacy items (including interactive panels)

Exit through the gift shop and the Swallow Café:

As usual, purchased a museum/exhibit guide at the gift shop as well as other postcards and artefacts but really it was quite overwhelming and required some fresh air and a café visit at the end.

buy the book, and the postcards, and the coffee / TAD. not *just* a band

I mean besides mentioned already, in the collection were Henry Moore, Jasper Johns, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn x4, Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp… goes on and on… plus loads of contemporary-ish Japanese artists i wasn’t familiar with so was great to see *not the usual classic Japanese art* styles.

Especially interesting a Japanese-French painter called Tsuguhara Foujita (aka Léonard Foujita) with “Two Nudes” from 1929 made me curious about how he came to be there and who he collaborated with.

Though I have the exhibit guidebook, I am not going to annotate all these photos, just let them flow, gently assembled. [Update: went out to the archive and pulled out the “Selected Works from the Collection”book, so heaven help me, gonna add notes where i can… oh geez, even looked up the exhibits from 2019], on we go:

(probably Bushiro Mori but not sure, can ya give me a hand?)

Aside note: the guide book shows the staff uniforms for Spring 2019 were designed by Issey Miyake (who at this writing in Summer 2022, has recently passed away with a legacy of importancy and acclaim).

Post-Impressionalist Hall (not official name)

Pablo Picasso, Femme dans un fauteuil, 1923
Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Portrait of Manzi Panneau, 1901
Marc Chagall, L’homme la chévre, 1924-25
Joan Miro, Testa di fumatóre, 1925
oh my, another i can’t reference… i’ll try harder

Another hall of modern-ists (not official title)

Salvador Dali, Allegory of an American Christmas, 1943
Jackson Pollock, Untitled, 1946
Continue reading Museum: Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design, 2019 (a sampler)

The Taisho Era: When modernity ruled Japan’s masses via The Japan Times

Note: Fascinated with era of Japan (forgotten in between the epic Meiji Restoration and industrialization and the militaristic/imperial period leading up to the Asian/Pacific etc. war / working on finding more books and films exploring this “forgotten” time (started with Naomi by Tanazaki)

The Taisho Era: When modernity ruled Japan’s masses via The Japan Times, July 29, 2012, by Michael Hoffman

One hundred years ago this week — on July 30, 1912 — Emperor Meiji passed away and Japan, traveling blind and hardly knowing where it was going, entered a new age.

The Taisho Era (1912-26), sandwiched between the boldly modernizing Meiji Era (1867-1912) and the militarist tide of early Showa (1926-1989), deserves more recognition than it gets.

Taisho is Japan’s Jazz Age. Can it be summed up in a phrase? It often is: ero-guro-nansensu — eroticism, grotesquerie, nonsense.

All three filled the air. Was Taisho, then, mere frivolity? To cite only the plainest evidence to the contrary: World War I; the 1918 Rice Riots; “Taisho Democracy;” the founding in 1922 of the Japan Communist Party; the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923; the granting of universal manhood suffrage in 1925; and the repressive Peace Preservation Law passed barely two months later.

Source: The Taisho Era: When modernity ruled Japan’s masses | The Japan Times (may be paywalled)