krash japan


miya okura in machu
May,2009. When the entire world was exposed to the H1N1 flu and an unfamiliar term like "phase 5" was used to announce a pandemic alert, we took off from Kansai International Airport. Our destination: Macau. The status of their airport and locale: unknown. All we knew was that the weather forecast said "rainy for the entire week." That was no surprise. The central character of the trip was a woman often associated with rain.

Her name is Miya Okura. A 32 year old cutout artist originally from Shimane Prefecture and residing in Kurashiki, she has exhibited her works throughout Okayama at places such as "alapaap" in Kojima, "EL-PANDOLL" in Kurashiki, and "Studio Hinoki" in Katsuyama, Maniwa-City. She was wearing her favorite pants purchased at "Tsurukame-Ya" and brand new NIKE sneakers. "I studied English conversations for this trip" she said. I could tell how much she looked forward to this trip. I could also tell how nervous she was.

Macau is officially called Macau Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. It is located 70km from Hong Kong; an hours ride on a ferry boat. It includes Macau Peninsula on the south coast of Mainland China and a small island offshore. Having been a colony of Portugal until 1999, ancient artifacts of that era are scattered about the territory and in July, 2005, eight public squares and twenty- two historic architectural sites were designated World Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO. They were called the "Historic Centre of Macau." On the other hand, it has many casinos and is well known as the "Las Vegas of the East."

The first morning after our arrival. Our hopes for a miracle to wake up to see sunny weather had been turned down, and the sky was a dreary dull color. We headed to an area called Taipa Village in misty rain. Unlike Senado Square where we took a stroll the previous night overwhelmed by the casino's neon lights, the tranquility of Taipa that is typical of a small island made us feel at ease. We walked down a narrow winding stone-paved road that reminded us of a back street of Portugal, climbed the stairs, and took refuge from the rain under a huge tree. The color of the walls of houses painted pale green, pink, and yellow stood out in the rain, increasing the exotic mood of the place.
"The entire city is full of ideas for new designs..."
An hour was spent simply walking around, but Miya's eyes were starting to glow with positive energy. The patterns of the stone-pavements, unique iron-bars on old doors, a wall with chipped paint, a pillar of an historic monument, the light on a ceiling, a relief carving on a wall, and an old sign of a restaurant. She would stop after every few steps to fervently draw a rough sketch out of impulse. The slight tension that was evident before this trip even began seemed to have completely dissolved.

We stopped for lunch right around noon. "TAILEI" was an open air café packed with customers under its wide red campus eaves. Looking up at the sky which started raining heavily again while eating noodles, KJ's Editor-in-Chief made a suggestion, "Would you want to try cutting here?"
Under about a 100 year old bo tree. Sitting at a table at the end of the terrace. The work began abruptly. A crowded restaurant in a foreign country. My worries that it would be difficult to concentrate were needless, and she immediately got into her work. Miya does not require any special tool when she works. An ordinary cutter knife and pencil available in any household, color paper, and glue are carried in a small paper box. The rough sketch she draws with pencil is very simple, andcutter knife delicately glides on paper gives the impression that she leaves everything to the spontaneity of her fingertips.
It was a busy lunch time despite the bad weather. There was an endless flow of customers and the young waiters busily moved across the floor carrying bowls and glasses. After a little while, the boy who appeared to be their leader whispered something into the ears of his co-workers. "Leave that table alone" he seemed to have instructed. The line outside the restaurant kept growing and many groups of customers asked if they could "share that table," but the answer was "no." Miya Okura's first work capturing the air of Taipa completed under the rain, the 100 year old bo tree, and the spirit of the TAILEI boys quietly watching over her.

Then a miracle happened on the second day. A peaceful blue sky going against every weather forecast. A camping table and chair brought all the way from Japan was set out on a street lined with trees chosen the previous day. It was right near TAILEI and in front of an old temple. Again, under a huge bo tree. A comfortable pure wind was sometimes blowing. At her impromptu open air studio, Miya set out to work gliding her cutter knife on color paper as if she was enjoying a picnic. " I know what I want to cut." She excitedly said and a "Galo" was created. It was a colorful rooster she came across the previous day on an old sign of a Portuguese restaurant.
"I woke up this morning realizing that the Galo had captured my heart."A Japanese woman silently moving a cutter knife outdoors is surely a strange sight, but for a while people, either out of caution or of indiffer- ence, did not approach us. Nevertheless, Miya was surrounded by middle-aged women after a while. They were tourists from Hong Kong and began speaking to her in English interestedly. "This is wonderful." "Beautiful, really beautiful." "Are they on sale?" Taken off guard, the English phrases she had supposedly studied seemed to have vanished from her mind, and Miya, who was all confused, pointed at the galo she had just completed and held both her hands open saying:
"10 Hong Kong dollars!"
After the group of women left, Miya finally came to her senses realizing that 10 Hong Kong Dollars was only worth 120 Yen. She burst into laughter saying, "It doesn't matter. I was simply pleased that someone was interested in buying my work." However, when a male college student from Taiwan stopped y half an hour later, she sold another work about the same size for 100 Hong Kong Dollars.

Evening slowly approached but there was no sign of relief from the heat. It was time to close Miya Okura's temporary studio. "It was a wonderful city. I had such a good time," she kept repeating over and over. Let's find out what the soothing rain of Taipa and the motifs left behind by its history had bestowed upon her fingertips.