Category Archives: Japan

Love the ‘Before and After’ Show from Japanese TV

I enjoy the “Before and After” show on TV Japan. Yes, it’s a home renovation show, but with Japanese construction, architecture, and interior design.

Often the show is about some 50- or 75- or even 100-year-old house, with a lone grandmother living there. The architects do amazing jobs of refurbishing these old homes, and a common theme is preserving as much of the past as possible while incorporating as many modern amenities as budgets permit.

Much of what is torn down is reused, and often in emotionally powerful ways. Japanese construction features extensive use of beautiful wood, much of which can be reused or re-cut.

The architects also honor the departed. For example, items from a late grandfather’s workshop may be incorporated into the modern decor.

A favorite rock in the garden takes a new place of honor in the restyled greenery.

Was a deceased family member an avid ink painter or photographer? A favorite piece may be used as a template for a much larger decorative feature.

Perhaps the house used to be fronted by the owner’s business — a sushi counter or noodle shop — and elements of such are maintained and used in creative ways.

And since these houses are often being improved for elderly persons, many shows depict creative solutions to barrier-free issues.

Japanese homes tend to be smaller than North American ones, so often unique space-saving solutions are thought up.

It all adds up to compelling story-telling that educates and warms the heart.

Lauren Was Before My Time, But She Evokes Memories in My Life

Lauren and Boggie. That’s what most of us remember. But recollections of them together are framed by where we saw them on the big screen. And that brings back memories. . .

I think the first place I saw this movie aside from small-screen TV may have been an old theater In Takadanobaba, Tokyo.

Back in the 1980s Takadanobaba was a haven for students, local and foreign. Cheap dorms, cheap cafes, cheap bars and a dingy, cheap movie theater that ran amazing series of foreign films. The theater is likely long gone by now.

Oh, gosh, my mind is tickling at the answer, but it’s not quite there.

“Waseda Shochiku”? Something like that. Anyway…

I’d walk by the theater every few weeks and sign up for series of Bunuel and other Euro masters. Saw a lot of stuff in many languages that I didn’t understand, but the lighting, the photography, the acting remains in my mind to this day.

it was a perfect place to watch Sam play it again.

Hot damn, a Google search says it’s still alive? Hard to comprehend, but wonderful.

 

Fun Day at Powell Street Festival in Vancouver

We always enjoy the annual Powell Street Festival in what is left of Vancouver’s original Japantown. What was once a vibrant community was dismantled in 1942 with the Canadian government’s internment of Japanese Canadians — many of them Canadian citizens. The festival never dwells on that part of the past, it’s a super celebration of Japanese culture, art, music, food, martial arts, and more.

See my Flickr album here.

Powell Street Festival Vancouver 2014

Toasty Days on Canada’s West Coast

We’re getting some unusually warm weather here in Burnaby, BC.

Depending on which forecast you believe, it’s supposed to hit between 30C to 33C tomorrow. With ocean to the west, mountains to the north, and a valley extending toward more mountains to the east, temperatures in the lower mainland can vary, with a general trend of cooler near the water/west, and hotter up the valley toward the east.

My office is in the basement of our three-story townhouse, and being halfway underground, it tends to be a few degrees cooler than the main floor or the upstairs.

What keeps us somewhat cooler is that it nearly always falls below 20C overnight, so we crank the windows open in the late evening. We usually button up overnight, but we crank everything wide open when we get up somewhere between 6:00 and 6:30 am, and air everything out for an hour or two. That gets the internal temp down to around 17 or 18C, and we then button everything up again until evening.

We’re fortunate to have a forested park directly to the east of us, with tall, mature trees, so we don’t get hit by direct sunlight until mid-morning. In an eastern end unit we don’t get as much sun in the evening, either.

I’ve lived in much hotter places, like New York and Tokyo, and both required air conditioning, particularly with the high humidity and night temperatures that for extended periods would be not much lower than daytime highs. Ugh.

TV Japan Reminds Me of Lovely, Hot/Cold Traditional Japanese Houses

Caught a few minutes of an NHK Japan TV drama that my wife was watching tonight. Sigh.

I really love the look of traditional Japanese houses. I can imagine the scent of the tatami and old wood. The gentle rumbling of the screen doors moving. The gorgeous little rock-moss-and-water gardens. . .

I’d love to live in one, in Japan, for the three or four months of the year that they are comfortable to live in — at least in central Honshu — with my metabolism.

My 14 years in Japan I mostly lived in concrete “mansions”, aside from 6 months in an old, traditional “student house” and about a year in an old wooden apartment building, with teeny rooms, a shared toilet, and bathing facilities a block up the street at the local sento, or public bath.

And I’ll tell you that when I earned enough to move into an apartment of about 300 square feet in a brand-spanking-new concrete “mansion” with my own bath and an air conditioner, I thought I was king of the hill .

From memory of Japanese seasonal patterns, I’d say a traditional Japanese house without modern cooling/heating appurtenances would be comfy, at least for me, for around April-May, and October-November, in the  greater Tokyo area .

Cleaning the Closet, Taking Photos for the Memories

I’ve got amazing junk hanging around. Today I am tossing several Ts and sweats into the rag basket, but I’m shooting them for the memories.

carleton_1984-85First up, my sweatshirt from the Carleton University Bachelor of Journalism program from 1984-85.

Goodtimers_T_frontA Goodtimers T-shirt dating to the late 1980s in Tokyo, Japan. The Goodtimers were an English-speaking jogging club. I met my wife, Yumi, through this group.

Goodtimers_T_logoCloseup of the logo.

Goodtimers_T_backAnd the back.

Goodtimers_sweatshirt_backGoodtimers sweatshirt

Goodtimers_Noble_T_backA special event Goodtimers T, date June 26, 1994. We were aiming for a cumulative 750km in one day around the Imperial Palace moat in Tokyo.

honolulu_marathon_1987_front1987 Honolulu Marathon T. My one and only full marathon. As I recall, I finished in around 4:50, with a muscle tear in my thigh. Shoulda stopped, but. . . didn’t see myself doing more marathons so I really wanted to get this one done. Was limping for weeks.

honolulu_marathon_1987_back

portland_1990A five-miler done in Portland in 1990.

yevshan_frontYevshan Ukrainian Dancers T circa late 1970s? I wasn’t a dancer, but I played bass guitar in their Sweden tour orchestra.

yevshan_back

cymk_1970sCanadian Ukrainian Youth Association, circa 1970s. I was president of the Saskatoon chapter, and the Saskatchewan Provincial Council way back when…

tc_1970sNo, I never attended Columbia, but my Mom did from around 1969-71. My sister and I attended elementary classes at a “free school” associated with Teacher’s College. We ended up mostly home-schooling with textbooks sent from Canada.

I really need to get rid of stuff like this. Stuff that’s been sitting untouched for decades, but I’m a sentimental softy. So now it’s preserved, somewhat, digitally, and yet my wife can be happy that I’m tossing it : -).