Tag Archives: field notes

Nagasaki Ramble, Feb. 2020, part 1 (trains, trams, food & rumours of a…)

Unnecessary Preamble:

The trip was meant as a little adventure and to visit relatives and also get away from the house while a few construction tasks were happening (new bathtub! etc.) but…

roll on to Nagasaki

As it goes, this was the “last trip” – at the time the (now infamous) Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined – shrouded in mystery – in Yokohama, the city was a bit tense and confused, and indeed, a week later another cruise ship was quarantined in Nagasaki.

Since we were well along the pregnancy, we stayed safe and busy despite my – ugh –usual health challenges, and so very much enjoyed Nagasaki: riding trams, olden Dutch settlements, bomb memorials :(, friendly folks, quirky kissaten cafes unchanged for decades, plus hospital visits for a young relative, and an abacus tournament (really) – Some new friends, strange islands, impossible alleys, hills & plants.

Of course didn’t realize it would be years until our next time out of Okayama prefecture // 2 years feels like 2 weeks or 20 years depending on the day.

Contemporaneous notes follow (there is also a fantastic analog scrapbook somewhere):

Feb 13, 2020: Nagasaki ramble officially underway at Okayama station at best lil coffee stand called Life & Coffee / ordered up a Bizen special cup

#protip there is a piece of Bizen ceramic put in the coffee which infuses with magic powers &/or imbues with extra tastiness

Feb 14: Nagasaki miscellanea diary (not to be confused with the Ryoko’s botanical diary)

Post box (obviously) at station

With a combination of low pressure weather systems, overstimulation of fast trains, and a bit too much activity of late, had a real rough flareup with my mostly-beloved but somewhat-battered body. It’s hard to explain all the pain but when it suddenly comes on, it’s quite scary.

Anyway, sweet wife tracked down some help for me this morning with acupuncture needles connected to electricity and some ice got the immediate pain calmed down.

Then, immediately following whilst on a little walk, we happened across a mysterious tiny café, ate some local dishes & met a new friend, the proprietor – or son of the family or something something. Regardless, he loves fishing and was cheerful and affable. Koba-san!

the famous champon noodles of the area

He knocked off the job and loaded us up in his car for a coastal drive to gaze the remnants of a coal factory mining island (noted in various films).

Plus the related museum displaying the challenges of life on an industrial enclave which was for a while a “fully functioning” city and the most densely populated place on earth.

While every day is a romantic interlude with my Darling wife, appropriately today we viewed the battleship island from “wedding“ rocks complete with a Torii gate, and much fun conversation.

Now a rest, then perhaps a walk to explore the Dutch outposts from long-ago days before the “black ships “ obliged Japan to open up.

Overall everything going well except for my crushing head / end of dispatch #valentinesday

I offer a few photos as evidence. Really the usual: postbox, trains, street cars, telephone, plus a few of the aforementioned items.

Trams

Trains

Trams & Trains video

A montage of trams and trains featuring music by Dan Mangan and Ryoko Olson… It turns out there are literally hundreds of similar videos on YouTube but I’m pretty sure this one is the very best of all of them :-)

Pyjamas

Pajamas provided by the hotel, in this case, button-up long night shirt style. Really fantastic. I’m really trying not to steal these and further ruin my reputation in Japan (and for all other foreigners too). But if no one knows it was me…

Canals & Vibes

Canals, old customs houses, small alleys, mix of Western and Japanese style houses… All in the little area around our hotel. Dreamy // and keep in mind, none of this existed after August 1945

Food, for starters

Harbour Stroll

Due to the (at that time) recent announcement of a mysterious illness entering Japan aboard a cruise ship, the general populous immediately hunkered down – so, when we went on a harborfront stroll seeking splendid sashimi, we had the promenade and the restaurant basically to ourselves.

Ryoko’s Botanical Diary

Chinatown Stroll

While Nagasaki’s interest in history deserves several essays and a miniseries, in brief: as you likely know, for hundreds of years, Japan was basically closed off to international trade with a few exceptions, one being controlled trade with China (who often acted as a middle broker for Japanese wars with other countries) as well as first the Portuguese who were expelled by bringing their religion Against the wishes of the Daimyo (insert story about peasant quasi religious uprising here… Oh actually Melvyn Bragg on the intellectually stimulating “In Our Time” podcast covers The Shimabara Rebelion) so then the trading franchise was transferred to the Dutch who were sequestered on an island // which we will get to later…

So in the meantime, here are a few snapshots of Chinatown – which is Japan’s oldest Chinatown and somehow lent to the feeling of Nagasaki as a miniature San Francisco: a harbor, lots of hills, various cobbled, international vibe, great café culture, trams clattering along – but, as far as I could tell, a lack of Beat poetry and self-aggrandizing tech companies.

More to come

Considering this diary only catches the first barely 2 days of the trip and there’s so much more to share, I invite you back for:

  • Visit to Dejima
  • Abacus tournament
  • Grilled meats
  • Old public bath
  • Quirky coffee shops
  • Atomic bomb museum
  • Experiencing four seasons of weather in three days
  • Of course more trains, post boxes, payphones and so on, probably anyway

Way Home (more trains)

And just so I don’t forget: here are two snaps from the way home on the now decommissioned Kamome train – briefly addressed above at the time but now replaced with a super high speed “new trunk line” a.k.a. Shinkansen a.k.a. bullet train.

I love these “at – grade” class trains as they are wider, have beautiful touches like parquet floors, lounge cars and viewing areas // which you can see in the photo along with the usual photo of my boots, yes these cheap and cheerful chukkas which took me into the Himalayas, along with my stolen suitcase of treasures which earned its stickers.

So we go on.

Poetry transcription: “finding home”

{transcription from an “field notes” notebook while in bed… stashed here so I don’t misplace}

[Unrelated photo #SnowyOwl]
Finding home

No longer daunted
By subterfuge
Payola schemes or even
Assassinations by a religious stooge

Still enamored by overbites
Pretty lies feathered caps
and quicksilver mines

Confused by burning coals
to alchemize
cartoon currencies
in a triangular ruse

I don’t need a course
To tell me to be happy
I already know what wealthy means
Have you a garden, a pen and Wood stove?

The answer to the biggest question is:
“to love, and to be loved”

The pathway to go there is: kindness, tolerance, empathy, intrepidness, weakness is strength

All this is to say:
Cynicism avoided, reality reinvented, consensus subverted, admiration for the usual
Savor the regular days, notice the magnificence in nonchalance & common place.

Get down on your knees!

To look closely
The tactility of grass
The softness of sand
The circles and cycles
The shards of pottery
The ants smaller than the other ants
The lichen, the moss the dirt
The rivulets
The worm holes to everywhere else

Will lead you back to exactly here.

Japan Renegade Travel Musings (specifically *not* Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka)

Oh look, adventure Ted is having a beer, sashimi and plotting good times…

Adventure Tour Guide Ted Taylor and DaveO riff in a historic Kura barn in Tsuchida, Okayama, Japan talking about exploring… well off-the-beathen-ish-path Japan – specifically not Tokyo, Kyoto, & Osaka (sure those places are great or whatever but plenty of info) so let’s explore elsewhere with places, tactics, tips and musings. Alas, no “b-roll”, links, edits, but plenty of digressions and pretty great hats.

Despite what dashing Ted Taylor tells ya, you can/should hire him for adventure tours (seriously) plus dig his most excellent journals at: Notes from the Nog blog

Continue reading Japan Renegade Travel Musings (specifically *not* Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka)

Field notes: Kurashiki Jazz Street day-out snaps

Field Notes (brief) Kurashiki day-out during the “Jazz Street“ event (first in-person since 2019) with little pop-up concerts happening in all sorts of venues from tatami rooms to kissatens. Possibly more to follow.

Bikan Historical Quarter is just everything is so fcking cute with canals (complete with sort of gondola boats), rickshaws, coffee shops, cafés and restaurants of all kinds, craft shops, and some spectacular museums.

Ichiro was a great respectful supporter of the bands & especially like players rolling double basses down the lane

Everyone looking extra sharp with dapper hats, sometimes kimonos, musicians rolling double basses down the cobbly road.

Also tourists (mostly domestic but also some internationals… First time seen “in the wild“ for a very long time) heck we even chatted with a Belgian couple briefly. “Good Timing” i said.

Importantly, the tree with wooden supports was a spontaneous emergency repair by wife at a friend’s cafe (it was falling down and she went to work with saw – standing on a restaurant chair – and we pounded the support sticks in with a chunk of wood and tied up with rope. Not “perfect“ but a bit safer… The planter box is too small for the roots yet the tree was very healthy)
One thing about Japan, a lot of the attractions and “things to see and explore” require a lot of stairs which I have limited ability with. I can walk upstairs but just not a lot of them or else I use up all my batteries for the day. But anyway, you can see the branches cut down from the emergency tree surgery
peeked at an art installation, or is it a sculpture? no matter (same artist was the “space cat” from Osaka… the name slips me, hold on, i’ll figure it out)

Moving on… a few more (really didn’t capture any of the actual music or musicians we were there to see , but these just “field notes” after all, not a documentary.

this is me sitting in the breezeway, listing to tunes and goofing with the camera – just so lovely
another stack of stairs to gaze at, ramble to clamber up

{note: these photos come straight off this little ruggedized Olympus camera that I found in the wife’s office while tidying up and I really like it, lots of onboard effects / settings ++ and allows me not to be handling my phone as a camera – on which the cameras don’t work anymore so well, works out extra well}

and back towards our sweet ride, Agnes like we live in a Ghibli film

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.

Collection: (Pay)phones (vol. 11) – assorted Japan hotel/ryokan house phones

operational classic black rotary and laser engraved QR code for wi-fi

As part of on-going documentation of various collections of payphones. this gallery features examples of phones in various states of use, captured “in the wild” around Japan, specifically featuring hotel house phones in Shimane and Ishikawa and related devices, plus a few other phone handsets of different circumstances and origins for your edification, lightly annotated.

the Ryokan’s “control center” with multiple faxes and breaker panels, switch boards…
another hotel “control centre” with phones, faxes, batteries and cc machines(?)
i seem to recall this was once a phone i used but don’t recall. can you remember?
room phone at a Ryokan in Shimane
Continue reading Collection: (Pay)phones (vol. 11) – assorted Japan hotel/ryokan house phones

Collection: Payphones (vol. 10) – assorted varieties / Varley Trail, Hong Kong, Bali, Japan

at Rice Lake cabin along the Varley Trail, Lynn Canyon, BC

Pardon any redundancies, this collection definitely includes several that just haven’t fit into previous archives but maybe one or two they already are out there, there’s too many to count anymore. In this wormhole, we range widely however from the Varley Trail in Lynn Canyon, British Columbia, to Indonesia, to Hong Kong, to points around Japan. Of course, you can find many more in various collections of payphones and related communication tools.

on the streets of Hong Kong

Hello to the people in the future,

What follows are public telephones created in a time when phones did not roam freely and in pockets. To make a call, one would either enter a specially-created booth (or box), or simply stand close by as the receivers were tethered to the phone unit by a short cord, then insert a variety of coins depending on the location called (local, domestic or international) or in some cases, use a purpose-made phone card, or even a credit card (though doing so often exposed one to fraudulent actors).

Perhaps you have already imagined the unsanitary nature of sharing a phone handset (placed next/close to ear and mouth of course) with strangers – though perhaps this increased “herd immunity” despite being rather unpleasant. Note that oftentimes the coin return slots were checked for forgotten change but the miner was surprised to find discarded chewing gum, or even-less-savoury items, instead.

ok ok, this isn’t a telephone, its a utility meter in Indonesia
to make up for my tom-foolery above, here’s a payphone in Indonesia
i see you! a accessible size “office ready” unit at a rest/service area en route to Kyoto
Continue reading Collection: Payphones (vol. 10) – assorted varieties / Varley Trail, Hong Kong, Bali, Japan

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

Collection: (Pay)phones and whatnot (vol. 9) – around Nagasaki & Gunkajima

In the various collections of payphones (as well as hotel house phones and other related analogue communication tools) throughout this archive, the devices are often scattered in variety of locations. However, this installment includes items observed on a visit to Nagasaki in February 2020 and includes payphones, a few phones at restos and inns as well as a few rather destroyed artifacts from “battleship island” (an inland turned mining facility).

as seen at a restaurant, evidently still operational but did not operate
at a Kissaten Café right near the atomic bomb museum
Continue reading Collection: (Pay)phones and whatnot (vol. 9) – around Nagasaki & Gunkajima

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