New Year Usa, Japan 2002

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I met Mutsuko in Nakatsu. She wasn’t part of the art group I wrote about in my last post, but she was an artist all the same. She was years younger than me but we connected right from the start through our love of travel and art. Her family home was in Usa, just a few kilometres from Nakatsu, and I visited often. Mutsuko was a teacher of English, but loved teaching me Japanese. Our classes were weekly, but often shorter than planned as she liked to show me the sights in her wee Toyota. I was introduced to her family, as well as the Sagara family whose girls she taught. And when my husband came to visit, he got to meet them all too. It truly was a special time.

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Back to Japan: Nakatsu 2001

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Yep, this is me, new to Nakatsu

I first lived in Nakatsu, in Kyushu Japan, arriving in August 2001. It was a freezing day when I left New Zealand and a sweltering one when I touched down in Japan. On the train down from Osaka, sweat pooled in my boots, after I’d removed my woollen socks to supposedly help cool me down. I was met off the train and taken to my apartment, a short walk away. Everything was close in this old castle town. Some might have called it ‘sleepy’, but I found it a perfect place for finding friends and cycling around.

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Looking Back: Tuesday 21 May 2002

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Near my work in Nara

As we will not to be able to travel widely for some time, this week I have been looking at some mementos to sketch from the times I have been able to travel overseas. I have sketched many items I’ve brought home from places visited in the past, so I needed to find one I had overlooked. Ah ha! The chosen one is a very old (and rather grubby) fabric doll I bought in Japan, when living and teaching in Nara, several years ago. It was a special time, as an old friend from New Zealand had come to stay for a week or so, and we enjoyed tripping about when I had time off work.

the approach to Hōryū-ji

Adrienne was a great planner, and this day we were going into Nara from Ikoma (20 minute train ride) then a bus (a stop and start hour), to take us to Hōryū ji, the oldest surviving wooden complex of its type in Japan, founded by Prince Shōtoko in 670. It did have a nasty mishap around that time when it was seriously damaged by lightning. Fortunately the central buildings were reconstructed, some 1,300 or so years back. The kondō (main hall) is recognised as the world’s oldest wooden building. In 1993 the complex was recognised as Japan’s first UNESCO World heritage site under ‘Buddhist Monuments’ in the Hōryū-ji area, and we felt most fortunate to visit such a large and illustrious site.

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Travel diaries past and future

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Diane and I @ Parc Guell

I am to be visiting Spain in April, for a second time. Last time I went with an old  friend to attend a month’s teaching course in Barcelona. I loved Barcelona and had always contemplated a return. When I learned late last year of a 2019 Sketch Spain trip, I didn’t need any persuasion to add my name to the list. My husband is coming with me this time, with his camera, while I shall join a small group of sketchers. To build some impetus, and ideas for how I’d approach my travel diary, I joined Tony McNeight’s class for a map-drawing exercise as he thought this a good way to familiarise oneself with a new place. We were to emulate a schematic drawing of Devonport, using any style we wished, though keeping to the preferred mediums of watercolour and ink (see at end of blog). Continue reading

Solu Khumbu

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Taken by me in the foothills of the Himalayas

As I wrote a recent post about trekking on Stewart Island, I mentioned my old boots, which brought up memories of the time I had worn them trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas, over twenty years earlier! That got me thinking of that month in Nepal.  It was my first journey to a country far from home; a country where I would be the foreigner speaking a different tongue. I had dreamed of such a journey since childhood. As an adult, I wished to challenge my status quo, and when the opportunity presented itself to visit this eastern kingdom, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. Continue reading

A southern experience: part one

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View of Oban – images courtesy K. Chamberlain

It was my first trip to our most southern coast and to Stewart Island, a place as famous for the straits which lay between the departure point of Invercargill and the island. The trip over in small plane, however, was superb. To be able to see from a bird’s perspective – just amazing. Stewart Island was everything I thought it would be, from its beaches, bush, Oban’s iconic hotel, the hospitality and the superb fresh blue cod. Then there was the visit to Ulva Island, the three day Rakiura walk, a free day and the return flight to Invercargill. Plus, we had four days outside this in The Catlins. How could I fit all of my stories in just one blog? Continue reading

My Japanese New Year

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My sketch of me in kimono

After writing my last blog about Japanese author Murakami, I was taken back to memories of my time living in Japan. One outstanding memory for me is the time I spent with Japanese friends during the important New Year festival of Shogatsu. This occasion is shared equally between Japan’s two most common religions; Buddhism and Shinto. I was very fortunate to be invited to stay with these friends in order to experience first-hand some of the most revered and long-lasting rituals which take place at Japanese New Year. Continue reading

Finding extraordinary rewards

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Art group Nakatsu

‘When did you start writing?’ is a question often posed to authors. I, like many others, started writing in childhood, building on from the stories written for school projects. In my case, I recall writing about girls leaving home; travelling to foreign towns, or countries. The protagonists were always by themselves, managing with little money but finding extraordinary rewards by navigating their journeys alone. Continue reading