On Sunday 19th July, we drove out into the countryside, to a village called Kimita, located near (and incorporated into) the town of Miyoshi, in Hiroshima Prefecture to view the sunflower fields.
The sky was full of ominous clouds, but when we arrived there were some patches of blue and the sun broke through from time to time, lighting up the heads of the sunflowers. In the photo (below) the sky is full of clouds to the north, but the sun is shining through gaps in the cloud cover behind the photographer and the myriads of sunflowers are drinking in the sunlight.
It was a cheerful site, even from a distance, when the sunflower fields first came into view as we drove into the village. As we approached the farm, villagers and outsiders could be seen carrying away sunflowers, singly or in bunches. I felt touched by a sense of joy just seeing people walking off with their summer treasure.
When you stand in front of masses of sunflowers all facing towards you, you begin to appreciate how such a vision could have contributed to Van Gogh’s descent into madness.
One step beyond, we have the Hostages To Fortune among the sunflowers…
And the inevitable self-satisfied selfie…
The sunflower farm at Kimita provided a pruning ladder for visitors to ascend and photograph the sunflower fields, which is what the Mrs attempted to do.
Of course, the Mrs was very keen to photograph her husband in such a fine setting…
Meanwhile, looking at another field in the opposite direction, we had a view of the backs of the sunflowers as they stared into the southern sky in search of the summer sun…
It was mid-afternoon when we left Kimita and as we hadn’t had lunch, we drove to Miyoshi Winery for a mega-grilled-meat blow-out lunch. I am not a big fan of Miyoshi wines. Last time I lunched there I stuck to beer. But even old gits can mellow with age and a sense of benevolence that communing with the sunflowers may have induced, so this time around I imbibed some of their unspecified “aka” (“red”) over an extended and more than adequate lunch.
I came across this Schloss Koblenz Mosel Riesling in the Avanse supermarket in Furue (a suburb of Hiroshima) one Saturday afternoon earlier this month.
It instantly struck a chord with me and brought back memories of camping beside the river Mosel with my school friend Patrick Bayly in the summer of 1982.
We spent several weeks hitch-hiking our way through France, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium and Holland. Our route took us through the Black Forest, up the Rhine as far as Koblenz and then along the Mosel to Trier.
Back to the wine. After a long period of drinking mainly Italian whites, most notably a zinging greco-fiano from the Pipoli vinyard, located on the side of an extinct volcano in Basilicata, the dry Mosel riesling seemed remarkably soft and delicate.
Back to the Summer of 1982
Having enjoyed the wine, I looked into the archives and dug out some old photos and my 1982 diary to see what I had written about Koblenz and the Mosel.
Inevitably, my comments about the local sites are a little disappointing as I was more interested in writing about the amusing characters we encountered on our travels.
Thursday 8th August 1982
Caught a bus into Bingen, where we made our way to Klopp Castle. We came across a couple of slides, and as is usual, Boff had to have a go. Down the big wavy slide he goes – splatt! Into the grott that awaits him at the bottom.
Klopp Castle was a bit of a letdown – not very much to see, either of castle or of the surrounding countryside, and the museum was shut.
Now we devote well over an hour in search of the right road to Koblenz. After hitching at one end of town we go back for the second time to the other side of the river. Are given a lift by [a] bod in [a] red Renault – without having to hitch. Clever Boff had attached a destination placard to his rucksack, and this had done the trick.
Are dropped off in a small village, and hitch outside [the] house of [a] friendly German lady – who also has a nice daughter or two. (We are not worried about getting a quick lift, for we hope to be invited in for tea.) We are given a lift by [a] talkative Canadian bod who does a similar sort of thing himself [i.e. hitch-hiking, I suppose].
Dropped by the side of the Rhine, we hitch a lift with “William person” [a disparaging reference to a cousin of mine whom Boff had met while hitch-hiking around England the previous summer] in horrible furry car with lots of furry grooh dangling from strategic positions.
Finally, nice German businessman takes us to Koblenz. Koblenz seems very nice. Here are the barges we had talked about catching, but we don’t ask any of the captains!
To the campsite, where we are amused by the gait of the owner and his loudspeaker system over which he calls people to his office after a rendering of martial music.
We had planned to look around Koblenz and then hitch-hike to Trier the next day. My only comment about what I saw in Koblenz is that it was “very nice” and that we “bought a load of grub and trudged back to the campsite,” where, lounging outside our tent in the heat of the day it became obvious that we had no intention of going anywhere and end up drinking beer all evening with a party of Dutchmen:
In the next tent along from us are two rather fine Dutchmen. One is a Boff lookalike, [but] with dark hair and a beard, the other can only be described as mammoth man; a huge hulk of a figure, but a harmless sort of chap. In the shade of their canoe were found many crates of beer, which they and some of their compatriots seemed to drink at an astounding rate.
We had one of Patrick’s [i.e. Boff’s] famous spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight, except that sausages instead of mince were used.
As evening draws on and our game of draughts becomes more impossible [sic], a tall dutchman emerges from the gloom and invites us to join him and his two cyclist friends for beer. All really good blokes – have a good chat… Our party and the nearby German/Canadian group chat and guffaw long into the night.
Our plans to head to Trier are further disrupted the next day. Firstly, I forgot to pick up my passport when we left the campsite and so half the day was wasted when I realized and had to go back and get it. However, that led to a second and most welcome disruption to our plans:
Having thus wasted half the day’s hitching time I assure Boff … that we shall get “The Big One” today! Indeed we do. A young couple pick us up and take us to a German pop/peace festival near Langcamp [sic]. It pours with rain…
The next day our two friends drop us off in a town somewhere on the Mosel and we head for Trier, encountering some colourful characters along the way:
Eventually two rattish looking chaps pull up in a car that is dominated by plastic tulips that leap from the speaker grills of the radio. they seem impressed by my combat jacket and ask which U.S. unit we’re from! Every time we drive past a girl they go into ecstasies of delight, titilating themselves by hooting, giggling and waving.
They drop us off near to Trier, and we are immediately picked up by one, Mrs Loony. She takes us into Trier, and all the way she fidgets and fiddles, slumps and primps, while her driving throws Boff about in the back like a sack of spuds. She then proceeds to take us to a YH [youth hostel] , where we wait until she has gone and make our escape!
After looking around, and being told where the YH is again, we camp by the river Mosel, a few hundred yards up. I ask [an] old hausfrau for fresh water for coffee, and Boff amuses himself hurling stones into the river.
Thirty years later, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley between Bingen and Koblenz was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here is a Deutsche Welle video of the region, which I hope, one day, to revisit:
A couple of weeks ago, on of my students talked about a photographic exhibition that was being held at the Fukuya department store in Hachobori, in the centre of Hiroshima.
The exhibition was celebrating the 100th birthday of Japan’s first female news photographer, Tsuneko Sasamoto.
Intrigued by my student’s report and by the brochure she passed around the class, I decided to check out the exhibition later that day as I happened to be going into town. I was very pleased to have done so.
Tsuneko Sasamoto was born in Tokyo in 1914. She worked for the Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shinbun and took up photo-journalism after making contact with the Photography Association.
She resisted pressure to give up working and get married at a time when women were treated as second-class citizens in Japan. Instead, against all the odds, she went on to document seven decades of Japanese life.
Perhaps the most intriguing photo in the exhibition is of a delegation of Hitler Youth who visited Japan in 1940 and are being entertained by a bunraku puppeteer. Presumably, they flew across the Soviet Union to reach Japan, during the time when the Nazi-Soviet non-Aggression Pact was still in place.
Tsuneko Sasamoto also photographed various other events of the Axis powers in Japan as well as the seventh Japan-America Student conference, also in 1940, just over a year before the Pacific War broke out.
After the war Tsuneko Sasamoto worked as a freelance photographer. She recorded scenes from the occupation, from MacArthur and his wife, (successfully requesting that he and his wife allow her to re-take a photo – an unprecedented breach of protocol at the time), to the bar life of the occupation forces after restrictions on mingling had been lifted in 1949.
In 1946 Tsuneko Sasamoto was in Hiroshima and photographed the A-Bomb Dome one year after the dropping of the a-bomb on the city.
For me, though, the most moving section of the exhibition was a whole series of portraits of notable Japanese men and women who Tsuneko Sasamoto photographed during the postwar years, most of whom have now passed away, giving the photos an almost elegaic quality.
Here is a news report in English about Tsuneko Sasamoto to mark her 100th birthday. In the film clips we get some idea of how dynamic and engaged with life this remarkable and inspiring Japanese woman continues to be.
What is Tsuneko Sasamoto’s secret of longevity? A large glass of red wine while contemplating the moon every evening!