Jan 31, 2012

Niigata snow

 This is the main entrance to the International University of Japan. As you can see, the court yard is covered with more than a meter of snow. The classroom in which I will be teaching is straight ahead on the third floor.
 My office is on the third floor of this detached building. It is called a Research Institute, but apparently it is mostly used as office space for visiting faculty.
 This is on the opposite side of the campus. It is the parking lot on the first floor of the building where I will be staying.
 My little apartment is on the second floor on this end of the building.
 The classroom areas and all the student dorms are connected by roofed hallways, but the research institute and the faculty housing are completely separate. This road separates the university proper on the right from the faculty housing on the left.
My apartment is in the building on the right. You can just see the top floor. The pile of snow along the side of the road is about the same height as my head.

Jan 30, 2012

At Urasa city

 As the train pulled into the station I got this view, if you can call it that, of the city of Urasa, Niigata Prefecture.
 My friend Tony, who works at the University, picked me up at the station. This is the view from the waiting area in front of the bus stop.
 I found this to be the most surprising thing here. The streets and sidewalks all have these little gadgets that spray of water, preventing the build up of snow.
It was just about 1 p.m. so Tony and I went to this restaurant where I bought him lunch. The initial orientation for the course I am teaching will start in just a few minutes, so this must be short. I will try to post more pictures tomorrow. By the way, my wife called and said that my camera has been repaired. She is going to go get it today and mail it to me, so I should be able to take better pictures in a day or two.

Jan 29, 2012


 I finished teaching my last class of the year and waited in the snow with the students in order to get the bus to the subway station. Unless something extremely unexpected happens, this is the end of my university teaching career.
 The next day, Saturday, my wife came with me to Sendai Station to say goodbye. I am going to teach in a special program at the International University of Japan. I had reserved a seat on the 9:41 Shinkansen to Tokyo, however, I would get over at an earlier stop, Omiya. The waiting room was crowded because at this time of day there are many trains that go to Tokyo with very few intermediate stops.
 This is Sendai city soon after we left the station. This is the south side of the city. I do not go there very much since I live beyond the last stop on the north end of the subway line.
 At Omiya I waited for about half an hour and then rode the Joetsu Shinkansen (There are now a number of Shinkansen lines going to various places in Japan.)
 At first we rode through a flat plain, but we soon entered a tunnel in which we remained for the rest of the trip, except for brief periods and around a couple of stations
 The tunnel was so dark that I was able to use the window as a mirror and take my own picture. You may recall that my camera was returned for repairs, so I am using my cell phone camera.
 When we came out of the tunnel and entered a station, I was surprised by the snow. Everything was covered and it was snowing hard. At Omiya it had been a beautiful day. I guess the mountains through which we tunneled kept the storm on the west side of Japan.
At the first stop after exiting the tunnel, almost everyone got off the train. I was surprised until I realize that this was a hot spring. My stop was less than 10 minutes further west, down in a valley.

Jan 28, 2012


 We finally had some snow, enough that the world turned white. This is the path that takes me from my front door to the riverside.
 This is the view along the top of the levee. Notice that the mountains have entirely disappeared.
 When I reached Asahigaoka station, I stepped out the back entrance to see what the park looked like.
 As I entered Miyagi Gakuin U, I noticed that the young lady in the statue had snow on her hat.
 The sky had cleared, although I was only about six kilometers away from my condo, and the quadrangle at school was quite pretty. Although it was early, the grounds staff had already cleared the campus sidewalks.
 On my way home in the late afternoon, the clouds had returned but the moon was bright.
Also I noticed that the red berries were beginning to turn yellow. The winter cold has finally arrived.

Jan 27, 2012

Still going home

 The areas that I was walking through gradually became mostly one and two story homes. I even found this well cared for garden.
 This part of Sendai is quite hilly and many of the houses can only be accessed by stairs. Notice on the right there is a flat area between the stairs. This is for a bicycle so that it does not have to bump on the individual stairs.
 This large area had a couple of houses in it, if my memory serves me correctly. (I find it hard to remember what used to be in an area after it has all been torn down.) It appears that they are building a new apartment house here.
 All over Japan, the small streams are mostly lined with some sort barrier to keep the water contained. This is a result of 1500 years or rice cultivation, where the proper circulation of water is of utmost importance.
 On the left is the remains of an apartment building and on the right is the parking facility for it. Even before the earthquake there were very few, if any, people living in the building, and it was in very bad shape. Now it is being used as a storage area for appliances that were destroyed by the quake.

Jan 26, 2012

Still going home

 I passed a medium sized hospital and found the parking lot to have a number of ambulances. This was not surprising but the ambulance on the left was. Have you ever seen an ambulance with windows like that? I was very tempted to enter the parking lot and look in the windows to see the inside. However, there was no gate and I would have had to walk around the block to get in, so I just took this picture.
 Parking is always a problem in the city. This apartment building uses the first two floor for parking, even the spaces between the outside pillars, which require the car to drive on the sidewalk to park.
 A few years ago we had gas stations everywhere, but soon there were too many and they ones making less profit soon started disappearing. Now, there are convenience stores everywhere. I think that the number has reached a peak because I have seen one or two that have recently closed.
 This is the train line between Sendai and Yamagata. It goes up over the mountains. As you can see, it is a one track line, dividing into two tracks only around stations. The Kita Sendai Station is about 100 meters behind me.
 This obviously was a house that was recently torn down, probably because of damage from the earthquakes. I was really surprised by the pinkish house in the middle. It appears to have two rooms, one making up the first floor and the other the second.
This is becoming typical of this area. One store is open and doing business, but the store next to it is closed and out of business.

Jan 25, 2012

 This is a typical automated parking lot. You get a ticket from the machine on your way in and on the way out you put the ticket back into a machine that tells you how much to pay into the slot. They even give change. When a large old building comes down in the downtown area, it usually takes a couple of years before they can start putting up a new buildings, if the ownership changes, that is. During that time, most places become parking lots like this. There are also many parking building, so parking is not such a problem as it might be.
 This is a Japanese post box. They are always red and typically stand on a single post, pun intended. Most of these boxes have the new mail picked up at least a couple of times a day. With email, cell phones, Facebook and Twitter the volume of mail has gone down and a while back the Post Office, like the train systems and the public universities, were turned into semi-private institutions. I don't know the details. I probably should spend the time and energy to find out but I am really not interested.
On one of the back streets, I passed a small Shinto shrine. From the parked car, I could tell that someone was inside the lefthand building but I could see no movement. Behind the shrine, is part of Tohoku University, a formally public university, that is now semi-private. The land is an island of space surrounded by buildings and contains the agricultural department.

Jan 24, 2012

A new way home

 I left the art exhibit and immediately turned north on a narrow side street. As always the street was lined with telephone poles and power lines. I read an article on the internet that claimed that they had started putting all the telephone and power lines underground in Tokyo, but I really doubt this, especially after the experience gained in our earthquakes and the predictions of another strong one in the Tokyo area. The problem is that underground breaks in the lines are hard to find and even harder to repair. After the quakes, all over the city you could see crews climbing every pole and testing the connections, repairing and reconnecting as necessary. If everything had been underground, this would have been an even more difficult project.
 A fence had something painted on it, but I could not figure out if it was supposed to be representational or abstract art. In any case, to me, it appeared to be simply a long thing yellow blob.
 This building, the one with a sign on the roof, is a funeral home. The design on the front face made it stand out from the rest of the buildings.
 This building was very thin. It could not have been more than one small room wide and there was no room for more than one very small apartment on each floor. As I looked at it, I shuddered to think what it must have been like to be on the top floor during the earthquake.
This building, with the key-shaped sign on the left side, is the place where we have to go if we need a new key for our apartment. Our condo administrative office, keeps track of how many keys there are for each apartment and, if we want an additional one (both of my kids have one), we have to go to that office, which is on our compound, and get some paperwork, which we bring to this store. It takes a few days to get a new key because they are of the most advanced design and are basically impossible to pick.

Jan 23, 2012

Mostly art

 Here is a closeup of the driving school building that is being torn down.
 This ad is on a large panel inside the Yaotome subway station. The V in V SMILE! stands for Vegalta and it is an ad for the local pro soccer team.
 However, it you get up close to it, this is what you see - the faces of fans.
 Here is another shot showing a little of the end of V SMILE! so you can judge the size of the pictures. They are smaller than one square inch. This is a very creative use of art. If I had become a commercial artist like I wanted in high school maybe I would have been doing things like this.
 This is near where I have my art classes. In the center you can see a large building covered with blue tarps. It contains a large hall, restaurants and some classrooms for rent. It was badly damaged and they are expecting that it will take the rest of the year to repair it enough to open it for the public again. I was here because some of the students from the art class were joining me in a visit to an art exhibit. I had seen the picture on TV and wanted to see it in person.
 The artist, whose name I have forgotten, sorry, makes one huge picture every year. This one shows the aftermath of the tsunami.
 This is some of the detail.
 The previous year's picture was also on display. It was a view of our galaxy from outer space. Very pretty.
I sneaked behind the galaxy picture to see how it was constructed. It was made from sheets of plywood with a frame around the outside. These frames were bolted together so that it became on large picture. From the front it looked flat but from the back you can see that it has buckled a little.