May 31, 2011

Tohoku Gakuin University

 The Izumi campus of Tohoku Gakuin University was badly damaged in the various quakes, particularly the second big one in early April. Even though classes have started later than usual, the campus is still under reconstruction.
 The campus is on the top of a hill and from the buildings this road leads out to a road that goes straight down the hill. The trees are ginko trees and they are trimmed back every year, so at this time of year they always look strange, a little sad and lonely.
 Next to the university campus, the organization also runs a high school and it is on your left as you go down the hill. This is just one of the high school buildings.
 This is a better view of the hillside that collapsed. I showed the blockage on the road in an earlier post.
 This is an even better view. You can see that a large section of the hillside slide downhill for a couple of meters.
 The drainage system in most places in Japan is excellent. The various canals have been under construction for at least 1,500 years. This little foot bridge looks like it may have been here the whole time.
 The canal in the above picture merges with another and goes under the road to broaden out into a real body of running water.
This is still typical of many of the sidewalks in Sendai. Work is slowly progressing but the only places that are being repaired are those that might cause a person to trip and fall. Also the work must be delayed until the insurance adjusters have seen the problem, photographed it, and made a report so that funds for the repairs can be released.

NOTE: The number of earthquakes per day is still decreasing. The website that I featured in a previous blog is now showing an average of only two quakes (magnitude 4+) and those are mostly 1 or 2 on the Japanese scale, which means we often do not feel them.

Yesterday the remains of a typhoon passed through this area and caused a lot of damage. The winds, while not at typhoon levels, were still high and caused problems and destruction along the coastal areas. Also we had a huge amount of rain and that caused flooding in the low lying areas, those that sank below sea level were then hit with a high tide.

May 30, 2011

Around the neighborhood

 Actually I was still on my way home, but I stopped to watch some construction. The workers are replacing the wall that collapsed during the quakes. I have shown this wall in various stages. A few days ago, the built a strong wall separating the property from the house next door.
 A bit further down the river and I came to the two new houses that are going up. I have wondered if they suffered any damage during the quakes, but there is no way to find out. Anyway, if they did, the damage would have been easily repaired before they restarted construction.
 Down by the riverside, I saw a man getting ready to start fishing. There are many fish in Nanakita River, depending on the season I have seen salmon, trout, and some kind of fish that is about a foot long and lives in schools. Also there are always large carp.
 This is the farmer who works the land directly across the river from our complex. He used to have a much bigger farm but the work they are currently doing has restricted him to a much smaller area. He apparently has permission to farm, or maybe he rents the land from the city. All over Sendai, you see farms like this along the riverbeds, and there is obviously some control by the local government but I do not know the details.
 This is at the back of the shopping center next to our place. They have been repairing the underground pipes but have not yet repaved. The place has been closed since the first quake, with the exception of the few days immediately after the tremor, when they sold things from the parking lot. There now is a fairly substantial rumor that the supermarket and department store will reopen but will only use one floor of the building. The story is that they will open around the beginning of July. I hope it is true, it would make life much more convenient.
 They are also hard at work on the street side of the shopping center. It appears that at least some of the other, smaller stores will reopen, too.
 Every building in the center is being worked on, so it is obvious that something is going to reopen. Hopefully, the supermarket will be one of the first.
It is definitely spring and there are many flowers around. These are along a fence that runs away from the sidewalk, separating it from a parking lot.

May 29, 2011

Between Nanakita Koen and home

 After passing under the first bridge, I saw a large number of cars on the other bank. They were parked in the flat area that is next to the base of the bridge.
 With a closer look, I realized that it was a large number of elderly people playing gateball, croquette in English. As I have mentioned before it is very popular and there are fierce competitions, eventually leading to national championships.
 I like walking along here. It is quiet and peaceful with a lot of small birds. For the last couple of years, the sparrows have disappeared, but this year there are a large number of young ones fluttering around. I do not know what the problem was but they seemed to have survived it, at least as a group, just like us humans with the earthquakes and tsunami.
 This is the Jodo Shin Shu temple as seen from the riverside. They have a large bell in the yard and every morning at 6:30 they ring it once. I do not know the purpose but when I am outside where I can hear it (can't hear from indoors), it is a very pleasant sound.
 This is the spot where the surface on the side of the levee collapsed. They covered it and then quickly build a temporary road and work area, but since then they have apparently done nothing more. I suspect that after looking at it, they lowered the priority and are working on other places that could potentially cause more damage. If the situation here changes, they could quickly get to work on it since all the preliminaries are finished.
 These workmen are piling up the concrete blocks that are being removed from the levee surface opposite my condo complex. They have probably removed enough to surface 3,000 square meters. It is going to be interesting to see if they replace them or use them for something else.
 This is where the blocks came from. You can still see some of them on the right, but on the left they have all been removed.
This is under the bridge nearest my home. The reason I took this picture was to show the crushed stone in the middle of the picture (the lighter area). This spot used to be a little lower than the surrounding area and filled up with standing water or mud, making it difficult to walk along the path. Some one has brought a load of crushed stone and filled in the low spot. I am pretty sure that it was not anyone official, but probably someone who lives in the area. That is one of the things I like about Japan. People do things that need to be done without waiting for the government to do it.

May 28, 2011

Inside Nanakita Koen

 The flowers were in full bloom (when they aren't, they plant something that is) and were beautiful.
 This is a shallow man-made pond that is often full of ducks but on this day there were none. I guess they were all off minding their eggs.  The squarish structure in the middle of the pond is a fountain that varies the shape and height of the spray. I do not expect to see it this year. The government will be doing everything it can to reduce the consumption of electricity and this uses electric pumps. Because of the lose of the nuclear reactors in Fukushima and of other regular power plants during the disaster, they do not expect to be able to generate enough electricity to keep up with demand this summer.
 This is a wooden bridge over the little stream that feeds into the pond.
This path goes along the edge of the river, along the top of the levee. The soccer stadium is in the background.

Note: Today is going to be very busy. I have an art lesson in the morning and then in the afternoon I am going to the above stadium to watch Vegalta play. Kyoko and Tsubasa left after supper last night and arrived saftely at home in Tokyo sometime after midnight. It seems strange not to have a baby running around the house and wanting to play.

May 27, 2011

Avoiding Izumi Chuo by going through Nanakita Koen

 Instead of going through the center of Izumi Chuo, I decided to bypass it by going south and passing through part of Nanakita Koen (Nanakita Park). While still on the road to the park I passed this store - a scuba dive shop. It seems rather strange since this is really a side street and it is a long way from the water.
 This is the last building before the entrance to the park. It is quite new, only a year or so old, but still it was badly enough damaged that it is having extensive work done on it, as is obvious from the scaffolding.
 Inside the park there was damage to the walkways. This is where the sidewalk passes the entrance to the parking lot.
 This group had a bunch of children and two foreign men and a couple of Japanese women. When I got up close enough to hear them, I realized that it was a group for one of the local kindergartens, one that specializes in early English education. I should probably point out that the person sitting on the extreme right is actually a bronze statue.
 This building contains a botanical garden, but it has been closed since the earthquake. I have been told that it is quite good but I have never managed to tour the inside. From the outside, I can see that there are many trees and large plants inside. I expect that at some point I will go in with a sketchbook and do some drawings, so that I can use the plants in my pictures.
 At this end (east) of the park there are large areas of flowers that are constantly transplanted so that it is constantly ablaze with color. The structure in the background is the south end of Vegalta's soccer stadium. Actually the stadium is named the Yurtec Stadium this year. They sell the naming rights to help pay for the operation.
 This is one of the stone sculptures that are placed around the park. In the open area there was a large group of women, probably college students. There were a few women trying to organize the group, but I did not stay to see what was going on.
A little further on I found some older men getting ready to fly model airplanes. These were small and powered with rubber bands, the kind of plane that I used to make when I was a kid. This large open area is a great place to fly planes and there are often small groups flying gliders or rubber band powered planes. I have never seen planes with an engine, and I suspect that they are prohibited.

May 26, 2011

Still headed for Izumi Chuo

 The last time I came by there this building contained a restaurant specializing in yakiniku. At a yakiniku restaurant they bring plates of raw meat and vegetables to your table and you cook them yourself on a grill that is usually gas and embedded in the table. Now it is called Earth Support and is a center for home helpers, people who go to homes to assist the elderly and the sick.
Down the street there is a gas station, where regular gas was selling for 149 yen per liter, or US$ 6.88 a gallon. Since the disaster, the supply chain for gas has been restored and there are no longer any shortages, at least in Sendai. I do not know what the situation is like in the areas destroyed by the tsunami.
A little closer to Izumi Chuo, I saw a woman working in a rice paddy. She was planting rice in the spots that had been missed by the automatic planter.
The paddy is fairly big by Japanese standards. You can see the gas station in the distance on the right. Rice paddies are generally pretty small and there are absolutely no huge operations like you find in California or some other parts of the US. After WW2, Japan limited the size of farms to insure that everyone would be able to support themselves. I believe that a nuclear family was limited to 2 1/2 acres, but I could be wrong. There has been some relaxation of the laws and people can and do rent paddies, but the farms are still relatively small.

Turning and looking across the street, you can see a large hospital. This is the one that I went to when I had a kidney stone attack and they refused to see me because it was early morning and the one doctor on duty was already waiting for an ambulance that was bringing an emergency patient.
I was now in the built up area to the west of the Izumi Chuo subway station. The content of this imitation brick (real bricks collapse in earthquakes so they are seldom used) building is actually quite unusual. The building contains a coffee shop called Kenzo. Compared to Nagoya there are very few coffee shops in Sendai. That is one of the reasons that I like Starbucks so much. There are a number of shops in places that I commonly go and I like the coffee.
This place, with the red and yellow flags in front of it, is a curry shop. It is part of a chain that is cheap but good tasting. On TV I have seen blind taste tests where people have chosen this curry over real Indian curry. Since it is on the west side of the station, I never seem to remember it when I eat in Izumi Chuo. I really should keep it in mind.
This truck is a Coop truck, the Coop being the supermarket that I show a couple of days ago. The woman in the yellow T-shirt is delivering orders to the people who live in the apartment house whose shadow you can see on the sidewalk. The man in the helmet is a delivery person who came on a motorcycle that is out of the picture. As I walked up the two were talking so I assumed that they knew each other.

May 25, 2011

Still returning from Parktown

 Instead of going up over the hill and approaching Izumi Chuo from the north like I usually do, I decided to turn right and go down the hill and then approach from the west. I had not been on this road for a long time so it was an interesting walk.
On the way down the hill, near the athletic dome that I showed a few days ago, I found a ramen shop with this picture on the outside of the entrance. The writing is a poem-like composition about how ramen tastes and smells as you slurp down the noodles and the hot soup passes over your tongue and goes down your throat.
When we had a car, we came here quit often, but I have not been here for at least two years. This is a parcel delivery service office. In Japanese the service is called takkyubin. Now that we do not have a convenient way to get here we have the service come to the house to pick up packages. It costs a bit more but is better.
This area used to be a large open field with some woods at the back. A few years ago they cut down all the trees and flattened the land. Now they have built a shopping center.
This picturesque driveway came right out to the main street. I took this picture from the sidewalk. The house at the end was nothing special, just a regular old, cheap building of the type that was built when this area was first opened up for housing.
A little bit further down the road was the rice producer's cooperative. The building on the left is the first of three large temperature controlled storage structures for the rice grown in the area. The building on the right seems to be an administrative space. The wall-less structure in the middle is a store that is only open for a period of a few months around the harvest.
This stele is tucked in the woods beside the coop's land. It is in honor of the Japaneses war dead. Notice that someone has placed fresh flowers on it.
Behind the above stele there is a similar one but even further into the woods.
As I was walking back out of the woods, I noticed that fuji, wisteria, was growing in the trees. It was just past its prime but was still very pretty.