1. What's the best but least-known (to Westerners, to Japanese people in other parts of the country, whichever) thing about Kyoto you've discovered?
Hmm, this is tough! Kyoto never ceases to throw new things into my path, but on the other hand, I've grown to know the city fairly well (partly, yes, because I had a lot of time and money and few responsibilities the last time I was here).
So, let's see. One of the things you can find in Kyoto that I love, and that even people from Kansai don't often know about, is hiyashi ame, cold ginger juice. It is SO GOOD. I've found it two places in Kyoto (actually near Kyoto technically, but close enough): at Mii-dera
, across the mountains in Shiga, and at Mimuroto-ji
in Uji, during the hydrangea season. I also found it at the Tenjin matsuri
in Osaka last month, which was awesome.
As for places…I love just about all of the major Kyoto sites, which is good because I inevitably wind up making a circuit of them when I show people around, but some of my really favorite places are slightly more out of the way. Mimuroto-ji in Uji above, Ishiyama-dera
a bit further east, Kajû-ji
in Yamashina, Myôshin-ji
up in the northwest (it's so cool to wander around there, just so cool; it's like a little town made up entirely of temples). I also really love the Garden of Fine Arts
up on Kitayama, which bills itself as the world's first outdoor art garden and is a cheerfully bizarre little place, with architecture by Andô Tadao, who is one of my all-time favorites and luckily for me a Kansai native, so there's lots of his buildings around to explore. The Garden of Fine Arts is quirky and awesome.
It's really hard to choose, actually. I just love Kyoto, period. 2. What's your favorite thing about A:TLA (a character, a trope, an episode, etc.)?
Well, I think my favorite trope is actually the willingness of the show's creators to remix so many things from actual history and Asian cultures with such wild, though respectful, abandon. The most obvious example is the fauna (turtleducks! they are awesome!), but you see it everywhere (how awesome is the lion turtle? How awesome?).
Also, I really just unreservedly love Toph. TOPH I LOVE YOU.
And also, 3x17, "The Ember Island Players," is just golden, golden, golden. 3. Are there other quintessentially Jersey musicians you dig as much as Bruce Springsteen (like, dare I ask your feelings about Bon Jovi)?
Hmm, there aren't that many musicians that I think of as being quintessentially New Jersey! Really the only ones I can think of are The Gaslight Anthem
, Titus Andronicus, and My Chemical Romance
. The Gaslight Anthem really only have a few songs that I like, but I do like "High Lonesome"
a lot. As for MCR, I really love their newest album Danger Days
, which is ironically the least obviously Jersey-ish of their albums because it's (not) a concept album, but their older, more Jersey-ish music is less of a surefire win for me. But I really like Titus Andronicus
a lot (their album The Monitor
is really quite good, if you like alternative/indie rock-ish music exploring what the hell is with the States now via the Civil War), though I've been told that they don't perform live well. There's just something about their music--it's not even completely my experience of New Jersey, because just from their music I can tell that they are so, so North Jersey, and honestly the album that probably best reflects my experience of growing up in (the northern portion of) South Jersey is Arcade Fire's The Suburbs
, which tells you a lot right there, but even so, Titus Andronicus have managed to tap into the core of New Jersey somehow, not just place but people. And, yeah. It doesn't have to be my experience of home to remind me of home.
I actually enjoy Bon Jovi, but only on a song-by-song basis, and usually only at parties or when driving around in a car singing along with the blasting stereo. 4. What do you want to be doing this time next year?
Well, I'm hoping to either spend the summer in China doing language study, or to get a summer fellowship at the Wikimedia Foundation in San Francisco. Hopefully either or both of those will actually be possible…the real question is whether I should be trying to be in the Beijing or the Shanghai area. Opinions on that question welcome! 5. What's your favorite outfit for daily wear & for fancy occasions?
Hmm. It depends on where/when I am! Here in Kyoto I have basically fallen back into what I think of as the gaijin uniform, namely Bermuda shorts, a shirt, and sandals or sneakers, though my bucket hat and umbrella-repurposed-as-parasol, and geta (wooden sandals) when I wear them, are adaptations of Japanese fashion that I couldn't live without. On the days when I actually wear a skirt or a sundress I feel much more in step with the people around me, though I just don't have the wardrobe to layer in the summer months, unlike people here.
In California my sartorial skills have also backslid; I tend to wear jeans, a shirt, and sneakers or sandals, with a scarf and a blazer or hoodie as appropriate. Given that I'll be teaching starting this year, though, I'm going to be making the effort to dress a little more professionally, again. This is basically in direct conflict with a) the campus ethos and b) the fact that I really love T-shirts, but clothes are a quick route to being taken more seriously, so there it is. When I make the effort to wear a skirt or a blazer I usually wear heels, though I also sometimes wear heels with jeans, just because I can.
For fancy occasions…I have several dresses that I wear frequently, depending on the weather, and several pairs of higher-heeled shoes that I enjoy wearing for short stretches of time, but one thing about grad school so far is that there's a dearth of fancy occasions in general, and half the time I just throw on my suit for the academic ones. Mind you, I love that suit (three-piece), and it looks good, so that's okay, but I will need another one eventually. I'd like something slightly less classic; we'll see.
I also need to get a good hat, like a straw trilby, before I come back to Japan again.