FEAR OF BLOGGING RETURNS FROM JAPAN…
…On Christmas Eve! Just enough time to put up and decorate the tree, toss the presents (which I had wrapped before leaving) under the tree, and nap. Whew!
Need I say that Japan was amazing and that my exhibit, at the Kyoto Manga Museum, looked great, and that the catalogue is beautiful? My thanks to the fabulous Fusami Ogi, who translated all the comics for the catalogue, and who is responsible for getting us to Japan.
On my first day in Kyoto I met pioneer shojo manga creator Keiko Takemiya. Keiko-san is one of the Fabulous 49ers, so named because they were all born in or close to 1949. The Fabulous 49ers were the first group of women creating shojo manga (Japanese girls’ comics) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Keiko-san is brilliantly talented, gracious, and gorgeous, and I felt like a mouse in comparison! We attended the opening of her gallery show, jammed with enthusiastic fans, and the next day Keiko-san and I were on a panel together, comparing our experiences as early creators of girls’ and women’s comics. And there we are in the photo up top, along with the director of the museum.
Before the Kyoto conference, we went to Beppu for a few days. Beppu is a small seaside city known for its onsen, or hot springs. We stayed in the Kanawa district, where our lovely ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn), the Miyakuya, had private hot springs baths. I’m sure all the ryokans at Kanawa had hot springs baths! As you walk down the streets of Kanawa, you can see steam rising from vents on the streets, the sidewalks, by the side of the roads — everywhere! There are public bath houses every few blocks, but I never got to try one, because how many baths can you take? The citizens of Beppu must be the cleanest people on Earth! Every night of our stay, we immersed ourselves in mineral-rich water that was just hot enough to bear, and it felt divine! And did I mention that the Miyakuya served the most heavenly traditional Japanese breakfasts and dinners?
From Beppu, it’s just a 10 minute bus ride to Tagasakiyama, Monkey Mountain. Tagasakiyama illustrated to me the difference between American and Japanese thinking: back in the 1930s, the monkeys that lived on the mountain used to come down and raid the farmers’ crops that grew below. So if this had happened in America, what would they have done? Right! They’d have shot all the monkeys and then there wouldn’t be anymore monkeys. But what the Japanese did was to lure the monkeys up the hill, with a combination of food tempting them, and loud noises behind them to drive them up. And once the monkeys were up the hill, they kept them there by feeding them and taking care of them, and of course not letting anyone hurt them, so the monkeys are happy to stay up on top of Monkey Mountain, and you can go up there and mingle with them — they are completely tame. That’s me with some of the monkeys. The potbellied stove is to keep them warm.
After the conference we spent 2 1/2 days in Tokyo — you just don’t go to Japan without seeing Tokyo. Taking the shinkansen (the bullet rain) from Kyoto to Tokyo, I looked out the window — and omigoddess, there was Fujiyama, topped with snow, looming above the houses and fields! Fuji is truly awesome! BTW, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Yama is Japanese for mountain.
In Tokyo, we stayed at another ryokan, in the Ueno district. If you’re planning a trip to Tokyo, permit me to recommend staying in Ueno. Our ryokan was about 3 blocks from Ueno Park, a huge and beautiful park filled with temples, and with about 4 museums — we went to 3 of them. It’s also about a block from the zoo, and if we’d have had more time…
Ueno is filled with elegant traditional Japanese houses and temples, flowers, narrow streets with people riding bicyles — did I mention that you can park your bike and nobody steals it? — and public bath houses. Then you emerge from the park and you go from Zen to J-pop — yikes, bright lights, big city! Suddenly you’re in the other Tokyo, filled with neon and shops and beautiful young women tripping around in tiny skirts and sky-high heels and everyone’s reading manga. We successfully navigated the subways and went all over the city, or as far as you can go in 2 1/2 days.
Now I’m back in the US of A, and there’s work to be done. Next: an exhibit for my Forbidden City book, put together by the San Francisco Historical Society at the Old Mint building, opening on February 11th — save the date! More on that soon, but for now, sayonara!