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We need more babies in infantry schools, damnit!

A recent discussion class focused on the lack of nursery schools in Japan, which is often cited as a major reason for Japan's declining birthrate. One man -- a new father -- was particularly vocal about the issue, but he kept confusing infant with infantry.

"Japan's lack of infantry schools is making us weak!" he thundered forth.

I'm quite sure the prime minister agrees with him.


Leaf worship

Today I fell in love with leaves at a shrine. I stole one and took it home ... and realized it has exactly the same colours as the Bedouin carpet I bought in Egypt seven lifetimes ago.



A whiter shade of pale

I have become used to the confusion I cause in Japan, but this week delivered a new highlight. Student: Where are you from?
Me: South Africa.
Student: Africa?
Me: Yes.
Student: Is your country very cold?
Me: Cold? No! Africa! Why?
Student: Because your skin is very pale. Which is the roundaboutest way yet of asking but why aren’t you black if you’re from Africa? Wait. It gets better. This specific student is a university lecturer. One would assume a certain level of knowledge about the world. One would be wrong.

Kusuo Yasuda House and Garden in Sendagi

Not entirely sure I should write about this house, because I suspect the Lonely Planet hordes haven't discovered it yet, and if there's one thing we have enough of in Tokyo right now, it's tourists. Let me reiterate: I have nothing against solitary travelers [hello, self!] or small groups. I do loathe, with an exponentially growing intensity, tour buses vomiting forth one obnoxious group after the other.
God help the Former Kusuo Yasuda House and Garden, to give it its full English name, if those buses ever arrive.
The house is a Japan National Trust for Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation property, and I'm going to plagiarize / summarize shamelessly from their brochure:
"Located in the quiet Sendagi residential district, the house survived both the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the WWII air-raid bombings. The house was built in 1919 for Yoshisaburo Fujita, a connoisseur of traditional architecture. He sold the house in 1923 to Zenshiro Yasuda. When the latt…

Permanent residency ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ

I’ve been granted permanent residency in Japan. This morning – 10 years and 11 months after I arrived here with a work permit, and 5 months and 2 weeks after I'd applied for it – I collected my permanent residency card at Immigration in Shinagawa. 
Epic journey halfway around our globe, this, and it's ... ironic? Freudian? immaterial? ... that my trip to Shinagawa included all my petty irritations about my new permanent home. Gobs of spit on the road to the station, a pool of vomit in front of a Korean restaurant, commuter train jam-packed with sniffing men (and I'd like to point out yet again that we're talking about uvula-rattling snot avalanches, not delicate sniffs into lace handkerchiefs). The guy who stopped in front of me at a red light had his finger halfway up his nose. What is it with gold-digging in this country?  I waited at the relevant counter at Immigration. There were about 100 people in line. Every hue of black and brown; only two of us melanin-deficient.…

I am an indescribable emotional peanut armed with anger

You should never probe too deeply what Japan thinks of Africa. I recently made the mistake of searching for Africa-themed stamps on LINE, Japan's equivalent of WhatsApp. This is what I found.

"I am from South Africa of Algeria. I am an indescribable emotional peanut armed with anger." That's going to be my standard excuse for everything henceforthwith.




Happy birthday, Mum

It's been several years, but I won't forget to share Tokyo's blossoms with you. I miss you.


Four years of flowers

Two photos, same place, four years apart:



National Railway Museum, York

Happy birthday, Tokyo! :)

I saw this message on the Twitter feed of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government: Happy #TokyoDay! #OnThisDay in 1868, the city of Edo changed its name to Tokyo, opening a new chapter in the city’s history.

So, Tokyo was born on 17 July 1868. Which makes it a Cancer. Same as Benedict Cumberbatch, whose birthday is on the 19th. Yup, OK, I can live with that! :p Happy birthday, Tokyo!

Hōzuki Ichi (Chinese lantern plant market)

I've written about this market before; this time I'm shamelessly copying an old post. The photos are new, though. ;)


Every year on 9 and 10 July a Chinese lantern market is held at Sensō-ji. "Chinese lantern" is a plant: scientific name Physalis alkekengi, Japanese namehōzuki. They have translucent orange pods that might remind you of Chinese lanterns, and they were used as a medicine for fever, gout and just about any ailment you can think of.
The temple's precinct is packed with 200 hōzuki vendors selling plants for ¥2000 to ¥2500, and wind chimes (fūrin). This year my visit was brief, because Sensō-ji has become a rather unpleasant experience. Too many tourists. Sigh.