Wednesday 28 May 2014

My favourite artist - Eriko Kawai

I have the good fortune of being able to teach English to a wide variety of people.  My youngest student is three years old, my oldest is about seventy.  My students come from a huge variety of backgrounds.  I teach primary (elementary) school students, University students, regular office workers, TV personalities, company executives and large company owners.  One of my favourite students is an artist.  Her name is Eriko Kawai and she is a fantastic person. Whenever she appeared on my schedule, I knew I would be in for an absolutely enjoyable lesson!  Before a lesson one day I managed to find her website and surprised her by bringing it up at the start of our lesson.  I am not an art lover, but there were a number of pieces on her website that I was impressed with!  A couple that I would be happy to have on my wall!

She recently finished studying English (without me knowing) and then had an exhibition of some of her works.  I decided that I wanted to head along and have a look so I went along with another of her teachers, Jarrett, and one of the Japanese staff of the school that I work at, Kazue.  The exhibition was in a cafe (Dada Cafe) in Yoyogi, near Harajuku and Shibuya.

We arrived at Yoyogi station and messaged Jarrett, who had already arrived, and he made his way to the station to meet us and we walked off in the direction of the cafe.  We got there and it was in a really nice old style house that Eriko informed us, used to be a kimono shop.  We sat down and ordered a couple of dishes and drinks.

Cucumber and miso paste.

Some Japanese pickles,

and a great avocado salad ordered by Jarrett.  Sorry the photo is not so good.

But onto the real reason we were here, Eriko's art.  She apologised to me for not coming in for a lesson because she had been so busy making new pieces for this exhibition.  I will let Eriko's art do the talking from now!

Eriko explained that she owns a black cat as a pet and the cat features in a lot of her paintings.

She also explained that when artists paint portraits (of no particular person) the paintings often take on the look of the artist themselves.  I checked a couple of her portraits, and they definitely looked similar to Eriko!

Eriko told me that she is heading off to Melbourne to study more about art, so please, if you live in Melbourne and find out about any exhibitions by an artist called  Eriko Kawai, please go along to have a look and support one of my friends!

I left that night wishing Eriko all the best and so proud that one of my students was about to start a big adventure where the English that I had taught her would be so important.

Good luck Eriko, I know you will do great!

Thanks again for reading.  I appreciate you allowing me to write about something that is personally close to me.

See you next time!

Update January 5th 2016:  Eriko is currently at the University of Arts London for the next 2 years, so if you are into the arts scene in London and see that Eriko is having an exhibition, please get along and have a look at her work and tell her that Jason sent you!

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Nice day for a walk - Rainbow Bridge

One of my good friends here in Japan, Sayaka recently suggested that I start doing example walking tours and then blog about them.  I was telling a coworker about this and she said "Find me a night time walk!".  Well, Katie, here it is!

Most weekends I teach English to an adorable group of kids at Odaiba.  To get to Odaiba (a man made island in the middle of Tokyo Bay) you catch a driverless train across Rainbow Bridge.  On my many trips across the bridge I had often noticed people walking across the bridge and had thought to myself that it would be interesting to do exactly that one day.  Well, recently, that one day arrived.

I finished teaching my kids and went and had lunch at La Salsa Mexican restaurant at Decks shopping centre (5th floor, thoroughly recommend it!).  looking out of the window of La Salsa, I was staring at Rainbow Bridge an decided that today was the day that I was going to do the bridge walk!

Construction on Rainbow Bridge began in 1987 and was completed in 1993 and it stretches for 1523 metres.  At night time it is often light up in the colours of the rainbow.

Basically the bridge is open from 9 am to 9 pm during the warmer months and from 10 am to 6 pm during the colder months.

Heading from Odaiba Kaihin Koen station on the Yurikamome line down to the beach, Rainbow Bridge stood tall in front of me.

Not knowing how to get on to the bridge, I just started walking along the beach in the direction of it.

When I took the photo, I didn't notice the guy running excitedly across the beach!!  I wish I knew what he was chasing!

A little further on, the path forked and I decided to take the low path.

I came across a couple of vending machines

 and decided to stock up on liquids for the walk ahead.

This is a view of Tokyo Bay looking towards the port area.  A couple of seconds after I took this photo a flying fish flew out of the water and glided through the air for a few seconds.  I have never seen a flying fish anywhere else except for Tokyo Bay!

Getting closer to the bridge I contemplated walking out to the park in the middle of the bay, but decided against it as I was running out of daylight.

I arrived at some steps on my right and it looked like it was the way up to the bridge so I went up

and sure enough, there was the entrance to the pedestrian section of the bridge.

Walking past the guardhouse the walkway starts it's way up to the bridge.

Just beyond this point there is a big information board with info about the bridge in both English and Japanese.

There are actually walkways on both sides of the bridge so you can get two uniquely different views of Tokyo.

A little further on is where you have the chance to choose which side to walk across on.

I chose the north side, facing the Tokyo skyline and started making my way across the bridge.

I was pretty impressed with the initial views.

Odaiba and the surrounding areas will be central to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games with many events taking place in the area.  Construction has started on some of the facilities in the area.  I think this construction site may be where the athlete's village will be located.

Not too much further on from this is a spot where you can actually cross to the other side if you want.

I decided to head over for a quick view of Odaiba and Tokyo Bay.

The water in the middle of the first picture is where the marathon swimming and swimming part of the Triathlon will be held during the Olympics.  That is a little concerning, however, as on the beach there are signs that clearly say, in both Japanese and English, no swimming and no naked flames!

I decided that I liked the north side better and crossed back under the bridge to the other side and continued my walk.

Running through the middle of the bridge with roads on either side is the train tracks for the Yurikamome line, the train with no driver and every so often the bridge would vibrate as the train rolled on past.

Pretty soon, the side railing was replaced by a full cage fence sadly, but I was still able to get my camera up close enough to the links to take clear photos.

About halfway across you have to pass through a room which houses an elevator for staff to get to the top of the bridge for repairs I guess.

Coming out the other side, I continued my way along admiring the skyline.  For a guy who was born in a tiny country town with a population of about 750, sights like this are breath-taking and certainly very different to what I grew up with.

I was now nearing the other side and started wondering where the way back down would be as it wasn't very obvious.

Then suddenly a door appeared in front of me with an elevator inside so I figured that this was the way down and went in.

Finally outside I followed a path down to street level and started making my way to nearby Shibaura Futo station on the Yurikamome line to go back to Shinbashi.

Suddenly I saw one of those "only in Japan" sights.  A guy was standing playing the trombone on the other side of the street while his girlfriend held his sheet music to play to!

Quite a random sight!  I guess he didn't want to disturb his neighbours!!

So to get to Shibaura Futo station, you come out of the building, walk down the green path and when you get to the street you turn left.  At the next T-juction,

turn right and walk for about 5 minutes

and you'll reach the station.

Getting back on the train I went back to Shinbashi and wandered over to nearby Ginza where my favourite little standing bar is, Three Hundred.

and settled in to enjoy a couple of 300 yen happy hour beers.

This post doesn't finish here though.  As I was walking across, the thought struck me to do the walk at night time, so a couple of weeks later I got in touch with Sayaka, who had suggested doing these walks originally, to see if she was interested in joining me for a night walk.  She said yes, so we met up at Shinbashi to do the walk in the other direction.

We arrived at the place where the elevator is to ride up to the walkway and the bridge was looming in front of us..

We went up to the walkway and stepped out onto the bridge (we went over on the north facing side again).  Now I have to apologise here as I use my mobile phone camera to take my photos and the clarity is not so good at night.  As a result, the photos I have taken do not do the view that we witnessed justice.  The view was simply incredible!  To see all of those city lights shining bright in the darkness was spectacular!  I will try to select some of the better photos that I was able to take to give you an idea.

It was simply stunning.  Soon we were nearing Odaiba.

The walk across had made us pretty hungry so we headed for Aqua City to go to their ramen street inside the shopping centre and along the way we saw this guy!

Realising that we were no threat to him, he let us pass and continue on to the ramen street.  At the ramen street there are 7 different ramen shops, representing the different kinds of ramen.  I went with a spicy Tan tan men and Sayaka with a tonkotsu ramen (at the back of the photo).

Feeling satisfied, we walked back to the train station to make our way back home.

I hope that you enjoyed that.  I thoroughly recommend the walk during either day or night, or even both so that you can experience the different views of Tokyo.  Thanks to Sayaka for joining me on the night walk, and for suggesting these walks.  This will be the first of a few different suggested walks.

Thanks for reading, and see you next time.