Tiny Spy Camera

サンフランシスコでの日々の中で見つけたお気に入りのものの記録。 Blog about life in San Francisco

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Mystery Solved!

If you grew up in Japan in "80s, you probably remember those cats in the high school uniform,standing on two feet like human. They were called "Namennayo(Don't bullshit with me) cats"
They were so popular at that time. They were on the newspapaer ads, stationaries,
keychains, stickers, the candy packages...they were everywhere, including tv show.
I had to beg my grandpa to buy their stationaries cause all of my classmates at the school had them except me.
But somehow, the strange rumor started to spread.soon after..some people said those cats were tied up with wires. Other people said those poor felines were drugged before the photoshoot. The most scary story was that they were dead stuffed cats! These urban myth spreaded very quickly. Soon all merchandise started disappear from the market. I put away my stationaries. Name neko was't cool anymore.

Almost 10 years later, I was at the Urban outfitters in San Francisco and I was really shocked to find Namenayo stationaries, with updated Hip hop look. How is it possible, especially in San Francisco, where people are very conscious about animal rights?

I made some research and found out the Nameneko photographer's explanation
about how he took pictures of the cats. Surprisingly, according to the photographer's claim, those cats were not standing. They were sitting! And once the cats put on costumes, they finished photoshoot in 10 minutes because it was the limit to distract kitten's attention.
Main "namennayo" cat, Matakichi became a mother of four and lived 16years.
I still don't like the pictures of animals dressed up as humans, but I was very relieved to know that those cats were taken care of by the photographer after they retired from modeling job.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Love for Polaroid

Ad for Polaroid Sx-70 from 1970's, directed by Charles and Ray Eames and music by Elmer Bernstein. Eames made even tv ad beautiful.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Kyoto iced coffee

Some people ask me If I ever get homesick. Of course I do miss my family and friends I left in Japan a lot. Then again, there's still some moments that make me fall in love with San Francisco again(occasional sunny days) And there's another time, when I walk by the ubiquitous chain coffe shops or when I stroll around the gigantic shopping mall, I find myself missing Kyoto really really bad. Especially cafes in Kyoto.

Yes, cafes in Kyoto are generally expensive. A cup of coffee usually cost 500 yen. And if you are talking too loud, you are going to be asked to keep quiet. Chairs and tables are often wobbly since they are almost 50 years old. There are lot of smokers.

But I had never ever coffee served with boring paper cup there. Drink usually come in nice cups either handpicked by the owner or cups with nice logo of the cafe. Sometimes you get to see the amazing LP collection of jazz music behind the counter. At other places, you'll get great view of Kamo river out of window or nice courtyard.
And most importantly, coffee taste really good. Maybe because coffee is dripped after each order, or they use old fashioned siphon machine. You can feel the coffee makers take pride of the job they are doing. I could feel the love and personal touch everywhere. Why I can't find the place like this here? Even if I find the nice place,it seems like they can't survive too long here. (e.g.Imperial tea house at the chinatown)

And then, I found this local coffee shop Blue bottle coffee started siphon coffee bar and they have"Kyoto Iced coffee" on the menu!! The place was very crowded, but the coffee just tasted like the one I had at Rokuyousha cafe-very tasty, not too bitter. I am assuming the owner must have enjoyed the cafes in Kyoto. It would be perfect Kyoto if there were old japanese guys smoking with pipe and reading newspaper and nodding to jazz music. (I'm against public smoking, and yet if Kyoto city bans smoking indoor, it would make me sad)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Dejavu from childhood

"Spirit of the beehive" has been very special movie for me for years. I watched on dvd a couple of times, but last year I had a chance to see it on the big screen at the Balboa theatre and it was an amazing experience.
The story is about little girl Ana, who lives with her family in Castillian village in 1940's Spain under the Franco's dictatorship,which is very, very different from the peaceful surburban town in Japan where I grew up. But somehow this movie make me feel like riding the timemachine and experiencing my childhood again. Maybe because I fell in love with the vampire when I first watched the vampire movie on the midnight tv by accident (which I don't remember the title) like little Ana fell in love with Frankenstein. Ana finds the big footstep nearby the abandoned barn and believes Frankenstein lives there. This scene reminds me of the scary old abandoned house I always wanted to go in but I didn't because my friends convinced me it's haunted. The scene where children jumping over a bonfire, Anna's sister playing dead, Ana and her sister standing by the railroad..all images evoke the memory of the the hide and seek game I played with my brother or sneaking into my mom's room and secretly playing with her cosmetics . Maybe childhood memory is universal thing. A lot of people read the political message from this movie, but for me it is the magical film where I can get in touch with fantasy world only children can experience.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Moomin inspires very late new year resolution

I'm one of the japanese kids who grew up watchingMoomin tv animation series,based on the children books by finnish writer Tove Jansson. Even thogh I loved the series as a kid, there were some things I didn't quite understand . Especially the character Snufkin, who 's a vagabond musician who loves solitude and always on a journey (He is so popular in Japan, and the word Snufkin almost became the japanese word referring to the bohemian lifestyle.) It seems like many moomin characters are not from conventional family system.

Recently my yoga teacher gave me the original moomin book and I'm amazed that this book has so many wonderful quotes and insight about things you encounter in your life.

For instance, the episode in which Moomin papa longs for new adventure and leave his family behind to join the new journey only to discover that freedom he wanted has been already in his hand (He's probably having midlife crisis) or another episode of Mr.Hemlen whose only concern is saving up retirement account and having a quiet life, but in the end he learns to accept others getting into his life and opens up the amusement park for children. Or, Snufkin's commnet on freedom ("One can never be entirely free, if one admires someone else too much." )and Little My's talk about independence.("You'll never have a face of your own until you've learned to fight. B")

My most favorite episode is "The fillyjonk who believed in disasters".

Flillyjonk is a timid creature who lives in the house full of knicknacks she inherited from her grandmother. She doesn't love these stuff nor house, but she keeps them from sense of obligation. She's always afraid that someday big disaster will destroy all her possession. And she was right, the big tornado came and swept away all her stuff-including the house. For others, this is a tragedy. But for her, this was a revelation.

"And she thought ecstatically: "How very, very wonderful! What can I do, a poor little Fillyjonk, against the great powers of nature? What is there to mend and repair now? Nothing! All is washed clean and swept away!"

The Fillyjonk drew a deep breath. "Now I'll never be afraid again," she said to herself. "Now I'm free. Now I can do anything."

Throughout the series, Tove Jonsson is repeating the same message- possession
doesn't make people happy. She was very angry about japanese adaptation of Moomin, saying "My moomin is No car, No fight, No money". (in the japanese anime version, moomin owned the car)

I was inspired by moomin characters. My new year resolution is not getting anymore craps and stay simple and picking up only the stuff I can't live without(Meanin staying away from H&M sale, which is hard for me).

By the way, if you can read japanese, maybe you're intersted in "Which moomin are you?"test you can do here

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Getting lost is fun (sometimes)

When I was kid, I always had trouble with going out with parents or school classmates. Something caught my attention, and I walked away and followed whatever it was, (mostly toystore or small animal or pretty flowers) and suddenly I found myself alone, strayed from my parents. Sometimes I was having such fun, I didn't even notice I lost my parents until they came to pick me up, really pissed off.
Reading the graphic novel "Walking man" by Jiro Taniguchireminds me of such time I had.
The book follows the japanese businessman's(who remains nameless) daily life who has just moved to the new town with his wife. There's not much story nor many words here. He takes a walk, often nowhere in particular, mostly alone. On the way,
he finds a lot of stray cats, (there's a lot of stray cats in japanese small town) learns about new species of birds from the birdwatcher, plays in the puddle after a storm, get struck by rain,observes the change of seasons. The artwork is very detailed and realistic and it made me feel like I'm there with him, enjoying small piece of nature you'll discover in the city. One of my favorite
episode is "Night Swim" where he spots the public swimming pool and he sneaks into there at night, dives in to the pool under starry sky. Really, who doesn't want to do the same thing??
Most people, including me, thinks "travel"means going somewhere far away, somewhere exotic. This book says it's not necessary so. The protagonist always discovers and observes something new, on the way he takes his dog for a walk, on the way to go to work...It's like he take a small trip everyday.
Inspired by this book, I am planning to take small trip in the city soon.