Monday, February 23, 2009

japanese people

The Japanese people have been growing and changing over thousands of years, and yet they have not lost the essence of their beautiful and delicate history. Traveling to Kyoto this past Saturday for the Kabo-san flea market in the Toji Temple, I experienced a moving example of this deep tradition. Hundreds of people young and old gather to buy or sell everything from postcards to pottery to potatoes. Women peruse through racks of kimonos while men bargain down the price of a second-hand watch. After doing a little research, I came to realize that this market has been around for 700 years. Merchants come to share the products of their trade whether it be making beaded jewelry or rice and beans like the man in the third picture. I can imagine the transformation that this market has gone through throughout the years. The grounds of the shrine and statues of Buddha as seen in the first two images remind you of the roots of the people and the culture. Shrines and temples scattered throughout residential areas are frequented by Japanese people who openly show their devotion and prayers to the ancient Shinto and Buddhist deities. The Japanese may be on the cutting edge of pop culture and technology but they have certainly not lost the connection to the ancient traditions that have shaped their lives for centuries. Selling signature stamps in a world signed off by keyboards and subject lines, the man in the last picture illustrates the beauty of sharing a simple trade: a lesson of culture we should all take note of.

For more information on the Koba-san market visit this link:,0,6719642.story

Sunday, February 15, 2009

neighborhood hirakata

The neighborhood of Hirakata is one I am growing to learn intimately. Narrow winding streets connect small locally owned businesses such as the bike shop shown in the first picture. Husbands and wives work side by side to humbly provide the services that keep the city up and running. Unlike the modest advertising, the assistance you receive once inside leaves nothing to be desired. Whether it's polishing a bicycle or creating a meal, the workers of Hirakata take painful attention to detail to make sure you leave with everything you need and a little more. Besides the endless generosity, another perk of living in the Hirakata neighborhood, is the accessibility of everything by bicycle. Shown in the second picture, foreigners and locals alike are seen doing their daily commute and errands atop two wheels with everything they need fitting nicely in their basket. Navigating the city fully exposed to the elements, the people of Hirakata connect with their neighborhood in a way that many people never will. But as more and more days and miles go by, I hope to know my new neighborhood just as they do.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

early impressions

I would guess that in most minds, Japan elicits images of ancient shrines and castles built and preserved throughout the centuries. Samurai with top buns and geisha fill the castle streets while imaculate tea ceremonies are carried out within paper walls. These kinds of images definitely fill my mind. The top image, taken in Kyoto, relays my initial impression of the pagoda-lined landscapes and tourist filled streets I expected to see in Japan. Besides a modest understanding of Japan's rich history, an image of its ever-advancing technology and arcade entertainment comes to mind as well. I can't help but think of the video game-like scenes from Lost in Translation with glittering signs and endless sounds of change dropping into piles. The second image, taken in Osaka, of a little boy in an arcade with his father portrays this flourescent world of pachinko and pixels that also dominates my new understanding of an ancient country.