The first time I saw a construction worker in Japan it was in the early morning at the train station and I thought he’d had a rough night coming back from the club, not that he was wearing a work uniform. The picture to the left says it all. On his feet he wore split-toed cloth boots; in other words, ninja shoes. Who was this guy and why did he look so awesome? He was a tobi, a construction worker.
We have been entranced by this style ever since we saw it. To the Western eye, having excessively baggy pants and cloth, flat-soled shoes with no ankle support seems like a dangerous sacrifice of safety over style. However, there is, like everything in Japan, history and reason behind the madness. Continue reading
During rush hour in Tokyo, if you’re not willing to push your way onto the train, some one else will do it for you. The oshiya, metro workers paid to push people from the platform into the train cars, bare the burden of rush hour rudeness. This system began in the 1970s as commuting trends in Tokyo grew more rapidly than the frequency of running trains. Now perhaps non-existent in Tokyo proper, oshiya can be found in the suburbs in the morning pushing “salarymen” onto inbound trains to downtown Tokyo. Continue reading
Isabella Rossallini directs, writes, and stars in Green Porno, a series of one to three minute biologically accurate short films about the reproductive lives of creatures. The writing is theatrical, the filming beautiful, and Rossallini hilarious. Season One follows bugs and Season Two focuses on sea creatures with creative scoring, dramatic lighting and simple but riveting set and costume designs. Green Porno takes itself and its art seriously with Rossallini’s tantalizing control responsible for both the comedy and dramatic tension. Continue reading
Taking advantage of the hilly terrain in Okayama, Japan, the Washuzan Highland amusement park makes its guests work a little harder for their fun. The Skycycle is a pedal powered roller coaster which runs up, down, and around an Okayama hillside and, like traditional roller coasters, has sections that appear genuinely exciting. The Skycycle’s carts seat two people cycling in tandem on a guide rail. Each cart is equipped with a handlebar, seat-belts, and a little pink basket in front. Continue reading
Legally, there’s often quite a lot wrong with public nudity and the consequences are extremely high if you are a public figure, a member of a popular boy-band (SMAP is like N’Sync circa ’98, we’re talking pop-u-lar), and live in Japan. Last weekend Tsuyoshi Kusanagi scored three for three when police found him loud, drunk, and nude in a Tokyo park. His reported defense at the scene: “There’s nothing wrong with being naked.” For once I found myself agreeing with Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara who felt there was no need to blow this incident out of proportion. However, what is phenomenal is that the Japanese public insists on it. Continue reading
Filed under Japan, Music, News
In the women’s dressing room, a concerted kimono effort was taking place. As if my entrance had startled a flock of birds, layers of kimono flapped in the air and floated down around the necks of my fellow koto players. Two helpers per woman kept the wings up while the wearers’ arms slipped in, the fabric was wrapped and tied, and a third helper stood on a stool behind, up-sweeping the hair in a fashion that screamed prom. Butterfly clips and sparkling feathers adorned the sides of these up-dos. Here, it wasn’t kitschy, it wasn’t tacky. These women, ages 17 to 60, looked elegant in kimono passed down from their grandmothers who wore them the exact same way. Continue reading
Since 2004, Richard Reynolds has been stealing out at night in London, gardening tools in hand, and reclaiming the city’s sidewalks, medians, and ditches into flowerbeds, vegetable patches, and orchards. At the same time Reynolds started a blog about his exploits, which eventually formed into the crossroads of an extant world-wide movement of guerrilla gardening. Last year he published a manifesto on gardening where you’re not supposed to. The self-defined guerrilla gardening movement has its roots in the histories of migrant workers and agrarian communists, yet the modern movement’s motives take it not towards the disruption of its society (as in the case of the Diggers—the agrarian communists), but the beautification of it. What defines this movement above other “guerrilla” movements is its vivacity, rhetoric of growth over upheaval, and above all, art. Continue reading
On Thursday, the Senate came to an agreement on an issue which had become unnecessarily partisan in the past four years: the state of American public service. I don’t know whether this signals a change in bipartisan communication in the Senate as a result of the Obama Administration’s motions towards including the Republican minority or more concrete evidence that the late economic unpleasantness is finally getting Democrats and Republicans to have a concerted dialogue. Continue reading
On the Boy Scout Trail, in the Redwood National Forest, 12 miles from coastal Crescent City, California, and 27 from the Oregon border, an informational sign at the 6 meter wide base of a fallen tree explains that the Redwoods are gregarious trees. Their shallow root system, relative to their massive hundred meter heights, requires them to live in groves. Their long roots grow shallow but reach out to neighboring roots, wrapping and coiling, and eventually growing together in order to support the upright weight of a community of trees which average 600 years old. In May, when Emmett and I crossed the country to meet these trees, I imagined them holding hands underground, fully aware of their reliance on each other.
Yes, that’s right, there is a swirling vortex out there and it is definitely of doom. Currently making a massive galaxy-like rotation in the North Pacific is a vortex of trash somwhere between 700,000 km2 and 15 million km2, most of it plastic. Because of the intense confluence of ocean currents in the North Pacific, trash from all over the world is sucked into this central location. Continue reading