Spirit of the Mountains

Back in the summer last year, in preparation of my initial foray into Yamanashi ken, I treated myself to a new hiking T-shirt from the Beerhound hiking boutique of choice, Mont Bell; a high-performance breathable, diaphanous bit of hiking haute-couture, designed for tackling the stifling heat of a Japanese summer without looking like you’ve just…

A parting of trails

Life is a journey; we all follow our own personal trail but we are joined along the way by others. Some of those companions are with us for only a short time. Some walk with us for what seems like an eternity. But sooner or later, our trails will part. And when they do, it’s…

What can we learn from a grain of sand?

No matter how carefully sand is raked, it will change, dissolve and disappear. This is also true of the backdrop against which our lives are performed. Life is impermanence. People, places, material possessions, good times, bad times: Everything changes. But this too, of course, is the nature of sand. Without its fluidity and ability to…

First signs of Spring and a new perspective

Tokyo awoke this morning to a light sprinkling of snow. The sugar-coated trees and houses that provided the backdrop for this morning’s jog around the park reminded me that winter is yet to loosen its grip on us. And yet all around, signs of life are beginning to appear once more and it really won’t…

The tree of life gives hope to us all

Hiking alone around the Japanese mountains gives one plenty of opportunity for rumination and general navel-gazing. I guess in a way that’s part of the attraction – getting away from the normal hubbub and allowing the mind some space to step back and take stock. Yesterday I had a very agreeable few hours exploring the…

What’s so great about Japan?

When I travel back to Europe and I meet with someone who finds out that I live in Japan, the inevitable first question is along the lines of “What do you like about Japan?” It’s a question I have fielded hundreds of times, and to be honest I tend now to try and just skip…

Hair today…

One of the great things about the internet is the way that it has democratised writing. Once upon a time, getting your work into print was the hard-won privilege of the favoured few – at least, those who didn’t want to stump up the cost of vanity publishing. Now we have Amazon, and anyone with…

Speeding up and slowing down

There is nothing worse than being stuck indoors when the sun is shining. Now the weather is really warming up, your humble scribe is itching to pull on his boots and head for the hills. But – alas – there just seems to have been one thing after another that has delayed my departure. I…

Capel Curig revisited

Last year, I returned to the UK for a bit of a break. Being a complete knob, rather than opting for a nice restful time I decided to go hiking in Snowdonia, spending 4 days lugging an 18kg pack up and down mountains, whilst being rained on and blasted by gale force winds. In case…

The road to third dan

This Summer has been really great. But it’s not all been lounging around on beaches and having impromptu barbeques in our car parking port here at Beerhound Mansions. There was also the small matter of my iaido third dan examination that took place in September. Regular readers will know that I failed the first attempt…

The long,hot Summer

Well, it’s been a while since my last post and to be honest, I don’t know where this Summer went. One minute I’m blogging about the end of term at Japanese class, and the next I’m sitting here listening to the September rain pounding the street outside and wondering what happened in between. Well, actually,…

A moment of clarity

I am presently going through one of those revelatory periods in my iaido practice where some small insight into the deeper significance of the art has become clear to me. This has come at the end of a reasonably despondent period of training where I don’t seem to have made any progress at all. After…