Monday, January 31, 2011

Shian-bashi, Nagasaki (part 2)

There is a narrow side lane that branches off the main drag at Shian-bashi...  it is a narrow, intimately scaled pathway that is perhaps 12 to 15 feet wide, and is full of tiny bars, pubs, and other similar night time entertainment establishments.

Shockingly, even that little lane has an even narrower back alley (maybe 6 feet wide?), still with "frontage" as little hole-in-the-wall eateries and drinking "stalls" cram the incredibly tight urban space. The scene took me completely by surprise, prompting this sketch.

It was late afternoon and too early for business, but there was a slight buzz as the shop-owners were beginning to prepare for their nightly routine.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Shian-bashi, Nagasaki (Part 1)

The retro metal gateway into the narrow street that identifies the Shian-bashi area, rife with the energy of eateries, bars, and night time crowds... a bit of a local monument.

This area was known as Maruyama, a well-known brothel district until the anti-prostitution laws of the 1950s came into effect, ending three centuries of a flourishing industry.

Shian-bashi (思案橋, literally, "Ponder Bridge") is now a busy neighbourhood adjacent the main commercial retail area of Hamanomachi, and is still a popular and iconic night-time destination.

Interestingly, there was indeed a little bridge over a stream here, and it is said that it got its name from the way patrons "pondered" (思案する) in indecision whether to spend (more) money at the brothels.

Easily overlooked in the cacophony are some details revealing aspects of this history...

Friday, January 28, 2011

"Umino": a cafe in Hamanomachi, Nagasaki

A little break at "Umino", an older "traditional" cafe in Nagasaki (and a bit of a local institution).

The shop's retro interior, complete with antique decorations and glass floor by the windows, overlooks the main shopping arcade. There's a hint of quirkiness to the place (and even to the hardworking servers) making it a memorable and comfortable hangout. It has great coffee and snacks too.

Starbucks and Seattle's Best have made their inroads in Nagasaki; hopefully, the "old" cafe culture will remain popular, as it continues to provide some of the more unique and endearing places in the busy commercial areas.

the glass floor...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Konpira-san, Nagasaki

A view from Coco-Walk a relatively new, large scale commercial development near Urakami in Nagasaki.

It was a cold day, and I decided to stay indoors and take advantage of the glazed elevator landings that take in the view of Konpira-san (Mount Konpira) towards the east. This is the kind of view that characterizes this city... and I am fascinated by the human/social impulse to create settlements even in a difficult topography such as this.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

another gem in Nagasaki

Another urban gem in Nagasaki, this time in the Irabayashi neighbourhood.

I stumbled upon this tiny enclave unexpectedly as I decided to explore a discreet path off a busy street. I turned the corner once, then again, and was met with this quiet, intimate view down a small enclosed laneway. It retains some old urban "machiya" housing, and has an amazing sense of scale, dignity, and community. This segment of lane is so short that it feels more like a mini-courtyard, rather than a linear pathway.

I couldn`t help but draw, and realized half way through that I sketched this scene 12 years ago, reacting the same way then as I did now.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday morning, Nagasaki

Two quick sketches... before and during the church service at the Nagasaki Baptist Church in the Katafuchi neighbourhood.  The commercial street right by the church retains a great community feel with an intimate streetscape; you can tell that the shops cater to an older, aging demographic, which adds to its character, but I`ve noticed a slight decline here too as the overall commercial landscape continues to change.

It`s great to see, though, that the local church is a thriving, multi-generational community that plugs right into the life of this neighbourhood.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

the main plaza at Nagasaki Station

The entry area at Nagasaki`s main railway station was revamped many years ago, and now passengers are greeted by an open air plaza with a huge membrane canopy above, linked to a glitzy multi-storey commercial complex as well as restaurants, convenience stores, and a hotel. It`s an amazing urban space that is often a venue for public events, and seems to be an appropriately "muscular" gesture in an incredibly busy, chaotic transportaion hub.

These two views were drawn on separate days... the top looks out from the plaza, towards the taxi stands, tram/bus terminal, and main arterial road... the overhead canopy frames one of the many hilly, built up neighbourhoods in the city.

The bottom is an evening view from the pedestrian deck above the tram and bus lines, looking back towards the train station plaza... gradually getting busy with the evening commute home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Obama Onsen, Part 2

This time, a view from the roof of the inn where we stayed... this is the second sketch in 10 years of the same view.

The street on the right is the main commercial street (before all the shops have opened in the morning). The road that follows the coastline at the left eventually leads to Nagasaki.

It was cold, and my hands barely moved by the time I finished up.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Obama-onsen, Nagasaki... a hotspring resort town

... a group of inns along the main road in the little town of Obama, Nagasaki Prefecture...

Obama is at the foot of Mount Unzen, and the whole area is known as an onsen, or hot spring/resort region. Most of the inns face a beautiful bay with an ocean view at sunset, and incorporate open air rooftop bathing facilities, which I enjoyed early in the morning. Mount Unzen is a short drive away.

Incidentally, the town, along with another Obama City in Fukui Prefecture, unofficially endorsed and celebrated the then U.S. presidential candidate in 2008 for obvious reasons...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Stairway in Nishizaka, Nagasaki

Nagasaki is full of steep stairs, connected to lanes, pathways, and various retaining walls. This one, near the main train station and leading up towards the 26 Martyrs Memorial, creates an interesting building site for the small purple mixed-use building that hugs its side. Adding to the complexity is the typical house form that sits on top of the 3 (or 4?) storey "base".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Inasa-yama, Nagasaki

The view from the funeral hall... the main road towards Inasa-yama, with its radio towers and ropeway gondola station.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

from the hospice... a snowy, cold dawn in Nagasaki

This is the first sketch after we lost a family member in the early morning hours of January 1st, drawn from the hospice room window. Nagasaki received a record snowfall the day before, and it was still snowing that morning. I will always remember this scene... serene, peaceful, beautiful, and grey.

 Psalm 23
 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Ps 23:1-2,6)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

... and another airport...

A panorama view at Vancouver International Airport, on a sunny day after a few days of snowfall. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

two airports...

Edmonton International Airport

Haneda Airport ticketing/check-in
Haneda Airport mezzanine/lounge

The Airport at Haneda is busy... The upstairs lounge area boasts an impressive number and range of unique designer chairs and stools (probably in the hundreds...), providing many different "ways to sit" in a huge section of a building that is predominantly about sitting; it`s tempting to hang around just to enjoy trying out each one to find a personal favourite.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Amaryllis, Narcissus... Planted

My daughter and I planted Amaryllis and Narcissus bulbs together, in an attempt to learn about the whole notion of growth, life, and patience... let`s see what happens...