Finally

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This book has been five years in the making. It is about all the gardens I visited in Japan from 2007 to 2013. It contains most of the photos I took in the gardens along with maps and other ephemera. I probably finished the text block in 2014 or 2015. Since then it’s been wrapped in plastic and sitting on a table in my workroom waiting for covers.

My first bad decision was making the word GARDEN in French knots. Sometimes I enjoy embroidery; too often it’s tedious and boring. So the fabric, thread and boards have also been sitting on that table for the last five years.

The book is huge. Two hundred sheets of paper 8.5 x 14 inches plus about 50 additional folded pages for the maps and stuff. Altogether it is more than two inches thick bound with three brass screw posts (Chicago posts). My second bad decision was to pad the covers using quilt batting. It only added a few millimeters of thickness but made it much harder to cut the holes for binding. I had to drill three 1/4 inch holes through the text and covers. I have a Dremel tool but it won’t hold the 1/4 inch bit. I improvised using a hole punch. It was an awful job.

This is book number 90.

Book #89

I have been going to almost every protest held here in Pittsburgh, particularly the climate crisis strikes. On October 23 there was a conference about shale gas (fracking) addressed by POTUS and a protest. Many of the speakers were indigenous people from protest groups in other states. They came a long way. Unfortunately not so many people came who had only a short distance to come.

As I stood there, with all of these wonderful, articulate people, and not enough response, I lost hope. Five minutes after I returned home I wrote the words that became #89:

Who will mourn the earth
Where is the wake for the animals
What is the prayer for the birds
Who will sit shiva for the bees
And who will say Kaddish for us

 

The words stay in my head and I repeat them again and again, a prayer for someone who never prays.

Book Cover-

When a close relative dies we are supposed to tear our clothing. In practice, the undertaker pins a black ribbon on our clothing and slashes it.

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We sit shiva, mourning, for up to a week.

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We say Kaddish, a prayer to remember who we have lost.

 

I have been lazy and remiss

in posting about my books. I told about Maurie’s book, No. 87, but neglected 85 and 86, which are fold books and 88 and 89, both accordion books. The fold books begin with square pieces of card stock folded into four squares. I actually made four different books but they are so similar I’m counting them as two. Three of the books are images of reflections, one is a staircase.

Light art board covered with hand decorated paper

Art board covered with hand decorated papers

Reflections in Pittsburgh, New York and Japan

Reflections in Pittsburgh, New York and Japan

Text on bottom of carousel

Text on bottom of carousel

Stairway carousel fold book. Pictures taken at our book exchange party since I no longer own it.

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The two accordion books are quite different. The first one, which I made shortly after I returned from Japan contains photos of Mt. Fuji, mostly taken from the workshop. The cover is one of the prints of Mt. Fuji I made in the workshop.

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I will tell about the second accordion book in my next post. Soon, I promise.

Last days

We returned to Tokyo on Saturday. I immediately went to Beaver Bread for my bread fix. Much as I love being in Japan the food gives me considerable difficulty. Too much salt. After a couple of weeks I get waterlogged and my diet tends to regress to yogurt, bananas and good bread, if I can get it.

Effectively the workshop was finished, but we had a few more things to do. We were scheduled to go to an art show opening on Saturday evening. First we went to a special shopping area. On our way we saw this wonderful little parade, complete with drumming. This is the second one I’ve seen on this trip. Not sure what they are about. The first, which was at Sensoji Temple, clearly had something to do with sake, since there was a huge cask of it on the float. 

The art show was in a building that was formerly a middle school, now occupied by galleries and some tech start-ups. The opening was at the Mi-lab gallery, the people who ran our workshop. 

On Sunday I went to the Nezu Museum, which has a huge garden I had never seen. It was filled with trees, almost a forest but with many interesting stone lanterns. Although I enjoyed it, I would never have fallen in love with gardens had it been the only one I saw.

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I spent the remainder of the day wandering around Ginza and a little time in Ueno. 

Yesterday, Monday, was our last day. As a group we went to Team Lab borderless, a huge hi-tech installation. It was very exciting at first with all of the colored lights and movement, but somehow, after we were there for awhile, I wanted more from it.

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From there I went to another garden I had never been to: Kyu Shiba Rikyu. This was a truly special garden and I fell in love all over again. It was the perfect ending for my trip.

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May 24

is my birthday. I have celebrated each year since my 80th as a gift. This year my celebration was to go to Japan again and go to the workshop. It has been a great birthday and everyone at the workshop helped me celebrate. Without Nicolo, our teacher and translator, it would not have been possible for me to participate. Our workspace was on the second floor of the house and none of the stairs had bannisters, without which I don’t climb stairs. Nicolo helped me up and down the stairs, each time with great patience and love. He also gave me a charming birthday present.

Our Sensei, Chihiro Taki, let me buy a print from her at a lower price. She wanted to give it to me, but I could not accept such a gift. I love the print and only wish I could afford to buy one of her large prints. I did not even ask the price.

Erin, Katie and Yoonmi went out of their way, and made it all possible for me. I don’t like to be needy and special, but I have begun to need help under certain circumstances. They have been very kind and loving.

Everyone at the workshop sang Happy Birthday to me, and our hosts brought out slices of a melon for our dessert. This is a rare treat in Japan. And another rare treat: Fuji was visible all day and from everywhere I went.

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Since I finished printing on Thursday and wasn’t inspired to carve another block, I spent the morning working on the blog and then went for a walk down to Lake Kawaguchi.

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After lunch I went upstairs to look at my dried, finished prints. This is the first time I have ever done any printing like this. I enjoyed doing it but will probably never continue. I don’t have space to set up a studio and I’m too deeply immersed in book making and computer graphics. As I began working I knew I would have no standards for this work. To properly carve the woodblock and print an edition where every print looks more or less the same, requires strict attention to every possible variable: carving clean, deeply cut negative space; the amount of water on your paper; amount of pigment in the color you mix; amount of nori you put on the block along with the color. My carving was never deep enough; too much pressure on the hands. My paper was too wet or not wet enough. Each of my prints is different. I am happy that I have completed work to bring home, never mind quality.

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We had a big show and tell. Everyone worked hard and produced amazing work considering we had only a short time to work.

 

 

 

Takayama

The sun was shining and I walked around Takayama all morning. On the way to the morning market I stopped at a temple and found the oldest, and largest Gingko tree I have ever seen. DF62457E-6E69-4F97-B507-C451D00CD51E37584335-A53E-4B51-AB92-94BB3AFB4A60644ACFF4-0A3C-4BC1-BB3E-4E34857A886A

The market is held every morning along the river. I didn’t buy anything but enjoyed the walk.

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As I was leaving at noon, I bought a small bento box for lunch on the train. The train was late again and I missed my connection. I got on a local train; changed to a second train; finally connected with an express and got to Matsumoto about 2 hours later than I expected. But I did get lots of pictures.

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May 13, Last day in Kyoto, last night with family

Steve and Charna went on a long bike ride over much of Kyoto. Robin and I went shopping, together and separately. She’s a great shopper; I am not. I decided I wanted a cane. Robin has been helping me climb stairs and navigate other tricky walkways and I am having more difficulty this trip than in 2013. It seems like a long time ago and I was certainly in better shape.

We all met up for dinner in another Okonomiyake restaurant in Pontocho, which seems to be filled with restaurants.

Afterward, to my surprise, we went for ice cream to celebrate my birthday. Actually, I’ve considered this entire trip a birthday celebration. When I reached 80 I decided I would celebrate every birthday; generally with a party. This has been an amazing celebration and I will celebrate again in 2 weeks when my actual birthday arrives.

These were some of the parfaits that were offered. Mine was chocolate and more restrained.

We had a fun conversation with a Japanese man who had been all around the world and now worked as a tour guide in Kyoto. And I would have had none of this had I been alone.

May 11, Temples and shopping

I have been to most of the temples, shrines and gardens in Kyoto. While the family went to Fushimi Inari, which entails a lot of climbing, I went to Kamiji Kakimoto, an elegant paper store where I had made an amazing purchase on a previous trip. I bought a small roll of paper, not too expensive and easy to carry home. Only recently I began to use it for bookbinding and decided I needed more of this amazing stuff. Before I left Pittsburgh Karen Gerhart told me it was a special Kyoto paper. It is indeed special, strong and light; great for tabbing sheets together. I will be going to paper stores in Tokyo as part of the workshop I’m taking, so I only bought one other paper roll and an interesting manuscript book, intended for calligraphy but I think I will find another use for it.

I had a long walk from the subway to the store and passed antique shops, furniture shops and some other craft places. After making my purchase I had lunch in a non-fast-food place, no English, not even the prices, and I chose my lunch from the models outside the door. It had a large piece of shrimp tempura, two tempura string beans and lots of rice with possibly egg, cheese and something else. It was good, but remains a mystery.

Met the family at Konchi in Garden, a sub temple of Nanzenji. They had a great time climbing at Fushimi Inari. Charna and Robin bought fox masks, the fox being the guiding spirit for Inari shrines.

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We went into the Nanzenji grounds, looked at some of the buildings and did lots of people watching. Finally took a taxi back toward Nishiki Market, walked around looking at shops, found the canal at Pontocho, then headed for Sou Sou, where Robin wanted to do more shopping.

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On the way we came upon this wonderful Rube Goldberg machine for making bean paste cakes. I wanted to stay there all night.

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Last day in Tokyo, May 7

And first day after Golden Week, so everything back to normal. We all felt the need to do laundry. Our little house has a washing machine but no dryer. The nearby laundromat had wood paneled walls and all the machines we needed. It took all four of us to figure out how to do it, but mission accomplished, we went for a walk along a nearby canal and found a tiny almost hidden shrine.

Laundry finished we went to a wonderful vegan restaurant, Nagi Shokuda, for lunch

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Where everything was delicious. Then onward to shop. Charna went off on her own; Robin and I went to the Asics store and Steve went to Meiji shrine where he did not shop.

Robin has a terrible time finding shoes to fit and usually has to order online. Today she had the pleasure of actually trying on several different shoes in the store and buying two pairs. I think she would have bought three but began to worry about getting them home. She and Charna are both able to find clothes that fit here. I don’t usually bother looking.

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We walked in Harajuku for a while then met up with Steve and Charna at a Starbucks on the sixth floor of Tokyu Plaza where I took most of the pictures above. As you enter the Plaza there is a mosaic of mirrors to look at as you rise three floors on escalators. Coming out of the elevator, which you have to take from the fourth floor, you feel like you are in a garden, or they call it a forest. And the Starbucks adds to the charm.

Steve and I headed back and had the Tokyo rush hour experience on three trains leading us to more fully appreciate our first days here being Golden Week. We bought sushi at the train station and all of us had dinner in our little house.

Monday, May 6

Charna went off on her own while Robin, Steve and I went to Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, a huge green space in the midst of a densely populated area, an oasis of quiet with a formal garden, a landscape garden and a Japanese garden.

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From there we went looking for a vegetarian restaurant. While I planned the trip overall, Robin has researched veggie restaurants. Not easy to find here. This one was on the seventh floor of Isetan Department Store. Robin had trouble believing this would be good, but I was hungry and tired of walking and persuaded her to try. We were seated in a lovely outdoor garden and the food was great. I had a salad with locally grown vegetables. Tokyo has an urban farms movement. We finished at Isetan by touring the basement food section where I got a real baguette. When I was here previously I frequently found myself looking for decent bread. The Japanese prefer something that resembles Wonder Bread but is even spongier. On previous trips I was able to get real bread in some French bakeries. This trip I’ve found fewer bakeries with more items that look good but definitely have the preferred spongy texture.

Finally, totally wiped out, I returned to our little house leaving R & S to explore on their own.