Friday, 22 May 2009

Wildcat with a Tiger's Eye

'Wildcat with a Tiger’s Eye' is the testament to Karin O'Bannon by a peer on being the first recipient of the Manouso Manos Leadership Award. The award honored the lifetime of service, teaching and influence O’Bannon has contributed to the Iyengar yoga community. “While people told a lot of nice stories tonight…some people will tell you I also have some sharp claws.” It takes 'sharp claws' to lead.

This gentle but feisty lady is as humble as she is devoted to empowering people to the Iyengar practice as a holistic way of life.

“Karin’s astute eye for detail penetrates a canvas or a person.” Having attended two of her workshops, this is very true of the Yogi. Her clarity is hard to match. Instructions are precise; so are descriptions of awareness and effects on the anatomy. Her characterisation of attendant sensations are frighteningly accurate. She describes "the feeling of space in the pelvis" in certain poses as cause and effect on pelvic organs like the uterus and ovaries. In short, Karin brings life to the practice by her skill, attention and love.
Her descriptions are priceless; "feel the weight in the centre of your heel, feel the pressure on the metatarsals of the toes, your toes should not curl but should be as light as the antennae of a butterfly...

An interview with Karin O'Bannon...

Also a painter, Karin’s astute eye for detail penetrates a canvas or a person. She has said that she doesn’t remember names very well; she remembers bodies.
At the end of the seven-day (28-hour) workshop, participants were singing her praises and wishing they could teach like her. With a gentle knowing smile, this humble yogi's parting words were: "You should teach the way YOU teach". "Praises and criticism are like water falling off a ducks back". Namaste.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Matsumoto Castle

The two and a half hour train ride on the Super Azusa express from Shinjuku Station to Matsumoto Station in Nagano Prefecture was a particularly scenic ride as we were fortunate enough to see a snow capped Fuji-san devoid of any cloud cover. The Northern Alps were visible before reaching our destination. Impressive indeed. Most of the countryside is agricultural with rice being the mainstay crop and vegetables a close second. Japanese rice is a short-grain variety called japonica. The Japanese government enforces quotas and high tariffs on foreign rice. As a result, virtually all the rice consumed in Japan is domestically produced. I am told rice is relatively expensive in Japan, and is another way the Tokyo Grain Exchange compensates farmers for their efforts. At the Earth Day Fair in Harajuku in mid April, where this guy was giving out free hugs, a simple banner said it all, "Rice is Life". As you leave the station, you come across the statue of a monk, deemed to have been the first to climb the Northern Alps in his quest for enlightenment. The fox is the protector of rice fields to ensure an abundant harvest every year and this Shinto shrine with two foxes enables prayers to be offered. Matsumoto exudes a peaceful warmth, proud of its heritage and history.
Even the pigeons are chilling... The town's mascot is the frog and these samurai frogs are battling it out on Nawate shopping street.If this reminds you of a European mansion, you are half right. It is an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) clinic! Not much information about the building is given by the doctors except that it was built in 1914 in Japano-European style.And finally the prize of our sojourn, Matsumoto Castle. Also known as the Black or Crow Castle as the black walls and roofs look like spreading wings.This 16th century castle is a National Treasure complete with original wooden interiors, walls and moat. The architectural layout of the castle complex has been carefully delineated showing the extent of the grounds.
Enjoy these images taken on a gorgeous day.

Once inside, you appreciate the vantage point of this castle. And if you close your eyes, you may see a samurai moving deftly along these wooden corridors... or behind bamboo screens. We leave the castle in search of yet another gem in this historical town.

The former Kaichi Primary School, built in 1876, represents an important milestone in the education system of Japan. Before this school was opened, only the children of samurai where given the opportunity of higher education. Kaichi means "opening people's intelligence." In 1872 the national education system was reformed with the intention of creating community education modeled after western education systems.
One could imagine this being the headmasters house just around the corner from the school.A fish-eye view of some happy students sitting at their wooden desks and chairs. Intricate facade of the main entrance.
With barely half an hour before our departure time, a couple of satisfied tourists jumped into a taxi for a quick dash to the station. The taxi driver was very disappointed that we would not be "staying at least for one more day at one of the 3000 hotels in Matsumoto". Now was he exaggerating, surely it should be more like 300? He proudly pointed out the IRS building, a former department store that had closed down, the hospital where he recieved treatment as a senior citizen and the fire station. He did the Japan Tourist Board proud.

Barack Obama - The First 100 Days

Happened upon this May 4 Asian issue which was tissue thin, a mere 52 pages, hardy able to withstand the steam of the onsen, not unlike the current US economy. It seems Obama has adopted a 5 point rukun negara (national principals) to attempt reinvention of American capitalism or in his analogy to build a 'house of rock' from the current 'sand' version. The big five are - new rules for Wall Street, new initiatives in education, alternative energy and health care and budget savings to bring down national debt. Observers are betting on a 50-50 chance of getting fifty percent done, but know Barack wants it all. Joe Kline reported that the days of poetry are over. Its prose from now on, as Obama himself retorted in his Georgetown University lecture on April 14.From heated budget think tanks to one-on-one, its business as usual in the White House. Barack as a father and husband seems genuinely sensitive and involved. It can't all be a show, although the over publicity on the first dog has been severely criticised. Domestic issues have taken priority.Foreign policy is more, shall we say, engaging rather than combative. Great respect is afforded to those who write their own speeches and lectures, and this means last minute editions because your reputation is on the line. All said and done, the buck stops here. Its lonely up there at the top.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tokyo walkabout

I owe thanks to these wonderful shoes - Merrell Gore-Tex - for my trekking through the hard streets of Japan. Nothing like a pair of good shoes. They even look good. Am in good company, it seems this early summer, with the three-quarter roll up look. Footwear in Tokyo is fun to watch. Metro fashion can keep you occupied for as long as 10 stations. Believe me the guys often outdo the girls in this regard.

I am completely taken by the construction workers outfit. From the baggy pants, avante garde unintentional paint design to the toe-socks and slippers, it is a fashion statement of a different kind. Spring showers are not a deterrent to fashion either. The best looking galoshes can be found in Tokyo.

Not forgetting Harajuku fashion...and the Lolitas...
Then there's the ninja look... which morphed to this...

and then to this... How cool is that!

The traditional partnering the modern...

And now for some leg. The over-the-knee-stockings are the current rage.

Great with mini skirts and shorts...perfect summer wear.
Don't knock it 'cos even the anime world is sporting the look.

Gyaru is a Japanese transliteration of the English word gal.

The fad began in the 70's, as all earth-shaking things did, and has evolved to the 2000 millennium version of ganguro fashion, a deep tan combined with hair dyed in shades of orange to blonde, or a silver gray known as "high bleached". Black ink is used as eyeliner and white concealer is used as lipstick and eyeshadow. False eyelashes, plastic facial gems, and pearl powder are often added to this. Platform shoes and brightly-colored outfits complete the ganguro look. Visuals from this site complete the imagery.

You needn't bother with these, as they do not have any punch in this neck of the woods!

If you've lost a sock in the wash, this is one city where it don't matter...just whip out a contrasting partner and it will be fine, kawaii, no less!