Haiku reflections on Japan

Strange weather

Reading can seem a 

rare pleasure but for me

it still beats n/f.

 

I’ve made quite a bit of time lately for reading lately, thanks to a certain hurricane which meant the time was made for me as online tv/film watching was unavailable but also, pre-hurricane, thanks to certain brilliant books I have been borrowing from the library which prompted me to ditch the online viewing (nf mainly, occasionally yt.) myself. In addition to the brilliant library books, I also decided to go back to ones on my shelf which I bought a year or two ago (and read – no tsundoku here!) but for some reason did not put them in my literature list.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami (called The Briefcase in other parts of the world, which is also the title of the last chapter in the book) is a good one from Japan. It shows love in a different light.  Once you put aside the initial weirdness of how the mature woman and a former high school teacher of hers come to meet, the story is quite sweet.   It’s not the age gap that is wierd exactly as they are both now adults (Memoirs of a Geisha is way creepier in that regard), only that he first recognised her as the school girl she had once been and keeps commenting throughout their relationship on her studiousness, or lack of it, in school and saying things like ‘good girl’ and patting her on the head (you wouldn’t even pat a child on the head).  However, they’re clearly somehow meant to be as they find out, despite her occasionally feeling at odds with the association, and I guess more unusual couples exist.    This is a book I bought a few years ago and read at the time but the second reading is better and the humour comes out more on a second reading.  The translator who worked on the book is Allison Markin Powell (I like to name the translator).

Another book I had time to read for the second time, bought around the same time as Strange Weather was Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.  This is a book of eleven dark tales with the main characters in each being connected in the oddest ways.    The translator of that is Stephen Snyder.   This was a very quirky one which also explores loneliness.

By the way, I’m so glad to see the Nobel Prize for Literature went to Kazuo Ishiguro.  He’s such a good writer.  I’ve been meaning to buy one of his recent novels, having read some of his earlier ones.  Nice to see the prize go to an actual author again, and a very deserving one he is.   They might have learned their lesson now and continue giving it to authors. I’ve nothing against Bob Dylan, whose lyrics are lovely, but he didn’t even seem to want it and took his time showing up to receive it!!  What’s more, you don’t know who’ll be expecting one now, using Bob Dylan as a precedent.  I shudder to think.  So, just stick to writers please.

It seems the political climate in Tokyo is going to stay the same for a while with Shinzo Abe’s landslide victory in the elections.   Despite the additional options available this time around, including the current Tokyo governor whom I’ve mentioned before with her Party of Hope, and another new party, the CDP (Constitutional Democratic Party) led by a Yukio Edano, he still won due to his hard line stance, understandably I guess, on North Korea.  This CDP sounds interesting though and might prompt change in certain areas.

 

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Haiku reflections on Japan, International or other matters

Takei-n action

It’s April Fools Day

But I have to say that I

would trust George Takei …

 

.. if he’s serious about running for Congress in his state of California.  I don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t.  Other actors/celebrities who have been a lot less likeable – whatever about knowledgeable – have gone for politics and this guy, in contrast, is very likeable and knowledgeable.

Like other on-line comments I’ve read, if it’s true I’d nearly move to the US just to vote for the guy.

Well, April Fool’s Day or not, he should go ahead with it.  I won’t say anymore in case it’s a joke.  But I hope it’s not him takei-n the piss.  He’s got a very good sense of humour but I don’t think he’d joke lightly about this.

Elsewhere, Japan is getting ready to take on North Korea for all that missile launching they’ve been carrying on with, in Japan’s – way too close for comfort – direction. As it’s actually self-defence they have a right to do so and there is no threat of changing the constitution to allow it.   And Japan should stand up for itself, with or without the help of the US (I wonder what George Takei thinks of that). I just hope that it does not lead Japan down a dangerous path as there are way too many right-wingers in Japan who would take the chance to change the constitution and become all-out aggressive again.   Shinzo Abe as I’ve said before is quite the militarist himself.

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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

 

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