Thursday, 17 April 2014

Japan was

sometimes off-putting.

Did I mention the tick?

The Japanese lethal virus laden tick.
Biting me. 3 a.m.

I didn't know it could be lethal at 3 a.m 
but I did know it wasn't welcome on my futon.
So with very little time to spare before catching the bullet train,

we paid a visit to the International Medical centre
with the tick in a little plastic box.

'Don't worry,' they said, patting my arm kindly.

'Incubation period up to two weeks,' said Dr Google.
'Early symptoms like the common cold.'
'Incurable,' said Dr Google.

Guess who had a common cold for five days.

Guess who I believed about the likely prognosis.

I'm fine.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Japan was

sometimes unfathomable.

Little rocks with aprons and one with a crocheted hat.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

The pink and the white

When we first arrived in Kyoto, I was worried that we had come too soon.
The cherry trees were showing scant sign of flowering
and the weather was cold. 
I could have taken comfort from the words of Yoshida Kenk├Á,
a  12th century Buddhist monk who asked,

Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom,
the moon only when it is cloudless?
Branches about to blossom or a garden strewn with faded flowers
are worthier of our admiration.

Unfortunately I do not possess the philosophical outlook
of a 12th century Buddhist monk
and 6000 miles is a long way to travel to see bare twigs.

The view from our ryokan window in Arashiyama.
That's a Sagano Scenic Railway train.
 It used to stop to have a look at us, 
while we had a look at them across the Hozugawa river.

In the event, we saw the sakura in all its transiently beautiful stages
from first opening - 

The Philosopher's Path, a walk along a canal lined
by hundreds of cherry trees.

Nijo castle garden.

Kodaiji  Zen Temple and raked gravel rock garden. 

- to hanaikada, the word used to describe
cherry blossom petals floating on the water's surface like a raft.

Shinjuku Park, Tokyo.

Monday, 14 April 2014


The black-eared kite wheeling and diving over our heads -

 a painting on silk in our machiya in Kyoto.

A heron biding its time on the Kamogawa river -

the red-crowned crane at the entrance to Nijo castle.

The Emperor's picnic set from the 19th century
 in Horyu-ji treasures galleries of the National Museum Tokyo -

a hanami picnic party in Shinjuku park.
This one was very civilised and in fact our bags were searched 
for alcohol as we went in. 
Later on in Ueno park
the blue plastic sheets were spread with less regard to
cherry blossom viewing and a little more to . . .

sake barrels donated to the Meiji shrine Tokyo.

The rather tasteful mini-bar in our hotel room.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Thank you for waiting*

With nearly 600 photos to process,
how to choose?
How even to narrow down?

Sci fi toilet?

(The lid rises as you approach.
The seat is warmed
and an array of buttons, not always in English,
offers cleanliness beyond your wildest imaginings.)

or Mount Fuji?

(Seen on a rare clear day from the Rope Walk
cable car system.) 

(Seen from a boat on Lake Ashi.)

(Seen from the hotel at sunset in Tokyo.)

Puzzling notices? 

or a temple covered in gold leaf?

(The Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple.)

Tasty snacks?

(Bento boxes at the station.)

or tasty snacks?

(At the Monkey Park in Arashiyama.
We are in the cage, not the monkeys.)

* A frequently heard honorific greeting for talking to customers,
people of seniority, or the elderly,
not a concern for any delay, because we never experienced anything
but the utmost courtesy and promptness.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The vanishing point

This is my vanishing point too for a little while.
We're off to see our son in Japan
and when I come back I will be roku juu.

If it is your birthday soon,
this is for you -