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Showing posts from August, 2013

The death of a computer, and other stories

I glared at the buildings, thoroughly disgruntled by a nagging déjà vu that had been bothering me for a while. "It doesn't resemble the University of Stellenbosch. It looks European, but I haven't been to Europe for yonks. It looks … what? … where did I see this?"
I muttered irritably, shifted my bag full of files to another hand and wished the person I was waiting for would hurry up. It was hot, I was in a grumpy "I hate meetings" mood and the crows were noisier than a kindergarten full of drunken salarymen.

"Shut up!" I snapped at a particularly obnoxious crow. "Away, thou cullionly motley-minded varlot! Begone, thou guts-griping boar-pig dissembling flap-mouthed strumpet!"
If that bird had had a tongue, he would've stuck it out at me; instead he cawed closer and perched on a sign. (Don't argue with me already! I know birds have tongues, but there's this thing called poetic licence, OK?) "You can't sit on that sign…

Tokyo Camii Mosque and memories of Cairo

The call floats over the city, drifts on the dust, spirals around minarets, disappears into the desert where dawn is breaking over the pyramids.
Early-morning Cairo, and I'm listening to the ṣalāt al-faǧr, the dawn prayer, one of the five daily prayers offered by Muslims. I got used to the call of the muezzin, the person who recites the prayers, but that early-morning chanting remained my favourite.
It's my fondest memory of a city where I worked many lifetimes ago. It was a difficult experience – Islamic culture isn't always kind to an unmarried, independent, strong-minded woman – but I still miss the narrow streets, the intense heat, the ancient-beyond-comprehension history. What is happening now in Cairo, the current violence, is breaking my heart.

That was a rather roundabout introduction to explain why I enjoyed my visit to Tokyo's biggest mosque, Tokyo Camii in Yoyogi, so much. (It's written Camii but pronounced Jamii or ジャーミイ.) I did this walkpedition with re…

Duck! It's a Tokyo crow!

This is a lazy post, because I don't have enough time to write another properly researched saga. I first wrote a short story about Tokyo's crows for my Google+ page, but then I happened to be in Yoyogi Park this afternoon, and a huge crow happened to sit next to me …

So I've expanded my original story a bit for my blog. Tokyo's crows must be the scariest birds in the universe. They're highly intelligent and have a beautiful glossy coat, but they also have lethal beaks and malicious eyes. They fear nothing. You see signs (like the one at the end of this post) warning you against crows all over the city.

There are two species of crows in Japan, the Jungle Crow (scientific name Corvus macrorhynchos, Japanese name ハシブトガラス or hashibutogarasu) and the Carrion Crow (scientific name Corvus corone, Japanese name ハシボソガラスor hashibongarasu).
The one that terrorizes Tokyo is the Jungle Crow. Its scientific name, incidentally, is based on an ancient Greek word,macrorhynchos, tha…

Hiking in Nikko to Takinoo Jinja

Polish your boots, get your backpack and grab your camera. We're going hiking again, and this time we'll follow in the footsteps of a holy man.
Shōdō Shōnin (勝道上人) was one of the great monks of the Heian era. Not only the first person to explore the mountains of  Nikko, he also founded several temples in this area, including Shiunryū-ji (present-day Rinnō-ji) and Chūzen-ji.

It is said that when he wanted to cross the Daiya River, a flood cut off his access to the mountains beyond. A deity appeared on the opposite bank and threw two snakes across the raging river. The snakes turned into a bridge, and Shōdō could cross safely.
After his death in March 817 he was buried in Nikko. His statue stands at the entrance to the Nikko World Heritage Site in honour of his contribution to Buddhism in Japan.

You can still walk along one of his routes, a meandering trail¹ that takes you behind the famous Tōshō-gū, across the hills, past a famous waterfall and into a quiet gorge – no tourists! –…