Saturday, 29 September 2007


The summer was sweltering, hitting the 40s here. So summer came and went and we have a new prime minister here.

One of the highlights of my summer was the opportunity to attend the Sado Island Earth Festival in August - home of the community of Kodo drummers. Tap dancing with Taiko, jazz piano with hand drumbs and tabla.  

The Japanese characters for "Kodo" covey two meanings: Firstly, "heartbeat" - the sound of the mother`s heartbeat as felt in the womb. Secondly, read in a different way, the word can mean "children of the drum". `

Watching the Kodo drummers you could see their love for their drumming manifest in all the muscles that they had to use just to play, all the discipline and hard work that must be required in the training was so worth it in the performances, perhaps the same is true of having a small daily discipline and focus on things.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007


It came , it went, the wonderful and glorious festival that is FUJI ROCK. Fast becoming a hip destination this year I met people who had headed over for that alone - a couple from Finland, a film student from Leeds, not to mention a Japanese David Bowie who was celebrating his birthday and had been to the last 11 festivals. We chatted for about an hour and I left feeling very optimistic about marriage - so nice to hear how happily married people are instead of about divorce and difficulty.

  •  I am now a BIG G-Love fan how good was that band???!!!! 
  •  Clap your hands say yeah
  • Deerhood
  •  Aikainu
  • Peter Bjorn and John
  • Gov't Mule
  • The Pigeon Detectives
  • Yoleyole, Surkin
  •  Boom boom satelites 
 My favorite place was the field of heaven which maintained and was slightly less commercialised.

Thursday, 5 July 2007

summer summer

New beach in Chiba - Onjuku is like fine light pastry to a greasy kebab. Located about 2 hours from Tokyo station and accesible by local trains. I januntily sat my way through the rickety ride to arrive in a place decorated by palm trees - a good start...Eventually locating the beach after a few inquiries in the local Supa i spent a blissful few hours sleeping on the white sand and frolicking butoh like in the water. 
No campjo but a lot more randomness...not only that but it is featured in a highly recommended jdrama - Hero. You can tell from the unusual statues of camels I met some lovely people who ended up driving me round.

In the meantime I can't paint. This is frustrating me as I am going to see numerous exhibitons and helping the children at school and I feel doused in color - throbbing reds, shy mauves, optimistic oranges I can feel them but when it comes to starting on my bird painting again I come to a complete panicky standtill.. I must just start, or rather stop avoiding, make a date, pick up that brush, I know I want to...

Sunday, 13 May 2007


I found this video on you tube, reminded me a bit of Bjorks one for All in full of love, at least in its asethetics.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

 In a nutshell all change.

Its so easy to fill up every conceivable space in the diary without asking what the priorities are. Heading to my new place on a Monday night I have already seen lots of the homeless people from Ueno park getting ready at the entrances of the station. I question my own relationship to this, am i feeling guilty? is it empathy? who know but I am very grateful for a roof over my head and food on the table. I wonder sometimes if having all the added extras just makes us forget the basic things that keep us together. There is something very nice , for example about eating with people in a sociable way. Are those homeless people in some strange way living a better life. Im not tryig to suggest its a confortable one but are people who count their blessings for food and shelter somehow more aware?

Reading more of Ecclesiastes after its mention at church I am quite surprised at how relevant it seems today. Here is this guy who has it all and hes still not happy. Perhaps the lives of Brittany Spears and other rich celbrities bear a poignant testimony to that.
I have also learnt why people work so hard to suceed, it is because they envy there neighbours. But it is useless. It is like chasing the wind. ..It is better to have only a little, with peace of mind than to be busy all the time with both hands, trying to catch the wind (Ecclesiastes4: 4,6)
Don`t get me wrong I think its great to be motivated and an active member of whatever you are into but its all about the motivations. Why ? Whats behind it all. If its love great but if is to run away from a feeling of emptiness or to try and prove just how loveable/special/sexy/generally great you are wheres that going to get you...? This is to me too! Am I chasing after the wind?

On a related level (maybe) I have started a fascinating book about Japanese culture. Here are a few of the concepts that really intrugued me

Dotuku - THE WAY
from a book called Analectic 4*8
In the morning hear The Way; in the evening die without regrets

I am also still trying to figure out how the idea of Makoto or sincerity fits with the private /public face.

Other interesting concepts are Tsumi - this is a little similar to sin. Active conditions that debase or obstruct the development of life

Yamato damashii - or unque japanese spirit
Wakon yo sai - Japanese spirit /Western knowledge

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Hanami hanami, spring the season of outdoor parties and cherry blossoms. For me this year`s hanami celebrations were low key but nice. Sangenjaya to Higashimatsubara the moon peeped out from behind one of those blue edged night clouds shining like neon on metal. Somehow the moon remains very mysterious and calming.

Now most of the blossoms are looking a bit brown or have already been blown off the trees and floated away giving the surreal appearance of snow in April. If you actually have time to be reflective in this city the cherry blossoms capture the essence of a Japanese wistfulness and impossible longing that is summed up in the tales of Genji (Japanese romantic stories about a prince). Somehow everything passes, always, and yet the memory remains. Perhaps the memory of a baby pink tenderness. The Japanese concept of Inochi which is roughly equivalent to life is an interesting concept in relation to what continues on ...

I went to a poetry reading/music night last week in aid of awareness of plans for nuclear power to be used in japan. Considering Hiroshima and Nagasaki this seems like it would be a consideration for people here but I was told people aren`t aware. The event took place ina converted high school which is now the base for a design school see this link

 One of the leaflets on the table outside really moved me. It was a fictional letter written from a child of the future explaining the outcome of the current situation and asking us to make changes now, for their sake. One of my students yesterday told me she is going to make her own soap, baby steps as Bill Murray would say in what about Bob?
baby stepping baby stepping

Sunday, 25 March 2007

I arrived in London in February tired, jet lagged disorientated, dragged my industrial suitcase to the information desk to ask where the national express coach left from. I asked, in what I hoped was a suitabley polite voice. The information service woman vaguely waved in a direction I couldn`t quite discern but I confidently headed off, only to find after 10 minutes that these were local buses.

 The service in Japan in impecible and even if the politeness is insincere does have a certain smoothness to it which oils the wheels of daily living.

  walked barefoot for two hours at e silver sand.

A few nights ago a friend of mine had formulated an outline of his experiences in Tokyo. It is safe, convenient and efficient but are these things always good? If you can get away with never having to interact beyond your comfort zones, where children go home and play on video games not socializing and when business men jump infront of trains up to 70 per day. I sometimes feel living here is like being in a relationship which
could go either way, I`m over the honeymoon period and see it a bit more for what it is but I am still fascinated.

Yesterday I went to watch a hojo (Japanese swordmanship) demonstration. It was meant to be against a background of beautiful sakura (Japanese cherry blossoms) but the gale like rain forced us into the dojo. Here the two sensei`s demonstrated the art of control and expression as they went through routines for all the seasons. It was mesmerizing watching these two men circling moving slowly, breathing, bowing, locking swords. Later they seemed jovial and childlike as if embodying a kind of zen humour. While Japanese politeness can mean as a Westerner it can be hard to know where you stand there is a quietness of spirit and humilty which is inherent in everything. Perhaps it is the Bushido spirit, a gentle but firm dignity which is always somehow present.

Later, watching a documenatary about Cuba - Hasta Simpre i thought again about freedom and community. For many people The Revolution meant a society which has access to free education and healthcare where communties know each other. US sanctions are encouraging people to find alternative sources of income via tourism and offhsoots such as the black market and prostitution. There is a restriction of movement and speech. For some the alterbative to Castro is one of capitalism and a breakdown of community as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It begs the question what is freedom? If Capitalism is a form of oppression then what is the viable alternative? I found it yesterday in this quiet community. There was a mutual respect - for silence and the need for it, for peoples differences and abilities.

This presentness and willingness not to find easy quick answers but
to be with things is something that I admire and want more of in my life. I found two things I would like to share with you...

Mamamia Love bear with it shes great :)


I also read a quote by Henri Nouwen which I would like to quote at some length for times when things are painful....

The great challenge is living your wounds through instead of thinking them through. It is better to cry than to worry, better to feel your wounds deeply than to understand them, better to let them enter into your silence than to talk about them. The choice you face constantly is whether you are taking your hurts to your head or to your heart. In your head you can analyze them, find their causes and consequences, and coin words to speak and write about them. But no final healing is likely to come from that source. You need to let your wounds go down into your heart. Then you can live them through and discover that they will not destroy you. Your heart is greater than your wounds.

Understanding your wounds can only be healing when that understanding is put at the service of your heart. Going to your heart with your wounds is not easy; it demands letting go of many questions. You want to know "Why was I wounded? When? How? By whom?" You believe that the answers to these questions will bring relief. But at best they only offer you a little distance from your pain. You have to let go of the need to stay in control of your pain and trust in the healing power of your heart. There your hurts can find a safe place to be received, and once they have been received, they lose their power to inflict damage and become fruitful soil for new life.

Think of each wound as you would of a child who has been hurt by a friend. As long as that child is ranting and raving, trying to get back at the friend, one wound leads to another. But when the child can experience the consoling embrace of a parent, she or he can live through the pain, return to the friend, forgive, and build up a new relationship. Be gentle with yourself, and let your heart be your loving parent as you live your wounds through.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Yuki Matsuri was worth a visit but a tad disappointing as far as over corporate sponsorship and issues with the warmth (only -4).

so before my days of online quizzes are over to summarize;I am;
You Are Elmo

Sweet and innocent, you expect everyone to adore you. And they usually do!

You are usually feeling: Talkative. You've got tons of stories to tell. And when you aren't talking, you're laughing.

You are famous for: Being popular, though no one knows why. Middle aged women especially like you.

How you life your life: With an open heart. "Elmo loves you!"

I am also an E(Extrovert) N (intuitive) F(Feeling) P(Perception) person, I am most like Vince Noir from The Mighty Boosh, I have an IQ (apparently) of 127, My life prorities are in this order my pride(?) family love career and money (aka the Dalai Lama) and I am 70% Supergirl.

Ah the joys of the internet! Some recommended more mind feeding reads are William Boyd`s Any human heart, Alex Garland`s Coma and a lovely little book by fellisio - sun and shade, part of their zen meditation selections. Also a lovely new sight showcasing and selling work of new Japan based designers

Yesterday Yokohama`s China town was bustling with street stalls and human dragons. I was quite amused to find the top Chinese Nikuman makers based in numerous locations throughout the streets. I also really recommend the magical mask changing show at the Chinatown Museum, I figured out he might have a fake arm but he still managed to change his masks at an amazing speed.
more pics of China (real) and other fun coming up...

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

free hugs

yesterday I saw a woman in purple leopard skin prints over pink hot pants, I saw little miss sunshine (great film) I saw the light reflecting golden in the side of skyscrapers at 4pm. Today , so far I have had a banana ,milkshake and watched youtube - there is a video titled free hugs which features a man who held up a sign Dylan style saying `free hugs` in Pitt Street Mall for 2 years. The police stopped him and the council wrote a law to stop him saying he was a liability (potential risk of accident and subsequent suing)...

I also read about the Psalters a Christian nomadic band who play all kinds of interesting instruments and live on a bus, they identify with the dienfranchised and are livinga lifestyle of community and simplicity.

What is community now? people who share our interests? In little Miss Sunshine the family are not exactly harmogenous - a heroin snorting porn obsessed old man who is a wonderful grandpa, a failed and disgraced academic whose gay love for his student has given him nothing but pain, a fragile motivational speaker whose belief in winning through sheer determination is shattered, a working mother trying her best for her family, an angst ridden teenager who doesn`t speak because of Nietzche and the 7 year old Olive who is longing to win the beauty contest but whose naturalness and curiosity don`t fit with that particular world. These are not a cozy family but one whose differences bring them together.

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Japan- sexist?

yesterday it was reported that one of the Japanese cabinet (Yanagisawa) said - and I quote -
Women are child bearing machines
He was not asked to leave despite many politicians outrage, what message is this sending out to the young women of Japan , if their Prime Minister doesn`t address such obvious sexism? There are also some other worrying developments since Abe`s arrival. The sacking of teachers who teach some facts about the second world war, the new rule that to graduate students must be deemed patriotic...

I will go to a talk about education on the weekend, keep you posted...

About being happy
I watched Will Smith`s The Pursuit of Happyness last night Yes it was cheesy in a Forrest Gump kind of way but the fact that it was based on the life of a real person made it more substantial - Chris Gardner
The film showed his commitment to something more than yourself, to keep going even when it gets really really tough. In his case it was his love for his son and desire to provide that motivated him even when he was homeless living in a shelter and toilet. What are our motivations? Its good to learn how to care for yourself in a healthy way, how can this be translated into a giving? IS being happy the ultimate goal. I read the Dalai Lamas book the art of happiness a while ago and from what I remember it talked about happiness being in letting go and surrendering. When I try to be happy I am often not happy, when I catch happiness it is ephemeral and wonderfully different each time.

About me and others My friend recently said by helping other people I help myself too. They give back to me too I have so much respect for that.

Love your neighbour as you love yourself. But I think this is often misunderstood as don`t think about yourself...You need to do both, you need self respect and to give yourself what you need before you can help others but its a symbiotic relationship. For me giving to others is good if I am doing it not out of guilt but out of joy and respect. I am so lucky to have what I do and I am grateful for that, but when I see homeless people in the park in Ueno or Yoyogi or anywhere I think that could be me so easily given certain circumstances, In October I came back from Australia and had no-where to live, my friends helped me, what if you don`t have that? I don`t think its wrong to be comfortable and have a home and things but the trick is to share with people maybe...

I will volunteer for a Japanese NGO this weekend called Second Harvest. They give out food to people in the Park. I am happy to be able to have the time to help, I can`t do a huge amount but I can start where I am.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

whats new pussy cat - green things

get up early attempting to see the sunrise (again) but too late. zah nen as they say in the land of the rising sun.

Monday was largely taken up with attending an environmental symposium at Musashino University just outside of Kichijoji.
Subject - sustainablility.

 Our lifestyles are to a certain extend already in place , so, what can we do an a practical and national level to save energy?. This Swedish/Japanese meeting addressed the subject through a variety of ways. First looking at concrete examples in Sweden and its nearby island of Gotland. Sustainable heating systems, wind power, recycling, alternative sources of energy for cars, reclamation of pastures, water re-use.

But the larger question is one of human organisation, co-operation and identity. Who are we? Are we part of a democracy who can work towards change? or are we merely cogs in a bigger industrial money making machine? How can we, practically change things? Torbjorn Lahti from the organisation Roberfors spoke about facilitation of social processes involving community, Networks and Ideas. Using the model of Manfred Max Neef he asked what are fundamental human NEEDS as opposed to human wants. In no particular order

They are not needs for objects but for relationships and a sense of belonging within a community.

the 5th generation concept of an eco municipality is this
1) Systemview undertanding - understading the inter-relatedness of the sytems
2) Particpatory process - democracy. this could be local people or individuals speaking up for what they believe in.
3) Integration
4) Networks on all levels - local to global
5)Professional Leadership - sucessful management of exchange programmes and platforms for these issues to be raised
6) Concrete examples of sucessful models for these ideas.

How can this idea be adapted for different countries and applied within different contexts?
In Japan Peo Eckberg has set up the One World network to foster intercultural exchange.

I find myself asking amid all this what are we as human beings? We are fundamentally relational, we communicate and invent new technologies to communicate over great distances. we organise ourselves into smaller community units of personal relationships (2)moving out into a circlular movement like a manadala into larger communitities. We now how virtual communities which help us specialize our interests. Is this good? we are becoming increasingly selective about our relationships. Is there space for a more general sense of community including communities that nourish each other emotionally and spiritually too where you don`t just pick people who you like but learn to co-exist with all kinds of people?


Over lovely hot chocolate and tea in Shimokitazawa I was talking to Nori-san from the Setagaya playparks project -----search for Hanegi Park on this site

She told me about her experiences in Bangladesh . An NPO project selecetd her to take 5 Japanese children to Bangladesh to meet children there. She said the children there seemed freer and happier than the Japanese kids, but on talking to them they said they envied Amercan and Japanese children because they knew they had a future. The Japanese children were always pressured and only thought about the future (Juku, syudying for some distant achievement). Perhaps true happiness is found in being able to balance these two.

Victor E Frankl in his book - Mans Search for meaning explores these questions. The book is partly an account of his experiences as a holocaust survivor. A question and an answer. When in the most horrifying and soul destroying situations how did people survive?. As a psychiatrist he used the experience as grounds for study and developed Logotherapy. The conclusions in a nutshell are you need to be able to appreciate present beauty but also have a sense of hope about the future whatever that may be. If man has a sense of purpose he can endure the most terrible suffering.