Kusama Exhibit

I interrupt my regularly scheduled program (of mostly trips, food, and books) to talk about the Kusama exhibit we saw at the Hirshhorn Museum earlier this week as part of the US-Japan Leadership Program.  Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer whose exhibit, Infinity Mirrors, is currently at the Hirshhorn.  It is impossible to describe the Infinity Mirrors exhibit, other than to say that it is the artist’s attempt to convey her feelings about death, life, and eternity.

So, rather than to attempt to put into words what her art is like (and poorly at that), I opt for photos of some of her exhibits.  There are six infinity rooms that you go into in groups of two or three, and you stay for 20-30 seconds.  (The curators all have stopwatches.)  While this sounds like too brief a time for each room, I suspect (and the curators confirm) that staying for much longer becomes extremely disorienting.  There are smaller scale exhibits with similar themes that you can gaze into for as long as you want.

I am generally not a contemporary art fan, but this is so different that if you ever have the opportunity to go see it, you certainly should.  (It is part of a national tour.). I am still trying to decide what I think about the artist and her art and have not arrived at any conclusion yet.  Look at the photos and decide for yourself.  (Most of the photos are courtesy of our son, Marcus.)

infinity mirror room

looking into infinity

infinity mirror room

the color room!

For those of you in the DC area, the exhibit runs through May 14.  See more at https://hirshhorn.si.edu/kusama/

Tokyo and the US-Japan Leadership Program

We traveled to Tokyo in late July to participate in the US-Japan Leadership Program alumni weekend but arrived a few days early so that we could do the important things in Tokyo—Tokyo DisneySea and Tokyo Disneyland. 🙂

(Our son came with us on the trip, but our daughter was doing her community service project and wasn’t able to make it.)

We had never been to DisneySea, and it was a really fabulous experience to visit a Disney park where everything was new. Our favorite rides there were Journey to the Center of the Earth and the Indiana Jones ride (which is based on the horrible Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull movie). There is a Stormrider ride that is somewhat similar to the Star Tours simulator ride that is also very well done.

Tokyo DisneySea

Tokyo DisneySea

We had only been to Tokyo Disneyland once before. Once again, the Winnie-the-Pooh ride was our favorite (and it’s the best version of the ride in all of the Disney parks, hands down). We also loved the Buzz Lightyear and Monsters, Inc. rides there. And we are continually fascinated by the different flavors of popcorn available in the Tokyo Disneyland park—honey, chocolate, curry, teriyaki, and regular. Curry popcorn was the Ms’ favorite flavor, but Jim was NOT a fan.

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland

It was also fun to compare the design and rides with all of the other Disney parks. Yes, I know we are hopeless Disney addicts!

We ate at a one Michelin star teppanyaki restaurant called Ukai-tei. It was an interesting combination of classically trained teppanyaki and classically trained French chefs in one restaurant (and chef). The food was fabulous, and it was a great experience.

The USJLP alumni weekend was a tremendous amount of fun. There were over 70 Fellows who attended, and many more Americans than typical. The nice thing about having a critical mass of Fellows is that you don’t feel as much like you’re intruding on the delegates’ fun and bonding. It was really lovely to see all the Fellows, catch up on their news, and meet the delegates (some of whom I already knew from DC gatherings). There was even a bonding amongst what we hope to be the future generation of USJLP-ers!

future USJLPLers

future USJLPLers

Oh, and I can’t forget that only in Japan can you find square watermelons!

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Asia-Lite Summer Vacation

What we did on our summer vacation:  we visited Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Honolulu—what I laughingly call our Asia-lite trip (anytime you go to Asia and you can drink the tap water, it’s not a true Asia trip).

The weather was hot and humid in both Hong Kong and Tokyo, but they were really fun trips.  Here’s a view from our hotel in Hotel Kong:

view from the Island Shangri-la Hotel

view from the Island Shangri-la Hotel

Hong Kong Disney was a blast, and we were fortunate the day we went because there was some cloud cover and a slight breeze.  Then, in true Hong Kong fashion, it poured during one of the parades where the characters spray you with water guns.  As the kids said, “We didn’t get wet from the water guns at all!”

Hong Kong Disney parade

Hong Kong Disney parade

We also discovered the Museum of Coastal Defence in Hong Kong.  (I know, the British spelling can be most disconcerting.)  They used one of the actual bunkers to create the museum, which is very well done.  Once again, the only quibble I have is the commentary about modern times.  (“Reunification has brought about a new solidarity and brotherhood of common defence.”  Or something along those lines.)

Tokyo was just a brief stop in order to participate in the US-Japan Leadership Program’s weekend activities.  It was lovely to see a lot of people whom we hadn’t seen in a while and catch up.  It was also nice to meet the new delegates and discover what an impressive group they are.  We had a tour of the Diet (the Japanese Parliament building), walked around the fish market, and toured the Nezo Museum, which has a small but excellent collection of Chinese antique bronzes.  (They have several other items of interest, but we love Chinese bronzes.)

Our final stop was Honolulu where we stayed at the Halekulani, our favorite hotel there.

Waikiki

Waikiki

The kids took surfing lessons every day; we visited the Bishop Museum, the Honolulu Art Museum, and the Plantation Life Museum.  For a bit of kitsch, we went to the Dole Plantation, where we went through the maze and, most importantly, ate some Dole Whip.  (I mean, yes, you can get fresh pineapple there, too, but what would be the fun in that?)  We had some fabulous dinners at Alan Wong’s, Morimoto, Town, and Sushi Sasabune.  More about the meals later.  Their magnificence deserves their own blog entries.  We also weathered Tropical Storm Flossie, which fortunately for us, only lightly touched Oahu.  I’ve included some photos showing the imminent arrival of the storm (and the view from our hotel room).

view upon arrival

view upon arrival

Tropical Storm Flossie approaching

Tropical Storm Flossie approaching

Tropical Storm Flossie

Tropical Storm Flossie

after Tropical Storm Flossie

after Tropical Storm Flossie

It was a relaxing and fun break, and we look forward to our next trip there!

Hawaii (and the US-Japan Leadership Program)

I highly recommend the concept of being in Hawaii in February.  (Yes, that absolutely was an exercise in gloating.)  I was there for an executive committee meeting of the US-Japan Leadership Program, and Jim and I stayed a few extra days afterwards to enjoy paradise (aka Hawaii).  We stayed in Honolulu, as we think the best restaurants and museums on the islands are there.  (Restaurant reviews to follow.)

Our children were offered the option of missing a week of school to join us, but our daughter decided she’d be missing too much school that way and opted not to go.  I am not certain whether to be pleased at the responsibility she demonstrated or appalled at the fact that she turned down a trip to Hawaii.  I’m still pondering that one.  Our son, who would have happily missed a week of school to go to Hawaii, is still rather miffed that he couldn’t go, thanks to his older sister.

The USJLP executive committee meeting went quite well, and I think we have a fabulous group of new delegates for the program.  It should be a lively group in Japan this summer when they meet up.  It was also really wonderful to see everyone on the executive committee again.  They are a great group of people (and have an incredible capacity for beer and sake).

But the really lovely thing about Hawaii is its incredible natural beauty.  (Jim would say that the natural beauty of the Hawaii residents isn’t bad either.)  We hiked Diamondhead in the early morning so that we could see the sunrise up there.  And, of course, there are miles of beautiful beaches and ocean.

This is the view from Diamondhead:

Diamondhead at sunrise

Diamondhead at sunrise

And this is the view from our (upgraded) hotel room:

view from the Halekulani

view from the Halekulani

A big thank you to my parents, who were willing to fly out from southern California (where it’s sunny and warm) to watch the kids while we were gone (where it was neither sunny nor warm).

US-Japan Leadership Program Executive Committee Meeting

After attending the Epilepsy Pipeline conference for a day, I flew to Honolulu to attend the annual US-Japan Leadership Program Executive Committee meeting.  Honolulu was, as it always seems to be, beautiful–80 degrees and sunny.  The meeting was an extremely productive meeting.  We have some marvelous Fellows-in-the-making for this year.  And the energy at the meeting was a wonderful thing because it meant that people were passionate about the program and want it to succeed.

And, in the end, is there any significant downside when the meeting is in Hawaii?  (Other than missing the Super Bowl when flying back on Sunday, that is.)  Here is a shot of Diamondhead at sunrise to illustrate.

Diamondhead at sunrise

US-Japan Leadership Program

The US-Japan Leadership Program is a cross-cultural program for young leaders (defined as 28-42 years old) where 20 Japanese and 20 Americans spend a week together, alternating between Seattle and Japan, learning about each other’s culture.  The hope is that the bonds of friendship forged over the 2 weeks (each delegate commits to both the Seattle and the Japan weeks) will come in handy in the event that official channels of communication ever break down.  And, of course, the hope is that official channels never break down if there are leaders in both countries with experience and understanding of the other country’s culture and thinking.  I have been co-chair of the USJLP executive committee and am currently co-chair of the capital campaign.

This has been an interesting program for me.  As someone whose family on both sides fled the Japanese invasion of China and suffered considerable hardship as a result of that invasion, there are cultural and historical difficulties in a relationship with the Japanese.  This is especially true when there are Japanese who deny the atrocities committed during their invasion and occupation of China.  (There are actually Japanese in the program who fall in that group.)  But, in the end, the Japanese in the program are overwhelmingly global in their approach and sophisticated in their thinking, and it has been a great opportunity for me to learn more about their mindset.  In addition, Japanese women, in particular, have great admiration and envy of American women who can successfully (relatively speaking) juggle marriage, children, and a career.  The vast majority of Japanese women give up their career upon marriage and certainly do so after having children.  Whatever the obstacles American women encounter with our juggling act of family and career, it is nothing compared to the struggles of Japanese women, and their outlook upon their own culture is refreshingly candid.  As I tell the Japanese women in the program, I look forward to their revolutionizing Japanese society in the coming years!  You can find out more at www.usjlp.org.