International or other matters

Freedom to travel in testing times

I was on an enjoyable trip to Spain lately and passed through Pamplona where the San Fermín festival was in full swing.  I didn’t experience the bull run nor did I particularly want to but I experienced a few hours of Pamplona in full festive mode.   It wasn’t as rowdy or packed as I thought it would be although it felt like the whole of Spain was pouring into the city to enjoy it (it was also coming up to the weekend when people had time to travel up to it) but I kept my eye on my bag all the same and kept my wits about me.  The place is meant to be full of pickpockets during this festival.

By the way I believe a young Japanese guy got badly injured during this bull run.   I wonder how he is.    Not everyone should be doing that.    I think I feel more sorry for the bulls really.

I mention my travels in light of the events in Nice last night where people were enjoying Bastille day in Nice – people from Nice who regularly congregate on the Promenade d’Anglais, a beautiful spot overlooking the Mediterranean, and people living in or visiting Nice from other parts of France or indeed the world.

We cannot let these people inhibit our freedom to express ourselves and enjoy ourselves whether at home or abroad.   Nor to enjoy travelling.

During my trip which encompassed a few cities in Spain, I was reassured by the presence in a couple of train stations of metal detectors to detect any danger that may be present in anyone’s luggage though I had not actually given it a thought until I saw the first one. I was only travelling with carry-on luggage so anything I had in my bag was harmless anyway (as it should be bar my usual pen-knife haha).  I think they should have them in bus stations there too if they don’t already.   As we know, Spain was hit horrifically by terrorists with train bombings in Madrid back in 2004 (I can’t believe it was that long ago).   Of course these detectors are not foolproof but they are reassuring.  A minute or two to check your bags is nothing is it?   It should be brought in everywhere and should not be seen as a nuisance.  If you’ve nothing to hide, then you’re ok aren’t you?

I don’t think anyone should fear visiting France.  Again, that is what these nuts want.   France is a vast country after all with a safe, reliable and punctual transport network (if it’s running and the staff are not on strike!! haha) and something could happen to you just as easily at home.   Of course France is on high alert (the state of emergency has been extended now for another 3 months) and has been since last November but the fact that Euro 2016 and the climate change conference, to name two biggies, went off without a hitch means it can handle itself perfectly.  France’s guard was lowered slightly yesterday because of Bastille day and partly because of confidence due to the success of Euro 2016, which only wound up last Sunday.   That’s natural.  The events in Paris passed off well yesterday and others no doubt, but unfortunately not this one.  You cannot over-police places. Over-policing gives out a warning sure, but warnings can be treated with disdain and contempt as happened in Nice.

If you’re travelling keep your wits about you as you would on any holiday.   But enjoy yourself as that is what freedom should allow you to do.  And in hot countries travel with as little luggage as you can.  Who wants to be carrying around heavy backpacks or lugging suitcases around?   Especially in hot countries. I often admire travellers from Japan with their very compact set of belongings.  They have the right idea.

Oh and thank you Spain for a wonderful week!

お大事に旅行さん、お大事にニース Take care travellers, take care Nice


Haiku reflections on Japan

Happy ending (?) in Hokkaido

Happy ending in

Hokkaido for lucky child

sparks needed debate


Good to know that the 7 year old boy abandoned by his parents as punishment in the Hokkaido woods has been found safe and well.    How he survived on only water while staying in that hut was amazing.   Kids are tough but it’s amazing to find he survived without eating, with only water to drink, and no wonder his first words,after confirming who he was, were ‘I’m hungry’.    Sounds like any child to me : ) Who knows why he went so far. The innocent curiosity of a child who underestimated the wilds of Hokkaido,  not taking his parents seriously (if you throw stones at moving cars and people then you can’t be that worried about what your parents will say), or something deeper.

You don’t have to be a parent to comment on this.  We were all kids once right?  The parents went way too far.   A few minutes alone is a long time in the mind of a child.  The 5 km he walked until he found the hut is a lot for a child too.  According to a website I found measuring walking distances, 5 km would take a healthy fit adult walking at a leisurely pace an average of 60 minutes (about 45 minutes if they were more purposeful) so it probably took him, with his little legs, much longer (leisurely or purposeful = not taking the mick here but being scared of animals or other things and looking for somewhere to sleep before nightfall would fall in to the purposeful category I would imagine).   The people from the local village looking for him obviously did not reckon on him going so far.

As a person without kids, I hesitate to suggest what I would have done but I will as I’ve looked after enough of them (thus acting as guardian for however long or short a time). They could have spoken with him about why he felt the need to throw stones at cars and people.   Or maybe bribed him with something until they got home and then given him a good talking to.    This will no doubt reflect badly on them but I’m not saying they were to blame for such disconcerting behaviour.  He could have picked up this behaviour from kids at school or seen it on tv.  It will still reflect badly on them.  They were lucky he wasn’t killed by a bear or attacked by something else or someone else in those 7 days.

Who knows how awful the kid feels.  He is said to have accepted his father’s apology with a ‘nod’ and an ‘ok’.   That doesn’t mean much as he was maybe too ashamed to make a fuss in front of people as he probably knew of all the effort put in to looking for him. He might not have known what to say otherwise as maybe he’s not used to an apology from his parents.  Either way, when you’re that age,  your parents are supposed to be the sensible ones and the parents will come out looking the worst in this.

This has opened up a debate on treatment of children in Japan.  Spoilt or not (and they’re not all spoilt by any means, Japan has neglected kids like any country and even spoiling kids rotten to make up for absence is a sort of neglect), this would be terrifying for any child, even if they initially saw it as an adventure, and it will leave a mark on him though I have to say he still eventually needs to learn not to throw stones at cars or people or other living creatures ( just ward it off with a stick if possible).     A lesser punishment would obviously have been enough to teach him this.  Not leaving him at the side of the road for god knows who or what to find him.

Anyway I guess they feel bad enough as it is and are extremely ashamed.  The shame of making international headlines won’t help.   I hope the family sort this out between themselves and get to continue their lives in peace.




Haiku reflections on Japan

The madness around the Olympics

Destroying culture

is one thing but ruining young

lives is another


I happened to catch a lovely  Studio Ghibli film (scripted/directed by Hayao Miyazaki and Goro Miyazaki respectively, with Keiko Niwa a co-writer) the other day – From up on Poppy Hill.   I don’t usually talk about anime on this blog but Studio Ghibli is allowed.   Like most of these animations, it has a social message.  In this case, it was about destruction of old buildings to make way for new developments.  Set in Yokohama, 1963 a building used by students’ extracurricular activities, including the school newspaper, is about to be knocked down to make way for developments for the Olympics the following year so the students, including Umi and Shun, the two who fall in love but have a complicated history to deal with, try to prevent it.

Many places are guilty of this but  displacing people, temporarily or permanently, is much worse.   Beijing destroyed much of its old quarters for the 2008 games and presumably other cities have done the same (including Tokyo) but Barcelona is said to have sent all its homeless off down to Madrid in 1992 (bet Madrid loved that) and South Korea did a lot worse in 1988 – if a report that has re-emerged lately is anything go by – when the ruling party decided homeless people were more of a stain than they liked so homeless women, men and children (the children were mostly orphans) were sent to institutions run by prominent companies where they were used as slave labour day and night and subjected to unimaginable abuse.  This actually started as early as the mid-1970s but was allowed continue until well after 1988.

South Korea have already been given the Winter Olympics for 2018  (and it’s not like they’d lose it for something that happened in the past) and it’s a mostly different place than it was back then, politically and socially, which is why the present government is trying to pretend it never happened (and I’m sure President Park wants to disassociate herself from her father’s involvement also) but the truth will come out someday.

It’s definitely interesting what governments do to their own cultural entities (but worse their own people) to attract these games, but it’s not generally as tragic as that.  I like watching the Summer Olympic Games but it’s shocking to see the lengths some countries, even not so well-off ones, will go to to clinch the hosting rights and what they get away with even once they have obtained the hosting ‘honours’ of an event that celebrates sport and sportsmanship but is not always remembered for either of those.  Also, in this 2016, other events in Brazil are going to eclipse the Olympics in Rio I’m sure, the deadly Zika virus being the most significant one (who cares about sports when newborn babies suffer like that. if they even survive in the womb?) and the current political situation being another.  They’re barely ready for it as it is.