Riff: Japan, working holiday visa, 1992 (& related circumstances)

the “working holiday visa which started my Japan life in Dec. 1992

Before arriving in Japan, I really knew very little about Japan, I didn’t have an interest in Japan, didn’t care about anime or manga or hadn’t eaten sushi, and had no interest in martial arts, though did have some interest and experience with traditional pottery (raku) techniques, familiarity with Japanese poetry albeit as introduced by *Western* writers, however my older brother had gone to Japan for “proselytizing reasons” and him being in Japan – in a roundabout way – is what brought me to Japan (via the working holiday visa paper of importancy pictured above).

In brief: after a several years of traveling around US & Canada for Grateful Dead concerts, hemp festivals, national park exploits, mountain climbing, canyon hiking, couch crashing, Punk shows, fake IDs, drum corps, university invasions, odd jobs, foolish hitchhikes and “doing my best” with the ladies… And then extending that vibe into Mexico for fish tacos and tequila mistakes and taking my VW bus in even more places it probably shouldn’t have ever gone but did, came an accepted application to Evergreen college which was thwarting by ignominiously *not* winning of any scholarships, not awarded of any bursaries, not accepted into any grants, not allowed any loans so (kind of a shock since i was really accustomed to winning everythings, (you wanna see all my elementary school ribbons, maybe you have?).

So, took the money saved from a summer of building bicycles at Sunrise in Logan, Utah while living in a tent next to the temple & went to Seattle anyway but instead of going south to Olympia to finish off a bachelors degree (with wide eyes of getting a master of fine arts in creative writing and likely a tweed jacket with elbow patches soon there after to go with my smoky pipe and intellectual airs), went North to my “for lack of a better term” hometown of Surrey/Vancouver, bought a one-way ticket to Amsterdam, found some ridiculously-colored hiking boots, obnoxiously-colored trousers and barely usable but very packable sleeping bag & mat on the clear-out table (obviously because of the color) at one of the dozen outdoor good stores in Kitsilano, and with a butane stove (loaded), pocket knife (dull-ish), cut off overalls, a travel sized wok pan, juggling sticks and a jester hat, headed off on a European adventure – not the sort of package tour with giggling youth on a graduation trip, nor the earnest guidebook-toting aficionado, just me, a patched up red wilderness experience backpack and the 1972 “hitchhikers guide to Europe” with vague plans to eventually meet up with my buddy Trevor who had gone a few months earlier (keep reading) and working as a waiter at a seaside something in England and seeing all these bands we loved at big muddy festivals.

At the risk of an extended digression, (& unsurprisingly, documentation of this trip exists in poems, paintings, two photographs, a wine label and at least one but probably more podcasts telling stories about getting deathly ill at Oktoberfest in Munich after hitchhiking from Amsterdam, meeting up with the Bad Yodelers band and being (yet again) a sort of uninvited guest on their band tour being a “roadie who didn’t do anything but smoke hash mixed with tobacco – yech”, then meeting up with Trevor in an idyllic fairytale town, picking grapes, gathering chestnuts for sale, partying in old castle dungeons, carousing with more people than should fit in a Citreön, a wild “new wine” festival [censored], hitchhike back to Amsterdam hostels & coffeshops, a bus to Belgium, a hazy ferry to England, rainy expensive London with Hare Krishnas and bad decisions and couch surfing (again) with New Zealanders (and an Australian who was convinced he was going to carry on a dozen beer steins for his flight home) after watching red dwarf… We ended up in Miami after hurricane Andrew on a cheap Virgin Atlantic flight – where we drank more than our airfare of fancy liquor & bought a bottle of scotch for a friend Who (yes, again) would be hosting us on his couch – on a fraudulent credit card. Then came all night Denny’s nursing coffees, Halloween hilarity, caught in thunderstorms, meeting sketchy friends of a sort, trying to exchange a Canadian hundred dollar bill which had been hidden in my boot for months, soggy and unvaluable, adventure down to Key West meeting neither Jimmy Buffett or Hemingway but eating some conch fritters, then a drive-away car delivery towards Dallas with at least three police incidents including a very thorough search on alligator alley none of which were nowhere near as frightening as dropping off the car to the very large, very agitated (and wearing very short shorts) recipient who was ummm concerned & confused about why the trunk wasn’t filled with a certain white powder and “who are we?” and why we were demanding he gave us $300… Somehow we ended up at the Greyhound station, scammed a scammer into a two-for-one ticket for a bus ride to Salt Lake City, i’ll never ride a greyhound again I said as I sat in the loser seat next to the toilet but still I remember every bus station was playing a different Neil Diamond song.)

Continue reading Riff: Japan, working holiday visa, 1992 (& related circumstances)

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.

Equinox at Ohaka, saying respectful hellos to the ancestors

The both of them are so adorable, me, I’m just glad to be here

Friday, Sept 23: Equinox day walk up to the ancestral graves for cleaning, incense and fresh flowers… as is tradition. We tended to several generations in Tsuchida, Okayama.

Note we are wearing our “family tie-dye tartan” made by brother Dan (wiped me out so back home to rest fckn #mecfs :()

Continue reading Equinox at Ohaka, saying respectful hellos to the ancestors

Signs in the Wild, vol. 3: Danger + other stringent rules, ardent warnings & unsolicited advice

this railway doesn’t *look very active* but hey, the sign says so

Oftentimes, I come across signs which are interesting, amusing or occasionally useful, or maybe just aesthetically curious or intriguing. Not funny *per se* but mildly amusing, accidentally inspiring, or possibly crafty. 

Here are some, i have others, suppose this means *yet another series*. Here we go:

out fall can be interperated various ways, none pleasing

I don’t remember where any of were seen/photographed, well maybe I do for some… but then i’d face a problem of incompleteness and inconsistency, so… what follows is an un-annotated, non-geo-located, and un-credited assortment and purely for archival amusement purposes.

seems simple enough, right?

Your enjoyment is important to me. Remix as desired.

Continue reading Signs in the Wild, vol. 3: Danger + other stringent rules, ardent warnings & unsolicited advice

Items: Hemp Shop for Custom Clothes in Pokhara, Nepal (2017)

While in Pokhara, Nepal in 2017 for extended Ayurveda treatment, i generally, wasn’t able to go out and explore aside from a haircut/beard trim (all the oils from the treatment or a little unwieldy so I switched to a great mustache) and another time to get this magnificent custom-made, hundred percent hemp outfit made at Sabitri Hemp Shop (map).

I sort of explained all the advocacy work I’ve done for commercial applications of hemp cannabis over the years with Hempenroad film, dozens of articles especially about hemp in Japan, the “Practical Guide to Cannabis” for policymakers”, but really, *this wasn’t my gig* rather i was there to enjoy and support.

here is the storefront with a few premade wares on display and double sewing machines in front making new things

The owner was a jovial friendly sort and i had a good time explaining what i wanted and being measured.

Specifically, ordered a short sleeve collared shirt with a trim fit made to wear untucked, and a pair of trousers with the waistband finished like I like it and back pockets with buttons and all the little details.

seen here with handmade flat cap by Mavili (from Georgia – the country, not state – purchased at Lonsdale Quay and traveled all over with)
Continue reading Items: Hemp Shop for Custom Clothes in Pokhara, Nepal (2017)

Post’d: “vintage” postcard home from CJ81 scout camp

Vintage DaveO postcard from “Canadian Jamboree 1981” CJ 81 in Kananaskis Country, the summer i turned 11 yrs old (i was probably the youngest on site and needed special permission but ya know i was a keener as they say).


Bikes, canoes, beavers, creative handwriting… In other words, i haven’t changed much since :)

PS Funny thing is, I was back home from camp for a week before it actually showed up… Kind of defeats the purpose but great artifact

Postboxes + Post Office: Sri Lanka x 3 (for #postboxsaturday)

“Well it’s already well into #postboxsaturday in Japan, and Sri Lanka as well, so here’s a trio of snaps & boxes from around Galle & Karapitiya iirc”

Memo: As it goes, i have hundreds of snapshots of postboxes, post offices, and “postal still life” (meaning scenes of scattered pens, papers, postcards, stationery, stamps – all spread over a table while in a session) and i use these for Postcards from Gravelly Beach podcast “episode art” and made a book from many of the artifacts.

Of late, some Instagram/Twitter folks have a #postboxsaturday campaign/project rolling so i’ve used this as encouragement to start trickling out my stash. Slowly and intermittently (because i have too many projects on the go!) with minor annotations.

Artifacts: Nepal Relief Efforts round-up, Vancouver, 2015

In 2015, Nepal suffered a series of cataclysmic earthquakes, devastating villages… {I suppose it’s worth noting that this was also in the week of some other conundrums and tragedies involving the royal family and cataclysmic change in government and society in general}.

Anyhow, living in Vancouver at a time, and feeling lousy about my then-new-found health situation, I tried to participate in various relief efforts and *at least* document and amplify as best i could.

riffs and musings about Nepal

Since my childhood fascination with the Himalaya mountains and the thought of drinking yak milk tea high altitude, villages, Nepal held a place in my heart. {I also have a dear friend from the country who’s helped me out in multiple times of disarray}.

As it goes, a few years later, I finally made my first visit to the country for an extended Ayurveda treatment and was unbelievably charmed and fascinated by the intrepid and kind nature of the Nepali people.

As such, this post is simply to remind myself, others and history about the grassroots efforts that went on at the time to bring relief.

Postcards: Specifically, I did my own campaign of “Postcards for Nepal” in which anyone who demonstrated some activity to support Nepal relief efforts, would receive one of my handmade postcards. Not a big deal i realize but you do with what you have.

Postcards from Nepal relief

evidence of postcards for Nepal

Campaign posters: And, as is my habit, I documented handbills and flyers for other relief efforts and campaigns and did my best to donate and promote Nepal relief efforts and admired the grassroots and creativity of many of the initiatives. I see you.

another really interesting grassroots initiative to send medical equipment. As I recall, there was also some early instances of 3-D printing put to use during this time

Food: I also worked with then-nearby Gurkha Nepal restaurant who were hosting weekly lunches and dinners at which proceeds went to the relief efforts.

checking in from Gurkha restuarant

Some really nice guys working there (as I understand, they subsequently sold and moved on). Also noting that i chronically misspelled the name of the restaurant.

Continue reading Artifacts: Nepal Relief Efforts round-up, Vancouver, 2015

Artifacts: Patagonia Quarterly With “Do Boys” & Mountain Travel

Tidying up my archive and found issue 1, March 1985 of “Patagonia, A Quarterly Review” with the “Do* Boys Do the Yellowstone” on cover. Pleasing articles within too including YC’s “State of #Patagonia , Nov 94”.

Never saw another issue of this and remember (in the early days of the Internet) asking Patagonia HQ about this and they had no idea (they replied with a pleasant letter which I still might find)… so, this was just sitting in a box since the 1980s sometime, waiting for today.

“There’s two kinds of growth: growth that makes you fat, and growth that makes you strong.”

Yvon Choinard

I learned a lot about grassroots marketing and community building from following the company in the late 1980s.

Specifically: They community-sourced photos for catalogs, had a toll-free number “just for advice”, provided sponsored gear for *regular interesting people* rather than professionals. All tactics I later used in business endeavors.

Related: Mountain Travel catalog which fascinated me as I pondered which trips/tours/adventures to join… (and thinking about how I could be one of the person that was a guide like did this for a job) // I never did *exactly* this & deserves more of a riff but for now, here is the front and back of a wonderful dream book.

Evidence: mix tape + items & projects (in the Kura studio)

After a pleasant coffee conversation with a pal in ATX, i headed to the kura barn studio to practice a poem reading for Muriel’s Journey at Word Vancouver (which i recorded) and took a few snaps of some things that my pal (and prob you, since you are also a pal right?) might enjoy, while also making mixed cassettes (from a USB drive) and packing burned CDs (in recycled envelopes).

As it goes, looks a little computery in here but i keep it all pretty analog and purposely keep it “internet-free” zone. Shuttle creations back and forth to “basecamp” with various sneaker-net schemes.

Update:

Making mixed cassettes and burning CDs with a “DaveO variety show” of audio collages, postcard soundscapes, spoken songs, stories, and songs down in collaboration with fine musician pals. 

Typing up the tracklist/liner notes, sprucing up with inky stamps, making mailers from card stock & washi tape.

Four into the postal wormhole yesterday, couple more ready today.

Who still has a cassette deck and/or “regular” CD player?

Note: Recently dug out a “ruggedized” Olympus camera from wife’s stash, found a cord and a memory chip and put it back into service >> Lots of onboard effects and variations in settings and importantly allows me to go out and document life without my fully functional pocket robot of distractions.

mixed-media art library, global diary, project dossier and whole life documentation