February 2009 Archives

Photographers at Yoyogi, part 2


Me hooping. Photos by the gentlemanly goth-loli photographer at Yoyogi.

I am developing a love/hate relationship with the photographers and videographers in the park on Sunday while I am hooping.

Someone who asks permission or chats with me first is welcome to photograph or film. I might even take pains to turn in their direction or do a showy trick. I am extremely grateful when they e-mail me the pictures or give me prints, like the ones above. Last weekend, I was asked to hoop in a music video for the Intercontinental Music Lab. That was a fun experience - and as it turns out, one of the musicians is a friend of a friend that I'd met once before.

The passersby who pause and a snap a quick shot or two don't bug me at all, even when I notice them. I figure that I probably only see a quarter of them, anyway. I am busy hooping, after all, and there are a lot of people strolling through the park.

But I really don't like folks who stand and shoot for minutes on end without making contact with me. I notice them because they stick out as stationary in my whirling world. That disturbs my flow. And breaking my concentration pisses me off. So sometimes when it happens, I stop hooping and stare at them. Or wave. Or give them the finger. Or suggest they come try the hoops.

I need to learn to ignore them.

Trick Acquisition Mode


During the grey, cold phase of winter, I suffered long weeks of uninspired hooping and general lassitude. But February always brings blue skies and pink plum flowers to Tokyo and the days grow noticeably longer. Sunny afternoons, even chilly ones, fire my enthusiasm for living life fully.

But "living life fully" focusses on almost entirely hooping at the moment, as I am slated to do a performance and workshop with Mandi and Stina in early March. I rehearse our routine and refine my solo in the hope of avoiding embarrassment. I don't want to be the worst dancer in our trio, which could easily be the case!

So I've had my hoops out and about almost every day for the last two weeks. From the hours of exercise I get, I can feel my muscles unlock, my strength return and my energy increase. As a result of daily practice, I've entered trick acquisition mode. Have a look at all the new tricks I've gotten in the last couple of days:

That last one - the twin arm/elbow thing - has been eluding me for months. It just clicked today and I was so excited that I jumped around and squealed, frightening the other children in the park.

In addition to what's in the video, I am on the verge of vertical chest hooping - sometimes I can get it, but usually not. Maybe tomorrow it will fall into place. I wouldn't be surprised. I will keep my video camera handy, just in case.

Kafusho Battle

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The cedar and cypress trees which cover about 15% of Japan have started pollinating and 20 million people - 1/5 of the population - are sneezing, sniffling, and scratching their eyes. Me included. Pollen allergies run you down and we'll be feeling rotten until April. That is a long time to suffer, so most everyone makes an attempt to reduce their symptoms. There are a bevy of pills to pop but if you aren't so keen on medication, choices involve a little more common sense but less convenience.

Allergy load

My allergist explained to me that everyone has an allergy load that their body can handle. If you go over the threshold, you start to have symptoms. So if you have sensitivities or allergies to things you can control, try to reduce your exposure during hayfever season. For example, I am allergic to oranges. Normally, I can have a small glass of orange juice in the morning and not feel any effect. But during spring when my system is already over its allergy threshold from pollen, orange juice gives me a nasty headache.

Filter the air

In Japan kafunsho season is also mask season. Wearing a surgical style mask has several benefits: it filters the air, hides your runny nose, and prevents the spread of other germs (who wants a cold on top of hayfever?). Masks look dorky and can be uncomfortable to wear, but they do work.

"I don't care how stupid it looks, wear a mask," MJ Daniels-Sueyasu recommends. " The tricky thing is finding one to fit. I saw this guy on the train once and he had the most awesome mask ever; it was camo material and was flush against his face." The variety of masks sold is amazing. This page lists 198 kinds that are specifically for pollen. And those are just the drug store selection. There are fashionable ones, too.

Glasses can help deflect the pollen, so trade your contacts for frames in the spring. If you don't need vision correction, try sunglasses outdoors.

In your house, a HEPA air filter is said to be beneficial, especially in the bedroom where you spend so many hours resting your battle weary body.

Stay clean

The air isn't the only thing you should try to clean. Spring cleaning is takes on a new meaning when you are trying to get rid of pollen in the house. Dust and vacuum daily if you can. Wash your curtains. Change your linens frequently and dry them indoors, rather than outdoors where they will collect pollen. I love sun-dried sheets and towels, so this recommendation upsets my housekeeping. If you sleep on futons, slip them into tightly woven bags before airing them.

Pollen settles in your hair so daily shampooing will help. YS Park makes a shampoo called Pollin that is supposed to help reduce pollen. Don't know if it works, but it does smell nice. If you follow the Japanese custom of bathing at night, you'll reduce the pollen you carry to bed. This could help you have a less sniffly morning.

Tod swears by jala neti, the Indian practice of rinsing the sinuses with warm saline solution, to help clean out the nose and "reset" it for a new day of pollen battle. He does it every day and rarely ever suffers from colds or hayfever. I am not so diligent, but it is refreshing to be able to breathe freely after a neti session.

Alternative treatments

If you plan ahead, you can try a regimen of local honey or bee pollen to strengthen your system against hayfever. Nettle, a mild anti-histamine, is said to be very effective in relieving symptoms. Sales of Chinese blackberry tea rise during kafuhsho season.

The Times Online suggests coating the inside of your nose with Vaseline to prevent the pollen from sticking to your nose.

If you wander though any Japanese housecleaning section at this time of year, you'll see all sorts of pollen cut sprays - you apply them before going outside to help keep pollen from sticking to your clothes. Or you can shell out a lot of cash and wear specially woven fabrics that repel pollen. I don't know if either of these work, but the manufacturers want you to think so.

Acupuncture and shiatsu can help you feel better, though they don't treat the problem directly.


What are your favorite hayfever remedies?

No Shopping, report #2

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In general, I can say that it is becoming more and more simple to ignore all the stuff in stores when I am out and about. I am still drawn to bright colors and pretty textures, but it is sort of like looking at flowers in a public garden. I don't want to pick one.

I've passed up all the Winter Bargain sales without any trouble and even got annoyed at the eye-catching ads for them on trains. At the Australia Day ball, we only bid on service items - no goods at all. I wore an old dress and accessories to the Ball and the same nondescript black high heels I have been wearing for years. It wasn't really a sacrifice at all.

There was one moment a few weeks back, walking with Jim in Akasaka when I saw a stationery shop and was a bit sad I couldn't go in and buy stuff. Moments later I saw a cute dress that left me feeling regretful that I couldn't buy it. I laughed, commented on my emotion, and the desire to shop evaporated.

But there is one big Fail this month. I blame it on a late Christmas present - a new serger/overlocker. It arrived four days ago and I have been on a spend-fest to get appropriate thread (sergers use up to 5 cones of special thread at a time, so I now own 20 spools in various useful colors) and a range of fabrics to test the new machine. I splashed out on some knits that I didn't have in my stash because I never would have considered sewing on my conventional machine. Fuchsia ruffled tricot panties anyone?

The culprit

Aside from my fervor with the serger, I have noticed that my desire to craft has decreased. Maybe I am concerned about using up all my supplies; maybe I just don't want to make more things that will accumulate. I am not sure, but I don't read crafting blogs so often anymore. I used to read them daily.

Fabric wasn't my only purchase in the last month. I also bought some music to use in hoop classes that I am teaching. As I wrote in my journal, "Does this set a precedent that it is OK to buy music? In general, or for justified cases? Does this purchase mean other supplies are fair game?"

I want to use the supplies I have and not buy anything more, which is tricky because patching together odds and ends and random supplies I have on hand is sometimes more challenging that I wish. Buying something purpose made (whether is it a completed product or a particular part) is so much easier than thinking creatively. Maybe a stronger, more robust creativity is part of the essence I want to find in this No Shopping year.

1/1 - hoop tape to finish the 160psi hoops
1/1 - keitai battery to replace my dying one.
1/1 - serger (a promised Xmas present, arrived 2/5)
1/1 - archival photo boxes
1/20 - a few more sports/hoop outfits for teaching
1/20 - "indoor shoes" for gym wear
1/28 - Fashion Design Idea Notes (oops, I already had it!)
1/29 - photo album (or two)
2/9 - 4-way stretch cotton fabric for unspecified hooping outfits
2/9 - Burda World of Fashion 11/2007 issue (yoga pants pattern)
2/9 - patterns for sportswear
2/9 - sewing books on overlock/serging

Hooper to Hoop Teacher to Happy

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I've been hoop dancing for five and a half months. I work hard at it, but I am still such a beginner. However, yesterday I took the leap into teaching a class as a substitute for Deanne while she is in Oz for a couple months. I've given casual help to people at the park and such, but I've not taught a structured class before.

It was not the best of classes, I have to say. I was anxious. I forgot my hooping clothes. I forgot my cheatsheet of class routines. My period started during class. I was flummoxed by my two students who spoke different languages and had somewhat different hooping abilities. Fortunately it wasn't a total disaster. I did not forget my music. The brand-new-to-hooping student left being able to waist hoop and do a variety of hand hooping tricks. Both students seemed to enjoy themselves. I hope they will return.

Today, needing to shake off the bad vibe from yesterday, I took my hoops to Ueno park. I hadn't done that before, because it isn't a park where people seem to practice stuff. There are lots of museum visitors, tourists, zoo attendees, licensed buskers, and homeless guys. Not so many people are "doing their own thing" at Ueno, but it was OK.


Every time I hoop in a park or public place, I connect with people; this afternoon an older lady, a PhD student, & a little boy all tried the hoops. Passersby smiled, took pictures, even applauded. But most memorably, I taught an entire band to hoop! My Morning Jacket, who are on tour from Nashville, stopped to say hi and give the hoops a spin. I'd never heard of them, but I'm going to their show tomorrow in Shibuya. You never know what blessing a hooping encounter is going to bring.

After three hours of hooping and meeting people, I am feeling much more relaxed and happy. For next Monday's class, I will smile more, use armloads of positive affirmations, and hang on tight to this good hoop vibe - I really want to share it with everyone.

Here is what park people saw today - a lot of trial and error:

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