Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

A taste of Japan – through photos, haiku and food

July 7, 2016

Reminiscing, I decided to repost this haiku-photo collaboration from 2010. Sad to say that Ruriko, the owner of Sawa at the time, died of cancer a few years ago.

Note: Yokan (or iyokan?) is a winter citrus fruit. Also, I feel compelled to point out that my haiku has progressed since this time, and this older haiku has some problems, though I still like the yokan haiku and the collaboration with Jean-Pierre’s photos.

wild ink

Recently, Jean-Pierre Antonio, a friend who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years, asked me to write some haiku to accompany a series of photographs he took in Tokyo and Kyoto this past December. Usually my haiku is inspired by personal experience, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have any success trying to write in response to someone else’s photographs, but Jean-Pierre’s multiple images of  bright winter yokan fruit, calligraphic wisteria vines, and mysterious crows immediately evoked a strong feeling of place and mood, and the first haiku quickly took shape. Writing something to go with Jean-Pierre’s photos of young people engrossed in manga-reading and close-up sections of ancient fabric took a little more thought. To write about the fabric, I had to, in a sense, reach back across time to imagine what was going through the minds of the long-ago fabric artists…

The result of our collaboration is currently…

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Bamboo & Basho

June 27, 2013

Interested in haiku poetry or how to use bamboo in your garden? This Saturday I’ll be joining other poets from the Vancouver Haiku Group at Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat Sen Classical Chinese Garden for a celebration of bamboo. Angela Naccarato, poet and Intuitive Consultant, will lead haiku workshops (open to anyone visiting the garden, with three workshop times between 1-3pm), and I will be sharing some of my photographs of “bamboo in Basho’s footsteps” (from my last visit to Japan).

Bamboo haiku workshop

A haiku I wrote on my last visit to the garden:

bamboo haiku

Book Party!

April 26, 2011

My new book is out! Mystery of the Missing Luck (Orca Book Publishers), illustrated by Leanne Franson, is a chapter book for ages 6-8 about a young girl, her relationship with her grandmother, and what happens when Maneki Neko, a lucky cat statue, goes missing from the grandmother’s Japanese bakery.

Usually, when I have a new book published, I celebrate with a launch event at a library, book store, or other physical venue. This time, I’m trying something new –a virtual book tour, online book give-a-ways, and a special Missing Luck – Lucky Cat contest. The prize is a Lucky Cat bag full of unique Maneki Neko (beckoning cat) items from Japan (including a cute plush beckoning cat, a wooden prayer plaque from Gotokuji Temple where the first Maneki Neko originated, tabi socks, hashi/chopsticks, stickers, candy, charm, etc. as well as a signed copy of my new book). Anyone can enter the Missing Luck – Lucky Cat contest here on my blog or on Facebook. All you have to do to enter the contest is leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post letting me know you’d like to enter and telling me why you’d like to win our great prize pack. Leave a comment on my Facebook page for an extra chance to win. The Missing Luck contest is being co-sponsored by the Lucky Cat – Maneki Neko blog and Lucky Cat Facebook page, so you have even more chances of winning by leaving comments there as well. Spread the word by posting a link to the contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter, let us know, and we’ll give you an extra draw entry. We’ll be holding the draw May 20 and announcing the winner here and on Facebook.

Follow me on my tour as I hop from blog to blog, sharing stories about how I came to write Mystery of the Missing Luck, visited the home of the first Maneki Neko in Japan, and learned about an-pan, a special Japanese bun that inspired a cartoon super hero. Leave a comment after one of my blog posts, and the host will enter your name in a draw for a copy of Mystery of the Missing Luck. There will be a book given away at each blog stop (4 separate book give-a-ways, plus a book with the Missing Luck prize pack).

Teachers, if you have a class that would like to enter any of the draws, students can enter individually, or the whole class can enter as one (if a class wins the Missing Luck prize pack, I’ll make sure there are enough Lucky Cat candies for everyone in the class to try one, and I’ll add a class set of Mystery of the Missing Luck bookmarks). A downloadable teachers’ guide to the book will be available from Orca’s website.

Mystery of the Missing Luck tour schedule (2011):

April 28 – I’ll be visiting the blog of kc dyer, author of historical and contemporary fiction for kids and teens, including A Walk Through a Window and its sequel Facing Fire

May 2 – Check out my post on the site of Orca Book Publishers

May 6 – Find me at the blog of Tanya Lloyd Kyi, author of Burn: The Life Story of Fire, Jared Lester, Fifth Grade Jester, and other fiction and non-fiction titles

May 7 – I’ll be breaking with the virtual theme by joining the Burnaby Library‘s celebration of Canadian Children’s Book Week in person (at the Metrotown library branch)

May 11 – My stop will be the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) blog

May 18 – I’ll be joining fellow Orca authors for a group book launch (yes, this one is also live and in person) at Vancouver Kidsbooks, 3083 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, 7pm [Note: this is a change of location from the previously announced, Ardea Books]

May 19 (or shortly after) – see photos of the group launch on Orca’s blog and the CWILL BC blog

May 20 – Missing Luck – Lucky Cat prize draw! [note: contest now closed, but if you’re interested in Lucky Cats there may be a future Maneki Neko-themed contest on the Lucky Cat blog and/or Facebook site]

Please ask for Mystery of the Missing Luck at your local book store, or order it through IndieboundAmazon.comAmazon.ca, or Chapters/Indigo. [note: if you plan on ordering the book through Amazon, please use my links -thanks!]

Mini Movie-making debut!

April 7, 2010

Yesterday I had fun experimenting with animoto.com to create my first book trailer. What do you think?

You can read more about the novel, Manga Touch, here. Thinking of trying animoto.com yourself? I found it easy and fun to use. You can upload photos of your own or select from photos animoto provides. The same goes for music. Creating a short 30 second movie is free. You can try out a longer one for $3, or make as many longer ones as you like for $30/year. I wanted to include quite a few images, so I went for the $3 test run.

It took fellow author, Lois Peterson, about 1/2 an hour to create her first book trailer with animoto (check out Lois’ book trailer for The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw here). She recommends collecting all the photos you want to use in a separate file and preparing your script ahead of time to speed this up. I did all this, but it still took me several hours to finalize my video (okay, I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I kept redoing it).

One draw-back to using animoto.com is you don’t have any control over the effects. You basically insert your photos and music and press “finalize.” Once the movie has been processed, you can edit it, but if you like the way the movie turned out and just want to change one photo or a few words of text, you can’t do this without the whole thing being reprocessed (the special effects and timing of images with the music will be slightly different each time you redo it). I also had trouble uploading the video directly to my blog (but this may have been a problem with WordPress, not animoto). It uploaded to Youtube easily, and I routed it here from there. I haven’t tried any other movie-making programs or sites, so I can’t compare animoto to them, but animoto was easy enough to get me started, and creating a “mini movie” was a fun new (for me) way to summarize a book. Who knows? I may just have to make a book trailer for every one of my books…

A taste of Japan – through photos, haiku and food

March 18, 2010

Recently [2010], Jean-Pierre Antonio, a friend who has lived and worked in Japan for over 20 years, asked me to write some haiku to accompany a series of photographs he took in Tokyo and Kyoto this past December. Usually my haiku is inspired by personal experience, and I wasn’t sure if I’d have any success trying to write in response to someone else’s photographs, but Jean-Pierre’s multiple images of bright winter yokan fruit, calligraphic wisteria vines, and mysterious crows immediately evoked a strong feeling of place and mood, and the first haiku quickly took shape. Writing something to go with Jean-Pierre’s photos of young people engrossed in manga-reading and close-up sections of ancient fabric took a little more thought. To write about the fabric, I had to, in a sense, reach back across time to imagine what was going through the minds of the long-ago fabric artists…

The result of our collaboration is currently on display at Sawa Tea Lounge and Gallery, 1538 W.  2nd Ave in Vancouver (near the entrance to Granville Island). Below are some images from the exhibit and the location:

(The blossoms were in full bloom in a courtyard space designed by Arthur Erickson and right beside Sawa.)

If you’re in Vancouver I hope you’ll stop by and check out the show (Sawa is a great place for lunch or tea!).

Note: this is Jean-Pierre’s third photo exhibit at Sawa. Click here for a blog post on a past exhibit.

Travel stories

May 27, 2009

At my last book club meeting the conversation went from discussing A Year in Provence to sharing humorous travel stories (book club tangents are often more interesting than the actual book discussions). After hearing about several hilarious mishaps, inadvertent cultural faux pas, and near-disasters (most, funny only from the safety of hindsight and home), it occurred to me that problem-free trips do not make for very interesting travel anecdotes.

Both my trips to Japan were so well choreographed and shepherded by friends, that there was little opportunity for me to get lost, botch anything up, or encounter any risks or pitfalls. The funniest things to happen on my latest trip was having to ask a male friend to help me decipher the Japanese on feminine hygiene products (he was unable to offer any enlightenment as to the reason for the pictures of rabbits and flying pigs). The only other funny thing was, apparently, my pronunciation of Japanese words, which baffled some people and highly entertained others. Also, running out of money 2/3 the way through the trip did lead to some unexpected challenges and suspense.

So, if no problems means no stories, than I’m relieved to say I have no real stories to tell about my trip. However, that doesn’t mean I have no stories to tell. They just wont be about me.

Some of my favourite places and things experienced on my recent trip:

– stopping to eat a box lunch overlooking the Oi River and the lush green mountainside of Arashiyama (storm mountain), Kyoto

– hearing uguisu, the Japanese nightingale, call in the bamboo forest beside an old inari shrine

– shopping for kimono fabric and antiques at Kitano Tenmangu market, Kyoto (and escaping from the rain in a tiny tofu hot pot restaurant)

– eating a delicious lunch of fresh vegetables, rice and grilled tofu braised with miso sauce (if you scoff at the idea of tofu tasting good, then you’ve never eaten in Japan!), followed by exploring a school for samurai, a castle, and a ninja house

– enjoying the view from Kiyumizu Temple in Kyoto and Roppongi Tower in Tokyo

– following the beckoning cats signs to Gotokuji temple, the home of the first maneki-neko (lucky cat)

– experiencing Kabuki

– soaking in a natural hotspring beside a river in Wakayama

– walking down ancient stones stairs to the base of Nachi Falls

– following a crow through the huge tori gate at Kumano Taisha, the shrine of the three-legged crow

– walking on the old Tokaido hwy through the historic town of Seki-cho and sitting in a 370 year old shop interviewing the 13th and 14th generation wagashi-makers (who may or may not be related to ninjas)

– meeting highschool and university students, and chatting with people at my talks

– basking in the hospitality and kindness of friends and acquaintances (old and new)

 
I came away with two notebooks full of notes and ideas, as well as over 2000 photos (mostly for research and to help jog my memory), so look for a future story — possibly involving a 17th century girl, a wagashi shop, ninjas, a fire, and a trip on the old Tokaido hwy.… (that is, after the maneki-neko story).

trip-collage2

Highlights of my trip to Japan

May 20, 2009

Want a glimpse into my working holiday in Japan? Here is a link to the album I posted on Facebook (you’re supposed to be able to look at it even if you’re not signed up to Facebook):

Album

(I hope it works)

Journey to Japan

May 16, 2009

Nachi-Falls_shrine
I couldn’t manage to connect to WordPress from internet cafes while I was in Japan, so now that I’m back home, I’ll post some thoughts and images from the trip. I didn’t expect to have time to write any haiku while I was there, but I actually found that in the middle of seeing and doing so many things, composing a haiku could sometimes be a good way of focusing in on a single experience (at least for a few minutes).

My first night in Japan I fell asleep to the creaking of frogs from a nearby rice paddy and woke up to the chattering of birds. I went for a morning walk and watched rice being planted, then composed my first haiku of the trip as I sat in the back seat of a friend’s car on my way to lunch (at a French restaurant, of all places, where my first meal in Japan was vegetarian quiche). We drove past recently flooded rice fields where rows of new plants bent and twitched in the wind, while white egrets stood erect and motionless.

newly planted rice
green fingers tap in the wind
three patient egrets

(I don’t know if this comes across, but the contrast between the two, reminded me of the impatient eagerness of youth vs the knowing resignation of old age…??)

rice_field

In Kyoto a couple days later, I walked through a bamboo forest and stopped by a basho (bannana leaf) plant (the plant for which the poet Basho took his name) near an old house once frequented by Basho (in the 17th c.). It seemed an appropriate spot to stop for a rest and a haiku moment.

in the bamboo grove
stripes of light and shadow
a nightingale sings

bamboo

I heard the uguisu (Japanese nightingale) near a spooky old inari (fox messanger) shrine in the middle of the bamboo forest in an area called Sagano, near the Togetsukyo Bridge over the River Oi, which is the last stage on the old Tokaido Highway, a place that has been visited by pilgrims and other travellers for perhaps a thousand years (being used to Canada’s west coast, where recorded history is very recent, this thought blew me away).

Oi-River

On our last day in Kyoto, my friend and I walked down Pontocho Road (one of the traditional geisha areas). The street was so narrow, two people barely had room to pass.

rain drips from roof tops
along Pontocho Road
two umbrellas touch

Kyoto-umbrellas

Further along the road, we discovered a tiny temple and garden honouring thirty-something women and children killed and buried near the spot in the 16th c. after the male leader of their household fell out of favour with his uncle (Hideyoshi, the samurai lord who controlled power at the time) and was forced to commit seppuko. Kyoto is full of magnificant temples, shrines, castles, etc., but to me, history never felt as poignantly close as at this modest, easy-to-miss spot. My friend and I stopped to ring the temple bell and make an offering in memory of the murdered women and children, and I tried to put the experience into words as we sat on the train that night, returning to Suzuka.

beside the canal
in a small temple garden
the names of children

Kannon_protector-of-women&children

What’s that tweeting sound you hear?

April 20, 2009

This may be a mistake, given that the Internet already eats up too much of my writing time/stamina, but I’ve just joined Twitter.

If I can find a computer and figure out how to switch it to English characters, I’ll try to post some updates (here and on twitter) during my trip to Japan. Will probably have to wait until I get home to attempt to add photos, though.

I’m experiencing my usual pre-flight anxiety today, but should be okay once I’m on the plane tomorrow… I’ll be landing in Japan on Earth Day and feeling guilty about my contribution to global warming. Will need to plant some trees once I’m home again… In the meantime, here’s the link to the “Earth Day Novels”  list I posted on the Chapters/Indigo site last year (with some new suggestions added in the comments).

tori_gate_dusk2

Skateboard haiku challenge

April 17, 2009

In honour of poetry month, I’ve been asked to start off the skateboard haiku challenge over at the blog of Darby Speaks.

I haven’t had a lot of time for writing anything this month, as I’m busy preparing for a trip to Japan. I leave in a few days. Once there, I’ll be talking about my books and Canada to five different groups, plus touring around and doing research for a possible future book. I hope I wont be too distracted and full of new ideas to start back in on finishing off my current novel when I get home again.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to post photos while I’m away, but I’ll try to at least post a few updates.

In the mean time, the cherry blossoms are finally out here (about a month behind)! I’ve got to enjoy them while I can, as they’ll already be finished in Japan.

blossoms_09