Thursday, June 30, 2011

Harajuku and Sugamo

At the end of our trip to Japan, we stopped in Tokyo for a night.  I know that a lot of foreigners are still afraid of going to Tokyo for possible exposure to radiation, but I believe it is safe, at least for adults without children to visit.  We stayed at a hotel right by Mejiro station.  Mejiro is on the Yamanote Line, which is the main railway in Tokyo that goes in circles.  The hotel was close to everything we wanted to go, had lots of shops and restaurants around, and best of all, it was only less than US$100 including yummy breakfast buffet.

From our hotel, we visited two different districts.  We went to Harajuku, which is where young people like to go to hang out at the shops, restaurants and bars.  We went there at night for a taproom that my partner wanted to visit for beer, and it was very busy.  By the time we got out of the taproom, most shops around there were closed.  I loved their mural artwork on the roll-up doors, though.

Another district that we visited is Sugamo, which is known as "Harajuku for the old ladies."  There is a street with a temple with a Jizo (Bodhisattva portrayed as a monk) and shops for older generation.  In comparison to Harajuku, Sugamo is more traditional and less western influenced.

A street view of Sugamo

A dried fish shop

Japanese sweet shop

These two districts are very different in contrast, but we really enjoyed visiting both places.  I guess we are somewhere between young and old.

Wearable Origami

I've been so busy that I had forgotten to post about another new program I am offering at the libraries this summer!  The program is called Wearable Origami, and it's about making jewelry and accessories out of paper.  I will show how to make origami rings, bracelets and other accesories that people can actually wear.  It's a teen program, but it's not too difficult even for grade school age children so younger ones are welcome as well.

I taught how to make the origami rings to my nieces during my visit back home.  They got so excited that they each decided to make a few.

Note: the funny face on their table is of Anpanman, a Japanese cartoon character.  He is a superhero with a face of a red bean paste bun and very popular among Japanese kids.

Here is my niece showing off her sparkly rings.  They are made of metallic origami papers but can be made of gum wrappers instead.  Fun!

I also made an origami fan with my niece.  After she was done folding it, I told her she could decorate it however she wanted.  Within the 10 minutes she had before school, she whipped up a collage cupcake (?) and a bow to go on top of the fan.  I am so proud of her creativity!

Both the ring and the fan, as well as more fun items will be introduced in Wearable Origami program.

Sunday, July 17   2:30-4pm at Holgate Library
Wednesday, July 20   4:30-5:30pm Midland Library
Sunday, July 24, 2011   2-3pm Hollywood Library
Wednesday, August 3   5:30-6:30pm Albina Library
Saturday, August 6   2-3pm at Gregory Heights Library

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A visit to a Japanese grade school

While I was at home in Japan, the grade school that my nieces go to was having an Open House.  This also happened to be the school where I attended as a child.  Any family member was welcome to visit, so I went.  I felt nostalgic to visit, especially since much of it seemed just the same even after all these years.  I was also glad to see how my nieces are doing at school.  My littlest niece was learning hiragana in her classroom during my visit. 

The older one was in a swimming lesson. 

They were both so enthusiastic, happy to show off how they are doing at school.  After visiting them, I enjoyed looking at the children's artwork displayed all over the school.

The last photo is of the school entrance.  In a Japanese school, there are usually shoe cupboards at the entrance because they change into indoor shoes from outdoor shoes when they enter the school building.  Isn't it a nice custom, to keep the building nice and clean?

It's a public school in a small town in Japan, which can't be more different from the school that I've been working at (a private Montessori in an urban setting in the United States).  I feel strange that I ended up there from the environment that I grew up in.

My Trip to Japan

Since I got over a week off work between my jobs recently, I went to visit my home in Japan with my husband.  We made a last minute decision to go so we were spinning our heads around to get ready.  But the trip was well worth the hustles.  We spent a lot of time with my family.  We took a chartered fishing trip with my siblings, which was especially memorable.

Of course, I didn't forget to bring my origami spirit with me to the trip.  I did some origami with my nieces who are now in grade school.  I stocked up on a bunch of origami papers.  I visited Origami House Gallery in Tokyo as well as the Origami Museum at Narita Airport.

Just as soon as I returned to Portland I got busy working at my annual arts camp job, but I'd like to blog about my recent trip whenever I find time. Besides all the origami inspiration, I also want to report the effects that I saw from the March 11th disaster.

Although my hometown area is not directly affected by the earthquake or the tsunami, there are some "side effects."  One of which is that the government recently ordered to stop operating the nuclear power plants near my hometown, which is located on the coastline and near the epicenter of another great earthquake predicted in the future.  Because of this decision, the people are making effort to save power and refraining the use of AC, making the summer extra hot.  The photo below is of a sign that I often saw, which says "Stay Strong, Tohoku.  Stay Strong, Japan."  It seemed that this phrase is becoming like a national slogan.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Another origami alphabet sign (with geometric origami models)

A few weeks ago, I had posted about a sign that I made with origami alphabet models.  Since then, we made another one.  This new sign was put on another side of the playground fence.

We changed the wording from the last one and also placed some geometric origami models that are two dimensional, just to make it a little more interesting.  We had a bit of trouble laminating so it came out quite wrinkly.  But other than that it came out well in the sense that it's hard not to notice a sign this big and readable.

Most of the geometric models on this sign are from Home Decorating With Origami by Tomoko Fuse.  I have the original Japanese version of this book.  Ms. Fuse is known for her modular origami models and boxes, and this book is filled with her specialty: pretty decorations and practical models that you can use or give as gifts.  It's most appropriate for intermediate to advance paper folders.

Origami Caravan by Makoto Yamaguchi

It has been nearly three months since the huge earthquake and tsunami hit in the northern part of Japan.  Unfortunately, American media hardly covers about Japan anymore, despite the initial hype right after the disaster.  But I have been following Japanese news on the internet, and many of the headlines are still about the affected area and the people, as well as the nuclear reactors.

A lot of things have changed since March 11, and a lot of other things remain the same.  Some people who lost homes have moved from evacuation centers to temporary housings (such as prefab homes, empty apartment units and hotel rooms), but many people still live in evacuation centers.  Huge piles and piles of rubble of what used to be some people's homes are in the process of being cleared away.  It sounds like it will still take a long time before the survivors can recover their lives, not to mention their sorrow for the losses of their loved ones.

Makoto Yamaguchi, an origami creator based in Tokyo, has been visiting some schools and shelters in the affected area with a few other volunteers.  He is calling his team Origami Caravan, already made two trips to the north so far and plans to go back again.  They delivered boxes full of origami papers and books, which were donated by his publishers, vendors, and supporters.  He taught origami during his visits as well.  Mr. Yamaguchi is doing this project with a notion that origami can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, and anytime, and that it can help healing the people's spirits.  You can see some photos of his first trip here and of the second trip here.

I found out about this project when I recently visited the website of Gallery Origami House, which is owned by Mr. Yamaguchi.  I planned to visit this gallery when I was going to travel through Tokyo back in March, but I had to cancel the trip so I never made it there.  When I reschedule my trip to Japan (which is hopefully soon), I would definitely love to visit the gallery.  And if the timing works out, I would love to join Origami Caravan as well!