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  • Writer's pictureNigel W. Ruddock


Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Notes from the Archipelago - a Japanese Autumn 秋 2019

Monday 18th November 11月18日..........月曜........ I keep returning to this country? (It's an expensive hobby....however, the air fare to Bombay is higher than the one to Tokyo.). Well, wherever you live in the world, it's the people who count. I (still) live in Germany because most of my friends live there. However, I happen to have good friends who live a good 12 hours` flight away. Yes, it's a long way, but worth it. And then there is this bizarre mixture of 21st c. technology and Edo-era Temples. Breath-taking gardens. Wild countryside. Automatic vending machines with green tea and coffee. Fantastic public toilets. Clean trains. An impossible choice of food....But above all, friendly people. Now those who have worked and slaved in this country will cry out in despair at this blog. Of course, being a visitor and working for your living in a foreign country are two different planets. I could scream at the tourists who find the Römer in Frankfurt "quaint" or "cute". But let it be. Everybody is entitled to their own perspective.

The following photograph shows something you could never get in Frankfurt. It is the classic product of an island archipelago - the Sea of Japan to the west, the Pacific Ocean to the east. Sashimi - 刺身. "Sliced raw fish" says Google translate. Sorry, this bald translation will not do. Taking your chopsticks in your hand you lift a slice of tuna off the plate. You touch it with salt or Wasabi - that sharp green horse radish - and lift it to your mouth. Your beer is close at hand. It is a sensual experience. And here we have it. This is no "grief I'm hungry order a pizza" situation. This is enjoying life. And not on your own. With friends.

There is Amberjack, Tuna, Octopus and prawn.....Now I'm not very good at transporting these delicious morsels from table to mouth with chopsticks 箸. My hand always seems to get tense. But imagine this! Sitting beside me is Aki-san, who is a super `Cellist (take a quick look at her website)................ . She says to me: "but Nigel, it is like holding a `Cello bow.....a relaxed but controlled grip....." Thank you Aki-san. I am enlightened. (I do not ask her if she means a baroque or contemporary grip.....).

I have in fact just visited the Gauche Violin workshop - that's the boss on the right - Yamazaki-san.

And this scene all takes place in an impossible-to-find eating house tucked away in the busy streets of Ebisu, Tokyo.

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As this is the last episode of this blog I'm going to throw some random pictures at you. As a poor beginner in this crazy language I would never be quick enough to read this if I was driving - it says "School-Zone".....

There is indeed a school just past the next junction.

Turning a corner in Hodogaya, Yokohama I see six clarinetists playing in the morning sun. They are good - a tribute to the local music school. Note the massive steel backdrop. This is the earthquake-proof architecture of the Civic Hall.

And in contrast, the 18th century bridge over the river in Nikko. OK, it's been restored. But structures get destroyed by fire, earthquake and floods. It's a fact of life here. All is transient. Build anew.........

Over to Maranuchi - the shiny area near Tokyo station......

...and here a cliché is reality. Ordered pedestrian crossing.........

Simple fun is never far away. I loved these recycled plastic bottle wind vanes........

Parking space is at a premium....and the design of the cars reflect this....

And why this lavatory design has not been adopted in other parts of the world I do not understand. As you flush, fresh water first comes out of the tap at the top. So you just wash your hands there and then. The same water flushes the toilet. Now you don't have to be a Water Engineer (no disrespect meant here G. de L.L. 😄) to get this. Marvellous use of water resources. Should be immediately be compulsory in all new buildings in the UK - but then what would the BBC do without all those "worst drought in decades" reports?

Now on the subject of cats..... if you look closely...sorry, the photo is a little will see a cat sleeping in front of this temple door. The cypress wood gets nice and warm in the sun. "Come and worship me, for I am a cat.....!" Haha!

Oh no, it's now time to return to Frankfurt. I can almost smell the Bratwurst already...............

This is the end. No more for now. If you have enjoyed this blog do say so. It's great fun hearing your reactions - good or bad!

さようなら - goodbye 😉.

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