Monday, 18 July 2011

Okage sama de!

This title is the nearest Japanese equivalent, so i'm told, to the Arabic expression 'Al hamdu li laah!', or 'Praise the Lord' in English. Actually though it is often used in answer to queries after one's health - in English we might say "thanks for asking"; it is a more humble way of saying that one is 'fine'. Originally it contains a meaning of 'shade', as if one is expressing thanks for being under the shade of God's hand.

'A-Bomb Dome', preserved for posterity, Hiroshima
Many people will know that it is customary to bow when meeting people here (as also in Korea), but i had never previously seen that this, alongside things like the Japanese readiness to apologise and other firmly established norms of 'politeness', might be yet another similarity (at least in theory!) to Britain. The others are much more obvious, like being an island (or islands) off the coast of a great continent, and driving on the left - and even the weather was grey and showery on the day i arrived. People here also love football; the Japanese women's team have just become world champions, and make no mistake, the guys here aspire to supplant countries like England in the men's version too. But my thoughts have been on a different ball game - baseball. Knowing that i had an appointment with a friend in Kobe, on Thursday evening i took a train to big and bustling (yes, you read that right) Hiroshima, where a huge crowd of 'Carp' fans were emerging from their great stadium near the station. The "A-Bomb Dome" is one ruin which has been preserved, and is a World Heritage site, and one must also devote plenty of time to the Peace Memorial Museum. The individual accounts, especially, of what happened on the 6th of August 1945, moved me to tears, and other memorable exhibits include a watch which has stopped at 8.15, when the tranquility of a beautiful morning was shattered so brutally.

Kobe, Japan
Then i came, on a Bullet train no less, to Kobe, where one might think of the station as a sort of 'Disneyland' for trainspotters. They have various kinds of 'Racing' locomotive here, so that you almost expect the driver to emerge wearing a helmet, and overalls plastered with company logos, before stepping onto a podium and firing champagne corks across the platform. On Sunday i was treated to such wonderful hospitality by my friend, who i'd met on the last day of my visit to Israel last year! And yesterday (though a simple appointment in Osaka proved too much for me to keep, and we missed the first half), it was still marvellous to see the Osaka Buffaloes defeat visitors from Chibo - and we did see a home run.

This morning i've arrived by bus in the far west again, in Fukuoka, hoping to walk at least some of the way to the most important centre of Christianity in Japan, which is Nagasaki.

A Prayer for England

O Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and our most gentle Queen and Mother, look down in mercy upon England, thy dowry, and upon us all who greatly hope and trust in thee.

By thee it was that Jesus, our Saviour and our hope, was given unto the world; and He has given thee to us that we might hope still more.

Plead for us thy children, whom thou didst receive and accept at the foot of the cross, O Sorrowful Mother. Intercede for our separated brethren, that with us in the one true fold, they may be united to the Chief Shepherd, the Vicar of thy Son.

Pray for us all, dear Mother, that by faith, fruitful in good works, we may all deserve to see and praise God, together with thee in our heavenly home.


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