Thursday, June 30, 2011

Chic Shack


This little izakaya (pub), situated a stone's throw away from Japan Railway's Craneview Station, has been designed as an architectural throwback. It's retro stylings take us back to the simpler era of the 1920's. The only problem is that, except for the classic photo donning the left side of the building, it pretty much looks like a lot of other buildings in and around Temple Valley (see: Building Character).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lost



It's got to be here somewhere. I remember parking it between two cement columns about 6 or 7 years ago and haven't been able to find it since. Perhaps it was "borrowed" by some poor soul who desperately had to be somewhere faster than his/her feet could carry him/her.

If you see a bike that could be mine anywhere in the area please drop me a line.

Description: 2 wheels, silvery grey, nondescript frame
Suspected "borrowers": Everyone

If it was a theft, this one was a much more pleasant experience than the last time my bike was robbed. The last time it happened the bicycle thieves ripped the bike right from under me. It happened while my friend, Ray, and I were out for a leisurely bike ride one summer evening once upon a time in America. The gang of juvenile delinquents (aged 15-17) who pushed us into the path of an on-coming car actually pulled the bike (a brand new Huffy 12-speed that I got as a high school graduation gift)from beneath my fallen body. While we probably all went to the same high school together, their faces escaped me. They weren't exactly criminal masterminds though. One of the thieves slipped up so bad he even revealed the identity of another when he called him by name, "Dick Head." I remember him distinctly saying, "grab the bike Dick Head," which is what I told the police.

The officer said that the moniker fit just about everyone in the vicinity. It wasn't exactly the reassuring statement we were looking for after finally picking ourselves up off the pavement and dragging our aching bodies along the four-block-long stretch that led to the police booth. I think we were hoping he would say, "we'll comb the streets for this 'Dick Head' and have him in cuffs before the night is over." Instead we kind of got grilled by the on-duty officer who wasn't as impressed by the severity of the crime as Ray and I were. 

He began the investigation by making use of the urinal in the corner of the booth. While facing toward the plumbing, he called out, "What were they a bunch of mulenyarms?" Now, my grandfather had taught me years before that mulenyarm (not sure of the spelling) meant eggplant in Italian. He failed to inform me, however, that it had a second, derogatory implication and I wasn't deeply embedded enough in the Italian-American milieu to have picked it up on my own. The first thought that ran through my mind upon hearing the officer's question resembled a scene from the cinema classic, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, only with eggplants in the role of the tomatoes. The image made the question doubly bizarre than it was in the first place and the night even more confusing than ever. By the time I figured out what he was talking about he had moved on to the next step of the investigatory process which made his question all the more clearer.   

He prefaced filling out his report with a few more poignant queries, the first of which went like this:

Cop: "What are youz two doin' in this neighborhood anyway?"
Us:  "We live here."
Cop:  "Oh. Well that's not really your fault then is it?"

It was another question that left me stumped in a night that seemed like one big test. Now here I am again with another bicycle problem and I'm as clueless as ever.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Found

I found this charcoal pencil drawing today. I drew it when I was about 17 years old. Living in  two different worlds, we were never meant to be. I from Long Island, New York, she from the island of Tahiti, forever trapped in a photograph and bound between the covers of the June 1979 National Geographic.


I had decided to make art my life back then and vowed to draw ten hours a day. I never did and put down the pencil only after about 10 months. Now I guess you could say I have made my life art instead.












Related post: My Brush with Art Fortune

Monday, June 27, 2011

Cyrus Hits Video Store Shelves



Temple Vallians the wait is over. The much anticipated Sundance film festival sensation, Cyrus, written and directed by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass and starring John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener has finally made its Temple Valley video store debut (where the staff sometimes asks me where they can find a certain title on the shelf in their store - really).


I really like this little movie. Maybe it's because the main character, Cyrus, reminds me of my eldest son, Primero. Cyrus' mother (played by academy award winning actress Marisa Tomei) reminds me of Primero's mother. Then there is John Reilly's character who seems very familiar to me too.


Roger Ebert (I never see a film unless Ebert gives it the thumbs up - otherwise how will I know if it's good or not) in his review of Cyrus writes, "here is a film that uses very good actors and gives them a lot of improvisational freedom to talk their way into, around and out of social discomfort. And it’s not snarky. It doesn’t mock these characters. It understands they have their difficulties and hopes they find a way to work things out. There’s your suspense: How can they?"


Then there is this song from the soundtrack. I can't get it out of my head.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Red Beats White

Banner on top by Segundo (the photo isn't grainy, the air is just thick with all the dust that was kicked up)


Craneview Middle School - The eternal struggle of red vs. white played out against the backdrop of a clear blue sky this past weekend as the students of Craneview Middle School took to the field for the 64th Field Day Celebration. When the dust had finally settled, the red team emerged victoriously to settle this age old score until next year when they do it all over again.


I had been preparing for this day for years. The field of competition was more vast now and I was more ready than ever to leave the minors behind. But nothing could have prepared me for what I learned that  fateful morning in June.


"Middle school field day (undoukai, or taiiikusai as they call it in the upper grades) isn't as big a deal for the parents as it was in elementary school," she said. "What?" The impact of those words had momentarily incapacitated my auditory senses. "Some parents don't come at all and only a few people pack a picnic lunch." Thud! From her lips to the bottom of my heart the words fell like a ton of bricks.


"Field day," it had been one of the biggest annual school events in our lives for years. Like parents from every nook and cranny of Temple Valley, we would be up at the crack of dawn, cooking and packing enough food to feed a small army. Rice balls, rolled omelets, little wieners, meatballs and all sorts of delicious morsels were lovingly stuffed into square boxes that were methodically stowed into satchels between vinyl picnic baskets for the long trek through the valley to the Bounty Hill Elementary School yard. 


The parents would arrive early in droves, racing to stake a claim to a plot of ground they could call their own for the day. This is the way it has been for generations, I think we even used the same lunch box that my mother-in-law crammed rice balls into when my wife was Bounty Hill grammar school kid.  As sure as the sun would rise over the mountains to illuminate the valley, field day arrived each year without fail. Sure there were a few minor changes brought by the yearly changing of the PTA guard. There was the puzzling alcoholic beverage ban. Enforced to this day  with an iron hand, it still has people scratching their noggins as to why this match made in heaven has been cast asunder.


I was extremely proud of the fact that during my short time here I had raised the local practice of zig zagging on the tips of ones toes between the edges of the sea of vinyl picnic mats that bordered the sun-beaten, dust-covered school yard to a dance form requiring all the agility of a beautifully muscular-toned ballet dancer. No one could ever recall a time in the history of Bounty Hill Elementary that anyone had ever left an errant footprint on another's plastic picnic sheet and I was bound to keep the tradition alive - with a style none will ever forget. Perhaps no other field day event required as much focus and physical fortitude than this dance.


That is with the exception of  the annual tear-jerking gymnastic dance performed by the graduating sixth grade class. Their final performance in the biggest event of their grade school careers tugs on  the heart strings of every sixth grade parent and guardian under the sun. The only more emotionally packed field day experience occurs the next day, or day after that if you're like me,  when you come to the realization that it will take hours to get that dirt-embedded gym t-shirt back to its original color again (why do they have to roll around on the ground?). That's when I usually get misty-eyed about the whole thing.


It had taken me a few years to discover that if I laid out my plastic picnic mat (later augmented with a woolly layer of blanket) in back of the school I could snooze away most of the day alongside other like-minded fathers. Now we were in the middle school big leagues and everything was different. There would be no picnics. There would be no more rolling around in the dirt. This field day was serious business. They even timed how fast everybody ran around the track!   But one bright spot (or rather not so bright spot) was the line of trees, from which we could enjoy the comings and goings from under their lovely canopy. I spied those shady spires the minute I arrived at the school grounds and without any ballet-like fanfare made a bee-line for the unoccupied space around their trunks. It was a terrific vantage point to sip on ice-cold barley tea and watch Segundo, my youngest, and all the other kids at Craneview Middle Schoolers sweat bullets as they ran around the section of the school yard dubbed "the sun's anvil."


Before exiting the gates of the school at noon time with the other spectators who were off to lunch either at home or some local noshery, M and I attempted to make contact with Segundo. An expert practitioner of the art of feigned ignorance, he made it seem as if we didn't exist. Since storm clouds on the horizon were threatening to put an early end to the games, when the parents returned after lunch, we (like more than a few others) were not among them.


The truth is we weren't missed, but we missed all the excitement. It happened during one of the more heated athletic matches known as the kiba sen (warring knights event). Not unlike the chicken fight, it's a highly spirited competition involving two or more teams divided into groups of four. The larger lads or lasses act as a horse drawn chariot (or maybe just a horse) holding the smallest member of the group (the knight) aloft. The knights, borne by the chariot and horses, try to rip the hat off the head of their opponent. Who ever claims the most hats wins the battle.


It can get pretty intense and I've always been surprised that no one has gotten even mildly injured. So I wasn't too surprised to learn that the arrival of the chariots was followed by the arrival of an ambulance, but that's as much information as I could gather. Nobody is talking about it. It's what they would refer to in some ethnic enclaves of New York City as omerta, the code of silence. So far all I've been able to get out Segundo is that his art club mentor, who happens to share the same name as two classic, mustached, video game characters (which probably has destined him to be not a total stranger to trouble), got his nose broken. I wish we were all back at the grade school yard battling for blanket space again.


Corrections


Since the publication of this article the editors have learned that the aforementioned injury was related to, not warring knights but, an even more dangerous looking game known as boutaoshi (pole pull-down). Here is a Youtube clip of a "pole pull-down" event at the National Defense Academy of Japan.




We have also been informed that when M was a Bounty Hill school kid there were so many kids enrolled that they didn't have enough space for the parents and kids to picnic on school grounds. All the kids would return to their class room for lunch and the parents would eat out or at home before returning for the second half of field day. Picnicking came as a result of the declining birthrate, which perhaps came as a result of the event you see pictured above.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Been Too Long


I bought a copy of this comical masterpiece (You Know You've Been in Japan Too Long...) by Bill Mutranowski more than a few years ago and it never fails to crack me up each time I crack it open. It's as entertaining as it is insightful with delightful illustrations of expat life that are so spot-on they are sure to hit home with readers from Japan's foreign community and others.

The synopsis on the Powell's Books web site says, "You Know You've Been in Japan Too Long... is a delightful, sometimes wry look at life in Japan through the eyes of an accomplished illustrator. Through an eclectic collection of cartoons, Bill Mutranowski uses his own experience as an expatriate to poke fun at the situations foreigners often find themselves in ....(read on at Powell's Books).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Going Sour



The sweet sounds of Sour.


More Sour: Out of the Shadows

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Driving Out the Snakes


Namamugi ca. 1862 

From early in the morning till late afternoon, lilting voices could be heard wafting over the hills dividing Temple Valley from the nearby sleepy fishing hamlet of Namamugi. Just as they have for ages, the men, women, and children of the town sang "Jamo kamo detake. Hiyori mo ameke (snakes & squitoes go away, fair weather* come our way)" while parading three massive straw snakes through the streets. Throughout the village and along the river bank they bore the serpents, carrying them through the gates of the shrine where the head of one of the mock venomous beasts was ceremoniously cut off and the village cleansed of its deadly poison in a fiery climax. This is the Jamo Kamo Festival (the Snakes and Mosquitoes Festival), an annual ceremony and celebration to ward off sickness and bring a bountiful harvest from the sea and land.

 While snakes and mosquitoes play a big role in the festivities, there's a whole lot more fun and feasting to this day. Here is a glimpse of some of the festival captured by the folks at the YouTube, Tsurmiwatchers channel.





*In this case fair weather includes the rain that helps crops grow.


Related posts: Namamugi Incident Revisited
                      In My View

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pee Hits Digital Age





Living with two digital age boys with bad aim, I'm thinking this could only help.


Related story: Rainy Season

No Escape

Festival Dream


I awoke trembling with fear this morning. It was another narrow escape. In a dream (that turned out to be a nightmare) I attended a festival at a local shrine. There somewhat to my surprise ....


I witnessed this startling sight, strange even for a stranger in a strange land. It was a van bearing the slogan "Kill the Whales" beneath which were imprinted logos for a number of different seafood companies.



Next to the van was an educational exhibit on Japan's rich whaling heritage and some great tips on how to serve up a whale of a meal. While I was perusing one of the informative placards on display, a Shinto priest approached me. He asked "Do you like whale?" I hesitated for a moment to ponder the question and before I could respond he followed up with, "Me too." Then he smiled and asked: "Won't you please help us bear the  omikoshi [a small portable shrine that is paraded though the streets at festivals] during the festival tonight?" It was such an honor to be accepted into the fold that I could hardly refuse the offer. The gold gilded miniature shrine shimmering in the morning sun seemed to reflect all that was good in the world. I moved in closer to bask in its glow when...


upon closer inspection I realized all that glittered was not gold. In fact this little abode of some unfamiliar deity was embedded with hundreds of whale meat tins. Now for the scary part...






While carrying this mini shrine festooned with canned whale I spied a group of foreigners. Clad entirely in black (scary huh?), I suspected them at first of being your run of the mill anarchists, nihilists, or something like  that, but no. Forever dyed into the skin covering the biceps of the burly cameraman in the group, who was faithfully recording the whole scene for the celluloid record, I spotted the words Sea Shepherd boldly emblazoned in black ink below the flaming red outline of Death's head. It was the crew from the whale-saving hit television series, Whale Wars, and they had me dead in their sights!


Related Story: Whale of a Meal

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Rainy Season


Peeing Boy in front of Yamonote Line train


The rainy season (alternatively known as "the moldy season") is here again and this month the Mannekin Pis replica at the JR Hamamatsuchou train station in Tokyo is dressed accordingly. I kind of adore this little statue. Each passing month brings a new outfit that can brighten up even the most cloudy day just a little.

I was planning to make a calendar featuring all twelve wardrobe changes but I missed May. It was all decked out for Children's Day (which falls on May 5), donning a samurai helmet made from newspaper, etc. It was really cute but I was just too damn tired to get up from my comfy seat and snap the little guy's picture from the door of the train like I usually do. Now I'll have to wait an entire year before I can craft the calendar. I could sculpt a little Peeing Boy of my own and dress him up for the occasion, I'd also have to build a miniature Hamamatscho train station platform replica to serve as the backdrop. Yeah, that's exactly what I'll do. It'll take some time and planning though. I figure about a year should do it.


BTW: Take a good look at this photo of one of the busiest train lines in all of Tokyo. Where did all the people go? It's like a ghost train. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Explosive Situation!

Helicopters were buzzing all over Temple Valley this morning. A ticking box was discovered at the police booth near the local train station and bus depot at approximately 6:30 a.m. The incident triggered the deployment of an aerial search team and  a massive contingent of police, including the bomb disposal unit, who descended on the valley and cordoned off  much of the area near the train station. Out of a sense of journalistic duty, and since I could hardly sleep anyway with the constant whir of the reconnaissance chopper flying above, I headed downtown to observe events first hand somewhere around 9:30 a.m.


None of the major local news organizations were there yet. It was a big scoop for the Temple Valley Times! I muscled my way between a couple of officers blocking the street and snapped away a few great shots of a big blue bomb disposal vehicle picking something up with its forward extended arm before I realized I had forgot to load the memory stick (note to 85% of TVT readers: that's digital age film) into my Sony digital camera. No problem because I had my little Polaroid back-up with me. It was then that the local YouTV cable television station camera guy showed up but he was too late because I had already staked the best vantage point in town and was once again  taking some amazing shots.  When I returned home an hour or so  later (about 10:30 a.m.) to reap the fruits of my labor I discovered that the batteries in my Polaroid were dead, leaving me with nothing to show for all my journalistic efforts. I can't believe my darn luck. While we are all luckily safe and sound with the situation down at the station apparently all wrapped up and everything back to business as usual,  I'm extremely upset about the missed photo opportunities. I could just explode!


UPDATE


According to Nikkan Sports, the ticking device inside the box turned out to be nothing but an alarm clock sandwiched between some clothes and a container of instant ramen noodles. While it sounds like a simple case of some poor soul misplacing their belongings, those noodles are loaded with sodium that can wind up giving you high blood pressure - a ticking time bomb that can lead to all sorts of cardiovascular disorders. Good thing somebody got rid of it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Through the Roof

House in western Tokyo

A tree grows through it.


Woo hoo! Time to uncork another bottle of bubbly. The little reader meter on the right hand side of this blog indicates the number of Temple Valley Times limited-time subscribers has gone through the roof. We reached a new milestone with reader number 800 from the Netherlands yesterday. Like I've been saying all my life, "Let's Go Dutch!" (I think this probably-disappointed peruser was looking for something about Bob Dylan because they searched for "Blowin' in the Wind" and got my post on wind chimes.)

The circulation department says the bulk of our readers come from the U.S. with close to 25% of them hailing from the Aloha state. The Marketing Department explains that most of our Hawaiian readership never looks long enough to read anything here. It's usually "aloha" and "aloha" (it means hello and goodbye you know) for most netizens of the 50th state. Search string histories reveal that most come looking for either the Temple Valley Times Supermarket or the Temple Valley Pharmacy with a small majority looking for the times for the movies playing at the Temple Valley Movie Theater. 

The next biggest group of visitors comes from the Indian subcontinent looking for Dagen Haz. We're not sure if that's a phrase in one of the myriad of languages spoken in the region or if they were like us (okay me) and just misspelled the brand name Hagen Daz  as "Dagen Haz" just as it was similarly misspelled on a past post here.  

That leaves three hits from my sister and brother-in-law in Baltimore and the balance, about 850, coming from me.*

*It took me a while to realize the meter was also tracking every time I viewed the blog, so I was understandably excited over all the buzz about my blog and used to check quite quite frequently.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Dueling Ukes

I recently went to a string instrument recital at the school where my wife, M, is learning to play the guitar.

First up was an old guy playing a ukulele.* When he was finished playing he left the recital room and was followed by...

a cute little 7 or 8-year-old girl who also played the uke and sang a song.


Soon after she began playing the old guy returned to the room to watch. That's when I came to the sudden realization that there might be some kind of rivalry going on between the pair as the gentleman slowly glided across the floor, inching toward the video camera that had been set up to capture the students' performances... 
and positioned himself smack dab in the middle of the video camera lens view. Now when the kid and her parents pop the video or DVD in their player at home to relive the magic, all they'll see is the back of some old dude's head.

Somebody has got to show these two Jake Shimabukuro's TED video.

*Unless you say ukelele (ü--kə-ˈlā-lē as opposed to yü-kə-ˈlā-lē)  than it's "an ukelele" I guess.

Instrument of Peace

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Foreign Powers

It's Johnny!! Johnny!!!


No, not Johnny Depp. Me, Johntaro. I was waiting in line at the supermarket today when the guy behind me, a total stranger, asked if I still played the drums? You see I belong to a local drumming group, God of Light Percussion, that plays at different venues around town a few times a year. The last time I performed in public with the group was last year but this guy recognized me. I'm a talented celebrity! Either that or I just stick out in the crowd for some reason.

I don't think it's because I'm obviously a foreigner. This town is lousy with foreigners. The streets are crawling with us. I see them pass me by all the time. Sometimes we give each other the nod, other times we pretend not to see one another (dubbed shiranpuri, this "feigned ignorance" has been practically elevated to a near art form here in Japan via perhaps some cultural adaptation by so many people clinging on for their lives to a tiny outcrop of rocks in the middle of the ocean). 

Then there are the smiles. Not from my apparent fellow/sister foreigners, but the ones painted across the mugs of the native born. I sometimes see them crawl across their lips whenever they catch a glimpse of me, while either waiting to cross the street, meandering along the byways, or just sitting there minding my own business.

It doesn't happen with everyone and not all the time, certainly not all at the same time. What triggers these mouths to move with mirthful delight? It's a mystery. Maybe the sight of me standing there stokes the smoldering ember of some far distant and pleasant memory, the silver screen antics of some star like Jerry Lewis or a brush with some lesser foreign celebrity like Kent Derricott or Dave Spector whose star shines only in Japan. Then again, maybe there just dumbfounded, thinking "why the heck would anybody move half way across the globe to come and live in a place like this?" I'm assuming it's my "foreign powers" that elicits the display of pearly whites and that I'm not the only stranger to this land who has witnessed this sudden and fleeting flash of joy. Call it what you will, I call it magical!  

Related post: My Pet Name

Friday, June 10, 2011

1,000,000 to Act Against Nukes


中継市民ネットワーク611アクションCM新 from iwakamiyasumi on Vimeo.


There will be a one million person anti-nuclear protest on Saturday June 11. Find out more about it by clicking on the preceding link or reading Time Out Tokyo.


About the song featured in the video: You can find out about the story behind this no-nukes anthem by Kazuyoshi Saitoh, Zutto Uso Datta ("Nothing but a Pack of Lies"), by reading The Revolution Will Not Be Downloaded in the Temple Valley Times.

Out of the Shadows



You've got to hand it to this band (pun intended), they make some interesting videos. Don't miss the latest offering from from Sour. Entitled Mirror, it's a sweet little interactive number that you can star in via webcam, Twitter, or Facebook. Check out Mirror (I could only view it on Google  Chrome: http://sour-mirror.jp/index.html) now.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spirited Away



We may be getting a bit carried away by all these spirits that have been spotted in Temple Valley lately. After the Ushioda Jinja Matsuri sightings we were moved to check out our photographic archives. Sure enough we discovered similar ethereal orbs that had somehow escaped our attention.


Some people say that only the gifted can capture these celestial beings on film. Cannon, the camera manufacturer, says its  just the reflection of light onto particles of dust. I think some people know what they are talking about.


Related story: THEM!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Feeling Sleepy.ab





The ".ab" is silent when you pronounce the name of this alternative rock band from Hokkaido, Japan. I once heard them described as "a great Jrock* band with a touch of Radio Head." Feeling Sleepy.ab yet? Just give a listen, you will.

*That's Japanese rock. You can add a "J" to just about anything and make it Japanese. There's Jpop, Jblogs, JLeno, etc., etc, Jetc.

Marking Time



Watch before reading!

Nobody is really inside this clock designed by Maarten Baas, only a flat screen monitor playing a video of the artist faithfully recording each stroke of the minute hand "by hand."

I used to keep track of time using minutes, hours, dates, etc. Now comes sundown I just draw a hash mark on the wall and call it another day done.

Related post: Permanent

THEM!!!



Wood sprite inhabiting a tree on the grounds of the Temple Valley Bear Shrine

No, not an infestation of giant ants. Not Totally Hidden Extreme Magic (THEM) either. I'm talking wood sprites! They're crawling all over the place and we're happy to see them. Can you?


To learn a little more about the wood sprites of Temple Valley read: Festival Spirits

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Miraculous



This new musical release from the popular Japanese rock band Quruli, appears on the soundtrack for the soon-to-be distributed film I Wish (originally entitled Kiseki, or Miracle, in Japanese), directed by Hirokazu Koreeda.


The movie, featuring real-life siblings in the lead roles, tells the gripping story of two young brothers who have been separated from one another. Living apart in two different cities the pair dream of one day being reunited.


BTW did you notice the interior of the train featured in this clip? When was the last time you saw a train that had wooden seats with leather upholstery (maybe never)? Actually aesthetically pleasing rail cars with comfy interiors aren't such a rare breed in some parts of Japan.


You can read more about I Wish and the film's director in a review by film critic Mark Schilling on the Japan Times web site.

Watching What You Eat



Takoyaki vendor (Ushioda Shrine Festival, Yokohama)



 
Related post: Festival Spirits

Corrected Vision

They call this structure, Megane Bashi (the Eyeglasses Bridge). It's a nickname the overpass earned, people say, for its uncommon shape. Maybe I need glasses. I just don't see it. Unlike other bridges around the world that have been dubbed with the same moniker, I can't make out a pair of spectacles.
I'm still willing to meet people halfway on this bridge thing. Maybe it's not the Eyeglasses Bridge but the Eyeglass Bridge, as in monocle (katamegane). Yeah, I can see that now.

Related story: Port in a Storm

Festival Spirits


Can you see them? I couldn't see them either, nor could my wife, until we got home from a festival at a local shrine and viewed some of the photos I shot. Above us, before us, all around us, there they were - spirits!


At first I thought the lens was dirty, but the images didn't appear in all the photos I took. After ruling out smudges and reflections of light, I'm left with one explanation - kodama (spirits).

Kodama, says the entry
in Wikipedia, "is a spirit from Japanese folklore which is believed to live in certain trees (similar to the Dryad of Greek myth). Cutting down a tree which houses a kodama is thought to bring misfortune and such trees are often marked with [a] shimenawa rope." After searching kodama on the Internet I discovered some images that were strikingly similar to these you see here (like those on a Japanese blog post entitled, Natural Orbs in Ina Valley).

Still can't see them? Click on the photos to enlarge them but it may be that only those with a pure heart can truly see them.

Similar story: Like a Charm

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kan Fan?

More than a few folks in Japan have been less than pleased with Prime Minister Kan's performance in the wake of the devastating disasters that have besieged this island nation since 3/11. I don't see what the hoopla is all about. As performances go this one isn't too bad:



Kan, I feel for you man.


Related post: Yes We Can!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rock in the Market

Jizo statue outside Tskuno Market, Yokohama

Port in a Storm

Nautical chart of Yokohama 1874

Today was the 151st anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama to trade with the West under a series of treaties now collectively referred to as the Unequal Treaties. My family and I usually mark the occasion by taking an evening stroll up to the nearby roadway overpass where, along with other denizens of Temple Valley, we can glimpse the outline of the fireworks display in the harbor. I imagine at one time it was a good vantage point but development in recent years has obstructed the once clear view. Still people gather there almost reflexively as they have for years, old habits die hard. It's really the perfect spot for me since its located a safe distance away from any potentially deadly errant rockets that could veer off course and far enough away to muffle the terrifying bang that follows the fiery display in the sky. This year the rain kind of put a damper on everyone's spirits and nobody was willing to brave the watery walk up to the bridge. That was fine by me since all I usually do anyway is worry about motorists getting distracted by the show and careening into the crowd of assembled onlookers. The crowd is normally pretty big, which is another problem I worry about since I'm not sure if the engineers who designed the overpass had accounted for that extra load when they designed it many many years ago before they had all the modern safety features they have today.


I'm thinking about having this one done in oil
on canvas but nothing is set in stone yet
(carved in stone might be nice come to think of it).


So in a departure from tradition, today I put on my Commodore Perry outfit (which I'm glad I had hanging in the closet) and handed out Alfort cookies to everyone I met. Alforts are a delicious open-faced chocolate sandwich cookie with the image of a ship imprinted on the chocolate (you can learn more about them on the Tasty Japan blog). All things being equal, it was a day to remember.