Saturday, October 18, 2008

On trips to NYC I was always enamored by the idea of living in a city and buying flowers on your way home from work and carrying them to your flat.  Silly, I know... but its the simple extravagances like flowers and really good butter than I live on.  My local flower shop knows me well and gives me little treats every time I am in there.  I found these cotton flowers recently - so fuzzy and nice!  Have you ever tried pulling cotton seeds out of cotton?  Thank you, Eli Whitney (ahem, er I say this in jest, as we all know, the cotton gin allowed for the huge increase in slavery to keep up with the demand for cotton), it's incredibly difficulty to pull the seeds from that fluff. (My toilet-room window)

My shower room window.  I try pretty hard to make every shower an Herbal-Essences-showering-in-a-waterfall experience.
My cutesy house decorating efforts.
My mini-cacti, and in the background a bottle of koruzo, a type of vinegar made from rice in Kagoshima.  While you can use this for cooking, it is also used to facilitate digestion (like apple cider vinegar or kombucha).  The absence of kombucha in my life is strongly felt, so I knock back a shot of this vinegar a couple times a week and try not to focus too much on my kombucha cravings.
My table! A squash given to me by my ikebana teacher, a pumpkin given to me by the cute flower shop man (everyone knows Americans have to have pumpkins around Halloween! Ha, I found a normal sized pumpkin in a flower shop the other day and was considering buying it so that I could demonstrate how to carve a pumpkin to my students, but it cost $50!), an Asian pear (call nashi), grappa from Philip, a nice bottle shouchu (a whiskey-type drink made from sweet potato native to Kagoshima), my fruit bowl, a letter from Cora (I love you!), and flowers.
The door to my bathroom that I have decorated with vintage postcards from California.  A lot of them are images of Santa Cruz!  Ha, the 1950's version of Santa Cruz is a nice one to have in my head...
The End of an Era:
 Last weekend I went on a trip to a town north of Kagoshima called Kokobu to visit one of my newest friends.  I went to a "reggae party" and thought I was going to have lots of hilarious pictures of me and a lot of Japanese people trying to dance to reggae music, but my faithful little digicam has gone distinctly M.I.A.  These pictures bellow are an ode to that little camera (which I recently had bedazzled) that has been in my pocket since India.    In many ways it is a push in a good direction to have lost that little digicam because I don't think the picture quality is that great... but I never would have gotten half the shots I did in India were I not able to carry a that little thing in my pocket and quickly snatch it out to grab a picture and hide it again.  However, this huge Nikon D100 (thank you Tom McCormick!) will not make me abandon my voyeurism and annoying camera-happy ways.  Now I can take more artsy shots as seen above with a much more sophisticated image quality. Above, a dingy Chinese restaurant with some depressed-looking salary men having a late greasy dinner.
If there were a Denny's in Japan that was Italian themed, it would be called "Fracasso." My general rule is to not eat most western-style food offered in Japan.  A good Italian or French restaurant is rare (there is a Japanese penchant for seaweed in salads and pastas) and who knows where they get the cheese to make certain dishes, so it's best to stick to what they do best - Japanese food.
I was really vibing with this kid.  There is truly nothing like sitting on the tram and looking out the window.
This was really, really cute.
And then these two came along and the cuteness nearly killed me.
Fruit at the market near my house.  Its persimmon season!  Also, the local specialty - Satsuma oranges of many sizes and tastes!
Part of the glory of living next to a giganto-mall is that every weekend there is some event being held there.  Last weekend there was some sort of costumey-fashion show that consisted of girls in prom-wedding-burlesque wear.
Woah Part II!
This is my friend Haru enjoying a delicious Japanese desert.  "Parfait" style deserts are incredibly popular here and always have their own unique Japanese spin.  This one was declared by my friends to be one the best ever and is composed of coffee jelly on the bottom (this is also a very distinctly Japanese desert - its basically jello made out of sweet coffee and people love it) with ice cream and whipped cream on the top with a scoop of anko (Japanese sweet beans) and fruits.  What they really loved about it was the combination of ice cream, coffee jelly and sweet beans.  Ok, coffee and cream - yes.  Coffee, cream and sweet beans?  It was a little weird to me, but the presentation had me won over.
These are my favorite slippers (they look like very folksy vampire cats!) and my favorite bath mat!
Fish at the local market.  Look at how shiny they are! I could just string them on a necklace!
Mmmm, cabbage!  I love to eat you!  Seriously.
Haha, this drink makes me laugh.  It's hard to see this, but this drink claims to have "70 lemons worth of Vitamin C in every bottle."  How did they choose this number?  Let's see, 4o lemons is too little, 80 lemons is maybe pushing it... 70 lemons is the perfectly balanced dosage of vitamin C.  At last, just the right amount of lemons in a bottle!
A woman buying vegetables at the market near my house.
My favorite thing about going to markets/grocery stores anywhere in the world are "mystery items."  I live for this.  This is why I move around the world or even around my home town - to ask, "how are other people doing it?"  Japanese markets are chock-full of mystery items and I am exploring them one by one.  Ok, so I really don't know what these flowers are for.  Some kind of tea? To float in one of those bowls of water along with floating candles?  I am going to find someone to ask and get back to you on this.  

My ikebana teacher recently invited me to her house, which was a beautiful blend of a traditional Japanese house and very modern architecture and design aesthetic.  She and her daughter have an incredible garden and a kiln in their backyard!  They make a lot of really simple funky pieces that are home to many plants and that we had our tea and snacks out of!
I am very charmed by these organic shapes.
This is an antique Okinawan dish that we ate a sweet bean desert off of with cherry-wood spears.  Delightful!
This kind of huge, meaty grape is really popular here, and rightfully so.  Delicious.  More of my teacher and her daughter's pottery.  I am completely inspired by pottery these days...I am on pottery class No. 2 and I really, really am in love.  To make something with your hands from the earth!  Paper, pens and paint start feeling so removed.  I have to admit that patience is a big problem for me though... I spent all of this time looking at Finnish and Swedish pottery from the 50's and 60's (see artists like Gustavsber, Mari Simmulson, Ingrid Atterberg, and Rorstrand Studio here) as well as tradition Japanese pottery, and in my mind all these images lead me to being steps away from creating masterpieces myself.  Haha, just one week after my first class I envisioned myself finding a potter in the countryside to intern with and mixing clay from local riverbanks with my feet for a year.  But pottery happens to be so much different than sitting down and drawing something and I found myself getting so frustrated that I couldn't translate my mind's image to the clay.  This week's lesson: patience and perseverance lead by simplicity.  I was trying to hard to just produce a really complicated idea despite the fact that it was only my second class and I hardly knew the basics.   


Jeff said...

The patience with clay does come. Frustration is a part of learning. You have to change the energy form frustration into motivation. Quantity and repetition is the job for the beginner. Familiarity with technique and precisely controlled power through your hands and fingers.
I love to hear that you're getting into it, and also share the dream of apprenticing with a master, by some magical fate.

tomtedthos said...

Ee ja nai ka means Isn't it great? or What the Hell! I was reading some Japanese History for a story I'm writing about a comic battle, you know me, when I come across this festival Ee ja nai ka where people all around Japan in 1867-8 danced for days in wild costumes, often transvestite. It was at the beginning of the Meiji restoration when the Emperor was allmighty again and people could relax after all the rice shortages brought on by the disastrous invasion of Korea.
Do you watch movies online? If you can get a hold of it the movie Sabrina with Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn I think it could be fun.