Shibuya: History and beauty

Shibuya, one of the most cosmopolitan districts of Tokyo, is everything you would expect from a modern city: cheeky, entertaining and provocative.

 

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But it wasn’t always this way. In fact, Hachiko could tell the story better than anybody else. He could tell you about the war days and how the bombs took his beloved master, how he bravely kept waiting for years until death came for him, too.

He let Shibuya be at night with the condition to restore its well-mannered behavior during the day.

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Shibuya, has come a long way since the days of WWII and has become, along with its little sister Harajuku, the center of the Japanese fashion world.

 

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In Shibuya time is ethereal

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Shibuya is in another dimension, where bad memories can become sweet and precious. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Hachiko yourself.

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A blockheaded writer got help from beyond

Every professional writer tells us, amateur writers, to write every single day. “Even when you don’t feel like writing, go ahead and write why you don’t feel like writing,” they tell us.

Sadly, my friends, this is one of those days, when everything seems to go wrong, and even the simplest syntax and vocabulary seem to slip my mind.  Today, my mind doesn’t make the difference between good or bad. I have been dragging words all morning. Even the little characters I draw are sitting there waiting for me to give them a story, so they don’t get lost in their existence. The evil witch has already jumped on the opportunity and is marrying Prince Charming. The lovely princess will have to get a job, oh well!! It was about time 🙂

Then I came across a beautiful video, where a lovely Nana recreates the dishes of her childhood during the Great Depression. She has inspired me more than I would have ever expected. Unfortunately, she is not with us anymore, but she has left a legacy of love, courage, and bravery behind her.  And maybe that’s what’s life is all about. Inspire others,  build something praiseworthy with our lives to inspire even future generations.

Today, in these broken lines I know I am not conquering the world, neither these modest lines will ever win a prize, but I know I’m moving forward because I am conquering my humanity. And that is a triumph. My very personal triumph. And I owe it to the legacy of a lovely Nana, an Italian immigrant who didn’t let harshness  define her life.

 

Meiji shrine: Where the Gods meet

Tokyo is a place of contradictions, where you can find glamour in one corner and tradition and culture in another one (another corner). When visiting Harajuku, Shibuya’s cheeky little sister, one find eccentricity, and it (Harajuku) never disappoints, with its vibrant colors, rare stores, and beautiful people, you navigate through its small allies in a trancelike state. At least that’s how I feel every time I go there (Harajuku)

But just around Harajuku station (Omotesando exit), you will find one of its most precious treasures: Meiji Shrine (明治神宮 Meiji jingū) a place that has survived modernity until now. And still bring people together, local and visitors, we can feel the Gods and their spirits whisper in the trees when they ruffle the leaves, which some confuse with the wind. But I know it’s them who met in the trees’ top to talk about us, to make fun of us, to help us, to listen and to remind us that this is not the only life we will live.

The entrance of this enchanted place

Barrels of sake

Barrels of wine

We do like spirits here, what can I say?😉

 

 

Isn’t it breathtaking?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Meiji jingū, a place not only to worship but to talk to the Gods and to meet them.

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With love

Walking along the gray streets, sometimes, I wonder how I survived all this time without you.

pablo-4You said goodbye one morning, and although it was not up to you to stay, or to leave. The fact is that you left, and your farewell changed my life. For better or worse nothing was the same.

I was never the same.

And although, I know, deep down in my heart, that you never wanted to leave me, yet again you did.

Ironically, none of us had a say in what happened, but it still hurts, even today. In every step I walk, in every moment I live, in every dream, I still hope to find you.

And I want to think that you remember me as well. I want to believe that this post will reach you. And, that you will read it, and we will be together in some parallel universe. In one way or another.

Somehow trying to explain the emptiness you left in me, I had come up with the crazy idea that when you left, you took a piece of my heart to later hide it somewhere in the world. And that’s why I have lived like a gypsy looking for that missing part of me. Like a cursed soul, whose only hope to survive is to follow the memory of you in this world.

I guess what I mean to say so inadequately in these lines is that I will always love you and that nothing could ever erase nor replace you, ojii-chan (ojii-chan means grandpa in Japanese)

Kagurazaka: Gods in summer

During the Obon holidays, which are the holidays, where most Japanese people go back to their hometowns to visit their families and to honor their ancestors, Tokyo opens its secret dens for you.  And following the summer breeze one Sunday afternoon, I discovered: Akagi jinja (Akagi shrine)

When I saw this torii (entrance to a sacred place), I knew I had arrived at an extraordinary place.


Akagi jinja (Akagi shrine) was redesigned by Kengo Kuma in 2010, and he made of it (Akagi shrine) a master piece.

Those kanji above can be read as 蛍雪天神(keisetsu tenjin) The God of the diligent study

As always my enthusiasm took the best of me and I gave my offerings a little bit too loud. I think I might have woken up the God in its day off. I should leave now, but if the God wakes up, please do not speak of me. You haven’t seen me. Shhhh…!!

Candy crafting: When candy dances

 

As children we all enjoy playing with dough and mud, we love dressing their ordinary appearance into whatever our innocent imagination tells us.

But when we grow up, sadly,  we forget that once we were all artists, that we could create dragons, castles and kill them all at the end of the game to just start it all over again later.

Lucky for me, I have good friends, who don’t let me forget the joy of playing and who are willing to experiment with me what the city has to offer.

And going around town with these good friends, we found a charming little store, and soon as we got in, we were hooked, because we had found an “Amezaiku” (飴細工) shop.

Amezaiku, candy crafting, lets you shape candy into whatever shape you might like. Amezaiku’s origins could be traced back to 796AD when Amezaiku masters gave their first offering to the Doji-temple, which was built when Emperor Karmu moved the capital from Nara to Kyoto.

But you have to be quick, though, candy wants to be given an identity, and waits for no one.

 And even your hand temperature will play against you, so you have to be quick.

There were enchanted roses, sleeping mermaids waiting to be freed, dancing bears, who would love to go home with you. And something primitive and familiar awoken inside me. I just simply had to try it (Amezaiku).

 

And I did

 

 

I almost immediately registered for a workshop. And It was a nice class indeed, where a young master, Mr. Yamamoto, would guide us step by step into the process of making candy dance. And through this dance wake up the spirit within it (the candy) to reveal it (candy’s the spirit) before the world.

 

 

※If you wish more information about the lessons, call 03-6323-3319 website: http://ame-yoshihara.com

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Is multiculturalism an advantage in a homogeneous society?

Working with people from different nationalities, although, exciting and thrilling, it is not always a piece of cake. But I love it.

Moving without realizing it, among various cultures and languages in the same building can be a daily adventure. You never know what’s going to happen. You never know when the Latinos are going to snap at you, with their rather hot-blooded temper.Nobody knows. Even Latino people themselves don’t know when they might snap. Believe me. I should know since I’m a Latino woman and the one who always snaps (Ooops, you didn’t read that here)

But seriously, working in a multicultural environment is interesting, it can be an incredible learning opportunity because you can always learn exciting and fabulous  things about other countries and cultures

And why not? Even learn a new language

Knowledge of different languages also gives you a rather deep insight into the culture you want to know better. And in my humble opinion, a powerful tool when trying to connect with the locals.

It doesn’t matter if you speak the local language, as a barbarian, as I do. The effort is what counts 😉

And in this multicultural maze, you learn to adapt, to change your cultural skin as it were a jacket and to communicate in various ways to suit your audience.

But what happens, when you are a multilingual and multicultural person living a homogeneous society, where even the concept of multilingualism is barely understood. These societies still exist in this globalized world. And they still discovering the world beyond their borders as if they were discovering hidden moons in their backyards.

I am lucky enough to live in one of these societies, and I must admit that is not always easy, I find people staring at me when I speak with my husband in English. And even at the supermarket, people try to take a peek into my bags. You might want to know why. And the answer is because they want to know what I eat as if I came from Mars. This behavior is quite rude for many. And I agree. But in those moments, I remind myself that I am a teacher, and that understanding is vital to educate not only my students but society. Because I have decided to stay and to teach what I know. Share what I have. And nurture the people around me to let them know that the unknown world they might fear is not so scary after all.

So answering my question, I would say that multiculturalism is an advantage in a homogeneous society but not for ourselves but for the good we can do to others. What do you think?

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