kyoto

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on our way to see our friends in kyoto, we made a brief stop at kyoto station. paul and i used to go there to take pictures of the new kyoto station.

in the station, there was a small gallery promoting a new drama situated in kyoto. they didn’t forget to make this photo board. i love these thing — so stupid and so good. of course, elijah was the first victim.

we think elijah would make a pretty mr. geisha-san.

sorry, elijah. your papa and mama love these stupid things…

we love you, elijah! don’t forget.

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elijah is big in japan.  i mean it literally.  when we went back to japan over the holidays, we stayed in wakayama, kyoto and tokyo. everywhere we went, people said to us, ‘he’s so big! Soooo big!’.

elijah’s also big in canada. he’s now almost 8 months old and weighs almost 10kg.  he’s on the 90th percentile growth curve.  i can feel it in my arms — more and more muscle.

it’s been a crazy couple of weeks since we got back from japan. finally i have some time to organize photos from our trip.

here are some photos from a subway ride in kyoto.  a bunch of high school girls came up to us saying ‘kawaii, kawaii!’ to elijah. they surrounded us in the subway train and took a lot of photos of elijah with their cell phones.

one of the girls gave him a chiroru choco (a popular bite-size chocolate).  her friends teased her saying it’s too soon for a baby to eat chocolate.  she was very sweet.  she put the chocolate back in her pocket, but then she snuck it under elijah’s leg as we were getting ready to get off the train.

of course, paul and i ate the chocolate. it was the sweetest chocolate.

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i got my first driver’s license yesterday. i avoided getting one for a long time. i preferred walking and taking public transportation to driving a car. in kyoto, i used to ride my bicycle to work, 40 minutes each way. my bicycle was my favorite mama-chari (mama style bicycle, with only one gear, like this one from muji). in japan the trains are very convenient, so you can go almost anywhere easily. but in canada, it’s hard to get around without a car, and so many of the shops are in the suburbs along busy roads. now that i have a baby coming i’ll need to be able to go somewhere in the car without waiting for paul to come home and drive.

so i took some lessons and practiced my driving. i expected that i would have trouble paying attention when i’m driving, because i always get distracted so easily. but i found i can do it, even though sometimes i’m nervous. the hardest part of the driver’s test was parallel parking — it took me 3 tries. but it got it!

here’s a rapping lesson for all of you drivers. watch out for the NO ZONES!…

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(click the image to view close up)

i did this drawing for the new “unbound: gender in asia” issue of the kyoto journal. i originally submitted this along with “all i can see” for possible cover images. i guess they didn’t want so many nipples on the cover: “all i can see” didn’t get used at all, and this drawing is on the table of contents page. it’s strange, because i think “all i can see” is a way better drawing than this one. that’s okay, it showed up in the interview about me in the sheaf.

the actual cover of the kyoto journal issue shows a collection of women’s shoes. it was published back in november, but i couldn’t find it in any bookstores in saskatoon (it’s distributed all over the world). i had to wait to receive my copy from japan.

as a supplement to the issue, some of my drawings are being shown on the kyoto journal online. i chose the two drawings that i did on purpose for this submission, plus some other drawings that ended up having something to do with gender. or at least, they’re nipple-related.

i thought about the theme of gender when i was drawing “forbidden fruits” and “all i can see”. i don’t usually think about anything when i’m drawing, except drawing (and curb your enthusiasm, which i watch a lot while i’m drawing). i don’t really know what this drawing “means”, but that’s what i drew.

the kyoto journal is written in english, so you can read it too. look for it in your local bookstore. if you find it in saskatoon, let me know!

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in japan, the last day of year is called “omisoka” – new year’s eve. usually people spend the time preparing our traditional new year’s meal (“osechi ryouri“) and cleaning the entire house (“osouji”, meaning literally “big cleaning”).

when i was growing up, my mom was in charge of cooking and my dad was in charge of cleaning. he and i would tackle the house inside and outside, including some spots that don’t get usually cleaned — behind furniture, etc. the big cleaning is supposed to purify everything so that everyone can make a fresh start for the coming year. it’s also said that we clean because toshigami (the god of the upcoming year) will visit every house to bless us.

my mom makes at least twenty dishes for the new year’s meal, osechi-ryouri. most of them are vegetable and fish dishes, which require a lot of prep work. i would be in charge of prep work and testing :) all the dishes are made before new year’s and served cold so there won’t be so much work preparing meals on the actual holiday.

in the evening, we’d all sit down to watch “ko-haku uta-gassen” (“red vs white” song battle tv show) on NHK. this is a very popular yearly event where stars sing the most popular songs from that year (with some older and traditional songs too). by that point, you’d think we’ll be too tired to stay awake until midnight listening to people sing. but surprisingly, it’s really fun. the house is incredibly clean and smells like the osechi ryouri dishes – thanks to our hard work. everyone is pretty happy… and hungry :D

a year never ends without eating toshi-koshi soba (“year-bridging” buckwheat noodle soup). you can eat it hot or cold. in my parents’ house usually we eat it hot with sansai.

it is thought that we eat soba because:

  1. soba noodles are thin and long. so you live long, humbly .
  2. soba noodles are easily cut. so you can say good-bye to bad luck and unfortunate events that might have occured during that year.
  3. soba noodles are made of buckwheat, which helps clean your digestive system. clean body for the new year!
  4. my mom says the main reason is #3. i’d like to add a new theory:

  5. because it’s tasty.

we eat soba and we talk about how healthy we’ve been and wish the same for the coming year.

jyoya no kane (new year’s bells) begin ringing around 10:40 pm, continuing past midnight. all the bells in Buddhist temples throughout japan are rung 108 times to anounce the passing of the old year. they ring really slowly, so it takes an hour and a half. everyone goes to their local temple to say prayers on new year’s day.
when i was living in japan, i would go back to my parent’s house in wakayama for the new year’s holiday (dec 28 ~ jan 3) and we would visit kokawa temple.

one time when i was living in kyoto for college, my parents visited me there for new year’s eve. this was back in 1993, and on that night kyoto was packed with even more people than usual to celebrating the city’s 1200-year anniversary (kyoto was established as Japan’s capital under the name “Heian-kyo” in the year 794). my parents and i went to chion-in temple to see the famous bell-ringing. as expected, it was extremely crowded. we got carried along involuntarily by the wave of people trying to go forward. the sound of the bell echoed low in my body. it’s probably still echoing inside now.

you can listen to the different sound of the jyoya no kane on this website. just click on the red boxes with a speaker.

i hope you all have a happy new year!

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(click the image to view close up)

this is a drawing for an exhibition in spain in 2007. this exhibition is called “dreams” organized by roger omar in spain.

In 2002 I started a project of dreams. I ask kids from
different countries to write their dreams during 2 weeks.
From hundreds of dreams I made a selection of 60 very short
dreams from kids of México, Spain and Brasil.

he invited artists to select and draw one kid’s dream, to make an artbook of 60 dreams/artists. from the interesting children’s dreams, i chose #32.

32. (SPAIN-GIRL) – Yuka Yamaguchi
I dreamed that I married my dog. I was in the altar, dressed in white, with my fiancé. When the priest said “Kiss the bride”, I saw that my fiancé was a boy with my dog´s face.

usually i’m not good at drawing with a theme in mind. but to my surprise, i had a good time drawing this :) i hope the girl who dreamed this dream will like my drawing.

this result of this project will become an artbook. The exhibition of the project will take place in Cadiz-Spain, 2007. The kids dreams and the images of the book will be exhibited, as well as some other things related to the project, like photos and some original kids-written dreams.

along with their drawing, the artists are asked to submit one dream that they had in 2006. oh boy… i have tons of dreams to choose from. i dream a lot, or so it seems. after seeing my drawings, some people have asked me if i have nightmares. i really don’t. i have some scary dreams featuring cats (i’m scared of cats), but i’m not sure if those are in the nightmare category.

i have some of the same dreams over and over again. here are my recent dreams:

  • i enter Nijo castle (in kyoto) at 2am and have to run around and around the castle 10 times before dawn without being caught by the security guards. it’s hard, because Nijo castle has special “nightingale floors” that squeak when you step on them (protecting against ninjas!). cats keep getting in the way and i can’t run past them…
  • i’m on an escalator with hundreds of steps, and it’s not moving. i need to get to the top of the building because i need to buy a toy from the toy department of this department store. but by the time i get to the top of the stairs, a different dream starts…
  • i’m riding on the electric streetcar in kyoto, but i’m on the wrong train, going in the wrong direction. i’m carrying a suitcase that i have to keep secret and safe.

none of my dreams are really nightmares but they’re pretty stressful. maybe i’ll draw them someday.

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(click to enlarge the image)

the kyoto journal asked me to submit some work for their upcoming issue on gender in japan. i know some frequent contributors to the kyoto journal, from before i moved to canada. i submitted two drawings, one of which they’re planning to use for the table of contents page. also, one of my loudsilence photos may be used to illustrate a short story. i don’t usually draw from a theme. i just draw whatever comes to mind. so it was interesting to do a drawing with a particular theme in mind: gender in japan.

in my drawing, a boy is having breasts sewn over his eyes. he’s happy about it. he is being made more feminine. usually, that means taking something away (castration). but this is an addition, not a subtraction. i think femininity, including traditional parts like motherhood, is a positive thing. men and women are both better off if they can be feminine. not instead of other things, but in addition to them.

this drawing is not going to be used for the kyoto journal magazine, so i’m finally showing it on my blog. i’d been keeping it on hold. it’s one of my favorites. since doing this drawing, i did other drawings that also ended up following some sort of gender theme. “inside of me“, “20/20” and “my secret elephant” are some of the examples. they might be used by the kyoto journal as part of an online feature.

UPDATE: you can buy a print of this drawing from my SHOP.

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cafe at home – to turn my apartment kitchen into my own cafe is one of my on-going project called “turn everything around you cute and fun” project. i love cafe-life, why not making it at home? i used to go to cafe a lot in japan. “cafe culture” in kyoto is lovely. there are hundreds of cafes in kyoto alone – from nostalgic to contemporary ones.  my favorite was cafe soiree. founded in 1948, cafe soiree resides humbly by the river takase. the cafe is lit only with blue lights. there’s no music playing, just blue lights and fragrance of roasted coffee. quiet. that’s one of the places i like to stay forever. i wanted to create the atmosphere in my apartment.

at our cafe at home, i cook and paul chooses music.

i like dining out at restaurants but after the easy consumption, sometimes i’m left with vanity. by creating something together at home, everyday life becomes much more fun.

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recipe: quinoa pilaf with cranberries

  • 1 cup quinoa, rince well and remove any debris
  • 1 3/4 cup water
  • 1 TB margarine
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 TB fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 TB dried thyme
  • 2 TB green onion, sliced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • s + p
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash olive oil
  1. place rinsed quinoa in a large non-stick saucepan and toast, until it darkens slightly.
  2. add to boiling water, cover, reduce the heat and simmer about 20 mins.
  3. in another skillet, heat olive oil; add onion and garlic; and cook until tender. add cranberries.
  4. stir in cooked quinoa, lemon zest, thyme, parsley, pumpkinseeds; add margarine, soy sauce, salt and pepper to taste.

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vermillion pleasure night is a japanese tv show directed by yoshimasa ishibashi, avant-garde director from kyoto, japan. vermilion pleasure night is an omnibus show, which was aired on tv tokyo on sunday midnight starting 2000. once again, yoshimoto kogyo, the king of comedy agency produced it. the show became a huge hit throughout japan. it’s kitschy and full of dark humour. i love it. now the shows are available on dvd. now i can watch them in north america! banza~i.

this “utau 6-nin no onna” is one of his short films. the title means “six women, who sing”. it sounds better in japanese. i like the use of kanji for “utau (sing)”. there are five ways of writing “utau” in kanji – 歌う 謡う 詠う 謳う 唄う. the first “歌う” is to sing from your throat rhythmically. the second “謡う” is to sing by developing your voice with melody. the third “詠う” is to sing / read a poem. the fourth is to sing in a suppressed voice with intonation as you bend your body. the last one, “唄う” is a transliteration from Sanskrit. it’s used when anything non-human creates a pleasant sound or beautiful voice. for example, “a bird sings” or ” a stream sings”. when it’s used in a noun form, it means folk song. for the title of this piece, the choice is the last one, “唄う”. it gives a nostalgic tone to this piece, yet this whole thing is absolutely modern. i love the ambivalence. it’s post-post modern.

i’m a slave for this sort of languid ambiance. i just think he’s brilliant.

(music)
ah~
i persistantly continue to wash
stain, i can’t get rid of
my fingers, cracked and swollen
my fingers, stung by cold water

(music)
on a windy day like this, my clothes might be blown away
but a warm day will come
a bright day will come

(music)

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if you were born in the kansai area of japan, chances are you have a takoyaki pan at home. when i was little, my grandma or my mom used to make me and brother takoyaki for lunch on saturdays, after morning school.

takoyaki are dumplings made with batter, octopus, pickled ginger, tenkasu, and green onion. they’re usually topped with a barbecue sauce, shaved dry bonito flakes, mayonnaise and ao-nori (green seaweed flakes). we eat them with toothpicks. people in tokyo use chopsticks. that’s a no-no.

takoyaki was invented in the Taisho Era (1912-1926). there’re many takoyaki vendors throughout japan. takoyaki stands can be found at any japanese festival, always ready to serve. each region has its own unique variation on takoyaki, whether it’s sauce, ingredients or the way of cooking. for example, in osaka takoyaki is topped with a thick sauce, almost like a bbq sauce made with worcheshireshrehshioeaohfds sauce, ketchup and sugar. in akashi (hyogo prefecture), they’re served with soup. apparently, some people in kansai eat takoyaki with rice. i think that’s disgusting. i never eat takoyaki like that. carb plus carb? i don’t think so. it’s as bad as yakisoba pan(noodle sandwich).

during the 1990s, takoyaki shops from kyoto and osaka expanded to shibuya, the most fashionable area of tokyo. of course, kansai (kyoto and osaka) is culturally superior to tokyo, so this created a “takoyaki boom” in tokyo. when something “booms” in tokyo, it soon spreads everywhere in japan. soon, the takoyaki idea expanded too, and there were all sorts of takoyaki and octopus themed products.

there were songs about takoyaki, takoyaki-shaped tissue boxes, takoyaki towels, takoyaki mirrors, books about takoyaki, takoyaki key holders (and another version), takoyaki-flavored snacks, takoyaki stationery, tako-shaped cakes, takoyaki lollipops, and takoyaki necklaces. these items have been collected by a takoyaki specialist — kumagai mana from kyoto (she claims to be the only takoyaki-ist in the universe). takoyaki all over the place!

now you know why i needed to get away from japan.

i wasn’t that crazy about takoyaki. but when i came to canada, i made a clear point not to forget to bring a takoyaki pan with me.

my recipe might offend some serious takoyaki lovers from osaka, because i didn’t use octopus. octopus (“tako”) is really pretty important in takoyaki (“grilled octopus balls”). paul is “allergic” to seafood, so i used tofu, corn, cheese and turkey coldcuts instead. i didn’t have pickled ginger or tenkasu. i didn’t even have mayonnaise (i love japanese mayonnaise but i don’t like to keep it at home because i use it like crazy — not so good for my figure).

the only normal ingredients i used were flour, green onion, and ao-nori. everything else i faked. so this isn’t takoyaki, but “nanchatte takoyaki” (pseudo-takoyaki).

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recipe

batter:

  • flour 75g (1/3c)
  • skim milk powder TB1
  • baking powder tsp 1
  • sugar tsp 1
  • salt tsp 1/4
  • soy sauce tsp 1
  • soup stock 300cc
  • egg 1

sauce (make up your own proportions):

  • worchestershire sauce
  • ketchup
  • sugar

ingredients:

  • octopus cubes
  • green onion
  • pickled ginger
  • dried baby shrimp
  • or anything you want (i used corn, cheese, tofu, and turkey)

(for best results, let your batter “rest” overnight)

  1. pour the batter in your hot takoyaki pan
  2. sprinkle your ingredients, making sure you get at least one of each in each takoyaki
  3. once the bottom is cooked, use a long wooden skewer to score the edge (run it around the rim of each circle) and flip it over. the uncooked batter will run down to the bottom and form the 2nd half of the ball.
  4. remove the cooked takoyaki
  5. brush with sauce. add mayonnaise. sprinkle ao-nori.
  6. serve with two toothpicks (important!)
  7. enjoy!!

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