I took out my shamisen from its case to find that the skin had torn. It’s the inevitable fate of any shamisen: the body is a wooden box with a skin stretched very taut and glued on. Eventually, the stresses, exacerbated by climatic variation, get too much and one day you open up the case to see this:

Torn shamisen

I knew it was coming because (a) it’s always coming and (b) last year the skin had developed a tiny flaw, which ended up being right on the split.

If you live in Japan, it’s not such a big deal: there are people who do this job, and you just get it mended. But I don’t live in Japan, so it’s more of a hassle of international shipping and customs and all that nonsense.

That’s why, this time, I’m going to have it reskinned with a synthetic skin. They’ve improved a lot in recent years, and whereas the older ones sounded like a dead banjo, the newer synthetic skins sound very good, and have the advantage of being much more durable and resistant to changes in temperature and humidity. It also avoids the awkwardness of the question “what’s the skin?” (Answer: traditionally, cat or dog, depending on the type. More recently, as those have become unavailable, goat or kangaroo.)

People in Japan are also beginning to recognise that it’s a bit of a barrier to international acceptance:

If we do a reception for those coming to the Tokyo Olympics, we don’t want to say ‘This is cat or dog skin’ if asked. If there is a high-functioning replacement, even synthetic, that no one will complain about overseas we are in favor of that.

Speaking of goats, the local Surrey Docks Farm opened to visitors again after over a year when you could only peer in from the perimeter. Visiting the animals has been a regular part of my week for a long time, and I’ve really missed it. On Friday, I went and saw the recently born lambs and goat kids running and leaping around. It brought joy to my day.

On the house purchasing side, our solicitors are still waiting for their solicitors to respond to seven outstanding queries. The estate agent phoned me up twice trying to get me to tell our solicitors not to do their job by asking awkward questions. Awkward questions like, can the vendors prove that they are the people on the deed? There’s some marriage related name change thing I do not understand but which seems to me to be yet another example of how the patriarchy is bad for everyone.

I don’t know if this is normal, but it’s very tiring. I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re not responding to these queries because they can’t, or because we won’t like the answers. Or maybe it’s just that, like everything else to do with housing in this country, the whole process is a shysters’ paradise.