Dear Carolyn,

I found the loveliest kimono shop today. There are darling silk scarves, cut from scraps of kimono cloth. They are traditionally worn around the nape of the neck to add extra flair. I need to go back and get you one for Christmas!

Today was the best. I wish you were biking the streets of Takasaki with me (its a small town, a 20 minute train ride from my nowhere-town). I had a pleasant language session with my Japanese teacher & was super lucky that today happens to be a raucous dance festival- kimonos a-swinging, hefty men & strong women waving ginormous flags around. (Long tangent: I’m pretty sure flags is the future form of all of my silk/fabric art works – just think! Cloth that ripples like skin & all the performative possibilities!)

My biggest problem with canvases and surfaces pinned to walls is that they are immobile – maybe the things writhe within but they’re always encased by a film, and a frame. Flags solve that problem of static, of immobility. And they’ve a long history as messengers & harbingers of death & signs & victorious signals in war – in the National Museum in Seoul, Korea, there are loads of gorgeous war flags depicting mythical creatures, dragons, and ferocious tigers. In Chinese military history, war factions (or even sections of a military force) were divided into different color flags. I have something promising here! And my current artwork is entirely made of marker on silk – it’ll be a perfect transformation!

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My current project- soon to be made into a flag!

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These flags are huge, and take considerable strength to handle. Some are so large (as big as a billboard) that they can take two adults to manage. This flag is a simple purple, but most of the flags were decorated with the dance teams’ symbol or name.

Back to the topic of Japanese dance festivals. Both the young & old danced in the street. They were decked out in bright costumery, individualised to each dance team. They trounced up and down, waving fans, and tapping wooden clappers to the beat of the music. Japanese audiences do not clap (loudly) or really show their appreciation at all, but I knew the crowd was happy. Old men and women, and young stylish folk stood on the pavement, watching the dance. Some, like me, seated themselves on the edge of the sidewalk and earnestly snapped photographs.


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A young dance team, with ratted out hair and short kimonos. They had so much energy!


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These elderly ladies danced elegantly, with traditional dance moves and wooden clappers. My grandmother is also a professional dancer, as well as a teacher, and certainly knows her way around a fan.

You could even rush up to your favourite dancer and put a sticker on their clothes to vote for the #1 dancer! A distance down the road, everyone took their turn to perform again, but this time on a stage in the middle of a park, with an enthralled audience cheerfully munching away at festival snacks, seated on big blue plastic tarps. Of course, they were all shoe-less, since I suppose the rule of taking your shoes off before entering a residence also applied to outside seating, sometimes. What a festival!

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The city sponsors free bike transportation! So I biked all over the place afterwards. Now, I’m in a filthy Starbucks (not actually filthy, just gross because I’m biased to Portland artisanal brews). Oh! And I accidentally-on-purpose wandered into a manga (graphic novel) / porn store. No guesses as to which sex filled up the store. Men everywhere. I was nervously cackling & unfortunately not brave enough to go to the second floor, which has the really hard stuff. Well, I suppose I might have started to walk up the stairs, but a guy came down and did a double-take and looked at my behind and then I just ran out of there. On the street, I thought up this funny thing:

“Dear God, please bless me so I can ascend to the second floor. But, God, I’m so scared – there are only men there & the women are all grotesquely caricatured and trapped in books!”

Bah humbug!

How is Portland life? Have the thesis blues taken over or is the rock band still playing? Make the Classics/Religion lounge your home, the coven- your family, and remember I always always love you, even from far far away.

With warmth and love,

Kaori Freda

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