Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Dashing Blade

My friend asked me to take a few photos of a travelling knife. Obviously inspired by the story of the travelling garden gnome, the knife is being circulated around the readership of the web page 'Blade Forums', and recently arrived for a brief visit to Japan.

I'm a bit lost as to the fascination with knives, guns and the like. After a brief period of interest during my teens, and the purchase of a particularly fine sheath knife in a scary weapons store in South Africa, I lost interest. No real need for them in daily life, although I understand the interest in good workmanship.

However, it was fun taking some snaps of the blade yesterday, trying to give a Japanese feeling to the pictures. Only half successful, but cause for much laughter at our home party last night as non-knife fanatic friends joked about the oddness of sitting a knife upon a pole in a Japanese garden.

In retrospect I could have worked a lot harder to produce more images like the first in this post, rather than putting the knife into a very un-knife-like setting and snapping away. The knife remained, for the most part, as incongruous to it's surroundings as the gnome was to Big Ben, but without the joke appeal.

Monday, November 19, 2007


Behind the Kabuki theatre in Fushimi, Nagoya, stands an automated puppet display at the entrance to one of the small shopping streets. Unexpectedly, as this is a puppet display on the open street, there is an "Automated External Defibrillator" attached. These have become quite a common site in train stations lately, but having one on the open street?

Well it may say something for the quality of Kabuki in Nagoya (my first experience of Kabuki was stimulating, confusing, but not quite heart stopping) or the amazing local mechanical dolls. Perhaps the patrons of the Fushimi shopping streets are of an average older age, or maybe the local tebasaki (fried chicken wings) or kushi-katsu (deep fried pork on sticks) is of a cholesterol content beyond McDonald's wildest dreams?

This is so far the only outdoor AED I have seen. My wildest imaginings could not begin to include one of these on the streets of England.
"Watch this boys.... Oi, John....."
"Ere, look at'im twitchin'"

But there is more. Perhaps a story of tragedy or simple forgetfulness, for just behind the AED from where I stood, placed neatly on the granite surface, were a pair of black brogues.

Where the back has been bent down suggests that they were (are?) the property of a man who was having to remove his shoes more regularly than most. They were obviously well used, but in good condition save for the back, suggesting a careful owner. Would a careful owner really leave them at the base of an automated puppet machine at mid-day? What possible explanation could there be?

I have seen plenty of single shoes abandoned on the streets of Nagoya. Enough to suspect that Da-Da is preparing to make a comeback in Chubu. There is no doubt however, that this is the strangest situation, and the only one in which I have seen an abandoned PAIR!

I therefore submit these photographs to you as possible proof of the existance of houseproud human-abducting aliens in the Nagoya area, or the beginnings of a new form of ritual marking the demise of those upon whose gravestone shall be written:

"Additional Explanation Desired"

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Sea legs

Last Saturday was the 100th anniversary of Nagoya's shipping port. Amongst the many events held to celebrate the centenery was a visit from two ships of the Japanese National Institute for Sea Training, the Kaiwo-Maru (pictured below) and the Nippon-Maru.

The training institute (it's mission: to seek out new cadets, to boldly show what others have known before) has been an independant institution since 2001, but was originally founded as part of the Ministry of Communication in 1943. It provides practical training for students of various maritime colleges and universities, helping would be sailors (seen in orange posing with a local family below - the kid's smile is priceless) to gain their sea legs.

The Kaiwo-Maru has 36 sails, and was built in 1989. It looked fantastic set against the backdrop of a moody winter sky and drew huge crowds. The Maru part of it's name is a suffix given to most boats in Japan and there are many theories as to how this practice came about:

Maru (丸) means 'circle'. One theories suggests that the ships were origionaly thought of as floating castles, and that maru suggests the concentric circles of defence surrounding the castle. Other theories link Maru to a divine origin, an idea of a return to the beginning after a journey and the idea of the circle representing completeness (the boat being a world unto itself when at sea).

Both vessls will leave Nagoya tomorrow. The Kaiwo-Maru can be seen in Kobe between the 23rd and 29th of this month, while the Nippon-Maru will remain there until the 1st of December.

Friday, November 09, 2007


In Japan, many things change to suit the winter season. Air conditoner turns to air heater, coffee tables become kotatsu (a cross between a table, a sleeping bag and an electric heater), and vending machines everywhere start selling a range of heated, nay hot, beverages.

Walking to school yesterday I saw this empty can of soup perched on a wall. Oshiruko is a soup made from sweet adzuki beans and is often eaten during the winter months. This vending machine version offers real beans inside (つぶ入り)and claims to have a home-made flavour or feel to it (手作り風), which explains the picture of the old lady.

I am no fan of the adzuki bean. Although a Brit, and a big a fan of Baked Beans with my full English breakfast, the sweet adzuki bean is not something I have taken to at all. The texture and the sweetness seem at odds with eachother, but it is as unavoidable in everyday life here as green tea (a drink with which adzuki based snacks are often served and which I do like).

So have courage to venture out on those cold winter days. A stomach warming, hand warming beverage of your choice is available now at the vending machine near you.... if you happen to be in Japan.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Autumn Love


" Autumn has caught us in our summer wear.... " (Philip Larkin)