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1985/7 Japan

5 November 1985
c/o Kato-san, 32 Iorino-Cho, Ichijo-ji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto T606, Phone: 791-9978


I’m into my little room and I love it. It is 4 ½ tatamis in size. Tatamis are smoothly woven straw mats about 2 inches thick. All Japanese rooms are measured in standard tatami size. Wearing shoes on a tatami is one of the BIG NO-NOs in Japan. The other is blowing your nose in public – especially in a restaurant. Awkward if you have a cold. You are supposed to sniff apparently! ANYWAY – I have two sets of sliding windows covered by pretty curtains. One set faces the golf course and nearest mountain, the other overlooks the city to the distant hills. I have a double cupboard which closes with thick paper screens. Once I have rolled up my bed and stored it here I have quite a lot of floor space during the daytime hours. Please write c/o Kato-san (my landlady) in future. I won’t be in on the 15th , but if you’d like to phone on the 14th I shall stay home until about 2.30pm. OK?!

Winter approaches. The leaves have just started to change colour and every other day is cold and/or wet. Japanese homes are not heated and I shall have to buy myself a heater for my room. In the meantime could I please borrow your JERSEY jersey again, dad? I promise to look after it.

Thanks for the letter, mom. You seem to be doing very well at university. Perhaps you should become a tutor?!? Keep up the good work. I’m sorry your arthritis sounds so bad. Have you tried a chiropractor like a suggested? 

Last Monday I packed my bags and hitched south-east to the coast for a few days. I slept in a Buddhist temple in the village of Futami. The temple youth hostel is run by the monk and his Australian fiancée. I was the only guest and had a beautiful room to myself which faced onto a tiny courtyard garden. With green trees and iron lanterns and moss-covered rocks. The temple is situated in the woods on the outskirts of the village and is really quite lovely.

I spent one day on Mikimoto Pearl Island where the first successful pearl was cultured. The whole process is pretty interesting and at the museum you could watch girls sorting and drilling and stringing MOUNDS of pink and ivory and blue and gold pearls. Also watched a demonstration by AMA. These are female divers who make their living diving for edible seaweed – a tradition 2000 years old in this area. They wear white dresses to scare the sharks away!! And can dive to a depth of 10m and hold their breath for long periods of time. Quite amazing.

Also spent a day at Ise where the most important Shinto Shrine is situated. There are actually two shrines – an Inner and Outer shrine – which are situated 6km apart. They both stand in beautiful cedar parks. The cedars are ancient and tall and impressive. Although the current buildings are fairly new, they are exact replicas of the shrines built on these sites in the 7th  or 8th century. And are built in the traditional manner too – no nails, etc. every 20 years the shrines are torn down and the artefacts moved to an identical building erected on an adjacent lot. The current buildings took nine years to erect. The architecture is very simple. Just wood and thatch – no bright colours, no paint at all. The roofs are between one and two feet thick!

I have made friends with four housewives who attend Mr M’s school, but are not students of mine. I am going to have lunch at one of their houses next week. On Friday they took me out for coffee and sandwiches and mortified me by asking if they would have to ride in a separate bus from me in SA?! I think they like me, but are both shocked and fascinated by my (single) lifestyle.

Keep in touch

PS is Kerrin back in Jhb? Do you know if she received my letter written to her in Sydney?

PS DAD – have you received the a/c for my card yet? I spent $200 on my camera. If I am correct that should leave $10.

PS My landlady has just given me a hip-length padded silk kimono. I was in the kitchen and she came in and draped it over my shoulders. ‘Present’ she said!!!!

PS There is a sign in the loo here which reads: “Please transfer your toilet to the other one in comfortable condition!!” The toilet seat is HEATED! I shall have to spend the winter there!

Ama pearl diver
Ama pearl diver
Ise jinja
Ise jinja
Halloween: Trick (rabbit popping out of top hat) | whORe | Treat (sweets)
Halloween: Trick (rabbit popping out of top hat) | whORe | Treat (sweets)
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