Published: July 11th 2007July 11th 2007
Deafening thunder storms all night mean an sub-optimumly overcast visit to Sakurajima, Japan's most explosive volcano, which skulked shrouded in mist like a London office worker with the flu hiding under a towel sniffing hot Vicks. Trying to take it easy for a change, we took a bus tour designed for the Japanese touring mentality, which begat 12 minute stops at each site. Our gigglesome guide seemed to have been on the happy baccy - she could barely inhale for laughing. Saw some lava - meh, I've seen better. What a travel snob!
Had a bowl of Happy Meal priced blue collar ramen for dinner, having asked for directions when standing right outside the place - damn, Kanji (chinese characters) are hard to recognise! Chased the cheap noodle soup with coffee and cake costing twice as much at the posh place next door. Yes Karl, Stace still ruins a perfectly good brew with a half pound of sugar, some tuppenny rice and a weasel.
Have now adjourned to our Minshuken (family abode which welcomes "Gaijin" - foreigners) to rethink our itinerary based on the grade 4 typhoon forecast.
Update: we're fleeing Kyushu tomorrow 'cause hiking in a
typhoon doesn't sound sensible . We head to the "Japanese style" pub to drown our sorrows, led purposefully by our host Mr Nakazono, who partakes of Aussie cold Kirin beer and insists we try a schnifter of the local liquor, imo-jochu, distilled from sweet potatoes, which looks like vodka, smells like whiskey and tastes like water - dangerously downable! Lightweight Furlongs still can't hack it though - pah! A curious trait: the locals will buy a bottle of imo-jochu from the pub and, if unfinished, number it and leave it behind the bar for next time. There's an idea for the Cutty and it's respectable range of single malts. Japanese pubs, which one can recognise by the red lantern outside, are as homely and welcoming as your local back home, and this one serves fabulous beer absorant hot snacks right through 'til midnight last orders. We feast on chips, okra and aubergine. Slightly tipsy, we tumble back through the secret door into the guest hose.
Editorial (feel free to skip this!): Where have all the Ronin gone? Japan no longer has any samurai. Likewise, no masterless swordsmen roam the countryside - the so called Ronin, a unique breed of
professionals much admired by my perenial keynote speaker and pal Michael, who borrows ther term to describe entrepreneurial, free thinking contract consultants - the new "hired guns". Now, the loss of the militaristic shogun regime may not be mourned, but their social structures and Ways (note the capital W) endure. And the Ways are exactly why I'd think twice about doing business in invitation only Japan. It's not the risk of commiting the business faux pas equivalent of dropping one's backpack on someone's head that bothers me, it's the cliquey culture and the company man career ladder with it's "thou shalt not change careers or employers" commandment. A real example; if you're not a member of the "press club" you get little or no access to political or financial news, a sinister indirect form of censorship which allowed the government to hide (and consequently worsen) the impending catastrophic bubble burst of the late 80's.
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