Most of these very short pieces were written for the
'cover spot' in the Mainichi Weekly (a space that only
allows about 400 words) ... very good training to try and
say something concisely!
train for Shinjuku has arrived,
sir", intones my imaginary servant. I thank him, and step
You buy your ticket from a machine at the door, then go and
stand behind one of the diners as he sits at the counter
Stars! Until that moment, I hadn't
known what the word meant.
They do the same things, eat the same things, and
say the same things, over and over
again, in an endless, mindless routine.
... anybody willing to get down on the floor and wrestle
with him like Terry does is going to be his true
friend for life.
I believe I heard the word 'vinegar' muttered under his
breath ... [Man of no
... one of the major signs of the changing seasons, and
people seem to become quite nostalgic when they first hear
them each fall. [Autumn
... a never-ending source of amazement that Japanese houses,
even quite new ones, can be so cold and uncomfortable.
Grey dust and white, charred bone fragments - all tumbled
out together. [Grandad's Last
No sooner do I step through the door into the
shop, whether small local one or
large department store, than I can feel the sweating start.
... rough and
tumble on public transport in
order to get a place; using elbows and umbrellas to cut in
past 'weaker' people; and men arguing with women for the
last seats on a bus.
by models, robots, and books on dinosaurs. Now there's a kid
I could talk to! [Childish
This is a very wide and spacious country;
there are many peaceful places in which to unwind.
[The Great Escape]
He wore heavy work gloves, reached out to each branch of the
tree, and quickly stripped it of all the leaves.
How is it that our traditional calendar seasons so poorly
match the reality around us? [Out of
... magically transported from dirty, dusty Tokyo, to a
place far away in the clean countryside. To a country valley
in autumn. [Take a Deep
Even though my 'rational' mind understands how it is done,
with radio, satellites, fiber-optics, etc., it still remains
a mystery. [Around the World
... a wide swath of white hair, in a place where
I know there had been none earlier in the day ...
[Step Right Up!]]
... these people simply amass a large pile of
stamps, stick them in albums, and aim mostly for
Visitors to our home watch wide-eyed. "Ii, desu ne!" they
inevitably say. [Three out of
Or is it just that I am such a boring, unadventurous person? Perhaps
I'd better not probe too deeply ... [Locked into a Routine]
I finally, finally had the experience that I have been waiting for ever
since first setting foot in this country back in 1981.
Japan is currently in a kind of golden age, just as England was about
forty years ago, when I was a very young child.
... some of them joke about the length of the rainy season
in that country ... 12 months!
... just about the most gloriously happy music ever written
[200-year old Sunshine]
I made the trip full of high expectations ... for some glorious meals!
... just grit my teeth, and look forward to those delicious hours of silence
... nothing more important than ensuring that they grow up with
knowledge of how to live in harmony with nature.
[Key to a Better World]
I'll try and pretend that I'm ten years old again ...
I did encounter something though, that I hadn't expected to
ever see in a typical Japanese family home.
[Cold Outside ...]
A single father with two teenage daughters - certainly no
shortage of things to write about!
... at bath time one evening very soon,
they will kick me out, from that day on taking their bath
together, leaving me no option but to have mine alone.
... pre-ordained more than eleven years ago, the day I found
out that our yet-to-be-born child was an 'XX' type ...
If my father had written little personal essays like these
during the years I was a child, would that now help me to
understand who he was ... who he is?
[The Real David ...]
I took a pencil and went through the list marking
those items that sounded to me like they would be a good
name for a young girl.
[What's in a Name?]
In their eyes, I am thus a bit of a 'troublemaker', blurring
those previously clear roles, and stirring up problems.
[Off to Market]
I couldn't keep my eyes away from the
clock. It was moving so slowly. Was it broken?
[Time Stands Still ...]
This leaves me in the somewhat uncomfortable
position of holding all the 'power' in the household.
... hearing words come out that make you think that this
kid must have been living with somebody else for all these years?
[A Man's Work ...]
Things to say ... and stories to tell ...
Her voice was soft, but she spoke with confidence; her
clothes were quietly elegant. This Fading
Flower moved about with grace ...
When we get near the end of the line and look back, will it
be the 'free and easy times' that we recall with pleasure
... [Cultivating a
... they seem to have created a formula for living and
working together that very few others have been able to find.
... for some reason I was playing by Japanese rules
in a western world.
[Yes or No?]
... far more than those more overt propagandists, it is
actually the 'familiar'
essayists who are the most
effective at philosophical guidance.
.. couldn't we somehow set up a society where I could be
productive without having to behave like a robot ...
[Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho ...]
I am waiting for that big day when the astronomers will
announce the news that they have finally discovered evidence
of other civilizations out there in space somewhere.
[Just Like You ...]
We should not cry, "It's such a shame!" when we hear of a
master craftsman with no apprentices by his side learning
the trade. [Traditional Craft ...]
... the stuff just seemed to come welling up from inside
him, to spill over and flood the room with melody. Every
note the guy played was musical.
It seemed like the normal thing to do. After all, everybody
has a job, don't they? [Get a Life]
And there on the back of his truck, was a brand new mountain
bike. A 21-geared, super-lightweight, mountain bike.
Do two kids who sleep side by side, study side by side, play
side by side, and bathe side by side, have a different
relationship than two who have private rooms for these
functions? [No Place like Home]
Although it would symbolize full entry into this society,
real practical acceptance could only come from one's
actions: from living among Japanese people in a Japanese way
... [Fill in the
Oversize pointed ears, tiny beady eyes, and a mouth
bristling with needle-like fangs, none of them longer than a
millimeter, but appearing huge in the tiny visage of this
It seemed as though we were rather sitting in front of a
fireplace ... glowing, mysterious flickering motion in a darkened room ...
[Fire and Water]
Each item a simple accessory for living, but taken all
together ... what a monstrous pile our Possessive
... during the conversation you find yourself in the ridiculous
situation of bowing to somebody you can't even see!
[All Together Now]
... hiding peas one by one atop the wooden support
bars under the table top ...
... they must have had some kind of bad experience in a
similar situation at a previous time, and had thus been
'trained' to expect trouble from foreigners.
There are great opportunities for personal expression
in this slipper-donning ritual, and the performance
can actually reach virtuosic heights.
[Green Plastic of Home ...]
... as one learns characters and words, one by one they
become visible, until finally the complete picture stands clear.
[Book a Train Trip]
The music I've been writing with the assistance of my
new computer certainly isn't going to climb very high
in the 'charts', but that's not the point.
[Becoming a User]
No sooner is that last line written ("I want only to be with
you!") and our name appended, than the desire to have the
letter safely delivered to her waiting hands starts to mount.
(For she is waiting, of course!)
[Romeo, Romeo ...]
He was walking back and forth among the tree branches
overhanging the building, carrying a small, flat basket.
Japan could retaliate, spraying grass killer
over parks overseas ...
... to program computers and fix motorcycles, to study
physics and learn silkscreen printing, to learn geometry and
how to cook a meal. [Head vs
I still haven't been able to get over the feeling that I
am living somewhere 'special', somewhere very, very special.
Not if I live to be a hundred years old will I ever be able
to afford to buy a piece of land here adequate for building
a comfortable house. [Homeless ...]
... 'game over'. I had completely failed at whatever it was
the program was expecting me to do.
[Level Playing Field]
Once I felt ready to start work, I began with the most important
place - the bookshelves!
[On the Shelf]
... so super-critical of his own compositions that he burned
many of them rather then permit them to be heard in public.
[When, Oh When?]
... some mad machine, spinning faster, faster, faster, until
one day it must inevitably fly apart in chaos.
I don't think he really understands well what has happened
to him over the past couple of years ...
[In the Park]
... in the sixth and final lesson, he
might perhaps let us fit arrows into our bows, and try
shooting. [Seeing is
If I have on something with no buttons down the front, they
know that it must be Wednesday ... archery lesson day!
[On the Hot Seat]
... slowly raised my bow, tried to think of nothing, and let
the arrow fly, unconcerned
about where it would strike.
I had been emulating Mr. Mitty during my carving hours somewhat
more than I'd care to admit.
[How to Lose Friends]
A limb of an old and gnarled tree stretched out, and some
of the gates and doors stood ajar, allowing glimpses of silent
gardens and ancient buildings.
[Walls Within Walls]
... coming home from school, I would open the house door and
know instantly what was waiting in the kitchen.
[Oooh, That Smell!]
I do not find the concept of 'self-sacrifice' a particularly noble idea ...
[In the Red]
... how much they need editing; how clumsy many of the
sentences are, and how poor I am at expressing ideas clearly.
... diving head first out the door at 10,000 feet for a
free-fall lasting nearly a minute, swooping and
sliding around the sky, and then opening the wing-shaped
chute and flying it home to the target spot.
It's just simply pleasure to be together with an interesting,
intelligent and attractive woman.
[Side by Side]
Whether I had turned left or turned right that day nine
years ago, I would probably still be in pretty
much the same position now.
[Left, Right ...]
I stuffed coins into every pocket I could find in my
trousers and jacket, front back and inside, and then started home ...
[Sing for your Supper]
The double doors opened out away from us, pulled back by unseen
hands, and we rose to our feet ...
[Imperial Poetry Ceremony]
Snapshots and Impressions
Impressions of Canada after a return trip there ten years
after moving away. Our Japanese friends might find them entertaining,
and who knows, perhaps they might be encouraged to visit
that beautiful place themselves ...
I have never really liked the traditional idea of being
forced to bring back an o-miyage, a souvenir, for every
single person in the community back home.
There are a few causes for the Tokyo cheating - the first
and strongest of which is the extremely high cost of
transportation in this city.
[Trains of Two Cities]
... the contrast between their display of rather scrawny
(and very expensive) vegetables and the mounds of fat,
juicy and very healthy-looking ones here couldn't be stronger.
... a horseshoe-shaped counter with red-topped stools
arrayed around it, along one wall a half dozen booths,
and up on one wall a menu board made of some kind of
grooved black material in which white letters were
arranged to spell out the 'Daily Specials'.
[Lunch in a Time Slip]
A few seconds later, I stood back in amazement and stared.
There was my rock, balanced 'upside-down' on a small point.
Even though I thus have no actual photographs to show you,
I do have a collection of remembered 'images'
They find a cheap hole in the wall space on a back street
somewhere, clean it up, put in a few tables and chairs, scribble
a menu on the wall, and go to it.
[Where to Tonight?]
Also in the 'collection' ... these other pieces ...
- 'Seditious Beauty' - a
piece that tries to show the impact that art can have on society ...
- 'Karuta' - a story on the
Japanese playing cards, written for the Japan Quarterly magazine
- 'Art Jottings' - a
column containing short pieces about my printmaking work that I
wrote for the Mainichi Weekly for one year from April 1995 ...
- 'Honobono Life' - more
short pieces for the Mainichi Weekly
- - The keynote
speech given at the inauguration of the Hamura International Exchange
(This 'Baren' link always takes you
to the main menu of this website ...)