Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kamakura December 2012

I guess I wasn't done with the people-and-dog-watching pictures! Here are more shots from Kamakura, but this time with my DSLR instead of iPhone.

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It seems that a common thing to do on New Year's Eve is visit shrines. If they don't want to face Times Square-like crowds then, then people go within the first week or so of the new year, but still face hefty crowds. On the day we visited in mid-December, the police were practicing their speeches for the throngs of people. It was endearing to watch them nervously read announcements about being orderly, which people do anyway. 
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I don't know what these boys were doing in their baseball outfits, heading towards the shrine. Maybe they wanted heavenly protection for practice or the coming season. One thing I love about Japanese kids is their dedication--whether genuine or socially constructed or both--towards their extracurricular activities. I like seeing them on the train in their uniforms, with their bags full of equipment, and how I sometimes catch the young yielding train seats to the older kids. 
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This woman was taking a picture of the sun setting, right by the train station. Again, she has that nonchalant Kamakura style I love so much--her hair, her cozy sweater, and her tote bag! I noticed the tote bag first, and then I realized the person carrying it was noteworthy too. What noteworthy person wouldn't choose to carry that bag?!
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Here is a second teddy bear poodle, who senses someone watching them. As if this one wasn't enough. This teddy bear phenomenon will likely wane, so I think Bisou should go to Japan soon and show them how silver is done right!
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I can't remember if my mom noticed a Shiba across the street, or if I did--one of us had a functioning Shiba-dar. In reviewing these pictures just now, I realized that a woman comes up to the Shiba in the man's arms and SMELLS ITS BACK. I smell Mitsu all the time (I don't know what it is, but she doesn't smell like dog!), but it'd be funny if a stranger noticed this habit and photographed it in sequence.
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I kept taking pictures as they crossed the street. Maybe the dog doesn't like crowds? Anyhow, I like its scarf/handkerchief--we've been looking for something like that for Mitsu but have been having trouble--but then look at its leash! It's just a piece of yellow rope. That Kamakura flair.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Japanese people continued

These pictures took less guts to take--the people are facing away from me, but they deserve no less recognition than forward facing subjects.

Some cool older men on the train. The first man seemed to have more character and flair than the second, but maybe the second guy is still developing his. He at least looks stylish. His stylishness seems to me uniquely Japanese in that everything is carefully calculated. Japanese fashion never seems to me whimsically put together, in that ubiquitous Olsen/Fashintoast "I just threw it on on my way out" sort of way (maybe that style is fading out now though). This man put more thought into his ONE outfit for this ONE day than I have for my own clothes and makeup in the past couple of weeks since I've returned from Japan. I mean, I put more effort into my clothes while I'm there, but I cannot look that well-edited when I go out.
This man below is delivering Kiyoken bento boxes to their counter at the basement (i.e. food) level of the department store Takashimaya. I always see pre-made bento boxes in grocery stores, train stations, and Haneda airport, and they usually look good. But ultimately, nothing beats a Kiyoken shumai bento. Luckily, there's a Kiyoken lurking at every corner everywhere, so you can have one whether you're on the go or not.
Here's what a shumai bento looks like. 
Shumai are steamed dumplings, not unlike like gyoza. There are other forms of meat: cooked tuna, kamaboko (the pink and white fish cake), and a piece of karaage, or fried chicken (has more soy sauce and ginger flavor then their American counterpart). There's also sweet egg (the yellow slice), a piece of dried apricot, and the best part, which I remember from my childhood: chunks of sweetened bamboo (very top left). I had this particular bento on the way to the airport, so it was my last meal. I rarely finish meals (I order too much and am picky) but this, aside from the tuna (not a big fan--can I get some more bamboo instead?), I finished. I felt like I won something! So anyway, my love for the shumai bento is why, when I saw the delivery man in his Kiyoken jacket, I took a picture of him. Thank you for your hard work!

I know I shouldn't make fun of "Engrish" or anything like it, but I can't help it. This sweater is delightful.
And finally, this is from my first full day in Yokohama. This is past the West Exit of the Yokohama train station, between Bic Camera and Vivre. This is where cars can't pass through, so it's just people. I wasn't doing any particular people-watching (or am I always doing it?), but I noticed this man walking in front of me. When I realized what was going on with his bag situation, I frantically pulled my phone out and started taking pictures. It's a miracle I got this shot where everything but him and his bag are blurry.
He's got a FANNY PACK AROUND HIS NECK. This is not normal, right? My first couple of days in Japan always feel strange, mostly because of being in a completely different time zone. Sometimes it's something like cultural shock that sinks in harder than it does later in the trip. But is this culture shock? This guy is just doing it wrong! But that's okay, he's got it figured out. I probably shouldn't be taking these pictures and posting them on the Internet, either, but it's okay, I want to share them and I mean to do it with love.

Japanese people

Every trip to Japan calls for a trip to Kamakura. Currently in Japan, there seems to be a big boom in miniature poodles of this brown color, I think because they look like teddy bears. My mom wants one (I'm not sure to what degree she's being ironic-funny because Oji is so huge [friendly, but huge]) so she coos at them when she sees them. This woman seemed kind of social, like she wanted people to notice her teddy bear dog, so my mom asked if it was okay to take a picture (so this is not a "stolen image.") I wanted it to be a shot of the two of them but the woman held herself back a bit. I loved the woman's look--compared to other people, she had the aura of a "celeb." When we took the picture, she said to dog, "Aren't you lucky, they wanted your picture!" Somehow this strikes me as classic Kamakura. People are naturally cool about everything, including their wealth and dogs and the city's rich and long history. Just a giant Buddha statue and tons of old shrines and temples people love to visit, no big deal.
Halfway through our trip, my mom and I remembered we needed to visit the family grave. We spoke with the temple's aging priest, wandered around my mom's childhood neighborhood, and stopped by this lovely little coffee shop, "Coffee Yama," right around the corner from the Koganecho train station. They love their cigarettes--a sign at the entrance almost boasts that there are no non-smoking seats. (Non-smoking areas are increasingly more common these days; GyuKaku was all non-smoking!) They sell them at the register, too, including some Che Guevara variety. When we walked in, we were greeted by Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator." The interior is very Showa--1970's-80's, dark, kind of comfortably cramped. I thought it provided the perfect scene for strange characters to meet in a Murakami Haruki novel. Most customers were by themselves, but these ladies were chatting away. They had apparently ordered Coke floats and were delighted by their arrival. 
This lady, even in her train-nap, is not pleased. This was on the Keihin Kyuko (KeiKyu) line, which is *so cheap*! How could this woman still be mad? She even has an end seat and no one next to her! Just an obnoxious weirdo across from her, taking pictures of her and posting them on the Internet.
While waiting for Naomi at Sakuragicho, I noticed a kid on a payphone. That means he doesn't have a cell phone. I loved the expression on his face while he waited for someone to pick up on the other line. He seems serious and earnest. Also, the Japanese always carry extra bags in addition to their main one (like purses, or in this case, a "randoseru," or the bulky, square backpack elementary school kids carry). I imagine in this kid's case, at least one of the bags is for "juku," or cram school. But that doesn't fit in the giant box-bookbag thing he's shouldering? The other thing is that people always carry "omiyage" or gifts to their destinations, especially if they are seeing or visiting someone. I can see that giving gifts as often as the Japanese do might require extra bags. But what's in the TEPRA bag? 
More stolen images to come.

America is big and dirty!

This isn't quite a fair comparison; it might be like "comparing apples to oranges," which I've noticed my students like to say (which is code for "Why are we talking about this?" to which I want to exclaim "Because it keeps philosophers employed!"). But these are the streets with which I am familiar.

This is a small, two-way street deep inside of west Yokohama. There's a bus route that stops along here. I don't like it when my grandma jaywalks on this street. 
And here is Chicago's Fullerton Avenue. There are two lanes for each direction. Again, the 74 Fullerton bus is probably not the same as the 53 route that runs by my grandma's apartment, but still, we're talking about bus route streets. I don't like it when big families jaywalk on this street.
Since about high school, when I'd return home from Japan, the first thing I'd really notice and appreciate was the high ceilings of American homes. Lately when I return home from Japan, I feel like in addition to things like ceilings and streets, the sky seems bigger, too.
I walked with Mordecai and Mitsu on Christmas morning. We walked along Fullerton, where I took these pictures. Looking at them walking ahead of me, I remember thinking, "Damn, it's dirty here." Still, it is nice to be back home. 

Japan - December 2012

Totsuka, Yokohama
My mom and I visited my grandmother for two weeks this past December. I rarely go to Japan during the winter so some of the experience was rather novel. Naturally, the soundtrack was George Michael singing "Last Christmas" and Mariah Carey "All I Want For Christmas Is You." Reservations were being taken for Christmas cakes, cooked chickens and turkeys, and KFC (I couldn't get fried chicken on the 23rd because they were only fulfilling reservation orders!). It's quite festive, except there's no religious or any real meaning behind it all so it felt a bit surreal. I wanted to see Santa on a cross, but I think they got past that gaffe a while ago.

Aside from experiencing the Christmas spirit, I ate a lot of steamed buns and udon noodles. Other noteworthy components of my experience was the weather--it rarely gets below 40 degrees (F), so it was kind of confusing. I'd get hot while walking or on the train, but it'd be freezing at night. I was also there during the elections and saw the changeover of power from the Democratic Party of Japan to the more conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. I was amazed at the reality of political third parties--some people I know voted for the Communist party; I was rooting for the doomed green "Future Party." The elections made me think about Japan more generally: its (homogeneous) population as a whole, its relation to foreign countries, the war's ongoing effects, the current generation, potential directions for the future. I often think about these things here and there, but it wasn't until this trip that I've been able to better collect my thoughts.

I'll be posting some pictures I took, mostly with my iPhone, and which were edited with an app called Camera+. I've got more "stolen images" of random people! :D