My sincere apologies for the lack of updates round these parts. I’ve arrived in Kyoto, my mother’s home prefecture, as of 4/20 and have been working as a laborer at a Japanese kobo workshop. My days have been filled with prepping and oiling wood with sumi ink — a process known as suminuri — and polishing parts to a tategu table saw. We are currently preparing an intricate endoskeleton of pillars, or hari, to be applied to a community centre in the Nara prefecture. I come home with soot and sawdust spewing out my ears with a sh*teating grin on my face everyday. I work with three supremely talented Japanese daiku carpenters whose dexterity and kindness have completely changed my perspective on artisanship and masculinity.
But more on that later. For now, here’s a short piece I wrote for the third volume of Provencial Magazine. Though unrelated to the kobo, it sufficiently captures the reverence and awe I feel toward my country everyday. Do enjoy and for the many beautiful people out there who have sent me love via IG, email, etc. your kind words have lifted me through tired limbs and very infrequent albeit powerful cultural barriers on the day to day. Sending so much love your way.
The air hung low with a delightful sense of destruction, as if the tide could take over any minute, conquering the shore and engulfing our tiny little cabin anchored precariously over a loose network of roots and small boulders. Time dragged on at a sleepy pace – the days bled seamlessly into nights as the sun hung lazily in the sky all day, just whispers over the horizon. The only people we saw were local teenagers huddled around a fire and crazed winter surfers chasing the tide on the other side of the water – other than that, we were the only inhabitants on this beautifully marred island off the Pacific coast, lovingly known as Frank Island.
We arrived in the sleepy town of Tofino at around 10 in the morning with a truckload of belongings and a piece of paper directing us to a “grassy pathway” onto Chestermann Beach, where we were to locate a sandspit that emerged only between the hours of 1 to 4pm. Our cabin would be tucked on the “oceanside” of an island beyond the sandspit, where the keys would be hung underneath the xth floorboard to the right. “Remember to bring rain gear and good shoes,” the paper read. “There will be rocks.”
Sure enough, Chestermann Beach was covered in dense fog on the day we arrived. We could vaguely make out a line of treetops in the distance – but as far as we knew, the sandspit was gone. We scouted the cabins on the west side of the beach, checking for hidden gullies. As it turned out, the sandspit was splayed confidently on the east side – a large expanse that we mistook for an extension of the beach. Giddy with excitement, we lugged our rucksacks across the beach/sandspit, shoes caked in wet sand and our flushed cheeks covered in ocean spray.
At last we were greeted by a pristine island lined with jagged boulders and windblown trees. Hello, Frank Island. We climbed over a bed of igneous rocks adorned with mussels and dead kelp for another stretch until we finally arrived at our “oceanside” cabin. And “oceanside” it was – the solid stilts stood rigidly in the rocks and the raw wood panels looked like they’ve seen a tsunami or two. It was everything we wanted – a hardy rustic beach cabin serving as a vantage point to watch the notorious winter storms of Tofino.
The octagonal layout of the cabin was based around an exposed boulder which made up the fireplace. When the temperature warmed up, it “cried” tiny streams of natural ground water which seeped out of its many crevices. It was the most surreal thing. The old cedar floors gave the cabin a distinct “campfire” aroma when the wood stove was on. Our clothes still smell like it, and we plan to revel in it for as long as we can.
We lived well, and we ate well. Breakfast was an “appy” of yogurt and granola followed by a hearty plate of crisp bacon and runny eggs prepared on our beloved cast iron skillet. Lunch was a light arugula salad with prosciutto, feta cheese and roasted pecans along with a bowl of creamy mushroom soup. Dinner was a pasta dish with homemade avocado cream sauce or two slices of thick-cut steak marinated in a most liberal seasoning of onions, herbs, and lots and lots of garlic (thankfully, we never saw people most days).
We spent our evenings playing cards and drinking beautifully aged wine that we received from Neil’s generous parents on our birthdays. We went to bed early every night, revelling in the moonlight and the waves crashing all around us. The undulating tide awakened dormant spirits that triggered me to have the most vivid dreams in years. I dreamed about strange faces in familiar places, familiar faces in the ever so strange – I woke up every morning feeling replenished but somewhat perturbed, making me strangely acute to things like distant constellations and tectonic plates.
Neil chopped wood and prepared the fire every night. I cooked the meals and tidied up the cabin. I kept chuckling to myself – the feminist in me would not tolerate this dynamic. But it felt natural. It felt good. We both had an essential task to ease the cold during the evenings – him with a crackling fire and me with a bowl of creamy soup. I took pride in the roles I played, whether it be called “homemaking” or “being doomed to feminine conventions.” This simple little partnership of keeping our tiny residence warm, clean, and smelling of whatever hearty food was next on the menu brought us closer together as a couple.
Indeed, I am a lucky woman. After years of “soul searching” and selfish meandering I was able to meet my soulmate on the bus. I had the privilege of living in this beautiful city with access to its numerous scenic offerings. I was able to complete a degree here while getting acquainted to three distinct parts of the city, all within a mile radius of the harbour. I was able to spend these days with a most loving and genuine partner in crime, who joined me in Ecuador to live in a shack in the Amazon Basin. At the age of 23, I was able to experience a broad spectrum of cultures and aesthetics – from the finer delicacies of my homeland Japan to the rugged archetypes of New York City to the proud caricatures of West Hollywood to the pristine terrain of the Pacific Northwest which I have grown so fond of.
Here’s to another adventure behind us, and plenty more to come.