Daily Archives: April 8, 2017

A grand day out at Nara Park

Once upon a really long time ago the decision was made to make a new capital city. Although it didn’t last – 75 years they say – the Park at Nara – Nara-koen – is clearly a very popular place to have a look-see at the temples and shrines that survive that period of Japanese history.  How peeved they must have been at those upstarts in Kyoto – just up the road – who were (lets imagine) smugly constructing a new capital that everyone would know about globally centuries later. (Show offs.)

Not that Nara is a secret! An easy hour from Osaka on the train it’s a well worn path with domestic and foreign vistors. There are sooo many traditional/significant/holy buildings in what is now a huge protected parkland: a splendid and rewarding way to walk up an appetite on a spring day under the cherry blossom. Additionally the park is home to countless deer that are as tame as tame can be. These are not free range meat, nor a plague you understand, but a living sculpture symbolic as messengers of the gods. I suspect if you ask youngsters what the best thing about Nara it’d be feeding sjhika-sembei (deer biccys) to these beasts.

[Although there were also countless young folk manoeuvring said deer to get every conceivable manner of selfie. Enough already. That said, they are a cut above/below are those making highly rehearsed Vogue poses. “A la modelle Rodney” as Del-Boy might say. With feelings oscillating between mirth and distaste at such runaway vanity we trip around these superficial cretins. I should also point out that there are simultaneously much sweeter self portraits going on as newly wed couples in traditional dress make very earnest romantic poses. The latter are clearly alright whilst the former are just numpties. And us doing family selfies is totes fine. Obvs. Un hypocrite? Moi?]

What would grown-ups takea way froma day here? It is worth tripping around here because the grand temple is home to Japan’s largest, the Great Bhudda. Even with the crowds it’s as close to an enlightenment this atheist is likely get stepping into the vast space where he hangs out. And even then, as robust a chap as he is, the building itself outdoes him.



Just a gate really, you should see the main event.

Even by today’s standards the Todai-ji temple complex is huge and the Daibutsu-den hall itself? Mighty. Intimidating even. In the seventh century? It must have had the subservient classes quaking in their wooden clogs. Largest wooden building in the world they say. But wait, what’s this? Rebuilt in 1709? Sheesh: we’ve been cheated! But wait again? Rebuilt at 2/3rds original size? You’re kidding!?



A totally acceptable classy selfie

With the stern rule of “we’re not bloody paying to go in there” in operation (to preserve the daily budget since you ask) we avoid the highbrow museums etcetera and stick to the walking between (free} temples/shrines. So heathens that we are we will have doubtless missed the point in all sorts of school-boy error ways. Sorry purists. But despite the crowds we take away happy memories. And deer biscuit crumbs.


Lantern monitor (will work for biscuits)


Big bronze Bhudda and buddies

Categories: Our posts | 1 Comment

Kobe on the Bosphorus

Urban Japan takes on a Bladerunner-esque look on a rainy evening, Chinatown in Kobe might have Harrison Ford running past any moment. Away from the bustle, purely by chance on a back street mooch around Motomachidori (Kobe) the Bitter End bar winks at me through spring drizzle. They are open, despite appearances. We slip inside. It’s the underbelly of a 1970s block but they’ve given small, boxy industrial basement vintage chic furnishings, a proper hi-fidelity audio setup, a sturdy bar and all the whiskey. All of it. These guys are underplaying it beautifully: they don’t even have a website. (They just about manage a Facebook Page. Just.)

bitter end

Whiskey selection out of shot

We settle at the bar. Miles Davis’s muted trumpet leads the quartet.  The lights are low. (The kids are at home in our Airbnb 50 steps away, so it’s a date.) It might be 3AM, but it’s closer to 9.

“Whiskey rocks and a G&T.”

Barkeep – proprietor – chisels an exquisite glassy boulder and splashes Suntory Single Malt on it. (When in Rome…) Tanqueray – iced with lime – and local tonic for her. He takes his time to craft us our drinks. A female vocal “The nearness of you” drifts from sublime JBL speakers.

Our neighbour at the bar engages us in conversation because he too has a G&T. The only other customers are, frankly, school age girls and I’ve a good mind to call their Mum.

In English, he says directly to me, with some difficulty in this part of the world it has to be said, matter-of-factly, that “you are Bruce Willis.”

(I am the only bald westerner in this Kobe bar tonight I’d venture. It’s dark and he’s wearing thick glasses.)

“You’re not the first person to say that. [To Gilly] Remember that carpet hawker in Istanbul who used that line to woo us into rug purchase?”

Thus begins a surreal, conversational exchange in which our gently sozzled friend will not accept the following fact: that we are not Turkish. Though it’s amazing how alike the words Turkish and English can sound spoken/heard by a Kobe local. Barkeep is a quiet, attentive man, a listener, a watcher: he can see the issue and is as amused as we are.

After several explanations from different directions I think we’ve established understanding. A satisfied lull breaks out in appreciation of Thelonius Monk caressing the ivories. Then…

“What food you eat in Turkey?

“Is safe?”

And so on.

As if scripted to step in and break the loop an ubercool dude in a slim suit with 3 day stubble and cropped afro slips in from stage left. (You don’t see stubbled men in these parts and he is rocking this look.) He orders beer.

He correctly establishes the presence of Welshness and associates it with rugby. We toast the Japanese showing in the world cup. We hang out. Quietly, gently, but with some style I’d venture. Melodic tenor sax, brushed drums and double bass. Out of nowhere G&T-man opines – eyeing the female patrons – that “Japanese girls too shy” with a level of disappointment bordering on mild resignation and hurtful lament. The young ladies are fully made up, have made maximum effort with the dress code and are quietly enjoying cocktails. I start to wonder what goes on in here.

Barkeep intervenes. He intones that although our lightly pickled new friend may look adolescent he is indeed 40 and a cardiologist. The girls? Mid 20s. Our friend is drinking G&T alone because his wife is a radioligist and sleeping ahead of working a shift at the hospital. IE: It is all above board. Shame on yours truly for doubting the patrons provenance.

The ladies finish their drinks, smile shyly and gracefully depart before the spell of this place is broken.

So do we.

It’s barely 10PM: coulda’ stayed all night.

We’re like that, us Turks.

Categories: Our posts | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.