Tag Archives: Ryoko Olson

Diary: fetching Mochi stone (& VW Beetle bento)

Today, we drove out to beautiful countryside location to the home of a lovely lady who recently lost her husband. Our mission was to load up a approx 200 kg mochi making stone. Massively dense and unbudgeible at first. Took some levers, hoists and dumptruck power moves.

But don’t worry, I had the assistance of my wife, the widow, her mother-in-law and her 12-year-old daughter. There’s no more invincible force than Japanese women but in this case, was not the ideal crew!

The giant stone was joined by menagerie of different ceramic plant pots, some bizen fired drain pipe and all sorts of other odds and ends.

those are wheels/rims, not hubcaps!
vaguely-related: this well, I am quite convinced is a portal to Antipodes

We then went around the corner to a café (keep in mind, we were in a small hamlet and the drive was littered with Sakura, plum and peach trees in splendid bloom along was lazy river with elderly farmers doing their works and even Russian looking dacha cabins with garden plots for hobby gardeners to visit from the city) and ate a ridiculous ¥600 bento lunch.

Turns out the boss (who runs the sorta Bento café in a little hamlet which i am trying to recall the name) was born in 1974… He bought this one when he got his drivers license, the car is also 1974 and currently has 74,000 km.

Of course we talked for an extended period about my 1974 bus and the history of Volkswagen (including the Brasilian and Mexican versions) and, sat inside, checked the engine etc. and how this thing could run and until100 years old with proper maintenance.

The wife (or daughter?) drives a new-school Beetle, he had a couple of canoe/kayak-y boats, mountain bikes and a kura – which of course i inquired about and he hasn’t done anything special with but thinking about a karaoke lounge.

Anyhow, was cool to see this kind of tiny lifestyle business as our area could really use something like this. Also, noting, despite his house.biz being a traditional farmhouse with the tatami rooms, had a wheelchair ramp. Hooray for accessibility!

Update: the mochi rock is installed! Heavy. And no, its not a birdbath.

it ain’t going anyhwere!

Diary: goat farm anniversary (tasty notes & snaps)

(Most of but not all) of a tasting menu for 17th anniversary of @ruralcaprinefarm & 3rd anniversary of @norikohinuma / such wonderful creative cuisine, eaten in a barn with so many interesting folks and… For the first time in forever a whole bunch of kids outside playing together.

Yes, I know there are palaces, temple, shrines, skyscrapers, amusement parks, gardens, bars, ryokan, etc. etc. but this is my favorite place in Japan (except maybe a certain hotspring :))

These people mean so very much to ‘me and I also appreciate how Mac-san’s shops tiny floor space has 50% devoted to his record collection.

Catching my darlings just being darling. There’s a big drop off here to another goat area, yes, enough to break all of your bones, but our little guy has been coming here since before he was born and knows how to be safe
If you see anything cuter than this kiddo squatting down with a baby goat with a tractor in the background, please let me and the rest of the world know
With my eye infection, rock in the pirate patch and tissue to keep it clean while in a dusty environment and also representing for Japan after the big world baseball classic win… There was some amusement that the only guy doing so was the weirdo beardo foreigner :)
buy a ticket with a bunch of spaces on it and use all the spaces for dishes. I love the juxtaposition of the white China on rustic wooden tables

Diary: disintermediated ramble about preparing for rambles and stand-bys

Preamble: While planning for this trip to Vancouver & Victoria I’ve noticed that yes, obviously, a lot has changed (duh) & a lot of the places (cafés, neighborhoods, parks) I want to visit are definitely tied to nostalgia and memories (and facing ghosts from past life)

nostalgia is a heck of drug

{aside: finding nostalgia for Vancouver past is more potent than thoughts and plans for Vancouver present – neighbourhoods once loved now “not recommended (esp with a toddler who like to pick things up off sidewalk”), no more dim sum carts, hotels with endless extra taxes and fees, restaurants are expensive + tipping, complicated transit zones schemes persist, old haunts gone, so we go one}

Dear Diary:

10:45 in bed eating granola and medications, wife outside running woodchipper, grateful for noise-cancelling headphones.

Today’s “must-do” is organizing 70 days of meds in fishing tackle box.

Ok bye

Anyway, in the meanwhile… I’ve got out of bed, put on the clothes, now going to fold some laundry, rock the dishwasher, and organize some meds before he comes… (Actually looking at the clock I will do 1.5 of those tasks)

37% of me wants to go back to bed, another 15% of me wants to make a video to remind folks about my limitations for BC trip (i.e.: “I/we can’t meet you at *fancy place* at 7 PM for dinner but hey, we’re on a picnic blanket at a park from 11AM till 2PM with a thermos of coffee”)

Otherwise: So now, this is the last week of Ichiro school / the school year begins and ends in March in Japan so there was just graduations and he moved up to the next class which he will only be in for about two weeks total.

We pull him out and then stretch run for getting a whole ton of stuff ready for Canada… Not just the suitcase of medications, the suitcase of gifts (possibly two suitcases), various clothes for rainy weather but also doing all the stuff to get the house in “stand-by mode“ which includes standing up mattresses and fumigations (we’re going into the season of the bugs), having mosquito nets ready for when we come back, packing up the futons and the bags with the “bugs don’t eat me” devices inside plus… Of course the wife needs to renew her drivers license (her birthday is while we are in Canada) and…

We’re hosting a little pizza party as a post show celebration for the bands concert two weeks ago (because yes, we need something else to do), plus a retirement for another pal and “safe pregnancy” for another and i guess “bon voyage” for us. First time to have more than a few folks over, including several kids.

As such, finding a new school for Ichiro to start in September (looking into two or three days a week more nature and fun and free play-based environment… yesterday wife investigated a YMCA program which looked really good except it’s about a 40 minute drive away which is kind of a drag to do but I was able to tell her about the importance of the YMCA in my Dad’s life… Child of a poor single mother in Regina Saskatchewan, that was his hang out and finally charted his career path and his first job out of university was a program Director at YMCA, of course I have the business card).

There’s also the saga of the piano player from our wedding whose husband died recently suddenly (my age, a heart attack) and we’re going tomorrow with the little dump truck to help haul some stuff away… Specifically including a stone specially made for pounding rice in the mochi / no, you can’t make this up. But, we have a dump truck and my wife is endlessly supportive, creative and nothing is impossible so… I just ride along and pretend to help.

So, were less than two weeks out and have too many tasks but what gets done gets done… Yesterday I organized medications and labeled everything, today I am going to try to bang out a little profile for open medicine foundation (you know this group/organization right?) for awareness and *yikes* share my story just as i hit 10 years since “sick day”.

There’s also a call for submissions for University of Idaho in Boise for mail art collage and… I mean, no one ever asks for this kind of stuff specifically so I really feel like I should make something but, maybe I’ll do that on the 9th, mail it on the 10th and fly out on the 11th… Maybe mail it from the airport as a bonus. I have a dear friend who lives in Boise who will be able to go see it in real life… Maybe take her husband and kids (they are adults now) that would make it kind of fun for me.

Also, 1 more round of injection, 1 more setai treatment, and a haircut for me and Ichiro so we are rolling sharp.

I also remind myself that six months ago or a year ago or two years ago I couldn’t do a quarter of what I’m doing now. I am grateful but so anxious.

{gonna be a lot of picnics in parks and when using hotels, booked rooms with kitchenette / going April May will be better cost than July/ August but still, i’m a medically-retired pensioner so gotta be frugal while still showing wife and kiddo funtimes}


My kid got up in his “moose suit” fleece romper, checked out his new art gallery we hung up yesterday, set out granola and bowls for the family, & tuned the radio to Peter Barakan’s NHK radio show playing Grateful Dead’s “Casey Jones’” sung by Warren Zevon (I’m pretty sure) #Parenting

He’s definitely curious, energetic and is developing great taste in music. He spent most of the “public health restriction time” hanging out with adults and that impact is definitely evident.

Diary: Valentine’s Week “tasks” with Ryoko

Valentines week which means the darling wife and I are going to do some scrapbooking today (Monday) + this week go to Uniqlo to buy raincoats for Canada trip, maybe pop by a secondhand store, sneak in a #MECFS (Thurs) hospital visit for me, maybe even drop off some special recycling #Romance xo

super cute kid’s outfit at Mont Bell (might return here)

Update: a few specific clothing items (sweaters, coats, socks!) and shoes acquired for trip complicated recycling disposed (a CD player and printer cartridges) coffee and lunch together second hand store visited but no purchases + visit to a bakery and a gasoline stand

don’t totally understand the promotion campaign but the great Ichiro and postbox at Uniqlo means, ok, i’m in

Various views of a coffee and cute dessert (at a Brazilian café) Sweet old Japanese lady rocking it solo. Further backstory unknown.

Bonus: Which ride do you prefer?

Diary: Ryoko’s “Mack the Knife” singing show

In brief: Ryoko just rocked “Mack the Knife” & 2 other tunes at a matinee show

Ryoko who was looking great in outfit we put together (black “Audrey Hepburn-esue” dress, Tiffany necklace, Fluevog shoes)

Feb 11 2023: Ryoko sang in an afternoon showcase with other students of Keizaburo Yano, friends Sachiko, Mitsuko, and Lisa at a event /resto etc (a wedding was hosting at same time making for a fun backdrop.

The venue is a grand stone vaguely english-castle-vibe with a big staircase so i wrangled Ryoko to pose for a snap after she rocked “Stars Fell on Alabama (Okayama)” and “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (which included a dead/hot mic change mid-song) and in between, slayed “Mack the Knife” – all accompanied by Rie Kakudo who also played at our wedding party. Dodgy video to follow.

Ichiro was with us along with dear in-laws, we ate a lovely meal while songs went on. Ichi had a special menu for himself (well there was one other child, a beautiful 6 year old daughter).

yes, all this for Ichiro, plus dessert
Yano-sensei closed it out with our bass-playing friend and a fella on a wooden “jam box” not sure what these are called but we *need* get for Ichiro.

Was glad a had my preferred back corner chair and was super glad dear Matsuke-sensei (tea ceremony master) was there in lovely kimono in the front enjoying

Feeling like a bigshot with a table card ;) Note: “with the band” but had to pay for coffee (tea was included)

Fluevog will prob wanna use this as advert

Im a distant 3rd place in my gang but they let me hang + Ichiro scored a box of chocolate he aint letting go

PS those arms are licensed to chainsaw (& cuddle)

Your diligent (& exhausted) correspondent out and about {doing what i can to make the world a wee bit more weird & quirky}
#cbc pin 
#jerrygarcia tie
#stetson hat
#ambassador suit
#viking beard oil
#horns specs

Ryoko & Me at Goat Farm

Photo at Rural Caprine (Goat) Farm where we met, captured by our first “official tourist visa guest” Kane Tan – since well… long before I can recall.

Yes, I am completely mental in love with her

Bonus: Here’s Mr. Tan and I in front of the newly renovated Okayama “Crow castle” – we have many mutual friends, but I’ve never met in real life before, and enjoyed a very pleasant time with this multi-talented, charming, graceful gentleman (despite almost everywhere, we attempted to visit/eat was closed)

More about Kane’s visit in November re-cap: guest, poetry, pod & usual maintenance

goodbye tigers, hello rabbits / new year greetz 2023

Fondly from the Olsons of Tsuchida Cottage // grateful for the goodness you bring into our lives
Us, New Years Day / blahhhhh

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

Ryoko’s Artisan Charcoal (her company is: kinome-okayama.jp)

Preamble: Do you remember me telling you about Ryoko’s charcoal kiln? Anyhow, she built it herself, recently fired for the first time and here are the results.

Behold! Artisan charcoal (for tea ceremony, woodstoves, medicinal use etc.)

I know I gush about my amazing wife all the time / she continually truly amazes me with her projects both “professional and personal“. … So, this is me saying: here is her new incredible project, charcoal.

here is the kiln in action making the neighbourhood a wee bit smoky

Project started with clearing out a significant part of bamboo forest, like 20 m tall bamboo trees, then excavating part of a small hillside, followed by installing an oil drum in which she cut holes for loading and chimneys, then surrounding the drum with bricks, adding the two-stage chimney, building a roof (this part I helped a tiny bit #GoodBoy) and sealing it just before the rains came.

Then, loaded up with a variety of wood – mix of various hardwoods and bamboo – for her first firing. Lit a fire at a little entrance at the front, eventually catches inside and “roasts“ all the wood without burning.

After eight hours, cut off the oxygen (by then our whole compound smelled like barbecue), then after two or three days, opened it up & pulled all the charcoal out (hey, I helped with this part too!).
She also collected the magic charcoal water for some kind of still unknown to me medicinal use.

The part I love the most is all the various skills she used for one single project to gracefully produce what seems like a very simple product. From forestry to machinery to metal cutting to alchemy and so many points in between (and usually a cute hat).

And she goes about all these complicated projects with a cheerful smile + a combination of confidence and naivety / I will wake up be drinking coffee and look out the window and she’s rented a power shovel for the day or a running hydraulic wood splitter.

By the way, she also designs traditional Japanese gardens with a bit of a modern functional twist as well as doing tree trimming, plant installations, rock work… all of this is aside from her jazz singing, occasional piano live streams.

Her company is called Kinome.

Question: “can you use this charcoal for drawing”

The initial answer from the maker is “I don’t know, i think its different/ specific wood & process but let’s try”

(I think the artists charcoal is ground up finally after roasting and then pressed back together, maybe with a binding agent)

Halloween out n about / minimal effort, moderate fun (w/ magic darling duo)

Canada Japan Friendship Society, Tsuchida branch

Briefly: Evidence of us doing the Halloween rounds this afternoon / including the magnificent Taroman pumpkin shriveling into repose & our “bare minimum yet very effective” costumes of a ragtag baseball squad

It seems we live in a Ghibli theme park

The neighborhood has four “official” trick-or-treat stations, specifically available from 1 PM till 2:30 PM.

After hitting up a couple, I pulled out the pumpkin to the stoop, set up a lawn chair and added chaos into the well-ordered routine with spontaneous station number five while my darling duo hit up a couple of others, returning beaming with treats while I am a few twizzlers lighter after visits by a young surgeon (with stethoscope and spectacles in his pocket), a young police officer, a couple of cats, a little bear, and a few middle-age neighborhood guys shutting down the other stations.

Why yes we do matchy matchy looks

Noting that station number one had a great persimmon tree and issued scissors to bring a few of these wonderful fruit home which look like tiny little pumpkins. We use them all sorts of ways including my fermented vinegar.

Pumpkin looking a little worse for wear, hopefully the wild boar will come make short work of it

The nice lady there took a snapshot of the three of us & the husband there asked when we’re having another baby 🙂

There they are!

Really nice to see a little bit of liveliness in the neighborhood after, you know… “all of this“ / glad to be able to chitchat with folks as I’m still a bit of a mystery in the area but Ichiro is clearly famous(!)

Ichi was Concept Director for the pumpkin which was modeled after his favorite program, the super campy 70s crazy art collage by Okamoto Taro “Taroman”
Supporting evidence of above: Ichiro at Taroman exhibit in Osaka