I know of nowhere else in the world where complete strangers can come to the door and be welcomed in and offered hospitality.
Friday morning on our way into the Gobi, we met a nomad couple and their grandson. A neighbour was there too as they watched a Nadaam being televised from Inner Mongolia. They have been on this site for two weeks and will move again when the sheep, goats and cattle need fresh grass.
On the stove was “a meat dish” which was subsequently identified as sheep testicles. It looked like a favourite snack of the men as they chomped into them.
We took a photo of the grandson and produced a tiny print via Polaroid’s phone app. We asked if they would like a group photo. Yes was the enthusiastic answer as they dived for their traditional clothes to wear for the shot. We left them with the photos and a tin of biscuits. They left us a lasting impression.
I can’t leave Japan tomorrow without pulling together some of the visual highlights of the past five weeks. There is so much more to see and experience here, I hope we can return sometime soon.
In no particular order, out and about today in Kyoto
Meeting a retired English semantics professor at Gion-Shijo railway station. He bailed us up in the nicest possible way.
Hirose Coffee Shop in Arishiyama. Another sweet little cafe with Audrey Hepburn references and a charming host.
In the gardens surrounding the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Kyoko Muraji runs her small ramen restaurant in Gion on the principles of Omotenashi, a form of hospitality that anticipates customer needs and provides a relaxing atmosphere.
We selected the Black Ramen and the Chicken Lemon Ramen. Dinner is served around two square communal tables with a maximum of 16 persons at a time.
It was the stories of the children and their distraught parents that hit hard and moved you to tears.
Sadako Sasaki famously folded over 1300 paper cranes in the hope that by completing 1000 of them, she would have her wish met be cured of the leukaemia caused by the atomic bomb. These are some of the tiny cranes she made from medicine wrappings and other paper scraps. She died eight months after her diagnosis.
This is the tricycle that belonged to a little boy who was about to turn four. His father buried the child and the tricycle together.
No more Hiroshimas.
Last night we walked past a restaurant that we heard before we saw it. We decided to get in on some of the fun tonight at Ni-No-Ni on a rainy night in Fukuoka.
We ordered eggplant, green vegetables, pork and garlic shoots and dumplings. Sesame balls with red bean paste and almond tofu with black sesame seeds topped off the meal.
If you measure the success of a day out by the number of customers, and the hopes you had of selling enough of your items so as to cover a bit more than the cost of your site and a cup of coffee, then it was disappointing.
If you measure the success of a day out by the opportunity to people watch, by the breeze and overcast skies that tempered the heat, and by conversations with fellow suitcase fillers, it was a good day.