It is late October 2019; the trees along either bank of the Motoyasu are starting to turn pale orange and yellow and drop leaves into the river, and I am closing bank accounts and notifying authorities and getting ready to fly home via Manila. I shall be reading this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence. Whether it’s a sigh of regret or sweet natsukashii1 remains to be told.
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”→
Let me set the scene. A Shinto priest waves his1haraegushi, 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”→
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)”→
Is there a word for this kind of exhaustion? The kind that seeps into your bones and makes you speak in tongue-tied. I don’t know; but I survived. First week of summer camp down, and no serious injuries, no lost children, and (contrary to expectations) very little vomit. I’m now back in Tokyo, where the weather is relatively cool and the sleek Bamboo-Scandinavia of Tokyo Midtown (see below) is dragging me back to the 21st Century. Here’s my debrief. Continue reading “Bugcatcher Generals (Summer Camp, Week 1)”→
This has been Golden Week, and it’s been manic. There’s been all manner of celebration in Hiroshima, with the Flower Festival, which was as much cheap booze, taiko drums and rawk n’ roll as it was garlands of flowers. There was competitive flower arranging though. There’s a BBC2 primetime show in there, for sure. Elsewhere along Heiwa-odori, I saw comedians, maximum-energy choreographed teen dancing and also the more traditional kind. Hiroshima Sanfrecce deservedly lost to Yokohama Marinos after some poor theatrics. Familiar faces were back in town, emotions were running high. Summer is coming. Continue reading “Reiwa”→
Campaigners drive around in cars with megaphones on the roofs, waving at people and blaring messages. Around the city, there are neat, respectful lines of posters up advertising the candidates. The elections are for the city council, and they won’t bring down any government, but they’re still the kind of thing that an election otaku like me ought to find something to say about.
‘There’s the Japanese- and then there’s everybody else’.
After I started the ball rolling on moving to Japan, I heard this one friendly warning time and time again, from a range of different people. A friend of my mum’s who worked with Japanese clients, a British-Nigerian dude who had worked in Osaka. Former travellers and Nipponophiles. On first impulse, it felt like a bit of a cliché, but now I’ve been here for six months, I thought I might revisit the statement, and evaluate it. Long story short? It’s totally right. But then again, it’s also completely wrong.* Continue reading “The Japanese and Everybody Else (Immigrant Song)”→
I’m writing this on the last day of September. Last night, there was a definite chill in the air, and this morning, a typhoon was howling in from the south. Unlike earlier in the summer, the winds have really picked up here in Hiroshima. Late in the afternoon, the sky turned the strangest colour. But the rain just stopped, and for a moment a rainbow poked through the clouds.
It’s been three months since I took my first tentative steps into Japan, through the sultry fug of the Osaka summer. Tomorrow, school is changing over to the Autumn textbooks, and it felt like a good time to stop and take stock.