wood on wood and asparagus biscuits
Winter is a strange time. Dark and mysterious. Cold and pure. In Kyoto earlier in the month, perhaps around dawn and drifting in and out of conciousness, I could hear the clack of wood on wood in a slow rythmn - a sound I've only heard in Japan - primitive and a bit eerie. It's a simple and natural sound you hear monks making but around Osaka, in winter, the sound of wood on wood is also used in the evenings to warn people against fire. In the relative safety of Japan - one of the biggest concerns is that of fire and its potential to spread through the warrens that are Japanese neighbourhoods. Having witnessed an urban residential fire on a windy day last year I can vouch for the anxiety. I also post a general diary entry from my notebook. These scribbles tend to be a lot more personal than the blog itself, which is more a means for me to air my thoughts on Japan.
I headed to the local temple today and sat in the late afternoon sun drawing the water trough where you wash your hands before praying - the chouzuya. There were quite a few vistors and lots of, albeit calm preparation going on in advance of next weeks big setsubun festival. Trees were being pruned, temporary buildings set up, lanterns hung and piles of neatly stacked timber with messages in red ink sat ready to be burned. There was a general air of anticipation but things were just as normal - kids chased pigeons, people prayed, the sun set.
Posted by stupot at 05:35 PM Saturday 27 Jan
This wee gaff is totally inconspicuous but that's exactly why I drew it - it's the kind of place I pass every day going to work. My neighbourhood is full of similar looking tiny businesses. The elderly couple living upstairs come down in the afternoon to start preparations for the evening punters. With the amount of restaurants in Japan I wonder how they all stay alive - I suppose that working out your house saves on rent. I believe that you could count all the restaurants in Glasgow, if you were so inclined, but I really don't think that such a thing is possible in Osaka. That almost goes for hairdressers too. I love the old Sprite sign - a relic from 30 years ago? The main sign is almost totally faded and there's no co-ordination in colour or materials - it's just evolved at it's own pace and, like so many other similar small eateries, relies on local knowledge and the strong coloured noren curtains for trade.
Posted by stupot at 01:53 PM Saturday 27 Jan
I finished work early today and stopped on the way home to draw. There's a tiny vintage Honda that I've wanted to draw for a while. To give the thing some scale you only have to look at the telegraph pole. The number plate is possibly motorbike size. It was a nice, sunny winter's afternoon which actually resembled autumn more than late January. It's still not really cold yet. As I stood and drew, old people met each other on the street and quizzed each other about what day it was and what time they'd meet tomorrow. Kids met each other and travelled off to anothers for tea and cookies, shouting "car" whenever one was about to meet their chaotic path, just as I had done on the small street where I grew up. Some old geezers eventually approached me when they returned from the corner shop and we had a quick chat - certainly something that doesn't happen when I take photos. On the back of my adventures with an albino snake last week - I saw an albino Japanese woman today. A pretty rare sight. Which was probably what she was thinking about me as I stumbled down the road towards her.
Posted by stupot at 04:03 PM Thursday 25 Jan
the continuing love affair with sesame
I miss sesame snaps. I'd totally forgotten about them - the wee honey coated bars you get from health food and middle eastern shops in Scotland. I still love black sesame though and I've been putting more and more in my rice recently since I ran out of wee purple pickles I got as omiyage from Yamaguchi. What were they? The same pal bought me some sesame leaves from Tsuruhashi (wee Korea) when she was there taking photos on Sunday - they were laced with lots of spice and were fine just with rice. I had had a craving for Tenpura (read 'king rib supper from University Caf') so I knocked out some lotus root and pork mince fritters (get me). They were a bit rushed but they tasted no bad and I'm now beached in that way that you are after you ate tomorrows bento on top of dinner.
Continue reading "the continuing love affair with sesame"
Posted by stupot at 10:34 PM Tuesday 23 Jan
It struck me a long time ago that there are a lot more effeminate guys in Japan than there are in the UK. It's really not difficult to see. Despite there being more of everything in urban Japan due to the high, concentrated population, there are none-the-less a lot more guys who like knitting. I notice because it's still not cricket to be a gay in the UK - Julian Clary a prime example of being accepted because he's a parody of himself and not real. Most gay people on TV, certainly last time I looked, had some oddity to their character.
the great bean crisis
When I was in the supermarket last week I noticed that the natto section was pretty poorly stocked. As I'm not loyal to any brand, I chose some more expensive stuff for a few days. I had not seen that a TV show, put out the previous weekend, had suggested that eating the beans twice a day for 3 weeks could help lose weight easily. A friend had mentioned it to me and I immediately remembered a similar occaision a few years ago. In a shock revelation, the research proposed that getting your fat arse of the sofa, not watching crap TV and doing occaisional exercise was also considered to be beneficial to your health.
Posted by stupot at 10:11 PM Tuesday 16 Jan
It's not quite called 'the bum festival' but 'Doyadoya', the phrase screamed out when hundreds of schoolboys race to get a lucky charm from the centre of Shitennoji temple, could be mistaken as one. It was nice to wander the lanes from Tennoji station to the temple and find the old shops you usually associate with less modern cities. Many people had come to get good luck for the year, to purify themselves and to watch the boys jump around almost naked, having cold water thrown over them. Gary Glitter would have been in his element. Were he not in prison.
Today I had one of those hang-overs where everything is fascinating. I really, geniunely love days like this. The smallest learning, like a life-altering revelation - every meeting, charming. The brain has been numbed and a child-like slow comprehension creeps in. An inocence, an odd purity. Such days are quite focussed in their own blurry way - time standing still and then going at a gallop then standing still and so on. Futsukayoi, 'drunk for a second day', is what the Japanese say. No beating about the bush, in its very literal form, I feel it describes the state a lot better than 'hang-over' which suggests only unpleasantness. The picture shown is what you love and hate about Japan - the overwhelming need to (over) package. I had the usual flood of guilt when I finished todays bento I bought from KYK (I always confuse with the other great Japanese institution who manufature zips) and was left with a mountain of waste which had a life span of 20 minutes. Fascinating.
Posted by stupot at 09:36 PM Monday 8 Jan
arashi ni narimashita
I'm not usually one to be put off by the weather but, as I lay in bed kept awake by loose plastic sheet being pulled and noisily snapped back, I realised that the howling wind was not going to abait for early morning training. I woke to find the contents of my balcony strewn around the rest of the roof and plant pots smashed, the bamboo screening all over the place. The weather report was of massive problems up north, winter having found us at last.
The Japanese are not many things, but they are food snobs. That fact is not, however, totally unjustified. I am always exciting and curious (if only briefly) as a foreigner, and kinda cool being British, but there's always a gentle wince kept to give that sympathetic look with tilted head when we talk about British cuisine. The Japanese are a very proud people and they will seize any opportunity to talk about having the best food in the world, just as a Scotsman can tell you where the worlds most important inventions come from. Both subjects, as with everything in life, are interesting the first time you hear it but become an uninteresting cliche after a hundred people tell you.
akemashite omedetou gozaimasu!
Happy New Year!
Headed to Kyoto to visit a friend of a friend on new years day. The city centre was heaving so we picked up some omiyage and headed for the bus to take us north. We arrived just before dinner and the house could have been in any country - the 3 generations watching holiday TV almost oblivious to each other - the younger ones sending emails on their cell phone/sleeping under the heated coffee table and a slightly bewildered looking granny wondering where I fitted into the family celebrations. I was kind of thinking the same. It was very nice to have been invited to the new years dinner and the fussing mother, playing her role perfectly, had prepared far too much.