Monday, July 30, 2012

Amazingly easy water-saving tricks of Japanese homes

 "Design for your water to flow through your system as long and as slowly as you can."
This $4 attachment saves the Japanese millions of litres.

Here is the story of my much-used bathwater in Japan.
Firstly,  you don't get into the bath until you have soaped and rinsed and soaped and rinsed, and you are glowing with purity.
The purpose of the bath is relaxing, not cleaning. We all know that.
(Want to save the world? Tell the truth quickly)

One by one every member of the family takes a bath.
Yes, in the same hot water.

The lid is put on to keep the warmth in.
In summer, its still warm the next evening.
Why is it still considered clean?
Germs need three things to proliferate, one is missing.
You are clever and can work it out.

The gas re-heater heats it back to 42 degrees, and in we plunge, and say "Ahh!"

After a few days of this, you link the bath to the washing machine, and wash your clothes in the used bathwater.  
Everyone does, its designed in. 

All this for a country that six weeks of non-stop rain from June, and probably 10 times the rain that we Aussies have. 

The 'designed in' resourcefulness of Japan made Melbourne's water restrictions of a few years ago seem a bit like a Larel and Hardy show. 

Eventually, I put the old machine right where the water was needed.

Good on you Japan!

But none of us are 'even' in the quality of our actions.
Coming up in another blogpost will be a diatribe on the utterly avoidable house-cooling failings of Nuclear-powered Japan. 

I just have to calm down about it first. 
And just focus on whats going right, how it happened, and how to extend it.

Way to go!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Summer Evening's trip to Apple Store, Ginza

This evening I've put on a nice summer dress, and I'm about to take myself on an outing. 
To dinner? 
Mmm... no.  These days I prefer my own cooking.
A date? 
Mmm... no. These days I prefer reminiscing on the lovely dates of days gone by. 

To the Apple Store, where you get to create your future. Really.

Apple Store Ginza photo by Jouston Huang

Since I've decided as an experiment, to blog every day for a month, you get to come with me.
Lets go. 

Passing the vacant lot behind the Ota house, the cicadas are starting up a party. 
Hey, thats our neighbour, enjoying festivities from his rooftop. 
I knew it. 
The whole rest of the world is eccentric too, just hiding it rather well. 

This is a top-of-the-range weed patch. 
Count how many different shapes there are. 
They are rude with health, and surrounded by many interesting weed-friends, and that makes them all   beautiful.  
They are peaceful weeds, nothing trying to overtake everything else. 
They live on prime Tokyo real estate, many millions of dollars worth, in fact.
Every now and then the owners (who are crazy) say "Lets mow this down'. 
But the barrenness doesn't last long. 

Its a short stroll and we are on the platform of the Toritsu Daigaku Station. 
Its only ever a couple of minutes wait for any train, ever. 
I get chatting to four friends, on their way to their various nights' out. 
Two are in Yukata, the cotton summer kimono's, looking damn fine. 

When I ask "What's for dinner?"I find one couple will be eating Italian, the other couple 'Yattai'. 

A Yattai is a kind of culinary wheelbarrow with a roof, where a friendly old codger serves traditional snacks and sake. You get to sit on a crate, or plank, but it looks like you have lots of fun, and they don't close till sunrise. 

Can you guess the 'Yattai' couple?

More Graceful ladies in Yukata. Look closely, and admire her wicker & cloth handbag. 
Fully compostable. 

The good thing about weekend evenings, the crowds don't crush your bows. 

 And you get to see daddies enjoy their children, before another five days of coming home at midnight.


The world's most elegant and expensive buildings have the Apple Store surrounded.
The holds its own so well.

We all labor on our dreams alongside ladies in Yukata, making me feel somehow elevated.

After my iBook lesson, I've now got a clear road ahead for how to create this Visual Language book we are working on.  
Over the road to the Matsuya department store. 

Goldfish jelly, a traditional sweet evoking summer evenings by the cool of a pond.
Don't worry, no goldfish were harmed. 

My mission - to buy cream and oatmeal.  My local supermarket has neither,  and I don't know how long I will survive without them. 

A little longer, it seems, as this store is also very Japanese. 

Peachy dessert wrapping. How refined. 

Morning Glory flowers, one of the many symbols of summer

Something cute about the Japanese is the way they ask every foreign visitor "Does your country have  four seasons?"  
They really are convinced that four seasons, like tatami mats and politeness, are unique to their own country. 
In a way, they are.  

Just as we bring out Christmas paraphernalia for a few weeks of the year, the Japanese intensify the Summeriness of Summer, or wintriness of winter, by changing EVERYTHING to match. 

Not just the sweets in the department stores, but the tea bowls at home, the slippers at the enhance hall, even the words in a haiku are brought out to match the season, then put away carefully when it is done.

And that, that is how you savour life as it goes by.  

Way to Go! Getting a Visual Language iBook into the world

August 21 2012 Tokyo - An exhibition of Professor Ota's life work

Once again,  I'm staying at the home of Professor Ota.
You don't know him, but if you look up, there is a high chance you will be gazing right at one of his famous designs - the green man running emergency exit sign. 

Professor Ota and I are a bit like kids when we get together. We help each other with our projects, teach each other titbits of Japanese and English,  both get thrilled when we see a good design, busting to share it.

Over the next few weeks, we will assemble & publish a book he wrote 40 years ago, as an ebook. 
Its a visual language, nicknamed LoCoS.
Ive already translated it, so the rest should be easy.

Last Saturday, as I was settling in, buying Japanese groceries, Professor Ota hopped on the bullet train and went to Kariya, for the opening of an exhibition of his life's work.

"Most people overestimate what they can do in one year
and underestimate what they can do in ten years'.
Bill Gates

There might one day be an exhibition of your life work. 
I wonder what would go in it.

From the Archives: Mr & Mrs Ota, Kazumi and Cecilia 2009

Friday, July 27, 2012

Design to keep things out, let things in: A 4 minute walk in Roppongi

Ninjas, boy scouts and meddling kids can't get though this window.
Cats, breezes, butterflies and admiring glances make it though fine.
Odd-curved roof tiles are having a great second life as friendly security.
They've probably been on duty, maintainance-free, for the last 70 years.

Rain falls in, people don't. 
Scattered with sensitively-placed stars, instead of cross lines. 

You don't need to pour the whole thing in concrete. 
Get nature to do half the work.

More overlapping arches, mommy, daddy and baby size.

Nobody likes to be regimented, if they don't have to be.

Myoga - Culinary Biomimicary for Designers, Cooks and Gardeners

Myoga by Cecilia.  July 22nd, 2012

For a heavenly mid-summer culinary experience, slice the buds of the myoga plant, and use as a fragrant garnish on tofu, with some bonito-flavored seasoning.

Myoga suimono soup, from CookTellsAStory 

For a captivating creative experience, gaze at its swirls, and go replicate them.

I'd love to come across a myoga-style....

Manhole, or

Wedding Hat, or


A wicker chair, maze, security grille, or clockwork cogs would also look great, myoga style. 

The day I left Sydney, I dashed over to my creative friend Mario's place, with a scrawny piece of Myoga root, packages of Japanese seeds, for shiso, spring chrysanthemum, burdock.

Mario is an artist and gardener, with a Japanese wife, and the ability to make anything beautiful, to work out how to do anything.

These are the stairs that Mario made:

"I will plant this" he said.

Who knows what will have sprung up at Mario's place, by the time I return?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Surprises need scariness - Arriving in the wonderland of Tokyo

Cecilia Macaulay & monsters, Tokyo July 20 2012

Beautiful surprises come along with scariness, thats the rule.
They are a dynamic duo.
Dark is needed to incubate good things - the dark of not knowing what will happen next.

This photo is of the morning I arrived in Tokyo. Where is it?
Going Up!
Yes, its an elevator. We are in Shinjuku.

Wishing myself good scary things, daily, from my arrival till Aug 28th, when I return to Sydney.

First scary thing: do a smaller amount of interesting things each day, and a larger amount of blogposts each day. Why?
To show that its me who is living my life, not my life that is living me.
To do things because I said I would, not just because I feel like it.
Because as I know from yoga, and from my cat, stretching feels good, and this will be a stretch.

One a day.
Too late!

But I'm the boss, so here it goes.

Onwards and upwards.
(with small blogging pauses)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

You might just be Gardener of the Year - Big Prizes for your tiny garden

Not "Garden of the Year", but 'Gardener of the Year".
I'm so impressed with ABC Gardening Australia Magazine's competition, entries close July 27.
Even a Balcony Garden could win it.
If you make a contribution to the lives of others through gardening, you are in.

And of course you do, in so many ways.

Not just to look at: my enchanted napping garden, for happy guests
When you get good at gardening, your work becomes a blessing way beyond your railings and fences.
Passers-by are inspired, and go start their own.
You make lively connections, as you start offering and asking for help, cuttings, watering favours.
Most of all, you have a daily stage to dance upon: in the garden, you are being positive, hopeful, and in-action.
Efforts get rewarded, but never exactly as you expect.

You learn that you can control nothing, but influence everything.

Its on.
So enter, or enter a friend.
See details in this months magazine, or here.

Only 4 people will be featured, but the simple process of entering will get you looking closely at what you are doing, and your gardens evolution (and yours) will expand.

Apart from being a blessing to the world with your garden, there a a few technical skills they are looking to applaud. Photos below are from my inner-Melbourne edible garden, now gone.
Design Judges will look at your garden’s layout to decide how well it relates to you and your needs, and to those of your site.
From micro-garden to massive, if you are making the most of what you have got, you are in the running. 
The landlord paid for materials, and the neighbour  'lent' us her garden,
for as far as we could reach in.

Sustainable features They want to know how cleverly you manage your garden’s resources.
Do you collect rainwater?
Do you recycle?
Do you compost?

Downpipe water feeds one of many irrigation ponds.

Plant choiceThe judges will consider how well you have selected your plants for your local environment, and how happily they are growing in your garden. 

A scramble of Japanese, rare breeds, and decorative edibles
We even got to practice our calligraphy and language skills

MaintenanceIf you are paying someone else to maintain it, we miss all the intimate fun of gardening.
The judges want to know how you look after your garden and how involved you choose to be.

A constant stream of volunteer gardeners came,
planted, shared my lunch and went home happy. 

Sometimes they went overboard with joyful effort:
tulle to deter  pests from strawberries.

I have so many friends who's clever, love-filled gardens I would love to share with the world. 
Michele Margolis Permaculture garden.  Steve Webbs children's garden. Norma Larson's Artist's garden. Mrs Kinoshita's rare Japanese edibles garden. And that just Sydney.

I haven't seen yours yet. 

Go on, show me.