Nov 30, 2008

Sunday morning

While waiting for Ian, this cloud was lit up by the rising sun.

Nov 26, 2008

A new fib

In the past I wrote fibs while in the classroom or while walking. However, recently I have to pay attention in all my classes and I have either been walking with Ian or when alone listening to lectures about Buddhism on my iPod. Today Masayo and I went to an art supply store and then had lunch together. I walked home - about 9 kilometers. As I walked I composed the following.

winter's day
walking home alone
solitude and tranquility

Nov 25, 2008

Labor Thanksgiving Day

Sunday was officially a holiday, Labor Thanksgiving Day, but when holidays come on Sunday, Monday becomes a national holiday, too. Ian and I decided that for training purposes we should walk both days.

The above picture shows what I consider to be one of the good features of the housing projects that surround Sendai proper. Between the rows of houses, usually similar but each a little different because the land developer and the house builders are often different, they leave open space which is landscaped and becomes pedestrian paths. The roads are frequently laid out in the form of a maze, which prevents through traffic on most of the streets. This particular path is very close to Ian's house.
When we walk between Ian's house and my condo, we pass this property as we go up a small hill near a public park. The house has alwasy intrigued me. You can not see it in the picture but beside this gate there is a small hand written sign that advertises massages in a variety of styles. The property is huge by Japanese standards and seems to run up the hill and off to the left.
This is the Japanese style gate, called a mon, which you can see at the right end of the wall in the previous picture. It is very traditional and you seldom see a gate like this on new houses. It must have cost a small fortune to build, but I would bet that it is almost never opened. I know I have passed it at least a hundred times and I have never seen it open. In fact I have never seen anyone inside the grounds, although it is obviously lived in.
This is the part of the house. It is very large and the grounds are well cared for, so the owners must be wealthy but I know nothing about them. I should add that the view from those windows is down a river valley and must be very beautiful, especially at this time of year when the leaves are in color.

Nov 23, 2008

Another busy Sunday

This morning Ian and I walked up the hill from my house to his; of course, he had to walk to my house before we could hike together. Once we got to his house I stopped for coffee and toast while Ian had his breakfast. When we finished, I packed the pears that Ian's wife had left for me to take to my wife and headed off, away from my house, to an all day, joint meeting of the JALT Sendai, a local teachers' organization, and three other teachers' organizations. Along the way I took the above picture, looking north over the area where I live. I could not locate my condo, but it is out there somewhere

I took this picture while I was with Ian, just before reaching his house. It had rained but the sky was clearing out over the ocean.
This is a stairway down to the Shrine in the next picture. This is typical of much of Japanese landscaping - you have to carefully watch your step. The idea is connected to Buddhism, I believe. The walker must be in a state of awareness, one of the goals of Buddhism, or he or she will trip over a stone.
This is the Shrine, Benzaitendo, which is named for one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, Benzaiten. She came from India where she was a river god, the goddess of everything that flows: water, words (and knowledge, by extension), speech, eloquence, and music. In Japan she became a protector god, first of the nation and then of the people. Finally the kanji for her name changed to reflect her new role in bestowing monetary fortune. I did not realize all this until I got home and did a little research. I guess I should have stopped and let her know that I had visited rather than just passing by as I did. Things like that are the reason that I never got rich.

Nov 21, 2008

First snow

We had our first snow, not very much but enough to see. Someone told me that they had seen on TV that the snow was 20 days early this year. A while back there was an article in the newspaper that said that, although or because the world is getting warmer, the area around Sendai is getting colder. The path of the jet stream has changed just enough to move the boundary between the cold north and the warmer south to the north of Sendai, instead of to the south.This was the view out our kitchen door, just as the sun was coming up. It was snowing although you can not see the flakes in this picture. The green building on the left is part of Seiyu, a department store in which the food section stays open 24/7.This is looking down off the balcony outside the kitchen. There is landscaping around three sides of our building: a paved path and various kinds of flowers, shrubs, and trees.

This was taken out a window Miyagi Gakuin University at about 9 a.m. It really was not much snow but definitely enough to say that it snowed. There was more snow up in the mountains, as much as a few inches in some places.

The long-range weather forecasts are predicting a cold, hard winter this year, which may make our Henro Pilgrimage more interesting.

Nov 19, 2008

This morning I left the house at about 5:30 a.m. and as I cross the bridge over the river the scene was quite beautiful. This picture does not really do it justice, but you can probably get some idea from it. My apartment is in the large buildings on the top left. The lights in the stairs are still on because the sun has not yet risen. This was the coldest day so far, about 6 degrees Celsius, but is was clear and bright once the sun got up a ways.
About an hour later, 6:30ish, we were entering Shinrin Koen (Forest-Woods Park) when we noticed the clouds over the mountains to the west of Sendai. Again the colors were beautiful.

We have added a third person to our Wednesday walks and he is a watercolor artist, actually teaching some classes. He constantly points out places where the colors, especially in the morning sunlight, are particularly interesting. And, of course, with him pointing out colors, I have started paying more attention to them myself. Also I am now much stronger so the physical aspects of the walks are not as tiring and brain numbing as before, meaning I can pay attention to things other than putting one foot in front of the other.

Nov 17, 2008

A Busy Weekend

This is Tomone (nickname: Tomo-Chan) sleeping in the car on the way to Sendai Station where she and her mother took the Shinkansen (Bullet train) to Tokyo. They were met there by Tomo-Chan's father and they returned to Kawasaki where they will live from now on. They have moved out of our house completely although they will come to visit accasionally. It is really quiet around here without them, but Masayo and I are gradually getting back to our old routines which makes life easier if not so interesting.

Sendai Station was having an exhibit of decorations for the Tanabata Matsuri, the Sendai summer festival, so it looked quite festive. It was almost like it was special for Tomo-Chan. In any case she seemed to appreciate them. At least she smiled and stared at them.The Shinkansen wickets are under the green sign. During Tanabata, these colorful, paper objects hang inside the shopping arcades that begin just outside the station.

Last Friday, Naomi left Tomo-Chan with us and she went to Kawasaki where she got their apartment ready for Tomo-Chan to move in. On Saturday morning I had art class and Masayo was babysitting. After my class I met one of my all-time favorite students and, after lunch, brought her back to our home. She was supposed to come with her husband, but he had a cold so he stayed at home. The student was in the first class that entered Miyagi U when it opened 12 years ago. She went to Australia with us and gradually became a family friend. We have not seen her for a few years because she is in San Francisco studying nursing for cancer patients in a graduate program. She has passed the American nursing license test so she can work there. I wonder if she will stay after she finishes school. Anyway Naomi returned late in the afternoon. Then on Sunday afternoon we all went to Sendai Station and separated there.

However, before we left Masayo made brunch: waffles with maple syrup, sausages, bacon, and pots of coffee. It was really good.

In the morning before brunch Ian and I walked as usual. On the way we found on stretch of sidewalk that reminded me of the yellow brick road in the Wizard of Oz.

Nov 13, 2008

Outlet Mall

This is part of a new Outlet Mall that open about 6 km west of my apartment. In the part that you can see there are six separate buildings, linked by walkways, which house a large number of well know stores, mostly fashion related. Out of the picture on the left is a single large building containing many stores, including an imported food store and lots of restaurants. The whole place is crowded but I am not sure how much money people are spending. The economy is really bad and shows no signs of improving.
This is another view from farther down the road. The tallest towers in the background are the Royal Park Hotel, which was ranked as the 60th best hotel in Japan by President magazine. We like to go there for dinner; the Chinese, European, Japanese, and Teppanyaki restaurants are all excellent.
A kiost selling slippers
I was quite surprised to find a Brooks Brothers outlet. I now longer have to dress up for work. When I was a university professor, I frequently wore a suit or at least a jacket. But now that I am retired, I seldom wear a jacket and usually settle for a sweater. I have not worn a necktie in years.

Nov 10, 2008

A Sunday walk in the woods

On Sunday Ian and I met Ken at a train station eight stops west of Sendai. We walked a few kilometers south and entered a beautiful park containing two lakes and a pond. The above picture shows the two of them walking along the lakeside path.
This is a man who was fishing (or maybe sleeping) in the pond. We walked along the opposite shore and I stopped to take the picture. During that entire time, I never saw him move.
The leaves were at their best, but it was a cloudy day so the colors were not quite as brilliant as they could have been. Still, they were beautiful and reminded me of New England. I have read that only New England and Japan have a wide range of fall colors. Other countries apparently have a far more restricted range of colors.
I took this standing on a little bridge that allowed us to cross this little stream that brought rain water down from the surrounding hills.
At one point on the path, they had made a tunnel, apparently because the point that sticks out into the lake is solid rock and impassible.

Nov 8, 2008

Thumb sucking

Tomone with a new variation on an old theme. Most babies suck their thumbs, but ....

Nov 3, 2008

Shichigahama continued

As we walked through some rice paddies, Ian and I found an interesting group of houses. They looked like they had been built on a hill but the sloping sides had been cut away so that they were vertical. The white house on the right had the first floor, probably just one room, at the paddy level but the rest of the house was on the hill. From what we could see, the man-made cliff around the houses had no support whatsoever. It was just hard dirt.On the other side of the island, we found an interesting empty lot. It was at the top of a hill and the lots on all four sides had been dug out down to the street level. The lot in the middle, however, was unimproved, forming a tower of dirt beside the road.


Ian and I drove to Shichigahama which is an island about 20 km away. Access is by a short bridge and it is a resort and surfing area in the summer.

After leaving the car in the parking lot at a public park at the highest point on the island, we walked toward the ocean. After a few kilometers we saw a sign that pointed toward the ocean and the Hanabushi Jinja. We decided to explore and soon were on a dirt road leading into the woods.

Eventually we discovered two torii, the outer painted red and the inner unpainted concrete. As you can see from the picture, a torii has two vertical columns with two horizontal cross pieces at the top. These are always located at the entrance to a Shinto shrine.

We followed the path deeper into the woods and entered the shrine grounds. Hanabushi Jinja is small but nice and stands on a cliff overlooking the sea, although the trees block the view.
Off to the right side of the shrine proper was an administration building, used mainly during festivals as a place to eat and drink. On the left, however, we discovered something surprising - a whaling harpoon. I searched around but could find nothing else related to whaling. Actually there was little else to see except for some small not very artistic statues. I assume that in the distant past the hill on which Hanabush Jinja stands was used as a lookout point for the local whalers.
Near the shrine there was a long, steep flight of stairs going down toward the water. Thinking about the climb back up, we decided not to go down. However, we soon found a path leading down in the same direction, so we took that. After a long steep walk we reached the edge of a cliff and could go no farther. However, the path ended in a larger cleared area, overlooking a beautiful cove. Around the sides we found piles of cut up logs and smaller branches. It looked as if the festival that we had seen advertised at the shrine entrance must consist of a large bonfire.
We walked a round the perimeter of the island and a very good workout because the roads we all up an down with very steep slopes.


Nov 2, 2008

Bottomless cup of coffee

I went downtown on Friday to meet a friend. We had lunch together at a restaurant in a new department store next to Sendai Station. I had pasta with a salad for 980 yen (about US$10, a little expensive, but not too much) and then for 105 yen (about US$1) more I got the 'drink service'. My friend and I both ordered coffee and discovered that the one buck gave us a bottomless cup. I have not seen prices like that in a long, long time.

The pasta, by the way, was so-so, and the coffee was strong and at least as good as I expected.