karintou no kurisumasu
One of the best presents I got for christmas was a packet of my favourite sweets from Japan: karintou. A kind of sweet pretzel bathed in molasses. Mmmmm. Molasses. I was also very lucky to get a coffee machine from Mr and Mr Claus on top of a cycling weekly. Result!
Posted by stupot at 05:20 PM Sunday 28 Dec
Carters and Carpets
This place is just around the corner from my house. I got blown off my bike and hurt my arm last week (to the hilarious commentary of "you need to put some weight on" from many a comedian over the coming days). I have a relationship with both businesses in this drawing - one a public house - the other a carpet retailer - but decided to pop in to the former for a cheeky Guiness after freezing myself in the name of the sketch.
Back to Osaka, I'm afraid - I just found a bunch of sketches I forgot to scan from a month ago. This is down town, south city, in Shinsaibashi - the backstreets east of the Midosuji, a main shopping drag. This type of scene is my favourite because it's a mis-match of signs, cables and couriers. It's a great area to see during the day as everything for the coming nights entertainment is delivered fresh by running men from tiny vans.
Posted by stupot at 05:31 PM Sunday 21 Dec
The most emotional trip of my visit to Japan was cycling to Dorogawa Onsen. I was barely back from Iwate before heading out from Nanba on my way down toward the mountains of south Nara. I went alone as Dan had been inundated with work - a big blow but it meant that I could have his bike and helmet. I stopped in for new brake blocks at Everwin and then headed for the mizukoshi Pass which would take me over to Nara. The weather was perfect and the further I got out of Osaka, the happier I became. Osaka is no city for cycling but the surrounding mountains are ideal.
Whilst in Iwate I decided to go to the famous Jodogahama beach with its rocky outcrops which jut from the sea and create a calm stretch of water. Iwate was freezing but this day was incredibly warm in the sun. I took my jacket off and drew as a few other visitors came to talk. I got the bus back into the edge of Miyako and drew a few of the hundreds of boats as a local eventually asked me what I was drawing and happily told me about the local seafood. The town was quiet and subdued. fishermen mended nets in the sun in their oilskins. Late afternoon I took one of only four (single-carriage) trains a day back over the snowy mountains to Morioka.
Posted by stupot at 11:28 PM Sunday 14 Dec
So when I bumped into Chris Hoy with his Tanqueray a few weeks ago at Glasgow Airport, I really didn't expect I'd be meeting Graeme Obree within the same month. Obree won the hour record twice on revolutionary, handmade bikes (check out the bmx seat post) and was at the museum on Wednesday to hand the medal over for the first of these wins so it can go on display (possibly for a few bags of sand). Nice guy - now lives in the next town from my folks and, like me, doesn't agree with cross training. A colleague tipped me off on Tuesday and I was duly down with camera, and pen - for his John Hancock.
Posted by stupot at 10:18 AM Friday 12 Dec
(not) grim up north
After being in Kyoto I took the Shinkansen to Morioka - almost at the top of Japan's main island - and stayed with old friends from Glasgow. It was good to get into more rural surroundings and break out the long-johns again. This was the view from their balcony with frozen rice paddies in the fore-ground (apparently deafening with the sound of frogs in spring), shinkansen flying by at high level and ski slopes to the back. The onsen we visited was near these slopes: a magical place.
Posted by stupot at 11:31 PM Tuesday 9 Dec
Despite only having been in Kyoto for two nights, it's a wonderful place to draw - so here's another sketch, this time from the Pontocho area. Behind this lane, the restaurants open up onto stilts over the Kamogawa river which cools diners in the summer. I once went with friends, impromptu, to try to get a table and was given a look like we were trying to get a booking at Dorcia. Again, it was freezing here and even tourists scuttled by, keeping warm. A girl at the bar on the right came out and gave me an orange after I'd checked they didn't mind me loitering. And my cold was indeed kept at bay.
Posted by stupot at 12:52 PM Sunday 7 Dec