Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Wish! Fulfilment 5: The Final Chapter (for now)

My final week as a full time Japanglish children's storyteller ended with me having to give a presentation. To a small lecture theatre full of adults. In Japanese. Eep!

I wasn't scared of being laughed at: I'm used to being laughed at - my Japanese is so bad even people who don't know a word of it somehow find me funny (even me, occasionally) - but, could I actually make a room full of super serious, hardworking to the point of I don't know what, Japanese company workers, actually laugh...at an actual joke? Told by me? It seemed unlikely. But of course, I tried anyway.

At first, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself

But I got bored of that quite quickly, so I started talking

No-one seemed to mind. Phew! Then came the next part - the Storytelling. In Japanese.

 As a warm up (or, erm, to prolong the inevitable shame and humiliation) I read my greatest hit, Harapeko Aomushi

Which went fine. But. No-one except me knew I was stalling, but now, for me, it was time for the show to start. Jack had to make an appearance. So, I gritted my teeth a bit, took a deep breath, and out came:

'Mukashi mukashi, aro tokoro ni, JACK to okaasan wa mori no ie ni sundeimashita'.

And so on. Thankfully, by the time Jack's none-too-pleased mother asks Jack why he thought it was a good idea to come home with one bean instead of either cash or groceries - which went something like this


I got what I always wanted. A laugh - at the story! 

Well, I think it was the story - I didn't look any funnier than I had looked for the past month - my Japanese was no worse, my flies weren't undone (I did check afterwards).

A good day's work. And an extremely kind audience! Both, possibly, the best things in the world.

Tokyo the Spaceship

I knew before I came here that Japan might as well be an alien planet in lots of ways - indeed, that is one of the very many exciting things about it! But, I wasn't expecting, within a week of living here, to start wondering if Tokyo might actually be a spaceship, on the way to some far-distant galaxy.

But I started to find undeniable evidence everywhere.

In Asakusa outside the Tube Station

Walking down a concourse at Shinagawa

On my way to a tiny nursery in Ohsaki

and on my way back

In Odaiba, my suspicion that I had somehow been captured by a UFO, only got more convincing

Then I looked up a bit further, and I really started to worry

 It didn't matter if I looked during the day - out of the window of a commuter train, maybe

or, as soon as I got off that train

and started walking to one of my daily story venues

or, once the day was done, it was night, and I was on my way home

it was always the same - look around, look up, look down - see another glaring bit of spaceship technology. Eep!

At Haneda Airport, I couldn't help noticing that the Ship might need a few repairs soon 

and that whoever was in charge of engineering really HAD to try and make outside spaces look at least a little bit more realistic

This building, for example, was just taking the mickey

and this one

I get it, I thought: make something look enough like a spaceship, and no-one will believe it actually is a spaceship. But by this time my brain was working overtime. Was there anyone I could ask why, when I looked out of my office window, it now felt as if I was looking straight into outer space?

Tokyo is far, far away from home in lots of ways - anyone can tell you that. But now, I can't help but wonder exactly how far?? I am looking forward to making my best attempt at finding out.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Creepy Babies (Part 2)

The decorated baby statues I saw at Zojoji Temple last month definitely aren't the only ones in Tokyo

They're everywhere! At Kamakura, I saw a whole lot more.

At Zojoji, it was easy to imagine these as what they actually are - statues of Jizobosatusu, the protector of the sprits of stillborn babies. Sombre subject, but (at Zojoji) actually rather cute statues. But there was nothing cute about the Kamakura equivalents. When I looked up at the ranks of them all looking in the same direction - down, at me, they felt much more like a huge, unresponsive, audience. But even scarier!

 I'm very glad it was the middle of the day, and sunny, when I saw them!

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Tomokazu Yamada: Color x Color, Shimokita Art Space, Tokyo

This week, I discovered Shimokitazawa, an area only just south of Shibuya and Shinjuku. Unlike those monolithic mega-districts, though, Shimokita, though still full of fashionable young whippersnappers, has a totally different, much more village-y feel.

My jealousy of wrinkle-free people aside, though, I took an instant liking to Shimokitazawa. Because it's where I saw one of the most fun art exhibitions I've seen in a long time.

Tomokazu Yamada is a Tokyo based painter, and this was his first solo show, at Shimokita Art Space. A splash of colour hit me as soon as I walked in, which led me further in to this

and this

and this!

It was a small exhibition, but so well put together I felt I'd seen a bigger one. And the paintings were bold, mid-way between 'illustration' and 'fine art'. From far away they were almost like comics panels - sharp, sometimes funny, clearly the work of an extremely good draughtsman with an eye for the stories that pop out things you see around you.

Closer in, many of the paintings, bold as they were, took on a wistful quality - something light in the brushstrokes, maybe (?), that not only made me desperate to have several of them on my wall, instead of in a book, but made me look at them, and what I was doing there, in a whole different way. Here are some of my favourites
A Tree with a Boy, Acrylic on Wooden Panel 841mm x 594mm
A Boy with a Book, Acrylic on Canvas, 410mm x 410mm
A Frog

Erm, yes - I think that IS 'all of them'. The exhibition finishes today. I'm going again. I want to see it in London.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Cedars, Spas and Strange Statues

You don't have to go that far outside Tokyo to see some really beautiful countryside - not even the ever present Japanese telegraph poles can spoil it (actually they just make it feel more Japanese). Last bank holiday weekend my housemates took me to Hanno - home of my first onsen (Japanese hot spring), and high hills covered with Japanese Cedar trees banked up above the river valley. Gorgeous -

In the evening, Hanno became home to the best barbecue, and the most surreal conversation (with a German lady, in Japanese) I've ever had

But, these weren't the most interesting things about Hanno. Nooo. Hanno is also, I think, the place where strange technicolour statues come to die. We had no idea what we were looking at, to begin with

Massive icons at the top of a hill in the Japanese countryside??? This is definitely not in my guidebook! It was all a bit confusing for me and my housemate Hiromi

Then it only got MORE confusing, when a giant globe peeped out from behind the trees. We tried to work out whether these things had ever appeared in any story we'd ever heard about, or read. They hadn't. Was it a film set or something?

Nope. And it wasn't just a giant globe, but a globe with yet another a big icon on top of it. What kind of film set would want THIS??

Still drawing a total blank, we quickly gave up trying to work out any logical reason for the existence of these things, and started drinking and playing with dodgy fireworks

Best thing for it.