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Showing posts from April, 2014

Easter in Japan with a mouse, not a bunny

This post isn’t entirely original – I've mentioned my Japan Easter bunny theory before – but since I've become a prisoner in the ivory tower, it's either warmed-up leftovers or starvation.
Am I mixing my metaphors?
That would be singularly appropriate, given that the topic is Easter in Japan. This weekend the western world, be it Christian or not, celebrates Easter, but Japan, which has climbed onto the Christmas bandwagon with unbridled glee, remains oblivious to chocolate eggs, cute bunnies and fluffy chicks.

Why? Japan has turned Kentucky Fried Chicken into a Christmas meal and Colonel Sanders into Santa Claus; Japanese women think it's perfectly normal to get married in a white dress in a fake chapel with a fake priest proclaiming their nuptials; Japanese children have gone pumpkin bonkers for a Gaelic Samhain which eventually became a Christian feast called All Hallows' Eve; Japanese retailers have contorted a third-century Catholic saint "whose name was jus…

There are no happy endings in Japan

She pined for the beauty of her lover, who was fair to look upon as the flowers; now beneath the moss of this old tomb stone all has perished of her save her name. Amid the changes of a fitful world, this tomb is decaying under the dew and rain; gradually crumbling beneath its own dust; its outline alone remains. Stranger, bestow an alm to preserve this stone; and we, sparing neither pain nor labour, will second you with all our hearts. Erecting it again, let us preserve it from decay for future generations, and let us write the following verse upon it: "These two birds, beautiful as the cherry blossoms, perished before their time like flowers blown down by the wind before they have borne seed." Two lovers, immortalized as the legendary bird hiyokudori (比翼鳥). It has only one eye and one wing, and is therefore helpless until it finds its mate and becomes a complete bird that can see, fly and be happy. The bird is a symbol of lovers who can only find happiness when they are u…

The best cherry blossom path ever

I did it!
Damn, when you're good, you're good.
And when you have no modesty, you have no modesty.
One of my numerous little obsessions is to discover a new cherry blossom spot every year. This year I thought it was not to be, due to a combination of workload and bad weather, but fortunately I was wrong. When you're damn good but you get it wrong, you get it very wrong, and then it's very good. How's that for logic?
This year's best discovery isn't 100% new. I've been meaning to go there for a long time, but it never worked out. Then I woke up to a perfect day – that was Wednesday – and impulsively decided that if I moved my butt, I could finish this walkpedition before my afternoon lessons.

Yonks ago Sarah told me about a river in Saitama where she drinks umeshu donated by her father-in-law under the cherry blossoms. Some months later I tried to find a Kannon statue, aborted my mission halfway, walked through Saitama in a sulk, talked to staff at various tem…

A portrait of Ru

Look! An artist drew my portrait! Ekaterina's interpretation is 100% correct: "Please welcome the Barbarian Cat (of course it's a cat) who stalks trees, hisses at slowly moving obaasans and eats chocolate instead of mice."

You're always nagging me for a photo. Well, here you go. This, ladies and gentlemen, is Ru.

Thank you, Ekaterina! I'm SO chuffed! ♪☆0(^^0)*^^*(0^^)0☆♪

PS: I hope you noticed my necklace of leopard teeth ...

A quest for people-free cherry blossoms

Thetruest truth ever spoken was this wisdom by Jean-Paul Sartre: hell is other people. This is particularly intense in Tokyo, the world's biggest metropolis. Especially if you're a savage from Africa's wide open plains.
That's why I avoid festivals, choose to go to work an hour early rather than face peak time on commuter trains, refuse to go on a shopping spree even for books on the weekend before Japan increases its sales tax. Too many people.
It's also why every spring is a quest to find that most elusive of locations in Tokyo: people-free cherry blossom paths. It helps that I go very early – if I say very early, I mean I leave at 5 am – on weekday mornings.
This year I have very limited cherrypedition opportunities due to a combination of workload plus predicted cloudy weather, and that's made me decide to focus on old favourites rather than go larking about. This particular road isn't as beautiful as Kandagawa or, reportedly, Megurogawa, but it's …