Kanako Nishimura's blog

西村香奈子     写真は、クリックかスライドショーでみてください。

2011/06/16
by kanapi
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Experimental opera, オペラの試み

2011.06.16

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友人の娘さん Lora de Montvert(ローラちゃん)の初めてのプロデュースによる。オペラの試み。普通、ピアノとオペラ歌手のリサイタルは観られますが、今回は、ピアノと共に2部構成で、オペラ、フィガロの結婚と、二部目は、アリア集。出演者は学生と若いこれからの歌手の方々。こういったオペラの会を私は観たことがなかったので、ローラに質問した所、新しい試みだという事です。また、ローラは経済を専攻したのですが、オペラも歌えるし、また、おばあ様は、長くバレンシアガで働いていて、ヒストリアンとして世界中の服飾研究者が訪ねてくるほどの方、また、お母様もミュグレーで働いていたという、フアッションにも造詣が深い環境に育ったため、この衣装!さぞかしタイトな予算の中で、準備は大変だったことでしょう。

オペラは好きで、時々は行く私ですが、奥が深くって、偉そうなことはいえません。でも、リサイタル中、気分がとっても良くなって、聞き入ってしまうのです!素晴らしかったと思いますし、世界中でこういうリサイタルが身近にあれば、私の様なオペラ好きにとってもっと頻繁に、気軽に楽しく参加できるし、演奏家の方々にとっても、本番機会がより多い事はいいのでは?と、思ってしまいました。衣装だって、想像力を駆使して、豪華でなくっても、手作り感覚で十分素敵だと思います。

ローラは、今夏はパリでもう一度、そして南フランスでも何か所かで、この会を予定しております。そして、もっと広めていきたいとも!陰ながら、エールを送っていますね!

Our friends’ daughter Lora de Montvert’s first production was extremely unusual. We expected the usual piano and opera singer’s recital of say an aria from The Marriage of Figaro. This was an actual mini-opera, with costumes, acting, and a cast of mixed students and young talent. This is remarkable, even in Paris. I am a fan of opera and had to like this much better than the usual recital form. I’d like to see more of this type of recital, and it’s probably more fun for the players as well.

Besides singing opera, Lora studies economics. Her grandmother used to work for Balenciaga, and is now a source for historians. Her mother worked for Mugler. It’s a fashion family, and you can see this influence in the show’s costumes. The recital will also play in the south of France this summer, and she’d like to take it on the road elsewhere, too.

2011/06/15
by kanapi
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Place St. Sulpice

今回は、サンスルピースのアパートをかりました。なんといっても、上の猫!初日から、窓をノックして訪ねてきます。アパート内での飼い猫のよう。甘えん坊の人懐っこい彼女のお蔭で、滞在中家に帰ることが楽しみになりました。

We rented this apartment in Place St. Sulpice and it came complete with a housecat, who immediately demanded entry. Inside, she became Queen. Thanks to her, I looked forward to coming home every afternoon.

2011/05/03
by Mikie
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May 2 Chinese feast

Kanako, Kirara, and Kozue had a private feast on May 2.

Gee whiz Golly

Clockwise from the bottom, we have fried peppers with dried baby shrimps, drunken baby shijimi clams, Scallops in Chinese black bean sauce, coriander garnish, Taiwanese oyster omelette, hijiki with udo and cucumber salad, and in the center is Chinese stewed pork in oyster sauce. Yay!

2010/03/14
by Mikie
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Nearby Chiba

looking at goats library and tearoom restaurant kitchen

The closest approximation to the Jersey shore for New Yorkers in Japan would be Kamogawa in Chiba. We took an early spring vacation there recently. After a night at an oceanside resort, we had tea at a farm belonging to Tokiko Kato, a singer and natural foods proponent. Her library was interesting.

Look ma, I'm a daimyo. Chiba shrine shrine 2

Naturally, we visited a shrine or two. Chiba is generally “take a drive with the kids” territory but apart from that, we had lunch at a cool soba joint run by a biker and his woman, both Tokyo emigres. I admired the fellow’s BSA 440 antique and the food was yummy. We took a walk along the Yoro River that was nice, too.

2009/06/27
by Mikie
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Luang Prabang, Laos

We’re staying in the former house of Souvanna Phouma, who campaigned against French colonization from 1945, became Prime Minister in 1951, and whose non-communist stance was in and out of favor for nearly 25 years until the Vietnamese finally kicked him out in 1975 and substituted his communist half-brother Souphanouvong in his stead. I said that this struck me as confusing but Kanako yawned and said politely that she had seen larger houses before, and larger pools, too. I can vaguely remember the voice of John F. Kennedy talking about Laos around 1959, and how that sounded in a Boston accent.

Mekong tributary messed up stairway random wat

I can’t imagine what insanity prompted Napoleon to want to conquer Indochine in the first place except that it was tempting to steal some of the enormous British Siam and it seemed free. This led to the demarcation of some bizarre borders on the world map. There are more Lao speakers in Thailand than Laos and more in Bangkok than in the capital of Laos, Vientiane.

It’s actually not so surprising that the area is politically messed up, as along with the relatively well-known Hmong people, and the eponymous Lao, many tribes or peoples share this zone: the Karen, Akha, Khmu, Lolo, and another 40 or so groups, some of whom are probably the ancestors of the native Taiwanese. I guess I find this fascinating, since most of these people live in harmony with each other, simply donning different headbands and bracelets to tell each other apart, while leaving war to the so-called ‘civilized’ powers. If only the Jews had it so easy.

2008/07/23
by Mikie
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Kyoto Frenchi

Kiyomizu in Yasaka

Yes, we took the requisite shrine and temple pix, like Kiyomizu here, perched on a cliff overlooking the city, and like this shrine to beautiful faces, one of the Yasaka Shrines, patronized by geishas and by Kanako, too.

Kamogawa River microtomato

The inclement weather reduced the number of tourists so much that we actually got unreserved seats at one of the Pontocho night spots by the lovely river, where they served me a new thing: a microtomato.

our chef

Which brings us to our topic–Kyoto French Cuisine. Kyoto Frenchi, as it’s called, is its own hybrid invention. It’s not French, nor Japanese kaiseki exactly, and you pretty much can only get it here, but it’s really amazing. The setting resembles a luxurious sushi bar without the coolers of fish in front, but with similar service, which by the way, should be attentive and almost chatty. Think high-class bartender, not the fish-cutter workers in many places.

appies  3rd soup

I missed snapping the first course but here’s the appetizer boat for 2, filled with tiny morsels in tiny dishes. Next was a veggie terrine with a few dots of the incalculably valuable caviar. Then a soup of pompano (called aji here) in an antique lacquer bowl.

5th 6th 7th

5th course was a snapper (guji) in saffron sauce with a fried lotus root. 6th was a foie gras risotto with a touch of corn. 7th came a touch of sherbet with an accidental funny face on the cream.

Kobe beef steak

The main was Kobe beef. I had the steak and K chose tenderloin. The various sauces were completely unnecessary although quite delicious. It’s a good thing they didn’t serve a big portion, as we were pretty full.

dsc02596.JPG  dessert 2 tea

We chose our desserts but both came with a spoon of citrus gelato. Excellent coffee, of course, and then the Japanese touch, a final cup of tea.

2008/07/20
by Mikie
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Inner Nara

Probably the most famous temple around Nara is Horyuji, a sort of Buddhist university. Its treasuries house superb sculpture and paintings. I don’t know if it was fortunate but the day was so bleeping hot and humid that the place had relatively few visitors, and was easy to get around. Our guide pointed out the slender figures of the local sculptural style and the mysterious smiles on their faces reminiscent of 5th century Greece.

deer park

Kanako took her turn feeding the famous deer in the park. Greedy little suckers.

Jikoin tea room

Trekking around Nara brought us to Jikoin Zen Temple, a place famous for its tea rooms and events. A younger monk started to lecture to a group about it, so we passed him and headed directly for the tiny tea rooms, where an older monk appeared. Since Kanako and I looked interested, he told us about the subtle differences between his school of tea, called Sekishu, and Kanako’s Edo style. Then the old boy got really talkative and asked if we knew which was President Bush’s favorite Kyoto temple. Well, mine is Ryoanji with the wonderful rock garden but Bush would like showier stuff. I pondered a bit and guessed the Golden Pavilion. Yup.

2008/07/17
by Mikie
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Outer Nara

Dorogawa Hachimangu Local 802 need some drugs

We’re back in the land of shrines and temples, kids. Tonight we’re at Tenkawa Shrine, waaay up in the hills outside of Nara on the Kumano border, surrounded by steep hills, pilgrims walking the trails, and mist. Tonight’s fun is about experimental music, performed on a stage paid for in the Bubble by a group that would look right at home in the 1970’s East Village. There’s a warbler-flautist who’s actually terrific, a guitar droner, a harp, a kokyu, some assorted ladies from the union hall blowing Tibetan horn, and a guy playing that most ancient of Japanese instruments, the synthesizer. The statue of Sarasvati looks on in astonishment and yes, we’re wearing bug repellent. Either the group or I am suffering from an insufficiency of LSD. Photos were forbidden at the inspired Noh drama we saw. We also ran into some excellent New Yorkers who were escorting a Tibetan monk around Japan, very nostalgigenic.

doughty guide Tomita  graveyard of pilgrims

We’ve been running with this doughty guide Tomita-san and his pal Morimoto-san. Tomita retired and decided to study Kansai monuments. He did so well at it, he became the Chairman of the Association of Volunteer Tour Guides in Kansai. Here, he takes us to the entrance of a trail that women aren’t allowed to walk, a pilgrimage trail that leads up a relatively small 700m mountain. At the bottom of the hill is a graveyard for those who regularly made the climb.

pilgrims 1  pilgrims 2 where it started

These are pilgrims on the march. Some are blowing conch horns, which the ancient Japanese used for hill-to-hill communication.  And this Nara spot is where the first Emperor was crowned around 600 AD–before him there were just kings, see. On the one hand, it’s easy to see how farmers can get two rice crops a year from this fertile valley–on the other, the heat and humidity here in July is probably better experienced in a blog than in person.

2008/05/19
by Mikie
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Kumano Culture

Shingon monastery entry our room

We’re staying at a Shingon Buddhist monastery, where we meditated in the afternoon before the excellent vegetarian dinner, and where I remembered that I don’t get along with any religion-like context, no matter how benign. I don’t do well with rules even if they’re supposed to be good for me. I passed up the morning chanting to drink coffee and study my kanji instead. Nice building and garden, though. Never again.

big temple

For the curious, Mahayana Buddhism’s main esoteric offshoots are Tibetan and Japanese. Mahayana’s precept is that anyone can achieve Nirvana in their lifetime. Esoteric Buddhism further says that learning tricks like meditation or tantric skills can be useful on the road to enlightenment. Japanese Buddhism goes one step further, implying that satori or enlightenment can come in an instant, spurred by a question or the sound of a distant bell.

rock garden in Sanskrit

Now the Japanese penchants for information, study and imported goods leads to their Buddhism being extremely well connected to the original Indian methods and gods. I met a priest who characterizes his shrine as being dedicated to Sarasvati (the one that was Brahma’s wife and quite the musician.) Buddhism here is also very informed by Sanskrit sutras, Tibetan mandalas, and other imports. Some of the priests carry those cool Tibetan staffs that have three bronze rings at the top. The rock garden outside has a Sanskrit letter raked in its gravel.

Niutsuhime shrine

Shinto began 500 years before Buddhism was imported, when the first Yayoi rice farmers prayed for good harvests. When Buddhism was imported, there were already lots of Shinto shrines here, and shrines and temples had intermingled functions. This continued for 1,400 years until the Meiji Restoration in the late 1800s, so it can sometimes be difficult to tell a shrine from a temple. Either or both can have fading paint, torii gates, fantastic carpentry, and roofs made of hinoki or thatch.

Keep it simple: a temple is more likely to a have multiple pagoda roofs and statues of Buddha, whereas a shrine is more likely to have priests wearing white, large origami and very heavy rope strung about, and a rope hanging down at the front door attached to a bell above that believers ring to attract the attention of the gods and then throw money in the box just for good measure.

Quick: shrine or temple?

shrine or temple?

Right, a shrine. See the rope above the doorway?

Mount Koya new sofa concept dragon’s back

Kumano has lotsa shrines and temples. The most major zone is definitely the headquarters of the Shingon sect of Zen Buddhism on Mount Koya. A Buddhist theme park, it sports almost 80 groups of temples, including this monster one with an enormous rock garden depicting the back of a dragon emerging from the clouds. Apart from this zone, most of the other religious buildings are shrines scattered here and there along the pilgrimage routes.

cemetary graves

We went to the most serious Japanese cemetery I’ve ever seen, which reminded me of Pere Lachaise in Paris. It had the graves of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (the shogun that unified Japan) and of his vanquished enemy warlord Oda Nobunaga as well, a fact that must be causing Oda some posthumous grief. It also had areas devoted to many major corporations.

hilltop shrine empty hideaway

In Yoshino, we climbed really far up a mountain to reach the shrine at the top…only to find it empty! Very austere and Japanese, don’t you think? Next to it was a little hut where Yoshitsune hid from his brother-in-law Yoritomo in the late 1100s, quite a famous story. Well-preserved hut, too.

With that, we came home, a place very nice to return to, and this blog closes for now. Happy trails!

2008/05/15
by Mikie
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Kumano Nature

Whale Aquarium silly whale tricks yum

I’ve never been to a whale aquarium before so we went to the one in Taichi. They have dolphins, too, but I didn’t know that you could train whales rather like they train dolphins, although on a simpler scale. Whales won’t jump through hoops or do arithmetic but you can get them to wave, swim on their backs, and do synchronized tricks. They’re bribed with fish and pretty tasty looking squids.

So I’m standing on the dock watching the show and this Japanese lady next to me marvels at my language ability. I told her I got motivated because they fed me a lotta squid. Har har.

foot bath 1 foot bath 2

I’ve also never seen a town with public foot baths filled with hot spring water, but here are some next to the tuna docks, where we ate the best tuna I’ve ever had (and some pretty tasty squid, I might add.)

Genseirin forest Third Falls Albino wildflowers

Next day, we hired a guide to walk us through a local forest that few make it to. Abundant wildflowers and waterfalls made this a lovely trek.

Kawayu Hot Spring right in the hot river ducks by the hot river

To rest up from the trek, we went to a river where you can dig by the side of the ice cold stream and find hot water to soak in. Rather than dig our own, we used the hotel’s convenient pond. It’s remarkable to enjoy a hot bath in such a natural setting, yes?