I don't go to Japan very often, but when I do I like to make the stay as long as I can get away with -- it's nice to feel able to have few do-nothing days in a holiday without it seeming somehow wasteful that you haven't gone out to Do Something. I just got back from three weeks out there (which burnt almost all my holiday for this year). February isn't the ideal time to visit, as it's still a bit cold and grey, but the timing was fixed because I tacked them onto the end of a work conference that was on that side of the world. As it turned out there were only a few rainy days, and even a fair amount of sun.
Some photos: Gunkanjima, also known as Battleship Island. This desolate lump of rock turned out to have a big seam of coal under it, so it was heavily built up with everything the miners needed to live -- until the mine became uneconomic in the seventies, at which point Mitsubishi shut it down, and everybody left within a couple of months. (Summary of the history for those interested.)
Kitakyuushuu Railway Museum (only a few photos, as it was a small place I stopped off at on my way somewhere else).
Marugame, Matsuyama and Kouchi, a trio of original (ie surviving from the Edo-period) Japanese castles on Shikoku. There are only 12 originals left, so it's easy to get completionist about the remaining ones. Matsuyama in particular is on an impressively huge scale, and I had good weather and the plum blossoms were just coming out...
Konpira-san, a hilltop temple complex which I visited on a day where it was pouring with rain in an atmospheric but not very easily photographed way...
Oigawa Railway, which was probably the best day of the holiday for me -- a scenic steam train ride up into a beautiful steep river valley, and then some light hiking at the top.
Not pictured: Nagasaki (the contrast between the reconstructions of the buildings where the Dutch lived in Dejima in the 18th century and the fine mansions built on the hill by westerners in the second half of the 19th century is a demonstration in architecture of the shift in power in the relationship between Japan and the Western countries who were trading with her). A weekend catching up with a good friend of mine who I hadn't seen for a few years. Yokohama. Akihabara. Large pile of books and manga to add to the to-read pile...
I also impulse-bought a reproduction map, which I'd like to hang up somewhere, but at 175x65cm it's pretty big. Any suggestions for good ways to display it that won't cost vastly more in framing than the 15 quid I paid for the map itself?
So it turns out that the computer conference I'm at overlaps with YaoiCon, and when I arrived to check in the lobby was full of cosplayers ^_^
So I switched current accounts recently; supposedly this is now a fully automatic process where they transfer all your direct debits and payments across, and for 13 months any payments to the old closed account are forwarded to the new one. Luckily I was cautious enough not to trust this entirely, because it didn't work for my mortgage payment...
What seems to have happened is that Lloyds told YBS about the account change and provided a new set of direct debit information. YBS then said "OK, we'll throw away the old DD info and use this; except we can't take a DD payment from a new setup instruction for 14 days. Whoops, your monthly payment happened to be within 14 days of the changeover? We'll just fail to take that payment, then." I think this is YBS' fault fundamentally -- they need to either be able to handle having two lots of DD info simultaneously, or to be flexible enough to postpone the payment until the 14 day timeout has been reached. YBS however seem to think the banks shouldn't be sending them DD changeovers close to mortgage payment days.
Anyway I've manually made the mortgage payment now; I don't think I have the effort to try to complain about this to either institution. If you're planning a current account switchover you might want to look out for similar pitfalls, though.
Back to work tomorrow. Over the last few days I've reinstated my "bits of card pinned to a corkboard" todo list system, knocked off a bunch of the easier items from it, and confirmed that there isn't anything critical lurking around that I absolutely have to do; so I'm feeling pleasantly accomplished and on top of things.
First time paying people to do Stuff to the new house today.
The boiler is serviced, the thermostat has been replaced with a programmable timer one, the leaning fencepost in the garden has been reinforced with a concrete post, and the rotten board on the decking replaced. I feel pleasantly accomplished despite not having done any of the work myself.
(I was mildly surprised that they both said they'd invoice me and I should pay by bank transfer then, rather than wanting a cheque on the spot.)
A first installment of holiday photos, mostly from a day-long hike I went on in one of Japan's more pointy regions. Not pictured: the horrible sunburn I got because I am an idiot.
I think Yudonosan shrine is one of the best I've been to -- I'm not going to tell you what's there because you're not supposed to spoil the secret for other people, but I will say that it's best appreciated if approached via the five hour hike from the other side of the mountain...
Picked up A History of the Japanese Language and Ancient Jomon of Japan cheap in Cambridge University Press's sale (they're flogging damaged books out of a little shop on Peas Hill at 3 quid per paperback and 7 quid per hardback).
Fitzbillies' chelsea buns are quite good.
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