2017 in photos

In 2017 I went to ten different countries, and was rarely in one place for longer than a week between January and September, which is both exciting and unsettling. Here’s where I went and what I did, using my Instagram photos (because I don’t have camera photos of everything, and even when I do, I haven’t edited all of them). Obviously loads and loads of images under the cut. If you’re wondering how I went to so many countries, I work for an agency that sends me to teach school workshops abroad, my mum lives in France, and I won the plane tickets to Japan.

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Japan Roundup

So I’ve finally put up all the photos I took in Japan. Below is a summary and links to each post. I have also created some designs for gifts and homewares over on Society 6 with my photographs from Japan. You can find them here.

I also wrote a zine about the trip, but it isn’t available until I return from teaching summer school in August/September. If you’re interested in ordering one, you can sign up here to be emailed once it’s back in stock.

Japan Playlist– A selection of songs by Japanese artists and others I listened to on the trip

Introduction

Tokyo

All Neon Like– instagram photos of Tokyo

Miyazaki’s Reading List- a visit to the Studio Ghibli museum and bookshop

Kyoto I

Kyoto II

Kyoto Shrines & Temples

Ema– Japanese good fortune plaques

Moss is Slow Life– the Zen gardens of Kyoto

Naoshima– Japan’s Art Island

The Benesse Modern Art Museum

Okunoshima– Bunny Island

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer– Nara’s tame temple deer

Nara’s Gardens

Hiroshima

Some Japanese books

 

Japan playlist

Here’s a Spotify playlist I made while I was in Japan, of Japanese artists and music that matched my mood at the time. (All the Japanese bands are marked with a J).

  1. Drop- Cornelius (J)
    First up Cornelius, from Tokyo. Keigo Oyamada was really big in the late 90s/early 2000s, but seemed to drop under the radar a bit in recent years. Wikipedia has now told me that he has a new album out this year, so I need to give that a listen.
  2. 1979- Smashing Pumpkins
    I have no shame. I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan as a teenager, Zero shirt and inadvised bleached fringe and all. I stuck some 90s mix on the hotel tv’s youtube app, and this came up, and I remembered just how fun the video is. (James Iha also has roots in Japan).
  3. (circle)- Boredoms (J)
    ALL THE DRUMMERS YOU COULD WANT.
  4. Soon- My Bloody Valentine
    I don’t think you could do a Japan playlist without any My Bloody Valentine. I never made it to the Tokyo Hyatt bar from the film (it’s an expensive place). However I did get to stay at the Kyoto Hyatt after winning a voucher, and the included breakfast was the best and most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. Please note that I certainly did not smuggle any bags of extra cakes or fruit back to the room for lunch. Didn’t happen.
  5. Farewell- Boris (J)
    A playlist of Japanese music wouldn’t be complete without Boris. Here they are at their most relaxing.
  6. Knife Party- Deftones
    I’ve been on a Deftones kick lately after having not listened to them for years. White Pony still holds up great 17 years later. One of the few Nu Metal bands with any brains.
  7. Oto- Sakamoto & Fennesz (J)
    A collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz, mixing Sakamoto’s piano music, and Fennesz’s ambient sounds. One of the strangest little details about regularly going to work in rural Austria, is that I often go to Fennesz’s home region, Burgenland. It’s the smallest region of Austria (and used to be in Hungary) and they don’t have many famous people aside from Liszt. So they’re unusually proud of Fennesz and you find his records for sale in unexpected places like the Austrian equivalent of WH Smith’s.
  8. Apple- Cibo Mato (J)
    Still going strong with or without the membership of Sean Lennon.
  9. Panda- Dungen
    Not from Japan at all, from Sweden and in Swedish, but their early 70s kind of sound seemed to fit my mood well crossing Japan by train. Also named after a panda of course.
  10. Sometimes- My Bloody Valentine
  11. Last Target On The Last Day- Melt Banana (J)
    Every time I have ever seen Melt Banana live I have come home completely covered in other people’s sweat, but with no regrets.
  12. Astronaut- Beach House
    Every time I have seen Beach House live has been a sleepy mid-afternoon time on the second or third day of a festival either in warm weather or indoors relaxing on the floor. I think that sums them up in the same way “other people’s sweat” does for Melt Banana. I listened to this album a lot running along the shore of the Seto Inland Sea by rickety banana yellow local trains much like that in Spirited Away.
  13. Aware- Sakamoto & Fennesz
  14. Ghost Ship In A Storm- Jim O’Rourke
    Jim O’Rourke despite being associated with Chicago, now lives in Tokyo. For some reason I always associate his songs with Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes. I guess it’s a similar view of life in their writing.

Hiroshima

You can see more photos from Kyoto, Tokyo and other cities I visited in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

One of our final stop-offs in Japan was Hiroshima. Hiroshima is most famous for being the first city (and so far 50% of all cities) to be nuclear bombed. Nearly everything in the city was destroyed, and at least 50% of the population died, with the survivors often suffering extreme health problems afterwards. Nearly all the buildings in the city are modern- the Atomic Dome pictured above was one of the few old buildings standing. Visiting Hiroshima has only increased my belief in nuclear disarmament. (And I’m for unilateral disarmament- something the UK government had the chance to do last year but didn’t, with choosing to renew the Trident missiles).

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Ema

You can see more photos from Kyoto and other cities I visited in the Japan category, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

An important aspect of Japanese shrines and temples are ema plaques (the name 絵馬 literally means “picture horse”). These are small wooden signs with a picture on one side. You write a wish on it and hang it up (or take it home as a souvenir). Each site has its own design, so I made a collection of photos of different ones I saw in Japan. They are originally a Shinto tradition, but can also be found at Buddhist temples. At bigger sites you can find messages written in a lot of different languages.

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Nara Garden

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

While we were in Nara we also visited a traditional Japanese tea garden. Unfortunately the tea house was shut, and it was raining, but it was still a lovely garden.

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Indiana Jones and the Temple of Deer

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

Our final stop in Japan before flying home from Osaka was Nara. In the 700s it was the capital of Japan, at the time when Buddhism really became established in Japan. Nowadays as well as Buddhism, it’s known for the tame deer who live in the forest park surrounding the temples and shrines. We stayed in a hostel in the forest. It seemed a short walk from the train station, but we ended up walking along dark forest paths dragging cases seemingly forever, with deer staring at us accusingly like something out of Princess Mononoke. (The hostel turned out to be a pretty weird place too).

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Okunoshima- Rabbit Island

You can see more photos from other places in the Japan category of this blog, and also read about the trip in the zine I wrote.

While I was in Japan we visited the island of Okunoshima. In the Second World War it was a top secret chemical weapons plant, but now is a nature reserve famous for its free-ranging tame rabbits, who are probably the descendants of the lab rabbits.

On the ferry out to the semi-tropical, fern-covered island, we joked about it being like Jurassic Park but with rabid fluffy bunnies. They turned out to be even tamer than I had expected, probably tamer than a lot of pet rabbits. They’ve never seen predators, and all their experience of humans is being petted and fed in return for being friendly, so if you even sit down, a load of rabbits will pile onto your lap.

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Diana Wynne Jones zine

I have a zine of articles about children’s writer Diana Wynne Jones (of Howl’s Moving Castle et al) I wrote this zine in 2011, also managing to interview her before she sadly died (you can also read the interview online here). The original edition was 1/6 of an A3 sheet, made on a Risograph machine. This was great when I still had access to an A3 Riso machine, but after I didn’t it was very expensive and difficult to reprint, so it went out of print. Recently I did a new edition, with all-new illustrations, in a much more convenient standard A6 size.

The zine is available here on its own for £3.50 (currently around US$4.50 or €4.20) or as bundles with my Japan zine or a Fire and Hemlock inspired print.

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Benesse Museum collection

Benesse House on Naoshima doesn’t allow photos of their modern art collection, so here is a selection of works I like by some artists I saw there. I though the space of the museum was wonderful, but the fact that there was no information about the artworks was a letdown. If you didn’t know much about modern art already, you might not have got much out of the visit, which is a bad thing for a museum, seeing as one of the main reasons to go is to learn new things.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat was a rags-to-riches super-star in 80s New York, (including dating Madonna) until he sadly died of a heroin overdose. His paintings are definitely even better appreciated in real life than in photographs. They’re absolutely huge, and have all kinds of layers, different texture and hidden tiny images and texts hidden in them when seen in person.

Cy Twombly

Cy Twombly also makes huge canvases, but is instead the world’s premium scribbler. It’s definitely the kind of modern art that people scoff at and claim they could do themselves in five minutes (but never actually do). Some of his works are huge surfaces covered in hundreds of tiny scribbles, but the essential thing is that he makes exactly the right scribbles that are expressive but also somehow soothing to the eye, which is far harder than it looks.

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