plants

Sakura music video by Monkey Majik

Glorious Edo-style cherry blossom music video by Canadian/Japanese band Monkey Majik. Catchy tune and amazing music video. Will this be the song of the season?

(Disclosure: I used to hate this band because the foreigners’ Japanese is so much better than mine. Ok, I was jealous. But I *luv* this video).

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Early summer garden

Early summer garden: morning glory

For 100 yen ($1.05), I bought this morning glory a few days ago. It’s already twining itself to the balcony railing. The tomato I planted a few months ago is producing quite well. The husband doesn’t like the thick and hard skin, but I find them tasty.

Balcony tomatoes

I’ve also started a bitter melon vine. It’s supposed to be super rich in vitamin C and beta-carotine. It makes a good pickle, and also tastes good combined with ground pork (though what doesn’t?).

bitter melon flower

And the saipan lemon tree is budding. The flowers smell so good. So far it isn’t fruiting much. The husband insists it needs hand pollinating.

saipan lemon buds

My first bizen pottery

Four bizen vases

Over the Golden Week holiday (May 1 to May 5), I am going with the ceramics senseis and some students to a small town in Shizuoka to make bizen pottery in a wood-fired kiln that will be heated for five days. We will take turns staying up all night to keep the fire lit.

Bizen pottery is very special. It is the oldest form of Japanese pottery, and can only be done in special kilns. Bizen uses no glaze, but instead organic materials like rice straw and pine ash placed on the ceramics produce red and brown markings and spots. The effects are often unpredictable, and they are called “yohen” or kiln accidents.

Here’s two examples of fine bizen: Okayama website, the town that is its original home. And Sachiko Torok’s work, an artist in Bizen.

My first pieces include the four vases above, modeled on the one on the right. My line is still not very good, but I like the trick of turning a round shape into a twisted five-sided shape. I also made four rectangle plates, ten tiny bowls, and five vases that include ceramic lattices for arranging flowers. Two of the lattices are in the shape of steep inverted bowls that sit on top of shallow bowls; three are flat lattices that sit on cylinders and an octagon.

I am curious how they’ll turn out in the oven. We are leaving two weeks from today, and I may make a few more pieces before we go. I’ll post more pictures from the trip and the finished results.

Apparently the bizen town we are going to is super small, and I was warned that there would be no internet. Fortunately one of the students has a nation-wide mobile internet provider for his laptop. I also confirmed with the senseis that while the town is small, they are well stocked with conbinis (convenience stores).