Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Damn Camels: Onjuku & Tottori

The artwork for the following regional items fit into the category of "vague & haiku-like." It isn't enough that she's dressed in a green tutu or as a shallot. She has to be next to a camel and on the desert. We've seen Gotochi (Japanese Regional) Kitty dressed as a number of food items, fruits and vegetables, historical and fictional characters as well as dressed in traditional garments of a certain period or region. Not much surprises me but I have to admit to being puzzled and frazzled over these items.

What is the deal with all the camels and the desert night scenes? Kitty dressed as some kind of Arabian princess? She is clearly part of the Gotochi collection, but her artwork looks like a page from 1001 Arabian Nights. Is Scheherazade a new character at Puroland? Are there native breeds of Japanese camels? From what I could tell from my internet sources the answers were no and no. So what's going on with all this night desert scenery? I finally scanned and emailed my mom a picture of the tag below. I followed up with a call and asked her what she thought this was all about. She couldn't figure out the camels- not in her memory banks, but the desert scene and the green tutu'd Kitty hit a chord. "Oh," she finally said. "She's supposed to be Nijisseiki Nashi!" Thanks, Mom. It made purrfect sense to her. It gave me a place to start my internet search.

So what did I find? While there aren't deserts in Japan, there are places that inspire the romantic images of moonlit deserts and Arabian Princes and Princesses on camelback. One such place is Onjuku Beach, Chiba Prefecture. It is said that the rolling sandy hills of Onjuku and its beach were the inspiration behind the 1923 song "Tsuki no Sabaku" or "Desert Moon" (Poetry by Masawo Kato, music by Suguru Sasaki.)

Long ago and far away in a forgotten land
In the desert late at night camels walked o’er the sand
Lost in time, a mystic line, on a journey unknown
Wearing gold and silver saddles, ‘neath the moon that shone

On the saddlebag of gold, hung a bright silver urn
On the silver saddle fold, hung an urn made of gold
So divine, another time, on a journey unknown
Tied together by a twine, ‘neath the moon that shone

On the camel’s back that night
Rode fair handsome prince
On the camel there behind, a young princess did ride

Lost in time, a dream so fine, on a journey unknown
Wearing white and wondrous gowns,
‘neath the moon that shone

Long ago and far away in a forgotten land
In the desert late at night camels walked
O’er the sand
Who could know where they did go?
Step by step, all alone
Desert dreams, misty light beams,
‘neath the moon that shone

O’er the mountains made of sand,
Hearts of gold, lips of stone,
In a long forgotten land, on a journey unknown

First camel mystery solved as well as the Arabian Princess Kitty. On Onjuku beach, there is a statue of an Arabian Prince and Princess upon camelback on a concrete dune commemorating this song. But what about the tag I emailed my mother? Is there another statue of a camel floating out there in Japan? Not quite. The answer lies on the other side of the peninsula and at another "desert-like" place called the Tottori-sakyu Sand Dune.

Tottori-sakyu Sand Dune is located near Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture. The dune is said to be the result rough winds and sea currents that return to shore the river sediments that run into the Sea of Japan. Spanning almost 10 miles along the coastline and the width of a mile, the Tottori-sakyu Sand Dune is the largest in Japan. The winds are constantly changing the shape of the dune, creating deep craters and high hills. Needless to say, the dune is quite the tourist attraction along with the reasons Kitty is dressed the the following costumes and shadowed by a camel. In addition to seeing the dune, for 1800 yen, you can take a ride on a real live camel. An imported live camel, but it's real, not a statue.

Kitty as the famous Nijisseiki Nashi. Unlike the Asian pears we are used to seeing in super markets these days, the Nijisseiki Nashi or "20th Century Pear" is said to have been cultivated from a wild pear tree found in the early 1900s. They are said to be plump, sweet and juicy with a green-to-yellow skin.

Tottori Rakkyu: Pickled Shallots, anyone? Like garlic, the pickled shallot is said to be good for blood circulation. Tottori is said to be one of the largest producers of the shallot...yum yum.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The List of 27

It's been a long time since I've done the kitty-search on the web. It's been a rude awakening.

I was doing "research" for my next kitty post and was appalled to see the changes at Asunarosha. All of the old versions of regional items as well as their artwork have been removed and what remains is a tiny collection and some lukewarm artwork. While the older kitty mascots still rattle around the train stations and souvenir haunts, I miss seeing those little square thumbnails of artwork and their vague, haiku-ish names. I miss the fast, encyclopedic reference the other parts of the site provided as well. I know. Everything changes, progress, expansion, etc. I get that. There was only so long the regional kitty craze would last, but for me, those Japanese cultured critters epitomized "The Way of Cute". Kawaii-do. They did it far better than a pair of pink fuzzy slippers or a cat-shaped toaster.

The old Shingen Takeda artwork; the new Shingen at Asunarosha. Call me old fashioned but I liked the old artwork. Way cuter...

As I wistfully dug through my packed up boxes of Regional Hello Kitty items (note the capitalization that suggests a level of seriousness to an otherwise girlie-cutsie endeavor), I came across a very precious item. It was a treasure list that I had created six years ago when I was living in another time and place... sometimes I think it was another reality as well. It was a pictorial list of the 27 Japanese Regional Hello Kitty Plushes that I had to have. I yearned for these kitties. I ached for them. I looked all over eBay and found myself lucky a few times, but for the most part, I was fighting tooth and nail to find these little treasures.

The list was inspired and literally built on the pictures from a gallery I found online back in the early days. It was called Nyankovivi.com and was primarily focused on the sale of those adorable San-X Nyan Nyanko cat plushes. The site also featured a gallery of her (or his for all I know) Japanese Regional Hello Kitty plushie collection which was not for sale. It was my source, my bible, my gestalt...

I giggled when I found this mashed-up list. A smug grin followed. Not just because I kept the list, but because I found those little you-know-whats. This list was my trophy; my testament for having stayed in the line of battle; for never giving up hope that I would find the Dazaifu Plum kitty; for being so freakin' serious about getting these stuffed animals mounted on my wall! Now, I am just grateful to have this memento because Nyankovivi.com is gone. Poof. So is that gallery that inspired so many bidding wars on eBay. I hope it returns in some form or another....

X marks each triumphant spot. The Daizafu Plum blossom kitty was the last and probably the hardest fought kitty of the collect. I'll admit that once she made it to me from Japan via Yahoo Japan auctions, the thrill was over.

The plushies were up in my new abode for a little while, but I eventually put them away. I also stopped collecting. Not really sure why. Am I growing older and more boring? Am I pretending to be an adult? Does it matter? All I know is that the cute army has retired to some nice boxes in my closet. Their days of fighting off boogie monsters and channeling displaced hostility are at an end. At rest, but not out of sentimental value. They still have that ability to pique my curiosity and dig a bit deeper into my family's cultural past. They call, mewl, moew and entice and puzzle me. In fact one is calling me now, asking about Arabian princesses and camels in Japan...(hint: that's the next post)

Safely stored in boxes, no more dust and fade to attack my army of cute. Just a pain to dig out when I want to do a post, but its worth the effort...

Up and Running Again

Meatloaf sandwich anyone? Hearty and highly portable, not to mention cute....

Well, I'm back -- sorry for the abrupt stoppage of Regional Kitty blogging but between a webspace move and an actual physical move, Kitty and her accessories were put in boxes to be dealt with when the time came. And the time is now or at least I finally transferred images I could rescue from the old space. Everything was in tact except for the post on Kasutera... weird, but not fatal. Still working on ideas for the next Kitty, but just to let you regional kitty fans know that this blog hasn't been abandoned.

She'll be back soon!