Month: December 2008

Dream

dream

Yoko Ono created this “handwritten instruction” for the end of 2008. It’s simple and beautiful. In a time of financial calamity and global warfare, dreams may be all we have.

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End of year purity

Kadomatsu at Nakano Pachinko parlor

Over the past days, small and large displays of bamboo, pine, basket, konbu and baskets have appeared on residential doors and in front of businesses. It’s called kadomatsu.

They symbolize longevity and the purity with which one prepares to bring in the new year. Some of the most elaborate ones are in front of the pachinko parlors and love hotels. Ours will be humbler.

Mochi-making party

Mochi-making party, grilled

Sunday we spent the day at the in-laws performing a year-end mochi-making party. After soaking the rice grains overnite, they are drained, and then taken into the back yard.

Using a huge wooden mallet, someone pounds the grains in a bowl made from a single piece of tree trunk. One person pounds, while the other brave person turns the dough. Eventually, it becomes sticky.

Mochi-making party, pounding

Mochi is fairly tasteless. At the party it was served many ways– with anko (sweet beans), with grated daikon, with sesame paste, with walnut paste, and kinako (dry soy powder). My favorite is grilled (see above), soaked in soy sauce, and placed between some nori seaweed.

You have to see the movie to really understand how domestic and primitive mochi-making is.

Shameless adultery, on Xmas!

Shameless adultery, on Xmas! Kimutaka with Beyonce

I was hoping for the perfect Xmas today. Confronted with such public and shameless adultery, my dreams have now been shattered.

Darling Kimutaku, do our vows mean nothing? Everywhere I turn I see you with that woman. I know that Beyonce is famous, rich and beautiful. But why must you flaunt your indiscretions in public? You have turned peace and love into envy and hate. If you want to reclaim my heart, I am expecting over-sized jewels.

–Your soon-to-be-former-wife

American meat, for the holidays?

American meat, for the holidays?

“We care” is the tag line to the American Meat campaign (americanmeat.jp). Convincing Japanese to touch American beef apparently requires extensive transit advertising and a complicated web site. The expensive multi-channel campaign also requires images of healthy white Americans, their innocent children, their cows grazing in belly-high grass in verdant valleys.

Of course, most of the American meat supply is kept artificially inexpensive by feeding animals soy and grains, confining them to small enclosures, and hopping them up with hormones and antibiotics. Not to mention the toxic waste caused by 10 meter high piles of chicken and pig manure that ends up in streams and the water supply. I guess that wouldn’t create upbeat “we care” imagery.

Does anyone know if the general Japanese meat supply is as factory-farmed and dangerous as in the United States? Has anyone in Japan been tempted by the “we care” ads to taste some American beef? Please send a comment.

(Just 42 more hours of Xmas music!)

Holiday parties & booze

Holiday parties & booze

The holidays remind me how fortunate I am to avoid almost all  parties, especially work and family-related. And, until moving to Tokyo, I almost never drank.

Here’s a list of what one New York Times author has overheard at holiday parties. Doesn’t it make you feel safer to be at home in front of the screen?

  • “We’re not really budgeted for a vacation this year, what with the exchange rate and my gambling addiction.”
  • “I have to apologize for not reading your new book yet. It’s just that the last one was so awful.”
  • “That’s a great outfit! It really shows off your breasts.”
  • “What I really want is a job where you don’t worry so much about money and prestige. Are there any openings at your place?”
  • “So I told human resources flat out, it’s not sexual harassment if I can prove I’m impotent.”
  • “Has anyone ever told you that you have the air of a much more successful person?”
  • “Sometimes accidental electrocution can be a blessing in disguise, but try telling that to the other mothers in the playgroup.”
  • “Did you have some work done? Because, you know, too little too late.”
  • “I don’t usually drink this much, but you’re insufferable.”
  • “I had pants on when I came in, right?”
  • “Aren’t holiday parties great?”

What have you over-heard at holiday parties? I am counting down the hours until the Xmas music is turned off in Tokyo. .

Strange visitors in Kyoto

Uncle and neices at Kinkakuji

One of the pleasure of travel is not only the sites but seeing the other site-seers. In Kyoto, I could not resist taking photos of these two spectacles that nearly over-shadowed the historic sites.

Above at Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavillion made famous in the West by Mishima, my mother and I spotted this “uncle and neices” three-some. The unusually warm weather in December does not sufficiently explain the brevity of these skirts. My husband charitably claims that three-piece-suited gentleman could be the young ladies’ relative, although I suspect most ojisan in Japan or elsewhere would not enjoy escorting their siblings’ children in these outfits. On the other hand, if they are not relatives, what an odd choice of date location, no?

Below at Katsura Villa, this over-sized personality demanded the attentions and photo-capturing assistance of fellow tourists, tour guide, and even the gardeners. So demanding that we witnessed some fellow tour-goers loudly “excusing” themselves for getting in her way, and much eye-rolling from the Japanese tourists. I wonder if she used to be a show-girl. I was certainly captivated.

Former showgirl at Katsura Villa

Fall leaves on the ground

Fall leaves on the ground

The solstice is past, and yet fall lingers in Japan. Today it’s about 60 degrees (maybe 18 celcius) and humid. Most of the leaves have fallen from the trees, but the photos above and below were taken just a few weeks ago.

The first three photos are from my favorite garden, Sentou Gosho, in Kyoto, designed by the 17th century artist and garden designer Enshuu Kobori. His designs are masterful– wandering paths, reflecting ponds, tea houses, stone and earthen bridges, thousands of flat stones mimicking the ocean shore. For all the glory of the impeccably manicured trees, moss and structures, some of the most astonishing sites are at foot-level.

Fall leaves on the ground with stones

The leaves include (Japanese) maple and ginko. The colors and patterns are brilliant. Given the large gardening staff, even fallen leaves can be considered designed. Their ephemeral nature adds to the beauty.

Perhaps these photos can inspire some ceramic designs.

Fall leaves on the ground with moss

I have to add this bizarre photo below. Despite the glory of kilometers of mature ginko trees turning gold, the city authorities deem it important to mark autumn with these hideous plastic leaves. Why?

Fake fall leaves on Tokyo street post