slideshow, or thumbnails.
A karaoke night out with my homies in my old neighborhood, Noborito, Japan.
I used to hang out with those gals either at a karaoke box, or Mr.Donuts, almost everyday after school in my high school days. This was a pure nostalgia for me.
Friday, June 24, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
To view the rest of photos (27), visit my flickr slideshow, or thumbnails.
A weekend mexican home cooking with the folks we traveled mexico with.
Hand fried tortilla chips
Pico de gallos
Rice and beans
and much more...
Thanks, Alyse and Jona for the excellent cooking and top-notch hospitality.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
To view the rest of the photos (101 photos), visit my flickr slideshow, or thumbnails.
On March 27th, we held a dinner party in Kamakura, an old Castle town (1192, AD) in Kanagawa. It was such a joy for me to see my loved-ones dressed nicely, and spending some quality time together. Thank you all for coming, I love you and miss you! Special thanks to Mike Nogami, for coming from NYC and taking fantastic photographs.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
|Gion, Kyoto, March, 2011|
Kyoto is a luxurious place. You can enjoy the smell of its history in every block. In 794 AD, Kyoto was the capital of Japan.The town was exempt from bombing during WWII, for the preservation of historical buildings throughout the town.
Monday, April 25, 2011
CLICK TO VIEW A FLICKR PHOTO SLIDESHOW (40 pictures).
In the early evening of March 15th, we were on the ferry heading to Naoshima, a small island located in the Seto Inland Sea, after two days of multiple train rides, originated fromYamagata (Northern Japan). For the time we spent in transit and milder climate made me feel that we came farther South.
After we landed, we took a bus to the other edge of island, where the guest house was. Luckily I was able to make a reservation at the place I was most interested in staying few hours earlier. The place was called Omiyake (おおみやけ), a guest house and a cafe in a historical district, where most of 家(ie; house) project sites were. I was attracted to this guest house mainly for its architectural interest. The building was over 400 years old and was registered as tangible cultural properties (文化庁有形文化財). But the most special part of our stay was actually meeting with the owner, Miyake-san. He was the 33rd in the Miyake bloodline (and the O part of Omiyake signals his importance as the firstborn, and now head of the Miyake clan (in fact, many neighbors around him had the same last name of Miyake). He was a real character. He welcomed us with tons of drinks as soon as we checked-in, until our bed time, accompanied by Mayuko, a young girl who was working at his cafe. Our conversation went anywhere from Miyake-san's 30-years of life in Europe and his beautiful wife, to ultimately accusing me of the cause of earthquake. Photo below is Miyake-san and Mayuko.
Next day, we toured around the island. The island was known for its many contemporary art museums. Among them, we visited the Chichu Art Museum (literally, "in the earth") . The museum featured a number of site-specific installations by James Turrell, Walter De Maria and paintings by Claude Monet. The building was designed by Tadao Ando. For me, the experience was rather clinical, and the museum staff's uniform reminded me of the movie, THX-1138. Overall, I was more appealed to the old/ or naked part of the island, rather than the contemporary art. Maybe, the contemporary art did enhance the beauty of traditional Japanese culture, or vise versa. Anyhow, it's an unique place and worth visiting.
Picture above is Naoshima Ferry Terminal, Architecture by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa.
*As a small trivia, Miyake-san was planning to sing up for a candidate of the next regional election.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
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On March 11, when the earthquake hit Nothern Japan for the first time, we were in Yamagata, Northern part of Japan, where my mother was originally from. We were there for my grand parents' memorial service, that was scheduled the following day.
It wasn't so long after we arrived in Yamagata when the first earthquake hit the Pacific coast of Northern Japan. 2:46pm. Though it was the kind of shaking I've never experienced before, there were almost no physical damage to the house we were staying. I secretly suspect it was the snow, which kept the old house from collapsing. As in the photo above, the snow was accumulated up to the second floor, on three sides of the house.
We did lose electricity for a day and a half. Luckily, our water and gas were running, so we were able to cook. After dark, our light source were flashlights and candles that they keep to light their alter. Under the candle light, the dinner table looked rather romantic and made me think of a dinner from hundreds of years ago. At night, nine of us kept ourselves warm by dressing like we were outside, (partially preparing for the possible evacuation due to the aftershocks) sleeping together in one room, with one oil-heater.
Next day, we decided to carry out the memorial service, despite the lack of electricity. A monk and about 20 relatives and neighbors gathered in front of grand parent's alter. The service was followed by script reading at a temple, then dinner at a local banquet hall. I don't know exactly how cold it was that day, but it was cold enough to make our breath white while we read scripts inside the temple.
While we had such an emergency occasion, it was the most intimate experience with my family in Yamagata. It must be a human nature that people get closer to each other when there's a challenge to overcome. I felt the temperature of people around me, warming each other inside out. I found some beautiful quality that was missing from my daily life after four days of stay in this little mountain village. Life is not all about convenience.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
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This picture is from a night spent in Shinjuku with our friends, Kimie and Akira. The lady in the center is Aya, who teaches belly dance to Kimie. She is surrounded by the percussion group who accompanied her dance that night. The gentleman standing to her left is her husband.
Friday, January 28, 2011
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One of the Japanese traditions that I love and miss so much is Matsuri. Matsuri (祭) is the Japanese
word for a festival or holiday. Matsuri are usually sponsored by a local shrine or temple, though they can
be secular. Normally I hate being in a crowd of people, especially in urban area, but being in a Matsuri
crowd is an exception. The reason is quite simple. Because I see many smiles there.
As I get older, I come to understand the true meaning of Kan Kon Sou Sai (冠婚葬祭). It’s a Japanese
word refers to four ceremonial occasions in family relationships. As you see below, the word is made up
of four kanji characters, which refer to the four main rites of passage in one’s life.
冠 (kan) - the coming of age
婚 (kon) - marriage
葬 (sou) - funeral
祭 (sai) - ceremonies for ancestors
Cerebrating one’s passage with the people around him/or her (such as family, relatives, friends or
neighbors) is so basic, yet it's universally important. It’s a way to show your respect to others, and to
yourself. By being a part of the circle, one may re-discover who she is, or where he is at. It is also a
great opportunity to have skin-to-skin conversation with the people around you. And most importantly,
It is a physical experience where you can feel the presence of temperature, vibe, or emotions. Now that a
world is becoming more virtual than ever, I find the custom like this very precious, and necessary for our
Anyhow, I missed Matsuri so much that I looked up online before our last visit to Japan in May.
Fortunately I found one, called Mikuni Matsuri, which takes place in Mikuni town, of Fukui-Prefecture.
It is known as one of the three famous Matsuri in Hokuriku region (北陸三大祭り). The biggest
attraction is Dashi (山車: Carts with 5 meter-tall paper dolls of historical figures). Dashi are carried
through the narrow streets of Mikuni by people in different costumes, with bands playing traditional
music until midnight.
There were also about 500 street venders selling food and games that are unique to matsuri occasions.
Just being there breathing in the air filled with smoke and smell of food, or looking at young girls dressed
up to attract boy’s attention made me feel so nostalgic.
The highlight of the night, was “火の太鼓” (The Fire Drum), the drum performance/ Jam session by the
local members. Boys, girls, mother and father, they all took turn, and played as they felt. I was
fascinated not only by their energetic performance, but was seriously moved by their joyful faces.
On the next day, we walked along a coast, head to Tojinbo, a series of surreal, eerie basaltic cliff.
Tōjinbō is a well-known place to commit suicide in Japan. According to statistics, as many as 25 people
(virtually all of them young unemployed men) commit suicide by jumping off the 70-foot-high cliffs
annually. On the walking trail along the cliff, there were many signs with some motivational words to
keep people to from jumping. There was even a phone booth, equipped with coins or calling cards so
that they can call the help line. It was quite a contrasty experience to visit the sight, especially on the day
after such a lively event in town.
Monday, January 24, 2011
|Click to view a slideshow.|
My first visit to the Hokuriku region (which faces on the Sea of Japan, bordered by the Japan Alps) was
Kanazawa City, of Ishikawa prefecture. Kanazawa, the biggest city in the Hokuriku region is a castle
town that was ruled over by the Maeda family for three centuries after the first lord Toshiie Maeda
entered Kanazawa Castle in 1583.
The Kaga domain (加賀藩 Kaga han: includes current Kanazawa city as the capital), which was
founded by Maeda Toshiie, was powerful feudal domain. Its income rating, over 1,000,000 koku, was
the highest in the nation, after the Tokugawa shogunate itself.
Since the Kaga Clan invited many artists and craftsmen to this area, it achieved a high level of
craftsmanship that continues to flourish to this day. Kanazawa is also famous for their special products
like rice, sake, sweets, etc., due to its temperate and rainy climate with heavy snow in winter.
We rented a couple of bicycles for a day and toured around town during the day, and then head West
for about 1 hour to Taihei Sushi (太平寿司), a sushi restaurant, that was recommended by our friend,
who is a Sake Sommelier in NYC. It’s needless to say that the sushi was excellent, but I was really
entertained by the presentation of each sushi piece. I felt like I was eating pieces of craftwork.
The local sake we tried, Tengumai Yamahai (天狗舞の山廃仕込み）tasted pure and smooth. It was
the perfect compliment for the freshest meal (In fact most of the fish were still alive till we ate them) .
It even made our bike ride back more exciting. We ended up getting back in town in 40 minutes, racing
a quiet road at night.
The picture above is a rice field near Taihei Sushi. It was well worth riding bicycle (ママチャリ） for
an hour to the suburb area of Kanazawa, since we’ve got to feel the vibe of what the real life is like
around the area.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Click to view the slideshow on my flickr.
Mount Kurama (鞍馬山 Kurama-yama?) is a mountain to the north-west of the city of Kyoto.
It is the birthplace of the Reiki practice, and is said to be the home of Sōjōbō, King of the Tengu,
who taught swordsmanship to Minamoto no Yoshitsune.
Kurama Temple (鞍馬寺 Kuramadera?) is now designated as a national treasure of Japan.
I had a chance to visit my friend, Rosie-san (in the pic above), who lives below the mountain. According to her,
Mount Kurama has been known as a power spot for about a century, and she comes almost every other day,
before she goes to work. So we joined her ritual one morning in May. The dewy air, sounds of insects, birds,
frogs and chanting by the monks were heavenly harmonized and quite soothing.
I'd recommend every one to go there early in the morning (around the sunrise) where you can have it on your own.
This is what I call "a luxury time".