I`ll have a Yamazaki please

Actually I

probably won`t as I`m not 

a whisky drinker 


Yamazaki Single Malt Whisky from near Kyoto has recently been named the finest whisky in the world, scoring 97.5 out of 100, and described as `thick, dry, round as a snooker ball`.     3 american bourbons came 2nd, 3rd and 4th.  I don`t usually drink whisky though I sometimes might have it hot with lemon if I`ve a cold so I`m hardly a connoisseur but the snooker ball metaphor is apt.   Don`t you think?  It`s probably really expensive this yamazaki whisky.  Japan has a man by the name of Masataka Taketsuru, who set up Yamazaki Distillery back in the 1920s after moving back from Scotland,  to thank, or not,  for introducing whisky to Japan.

Still a whisky or some other strong drink would maybe help me with the book I`m reading at the moment!!  The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo, yes another one by himself.   The experiments that the Japanese made on captured allied soldiers, mostly American, during world war II  at a university hospital in Fukuoka among, possibly, other places, and how a man reacts when he finds out his own doctor has been involved with this, is basically what this book deals with.    Before this book, I was reading The House of Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata but kind of put it aside.  That`s another strange one.   I might come back to that.  Both books were held for me, along with a little book of Japanese fables, by a bookshop owner friend I know who remembered I have a fondness for Japanese literature.

I definitely need to read something lighter soon, well literature wise. The travel guide I`m having a look at at the moment, along with various guides on-line about moving abroad , is nice but not fully relaxing either as it is part of a mission and not reading for the sake of reading.





Add comment November 6, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

The Man Booker Prize

goes to a tale of cruelty 

in the Thai death camp

  An Australian author, Richard Flanagan, has won this year`s Man Booker Prize for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North (a title he of course shares with Matsuo Basho`s famous work) based on the experiences of his father in the Thai Burma death railway camp as they called it, run by the Japanese during the second world war.   His father died on the day he sent his final draft to his publisher but knew and was glad he was writing the book. I`ve already discussed the Railway Man here which was pretty good (better than the film which was made of it).   This year`s Man Booker prize winner though looks really good from the report I`ve read.    I`ll be keeping an eye out for it in the shops.   I`m curious as to how he fits a love story into it.

It`s also of interest to me as I am reading The Second World War, by Antony Beevor (2012) at the moment and while the bulk of it deals with the European theatre, there is of course just as much detail about the Pacific war as well.      There have been mentions in what I`ve read so far of Japanese cruelty mainly in China (and how the Chinese fared in fighting the Japanese when they were not fighting each other) and an account of the allied effort to stop the Japanese getting into Burma.   I have also previously read The Rape of Nanking which was shocking, to say the least.  I have not read that much yet about the death camps in Beevor`s book as I have not got that far.    I can`t imagine how awful it must have been to have been a POW in a Japanese camp (British, Australian, Indian were the main nationalities and also Dutch and French, the French because the Japanese had taken over what was then called French Indochina) or any camp but for the purpose of this blog/post, a Japanese camp.     This greatly detailed account of the Second World War is amazing and it is really hard to put down (but must be as you would be so stuck in the detail you`d starve or be sleep deprived if you didn`t put it down once in a while!!).    The reasons behind certain decisions made by certain countries is just a real eye-opener.    There are some really silly scenes in it as well like a minister from a certain country found crying on his bed when he hears his country has been invaded.    It`s a great book which tells the story of individuals around Europe and beyond who suffered while their countries were either war-making or being dragged into the war.

Of course, as it`s the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war there are a lot of events marking that this year.    That`s equally interesting.  If I find a similar book about that, I`ll probably read it too.   I watched Birdsong a few months ago which is a love story set during World War I, and based on Sebastian Faulks` work, but I have not seen that many films or shows about it generally.     There is another book that has come out lately about how people in Europe suffered after the end of World War II at the hands of invading armies. I`m really into films/tv dramas and other accounts of World War II.    The Pacific, Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Letters from Iwo Jima/Flags of Our Fathers, Downfall, The Pianist, The Black Book are all shows /films I`ve appreciated with respect to World War II.   A work of fiction, Alone in Berlin, was also really good and gave an account of a German who was not caught up in the Nazi fever and was made to pay for it.   The Diary of Anne Frank of course is something everyone should read and with an intentionally lighter tone the film Life is Beautiful was also very touching but no less gripping. This is the first account I`ve actually really read though of World War II, independent of formal education (and you`d never really get this in an average school history book!!). Someone on a comment forum attached to the article about the booker winner  sarcastically suggested the Australian prime minister should send a copy of Flanagan`s book to his pal PM Abe so he can have a look at it and learn how cruel the prison camp staff (and general I imagine) warmongers of World War II suggesting I gather that Abe knows all this and prefers to pretend it did not happen.  Like the comfort women.  These women are also mentioned in Beevor`s book.    Maybe Abe should read that book but like I said….  His wife seems so much better than him but no amount of positive actions by her will make him look good in this regard I suspect.   Now he has brought out this state secrets nonsense as well. It seems given what is happening in the world today that people do not learn anything about what war does to people.   Soldiers and civilians alike.

Add comment October 16, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Mount Ontake meets nuclear discussion meets petrolheads

Volcanic mountain

spews forth killing many but

reactors press on


I`d like to express my condolences to the families of the victims of the Mount Ontake eruption.    It must have been horrific to experience, especially for children.  It seems the poisonous gases and the ash from the volcanic eruption are hampering efforts to look for any more bodies.    I hope they can renew their efforts very soon as there are many waiting for confirmation of the fate of their friends and /or family members.

I don`t see the point of criticizing the victims as I see people have (for climbing the mountain and /or bringing children to climb it) as what use is that?   People have been climbing it for years.  What I find ridiculous, but sadly not surprising, is that the government are still going ahead with their plan to restart two nuclear reactors near the area.    Do they not get it?  Clearly not.    `Oh yeah a volcano erupted so what, on with the nuclear reactor restart!` I don`t see much chance of the government ever losing over the reactors issue but if people keep on protesting against them, who knows.

I was seriously thinking of climbing Mount Fuji during my time in Japan but thought better of it.  I just felt I`d prefer to see it from afar and admire it that way than trying to climb it. And I think I will stick to my guns on that if I return.   As in not climb it. Best leave it to the `experts` like regular climbers, Japanese grannies and so on.   I sincerely hope it does not ever erupt as it is apparently due an eruption after thousands of years of inactivity.     I guess part of the mystique around such a perfect, serene-looking mountain is whether it will erupt.

One thing I just thought to add, as we`re on the subject of governments making ridiculous decisions is that the EU Commission has in mind to appoint a Spanish oil baron as the new Energy and Climate commissioner.  He is on the shortlist of applicants who are being seriously considered within the next 24 hours.  I mean how stupid is that??!!   Protests will hopefully help MPs concerned about this to prevent this appointment as it is just too ridiculous to consider.   As a European citizen, I have signed an online petition hoping to help but it should rankle with anyone concerned with the environment and climate change.    That`s even more ridiculous than giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU as happened  … was it last year??   DUH!!!  Even more ridiculous as it affects people beyond Europe, in real life.  Who gets the Nobel Peace Prize is not that important as that prize is just a joke these days.

The climate issue is never a joke

Add comment September 30, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Snow Falling on Cedars – novel

A film being faithful

to the original tale

means a lot to most


Especially the author understandably but also to the reader/audience.  Well, I took Snow Falling on Cedars out of the library a week ago and only finished it today.   Glad I took time reading it, though it was really good, as sometimes I rush through books and then regret it.  It`s not a bad thing cos if a book keeps you hooked then the author has done the bulk of their work but some books are meant to be read at a slow pace no matter how good they are.    I think now having watched the film first and then read the book that the film was very faithful to the book though the author I think had a couple of complaints about it in the dvd (for the film) extras.  Even though he was executive producer on the film was he not? Anyway,  I only see this in a few small ways which did not take away from the novel.

I read an article a while back about giving up on books that don`t grab you and at what specific page you can put the book down and decide not to read anymore.  To calculate,  you take your age away from 100 and that`s the page you can give up at.    Of course this was one of those silly articles that appear in this otherwise generally respectable paper.   You can give up on a book at whatever page you like.   I took out a book of short stories lately supposedly celebrating contemporary Chinese writers who were supposedly breaking free of censorship.  Yeah right.  I gave up after the second story as I was so bored I couldn`t stand to even read any more.   The writers were clearly too used to being censored and were not writing anything particularly interesting or gripping.  I didn`t even start another book I took out of the library as after a second read at home of the blurb at the back and inside of the book I didn`t even bother to start reading it as it was, I felt, too similar to other books I had read from the same part of the world and from the same type of writer (those who mix history and magic realism).  I had heard of the writer and that was the only book of his in the library so I thought I`d try it.



Add comment September 21, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

Air Dolls and Loneliness

Loneliness in a
huge metropolis comes to
all, even air dolls

Air Doll (Kore-Eda, 2009) gives a look into relationships that are caused by loneliness or cause loneliness. Serious loneliness caused by big city life where people go about their own business and pay little if no attention to others. This is another of Kore-Eda`s films looking at society in Japan. Though some scenes are utterly cringe-worthy (people making love to blow-up dolls), it`s very touching and sad for the most part, looking at loneliness in different people, including an air doll who has come to life.

It can be quite lonely to move to a new place, whether a small town or a large city.   Making friends anywhere is difficult when you are facing the fact that most people are reluctant to open up their circle of friends or even just befriend you by themselves, but in a small-town setting it can make a new person feel even lonelier and more excluded I think. In any size of a city, you can distract yourself with more things to do by yourself or by way of meeting people who might be new too (and cities tend to attract a greater number of individual migrants than towns, or worse villages, do). While you may have workmates, you might not click with them enough to want to see them outside of work or they might have other commitments.  People feel increasingly shy about approaching people they want to be friends with as if they are looking for a new boyfriend/girlfriend.  In a small town, this problem is maximized.

I personally believe a bit of alone time is good for everyone but some people hate the idea of it. Being surrounded by people does not mean you cannot feel lonely however, and being alone as a solitary person (i.e. not married or in a relationship and living on your own) does not mean you feel lonely or are yearning for company all the time. A lot of people do very well on their own but humans are meant to interact and be social. It`s also good for our mental health, and apparently helps us live longer.

In Japanese literature, through the last century, and in this one so far, being isolated is brought up a lot.

Natsume Soseki`s Tower of London gives us an idea of what it was like for the author as a lonely foreign student in London at the beginning of the 20th century and in Foreign Studies by Shusaku Endo, the Japanese student in France, in particular, is also seen to be lonely and only in demand for company by those who exoticise him (this also happens in The Tower of London to Natsume) and even want to convert him to christianity. The one girl he falls for does not feel the same. Their loneliness is pretty much enforced as they are strangers (of a different race) in a strange land.  It must have been hard for them.

To take an example from more contemporary literature, where characters choose to be alone, though society might force their hand a little, Haruki Murakami`s characters are more often than not loners, though they feel comfortable as loners. In Norwegian Wood, Watanabe says to this new girl he meets, Midori, that he does not go out of his way to make friends. In 1Q84, his main character is also a loner who does not have much company apart from a married woman he sees. However, he is not that bothered by it.  The Wind-up Bird Chronicle character is very similar to the two others except that he`s married. Murakami`s new book due to come out here shortly (but already out in Japan and very popular so far) is about a man who is urged by his wife to try and find out why his gang of friends suddenly dumped him while they were all at college.

I`ve lived in places, both home and abroad, where I felt I did not fully fit in, despite making efforts to.   Japan was cool though.  No real issues there.  I`ve lived in towns and cities and the countryside in my own country – so at least I can say that I`ve experienced different places and perspectives – and cities of different sizes abroad (some with a population bigger than my entire country`s).   I`ve only every lived abroad in these particular countries for a maximum of nine months which is nothing when you`re trying to settling in somewhere, you have to give it more time but most of my living stints abroad were restricted to the duration of a school/university semester or university year.  There was one exception where i stayed on for another half a year but I felt it was not working out for me so I left.  I`ve also travelled a hell of a lot, mostly as a solo traveller (during one long stint of travel, I also worked for several months), and have seen yet more places that way.

I`m not that crazy about my own country (I appreciate a few things about it but am, overall, not impressed with it in the greater scheme of things) and so I am itching to go abroad once again.  I really want a change and would also like to live somewhere totally new for longer than a university year.   I plan to take the bull by the horns soon and take on this change quite soon.



Add comment September 17, 2014 KorubettosHaiku

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