Saturday, 5 October 2013


then and now in Nippon

When I lived here 30 years ago Japan was a global powerhouse. It led the world in electronic and motor vehicle manufacturing and there was a sense of it having succeeded in doing economically what it had failed to do militarily. A lot has happened in the decades since and while Japan retains some influence in the areas it once dominated, it now attracts international curiosity in some completely different areas.

The Japanese are masters at managing small spaces. Craftsmanship is also strong. Alongside the propensity to adopt cutting edge fashion, Japan has now become a recurring 'go to' place to showcase contemporary design and lifestyle. Two illustrations of this are Monocle's regular articles featuring aspects of Japan and Kinfolk's recent feature edition in celebration of the Japanese way. My hunch is that there has emerged a kind of humility in the Japanese way over recent decades that might have helped contribute to this, but others are better qualified to comment on this.

Coming here this year was more than recreation. I have long wanted to share a taste of this land and its people with Maria. It has been fabulous, and especially with having reconnected with the Kunitates, all my expectations have been met. I wanted to not only connect with aspects of my furusato but I wanted to see and feel the stuff that might define Japan's contribution into the future. Tokyo's endless surprises and the flourishing hipster vibe in the cities is perhaps a taste of this. 

We started the day yesterday in the quiet streets of Takayama and emerged at the end of the day in the lively and funky Akasaka (Tokyo). And now, (after catching up with my good mate Steve Hopkins at Omotesando Koffee, and visiting a couple of art museums in Roppongi- today's plans) we are ready to head home. Thoughtful, satisfied and with some more things ticked off our 'list'.

Started the day here, and finished ...

Friday, 4 October 2013

one last shrine

Late afternoon meandering around a Takayama shrine and some photos from Maria before we head for Tokyo and back home on Saturday night.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

words in an attic

Using a language after 30 years was always going to be interesting. Some basic things were always there, but before long there came a muddle of there being some things I probably should recall and couldn't, and then using vocab I had forgotten I knew. I had one experience where I was racking my brains to remember the word for reverse or opposite, and couldn't (hantai). Then the next day, I found myself formulating a sentence that included the word. 

The image that has felt most fitting, is of rummaging around in an attic. There are somethings you know are there and eventually you find them. There are other items that you'd forgotten about but stumble across them. As time goes on you start to become more familiar with where things are are where to look to find them. It has been fun and rewarding blowing the dust of the attic which is my Japanese.

If you missed it, the last 5 blogs on are also about Japanese words, some new ones for me that go beyond everyday vocabulary.

natural beauty

A bunch more photos from Maria on her photo blog from the last couple of days in the Japanese mountains.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

subdued enjoyment in the mountains

We are in Takayama, in the north of Gifu Prefecture surrounded by peaky Japanese mountains. Our minds have begun turning toward home and the new adventures / challenges / opportunities that await us.

One of the indicators of beginning to think of home is our culinary appetite ... we begin to look for more familiar food. We had cake and coffee in a great little cafe yesterday where I tried a ginger latte (OK, that really is thoroughly Japanese), but last night we lashed out and had a meal featuring Hida beef, one of the things this place is famous for. At the end of the day, expensive steak and vegies tackled with a knife and fork. Words fail me for how good it was. Spectacularly wonderful if you are into eating meet. Ironically and paradoxically, while wandering the streets on the way we were discussing the possibilities of steps toward ethical meet consumption / vegetarianism. hmmm.

We also came across a 1200 year old tree yesterday in the grounds of a Buddhist temple ... mind boggling really.