Monthly Archives: August 2013

It seems the photos didn’t load for Japan… so let’s try again!

Shops, colour and katakana (Japanese characters) overload in Sapporo 's shopping malls

Shops, colour and katakana (Japanese characters) overload in Sapporo ‘s shopping malls

who knew you could make SHOES out of Salmon skin!! amazing

who knew you could make SHOES out of Salmon skin!! amazing

Amazing fish and traditional 'chika' deer soup for lunch with our Ainu community hosts

Amazing fish and traditional ‘chika’ deer soup for lunch with our Ainu community hosts

Hanging out with a lovely Ainu elder and the Kiwi boys

Hanging out with a lovely Ainu elder and the Kiwi boys

Kikuye, Shuka and I having deep and meaningful chats on  the bus

Kikuye, Shuka and I having deep and meaningful chats on the bus

Hokkaido coastline

Hokkaido coastline

Ainu rock band

Ainu rock band

Dance competition in Osaka

Dance competition in Osaka

Summer purification ceremony at a world heritage temple Kyoto

Summer purification ceremony at a world heritage temple Kyoto

Koi at the conference venue

Koi at the conference venue

Tea ceremony

Tea ceremony

Caligraphy exhibition... this really is 'art'

Caligraphy exhibition… this really is ‘art’

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Good luck mania

Good luck mania

Glimpsing Geishas

Glimpsing Geishas

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Koyasan

Koyasan

Out for a morning run on one of the pilgrimmage trails in Koyasan

Out for a morning run on one of the pilgrimmage trails in Koyasan

Buddhist statue

Buddhist statue

Buddhist temple accommodation in Koyasan

Buddhist temple accommodation in Koyasan

Monks praying in a really OLD cemetery

Monks praying in a really OLD cemetery

Rice paddy landscapes

Rice paddy landscapes

Japan

Today as I write this, I am on a bus winding my way up into the mountains of Koyasan, a Buddhist temple complex, in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. The valleys and ridgelines offer diminishing shades of forest green extending as far as the eye can see. Then every now and again the view is punctuated by road works, forestry and / or construction machinery and vehicles… as the guy in front of me just said “They [the Japanese] seem to always be building something here [as in every place he has been in Japan thus far]!” It’s a broad sweeping statement but I tend to agree.

 

If I am completely honest, Japan has never been near the top of my places to visit (on the list for sure, but not a top priority). However, I am now super grateful that my work bought me here because it has really opened my mind to a culture that I used to find strange and bemusing. Everything makes more sense in context I guess.

 

Our Indigenous Peoples Knowledge & Rights Commission (IPKRC) organised a mind-blowing few days learning about the Ainu people in Hokkaido. Although they are the Indigenous peoples of northern Japan, there is still little appreciation for their contemporary culture (for reasons that I will not harp on about here). In our line of work, the challenges faced by Indigenous communities are woven with a common thread and it meant a lot to everyone involved to share experiences and in some cases, deeply personal stories. The fresh seafood was incredible… so was the sake… there was a lot of singing and dancing… and even a haka in reciprocation for some funky traditional / contemporary Ainu rock.

 

After Hokkaido, it was conference time in Kyoto. Having formed such a tight bunch during the pre-conference tour (20+ IPKRC’ers), we were able to take the conference sessions to a whole new level of discussion!   It is certainly one of the best conference experiences I have ever had.

 

Of course the sightseeing in Kyoto was also top-class – such a beautiful city surrounded by mountains, FULL of temples, and markets and festivals and parks and efficient transport and more! One highlight was a summer purification ceremony which was totally slow and boring (coz we had no idea what was going on) until a whole lot of young men jumped in a pond and fought over a limited number of flags / arrows in the name of good luck and prosperity. And then there was the sophisticated and artistic Tanabata lights festival displays alongside the two main canals in Kyoto; it was just so great to stroll around with locals in evening and enjoy the LEDs, lasers and bamboo – both sculpted and decorated like Christmas trees.

 

My final few days are here in the world heritage area of Koyasan which has history that I can’t even fathom. Painted silks and Buddhist sutras written in calligraphy on beautiful scrolls from the 8th and 9th centuries… craziness. Time is such a crazy concept. It is also hard to believe that I have been away for almost 3 months now. I am looking forward to touching down on home soil… for the heart, for the head and for the body :) A home-cooked meal, a massage and getting rid of a few kilos of accumulated luggage are all high on the priority list!

The United Kingdom

Having been in Central America in June and the UK in July… I now have an interesting perspective on Europe’s colonial influence around the world. Northern Ireland, Scotland and England boast natural landscapes that are much more beautiful and extensive than I had ever imagined… I can see why settlers carried fond memories of their ‘motherland’ and attempted to re-create that in the new landscapes they settled.

Five Fingers Strand, Ireland

Five Fingers Strand, Ireland

Looking back along the Portrush coastline, Northern Ireland

Looking back along the Portrush coastline, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

A wee hurrah in the Scottish highlands

A wee hurrah in the Scottish highlands

St Andrews cathedral, Scotland - this kind of construction blows my mind...

St Andrews cathedral – this kind of construction blows my mind…

Right in time for the birth of the new prince... lucky me

Right in time for the birth of the new prince… lucky me

Life on the Kennet & Avon canal

Life on the Kennet & Avon canal, England

Mmmmm beautiful smelling roses galore!

Mmmmm beautiful smelling roses galore!

I have been referred to as ‘antipodean’ numerous times and to be honest, I actually had to consult Wikipedia for a definition… where did the concept come from? to what extent does my so-called ‘antipodean’ heritage influence people’s first impressions of me? and mine of them?

In true ‘Antipodean’ style, I feel I should make comment on the weather… and marvel at the fact that it has been beautiful, warm and sunny for a whole month… perhaps it has been putting on a special show just for me 😉 I swam in both the northern Atlantic and the North Sea (and sadly had no appropriate swimming attire on my birthday when I could’ve swum in the English Channel too) – the heart re-boot effect of the shockingly cold water is a tad addictive and it seems to get easier with practice.

Swimming spot #1: Portrush, Northern Ireland

Swimming spot #1: Portrush, Northern Ireland

Swimming spot #2: a secret spot on the North East coast, England

Swimming spot #2: a ‘secret’ spot on the North East coast, England

Well, this post started as a kind of intellectual reflection on what I have been seeing through my eyes, processing with my brain and doing with my body. But, as I write, I realise that July 2013 has actually had the most dramatic impact on my heart. I saw a side of the UK that can never be seen through our eyes. It was a month of beautiful people. The photos below are in fact my most treasured memories of the beautiful people I shared some time with (albeit way too short!).

Shaz n David in Portrush, Northern Ireland

Shaz n David in Portrush, Northern Ireland

Bruce, Hilary and family in Dunning, Scotland

Bruce, Hilary and family in Dunning, Scotland

Emma, Leigh and family in Wylam, England

Emma, Leigh and family in Wylam, England

Couldn't avoid the work colleagues in London... Darryl, Silvia and Flo

Work colleagues that I actually like… what a concept! Darryl, Silvia and Flo in London

Old friends are the best - Harry, Clive, Pam and Val

Old friends are the best – Harry, Clive, Pam and Val in Worthing, England

Clive & I getting up to all kinds of mischief

Clive & I getting up to all kinds of mischief on the Kennet & Avon canal, Newbury

Felicity / Fliss / Aunty Bliss / F-Dawg / Felicitas / Gibb / Gibblet... I could on...

Felicity / Fliss / Aunty Bliss / F-Dawg / Felicitas / Gibb / Gibblet… she is all these things and more… in London

… and the other gorgeous girls in London (whose photos I will put up when I work out how to make my iPhone either a) talk to my laptop or b) detect free WiFi signals)… Cleo, Margaux, Nic, Em, Bridget and Sal.

I am so grateful to have such kind, loving and inspirational people in my life… no matter how near or far :)