Thursday, April 30, 2009

Christchurch New Zealand


The last time that I visited Christchurch, New Zealand it was spring - Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr

This time it will be autumn - Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I have a special set of clothing that I dig out of storage for my trips to my home town. Living in the sub tropics has no call for fleecy wool lined jackets, jumpers and thick tights.

Photo by Christian Heeb and found at

I will be in Christchurch for an extended weekend visiting my elderly parents. I will be posting - but not commenting and will look forward to catching up with you upon my return.

Happy Days


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Nakasendo Way * Part 7


The Nakasendo Way ~ Coming down from the mountains

At the Shinchaya Teahouse lodgings we were able to demonstrate
our prowess in geta, the traditional Japanese outdoor shoe.
We ran fearlessly up and down the cobbled road, in the dark,
imitating the floating world geisha of the Edo period.

Hiroshige - Fukaya Geisha

However I am sure those geisha would have walked
with a lot less noise and considerably more decorum.

The town of Narai, in the Kiso valley, won my accolades for
the most authentically preserved functioning post town
along the Nakasendo.

Hiroshige- Narai

The post towns along the Naksendo Way were conveniently
spaced so as to allow the weary traveller to dine, bathe, and rest.
He could also change horses, porters or palanquin.

Each town had a duty to supply hospitality to official travellers
at the town's own expense, and to provide a hospitality service
to other paying clientelle.

Not far from Narai at Kiso Hirasawa we visit a renown lacquer
ware artisan who demonstrates his skill on the lathe and with
the application of lacquer. I learned that lacquer is a resin and
many many coats are applied to a wooden vessel with much
sanding in between, by using little coarse rocks of varying
grittiness, in order to produce an article of high quality.

Moving higher into the Kiso valley we see fast
moving rivers and waterfalls.

We find evidence of logging: derelict mills and disused railway
lines that once transported timber down from the mountains.

Photo from Walk Japan

In samurai days it was forbidden to chop down any of the
five highly sought after trees used in construction.
The punishment for cutting down trees was one head per tree.

We stopped for a night in the town of Kiso Fukushima, a winter ski
town that had once hosted the Olympics, and with the advent of
plummeting temperatures enjoyed the hot spring baths.

At 1180m above sea level high on the Usui Pass we had
spectacular views of the Kanto Plain toward Tokyo. But it was
another five hours of rugged descent before we reached the
local train at Sakamoto which would take us to our bullet train
connection and through to the city.

In an extremely rare example of things not running to schedule
in Japan our shinkansen ( bullet train) had been delayed due to
signalling issues. For a country that prides itself on efficiency
and punctuality this incident was an embarrassment large enough
to make major headlines the next day. A cold Asahi and the
remnants of the French pastries we had hastily bought that morning
in Karuizawa before our unanticipated eight hour climb up the
Usui pass and harrowing scamper down the other side,
eased our wait for the train.

All along the Nakasendo Way we had encountered statues of the god Jizo whose role it is to protect both travellers and children. Jizo is the bodhisattva who plunges fearlessly into any place or situation to help those in need. For anyone who has lost a child Jizo is a powerful image of hope and solace. Jizo's qualities include unflagging optimism, fearlessness and gentleness.
Jizo is usually portrayed as a monk child often carrying a pilgrim's staff with six rings that jingle to warn animals of his approach and prevent mutual harm.

The little figure in the top left corner of my home blog page is a simple but evocative statue of Jizo.

As we have reached Tokyo we now stand at the end of the Nakasendo Way.
Tonight we will share our final evening meal together and tomorrow our little group of walkers will disband.

Let us choose something from the memu for dinner
and finish with some pocky.

As you have now walked well over 200 km I have a treat for you.
Next time we are going to indulge in some therapeutic R&R.
I have arranged for us to visit a very special place not far from Tokyo
where we will do some soaking and unwinding...
Until then...

~My haiku of thanks to John~

Our dear walk leader
has earned our utmost respect
venerated guide


Tuesday, April 28, 2009



Meet Murray,
Murray the monitor

I was waiting for my friend
to put on her walking shoes
when she called me to her rear deck
to meet Murray

Murray has taken ownership
of a corner of her deck
to sit in the sun
and warm his cold blood

Murray is rather old and slow
He has some torn flaps of skin
on his left rear leg
a battle legacy

My friend's daughter was staying,
trying to get a mobile phone reception
she stood at the corner of the deck
close to Murray
who took objection to the invasion of his territory
and lurched at her

When a goanna
with long sharp claws
lurches at you
you know it's time
to skedaddle

Now my friend approaches Murray
with an outdoor chair
like a lion tamer
and makes Murray retreat to his hidey-hole
underneath the deck
so she can reclaim the deck

But Murray will be back
that is guaranteed -
he needs a daily dose of sun.

Murray is Lace Monitor from the Varanidae family, and is about one meter in length.
He is a carnivore - predator although will eat rotting matter as well. He can be hostile and if provoked may deliver a stinging lash with his tail. His claws are very sharp and his jaw strong. Like a snake he can unhinge his jaw in order to swallow small animals such as rodents.
The monitor is a fast runner and good climber and will normally retreat up the nearest tree if threatened.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Ukiyo-e * Periods and Movements


Ukiyo-e ~ Floating World Picture
~ Part 2

Ukiyo-e Periods or Movements

Broadly speaking ukiyo-e art can be divided into five different art periods and movements.

The Edo Period

This is the classical period of ukiyo-e which lasted from 1603 until 1868 when the Meiji reformation took place. Although a time of military rule and oppression, and a period of world seclusion, it was also a time of relative peace, when the merchant and artisan classes flourished and emphasis was on worldly pleasures.

Ando Hiroshige 1797-1858

Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

The Meiji Period

At the end of the Tokugawa shogunate when the emperor was reinstated, Japan underwent considerable reform and opened up to the Western world and western ideas. It was a time of cultural shock and change.
In ukiyo-e art natural dyes were replaced by chemical aniline dyes imported from Germany and after 1900 the ukiyo-e movement had almost died out commercially. Photography had taken its place. There was a great push at this time to adopt western artistic ideals and reject traditional Japanese art forms.
Ukiyo-e prints had become so worthless that they were used as packing for the shipment of trade goods. When Europeans saw them they became a major source of inspiration for impressionist artists, Cubist and post impressionists: such as Vincent Van Gogh, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and others. This Japanese influence on European art became known by the French term Japonisme.

Kunichika Toyohara 1835-1900

Van Gogh - copy of Hiroshige's Great Bridge

La Japonaise - Monet

The Shin Hanga movement

The shin hanga (new print) movement from roughly 1910-1960, was an attempt to revive ukiyo-e as an art form. Publisher Watanabe commissioned starving artists for prints and exported the results mainly to the United States. Shin Hanga mixed traditional ukiyo-e subjects with some western elements especially the use of light and perspective, and the expression of individual moods, but remained focused on traditional themes.
The movement sought to restore Japan's picturesque traditional scenery to the hearts and minds of the Japanese people in addition to creating a sense of pride in the country's heritage. It was to also act as a buffer to the speedy westernisation of Japan.
The shin hanga movement was a successful renaissance of ukiyo-e as an art form although not as commercial art for the masses as it had originally been.
Important artists of this movement include Ito Shinsui and Kawase Hasui, but perhaps the best known and most loved was Hiroshi Yoshida, 1876-1950.

Kameido Bridge - Hiroshi Yoshida

Ito Shinsui 1898-1972

Kawase Hasui 1883-1957 - Kotsugi River

The Sosaku Hanga Movement

Traditionally in woodblock print making each of the various tasks in the production of a piece of work was allocated to different craftsman.
Sosaku Hanga
( creative prints) was a movement that suggested the artist should be responsible for each element – the design, the carving, the printing and the publishing. In addition the painting style was closer to Western ideals.
The Sosaku movement never really gained a great following and the collection of these prints has remained a niche market.

Tomikichiro Tokuriki 1902-1999

Moku Hanga

After WWII print making in Japan became more international. Western artists went to Japan to learn the old Japanese way; a number under the tutelage of Toshi Yoshida and Tomikichiro Tokuriki. Now many artists from around the world are exponents of what has become known as moku hanga.

Toshi Yoshida 1911-1995

Ryusei Okamoto 1949-

Joshua Rome 1953-

Information sourced from Wikipedia,
and the books Hiroshige by Matthi Forrer,
Shin Hanga -The new print movement of Japan by Barry Till

Sunday, April 26, 2009



We're going on a rain forest walk,
through the Tanglewood Track.
Grab your camera and water bottle...

We're here on the track
it's so peaceful
and quiet
just the occasional whip bird.
Now keep straight ahead
don't veer left...

See the fresh green bracken

and look up at the tangled sky

up the steps and
around the corner

we pass the vibrant ferns
on the path edges

look at the sun tickling
the old brown tree trunk

and over here
can you see the tangled trees
in a lover's embrace

dancing a slow waltz
in the breeze

Look at this bank of fern
greener than green

and tangled vines
twisting to the sky

tangled, twisted spiral knots

a tiny little tangle vine
setting off on a lifetime's journey

tangles dropping from the trees

and launching upward
from the roots

creating beautiful patterns
like sculpture

and now you can see
why this path is called
the Tanglewood Track