As I dug my bicycle's tires into the sand, they first moved me unsteadily forward until at last they no longer could. I had not yet reached the lake, but before me sprawled a riverside community made of a patchwork of buildings.
Siem Reap is one of the cities in Cambodia, along with Angkor Wat, that is hopping with tourists who come to see the ancient ruins that lie there. After seeing some of the major spots in the ruins like many of the other travelers, I wondered what kind of homes the locals lived in nowadays, and borrowed a bike from my economically priced lodging to ride along the river. According to the calculations I had made earlier while studying a map, if I rode about an hour downstream I would arrive at the well-known Tonlé Sap lake.
Tonlé Sap is famous for being the largest lake in Cambodia, or one should say, the largest lake in Southeast Asia. Like a "moving" lake, during rainy season it can grow up to 9 times deeper and cover 6 times as much land as other times of the year. This fluctuation in the amount of water makes for healthy farming and fishing industries, but the surrounding villages are inundated with water during rainy season, so there are many residences built above the water or on high pillars.
As I rode toward the lake, I started to see houses built atop tall pillars. They were around 1 to 2 meters high and made of wood with corrugated sheets for roofs, but the brick and larger houses used concrete.
I descended to the center of Larung Gar, where it seemed a lecture or assembly had just ended, as priests were entering and leaving the building one after another. The sight of people wearing the same colored surplices getting sucked into the center of the space, and then dispersed into the surrounding areas was fascinating to me, since it seemed like a rhythm to life that matched the bowl-like topography perfectly.
The following morning when I arrived at Classyʼs house at the scheduled time, we met with another man who seemed to be about the same age as Classy. After finishing a cigarette the three of us left the house.
We arrived at a stone house covered with an ocher mud much like Classyʼs. There were people of all ages and both sexes all wearing decorative clothing, and the atmosphere was such that it seemed as if a festival were about to begin.
After being invited into the house, I found that people were gathered in the central room which I have often referred to (in this house pink was the base color), and in the back of the room a man and a woman were sitting dressed in the most ostentatious clothing of them all. I realized after noticing that everyone was surrounding the couple that I had been invited to a Tajiki wedding. I was surprised that a Japanese man like myself who had just been met the previous day had been invited to a wedding in the community, but there really is no better opportunity to observe the way they used the home than at such an event. The corner in which the newlyweds sat was hidden by a pink lace cloth, creating an only partially visible space.
After driving for about 7 minutes in Classyʼs car, the windshield of which had a crack in it, we arrived at a wetland area that was completely different from the field of rape blossoms I mentioned before. A river cut through the center of the thick, silky fields.
A portion of it was open to tourists as a scenic area, and though I did not see anyone who appeared to be a tourist, there were walkways, rest areas, and other such things, so that it was just like Oze Hiking Route. I walked along after Classy towards the back of the wetlands.
What I learned from these grape-drying huts was that the key to a dwelling in a desert below sea level was creating shadows by bricks, poplar, and a few branches and leaves as well as ventilating the room.
I visited seven Uyghur settlements while in Turpan. I have marked the locations of six out of those seven settlements and the aforementioned grape-drying huts in the map below. It seemed as if there were many people from the Han clan located in the center of the city adorned with grid-like wide roads while the Uyghur settlements were located in the surrounding green areas.
I came across a group of grape-drying huts on a hill just off the settlement. These huts I had seen the day I arrived in Turpan while taking a bus to my nearby accommodations some 10 hours after an exhausting train ride. On a hill under a harsh morning sun, those perforated buildings all faced in the same direction, attracting my sleepy eyes.
Cutting through the Uyghur settlements Iʼm heading to that bald hill lined with huts. Most of those huts, lined neatly on an incline, are made of sun-dried bricks. The huts have the same color as the hill they are standing on. A hill transformed into huts through water and sun. Some huts used burned bricks while some were empty lots whose foundation is all that remains.
I realized something was strange here in the centenarianʼs Yaodong. The entrances to Yaodongs are generally shaped into a pointed arc, but upon closer inspection, I noticed that the corner arches were only half-finished.
Iʼve come to realize that meeting with elders is the best way to learn about their village. Walking through a loess land of beautiful green trees, I continued to develop this method Iʼve worked on throughout my journeys. Suddenly I came upon an older woman putting a handkerchief on her head while resting in the shade of a tree.
Does she live in a yaodong? Either way, I tried to communicate to her that Iʼm interested in architecture by showing my sketches. Naturally, I could hardly communicate with her in Chinese.
It seems I managed to get my intention across after a few minutes of struggling. She took me to her nearby yaodong, indeed her place of residence. There was a small hole serving as entrance to her underground cave located some distance away from a square hole in a courtyard. Because she had a bad knee, she guided me to her dwelling while leaning on a walking cane.
Repeating myself the phrase "your house" in Chinese, the old man and I walked for about 40 minutes through a town located outside of the scenic area. I saw a construction site for some new, large building and walked along unpaved narrow streets; I saw scenes from daily live different from tourist sites. We finally arrived at what seemed to be the old manʼs home. (Only later did I realize I had mistaken the phrase "your house" all along.)
The house was a closed-off, flat building with walls of painted white brick. The tiles of the roof was similar to the ones I saw in the scenic area, and upon closer inspection, the manner in which they were stacked also looked alike. Despite being located outside of the scenic area it seemed they had something in common. Nearby there were numerous buildings of a similar fashion, as if many of the buildings were constructed in one shot.
My steps become lighter now that Iʼve decided what Iʼll look for. This is the beginning of a trip to search for bars of iron. Ten steps out and I find what Iʼm looking for. Immediately I discover a housing complex with countless iron bars sprouting from it. Iʼm a little concerned that those bars might fall onto the few cars parked directly under them.
The sound of air spewing out from the A/C grew louder and then fainter; the second hand of the clock on the wall resounded overdramatically as it dutifully ticked out the seconds one after another. From the window I could see browning mountain ridges and chimney smoke drifting by from some unknown source. I returned my gaze back inside the room, only to turn my eyes back outside again, but by then there was no longer any sign of the smoke.
She is always abrupt. On any day she might suddenly post onto social media a scene that seems to c0rrectly encapsulate all the worldʼs beauty. And from that I will learn that she has set out on yet another creative journey.
"Windows"—every one of them that she has captured during her travels appears to brim with pathos. This may be because she took them in the winter. Or because she caught a cold. Or because I am no longer by her side.
These are accounts from my trip with her through a still snowy Tohoku, travel memories that colored the days before and after, and tracings from the 10-plus years that we spent together.
Textile coordinator/designer Yoko Ando has been directing how textiles are used around windows in the work of many architects both young and old. Spaces can be enriched by adding color to their windows. Ando invites us to think about the significance of giving color to windows by showing us some of her past work.
Sumally is a social networking service that has been created from the concept of making "an ʻencyclopediaʼ for everything that exists in the world" by categorizing things into the two categories of "Want" and "Have". Kensuke Yamamoto, founder and CEO of Sumally, was formally an editor of a fashion/culture magazine. Still never one to miss out on an opportunity to experience the latest cultural trends, Yamamoto made a visit to the newly refurbished Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, which reopened in November 2014. Here he shares his thoughts on the relationships that the Art Deco-style building creates between windows and light.
Takahiro Shibata is an editor and executive director of Magazine Houseʼs quality-of-life magazine & Premium. Shibata, who has proposed numerous lifestyle ideas through writing books, such as TOOLS and Lisa Larson: Swedish Ceramic Artist, and through directing the online magazines LIFECYCLING and ONE DAY—A LIFE WITH DOG, writes about the windows of food, clothing, and shelter that he has experienced.
Madoka Hattori is the director of ilove.cat, an online magazine themed on cats and creators, and a freelance editor for honeyee.com and .fatale, two prominent online fashion magazines that define Tokyoʼs style. Here she writes about scenes involving windows, cats, and fashion from her experiences with her beloved cat, Sky, and her trip to cover the 2015 S/S Paris Fashion Week.