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japan billboard advertisingTeam Lab Borderless (preferred to Team Lab Planets). As hard as they try (very hard), they still can’t beat the real thing. Also a caution about AI as art - whatever happened to authors?; and is interaction the future of visits to art galleries? Otherwise a show stealer.

Billboard Jazz – very cool (icey – meet the Tokyo set and see a show).

Imperial Palace Gardens – not many great parks in Tokyo – this is one.

Miho Gallery – also cool.

Suntory Gallery – very smart, and requires slow engagement of the great Japanese art of ceramics. Go slowly

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Hotel Mume 12 years later

cherry blossom in bloom in japan 01

Not much has changed at Hotel Mume in Kyoto. It still feels like you have walked into the house of old friends, ready to help with lots of terrific suggestions for things to do and eat. This house has eight bedrooms (ie. rooms) and all comers are treated the same way, no matter how many times they have stayed, or whether it is the very first time. Hisako moves from group to group – with an “excuse me” as a new group arrives.

What has changed is Japan. It is faster – the Shinkanzen appears to go everywhere and as fast as ever. It is a fabulous service, but goes so fast, you arrive virtually before you have time to sit down and get organised. I do not suppose they have thought of slowing down these F1-type speedsters.

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Leipzig, Mendelssohn, Dresden, Vienna and Barbaric Behaviour

felix mendelssohn status 150

Leipzig is the great heartland of German music — home to Bach, Mendelssohn and the Gewandhaus Orchestra. As a place to visit, it is compact — but because of J.S. Bach, it is particularly special as the place where German music made its true cultural home. There is no musical place like it in this part of Europe, other than Vienna.

Musicians from all over the world come to learn their craft in Leipzig. It is the location of one of the great concert halls of Europe — the Gewandhaus.

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Bring Back Kindness

new zealand helicopter ride

Not every holiday is a great success. Friends and family invariably wish the associated travellers a happy and safe holiday. What happens if it is not.

It all started with the best of intentions (a hike in a wilderness area), and then suddenly a simple slip on a walking path on the Routeburn track in New Zealand and we were in serious trouble – as it turned out a broken wrist and cheek bone fractures. It was a bad fall, which could have happened to anybody.

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Letter from Tel Aviv


Tel Aviv and I go back a few decades. I lived there in the early 1980s, working as a journalist. I fell in love with it then and my romance with the city endures. It is not because it is beautiful or historic (it is barely 100 years old), though the area does have a timeless and much-recorded pre-history. Tel Aviv is badly planned, and many of the buildings are ramshackle and as tenuous as the shifting sands on which the city is built. It is famous for its Bauhaus-style buildings, but many of them are in desperate need of repair. In more recent times, the skyline has been dotted with modernist high-rise tenements and office buildings. They give the city a cold and anonymous edge.

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Letter From Brazil


It is odd to thinks of the negative press around the World Cup before we arrived in mid June. It may be that the heavy police presence was a factor as was the apparent incarceration of favela youth in their slums by police acting as guards, but we did not hear or see of any street trouble. To the contrary, the good people of Rio and other places went out of their way to help us when we began to look lost (which happened with disturbing frequency), with little or sometimes no prompting, often with faltering or no English, but with a genuine sense of Brazilian hospitality and kindness.

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Kyoto’s ultimate front desk

For about a year, Hotel Mume in Kyoto (261, Umemoto-cho, Shinmonzen St., Higahymama-ku) has been’s favourite hotel in Kyoto. This is not a bad achievement for a hotel of eight rooms, listed as first amongst 150 hotels in a big international tourist magnet like Kyoto. A visitor recently wrote – “This could well be the best boutique hotel in the world.” It sits in a side street near the heart of the popular Gion or old Kyoto area, with its many simple wooden buildings designed around fast running waterways.

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