Hell or Hot Water

The steam rises, gently caressing the edges of the bamboo-pattern tiles. A pipe (real bamboo this time) brings bubbling, warm water from a hot spring. A group of friends in their twenties chat animatedly as they get ready for the plunge. An older man sinks deep into the water, eyes closed, world outside invisible. Continue reading “Hell or Hot Water”

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Finis (Travelogue Part 7: Takehara- Kobe)

I was sitting on a ferris wheel reading about John Bercow. Some people would call this rock bottom.

I don’t know what it says about the times, or about me. You could say that the internet has destroyed all our attention spans. You could call it Brexit Derangement Syndrome. Or maybe it’s more specific to me. But sitting there in that little red capsule I’d commissoned on a whim to mark the last night of this phase of my journey, my eyes were drawn to the little flat screen instead of the bright lights of Kobe outside1. Continue reading “Finis (Travelogue Part 7: Takehara- Kobe)”

Two Peaces (Travelogue Part 6- Nagasaki- Hiroshima)

I liked Korea. It wasn’t just the rich, easily accessible street food, or the strong coffee. It wasn’t just the suprising boisterousness of daily life- when I went to Silloam Sauna there were people shouting across the room and jumping into the pools, which was a world apart from Japan. I liked the passion for colour in Korean temples and the rough-and-ready markets. Yeah, I liked Korea.

But I fell in love with Japan. Continue reading “Two Peaces (Travelogue Part 6- Nagasaki- Hiroshima)”

Nearer the Smoke (Travelogue Part 2: Hiroshima- Aso- Kumamoto)

It started with a homecoming. Familiar city streets. Streets I’ve walked a hundred times before, where I can trace the road crossings and vending machines. Hiroshima is close to my heart. Continue reading “Nearer the Smoke (Travelogue Part 2: Hiroshima- Aso- Kumamoto)”

Darth Vader Drinks Plum Wine (Travelogue Part 1: Yokohama- Nagano- Matsumoto)

In my more cynical moments, I’ve grumbled that all Japanese cities look the same, an endless expanse of YouMe malls, flat pack apartments and telegraph wires. Well, bollocks to that. In the first four days of my journey, I visited three cities, each with its own vibe, its own look, and its own experiences to share. Future blogs might be more about the people I meet and the events that unfold on my travels, but this one’s all about the places, three Japanese cityscapes. In lieu of more waffling, here’s part one of my travelogue. Continue reading “Darth Vader Drinks Plum Wine (Travelogue Part 1: Yokohama- Nagano- Matsumoto)”

Over and Out (Summer Camp, Week 5)

So here we are. I’m through the summer adventure, out the other side of the Kan-Etsu Tunnel*, blinking in the sunlight and wondering what to make of all that. It’s been one hell of a summer, and I’ve really enjoyed writing about it. There’s plenty that’s still unsettled in my mind, but this is my attempt at closure as I tumble out into an uncertain future. 

Continue reading “Over and Out (Summer Camp, Week 5)”

I Do Not Yet Understand

Let me set the scene. A Shinto priest waves his1 haraegushi, a staff topped with thin strips of paper that somewhat resembles a mop, in the forecourt of Gokoku-jinja. The onlookers watch a ritual that is clearly pre-modern, a sequence of moves which has been practiced and perfected over time. On other days, the priest might bless the union of a young couple, or pray for the long life and happiness of a child. But not today. Today, a new car is parked within on the forecourt of the shrine. The man of God(s) is spiritually purifying its oily innards. Continue reading “I Do Not Yet Understand”

Kid Culture (Summer Camp, Week 4)

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In Akasaka 7-chome.

This morning in Tokyo, the rain is torrential, and I am delighted. Summer Camp has been a rewarding experience, but summer, as a concept, I am more or less done with right now. Consequently, I am thinking of moving to Narnia. Continue reading “Kid Culture (Summer Camp, Week 4)”

Eight Kids You Meet at Summer Camp (Week 3)

Each camper is unique. Each child comes to summer camp with their own set of experiences, their own family situations, their own expectations, their own likes and dislikes, hopes and fears.

And yet.

It would be dishonest of me not to acknowledge that you start to notice… patterns. There are ‘types’ of campers, and you could meet them several times during your summer. This is my attempt at a classification of camp archetypes (with apologies to Carl Jung). Continue reading “Eight Kids You Meet at Summer Camp (Week 3)”

Sunlight through Trees, and how not to Use a Kayak (Summer Camp, Week 2)

(Credit for all camp photos goes to English Adventure’s fantastic photography team. Thanks so much for all these.)

I want to start with a vignette that sums up my week perfectly. Continue reading “Sunlight through Trees, and how not to Use a Kayak (Summer Camp, Week 2)”