Last Friday I went to Circle Sushi, a local and highly reviewed sushiya-san in Sandy Springs. It may be silly, but I had been looking forward to that dinner all week. In addition to kabocha tempura, tofu and makizushi, we ordered not one, but two small bottles of Yaegaki Nigori sake. For those unfamiliar with sake,nigori-style sake is unfiltered. Instead of being clear, nigori sake is cloudy because the the solids which are created by the fermentation process are not filtered out. And it´s a much sweeter drink because of this. I was especially excited because on their sake menu,Circle Sushi has Yaegaki Nigori and in tiny Japanese font 兵庫 was written next to it. 兵庫 = Hyogo, the prefecture (or state) I used to live in in Japan. Once we got the bottle I read the copy on the back. The English was quite different from the Japanese. In Japanese the manufacturer made a point of mentioning that this sake was made in Himeji (姫路), the exact city I used to live in. Local specialities are not as big of a selling point in the U.S., so the English played up the "Japaneseness" of the product.
Drinking the sake made me miss Himeji and my friends who are still there. In terms of Japanese cities, Himeji isn´tthat large. Its population is a smidge lower than that of Atlanta. (To put it in perspective, Tokyo has a population of about 13 million and Osaka has about 3 million people, making the 530K-ish populations of Himeji and Atlanta quaint.)
I was lucky enough to be involved with a very active group of creative people in Himeji. While it´s on my mind, I thought I would give a bit of space here to promote a few of these folks:
Ryoko Ami: International traveller and educator. Ryoko is a prolific photographer and craft artist. At the moment she is currently charged with teaching the childen of Japanese employees working abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico.
She is quite dedicated to journaling and keeping an up-to-date blog. She created a new blog to chronicle her experience in Mexico. In her free time, Ryoko makes many different crafts. A short time ago she created a series of handmade books.
Hiroko Fujimoto: Small business owner and graphic designer. Her small speciality shop, Horn, imports interesting items from all over Japan and the world.
Kaori Hasegawa: Graphic designer / small business owner / creative facilitator. Kaori owns and operates Nayakobo, a full service graphic design and web design business. Naya also incorporates a large inner space which is often used for teaching, exhibitions, creative meet-ups and networking sessions. Centrally located, Naya has an amazing view of Otemae Park and Himeji Castle.
Emiko Yamada: Photographer. Emiko works primarily in digital photography, focusing on portraiture and building narratives through several series of photos. Emiko and I collaborated on the EMerge exhibition before I left Japan.
A Quick Translation Note: Most of these pages are presented in Japanese. This shouldn´t deter you from checking them out. If you use Firefox, there is a great application called Rikaichan. I use it almost daily. As you float the cursor over different words a bubble with a translation of the Japanese text will pop up on the screen. If you want to translate large blocks of text, I suggest using Monash University´s WWWJDIC site. It will not produce whole paragraphs like babelfish or google translate, however, it will help you to avoid weird machine translated English.
I hope to return to Himeji some time in the next year or so. In the meantime, I'm brainstorming ways to create international projects with the Himeji group via the web.