OH, Japan!

Oh, Japan! Never could I have imagined the impact that a short trip to accompany my husband on a business trip to Japan in the 1980’s would have on my life. The impact was profound and has continued to influence my life in ways small and large.

Suddenly I was presented with a very different way to see and be in the world. It was as if I’d fallen down the rabbit hole into a fascinating new world that I had no idea existed. I found an ancient culture that revered its traditions as it continued to innovate creatively. I found people who appeared always to be generous and polite. I found an attention to detail that captivated me. I found a culture that revered nature (most of the time). I found stark contrasts between old and new, the sacred and the profane. Juxtapositions exist everywhere.  It was stimulating and inspirational. It got my attention. In a week’s time, I quickly became obsessed with all things Japanese. It was clearly a case of love at first sight. In the ensuing years, I’ve come back to Japan many times. I now live part time in Kyoto.  It’s become my Source.

My obsession can puzzle those who’ve never been to Japan. I do my best to explain it with the following examples. Continue reading “OH, Japan!”

Going the Tourist Route (for a few hours)

Today we merged with a few of the thousands of Chinese tourists who come to Kyoto to view the cherry blossoms. There are droves of Chinese tourists who flock here eager to shop and have fun. Young Chinese women dress up in brightly colored garish kimono, taking advantage of dozens of kimono rental businesses that have sprung up recently. These try-on opportunities are not regarded kindly by many Japanese, because,in their opinion, it cheapens and demeans the refined beauty of the kimono. I’ve noted that the women seem quite pleased with their transformation, snapping selfies and obviously oblivious to their host nation’s opinion of the practice. kimono rental Continue reading “Going the Tourist Route (for a few hours)”

Cleanliness Redefined

If there was a competition for the world’s cleanest country, I have no doubt that the Japanese would win it hands down, or clothes off.

We just visited the venerable Kinosaki Onsen about a two hour train ride from Kyoto on the West Coast. We traveled with two of our grandchildren, uncertain whether or not they would be up for naked bathing in a crowd. One bravely ventured in and the other declined for the obvious reasons.

The self consciousness that American women feel about their bodies is no where evident in a Japanese bath. It’s liberating.

It took me years to get to the point where I too am not self conscious. Maybe it was just a question of letting go of my foolish pride in my younger dancer’s body. Of course it all passes sooner or later, so to expect otherwise is just a delusion. At some point I realized that no one gives a damn what I look like without clothes other than myself. Bodies come in all shapes sizes and conditions and here there is no judgement by other bathers. If there is, I don’t detect it and cannot understand Japanese, so it’s not an issue!
I have come to accept and be grateful for my relatively functional aging body as is at this time in my life.

The canal running through town is bordered by willow trees just leafing out, and festooned with cherry trees, illuminated at night. The iconic scene is punctuated by the high Japanese bridges periodically crossing the river.

bridge

KInosaki is an old onsen town that has 7 public baths. I’m not sure how the Japanese go from bath to bath to bath because I’m happily cooked well done after one round of bathing. Nevertheless, visitors in small groups of families or friends. promenade in their yukata(cotton bathrobe) through town, clip clopping in their geta sandals on the stone sidewalks, visiting one onsen after another. The sounds lend a timeless sound track to the setting.

Visiting Kinosaki Onsen makes for an enjoyable getaway and a dip into another facet of Japanese culture not to be missed nor forgotten.

A Day in My Life in Kyoto

Truth be told, I was not feeling well last week. Since I’m prone to upper respiratory infections,  I travel with a stash of medicine to help insure I recover more quickly when illness strikes.  I saw a local doctor who added to my pharmacological intake, and confirmed that my lungs were clear, although I had a cough bad enough to rouse the dead.  That said, my energy was drained.  I  tired quickly so most days were spent close to my bed so I could lay down as necessary.  The good news is, I’m about 85% better today. Although I was a bit apprehensive I decided it was Time to leave the nest and head out for a while. If I ran out of steam, I could taxi home.

We’ve had a splendid run of great weather.  Some of the cherry blossoms have already peaked but the season is still in full swing with later blooming varieties taking the stage.  There are too many tourists in town, still searching for blossoms, so I decided to stick to the streets and find my visual satisfaction elsewhere.

First stop was the new Issey Miyake flagship store that opened around the corner from our apartment.  Miyake meticulously  restored an old machiya (townhouse)and kura(storage house) as the perfect elegant background for his goods.

His clothing is not wearable in my opinion, but his innovative use of textiles has been revolutionary. His bold graphic raincoats designed in collaboration with a graphic artist in the kura are an art installation and that’s enough reason to visit..

In order not to exhaust myself,  I easily decided it was time for a matcha latté at a small café overlooking a Japanese garden.

Restored, my feet knew the way to one of my favorite stationery stores in the Teramachi arcade. Kyukyodo. For Y100 each, I selected a handful of postcards that captured the spirit of spring in Japan. Stuck up on my office wall with washi tape, they’ll be an easy throw back to time spent here.  IMG_0306

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I had one more must -see-again visit to make before I returned home and that was to Gallery Kei. I met Kei Kawasaki several years ago while on a tour.  She owns a small exquisitely curated gallery on Teramachi dori.  She specializes in Japanese textiles woven before cotton was available in Japan.  Old farmer’s jackets, fragments of old kimono, boro, mostly all indigo. A solitary peach tree was in full blossom in front of her gallery.

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Entering her realm is practically a spiritual experience.  My eye was drawn to a fragment of textile laying on top of a basket of fragments. The pattern is layered and quite unusual, Kei-san confirmed.  I wonder what the woman  who made this would think if she knew it was about to find a home thousands of miles away?IMG_0309 (1)

 

 

Almost Never Enough PINK

Since I was a bit long-winded in my last blog, I decided to cut to the chase today.  As I mentioned in my last blog, one reason I’m in Japan now is to celebrate spring in Japanese fashion.  The arrival of the cherry blossom season here is feverishly anticipated for weeks before the actual blooms appear. Forecasts for every part of the country tell the Japanese public exactly where and when to go to the sights with the most bang for the buck.  I pay attention to these forecast and follow the festive crowds, or more pleasurably find an off the beaten path spot to witness the extravaganza.
It’s a wonderful tradition and everyone gets swept up in it.  Year after year.
Pink swatches

Pink is a combination of the color red and white, a hue that can be described as a tint. It can range from berry (blue-based) pinks to salmon (orange-based) pinks. Its symbolism is complex and its popularity is subject to so many influences.

We can begin an analysis of pink by looking at natural and contemporary sources of this delicate color. First, regardless of your skin color, some part of your body is pink. So are sunsets, watermelons and Pepto Bismal. Depending on your age and culture, you may remember pink Cadillacs, pink flamingos (once considered in bad taste in American culture but now retro-chic), Pink Floyd, the Pink Panther, and the pink triangles of the Third Reich (which were used to identify male homosexuals).  colormatters.com

 

Today I took photos of only things that were pink.  I hope these photos give you a taste of my pink drenched day.  The blooms for the weeping cherries are mostly peaking, many other later varieties to follow over the next week.

Pink Encounters:  From first to last

  1.  Easter bunny in bakery counter of Daimaru Dep’t store
  2.  Ema votive tablets wishes and prayers written by visitors at Kodaiji Temple.
  3. The magnificent weeping cherry tree in splendid solitude at Kodaiji in Kyoto.
  4. More delectables in pastry case
  5. Alstromeria pink
  6. Folk art yarn ball (temari)
  7. Do you need a new purse?
  8. 9.  Better not miss out on Easter

IMG_0133IMG_0135and best of all:IMG_0139