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Archive for the ‘japan’ Category

Artworld/Ron Mueck

In artworld, japan, ozstraylia on March 28, 2010 at 3:26 am

I sit in front of a red rectangular canvas, slightly uneven orange line bisects the red horizontally and at the left edge, the red paint doesn’t quite reach and uneven blocks of white black and blue are painted on. I like this painting, it makes me smile and I sit in front of it for at least five – ten mins. I’m still looking at it as I write this..

And looking at a painting/image/Installation for longer than a brief moment is a big thing for me, usually in and out of any exhibition, gallery within mins the painting is On The Way (1973) by john firth-smith

I’ve been to a few art galleries on my trip so far and I’ll be going to a load more as I go along especially when I hit New York, and probably if I can hack the hills some in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

It’s kind of awe inspiring to see art works which you’ve only seen in books or as posters or prints in the flesh to get up close and look at them, breathe on them, peruse the brush strokes. And also in Japan as well as Melbourne take photos of them. Having a record of the artworks that you like, that move you, that get the brain moving and the heart pumping is quite special. I made the mistake of not asking at the gallery that I was in in Tokyo, where they had a mass of Rodin sculptures outside, whether I could take photo’s and it was only after taking copious notes for writing up later of what I felt about each painting, that I realized I could have taken photo’s of them.

So finally got to go to the Ron Mueck exhibition, which had been showing at the NVG in Melbourne and it was quite thrilling. The scale of things, and the realism with which they were finished, was truly incredible, the urge to touch his sculptures was almost overwhelming, the hairs on the backs of bearded mans legs, the bunch of branches that a woman struggles with, the clothes of the two old women. All of them seem to dare you to touch them with through their lifelike nature, but of course you can’t, even thought the sample piece of skin that you are asked to touch at the entrance to the exhibition feels weird and plasticky, it doesn’t stop the realistic nature of the sculptures fooling you into thinking that if you touch them they will be soft, and warm and fleshily human. What I found amazing was the range in scale, small made big, big made small, and how I as the audience reacted to it, trying to get as close as possible to see some minute detail or having to step back to put the size into context. A really fascinating exhibition, and even more fascinating that Mueck, worked for Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and was a model maker/puppeteer on Labyrinth. I do wonder how he works, I’m of the opinion that he works alone, by himself, laboriously punching each hole for every single hair, rather than having an army of acolytes doing it for him. I could be wrong.

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The Anchor

In bike, japan, ozstraylia on February 22, 2010 at 8:22 am

David’s bridgestone Anchor is lovely. See pic for the full gorgeousness, not sure whether it’s the aerospoke or the pristine paintjob(got to be the aerospoke) that is garnering envious glances wherever it goes. I understand why people build up the really bright bikes, why people lust after aerospokes, there is something inherently cool with them. I suddenly discovered a hankering for a Spinergy Rev X, which I want to roll along on, and now I wish I’d bought a sexier bike with me, something that will provoke gasps and pointed fingers and double takes as the bridgestone does. But alas I’ve only got the traveling bike which is built for comfort and solidity, rather than drop dead gorgeousness. But I have stickered it up since last you saw it, so it is moving closer to being hipper than it was.

On a bike related note, bought a couple of good luck charms, when I was out at the golden pavilion in Kyoto (see attached picture), the blue one is good luck, and the purple one is road safety, shintoism is nothing if not a pragmatic religion, and I’m like what the hey every little helps, I’ll be on the road for a year so someone/thing looking down and possibly giving me a bit of protection can’t be all bad. Anyway I tie them onto the seat rails and head out into Tokyo. And what do you know, the road safety one doesn’t even last the day. I’m working under the thoughts that, obviously I don’t need it, which is why it didn’t hold on for very long..

Spotted in Japan

In all about the ride, bike, japan on February 17, 2010 at 2:35 pm

If you don’t like photo’s of bikes you may want to skip this post. As below is a selection of bikes I saw in Japan, which I felt the need to photograph because they were lovely, interesting, or just plain weird.

As a note there are lots of off the pegs (fully built bikes from a manufacturer, that you can buy in a shop and ride away on) out there and mostly the Japanese will ride Bianchi’s in weird colours, pinks, blues, that we don’t get the choice of over here in the west. But they will also ride Gorilla’s, Pake’s, Volume’s, and even Charge’s. The fixed thing is big here and most just want a bike they can afford, and ride straight away. Rather than spending twice as much as a whole bike on a really nice Keirin frame, and then the same again on parts to get it rolling.

So I present for your viewing pleasure Spotted in Japan, well really spotted in Tokyo, Osaka, and nothing at all from Kyoto.

If you want to, and aren’t all bike spotted out there are more photo’s on the Flickr

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and

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Tiny little baby feets

In japan on February 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

The Japanese are either stamping or dragging their feet. This annoys me no end. I have issues with that sort of thing. I was told you never dragged your feet, or you’d wear out your shoes, and mum didn’t have the time, inclination or the money to keep buying me shoes, because I couldn’t be bothered to raise my foot off the floor. This information was often punctuated by a cuff round the ear. So I learnt early on to lift my foot and not drag them around. But everyone in Japan seems to do it, maybe it’s the cultural habit of wearing slippers, and if you lift your foot to high, then the slippers come off, but it grates on me. I just want to grab them and shake them and tell them to lift up your foot, be light on your feet. Its another of the reasons why I hate Ugg Boots, and the Japanese girls seem to Luuuurve their Uggs.

And another thing I’ve noticed is the amount of (bad, my interpretation) feet/legs, knock knees, toes turned in, pigeon toes, bow legs, does the leftover cultural residue of the geisha and bound feet mean that the Japanese don’t have an issue with these things? Or is it a case of they have more important beautification issues to sort and crooked legs and feet don’t rate that high.

Answers on a postcard please..

Ghibli museum

In japan, travelling on February 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm

Even though I was still full of cold, and only able to travel by train JR and metro, I’ve made the trek out to the Ghibli museum. Ghibli, creators of Howl’s Moving Castle, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, Laputa, Castle in the Sky, and others. A studio devoted to the enchantment of children and adults who are still children at heart. A magical moviemaking company, that has won the hearts of legions of people around the globe. And as the rain starts to fall, I exit the train station at Mitaka, with the clock ticking before I’m supposed to be there (you have to book in advance, and get a time slot, mine is at 14:00 and it’s a fifteen min walk which I’m not looking forward to as the rain descends, as its almost two right now), but I make the petite technicolour bus, which whisks me and the others, via a couple of quick stops, to the museum.

There’s no photography allowed inside, so find below my notes, trying to describe what its like inside there.

A big glass cube, like ten foot by ten foot containing all the hand drawn animation sheets thick envelopes/folders numbering over 950.

Kids all around excited by stuff, small sections of scenes which you can animate by flicking the pages. They really want you to get hands on with the animation, if your not flicking, your turning, or pushing, or holding gently one of the books which contain storyboards and scene breakdowns, each one brilliantly drawn, even if it is a rough sketch.

Different rooms show different films, one is like a study, desk sheets of paper, full ashtray, cup of coffee, presumably the desk of the creator, books all around on English and Japanese about lots of different topics, different aspects of the process, watercoloured locations for kiki’s delivery service, the creation of the city and the world she inhabits, all beautifully realised.

Another room full of models and diagrams of the vehicles and crafts used in the films, it’s like they have to build them to make them real, full of sketches and character designs pen and ink, watercolours, everything is hand drawn, there seem to be no computer realizations of anything, first and foremost is the imagination of the artist, and their ability to make it flesh with their own hands.

On another floor they have their research for everything that appears in their films, from food – pictures of bento boxes and what they contain, to mushrooms that grow on certain trees, fish that characters are trying to catch, games school kids play.

The building has a spiral staircase that is enclosed and are just slightly bigger than kid sized, but the kids they scream and yelp as they curve tightly around the interior up to the higher floors.

There’s a room at the top with a big furry Cheshire cat which has windows and doors like a car and kids are running and climbing all over it, with the tears inevitably flowing, parents coming to their rescue and console them, even as the kid is pulling away trying to get back in, and then having to be told that they will have to queue up again, because it is someone else’s turn this time round.

There are things to prod and to turn, to push and to pull all to keep the kids, both the young uns and the young at heart, entertained.

It’s still pissing it down as I follow others out to the rooftop garden, just like grey old London, its umbrellas at the ready, which makes seeing the robot on the roof, from Laputa, Castle in the Sky a trying experience, but it is huge, like what twenty feet tall and with the rain spitting in my face I take a couple of shots, not really caring how they come out, just wanting to show people that I was there.

The final viewing room has a tall zoetrope (revolving container which shows objects animating, powered by the eyes persistance of vision) robot (from Laputa) arms aloft as birds spiral upwards from it. A kind of advent calendar house for their films, which you can open the doors of and see stills or models behind the glass, boxes with different layers of images which when you look through them and move your head reveal different parts of the scene, new characters and features.

The cinema which will screen a short made exclusively for the museum, has low seats designed for children by the way, my knees feel like they are pressed up against my cheeks (exaggeration for comic effect) and your ticket for the cinema is 3 frames of celluloid from ghibli, I will be keeping it as a souvenir.

Apologies for the first blurred photo, it was cold and rainy, and I just wanted to take the photo to give you a sense of how big the sculpture is.

we apologise for the delay

In japan, travelling, writing on February 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm

just a quick note to let you know I’ve been without internet access for the last couple of days for a number of reasons, and trying to find a free wireless hotspot in melbourne, without spending money in mickey d’s or starbucks is nigh on impossible (why have your wireless network named after your business, but when I ask for the password, tell me you don’t have one, or have a wireless network, which isn’t actually connected to the internet) so even though I wrote these posts about a week ago, uploading and naming photo’s took an age and then the interwebs went down and I had some emails to reply to, some sun to swan about in, and a bike to ride up and down swanston st.

anyway the last (pretty much) of the tokyo/japan posts follow this one and the ozstraylia ones will following fairly shortly after that.

so sorry for the delay, thanks for holding in there, and hopefully the posts that come next make up for it.

Microphone fiend

In japan, tunnnneeeee! on February 13, 2010 at 10:32 am

I’m in Kyoto, sitting down in sukiya, eating strips of beef, on top of rice, covered with three types of cheese and drinking a large bottle of Asahi, at like half twelve/one in the morning, when it becomes crystal clear to me how absurd, clean version of hip hop tunes are. I’m feeling my chopstick skills desert me as I struggle to shovel the rice and beef into my gaping maw. I hear pop out of the speakers none other than the Junior Mafia, Lil’ Kim, Biggie and the rest of their crew spitting out Playa’s Anthem, and with all the swearing replaced by inoffensive alternatives, the flow is corrupted, distorted. As I sing along in my head, adding in all the words they have excised, it breaks my hip hop loving heart to hear the tune adulterated thus. I did smile as the track came on, at the incongruity of the song, and the venue in which it was being played, and me being there to hear it played. It felt like someone/thing was telling me something.

I sat there and tapped my fingers and hummed along, and looked around at the other diners, the native Japanese who couldn’t have cared less what song was on, as they wolfed down their fast food.

Surreal Japan

In japan on February 13, 2010 at 9:08 am

Japan was like no place I’ve ever been to, not that I’ve been to many, but from the moment I touched down I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. It felt utterly strange and surreal, so much happening, around you that it was difficult to keep up at times. Below is a list of things I found surreal/strange/weird/interesting about the land of the rising sun.

Number 1:

Everything has a jingle, supermarkets, convenience stores, shops, train announcements, everything and anything has a little upbeat happy sound to let you know where you are and what you are doing. It could drive you insane if you let it, or you can find it endearing. I’m leaning towards the endearing at this point in time, but I’m easy with being moved into the insane path.

Number 2:

Every so often in Toyko, when your riding, walking around, you get a whiff of something which burns the nostrils, super strong smell of fart bomb. You look around for who cut one, or for some sort of leaking sewer. But you can’t see one. I’ve been told the smell is actually the sewers, they were finished in the 70’s and lie too close to the surface so smells escape. I shit you not.

Number 3:

I’ve never seen so many suits in my life. I mean really so many suits, everyone wears one. Literally everyone. Head into the center of Tokyo and you’ll see suits for days. And it isn’t just confined to the financial district either, everywhere you’ll see people in suits. Another thing is that if people aren’t wearing suits, they are wearing a uniform of some kind, you can’t just work somewhere and wear what you want, oh no, you’ve got to wear a uniform, convenience store worker, uniform: check. Road construction worker, uniform: check. Cleaning crew for the Bullet Trains, uniform: check. Girl handing out flyers to electrical store, uniform: check. The need to make everyone look the same, or to look like everyone seems all powerful.

Number 4:

If your Japanese you could wear anything and no one would bat an eye. The amount of different looks you see, that range from the bizarre to the outrageous are a sight to behold. It boggles the mind, truly boggles it. I’m stunned on a minute by minute basis, and that’s just walking around Shibuya, if you head up to Harajuku, or brave the mind blowing Takeshita Dori (think of if as all the weird and wonderful of Camden, squashed into one street, with a huge dose of cute thrown in) it will literally wreck your head. So many styles, so many ideas, thought up and discarded. And before you think it’s the women dressing up for the male gaze, it’s the men as well. Look at the floating hair, the pushed and back combed, bleached and greased and tinted and spiked and so many other things.

Number 5:

They have strawberry sandwiches here. STRAWBERRIES IN A SANDWICH, with the crusts cut off.

Number 6:

The infatuation with cute can be quite overwhelming sometimes, especially when it steps into the sexually provocative. If you walk down Akihabara, you’ll be accosted by girls in some sort of sexy maid outfit, with frills, and a short skirt and knee high socks, bare thighs, preened hair and long bat lashes. But no one looks in anyway discomforted by this display and your left feeling like a lech as you try not to stare.

Number 7:

Was getting my all japan rail ticket validated when an old man came upto me and started speaking English to me. He wanted to know whether my bike was heavy or not, what I was doing with it, and why I wanted to come to Japan. I don’t know whether he was genuinely interested in the answers or was practising his English, but he did seem surprised when I told him I’d wanted to come to Japan, especially Tokyo for years. On the lightness of the bike issue, he felt it was very heavy and I told him I wasn’t worried about the weight, more the robustness of it. For a second when he spoke to me, it was like I was in the north again with someone just making conversation because they could.

Number 8:

There are fuckloads of vending machines, no corner is complete without one, and they are all maintained by different companies, you can’t walk for any length of time, like half a block without passing at least three vending machines, mostly soft drinks and coffee/tea. On a similar note, it’s the same with the convenience stores, Seven Eleven, Kunbus, Lawson, AMPM, so many to choose from and all open opposite each other, its like The Wire, where no matter which corner you set up on, someone else will try and set up opposite and take your customers. I’m expecting a masterly expose by David Simon any day now.

Number 9:

The japanese smoke like chimneys, you can’t pass any building without seeing at least a half dozen huddled figures pulling hard on the cancer sticks. Outside of work, your still allowed to smoke inside, so eating and drinking is like going back to the old school, with people lighting up and puffing away to their hearts content. But whats strange is they have smoking areas outside, which they want you to smoke in, and be a happy smoker, as well as signs which say don’t walk and smoke. Go figure.

Number 10:

Feels like there are more taxi’s than people here sometimes, different liveries, and different lights on top, but still more cabs in one spot than you would think you’d see in a lifetime in London on any busy night. Lined up three deep around the block around kicking out time in the center of town, and close to any corporate building. And most of them are refuseniks from a time before aerodynamics, big blocky square things that in a land so bound up with the future you feel these cabs should be sent leperlike to live out the rest of their days away from human eyes.

Number 11:

Tokyo’s a corporate kind of town, corporate headquarters are all over, Sony, Toshiba, Fujitec, Toyota, you name the Japanese company and their corporate headquarters is in town and lit up like a Christmas tree with their logo. They even have viewable spaces to see what marvels they have created for you. If you go into the Sony building, you can buy pretty much any of their products right then and there.

Number 12:

There are so many bikes here that, there are so many more areas where you can’t bring them, let alone ride them. Tokyo is filled with no bike signs. Maybe when bikes get to be so ubiquitous that you start to view them as a pest, or something that is just getting in the way and needs to be controlled. A few times I was told by security that bikes weren’t allowed and that I couldn’t even push it through, but had to go and lock it up outside before walking through. Strange.

Fix(ation)

In bike, japan on February 13, 2010 at 8:08 am

So a lot of my time in Japan has been spent in bike shops, and taking photo’s of bikes. One of the things I really wanted to do on this portion of my trip was to try and buy a couple of Keirin frames (Japanese track frames, professionally raced, probably crashed and now sold secondhand) for cheap beer, buy two, ship them back to good old blighty where demand is high, and sell one for the cost of both and end up with a frame for free. Well that never happened, the bods over here know how much a frame is worth and unless you know someone who knows someone you’ll end up like I did making the walk of shame back from some flea market in the arse end of Osaka, with nothing to show for it, but a bottle of lemonade from a vending machine, which you gratefully clutch and sip from on the three quarters of an hour hike back to civilisation.

But the shops out here are full of good bits, frames, hubs, wheels, stems, chains, bags, top tube pads, pedals, anything and everything coloured and anodized to within an inch of its life that you could possibly want to put on your very first fixed wheel dream machine. The shops range from the old school, one man and a back room full of bits such as: Punch Cycles up past where I was staying in Kuramae, whose owner would say in accented English with a smile “not for sale” everytime I would point out a frame I liked and guessed was in my size;
PUNCH CYCLE Google maps
1-5-10 Kaminari-mon, Taito-ku, Tokyo.
TEL 03-3841-5080
Open 18:00-23:00 (Tue to Fri), 13:00-21:00 (Sat,Sun)

or Dreamworks down in Shibuya round the corner and I do mean literally round the corner from Sexon Super Peace, whose owner was much more welcoming and whose frames were priced to sell.

Dreamworks

1F Eden Bldg. 11-11 shinsencho Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Tel 03-6416-1050

To the boutique cleanliness of Sexon Super Peace, all shiny new bits, colour co-ordinated with a price to match, whose owner was friendly and pointed out that Max Leonard’s lovely book Fixed – insert URL to Amazon here – was owned by pretty much every fixed rider in Tokyo and probably Japan;

Sexon Super Peace Google maps
New store 01/11/07
22-5 Kamiizumi Cho Tokyo Shibuya Ku
Tel 03-3485-5506
OPEN 12:30 – 20:30

or Carnival, further along in shibuya, on your way to Shinjuku, above WBase a skate/BMX shop, specialising in vintage European frames and bits, a one room operation, but nicely laid out, with t-shirts that I liked but wasn’t willing to spend fifty notes on;

CARNIVAL Google maps
J-SIX BLDGS 2F. 6-23-11 Jinguu-mae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
TEL 03-5485-8581
Open 13:00-21:00

or Blue Lug which was up past Meiji Jingu, with their more reasonably priced t-shirts, one of which I did purchase alongside a wallet and chain bracelet. Which was filed to bursting with merchandise, clothing, hubs, forks (they seemed to be importers/distributors for wound up as there were plenty hanging up there), cogs, grips, saddles, and a couple of frames;

Blue Lug Google maps
New Store 03/11/07
1-58-7 Down town Shibuya Ku
Tel: 03-6662-5042
Open from 14:00 – 22:00 (closed Wednesdays)

or Depot Cycle and Reycle which was out in Chiba/Ichikawa, run by the lovely Seiyo who was packing up to move into new premises when I rode down there, and was kind enough to invite me back when they opened the new store down the road the following Monday. Its was wet, I was soaked and coughing and spluttering, but I was offered a warm welcome, by him and his family.

DEPOT CYCLE & RECYCLE
TEL 047-322-2210
Open 12:00-20:00 (Sat 11:00-19:00)

or Gira Gira down in Minima Horie, Osaka run by an Australian guy called Rene, who I was going to buy a lovely un-decaled Panasonic frame from, who explained that Keirin frames are built by small groups of men, with Panasonic being the largest with like twelve, who spend their days welding and brazing, bringing that well known Japanese devotion to quality to the frames they construct. How having NJS stamped onto a product is a symbol of years of hard work and development to get it past the ruthless and all seeing eye of the holders of the NJS flame;

Or the three or four other bike shops I found, either by chance or with the help of some local forum knowledge, that were repositories for good bike stuff, that went above and beyond the usual fare to make sure that those thagt wanted to go a bit above and beyond the normal could build a bike that they would love for a long long time.

Thanks go out to Jason/Build for creating the original list of bike shops in Tokyo, which allowed me to go and visit all of the Tokyo shops.

If you want to, and aren’t all bike shopped out there are more photo’s on the Flickr

http://www.flickr.com/photos/11623716@N06/

Drunk in Japan

In eat drink man woman, japan, travelling on February 11, 2010 at 12:44 am

You go travelling, you meet up with people in hostels, eight to a room, grabbing the top bunk like your back at camp, nine with no fears, similar age, similar/dissimilar interests, you share the bare bones of who you are, or you undress your inner self and let it all hang out, you make friends, you make enemies, you become lovers, you have one night stands, you view the dorm as an arena and go sport fucking, you have awkward goodbyes, you add them as facebook friends, you never contact them again, you crash at theirs when you hit their home city.

You go out and get drunk together in this strange new city, because your young and magical things happen when you do. Life slips past quicker/smoother/happier/brighter/better, and your new best “friends” will look out for you, make sure you get home safe, and your having a whale of a time. Because you are quicker/smoother/happier/brighter/better, even as you shout loudly on the quiet metro, because you’ve drunk too much whilst playing kill your liver, and now your dying for a piss, and if you don’t piss your bladder will burst, and you’ll need to have a catheter inserted and will have to piss into a bag for the rest of your days, you try and stay awake on the metro, but are defeated by languor and fall asleep missing your stop and have to walk home through a part of town that your map doesn’t cover. Spend too much money on shit alcohol to keep the buzz going, spend too much money in general, lose your “friends”, lose your watch, lose your memory of what just happened, lose what you just ate, lose the next morning.

Photo’s never lie though, they prove you had a great time.

And we did.