Ryoko was teaching a tree-trimming workshop at a community centre for seniors in the logging town of Maniwa so I rode the bus to meet up. We stayed at a hotel for a couple of nights, went bowling plus i took some strolls to contemplate the change nature of rural Japan while Ryoko was working, oh and we found a quirky coffee shop/art gallery.
Let’s address each of these check points separately:
Bowling and Hotel (pleasantly lost in Showa)
First the hotel, the Maniwa Riverside was the sort of “once grand but now rather shabby” hotel i kinda dig.
Laden with memories a la Grand Budapest hotel. They were making a good effort though the rooms were unfancy and the carpets not changed since sometime in the Showa time. Importantly, there is an onsen hotspring bath with was the main reason. Nice outdoor bath too. No secret i love love love soaking in hot water.
The hotel included breakfast which was a bit odd but the onigiri (rice balls) were hand prepared. Also hard boiled eggs with salt, pickles (yum) and a few various pastries and miso soup.
Ryoko has her own small company doing tree trimming, garden planning and various workshops (like tree trimming for seniors) and sometimes does a gig teaching children and their parents about gardening using a couple plots in the parking lot of a grocery store (who sponsor the event).
Anyhow, i tagged along to see her in action, drink coffee and do a bit of grocery shopping at the awesome store (plus take care of our household recycling while we were there).
The magical art city of Kurashiki was holding a Jazz Street event with loads of bands playing at various venues around the historic Bikan area with narrow Edo-period laneways, the magnificent Ohara museum (featuring European post/impressionist art) and lots of little shops selling handmade paper, handicrafts of all sort, plus great coffee shops and kissaten (a sort of Japanese diner/lounge type establishment).
One day in late October, we were invited by a relative to pick up a bag of freshly-harvested rice for a wedding gift. I love rolling around the area as there is such a mix of rice fields, houses, shinkansen tracks, tiny roads, medium hills, various scare crows and whatnot.
Anyhow, we met the nice relative lady, drank tea with her and told some stories about our honeymoon ramble and whatnot (the usual things about my country and experience in Japan), picked up the rice and well… evidence follows:
One morning, while going for coffee we came across a fire just underway at a sofa store and Japanese/Korean restaurant. Dave gives play by play as firefighters bring out reinforcements and tools like axes and oxygen tanks.
This article was written as a “Special Dispatch” for Miss604.com – published in July 2008 while Rebecca and John were elsewhere. Cross-posting here so i don’t lose track of it … and to get ready for sumertime out n abouts.
In the article, besides talking about food and music, I tease many of the Vancouver-area boroughs a wee bit including where i grew up (Whalley) and where i live now (Lynn Valley) which attracted some commenting about region/class misconceptions and soci0-economics.
My article sets out to make the point that neighbourhoods are never quite what you expect them to be and that fact is right-on with me. Again this is a late draft, not final edit – see Miss 604 for canonical version.
Fusion Fest 2008 – Where the Folk are the Audience
By Dave Olson
All my hipster/greenie/crunchy/urbane pals were all bound for the luminary, venerable Vancouver Folk Fest this past weekend. I turned down extra tickets, rumoured media passes, friendly pleadings and erstwhile invitations cause i already had my weekend fest plans in mind – the Surrey Fusion Fest (see also: Greetings from Fusion Fest – video).
Sure you might think that i missed out on the awesome line-up and beautiful people on idyllic Jericho Beach but i spent scant ducats, saw great bands, ate well, and immersed myself in the ethnic re-mix that is the lower mainland’s super-diverse (and much maligned) municipality. Missed nothing methinks.
I made the lengthy transit trek (3 zones for the price of 2 on weekends) from my North Van sanctuary and spent Saturday afternoon/evening at the new Holland Park with my comrade Dan Funboy, and made the following observations:
No LuluLemon pants in the whole place, none
No whiny West-enders rolling their eyes about “the bridge and tunnel crowd”
No small dogs, nor matching small purses to match
Plenty of police but no incidents i saw (except for two cops rolling over curbs and gardens in quads, WTF?)
Surrey heritage signs celebrating Whalley Little League, early settlers on Old Yale Road etc. were cool bits of edu-tainment
Few trees in the expansive park – A nice fountain but not enough trees
Accessible viewing areas for wheelchair rollers to see the bands on the mainstage
Surrey is really making an effort to do something to provide a sense of belonging and community
I am very keen on festivals in general and tend to hang out with the proletariat rather than fancy folks, but i also don’t make it back anywhere near Whalley Exchange these days – cause well, i’ve been there, done that.
But in spite of all the yuppie grumblings from the urban core (many of whom speak of tolerance and diversity while ignoring where it actually happens), this is really where many new Canadians live – and this is where the low-income families can come have fun, where neighbours learn about each other, and where you can enjoy a variety of music you’d otherwise never get to hear. At a thrifty (free) price.
I spent my entire $11 on food tickets (plus someone gave Dan 3 more gratis) and, with Dan surveying the menu guide, we foraged the international booths for the following tasty snacks:
Peruvian empanada (like a Cornish pasty with meat and olives)
Polish apple cake
First Nations salmon (somehow i don’t think the dill sauce and rice pilaf was traditional but sure tasty)
El Salvador tacos al pastor and papusa
Masala tea from India
Even a veteran linguist would be challenged to name all the languages overheard and foodies could sample some creative tasty bits and also check out cultural exhibits from each cultural region (not political jurisdiction as Persia, Palestine, and Taiwan were included).
The musical line-up boasted a variety of ethnic and distinctly regular acts from a rock band you might see at a Bridgeview roadhouse (Rocking out while waiting for Salmon – video) to a bass player from the MicMac nation (via New Brunswick) who’s exclaimed that she’s “been in the business for 43 years”.
The Chieftains were the headliners on Saturday night which had a Celtic bent to it with the Connors before them (Introducing The Chieftians – video). The Dublin-based band were joined by some young Canadians who were dancing and fiddling and mugging for the camera with mucho aplomb.
The main Chieftain didn’t care for the cameras on the stage projecting the show onto video screens. The drummer got to sing one and managed not to incite a riot when encouraging people to drink a long with his whiskey song.
The fave for me were Nettwerk recording artists, Nathan. A four piece with a country lilt and multi-instrument creativity. Switching between banjo, accordion and Theremin, acoustic and electric guitars, they sang tales of romance and deceit in a firm tender way, and even played a waltz. I am sucker for a quaver in a voice and i’ve listened to their plaintive, evocative songs on repeat today.
I planned to attend another day at the fest, but a lazy Sunday of watching the first Alpine stage of the Tour de France and unpacking at my new house (in North Van) won out.
Final observation (with my apologies to the do-gooders) while waiting for a bus at the Newton Exchange, listening to Angus (with a his can of Colt 45) ask a guy if the security guard uniform he was wearing was a Coast Guard uniform, i spotted a young woman wearing a shirt with iron-on glitter letters saying, “I was incredible in bed last night and all i got was this lousy t-shirt”
PS I coulda sworn i saw John Chow, the F*ck Art, Make Stats guy leaving as i arrived. Was that you?
On New Year’s Day 2009, I stroll along Vancouver’s Seawall towards English Beach to witness the annual Polar Bear swim with thousands of colourful Vancouver-ites gathering at English Bay, in costumes from clowns to bikinis, to start the New Year with a plunge into the frigid Pacific beginning with a a mass start from the snowy beach at 2:30pm on January 1st, 2009.
Once arrived to the festivities, i observe swimmers going in for a quick dip but also a few die-hards — including a Viking helmet clad yeoman — competing to be the heartiest participant.
Shot with a fish-eye style lens for a unique perceptive of the whole beach and ocean.
The Seabus (not sure if it was the Otter or the Beaver) began smoking heavily upon docking at Waterfront Station. After passengers disembarked and crew investigated the problem, the station was evacuated and firetrucks responded. The counterpart vessel waited in Burrard Inlet and didn’t immediately dock.
While a snowstorm dumps on Vancouver, Dave checks in while doing volunteer work at a holiday tree lot at Ikea in Coquitlam. He explains aesthetic and practical tree tips and reviews safety hints to do with highlighters, scissors and orange vests.