Hello, I’m Maki Dan. In Japan, I’m studying architecture and majoring in structural engineering and disaster prevention, especially for earthquakes. Right now I’m in San Francisco, working at Wcities as an editorial intern for one month. Although I am in San Francisco for a very short time, I’ve experienced a lot and have seen many beautiful buildings. I’d like to write about buildings in San Francisco and their differences to Japanese buildings, based on my feelings and knowledge about architecture. In addition, I’d like to write about some of my experiences here.
This is a view from Coit Tower. San Francisco’s urban design is grid pattern. This kind of grid design can also be seen in many other cities in the United States. In Japan, we also have a city which has a grid pattern, Kyoto. In Japanese, Kyoto is translated as “Goban-No-Me”, which means Go equipment (Go is a popular board game mainly played in Asia). I have been to Kyoto once, and I found that both Kyoto and San Francisco have some similarities. [...]
They say that if the conditions are right and you are close enough to the ring, you can smell the blood being spilled at a bullfight in Spain. Certainly the gruesome and violent nature of this centuries-long Spanish tradition has been condemned by animal rights activists internationally and has even prompted the Spanish province of Catalonia to outlaw the sport all together. However the sport endures, especially in the southern region of Andalucía and in Madrid.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid
It was mostly curiosity that compelled us to buy tickets to a bullfight at Madrid’s legendary Las Ventas bullring. Admittedly, we were also swept up in the romantic idea of attending a bullfight in Spain. Visions of passionate crowds yelling “olé” in unison as brave and daring toreadors in gleaming costumes waved colorful capes in the air seemed to distract from the fact that the bulls were there to be killed. This fact only became more and more clear in the days leading up to the bullfight. Proponents of bullfighting defend the sport as a wholly invaluable cultural practice that has defined Spanish culture around the world. While the iconic status of the toreador cannot be denied, one must ask if this is worth the lives of innocent animals. To go even further, do the Spanish people want to be known as a culture that celebrates the slaughter of animals for entertainment? Pushing aside these conflicting feelings was not easy but necessary if I wanted to remain objective. So on a drizzly Sunday afternoon in late September, we caught the metro to Las Ventas, hoping to be enlightened, but anticipating sadness.
Bullfighting in Spain generally takes place on Sunday evenings from mid-spring to early autumn. We were fortunate to be in Madrid for one of the last corridos of the season. We climbed the stairs, away from the dark, humid metro and emerged to stand in front of the brilliant Las Ventas bullring, widely regarded as the “Madison Square Garden” of all bullrings, where only the best bullfighters have the privilege of performing. The graceful arches and mosaic details of the building helped establish an undeniable sense of place. It felt as if we were in the inner most chamber of the heart of Spain. I expected to see tourists, like us, lured to the bullring out of morbid curiosity. But there were also older Spanish gentlemen who looked as if they had been coming to bullfights their entire lives. There were families with kids, young couples and even bands of old ladies with colorful umbrellas. Once inside the bullring, our anticipation was almost palpable but tinged with a tiny bit of fear. [...]
Meet Zhuoran, one of our new interns visiting from China. A few weeks ago we took her to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), a few blocks away from our office. Below are her reflections.
When I first walked into SFMOMA, the first thing I saw was thousands of white computer-controlled LED spheres hanging from the ceiling; they dimmed and grew brighter, creating shapes. It was hard to see what the shapes were, but later when we went upstairs the shapes were clear: two dark figures boxing or practicing gongfu (kung fu). Very interesting. It was a new temporary installation designed by Jim Campbell, a local SF artist.
SF MOMA Lobby
Visiting SFMOMA was a good opportunity for me to better understand the fine art of photography. Before, I imagined photographers were just people with fancy cameras. I thought if the camera was good enough and the subject matter was beautiful enough (for example, super models or a scenic view) then their job was easy. After visiting the museum, I learned that photography is more than that.
A few blocks from Union Square, tucked away on Taylor Street (between Sutter and Post) you’ll find Ryoko’s. This late night, hole-in-the-wall sushi joint has been turning out quality sushi, sashimi, and other Japanese fare for the past 23 years.
With its nondescript entrance, Ryoko’s can be pretty easy to miss—that is, unless you go during peak hours and see the line of people out the door. The restaurant is actually located below street level, so once you step inside you descend a set of stairs to reach the dining area. The atmosphere inside is warm and inviting. Cave-like, even. It’s the type of place where you think “Cool, I had no idea this place was here.” Lighting is dim, ceilings are low, and the walls are painted a deep cobalt blue. The brightly-lit sushi bar takes up half the space, while small tables set close together take up the rest. There’s a baby grand piano squeezed in amidst everything too, though I have yet to see anyone play it. Overall it’s cozy and lively.
Everyone that arrives is greeted by the staff with a boisterous “IRRASSHIMASE!” which means “welcome” in Japanese. It’s in all caps because they literally shout it at you. With Ryoko’s being the popular place that it is, people are always walking in so you hear a constant sing-song of “IRRASHIMASE!” throughout the night. It’s not too noticeable though, given the high decibel degree. If anything, it just adds to the friendly and jovial vibe of the place.
On to the food. The food here is simple, not flashy. It’s best to order from the daily specials board above the bar. That’s where you’ll find the freshest stuff. If they have it, I recommend the Hamachi Toro (toro being the fattiest part of the fish). It’s flown in from Japan so it’s not too cheap—usually $9 for two pieces—but my god, the flavor and buttery texture…perfection!
Hamachi Toro (and some other fish I can’t remember)
The sushi rolls are decent. They’re not fancy, but they’re executed nicely and the fish is always fresh. However, the portion sizes are a bit small in comparison to other places of the same caliber quality and price range. [SIDE NOTE: for fancy sushi at reasonable prices, check out Sushi Bistro in the Richmond.] Specialty rolls range from $7-$14.50 and usually only comprise of five pieces (sometimes six, if it’s a smaller roll). [...]
Laura Davy is back with her latest (and 99% accurate) thoughts on our lovely office. What do you make YOUR interns do?