Archive for August, 2011

Leiko Ikemura: Transfiguration

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

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On the last day of our Tohoku trip, a slight change of plans lead me and Dawna back to Tokyo a day earlier than planned. So while Dawna headed back to the land of mikans, I loitered around in Tokyo. On a whim, I decided to take Dawna’s suggestion and go to an art museum in Tokyo (rather than another trip to the manga store Mandarake where I would inevitably spend more money and buy yet more doujinshi). Thus I found myself in the Tokyo National Museum of Modern Art where there was a special exhibit called “Transfiguration” on an award winning sculptor and painter  Leiko Ikemura.  I am not an art buff, and at best I mostly found Leiko’s artworks highly disturbing (like the hollow sculpture of the beheaded girl with a pigeon sitting on her neck).  So it was not surprising that as an  English Literature major I was immediately drawn to the poetry littering the walls of the exhibits instead. I believe Leiko herself wrote them in Japanese and was later translated into English (by herself or another I don’t know).  Here are some of the discombobulating verses I found.

Post research: Though she currently lives in Berlin, Leiko Ikemura hails from Mie Prefecture. That makes her poems, particularly the “Figure-scape” poem all the more chilling.  In response to the the triple disaster, she curated a exhibit in Berlin called, “Breaking News: Fukushima and the Consequences.”


Matsushima: 5 months and 18 days later

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

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March 11, 2011 – a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami struck off the cost of Matsushima, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture in what would be known as the triple disasters of the Great Tohoku Earthquake.  Japan’s northeastern coast was devastated as the killer waves reached several miles inland, laying waste to everything in its path.

August 25, 2011 – Dawna and I visited the Matsushima Bay, the nearest point of land to the epicenter of the great earthquake.  Prior to the earthquake, the pine covered islands of Matsushima were known as one of the three most scenic places in Japan, the others being Miyajima in Hiroshima and Ama no Hashidate north of Kyoto.  Following the earthquake, the area was hard hit, though not nearly as bad as areas to the north or south.  This was due to the unique structure of the bay and the high hills that surround it.  Still, it did not escape unscathed and if you were to visit the area today you’ll find numerous tsunami warning signs and before and after pictures of the carnage.


Dream Log: The Seeds to Save Earth

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

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When you dream, do you remember it? Are you involved in your dreams? Are you the main character? Or are you a silent observer watching the events unfold?  Most of you would say the former, or not remember them at all.  I’m no different from you, and most of my dreams I either don’t remember or full of discombobulating images taken from distant memories or current situations I’ve been stressing about.  But every once in a while I get that strange dream where I am not an actor and witnessing things in the 3rd person.  These dreams have a stream of characters, a plot and a climax.  More often than not, they involve some popular Japanese anime I love.   The last time I had one of these dreams was probably back in 2003, when I dreamed of the great Bishonen Anime Tournament (no kidding) featuring characters from Gravitation, Full-Metal Alchemist, and .Hack (among others). Previously I’ve dreamed about Ronin Warriors (Yoroiden Samurai Troopers), Clamp’s X/1999, Rurouni Kenshin, Weiss Kruez, and various fantasy-esque themes.  This time, the main characters were from Gundam Seed (finally! I was wondering when I’d get a Gundam Seed dream!).

I woke up in a Tohoku Inn at around 5:30am in Aomori with the vestiges of the dreams lingering but fading quickly.  Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to grab a pencil and pad and record it rather than go back to sleep.  The following is what I can make up my hastily scribbled writing.  I take no responsibility for the workings of my deranged mind during the cycles of REM.


Yamanashi? Or Not: A Day Told in Texts II

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

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Having parted with cash I wasn’t supposed to have but guilty laden with delicious doujinshi, I attempted to meet up with Dawna and Wendy.  This “attempt” turned into a huge comedy of errors, miscommunications, and freak events that never happen in Japan (aka train delays).

Prior to starting our Tohoku journey, we were to meet in Yamanashi prefecture, an inaka prefecture about an hour and half outside of Tokyo on the northern side of Mt. Fuji.  Yamanashi’s unique climate made it Japan’s premiere source of grapes… and thus wine.  Near Yamanashi City in Katsunuma, is a place known as the “Grape Cave” where, for a paltry fee of 1,200 yen, the wine enthusiast could sample a number of Yamanashi’s plentiful wines.  Think Napa Valley, California except that the fee is a one-time deal and the time limit unlimited.  Yes that’s right, 1,200 yen for all-you-can-drink wine with unlimited time. Though I myself am not a wine enthusiast (actually I’m not a fan of alcohol in general) I thought this would make for quite an entertaining show with a lot of blackmail (which did indeed happen though I wasn’t there to watch it unfold). The plan was for me (coming from Osaka) to meet the two of them (who were coming from Tokyo) there and then to head back to Tokyo.

Here’s why that plan didn’t actually come to fruition (no pun intended)…


Osaka, A Day Told in Texts

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

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“You’re going WHERE?!” was the response most people gave me when I said I was traveling to Tohoku.  Well I shall defend it as such: 1) It was the last region of Japan I hadn’t visited, 2) the Great Tohoku Earthquake was several months ago and the region had rebounded and was encouraging tourism to help rebuild its economy, and 3) we weren’t going anywhere near the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant’s exclusion zone (more on that later) .

But that’s not what this post is about.

So prior with meeting Dawna and Wendy for this vaunted Tohoku trip,  another friend of mine, Zung, and I had gone gallivanting in Osaka.  The previous day we had fun watching uniformed high school boys labor under Japan’s sweltering heat chasing balls at Hanshin Koshien station for the chance to be crowned high school baseball Koshien champions.  This was followed by a relaxing afternoon in Osaka’s 7-story spa and water park called Spa World.  After a good night’s sleep in a capsule hotel in Namba, I said goodbye to Zung and wondered how on earth I was going to spend the rest of my time in Osaka.  Then I discovered that Mandarake, a chain doujinishi store, had a branch near Umeda Station.  What ensued was a search that seriously rivaled Luffy’s elusive journey for One Piece…


5 Years Later: Goodbye My Apartment

Saturday, August 6th, 2011

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August 6, 2011.  Exactly five years after I arrived in Japan I finally bid goodbye to my dear domicile.  It was tiny, on the fourth floor with no elevator, had a broken stove and AC, a kitchen the size of a hallway, a shower that overlooked the bathroom sink, and the incessant call of cicadas under the sill.  Still…. it was home.   Goodbye my apartment…. I shall miss thee!

One more month and my caravanting in Japan must also come to a close. How time flies!