Storytellers in Tokyo and Sweden week in Kurihara

Last Thursday our Swedish Minister for Trade, Dr. Ewa Björling, hosted a worldwide campaign called “Storytellers of Sweden. Here in Tokyo we had recorded the Japanese writer Yû Miri when she read from the book “Blackwater” by the Swedish writer Kerstin Ekman. This recording was posted on the homepage of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Sweden, while our colleagues in other countries posted their respective readings. Ms. Yû and I then had a late evening conversation about Swedish and Japanese literature at the bookstore Tsutaya in Daikanyama for invited guests and other customers. (The bookstore closes at 02:00 in the morning!). On a big screen in the background, broadcasted from Sweden, there was a discussion by Swedish crime fiction writers about their books. It was a succesful project thet I would like to see repeated.

Then on Saturday I gave a lecture for the Haiku International Association about Swedish poetry in general and Swedish haiku in particular. Judging from the questions after my lecture and the fact that I could not see anyone falling asleep during my talk, there was a great interest in Swedish poetry.

This afternoon I came back from a trip to Kurihara in Tôhoku. Kurihara was severly struck by the earthquake on March 11 last year, but even more so by a so-called aftershock in April. The aftershock was stronger than the earthquake itself and the result was great physical destruction of roads and mountain areas (landslides). Kurihara also experienced a deadly earthquake in 2008 and thanks to good planning and preparations the 2011 earthquakes only resulted in physical destruction and no deaths. My wife and I visited the Sandvik factory in the area and could observe an extremely clean and efficient production facility, producing parts used for making precision tools. Close to the railway station another well-known Swedish company, IKEA, had set up a mini-store selling their products at bargain prices as part of a Swedish Week campaign.

We also visited a local potter, Kudô Shûji, and the poet Shirotori Seigo’s Museum. All set in the beautiful surroundings of the mountainous Kurihara area. Last night I took a bath in the hotel rotenburo. It was cold outside, but of course hot and comfortable in the bath. When I looked up I could see the moon and a light snowfall in the dark quiet night. It doesn’t get much better than that.

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