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Showing posts from June, 2014

The June Rainy Season Brings...

So for the past few days, my host family's middle child who lives in Nagoya and works as a massage therapist came to visit for a few days. She was nice-- a little quiet, but kind-- but I didn't see much of her since I had school and she also had some work to do here at a spa or something in Kanazawa. But I had us take a "family portrait" before she left today:

From left to right: Naoko with Cocoa, Me, Nobuko, and Ryuichi.

Then my host parents took me to a place just on the edge of the mountains where there were fields and fields of irises.

There were something like 20 different varieties of's been raining fairly hard these last three days so some of the flowers were bent over, but the ones that were standing were vibrant from the rain and covered with water droplets. The air was fresh and it was lovely--reminded me more of spring than summer.

Then I went back to the Higashi Chaya district that Ryo and I went to briefly at the end of May. Sometimes it&…

All of the Things I Wish I could Buy

Today it rained. Which was unusual in only that it was usual: though it's the rainy season it has only rained a handful of days. It did mean that I had to take an umbrella for once when I went to visit the Museum of Traditional Arts and Crafts, which is located inside Kenrokuen. Even though it was raining, the park was still full of tour groups, their umbrellas splotches of color against a grey sky. There are 36 crafts that are designated as "developed in Ishikawa" and the museum had stunning examples (mostly modern, which was lovey to see how these traditions have continued into the present day).

Kaga embroidery and yuzen silk dying.

Kaga paper stencils

Washi paper...gods I drooled over this. I have no idea what I'd even use it for, but it's feather light and just so pretty...

And by far one of my favorites, decorative fishing flies. They have practical uses as well (i.e. you an fish with them) but then they're made into the most beautiful pieces of jewelry…

I Get Up to Noh Good

Back from hiatus (well, if three days counts as a hiatus) since all my in-class presentations and the "first semester" exam is over and done with (results still pending). Now we get a 3.5 day break, 1.5 days of which are already over...where does all the time go?! Regardless, today I did a variety of interesting cultural things.

Even thought it was a break day, I woke up at the same time I usually do and caught the same bus I usually do, but instead of getting off at Rifare I got off at a stop called Minamicho to visit Oyama Jinja, a large and popular shinto shrine in the downtown Kanazawa area.

The large benefit of being there at 8:45 in the morning was that there was essentially no one there. A shrine maiden was sweeping the stone pathway, a priest was kneeling inside the temple, and someone was praying at one of the shrines inside the complex, but in general all was quiet. I drew an omikuji (fortune telling) from the main shrine and got good fortune! And a small charm wit…

Weird/Strange/Cool Things

Hey folks. This week (up until Friday) is going to be a slow week. What with essays, class presentations, and a three-hour "first semester" exam on Thursday to prep for, my days aren't going to be much more than school, work, sleep, rinse and repeat. So in the interim, here's a collection of things I've spotted during my four weeks here (can you believe it's already been four!?) on the street.

A vending machine that's covered with pigs. Why pigs I have absolutely no idea..

This is a sculpture in a park near my house that I think is supposed to be some sort of bird creature attacking? eating? approaching? kissing? some buildings, but according to my host mom (and me) it just looks like poop on stilts...

Random artwork I saw in a window on the street and thought was cool. They have a thing for animals apparently.
 An entire class of elementary school students all wearing identical yellow hats walking into the colored spiral at the 21st Century Museum. I jus…

Saturdays In the Culture Center

I've heard the term "crafternoon" bandied about when talking about an afternoon spent doing arts and crafts. But what do you call culture-activity Saturdays? Culturdays? Cultdays? Satures? Maybe there's no good word for it. Either way, this Saturday morning was yet another PII culture activity: calligraphy!

Now, I did calligraphy for the entire six months I was in Japan in high school, but it was nice--soothing and relaxing even-- to try my hand (hardy har har) at it again. The teacher was very nice and essentially just let us write what we wanted, only really correcting us if we asked, so I passed a very calm, (zen if you would) hour and a half.

Those are from my "brag pile" of the dozens of sheets I wrote. I always write a bunch and then pick the best to keep. Those are the characters for flower, write, bird, heart, and dream, respectively. Flower and write are done in a more "calligraphy" style, while the last three are more "proper".

Inner Peace--Just a Bit out of Reach

Today after class PII took us to the D.T. Suzuki Museum--a small, minimalist museum that celebrates D.T. Suzuki, a famous Japanese zen philosopher who was born in Kanazawa. The museum is very VERY small--it's less of an "exhibit" type museum than a space for contemplation. There was one room that had examples of Suzuki's calligraphy, and another room that had books about zen that you could read at your leisure, but the main part of  the museum is the Water Mirror Garden.

The architect who designed the museum is actually rather famous--Yoshio Taniguchi, who redesigned the MoMA in New York.

The space was beautiful and was nice to just sit there and look at the water and think about things...until forty nine other PII students walked in:

This is definitely a solo-museum. It's a space I love--but for quiet relaxation and introspection.

After this, the class of 2.5 students and our two teachers went out to karaoke and then dinner because at the end of next…

Claire: The Destroyer

Today was our second day of making pottery after classes. We arrived at the studio and collected the in-progress chawan that we had begun last week. We were then given a demonstration on how to shape the bottom of the bowl. Essentially you turned the bowl over, used a knife to sketch a circle on the bottom (the diameter of which would become the base of the bowl) and then physically cut away, at an angle, clay from the sides of your chawan. You used a wire pulled taut between a curved piece of metal...kind of like a bow? Then you attached a thing rope of clay around your circle to form the raised base. I ended up with something like this:

You can see how the angle of the bowl changes and there's a raised base.


Some of you observant readers might notice the shape of the bowl above. You might notice how it seems like the top edge is wavy and the bowl itself is not quite symmetrical, which is a must for Claire art. You might be suspecting that this bowl's shape is quite diff…

Mountains and Monkeys

Today I woke up at the bright and early hour of 5:30. My host family and I were driving about two and a half hours to the neighboring prefecture of Nagano to visit Kamikochi--a national park with beautiful views, camping, hiking, mountain climbing etcetc. Your typical nature things. It's a park famous for several things, one of them is the "Kappa-bashi:" a bridge that a famous novelist wrote a story about the kappa (Japanese water creature of myth) living under it. The park also had a visit from the royal family in the 1920s and that helped add to the park's notoriety.

Cutesey version of a kappa? I resisted buying one even though I reaaaaalllyyy wanted one.

We finally reached the park around 9:30 in the morning. It wasn't as crowded as it could have been, we suspect, because Japan had a World Cup match at that same time and we figured people might stay home to watch (they ended up losing 2-1). So since it wasn't crowded, we were really able to appreciate just…