Monday, May 28, 2007

This morning's sketch crawl

Two sketch crawl friends and I met at epic café this morning to start our mini sketch crawl on Fourth Avenue. Seated outside in front of epic with a café au lait and a croissant, I began watercoloring Jose's VW bus with the "Shakti" plates.

For our second stop we sat on the shaded steps of "The Coyote Wore Sideburns" Hair Salon to sketch the colorfully painted house across the street at 643.

Stop number three was at Sabine's Café Passé where we drank iced hibiscus tea coolers outside under the shade of a large table umbrella while we sketched. The photo shows Sara on the left and Alanna on the right.

We did our last and final sketches sitting out at Sabine's café. Seated outside, we had a good view of the Co-op (better than is seen in my photo). From our positions at the table, the purpley-blue side of the co-op building was unobstructed by the umbrella that you see in the photo. As usual, click on any of my sketches for a larger view. And click here to see Alanna's sketches of the day (Sara does not have a blog--yet).

A lot of mileage from this corn

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Old Japan slides - Part VII

Temple bell & sakura お寺の鐘や桜

Tour buses on Noto Hanto - 能登半島のtourバス

These buses were mere inches apart from each other as they inched through a small village. I clearly remember this time. We watched from our bicycles as the bus drivers negotiated the passage. There was no way to get around the buses, so we just enjoyed the show.

Woman riding through Daitokuji

The temple known as 大徳寺 (Daitokuji) was a few blocks from where I lived in Kyoto. Everyday on my way to the subway and train to teach English in Osaka, I rode through Daitokuji on this very path.

Woman unloading a truck

Nicole looking at the ocean on Noto Hanto

Painters at a botanical garden

In Kyoto? Kanazawa? Not sure. I hung out at both beautiful gardens.

Man repairing wall at the Gosho - 御所で壁を直す

From summer of '86 until Feb. '88 I walked or rode through the grounds of the "Gosho" (御所) -- the old Imperial Palace in Kyoto -- on my way to my Japanese language and calligraphy classes.

School boy 中学生の男の人

Junior high school students in school uniform on a school outing. I can't tell where in Japan this was taken. Junior high school students go on school excursions to famous historic places, just like school kids in many cities around the world. This was sometime in 1985, 1986, 1987, or 1988.

Temple grounds at Kiyomizudera 清水寺

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto. Probably April since I see cherry blossoms in bloom.

Alpine map - Japan - 山の地図

Rest stop, Japan Alps.

baby 赤ちゃん

Kojiki - a beggar - 乞食

Somewhere in Japan. Don't recall where. I remember asking Igarashi-sensei (五十嵐先生), one of my Japanese teachers in Kyoto, about the 乞食 (kojiki) I saw. I was surprised that kojiki existed in Japan. Her answer was that many kojiki choose the lifestyle and that some are quite well-educated, even graduates of the prestigious Tokyo University. In Juso Itami's movie, タンポポ (Tampopo), there is a wonderful scene showing the deep way of life shared by a band of kojiki and their teacher. While the movie is a satiric look at modern Japan, there is much truth to that scene -- and in the movie as a whole.


I think this logging region was on a river in the Japan Alps area.

Me & my "housewives" 私の主婦の英語のクラス

At the movies in Kyoto, Japan, with my English class (from left to right: Mieko, Yoko, me, Emiko, and Sayuri).

I called them my "housewives", 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 (1985). The class stayed together for over one year. Here's a different view of my class.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

teapot no. 39 - Tea Sutra

Construction paper with sparkles (the red background, all the black paper, and the green tea in the tea cups); tea sutra gift wrap paper from 一保堂 (Ippo-Do) tea store in Japan; ivory color embroidery thread. I cut out the paper with a scissors and glued the pieces with glue stick. On the noren curtains are four variations of the character for tea in Japanese/Chinese: 茶 (cha).

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Old Japan slides - Part VI

Canadian artist friend Shera

Shera Street is an artist-photographer-energy healer who lives on Galiano Island in B.C., Canada. We met when i was living in a guest house for gaijin and teaching in the Kyoto-Osaka area. Shera had come to spend 6 months in Asia. It was through Shera that I learned to make handbound Japanese style journals with sewn and glued bindings. And the beautifully vibrant watercolor scenes Shera painted from her daily Kyoto outings planted a seed in me for future watercolor portrayals of what I see around me. Shera also got me started with watercolors by cutting off tiny tiny corners of her Winsor & Newton halfpans and writing me a list of the 5 to 7 colors that can be mixed to make any colors. For years I dabbled, literally, just making a line or a splotch on a piece of paper, that's all. Eventually, all my looking at things and line- and splotch-making merged. Thank you, Shera.


Kutsuyasan (shoe stores) were some of my favorite mise (stores) in Japan, along with miso, mochi, and pickle stores, paper stores, noodle makers, tea sellers, and tofu makers. In the kutsuyasan, i loved seeing the variety of sandals and especially the wooden geta and bamboo or straw-soled zori. The click-clack sound of geta is music to my ears.

waiting for cue

At Kamigamo Jinja in Kyoto. The percussion player is waiting for his cue to strike the taiko (drum) during a Shinto ritual.

open-mouthed wonder - お花見

Elders in Japan enjoying cherry blossoms. I liked seeing their open-mouth, open-eyed delight.

sweet maker

In Japan, I liked to watch the conveyor belt machines that spewed out blobs of sweet red bean paste (anko), stamped manju (pancake like biscuits) with kanji, and that kneaded or cut noodles, etc. Generally, i like non mechanized food production, but these machines fascinated me. The sweet maker's outfit was rather like a nurse's uniform in the USA back in the days when nurses wore such white uniforms.


This mise (shop) near where I lived in Kita-Ku, Kyoto, was more of a bento box seller than a sushiyasan. I picked up inarizushi and other delicacies here for moonviewing at the local temples and gardens on full moon nights.

Old Japan slides - Part V


I don't recall where this was. I do remember that the whole family was amazed that Kate and I were bicycling and that we'd come all the way from Kyoto. They kept asking us if there were motors on our bikes. We went into their "mise" (shop) by a rice field to buy some items for lunch which we planned to eat outside by the field. When we went to the counter to pay, they not only would not let us pay for anything, but they insisted we stay for lunch. We went upstairs to their living quarters where we had a wonderful rice-miso-pickles-tofu-vegetable-tea lunch. After lunch they insisted we take a nap! So, many hours later, we said our farewells and bicycled away.

Man farming in Kyoto

This was near my friend Yoko's danchi (apartment house) in Fushimiku, Kyoto.

My bike "bosque".

I named my bike "bosque" (Spanish for "forest") because of its forest green color.

I notice my bungee cord stretched out between handlebars and seat post which means I had been drying some wet article of clothing there. A common occurrence in rainy Japan.

Monk on his takahatsu "alms rounds" in Fushimiku, Kyoto, in the neighborhood where my friend, Yoko, lived.

Jizo shrine on the water

Noto Hanto. Shrine with little jizo statues inside. Jizo are protectors of children, travellers/pilgrims, and women.

A covered outdoor walkway within a temple.

The wood is smooth from many people padding over it in their socks. In Japan, shoes are taken off before entering into homes, temples, shrines, other sacred "home/inside" spaces, even some offices and schools. A very wonderful custom, if you ask me. I like the demarcation of the sacred from the "pedestrian".

boy, boots, bucket

I posted a different picture of this little boy earlier.

ika (squid) hanging at an outdoor market near the ocean

teapot nos. 37 & 38

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.