Blowing hot and cold

Sankan shion’ means 3 cold days followed by 4 hot days, which is very typical of the weather patterns at this time of year in Japan. In England we just accept it as being ‘normal weather’. Snow is still falling in some parts of the country, bringing with it avalanche warnings for the warmer days. Yet, on the day of the spring equinox (a public holiday), in a country renown for punctuality and efficiency, the first cherry blossom sightings were being reported.

In the parks the spring parties are building up already with the earlier plum blossom already in bloom, and the ubiquitous photographers searching for that perfect shot.

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For a nostalgic and often homesick Englishman the sight of boxes of more familiar flowers such as pansies, tulips and daffodils always brings me a little closer to home.

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In the week of seasonal changes, technological change has also happened with the very last journey of the ‘hokutousei’ (twilight express’) train. It has always been difficult to get tickets for this very popular 16-hour sleeper train service that connects Sapporo in Hokkaido to Ueno in Tokyo, so happy that we were able to have had the experience at least once 5 years ago. On that occasion there were not crowds of train-spotters and well-wishers seeing us off as there were this week for this iconic train’s final journey as it gives way to the equally iconic, but built for the 21st century, shinkansen (bullet train).

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