Category Archives: At Home

Japanese slang for lovey-dovey

couple

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 4.43.49 AM

We had lunch with a friend
who had just spent some time
with a lovely couple we know.

He is amazed by them.

Perhaps you know
{or are in}
a relationship
like this.

When they look
at each other
a shy sweetness
something golden
shimmers
and fills all the spaces
between them.

Their love
does not exclude.
It’s big.
It wraps its arms around us.

Magical campfire gazing.
Shadows of purple-orange flames
transform faces
known forever
into Queens,
magicians,
slayers of dragons.

It’s love-love.

They say it in Japanese too. Love-love.
{Young people mostly.}

To hear these words
pronounced in Japanese
makes my heart
as soft
as buffalo mozzarella.

Love-love.

Love, Yokohama: Dessislava Veltcheva

Love, Yokohama is my photographic love letter to the city we have called home for the past three years. The concept is a simple one. From time to time, I’ll ask a student, colleague or friend to meet me at their favourite place in Yokohama… and I’ll take their photograph. These visual love letters are posted on Fridays.

DESSISLAVA VELTCHEVA
Photographed on Monday 22 September 2014
in America-Yama Park

Dessy 2

Dessy3

At Motomachi Chukagai Station,
you emerge from an elevator
into a park.

It’s like something a little kid
dreamed up
and drew with crayons.

Metal doors slide open.
A stone path leads
by a rose garden,
vines heavy with pink
that blooms
much of the year.

Three benches nestle
against a brick wall.
Mothers cuddle
with small children
while old people
collude.

In the mornings
and afternoons
the park is filled
with kids,
most in uniforms,
headed to schools
on the bluff.

Among them,
running and laughing,
the plaid and blazer-free kids
from our school.

When they were still
in high school
Dessy and her friends
used to hang out here
in the afternoons,
walk under
the ivy-covered trellis
and make wishes
for the future.

Fingers crossed.

Dessy1

dessy4

dessy5

Dessy has just completed her first term at the University of York in England where she studies Bioarchaeology. Originally from Bulgaria, Dessy lived most of her life in Japan. She is one of the happiest people I know.
 
 

Looking for Naoko Nishizawa

Leaning girl

For the past six weeks, I’ve been writing the first draft of a novel set in Tokyo. Two teenage girls discover the journal of a woman named Naoko Nishizawa and decide to track her down so they can return the journal to her. It’s more than a decision. It’s a mission. In the meantime, however, they read every delicious word of her journal. The 38 Impossible Loves of Naoko Nishizawa.

A few weeks ago, I asked my friends on Facebook where Naoko should live. I was looking for a lovely Tokyo neighbourhood with a park nearby. A place with restaurants and cafes. A neigbourhood a young artist would choose.

“Hiro-o!” wrote my friend James.

And so it is. Hiro-o. Which sounds, of course, like the English word hero and that makes me happy. It is also the Tokyo neighbourhood I know best and visit the most often. Last weekend I went to Hiro-o for lunch and took some photographs.

I keep looking for Naoko Nishizawa.

3

4

5

6

7

8
 
 

A Gratitude List

kids

For the faces
of Japanese children.

For freedom.

That my school day starts
at 8:30 a.m.

The chocolate wafer cookies
from Family Mart.

For gentle courtesy
and clear umbrellas,
school kids in bright yellow hats
and hard leather backpacks.

For blue skies after the typhoon
(the second in a week).

That people can change
if they want to.

For my work
and our small school.

Red shoes.
The films Amelie
and
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.
Live Music.
My iPod.
My Beats.

Yokohama
in October.

Elizabeth Gilbert
Brene Brown
Sarah Selecky.

Rie Kono and her decadent balloons
at the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art.
Our painting of Margo.
Our art-gallery apartment.

Tap water I can drink,
Kirkland Cheddar from Cost Co,
Kalamata olives,
Maison Kayser bread
and pumpkin soup.

Gentle vacations in
Ito
and
Shimoda,
Japan.

Megan, Laurie, Mom and Dad
and the concentric rings
of family and friends
that grow outward.

The man with the orange backpack.

The ability to create.

Paris.
Jeans and black sweaters.
Instagram.
Oceans.
Laughter.
Anne of Green Gables.
The golden light in Italy.
Trees.
Stories.
Barcelona.
Japanese toilets.
Autumn.
Silk scarves.
Cafe latte.
The Internet.

Memory.

Life
itself.

*Canadian Thanksgiving was Monday 13 October, 2014 and we dined on Kentucky Fried Chicken, not turkey. Sometimes, when you live far away from your home, it is challenging to honour your traditions. But I am grateful for many things and this is list is a way to give thanks.

What’s on your list?

Typhoon Doppelgängers

light

The afternoon
that Typhoon 19
arrived in Yokohama
we’d been urged
by school admin
to go directly home
but there were
a few more
emails to send
and a student
with a last minute
application
crisis
and so it was
after five
when we left
the building.

Darkness fell
like a net
and the afternoon mist
re-committed
to its job as rain.
A colleague splashed
down the sidewalk
in pursuit of a taxi.

As we walked
through the park,
our clear
Family Mart
umbrellas
offered
unobstructed
views
of the other
umbrella people
as they scuttled
for the dry
safety
of the metro station
below.

At the intersection
near our apartment
a young couple
held hands
and
waited for green.
The man in a black coat
and the woman in cream
leaned into each other
under a canopy
of merged umbrellas.
Beyond them,
the wets streets glistened
in puddles of light.

In that moment
what I felt
to be true
was that
we were this pair,
DP and me.
We may not look
like this
on the outside

but

inside
that’s
how
it feels
to be us.

 

Photographing Japan

maps

“Everybody’s face tells you about the society they live in, and what they’re feeling inside. Faces are maps.” ~ Sue Ford.

People ask why
I photographs strangers:
train people,
school kids
and people on the street.

I don’t think of them as strangers.
These faces are Japan.

The Japanese live by a code of conduct
held in place by a spiders web of obligations.

i.
Whether saying hello or good-bye,
most greetings are a version of I’m sorry.

ii.
When moving into a new home
you buys gifts for your new neighbours.
The gift itself is unimportant.
Only the message matters:
“Hello. We’ll do our best to be quiet,
to respect you. To live harmoniously beside you.”

iii.
When asking someone to a gathering you realize
that even though they’ve said yes, they actually mean no,
you must begin the gentle cutting
of the invitation thread.

iv.
Regardless of how crazy or drunk another person is,
you do not comment or call attention to this behaviour.
You act as though this violation of the rules
is not happening. You look the other way.

We foreigners learn to observe these rules
but it’s not natural, not written in our DNA.
We lack centuries of this story shaping us.

When living here is hard work, my face shows it.

With the Japanese,
mostly their faces
are calm
like water
but sometimes the sorrow
or joy
gets through.
Ripples appear.

When I photograph them,
I photograph Japan.

Love, Yokohama: Matthew Sato

Love, Yokohama is my photographic love letter to the city we have called home for the past three years. The concept is a simple one. Each week I’ll ask a student, colleague or friend to meet me at their favourite place in Yokohama… and I’ll take their photograph. These visual love letters will be posted each Friday.

MATTHEW SATO
Photographed on Thursday, 18 September 2014
at Ōsanbashi Pier, Yokohama

matthew Standing Landmark

Matthew Medium Smile

Why Matthew chose Ōsanbashi Pier:
I chose Osanbashi, because it feels to me as a home. It’s a place were I can release my stress. The view is really enjoyable and beautiful.

Matthew Close up Ship

Matthew
percussion-drummer-boy
with the big smile
always keeps his promises.

Film-maker
sound-maker
off to Berklee College of Music,
the whole world
now his sound stage.

You can see more photographs of Matthew on my Instagram feed.