Blog - May 2010 Archives
May 2010 Archives
May 20, 2010
Trip to India - Auroville
Picking up from last time, we went down from Chennai to Pondicherry, though our main destination was a place called Auroville just some 6 km north, where we stayed for 3 nights from March 1 to 4.
Auroville is a community founded in the late 60's by Mirra Alfassa, referred to as The Mother in India. The main part of Auroville consists of a village of a closed community, living together with nature and self-dependent in many ways. Located in the woods with paths to get everywhere either by bicycle or scooter, entrance of cars and outsiders is restricted. There are however guest houses where people from outside can come to visit, it's also the way to start integrating for those who wish to become part of the international community. Auroville attracts visitors from India and also everywhere in the world. It's a very relaxing place for sure.
We stayed at a guest house called Afsanah, a beautiful place with Japanese-style gardens and an excellent Indian cook who learned French cuisine in Pondicherry. Our guest house was located in the northwest across from another called Vérité where are held yoga classes. It takes some 10 minutes to get from the entrance of Auroville (Visitor's Centre) by bicycle. We used bicycles lent by our guest house, they're old, bulky and take some getting used to, but they're good enough for getting around. Other bicycles we rented in Pondicherry where quite similar too.
An important part of Auroville is a large gold-plated structure called Matrimandir. Located in a big garden, it's a symbol of peace and perfection and is a place of meditation. Guests are only allowed inside after a few days in Auroville, having to first go to a "viewing point" and then book a guided visit that happens once a day. Matrimandir itself was completed just 2 years ago after 37 years of building by Auroville's residents. The surrounding gardens are still underway.
When taking a guided tour of Matrimandir, it's possible to get inside the large dome. Everything is white and silent, and the only lighting source is sunlight that's directed down each floor using large crystals. Entering Matrimandir everyone leaves their shoes outside, and before entering the main meditation room we had to wear provided white socks. Touching the white walls or floor isn't allowed, to avoid stains. We then sat there on a white cushion and blanket for some time. This place truly feels out of this world.
To get between Auroville and Pondicherry, we first used an auto rickshaw several times, but later we realized that it can be even cheaper to book an Auroville air conditioned taxi with a nice driver who speaks English. Still the rickshaw can be better for feeling the environment.
You can view a map of a day we went from Auroville to Pondicherry and back, at Gmaps Pedometer.
May 5, 2010
Tokyo's Coolest Sound
It's been a few days already since I launched the new site Tokyo's Coolest Sound. It's basically the "Agenda" blog that was located in this site, moved into a better place where it can grow some more.
I had been thinking of doing this for about 3 years, when the name and design were already pretty much set, but it's only at the beginning of this year that I got the coolestsound.jp domain that I had been wanting, and then I started integrating the site only little by little until now.
The live show reports I used to feature here will also be posted there from now on, so if you like them I suggest subscribing to the new site's RSS feed, or if you use Facebook you can follow the NetworkedBlog. I also post on Twitter as @coolestsound.
I hope you like it!
Oh btw, I will be on radio this Thursday! The show is teknohauswt which contains a 10-minute segment "Elektel's Lounge" hosted by club-lounge unit Elektel. I've been their fan for over 10 years, since the old mp3.com days, and they invited me to present some music that I like.
This is a mini FM station that can only be heard in the west side of Tokyo, FM West Tokyo (FM西東京) 84.2MHz, teknohauswt starts at 23:00 every Thursday. Elektel's Lounge is featured every 2 weeks and I'll be their guest for the next 4 times (2 months!). Dates are: May 6, May 20, June 3 and June 17.
May 4, 2010
Trip to India part 2 - Pondicherry
After having spent one day in Chennai, it was already time to head for our next destination, Pondicherry (actually known as Puducherry since 2006). We left our hotel around 9 AM on March 1st, and took an auto rickshaw for CMBT (Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal).
We were a bit confused as to which bus to take for Pondy, but we were determined to take an air conditioned bus. Walking by the buses several drivers would ask us "Pondy? I go to Pondy!" even though their bus' destination showed something else, probably not a direct trip. I wouldn't trust those buses that say "Super Luxury". :) Most also looked old with the windows open meaning no A/C. A random guy passed by and told us to go to gate #1 for Pondy with A/C, and a nearby driver got in a long argument with him! Anyway so we got to gate #1 and there were the nice-looking busses that clearly said "Pondicherry". The driver took our money, Rs.170 each though we paid with a Rs.500 bill, and we were given a receipt to get change much later on the way. We were set for the 3½ hour trip.
The road that leads to Pondy is called East Coast Road (or ECR). We had a nice time watching the scenery.
We arrived at the bus terminal past noon, and our first priority was to get food! We got to eat vegetarian "meals" at a nearby restaurant, on their air conditioned floor, for only Rs.32 each (about ¥70). What they call "meals" stands for a variety of curry, pickles, yogurt, etc. served with rice and/or chapati (a kind of bread), served on a banana leaf. It was pretty much our first experience eating rice with our bare hands. The waiter there was happy that we liked the food and kept giving us more (meals are "all you can eat").
(Chronogically, we then went to our main destination, Auroville, but I keep this for the next part. First let's continue with Pondy.)
Pondicherry is a former French colony, and therefore there are many bits of French throughout town. Actually half of the town is considered as the French part, on the ocean side, and the rest is the Indian part. The French part has French-style street names, places like a French Lycée, and many French tourists. Aside from the tourists I didn't really find an opportunity to speak French though. Streets are often decorated with Kolam, drawn flower designs. These reminded us greatly of Japanese artist SASU. I wonder if she took inspiration from India..!
On the next day we spent the afternoon in Pondy again, renting bicycles for Rs.40 each (about ¥85) for the day. The bicycles are old, heavy and quite high, probably dating from the 80's or older. Still they're very practical to get around town quickly.
At the end of the afternoon when handing back our bicycles, the man at the shop recommended us to visit the Ganesha (the elephant god) temple nearby, saying that Ganesha is his brother. We went there and finally found a lot of Ganesha stickers, more beautiful Koram designs, and the real Ganesha!
May 3, 2010
Ryūjinkyō Koinobori matsuri
Yesterday we went to Ryūjinkyō Koinobori matsuri. Ryūjinkyō is a canyon in Hitachiota, Ibaraki. The 375m suspension bridge called Ryūjin Ōtsuribashi is in itself an attraction, but right now people are visiting it for the "koinobori" festival where huge colorful carp-shaped wind socks are suspended along and across the canyon. The festival goes on until May 16.
We were lucky that we were there just in time for a taiko performance. They're called Yansadaiko Hozonkai and came from Naka-shi, Ibaraki. I filmed a few songs with my camera.
There's more on my YouTube account.