Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018 小浜市ホムスティー

Homestay in Ōbama, Japan 2018

Previously:  DESIGN TRAVEL GUIDE ☞ Christmas in Tokyo’17

Thanks to participating in the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Japanese Speech Contest, I got a free homestay to Japan. This time we visited an area which just opened up for homestay for the very first time, it is a fishing town called Obama in the Fukui Prefecture. It got some publicity for sharing a name with the former US president but it is much more than that.


They are closeby to Kyoto, the former capital, which is why they were once the emperor’s food supplier. It was also the port where travellers from Korea or China enter to visit japanese nobles. The people here are historically brilliant in their food and entertainment culture. They are experts in fishing, understanding the various species of fishes and their seasons. The local fish market1 has a wide variety of fresh seafood-striped, transparent, you name it. They are just caught nearby so you can eat them at the restaurant right beside without paying much transport cost. It has a kaisen don with 11 types of seafood all in one. They are also great at fermenting or preserving fish5. They were the start point of the Mackerel road or Saba Kaido(鯖街道) where they transport fishes further inland, this takes days thus requiring preservation expertise.

More than seafood, they also have farmlands and mountains for a variety of vegetable stock. People usually buy gifts for the nobles from here which is why they are also the biggest lacquered chopstick provider2 in Japan. This is accompanied with centuries old sake brewery3 and a japanese sweets shop4(they have one of the 3 shops in Japan that holds 2 of the highest accolade in the industry) Working side by side with the food culture to host travellers going to the capital, they also have a geishas6 to entertain people. What they have today are interesting music and point-based games that are rare to find elsewhere. My friend and I managed to experience all of these historic goodness in our short time here.


Besides the traditional food culture, we also saw a side of Obama that is forward-looking and evolving. Due to their pristine location, next to the Japan sea, they could carry out marine studies well. Thus, the Fukui Prefectural University1 has a campus here just for that. They continuously carry out research to better the understanding of marine livestock. A recent result of their study is feeding sake remnants to fish to make them tastier! Next I will like to talk about my host family4 , a young good-looking couple. They built their own house and its almost like its from a magazine. Its modern and has great wood, feels real good. They have a mini library(we call it that haha) with many books, boardgames, projector and even a hammock! I think they are redefining what an attractive lifestyle is for young couples in the countryside.
 
The husband runs a company3 that revitalizes barren land in the town to make them fertile again. This is a great initiative in a time where many leave the countryside for big city dreams. The countryside should not lose in cool places and Obama has a green cafe2 that is just that. They have vintage vibes and hanging plants, they also occasionally organise hipster sustainable Scandinavian-inspired pop-up markets outside the place. They are a couple of retro cafes around that has chimneys and cool drinks and all but green cafe’s owner is kind of obsess with plants. it shows. We were talking about Isamu Noguchi, nomad culture and other things, real interesting guy. Lastly, building something new on the existing rich food culture of Obama is a italian restaurant called La Verita5. The owner showed us cheese making and we got to eat raw cheese! I really love the texture , slightly chewy haha. We eat wagyu spaghetti as well.


Overall, it has been a great trip. Like many towns in the country across Japan, the population of young people are falling and leaving for saturated cities. It warms my heart however seeing the efforts the young people here make not just in preserving their edge in traditions but also in evolving and redefining their lifestyle to make it exciting for young people again. This ignited my thought about branding local communities and social problems in the flailing countryside.

 
 

 

Model & Sketch #1

Back to the basics again. My first semester in Japan marks my foray into product design. I think I will do alot more model-making from today. I also got back into something I have not touched on for years. Realistic sketching. Something that I am comparably weak in, however I may want to document it and hopefully improve in the future.

#1 The evolution of shape 

Our first product assignment is for having sensitivity to ‘R’ which is the radius of objects. Each block varies 5mm in radius till it becomes a sphere. A similar block-shaped clock would have different functions based on its R, if its more rounded it would be a travel clock and if it had no R, it would be likely for being placed on the table. We are supposed to make these shapes out of giant urethane blocks. It doesn’t look that way but it is incredibly tedious to sandpaper it to the current shapes with accuracy.

 

#2 Planes

Another model-making assignment was making boxes using styrene boards and we were taught a bunch of cutting techniques for it. One box is supposed to be roundish and one squarish, the design is up to the designer. Working with styrene boards is tricky as well, borders might stick out, there are be crinkles, pencil or glue marks or things might just not align. However, I managed to get the radius to match despite the thickness and the boxes are chosen for exhibiting in my school’s open campus. hehe.

The square box I made opens up to two tiers.


Despite having similar measurements in the exterior, it opens up to a simple box as compared to the squarish box.

 

 

 

 

#3 Still life

Arrrhh. I recall getting a ‘C’ for basic drawing classes during Poly. Actually this is an improvement since then but still a far cry from the local students. Probably last place in terms of skill. I have much less texture, less interesting composition and my table’s perspective is all wrong. This is done on grey paper using black and white charcoal. The takeaway for me is that I now understand light better.

 

#4 Campus Scenery 

This is literally my first ever acrylic painting. We had to paint a scenery in the school and I chose a strange thing, I chose an electric or control panel sort of item, where I show the buttons and typography in a flat manner. Miraculously, it was chosen for exhibition, I think mainly on the basis of having an interesting choice of composition. This time I narrowly made it but I will attempt more such renderings that uses traditional mediums rather than the computer. Hopefully next time I can execute it in a cleaner manner.