Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's Been a While!

There is nothing related to open source software, mobile devices, or anything of the sort in this posting. Sorry For The Inconvenience.

久しぶりですね?I've been busy, busy, busy and off to Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo (a couple of times), London, and other places.

In particular, I've been working on taking my bonji work up a notch or two, and to that end, I spent two entire weekends in Tokyo looking for a very specific sort of brush, a 朴筆 ("bokuhitsu"). Rather than hairs, these brushes have a square, wedge-cut felt pad of sorts and are used for the sort of formal-style of bonji I prefer.

Searching for these led to various adventures, starting with a visit to Ito-ya, the biggest stationery store in Ginza, where they spent twenty minutes trying to track down these brushes for me, with no success. The most interesting adventure, though, was my discovery of the Bonji Bar, a little izakaya in Asakusa run by a fellow named Kitahana-san, who works as a tattoo artist in Harajuku during the day and runs the izakaya in the evenings. As you might expect, the decor of the Bonji Bar is all about bonji, and it was fun for me to chat with Kitahana-san about our mutual interest, and fun for him, I think, to meet an American who knew something about the subject.

I'd gone there hoping to find these brushes for sale, but no dice. Kitahana-san dragged out his set, and did the usual Japanese thing of edging around the subject of giving one to me, but I immediately said that I couldn't possibly. I did get to play with them for a good while, using that magic grey paper that you paint on with water, and which turns black until it dries again. Very neat stuff. I ended up buying a t-shirt and Kitahana-san gave me a pair of bonji-decorated chopsticks as well. I'll definitely go back there.

I learned from Kitahana-san that he had no idea where to get the brushes in Tokyo, that his were made by a little outfit out by Mount Fuji. I figured worst case, I could take the train out there and get some myself some time, if it came to that.

I drank a whole lotta sake and met a few of the bar's regular customers, who started wandering in a few hours after I did. Definitely a good place, although a little hard to find: it's waaay back of Senso-ji, in the little warren-y alleys of Asakusa...

After I came back, a very good friend of mine in Tokyo did me a couple of favors, first by ordering a set of brushes on my behalf from the Fujisan gang, and then (somehow!) discovering that these brushes could be found at Kyukyodo, also in Ginza, just down the street from Ito-ya.

So now I not only have a full set of the brushes I wanted, but I also know where to buy them without having to take a long-ish train ride. I visited Kyukyodo on my subsequent visit to Tokyo, and found the brushes. As long as I was there, I bought some sumi, a suzuri, a couple of regular shōdō brushes, and some other small things.

There are monster spiders, called jorōgumo ("harlot spiders", from an old kaidan hanashi) in Shinjuku Central Park! The trees along the side of the path to the Shinto shrine in the back of the park are festooned with Raiders-of-the-Lost-Ark type webs, most of which house an extremely large (up to 20 cm., no kiddin'!) yellow, black and red Nephila clavata.


Jorge said...

Leftyさん、元気ですか? :)

It is always nice to read about the adventures of a "gaijin" in Japan. :) Having lived there for more than 20 years, I have had my share of these experiences and they really made living in Japan something very unique.

Lefty said...


Japan is certainly about my favorite place to be, all other things being equal, especially now that I apparently know my way around the city better than a lot of natives do. Hanging around Tokyo is definitely an unceasing font of interesting experiences and stories...

g. neidisch said...

Although I was only once there for just a couple of days (less than a week) I liked it so much that I even considered searching a software developer job there...
I'm not brave enough though :/
I also like the places you mention. Incredibly, but I guess I'd get lost more in Reykjavik than in Tokyo.
Hmm... you made me think; I'll go to Matsumi to have lunch today...