Showing posts from 2018

Tokyo Yamanote Line Melodies

If you have ever been to Tokyo, you must have taken the Yamanote Line around town. Here are the melodies for the different stations. Sometimes, when I have an hour to spare, I take the Yamanote Line one way around, but I do hate the recent all-video trains. Let's keep the stress level down, shall we. Please, less ads, more train pleasure.

Still, the JR East Yamanote Line has to be the best service around.

Water Privatization?

With water privatization, Japan faces crossroads in battling its aging pipes Japan Times -- Dec 18 2018
Japanese water is clean and readily available, as evidenced by drinkable tap water and a nearly 100 percent penetration rate. But perhaps less known is the dire decay that has slowly chipped away at its infrastructure, casting doubt on its sustainability.
To address this, the Diet passed an amendment earlier this month to the Water Supply Act, paving the way for effective privatization.
But critics say this flies in the face of a global trend toward “re-municipalizing” — or reinstating public control over — water management after years of soaring bills and compromised service quality, which they say underscore the profit maximization ethos of the private sector.
So what’s the status quo of Japan’s water system and what does the revised law do? Here is our look into those questions:
What’s the situation that prompted changes to the law?
Water pipes nationwide, many of them holdove…

Toru Takemitsu - L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki (1991)

The wonderful things that happen. Or not.

In 1991, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu was invited by American director Jim Jarmusch to write the original music for his film "Night on Earth", but his finished work was subsequently rejected by the director. The supposedly lost music by Takemitsu was aptly titled “L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, Helsinki” - five cities featured in Jarmusch’s film.

New Photos From Croydon

Amazing images from April, 1937 as the Kamikaze-go landed at Croydon, London. From my new friends at the HCAT Archives, Peter Skinner and Ian Forsyth.

Record breaking flight from Tokyo. Can you spot Tsukagoshi climbing out of the airplane in the first picture? That's the easy one. Finding Iinuma in the last image may be more difficult, what with all the London policemen escorting him. He smiles a lot, holding on to a bunch of flowers, and is rather sun burnt from the long flight over the desert. Don't you think he was the happiest man on earth, that day. It inspired my wish to write about his long flight from Japan to Europe.

And you can order my novel about it here, Kamikaze to Croydon.

Bonus image: I took this photo of Iinuma Masaaki's pilot licence at his museum in Nagano:

WW1 Pilot Harry Ohara Remembered

First time I heard of this guy and his great story. Harry Ohara was born in Japan, studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, went to British India and worked for a newspaper. When war broke out, he joined the British Army. Later he flew after having started as a mechanic.

Kyodo notes that he is thought to be the Royal Air Force's first - and only - Japanese pilot:

O'Hara applied to become a pilot at exactly the right time, according to RAF Museum curator Peter Devitt. A portrait of an intense looking O'Hara stands out among the heroes -- the only Asian among the portraits -- that decorate the wall at the RAF Museum.

More details at the Great War London blog, that notes (correctly) that he must have been flying for the Royal Flight Corps, not the RAF (RAF was formed on 1 April 1918):

In March 1917, O’Hara transferred to the RFC as a 2nd-class air mechanic (the basic rank for RFC men – equivalent to his rank of private in the Middlesex Regiment).  He was soon undergoing flyi…

Imperial Airways in 1937: Hanno at Al Mahatta Airport in UAE

If you have read my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon, you know that our two Japanese flyers went straight from Karachi to Basra. Their Mitsubishi Ki-15 had that much power.

Out in the desert, there were many other established aerodromes or airfields, but what were conditions there and what did they actually look like?

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Here is an excerpt:

Our altitude was again near 3,000 metres, which the Ki-15 seemed to find most agreeable, no matter what the conditions were. We had Iran on our right, and there was Arabia proper and Oman, according to the new maps. Tsukagoshi read the names. We reached Musandam and the Strait of Hormuz, which was just 54 kilometres wide.

I clearly recalled all we had back a few months ago was a terrible old chart, with no elevations indicated, and Charles Lindbergh’s new maps were such a revelation. “These maps…

The First Air Force One, the Lockheed Constellation, Restored

Update: And wrong I was. It was President Truman who had to deal with General MacArthur, as Pandamonium kindly points out in the comments. 

Original post: Great video of the project to save the Columbine II and get it to fly again in 2018:

...Because this is the plane that took President-elect (correct me if I'm wrong) Dwight D. Eisenhower to South Korea in 1952, in order to stop General MacArthur, who was proposing atomic bombs all over the border inside Communist China, 

Later in 1955, Eisenhower was promoting much the same as the New Look, a policy to expand American nuclear weapons, now against the Soviet Union.

Image (left) from Ladies Love Taildraggers (Kurashi loves blog names like that!)

Known as the Columbine II, this beautiful aircraft, a Lockheed Constellation, was the very first "Air Force One" and now it has been restored and flies again.

From Warfare History Network:

After World War II, Eisenhower went on to serve two terms as President of the United St…

Pan American Boeing 377 Stratocruiser Japan Travelogue - 1952

Back when flying was a luxury, or at least a lot more comfortable than today (except for the smoking!). The destinations were a lot more exotic too...

The Stratocruiser was flying from the US to Honolulu, Wake Island, and arrived at Haneda in Tokyo. Pan Am started flying DC4s to Japan in 1947 and the B-377 was introduced in 1949. 10 years later in 1959, they introduced the B-707 jets which were much faster than the old propeller planes.

Here is a longer promotional film about the Stratocruiser, with some interesting history about the civilian mail services that started flying in the late 1920s.

Potter Simon Leach Talks About Stuff

UK potter Simon Leach is active in the US and holds workshops there, in addition to making great videos. Here is his view on how kids and everyone these days are losing skills (because of spending too much time on their iPhones and whatnot) rather than using their hands.

Interesting that he notes that youngsters cannot hold a pair of scissors, or even a pen, right. Even young surgeons cannot make the required stitches...?

I have noticed the same with young Japanese people when it comes to penmanship. And he says, "instructors are not allowed to criticize their students."

My pottery teacher here in Japan has mentioned similar trends, but not that severely.

As Simon says, if we are learning a craft, constructive criticism must be a part of the process...

How Monsanto's Glyphosate Kills Farmers

Great documentary, it made me cry. I fought so hard 20 years ago to tell the story of Monsanto's crimes and especially the massive use of glyphosate (Roundup) and its links to cancer. Did my newspaper articles and blogs and consumer activism make any difference?

What I tried to convey, was that all the toxicology data was on the active ingredient only, and not on the final product (Roundup) that people use. When you add the other chemicals to glyphosate, and spray that product, you get risks. Rules at national levels go with the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius rules. At such meetings I attended back then, the ignorance of what this company was pulling off was staggering. On the other hand, I was asked, "Could you make a better rule?"

Unless we eat organic, this is how most of our food gets made.

Australian ABC made the video, do spread the message.

Now that German Bayer owns Monsanto, expect things to get better, anyone?

2018 JAS 39 Gripen Formation Flight Swedish Air Force


Novel Approach: J-Hangar Space Review of My Novel Kamikaze to Croydon

Novel Approach
My editor Patrick Sherriff over at Tower English in Abiko helped me publish my novel on July 21, 2018. I have a lot to say about his skills as an editor, with a keen sense of sticking to his three approaches to fiction editing. Well, it helped me a lot, and his support was terrific...

Here is how Patrick puts it:

Character arcs. Every story is a journey. For a story to have meaning, there has to be change. Characters start out one way, they experience difficulty or, as the novelist calls it, conflict, until by the end of the story they have changed. That basic pattern — starting with a goal in mind, dealing with conflict, changing — should be present in the novel as a whole and within each scene and for every major character.

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.
Iinuma Masaaki is a promising young pilot from the mountains of Nagano, Japan, w…

Drive for the Future (1980) - The Toyota Story

This is a fun movie about how Toyota got its start in the early 20th century, with a lot of details from the factory floor and how to fund such an adventure. In the 1920s, Japan was importing some 2000-4000 cars and trucks and made almost nothing domestically.

GM and Ford had factories in Japan, back then. Now, the foot is firmly on the other shoe, ahem...

How to get that first model A1 to go that extra mile, in 1936 or so?

In my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon, I mention how young Iinuma Maasaki, the pilot of my novel, reacts to seeing one of these Toyotas in Tokyo.

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.

His sempai and navigator, Tsukagoshi Kenji, warns him that making such vehicles would require a lot of resources, that Japan did not have.

We were interrupted as a black car drove past on the broad street near the hu…

Watercolor Sketch from Kanazawa and more

Mateusz Urban... now wait, can that really be his name? This young Polish illustrator and painter has some cool ideas about how people in Japan ought to plan their housing... He also draws Tokyo landscapes from what I suppose are different income classes.

His Tokyo at Night series is amazing too.

Where do you want to live? We should all press our politicians and city planners and architects - and especially the private companies - for affordable sustainable development, and some places just get it about right.


How To Take A Bath In Japan (1954)

Hilarious. Even today the mystery of the Japanese onsen is "explained" by all kinds of signs and images. It could not be simpler.

From The Bridges at Toko-Ri.

Flygdag på F10 Ängelholm, 1995, Draken

Swedish Draken fighter. How we managed to stay neutral during the Cold War. Read more about my visit this summer, to the F10 Royal Air Force Museum here.

And more from 2018: "Not an eye is dry" watching this unique formation of Swedish-built aircraft, including the Tunnan, Draken, Viggen and Gripen.

Radio Controlled: This is How Popular the Ki-15 is in Japan

New update in my novel:

 Then I went to watch this sad new movie, Osaka Elegi, about a girl and the city which I almost never had any time to venture into, with its neon lights and modern music and the Kansai accent that I found hilarious. But, I could not understand the ending.
    After that, I had the sense that Osaka would surpass anything, if left to its own devices. The new subway line from Umeda was in the movie, and I mentioned it in a letter to Tsukagoshi in Tachikawa. And he replied, “I hope to join you soon.”

You can order Kamikaze to Croydon here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook.

I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.

These guys make the best radio controlled "scale flying" events, which in 2016 involved the Mitsubishi Ki-15 "Kamikaze-go" that was privately owned by Asahi Shimbun in 1937.

1985 TV Drama About the Ki-15 Flight to London

Just a few years before I first arrived on these shores, TV Asahi made a special dramatization about the events I cover in my novel, Kamikaze to Croydon.

Order it here at Amazon

The 1985 TV drama is a bit silly, but then so was a lot of TV back then.

These scenes, however, are really beautiful, filmed with a model airplane, set to the music by Brahms.

美貌なれ昭和 (Bibonare Showa) means something like "The Beautiful Showa" and the dramatization included segments about the female Japanese violinist, Nejiko Suwa, who was studying and performing in Europe during the 1930s until 1945. Enjoy.

Now, if seeing that makes you want to make a balsa wood model of the Ki-15, there are the drawings and lots of helpful advice, from Mike Stuart in the UK!

Thanks for finding, P.

Totoro and Forests You Can Visit West of Tokyo

When I arrived to these shores, I had almost no idea about anime or manga. 

This is where I learn my pottery, in Hibita, east of Tokorozawa.

And, when was Totoro set? 1958?

It is a major push for environmental education. Where? Tokorozawa.

This is one forest you can visit from Tokyo.

In April of 1990, with the objective of preserving the lush nature of Sayama Hills to future generations, the National Trust of Totoro no Furusato was born.  Due to the efforts of 5 initial contributors, including film director Hayao Miyazaki, a large amount of donations were received from all across Japan.
Sayama Hills is known as the inspiration of Mr.Hayao Miyazaki’s animation masterpiece, “Tonari no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro, 1988)”.  The Trust Fund was named in its honor.

Totoro Fund Website

We are a legally incorporated foundation with the purpose of preserving the beautiful natural habitat and cultural assets of Sayama Hills and its surrounding areas.

As of March 1, 2016

Castle in the Sky - Kimi o Nosete / Carrying You (HQ)

From one of the great Ghibli movies, how about it.

Castle in the Sky is a 1986 Japanese animated adventure film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki. It was the very first film animated by Studio Ghibli and was animated for Tokuma Shoten. It follows the adventures of a young boy and girl attempting to keep a magic crystal from a group of military agents, while searching for a legendary floating castle.

Music by Joe Hisashi.

Visiting Pilot Iinuma Masaaki Museum in Nagano

A couple of years ago while I was writing the novel Kamikaze to Croydon, I made the trip to a very special place.


While Japan has a lot of (small or medium-size) airplane museums, see Paul Thompson's excellent website, J-HangarSpace, I think this is the only one dedicated to a single pilot.

This is Iinuma Masaaki's birthplace, in what is now Azumino, Nagano Prefecture.

A wonderful old farm house located a short walk from the station, with the Japanese Alps as the backdrop. Not far from Matsumoto, it is worth the trip if you are interested in aviation history.

The exhibits are mostly a collection of items from The Asahi Shimbun, that sponsored his famous flight to London in April 1937. As you all probably know by now, he was a civilian pilot employed by the newspaper, setting records to Beijing and Taipei even before that famous event. The photo above shows his real Pilot's Licence from 1941.

The light wasn't the best, but here is a map he and his navigator, Tsu…

Departure (Okuribito)

An amazing take on "Departure" as we all at some point have to leave this world. From the Oscar winning film. And yeah, some of us may leave it from here. Or there. Does it really matter?

Composer: Joe Hisaishi

Performed by: The London Symphonic Orchestra

Joan Baez surprised by Scandinavian talk show: – I’m in culture shock | Skavlan

Lovely lady who is still so very active, "longing for that feeling."

Then she sang this

At Woodstock, in 1969, she sang the song about the Swedish worker and socialist activist, Joe Hill. He was wrongfully executed by the US authorities, in Utah, of all places. "Joe Hill ain't dead..."

More versions here, from Paul Robeson to Bruce Springsteen...

I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, Alive as you or me Says I, "But Joe, you're ten years dead," "I never died," says he. "I never died," says he. "In Salt Lake, Joe," says I to him, Him standing by my bed, "They framed you on a murder charge," Says Joe, "But I ain't dead," Says Joe, "But I ain't dead." "The copper bosses killed you, Joe, They shot you, Joe," says I. "Takes more than guns to kill a man," Says Joe, "I didn't die," Says Joe, "I didn't die." And standing there as big as lif…

Visiting the F10 Royal Air Force Flight Museum in Sweden

This summer I had another task except visiting Croydon in London, as described in the previous post. I also wanted to go back to the Swedish F10 Royal Air Force Flight Museum in Ängelholm, a town in southern Sweden. My youngest aunt Gertrud worked there as a nurse until the air base was closed by the end of the Cold War so she was my guide.

The main reason I wanted to pay it a visit is that it has what I believe is the only complete exhibition of how Swedish airfields could be used as emergency landing places for returning airplanes, mostly bombers, after terrible raids deep into Nazi Germany during World War 2. Many hundreds of pilots and their crews were rescued this way, most of them young Americans and Brits, but also Canadians - and even a handful of German airmen.

This map shows southern Sweden. Each of the top (dark green) dots represent American airplanes. The middle (red) dots represent British airplanes, and the bottom (black) dots German airplanes. As you can see down at th…

Visiting Croydon Aerodrome Museum in London

It was just great to take the train and then the bus and suddenly it was there, way south of London, this airport that had been a fixture of my imagination for so long. The end of the journey for the two characters in my novel, and there it was. A much larger white Art Deco building than I had imagined, and as I took the tour, "Where is the airfield?" I had to ask.

The Tower has been wonderfully restored and is also used for offices.

You can take the tour and walk up into the Tower, and enjoy the displays. And, yes! There is a delightful collection of photos and other items related to the 1937 flight from Tokyo.

Peter Skinner was my guide, and he invited me to the Archives, where I could go through their official file called "Divine Wind" - the translation of the Japanese word kamikaze. Remember, please, that the April 1937 flight that I describe in my novel happened before the end of WW2, when that particular word took on a completely different meaning.

Closed in …

Porco Rosso - Joe Hisaishi


Le Temps des Cerises - Porco Rosso (Tribute Video)


Kurashi is Back, with News and Updates about My Novel: Kamikaze to Croydon

Hello, Kurashi readers, it has been a while. I had blogged for 10 or so years and had a big project I wanted to finish, a historical novel about the 1937 goodwill flight from Japan to Europe. Stay tuned.

You can order it here at Amazon as a paperback, and also at Kindle as an eBook. I hope you will also be kind enough to leave comments and rate it.

Do click that link, and go through the easy steps.