Friday, June 29, 2007


Can a man who was born in Japan and later resided here until recently, but is currently under house arrest in Chile awaiting extradition to stand trial on charges of corruption and extra-judicial killings - allegedly committed while he served as President of Peru for 10 years - find happiness and fulfillment as a New People's Party member of the Japanese Diet?

I'll bet that question has never been asked before. "I'm counting on Mr Fujimori as a Last Samurai to put vigor into Japanese society," said Shizuka Kamei, of the tiny People's New Party, apparently hoping for more vigorous displays of extra-judicial activities than we have seen heretofore.

An even sillier question is: does the "last samurai" have even the remotest chance of being elected next month while under house arrest in Chile?

Bushido has come a long way, along a strange road.

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Yesterday Echo and I went for one of our walks along the narrow lakeshore road, which took us eventually to our secret wild mint patch, where from the tall plants we picked a whole bag full of the young tip leaf clusters, the most flavorsome part (then the plants grow two new tips in replacement, like basil does).

When we got home I took about five of the clusters, rolled them each between my palms to bruise them lightly, put them in a quart container that I then filled with water from the mountain spring, covered the jar loosely and set it out on the deck railing in the morning sun. I had to move the jar a couple of times before dusk to keep it in the light, 'cause the chestnut tree plays games with its shadow all day long.

Anyway, the increasingly sun-warmed water in the jar grew more and more golden till by the end of day it had compounded into a darkish amber, and the fragrance was metamint. I put the jar in the fridge and had cool mint sun tea with dinner. If in addition to mint you've got any sunshine around, this is the best way to make mint tea. And for free.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tiny up there
on the wire
singing the big song


"The Best Control II"
by Stephen L. Tvedten.

Encompasses every aspect of Integrated Pest Management (IPM).
Learn how to practice nontoxic pest control using safe alternatives to pesticides.
This book is offered free of charge to encourage the spread of nontoxic pest control.
All chapters are available (in PDF format) for download

A wealth of information.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Imagine America running out of beef, France running out of snails, or Mexico running out of tortillas-- well here in the Orient there's a cuisinal change under way that's perhaps even more disturbing: Japan is running out of maguro (bluefin tuna). Not only because of competition and overfishing, but also because sushi and sashimi are now world foods and the premium ingredients command big bucks.

When I first came to Japan, the early morning Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo was wall-to-wall fresh-frozen tuna carcasses. You could get fresh magurozushi in any streetcorner sushiya without shelling out too many yen. Then a few years ago, when I heard that a single bluefin tuna had sold for something like 260,000 dollars, I thought: that's the end of sushi as I know it. The situation hasn't gotten any better since then.

And isn't it always the way— just after Japan formed the Sushi Police to ensure round-the-world conformity with the homeland's founding standards, here in the Land Where Sushi Began the sushi chefs are scrambling for - shudder - maguro substitutes, and are turning to ingredients they once mocked, like avocado, deer and even... horse.

Yes, raw horsemeat sushi is galloping your way; can GM sushi be far behind?

BTW, don't eat cheap sushi...

Excellent recent history of sushi...

Plus a neat link from Michael...

Monday, June 25, 2007


At around dawn this morning, just as I was stirring back into to consciousness, in the quiet primal dimness of world and mind I heard some monkeys chatting upmountain in their screechy language about the state of the world and at once thought nightmarily of my just-burgeoning tomatoes and my new bean plants out there just beginning to stand on their own so as to produce my beans, and that it has been raining pretty hard for the past day or two, so the simians must be hungry and restive after being hunched up in drippy clammy treetops for so long with nothing but screeches for entertainment, and might just for the spite of it go around pulling up the new bean plants and biting the tiny green tomatoes of creatures fortunate enough to live dryly and well-fed in houses, so I decided the best thing I could do was go back to sleep and think about it later. There are times when you've just got to pull your foot up.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Here at the end of day, wide lake the precise color of a blue chalcedony ring my brother made long ago in another world, one last sweep of sunlight streams through the notch in these mountains for a few intense moments, lighting the stairways of young rice paddies stepping down the mountain, filling my eyes with more than vision, lighting a glimpse of the font of beauty as bright as the final bloom of a dying ember, but of life being born-- in moments, a picture of faith in purpose, all the way to sunset...

Friday, June 22, 2007


I'm not sure what it was, it may have been the cucumber letdown that followed Wednesday's Ice Cucumber-tasting post, or perhaps it was the photograph I used, which is heartbreaking to me in its own cruel way (you'll notice that this post has no heartrending illustration), but it seems that I'm experiencing once again that old cucumber crunch that comes over me at the start of another homegrown-cucumberless summer, as reflected in the fact that Ken Rodgers sympathetically brought me a couple of gorgeous home-grown cukes yesterday, in a kind attempt to ease an anguish that has no release, really: the crunchy green depression I experience upon recollecting former times in which I too grew my own cucumbers...

Happy is the man who can grow his own...

For such recollections inevitably summon horrific images of hordes of screeching, red-faced simians fleeing my garden with one home-grown cucumber in each hairy paw and one clenched in teeth, just ahead of my home-thrown rocks. Growing cucumbers under such circumstances is like watching your infant walk a tightrope for six weeks, a state of mind that is not borne without, eventually, babbling.

So I gave up growing cucumbers as I gave up growing onions, and for solace turned instead not to some esoteric vegetable religion, but to actual spinach, lettuce, chard and various herbs, among the many other things there are that cannot be compared to fresh-picked homegrown cucumbers, crunchwise. Like giving up your Ferrari to drive a hatchback, it leaves a big gap in the spirit charts.

I suppose this crunch too will pass in time, the essence of freshness...

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Visiting crime enthusiasts might remember my passing take on the recent gold thefts in Japan, of the unguarded pure gold bathtub and the unsecured 100kg block of solid gold, and how it was unlikely that any of the gold would ever be found, since thieves sharp enough to succeed in stealing it could so easily melt it down into other forms...

Well the bathtub lifters are still wallowing in their success somewhere, but I was overestimating the acuity, or underestimating the inertia, of the the three who made off with the 100 kg block. But then gold can do that to thieves, who in this case apparently just sat around blissfully looking at their treasure - or most of it - This is our gold: our gold! It is quite beautiful don't you think...

Seems the police found the perpetrators at home with 2/3 of the purloined chunk still sitting there like only 66 kg of gold can sit there. Of course once the trio had set the block down, it was a real hassle to move, so it appears they were just withdrawing bits of it at a time, like a gleaming ATM on the coffee table. One of the thieves was a Romanian woman, another was of unconfirmed nationality, so maybe the golden inertia of abrupt wealth was also compounded by linguistic and cultural difficulties, which history tells us are at their worst when gold is involved...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


The cucumber conundrum has been weighing on my mind for the past few house/garden-busy days, but finally, on my way back from a visit to a small town up the road I got a chance to stop in at a little combini (convenience store) and grab a coupla cucumbers-in-a-bottle (didn't look like they were selling too well), took 'em home and cracked one to see what a giant corporation's idea of liquid cucumber tastes like.

To tell the truth, as one who damn near never drinks soda (though a genuine root beer (haven't seen one in years) could still wrap me around its little finger) I was expecting-- well, you know, something like a juicy cucumber without the cucumber-- no crunch, no seeds and no long green vegetableness; also, we usually eat our cucumbers the Japanese way, with miso (morokyu), so you can see some of the psychobaggage I was bringing to the objective of buying, opening and drinking a cucumber soft drink.

And as usual in such radical product situations I was hoping that, despite the baggage, and against my expectations, I'd be pleasantly surprised by a fragrant, refreshingly proportioned and agreeably cucumbery drink, however odd that may sound. (I feel good when a big corporation gets something right.) When I opened the bottle, I was indeed surprised, but not pleasantly. Fizzy cucumber? I'd expected something further along the lines of one of Japan's more notorious fizzless soft drinks, Pocari Sweat, which for my money should be carbonated so that it less resembles its fluid namesake.

The liquid itself, the cucumber embodiment, was greenish blue, sort of like Aquamarine shaving lotion used to be (still is?) and like no cucumber juice ever was, I'll wager - if there ever was a cucumber juice - but these were small matters; the taste would tell whether or not the guys with the flasks had truly succeeded in nailing the delicate savor of the cucumber to the wall of Japanese consumer taste.

Sniffing at the opening of the cucumber-in-a-bottle bottle, I detected something cucumberish, but it wasn't as though someone had gotten the essence of cucumber and put it in a bottle-- it was more like marketing-committee cucumber, the lab guys reading the pages of specs and aiming not for the cucumber ballpark per se, but for the region of the country in which the ballpark is located. They sort of got the c and the r, and maybe some u in there.

I tilted the bottle to drink and my mouth filled with bubbles. Cucumber bubbles? Not those big, old-time fun bubbles like sodapop had when I was a kid, playful bubbles that faded with an agreeably quick and zingy fizz, but the tiny, newfangled, sinister nanobubbles, that go down secretly with the swallow, fizz slowly all the way down and then elbow their way back up again, making exclamations difficult. Sweet, blue-green bubbles, sweeter than any cucumber I'd ever tasted. Sweet cucumber? What were they thinking? This was getting complicated.

I turned the bottle to squint at the ingredients listed in tiny, jumpy print jammed up in a label corner, then I put my glasses on and then I got my magnifying glass: greatest in quantity was "Fructose," which brings to mind an item I read recently about making your own soda pop, how the author had concluded that it was basically like filling a container with sugar, then adding just enough liquid to hold the sugar in solution. Readers of PLM have seen over and over again that I am not anti-sugar, but this was too sweet a drink for me. Besides, I never dip cucumbers in sugar before I eat them.

Then again, no way am I your average consumer, toward which this product is aimed I suppose, with a shiver, and even though I love cucumbers I wouldn't have thought that the average consumer was subconsciously yearning for a cucumber drink. Second in ingredient quantity was simply: "Flavoring." Encompassing not merely the region of the ballpark, but the entire galaxy; anyway, for marketing reasons they don't want to tell you. Next in quantity, just: "Souring agent"...? Hmmm. Then, preservative: sodium benzoate; then coloring: a factory blend of Blue #1 (a petroleum-derived triphenylmethane) and Yellow #4 (which appears to be Japan's term for FD&CYellow #5 (a coal tar derivative).

So here was a cucumbrous product that didn't look like cucumber, didn't smell like cucumber, didn't taste like cucumber, didn't contain cucumber, yet was labeled cucumber. We've come a long way from the days of actual cucumbers, all the way to what in my case could be called cucumbrage.

Damn. I really was hoping I could say something nice about the naturally named "Ice Cucumber." It was nicely chilled?

(And oh, yeah, I forgot: it has a good shot of caffeine in it too. Kept me awake all night.)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mick has just posted
Instant Karma Nearly Got Me Part III
on The Blog Brothers.
I've been waiting for this episode...

Monday, June 18, 2007

guarding the gate

at Hachimangu Shrine
in Omihachiman

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shakin n foldin
the firewood tarp--
frog gets a helluva ride

Friday, June 15, 2007


I was just musing the other day, probably while folding laundry, on how the respective meanings of all the words I've listed below (and others that didn't then come to mind) hinge upon a very finely nuanced aspect of the root.

Few (if any) of them were simply coined; they evolved into the common parlance out of a deep and tacitly shared semantic understanding that was never expressed but was instantly understood, much as the words themselves are now.

That depth is no longer explicit in the words as they stand, or as they are are spoken and heard, until - while perhaps folding laundry in a notably foreign country - you get at the root and think how it really is that the words mean what they mean; then how awesomely appropriate is each word's perspective on the meaning and life-relativity of 'fold'!

comPLICation (complicity, complex, comply)
exPLICation (explicit)
imPLICation (implicit, imply)
supPLICation (supply)
rePLICation (reply)
duPLICation (duplicity, duplex)
apPLICation (apply)
simPLICity (simply)

(plicare - Latin for ‘to fold,' as also in ‘plex/ply.’)

Thursday, June 14, 2007


While I'm on the subject of aggressive food, thought I'd take a brief tangent into the flavor lab of Dr. Bizarro and mention the cucumber soda that's coming out, here in Japan only, for this summer only. Pity for you folks living abroad and in other seasons.

You'd have to go a long way in my brain - assuming there's any traversable distance in there at all - before you might stumble across a couple of meme fragments you could cobble together into something resembling the idea of a cucumber-flavored soft drink. In fact I think you'd only find it outside my brain, and perhaps only in the brain of a Pepsi exec. It's one of them who came up with liquid cucumber in a PET bottle as a cool concept for a summer drink. My personal feeling is that cucumbers should flavor themselves and little else. But this is big biz, big test marketing and lots of press action, though mostly on the Huh?? end of the spectrum.

In keeping with the genuineness of the times there is no actual cucumber in the drink, or even cucumber coloring, it's completely artificial, except maybe for the water, but even that, who knows. Perhaps it could be used to fend off an attacking Megateriyaki.

I think I'll have try one though, just to rein in the restless edges of my disbelief. Besides, the chance may never come again. But I'll be very impressed if I'm even slightly delighted.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Japan style...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


While arranging my chair on the deck prior to my evening post-woodsplitting glass of wine, I notice an odd smudge on the deck floor. Leaning closer, I see that it is actually a mass perturbation in the long excursion of a tribe of tiny red ants. I follow the formic safari three or four meters back along the deck, the stream being but a narrow red vein (and hard to see against the stained wood of the deck), except for that patch of chaos beneath my chair where, perhaps, they are debating the wisdom of this move. The trail traces back to where the line emerges from a space between two deck boards, the long red line apparently climbing up from the ground along one of the deck posts.

Curious about where in their world the thousands or millions could be going, I note that after passing beneath me (an hour later they are still going by, in undiminished numbers) they make a sharp turn at a serendipitously fallen weeping-cherry stem that directs them toward their new nirvana, the Heavenly Bamboo growing up through a square hole in the deck. They disappear down into the far corner of the square.

At first glance, I thought maybe they were marauding and had found a massive cache of goodies, such as our honey or my gumdrop stash. A closer look with a magnifier (these ants are really tiny) however, reveals that they aren't carrying any luggage or goodies at all, excepting quite a few marchers who are all carrying identical white nanodots, which, given their uniformity, must be the tribal eggs. I also notice that quite a few of the ants are traveling purposefully in the direction opposite that of the horde. Some of those, too, are carrying eggs. There's always a few who haven't a clue...

The odd thing is that about an hour ago, while still splitting wood pre-wine, I picked up from the ground an old roof tile that had fallen from its place in holding down the tarp on a half-cord of wood I'd stacked in front of the deck. When I picked the tile up, I saw that the underside was entirely covered, to a depth of ½ cm, in tiny red ants, who had been using the tile as a way station on their journey.

Before placing the tile back atop the tarp where it belonged, I tapped it on the ground and all the ants fell off in a seething red pile, an event that must've made local ant headlines. That was about 10 meters from the point at which the ants were now emerging from the deck on their sunset pilgrimage. Could they possibly be the same ants (fast moving!), or are such ants generally on the move hereabouts?

Right beneath me a vast society is on the move in its entirety; countless individuals have picked up their lives by the roots, burned their equivalent of bridges and set out for regions far beyond my chair, carrying all they possess of the past and the future-- a radical transformation, all without complaint, or even a sound. Still they issue from their source in silence...

Why they didn't traverse the shorter distance along the ground beneath the deck, or - if they're the tile ants - a straight line to where they're going, a MUCH shorter distance from the tile epoch than the long roundabout route they're taking (with the added hazard of this big wine-sipping human stepping over their invisible trail) is a question best asked of their leaders, as we humans fruitlessly do of our own politicians. "We are committed by fiat to this course of action; it would be unpatriotic to refuse to follow in the tracks of those brave individuals who are so selflessly sacrificing their lives to advance our cause..." etc. (Even though it's 10 times harder than the smart way, or can never be achieved at all.) In the ant world, as in the human, evidence of leadership or impressively manipulable mannequinship should not be mistaken for wisdom.

I notice the ants are still at it, as the light wanes... So are we.

Monday, June 11, 2007


Last year at around this time, when I was more botanically ruthless (had less ruth?) than I am now - may it ever be so - I mowed down all the dokudami that clustered naturally here and there, with leaves like dark-green ruby-trimmed hearts.

In my hopefully diminishing ignorance I viewed them not as desirable plants, but as noxious weeds, simply because they now grew where they wanted, having spread beyond where they'd been planted.

That evening I regretted what I had done when here and there in the darkening I saw the remotely surviving remnants with white-jade teardrop buds put forth their solo white blossoms with golden hearts, bright even in the dusk, like stars on the ground.

So yesterday and today, when I mowed I mowed around wherever the dokudami were now thriving in their dusky green cloisters, thanks to their hard work of winter now come to fruition.

This evening I am rewarded as those green gatherings of their kind of life unfold their blossoms in the same pure-white, golden-hearted hope of tomorrow that we ourselves bring forth in the darks of our days, that this path be the true one...

Beautiful and countless things we hold in common with the natural world...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In their little pink-cloud hats
they act like stone-faced clowns
those mountains

Friday, June 08, 2007


Tensions on Iraq border rile Turkey - all 828 news articles »

Lawmakers Oppose House Energy Plan - all 269 news articles »

Lincoln letter from 1863 is unveiled - all 151 news articles »

US adopts limits on clean water law enforcement - all 121 news articles »

Paris can still party-at home-with electronic ankle-bracelet - all 1,837 news articles»

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I was traveling home on the evening train one rainy evening not long ago, staring out the window at the various city-country scenes streaming by, and out of nowhere I suddenly had the urge to see a Tora-san movie, of all things.

It surprised me that the scenes I was seeing, of old Japan even yet morphing into new Japan, both in and at the edges of the city and even in the villages, somehow evoked in me that nostalgia that Otoko wa Tsurai yo handles so well. I've become more Japanese than I thought.

Back when I first came to Japan in the early seventies and was living in the old house in Mita in Tokyo, Japan was changing fast, but it was still the old country: everyone stared at the few foreigners, the buses and trains were smaller, the streets narrower, the many districts (Shinjuku, Roppongi, Shibuya, Harajuku, Kanda, Ochanomizu etc.,) still had the distinct flavors of the villages that had grown together into what was now Tokyo.

The countryside was little changed from before the war, and the elders of that time still had the old ways about them. Japan was the country it had always been, pretty much, but it was palpably slipping away...

In my many travels around city and country in those days, both for work and for pleasure, I often saw giant billboards for a movie that kept seeming to repeat itself, always called Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It's Tough Being a Man), with a small subtitle. The main feature of the billboards (all hand-painted in those days) was the huge grinning face of the main character Tora-san, a yakuza-poi (not yakuza, but yakuza-ish) guy with a wart on his eyebrow and always the same ugly suitcoat and cheap porkpie hat, vulgarly exposed haramaki and an omamori on a long cord around his neck— all very coarse and unappealing in Japan, I would have thought.

But twice a year like clockwork there would be new giant billboards over the big movie houses for the new-but-same Tora-san movies that kept coming out (48 movies in 25 years!) and were clearly very popular with the Japanese public, a fact I could not understand: what could be so appealing about this series that looked like a repetitively retro-tacky, low-ranking yakuza-ish romantic comedy?

It was some years later, on my return to Japan, that I finally watched my first Tora-san movie on tv, and I was hooked. I understood now why the series was so appealing to the Japanese of those and earlier times: the movies cared about the old Japan and the loss of its values, the fading of its traditional principles, its village virtues, its modesty, its integrity, its traditional beauty with a touch of lost romance, all as experienced (or perhaps invaded) by the well-intentioned, bumbling Tora-san, who vagabonds through a fading world. Nowadays the little country villages that still survive are becoming museums of that lost reality.

In each movie Tora-san, a wandering street merchant, visits a beautiful place in Japan (and where the usual plot key occurs), where at a festival or some other busy place he sets up (or plans to set up; sometimes he never quite makes it) a stall and begins hawking cheap junk to passersby; that's how he makes his living, even though his family has a small shop in Tokyo.

Bumbling, good-hearted Tora-san: genuine, friendly, yearning for home but longing for the open road, vagabond blessed and plagued alike by fate and family, lured by his yearning for independence, the freedom to visit Japan's traditionally beautiful places away from his family's humble sweet shop/home in Shitamachi, Tokyo's old 'wrong side of the tracks,' to which he returns in each movie, until for whatever reason he can't stand it again and hits the road once more...

So if you're in one of those wistful moods on a perfect rainy evening and you want to travel to some interesting places in Japan and see a funny but touching movie that has its own special place in cinema history, rent a Tora-san film (if you can find one with English subtitles) and make some popcorn...


Here's a typical goofy lead-in to one of the movies, which often start with Tora-san walking along the banks of the Sumida River in Tokyo, probably on one of his visits home. There are other good clips from the series as well...

There's also a Tora-san Museum...

Here's a good review of at least one Tora-san movie with English subtitles (probably because Mifune Toshiro is in it).

Here's the IMDB Tora-san site (with excellent summary of the series at bottom of this page)

And of course, the Wikipedia Tora-san page...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


We have a nice big flat-topped rock next to the tall old oak in the garden, with daffodils growing around it, it's a great place to sit in the shade on a hot-day break from gardening or woodpslitting, and while I was in the house taking a lunch break the shemonkey came out of the bamboo and headed straight for the rock in all familiarity, sat down casually and looked around like she owned it all, landlady taking inventory, relaxing there on her comfy rock amid her daffodils in the cool shade of her oak as calmly as you or I might sit there with our arms around our knees and scanned the garden in all serenity, itemizing, thinking to herself 'hmmm... I notice my human tenant has put in some tomatoes for me, they should be due in 4-6 weeks…' and making a note in the mental palm pilot they all carry, when I stepped quietly out onto the deck and grabbed a couple of egg-sized rocks from the monkey ammo basket.

She didn't see me or hear me, she was so engrossed in the new assets I had generated on her behalf '...we finished what few mushrooms there were last time, but now where are the onions, cucumbers, pumpkins I require...' and was puzzling over what to do with all that pointless firewood ‘…maybe the kids could play on it...,' so deep in her audit she didn't notice me until I pounded the rocks on the deck railing and made like a New York landlord yelling in monkey. She levitated about three feet in the air, legs already running in the away direction.

That's when I noticed that at least half a dozen henchmonkeys had been hunching quietly up in the trees above the hairy landlady and in the underbrush behind her, where they'd been awaiting the results of her inventory, ready to carry off whatever of her assets she indicated. They all took off at once in a loud cloud of brown fur, discussing tomato due dates.

Reminded me of the IRS, somehow...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


I was standing at the kitchen sink at 6:20 this morning doing the usual - having my tea, looking out the big window into the garden, letting the veil of sleep fade and slowly recovering in greater detail who I was – when I heard a way deep and growing sound , seemed to be coming from the north, then it felt increasingly like I was standing on some kind of foot vibrator as the rumble and vibe intensity increased at high frequency-- then it peaked and faded, the upper timbers of the house gave one big 'crack' as though the house had just uncricked its neck, and all was dawn silent once more.

It had been an earthquake. The force - in a mass, not as distinct waves – passed through the house in less than ten seconds, as a strong vibration deep in the earth; there was none of the usual vibration associated with earthquakes, like when I experienced my first quake not long after arriving in Tokyo back in the early seventies, ran out of the swaying, rattling house and heard the earth grinding like huge cobblestones, saw trees swaying strongly in no wind.

The soil beneath Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya - and most major cities of the world - being alluvial, is in fact just a stage above liquefaction, like a vast tract of pudding. The temblor forces travel through it in large waves: first one side of a building is upward, then the other side, the building on alternating sides of the wave thus flipping back and forth until the oscillation wanes. But mountains, being fairly solid rock, don't transmit the force in waves; instead, it seems to pass through deep down, in a 'solid' mass like a shock wave, that can generate avalanches and landslides.

This had been smaller than the boom of force that had passed instantly though our solid concrete house in Kyoto, early on that morning in 1995, after having devastated Kobe. As I'd done back then, I turned on the tv immediately (as one always does here after earthquakes) to see where the epicenter had been: Otsu, so close, right at the southern end of the lake, the tremor ranking only 1 on the scale. At that point Echo got up, said she hadn't heard or felt a thing.

Sometimes deep in the silence of the night I hear the rumbling way down in the earth as our planet makes its deep moves, yet without a tremor up here at the surface; it sounds like giant subway trains traveling across the landscape far below daily life. At such times, lying there in the calm darkness atop what is in fact a mass of seething volcanic tectonic turbulence, I can sense how small and fragile we are in the face of all that lies beneath us, feel a touch of reality that makes our waking moments all the more precious, our struggles for power and hegemony like friction among microbes…

Monday, June 04, 2007


In Sanzen-in Temple garden, Ohara, outside Kyoto

Saturday, June 02, 2007

never heard of Goethe
and yet... and yet...


I had a piece of melon just the other day - the summer melons are starting to come in from the farms in Kyushu and further south - nothing like a sweet, cool slice of melon on a picnic.

The same was apparently true a couple thousand years ago here in Shiga Prefecture, just across Lake Biwa in fact, in the small neat and classy town of Moriyama - oddly with no website of its own - which as of yesterday holds the world's oldest melon record.

Moriyama stands on the site where some Yayoi villagers lived and just tossed away the melon rinds on their picnics - who cared in those days, knowing that all would be taken care of by nature - never suspecting the problem that garbage would one day become, or that this particular melon rind, so casually tossed away as Yayoi garbage, would in that very same one day be an archaeological treasure; that a couple of millennia hence a professional in the unknown and as yet unnecessary career field of archaeology would with her trowel painstakingly excavate the melon rind intact and the discovery would be worldwide news, the melon pictured on the inconceivable internet...

Like melons, picnics can turn out to be pretty historic.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Saw a high school girl on the train platform, alone there among all the suited older males, practicing her cheerleader moves without restraint or the slightest embarrassment. More major changes ahead for Japanese culture.

Saw a veteran commuter guy on the train who carefully positioned a folded handkerchief under his chin before allowing his head to totally loll forward and great quantities of large Zs to pour forth. A real pro.

Saw a ten-year old schoolgirl on the train staring wide-eyed at the foreign man with the long white hair. Having never seen such a thing before, she had trouble believing her eyes. She stared intently and unabashedly, therefore, until her convictions were once again in order and all in her world became normal again, including me.

At the terminus, saw the "Free Hugs!" girl again, alone this time, no takers visible, her sign now dogeared, her benevolence undimmed, a walking beam of sunshine.