Thursday, April 21, 2016

Bathroom Humor

My nephews will giggle when they see this sign in June.

I'm taking my nephews (7 and 8), their parents, and my partner, Dwight, to the area where I grew up. I took the photograph last year in the main train station of my home town, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

I expect a few bathroom giggles along the way. We change planes in Paris and I've explained it's OK to say "wee-wee" (oui, oui) there. They giggled deliriously at the subversiveness.

My 8-year-old nephew will fit right in. He sometimes announces in an impeccable English accent "I have to see a man about a dog." This is a euphemism in the UK for having to go to the bathroom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Uncomfortable Scene, Comfortable Food

Train stations in Japan can be busy places, but boarding trains is an orderly process. In mainline and subway stations, symbols on the ground show where to form lines. When a train arrives, each door aligns with the queuing passengers. Train stops are brief, trains run on time.

But things can go wrong.

I can't get these images out of my head. On a screen I see a mother with a baby stroller, last in line to board a subway car. She pushes the baby towards the door, ignoring the warning tone. The door closes, pinching a small part of the stroller. The train moves, pulling the stroller along the platform. The desperate mother won't let go, she's dragged along the platform, her attempts to release her child are futile. They speed towards a barrier at the end of the platform. People look on, alarmed, helpless.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Small-Town Bullet Train Station

The last time I went through the town of Itoigawa (population 47,102) I was on an express to Kanazawa.

Since then, the Shinkansen (bullet train line) from Tokyo to Nagano was extended to Kanazawa, and the new section opened in 2015.

This week I rode the bullet train 97 km from Nagano to Itoigawa, just enough time to enjoy a lovely picnic lunch I had picked up in a department store in Nagano.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Temple Plumbing 2016

The Shikoku 88 Pilgrimage connects 88 temples over 750 miles on Japan's Shikoku Island.

It's a circuit: temples 1 and 88 are 17 miles apart. It's a journey: I've watched pilgrims making quite perfunctory stops at temples.

This speaks to me. I walk to walk, not just to visit a sight like a waterfall or a great view. I'm happy to finish where I physically started.

This month I found myself in two sections of the pilgrimage defined by temples 13 to 17 near Tokushima, and temples 49 to 53 near Matsuyama.