Jul 31, 2011

Tanabata Festival Continued

 People crowded around a food shop, although most of them were like me, just trying to get passed.
 A display of little name plates. I could not figure out why they were so expensive, probably had to do with the materials.
 A yakitori shop. Yakitori is little bite-sized pieces of chicken that are dipped in a soy sauce based sauce and grilled over a charcoal fire. Delicious!
 A knife shop. I was surprised to see a knife shop among the tents, but they seemed to be of a very high quality.
 Kids' games. This shows one of the favorite shops for kids at this type of festival. The nearest plastic container is full of water and goldfish. The player pays to get a thing that looks like a large, but flat, spoon. However, the circular part is covered with paper. The game is to scoop up fish without breaking the paper. Any fish that you get, you keep. Usually there are many kids walking around with plastic bags containing two or three goldfish.
This was about the only space that was not full of people.

Jul 30, 2011

Tanabata Festival

 I could hear pop music so I turned up a side street toward the sound and found the entrance to an area with lots of tents. A very rough translation of the sign over the entrance is Festival of the six devils of Tohoku.
 I do not normally come down this side street so I had never noticed these parking meters for two wheeled vehicles. They have a lock on them so that your scooter can not be stolen while it is parked.
 I could not get in the main gate because of all the people. Everyone was simply standing still, listening to the music. I tried to go around behind some of the tents. This one was selling food of some sort out of the other side. I had to give up this attempt because the way was blocked so that the only place you could go was back to the entrance.
 I went back out to the main road and followed that sidewalk around to the real main gate which was to the right of where I had been. This side was also full of people so I did not try to get in. The music, by the way, was a live performance of a Jpop (Japanese popular music) group, but I have no idea who they were.
 This is the sidewalk outside the main entrance. The sign is the same as the one over the secondary entrance.
I gave up and crossed the road so that I could enter the park, Kotodai Park, where I could see many tents and a vast throng of people. This was taken on the sidewalk while I was trying to find a way into the park.

Jul 29, 2011

 These are some of the decorations that were hung for the Tanabata Festival. I believe that these are fashioned after the banners that the old feudal lords used to mark their processions when they were traveling about old Japan.
 This old house is only one block away from the previous picture. In Sendai most of the main streets are lined with tall reinforced concrete buildings, but behind them on the side streets there are still many old one and two story houses.
 This store has a large collection of potted flowers in front of it, but the inside is completely empty. Apparently the company that was here has gone out of business, a common event these days.
 At around noon the people were already lining up to claim space from which to watch the parade that was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.
 Most of the stores along Josenji Dori were selling from booths on the sidewalk. From what I could see while walking along, these shops were doing a pretty good business. Since the disaster, I have seen a lot of people downtown but those people were not buying anything, just walking around. Here it seemed to be different, a lot of money, goods and food were changing hands.
This restaurant was selling food and drinks, including beer which is always available at any festival.

Jul 28, 2011

More pictures taken during my ramblings

 This is the open space between buildings at Tohoku Gakuin U in Tsuchitoi where I teach on Thursday nights. If this were an American university, I would probably call this area the quad.  The scaffolding is allowing the workers to repair the places where tiles fell off the building during the various quakes.
 This is the wall of my classroom. The crack goes from one side of the room to the other and goes across the reinforced concrete columns in each corner. Most buildings now have cracks of this sort and they are not generally covered by insurance since they are consider to be safe, unless there is another M9.0 quake right under the building.
 As I have said, public buildings have been reducing the lighting in an effort to decrease overall electrical consumption, to say nothing of electric bills. This stairwell now has no lighting in it, except for what enters from the dimly lit halls on each floor. I must complement the Sony Company, the maker of my digital camera, because the camera handles the low light conditions very well.
 On my way to school, I noticed this man fishing in our river. There are some very large fish here (you can see them from the bridge) but I seldom see anyone catch anything.
 This is construction to replace a section of the sidewalk that cracked and is now dangerous. At this point the concrete sidewalk runs over a little bridge. The sidewalk is badly cracked and the bridge looks like it is not very strong. I think that they will fill this in so that it is solid under the walkway.
After my art class I wandered around downtown and looked at the things that were happening as part of a festival, Tanabata. It is a yearly event but this year they are trying to use the festival as a means of cheering people up. I heard that there were more than three times the number of people they expected.

Jul 27, 2011

Some of the efforts to return the area to normalcy

There were some interesting things on TV and in the newspapers and magazines that I thought some of you might be interested in.

One of the local universities has developed a new kind of panel for ceilings that is so light weight that, even if it falls on a person, it will not cause injury. It is made from some kind of filament and is projected to be relatively cheap to manufacture. Much of the damage and injuries during earthquakes is caused by ceilings collapsing, air conditioning falling, and the fire extinguishing system breaking, covering everything with water.

In Onagawa, one of the cities hardest hit by the tsunami, a group of local trade people have banded together to start doing business again. They have rented(?) a parking lot on a hillside and have placed a large number of shipping containers in it. The containers have been modified and painted to become stores. They seem to be selling every that is necessary. During the TV news program I saw a meat store, a vegetable store, a flower shop, an electronics store, a couple of restaurants, a bar, and other containers that were not shown in detail. I thought that this was a very good solution to a very important problem.

One big problem that remains, among all the other problems, is what to do about the areas that were ravished by the tsunami. There are three prefectures and many other smaller administrative units involved so the solutions will be a bit different in each locale. However, it appears that the solutions will all be similar, at least to the extent that they will all involve rezoning in ways that will limit the damage by future tsunamis. Most areas are going to require that housing be inland and on raised ground. Also there will be three of four distinct areas with port or ocean-side facilities nearest the ocean, then an industrial area, and finally a shopping zone. In some areas there may be farm land between the port and the industrial area. The areas will be separated by high levees to retard waves. The tops of the levees will carry roads and train lines. This will, of course, cost a huge amount of money and take years to accomplish, but the government seems to be serious about it.

I saw a book the other day. It summarized the damage done during March and April. Unbelievable! According to the book, there were 23,773 people killed or missing plus another 5363 badly injured. 107,748 homes were totally destroyed, 63,083 half destroyed, 298,051 partially destroyed and another 7079 that were flooded. These are the figures for insurance purposes. This is all to say nothing of the nuclear problem, for which it is difficult to get much information, but the local newspaper now has a daily column showing how much radiation is being recorded in cities around the prefecture. In Sendai we have about half of the radiation that is normal in England, so it is not a problem.

Another point from the book is the difference in the number of aftershocks. Previous earthquakes had around 50 aftershocks of magnitude 5 and above during the first 70 days after the main tremor. There was one  quake near Okinawa in 2003 that that broke the pattern had slightly more than 100. However, the March magnitude 9.0 quake had 533. And we are still having them. According to a different source we have had 1437 aftershocks of magnitude 4.0 and above.

In spite of this, things are finally beginning to quiet down a bit and on some days there are no quakes at all and on many days there are none that you can feel. Last Friday there was one while I was teaching. I was standing and did not even notice it, but the students who were sitting at computer consoles all felt it and got excited. As proof they pointed out to me that the projector, hanging from the ceiling, was swinging quite a bit. It was not bad so we just commented on it and got back to work. People are getting used to them. A quake that might in the past have elicited screams from some of the students, now hardly creates any stir at all. A quake has to be at least shindo4 to have a reaction more than a slight pause, before a return to work.

More random pictures - again

 After passing the car dealership I showed yesterday, I walk down this back road. It is just barely one lane wide but has two way traffic and often a lot of pedestrians, students on their way home. The Japanese are very patient about this sort of thing and are willing to wait until the lane clears. I have never seen tempers flare due to road conditions.
 This is the entrance to the Kita Sendai train station where I meet Ian when we walk. The subway station is about 50 meters down the road to the left. Because of the subway schedule, I get here about 10 minutes early and sit in the waiting room that is just visible through the door.
 Two of my friends and I went to a Wednesday night soccer game. Our seats were pretty good when the play was at our end of the pitch, but we could not see much of the action at the other end. The game was interesting and quite exciting, but ended in a tie. The player about to take the corner kick is a star for Vegalta, the home team. He is North Korean and is frequently called up for their national team. Vegalta also has some South Korean players. The Brazilian forward, a top goal scorer, broke his contract and returned home after the earthquakes, tsunami, and the nuclear problem. This really hurt the team, but they are in 8th place at the middle of the season and appear to be in no danger of being relegated next season.
 This is the new fire station and part of the river side construction. For the last few weeks they have been trucking out loads of dirt. Now, for some reason, they are bringing in loads of loam from somewhere.
 This crane was looking for breakfast in a shallow part of the river.
At Miyagi Gakuin U, I looked out of the window and saw the high school students lining up for a group photograph. As with any large group, the teachers were having trouble getting people to pay attention and stay in the right spots.

Jul 26, 2011

More random pictures

 These days my activities are very repetitive. I go to school on four days a week, pretty much stay home resting for two days (I am very tired from my teaching schedule and the stress from March and April), and then go to art classes or shopping or rest on the last day. I carry my camera in my pocket and take pictures of anything interesting that I notice but they are not necessarily connected for more than a couple of shots.

This first picture is an example of one of these sudden things popping up. I was walking along the riverside walkway when I heard a strange noise. I looked around and could not see what was making it. The noise sounded like a motor of some kind but what kind I could not tell.
Then I looked up and saw a blimp. I have not seen one in years so it was a pleasant surprise One of my earliest memories is of going up in a blimp during WW2. It was patrolling the sea off the coast of Massachusetts, looking for German submarines. My father was in the US Coast Guard and talked the pilot into taking us up for a ride.
 This is something that we are beginning to see all over the city. The series of earthquakes has separate blocks of pavement and concrete and in the small space that this created plants are starting to grow. This is obviously going to enlarge the spaces as the roots start to expand. I expect that over the next few years we will find that much of the minor damage becomes more important. Also notice all the cracks on the surface of the road.
 This is what used to be the figurine store. It has been repainted and there is a large sign in the window (behind the tree) saying that the store is available for renting.
 This nearby billboard also reflects the economic condition. There is no ad on it, but it has been repainted and a small sign posted on it saying that it is available.
 This is the billboard from the other side. The old figurine store is directly behind it and the store on the right which is between them is also empty and for rent.
This is an auto dealership near Tohoku Gakuin U that is finally getting the damage repaired. It has been open but parts of the building were obviously damaged.

Jul 25, 2011

Various places again

 This is the classroom building at the Tsuchitoi Campus of Tohoku Gakuin U. My classes are in a small seminar room on the right end of the second floor. There are only seven students in the conversation class for third year students so I do not need a big room. My other conversation classes are have between 25 and 50 students.
 This is the entrance to the Coop, the campus store, at Miyagi Gakuin U. The bamboo branch, which is been placed outside the door, is part of the Tanaba Festival. People tie messages on the branch (the colored paper) in hopes of improving their lot for the next year.
 As I walked by the fire station, I looked up and saw this man practicing building to building movement. There was also a dummy on the ground so I think they probably practiced evacuating it. This station is a branch of a large station to the north of us. It has won many competitions and they practice all the time. From what I have observed this station is keeping up with the desire to be best. The men run every day and practice complicate maneuvers at least a couple of times a week.
At the construction site along the river, a work crew was planting grass sods on the newly shaped bank beside the levee top walkway.

Jul 24, 2011

Small city park

 After exiting the Tsuchitoi Subway station on my way to teach at Tohoku Gakuin U, I pass this gate. I have to walk to the next intersection, where I take a right and then walk to the end of the block. The campus is then on the other side of the road. Whenever I pass, this gate has been open but I had only quickly glanced inside. On this night I had plenty of time so I decided to in and see what was there. The sign on the gate says that it is a garden that is associated with some sort of city office building.
 Inside I found a concrete walkway with lots of plants on each side. There were not too many flowers because the season was wrong.
 There were some ajisai, which are a very pretty pale blue.
 I also found a bridge over an artificial waterway, which on this day had no water in it.
 The garden and the walkway were more extensive than I had thought when looking in from the street. There had been damage during the quakes and it has not yet been repaired. I could see that the reason for the lack of water was damage at the point where faucets let in the water.
When I reached the bridge I found that it was damaged and not safe, so I just took a picture an moved on.

Jul 23, 2011

Shinrin Park, Miyagi Gakuin U, and the riverside

 A while back I showed pictures of some banners advertising the Firefly Festival in Shinrin Park, where Ian and I walk. This is one of the pools where the fireflies hatch.
 The walking path climbs a hillside beside the firefly homestead, so we can look down on it. At this point the water is between two raised wooden walkways and is almost completely hidden by the weeds.
 This is a little later, after Ian and I had coffee and donuts at Mr Donut and I had arrived by bus at Miyagi Gakuin U. The hall that runs the length of the first floor of the main classroom building is now unlit, except for natural light from the windows. This is part of the effort to decrease the consumption of electricity to make up for the shortfalls due to tsunami and earthquake damage.
 The guerrilla rains of yesterday washed away a lot of the dirt that the construction along the riverside has moved. The hole on the right was big enough to standing.
 I usually cross the river on the east side of the bridge. The intersection at the end of the bridge is one of those new Sendai ideas to slow down pedestrians. The zebra crossings only go across three of the four sides. So when I come up from the riverside, to cross the road I have to wait for the light to walk north and then I have to wait for a full cycle (more than 3 minutes) to go west, before I can start south toward Yaotome. Needless to say I almost never do this, but today I was early and I had not seen the area on the west side of the bridge for a long time. There is a stream that enters the river just to the right of this picture and flows behind the power shovels. It is the same stream where they built a temporary road to repair the collapsed banking. They stabilized it have yet to fix it. The power shovels were being used to move the concrete blocks that they had removed from the banking at the construction site to the east of the bridge and shown in the second picture above.
The concrete blocks have been neatly placed in piles of 5 x5x4, or 100 blocks to the pile. There area about 6,000 blocks altogether. I assume that when the landscaping work is finished they are going to use the blocks to resurface the slope beside the river.