Tokyo. The extraordinary capital of an extraordinary country. The Imperial Palace against a backdrop of skyscrapers in the commercial district…what’s it called? Marunouchi? I always hear it as ‘Marunouti’. It’s not that important – just those Japanese “middle sounds” again. It would probably be more accurate to write ‘Marunoutchi’. But again, it’s not important. The main thing is that they’re both here. The emperor’s palace and gray office blocks against an overcast December sky – gray on gray.
Tag Archives: japan
Early December in Tokyo, Japan. Autumn’s stark colors are all but gone now, while cherry blossom season still a long way off. So, there won’t be any need for an easel or paints – I don’t have them with me in any case :) In fact, I’ve never had an easel and paints. Nature goes to sleep; tourists become cold and sad, longing for a cup of hot sake. On this Sunday before a working Monday we are also sad while we go out for a short walk. This is the sort of melancholic December we’re having here.
Not long after leaving Japan, I read in the Russian press that there’d just been an earthquake there causing several deaths and a ‘transportation collapse’! Oh my Geiger, I thought, and quickly looked for more details on other sites on the web. Well, sadly they were right about the deaths – a few dozen, but ‘transportation collapse’? The earthquake was registered as a 6 on the moment magnitude scale. Sure, it gives everything a real good shake – but it doesn’t knock you, the dog, or the furniture over.
And ‘trains grinding to a halt’ (the article went on)? Of course they did; they’re meant to: special systems are installed on all the railroads to make the trains do just that! And besides, in Japan, there’s a magical 15-20-second warning sent out to all cellphones before an earthquake hits! How on earth that is possible I have no idea, but it sure is massively helpful. I’ve seen it for myself (back in 2011): we were in a car and a local’s mobile emitted a warning signal (so we quickly pulled up), and 15 seconds later the lampposts and traffic-lights started shaking along the road (it turned out it was aftershocks of the (9-magnitude) 2011 earthquake).
In Japan, all buildings, all roads, all bridges, all towers, all infrastructure – it’s all designed and built specially so as to withstand strong earthquakes. Even a 9-magnitude quake damages very little at all! So magnitude-6? You can work that one out yourselves ).
Sure, there’s rail disruption. Sure, the airports aren’t firing on all cylinders. But that’s it. And after a while – everything automatically starts to move and fly again. Japan is quite ready for earthquakes; it has to be.
Ok. That’s enough about earthquakes…
Here I am, back in one of my fave countries – Japan. The work ethic here is really quite extraordinary: they work a lot, then some more, then more, and then even more. Thankfully, they also know how to unwind of a weekend, which is what we needed to do after our long trip getting here. So off we popped – out of the big city and up into the mountains – to a ryokan with an onsen in the village of Hakon.
Never been to Japan? You really must one day.
June in Tokyo is rain season.
We’d been warned, and figured we’d pack a brolly in our suitcases and would be sorted, but… oh my gush! I was not expecting it to be raining cats and dogs non-stop all day and night without letting up for a minute.
As ever, we were here on business, and, as ever, I needed my mandatory portion of tourism. But there was no chance of that with all the incessant torrential rain. Oh my grrrr.
Thankfully, we did get some Japanese rest and relaxation in before the rain began. We drove somewhere in the direction of Hakone, holed ourselves up in a ryokan, and immersed our travel-weary bodies in the onsen waters. Add to that a steady flow of Kirin and Sapporo, and later into the evening a few drams of both hot and cold sake (and Hibiki too) with a delightful nectarine chaser, and it all added up to wonderful way to wind down. But I’ll tell you more about that in another post.
Back to today (a few days ago). Mercifully it was weekday, so we didn’t really mind the rain.
We did the ryokan thing in the town of Hakone. I wondered at first why my super hosts chose this particular spot; I found out a little later – it’s right next to a not fully dormant volcano ).
Another few days in Tokyo, another whirlwind schedule of meetings, interviews, and dinners with old pals. Speeches at conferences too: I’m just back from one where I was talking about cybercrime – and the interpreting was not synchronous (!). Yes: lots of pauses :). I was so exhausted I thought I might faint on the stage at one point. But I stayed conscious, just.
Sadly, there’s been no time for tourism, only shigoto – work. At times I feel like a zoo animal: fed at regular intervals, then having to play to the crowd at allotted times.
Mid-shigota, I came across this here sign on the wall of the business center I was in:
Now, as a frequent visitor of Japan, I know a few symbols. But only a few. My level of katakana/hiragana is just below… touching the surface. I mean, I can recognize my name in Japanese syllabary, but that’s about it:
It works out, in Japanese, Ka-su-pe-ru-su-kee! And if we apply that tiny bit of knowledge to ‘Conference Room’ in the pic below, we get…
In Tokyo on the weekend nearest the middle of May (this year – the 14th –15th) the Kanda Matsuri – aka the Kanda Festival – takes place every year. This is when all the residents of a district of Tokyo (I think just Kanda) gather in the morning all dressed up in traditional coats in the color of their streets, and take these here… let’s call them mobile holy temples (correct me please if my description is way off the mark), and carry them in a procession to Kanda Shrine:
Good day boys and girls!
I’ve been a bit quiet of late – but I’ve a good excuse – I had a real tough week: the schedule was tight and intercontinental, plus alarmingly… combative…
It all started in Moscow. Now, normally come the month of May, the last vestiges of the long cold winter – snow and ice – have long disappeared, at least by a month. Not this year. It snowed the other week! The weather was so bad – cold, windy, wet – that even the May 9 Victory Day parade was partially called off (the airborne part). Ye gods! And I was soooo looking forward to it.
Bad weather causing things to be called off – hardly anything new there, right? Well, actually…
You see, in Russia, the authorities have a habit of… making sure the weather’s good on special occasions. In Russian they call it ‘shooing away the clouds’. I don’t know the details, but they somehow shoo away clouds by… doing something to the atmosphere to make sure clouds don’t come close. Playing God? Maybe. Whatever, it normally works. My question: WHAT WENT WRONG THIS TIME?! I mean, the budget for seeing off clouds for the weekend must be huge. Hmmm, I wonder…
Early doors it looked like the budget was well-spent: the sky was clear and the sun was shining:
Before coming over to the land of the rising sun this time, I was hoping the tempo would be less hectic than usual, with more freedom for relaxed beholding of historical and natural landscapes, meditative evening strolls, cherry blossoms and so on. Right. The further into the trip, the further I seemed to get away from any chance of seeing things like Mount Fuji or Aogashima, and deeper into ‘all shigoto, shigoto, shigoto‘. Which is also good, of course, but… well, look what happened to Jack!
The only bit of micro-tourism I did get in was a quick march along my favorite route outside/round the grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.