Tag Archives: japan life

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

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 :-)

Pyjamas

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 still.in 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

Festive Omnibus Annotations (church, shrine, tea, gardens, fire, poems, snaps)

So many things to tell you but I’ll scribble in Postcards, 1 by 1 because each of you deserves custom-made inky artifacts, right?

And coffee in fancy cups, and crocheted pen/cil + quilted stamp bags, and fancy postboxes.

Don’t you?

Anyway, briefly (ha!), for starters – not capable of brevity):

* Hot springs visits with over-the-top performance in quirky confines {note: have a post from a previous visit to share one of these days…}

* Pork belly, woodstove yams Kabocha squash etc. dinner

* Gorgeous new blue herringbone cashmere scarf and my own fancy Hanko stamp (previous was a ¥500 vending machine version)

Continue reading Festive Omnibus Annotations (church, shrine, tea, gardens, fire, poems, snaps)

*Method Acting* Santa Claus at “Forest Pre-school”

Those years studying Stanislavski’s acting system coming through in my naturalistic/method acting portrayal of a certain festive character to the delight of assembled preschool parents… Well I suppose the children as well :)

{Ahhhh… memories of walking the boards from Broadway to community playhouses but nothing quite like the magic of performing the “Scottish play” – the one which we acTORs who trod do not see the name aloud in the theatah! – at Summer Stock festival in Cedar City or Ashland, or Straffordshire for that matter}

The assembled patrons asked many questions, ergo:

“Where are your reindeer?”

“We don’t have chimneys in Japan how do you get into our houses?”

“What are your favorite kind of cookies?”

“I’m not sure if I’ve been a good child, this year how do I know?”

“What actions are required to ensure that I receive maximum allotment of gifts?”

“Where are you going next?”

“How do you speak so many languages?”

Of course, after years of “walking the boards” and endless hours of honing my improvisation craft, I was able to provide answers in line with the characters true soul.

well we had to have a talk about how all this works now i’ve done the Santa show for Ichiro 4 times now

The questions – of course – were asked in Japanese by somewhat confused and bemused children, often trembling, studied by their parents.

Continue reading *Method Acting* Santa Claus at “Forest Pre-school”

Field Notes: overnight’r w/ sports, kids, bunks, baths, ports & burgers

Nov. 22 AM: Quite paralyzed by exhaustion and overwhelmedness – but things to do so I’m just saying this out loud so I get up and do one tiny thing at a time.

Kinda hectic 3 days ahead by my humble standards

  • Step one: switch from pajamas to something sort of like clothes
  • Step two: fresh air into bedroom
  • Step three: turn on Hey Rosetta “plan your escape”
  • Step four: meds, kanpo & supplements
  • Step five: food
  • Step six: grab some travel bags from kura
  • Step seven: prepare travel coffee kit

Then:

Continue reading Field Notes: overnight’r w/ sports, kids, bunks, baths, ports & burgers

“Illegal Smile” at Nishiwaki Beach (w/ baritone ukulele)

just trying to have me some… quiet (and fun)

Strumming along to classic John Prine tune “Illegal Smile” – a song, in this case, about the desire for a peaceful, easy morning at the beach, but, being surrounded on all sides by revelers, amateurs, and machines. But hey, gotta have me some fun (hot dog bun, your sisters’ a nun)

Snap: tsuchida cottage interior (w/ pork belly & postcards)

Tsuchida Cottage (post-dinner) table setting with my flower arranging & postcard string on speaker wire (heavy gauge) / #postcards from sri lanka, austria, ireland + japan, canada, usa etc

ps speakers swivel to kitchen or lounge room / see also “moon light” (can’t see big-ish gas oven, super rare in Japan)

Diary: fetching Mochi stone (& VW Beetle bento)

Today, we drove out to beautiful countryside location to the home of a lovely lady who recently lost her husband. Our mission was to load up a approx 200 kg mochi making stone. Massively dense and unbudgeible at first. Took some levers, hoists and dumptruck power moves.

But don’t worry, I had the assistance of my wife, the widow, her mother-in-law and her 12-year-old daughter. There’s no more invincible force than Japanese women but in this case, was not the ideal crew!

The giant stone was joined by menagerie of different ceramic plant pots, some bizen fired drain pipe and all sorts of other odds and ends.

those are wheels/rims, not hubcaps!
vaguely-related: this well, I am quite convinced is a portal to Antipodes

We then went around the corner to a café (keep in mind, we were in a small hamlet and the drive was littered with Sakura, plum and peach trees in splendid bloom along was lazy river with elderly farmers doing their works and even Russian looking dacha cabins with garden plots for hobby gardeners to visit from the city) and ate a ridiculous ¥600 bento lunch.

Turns out the boss (who runs the sorta Bento café in a little hamlet which i am trying to recall the name) was born in 1974… He bought this one when he got his drivers license, the car is also 1974 and currently has 74,000 km.

Of course we talked for an extended period about my 1974 bus and the history of Volkswagen (including the Brasilian and Mexican versions) and, sat inside, checked the engine etc. and how this thing could run and until100 years old with proper maintenance.

The wife (or daughter?) drives a new-school Beetle, he had a couple of canoe/kayak-y boats, mountain bikes and a kura – which of course i inquired about and he hasn’t done anything special with but thinking about a karaoke lounge.

Anyhow, was cool to see this kind of tiny lifestyle business as our area could really use something like this. Also, noting, despite his house.biz being a traditional farmhouse with the tatami rooms, had a wheelchair ramp. Hooray for accessibility!

Update: the mochi rock is installed! Heavy. And no, its not a birdbath.

it ain’t going anyhwere!

Diary: disintermediated ramble about preparing for rambles and stand-bys

Preamble: While planning for this trip to Vancouver & Victoria I’ve noticed that yes, obviously, a lot has changed (duh) & a lot of the places (cafés, neighborhoods, parks) I want to visit are definitely tied to nostalgia and memories (and facing ghosts from past life)

nostalgia is a heck of drug

{aside: finding nostalgia for Vancouver past is more potent than thoughts and plans for Vancouver present – neighbourhoods once loved now “not recommended (esp with a toddler who like to pick things up off sidewalk”), no more dim sum carts, hotels with endless extra taxes and fees, restaurants are expensive + tipping, complicated transit zones schemes persist, old haunts gone, so we go one}

Dear Diary:

10:45 in bed eating granola and medications, wife outside running woodchipper, grateful for noise-cancelling headphones.

Today’s “must-do” is organizing 70 days of meds in fishing tackle box.

Ok bye

Anyway, in the meanwhile… I’ve got out of bed, put on the clothes, now going to fold some laundry, rock the dishwasher, and organize some meds before he comes… (Actually looking at the clock I will do 1.5 of those tasks)

37% of me wants to go back to bed, another 15% of me wants to make a video to remind folks about my limitations for BC trip (i.e.: “I/we can’t meet you at *fancy place* at 7 PM for dinner but hey, we’re on a picnic blanket at a park from 11AM till 2PM with a thermos of coffee”)

Otherwise: So now, this is the last week of Ichiro school / the school year begins and ends in March in Japan so there was just graduations and he moved up to the next class which he will only be in for about two weeks total.

We pull him out and then stretch run for getting a whole ton of stuff ready for Canada… Not just the suitcase of medications, the suitcase of gifts (possibly two suitcases), various clothes for rainy weather but also doing all the stuff to get the house in “stand-by mode“ which includes standing up mattresses and fumigations (we’re going into the season of the bugs), having mosquito nets ready for when we come back, packing up the futons and the bags with the “bugs don’t eat me” devices inside plus… Of course the wife needs to renew her drivers license (her birthday is while we are in Canada) and…

We’re hosting a little pizza party as a post show celebration for the bands concert two weeks ago (because yes, we need something else to do), plus a retirement for another pal and “safe pregnancy” for another and i guess “bon voyage” for us. First time to have more than a few folks over, including several kids.

As such, finding a new school for Ichiro to start in September (looking into two or three days a week more nature and fun and free play-based environment… yesterday wife investigated a YMCA program which looked really good except it’s about a 40 minute drive away which is kind of a drag to do but I was able to tell her about the importance of the YMCA in my Dad’s life… Child of a poor single mother in Regina Saskatchewan, that was his hang out and finally charted his career path and his first job out of university was a program Director at YMCA, of course I have the business card).

There’s also the saga of the piano player from our wedding whose husband died recently suddenly (my age, a heart attack) and we’re going tomorrow with the little dump truck to help haul some stuff away… Specifically including a stone specially made for pounding rice in the mochi / no, you can’t make this up. But, we have a dump truck and my wife is endlessly supportive, creative and nothing is impossible so… I just ride along and pretend to help.

So, were less than two weeks out and have too many tasks but what gets done gets done… Yesterday I organized medications and labeled everything, today I am going to try to bang out a little profile for open medicine foundation (you know this group/organization right?) for awareness and *yikes* share my story just as i hit 10 years since “sick day”.

There’s also a call for submissions for University of Idaho in Boise for mail art collage and… I mean, no one ever asks for this kind of stuff specifically so I really feel like I should make something but, maybe I’ll do that on the 9th, mail it on the 10th and fly out on the 11th… Maybe mail it from the airport as a bonus. I have a dear friend who lives in Boise who will be able to go see it in real life… Maybe take her husband and kids (they are adults now) that would make it kind of fun for me.

Also, 1 more round of injection, 1 more setai treatment, and a haircut for me and Ichiro so we are rolling sharp.

I also remind myself that six months ago or a year ago or two years ago I couldn’t do a quarter of what I’m doing now. I am grateful but so anxious.

{gonna be a lot of picnics in parks and when using hotels, booked rooms with kitchenette / going April May will be better cost than July/ August but still, i’m a medically-retired pensioner so gotta be frugal while still showing wife and kiddo funtimes}

Bonus:

My kid got up in his “moose suit” fleece romper, checked out his new art gallery we hung up yesterday, set out granola and bowls for the family, & tuned the radio to Peter Barakan’s NHK radio show playing Grateful Dead’s “Casey Jones’” sung by Warren Zevon (I’m pretty sure) #Parenting

He’s definitely curious, energetic and is developing great taste in music. He spent most of the “public health restriction time” hanging out with adults and that impact is definitely evident.