Thursday, March 31, 2011

more goze by saito shinichi

Two more postcards showing paintings of goze by Saito Shinichi. The one at bottom shows goze, who were often organized into guild-like groups, sitting around a kotatsu, a traditional kind of warmer still used in Japan. The one at top expresses the pathos of the traveling musicians' lives.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

singapore chinese opera

A postcrosser from Singapore sent this postcard commemorating the 10th anniversary, in 2006, of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra. He has been a member of the orchestray for several years but did not in what role.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the goze of saito shinichi

Ozawa Yasuko's card (below) sent me to my goze file, where I discovered, much to my surprise, a collection of postcards from an exhibition by Saito Shinichi. I thought that I had sent all of these postcards off to friends years ago, but in fact had saved a set for myself. Saito heard stories about goze while traveling around Japan and, like others of us, became fascinated. He became quite famous for his oil paintings (he used oil, he told me, because he wanted the paintings to last for hundreds of years) of the women and the hard lives that they led. The card at top shows a lone goze in snow country, the part of Japan where they were most often found. The one below shows goze performing at a local festival.

Monday, March 28, 2011

cat goze by ozawa yasuko

This postcard arrived on Saturday from old friend and doll artist Ozawa Yasuko. It shows one of her signature dolls, a cat in the guise of a goze, one of the itinerant blind female musicians, who were active for centuries in Japan. I first saw Ozawa's work when I was living in Tokyo and was mesmerized by it. I ended up going to Kyoto to interview her for several magazines. It was only when we met that I discovered the goze connection. I had recently seen Mizukami Tsutomu's play, Hanare goze Orin, about an outcast goze and was starting to do research on the women, which eventually led to my interviewing Kobayashi Haru, the last active goze, who died in 2005 at age 105. At that first meeting with Ozawa, we also discovered a mutual interest in Tono and its famed legends. At the time, she gave me a tip about where to stay should I ever visit the highland town in Iwate. Years later, I did go to Tono and used her tip, which turned out to be life-changing.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

castel sant 'angelo

An American postcrosser living in Rome sent this castle near St. Peter's. She wrote that on summer evenings a street carnival takes place around the castle, with stands selling food and drink, vendors hawking goods, and street performers of all kinds.


A young Turkish postcrosser sent this view of the austerely beautiful interior of the mosque Suleymaniye. One of Istanbul's main attractions, the mosque sits atop one of the city's hills.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

street rouen

This card is from an aspiring writer who notes that Rouen is where Joan of Arc was infamously burned alive, though there is nothing of that turbulent, gruesome history here. Instead, this card, like the Prague one below, has people in it. I like cards showing people out and about in their daily lives.

prague snow

This hazy view of snow on the famed Charles Bridge in Prague came from a Czech postcrosser. This week's snow here has pretty much disappeared, but it is still quite chilly.

Friday, March 25, 2011

suzhou garden

For more than a thousand years, Suzhou has been known for its classical gardens. This card, from a Chinese postcrosser, shows a bit of one.

john storrs

The always interesting Grey Art Gallery at New York University in New York City is holding a show of the machine-like sculptures of modernist John Storrs. The show runs from April 12 to July 9.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

from florida

Two from Priscilla, who has been in Florida for a week.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

portrait of gustave geffroy

A friend sent this postcard of a portrait by Cezanne of Gustave Geffroy, a journalist, art critic, and writer, who was one of the first to recognize Cezanne's talent. The artist perhaps 'repaid' him with this detailed portrait of a writer in his element.

folk pottery

These sprightly examples of Ukrainian folk pottery, made by Havrylo and Yavdokha Poshyvailo, are in the Museum of Ukrainian Folk and Decorative Art. The card came from a Ukrainian postcrosser who was enjoying the coming of spring.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

martta wendelin

Here's a sweet bit of sanity from a Finnish postcrosser. The card is by fab Finnish illustrator Martta Wendelin (1893-1986).

Monday, March 21, 2011

koiwai farm

Another from the Takita Tsuneo series of Iwate views dear to Miyazawa Kenji, this of the Koiwai farm with Mt. Iwate in the distance. Koiwai these days is a big dairy farm in the prefecture.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

hair on tile

This postcard of a stunning photograph by Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo was sent by a postcrosser in Singapore. Works by the same photographer are now on exhibit at the Weinstein Gallery in Minneapolis. An announcement card for that show was posted on February 16.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

moon over ayaori

Last evening I watched a great big, beautiful moon climb into the sky from behind bare branches. It was breathtaking. Light was still fading from the sky and the rising moon looked almost like a sunrise. Tonight is the actual full moon and I shall not want to miss it. It's a perigee moon, which is why it looked so much more dramatic than usual. The moon in this postcard was shot over Ayaori, my old neighborhood in Tono. I heard this morning from a friend there. He says that evacuees from the coast are now in the town, which itself has run out of gasoline and kerosene and is almost out of food. For now they have rice. Supplies are still not reaching this part of northeastern Japan.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Huge carved figures of Bishamonten, the most powerful of the Four Heavenly Kings, can be seen at the entrances of Buddhist temples in Iwate and throughout Japan. The card is another in the series by Takita Tsuneo. Bishamonten has various attributes. One is protector of followers of the Lotus Sutra. Miyazawa Kenji was a devotee of the Lotus Sutra.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

ginga tetsudono yoru

Another postcard with an illustration by Takita Tsuneo, this one for Ginga tetsudono yoru (Night on the Milky Way Express), one of Miyazawa Kenji's most famous stories. It's the tale of two boys riding a mysterious train through the Milky Way. Only one of them, however, returns.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Ihatov (written in katakana on the roof at center) is the Esperanto name for Iwate prefecture. The card is of a painting by Takita Tsuneo, one in a series of places in Iwate associated with Miyazawa Kenji (see below). It shows the Hanamaki Agricultural School, where Miyazawa studied.

Monday, March 14, 2011

mountain and sun

Another postcard from Iwate, showing a painting called Mountain and Sun by poet Miyazawa Kenji.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


This Kenji illustration of a tornado, or tatsumaki, seems tragically apropos. I have few postcards of Japan as I was always sending them. Among the few I have are a handful from Tono and some series from the Miyazawa Kenji Museum in Hanamaki, which is where I bought these many years ago.


Miyazawa Kenji also liked to draw and paint. This is an illustration he made for an amusing story by him about utility poles on the run. Phone and power service now needed.

miyazawa kenji

Yesterday afternoon I started watching Fuji TV, streaming live with non-stop coverage of the unfolding disasters. Watching the coverage by reporters embedded in what used to be towns up and down the Pacific coast, I had to think of Miyazawa Kenji, a poet, writer (of children's books), agronomist, astronomer, and vegetarian Buddhist. Kenji was born in Hanamaki, in Iwate prefecture, and died there in 1933 at age 37. He devoted the last ten years of his life to trying to better the lives of impoverished peasants in his home prefecture. I love Kenji's writings and admire his life. It was a thrill to live in his 'homeland' of Ihatov for my last 10 or so years in Japan. Kenji also studied Esperanto. Ihatov is the Esperanto version of the prefecture's name.

ayaori, iwate prefecture, japan

Two old ladies from my old neighborhood in the Ayaori district of Tono chat on a snowy road. Since Friday, Iwate has been totally on my mind. There is still no way to get in touch with friends there, but they are in the mountains and I trust they are coping. Many of course have family and friends up and down the coast that was devastated by tsunami.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

spring in qingdao

Peach blossoms light up a street in Qingdao, the hometown of the postcrosser who sent this reminder that spring is on the way.


An Estonian postcrosser sent this card and introduced me to the work of Navitrolla, a talented, droll young artist beloved in his home country.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

dream harp

Motoko, a friend in Tokyo, sent this bewitching card. The original is a papercut called 'Yume harpu', or Dream Harp. A musical cat tickles my fancy, particularly on a gloomy day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


A Turkish chemistry student sent this evocative card of her richly-textured country. The timing was felicitous as I've recently been reading the Turkish novelist Elif Shafak. The day before the card arrived a friend had sent a link to an excellent talk Shafak gave last year on the politics of fiction. Definitely worth a listen:

Monday, March 7, 2011

rabbits multiplied

The British postcrosser who sent these bunny silhouettes says she likes cats better than rabbits. So do I but I like these rabbits, too.

fly and enjoy

A Slovenian vegan anthropologist sent this card with the message: Fly and enjoy, life is a journey.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

pussy willow pink

I've got to send a card to an old friend in Tono and hope she will enjoy the latest in the pussy willow series. Years ago I took a train along the Sanriku Coast to visit an amber museum in the northeastern corner of Iwate prefecture. The tracks were lined at points with wild pussy willow trees and we chugged slowly along with a great view of masses of silky catkins on display. Chinese like to use pussy willows at the Lunar New Year and many Christians use them on Palm Sunday in place of palms. I've got three trees here, all started by Mrpotani, who has a tree in her garden in San Francisco. One tree here has shot up straight and tall to roof level; one is a spreading bush; the third has never made it past two feet, thanks to the deer who bedevil it yearly.

canterbury downs

Dubai reminds me of horse racing and that reminded me of this card from a track in Minnesota.

dubai by way of italy

An Italian postcrosser who likes to travel sent this postcard from Dubai, along with some interesting stamps. He was in Dubai last November.

Friday, March 4, 2011

daughter of the regiment

I sent this Civil War photo of a 'daughter of the regiment', who served with a regiment from Rhode Island, to a postcrosser in Lithuania. Until I saw this postcard, all I knew about such women was based on Donizetti's frothy comedic opera La Fille du Regiment, which I saw some years ago with Valerie Dessay in the title role and Juan Carlos Diego in the tenor role. In Donizetti's opera, the young woman is the adopted mascot of her regiment. Most such women, who were usually married to soldiers, sold tobacco, wine, etc. to their regiments. They were in effect a traveling canteen.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

malfunction junction

I sent this postcard months ago to a friend but don't think I ever got around to posting it. This particular 'malfunction junction' is, I think, in North Carolina. The card came to mind on Monday. First the power went out around 6:30 am, then the phone lines, then Internet service. The power came back around 11 am, but it took till after 6 pm for the rest again to be working. I won't say anything about Verizon except that a rep called yesterday and listened to my pointed criticism. The gesture, for what it was worth, was appreciated.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

pussy willow green

A variation on the pussy willow theme, again using pieces from a German pressed cardboard creation and a New Year's card that I had to repaint.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

coals to newcastle

I sent this card to a Dutch postcrosser who said she liked flowers. Too late I recalled that the painting itself is my Mondrian, who was of course Dutch. I apologized but the recipient did not sound thrilled. Oops. The first time I recall seeing this painting was when a Japanese friend sent the same card to me.

red umbrella

I was thinking about The Red Balloon, and other things, while making this card, then a couple of weeks later the classic French film was on TV. Though a bit hard to make out, there are umbrellas in both of the Japanese stamps I used on the card.