Archive for June 2009

 
 

A Visit to Old Edo

Yanaka Cemetery /City View, Tokyo photo by JBGThis district was one of the few in Tokyo to escape most of the destruction of the 1923 earthquake and WWII bombing. There are many old wooden houses, shops and temples. In addition, there is a lovely old cemetery and many Japanese style mansions. I had a lovely time getting lost in the warren of narrow streets.
The photo is taken from inside the cemetery with a view of Tokyo skyscrapers in the background.

Japanese Toilets

Washiki (traditional Japanese toilet)This may not be appropriate but who am I if not inappropriate.

I have experienced two types of toilets while here–the washiki and the washlet. The washiki is the traditional Japanese squat type toilet, named for the
position one assumes to use it, squatting down facing the hooded end of a usually porcelain trough. The washiki is considered more hygienic and wastes less water than a Western toilet, but using one can pose several problems–missing the trough altogether, splattering yourself or falling in the trough.

At the other extreme is the washlet which looks very much like a standard Western toilet. However the add-ons are positively Star Trek-esque. Washlets come with a heated seat, bidet with buttons for front or back spray, controls for temperature and jet power, as well as a dryer. There is also an “etiquette” button that provides flushing sounds to cover up any straining, groaning or splashing noises you may make.

What fun to use the bathroom in Japan!

First Week In Japan

Meiji Jingu iris garden
Torii (entrance to shrine)I have spent my first week in Japan and it has been filled with new adventures — learning how to master the train system, dancing with Natsu Nakajima, visiting musems, Shinto shrines and buddhist temples. I am enjoying a great deal of “ma,” a Japanese word that means both space and time. What a pleasure to have the leisure to dance, walk, read, write, eat or sleep at my convenience. Thank you NC Arts Council for this luxury.  I am learning to enjoy being lost or confused, to just wander and to not understand.

Natsu’s classes are most challenging. She studied with both founders of butoh, Kazuo Ohno and Tsatsumi Hijikata, so she has many ideas from both of them plus a great deal to offer from her own vast experience. She is 66 and struggles financially to survive in Tokyo as do most artists everywhere. Outside of Japan, in the butoh world, she is considered a master. I only hope that she will receive her due in her own country in time.

I visited Meiji Jingu, a Shinto shrine dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. Shinto is called Japan’s ancient original religion, and it is deeply rooted in the way of Japanese life. Shinto has no founder, no holy book, and not even the concept of religious conversion, but Shinto values, for example, harmony with nature and virtures such as “Magokoro,” a sincere heart. In Shinto, “Kami”  (divine spirit) is found in  all aspects of life — in mythology, in nature, and in human beings.  The shrine is surrounded by a forest of 100,000 trees from Japan and the world all created through volunteer efforts by the people. It is an oasis of cool solitude in the center of sprawling, noisy, fast-paced Tokyo.

Arrival in Japan

I finally arrived in Japan after a 6-hour flight delay due to volcanic eruptions in Russia and Japan.  After a 2-hour train ride,  I arrived at my hotel in Yokohama. My room is very little and cute; I feel like a giant. The bathroom and kitchen are right across the all and everything is clean and neat. I have internet in my room for free, so since I have lots of time on my hands, I will be able to keep up with email and ashevillebutoh posts. Tonight I will take a workshop with Yoshito Ohno here in Yokohama, if I can find the studio. On Monday I will take a workshop with Natsu Nakajima in Tokyo. I am most excited about these classes and will share more later.

Preparations for Travel

I’ve got my new computer ordered and my packing is almost complete. I am trying to take as little as possible because I have to schlep it all.  Every day I learn something new about Japan or butoh. I am making friends on the internet as I research housing, workshops and travel I look forward to meeting them when I arrive.

 

publicity photo for "out there out here"

publicity photo for "out there out here"