Sunday, 2 September 2012

Still in Japan and still having fun!

On Friday 30th we travelled up from Kyoto to Aomori on the Shinkansen bullet train. Super fast and comfy, with lots of leg room. It is about 700 miles, and took us from 9.30 am till about 5pm, including changing in Tokyo and hanging around for an hour and a half to get a train with unreserved seats. Can't imagine covering that distance in that amount of time in Britain really, to be honest, and not in such comfort. So this is about as much as we saw of Tokyo...

We were met at the station by Masako who is a major patron of the NPO (Non Profit Organisation) that runs the site, as well as patron of the Aomori Contemporary Arts Centre. This contact is thanks to Natasha and her sister and friends. Pure serendipity! Masako is a lovely woman. 

We went for a meal in what she though would be a quiet restaurant, with a couple of young men (English and American) that she knows who are working here.  Far from it! As we entered a musician was playing the shamisen, a three stringed fretless instrument, rather loudly. As food came to the table a clown type character started acting up, singing and dancing, encouraging the diners to wear silly wigs and hats and got them dancing. This got louder and louder. i think the whole family that run the restaurant joined in with cymbals and flutes and whistles. Jeeze! Could hardly hear ourselves speak. Great fun. I asked if this was typical in any way, and the answer was, emphatically, that this was not typical, but Aomori is famous for a festival in early August with lots of loud music and paper/bamboo lanterns and floats.

 Guess who got given the shiny, lucky 5 yen piece? 
Here is a clue; It wasn't me.

 Do play a bit of this clip for an idea of quite how noisy it was! 
It was great fun though, I have to say!

Masako took us next day to visit ACAC where they run month long artist residencies which she is strongly encouraging me to apply for. The venue and gallery are fantastic, as you can see from the photos. I am very excited about the possibilities this suggests. Very excited indeed.
(I'm adding the link here but if you apply and get a place and I don't I may have to take drastic action and kidnap you, hold you hostage till you relinquish the residency. Is that quite clear?)

Masako and Tasha, both looking lovely.

Big day today, visiting the Sannai Maruyama Site, and archeological site of great importance in Northern Japan, just outside the sea port (industrial) town of Aomori. We went to the Sannai Maruyama Site and ate lunch with Sahaoko and her colleagues in a meeting room, after which we set up the projector and things in the long low thatched building. The place was full of Japanese tourists, young and old, who watched my animation, and who seemed to like it very much. Sahoko's workshop went very well. It started tentatively but the kids and their parents soon got stuck in and were very creative, making Twig Figure Fairies which they then posed in front of the wave-patterned background of my animation.  Jomon enthusiasts identify the Jomon culture with the Celtic culture. The two have been described as a pair of beautiful earrings either side of the whole Pan-Asian region, which is a lovely way to describe it; a mystical and mysterious, ancient people, creative and spiritual, and in harmony with nature and their surroundings.

More info about the site can be found here:

And there is a Facebook page for the site too;

( have NO idea what's going on with the laptop. Everything is all disordered and pictures in the wrong folders, so apologies for the slightly illogical arrangement of the pictures.)

 This was just after my presentation and talk., and the start of Sahokos workshop. I am not sure if anyone took any photos but it was so blisteringly hot it was all I could do to mop my own brow, let alone instruct anyone to use my camera.

 The Jomon were positively industrial in the quantity of pots and things they made. 
Shards galore!

In the early evening the scene was set for an open air concert. People came with food and drinks, sat on tatami mats, looking towards the re-constructed buildings as the huge, yellow full moon rose from behind the fir trees edging the site. There were steel drums, a shamisen player, a drummer/singer, two local stand up comics (didn't understand a word of any of it but they said 'thank you' a great deal!) and opera singer and pianist. When the concert ended the crowd dispersed, and we went in to the thatched building the workshop had been in. The place was transformed and a banquet laid out. Food home-cooked in a Jomon style by volunteers was spread out. Two kinds of sake and cold beers were in abundance. The shamisen player and a drummer who had been at the workshop played the most beautiful set. Absolutely awesome!  

And my friend that I met during unearthed, Fumihito san, turned up after all! He had said he would be unable to visit Aomori, as he was doing archeology out in the sticks. It was so nice to see him! He told me about finding a Dogu figure himself during the dig he is working on. How cool is that! Met some very interesting people, including a blind photographer, who was very friendly. He's a teacher and is working with Sahoko and others on a project to make museums more accessible to blind and partially sighted people, so I must dig out the name of the coloured-coded texture material that I worked with some years ago, because it might be very useful to them. He was lovely, and when we left I went to shake his hand but he put his arms out and pulled me into a big hug. I cannot tell you how un-Japanese this is, and I regard it as a great compliment. He also presented me with a little souvenir of a 'doggy bag', neatly wrapped in a cloth (furoshiki style) that was his own handkerchief. I'll add here that Japanese people do not blow their noses on these, they just use them for daintily dabbing their brows from time to time. It seemed clean and it was. A Japanese wouldn't dream of wrapping food in anything remotely un-clean. They are the cleanest people I have ever met.

Wow, what a day! At some point Tasha and I wondered how we were getting back to the hotel and, bless him, Funihito gave us a lift in his car. (Don't worry girls, I didn't see him touch a drop all evening.)

Ok... that's it for now! I have plenty of dreaming and planning and scheming to think of what I could do with a month in Japan making artwork at the ACAC.

Laptop is worrying me though. It just isn't behaving quite right  at all... Photos are missing or disoriented. Will try and sort it out later. Must go to bed now as we have more travelling to do tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. I am wordless... Stunning photos of the art, the fabrics, the events...the moon behind the oldstyled houses...WOW! Thank you for sharing your photos!
    I am happy for you: to be able to have a month for Artmaking in Japan.. Super!