japan

10 Years After, Grapefruit Blossoms

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

10 Years After, Grapefruit Flower 2015

 

More than 10 years ago I was slicing a grapefruit it half with a kitchen knife.  I don’t recall exactly when.  It may well be more than 10 years.  There was really nothing unusual about it until i looked inside one of the halves.  There, imbedded in the grapefruit’s flesh was a seed that had already sprouted.  I had never come across a seed that had sprouted inside a citrus fruit.

I took this as a good sign, and I planted in a small pot.

The plant grew and grew over the years.  I gradually transferred it to bigger and bigger pots in a nice sunny place on my Tokyo patio. For years, there was only growth.  No flowers.  No fruit.  Just some oddly shaped grapefruit leaves.  Perhaps two years ago three blossoms appeared on the tree only to be swept away by the strong bay winds.  I was ready to give up on the tree and chop it down.  I thought that after all these years perhaps this tree was just infertile and would never bear fruit.

This all changed this spring.  When the nights began to warm and the new green shoots were sprouting forth, that is when I noticed the little white bulbs.  Not just in one section of the tree as they had been a few years ago, but they cover the tree. The white flower’s sweet scent filling the air as I water the garden.

As spring will quickly become summer I pray that some of these flowers will hold on with all their might and transform themselves into fleshy grapefruit but that is greatly out of my hands.  I only tend the garden.  There is only One who can do that.

I am truly thankful that I waited and waited.  Now I can enjoy the sprouted seed from all those years ago from that halved grapefruit.

Analog Slowdown in Kyoto

Monday, September 15th, 2014

Dusk on the Bamboo Path Above Fushimi Inari Taisha, Kyoto

 

It has been more than 10 years since I lasted visited Kyoto.  I was there with my wife and my parents as we explored the city.  There have been shifts in the way I see the world; especially in the way I photograph the world.

Photography is my path to understand our world.  It is not only a way to remember, but more importantly it is the way in which I connect to our world.

I was looking froward to wandering the streets, shrines, and temples with my oldest friend, Jerry.  I was nervously anticipating how I would react and photograph Kyoto.  My approach to photography has grown since that visit with family 10 years ago.

What really surprised me is actually how few pictures I took.  Even though this collection were all taken on a film Contax T3 camera, even the way in which I shot my Ricoh was sparingly.  Images are precious.  I shot my digital in much the same way I used to shoot film and now I shoot film as if it was treasure.

After photographing for more that 30 years I know what I want.  It was fascinating to see without having to snap the shutter.  I enjoyed being in the lovely space of Kyoto.

Eventually there is a limit to how much one can take in of the city.  It is a must to be on foot as much as possible.  There are the “must see” places like Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion Temple), Ginkakuji (Silver Pavilion Temple) each renewed for the opposing Japanese aesthetics.

The most moving Kyoto treasures were the smaller less visited places like Honen En (Temple) or the completely amazing Fushimi Inari Taisha (Shrine) were we wandered around at dusk to the early evening.  Entering into a special space that was as creepy as it was refreshing.

I still know I have only scratched the surface of this city but, on each visit I come tiny step closer to understanding it.

As always there is more to come.

 

 

Double Drinking Felines, Kyoto

 

 

Walking the Dragon at Nanzenji, Kyoto

 

 

Outside Gingakuji (Silver Paviion) Street, Kyoto

 

 

By the Rivers of Arashiyama, Kyoto

 

 

Royanji Temple Rock Zen Garden Corner, Kyoto

In the Heart of the Chiba Jungle, with Monkeys Too

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Cross Step Creek, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

Summer is here.  I do love summer. The heat is relentless.  The storms are fierce, but best of all is the freedom to wander with a camera.

This year my photo wandering partner, Tomo, and I returned to Yororukeikoku.  Tomo chose to bring a TLR to capture the day.

Yororukeikoku lies deep in the heart of dog shaped Chiba prefecture.  A place so unvisited at this time of year, that we passed only to other hikers on a 10 kilometer trail in over 5 hours of time.

It took a bit over 2 hours by train including the double car Kominato line.  We took the train to the end of the line at Yororukeikoku station, snagged the remaining rice balls tow local summer mikans (mandarin organs) from the local conbini and made our way down the road.

The asphalt was streaming hot.  The conversation bounced around until I mentioned that it would be incredible if we encounter some “real” Chiba monkeys.  We both kind of laughed and kept stepping.

The winter storms had wrecked havoc on the paths, and many trails had been closed.  Our first major obstacle was getting around a fallen tree.  Not a big deal, but we would see other trees uprooted, and small landslides along the way.

The path criss crossed a small creek about a dozen times.  Sometimes it took us a minute or two to find the path on the other side.  After a rain storm, I am sure that the path would be even harder to keep track.

Lucky I had been breaking in a new pair of hiking shoes, which kept my feet dry and my ankles from twisting.

The first real rest we took about 2 hours in on the hike was an old homestead built in the 19th century.  All that remained were some of the foundation’s stones, and piles of broken shells and pottery.  It was a perfect place to break out some dried fruit and ice water, and just listen to the sounds of the countryside.
Jungle Hill Homestead with Ceramic Fragments, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

We got back on the train, and we began to ascend out of the valley.  This is when, even though we were in the shade, the sweat began to pour from all of our pores.  We reached the first ridge in the forest when sometime darted down a tree on our left.  At first we both thought a raccoon, but, it scampered rather oddly, it was then we realized it was an honest to goodness Chiba monkey.  My home, I had made in jest, had come true.

But we weren’t out of the valley yet and we still had to climb higher.  After some strenuous moments of plodding forward we reached the top and a small paved service road.  The rest was mainly down hill.

Coming out of a the forrest there were a few small farms ahead.  When a small brown blur bolted across the road.  Yes!  We had seen another monkey.  Not only one, but in the trees and bamboo on our left we could see others jumping about.  I was elated!  After seeing a half dozen snakes, and countless frogs, we had eyed the reclusive Chiba monkey.

They must prove problematic for the farmers, because in this part of the jungle they had fenced in their farms, I speculate to keep the monkeys out.

 

Monkey Tree with Wiresm and Shadows, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

The road leveled out to view rice paddies to our left and right.  The sun was falling and the sky was filling with some cloudy wisps.  The Kazusa-Ōkubo station was ahead.  We had about 40 minutes before the next train.  No one was insight.  This station’s area was the inspiration for the Okubo Nekobus stop in My Neighbor Totoro.
Wating for the Train, Kazusa-Ōkubo Station, Yorokeikoku, Chiba

We rested.  Shot our last couple of pictures, and waited for the train.  The sounds of summer were mesmerizing.  The chorus of cicadas, crickets, frogs, all in discordance harmony.  Not a soul was around.  Except, for the guy who drove up in a car, used the bathroom, then kicked up dust on his way out.  That was it.  We drank some cold water with paintings of Totoro to our backs and waited for the train.

A great day out in the jungles of Chiba.  Something I need to do more often.  I need to escape the concrete jungle for a lush green one.
Rice Paddy with Wires and Clouds, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Rice Paddy to the Hills and Sky, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Rice Paddy with Narita Memeorial Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

Time Heal Scars, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Small Gorge with Stream, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

Art and Technology at Moneytree First Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

Dj Taku (m-flo) Takahashi and Moneytree, Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo

 

Art and technology might seem like they are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to creativity.  This is not entirely the truth.  Ever since human started to mix pigments and other materials to paint they were using technology wether they knew it or not.

Now we jump into the year 2014 and the lines between the two have become more blurred than ever before.  They, in my mind, cannot be separated.  It was at Moneytree’s first anniversary party that celebrated the coming together of code writers and artists of all styles.  Those lucky industry insiders who were invited gathered in a Shibuya basement club NOS ORG  for drinks, music, and artistic exchanges.

I was fortunate to be invited out to this gathering my the founder and chief executive Paul Chapman.  His team has grown from just a handful of members almost 2 years ago to over 30 now.

I am not one for parties and groups.  I never have been, nor will I ever.  I much prefer small crowds.  I personally find it overwhelming to be with so many people at one time.  However, I quickly became at ease and slipped into conversation with the over guests.

The app Moneytree (An intelligent assistant for your money) was voted app of the year by Apple Japan.  An app that keep the used up to date on all their financial endeavors.  Simple to use and brilliantly designed the app has built strong roots in Japan.  So much so that the founding member of m-flo and dj Taku Takahasi has his entire staff use it so he can keep tabs on his companies expenses.

Paul took the mic and introduced the company and welcomed all to the event.  One big announcement was that Moneytree has finally come to the iPad.  After the kampai (cheers) the turntables were turned over to dj Taku.

I watched in amazement of his dance music mastery.  It was was not the hip hop style of deejaying I was accustomed too.  It was just mesmerizing.  Tweaks and tuns of the mixer’s knobs, and scrolling though a playlist on a glowing apple laptop.

I noticed a photographer, Takumi Yamamoto, with an old school polaroid camera on the edge of the dance floor.  We chatted a bit, and we did what photographer do, we talked cameras.  Also, rather than the selfie, we exchanged simultaneous portraits.

It was a great gathering of artistic and technically minded folks.  A real collection of people across Tokyo, and beyond.

download Moneytree for free! from iTunes.

for more info check out Moneytree’s website  Facebook  and twitter page.

Moneytree is a company to keep watch on!

a Big SHOUT out to Paul for inviting me and letting me be a part of the celebration.
Paul Chapman (Chief Executive - Moneytree), Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo

 

 

Dj Taku (m-flo) Takahashi, Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo

 

 

Exchanging Portraits with Takumi Takamoto (山本拓未), Moneytree First Year Anniversay, Shibuya, Tokyo

Tokyo Blizzard of February 8, 2014

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Edge of Tokyo in February 08 2014 Blizzard

 

I have been looking at my phone all week.  There had been a snow mark for saturday since about Monday.  I usually don’t think much about it.  Being from Miami, I do find snow quite intriguing.  So, there we go.  We are suppose to get snow.

As the day moved closer reports started to come in that this is going to be the heaviest snow to hit Tokyo in more than 20 years.  I thought that the snow that hit last year pretty bad, but what was coming out in the news was saying that this was going to be a once in a generation storm.

My kitty woke my at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning cause he was hungry.  I gave hime a bit of food and took a look out the window.  My mid Shabbat the show was beginning to fall.  It was crazy cold out and i jumped back in bed.

By morning the snow was pilling up.  I was worried about my patio greenhouses, and I kept on sweeping the accumulating snow off.

Finally I suited up to go on my arctic expedition around the neighborhood.  It was a ghost town.  Almost no one was out.  A few kids were playing in the snow or trying to sled down some small hills.  It was pretty much just me, my camera, and a warm cap.

Snow has a way of beautifying the city.  Everything becomes the same tonality.  Objects take on new shapes as the bleed into one another.  I was out for more than an hour.  The wind would pick up at times, and the snow being so dry this year blew like a leaf blower across my cheeks.

We, the wife and I, were suppose to go out to celebrate her earth day, that wasn’t going to happen.  I made her a cup of amazake  which is a  a thick drink made with the left over mash from nihonshu (sake) and is usually sweetened and sometimes sake is added to it.

Suddenly she is lets go to Seiyu.  We suit up to make the several block trek to the supermarket.  Her  clear vinyl umbrella blew inside out. We walked down the middle of the street.  Some cars had been abandoned on the side of the road.  The only cars we sway were delivery trucks.  Nothing seems to stop the special  deliveries.    Even saw one guy help push another one’s truck out of the snow.

We made it to the store and back.  Caught some olympics and went to sleep.  The snow was still falling even after midnight.

By morning the snow had begun to melt.  I had trekked to the home center to buy a shovel yesterday which came in handy today.  I cleared a small path on the sidewalk adjacent to my home and cleared off the step.

After breakfast my wife asked me to clear off the driveway.  I did.  I soon noticed all of my neighbors were out to with shovels in hand.  Not just the men, but the women too.  They weren’t clearing their driveways, they were clearing the street.  I was shocked.

I couldn’t give in so I too joined in the effort to clear the street.  After about 2 hours I was beat like i went 10 rounds with Mike Tyson.  But, I wasn’t done yet.  I retuned with a small spade and joined my wife as we cleared the last bit of road that connected up with the one the busses went down.

Before going back inside.  I just stared at the road cleared of snow and marveled.  We did this!  Not a snow plow but a bunch of housewives cleared out streets and sidewalks so we, as the community, could be safe.  That was beautiful.

All and all a very memorable day.  So much snow.  The teamwork to clean the now.  The astonishing amount of snow that came down from the sky.  I don’t know how my people in the colder climates can cope.

Now rest, for tomorrow shall bring muscle aches.
Nagisa New Town Canyons with Yellow Umbrellas

 

 

Frosted Pruned Trees, Kasai, February 08 2014 Blizzard

 

 

Snow Slide, Kasai, February 08 2014 Blizzard

 

 

Riverside Kasai, February 08 2014 Blizzard

 

Reflection at Le Mer in Okitsu Beach, Chiba

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Fog, Praustian View of California in Okitsu

 

Three out of the last four years I have made a pilgrimage to gaze out onto the pacific ocean from rural Okitsu Beach in Chiba.  It is not the most beautiful beach.  It is not the sandiest.  It does have its own quiet charm.

Having grown up in Florida I was surrounded by water, but I never fully appreciated how important the ocean was in my life.  I was always near the water, but I never enjoyed the surf and sand.  Now, having been so far from the land of my birth I truly know that part of my soul is made up of sand and salty water.

This time was rather interesting day.  We arrived about 9 in the morning after a 2 hour drive from Tokyo.  The sun was hot and blazing when I took a little walk as there was time before other friends arrived.  This sleepy little port has a safe harbor that lets out into the ocean.  About 10 minutes into the walk the shoreline was engulfed in fog.  I had never seen fog in Japan before, and I was instantly transported back to my days on the California coast when there were more days with fog than without.

I climbed up a set of stone steps to a small fisherman shinto shrine and couldn’t make out the shore across the small stretch of water.  This is when something caught my eye.  At first glance I thought it was a small dog out in the morning air, but it didn’t move like a dog.  In fact when it turned to scamper up the side of the hill I realized that it was a fawn with a small bushy white tail.  We had out moment together on the hillside overlooking Okitsu beach.

The ocean calms my spirit.  Just to be able to lookout over the rippling waves allows for my heart to be cleansed.  Even with the petrol gurgling of the jet skis I was able to let go of much of the worries that would come back to haunt me that evening.

Even more cleansing than just sitting on the concrete steps gazing out to the horizon, was to be able to submerse myself in the salt water.  The small lapping waves of the sandy section of the beach and the cold under currents of the pacific refreshed my soul as much as it did my sun soaked flesh.

The beach isn’t very long and can be walked at my island pace in matter of 20 or 30 minutes.  My eyes peeled to the heavy grains of sand searching for bits of broken ceramics.  I am still not really sure why there are so many pieces of pottery on this beach but from their smooth edges they have been tumbling in the water for quite some time.  I even found what I first took to be a five yen coin.  On closer inspection it was a bit of Japanese copper treasure.  Most of the writing has been washed away, but just guessing that the coin is probably from the Edo Period ( 19th century).

I felt so cleansed by the time we left the beach.  My soul was floating my body fatigued from being out in the sun, even though we were mainly under clouds and fog.  Then I heard about the Trayvon Zimmerman case.  I wasn’t actually surprised, but I was disheartened by some people calling for violence because of the verdict.  On the other side Zimmerman was being idolized as a hero for killing an African teenaged American.

I started to spiral.  Negative thoughts were entering into a space that I had just cleansed.  I wonder why so many choose hate over love.  Why are Americans so predisposed to accepting violence as a problem solving escapes my grasp.  The feelings were growing I realized that it wasn’t only Zimmerman being found not guilty that was troubling.  It was how Americans as a people are coming to a point were we cannot relate of empathize with each other.  It is like waling backwards into the 1950s all over again.

There is so much trouble in the world, and I did let those troubled spirits into my soul.  It is a constant battle to keep on the positive.  To let go of the hate, the guilt, the pettiness that overwhelms so many of us.  I am thankful that the most high has given me a way of dealing with my introspection.  I am so thankful that I can express myself though the visual arts, and I challenge myself to put my heart out there for others.  If anyone can relate to what I am struggling with, then I know the act of being introspective is proper.

I am thankful to all my friends and family who take the time to reach out to me.  I appreciate the exchange of warmth and ideas.  Even though we may feel alone I know that none of us truly are.

Listen to the sound of the sea.  Let the salty air and water cleanse you.  Make the time to be reflective, and together we can overpower the hate with love.

 

 

 

Okitsu Beach Tidal Canal

Stairway to Jungle

Fisherman with Boat, Rope and Trap, Okitsu, Chiba, Japan

Concrete Beach Wave, Okitsu, Chiba, Japan

Green Curtain Madness

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Green Vined Wall with Weeds and Sign, Ichikawa

 

Using nature to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter is nothing new; however, since the March 11, 2011 triple disaster Japanese have been planting green curtains.  The idea behind green curtains is that the leaves will absorb the sun’s rays, release oxygen into the air, and keep homes and offices cool.  Commonly planted vines are cucumbers, goya, and morning glory.  The climbing vines are planted in front of window that will allow air to pass through, but keep out some the harshest sun.

This was not the case with this little house in Ichikawa.  The entire home has been completely engulfed in an ivy vine that the windows have completely disappeared. The only part of the home that has not  been completely covered with vines in the front door.

I wonder if these vines really keep the home cool?  Greeny green in Ichikawa sounds pretty good to me.

 

Fabrication, Power, Politricks

Monday, June 17th, 2013

Lying Craving Power Eye

 

The Tokyo prefectural elections have six days to go.  The loudspeakers blare throughout my neighborhood, as well, and every nook of massive tokyo.  The promises come.  The lies are spoken.  The picture perfect images are created.  Nothing is as it seems.

Look closely.  Inspect our leaders to the point where the ben day dots break down into their pigmented hues.  There is no truth to be found here.  Only carefully constructed  illusions that will crumble when held up to real scrutiny.

Just another day, another lie, and it is all just politricks.

 

All Gone, All of It

Monday, June 10th, 2013

All Gone, All of It

 

The saga continues.  The hovel is gone.  The trees that reached towards the skies are gone.  The scaffolding and the vinyl is gone.  There is nothing left of the the store that once was.   All we are left with are is the semi-leveled earth.

Last week I was pleased that at least the trees had been spared, but that pleasing sensation gave way to dread as I passed by the location today to find a utterly empty lot.  The tree had been completely uprooted and disposed off.  A larger tree that was in the backyard was only a stump today.

All gone, all of it.

 

The Hovel is No More

 

 

Y Tree with Crumbling Home

Mother’s Day in the Neighborhood

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Concrete Flower Wall Mother's Day

Flowers for all the mothers in the world.  Those mothers that  know and and those that I don’t.  I especially want to thank my own mother Madelyn for being there for me.  Much love to all.

 

We Won’t Believe the Hype

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Not Hand Power

The dust from the snap election in Japan may be over but that doesn’t mean that all is well. People of all shades and character are pretty fed up with government here in Japan.  I, for one, will never place trust in the hands of politricksters.  They are only bound to disappoint us all with their ego, greed, and money.

I place my faith in higher hands.  I place my love in my heart, I try my hardest to lead a good life.  I will take the nonsense that the politrickters dish out to us, and transform it into beauty spiced with love.

Egotistical, nationalistic posters, transform before my eyes into beautiful works of passion.

 
We No Trust Plastic Smile

 

Word Sound, No Power

Momiji Moment of Silence

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Momiji Moment of Silence

The heavy December rains were falling as I made my way in to work on a soggy Tuesday morning.  I was bundled up for the weather as it is my only defense against the cold.  I looked as if the sun would never burst through the clouds, but I was wrong.

Soon after lunch the sun did finally struggle to make a brilliant appearance.  Off to the west the sun’s rays blasted though the clouds while the east was still gray with rain.  The two opposites quietly inhabited the same space.  This is when I found myself wandering through a peaceful temple’s garden gazing at the wondrous momiji (japanese maple).  The colors were reaching their fulfillment as they ripened to hues of burgundy.

The momiji’s colors contrates with the yellow ginko leaves that carpeted the ground.  I was able to steal a moment of stillness.  A moment of just myself enveloped in their hues.  The young children and their mothers no longer entered into my consciousness.  I was at one with the hues.  The hues were as silent as I hope my my soul could be.

 

Losing my Way in Yanaka as a Way to be Found

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Red Door Yanaka, with Potted Plant Pedestal

The lovely autumn light led my way through the winding backstreets of Yanaka neighborhood in the heart of Tokyo.  Most of the buildings have been around since the war, and some actually survived the war.  The streets are narrow, its residents are elderly, and my heart loves this hood.

It really doesn’t matter if I take a left or a right, or even if I end up walking in circles as I often do, I will end up content and pleases with the wandering and gazing.  All of the homes are kept up with pride, small curbside gardens brighten up the narrow paths.

I started off at Sendagi station, and just started walking, I felt like taking a left I did, or a right.  Like I stated, it really didn’t matter, I made my way though Ueno and finally Okamachi station.  I like it that way.  Not knowing where exactly I am allows me to focus in on the moment.  It is only about me, the area, and my camera.  That is it.  It is really that simple.

Getting lost to find my way, on the backstreets, in the heart of old Tokyo.
Showa Building Lithograph, Yanaka

 
Yanaka 6-26 with Gate and Bicycle

Fishing the Ichikawa Autumn Dream Bridge

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Fishing the Ichikawa Autumn Dream Bridge

The autumn has finally come.  Each morning is dryer and cooler than the day before it.  A bridge spans the distance between to place, two ideas, two sides.  As a vision we sit with hook and line slightly drifting attempting to hook the dreams, the dreams we envisioned in our youth.

I stand on one bridge looking out over another thinking back to those dreams of two bridges side by side.  One that was rusted and flat reaching far into the horizon, the other arching up into the sky.  Two ways to cross from here to there, which one I would choose would determine a course in my life.

Here I am thousands of miles away thinking back to the flicker of my mind images as a stranger in a strange land.  Fishing for those dreams, casting the soul into the current. Sharpening the hook to catch the spirit.

 

Let the Light Enter

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Shoji Flower 障子 の花

There is a house on an old street in Urayasu.  The house dates back to the late 19th century and luckily the city of Urayasu has seen the benefit in preserving the home as portal back to Urayasu’s own past.

All of the wood in the home is well burnished to a golden mahogany hue.  The home shows its age just as the rings in a tree’s trunk do.  All sharp edges have been smoothed over as countless hands have slid the shoji (障子) to let in the light and air over the decades.

This day in I as wandered around the home with my students I was struck by this one small corner’s glow.  The light was softly diffused by a patch working of  a flower over a spot of torn paper.  The light was my conduit to Japan’s past that has vanished from daily life.

A time before electricity and gas in the home.  A time in which the only light in the home was that that filtered though the washi (和紙) paper, or by small oil lit lamps.  In this tiny corner of a house that time has forgotten on a street that is rapidly vanishing I glimpsed Japan’s past as the light illuminated a corner of my soul.

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