Jan 31, 2011

A trip into town

 From the station level platform I walked down into the taxi area so that I could cross the street and enter the shopping arcade.
 This is the entrance to the shopping arcade. At this point it is called Clis Road.As you can see, it has a roof and there are stores along both sides of the paved pedestrian walkway. It continues for four blocks and at the other end intersects another arcade.
 This is the front of a pachinko parlor that is in the first block away from the station. Pachinko is very popular whenever the economy is not well, so it is extremely popular now.
This is next door and the red neon sign says, Karaoke Building.. In addition to karaoke, the building has a game center. In the basement there is also bowling and table tennis. I went bowling there once many years ago.

Jan 28, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 06

 This is a newly added sign that appeared on day recently on the bank of the river near my apartment complex. You can just see one of the buildings in the upper left corner of the picture. Apparently the sign, which says "left bank 15.5 kilometers",  indicates the distance that you have to travel to reach the ocean. 
 This is an open lot next to our apartment complex (not the building in the picture, which is a small, 4-story building. Part of the lot has been paved for parking but the man who owned (owns?) most of this area still farms a small part of it. I recognized the remains of cabbage and daikons. There are some other plants but I could not tell what they were.

That ended my walk around the neighborhood. For the next few days I will be describing a trip to downtown Sendai.
 This is inside the station. The passageway passes over the tracks for the local train lines and it is the main way to get from one side of the station to the other. There is also a tunnel that goes under the tracks and it is most convenient for people who arrive on the subway or the local trains. You can see the Macdonalds sign and just beyond it, but not visible, is a Starbucks.
This is the taxi stand in front of the station. The white building in the background is a department store and the tall building behind it contains Maruzen, the best bookstore for English books in Sendai. The Sendai Book Club orders the books we read from Maruzen, although I no longer buy them there. I down load them to my Kindle at a much reduced price.

Jan 27, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 05

They have changed the interface for this blog, so the layout may be a little strange until I learn to use the new functions. Much of it seems to be the same but I have not been able to understand all of the changes. Anyway, here goes and please excuse any strangeness.

This is a pachinco parlor in Yaotome. I think the green is really ugly but it sure makes the building noticeable.  Pachinco is a kind of pin ball game. You buy a lot of small balls and put them into the machine. In the past the machines were spring loaded and you shot the balls one at a time, but not it is automatic and you use a knob to control how fast the ball come out. The main area is vertical and the balls bounce off pins and eventually drop into a hole. If the hole is on the surface, the player wins some new balls. If it is at the bottom, the machine keeps the ball. There are many fancy variation, for example, holes will open and close, so timing is important. This timing factor is what allows the game to be legal. It is against the law to gamble but pachinco is classified as a game of skill, which it actually is. After you finish, you can take you balls to a checkout counter and convert them into prizes, mostly food and goods. It is illegal to get money in return. However, near, but not legally connected to the pachinco parlor there is always as place where they will exchange the goods for cash.

 This strange little building is completely empty at the moment. It used to have a small company headquarters in it but the company has collapse because of the bad economy.
This billboard is advertising jobs for people with business experience. It does not say what kind of jobs and it looks to me like there is something shady about the whole thing. The reason I posted it here is the address of the website that contains further information. I wonder what an unreal-brain would be.
I took this picture along the river near my home. It is some kind of berry and they are a very pretty bright red. The leaves look greener in real life and the plant reminds me of Christmas.

Jan 25, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 05

This is near Yaotome Station. I walked under the tracks and then about a hundred meters. The pave road turned into this dirt road. I had no idea where it went, so I continued onward.
Actually the road ended just about where it disappears in the above picture. As I turned around and started back, I took this picture that shows how near the subway tracks (above ground here) are to this undeveloped bank of a small river.
Back almost to the tracks, I noticed this house with a pine tree. You can just see it where it rises from behind the center blocks in the wall and then goes off to the left. Japanese people like this kind of tree that has been trained to go in an unnatural direction parallel to the ground. I have seen some very old ones that go for many meters and need to have supports to keep them from falling over.
This house on the other side of the river has a yard that is surrounded by trees. It looked like there was a small lawn and maybe an even smaller garden. The rest of the area over there was filled with buildings and roads - no trees, no plants, just man-made structures.

Jan 24, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 04

This is the two cars from yesterday as they appeared in the window. It was a very unimpressive display of extremely impressive models.
The above is a MosBurger restaurant, a Japanese imitation of Macdonald's. I like this chain because they are the only place where you can always get onion rings and they also have more things made from chicken.
This is a post office. The red symbol that looks like a T with a bar above it is the mark for post office and it is also used for indicating the zip code on your mail. The red box like thing on the right is a mail box. They have two slots one for postcards and letters and the other for larger or special items. One interesting thing about the mail here is that you can mail anything that you can stick a stamp on.
This is another building of small apartments, but much older than the one at the beginning of this series of pictures.

Jan 23, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 03

Here is a wider angle view of the tabehodai restaurant that I mentioned yesterday. I was extremely surprised when I saw it because this was the home of what we called "cheap French". The left side of the building was the entrance and a bread shop, but when you passed through you entered a real restaurant. It was quite fancy looking and they frequently had live piano music in the background. The menu contained mostly full meals, four or five courses usually, and they were mostly under 3000 yen - very cheap. We used to go there for birthdays. After you registered with them, each year, they would send a postcard that gave you a 2000 yen five course meal, for you and anyone who came with you. The food was pretty good, too. I was planning to go their for my birthday meal in February. So sad!A little further down the street I discovered a Tengo yakiniku restaurant. This is a large change that covers all of Japan I think. Tengu is a god with an extremely long nose that on masks looks suspiciously like a penis. Anyway the reason I took the picture is to show you how the Japanese put their language into English. Notice the word "Teng" in the lower right corner of the sign. It puts the word "TENGU" into what they think is English. Most Japanese know that the last vowel in most Japanese representations of foreign words is not really their, so they remove the last vowel from purely Japanese words, thinking that it turns them into English. A very glaring example of this is the city of Toronto, Canada. Many (most?) Japanese will call the city "Toront", dropping the last vowel to make it English.Moving on toward home, I passed some sort of office building. Nothing interesting, but their window display had these two model cars. They were about a foot long and incredibly detailed. I spent 10 to 15 minutes looking at them.

Jan 22, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood 02

This is construction on Route 4, the Sendai bypass. Almost all work on the roads here takes place during the day, even during rush hours. The main reason is consideration of the schedule of the people working on the roads and the inconvenience to the neighbors who might be disturbed by noise at any other time.After crossing the bridge and turning off the bypass, I went by another of those curvilinear streams, or maybe it would be less poetic but more accurate to call them drainage ditches.
Notice the word "self" in English; it is also written twice in katakana. It means 'self service' and shows one of the word construction patterns in Japanese. When combining or shortening terms, only the first part is used. If. This means that the term 'personal computer' or 'pasocon', where 'paso' is the first part of the Japanese renditioning of 'personal' and 'con' is the first part of 'computer'. So, when shortening 'self service', the first word has only one part and the second word is dropped because it is not needed.
This is a 'tabehodai yakiniku' restaurant. A yakiniku restaurant is one where you have a grill (electric, gas, or charcoal) and the main course is meat that you cook yourself. The 'tabehodai' part of the name indicates that you can eat as much as you want for a fixed price. In this case, the food is 2,480 yen (about US$30). There is usually a one and a half or two hour time limit. Also, these places usually have 'nomihodai' which means that the drinks, including beer, wine, sake, and some mixed drinks have a fixed price for all you can drink. There is something special about this restaurant for me, but I will wait until my next post to explain what it is.

Jan 21, 2011

A new walk around the neighborhood

A few days later I walked around the neighborhood again. However, this time I went clockwise, walking east on the main road and then turning a crossing the bypass bridge. While I was still on the main road, I passed a new ramen noodle shop. It had a long line of people waiting to get in. This is probably something that is unique to Japan. People wait for hours to get into a noodle shop, but totally ignore other ones. Some of them are truly better than others, but they are not necessarily the most popular. According to the sign, this one is part of a chain so I doubt that it is anything special, other than being new and different.
This is after I turned the corner and was walking south on the bypass road. It is an apartment house with 18 little apartments. The people who live in this sort of place tend to be young people, students or kids supporting themselves through part time jobs. Also some of them are rented to working men who have been transferred away from their home towns. This is common in Japan and the wife and kids usually remain in the family home so that the kids can continue in school without having to transfer (a problem for various reasons).
This is what the front of the building looks like. One of the doors in each pair leads to a downstairs apartment and the other to the upstairs.
A hundred meters or so past the apartments, I came to a little farm, next to the river (on the left)

Jan 19, 2011

A walk around the neighborhood 10

This is a telephoto shot from the same position as the last picture I posted yesterday. In the foreground is the truck garden and then a row of trees a shrubs that hide the river. The bank is on the opposite side. At the top of the bank there is a small play ground but it is hard to see. My 'mansion' is on the second floor on the extreme right of the right hand building. If you look carefully, you can see our laundry.
This is the view looking west along the river which is hidden on the right. It passes very close to the front (actually it is the back, the front is on the road) of the building on the far right. The bridge in the distance is the one that I must cross to get back to my side of the river. This bridge carries the road between Izumi Chuo and Yaotome.
Japan is small, about the area of California, I believe, so land is hard to come by and almost all of the flat land is in use. Here someone is farming around the base of the tower that supports the high tension electric lines.
The dark gray roof, just right of center, and the dark brown roof to the left are the two buildings in the shrine complex that I have shown before. It is between my apartment and the bridge to Yaotome. If you look carefully, you can see the torii at the entrance. A torii is a structure consisting of two vertical columns and two horizontal pieces at the top. They are found at the entrance to Shinto shrines.

Jan 18, 2011

A walk around the neighborhood 09

Looking away from the river, you can see that the area is build up. The long horizontal building is the Yaotome Subway Station, which is above ground at this point.This is a trash collection point. Almost every one has a little structure like this. There are smaller ones in some places that are just covered with rope nets. The main reason for this is crows. They have learned to tear open the plastic bags that are required (buying the bags is a way of collecting money for your trash). Once they have ripped open the bags, they scatter the contents and look for something good to eat. It makes a real mess when this happens.

This is the view looking back along the path that I walked. I passed right in front of the two large apartment buildings.
On this side of the river there is a truck farm on the open space that is provided as a barrier against flooding. The building in the back is my apartment building. I live on the extreme right side of the two buildings and on the second floor.

Jan 17, 2011

A walk around the neighborhood 08

Just past the ducks, I saw a group of three egrets fishing in the shallow water.
This is one of the numerous drainage ditches that drain into the river. Generally these contain pretty clean water and contain fish in the later spring and summer. Occasionally, when they pass a factory, the water may be pretty bad, but that does not happen too often.
This is more than a drainage ditch, I guess it could be called a stream, or at least it could have been called a stream hundreds of years ago before all the construction work took place to insure that it stayed on a single path. The river is in the distance and I am standing on a bridge for two way traffic that allows me to cross. Notice the stone construction on the banking on the left side just opposite the raised walkway with railings.

This is that stone construction. It looks quite old and the stones were obviously taken from the river. They are all rounded but more or less the same size. Someone took a lot of time and effort to fit them all together.

Jan 16, 2011

An Irish Supper

Once a month or so, my friends and I meet at a pub called Ha'penny Bridge for an evening of chat, companionship, and drinking, although I no longer drink anything stronger than tea because it interferes with my daily meditation. The building itself is part of an actual Irish pub that was taken down, shipped to Japan, and rebuilt here. They also have real Guinness beer and I have been told the the setup for serving it cost about US$20,000 to install. The place definitely has atmosphere. In addition to Guinness they also have other European beer and, I think, one Japanese brand as well as whiskeys, particularly Irish brands. Sometimes on the weekends they have live music. They serve food - fish and chips, chicken and chips, shepard's pie, hamburgers, and a few other things. Everything is heavy and greasy, but after a few beers who cares?

The decorations are almost all Guinness ads and there are notes written on the walls by sports stars, people getting married, and other famous and infamous people.

This is the bar. We usually reserve tables near the door (just behind me to my left). The televisions that are around the place show sports, just like when the building was on its original site - lots of soccer but other sports, too. Sometimes there are music videos but usually it some sort of sports program.
This is part of the group, who I will not name in order to protect the guilty. Later in the evening more friends showed up. The first of us arrived at 6:00 and most of us left after 11:00. The group is international, consisting of Americans, Brits, and Japanese.
After I took that picture, they told me to sit down so that I could be included.
I guess that I should point out that everyone is involved in English language education in one way or another and that wives do not come - they do not like to listen to the discussions about teaching and school politics.

Jan 14, 2011

A walk around the neighborhood 07

This is one of the junctions on the power grid for this area. It is next to the river and across from my apartment building (on the right). You can see that one of the power lines passes near our place. We can see the line from our living room window.
Without moving from the spot where I took the above picture and turning just a little, the view improves greatly. This is typical of Japan. In one direction there will be a fantastic view, but in a slightly different direction there may be power lines, a factor, or even a dump. You learn to be very selective about what you look at.
At this point I am almost exactly opposite my apartment. The river become quite shallow. During most of the year these rapids are hidden and sometimes there are even large fish in this area.
On this day, at the bend where the river swings around our building, there was a large gathering of ducks. The birds like this part of the river because the houses are back from the bank, giving them a bit of peace and quiet.