Body matters

Ghada Amer Green Paradise for bodies

Ghada Amer, Untitled,  acrylic, embroidery and gel medium on canvas (2008)

Every week I read a novel by a Japanese writer with my friend – in her case the original and in mine a translation. Recently we read The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto. The main character, Chihiro, is an artist who paints murals for a living.  She spends most of her time outdoors, engaging her whole body as she works. ‘I guess I’m one of those people who always thinks with her body,’ she says. Continue reading Body matters

Paying attention and losing my shoes

When it rains it pours. This was my thought walking home through the dark, wet streets one night recently after a dentist appointment where I’d been told I needed treatments that would cost me close to a month’s earnings. Why now, just as I was planning to move? How was I going to afford everything? I felt despondent, defeated by this latest curveball. Continue reading Paying attention and losing my shoes

Memories, moments and the middle way

Félix Vallotton, Le Ballon, oil on wood (1899)

I recently read a short story in which a woman tells her lover a terrible secret. “My mother died in a lake when I was a child,” she says. “And what did you do?” the lover asks. “I watched,” she says. “I stood there watching as my mother’s hair slipped gently under the surface of the water. I didn’t run to get help.” Continue reading Memories, moments and the middle way

Cinderella in the city

Mr., detail from Tokyo, the City I Know at Dusk: It’s Like a Hollow in My Heart, installation (2016), exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale 2017: Islands, Constellations & Galapagos

I live in a house with twelve Cinderellas. Its name, translated, means pumpkin carriage, reflecting the Japanese love of all things cute and Disney. These houses dotted around the city are advertised as places of comfort and safety for women. In some ways, I do feel like Cindarella. I live in a tiny room. I sometimes have to clean up after my sisters. A pair of shoes plays a significant role in my life (more on this later). And though I’m not waiting for a prince on a white horse, I’m open to magic and transformation. Continue reading Cinderella in the city

Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

zoe 2

Zoe Leonard, Chapter 17 from Analogue, chromogenic colour prints (1998–2009)

In Yiyun Li’s story ‘On the Street Where You Live’, a six-year-old boy with autistic tendencies is asked to name the one thing that scares him most. Unlike the other children in his class, who mention things like snakes or monsters under the bed, his answer is monophobia – the fear of being alone. And yet he’s chosen not to speak to most people, and struggles to connect with those closest to him. Continue reading Citizen of limbo: on solitude, belonging and freedom

Love, Tokyo

kumi dream

Kumi Obata, Refreshing dream, etching (2007)

Early on a summer morning, the park is a magical place. On the way there, I pass other early risers along the river pathway. Dog walkers, joggers, a man facing the water with his stand and sheet music set up, strumming a guitar and playing the harmonica as one foot taps out the rhythm. In the field across from him some boys kick around a soccer ball while a group of elderly people practice tai chi beneath the trees.

I walk under the railway bridge and enter the park, where the river opens out into a large pond. On my iPod, Maria Callas is singing an aria by Saint-Saëns. It begins to rain, and I feel my heart soar with the beauty of her voice and the trees and water, and gratitude that I am here. Continue reading Love, Tokyo

Departures

Since moving to Japan four years ago I’ve had to say goodbye many times, to friends, family, colleagues and students. Each time, I tried to hold back  the full extent of my feelings until just after parting. For me, showing too much emotion has always felt like a loss of control. Yet in hindsight I regret the times I held back more than the times I let go. Continue reading Departures

On race and belonging

On Between the Covers, poet and writer Claudia Rankine talks about the title of her book Citizen being in part about belonging. This is a theme that has been often on my mind since moving to Japan four years ago. Continue reading On race and belonging

The beauty of uncertainty

Nothing is certain and nothing lasts. As Sogyal Rinpoche writes in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, ‘there is only one law in the universe that never changes – that all things change, and that all things are impermanent. This realisation of impermanence is the only thing we can hold onto.’ Continue reading The beauty of uncertainty