Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Japan: Nishi-Hajiochi on the track(s)

The swag is everything when you need to get around... this may look like a prototype vacuum cleaner, but it works everywhere there is road, pavement, platform, escalator or lift. Stairs are another matter.

Pavement art once more ... it's common and often has intriguing numbers. Who takes note of them?

Finally we entered the little restaurant that so enticed us for days ... The owner is a young woman called Nao so it's called Nao Ya which means nowhere. Delicious Nepalese curries are among the goodies here along with Lowenbrau draught. The man next to us had an open sardine can with an onion garnish. We promise to go back!!! The decor and music was 1950s as you can see, strange tracks of languid jazz and what seemed like an early dance band, playing covers from Oklahoma! and tunes like Little Brown Jug. Nishi is the place to eat out that's for sure

see earlier post

In The Time of Restructuring Let's Be Human Festival

On Sunday we went a concert I had been invited to sing at and make a speech. This concert ( or In The Time of Restructuring Let's Be Human (Chitorashiku) Festival) was to raise funds for railway workers and train drivers who have been fighting against their sacking over a decade ago when the railways were privatised. Drivers and their militant union were particularly targeted in the mass sackings.

We had met them earlier this year when we were researching in Japan and presented them with a NSW train drivers tie and shirt which had come to us via friend in the mountains. They had loved the tie which was designed as a safety tie against people who grab your tie. Using a bit of velcro at the back of the neck the tie simply falls apart rather than strangling you!!!

So when they heard we were back they invited me to perform with our
friend Tetsuro at their concert. At the event we met a number of
Japanese musicians including Ikuta Manji
( , "Paggie" Cho
( and of course the union men we had met back in April

The concert hall had all kinds of stalls around the edges selling everything from shoes to beer, with a good number of stalls for union literature

Tetsuro was first on stage with speech, songs and a classical guitar piece. I joined him with banjo and we set off with "Which Side Are You On" with the audience clapping along with great gusto, then I gave my short spech where I mentioned among other things the problems unions
were facing in Australia under the barrage of new laws from the government. Tetsuro translated (we had practised this the day before) We finished off with "Solidarity Forever" again to the accompaniment of audience clapping to help keep me in time.

Paggie Cho sang a number of his songs including one that complains that although he can fly around the world or even to the moon he can't take a taxi to Pyongyang beacuse the border is blocked and another peace song.

Actress, writer, former member of the Diet and activist Nakayama Chinatsu sang a women's rights song with a title which sounded like Kola Koca. I spoke to her briefly about getting a copy for the Union Songs website.

Afterwards we all had a wonderful party with the railway workers with a great feast of sashimi and other delights and draught beer and ending up with us all linking arms and singing the "Internationale" and "We Shall Overcome". We were bellowing the songs out in English competing with the Japanese versions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Japan: Typhoons and television

We have learned from the television that Typhoon Number 11 will reach us Thursday. When we ask our Japanese friends what this means in reality, nobody knows. Maybe there'll be big winds and there'll definitely be rain.

As there's a major drought in some areas where the dams are empty for the first time ever, let's hope the rain hits there. We know about the typhoon because there are two evening news broadcasts on NHK (the government channel) where English translations are conducted simultaneously with the Japanese newsreadings.

This produces an amazingly casual style of news broadcast with, on occasion, lots of 'ummms...' and 'oh sorry' - we quite like it. However there is barely any international news during these broadcasts.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Japan: Takao meal

Oh no. Not the alarm again!!!

In Nishi Hachioji this place was open and seemed to be calling us in but we had an appointment to keep. What a disappointment. No doubt we'll get there soon.

Close to the Takao station (or under it it sometimes sounded) we entered a restaurant where we had the most delicious meal and a few glasses of Asahi amber fuid. We had though we would have to point at the fare on display outside but discovered one of the waiters spoke very good English and had spent some time in Adelaide.

The meal included two giant prawns, a piece of fish, sweet potato, green capsicum and a clump tiny mushrooms on stalks all in a light batter. Then there was some pickle, some more mushrooms on a bed of horseradish and a hot udon soup!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Japan: Be-in No More War

In Tokyo we came across a trade unionist handing out leaflets calling for a peace rally:

Be-In No More War No More 9.11 World Peace Now rally for September 11 (to be held on Sept 11)

World Peace Now has a website at

Friday, August 19, 2005

Japan: food again

For about $4.00 we had the most delicious cold noodle soup called Racoon Cold Noodle at Shinjuku station... the biggest station in the world they claim and we have yet to meet anyone who has explored all its parts.

In Nishi Hachioji we expect to try this restaurant or schokudo sometime soon!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Japan: Nishi-Hajiochi

Beginning to settle in here we find that we are just about the only foreigners around. The days are very hot and humid and the locals carry umbrellas to do the shading task the name implies. There has been a little rain but most dampness seems to come from us

Now we travel more easily between out town and the next by train, transfering between JR and the Keio Line and back as required. Still it is a reminder of the madness of privatisation when applied to public transport .. travel that was once straighforward becomes complicated.

The latest step towards a fully privatised Japan is the attempt to privatise the Post Office. The refusal of the upper house to let this go through has led to an election next month.

When reading the financial papers in London it became apparent this is not just a local issue, but rather the drooling of the world banking mob has begun in earnest.

Japan's Post Office is actually the largest bank in the world so there is a tsunami of pressure from outside Japan as well as eager compradores within the country to take part in dismembering the richest pickings ever seen (US$3 trillion!!!). A world wide corruption bonanza!

read more

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Friday, August 05, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Hedy West: obituary

Hedy West Topic LP
Hedy West
Nitty-gritty singer of the folk revival

Hedy West, folk-singer, banjoist, musician and political activist: born Cartersville, Georgia 6 April 1938; died 3 July 2005.

Hedy West was part of the music-making phenomenon known in Europe as the folk revival. Unlike most of her American compatriots, who came to Europe to tour, see the sights and go home, she spent lengthy periods in Europe, including several years in Britain.

from The Independent 03/08/05

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London: pavemomentos