Friday, May 19, 2006

Kyoto Info

Be prepared to step back in time several hundred years. Remember that 300 years ago, when many of the Temples in Kyoto were striving, there was no United States of America. In the 11th and 12th centuries, when many of the Kyoto Temples were founded, Europe was in the Dark Ages. And some of the Temples date back to the 8th century. We would like you to experience something of what Japanese life was like in the past. We ask you to leave your technology and American lifestyle at home during this journey. We also ask you to experience the Buddhist way of thinking – drop all expectations and do not judge everything with your current lifestyle. We ask you to have an open mind. Avoid making comparisons. Simply experience things for the way they are.

We will be visiting a city named Kyoto 2 syllables: kyo + to, pronounced kyo + toh, (not 3 as in key + oh + toh; or as in Philly, key + oh + doh) just as Tokyo has only 2 syllables , to + kyo, not toh + key + oh! We will be staying in a traditional Japanese country inn called a ryokan. 2 syllables: ryo + kan, pronounced row + con, although that is a Japanese R that has an L sound, and the y is still in there We will be sleeping in a traditional Japanese setting, including rooms with tatami mats and sleeping on futon, cushions on the floor We will be bathing in a traditional Japanese bath called o-furo We will be eating a traditional sukiyaki dinner at the ryokan on the first night Dress in the blue and white robe called ukata, supplied by the Ryokan after bathing in the o-furo Do not come to dinner in your sweat pants, please!

The Shinkensen (Bullet Train) ticket you have will also pay for any other JR Train that takes you to (and from) Shinagawa Station. We will be travelling to Kyoto as a group. Please be at the station before the appointed departure time. It may cost you an extra $100+ if you miss the train. We will be travelling back from Kyoto in groups as well (some on Saturday, some on Sunday). Don’t miss this train either! If you wish to keep you Shinksen ticket as a souvenir, do not put the ticket through the ticket machine at your final destination (it will eat your ticket), but rather, give it to the ticket window person and have them stamp it.

We will eat two Kyoto style dinners nabe at the ryokan (fish or vegetarian meals are optional) tofu variations and fish in the Pontocho restaurant district on a porch overhanging the Kamo-gawa (gawa means river) plus two breakfasts at the ryokan your choice of Japanese or American here you have a chance for familiarity if you are jonesin’ Lunches will happen ‘on the road’ and can include anything from soba at temples (try nishin soba – with marinated herring, or battera – pressed sushi with special saba (mackerel) or other fish matcha – powered green tea (used in the traditional tea ceremony) okonomiyaki – a seafood or meat ‘pancake’ (associated with Hiroshima)

Kyoto Trip 2 Summer Art Workshop
We may also be able to have either of two amazing lunches, one a tofu lunch outside at a Buddhist Garden next to Nanzen-ji,another a Buddhist vegetarian lunch in amazing red bowls at Daitoku-ji. These are optional and will cost about ¥3500. But both are unique experiences and well worth the cost. Please be open minded with the food, as many things will be new to you don’t outthink yourself – just taste it and enjoy it, rather than saying, “Oh I don’t like that” before you have even tried it. try out the philosophy “I’ll try anything twice, because if I didn’t like it the first time I was probably doing it wrong.” Please do say, “I don’t like tofu”.If you have never eaten tofu in Japan, you have not yet tasted it. If you have eaten tofu in Tokyo, you should still try it in Kyoto, it is different. Please refrain from comparing this food with American food. appreciate it for what it is – there is usually no equivalent in America. and please do not embarrass us by ordering ‘Coke with you sushi’ we did not come halfway around the world to eat at McDonalds or drink Starbucks coffee

Japanese tend to bathe in the evening before dinner. They come home from work hot and sweaty. It is nice to return to the ryokan earlier than dinner time and bathe and then come to dinner wearing your ukata (Japanese robe provided by the ryokan). Please follow this procedure on the night we have our Sukiyaki dinner at the ryokan.We will be bathing in a traditional Japanese bath called ofuro Bathing Ettique: sit on a small stool outside of the bathtub and soap yourself up and wash yourself down rinse off by either pouring a bucket with water over yourself, or – with the shower spray (less authentic) You do not wash in the bathtub! then, after you are clean, get into the hot bath sit and relax your muscles for about 5 minutes Don’t be shy – share the bath as Japanese do at the public bath houses. Please don’t say, “Oh, I prefer to take showers rather than a bath”. If you think this way, you are missing the point. Soap and shampoo, and toothbrushes are supplied, as well as towels. Hang your towels on the small drying racks after your bath so they will be dry for use in the morning.

pack light – we will only be gone for three days and two nights and we will have to schlep our bags to and from the train station wear light clothing – it will be hot wear sunscreen if you have sensitive skin wear very supportive running shoes – we will walk for hours non-stop do not wear brand new shoes, a broken in pair will serve you better bring some Band-Aids just in case you develop a blister consider bringing an Ace Bandage just in case you strain an ankle (someone does every year) Kyoto Trip 3 Summer Art Workshop shoe etiquette: outside street shoes should never touch the carpeted floor of the ryokan the surfaces outside are considered very dirty (because they are) and this dirt should not be carried into the home Americans tend to think that feet and socks are disgusting, but the Japanese think the street surface is far worse. red slippers will be provided for all to wear inside the ryokan the red slippers never touch the tatami mats in your bedrooms special slippers live in the toilet rooms and your red slippers should never enter their territory either

cash your travelers checks before you leave for Kyoto. getting money from a bank will take an hour we are budgeted for 4 groups in 4 taxis.If anyone breaks off from their group they will have to pay their own cab fare.

be aware that you are part of a group, and place its needs before your own please stay relatively together to avoid unnecessary delays there is a balance between seeing as many of the interesting sites as possible, and staying at each place long enough to appreciate its beauty and historical relevance be on time don’t stay up too late or drink too much you will be waking up early. Breakfast is at 8AM. Realize that time is irrelevant because you are now living in a time frame that is reverse of your usual life. There is no functional difference between waking up at 7 PM or 9 PM. Do not think, “I cannot wake up early because I am a night person”. Seven hours of sleep should suffice, no matter when it starts or ends. you might want to research the city before we go so you have some idea of what to expect.

ask permission before taking pictures of people say, “Shashin o tote ii desca? pronounced sha + shin + oh + tow + tay + ee + des + ka bow to everyone and say “oki ni”, meaning “thank you” in the Kyoto dialect, pronounced oh + key + nee (all syllables have the same weight) please be quiet and try to talk quietly between yourselves Remember that you represent the United States of America, and Temple University, and your actions reflect on your sensei (teachers). Honor is a big thing in Japan. Have a good time. You will see (and eat) many amazing things in Kyoto! Remember that this is not your summer vacation but part of an educational field trip. Have fun but be responsible. This trip (and the rest of your life) is a matter of balance between discipline and freeness. You have hired us to teach you something, but teaching does not necessarily imply learning – that is your task. Do your job so we can do ours.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Project

This summer we’ll be working on a project that was taught during the fall and spring semesters both here in Tokyo and back in the states called “Neighborhood Narratives. “

This project aims to explore the local Tokyo community through both a critical and creative approach. This approach will involve elements of visual and cultural anthropology, as well as exploratory styles found in experimental video and studio art. The form and shape your projects take are limitless and own no boundaries. Students are encouraged to explore their own visions and personal styles.

This course was originally conceived by documentarian and artist Hana Iverson and is presently taught on Temple’s Main Campus, as well as taught here by Ronald Carr. Here is what Ms. Iverson has to say about the course:

“The goal of the Neighborhood Narratives course is to introduce students to the concept of locative media by researching and creating a set of connected annotations about a specific neighborhood of the city…These place-based annotations will be connected and archived using a variety of digital technologies…the predominant focus will be on creating and understanding different viewpoints about the city.”

“Locative” media is concerned with how space and community are related, how our lives are affected by the physical and cultural space that surround us. As you can imagine, the unique characteristics of one’s personal and social space has a profound affect upon one’s day-to-day existence—our personal narrative!—and plays an important role in defining our identities.

During this workshop you will wear many hats: researcher, geographer, recorder and artist, all of which play an important function in discovering the internal workings of a community. You will study how the past leaves an indelible imprint upon the present and how each human being carries with them a story that is both profound in its own way, and miraculously connected to each of us.

The Assignment:

Everyone will choice one block of MInato-ku to use as the subject of your project. For example, choose a single block to work from; then explore this block through photography, maps, oral recordings and digital video. Look for patterns or influences, whether ideological, cultural or stylistic. The readings in Lateral View are very helpful in understanding cultural underdone.

There will be 2 components of each project. The first component will be a digital media piece. This can be anything from video to an audio documentation of the block selected. The second component you have an option of a print piece that packages the cd/dvd housing your digital media project, or a website that accompanies and houses it.

To Get Started: During the semester the following exercises will be ongoing and integrate into your projects:

Journals: All students will keep journals over the course of the semester. I’d like everyone to sign up for a blog on I’ve set up a blog at, you will find the syllabus as well as updated information on this page. I will also link to all of your blogs. Once you set up your blog, please email me at with your blog name so I can add your link. We’ll use this journal as a way to track research and data collected as well as a way to document your summer in japan. Everyone is required to keep these blogs. You must put up at least 2 postings a week to total 12 at the end of the workshop.

Field Trips: We’ll take field trips once a week to explore different neighborhoods of tokyo.

Reading: If you have not already done so, everyone is to read the following exerts from A Lateral View by Donald Richie. The exerts are: “Tokyo, the Impermanent Capital,” “The City Home,” “Walking in Tokyo,” “Tokyo Style,” and “Signs and Symbols.”

Goals of the course:

• A critical understanding of previous writings and projects on looking at the city and urban landscapes, and their integration into your final project.

• Documentation and permanent archiving of research which will ultimately result in a project of international scope.

• A basic understanding of the creative possibilities of analogue and digital technology as mediums for Locative


In this class a minimum standard of research and critical thinking will be required when completing your projects. This is important for a number of reasons:

Your work is observational and requires that you draw reasonable conclusions from your data. A “pen is a pen” andNOT a pencil, so you will need to get your facts straight and to learn how to differentiate between subjective and objective perception. (One of the most difficult things you will learn in this class is how to evaluate others “subjectively” while yourself “objectively”. If you can do this by the end of the semester you will have evolved significantly both as an artist and as a human being).

You have enormous freedom in the approach you take with your projects. Because of this freedom you need to be extra careful about the foundations on which your projects are based. Be extra careful about logical connections, cause and effect, accuracy and continuity. Always ask the question, “Does this make sense to someone else?” If it doesn’t then you need to go back and ask why not. If it only makes sense to you it is not a project but a diary.

Finally, you owe it to your subjects to be accurate.

Final Projects: A final project will be required from the student. Here are some examples of ways to approach the final project. Students are encouraged to design their own projects, so long as they meet minimum criteria. We will have 2 shows to exhibit your final project. This could anything from an installation piece to a simple way of displaying your book/website and digital media piece. The first show will be on June 23rd, the last day of workshop classes. The second one will be held this fall at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. We’ll talk more about these as they approach.

Landscaping Perception: Choose a subject who is an outsider to a community—immigrant worker, tourist—and collect articles that you imagine this individual will need to live, and place this in a book. Then create a mini-documentary on a real life subject to see how accurate or inaccurate your perceptions are.

Connecting the Dots: Log the annotations found within a given sector of a neighborhood and create a physical/digital structure that reveals its essential qualities. This can include a historical tracking of events that shape the present. For example, what popular culture from the west has significantly affected Japanese skateboard culture? Or, how has the constant cycle of uncontrolled tearing down and rebuilding of Tokyo affected neighborhoods?

Urban Mining through Oral History: Investigate a particular aspect of a neighborhood and produce a web-based audio narrative. Along with interviews of the subject, narratives will include ambient sounds and music that are integral to the life of the subject. Considering that each neighborhood has its own unique sounds, your narratives can recreate the invisible rhythms that surround us each day.

Community Histories involve creating multi-layered documents of the ethnographic history of a block within a neighborhood through techniques of interviewing and historical research. This approach integrates traditional
methods found in documentary film and visual anthropology, such as interviewing, collecting data, using snapshots and archival material. These projects tend to use research that has been collected over an extended period of time.

Urban Prospecting views a small sector of a block of a neighborhood by focusing on particular cultural artifacts. This narrow approach is useful for new visitors to a city, in that the focus is on a specific aspect of a given community. For example, in Minato-ku Ward we find a long history of small die factories. These die factories have gradually vanished, yet their impact on the community’s present economic and social fabric remain significant.

Psycho geography explores the relationship between physical space and the individual. This approach follows the theoretical teachings of the Siuationists. This approach allows for the observer more freedom of perspective and interpretation than found in traditional documentary. The observer will place emphasis on exploring personal relationships with the community in focus. For example, living in a homeless community and creating a blog that chronicles your day-to-day activities whereby you literally integrate yourself into a preexisting community.

Street Games are digital-based visual games that examine visible and invisible characteristics of a city.

As you can see there are infinite possibilities. You are more than welcome to use the above suggestions or come up with your own.

To get started:

16, 17 May: We’ll spend time in class setting up your blogs, discussing how to get started and doing field trip research. I’d like each student to have 5 ideas on places to visit on our field trip days. We’ll make a master list and narrow it down.

22 May: Come to class prepared for the first critique. Start by gathering source material and sketching out ideas of how your piece may be executed. I would like to see at least two ways your idea could work. This could be for two separate topics or two design explorations for one topic. You should be thinking about how both your digital media piece as well as your print piece/website will work. By the 22nd, you should also have some visual documentation of your block, and 2 blog postings. One of these postings should discuss the process of choosing your block and the other should discuss the readings in A Lateral View.

02 June: The first exercise for your block is to place something into the block and observe peoples interactions with it. Be prepared to review the progress of your project as well as discuss documentation of this exercise.

08 June: First Critique of Summer Workshop posters. As this gets closer we’ll discuss this in more detail.

Grading Policy:

10% - Participation in Field Trips
10% - Participation in Guest Lecture / Workshop
10% - Art History
70% - Design Workshop Project

Attendance Policy for Studio Classes:
3 unexcused absences your grade drops one letter, if you miss 4 classes you will fail. Missing the final critique will also result in failing the workshop.