Tuesday, August 10, 2010

farewell to Japan

It's sadly time to say goodbye to Japan, and with it a whole lot of wonderful friends and colleagues. Our fellow artists threw us a really lovely goodbye party with some of our favorite Japanese snacks , some delicious and thoughtfully vegetarian dishes (!!) and one snack that’s pretty weird even by Japanese standards: cabbage-and-frog flavored puffs (pictured below). They tasted more like okonomiyaki to me, but sometimes it’s the concept that counts.

The party was hosted by our friend Terue at the apartment she’s been renting through the super excellent Koganecho Bazaar, an arts-centric urban revitalization project which buys out the formerly sketchy neighborhood’s brothels and other houses of ill repute and refurbishes them into affordable spaces for artist studios, artist residencies, shops for local DIY crafts, cafes and gallery space.

The former ill repute of Terue’s flat in particular was its connection to members of Aum Shinrikyo, the infamous doomsday cult responsible for the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system, an attempt at speeding along the apocalypse that managed to kill 13 people and left thousands of others with temporary vision problems and other injuries. The history of the place managed to spook everyone quite a bit, especially since several members are still at large. We tried out some of their yoga moves and spent a good part of the evening googling strange youtube footage of Aum Shinriyko’s promotional anime (see video below) and energy dances.

We were given a lot of really nice going-away gifts too – a photo album of pictures from the past month, the two-toed sock version of Hokusai’s famous woodblock print, "the Great Wave of Kanagawa", a DVD of Akiko’s animation, and personalized bandage art from Terada. Some goodbyes were a bit tearful and some were accompanied by a firm agreement to stay in touch and invitations to visit each other in Chicago / other parts of Japan. With any luck, we’ll be back again soon.

I'm gearing up for my requisite week-and-a-half of horrible jet lag now, and will miss everyone a lot. Still there are a few simple things I'm really looking forward to: eating whole grain bread again, having kitchen counter space, and being able to walk down the street to the beach with my Chicago friends and neighbors. Just don't call me after 1 pm, 'cause I'll be passed out on the couch.

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