Sep 30, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 03

Just after passing through the main intesection, a walker will find this delightful old gate. I have no idea what is actually inside, but the path seems to be well used which would imply a house.This shop is on the corner where the road I am following meets suisendori, Daffodil Road, which is a wide pedestrians-only route that runs at least a kilometer, terminating at Izumi Chuo. This shop sells taiyaki, tai is a kind of fish and yaki means cooked or fried. However, taiyaki is more like a pastry. It is made from dough, a bit like pancake dough, with sweet bean paste in the middle. It is cooked in a metal mold placed over direct heat, usually gas. The reason for the name is that the molds are always in the shape of a fish. I have never been able to find out the reason for this, although I am sure there is one.
This is the biggest house along the road and was only built a year or two ago. To build it, they tore down an equally large, but old, residence.
I have now reach the top of the hill that I showed in an earlier picture and can see the location of the next major road, Route 4. It is just in front of the hill that you can see on the right side of the end of this road.

Sep 28, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple 02

Today I am still on the way to the temple. This first picture is the entrance to the largest Shinto shrine in the area. This is the one that we go to one New Years Eve. You can just see the main shrine building on the left, between the red banner and the dark brown post. One interesting thing about this entrance is that it is both the entrance to the shrine and a public road. There a three of four houses in addition to the residence for the shrine officials. Also just in front of the building complex there is a road leading off to the right. A little further up the street, there is a place where they make tatami mats. You can see a pile of mats on the right and the two machines that are used in the center. Even though they use machines, much of the work, particularly sewing on the covering and trim are done by hand.
This is one of the older houses along this stretch of road. It looks like parts of it, the gate and front wall, for instance, are very old and some part appear to have been rebuilt. There is a nice garden inside that faces the row of windows along the first floor.
This is at the corner where this main road intersects the main road going east from the Izumi Chuo subway station, which is the last stop on the line and about a 20-minute walk from my condo. This building, the ZAZA Annex, has an interesting set of occupants. The second floor is part of the ZAZA beauty parlor which is behind this build. On the first floor of the taller section there is a noodle shop. I have eaten there once and it is pretty good. The problem is the location. It seems too far from home to go to and it is also too far from anywhere we might be when we are out. On the first floor next to the noodle shop is a beauty parlor for dogs. They trim and treat dogs. Not a particularly appetizing place to have next door when you are eating. On the far left end is the final shop, which completes the incongruities - a computer school. How four places like that ended up sharing the same building I will never know.
Behind and to the right when I took this picture, there is a 77 Bank. This is the largest of the local Sendai banks and they have locations all over the city. In fact one of their advertising slogans is "Next to the 77 Bank is a 77 Bank".

Sep 27, 2010

Dou'unji - Cave Cloud Temple

On Friday, Sep 24, I decided to go for a long walk and after some thought settled on the Dou'unji Temple. The temple is about 3 kilometers north of my condo. I visited it once a couple of years ago and found it to be quite pleasant. The name is interesting cave cloud. It seems that the name is about 700 years old and refers to the fact that there are meditation caves carved into a rock cliff and the fact that in the past the area was frequently buried in fog or low clouds. The temple ground occupy a bowl-shape valley with only one narrow entrance. Until the last few decades it was far out in the countryside with nothing but woods around it. Now it is completely surrounded by housing developments, which generate enough heat that there are no longer clouds or fog.

Here I will follow my trip, including both my access route and the temple grounds. The first picture today is the view along the river as I started out. Most days I walk to the bridge and then turn left to go to Yaotome station, but that day I turned right. I would then follow that road until it ends in a t-intersection with Route 4, a bypass road that goes around Sendai on the east. You can see from the picture that the weather was not particularly good, but not bad. I carried a small folding umbrella, just in case.
I paid my respects to the river god at our local Shinto temple. The cosmos are flowering and the riverside path is quite pretty.
After I turned right, I could see all the way to the top of the low hill that I would have to crest.
This is another temple that is near the end of the road. I do not know why but this temple is a little forbidding. It does not seem to invite people to enter and stroll around the grounds. For this reason, I have never been inside the gate, although I have passed it many times.

Sep 26, 2010

Marche (with a stress mark on the e)

Marche (with a stress mark on the e) is French for market, and this particular market was started a few years ago by students at my old university. It was a project carried out by the students in the business-related department. (The English name kept changing but these students were studying business, entrepreneurship, to be specific. This year is the biggest yet with 80+ booths. There were sections selling food. This first booth was selling fruits and vegetables.This nearby booth was also selling vegetables but they also had this huge pot of vegetable soup which people were buying and eating out of Styrofoam dishes.
This booth was selling things that were made from fish pasted and then fried. My wife bought one of the brown balls that the hand (not hers) is pointing at. She ate it after we got home and said that it was very good - fish paste and gobo (burdock root) mixed together and then fried in deep fat.
These are like potato chips but made from rice flower and fried. We bought a package that was flavor with Camembert cheese. The sample they gave us was delicious.
This booth was selling baby clothes. We bought some to go to one of the many babies currently in our lives.
This booth was in the area sell food to eat there. I bought a couple of the sausages from the large pan in the middle. They came with some homemade chili sauce - great!
This place was selling knickknacks and old junk.
This shop was into used books. There were a few English books but nothing I wanted with the exception of some illustrated books that were too expensive.
This is the entrance into the food to eat there section. As you can see, there were lots of people and it was still before noon. Notice the person on the extreme right with a glass in his or her hand. Many of the booths sold beer and wine. One even had mixed drinks. I imagine that later tonight the place will be pretty wild. Starting after dark there is going to be a jazz concert. If I were still drinking, I might have thought about going, but I think I will stay home and relax.
This truck was selling pizza and beer. Just after I took the picture, they brought out a pizza and were giving away slices for free. The place became mobbed. I had to wait quite a while to get this picture without anyone blocking the shot.

Sep 25, 2010

Wednesday Morning walk 04

This is what the crushed stone path looks like - very good for walking which, of course, is its purpose.The next picture shows the road from the park back to Kita Sendai Station. It is a divided 4-lane road but it is only a few kilometers long. One time, a couple of years ago, I went in the opposite direction expecting to come out near home, but the road shrunk to a lane and a half and then enter a rabbit warren of short narrow streets that just went round and round. It took me an hour and a half to do what I had expected to walking in about 10 minutes. When I finally came out to some place I knew I was almost four kilometers from where I thought I was. Oh, yes, this was around 3 a.m. I had been out with friends.
This is a side street that we take after the 4-lane road ends in a t-intersection with the main road between my area and downtown Sendai.
Across the street from the Kita Sendai subway station there was a small store that was selling beans, all kinds of beans. Every package contained a different variety of beans.
Walking along the riverside as I approached home, I saw this beautiful flutterby (I think this is a much better name than butterfly, don't you?)

Sep 24, 2010

Wednesday Morning walk 03

This next picture shows the subway station behind the sundial. I like this park because there is a lot of sculpture. You can see another piece, a black sphere on a gray base, next to the tree which is just past the sundial.A little bit further on, you will find this piece. The woman is biting a large leaf, while the goat is jumping toward her hand, which may or may not be holding something.
Although we always walk on the main path, which is paved or covered with crushed stone, there are side paths that just go off into the woods. A couple of years ago I followed one of them and got lost, completely disoriented (pun intended). I spent about 40 minutes wandering around in an area that was only a couple of acres. The problem was that it was all steep ups and downs where the low areas were all aligned in different directions and the canopy of leaves blocked the sun.
At the south end of the valley there are a few very small pools. We discovered that a turtle was living in this one. You can barely see it in the bottom center of the picture. The water actually has that gray color that we assume comes from a suspension of clay particles that wash down from the hills.
The next pool has a little waterwheel (center) that allows water from the third pool to enter. These pools are a firefly preserve, making them quite popular during the mating season (of both the fireflies and the young couples watching them).

Sep 23, 2010

Wednesday Morning walk 02

The flat path along the valley floor is paved, in contrast to the parts on the hill which are simply dirt covered with crushed stone. In this picture, you can see two of the chicken sculptures standing on polished stones, one on each side of the path.After turning to the left in the above picture, the path passes in front of the station (the two story orange building). The road runs along what would be the roof of a normal buildings. In the back you can see the culture center portion of the building that houses the Asahigaoka Bus Center.
Just before the station, there is an installation that contains a very complicated sundial. Around the outer rim there are a bunch of corrections and additions that I did not understand. The small plaque at the bottom contains an explanation but there were too many words that I did not know. To understand I would have to know the specialized language of time and geography. It would probably be worth copying the contents and then translating with the help of a dictionary. Maybe I will do it some day. You might notice that a projecting piece, centered between the 6 and the 18 has been broken off. I have no idea what it might have looked like or been used for.
This large plaque explains when and why the sundial was installed and who financed it. Once I understood the content in general, I did not spend more time getting the details. Ian and I were there for the exercise, not sightseeing.

Sep 22, 2010

Wednesday Morning walk

You might notice that I finally realized that I should change the title or this series. I took these pictures on a Wednesday morning when I met Ian for our first regular walk since the beginning of summer. The change began with the pictures in the subway. This first picture today is the parking area outside the Kita Sendai train station. Usually this space is full of taxis but for some reason there were none on this day. This is only for taxis, regular cars are not allowed to park, although they will stop to let out a passenger. The structure in the middle with the three upright posts is a rain shelter at the bus stop.
This is looking straight across the street from the station. The building with the large white sign is a yakiniku (BBQed meat) restaurant. These are generally Korean style, at least vaguely, and you are served a platter or raw meat and vegetables which you cook yourself on a gas or charcoal fire at you table. On the right behind a truck is the building where Ian and I end up after our walks - Mr. Donuts. When we return to the station, we always stop in for coffee and a donut. We stay for an hour or so, taking advantage of the free refills. Then just before 9 a.m. Ian goes off to work and I take the subway to the Asahigaoka bus terminal, eventually reaching Miyagi Gakuen U. where I have three classes in the afternoon.
After Ian arrived, we walked to the park and did our usual lap around the grounds. The path is close to three kilometers long and has some fairly high hills. It is a good workout. We enter the park at the top of a hill and the path goes along the ridge line and then down into a flat valley, where it reverses direction and parallels the ridge line, going up the hill again to reach our starting point. The two directions are unequal in the amount of exercise they provide. A clockwise trip has a steep down hill with a relatively short and mild uphill portion. Going counterclockwise means that we go down the mild slope but up the steeper one. I guess I should mention that the steep slope actually goes up then down and then up again, with the up slopes quite steep. Since both Ian and I did not walk much during the summer, we decided to take the easier direction.

In the flat valley there is landscaping and sculptures. In one place there are a number of life-size statues of chicken. Why chickens? I have no idea.
This display also includes some polished piles of various colored stones. The chickens are perched on the smaller stones.

Sep 21, 2010

Sendai Book Club Night 06

These are the wickets that allow access to the platform which is up some stairs at the end of the tunnel. The train line goes west into the mountains, terminating in Yamagata city.Because of the subway timetable, I usually beat Ian to the station, so I hang around in this waiting room until he arrives. The wickets in the above picture are through the door and to the left.
The black rectangle on the wall is actually the old sign for the station. It was in use until they remodeled. It is black ink on weathered wood, so it is almost impossible to read. Many Japanese signs are made this way. One that comes to mind is the temporary headquarters for police investigations of major crimes. They always hang a long board vertically beside the main entrance into the room that is being used as the headquarters. Of course, such signs are indoors and only temporary so the wood does not darken.
This shows the unusual chairs that are in the waiting room. Not that the chairs themselves are so strange, but that having such a design in a public place is quite rare.
This is the map that is over the ticket machines. It shows all the stations and train lines that can be accessed from here. The red arrow indicates this station. Sendai station is just to the right, where the four lines meet.

Sep 20, 2010

Sendai Book Club Night 05

Reaching the street after exiting the subway stations, I turned right and took this picture. The street terminates in a t-intersection at the top of the little hill. Ian and I walk to the intersection and turn right. The park we walk in is a couple of kilometers away. Next I turned to the left and started walking. Kita Sendai train station is on the left just in front of the tall apartment building in the center. The sign on the telephone pole, by the way, is an ad for a dentist named Kondo. The au signs on the left are in front of a store that sells cell phones by the same name. This is the brand that my family uses. I am still using the same phone that I took when I walked on the Henro Pilgrimage.
Just before the station is this yard full of bicycles. You must pay to leave you bike here but it is very convenient. The buildings on the left are part of the train station. The tracks are on top of the little rise that is covered with green vegetation.
This is the front of the station itself. It was recently rebuilt and is now much nicer than it was before. However, I did not appreciate that fact that they removed two old wooden benches from under the roof in front. Also notice the ramp. Sendai is making a great effort to make everything accessible to people in wheelchairs or those with leg problems. As you probably have heard, the Japanese population is now the oldest in the world with something like 30% of the people over the age of 60. This effort makes Japan a very good place to grow old.

Sep 19, 2010

Sendai Book Club Night 04

This is just outside the wickets and is very unusual these days - coin operated telephones. They used to be everywhere but since cell phones (keitai in Japanese) have become popular, the telephone company has removed most of them. As you can see, one of the green mounts is empty. In the past, the color of the phone told you how they functioned. The green ones took coins or prepaid cards, a black phone could be used for any calls and the owner got a bill, and a pink phone took coins but the owner could take out the money but would later receive a bill from the phone company. The pink phones were found mostly in restaurants and bars.I could not resist showing you how much Japan has changed in the last 20 years or so. In the past fathers never took care of babies. But now it is an accepted practice. This is the men's room in the Kita Sendai Subway Station. The toilet, which is just out of sight, is Japanese style, but there is a child's seat to hold the baby while the father is otherwise occupied. These are surprisingly common now, in spite of the fact that you still seldom see a man alone with a baby.
This is the main hall in the station. The wickets are at the far end on the right. I take the last exit on the left. The reason that I was at this end was that I used the men's room. Notice the map on the immediate left. It shows the stations, its exits, and the above ground roads and main buildings. Every station has a number of these, making it very easy to get around even if it is your first time in the station.
This is the stairs I take to exit the station. The nearest flight of stairs is quite short with only 10 to 15 stairs. The flight you can see in the distance is much longer and has a landing in the middle. However, on the left (the black area) is an escalator for those who do not want the exercise.