Thursday, 29 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 5 - Earth Tremor and Miyajima

Day 5
Very early in the morning - about 5.30am - while sleeping on my futon at the World Friendship Centre I was woken by birds calling loudly outside my window. Moments later the whole building shook and rumbled and it originated from right underneath me. It only lasted a couple of seconds and then faded away. I fell back asleep.

At breakfast Barb (the lady who runs the WFC) confirmed it was an earth tremor. I've never experienced one before.

After breakfast I caught a tram to Miyajimaguchi Ferry terminal and then caught the ferry over to Miyajima. The day was bright and sunny and the water sparkled. The ferry only takes 10 minutes and i got great views of O-torii Gate in the water.

As I got to the island fairly early in the morning there wasn't too many tourists and i looked around the Itsukushima Shrine and then i wandered up to Daishoin Temple with its absolutely beautiful gardens full of figures - some dressed in hand knitted hats and jackets (a bit like the ones your granny would knit for you!). I loved it there.

I then embarked on climbing up Mount Misen - as i wanted to see if i could spot dandelions on the paths. I wasn't especially well equipped for such a steep climb (no walking boots, only one little bottle of water - proper tourist stuff), but felt ok about it when i passed a chap dressed in a full suit and posh shoes coming down the mountain. It took me about an hour and a half to get to the top and the views were breathtaking. Twinkling sea, little islands, blue sky and cherry blossom - perfect.

On my way down I started to chat with a chap called Alex who was travelling around the world.
We spent the rest of the afternoon together exploring bits of the island - it was fun. As it goes i didn't find one dandelion on the island and was bitterly disappointed. The island is overrun by deer and i expect that might be the cause - eating all the small flowers and plants.

I collected dandelion leaves and a flower from the ferry terminal at Miyajimaguchi instead.

I spent the evening with Alex in Hiroshima where we ate gorgeous Japanese food in an empty restaurant and then spent time in a bar where we decided to sample as many Japanese beers as we could before falling over.

I think this was my favorite day on the whole trip.

Japan Trip Day 4 - Hiroshima

Day 4
Mayumi and Erika escorted me to Hachimanyama Station and I caught the train to Tokyo Station via Shinjuku where I then booked my ticket to Hiroshima (i had a Japan Rail Pass for the trip, but reserved all my seats beforehand). Japanese trains are amazing, beautiful objects and waiting on the platform was an experience in itself - watching the Nozomi trains come in and the pink clad team of women going on board to switch the seats around (to the direction of travel) and clean the windows etc.

My journey was via Shin-Osaka where i had a brief stop, then onward to Hiroshima. The landscape was shrouded in mist, but i got brief glances of mountains and forests and the sea. I got a very brief view of Mount Fuji - the top and bottom were covered in cloud, but i could still the enormity of it - wonderful.

Arriving in Hiroshima the weather was a lot brighter and sunny, so after a taxi ride to where I was staying and unpacking my stuff I wandered out to the city centre to collect dandelions.

Hiroshima is a huge, bustling city and my stroll took me along Heiwa-o-dori and into the Peace Park. It was incredibly moving. There was a large bell that people kept chiming and the low deep sound resonated across the park - it was very eerie.
At the A Bomb Dome I reached into the alarmed area to risk getting two dandelion leaves for the collection - and i got them! They are tiny and scruffy and I am thrilled i risked it.

The day ended at a little restaurant called Itsuki where I had the place to myself and ordered the local speciality (the only thing on the menu) Okonomiyaki. I had the veggie option which consisted of a pancake, noodles, cabbage (more than you'd think was physically possible to eat) and sauce all layered into a cake type dish. Very yummy - impossible to eat with chopsticks.

The image here is of the dandelion i picked at the A Bomb Dome - it's tiny on the photo, but look closer between the bars and you'll spot it.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 3 - Museum

Day 3
The day started with a journey across the city in rush hour so I could get to Ueno Park to meet with Mr Takeshi Hayashi at the Tokyo University of the Arts. Mayumi came with me for half the journey - which was a great help during such a busy journey. We were crammed onto the train and changing lines was an amazing experience following along in the overwhelming flow of people.

Me and Takeshi had a lovely time chatting about work and dandelions and Yorkshire Sculpture Park (he has work in an exhibition there at present).

I then went to the Tokyo National Museum to see if I could spot dandelions in their collection. I'm getting good at scanning cabinets and object for dandelions - it means i look intensely at every object and exhibit and it can be quite obsessive.

It paid off though and I found a few dandelions - quite big, lovely clear ones too.

The first - pictured here - was on a screen. The label states:

'Female Peddlers of Ohara'
by Tsuchida Bakusen (1887 - 1936)

Colour on silk

1923 (Taisho 12)

Private collection

The screen the dandelion is on is made up of 6 panels with a female peddler sat on a log, with bamboo and the dandelions in the background. Lovely.

Dandelions were also featured on another screen (with birds), an exquisite scroll featuring lots of plants, a wall hanging showing a white dandelion and also very stylised ones on a dish.

I had lunch at the museum and sat beside a nice lady called Maggie who was also travelling in Japan and gave me great tips on where i might see dandelions in parks in Tokyo.

On leaving the Ueno Park I visited Toshogu Shrine and collected a couple of dandelion leaves for the dandelion diary. I then made my way home via Shibuya Station and as this was where I needed to change train lines I left the station to walk across Shibuya Crossing - a mass of swarming people, it was bright, busy and loud.

The evening was spent with Peter and Mayumi sampling Japanese sweets and enjoying a glass of wine. They made me so welcome in their family - it really was a wonderful start to my trip.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Japan Trip Day 1 & 2 - Travel

Ok, so after deciding to eat my way through my jet lag, i'm feeling a lot better now and can milk it no longer as an excuse for not up dating the blog.

Day 1 & Day 2
6.30 am start - then a train to Manchester airport, flight to Helsinki, flight to Tokyo, NEX train to Shibuya, local train to Takido - total travel time = 20 hours ish (still can't work it out with the time difference).

Diary extract from the journey:
"I had weird food to eat - a beetroot type burger and veg and then some liquid, thick raspberry stuff. Too many people are coughing - it's like a flying hospital. If I get out of this without a cold i'll be amazed."

"I just had the most disgusting breakfast - some boiled carrots and a piece of cheese omelet that's been kept warm since yesterday. Yum"

It was a hassle free journey and customs and passport control were easy and my bag was coming along the conveyor belt when i arrived. Getting from the NEX train in Shibuya to the Keio Inokashira Line took a while to figure out, but it all worked out in the end. From the train I saw dandelions - so i was absolutely delighted that i'd chosen a good time to travel.

While waiting at Takaido Station for Peter, my host for the next 2 days, I wandered around the streets nearby and found my first dandelions to collect. The image here is the first of my European dandelions in Japan.

I had the afternoon to myself and wandered in the local area spotting cherry blossom and dandelions and also visited the local supermarket with its pet department housing puppies and kittens in glass fronted display units. The evening was spent with Mayumi, Peter, Erika and Mike eating lovely Japanese food.

I flagged at 9pm and slept a deep dreamless sleep.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


My trip to Japan was too big to describe in a blog: it was exciting, incredible, challenging, inspiring, beautiful, funny, wonderful. I saw so many things in such a short time - i feel like i was away so much longer than i was.

The landscape, people, culture and food all brought new experiences to me and I can only try to explain this as best as i can.
I kept a diary of the trip plus i took over 400 shots on my 3 cameras.

I was thrilled to see lots of European dandelions and also i found Japanese dandelions too - they are so very beautiful. I visited the National Museum in Tokyo and was delighted to find the representation of dandelions on a few objects in the collection.

I only got back a couple of days ago and i have horrible jet-lag - so i'm going to up date the blog over the next few days trying to tell the story of the adventure to Japan looking for dandelions.

Monday, 12 April 2010

This Is It

Deep breath - I go on my trip tomorrow...
Bloody hell, who'd have thought I'd ever get to Japan?

Ok, so i just got back from collecting my Yen and a few other bits and now my bed is covered in piles of stuff ready to be squeezed in to my bags.

I reckon i'm a pretty lucky person most of the time, but if anything ridiculous is going to happen to anyone - that person is usually me (splashed by speeding cars in the rain on the way to important meetings; shit on from a great height by disease ridden pigeons (don't ever tell someone that's lucky); tripping up in front of a person you're about to introduce yourself to - the list could go on). So, a couple of days ago i started to worry that perhaps i didn't actually book a ticket to Japan - or perhaps there's another city in the world called Tokyo and i am in fact jetting off to Isle of Man*.... but this morning I tried checking in on-line: and it worked!

And yesterday I got an email from an associate professor at the Tokyo University of the Arts to say he'll meet me during my visit - this is part of his message:

Dear Rebecca
Thank you for your email.
I looked at your website, i could not understand rightly your idea. But it is very interesting about dandelion. So I will not help you in Japan, but i'd like to meet you this time in Ueno.
Could you please come to our University. Our University is Tokyo University of the Arts in Ueno. I will wait for you at the gate of our University on 10:00 morning 15th April.
Look forward to hearing from you


How exciting - meeting someone that i can tell about the project. Lucky man.

Ok - i'll probably not up-date the blog while away - but will have lots to tell when i get back.

* would have been a very expensive flight to the Isle of Man

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

This Time Next Week

I will have arrived in Japan by this time next week.
I've always wanted to got to Japan and combining it with a research trip was the only way I could manage to get there. I've been planning this trip since last summer and in that time I've tried to make contact with various professionals that could potentially help with my research (a curator of a botanical garden, a researcher at one of the universities studying the spread of European dandelions and a curator at a major museum). However, i've not been successful in tempting them into replying (even to tell me to get lost) so when i'm there I am entirely on my own to discover things for myself. I am going to try and collect dandelion specimens (both Japanese and European), plus i will visit museums to try and spot dandelions in collections of material culture.

I'm travelling quite a bit while i'm there so there is more chance of spotting varieties of dandelions - but who knows - i might come back empty handed. I'll be pretty gutted like if i don't even see one dandelion (and i expect the arts council won't be too chuffed either).

By the way - i just saw my first swallows of the year, so as advised I touched my money for luck ;)

Business Card

It's been mentioned I should have a business card to take with me to Japan to give out to potential contacts I might meet etc.
So I asked my friend Mari to translate my name in to Japanese. The Japanese text above is my name - i'm supposing anyway - she could of course have put something incredibly rude. I expect i'll find out when i present my card to the first recipient.