‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts […] there’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you,and here’s some for me.‘- Ophelia, Hamlet
I always knew this would be the difficult time. As winter gives up the ghost, my battered old green coat is finally too warm. There’s an ambient chorus of birdsong outside my window, and when I walked through the park today, early spring was making its mark on the trees. Mosses were glistening on the damp tree stumps and gaunt paper birches suddenly sprung to life. Around me, I could see cotton-white, fuschia, lemon yellow, warm mulberry purples and brick reds. I used to say spring was my least favourite season, but I think I’m changing my tune. Continue reading “Spring Back (The Blossom and the Memory)” →
I was lugging these heavy old tatami mats across the pig and goat pen, to make a path over the earthen space in front of the chicken enclosure. After all, as my host Kaz said ‘after a few years, tatami will return to the land’. Suddenly, I started to think about how people use, and think about, the land beneath our feet. Continue reading “Cropped Out” →
I was stalked home by a white cat the other night. It was exceptionally odd- the cat would walk in the shadow at the edge of the path. When I turned away, the cat would start sprinting towards me; I would suddenly turn back and the cat would screech to a halt a little too late, its piercing eyes fixed on mine. I’m not one for the supernatural, but I felt like that cat knew me. Continue reading “Valley Folk and City Kids” →
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)” →
(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)” →
The days are long here in the cloudlands, but the mornings are breathtaking. Continue reading “The Clouds Live Around Us” →
Listen, I’m not saying the ancients were right about Daisen. Despite all the age-old warnings, I doubt that Kagutsuchi, Shinto god of fire, himself dwells on the slopes of the mountain, or that would-be hikers need a yamabushi (syncretic1 mountain priest) for protection. But maybe it would have been a good idea to check the weather forecast first. Continue reading “A Song of Wind and Drizzle” →
‘If the cherry blossoms lasted six months, nobody would love them’.
This sentence1 lies close to the heart of Japanese culture. Right now, the cherry blossom is covering the city in a thick mist of wan, snowy petals, and the city’s outdoor spaces are coming alive again after the winter. Stirring dull roots with spring rain, and all that. Despite a cold snap, people are barbecuing on the riverfront and eating picnics in the park. Every man and his dog carries himself like a pro photographer.
Continue reading “The Bittersweetness of Things” →
It was one of the old wild places. The Shibaki River hurtled down cliffs and over rocks unobserved, through the gorge it had created over millions of years. A few solitary travellers must have reached Sandandaki from time to time, and seen first-hand the white waters cascading over the ledge. Nonetheless, the gorge was remote enough that the Geihantsushi*, a pre-modern agricultural journal, recorded: ‘there is no access to the site to view the grandeur’.
In 1910, photographer Nanpo Kuma arrived in Sandankyo gorge, and fell in love. His efforts and photographs convinced adventurous tourists to visit, and in 1925 the gorge was designated a national scenic spot. I tried to find out more about Nanpo Kuma, but all I discovered online was the same brief summary, and a suggestion to visit the library at Sandankyo Hotel. Anyway, Nanpo, whoever you are, thank you.
Continue reading “I Guess the Time of Eternity” →