for Gabrielle Carey

Womb? Weary?

He She rests. He She has travelled.


Sinbad the Sailor and Tinbad the Tailor and Jinbad the Jailer and Whinbad the Whaler and Ninbad the Nailer and Finbad the Failer and Binbad the Bailer and Pinbad the Pailer and Minbad the Mailer and Hinbad the Hailer and Rinbad the Railer and Dinbad the Kailer and Vinbad the Quailer and Linbad the Yailer and Xinbad the Phthailer.


Going to dark bed there was a square round Sinbad the Sailor roc’s auk’s eggin the night of the bed of all the auks of the rocs of Darkinbad the Brightdayler.



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The Genealogies of Mr Senior

In his reminiscence of his first visit to Sydney, in 1879, Joseph Conrad recalled ‘the tinkle of more or less untuned cottage pianos floated out of open stern-ports till the gas lamps began to twinkle in the streets, and the ship’s night-watchman, coming sleepily on duty after his unsatisfactory day slumbers, hauled down the flags and fastened a lighted lantern at the break of the gangway. The night closed rapidly upon the silent ships with their crews on shore.’ The night watchman was himself: just twenty-one years old, an Ordinary Seaman, his ship was the London wool clipper the Duke of Sutherland moored, while her captain sought a cargo for the return voyage, for five months at Circular Quay West.

Conrad goes on to describe a chance meeting on one of those autumn nights at the Quay. ‘I had an hour or so of a most intellectual conversation with a person I could not see distinctly, a gentleman from England, he said, with a cultivated voice, I on deck and he on the quay sitting on the case of a piano (landed out of our hold that very afternoon) and smoking a cigar which smelt very good. We touched, in our discourse, upon science, politics, natural history and operatic singers. Then, after remarking abruptly, “You seem to be rather intelligent, my man,” he informed me pointedly that his name was Mr. Senior, and walked off — to his hotel, I suppose. Shadows! Shadows! I think I saw a white whisker as he turned under the lamp-post. It is a shock to think that in the natural course of nature he must be dead by now. There was nothing to object to in his intelligence but a little dogmatism maybe. And his name was Senior! Mr Senior!’

This passage, from The Mirror of the Sea, published in 1906, was written a quarter of a century after the encounter it recalls. It is, I suppose, without much consequence, apart from the resonance of the name, or at least its resonance for Conrad. ‘Senior’ is an anglicisation of the French ‘seignior’, meaning feudal lord; for some reason it is a common surname in the north of England and among lowland Scots. Later, in 1963, T S Eliot described Joseph Conrad (to Igor Stravinsky) as ‘a grand seignior, the grandest I have ever met.’ The name stuck in my mind too and after my book, Marlow’s Dream, about Conrad’s adventures in the antipodes, was written and had gone to the publishers, I thought I would inquire further into the identity of Mr Senior, on the off chance that I might be able to find out something more about him. As it happened, I could.

The first clue came, courtesy of WikiData, in the form of a record of a man called Stanton John Senior, a sea captain, born sometime before 1876 at Mold-Green, York, England. Stanton Senior in Sydney in 1895 married Harriet Holtermann, the daughter of the man after whom the Holtermann Nugget was named: the largest single mass of gold ever found. It was uncovered by Bernhardt Holtermann and others at the Star of Hope mine at Hill End in 1872 after explosives, detonated at midnight on October 19, exposed ‘a wall of gold’. Following hard upon Harriet’s untimely death, aged 27, in 1901, Stanton Senior married Annie May Summerbelle at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney. They had twin sons together before he abandoned the family and moved to South Africa, where he married for a third time, and where he died (it is thought) around 1918. May Summerbelle had already, in 1912, divorced him.

One of the newspaper reports of the Senior-Summerbelle wedding identifies Stanton’s father as George Senior, Esq, of Derbyshire. A man of that name and designation was, in 1865, proprietor of Hasland Lane & Dunstan Collieries and Managing Director of the Chesterfield & Midland Silkstone Company at Chesterfield, south of Sheffield. In this capacity, in February of that year, he gave a supper for about a hundred of his employees at the Prince of Wales Inn; even though he was absent at the time, having gone down to London on his honeymoon. His brother Edward presided and their bookkeeper, Mr Wilcockson, was his deputy. Toasts were proposed and drunk, and a glee, ‘Fair Flora’, along with other songs, sung. Edward Senior said that ‘where managers and workmen pull well together, all parties benefit’ and this was greeted with cheers by the assembled workers.

George Senior and his wife Emma, née Coe, had two other sons, both Australian born: Sacheveral George (b. 1885) and Edward Wilson Hastings (b. 1888). Sacheveral was killed, aged 30, at Gallipoli, in August, 1915 and is buried in the cemetery at Lone Pine. Edward, who also served in the war, as a sapper, survived. Born in Mosman, Sydney, he died at Austimer, near Wollongong, in 1955. When and how the Senior family emigrated to Australia isn’t clear. As with any genealogical inquiry, there is plenty of scope here for speculation; and, while it is by no means certain that the gentleman Joseph Conrad encountered at Circular Quay was George Senior, Esq., of Derbyshire, he might have been. If so, he was a wealthy man, with a wife and a young son, who had imported a piano from the old country, perhaps to grace the family home in Mosman.

Genealogical inquiry can also open doors which might otherwise have remained closed. May Summerbelle, whom Stanton Senior married in 1901, was at that time a widow with a seven year old daughter from a previous marriage. Born in 1867, the child of another sea captain, in January, 1893 she married Edwin Hubert Glasson, known as Bertie, the youngest son of a family of wealthy graziers from the western districts of New South Wales. He was 25 years old, a stock and station agent who also had an interest in a butcher’s shop in the town of Carcoar. Bertie was, by all accounts, handsome, popular and easy-going, a good sportsman and a fine judge of a horse. The Glassons, who were Cornish, were Wesleyans while the Summerbelles were Catholic.

The Evening News reported: ‘A very pretty wedding took place at St. Joseph’s Church, Woollahra, on Wednesday, the 18th instant, when Miss Annie May Summerbelle, the talented young pianist and composer, daughter of Captain William Summerbelle, of Double Bay, was married to Mr. Bertie Glasson, of Stanfield, Carcoar. The youthful bride looked charming. She was attired in ivory merveillenx, with empire sash, her veil being fastened with a diamond crescent, the gift of the bridegroom.’ Her sisters, Blanche and Stella, in pink crepon silk dresses and carrying bouquets of pink roses, were her bridesmaids. The couple afterwards went to the Carrington Hotel at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and thence to Hobart and to New Zealand for their honeymoon. The newspaper reported ‘the presents were both numerous and costly.’

Bertie and May lived together in the luxurious Metropole Hotel, on the corner of Young and Bent Streets in Sydney, for some months after their wedding and it must have been while they were there that May fell pregnant. But all was not well. Bertie, who may have been a gambler, and who had fallen out with his older brothers over his share in the family property, was in financial difficulties. The butcher’s shop in Carcoar, which he co-owned, was mired in debt and about to be sold out from under him by the City Bank in Bathurst. Evidently, the lifestyle he and his wife lived at the Metropole was not just lavish, it was beyond their means. Bertie decided to attempt to ease their predicament by desperate measures. He told his creditors he was about to come into a large sum of money and took a train to Carcoar.

There, after visiting a family friend, who sensed nothing amiss, at 2.30 am he broke in through a window to the Carcoar branch of the City Bank on Belubula Street. The manager, John Philips, who lived upstairs, heard a noise and came down to investigate. He had a pistol in his hand. When he saw Bertie, whom he knew, he tried to talk him out of whatever his mad plan was. Glasson demanded the key to the safe and when it was not forthcoming (Philips did not have it) attacked and killed him with a ‘razor-sharp’ tomahawk. He also struck Philips’ wife in the face with the axe, and despatched her sister (or perhaps her friend), Frances Cavanaugh, with a single blow. Fanny had the Philips’ three year old daughter, Gladys, in her arms when she was hit and the little girl lost two fingers and a thumb.

Glasson, having murdered two people and seriously injured two more, fled, without any money, on a horse stolen from the local vicar, who was his cousin, and was arrested the next day at a barber’s shop in Cowra. His bloody clothes were found in a field on the family farm and there was a pathetic, unsent letter to his wife (it may have been an attempt at an alibi) in the pocket of his jacket: ‘O my precious Queen, I am going mad, and felt it coming on for some time. I came to myself today, Sunday, in one of Stanfield’s paddocks, and I had on a black suit of clothes all covered in blood. What I have done I have no idea. I remember leaving Sydney to go to Orange . . . ’

At the trial he pleaded insanity and in his defence suggested he had inherited his malady from his mother Elizabeth’s side of the family; her maiden name was Paull and, like the Glassons, they were Cornish. It was to no avail: he was convicted and hanged in Bathurst Jail in November. His wife was refused permission to visit him there and it was during this period, pregnant and alone, that she wrote the song ‘Love is a Fadeless Flower’. Their daughter was born the next year, 1894, and called by her mother Noëla Beatrice Myer Ewart Glasson. When, in 1901, May Summerbelle married Stanton Senior, seven year old Noëla (pronounced ‘Nola’) took her stepfather’s name and it was as Noëla Senior that she was herself married, in Ashfield in 1922, to the poet Kenneth Slessor.  

Captain William Summerbelle, English born in 1834, came out to New South Wales at an unknown date and worked on ships, sailing mostly to and fro and in between the islands of the Pacific. He married Honora Savage in Sydney in 1859 and they had six children, four girls and two boys. May was their fifth child. Captain Summerbelle’s obituary records that ‘having made his fortune in South Seas trade and feeling the need to spend time with his growing family, William became the manager of the North Shore Steam Ferry Company. He passed away, aged 62 years, in 1896 at Ryde, New South Wales.’ He had lived long enough to witness the denouement of his daughter’s disastrous first marriage.

May Summerbelle was a pianist who wrote light classical music and popular songs. She had been a student at the Phillip Street, Sydney, school of Alice Charbonnet-Kellerman, the French-Australian composer of romantic and classical music, teacher of the opera singer Nellie Melba and of the composer Lydia Larner, as well as the mother, by her violinist husband, Frederick William Kellerman, of the famous long distance swimmer, vaudevillian, screen actor, nude model and educator Annette Kellerman. May Summerbelle’s first compositions appear to have been written in the early 1890s, around the time of her courtship and marriage to Bertie Glasson.

She went on to write over a hundred tunes, including ‘So Long’, which was played as the Third Australian Light Horse embarked at Circular Quay for Gallipoli, where they fought, dismounted and without their horses, as infantry. Another of her compositions, ‘Ave Maria’ (1910), was ‘written specially for and sung by Madame Melba’. Some of her music was selected to be performed at the 1924 British Empire Exhibition in London. In later years Ms Summerbelle who, after Stanton Senior left, never re-married, involved herself in repertory theatre. She died in 1946. Recently her reputation has been restored as a part of a drive to rehabilitate neglected Australian woman composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 Another of the Summerbelle sisters, Stella, also married a sea captain, Francis Joseph Bayldon. Their wedding, with Catholic rites, took place in Sydney in 1898, three years before May married Stanton Senior. Bayldon was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1872, the son of an Anglican minister. In 1887, aged 15, he was apprenticed to Devitt & Moore, shipowners, and became a cadet officer in their passenger clippers sailing, as Joseph Conrad did, out to Australia via the Cape of Good Hope and back to England around Cape Horn. He earned his chief mate’s ticket in 1894 and his master’s in 1896, after which he ‘went into steam’. For four years he was with the Canadian-Australian line, steaming between Sydney and Vancouver. In 1901 he was employed by Burns Philp and became a chief officer and a master on ships engaged in their Pacific Islands trade for the rest of the decade.

Bayldon joined the Royal Naval Reserve in 1898 and was promoted lieutenant in 1907. He was a skilled hydrographer who corrected defective charts and added new details to them, including the Bayldon Shoals, off Tulagi, to the east of Iron Bottom Sound in the Solomon Islands, where after his death his ashes were scattered. His observations of the zodiacal light were published by the British Astronomical Association and by the Lick Observatory in the US. His treatise, On the Handling of Steamships During Hurricanes on the East Coast of Queensland, was highly recommended by other master mariners who steamed those waters. He retired from the merchant marine in 1910 and that year opened the Sydney Nautical Academy ‘catering for all types of nautical certificates’. He sold the school in 1947, the year before he died; its curriculum went on to form the basis of navigation studies at Sydney Technical College.

Bayldon was a fellow of the Royal Australian Historical Society and contributed articles to its journal, including one, in 1925, on the 1606 voyage of Luís Vaz de Torres from the New Hebrides, now Vanuatu, through the strait that bears his name to the Moluccas and then on to Manila. This essay was severely criticized in the introduction to the book, New Light on the Discovery of Australia, as Revealed by the Journal of Captain Don Diego de Prado y Tover, edited by Henry N Stevens and published by the Hakluyt Society in 1930. Bayldon, who had sailed through Torres Strait himself and knew its waters well, was incensed. He took every opportunity thereafter to counteract what he called Henry Stevens’ ‘most misleading deductions’.

Bayldon was also a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of London, a foundation councillor of the Geographical Society of New South Wales, president of the League of Ancient Mariners and vice-president of the Shiplovers’ Society. A quiet, unassuming man, nick-named ‘Gentle Annie’ by his fellows, he was not, however, a prude, ‘for he drank, smoked and swore’. He was also the model for Captain Dobbin in the Kenneth Slessor poem of that name. Slessor wrote: ‘He had a magnificent library, more than a thousand books about the sea and seamen, logs, journals, learned papers, instruction manuals, maps and charts, many of them exceedingly rare and valuable. Fortunately the Mitchell Library acquired them after his death.

‘Since he was my wife’s uncle, I was allowed to browse through this collection on my weekly visits [to his house in Darling Point]. Over a glass of sherry I was encouraged to ask questions, and his enthusiasm, his scholarly gusto and his astonishing knowledge of unfamiliar details soon infected me with his own worship of Cook. Indeed, all that I have written about Captain Cook I got from Captain Bayldon. The Five Visions, rough and incomplete as they seem to me still, are merely fragments of the image he built for me.’

Curiously, Slessor’s biographer, Geoffrey Dutton, while he tells the story of the Glasson murders, fails to realise that Noëla was Bertie Glasson’s daughter. He thinks Stanton Senior was her father and that she was born on Christmas Day, 1905, making her a girl of sixteen when Slessor married her in 1922, not the 28 year old she actually was. Slessor, seven years younger, was 21. Dutton’s portrait of Noëla is unsympathetic. He describes her as ‘a vain, frivolous, selfish woman’, who ‘occupied a shrine in Slessor’s heart where she appeared as a goddess.’ She was thus a burden and a drag upon the great man. How much his misapprehension as to her age and her antecedents contributes to this assessment is difficult to say; it must have had some effect.

Whatever the nature of their relationship, it is clear that Kenneth loved Noëla all her life. Moreover, her death, from cervical cancer in 1945, coincided with the end of his poetry writing (there was just one more poem). He several times in interviews remarked upon his inability to write poetry once she had gone. There are of course many reasons why a poet might stop writing and the lack of anything more to say, which Slessor also alluded to in interview, is foremost amongst them. However he didn’t actually abjure the writing of poetry, he merely said he was waiting for the conditions in which poems would come to mind again to re-occur. In Noëla’s absence, they never did.

Noëla, and the wider network of the Summerbelle family, were thus an indispensable part of the ecology out of which Slessor’s poetry grew, as his association with Captain Bayldon demonstrates. You could also reach back to Captain Summerbelle’s position with the ferry company for a ghost connection to Slessor’s most famous poem, ‘Five Bells’, an elegy for his friend Joe Lynch, drowned in Sydney Harbour after accidently falling into the water from the ferry Kiandra on the night of May 14, 1927. The Kiandra was operated by Sydney Ferries, which grew out of the North Shore Steam Ferry Company, which William Summerbelle managed.

The influence upon Noëla, and through her on Slessor, of the Glasson murders, is harder to construe. Slessor’s sternly Presbyterian mother Margaret, a Scot whose family were from Hebrides, opposed the marriage, perhaps because the Summerbelles were Catholic, perhaps because of the association of Noëla’s mother with the notorious killer. Margaret Slessor, née McInnes, was from Orange, where Kenneth was born in 1901, when the Glasson murders were still in living memory. His father, Robert, an English mining engineer of German Jewish descent, changed the family name from Schloesser just after the beginning of the First World War. Whether because of Noëla’s Catholicism, her antecedents or for some other reason, Margaret Slessor disapproved of her and told Kenneth that she would never receive her. She never did.

I don’t know if Noëla knew who her biological father was, nor whether Slessor did either. Common sense says they both must have, but whether that means their marriage was haunted by the spectre of Glasson and his bloody crime is impossible to determine. Again, common sense suggests not. Nevertheless, the presence of a veritable axe-murderer in his wife’s genealogy suggests that the apprehension of a kind of gothic horror lurking just outside the penumbra of ordinary life might also be adduced as another part of the ecology out of which Slessor’s poems grew.  

Dutton’s hostility towards Noëla is unremitting; yet his version of her is derived mostly from Slessor himself; even though he acknowledges, as others have done, that Slessor was a very private man, intricately masked, and that no-one really knows, or can know, what the marriage was like on the inside. A reviewer of Dutton’s 1991 biography of Slessor, Dennis Haskell, quotes a friend of Peter Porter’s: ‘All marriages are opaque’. Perhaps Noëla’s alleged frivolity was an escape from the darkness of her background. Or perhaps she inherited certain traits from her mother. Dutton remarks disparagingly upon Noëla’s ‘inexhaustible appetite for shopping’. Haskell points out that Slessor, ‘whose poems are full of closely observed and often exotic objects, seems to have enjoyed these outings just as much. Noëla’s fastidious tidiness was another obsession that he shared.’

It isn’t uncommon for a biographer to feel they know better than their subject how they ought to have lived their life. As such, Dutton is sometimes guilty of the kind of proprietorial judgement that illuminates his own predilections more than it does Slessor’s character or experiences. His failure to realise Noëla’s antecedents is a more egregious error, depriving her of a decade of lived life, and making her five years younger than her husband, when she was in fact seven years older. The long and happy marriage of Raymond Chandler and his wife Cissy, who was eighteen years his senior, comes to mind. The mistake seems to open the way into an alternative past for both Kenneth and Noëla, as well as leading to a different future for them; which, at this point, remains unwritten.

One of the episodes in this unwritten story might show, as in a movie, May Summerbelle composing a song for Nellie Melba to sing upon the piano Joseph Conrad remembered sitting in a crate on the dock at Circular Quay in 1879, while he talked to its owner, Mr. Senior, who in this version is Noëla’s step-grandfather. Noëla, meanwhile, is a teenage girl listening to her mother’s songs as they are born, and borne, upon the air, in the same way that as her husband’s companion she witnessed, in some sense, all of the poems he made during the twenty-three sometimes tempestuous years of life they shared with one another. She was, to use an antiquated term, his muse. This vignette, though plausible, is also retrograde, crossing the line between biography and fiction and thereby becoming something that may be imagined but which cannot be attested to as real.

This raises the question: in biography, and indeed in autobiography, what is the status of the real they claim to reproduce? Somehow, in non-fiction writing, the conviction that truth is available to readers persists. Meanwhile, in fiction, the notion that a kind of meta-truth might emerge from a confection of narrative and descriptive sources, including inventions, relying for their impact upon their imaginative coherence, likewise endures. Perhaps non-fiction differs from fiction not in kind but in degree; perhaps our (relatively recent) distinction between the two is artificial, made not because one tells the unvarnished truth and the other tells the varnished kind, but because they follow different methodologies. That is, one relies upon invention while the other recovers what we think of as fact.

Even these methodologies may not be as dissimilar as they seem: both memory and research are as necessary for the construction of a work of fiction as they are for one of non-fiction. Furthermore, in any of the kinds of writing that are conventionally termed non-fiction ― autobiography, biography, memoir, the log of a scientific experiment, the progress of a voyage, a confession, a meditation, a manifesto or a dream ― there will be a proportion of willed or unwilled forgetting, if only because the multifarious nature of the world requires a writer to select and in selection there is always both remembering and forgetting. If there are also inventions, and often there are, they will not be identified as such.

It may also be that in some states of mind a writer does not so much remember as intuit those aspects of circumstance, character, action, description and the rest that make compelling work possible. As if under the guidance of the superannuated muses, swiftness, accuracy, power, meaning and beauty, in a miraculous way, manifest and allow what might otherwise have been laboured or botched, effortlessly to appear. This, too, applies as much to the writing of non-fiction as it does to fiction. Writers of non-fiction are, or can be, just as imaginatively engaged in their work as any fictioneer might be.

A reprise: the tinkle of cottage pianos at Circular Quay is succeeded by the blue notes May Summerbelle plays on Mr Senior’s instrument, in memory of her first husband, the hanged man, while their daughter, Noëla, hears and remembers. She transmits, perhaps by occult means, what she has heard to Kenneth Slessor, who writes: ‘Between the double and the single bell / Of a ship’s hour, between a round of bells / From the dark warship lying there below / I have lived many lives’. Later in the poem, listening, without hope, in the night of the harbour, for the voice of his friend who has drowned, he continues: ‘I felt the wet push its black thumb-balls in, / The night you died, I felt your eardrums crack, / The short agony, the longer dream / The Nothing that was neither long nor short’. Or, as Joseph Conrad wrote in a letter in 1915: ‘reality, as usual, beats fiction out of sight.’

images : the Duke of Sutherland at Circular Quay; X-Ray of Joseph Conrad’s left hand, Glasgow, 1898

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Tokyo again

There was an English language newspaper in a slot outside our room – The Japan News it was called: the first newspaper I’d read for a long time, a month at least. Therein I learned that the percentage of people in Japan with antibodies to Covid is around 42% (you have to have had the disease to have antibodies) and the figures are skewed overwhelmingly towards the young. Of all the major cities, Fukuoka had the highest rate, about fifty percent. Another article reported that, since the mandate upon wearing masks has been dropped in Hong Kong, hardly anyone has dispensed with them. This was funny, because exactly the same thing has happened in Japan: since March 14 you no longer have to wear a mask in public; and almost everybody still does. I took a RATs test, because of my cold, and because Mayu’s mother is well into her eighties and should not be exposed to Covid. It came back negative, as I *knew* it would.

The hotel had a pool so we went for a swim and a bath before checking out. Found the car in the basement, drove out towards the airport, filled it up with gas, returned it to the depot and then were driven by shuttle to the terminal for the flight to Tokyo. The driver, a genial fellow, was listening to a radio replay of last night’s baseball game, in which the Japanese had beaten the Americans in the World Series Final. I took a note of the car’s rego: 41 – 77. It was Nissan Note, not an elegant or a stylish vehicle, but eminently functional: it did everything I asked of it and took us everywhere we wanted to go, including down, or up, some improbably narrow and steep roads, both in the country and in the city. It was melancholy leaving: so that was Kyushu. Or the bits of it we saw.

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Towards Fukuoka

After checking out of the hotel – huge and modern, with a dining hall that reminded me of one on a cruise ship, where smoke from the beef, pork and chicken you could cook on a small brazier at your own table, hung in the air – we drove into the old port of Hirado. The Dutch weren’t allowed to trade from here for very long; they were removed, en masse, to Nagasaki, in 1641, following the expulsion of the Portuguese in 1639. The Dutch Factory was on the same small island in Nagasaki Bay, called Deshima, out of which the Portuguese had once operated. Crucially, the Dutch agreed not to proselytise, which is why the first Protestant church wasn’t inaugurated in Japan until the mid-nineteenth century. The town was small and old, clustered around the water front, with a huge castle on the other side of the water, the seat of the Matsura Clan. It was built in 1704, partially dismantled after the Meiji Restoration, and more recently restored. We didn’t go up there; nor to the strange green church, the St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church, we could see in the hills overlooking the town. We went on instead towards Imari. Or rather, towards Okawachiyama.

At some point towards the end of the sixteenth century, when the Ming Dynasty was in strife and supplies of porcelain disrupted, Japanese rulers abducted a number of Korean potters and brought them to the town of Arita and set them to making porcelain – not for export, but for the tables of the rich and the powerful. The discovery of deposits of kaolin near Arita was one of the triggers for this abduction. Subsequently, the Lords of Saga, the Nabeshima clan, kidnapped thirteen of these Korean potters – the best of the bunch – and relocated them, and their workshops, to the village of Okawachiyama. This place, and its kilns, was built specially for them; there was only one road into the village, which has mountains of three sides, and a guard house was set up on this road to dissuade the movement of people into or out of the village and also to discourage any leakage of information.

Most of the Koreans lived out their days here and there is a strange porcelain pyramid in the local cemetery which functions as their memorial and their grave site. As time went by the Dutch, who could no longer obtain the fine porcelain they desired from China, became interested in Imari and / or Arita ware and quantities were shipped through the port of Imari to Europe. Early forms of this pottery sometimes pretended it was indeed Ming work; later it earned its own credentials; of course it also had a huge influence upon European, and especially Dutch, ceramics.

It was raining hard as we left the main highway and drove up narrow roads into the hills until we reached the village, crossing over a beautifully decorated bridge on the way in. There are about thirty workshops, each with the shopfront, in the village; we only visited a half a dozen of these, and made a few modest purchases. It was easy to become bamboozled by the range and quality of work in display and I am very far from being an aficionado of such things; we concentrated upon pieces that we will actually use and passed over those too expensive to risk breaking. It would be good to return there on another day, perhaps one on which the sun is shining.

Fukuoka is a big city, the fourth biggest in Japan I think. We were flying out of there the following day. I dropped Mayu at reception in the grand hotel and went to park the car in the basement. Coming out into the busy city afternoon, I became confused and lost my way: where was the hotel? It had to be here somewhere. I didn’t panic. The strange thing about being lost, I thought, is that you do not know how long it is going to go on for. It wasn’t a very long time: I’d inadvertently caught the lift to a mall / department store that was behind the hotel, and eventually found my way back to reception. They were already looking for me. The fellow who had brought our luggage in came gliding across the floor, flapping his hands, in equal parts consternation and relief. A search party would have been next.

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From our room in the Yukai Resort Hotel Ranpu we could see a line of monuments on the other side of the road, looking out to sea. Perhaps, I thought, they were something to do with the Dutch, who were granted a trade concession at the port of Hirado from 1609. The hotel lobby had a series of glass cases in which were preserved memorabilia of that time, including paintings, pottery and artefacts; and, elsewhere, there was a bad sculpture of a knight on horseback which I think was meant to be a Dutchman. However, when we went down there for a look, after lunch in a small café up the road, the monuments concerned someone else entirely: Zheng Chenggong aka Koxinga, Teiseiko in Japanese. He fought to preserve the Ming Dynasty rulers of China against the incursions of the Qing from the north; later he was instrumental in taking Taiwan (Formosa) from the Dutch who had occupied the island. On one of the stones was his biography, in Chinese characters, composed and inscribed in 1852 under the auspices of the 35th Lord of Hirado.

Zheng was born here, at Kawachi, in 1624, the son of a Chinese merchant by a Japanese woman, and spent his first seven or eight years at Hirado before moving to Fukien in southern China. His career thereafter is complex and resists easy summary. Suffice to say that his attempts to preserve the rule of the Ming Dynasty failed and that his taking of Taiwan was, in part, an attempt to find a base for Ming forces from which they could, at some point, retake the mainland. Just like Chiang Kai-shek, many years later. He was as much a warlord as a loyal servant and, when his sudden death, from malaria, occurred at the age of just 37, he was engaged in a campaign to expel the Spanish from the Philippines. In both places he supported the indigenous peoples of those lands against their European colonisers. His legacy too is complex: he is remembered very differently in Japan, in the Peoples Republic of China, and in present day Taiwan, though in all three places he is accounted a hero.

A graceful, curving breakwater sheltered the beach from the wide bay beyond. Hirado is an island, reached via a bridge; we were looking south and could see parts of the mainland on the other shore, as well as the opening of a passage to the East China Sea. Mostly we just hung about the hotel. It was cold, with a wind from the north, and we had had enough of sight seeing for the moment. We saw small steamers plying their trade back and forth and, that evening, three large fishing boats anchored in the bay and, with their lights blazing, let down nets (I suppose) to catch the tidal flow.

20-21 March, 2023

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Weekend in Nagasaki

Our hotel, The Glover, was in the former International Settlement, to the south of the city, perched high up on a steep hill over looking the harbour. A very steep hill. Next door was a building site and on Friday morning I watched while the assembled workers, at 8 am sharp, gathered outside and went through a program of exercises under the tuition of someone I could not see. It was beguiling watching these fellows in boots, overalls and hard hats going through the motions – most without obvious enthusiasm, but dutifully, calmly, perhaps resignedly. I walked with Mayu to a nearby coin laundry then came back to the hotel to catch up with this diary, which has become, not so much onerous as complex. Like the laundry, you never quite catch up, and also you start to confuse what you do with what you will write about what you do, as if the two are not really distinct. And perhaps they aren’t. Writing was difficult because the internet supposedly wasn’t available in the rooms and, while we did have a connection, it was intermittent and needed constant refreshment. I wouldn’t have had that problem if I was diarising in a notebook, as I always used to do when I was travelling.

Mioko, Mayu’s sister, was joining us from Tokyo for the weekend so after lunch we drove the forty-five minutes or so to the airport to pick her up. She’d inadvertently booked a flight that went via Kobe but arrived on time. It had turned cold and rainy during the afternoon and by evening was really wintery. We were trying to find a taxi to go to Chinatown for dinner and ended up on a main road with buses and cars streaming by – but no taxis. In the end Mioko called one on her phone. As we drove down to Chinatown the driver rehearsed the chorus of a famous pop song set in this city. After a catalogue of the woes of love gone wrong comes the refrain: ‘And it’s raining in Nagasaki again.’ Afterwards, back at the hotel, we broached the bottle of sake we’d bought from Kikuchi: Five Daughters it was called and after a few glasses the Tominaka Sisters (sic) got a bit hilarious. There’s a Nagasaki delicacy called Castella (Kasutera), a kind of Portuguese sponge cake, and they remembered an old TV ad for it, with a jingle based on a tune of Offenbach’s and featuring five animated furry figures, cats or foxes, doing the can can. They did the dance and sang the song and then fell about laughing.

Thomas Glover, the man after whom the hotel was named, and the nearby Glover Garden, was a Scotsman, from Aberdeen, who was sent as a very young man from Shanghai to Nagasaki towards the end of the 1850s as an agent for Jardine, Matheson and Co., notorious for their involvement opium trafficking but also traders in silk, tea, cotton and other commodities. Glover soon went out on his own, in partnership with another Brit, and made a fortune selling tea to China. He diversified, as you do, particularly into coal and, as a good Scot, into ship-building. He also enriched himself in the arms trade, selling guns and ammunition, at least until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 imposed an inconvenient peace upon the region. He survived bankruptcy in the early 1870s, moved to Tokyo, after which he visited Nagasaki often but never returned to live. He had a son and a daughter with two different Japanese woman and lived with the mother of his daughter as his common law wife until her death in 1899, after which he expressed a wish to be buried with her when he too died – in 1911. In those early years he established himself in the Nagasaki community as a respected and influential figure. In the lead up to the Meiji Restoration, indeed, he gave advice to those in the Satsuma Clan who were advocating the kind of industrial modernism Glover exemplified in his own career. Businesses he was involved with included the corporation that became Mitsubishi and the brewery than now makes Kirin Beer. His house is extant in the gardens named after him; a kind of museum now. We had tea and cakes in a restaurant reputed to have been the first ever European style establishment in the whole of Japan. It had been dismantled elsewhere and re-assembled on site; it featured some beautiful stained glass.

Sight-seeing is exhausting and can seem a bit futile after a while. We had been over the church (no photography allowed) before visiting the gardens. When we got back to our hotel we had to move rooms and ended up across the hallway with a view of the harbour instead of the building site. There was a cruise ship moored below; we had encountered some Aussies and Americans in the Glover Garden, loud and anomalous as always; the ship left that night around seven and good riddance to it. They probably all had Covid too. Mayu had spent some of her coupon money on a couple of books and I became absorbed in one of them: The Nagasaki British Consulate 1859-1955, written by a Canadian professor of cultural history at the Nagasaki Institute of Applied Sciences and a former Zen Buddhist monk. Among much else I learned that here Dutch was the language of diplomacy for two centuries, that is, for the bulk of the period of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

We had a discussion that night over the remains of the sake: whether or not to visit Ground Zero the next day. Mayu had been before; Mioko hadn’t but didn’t want to go. She argued, reasonably enough, that for her there were many other and better reasons to remember Nagasaki than the bomb dropped on it by the Americans seventy years ago. In a way I agreed with her: Nagasaki seemed to me an elegant, sophisticated and cosmopolitan city, easy and graceful, which wore its past lightly but did not deny it either. There was, for instance, a wonderful collection of photography books in the lobby of the hotel I had been working my way through; photography, too, which has such a powerful tradition in Japan, began here. On the other hand, I was conscious of a kind of dull anger that this place had been bombed at all, in the arbitrary, indeed cynical way that it was. It wasn’t the original target and it wasn’t a major military target either, despite the big Mitsubishi ship-building works here: the Americans, having tested their uranium based device on Hiroshima, wanted to see what a plutonium bomb would do.

In the end, Mayu and I decided to go, on Sunday morning, before returning to the hotel for Mioko and taking her with us to Sasebo for lunch; from there she would get a bus back to the airport, which was out that way. We took a series of elevators up to Peace Park. At the head of the last one is the Peace Fountain, where a man and a woman stood with their hands clasped in prayer. He was about forty-five perhaps and he had his eyes squeezed tight shut: not tight enough to prevent tears silvering his cheeks. And it was like that. For no particular reason I found myself weeping too. The nearest public building to the point of impact was, it turned out, a prison: you could still see the lines of the foundations of its walls in the grass. How unlucky is that: to be in a prison they drop an atomic bomb upon? Beyond was the huge sculpture which is the centre piece of the park; it seemed to me outré; but then none of the sculpture (and there is a lot of it) looked right. On the other hand, this inadequacy, if that’s what it is, does not seem to require any explanation.

Ground Zero is an a separate, adjoining park. A simple black obelisk marks the spot and it was somehow cheering to see little children running around it, chasing each other and laughing. In another place you could look down, through glass, to see the actual rubble left by the blast on the ground in August 1945. The other public building destroyed that day, apart from the prison, was a church: the biggest and most elegant cathedral in East Asia at the time, in a city that was once said to have been ‘run by the Jesuits’. Some of the masonry survived and has been reconstituted and placed near the obelisk, with a statue of the ubiquitous Francis Xavier on the top. The bomb didn’t hit its original target; it landed about four kilometres further up the valley from where it was meant to go; and it turned out that the surrounding hills shielded the rest of the city from the worst of the blast. For some reason there wasn’t a firestorm afterwards either, as there was at Hiroshima, although there were many random fires. A bad painting, of the Twenty-six Martyrs of Nagasaki, which I saw at the other church was, a caption said, ‘damaged by the atomic bomb’, but it didn’t say how or where. This was the only reference I saw, heard or read about the catastrophe anywhere else in the city.

In Sasebo we had lunch in an Italian restaurant then saw Mioko off on the bus. Sasebo was the main launching point for the UN and US forces fighting in the Korean War. Millions of tons of ammunition, fuel, tanks, trucks and supplies flowed through during those years and there’s still an American naval base here. Sasebo is also the home port of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Forces. We could see the sinister gun metal grey American ships, with their round radar towers, moored up the harbour; and the (by comparison) tiny little patrol boats of the JMDF nearby. At a village outside the city Mayu wanted to do some more shooting. She is assembling a film to accompany a recording of eight songs by a Koto player she knows and this village is where Satsuki comes from. Mayu took footage of the primary school and the junior high school; of a shrine and a temple; of the house where Satsuki grew up; and of the river that flows through Sazacho.

After that we drove on to this vast hotel in Hirado, with its stunning views of the sea and its collections of mostly Dutch, or Dutch inspired, objets d’art, pottery, artefacts; and its beautiful glass and tile work. I am nursing a cold I picked up after our night out in Chinatown on Friday but it doesn’t seem too bad today. The sun is streaming through the window, the room is large and generous, the onsen hot, varied and convivial. There are lots of children and young people here, too. Some are playing croquet on the lawn outside the window.

17-19 March 2023

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Towards Nagasaki

All night I was troubled by the sight of the palm tree out the window, which sometimes looked ghostly, like an after image of a catastrophe, and at others like something seen in a mirror of the same disaster. It was changing as the exterior or interior lighting at the hotel changed and I kept thinking I should get up and try to photograph it; but I didn’t. Or not until morning, when all I managed was a conventional shot of a palm standing before the sea, lit by yellow dawn light.

There was a public swimming pool, using thermal water, ‘out of the ground’, nearby so we decided to go there. We have been in and out of water a hundred times over the last few weeks but we haven’t done any laps. The pool was set up high on a low hill, looking over flat farm land to the sea. There were children doing lessons inside and various aged souls gathered in the foyer, awaiting the official 10.30 opening and their turn in the water. The woman at the desk explained everything in great detail, including how to work the shower in the men’s (she showed me) and the way to mop the floor if I happened to drip any water upon it. These tutorials are common everywhere and the only way to deal with them is to submit gracefully and wait.

I ended up using the wrong shower – there was one just before you went through to the pool – as a couple of genial old fellows pointed out; but I showed them my wet hair and skin and they decided not to insist. Once they ascertained that I was going to be swimming freestyle they indicated which lane I was to use and off I went, in the warm, slightly cloudy water. It was a twenty-five metre pool so that meant, to do my usual kilometre, I had to complete forty lengths; which I duly did. Mayu joined me after a while and we swam happily back and forth together until we were done. After we got out one of the oldsters said I swam well and asked how old I was? After she told him 71 he said he was 81, and that he swam well too. I really liked the enthusiasm for living that these people had, and their pride in their fitness too. There were stained glass windows over the main pool and afterwards I tried photographing them, from the outside, with mixed results. I think I might be trying a bit hard with the photography too.

We drove through fields of potatoes on our way to the second ferry, which would take us off Amakusa and on to the Shimabara Peninsula, which is really just the surrounds of another enormous active volcano, Unzen. We could see it glowering across the water from the ferry terminal. At the edge of the carpark a green tanker truck was parked, with its engine running, in front of a line of small cypress trees, and I finally took a photograph I was happy with. I think perhaps the more I do it the higher my standards become and the meeting of them, concomitantly, rarer.

We disembarked at Kuchinotsu, once a significant port in the days of the Portuguese and the Dutch; there was a set of old European buildings, now a folk museum, on the left as we came into the harbour, linked to the rest of the city by a bridge with a splendid red arch. Mayu had been here before, when researching her play ‘You’ve Mistaken Me for a Butterfly’. By the nineteenth century Kuchinotsu had become an important coal port and also the place where young women might stowaway on the freighters in order to go to other lands, including Australia, where many of them ended up working as prostitutes. Her play concerned one of these who had ended up in a small town in Western Australia. Some of the girls were sold by their families to traffickers; they were effectively indentured labourers and would have to pay off their passage before being able to earn money for themselves. Of course the ships’ captains usually knew what was happening; one of the strategies to get the girls safely aboard was to light fires on the hills to divert the attention of the local officials.

Kuchinotsu is a sleepy place; the main port now is further up the east coast. In that direction, too, is the fort where the final massacre of the Christians happened. There was a statue of their leader, a very young man, at the ferry terminal at Amakusa, where he was from. We went the other way, up the west coast, and along the road came across Futagoiwa Rock, with its eerie resemblance to one of the Easter Island Mo’ai. There used to be another, more celebrated rock next to it, with a pine tree growing from its summit, but it fell over in an earthquake. Even Futagoiwa has been strengthened, recently, with concrete.

After that it was an uneventful drive, first by the sea, then inland, then via a freeway, into the city of Nagasaki. I did not expect to find that it resembles Wellington: built on hills around a harbour, with steep streets running upwards from narrow coastal flats. Our hotel, the Glover, is in Ishibashi, on the eastern flank of the harbour, to the south, near the Glover Garden and the Oura Cathedral, said to be the first church built in Japan. Nearby is a substantial Buddhist temple and a large Shinto shrine; the three faiths, people say, existing in harmony, side by side.


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From our room I could see three men laying out a huge fishing net on the flat concrete inside the breakwater – perhaps to dry, perhaps so they could mend it. They were there again the next day, clambering all over it, and then it seemed more likely it was being repaired. The Boyokaku was built in the 1930s at the mouth of a small river on the western coast of Amakusa, with views out over the East China Sea. It was famous for its sunsets and there was a viewing platform but I didn’t go there. It had a Portuguese theme, I’m not sure why. There was letter from the Portuguese consul, and a Japanese translation, in the car park at the front; when you cam in from the rear carpark, there was a map on the floor with the red outline pf Portugal upon it. There was indifferent blue and white tile work here and there and some of the glass was perhaps Portuguese in inspiration. The onsen had magnificent glass panels along one wall, and two narrow windows, like church windows, over the main pool. A subsidiary pool had to streams of very hot water falling from a great height and there I stood, letting it fall upon my shoulders, which were sore from driving and also from clasping the stick as I limped along. In fact, I was much better, able to walk unaided, except on stairs, and the swelling behind my left knee was almost gone.

We had a day off. Mayu was uploading her moving pictures and I was catching up with this diary – which seems dull to me now, as most diaries are, since it consists primarily of we did this, we did that, without any obvious thematic concerns or emotional depth. Mayu is good when I complain: she says ‘themes will emerge’ and maybe they will. At best, I think, it is a form of note taking.

In the afternoon we went for a short drive up the coast to where a small circular promontory, probably once an island, extends out to sea. On the way we passed a coal fired power station, with a port for unloading the coal, conveyor belts to feed the furnaces and two squarish towers where, presumably, the coal was burned. From a distance the plant looked pristine, a white enigma on the skyline, but as you got closer you could see the rust, the decay, the industrial stains and the grime. Apparently we had passed a nuclear power station somewhere on the road behind but neither of us had noticed it. Banks of solar panels are, however, ubiquitous, occurring in the most surprising places, some of them quite small, some vast. there were towers on wind farms on the skyline yesterday. Anyway, it turned, on the peninsular, there was a castle, so we set out to find it.

I’m not sure if we ever did, just as I’m not sure if it is even there. There were certainly buildings that were perhaps replicas rather than originals. One of these was the visitor’s centre but, because it was Wednesday, it was closed. In another part we found some massive stone walls but whether these were ruins or something else wasn’t clear. Apparently, when a castle was renovated, the surviving walls would be augmented, that is, covered over, with a new wall. We stood at place where the information board said there were at least three layers of castle walls but these were, to say the least, indistinct.

There was a rebellion amongst the Christians early in the Tokugawa period which involved tens of thousands of people and ended in failure. At some point during the fighting this, and other castles, were used as forts by the rebels and one of the wall building episode relates to that episode, in the 1630s I think. The bloody end to the rebellion came at another castle, on the Shimabara Peninsular, where we will be going to morrow. Estimates vary: some say 15,000, some say 20,000, some say 35,000 men, women and children were massacred. Whole areas of this part of the country were denuded of population and labour had to brought in from elsewhere to work the fields and the fishing boats.

I think I am becoming weary of sight-seeing too. It was a relief to leave the fugitive castle behind and drive further down a maze of little roads until we reached the sea. Some farmers, a woman and two men, were bringing a load of Japanese butterburs down from the hills, where we could see orange trees fruiting, to their house, just to the right behind vegetable gardens. They looked incuriously at us. I went out onto the beach and picked up a yellow stone. Then we drove back to the hotel, with its strange art works and its taxidermed albino boar in a glass case in the foyer, a former pet of the owner’s.


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Hidden Christians

The hotel we stayed in that night was an old inn up a narrow valley with a river running down it. There were no lifts, just a steep wooden staircase to the upper floor where the rooms were. We were given three: one for sitting, one for sleeping, one for eating. The dining room was decorated with painted panels on an ochre ground. There were two, which repeated around the walls. One showed a rocky sea coast, with small promontories where trees grew; behind the largest the roof of a shrine could be glimpsed. The other, in reverse as it were, showed a similar scene but this time with a small boat on the water. Both faded towards the top towards an outline of pale hills, receding. Our sitting room had a different version, in the same style, of a landscape with houses on the back of the door. I don’t suppose these were major works of art but they were beautiful nonetheless. I took a shot of the detail of one of them, for reference, Mayu said.

We had a private bath in room downstairs, a rectangular stone pool set in the ground, just the right size for two. Outside was a communal kitchen with beautiful tile work on the benches. People who came there for a long term stay ‘taking the waters’, would bring their own rice and cook it here. As we were leaving to go upstairs again, people from the village were coming and going to the communal bath on the ground floor.

We were going, via a car ferry, to the island of Amakusa. There we visited a tiny fishing village clinging to the side of a rocky coast. Sakitsu had been a refuge for Hidden Christians during the persecutions, which were intermittent for about fifty years (say, imprecisely 1550 -1600) but deadly serious once the Tokogawa Shogunate was established early in the seventeenth century. Many of those who were unwilling to renounce their faith went underground and worshipped in secret. They were required, annually, to abjure their faith by trampling underfoot Christian icons in a ceremony held at the Head Man’s house. Typically, they had evolved a form of prayer which they use to absolve themselves after they had performed the … The ban on Christianity was lifted early in the Meiji period and in this village a church was built subsequently, under the auspices of a French priest, over the site of the Head Man’s house.

Sakitsu was once an important port. It was also a site of literary pilgrimage and there was a famous inn here, now demolished, which you reached from the sea. The steps by which the poets and others embarked and disembarked were still there. At the tiny museum, the miracle of the survival of the hidden Christians was told in full and there were icons and artefacts: an abalone shell in which the faithful could see the Virgin (I failed at this), a small medallion hidden inside a wooden post from a house, a picture of a priest who more resembled a Japanese god than Christian one. People here particularly valued Christ the fisherman and performed annual ceremonies to ensure the catch was rich. Many fish hawks glided overhead, making their strange high kee-kee-kee sound; there were many cats too, obviously very well fed from the leavings of the fishing fleet.

We visited another, grander church on our way to the night’s lodgings; it too had been a site of literary pilgrimage in the early years of the twentieth century. Both churches featured small brown grim paintings of the Fourteen Station of the Cross; both had rather lovely, very simple, stained glass windows. In the second one there was an enigmatic painting of a Japanese woman, looking afflicted, with a babe in arms and another clinging to her skirts, looking down at a mirror on the ground which gave back her image as the Virgin. Again, it was not a great work of art but was still somehow moving in its simplicity.


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Sea Horse House

Not far from the hotel there was a sign pointing off the road to another tokkotai memorial. This was a small shrine on a knoll above the sea, among trees. It was for navy fliers who had flown their sea-planes on suicide missions. All the others were army fliers. In the grass to one side there was an upended propeller with its three blades stuck into the soil. There was a buddha figure in white marble and few plain flowers laid before it. On the information board I noticed, below a blurry photograph of a sea-plane, the skull of a small lizard that had somehow got inside the glass case and died there.

We were heading for the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsula. It isn’t the southern most tip of Kyushu, but it almost is. From the promontory, with its surprisingly little lighthouse, you could see the blue outlines of islands further south and there was map naming the more distant ones and how far away they are. The Ryukyu Islands, of which Okinawa is the best known, begin down there, and the chain goes almost as far as the northern tip of Taiwan. It was one possible path into Kyushu of the sweet potato, known as the Satsuma after the clan, the people and the area which first nurtured it. It was also where most of the kamikaze pilots headed, if they weren’t targeting naval vessels.

There were spectacular views of the almost perfect cone of Mt. Kaimon, about a thousand feet high and last active more than a thousand years ago. On the way back Mayu pointed out a monument to poet, a local, a teacher, who died young, only in his thirties. A poem of his was inscribed in the rectangular stone next to the tall post giving his details.

Mt Kaimon has almost the same profile from the other side. We drove around it on our way to Sea Horse House, a ramshackle building, seemingly made of drift wood, built above, and partially upon, a rocky shore.

As soon as we had walked up the ricketty steps to the room where the aquariums were, the proprietor, a woman, was at our elbow, pointing us in the direction of one of the tanks. See, she said. See! Babies! They were tiny, mere threads of life, like actual strands of DNA. So little that there was a magnifying glass at hand so you could see them more distinctly. There were several other tanks holding various different varieties of the creature; beside one of them was a small pile of the dead, thankfully not for sale. And everything in there, much of which was hand made, related somehow to sea horses. The souvenirs were mostly pretty tacky and although it was nominally a café, there were only about four or five different drinks available, and no food. We bought some postcards.

The Bansei Tokko Peace Museum in Minamisatsuma was something completely different: a brutalist concrete mausoleum dedicated to the 201 pilots from the nearby Bansei Air Base who died in the last years of the war. There were photos, and biographical detail, about every one of those young men. I selected and re-photographed one of them, at random; Mayu said later he looked like he might have been from Hokkaido and had Ainu blood. He is clearly very young, if not the youngest: that was a seventeen year old called Yukio Araki. There was a picture of him too, a group shot in which he is at the centre, holding a puppy. The museum was the brain child of one Hichiro Naemura, a flight instructor at Bansei in 1945 and thus one of those who trained these men in how to die.

I thought it was a macabre place: the first thing you saw when you walked in was an actual aeroplane, a Mitsubishi Zero, badly damaged, in a pit of sand in the middle of the floor. Apparently it had been pulled out of the sea. Nothing was said about who its pilot had been or what had happened to him. There were many other model aircraft scattered throughout the museum, as if through a boy’s bedroom. When I was ten or eleven I used to buy them too, as kitsets which I would then make up. I had a Zero along with a Spitfire, a Hurricane and a Messerschmidt 109. And a Wellington bomber.

I took a photo of the wall as we were leaving, trying for an antidote to the obscene glorification war that was laid out inside. I don’t know if I managed it or not.


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