Homestay in Nagoya Japan

Back in 2005 my wife and I went to Japan and while we were there we went to the Expo in Aichi Prefecture, which is near Nagoya. The Expo wasn’t that good but the highlight of our Japanese trip was a homestay we had with a Japanese family for four days in Nagoya.

The Ohara family

Anyone who has been to Japan will tell you how friendly and nice the Japanese people are. One of the problems with travelling is that one tends to only meet the locals who are involved in commerce and you don’t get to see how they actually live.

The Ohara family at home

Because of the Expo the local government set up a homestay program for overseas visitors. I lived in Japan for a year in the mid seventies and I knew what the Japanese were like but my wife had never been there before. So we thought it would be good idea to do a homestay.  The family we stayed with were the Oharas and they were a delight. The father of the family was a master carpenter and had built the beautifully harmonious traditional Japanese room we stayed in.

They gave us the most beautiful room in the whole house

Me in a traditional Japanese doorway

Mrs Ohara (Satchiko) not only escorted us to the Expo , she also cooked a wide range of Japanese meals for us each day. The youngest daughter, a university student called Yae was a lot of fun at dinner time making faces and playing with nori (dried seaweed).

Yae making faces with nori

Yae also took us to Kyoto by bullet train and showed us around the city.  All in all, our homestay was an excellent way to for us to not only meet some extremely nice people but to also experience Japanese culture.

I’d highly recommend a homestay to anyone going to Japan.

Blue boy. Tarrzout, Morocco 1982

I took this shot with my old Nikon F2, which had a very big and noisy motor drive.

unaware of the camera

One had to make sure one got the shot the first frame as the second frame invariably showed the subject’s reaction to the noise.

aware of the camera

On a techincal note, these shots were scanned from Kodachrome 64 which is a fairly contrasty film. Unfortunately I’ve lost the shadow detail in the process. I’m currently in the market for a digital camera that can handle a wider contrast range and the Fuji S5 Pro has caught my eye. Pity about the price.

Tim Allen painting exhibition at Defiance Galllery. Sydney, NSW, Australia

Last night I went to a painting exhibition by Tim Allen at the Defiance Gallery in Enmore Sydney.

Tim Allen with a cold

 This is first solo show Tim has had in over a year. The reason for this is that Tim changed galleries and he has been exhibiting in various mixed shows, most notably his acceptance into this year’s Wynne Prize.

I’ve know Tim for about 15 years and I’ve seen the changes that have taken place in his art over that time. Tim has been exploring mark making and it has been interesting for me as I’ve seen Tim swing from almost pure abstraction to more figurative and the back again. It’s a bit like watching a creative pendulum as he explores an area to then go back a little the other way, only to return again; each time taking a little from each exploration into the next. 

Constantinople 1997
“Constantinople” 1997

Pass 1999
“Pass” 1999

Mt Piddington 2003
“Mt. Piddington” 2003

Tributary 2006
“Tributary” 2006

Noth Lawson 2007
“North Lawson (Em with stroller)” 2007

In Tim’s latest work he has used oil stick in combination with oil paint to combine both drawing and painting. If you want to see more of Tim’s work click here.

Mexico City Metro.

Mexico City has an excellent metro system.

Clean polished stone platforms

 It’s very cheap (possibly the cheapest in the world), clean, efficient and much safer than many other subway systems I’ve traveled on.

It's not too crowded and the people are friendly

With the exception of peak hour, the trains aren’t too crowded and they run very frequently. The trains are similar to the trains used in Montreal in Canada in that they have rubber wheels, which makes the ride much quieter and smoother than normal trains.

The trains have rubber wheels

Another way that the Mexico City Metro is similar to the Montreal Metro is that many of the subway stations have art displayed in them.

Most of the metro stations have art on display

I’ve read that pick pockets are problem on the metro but I think that if you avoid the rush hour and keep your wits about you, you won’t have any troubles. The metro also serves as a bit of a marketplace as vendors (quite often blind) travel up and down the carriages hawking their wares. I didn’t see anyone buy anything from the hawkers on the trains, the whole time I was in Mexico City. Some people have a hard time making a living.

Have crepe maker. Will travel.

This weekend I went to my in-law’s holiday home with my wife and an old friend (Doug) with one of his co-workers (Sebastian). Doug suggested that he and Sebastian bring Sebastian’s crepe maker and they would make breakfast for us the next day. Sebastian is from Alsace in north of France and we thought it would be a great idea to have authentic crepes made by a Frenchman, and it was!


Sebastian making crepes

The humble crepe is so versatile. Not as heavy and stodgy as normal pancakes, the crepe is good with sweet or savoury fillings. Fortunately Sebastian made too much batter and we had crepes for breakfast one day and crepes for lunch the next. The breakfast crepes were filled with fresh fruit, cream and maple syrup and the lunch crepes were filled with mozzarella cheese, sautéed mushrooms and smoked salmon. Heaven on a plate.

Recipe for 4 people (about 2 crepes each)
Batter Ingredients

3 Eggs
250gr plain flour (you can substitute 1/3 of the flour with buckwheat flour)
500 ml milk
Pinch of salt
Dash of olive oil

Savoury Crepe suggested ingredients
Mozzarella cheese, shredded
Smoked salmon or ham
Sautéed Mushrooms

Sweet Crepe suggested ingredients
Sliced fruits of choice
Double cream or Crème Fraise
Maple syrup

Mix all the batter ingredients in a bowl and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Longer is better as it reduces the bubbles that are formed when the batter is cooked.

Grease up the crepe maker (or pan) when it gets hot, with either butter or olive oil. Pour about one and a half ladles of batter onto the crepe maker and spread quickly with a T-scraper (or spatular) using an arching motion. Allow the crepe to cook until the up side of the crepe is dry and the edges are starting to brown.

Next, lift the crepe with a spatular and flip it over.

If you are making a savoury crepe, this is the time to sprinkle on some cheese and what ever other ingredients you wish over the cooking crepe. Leave the crepe to cook for about another minute or two and then, using the spatular, fold over the sides and remove to a plate to serve.

If you are making sweet crepes, just remove the crepe and place the ingredients in the middle and roll it all up on a plate to serve.

Another sweet variation is to sprinkle some sugar onto the flipped side of the crepe and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over the sugar as it caramelises. When the sugar has melted and mixed with the lemon juices, roll up the crepe with the spatular and serve.

Doug in crepe heaven

One of the really good things about crepes, besides their simplicity, is the fact that each person can make their own. It’s all a bit of social fun that tastes fantastic.

On an interesting side note, Sebastian who has lived in Australia for nearly ten years, told us of how when he travels, he “couch surfs”. Couch Surfing is a worldwide network of people who contact each other over the Internet and arrange free accommodation with other like-minded people. Sort of like hitchhiking but from couch to couch rather than car to car. Sounds like a great way to meet the gregarious and generous people of a society. If Sebastian is anybody to judge “couch surfing” by, then I’d say it’s a good way to meet interesting nice people from overseas.

Conyne Kite. Tallong, NSW, Australia

We’ve been having some storms and lots of rain in the Sydney area over the last several days and today the weather finally relented enough to go kite flying.

My wife and I went down to my in-laws holiday home at Tallong (about 2 hours south of Sydney) for the long weekend. It’s the Queen’s birthday, so we get an annual holiday tacked onto a weekend in June. I guess there has to be some benefit to not being a republic (don’t get me started about the referendum as I’m still disgusted that we didn’t vote to be a republic). Since the wind was blowing fairly hard we took our Conyne Kite for a fly.

Conyne kite over Tallong.jpg

Conyne kite over Tallong.jpg

Conyne kite over Tallong.jpg

The Conyne is also known as the French War Kite. The Conyne flies in fairly light breezes; is a reasonably robust design and it’s also easy to make. If you would like to make a Conyne kite, click here for the plans.

The Museum of Anthropology at UBC, Vancouver, Canada


The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver is a must see if you are ever on the west coat of Canada. It would have to be one of my favourite museums. Others would include the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Model of Haida house front decoration

I’m already predisposed to like First Nations art and the design by Arthur Erickson of the architecture of the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver makes the visit even better for me. An interesting thing that I’ve noticed about the Erickson design is that if you go to the other side of the Burrard Inlet and look across the water at the museum, it looks like the ruin of a Greek temple on a headland. Possibly in-line with some of Albert Speer’s ideas that architecture should be constructed in a way that they would make spectacular ruins in the distant future. Arthur Erickson seems to have gone a little further in that his building, at a certain angle, looks like a temple from the classical age.  I’ve been there many times and I’ll go there again, next time I’m in Vancouver.

It’s worthwhile going to the museum just to see Bill Reid’s magnificent carving “The Raven and the First Men”.

The Raven and the First Men by Bill Reid