Hanagasa Dance Festival, Part Two

Ito, Japan. October 2014.

Admittedly, I have never paid much attention to clothing or fashion in particular. There were some small boutiques in Gracia, the neighbourhood of Barcelona we used to live in that created some noteworthy designs, things I liked as art pieces as they hung in the window displays of the stores. Clothing that conjured characters and suggested fictions, clothing for a parallel world recognizable as our own and yet unfamiliar at the same time. But more than anywhere I’ve been, Barcelona included, and with Paris perhaps, as a close second, people in Japan dress. Clothing here, whether traditional or contemporary, or even cosplay, fits and is structured so that I have become more aware here than anywhere, of cuts and shapes and lines and textures and colours and patterns. And movement. Perhaps it is the filmmaker in me, but I am always fascinated by the movement.

Hanagasa Dance Festival, Part One

Ito, Japan. October 2014.

We traveled to Ito for a quick weekend away, ultimately made quicker by the coming of a typhoon, but as we got off the train and began to find out way to our ryocan, we found that the street we needed to walk down had been taken over by a parade. So we wheeled our big suitcase down the sidewalk and fished out our cameras along the way. When we got to the hotel, we found a flyer for Hanagasa Dance Festival. The man at the reception pointed to it and apologized to us. It happens only once a year, he said, we’d just missed it.

Extraordinary Ordinary

Yokohama, Japan. September 2014.

My partner Monna is offering an e-course over at MonnaMcDiarmid.com, called The Geography of Now. It’s a six week course with an exercise every day in noticing, photography and what Monna calls “skinny prose,” a form of narrative verse. Today’s exercise is one I used to use with my photography students. The idea is to take 10 or more photographs of the same object in order to find an extraordinary way of seeing an ordinary thing. It’s a good exercise, worth doing if you’ve never tried it.

For tonight’s exercise, I thought about my favourite wall in Yokohama. It’s not an entirely ordinary object I guess. It looks like there was ivy growing on it at one point, and now the remnants of it are plastered to the wall like footprints or snake tracks. I’ve photographed this wall before, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to really explore what continues to draw me to it.

{I used the same Instagram filter on all of these photographs so that the primary difference between them is perspective.}

Beijing Streetview

Beijing, China. April 2013.

My first view of a new city is almost always in motion, from the window of a taxi cab.

A classmate in university once spoke of her year in India and how it contrasted with her experience of Canada. In Canada she said, the landscape is full of colour, rich green trees that flare up into autumn flames, the deep blues and copper blue-greens of fresh water and glacial lakes, the open palettes of wildflowers. On the other hand, we build in brick and concrete and stone, paint our walls in a staggering spectrum from beige to white. In India, she said, the landscape was colourless, a wash of earth-tones and that, as if to compensate, everything else burst with colour–painted walls and signs and fabrics. Even the food was bright.

I was reminded of that in China. The landscape from Shanghai was a pale monochrome that stretched the length of ride on the train. But from the taxi, details of blue and green decoration danced and gold leaf and the red, the brightest red in the signs and painted characters, the temple doors and arches, an accent and an undercurrent at the same time, not a bass beat but the staff the music is written on.

Mount Fuji on a Monday

There are two views from our Yokohama apartment that I love–the big cloudscaped skies and the symmetrical silhouette of the distant Mount Fuji. And sometimes, on certain evenings in certain light, the two come together and the result is spectacular.