HESO Magazine

Photography, Music, Film, Hitchhiking, Craft Beer – Cultural Pugilist

Category: Environment (Page 2 of 6)

Beneath the Surface – What Is In The Water at Seaworld?

Two killer whales off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska By Robert Pittman via Wikimedia Commons

Two killer whales off the south side of Unimak Island, eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska By Robert Pittman via Wikimedia Commons

BENEATH THE SURFACE by John Hargrove with Howard Chua-Eoan (Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2015)

BENEATH THE SURFACE by John Hargrove with Howard Chua-Eoan
(Palgrave Macmillan Trade, 2015)

Beneath the Surface

The question needs to be asked, what do retired whale trainers do? Especially once they have skewered the private industry whence they came. Write about it.

Such is the case of fourteen year veteran Orca trainer John Hargrove who, in the course of working with 20 different whales on two continents and at two of SeaWorld’s U.S. facilities, came to view the practice of holding large mammals in captivity, as well as the pain of mother-calf separation, as unsustainable. It was Hargrove’s childhood dream to work with the Orcinus orca, the so called killer whales. Yet as he spoke on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, he said that as a rookie trainer he didn’t know what he was getting into–no trainer does–when he stepped into the pool. “You don’t know normal from abnormal and healthy from unhealthy…are all of the dorsal fins collapsed in the wild…are all of their teeth worn down like that in the wild…? These are the damaging effect from captivity.”

The distinction “in the wild” is an important one, because, well, that is the central tenet to the question Stewart later asks, “Is it possible to have this in a humane way?” This being, Orcas in captivity. Which is to say, are we slowly realizing that animal captivity–zoos, circuses, aquariums, et al–is not only morally wrong, but environmentally destructive? At least Seaworld is against the drive hunts in Taiji.

What Is In The Water at Seaworld?

Hargrove, featured at length in Blackfish–the documentary exploration of orca-related deaths in marine parks– eventually came to the conclusion that “SeaWorld’s wildly popular programs were both detrimental to the whales and ultimately unsafe for trainers.” Seldom has a documentary film become so popular with the mainstream culture in the U.S. and abroad that it has caused the corporation featured to not only acknowledge (and disavow all accusations) the film, but create a point by point attack of its own, attempting to discredit the film makers and all involved in the movement to free orcas from captivity, creating a new website Seaworldcares.com, and a twitter campaign (You Ask. We Answer.) to do so.

In response to Stewart’s telling Hargrove that the Daily Show received a barrage of tweets calling him a liar, Hargrove responded that Seaworld has a “cult-like mentality,” adding, “they will go after you viciously…they will try to silence you. This is how they have gotten away for decades with silencing trainers.” Speaking about one of Seaworld’s main statements, that they do not separate calves from mothers, Hargrove says, “I know of 19 calves we have taken from their mothers.” He goes on to mention the mental capacity of the people running the site, “They are so stupid. They have a photo Takara and Kohana on that page. Takara is in Texas. Kohana is in Spain.” It seems the definition of calf depends on who you’re asking.

Semantically tricky, Seaworld’s version reads, “SeaWorld’s successful development of its population of killer whales allows us to manage a healthy population of animals, while keeping young calves with their mothers and respecting the whales’ social structure.” The below photo went semi-viral on Twitter–with addendum–and the original (on the left) has since been removed from Seaworld’s page.

Unfortunate as the continued controversy is for Seaworld’s shareholders, Conan O’Brien has announced that, true story, in its first ad campaign since Blackfish, SeaWorld wants you to know it’s still a cool place for orcas.

Ginkaku-ji - The Silver Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji – The Silver Pavilion

Ginkaku-ji (銀閣寺) has so many names it’s best to keep it simple. Translated as Temple of the Silver Pavilion, it makes more sense once you know its official name: Jishō-ji (慈照寺) or the Temple of Shining Mercy. Because for one, where’s this so-called Ginkaku-ji – The Silver Pavilion? you may wonder to yourself as you stroll through the serpentine garden pathways. The two-story building located at the far end of the labrynth dedicated to Kannon, the Japanese version of the East Asian deity of mercy, …well, looks brown to me…but maybe it’s one big zen koan–find the silver lining within, not without, right?.

Located off the Philosopher’s Path in the Sakyō ward of Kyōto, it remains one of the best examples of harmonious confluence of natural and manmade elements. It didn’t start out with much harmony though, for although Higashiyama culture begins wafting the essence of wabi-sabi throughout the country during the Ashikaga reign of the late 15th and 16th centuries, developing chadō (Japanese tea ceremony), ikebana (flower arranging), noh drama, and sumi-e ink painting, this era is also known as the Sengoku Jidai — the Warring States Period — of the Muromachi era. And while this pristine sanctuary was being constructed on the still hot ashes of another garden villa, all hell was breaking loose outside.

The Ōnin war

'Squirrel on a Bamboo Stalk', Bearing the Signature & Seal of Sôami

‘Squirrel on a Bamboo Stalk’, Bearing the Signature & Seal of Sôami

Coming after the powerful Kamakura and preceding the Ieyasu ruling clans, the Ashikaga clan was the middle child of the Shogun rulers in medieval Japan, ruling from roughly the 14th – 16th centuries. Throughout the 250-year reign of the 15 shogun, the rulers depended more on the loyalty of the local lords than on military power, and thus were soon exposed as a kind of paper tiger that could not do much if you, say, didn’t pay your taxes. The first hundred years or so see the flowering of Kyōto amidst the rise of the Samurai and the Rinzai form of Zen Buddhism. It is during this time of general peace (and approaching discord) that much of the system of art that Japan is so well-known for was formalized.

The Ōnin War (1467–1477), a dispute brought on by the question of who would succeed the aging Yoshimasa, was most actively waged by the Hosokawa family and its allies, who favored Yoshimasa’s brother Yoshimi, against the Yamana family, who supported the current shogun’s suddenly-born male heir. Sounds like a goddamned soap opera, but unlike good melodrama, where are all the women? There had to have been a few devious and deadly femme fatalia pulling the strings behind the screen. Nothing here but rich old cranks who dig getting high on green tea and raking rocks and completely ignoring the thousands dying all around. Although fighting in Kyōto lasted for only 11 years, the conflict, for all intents and purposes, destroyed Kyōto, ruined the Ashikaga clan, and ignited the slow-burning and widespread revolt which would spread to outlying provinces, lasting for a hundred years, eventually bringing about Oda Nobunaga’s brutal unification.

Portrait of an Escapist

While others in Kyōto mastered Soba and the city burned, Yoshimasa practiced the fine art of tea ceremony, continuing plans for creating a retirement villa and gardens. So enamored was he of his grandfather’s Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion) and the gardens of Saiho-ji (Koke-dera) designed by Musō Soseki, Yoshimasa made the garden landscape of the grounds a priority above all else. He commissioned the artist Sōami to design the Ginsadan, the Sea of Silver Sand, the rock garden, with its now infamous cone of sand which is said to symbolize Mount Fuji. Nōami, the grandfather of Sōami, imparted his knowledge of the fledgling Zen priest practice of the wabi-cha style of tea ceremony to Murata Jukō. Murata is alleged to have been under the employ of Yoshimasa around this time. When finished around 1490, this villa would eventually be built on the remains of his brother Yoshimi’s temple-residence Jodai-ji. Except for his desire that Ginkaku-ji become a Buddhist temple associated with the Shokoku-ji branch of Rinzai Zen on his death, Yoshimasa was completely oblivious to all except for simplistic beauty of rocks and tea.

But the war had its annoyances as well. Despite his intention to cover the main structure with a distinctive silver-foil overlay, the way his grandfather had done with gold leaf on the nearby Ginkaku-ji, the war delayed the work so long that Yoshimasa died before its realization. Amidst political intrigue, of course. The current brown facade of the structure is likely to be the same as when Yoshimasa himself last saw it. Despite his initial desires to beautify it with silver leaf, he probably came to the realization that such decadence in war time was not just wasteful, but unwise, with a secondary benefit of being “unfinished”, illustrating one of the aspects of wabi-sabi perfectly if not a bit ironically.

Ginkaku-ji - The Silver PavilionDespite the temple remaining quite unfinished, in 1485 Yoshimasa became a Buddhist monk and took the name Jishō. It is said that he passed his days sitting in contemplation in the Dojinsai tea room in his Hall of the Eastern Quest (Tōgudō), taking tea with the key figures in the development of tea culture. Situated as it is at the far end of the Hōjō, it demands perhaps the most excellent view of the garden path, the various waterways and the growing moss that must have reminded him of better, more peaceful days, even as the war waged on around him, and enveloped more and more of Japan. During his reign as Shogun, Yoshimasa may have funded and formalized a large part of the traditional culture by which Japan came to fame, yet he was an administrative nightmare.

Nightmare perhaps, but fascinating to live in such a fiery time, and to be at the center of it all, yet instead of addressing it head on and jumping into the war, Yoshimasa got Zen and zoned out. Maybe somewhere in all of the daily manicuring of those beautifully raked rocks he knew that his legacy would outlive him–that despite the fragmented and bloody society that threatened to tear itself apart before his eyes, Japan would survive, and thrive even, and in that new land of the rising sun, would find hidden strength in the quietude and solemn ritual of the simple, imperfect art of brewing, serving, and enjoying tea within the confines of perhaps one of the most perfectly polished contemplative rock gardens ever conceived.

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

What is Coprinus Comatus?

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus, fried in butter and a bit of olive oil, salt (at the end, if not if becomes moochy of course), pepper, a few herbes de provence… sauté the whole stuff for 5 min. Eat on whole wheat toast. Precautions need to be taken when harvesting, for sure…

Read more from by Michael Kuo at Mushroom Expert site:

What is Coprinus Comatus?

: The Shaggy Mane [ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Agaricaceae > Coprinus . . . ]

Its distinguishing features include its shape and stature, and the fact that the gills “deliquesce,” turning themselves into black ink as they mature. Shaggy manes are frequently found in disturbed ground, and the edges of dirt roads can produce many mushrooms. In the Rocky Mountains, Coprinus comatus can be seen from the car during monsoon season by simply driving four-wheel-drive roads and keeping an eye on the roadsides.

DNA studies over the last decade make it clear that Coprinus comatus is fairly closely related to species of Agaricus and Lepiota, but only distantly related to most other mushrooms whose gills turn to black ink–for example, Coprinopsis atramentaria or Coprinellus micaceus. The genus Coprinus, which once held all such mushrooms, now holds only Coprinus comatus and a few similar mushrooms–and it turns out that the presence of a ring on the stem and a string-like strand of fibers inside the stem’s hollow cavity turn out to be better predictors of the genus Coprinus than deliquescing gills.


  • Ecology: Saprobic,growing alone or in clusters, lines, or fairy rings on lawns, wood chips, or hard-packed ground; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America.
  • Cap: 3-15 cm; oval to rounded-cylindrical when young, expanding to bell-shaped with a lifting margin; in age turning to black “ink”; dry; whitish with a brownish center; with large, shaggy scales; margin lined at maturity.
  • Gills: Free from the stem; white, becoming pinkish, then black; turning to black “ink”; very crowded.
  • Stem: 5-20 cm long; 1-2 cm thick; frequently tapering to apex; smooth; white; easily separable from cap; hollow, with a string-like strand of fibers hanging inside.
  • Flesh: White throughout; soft.
  • Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
  • Spore Print: Black.

There is a history here of searching out fungi in the dark recesses of far-flung countries.

Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Miyashita Park, depending on your point of view, is an emerald oasis in the midst of a concrete desert blooming in the most crowded mile in the human world, Shibuya Crossing. One of the few green spaces within the city center, Miyashita is a microcosm of the larger setting of Tokyo. Built in the 30s as a ground level park lined with trees and actual green grass, it follows the Saikyo and Yamanote train lines in a narrow strip along Meiji Dori. The current incarnation of the “park” was a prototypical example of Futuristic Tokyo remodeling a city for the 1964 Olympic games, with little input from the public. In one fell swoop the city ok’d turning Shibuya River into a drainage conduit, and the park was redeveloped on man-made land above a new parking lot just behind the infamous Nonbeiyokocho, Drunkard’s Alley. Removed from ground level and public sightline, once the 90s recession hit, the disenfranchised real estate speculators turned homeless who couldn’t pay back the usurious rates the yakuza offered loans at moved into their own penthouse walkup. Talk about prime location.

But it started well before that. Even as early as the late 60s, activists on both the left and the right used the park as a starting point for marches and protests, while locals who frequented Miyashita said that undesirables were beginning to occupy its steps and bathrooms, leaving them feeling unsafe in their own neighborhood. Once the park became the crux of a superficial battle for old Tokyo to keep its traditional ways versus the new age of Times Square-like remodeling in Japanese society, the larger question of what is public space left the public out of picture. To some, who would say that with Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine just north, and picturesque Shinjuku Gyoen Garden and the manicured grounds of Akasaka palace beyond that, there is plenty of “green space” available, what does the public want with a relatively unimportant little strip of land filled with rats, roaches and homeless drunks on top of a parking lot?

Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

STOP: Opposition to the Nikization of Miyashita Park (from Irregular Rhythm Asylum)

Others might counter that since the Meiji-dori entrance to this green space has long been the gathering point for local protests and grass roots activists, and that the park belongs to everyone–including the j-pop dance teams rehearsing choreography, embarrassed rockabilly greasers not ready for the Yoyogi spotlight, as well as scores of Rojousha or “road people” that populate its narrow boundary–not just whomever can pay the 200 yen to skate or climb the rock wall that local council members helped facilitate through their neighborhood beautification program sponsored by Nike Japan. Peter Shimokawa from The Coalition to Protect Miyashita Park from Becoming Nike Park wrote in Open Letter: Park Development Threatens Local Community that, “though Miyashita Park is publicly owned by the Shibuya Ward, local residents were not involved in the negotiations of this project. Rather, only the head of the Shibuya Ward and a few local congressional members made the deal with NIKE Japan, without consultation with either residents or the local congressional assembly. The project will transform Miyashita Park from a public space, available to all, to a private, consumer-oriented space.”

The public space was co-opted by Shibuya Ward at the behest of greater Tokyo Prefecture during the preparation for the 1964 Olympics. It was transformed from a public to consumer-oriented space at that time. If you consider that everyone has not only the right, but the duty to defend it from private takeover, isn’t it a bit late? Unless, consumer-oriented space is exactly what most everyone wants. Looking at the layout of Miyashita Park, it could be said that it finally conceptually matches Tokyo as the vast urban sea of concrete and glass built during this formative period. The romantic notion of cherry trees decorating simple pastures of green alongside any number of tiny waterway veins lining the greater Tokyo basin is a delusion, as that too is a mere false construction of an imaginary past. Now–beyond the rock wall–there is a futsal pitch and a skate park over which elms shade the multitudes of both young and old who come here to play, exercise and escape the megalopolis surrounding them.

Similar to other public works projects ostensibly meant to benefit the citizenry–the covering of Tokyo’s waterways as well as a designation of no-homeless zone–converting Miyashita from a public to a commercial site would seem to benefit a only relatively small percentage of the population: those interested in activities Nike deems shoe-worthy: footballing, rock-climbing and skating. The question is, is that good or bad? And according to and for whom? It is undeniable that since the renovation, the park is more crowded, the Futsal pitch lined with professionally clad players and spectators, the rockwall seething with anxious queuers, and the skatepark brimming with both young and old skaters. The park has become a gathering place for youth to partake in activities not related to sliding, swinging, or spinning. People have returned. It seems the park is, once again, in bloom. Even if it is a bit contrived and covered in bits of day-glo colored plastic.


Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Miyashita Park Bike Tunnel circa 2007

Personally, I have history here. The first time I came to Tokyo in 2000 a group of pale-faced graduates and I walked from Shibuya station to Shinjuku through Harajuku’s Neko-dori, and never have I been so inundated with garish signage and obnoxious visual noise as in these few miles. After finally finding an okonomiyaki place and navigating the menu, we walked back the same route and as we approached the intersection where Neko-dori meets Meiji-dori and the train tracks cross the road, I saw a man lying on a piece of cardboard on the sidewalk near some stairs that led up to the overcross, and just beyond were a grove of trees. Noticing the stairs I led the pack of us up to the park and as we walked through the dimly lit grounds, our clamorous voices quieted to whispers. The interior was dark, a shadowy shanty town of cardboard houses covered in blue tarps, both small and large with locking doors and curtained windows, even space for their shoes just outside. These, along with two-man dome tents and other more coffin-like creations, lined the various nooks of the park, the luckier of the squatters filling them out with patio areas complete with plastic chairs, tables covered in beer and sake one-cups, and even gas powered barbeques. We passed piles of garbage loosely collected in plastic convenience store bags overflowing from the unattended trash cans, where ravens and rats openly competed for bits of instant noodle and old onigiri. Noticing the perimeter of the park was cordoned off with fencing, our crew grew silent as we shuffled through what seemed more and more like a kind of prison. One girl approached a clothesline with hundreds of translucent plastic umbrellas hanging and touching one, made a joke that if we were ever caught in the rain…when suddenly a machinegun of angry Japanese emanated from some dark corner of the bushes, saying roughly, “Get the fuck away from my umbrellas you stupid foreigner!” Smiles faded into fearful looks as the neon glow from adjacent restaurants glittered in our eyes. We quickly and quietly exited the park, coming out into Nonbeiyokochou, the tiny conglomeration of old-Edo style restaurants and bars populated with a contrasting cast of well-heeled salarymen and stylish young people eating and drinking, shouting and laughing, smoking and putting the night cap on yet another day. Just steps from the one another, two distinctive worlds co-existing, both pretending the other wasn’t there.

Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Salarymen Tippling in Shibuya’s Nonbeiyokocho

Years later, I moved to Tokyo and Nonbeiyokocho became my second home. I worked as bartender in one of the same tiny establishments for more than a year and became one of the home crew, so to speak. It didn’t take long before I grew immune to the “neighbors upstairs” and came to understand how the locals view them as invisible. “Shogganai ne…” everyone would agree if it ever happened to be brought up. As a member of the itinerant “Tokyo Beats” joke photo crew, I used the park as an ad-hoc photo studio background on numerous occasions, after which we would drink numerous cans of Asahi Super Dry whilst fixing the world’s problems in its comforting environs. I came to find it as cozy, and despite the wafting odor of the accumulated garbage piles on especially humid days, I would stroll end to end in a comfortable escape from the manic and vapid consumerism of Shibuya whenever I could.

I myself have always had moments of inner dilemma with homelessness, the intractable problems created by modern society and the detritus of super-capitalism. Despite the luxury lavished on the few, some make it and some don’t, while most just struggle to make it day to day. That pragmatic, socializing voice in my head, warned me, “If you don’t keep up, that’ll be you screaming at some young lady about your umbrella collection from your cardboard condo!” Scary as that may sound, I have courted the thought as well, foolishly romantic as it may be, to chuck it all–the job, the apartment, the rent, the clothes, the bank account, the iPhone, the social security card, the internet, the media, TV, movies, marriage, kids, vacation, school, doctors–all of it, to go and be Rip Van Winkle somewhere in the unpopulated foothills and forget the absurd nonsense of modern life. But I don’t. Not many do. Certainly not by choice. Mostly because it wouldn’t be all that romantic–what with police persecution, social stigma, and the ever-shrinking area of land that is free, or public, space. Taking that final step scares me. Mostly because I don’t feel I have the specific strength of character to look into the faces of most everyone without self-pity, or shame, or not being able to hold eye contact. A thing which is not as inherently important, and my even be insulting, in Asia, but after sitting down with some of the same guys living in Miyashita park, and having some beers together, when they want to hammer something home–to be understood–they do it, they hold your eye. That, and they almost all say the same thing: they’re not from Tokyo.

“I’m not from Kanto, none that I know here are.” says one man, ashing his Mild 7 smoke into the park’s dirt floor. Kyushu, Kansai, and Tohoku-bred sons (and to a lesser extent, daughters) line the narrow lane where they are allowed to sleep. Which is no longer in the park itself, but below in the thin strip of land between the concrete exterior of the parking garage and the railing demarcating the uncovered motorcycle/bicycle parking in the alley behind Meiji-Dori. “Things happen. Time passes. I was unlucky. I have money now, but I choose to live here. Why not?” Some nod, others merely me, distrusting me for my interest in them, and my foreignness. They are at heart, still Japanese, and nurse a healthy skepticism of all things outsider. And being from a country of roughly 90% homogeneity, they could easily blend in to the monotonous crowd of black- and grey-clad salary-folk daily scurrying throughout the Shibuya station tableau. In some respect, this homelessness–or antagonism toward being easily labeled–is a more longterm form than the other more straightforward form of public protest, a modern kind of civil disobedience, for a society that disdains full frontal confrontation.


Homeless Makeover of Miyashita Park

Old & New – Miyashita Nike Park Triptych

The headline reads: Politician Creates Commercial Venture On Public Site With Major Corporation – Does Not Consult Public. That in itself does not seem very new or controversial, to Japan or any other Super-Capitalistic Society. The fact is that space is limited in a market-based world economy, and as the homeless are seen as non-economic contributors to society (they don’t have much in the way of lobbyists, advocates-excepting the excellent Sanya-based NPO Sanyukai, or marketing campaigns), they get pushed to the red edges of the ledger, a fact with which we have all learned to live. But on an island whose capital city fringe grows ever more crowded, as the distinction between the legislative branch and the corporate world becomes more and more blurry, the deep pulse of humanity’s desire to benefit all becomes clouded over by fiscal goals to benefit the ultra-rich corporate minority and bury the mistakes of the past. So Miyashita Park becomes Miyashita Nike Park (although the change never officially took place, it remains the de facto name) and the blue tarp cardboard dwellers get moved to a neat row along the bike park below. For now. What happens to them when the municipality begins work on renovating the nearby Yoyogi National Stadium in preparation for the Handball Finals at the 2020 Olympics? Pass legislation funding the expansion of train lines, stations, expressways and stadium compounds. Attach discretionary funding to hire more police. Begin food program to round up homeless and ship to Gunkanshima. Produce Reality TV Show where homeless people battle for stash of Sake One Cups titled: Road People Battle Royale. In a mechanical commercial society of spiritless automatons where building Babel TV Towers (Skytree) and Olympic handball courts take precedence over providing sustenance to its totality of citizens, the question remains, is that what we want?

The Wildest Dream – Beautiful Documentary Of Death On Everest

The Wildest Dream – Beautiful Documentary Of Death On Everest

The central question to The Wildest Dream (Anthony Geffen, 2010), the story of Conrad Anker going back to Everest 8 years after discovering George Mallory’s body in 1999, to revisit the 1924 expedition undertaken by Mallory and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine: was George Mallory the first to summit Mt. Everest? Anker is a compelling protagonist and an expert mountaineer, who drags a youthful and adept climber Leo Houlding along with him to retrace the steps of the infamous pair—often employing the same clothing, shoes and equipment—in their trailblazing ascent.

The Wildest Dream – Beautiful Documentary Of Death On Everest

The Wildest Dream - Film Cover

The Wildest Dream (Anthony Geffen, 2010)

Much like anyone who has realized aspirations as high and as dangerous as Everest, both Anker and his wife have known tragedy. In his mountaineering career, he has lost close friends who were experts of their craft. Which begs the question – why do it? The infamous answer by the film’s phantom protagonist, George Mallory—Because it’s there—seems less likely than, because NatGeo’s backing it. Despite gorgeous visuals and good editing, the film lacks the gravitas necessary to get the weight of the issue across, and too lightly attempts to portray the decision-making difficulty of daring the potential death of the Sherpa team as well as himself, between Anker and his wife waiting at base camp.

Mallory’s wife Ruth was waiting patiently in England for her husband to conquer the mountain and come home to her. That never happened. What did happen is up for supposition. We learn that when Anker found Mallory’s body he did not find the picture of his wife Mallory had promised to place atop the summit should he make it. It was also not among his papers in his breast pocket, yet a recently penned letter to Ruth was. So where did it go? Did Mallory achieve summit and place the photo where he reported he would, or did the well-known absent-minded mountaineer merely lose it while shuffling last-minute through his papers?

Using voiceover narration of well-known Liam Neeson to guide the viewer through Anker’s attempt and the story of Mallory and the 1924 expedition, Geffen interweaves archival footage amid the correspondence of Mallory and his wife Ruth (read excellently by Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson) with stunning footage from cinematographers Ken Sauls and Chris Openshaw of the approach to Everest from Tibet, the approach that Mallory picked out from sight in 1919. Adding CG maps and illustrations fashion the film into the tech-savvy docu-drama so coveted by modern day couch potato adrenaline junkies.

The Wildest Dream - Mallory & Irvine Redux

The Wildest Dream – Mallory & Irvine Redux

Mallory and Irvine disappeared from the visibility of John Noel’s cameras a mere 800 feet from the summit. A sudden storm rolled in and they were never seen alive again. Could they have made summit—exhausted and with little oxygen left—in the whipping wind and stinging snow? Separating them from the peak at a height of 8,610 meters (28,250 ft) was the Second Step, a prominent upwelling of rock jutting 40 meters into the air. Since a Chinese climbing team attached a ladder in 1975 this step has not had the significance it would have had to a team climbing without modern technology in the midst of a sudden storm, such as Mallory would have faced. When Anker climbed it on the expedition where Mallory’s body was found in 1999, he did not judge that a climber without modern technology could have free climbed it. After having the ladder removed in 2007 and successfully mounting the great step, would he change his mind?

If mostly left unanswered, these questions are at least all brought to the table. A more detailed account of all of the British expeditions can be found in Wade Davis’ Into The Silence – The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest reviewed here. If the stunning visuals of Everest alone aren’t sufficient, the reemergence of Mallory from the ashes of obscurity should be more than enough to prod any arm chair mountaineer to procure the blu-ray for a video session before the next big climb.

Now Tsukiji, Now You Don’t

Photographs by Bahag de Guzman
Words by Erin Emocling

“Now Tsukiji, Now You Don’t” is an accidental photo-series that explores a closed-for-the-day Tsukiji Fish Market: a visually saturnine preview of its scheduled relocation in preparation for the Olympics in Tokyo on 2020.

You’re standing in the middle of this alleyway, living in the present, and you enter the vast and moving world of Tsukiji—a world-famous fish market in the heart of Tokyo that pumps its own blood every waking dawn, an almost 80-year old marketplace that gave sashimi and sushi their tasteful, incomparable meaning to the rest of the world, and, sadly, an old place that is bound to be deconstructed within a number of months from now.

You’re in a time travel machine, you peek into the near future, and you enter the vast and deadened world of Tsukiji. You imagine an ocean without creatures, a land denuded of trees, and a planet devoid of oxygen. You imagine these tragic scenes and you feel your heart crumble with melancholy, fear, and abandonment.

This is Tsukiji like never before: dark, lifeless, and cold. You step onto its moist pavement and, immediately, you feel like you’re on a set of an apocalyptic film, except what you see—and what you don’t see—is real. You are aware that everything that used to run the place into a breathing mishmash of reality will soon completely vanish. You know that someday, everything in Tsukiji will turn into nothing.

You walk to and fro. You see no one, no movement, but the flicker of unwanted fish scales scattered on the cobblestones and the natural light that illuminates its emptiness all the more. You examine the place more closely.

Too closely. But the only sounds you hear are the mechanical howls of machinery noise and the occasional taunts of thieving crows. The fishmongers’ irrashaimase are nothing but imaginary echoes. Inside the deadened Tsukiji, everything, or nothing, is right in front of you.

The sought-after edible sea creatures will remain uncut and unserved. Wooden crates and plastic foam boxes will remain unstacked, untouched. Rust-laden machines, including filthy but useful wheel-barrows, will be forgotten, unused, decomposed. Its shallow streets will become sadder. All the Japanese characters on the signboards will be ignored and fade away. All the tables and weighing scales will be tossed aside. And all the blood-drenched floors and tools will dry to death. But to those who have Tsukiji as their world, committing these into memories is the only way to immortalize what’s going to be left behind.

Life would not be put to a halt. But some things can never be replaced. They just dwell as reminiscences. Tsukiji was once a place that breathed life. And so tomorrow, when you look back, you’ll always say that: Tsukiji will never be the same again.

Bahag de Guzman is both a filmmaker and a photographer based in Tokyo and Hokuriku. His most recent works include Alienistics Fashion, Mainichi Japan, and Animalistics, to name a few. He is currently working on various documentaries and event coverage around Japan. Check out his site.

Erin Emocling is a published writer, a film photographer, and the editor-in-chief of an international webzine, Parallel Planets. Her past projects include Whilst We Wait and Paranoirexia. Originally from Manila, she now lives in western Tokyo. Now Tsukiji, Now You Don’t originally appeared here.

Sakurajima Erupts - Kyushu Citizens Recite Poetry - Get Drunk - Life Goes On

Sakurajima Erupts – Kyushu Citizens Recite Poetry – Get Drunk – Life Goes On

Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sakurajima Erupts – Kyushu Citizens Recite Poetry – Get Drunk – Life Goes On

Sakurajima (aka Cherry Tree Island) is a very active stratovolcano located in Kinko Bay in Kagoshima, Kyushu, the farthest away from everywhere else in the southwestern most tip of Japan. Part of the Aira Caldera and once an actual island, Sakurajima is made up of three distinct volcanic peaks, only one of which is a surly bastard — Minami-dake — Southern Peak, how’s that for a menacing name. This Southern Peak is fuming semi-poisonous smoke and ash nearly non-stop, so it’s hard to take seriously unless something big happens. Like the peak’s lava flows from the very large 1914 eruption which connected Osumi Peninsula, thus erasing its chances for the big Most Dangerous Island contest put on by Unesco World Heritage Site Planning Committee 1915. After erupting for the 500th time in August 2013 the 1117-meter peak left the city of Kagoshima covered with volcanic ash, causing train delays, poor visibility, some awkward skyward glances, and not much else. So inured to the dreary quotidian reality of life in the shadow of a fire-breathing, lightning-spewing dragon mountain, the residents of Kagoshima, who were advised to use masks and umbrellas to protect themselves from the ash, didn’t feel at all put out or inconvenienced. Only slightly more dull than the area fireworks that happen sporadically throughout the year, the eruption sent a volcanic plume 5000 meters in the air, and many yawned behind their masks, shuffling along beneath cheap translucent 100 yen umbrellas, and searched out the local sake bar to see what the Mama had made for dinner.

A Self defense Force Submarine Surfaces in  Kinko Wan as the sun rises over Sakurajima, Kagoshima

A Self defense Force Submarine Surfaces in Kinko Wan as the sun rises over Sakurajima, Kagoshima

A small stone Buddha at Enmeiji Temple

Kubikiri Jizo – Decapitation Buddha – Enmeiji Shrine

Located in a nook just below Minami-Senju Station in little-traveled Arakawa, Tokyo is Enmeiji Temple. The temple, just down a sidestreet beneath the station, is located in the southeastern part of Tokyo’s northern ward of Arakawa, one of the poorest sections of the city. A few blocks to the east of the Sumida River in between which lay the disavowed neighborhood of Sanya, the home of Sanyukai–the largest free medical clinic in Tokyo. Being located in the northeast of Tokyo’s predecessor, Edo, a main cause of the modern-day poverty dates back to the fourteenth century when the Edo rulers believed that evil spirits came from the northeast, and as a result only those known as the Burakumin–executioners, undertakers, slaughterhouse workers, butchers and tanners–those with kegare (穢れ or “defilement”) attached to them, were able to live there.

Kubikiri Jizo – Decapitation Buddha – Enmeiji Shrine

A small stone Buddha at Enmeiji Temple

A small stone Buddha at Enmeiji Temple

Recently popular as an underground tourist destination, due to its cheap hostels, Minami Senju was once more infamous for Kozukappara Execution Grounds, one of the three sites in Edo, where the Tokugawa Shogunate (1650-1873) executed criminals. Anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 people were executed at Kozukappara for crimes ranging in seriousness dependent on the whims of the laws of the current shogun. Apocryphally, medical students and doctors studied anatomy here by dissecting the remains of fresh corpses. And although executions were stopped during the Meiji period to coincide with the westernization of Japan and the death knell of Bushido, traces of the past continue to slip through the veil of denial where today, the vast majority of the grounds, once the size of a football field, are covered by railway tracks: the new death sentence for the modern defiled.

That veil is Enmeiji Temple, which goes as far back as that of the the creation of Kozukappara itself. Created in order to bury the bodies of those executed, the temple is a small nook compared to what it once must have been. Watching over and offering solace to the departed souls of the executed, erected in 1741, a 3.5 meter tall Buddha statue called “Kubikiri Jizo” stands in the temple compound, smiling its Mona Lisa smile, surrounded by lesser Jizo and other Buddhist carvings and inscriptions.

Knowing that you stand on soil that has had the blood of 200,000 “criminals” soaked into it, standing in the entrance of Enmeiji a strange sentiment comes over you, if anything comes at all. Distracted by the wind whipping by and the interminable click-clacking of the trains, not much else ever happens here anymore. Just the silent stare of the stone Buddha and the sun and rain. But maybe that’s why it has a kind of beauty, admittedly desolate, but true nonetheless.

Page 2 of 6

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén