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Showing posts from April, 2013

The 1200-year-old wisteria at Fujino-Ushijima

Two powerful forces came together to produce this post: firstly my determination to visit new spots every year; secondly a heinous blow to my self-esteem, delivered with fine precision by Lina and Dru, who claimed on Dru's blog that I've become such an Indiana Jones shrine hunter that I don't write girly posts about pretty flowers anymore.
"If you prick me, do I not bleed? if you tickle me, do I not laugh? if you poison me, do I not die? and if you wrong me, shall I not revenge? The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."
Thank you, Shakespeare, couldn't have said it better myself!
So, muttering self-righteously and plotting retribution, I took off for Fujino-Ushijima (藤の牛島) in Saitama to see a 1200-year-old wisteria that's been designated a natural monument. I didn't accidentally add a zero to that number: itwas allegedly planted by Kōbō Daishi* (774–835). It's alsomentioned in records o…

The azaleas of Shiofune Kannon-ji

My favourite nomadic pastime is to find new places all the time. That's not exactly a challenge in Tokyo, which compresses eleven universes into one city, but if you're looking for spectacular flower spots within a day trip, it gets a wee bit trickier.
This year, when everybody started waxing lyrical about azaleas at Rikugien and Nezu Jinja and the Imperial Palace Garden, my reaction was meh, been there, done that, bought the omamori.
Whence, wisian and whereunto? Those were the existentialist questions that occupied my thoughts. (Wisian? Guess who's been reading Beowulf with much muttering, cursing and dictionarying! I'm doing my best to read it in Old English, but I have to consult a modern English translation fairly frequently. "Wisian" means to guide or to point out.)
Googling and diving into my dusty second-hand books wisian-ed me towards a temple called Shiofune Kannon-ji (塩船観音寺) in Ōme. I'm happy to confirm that I've now discovered the best azal…

Tokyo Sky Tree quiz

I'm swamped. Running a work marathon. (Unlike Lina, I don't have a wonky foot, but my head is getting wobblier each day.) Experimenting, if you wish, to determine whether karōshi only affects Japanese DNA.

When the end of this month arrives, I will have worked 32 days straight with only two days off. (Please observe the use of the future perfect tense in English.) Despite that, I managed to squeeze walkpeditions into my free time. Hey. I'm tough. I'm from Africa.
Last night I taught my evening lessons with twigs in my ponytail – evidence of the morning's mountain hike – because I barely had time to exchange my muddy boots for black ballet pumps. I'm sure my students noticed, but never mind, they probably thought I was wearing exotic African accessories.
I keep telling you: Africa is the perfect excuse for everything.
Sensei, you have leaves in your hair. Yes. African spring fertility ritual. Sensei, there's mud on your nose. Yes. African make-up. Sensei, y…

Gender benders in Takarazuka and kabuki

The hero was tall, charming, confident and very handsome. He was – as all heroes should be – suitably tortured by destiny, impossible choices and unattainable passion. He was a skilled swordfighter and a tender lover.
The hero was also a woman. Obviously a woman. I know I'm supposed to think it's a man and probably also supposed to fall in love with him, but no, throughout the all-female Takarazuka Revue performance I knew I was looking at women.

I've seen only one show, and it was a few years ago, but since Takarazuka is celebrating its 100th birthday this year, I thought I'd write about them.
Takarazuka (宝塚歌劇団Takarazuka Kagekidan) was founded in 1913 by Kobayashi Ichizō, president of Hankyū Railways Corporation, in order to persuade more people to use the railway line to Takarazuka, a city known for its hot springs. He focused on Broadway shows rather than traditional Japanese entertainment such as Noh and kabuki, and he wanted an all-female cast as opposed to all-male…