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Cherry Blossoms for Tohoku

Kagawa – A Voyage of Discovery with Angela Davies

Rail Travels in Japan

Cherry Blossoms for Tohohu

On March 11th 2012 a tree was planted at Walkden Gardens in Sale to commemorate the rebuilding of Tohoku after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami.

The Japan Garden Society (JGS) and the Japan Society North West (JSNW) wanted to commemorate the strength, courage and determination of the Japanese people in overcoming this natural disaster and encourage them to ‘win through’. Gambatte! 頑張って!

Our best wishes and encouragement go to the people affected by the earthquake and following events.

The new tree is a Japanese flowering cherry, ‘Chocolate Ice’ aka Matsumae fuki.

The Japan Garden Society represented by Steve Wright and Graham Hardman, planted the tree. The JSNW was represented by Nigel Cordon.

Click to enlarge image

It is particularly appropriate that the tree replaces one that has died, as such it doubly symbolises the rebuilding of Tohoku and the towns in Tohoku.

Our thanks also go to the ‘Friends of Walkden Gardens’ for their kind permission to plant the tree.

Kagawa – A Voyage of Discovery with Angela Davies

An account by Nigel Cordon of a presentation given by Angela Davies at Padgate Community Centre, delivered with slides, film and literature kindly provided by Kagawa Prefecture.

I found the Kagawa talk very interesting. I was particularly struck by the contrast between the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and the ‘quietness’ of Kagawa. In a very symbolic way, the Seto Ohashi Bridge is a centre piece to this, drawing the many islands together that form the part of Kagawa that is spread across the Seto Inland Sea. In fact though, due to the bridge fares, the ferry services are still the primary service that binds the islands together. The Seto Inland Sea, blessed with a warm climate and nature in abundance, contains many islands. There are 24 inhabited islands and 92 desert islands within Kagawa Prefecture. There are 47 prefectures (counties) in Japan and 4 of those are on Shikoku (which is how it got its name) and at just over 1800 km2 Kagawa is the smallest prefecture of all.

Angela’s first sight of Kagawa was while sailing down the breathtaking Inland Sea as a teenager at the end of the 1st year studying Japanese at Sheffield University. It was a great surprise when fifteen years later she returned to Takamatsu the capital of Shikoku to work, and was able to look out at the Seto Inland Sea every day. She worked on the JET programme initially in Takamatsu and later living and working on one of the tiny islands (Naoshima) right in the middle of the Inland Sea itself. This is one of the places that combines the new and still retains much of the old Japan. It is such a great place that many young people prefer to stay or come back to work there. It also boasts some most beautiful sights including the islands and Ritsurin Kōen.

Ritsurin Garden

Ritsurin Park

Ritsurin Kōen, the Daimyō garden is a wonderful style of kai-yū-shiki (stroll around) pond and stream garden. It is one of the national treasures of Japan and you can see why. Copyright(C) Leela Soden Ranked the 6th best in Japan Ritsurin is larger than most Japanese Gardens and has the feel of Traditional Japan.


The 88 Temples

22 of the 88 temples on the Henro pilgrimage in Shikoku are in Kagawa. The most beautiful is at Negoroji, especially in autumn. The temples were visited by Kukai the famous Buddhist scholar. Kūkai (空海), also known posthumously as Kōbō-Daishi, 774–835, was a Japanese scholar and founder of the Shingon or "True Word" school of Buddhism.

Kanamaru za

Kagawa has the oldest Kabuki theatre in Japan, open for a couple of weeks a year. The Konpira Grand Theatre (金毘羅大芝居 Konpira Ōshibai) also known as Kanamaru-za (金丸座), is a restored Kabuki theatre in Kotohira. Each year different famous Kabuki actors come here to take part in the plays

Shodoshima: The “Olive Island”

It is famous for the Strait of Dofuchi between Shodoshima Island and Mae Island. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it is 32 feet and 7 inches wide at the point the two islands are connected by a bridge. Kankakei Gorge is one of Japan's three most beautiful gorges. The gorge is filled with rocks shaped into strange forms by the power of both rain and wind.

Japanese Primary School in NaoshimaNaoshima

Angela spent several months teaching and living in Naoshima.

On Naoshima, you can also enjoy modern art at Bennesse House, and the Chichū Art Gallery designed by architect Tadao Ando. Ferries to Naoshima run from Takamatsu and Uno Port in Okayama.


Megijima (Onigashima): Pirates used to use the caves on this island as a base. In spring the island blooms with cherry blossoms.

Tsukimi udonSanuki Udon

Sanuki Udon (flour noodles) is a symbol of Kagawa. This is a food representative of Takamatsu, capital city of the "udon kingdom". Kitsune Udon (fox udon), for example, are so-called either because of the foxy brown colour of the deep-fried tofu which is put on top, or perhaps because of the legendary popularity of deep-fried tofu among foxes – foxes being a powerful presence in Japanese folklore. Similarly Tsukimi udon (月見(つきみ)うどん) derive their name from the practice of Tsukimi (moon viewing) and from the raw egg which is dropped into the soup has the aspect of a full moon floating on the water.

The way Kagawa has developed from a farming community to a thriving area full of shopping centres and night clubs seems to parallel the development of modern day Japan. The rich mixture of the ancient and the modern is still to be found here as it is everywhere in Japan. For example, the 16th Century gardens of Ritsurin are very beautiful and well worth a visit. The compactness and friendliness of Takamatsu, which is the Prefectural Capital, makes it the embodiment of the Japanese word ‘sumiyasui’ - easy to live in. A few minutes by train or bus will bring you out into the traditional Japanese countryside of old-style houses and paddy fields, and of course there is always the pleasure of real Sanuki Udon!

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Rail Travels in Japan

Anyone whose appetite for rail travel was whetted by Peter Dibben’s excellent article in Newsletter 22 may be interested to read the following account by Roger Barton, who has done an extensive tour of the network. [Hover over photos to see captions, click on photos to enlarge]

It all started with a visit to a holiday exhibition some years ago, when I picked up a leaflet on the Japan Rail Pass.  I have always loved travelling on scenic railway lines, especially branch lines, and it was clear that Japan still had lots of them, despite some closures around the time of privatisation in 1987.  The pass is available on all the lines run by JR, the consortium of companies that took over the national rail system.  It offered a wonderful opportunity to explore a fascinating country and have a lot of fun doing it.

Three years ago I decided that I must put my resolution into practice before I became too old for this sort of thing.  The first step was to learn some Japanese, so I enrolled on a beginners’ course. 

Station nameboard on the Takayama main line.  Hiragana is the main script, with kanji secondary; in the timetable it is the other way round.The next hurdle was to acquire a Japanese railway timetable.  Despite a trip to London, all I could find in the UK was the English language one, which only has details of the shinkansen and tokkyū (limited express) services.  For my trip I needed the complete JR jikokuhyō, in Japanese.  I had to resign myself to buying this when I arrived in Japan, knowing that valuable time would thereby be wasted in planning.  The jikokuhyō is largely in kanji.  For the JR lines, the first time the station names appear they are spelt out in hiragana.  This was something of a Rosetta stone for me, thanks to being obliged to master hiragana in my course.  However, for most of the private railways and all the bus and ferry times (as well as the many notes) only kanji are used.  Getting to grips with all this was tough in my jet-lagged, culture-shocked state.

I decided to make two trips, the first (with a three-week pass) being to Western Honshū, Shikoku and Kyūshū and the second (with two three-week passes) to Central and Northern Honshū and Hokkaidō.  The Yufuin station on the Kyūdai main line, Kyūshū, with two tokkyū trains.  The one on the right is the all-reserved Yufuin-no-mori, with ‘panorama seats’.  On the extreme left is a ‘torokko’ train with open sides, not shown in the timetable.first trip looked easier to plan on the spot, whereas Central Honshū, with an infinity of possibleroutes, looked impossible without advance study of the jikokuhyō.  I decided on autumn for both trips, with pleasant temperatures but not the complications of Golden Week in spring.

On my first trip, in 2007, I flew to Kansai Airport, visited the area round Kyōto, travelled round the Kii Peninsula to Wakayama, took the ferry to Tokushima and travelled round Shikoku.  Then I took the ferry from Yawatahama to Usuki, did a circuitous trip round Kyūshū, including a ferry across the Ariake Sea, and zig-zagged my way back through Western Honshū.  The following year I started Matsue Onsen station on the private Ichibata Electric Railway, typical of small ‘third-sector’ lines.  It runs to Izumo-taisha, the oldest and second most important shrine in Tōkyō, headed for the Seikan Tunnel via a circuitous route with excursions to thePacific coast, and did a tour round Hokkaidō.  I returned by a very complicated route taking me as far west as Kanazawa.  I used the Lonely Planet guidebook and Trailblazer’s Japan by Rail, which complemented each other well.  Laurence Matthews’ Kanji Fast Finder was indispensable, although place names with non-standard (jōyō) kanji could sometimes remain undecipherable.  Altogether I did over 7000 miles on JR lines, about equally split between tokkyū and stopping (futsū and kaisoku) services.  Only 750 miles – the less interesting bits – was on shinkansen trains, which were much less fun.  I did a further 750 miles on non-JR (‘third sector’) railways, for which of course I had to pay.

Bingo Ochiai station, a rural junction on the Geibi line in Western Honshū.  It gets seven trains a day to Miyoshi, three to Niimi and three on the Kisuki line (pictured here) to Shinji.  They run through remote wooded country.It was all well worth the effort.  Most journeys were scenic and the best were wonderful, with sudden plunges into tunnels and vistas from hills and along rivers.  Careful planning was needed for some lines, like the Kisuki and Geibi lines (through Bingo Ochiai in Western Honshū), which get only three trains a day.  Perhaps the most exciting was the Hisatsu line on Kyūshū, so steep that several stations had to be sited on sidings.  The line loops under itself and some trains make sightseeing stops along the way.   These more remote lines were poorly patronised and the passengers tended to be elderly, apart from groups of schoolchildren (mostly going short distances) and the occasional Japanese tour group.  Rural lines in Japan have been under threat for years – in fact it is a wonder that so many are still there.

Masaki station on the Hisatsu line, Kyūshū.  This was the original main line to Kagoshima, but is steeply graded and was superseded in 1927 by the coastal route (itself now replaced by the Kyūshū shinkansen).  Although the train is a futsū (ordinary) one, it has been adapted for tourists and makes special stops; here passengers get out to ring a bell.  Masaki station is on a siding because the running line is so steep.I seldom saw westerners on the tokkyū and almost never on the stopping trains.  The locals were too polite to ask me what I was up to, apart from one young man who had never seen a westerner in his town and wanted to know my business there.  He was disappointed to hear that I was only changing trains.   There was also a charming 84-year-old doctor who wrote all his questions down (in English).  Unfortunately they weren’t always comprehensible and he didn’t understand my attempts to clarify them.  It so happened that the journey (on the Yamada line, east of Morioka) was one I had made a special effort to do and I was preoccupied with watching the scenery.  Perhaps the least expected encounter was with a television crew consisting of an American and a Nigerian, who were filming from the front of a train on the Banetsu-sai line (Niigata-Aizu Wakamatsu).  They spotted me on their way back down the train, so I got interviewed.  I have no idea whether the interview was ever broadcast.

Fukusa-ji, Nagasaki, built in 1976 after the original was destroyed by the bomb, and a contender for weirdest temple in Japan.  The statue of Kannon, goddess of mercy, is 18 metres high; there is a Foucault pendulum inside.Japan is extremely well organised for the rail traveller.  Nearly all the larger towns have business hotels, which are cheap and usually close to the main station.  Admittedly they lack the authenticity of experience provided by ryokan and minshuku, but they are much kinder to aging knees and backs!  There are usually shokudō nearby for cheap and varied meals.  The larger stations have tourist offices and even medium-sized ones have coin lockers; try leaving your luggage at a comparable station in Britain!  The trains really do run on time (well, mostly) and I never missed a connection, although I had one or two close shaves.  In fact my only disaster was purely of my own making, when in a moment of madness I got off a tokkyū on the Takayama main line to take a photo.  You can get away with this on a futsū but not a tokkyū, so I duly got left behind, minus everything but my camera and some money.  The incident brought out in full the Japanese qualities of helpfulness, politeness, efficiency and honesty, and everything was resolved with nothing worse than some delay.  It also tested my Japanese to the full!  I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the very deep bows that etiquette demanded after such stupid behaviour.

Of course this wasn’t just a railway trip and I did lots of sightseeing along the way.    Perhaps Nagasaki stood out as the most interesting large town, with a diverse and unique collection of sights, and Uchiko (Shikoku) and Tsuwano (Western Honshū) were the nicest of the many picturesque small towns.  The collections of old buildings at Meiji Mura at Inuyama (near Nagoya) and the Historical Village of Hokkaidō (near Sapporo) were also outstanding.  As regards the countryside, the wonderful walks among the sulphurous hot springs at Noboribetsu Onsen on Hokkaidō were particularly interesting. Another memorable experience was a cycle ride to visit the wasabi farms at Hotaka, north of Matsumoto.

View of Tsuwano, a picturesque mountain town near the western tip of Honshū.Structures at Meiji Mura, a collection of Meiji Period buildings near Nagoya.  The bridge (dating from 1912) is from Tōkyō and the RC church (1890) from Kyōto; the wooden building (about 1868) is a sake brewery from near NagoyaJigokudai (Hell Valley) at Noboribetsu, Hokkaidō, where paths lead among the sulphurous hot springs and bubbling pools.

I was curious to try a bit of mountain walking, as the mountains seen from the train always looked impenetrably wooded.  One trip was to Norikura-dake, in the Japanese Alps south-west of Matsumoto.  Because the weather was good Ichose the first of three possible opportunities to go there, which unfortunately happened to be a public holiday.  The mountainis served by two roads, the highest in Japan, both of which are closed to cars.  Consequently all The bus terminus at Norikura Tatami-daira (around 3000 metres above sea level) in the Japanese Alps.  Bus is the only way of getting here, as explained in the text.the holiday motorists had to use the hourly bus services.  On my journey down there was a convoy of five buses, all jam-packed (including folding seats in the gangways), which took ages to load.  The fun started when passengers wanted to get on en route, which would lead to the whole convoy stopping and much rushing around by officials. I also did some walking in NorthernJapan, and perhaps the most striking view of all was on Zaō-san near Sendai, when walking along the ridge The crater lake of Okama on Zaō-san near Yamagata, Northern Honshū.one suddenly sees the crater lake Okama below.

Japan really isn’t expensive, or wasn’t at the exchange rates prevailing when I visited.  The three-week rail passes cost around £300 each, and while in Japan I spent around £60 per day on accommodation, food, non-JR travel and everything else.  Do go while the rail network is still intact!  I should be pleased to provide such help as I can; my e-mail address is and my telephone number is 0161-449 8328.


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The Japanese Consul: The Life of James Lord Bowes in Liverpool

In 1888 the North West of England was honoured by the appointment of Liverpool wool Merchant James Lord Bowes as the first foreignborn Honorary Consul of the Japanese Empire in the United Kingdom. His collection of Japanese art works grew so extensively that it numbered well over two thousand pieces and, two years later, he constructed a large private museum of Japanese art in the grounds of his home, Streatlam Tower, in Princes Road.

Bowes opened the museum to the public to benefit the church and orphanage charities he supported in Liverpool, and published several books on Japanese art which are still being printed and which stand as part of the foundations of Western understanding of Japanese art.  More

A book by local historian and Japanophile, L.S. Smith.



"A Geisha for the American Consul" by Lesley Downer

A short story based on the true story of Townsend Harris, the first American consul to Japan, and the geisha whom the burghers of Shimoda allocated to him, Okichi.

Cultures collide when Okichi, a beautiful geisha, is sent to work for the American envoy in Japan. Age and pride meet youth and grace. How will she survive in a home where no one speaks her language, where she understands nothing and she must submit to a strange barbarian's will?

Available as an ebook from




"Obtaining Images: Art, Production and Display in Edo Japan" by Timon Screech

The Edo period (1603-1868) witnessed one of the great flowerings of Japanese art. Towards the mid-seventeenth century the Japanese States were largely at peace, and rapid urbanization, a rise in literacy and an increase in international contact ensued. The number of those able to purchase luxury goods, or who felt their social position required them, soared. At the same time, painters and artists were flourishing and the early eighteenth century saw the rise in popularity and importance of printmaking. In Obtaining Images, Timon Screech introduces the reader not only to important artists and their work, but also to the intellectual issues and concepts surrounding the production and consumption of art in Japan at that time. Rather than looking at art in the Edo period through the lens of European art, Screech contextualizes the making and use of painting and prints, elucidating how and why works were commissioned, where they were displayed and what special properties were attributed to them. The author argues that different imperatives are at work in the art of different traditions, and firmly anchors the art of Japan of this period in its contemporary context, offering a highly engaging and comprehensive introduction to the student and general reader alike.   Available from

"Fukushima Colours" by Elin Lindqvist

On March 11th 2011, Japan was shaken by the strongest earthquake in its history. The quake was followed by a tsunami up to 120ft high that washed in over the northeastern regions and killed almost twenty thousand people. The tsunami destroyed entire communities and half a million people were at the time forced to evacuate their homes. The waves also severely damaged nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and radioactive materials leaked out. It will take years for the full extent of the nuclear crisis’ impact on Japan to become clear. Yet, already now, it is possible to see some of the consequences that the events on March 11th 2011 have had on agriculture, the fishing industry, people’s mindset, and research about renewable energy sources.

At the height of the nuclear crisis in March 2011, Elin Lindqvist travelled to Japan to write about the catastrophe for Sweden’s largest daily newspaper, Aftonbladet. She later returned in May to write about the reconstruction process and the continuing nuclear crisis. She travelled to the devastated areas with photographer Yoshikazu Fukuda and journalist Yuko Ota, and together, they stayed in touch with people affected by the catastrophe in different ways all through 2011. In Fukushimas Colours, Lindqvist has documented the aftermath of the tsunami and the nuclear crisis, through the eyes and destinies of individuals who have been affected by the catastrophe in different ways.

Elin Lindqvist was born in Tokyo in 1982 and currently lives in Sandbach, Cheshire. She has studied at New York University in New York and Sophia University in Tokyo. She is an international writer, and has published three novels in Swedish.

"From Above" by Paule Saviano

‘With gratitude to life, I live my life as strongly as I can. And for the sake of people who were forced to end their lives at that moment, it is my role to make the world go around.’

These words, spoken by Mrs. Hisayo Yamashita, a survivor of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima encapsulate the sentiments of many brought together in From Above by Paule Saviano. Recollections and portraits of survivors of both atomic bombs and the Bikini Incident are presented along with those who experienced the 1945 firebombings of Tokyo and Dresden in a volume which espouses a sincere narrative of peace.

Available in limited number, this first edition was duly rewarded by the Japan Graphic Design Association in February 2012.  

Available from photo-eye

"Joy Change" by Judy Kendall 

This is not a book of poems ‘about’ Japan. It is rather a book of poems of, inside, from Japan by an author deeply embedded in and engaged with its cultural complexities. Although Kendall registers her position as gaijin – ‘outside person’ – she does so with a subtle critique that never overstates difference. This allows the book, in its impressive formal variety, to become a dialogue between its Japanese side and its English side. The poems here explore the gamut of quotidian life – ‘perhaps I’ll make a curry today’ – and the networks of relational otherness – ‘my not-yet-friend’ – to reach a distilled spirituality which seems the very essence of Japan, embodied in the haiku sequence that elegantly threads its way through the book: ‘drifting / mountains shoulder the sky / blotches of pine.’ As another haiku points to the ‘many different roads’ of the Japanese character, the same can be said of Kendall’s rich account of a residence filled with both joy and change. Scott Thurston   

Published by Cinnamon Press


The Japanese Way – Garden Designs by Maureen Busby

The standard approach of the various authors of books on Japanese gardens is to describe the historical development of gardens in Japan, then to illustrate the different styles and elements of traditional Japanese gardens. In more recent times, some have also featured designs of a few Japanese style gardens outside of Japan.

This publication is different: it contains no references to historical gardens but instead demonstrates by example how the elusive principles of the Japanese tradition can be employed in a western setting. It is simply a selection of designs by Maureen Busby, an acclaimed designer of Japanese style gardens, which were created for her clients, covering a broad range of locations and styles.

Published by and obtainable from: The Japanese Garden Society


"John Milne: the man who mapped the shaking earth" by Paul Kabrna

John Milne made his name and reputation in Japan where he is better remembered than in his home country. He was appointed as Professor of Geology and Mining at the newly formed Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo in 1875 when still only 25, whereupon he began an epic overland journey described in fascinating detail by Kabrna.

Once in Japan Milne was ideally placed to initiate study of such geological phenomena as volcanoes and earthquakes and it was his development of an effective instrument, the seismograph, which allowed him to make substantial contributions to our understanding of earthquakes. Not least of these was the realization that major earthquakes are not related to volcanic activity. Using his seismographs, which he continued to develop and improve throughout his life, Milne measured thousands of Japanese earthquakes. He was one of the first to realize that large earthquakes can be measured anywhere in the world.


‘Pro Bono’ – a new translation by Andrew Clare

Matsumoto Seicho (1909 – 1992) was Japan’s most successful (and certainly most prolific) writer of detective fiction. His novels are characterised by their psychological complexity (of both plot and characters), his high quality literary style, extensive research of his subject matter and, perhaps most significantly, his emphasis on social realism.

In the latest translation of a Matsumoto Seicho mystery, written in 1961, ‘Pro Bono’ (Japanese title: Kiri no hata), the story revolves around the failings of the judicial system in Japan and the efforts of the sister of the wrongly-indicted defendant in a murder trial to secure legal representation by an eminent defence attorney in Tokyo. A classic tale of murder and revenge, Matsumoto wrote the book in the wake of several prominent miscarriages of justice and the story can be said to represent his critical views of the ineptitude and injustice he perceived to be inherent in the Japanese judicial system of the time.

Publication date: 13 November 2007



"JAPAN IN ANALYSIS: Cultures of the Unconscious" by Ian Parker

Ian Parker addresses three key questions: ‘Why is there psychoanalysis in Japan?’, ‘What do we learn about Japan from its own forms of analysis?’, and ‘What do we learn about ourselves from Japan?’ The book is about the development of psychoanalysis and modern subjectivity in Japan. It shows how forms of individual selfhood amenable to therapeutic intervention emerged as Japanese culture has opened up to the West. It is also about how approaches to analysing the self have encountered Japan and how analysts tried to make sense of a culture that once seemed at odds with the aims of psychotherapy.

IAN PARKER is Professor of Psychology in the Discourse Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Publication Date: 2 May 2008


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