It’s pouring rain and the 20 up Commercial Drive is stinking. Denizens of the neighbourhood get on an off, hauling garbage bags of cans, faded backpacks, God only knows.. Today the bus is a temporary refuge from the downpour. I’m at the front, where two women speak loudly across the aisle. One is rocking a baby stroller where a little bond girl is bundled up. The woman’s red hair is limp, she’s a little too skinny and, surely, younger than her wizened face. 

“I want to move out of there,” she tells the other woman. “I’m expecting again. And I’m the only one in the place who’s not using.” She explains that she keeps finding drugs and works lying around the building. It’s not a good place for her daughter. But her social worker won’t let her move out, she says.  “It’s like she’s just waiting for me to fuck up.”  

I got off the bus feeling helpless, pulled up my hood against the rain and shivered. The day suddenly felt a whole lot colder. 

Welcome to East Van.

 

This is a new public art piece in Vancouver, designed by Ken Lum. I cycle past on my way home from downtown. I’m new to the city, but still think it’s fabulous. My art school friend gave me a little primer on Lum and the significance of the sign. The image goes back to the days when East Vancouver was an Italian neighbourhood. It was immortalized in graffiti tags, and maybe used by a gang or two, and is now revived in the form of public art. At night it lights up.

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Like many Japanese homes, ours has no central heating, and little to no insulation. Houses here are designed to be aired. Large doors and windows slide open to let the wind blow in. Great in summer, but downright chilly in the winter.

In some ways the lack of central heating makes ecological sense. First of all, put on a sweater and some slippers. Why heat up a whole house when you’re only in one room at a time? For that there are space heaters — electric and kerosene.

image stolen from the internetz

There’s also the kotatsu. Modern kotatsu are tables with built-in electric heaters. A thick duvet covers the table and traps heat inside. A wooden slab goes on top of the stack. Tuck yourself in, flick the switch and your legs stay nice and cozy.

 

 

Another brilliant invention is the Japanese bath. These are shorter and deeper than your average North American tub. When you sit down in the tub, the water comes right up to your neck. Your own personal hot tub. Ours is on a timer so the water is hot just before bed. It does the body good, helping me wind down after a long day, easing my sore muscles and warming me up, before jumping into the futon in the unheated bedroom.

japanese bath2

my own personal hot tub

japanese bath

a japanese bath is a beautiful thing.

for cheerful dish washing.

When I started knitting I swore I would never ever knit a dishcloth. I disguised the first one as a handkerchief. But there’s no excuse this time…

This is my Japanese-inspired Candy Cane dish scrubby. You can download it for free from the Knit Circus website. Yes folks, the lowly dishrag is my first for-real published pattern.

The scrubbies pictured here are knit with a tough jute/acrylic blend.

The pattern is finally ready. I’ve decided to keep it free because I’m still getting the hang of this pattern writing thing. I’d love any feedback. You can also download the PDF from Ravelry.  

cozy wrist warmers

cozy wrist warmers

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to read on.

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Thanks to the small-world of internerd knitters, I just read good news and some bad news from the Octopus and the Rose blog. The bad news is there are still hateful people in this world who abuse others based on sexuality. The good news is there continues to be encouraging and positive responses to such violence. Cheeky name and all, the Pansy Project is one such response.

(image taken from The Pansy Project)

(image from The Pansy Project)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(the reward for reading to the end of my rant is a free knitting pattern!)

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It’s getting on fall in Japan. There’s a chill in the air and it’s time to rake the leaves and harvest the last of the veggies from the garden. Plant bulbs. When we think of fall, it’s often the bold colours. Vermillion, Orange, Gold. But here in Japan it’s the muted colours I see most often: A rice harvest curing in a paddy, fallen chestnuts, distant smokey mountains finally visible as the summer haze lifts.

Back home it’s getting on winter. There are flurries in the forecast, my mum wrote to tell me. “A cute sounding word for something kinda cold and really unwanted just yet…”

The changing seasons were the inspiration for my latest knitting project. Knit with a cozy wool, silk, mohair blend. I’m in the process of writing up the pattern, but here’s a sneak peak.  

entre deux saisons

entre deux saisons

Can anyone remember back in 2007 when the City of Montreal handed out 100,000 pocket ashtrays? Yeah… didn’t think so. The goal was to help solve the litter problem. But after the press conference, I never saw another pocket ashtray until… I moved to Japan. 

People here actually use them sometimes. The little ashtrays are also at the heart of an anti-littering campaign lead by Japan Tobacco, with ads appearing on public transit and ashtrays all over the country. Complete with haikus in hilarious English translation, I just had to share a few of my favourites.

 

(Seen on Mt. Fuji) Inhaled. Burned. Thrown away. If it were anything but a cigarette it would surely be crying.

Inhaled. Burned. Thrown away. If it were anything but a cigarette it would surely be crying. (Seen on Mt. Fuji).

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