Saturday, 3 October 2009

Final day|lecture @ Printing Museum

The final whole day in Tokyo. Some pleasure and some business. I meet Yoshiro, his wife & son at 10am. They were my guides for the morning. It was an awful day rain but veru warm, they said its due to the two typhoons on their way. Our first stop was the tourist area of Asakusbashi. Many visitors to the area due to the stalls and temple. It was difficult dodging the umbrellas and puddles. I wanted to stop and browse the stalls but the Japanese are not ones for such things, well my great hosts weren't. We went for lunch in a soba house. My first soba experience, like any other a little apprehensive. I watched as the others carried their eating etiquette out. Soba is a buckwheat noodle, eaten cold (or hot) which you place in your soya, wasabi and relish mix then slurp (loudly). It was lovely very refreashing but eaten at great speed and then we were off again.
Post lunch we did a quick visit to Akihabara - electric city. As the title says its an electric feast.

To the business part of the day...the printing museum-Toppan. Where my lecture would take place. First we toured the show and watched the letterpress workshop in action (part of the museum and on display). Three pm Yoshiro and I set about delivering the presentation. He was so worried that i would keep to the written script as he had translated and was to read from it. This is a awful way to deliver a talk. It is so artificial and cold, unfortunately for him i just had to add some new words etc but never again without a trained interpreter as they recite what you say!
However i think it wasn't as bad as i thought as we had many questions and lots of people came up afterwards to talk to me.

A final meal followed with five of the societies members (from the typography for science of design). This was alittle trippy as 80% of the conversations was in Japanese and i just wanted to lie down.

Now i am
The experience is almost over. Am i relieved? Yes as i am so tired its untrue. But i have a great experience in Tokyo and had a wonderful host...

'The plane boss, the plane...

Friday, 2 October 2009

Day 5 | Musashino

The last day of the workshop/project, day 5. My last 80min journey to work via train & then bus. Being almost the only western bound that way. The day was a busy one with students frantically finishing their posters, designing to the last minute. A different kind of relationship today as i sat down on the computer with them, adjusting elements and reviewing work as they printed off tests. An interactive session with students. Yoshiro and i took a few of the students to lunch to the staff canteen, where we slurped our noodles together over Japanese tea and smiles. My slurping was very British 'reversed' and messy. Theirs noisey and rapid. I am amazed at my chop stick skills as i even ate cake today with them!

The afternoon session saw work being printed on the large format printer. Students returned to the studio with Cheshire smiles and their glossy designs. Out of the 15 students 13 completed and displayed their outcomes. A good review took place with the interpreter taking over from Yoshiro. I started the session off by giving them 3 coloured post-its. Each coloured represented a criteria (best typeface , best poster and best name). They had to vote. This loosened the review up and became from interactive and fluid. Nothing worse than having to do all the work! Students asked many questions at the end about western designs and they seemed eager that they had that style! They were also concerned if they were 'different' from western students. The students expressed that they enjoyed the project and the speed in which they produced such work and that they had not had this type of experience before and had never designed a poster either.

At 5.30pm they had arranged a reception where there was a feast of food and drinks. Many other students attended and a few staff members. Yoshiro gave a speech and toast and i had to summerise at the end of the drinks (with interpreter in tow). This finished about 8pm...another long day at Musashino. I certainly have earned my crust.

I have to say Yoshiro has been an amazing host and has certainly looked after me over the week. He is a really lovely man and you can see the care and passion he has for the subject and his students.

Only one day remains and i still have work to do! Tomorrow Yoshiro and his family (!) are meeting me at my hotel at 10am for a morning tour of Tokyo. Then at 3pm i have a lecture to give to the Japanese Society of Typography/Science for Design (gulp)...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Day 4 | Musashino

Day 4 of the project, which began with students frantically finishing their 26 letters for a review.
The final part of the project was briefed and students looked exhausted at the prospect of designing a poster to promote their new typeface by tomorrow afternoon. Yoshiro and i spent the morning reviewing their work on an 1-2 ratio. While the rest of the students began designing their posters. There was certainly an air of pressure and stress within the studio. I got the impression they are not used to this style of quick turn around projects. I was slightly surprised as they are year 3 students.

The afternoon Yoshiro took me to the poster collection. Which is an archive of international posters from approx 80 years until now. They were housed in a dark room in plastic sleeves, locked away. This is a missed opportunity to view them and shout about such an amazing collection.

The hour came. My open lecture to MAU at 4.30pm. A good turn out and a successful talk (even if the delay of interpretation was odd). Several questions from the audience showed more where awake than thought. Glad to have got that out of the way. Now on the home straight. Final project day tomorrow and then the final lecture on Saturday pm.

No exciting evening meal to report, just a bowl of pasta and sauce which was a great change from fish!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Day 3| Musashino Art Uni

Finally a proper nights sleep, no waking at 2am. At last i also had a mini lay in, which i so needed and a morning to myself. I went off to Ginza the expensive 'designer' area to meet an alumni at the Ginza graphic gallery. However i never got there...certainly got lost in Tokyo for almost two hours. I was told the 'young' people of this area would speak English and help with directions. Well when i manged to speak with a 'young' person they said right but pointed left, another said left and pointed right. As you can imagine i went in circles until my time ran out and i had to travel to Musashino (which is an hour and half away) for an afternoons teaching.

The afternoon session was more productive as students were busy progressing their alphabet designs. I do not think they have such short projects here and it felt as if they were relishing the challenge. 70% of the year group (and course) are girls and with no female tutors i think i have brought something new to them. I asked Prof Yoshiro why so many girls and not boys...'it's because the girls are much brighter than boys'. To attend this university you have to do an exam, part written and maths and the other drawing and colour tasks. Boys do not do well with the written and maths parts by all accounts. They have approx 1,500 applicants for 120 places!

So tomorrow i have a full days teaching followed by an early evening lecture which is open to all students and staff at the! They have even printed posters of the union jack to promote it.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

day 2|musashino

Day 2 at Musashino was a much better day as both myself and the students had settled into each others way of working. They had made good progress with the homework tasks as we began the day with a review of the letter forms that they had produced. Students began to view each letter form as an individual character and then the relationships with each letter as a whole unit.
By the end of a long day even laughter began to flow between us as better non verbal communication took shape. Prof Yoshiro's translations and my pointing techniques worked well as a double act.

Hoping for a night in front of Japanese TV, Yoshiro invited me out (once again) with his wife for sushi. You just can not say no, even when you are on your last legs. What a meal followed. The most adventurous sushi i have had. Jelly fish, collagen, rare seaweed with eggs, more urchin eggs and other things we did not know the translations for. It was a very challenging meal and i am rapidly needing sometime off fish. Obviously accompanied by sake. My poor internal system has had a bashing.

Looking forward to the morning off on Wednesday and a visit to Ginza Graphic Gallery to meet up with an alumni from Teals MA course at LCC. Then back to MAU for an afternoon session. But please no more meals for a bit...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Day 1|Musashino art university

Oh my god! I have just spent 13 hours on my feet with the Japanese professors, students and a Tokyo working day. It all began at 6.30am when the alarm rang, and i had only got to sleep three hours since (not due to partying but being awake). Breakfast on the 20th floor with stunning views of Tokyo's fake 'empire state building' and the sprawl of never ending buildings.
Travel there was relatively smooth and i meet Prof Yoshoiro outside Kokobunji station where we then boarded a packed bus to ride for 20 mins to the University.

Those in education may not want to read this next part. Teachers here have assistants. They make coffee for you in the morning, set up IT, prepare info and at times fend of students! What a different world. Perhaps that is were the differences end. Japanese students are like any others in the UK. They fall asleep during a talk! Yes i spotted two nodding off , at times look disinterested and others a little lazy. But then we also share the great parts when students, get excited about what they are doing, discuss their ideas openly, produce some surprising things.

It was an odd day really as i had an interpreter follow me until 2pm, almost like an echo but a different sounding echo. It is really odd as you have to stop for them to repeat what you have said, then you loose your rhythm and thoughts. Not an easy thing. But when she left things got difficult. A good days work from the students by the end of the day. I wonder if they will all turn up tomorrow? Yoshiro said over the years he has noticed a change in attitudes, commitment etc.

There are 'big ben' chimes that announce the start of sessions 9am and end of the day 4.10pm. It felt slightly like communism was somewhere. After the students left with homework tasks. We headed on a tour of the University. I met many other people, exchanged business cards and met a product designer from St. Martins on a weeks exchange.

My welcome meal was in Kokbunji apartment store at a typical Japanese restaurant with four men! A lovely meal of plenty and no surprises this time just sashimi. They laughed about the 'farewell meal'...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Eclectric Tokyo

My free day was a struggle at first as all i wanted to do was go back to bed after breakfast. But how many times do you get the chance to be in Tokyo? Fatigued or not i was doing to tackle Tokyo head on. My first port of call was the Japanese social thing shopping. Tokyo Hands, a department store that sold everything imaginable. Seven floors of gadgetry and wears. Those that know my shopping habits, know that this is a dream for me. Aisle browsing. Even their toilets were a treat.

Which brings me onto toilet etiquette here. There are toilet doors with different signs. Japanese style, international & ones with spray symbols on them.A vast choice when in a hurry. My first experience was at the airport. Going into a 'spray' marked one uncovered a hidden world for me. This toilet had a extra unit attached to it, with many buttons and symbols. You could play an imaginary flushing noise while doing your business or wash your parts with different temperatures, different spray powers and even have a heated seat. Perhaps this is just too much. However, with one very similar in my hotel room I am now practised.

After aisle browsing i took myself off in search of greenery, but got lost and seemed to be trapped in the neon streets of shops for ages. East has met west. Universal shops everywhere!
I finally returned to a familiar place and plucked up the guts to try a train/metro trip to a place. Now that sounds easy but it's the biggest station in Japan! It has more exits and lines/platforms than clapham does by a long way. Plus the volume of people, confusing signs and oh the Japanese script. To get to my destination was an achievement. Now, I feel i can tackle almost any trip.

My afternoon transformed me into a typical tourist and i went to a shrine, a walk in the park and took photos of the famous teddy boys and harajuku girls. (Photos attached of them and the dog!)
By the time i returned worn out it seemed Shinjku had even got busier.

Now to prepare for tomorrow's teaching and an early start. Meeting Yoshiro (which means i have to navigate a different line at rush hour) at a station and then we need to catch a bus to Musashino. What will the day hold....