Sunday, January 23, 2011

It keeps snowing

I think that it has snowed everyday for the past two weeks, at least! The following pics are from Takayama, and the nearby village of Shirakawa-go, which is famous for it's traditional architecture. It's also higher up in elevation and has over 6 or 7 feet of snow cover!

Perfect timing! Snow falling out of a tree...

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Friend

While reading in my favorite cafe yesterday, this little guy hopped up on the couch and sat right next to me! It's the owner's pup.

Friday, January 7, 2011

New Work! Again!

Additionally to my recent furniture project, I just completed this line of teapots!

The project can also be viewed on my website:
It has also garnered some recent press and is featured on my favorite design blog!!

The three tenets of Wabi Sabi philosophy are "Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect." While my furniture project focuses on notions of permanence, this project focuses on the idea of perfection.

Here is the full project description:
       "A series of teapots questioning perfection as an end-goal and exploring the relationships between textures and between mass-production and handmade.
       The parts of the teapot that one comes into contact with are streamlined, smooth, and easily mass-produced. The body, however, is handmade and wheel-thrown, unglazed and rough. The unglazed ceramic body is easily capable of becoming well-seasoned after repeated use; which is a prized quality found in old teapots. The wooden fixtures, which get handled, are able to develop a richly aged surface and patina after repeated use.
       The lids, which also serve as teacups, and the handles, both made of oak, are a standard size and shape and can be produced in multiples in industry with ease. The ceramic body is thrown by a potter who simply must make the rim and handle plug the same standard size. Besides these two requirements, the potter has complete artistic freedom to create the teapot in any shape or dimension."

I also wanted to somehow elevate pottery, which is widely considered a craft, into a mass producible design that simultaneously pays homage to the handmade quality that makes wheel thrown pottery so great. Watching my pottery sensei at the wheel has been quite an inspiration. He can thrown 30 identical bowls in well under 10 minutes. This type of production pottery, while requiring a much higher level of skill, is far more efficient than many other types of mass production. Plus, being handmade, the pieces he creates have more of a soul. Because of the human element, handmade objects are almost always more valued than anonymous mass-produced objects. It is surely because of the knowledge of an origin. When you know where something comes from, you are far more apt to respect it. The more knowledge of the origin that is know, the more respect it will harbor. Walking down the aisle of a Walmart, you are bombarded by labels and ads for products that do a great job of distancing you from the real human element of the product and speak to you through clever and shiny advertising. If you knew the actual nitty gritty details of the factory in china where the ipod that you just bought was made, which has an alarming rise in suicides because of poor working conditions, you might think twice before supporting such practices. The final product that appears on the store shelf is wholly removed from its origin. There is a lot of dishonesty that is ingrained within mainstream material culture. I hope and aspire to provide an attainable alternative to this unfortunate norm.

Hiroshima and Miyajima

After New Years, I had a few days free before I needed to head back to Takayama, so I decided to make a few stops along the way back to town. Jenny joined me for part of the journey!

The first stop was Hiroshima. Despite its tragic past, Hiroshima today is a vibrant city. Here's a pic from the Hiroshima Peace Park.

One particularly interesting display in the Peace Park is the origami crane memorial, which is comprised of thousands of paper cranes.

The 'A-Bomb Dome' is one of the city's most famous landmarks, and a somber reminder of Hiroshima's past. It was directly under the blast, so amazingly the walls weren't blown out and the dome still stands.
The local specialty in Hiroshima is a regional take on Okonomiyaki, which is a type of pancake with a bunch of other ingredients mixed in. This one is topped with Oysters.

Hiroshima had a pretty fun lighting display for the holidays, we made it on the last day it was up! It lined the city's main boulevard.

The ferry ride to Miyajima! Miyajima is considered one of Japan's 3 most scenic views!
The specialty of Miyajima is Oysters. We got a few from a street vendor!

The iconic 'floating tori gate' is one of the main highlights of Miyajima. It's pretty spectacular, it is about a hundred feet or so from the main shrine complex on shore.

New Years!

In miraculous last minute fashion, following Christmas in Tokyo, I was invited by my RISD pal, Jenny, to spend New Years with her and her family way down in the Kyushu region of Japan, a speedy 5 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo. It was probably the best reason to finally take a ride on the bullet train, I have never ridden on one before! I headed to a tiny town near the city of Kitakyushu, which is in the southern-most part of Japan.

After I got in, Jenny and I took a perfectly timed walk through the town and over a damn, right in time to experience the worst of a blizzard that was supposed to happen! While the rest of Japan, to the north, west, and even to the south, all got hammered with snow, it somehow missed us. 

The next day was New Years Eve, and following a night of good food with Jenny's wonderful family, nearing midnight we headed to a local shrine to say a prayer and then headed to the temple to ring a bell to bring us luck in the new year, as well as drink sake!

While waiting in line to ring the bell, midnight almost passed unnoticed! A big countdown didn't happen, but the festivities began shortly after!

I happen to catch midnight (00:00) on my cell phone! (Yes, my background is NYC... The sales guy at the cell phone store thought I would appreciate it).

Waiting in line. Behind Jenny is a huge bonfire!

Next up to ring in the new year!

There were a bunch of different hot foods served at the temple: hot chocolate, coffee, a bunch of different types of hot and cold sake, and a traditional sweet hot sake picture here, with rice still in it!

New Year's Day is a big day as well, I had an incredible and HUGE meal with Jenny and her family that went on all afternoon!
Also I tried this incredibly opulent new years sake, with bits of gold leaf in it!



Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What I Just Ate In Japan Vol. 6

Mochi filled with red bean, traditional new years rice cake, from a street vendor.