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  • Writer's pictureNigel

They Say Nothing Stays The Same "Aru sendo no hanashi"

Updated: Jun 11, 2022


No it doesn't - especially in London. When I was there last week I noticed things - card payments are more common than in Germany, food deliveries by scooter or bicycle have flourished, tangling up the road traffic, and the Tube has improved. Who would have believed that the new cross rail project would ever be completed? A new rail line cutting through central London from West to East. Here I was last week at the end of Oxford Street, where I could have got a train directly to Heathrow Airport! Had to find an excuse to use it of course, so here are a couple of impressions from the day after it opened.....May 25th 2022, for the record. 新しいエリザベスライン-速くて静か.

Day 2 of The Elizabeth Line - quiet, fast and (still) clean..........そしてまだきれい!

Doors closing.......ドアが閉まっています....

Well, I let the doors close on me.


The first thing I did on arrival back in Germany was to dust off my bicycle and enjoy the evening sun.....ドイツに帰って....

I love cycling on these small roads which connect Langen with the next town, Dreieich. They are not open to regular traffic, making them a cyclists' paradise......サイクリストのための楽園 (I bet that is bad Japanese - sorry 🙇‍♀️)

Poppies dot the corn fields.......ひなげし - 雛罌粟.

Even the station has a certain calmness and stability about it, despite the new 9€ bonanza ticket. Hordes of people commute here to Frankfurt, either on the RB, the regional trains, or the SBahn, the local network which links Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Wiesbaden. ランゲン駅.


Whoops 😲! I nearly crushed it under my wheels. It was the strangest creature I have seen for a long time. Enormous. At least 2" (5cms) long, and scuttling across the cycle road like some antideluvian monster. A little boy was shrieking with excitement nearby....the boring parents ingnoring him of course. It was a cockchafer - a Maikäfer - こふきこがね or 粉吹金亀子. (I notice the Japanese has the kanji for "gold" in the word). What an extraordinary insect. This guy will only live for 4-5 weeks, having spent 3-4 years underground as a larvae. And during this time he will have been gnawing away at plant roots, for instance potato roots. Hence he's always been seen as a pest. There's a sort of plague of them at the moment - as a cyclist you are advised to keep your mouth shut! However, people have eaten really cockchafers in the past. A German newspaper from Fulda from the 1920s tells of students eating suger-coated cockchafers, and the French have a soup recipe (they would 😅).......................Well...err.....rather you than me....

Time to get away from creepy crawlies and see some films. The Nippon Connection has just finished in Frankfurt.,

This film festival is huge, in fact it must be the biggest Japanese film festival in Europe.There are so many films to see that the mind boggles (that's a good verb isn't it? can't translate it into 日本語 though). At first I settled for two - Under The Stars by Tatsushi Omori, and The Asadas! by Ryota Nakano. Both films were about young people growing up. In Under the Stars, a schoolgirl discovers the importance of family - despite her parents being involved in a curious sect involving "divine" water.

The Asadas starts as a hilarious romp, as a young boy sets out to be a professional photographer, starting with getting his family to pose as firefighters, or racing drivers. The mood changes dramatically as he witnesses the human and material devastation in northern Japan -Tōhoku- in 2011. We have all seen the pictures of this earthquake and Tsunami - the ships on dry land, the unrecognisable towns, the remains of a kindergarten....but this film brings us face to face with the people. Our photographer meets a teacher who, with a sort of numb automatism, is washing mud off family snapshots and pinning them up on a wall to dry. This is not fiction either. For many, the only tangible memory of their loved ones was a photograph, even if it was only in a school class shot. Here is humanity laid bare, and it is searing. Although the infrastructure has been repaired, the traumas remain. Unspeakable traumas.

As a counterpoint to this I joined Paula Nishikawa's fish-printing workshop (Gyotaku). Paula is from Vancouver, Canada, and has Japanese roots. She showed us how to add acrylic colours to the body of a (real) fish, and gently take an imprint using original Japanese Washi paper. It was great fun.....Here is one of my efforts....😊ぎょたく 魚拓. Japanese is a curious language 日本語は珍しい言語です- this word can also mean a screenshot of a webpage apparently.

Back to the screen. The film that made the most impression on me was my third choice - They Say Nothing Stays The Same, (Aru sendo no hanashi )

by Joe Odagiri. This is a slow burner. The setting is a stunningly beautiful river which winds through the mountains (Nagano, Gifu, Saitama.....location?). An old boatman lives on his own in a lonely shack. He is a simple man, but his isolation lends him a certain objectivity, and he is in tune with nature. He listens to the conversations of his passengers (who need his boat to reach the nearest village). Some mock him, some talk with him reflectively. But there is a presence which is barely seen in the film - a bridge being constructed around the nearest bend of the river. You hear the menacing clangs of iron in the background. For this is the 19th century, and the Meiji Era is ushering in great change throughout the country after 250 years of Sakoku - Isolation.鎖国. (I'm sorry to have to use this word again in my posts, but anyone trying to get into Japan in 2022 will sympathize).

One day his ferryboat bumps into the floating body of a young woman. Asking no questions, and in a calm unquestioning manner, he drags her onto the shore, to discover that she is still alive. It is the mystery of this woman which leads us to revelations of Buddhist re-incarnation. It is the lonely fox- Kitsune きつね 狐 - a potent symbol of Shintoism- spotted on the river bank, which worries our boatman.

And it is the profound honesty of the local hunter, who follows his deceased father's wish to leave his body in the woods as food for the animals, which hit me as one of the profoundest notes in the whole film. There is symbolism everywhere - the most obvious one being the river itself. One passenger jokes that, when his time comes, the boatman will have no problem crossing the River Styx.

Sometimes the film seems to lose itself in its own mystery and beauty, and I was not completely convinced by some of the animated graphics. However, all said and done, this is a film not to be missed. As in many Japanese films, you need time to watch it. No use being impatient for the last scene. It comes! The filming itself is breathtakingly beautiful. This is a real gem.

I actually watched it for €5 (Nippon On Demand) after the festival was over. I was therefore able to take a break in the middle, otherwise...... ?

Maybe it will be available on Netflix one day....maybe on Japanese Netflix?

The festival is interspersed with the occasional concert. And on the very evening I wanted to go to one my SBahn wasn't going anywhere - people had been discovered trespassing in the train tunnel in Frankfurt and there was chaos. In desperation I lugged my bike on to a Regional Bahn, hurriedly got off in Frankfurt central station and cycled at breakneck speed across Frankfurt - past the Opera house, past the Hauptwache, along the Zeil.....and then a dash into the foyer of the Internationales Theater. Groping for a seat in the darkness I was stunned into awe by the performance on the stage. Solo Koto player Karin Nakagawa had the audience on the edge of their seats. She was playing an unusually large Koto with 24 strings, and the sound was phenomenal. If you don't know what a Koto is, it's a sort of plucked harp which rests horizontally on the ground.

It has that unmistakably Japanese sound which sends shivers down your spine. A 'Cello has one bridge. The Koto has one for each string, and they can be moved during the performance for that classic Japanese glissando sound. Karin Nakagawa is a consummate musician. She re-pitches or re-tunes her koto before each song, and even invites questions from the audience. She has absolute mastery over her instrument, and her performance takes on an almost spiritual element. I had arrived a good 20 mins after the concert had started, but I'm so glad that I had made the effort.


I am going to end this post today with some scenes from my workshop. This is just to prove that I do actually do some work, and don't blog all day long 😁.

It was a special day because I got a new delivery of horsehair. This is one thing that has not changed for the last 300 years or so. Horsehair is the ONLY material that works on bows, be it a violin, viola, 'cello or bass.

I shall be re-hairing violin and 'cello bows for the next 6 months with this hair, so I need to get to know it. The best hair comes from Mongolia, where the horses are stocky and strong. I mean, when you see what some musicians do with their bows you would not want any weaker material....馬の毛.

And pianists, please, when your piano has ended its life, never, never throw out the ebony keys. They are ideal for the little details of violin fit up! 黒檀を捨てないでください!

Let's end with a classic shot of London - Piccadilly Circus, taken from the top of a bus 😀. Nothing much has changed here at least......except maybe the digital display on the left of the picture.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you found it interesting and that it didn't clog up your inbox.

Don't forget, the easy way is to subscribe, then I don't have to send out whatsapps or emails manually. But you may find this method a little impersonal.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.😊



Extra note :"Aru sendo no hanashi" actually means something like "talking about the story of the boatman". But as in all film titles, a literal translation rarely works. Hence we have the English title "They say nothing stays the same"

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