Asakusa (浅草) is one of the most popular spot for foreigners in Tokyo. This is like a counterpart of Akihabara (秋葉原) which is the heaven for technology nerd, while Asakusa preserve traditional part of Japan. It´s always packed with people, not only foreign tourists but also many Japanese as there are many wholesale stores in this area. Asakusa is famous for knives, for example.
I like cats. I can hear some saying, ¨but you have a dog…¨. In the last 10 years, some how wherever I lived, there were dogs, and now I have my own dog. Even that, I´m a big cats lover, sorry dogs who did and does good to me.
Some may hates cats, that I know. The most popular reasons for hating cats are, ¨they seem to be cold¨ and *they are egoist¨. The cats I spent some time with in my childhood were very loving and above all, they were so comical.
KURUNEKO (くるねこ/ official web ►) is a Japanese animation I check at least once a day as a little detail of the day. It just cracks me up.
The author, Kuruneko Yamato (くるねこ大和) lives in a cat house and each cat has its own unique character.
Her very first cat was Mon-san.
And this is Suteki Ouji (すてき王子/ lovely prince), Kobochi-kun.
The story is about Kuruneko Yamato´s daily life with her followers. It´s simple but just so funny.
Well, let´s see if Kuruneko can get rid of cat- phobia a bit.
Also this may help to learn Japanese as the text is quite straightforwards.
Now below, there are some videos of Kuruneko´s dancing team.
Start with Mon neko no tango
Dohyou iri no tango (sumo ring entering tango) by Kobochi-kun.
And let´s finish with good-bye samba by Mon-san.
He takes nude photos. He is very good at ripping young girls clothes off without touching them. Some how, once standing in front of Araaki´s camera, most of the girls feel like taking clothes off. Why? I didn´t get it.
He likes tying.
He likes kimono and tying up.
He drews womanliness.
Singer Ringo Shina
For me his eroticism was too raw and twisted, which never had been my favorite photographer. I simply thought Araaki was an ero oyaji (エロオヤジ / pervert). I even wondered how is possible girls and women want to be taken sensual photos by an aged not-handsome man like him. When Björk came to Japan and had a photo session with a magazine, she requested a photographer to be Araaki.
He was like Terry Richardson, selling eroticism and the images are quite raw. When I saw Terry Richardson´s photos for the first time, reminded me a lot of Araaki.
This Araaki phobia continued until I saw one book at a bookshop. The photo on the front cover caught my eyes and I pick it up.
The book was called ¨Sacchin¨ (さっちん)
Sacchin sounded to me a girl´s name but turned out to be a boy´s.
Arraki took a life in Tokyo in late ´50´s through this boy Sacchin. A boy just like any one else.
As a mischievous boy, he does all sort of silly things in front of the camera, or perhaps he wasn´t even so conscious about it. I was with this boy, running around, I could almost hear him laughing. Then, I turned the book over. There, it was the name, Nobuyoshi Araki. I was shocked.
It was full of warmth in the photos, the trust and joyful moment. I saw completely different Araaki there. I almost saw him in Sacchin.
But it was just a beginning of understanding Araaki world.
So it was natural I picked a photo book of cat, called ¨Itoshi no Chiro (愛しのチロ/ my dearest Chiro)¨
Chiro was his cat. He loved it so much that he published various books about her.
In the books, you can also see Araaki´s daily life. Despite of his crazy dynamic appearance, his life seems to be calm and warm.
He love Chiro so much that documented her last few months and published as a book. In his life, Araaki had to send off two most loved ones, first his wife, Yoko and then Chiro.
He met his future wife Yoko when he was still working in a well-known advertisement company. From the day Araaki met Yoko, he took photos of her until the day of her funeral.
They were always together, they travelled and Araaki kept taking photos, he just could not stop taking photos of her.
She says in her book ¨Aijo seikatsu (愛情生活/ Love life)¨ that
¨Living is a sentimental journey and for him (Araaki), taking photos is the sentimental journey¨
He didn´t stop taking photos, maybe it was because they both knew since they met that they wouldn´t have much time. So they had run through their moment.
I saw her in big prints in Barbican in London. He didn´t even use the frames and most of the photos were put up with pins directly to the wall. It made me smiled. It was something Araaki would do. Yoko was there, she was beautiful. I think she was the most beautiful model between all.
Araaki himself says that he could never be able to take any better portrait than he did with Yoko.
Araaki´s most favorite two ladies.
Honey moon trip
Even after the cancer advanced in Yoko´s body, this Japanese photographer didn´t stop taking photos, as if he could stop losing his loved one by doing it.
Only I could see in those photos was his love. Full of feelings, his kindness and appreciation. I was so touched and yet, it was painful to see.
Now I understand why women trust him and he has a facility to have them in naked. He make them believe that they are the only and the most beautiful woman in the world. It maybe a moment but he can make them believe.
Araaki´s sentimental journey continues without any company as his wife Yoko predicted. Nobuyoshi Araki is one of my favorite Japanese photographer and I can strongly recommend to see.
This is a Shuntarou Tanizaki (谷崎俊太郎)´s poem which used to be a poem most of the Japanese school children would learn at school. He is one of the most well-known poet in Japan. One coffee company used his poem, Morning relay race for their ad while ago and became one of my favorites. It was a well made.
Two Japanese heritages, Hiraizumi (平泉) in Iwate prefecture (岩手県) and Ogasawara Islands (小笠原諸島) in Tokyo prefecture (東京都) are likely to be registered as UNESCO´s world heritage sites. The official committee will be held in Paris from the 19th of June this year.
This is a good news especially in the situation Japan has right now.
Japan has a beautiful nature. Tokyo is interesting and cool. It´s one of the major destination foreign people want to visit or to live. However the nature of Japan is also amazing, and there are many sites that are untouched my human. I haven´t seen them all yet.
For example, I haven´t been to Hiraizumi. The temple called Chuusonji (中尊寺) is situated in the heart of Oushu (奥州/ old way of callin Touhoku/東北).
I haven´t been to Ogasawara Islands either but I have a special feeling for one of the islands, Haha-jima (母島). There are 30 islands in Ogasawara islands but there are only four islands are habitable, and in the reality, only two islands have residents, they are Chichi-jima (父島) and Haha-jima.
Chichi is father in Japanese and Haha means mother, and as the name shows, Chichi-jima is bigger and has more population than Haha-jima.
Ogasawara became a part of Japan in 1876 (year 9 of Meiji period) and at that time most of the westerners lived in the islands asked for naturalization and all became Japanese. This is why the people from Ogasawara look slightly different, a little similar to the people in Okinawa (沖縄).
They were quiet and pacific islands, people were growing coffee, cocoa, lemons, bananas, mangos, pineapples and sugar cane… until Japan got involved in the WWII.
The US army landed on Iou tou (Iwo jima/硫黄島) and managed to occupy this small island in 1945. Some people might´ve seen the film about this island.
Since then Ogasawara went under US occupation for 22 years.
Now there is a Japanese military base in Iwo jima and no civilians are allowed to enter.
I didn´t even know that those islands were considered as a part of Tokyo.
She was from Haha-jima and she is from Tokyo.
The stories she told us were amazing. The life there sounded completely different from my daily life.
In Haha-jima, there was only one traffic light. They had set it for the children in the island to teach them the traffic rules. As there is no high school in the island, all children had to go to Chichi-jima when they finish the secondary school. They start living away from their family. Of course there are more people and cars in Chichi-jima, so they need to learn the traffic rules. However, she laughed, in Haha-jima whenever you want to cross the street, cars will stop and let you cross wherever you are.
There is a ferry comes along to the island once a week. Her aunt who lived in Tokyo inland would sent her all TV dramas for a week recorded in a tape. She told us that to send her a card, we wouldn´t need to put the address, just need to put her name on and the card will be safely delivered.
Everyone knows everyone, she laughed.
Her grandfather used to catch turtle and cooked it on the beach, well baked it in the fire. She said that turtle cries in the fire and she´d never be able to eat them but it was a sort of delicacy and her grandpa liked them.
Needless to say, I assured her, ¨eat turtles?¨
Then I understood the life in an island where there are not many resources. They have little space to cultivate, there is an uninhabited small island between Chichi-jima and Haha-jima where only goats live, then the rest is the ocean. Living in an island like that, catching and eating turtles is perhaps a surviving skill.
The best story she told us was the swimming class at her high school in Chichi-jima. As you would imagine, there is no swimming pool at the high school. They practice in the ocean.
So, what can it happen if you swim in a tropical open water?
They just found themselves surrounded by a pack of dolphins or could even see a whale had a big jump over the water in a distance.
Once they did skin diving and saw a manta ray swimming across.
For me it was like a fairy tale. I couldn´t believe we could have such a different background. I couldn´t help asking her about her home town.
Not only the beautiful ocean they have, they also have a mountain where lots of wildlife is.
There are huge trees called Gajumaru (Ficus Microcarpa) in the mountain. Curiously enough, this mountain is called Chibusa Yama, means Mt.Boobs. Is that because it´s a bump in Mother island (Haha-jima)? It caught my attention.
Despite of the beauty of the islands, unfortunately young people are leaving there, including my friend. Now she lives in Tokyo inland with her own family.
But the islands attract many divers and at the same time, they preserve the nature. Another place to visit in my list. Tick.
I´m not an ecologist. I´ve never stopped to answer WWF or Greenpeace survey on the street and probably I won´t do it in future, yet I feel quite humiliated when a dolphin massacre has revealed and many Japanese people say it doesn´t exist or when I see a whale restaurant owner is furious with the suspension of whaling. Or I try not to have a long bath every day when I´m in rather dry countries such as Australia or Spain.
Yes, I sometimes thing about environment.
As it says in Shintoism, ¨issun no mushi nimo gobu no tamashii (一寸の虫にも五分の魂)¨, the meaning is even a 3cm bug has 1.5cm of soul, every living has its life and it´s logic for all of us to live by compromising with people or the nature.
I´ve seen in some houses in the UK and Australia, when people wash dishes, they make soap water in the sink, dip the plates and scrub them then put them directly in the rack to dry. They don´t even rinse the plates to get rid of the soap. They do it to save the water but I always felt a little uncomfortable using those plate as I felt like eating soap…
Needless to say, I rinsed the plates and cups every time before I used them but without them knowing what I was doing. Sorry but eating soap is big NO for me.
It´s good to thing about environment and save water but there shall be more way to protect the environment for sure. I´d cut my shower to 20 minutes instead of a half an hour, I promise.
Maybe many of modern western houses have a dishwasher. Despite of the reputation being so high-tech, still not many Japanese kitchens have introduced dishwashers. So we wash by hands.
One day, I was doing a endless washing up and looked at this colourful washing liquid which made huge amount of bubbles with just 2 drops. At one point, washing became my job at home and I´d noticed my hands was becoming dry.
Apparently those washing liquid contains synthetic surfactant and has nothing good to your skin. A few years ago, in some TV programs for housewives, they started talking about this sponge.
This is an eco sponge called ECO AKURIRUN, made of acrylic fiber.
With this sponge, you don´t need any washing liquid but you can clean regular grease of the plates. You can even get rid of burnt bit of the pans or the pots with a bit of bicarbonate.
It´s actually sugoi (impressive).
A cup with tea stain like this can be cleaned like,
this just with water.
Now you don´t need to worry about poor turtles swimming around the dirty soaped ocean anymore.
This comic tells you that you can buy eco sponge for 320 yen but if you make them, you can make 10 of those from a ball of wool for 100 yen.
She says, ¨what sort of posh person would be, paying 320 yen for one eco sponge¨.
Well, she is right. Only thing doesn´t convince me was she wants to make a song about her frustration….
So, now people are into knitting too. If you like knitting, you can try it. From here ►, you see the instruction but I suppose you can make in any shape you like, you can play around to make your kitchen a little more entertaining. You just need to buy acrylic wool.
Look, there are many shapes.
I do know how to knit socks but yet I prefer buying eco sponge rather than doing it by myself. Yes, I don´t mind people call me posh, but I´m lazy and I rather watching my dog running in her dream.
In a café, over a cup of tea, a friend suddenly brought up a conversation about Dragon Ball, to be more exact, about Bulma, the girl who started travelling with Goku and Kame jisan (the old man with a turtle shell).
I grew up with Dragon Ball, I had all the comics. At school kids were trying to get Kamehame Ha, that trick that emits energy power from the hands. Once I was working in the mountain, taking little kids around and on the break, I saw a thin and long stream shaped cloud was hanging from the big cloud. I said to a boy next to me, ¨hey look, it´s like a shenron!¨
The boy looked at me surprised. Yes back then I was already 19 or 20 and the boy was something like 10. Dragon Ball was still on the TV but for that boy, I was way too old to know anime. Excuse you, I was there when the comic was published when he still couldn´t even speak. Ha ha ha.
Anyway, I liked the concept of Dragon Ball, the idea of collecting 7 balls and the you can only ask one wish to the dragon. I nearly wet myself once, after all that effort and showed up the dragon, then Oorong shouted.
¨Give me a gal´s panty!!¨
Puff… it was dropped from the dragon.
I always had a doubt that how come an ancient Chinese dragon knew about "gal" and "panty". But this is another story.
The point is that this conversation about Bulma had triggered a traumatic memory of my schoolgirlhood.
It was a few weeks before my secondary school life started. I'd received my school uniform, bags and other stuff I'd need. I was in the living room sitting in the middle of the stuff with a bit of excitement.
I was picking up one by one just to check what I'd got. Then stopped.
Mmm? What's this?
"But how come the school gives us underwear? For the winter?"
I had no idea.
Then I realised that this thing was with some colothes for PE. Yet, I had a doubt.
How is possible wearing under pants in public?
I stood up and asked my mum. She looked quite normal and wasn't surprised to see it as a sportwear. She told me that it was called "buruma".
I was just shocked. I was wearing normal shorts for PE at my primary school and now with age 13, I had to run around with undie. Unbelievable…. I thought it was an insult.
Now I understood that this is worn commonly at schools as gilrs' sports wear. I see them in animation, too.
Then why boys wear normal shorts?
Is this some sort of fantasy for PE teachers to compensate being a boring job?
I still don't get it.
Buruma came from bloomers and the original version was nothing to do with underwear.
Not only it was shameful but also it was very uncomfortable because if you move hard, as it was worn when we do sports, your actual underwear would be shown.
What we did was, we were so aware of it so if we see someone's pants was showing, we quietly pointed at around her bottom or whispered to that person "your undie".
If you are a guy, I know you'd say "why not?" But still I don't think it's fair that only girls have to be embarrassed that way. Even now, I would say NO to wearing buruma!
Well, back to Bulma in Dragon Ball. I can't recall if she ever had worn buruma. If anyone does, please let me know.