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Trailer for Hiroki film of “Vibrator”

16 Nov

It’s in Japanese, but still very watchable…

And here is a link to a Midnight Eye review.

Boldly confronting one of the most fundamental social problems in post-industrial society (and not only that of Japan), he has delivered one of the bravest and most important films this year has seen. Adapted from Mari Akasaka’s novel, Vibrator‘s wobbly lynchpin is Rei (stage actress Terashima, magnificent), a young woman so lost that the only sensation she feels is the vibration of the mobile phone in her pocket. A single freelance writer (a shaky job if ever there was one), she is consumed by her own thoughts and the voices she imagines hearing inside her head. The real voices of those around her, however, rarely penetrate her shell.

…to be continued.

Article in Washington paper on Sonoko & Akila

25 Oct

It turns out that Akila is in the States not only to teach a round of classes, but is looking for a more local supplier of buckwheat to use in making his soba here. This Washington State paper published an article today about some of their journey, and conversations with WA farmers.


Exciting soba news–and new syllabus!

25 Sep

OK, so we are finally set–and the results are that we are getting two soba chefs, instead of one! Sonoko Sakai and Akila Inouye will join us October 7. He runs the Tsukiji Soba Academy, and will be visiting LA for a short time.

As you probably guessed, this does have consequences for the timing of assignments. Here is a summary–

–paper due Oct 7: you are always welcome to turn it in early;

–class in Office of Religious Life Oct 7 (map to follow);

–assignment for Sept 28=read the Miyazawa Kenji story and the Kajii Motojirō story, and think about magic, referring back to our Tanizaki discussion. Write the blog entry on “magic” and post, using CATEGORIES NOT TAGS “magic”and “blog 3” and whatever tags you want.


I have also added a small section titled “a few words on participation,” so you will have a clear understanding of what that refers to, and how I understand it in the context of interactions in the classroom.

What about the plants, you ask? Good question, since we did not finish transplanting (plants were not ready, yet). We should discuss this on Tuesday–the heat wave is likely to last all week, and when it abates, I think we can transplant in small groups. But given that some time will have passed, and only a couple did this hands-on before, a refresher on how to do it is probably a good idea…

Reading ?s for Thursday, August 26

24 Aug

1.  MAFF video: I recommend watching the video first. When you watch it, it is much clearer why issues of the everyday person’s food and diet are  connected to  huge, national issues. Yoshikawa’s article assumes that people and large policy issues are connected, but her explicit connection is more about farmland (which may be for food, but may be for something else).

Here are the “viewing questions” posted with the YouTube link.

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?

2.  YOSHIKAWA: A question to think about when reading Yoshikawa’s article: why is it a problem, in the writer’s mind, to have a “low food self-sufficiency rate”? Also, how does this compare to what you eat everyday?

3.  FOUCAULT: If you have not read much social theory, this one might be a bit dense. Foucault is a well-known (now deceased) French historian. He starts out by talking about periodization–the past was time, the present is space. He next introduces the idea of a utopia. And then he coins–invents–a new word, the “heterotopia.” The big question is what do his examples have in common, in terms of the special relation they have with the rest of the world? For a concrete example, you might think of the cemetery or the garden…

4.  POTTS: I picked this because it’s fun, and because it deals with how people might transform an overlooked urban space–a garden, not unlike our garden–into something more personal and satisfying. Potts makes a distinction between 2 kinds of creativity, one she calls “cool,” and one less cowed by taste, a heterotopic kind. When all is said and done, would you enjoy having the gnomes in your garden?

5.  BROMBERG (optional): Bromberg tells the story of a case study–a “space of possibility” (a more everyday way of saying heterotopia, with a few differences) from Chicago, Mess Hall. She starts with a basic observation about cities–that it’s hard to find spaces to just BE, without spending money–what she calls “existing spaces for non-market interactions” (215). Her piece describes how the bunch of people who run MH construct an “economy of generosity.” What kinds of benefits does she say this stance has for its participants?

Momotarō jazz opera

20 Aug

This video goes with the class for Tuesday, October 12, on Momotarō, the child-hero of a famous folktale, otherwise known as the peach boy.

It’s a performance from a March 1986 TV program called What a Great Night, hosted by the comedian Tamori.

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Momotarō jazz opera song list


opening credit

:00      ojīsan goes out walking: Charlie Parker, “Now’s the Time”

:24      obasan washes clothes in river: Kenny Dorham, “Lotus Blossom”


:48      look, a peach approaches: Miles Davis, “Milestones”

1:40    ojī and obā break open peach: Thelonius Monk, “Misterioso”

1:48    Momotarō bursts out: Monk, “Blue Monk”


2:02    ojī marvels: Horace Silver, “Sister Sadie”


…some years later

2:20    Momotarō makes his plea to voyage: Bill Evans, “Waltz for Debby”       (

3:38    Art Blakey, from the soundtack to Dangerous Liaisons (1958)

4:27    Momotarō sets out: Art Blakey, “Blues March”

4:57    sendoff for Momotarō: Sonny Rollins, “Doxy”

5:11    on the road, 3 animals: “Five Spots After Dark,” feat. Benny Golson (

5:50    animal alliance: Bud Powell Trio, “Cleopatra’s Dream” (

6:27    Momotarō subdues the animals: Herbie Mann, “Comin’ Home Baby” (

7:00    ahoy, M hits the high seas: Herbie Hancock, “Maiden Voyage” (

7:32    devils on Onigashima: Charlie Parker, “Donna Lee”–Saitō Haruhiko sings here

8:15 more devils assemble: Clifford Brown, “Cherokee” (

8:43    pacification: Charles Mingus, “Fables of Faubus”


9:02    victory!: Miles Davis,  “Round Midnight”


9:13    celebration!: John Coltrane, “Moment’s Notice”


9:47    ensemble: Sonny Rollins, “St Thomas” (






Source: troutfactorynotebook

Japan government video: “Ensuring the Future of Food”

19 Aug

“Food security” is a weird phrase. It may sound like someone is holding a gun to a head of broccoli. But it actually means something like “having sufficient resources to insure that you eat enough healthy food.” The J-government is interested in this issue because despite its super-organic image abroad, Japan imports a huge proportion of its foodstuffs from a very small number of countries, and its diet is changing rapidly to become very processed and less local. Panic!

What signs of “crisis” does the video point to? What does it identify as problems? Do you find the (soothing) nationalism it expresses at all problematic? How does it connect food to topical issues? Does it work through cuteness (the aesthetic), fear (scary prophecies and statistics), or something else?

FUKUOKA Masanobu makes seed balls

19 Aug

This is the method that inspired the guerilla gardening movement. It was started by a green philosopher/farmer named Fukuoka, a partisan of “wild nature” and hands-off growing. He’s the guy with the beard & hip boots you see wandering through.

(It’s in Japanese w/o subs, but I think it’s pretty how-to oriented, and you can see what’s going on pretty clearly.)