Tokyo Interactions: the Osaka chapter

As previously noted, the title for this research project is no longer accurate but, in the absence of having had any better ideas, I’m just going to run with it. So, here’s a bit of a write up of the first few days of Tokyo Interactions, er, in Osaka.

[Actually there was a bit of a prelude in Kyoto with artist/game designer Kaho Abe and a selection of local independent game dev types, but that was mostly social and somewhat jetlagged!]

My luggage failed to make it onto the same flight as I did over to Japan from Amsterdam, so my first full day in Osaka was spent at the nearby castle, ready to hotfoot it back to our room in time for the delivery of one large rucksack and miscellaneous contents.

I love Japanese castles for their craftmanship and cunning [aka 101 beautiful ways to kill people = less nice], and they’re made all the more fascinating when an English speaker can give you a glimpse of their secrets. My collaborator Megumi Ishibashi did a great job of translating signage for me and we also chanced across ‘The Miracle Man’ at one of the outer gates talking about this puzzle-joint repair to one of the gate posts of Otemon:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

It’s really quite tricky to visualise how the bottom section was added in to replace the rotten timber (there’s a massive, appropriately castle-sized gate on top of it too, don’t forget!). Even with the model he produced from his tote bag, we couldn’t see how it worked, but he managed to deftly separate the two pieces. The solution is quite cunning and involves some sliding, but what I’m also liking is that he took the time to hand make his own model (look! You can too with this paper template!), or at least use some serious powers of persuasion so that someone else did…

Across from the gateway was this ginormous stone that had been split in two using hammer and wedges:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Not a bad lump of stuff to use to build your wall out of. The other half from the other side of the split was there next to it too, mirroring the gentle curve on the surface.

I think Japanese wedges are of a slightly different style to Western ones (wider and shorter, perhaps), but I’m including this demo video here because it gives a sense of the process. And also because I like the role listening and waiting have to play.

 

Elsewhere, in one of the turrets, we admired a section of original flooring (other parts of the castle had burned after a lightning strike). As far as I could make out, this floor is usually carpeted because the skills to repair it just don’t exist amongst today’s craftspeople, but it was out and on display on the day we were there. The sort of golfball divots you can see are a trace of what I think was an adze-like tool used to prepare the surface of the planks. Something to do with the samurai needing a particular sort of non-slip surface that worked with the footwear they trained in.
 
Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

We went into the main castle building too and admired the suits of armour …as we wilted in the heat and humidity in our lightweight summer clothes.

Back outside again there was a chance to admire the rooflines before heading back to our digs. (Note the offset as an earthquake resisting tactic.)

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka Castle

The next day I went to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living and had a good mooch around their reconstruction of an Edo Period Osaka street, complete with fireworks interval light show!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

In the early evening I headed over to the Takashimaya department store and Gallery Next where my collaborator Megumi Ishibashi was exhibiting her work.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Takashimaya of course take their cut on the sales made, but we feel we recouped some of this via some recommendations from one of the staff members (the ‘Knows Everything Man’) on how we should spend our evening.

Megumi had already introduced me to the concept of “kuidaore”, defined by WWWJDIC as “financially ruining oneself by overindulging in food and drink (as a fabled tendency of the people of Osaka)”. Counterparts in Kyoto prefer their undoing to be by fine clothes, whilst the folks over in Kobe have a thing for shoes.

It would be rude to shun the local culture, so we set out on a trail of eateries just slightly off the beaten path of the main touristy bits of the Doutonburi district.

We did pop in on the brightly lit bits too:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka kuidaore

Setting a more sombre tone the following day, I went to the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum where the special exhibition about childhood mostly involved treachery, betrayal, sacrifice and rather a lot of death.

Nice engraving skills, though:

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

That evening, before Megumi caught the night bus back to Tokyo, we popped over to Osaka Makers’ Space to check out how it was taking shape in its early stages and to try and get an initial sense of the maker scene in Japan.

We admired the arduino-controlled sign, admired the arduino-named resident cat, and also rushed outside a lot each time young T went to launch his matchstick and foil rocket! Some promising ingredients for the future, then!

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was also impressed by the balance between rapid prototyping tools and the facilities for wood and metal work using regular power and hand tools. It’ll be interesting to see how this space evolves over the next year or so.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

We just had time to squeeze in some more culinary offerings at this side-street tempura restaurant.

Tokyo Interactions, Osaka

I was really taken by this space for reasons I haven’t yet fully understood. The photo is taken from the street – where we waited on benches for space to be freed up at the then full counter. The hefty wooden tabletop was appreciated, but I also quite enjoyed the narrowness of it all and how we were sat right up against the sliding doors that formed the front of the restaurant.

Hope it wasn’t our fault that they were no other customers by the time we had eaten…

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

A few weeks back I ran the first of a series of particpatory workshops for my research project Where the Sky Widens. This one was kindly hosted by Birmingham Open Media and participants cam from a public invitation.

DSCN0538

Being the first workshop I was quite hands-off at letting the discussion and pace find their own equilibrium. It was hard at first to encourage people to talk as they first got to grips with the paper templates, but as people found their groove there were some nice meaty topics.

A recurring theme in the feedback has been about the strength of feeling people felt towards their completed pods after crafting it by their own hand rather than just being handed a pre-made object. No wonder really when you look back at the making process:

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

DSCN0555

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

DSCN0564

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

There were some really interesting places selected for people’s pods to respond to, and it was great to see the reactions when the pods first kicked into life and started waggling. Walks were made.

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

…and interactions were had:

Where the Sky Widens workshop at BOM

One person declined to take their work home with them and I’m curious to learn the fate of the others. There has been talk of naming, nesting and re-surfacing…

What do you do that you consider to be a craft activity (or feels like it might be)?

I’ve increasingly been noticing parallels between the feeling of being absorbed in a soldering project and memories of working in more traditionally-accepted craft activities such as ceramics or silver-smithing.

Inviting ponderings on Twitter about the essence of craft turned into a really meaty discussion with lots of diverse examples and defining concepts being offered. It was important to me that this conversation was based on people’s personal experience rather than an abstracted argument.

Here’s the archived timeline:



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