Monday, 22 November 2010

Japanese music and fine home cooking


Went to a performance of koto, shamisen and shakuhachi, featuring my mother-in-law's koto teacher. She's 81 years old, though you would not believe it to look at her, or to hear her play with such incredible speed and delicacy of touch.
We then went to a very tempting antique fair, but with the Yen so strong, there was nothing I could really afford this time. Perhaps when I am a wealthy minister...
This evening, my mother-in-law as usual cooked up a feast. This is the season for crab, for which Fukui is rightly renowned. We ate it in the Japanese style, with rice and vinegar. Alongside the crab, we ate Japanese vegetables stewed in sake, two different kinds of fish cooked in soy and sugar (saba and buri), daikon radish cooked in mirin and grated tororo with raw egg and soy sauce. Japanese home cooking is quite different from restaurant food, utilising soy, mirin and sake to create a subtle palette. You have to taste it to know what I mean.

Autumn leaves in Fukui

Friday, 19 November 2010

BBC News: "Why would a straight couple want a civil partnership?"

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11625835
Psalm 116:16-17
I will fulfil my vows to the Lord •
in the presence of all his people,

In the courts of the house of the Lord, •
in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.
A key element of marriage has not been addressed in the news article linked above, namely that marriage is not only about two people's private commitment to each other.  It is an expressly public sign and celebration of that commitment: hence the importance of the 'dresses and cakes' that some people here disparage. 

Sunday, 14 November 2010

St Stephen´s Anglican Church, Tokyo, Hatanodai: 聖三光教会



Another beautiful High Mass at this lively church. Having been to the consecration of the new church building some weeks ago, I was surprised to find myself at the 90th anniversary celebration of the church´s original foundation, for which Tom Foreman and I were invited to eat an excellent curry with the congregation.

This afternoon, we went to an intimate chamber concert in which the organist of the church, who is a professional pianist, and her husband, a cellist in the Tokyo Philharmonic, performed works ranging from Mozart through Rachmaninov to Brahms. The venue was the house of an academic whose late father was a celebrated architect. The house has a performance venue, replete with Yamaha grand piano and original modern art, where some twenty or so of us gathered for the performance. Afterwards, we were treated to wine and a buffet in the garden, which unusually for Tokyo featured a full swimming pool. All this was at the kind behest of the Kurogawas, the musicians, who invited us without charge. This is only one of many examples of Japanese kindness and interest in meeting foreign people. If only English people extended the same kindness to Asian visitors.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Autumn leaves on Mount Takao

A day trip to Mount Takao to look at the Autumn leaves.  Click to see the gallery. 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Saturday in Kyoto

Kyoto
Nao and I met on Friday night and stayed, we think, in the first hotel we ever stayed in together, some eight years ago.  The location was not romantic in a conventional sense, being bang in the middle of Osaka´s extensive red light district, but for us it held fond memories. 

Friday, 5 November 2010

Otani University


Friday took me to Otani University, the college of Higashi Honganji, the other large sect of Jodo Shinshu.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ryukoku University


Kyoto's Ryokoku University is affiliated to the Nishi Honganji sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism, and has a beautiful Meiji-period campus within the grounds of the synonymous temple.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

BBC E-mail: Convicted prisoners to get vote

Thousands of convicted UK prisoners are to get the right to vote following a European ruling that the present ban, dating from 1870, is unlawful.

So, Europe has the final say in matters of English jurisprudence.  Better still:

Lawyers have said a failure to comply could cost hundreds of millions of pounds in legal costs and compensation.
I see.  And that'd be on top of the £12-14bn we already pay, not to mention the speculative cost of the CAP to the British economy?

Our continued membership of the EU makes replacing Trident look like pocket money.  

 < http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/uk-11671164 >

Sunday, 31 October 2010

St Luke's Hospital Chapel, Tokyo

http://www.luke.or.jp/eng/index.html
This morning, I went to Mass at the Anglican chapel of St Luke's International Hospital in Tsukiji, near the famous fish market.  The chapel was built in the 1920s in Gothic style with clear Oxford Movement influences.  It boasts a fine choir and organ and a Catholic liturgical sensibility.  The blessed sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle on the High Altar, which seems to be fairly rare in Japanese Anglican churches.
The Chaplain, Fr Kevin Seaver, is a friendly Anglo-Catholic American priested a few years ago.  He has lived in Japan for some 25 years now. 
All services are in Japanese, but the liturgy is familiar enough for a non-speaker to follow what is going on, and the Sunday morning Eucharist is open to all. 
The congregation and Fr Kevin were very welcoming, and I would highly recommend the church to any visitors or residents in Tokyo, especially those longing for a traditional church environment. 

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dharma talk at Tsukiji

Haseo Daien of Tōzenji gave a talk which helpfully summarised the conceptual differences between Christian theology and Shinran's thought as he sees them, with the aim of correcting potential misunderstandings by Westerners.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

BBC News: Village cobbles too dangerous

If you needed any further confirmation that Britain has turned into a nation of wets, here it is.  Perhaps they should mount fluorescent disclaimers on every street corner to warn visitors that they walk the pavements at their own risk.  It would be risible if it were not so plausible, much like the compulsory 'no smoking' signs the Labour government made us fasten to the pillars inside mediaeval churches. 
No wonder people won't walk the way of the Cross, if they're even afraid of tripping on cobbles...

** Village cobbles &#039;too dangerous&#039; **
A medieval Somerset village could lose its cobbled paths because they are feared to be too dangerous.
< http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/uk-england-somerset-11569523 >

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Kamakura photos online

Click here for the gallery.

Priorities, priorities: John 12.1-11 and the Catholic movement

“Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?”: a common criticism of my beloved Catholic tradition: and not unjust. We all know parishes more bothered about maniples than mission, popery than poverty, canopies than charity. I once heard about a PCC where the parish charitable effort was dismissed in five seconds so that they could talk for fifteen minutes about new candlesticks for the High Altar. Parishes get pricey: the choir fee, the statues, the incense, the robes. “Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?”

Yasukuni Jinja: Revisionism by omission


"When the war ended, the colonial powers returned to their colonies.  But those whose desire for independence had been awakened were no longer the obedient servants of their colonizers... the colonizers who had been defeated by Japan in the early stages of the Greater East Asia War could no longer suppress with military might the ideals that Japan had advanced after the First World War but had subsequently been rejected - racial equality."
This final panel at the Yasukuni Shrine Museum sums up its take on Japan's role in WW2: the Japanese invaded Asian nations not for the sake of expansion or national gain, but for the sake of racial equality.  They were the good guys, innocent victims of Western expansionism. 

Dancing dragons and fascists - a typical Tokyo Sunday

Japan's still full of surprises. Wandering through Shinjuku yesterday, one of Tokyo's busiest districts, I came across a traditional music group playing drum-'n'-flute out of the back of a van while a man in an old-school dragon outfit danced around snapping his wooden teeth at frightened children. Round the next corner, a fascist rally was blaring out old marching tunes from their big black vans. I bought a pair of trousers from the Uniqlo there and caught the train home.

Shishimai

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Public nudity, raw horse, God-bothering




Quite a day - just spent the evening in a hot spa, being massaged by water jets, followed by dinner at an excellent though not inexpensive little izakaya. The Sapporo beer was cheap, the rare horse meat less so, but worth every yen. Met a lovely young chap called Masashi, who happens to be a first year teacher training student at Nihon Daigaku. We had a good chinwag about his exchange student trip to Cambridge, where he apparently enjoyed punting but was not too hot on the fish and chips.

Monday, 13 September 2010

American Evangelical pastor plans to burn Quran



We've all read about the American pastor who is planning a 'World Koran Burning Day.' The irony is just how close Evangelical Protestantism is to Islam in many respects:

Friday, 13 August 2010

What hath the Monkees to do with Jerusalem?

Monkee magic: the nature of conversion?
"I saw her face
Now I'm a believer
There's not a trace
Of doubt in my mind:
I'm in love Whoah-oh
I'm a believer
I couldn't leave her if I tried."
"What hath the Monkees to do with Jerusalem?", you may well ask. Well, there is a strand of Christian thought that treats conversion as just this sort of 'Monkee magic.'

Friday, 6 August 2010

Transfiguration 2010: Climbing the mountain


Why do people climb mountains? You know it costs about £50,000 to climb Everest these days - sounds a bit steep to me. And surely it's more comfortable to stroll around here below on flat ground. But many of us do like to rise to the challenge. Perhaps it's the exertion, the exercise, the feeling of achievement when you get to the top, the beauty of the views or the quality of the cool air above. But there's also that headiness, that giddiness, that strange feeling of being in a world removed, where earth almost touches heaven. And I suppose this is why so many great human traditions over the millennia have treated their mountains as sacred space: Zion, Olympus, Horeb, Sinai, Athos, Ararat, Fuji, to name a few.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I climbed the three peaks of Dewa Sanzan in Japan, sacred to the Shinto tradition, each with a shrine at its peak.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

The Trinity: 'relevant' to what?


I hope you'll forgive me if I eschew the customary Trinity Sunday joke about celestial mathematics. It's usually made in a rather apologetic fashion to give the impression that the preacher isn't too bothered about all this high-flown doctrine, and is much more interested in more practical things, like being nice to old ladies. Even some of my fellow ordinands dread the prospect of having to preach on Trinity Sunday. They see it as a dry, doctrinal affair compared with the preceding drama of Eastertide. And to some extent, they are right: this is the odd one out among the feasts of the Church, in that it is the only one which is based not on an event or a person, but on a doctrine. As such, it is condemned for one of the greatest sins of modernity: not being 'relevant.'