the editor's desk,
The highlight of the year so far has been a family trip to Japan. I was a reluctant traveller when my wife suggested Japan as a skiing destination 6 years ago (reluctant because I prefer an empty paddock and not crowds and city life). Japan proved to be a revelation! We have now visited three times. Each time we stop off at Matsumoto so we can walk through Frog Street (home of several second-hand tool vendors) and visit the fabulous castle.
This year we spent some time in Kanazawa and enjoyed several days of just wandering around the old geisha and samurai districts. Having visited the Tokyo Edo museum days before I found myself understanding why there were long shovels and pikes nesting horizontally on the side of some of the old wooden buildings. They were there for firefighting! The 3-metre-long handles allowed the shovels and pikes to be used to pull houses down if they had caught fire! We forget that fire was so feared in the past. Japanese houses were cleverly built so they could be quickly dismantled. They have little furniture in them and can be quickly reduced to a flat pack to stop a fire in its tracks.
When you turn to page 18 you will understand why I was mesmerised by the clever carpentry that allowed houses to withstand earthquakes as well as survive an outbreak of fire.
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