Japan Calling #tbt

From Tokyo to Kyoto and back

 

It was about this time two years ago that I headed back to Japan.

It had been an easy destination during my years in South Korea. Twice on a visa run, other times to soak in the organised chaos. I headed back in April 2015 after 10 years away.

It was a whistle stop tour – first to Tokyo to see had anything changed. The neon was still alive and well. The transport as organised and efficient as ever. The sights and smells were just as I had left them. No longer was riff raff accepted in Roppongi. It had grown up to be a very serious art district. Over the last decade, I suspect this was something we were all expected to do.

Then on to Osaka, Kyoto and Nara as the cherry blossoms beckoned picnickers for hanami. And finally back to Tokyo to go home.

I don’t know when I’ll be back again. Perhaps in another 10 years. Maybe the riff raff will be back by then.

 

Africa Day 2017 Dublin

I danced to east African music and then Galway Girl

The shuttle bus was packed. It was free after all and the alternative was a 25 minute trek through the Phoenix Park to Farmleigh House. I was excited for Africa Day, but not twenty-five minutes excited.

I was late, rolling up to the lakeside cafe fifteen minutes after everyone else had clearly arrived. Some not so subtly checked their watches. Amateur photographers can be so impatient. There was still lingering to be done, as a few more latecomers stumbled upon the group, made easy to identify with all brands of camera swinging from our necks. Of the 62 who RSVP’d, a decent 12 showed up, with more to wade through the throngs later.

As with all ‘Days’ at Farmleigh, we headed for the main area, today the ‘Malaika’ stage, behind the colonial house. And suddenly the group had dissolved. All that waiting, only to disappear into the air with the notes escaping from the strumming guitar of Ines Khai. It would be another forty-five minutes before I found some semblance of the group gathered beneath a crowded tree as the clouds emptied their contents for the first time that day. The group had new faces, replacing those who had wandered off to the ‘Kwassa Kwassa’ stage. Sadly, those unlucky few had tripped right into the middle of the Minister’s speech. Was it too late to slipd quietly away back to the bazaar. There was a colourful rug I was looking at that would have matched the blanket on the couch.

Head wraps were offered at a reasonable rate. Ladies chose from prints of red, black and green fish-like patterns, burnt orange leaves, diamonds on yellow fabric and blue and red lined strips of white. The smell of beef stew and chapati carried across the car park to campers who had staked their claim on a patch of flattened grass before the skies reminded them where they were. Some ventured over to the join an already long queue. Some glanced and weighed up their chances of losing their spot or cradling a warm belly, smiling at the mere thought of spicy rice and chicken.

If you ever held an image of Africa in your mind’s eye, it could be found here. Tall men in white robes swatted away the ant-like diligence of photographers intent on capturing the image of the day, showing their wares from Senegal and Lesotho. Under grey skies, colourful dresses, head wraps and tunics could be seen.

Drumming workshops, a language exchange, even a debating session was on the agenda. But my favourite part of Africa Day was the ‘Atilogwu’ stage and the energetic DJ Spaqz and his crew. And it was here that I danced to Galway Girl, after dancing to music from Kenya, Ghana and Egypt.

I’ll be back next year, for the tastes, sounds and sights of a little bit of Africa in the middle of the Phoenix Park.