Tag Archives: japan life

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

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.

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)

Museum / Exhibit: Miwaki Ruins Jomon-era / Noto, Japan, 2019

Blurb: On our meandering adventure of a honeymoon in May-June 2019, we travelled by many means of convenience including a wide variety of trains, rental cars, occasional coach buses and what not. See the whole Shinkonryoko Scrapbook for a mixed-media ephemera overview and a list of places visited for the curious.

As such, while visiting with Hongo-sensei on Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa-ken, amongst the other activities including a fishing/ whaling/Marine Museum, an early morning fish market / auction, the dismembering and preparation of an ankou fish, a picnic on the beach…, we visited Miwakai ruins with well-preserved archeological history from the Jomon period.

While obviously not original, there was a great recreation of Jomon-era housing with fire-pit and various accruements.

Miwaki Ruins (map): https://goo.gl/maps/2kMPynUhoj7by1xX8

Miwaki Ruins (wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mawaki_Site

Museum site (Japanese): http://www.mawakiiseki.jp/

the time in Japanese prehistory, traditionally dated between c. 14,000–300 BCE,[1][2][3] during which Japan was inhabited by a diverse hunter-gatherer and early agriculturalist population united through a common Jōmon culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity

wikipedia

The museum building was very interesting and both shape and contrast to the contents which were rustic pottery, natural building materials and organic art whereas the structure was a brick cylinder with various halls attached.

Continue reading Museum / Exhibit: Miwaki Ruins Jomon-era / Noto, Japan, 2019

Ichiro in the summer (with cicadas & fish)

Snippets from the park a few weeks ago with my pal Ichiro.

This is what Japan sounds like in the summer with the cicadas in full voice. Dig the vintage vibes as a playground equipment, does it remind you of 1979?

PS yes, he’s rocking tiedye & trucker hat & Canada shorts like so cool right? #io

Since were here, here he is at a community center (Mama’s client where we were delivering an invoice) checking out the fish tank. Dude loves to check out the fish that’s for sure.

Museum Exhibit: D. T. Suzuki Zen / Kanazawa, Japan, 2019

Blurb: On our meandering adventure of a honeymoon in May-June 2019, we travelled by many means of convenience including a wide variety of trains, rental cars, occasional coach buses and what not. See the whole Shinkonryoko Scrapbook for a mixed-media ephemera overview and a list of places visited for the curious.

i see you too

As such, in Kanazawa, Ishikawa-ken (a city filled with exceptional museums – by my standards, especially small, specialized, and a little bit quirky) we visited the D.T. (Daisetz) Suzuki Zen museum.

DT Suzuki Zen Museum (map): https://goo.gl/maps/9SWpxbjfF9pM2R386

Museum page (Kanazawa tourism): https://www.kanazawa-museum.jp/daisetz/english/about.html

DT Suzuki (wikipedia): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._T._Suzuki

you know i love this post slot

This esteemed gentleman was largely the driving force for introducing the concept of Zen Buddhism to the “west” in contemporary times. He spoke several languages and traveled widely, certainly influencing notable figures as Alan Watts and Gary Snyder and possibly you.

the restraint of *not* filling walls with *everything all at once* is not something i am accustomed to :)

The museum is a modern, rendered concrete designed by Yoshio Taniguchi largely assembled rectangles with a water courtyard with large windows playing with light against the garden.

As one might expect, lots of space for contemplation throughout the buildings, long empty hallways, simple signage, a few large pictures and wonderful scrolls.

the scholar and teacher DT Suzuki doing his scholarly pursuits
Continue reading Museum Exhibit: D. T. Suzuki Zen / Kanazawa, Japan, 2019

Museum / Exhibit: Hokusai, print master / Nagano, Japan, 2019 (w/ minor notes)

Blurb: On our meandering adventure of a honeymoon in May-June 2019, we travelled by many means of convenience including a wide variety of trains, rental cars, occasional coach buses and what not. See the whole Shinkonryoko Scrapbook for a mixed-media ephemera overview and a list of places visited for the curious.

Primary aims were to visit friends, stay at all manner of accommodations and see loads of museums, especially, spontaneous, small-ish and quirky if possible.

1 and only 1, snippet of Hokusai museum

As such, in the town of Obuse, Nagano-ken, we made a stop at a museum for the famous print block artist, Hokusai. His name may not be as recognizable as his work (yup, that big wave from the “37 views of Mt Fuji” series) the museum (current exhibit anyhow) didn’t really pack in the well-know pieces but rather focused on his work making soerta pre-cursors to manga comics with endless “clip art” doodles, characters and life shape studies.

The museum wasn’t “photo friendly” (that’s fine) but including a few atmospheric snaps to recall that “yes, we went here”. As usual loaded up at the gift shop (so many postcards and books!). Pardons for underwhelming post (we did get tasty dessert afterwards nearby)

no photos in galleries but evidence we were “there”

Hokusai-kan museum (map): https://goo.gl/maps/cSDGgaN4j2Q4WHpFA

Tip: apparently there is a discount if you are rocking traditional Japanese kimono or jinbei, great!

Continue reading Museum / Exhibit: Hokusai, print master / Nagano, Japan, 2019 (w/ minor notes)