Brighton Japan Club Adventure to Devil’s Dyke

Recently I attended a walk with the Brighton Japan Club to a wonderful place in the countryside called the Devils Dyke which is just outside of Brighton on the South Downs. I had a wonderful day out with this club and thought I would write about this particular adventure.

Firstly you may ask what is Brighton Japan Club?

Brighton Japan Club is a club set up by Tom Orsman who is a language teacher from Shimaguni Language School who specialises in teaching Japanese to beginners all the way to advanced learners.

This club was created for people in the Sussex area who have an interest in Japan (and it’s ok if you don’t speak Japanese) and would like to go on fun meetings and trips with others that share a similar interest and are looking to make friends.

Tell me more about Devils Dyke.

The View of Devils Dyke is Beautiful

Devils Dyke is a what I would describe has Brighton’s very own grand canyon, its a deep 100m/300ft valley based in the South Downs and continues to be a great tourist attraction and excellent place to walk.

The name is often associated with folklore with regards to the valley being the work of the devil, there is a legend that the devil was digging a trench to allow the sea to flood the many churches in the Weald of Sussex. Supposedly the Devil was disturbed and was unable to complete his task and fled living the trench unfinished

In recent years though around the Victorian era there had been a single track railway, a cable car and a steep grade railway had been present there however by now there is only concrete remains and some exposed rail tracks.

So what was the Day like?

The day started of with all the Japan Club members signed up for this walk meeting at Bus Stop E near Brighton station where we all promptly introduced ourselves and discussed whether we had been there before. For myself and Tom we had been there before.

Once the bus had arrived we seated ourselves for the journey there.
Often I quite enjoy the journey to our destination, it gives a good opportunity for you to chat to other members to see what their interest in Japan is and of course for Japanese members to learn about where they are from, what they are doing in the UK and learn more about Japanese culture.

Once we arrived there we explored the local area which has the Devils Dyke Pub but also so beautiful views with explanations of what we could see.

A Short trek to the Woods to Devils Dyke

Afterwards we took a trek through the woods till we came out on the side of a hill where we were exposed to a lot of plant life and butterflies.

We were joined by another member of Japan Club called Richard whom was a bit of a expert in traversing this land and so followed him and Tom across the hills and through some forest.

During this walk we continued to share stories with each other about, interests, languages the UK and Japan and even Lord of the Rings, we basically figured out we were the Fellowship has we even had the right number.

After a long walk we ended up in the valley and made a short walk where we rested around an area that looked like a campfire had been there.
This rest had been brief has we then made haste and walked to the end of Devils Dyke where we stopped for lunch and allowed us to have further discussions.

This is something that I think is uniquely wonderful to this club is that though we have language exchanges, it can also happen when your out and about. The fact there is varied activities organised by various members adds to the appeal and makes every outing fascinating and an adventure.

To my surprise we continued our adventure in the opposite direction from Devils Dyke to a little place called Fulking which was quite a fair walk away but it was worth it, especially for the scenery and for the pub that was waiting for us at the end. It was well worth the reward.

Bonding at the Pub

This was followed by more opportunities to bond again, though unfortunately after 2 hours of resting we had to make a move to catch the last bus back.

The trek back was tiring especially when most of it was uphill and when we reached the bus stop we all sat down for a rest as we arrived with ample time to spare. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Has a bonus some of us couldn’t resist one more trip to the pub.

If you like the sound of this, why not join us a Brighton Japan Club for an adventure, there are a variety of different activities to join so feel free to choose anyone you want to attend. And if your interested in learning more about the language, why not contact Shimaguni Language School for more information on lessons.


Two months in Japan

By Tom Orsman, Teacher at Shimaguni Language School, Brighton.

A couple of weeks ago, I returned from 2 months in Japan. I am using this blog to record my lasting impressions of the trip.

A Jizo, a protector of children and travelers – and a personal friend.

The number of tourists in Japan is at record-breaking levels.  Booking decent hotels is hard. Booking one in Kyoto during hanami season is next to impossible – especially if like me you only start hunting the night before. For a moment, I thought I had uncovered an absolute bargain hotel at just 5,000 for two nights. Then just  before clicking book, I noticed the price was in pounds not yen – I was a click from bankruptcy.  I ended up lodging at the cheap and central, コミカプ Comicapu (‘comic capsule’ –  basically a bunk bed in a library)  sleeping under a shelf of manga and surrounded by a dozen snoring tourists.

New encounters everyday. On a trip to one of the most densely-populated countries in the world it is hard to avoid people, and I promise you, on some days I really tried. But it was these surreal 一期一会 (ichigo-ichie) once in a lifetime meetings that made the trip so special. Some of the most interesting characters were naked when I talked to them – we were soaking in an 温泉(onsen) hot spring bath at the time.

Generally, baths and bars seem to be the easiest places to talk to people – perhaps humans need to be either drunk or naked before we can really relax. On this trip, I enjoyed reunions with old Brighton Japan Club members over beer and smoked radish in Nagoya, sitting at a sleek 日本酒 nihonshu bar in Hiroshima, and chewing yakitori at a 屋台 (yatai) stall in Ueno Park.

Forests and fresh air. The contrast between the city and countryside is incredible. Parts of Tokyo and Osaka are a swamp of advertising; the eardrums get no rest either from constant jingle-jangle tunes. The crowds around Dotonbori in Osaka are amazing but the best was the total isolation of the Kumano Kodo World Heritage trails further south, where we couldn’t see out of the wood for the trees, and all we could hear was the 鶯 (uguisu) bush warbler. I felt constantly reassured by the fact that I was never far from this Japan, one with far less people, many more trees and no programmed musical accompaniment.

Japanese food versus food in Japan.  Most of my time on tour is spent in traditional accommodation where the food (breakfast and dinner) is cooked fish, colourful pickles, miso soup and bowls and bowls of sticky white rice – what we think of as traditional Japanese food. This is served along with local delicacies like イタドリ(itadori) Japanese knotweed, 高野豆腐 (Koya-dofu) freeze-dried tofu, and potentially fatal raw slices of ふぐ (fugu) blowfish.

Nothing like beans on toast. Dinner on the Kumano Kodo Trail.

When not on tour, it is fun to discover the quirky alternatives. In Nagasaki I encountered トルコライス (Turkish rice), an international hodge-potch calorie-heavy combination of rice, spaghetti and deep-fried pork. In Kyoto, I tried 和ぱすた  (Wapasuta) a Japanese-style pasta – Range of surreal snacks メロンパン (meron pan) a sugar cooated melon-shaped bread, プレーンドッグ (purein doggu) a no frills hot dog, いちごサンド (ichigo sando) a crustless white bread sandwich packed with strawberry and cream.

Now, back in Brighton, I miss the forests, the hot baths and dicing with death at dinnertime but fortunately there are plenty of consolation about being home. I am now excited about the summer ahead with new Japanese language courses starting at Shimaguni in July and an exciting series of new events coming up at Japan Club.   I hope to see you at an event soon.