Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Piano That John Lennon Once Played

The other day, Yoko Ono posted on her Twitter account four antigun messages with an image of the blood-splattered glasses that Lennon was wearing when he was shot on Dec. 8, 1980.

That tweet was re-tweeted more than 3,000 times.

That news reminded me of the piano that John Lennon used to like playing during his stay in Japan.I saw it about two and an half years ago, when I went to Karuizawa, which is one of the luxury summer resorts of Japan.

It was the end of the extreme summer heat. I generally have no interest in booking a hotel room in a resort in the high season, but I had been really exhausted from an unprecedented swelter for three months.

Luckily, I could book a room in a splendid old hotel called the Manpei Hotel through its website at a good bargain price just one day before I went there.
I went there alone because my husband was very busy, but he knew that I felt really sick of the heat.

Karuizawa is very famous for the present Emperor’s love story with his wife, the Empress. It was a romantic story. He met her and fell in love with her at first sight at a tennis club’s court in Karuizawa, and they played tennis together in summer 1957.

In those days, he was Prince Akihito, the successor, and to tell the truth, his teacher, Mr. Koizumi Shinzou (who was the former president of Keio University) had managed this fateful encounter to look as if it had happened by chance, but Japanese people were excited by the story.

In 1957, Japanese people were on the road to recovery from national ruin and grief through the loss of family members during World War Ⅱ. Actually, the Emperor was considered a kind of god before World War Ⅱ, but this prince and princess story seemed to impress Japanese people as it proved that the royal family could show humanity. It must have been epoch-making for both the royal family and for Japanese society.

By the way nowadays, Karuizawa became a popular place. Although it took about 3 hours to get Karuizawa from Tokyo before, it now takes about an hour on the Nagano bullet train. Besides, many retail outlets have been opened in malls near the station, so I saw many women with big shopping bags there. As Karuizawa can offer a luxurious mood and convenient shopping places, it was crowded here and there.

The lobby and the café terrace of the Manpei Hotel looked authentic and luxurious, and were also very popular and crowded. During my stay, the hotel staff were so courteous that I felt as if I were Paris Hilton. In spite of its discount price, my room was not cheap for me but was worth paying for.

The Manpei Hotel was established as a Japanese-style inn in 1764. They changed their Japanese hospitality to a Western style in the late 1800s while Karuizawa was developing as a resort for celebrities, rich people and foreigners, and they succeeded in their business.

Many famous people stayed there one after another. John Lennon even stayed from 1976 to 1979 during summer. I saw the piano that he once played. It graced the corner of the hotel. They say that John liked playing that piano and he must have played “Imagine” with it.
Nawadays, some of his fans visit this hotel to see it.

The hotel was run as a family business until they merged with the Mori Trust financially in 1997.


Six months later I had visited Karuizawa, the devastating earthquake hit the Tohoku area and the nuclear plant building exploded, then many things changed and deteriorated.

International tension of far east Asian area built up, and some popular politicians started referring of nuclear power in Japan. Permanent peace of Japan guaranteed by the Article 9 of the Constitution is now shaking. On the other hand, school violences with guns sometimes happened in the USA as Yoko’s tweet.

You may well think that John Lennon’s “Imagine” is nothing but an illusion.

But, I think that appealing to reason is more challenging than resorting to violence. I’m on Yoko’s side and trying to do something I can do, maybe it might be mere things, for making the “Imagine” world.

A Story about Painting Materials I use

I usually paint or draw my pictures or sketches in Japanese traditional pigments, Chinese ink, pencil, color pencil or watercolors. I scarcely use oil paints.

Japanese traditional pigments require gelatin as a medium to bind it to the paper. This gelatin, called “nikawa” in Japanese, also is used in art all over the world including in Chinese ink.

In Europe, artists often used nikawa to make the bases of their works by mixing it with plasters and applying it to wood and other objects instead of using canvases, until oil colors were invented. This method is called “tempera”. Many Renaissance masterpieces are made on tempera, like “The Birth of Venus” and “Primavera” by Sandro Botticelli to name a couple. Nowadays, some artists still intentionally work with tempera for their pieces.

Anyway, nikawa is an ocher-colored solid substance that looks like amber, and consists of a sort of protein that you get after boiling fish or animal bones, cooling the residue and finally drying it out to make it solid. Before the moisture has completely evaporated from nikawa, the substance is tender like jellyfish and you can eat it. This nikawa, we call nikogori, and Japanese izakaya bars often serve nikogori to their customers. It is delicious and healthy because it contains no fat but is high in protein.

To produce Chinese ink, nikawa is mixed with soot that you get after burning pine pitch and kneading them together for a long time, until they form a solid. To draw in Chinese ink, you need to pour a little water on a rock, called suzuri, while rubbing a piece of solid Chinese ink cake on it for over ten minutes, then you can get a wide range of graduation in monochrome.

The general term applied to Japanese traditional pigments is iwa-enogu. Iwa means “rock,” and enogu means “pigment.” This is because ancient Japanese people ground colored rocks to use them for pigments when painting pictures. Nowadays, natural pigments are too expensive for me to paint in, so I use cheaper chemical-made pigments. Painting in iwa-enogu involves soaking nikawa in water in a small bottle for two hours and heating it while it melts, then mixing it with the various pigments.

Chinese ink and Japanese iwa-enogu are both difficult to use, while Western watercolors are easy because they are packed in tubes. Western watercolors are made with Arabic gum.
Despite their inconvenience for painting, for me, Chinese ink and Japanese iwa-enogu feel more powerful than watercolors. For this reason, I usually decide which one to use depending on the kind of work I’m painting.


Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages.
Oil colors are sleek, bright, and easy to use. But it takes a week to dry and it smells bad during the evaporation process. Acrylic resin was invented in the beginning of the 20th century. It looks like oil colors and is easy to use with water, what’s more, it scarcely smells. Recently I use acrylic resin from time to time for my works.

By the way, have you ever wondered where Japanese color names come from? Are there any differences between English and Japanese color names? Both stem from natural things such as flowers and birds, but there are differences in how they are named. For example, deep-purple/pink is called fuchsia in English, and botan-iro, which means “a color like peony petals,” in Japanese. In Japanese, iro means color. Grayish pale pink is called salmon pink in English and toki-iro in Japanese. Toki means “ibis” in Japanese – a bird whose feathers are partially pale pink. Although toki used to be common in rice fields all over Japan, the native Japanese variety is now unfortunately extinct because it was averse to agrichemicals. All tokis in Japan now originate from China.

In addition, many Japanese kids these days seem to use English names when referring to colors. They never say toki-iro instead of pink. I suspect that, like the toki, Japanese color names are also endangered.

My Japanese Blog is here to see click!

My Cats’ Story

So far I have had four female cats .
I currently have two young female cats, “Sister” and “Kitten”.

In this week’s blog I will be talking about two previous cats of mine.
I will call them “Grand-ma” and “Aunt” in this article, because I sometimes use their real names as password or something.


The characters and appearances of the two cats were quite different, as were their births.

Grand-ma was the first cat that I decided to take care of by myself.
She was born in a veterinarian’s house; she was calm and friendly, prefered to be with family members, and was a very beautiful tabby.

Conversely, I heard that Aunt had been left with her brothers and sisters in an abandoned cardboard box in an empty lot, and she was almost not saved because of her dirty appearance.

When Aunt came to my house, Grand-ma had already lived with us for 16 months. Grand-ma welcomed Aunt, but Aunt didn’t become tame at all for the first three months. Whenever our family members or Grand-ma tried to approach her, she always refused our advances.

Although all of us, including Grand-ma loved Aunt, it took about two years until Aunt became tame. What’s more, she still preferred to be alone, and was always searching for places where she could hide.

However, both of them were generally on good terms as you can see in this picture.

Grand-ma died two years ago when she was 17 years old, after giving us many years of love. Then Aunt began to refuse us again.
We realized that Grand-ma had protected a buffer between Aunt and us.
So we decided to leave Aunt alone in the corner of the house with food and clean toilet box. She seemed to be easy and secure.

My husband soon began to miss having an affectionate cat around. He started talking about how compassionate Grand-ma had been, and often bothering me when I was trying to work.

I began to look for a stray cat while I was walking, because I was certain that my husband needed a new cat.

Then, it happened by accident one night. I encountered “Sister” near my house during my walk. I immediately talked to my husband over my cellular phone, and he soon showed up to meet her with a carry box in his hand .

Marvelously,the week after Sister came to my house, Aunt passed away peacefully in her sleep.

10 month later, “Kitten” came to my house.
Now I have two young cats “Sister” and “Kitten”.

They eat, run and sleep very well every day.
They are happy and so are my husband and I.

I think the legend is true. It is cats who choose their owners, not owners who choose their cats.

The March 11th Comes Around.

What has been revealed in Japan since the catastrophic nuclear disaster occurred after the devastating tsunami on the March 11, 2011.

When I stroll in the center of the metropolis recently, it seems that most people behave as if Tokyo is still thriving as the same city as it was before the nuclear plant’s explosion happened.

Is Tokyo still the same city as before? I don’t think so. What changed after that disaster in Japan? In fact, it was just revealed rather than changed. That is “the mind,” meaning “the mind of Japanese people.”

I know that some radioactivity fell in Tokyo after the explosion of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, most parts of Tokyo, however, were not affected so much except for the eastern part. That is the so-called the Tokatsu area, where it’s habitable insofar as it will be cleaned up.

The question that I am seriously concerned about now is the people who turn a blind eye to what is happening just at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the people who swallow the false information spread by the mass media without doubt, and people who don’t tolerate others who have objections to the government.

Needless to say, I assume bureaucratic officials and politicians to always be irresponsible in their work, because they definitely know that Japanese people never raise riots no matter how much they are exploited or deceived by people in power. On the contrary, Japanese people might as well choose to homogenize themselves to society rather than get themselves furious about their government.

Although I’ve known that the silent majority of Japanese people have long been obedient to their government as if they were lambs of a sacrifice, I can’t understand why they never get angry about being exposed to radiation and about important information being hidden from them. The issue is nuclear power and radiation, not a natural disaster. Obviously the nuclear disaster was caused by human errors on the part of Tepco and the Japanese government that had accumulated for a long time. Tepco and the Japanese government are to blame for this disaster, but they are always trying to portray this disaster as lighter than the real situation instead of revealing all information about it.

I could finally find some people on the Internet who got angry about Tepco’s and the government’s attitudes. In reality, though, a considerable number of people had difficulty accessing the Internet and they lack media literacy. They were deceived as a result, because academic authorities and professors gave them inaccurate information on TV or in the newspapers, such as, “Calm down. Radioactive exposure at this time is just the same amount as one X ray.”

Actually, I thought from the very beginning that people were being deceived, and that Tepco and the government should take full responsibility, but I recently became aware of the truth that many Japanese people wanted to be deceived or they didn’t want to realize what was happening. Unfortunately, so did the government.

I think that the truth of a nuclear disaster is cruel, brutal, and beyond the reach of my imagination, but it’s a true story. Nobody can ignore it. Unless we face up to this crisis, we won’t be able to survive. Children and youngsters should be especially considered with regard to the radiation issue, but the things that the authorities have done so far are totally opposite from this thought. I cannot rule out the possibility that the country’s top priority is not that children will disappear in the future. It is sure that the children are our future. In this country, money that is just around the corner is superior to future people’s lives.

Those of us who realize that the children are our future must make every effort to help children under this severe circumstance. Let’s take hold of our future.


Watching a Movie in a Theater

I love watching movies in the theater.
Since the liquid crystal display for television was developed, many people have bought thin LCD TVs, put them on the walls of their homes and prefer watching movies sitting back on the sofa there to watching them from a theater seat. This is called home theater. In spite of this trend, I still go to the movie theater because not only there is no equipment for watching DVDs in my home but I also love watching movies in the theater.

The movie theater is a special place for me to be released from daily stresses. While I am watching a movie in a theater that is dark and isolated from daily life, I am gradually transfusing my emotions into the main character as the story progresses. Eventually, I identify with the hero or heroine and cry, laugh, get angry or feel joy like he or she does. I’m sure that my behavior would seem strange if I were in a light place, but fortunately nobody can see what I am doing as long as I am in a dark movie theater.

This is one of the best ways for me to stabilize both my family and my public life. How economical and efficient this is!
So,I love watching movies in the theater.