What I got up to over the Christmas break!

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Jan 6th, 2012
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Eh? Yes, I can hear you scratching your head. I understand. Why would I start this off with a foreign word, especially one that very few people reading this can probably read? To put you out of your misery, this is ‘Konnichi wa’ which is the romaji (western) spelling of that kanji.


That was one of the many things that I started to get up to over Christmas. The rest I will introduce you to in the next few weeks, but I am starting today with a language, partly because I can, and partly because I know people are going to wonder what is going on in my strange little brain.

My love affair with all things Japanese began many years ago. It began with the films of Akira Kurosawa, specifically with Seven Samurai.

I had seen the Magnificent Seven many times, but when I was about ten or eleven, somehow I managed to see the original. I didn’t understand a word, and subtitles are a very poor substitute for speech anyway, but I could understand the actions, and in particular the actions of one of my all time favourite actors. Toshiro Mifune.

Toshiro Mifune

Mifune was a genius. Not only was he a great actor, he was a truly amazing swordsman.

Watching Mifune in action is pure poetry in motion. I became fascinated with Kendo when I was nine, and I have a few books on this amazing sport, one of which details a sword fight scene from one of Mifune’s films in which his character despatches eight opponents in short order. This scene is held up as a training aid for aspiring swordsmen. Mifune’s movement, swordplay, footwork and timing are perfect.

I recently began to study Kendo. Having read about it for years, actually taking up the sport had to be my next move. My first class I discovered that this form is very traditional, very intense, incredibly fast moving and a very loud sport. It has rules and etiquette.

My first lesson I discovered that being able to count to ten in Japanese would be to my advantage. And that a grasp of the language could never hurt.

So I bought an app for my iPhone and commenced getting to grips with the language.


For a bit of additional fun, I bought an app which is going to teach me how to make sushi properly.

sushi-o tabemasu!!


(Yes, ‘I eat sushi’ – I positively love the stuff!). So I bought the ingredients and the equipment and actually plan on starting making my own sushi next week.

Apart from the language, the films of Akira Kurasawa and the food, I have had a love affair with Japanese minimalist style since I was old enough to understand architecture and how the Japanese mind approaches the concept of space.

I have a pile of books on that subject.

I studied History of Art at A Level, again Japanese Art was one of my major loves. I suspect there are few people who are not familiar with Japanese stylised art, in particular the work of Hokusai, and Hiroshige.

If you don’t know the names, I bet you know the images.

The Wave has become one of the world’s most iconic images.

Some of the older members of my family are not especially pleased with my interest, my uncles in particular fought the Japanese in the jungles of the Far East, and I know several survivors of the Burma Star Association. But Japan between the wars and up to the end of the Second World War was a very, very different society than it is today.

The Wave

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