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In my last post I said that I'd tell you
about the matsuri that was held in my neighbourhood, but I
kind of went overboard with the pictures
today and ran out of time.
Also, the final exam for my Japanese course
(I'm bombing by the way) is on Tuesday, and
we leave for Canada on the Wednesday -- I'm
stretched pretty thin.
I'll try to add some info about the matsuri tomorrow during one of my study breaks.
Enjoy the pictures.
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I've got a big Japanese test tomorrow, so
I'm just going to give you a quick update
and then run to bed.
I don't think that I've mentioned this yet,
but we'll be going back to Canada for a visit
on June 18th. Karen's sister Julie is getting
married. I'll be staying for three weeks
and Karen and Jack will be staying for six.
I think that it'll make for a nice change
of pace here on Hunkabutta.
This weekend was our neighbourhood's matsuri
(festival parade). I took the pictures in today's post
at the temple yesterday. This afternoon we
watched the parade and saw them carry the
mikoshi (portable shrines). I'll put those pictures
up for you in a couple of days.
Matsuris are wonderful. Every time that I go to one
it makes me feel glad that I'm living
and I fall in love with Japan all over
I'll tell you more about our local
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As you can see from today's pictures, we
finally went to do those brain scan experiments.
I kind of mislead you when I first mentioned
the experiment a couple of weeks ago. I was
under the impression that we would be testing
a new kind of MRI machine, but in fact we
were just involved in a cognition test that
utilised an MRI, so that whole 'dangerous experimental
machine' element was kind of lost from the
The experiment was held in a psychiatric
hospital. We weren't told exactly what it
was about until the very end, we just knew
that they needed to do tests on foreigners.
The doctor, Moriguchi-Sensei, a tall young
man with a kind face who spoke halting English,
met us in the eerily empty hospital lobby
and led us to the experimental wing. He was
Karen went into the tunnel first while
care of Jack, and when she was done,
about 20 minutes, it was my turn to
It was strangely exhilarating to be strapped
onto the table, with my head in a brace,
and to feel my body glide slowly into the
blue-lit tunnel. I remember thinking about
how lucky I was to get to experience this
sensation while maintaining a relaxed and
It occurred to me that most people found
themselves inside an MRI machine because
they have a brain tumor or head injury. Just
for a moment, I tried to imagine how that
would feel, the dread of waiting to see the
results while being trapped in a little tunnel,
looking up at the white metal roofing four
inches from your face, not being able to
move, thinking about all of those things
that you should have done, but never did,
and how now you're probably going to die
and never get a chance to do them, and, man,
why did this have to happen to me....but
for obvious reasons that train of thought
was kind of a bummer so I let it go rather
I had to wear earphones because the MRI produced
an amazing array of sounds -- knocks, bangs,
and groaning shudders -- as it went about
its work. There was an assortment of plastic
knobs arranged around my head, and directly
above my face was a small mirror that reflected
an image that was projected on the wall at
the back of the tube.
As the doctor did his scans I was shown a
series of black and white, close up pictures
of people's faces with various exaggerated
expressions. The pictures showed just the face, everything else, the hair, the
neck, the ears, had been cropped away, and
only the frontal view of the oval-shaped
face remained, shown on a plain gray background.
The faces, of both Asian and European men
and women, were either expressionless or
showed terrible fear.
After the brain scan was over, all of us
gathered in a small waiting room near the
Then Moriguchi-sensei asked me, "What
kind of pictures did you see?"
"Pictures of faces," I said.
"Yes, but what kind of faces?"
"Well," I said, "Some
no emotion and some were afraid."
"YES, THAT'S EXACTLY RIGHT!!"
shouted. "Very good answer, very
He then went on to explain that he and his
colleagues have discovered that Japanese
people cannot tell the difference between
a look of surprise and a look of fear, but
that foreign people seem to do it easily.
He wants to find out if this is the result
of cultural conditioning or if it's caused
by brain physiology.
Kind of interesting, don't you think?
At the end of it all we got our money
were escorted out of the hospital.
help but tease Karen in front of the
as we were leaving, alluding that
crazy, saying things like "Don't
any of the nurses see you, they might
let you leave."
The doctor seemed to think that that was
pretty funny -- well at least Japanese people
can recognize a joke.
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I used to think that taking candid photos
in the subway was kind of novel. Sure, I
knew someone must have done it before, but
I didn't think that Walker Evans was doing it way back in the forties. I wonder how big his camera was?
By the way, if you're interested in old photographs
and photographers, the Masters of Photography is a good site to browse around.
If you're more into the archival side of
things, then you'll probably get a kick out
of the Library of Congress photos. Have a good look around, it's a
complex site. There are topical galleries and staff selections. The subject index is a good place to start, and so is the
color photograph section.
Enjoy the links.