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I’ve been a moron and haven’t updated in a long, long while. I could come up with a number of excuses but none of them stand up under close scrutiny. Oh they’re all valid, but that doesn’t mean anything. I might have been busy but I could have made some time to jot a few things down in my livejournal, or even my blog. Just little things about my life and what I’ve been up to recently. Instead I left it until the memories are grey and distant, slightly blurred around the edges like badly developed photographs, or the world without my glasses.

I’ve decided that before it’s far too late to remember things in any detail, I’ll be writing about them here and now.

An update, then, on what I’ve been doing since before Christmas.



My brother’s visit;

I have three brothers. Three older brothers. Some people might think this is a blessing. Others that it is a curse. It is, in fact, a mixture of the two and something I’m not entirely sure I can explain to someone who has not grown up in my rather unique family.

Two of the “boys” are much, much older than me, have lives and careers that I can watch from a distance but not really get involved in very much. I used to idolise the both of them, for entirely different reasons. There’s always been that aura of “big brother” about them, something somewhat untouchable and just that little bit wiser than myself. And yes, I can – sometimes – admit that some people might know just a little bit more than me.

Then there’s number three. Who is not even a year older. The one who I’ve treated as my younger brother since before I can remember. The one who I have, ultimately, always got my way with. This was great when we were younger, because what he wanted I usually wanted as well. It’s amazing what two young, manipulative children can get hold of when they team up. I tell you this to set the scene; namely that I’ve always bossed him around.

Then he comes to visit me. In Japan. With far too much luggage, might I add. I mean, who else would decide to bring a suit, four shirts and four ties on holiday when they’re not going anywhere formal? Or an overcoat and a jacket. One or the other, please. But not both. Needless to say, we had words over the state of his luggage. He agreed with me that he had brought too much. Of course he did. This is because I’m always right.

Anyway, he arrives. And I promptly take him around my local town, show him some of the temples – completely empty temples, with an incredible aura of… serene, ageless wisdom. He was really impressed. So was I. Those places are transformed when there are no people about. That night we went out to see the castle all lit up. It wasn’t a full moon but there was enough of one that it looked stereotypically eerie. It was a cliché. And we both loved it – hugely atmospheric, even if it is just a concrete reconstruction. Unfortunately the old one was destroyed sometime in the fifties by fire. Instead of rebuilding the traditional way they decided concrete was the way to go. In my opinion the old way would have been better.

Next day was our trip to Nara. We got up at stupid o’clock – something we would do throughout the holiday – and caught the train down to Kyoto city first and then on to Nara. I’ve been there before but it’s always nice to go again and see things over. Plus it’s just more pleasant to wander around in winter. We were hugely lucky and met this lovely woman called Mie who volunteers as a guide for foreign visitors. She was great – really informative, willing to do whatever we wanted and knew huge amounts about the area and the temples. We went to all the obligatory spots, got attacked by the demon deer – watch out for those deer, they are evil and mean and attack your handbags to see if they can eat them. I swear they’re goats in disguise. That’s it, they’re just pretending to be deer so that people will think they are cute and feed them. It’s all part of an evil plot to take over the world by looking cute while harbouring demonic souls of the undead.

Anyway, Kofukuji 5-storey pagoda was impressive, the park was pleasant, the Nara museum was interesting and informative – with lots and lots of pretty swords and knives. I like swords and knives. They are bright and shiny and sharp. They also make really cool swishing sounds when you slash them through the air. And they can cut through rolled up tatami matting in one clean sweep. S’very pretty.

No, I am not obsessed.

Yet.

But anyway; Nara. Go. To. Todaiji. Great big huge gate. Massive temple. Immense Buddha statue. Towering over everyone. Should be awe-inspiring. Instead feels incredibly peaceful and kindly. Figures – Buddhists always seem to make their temples welcoming. Cambodia was the same. Laos was the same. Korea was the same. I’m sensing a pattern here… wait, wait… I’ve got it! They all eat rice! ;P

As an aside, I wonder about the imagery of religions. I mean, I’ve visited Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Mosques and Churches. In all but one I’ve found the imagery to be at the very least beautiful, or awe-inspiring or fascinating. Christian imagery – specifically the image of Christ on the cross repulses me. I find it grotesque. Why do Christians want to see their Lord and Saviour being tortured and humiliated? I know it’s supposed to remind them of the suffering he went through to bring redemption to humanity or some-such, but why use that pose, that moment of death, to remind themselves of someone so great? Don’t they want to remember the kindness he bestowed upon his followers? Or the way he smiled? Or anything nice? Because, let’s face it, the omni-present statue of Christ dying is a reminder not so much of his sacrifice, but of the hatred that caused his death. Hatred of him. Do Christians want to feel victimised?

I ask this not because I feel any disrespect for Christ or his followers, but because I really, honestly don’t understand. And having been raised Christian, I feel I should at least have some comprehension of the religion my mother raised me in.

I’m sure there’s an answer out there somewhere. I just hope it’s one I can understand.

Anyway, back to my brother’s trip. Nara was great. But tiring. And then that night I had organised a nabe party for my friends at my house. Nabe, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a Japanese winter food that is something like a cross between fondu and stew. Chop up lots of vegetables – onions, daikon, enoki mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, trefoil and whatever else strikes your fancy. Buy thin slices of raw meat, meatballs and mochi. Heat up a pot of broth in a nabe pot on the little gas burner – a bit like a camping stove, sorta – on your table. For the broth you can buy bottles of various types at the supermarket. Miso is a good one. Invite your friends. Give them bowls, chopsticks and napkins. Let them add what they want to the broth, pick out what they want when it’s cooked and proceed to stuff yourself. The very last food to be added is noodles – it soaks up the remaining broth and thickens in at the same time. Really yummy.

It was an extremely good excuse for everyone to meet my brother and drink beer and eat far too much food. Oh, and try amasake. Never a good thing for first time sake drinkers… oh well. It really surprised me but he liked it. Most people don’t. I so proud!


And I’ll continue with day three, four, five and six tomorrow because this is getting longer and longer. Plus I’m tired.

August 2007

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