Tag Archives: okayama

Catching up & goofing around with Ichiro #io

For the record, I am completely mental in love about this incorrigible, amusing, intrepid, courageous kiddo #io

I’m always dropping notes to keep up with my ongoing diary about him and how he changes and evolves while growing up *but* you know, memos & snippets slip through the cracks but perfection is not the aim, celebration of his existence is, ergo:

Goofing around with burgers made on the woodstove, lack of buns so mama improvised, he loves accessorizing and doing his *just right* with a little bits of bacon, ketchup, mayo, lettuce
We are cats in pajamas, hear us meow, softly
On our excursion to the omotecho shopping arcade, was some kind of delightful booth set up (a store celebrating a birthday? Just some normal enticement for shoppers)

Anyhow, he ended up with a balloon which he was very eager to pose with in the laneway

Backstory: Rolled bus and tram to pick up delightful/incorrigible kiddo for a little bit of dude time on the trek home. We had snacks at daily Yamazaki (the unsung hero of the konbini scene), got gatcha on the tram, smiled and waved at the cool older students in their uniforms chattering away, I helped him with his cargo (my goodness, his rucksack is already quite hefty but “this is the way “)

PS i mean it sounds really basic but it was kind of the plan when he started his school back in September that I would do pick up a couple days a week but, the illnesses hit and my energy just hasn’t bounced back so this was really the first time I did the routine solo.

The tricky part is, getting back because that’s when the trams and buses get quite filled and all that human energy energy, temperature changes, jostling around – is a lot. We waited at the bus depot which feels caught in time, and by the time we were on our usual backseat of the bus, he was kicking off his shoes and stretching out to snooze until the end of the line. (But managed to rally for a bit of playtime in the park showing me how he can lift heavy rocks before arriving home).

These tram drivers do really an incredible job

Scenes of life: spiral staircase, library signs, basket of balls + pink door

While out and about on various expeditions, snap snap’d the usual days and the glimpses of regular life.

{With generally unrelated diary notes which happened to happen the same day}

Up early, by my standards, to see classic movie “the sound of music” at some community something something place.

First, a stop at a rusty strip of shops which houses an exquisite French style bakery: fluffy cakes, croissants, croque monsieur, brie / prosciutto sandos + uniforms. Swoon!

Made it as far as the intermission in the exceptional epic “sound of music” – Each time, notice the fantastic use of light and shadows, and pacing (+ of course stellar stoic Christopher Plummer as well as the effervescent Julie Andrews) – was kind of my speed, maybe a total of 8 people at the screening, the 3 of us were by far the youngest / I forgot my “pro tip” of always bringing my own slippers… but anyway, now ramen w/ evidence:

Then, nearby our not-so-secret-anymore Ramen place, went to check out the dinosaurs in the shopping arcade, spotting a few bits of *normal* along the way: a basket of balls, a pink door, a streetscape sign – all very pleasing in their normalness…

…and were fortunate to catch the “Okayama University woodwind orchestra” (or something like that) rocking through the final bit of their set. Especially enjoyed seeing the percussion section of course:

Bonus:

Was a Sunday of a three day weekend and coming out of the winter doldrums or whatever but a lot of people out and about, which meant that after my usual limit of 1.5 activities, we should’ve run for home but a library visit was on the agenda.

I tried to find a quiet corner to scribble postcards with limited success. Ichiro checked out a massive – both quantity and size (quite literally as included an oversize book with a spine approximately a meter which was packed in a giant padded satchel), and join me for scribbling postcards, including one to himself, another to a cousin, and of course he did much stamping.

I noticed that “technically” no photos are allowed in the library (of course, taking photos of patrons/humans is totally offside) and also “no self study without using library materials” which may have made my postcard writing an inappropriate act.

But, spotting books such as “start up 101 “”what is sound art?” and “end of life” required documentation – as did a lovely construction paper collage of a train station.

Usually, libraries are calm and chill but again, at no fault of the other patrons, a little bit too much going on for me. We did make a stop at the embedded coffee shop for a tasty beverage and refresh before…

Yet another stop on the way home to a shopping plaza to dump off some plastic recycling and purchase a few items, during which I hung out on a bench outside, mailed postcards, and spotted “cake box” – which I can only imagine is a service for ordering a cake which is placed in this box, then magically opened so you can pick up (obviously), a cake, and I’m sure it’s quite wonderful.

Asides:

I would like to thank Taylor Swift & her conundrum of getting from Tokyo to Las Vegas for football by going backwards across the international dateline for helping my friends in the USA understand that yes, I live in tomorrow in Japan (also yesterday but that’s another story)

And, at the risk of being Cliff Claven, I like to explain to people that:

* The international dateline is not straight

* And yes, I have crossed the international dateline by ship

* But no, I have not passed the exact point of the international dateline and equator simultaneously #shellback

Finally, enjoyed a few “old-time style” phone calls with pals recently… It took me years to get over my phone phobia from a terrible job in Utah, 1987 but now find it quite pleasant to sit in my dark room with a beverage yapping away to someone, in this case, back in Utah. {Note: not using the phone pictured}

Diary: New Year Dragons with foods, gardens, bevvies, and themes #calm

what follows is a post-dated diary of various activities in and around New Years day copied from various notebooks, memos, and small dispatches covering foods, outings to parks and graves, bevvies, postcards, dreams, schemes, and themes of calm and endeavours

Dec. 31: We ate soba (buckwheat noodles) as per tradition with parents on new years eve. Most folks watch TeeVee (many famous “wide ” variety shows, singing contests). They leave it off for my sensory overload benefit so i retired early – as i my way – so they could watch if desired.

So tired, heading to bath and bed. {all the tabs will not be closed, many emails unreplied, various messages and conversations left dangling, flip the page, carry-on}

So we go on… gn & gy

i made a video: Good night & good year / Reiwa 6 Ahoy

Jan. 1: GM, HNY – We ate mochi (glutinous rice paste) with other tasty items with parents in the morn as is tradition.

Then, off to Korakuen (one of the “three great traditional garden” of Japan, frequently visited by us).

Early start by my standards – we packed several thermoses and flasks of coffee and tea for the journey…

Off onto the Road: Of course, all manner of beverages are readily available from ubiquitous vending machines yet I prefer our house-made treats. Also, provided opportunity to break out a teabag which was included in the card sent by some friends from Canada.

So off we went, waiting at Tsuchida stop for our first bus ride of the new year…

As is our usual routine, we sit in the very back row (like the *bad kids*) because there are big windows and a little bit more room to stash our gear. Ichi-Stan, of course being a frequent traveler, utilizes the hooks for hanging up his rucksack and travelling cap {usually here I would note that the bus features complimentary high-quality wi-fi and power outlets but you know that by now}.

Note: the *usual* tradition is a shrine visit on New Year Day (bet ya there is a posted in this archive (or maybe still.in draft but… anyhow) this year though we took the with a chance to meet up with Ichi’s best pal and roll around the stellar garden – importantly including the first time in years in which the public could be present for the “flying of the cranes” so… off we went. Plus its a “free admission day!”

Flying of Cranes: The garden was packed but crowd well managed by diligently dudes wrangling pedestrians and keeping on the pathways with optimized view points for the flying of the cranes (a symbol of longevity).

The whole crane flying thing was quite amusing (the wranglers entice them to fly) and yeah cool but i couldn’t help but laugh at the crew of ojisans with their massive telephoto lens, standing on top of camera boxes (no fun for you kids!) and rapid firing like artillery weapon kinda killing the buzz but so it goes, hobbies and all that. {Of course, this is coming from the guy who’s over documenting everything including everything but a picture of the cranes.}

Continue reading Diary: New Year Dragons with foods, gardens, bevvies, and themes #calm

Field Notes: overnight’r w/ sports, kids, bunks, baths, ports & burgers

Nov. 22 AM: Quite paralyzed by exhaustion and overwhelmedness – but things to do so I’m just saying this out loud so I get up and do one tiny thing at a time.

Kinda hectic 3 days ahead by my humble standards

  • Step one: switch from pajamas to something sort of like clothes
  • Step two: fresh air into bedroom
  • Step three: turn on Hey Rosetta “plan your escape”
  • Step four: meds, kanpo & supplements
  • Step five: food
  • Step six: grab some travel bags from kura
  • Step seven: prepare travel coffee kit

Then:

Continue reading Field Notes: overnight’r w/ sports, kids, bunks, baths, ports & burgers

Diary: seitai, bento, buses & snaps

For starters: Usual routine, photo evidence, heading for treatment by bus (with my fare card) every fibre in my adorable body fumimg in pain

Me & my bus card

(Always sunny in Okayama) #cardigan

Today’s flowers in the doctor’s office entrance foyer.

A few of my creative endeavors from poetry book to postcards to umeboshi (plus Ryoko’s wreath) on display at the doctor’s office. There are more scattered around here.

Continue reading Diary: seitai, bento, buses & snaps

Ramen magic – spontaneous outing for resto’s anniversary

We picked up Ichiro from preschool and came to our favorite Ramen place. {Darling wife is working so hard & im a bit wiped out from trying to stay up with housework}

Somehow the ramen was calling us

&& This magnificent place is celebrating 8th anniversary today with a “one day only” special dish! Yes plz :)

Anyhow, #Peace

We had to kill a bit of time before opening so we hung out on shopping street and visited store selling all Okayama made goods including local sake, Doppo beer, Betty Smith denim accessories, Bizen ceramics & postcards etc Taisho-era painter Yumeji.

Yes, we purchased items. Did not purchase the hat made of renowned Kojima denim as it was “not cheap” but we did get some salad dressing, art postcards, Hot Springs powders, Doppo craft beer for a friend visiting, & a few pieces of special brocade fabric for arts and crafts.

Yes im smitten

This angel is still in her grubby work clothes. She even hauling her wood chipper to the back lot to do some well… wood chipping. She’s so cute when she’s dirty. Oh wait, that sounds wrong ????

Hail Mudhoney, always delivering “this gift”

Yes, I look exhausted, bleary-eyed, spun out, not at my best but hey, look at that Superfuzz Bigmuff T-shirt and that glorious bowl of noodles.

Yes, i am invigorated and overjoyed when with my darling duo!

Oh there he is, the smile comes out once he gets his grub. He’s been coming here since before he was born & has a chance to be the all-time record holder. He’s graduated to his own small bowl with special fork and spoon set.

One day only for this very special sophisticated unique bowl of noodles

Ramen is not fashion, Ramen is art, pleasure, satisfaction, international, tradition, culture (it says so on the chalkboard) and yes, this tiny back alley joint is Michelin guide listed so if you’re into car tyres, this place was properly evaluated / a very special bowl today.

Congratulations on eight years of awesomeness. We wished him at least 50 more

Us and the super grateful ramen boss. He’s a delightful, hard-working, soft-spoken and very very serious and passionate about his Ramen. What a pleasure it is to go here!

You can see the location is critically important. As in: Important to have absolutely nothing else around and be hiding in plain sight / not a swinging hotspot.

And you don’t need some big neon sign and giant LED screen screaming at the people, and understated chalkboard with sincere message wins the day

These are important runes

Lest ye forget: Ramen is pleasure, love, smile / such as is written on the wall – so it must be true, the chalk never lies after all, after all

Diary: home safe from ill-fated errand (with Ichi funtimes)

Background: Had a real rough go of it yesterday trying to complete one of those seemingly impossible errands that one runs across as immigrant/emigrant with tasks to do with previous countries. Good news is, the little dude and I got some hang out time on buses and trains & burgers.

Now: earplugs, eyemask, ice packs, cool air, hydration, medication

I am home, I am safe, I am baffled by the complexities of life

Good point: I was a fantastic Papa today

I want:

  • solve this illness #mecfs
  • put poetry, art, post, music out into the world

Grateful, xo dvo

PS I have so many short stories, poetry collections, novels, paintings and albums to finish but I’m gonna live till 120 (at least) so I’ll get it all done. I just need that magic elixir (come on science!)

Bonus notes from out n about:

Tram ride: we rode a trolley yesterday on an ill fated errand. So fun because you never know which style car you’re gonna get from postwar to sleek and modern – each one different design, paint job and vibe. It’s quite exciting / costs a dollar per ride, no matter distance

Denim kimono: Autumn mean more kimonos and here in Okayama, one can spot the unique (likely indigo dyed) denim kimono, elegant in it’s utility and beauty / I would’ve bought it for my darling wife but her cabinet is overfilled

Errand > Burger time: Re: errand (a tax filing for a country i haven’t set foot in in years and lived for decade+ and no longer member of) not only did I have to find a stash of US letter size paper – Japan, like most of the world uses A4 etc sizes, had to track down an international courier which seems like it would be really easy but ended up at a dingy old stationery shop that is the contract office for DHL and it was like I was the first one requesting to send anything overseas in the last 20 years… Plus it cost about $60 each to mail some stupid papers to Texas (in my situation I can’t file electronically).

But, me and Ichiro ate burgers and fries at a friendly place where they were very accommodating and kind. They don’t have an “kid’s menu” (coz kids oughta be in school!) so he #io got a full-size mozzarella mushroom burger, with fries, soup, salad, orange juice, and got to eat the leftovers for dinner :-) he’s such a little celebrity everywhere he goes and it’s so nice when he wants to hold my hand or ride on my shoulders while rolling down a shopping arcade street with giant dinosaurs and him pointing out payphones and postboxes to his quirky papa. #swoon

Train Postcard: Tokyo based pro photog Alfie shared this great snap from Tokyo station (where you can buy a “platform only” ticket to hang out but not ride) – evdentally my advice to turn this into a postcard was late as doneso long ago

Overtourism: (In regards to recent articles about Japan, considering making tour guide, mandatory to limit tourism due to too much tourism – sub text: “sloppy tourism”) i mentioned:

“Funny there’s three, maybe four places in Japan that deal with “over tourism” meanwhile so many fantastic provincial areas of Japan are waving the flag and making brochures saying “come here, come here, we hace ____” but still, almost everyone goes to same few congested places

Records: no, I didn’t buy but just snapped this photo with Ichiro on my shoulders have a nice selection of 4 beauties all lined up – sheesh we got great records stores here

Nakasendo: About that Tourism-ness: someone I know is planning a Nakasendo ramble so i assembled a dossier of historic Nakasendo road with stories, vids, tips etc. {Doesn’t really fit here but I’m putting it here so I can find it again, maybe because stashed it on Tumblr for some reason}

Okayama’s “moment” + a few checkpoints and sustainable enjoyable life

Unfamous Okayama is having a bit of a moment: lots of new houses going up, Iris Oyama making a factory here, Amahz0n building a distribution center + folks moving from the “big city” for a more enjoyable pace/price of life & ‘relative’ lack of significant natural disasters.

[Watch: Okayama Opens Up + JJ Walsh Okayama show]

Anyhow, when I was passing through the Station (Strangely, very rarely ride trains, but the bus loop is right there) took a few snaps to pass along to visiting friends for some important orientation points.

About Japan Life:

Okayama is kind of famous as ‘a place you pass through going to somewhere else’ / cheesy tour books/sites translate into “a transportation hub” / I really like it’s just super normal – right sized, not too hectic, but all conveniences & usual castle, gardens, shrines, shops

Also, while I’m here, talking about my unfamous home, adding a few annotations, which applied to some blowhard’s article that was making waves of sorts… [ain’t gonna link it cause its so offside and baity] The same crap that comes up from time to time that “Japan’s GDP is so low, the debt is so high, the population is so aging, they don’t know what they’re doing, Japan is doomed” and then all the uninformed chime in about life in the UK/US/Canada/Australia as though it’s any better because the relative currency value is currently higher and then folks who keep one foot in various countries blabbity blab. I’m here forever so i got feelings. Also, i’ve been around.

Of course, the data points are always centred around Tokyo, and overlook so many of the benefits of living here in Japan {yeah no kidding, a few things i’d love to change so i work towards mitigation like drrr}, and rather than me writing an essay, here’s a few notes about “sustainable and enjoyable living” i added to the conversation – pointing towards my own experience natch – which were summarily ignored, which is fine:


Funny how it goes, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka suck oxygen out of all the Japan news and are far more expensive/difficult to live in then “everywhere else” / here in unfamous Okayama, lots of new families moving in from around Japan, things are undramatic, somehow growing and pleasant.

We’ve also got a good garden, acquired some additional land, my wife runs a small business (arborist and landscape design), we have a wild boar trapper, solar panels & back up fresh water well. Plus stashes of savings in multiple currencies & tax free investments. Life is ok.

Importantly, real estate/housing isn’t a blood sport. You can acquire house(s) and if you have some moderate DIY skills, can be set up for long-term with no mortgage and a little hassle. + I’m chronic/complex ill & getting way better medical care here than I did in USA or Canada.

I’ve sampled living in *a lot* of different countries – from Jamaica to Indonesia to Nepal and have several passports and while Japan’s got problems, haven’t found a place that doesn’t… And the ones with the least problems have the biggest price tag to go with them.

Went back to Canada recently with family, & was expecting but still shocked by how expensive “everything” is – as well as how hard double income, no kids working “great jobs” we’re having to hustle for housing. Sure it’s beautiful but can hardly enjoy it without serious $$ flow.

Regardless, when got married, I promised my wife would never pack her up and move away from parents and she promised me I’d never have to be an English teacher so we’re here for the long-haul + have a great kid, a quirky house and my best friend’s goat farm nearby…

Bonus: And folks love enjoying/buying my paintings and poems here instead of just “oh yeah, I meant to buy one of those but…” in other places

Finally: at the bus loop, I noticed my favourite local bus company (there are several sort of public private operations) are doing a promotion to take folks on a hot spring excursion. Pay one price, get picked up, go to some Hot Springs, get ride back home. {Now that we’ve lost a few weeks with the scourge, not sure it will work out for us. We’re just really glad that this sorta campaign exists.

let’s go to hotsprings with Uno bus

Addendum: “there’s nothing to do in Okayama so why would any tourist go there” Twitter Convo

Post’d: inbound treats from India, Lanka, Ukraine, Ireland, City Lights, Bowen, Germany etc

I mean, I know no one is really worrying about this or hardly paying attention, but I have a strange obsession with documenting all the inbound mail, as well as often making videos of me simply chatting whilst putting the treats into scrapbooks – which kind of misses the point and I should just spend the time scribbling more letters.

However, i recently sent out six glorious bundles of a book which combines fine art, exquisite paper craft, time travel, astral projection, interactivity, and story of love, love, love and friendship across time, zones, islands, continents, and fictions – and I did it all without taking a snapshot of the luscious stack (which also included inscriptions featuring my new inky stamps). It’s all very exciting to me.

*And* when I went to my local post office – where I used to be a regular visitor however this year I’ve slowed down significantly for various reasons – my favourite employee was there to greet me and help me with significant excitement and enjoyment as we chose the stamps for each one plus, I showed her the well-traveled 11 month journey postcard to India, and she in return, told me about new postal regulations for sending packages to all countries which go into affect September. (Oh great… More complications :(, fortunately does not affect letters and postcards, so I’ll stick with those standards (aerogrammes seem to go missing) so you’re out of luck on international packages friendo.

However, onwards the inbound pile, there’s been so many interesting arrivals so while I am restraining myself from documenting everything and saying to self its fine just documenting a few things. Cool with you? Great. Let’s make a start:

What do Fred Rogers, Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein and the Heinz family have in common? Thanks to Tim Tulloch & family in CT for the great card packed full of stories all interlinked in the most unlikely ways.

A talisman of friendship across continents, oceans – circumstances often running parallel across astral planes. We continue to create in solidarity, collaboration (accidental or otherwise), constant creativity, cross-medium communication and unabashed affection with and from Andrew McLuhan (who has faced significant personal challenges and started/completed/attempted so many multidisciplinary projects, while keeping the legacy of his father and grandfather even more relevant… All of the above for which I have massive admiration)

2 fortunate correspondents enjoying the correspondence from Bowen Island with usual enthusiasm (hooray for ice cream on the dock!)

Ichiro *reading* this dispatch from my birthday twin in Germany, in his words was mostly about “dinosaurs, water bikes and stanely park and the number 7” Danke Astrid-san.

Arriving miraculously timed directly on my birthday, although without that specific intention, came this beautiful envelope from someone who is a semi-professional letter/card writer, stamp creator, community builder, and always includes very enjoyable paper craft in her dispatches from Austin TX (a city I used to visit so often and loved so gently)

And another exceptionally thoughtful friend who’s family faced many challenges from operations to hurricanes over the last, while you took the time to send a birthday card, which hit all the marks with luscious paper, lovely quote, and a glorious tree. Thank you to the palmy desert.

this quirky artwork arrived from a friend. I haven’t met yet (thinking about it, many of my correspondence fall into this category) who also lives in Japan and it seems to have a very interesting variety of skills from sketching to music. {It’s a really fantastic painting and remind me of another, we saw during the van Gogh exhibit in an adjacent gallery… its around here somewhere… oh here it is}

sorry don’t know the artist’s name

These “Fantastic” stickers were included with a very heartfelt and private typed letter, on luscious letterhead, describing an experience at a regional burning man type event, in which the writer set up a “post office” and delivered analogue communication from various camps to camps… That part doesn’t sound very personal, but anyway, here’s related stickers as a placeholder for this tender letter.

A young –I guess he’s no longer that “young” – Sri Lankan correspondent made a trip to India, I believe his first international adventure about which he was understandabl excited, and from this journey came a postcard featuring the mystic Sai Baba, whose movement/commune/corp makes the exquisite Nag Champa incense.

The same un-young fella sent another card on his return to Sri Lanka, the stamps/cancellation are included for your enjoyment in comparison. Learn more about Rasika and his postcards.

Also, no longer particularly “young” but of course, still youthful and in my eyes always a keen speaker, comes a postcard from Ireland (on a honeymoon with an exceptional decision). {Funny, all the places I’ve rambled, Ireland, and Scotland, and Norway, which are the origin points of much of my heritage are still unvisited. The good news is, those can wait as they’re relatively “easy” compared to some of the places of my rambles.} ty J&V, come visit

From another place, I have yet to visit and probably one not on the usual “tourist trap” these days – comes a lovely message from a Canadian, usually living in Vietnam but at this time in Ukraine (and soon to be in Japan). Note to self: give him a call

This fantastically well-travelled postcard, was harvested somewhere from the internets (Twitter?), but I have forgotten whom to credit so… if this is you, ‘thank you for sharing your remarkable artifact’ which seems to have leapfrog continents and hopefully eventually found a recipient (hooray for the incredible neural net work of postal services!)

My friend Katherine in Vic BC passed along this very cool “4 Sen” stamp from a bundle picked up at Smithsonian Postal Museum – I know that somehow along the way, the yen was all re-valuated as now 4 Sen (which means ¥4000) is about $40 CAD and in the old-timey movies, the money denominations seem to be all juggled up anyway, I just like the stamp. TY

One of us is very cool and nonchalant, the other is may be too excited, but, regardless, this is a fantastic postbox located on the 6th floor courtyard of a department store next to a hidden post office. I don’t understand the story behind at all but I’m always unusually excited when I have a chance to drop something in here and take the obligatory snapshot (you’ll find others with the same cheesy pose elsewhere no doubt).

Bonus!

New inky stamps and visit from a pal led to a postcard making session at a coffee shop (yes, my favourite thing to do) and, since I love trams/trolleys, combined it all with a note from a friend mailed to my own house. Doesn’t everyone do this? {the kanji characters say – from top to bottom: Tsuchida, Okayama, Japan + the postbox might well be modelled on the one above.

“Illegal Smile” at Nishiwaki Beach (w/ baritone ukulele)

just trying to have me some… quiet (and fun)

Strumming along to classic John Prine tune “Illegal Smile” – a song, in this case, about the desire for a peaceful, easy morning at the beach, but, being surrounded on all sides by revelers, amateurs, and machines. But hey, gotta have me some fun (hot dog bun, your sisters’ a nun)