Friday, October 24, 2014

20141023 Two Typhoons later.

The speed at which time travels when on a shinkansen and just trying to get through projects and just getting through a trip always overwhelms and surprises. I'm back from Japan and am thoroughly jet lagged. I'm sleeping like I am napping and napping like I am sleeping. Feels like I am awake but my eyes want to close. When I lay down, my body wants to shut down. When I am walking I feel like every step is the one before I collapse on to the floor and I get to close my eyes to rest. I exaggerate but not really. I don't know when I became such a weak traveler but I realize I am now. I think the fumes of excitement of being in unfamiliar settings just keep me going. At home, although feeling a bit unfamiliar to me these days, all guards are down, all pressure is gone. Of course, this is not true as I ve got some projects waiting for my attention, but time feels different at home. It just does. So.. let's recap, shall we? Traveling through typhoon one, leaving Hamamatsu to go western japan was a bit of a problem when first arriving in Nagoya. The morning of the 6th of October, the east to west traveling typhoon was creating problems to commuters and travelers. The winds were raging enough to make fast traveling trains stationed unil the winds subsided. What was a 2 hour trip in the middle of the day became a 3 hour 'rush hour'-esque commute to Kaliya , Nagoya. The trains were PACKED. There were salarymen who was turned away from work, as offices and school shut down. Same with children who spent most of their morning on the platform. And travelers who squeezed into this mess with luggage and backpacks. Once off the train in Kaliya, it was a whole other scene. It was a quiet town and it was as chill as can be. Why were we in Kaliya? We were there to see a good friend who owned a snowboard/skateboard/surfshop, Sidecar. There, we found out there is also a nail salon, nanonail salon, which specializes in painted nails and a jewelry line, Linea. We were there to check out the shop and help, Linie with their english translation and do some copy writing. We also were there to enjoy fresh homemade yogurt from an amazing indian restaurant pretty close to the shop. That night, we went out with Yoshi, Bernadette, Somen Masters and Sidecar family to eat what Nagoya is most famous for.. FREE ROAMING CHICKEN!! That is right, the most softest tastiest chicken in all of japan! SO Fresh, we had chicken liver SASHIMI!! yep, RAW!! It was an amazing evening of Yakitori. All parts and all tasty. That night, it was a pass out. The following day, we had lunch with the Niimi Kaliya family. The best thing about traveling is eating over at someone's house. No restaurants can ever top homemade food. Nothing compares to eating what the locals eat when they eat at home. Fueled for the next leg of our travels, we made a quick stop off at Nagoya to 8ball tattoo studio to see how they ran their shop. It was a really nice experience to see this walk-in shop and I got to observe some clients getting some ink on. There was a 'Betty Page' Rockabilly ladies shop in the basement as well. Our next destination after Nagoya was a quick trip to Osaka. There, we stayed with a friend in Ashiya. We ate the best okonomiyaki in osaka area in a local 2nd floor restaurant very close to Ashiya station. We didn't do much Osaka sightseeing, but we did make it to American Town and the big arcade area whose name eludes me that was filmed in 'Black Rain', the american version. Osaka is cool when you are chilling with friends, but it is a major city with big city things that are hard to overlook as a tourist. Or rather, if you spend only a couple hours in Osaka, chances are you are looking at shopping areas. I don't know Osaka enough to know where or what anything is and so, my idea is rather tweaked. Definitely helps to know someone here and also helps to have more than a couple hours to look around. Why did we not spend more time in Osaka? Because we were headed to KYUSHU! The furthest biggest western island in Japan! This is coming into day 3 and by day 5 I would have to return to Hamamatsu. By this time, we have traveled across the southern part of japan minus going to Shikoku, the furthest southern big island in Japan. We took the shinkansen and arrived in Hakata, Fukuoka later that evening. From Hakata, we were picked up by my old studio mate in NYC and drove another hour east to OITA. In Oita, we stayed in a Ryokan type hotel, a traveler's lodge, where there is an onsen on the third floor and a traditional breakfast is served every morning. The room where we stay is in a traditional tatami room with blankets and futons laid out in the middle. It is a very traditional style of lodging in japan. The next day was an all out family trip to Beppu, Oita. Beppu is known for many things onsen or hot springs. Apparently some of the onsen's are so hot, we only go to look at how hot they are and eat eggs that are cooked in onsen and see exotic tropical alligators, crocodiles and caimans that can survive next to these hot springs. There are an assortment of hot springs ranging from clear blue ocean~esque waters, to blood red 'hell onsens' to soak your feet in stinging hot onsens. Beppu is also known for another tourist site. They have a monkey mountain where there are 2 groups of japanese mountain monkeys that are protected and attended to. It is also an educational site and the monkeys roam freely as people go up and observe what monkeys do in their space. It is a bit intimidating at first because there are a lot of warning signs of not looking at monkeys with eye contact or touching them or watching out for the bags you bring because they might want to get into them. They also like plastic bags and sometimes they will take them from you. When we arrive in their territory, the first thing I saw were a group of monkeys all hanging about the entrance ways. They don't do anything but they check people coming in. Then I realize they are literally all over. Everywhere. But they mind their own business and people are nothing new to them anymore. They go about doing monkey things and that is how it is up there. There was one thing that I did notice right off and it was that every few minutes, the monkeys started to howl together. It sounded a bit like protesting or some group pleading. The monkey keepers explained to everyone up there that there was a film crew that specific day filming a morning variety show and that the monkeys' feeding time has been postponed for a little bit. They, in fact, was protesting to be fed. We arrived in the perfect time. We were about to witness monkeys feeding time! The crowd at the monkey mountain was a mix of families, tourist visitor couples and school children. When it was time to release the food, basically the monkey handler would come out with a hand cart, not unlike a hotdog cart filled with japanese yams. They would open the cart from the rear and run across the park with yam falling out the cart and the monkeys would all converge in and grab whatever yam pieces, as much as they could carry away and scatter every which way. When the handler ran across the park with his cart, the monkeys would all run at the cart. Unfortunately for some school children, the cart would run behind them and what would incidentally happen is, a sea of monkeys would run straight at them to get to the cart. I m not sure how old these kids were but they were definitely grade school kids and I would further guess that there are probably a few kids in that group who are traumatized by the sea of monkeys. I saw a few jump into the arms of one and another crying and screaming and trying to get off the floor. It was pretty intense. There were stone mountain walls that the monkeys all scurried up. After Beppu, we went to Yufin Onsen to chill out and take advantage of Oita's onsens! One thing I always associate with japan is its onsens. A trip to japan without going to the onsen is like really missing out on going to japan at all. This is a volcanic island chain with hot springs everywhere. Going to Onsen in japan is super relaxing and feels like connecting to nature through bath. I would recommend a trip to the onsen when visiting Japan. I think this should be on everyone's priority list when visiting japan. So as the quick western foray comes to a close, there is another talk in the news about a giant typhoon heading to Japan, again. But this time, they are talking about a giant so big, it is like the once in a 50 year storm. By the time we are getting ready to leave, the predicted storm is slow and gai-normous. I head back to Hamamatsu for the last weekend of the show before it closes. There is talk of the typhoon affecting swell so with hopes in heart, I am praying that there will be surf in hamamatsu one last time before I have to head back to Tokyo. Friday night is rather windy and the rain starts to come down. All week, it has been sunny and beautiful. As the looming storm begins, the rains and cloudy weather begins to appear. Saturday is like a wash out and only a few people make it out for the last saturday before the show closes. That night, I go see some really cool guitar and mandolin duo, Taro and Jordan. Taro is an ill musician from Osaka and Jordan is a luthier from canada. They play a very cool blend of dueling strings sound and folksy bluesy soul tunes. Kinda hard to describe but easy to understand when you hear it. They played in a very cool venue called Park/ing, a cafe bar above hamamatsu's only VINTAGE Surfboard and Custom WetSuit SHOP, Muni SF. Sunday morning was a roll of a die to see if there might be some surf or a skate session.. neither which happened but we tried. The surf was not cooperating, large and disorganized and the skate session? indoor spot was closed until the guy with the key shows up. The door says 10 am, my friend on the phone says 11 am. I had a meeting in Shin Yokohama with Luz e Sombra, so shinkansen sounded like a plan. It was too bad, but I wasn't disappointed. I think I was pretty tired and I ve learned I can't force these things to happen. Besides, heading back worked in my favor because now, I wasn't forced to carry around a luggage of a week's worth of clothes and supplies and rather, could drop it all off in my base in Yutenji at Tsurukame-Kobo before the meeting in Shin Yokohama and a dinner in Kamakura. Sometimes things have a way of working itself out. In kamakura, the dinner was hosted by my friend whose office I was basing at in Tokyo. My friend, Jun Shimada, was introduced to me by Naomi Kazama, who used to run Gas-Exp gallery which eventually became DYZ-EXP. He has been on a six year mission of live screen printing and promoting an idea called the BIG O. The purpose of live screen printing and BIG O was to promote an idea of recycling and environmental stewardship. He was also pushing the idea of using organic sustained farming and small localized farming for the environment. Him and Jun had been on the road for the last 3 months promoting the BIG O in Japan, traveling from their home town in Kamakura/Enoshima to nothern japan to western japan , all over! The following day was going to be their last event in Kamakura and although it wasn't a celebration meal, it felt like a homecoming meal. The food was plentiful and the meal of onabe was excellent! Another Japanese traditional casserole cooking on the table. We had fresh fish, vegetables, noodles and meats to fill up on. The food was local and the onabe was what we needed in this cloudy chilly october evening. The next day saw day three of surfing in shonan. A quick 5 minutes stroll from Jun's house brings us to a famous shonan surf break called sichirigahama. For the past few days since the emergence of the second typhoon, Shonan has been getting a steady swell of surfable waves. What was disorganized in Hamamatsu was clean in Kamakura. Although the line up was a bit crowded, it wasn't nearly as crowded as it could have been because of the cloudy skies and occasional showers. The typhoon proper wasn't supposed to hit tokyo and eastern japan until later that evening. My chance to surf appeared and was wet for a few hours, riding my most favorite Larry Marbile Twin in my favorite reef break in shonan. My friends who are locals always worry about me and how the locals might feel about me in the water with them but I tell them to always not worry about it. I m pretty respectful when it comes to waves and I am quick with a smile in the water. Better wet than dry, how can anything be wrong? Surfing is a communion with nature. As far as I am concerned, it lets me reconnect my roots with our ocean beginnings as living organisms on this planet. She is as alive as anything else on this planet. The ocean has a pulse and more chemical make up than any living creature. She breathes and flows. We are only a small part of her. And that day, I was lucky to play on her waves. As always, I leave Japan with an amazing memory of a great surf session I had in sichirigahama.

Monday, October 6, 2014

20141005. Typhoon visitor.

I finally caught up to blogger 21st century. Nothing to brag about but at least now, I can write my blog on trains or waiting rooms because all this road/track tripping is making it hard to sit at the laptop to update my trip. So...
The opening of my show in kagiya bldg in Hamamatsu went well. If you are familiar with Hamamatsu, then I think you get it... If you are not, let me tell you. It was a quiet evening with friends and soon to be friends. Family members I won't have a chance to see, conversation of secret spots and surf safaris to far away places and eccentric local loco artists and collectors. One thing I take away from this experience of Hamamatsu is, this is a small town of nice slow pace and extreme nerds life style with shops and restaurants. Japan is a culture that champions high technique and heart. its some thing I have known in my heart but couldn't really express in words until now.
We spent the evening in Naru, a hand made soba restaurant, run by Gori San, an ex NYC adventurer, hip hop soba master. All night long, the soba shop played classic late 80s to 90s beats. Super chill vibes and super great creative washoku and of choose, soba.
The next day was spent meeting anyone who came by to check out the art show, 4 floors up in a recycled old building housing artists and creatives of all types. The temperatures in Hamamatsu was hot and humid... Felt like the Singapore heat was following me, reminding me of a distant past in tropics, Okinawa. This trip has been a prelude to a trip I know has been long time coming.. But first...
In Tokyo for the week. Working on projects, having  meetings and making future plans for okayama bus painting project with Kapital Denim and hopefully another trip in the near future for another exhibition and painting.
This past week saw the birthday of my wife, Asako. To celebrate, my mother who flew in from NY who just so happened to be in Tokyo and her pops, who drove in from 4 hours away in the mountains of nagano, had a very fine Japanese lunch talking about Nagano and future plans. after our lunch, we all parted with warm hearts, a beautiful memory and a new appreciation of family. I guess one never stops becoming the child and the other the parents but somewhere in age, we all get closer, parents get warmer and children get wiser. At least for me, it felt like this. We walked away feeling time slipping and memories and  perspectives broadening. Never before have I felt a sense of fatherly responsibility for my son and a new determination to spend quality time and hopefully travel time. I believe one can learn alot about ones self by putting themselves in unfamiliar situations. Learn a lot more about their traveling companion as well.