Category Archives: Ephemeral Tidbits

endless variety of links, resources, tools of note and other bits of interestingness which don’t fit elsewhere (often in process) note: some topics (writing, cannabis, vws…) may live in own category

Nagasaki Ramble, Feb. 2020, part 1 (trains, trams, food & rumours of a…)

Unnecessary Preamble:

The trip was meant as a little adventure and to visit relatives and also get away from the house while a few construction tasks were happening (new bathtub! etc.) but…

roll on to Nagasaki

As it goes, this was the “last trip” – at the time the (now infamous) Diamond Princess cruise ship was quarantined – shrouded in mystery – in Yokohama, the city was a bit tense and confused, and indeed, a week later another cruise ship was quarantined in Nagasaki.

Since we were well along the pregnancy, we stayed safe and busy despite my – ugh –usual health challenges, and so very much enjoyed Nagasaki: riding trams, olden Dutch settlements, bomb memorials :(, friendly folks, quirky kissaten cafes unchanged for decades, plus hospital visits for a young relative, and an abacus tournament (really) – Some new friends, strange islands, impossible alleys, hills & plants.

Of course didn’t realize it would be years until our next time out of Okayama prefecture // 2 years feels like 2 weeks or 20 years depending on the day.

Contemporaneous notes follow (there is also a fantastic analog scrapbook somewhere):

Feb 13, 2020: Nagasaki ramble officially underway at Okayama station at best lil coffee stand called Life & Coffee / ordered up a Bizen special cup

#protip there is a piece of Bizen ceramic put in the coffee which infuses with magic powers &/or imbues with extra tastiness

Feb 14: Nagasaki miscellanea diary (not to be confused with the Ryoko’s botanical diary)

Post box (obviously) at station

With a combination of low pressure weather systems, overstimulation of fast trains, and a bit too much activity of late, had a real rough flareup with my mostly-beloved but somewhat-battered body. It’s hard to explain all the pain but when it suddenly comes on, it’s quite scary.

Anyway, sweet wife tracked down some help for me this morning with acupuncture needles connected to electricity and some ice got the immediate pain calmed down.

Then, immediately following whilst on a little walk, we happened across a mysterious tiny café, ate some local dishes & met a new friend, the proprietor – or son of the family or something something. Regardless, he loves fishing and was cheerful and affable. Koba-san!

the famous champon noodles of the area

He knocked off the job and loaded us up in his car for a coastal drive to gaze the remnants of a coal factory mining island (noted in various films).

Plus the related museum displaying the challenges of life on an industrial enclave which was for a while a “fully functioning” city and the most densely populated place on earth.

While every day is a romantic interlude with my Darling wife, appropriately today we viewed the battleship island from “wedding“ rocks complete with a Torii gate, and much fun conversation.

Now a rest, then perhaps a walk to explore the Dutch outposts from long-ago days before the “black ships “ obliged Japan to open up.

Overall everything going well except for my crushing head / end of dispatch #valentinesday

I offer a few photos as evidence. Really the usual: postbox, trains, street cars, telephone, plus a few of the aforementioned items.



Trams & Trains video

A montage of trams and trains featuring music by Dan Mangan and Ryoko Olson… It turns out there are literally hundreds of similar videos on YouTube but I’m pretty sure this one is the very best of all of them :-)


Pajamas provided by the hotel, in this case, button-up long night shirt style. Really fantastic. I’m really trying not to steal these and further ruin my reputation in Japan (and for all other foreigners too). But if no one knows it was me…

Canals & Vibes

Canals, old customs houses, small alleys, mix of Western and Japanese style houses… All in the little area around our hotel. Dreamy // and keep in mind, none of this existed after August 1945

Food, for starters

Harbour Stroll

Due to the (at that time) recent announcement of a mysterious illness entering Japan aboard a cruise ship, the general populous immediately hunkered down – so, when we went on a harborfront stroll seeking splendid sashimi, we had the promenade and the restaurant basically to ourselves.

Ryoko’s Botanical Diary

Chinatown Stroll

While Nagasaki’s interest in history deserves several essays and a miniseries, in brief: as you likely know, for hundreds of years, Japan was basically closed off to international trade with a few exceptions, one being controlled trade with China (who often acted as a middle broker for Japanese wars with other countries) as well as first the Portuguese who were expelled by bringing their religion Against the wishes of the Daimyo (insert story about peasant quasi religious uprising here… Oh actually Melvyn Bragg on the intellectually stimulating “In Our Time” podcast covers The Shimabara Rebelion) so then the trading franchise was transferred to the Dutch who were sequestered on an island // which we will get to later…

So in the meantime, here are a few snapshots of Chinatown – which is Japan’s oldest Chinatown and somehow lent to the feeling of Nagasaki as a miniature San Francisco: a harbor, lots of hills, various cobbled, international vibe, great café culture, trams clattering along – but, as far as I could tell, a lack of Beat poetry and self-aggrandizing tech companies.

More to come

Considering this diary only catches the first barely 2 days of the trip and there’s so much more to share, I invite you back for:

  • Visit to Dejima
  • Abacus tournament
  • Grilled meats
  • Old public bath
  • Quirky coffee shops
  • Atomic bomb museum
  • Experiencing four seasons of weather in three days
  • Of course more trains, post boxes, payphones and so on, probably anyway

Way Home (more trains)

And just so I don’t forget: here are two snaps from the way home on the now decommissioned Kamome train – briefly addressed above at the time but now replaced with a super high speed “new trunk line” a.k.a. Shinkansen a.k.a. bullet train.

I love these “at – grade” class trains as they are wider, have beautiful touches like parquet floors, lounge cars and viewing areas // which you can see in the photo along with the usual photo of my boots, yes these cheap and cheerful chukkas which took me into the Himalayas, along with my stolen suitcase of treasures which earned its stickers.

So we go on.

Diary: New Year Dragons with foods, gardens, bevvies, and themes #calm

what follows is a post-dated diary of various activities in and around New Years day copied from various notebooks, memos, and small dispatches covering foods, outings to parks and graves, bevvies, postcards, dreams, schemes, and themes of calm and endeavours

Dec. 31: We ate soba (buckwheat noodles) as per tradition with parents on new years eve. Most folks watch TeeVee (many famous “wide ” variety shows, singing contests). They leave it off for my sensory overload benefit so i retired early – as i my way – so they could watch if desired.

So tired, heading to bath and bed. {all the tabs will not be closed, many emails unreplied, various messages and conversations left dangling, flip the page, carry-on}

So we go on… gn & gy

i made a video: Good night & good year / Reiwa 6 Ahoy

Jan. 1: GM, HNY – We ate mochi (glutinous rice paste) with other tasty items with parents in the morn as is tradition.

Then, off to Korakuen (one of the “three great traditional garden” of Japan, frequently visited by us).

Early start by my standards – we packed several thermoses and flasks of coffee and tea for the journey…

Off onto the Road: Of course, all manner of beverages are readily available from ubiquitous vending machines yet I prefer our house-made treats. Also, provided opportunity to break out a teabag which was included in the card sent by some friends from Canada.

So off we went, waiting at Tsuchida stop for our first bus ride of the new year…

As is our usual routine, we sit in the very back row (like the *bad kids*) because there are big windows and a little bit more room to stash our gear. Ichi-Stan, of course being a frequent traveler, utilizes the hooks for hanging up his rucksack and travelling cap {usually here I would note that the bus features complimentary high-quality wi-fi and power outlets but you know that by now}.

Note: the *usual* tradition is a shrine visit on New Year Day (bet ya there is a posted in this archive (or maybe draft but… anyhow) this year though we took the with a chance to meet up with Ichi’s best pal and roll around the stellar garden – importantly including the first time in years in which the public could be present for the “flying of the cranes” so… off we went. Plus its a “free admission day!”

Flying of Cranes: The garden was packed but crowd well managed by diligently dudes wrangling pedestrians and keeping on the pathways with optimized view points for the flying of the cranes (a symbol of longevity).

The whole crane flying thing was quite amusing (the wranglers entice them to fly) and yeah cool but i couldn’t help but laugh at the crew of ojisans with their massive telephoto lens, standing on top of camera boxes (no fun for you kids!) and rapid firing like artillery weapon kinda killing the buzz but so it goes, hobbies and all that. {Of course, this is coming from the guy who’s over documenting everything including everything but a picture of the cranes.}

Continue reading Diary: New Year Dragons with foods, gardens, bevvies, and themes #calm

My Dharma riff in Ginsberg newsletter

Quick hit to say:

The Allen Ginsberg weekly newsletter of goodness included a gracious name check and link to my round up about the Dharma Bums and other Kerouac artifact auction at Sotheby’s, saying:

Upcoming at auction at Sotheby’s “Important Modern Literature from the Library of an American filmmaker”  (one is tempted to ask who, of course), scheduled for next Friday, December the 8th.

“This collection features an impressive assemblage of Jack Kerouac materials”, the auction house notes, “including signed letters, inscribed copies of his novels, and, most notably, the original typescript scroll manuscript of The Dharma Bums“. For a full viewing of the Kerouac items see here


More on the auction (and the background to the auction) from Dave Olson’s Creative Life Archive – here

The Allen Ginsberg Project: Friday’s Weekly Round-Up – 554

For the record, I added this to the comments:

Continue reading My Dharma riff in Ginsberg newsletter

Dharma Bums on auction (*only* a significant spark which arc’d the transpacific poetry renaissance)

Dharma Bums Typescript at Sottebys auction as part of “Important Modern Literature from the Library of an American Filmmaker”

Any speculation who;s stash is up for auction? Loads from Kerouac but also James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Wm S Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Allen Ginsberg, John Cheever, TS Eliot, Wm Faulkner, Ian Fleming, E. Hemingway, A. Huxley, G.G. Marquez, H. Miller, V. Nabakov, E. O’Neil, J. O’Hara, J.D. Salinger (1st edition of Catcher in the Rye… what is this the same edition i have? wtf?), ok i gotta check this out.

Anyone in New York City able to go catch the auction? Lots close on Dec. 8th as i understand… Would make a heck of a Christmas present ?

Anyhow, Dharma Bums has a $240K USD opening bid with $300-500K estimate {my guess is $650K+ USD}

Including: “a green quarter morocco slipcase and chemise.” {best feature!}

Any of you in the area to go document the proceedings? (and say “hallo” to the new custodian)

Kerouac Big Sur Postcard

There are a whole bunch of other Kerouac artifacts up on this auction block including many typed letters including to Allen Ginsberg and other notable characters.

While most items, starting obviously with the original rolled typescript of “Dharma Bums” are a couple $,000 beyond me, can’t help but notice this original Kerouac Postcard from Big Sur which seems like it should *really be* in my kura studio – I mean it hits all of my marks right?

The price is not as eye-watering and the postmark is lovely.
Estimate 1,000 – 2,000 USD
Starting Bid 600 USD

Continue reading Dharma Bums on auction (*only* a significant spark which arc’d the transpacific poetry renaissance)

Still life: books of lists, etc for (Shaun Usher)

still life of books under a mosquito net on bedsheets
Lists 2. Of 3. Note.

(for Karina, Billy and Danny)


As seen under a mosquito net in a cottage in provincial Japan – with

Wade Davis' "into the silence"
RickRubin's "creative act"
notebook/pen for scribbling musings, freeverse and of course, lists
{kerchief from India}

Note: Shaun Usher has curated/compiled/edited a remarkable series of beautifully designed oversized hardback books containing “letters of note” and in this case “lists of note”.

So very highly recommended for the obsessive and curious. I understand there are even performances with actors on stage reading some of the letters but I don’t really know the details.

Spotted: sweet rides, various

Just checking someone’s sweet ride while on a walk to the post office, all matchey-matchey tricked out / with some kind of weird U.S. Army sticker but whatever

Oh and this one while going to the ramen restaurant – despite my affection for Volkswagen, the “new” beetle (which is now no longer anything close to new) never really grabbed me but I love this color and the hubcaps

And while I was looking for the photo of that Beetle, found this snap of a beauty in wonderful condition… I kind of want to get one just for my wife to drive and i can ride along (since I’m no longer the holder of a valid drivers license in any jurisdiction)

And it turns out I have not one but two photos of this vehicle which I’m not quite sure who made it but we see it while driving into town and I always wonder “what is that miraculous looking machine?” while snapping a picture from a moving vehicle just waiting for the day when i share it with you.

Hooray for today and hooray for you!

By the way: I have a semi-not-secret Dropbox folder filled with mostly Volkswagen buses but also some other interesting vehicles i use as desktop wallpaper or whatever on various robots. Let me know if you want that shared with you so you can do the same.


Even more! (I feel another collection coming!)

At a kissaten somewhere (i think)
right in front of Tsuchida Cottage
outside of Anon after Ryoko’s singing
pardons if this appears elsewhere in the archive, spotted outside a cafe

Ramen magic – spontaneous outing for resto’s anniversary

We picked up Ichiro from preschool and came to our favorite Ramen place. {Darling wife is working so hard & im a bit wiped out from trying to stay up with housework}

Somehow the ramen was calling us

&& This magnificent place is celebrating 8th anniversary today with a “one day only” special dish! Yes plz :)

Anyhow, #Peace

We had to kill a bit of time before opening so we hung out on shopping street and visited store selling all Okayama made goods including local sake, Doppo beer, Betty Smith denim accessories, Bizen ceramics & postcards etc Taisho-era painter Yumeji.

Yes, we purchased items. Did not purchase the hat made of renowned Kojima denim as it was “not cheap” but we did get some salad dressing, art postcards, Hot Springs powders, Doppo craft beer for a friend visiting, & a few pieces of special brocade fabric for arts and crafts.

Yes im smitten

This angel is still in her grubby work clothes. She even hauling her wood chipper to the back lot to do some well… wood chipping. She’s so cute when she’s dirty. Oh wait, that sounds wrong ????

Hail Mudhoney, always delivering “this gift”

Yes, I look exhausted, bleary-eyed, spun out, not at my best but hey, look at that Superfuzz Bigmuff T-shirt and that glorious bowl of noodles.

Yes, i am invigorated and overjoyed when with my darling duo!

Oh there he is, the smile comes out once he gets his grub. He’s been coming here since before he was born & has a chance to be the all-time record holder. He’s graduated to his own small bowl with special fork and spoon set.

One day only for this very special sophisticated unique bowl of noodles

Ramen is not fashion, Ramen is art, pleasure, satisfaction, international, tradition, culture (it says so on the chalkboard) and yes, this tiny back alley joint is Michelin guide listed so if you’re into car tyres, this place was properly evaluated / a very special bowl today.

Congratulations on eight years of awesomeness. We wished him at least 50 more

Us and the super grateful ramen boss. He’s a delightful, hard-working, soft-spoken and very very serious and passionate about his Ramen. What a pleasure it is to go here!

You can see the location is critically important. As in: Important to have absolutely nothing else around and be hiding in plain sight / not a swinging hotspot.

And you don’t need some big neon sign and giant LED screen screaming at the people, and understated chalkboard with sincere message wins the day

These are important runes

Lest ye forget: Ramen is pleasure, love, smile / such as is written on the wall – so it must be true, the chalk never lies after all, after all

Okayama’s “moment” + a few checkpoints and sustainable enjoyable life

Unfamous Okayama is having a bit of a moment: lots of new houses going up, Iris Oyama making a factory here, Amahz0n building a distribution center + folks moving from the “big city” for a more enjoyable pace/price of life & ‘relative’ lack of significant natural disasters.

[Watch: Okayama Opens Up + JJ Walsh Okayama show]

Anyhow, when I was passing through the Station (Strangely, very rarely ride trains, but the bus loop is right there) took a few snaps to pass along to visiting friends for some important orientation points.

About Japan Life:

Okayama is kind of famous as ‘a place you pass through going to somewhere else’ / cheesy tour books/sites translate into “a transportation hub” / I really like it’s just super normal – right sized, not too hectic, but all conveniences & usual castle, gardens, shrines, shops

Also, while I’m here, talking about my unfamous home, adding a few annotations, which applied to some blowhard’s article that was making waves of sorts… [ain’t gonna link it cause its so offside and baity] The same crap that comes up from time to time that “Japan’s GDP is so low, the debt is so high, the population is so aging, they don’t know what they’re doing, Japan is doomed” and then all the uninformed chime in about life in the UK/US/Canada/Australia as though it’s any better because the relative currency value is currently higher and then folks who keep one foot in various countries blabbity blab. I’m here forever so i got feelings. Also, i’ve been around.

Of course, the data points are always centred around Tokyo, and overlook so many of the benefits of living here in Japan {yeah no kidding, a few things i’d love to change so i work towards mitigation like drrr}, and rather than me writing an essay, here’s a few notes about “sustainable and enjoyable living” i added to the conversation – pointing towards my own experience natch – which were summarily ignored, which is fine:

Funny how it goes, Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka suck oxygen out of all the Japan news and are far more expensive/difficult to live in then “everywhere else” / here in unfamous Okayama, lots of new families moving in from around Japan, things are undramatic, somehow growing and pleasant.

We’ve also got a good garden, acquired some additional land, my wife runs a small business (arborist and landscape design), we have a wild boar trapper, solar panels & back up fresh water well. Plus stashes of savings in multiple currencies & tax free investments. Life is ok.

Importantly, real estate/housing isn’t a blood sport. You can acquire house(s) and if you have some moderate DIY skills, can be set up for long-term with no mortgage and a little hassle. + I’m chronic/complex ill & getting way better medical care here than I did in USA or Canada.

I’ve sampled living in *a lot* of different countries – from Jamaica to Indonesia to Nepal and have several passports and while Japan’s got problems, haven’t found a place that doesn’t… And the ones with the least problems have the biggest price tag to go with them.

Went back to Canada recently with family, & was expecting but still shocked by how expensive “everything” is – as well as how hard double income, no kids working “great jobs” we’re having to hustle for housing. Sure it’s beautiful but can hardly enjoy it without serious $$ flow.

Regardless, when got married, I promised my wife would never pack her up and move away from parents and she promised me I’d never have to be an English teacher so we’re here for the long-haul + have a great kid, a quirky house and my best friend’s goat farm nearby…

Bonus: And folks love enjoying/buying my paintings and poems here instead of just “oh yeah, I meant to buy one of those but…” in other places

Finally: at the bus loop, I noticed my favourite local bus company (there are several sort of public private operations) are doing a promotion to take folks on a hot spring excursion. Pay one price, get picked up, go to some Hot Springs, get ride back home. {Now that we’ve lost a few weeks with the scourge, not sure it will work out for us. We’re just really glad that this sorta campaign exists.

let’s go to hotsprings with Uno bus

Addendum: “there’s nothing to do in Okayama so why would any tourist go there” Twitter Convo

Diary: pyjamas and dinosaurs (& convention flashbacks)

Out and about to a dinosaur exhibition (wisely took earplugs, sunglasses etc.) and somehow came home with a fresh set of pajamas.

Yes, the sound of dinosaurs roaring, absolutely terrified children, the staff directing people with megaphones & above it all, cranked happy music. Not sure who designed the concept but kinda weird cause scary for most kids.

There was a “stamp rally” where (for an extra 300 ¥, can get a booklet to collect stamps at some stations.

stamp it up!

Of course we did that (and did the extra charge to ride around on some electric dinosaur (after a tiny lap =, they were waving us in so i ignored and rolled a few more – i mean i try to be cognizant of the cultural norms but there is a limit. I guess.

so fast the camera cannot capture us!

For me scariest part was being in a convention centre thinking about the hundreds of weekends, I lost toiling at this for various companies overseas… Lack of fresh air/sunlight, crappy food/coffee, general worthlessness of the endeavours.

Was held at one of those convention centers governments build in the middle of nowhere to try to build economic opportunity and fail miserably for the most part… *grand* staircases and unnecessary “sculpture” / but I just want a nice coffee shop and a shady quiet spot #sigh

Strangely, I just stepped out from this convention center with the dinosaur thing to try to find a coffee and in one of the smaller exhibition halls there is kind of a trunk sale of clothes and I found a nice pair of pyjamas. You know I always need a new set of pyjamas.

Look at them! Completely adorable… Men’s clothes in Japan are usually very well “subdued” so no wonder these ended up on the sale rack
Re: new Pjs So thrilled / easy breezy cloth for hot humid summers & tailored enough to lounge around in without revealing too much :) just a few small details make a pair of pyjamas much more "presentable/acceptable" for stepping out into the yard or over to the in-laws without causing anyone a bit of embarrassment/shock

I am home and in my new pajamas and in my natural environment of a cool dark room with water and various medications / yeah, it’s quite a life but hey, I was out and about with my lil family which is key even if not fantastic. Right?

Bonus: i think this kiddo’s t-shirt is a message from the universe to me:

Carve out a path to a new era with courage

Another kid’s T-shirt with “random English” said – like a message to me: “do it for your future self”

I would tattoo this but then I can’t go to the Hot Springs

Books: tatami-side reading, currently

Of possible interest to small subset of humans:

current tatami-bedside reading / cycle through these (plus kiddo’s awsum books & – rather under-whelming Paris Review) semi-simultaneously as notion strikes

Includes: L. Ferlinghetti, DT Suzuki, H. Hesse, W. Davis, R. Rubin, K. Babbs & a compilation about Kyoto with my pal Tedward Taylor + own journal musings, natch

Do you read many books at once and delightfully remix them all in your head? Or do you stick to a more sensible and linear approach of one at a time?

{Answer not expected, unless…}