If you ask a visitor about Naoshima they'll possibly know of it. If you ask a Japanese the chances are much more slim. It's one of the hundreds of islands between shikoku and honshu and, perhaps typically, is part industrial (recycling centre) and part unspoilt. We were staying at the swanky Bennesse house hotel on the south coast which was just beside the two art galleries also designed by Ando (a treat from my folks). The coast and nearby village has a scattering of installations and sculpture which make the place a wee bit like the set of the prisoner.
castles made of sand
Headed south to himeji on monday to check out what all the fuss is about - going to the castle there was the most important visit for my nephew and I'd also always wanted to go. We ambled down from osaka on a semi express and it gave us a chance to see the less industrial coast of hyogo which was looking great in the unseasonably warm weather. The castle jutts out amongst the usual barrage of roof top signs which are colourful enough even when the pluga are out. It was understandable why we couldn't initially see it but soon enough the immense scale becomes obvious.
osaka university of arts
With the family visiting we decided to go see the inlaws at Taishi. Taishi is a tiny village and historically important for its' namesake (a former prince) but now it's mainly noted because of the two peaks on the skyline behind it, a nearby Ando museum and a large shrine. it is also home to Osaka Geidai. There was a mini carnival yesterday when it opened its huge concrete doors to the public for a peek inside. There was loud, live music and wee stalls selling wares but the competition of food stalls was overwhelming and the lengths people, generally by dressing outrageously, would go to attract your attention certainly worked. I guess it coincided with this weeks national culture holiday on friday.
Live painting is very hip in japan just now - that is to say, painting in front of an audience. Karl, a new aquaintence from Kyoto, was talking about the demand for it at the last design matters talk at the apple store and sure enough, yesterday, when I visited the art show at River Place in Osaka there was some going on. The show comprised of about 50 stalls with local painters and deisgners and there was a live painting wall for joe public to use too. It had quite a carnival feel and had that surreal quality you get when random people walk about with oversized goats heads and cardboard boxes over their heads. There was also a random guy hitting bits of woods which is the kind of thing, as a child, you don't get and when you're older you still don't get. I guess I could imagine what he was trying to suggest were I to give it the time, but people were interested and it put a smile on my face so I guess he did his job. good fun.
Posted by stupot at 04:38 PM Monday 23 Oct
A friend who left Japan once said that it was things like going to Yoshinoya that she missed. Yoshinoya is one of the biggest fast food chains and specialises in gyudon- a bowl of rice topped with beef. Yoshinoya restaurants are yet another lesson in space management where customers sit around a pier-like bar where staff can access them from the kitchen. If you go at 12.30 there is often a queue but, like a relay, people are constantly paying the bill while others arrive. Despite being predominantly male the clientele is varied with carpenters alongside accountants. The short, cheap menu means quick turn around and your bill is a plastic tab which cuts out any delay or room for error when you pay. Bish Bash Bosh - back in time for a nap.
Posted by stupot at 11:19 PM Friday 20 Oct
the mark store
As I've always liked drawing, I've always liked going to stationery shops and Japans is like the Mecca of stationery. The delight of becoming excited about buying a very cheap material posession, that most people take for granted, is a nice feeling to have. Especially if you're as tight as I am. Like cash will never die in asia, neither will the mark - it is after all, why the fax machine put email back by 10 years. The mark is such an important part of the culture in Japan that pens are constantly being redefined here. As much R+D seems to go on at pilot as does at honda. If you've ever tried to write complicated Kanji (Japanese characters) on a typical application or order form in Japan then you'll appreciate why there are so many different thicknesses of pen. Going by shelf presence, Pilot's Hi-Tec C is the best selling pen in Japan. I've used one since I was in the UK but a few years ago they were getting difficult to find there. The quality of line that the Hi-tec gives is pretty flawless and for only 210 yen. I recently said that you should visit a builders centre if you ever visit japan. You should also add a stationery store to the list. Tokyu Hands in Osaka has a huge section that any creative would salivate at but the wee local dusty places still possess the charm and prize finds you can't get in department stores.
back in the hills
I didn't realise, until I was riding along side the fields being harvested and smoke filtering through the cedars, that I had missed the countryside so much. I could actually feel my battery being recharged, surrounded by all the beauty. Today was really beautiful - one of those summer-making-way- for- autumn kind of days - the cycle paths and parks filled with families enjoying the pleasant weather. Needless to say the harmony was broken by a puncture but it was a welcome excuse to stop after what felt like a hell for leather dash out of town - my first for a few months having been either on holiday, racing or injured. The nihon-shu last night was certainly a bad idea. Almost home, I noticed a guy in an electric wheelchair had fallen foul of a drain channel by the road and had gotten himself well stuck - he couldn't shout for help so it was lucky another woman and I saw him. We pulled his very heavy, angled chair back on track. It reminded me of this.
Posted by stupot at 01:05 PM Sunday 15 Oct
automatic business cards
QR code has been about for some time and it's now an extremely common method of advertising in Japan. It's an odd medium though and a very impersonal part of the unsettling leap, certainly for the uninitiated, into another era. This is what I thought when I first came to Japan and saw QR my only thought was 'what the hell is that?' - the code in some adverts being very large (you take a picture with your mobile and the browser directs you to the campaign website of the company in question). My new business card, which before was my URL which had to be manually typed, is now just a Quick Response link to my website/email address in your mobile browser. The picture is centred so your thumbs go either side (as per offering and receiving a business card with two hands in Japan) which is probably ironic as you can't read it. Business cards are fascinating to designers as there are so many possibilities. I still enjoy writing something on a card to make the person receiving feel special - like a cell phone number.
Posted by stupot at 05:24 PM Saturday 14 Oct
getting to school
I walked to school as a kid in a sleepy coastal village. the fresh air mixed with an over-active imagination meant that it was a great way to start the day as I wandered the small streets and lanes. Then I started cycling to school as I got older and presumably wanted to buy a little time in the morning. I still cycle to work whenever possible: it helps me waken up, gets me a bit of excercise and importantly, means I interact with people and have experiences enroute. It's also fun. In Japan, for younger kids, the school run is by and large done by mothers on bikes. there's a lot of sheperding done (often by retired men) and because of the busyness of life and crampt streets - It can be a bit dangerous at times (though Japanese kids very quickly adapt to their surroundings).
remember the outside?
If it wasn't for the internet and American chain retsaurants, I might forget there was a world outside Japan. The media here is incredibly self absorbed - usually only taking interest in a matter that involves Japan. Whether invloving yourself in another countries news (the US and UK are pretty good at this) is a selfish or selfless act usually depends on the situation in hand, but in these modern times the lack of international news coverage is riduculous. especially in a first world country. It's easy to realise why the Japanese are so uninformed and naive about the rest of the world when you read the newspapers. Browsing the BBC and Gaurdian news websites as usual the other morning, I also checked out the Yomiuri online newspaper and, searching the world news there I found the 5 headlines pictured above - all of which relate to Japan. Me, me, me, me, me. Have a look - one is even about Okinawa, Japans southern most group of islands. It would certainly be funny if it wasn't unnacceptable.
Posted by stupot at 06:31 PM Tuesday 10 Oct
It has been pretty windy of late. real whippy stuff, bringing with it a change temperature and the onset of autumn. I was riding east across the south of the city yesterday with lot's of fire engines going screaming by me when I realised I was approaching the smoke. human nature dictates that we stop and look and there was a quite a crowd - the locals knowing that in the complexity of the Japanese neighbourhood, a flame can spread like, as we say, wild fire. Add in some wind and completely wooden construction to the equation and it becomes a tough job to control. I watched as the fire started consuming another building and felt it was getting a bit sick to stay and watch.
boys done excellent
A little drunk when I staggered in last night, I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I saw the live result streaming in from Glasgow: Scotland beating France, one - nil. The much belated shake up in the team when Smith took over seems to be paying off nicely. The game in Kiev on Wednesday should be a tough one though.
Posted by stupot at 12:10 PM Sunday 8 Oct
toryglen flats given long awaited tart-up
I blog about Glasgow about as much as I eat deep fried mars bars these days. The likelihood of writing about a certain Toryglen area of the city, therefor, seemed about as remote as bumping into an auld jakey bastard staggering doon the main street in osaka with an evening times in one pocket and a bottle of irn bru in the other, singing to himself and on the verge of tears. It seems though, that the dear green place has been chosen for the next installment of the much revered Sony Bravia adverts, the last of which was all over the web like a rash.
Posted by stupot at 09:05 PM Wednesday 4 Oct
As I'm always intrigued by where things come from I thought I'd post a picture of my desk where I design and write this blog. Typically messy, I like to think it's my chaotic side daring the rest of the room to have fun. I sit on the tatami floor on a legless chair and work at a desk made from stained plywood and propped up by clear storage drawers. There's the usual array of cereal bowl, sketch books, lots of wires and books. I should really ditch that fax machine which has been out of ink for a while now but it still tends to come in handy when dealing with the old schoolers of which there are many.
Posted by stupot at 04:35 PM Monday 2 Oct