Tag Archives: regular days

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: December 25 is normal day (& i see you if you are blue) + ahead to New Year

Happy December 25, no matter what your clock and/or a calendar says.

“time is an abstract” says the clock shop

Important: A note to folks dealing with chronic / complex illness, otherwise shut-in or feeling alone, frustrated by “all of this”: I see you and been you. Christmases alone at Chinese restaurants, nursing coffees at Denny’s, stuck hitchhiking, blue, alone, sick, and confused &/or in Hospital #peace

Normal: And in Japan, Christmas is known as “Monday, 25th”– a normal day in which nothing special happens // although we are going to the optician [update: we did] then post office, groceries ordered and delivered, garbage goes out tonight. So we go on.

Happy Boxing Day. Great thing about December 25 just being “Monday” in Japan is 8:30 PM, postal delivery rolls by with a box from @courtneymelba
& @milk_records
from an order sent in possibly their final hour.
{Yes, that is my address so you can send me a postcard or records}


Aside: For the record (because someone always asks): no, we don’t go to KFC on Christmas. Or ever. Somehow this myth persists and I guess there are people that do this but I’ve never met them.

Funny enough, you’re only the 42nd person to ask me that this week. And the short answer is: we sure don’t and I’ve never met anyone who actually does but somehow this has become the “story” just like that in Japan everyone eats whale meat and you can buy panties from vending machines – there are probably people that do but I don’t know them. Japan has lots of weirdness but the stories that appear in the “outside media” are all about this “outrageous strange Japan that might exist but I don’t know about it”

In response to one of numerous inquiries about KFC
Any/Everything can be better designed

Next up: From now, most all the folks start to busyily prepare for New Year – which involves intense thorough house cleaning, eating plain buckwheat noodles, attempting to not choke on glutinous rice paste, and then three days of watching inane TV programs (overstimulating variety shows followed by a multi day relay marathon with tortured college students), while eating delicacies – which some might consider each a “dare you to eat this”… (I just, as it’s actually wonderfully-prepared, elegant & elevated cuisine), ergo:

Example of luxurious elevated but sometimes rather confusing cuisine

While choosing through this chessboardlike box of mysterious delights – osechi – folks *pretend* to eagerly await something more spectacular than the mythos of the Santy Clause… the simultaneous delivery on early New Year’s morning of approximately 1.3 billion postcards by the diligent and exceptional Postal Service.

Stamps, won!

Most cards – generally preformatted and understated but carrying this years’ zodiac animal/creature/avatar (dragon for the record) – carry a “secret code” which corresponds with a sort of national lottery in which you look up the numbers in the newspaper to see if you’ve won like a trip to Hawaii, a car, or maybe some stamps. I won stamps once, two of them. Lucky! ¥63

geez, I look like a hairy wookie, I’m really not

And time is overrated, direction is everything, carry on in towards the cardinal of your choosing – aho!

Recently, in miscellanea (kitchen morning, messy studio with new gear and records +)

These things don’t necessarily connect yet I keep remembering the importance, yes important, I’ve documenting the beautiful mundane of a life I’m so grateful for, ergo:

Our adorable kitchen set up as seen from our table with the fruit, skin cream, water craft, French press coffee, a pot of stew on the stove and that beautiful blue tile, glimpses of artifacts, squash, chopsticks & an oven – all through diffused light
Continue reading Recently, in miscellanea (kitchen morning, messy studio with new gear and records +)

Diary: shaking it out, tidying up bamboo and looking ahead to YMCA school

Meanwhile, back at the cottage after returning home from Seaside for a bonanza of vacuuming, shake out, linen changes and yes, more laundry and finally a bath…

Camping pals connected by majic intertubes

This morning, after a phone call with a birthday friend in the LaSalle mountains, headed out to help my darlings with the typhoon/wild boar clean-up.

some trees down and an unstable slope (belonging to a neighbors land who is incommunicado) and bonus is yet another wild boar attack on the compost. Try to make it easy “Buffet style” for them but still, the jerks trashed the place

Specifically, cutting down a bunch of bamboo fallen down from a neighbor’s unstable & unintended slope. “Why don’t they take care of this land?” I asked “they are old and given up and ask/told us to…{do whatever?}”. [problem is, the trees are on a slope that, if you left unattended or aggressively cleared, would be a possible mudslide problem into our area, including my beloved kura barn, and, as such maintaining the root structures of the bamboo is important to stabilize the slope]

A downed tree does add a nice frame into the front of the kura studio / note the lovely fern and now 2 post boxes as well as some fresh rock-scaping work

Anyhow, found the pathway the wild boar are following down to rampage the garden and compost, broke down the busted bin, shovelled up the debris, stacked up the felled bamboo and then another torrential rain storm like Bam!

Since I’m already soaking wet, figured might as well take down the platform used for the adorable inflatable pool oasis, hauled em back, stack em up, moving the bricks and blocks stack up ~ quickly drenched and muddy, realized had opened the inside house windows for fresh air / fck

Made a mess getting in and out of the house, more old towels deployed… back outside in the deluge realizing the grass ain’t gonna get cut today and it’s gonna be a drag once get time to do it coz like a jungle around here!

All the rain gutters drain into rain barrels which then get used to water the garden but ain’t gonna be needed for a while, and got a remember to empty out the various rain barrels or else it’s gonna be another mosquito bonanza.

So, moved some stuff around in the carport (cleaned up the cast-iron griddle from the spontaneous barbecue during the first part of the clean up several days / eons ago) and put a few coat of varnish on some more handmade “finger pointer” signs for a bit of dopamine.

Inside, muddy clothes surrendered, fresh up and start back to the laundry folding assembly line (problem with mold, mildew and mites means everything needs washed and then probably needs washed again) / but, a bit of Tintin watching with Ichiro and then Motown dancing fun time.

Inside, muddy clothes surrendered, fresh up and start back to the laundry folding assembly line (problem with mold, mildew and mites means everything needs washed and then probably needs washed again) / but, a bit of Tintin watching with Ichiro and then Motown dancing fun time.

Dinner, he fell asleep in mamas lab, the two of us watched a solitary episode of Marvelous Mrs Maisel / savoring 1 episode at a time… then hey, another basket of laundry is ready! Folded w/ Leonard Cohen live, and then reviewed the new YMCA preschool extensive briefing documents. Starts Sept 3x/week.

It’s great preschool program as they get the kids outside & active in nature, not just some supervised play time in a fenced in gravel lot like so many of the schools we visited. {Yes, we visited at least half a dozen preschools as though he’s going off to college} the downside: It’s quite a distance from so, for the pick up, will ride bus from end of the line at our house, to downtown Uno bus terminal & transfer to old school tram/trolley line and ride to the end of the line, bundle up my sweet little dude and reverse course.

I’m a little nervous as some days – as anyone who follows along knows by now – are really tough for me with the #MECFS, but I’ll only do this a couple days a week but really important during wife’s busy arborist season (October, November, December are full on).

So, will do what I can to be the best papa possible + I’m so proud of my darling wife’s business (10 year anniversary next year!) & I’ll tell the YMCA preschool I’ll be Santa Claus as an excuse to start growing my beard back :-) I do what I can, so we go on.

K bathtime xo gn

Bonus: random snap of Ichiro on drums

I dream that he has a band, and I can be the old dude in the back right in the Merch table (albeit poorly)

Tidying up: kura, recycling and firestarters (and a few notes from around the house)

Speaking of organizing, made it out to barn, studio the other day, couldn’t find project wanted to work on (a “forged passports” turned collaborative secret diary) which initiated a bit of a tidy up for whatever is next / space is super versatile, and everythings on casters

When you have so many pills to sort, you buy the pills sorter in the hardware department not the pharmacy (and the other bins are filled with packets of traditional Chinese medicines)

I quite like organizing things, but in this case, kind of done with it / just a little exhausting and overwhelming / trying to stay on the program though

Up and about a little bit today in my carport workbench making fire starters (use in the wood stove, one light and you’re good to go)

Put one of these nuggets in with some kindling, nestled between split logs, add one spark & you got a nice fire.

“But Dave, where will you get the kindling?” asks no one in particular (regardless, a snapshot)

Here’s my little work area in the carport. Basically make signs, fire starters, and wash, jars, parts & pots. Oh, and bird houses (but is it really a birdhouse if a bird doesn’t live in it?)

Don’t know who if anyone needs to see this, but this is the easy smart way for bundling up a big stack of cardboard without having to do the whole “flip over make a mess” maneuver / start by making a big “4” on the ground with your string, and the rest just happens #Recycling

It’s really satisfying when you slip the rope through the “4” and give a little tug and the whole thing cinches & snugs together.

Anything I can do to make life 2% easier makes it 5% better / so many little tiny routines, being streamlined, nuanced and improved makes a huge difference

Item purchase just after the illness started when I thought it would last a few months… Never used but I still dream. Actually used it once to move a refrigerator.

While im stalling from dishes & laundry:

my darling entrepreneur wife with a somewhat rare business is at a city-sponsored event for business-owning-women. Even have child care on-site. For those outside of Japan, this is kind of unusual and a positive step, I guess. #proud


Q: “So Dave, how do you make all this cough content when you’re in bed all the time?”

A: “Dictation, C&P, sortganizing-fu, shortcuts, and practising since I was a little dude making ditto machine newsletters”

Something beeping
Any one of 53 different things
Somewhere at home

slackerhaiku (which means i gotta get up and wander around figuring what it is)

Brief re-cap {of everything, up to here}

Sometimes (esp when my *former Company* is in the news), folks surface – who apparently missed out on last 9 years of my life – so, catching someone up, I told them these items:

its a photo of me, standing jauntily by a post box as though that’s normal behaviour

I struggle with brevity and not sure where you “last left off” so:

  1. I live in an underappreciated corner of provincial Japan, forever
  2. Have a darling arborist/jazz singer wife and an adorable son
  3. Dealing with chronic and complex illness #mecfs
  4. Making lots of creative projects as all my “archives” are here and a historic barn turned studio {Audio, video, scrapbooks, postcards and now a poetry book underway}
  5. most of my time is spent folding laundry, washing dishes and taking hot baths
  6. PS UW is here being his very best self (but chose a strange country to live in for various reasons/purposes ;))
  7. frequent diaries and personal archaeology at: daveostory.com (you are here) with rss feed & extensive longform personal musings and moderated comments & also postcards
(yes, that is my address but don’t come visit unannounced)

Vignettes & Lists / tying dangling ends

[Oh, I should be more clear: these are things done recently, a few things I might do today, and things that might happen in the next couple weeks, possibly… I move very very slowly and have to nibble at life in tiny pieces but, I often make lists as a sort of diary & brain-offload]


  • ordered 5 white 15mm buttons for an Ichiro Japan baseball shirt (made in China)
  • ordered various sawtooth frame hangers and related hooks
  • some family photos framed + 2 more underway with mat board
  • investigated buying own mat board cutter
  • roasted pumpkin seeds


  • making soy milk
  • ordering supplies for making 4kg of miso
  • wrote aerogramme to a poet in a car crash (he’s ok but…)
  • wild boar rampaged the compost bins (again, as is their privilege and routine)
  • now made oatmeal and coffee
  • today is grocery order/delivery from co-op

Hoping today/tmrw/etc to:

  • put kura desk on swivel casters
  • assemble packet for Gary Snyder
  • finish a few more Kerouac in Kobe dossiers
  • try a new power adapter on an external harddrive
  • move a speaker to higher shelf
  • maybe a few more mix cassettes
  • book reviews for Amy C & Marc Z

also on list:

  • set up a mic to record “logistical announcements” for 2 podcasts to “reclaim ownership” on itunes (added in 2005 and worried about losing the feed)
  • charge a typewriter-style keyboard for poetry assembly
  • back to hospital on Thurs.
  • schedule a visit with shodo artist


  • Mailed aerogram(me)
  • Casters on desk
  • started to clear out a bunch of empty boxes
  • plugged in hard drive and it works (so many back ups from 2015) 
  • Moved the speaker
  • Now filtering soy milk
  • Bit of lunch and the grocery order is next

Yes, I’m doing too much but I hate being stuck in bed so when I’m able to get up and about, I always overdo it and never learn the lesson.

Am I reminding myself? Maybe, I don’t know I’m not very good at this ?

Kura Scrapbook Hangout w/ cards & letters

come along for a hangout, no big deal

Adding recent postcards, cards and letters to an “accordion” style scrapbook with various tapes and stamps in kura barn studio while listening to records (Aztec Camera and Belle and Sebastian) and discoursing on recent trip to Shimane, the role of monarchy in commonwealth countries, importance of friends, fondness for invitations, sending postcards to self, putting everything on casters, discarded records, and hats – many many hats.

Kura Scrapbook Hangout – Japan Cottage Musings

Musing: Painted into corner (of a blank canvas) #video

Spontaneous riff with usual lousy video and dodgy audio but solid stories

Diary musings including: brain fog; trips to Shimane and Kyoto (Minka Summit); pals Ted and Ed and a big dog; recent books (Alex Kerr, Robert Whiting, Miles Copeland, Dave Bidini) + classic Japonica books; ++ sorting out my head about “what comes next” (answer equals anything; seitai treatment; MECFS awareness (and other awarenesses month); sortganzing ephemera; new records, old records; how are you? etc – all from kura barn a spontaneous rambling blur on another sunny day in Okayama.

Accidentally features Leonard Cohen and Mxmtoon.

Did you notice my sweet black globe and green ship lantern?

Diary: visitors see new life & family + trip to Teshima w/ Ichiro annotations

A mysterious brilliant visitor from overseas – first in three years – captured me, at home, in my new life. This is my family, this is our home.

my adorable family with whom Xo Ryoko, Ichiro (thanks Amber Sensei)

I wandered far and endured plenty to find this life, and immensely grateful for it all. I’m so happy to show someone from my “old life“ what i found & and she understood very well.

and now with remarkable in-laws/grandparents

With out guests coming, we pulled out the special stash of saké, some fermented carrot pickles, housemade miso, and a few other fermented treats. Also started to soak in soy beans to make soy milk; prepared the Bizen yaki ceramic cups & small dishes for sashimi; also have bamboo shoots from our forest. (thanks M-i-L and F-i-L)

garden vegetables and bamboo shoots right out the door

Ryoko also prepared matcha tea in an abbreviated tea ceremony with tea bowls from her great-grandparents and made anpan (anko sweet bean paste in lil pancakes) to go with.

tea bowls and accessories, freshly washed

I should add that, “no, Japan is not open to tourists at this time” – Our recent particular international guest was on a publishing-company-sponsored book tour / meaning the company supported a business visa requiring a detailed itinerary and accepting of various risks / responsibilities etc. visit with issued by Japan consulate in USA before departure and required 10+ various forms, letters, etc.

Out n About to Teshima

the hilltop minimalist cafe where fig farmers served curry and you can chop your own green onions

Briefly: The many islands of the Seto inland sea (nestled between our home prefecture of Okayama and neighbour pref. Kagawa and the 4th of the main island of Japan Shikoku) host a triennialle art festival – not shockingly unheld for a few years – more to say about the economic goodness and reinvention and volunteer spirit but for now, i’ll say:

We went with our guests rather spontaneously (they had planned and reserved museum access) by our groovy “Esquire” van, then walked onto ferry and used various busses around the island of Teshima, ate curry, drank coffee/tea, more curry, postcards, then a walk-on ferry back to Uno port, more art and drive to Okayama station – the busiest day i’ve had in forever but was buoyed by conversation, views and friendship. Further annotations follow:

whilst friends went to museum, r, i and i went to a hilltop sorta café (really some fig farmers putting out a shingle for a few hours a day) and enjoyed views of Inushima (Isles of Dogs) and back to Okayama #panorama

Ichiro, postcards, ships (all sizes) etc

After our day out, in the bath he explained over and over again all the different modes of transportation and conveyance (big ferry boat, small ferry boat, two buses, baby car/stroller, our usual van etc.) he used during that day, using new sentence construction skills with conjunctions and verb conjugations. His magnificent brain spinning – even working out the names of our friends.

this obv was not our ferry but Ichi loved checking out all the fune

Lil dude got a bit of a fat lip running down the hill too fast and tripping but still was able to chill out at a café and enjoy his beverage.

dude knows how to lounge at a quirky curry cafe with Suzuki and Ota san

Papa wrote postcards and drank chai, sitting on cushions and sending geo-coordinates to pals who found us at カレー喫茶 異邦人 near Ieura port across the island from Kubota where we originally disembarked.

Ichiro mailed my postcards for me. “Choose the right portal for postcards Ichiro” i said {update: he did, what a smart fella} Inventory: 2 cards from Teshima to Gifu and Kyoto.

2 are decoys but one whisks secrets anywhere

Ichiro has now learned how to use the coffee bean grinder and insists on being the coffee captain in the morning, two scoops of the right beans, puts on the lid, covers with his hand, inspects to see if it’s the right grind for French press or Moka pot, all very serious & perfect.

And my darlings auditioned for a role in the next Wes Anderson movie (so to speak) with a pose by this blue truck.

blue, red, yellow – the day was my fave sort of weather, warm, breezy and overcast

Back to the port – love the salty smell, rusty metal and reinvention from industrial manufacturing and process to artistic tourism.

Ieura port – like most of Pacific coast of Japan, lots of factories in various states of use or decay, boats/ships of all kinds including container ships and now ferries, all sizes

Dozen+ of these islands with art, more to say but time to head home with my snappy shoes, happy. Thanks family and friends.

Fluevogs, since 1970 (like me) now with new aglets – getting very worn in