Browsed by
Month: August 2012

James Ravilious

James Ravilious

Every now and then I come down with a bout of homesickness, and my most recent episode was brought on by the research I had been doing for a lecture about the photographer James Ravilious. Ravilious was born in Eastbourne in 1939, and both of his parents were artists: his mother Tirzah Garwood was a wood engraver, and his father Eric was famous for his watercolours of the South Downs. Having ditched his original plan of becoming an accountant, Ravilious…

Read More Read More

The roads from Sado – Day 11

The roads from Sado – Day 11

Even after leaving Nikko I was still going downhill, and the road to Utsunomiya was an unexpected treat. Route 119 is known as Nikko Suginamiki (日光杉並木 / Nikko Cedar Avenue), and is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest tree-lined thoroughfare in the world. Way back in 1625, a local bigwig called Masatsuna Matsudaira began planting cedar here, and there are now more than 12,000 over the course of thirty-five kilometres. _The only downside to its 400-year…

Read More Read More

Obon お盆

Obon お盆

The obon festival happens in mid-August, when most people take two or three days off work to return to their hometown and – more importantly – to pay homage to their ancestors at the family grave. Practically speaking, this usually means many hours stuck in an expressway traffic jam, followed by a day or two of over-eating and allowing the grandparents to spoil the grandchildren rotten, followed by many more hours stuck in an expressway traffic jam (some of this…

Read More Read More

Can blue men sing the greens?

Can blue men sing the greens?

Look up 青 (ao) in a Japanese-English dictionary and the entry will say, ‘blue; green’; look up 緑 (midori) in a Japanese-English dictionary and the entry will say, ‘green; blue’. Foreigners often make fun of the Japanese for this semantic oddity, because although the sky is ao and the trees are midori, there is – if you’ll pardon a rather misplaced metaphor – a grey area in which objects that we would consider to be blue are green, and vice…

Read More Read More

Hay fever 花粉症

Hay fever 花粉症

It may seem a little strange given the fact that it was snowing the other day, but a lot of people are already suffering from hay fever, a condition that until a few decades ago was practically unheard of in Japan. Rather than summer grass pollen – which turns my nose into the physical equivalent of a bath tap with a broken washer when I’m in the UK – the problem here is spring tree pollen, specifically sugi (杉 /…

Read More Read More