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Japan 206B

What I’ve been up to recently, part two:

Thursday 1 August
On our train rides into town I’d seen a group of traditional-looking roofs amongst the contemporary sprawl. Again with the aid of Google Maps I identified where it is: off I go to Amagasaki. It turns out there are several temples spread across two compounds or enclaves: the most prominent appear to be Honkoji and Kanroji. I spend a couple of hours wandering around taking photos and paying my respects. There’s no-one else around at all even though there are cars parked within the compounds.

Walking back I catch a street festival similar to the one I videoed last year in Sapporo, but this one seems to feature mainly school kids on the shrines and they’re on wheels rather than being carried. I recorded some nice audio as well, with me standing in the entrance to a big garage, the drums and bells echoing round inside…

After lunch I head off to Amagasaki Castle: built in 1617, demolished in 1873, and rebuilt as a museum in 2018-19. It’s only just opened. Mainly I’m scouting shooting locations and I think I’ve found one up on the battlements…

Friday 2
In the morning I do some clothes shopping at UniQlo, a quick lunch, and then we’re off up to Kyoto again. This time we’re accompanied by Kaoru. We get off the train at Katsura and go to a tiny gallery/craft shop/cafe where two of Outotsu’s members, Yuko Tsuyoshi and Motoko Chicamatsu have an exhibition. They are both superb printmakers, but I particularly love Motoko’s work: I even included a couple of images of her pieces on last year’s post on the Outotsu show in Tokyo.

After this—and by now in a small group—we went to Art Spot Korin for a guided tour of the show by Heather and myself. Although principally interested in Hev’s work everyone dutifully and attentively sat through both my films.

Afterwards we had a meal and then made our way back to Nishinomiya, arriving back quite late.

Saturday 3
In the morning I pop up to the post office to send a package back to my children. Much hilarity ensues, but at least I get some use from our Japanese phrase book. Then we’re off again to Kyoto. We go food shopping in Daimaru and then with our booty head to Art Spot Korin for the Mirror party. From about 4:30pm there’s a steady stream of people through the door, lots of our friends from last year turn up, and a great time is had by all.

Well, someone’s got to do it…

Sunday 4
Filming in the Outotsu Gallery with Matthew. Two long interiew/conversation sessions and about three hours of material. I’m using two iPhones as cameras: they’re both recording audio but I also have discrete audio feeds from Lavalier mics onto my Tascam DR-44. Gruelling in the heat: we have to turn the air con off because of the noise from the fan.

As usual in the evening we go out to eat. Matthew joins us. Later I back up, organise, and archive the day’s haul.

Monday 5
Ditto. Another three hours of material. Did I mention that it was hot? Like, really hot?

Tuesday 6
Another trip to UniQlo in the morning: damn those dirty underpants! In the afternoon I filmed a long semi-structured interview with Ritsuwo Kanno and Kaoru Higashi. Another couple of hours of material in the can.

I then head back to Amagasaki and set up the shoot I’d scouted earlier. I set the camera recording and enjoy a very peaceful 90 minutes watching the sun go down and basking in the warmth. A very Zen-like moment of relaxation-with-focus, just revelling in the fact that I’m alive.

After dinner I go out with Heather to begin her new art project, which involves painting liquid rubber onto strips of fine cloth laid out on various surfaces:

Beginning on the top step of Atelier Outotsu, we get maybe 30 yards across the road in front of Kusugawa station when the armed police arrive. Nothing heavy-handed occurs and Heather is even allowed to take up what’s been done so far. However, we are told in no uncertain terms that we must desist immediately and that we must never do anything like this in Japan again.
After some much-needed help from an English-speaking local, an eternity of form-filling, and a constant radio to-and-fro with their HQ, we are allowed to leave. It’s obvious they thought we were hilarious. The most dangerous moment was me surreptitiously taking this photo:

Wednesday 7
Moving day. Our residential tenure at Atelier Outotsu is over and we move into a hotel in Umeda. Not without its challenges. As well as playing a convincing Laurel and Hardy, Heather and I also do a passable “good cop-bad cop” routine which we feel compelled to perform once we’ve seen our matchbox of a room.

One of the assistant managers steps in and smooths the water. A very nice man, with whom Raymond Chandler would have had a Moose Malloy-esque field day: black, clearly of African origin, about seven feet tall, and mellifluously fluent in both Japanese and English (the latter with a sweet Nigerian Kenyan lilt). He plays basket ball in his spare time. Hontō!

Yakitori for dinner.

Thursday 8
Heather’s off to Outotsu. I go to Tempozan, wander round the port for a while, and then visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It’s absolutely heaving but I manage to shoot some useful video. [One of the films I am exhibiting in the Mirror exhibition uses video I shot at the aquarium in Barcelona. Doing this one has given me an idea for another more expansive and sophisticated work which this Osaka footage may end up being a part of].

Afterwards I go wandering around the Tempozan area. I have a couple of close encounters with Cicadas, a quick but reverent look round the Chikko Koyasan Temple Shinto shrine, and am awe-struck by the expressways and bridges around Tempozan junction.

Before heading back to Umeda I walk around Yahataya Park. A group of young boys hector me with what was almost certainly racist goading. I laugh it off. In the distance I could see Namihaya Bridge soaring away to the South. Incredible:

[Those last two images not my own.] Ramen for our evening meal. Phew!

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