Saké oh saké
I did not know you appeared
in chocolate form
Well l am in Belgium at the moment, home of great chocolate and great beer (and heavy metal fans and 80s music fans if the radio shows are anything to go by). I`ve been here a couple of weeks now and only went into a chocolate shop yesterday (too much choice and overpriced chocolate rendering my ability to make a decision impossible – strange for a sweet tooth like me but I don`t like to be ripped off either). What lured me towards this one shop was that I read a tip about it selling saké flavoured chocolate – I`ll give you a bit of a clue where it can be found later. So I was sold even before I was sold the chocolate. €3.90 for 3 very small pieces of chocolate means I haven`t actually touched the chocolate yet!! I`ll obviously have to bite (or nibble) into one of them soon so I can tell ye about it – that is anyone who hasn`t experienced saké flavoured chocolate. Maybe they can be found everywhere in Japan I don`t know but it`s definitely an unusual treat in Europe I would think. I hope they do really taste like saké and that it is not just a gimmick for gullible Japanophiles like me. This city is very much a touristy city I think and it can be seen in about one day. As I said though, I was intrigued.
Isn`t it cute? Well the clue I will give to which city I bought it in is:
A film by an Irish director starring a couple of Irish actors who have had Hollywood experience features this city and its name appears in the title. One of the characters says of this city: “If I was raised on a farm and was a bit of a retard I`d be impressed with (name of city) but I wasn`t so I`m not”. Now now. The other actor`s character who does like the city ends up dead at the bottom of its main attraction. Brilliant film by the way. Apparently, locals get annoyed by tourists who ask if the tower was built especially for the film. I would get annoyed too at such a stupid question.
Of course you still have to find the actual shop. It`s in one of the smaller squares in the city (place in French, plein in Dutch which actually means full in French).
Add comment December 3, 2014 KorubettosHaiku
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 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
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
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