Monday, March 31, 2008

Japan 7.-18.3.08

I don't know where to begin... This was my first visit to the land of the rising sun and it was absolutely pleasant over all! We performed with Mnemopark in Kawasaki and Tokyo. I always had the idea that Japan is well organized and efficient society, but the truth of it managed nonetheless surprise me. It has never been so easy! And big thanks for this goes to the very professional and nice staff of Tokyo International Arts Festival.

Very first glimpse of Tokyo on the day of our arrival.

Surroundings in Japan were very comfortable and even the weather was our friend most of the time. The spring was just arriving and plum-trees starting to bloom. For cherry-trees we were couple of weeks early, but the blossoms were very pretty anyway.

Plum or cherry, who cares, pretty!!

Kawasaki in the setting sun.

But there was some hardships to confront also. During the transport from Germany to Japan, one of our cases had collapsed with quite earthshaking results in the scale of 1:87. Some modules were almost completely squeezed flat. Such a tragedy, since building those things contains hundreds of hours of work and enormous amount of love and passion. Luckily it was possible to somewhat patch things up with glue. Insurance claim follows...

Sad sight.

Performing in Japan was curious experience also language-ways. It's rare in Europe that you work in a community of which language you don't understand one word. And working in Japan went smoothly despite the occasional lack of words, no question about that, but it's just amusing and amazing to see how the familiar stuff translates to Japanese kanjus. I took loads of picture of the show just because of the cool subtitling.

Familiar stuff with a new approach.

I really appreciated and liked working in Japan. Locals took such a good care of us, even after working hours. I met some really cool persons and I'm really hoping for a chance to see them again in the future. My translator, Sonoko, was more than worth her weight in gold, also because of all the additional information she told me about the society and ways of living in Japan. I really wish we can to the Ghibli Museum the next time I get to go to Tokyo!!

I feel also privileged having had the chance to meet the head lighting technician, Makiko, who is very clever person with very efficient ways of solving all the problems that might show up. I can warmly recommend her and all the crew from Factor company that were helping us out!

Sonoko, me and Makiko.

Me and the Factor crew and the Alps.

There was some time for leisure activities also, especially in latter part of our stay, in Tokyo. Locals took us to some very nice restaurants to sample some Japanese specialities,of which I was more than happy about, since I just absolutely love Japanese kitchen.

Maria in Fry-it-yourself restaurant in Kawasaki.

Not all the food loooked so yummy,
but taste was good anyhow. This is a fish roe omelet =)

We also visited some of Tokyo's landmarks. The truth is though, that tokyo is so huge place that we only got a little sample of all it could offer. -Like our director Stefan put it - Tokyo in a scale of 1:87. Below collection of pic's of that.

Room with a view:
Sight from our 32th floor hotel room
in Sunshine City Prince Hotel.

Big spider sculpture at Roppongi Hills.

Streetscape in Ikebukuro district.

As the photo says, Sunshine City, Ikebukuro.

Harajuku in the morning.

Hellooooooooooo Kitty in Kiddyland toystore!

Some pop fashion in Harajuku.

We also tried the very Japanese thing, karaoke, of course. Our translators took us to this place called "Little Tokyo", where you can rent a booth for couple of hours. In this room you have wholly digitalized karaoke-system and you can order food and drinks too. In this way Japanese way of doing karaoke differs from Finnish one, which is quite familiar to me. In Finland you can only do karaoke publicly in pubs or bars, where everybody hears your best effort. In Japan you can sing your heart out in bit more private way, only your friends hear you.

Rahel and translator Maki's duet.
- Maki speaks fluent Swiss German, by the way =) =)

All in all, I would love to go back to Japan anytime, no question about that! Next time I will try to catch the cherry blossoms and Ghibli among other things. There is so much cool and also peculiar stuff to explore, that one could easily spend two years instead of two weeks in there.
Otskame sama desta all my new friends!

Last but not the least: one of the peculiarities....
(click to enlarge)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bruxelles 25.2-1.3.08

I've been to Brussel before, but this time it showed totally different face than before. We were performing with Mnemopark at Halles de Schaerbeek, in turkish district of the city. Only couple of kilometres north from the place I visited last time, but worlds apart in atmosphere and surroundings. Turkish region seems to be sympathetic, and working in the "halles" was very smooth, too. Pleasant experience alltogether. The staff was very professional and extremely friendly.

So, since it felt almost like a vacation for me, I'll post some pictures here along those lines.

Market on Rue Royale Sainte Marie on Friday morning.

Colorful fabrics 2€ / meter.

Botanical garden.

Some charasterictics that remind me of Narnia
-without winter.

In Brussel it was pleasant app. +10 degrees and occasionally it felt very "springly" there. Allthough the weather wasn't the best possible, mostly bit gray, there was definately some clear signs of spring arriving. All the small colorful flowers blooming in the garden made me feel happy.

A weird one...

Some views of the downtown:

Entrance of the theatre "Toome".

Restaurant district near Grand Place.
- delicious sea food.

The official and mandatory "tourist snap-shot".

And finally, on the last day, the sky was
incredibly blue and the city seemed so pretty.

And then back to the reality:
Helsinki-Vantaa airport,
1.3.2008, 23:10,
+1'C, wind 23 meters / sec

Finland -in a hurry

Raatikko called me to do the light design for their new inter-active production for children. I have very little free time in my agenda, but I promised to squeeze it in. So, I was in Tikkurila for a week to figure the concept out. The premiere will be in mid-March, when I'm in Japan, so I have to pull it all together way in advance and in only a few days. Luckily, I have couple of more days in the very beginning of March.

My time in Finland was not only work. I had the rare chance to meet with the girls of "Valotytöt" - the light designer girls association (freely translated). It was nice to see them since a very long time and to catch up eith what everybody is busy with. It seems that "light-girls" are doing good, lots of projects going on. Great!

I also went to Tampere to meet with my oldest and dearest friends. Ulla and Esa have finally moved in their long-awaited own house, which is a nice and characteristic place built in 50's. We had a girls' night over there with Ulla, Leila and Päivi: some sauna, fondue, couple of beers and Sing Star Legends on PS3.

Friends gathered around the fondue pot
after excellent wood-heated sauna.

Basler Fasnacht 2008

Lately I've been extremely busy with my diploma work for the Theatre Academy, so I haven't had time to make many entries. But it doesn't mean I haven't experienced anything.

In the mid-February there was the traditional "Fasnacht"-event in Basel. It is very traditional street-event for 72 hours.

My first experience of this event was to go in the early evening to nearby Liestal, to observe also very famous "carts of fire." This tradition is based on former war-strategy of Liestal: -the local army set big fires all around the town to make the enemy believe the town was already taken over. This successful strategy is still celebrated every year, in the form of men running through the town with big carts loaded with burning wood. The route of this procession goes downhill from the highest place in the town, through the old gate and through the town centre.

Cart going through the gate.

More and more people comes to see this quite fascinating looking happening, so the thing itself suffeers a little of the abundance of spectators. In order to see something one should go early enough to get a good spot to watch.

Cart of fire.

After had having enough of fires, we returned back to Basel, to wait for the opening of the Basler Fasnacht. This is a thing called "Morgenstraih", sort of a opening whistle for the next 72 hours, which takes place at 04.00 in the morning, sharp. At this point, the whole downtown Basel switches off all the electric lights and the processions of the masquerade-clothed groups of musicians, equipped with drums and piccolo-flutes, start to wander through the streets. They have little lanterns attached to their hats and they tow different kinds of lit-up boxes with some politically sarcastic slogans. All the people of Basel seem to be on the streets, most of the dressed in imaginative carnival / masquerade outfits.

The origin of this music and procession lays again in the army-traditions, originally musicians were soldiers. Nowadays music is played by all kinds of people with different backgrounds, but in a way, it's very serious business: the bands have to apply for the permission to attend this procession and they really have to know how to play this weird and fascinating music. Most of the groups have their own home-base, where they return to take a break. This makes the city-centre very lively and colorful, since all the "normal" bars are also open all night long.

Waiting for the whistle. At 04.00 Monday morning.

Little sample of the action.

One of the carts the musicians are towing.

Detail of the decoration on one of the carts.