OK, back on the blogging wagon after my year-end hiatus. These are just some pictures of Genbo and a friend of his eating banana bread batter at my house. I love their expressions. This is the first time they had ever had banana bread batter, having been doomed to grow up in a country of fermented bean paste, seaweed, and pickled plums ;)
And, a bonus, a rare shot of Zoe and me:
Horse-racing is big in Japan, much more popular than it is in America. This weekend we went down to the horse-racing track in Yodo (south of Kyoto) with our friends the Kamadas. I had never been before, and was surprised at how family-friendly the whole place was. There was a big area where you could picnic while watching the horses, and both ponies and a playground for the kids. It was somewhat like big park that just happened to have horses thundering past every half-hour or so. The only iffiness visible was inside near the betting booths, such as a few people whom I wanted to admonish not to bet the last of their welfare checks.
I like this picture of Maki and Kamada-sanfull exif
Zoe’s turn to roll down the hill. By pure coincidence she had received these second-hand cowboy boots from a cousin just a couple days before.
It was interesting to me that Genbo felt compelled to pick (seemingly at random) some horse to root for. Acculturation or the Y-chromosome acting up?
Much more impressive in person than on the screenfull exif
Stopping to look dashing on the slidefull exif
Don’t worry, he’s scheduled for a haircut this Tuesday at 4full exif
Stuffing our faces with yummy o-nigirifull exif
This is the “paddock” area, where the horses are displayed before the race. The guys under the immaculately manicured tree in the middle film the horses going around in a circle for the TV broadcast.
Watching the ponies, waiting for her turn…full exif
But never above hamming it up. This is her new face this month. full exif
Surprisingly, the line for the ponies was not that long. We went on Saturday, but apparently it’s much more crowded on Sunday.
I’ve been working a LOT lately, which has left precious little time for really quality family time, or photography, or shakuhachi. I was work-free this past Sunday, though, and sent Genbo and Zoe out to play in the next-door park with friends while Maki and I watched this program about a painter who had been commissioned by two elderly people to paint a portrait of their daughter who had been killed in an accident. By the end I had tears streaming out of my eyes while I grabbed my camera to go take pictures of the kids while Maki just laughed at me.
I used a nifty program called Posterino to create this image, which I will be printing big just as soon as I get a chance.
This weekend I went with my friends Stephane and Jeffrey to visit my new friend Pierre, a fellow long-time Japan resident who has been studying katana-making for the past five years. He is preparing to become an officially-licensed katana smith in a month or so, and when he passes the test he will be only the second non-Japanese to do so (and the other guy was so long ago he’s already dead).
Pierre lives in the mountains of Wakayama in a very beautiful location; about three hours by car from Kyoto. The people in the little hamlet he lives in were friendly without exception, maybe because each and every single one of them knows Pierre and the details of his life. Such is the fate of a lone gaijin in very remote Japan.
This is the view about 10 meters from his door.
One interesting thing Pierre said was how many crazy people approach him about the Japanese swords; especially foreigners, since he’s one of the few non-Japanese to be traditionally trained in the art. Japanese swords attract a lot of crazy people who are into the more violent aspects, he says, and it’s easy to believe. He, however, is interested in the craft and technology of their making. Apparently the best swords were forged in the 13th century or so, and even though we have a molecule-by-molecule metallurgical understanding of the process now, people still can’t make swords nearly as good as those 13th century ones. (The same is true of shakuhachi, by the way. Some modern shakuhachi are nice, but they just don’t have the character and depth of the old ones.)
He made a quick little demonstration blade for us, although when he does it for real it’s anything but quick. He performs every part of the process, from forging multiple raw lumps of ore into a single bar, to shaping the bar into a katana ready to be polished. He even cuts his own charcoal into five different sizes depending on which stage of the forging it’s used for.
I was surprised with how small the forge itself was. This is his smaller one, but he showed us the large one he uses for full-sized swords, and it wasn’t much bigger.
He’s renting out a smithy that has been here for more than 100 years. I’ll post more photos from the inside later.
A couple days ago Genbo’s friend Anthony came over with his dad Jeffrey, and we went to the nearby park to play.
Zoe looking particularly young and innocent herefull exif
Genbo and Anthony went off to get some shaved ice, and it was fun watching (and taking way too many photos of) them all negotiating the two servings between the three of them.
I have a backlog of family photos that I want to post this year, so all the excellent artistic photos and the insightful commentary about Japan combined with a shrewd street photographer’s eye will have to wait.
I like these, taken by Jeffrey, both because Zoe looks unbearably cute and because I have so few shots of the two of us. Just a note: the sartorial choices here are definitely hers. She really wanted to wear her daycare field-uniform on top of her regular clothes, and I didn’t care enough to say no. That, and it’s cute in a three-year-old-girl way. These are all taken at the park across the street from our house, with some shots of Genbo and Jeffrey’s son Anthony mixed in.
I’ve been extremely busy these past couple months with a huge job. Finally pulled it off, though, and I’m back to blogging full-throttle. Well, as full-throttle as this blog ever gets, which resembles a rusty 1977 Volkswagen Beetle chugging down the Autobahn of the Internet.
This is a photo from the second time I ever went to Japan, after graduating high school. My friends Brandon (middle), Len (bottom) and I hitch-hiked throughout Japan, spending about half our time (if I recall correctly) in the northern Island in Hokkaido. Here we are holding up a hitch-hiking sign that says “Kashiwazaki (or in that direction)”
Can’t believe my hair was ever that big
I’ve blogged often about my friend Kamada Koji (鎌田幸二), who has been kind enough to devote decades of his life to becoming a master potter in the Tenmoku (天目) style just so that I could take macros of his stuff. Last week he held a yearly show at Takashimaya, one of the fancier Japanese department stores. I would have loved to bring my tripod, kick everybody out, and adjust the light to my specifications, but any picture-taking at all is ordinarily forbidden. I had his special permission, but still felt it was a good idea to be as discreet and fast as possible.
Kamada-san pointing center, with his wife Kazumifull exif
It’s exceedingly difficult to capture the nuances of nearly all his glazes, but this particular one most of all, because in real life the colors are not only extremely subtle, but they shift mercurially (almost literally because they are metallic crystals) with small changes in light.
We’re having a very good time of things here in Sausolito/San Francisco/Palo Alto. The first week was the best, when all four of us were here (including for Halloween), but I have managed to keep things from becoming miserable for the remaining three of us after Maki had to go back to Japan for work. Helping me has been many of my extended family, who have flown in from various parts of the US to see my kids (definitely not me!).
Anyway, here are a bunch of pics from the second week of our stay. I unwisely unloaded the first week’s pics onto a friend’s computer, then forgot to get them back before I left their house in Palo Alto. Lucky for me I’m going back there before we leave. These pictures are un-edited in any way. I haven’t even had time to go through and make sure I am selecting the best pic of each series. But, I wanted to get something up here before too much time had passed. Hopefully in a couple days I’ll post some of the best of these individually.
(To view full-screen, first press the Play button in the center, then place the mouse over the slideshow to view the control bar on the bottom, then press the symbol in the lower-right corner.)
Taking a break from the macros: just some random shots from the playground today.
I don’t know the origin of this particular Japanese quirk, but they are big into what they call tetsubo, which is what Genbo, Zoe, and their friends are playing on here. They teach ‘em really young how to whirl around on the things forward and backward from the waist, and if you can’t do it it’s a horrible mark of shame. One girl I know who is in second grade (I think) has her name perpetually on the blackboard because she can’t do the backflip. Zoe, obviously, can’t do any of that stuff, but she can hang from the bars for an amazingly long time.
Genbo is being pulled into the vortex!full exif
Zoe loves going down the slide, and went down today at least 10 times. On the tenth time, however, she decided it was “scary” and she was having no more of it.
“You’re not going to make me go down that death trap, are you daddy?”full exif
She’s been mastering the swing lately too. She used to be scared of swinging much at all, but now she can go pretty high.
And, finally, Genbo looking dashing as ever as he’s about to go down the slide.
Dang, I cannot believe it’s been an entire month since I wrote what I thought was the first half of a two-part post describing our trip to Kyoto to see the cherry blossoms. I can’t even claim to have been busy with work, since the Great Depression of the Late-Naughts is still taking its toll on that front. I even have a bunch of other good posts I’ve been meaning to make, but they’ve all been butting their heads against this one, which has remained stubbornly 15 minutes away from posting for the past thirty days. Ah well, such is life.
Zoe and Maki in the setting sun against some cherry blossoms
Have no idea where Genbo picked up this quirky expression
This style of exterior is an old Japanese form of weather-proofing, where planks are charred to keep out the elements. It looks beautiful here in the setting sun.
Japanese equivalent of a red barn
Meanwhile, this bald tree offered an interesting study of lines and color.
We visited a nearby park with our friends Anthony and Jeffrey.
Anthony and Genbo riding off into the sunset.
“Hey there, Pardner”
Zoe sits at the top of the slide contemplating the ride down
It’s easier with mommy. If only they had thought to put a blossoming cherry there instead of that ugly light pole.
Three (4?) little munchkins
If you stuck around this long in the hopes of seeing some beautiful pictures of cherry blossoms, I’m sorry to disapoint you. We ended up going back home before it got dark and they were all lit up gloriously. Jeffrey, however, did stick around and took some excellent photos. He also has a great post of some pictures of Zoe that you should check out here.
A little anti-climactic
Today it was raining, and, since it is a national holiday here in Japan (I’m not even sure which one; probably the emperor’s neice’s birthday or something), we all went to Borne Lund on Kawaramachi street in Kyoto, an upscale toystore with a great indoor play area. My friend Jeffrey met us there with his son Anthony, and he happened to have his camera along with him. He was nice enough to send me these photos.
Getting a leg up on that astronaut training
If you can believe it, the rule was no throwing balls in this ball cage
Nice arm, Genbo!
And, no jumping….(but even the nice workers seemed resigned to having their admonitions repeatedly ignored)
Today was the first time Genbo really played in this ball thing without being too scared
Guess all it took was a slightly older friend
Zoe got her fill of playing in too, but she’s also just recovering from a cold, so she also spend lots of time exactly as you see here.