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Showing posts from June, 2014

This is why I can't cope with Japan

Last weekend I had a female student at my eikaiwa. Thirty-something. Single. Lives with parents. Will go to Paris with her mother in August.
To visit Paris Disneyland. Why don't you go to Tokyo Disneyland? I have to went to there already. When did you go? Many times. How often? Hundreds. (Isweartogoddess this is what she said. I believe her.) So why do you want to go to Paris Disneyland? What's the difference? Is not crowded. o.0 +_+ You're going all the way to Paris Disneyland because it's not so crowded? Hai. Uh-huh. What else will you do in Paris? Finished. Heh?
Disney. Finished. (She meant that's it. Paris Disneyland. That's it. That's what they will do, the thirty-something single woman and her mother.)
She's been to Paris before.
Did you enjoy some French champagne? I no drink. Uh-huh. What did you eat?
McDonalds. (Isweartogoddess this is what she said.) MCDONALDS? Yes. I love McDonalds.
Oh Jesus Mary Joseph Balaam's ass and all the apostles ...

The Christian Zen garden at Zuihō-in

Did you know that there's a famous Zen garden in Kyoto that incorporates a Christian cross into its design?
I'll tell you about it, but first … why this now?
It's rainy season, that's why, and earlier today, as I stood on my balcony enjoying a thunderstorm, I remembered that I visited Kyoto in June 2010. It was one of my best trips ever, because it was raining incessantly and the city's temples and moss gardens were deserted. I sat at the famous Ryōan-ji, Ryōan-ji!, for two hours without any company.
There is nothing – I swear nothing in this universe – as tranquil as a Zen moss garden in rain.
That Christian Zen garden? It's at a temple called Zuihō-in (瑞峯院) in the Daitoku-ji complex (大徳寺). Zuihō-in means "blissful mountain", and it refers to the legendary Mount Penglai, home of the Eight Immortals. The temple was founded in 1546 by the feudal lord Ōtomo Sōrin (大友宗麟) from Kyūshū, who was baptized as a Christian at the age of 46.

Zuihō-in has sev…


A photo for Miharu Makoto, featuring a small selection of the books that help me to write posts about Japan's shrines and temples. Normal blogging to resume ... one day ...

Flowers and towers at Horikiri Iris Garden

"Oh, crikey," I thought, "I've written so many posts about irises. How do I find new information for this grey spirit yearning in desire to follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought"?¹

So I opened a Smirnoff Ice Wild Grape; opened another one; contemplated life, the universe and everything; paged through my dusty old books; and there it was … in a book published long before Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Google … the origin of Boys' Day, a holiday celebrated in May.
"Tango-no-sekku, Boys' Festival, is an occasion to express thanks for the healthy growth of boys and pray so as to make them safe from sickness and evil influence." Apparently it originated in an ancient rural custom: May was when insects began to appear to harm plants, and that's when farmers tried to get rid of bugs with bright banners and grotesque figures planted in their paddies.²
These figures eventually turned into the beautiful samurai dolls…

And thus it begins ... the story of a fennec in Japan

Prescript: I wrote this story for a Google+ contact, Hirai Mamoru, who used some of my South African flower photos as a backdrop for manga characters he's created. I scribbled it between classes over the weekend, and I'm breaking every self-imposed rule by publishing it. It hasn't been rewritten, it hasn't been edited by an experienced third party, the storyline and personalities haven't been thought through properly. It's merely a vehicle that might inspire Hirai to draw more pictures, because he's really, really, really good. My story is aimed at children, not adults, because maturity is vastly overrated. Says I. Here we go:
Baha meets a teru teru bōzu

Baha sneezed and shook his ears. Rain made him grumpy because it made his ears droopy, and if there's one thing a fennec just shouldn't have, it's droopy ears. Fennec ears should be chirpy, perky and happy; but that's easier said than done in rainy season.

Three days. The rain had continued …

My new favourite photo

I haven't absconded, abdicated or evaporated. I'm battling forth bravely with my work schedule, but I did get a chance to visit theHorikiri Iris Garden (堀切菖蒲園) in Katsushika. I haven't been able to write a post about it yet, but in the meantime I'll share my new favourite photo – Ru and her beloved Sky Tree, taken in the nearby Horikiri Waterside Park (堀切水辺公園) – as proof that I'm still alive. My thanks to Adriana, who took these photos.

Winter is assault; summer is seduction

And thus it came to pass that summer arrived.
Not overnight, as winter tends to do when it slams into the city and rages around the narrow alleys, but softly, with a wink and a smile.
Winter is assault; summer is seduction.

Early summer in Tokyo. Windows and balcony doors remain open. You wake up at night and realize that you're too hot in your oversized Mad Dogs T-shirt, and that perhaps it's time to start using the electric fan. Air conditioning? No. No no no. Last year you didn't switch on your air con until August, and you'll be damned if you hands-up sooner this year.
You go on a walkpedition next to your beloved Sumidagawa, with your sentinel Sky Tree standing guard on the horizon, hazy in the hot air, and your body turns damp within minutes. You're not sweating rivers yet – it's not that limp soggy drenched sensation of mid-summer – but you know it was a wise decision to wear a white shirt that won't display the perspiration gathering under your bac…