Category Archives: Furikake

Stephen Black: 72 hour Facebook Live Broadcast

THE BROADCAST IS HERE.

HELLO

Augmented Reality,art, Southeast Asian food, Bubiko Foodtour, VR, music, haikus, photographs, videos, unusualness... and discussions, readings from, and free downloads of, EBOOKS! The broadcast starts at 3PM September 30, Malaysia time, ends on Monday, October 2 at 3PM Malaysia time.

Until October 2, these ebooks are free downloads on Amazon:

Obama Search Words

Furikake

Fires by Cyril Wong

i ate tiong bahru (a paper copy is available at naiise)

Bali Wave Ghost

Flame Magnet

red dot SAD

Ipoh

Contact With Shadow is not a free download, but if you are interested in the future of book distribution, you should know about Unglue.

There is an audiobook version of i ate tiong bahru, narrated by Mirai Booth-Ong. And, this is 3how's debut album.

Bubiko Foodtour is AR's first superstar.

Base of operations: the Abby Hotel in Ipoh, Malaysia.

Thank you: Hock Moon Hiong BBQ meat and Jewellery Design and Management International School

If you are here because you are interested in my AR-related startup ideas, this post gives you an overview.

FWIW, I will soon have stories on Popularium and ElevenAsia

I am writing this 30 hours after the marathon went live.On one hand my blog views are double what they usually are. On the other hand, there haven't been many viewers. That is OK. I didn't do any pre-publicity, I am not paying Facebook to blast the event and there are no costs, other than my time. I hope that towards the end of the 72 hours there are more viewers. For now, I can only say if you visit the FB live page, say hi.

Here is an email I've sent out to friends and associates:

Hello everyone... I hope the weekend is a good one for you.

Just to short note to say that I am doing a live FB broadcast from Ipoh-for 72 hours. I started Friday at 3, will finish at 3 on Monday. The camera I am using isn't very good, the audio is so-so, the internet is slow and I am silhouetted during the daytime. Perfect!

Actually I am learning a lot, and my blog is seeing a nice amount of action. The free ebooks are trickling out of Amazon. I can see clicks on my blog posts about my AR startup plans. Yesterday I was interviewed by a reporter from the Malay Mail.

Anyhoo...stop by and chat with the silhouette... and meet Secret Donut World, the Doughbots and steamboatbubikofoodtourwillie. http://www.blacksteps.tv/stephen-black-72-hour-facebook-live-broadcast/

onwARd,

Steve

This was the schedule for Friday...

FRIDAY

3pm Ipoh (3AM NYC)8AM London

Son Mn Chinese Lantern Exhibition

4:30-5:30 Ipoh(4:30-5:30AM NYC)9:30-10:30 AM London

reading from Obama Search Words

5:30-6:15 Ipoh

Ipoh food adventures

6:15-7PM Ipoh

Ipoh evening tour

7pm(7AM NYC)12PM London

Bubiko: Adventures in Photoshop at Thanas Wedding Photography

9pm(9am NYC)2pm London

Ipoh Evening food adventures

9-10 Ipoh

Free ebooks introduction

10pm(10am NYC)3pm London

Stephen Black and VR

11pm(11am NYC)4pm London

Stephen Black startup ideas

12am(12pm NYC)5pm Lon

Stephen Black and AR

SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 30, 2017 (in Ipoh)

coming soon!

Haptics: Bubiko, Lei Cha and Data Science (Ingredients)

This is the second post in a series in which I have fun with lei cha, haptics and Bubiko. Later, when things are more organized and clear, I hope this catch the interest of data scientists, information specialists and CG filmmakers/animators. There is a fun dimension to all of this, but I seriously wonder what would happen if 1% of the earth's population ate one bowl of lei cha a week...10%? 100% ?What would happen environmentally, economically and to the health of everyone and the planet?

For now, a list of ingredients. In a future post, I will describe the ingredients and add links.If you know some ingredients that I missed, please add them in the comments section. Also, tips on places that make great lei cha are always welcome! Those too, can go in the comments section.

OK...the ingredients.(NOT a recipe)

The tea broth above is from Vege Station in Johor Jaya, one of my favorite places for lei cha.

INGREDIENTS for BROTH

100 gram basil

30 grams cilantro

Some salt

Sweet potato leaves

Broccoli

Garlic

Green beans

Chinese long beans (long-podded cowpeas)

Celery stalks

Basil

Oregano

Acenthopanax trifoliateus

Coriander

Artemisia

Sawtooth

Moringa leaves

Dill

INGREDIENTS FOR BOWL

Dried peeled shrimp

Sautéed meat

Dried tofu

Peanuts

Dried radish

Snow lotus

Ginko

Lotus

Gordon Euryale seeds

Green peas

Job’s tears

Chinese yam

Adzuki

Rice

Jack

Mung or scarlet runner beans

Soybeans

Black soybeans

Millet wheat

Wheat or red wheat

Barley

Buckwheat

Oats

Brown rice

It is likely that there are other ingredients.

Agaricus blazeii Murrill, Sacha Inchi Oil and Me (part 2)

the first part of this post is here

To review, from about 1999 to 2002, I was very involved with researching and promoting a medicinal and gourmet mushroom called ABM, Agaricus blazeii Murrill. As part of this, I wrote my first book. I did this in Tokyo, Manhattan and around Toledo, Ohio. I established many relationships and enjoyed being involved with a healthful food item in a positive community, and creating possibilities. However, I entered the world of VR and, after that, returned to the world of books and art. I don’t feel as if there are huge differences between the different areas in my life.

Everything is about human relationships and data/information. Efficiency and planning are the keys and I am always working to improve in these areas, without becoming closed-minded. I've been told that the Japanese word for “busy”(isogashii) means “no heart”. Something like that.

So... Johor Bahru, Malaysia. April 2017. Sacha inchi oil. When you are around people who are really healthy, you notice it immediately. !!!! As a writer I have to be careful here! Sometimes, when one describes one’s interactions and activities that are associated with healthy foods and practices, it is easy to across as purely a salesman, sincere or otherwise. Yes, there is an economic aspect, but it is not the main reason that I am thinking about sacha inchi. Sales can lead to an awareness of the powers within plants and humans.

Sacha inchi reminds me of ABM very much. I am considering getting involved with it because I now have experience in sharing nutraceutical information, and interest in sacha inchi is already starting. It seems that Singapore, Malaysia and China are growing markets. America and Japan have potential.

It would be interesting to come up with some idea that combines art with sacha oil. A year ago, my partner and I performed the Iron Fire Riceball Tour, which combined performance art with food art. Meaning simply, we just marched around to all of the organic food stores in Singapore and asked any of the staff if they would like to try an organic riceball flavored with organic miso with permaculture grown ingredients. It was not a commercial project, it was about communication and connecting;art. We didn’t talk business, though it was clear where the miso and rice came from. We had been living in Bali and had worked on the permaculture farm that produced the miso. That little tour was beautiful.

So now; it is an amusement for me to think of how to connect with saha ishi in a way that is personal. What I have thought of so far:

-a book on sacha inchi, but one that is a collection of short stories about everything from the history of the plant to the growing to the processing to the person who is using sacha inchi as a treatment for a serious diseases.Fact-based fiction with emotion.

-a 360 short film that documents a room full of longtime saha ichi users. The setting would be naturalistic and simple. There would be at least 10 or 12 actors and actresses. These people would not have to do anything, but they would be aware of the fact that they are being filmed. The person who sees the film would, simply, sense and observe the healthy bodies.

-the sacha inchi game. Something interactive, of course.Exciting and based on how scientists think sacha inchi empowers the immune system, it would be cool to make a game something like this:

I will think. Sacha inchi is good stuff!

THANKS! Crowdfunding success= free ebooks by Stephen Black and Cyril Wong

Parts of this post are  outdated, but the information about the books is current.It was first written to celebrate a crowdfunding success on Zingohub.... The i ate tiong bahru glassware  crowdfunding campaign went 30% over target in the first three days... and  ended at 175%- well over target! i ate tiong bahru  A national bestseller in Singapore, iatb is a collection of short stories about Tiong Bahru, a community living in an estate composed of uniquely styled Art Deco buildings. "Unlike anything else I've read.""Black's love letter is one of the best introductions to a country and a state  that you might read" Art Review Asia. More reviews here. I Ate Tiong Bahru book cover Free download from Amazon on November 13,2016.
If you are an art collector, an adventurous reader and a drinker of caffeinated beverages, YOUR DREAM HAS COME TRUE...(click to join the club)
Obama Search Words Stephen Black's first book; dynamic, it captures Barack Obama in a style like no other. Free download from Amazon on November 13, 2016. osw-cover Obama Search Words was once enrolled in an Unglue campaign. Here is the video produced for that. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eo-4cmUQubA Furikake Japanese rice seasonings, love and a look at life in Clementi, a small town in Singapore. Free download from Amazon on November 13, 2016
photography as part of book cover design

a photograph of a dancer on a farm, the title and the author's name

Bali Wave Ghost "a mad work of genius", Richard E. Lewis, author of the bestseller Bones of the Dark Moon, a novel set amidst the horrific killings in Bali during the Sixties. Free download from Amazon on November 13, 2016
black and white book covers

Proposed cover for Bali Wave Ghost, the latest book by Stephen Black

Fires by Cyril Wong, who is a Singapore Literature Prize-winning poet, fictionist and critic.Free download from Amazon on November 13, 2016
Red chairs, cyril wong and FIRES

George Parel's design is clean and eye-catching

Flame Magnet- Do not download this book unless you are adventurous. This isn't something you read, it's the start of a lifelong journey. Free download from Amazon on November 13, 2016
lance from Secret Donut World

Flame magnet is go!
Art by David Severn

Contact With Shadow....not free, but becoming unglued! Check out the video as well as a photo exhibition. CWS is an undiscovered classic, full of melancholic swirling laments about lost love. amidst exquisite descriptions of Singapore. Also includes plenty of references to history and little-known baked goods. Contact With Shadow bookmerahatgmaildotcom
Book Merah titles in a free ebook giveaway

Book Merah titles in a free ebook giveaway

..the end... here, however, is an email which I am sending, in various forms, to everyone on my email mailing list... HELLO
Just letting you know that I am starting a new book about Tiong Bahru, this one emphasizing photography. The working title is Tiong Bahru Time.... Here is a brief blog post about it.
And... the i ate tiong bahru glassware crowdfunding project is in the final countdown...less than 24 hours to go!
Finally, there will be another free giveaway of Book Merah ebooks....check here.
As you may know, I Ate Tiong Bahru has sold 2000 copies. It is a bestseller!
All the best and see you in Tiong Bahru!
Onward,
Stephen Black

Exciting New Cemetery @Isetan Wisma Atria

stephen black exciting new cemetery; involvement with tiong bahru mouth, 3how, photography, Obama Search Words,video,Lorong 16,self-publishing, Fires, Singapore art from 1965-2017, Singapore Personal Art Metadata,SPOKEN,Furikake,limited editions,Contact With Shadow, the art of conversation,Flame Magnet, thumb-shaped kways, Big Homer,Beach Road, Bali Wave Ghost and i ate tiong bahru @ isetan wisma atria from September 6-October 3 The Stephen Black is present everyday except Monday. This will be finalized very soon, but will involve talks,books by Stephen Black, exhibited artworks, digital artworks,artworks for sale, free screenings of the Beach Road 360VR movie, hands on interaction with SPOKEN, the virtual gallery co-created with Eugene Soh and much, much more.... exciting new cemetery jpeg

Iron Fire Riceball Singapore Tour

"Art"... such a misused word. In the case of the thumb kways, the "art" label was easy to understand, in that the kways looked like thumbprints, which made them a form of self-portraiture, among other things. But now, these miso furikake riceballs... why do I label them as an artwork as opposed to, say, promotion for my Furikake book? Or marketing for Mom Natura? Or promotion for Tawaraya Rice? Ultimately, art is communication and self-portraiture. With the Iron Fire Furikake Miso Riceball  Tour, we went out, communicated, learned about natural food stores in Singapore and had fun. We weren't out to sell anything, just wanted to share the magic of rice and iron fire miso furikake.... We set out hoping to interact with most of the stores on this list.   First stop: 67 Aliwal Street. Two people had an iron fire furikake miso riceball experience. This image was created:misoriceball tour 003_scc riceballs Aliwal wall A haiku poet! Dave Tai who, like a Zen master, listened to me describe the riceball artworks. He then became one with the riceball.  http://www.haikufever.com/ misoriceball tour 005_haiku writer misoriceball tour 009_typewriterNext stop: Shaw Towers, where we had surprised Karen Ong and Lee Hui Lun at Oasis Organic the day  before. Another riceball experience! The shop had just received a big delivery, so we only took this shot, of a shelf where the goods had already been unpacked neatly... misoriceball tour 011_edited Oasis shop interior Then, we did something we don't do often: we ate meat. (I  know, I know...) This is the view of Shaw Towers. You can't see it, but there is a sign that says Shaw Leisure Gallery: The Art of Life. Wish we'd had time to see our dear friends at JDMIS, Asia's  center  for jewelry making classes and certification. misoriceball tour 013_edited Artof life shaw tower monks Next stop Tanglin Mall! The person we met at Brown Rice Paradice was not in the mood for a riceball experience but did seem happy to take the info we provided. Coincidentally, we ran into Chris, jewelry designer and maker of musical beats. We met in Tiong Bahru  in Tiong Bahru a few years ago and, unfortunately, have not yet had a chance to sit down and relax with cold beverages made of fermented wheat and hops and stuff like that... misoriceball tour 019_edited Chris SUPERNATURE! misoriceball tour 023_edited SuperNature shopper At Great World, we stopped by Four Seasons... misoriceball tour 034_edited four seasons organic marketSomewhere near Robertson Quay: documentation of the pamphlet from Mom Natura and the chirashii from Tawaraya misoriceball tour 037_edited Chirashii mom and tawaraya Could not resist! misoriceball tour 041_edited book cafe But, our ultimate destination on Mohamed Sultan was : The Organic Grocer. misoriceball tour 049_edited curated misoriceball tour 048_edited no time to waste Then, we dashed off to catch a glimpse of the Annie Liebovitz show before it closed. I'd worked for her for a month on a series of shoots in Tokyo a while ago and, even though I knew it was a naive idea, thought she might still be in town and I could just say hi. She was gone, of course, but the man in charge was extremely helpful.. and the recipient of one of the day's last iron fire miso furikake riceball masterpieces! Finally, a haiku by Dave Tai... Riceball haiku by Dave Tai

A great discount/ semi-On Kawara artwork/Fashion!?/a neologism/books/moving

Simple description: I am moving (shifting as they say in Singapore/the UK) and hope to get some of my artworks in the hands of people who understand them. Pay what you like for the following printed books:  Bali Wave Ghost, I Ate Tiong Bahru and Furikake. All of these books have received positive reviews and all are described on this blog elsewhere. As for the T-shirts: -they are a means of disseminating information about "compung", a word I have created. I am now looking for organizations about neologisms, so as to find ways to register "compung" or get it into the mainstream.Compung documentation (T-shirt) - they reference On Kawara as well as Prince's use of symbols and  the substitution of letters for words -they promote the Kampung GUI. GUI stands for ground up initiative, a concept that I strongly believe in. -they feature my "unaesthetic" aesthetic. Fun, maybe challenging...   SO... get in touch if you are interested. I would be happy to connect these limited edition artworks with people who "get" them... Onward! Kampung GUI tour pointing SB The books are a limited edition, joining these others.  

April 23, 2016: Compung (a new word) and Iron Fire Riceball Artwork

Today at the Kampung GUI Eighth Anniversary Event, I debuted a new word and a new artwork. The new word is 'compung' and the new artwork was an edible social sculpture: Iron Fire Miso Riceballs. Compung sounds like, and references, kampung, the Malay language word for village or community. However, the first three letters, c o m, reference computers. 'Compung' is a new word that may have a meaning similar to 'tribes' (as in the 'digital tribes' associated with social media), but with more "real life" interaction. The first conversation of what 'compung' might be like was with Brian Lee Xin Yang, at about 10:30 AM. A Compung Facebook page has been set up. Compung documentation (T-shirt)Created with  "unaesthetic" fonts and layouts, the information suggests incompleteness; the excitement of an initial sketch. The first line is likely the influence of my life  in Ubud. The second line is meant to be-- and look like-- the words which form the message; COMPUNG Art Seed Breaking. The next two lines are self-explanatory, and the last line is a kind of shorthand. The use of "mi" suggests music. There are some T-shirts still available. Do let me know if you'd like one. A collaboration with Mom from Mom's Natura Farms in Bali, the Iron Fire Riceballs were well received. There were discussions about fermentaion, miso's medical properties(including its anti-radiation properties) and the benefits of salt. The iron fire rice balls were an unexpected extension of my Furikake book. A blog post/short story about Mom, Tokyo, Bali and Furikake is here. iron fire riceballs and red thumbkway Lim Lam Hong Confectionery: thank you for always taking the time to make the kways perfect artworks that are delicious!. Thank you to Tawaraya for supplying us with such delicious Hokkaido Nanatsuboshi rice! fire iron miso riceball      

Inari, Bali and Snow

  • The Author Show audio  interview with Stephen Black on the Furikake book.
  • On Saturday, April 23, Stephen Black will be reading and presenting the thumb kway artworks and a new artwork entitle Miso Furikake Riceballs. Details here.
  • On April 22, this will be added to the book entitled Furikake.
  • This is the final version of Inari, Bali and Snow, replacing other versions of this story that were posted on this blog.
INARI, BALI AND SNOW

February 21, 2016

Man, this miso stuff is serious!

Mom and I'd been talking about food as social art. Edible, nutritious art. Public sculptures of popcorn and haikus made of glutinous rice. We discussed the pigmentation of palm sugar, sesame seeds, coconut oil and pink Himalayan salt. Mom explained how roasting changes miso's color and texture. I introduced Mom to the artworks of Ferran Adria and el Bulli. I explained how and why I made kways shaped like my thumbprint. I learned that, in Japanese, “tekka” is written with two kanjis and means “iron fire”. And, in Kyushu, 'tekka' means someone with a strong, focused and energetic personality. Like Mom, who just told me that miso has anti-radiation properties and was used as medicine at Hiroshima. Man, this miso stuff is serious...

Mom has a healthy glow. Her eyes are bright and full of depth. Calm with wisdom, yet the signs of overwork show through. Mom is one of those people who are truly aware that we are all in the same tiny boat on the vast River of Time, sometimes going with the flow, sometimes lost without a paddle.

Bamboo Spirit is a center of social energy; a tie-dyed campus at the top of the Penestanan Steps. A Hindu place, a Russian place, a Japanese place...a  quietly glorious Balinese place. Next to a stream, the house-like, open structure is old and made of wood and stone.. From the second floor and the small strange cozy space on the third, one can see rice fields and the hills of Ubud. People celebrate food here. Mom sells her products here on Sundays.

Alex introduced us. Barefoot and standing on the hard ground, we were soon discussing fermentation, the laphet I brought from Myanmar and the tekka miso from her farm. Above us, a canopy of yellow cloth warmed and softened the light, giving everyone and everything a golden shadow. I gave Mom laphet and she gave me mimosa tea. I told Mom I would visit her farm as soon as I could. The farm is in Mas, just outside of Ubud, which is on the island of Bali in the country of Indonesia. In Spanish, 'mas' means 'more'.

Furikake stars:

Faint, bittersweet sands of time

swirling clouds; rice ball.

I Am a Muddy Path With No Banana Leaves

I drove to Mas in darkness.

Mom welcomed me: "Six o'clock. You are on time. Like the Japanese." She gave me her husband's boots. My first task was to water "our plants". That was on Level 1. Later in the morning, Rachel watered Level 2 and Liisa looked for okra on Level 3. There's a teepee on the edge of Level 4. Mom was everywhere. Lined up at the windows of their classroom, the children from the school yelled "Hello" and "Good morning", their cute voices and uncontrolled enthusiasm strong enough to cross the big field between us. Later, we heard them singing Balinese songs. I used a sickle on the plants surrounding the wild peanuts and discovered okra blossoms. As she walked in, as though she were laughing, Alex asked me how I was doing.

Breakfast, then, in Mom's bamboo house. Papaya,okra salad and rice balls, everything full of flavor. Rachel mentioned something she'd read about how the visual appearance of food influences t digestion. Another topic: the ideal state of mind for those people who prepare food. Manny talked about food, air, water and McDonald's and we all discussed furikake, laphet and mimosa tea. I wore the green shirt my mom bought for me, now faded and with a hole between my left shoulder and my heart. During the four hours I was at Mom's, I was in the center of a beautifully slow and flowing sequence of events, thoughts and exchanges. I drank no coffee. 🙂

But my muddy path task is what made the strongest impression upon me. The farm has a network of paths and the recent rain had made some sections very slippery. Mom told me to make mats from the old leaves and stalks from the banana plants. If I did that, traction and safety would be improved. You don't want someone falling with a large, sharp cutting instrument in their hands... I didn't need a plan; in such a cosmic place, everything would be naturally perfect. But, my thinking was wrong.

I should have gained information about: a) the number of banana leaves available, b) the number of trouble spots, c) the "danger rating" of trouble spots, d) "danger ratings" vs. frequency of use, e) location and f) time available to complete the task.

I should have improved the most dangerous high-traffic sections first, starting with the steps between levels. Then, I should have used my limited amount of banana tree resources to prevent new trouble spots from developing. With whatever time was left, I should have put at least one leaf on all of the remaining areas, which would have warned others of danger.

But as it is, many parts of the paths on the farm are still very slippery and one small area in Level 1 is very safe.

Gold furikake

being sprinkled on blue snow,

Hanazono dawn

During my first winter in Asia, my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through a snowstorm that, with a continuing, powerful grandeur, had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. The glass door made the rolling, shaky noise it always did when it was opened. I stepped out. Immediately my nose and lungs were stung by cold air. I trudged through a maze of snowdrifts until I reached Shinjuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer had thrown herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I’d sat in Yasukuni's cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually, Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, the god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

The stone basin for washing one’s hands and rinsing one’s mouth; the ice within it is now covered by a lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes, are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity. And then!

The clouds part and—for an instant– the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Against the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple’s black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole… Then–just a glimpse– the full moon. Asahi!

I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold could be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed and one leg was becoming numb.

I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they’d be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan’s. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town. Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan wouldn’t be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most shop owners, but as though he were quietly sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a crowded Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host. He carefully stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with a pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No–but he was an anchor, a touchstone.I was a regular; he and his little bar provided a sense of normality in a city full of extremes of all kinds. Always an interesting crowd, packed in around Shunchan and his bar. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren’t that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

I sat where I always did, under the old, big posters of bent-over Japanese girls in bikinis on beaches holding mugs full of beer. Even when Shunchan’s was half-full, you had to stand behind the people seated at the bar and couldn’t help but sometimes touch them. Shunchan put down the ice pick and adjusted the kerosene heater at his feet. My hands treasured my glass of hot water and whiskey as my frozen pants started melting.

Then, like the sudden appearance of a deer in a forest, a naked and attractive young Japanese woman tiptoed down the stairs. With her finger, she moved her hair behind her ear. She politely smiled at me, then leaned forward and watched Shunchan make her tea. I immediately became fascinated with the smoke-stained chirashis promoting last year's offerings of underground movies, independent music, butoh and avante-garde theatre. She was a pixie, flush with the color and smell of sex. She was steamy. She went back upstairs. Shunchan said nothing, I said nothing. A moment later, a young naked Japanese man came down, got a drink and went back up. Then another. Shunchan, smiled at me and began to look for his ice pick. My unforgettable morning was, for him, just another day at work.

So... Tokyo, for quite a few years, New York for a year, then The Handover in Hong Kong, then Tokyo for the millennium, then the excitement of crashing the dot-com boom party. Singapore then, to create Second Life, but before Second Life; and to lay the foundation for something like Youtube, but before Youtube. My indefinably star-like daughter, all the while shining... Scholarly friends, friends who needed a bath like me, friends who drove around in new cars and threw cigarette butts out the window. Supernova relationships with boundless vigor. Roommates with holes in their socks and roommates who blessed me with hearty breakfasts and made me feel like family. Roommates who cheated me. A three-legged cat and driving away from a lover's home in Paris; the sun rising and the taxi driver playing a ney all the way from the Port of Clouds to Orly. Medicinal mushrooms. The Bioneers, just after 9/11. Sitting in a Clementi coffeeshop, a cheap mobile phone to my ear as I learned how they took a long blood vessel from his leg and put it in his chest to repair his heart. Chemo and radiation treatments. I'm working another shift on Mom's farm and thinking of all of these things, especially the chemo and radiation. I'm planting black beans and watching the sunrise. Chemo and radiation, chemo and radiation.

The clumps of clay and the big mud stains on my blue jeans give me a Sense of Accomplishment. Komang, myself and the WWOOF volunteers, are having another wonderful meal in the bamboo house. We sip amazake and Sayuri listens to us tell stories. Mom and I discover that we'd been neighbors. We'd very likely waited for trains at Higashi-Nakano station at the same time. There, we could have stood together, maybe almost touching, as we looked inside the ninja school across from the station. We'd both definitely eaten in the Mongolian tent behind the KFC, and both of us remembered the books the owner had made: one about a circus and one about his autistic daughter. Sitting on the tatami at Mom's, I remembered the life I had lived thirty years before; all of the chaotic, energetic activities with chaotic, energetic people. Mom and Shunchan had been great friends. She'd shared a bed with him--in a nonsexual way-- and once pretended to be his fiancee so Shunchan's mother would stop yelling at him to get married. I'd heard bits and pieces of these stories. Maybe Mom had sat next to me at Shunchan's and I'd thought of very lustful things.

Earlier, when I was working in Level 3, Komang gave me okra pods that were like striped, brittle antelope horns. Three seeds in a hole. I planted as carefully as I could but then the light was fading and I sped up. Not good to leave something undone. Komang may have seen me rushing, maybe not. He came over and helped. "We always plant with love," is all he said.

It should be obvious that I consider furikake to be a magnificent concept. A plain riceball is a canvas; furikake makes it an artwork. A composition of furikake, created by culture, geography, science and chance-- is placed into the mouth. The brutal critics—the glands, teeth and tongue, decide if the work is something to be savored or spit out like poison.

During many of the days described in this story I wore ragged boxer shorts, shreds of white Japanese cotton shreds patterned with torn, red goldfish. The soft rags that covered my loins were more painful than a hairshirt. The gentle white cotton bit me harder than any cilice. Those boxer shorts were bought for me on the morning of the day we watched the harvest moon rise over the Pacific Ocean. That magical day was one of many moments we shared in that little coastal village that had the best seafood and the richest sake. Silently, we often observed the changing seasons while soaking in the hot spring of our ryokan, located just a couple of train stops from Fukushima.

     

Inari, Bali and Snow (1)

DO NOT READ THIS! THE FINAL VERSION IS HERE! THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I WILL BE WORKING ON THIS THROUGHOUT THE DAY and WILL SOON BE ADDING IT TO MY FURIKAKE BOOK. For now, I hope that the following draft provides enough finished passages for you to enjoy and that the unfinished passages provide a sense of how important the story is to me. Inari, Bali and Snow During my first winter in Asia my home was a little tatami room in Yotsuya. There, on the morning of January 28, 1985, I awoke well before dawn, bundled up and set out to wander through the continuing grandeur of a snowstorm that had shut down Tokyo. I was hungry; had nothing but coins in my pocket and a camera loaded with black and white film. I slid open the door and began marching through the snowdrifts. Cold air stung my nose and lungs. After the white maze of my neighborhood,  I reached Shijnuku-dori. Then west, past the Sun Music Building that the singer threw herself off of. Then Yasukuni-dori, with the thought of going right and visiting Yasukuni Shrine. I'd sat in its cafeteria once, with a veteran from World War II who said I looked like Gary Cooper. We drank green tea beneath a Mitsubishi Zero attached to the ceiling

But no, I wandered left, towards Shinjuku san-chome, where I stood beneath a traffic light and watched its colored lights tint the swirling snow. Eventually I reached Mitsukoshi and the other department stores, each big enough to occupy an entire block. Further west, across from the station, the gaudy lights, billboards and neon of Kabukicho had become soft pastels. On small side streets, I passed darkened yakitori-yas, convenience stores and round red akachochins topped with snow and ice. The quiet. The cold. The feeling of being immensely alone. And lost. Lost, lost, lost. Delightfully so.

Flower garden. A French friend and I went drinking near here one night and he told me that the Chinese characters carved in the monument now before me mean Flower Garden. Hanazono Jinja. Hundreds of years ago, the Hanazono family built this shrine , one dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. Inari, the god of the arts.

I walk forward, between two dull grey buildings. At the end of the passage, a torii; waiting like a strange goal post, or a letter from an alien alphabet. Tubular, wooden and orange, the torii is a relic from a ceremony of whispers. The people of Tokyo are warm in their beds and sleeping; I am in the cold and dreaming.

There is a stone basin for washing one's hands and rinsing one's mouth; the ice within it protected by lace made of wire mesh and snow. The ema, the small, thin wood plaques covered with neatly written hopes and wishes are bunched in rows, nooses connecting them to the display stand. The temple grounds are barely lit and surrounded by modernity.Then! The clouds part and—for an instant-- the sun rushes in like a spotlight. Below the dark blue snowy sky, golden light strikes the temple's black tortoise shell roof, the white frost on the pine trees, and the stone foxes standing guard. The fresh vermillion paint for Oshogatsu, the corridor of red toriis, the simplistic arabesques of gold trim, the precise and clean concrete stairs; the sun is behind me, throwing itself forward everywhere. The gigantic shrine vibrates like a massive, noble flame of Japanese architecture. The vividness of details, the vividness of the whole... Then--just a glimpse-- the full moon. Asahi! I stood alone in that quiet heaven of color until the threat of the freezing cold be ignored no longer. My feet and hands were paralyzed. I vaguely recognized the steps at the back of the shrine, thought they'd be a shortcut to the Dunkin Donuts on Shinjuku-dori. At the top of the stairs, however, I saw that I was overlooking the two-story wooden shacks and alleys of Golden Gai. Somewhere in there was Shunchan's. Like a wounded cowboy I limped down the stairs into that little white Japanese ghost town.   Golden Gai: one of those places that teen aged Western boys imagine they will one day find themselves in. Prostitution, gambling, rendezvous spots, cheap drinking places, yakitori shops, bars specializing in all kinds of music; all connected by very narrow walkways lit by red paper lanterns and old cheap plastic Suntory signs. I was sure Shunchan wouldn't be there. I was wrong.

Irrrashai!” He said it not with the loud bellowing mechanical style of most shop owners, but as though he were sharing an inside joke. It was 7AM, in a frozen and snowbound Tokyo, but Shunchan smiled at me like it was late on a Friday night after payday. Both serene and slightly nervous, Shunchan is the perfect host.  He stabbed the chunk of ice in his hand with an ice pick while I thought about my order.

Was Shunchan a great friend of mine? No--but he was an anchor, a touchstone. Regular. I was a regular in Shunchan's bar; he and his little bar provided a regularity in a city full of extremes of many kinds. There was always always an interesting crowd. Whether they were Japanese, Russian or Australian, Shunchan made the hostesses feel relaxed. He treated the English teachers and backpackers like locals. Celebrities, artists and musicians brought in great mixtapes, his drinks weren't that expensive and Shunchan laughed a lot. He was good friends with the young woman in the bright orange dress.

The next section is here.