Posted tagged ‘travel’

– I would go out tonight

July 17, 2016

What a beautiful Shimizu night to not go swimming. Actually, today was just a “Japan” day, in the best way. On the way to work, from the bus window, before 7am, I saw a man setting out his “Welcome fire 迎え火/mukaebi.” The welcome fires are to guide ancestors home when they come to visit in the midst of summer. The time when they they return to the human world and family is O-bon, and Bon festivals start at varying times around Japan, in either July or August. This is due to differences between the Gregorian and Lunar calendars. Shimizu follows the Gregorian.

The week before was Tanabata, which traditionally is on the seventh day of the seventh month (hence the name), but considering it’s literally the story of star-crossed lovers, the lunar calendar probably would be the more accurate guide for dates. Anyway, Tanabata ushers in Obon, and Shimizu has a pretty wicked Tanabata festival.See some photos at the end of the post.

Tonight, at the time I might have headed off to the pool if I could heave talked myself into it, I wandered out to the Tomoegawa (Tomoe River) Lantern Floating Festival. This is where “. . . paper lanterns are floated down a river, [as a] means to send off the sprits of the dead . . . on the last day of the Bon Festival.” So perhaps that man this morning was lighting his welcome fire for the last time? Or Miho area might operate on different times to Shimizu.

I was also on the way to the supermarket. The lazy drag of geta over the pavement (both male and female, and not super-traditional geta, I think), the casual comfort and beauty of the yukata and jinbei, and the excitement at wearing them, the little kids and families talking and laughing – their voices carrying over the river from the houses that rest directly on its banks, the furin tinkling away as if on traditional-Japanese-culture-cue, and the fish! the fish jumping like crazy all over and through the currents of the river and floating lanterns, were all a part of my stroll.

The street just before the river had an outdoor festival set up with yattai (food stalls), apparently a haunted house, some live music, and lots of people enjoying themselves (especially kids). Open that link in Google translate to get some idea of what was going on. I didn’t venture down the Ginza shopping district, as I’d pushed my way through the Tanabata decorations the week before, and I wanted to see what was going on at the river.

The Tomoegawa festival has a 250 year history, apparently, according to the link above and Google translate, though it was not held for about ten years during the Showa era, due to pollution of the river. Lanterns used to float out to sea (if they wound up in that direction), but they are now collected before that occurs. This year (and most years, I assume) there were five points where the lanterns were released. You can buy them, and write on them. I don’t know if you’d write your own name or an ancestor’s name. If it’s the family name, it’s probably one and the same. There were also the tezutsu hand-held fireworks, but I didn’t see those. The shot below is one I took of tezutsu in Toyohashi.

Tezutsu, Toyohashi, NOT Shiizu

Tezutsu, Toyohashi, NOT Shimizu

I walked to one of the bridges. The one in the photo below, I think, because the picture below that picture also features the kappa. He’s either at the other end of the bridge, or on the opposite side. The second picture is not mine.


Taken from this site.

However, it was nearing 8pm and the sun had set, so it was a lot darker than indicated above. Despite the days being warm and sticky, they’re getting shorter due to the solstice having passed. So, the river looked a whole lot more like the photo below, though it’s shot from further up the river, I think.

This image taken from this post.

Again, I’m using Google translate, but the above link has some more interesting information on the festival.

The supermarket also had a festival-like feel. You should have seen the queue at the toilets, and families were buying whole watermelons.  Maybe for smashing open and sharing at the festival? Watermelon is a very festive-like fruit in Japan. Out of season, whole ones can be expensive, and there are traditional children’s games which incorporate the fruit. Summer comes in style here.

Though not much could be seen from the bridge by the supermarket, a few people still hung out, maybe waiting for lanterns to pass by. I crossed under the two railroad bridges nearby and followed the river to the area closer to the Shin-Shimizu station. People lined the river, though a lot more sporadically than in other places, to a background of drumming, taiko, in the distance. This is the stretch of river that has the beautiful plum blossoms in winter/spring. A lone lantern drifted along the current, trying to catch up with its brothers and sisters a little further downstream. A train passed across the bridge. I had no camera at hand this day, as you’ve probably already guessed. You need to lean over a barrier to see the river at this point. Some kids followed my example, surprised to see that I actually was looking at something they thought worth looking at, if only for a second 🙂

Fireworks started up, a fair way from this area, but still pretty. The traditional kind, not hand-held. I was walking away from them. The drumming stopped just about as soon as I got to the temple (and other side of the river) that they played across from. Kids and teenagers lit smaller fireworks down side streets. Local neighbourhood-watch-dudes in the blue uniforms of some kind of officialdom, and none a day under sixty, sat back and chatted – the surge of the crowds all but over.

My walk finally took me to one of the bridges about two kilometres from the river mouth. Here people also gathered, looking down at the water, wondering which lanterns would make it, saying goodbye to those already gone. Folks on boats and on the river’s edge fetched the lanterns, and blew out the candles if still lit.

The next big event is kappore and the minato matsuri, which is the big Shimizu fireworks’ festival.


Not my photo. Kappore. Taken from here.

These tanabata pics are mine though. We’re lucky in Shimizu – there’s usually a light breeze blowing in from the sea which helps diffuse the humidity. However, I think the local folk have the right idea. Take the party outside and enjoy yourself, and the humidity just becomes part of the general atmosphere––laidback and cheerful.





– encounters 7 & 8

February 8, 2016

A long trip to Nagoya and then Toyohashi, via the local and express trains, to visit the doctor, get a haircut, and to then catch up with friends.

The best quote I heard that day was I find that a body that is in motion, stays in motion. True dat. And for things that matter, I could be in motion a whole lot more. I agree fully with reflection too. It is the habit of stagnation that I often need to break.

That quote was from my lunch partner, a guy who’s constantly in motion. After I said goodbye to him, it was time for a haircut and then a walk around Takashi Park with a very heavy backpack. That evening I met some other very good friends. Below was the lovely wine that I had maybe just enough of, but maybe a few too many of as well.


Sharing good times with good friends

Encounters 8 began with a desire to clock up my 10K. I needed some agave syrup from a store in the large shopping mall, Bay Dream. I decided to walk it and then head along the cycle path that goes from the corner where you decide whether you want to go into Miho proper, or head along the Strawberry coast.

I have actually walked along that stretch of road from behind the university, along the coast (the Strawberry road). But it’s in a recess, so no chance to see the strawberry fields, or, maybe I did, but didn’t know, as they’re harvested in winter here, and therefore probably need some kind of hothouse.

In the shadow of this mountain

The journey didn’t start with this view of the carpark they’re digging up, because I’d taken that photo the day before. Maybe it should be encounter 8a. It used to service Seiyu department store. Encounter 8a was also meeting up with some old and new friends in Shizuoka for some very inspiring conversation. Great!

From the photo above and in actuality, you can still see Fuji, but for how much longer? A torii is just to the right. This location, and a guy I saw hanging out at the shrine, is the inspiration for my work in the shadow of this mountain (Mt Fuji, Shimizu). Scroll down if you follow that link.


The entrance to Minowainari Shrine. Two Inari-Kitsune, or foxes, guard the many torii

Anyway, I would have set out the same way, followed the road leading past the workmen digging up the carpark at the beginning of encounter 8, and eventually I followed the Tomoe River most of the way up to the main road. I’d noticed a few large torii off on the side roads the other day, so I wandered off to have a look, and discovered Minowainari shrine, or jinja.

Shimizu’s own little slice of Fushimi Inari Taisha – the famous torii and shrine just outside of Kyoto.

These shrine with the red torii will always be protected by Inari Kitsune, or foxes. Inari is the goddess of

foxes, of fertility, rice, tea and Sake, of agriculture and industry, of general prosperity and worldly success, and one of the principal kami of Shinto.

according to this wikipedia article. There’s quite a bit more info if you follow that link, including the fact that Inari is sometimes a god and sometimes androgynous


I should have taken a photo of this fox’s partner, the one with its mouth closed, but you know, there are plenty shots of these kinds of guardians online.


Instead, here is another view of the same statue.

To the right of the structure, you can see a small kind of shed. In fact, it’s quite opulent inside, and is serving as the main shrine, I think. I thought that was quite unusual, though I could see that the main hall was being repaired.


There’s a festival for three days next month, I think. But I can’t find any information, even in Japanese (my skills aren’t high), as in photos and so on, but maybe it’s detailing some other kind of event.


However, while trying to find images for a Matsuri at this shrine, I found further information about why the structure above is being used. The main shrine burnt down in 2012 after an arson attack.  The two pictures directly below are taken from the Net and show you the fire and its aftermath.


Not my photo. Taken from here . You can read the news story there too, with Google translate (or by yourself if your Japanese is up to scratch).


Not my photo. Taken from here. You can see the same Inari-Kitsune not doing much to protect the shrine. Maybe it was pre-determined?


Three to four years have passed though, and at the beginning of 2016 people placed their wishes on these ema for the New Year, and the days following that. I’m sure they did in the preceding years as well.


One of the older pillars/monuments about the place.


The main shrine under repair, or being rebuilt. It looks as if it’s getting there. Of course, that structure might have existed before. I don’t really know.


This was looking out from a smaller, older shrine to the torii leading up to it. All of the Inari-Kitsune (fox) statues that you can see are pairs, and they seem to range from oldest to newest. The newest being very close to the shrine.

The middle ones had just about lost their faces, though. They were spooky, but I love this aspect of the older statues being kept around and sometimes honoured in some way or the other.


Walking back through the torii to the street.


One of the Kitsune-Inari protecting the shrine at the front. This guy seems to be pretty old.


A large torii at the end of the street indicates that a shrine is along it. This is the back of the torii. It also indicates that it’s quite an important shrine.

The shrine grounds did have a little office with a window for selling good luck charms and so on, and I finally did see an attendant there, but the curtains were basically drawn, and it wasn’t a brisk day for business.


As I left Minowari Jinja I decided not to follow the river to the main road, but took one of the side roads. There seem to be a lot of these older storage houses in the Shimizu/Shizuoka area. Or, I’ve seen three. That seems quite a lot to me. Actually, I just found this article. Their Japanese name is kura, that is, the general name of these warehouses.

Many parts of the country were really flattened in WW2, and Shimizu, as a port town, wouldn’t have been spared, I think, though I’ll need to research it.


I’m not sure if this says what used to be stored here, or if it is the “mon,” the seal, of the family.


The back view with a fruiting mikan tree.


The walk up to Bay Dream along the main road is fairly unpleasant, due to being industrial, and the roar of  traffic, despite a bay being on the left, but obscured, because it’s in frequent use. However, between all the factories and shops there is a cycle way.

It’s not particularly attractive, but it is quieter. Also, from across the biggest mall-type shopping centre in Shizuoka, you can often get good views of Fuji, such as above. Though the day was obviously misty.

Once you’ve walked past Bay Dream, and taken the path into Miho, it becomes very pleasant, surrounded on either side by residential properties. Many folks were out walking their dogs, cycling, just taking in exercise.

Because Miho is on a peninsula, the bay is still to your left only you can see it a whole lot more clearly at times than when first leaving Shimizu. It’s on your right too, but you can’t see that from this pathway.

After about 2km, I finally decided to take the “walk of the gods” (kamisama doro), a lovely wooden promenade leading to the world heritage listed Miho no Matsubara. That meant veering right from the path I was on. I’ve taken photos of it before, so none here, but that link will show it to you.


Okay, okay! Too much text. This picture is from the net, and therefore is not mine. View it at the link in the paragraph above.

Once at the beach, I turned right instead of left (the views of Fuji are to the left, and there is a well maintained path through the pine trees), walked through the other set of pine trees and along the path running parallel to the beach.

I turned right at the university, cut through and then walked down to the bus stop to take me back to town. I didn’t take any photos of the ocean that evening either, even though it was in good form. I’ll give you a sunrise pic instead, from about three weeks ago.

Sunrise across Suruga Bay – only connected by location to this post – taken about three weeks ago


The pines of Miho no Matsubara. Again, another sunrise photograph, taken at the same time as the photo above. I wandered through similar pines, though not these ones for encounter 8.

– encounters 5b & 6a

February 5, 2016

The beginning of this post really belongs to encounters 5. The Verkehr Museum, near Shimizu Port, is currently holding an exhibition of Taku Tashiro’s work. He’s an illustrator and graphic designer. The exhibition is interesting enough. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it. However, if you were combining checking out the Shimizu Port area, it’s worth popping into. Admission is only 400 yen and it runs until the end of February. The Verkehr has some really interesting exhibitions detailing the port history of Shimizu, and there were also some very lovely impressionistic/abstract etchings from a local artist. I’ve misplaced her name(card).

Encounters 6 begins with setting out to walk inbetween Shimizu and Okitsu station. You always think, easy, right? I’ll just follow the railway lines. Except they go places you can’t go. The easiest way to follow them is to be on them, which, in Japan, would probably result in death, considering how well they are utilised. Not really an option. Google maps, or GPS and so on, direct you to the most boring, car-ridden path you could possibly take. So, if you know the general direction, then follow the tracks when you can, if you don’t have to double-back too much, and there are lots of hidden pathways and opportunities.

Along the main road, maybe the old Tokaido Road, is the Zagyoso Musuem/Villa. A reconstruction of one of those elegant older houses you often encounter only as reconstructions. It belonged to one of the wealthier members of Okitsu, and he was visited by many dignitaries, etc. Not really my cup of tea, but entrance was free, the grounds and house were lovely, and if you like matcha and ice-cream, it was available, though maybe not on a mid-weekday. I was out walking to see what I’d encounter, so there was one thing.

As I wandered along I came across the Seikenji temple. According to virtual tourists, train spotters like it because the Tokaido line runs right in front of it. Which it does. Apparently, according to the link just prior, a shot of a train passing under the bell tower is well sought after.



That brick wall was beautiful, mainly because the red brick is so rarely seen in Japan. The temple overlooks Suruga Bay, and the horizon would be the ocean if not for the elevated highway that divides the vision.



The photo below details some further information about the temple. The temple was also a crucial in terms of negotiation between the powers that be and foreign powers/ religious interests, particularly Korean, throughout its history. It must have boasted stunning views once upon a time.


I was the only one in the grounds, though some workers were labouring in the nearby haka (cemetery). A monk sang while I overlooked the grounds. Very peaceful.



I love the depictions of the 500 arhats / rakan/ boatsatsu / bodhisattva that you can see depicted within Japan. Enlightened folk, in other words, who have reached sainthood, nirvana, possibly, but who come back to earth to help out the mess and mass of we bumbling fools. Of course, they’re quite often bumbling too.

Recently I saw Takashi Murakami’s depiction of these 500 fellows at the Mori Art Museum. The information I gained there was useful to understand the different personalities, facial expressions, foibles and achievements of the arhats. I visited a number (500?) of these at Nihon-ji, just outside of Kurihama. That’s a trip well worth doing. It’s detailed in this very long post from a previous blog of mine (there are a lot of photos!).

Anyway, I didn’t expect to see them. It was a delight to come across them, and to wend my way up the mountainside where I was abruptly met with a locked gate. So, I didn’t wander too far. But that gave me more time to check out the arhat who seemed to be having a pretty lively conversation with one another. I liked them so much, I’ll post a number of pictures to give readers some idea of the variety.







My favourite. This one has the Buddha inside the Buddha. Or the pure heart is shining forth.





This guy is very mellow.





The temple from the back. That’s Suruga Bay in the distance.

And here’s Murakami being an arhat at the foyer of his Mori exhibition.



Stay tuned for encounter 6B.

– nothing is nothing unless it involves a lost passport. day 2, after breakfast

August 18, 2015


Yeah, not this kind of passport. And we switched to a silver logo. I didn’t notice.


This one. The Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015 Passport gives you access to all the artworks, and it has plenty of spaces for stamps. Without the passport you end up paying quite a lot for individual exhibitions and entrance to art hubs, such as the Nohbutai centre.

On my solo journeys I have never been so careless, as in, I never have been, not that I have, but with K, both in 2009 and 2015, my passport was not in my possession for a period of time.

2009 was probably more problematic. We were on a tour with a set time. We’d had lunch at Cafe Reflet and I’d talked K into taking a few unauthorised minutes to see


Reverse City (my photo from 2009), and had set my passport down as I took photos.

Like your daggy aunt with her best spectacles on a chain around her neck,


I also make sure I pick up a little passport holder that I can hook over my neck in a similar way to prove both my dagginess, my train-spotterishness, and my practicality, it has to be said.

However, it gets annoying. I take it off. I set it down. Especially in summer where sweat is a constant creep on all parts of your skin.

Luckily K is a marathon runner. From where the bus left to where Reverse City sways in the wind is a moderately steep 4 or 5 minutes away, at a run. There it sat. It was returned. I thanked K profusely and berated myself.

This time we saw


Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom


Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom


Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom.

That image is the right side up. He covers everything in gold and makes amazing wall collages from it. Check out this post to see what he did with the Matsudai Castle in 2009.


and we saw Shinji Morino and Kiryubu’s Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!

Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!


and we spent time at Masahiro Hasunuma’s Dream of land – twelve short stories, twirling flipbooks.



Notice that bag on the table? That contained my camera and my train ticket! That one I did not forget, but you can see why I might.

This picture is taken from the art field site, and shows you the contents of one of the twelve flip books shown above. Each flipbook reflected a month and season in the Echigo area, and each flipbook told an animated story about it as you turned them around. Very cool.


Looking out from the building housing the flipbooks


Furthermore, we saw Passing through the umbilical cord, by Asayo Yamamoto,


through which we passed,

You could pick one piece of fruit/vegetable if it was ripe, leaving a 100 yen donation. You entered the installation from portable steel steps leading up the top underside roof of a kamaboko, and then you clambered down the other side. Okay, Google tells me that kamaboko is Japanese for surimi, or seafood extender, which is


a semi-cylindrical shape, such as the storage sheds. Therefore, I don’t know if the locals call them Kamaboko, or if, as the titles are “Kamaboko-type”, it’s just a useful metaphor. K was saying it was the word for some kind of fish dish, which surimi is. The above is not my photo.


We also viewed  Satoyama Field Museum Visitor Centre by Musashino University and Tsohihiro Mizutani Lab,


which had unfolded from when I’d witnessed it earlier in the day. A brief sojourn past the car ikebana written about in the last post, and at long last picking up the official English guidebook for the festival (a tenth the size of the Japanese one),  before I realised I did not have my passport with me.

It meant no stamps at Nobutai! Though I’d got some of them previously, and I probably had to get the majority of them in the Nobutai Center, which we didn’t have time to explore within (I much prefer the installations, though the hubs are fun).

I realised I’d left it at the flipbook house, or at least I thought I had. All of these installations were near my accommodation from the night before, Yama no ie. The flipbook house was less than five minutes away from my accommodation, but further from Nobutai.

The night before, K and I had asked a man, bent over and seemingly feeble, yet fixing up vines around the edges of his house, about the flipbook installation. It was after six. Most things were closed. The old man didn’t know, and we resolved to see it the next day. We didn’t know what it was either. We’d just seen a house with one of the art field signs in front of it.  But when we spoke to the researcher staying at Yama no ie later, she recommended it.


Okay, the above is not a picture of the old man at all, and it was taken from this article about the festival in 2012. However, it reflects some of the colour of the area, and considering I didn’t take the old man’s picture, this will need to suffice.

The photographs are posted in the order we viewed the installations, apart from the one below (and the scarecrows). When we walked into the area where the flipbooks were, the installation being in an old house surrounded by equally old houses, we saw marrow drying in the sun.


You need to take your shoes off at a lot of the installations, especially the ones housed in old schools and residences. Dream of Land – Twelve Short Stories was no different.

Because I had so much travel, tramping and time planned, I needed shoes with support. This also meant shoelaces, and some difficulty getting into and out of my footwear, despite my many years in Japan. Curse you Plantar fasciitis!

I had strewn my possessions in the top floor of the building housing the installation, as you saw in the photos above, but had asked K to remind me to pick them up, and thought I’d done a pretty good job of reminding myself too.

However, while pulling on our shoes, looking out at those drying marrow strips, a lady as old as the man yesterday had been – I’m guessing late eighties at the youngest – offered to give K and myself some tomatoes and cucumbers. I’d rested my possessions on a shelf while pulling on my shoes. They had made it to the ground/first floor at least!

I was interested in hearing exactly what was going on, so I joined K when I could, and left my passport behind. Not intentionally. The old woman was an unexpected element. The day was hot. Tomatoes and cucumbers were summer fruits, the lady explained (I’m sure she said kudamono, fruit). We should put them in water, when we could. We should eat them soon. We thanked her and placed them in the back of the car.

K rescued my art experience again, pulling into the residential area (a no-no. I would have been fine walking up) – and fortunately the festival was not in full swing. There it was – my way and means and entry into the visual, aural, tactile and other art delights that punctuated the Echigo landscape. Still resting on the shelf. We explained ourselves to the lady who was still pottering about. She shrugged her shoulders, it happens. Then we went on to visit the loin cloths and birds in a shrine. Tori near a Torii.


The entry to A story of birds and Korato, by Maki Kijima. You can see some birds by the top of the steps.

– giving thanks for some of the things we did

December 29, 2011

The photos don’t cover the half of it.

Chicago has amazing architecture. I visited it for the first time with Dave, Summer 2010

We got to Sydney in August 2010, and spent a week in Darlinghurst

Next stop was two or three weeks in Perth, to visit my family. I took Dave down south.

Melbourne, full of bookshops and cafes, saw us stay in Carlton for about a week.

We went (I think at my insistence) to see the leaves change in Leavenworth, WA, 2010

Second trip to Chicago, a week before I left, saw me seeking out a Louis Sullivan building

A visit to the beautiful Sleeping Lady, let us see Leavenworth in winter, 2011

I was just in the WA for 3 weeks, but Dave managed to take me to Vancouver for my first taste of Canada

I disn't write up the summer trip to WA, which included 2 trips to Canada (one solo), and a trip to S.W. Washington, and many cool things in the city.

This is Dave in the “House of Light”, in rural Tokamachi when he visited me in Japan.

– more to follow

September 17, 2011

An Inuit Inukshuk on top of Mt. Whistler, Canada

I took a trip up to Canada, taking the Amtrak Cascades line, for a weekend (leaving Monday evening). I flew into Whistler on a seaplane and took the Rocky Mountaineer back to Vancouver.

Elroy on the stairs

It was great to see this little fellow. He’s such a sun dog, and soaked up the rays every chance he got. He spent long days on the driveway, lying in the rays that Seattle only seems to emanate in summer. Even if it was a little overcast, he’d stay on the verandah. Unusual for him, as he certainly likes the sun, but he likes his comfort more!

Flying in by seaplane to Whistler Village

Surrealist exhibition at Vancouver Art Gallery

Between Yakima and Kennewick, Washington State

We visited Dave’s uncle in South-Eastern (? – central? ) Washington State. Strikingly different landscape to the North-West. Beautiful weather and scenery.

The motor would not start. We’d pulled into a MacDonald’s just on the outskirts of Zilla – a fair way from the next big town, Yakima. We needed a tow back to that town, then Dave’s uncle came all the way from Kennewick (a fair drive) and picked us up. It was the starter motor. We were back on the road the following day.

Elroy couldn't fix the starter motor, but he made sure that we got to where we needed to be

The best little navigator out! No need to fear while he was on the look out.

Kennewick Sunset

The bridge in the distance really was quite prominent. Not in this photo, though. The i-phone is not good at definition, especially when dusk falls. That’s the Columbia River, by the way.

Seattle from the Gas Works Park

Dave and I went here because I hadn’t visited it yet. The weather was great, too. He’d bought a kite in Tofino, Vancouver Island (Canada – pictures in another post), and we were hoping that the wind was up. It wasn’t, but other hopefuls were out. In the Zilla carpark, though, while waiting for the tow, the wind was blowing a gale and Dave had some kite-flying fun.

People Floating on the Horizon

Dave, and Elroy and people walking along the highest point in Gas Works Park. Elroy and I had just returned from a walk around. Dave had given up on the kite.

Elroy taking in some high culture

– a thousand

January 11, 2011

child amputees in Basra alone*.

Beautiful walk this afternoon. My walk usually takes about 40-50 minutes but I had a bit of extra time, so I pushed it to the 1.20 mark, maybe a little more, a little less. Six p.m. was the starting time. By 8 p.m. there isn’t much light in the sky, so the sunset was part of the journey. I walked a little past Glen Forrest.

There used to be a mill in that area, in fact, before it was named Glen Forest is was Smith’s Mill for some time. However, some of the land around there was developed as a vineyard by Richard Hardy (I think). It was called Glen Hardy Vineyard, and he also ran a nursery. Some picknicking Frenchmen murdered him after some kind of altercation over a bottle of wine. Hon-hon-hon. I might be making the last bit up, the wine bit I mean. Maybe Richard didn’t like them being on the land. But it is a late-1800s story lost, as the hills so often are, into the small suburb of a small town of a huge, empty, state story.

A movie could be made. Similar movies are made. But some places have magnetism that makes them exude and bristle their own kind of confidence and chutzpah (don’t forget to throw in a splash of class), to which the rest of the world gravitates like swooping magpies to glittery, slippery objects (Chicago), and the stories from these places are told, even if similar, obviously lesser-known, occurrences happen elsewhere at a hundred times the magnitude.

Other places are kind of quiet and hermitage-like and fringe-dwellerish, and they like it that way (Perth, Seattle, outer hills suburbs of Perth). There is always a bit of wildness in the eye of the fringe-dweller. Maybe it is his own form of twirling under the bright lights of a big city. Maybe it’s the difference between getting murdered by French picnickers or gangsters. What were French picknickers doing in a British colony in the late 1800s anyway? Adventurers and those seeking to better their lot have been around since salt has been a trading commodity. Do you think that Lot did trade in his wife once she turned into a saline pillar? Maybe there was just no time if he was fleeing.


I am a girl from the hills, the foothills of Perth. The Eastern Hills. Tim Winton in Land’s Edge, and Robert Drewe in many of his comments and writing both state that Western Australians are defined by their relationship to the sea. I think both guys grew up near the sea, but the sea is about an hours drive away for me, and though it was always a heady, bubbly, wave-dumping treat when I was a kid, it only defined me by the fact that I didn’t often go there.

The pool, yes. Bilgoman pool which catches the easterlies swooping in from the eastern states, and was always freezing cold as a result (though it is a warm wind, but it has the night air to sluice through, sully and muss). It was surrounded by Marri trees. Not a Norfolk pine in sight. Even trips there could be sporadic, though, but a bus-trip, if you managed to get one, was only 15 minutes or so after the 15 minute walk up to the highway.

honky nuts

But the hills. The magpie who was having some kind of squeaking conversation with the branch and leaves and nuts and trees he was on and surrounded by. The honky nuts still hanging on the tree (unlike the ones in the photo above), the marri laden with them, waiting for the 28 parrots to empty them out, fly elsewhere, and reseed them once they’d defecated.

The grasses all caught in the light with silvers and purples and gold. The red dust of the track, the dust that swirled below the sun when I shielded my eyes. The hills are what I know.

The wetlands area which, due to these dry dry times, showed a stunning white floor with small quartz rocks, similar to the glare given off from salt lakes – that was new. I hadn’t walked that far before. I wasn’t aware it was there. And there were still reeds and rushes, and the mosquitoes would come out in those patches where some water from the underground still obviously flowed, even if at languid a beat.

It was a treat to find that – to find something new along a walk I have been doing for so many years, but along which I hadn’t extended myself for some time, and definitely not that far, which wasn’t all that far – I do go bush-whacking occasionally, but that is off-track, and this was on-track, but I just turned around at a later point.

That is travel. That is the joy of walking. That is the joy of finding out about places as you wander around. You deliberately look up a guide to find the huge Baha’i temple in Wilmette, Chicago, or the Picasso statue in the city, and they are wonderful – but the extra thrill is the huge park which overlooks the ocean-like Michigan lake; the extra thrill is just how close the Miro is to the Picasso, just how amazing the architecture of the Chicago Temple Building with the very tall spire – access to which was closed the day I visited unfortunately – is.

The Chicago Temple building photo from here

The extra walk along the steep roads of Matsudai following the path of all the art installations of the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial in 2009** – and seeing the hills drop away: at one stage the beautiful terraced rice fields (tanada), later in the season, leaves sewing the colours of autumn. Yet, you wandered those streets, took that literal high road so you could see the house that had made an art installation out of silk worm casings; so that you could see the rose petal bowls of ikebana writ large. Random wanderings bring random joy. Lavender bulldozers in the midst of roadworks . . . why not?

ikebana house

Ikebana House

I thought the sunset wouldn’t be anything much, as there wasn’t any cloud. But as it set a little over and beyond the Darlington post office, it was a pink, red and orange, surely green, as that somehow makes up fire, ball of beauty. The pollution , not so much, but present, made sure that pretty streaks feathered the face of the sky.

Darlington Post Office

* According to an interview heard here
**If you are interested in the wonderful art from the triennial, you can search for tags “Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial”, or “art” or something similar in this blog. Also, at my photostream, if you go to the collection “art”, you will find sets which contain photos, and which have links to as much information as I could find at the time.

– there are

July 13, 2010

a lot of squirrels in Minneapolis, baby bison and prairie dogs in Medora, North Dakota, and slugs in the garden, Kenmore, Washington – and it is cold. While the rest of the States gets to experience summer, spring finally arrives in Seattle. It will get me acclimatised for Perth’s winter.

– from one continent to another

April 5, 2010


The river near here, Seattle.

My absolute favourite - Gardens of Meiji Shrine, March 22, Sunrise

The river or slough near here - Seattle

Meiji Jinja Sunrise, March 22nd

Half moon - Seattle

The Gardens of Meiji Shrine, March 22, Sunrise

– a preponderance of moo and it’s all a matter of attitude

March 8, 2010

What I’ve been up to the last few weeks. Should be packing and not on flickr. Seem to think I should start packing once I’ve uploaded all my pics. And then I go out and take more.  Where’s the sense in it all. Know not I.

February 20, Tokamachi Snow Festival

I am still uploading those pics, and they can all be seen (the ones I have uploaded) here .

February 23, Department night at Kansuirou Onsen. Beautiful and lots of fun.

March 1st. A lovely farewell dinner with a friend. Totally spoilt. Everything gets paid for and no-one will brook any dissent.

March 6
Train trip to Mikawa, Akiha Park (Niitsu) and the Niitsu Art Forum. I wanted to take a boat cruise on the Agano River, but my guide book was incorrect, and they weren’t running from the train station I got off at. There are only about 10 trains a day on the line (20 if we count to and fro), so I was lucky not to get stuck there.

Still, it was very beautiful and I took a cruise the following day. I’ll put photos of that one up later (haven’t uploaded yet). I ostensibly went to Akiha to see if some of the artworks from the Niigata water and land arts festival were permanent, but it was such a lovely park, and huge, so I got lost just wandering around. Then walked into Niitsu, to the forum, to Niitsu again, then back home via Niigata.

– saturday’s face

October 3, 2009


Though Osorezan represents a journey through Hell and across the equivalent of the river Styx before reaching paradise, and though it is especially a sad place for those who have lost children, in that they are lost in a kind of limbo until their parents can join them (as the legend/ religion has it), I find these two figures very peaceful. I think it is the green, the rain, the repose, and the fact that they are outside.