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#28240 - 19/05/05 10:14 AM Torey's Visit to Japan
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I know you are all waiting to see pictures from Japan, so I have stolen a few moments from jetlag stupor to try and put these up.

I arrived in Tokyo after a super flight on ANA (All Nippon Airlines) from London on the 16th. The service is incredible on this airlines and the food is wonderful!

I was met at the airport by my very dear editor, Yuri Kagoshima. She has been my editor for every single book in Japan and we have had so many adventures during my previous three visits that it was like coming home to an old friend!

She took me to my hotel, the Grand Palace. Again, this is where I always stay when I am in Tokyo, so again, it was like coming home. I am just so pleased to be back in Japan!

Early the next morning I needed to get a flight to Kumamoto, which is at the far southern end of Japan from Tokyo - about two hours' flying time. Unfortunately, when I woke up, the weather was not very promising. Here is the view from my hotel room, looking east across Tokyo.

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When we went out to the airport, we heard that the weather was very bad in the south of Japan and so many flights were being diverted to other cities due to high winds or very poor visibility because of the wind.

Yuri came out to the airport with me and here we are, waiting worriedly, wondering if I will be able to take the plane to Kumamoto. (We are putting a cheerful face on things. Yuri makes me laugh a lot!)

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Unfortunately, Yuri could not take off work to travel with me to Kumamoto on that flight, so also at the airport is Masako Irie. Masako is my translator. She is a very famous translator in Japan and has done a wonderful job with my books, which is why they are so popular. Masako is going to travel with me. So, here we are, still waiting for the Kumamoto plane.

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At last we are able to board and we have a VERY bumpy (and rather exciting!) ride to Kumamoto through the storm clouds, but we arrive in one piece. As you can see, Kumamoto weather is still not quite as welcoming as Tokyo, because this is all I can see of the castle and mountains behind it from my hotel window:

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Once settled, Masako and I go to meet with the interpreters who will be giving a simultaneously translation of my lecture at the JSCN (Japanese Society of Child Neurology) conference the next day.

Then we head off to find some dinner. Here is a picture of a large covered street next to the hotel. We'd call it an arcade in Britain:

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I have left my umbrella in Tokyo, as I had to pack only a small bag to take to Kumamoto, and Masako is concerned I will get too wet. So she takes me to a Japanese "dollar store", called a "100 yen store" here because everything costs only 100 yen (which is about 50p in British money).

Here is a quick peek into the 100 Yen store, whihc is very much like dollar stores the world over!!

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And here is the display of (very cheap!!) umbrellas. I got a natty lime green one.

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Masako is staying at a different hotel than I am because there was no room for anyone else here except those attending the conference (which is very big.) So she had noticed an interesting display of my books in a book shop named Marubun nearby. So she went to show me. Of course, we had to take a picture.

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#28241 - 19/05/05 10:18 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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The staff became very excited when they found out it was me. The shop girl Sachiko was nearly in tears of excitement!

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And then it was the manager of Marubun came out front for pictures.

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Then he took me to the area in front of the book store to show me the statue they have of a "kappa". Masako explained to me that a kappa is an imaginary creature who is believed to live in water, especially rivers. They have webbed feet and hands and a plate on his head. If the plate gets dry, the kappa dies. He is a trickster who is believed to do tricky things to people. For example, when you swim in a river, if the kappa pulls your legs, you may go under and be drowned. There were many floods in Kumamoto and these were blamed on the tricks of the kappa, but ever since they have made this nice statue in tribute to the kappa, no more floods! (You will see Torey Hayden's various posters peeking through on the back left-hand side, no doubt helping the river god with his anti-rain mojo!)

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And at last Masako and I manage to get away to have a very wonderful Chinese meal in a little restaurant nearby. (Masako will hate this picture, because she was not expecting it!) But we had such a good time and the food was so delicious that I just had to share it.

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#28242 - 19/05/05 01:40 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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Today is the big day - the day I give the opening speech of the JSCN conference - which is why I have come to Japan. So, lots of nerves!

Fortunately, the weather is much better. This morning I can see the mountains clearly.
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Visible from my hotel window there on the hill is Kumamoto castle (from the 1300's, I believe)which is in the ancient Japanese tradition. Unfortunately, my side is swathed in scaffolding for repairs.

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Now down to the serious work of the conference. I am intoduced to the conference by Dr. Makiko Oosawa. You can see my banner behind Dr. Oosawa.

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And then comes the lecture itself, which is about the importance of developing relationships with children with emotional problems.

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Here is a view of the crowd while I am giving my speech. It is a conference for medical doctors only, so I reckon if nerves get the worst of me and I have a heart attack on stage, this is probably the safest place in the world to do it!

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Here I am in my school marm pose - i.e. ("You better listen to me!)

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After the lecture, Dr. Miike, the organizer, presents me with a citation and a gift.

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Now much relief!! The hard work is done. Yuri, Masako, Masako's friend Rie Oono who has come to listen to the lecture, and I all go out for a very wonderful lunch. Here we are in the restaurant.

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#28243 - 19/05/05 01:53 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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Now I am going to share with you pictures of this fantastic lunch because I know so many of you will never have seen genuine Japanese food. It is always so beautifully prepared and THERE IS ALWAYS SO MUCH TO EAT! Most people do not know this about the Japanese!

So we are seated above with our first course. Here is a closer picture:

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It is sashimi in the long dish - tuna, a prawn, a small sardine-type fish, lotus flower and a few things I recognize the flavour of but do not know the name of. In the blue bowl are bamboo shoots and squid in a Japanese pepper sauce.

At the same time as this course is served, there is a special platter in the middle for all of us to share.

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This is raw horse meat which is the specialty of this restaurant. It comes with the traditional accompaniments of garlic, chives and various greens.

I am very fond of this particular dish, so Yuri couldn't resist taking my picture.

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Now comes the second course, which are bits of tempura. Most of fish or vegetable, one is a special kind of leaf which I am not familiar with but is very tasty cooked this way.

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Now the third course!

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This is salmon with special rice noodles. The stick is ginger.

The waitress stops by to make sure we are getting enough to eat!

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Nope, clearly room for more, so she brings us the soup and rice course!

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And at last, here comes dessert, which is fruit with a very delicate gelatine on top.

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And I'm ready to pop!!

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#28244 - 20/05/05 10:02 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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Kumamoto city centre is nicely laid out such that everywhere we want to go is in walking distance. After lunch I am to appear on a television program for NHK, the Japanese state broadcasting system (like the BBC in Britain) The program is called "Good Morning Saturday" and is a regional program which is only shown throughout Kyushu and Okinawa.

We walk to the NHK broadcasting building from our restaurant along side the river which was diverted to form part of the moat to the old castle.
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I am fascinated by the carp in the river, many of which are very brightly coloured.

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Above us on the other side of the river are the turrets of the castle which was built in the early 1600s.

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We can also see the main part of the fortress above the trees.

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And just around the corner and across the bridge is the NHK building.

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Inside I am greeted by Ko Watanabe who is producing the program and he takes me to the studio where I am going to be interviewed by the presenter, Kumiko. We have a really fantastic interview together and celebrate by taking pictures afterwards on the set.

Here are Kumiko and I.
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And afterwards we all pose for a picture together.

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That's Nobuko Johnson, my interpreter, on the left in front, me and Ko Watanabe. In back are the camera men and technicians, Kumiko and Masako.

Then Kumiko presents me with a gift from NHK. It is a lovely box of very delicious sweets made from beans which are a specialty of the area. (I meant to save them, but I confess I have already eaten about a 1/3 of the box!)

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#28245 - 20/05/05 10:14 AM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
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After that Yuri, Masako and I walked back to my hotel through small side streets, many of which are very beautiful.

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I always enjoy looking at things along the way. Here is an aquarium built into the side of the building on the left of the photo above (you can just see the curve of it.) These fish are not being kept for the amusement of passers by but rather, fresh for dinner. (Note net for choosing your fish!)

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And a popular way for Japanese restaurants to advertise the different dishes they serve is to put very accurate resin models of the food in their windows. Here are a meal available in this particular restaurant, complete with beer, all of it imitation.

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And likewise, their selection of desserts (which you picky eaters will be pleased to know are made largely of sweet beans!)

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#28246 - 20/05/05 10:13 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
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In the evening there is a large reception for all the speakers, organizers and doctors attending the JSCN conference. A wonderful display of local traditional dancing is given. The dance is one performed originally to ask the gods to keep the fishermen safe at sea, so the dancers' costumes are blue like the ocean and the designs on them represent the waves. (I, unfortunately, wasn't so fast with my camera, so only got the dancers coming off the stage.)

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They are accompanied by traditional instruments

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Then it is the next morning and back to giving interviews. Happy at our work, the reporter and I blow kisses at each other . . .

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No, no, no, no, not really!!

This is Mr. Okamoto from the important Kumamoto newspaper Nichinichi and we are actually doing a very serious interview. On the left is my interpreter Nobuko Johnson.

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Then Yuri, Masako and I go out to visit Kumamoto bookstores with the sales representative Mr. Tezuka of Hayakawa (my Japanese publisher). I love walking through the streets of Kumamoto. Many are covered over, but unlike in Britain where the covered streets are to protect people from the rain, here they protect from the hot sun, as this part of Japan is very, very warm in summer. This is one of the main shopping streets.

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Here we are in Tsutaya bookstore. We're pleased to see many great displays of books. (That's Masako on the left, me and Yuri. For anyone who has lost count by this point in the story, Masako is a renown translator who has done all my books in Japan. Yuri is my editor from Hayakawa and has edited all my books here.)

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At Kinokuniya Bookstore, the manager Mr. Takezawa invited us all in for tea. He then asks me to do a very Japanese thing, which is to sign one of these white boards. They are about the size of an ordinary sheet of paper but are actual a hard kind of poster board with a decorative edge. It is typical to request celebrities or other important people to sign and date such a board to commemorate a special event and this will then be displayed.

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Afterwards, Mr. Takezawa and his staff very kindly present me with a wonderful bouquet of flowers - lilies, roses, freesia, carnations - in honour of my birthday.

The girl holding the signed card is Mihoko, who is a particularly devoted fan and so the staff have asked me to sign a special board just for her.

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#28247 - 20/05/05 11:08 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


And then it is off to lunch and another wonderful meal. I promise not to keep boring you with pictures of food, but I do find the food here one of the most special parts of my visit.

Yuri, Masako and I go to a restaurant nearby that Mr. Takezawa recommends. It has a sushi bar, as well as traditional seating. Here is the sushi chef at work behind the bar. Note the aquarium next to him. It is full of very live cuttlefish, waiting to become sushi.

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We sit down at one of the low tables and Yuri and Masako pore over the menu, trying to decide what we should have. There are lots of pictures to show what the food will look like, which is helpful for foreigners like me who can't read a word of Japanese!

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Then a waitress comes with the first course.

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Like yesterday's meal, it is very beautifully presented. The pottery case at the back with the flowers contains sashimi. Then there is a salad with fish on the left, a poached tomato in the middle and a third kind of salad on the right. In front are two bowls of soy sauce. One is for the sashimi and the second is for the sushi, which will come later. There are two because one puts wasabi into the soy for sushi.

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Masako takes a picture of the poor foreigner struggling to cope with a whole tomato using only chopsticks. It is too big to eat in one bite and impossible to cut into smaller pieces!!

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The next course is a dumpling soup. We each get our own little black pot of soup over a small flame.

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Then comes the sushi! I thought this was a portion for us all to share, but no. Each one of us gets a plate like this!

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I'm not going to be able to identify all of it now (memory fading as I am now so much older than yesterday!)

The knobs on the far left are ginger. Then cuttlefish, tuna, hoki (I think), octopus, shrimp, unknown, egg and salmon roe.

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#28248 - 23/05/05 10:03 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


At last I am able to get more pictures up! Thanks to Tinker for helping me out, as the problem seems to be somewhere between my hotel connection and our server, but he was able to lift the pictures just fine.

After the lovely lunch above, Yuri, Masako and I had the afternoon free, so we went sightseeing at the ancient castle right in the center of Kumamoto. It was built between 1601 and 1608 by a feudal lord named Kiyomasa Kato. It's huge - about eight miles around the circumference - and consists of very steeply curved walls, turrets and a main fortress building in the center which you could climb all the way to the top of - six stories - for a spectacular 360 degree view of the Kumamoto area. The lord had the river diverted to provide a moat around the base of the case.

Here's one of the turrets. I took the picture from down near the river.

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I was particularly fascinated by the stairs inside the castle. Because it is so large and constructed on this knoll overlooking the city, there are these wonderful ancient stairs everywhere made of local stone.

I found this staircase beautifully atmospheric:

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And here are one of the many sets of main stairs the warriors would have climbed to get into the main fortress area. What isn't apparent is how big these stairs are. You can't actually step easily from stair to stair. You have to go down one at a time, stepping on each stair with both feet, like a child does.

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Here's a picture of the main fortress building. It was hard to take a decent photograph, as the sun was right behind it and it is very high. But this gives you the idea. Masako, Yuri and I then climbed right to the very tippy top to see the wonderful view.

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One of my favourite pictures of the whole trip is this one Yuri took of Masako and me at the castle. I was spending such a wonderful, fun, relaxing day and I think this picture shows it. It is just a plain "tourist picture" of friends having a good time together.

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Very near the base of the castle is a Shinto shrine, so we next went there.

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The gate at the from is called a 'torii' and this is the entrance to the shrine. My name has the same pronunciation in Japan as these holy gates, so I have been given several little gifts with this word on it.

This is an Inari shrine, which we can tell because it is guarded by two foxes on either side of the entrance. (You can just barely see the edge of the one fox on the left of the picture above.)

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#28249 - 23/05/05 10:25 PM Re: Torey's Visit to Japan
Anonymous
Unregistered


A common aspect of many Shinto shrines is fortune telling. Pieces of paper called omikuji are drawn randomly and contain quite complex predictions in regards to luck, health, and so forth. To ensure the good luck and dispel the bad luck, the omikuji is then tied to a tree branch or special bars of wood after the fortune has been read. In the picture above with the fox, you can see on the left where many omikuji have been tied.

Masako had to help me read mine. I was very lucky in that my overall fortune spoke of "daikichi" - "great good luck".



Here's what it looked like:



We then offered prayers and went to tie our fortunes on the sticks.

To the side of the shrine were smaller stone shrines:



And then at the front on the steps before the entrance to the shrine, we had much fun with a silly thing - a cut-out form of a "shrine maiden" that you stood behind and had your picture taken.

Here's the overall view which allows you to see this standing in front:



And of course who had to pretend to be the shrine maiden??!!



Masako and Yuri thought this was very, very, VERY funny and could not stop laughing! I think there must be an inside Japanese joke to all this that I didn't quite understand, but their amusement was catching and we were soon all laughing very hard. Indeed, this is one of my best memories of Kumamoto - how much the three of us laughed together during our time there.


Edited by torey (29/01/11 07:04 PM)

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