My new flat is comfortable and convenient, and I’m getting settled in. Unfortunately, I haven’t organised any internet access yet, so it’s quite boring in the evenings with only the dreadful Japanese television stations for company. However, I have a couple of interesting books to keep me going.

My work gets really busy from next week. I have to leave my home at 7am to catch the train tomorrow morning. The good thing is that I’ll be getting on at the first station on the line, and staying on the same train all the way to my destination. That means that I can get a seat, hopefully, and sleep all the way there, all 46 minutes of the journey.

I saw a fascinating device today—a sanshin-playing robot. I was drawn by the sound of live music, but couldn’t see where it was coming from until I saw an instrument mounted in a mechanism on the wall. It was promoting some kind of liquor in the Hankyu department store in Osaka. I was so captivated by the mechanism that I paid no attention to the actual product being sold!

The robot consisted of a “left hand” and “right hand” part. The “left hand” was a set of pistons driven by a pneumatic or hydraulic system which could stop the strings at appropriate places on the fingerboard. The “right hand” was very impressive, carrying out all manner of plucking actions, playing on one, two, or all three strings at once. It did sound pretty much like an instrument being played by a real person. I was impressed by such a feat of engineering. However, like the piano-roll, I don’t think that it will put genuine musicians out of work any time soon. It lacked the nuances and details of a real player.