To hijack a phrase from another holiday, I’m a bit of a humbug when it comes to Halloween, but this previously unpublished picture from the horror movie-like doctor’s office at Nichitsu mining town, seemed somehow very suitable for the season.
With all its concrete, which will surely only increase due to bureaucratic self interest, Tokyo, as well as Japan in general, often offers one a very grey landscape to look upon. And now, with its old people living ever longer, and kids not especially common, it’s a colour that not only has other connotations, but future complications.
Even though I’ve probably been to more festivals that I can, let alone care to remember, they never get boring — not in the slightest; the atmosphere, and particularly the people, making each one unique. Plus, to a man whose mother country has to make do with morris dancing, they really can’t be anything other than utterly mesmerising.
But that said, whereas I was once fascinated with the mikoshi that was being carried, or the enormous float that was somehow being steered down a street, my interest now lies much more with those doing the carrying and contributing.
And this year’s Kawagoe Festival was no different, with, as always, a varied contingent that included those of all ages.
And indeed coolness.
Plus, along with a selection of sounds to sample,
there was also a myriad of emotions to marvel at. This time covering the meditative.
And of course, merry.
With North Korea currently in the process of lumbering itself with another dear leader, whose mother, somewhat surprisingly, was a Japanese-born ‘consort’, the chance to meet Charles Robert Jenkins was a very timely one indeed. A man who, after defecting when he was only 24-years-old in a move that he now describes as the biggest mistake of his life, suffered a mindboggling 40 years in the hermit kingdom, making him a genuinely unique individual with quite a tale to tell to put it mildly.
Details of which really don’t need to be repeated here, as they are well documented on the internet and in the man’s own memoirs, but having the chance to talk to him about his new life on Sado Island with his wife and daughters — who it turns out still talk in the language of their captors when they are together — along with everything else from motorbikes, rice selling and of course North Korea, was absolutely fascinating. A rare mix of history, politics and redemption all encapsulated in one person.
Yet perhaps even more staggering than the story itself, is the fella himself, as, after going through what is utterly unimaginable to most, he has somehow come out the other side both a devoted family man and a genuinely accommodating and friendly individual.
A feat many of us fail to manage in the most welcome of situations, let alone the worst.