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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Any excuse to play with fire

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After a session at the Gym with Tom this morning it was back home, get changed, then out again for the English lesson I have every Sunday (I'm the teacher, not the student). On my way through the park in front I couldn't help but notice a gathering of hundreds of local residents, all of whom had brought the kadomatsu ("gate pine") from outside of their front doors.

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These are placed outside the front door to welcome ancestral spirits, and to keep a thriving pine decoration industry going.

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Playing with fire is a popular pastime in Japan, and mad festivals involving naked people doing crazy things with fireballs are not uncommon. I asked a few people if burning kadomatsu is a an old Japanese tradition, but they said no.

So it would seem that this is a new invention, a good excuse for the local pyromaniacs to have a bit of fun.

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This chap with the hose pipe was very amusing, happily squirting the fire in a bid to, er, well, get it wet I suppose. He then decided to soak the pagodas that had been set up along the side of the park ("they might catch fire!") and under which a group of cute little grannyies sat. They were not best pleased as he wasn't very good with his aim and ended up squirting them in the face! He was eventually relieved of hose duties by a little child who knew better.

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All in all, it was jolly good fun, and another reason to stay in this area. Negotiations re. the contract start next week.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thought on New Years resolutions

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Ri-kun on the tatami

I finished reading Obama's "The Audacity of Hope" this evening. [Wikipedia] [official site]. The New York Times accurately described it as "much more of a political document. Portions of the volume read like outtakes from a stump speech, and the bulk of it is devoted to laying out Mr. Obama’s policy positions on a host of issues, from education to health care to the war in Iraq."

Whilst it might sound like it would be a right yawn for someone like me who has little interest in politics, I liked it a lot (although admittedly, I did fast-forward through some chapters that in which he talked in detail about the US political process). It served to give me a feel for Obama as a person, and I must say, he seems to be a bloomin' nice chap. I also found myself thinking that I'm like his wife, Michelle, in some ways.

I'm now listening to 'Tribes' by Seth Godin, which focuses upon marketing in the age of Twitter and Facebook. It's received mixed reviews, with some people noting that it just reads like a load of blog posts, that there's nothing new in it and that it lacks depth. All true perhaps, but that doesn't bother me. As someone very much interested in the uses of social networking services in marketing / creating communities / building businesses, I find it fascinating - and inspiring too. There's a fair amount of inspirational stuff in it that can be found in many other 'You can do it' books - but I need to hear this.

I am an ideas person, but I fear putting my ideas into action. Ideas for a publishing company. Ideas for a Penguin business. Every day, lots of ideas.

I think much of this fear stems from a fear of what others may think of me, a fear that is utterly ridiculous and serves no useful purpose in my life - it only holds me back. It kind of p*sses me off really.

I know I've come a long way, but I could do so much better. The fact is that those people who really know me know that I'm a good, trustworthy person - with flaws. Thus, they forgive me my errors in judgement and continue to support me, in return for my support and love of them. I don't need to fear losing those who are precious to me (they include all of my friends).

But what of those who think I'm stupid, misguided or deceitful, and then treat me with contempt? I'm scared of being treated with contempt.

But that's ridiculous. Looking back over the past 15 years or so, I can't think of a single occasion when someone important to me has treated me with genuine contempt. Why do I even entertain these ideas? I'm a good person, I know I am, and I don't need to have these fears.

These past few days I have begun mulling over my New Year's resolutions for 2009. One that I've been considering is 'Action without Fear'.

Crikey. That's a bit scary.

The thing is, there's no point in making such a resolution unless I act on it. That will require a conscious effort on a daily basis. I think if I do adopt it, it will need to be classed as an 'experiment' limited to a period of say, 3 months (long enough to see tangible results?), with regular progress reviews built in. You might think that overkill, but when it comes to things that are uncomfortable and require self-motivated/self-enforced persistence, I need to use all the tools available to me to succeed. (Look at me with my iPhone and Jogging schedule).

I also recognise that I need a tangible goal to aim for. It could be having my photos on public display, generating a certain amount of income from Amway, registering a certain number of artists with Three Seeds - it could include all three, and of course more.

I think 'change' will be the key word for 2009. I, like everyone else on Earth, am afforded the opportunity to change almost any aspect of my life every single day, yet I fail to appreciate that most of the time. I subjugate myself to the status quo - it's easier that way.

But that's not good enough! I have a responsibility to be the best that I can be.

No, I shouldn't need a New Year to make changes, but I don't feel strong enough to act alone at the moment. The calendar will be my ally.

Anyway, it's time for bed. We're having our Christmas Day tomorrow as it's a national holiday (emperor's birthday) - everyone is able to gather at the family home just north of Tokyo. Excited!

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Kobe Luminarie

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Last week whilst in Kobe on Christmas Party business, we had the chance to see Kobe's incredible Luminarie. They say that this is the last year they'll be doing it ...although they say that every year!

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"Kobe Luminarie (神戸ルミナリエ, Kobe Luminarie?) is a light festival held in Kobe, Japan every December. It began in 1995 and commemorates the Great Hanshin earthquake of that year. They were donated by the Italian Government. The lights are kept up for about two weeks and only turned on for a few hours each evening. Each light is individually hand-painted. Major streets in the vicinity are closed to auto traffic during these hours to allow pedestrians to fill the streets and enjoy the lights."


At times it felt a bit like being on the train to work...

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Himonya Matsuri

Seems that the mini-procession yesterday was just a warm-up for today's festival.

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The chap with his back to us is hitting two sticks together to keep the team in time

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I like the contrast in this one

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Check out the little kiddies hitting the big drum

More photos on Flickr

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

The procession - from behind

A few photos taken today on the streets around our house

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*Twinkle*s off to Kansai for a few days. It's going to seem quiet around here...

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