Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Suzaka, Hiroshima and Sour Milk

When I was in Japan as an exchange student from 2002 to 2003 I would walk to Garyu Koen all the time. Recently, when I was back in Suzaka of Nagano Prefecture, I met with every one of my families and people who knew me around town. Every one said one common thing, "He would always go for long walks at night to Garyu Koen." The name Garyu means "Sleeping Dragon," and Koen means, "Park." We all know that the 1998 Winter Olympics were in Nagano, so there's more than enough snow here, and when it snows at Garyu Koen, the small mountain within it looks like a dragon sleeping in a blanket of snow.

There are two bridges in Garyu Koen, one is pictured further down this post, but the one shown above is a smaller red bridge. I drew this from the larger white bridge which transverses the center of the lake at the park.

It had been roughly 5 years since coming back to the park. I noticed that there were very large amounts of giant koi and turtles swimming in the lake that weren't there before. I laughed when Mako started clapping, claiming that it would attract the fish and turtles. I teased her in English and then the two Japanese business men who were right next to us started clapping and the fish and turles started to show up. Mako won.

Here's a quick sketch of the white bridge at Garyu Koen:

I wished that I would have had more time to spend at Garyu Koen, but when you live in someone else's house, you have to obide by their rules and the man who let me live with him, Nodaira-san, mentioned in my previous post, is a very bossy person. In fact, he is the boss of two companies in Suzaka. In fact, it's hard to go somewhere and find someone who doesn't know of him or owe him a favor. I find it strange when I can get into a taxi and simply say, "Nodaira," and they know where to take me. He is a very busy man who always used the imperative form of verbs to tell people what to do.

He understands interesting things and has acquired many interesting things, yet he did not know what it meant to simply go to the park and enjoy it and because of that, I was not allowed time to enjoy it. It's a tricky situation when you want freedom yet depend on others... The only real thing I can say at the end of the day is, "Thank you."

I left Suzaka on the 18th to stay with Mako's aunt and uncle and their ten year old child, Yuutarou. I saw this genius playing with an abacus and if you have not seen someone skillfully use an abacus, I recommend that you search for it on YouTube immediatly.

We were both a little shy to meet each other and talking to each other was hard at the beginning. So, I thought maybe I could get to know him better by drawing Ultraman for him.

After this drawing we spent the next couple hours playing 2000 J-League Soccer on his Play Station One. Oh, the nostalgia! We played the hell out of a game that is literally translated as the "Game of Life," which is exactly like the American version except with spooky Japanese photo realistic paintings all over the board and many different interchangeable game boards and parts. He always won. We played every night.

If anyone reading this is familiar with the cartoon and comic character, Doraimon, they may be familiar with the spinoff baseball comic call Doraibase, as in Doraimon Baseball. I drew Yuutarou and his younger cousin, Ryohei, each a drawing of Doraibase. Again, I've gotta say that I love the kids.

When I was waiting at his aunts house I found a pair of guardian dog statues that I mistook for Komainus. I love the textures, the shapes, the rhythms and everything about them. I could spend a life time drawing them. How ironic that I didn't have enough time to draw the other one...

Mako and I had a whole day to spent in Hiroshima. It was hot and filled with really depressing sights. When I first in Hiroshima, about 2 months ago, I stood at the exact spot that the bomb was dropped. When I returned this time, I spent roughly 3 hours in the Hiroshima Peace Park Museum reading captions, looking at photos, walking into exhibits explaining nuclear warfare and it's consequences and wholly regretting that I am an American.

In America, we say that we dropped the bomb to end the war sooner, but there were many more reasons that we dropped the bomb and many details left out of our explanations of history. For example, Japan was the initial target from the get go, yet, not one city was established as the target. So, the US and Britian, narrowed the choices down to a few. Routine bombing was not permitted in these cities because if the bomb was to be dropped, they wanted to be able to accurately asses the amount of damage that was dealt. Then when the war was winding down and the US and Britian feared that if they didn't act soon then Russian would also get spoils from Japan, they decided to bomb Japan without warning to prevent the Russians from also having a say in Japan.

I really wish that everyone could have seen the giant models of the cities and the giant amont of destruction that it caused. One of the remaining buildings was made by a Czech architect and still is standing today. It's called the Atomic Dome:

The modern structure in the back is one of the lights for the Hiroshima Baseball stadium in the background.

In America, I've never met a Jehova's Witness. While in Japan, I've met four. This time, they had incredibily bad timing. While drawing the dome they approach me, seeming like nice interested Japanese women, but soon the conversation turned to converting me into a Jehova's witness just as it started to rain. That rain continued on and off through out the day. Finally when the rain seemed to stop, I started drawing the castle in Hiroshima. It started raining again. I really didn't care though. In fact, it was quite liberating not caring and drawing in the rain. Check it out:

Two days later, I returned to draw Hiroshima Castle on a dead lawn which I was told I couldn't sit on.

The final image of this post is of one of the many people who love to stare at foreigners in Japan. Mako informed me of his gazing eyes and I looked at him and looked away. I repeated until we decided that he was indeed creepy and something should be done. So, I asked her how she felt and she said that she really didn't like him, and that was enough for me. As I drew him, everyone on the train looked at my drawing and then looked at him. Looked at my drawing, then looked at him. My drawing, him. Drawing, him. Just before he got off the train we showed him the drawing and he smiled. Then Mako told him that he shouldn't stare at us like we're in a zoo. It was great to see his smile turn sour with shame.

The final text on this post is some really shitty sad news: It's being discussed and decided upon as I write this as to whether or not my project in Ukashima will be able to continue for too many reasons to count. The problems are as superficial as a George W. Bush speech in places and as complicated as counting grains of salt in other places. I really hope it can continue but it seems like it will have to stop. Find out next post: Same tall time, same tall channel.


Kathleen said...
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Hannah said...

ugh, sean you little genius you. japan has enough smart people to go around, come back to us here! we have cooookiieeees....

'Lil Ric said...


Anna said...

Oh man! I hope you have the chance to continue, but even if you cant draw 300 people, continue this and continue meeting people and you'll still have amazing results!