May 2012

Look at this:

It’s from the shop window display of a family portrait photographer. But it made me think of this:

And what would the sashimi be like? Perhaps like the best tuna: tender, fatty-

Ahem. I think I’d better stop there. ;p

On Trapped By Monsters this week, a manga gateway to one of the most amazing things about this amazing country: I recommend Oishinbo, by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki.

Here, in case you wanted one, is a clue as to what the book I’m currently writing is partly about.

Over the last couple of months…

…I’ve been to see more bands

…than I’d seen in my


…life before I came to Japan.

This, below, is a pic of the best live act I’ve seen so far this trip: the jaw-droppingly unhinged, tighter-than-a-gnat’s-spats Hosome.

Tokyo has been good to me. 😀

Sanrio Puroland is a fairytale realm outside of time and space.

It’s quite pink

…and sometimes, I thought, a little sinister

…but it’s also romantic, sweet, strangely glorious, and much to my surprise I loved it.

We’d come to see Hello Kitty’s house, which was full of furniture and objects in the shape of her own silhouette.

Amazingly we also got the chance to meet Hello Kitty herself, who kindly posed for this pic.

I have to confess that I found myself getting a little bit shy and flustered. But she charmed me completely with her delicate hand gestures, gave me a hug and waved as we left, keeping with her a small piece of my heart.

Back to Asakusa on Friday night, to see a bit of the Sanja Matsuri.

The big crowds hadn’t formed yet, so we caught all the close-up portable shrine action we could wish for…

…plus a bit of traditional music.

I hear each shrine weighs about a ton. Carrying them…

…is clearly a deeply serious business.

Just posted to TBM: a yokai warning.

This week on Trapped By Monsters I recommend Parasyte by Hitoshi Iwaaki.

Sumo is awesome.

I love the stadium

…I love the build-up rituals…

…and of course – though they’re not easy to photograph! – I love watching the bouts.

See the black-clad umpires all around the ring? They’re called in whenever it’s hard to decide the winner. Laura and I have made a hard decision too.

Japan is wonderful in all sorts of ways, but we’ve now admitted to ourselves that for us it’s never going to be home. We’ve had a lot of fun imagining it could be, though. And we’re going to do our damnedest to squeeze everything we can out of the rest of our time here. 😀

In Tokyo everyone stays late at the office, even Darth Vader.

Hello Kitty London Olympics kimchi. It’s delicious.

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here…

…But I suspect I would probably make the same face.

Long ago (the story goes), when English map-makers reached the edges of known territory they wrote “here be dragons.” When I met these three guys down by the Sumida River last weekend I asked them what they were doing there…

One strongly implied it was none of my business:

One just belched:

This one didn’t seem to know:

On Saturday I got to the end of War and Peace.

If you need confirmation from me, take it: its reputation as one of the best books ever written is well deserved. As well as the empathic and imaginative genius of its author, and the boldness with which he stated its theme and stuck to it, I was particularly astonished by how easy Tolstoy made this book to read. It’s a page-turner – and there isn’t a chapter in it that’s longer than five. You’re sucked in before you know it and the only reason to pause is if your eyes or arms get tired.

I’m serious: War and Peace is fast. As long as you don’t include all the years of telling myself I’d get around to it, the time it took me to read was negligible. If you’re putting it off too, stop. War and Peace is one of the greatest reading experiences of my entire life. I would recommend it to everybody.