Friday, September 3, 2010

Around the World

Here is a film Kaj was commissioned to make at the NFB, for the Osaka World Fair 1970.
Even thought the film is commonly known as "The City Osaka", the film doesn't describe a Japanse city, it is made to describe Canada to the Japanese.
Kaj recalls the film had to be made in Black and White due to its intended method of projection: "it played around the clock for the duration of the worlds fair, on a screen made of 60 thousand individual light bulbs"

Kaj's stories about his trip around the world are so engaging, that I've decided not to edit them at all, and post them in the transcribed interview form:

KP: I've negotiated to attend the Osaka World Fair because it was the only place where my film was to be screened the way it was intended. On the way to Osaka, at first I flew to Los Angeles with my wife, and my son Lars who was 6 years old at the time, we stayed at Ward Kimball's, ran his train and had a wonderful time. Went to Disneyland and the Disney studio, then Annie and Lars went home and I continued across the pacific, first to Honolulu. I had arranged with my travel agent to be there a day, because it was March, coming from Montreal, and the opportunity for swimming in Hawaii was...ah! too much...Then the flight was delayed. so the day I should have spent swimming, I had only arrived at night, scheduled to leave to Osaka next morning, to be at the opening of the World Fair, the Emperor of Japan was going to be there, and the Emperor has never set foot of foreign soil (The Canadian pavilion at the fair was considered Canadian soil) and the first time he did, was the Canadian pavilion and it would really be a great honor for me to be there, to shake the hand of the Emperor of Japan. And against that...was the swiming (laughs) Waikiki beach in Hawaii!

AA: And you preferred the swimming (Both laugh)

KP: Later I came to Osaka and stayed at Kyoto. (former capital of Japan) After four days I was told my room was to be booked to somebody else, The Film Board Application stopped there. Actually at the World Fair, I went from the Canadian pavilion to the Danish pavilion, and signed up for my new Job (in Danish television) right there in Japan.

AA: Wow (both laugh) What a trip!

KP: I had expected to spend 3 weeks in Japan, Never having been there, I wanted to spend some time. I found it very expensive there, you see, I thought Japan was a cheap place, because you get a lot of Yens for a Dollar, but that doesn't mean that it's cheap! (laughs) It was far more expensive than I thought, I was worried about money. I was about to take the soviet steamship and railway line (to Denmark) and I couldn't change my schedule, the soviets are very strict. So I had to stay in Japan for the entire three weeks. That frightened me a little because I was so far away from home, wasn't sure I had enough to sustain myself, but it worked out quite well! I have come to like this adventure, I've always enjoyed traveling, but it has always been in Europe or north America..Japan is so far away, so strange, people spoke no english at all

AA: How did you get around?

KP: I had brought a notebook, I went to a restaurant the first day in Kyoto, and it's not so hard to point out what you want, they have wax models on display. Later, I wanted a cup of tea, so I took my notebook and I drew a teapot, gave it to the waiter, he looked at it, took it out to the kitchen...and I waited, and waited...they came out the door, and after 20 minutes or so, he came back with a napkin over his arm, the whole kitchen staff after him, placed a cup, and poured this tea, in a gesture of triumph, so I wondered...and suddenly I realized I drew a victorian teapot, and Japanese teapots are not like that at all! So they've been all over town trying to find one! (Bursts in laughter)

AA: Wow... (continues laughing) You should have drawn a tea bag!

KP: Yes! (Both laugh)

It did happen all the train station had names written in English, and there was "Japan travel beuro " nearby, there you could speak English, it wasn't much but it was enough, I looked up places I wanted to go, I would go by train, and when I arrived, I would go to the travel beuro, they'd get me a hotel and a taxi. The next day I would start walking back to the railway station, now I knew where everything was, and I would just walk, and walk, and find something to eat along the way, but just watch, and and be there, and I really traveled.

On the way back I traveled by a trans-Siberian railway, which was an adventure at itself, but on the last part of it, out of the Soviet Union, I came to sit across from a British guy, it turned out he had lived in Japan, for several years, teaching English, got married there, had a child there, and he was right now running away from it all, he couldn't take it anymore, I remember we took a ship from Finland to Stockholm,he came aboard saying "This ship is AMAZING, I never knew there were ships like this, anywhere in the world, we are always told, that the British Ships are the best there are, I've never seen ANYTHING like this..." (laughs)

4 years later, when I arrived in London to work for Richard William, there was a coal strike and bus strike, no electricity, everything went wrong, oil crisis, I hitch-hiked across the highway, a car pulled over to pick me up, and it was that guy!

AA: Oh, Wow!

KP: It was just absolutely amazing! Not only that, when I invited him home for dinner, he said he was 4 days away from returning to Japan, he's been missing it so badly, he couldn't live without it now...

AA: Who would have known.

KP: It was incredible. There's so much to tell, it's got nothing to do with animation.

AA: It's okay

KP: Once in London, I rented a boat with my 3 kids, in the park, and I rowed, the kids were saying "Daddy look out!" I tuned around...There was another boat, with a guy and a girl in it, also turning around...The Guy said "Kaj!"...It was Gerry Potrerton! (Directed "My Financial Career" at the NFB)

AA: Wow...

KP: (Laughs) and of course we went to have a beer together, his girlfriend was from Quebec, and he had just told her, that London is so big, that the chances for meeting someone you know

are really slim...and just then (laughs) he bumped into me.

1 comment:

  1. Neat story! I'm reminded of a friend I've known for over a decade that first went to Japan as part of a program at his college for a year or so, after coming back home to Houston, he felt a bit homesick for Japan again so he got to go back as a teacher of English for some school there, he's now married to a women he met and so far his life seems complete. I was glad to see him fulfill his dreams.