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Things In My Apartment #3: Furoshiki [Jul. 22nd, 2007|10:26 am]
We support your socks life
[Current Music |Baby said how long you gonna stay in China, China, China ain't far away]

Lauren bought me this furoshiki for my birthday last fall. It fits in well with the other animals on my tatami room walls (namely, Edward Tulane). It's also well-suited to the rainy season, when the insects crawl out from everywhere. I'm not sure what these insects are, though - crickets? Grasshoppers? Have you read Kawabata Yasunari's story of the grasshopper and the bell cricket, where the little boy's and little girl's names are written in lantern-light on each other's chests? It's bug-hunting season again.


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Link1 |Sumimasen

REWIND: Kumano Take One, November 2006 [Jul. 18th, 2007|10:06 pm]
We support your socks life
[Current Music |Karen Dalton - Katie Cruel]

Sean and I visited Lauren in the dirty south last fall and found it all looming mountains and rain. Kumano is beautiful in a way that Tsu will never be. It's been allowed to discolour and rust. The streets seem narrower and the cliff faces hang like old wasps' nests over the buildings. That weekend the waves were a glacier-blue when they broke upon the stony beach. It took some effort to shake off the weight of the weather, but we managed to get ourselves to the ocean before retreating to Mos Burger.

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Grey, purple, blue, hint of orange, glazed-window greenCollapse )
Link2 |Sumimasen

REWIND: Ise Matsuri, October 2006 [Jul. 16th, 2007|05:18 pm]
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[Current Music |If I was where I would be, then I'd be where I am not, here I am where I must be]

In two weeks I will lock up my apartment, slip the key into an envelope and drop the envelope in Molly's mailbox, and make my way to Australia ... Maggie and I will spend two glorious weeks chilling out in the Antipodean winter. Following that, I have three days in Hong Kong and five more in Japan, and then I fly home; after last night, with its crickets singing and cool wind blowing, I can easily imagine this home, or at least the island, where the nights are always cooler and crickets sing in the kitchen cupboard ... Still, I'm dragging my heels, I don't want to go. No, I do want to go, I can't see myself loving my position in a year's time, not as much as I do now. & this was only ever meant to be a seeing-meeting-eating-and-drinking sojourn, not a lifelong study, not an immersion. Who knew that I'd be planning to return before I even left.

The necessity of sticking to decisions and limiting options has become clearer and clearer over the past few years, to the point that it's almost a pleasure to give up fanciful and even possible plans. I've managed to convince myself that the choices I've made are good ones and I'm through with the uncommitted wanting after things ...

So, lots of packing and preparation to take care of in the next while, and LOTS of picture posting to catch up on. First off, the Ise matsuri last October, where I ran around with the people from Shima and Ise whom I see so rarely. I remember eating too much carnival food and buying secondhand jackets off a tarp at 100 yen a piece. At the end of the evening several men climbed up some scaffolding and set off fireworks, massive sparklers, from their hands. Just another festive display of the danger and lustiness that also fuel Schoolgirl Attitude and Salaryman Heart.

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See more ...Collapse )
LinkSumimasen

Things in My Apartment #2: Kids' Beer [Jul. 11th, 2007|07:11 am]
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Take one home for the kiddies. This is one of several unusual drinks available in Japan. No doubt you've all heard about cucumber-flavoured Pepsi (not very good). I'm curious about the taste of the beer, but there's no way I'm sampling this particular baby brewski. It's been fermenting on my windowsill for the past six or seven months.

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ETA: I found kids' beer at the fancy new 100 yen store in the train station and bought a bottle. It tastes like mild, not-too-sweet apple juice gone fizzy. Froths appealingly. Not bad, but it won't replace ramune as my summer soft drink of choice.
LinkSumimasen

Things in My Apartment #1: Bento Boxes [Jul. 4th, 2007|07:21 pm]
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[Current Music |You looked okay with the others, you looked great by yourself]

I've acquired three Japanese lunchboxes over the past eleven months (far less than I was tempted to buy). They're among my prettiest souvenirs. Pretty and useful—until I packed them up to ship home last week, I used them fairly regularly. Typically one bento box contains an entire meal: the bottom compartment is packed with rice and perhaps some pickles, the top with a mini-buffet of tasty morsels, e.g. slices of Japanese omelette, cooked vegetables, cocktail sausages, more pickles. Like this. Even after a year of Japanese-sized portions, though, I find the lunchboxes too small to hold a filling amount. So I stuff them with sliced carrots, cucumber, peppers, orange segments, grapes, cherries, and yes, pickles, and then I make a sandwich.

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This was my first purchase and, as is often the case, it's still my favourite.

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Snack on this:Collapse )
Link4 |Sumimasen

Milk bath [Jun. 28th, 2007|09:43 pm]
We support your socks life
Last Sunday Cally and I were spirited away to Ouchiyama, where the milk is made in Mie; for the purpose of this fairy story, to the heart of the heart of the ken. By a shopping complex called Milky Park we met Megan, she of the strawberry underwear. Megan's car is a charm-chariot, a vehicle cluttered with fruity prints and furry knick-knacks, made to entice the innocent into abandoning the ordinary world and joining its mistress in the mountains. First she took us to an onsen where 35 litres of Ouchiyama brew are poured into the outdoor bath. We softened our skin in the hot mixture as the rain cooled our faces. I kept my nose plugged too, for the smell of the bath evoked some unfortunate memories of babysitting sick babies, and I think I heard an old maiden say that a whiff will deceive you into desiring childlessness forever ... Then the charm-chariot led us to a mountainside farm, where cows with snakes for tongues ate from Megan's hand, and vicious one-eared rabbits, the lost colony of Watership Down, scared us out of their hutch, and a wizened man (they are always wizened) allowed us sips of milk fresh from the cow. By all conventions we should have stayed there for hundreds of years or six months at least, but we shook ourselves free in order to kidnap Stan from his castle in the rice fields. & then we went to Denny's.

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Mist, mountains, stuffed animals, ice cream, milk.Collapse )
Link2 |Sumimasen

I haven't always done the best I can [Jun. 28th, 2007|05:02 pm]
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[Current Music |But I learned to be alone, and I learned to be a man]

I'm really digging A Softer World this week:

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LinkSumimasen

News that stays news [Jun. 12th, 2007|01:27 pm]
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMy library card, predictably cute. I biked to the library during lunch today and scooped up a few books by some of my favourite hawt* old men: W.G. Sebald's Austerlitz, Philip Roth's The Dying Animal and J.M. Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello, as well as the May 28th edition of the New Yorker. Have I mentioned how fantastic the library's English collection is? I'm extremely curious about the English books buyer. They've purchased works by Kathy Acker and Sarah Vowell (among many, many others), anthologies of queer Japanese literature, lots of poetry, and, in timely fashion, several new Kurt Vonnegut novels. And young adult literature—I saw Skellig mixed in with the grown-up books. I still can't believe it took me nearly 8 months to join. The laziness that led to this omission is ... well, rather similar to the complacency that's kept me from purchasing a lightbulb for the overhead lamp.**

Pet peeve: On my way into the library I passed at least seven cars idling in the culture centre's parking lot. For some reason this isn't illegal in Japan, and people take full advantage of the opportunity to pollute. Salarymen escape the office to nap in their vehicles with the air-con and the radio blasting. Parents leave children and dogs lounging around on the seats while they run errands. It's irresponsible and disgusting, especially in a country that prides itself on its environmental policies.


*Hawt as in alienated, crotchety and cynical.

**Fluorescent light makes everyone look like thugs or invalids, anyhow.
Link3 |Sumimasen

Maiko on the street, April 1st [Jun. 2nd, 2007|12:00 pm]
We support your socks life
Not all of Kyoto's maiko were performing in the Miyako Odori. We spotted a few walking to appointments in Gion. Fiona pulled out her best paparazzi moves and nabbed some fine pictures. Later that day, we saw two more maiko waiting to cross Shijodori. They stood at the intersection for less than five minutes and were mobbed by foreign and Japanese tourists alike, everyone calling out Maiko-san, Maiko-san ... Thinking back on this, I'm reminded of the evenings on the island when my father would go around the walnut grove banging the trees, trying to flush out the deer. We'd wait where we'd been told to wait. The crash-bang-banging from the bushes made me skittish, never mind how the deer might have felt. For all the evenings we stood there in the grass, I think we spied the great big disturbed animals only once or twice. No doubt they spied us much more often, perhaps nearly every time. I can't explain exactly why it was so exciting to see them. We knew they'd only run until they were out of sight again.*

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*That's why. Obviously!
Link5 |Sumimasen

Miyako Odori, April 1st [May. 30th, 2007|08:29 pm]
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[Current Music |Well I'll be damned, here comes your ghost again]

During that Kyoto machiya weekend we attended the Miyako Odori, the spring geisha dances. The kimono, the sets and the music were beautiful. I wish I could match their eloquence right now, but after an evening of coffee and wine I know I'll only write something moony. They danced through the seasons, sakura and momiji in hand. Their kimono draped around their hidden feet exactly as they do in ukiyo-e.

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High fashion.Collapse )
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