top of page
  • Writer's pictureNigel

Mendelssohn, Isolation and the Home Country メンデルスゾーン,鎖国と母国

Updated: Jun 1, 2022


When I was a child,子供の時,

one of the highlights of the school choir year was to sing in a big concert. To us they were huge events. Weeks of practising with heavy important looking scores and the thrill of having a real orchestra to sing with. Naturally the orchestra was actually a cobbled together band of local Sussex instrumentalists and the odd talented child. On the first violins was the local violin dealer. Then on the first row of Cellos was my cello teacher. I was actually rather scared of her. She would talk about her son who had just founded a group called the King's Singers, which sounded terribly important. Then there was our neigbour, a horn player whose book on the French Horn later was to become a standard text book on the instrument. Near him there was a woodwind teacher who insisted on being called by his military title "Major". What a bunch!

So it was that I was swept along in the excitement of Bach's B-minor Mass, Berlioz's Te Deum. and Mendelssohn's Elijah. Elijah had a good story attached to it - a real old Testament story of pagan fires and a chariot being swept up to heaven. There was this fire lighting contest, and the prophet Elijah was on the right side (his fire worked) while the poor old prophets of Baal - well they didn't have time to get depressed about their fires not getting lit because they were all killed off anyway. Good bloodthirsty stuff for schoolboys like me. And at the tender age of 13 I probably assumed that Mendelssohn was sort of British, because, after all, the score was in English wasn't it?

Many decades later a friend of mine is coaxing a German choir through this piece. And lo and behold, at the point where the "fiery chariots went by a whirlwind to heaven", we get "Da kam ein feurige Wagon, mit feurigen, 🔥 feurigen Rossen, und er fuhr im Wetter gen Himmel" (and there came a flaming wagon, which drove through the weather to heaven....") Goodness, I only hope the windscreen wipers were working......! 😂


and see those semi-quavers in the piano line? well read furious scrubbing from the local violin teachers at this point, with clouds of rosin dust (like incense) ascending to heaven......


Japan opens up to foreign tourists after two years

Really? 本当ですか.

It's a nice headline on the BBC website, but here is the reality.......... 🎌

It is nearly three years since I have seen friends in Japan. And my patience, like so many others, is wearing thin. I cannot claim to make a business trip, I am not enrolled in a University in Tokyo, I am not married into a Japanese family. I am simply an ordinary person who would like to visit the country. Here in Germany we welcome Japanese tourists, and they are able to return to their country without hindrance. But the other way round? NO! ⛔ NO ENTRY. It is frustrating to say the least.

Here is a quote from the Japan Times 17th May 2022:

"The government said on Tuesday it would start conducting "test tourism" in the form of limited package tours in May as a way of gathering information prior to a full reopening of the country to tourism.

The Japan Tourism Agency said that it would start allowing small group tours to enter from later this month as "test cases" to gain information for a broader resumption of tourism at an unspecified future date.


Tourists who have been triple-vaccinated and come from the a list of "blue" countries will be allowed to take part in the tours, which will be strictly planned in conjunction with Japanese travel agencies and accompanied at all times by tour conductors, it said in a statement.

"This venture will allow us to verify compliance and emergency responses for infection prevention and formulate guidelines for travel agencies and accommodation operators to keep in mind," it said.

The move to receive such tourists, currently not allowed to enter due to border control measures in response to COVID-19 in Japan, comes as the country faces a growing pressure from the international community and domestic businesses to reopen the border.

If there are no major problems, the government will gradually expand the range of foreign tourists allowed into Japan, government sources said.

On a television program Friday, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that a major concern over the border control measures is when and how far Japan will reopen its borders to foreign tourists.

"We will conduct an experiment soon" to start reopening borders next month or after, he said.

Through the project, the government will see whether tourist movements will be adequately managed and whether coronavirus infections among participants will be dealt with appropriately.

During the trial phase, small groups of foreign travelers will visit sightseeing spots based on fixed itineraries in order for the government to see whether it can grasp their movements.

Japan will not allow individual tourists for the time being, the sources added. Great. I bet these group tours cost a bomb, on top of the fun of being in a group being monitored like some plague victims. If you want even more detail look here:

So, we normal people have had to learn the new meaning of sakoku (鎖国, "locked country") which, historically speaking, was the isolationist foreign policy of the JapaneseTokugawa shogunate under which, for a period of 265 years during the Edo period (from 1603 to 1868), relations and trade between Japan and other countries were severely limited, and nearly all foreign nationals were banned from entering Japan, while common Japanese people were kept from leaving the country. The difference is that in 2022 they may leave the country and return.


Time to turn my attention this month to the UK. Back to the home country. I did try and be environmentally friendly, but the odds were stacked against me. Should I drive? no. An old Audi spewing out diesel fumes did not seem to be the answer. Take the train from Frankfurt to Paddington? I had done this before, but now a ticket costs €250. Fly? €140 return to London City Airport....what choice is there?

So it was that I found myself transported to North London last week, to the delightful little enclave of old Walthamstow E17. Even though it is served by the Victoria Line and the overground railway to Liverpool Street, it's hard to believe that you are in London at all. Here are some pictures near my friend's house...


A Victorian postbox has been preserved ビクトリア朝時代の郵便ポスト

Residents only here, but, but not the sort who would complain.....古い墓地

I've never seen an village church have such a thorough restoration. Lottery funds apparently...村の教会は修理中です

View through the west door....西のドアから見る

Little paths weave between the gravestones......小さな道

Marcie the cat liked me I think, but I am still picking white hairs from my fleece jacket...マーシー猫はとてもかわいいです

There are other animals in the area. Foxes are now a common sight near the railway embankments....This one is listening to the Jazz coming out of the Nag's Head - the pub on the right. Or is it waiting for a morsel of pizza? 狐!

On Saturday I had decided to visit Japan House in Kensington. Always have one goal when heading into central London. There are so may distractions along the way. Mind the Gap for one...

Or turn to look at the buildings themselves......エレガントな地下鉄駅

and the iconic signs....

At Japan House I was meeting up with Enka singer Akari Mochizuki, who herself was on her way to a multi-cultural event showing off national styles of traditional dress.

Those Kimonos - I think they stole the show! 日本の着物はやっぱり目立ちます😉. Mochi and colleague pose to represent 日本.

As for Japan House, we wondered who actually bought the expensive high design stuff there. 法被.

Pottery, glassware, kitchen utensils, cloths etc. All exquisitely beautiful, but more of an exhibition than a shop. There was a sort of bar at the entrance....美味しい抹茶.

And the restaurant upstairs, well........Needless to say we sought lunch further along Kensington High Street which was more realistically priced (!).



Did you enjoy this post? この投稿を読んでいただきありがとうございます。 新しい投稿のお知らせを受け取りたい場合は、上部の購読フォームに記入してください。 ありがとう!Nigel.😊 do subscribe if you want new posts automatically in your inbox. How about forwarding on to a friend ?

Thank you this week for additional photos! Nik, Mochi.

94 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page