I loved the food in Japan, I was even converted to eating Japanese breakfast every day instead of toast or a croissant. So I was eating fish at three meals per day. I also walked a great deal, more than 85 miles in 12 days, with no pains in my feet, I think the reported benefits of fish oil are indeed true.
Japanese food is very much based around Dashi, which is a stock made from dried fish flakes – usually tuna and kelp – large leaves of a particular kind of seaweed. Also Miso paste which is made by fermenting beans.
I am always nervous of photographing people, it seems so intrusive. I do sometimes ask and I’m happy to not take their photo if they say no – of course. But actually asking can be awkward, embarrassing and often just too late, the moment has gone.
It’s not really come as a surprise to me as I have heard so many people’s stories of how Japan is marvellous.
So I am really pleased to report that I totally concur, in fact there is so much I like about Japan, I’m not sure where to start.
I was there for just two weeks and every moment of every day was a joy, from the most mundane things right through to the most important and significant are just so good.
In corner shops you can withdraw money, buy socks, or a white shirt, delicious tangy sweets, or chocolate coated macadamia nuts. Half a bottle of white wine in a bottle-shaped can for £1.95! All manner of snacks, treats and drinks all new and wonderfully surprising.
I am glad to have experienced the calm meditative space of a Buddhist temple prayer led by a monk, whilst sitting on tatami mats. Even for non-believers it’s a deeply moving experience, a chance to meditate and understand how lucky we are.
Japan – for a visitor, is an incredible safe place, I have wandered the streets at night with my camera, taking photos and not once felt in the slightest bit anxious or out of place.
I have travelled here with a group of amateur photographers, guided by two tutors who are ready and willing and expert at advising on settings and opportunities. As well as leading us to the most amazing places, organising transport, tickets, hotels, everything.
We visited a tiny family run Sake factory to taste their wares and see the extraordinary equipment dating from more than 50 years ago. And we’ve been to the tech area of Tokyo to buy the latest gadgets. We’ve had hot baths in the open, with expansive views, eaten banquets whilst seated cross legged on tatami mats and sipped cocktails in a bar on the 34th floor overlooking Tokyo.
The food is extraordinary and of such incredibly good quality and freshness, lots of raw fish and pickled plums and rare beef, bean curd, edible flowers, all sorts of new flavours. And plenty of Japanese beer and Sake.
So much more to tell but here are some photos to suggest some of the wonder of Japan.
A whole series of my work has been inspired by a drawing of my father’s from 30 years ago. His original was based on visually extracting shapes from a classic Tumbling Blocks schema used in drawing, painting, patchwork and many other formats.
This is his drawing on paper in ink and two thicknesses of line.
I have made a number of drawn versions of my own.
After many other versions in drawing, painting and cutting I have now embarked on a low relief version in painted plywood. The pieces were cut out usung a tiny reciprocating jig-saw that my mother owned from the mid ’80s.
Here are some of the stages I have passed through. Hopefully tomorrow it will be finished.