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Christmas in Japan

If you've been following this blog for a while (thank you!), you might know that I'm not particularly fond of this time of the year: it's too fake, too frantic, too commercial. Especially in Japan.

I try to avoid Christmas as much as possible, although I make exceptions for mulled wine and Starbucks's Cranberry Bliss Bar.
Oh, and I bought a small stollen the other day. It was delicious.


I recently read an excellent summary about Christmas in Japan on Nippon.com. Here's an excerpt: The jolly man from the North Pole also featured in the early days of one distinctive aspect of festive Japan, the association of Christmas Eve with romance. While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact beginning of the tradition, a 1983 special feature in women’s magazineAn Anon winning your man’s heart is thought to have been influential, as is singer Yamashita Tatsurō’s 1983 hit of lost love "Kurisumasu ibu" (Christmas Eve).Matsutōya Yumi’s 1980 song "Koibito ga Santa Kurōsu&q…

Hello Kitty and the siege of the ivory tower

This damn cat is everywhere. I was going to use an equivalent expression with f's …
We interrupt ourselves with a dilemma that only a copyeditor / copy-editor / copy editor would understand.
Do you realize that it's not that simple to write the plural of a letter of the alphabet?
The Chicago Manual of Style: "Capital letters used as words, numerals used as nouns, and abbreviations usually form the plural by adding s. To aid comprehension, lowercase letters form the plural with an apostrophe and an s." So, how many Cs in occasion but mind your p's and q's.
Then you dive into The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage; The Times Style and Usage Guide; The Guardian Style Guide; The Associated Press Stylebook; the much-maligned Elements of Style by Strunk and White; A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations; Copy-editing: The Cambridge Handbook for Editors, Authors and Publishers; Fowler’s Modern English Usage.
Then you curse, eat choc…

This one's for Cubie

Hallo, Cubie! You asked me about the most glorious ginkgo in the world, and here I am, on Africa time, with an answer and a report. The big ginkgo always changes later than all the other trees at the University of Tokyo. I'm not sure why: perhaps it's simply because there's an awful lot to change! I took these photos with my smartphone, because I don't lug along my big camera every day; and both days were overcast and drizzly. So thus and therefore, the photos aren't particularly good. Excuses excuses excuses. Here we go:

4 December 2014




11 December 2014






Next week it will be over, and the bare trees will cast long shadows through a long winter.

Autumn at Heirin-ji

Heirin-ji, my favourite autumn spot in (or rather near; it's in Saitama) Tokyo. I've written about it before (link), and there's nothing to add except ... egad, gadzooks, zounds and zooterkins, the crowds! Please remember that my definition of "crowd" is 10+. When it reaches a level of thousands, I start panicking. What am I doing in Tokyo then? As I've explained before, I don't know. Next question? Anyway, I usually arrive at this temple so early that I'm already in line when the gate opens at 9 am, but this year I went much later. So many visitors, and 99% of them at least 99 years old. Help. Shoot me when I'm 75. No, really. Read this.