Tag Archives: japan travel

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.

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.

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. ^^

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

Scenic / Historical Waystation: Oyashirazu Road / Niigata, Japan, 2019 (Geosite and Community Road feat. Rev. Weston)

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.

the mighty Sea of Japan coast! in the distance, the modern highway on pilings now whisking folks easy from region to the next

And, along the way, made a top at a remarkable “scenic waystation” in Niigate-ken which commemorated a unique piece of Japan geography which (in brief): in olden times posed an incredible challenge to pass from one region to the other because of steep mountains and minimal coastline/headlands.

Oyashirazu Cliffs (map): https://goo.gl/maps/zKVCCFTWMxSSPoRo6

As such, travellers *could* risk going right along the coast at low tide but the distance was too great to travel without getting swept out to sea,. Later, a variety of pathways were constructed along the side of the mountain, rather treacherous to say the least, especially when carrying cargo. The area, now popular for hiking and exploring also showed evidence of pedestrian tunnels and other engineering marvels.

As “modern times” came along, new roads were built including the highway now clearly visible built on pilings high above the sea and skirting the coast line. Driving along it later was quite a ride, felt like a playland attraction of sorts as we “levitated” after the crashing waves of the Sea of Japan as well as going through extensive modern tunnels.

Continue reading Scenic / Historical Waystation: Oyashirazu Road / Niigata, Japan, 2019 (Geosite and Community Road feat. Rev. Weston)

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)

Museum / Exhibit: Shinse Kinenkan / Kanazawa, 2019 (feat. traditional apothecary)

he’s ready to dole out your ‘scrip

Field Notes regarding exhibit/museum/gallery/garden dossiers:

These posts, such as they are, are for recollection, inspiration, reference and possible remixing. I say this to remind myself these round-ups are not meant to be textbooks, comprehensive guides, analysis – critical or otherwise, or a “master’s thesis”. So much goodness in these exhibits – whether grand and well-funded museums or (my favourite) grassroots operations, or even spontaneous art around the edges in unexpected circumstances – that i enjoy archiving.

Also noting often, museums have a “no photo” policy and of course, art and artifacts are best experienced in-person, or with fine reproductions at least, so consider my humble dossirs as a stand-in, in the meanwhile, with a special eye to shut-ins and other who have a hard time getting out and about.

Photography encouraged
from Douglas Coupland’s “Everything is Everywhere is Anywhere” exhibit

As such, these round-ups will be lightly annotated with usually (just) the name of the museum, possible circumstance and/or approximate date of the visit, possible link to museum website and or map for your reference and then a flow of photos.

I almost always buy museum exhibit books, as well as many other items from the gift shop, so if you have any specific questions about any of the pieces displayed, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to add some additional colour commentary – no guarantees.

Basics about Shinse Kinenkan:

This culture and folk art museum in Kanazawa, Ishikawa-ken (visited on our Shinkonryoko Ramble in May/June 2019) was wonderfully charming. Notably, was inexpensive (came with commemorative ticket) with cozy/comfortable feeling coming from a real community effort with volunteers on hand. The neighbourhood around was exceptional with loads of small museums, teahouses and historic lane ways to wander (additional stops referenced below), and much less hectic compared to “the old capital” :).

The first floor features the re-created apothecary of a traditional Japanese/Chinese pharmacy (as such, special dedication to my dear friend TCM Dr. Trevor) plus, in the back, a tearoom where Basho the haiku poem visited (dude was everywhere) and other rooms filled with handicrafts. The upstairs more art and artefacts from the historic neighbourhood in Kanazawa.

The Pharmacy

Continue reading Museum / Exhibit: Shinse Kinenkan / Kanazawa, 2019 (feat. traditional apothecary)