Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Hanami (花見) Cherry Blossom Viewing, to and from work

Around Sakuranomiya station

hHnami at night on the way back from work last night, local park

Hoping to catch the trees lit up, a stroll along the river at night, later in the week perhaps but rain threatening.

Hanami parties - Maruyama park
fond memories of  here from when  lived in Kyoto last time, but so crowded

Two from Kyoto, ten years ago (pre Yoga)

More Hanami posts sure to follow 


Reflections from the Cherry Blossom Squadron 

Kamikaze Diaries: Reflections of Japanese Student Soldiers
 By Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney


Saturday, 28 March 2015

Okonimiyaki (お好み焼き), Seneca..... and gyoza

Always feels a small triumph to order a beer and Okonomiyaki on my own and have it turn up just as I like it. 

Best bit is sitting there reading, supping a cold beer in anticipation while trying to guess which one on the griddle is yours.

Sent this picture to M. with apologies for going on my own, am in big trouble, 
....of course the worst thing you can do if you're married to a girl from Osaka is to go to one of the  favoured Okonomiyaki restaurants without her.

Panorama of my favourite, local, okonomiyaki shop.

We were discussing this, Japanese have 'ya' which means roof so Okonomiyaki-ya, Sushi-ya.... but what to call it in English, It doesn't exactly feel like a restaurant, it has  a little of the feel of an English Cafe but I wouldn't call it that, so am stuck with 'Place'. Our local Okonimiyaki place.


Something about sitting at a counter always reminds me of Harrison Ford in Blade Runner although he was in China town eating noodles ( that is modern yaki above, Okonomiyaki with noodles on top), worst part of being a vegetarian is not being able to go to Osho and order gyoza at the counter.

Harrison Ford sitting at a counter in Blade Runner

Osho, it's gyoza and kimchi fried rice, what I miss most about being a vegetarian in Japan.

"As the name indicates, Osho’s specialty is gyoza (pot sticker), but it’s more of a general purpose Chinese food chain than a restaurant that pushes ramen — which is prominent on the menu, but stir fry seems to be more their bag. The first Osho opened in Kyoto in 1967, and now there are 533 outlets nationwide, though almost none in northern Japan, which doesn’t seem that interested in Chinese food.

Osho’s sales point is its open kitchen policy. Unlike family restaurants, the work area is visible, so that the customers can see their food being made. Also there are no pre-processed meals in frozen containers or retort pouches. Though the gyoza filling and wrappers are made at a factory, the pot stickers (¥231 for six in eastern Japan, slightly less in western Japan) themselves are made in the individual restaurants. “Handmade” is the operative concept".

Gyoza and Kimchi fried rice, although why anyone would order just the one plate of Gyoza is beyond me.
M. is promising me a Japanese version but without the counter......


Needless to say, not many quotes on 'food' from the Stoics, so this from the Epicureans.

“To eat and drink without a friend is to devour like the lion and the wolf.” 
― Epicurus

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Love (恋) and practice (練習)

Leak in the bathroom, bath being ripped out, it's going to take a week.
In the past, with an extended family sharing small houses, the short stay hotel was born, a chance to get away from the kids, the in-laws etc.

It's also possible to have a long stay, all night in fact  and is often the cheapest most comfortable option in town (from 8pm - 2pm = 5100 yen).

Osaka they has come to embrace kitsch, the above is one of the ... 'fanciest' unfortunately it was full when we arrived so had to go across the street.
 At first glance  Glitzy, a close inspection shows it's age, the 70's perhaps which might explain the Saturday Night fever dance floor.

A room with ten thousand loves stories, if the walls were inclined to whisper....

Heart shaped graphic equaliser, obviously.
The jazz station had a fondness for Lester young,he would have approved I think. 
...and how could I resist practicing here.

with so many blown bulbs, it reminded me a little of code, The matrix perhaps, and the more I think about these rooms....
unfortunately there was only a red HAL like light (above the bed..... I know), not green,
wrong movie. 


Krishnamacharya's Sirsasana ekapada vipariakarani - (Hatha Yoga)
The windows of such hotels are shuttered, discrete.... letting the world in the following morning however, temples and magnolia

"ai (愛)" and "koi (恋)"


            "I think Panaetius gave a charming answer to the youth who asked whether the wise man would fall in love: ‘As to the wise man, we shall see.  What concerns you and me, who are still a great distance from the wise man, is to ensure that we do not fall into a state of affairs which is disturbed, powerless, subservient to another and worthless to oneself." 

(Epictetus . 116. 5, trans. Long and Sedley)


Stoic practice


“Wherever I go, it will be well with me.”

"When I see a man in a state of anxiety, I say, What can this man want? If he did not want something which is not in his power, how could he still be anxious?"

"Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire."

"Nothing outside the will can hinder or harm the will; it can only harm itself. If then we accept this, and, when things go amiss, are inclined to blame ourselves, remembering that judgment alone can disturb our peace and constancy, I swear to you by all the gods that we have made progress."

"If you would not fail of what you seek, or incur what you shun, desire nothing that belongs to others; shun nothing that lies beyond your own control; otherwise you must necessarily be disappointed in what you seek, and incur what you shun."

"In a word, neither death, nor exile, nor pain, nor anything of this kind, is the real cause of our doing or not doing any action, but our opinions and the decisions of our will."

"Where is the good? In the will. Where is the evil? In the will. Where is neither of them? In those things which are independent of the will."

"Who then is the invincible? It is he whom none of the things disturb which are independent of the will."
"No man is free who is not master of himself."

"Wherever I go it will be well with me, for it was well with me here, not on account of the place, but of my judgments which I shall carry away with me, for no one can deprive me of these; on the contrary, they alone are my property, and cannot be taken away, and to possess them suffices me wherever I am or whatever I do."

"I am formed by nature for my own good: I am not formed for my own evil."

"If, therefore, any be unhappy, let him remember that he is unhappy by reason of himself alone."

"Every person must deal with each thing according to the opinion that he holds about it."

"Permit nothing to cleave to you that is not your own; nothing to grow to you that may give you agony when it is torn away."

"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has."

Marcus Aurelius:

"The universe is change, life is opinion."

"Get rid of the judgement ... get rid of the 'I am hurt,' you are rid of the hurt itself."

"The mind in itself wants nothing, unless it creates a want for itself; therefore it is both free from perturbation and unimpeded, if it does not perturb and impede itself."

"Everything is right for me, which is right for you, O Universe. Nothing for me is too early or too late, which comes in due time for you. Everything is fruit to me which your seasons bring, O Nature. From you are all things, in you are all things, to you all things return."

"Let there be freedom from perturbation with respect to the things which come from external causes, and in actions whose cause lies in yourself, be just; that is, let impulse and action terminate in social acts, for this is according to your nature."

"If you are distressed by any external thing, it is not this thing which disturbs you, but your own judgment about it. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now."

"Nothing happens to any man which he is not framed by nature to bear."

"It is in our power to refrain from any opinion about things and not to be disturbed in our souls; for things in themselves have no natural power to force our judgments."

"If you work at that which is before you, following right reason seriously, vigorously, calmly, without allowing anything else to distract you, but keeping your divine part pure, as if you were bound to give it back immediately; if you hold to this, expecting nothing, but satisfied to live now according to nature, speaking heroic truth in every word which you utter, you will live happy. And there is no man able to prevent this."

"Everywhere and at all times it is in your power to accept reverently your present condition, to behave justly to those about you, and to exert your skill to control your thoughts, that nothing shall steal into them without being well examined."

"How ridiculous and how strange to be surprised at anything which happens in life!"

"Outward things cannot touch the soul, not in the least degree; nor have they admission to the soul, nor can they turn or move the soul; but the soul turns and moves itself alone."


"The point is, not how long you live, but how nobly you live."
"That which Fortune has not given, she cannot take away."

"Let Nature deal with matter, which is her own, as she pleases; let us be cheerful and brave in the face of everything, reflecting that it is nothing of our own that perishes."

"The soul should know whither it is going and whence it came, what is good for it and what is evil, what it seeks and what it avoids, and what is that Reason which distinguishes between the desirable and the undesirable, and thereby tames the madness of our desires and calms the violence of our fears."

"Virtue is nothing else than right reason."


Sunday, 22 March 2015

ofuro お風呂 - bath

Bath being ripped out and leak fixed

Sento for the next week it seems

Sento - Japanese public bath

Below, the local 'old school' Sento

reception, bath time


coin operated massage chair

Another option, certain hotels offer rooms (with bath) for just an hour or even two.

unfortunately this one is in Tokyo

The (occasionally) Stoic Philosopher Seneca famously committed suicide in the bath, or at least according to to Tacitus a bath was involved at some point.

RUBENS Pieter Paul - Flemish (Siegen 1577-1640 Antwerp) ~ the Dying Seneca:

Tacitus: The Death of Seneca, 65 CE
Seneca had been a friend and confidant of Nero, but, esevtually was susepcted by Nero of plotting against him.

Then followed the destruction of Annaeus Seneca, a special joy to the emperor, not because he had convicted him of the conspiracy, but anxious to accomplish with the sword what poison had failed to do. It was, in fact, Natalis alone who divulged Seneca's name, to this extent, that he had been sent to Seneca when ailing, to see him and remonstrate with him for excluding Piso from his presence, when it would have been better to have kept up their friendship by familiar intercourse; that Seneca's reply was that mutual conversations and frequent interviews were to the advantage of neither, but still that his own life depended on Piso's safety. Gavius Silvanus, tribune of a praetorian cohort, was ordered to report this to Seneca and to ask him whether he acknowledged what Natalis said and his own answer. Either by chance or purposely Seneca had returned on that day from Campania, and had stopped at a country house four miles from Rome. Thither the tribune came next evening, surrounded the house with troops of soldiers, and then made known the emperor's message to Seneca as he was at dinner with his wife, Pompeia Paulina, and two friends.

Seneca replied that Natalis had been sent to him and had complained to him in Piso's name because of his refusal to see Piso, upon which he excused himself on the ground of failing health and the desire of rest. "He had no reason," he said, for "preferring the interest of any private citizen to his own safety, and he had no natural aptitude for flattery. No one knew this better than Nero, who had oftener experienced Seneca's free spokenness than his servility." When the tribune reported this answer in the presence of Poppaea and Tigellinus, the emperor's most confidential advisers in his moments of rage, he asked whether Seneca was meditating suicide. Upon this the tribune asserted that he saw no signs of fear, and perceived no sadness in his words or in his looks. He was accordingly ordered to go back and to announce sentence of death. Fabius Rusticus tells us that he did not return the way he came, but went out of his course to Faenius, the commander of the guard, and having explained to him the emperor's orders, and asked whether he was to obey them, was by him admonished to carry them out, for a fatal spell of cowardice was on them all. For this very Silvanus was one of the conspirators, and he was now abetting the crimes which he had united with them to avenge. But he spared himself the anguish of a word or of a look, and merely sent in to Seneca one of his centurions, who was to announce to him his last doom.

Seneca, quite unmoved, asked for tablets on which to inscribe his will, and, on the centurion's refusal, turned to his friends, protesting that as he was forbidden to requite them, he bequeathed to them the only, but still the noblest possession yet remaining to him, the pattern of his life, which, if they remembered, they would win a name for moral worth and steadfast friendship. At the same time he called them back from their tears to manly resolution, now with friendly talk, and now with the sterner language of rebuke. "Where," he asked again and again, "are your maxims of philosophy, or the preparation of so many years' study against evils to come? Who knew not Nero's cruelty? After a mother's and a brother's murder, nothing remains but to add the destruction of a guardian and a tutor."
Having spoken these and like words, meant, so to say, for all, he embraced his wife; then softening awhile from the stern resolution of the hour, he begged and implored her to spare herself the burden of perpetual sorrow, and, in the contemplation of a life virtuously spent, to endure a husband's loss with honourable consolations. She declared, in answer, that she too had decided to die, and claimed for herself the blow of the executioner. There upon Seneca, not to thwart her noble ambition, from an affection too which would not leave behind him for insult one whom he dearly loved, replied: "I have shown you ways of smoothing life; you prefer the glory of dying. I will not grudge you such a noble example. Let the fortitude of so courageous an end be alike in both of us, but let there be more in your decease to win fame."

Then by one and the same stroke they sundered with a dagger the arteries of their arms. Seneca, as his aged frame, attenuated by frugal diet, allowed the blood to escape but slowly, severed also the veins of his legs and knees. Worn out by cruel anguish, afraid too that his sufferings might break his wife's spirit, and that, as he looked on her tortures, he might himself sink into irresolution, he persuaded her to retire into another chamber. Even at the last moment his eloquence failed him not; he summoned his secretaries, and dictated much to them which, as it has been published for all readers in his own words, I forbear to paraphrase.

Nero meanwhile, having no personal hatred against Paulina and not wishing to heighten the odium of his cruelty, forbade her death. At the soldiers' prompting, her slaves and freedmen bound up her arms, and stanched the bleeding, whether with her knowledge is doubtful. For as the vulgar are ever ready to think the worst, there were persons who believed that, as long as she dreaded Nero's relentlessness, she sought the glory of sharing her husband's death, but that after a time, when a more soothing prospect presented itself, she yielded to the charms of life. To this she added a few subsequent years, with a most praise worthy remembrance of her husband, and with a countenance and frame white to a degree of pallor which denoted a loss of much vital energy.

Seneca meantime, as the tedious process of death still lingered on, begged Statius Annaeus, whom he had long esteemed for his faithful friendship and medical skill, to produce a poison with which he had some time before provided himself, same drug which extinguished the life of those who were condemned by a public sentence of the people of Athens. It was brought to him and he drank it in vain, chilled as he was throughout his limbs, and his frame closed against the efficacy of the poison. At last he entered a pool of heated water, from which he sprinkled the nearest of his slaves, adding the exclamation, "I offer this liquid as a libation to Jupiter the Deliverer." He was then carried into a bath, with the steam of which he was suffocated, and he was burnt without any of the usual funeral rites. So he had directed in a codicil of his will, when even in the height of his wealth and power he was thinking of his life's close.

Tacitus: Annals, Book 15, Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb. Slightly adapted. Full text online at http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html

fugu 河豚

in Nakazakicho, here unfortunately appreciated for something other than their craftsmanship

Skilful practice

"Let no act be done without a purpose, nor otherwise than according to the perfect principles of art."

Marcus Aurelius- Meditations