Cycle and Recycle

Today Mimi and I went to the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art to see the exhibition titled Cycle and Recycle. it features the artists Takamitsu Kido, Shinji Ohmaki, Pietra Pistoletto, Takeshi Shinohara, Maro Sumi, Kei Takemura, Aiko Tezuka, Eiji Watanabe and Peter Wuthrich. It is an exhibition about the cycles that exist in human lives and artists interpretations of them. Mimi and I decided to go on this particular day because Eiji Watanabe had a performance scheduled that involved audience participation. It was called the “seal painting project.” Seal is the word that the Japanese use for sticker instead of sticker.

Exhibition at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in Nagoya, Japan.

The project involve many children, many stickers, and Eiji. He instructed everyone to use the stickers to decorate some clear plastic pedestals that were arranged in the lobby of the exhibition space. There were numerous warnings not to stick things on actual artwork although putting stickers on other people was ok. We dove right in and started cutting stickers with scissors, putting stickers in patterns and other strange fun. Mimi made clouds and other designs.

Eiji Watanabe presenting his seal painting project in Nagoya, Japan.

There was a short break in the middle of the activity. That enable everyone to see what the other people were doing. Our project, much to the dismay of Mimi, ended up fouled by 3d additions of mine. I put a paper airplane/rocket on a paper stand with paper flames shooting out the back. Mimi thought it looked ugly but, oh well. I spoke with Eiji Watanabe just a bit to introduce myself since I imagine I will see him again at various openings.

Jimmy Kuehnle an Mimi Kato

After the activity we went to eat lunch before viewing the actual exhibition. We ate at a Chinese restaurant. The exhibition was typical without any “Wow!” moments but did not disappoint. Actually, some of my favorite work was that of Eiji. He had some interesting photos of product boxes in supermarkets turned in such a way that the pictures on their covers became a mirror image. Quite an interesting take on modern consumer culture. He also had photos of loves graffiti on boulders in parks to which he added “and Eiji.”

Fulbright Artist Jimmy Kuehnle checking out glass architecture.

Outside the exhibition space was a grand piece of architecture that was called a spaceship. It was a hovering glass plater above a courtyard with a fountain on the top. The edges of the platform cantilevered out considerably. Mimi and I went up to the top even though it was raining. It was a little unnerving to think that you were standing almost 90ft in the air on glass.

School Visit

Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music front sign.

Today I went up to school to see what was going on. I feel settled into my life in Nagoya now and want to get into the art scene. Imai Kinro Sensei was not in but I found some students in the common work areas that I remembered from my visit to the school in May. I asked them if they had any invitation cards to gallery openings and information on competitions. The answers that I got were not encouraging. Responses ranged from “Sometimes there are openings.” to, “I think there are openings in Tokyo.” Nevertheless I collect a lot of art paraphernalia and looked around a bit. I will crack the art scene here but it will take a bit more investigation. When I find it I will drag the rest of the university students there with me.

The Real Moon Viewing Night

Tonight was the actual moon viewing night for Japanese to view the full moon in Autumn. Luckily it was a clear night unlike the earlier moon festival in the woods. For that festival a yellow fan on a stick substituted for the moon. Unlike the US the moon in Japan is yellow not white. Traffic signals are red, yellow and blue. Really the traffic signal is green but the word used means blue.

Otsukimi view of the moon in Nagoya Japan

Mimi and I saw the moon while out grocery shopping. We were by Kojima, which like many Japanese stores has a huge neon sign. It is of a smiling sun. I thought it was funny that this artificial sun hindered my viewing of the “perfect” moon.

Laser Printer COD

This morning a knock on the door signaled the arrival of my new laser printer. I paid for it COD. I had never done that before in the US. It was convenient because I do not have a Japanese credit card to use on the internet.
The printer is probably the cheapest color laser printer on the market. I didn’t expect much more than not shelling out big bucks for ink jet cartridge replacements.

Jimmy Kuehnle gets his new laser printer for use during his Fulbright Grant in Japan.

The quality and speed of the printer pleasantly surprised me. It would be slow in an office setting but in my “office” it is just me so no problem. My previous experience with a color laser printer came from the University of Texas at San Antonio art office. That older and probably more expensive printer at the time of purchase could not compete with my new cheap model. The pictures are not comparable to lab prints by any stretch of the imagination but are perfectly fine for presenting color images in art proposals and applications. I will see how long the toner lasts.

Otsukimi (Moon Festival)

The park I visited on my first day of exploration turned out to be quite the place. After taking Mimi there a day before she decided to do some photo test shoots there for her next project. We set out with photography equipment, her bunny suit and lots of bug spray. The mosquitoes are still brutal here.

Mimi Kato washer her feet after a photo shoot in Seto-shi, Japan.
The photo shoot went well. It was fun watching the expressions of people passing by when the say me taking pictures of a woman dressed up as a rabbit in the woods. Mimi even went into a pond of sticky, gooey mud. We will not know how the pictures came out until they are developed but that is a concern for Mimi.

Traditional Japanese food for ostukimi the moon viewing festival

On our way home we noticed some people washing plates with water from a hand pump cistern. Since Mimi was in the muddy pond she wanted to wash her feet so we stopped by. While she washer her feet we noticed that the group there was cooking rice with an old fashioned wooden cooker. When we asked about it they explained that this Tuesday was Ostukimi (moon viewing). Moon viewing is a holiday in Japan that celebrates the best day in the fall to view the full moon. Ostukimi falls on a workday this year so the group explained that they were celebrating tonight instead. Before long we were invited to enjoy local food, view the moon and hear traditional Japanese music.

Two stringed instrument players from Osaka, Japan
So we went home to change clothes and later in the evening went to view the moon. Unfortunately is was cloudy but that did not stop the festivities. In addition to the moon viewing festival a local festival about cats was also taking place. Many of the young girls had whiskers painted on their faces and wore cat ear hats. The musical group played songs about the moon on Japanese stringed instruments. In Japan the color of the moon is thought to be yellow not white. Since the moon remained behind clouds a man taped a yellow fan to a pole and moved it back and forth over the musicians.

Sea of shoes taken off before entering a building in Japan
The custom of removing shoes in Japan before entering homes and buildings can seem quite humorous when a large group of people assembles. The shoes fan out from the entrance forming a sea of footwear that one must navigate over to enter the building. Such was the case on this evening.

Sushi and Ice Coffee

At the international center there are a variety of Japanese classes. I decided to start going to a class that is held on Friday mornings. This morning I was a bit in a rush so I stopped at a convenience store along the way to get some breakfast. What better way to get ready for Japanese class than with sushi and ice coffee. Now, these foods might not go together traditionally but hist the spot in the morning. Ice coffee is something that I wish was more popular in the US. Hot coffee in the summer time is not as appealing. In Japan ice coffee can be bought for the same price as soda or water.

Sushi and Ice Coffee for breakfast outside a convenience store in Japan

Bicycles are a common form of trasportation in Japan. Just as when many people need to park their car a need for parking lots arises when a lot of people need to park their bicycle the need for a bicycle parking lot arises. Here is a shot that is very prevalent in Japan, a sea of functional bicycles used for transportation. Do not forget to lock your bike though. You don’t have to lock it to anything you just have to make sure the wheels do not turn. Most bikes have a locking mechanism that secures the rear wheel built into the bike.

Bicycle Parking lot near Owari-Seto Station

The Japanese class is put on by a volunteer group. It is very similar to the “Hello Nihongo” class that I had in Himeji. It is only 100 yen for a single lesson. That is about enough to cover copier costs for lesson plans. I will make sure to get my generous teachers something at the end of the class.

Strange depression in a rice field in Seto City

On the way home I noticed a strange depression in a rice field close to my house. It looked as if a 500 pound gorilla leaped from the sidewalk into the field, laid down, and leaped back. Perhaps it was aliens. Most probably it was a rice harvesting machine parked for a few moments, but I still do not know how it got into the field without track marks.

Cable Internet and Japanese Class

After waking up I straighted up the apartment and did laundry because it was a sunny day and I knew the clothes would dry quickly. I put in a good few hours of Japanese studying since the university has not started and I do not have internet access at the apartment.

Seto City International Center where I have a Japanese class.
Yesterday NTT came to the apartment and could not hook up a broadband connection without major construction that would take over 2 months. Mimi called a cable television company and made an appointment to get cable internet installed. A salesperson came to the apartment today and I filled out a service contract. Therefore tomorrow evening I should have internet at my fingertips. It has the option of an IP phone for an additional 325 yen a month so I do not even need NTT. There are a few restrictions, not able to dial emergency numbers, toll-free numbers, and something else but it is a flat rate all over Japan and affordable overseas. I can use a pay phone for toll free numbers and in an emergency I can just run or use the cell phone I will get next week.

Laser Printer that I ordered to print art proposals cheaply.
Making public art proposals and other applications will require a lot of full color printed documents. Instead of spending a fortune on inkjet cartridges, I ordered a color laser printer online today. Should arrive in a few days and with my new internet connection will complete my home art campaign command center. Full speed ahead from now on.

I also went to a different Japanese class tonight. A volunteer group holds it in the Seto City International Center. Luckily there was a level 2 class there that I could join. I studied with a woman from China and a man from Indonesia. Now I feel like I am settling into Seto and am ready to continue my research and work.

NTT, Post Office Account, and Eastern Exploration

Bad news today. NTT is unable to install a hikari denwa (broadband connection) at my apartment without major construction. This morning two line workers came and successfully pulled a line from my phone jack to the outside of the building using a rotor rooter type tool. Unfortunately the tubing leading from the junction box out to the street has too tight of a bend in it and the wire would not pass. The landlord really likes his building and does not want any exterior cabling even though when I signed the lease he said that broadband was no problem. No big deal except that the internet would help my research a lot. I thanked the NTT workers and called Mimi. After some discussion we called a cable television company and inquired about service. “No problem, we will come out tomorrow.” was music to my ears. Good bye public phones outside convenience stores.

Pay phone outside a convenience store
Since the only way for me to contact the outside world is through pay phones, internet cafes and snail mail I decided to go on a bike ride. I live on the eastern part of Nagoya and my part of the city butts up to mountains to the east. Japan is about 80% mountains so there isn’t much that does not butt up to mountains. After about 10 minutes I found an entrance to a state park with hiking trails and recreation spots. Without hesitation I plunged right in. The ride became a bit more intense as I entered the mountains but the scenery rewarded my efforts.

Rice field to the east of Seto City
On the way home I stopped my the local post office to make a bank account. Quite a simple affair that makes banking very convenient because there is always a local post office. Sometimes in a remote place there will not be a branch of your bank but you can always count on the post office.

Yamaguchi Post Office
It began to get late so I went to Maxvalue to get some groceries and went home to cook dinner. Hopefully the cable company will have good news about internet service tomorrow.

Hot Dog Bus Ride To Nagoya

Hot Dog Bus from Tokyo to Nagoya sitting at Shinjyuku Station.For speed and convenience nothing beats the Shinkansen. There is no need to go through airport security and the time from buying a ticket to being on board and moving can be as little as 10 minutes. It is fast, comfy and expensive. For those on a budget nothing beats the highway bus except maybe hitchhiking. Tickets for these buses may also be purchased on the day of travel but it is a bit more of a hassle. I waited too long to buy my ticket and therefore had to wake up extremely early in the morning to ride the Hot Dog Bus back to Nagoya after the Fulbright reception. I boarded the bus pictured here at Shinjyuku Station. This bus is no frills so instead of an on-board toilet the bus stops at rest stops along the way. The trip is longer because of this but not my much. Mimi’s sister made me a bento box lunch which I ate onboard and slept most of the way to Nagoya.

Mori Building in Tokyo

While waiting for a train at Omiya Station in Saitama, an announcement said that someone jumped in front of a train and therefore the trains into Tokyo were delayed. This is a problem from time to time in Japan. To discourage this type of behavior the victim’s family is charged with clean up. This is thought to put guilt on the person before they decide to commit suicide. The JR rail system runs like clockwork, so any disruption affect many travelers across the system.

Omiya Station in Saitama, Japan

We eventually headed towards Shinjuku to transfer to the subway on our way to Roppongi Hills and the Mori Tower. The Mori Tower is a grand piece of contemporary architecture. It leaves a large footprint of earthly bound shops and other money making locals, but the high reaches of its glass spires leave one struck. At the top of the tower is an art museum and a sky view of the whole city. The elevator ride up to the 52nd floor only takes a few seconds popping the ears of all the occupants along the way.

Sky high over Tokyo

The Mori Art Museum had an exhibition on Le Corbusier, an modern architect who had major influence all over the world. Not only did he practice architecture but he also kept up his practice as a painter and sculptor throughout his life. Le Corbusier sought to make modern architecture human and designed with he goal of constructing human-orientated environments in densely populated urban cities. He feared the metric system because he thought that it would make measurements unrelated to the human body. His early principles of architecture included the use of pilots, rooftop terraces, free floor plans, horizontal strip windows and free facades. All of these were made possible because of modern construction materials and techniques. Towards the end of his life he moved away from large urban planning and built a small hut house for him and his wife, Yvonne. he lived out his life there swimming out to sea at age 77 never to return.

Two more tall towers

After the art exhibit we walked around the sky view. Buildings in Japan are not excessively tall because of the threat of earthquakes but ate still tall nonetheless. The contemporary glass construction of the Mori Tower allows one to feel almost suspended over Tokyo and the rest of the world. As I sat on a bench I wondered if the glass would hold if I ran into it full barrel. I assumed it would but the thought “What if it didn’t?” sent shivers throughout my body.