Monday, October 25, 2010

You can't go Home (but you can knit socks out of it)

Fall is coming to Kansai. Today it was chilly enough for a sweater, for the first time since I've been here. A few days ago it flooded in northern Japan, and we got enough rain that the river outside my house started rising. Appropriate, since last week I was flooded with midterms! So far I think I did pretty well. Some friends and I went out to an izakaya on Friday for beer and munchies to celebrate, and even though we were going to go to karaoke afterward, we ended up getting some cake from Starbucks and calling it a night.

In the last week, I've knit an entire Swallowtail shawl out of Handmaiden Sea Silk, which was a quick and gratifying project. I had less than 5 grams left over after going up a needle size and freaking out and knitting like crazy for 2 days to see if I had enough yarn to finish. I also started a second sock on Saturday, but found out after knitting 4 inches of it that I am an idiot and I had knitted it on US size 1s instead of 1.5s. Argh. So, that got ripped. Then another sock got cast on, only to be abandoned because the yarn and pattern (super cute Vilai, super cute but super splitty Panda Wool, which has since been discontinued) did not play nicely together. In fact, I think I saw Panda Wool gnawing on Vilai's ankle. Poor thing.

I haven't cast on with this gorgeous Madelinetosh Sock yet, but it's calling to me. It's ok, right, since the other socks didn't work?

The colorway is called Home, which is also weirdly fitting. I've hit the halfway point in my Japan adventures, and although I still love it here, I also miss a lot of things. My stash is one of them - I chose pretty well when selecting what yarn to bring with me, but sometimes I lust for things that are packed away in boxes in Ohio. Ah well. I've probably already waxed poetic about missing my friends enough, but I think it bears repeating. I will thoroughly enjoy the rest of my time here, but I will also be very happy to arrive in the glorious Northwest on a jet plane. Preferably with shiny new socks.

There's this bank of juniper trees on my way to school. When it rains, the water clings to their branches and makes the whole street smell like Seattle. Every morning I drink coffee and watch tv with my host mother and I hope that for just a second, my morning walk will smell just a little like home.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Three days in Japan, outfit edition


-Bow skirt from Mew, a shop full of adorableness in Namba, Osaka
-Catherine Malandrino alpaca lace top from Ratsy's, post-epic repair. I can't even find the holes anymore, probably because I kick so much ass.
-vintage flower pin
-grey tights, maybe We Love Colors?
-yellow kimono flower earrings (not pictured)

I had some extra time in the morning, so I went out to my porch to get a couple pictures of this great little skirt. I bought it last week on a trip with a friend to Namba for an MP3 player, when we stumbled upon a little underground shopping mall. The largest size at Mew actually fit me, which is pretty exciting, since I'm on the larger side of average people sizes here in Japan. Anyhow, Friday was full of class, then a yarn store field trip to a place in Makino, then down to Hirakata for dinner at an izakaya with some friends from school, then pleasantly intoxicated karaoke. We had stopped off at a convenience store for some desserts and fruitily flavored beverages, so there was tiramisu and friendly banter along with our karaoke. Where we all Rick-rolled each other. I caught the 3rd-to-last train home and proceeded to conk out early.


-Vintage Derek Lam silk skirt. I have no words for how much I love this skirt - it flutters like wings when I walk, and when the wind kicks up I feel like an old-school movie star.
-Kersh button-backed boatneck sweater.
-Thrifted navy and cream polka-dotted square scarf.
-Miz Mooz button boots. My friend Chuck calls them my shit-kicker boots, which amuses me to no end.

Saturday was a little harder. I'm a senior at Oberlin this year, which has been difficult for a couple of reasons. First, Oberlin has been my home for almost four years, and it sorta kills me to know how much I'm missing while I'm here - the adorable new freshpeople, the descending of fall upon the Midwest, the amazing new changes at Smith's, and my incredible friends. Second, I'm trying to figure out what I'm doing with my life. Which means lots and lots of applications. Which adds another hoop to the whole hoop-jumping experience, and not just any hoop - the fact that I also happen to be in another country makes this particular hoop covered in rabies-infected weasels. Some of which are also on fire.

Anyhow. One of the applications I filled out was for the Watson fellowship, a jaw-droppingly awesome fellowship that sends accepted students out of the United States with a stipend for a full year to do whatever fully-researched project they have dreamed about doing their whole lives. My proposal was for an in-depth study of traditional weaving and surface design communities in Okinawa Prefecture and Indonesia. And, as you can tell from the singed weasel currently gnawing on my (extremely emo) face in this picture, I was notified on Saturday that I was not chosen to move onto the interview process for this fellowship.

Which makes me bummed. In the end, it's probably good - the Watson seems geared towards people who are extremely self-motivated and willing to put themselves out there in a foreign country. And, though I would call myself type A (minus), I am pretty shy, especially when I don't fully understand the language. From that fact alone, it's likely that the Watson would not be an ideal fit for my learning style.

Luckily, Saturday went on to be pretty good - my classmates and I went to a demonstration of tea ceremony, saw some gorgeous Raku ware, and then I came home and caught up on some stupid American television.


-Super comfy grey waffle-knit sweater from the Gap
-Cut Loose tunic top, which is basic but has a great shape.
-The only pair of jeans I currently own. Silvers, I think? This pair has an acid hole in the mid-thigh region and is shameful, yet still unretired. Sigh.
-Enormous hair flower from H&M

Aww Cory, don't look so freaking depressed in pictures all the time. Go eat a chocolate bar.

Much better!

Sunday I went to Byodoin and Toji temples in Kyoto with my Buddhist art history class. Saw some beautiful Buddhist sculptures, felt very cultural, etc. We ate lunch on the banks of a huge river (tuna and mayonnaise onigiri = my favorite food ever) and then wandered back down to the train station, picking up some tasty matcha soft cream on the way. Being in a class with field trips has been seriously cool - I've gotten to see a lot of art and a lot of temples I wouldn't have seen otherwise.

On a final note, today in class we watched a Japanese romance (Twixt Calm and Passion, for those who are interested) in which the main male character works as a paintings restorer in Florence. The scenes in the restoration lab made my baby-conservator heart cry out in agony: they take perfectly good old paintings, mysteriously rip all of the cracked old paint off of them, and repaint them all brand-new-and-shiny looking. The entire time I was watching it, I was like, "WAIT THAT IS NOT, NOOO, I, NOOO, WHY IS THE NOOOOO", and when I got home I knew there had to be someone, somewhere, on the internets who could articulate the difference between conserving and restoring. There were a few brief articles, and to the best of what I could ascertain, the difference between the two is this:

Conservation is the ethics-bound documentation, cleaning, and low-level restoration of areas of loss in art objects in order to maintain a pleasing aesthetic without compromising or fundamentally changing the original material.

Restoration is a full-blown restoration of an art object to reflect its original appearance, which may change the structure or identity of the materials.

One of the problems with restoration is that it relies on the subjective opinion of the person who is restoring the object as to the artist's original intent. In conservation, one would never ever ever ever in a billion years strip off the original paint to slather on its modern equivalent. The lab that I saw in that movie, to my eyes, was destroying art - it would be better served to create slick oil-painted copies of the paintings. And while the profession does exist, and its use on art objects ultimately depends on the judgment of the owner, my own opinion falls pretty squarely on the side of not messing with art more than you are strictly required to.

Annnnd I'm out.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

I'm alive, awake, alert, enthusiastic!

Long time no see! It's been a busy couple of weeks. I've taken the shinkansen to Nagoya, gone to Kyoto a few times, gone shopping in Osaka, and survived three exams in a week. The weather is finally cooled down a bit, so I've been able to wear more of my normal clothes. Today is a fun adventure in layers: a basic greenish black tunic under my awesome red gingham thrifted dress (which I'm fairly sure was also handsewn), teal tights, hair flower, yellow kimono fabric earrings, knee-high black boots. I really like some of the fashion here - not all of it, some of it is cray-cray - and I've noticed that it's started influencing the way I think about clothes. It's nice to have a little time in the morning to play with layers and incorporate some of my new Japanese purchases into my overall style.

Last night I went a little crazier than usual after seeing a Youtube tutorial on how to make your hair into a Lady Gaga/Japanese fashionista hair bow. After several attempts, mine was still a little too far back on my head, partially because I have about three bobby pins to my name. I might go get some more and try again this weekend, because this is a mega-cute way to utilize my long hair.

How about you? Any fun styles that you use on days that you don't want to just throw your hair in a ponytail?