What I’ve learnt in Japan …

Something that I really love about the Japanese is their appreciation and wholehearted embracing of everything impermanent and seasonal. They love the idea that something is with us for a few short weeks and then disappears again for another year; there’d be no demand here for Creme Eggs in September. For them, seasonality underlines the…

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Kyoto without the crowds

If there’s one covid silver lining for me, it’s the lack of tourists in Kyoto. Kyoto’s one of my top three favourite cities in the world, and I couldn’t wait to get back once I’d arrived in Nagoya. So, with a good weather forecast last weekend, I set off, determined to see some of the…

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What’s going on in Aichi?

Aichi, home of Toyota and miso sauce, is normally a rather staid and sensible place; it’s emphatically not Tokyo – no maid cafes or love hotels here, thank you very much. But recently there have been some strange goings on. The national English language newspaper printed the following disturbing story This bizarre-sounding crime is actually…

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Japan: a walk in the park

I love a walk in the park in Japan … you never know what you’re going to see around the next bend in the path … … perhaps a couple taking their ferret out for a stroll? Having spent a year walking round the local park in Bedford, I can faithfully report that all I…

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A potential change of career

Kanazawa is a wonderful little town on the west side of Honshu.  It’s wonderful for a number of reasons: firstly, it was the seat of an important feudal clan and so has many big houses, temples and shrines, secondly, it escaped bombing during the Second World War, and thirdly, it has one of the top-ranked…

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My first experience of sumo

It was most definitely serendipity times two; firstly to discover that one of the six annual sumo tournaments in Japan is held in Nagoya, and secondly to find that it would take place during my stay.  I felt that there must be a ticket with my name on it – but just to make sure,…

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University life in Japan

Before I arrived, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about teaching in a women’s university.  How archaic, I thought, to have such institutions in the 21st Century in a first world country.  But now that I’ve experienced just how much of a man’s world it is in Japan, and how women are supposed to…

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The Ginger Ninja

I’ve had quite a cultural weekend, one way and another. I went to Kyoto because I had a ticket to see a kabuki play at the Minamiza theatre, which is the home of kabuki.  It’s a wonderful old building, which has been hosting kabuki performances for 400 years – – and I was pleased to…

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Bears and eel chips

Shogun Ieyasu was a canny chap.  When he became Shogun in 1603 he forced all the great lords to spend every second year with him in Edo, or Tokyo as it is now.  This meant that they spent huge amounts of time and money travelling with their vast retinues along the road between Kyoto and…

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Investigating the Nagoya food scene

Every country has its own love-it-or-hate-it foodstuff.  In England it’s Marmite, in Malaysia it’s Durian, and in Japan the polarizing comestible is called natto.  It’s made from fermented soya beans and, according to Wikipedia, ‘is an acquired taste  because of its powerful smell, strong flavor and slimy, sticky texture.’ After coping with the smell of…

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Tokyo food tours

I’ve come to appreciate, during my travels, that signing up for a food tour in a new place pays back dividends.  The guide takes you to all sorts of wonderful hidden-away spots, explains the whole food scene and generally equips you with enough know-how to go solo afterwards.  So when I got to Tokyo I…

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The dawn of a new era

The new Emperor of Japan ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne today which signalled the first day of a new era.  Whilst they do use the year 2019, they also use their own system based on the number of years the Emperor has been on the throne.  When I got my ID card, I was surprised to…

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The obedience of rain

  In Japan, if the weather forecast says it’s going to rain, then it rains, and if the forecast says it won’t rain, then it doesn’t. Having spent time in both Norfolk and Malaysia, where it rains if it feels like it, and nobody has any idea what the weather will be like in five…

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My new favourite city – Kyoto

I’ve had three weekends in Japan so far, and have chosen to spend two of them in Kyoto;  I absolutely adore it there.  Everything is exquisite – the temples, the gardens, the little streets with wooden houses, the little waterways lined with cherry trees, the tiny craft studios and cafes – it has to be…

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