Everyday beauty, countries and people
In Tokyo, I always like visiting the “Muji Found” stores. These stores display handcrafted objects of everyday use from around the world.
I borrowed this book by an early 1900s author who encouraged people to look for beauty in everyday objects - perhaps he was the inspiration for Muji Found.
One essay is addressed to the Korean people; the author was unhappy with the recent Japanese annexation of Korea. It is said this essay made many denounce the author as a Korea apologist and a traitor.
It reminds me of a scene from the movie Russia House. There is a party at a Moscow author’s house. Everyone one is in happy moons and contemplating the future. A visiting British (played by Sean Connery) author says to his Russian hosts “ If there is to be a hope we must all betray our country, we have to save each other because all victims are equal and none is more equal than others. It’s everyone’s duty to start the avalanche.”
Talking about Korea, Whenever I read a book about Pyongyang, I miss the cold noodles (Raengmyon, 랭면), more so in July/August, you need this dish to beat the heat.
Luckily in Singapore, I am near the mini Korean neighbourhood where a small hidden away restaurant serves this.
I will recommend See You Again in Pyongyang by Travis Jeppesen. The author gives a glimpse of everyday Pyongyang. The book is also serves as a quick history refresher on North Korea.
There is an encounter with a North Korean soldier that the author describes. He got into a casual conversation with a border guard on the North-South border. Halfway, the soldier asked the author about his home country. The author replied that he is from America, expecting the soldier to break off the conversation. The unperturbed soldier sensing the author’s discomfort, reassures him “Countries are countries, people are people”.
Reminds me of a similar encounter with an elderly man from Lahore I once met at Jakarta airport. We must’ve spoken for 15 to 20 minutes about Lahore, the summer heat, the street food. He asked me where in Pakistan I am from. I replied that I am from Bombay, half expecting the man to politely signal the end of conversation. But as soon as he heard my reply, he displayed a kindly smile and regretted the never-ending conflict between our countries.