Posts Tagged 'Nagasaki'


Our short trip to Nagasaki is already behind us. The class I taught at Nagasaki University – the reason for this side trip – was attended by 2 Japanese PhD students (international public health), 3 tropical medicine docs from, respectively, Afghanistan, Benin and Mali, one 2nd year MPH student and 7 first year students, the latter all Japanese.

We spent a lively three hours together, so lively that a few students commented at the end that it felt as if they had only been in class for 3 minutes rather than 3 hours. I took it as a compliment. The material I was covering was new for all of them: how to make leadership actionable, what is a mission, a first attempt at a personal vision and why all of this is important. The material is all-purpose as it can be applied to self, to family, to work team and to one’s organization. Although not quite 3 minutes, the session went quickly and when I was done it was dark and cold outside.

Axel met me at the tram stop near our hotel. He had already made a reservation in the same tiny French-Japanese restaurant (chez garcon Ken) where we had dinner earlier this year, across what used to be the waterfront of an 18th century Dutch settlement, Decima (0r Dejima as the Japanese call it). The reservation had not been necessary as there was only one other table occupied but we liked the little reservation card nevertheless. It said ‘reserve pour M et Mme Boston.’

The owner, cook, waiter and dishwasher, presumably garcon Ken himself, prepared us some French dishes in Japanese style: a shrimp mousse, a salmon terrine with a spicy mayonnaise and a pork terrine with grainy mustard, followed by a yellow snapper and shrimp in a rich sauce. Pannacotta with fruit completed the meal, as well as a carefully selected wine to go with the meal. In between his cooking Ken came over from time to time to make a toast and to disappear again into the tiny kitchen.

Thursday was a travel day again but we managed to squeeze in another visit to the atomic bomb site – the epicenter and the hall of remembrance – a brief respite of contemplation – before meeting Miho and a colleague for a sushi and sashimi farewell lunch.

Back in Tokyo we joined a bunch of jolly commuters, hard drinkers and smokers, for another round of sushi and some noodles before heading to our next hotel. The Tokyo prince hotel looks like a Russian hotel from a bygone era – a giant unimaginative block of real estate set back from the road, with a shopping arcade in the basement and hundreds of rooms lining endless corridors. The décor in the room is early 60s, tired yellow velours, cream-colored draperies and furniture,guilded faucets, cut-plastic chandeliers and turquoise wall to wall carpet.

Because of a clerical error that had put us in a smoking room – causing an immediate respiratory attack in Axel – the hotel upgraded us to a smoke free suite. All the hotel rooms we have ever stayed in in Japan could easily fit in this suite. We have an enormous living room, another enormous bedroom and even a separate dressing room. I don’t have to leave the room when Axel does his exercises.

And so we have arrived at part 3 of our Japan stay – I work and Axel plays. But since my work is playful and joyful, my next three days won’t feel much like work. It has also stopped raining in Tokyo.

Next stop

Our second day in Tokyo was dreary, rainy, windy and cold. Nothing appears to be open before 10 AM  and, and since we had to get on our way to Tokyo’s other airport, Haneda, around 11 AM, we ended up spending our last vacation morning in the hotel lobby and coffee shop.

The trip to Haneda airport required one metro transfer, a short trip on a train and a longer one on the airport monorail that passed through southern Tokyo. It reminded us of Rotterdam, a giant port which has none of the refined delicacy of the Japan we are so in love with.

Nagasaki, though cool, was bathed in sunlight when we descended, a nice contrast with Tokyo. Nagasaki is draped over green hills with water everywhere. We were fantasizing about taking a road trip from south to north, one day.

Miho waited for us and guided us to the bus for the long trip into town.  We dropped off our bags at our hotel, a fancy modern looking boutique hotel wedged in between girl bars and eating places in a part of town that is dead during the day but quite lively even on school nights.

We had a beer in a café that was a novelty in 1925, a time when Nagasaki wasn’t the cosmopolitan place it is now. At the time it had, unheard of, a décor of foreign movie posters, a gramophone playing western music and home-made ice cream. Today the décor is a little tired, yellowed and dusty. Gone are the movie posters and the gramophone. It is still there but relegated to be a decorative item. The western (Christmas) music comes, now doubt from something Sony.  The place serves frikadelles, a Dutch fast food variation on the hamburger. In Nagasaki the Dutch influence here is nowhere far.

For dinner we selected shabu-shabu with the famous marbled beef, this time not from Kobe but from Nagasaki. We thought we were in fish country but apparently the beef here is prized as well. The dinner arrangement consisted of low tables but without the hole underneath so Axel and I were reminded about the Afghan meals we took sitting down, hardly able to walk afterwards.

Meals are often taken in separate rooms for privacy, created by paper sliding doors. Halfway through our meal a mother with her two school-uniformed teenagers joined our little alcove. There was much giggling after we offered ourselves up for English practice but the girls were too shy and the mother didn’t speak any English, asking Miho a thousand questions about us. When we left they had some English parting words (‘nice to meet you’) for us, accompanied by more smiles and giggles.

April 2019
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