Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Japan slides - Part IV

洋子さん my friend Yoko san

Yoko is sitting on the steps across the street from where I lived in Kinugasa, Kita-Ku, Kyoto.

Here's a poem i wrote in Kyoto in 1986 for Yoko. The title of the poem is "Ocean Child" which comes from the kanji characters used to write Yoko's name: Yo = ocean and ko = child:

* * * * *

Ocean Child 洋子

Sometimes in my sleep
I hear echoes
like waves washing over me
wetting my skin
casting moist shadows

My sleep becomes blue and green
I hear the in and out of an ocean wave
I awake into blackness
knowing it was her again

Ocean woman comes to soothe my hot forehead
seaweed hands drip across my tangled hair
a mass of Japanese blue
dark heavy rain clouds burst open

Her eyes are the green slender leaves of my childhood
carried in a current of a clear small stream
Her eyes are deep brown lava islands
pickled brine
from the land of Amaterasu

~Nicole Raisin Stern
Kyoto 1986
(published in Atelier, a Boston area fine arts journal in the 90s)

My English class (from left to right: Mieko, Yoko, Emiko, and Sayuri).

I called them my "housewives' club", but actually, Mieko was divorced, all four were taking classes in Women's Studies with a feminist scholar and historian at a local college, and Yoko worked with a women's cooperative in Kyoto that runs an organic macrobiotic restaurant (Biotei びお亭, still in existence today). Here, I asked them to pose in front of the movie theatre in which we went to see "Out of Africa" in Kyoto with Japanese subtitles. The movie had just come out recently (1986). The class stayed together for over one year.

Kate washes hair

We could take an entire bath in a puddle or a water bottle we used to say.... In this picture, most of our house is drying out. The tent is on its side drying, the plastic tarps and our sleeping bags are all laid out to dry beneath a road. We slept beside the roads or in fields, in forests, even between buildings in vacant lots in cities. We just put up our tent when we needed to stop. In some places, we asked at the local police station where we could put up our tent for camping. On one occasion, the police drew us a map to the local park and woke us up in the morning with green tea.

Ganbatte, turtle, がんばって!!

Here is Kate next to a turtle sign that tells everyone to "keep on keeping on", 'ganbatte' in Japanese, only 5.2 km to go to reach the summit. This is a mountainous area of the Japan Alps where there are many hikers. The sign was meant for hikers following a trail up the mountain.

Nicole goes down the pass

Actually, not sure if we were heading up or down! I love pass riding; it's my favorite. I enjoy climbing up and up and up, then down. Here we are in the Japan Alps area.

Kate on pass

Again, not sure if she was going up or down the pass in this photo; you have to do both if you want to get over a pass.....

桜のニコニコ • Sakura smile

Our bodies age, but as we look up at the cherry blossom petals, we can feel the lightness of being. (Look closely and you will see that all the women in this photo are smiling).

畳屋さん - 京都

A tatami maker in Kyoto. A traditional craft. Tatami refers to the thick, tightly woven floor mats of bamboo that are placed wall to wall in traditional Japanese houses and/or rooms. One always walks upon the smooth tatami in socks or bare feet, leaving shoes at the genkan, or entrance to the house. The smell of fresh tatami is uniquely wonderful and the feel of the tatami underfoot is soft and comfortable. Rooms are measured by the tatami mat. The measurements of a room might be, for example, 6 tatami mats or 4.5 tatami mats.

もんぺ woman carrying sticks

In the morning I saw this woman walking in the thick forest where we were camped for the night. She was picking greens by the stream. Later on, we saw her here as she was walking on the road and we were about to cycle past.

House in rice field by ocean with koinobori - 能登半島 - Noto Hanto

This picture was taken sometime around Children's Day in May (1986) when the koinobori (carp kites) fly from houses with children (traditionally hung only for the boys). The road I was bicycling on is just above the house and field where you see the leaves in the foreground.

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