Tuesday, November 4, 2008

melbourne Cup Day

The first Tuesday in November is a holiday in Melbourne for the running of the Melbourne Cup. Usually I am down at Aireys for an extended long weekend , but the house is being used this year so I planned a different day. I am not really interested in the Cup carnival, not being a gambler at all,but the horses are beautiful and there is always a good story of a well deserved win by horse jockey or trainer.
The forecast was for rain and a cool day but after clouds shifted in the morning, it was a cool breeze but clear blue skies, and warm out of the wind. I went into the National Gallery Victoria to see their Australian exhibitions There was a photo exhibition a retrospective, called No standing only Dancing, by Rennie Ellis. The title comes from one of his photos of grafitti. Ellis was renowned for his candid documentary images of contemporary Australian life. He was best known for his photographs of social events, such as music festivals, fashion parades or nightclubs. During his career he photographed life on the streets, sometimes showing the darker aspects of society such as his Kings Cross series. The exhibition was from the 60's and I kept expecting to see people I knew in the hippy photos! He died from cerebral heaemorrage in 2003
try a video http://www.bananasinpyjamas.com/news/video/2008/10/30/2406112.htm
I also wandered through the Australian collection including one of my favourite modern painters Fred Williams, Pilbara Series painted for Rio Tinto. His painting Upwey Landscape (1965) sold for $1,987,700 in one of the final auctions of Christies in Australia in April 2006, which was the second highest price for an Australian work. He died in 1982 from lung cnacer at teh age of 55. As well I browsed the collection of Impressionists. Arthur Street, McCubbin, E Phillips Fox, Jane Sutherland, Tom Roberts, etc etc.One surprise was one of Beach Road after Rain by Clarice Beckett. There are several well known paintings done in Beaumaris and Ricketts Point, a popular spot for the Impressionist camp. We had been talking about how our home was one of the first built in the area and how the roads of our childhood were all just sand, burning hot underfoot in summer. Now it is a very posh suburb with big houses and trendy lifestyle. This painting was from 1937, and you can see how it was seen as being in the middle of nowhere, when first settled Grandpa was appalled that his daughter was going to like out in the wilds of Black Rock. Also came across a collection of wonderful bird paintings that I did not now by Murray Griffin, really caught my eye today! After some lunch at federation Square I settled won to watch the big race on the big screen There was a good crowd getting more as the time drew near.
This little girl had no interest other than her mastering the stairs. She started off with holding the rail (at top of her reach level) and her mother's hand. Then she did it with just the rail, then no hands but one step down, sit ,other foot down stand up, then one foot down,to next step; her parents hovered but let her go. (as she lurched off the last step in a jump, she swayed and except for father keeping his hand there she would have hit her head on the end of the rail,he just pointed it out to her and let her go again. Maybe there are still kids allowed to test their limits! She was very pleased with herself at the bottom.
The race was loudly cheered and barracked by the crowd so a good atmosphere The favourite didn't win, but Bart Cummings and an Oz horse won . So a good event!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Days at Aireys

The weather has been lovely even with some heavy rain on Wednesday night. In front of the house on the corner two Sulphur crested cockatoos have taken up residence, scratching and clearing the ground in front. They are there every time I walk past and are not bothered by the dogs , who admittedly just look, and don't try and chase them. The photo looks like they are in a cage , but it is the fence behind them. The trees in the house have shot up The self seeded wattles in the front have really created a new look to the front. I am working on keeping alive the small natives I planted in May rather than plant anything new as yet But the drought has certainly made the trees look thinner especially the wattle out the back, or maybe it's just getting old like we all are!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beach walk and Halloween

It was a lovely morning so I headed off for a walk along the Cliff and to the beach. Both Spencer and Sponty seemed taken with the idea as well! I had them on separate leads as Spencer does not know the meaning of 'heel' until you have been drilling him for half the walk. Sponty, on the other hand is a dream, I kept checking the lead, as it was so light, to be sure he hadn't gone! However once off the road Sponty stays on the lead as he NEVER comes when called, and is not too keen on getting wet either.
On the cliff walk they both enjoyed the bush in their own way, Spencer disappearing into the ti-tree and Sponty stopping to sniff everything. But once we hit the beach (the only people there) Spencer was off into the water while Sponty happily walked on the lead, sniffing at the many parts of a dead gull strewn along the beach. At least he didn't roll in it!
The kids next door (~3 and 7) were calling hello as I came back, and the boy had on a Halloween mask done beautifully in orange paper and cellophane eyes. I said " Oh, a Halloween mask" His mum said "yes, but I don't know when or what it is." I told her it was October 31st, the evening before All Hallows (Saints) Day. But why the masks, costume, trick or treat I had no idea! But the kids said they would come knocking, the little girl said she was coming as a Fairy witch, so I realise I had better get something in; not an event I have ever been involved in before! Must get their names!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I am now down at Aireys Inlet feeling more peaceful.
It was great to have all the family there for the funeral, and for Nick and Kate to meet their 'cousins' Daniel and Rhiannon. They hit it off immediately, and maybe will spend some of this summer together here at Aireys. There was also a great evening at the Beauy (Beaumaris) Pub, with childhood neighbours. The girls from next door, one from up the hill, and one from over the road! We spent a riotous evening, helping draw up a map of the 4 local streets and all who lived there (including the dogs) we calculated if we were all out playing together there would have been 26 kids out and about, all returning home when the Meehan dinner bell rang!
Celia and I spent some time cleaning out years' collections of Maddy's junk, mainly just the paper, jars, bags and rafia. Celia is a cleaner of the 1st order so we got into the kitchen cupboard with energy to burn. Although Maddy hoarded everything it was a treat to come across our primary school reports and Andrew and Rick's early Art work! All her other collections are of wonderful art and pottery as well as beautiful dishes and books.
Spencer was very happy to see me and has remained clamped to my side. I am also minding Sponty, Wendy's dog while she is in India. He is getting on in years, and spends a lot of the time sleeping if we are not doing something.
I am getting Spencer's coat clipped today as he is looking a bit like a black sheep; it has also been warm this week and he must be hot.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Returning home

I saw Celia off to Melbourne the morning after we left Kyoto and Takumi. Little did I know I would be leaving as well in 48hours. I was on the phone to my brother Andrew when Celia arrived in Melbourne on Tuesday, at the hospital to see Maddy. She was too unwell for Andrew to take her home as planned, so we decided to transfer her to a Hospice, Bethlehem. I started organising to vacate my apartment and change my flight and get home. Qantas were very unhelpful, next seat available was 21st October (this was the 7th), but the family in Melbourne got on to it and rang me at 6am to say they had a flight with JAL on Friday , giving me 48 hours to close the apartment and move out.
I moved into a hotel on Wednesday night, and was there when I heard Maddy had passed away quietly with everyone else there. As my flight was not till 9.30pm Thursday I had a last day in Tokyo.
As I had to be up early to get the Utilities disconnected etc I ended up on the train at peak hour. This train is just arriving (I had not got on the one 2 minutes before). There are guards spaced at every 2nd carriage, all along the platform, and as well as pushing people in their job is to be sure the platform is clear for the train's arrival as well as when it is ready to leave. While I waited crushed in the carriage 4 people appeared at the door, faced out and just stepped back in pushing off with a foot on the platform. And we all squished back a bit more!

I had been to Japan with Maddy in 1986, so I spent the day doing things she would have enjoyed
I went to one of my favourite gardens that has a formal garden with rose beds, as well as a Japanese garden. I had seen the roses in full bloom when I was there at end of May, and this was the start of the Autumn bloom.
In the garden the Teahouse was open, so I sat on the tatami looking out over the soft green colours sipping O-Cha and eating small autumn theme O-kashi(sweets) served by a kimono clad woman.

Monday, October 6, 2008


Day 35 Vermillion
The bright red pigment from Cinnabar is a wonderful feature of the architecture and landscape of Japan. This is the giant Tori (gate) leading to Heien Jingu Shrine in Kyoto. All the wooden buildings here are this colour.

We had a lovely visit in Kyoto with Sakurako and her family.She and Kazuhiro had a baby boy on 25th September. weighing 2888gms and called Takumi. In Japan names are "made up" by parents using the meaning of Kanji Characters. Many combinations of Kanji are popular so the same names are popular. Sakura-ko e.g. is cherry blossom's child. Kazuhiro's name is made of two kanji characters kazu peaceful and hiro ocean. Takumi's name is Taku explorer and mi sea.
He was asleep when we arrived and except for a feed and a bath stayed asleep the whole 8 hours of our visit!! He had been awake every two hours the night before so Sakurako was also resting when we arrived. She has moved home to her mother (traditional custom) for a month, to be looked after and supported as she learns to care for Takumi. Kazuhiro is busy as they are moving apartments and he is doing all the work!! He comes for dinner in the evening.
Tatsuya, Sakurako's father is a grandfather already but they live in Tokyo, so he is thrilled to have a baby almost next door. This picture was taken about 5 minutes after he arrived home from work. He said hallo, then went to kneel down beside him, where he was asleep,and watched him sleeping for a few minutes, commenting on any movement, then got up to get his camera.
While I was taking a photo of Takumi in the bath, Tatsuya had started video of him, and got a chair to stand up so he could film over my shoulder!
I had read in my on-line Japanese lesson about a Japanese tradition of keeping the umbilical cord as a remembrance, called Heso no o. For those of you not medially oriented or have no children, the remnant of the cord where it was cut, dries up and fall off by about a week of age. So I asked Masako if this was common and they said "Oh yes." Masako had the cords from her three children and she went to get a little box in which the cord remnant is in some powder. (?talc? cornflour).
The hospital gives mothers the box, but some hospitals have you buy as flash lacquered one! Celia asked how you knew which box was which (some secret sign ?) but Masako flipped over the box and there was a label with Takumi's name date and time of birth and weight! The Kanji on the box says kizuna- bond
The cord represents the bond of mother and baby throughout life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Nihon Minka En

Today we started our trip to Shinjuku, starting earlier than usual about 9.30 and so there was still quite a busy time on the trains. The carriage we entered at Meguro was very full; after we had gone a stop or two I realised that all the people were standing. The seats had been folded up so there was more room. It was not the whole train but not sure how many carriages. Not sure what Melbourne commuters would think of that!
As we left the train we had to look for the Odakyu line, We said this to each other and as we headed for a sign that said straight ahead a young woman beside me said the Odakyu line is there, just on our right. So we thanked her and went in while we were perusing the schedule signs (in Japanese and waiting for it to roll into English) another woman Station staff came up and asked where we wanted to go and then assured us the train at 9:59 was the Express we wanted.
We were headed for Nihon Minka En known for the remarkable collection of old Japanese folk houses, farms and merchant houses. On display in the park is a collection of 20 traditional minka (farm houses) from various parts of Japan, especially thatch roofed houses. Of these, nine have received the designation of Important Cultural Assets. The houses are varied, and include examples from regions of heavy snow, lodgings for travellers, and a theatrical stage. There is excellent English information and more information at each house. The info covered the origin of the house, it's building structure as well as it's use and any special features .
We shared the venue with a group of about 20 girls from an International school who were collecting stamps at designated houses and writing some information. Their teachers were having tea at the rest area! Self directed learning obviously.
In contrast there were two groups of Japanese school kids about 40 in each group, and they were all together in school colours and hats and engaged in well disciplined activity together.
We came across two men renovating one of the houses including redoing the thatch. They were on the top of the house with no safety harness or anything! The man on the right went higher up the roof and one of the bamboo poles he stepped on slipped down; he then squatted down and using some twine bound the pole more firmly!
After we had worn ourselves out tramping around the complex we walked back to the station and had a lovely (late) lunch of ramen and gyoza.Delicious!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Big Day

The day dawned well with a sunny morning after 3 days of rain; a good omen.
Thank you to all the cards, gifts, emails and e cards I received! I had saved them to open this morning, so that took a while as my coffee cooled! Celia surprised me with a Lumix Digital camera! I had said to her the other day that I thought I would get a new camera on my next trip as the Aldi one (albeit great) I have is not great on zoom, and she smiled and said "good idea!"
So after doing the washing (it has been so damp things seem mouldy) we walked up to Teien Art gallery, my favourite Museum. They had an exhibition Art Deco in the former home of Prince Asaka. I thought it was an art deco exhibition, but it was actually the house itself open, done annually I gather. When exhibitions are on I spend my time peering behind the displays to see the heater vents, the doors etc. Today it was all on show and you could take photos!
We then toured the Japanese style garden and tea house then rested in the open garden for a brief time.
Our plan was to pick up a 'take away' lunch from the supermarket and eat it at Happoen another beautiful garden opposite my street. We spent a time perusing what was on offer, then settled on roast chicken wings, Egg plant in miso sauce on rice, green salad with green soy beans, some Vietnamese style vege rolls, some jelly fruit for dessert, and a half bottle of Chardonnay. The check out girl gave us some chopsticks and spoons, but we were not sure what we would do about the wine. But we were also going to browse the 100 Yen shop, and ended up picking up some glasses (small dish shape for multi function living) as well as 2 new tea cups as I broke the only one left yesterday.
So we walked to the garden and saw a sign saying no eating or drinking, so instead we went to the kids' park just at the top of my street and sat under the wisteria bower and had a lovely lunch. We were intrigued to see we were eating jelly that was 'Fruits Therapy; Refresh and Beauty Support' a very 'Japanese" touch.

After lunch we walked back again to Happoen and this time strolled around in the sunshine .The weather had also brought out all the brides for their photos. Done on a day before the wedding in Japan unless you have a garden at your wedding venue. I guess they hit it lucky with the day or maybe they decide where to go on the day. We saw one as we entered and sat on a seat with 4 women who were waiting to move on when the photographer had finished. As we walked away we spotted another at the top of the rise and the women also laughed and said "More of them!!" all in all 4 brides!
While organising photos from my new camera I had 3 Skype calls including a cake and candles from Andrew and the family. It was amazing that when I blew the candles from here they went out in Patterson Lakes!!(what a magic bit of technology is Skype!)
We then went out to dinner in Sushi restaurant on the 38th floor with views over the lights of Eastern Tokyo.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Day 29 (-1) Service.
In Japan the customer is king. The custom of a welcome greeting to everyone who walks in the door with "Irashaimasu," the same greeting comes from any staff you encounter as you move around the aisle or displays. In some shops it is a competition between the staff to see who can say it first! There is always someone nearby when you have an inquiry and they will go out of their way to show you where something is. They are deeply apologetic if they cannot help! These staff at LOFT are in 'uniform' for Halloween, Japan taking on any excuse to expand their marketing scope!

We did a few things today. The first was a visit to the nearby Matsuoka Museum, to see an exhibition of ceramics dating from 1600. Amazingly beautiful pieces. Some very bright, others very subtle.
It was a surprise to see they also had in their Collection works of Henry Moore (familiar to you if you have ever been to the Art Centre in Melbourne.) They had 4 of his big pieces, as well as some female figures by Giamacotti. This one by Moore is called reclining woman on elbow. The names of his works are never more allusive than this. So we had fun deciding what each piece was called; One was "3 figures against a wall" The gallery was a lovely wide open space with a glassed in garden area; sort of deceptive from the small front of the building.
From there we called in to book for dinner tomorrow night, at Ebisu Garden Place a development on the site of the old Yebisu Brewery, and in the process stayed a bit longer.
They had an Origami exhibition with displays of history of paper making as well as a 'stage' I gather for demonstrations. There were little glass boxes of some origami figures and an explanation of how to make them. Laughing dog, talking crow.
While exploring that we decided to stop for lunch and had been planning on having Tonkatsu (crisp breaded Pork cutlet) with lovely sauce. We saw this small restaurant in the lower level of what was the old brewery so the walls were all dark brick and a big post in the middle of the room all very intimate and atmospheric. The Food was superb!!
From there we went up to Ikebukuro to see the Frank Lloyd Wright building, Myonichikan, meaning 'House of Tomorrow" originally a private school called Jiyu Gakuen, rejuvenated in 2001 is one of Japan's designated "important cultural properties." This is one of the very few schools designed by Wright (1867-1959), who is perhaps the most creative genius of 20th-century American architecture and is best known for his 1943 Guggenheim Museum in New York. He built this school while he was in Tokyo doing the Imperial Hotel in 1921.
He was a supportive of the owners' education philosophy, and agreed to do the school. It has all the features of his design, bold, plain walls and roomy, welcoming spaces with large windows framed in stylish geometrical patterns. Myonichikan was also given a Japanese touch by Wright's extensive use of gray-green Oya stone.
We had a rest there partaking of tea and cake in the Main hall.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Opera City

Day 28 (-2) Tea and coffee.
While I love the iced tea, hot tea, green tea, coffee in its varied forms it is important to keep an eye on the price.Today was the first time I got caught out with a price (must have been the distraction of Celia's company,) Celia and I stopped for a break and shared a lovely fruit topped slice (428y) and two iced teas When we left the bill was 1,728y!! Turns out the iced tea were 650y each!! Usually they are 400y at their most excessive.

We did some shopping today, having a great time in the stationery store buying all sorts of Japanese design post-it notes, cards and Celia got a new diary; their designs are so pretty and appealing. The Artre Centre at Meguro station is a collection of stores in an open space and has some nice clothes, shops as well as the the stationery,book shop, records, bakery and cosmetics.
We went on to the Tokyo Opera City building to see a Photography exhibition of Japanese and Australian stuff. It was fascinating, but a bit too 'different' for my liking; I mean some photos you couldn't see what you were looking at!!
But adjacent to that was an exhibition of paintings of ASADA Hiroshi (1931-1997),whose family were renowned nihonga (Japanese-style paintings) artists. Asada's work is very different 'a world of serene imagined scenery that can be described as figurative poetry through the medium of painting". Not quite how I describe it! but we really enjoyed that so it was worth the trip and entrance fee.
The Opera city building has a wide open courtyard (L) for small concerts, I've seen people there in good weather, and other artistic installations (below).
The foyer of the centre is a huge pink marble area with two life size statues of an artist placed 50 meters from each other.
We also visited the NTT Intercommunication Centre (ICC) that is an innovative facility opened in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of telephone service in Japan (1990), and has interesting sound displays.
The white skittle shape (r) has a screen on the other side and is aimed at the stairs. As someone walks by it snaps images and plays them back in random order so you see the person (yourself) in a staccato sort of dance. There was also a table with small white and black rectangle and as you moved past they moved and emitted sound and turned towards you. A bit like walking in a field of triffids!!
For lunch we went down to the food court, and had lunch at a Korean restaurant, avoiding the Kim-chi (hot chilli) and had this delicious noodle dish, in a delicate broth with sort of prosciutto.
We also booked on the Shinkansen to go to Kyoto and stop in Hamamatsu on the way back. It's a tight schedule. but we got the seats we wanted and have it down to the fine minute. Trains leaving at 9:07 and arriving 11:48.

SCARF Festival National Wool Museum

On my way to Aireys last week I stopped off in Geelong to see their annual Scarf competition. The imagination and variety as inspiring!! M...