Monday, September 26, 2005

Japan: mobile phones

One thing absent from the guide books (or any online searches) was an economic way of getting a mobile phone for a few weeks in Japan. Don't buy an expensive phone at the airport!

The answer we discovered (or our friends told us about!) was to buy a prepaid mobile from 7-11 shops. These cost about 3000 yen (maybe you need to be Japanese to buy one?), and we used one for local calls (and to receive an international call... thanks Geoffrey) and keep in touch with our local friends.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hiroshima: Italian food then trams and trains

We tried to go to the famous Marios as recommended in the Lonely Planet but they were full, so we went to another Italian restaurant just round the corner and had a fine spaghetti marinara and lasagne.

Then we climbed aboard a tram (a true sign of civilisation) to take us to the Hiroshima Station

and waited for the Shinkansen to carry us at gliding speed back to Tokyo


Hiroshima: World Friendship Center

We stayed one night at The World Friendship Center, highly recommended to anyone wanting to explore the Peace Park and Museum and other parts associated with the Atom Bomb.

The World Friendship Center is a nonprofit organization run by a Japanese board of directors and operated by two American volunteers. It was founded 40 years ago by Barbara Reynolds, the wife of a doctor who was studying the effects of radiation on A-bomb survivors. The center arranges peace exchanges, offers English language classes, and organizes a peace choir.

Barbara Reynolds wrote:
"World Friendship Center is based upon the belief that an individual can and must do something to create peace, and a faith that there is an ultimate power of truth and love that can help each of us to develop a center of peace within ourselves which will be highly contagious."

Visit the website at

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Hiroshima: Crane on dome - Iraq war protest

Paper Cranes are the symbol of Hiroshima so it seemed approprate that we saw two cranes atop the dome

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

Pavement art on the Promenade of Peace

... and a contemporary protest against the Iraq War (part of world wide demonstrations on 24th September ... we heard of large demos in Washington, London as well as small ones in Tokyo)

the demand for peace never rests ....

.... below is the poster for this years rally in Sydney


Thursday, September 22, 2005


Icecream: cocoa on a stick

We discovered this icecream in the supermarket. Barely sweet cocoa icecream fingers on a stick. Hard to resist

Gone before you know it

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Horses and a pony

At the stables

Brushing up on pony care (or currying the pony's favour!)

Mount Fuji: from below

View from the 5th Station

Views from hotel window in Kawaguchiko

at the same hotel Mark got to experience a communal bath presumerably fed from the nearby Onsen Hot Springs

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nishi-Hachioji: on aerials

A friend here lent us a nifty pc card modem that slots into your computer and gets you broadband connection here in Japan ... like all wireless connections it depends on an aerial. And aerials are more luck than good management, more art than science it often seems. At first we couldn't get the red light to change to green showing a connection was happening

... before abandoning the hope of a connection altogether we tried to improve the aerial and hunting amongst the kitchen utensils found a nice stainless steel "egg slice" ... the lights went green and that's what makes this blog possible!!!

Here is the dish of cabbage and noodles we mentioned previously


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Shinjuku: a meal

Near the biggest railway station in the world we came across a restaurant that seemed to be called Hiroshima. When we sat down the writing was entirely Japanese and the accompanying pictures were so small we couldn't work out what the food might be. Luckily one of the waiters was happy to try out her English. First we pointed to the food of the people next to us. Then we went though some of the menu. We ended up with a wonderful meal.

... most of all we wanted a beer ... we also got a chicken salad that reminded us of Sea Bay in Sydney

... and some beautiful octopus whith green chilli and lemon ...

... and tempura ... we specially liked the asparagus!

finally we had a cabbage and noodle dish that was something like a bubble and squeak.

Katrina: The Storm That Ate The GOP

Who will pity the soulless Republican Party now that Katrina is mauling their regime?

Can you hear that? That low scraping moan, that painful scream, that compressed hissing wail like the sound of an angry alligator caught in a vise?

Why, it's the GOP, and they're screaming, "No, no it can't be, oh my God, please no, this damnable Katrina thing is just an unstoppable PR disaster for us!"


Now BushCo's spineless Katrina response and our party's obvious contempt for lazy poor people who don't own SUVs and Lockheed-Martin portfolios means Dubya's ratings have plummeted below 40, as many of his precious pet agenda items head for the Dumpster, including the gutting of Social Security and the gutting of Medicare and even more tax cuts for his wealthy cronies. Damn you, Mother Nature!

Even the media has stepped it up, taken off the kid gloves and begun hurling angry, pointed questions at BushCo for the first time in four years, ever since we muzzled them with one part threat and one part Rove and all parts corporate stranglehold. Hell, the damn media was on the ground in New Orleans within 24 hours of Katrina, beating our untrained monkeys from FEMA by three days. Who the hell do they think they are?

there's more

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tokyo: Railway Workers at the High Court

18 years ago the privatisation of Japan Railways by the Nakasone government was accompanied by the illegal sacking of 1047 workers who were members of the militant trade union Kokuro (National Railway Workers' Union). These workers formed co-ops to survive and built a solidarity campaign to defend themselves and their families.

18 years later Kokuro members are still fighting cases in the courts and continuing with their solidarity campaign.

Tokyo: Teacher Punished for Pacifist Stance

When the national anthem started playing during a ceremony this year at Tachikawa Daini Junior High School, Kimiko Nezu, a soft-spoken but resolute home economics teacher, refused to stand and kept her mouth shut while others sang around her.

Nezu, a self-described pacifist, said she has done the same thing ever since the parliament designated the World War II hymn "Kimigayo" as the national anthem in 1999. She said she opposes the song because it was the same one sung as the Imperial Army set forth from Japan calling for an "eternal reign" of the emperor.

Previously, her protest brought nothing more than harsh stares from some students and parents. But the Tokyo school board issued an order in October 2003 that the anthem must be respected. Since then, Nezu, 54, has been punished by frequent transfers from one school to another and with temporary salary cuts. And in May, shortly after the incident at Tachikawa, she was suspended for a month. Officials warned that another offense could lead to her dismissal after 34 years of teaching.

The school board reaction was part of an effort by Tokyo and other school districts to enforce a new sense of pride in being Japanese. The measures were strongly backed by Shintaro Ishihara, the governor of Tokyo and an outspoken nationalist, as a way to strengthen classroom patriotism.

The school board's mandatory rule has had a visible effect. At graduation ceremonies in 2004, 198 teachers refused to stand. After a series of fines and disciplinary actions, Nezu and nine other teachers were the only protesters this year.

"They are trying to weed us out of society," Nezu said. "The pacifists, the people who oppose nationalism in Japan. We are gradually being silenced."

read more

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tokyo: Laurie Anderson

We went to see an amazing Laurie Anderson exhibition in Tokyo, The Record of the Time, at the NTT InterCommunication Center

There we discovered weird and wonderful rooms of sound and video and walls covered with diagrams and writing, and a room where you could see her sing O Superman ("they're American planes") and other songs/video pieces.

And Laurie Anderson talking with her chain smoking clone.

Lots of strange automated violins and bows.

There was also a table where you sat with your elbows in small depressions and your hands clamped to your skull so you could listen to music through your arms. This table was situated in a vast room and whenever two people sat at either end, the resulting installation looked like a still life of inmates in an asylum. But the experience of your arms and cranium becoming conductor and speakers was great.

Then there was a huge airfilled chair on which was projected a couple of paragraphs from Moby Dick. We wanted to sit on it, but the answer was "Ie".

The reactionaries have done well here in the elections endorsing the men (mostly men anyway) who want to change the Japanese constitution so they can feel more confident about going to war (ie trash Article 9). Prime Minister Koizumi friend of Howard and Bush now seems to have much more control of both houses of parliament.

No doubt there will be more visits to the Yasukuni Shrine which honors Class-A war criminals along with the nation's war dead.

And of course the world's banks and finance sharks will be all lining up for pieces of the world's only US$3 trillion bank aka "The Japanese Post Office" when the privatisation goes ahead. As Brecht once wrote "why rob a bank when all you need to do is start a bank and you can rob the people".

Good outcome for bankers bad for peaceniks!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Nishi-Hachioji: Noa-Ya party

Last night the banjo rang out strong in the little local "Noa-Ya" restaurant in Nishi-Hachioji! to the thunderous applause of all half dozen or so patrons.

Then began a great exchange in a variety of Englishes and Japaneses. It was a bohemian moment in many ways.

We had found a group of locals who know a great deal about Jim Kweskin and his jugband, and Geoff Mauldour, Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny and Trevor Lucas, Pete Seeger and Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk, the third Newport Folk Festival of 1963, and all sorts of other folk trivia.

We met Yasuo Yagi an artist who is famous for his record covers (including one for a Geoff Mauldour LP)

What a strange world we inhabit. We also listened to a CD of Okinawa traditional songs one of the patrons had brought in. It was like a Sydney of Melbourne folk club or party of the 1960s.

We even sang a verse of We Shall Overcome and the landlady started to learn the beginning of frailing, double thumbing and hammering on on the banjo which she is eager to take up!!!

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Kali Dasgupta: died 6th September

Kali Dasgupta, Indian folklorist and musician, passed away in the early morning of 6th September.

Kali, born in 1926, was among the greatest singers and collectors of the folksongs of Eastern and North-eastern India. While active in the left movement in the 1940's, he started collecting songs that captured the lives and labours of ordinary people. The several hundred songs, some extremely rare, in his collection articulate a wide range of life experiences, including those of rural women, extinct professions, rare musical traditions, and life in Bengal under British rule.

Early in his life Kali realised that folk music is has it's own rules. It often uses a different scale with notes that don't fit well with concert instruments. So he became an expert player of the Dotara and Ectara Lauwyia, traditional instuments and an expert singer of the songs he was collecting.

In 1965 he went to England where a meeting with folklorists, Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger saw his career as a performer take off. With a reputation in the U.K. and U.S.A. behind him, he returned to India in the 1970s to teach, collect and, more rarely perform. At that time he produced two disks of songs, an audio-cassette and was the subject of a documentary film.

Kali had a large number of students and admirers. The NCPA (National Centre for the Performing Arts) in Mumbai, Bharat Bhawan and Bhopal have archived parts of his collection.

In 2003 Kali produced "FOLK SONGS OF NORTH-EAST INDIA" a CD of the songs he had collected. The CD showcases the group Lokosarawati led by Kali who was their teacher.

Read more about Kali Dasgupta on the web at

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Rolling Stones: "Sweet Neo Con" causes uproar

Released today in the USA the Rolling Stones new CD "A Bigger Bang"

One track has caught the attention of the media and here are some of the lyrics

Sweet Neo Con

You ride around your white castle,
On your little white horse
You lie to your people,
and blame it on your war of course

You call yourself a Christian,
I call you a hypocrite
You call yourself a patriot,
well I think you’re full of shit

Oh, sweet Neo Con,
What path have you led them on?
Oh, sweet Neo Con,
Is it time for the atom bomb?

You parade around in costume,
Expecting to be believed
But as the body bags stack up,
We believe we’ve been deceived

The horror you’ve unleashed,
Will backfire with more grief
When will you ever learn,
Sweet Neo Con, as the world burns?

Oh, sweet Neo Con,
What path have you led them on?
Oh, sweet Neo Con,
Is it time for the atom bomb?

Oh, sweet Neo Con,
What path have you led them on?
Oh, sweet Neo Con,
Is it time to drop the bomb?

How come you’re so wrong?
My sweet neo-con,
where’s the money gone,
in the Pentagon.

It’s liberty for all,
democracy’s our style,
unless you are against us,
then it’s prison without trial.

Here is how one critic describes the track:
"The biggest surprise. We thought Mick was an old Thatcherite. But here he sticks it to Bush and co right between the eyes. ''You say you are a Christian , I think you are a hypocrite,'' he spits in the opening line to a tune a little like Dylan's "Masters Of War", while the chorus sneers, ''How come you're so wrong, my sweet neo-con.'' A Virgin spokeswoman in the US has already put out a panicky statement denying it's about Bush or anyone on the White House (can't risk upsetting Clear Channel, can we?). But if you believe that, you'll believe anything."
"I've got strong opinions,'' Jagger said. "I'm obviously very interested in the way that we conduct foreign policy in the West. It's one of my interests, if not passions. So obviously I have opinions about it.''

"There's been other social comment before from the Rolling Stones,'' Jagger said. "This one's a bit more direct. Perhaps it's the times we're living in. I was being more direct than metaphorical.

"I think right-wing commentators get fed up with pop singers getting involved with anything but pop singing. But artists have responsibilities too. Everyone has responsibilities. As long as you don't bang on about it every day - because people get pretty bored with that - I think comments from artists, whether they are painters or any kind of creative people, is part of what you do.''

Apart from "Sweet Neo Con'' there's another pointed anti-Iraq War jab on "A Bigger Bang.'' In "Dangerous Beauty,'' the Stones deal the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal with some very dark humor.

"Who you got there in that hood
You look so fancy in those photographs
With your rubber gloves on
But you're a favorite of the Chiefs of Staff . . .''


Must see show in Sydney

If the catalogue we received in Tokyo is anything to go by this will be a stunning show of Peter Neilson's latest paintings.

Sepember 6 to October 1, 2005

Drifting South, Always South
Australian Galleries
15 Roylston Street
NSW 2021

02 9360 5177

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hiroshima: Wilfred Burchett's report 60 years ago

Daily Express 5 September 1945

30th DAY in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
'I Write this as a Warning to the World'
Poison gas fear: All wear masks

Express Staff Reporter Peter Burchett was the first Allied Reporter to enter the atom-bomb city. He travelled 400 miles from Tokyo alone and unarmed, carrying rations for seven meals -- food is almost unobtainable in Japan -- a black umbrella, and a typewriter. Here is his story from –


In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly -- people who were uninjured in the cataclysm -- from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.

Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Nishi-Hachioji: Emperors tomb

Today we were treated to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony (actually a home made ceremony picking the best elements from three ceremonies)

We also visited the tombs of the Emperors (above is Hirohito's) and spent some time discussing Japan's Article Nine (renouncing war) with our friends. We came to the conclusion that the world would be much better of if everyone in the world adopted this article for their own constitution. Learn from Japan: renounce war!

Instead the jingoists in Japan (with support of the usual mob elsewhere ... take your pick Bush, Howard ...) are hoping to destroy this remarkable article if they win the election, the one they called after being prevented from selling off the Post Office!!! Presumerably the US$3 trillion dollars the Post Office is estimated to be worth would then be poored down the drain of military expenditure.

Is it just a coincidence that election day in Japan this time is September 11th? Is it just election banter that former members of Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party are now calling him a fascist? Anyway we felt even the old emporer might be turning in his grave.

and we don't always eat out despite what you blog readers might think. Here's our old standby of chickpea and pasta
take one tin of chickpeas, a heap of finely chopped garlic, a tablespoon of tomato paste, a tin of tomatoes (Italian of course) a chopped chilli or two, olive oil and fresh picked basil. start by frying the garlic and chilli and then adding the tomato paste. then the drained chickpeas, stir till gluggy, add the tomatoes and let simmer till nice and thick add the basil and serve over the pasta that mysteriously cooked itself while this was being written.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nishi-Hachioji: Noa-Ya (Nowhere)

We said we would visit the little restaurant again and we did

If you look closely at the middle window you can spot the photographer

small, medium and large!!

and a little map if you need to find it