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  • Writer's pictureNigel

Dive in 飛び込んで

2023 年 11 月 3 日

I used to meet up regularly at a coffee shop in Frankfurt with my "tandem" partner. I would correct her English; she would patiently encourage me in Japanese. Hisako-san used to say that she liked to "immerse" herself in a foreign language. Like diving into a swimming pool.

Right. So here's me in Morioka, Iwate, and I have an earache. The Drugstore does not have eardrops, like you would find in a German Apotheke. Dive in. With the help of some recently-learned vocab from my teacher Miki-san.........

耳が痛い。 盛岡の耳鼻科に行かなければなりません。 緊張しています!

"Oh, you'll have to go to the hospital" says the chemist. OMG....a Japanese hospital? He's a busy man, but he kindly writes down the name of a local E.N.T. clinic. I push the slip of paper into a taxi driver's hand and hope for the best.....

He deposits me at a modest little doorway in another part of town. No time to decipher the Kanji on the door now, Nigel. Do I ring the bell? I slide open the door and find myself in a reception area. At least 14 people are sitting quietly here. I cause a surprised stir behind the reception desk. But I must have a natural gift of conversation, for soon the facts are established (do I need an appointment? no) and the receptionist is smiling. Unheard of in Germany. I am now sitting in a seat waiting for my call 😟.

Good grief. How does this work here? I have insurance but how do I pay? Bank transfer? Credit Card? Cash? how long will I have to wait? I am nervous. No need. The doctor's assistent almost kneels in front of me, clutching an ipad and regarding me with a concerned look. An hour later I am called into the surgery.

予約は必要ですか? カードで支払うにはどうすればよいですか? 現金? 銀行? 化学者という漢字は何でしょう? フロントで飲食はできますか?

There is an awkward pause, but the doctor is very polite and reassuring, and in no time has a digital picture of my eardrums on the monitor (is that what they look like?). It is when the conversation gets complicated that I have to call a friend who is a nurse. (it's important to have the right connections 😂). I hand the phone to the doctor whilst his two assistants wait patiently......

Ok. Nothing serious. But here is a prescription - the chemist is just around the corner. (where? what was the kanji for chemist again 😥? )

And then it happens.

That endearing helpfulness I so often experience in Japan. The little receptionist accompanies me to the chemist, walking down the street with me in her white lab coat. She explains the situation to the chemist. Not only do I get my prescription, but a print-out with photos of how to use it. What a relief 💦.

Now I know how my Japanese friends feel when they have their first visit to a German doctor.

Here is a picture of me soon after, feeling very happy. Mount Iwate's benevolent presence is in the background.

This is Japan.

I had dived in (but not into the river 😊).


Now for something less stressful.

In the my last post I briefly mentioned the "Kyoto of the North". This is the old regional capital - Hiraizumi (平泉), a town which flourished in the Heian Period (12thc.). The most powerful clan at the time was the Fujiwara family, who chose Hiraizumi as their northern base in 1105. Much of Japanese history seems to involve warring clans, and this place is no exception, being razed to the ground in 1149 by Minamoto Yorimoto. What does remain are some fascinating temples. So here are some impressions .......At Chuson-ji temple you are greeted by this Jizo - a deity for children


...and you walk through shady maples...... 紅葉

But the hit for us was the little temple outside town called the Takkoku no Iwaya. It was a 30-minute cycle ride, but well worth it......私たちは自転車で 達谷窟 行きました

We cycled past the fresh new rice in the fields......新鮮な緑米

Eventually arriving at Takkoku no Iwaya 達谷窟. The temple is curiously built into a rock face.........

A quiet pond below reflects a solitary ginko tree....


...and a dragonfly greets us.....*Japan was once known as Akitsu-shima, or Dragonfly Island, where akitsu is the old word for dragonfly and shima means island or islands.

とんぼ 蜻蛉 がお出迎え...

It is a quiet spot. Places have vibes. I remember once standing in awe contemplating the nave of Rheims cathedral. You don't have to understand....just empty your mind and let the peace take over. And here, in this 12thc. temple, you stop. Time stops. I cannot explain it.

Google翻訳ではこう書いてあります。 できれば改善してください!

静かな場所です。 場所には雰囲気があります。 かつて私は、ランス大聖堂の身廊を眺めて畏敬の念を抱いて立ったときのことを覚えています。 理解する必要はありません...心を空っぽにして、平和に任せてください。 そしてここ、この12世紀。 寺院、やめてください。 時間が止まります。 説明できません。

A lion guards the entrance.....入口をライオンが守っている…

...and the rock face glows through the doorways. You do not take photographs. This is accepted as a given in Buddhist temples.


There is a list of donors outside - people who have contributed to the upkeep and restoration of the complex. You can hear the thud of hammer upon chisel. A craftsman is perched in a roof space cutting a new wooden joint. He is using one of those Japanese chisels which we use in violinmaking.


Like monasteries in Europe, temples are often built in places of natural beauty. Raising my eyes behind the temple I see this: The stunning autumn of Japan. Koyo.

ヨーロッパの修道院と同様、寺院は自然の美しい場所に建てられることが多い. 紅葉. こうよう.

Traditional architecture in Japan allows nature in........


Soon it is time to return our rental bicycles. But down the road I come to a halt with screeching brakes to admire this persimmon tree.....

Many of the farms have them, and they are delicious as a breakfast treat.....


All too soon my guide has to return to Tokyo (some people have to work!). But the Shinkansen will whisk her there in a couple of hours.......Ichinoseki station.....

私のガイドは東京に戻らなければなりません。 働かなければいけない人もいる!

The Japanese like to name their trains. This one is called the "Yamabiko". Sayonara!

🚲 Thank you for reading "..Dive in.."


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🚲 And it would be nice to hear from you...!





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Nov 08, 2023

I didn’t realize your were already here! Welcome, and I hope your ear is totally recovered. What a nightmare! The temple built into the cliff is similar to one in Chiba on the Boso Peninsula. Very beautiful, like the one you found there.

Nov 30, 2023
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Must visiit Chiba!

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