Saturday, December 31, 2011

Rokkoyo Coffee Shop, take 2

My default coffee shop in Nagoya has become a little place called "Rokkoyo", which I sketched in September. 
On this last day of the year, I visited the coffee shop again to catch up on some correspondence and enjoy my favourite coffee ("Wiener Kaffee", served in a matcha bowl) and slice of chocolate cake.

Friday, December 30, 2011

"Gozarasse" onsen in Nagakute

After a busy and stressful few weeks, I rewarded myself with a trip to an onsen close by. A free 15 minute shuttle bus from Fujigaoka subway station takes us to the facility in the adjacent town of Nagakute.

Among the many kinds of baths was a beautiful space (洞窟湯) situated in the outdoor spa section -- a little grotto-like space, dark, cosy, meditative, filled with steam and mist, but partially illuminated by rays of sunlight. The darkness of the materials inside allow the mist to stand out, especially as it hovers gently over the surface of the still water. The sound of the spring water dropping onto a feature stone offers a soothing aural experience. Outside, two more stone spouts installed higher up a thick stone wall pour water down to stone slabs delineating where to stand (打ち湯). There is moss that has grown on a side wall.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

by the station in Hoshigaoka

After running a few errands in Hoshigaoka, I had some time to kill before heading to Nagoya station to see a friend (it`s been almost 20 years!)... this is a view from the Mitsukoshi department store (where I saw a neat little art show of work by Kataoka Tsurutaro), towards the bus terminal and main subway station entrance in Hoshigaoka. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

dry cleaner in Hoshigaoka, Nagoya

I came across this little storefront along the main street that follows the Higashiyama subway line in Hoshigaoka. The awning shows that it is a dry cleaner, but the old sign above tells us that it is (or was) a Meiji milk distributor... and yet the entire storefront is taken up by vending machines selling canned drinks and cigarettes, a ubiquitous urban scene.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Paint has a life of its own...": Jackson Pollock

Billed as the first Jackson Pollock retrospective in Japan, this exhibition at the Aichi Arts Centre has gotten quite a bit of exposure.  I ended up going on a whim as I finally had a few hours of free time and was in the area. Unfortunately, there were only one or two large canvases such as this painting (belonging to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art) but seeing these in real life had a hypnotizing effect. Other smaller and simpler work offer a fuller picture of the artist...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

antenna tower

The area south of Nagoya Castle is the government sector of the city, with large, boxy, conservative Modernist buildings (with the exception of Nagoya City Hall and the Aichi Prefectural Building, which are both historic, idiosyncratic and highly eclectic). 

Many of the government buildings here have large antenna towers perched on top... I`m not sure why, but my guess is that in an emergency (like a major earthquake), it`s to ensure that lines of communication remain open and accessible.

The tower with the triangular top in the distance in this sketch is the Higashiyama Sky Tower, which is located by the Higashiyama zoo, east of the city core.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Nagoya Castle at night

Every day I have the same view of Nagoya Castle... so I needed to try something different. These are some night views of the castle, which is lit up at night for all to see.

Incidentally, there was a beautiful rainbow right beside the castle in the afternoon, reminding me of the blessings upon our lives.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meito Ward office

I needed to pick up a document at the city of Nagoya Meito Ward Office...

My experiences dealing with the people at the service desks at municipal government offices in recent years have been pleasant; a surprisingly different situation from years and years ago... 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fuyuu-gaki (Fuyuu Persimmons)

It`s been a week since receiving these persimmons, which are very much in season. They are of the Fuyuu (富有柿)variety, and become available relatively late as far as persimmons go. I`ve been reluctant to eat them, as I have been mesmerized by the depth of their colour... a dark, rich (but varied) orange verging on red, leathery and smooth, assertive but delicate... I`m sure they taste as complex as they look.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Nagoya Castle and antenna tower

Nagoya Castle is probably this city`s most recognizable (and recognized) symbolic landmark. A substantial area around the tenshukaku does not have any tall building, allowing the castle to remain prominent in this part of the city. This antenna tower seems to be an exception.
Four hundred years ago when the original structure was built, Nagoya Castle must have been an awesome presence at the centre of the expansive Nobi Plain, rising higher than anything else around it, all the way to the mountains.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

winter trees and Gifu mountains

The trees within the Nagoya Castle grounds are displaying a variety of beautiful, subtle colours. Northwards, beyond the expanse of apartment buildings, lie some mountains in Gifu Prefecture.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yoro Mountains from Nagoya

A view of the  Yoro Mountains (養老山地) towards Mie Prefecture, as seen from Nagoya on a sunny winter day... Nagoya lies at the centre of the Nobi Plain, and on sunny days like this, one can see mountains in Gifu, Mie, eastern Aichi, and all the way to Nagano Prefecture.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

on the Nagoya subway lines

People on the subway lines... there is much to observe on the train, and I am sure that a cross-cultural comparison of the ways people behave on subway cars would be an interesting social study - the unstated behavioural codes, standards, manners, and etiquette people use to deal with and interact (or don`t interact) with strangers within a confined space would seem to be different from one place to another...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Nagoya Noh Theatre (名古屋能楽堂)

The Nagoya Noh Theatre  (名古屋能楽堂) is located just south of the castle. In operation since 1997, the intricate composition of roofs houses a traditional Noh stage with modern seating. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Nagoya Castle, part 2

It`s sunny today, and the mountains in Gifu are visible on the horizon, prompting me to sketch these and add some colour to yesterday`s sketch.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nagoya Castle

The view north towards Nagoya Castle and beyond, all the way to the mountains in Gifu (mostly hidden at the horizon due to overcast skies)...

Friday, December 2, 2011

waiting at YEG

The airport is full of a variety of people, mostly relatively still and in their own little worlds as they wait for their flights.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

the princess and the witch

A friend gave us a DVD of "Kiki's Delivery Service" (『魔女の宅急便』).

By the end of the film, our daughter, who had long expressed a desire to become a princess when she grew up, had changed her mind and now wanted to be a witch, as illustrated in these two sketches.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

early winter

It's been an unseasonably frigid week even for this part of Alberta, with early morning temperatures down to minus 26, and mid-day highs at a cool minus 17 degrees Celsius. Crisp, beautiful, tranquil... and at the same time conditions that make one aware of one's mortality... and I suppose there's a deep beauty in that too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


 Miscellaneous sketches of a persimmon (柿), drawn by its rich and lustrous colour... and some late seasonal gourds and squashes for good measure... symbols of autumn from different parts of the world.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

painting gratitude...

Our daughter paints some thank you cards for the many people in our lives who have allowed her (and us) to come this far. "It takes a whole village to raise a child" seems like a cliché that is ignored these days, but we are immensely grateful for the wonderful "village" that we've been provided. Thanks everyone!

Remembrance Day LRT

A rather empty car on the morning LRT ride during a 5 minute delay (due to a system failure somewhere down the line...)

Although a statutory holiday, many companies work on Remembrance Day... I left my sketchbook at home as I had plans at lunch as well as after work. I didn't plan for this little opportunity, and luckily I had the back of a DVD envelope.

Always, always, carry a sketchbook, no matter how small ... or busy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

heating and hoarding, take 2

A continuation of some thermal tarp sketches... the lunch hour is becoming colder and colder. Surprisingly, still no snow this year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

more carnival squash

I am still at a loss as to how to cook these, but they are fun to look at and are lasting quite long on our kitchen table. They remind me of my interest in cartography way back in high school.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

the kids at home

My daughter has been sick the past few days, which means more time in front of the TV watching her favourite DVDs. It's a rare opportunity these days to get her still enough for a quick sketch. Her insistence on drawing the flower pattern on her pajama pants was a great piece of daughterly advice.

Meanwhile, my son tinkers around at the kiddy table... he's now beginning to draw, which is nice to see.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

From the Archives #013: Chucho Valdés at the piano, November 21, 1998

While at school, our department was located next to the Department of Music which had regular recitals and events throughout the school year. One of the most memorable of these was a workshop with Chucho Valdés who was in town for a concert. At the time, I knew nothing about this legendary Cuban pianist, but was soon electrified by his dazzling hands, complex rhythms, and gently charismatic presence on the stage. That encounter opened up a whole new world of sound... definitely one of the musicians I would feature if I were in a position to host "This Is My Music" on CBC Radio today.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

heating and hoarding...

There's bright tarp at the base of a large construction site while the masons work on cladding the building -- a sure sign of the arrival of winter. Along with the relatively intricate web of steel and wood that forms the temporary scaffolding covering the building facade, the puffed up fabric adds some vibrancy in the wintry downtown...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Carnival Squash

A carnival squash, mini pumpkin, and gourd... all recently bought on a whim at the local grocery. I'm appreciating the great variety of fun shapes, sizes and colours this fall season...

Monday, October 31, 2011

El Mirador apartments

There is an old, quaint, but somehow stately apartment building nestled amongst the hustle and bustle of downtown: El Mirador Apartments.This sketch is at the lane, with one of the wooden exterior stairs. The front, along 108 Street, is composed of simple but handsomely proportioned, Spanish colonial facades, and incorporates an intimately scaled courtyard which I hope to get to some time. An old Rover completes this picture.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

more buildings that learn...

I needed to kill some time again while my son slept in the car... and came across this colourful house in a mature residential neighbourhood. This home and the one left of it were probably the same when initially built, but their paths have diverged considerably since. They both retain the enclosed front porch and outline of the large gable roof, but the colourful sibling has fresh siding and windows, a red metal roof, and a much more flamboyant personality. There's also a substantial second floor addition that perhaps became feasible when zoning regulations allowed taller houses at some point...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Earlier in the month, we took care of a rather large dog... making for an exciting week for our kids (we are usually not pet people...). Choco was a very well behaved, gentle and friendly guest. Despite our fumbling around in familiarizing ourselves to life with a pet around the house (and thanks to some help from our dog-loving neighbours who must have sensed our clumsiness), I think she fared quite well. I was grateful for the experience.

My son does a sketch...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

light industrial residential

I stumbled upon this lane by a rail yard and a light industrial area that has some small old stucco warehouses and other utilitarian structures, auto-related businesses, metal works and yards, and other smaller scale industrial buildings. One of these buildings, I think, is home to a lone young family in an otherwise grungy semi-industrial neighbourhood... a hint of this can be glimpsed in the curtains in the windows and the tree in the yard, which is screened behind a tall fence (accessible through this old wooden doorway.) It's a great example of a response to an environment hostile to the notion of home...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

an autumn day potpourri

the trees in the yard are a fuller and uniform yellow...
 An assortment of unrelated sketches from a full autumn weekend day...

at the local coffee shop/used book store...

scenes from a swimming class...

the University of Alberta perched atop the river valley.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Patisserie Sadaharu Aoki chocolates

I became reacquainted with an old friend with whom I went to school almost 15 years ago, and who now lives in France... she brought, among other sweet and delicate goodies, this box of beautifully presented, colourfully designed chocolates from a Japanese-Parisian chocolatier... and given my recent foray into watercolour wash sketches, I needed to draw them before defiling their elegant arrangement by eating them.
Drawn with much gratitude...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

road construction, part 2

Some more machinery... two excavators and a skid loader, at a road construction site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

road construction

There is road construction everywhere throughout the city... it seems more than other years, and generally longer at each site, prolonging the inconveniences wherever we go.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Our daughter insisted we carve the "pun'kin" today, but I insisted we wait until I get a sketch or two in first...
in so doing, I discovered that the pumpkin stem is actually more interesting than the fruit itself. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Autumn River Valley

A partial view of the Edmonton downtown skyline from across the river, considerably brown since the last sketch here...there was frost this morning in our back yard and we await the inevitable arrival of the first snow fall.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

columnar poplars

The row of columnar poplars (aspens) in our yard is turning yellow in a hurry. They've grown substantially since last year although it seems they are  changing colour a little later this autumn season. It's another beautiful sunny day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

gourds...part 2

...some more gourds... I am enjoying the variety of shapes and colours, and hope to have more soon.