Monday 8 April 2013


 Evening all. Here I am, wide awake again in the middle of the night. I'm really not coping well with this jet lag and the change of my time clock. I feel exhausted during the late afternoon, need to doze in the early evening, then I'm wide awake until the early hours, making the mornings a real struggle. I've had a couple of migraines since getting here. No doubt I'll get in to the whole groove of this place, just in time to go home.

I surprised myself today, by making it to town and back without getting lost. It's all very confusing, but the people here clearly sense that I'm completely out of my depth and have been very happy to help me. Standing looking puzzled, trying to read my guide book this morning, a kindly woman stopped and showed me how the ticket machines work at the station and pointed me in the right direction. More about today in a bit, but first of all, here are some more pictures from yesterday.

The chap on the left is the director of the Tamba Pottery Museum. He bought one of my lidded jars. It's been interesting, because lots of people have asked me what my jars are used for. I hadn't really thought of that before, they're just jars that you can put stuff in.
The lady in the middle of this picture is Atsuko Matano. I was thrilled to meet her. She is an incredible designer and artist, with whom I've connected in the virtual world, so to meet her in person has been a real highlight of this trip. How the internet has changed the world is incredible.

This is Mr Hirayama's beautiful family. His children are so sweet. I think they thought my westerner's big nose was rather amusing. They were a real delight bless them, the littlest one kept holding my hand. I'm sure I will see them all again some day.
Yesterday evening I was taken out to dinner by these lovely folk. The lady runs the pottery workshop next door to the gallery and the chap is one of her students.
We went to a restaurant that specialized in cooking eel. It was absolutely delicious. The fish are boiled in a stock made from soy sauce and sake, to which chopped onions and spices were added
More eels - really tasty. I had raw eel earlier in the day too. It's not a fish I would think of eating back at home, but I will do now.
Afterwards they took me to this beautiful temple and a speedy sightseeing car journey round the centre of Tokyo. It was amazing, they were such sweet people, I hope our paths cross again. It was a short and intense meeting and I felt quite emotional saying goodbye.
A lot of the food here is a mystery to me, I'm not quite sure what I'm eating sometimes, but all of it has been really good. The many noodle bars have these display cabinets outside, with plastic(?) versions of the dishes on offer.
This was food for sale in a huge food hall that I visited today in a department store, lots of fish and prawns and salad stuff.
Everything is packaged so beautifully
Melons with bows
And fish tanks with these poor blighters awaiting their fate.
I ate in this noodle bar today, sorry about the blurred picture
This is what I had, I think it was pork and miso. It was delicious, onions, chilli, garlic, beansprouts, tasty tasty.
The only way to eat noodles is to slurp them, so I had to lose my English inhibitions and suck it up. I'm not very good with chopsticks, but I'll keep practicing.
Check out all the people waiting to cross the road on the far side. It was busy busy busy in town. This place couldn't be more different from my life in my little shed in Devon. It was weird being all on my own so far from home.

The rail system here seems very efficient.
I was the only Westerner in my carriage. A lot of folks here wear masks like the guy sitting here on the left of this picture. This is apparently because of the high pollen count, certainly I can hear a lot of sneezing throughout the night through the thin walls of this hotel.
 It was with a big smile that I stepped off the train and headed back, with the realization that I'd managed to do it all on my own without getting lost. You're probably bored of me going on about it, but it's a big deal for me because I lack a lot of confidence when it comes to doing this stuff in the big wide world. My life is one of single track lanes with grass growing down the middle, which is very safe and comfortable. I rarely travel more than ten miles from my workshop. I stopped in the supermarket on the way back and stocked up with teabags and milk and sugar and have spent a quiet evening in, drinking good old English style tea - nice.

A lot more train travelling to do tomorrow. I'm going to head out early and visit the Japanese Folk Art Museum, which will be fascinating no doubt. After that I'm going to another part of the city to meet up with Steve Tootell, who is a potter and teacher from England. He teaches at the International School here and I'm going to do a demo for his pupils in the afternoon, after which we'll head out for food and sake, before I try and find my way back here for my final night's sleep in Tokyo. If I don't get lost, I'll be back to tell you all about it. Time to try and get some sleep now if I can, goodnight all.


Dennis Allen said...

OK you made it back this time. Next time????

June Perry said...

Thanks for all the photos. They made me long for another Japan trip. I've been to that eel restaurant. My friend Masako took us there for her father's birthday because it was his favorite food. One of the gals in our group refused to eat anything! She had no idea what she was missing!
Sounds like you are getting around very well.

Ron said...

So happy for you Doug. I'm just sitting here smiling. Have fun!

Peter said...

Greatly enjoying my armchair travelling. The food looks beautiful, and it is interesting the way that appearence and presentation are such an important part of food in Japan. So different from my big bowl of porridge (with dates) for breakfast, or a sloppy concoction of banana custard that I sometimes make at the other end of the day (mind you, both are yummy!).

Anonymous said...

It really is exciting :) I remember doing it the other way round, visiting England in the 80s and being on my own travelling the Underground and getting to various places. Grab as many souvenirs as possible, and a safe journey back afterwards. Don't forget to collect several pairs of chopsticks. All sorts. Best always Katherine Bradfield

Unknown said...

What a delightful trip so far (minus the migraines)!! It's so wonderful to hear stories of people being kind and helpful to visitors :) I can feel your confidence rising through your writings!

Emma said...

Face it Doug, everyone loves you both in Japan and back here! All of us blog followers knew you'd be a huge success and enjoy the trip. Plenty of long lazy Devon days to come, so enjoy the city while you have it. Xx

Trish said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trish said...

(I'll try that comment again)
Thanks for sharing, Doug, and I appreciate your honesty about being a 'fish out of water'..I can relate. Like other people have commented, enjoy the moments.. and what a treat to demo to students while you are there! :)
Travel on!

Anna M. Branner said...

Blast those migraines anyway. They have the worst timing. SO glad you have pushed through. And I too respect so much what you have done! Traveling from your solitary studio to one of the biggest cities! Such a success. :) Very glad you are enjoying yourself.

Paul Jessop said...

Hi Doug, Great to see the pictures on the blog, it's just amazing to see you in Japan. I've looked up a few words in my copy of the Hamada guide to travellers, it looks like Miso = Mouse, don't ask for the Grand version that looks like Rat, as for the big mellons with Bows on Hamada says he's heard of them but never seen any. Have fun You Lucky chap.

Alex said...

great to read of your adventures Doug, thanks for posting