2015年5月31日 星期日

Re-imported Music á la France: Broadway Français (法式出口回流的音樂--百老音樂劇)

Many people in Hongkong now listen to some kind of jazz music, including some Broadway, but I'm quite sure that not very many of them may know that American jazz might have part of its roots in the traditions of the funeral marches of southern France, with strolling players of  funeral marches reverting to much brighter and livelier music on their trumpets and drums on the return journey from the graves to lighten up the mood which in time was cleverly woven with the work song and blues of the African slaves in the cotton, corn or tobacco plantations of the American south or that the place where all the European and African musical elements making up early jazz  came together was New Orleans, a town in Missouri full of French influence. So it might be said that in a sense, no jazz, no Broadway. And with Randall Fleisher, jazz made a round trip back to France at Broadway Français. And what a hodge podge we had.

What did we have? The list is long: before the break, Frank Loesser's Overture to Guys and Dolls, Cole Porter's : "Another Opening" from his Kiss Me, KateIrving Berlin's" No Business like Show Business"   from his Annie, get your Gun; Lerner & Loewe's "I Could have Danced All Night" from their My Fair Lady; Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" from his Wizard of Oz; "Everything's Coming Up Roses" from Stephen Sondheim & Jule Styne's GypsyOscar Hammerstein & Jerome Kern's Show Boat Medley ; Meredith Willson's "76 Trombones" from his The Music Man;  John Kander & Fred Ebb's "All that Jazz" from their Chicago; Cole Porter's "You're the Top" from his Anything Goes;  George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm" from his Girl Crazy. After the break, we had Howard Ashman & Alan Menken's "Be Our Guest" from their Beauty and the Beast; Frank Lehár's "Vilja" from his The Merry Widow; Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty's "Speaking French" from their Lucky Stiff; Lerner & Loewe's Gigi from their musical of the same name; George Gerswin's An American in ParisLeonard Bernstein's "Glitter and be Gay" from his Candide; Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Bring Him Home", "I dreamed a Dream" and "One Day More" from his Les Miserables, "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Music of the Night" from his The Phantom of the Opera.

2015年5月30日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六趣味)

Serious reading is always tough but then, if you are convinced, sometimes against all hopes, that there must be some precious nuggets hidden somewhere inside those forbidding looking volumes, I'm afraid you just got to bite your lips and sit it through.  But it'd be entirely different if you were to turn to some lighter subjects, internet jokes, for instance.


One day, a man came home.
He was greeted by his wife in some translucent lace lingerie.
"Tie me up," she purred, "And ....you can do anything you want."
He tied her up and went to the bar.

2015年5月29日 星期五

A small Nagasaki museum, the harbor and Hashima (端島) or Gunkanjima (軍艦島)

After visiting the oldest arched stone bridge in Japan, we were taken to a small museum cum shop marginally related to Japanese history.

Tongs and pincers used in a Meiji workshop in Nagasaki ("meaning "long cape") , the capital and the largest city of Nagasaki Prefecture, center of Portuguese and other European influence from 16th through 19th centuries. For a long time now, Nagasaki has been a trading and manufacturing city, but not until the Portuguese ship arrived in 1543 at Tanegashima Bay, when it was only a small fishing village. Soon after that Portuguese ships were plying busily between Japan and the rest of the world, especially between Japan and China  because at the time, official contact between which was prohibited on account of various incidents in the South China Sea involving Wokou pirates (倭寇). The Portuguese merchants served the much needed role of intermediaries between the two nations.

2015年5月28日 星期四

A day in Nagasaki (長崎一天)

When it became all dark, it was time for us to leave Mount Inasa for our meals which we were told would be the best on the trip costing slightly less than 9000 yens. We were curious.

As a starter, we would have some assorted seafood cold cuts consisting of various types of sashimis of fish, octopus, shellfish plus the relevant Japanese garnish, beans, bean curds, tampura etc. The most unusual for me was thin slices of whale meat, which doesn't taste like fish at all. I'm not surprised. After all, the whale is not a fish, but a mammal. Some tour members didn't like it. But for me, it was OK. It hasn't got any strong flavors. Rather crispy and chewy and goes well if dipped in the sweet soy sauce with fresh Japanese mustard.

Then we had another sashimi platter with salmon, tuna and a special kind of fish whose name I don't remember. They all tasted good because very fresh.

2015年5月27日 星期三

From Shimabara to Nagasaki (從島原至長崎)

After having had our fill of the sight and smell of Japanese "hells" , we were on way to our next destination, the city of Nagasaki (長崎)

We're leaving Shimabara

We passed through a pier

2015年5月26日 星期二

Unzen Hotsprings National Park (雲仙嶽國家公園)

After visiting the Unzen National Park for the azaleas, we went to another tourist hot spot in the Unzen area of at the eastern end of the Shimabara-hantō (島原半島) of Nagasaki Prefecture. It's a literally hot spot!  it's located on the foot of an active volcano  called Unsen-dake which includes the 4,460 feet Fugen-sake (普賢嶽)  which started tremors in late 1791 and then finally erupted in February 1792 when hot molten lava continuously poured out from its vents for some 2 months, ending with a huge explosion in May 1792 which caused an entire mountain to slide into the Ariake-kai (有明海 ) sea, the largest bay in Kyushu, leading to a tsunami with waves more than 100 meter-high and resulted in more than 15,000 deaths! Earth tremors re-started in July 1990, flames started to spout in November again and then in June 1991 huge quantities of molten lava suddenly began pouring down from its sides, causing 43 deaths and destroying some 180 houses. The last recorded lava flow was in February 1995. Since then, its volcanic activities seems to have subsided. it's not known when it will erupt again.

Before reaching the hot spot, we passed through one hill after another all full of blooming wild azaleas.

Everywhere we went, we saw such steaming gases filled with the peculiar acrid smell of sulphur.

2015年5月25日 星期一

Japanese Azaleas at Unzen National Park (雲仙國家公園的日本杜鵑花)

According to the Wiki,  the flower called Rhododendron (Greek ῥόδον rhódon "rose" and δένδρον déndron "tree") is a huge genus with 1,024 species, either evergreen or deciduous growing mainly in Asia but can also be found also in the Southern Highlands of the Appalachian Mountains of North America. During the trip, we were brought to see, not just wisteria, but also some Japanese azaleas, which is a sub-genera of the genus rhododendron. Like the wisteria, the Japanese azaleas originally came from China but they have been growing them for centuries. Traditionally, the Japanese divide the azaleas into two groups called respectively the Tsutsuji (ever green) and the Satsuki I (literally the 5th month of the lunar calendar). The Tsutsuji azaleas bloom one lunar cycle after the spring equinox whilst the Satsuki bloom two lunar cycles after the vernal equinox.

This is an azalea park at Unsen

We were so afraid that we wouldn't be able to to take any photos there because it had been raining all morning.

2015年5月24日 星期日

Haydn's Creation (海頓的<創世記>)

To many, there are few oratorios on a religious subject as magnificent as Handel's Messiah. It was no doubt so to Franz Joseph Haydn 1732-1809, often regarded as the father of modern orchestral music, who produced his own Creation (Die Schöpfung), written in 1797-1798 after he returned to Vienna in 1795 at the end of his second series of visits to England, a composition which he fully expected could stand beside that impressive work of his predecessor without any undue risk of humiliation. It's a massive work consisting of 34 excerpts sung by a soprano, a tenor and a bass (singing respectively as the archangels Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael) and towards the end, by an alto, sometimes alone, sometimes as duets, with or without the participation of a huge chorus to the accompaniment of a chamber orchestra, punctuated with recitatives from time to time to help maintain a sense of thematic unity.

Kumamoto Food (熊本美食)

If we wish to check out whether we can rightly describe the Japanese as a  meticulous people, then one of the best ways to do that must surely be to see how they deal with their food.

After visiting the Kumamoto Castle, we were taken to our restaurant for a fairly good meal. But we were a bit early, so we were given some time to walk around a small square full of shops specializing on all kinds of snacks, drinks and preserved food.

2015年5月23日 星期六

Jokes which smell of Sashimi (略帶魚生味的笑話)

To my mind, the Japanese are a really special people. They are ever so polite, so meticulous and so disciplined. They appear to always prefer acting as a group and place extremely high value on the concept of "honor". Probably, this might have been the result of their famous "samurai" tradition or "bushido". Whether or not some or all of such characteristics are still true of contemporary Japanese may surely be found by observing the conduct of such Japanese friends as we may have around us. Whatever the result of such observation may or may not confirm, there is little doubt that "stereotypes" of what Japanese are like are still quite prevalent in the West.

1. Japanese mugger

What does a Japanese mugger say?
"Give me all your money or I'll kill myself!"

2.  Kamikaze

Why did the Japanese Kamikaze pilot fly back to the base?
He forgot his helmet.

2015年5月21日 星期四

The Kumamoto Castle (熊本城)

The highlight of our visit to the capital of the Kumamoto Prefecture is the similarly named Kumamoto Castle (熊本城), whose history is intimately intertwined with the complicated fabric of Japanese history, especially those events associated with the modernization of Japan in the period of Japanese history called the  Meiji Inshin (Meiji Restoration) (明冶維新) (1868-1912), a movement for the radical reform and transformation of the economic, military, political and cultural structure of Japan and led to its rapid rise in power in East Asia, a movement which gave Japan victories first in the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95 in which The Qing Government lost Taiwan and sovereignty over Korea to the Japanese, then in the Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 in which Japan defeated Russia and took over its control of Dalien, Mukden and the Liaotung Peninsula and Manchuria, something which in turn led to the downfall of the  Qing Government in the 1911 Nationalist Revolution also the May 4th Movement in 1921.

Our first view of the famous hilltop castle erected on two high stone bases which taper up, shallower lower down and rising steeper and steeper until they become vertical at the top, an architectural style called teikakushiki nawabari (梯郭式縄張), which fortifies the castle entrance koguchi (虎口) by connecting several barriers called umadashi(馬出) along an axis rather than enclosing one within the other. Since umadashi usually consist of a walled barrier enclosing a space, the continuous series of barriers and spaces thus resemble the rungs of a ladder. 

During the pre-modern era before the opening of Japan by Commodore Perry of America in 1853-1856, the Kumamoto Castle was part of Higo no kun (Higo Province) (肥後国and was associated with 3 famous Japanese clans viz. the Katō Clan (加藤氏) (1588-1632) and the Hosokawa Clan (細川氏) (1632-1871) a Japanese samurai clan descended from the Seiwa Genji (清和源氏) a branch of the Minamoto-shi (Minamoto Clan) (源氏) originating from Minamoto no Tsunemoto (源経基) (894-961) which can be traced ultimately to Seiwa-tennō (Emperor Seiwa) (清和天皇) (850–878) himself, through the Ashikaga-shi (Ashikaga clan)(足利氏), a prominent Japanese samurai clan which ruled Japan from roughly 1336 to 1573 and whose members established the Muromachi or Ashikaga Shogunate (military regency period) (室町/足利將軍攝政時代)(1336-1467) and wielded considerable power in the Sengoku period (戰國時代)(1467–1600) and the Edo period (江戸時代) or Tokugawa period (徳川時代) (1603-1868). 

2015年5月20日 星期三

The Aso Volcano (阿蘇火山)

It's time to leave our hotel.

A last look at the Aso Volcanoes ( 阿蘇火山) from afar before making the journey to look at it much closer

The foothills of the volcanoes and the surrounding mountains seemed bathed in a thick apron of white clouds.

2015年5月19日 星期二

Japanese Children's Day in Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區之日本兒童節)

One of the deepest impressions I got during this visit to Japan is how much their traditions are affected by Chinese culture, including even the its mistakes! What do I mean? In  China, we got a 4-character idiom (成語), roughly translatable as a "Carp's Leap Over Dragon Gate" [鯉躍龍門]. According to Chinese legend, a small carp swam upstream to Lung Men (Dragon Gate) in Shanxi Province, China and tried to leap over it. It tried and tried and tried. But no matter how hard it tried, it failed. Its complaints over the difficulties was overheard by a bigger carp. The bigger carp told its junior. "Little carp, what're you complaining about. I tried 3 years and still haven't made it! But I believe that if I persist, my dream will come true one day." Shortly thereafter, it succeeded. The smaller carp followed suit and made it too after another 3 years. Dragon Gate is a place at the tip of South West Shanxi. the place to which  The Great Emperor Yu (大禹) channelled the waters of the  Huanghe (黃河) or Yellow River when he was struggling to tame the flooding problem by removing rocks and gravels from that difficult river, often said to the cradle of Chinese civilization according to the Book of Documents (尚書.) There he encountered some serious problems. He had to dig through the high mountains there before it the water could pass through because it was a waterfall which measured some 80 strides wide. There the water came thundering down from the steep and jagged rocks above.

The legend of the leaping carps at Dragon Gate came from [藝文類聚 卷九十六] (Yiwen Leiju , literally: "Collection of Literature Arranged by Categories") of the Tang Dynasty, where it was said that thousands of carp gather at Dragon Gate in spring every year,those which made the leap became dragons. Later others added to the legend the detail that it was lightning from heaven (天火) scorching the red carps' tails which helped them make the needed jump.

According to [說文解字],Shuōwén Jiězì (literally: "Explaining and Analyzing Characters"), often shortened to Shuowen, an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty the big carp is called "鱣" and the big" 鱣 "is called "鮪" , which can transform itself into the shape of a dragon (龍). In fact, the reason why the carps jumped at Dragon Gate was that they were frightened by the thundering water and the leaping carp which jumped over Dragon Gate exists nowhere but in our imagination.

The legend of the leaping carp was handed down from generation and generation in China as a tale to encourage the young to work hard until they succeed and through the mouths of the visiting Tang Dynasty Buddhist monks to the Japanese, became a part of Japanese legend too.  Every year, during the Japanese Children Day (originally 5th day of the fifth moon or Tango no Sekku (端午の節句) or (端午節) and now the May 5 according to the Western calendar, all Japanese families hoist up the  "Koinobori", carp windsocks, carp streamers or carp banners.In Japanese culture, the carp symbolizes courage and strength because of its ability to swim up a waterfall. Through them, the Japanese express the the hope that their boy in each family will grow up healthy and strong like wild carps. During this festival, some people will put up a warrior doll or a yoroi armor set in the house to symbolize courage, and Koinobori and huge carp-shaped windsocks will be hung outside their house. Originally, the celebrations were confined only to the boys and their fathers and the day is called Tengo no Sekku or Feast of Banners or Boy's Day.

On this day, most Japanese families would hoist up the carp-shaped koinobori flags, with one carp for the father, one for the mother, and one carp for each child (traditionally each son). Families also display a Kintarō doll usually riding on a large carp, and the traditional Japanese military helmet, kabuto, due to their tradition as symbols of strength and vitality. Kintarō (金太郎),  or "Golden Boy" is a folk hero from Japanese folklore,, a child of superhuman strength, raised by a mountain hag on Mount Ashigara, friends of mountain animals and later, after catching Shutendouji, the terror of the region around Mount Ooe, he became a loyal follower of Minamoto no Yorimitsu under the new name Sakata no Kintoki (坂田 金時). He is a popular figure in noh and kabuki drama. The Japanese put up a Kintarō doll on Boy's Day in the hope that their boys will be as brave and strong as him.Mochi rice cakes wrapped in kashiwa (oak) leaves—kashiwa-mochi (mochi filled with red bean jam) and chimaki (a kind of "sweet rice paste", wrapped in an iris or bamboo leaf)—are traditionally served on this day. Like everything else, when things Chinese came to Japan, they became imbued with native Japanese elements.
In Japan, the girls have their own special day, (Hina-matsuri) (雛祭り), also called Doll's Day or Girls' Day,  celebrated each year on March 3 on which day, platforms covered with a red carpet are used to display a set of ornamental dolls (雛人形 hina-ningyō) representing the Emperor, Empress, attendants, and musicians in traditional court dress of the Heian period.  But In 1948 the Tengo no Sekku  was changed  to celebrate both boys and their fathers as well as girls and their mothers and it was renamed Kodomo no Hi

This is the entrance of one of the temples we passed through on our way to Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區)

The surrounding hills were as green and clean as ever

The car park at Tsuetate Onsen (杖立溫泉區)

2015年5月18日 星期一

The Nabegataki Waterfall, Oguni, Aso District, Kumamoto. (熊本縣 小国町 阿蘇郡 鍋ヶ滝瀑布).

After the leisurely morning stroll at the Kurokawasou (黑川莊), we were driven to another small waterfall in the Aso District (阿蘇郡) of the Kumamoto Prefecture(熊本縣) near the town of Oguni (小国町).  It's the Nabekataki Waterfall (鍋ヶ滝瀑布).

Two toy bears with red cheeks outside the ticket office, the mascot animal of the Kumamoto Prefecture.

2015年5月17日 星期日

Mozart & Shastakovich at the Cultural Centre (莫札特與蕭士塔高維奇在文化中心)

What has Mozart (1756-1791) got to do with Shostakovich (1906-1975)? One is a happy go lucky violinist and pianist and musical genius who exudes talent writing classical music with flair in 18th century Austria and the other a state sponsored but iconoclastic pianist and composer with twisted relationship with his employer writing music full of strife, ambiguity and passion and occasionally quasi-programme music to the "apparent" dictates of the state in 20th century Russia after Stravinsky in a post-Romantic style but still paying lip service to the need to glorify the achievement of the "proletarian working class" in accordance with official Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist ideology. The connection is last night's musical programme of the HKPO under the direction of an up and coming young American conductor striking out in different musical directions called Case Scaglione.

We first had Mozart's chamber music like Piano' Concerto No.18 in Bb Major K 456 written in 1784 for a blind pianist Maria Theresa von Paradis, one of the 15 he wrote in the 3 years 1783-1786. The piece begins with a very long orchestral introduction before the piano comes in with its gentle lilting theme . Likewise the second movement had another long introduction with a rather wistful theme which at places sounds a bit Slavic and plays around  its principal theme by the piano which alternates with variation thereon by the string and wind sections but the mood changes again in the final. How can we expect a Mozart not rebounding with joy and delight. We had a French piano soloist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet. When the piano sounded its first few passages, I thought there was something wrong with its tuning, perhaps having something to do with the humid weather condition(?) The sparkle and flow we have come to expect of Mozart's music seemed to be missing: everything seemed a tad too soft and restrained, too "feminine"? I really don't know. Somehow, it doesn't sound Mozart-like. The orchestral accompaniment in the concerto also sounded a bit heavy, with rather too much middle and lower notes, thus taking away some of the spontaneous jauntiness and crispness and the angelic delightfulness off Mozart's music when he's taken by unpredictable flights of fancy. But Bavouzet shone in his two encores by Debussy and Greig as his fingers flew and pounded on the keyboard just at the right time with the right tempo and the right texture in the complex music.

2015年5月16日 星期六

Saturday Fun (星期六趣味)

Gender difference may still be the subject of feminist politics in many parts of the world particularly in the more traditional societies and sometimes may even lead to rising tempers from both sides, especially where they happen to cohabit under the same roof. It's sometimes even said that Men are from Mars and Women from Venus as if they inhabit different planets. But that's absolutely not a  reason why we can't have a bit of fun on the delectable subject of gender differences whether they inhabit different planets or cohabit under the same roof. It relates to the important subject of how to the make men and women happy.

It's not difficult at all to make a woman happy. A man only needs to be:

                1. a friend
                2. a companion
                3. a lover
                4. a brother
                5. a father
                6. a master
                7. a chef
                8. an electrician
                9. a carpenter
                10. a plumber
                11. a mechanic
                12. a decorator
                13. a stylist
                14. a sexologist
                15. a gynecologist
                16. a psychologist
                17. a pest exterminator
                18. a psychiatrist
                19. a healer
                20. a good listener
                21. an organizer
                22. a good father
                23. very clean
                24. sympathetic
                25. athletic
                26. warm
                27. attentive
                28. gallant
                29. intelligent
                30. funny
                31. creative
                32. tender
                33. strong
                34. understanding
                35. tolerant
                36. prudent
                37. ambitious
                38. capable
                39. courageous
                40. determined!
                41. true
                42. dependable
                43. passionate
                44. compassionate

                WITHOUT FORGETTING TO:

                45. give her compliments regularly
                46. love shopping
                47. be honest
                48. be very rich
                49. not stress her out
                50. not look at other girls


                51. give her lots of attention, but expect little yourself
                52. give her lots of time, especially time for herself
                53. give her lots of space, never worrying about where she goes

                IT IS VERY IMPORTANT:

                54. Never to forget:
                * birthdays
                * anniversaries
                * arrangements she makes

                HOW TO MAKE A MAN HAPPY

                1. Show up naked
                2. Bring Alcohol

There you have it.
Long live the difference!
Boys, have a fun weekend making the ladies happy!

2015年5月15日 星期五

A morning stroll around Kurokawasou Village in the Aso District (熊本縣阿蘇郡南小國町黒川温泉 黒川荘的晨運)

After breakfast, we were taken to a very well preserved Japanese village called Kukokawasou (黒川荘) in the Aso District  (阿蘇郡) in the Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本縣).

It was a very green village with trees going back to nearly a century ago but still going strong.

2015年5月14日 星期四

No photos of the Hotspring at Kurokawa-Onsen: It's forbidden! (黑川溫泉没照片:嚴禁拍攝)

I was very pleasantly surprised when our coach arrived at our hotel in Kurokawa Onsen.


This is the view from my hotel room. In the distance one can see the Aso Volcanoes  and closer, the roof of the hotspring bathing house at the further end of the lawn, where for obvious reasons, one is forbidden to take any photos. .

The Journey to the hotel in Kurokawa-Onsen (Hotspring) in Kuju (熊本縣九重黑川溫泉酒店之旅)

It appears that every inch of the countryside of Kyushu is covered with vegetation.

Our coach passed by some bamboo groves on our way from Fukuoka (福崗) to the Kurokawa-Onsen (Hotspring) (黑川溫泉), in Kuju (九重) in Kumamoto Prefecture (熊本縣)

We passed by a lake with wisps of morning mist drifting across the valleys

2015年5月13日 星期三

The old Moji-ku Harbour (門司區的舊港口)

Japan has always been a country about which I have some very mixed feelings. Japanese influence has been quite strong in Hong Kong: Japanese electronic products first infiltrated and then dominated the Hong Kong consumer market: radios, television, cartoons, dolls, cars and aeroplane models and other cheap toys in the 60's, then televisions and rice cookers, hot water bottles, fashion and participation in the building of the cross harbor tunnel in the 70's and  video games and sci-fi toys in the 80's and 90's etc. But as a student of history, I could never forget the first Sino-Japanese War in 1894-1895 following which they took Taiwan and the Pescadores Islands (澎湖群島) and the eastern portion of the Bay of Liaotung Peninsula from China under the Treaty of Shiminoseki (馬關條约) 1895 in which China had to pay a huge indemnity to Japan (200 million Kuping taels (庫平兩) of silver), lost sovereignty of Korea to Japan and was forced to open up Shashih, Chungking, Soochow and Hangchow for trade to Japan and the Qing government recognized definitively the full and complete independence and autonomy of Korea so that Japan might more effectively control this former vassal state of China and to grant Japan most-favored-nation treatment; the Russo-Japanese War in 1905  which ended with the Treaty of Portsmouth 1905 whereby Russia was compelled to recognize Korea's independence and Japan's "paramount political, military, and economic interests" in Korea and ceded to Japan without payment all Russia's rights in the Chinese Port Arthur and Dalian in the Liaotung Peninsula (then leased to Russia) and all railways built by Russia in Manchuria; the invasion of China in 1931 following the Mukden (Shenyang) Incident and the setting up of Manchukuo in Manchuria and Inner Mongolia shortly thereafter and the famous Nanjing Massacre in  December1937 in which an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 Chinese were killed and as part of the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945)  and of course the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in 1941-1945 ( a total of 3 years and 8 months). I still remember my father's account to me as a child about how once, he was made to bow to the Japanese flag during the Japanese occupation and how he resisted by running away at the fastest speed in his life and how difficult life was under the Japanese occupation. I can never erase from my mind the the machinations of the Japanese government over the Diaoyu Islands first by permitting right wing civilians to erect a light tower over one of the islands and then purporting to "purchase" them from a Japanese family which claimed to have "ownership" rights of the islands and thus turning them into "national" territory so that it can come within the terms of the US-Japan Security Treaty of 1960 and which America (whose capacity is merely that of a "trustee" acting on behalf of the United Nations) unilaterally, wrongfully and against the express terms of the Treaty of San Francisco 1952, delivered the "possession" and "administrative rights and jurisdiction" (not "ownership", which Japanese government is now claiming)  over the islands to Japan instead of returning them to China in 1974. But the Japan I saw in this trip is quite different: the houses and roads all appear well-maintained, the people polite and you can see how the Japanese take meticulous care of whatever it is that they do and especially in preserving their own cultural traditions and customs, without however forgoing the benefits of modern technology and economic development. Clearly there is a distinction to be drawn here between the Japanese people and its culture on the one hand and the acts of its government and its politicians on the other.

This is the amusement park right opposite to my hotel room in Fukuoka

2015年5月12日 星期二

Seeing Chinese Wisteria Tunnels in Japan (在日本看中國紫藤隧道)

There are beautiful flowers aplenty. But it's rare to find a flower which will bloom so prolifically in late April and early May as the purple vine or Chinese wisteria ( Wisteria sinensis) (紫藤 朱藤、招藤、招豆藤、藤蘿). As in so many things, the Japanese took from China certain materials or methods and by dint of constant and careful reflection, turned it into an art. If we need an example, then the art of growing the Chinese wisteria would appear a perfect one. Whilst the people in Henan, Hepei and Shandong provinces in China busy themselves with boiling and then mixing the wisteria flower with glutinous rice to turn it into "wisteria cakes", the Japanese would turn the Chinese wisteria into a visual delight. Since 1977, there has been a garden specially dedicated to the growing of this principally bluish-purple flower which hangs down in millions of strings. When they bloom together in Hanoi, Fukuoka Prefecture on northern Kyushu Island (北九州 福岡縣) the spectacle can be  breathtaking. This special hillside wisteria garden is called Kawachi Fujien 河內藤園  at the south-western part of Kyushu Island. 

Lured by a photograph of the garden, I booked a place in a photographic tour group  which held out this garden as its star attraction. This is a photo of what I found there. There were so many people who visited the same garden that I had to wait for more than an hour before I could take a few photographs with less people. During the two hours we spent there, there must have been at least 10 separate groups, including people who came all the way from South East Asia, China, various parts of Japan, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and even some Northern Europeans. We were told by our local tour guide that the owner of the garden would charge entrance fees according to the percentage of Wisteria in full bloom. The garden covers an area of about 10,000 square meters and there are some 150 wisteria in 22 slightly different varieties. This year, the flowers started to bloom in late April but by the time we arrived, we were charged only 70% of the full admission charges. Paradoxically, this is not bad at all. The weeklong Japanese holiday ended just the day before we arrived. We were told that had we gone there a day before, all we could photograph would be people, people and more people!  

2015年5月5日 星期二

More Practices at Kadoorie: Chrysanthemums and orchids etc (更多嘉多利練習:菊花蘭花等等 )

I love going to practice taking pictures at Kadoorie Farm. Thanks to the gardeners, who I imagine must have a great deal of affection for the flowers under their care, every time I go there, I find something new.

I've seen lots of chrysanthemums but never this type of buds before.

2015年5月3日 星期日

The two latest concerts: Zhang Xian's Roman Festivals & Johannes Wildner's Flying Frenchmen (最近两場音樂會:張弦的羅馬節日及懷德納的飄泊法國人)

Very busy lately. Hence a big regret and an even bigger sense of guilt because I had two excellent concerts recently, the first including even a world premiere! The first was Zhang Xian's Roman Festivals. Zhang is an up and coming Chinese conductor from Shanghai. He conducted for us several pieces by Ottorino Resphighi (1879-1936) rarely played together: the third part of the composer's so-called "Roman Trilogy" comprising Circuses, Jubilee, October Festival and the Ephiphany. Resphigi is known among hi-fi aficianados in Hong Kong chiefly for his very colorful Pines of Rome. So my concert going hi fi friends were all pleasantly surprised that Respighi had other interesting pieces too. I think I have a fairly good idea why. Respighi is a most audacious innovator in imitating "real life" sound and in the Roman Festivals( the spiritual god-father of George Gershwin?)  he gave himself full rein in these pieces. eg, he used 3 buccines (ancient Roman curved trumpets resting on the player's shoulders" to replicate the feeling the Roman populace experienced upon hearing the clarion call for the entry of gladiators in the Roman circus) and tavolettes ( hollow boards struck by hammers). He must be considered a precursor of the composer of modern movie music though he might be rivalled by Berlioz in that regard. His music seems calculated to evoke in the audience, perhaps kinaesthetically, various very visual images and in the case of the Roman Festivals, the various images associated with the title of the four episodes and if so, then he must be considered a huge success, at least as far as my friends are concerned. There is such a rich combination of various moods: quiet, contemplative, solemn, religious, ominous, agitated, light-hearted, jolly, confusing, boisterous and exuberant, switching moods quickly from one piece to another and even within the same piece, from one part to another and conveyed to us by the huge dynamic range, in all kinds of rhythms provided by the extremely rich mix of orchestral sounds from all conceivable kinds of instruments and percussions so that the HKPO had to be out in full force and had even to hire some outside trumpet help. The result is a very obvious: one really gets the feeling that one is watching a moving panorama of Roman life with in all kinds of situations with "typical" Italian inconsistencies complete with some very Mediterranean excesses.

2015年5月2日 星期六

Weekend at Peng Chau (週末坪洲)

Peng Chau is one of the few islands I never get tired of. Whether it's a sunny or a rainy day, the island seems so serene, so quiet, so leisurely. Whenever I want to spend some time relaxing, my feet invariably bring me to the pier for ferries to that tiny island.

The sky wasn't overcast. Nor was it sunny.

But that didn't take the colors off this abandoned oil drum.

Saturday Fun (星期六笑話)

              這真是一個莫明奇妙的世界,在這令人摸不着頭腦的世界, 人們總是什麼時間也好像是做同一的事情 ! 那就是不太喜歡他們已有的東西,總是絞盡腦汁想擺脫他們的現况。可能這有很好的進化論理由支持他們這看似矛盾的想法也不定,但不論這看法對也好,不對也好,卻不能推翻一個鐵一般的事實,這事實就是和婚姻生活有關的笑話真的數之不盡.