Month: April 2013

Kuge Crafts (Teshigotoya Kuge) launches new website

teshigotoya-kuge_new_website 旦那の両親が教室を再開しました。手仕事屋久家で、絵画や楽焼や金継ぎを教えます。企画支援もあります。様々な年齢や国籍の人が集まります。私は教室で、最近エアプラントの植木鉢を作りました。杉並区の新高円寺の近くです。お気軽に見学にいらしてください! My in-laws have relaunched their art studio as Kuge Crafts, or Teshigotoya Kuge. They are still teaching pottery and also now kintsugi (a form of decorative repair for ceramics), drawing, and jewelry making. The studio is near Shin Koenji, in Suginami ward. The teachers welcome students from all countries and of all ages. One thing the website doesn’t mention is that delicious cake and coffee are also served at every class! If you’re interested, please call or drop by! Thanks to graphic designer and former student Jessica Mantell and front-end developer Kai Bansner, we made a new website for the studio that is formatted for smart phones, PCs, and tablets.

A woman walks her pet turtle in the rain, at a Koenji shopping street

Turtle_Look_Shoutengai_Koenji

長いあいだ、東京に住んでいるので、もうおどろくことはないと思いました。けれども、高円寺のルックという商店街で雨の日に、亀と一緒に散歩している人に会いました。亀は足を前方と後ろに動かして、頭は見回しています。

亀は濡れているのがきらいだと言いました。だから、オーナーはタオルで亀をふいてあげます。こんな都市の動物と人間の友情はすばらしいと思います。

Sometimes, I think nothing surprises me any more in Tokyo. And then I see this lovely woman walking down Koenji’s Look shopping street with her pet turtle. The turtle looks like he is swimming in air, legs reaching forward and back and eyes taking in the surroundings.

The human guardian explains that she is carrying this towel under her umbrella to wipe off the turtle. Apparently, her turtle does not like to get wet! Thanks to both of them for adding some cheer to a rainy day.

The captain and crew shut the door of the Ogasawara Maru

officers_departure_ogasawaramaru

船長と他の制服を着た乗務員が小笠原丸のドアを閉めます。今回で、小笠原の写真ツアーは終わりです。また今度、もう一度、小笠原丸に乗りたいです。

I thought there’s no better end to this travelogue about Ogasawara than this photo of the captain and crew getting ready to shut the door to the ship prior to departure.

Strange Tokyo Bay view of working ships

towing_tokyobay
東京湾の中で、ひき船とクレーンは海の商業のしるしです。

There’s something very unknown and exciting in seeing working vessels in a modern harbor. Returning to Tokyo, in the foreground is the Ogasawara Maru’s light fixture. In the center of the frame a tugboat pulls a barge with a giant crane. The vista is wide open, and the sea moving at its own pace.

Elaborate send-off ceremony on ferry’s departure

flotilla_departure_ogasawaramaru

小笠原から船が出るときに、儀式があります。陸上では、はっぴを着ている人が太鼓を演奏します。港では、小さな船がたくさんついてきて、さよならのあいさつとして、皆一緒に海に飛び込みます。

When leaving Ogasawara, there is an elaborate send-off. Men, women and children in Shinto happi jackets pound drums and ask for a safe voyage. A flotilla, including kayaks, fishing and diving boats, follows the ship through the harbor. And as the boat nears the edge of the open sea, in a scene that all the regulars seem familiar with, people in the small boats dive and jump into the sea in showy unison.

Truly, this is the most jolly transit send-off I could imagine.

boat_deck_departure_ogasawaramaru locals_drum_departure_ogasawaramaru boat_departure_ogasawaramaru

Fallen leaves are purple, gold, silver, and rust colors

fallen_leaves_chichijima

3月に落ち葉を見て、驚きました。紫色や金色や銀色や錆びたような色です。小笠原の季節と東京の季節は、全然違います。

I was surprised to see these fallen leaves in March. I guess subtropical Ogasawara’s seasons are very distinct from Tokyo.

Only recent human history: American, Japanese, American, Japanese ownership of Ogasawara

cave_chichijima

小笠原の人間の歴史は二百年くらいしかありません。第二次世界大戦のトンネルもアメリカの教会まだあります。

What’s surprising about Ogasawara is that there are no indigenous people. First settled in the mid 1800s by Americans who departed from Hawaii, the Japanese seized it during their colonial expansion, retaken by the United States after World War II, and then returned to Japan in the 1970s.

There are numerous reminders of the war. Inside the many hills you still see dank tunnels created for the island’s defense. Apparently there was no land war here, unlike (somewhat nearby) Iwo Jima. There’s also this incredibly forlorn-looking, Saint George church in the main port village. I love how the entry walkway does not meet the current sidewalk.

It’s odd to be in a place with such little human history. The English name for the islands, Bonin, is a mispronunciation of the Japanese words “no people” (bu nin, or mu nin).

american_church_shu_chichijima

Giant tree fern with unusual trunk

tree_fern_chichijima

森林生態系保護地域のなかで、「丸八」という木生シダが見えます。巨大な木生シダはニュージーランドとサンフランシスコを思い出します。

Inside the fenced-in Nature Sanctuary, we saw this lovely native fern tree.

Stylish Tokyo dog in a wetsuit on Ogasawara’s Miyanohama beach

dog_wetsuit_chichijima

砂浜で会ったおしゃれな東京の犬はウェットスーツを着ています。3月の海の水はきれいですが、まだ寒いです。

I had a nice chat with this dog’s owner at Miyanohama beach. It turns out she lives 1 or 2 kilometers from me here in Tokyo. Her orange windbreaker was almost as stylish as this incredible dog wetsuit. I think he needs a surf board. In March, the water is still cold so I guess this is also practical.

Native palm trees in Chichijima

Noyashi_Chichijima

小笠原に自生するヤシの種類は二つあります。ビロウヤシはうちわ形の葉があって、辺りの植物より背が高いです。ノヤシは羽のような葉と木の幹に金の輪があります。

Ogasawara has two native palm trees. Both have very simple common names in Japanese: biroyashi, which means fan palm or Chinese fan palm,  and noyashi, a feather palm that uses the “no” of Nakano, which means field or rustic. The noyashi has beautiful, almost golden leaf bases on its trunk.  Below, in a nature sanctuary on the east side of Chichijima, the biroyashi rise above the low scrub on steep cliffs.

Biro_yashi_Chichijima

Finally on land, in Chichijima, after 25 hour boat trip

cove_rocks_chichijima

やっと、小笠原の父島に着きました。東京の中で、一番遠い場所です。「遠隔地」と呼ばれています。火山で作られた島は大陸につながっていませんでした。だから、自生する動物と植物がたくさんあります。タコノキという植物がタコみたいです。

A large crowd meets the ferry in Chichijima. Small hotels meet their guests, locals welcome their returning family and friends. There was even a steel drum band. Once on solid ground, in an island with a full-time population of about 2,000, you feel that you are in the most remote part of Japan. Well, certainly, it’s the most remote part of Tokyo.

What makes Ogaswara islands a world heritage site is that these volcanic islands have never been attached to a continent. Many of the plants and animals are unique to the islands. There’s been a lot of effort recently on Chichijima to control feral populations of goats, cats, and rats that are disturbing the  local habitat.

Local nature guides showed us around the island by day and by night. We learned about some unusual plants and even saw giant bats with “tanuki” faces. There are many beautiful coves with clear water, and steep hillside walks. Below is the takonoki tree, or octopus tree, named because of the shape of its aerial roots and branches. It also creates giant, nubby fruit.

takonoki_octopustree_chichijima

Uncoupling the containers signals that we’re getting close to port

cargo_prep_pre_arrival_ogasawaramaru
次の日の朝10時ごろ、運送用コンテナを止めていたワイヤーがはずされました。やっと、港が近いと分かりました。

It’s about 10 am, about 24 hours into the boat trip, when I notice this worker uncoupling the containers. We must be arriving in port soon. Behind the worker and the containers, that’s a lot of ocean!

Colorful tourists include a few dogs on Ogasawara Maru ship

colorful_seniors_dog_ogasawaramaru
おしゃれな日本の観光客が多いです。小笠原丸に乗っていた犬もリボンを着けています。

 

I love how well dressed Japanese tourists are. Even the dog is wearing a bow.

Unfortunately, on both the outbound and return ship, the weather was too rough for the early morning captain’s tour. We’ll have to go another time to catch the tour.

What second class cabin looks like on the Ogasawara Maru

second_class_megaroom_ogasawaramaru
小笠原丸の2等船室は、若い人だけがたえられそうです。私には勇気がありません。

I think the massive shared rooms in second class are probably best suited for college students and the young. A quick peak made our efficient and utilitarian cabin seem very posh.

Matching camera and photographer camo raincoats

photographers_ogasawaramaru_ship

大きいカメラとカメラマンは同じカモフラージュのレインコートを着ています。

These guys were prepared for cold weather, and spent hours monitoring the sea for birds, dolphins, and whales.