Monday, October 30, 2006

Foreign Artists Exhibition 2006 Part 1

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
On Sunday I took my exhibit to the International Centre for the upcoming Exhibition which runs from tomorrow Tuesday to next Sunday.Aided and abetted by my friend Peter, we got the thing set up in about 2 hours.
My exhibit is meant to represent a tissue packet commonly given out freely on street corners and intersections the length and breadth of Japan.The tissues are used as an advertising tool by such diverse companies as loan and finance firms to escort agencies and language schools.
As to the specific details.In the first photo you can see the 80 piles of tissues and plastic covers which will enclose the tissues.Each of the 80 stacks is 16 centimeters high and made up of 20 separate packets of tissues.Each separate packet has 7 individual tissues inside it.
Each individual tissue required glue at each end and then more glue to attach it to the next tissue.It was necessary to ensure the tissues were so well glued otherwise the stacks lost their shape and form.Tedious and time-consuming.It took about 30 minutes to glue and complete one stack.Multiply that by 80 and it took roughly 40 hours to complete the stacks.Add another 10 hours for the painting of the covers.I used about 10 litres of glue in total.
There were some unforeseen problems.I initially stored the finished tissue piles in boxes but a combination of the glue and the humidity of the rainy season caused some of the stacks to go mouldy.This required a hurried unpacking of the boxes and replacement of the now useless mouldy stacks.The remaining stacks I kept in my small living room/kitchen which meant space was at a premium.

The second photo below shows the covers and the finished assembled exhibit.There are 60 or so artists exhibiting various works and art-forms including photography,sculpture and paintings.

Im going along Friday afternoon to hob-nob with the other artists and talk to any interested visitors over a beer or three.Im still trying to think of what Im going to say about it.Maybe something along the lines of "Yes its a serious statement about contemporary society and capitalism" or "Cant you see its a corrective to the Picasso and Cubist movement" or even "Its a cross between Murakami's Superflat movement and Pop Art style."

Foreign Artists Exhibition 2006 Part 2

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The actual covers for the tissue are just two sides of a rubbish bag cut up roughly in half.The design is meant to represent a famous brand of bag beloved of Japanese women of all ages.
As with the tissues I ran into a few problems such as the paint not sticking to the plastic and flaking when moved.Another problem was the lack of sufficent supplies of paint.I ran out of the yellow paint I started using and couldnt find anymore in the five or so shops I tried.The only solution was to repaint using a similiar shade of yellow which was more readily available.Again time consuming and tedious.To stop the chipping and flaking I tried a number of things including varnish and gesso and a light coating of watered down PVA glue all which were only partially successful.
However I managed to get the covers to the International Centre Display Room and assemble the tissue with only a few chips requiring a quick touch up.
Overall Im pleased with the finished thing.Judging from the reaction of some of the organisers and other artists it was well received.Ive left a comment book this year so will be interested to see what the general public think of it as well.

Foreign Artists Exhibition 2006

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The Foreign Artists Exhibition in Nagoya runs from tomorrow Tuesday October 31 to Sunday November 5.Admission is free and the exhibition on the 4th floor of the Nagoya International Centre runs daily from 10:00am to 7pm except for the last day when it ends at 5pm.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Flash

mushroom mountain
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Mushroom Mountain
Enough already with the mushrooms I hear you cry.Ok. The last photo above is of a box of Kinoko Yama or Mushroom Mountain chocolate confectionery.Produced by Meiji the mushrooms sport light and dark chocolate and a crisp crunchy shortbread like stalk.Not sure they are as healthy as some of the earlier species of fungi I've posted but they are just as delicious.

Monday, October 23, 2006

More Japanese Mushrooms

Japanese Mushrooms 2
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Nameko Mushrooms
Like last weeks fungi (eringi,maitake,shiitake and shimeji) nameko are available all year round.
They are usually sold in plastic packs with liquid as they dont keep for long.However about this time of year,late autumn,they can be purchased fresh and shiny.
The yellow mustardy coloured mushrooms have a slippery,"gluey" feel about them and are mostly used in soups and stews.

Autumn Bento

Autumn Bento
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Autumn Bento
The local bento shop produced this seasonal lunchbox last week.
There are a couple of oyster croquettes and the rice has some mushrooms mixed through it for an autumnal flavour.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Flash

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Kaki or persimmons are traditional autumn fruit in Japan.In days gone by people used to have a persimmon tree and a chestnut tree growing in their backyard or that of their neighbors.
They can be peeled and eaten fresh though they are somewhat bitter or hung under the eaves of the house in a sheltered place and dried.This process removes some of the acidity.
Apparently eating dried kaki is a New Years tradition.I tried one of the persimmons in the photo above.It wasnt bitter as I'd been led to believe.The taste was more akin to that of a plum.
The kaki above were evidently grown with a box shape around it that gives them a cube -like shape.This makes them easier to store and pack than the more common rounder variety.
Theres also a pentagon shaped kaki available as a lucky charm.I've been told that the 5-sided kaki or "gokaki" also means "to pass an entrance exam" so they are popular with students sitting tests...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lost in Translation

I often get asked why I dont speak Japanese better given the time Ive been here.I resort to explaining that its a difficult language.Even the slightest wrong nuance or pronounication slip can create havoc and hilarity.Or both.
Consider the following situation.The Japanese word for devil is "oni" while the word for sea urchin is "uni".Imagine a small local sushi bar.Imagine mixing up the words "oni" and "uni" while trying to order.Picture the bewildered looks and then the amused recognition of the restaurant staff as you make another gaffe.
The defence rests its case.

While fossicking about last week I came upon this very comprehensive website.Well set out with lots of useful information and links about Nagoya City.Its worth a visit if you are looking for something specific or just browsing.Click on my link in the "Regularly Read " section on the right hand side of this page.

Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

Japanese Mushrooms
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
I dont know why but over my last week mushrooms have loomed large.
Maybe its North Korea and its nuclear test.Or the fact that its the in-season for the fungi and they feature prominently in supermarket vegetable and fresh produce aisles.Or maybe because of the report earlier in the week of a man being attacked by a bear while out "hunting" for mushrooms.

In Japanese kinoko (mushrooms) translates charmingly as "tree children".There are around 4,000 or so species of mushrooms in Japan.Some poisonous.Some are mycorrhizal which means they are only found in the wild.The best example being matsutake.
The matsutake or red pine mushroom only grows for a few weeks in areas of red pine trees.Sought after for its fragrance and taste Japanese matsutake are expensive.Around 5000 yen a small specimen.Or you can opt for cheaper imported ones from China,Canada and until recently North Korea.

The mushrooms in the photo above are readily available all year round.They can be found in local supermarkets and greengrocers.These are four common types I regularly cook at home or eat at restaurants.
Shiitake.Grown in Toyama these brown velvety capped mushrooms in the front are shiitake.They can be used to make a mushroom tea and are also popular as a base for soups.Grilled,fried or simmered they are apparently the most common mushrooms used in East Asian cooking.You can also buy them dried.

Maitake.These came from Shizuoka.Directly behind the shiitake on the left are the maitake or "dancing mushrooms".Sold in a clump they have brown fan-like tops that overlap like wooden roof shingles.I usually saute them in a little butter and garlic.Delicious.

Eringi.From Gifu these are at the rear of the photo.They are large stumpy mushrooms that have thick stalks and quite flat caps.They are quite firm when you cut them and I usually cut off the tough stalks before cooking them.Again sauteed or fried in butter with bacon and eggs is a personal favorite.

Shimeji.From Shikoku.On the right hand side of the photo are some shimeji.Like maitake they are sold in clumps.There are various kinds with both white and brown caps.They can be used in nabe(stew) or miso soup.
As mushrooms absorb liquids easily I dont wash them under running water.Instead I was advised to lightly brush or clean them with a paper towel or cloth.Likewise they taste best if not drowned in butter or oil when cooked to retain their taste and flavour.
Finally in English when we refer to different kinds of mushrooms,for example, shiitake we say "shiitake mushrooms" but in Japanese this is unnecessary.In Japanese shiitake or for that matter shemiji is sufficient.......

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Flash

Halloween Cookies
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Tis Friday 13th October a Black Friday for those who believe in such superstitions.
For me however, the afternoon brought the delivery of these lovely Halloween biscuits from New York courtesy of the one and only New York Geisha, Halli-san.Check out her blog in my frequently read blogs section.
The vanilla flavoured biscuits topped with a piece of walnut arrived safe and sound.Several were eaten with an afternoon cup of Earl Grey on this sunny autumn day.Thanks again Halli-san.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Osu Kannon Shopping District

Osu Kannon Shopping District
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
I live in Nagoya's Osu shopping district.The area centers on Osu Shrine which dates back to 1610.Its a traditional shopping district with small shops lining narrow arcades and alleyways.
Apparently there are over 1000 shops selling an array of products.
Groceries to kimonos.Recycled clothing to computers and duty free goods.There are also a number of small restaurants and coffee shops which attract a wide range of customers.
While nearby Sakae has its modern upmarket department stores and amusement facilities I prefer to shop locally.I like the relaxed pace and diverse range of shops available.I cant think of anywhere else in Nagoya where you can find a Brazilian and Turkish restaurant within a stones throw of each other.
The last few years have seen some of the covered arcades getting a facelift.Being painted.Renovated.Earthquake strengthened.
Some of the older wooden character buildings have given way to faceless concrete structures but the arcades still retain their older style which distinguish them from ultramodern less friendly shopping malls of central Nagoya and the Nagoya Station and Towers complexes.

Haagen Dazs Ice Cream Flavours Japan

The green tea and azuki bean flavours are available year round here in Nagoya Central Japan.Additional flavours appear at different times and just as quickly disappear.
The three most recent discoveries Ive made are Hazelnut (top left) which contains bits of hazelnut,Affogato (top left) which appears to be a coffee expresso based flavour and my favourite Banana Caramel Tart (lower right) a mix of banana,caramel and pieces of crust like pastry.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday Flash

Quick Snack
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Just a small quick snack from the bento shop across from my apartment building in Osu Kannon,Nagoya.
Looks like the rain has set in for the few days with Typhoon 16 and 17 making their presence felt.I'll just hunker down and try and finish my art work for the Foreign Artists Exhibition at the end of the month and catch up on some video watching...

Monday, October 02, 2006

Beautiful Japan

Beautiful Japan
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Shinzo Abe became Japans new Prime Minister last week having earlier won the post of President of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
At 52 years old he is the youngest post war Japanese P.M and also the first to be born after World War 2.
He has urged Japan to become " a beautiful country that is trusted and loved."
He wrote a precampaign book called "To a Beautiful Country".He has spoken of the need to create a society where second chances are allowed and of the need to reduce wealth disparity in Japan.
All in vague terms according to numerous newspaper reports and commentaries I've recently read or heard.
He wants to motivate people to "rechallenge" themselves and to provide "a safety net " for the needy.

He's also been elusive about whether or not his administration will raise the consumption tax or not.One possible reason being an affirmative answer would hurt the LDP in the upcoming Upper House elections in 2007.
Former Finance Minister Tanigaki proposed raising the consumption tax to 10% as a means of cutting public debt and supporting Japans increasingly gray society in the face of a falling birthrate and fewer workers to provide a tax revenue base.
Instead of raising the consumption tax Abe wants to implement "a strategy for economic growth" with the focus on high economic growth and cutbacks in government spending.
As one economics professor commented "He (Abe) is being contradictory in his idea of cutting public expenditure while investing in "rechallenge" projects for workers".

Abe also faces other domestic and foreign challenges.
He has to continue the half completed reforms of the Koizumi government.
He also wants to revise the Constitution in particular the war renouncing Article 9 and to continue to strengthen the US/Japan alliance.
He faces the task of mending relations with Japans Asian neighbors.
China and South Korea have suspended summits in the wake of former PM Koizumis visits to Yasukuni Shrine.Abe who visited Yasukuni in April has yet to announce whether as P.M he would continue to visit the controversial Shrine where Japans war dead are enshrined.

With a hawkish reputation and a strong stance on North Korea it will be interesting to see what position he adopts.
The photo at the top shows a blue tarpaulin "home" built by one of the homeless people who live under an overpass near my apartment building in central Nagoya.


Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Along with nerines,cosmos flowers are in full bloom in Nagoya.They can be seen in raised beds and parks.The plants come in a variety of colors and seem to do best in areas that are exposed to full sunlight.

Blind Willow,Sleeping Woman.
Earlier in the week it was reported that Haruki Murakami had won the Frank O'Conner International Short Story Award.The award is the worlds biggest short story prize and Murakami will share the 35,000 Euro prize with his translator Jay Rubin.
Murakami's work has been translated into 38 languages and Blind Willow,Sleeping Woman is his third collection of short stories to be published in English.