Zan Yamashita in Istanbul

Zan Yamashita, a Japanese dancer and choreographer,
will have a performance on Wednesday the 21st and Thursday the 22nd the next week in Istanbul, a part of Istanbul International Contemporary Dance & Performance Festival.


He is very talented as both a dancer and a director.
His performance reflects nowadays' atmosphere of modern Japanese society,
presenting it in a experimental way but with humour.


Hello Taipei, Part 2

The traffic signals are Osaka style.
A digital display, counting down the seconds.
The signals in Osaka show the time left before the light turns green, but the ones here show the number of seconds before it turns red.
But compared to Osakans, who’re always in a hurry, the people here seem laid-back.
Even on subway station platforms, the people are relaxed. They don’t seem to get frantic.

Plenty of people cross the streets the slow way, on the pedestrian bridges.

On a subway train, a girl playing a mahjongg game on her DS.
And the businessman sitting next to me on the plane had slipped an iPhone out of his pocket and started a mahjongg game, too.
On television, four sexy-talent types sitting around a mahjongg table.

I check out Ximending too, but that type of neighborhood where the young people come to keep up with the latest fashions is pretty much the same wherever you go.
In Japan, it’s Harajuku-Shibuya, and in South Korea, it’s Seoul’s Myeong-dong, for example.

I pass through a rather quiet movie-house district and come out by the river.
No one’s out for a walk or anything.
The riverside road is speeding with motorbikes.

When I get back to my hotel, I turn on the television for the heck of it, and there’s a movie on.
The photography has a subtle touch, and I am drawn right in.
There are Chinese subtitles, so I can just barely follow the story.
(Even if we cannot speak Chinese, Japanese people use Chinese characters all the time, so when there is text, it’s possible to understand the meaning a bit.)
Or rather, the story itself is a typical melodrama, so it is easy to understand.

Chang Jia (Long Vacation)
(Not the Chinese-language version of the Japanese drama Long Vacation, which is written with the same Chinese characters.)

Set in an old working-class neighborhood of Taipei, the protagonist is a woman whose husband, a layabout food-stand hawker neglects his work and spends all his time gambling at a nearby park. They have one son, who is in grammar school. The woman is a kind, vivacious, persevering mother who works constantly to make ends meet, even as she manages all the housework and takes care of her family, but actually she has cancer, and her days are numbered. The story depicts her passing the days as she keeps this secret from her family and reflects on the last few months of her life.


A quite cinematic piece of cinema. The cloudy skies and ambiance of Taipei are etched into the film. The acting is nothing like the standard fare of Japanese movies and television dramas these days; it has a sense of reality. One gets drawn in and totally enrapt by the scenes it portrays, and then it’s over all too soon.

When I returned to Japan and looked it up, I was surprised to learn that it’s not a movie, it’s a TV drama. And I was even more surprised to learn that it was made by a young woman director named Zheng Fen Fen.
It’s prejudice; I just couldn’t imagine such a tight composition being done by a young woman director.

Television Station Website(Chinese only)
Chang Jia (Long Vacation) – Taiwan Public Television Service’s Ren Sheng Ju Zhan (Life Story) – Sina Blog

Article (Japanese only)
Ren Sheng Ju ZhanMu Qin Xi Lie (Life Story – Mother Series)

Life Story, a long-running program produced and broadcast by Taiwan Public Television Service, while suffering generally low ratings, is impressive for its high quality.
The expressiveness of the acting and the story as a whole in this year’s Mother Series casts an even stronger spell than in the programs of past seasons.
The ratings of the June 1 episode, starring Peng Qia Qia and Wan Fang, dropped to near 1%, while on the internet, it has been called the most ‘tear-jerking’ episode in the entire past ten years of Life Story.”

To tell the truth, even though there was a period when a lot of Taiwanese movies were playing in Japan (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, for example), I’ve never actually gone and seen any.
I’d decided against seeing any Taiwanese movies before my trip, because I’d thought it would be better to avoid going there with preconceptions. But I think I’ll start watching them now.

Translated by Seth Yarden

Interview with inverselive ( RIĆOR ) in Taipei


When I asked inverselive ( RIĆOR ) by email for an interview, the reply I got said, a lot of people who’ve seen only the photos think I’m a girl, but I’m a man, is that okay with you? It’s true, I’d completely taken the photographer to be a woman. The photos have that kind of delicacy.

inverselive ( RIĆOR ):

We’d agreed to meet at a café inside Eslite Bookstore, a large shop that takes up all four floors of a brand new building in a shopping area in Taipei. The atmosphere is similar to the Junkudo bookstore chain in Japan.

The two young people who appear before me are so stylish, it makes me feel a bit awkward.
inverselive ( RIĆOR ) is a tall, smiling young fellow, and accompanying him is Jasmine, one of his models, who has come as an interpreter.
They’re both quite tall.

The interview is in English. And now and then, we communicate by writing.
Putting aside the question of why two “Asians” have to speak to each other in English, straight ahead into the interview.
The statements in brackets are comments by the interviewer.

What year were you born?


So, for your generation, the internet is something that’s always been there, right?

Yes, that’s true.

Are you from Taipei?

No, I’m from central Taiwan.

The suburbs?

Well, it’s really more a rural area than a suburb.
I came to Taipei to go to university.

It sure rains a lot in Taipei.

It doesn’t rain this much where I’m from.
But the weather in Taipei has a kind of ambiance, and I kind of like it.

You live alone?


Are you a student?

Yes, at the university. I major in industrial design.
There’s always so much homework, so it’s hard.
[It sounds like it’s the same for art students everywhere.]

And when you graduate?

When I graduate, I want to become a designer or a photographer.

When did you start using Flickr?

I started on Flickr last May.
So, it’s been almost one year.

What led you to start using Flickr?

It was popular at school.
I was bored, and it seemed interesting.

Is Flickr a popular site in Taiwan?

Flickr isn’t so well known in Taiwan.
It’s only caught on in the art schools.

Are there websites for mobile phone photos and such in Taiwan?

No, there isn’t anything like those sites you have in Japan.

Sometimes the photos on Wretch come filtering down the net in Japan. Is it well-known here?

Wretch? Oh, Wu Ming. I think more people here use it than Flickr. [Apparently he knows the site by another name. We figure it out by writing it down; the literal meaning of the Chinese characters is “no name”.]

What kind of music do you like?

I listen to a lot of old movie soundtracks.

Name three of your favorite musicians.

Joe Hisaishi
Ennio Morricone
Deserts Xuan

What designers do you like?

Marc Newson
Jasper Morrison
Ross Lovegrove

What photographers do you like?

Mika Ninagawa
Daido Moriyama
[It seems that the information on Japanese photographers is very up-to-date.]

There aren’t any Taiwanese photographers who you like?

No, no one in particular.

What’s the reason you got started in photography? Do you like photos?

No special reason, I just like it.
I mean, I think that’s one of the great things about photography – there’s no need to explain it in words.

Have you ever been to Japan?

Yes, three times.
About a week all together.
Tokyo is interesting because you can feel all the energy.
Harajuku and Akihabara and Shinjuku and so on.
I like Ura-Harajuku the best.
[I’m sure if he were walking around that area, he’d fit in perfectly.]

Have you been to any other countries?

I went to the U.S. when I was very small, but I don’t remember it.

Do you ever think about working overseas?

Yes, I would like to try working overseas, in Tokyo, or in Europe or somewhere else.

Most of what you have up on Flickr are portraits. What’s your reason for taking portraits?

I do photograph other things too, but the portraits are all I’ve put up on Flickr.
Because I guess I feel that the portraits come out pretty well.
But I don’t really know the reason.
I don’t really think verbally when I photograph.

When did you first start taking photos?

About a year ago.
[So, right around the time he started using Flickr.]

Your models are friends?

I do photograph friends a lot, but if I see someone around town who looks good, I’ll photograph them too. I’ll stop if they get angry, but I explain as much as I can. For instance, I tell them, I want to take your picture because you’re so beautiful.

You use film, don’t you.

Yes, because I like film cameras, and good digital cameras are expensive.

Can you still get Polaroid film in Taiwan?

You can buy it on the internet.
[I have a look at the film he uses, and it’s Fuji.]

Isn’t the Mamiya RB67 heavy?

It’s heavy, but it’s a good camera and it’s cheap.
I use a Nikon FM2 too. [A camera that photography school students in Japan use a lot.]
They’re heavy, but I always have both of them in my backpack wherever I go.

[After a bit, he starts photographing. Angle-shots of profiles, like I’ve seen on Flickr.]

Does he always snap away like this? (To the model.)

Yeah, he does. (Laughs)

After that, general chatting.

[I’ve been thinking about how to handle the typefaces when I bring this all together as the section for East Asia. Designing it with a mix of traditional Chinese characters, simplified Chinese characters, hiragana and hangul would probably be quite a task. I decide to ask him what he thinks about it.]

What’s your impression of traditional Chinese characters, simplified Chinese characters and hiragana?

I feel that the traditional Chinese characters have greater beauty than the simplified Chinese characters.
You can buy magazines from Japan around town, and I’m used to seeing them.
So, it doesn’t bother me design-wise if Japanese (hiragana) is mixed in.

In Japan, when we talk about Taiwan, there’s Takeshi Kaneshiro, but his Japanese is a little off and he’s done only one TV drama. How’s his Taiwanese?

His Taiwanese is almost perfect, but I guess you can tell he’s not quite native.
[It must be tough.]

Is Hou Hsiao-Hsien famous?

He’s very famous. The place where he filmed has become a tourist spot – it’s a rustic, pretty town.

Translated by Seth Yarden

Hello Taipei, Part 1

The streets were damp with rain the evening I arrived in Taipei.
Early April, the temperature not much different from Japan.
The uncertain warmth of spring.
A fine rain was falling.

Taipei, it seems, has more rainy or cloudy days year-round than the rest of Taiwan.
Apparently, if you head south on the island, it turns into the kind of tropical climate, with bright, clear days and sudden downpours in the evenings. But in Taipei, it’s always murky and overcast.

From my impressions of the photos on Wretch that come filtering down Tumblr now and then, I’d just imagined it to have a kind of urban coldness, like a mid-size Japanese city, but with the big, tropical-seeming trees (banyans?) here and there, I found the town to have more of a feeling of southernness than I’d expected.

Oversized scooter-things zooming around all over the place.
Unlike the mopeds in Japan, here it’s okay to ride double.
I guess the exhaust fumes are bad, because there are people wearing masks in various colors and patterns.

A lot of the office buildings are aging and getting dilapidated.
There are awnings jutting out over the sidewalks, and if you walk under them you can go pretty much anywhere without getting wet.
The entrance doors of the first floor residences on the streets behind the office buildings are all shiny steel and look like oversized refrigerator doors.

Besides the touristy night markets, on the back streets, all kinds of stalls start popping here and there from the evening onwards, selling food supplies and other goods. It’s bustling with activity. There are food stands too, of course.
In front of the shops and on the streets, dogs lay about idly. I guess no one ever shoos them away.

There are tables in front of the shops and food stands, and it just feels nice to eat outside.

Translated by Seth Yarden

Flickr Photographer Interview / East Asia Edition

This is blog for presenting photographers of fascinating photos found on Flickr


After a year of this, it’s started to get kind of boring.

It’s thanks to the internet and to Flickr (actually, Tumblr) that I found out about all these photographers, but the internet has its limitations, of course.
I’ve decided to go to the countries of the people who took the photos and start interviewing them directly.

First, East Asia.

With the spread of the internet, things have been circulating throughout the world more and more freely, and it’s started to feel like you’re in basically the same modern culture no matter where you go. The same bands, the same news, the same art, the same cameras, and so on.
What would it be like to see the real East Asia head-on, from the inside, without any exoticism?
While from the outside it might all look the same, surely things will be different when one gets closer.

The first installment is in Taipei, an interview with inverselive.

Translated by Seth Yarden


inverselive ( RIĆOR )

inverselive ( RIĆOR ) is from Taipei, China.