Jun 30, 2011

Sendai station and my apartment complex

 This Bagel & Bagel, which surprisingly is actually a bagel shop. They also sell a 'fruit bar' that is made from various grains, nuts and dried fruit, mostly cranberry, which I like very much. We cut them in half and keep them in the freezer until I am ready to have them for breakfast.
 As I crossed the bridge near my place, I was surprised to see this seagull standing in the water. We are not far from the sea, about 10 km I think, but we seldom see seagulls.
 The mother of the woman who lives on the first floor of our building dies, and after the funeral the woman, who frequently brings presents of food (my wife takes her stuff, too), brought us these flowers and said that, if we did not mind the source, she would like us to have them. They lasted for three or four days and definitely brightened up our living room.
 This is the trash collection building at the front of our complex. On the night before scheduled pick ups of various kinds of trash we bring the bags out and leave them in this small building. The bags by the way must be purchased at supermarkets and the price helps pay for the pick up and disposal. While most things must be brought here on schedule, newspapers, old magazines, and cardboard can be deposited at any time. Every once in a while a truck will stop, as the truck in the picture is doing, and pick up whatever is there. This is a free service and the truck owner will make money by selling the stuff to a recycle shop.
 This is at the official front entrance to our complex. If you look closely, you can see that the part on the right has separated from the part in the center and sunk substantially in relation to it. You can see the marks on the center section where the concrete on the right and the brick road used to be attached.
This is another set of stairs leading to the entrance. The concrete wall is badly broken and the tiles on the steps are being held in place with tape. All of the paperwork and inspections by the insurance company are finished and the amount that they are going to pay has been settled. The committee that runs our complex (we are members this year) is now deciding how to allot the money and how much of our combined savings to use for repairs. There is not enough to put everything back to the way it was before the first quake so some things will just have to stay the way they are, but the question is - What things?

Jun 29, 2011

On from Izumi Chuo to a meeting with Tony

 From Izumi Chuo I took a bus about 5 kilometers to my dentist's. Rather than going to a dentist near my apartment, I go to one who is near my doctor's, and I go to that doctor because I started going there when I lived in his neighborhood for two years more than 10 years ago, plus we like him. Also the dentist is very good, too. This picture is the waiting room. The torture chambers are off to the left. The staff here consists of a husband and wife, who are both dentists, and a couple of young female assistants.
 After the dentist, I took the bus and then the subway to Sendai Station. This picture shows the main floor where there are omiyage shops, places to buy presents for people when  you return from a trip. These are usual food of some kinds. Sendai specializes in beef tongue products as well as many kinds of cookies and other sweets. They also sell something called hoya, which is a bulbous kind of thing that grows in the ocean. I am not sure whether it is animal, vegetable or mineral, but I do know that, even though many people consider it a delicacy, it tastes terrible.
 I was here to meet my friend Tony and this is the Starbucks at which we planned to meet.
 This is Tony buying a coffee. He is the one in the middle, the only foreigner in the picture. In the station area there are three Starbucks within a hundred meters, two are actually in the station and one is in a next door department store. This one is on the bridge that goes over the tracks of the local railroad lines.
 In front of the station there is a strange stone sculpture in the center of a roundabout.
At the foot of this escalator, the store sells imported food and specialty foods from Japan. Actually it started as a coffee bean store but expanded and now sells many other things. There is another store in this chain which we frequently utilize in Izumi Chuo.

Jun 28, 2011

Going to Izumi Chuo

 This is the back of Seiyu, our large supermarket and department store. It is the side nearest our condo and off to the right there is a way to get into the store that is quite direct for us. The front of the store and the main east/west road are to the left. These are part of the air conditioning units that they removed from the roof. They would appear to be support for the rumor that only the first of the two floors will reopen. After all, they do not need air conditioning for the closed section and these can probably be used somewhere else.
 These are the two new houses that are being constructed in the area next to the riverside path. When we first moved here this land was a garden, then it became a parking lot, and now it will contain two new houses.
 This is the same two houses but from the riverside path. The large buildings in the background are my condo complex. In the foreground you can see the small plot that remains from the garden that used to fill the area. I suspect that the vegetables grown here end up in the local markets. There is too much for one family.
 This is out on the main east/west road, about half way to Izumi Chuo. It is a small vegetable garden beside a restaurant. I think that it is very likely that the crops appear on the menu.
 This is the entrance to the Izumi Chuo subway station. I showed this manhole cover before. At that time it was well above the level of the sidewalk and presented a hazard to pedestrians. Now the area has been repaired and the sidewalk is level again. The reason for the traffic cones is probably that the concrete is not yet dry. I expect that the next time I go these cones will be gone.
This is the bicycle park. The bus depot is to the left and beyond that is the entrance to the subway. The next level up is the large open area between the station and the department stores. There is a large parking lot to the right.

Jun 27, 2011

Still wandering around the neighborhood.

 On the main east/west road there were two buildings that had been empty for a long while, after having had a series of short lived stores taking them over. Today I discovered that one of them is almost gone. I assume that, since they went to the expense of tearing it down, they will be building something new on the land.
 The other has been reoccupied. This time by a real estate company called, fittingly, Full House, but written in katakana.
 This gas station had been closed for about three months after the first quake. It is now in operation again. As with many stores and companies, they have banners containing slogans. This red and white one on the right says in English "Never Give Up" and below it in kanji "Miyagi". The only other time I can remember anything like this many slogans was during WW2, although I was very young and my memories may be distorted. In any case there are signs and banners everywhere. Also there still are many ads on TV where a famous person says a few things about working together, Japan is strong, we will get through this, or we are all 'friends'. This last one appears frequently on cable. The cast members of American programs, CSI, NCIS, and many that I do not know the English names for, appear and say encouraging things, ending with the statement "We are tomodachi!", which means "We are friends".
 This is our favorite Chinese restaurant, Kabo, which means Chinese Table in Japanese.
 The store that sells dolls for the various festivals was taking all of the stock and display shelves away. It looks like they may be closing. They are only open for a few months a year, so I do not see how they could have any sort of a decent business model.
This is the little Shinto shrine beside Seiyu and only about 200 meters from my condo. In this picture it appears to be in the woods but actually it is not. It is only surrounded by a few trees.

Jun 26, 2011

Still more around the neighborhood

 One of the flights of stairs leading from the riverside to the top of the levee comes up in front of our local shrine, giving this view.
 Following the top of the levee to the bridge and turning north, you find a row of bars. I have never been in them but sometimes at night when I go by the doors are open so I can see inside. They appear to have a fairly good regular clientele. Japanese office workers tend to stop for drinks and food with their coworkers on their way home. They usually have a number of bars that they stop at fairly regularly.

This is the view from straight on. I have been thinking of drawing a picture of these bars, but it will have to wait until my overly busy school year is over.
 I took a back road to the north, one that I seldom go on, and found this typical little garden beside one of the houses. A lot of Japanese use growing some of their own food as a hobby. Actually it ends up being more expensive than getting the same stuff at the store, but they have fun. We frequently get vegetables from one of our friends who rents a number of small plots scattered around the area. Usually the owner of the land is a farmer and will give advice and even help out sometimes.
 At the end of the back road, there is a work shed full of various kinds of stuff used on farms. The owner must be one of the farmers whose fields are in a large flat area to the east of us.
 Back on the main east-to-west road, I passed our local Macdonalds hamburger shop without going in. I probably stop here once or twice a year and that is usually in the morning with my wife - for pancakes.

Jun 25, 2011

More from the park

 This really surprised me. Two women in their early teens were fishing. I have never seen this before in Japan and only a few times in the US.
 A crack across the path reminded me that we had a couple of large earthquakes.
 In addition to the siding sliding toward the river (you can see the large space this has created on the lower left) there was a lot of dead plants that had obviously been brought down from upstream after the last heavy rain.
 Summer is almost here, so much of the riverside walkway is becoming overgrown. It will stay that way until mid-summer when they will cut all the of vegetation along the side of the river. That is, they will cut it if there is enough money in the city budget. The triple disaster (quake, quake, tsunami) has caused the government to spend a huge amount of money on repairs so somethings will probably not be done this year.
 Once passed the overgrown area, the rest of the riverside walkway was very pleasant to stroll along.
This is the house where the wall collapsed and the major rebuilding project is nearing completion. Actually both of the houses are replacing the walls between their property and the top of the levee. They are even filling in the empty space that this will leave. I will have more pictures of this later.

Jun 23, 2011

In the park near my condo

I have had a very busy two days. The day before yesterday, Wednesday, I got up at 4 a.m. and left home around 5:30. After walking to the Yaotome Subway station I took a train to the Kita Sendai Station, where I met Ian for a walk around Shinrin Koen, the park that we have been walking in for a few years. After returning to Kita Sendai, we stopped at our favorite Mr Donuts for coffee and donuts. Ian had to leave earlier than usual and, as we were saying goodby on the sidewalk outside, I noticed that the destination of the bus standing at the bus stop was Miyagi Gakuin University. So, I quickly hopped on and went to school, getting there before 9 a.m. This was a bit of a problem because my class did not start until 2:10 in the afternoon. However, I found good ways to spend the day. Much of the time was used trying to figure out the solution to a problem we are having with the computerized listening program. I had lunch with one of the Japanese teachers and used most of the remaining time to listen to a recording of The Odyssey. My classes were over at 5 and I got home about 6:15, a more than 12 hour day.

I have a first period class on Thursday so I leave about 6:45. The Rainy Season has started and they were forecasting very heavy rain so I decided to stay at school, leaving for my evening class late in the afternoon. A very enjoyable discussion with my friend John, followed by lunch together, occupied the morning and early afternoon. I spend the rest of the afternoon sitting in the air conditioned teachers' lounge reading a Japanese children's book about Walt Disney. About 4 I took a bus and subway to Tohoku Gakuin U's Tsuchitoi campus and again sat in the teachers' lounge, where I ate the fried chicken, rice, and vegetable box lunch, bento in Japanese, that I had bought in a local supermarket. Class was over at 7:30 and a very tired I got home a little after 8.

On my way to school in the morning there was an earthquake which, although it was large in terms of magnitude, was far enough away that I barely felt it. I was walking along the riverside at the time and was not even sure that it was a quake. Unless a quake is very strong they are not particularly noticeable if you are moving. On my way home from my last class, there was another quake. I was in the underground Tsuchitoi Subway station and again barely felt it. I was sure it was a quake because a sign that was securely attached to the ceiling started moving. Both quakes were quite large in terms of magnitude, but nothing special in terms of the Japanese Shindo system that quantifies the actually movement at each spot on the ground. They were both Shindo 4 on a scale of 1 to 7 (no decimals). This is the strongest quake that does not cause damage, although a few objects may fall over.

This is outside my condo. The ground used to be completely level here. Now, the entire area above the drain has sunk, some of it more than 50 centimeters. I took the picture as I was leaving for a short walk in the park that is next to my building and along the river.
I showed this before. The slanted portion of the facing along the river bank slide down toward the river during the quakes. I noticed that since the major quakes this section has slide even farther toward the river, opening up a large gap between the path and the siding.
This area is a popular fishing spot and the man on the other side of the river was fishing. The river supports populations of various species of fish at different times of year, so I do not know what he was hoping to catch.
On the other side of the river there is a large section that collapsed during the tremors. Very quickly it had been covered with blue tarps, but now there are sandbags neatly placed to keep the tarps from blowing away.
A house on the other side of the river was having the roof replaced.
In the large flat area of the park, some of the local boys were having a baseball game.
 One common feature of Sendai parks, one that makes baseball and other games difficult, is that the grass is usually mowed on twice a year or at most three times. You can see in this picture that it looks more like an empty lot than a nicely trimmed park.

Jun 21, 2011

Miyagi Gakuin University and the Sendai Book Club

The weather bureau has forecast that the rainy season will official start in southwestern Japan today. Our weather here in the north is just like the full rainy season - hot and muggy. They are forecasting temperatures above 27C (81F) for the rest of the week and rain every day. The rainy season is expected to officially start later in the week. The official start comes when a set or criteria are met, not just by rain,  heat, and humidity.

Anyway, yesterday I was posting pictures from the Asahigaoka bus depot and had shown the new red pavement on the sidewalk.
 After putting in this section of the red pavement, they cut some rectangular sections into it. I suspect that they will place bumpy yellow tiles in the holes so that people who have problems with their sight can follow the yellow or feel the path with their feet. Such tiles are on most sidewalks in Sendai.
 This is the new red sidewalk as it passes the end of the terminal building.
Arriving at the bus stop in front of Miyagi Gakuin U, I saw a workman standing there carefully eying all the women getting off the bus. I never did figure out why he was there - other than to check out the women, of course. Also the large sign was taped to the end of the entrance to the underground passage that leads to the university side of the road. It says the equivalent of Watch your step! There are no pedestrian lights here so everyone must use the passage. I do not know why the sign was put up. There seemed to be no dangerous places in or around the passage.

The Sendai Book Club
 The Sendai Book Club had not had a meeting since the first earthquake. All of the sites that we use have been closes. However, we decided to have a meeting at a hotel near Sendai Station. Nestled between some buildings I found this little Shinto shrine.
 From the west exit from the station, I walked south and noticed this parking lot. The price is 100 yen for 30 minutes according to the sign.
This is the hotel, the ANA Holiday Inn. The small area beside the building contained many plants and made this corner of the downtown area quite pleasant.
 We reserved a second-floor room with a large table and would have a seven course meal, while we caught up on our experiences during the disaster and discussed the book, Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason, a very dark murder mystery set in Iceland. I enjoyed both the book and the evening. The outside balcony overhangs the planted area in the above picture and was nice but the noise from traffic was distracting so we closed the windows.
This halo hung in the air between floors in the hotel.