30 March 2011

Late March

A time for goodbyes. The Japanese system of transferring workers—especially in the case of government employees and teachers— may have its reasons, but it can be quite a hassle too. And it makes March and April really expensive, because in true Japanese fashion, we have to make toasts to and party it up with everyone involved.

I'm losing a teacher I've been working with since the beginning, but at least she's staying in our town and my co-worker gets to teach with her from now on. Yesterday I had a lunch with most of the ladies from the school she's departing from. The restaurant that was chosen was perfect. I wish I could tell you what we ate but I can't do the details proper justice. Just know it was contemporary Japanese, fresh, and full of flavour; refined and subtle. Just as elegant as the restaurant itself—notice the beautiful wooden tables that might look like one big table, but is actually four moved together. As for the chef, he had a sort of "mad scientist" hairstyle—longer than normal grey hair, messed up in the back—, except in a chef's jacket I guess that becomes "inspired artist". I wish I had recorded his explanation of the meal. Do note that all this fabulousness is reservation only.

The evening was not as refined. You'll see some typical Japanese drinking party food. Clockwise from the top we have: potato fries, batter-fried prawns, sashimi, crab, edamame, prawns, pickled vegetables, fish, spring rolls, fried something, and strawberries. I couldn't tell you what's in the centre of that plate, because I neglected to eat any of it. We also each had a lump of sōmen (I think? they have lots of noodles here) served in some cold dashi. And what's a Japanese event without onigiri—or if you're speaking textbook English: "rice balls"—served with some delicious takuan pickles.

27 March 2011

Black Swan

One of the more recent additions to my Google Reader has been The Art of the Title Sequence. They do interesting posts about title design, or interviews with title designers, and recently they made an amazing video on a brief history of title design. I also found a talk by Kyle Cooper there, and I thought that was really great graphic design inspiration, no matter your particular speciality.

Last night we watched Black Swan, and simple as the concept of the title design was, I thought it was beautifully executed. The Bodoni-esque (though I don't think it's Bodoni exactly) typeface was perfect in its minimal elegance, and the subtle transitions and plays with black and white and texture really suited the movie. I also liked how the cast list echoed a printed theatre or ballet programme. The title design is attributed to Jeremy Dawson and Jeff Kryvicky.

The first two frames are from the opening, and the rest of the frames are from the closing sequence.


26 March 2011

Signs of spring

Today, we stopped by our new supermarket, stocked up on some easy-to-eat Japanese food for lunch, and made our way to the park at the foot of Mt Kannan 神南山. You may recall I visited it in the autumn.

As expected, it's still at least a week before the cherry blossoms will be out in full force, but braving the freezing wind was worth it for all the other blooms that are out. We had a good time just walking about and taking pictures.

Maybe we'll visit again in a week or two to monitor the cherry blossom progress.

25 March 2011

The move

You come to Japan and you think, "land of Sony, Panasonic, et al, land of shiny technology". And you see some robots and flat screen TVs, but you also see a lot of paper. Especially if you hang around Japanese bureaucrats and their nesting places often enough. And really, the way things operate often makes me think of the comic below.


Our Board of Education is currently relocating one floor up. The poor people have to open the doors that are never opened. Chiefly because behind those doors are cabinets upon cabinets of files upon files of sheets and sheets of paper which no-one ever references. But I doubt much of this will disappear, because who will sort through it? And the "but we might need it someday!" force is just too strong.

If you watch the video you'll see that it does look as if some video and cassette tapes are going out the back door, along with a fair stack of paper, so good job on that.

19 March 2011

In keeping with colour

I bring you some nanohana, as you may have seen before here and here. These flowers are definitely in full bloom now and they are quite spectacular.

We stopped at two spots on the way back from ikebana. The second spot being a flower viewing park of sorts, with a flower for each season. Lots of people were enjoying taking pictures or following the pathways that have been trampled out. There was going to be a festival today, but it was cancelled because of the earthquake. It's very surreal to be so unaffected by it. We've seen it on TV, we've donated our money... but it all feels (and is) so far away. Anyway, let's hope for warmer weather without rain.

18 March 2011

The colours

I recently read an interview with textile designer Jocelyn Warner over on design*sponge. She mentioned In the Mood for Love as a visually inspiring movie, so I decided to watch it tonight.

I always really enjoy a good colour palette in a movie, so this was an absolute treat. Below are some of my favourite shots, combined with one of my own pictures (top left) from this post.


14 March 2011

Tobe prison park of Ehime

I recently visited Tobe Zoo, again, hopefully for the last time. I really hope the teachers can come up with something more creative next year for the middle schoolers who have all been there before. Probably more than once, if the number of kindergarten and elementary schoolers present every time is anything to go by.

I haven't visited any zoos since I was about six—probably because the average person visits a zoo three times in their life: as a young child, as a parent, and as a grandparent—and I've only achieved phase one thus far. So the point is that I can't really compare this zoo to any other, because I have no experience. I do however imagine that there must be zoos out there that look less like prisons for bored animals.

See for yourself.

13 March 2011

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant

As you've all heard, things are not going well at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the Tōhoku Chihō Taiheiyō-oki Earthquake 東北地方太平洋沖地震 of March 11th. Nuclear power seems great, until there's a disturbance of this nature to its workings.

Even though Shikoku, where I live, has very weak and infrequent seismic activity, as a local resident remarked to me today, should we have a big earthquake the nearby Ikata Nuclear Power Plant would be a great worry.

We visited this plant in November of last year and received information packets, a fair amount of it also in English. So even though this isn't Fukushima, here is what I have on nuclear power in Japan. (If you're interested in reading up close, look directly on Picasa.)

If you'd like to help in the wake of this terrible disaster, please visit the Japanese Red Cross Society website.