Japan

Sound Princess

Many years ago when we were visiting friends in Japan we were leaving a temple and decided to use a public restroom.

I went into the men’s room and used a urinal which looked a bit different from urinals I was used to but no doubt different commercial porcelain casting companies and different cultures make for differences in the shape of things like men’s urinals.

However, I noticed a button on the wall, seemingly independent from the urinal and its plumbing. I had no idea what the button did and I was concerned that pushing it might open a trapdoor in the floor and I’d fall through (joke).

When I met up with my wife and our friend Laurie who, at this point had lived in Japan for over ten years, I asked Laurie what the button was for.

She told me that many years ago Japan underwent a drought and designers had looked for ways to conserve water. One thing they noticed was that, for a variety of reasons, people were flushing before going to the bathroom (not just women which is stated in the video), generally to mask the sound of a fart or other toilet-related sounds. I certainly have noticed people doing this in the US as well: sound masking, men who have trouble peeing hearing running water, cleaning toilet before being near it, etc.

So, clever Japanese designers came up with a solution: digitize the sound of running water and put a button and a speaker at every urinal and toilet, thus saving water and at the same time, allowing people to use the water sound for whatever they needed to.

In the video above, the single button is replaced by a control panel and but the sound button is still there, now called the “privacy button.”

Koya Bound

Koya Bound

“Koya-san — home to esoteric Buddhism — is the name of a sacred basin eight hundred meters high and surrounded by eight mountains. It is roughly one hundred kilometers of trails north from the Kumano Hongu Taisha shrine in Wakayama, Japan. Though the name of the basin is often incorrectly translated as Mt. Koya in English, Mt. Koya is only one of the eight peaks, and is remote from the central cluster of temples.

We walked towards Koya-san, but we did not touch Mt. Koya.”

Koya Bound is a journal of an eight day walk on the Kumano Kodo trail in Japan by Craig Mod and Dan Rubin. The photography, the website structure and the writing are all superb. As you scroll down and back up the page the map shows your progress along the trail.

It’s also a limited edition book that’s available via a link at the bottom of the site.

[via Jon Moss]

Ueno San

My friend and neighbor Christine Owen apprenticed in Japan with this potter, Ueno San. This process especially the wood fire piece of the video, is what my neighbor Joy Brown does every year in her anagama kiln in Kent, the next town west of me. Both Christine and I not only put pieces in her fires (the kiln is huge), we help fire it. The kiln takes a week to load, a week to fire, and a week to cool.

This is a terrific process video on ceramics in general and what the Japanese tradition looks like in particular.