Songs of the Sparky Rainbow

I have to admit, I can’t tell the difference between abstract, conceptual, pop, impressionism and Fauvism. To date, there are countless known and unknown talents and to be acquainted with them all, I’d have to attend another four years of college. I would have to major in arts of course, in addition to a life-long practice; and by that, I mean continually being updated in the subject and visiting art galleries & art exhibitions.  I have the same hidden talent for art as I do for singing on pitch, and that is a near freezing point, but I grade myself delirious-temperature for appreciation and respect for the work itself. While I may complete a 4-year course in the subject, I doubt I would ever be an aspiring art critic or painter. Some days we just need to realise the boundaries.

I didn’t have to go too far to find an artist in Nagoya. I found Shogo San! Shogo has many wise years of painting experience and I am fortunate indeed to see his work for myself. His paintings took me on several journeys - over green mountains, across lively seas and flowing rivers and into charming old towns.  Each piece offered its own array of beautiful rainbow shades and brought out the wonders of the magical watercolours. I was transported to a borderless world.  Shogo gave me one of his extraordinary paintings, one with a ship approaching in a near-distance, like the one we saw at the port. Timeless. I can sit on my ship's deck, gaze at the shiny diamonds and sail away through the night, anytime.

We are all the same.

Shogo and Hiroko took us to a quiet Zen-like cafe, not too far from their home. The cafe also houses an art gallery for exhibits. During our visit, we saw the ‘Bintang’ exhibit being featured. A crew from a Japanese TV station was also on site to interview the local artist and to cover this event. Shogo’s friend, an established painter himself, owns this cafe. The interior decor has a rustic flare with large windows overlooking the spring-greens to soothe away the days' tensions. Its seating arrangements was not too compact giving the customers space and privacy to discuss. It has a quiet and a very respectful atmosphere. This is a typical local cafe that attracts many local, creative thinkers. Our Nagoya blend was freshly ground and brewed, served black. And the toothy cookies! So precise, need I say more? They sure know what delights me.

Aichiken Charms.

Just as an artist who has an eye for his subjects, it’s interesting to observe how one develops an opinion of one in the way he/she sees that person. On that though, here is a portrait sketch of me, by a Vietnamese artist. I have been localised and this is how I look in his eyes. It may not look like me, but I cherish his attempt to interpret me. Enjoy your cuppa.

Is that you Uma?

Perfection in Chaos

Though in theory there is a coffee cut-off time, how can one refuse freshly grounded coffee, especially when it’s done the traditional way? I just had to take up Fujiko’s kind offer, even if it was after sunset. The aroma from that antique coffee grinder caught my nose buds and pocket-Samsung’s attention. That’s a coffee paradise from a distance.

Breaking rules and grinding coffee beans
We decided to use Airbnb in Nagoya to be close to our friends Hiroko and Shogo San. Fujiko and her husband Noboyu had a listing available. The pictures looked great, we loved them and so we booked it. A perfectly affordable decision for the trip, or so we thought. This would have been a great stay if you are visiting Nagoya downtown, but we intended to be close to Hiroko’s and Shogo’s home which was a two-hour car ride into another district. Another life-survival lesson - check the map and again, check that map. After a delicious and colourful Japanese-fusion breakfast, Arigatoes and Sayonaras, we headed to Hiroko and Shogo’s who were waiting for us.

Around Nagoya Port and Coffee there

Recurring pollen allergies, viral and hay-fever changed our planned two nights stay in Nagoya to three. This gave me the opportunity to sight endless rows of pink and white sakura blooms, go on strolls in the park with Hiroko while she explained to me about the neighbourhood, Toyota and its facilities for the employees. More importantly, we spent valuable time together with our friends, priceless.

Pretty half blooms in Nagoya

And yes, I am impressed, by the level of detail, pride, respect and perfection this country and community showcases in almost every aspect of live and in their daily activities. It starts with the basics like keeping their rivers, streets and homes clean, efficient public transport, discipline when queueing and waiting for turns and of course, what is life without coffee.  I was amazed, at the number of coffee outlets and their appreciation for coffee. Drip coffee is famous here.  Little did I know that our hosts too regularly enjoy a good cup of coffee in addition to Japanese cars, art and baseball. They took us to the most zen coffee place. I will talk about that next week. I promise. 

Till then, perhaps it’s time to dream about a change – from Proton to Toyota and maybe something beyond. The coming weeks will tell - should the sail head east or west or stay put. Well why not, those stars are talking.

With this entry and on Tamil New Year’s Day, my blog site is now open for all readers. Thank you for your support, encouragement and 'reading me' - you keep me inspired :).

Between stops theres a Chiyo somewhere

Chiyo was my travel companion for many weeks and I wanted her to stay with me forever. However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Memoirs of a Geisha is to-date, one of my three most favourite novels of modern times. Chiyo's persona and grief touched me deeply. I felt her presence in a surreal way, and if I could, I would have gone into those words. I wanted to go into her world and change the unhappiness for her. That’s how huge an impact this beautifully crafted novel had on me.

Recently we decided to visit Japan, and I am glad we chose Osaka as the starting place. Having landed in Kansai International Airport, I could finally say, there was hope to feel the spirits of the many Chiyos who went through the same life experiences and bitterness as she had.

After a turbulent overnight flight and confirming that no paying passengers were forced out of their seats by the airlines, the first coffee was an all-black one with creamer. The coffee was actually part of the airport restaurant’s breakfast set. Having wasted the toast and the entire half boiled egg, SVN’s plea was that I did not make the meal decisions for the rest of the day, and even better for the rest of the trip. To be politically safe, that’s democracy practised wisely. Well, I am a 'wannabe' vegetarian (SVN is the genuine one), but I do occasionally skip by choice, and usually on the grounds that the chicken or fish is triple cooked and preferably does not look anything close to its original form.  My colleague Stephan B’s words still linger on - it’s worse karma to waste food than to eat meat. He is right but I can’t help it. I think of Stephan and the chef at Walle who convincingly said it was chicken, chicken and chicken, not pork, I am afraid I don't eat anything that has more than two legs. That chef must have gotten himself confused that afternoon......oops, a slight off track there.

Its breakfast time in Kansai

My morning coffee was good, sufficient, served right - mainly with the help of the universal sign language. The friendly waiters made a lasting impression, and, in all fairness, I would give them high scores for trying.  Today, I am not fussy at all, the coffee experience was just plain, lovely and relaxing.

We all have a different take on things in general, especially on books. While I loved the Memoirs of a Geisha, you may feel differently about the book or Chiyo. There's really nothing wrong with that. As for me, she is vulnerable, loving and you cannot not help but adore and have compassion for her. The suffering Chiyo went through in her lifetime, through Goldman’s poetic descriptions are just too overwhelming. This makes her character an impossible one to reproduce. I love this book to bits and pieces, and I could read it over and over again, over another few cups of coffee. 

Coffee Festival

Count those stars friends, we are heading for Nara. With that, I leave you with some shots taken during a coffee festival while I was there.