Rhod and the City by the Bay

Rhod will be in San Francisco this week for the Game Developers Conference.

26 02 07 - 11:47 - Kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

High on a hill lived a lonely goat-herd

My coworkers are both lunatics, who thought we could climb the forest ranger tracks that twist and wind through the cedars blanketing Mt. Hiei. None of us were particularly dressed for the extremely steep slopes, mud and treacherously slippery humus. The thin road that wound its way along the tram tracks led to a deserted kindergarten, then beyond the modern buildings to a meadow. Then there was only mud and the barest hint of a path. Continually losing my footing I remembered that I have a difficult relationship with mountains*. The plan had been to take the ropeway up the slopes of Hieizan, then walk the rutted path to Enryaku-ji, the old abode of a famous sect of warrior monks. Rhod and I had visited the secluded temple over a year previously and I was eager to escape to the hustle of Kyoto for a morning. Well that was the plan. Unfortunately we missed the signs plastered beside the tram driver that told us the ropeway was closed for the three months of Winter. Thus we arrived, thinking that we were lucky to avoid the crowds, only to find we were the only ones there.
Both Ren and Nori would not be dissuaded. They said we should climb the mountain as the weather was fine. So we began, despite my reservations that the ropeway trip was a steep twenty minutes ride. When the road ended we pressed on, around the nursery school whose windows looked cold and abandoned, staring out with unfriendly eyes. Then further up the mountain to a deserted Swiss cottage that looked as if it had been plucked from the Black Forest and the tales of two small children and a gingerbread house. Then through cedar forest to a small childrens playground in a small clearing. It was all very odd, all exceptionally isolated and creepy. After eating a lunch of bread and milk, we slipped and slid down onto a meadow of yellow grass looking out onto the mountain range that hugs Kyoto's northern border. Not a soul in sight, though I wouldn't have been surprised to see goats hopping down the mountainside. There were deer and boar track, and the smell of fires burning in the distant cemetery. A nice reminder that this is not some Yorkshire moor.

25 02 07 - 13:26 - Kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Biker's paradise

Pity Japanese youth. If you think we had it bad in the UK when we were young and growing up too fast for the increasingly claustrophobic walls of our bedrooms, under the increasingly frustrating presence of our parents, then think again. Japanese houses are small, the walls are paper thin, and most children don't move out until well into their 20s. Thus boys buy huge cars so that they can do the dirty in private, teenagers practise their hip-hop moves outside train stations late at night and the river bank provides the necessary quiet and privacy for saxophone practise, soccer, chess and juggling. As I was cycling along the Kamo this evening, I spotted a gathering of boys doing stunts on their bikes.

12 02 07 - 07:49 - Kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Foundation day at Daihikaku

Along side a small boating shed in Arashiyama is a tattered handmade sign that has the words 'Great View', with an arrow pointing vaguely down the river-bank. Countless times have I photographed people standing next to the weathered sign without wondering where exactly it pointed to. Hanging out with my co-workers Ren, Nori and Kumi this morning, we left some of our students messing about in boats and followed the crumbling road that twists along the Hozu River. February 11th is Japanese Foundation Day, and thus the 12th a bank holiday. Wisely staying away from the salivating pack of frightening women crowding into chocolate shops for Valentine's Day, we found that we had the river to ourselves, as people thronged to the more popular spots. The handmade signs promised the best views of Kyoto, so we continued to follow the path until we were swallowed by a curve in the river. Here all was silent, ancient hotels clung to the steep river banks, and the water turned a dazzling green.
Misty and warm, Winter seems to have been usheredd out early this year, leaving us sun-drenched and sweaty by the time we climbed the ruined steps to Daihikaku Temple. A notice promised us that although the zen temple was in a poor shape, ravaged by typhoons, it was nonetheless open. It also mentioned that we should try to pay the meagre admission fee as the temple needed serious repairs. I have never felt so welcomed or enchanted by a temple before. Suminokura Ryoi (1554-1614) built the temple in 1614 to remember all those workers that had died in his employ. He was a wealthy merchant who founded civil trade in Japan, began engineering projects to open up major rivers to trading boats (including the Kamo and Hozu rivers) and traded overseas with Vietnam before Japan was closed to foreign influences. A very special place with the deep green river that provided his wealth below, and the city a far off haze beyond the mountains.

12 02 07 - 07:46 - Kieren - Photostory| No comments - §

Oh my God, that squirrel's giving fellatio!

Before you panic, the squirrel is not actually engaging in sexual relations with anyone, he is simply measuring that guy's penis. And yes, usually I would refrain from posting something so explicit (after all, my parents may end up sitting down for a nice Sunday morning cup of tea, wanting to see what their son has been up to half way across the globe, only to find some sexual deviant rodent pasted to his blog), but there is a point. You just have to bear with me.

Japan has many widely mused upon oddities, and this comic book full of the homo antics of teenage boys and young adults is not shocking here. In fact anyone can walk into a bookstore and buy it. What *is* odd to consider, is that these comics are not mainly marketed for gay people. They are for high school girls and lonely ladies who find this kind of story-telling and explicit art deliciously addictive.

And it is hilarious. I can't make any particular judgement about it as there are far worse things out there. Sit down on a train and try not to spot breasts and worse plastered over salarymen newspapers, scantily clad under-age girls advertising a whole range of products to men, and porn sold and discarded across the city. I often end up open-mouthed and incredulous, finding my Britishness wanting to scream that surely, this is just all a bit fucked up. But then, Japan is what it is. Learn to avert your eyes, and most things are acceptable for other people to 'enjoy'.

The stories in these Boy's Love manga seem to be little more than saucy soap opera, the furthest thing from titilating, instead veering more towards parody and farce (a young girl's idea of romance, with all the bumps in the road to match).

Rhod has been fascinated (!) by this strange aspect of Japanese culture, and for the longest time I would have to drag him away, laughing, from the 'boy's love' sections by his sleeves. But today, innocently looking for the music section, we found ourselves in amongst the stories of these effeminate boys, falling into 'unexpected' trysts with their friends and coworkers. And there it was. The squirrel up there in the header image. I could not quite believe the shop would sell items on bestiality (though, thinking about it, it's not beyond the realms of possibility). Only it thankfully wasn't bestiality... just a penis measuring squirrel.

That's all.

A penis measuring squirrel.


03 02 07 - 08:31 - Kieren - Photostory| eleven comments - §

What if my boyfriend were an android...

It is somewhat amazing that you can take a web-cam and a computer game (in this case Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas) and map your own face onto one of the the characters, in fact shows the exceptional burst forward of technology in the home and what we can easily achieve that would have had most peoples jaws dropping just a few years ago. I've never really wondered what Rhod would look like as a robot, but the Xbox 360 has shown me anyway, and it is scary. That recognisable countenance emerging from textures and polygons on the computer screen. Frankenstein for the Xbox generation.

03 02 07 - 08:19 - Kieren - Photostory| two comments - §


Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.


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