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Full Circle

Day 26: Niigata to Sado Island

Michael Palin - Full CircleMuch recovered. Am now in Niigata, an unremarkable city a shortish train journey up the coast from Toyama, waiting to board the ferry to Sado Island, home of the world-renowned Kodo Drummers, with whom I hope to make contact.

The eccentric customization of the English language in the cause of Japanese fashion has been acknowledged before but the sight of a T-shirt bearing the legend 'D.O.N.U.T.S. - Driver Oriented New Ultimate Tyre Science', gives me pleasure as I board the ferry.

After two hours at sea we are approaching Sado, a small butterfly-shaped island fluttering off the north-west coast, once used by the Japanese emperor as a place of exile as Siberia was by the Russian Tsars. This information, together with 'The Song Of Sado', a mournful refrain swelling from the ferry's PA system, creates a very melancholy effect. The weather is dull, warm and hazy. Typhoon Ryan is heading for Japan. Not that anyone seems worried; it's the fourteenth typhoon of the season.

We drive across the island, dotted with rice fields, themselves dotted with stooping ladies in straw bonnets secured with headscarves, to a pension near to the Kodo Drummers apprentice school. I feel big and clumsy in Japan, especially here in the sticks, where the accommodation is not at all geared to foreign tourists. Here in the Pension Nagakura I have to bend my head to enter my bedroom and when I stand in front of the bathroom mirror I have a clear view of my neck.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 26
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Niigata
  • Book page no: 48

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