Saturday, 29 December 2012

Recommended: Hitori Shizuka

Well, all credit to the makers of this drama: they didn't just give us the easy ending. Halfway through the final episode is a fifteen year jump, with none of the usual visual clues to indicate it. This can make for a very confusing few minutes, as I assumed that events in one scene happened soon after the events in the previous scene.

Once I'd worked out the woman in her twenties was the same person as the girl from earlier, I then had to work out how the story must've progressed since we last saw them. Again, the drama made no concessions. Instead it just showed us the eventual consequences of those events, with no context. Although it's hard to follow, this is better than flashbacks, or scenes in which people give long speeches explaining what happened.

So, in conclusion, the method of telling this story has been excellent. From the writing to the directing, this has been a quite unique and beautiful piece of work and is head and shoulders above a lot of other dramas out there.

A very fine piece of television.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Nakazawa Keiji (1939-2012)

I first read Nakazawa's book Barefoot Gen near the beginning of my interest in Japanese culture, back in the 1990s. I knew about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from school, of course, but we hadn't touched upon how it affected the people involved. So this book came as a bit of an eye-opener, and it also filled in the (huge) gaps in my knowledge of the situation in the Pacific at that time.

The story is such a difficult one to read, because of the scale of suffering, but at the same time it is essential. Nakazawa does not shy away from depicting the patriotic mania that brought Japan to that situation. Nor does he shy away from the effects of the blast on people with some uncomfortable and almost surreal images.

All of these feeling were reawakened when I visited Hiroshima and the museum dedicated to the bombing. Now I've learnt that the author of Barefoot Gen died yesterday. Hearing that reminded me of the impact his work made on me, and it saddens me to learn of his passing.

Until the 90s, the Japanese were seen as the country that made cheap TVs or expensive videogames, or they were "that lot the Americans beat in the war". How much this comic has done to change the views of the public at large, I don't know, but it certainly changed mine and started me off on a journey that's lead me to where I am today.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Just finished: Fujiko F. Fujio no Parallel Space

This series of six short stories was broadcast in 2008 but only recently subbed by Unsolved Cases. Each one is a curious tale with interesting ideas. At least the first four are. No idea what happened to the last two.

Episode one is the most interesting, based around a camera that tells you the true value of things when you take a photo. It's shot in a very un-naturalistic style, taking its framing and composition directly from comic strips.

Episode two is about a journalist who is sent to report on an old friend who claims to have invented a time machine. The end of this story is so quick, that its easy to miss how cleverly structured this story is, and it definitely deserves to be seen twice.

Episode three is a peculiar one, about an actor who never stands up for himself and never seems to express any anger (or happiness) at the result of his inactions. This is a little confusing and I'm not sure I really understood it, but interesting nevertheless.

Episode four is about a dentist who owns a pair of glasses that allow you to see if someone is truly beautiful, or just superficial. This has Aso Kumiko as the dentist, and while the ending may be obvious, it's still a good story.

Then there are the final two episodes, where the quality suddenly drops. Episode five is about some aliens studying human behaviour and finding it baffling. So what? And the last is something about a childhood game of setting up a republic that'll only have nice people in, and how easily the dreams can be ruined. Or can they? Very ordinary, and why do so many Japanese writers think the worst thing that can happen is to move to America?

But four out of six ain't bad.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Currently watching: Koukou Nyuushi

Ever since I worked with Nagasawa Masami on Toshi Densetsu no Onna, I feel like we've got a special bond. A totally fictional and made-up one, especially since we never actually worked together, but even so: a very special bond.

So it's a bit of a mystery as to why it's taken me so long to sit down and watch this drama. I watched episode one a few weeks ago and didn't think much of it. It seemed to be quite a bland drama set in a school. However, today I noticed that Koukou Nyuushi's TV ratings have stayed strong, while most other dramas this season have struggled. I thought "They can't all be looking at Masami's legs," so I sat down to give it another go.

I can't explain my initial reaction – perhaps I wasn't paying attention – but this time round it seemed to click. The storyline is simple: the all-important school entrance exams are coming up, but there are plans to sabotage them. But by who and how? And can the teachers stop them? This is the central mystery of the drama.

The drama is shot in an interesting style. Quite bland and uninteresting at first, but every now and again the director adds a little horror movie-style camera angle. Just enough to heighten the tension, and the soundtrack, too, is excellent. And after the slow start, where everyone's characters are set up, the story moves on at quite a quick pace and is quite addictive. I'm halfway through, and so far it's been very enjoyable.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Six worst Running Man episodes

(Note: a list of other bad Running Man episodes from 2013-14 is here)

I love Running Man, I hope that much is clear, but there are occasions when ideas don't seem to work. This is only natural in a show that tries to reinvent itself so often.

And so, inspired by episode 118, I've decided to try to list the worst episodes of Running Man. It was much harder than choosing the best, but these are the episodes where the ideas didn't quite gel, or the editing didn't make sense.

There was one episode that I considered, even though I'd already put it in my list of the best: Episode 25, with Park Bo Young, was great but it was a bit painful to watch how marginalised Lizzy had become by then, especially when there's a strong female guest. It turned out to be her last episode.

They are listed from the least worst to the worst worst, if you see what I mean...

Episode 101

The theme to this episode is one of the thinnest puns I think I've ever seen. Song Ji Hyo's real name, Chung Sung Im, has the same initials as the cop show C.S.I. From this follows an entertaining episode but one in which you really need to suspend your disbelief. This is a series of challenges loosely slotted into some kind of narrative, and of course Song Ji Hyo has to stay one step ahead otherwise that's the end of the episode.

Episode 118

A bit of a mess, frankly. Choi Min Soo, one of the stars of Running Man guests, comes back to finish off his rivalry with Yoo Jae Suk. It begins in a light-hearted style with Park Bo Young, but then it abruptly changes style with a late-night horror special with Choi Min Soo picking off the regulars one by one. Trouble is, it was too abrupt. Park Bo Young should at least have got a couple of seconds on screen to say goodbye, even if it's just a wink to the camera. And, reading between the lines, it looks like it took a very long time to shoot this episode, since most of the cast seem to have gone home by the time the finale plays out. Quite entertaining and Choi Min Soo and Yoo Jae Suk are great together, but a bit disjointed and unsatisfying.

Episode 30

This starts well, with the regulars chasing Big Bang's Seung Ri around the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts. But then, the wheels fall off. It's one of those episodes that doesn't involve the guest enough, and after the Hide And Seek game is over, he barely features. The challenge at the end is completed too quickly, so there was obviously a lack of footage, meaning that a throw-away photography game is included in the show, as well as a far-too-long music based game.

Episode 1

I almost don't consider this to be a real episode. It feels a lot like a pilot episode. The regulars don't know each other, the games aren't quite right, and there's no Song Ji Hyo. There are entertaining bits, but there's no real rhythm or any relationships between the cast.

I suppose that's why they asked Lee Hyo Ri to appear, so there'd be some continuity with Yoo Jae Suk and Kim Jong Kook (they were all in Family Outing) but you can tell that most of the cast feel awkward. I'm sure the weather during the grand opening scene didn't help.

Episode 87

The ″True Love″ episode. Now, I strongly suspect that the makers of Running Man would rather be making film blockbusters or TV dramas, and in this episode they let their narrative ambitions get out of control. In episode 87, the female guest has to work out who was her first love in school, using clues scattered around the location. This story is enhanced by flashbacks to when the Running Man cast were about six or seven in age.

But this makes the show incredibly slow-paced, with plenty of slow motion and soft-focus close-ups. It is clearly an homage to the Korean drama The Moon That Embraces The Sun, but if you haven't seen it then this is just a very slow episode of Running Man with some shocking over-acting by HaHa which is funny in small doses, but here it really drags. In fact, I didn't make it to the end, giving up with around ten minutes to go.

Episode 23

I am happy to admit, this is totally down to culture. This episode features veteran comedian Shim Hyung-rae. I watched it like I was looking at a museum piece, since it featured a lot of corny physical humour and references to things that pre-date my sparse knowledge of Korean culture by decades.

It's like when Jerry Lewis or Norman Wisdom appear on TV shows, I'm always impressed that they're still working but it's never classic entertainment. The same applies here. The regular cast are far too respectful of the comedy legend, and it kind of ruins the show.

I'll be honest, I barely made it through half of this episode before turning off and never going back. And this is only episode of which I haven't kept a copy, hence the screenshot off a YouTube clip.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Currently watching: Yuusha Yoshihiko to Akuryou no Kagi

This comedy continues the tradition from the first series of poking fun at RPG clichés. Our band of four heroes are brought back to life after a hundred years (and, in doing so, their skills are reset to level one) to look for a key that can lock away some monsters threatening a village.

The ghost is clearly trying not to laugh

The story is almost unimportant because, just like in real RPGs, the band of four are constantly being distracted by side quests and false leads as they undertake their quest.

The sense of humour is the same as the first series, with Yamada Takayuki delivering his ridiculous lines in a perfect deadpan style. Muro Tsuyoshi is perhaps the funniest as the hopeless wizard who also acts as a sort of ″Voice of the RPG player″, as it is usually him who points out the absurdity or obviousness of a situation.

After I saw this, I found a purple lake in Xenoblade Chronicles and thought exactly the same thing.

Also it looks like it was a lot of fun to make. The affection that the stars have for it can be seen in Takayuki's statement on the announcement of a second series, that he was going ″to give it my 70%.″ I'd love to see a ″making of ″ for this series. I did almost buy the boxed set of the DVD but, at almost £150, I had second thoughts. I still regret it a little bit. But I can cheer myself up with the continuing low-budget saga of Yoshihiko and his band of underqualified heroes.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

SpecialThanks new release

Saw this today on Sparkplugged: one of my favourite bands has released a new E.P. and it's available for download in the West! So try out some reasonably priced pop-punk goodness now at Amazon UK (I suppose it must be available in other countries and on iTunes too).

I'm even adding an embedded video to help you decide.

And when I was talking to a barman in Hiroshima during my holiday, I asked him what bands he liked and he mentioned SpecialThanks, so they must be good. Right?

Monday, 3 December 2012

Still playing: Shenmue

Happy Shenmue Day!

Today, December 3rd, is a special day in my calendar. After watching a cut scene where you see the death of Ryo Hazuki's father on November 29th 1986, you get to play the game on December 3rd, after Ryo finally wakes up from his ordeal.

For a long time, the video game Shenmue was the closest I got to walking around the streets of Japan, and I've played it regularly since its release in 2000. When I moved to Italy, it was essential in keeping homesickness at bay, because its familiar streets were somewhere I could go and relax, play darts or hang out at the arcade.

And so today I will play Shenmue from the start once again, just so the date on my calendar matches the one in the game. And I'll even try to keep playing it, one day at a time, to try and keep the two dates synchronised until Christmas comes around and I lose track and then forget about it until a few months later when I'll pick it up and play some darts or walk the streets asking people where I can find sailors or Chinese people or whatever the story says I should look for.

I still get moments when watching dramas when I think ″That looks just like Shenmue!″ and it makes me feel happy inside. It's a game that's never left me, and hopefully never will.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Currently watching: Hitori Shizuka

This crime series begins with a low-level gang-related shooting and quickly expands into something more sinister. It revolves around a woman seen at the scene of the crime who is suspected of finishing off the already wounded victim. Who is she and what was her motive is the drama's main story.

However, the story focuses on people at the margins of the investigation. The first episode follows an ordinary uniformed policeman whose efforts are barely noticed by the detectives in charge. Part two is about a safety officer – someone who advises members of the public on crime prevention. His investigation stumbles upon the missing woman, but since he has no knowledge of the earlier investigation she slips away at the end and we're only a little wiser about her history.

It's a great drama so far. Certainly, turning attention away from the leading detectives and towards the less important members has given the story a new point of view, and allows the drama to explore some new ways of telling what might otherwise be just another murder mystery.

Currently listening to: Girls and Peace

Girls' Generation's second Japanese album burst onto my mp3 player in the middle of last week with a selection of quality pop tunes that's left me a little dazed. Until now, I've become accustomed to being somewhat disappointed by SNSD albums. Their singles promise a world of catchy choruses, while the album usually serves up large portions of fillers.

But not this time. For whatever reason, the quality control on recent SNSD songs has been turned up to ten. I was very impressed by SNSD sub-group TaeTiSeo's album and I'm relieved that this has carried on to the main group.

Not every song is golden, though. After the first track (which is about spiders and butterflies, apparently) there are two fairly anonymous tracks. It picks up again with "Reflection" and then after "Stay Girls" it doesn't put a foot wrong, despite probably being performed in absurd high-heels doing a synchronised dance routine.

"Boomerang" is like "Paparazzi"s younger sister, containing a similar number of "boom"s in the chorus. "All My Love Is For You" is my favourite track on the CD and "Oh!" is given a bit of a polish for its re-release, but it's the final two tracks "Peace and Girls" and "Not Alone" really hit the high points and convince me to send my mp3 player straight back to track one to experience the whole thing all over again.

It's tempting to see this album as a step forward on SNSD's march to global domination. Looking at the song writing credits, I note a heavy international influence, with songwriters from Sweden, America, Nigeria, South Korea, Japan and the Netherlands. Its healthy sprinkling of English in the choruses indicate the direction they seem to be heading.

But despite all this, there's no international release. Surely in this day and age, it's not too much trouble to put out an album on download only, just to test the water. But apparently it is. The only way for me to throw a few coins into SNSD's hat is to buy an over-priced import CD, or "The Boys" single,which has an unappetising seven version of the same song.

Maybe the Korean album in early 2013 will be downloadable for us in the West? Or will I have to wait for the fabled English release later next year..?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Still watching: Going My Home

... Although I feel like one of an increasingly rare breed. The ratings for this drama have gone from 13% down to a dismal 5.9% in the space of six episodes, which has left me scratching my head over why.

It's a very slow moving story, that much is true. But this needn't mean a series is unsuccessful. Yasashii Jikan was slow but it had an important, emotional story at its heart: of a father and his estranged son. Dr Koto's Clinic was also quite soporific, but each episode had the good doctor struggling over big issues of life and death. In Going My Home, the main story appears to be that the main characters don't really know their own father. This is a pretty slender storyline to base an entire series on.

It's a shame the ratings are bad, because the series is full of excellent performances and clever dialogue so if you're like me and you're not bothered that the story hasn't really started yet, then this is quality television. If, however, you suspect that all of these scenes are just padding, then you'll find this a very frustrating show.

But each episode has a scene or two that's definitely worth watching, and if anyone can find something more adorable than Miyazaki Aoi describing the little people who live in the forest to a room of children, then I'll eat my hat.

Going My Home is a bit arty and a bit too clever and in no hurry to tell its story. I love the fact that it takes time to show otherwise unimportant details. This wouldn't be out of place on WOWOW, but it doesn't appear to be doing well on Fuji TV, up against other big dramas and variety shows. Going My Home feels like a late-night drama given a prime-time slot. Trouble is, it's getting late-night drama viewing figures.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Currently watching: Osozaki no Himawari

What with this and Going My Home, j-dramas have quite a rustic feel this season. It also reminds me of Dr Koto's Clinic, with plenty of wide-shots to get as much out of the location as possible.

Osozaki no Himawari begins with a man losing his job and his girlfriend on the same day. Embarrassed at his situation, he finds a job online on a Local Revitalising Team in a small town in the Japanese countryside.

Thus Ikuta Toma and his big eyes and floppy hair helps people out the best he can. He seems awfully naïve for someone in their late-twenties, but that's a minor complaint. The story is all about him trying to do his best in the face of some peculiar country ways.

He doesn't have any world-weary arrogance or disdain for these people. Instead that is provided by a doctor from Tokyo who has been given a position at the local hospital where she grew up. Having escaped the country once, she finds herself right back where she started, and she's not happy about it.

The population is ageing, businesses are closing, young people are leaving. Behind the feel-good storylines are some grim views of rural life. But they're quite a long way in the background just now. I'm just enjoying the lightweight storylines and already complicated romances, and it's nice to see Ikuta Toma and Kashii Yu (Linda, Linda, Linda) in a drama again.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Currently watching: Monsters

Putting the SMAP member Katori Shingo in the lead role of this comedy police drama was a smart move. If you're one of those people who find SMAP annoying, insincere and ubiquitous, then you'd surely have no problems with him as the annoying, insincere and ubiquitous detective Hiratsuka Heihachi. If you're a fan of SMAP, then you can be impressed by how well Katori Shingo can act, because he's obviously nothing like that in real life.

Either way, I enjoyed the first two episodes of this series. The format is pretty similar to the writers' previous big hit, Mr Brain, in that a genius detective solves crimes while their rookie partner ends up in all kinds of awkward situations. And if that's what you like, then you can't go wrong here.

The crimes are interesting with nice solutions, and the jokes are good. The comedy is that sort of weird, slightly theatrical kind where people hold their poses for a second too long, but it's still funny.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Third Annual November 8th Awards

Has it really been three years since I started this blog? My goodness. As is usual on this day, I present my round up of what I've been watching for the past twelve months. And remember: this is about what I've seen since last November, not about what has been released so that the new has to battle against the old.

Best drama

Ai no Nedan
Furuhata Ninzaburo
Suzuki Sensei

It is unfair to throw a classic in amongst the newcomers, but those are the rules. As it is Furuhata Ninzaburo wins handsomely with its cleverly structured murder mysteries, all set up and solved in under an hour. Shokuzai was a beautiful piece of writing and directing with a powerful storyline. Ai no Nedan was the surprise of the year: almost no publicity but it was a smart mystery based around life insurance claims. And Suzuki Sensei was another clever story, with an excellent cast.

Best comedy

Toshi Densetsu no Onna
Kekkon Dekinai Otoko
Kagi Kakatta no Heya

Difficult to be unbiased here, since I subbed two of these series. In the end, though, I think that Toshi Densetsu no Onna made me laugh more often than the others, so it takes this prize. Kekkon Dekinai Otoko was a great piece of slice-of-life comedy, while Tokkan mixed tax regulations with Inoue Mao's physical clumsiness. Kagi Kakatta no Heya's interplay of the three main characters that was the show's real attraction.

Best film

A Pierrot
Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Golly, what a line up. I still haven't written about A Pierrot (Gravity Clown), but it I enjoyed it's mix of family secrets and crime solving. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an excellent documentary, made with care and attention. Watching Rebirth was a powerful experience and very moving, but it's the almost-musical Moteki that wins, simply for reminding me what is good about film-making. Very life-affirming.

Best Actor

Hosshan (Renai Kentei)
Sato Koichi (Kagi Kakatta no Heya)
Tamura Masakazu (Furuhata Ninzaburo)
Hasegawa Hiroki (Suzuki Sensei)

Did I watch the wrong stuff, or was there a lack of interesting roles for men this year? Hmmm, maybe it was just me.

Although Tamura Masakazu is perfect in his role in Furuhata Ninzaburo, I think that Hasegawa Hiroki was another piece of inspired casting as the all-knowing teacher in Suzuki Sensei. Meanwhile, Hosshan was great as the god of love in Renai Kentei and Sato Koichi stole plenty of scenes as the vain lawyer in Kagi Kakatta...

Best Actress

Nagasawa Masami (Moteki)
Nakatani Miki (Seinaru Kaibutsutachi)
Koizumi Kyoko (Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi, Shokuzai)
Inoue Mao (Rebirth, Tokkan)
Nagasaku Hiromi (Rebirth)

Nakatani Miki's performance as the cold, calculating head nurse was Seinaru Kaibutsutachi's main attraction, Nagasawa Masami held my attention like never before in Moteki, meanwhile Koizumi Kyoko demostrated her range in two completely different roles this year, as did Inoue Mao. But it is Nagasaku Hiromi who takes the plaudits with her inch-perfect performance in Rebirth.

Best game show

Running Man
Nazotoki Battle TORE!
Vs Arashi
Game Center CX

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't separate the two winners, so we'll just have to make do with a tie. And they could hardly be more different: Running Man's high-concept, CGI-laden physical challenges compared to Game Center CX's low-budget retro battles. But both of them are essential viewing, and to chose one over the other would be too cruel. Meanwhile, Nazotoki Battle TORE! and Vs Arashi offer up the same thrills and spills as they always do.

Best album

TaeTiSeo “Twinkle”
Shugo Tokumaru “Port Entropy”
Jambinai “Différance”
Taru “100 per cent”

While for most people 2012 will be the year when Kpop burst onto the scene with Gangam Style, for me it was the year when Korean artists put out some great albums. Singer-Songwriter Taru's album was a lovely collection of ballads, and Jambinai's album was an occasionally extreme (but still melodic) post-rock aural adventure. But it is the eighties disco overload of TaeTiSeo that wins. No other album has been in my mp3 player as long as this. Meanwhile, Shugo Tokumaru represents Japan in a dry year, with his charming clockwork anthems.

The Safe Pair of Hands Award

Nagasawa Masami (Moteki, Toshi Densetsu, Yasashii no Jikan)
Toda Erika (SPEC: Shou, Kagi Kakatta no Heya)
Koizumi Kyoko (Saigo Kara Nibanme no Koi, Shokuzai, Adrift in Tokyo)

This award is for the person who always seems to choose good things to be in, and this year it was an easy choice. Koizumi Kyoko never put a foot wrong all year, and each one of the three things I saw her in was excellent. Nagasawa Masami appeared in three things (four, if you include a cameo role in a dream I had) and each one was very good. Toda Erika, too, had two very different but very enjoyable roles.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Currently watching: Poison

But with d-addicts out of action for the past two days, I wonder how far I'm going to get through this series. I've got the first three episodes, but then what? Worrying times...

Anyway, Poison is my subbing project for this season, and I'm enjoying it. The story is that a scientist has developed a poison that leaves no trace and doesn't kill until twenty-four hours has passed, giving the murderer a chance to make a perfect alibi.

But this is no ordinary scientist. This scientist likes to appear in subways and offer to lend this poison to anyone in need. It's pure pantomime, a bit silly and quite a lot of fun. As the villain of the piece, the scientist gets all the best lines.

The police get involved, and they're a typical partnership: an old cynical cop and young enthusiastic type. And caught up between them is the murderer himself, who is a journalist who is sent to cover his own crime.

It's a good storyline, not too deep, and an enjoyable way to pass half an hour. Now, if only d-addicts was up, I could start posting the subs...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Kyoto. Oh no!

Ah, Kyoto. Tranquil temples, long narrow streets which all seem to have interesting shops or restaurants, a busy hub of shopping streets and arcades, and a wide river which is perfect for the stroll back to the hotel in the evening. A lovely place to be.

Assuming, that is, you don't fall ill on the second day like I did. Nothing that kept me bedridden or anything, but it did mean most evenings were spent in my hotel room, with sandwiches and milk for supper, watching TV. Often baseball.

My only evening out in Kyoto

During the day, things were okay. My plan was to go to temples mostly, and get a bit of culture, so I could handle that. Things got a bit much in the city centre. However, there were plenty of side streets to duck down if I needed a rest, and you're never far from a temple. If you are going to have a constant headache in a city, then Kyoto's probably one of the best.

Daimonji. I walked up that last time I was in Kyoto. I must've been mad.

In one temple, I was walking about when two people sitting nearby started playing a haunting melody on a couple of flutes. That was very nice. And I spent a peaceful hour or so in the Shoren-in temple, just padding around in my socks from room to room in the autumn sun.

Shoren-in Temple

I went on the guided tour of the Imperial Palace. It was very interesting, but there was one building off to one side that looked a bit shabby and run down. The guide didn't mention it, and I was left wondering about it. I looked it up online afterwards and discovered it was called the Shunkoden, but didn't find much else except it was built in 1915 (so I guess it isn't a replica of an earlier building) and it's the only building in the palace still in regular use. As a tool shed, by the looks of it.

It was a real shame to go home in the end, but I'd filled up with Japan for another couple of years. Having to work out how each toilet works out before you use it loses its novelty after a while. I didn't get the DVDs I wanted – should've gone to Tokyo for that, but I did get a book on Kansai-ben/Japanese. And my Japanese is really no better than last time, which is a shame. All in all, though, a very nice holiday. Must do it again sometime.

A surprise discovery in the 100 yen section of a second-hand bookshop.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Hiroshima, non Amour

You know when you go to a music festival and an unknown band comes on, plays the set of their life and blows everyone away. Then next comes the more famous band who come on, and they're fine but there's no buzz, no shock of the new.

That's the situation that Hiroshima was in, following Matsue's performance. When I think back on my time there, I can't think of anything wrong with Hiroshima, but I still felt a bit deflated.

First on the agenda was to go to the A-bomb Dome, the Peace Park and the museum. The Dome is, like a lot of tourist attractions such as Stonehenge) a lot smaller than you think it would be. Meanwhile, the Peace Park is a lot noisier than you’d imagine from the name with the bell from the Children’s Peace Memorial and the melancholy tone of the Peace Bell ringing out.

The museum is a very powerful place, and there is one corridor where some testimonies from witnesses spoke about how their loved ones died. There were only four examples, which is just as well because I was already starting to well up after the second. If there’d been more, I’d have been a blubbering wreck by the end of the corridor.

I also went to the Itsukushima Shrine on an island near Hiroshima. It’s famous “floating” torii. I also went up for a walk in the mountains, which absolutely exhausted me and didn’t have very clear weather, so no great views when I got to the top.

On the way back down I was passed by a woman in a dress and wearing not-very-hiking-type shoes and I did wonder if she might be a suicide risk. But then I noticed that if she did want to kill herself, she was going the wrong way (ie, down) and she was taking photos. Now, the whole point of photos is so you can look at the afterwards, suggesting a life span longer than this afternoon. Suicide alert over.