Tuesday, February 09, 2010


as i mentioned previously, some toes on my left foot went white and numb twice last week for no apparent reason. fearing that i was developing Raynaud's phenomenon, i looked into any dietary changes i could make that might help. niacin was recommended to help open the blood vessels, so i bought a supplement and began taking it. when you take a lot of niacin, it dilates your vessels and you get what's called a niacin flush...your hands and feet turn red. so these days you can pretty much always catch me red-handed. har har.

for about, oh, three years or so i've been wanting to get my hands back into some clay and play around like i did in college. ceramics was never my main medium, so it was just a relaxing, but still creative activity, while i focused on painting and printmaking. however, all my efforts to turn up a place where i could throw some pottery on a wheel came to nothing. finally last week fern agreed to take me to a little studio in a small pottery town called tokoname to sling some mud...but first we had to find it!
we set out on a circuitous "pottery studio" path in the rain and took our time, content to get lost, which we did. we shopped in some little glass and ceramic studios, bought some delicious bread at a bakery, ogled a cute young artist filing beautiful metal cups in his phone booth-sized studio, and ran into an old woman who bemoaned our visit was on such a gloomy day. when we responded in japanese, she expressed delight that we could understand and gave us each two oranges. we staggered down some steep stairs...and ended up back near the beginning! after several damp map consultations, we managed to find the place.

pottery bottle wall

i liked this white meter/black wall.

fern had been a few times before, so she had a good rapport with watanabe-san, the artist. rarely do i like someone as much and feel as comfortable with them as i did with this 60-something, twinkly-eyed rascal. his ease and good humor made me relax right away, and he both helped us enough and left us alone enough. i felt a little nervous because i realized it had been about nine years since i last threw anything, and i didn't want to mess up! however, it felt good; it was exactly the kind of experience i've been longing for!
my first bowl was ok but a little on the inelegant side, but my second one was much better. i'm afraid it was all over too quickly. for the price, we got a certain amount of clay, i guess, and he will trim, fire, and glaze it (to our specifications), and then mail the finished bowls to us! fun!

fern and mr. watanabe

wheel action


our greenware

after we washed up, his wife (more discerning, so though generous, i felt a little less comfortable around her) offered us shako from a straw basket. peeled, these critters are not so bad-looking, but i had never seen them still in their bodies before. can i just say...dude, sick! they look like disgusting ocean insects. to top that off, the wife showed us how to break off the tail and suck out he juices, break off the head and suck out the juices, and then she handed the same one she had sucked on to fern to eat! i wouldn't budge. i'm sure it would have been fine, but i don't care much for any shellfish (unless we're talking cajun shrimp), so why bother? i feasted on parinko crackers instead.

...a little more fyi on shako, from wikipedia: "Oratosquilla oratoria. Called "sea locusts" by ancient Assyrians, "prawn killers" in Australia and now sometimes referred to as "thumb splitters" by modern divers — because of the relative ease the creature has in mutilating small appendages — mantis shrimp sport powerful claws that they use to attack and kill prey by spearing, stunning or dismemberment. Although it happens rarely, some larger species of mantis shrimp are capable of breaking through aquarium glass with a single strike from this weapon."

Monday, February 08, 2010

taking procrastination to the next level

15 followers, 1000 profile views, and last night a dream that my blog was being published as a book! that would literally be a dream come true on many levels. i even remember what the binding was like and how thick it was. it was a well-done book. the pictures were all on recycled-looking paper, so they weren't super glossy, just a little bit. it had the feeling of a thick, artistic periodical.

i'm trying, for heaven's sake TRYING, to get some new year/christmas/update cards sent off, though to say they're late would be a massive understatement. i bought these cards the year before last when it was the year of the cow (according to the chinese calendar, which has been adopted by japan), but now it's the year of the tiger! since i stamped the cards but never wrote on them, i decided to give them a little face lift so i wouldn't have to buy new cards and stamps....heh heh. however, i still haven't sent them, so i probably should just paint rabbit faces over the tiger masks to get ready for next year!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

i'm 31 flavors, and then some.

last week i turned 31. when i came to japan, i was 27! true, celebrating here (in my new city) just isn't the same as being surrounded by family and old friends, but i was still blessed with a lot of generosity by my students and new friends.
my gray hairs are coming in more insistently these days, but thanks to oily skin, i'm not too wrinkly.
before the day, i was taken out for sukiyaki by one class;

given a wonderful, thoughtful surprise party by another class;

treated by kj to karaoke at the fancy place with a column of bubbling water;

and joined by some friends for lunch, card games, and Baskin Robbins.
(deana, fern, jason, kjersten, me, matthew)

fern baked me some gorgeous cupcakes.

mom and i had a skype party. see the candle?

on my actual birthday i went shopping with my friend matthew, we had some delicious burgers, and i did some 1-person purikura.

thanks, everyone!


i love watching things change over time, especially seasonal changes over fields and trees. i've only been in this house for six months, but the rice field nearby has already gone through several picturesque looks. i have yet to get a picture with snow because i usually don't have my camera when i take my trash to the corner, which is when i pass the field.
finally the days are getting noticeably longer again, though it's still cold. recently i seem to have developed something like Raynaud's phenomenon in my toes, which is alarming. with relatively no provocation, the veins in my toes freak out and constrict, leaving my toes white, chilly, and numb. i'm hoping this doesn't happen often (never again would be nice).

Friday, February 05, 2010

without a filter...

some things just shouldn't be made into cute, approachable characters. i've seen some wierd ones in japan: cartoon hamster faces made into little cold cuts, marimokkori, the mascot of hokkaido with an overactive, um, algae ball, and the ubiquitous poo stickers...but recently megan brought a new character to my attention, tobacco-san. now you can get a whole notebook full of smiling cigarettes promising "adult taste" and suggesting you "light me." you can even cut out the paper into a cigarette pack envelope and roll up your cigarette memo! yikes, guys!