Wandering Around Big Poo

Actually I was wandering around a town called Beppu, but it is sometimes fondly called ‘Big Poo’ because it smells.

I think the smell is sulphur. It’s a rotten egg smell rather than a poo smell, and I think it comes from the springs of steaming hot water that you can find everywhere.

At one time I am sure that this place was beautiful, now it is an overbuilt concrete sprawl although with a small town feeling. Perhaps this is because the roads around the town are narrow and maze-like.

Despite an unmissable ugliness everywhere that might be called modern Japan and the discovery of concrete, there are some small spots – or maybe I’m trying to convince myself of this – where you can see a trace of beauty and tradition; and above is one such scene.

What I personally like about this scene is that wall. The vast majority of walls in Japan are bleak gray breeze block jobs and are hideous to behold and a testimony of how the Japanese have lost a feeling for beauty and craftsmanship that they once had. It is a relief for me that many new houses don’t have a wall because those breeze block walls are so dour. 

But what is interesting about the wall in this painting are the different layers, colors and textures and I think it was this wall with a few bushes decorating it that helped to make this picture visually interesting.

I suppose I should also add that what is interesting about this wall is that it isn’t very neat; it looks a little irregular whereas you look at the breeze-block walls and they are ‘dead’ regular. 

But the Japanese don’t seem to understand how the irregular wall has a character and beauty that the regular breeze-block wall is totally missing – one has the spirit of life and individuality the other of death and sameness.

That’s all for now.


I originally wrote this story in July of 2014. I am now editing it in April of 2021. It is interesting to look back upon my old self and see how angry I was about the ugliness of modern Japan. I guess I still feel the same way but the heat of my anger has gone. I’ve learned to adapt to what is and to try to make beauty out of whatever I see. Perhaps one bonus of this is that I’ve had to try and find a new kind of beauty or perhaps I’m just rationalizing. I have no idea.

Gareth Naylor

I am an Englishman living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint.

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