i keep bumping into signs offering an alternative to having to choose between two.
sea and mountains!
golf and girls!
I haven't made any choices during this trip, and it's been so liberating.
Or at least choices that feel like cancelling something out, or opting out of something. It's a fine balance.
I used to suffer from fomo, and maybe I still do. But I think I've managed to get rid of the percentage of regret that comes with making a choice. It's now very small, though still there (only human), very very small.
sea and mountains.
I started this trip from the coast of the east china sea, on the shores of Yakushima. Already on the island, I climbed up to ecosystems that I was experience later in Hokkaido, though in wintertime. Yakushima mountains have a constant Hokkaido spring, summer and autumn.
I ended my trip on the slopes of Mt. Asahidake, the tallest volcano on the north island.
I saw a lot of golf courses. Some of them in people's front yards and parking lots.
I met really cool people, like this taiwanese hiker who had made the ascent of Asahidake on snow-shoes and stayed in the same dorm as me. We later met up in Sapporo and had a big dinner together.
I didn't make any choices, but I was always somewhere partly by choice, partly I didn't know why I was there. I received recommendations from people I met on my trip, I had hunches that I'd like to be in this and that environment. I didn't know anything for sure.
Even now with this trip behind me, I'm still working out the details. What happened and where. Why was I there, why did that happen there? Why did I forget my water bottle on that bus-stop? So that I could go back and pick it up? Did I mean to go back, or was I led on by a materialist or even parental instinct that wants to keep the pack together? Hat, towel, waterbottle and me.
This is the beauty of traveling for me.
It never ends, if you go back and reflect on what happened. Somethings are understood only with hindsight. Perhaps you suddenly get reminded of something that happened on your trip years ago? Perhaps you then realise that you hadn't given that art of the trip any thought since the trip, and you are only now creating that memory actively.
Meeting this taiwanese hiker brought back memories from my first and only trip to Asia before coming to Japan now. I remembered a song that the indigenous Attaya kids sang to us in their school courtyard in Ulay. I remembered the smell of my hosts deodorant. A lot of things I had perhaps not even actively experienced or thought about even when I was in Taiwan.
How to nurture the capacity to remember past experiences? Just as one nurtures the capacity to forget.
I'm very tired now. A bit ill, but getting better. I'm very much looking forward to going home.
Happy: it's been an incredible trip.
Dreading: the pile of books, papers, scores to go through immediately after arriving tomorrow.
I love my work.
During this trip I've been nurturing the 'love' part of it.
Perhaps some day I'll learn to nurture the other.
Perhaps they are one and the same thing.
Hmu, folks. I'm back in town!
Tohoku region is far removed from the political and economic powers of Japan, so it has retained its remote identity until today. Says Finnish Wikipedia.
North-eastern land. Koillismaa.
I left Hanno with the plan to set up camp in the mountains outside Fukushima just around sunset, which was just after six.
I boarded two local trains of the Tokyo region to reach the Shinkansen from Omiya. I was in Fukushima before I had managed to take out my Sebald and find a socket for charging my phone and power bank.
The station at Fukushima is lifted on stilts above the town, with the high Azuma mountain range to the west of town, with the setting sun still illuminating the horizon. It's a distinct silhouette not least thanks to the volcano Azuma itself (or kofuji, 'Little Fuji' as they call it).
My connecting train to Toge was going to leave in half an hour, which was very convenient for commuters from Tokyo, but I wanted to eat something hot sitting down after many cold take-away bentos, so I googled the local specialities and found an izakaya restaurant near the station that served the local variant of gyoza, served as a crispy crepe.
I sat down in the Shinkansen waiting room for my next and final connection. It was getting cold outside. I started noticing the north in where i was heading. My train finally departed after 9pm.
I checked the temperatures in Yonezawa and Fukushima during the night. In Fukushima, on the plains, the temperature would go down to 8 °C which was the same as in Agano, in the quiet mountain valley near Hanno. In Yonezawa, across the mountains, it would drop already to 3 °C.
My guesses, without specific information for Toge station available, was that the night in Toge was going to be cold. Very cold. Toge is situated in a mountain pass and would probably still have snow on the north-facing slopes.
I made the math quickly, and got off two stations after Fukushima before the train started up the mountains. I would take the first train up in the morning.
Niwasaka is a quiet town. A student was being picked up by his sister from the station. I saw a riverbank on the map a short walk away and headed towards it to pitch my tent for the night. It was very windy and after a few turns my phone was my only light.
At the river I found a comfortable bank with a bit of wind-shield. The stars were out, and I had never yet seen the two top stars in the Ursa Major constellation aligned with the north star facing north as well. Now there were three stars facing north along the mountain range edge.
I have pitched the tent numerous times, and I know exactly in which order everything has to be done and where to place all the bags so that I can find them quickly the next morning. This time I had to pin the structure down before putting in the spokes, so that it wouldn't fly away. It was tremendously windy, so I had to use extra pins to tighten the canvas around the tent so that it's flapping wouldn't keep me up at night. I always use earplugs, although the river flow right next to the tent was a soothing background.
The wind quietened down as quickly as it had risen, and I fell asleep almost immediately.
I put my alarm for 6.30 to catch the first train to Toge. I bought a hot can of coffee from the vending machine near the station and made it in time for the first morning mountain crossing local train.
Toge station is covered with an extremely robust snow-cover made of corroborated steel and heavy steel baulks on the roof and buttressing the sides. I looked out and there it was: snow packed against the structure, but it was boding to be a warm and sunny day nonetheless. I was feeling a bit weak in the throat, due to having sat down in a drafty place for too long the day before, but otherwise looking forward to the hike.
It was just me and another man, eagerly taking photographs of the station building. A train-spotter perhaps, who got the thursday free.
The few hiking maps around the station and on the one street that the town of Toge comprised of were very cute and a bit run down. I guess you don't really need to update mountaineering maps too often.
I walked up the winding asphalt road, I knew this was going to be a paved road all the way to the Ubaya onsen, at the foot of the Azuma range on the northern side. I asked a local inn-keeper if they had hot tea, to which they crossed their hands and smiled.
I've seen these crossed fingers or hands many times on this trip. No matter how politely or deliberately the person explains the matter to me, all I see is the cross and I know immediately which way this discussion is going. I apologised and thanked, being the Finn I sometimes am, and continued up.
I took a few steps the wrong way and ended up on a few terraced cemeteries, but soon found my way. Another group of hikers were going to go up a peak nearby in spite of the snow. Their leader gestured swimming to explain how they were going to go about it. A small petrol tank truck passed me on its way up. Perhaps it wasn't a natural onsen after all.
I came in sight of the onsen two hours later, and saw that the tank truck was refuelling two diggers, a bulldozer and an intriguing tall, square and somehow locomotive-like engine. All cled in unmistakable yellow.
I watched as the diggers cleared the snow from the mountain side for the locomotive to pass through. As it dug into the snow with its red paddle-wheel type grinder, it pushed a clean, square-on-all-sides pathway for itself, with a continuous jet of snow rising 3 metres up and falling in a great parabola over the ledge and into the ravine.
When they took a short break for refuelling, I passed them and found that the 150m left to the onsen were still covered in 90cm of snow. The snow had been packed by the diggers, so it was easy to walk on.
Once I crossed the blue footbridge to the onsen, I saw a timberman showing me the crossed hands upon seeing me. Not a word and I understood. The open-air onsen is closed.
I had wanted to go on a longer hike, as it was only 11am. I found a set of stairs, compared it to one of the maps I had taken a picture of, and found my way zigzagging up the mountain slope behind the onsen valley. The smell of sweet sulphur from the hot spring filled the valley. I really enjoy that smell though many it find off-putting. It means I'm in a special place. It's definitely not something I smell every day.
I was near the top of the first hill, when everything was now snow-covered. On the way up most of the path had been cleared by the sun, and the few spots of snow could be easily walked on in the morning-freeze. They would get softer in the afternoon and perhaps more forgiving, I thought to myself.
I even saw a cute little black wild boar darting away from me. Agile creatures!
I had my bento-lunch on top and a 1pm Asahi zero dry, a third of which I poured as a token of respect to the mountains. That and I'm sick of the taste by now.
It was an incredibly clear and warm day inspite of the hard-frozen snow cover. The wind was bearable and I had a lot of layers with me and excellent shoes for this type of terrain. It was only 1pm. There would be sunlight until 18 and the trains to Fukushima run until 8pm. In short: if I wanted to go further, now was as good a chance as ever.
I saw that I could see to the other side, towards the main Azuma range from on top of a mountain 1,9km away (birds flight). I calculated that if I make it there in 1 hour, I would be in no hurry to come down.
It was noon, and I took a few tentative steps on the snow cover. It was the warmest part of day, and the snow was still unyielding. Good. I could walk on it easier than in the rocky, forested and bushy terrain in the summer. My leg fell through once, after which I turned back, only to find myself still fixated on going ahead with ascending to the peak.
My leg fell through perhaps 2 or 3 times, and never more than 40 or 50cm. Otherwise the snow was excellent to walk on.
I made it to the top by just over 1pm, with incredible views in all directions. Kofuji was hidden behind Mt. Issaikyo, but there was another volcano visible in the far north. This stretch of volcanoes continues all the way up to Hokkaido and on to Kamchatka and through the Aleuts to Alaska and back down the Rockies and Andes. Feeling somehow connected.
I had two more bits of tempura and then I was down on my small bag of lemon fizzlers.
I made my way down based on pins I had placed on my google maps (thank you power bank!), but it was very good visibility anyway, so I was back down at the onsen in no time.
I encountered the x-man taking a break by the river and we got to chatting. They had lived there for 2 days fixing the woodwork in time for the season, scheduled to open on 28th April. I told him I had gone up and seen the mountain range behind, and then he made a heart with his fingers. Mt. Issaikyo. My mountain. He really loved being there.
I gave up on trying to bribe him with cigarettes to let me have a 5min dip in the beautiful-looking onsen just behind him.
As I passed the bulldozers, they had cleared the rest of the way up to the bridge. I showed them thumbs up and shouted gambate kudasai.
I picture the four drivers along with Mr. Issaikyo opening cans of Asahi in the onsen after what has been 2 days of woodwork for one and perhaps as many as 2 weeks for the others in reaching the end of the road.
I'm happy for it to be their priviledge to open the season with a dip after work.
I walked to the next onsen down the road. My towel still smells divinely of sweet sulphur.
last night my friend Kaya invited me over for dinner with her partner at their flat in Hanno.
we know each other from London, where we studied together for two years in 2011-2012 and kept in touch sporadically ever since.
K sat me down with a cup of delicious tea the couple had brought from Britain, when they were last there.
I asked if I could help with preparing the home-made sushi we were going to eat that night, and I found my opportunity in filling inari pockets with the delicious rice-mix that Kaya had prepared.
I had to relax my shoulders after a few pockets. I always get this initial full-body tension when doing new intricate things, and I hardly notice it myself. It's in fact easier to pocket rice into inari when your ears are not stuck to your shoulders.
Speaking of shoulders. 'Vieni sulle spalle' was a sentence I heard during my week in Kobe several times, as it was one of the preferred modes of transfer of the nibling.
As it happens, K knows a luthier in Hanno, who has a workshop by the riverbank. He is one of the few in the world who has built a Violoncello dalla spalla, an obscure baroque instrument in between a viola and a cello.
It resembles viola in its size, but the thickness of the body, needed to support the register an octave below the viola, makes it look like a 1/5th or 1/6th cello. The name comes from it being played on the shoulder rather than in between the legs.
K had played it a few times before and she strung out a beautiful rendering of the Bach cello suite. The sound is hard to describe.
It's defined by resonance. There are five strings, cello tuning with a high E. But somehow the strings are tighter and in a very different ratio to instrument size than with instruments of the official string family.
The sound is closer to that of a viola d'amore, also blessed with an arsenal of both high and low strings. The total range between the open strings is vast at two octaves and a third, contributing to the resonant sound.
I had a chance to try this incredible instrument as well. Mr. Takakura had fashioned a leather strap based on his extensive research of the instrument. The strap holds the instrument at an angle with the nut facing in front and down, the bottom of my chin touching the lower side of the instrument, and the strap going behind my left shoulder as in a lute or theorbo.
The feeling of holding the instrument and the bow was very stable, but strangely introverted. Playing involved both allowing for gravity to pull the bow-hand down with generous force (good sound), but the up-bow felt as though it was pointing towards an imagined centre behind my chest or navel. Not an entirely new feeling, something similar happens when bowing a bass, on a good day. But this feeling of my hands being marionettes strung to a common centre was eye-opening and very distinct for this particular instrument I had never held in my hands before.
I imagined drinking something hot, and then bowing towards the heat that gets collected in my stomach.
K reminded me to relax my shoulders.
When pocketing the inari, I told K that the only piece of oral tradition that my family is blessed with being the vessels of are making Carelian pies that my great-grandmother made every morning for her children, being taught to do so by her parents, and they by their parents and so on. My grandfather taught my mother, who taught me and I've passed on the know-how to my niblings (as have my mother and sisters too, you should see us in the morning of christmas eve).
I've added a few tricks for taste, but so has every generation. They just teach is as 'this is how it's always been' but I think they're not giving themselves credit as evolvers of the recipe. If it were so, we would still primarily make them from barley porridge. Which I prefer, I must say.
I took six left-over inari's on my short hike the next day. I was walking in a ridge from the train stations Nishi-Agano to Agano. I had an inari on each of the six peaks I crossed.
i put my ears under the water in the herbal basin of a small onsen near where I was staying in Kyoto.
I faced the ceiling and saw the large skylight, that had a neat rectangular frame with the main bean oriented along the longitude, and seven side beams on either side along the latitude.
Kyoto has an ancient grid system, that was already in place during the Heian-period of the 10th century.
Standing in any crossroads, the sky looks distinct in all the four cardinal directions.
I listened to the sound of the bubbling water towards the four cardinal directions. Due to the placement of the water-jet, the longitudinal line sounded louder than the latitudinal.
People have written pieces based on sillier phenomena.
Mia Kankimäki retells the beliefs that Heian-period inhabitants of Kyoto (then Heiankyo) had towards the cardinal and especially the ordinal directions. North-east was especially ominous, so the Hiei mountain north-east of Kyoto was an important protective agent.
The wind in Kyoto during my stay was both refreshing and warm, as it blew from towards the ocean in the south. You don't feel at street-level, but on the railway stations that are lifted on viaducts. They also have a breathtaking 360° panorama of the mountain ranges on three sides of town.
I spent enough time on Yakushima to experience the radical differences of the four sides of the near-perfectly circle-shaped island.
The Miyanoura, the main ferry port and largest town in the north of the island is shadowed by the steep mountainsides that start to rise in places immediately from the coastline.
Pitching a tent at Anbo on the east-side, I got to experience the suns indiscriminate determination to fuel life on this planet first hand. I found my tent uninhabitable by 7.15 in the morning.
I hiked to the top of Yakushima already on my first full day on the island. The Yakusugi-cedars had a powerful presence on the island, but only on a strip between 500 metres above sea-level to about 1500. Mt. Miyanoura, the highest peak on Kyushu, is over 1900m. After the cedars, a large grove of rhododendron, followed by a low, bamboo-like bush that covered the entire mountain top save for the massive volcanic boulders with pareidolic forms and textures.
I saw an intriguing map on my last hike on the island. The ecosystems of Yakushima, from sea-level to peak, are parallel to the ecosystems of the entire Japanese archipelago from Yakushima to Wakkanai at the northernmost peninsula of Hokkaido. I had in fact hiked across the country during one day already on my first week.
I decided I would chill the rest of my time here.
I took the bus from Anbo and in half an hour I was at the southernmost tip of the island. The climate was subtropical, the leaves large and moist, lots of fruit and everything was basking in generous sunlight.
At the western tip, there was a cafe that felt a bit like Café Regatta in Helsinki, in that you feel you are at the end of the world. Or at the end of Töölö district at least.
This was of course the land of sunsets.
If you google sunrise in Australia, you get pictures from the east coast. Sunset pictures are from Perth.
When becoming conscious of the cardinal directions, you quickly join forces with the sun.
I realise I have been very lucky with the weather on this trip. I will humbly make my way north.
Today I will spend with a violinist friend I met while studying in London. I brought her from home a tote bag with moomin on it and some maple momiji from Hiroshima.
ajattelin, että heräisin varhain aamulla tutustumaan vanhaan pääkaupunkiin.
torkkuessani annoin itselleni yhä enemmän ja enemmän löysää, ja puolinaisesti hereillä ollessani laskin päässäni laiskoja laskutoimituksia nähtävyyksien etäisyyksien ja aukioloaikojen matriisissa, joka muistutti enemmän kalanverkkoa kuin grillialustaa.
päätin, että jos saan kahdeksan maissa itseni pois kämpiltä, pysyy päiväni mukavan väljänä.
tarkoitushan ei ollut suunnitella mitään.
varttia yli kahdeksan, saranoita säästelemässä, löysin itseni kämpän edestä kääntymässä vasemmalle pitkin Sairashuoneenkatua.
tiesin, että saisin päivälleni hyvän alun jos nappaisin Puutarhakatua pitkin kulkevan bussin linnanpuiston ohi kohti jokirantaa. Niitä meni usein, ja olin kävellyt edellisenä iltana pysäkin ohi, joten löysin nopeasti perille.
minulla ei aamulla ollut vielä tietotaitoa vanhan pääkaupungin busseihin nousua varten. Minun olisi pitänyt juosta bussipysäkille bussin sinne saapuessa, odottaa kun ihmiset (tässä tapauksessa vain yksi ihminen) tulisivat ulos ETUOVESTA ja että bussi sulkisi ovet, lähtisi liikkeelle, ja pysähtyisi kun KESKIOVI olisi minun kohdallani. No, paniikissa minä ainoana asiakkaana tuolla pysäkillä juoksin päistikkaa keskioveen, joka sitten avautuikin sopivasti.
En ehtinyt juoda pillisoijamaitoani tai laittaa aurinkorasvaa, koska istuin jotenkin sumpussa bussin hiekoituslaatikon päällä (vararenkaan?).
ei minulla ollut temppelikierrokselle vietäväksi tarkkaa tietoa temppelien lukumäärästä, kiinnostavuusjärjestyksestä tai sen kummemmin tarkemmista sijainneistakaan, mutta olin ajatellut meneväni ensin Heian-jingu temppeliin, joka oli auennut jo kuudelta.
Eilen illalla kämpillä olin kuullut naapuripunkkapedin asukkaan varoituksen, että iltapäivällä nähtävyydet täyttyvät risteilyturisteista, mutta aamut olivat kuulemma ihania. Hän oli itse lähtenyt edellisenä päivänä poikansa kanssa jo seiskalta liikenteeseen.
Jäin pois pysäkin liian myöhään, koska luulin bussin jatkavan eteenpäin eikä kääntyvän kohti kaupungintaloa.
Löysin pienen puiston, missä vielä yksi puu ujosti kuulsi kirsikankukkia, ja puistosta pienen kivisen penkin minkä päälle asetin reppuni lepäämään laittaessani aurinkorasvaa ja vaihtaessani aurinkolasit päälle.
Löysin jokirannan ja soijamaitoa litkien katselin miten matalalla joenuoma olikaan. Keskellä jokea oli astinkivien sarja, joidenka edessä oli puisten rapumertojen näköisiä sillakkeita. Olikohan tämä ylitys merkitty karttaan?
Käännyin oikealle kanaalinvartta ja mieleni alkoi tehdä kahvia.
Saavuin kovin suljetun näköisen Heian-jingun eteen, kunnes huomasin että varsinainen sisäänkäynti oli vielä aamulla hiljaisen Takoyaki-kioskin takana.
Laitoin lisää aurinkorasvaa otettuani jo aamuyhdeksältä kuumaksi käyneen takin pois, ja astuin etummaisesta portista sisään suurelle, vaalean hienojakoisen soran täyttämälle paraatiaukiolle. Näin, että nurkasta oli sisäänpääsy maksulliseen puutarhaan. Koska itse pyhäkössä oli seremonia alkamassa, astuin lippukioskin kautta sisään puutarhaan.
Kirsikkakukkien aika oli jo nähnyt täällä parhaimmat päivänsä tänä vuonna poikkeuksellisen aikaisin jo maaliskuun puolella, joten pyhäkön puutarhan kirsikkapuut olivat surullinen näky riippuvine oksineen ja nahistuneine kukkientynkineen. Vihreät lehdet ja siemenkodat tekivät jo tuloaan.
Puutarhan perällä varjossa oli yksi viimeisiä vanhan pääkaupungin ratikoista. Aikoinaan pääkaupungin ylpeys, ratikkalinjat ajettiin alas 1960-70 lukujen vaihteessa. Niitä on siitä lähtien haikailtu takaisin. Puutarhassa ollut vaunu kulki linjaa kaksi linnalta kohti keskustaa. Vihreä alaosa sointui sammaleen kanssa. Sitä oli tänään kaikkialla.
Lammen kohdalla huomasin, että upeasti maisemoitu puutarha oli visuaalisesti lähes äänetön keidas kaiken kaupungin mainostaulujen seassa: kaikki oli pelkistettyä, niin vanhaa että lammen ylle kurottavien puiden oksat oli tuettu pienillä T:n muotoisilla krokettimailoilla lammen pohjasta asti. Männyt näyttivät parisataa vuotta vanhoilta.
Silmät suljettuani tajusin, että äänimaisema taas on lähes yhtä meluisa kuin kauppatorillakin. Tasaisella äänellä ihastelevia turisteja, hääparin valokuvaajan jatkuva ohjeistus, vilkkaan tien melu puutarhan muuria vasten toisella puolella, linnut.
Suuntaessani pyhätöltä kohti ensimmäistä kaupungin reunalla näkyvää kukkulaa, vanhojen puisten rakennuksien perusteella Luostarinmäkeä, huomasin jättimäisen torii-portin, joka johti pyhäkölle.
Olin jossain lukenut, että pyhäkkö on uudempaa perua. Se rakennettiin 1800-luvun lopulla juhlistamaan entisen pääkaupungin mennyttä loistoa, pyrkimyksenä nostattamaan kaupungin alemmuustilaa pääkaupungin siirryttyä idemmäksi. Torii-portissa oli yhtäkkiä epätoivoisen mahtailun makua.
Ainoa kahvila näkyvissä oli Starbucksi. Tästä kaupungista on yllättävän vaikea löytää kahvia toisen pääsiäispäivän aamuna.
Nousin Luostarinmäelle ja löysin syrjäisen sisäänkäynnin buddhalaistemppeliin. Valtavassa päärakennuksessa oli käynnissä munkin rukous, ilmeisesti eturivissä istuvan miehen tilauksesta. Alttarilla oli suuri juhlatonkka asahi-olutta. Kaikkialla tuoksui miellyttävä suitsuke.
Laskeuduin tällä kertaa pääportaita alas ja kuljin kukkuloiden reunalla olevaa tietä pitkin pohjoiseen kohti seuraavaa temppeliä.
Päädyin filosofin poluksi ristitylle kanaalin vartta kulkevalle tielle, jonka varressa oli pieniä kojuja myymässä itsetehtyjä leivoksia. Lumi oli varissut puista pois, mutta maassa oli vielä paljon hiutaleita. Sen sijaan magnolioiden ja kamelioiden kukinta oli vasta alkamassa.
Higashiyaman zen-temppelin puutarhan takaa kääntyi suljettu tie valtavannäköiseen seetrimetsään, joka muistutti lapsuuden mökin takana avautuvaa mäntyistä harjua. Pienenä telttailin harjulla, ja sieltä käytiin hakemassa juhannuskokkoon kuivuneita männynoksia. Ne paloi aina valtavan nopeasti ja voimakkaalla liekillä.
Lenkkipolku kulki harjun poikki junaradalle. Siinä oli jotain sekä temppelimäistä että porttimaista. Olen iloinen, että tajusin jo pienenä siellä ollessa, että tämä paikka on jotain erityistä. Vaikka toki kaikkien mökkimaisemat ovat ainutlaatuisia. Ginkaku-jin munkit ovat tajunneet jotain samalla tavalla olennaista. Seetrimetsään ei päästetty kuin temppelin asukkaita.
Löysin hurmaavan kirjakaupan, josta löysin vanhoja postikortteja. Pidin pienen tauon kanaalinrannan kakkukahvilalla ja otin bussin kaupungin toiselle laidalle jokirantaan.
Aivan kuten kaveri oli vinkannut, jokirannassa venevuokraamojen jälkeen santapenkalla oli kuin olikin muutama vene, joilla ei ensin näyttänyt olevan mitään erityistä virkaa. Olin kuitenkin kuullut samaiselta kaverilta, että niillä on tarkoitus soitaa vastarannan tempura-ravintolaan.
Veneitä huoltamassa ollut mies vahvisti asian laidan, ja nappasin veneen virran toiselle puolelle kiviä ja muita soutelijoita väistellen.
Söin yksinkertaisen lounaan grillattua kalmaria ja tempuraa yakisoba-nuudeleilla risti-istunnasta. Tämänkin kolkan oli yhyttänyt asahin alkoholiton variantti, vaikka sitä ei ruokalistalla lukenutkaan. non-aru biiru arimaska?
Syödessä jokirannassa tunnelma oli epätodellinen. Pohjoisen puolella oli mukavan viileä, vastarannan paahdetta katsellessa. Moni souti pienellä sinisellä soutuveneellä. Näin syrjäsilmällä kun vuokraisäntä kävi moottoriveneellä hakemassa muutaman soutelijan takaisin.
Joella kulki myös perinteisennäköisiä katoksella varustettuja dzonkkeja, joiden kuski työnsi venettä eteenpäin pitkällä joenpohjaan yltävällä kepillä.
Ensin näytti siltä, että dzonkin moottorisoitu versio, jotka olivat kiinni kaijassa ravintolan vieressä ja ilmeisesti samaa lafkaa, olisi törmännyt kepillätyönnettävään kollegaansa. Mutta kun tämä toistui toisen veneen kanssa, niin arvelin että moottorivene toimii kauppaveneenä, josta keppiveneläiset voivat ostaa kaljaa ja syötävää.
Samalla he vetivät yhden nuoriparin vastarannalta viereiseen pöytääni syömään.
Veneet olivat ilmeisesti asiakkaiden käytössä vain yhteen suuntaan, ja vaikka ravintolan isäntä veikin niitä takaisin niiden kerääntyessä tälle puolelle, sain minä luvan kävellä lähimmälle sillalle ja etsiytyä rautatieaseman luokse.
Asemalla kävi viileä tuuli mereltä etelästäpäin. Mietin jaksaisinko käydä vielä yhdessä temppelissä. Kinkaku-ji ja Ryoan-ji olivat aivan vierekkäin, mutta asemalta kävellessäni kerkeisin vain toiseen niistä.
Ryoan-ji tuli ensin vastaan.
temppeli on tunnettu kivipuutarhastaan.
menimme Kobessa ollessani lankoni ja niblingsin kanssa syömään härkää yhteen keskustan Kobe-härkään erikoistuvista lounaspaikoista. Olin saanut vinkin, että silloin ruoan hinta-laatusuhde olisi parhaimmillaan.
Ravintolassa istutaan laajassa kaaressa yhtä laajan paistolevyn ääressä, jossa kaksi kokkia paistaa ensin friteerattuja valkosipuleita öljyssä, sitten sienä ja pak-choita. Samalla tarjoilija tuo misokeiton, vettä ja kaksi kastiketta päällekäin asetetuissa astioissa. Kuppi ituja varten, ja laakeampi pieni lautanen härän kanssa menevää paksua kastiketta varten. Ikään kuin ohimennen.
Itse pihviä paistetaan näyttävästi ja suurieleisesti, kunnes se lasketaan paloiteltuna suoraan syöjän eteen lautaselle.
As it turns out, pihvi on lähinnä tekstuuria (erinomaisen mureaa ja pehmeää sellaista, en muista koskaan ennen aiemmin kohdanneeni moista) ja ruoasta tekee erityisen tuo nonchalantisti tuotu kastike.
Ryoan-jin kivipuutarha on mykistävän kaunis kaikessa yksinkertaisuudessaan. Puutarhaa reunustavat seinät on tehty öljyllä käsitellystä hiekkakivestä. Aikojen saatossa öljy kulkee hiekkakiven huokosten läpi, ja muodostaa harmaansävyisiä, todella hienovaraisia kuvioita, jotka ovat enemmän nimenomaan tekstuuria kuin kuvioita tai värejä. Ne tuntuivat muuttuvan katseen alla. Ei ihmekään, että puutarha on viehättänyt kävijöitä jo 500 vuotta. Muurit oli katettu hennosti kiiltävällä, lasitetulla kivellä, joka heijasti häivähdyksen muurin takana olevaa lehvästöä – kirsikkakukkien jämiä, seetripuita ja vaaleaa alkukevään vihreää.
Olin aivan poikki yli yhdeksän tunnin mittaisesta kaupunkikierroksesta. Nappasin lähikaupasta mukaan pienen sushiannoksen ja oluen (Asahi Beery!) ja istuin jokirantaan syömään lenkkeilijöiden varrelle.
Jos Hämeenkadun uimahallilla olisi tänään miestenpäivä, voisin vielä käydä saunomassa. Menen ehkä katsomaan jokirantaa iltavalaistuksessa, mutta luulen muuten iltani jäävän lyhyeksi. Huomenna pitää palata pääkaupunkiin yhdeksän junalla.
I got to Kyoto an hour ago, with the plan to stay here for two nights and one full day.
I will just chill.
Mia Kankimäki wrote very lovingly and generously about this city in her travel book 'Asioita, jotka saavat sydämen lyömään nopeammin'. Her task was to follow in the footsteps of Sei Shonagon, a Heian-period poet known for her collection of lists in 'The Pillow Book'.
I feel like I already know this town thanks to you.
Mia, I'm now following in your footsteps. When I walked past the Nijo castle to get to a 7-eleven to buy a can of non-alcoholic beer (ever wishing they would have Sapporo or the Beery variant of Asahi, but always also happy they have my trusted Zero Dry) and find my way up to my hostel, I think of what you said about cycling about town effortlessly. How it is easy to orient oneself in a grid-system of streets.
One is always one street away from your own street. I liked when you wrote that.
I wish I could move as effortlessly as you.
You should see me on a bike with all the gear I'm carrying with me. A yellow sleeping bag from the early 2000's, a sleeping mattress wrapped around my tent-sticks. Yes I have a tent with me, in Kyoto. But that's just because I had one in Yakushima, where it was just perfect.
Today, in Hiroshima, I bought a thin, long, pink creature with long orange stripy arms to dangle from my big black, ominous-looking Savotta-rinkka. To make me look less like I work for the defense forces and I did just in fact like both the colour and all the modular possibilities this rucksack has. I'm still yet to explore them, perhaps on my next hiking trip.
I also have one of those white and transparent konbini-umbrellas that are so iconic here. I want to bring ten of them home and make a fortune re-selling them in Vallila to people. Did you think to do the same? Did you ever use one, Mia? Perhaps you brought your own umbrella from home.
There is a lot to see in Kyoto. There is a lot to see in Japan.
I will renounce all the must-sees and just chill.
This is what aspiring to do on all my travels to varying degrees of success. Do I need to take a picture of this Torii gateway built on a tide-bank? Sure why not, but I don't have to. I can just make a google image search if I want to get back to this day someday.
Even if I did take a picture of it, I doubt I would come back to see it.
Anything that has a whiff of being 'a must' gets translated to a 'no-no' in my mind.
The least I do is lug my stern to Kyoto. I will stop there and do what I want.
Maybe fantasise about Baden-Württemberg. I was once infatuated with someone from Baden-Württemberg there so name still brings back a fuzzy feeling. I've hardly any real memories of the place.
Kyoto brings to my body an initial feeling of resistance.
So many no-nos.
What this feeling communicates more than anything else, deep down, is that I'm ready to go home. I've reached a point on my trip where I'm in a good place physically and emotionally. I'm a bit tired, especially after tending to my nibling for a week. I'm a bit melancholic of being by myself now, after a wonderful daily social life with my sisters family. I'm yearning to see my friends back home, to forget about this trip and let it's effects become a part of me and my work. Build the memories into anecdotes and stories.
Retell them and combine them with comments and interjections from other trips and other readings.
This is what you did in your second book, Mia. You went on simultaneous trips, but really it was about spending time with yourself and being generous about your observations. Your writing is addictive. You notice the smallest things and you are completely skamlös in your enjoyment of good food and fleeting moments of stillness between procrastination and idleness.
You are my idle idol.
Still I want even half of your industry.
After having gouged a groove onto the same pavements and footbridges of Kobe for three days, I decided that it's time to take my nephew on an excursion.
Any one of these is a day-trip away from Kobe: Hiroshima, Fukuyama, Okayama, Himeji, Kyoto, Osaka not to mention any hidden gem in between any of these.
My in-law mentioned the bean might like to see the deer roaming wild on the streets and lawns of Nara, a valley south-east of Kyoto.
I checked the itinerary. A mere 1h45min away, not the closest destination.
2 trains. A train change in Osaka, the heart in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, Kansai.
My eyes lit up at the thought of the adventure. What's the worst that can happen? A blow-out during the rush-hour in Osaka. A massive mama-tantrum at the furthest point away from mama.
We'll see. We had a good rapport with nibling – and I started to have an instinct of what they wanted at what time of the day.
Plus I also wanted to see Nara for myself.
We grabbed a local train to Osaka, the bean was happy checking out the scenery being pushed by the windows.
Osaka train station was very conveniently labeled also in English, and elevatored down to the last platform. We were in the connecting Osaka Loop line local train to Nara in less than 5 minutes. The nibling loved the action.
The second train was longer, and we occupied ourselves with a stickerbook, sticking stickers on top of other stickers, covering the previous one as well as possible.
Arriving in Nara station I suddenly noticed that we were surrounded by couples and small groups of tourists all funneling through to the long street leading down to the park area. We weaved our way through fast with a made-up certainty of knowing where to go.
They say you must dress up for the job you want, not for the one you have. I have a similar view of moving through crowds. My worst nightmare is standing around looking like I'm in the wrong place at the wrong time and that I don't now where I'm going.
I may be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I may not know where I'm going. I may even enjoy inhabiting these experiences. But I must look and seem like I know where I'm going.
Realising we would both get hungry soon, and that it would take at least two hours going through the main sights of the temple area, we walked a bit out from the masses and found what ended up being a brilliant small ramen place, with plenty of room at 11.45, and the nibling with an ample appetite for Kitsune tofu ramen and a small bowl of rice. They got 5 kawaiis from neighbouring customers.
Changed and happy to roam around, we entered the temple area which proved to have ramps and accessible entrances in abundance.
It didn't take long before the bean noticed a small group of the 300+ deers in the park, and soon enough they were eating paper-biscuits from their hand.
We stopped and parked the pram in front of the Todai-ji, and attempted to stay in the line to see the giant Buddha-statue inside. The nibling was entertained by being alternately in my arms and walking about a small perimetre without us losing our place in the line. 20 more kawaiis here.
Once inside, the bean ran and roamed around the huge cedar-pillars that buttressed the layered wooden roof over the head of the giant deity. Their joy was contagious and I was moved by the happy reactions of other visitors to our silly games in that sacred place. There was space for a giant statue as well as spontaneous games of hide-and-seek, bumping into grannies and flower-pots. By the time the bean descended the steps back onto the courtyard, they had an audience of about 15 people gather around in a horseshoe. That's 15 more kawaiis.
We made it almost all the way back to the station during nap-time, and boarded the train in time for rush-hour in Osaka.
The pram made sure the bean had all the space they needed. Luckily they were also in a mood to stick to that space. But I must say, had I not nipped to Lawsons to get them a bag of nibblesticks and a bag of blackcurrent fizzlers for myself, that traverse would've been a lot more interesting.
A few days later we went to the Anpanman Children's museum in Kobe. Three adults to one child was more than enough so I just sat down to read my first Sebald.
I heard myself saying to my travel companions today, that if I were ever to return to Kobe, I would feel like home.
I know my way around, I know my places, I know how to find new places.
I have places that I said I would come back to or that I would get down to visiting for the first time, but that now seem like I will not make it to them before continuing my journey tomorrow.
I arrived in Kobe on Sunday, and it's now Friday evening. One more dinner, one more breakfast and then I'm off again. Semi-planned, semi-not. Together with my little sister's family we all liked the idea of going to Hiroshima for one day of hiking and one day of visiting the Peace Memorial Museum. After that I'm thinking of braving the hanami tourist masses in Kyoto before spending a few quiet days in the countryside of Tokyo. This time next week, I aim to be at the foot of Hokkaido's tallest mountain (still cled in a showcap, I hear) for a last few days before chunneling back with the blueberry express to my working table
a table now sorely missed.
Kobe gave me a sense of presence and stronghold within that wavery, windy feeling that I always have when somewhere else than where my stove is. I'm missing a table though. At this point any library will do. One with a simple lunch place nearby.
Maybe one of the better alcohol-free beers. My favourites have been (in order of preference):
1. Asahi Beery
2. Sapporo Puremiumu
3. Unnamed 'non-aru biiru' at the waterfront in Kobe
5. Suntory All-free
6. Asahi Zero Dry
(in order of cleverness of names)
1. Zero Dry
(in order of consumption by approximate percentage)
78 % Zero Dry
15 % All-free
5 % Asahi Beery
2 % Kirin
2 % Puremiuru
Luckily I'm on my way to Sapporo eventually.
If I will start a bar that serves only non-alcoholic beer, I will become the importor of Zero Dry (tasty in large quantities!), Beery and Puremiuru (come for the lack of voltage, stay for the surprising kick it gives you).
I have no problem buying these at whim from vending machines, since they don't ask for my Japanese ID-card. Which I don't have. Yet.
As the hotel breakfast costs us 21€ per day, we've gone to the same café round the corner every day instead. The owner was fascinated by our language, and asked me to put a pin on his map of gaijins that have visited his cafe. Someone had cancelled Helsinki out by putting a particularly fat pin leaning north on Tallinn, so I placed mine on Kitee instead.
They have oat milk. I was fine for a week but now I have to have it daily again.
Never look back.
Speaking of cafes, taking coffee out to go has a slightly more special aura here than back home. Some places don't do it (out of principle? this I like), and some that really don't look like they do, like this cafe I went to opposite the aquarium yesterday, especially advertised that they do.
He made my coffee with a meticulousness I haven't seen for a while. I felt bad I was going to leave with it. I made sure I watched most of his moves.
He gave me the cup in a small plastic bag.
Either to say: if you want trash, let's make it proper trash.
this way you won't drink it while walking but will walk until you find a beautiful spot and then you stop, maybe sit, and drink.
a shokunen either way.
I'm an uncle four times, and I just heard last week that I'm on the way to becoming one for the fifth time.
I have three godchildren and at least two more beans to whom I'm an honorary uncle to.
In Belgium they'd already call that a famille nombreuse with four if not nine cabbageheads.
One of the first declarations of unclehood I recite to them when they are old enough to understand what it really means – at around 6 or 7 – is that when and if they get annoyed at their parents at any point for any reason (happens to the best of parents), that they first consider coming to say hi to me before packing a tent, apples and biscuits to go live under a bridge and live off the land.
I'll take them to my favourite mushroom spots and we can pitch a tent on my balcony and observe the parents across the street with binoculars made from toilet paper.
I don't have children of my own, but this way of spending time with kids makes me incredibly happy every time. I love being an uncle.
When I was working as a music theory teacher – or more like 'general musicianship' or 'learning about music by making music' – I found myself thinking about the kids day and night, especially the ones that had a hard time concentrating, finding their place or channeling their frustration or even anger in less explosive ways. Had I stayed on board the music school for longer, I would've probably found a balance between work and parental instinct, but I decided to quit to pursue writing music full time.
I haven't regretted the decision for a second since, although it meant I also lost a great source of energy in my daily life with my students.
I almost immediately joined back to the youth organisation Protu, in which I had participated as a youth camp cook for about eight years. I had never joined in being one of the facilitators of the camp, so I tried my hand at it a few years ago by helping to organise one summer youth camp near Oulu for 15 or so 15-year olds. It was great fun – playful, emotional, challenging, enlightening – and we had a great team of young, brilliant aspiring youth-workers with us.
I would do it again at any point. I loved reaching the point where you can just lift your hands and see the kids organise themselves in a sophisticated way, in a way they hadn't thought of organising themselves, and in a way that they ultimately found themselves. I remember that radiant energy they had when they realised that they were free to get together and form a set of collective rules or lack of rules and just go for it. Even if this went on only for a week, I hope they remember that they could look back at any point in their lives and say: hey, we could do this differently, who's with me?
In the aftermath of the elections in Finland (Sanna Marin stepping down was noted even in Japanese newspapers) my bubble has been bubbling with a call to find alternative forms of organisation, a more direct path of actions such as to fight the climate crisis and pursue international queer-rights. Why should we wait for someone to act upon what is on our collective consciousness anyway.
Being an uncle is about a thousand times easier than being a parent, even though when my nibling is with me, I get the full swing of parental instincts. I think I'm quite chill as a parent, I have much more time for everything as a parent than as the regular Lauri. I could never draw a banana with as much urgency and focus as when my nibling is watching me closely.
For them the banana-nature of life is every bit as serious as anything.
You can't just draw the banana. You have to be the banana.
And then give me a banana.
i tend to zoo- or anthropomorphise in order to understand or remember
the house that looks like the face of a bear
the rock that looks like a turtle
the way the public transport of any settlement, or indeed any sort of flow of movement in and out of a core, – be it of a huge metropolis or tiny village – is organomorphic in how it resembles lungs.
leaving your room in the morning, you walk up an improbable alleyway that you would not stumble upon when walking down the street unless you knew which way to turn.
Leaving the alleyway to enter the road, leaving the road to enter the street, leaving the street to enter the highway and letting the highway carry you to the centre are all movements that happen through an exhalation of sorts. A suction that inevitably brings you to the core of the settlement unless you make a maneuver or two.
Knowing when to leave the highway to enter the road, knowing when to leave the road to enter the street, knowing when to leave the street to enter the alleyway, knowing which door to enter and at last which bunk in the dormitory to occupy requires either conscious effort if you want your head to end up on a particular pillow, or a fully random set of exits and turns that will bring you to one of billions of new starting points for the following exhalation.
Exiting the alveoli to end up flown out through the mouth into the open air requires little effort. Entering a particular alveolus borders the impossible in how much navigational capacity if required to make the journey without any false turns.
I feel this in Tokyo more than anywhere else I've been to until know.
The pulmonary metaphor doesn't end in describing the social choreography as a fractal system.
Seeing the movement of people through the city as movement of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs also communicates varying degrees of lightness in how everything is carried.
Everything works in Tokyo. Once you know how everything works, drawing a pathway to your home alveolus can become light, effortless.
Knowing how everything works could take a lifetime.
To keep conscious of how everything works within the smallest units of time can take a lot of effort to keep up with.
Likewise although you may learn everything you need to learn about breathing within a few seconds after being born, new experiences years later might bring you new insight into an automated practice.
Breathing is not effortless.
I saw coffee being sold as plastic cups filled with ice-cubes in a freezer tub.
I held my breath and closed my eyes to see if they were still there. They are here to stay. I might have one latter.