On my way to Kobe, hold the beef

It is hard to believe that in a country as advanced as Japan that they still allow smoking in public establishments and on the train.  I also could not believe that in a 3 star type hotel I could smell stale smoke in the air of my room with an ashtray even though I wanted non-smoking. I am just not used to still seeing people light up in a restaurant (mostly it is men.)  You cannot smoke inside in France or Germany anymore, I wonder about Israel, and I do not remember seeing much of it in Taipei.

Busy day of travel today from Takayama to Minno and now to Kobe.  I stopped in Minno today to visit with a friend of Jane’s (the curator for the project I just did in Taiwan) who offered to show me around the village which is famous for its paper making and a well known artist residency. Akiko took me to her home in the back of a beautiful traditional house with an incredible garden kept up by her husband and his family for 80 years. We had salad from his garden, and what a tizzy I caused when she asked me if there was any food I did not eat and I pointed to the fried shrimp she had just placed in front of me. She got all worried because she had just started frying chicken in the same oil as the shrimp, I said that was okay, it just seems that the last few times I ate shrimp I felt ill to my stomach afterwards. I must be allergic after all these years of never eating shrimp. Oh what a terrible NY Jew I am, not eating shrimp or lobster for that matter.

If you are interested they just uploaded a short documentary about the project in Taiwan.  Here is the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW03qQhQu6o&feature=youtu.be

Tomorrow I travel by bus to another paper making village in Tokushima. I got to make traditional washi paper today (what we call rice paper.) My attendant did not realize I was an experienced paper maker, so she did not let me do much, I hope at the next place I can do more of the process on my own. My host Akiko also took me to the home of a traditional paper maker who is the successor of a well known paper master.  When we arrived he was bent over cleaning the kozo like so many generations before him.  A painstaking job, bending over moving water in a narrow shed, removing tiny specs of unwanted particles from the freshly stripped strips of mulberry. She also brought me to a neighbor who makes traditional bamboo brushes. What an incredible technique to watch and visit his atelier.

Oh my goodness what a culture shock I just received when I got out of the train station in Kobe.  After two quiet days in the traditional mountain countryside, one in a village that had to shut down its junior high school due to a shrinking and aging population, imagine my shock to be hit with hordes and hordes of young people hanging out on a street lined with every possible fast food chain you can think of. If I feel like this now, I worry about experiencing Tokyo.

Best,

Michele

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