un chien andalou de cádiz

if you are a film-buff or an art-lover, i’m sure you’ve seen or at least heard of the surrealist masterpiece “un chien andalou” directed by luis buñuel. and i guess, like me, you found the film too difficult to understand. among my favourite avant-garde films i prefer jean cocteau’s work to his. to tell you the truth, despite being always a film and art enthusiast, although i saw so many art films when i was a londoner, i had only known the film by its famous title for a long time. i had never watched it until one saturday afternoon when mr geek showed it to me at his home in hampstead. he and i spent weekends together at the time. and luckily, he happened to have a copy of its video.

when i visited andalucía of españa with mr geek back in late march of 2002, he wanted to show me around cádiz that once was his adopted home town. it was already an early summer’s day. some people enjoyed swimming; young girls splashing about along the seashore. we strolled down to the sunny beach and i saw a jack russell terrier jumping into the water to catch a ball the dog-owner had thrown. a real andalucían dog. he stopped running as if he struck a pose. i snapped a shot of the dog. it was an image that would forever be imprinted in my mind. and the dog has been in my mind since then, even if i hadn’t taken the photograph, which a tokyo band, rose-unlimited, asked me to use it for their cd album cover.

i loved it in andalucía. i was enchanted by the beauty of alhambra and generalife in granada. picturesque ronda and foodie cádiz satisfied all my senses. and i now recall one episode. a pretty but wacky middle-aged spanish woman approached us as soon as we took seats of a long-distance bus from ronda. she, wearing her hair in two plaits and zany clothes like a sioux tribal woman, kept talking to mr geek en route to cádiz. she spoke perfect british english, though. her intriguing stories silenced both mr geek and me. “i went out with jimi when i lived in london, in the 60’s, you know” – that jimi hendrix. the legendary rocker. that’s what she said. all mr geek and i did was kept nodding “wow!” while her kookiness made us wonder if she was serious and real or nutty as an andalusian fruitcake.


my pad

interior design is something i can help but think of. my most favourite shop is, probably, nicola farhi home in london. i love her rustic but contemporary chic taste. still, i imagine it’d be so boring if one was super rich and would go and buy anything he/she liked there. i could find something similar and cheaper somewhere else. and most importantly, to me, like other interior design enthusiasts, finding things is more pleasurable than buying things, which is great about making one's own home, right?

today, i show you around my pad – my home, humble but sweet home of my very own. i’ve been living here for 3 years and 5 months now. i really love being at home. i never like the synthetic materials that are used for the floor, the walls and the ceiling in my flat, however. this flat was already renovated by its former owner when it was to be on the market. the textures are awful and tasteless. i have to close my eyes to them, even though i actually see them every single moment. i guess i’ve just learned to get used to something i even dislike. it's true that every cloud has a silver lining. the views from my windows and balconies are not that bad.

as you might know, no japanese goes into their home in shoes: we take off our shoes at the entrance hall. so, our shoe cabinet is usually big. not like one that carrie bradshow of s.a.t.c, has in her new manhattan apartment, though. my shoe cabinet, which was originally fitted in the entrance hall, was ugly enough to hurt my eyes. i painted it pistachio green last summer. it isn’t as stylish as carrie’s, but at least, it looks all right to my eyes now.

i also painted my old thonet chair (i don’t know if it’s real one or thonet-esque one) and the pine desk from muji. my semi-double bed is also from muji. i work from my bedroom office, overlooking the sea of grey-tile-roofed houses of my neighbourhood. i wish i had a bigger desk, though you may not see this tiny desk cluttered. the white canvas behind the desk is a minimalist oil painting i bought from badrol, my artist friend from malaysia. i treasure it. but i’d use it as a backdrop sometimes because of the bad walls when i take photographs. sorry, bad!

in my bed room, i treasure the old french pine chest of drawers. i found it ages back at a furniture shop in kentish town, london. its kind of clumsy way that the drawers had been repaired stole my heart – so sweet. so charming. i bought it myself on the spot. i shipped it when i returned to tokyo from london several years later. most of the stuff placed on the chest are my finds at london’s various flea markets. and, you see the patchwork quilt? i made it myself. i am pretty good at sawing (but useless when it comes to sawing-machine) and knitting. oh, the throw. i am fond of this tartan of rare colours. i bought it during my visit to inverness, scotland a long time ago.

as for my living room, the sofa and ottoman are also from a local muji shop. yes, i’ve been a muji fan since its launch. in fact, i worked for muji mook as a writer. but the thing is, muji never does a great variety of furniture design. ikea hadn’t re-launched in japan yet when i moved in. and now, more ikea stuff is likely to occupy my flat, which has been simply furnished so far. i don’t like being surrounded by too many things basically. so, my books in the bookcase shown are not everything i have. i’ve hidden the rest in my closet. the two, tall and short, perfume bottles of the eiffel tower were brought back from my paris trip back in the early 80’s. its minty colour doesn’t fade forever. well, i hope.

the colour scheme for my interior is always white as a base colour (ignore the flavourless walls for this moment), usually adding shade of green, baby blue and brown. i feel most comfortable with white and pale blue. i once (when i was married and lived in yokohama) fitted white wall-to-wall carpet in my all white bedroom where white and pale blue bed linens coordinated with it. that was a mistake. the white carpet got grey-sh only after a few months. my kids were wild little creatures back then. i have no problem now. except the budget. i can’t afford renovation. at least, i can be thinking of painting all the walls pure white this summer or next.

adding red, as an accent colour, to my kitchen plus dining space has been my first ever adventurous attempt and it’s in progress. i’d like to show it to you when completed. meanwhile, i have other 2 tatami rooms with a fitted closet respectively. i use one for my guests (usually for my daughter) and i put my muji pine wardrobe (2 units) for another. most of my clothes not in season are in muji pp unit drawers hidden in the closet, though. as it happened, my lifestyle is not typically japanese. still, i love to keep the tatami rooms in my pad.

that’s all, folks. thank you!


on a green day in manhattan

saint patrick’s day falls on tuesday this year. i experienced the irish celebration for the first time a year ago in manhattan. i loved it and as well as fun-loving people in new york. masaco and i visited jason and ivo last march. jason placed a vase of cheerful egg-york yellow daffodils welcoming us in his guest room. the night we arrived at their upper east apartment, jason brought us 4 champagne flutes and a bottle of veuve-clicquot from his fridge and offered a reunion toast before going out to a restaurant for our first dinner. how i loved the night. and how i’ve treasured the memory for a year. that was one of absolutely fabulous evenings i’ve ever had in my life.

on saint patrick’s day, tomona, masaco’s new yorker girlfriend, invited us to her ex-boss’s party at the peninsula hotel on 5th avenue. he is rich and of perky irish descent and i heard he’d throw a saint patrick’s day party every year. neither of masaco and i prepared anything for the green party, but at least we both fortunately had our own green scarves to wear for the party. to my surprise, the majority of his guests were from the fbi. that was what tomona told masaco and me. they were in plain clothes so i couldn’t figure out who were the fbi staff and who were not, though. they all looked more than light-headed, anyway, enjoying the live performance of irish music.

after the party, we walked up 5th avenue to meet my darling friend, gary, who had invited masaco and me to a broadway musical the previous night. in front of the barney’s, where we were supposed to meet, i spotted movie stars: robin williams and michael j. fox. although i am no big fan of them, it was fun to see hollywood stars. gary was leaving new york for his los angels home later that day. the sad thing now is, he’s lost contact with me since i last wrote him expressing my concerns over his financial commitment with a new man last summer. i could've have written what gary didn’t want to hear from me? well, it hurts. on the other hand, i was so happy to hear when jason and ivo was getting married in san francisco last autumn.

meanwhile, that new york trip was my first time i’d seen quinoa – what was it? what would its taste like be? i had no idea. ivo cooked it. i learned quinoa had a unique texture. it was so tasty as well. mostly owing to ivo's talent: he is an excellent cook. i can never find it back home. i should've bought a small bag of quinoa then. as i am so keen on food shopping even on a holiday, i enjoyed cooking in their kitchen, too. i shopped food at their nearby rather “posh” supermarket almost everyday. i was a greedy piggy to taste america, while the flavour of argula (rocket or rucola), which is my favourite green, less nutty than ones in britain or japan disappointed me a bit.

anything green reminds me of saint patrick’s day i adored during my last new york trip. simply, i miss manhattan. like crazy.


what's happening in nara in march

“unless お水取り o-mizutori is finished, we won’t have mild weather yet” -- my mother always tells me so, just like other people in 関西 kansai (the southern-central region). 修二会 shunie, known as お水取り, is the 2 week-long ceremony of fire and water that has been practiced by buddhist monks in 二月堂 nigatsu-do (hall) of 東大寺 todai-ji (temple) in 奈良 nara prefecture for more than 1200 years. it is said that spring comes to the region as the service is completed. お水取り, drawing sacred water, the climax of 修二会, takes place on march 12th every year.

a year ago yesterday, when my daughter stayed with me, she and I visited 奈良. 奈良 was the capital of japan in the 8th century before 京都 kyoto. 大仏 daibutsu, the great buddha, is housed in 金堂 kon-do (hall) that lies the huge compound of 東大寺, which is now 奈良公園 (park). the park is also popular for deer roaming around and following tourists for 鹿せんべいshika senbei (deer biscuits). the temples in 奈良 feel quite ancient. they are indeed old. i liked it there because its atmosphere is less formal than 京都 – it’s quieter, more rural and relaxing, while its scale is grander.

once you enter 金堂, 大仏 will take you aback. it’s magnificent. the architecture of the wooden hall also will take you breath away if you are from countries where buildings are made of bricks or stone. it was her first time for shion, my daughter, to visit 奈良. i’d been there a few times before, but every time i look up at the giant buddha statue, the vast scale and the sense of eternity amaze me. our next destination after 大仏 was 二月堂. walking up and down the hills in the park covered with moss to 二月堂 was worth sweating. when reached the hilltop, we had a panorama of the peaceful city from 二月堂.

yesterday, i went to my mother’s home and spent the whole afternoon cleaning. i couldn’t ignore the clutter in her bedroom. she just can’t damp things like empty cardboard boxes and carrier bags. so there were tons everywhere in her flat being waiting to tidy up. my mother is hopeless believer in a “this one can be useful one day” -sort of thing. she didn’t allow me to even hoover her living room. i did throughout. because, she is most likely to get back home from her hospital some time this week, if her blood test turns out as best as it shows in the last few weeks.

after all, the cause of her disease was unfound. it was not caused by any virus, which is certain. we are relieved to hear that she is now out of danger, even though there is no further medication or treatment for her other than being in bed. when she is home, she is still a hepatitis patient, i will have to take care of her. i fact, i have an appointment with a hospital dietician this afternoon. obviously, she will be staying in bed at home longer than before. this must’ve been a good timing to dust her bedroom corners, it seems. i hope my mother will not mind me having done that.

this year’s お水取り of 東大寺 is taking place in 二月堂 on 12th as usual. by midnight there will be tens of thousands of prayers to gather, or tourists just to say goodbye to the winter blues.
thank you so much for your warm words and get-well-soon wishes for my mother!!