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
Author Archives: Melissa
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
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
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.
I have been living in Japan and taking koto lessons for 6 months. I have a students’ concert in one month and here I am, full of mistakes and cold reading the last part of “Sakura Saukra” in practice with my teacher, Mizutani-sensei. She gets the patience award. Big time. I take lessons weekly in her traditional home. She serves me tea and we bow with an “Onegaishimasu” before we begin the first song of the lesson. Continue reading
On Friday morning the weather was cold and wet. We readied to leave for work half an hour before departure, the two of us dealing out rain gear and debating the need for boots. I was going to meet Emmett at the train station after work and then off to Kyoto with us! We were celebrating our fourth anniversary. Four years of solid high fives, dancing in the kitchen, making instruments out of empty containers, packing and moving, making homes, making food, making friends, and participating in spontaneous a capella eruptions of Joanna Newsom’s “Bridges and Balloons.” Leaving the house, Emmett said, “Our adventure begins tonight!” I summoned Cary Grant, “Our adventure began four years ago.” Continue reading
It’s what every house needs, but no one has done right since the construction of Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Constructed in 1626 as a residence for the Tokugawa Shogun, Nijo Castle is equipped with uguisubari, or Nightingale flooring, that chirps when walked on. Visitors walk through the corridors looking in on the immaculate tatami rooms once used by the Imperial Court, admiring the murals and the woodcarving, and all the while the enormous cyprus floorboards creak beneath their their feet. To dispel the magic, the gigantic nails used in the flooring are designed to rub against clamps and sound like birds in case an assassin should try to sneak along the castle halls. The softer ninjas walk, the louder they creak. This bad cat was not supposed to use a camera in the castle, but here is a YouTube video of the floor in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJThECzA1bc&feature=related
This post is also featured on the Japan page.
In Kentucky we used to walk a mile to Kroger’s grocery store to buy Soy Delicious peanut butter chocolate swirl ice cream. We would bring our own spoons and eat out of the pint on the way home. We didn’t keep soda in the house so that I could take thesis writing breaks and walk to the corner store. Earlier on than that, a few friends and I walked to a creek 15 miles outside of town. We packed olives and bread and apples and forgot to apply sunscreen to the backs of our necks. Our long hikes on the trails of Mammoth Cave National Park and through Daniel Boone Forest changed what we considered “walkable.” Continue reading