I have never understood this idea of getting a souvenir on holiday, at least, not why it has to be a badly printed t-shirt or snow-globe paperweight. So when Beautiful Wife asked if I wanted to get something in Japan, I suggested a Japanese wood working plane.

A Japanese plane is different to a Western plane. A Japanese plane is pulled towards the user, and gives a finish so smooth that in theory you don’t need to use sandpaper. And I am a geek.

This is why your correspondent spent one morning in Japan racing about the back streets of Hamamatsu in the company of my brother-in-law The Fireman, who comes from a family of traditional craftsmen, and very kindly gave up half of his day off to go looking for woodworking tools.

He’d suggested an old hardware store full of pulleys, pipes and tools of various descriptions. It was the sort of traditional Aladdin’s cave where the owner, by rights should recognise what you want, and instantly find it in the dusty shelves.

Unfortunately this didn’t happen.

The Fireman, possessing the sort of determination needed to go into burning buildings for a living, had another plan and drove off down a back road as only a fireman can, cut through some nondescript suburban subdivisions and pulled up outside another shop.

Inside were display cabinets of planes, wrapped in brown paper packages*, hand-made in Japan from blocks of oak. Success.

When I took my new souvenir to the manager, he seemed pleased that the plane was going to Germany, “German carpenters have a good reputation in Japan” he told me. “Very competent, “ He tapped his forehead “Very intelligent”.

Hopefully I won’t damage this impression.

Still, it is  better than a snow globe.

*Not tied up with string, There was also a merciful absence of kittens, mittens, copper kettles or singing children.

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