Category Archives: Japan Life/Travel

A Return to Nippon – Postcard #70

Postcards from Gravelly Beach – Return to Nippon, onsen

Returning to Japan for the first time since working as a mushroom farmer in the Tottori-ken mountains decades previous, Dave rambles on about the circumstance – then and now – while wandering near his pal’s goat farm. Riffs include: arriving in the snow and getting settled, bailing on job, hitch-hiking around islands, falling in love(ish), eating okonomiyaki, soaking in hot springs and living simultaneously in the future and past. Also persimmons and goats, pigs, cows et al.

Take a soak in: A Return to Nippon – Postcard #70
(44MB, 29:31, mp3, stereo)

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Japan Flashback – Tottori World

Made a map of various places where I lived and worked in Tottori, Japan during 1993-4 including an enoki mushroom farm in Saji, an apartment in Kawahara, another in Hamamura, and a few friend’s homes. Note: many of these communities are now amalgamated into Tottori-shi (city).

Musing from 2008(?): I feel so old thinking that when i was there, there was no internet access, no cell phones or other common communication tools. It seems like so long since i was in japan and i always thought i’d be back time and again. I still remember the smells, sights and feelings of the materials there – paper walls, tatami floors, kerosene heaters, heavy, overhanging ceramic roof shingles i’d always bump my head on!

I almost never get to use Japanese any more. There are heaps of Japanese ESL student here but they are all young kids trying to be cool ;-) and i haven’t urge to make temporary friends, however we picked up 2 lost hitchhiking Japanese girls trying to go snowboarding and they were really surprised when i busted out the Nihongo and explained where i lived (Tottori is the lost Japanese province i think) and i still get excited when i find the REAL 20th century pears from Tottori (rare usually crappy Korean ones).

Update 2017: I’ve since returned to Japan a few times but not to Tottori… yet.

Update 2018: i returned and documented, coverage to come eventually

The Emperor’s Speech: Aug 16, 1945, Hirohito Transformed Japan Forever – via The Atlantic

On this day in 1945, one week after atomic bombs had obliterated the cities of Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, radios across Japan crackled with another shocking announcement, one that would come to change the course of Japanese history perhaps as much as did the atomic bombs Little Boy and Fat Man. At noon, Emperor Hirohito spoke directly to his subjects for the first time in his reign. His announcement would shock Japan, but it would also transform it, altering in a few short minutes the entire mission of the Japanese nation in ways that it, and the world, still feel today.

Source: The Emperor’s Speech: 67 Years Ago, Hirohito Transformed Japan Forever – The Atlantic

Tips for Travelling to and around Japan

Q & A Interview for a web mag (reference lost):

-Did you know anybody in Japan when you went?

Nope, didn’t know anyone or speak a word when i arrived. My older brother had lived in Japan and heard from a friend about a mushroom farm looking for a foreign worker. At the time, I was hitchhiking through the southern US after traveling Europe when i called my Mom to check in. She told me about that he’d pay the airfare. So, 2 weeks later i was standing on the side of road with my backpack, late at night with snow up to my knees waiting for a van to pick me up. The next day i started a 6 day a week, 10 hours a day job growing enoki and shiitake mushrooms.

-How did you survive the communication barrier?

First, humility – you have realize you will sound like a child or a caveman saying “I need food” “where is toilet” and basic tasks become tricky and people will try not to snicker

Second, smiling – i had a long hair and big beard and wore worker’s overalls and rubber boots so people didn’t quite know what to make of me in the rural area where i lived so smiling helped ease the surprise and awkwardness

Third – if you learn a dozen “special” words, you can totally act like you know it all ;-) Domo, dozo, so desu ne, so desu ka, hai hai, itsu, doko, suimasen …

-Any tips to people going to Japan?

Be prepared to simultaneously step 100 years into the future and 100 years into the past. Stay away from everything familiar (restaurants, hotels) and embrace the weirdness. Soak in hotsprings, eat octopus, get lost, head into the mountains and stay in a hut with strangers. For me, hitchhiking the country roads was totally safe and fun – folks picked me up and often invited me to their fave restaurant, tourist attraction, house, bar or temple. I stayed almost entirely away from the cities and found countryside somewhat unexpectedly wild and full of old agricultural and spiritual traditions. I also grew to savour the classic and modern literature of Japan – read these rather than guidebooks before going to better appreciate Japan.

Zen Rambling in Japan ~ Originally in Heads Magazine

Authour’s intro in Heads Magazine
Authour’s note: This article “Zen Rambling in Japan” by me Dave Thorvald Olson originally appeared in Heads Magazine (now defunct) in the Vol. 6, Issue 4, circa: Spring 2006, as the cover story for the Travel Issue. The iteration below is a late-version draft rather than the (apparently misplaced) submitted final version so there are some minor errors. This article is also markedly different from my “classic” Hemp Culture in Japan articles (see below) as this all original piece concentrates on modern times and practical tips rather than focusing on history and cultural change. Heads did a beauty lay-out (excerpt scans included) and added several ancillary articles about Japanese culture in the issue. I’ll try to add in the photos where {indicated} in the article. Be wary and read all the safety tips and caution closely – neither the Japanese police or Yakuza are to be trifled with but, if you keep it chill the good times are in store. Ganbatte! dvo, June 2010, Vancouver.

More Hemp in Japan

Hemp Culture in Japan – a 1992-7 ground-breaking treatise on the history and cultural significance of hemp in Japan is available in .html or .pdf . For alternate versions, visit JapanHemp.org, a site dedicated to Hemp in Japan. Published in Cannabis Culture magazine (#13 & Best of …), the Journal of International Hemp Association (V.4 N.1), as well as excerpted in several books including Hemp Horizons (USA), Hemp for Victory (UK) and “Hanp” from Norway.

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Message about Japan to the Scarborough Dude – Dick n’ Janes podcast

Message to the Scarborough Dude (.mp3, 6:25, 6.1MB)

If you don’t listen the Scarborough Dude’s podcast dicksnjanes [A rambling kinda talk about life and all that comes with it, held together with an unusual variety of great music…] you are missing out. He is a (decidedly) middle-aged rambler who lets his true emotions all hang out in loquacious hour long shows chronicling his innermost thoughts as we toils in business, travels far and wide, deals with co-workers, kids and colleagues and life in Canada. His political observations are astute and his social meanderings insightful. Not hard-hitting and full of ‘explosions’ but more like a hour being a sympathetic bartender to a patron with his heart on sleeve.

Anyhow, recently the Dude went to Japan on business and recorded well … just about everything. Listening to his rambles brought back a heap of memories so i fired him up while waiting for the Seabus a couple of weeks ago. He’s back from the far west now and a friend is filling in his shows (he’s always threatening to quit podcasting for whatever reason) but be sure tune in for a unfiltered view of middle-aged angst and joy from a classic Canadian.

My message offer flashbacks while wandering around Vancouver, waiting for the Seabus (toking a bowl) and listening to the Dude’s poignant discourse – topics include my experience as a enokitake farmer in Tottori-ken, New Year’s Eve eating mekon oranges around fire barrels and drinking under cherry trees and buckwheat hull pillows.

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