Tag Archives: culture

Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan,” “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Japan Ramble Primer

Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines. 

Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.

Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.

Continue reading Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography

Primer: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan

A rather rough overview originally compiled in advance of friends coming to Okayama for wedding. Re-purposed in slightly more general terms for logistical convenience as needed.

See also: “Primer: Travelling Japan / places to go, getting around, accomms, culture, etiquette and geography“, “Japanese Culture and Language Primer” and other resources in this archive including video guides. 

Getting to Okayama, Japan

Airport

Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station.

The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home.

Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.

Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here.  Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic).  There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too.

Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.

Consider tracking flight options/prices with Skyscanner with a price alert or same with Google Flights and try Hopper (app) to see when best time to “pull the trigger” on purchasing flight. Flying from Vancouver? Check out YVRdeals.

Continue reading Primer: Travelling to and Around Okayama, Japan

Riff: Fuzzy difference between craft and art

symmetry is overrated

Can often be a fuzzy difference between craft and art / technique vs idea – I feel that art requires intent, honesty, integrity and emotion, plus the element of considered craft to execute vision.

Sure tis one thing to play an instrument, write words, apply paints to substrate…, it’s a whole other thing to open up your heart and guts to expose to the world.

Dangerous, beautifully so – even when not beautiful – although often not noticed immediately.

Consider doing so daily. If you want your creations to live a legacy of centuries rather than moments.

PS

Indeed, pressure from others implies our creative work is worthy only when validated by a “gatekeepers” (publisher, label, printer, award etc) – this a false assumption and the opposite is exampled by heroes like Vincent van Gogh, Henry David Thoreau, and dozens more who “self-published/distributed” and made what was inside them because that was their yearning desire.

Ignore the Gatekeepers, Don’t get Precious, Publish it all and let the future sort it out.

 

 

Japanese Culture and Language Primer

A few notes and tips and phrases compiled for guests coming to wedding but likely useful for most anyone coming to Japan. 

Culture-ness

Remember you must always have your passport with you (stupid but hey… rules is).

Shoes are never worn in homes, change into slippers (which will never ever fit), then different slippers for toilet, don’t forget to change back (you will forget), socks only in tatami (straw mat) rooms.

Big stores / malls often offer tax-refund. Gotta take receipt, passport and credit card (if used) to special kiosk. They will stick receipt and stamp in passport, weird but hey, ya get money back.

Don’t walk and smoke. Hang in front of konbini store, pachinko, find smoking cage, or smoking section of resto or park. 

Can drink alcohol on streets and parks however… no sloppiness, penalties/jail harsh.

Language Primer

Handy Phrases:

  • Konnichiwa = Hello
  • Chotto matte = Just a moment/please wait
  • Hai = yes
  • Iie or Chigaimasu = no / different or wrong
  • Douzo = go ahead, please (this is super handy!)
  • Sugoi! = Great! Amazing! i.e.: How is Japan? Sugoi!
  • Suimasen = excuse me (used allll the time as is Go-men which is like “sorry”)
  • Kudasai = please i.e. “Kohi o kudasai” = “coffee please” 
  • Domo, Domo Arigato, Domo arigato gozaimasu = thanks, thanks a lot, thank you very very much
  • Jaa ne / Matta ne = See you / again
  • Toire (toilet) doko desuka? = where is the toilet (there are more trad words for toilet “benjo” and “o teirei” but the Japanese-i-fied english word is easiest
  • Konbini = convenience store (7-11, Lawson, Family Mart are plentiful & amazing)

Continue reading Japanese Culture and Language Primer

Tea Ceremony in Sketches

A loose translation of the poem on the scroll in the alcove

My darling Ryoko studies Japanese tea ceremony with a group of others from Okayama and Kurashiki. Recently i was invited along to a special tea-drinking session at her sensei Ms. Matsuke’s house (she’s moving house so wanted to do one last one shindig at her home). 

We gather around, have some snacks and chat while setting up and then convene in a room to go through the process. As a new-un to the routine, i sketched a variety of quick scribbles to remind myself the process and find the moment of stillness (not always easy for this eager fella). Brief notes accompany the sketches. 

The general set up of the tea room with the alcove, scroll of poetry, brazier, tatami mats on floors – otherwise intentionally sparse.

Continue reading Tea Ceremony in Sketches

Europa (unfinished) / sketches and remixes – vol. 3

Fields out of train window – somewhere in France, 2005, watercolour pencil on paper, 11″x17″

In 2005, i wandered Europa (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal) by train, car and tram. Along the way, i wrote an extensive cycle of poetry, and completed a solid dozen or so paintings (acrylic, watercolour and charcoal) – some of which you may have seen along the way.

I also started a load of other pieces which haven’t had a day in the easel yet — mostly because i like to let art ferment but also because i can never decide which medium to use to “finish” these. Acrylics were more exciting in the white hot moment of creating en plein, watercolour teases my rather clumsy and aggressive touch and i am tempted to use simple black ink and make something colour-able by kids and adults. Not sure how to go about this as its not a technique i am polished at (yet) but these do need a life beyond a shoebox.

Maybe you kind folks and artists can offer a word of advice or idea?

Regardless, they are nowhere near and as such, lonely and sad. So, here are rough drafts in ragged spontaneity and various forms and mediums.

This is Vol. 3 of a few (last one i think), pardon repeats and redundancies.

Fishing boats on beach – Salema, Portugal, 2005, pencil on canvas sheet 11″x17″

bonus: another version of Fishing Boats near cliffs in Salema, Portugal. copied and coloured

Continue reading Europa (unfinished) / sketches and remixes – vol. 3

Europa (unfinished) / pencil on canvas or paper (vol. 2)

Beer and mussels in a cellar bar with wooden beams - Brussellex, Belgique, 2005, pencil on paper 11"x17"
Beer and mussels in a cellar bar with wooden beams – Brussellex, Belgique, 2005, pencil on paper 11″x17″

On a 2005 ramble through a few western European countries (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal), i carried a satchel of art supplies and painted / sketched along the way. Mostly on 11″x17″ canvas sheet and watercolour paper.

In most cases, i “finished” the pieces in one sitting using acrylics or sometimes watercolour pencils or pastels (these are catalogued, sold/gifted and posted elsewhere).

Little lane to a door (24) to elsewhere, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005 - pencil on paper 11"x17"
Little lane to a door (24) to elsewhere, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005 – pencil on paper 11″x17″

Anyhow, i have a several which never quite got finished and now sit in a folio in a storage locker elsewhere. I snapped photos and have considered how to finish – even soliciting advice which ranged from “they are finished” to “consider gouache” or “make a colouring book” which i did for my nieces and nephews.

Regardless, they are nowhere near and as such, lonely and sad. So, here are rough drafts in ragged spontaneity and various forms and mediums.

This is Vol. 2 of a few (maybe), pardon repeats and redundancies.

Café with wine and beer on tap, espresso, croissants and the like, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2005 - pencil on paper, 11"x17"
Café with wine and beer on tap, espresso, croissants and the like, Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 2005 – pencil on paper, 11″x17″

Europa (unfinished) / pencil on canvas or paper (vol. 1)

Eiffel Tower from Arc du Triumph, Paris, 2005 - pencil on paper 11"x17"
Eiffel Tower from Arc du Triumph, Paris, 2005 – pencil on paper 11″x17″

On a 2005 ramble through a few western European countries (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal), i carried a satchel of art supplies and painted / sketched along the way. Mostly on 11″x17″ canvas sheet and watercolour paper.

In most cases, i “finished” the pieces in one sitting using acrylics or sometimes watercolour pencils or pastels (these are catalogued, sold/gifted and posted elsewhere).

Bridge and canal (with cheese shop and bicycles), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005 - pencil on paper 11" x 17"
Bridge and canal (with cheese shop and bicycles), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005 – pencil on paper 11″ x 17″

Anyhow, i have a several which never quite got finished and now sit in a folio in a storage locker elsewhere. I snapped photos and have considered how to finish – even soliciting advice which ranged from “they are finished” to “consider gouache” or “make a colouring book” which i did for my nieces and nephews.

Regardless, they are nowhere near and as such, lonely and sad. So, here are rough drafts in ragged spontaneity and various forms and mediums.

This is Vol. 1 of a few (maybe), pardon repeats and redundancies.

Cyclist runs red light, Police whistle to no avail (while i wait for a bus) - Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005, pencil on paper 11"x17"
Cyclist runs red light, Police whistle to no avail (while i wait for a bus) – Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005 – pencil on paper 11″x17″

“The Internet Age Began on August 9, 1995” / via Litkicks (with comment)

Dave quoted in Guam’s Pacific Daily News about Jerry Garcia’s death, Aug, 10, 1995 (Guam time)
{excerpts – go read the whole article, its great}

Two separate things happened on August 9, 1995, both by chance emerging from Northern California though they had little else in common. The first was a scheduled event: the initial public offering (IPO) by Netscape, a startup tech firm designed to make software to power the Internet.

I remember walking through the hallway at work that morning, probably heading for a coffee refill, when I saw a clump of co-workers and magazine editors talking anxiously. I thought they were talking about the Netscape IPO, but they weren’t. “Jerry Garcia died,” one of the editors said to me. “We need to replace the front page and get a new headline up, stat.”

Jerry Garcia. This one hit home.

Nobody said “going viral” yet by the summer of 1995, but that’s exactly what Jerry Garcia’s death did, and it was pretty much the biggest anything had gone viral anywhere up to this point.

Jerry Garcia’s death was the first major spontaneous news event to break big on the Internet, and the first of many to follow. There is one simple reason why it took a Grateful Dead member’s death to inspire the world’s first flash mob: the Internet’s early-adopter user base was heavy with educators and scientists and technologists, and educators and scientists and technologists tend to love the Grateful Dead. There was also a remarkable preponderance of Deadheads at magazines like WIRED as well as among the Internet’s most well-known early voices, like lyricist John Perry Barlow, who had recently emerged as the co-founder of the freedom-minded Electronic Frontier Foundation.

It’s because the World Wide Web and the Grateful Dead loved each other so well that August 9, 1995 turned out to be the first day I ever used the Internet to find out where I would be going that evening.

“wake now discover that you are the eyes of the world”

Comment:

This day was pivotal for me and the day *everything* changed for me. I was a Deadhead and living on th e island of Guam after leaving Japan for a visa run and, after finding i was somehow very employable, i stayed on. Then, 1995 came and instead of joining my pals from BC, Canada and Utah and all points in between, i figured i’d work one for season as a Japanese speaking host at a private beach club – which sounds like a dream job but i could feel my brain atrophying and i’d imagine myself 20 years later as a character from a Jimmy Buffet song…And then in the weird time shifted hours of a 17 hour difference, i got the call that Jerry died. I was crushed and flummoxed and didnt go to work and instead starting making calls to find out “what happened? when’s the tribute? what the fck?” etc.

I couldnt learn a thing and the newspapers operating on a day or two delay was no help – of course this hippie didnt have a TV and then again, watching some make-upped clown on CNN tell me the generic anecdotes was not what i needed. So i went down to a park where i thought i might find some other Heads and sure enough, i found tribe of wide-eyed wonderers in the same state of mind.

I passed around a few little pinner joints – not worthy of the big man but did what i could – and commiserated with the assembled mix of oddballs who end on the island avoiding <something>. And then 2 haoles walked up and started asking questions. By that time, despite my heritage felt mostly local and raised eyebrow with the others at the intrusion and instead starting asking them questions: how? where? wtf? and they had all the answers. Mouth agape, i asked how they knew all this and they replied, “We work at the newspaper (Pacific Daily News for the record) and we have the internet.” “Ummm… The internet?” my reply. “Yeah its send words and pictures of any kind over phone lines and onto a computer,” they explained and i thought “whoa computers can do that?”

The next day, their write up was in the paper including a few of my quotes talking about how (paraphrasing) i’ve travelled all around the world and always found community with Deadheads to celebrate the music and counter-culture lifestyle.”

I realized there was no way i could physically get from Guam to San Fran in time for any memorial and instead tried to call friends who i’d roust at 3AM and barrage with questions quickly as i was paying like $8/minute or something. Still no real sense of understanding so i went to an ISP called Kuentos.Guam.net and took a one night workshop to connect to the internet using Win 3.1 and Trumpet Winsock. I couldn’t have cared less about the tech but wanted to see the words and pictures… and over the 9600 baud modem, i began to see Dead.net appear with words and pictures. The page was about 1/2 way loaded when the power went down on the whole island after a (endemic & invasive) brown tree snake bit into the one of the warm electric wires and shut it all down. I had seen the future enough to know that this was something for me.

Since i was a kiddo, i’d made ditto-machined newspapers, punk rock fanzines, the best school reports, and shared little chap-books of poetry and sketches with pals and now, i realized, i could do this at a bigger scale… take all my weird bits of knowledge and share with a larger audience. Head melted i started my first web page a week or so afterwards, a treatise and clearinghouse about the history of Hemp in Japan. The page was endlessly long as i didn’t realize the concept of multiple pages linking together but like the endless scroll feeling of the page — mountains and rivers without end, its seemed organic and right away, there was conversation and community sparked as i quickly met other folks exploring nascent hemp culture. Within a month, i was importing hemp surf trunks and trucker wallets to sell on island and also sending my research out to publications.

Realizing the my lifestyle/hobby of the Grateful Dead was no more (ostensibly anyhow), i made plans to leave Guam and head to Olympia Washington where i could mop up a long overdue college degree and find a place in all of this new web stuff.

Within 24 hours of landing in a strange climate and town, where i set up a tent in the woods by Evergreen College, i met some heady looking guys setting a booth to sell tie-dyes the next day at an annual campus fair. I asked them for change for the laundry and they asked “are those hemp overalls?” Yeah man,… of course this led to the usual passing of the bowls and swapping tales of tour. The next day i learned they also had just opened an ISP called OlyWa.net. “Come on by,” they said. I did and joined up and crashed coursed myself in TCP/IP, POP, PPP, HTTP and all the other acronyms i could and, seeing the 3 dudes werent exactly “people persons”, i worked my way into the biz as the marketing guy. This was a wild great ride from 1996-2000 when we sold it (a whole other story including the acquiring company requiring me to take a drug test… they tried anyhow).

Then moved back up to Vancouver, working for Raincity Studios making new-school database driven content rich, community building sites, Warner>Rhino was a client and was able to do some work on the site which brought me to the Internet in the first place. I added my fuzzy photos and hazy memories to the list of shows and felt something about full circle. Also by this time, my first web project about hemp in Japan had been published extensively and i had High Times staying at my house and related fun and chaos.

Then, moving on i was the first Marketing Head at Hootsuite – a social media tool in full startup mode. We were 10 in a dingy office and i was charged with growing the audience with basically no budget. But years of hustling the Grateful Dead lot and making enough to get to the next show and have a good time doing it, came in handy as i recruited an international team, fed them stories and together built community around our users including epic campaigns at SXSW where i went back to my Dead roots and created the Hootbus which was a modified short bus turned into a party on wheels as we’d roll the streets of Austin getting people “On the Bus” just like on tour — well kinda anyhow. In my barrage of public speaking which came along with the ride, i shared stories (to tech heavy audiences) of building community on tour, the resourcefulness needed to build and move, the “one hug at a time” ethos which i espoused to treat each user like our favourite.

Then last year, The Grateful Dead did the 50th anniversary shows and Hootsuite reached a Billion dollar valuation. Im still the same guy, sitting on a porch with a smoke and cut off jeans wondering when the next show is and how i can share the story.

Car(e)-free Sound Stroll – Urban Vancouver #8

A walk around various car-free day festivals in Vancouver, 2008 with unedited soundstream of drum circles, live bands of various sorts (including several numbers by a Grateful Dead inspired band, a free jazz combo, a protesting singer-songwriter, and a Latin-esque outfit…), plus skateboards, slam poets, and a bassoon quartet playing “hockey night theme” among other tunes.

Wander along for: Car(e)-free Sound Stroll – Urban Vancouver #8 (51:49, 75MB, 192k .mp3)

Podfeed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/UrbanVancouver

Continue reading Car(e)-free Sound Stroll – Urban Vancouver #8