Words and pictures and their power

Memrise I`m catching

up with you after my break

from memorising


Wow those words really build up in Memrise while you`re not active on it.     I took a while out as I was too busy for any memrising.   I had a ridiculous amount of words then awaiting me when I returned.    I think they should find a way to stall the build up of words if they see that a person is not active for some reason.   A person will collect a certain amount of points on each review visit or learning visit to Memrise so surely it should be clear in some way that they are not on it for good reason. Another complaint I have about Memrise is that my mems have sometimes been wiped and curiously another person might have put in a mem almost exactly a copy of mine.

Well, from words to pictures.  I know there was a visitor from France on my blog lately (thanks for visiting) and as I said in my last post I was in lovely Lille before Christmas, so I`d like to say to you and any other French visitors, and especially Parisians, how I feel for you and what has been happening over the last two weeks.   It must have been a shock but I`m glad to see people declare they are not frightened.

While the CH debate is mostly about freedom of the press, freedom of speech is an obviously related debate.    In Japan,  hate speech and incitement to hatred is still not outlawed.  So Shinzo Abe should have a little think about the rightwingers congregating in the Korean quarter of Tokyo, for example, to abuse people who have been in Japan for decades if not centuries. Ironically, most of them may be descendants of people brought to Japan as forced labour, or who are probably more Japanese than the Japanese themselves (and if not then judging by who is attacking them they`re probably thankful they`re not).

**  Let me stress that this is a very small percentage of the population (and let`s hope this ridiculous group does not gain more followers) and the majority of Japanese are peace-loving people **

This is what I thought of when I heard of the growing amount of people who are saying `Je ne suis pas Charlie`.  There is, or should be a limit to free expression when people, Koreans among others, and their livelihoods are threatened like this on a regular basis, just because of their race.   People who threaten free speech and freedom in general and people who likewise abuse their right to free speech to threaten others are the same idiots if you ask me.   So I would say I am in between Je suis and Je ne suis pas ….

Vive la Liberté

Add comment January 18, 2015 KorubettosHaiku

Haiku on my travels

Haiku is sought by

everyone everywhere and

Bashõ`s over all

Happy New Year all hope you had a good festive season whatever your beliefs

I happened to be in Lille, France before Christmas – enjoying the Christmas market, admiring the beautiful architecture and exploring the cobbled streets – and when I go anywhere I always browse in bookshops.  I came by a nice little selection of haiku books in one shop and thought I might take a pic.


As you can see, they are fond of Bashõ.

Belgium must be a graphic novel fan`s idea of heaven (and it`s not just Tin Tin* don`t worry).  Any graphic novel /comic book fans, including Japanese manga, should head there.   Every city has a comic book store somewhere and Brussels has countless comic book/graphic novel stores.  Not in to them myself exactly but I browsed in them anyway just out of curiosity as to whether I might find something and in fact I did so I must go back for it.

[* Speaking of Tin Tin, boy scouts and girl guides can often be seen.  I ran into a huge group of them exploring the citadel in Namur.  It was like a mobile Tin Tin convention.  Obviously they are some bit inspired by this fictional intrepid young explorer and his dog]

While in Belgium, I met a girl from Hokkaido and as I never meet people from Hokkaido abroad it was so cool to meet her.   I`m sure they travel I just never meet any.  And I like to let Hokkaido people how much I love Hokkaido.

By the way that saké chocolate from Bruges did not taste much like saké.  Not at all really. Poor little gullible tourist me.  Ah well the chocolate itself was decent – just not saké decent.  I think I`ll stick to regular flavours in future.

Add comment January 3, 2015 KorubettosHaiku

Saké flavoured chocolate yes please

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

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

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