Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dusty Pages of Another Season

Journal entries: June 2006 - September 2007


Telephone call from Moriyama-san at Fullhalter, the new Pilot Custom 823 fountain pen is ready for pick up. The work wasn’t scheduled to be finished before 8 July.


Restaurant in Oimachi called the Sun Room, with Kumiko after picking up the Pilot fountain pen. Pen in hand and full of Montblanc black ink (a very old bottle from 1985). Always thrilled with a new pen from Moriyama-san, this one is no different. As smooth as cream, the nib a perfect width and the whole thing a comfortable size and weight in my hand. The old Montblanc black ink is a surprise—a happy surprise. It has a sumi-like shade that I like. Everything feels just right with both pen and ink.


Flashback to a memory from early days in Japan when I saw almost every day young businessmen on the way to work wearing the familiar dark suit, and snowy white socks inside black or brown dress shoes. Fast forward 25 years and it’s no longer old-fashioned white socks, but the hugely popular low-cut sport socks which almost everyone wears now. Look at the feet of young businessmen on the train these days and you will see those ankle high socks in dress shoes. Statement on the Japanese male’s sense of fashion?


At de feet o’ Jesus,

Sorrow like a sea.

Lordy, let yo’ mercy

Come driftin’ down on me.

At de feet o’ Jesus,

At yo’ feet I stand.

O, ma precious Jesus,

Please reach out yo’ hand. —Langston Hughes, 1932


Doutor for lunch, but luck is against me this time on my cherished 3rd floor. No sooner do I sit down at my favorite table, then here comes a herd of giggling, chattering housewives who quickly slam 3 tables together, pull down all the shades to erase the flood of sunlight and launch into loud banter.

In the middle of 3 books now, and depending upon where I am the book changes. Sitting at the kitchen table it’s book 13 in the Aubrey/Maturin series, slumped in the big blue chair it’s the book about Japanese student soldiers in WWII, Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers. The 3rd book, and the one in my bag now is Dickens’ Great Expectations, also the one I read on the train or bus.


“Coming of Age Day” in Japan. 20 year-olds are celebrating their new ADULT status. Tokyo cold, as it always is on this day of the year. Passed an enjoyable afternoon with Sawane-san in Shinjuku yesterday. Been a long time since I had walked about the area just east of the station, and the changes surprised me—though they shouldn’t have, since no city anywhere tears down and rebuilds as much as Japan. The old oden restaurant Isuzu that a friend and I went to almost every Friday night for 2 or 3 years is now a Starbucks. Too bad, since the building was pre-war and the inside of the bar-restaurant all of that period. Everything has changed, everything.

Sawane-san and I went to the fountain pen clinic at Isetan, but it turned out to be a slight disappointment. Sawane-san was unable to get his Sailor King Cobra repaired.


Looking for something to read and rummaging through the book closet, I uncovered something I don’t even remember buying, a rather handsome 1st edition hardback of Donald Richie’s Japanese Literature Reviewed (2003). It is a collection of his reviews written over the years for his weekly column in The Japan Times. Happy to find that.


Done with a workout at the health club and in Doutor now for a spot of iced coffee, some scribbling and hopefully some moments of quiet here on the 3rd floor. Such a warm, warm March day for Tokyo, especially for a day barely out of February. Read a good bit of Shiga Naoya while riding the stationery bike at Tipness. Almost 20 miles in 60 minutes and 4 Shiga short stories. Thinking I might do a Shiga story in the lit classes at the university during the 2007-08 school year. Maybe some Shiga, maybe some Miyazawa Kenji, and maybe a selection from Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Need to think too about finding a replacement for the dear-to-me E.B. White essay “Once More to the Lake.”


Reading Raymond Chandler these days. Talk about ‘economy of expression,’ Chandler can say more in 4 words than most can say in 24. Interesting essay by Chandler called “The Simple Act of Murder” that prefaces his collection of stories with the same name. Love what he said about famous English mystery writer Dorothy Sayers. She: ‘The detective story does not, and never can, attain the loftiest level of literary achievement.’ Chandler: ‘I do not know what the loftiest level of literary achievement is: neither did Aeschylus or Shakespeare; neither does Miss Sayers.’ —‘A male cutie with henna’d hair drooped at a bungalow grand piano and tickled the keys lasciviously and sang “Stairway to the Stars” in a voice with half the steps missing.’ —Chandler, Farewell My Lovely


Saw something on the Classic Fountain Pens website last night I’m going to buy. It’s a cleansing cream to remove ink from hands and fingers, and do I ever need something to get the ink off my hands. Most of the time my fingers look like a Technicolor screen test.

Enjoyed the movie I saw yesterday in Kichijôji. Bloody spectacle of 480 BC, the Spartan stand at Thermapolae. The fight and battle choreography was excellent, and almost like a bloody ballet with spears, swords and shields. Have to laugh at the critics who get so uppity about 300 being nothing but a shallow and bloody mishmash with no historical veracity. Are they trying to fool themselves with such pretentious claptrap? It’s a Hollywood spectacle, for God’s sake, a film treatment of a graphic novel. What the critics missed was the director’s faithfulness to the format of narrative told through a series of frames on a page. Again and again in the film you see characters in a ‘comic book’ pose. This is especially true in the lush and bloody fight scenes. Freeze the frame and move it straight onto the page of a graphic novel or comic book. Well done and completely over the head of the critics. Same kind of technique in the Japanese movie Ping Pong, which also originated as a comic book.


Rainy and slightly chilly day in Tokyo. Some might call it autumn weather, but to me it doesn’t have that feeling. The air is different. What we call autumn in Tokyo has an entire vocabulary all its own, and there’s none of that in this last day of September. Nonetheless, I wear an autumn-intended pullover despite the contradiction of my sockless feet in a pair of Rockport deck shoes.


  1. I can imagine that when you penned those entries you had no idea that in 6 more years you would be living and relaxing on the Atlantic beach; however, since you had at that time already purchased your condo maybe you did look into the future and dream of lazy days watching the sea gulls fly over in formation.

  2. Nothing quite like a journal to put yourself in touch with what you were reading, doing, thinking, who you were at that point in time. And hopefully it is like visiting an old friend, someone you had so much in common with, but knowing now how much they have changed.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America