Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

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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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

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

Sharing the journey from story idea to finished book

October 22, 2007

Manga Touch was successfully “launched” Saturday at Nikkei Heritage Centre in Burnaby. I read from the book and gave a Power Point presentation about how I came to write it: from my first introduction to Japanese manga and Speed Raceranime (the 1970s TV series, Speed Racer, which my brother and I used to run home to watch after school) to some of the things I experienced on my research holiday in Japan (from historic sites and ancient traditions still practiced to modern bullet trains, Tokyo fashion and manga shops).

manga exhibit

Here I am in the shojo manga exhibit (my launch was planned to coincide with the exhibit at Nikkei Centre’s museum), standing next to artwork by Osamu Tezuka, a great pioneer of Japanese manga and animation.

talk

Here I am showing the final image in my Power Point talk, a manga portrait of me by Vancouver artist Nina Matsumoto. Click here for background info on “Manga Me.” 

For more photos of my talk, you can click over to my guest post at Orca Publishers’ blog. You can also check out some stories that I touched on in my launch talk in the following posts about my trip to Japan:

Three-legged crow post

Quest for the Lucky cat post

And if you were one of those kids who used to run home after school to watch Speed Racer, here’s some Speed Racer trivia for you: The series, called Mach Go Go Go in Japan (playing on the Japanese word for “five” and the English word for “go” — as in “go Speed, go!”), started as a manga book series in the 1960s. Speed’s look was inspired by Elvis Presley’s race car-driving style in the movie, Viva las Vegas. Speed’s car, the Mach Five, owe’s a debt to James Bond’s gadget filled Austen Martin in the movie, Goldfinger. A live action Speed Racer movie is due out in 2008!

Another bit of trivia: I called the main character in my novel, Dana, after Dana Sterling, the spunky female Veritech Hover Tank pilot in the 1980s anime series, Robotech (Masters Dana from Robotechsaga). I did this as sort of a joke going back to my university days when I was part of a group of students hired to research children’s cartoons, toys and their influence on children’s play. Robotech (which was created out of three Japanese anime series) was our favourite cartoon (we watched more of this one than was necessary for the research), and at least one of the guys in our group had a crush on Dana.