Maguse Onsen, Kijimadaiira, Nagano


Japan suffers from earthquakes & volcanoes, but on the other hand there is the benefit of bathing in onsen volcanic hot-spring water baths.  Maguse-onsen is far up a mountain in the village next to where we are staying in Nagano-ken, and overlooks the Kijimadaiira ski resort.

I was all set to take a picture of this view, but a ji-chan decided to sun-bathe in the middle of the shot with but a washing-bowl to cover his modesty.  With some guilt I took the photo anyway…

JET event at the House of Lords

Its taken a little while to post this, but I recently attended an event held at the House of Lords to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the JET scheme in Japan.


I’m not a JET alumni, though have done some English teaching in Japan in my time…  The JET scheme has gone from strength to strength, growing from an initial cohort of a few hundred in its initial year, to 50,000+ participants from 50+ countries in total.

The amount of investment made by the Japanese government in developing these cultural links must be extremely significant.  It feels that this is taken for granted in the UK, shown by policies such as the restriction on post-MBA work visas for international students.

More event photos can be seen at this link;


Natsume Soseki – And Then / それから

Just finished reading And Then by Soseki.  The lack of direction and purpose of the main character Daisuke seem a reflection of the wider societal malaise within Meiji-era Japan, as the certainties of old were cast away in the pursuit of Western modernisiation.  Daisuke’s ennui was generally matched by my own in reading the book, at least before the page-turning finale.

Soseki is renowned in Japan.  Around the turn of the 20th century he spent 2 years living in the same area of Londo where I’m now living, in West Hampstead.  I heard that the house in which Soseki stayed has been bought by a Japanese expatriate.  Aparently, Soseki hated his time here.  West Hampstead probably hadn’t gentrified by 1900 – I doubt the cafes, Gail’s and Little Waitrose were around at that time.

Happy Girls Day!

There are a lot of girls in our household – I’m the only guy.  We’ll be celebrating Girls Day, or Hinamatsuri.

We’ll have chirashi-sushi for dinner with clam soup, and the girls will make Hishimochi (pink and white shaped rice cakes) and hina-arare (bite sized crackers, ours will be sweet rather than soy-flavoured.

My wife has an antique mini-version of the hina-dan doll decorations, which she used to play with as a girl herself.  This has been kept in a cardboard box for the best part of 10 years, I’m amazed that it has stayed in place after being carted around the world.  We’re finally living in a place with enough place to display. Here it is


The display is beautiful.  It’s a shame we’ll have to put this away until next February – as if we keep all year round, the tradition is that in the future our daughters will have bad luck in love.

The dolls are arranged in a musical glass case, this is a mini-version of the more elaborate 7-tier Hina-dan.  The set-up is very intricate, the below points are just a summary

  • The Tier 1 ‘Imperial Dolls’ are top left.  Odairi-sama (Prince) in blue, and Ohina-sama (Princess) in red. The dolls are flanked by Bonbori lanterns, with gold byōbu folding screens behind them.
  • Top right are the Tier 2 San-nin Kanjo three court ladies, holding sake equipment.  The seated lady in the middle is the Sanpo sake bearer.
  • On the lower half in the upper stand are the Tier 3 Gonin Bayashi (Five male musicians), holding a small taiko drum, large drum, hand drum, flute, and a singer.
  • Either side of the musicians are the two Tier 4 Daijin ministers.  They are in front of a mandarin orange tree on the right Ukon no tachibana and a cherry blossom tree on the left  Sakon no sakura.
  • There are three Samurai as the protectors of the Prince and Princess, who are in Tier 5 of the larger Hina-dan.  The miniature furniture and carriages would be on the sixth and seventh tiers.  The chest references the traditional custom of a newlywed wife bringing a chest of drawers (tansu) with them when they get married and join their husband.

Here are some more detailed photos.


‘Hishimochi’ rice cakes in front of the Ohina-sama Princess


The Sanpo sake bearer in the middle of the San-nin Kanjo


Minister in front of a Mandarin Tree


Samurai (front) with Musicians in the background


Intricate minature chests, with a Samurai in the background


Minister in front of a cherry blossom tree