Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face…

…Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race.

Friday 25th January. Burns night! The night when Scots at home and around the world celebrate the anniversary of the birth, in 1759, of our national poet, Robert Burns. Our hosts here, Ishbel’s sister and brother-in-law, had arranged to celebrate the occasion, as they do each year, with a Burns Supper. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, you should be aware that the cornerstone of such an event is that splendid Scottish delicacy, the haggis. The title of today’s post is a direct quote of the first two lines of Burns’ work “Address to a Haggis” which is traditionally recited as the haggis is cut open and served. But where in Australia can one source a haggis?

img_1614The local haggis purveyor is Syds Pies – and we were just in time in acquiring ours as they were almost all gone.

I know that I have some non-native English speakers following the blog, and I worry about what they will make of some of the terms used so far in this post. I recall watching an episode of the UK comedy panel show, QI, where they talked about trying to translate works into and out of different languages using Google Translate. Apparently, they translated “Great chieftain of the pudding race” into, and back out of, German getting the end result “Fuhrer of the sausage people.”

Along with the haggis, it’s traditional to have neeps and tatties. The tatties are easy: mashed potatoes. Neeps, on the other hand, is a more vexed question. Are they swedes or turnips? It turns out that different parts of the UK use these terms differently. So my answer is straightforward: Neeps are the yellow ones, not the white ones.

When all’s said and done, we had a most enjoyable Burns Supper, with friends of our hosts, handpicked as people who would enjoy haggis. (Amazingly, not everyone does.) What better way to close out this post than using Rabbie’s last couple of lines from the Address:

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware that jaups in luggies,

But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer, Gi’e her a haggis.

Country Walks and Poker (at last)

On Thursday, 24th January, we decided to drive up to Lamington National Park in the hope that by gaining altitude, we would lose heat. We got an early start and stopped en route for breakfast.

This place is popular with motor cyclists as it’s at the foot of the road up to the park which features long, smooth curves combined with multiple hairpin bends. It was interesting that the bikes represented here were one Ducati, one Harley, and three Royal Enfields. They are, of course, the new Indian manufactured Royal Enfields and not vintage British bikes.

dsc_0253 2

After breakfast, we headed up to Lamington. I pondered idly whether the park gave its name to the famous Australian cake. It turns out that they have a shared etymology. Both are, ultimately, named for the 8th Governor of Queensland, Lord Lamington.

We were planning on going into O’Reilly’s but stopped short to take a walk in the rainforest and down to a viewpoint over the valley below.


Although it’s only a short drive from the Gold Coast, there is a sense of wildness and isolation once you are in the forest.

dsc_0378After our walk, we carried on up to O’Reilly’s. The O’Reilly family were farming in the area when the National Park was first proclaimed in 1915, but they became nationally famous in 1937 for the part played by Bernard O’Reilly in finding a passenger aircraft that had crashed in the park and helping the two survivors back to safety. The story is related in an Australian TV movie, “The Riddle of the Stinson” and the replica plane built for that movie is on display there.

dsc_0558 After a pleasant wander around, we headed back home for dinner. We had identified a poker tournament that was taking place in a local pub, The Helensvale Tavern. Entry was AUD 22, about £12, so we decided we’d enter as our game is getting very rusty on this trip. Also, the pub had a special meal deal on Thursdays so we opted to eat there and check out the arrangements in advance of the tournament’s start at 7:00pm. The food was good, but the portion was enormous. If we eat there again, we’ll share a meal.

We registered for the tournament and, unusually, we were allowed to choose our own seats. In general, tournament organisers will perform a random draw to prevent any possible hint of collusion, or “bum-hunting” which means trying to get a seat near a weak player or simply avoiding players you know to be strong. Since we didn’t know anyone there and they didn’t know us, the seating was, in effect, still random for us anyway.

My rustiness shone through and I made a couple of bad decisions early on in the tournament, calling a bet when I should have folded. I was out in Level 6. Ishbel lasted a good bit longer than me but didn’t get close to the money. There were over 70 entries for the tournament so it looks like poker is alive and well on the Gold Coast.  We may try again to see if we can do better.


Two Time Zones, Confusingly

Wednesday, 23rd of January and we decided to visit the Tweed Regional Gallery. This is a small gallery in Murwillumbah, just across the border from Queensland in New South Wales. They run guided tours of the gallery in the morning so we thought we’d get an early start and get there in time to enjoy that.

Did you know that New South Wales has Daylight Savings Time in the winter and Queensland doesn’t? Me neither. So when we showed up more than half an hour ahead of time for the tour, we had actually missed it by 20 minutes. Luckily, nobody had showed up for the tour that day anyway and the lady who was that day’s designated guide was still in the building and was happy to show us around. It was interesting to get some more background on some of the artworks in both the permanent collection and the temporary exhibitions.

The gallery itself is set in rolling farmland with striking views of the nearby Mt Warning.

dsc_0232This is a peak that Ishbel and I, together with our two boys and various other family members, ascended over 20 years ago on a previous Australian visit. That was during the Australian winter and I recall even then being somewhat hot and bothered by the time we got to the top, so I had no appetite to repeat the experience in the middle of a blisteringly hot summer.

We continued to wander the gallery and our informative guide showed us around the house/studio of the late Australian artist Margaret Olley. Her Sydney residence has been reconstructed inside the gallery building. It’s a similar concept to the Francis Bacon studio which was rebuilt inside the Hugh Lane gallery in Dublin.

We had a pleasant lunch enjoying the view at the gallery’s cafe then headed back for Queensland, going back one hour in time as we crossed the border.

A day out in Brisbane

On Monday, we headed into Brisbane, using the convenient train service that runs between the city and the Gold Coast.  We got off at South Bank station and took the free ferry across the river to take a look at the downtown area. As we disembarked, the first building we encountered was the Treasury Casino. Unsurprisingly, it’s based in Brisbane’s old Treasury building.


It’s a great building and the interior retains a lot of original features. We investigated their poker room but they only run cash games – no tournaments. We left the casino and wandered on into the main shopping area where we found the Tourist Information centre housed in a 1929 cinema building.


We were interested in visiting Mount Coot-tha which has a renowned aspect over Brisbane. Obviously, this is a question that is asked of them fairly often since they immediately produced a bus timetable for getting there and back, together with a map for finding the relevant bus stop. We had acquired tap and go cards for the train in to town and they worked on the buses too so we made our way round to the bus stop at the appropriate time and headed up to the mountain. The views from the peak are excellent.

dsc_0247It had been far too hot to even think about walking up to the peak but since the bus had stopped at the Botanic Gardens en route to the top, we decided we would walk back down and start our return journey to the city from there. It was pleasantly shady most of the way down but we were nevertheless grateful for the occasional breeze that wafted over us during the descent. We were surprised to pass a mountain biker powering his way UP the slope in this heat, and maintaining quite a pace while doing so.

We reached the gardens and had a stroll through a small part of them. Judging from the map, they are very extensive and we were never going to be able to see a lot of them. We did have to spend some time avoiding the sprinklers that were operating in quite a number of areas but we made it down to the bus stop, which is just outside the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.

dsc_0315We caught our bus and headed back to town. Since we were by now on the cusp of Brisbane’s rush hour, we decided that we would have dinner in town and catch a later train back home. I also took advantage of the city by stopping in to the Electric Chair Barbershop to have a tidy up on the beard. I was by far the oldest person in the shop but enjoyed the robust discussion between one barber and his customer over the relative merits of Eminem vs Kanye.

After my tidy up, we had dinner in a pub/restaurant called Buffalo. Coming from the UK, it’s always a surprise to see children in the main bar area of a licensed establishment. This evening, it looked like a number of different families had arranged to meet up for a meal so there were about a dozen kids arranged along a set of high tables while their parents sat at a separate set of tables. Luckily we got our dinner order in before the kitchen was overwhelmed by them.

After dinner, we headed across to Brisbane’s Central Station for our return train journey. Still no sign of the rain that everyone here is hoping for.

Drawing breath in Australia

It’s been a week since I put up a post, apart from the impressions of Japan, so I haven’t yet touched on the Australian leg of our journey. In time-honoured fashion, and like so many UK visitors before us, we are spending a lot of our Australia visit imposing ourselves on friends and relations.

We arrived at Brisbane airport early on the morning of Friday, 18th January and were picked up by Ishbel’s sister. She lives on the Gold Coast and, showing kindness above and beyond familial duty, had agreed to put us up for a couple of weeks. We’ve been changing accommodation every few days for the past month and a half so it’s nice to get the chance to just settle down and properly unpack for a while.

We landed at around 6:30am and it was already blisteringly hot, and that has remained the case ever since. Quite a contrast from Japan’s Northern hemisphere winter. Friday was really a settling in day as we found our feet. There’s only a one hour time difference between Queensland and Japan so jet lag wasn’t a problem. We were both pretty tired though because we did have an abbreviated night’s sleep on the plane. There’s a pool at the house so we have been able to enjoy a refreshing dip whenever the heat gets too oppressive.

Saturday was a family gathering day as our three Australian nephews and three Australian great-nephews came round for, of course, a barbie. We’ve visited here a couple of times before and they have come to the UK as well so, like all long-distance families, we have seen them grow up in episodic fashion. The nephews are now all grown men and it’s lovely seeing the next generation of kids as they interact with us. They’ve met us before but, of course, we’re strangers for a couple of days until they get comfortable with accepting us as family.

The other acceptance process that we need to go through is with the dogs that live in the house. There are four of them:

Oscar and Spirit are West Highland Terriers; Diva a Border Collie; and Buddy is a horse. Well, he’s almost the size of a Shetland Pony but he’s a Wolfhound/Bull Mastiff cross. They all seem to have accepted us now.

On Sunday, we went along the coast a little. We had a specific task in mind as we had to buy Ishbel a new hat. Her Tilley hat appears to have parted company with us at some point before Japan. With the sunshine here on the Gold Coast, a hat is a necessity so we found a Tilley hat purveyor nearby and went to acquire a replacement.

That was our relaxing first couple of days in Australia.

Japanese Reflections

After less than a day in Japan, I chose to share with you some of my early impressions. Leaving the country two weeks later, I’ve decided to share a few observations of things that I found quirky, wondrous, scary, or any combination thereof. In that early post, I mentioned three things: the drunken salarymen, the technologically advanced toilets, and the scary cycling on the pavements. I’ll be bringing these up again, and lots more. As I write this, I’m conscious of the fact that I have at least one reader who used to live in Japan, and at least one reader who still does so, to them, my observations may be laughable based, as they are, on a mere two weeks of exposure, but what the hell. Here goes…


What we regarded as some form of two-wheeled anarchy turned out to be business as usual in Japan. Cyclists and pedestrians are expected to share the pavements, no matter how wide or narrow they may be. Or early experience of this was certainly coloured by the fact that the pavement outside our Tokyo AirBnB was narrow and the street door opened outward which must surely be a hazard for all and sundry. We were just starting to get used to being on the lookout for bikes as we were leaving.

Public Transport

It’s possible to make public transport work. Over the course of two weeks, we visited four cities, taking all of our luggage on each journey – including the instruments. And we used public transport for all of our travel needs. We did not take a single taxi all the time we were in Japan. The ability to use a single tap-and-go card across all municipal systems, from Tokyo’s subway to Hiroshima’s trams made life simple.

img_1524Also, we were on a crowded train one morning with a number of people standing in the aisles. At the end of the carriage are six seats identified as priority seating for those who need it. Those seats were empty. The people on the train respect the fact that they may be required. It’s a similar story with women only carriages. They exist, and men don’t use them. Easy.

Civic design

There is something very attractive about elements of design being incorporated into the everyday aspects of life. For us, this was highlighted by the fact that different cities have commissioned their own design of manhole cover. This most ordinary of items becomes art, or a focus for civic pride. You have to admire that.

Earthquake architecture

I wasn’t really conscious of the fact that, as you walk down a UK High Street, the shops form a continuous frontage on to the pavement. The buildings are conjoined regardless of age or architectural style. Not so in earthquake conscious Japan. Buildings have small – less than a metre – spaces between them. Once you notice it, it’s a really obvious difference. Also, high buildings have external staircases that are incorporated into the overall design.



Many Japanese jobs would appear to have an associated uniform. And when that is the case, the uniforms tend to be immaculate and worn with pride. This was certainly the case on the bullet trains and the subways, with the Tokyo Tower staff, even schoolkids. On a tram in Hiroshima just as school let out for the day, a bunch of high school students joined us on our journey. The boys were all dressed exactly the same, as were the girls. And, astonishingly, boys and girls were all wearing exactly the same plain black shoes.

It’s difficult to get photographic evidence to back all this up since it’s not really appropriate to take pictures of random strangers as they go about their daily lives, but I did get a couple of surreptitious snaps: one of a utility worker and one of a pair of painter and decorators.


This is a country with a fascinating history, about which I now realise I was woefully under-informed. It’s a place of contrasts. Of technology and shrines. Of respect for the rules and very drunk businessmen.

But, it’s warm and friendly, and we’ve already decided that we’ll be back. If you’ve never been, make sure it’s on your list.


Leaving Japan for another continent

After our bluegrass adventure of Wednesday, it was time to take our leave of Tokyo and Japan on Thursday. We packed up and checked our bags at the hotel. The flight to Australia wasn’t due to depart until early evening so we decided to make up for having missed out on it the previous Wednesday by going to see the Teien Art Museum. You may recall that this is an art deco mansion which was the former residence of Prince Asaka, a son-in-law of Emperor Meiji (discussed in depth in this post) and uncle of Emperor Hirohito. He was a fan of the art deco style and so are we so this place was a perfect fit for a visit.

This is the place from the outside.

dsc_0549That’s all we saw. Apparently it’s not open at the moment as it’s setting up for a special exhibition starting at the end of the month. I’m going to have to learn to read Japanese. The gardens were open so we had a stroll around them for a while and visited the teahouse that was built at the same time as the house.

Nice teahouse, but not on its own worth the 25 minute train ride. And thus ended the Asian leg of the trip. We took the train back to the centre of Tokyo, picked up our luggage from the hotel, and took the Narita Express train out to the airport. We still had plenty of time before our flight so we looked into taking the bus to the airport for only JPY 1,000 each but the catch was you are only allowed one suitcase. You can’t even pay for an additional bag, so we wouldn’t have been able to get both our cases and the dobro on the bus, so the train it was destined to be.

Qantas was easier than BA to deal with and we had already checked in to our seats – 5A and 6A – for the flight to Brisbane. Flat beds and big screens when we got on board. In a fit of nostalgia, I re-watched Blazing Saddles on the flight. A classic.

Australasia for the next month, which is largely unplanned at the moment so we’ll see what happens.


Back in Tokyo and suddenly I’m gigging

We were awake early on Wednesday morning to finish packing for the train from Hiroshima to Tokyo.  We were booked on the 9:54 which required a change at Shin-Kobe. There are direct trains between the two cities, but they are all Nozomi superfast express trains which aren’t covered by the JR Pass we’ve been using for all our train travel. There were 11 minutes for us to make the connection which, given the punctuality of the trains, was plenty of time. It was particularly straightforward since we arrived at and departed from the same platform at Shin-Kobe.

We arrived in Tokyo mid-afternoon. I had booked us for the night into the Mitsui Garden Hotel Kyobashi which was a 5 minute walk from the station, or would have been if Google Maps hadn’t provided odd instructions for getting there. We eventually arrived and checked in to another compact hotel room.

Having been cooped up on the train for a lot of the day so far, we headed out for a walk and to build up an appetite for dinner. Also, I had been trying to find some Bluegrass music in Tokyo and had googled a bar called Rocky Top which was reasonably close to our hotel. We knew the music wouldn’t be starting until later in the evening but rather than wandering aimlessly, we decided to walk down to where Google Maps told us it was located to scope it out.

screenshot 2019-01-18 at 11.44.05

The walk took us through Ginza, an area which features all of the high-end shopping establishments you could ever hope to encounter, if that’s your thing. We walked to the place where Rocky Top should have been but couldn’t find it. We are so used to bars and restaurants having street front entrances in the UK, we keep forgetting that Tokyo establishments can be located on the upper floors of buildings. Having missed it on the way down the street, we spotted the sign on our second sweep of the area. To be fair to us, night had fallen by this time and the bar sign wasn’t yet illuminated as the place hadn’t yet opened. We went up to the third floor to have a look at it anyway and the sign outside confirmed that there would be a bluegrass band playing that night.

We still had a couple of hours to kill before they started so we walked back up to the station. On our way in on the Shinkansen, we’d caught a glimpse of the frontage of the old part of the station on its western side. We had come out of the modern, east side and hadn’t seen it when we arrived so we decided to go and take a look.

IMG_3509.JPGWe then looked for somewhere for dinner and discovered a Japanese foodstuff that we hadn’t previously encountered on our travels: Omurice. It’s rice, inside an omelette. Tasty.

After dinner, it was time to go and get our bluegrass fix so back to Rocky Top we headed. We were relieved to see that the external sign was now illuminated, so up we went and in through the door. The room holds maybe 30 to 40 seats with a stage at one end and a bar at the other. We were seated just inside the door and asked whether we had been there before, which we hadn’t, and were warned that there was a cover charge for the music, which we knew about. We ordered a couple of Asahi draft beers and took in our surroundings. We were the only westerners in the room and, by the time the band started, there were around 15 others there to enjoy the music, all Japanese.

I had heard that bluegrass had a substantial following in Japan and it has been mentioned a  few times in the book I’m currently reading, a chronicle of the life of Bill Monroe, the acknowledged father of bluegrass. There is also a famous Japanese mandolin luthier, Eiichi Sumi, who first came to prominence for building some of the top end models of Kentucky mandolins when they were being built in Japan. Kentucky later moved production to China and Sumi built mandolins under his own name.

I digress. The band started playing, and they were excellent. Very tight with some quite formidable four part harmonies, particularly noticeable on their version of Fox on the Run, the Manfred Mann song that The Country Gentlemen later covered and converted to a bluegrass classic.

img_3512At the end of their first set, the young bass player, Shinnosuke, came over for a chat with us. We discovered he was the son of the banjo player and he also played with some of his contemporaries in a rock band but enjoyed bluegrass very much. He told us that, for the second set, the band usually invites guest vocalists and instrumentalists on to stage with them and tried to encourage one or both of us to participate. We were obviously reluctant to do so since the quality of what we heard in the first half was way beyond what we could achieve.

img_1585But of course, I did it anyway. I sang Gotta Travel On and received thunderous applause, which only goes to show how polite Japanese people are.

There was quite a bit of talent scattered around the audience and it was clear from the song choices that the people there knew a lot about bluegrass music. The third set was back to the band performing again. Their name had been written in Japanese outside the bar but Shinnosuke told us they were called River of Time – an excellent bluegrass band name.

If you find yourself in Japan and want to hear bluegrass, make sure you get along to Rocky Top.

Day 2 in Hiroshima

Still working our budget as well as we can, we opted out of the hotel breakfast and instead ate in one of the station Starbucks (there are several) on Tuesday morning. We had decided that we would visit Miyajima Island to see the Itsukushima shrine there. It’s a 25 minute train journey from the central station followed by a 15 minute ferry ride across to the island but, luckily, both the train and ferry are operated by Japan Railways so our JR Passes once again meant free travel for us.

The Torii at the entrance to the shrine famously stands in the sea and the shrine itself rests on stilts because at high tide it is surrounded by water and, according to the commentary we heard on the boat, the pillars are 10m in circumference. When I heard that, it aroused my inner geek and I immediately calculated (2πr) that they were just under 3.2m in diameter. Sorry, I can’t help myself. 


Ishbel was able to get a couple of photos of the Torii as we arrived at the island. When we disembarked the ferry, we were surprised by the number of apparently tame deer wandering around the streets. There are warnings not to feed them and that seems to work as they don’t actively approach people begging but neither do they shy away from us. I’m assuming that there is no Japanese equivalent for the phrase “as skittish as a deer”.


We walked from the ferry terminal to the shrine and performed our duty as tourists by buying the combined ticket for the shrine and the “Treasure Hall”, for around £3.50 each. Almost every site we have visited in Japan has been free, or levied a nominal charge, with the exception being the Tokyo Tower which, at 2,800 yen (just over £19) each for the top deck visit, was still highly competitive when judged against comparable attractions in other cities.

The shrine visit was interesting, although we were slightly disappointed that the tide was out. The shrine is manned by quite a number of monks who go about their business largely ignoring the ogling tourists and the praying believers milling around their temples. After the shrine itself, our visit to the Treasure Hall was brief. The treasures no doubt hold greater significance for those who understand (and believe) the religion more than we do.

We decided to climb the stairs to another shrine further up the hill away from the sea. I was delighted to see a vast array of little buddhas wearing knitted hats as we walked up. 

They reminded me of groups of rival football supporters all wearing their respective colours.

After our stroll around this shrine, we headed back down to the town, stopping off for a look at the five storied pagoda.


To my delight, the town had its own brewery and we stopped there for a pint of their lemon IPA which was very nice. We then made our way back to the ferry then to the train back to Hiroshima station.

After the disappointment of not getting in to Kemby’s the previous day, we tried again and, I’m pleased to say, succeeded in getting seats. We were there quite early in the evening so didn’t have much competition. We ordered burgers and took some time over the important matter of which beer to have. They had two of my favourites in the fridge: Brewdog’s Punk IPA and Ballast Point’s Sculpin IPA. But I didn’t come to Japan to drink Scottish or American beers, so we ordered a couple of their house Hazy IPAs which were excellent and went very well with the burgers.

After dinner, we realised we were within walking distance of the Peace Park once again, so decided to go along to see it by night and to pay our respects once more.

img_3482After this, we took a tram back to the hotel to get ready for our return journey for Tokyo the next day. The Japan leg of the trip is almost over, but we have one more day in Tokyo and will enjoy it to the full.

A Hiroshima pilgrimage

We were awake early on Monday morning and quickly packed for the next leg of our Japanese adventure, saying goodbye to our little Osaka AirBnB studio flat. We were bound for Hiroshima, so had to take a train to Osaka, then change and catch another for Shin-Osaka before we could catch our Shinkansen bullet-train to Hiroshima. As we’ve come to expect, everything happened precisely on time and we were quickly and efficiently on our way.

I had managed to get us a deal for £80 a night at a hotel right at Hiroshima station. The Hotel Granvia is one of a chain of station hotels in Japan. The place is clean, modern, and pleasant to spend time in, much like Japanese trains and stations. The other advantage of staying here was the fact that we had to tote the bags only a very short distance after arriving. This meant we were at the hotel by noon. With the official check-in time being 2:00pm, we checked our bags, picked up a map of the city, and headed out.

We were both born at the tail end of the 1950s and, growing up in the 60s and 70s, Hiroshima was a name with which we were all too familiar. We grew up with a kind of nuclear anxiety, too young to comprehend the events of the Cuban missile crisis but keenly aware of a general consciousness that the world could end at any moment in a nuclear holocaust. Hiroshima was, and still is, one of only two cities ever to have been struck by a nuclear weapon. It represented that potential for devastation in our minds. So, when we actually arrived here, our first destination was somewhat pre-ordained.


If you’ve ever seen a picture of Hiroshima after the bomb was dropped, you’ll have seen the single building, ruined but still standing, in a landscape otherwise almost completely levelled. That ruin stood untouched until the start of reconstruction in Hiroshima. There was a great deal of controversy around what should be done with it. Many survivors would have preferred not to be reminded of that day, while others felt that there should be some monument to the events of 6th August, 1945. In the end, the decision was reached to preserve the ruin as a reminder to the world. Alongside it, a Peace Park has been constructed which contains various monuments and exhibitions.

The Peace Flame was lit in August 1964, the monument itself having been designed by Kenzo Tango – the same man who designed St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tokyo. Also in the park is the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall. The hall includes a diorama view of the city taken by US military personnel a few days after the bomb had struck. The image is composed of a mosaic of 140,000 tiles – the number of people estimated to have died in the attack. Incredibly, this figure is provided with a margin of error of plus or minus 10,000. There is also a video presentation where the recollections of survivors and the bereaved can be heard. They talked about the loss of 544 first and second year students from the Hiroshima Municipal Girls’ High School. There’s a monument to the students killed in the attack and the inscription on it of Einstein’s famous formula that defines the energy released in a nuclear reaction.

emc2 hiroshima

The visit to Hiroshima was something of a pilgrimage for us, and this was a sobering experience.

We travelled to and from the Peace Park by tram. Yet again, our Tokyo-bought Pasmo travel cards operated seamlessly on the tap and go readers on the cars. The train station was the central terminus for all routes, so our hotel was perfectly situated for us to see more of Hiroshima. After taking a few moments with our thoughts, we headed out for dinner. We had picked a burger and craft beer place called Kemby’s and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, when we got there it was closed which forced me to learn yet another fact about Japanese culture.

There is a national holiday on the second Monday in January called “Coming of Age Day”. It is intended to celebrate Japanese youth reaching the age of majority – currently 20 but dropping to 18 in 2022. We ate in a small Japanese restaurant then walked back to the hotel. Our walk home coincided with a lot of the Coming of Age Day celebrants departing whatever festivities they had been participating in. Imagine, if you will, the scene if the whole of the UK held Sixth Form leaving balls on the same day. That appears to be the general vibe, particularly among the lads. The girls seemed altogether more sober, literally and figuratively.

It was an interesting day in Hiroshima, a city whose name is stamped indelibly on history but which, 70 years after that defining moment, goes about its business like any other world city. It’s a testament to their powers of recovery that this is the case. I’m glad we came here.