May 31, 2012

More from the park

 The sign on the tripod says that this is a stage for musicians or actors. I wonder if anyone has ever used it.
 The sign says that the wooden platform is for viewing water lilies. Of course, at this time of year there aren't any and I decided that I would not wait to see them, so I moved on.
 A little further on I found this nice little garden, but again it was too early for most of the flowers.
 This old wooden bridge crosses an inlet where the drainage water from the surrounding area enters the pond.
 By the time I got to the rest area, the people who had previously been there had moved on, but a young man was fishing.
About 15 years ago, I lived near by for a couple of years. At that time this park was very rough. The path on the right was the only way to walk through this area. However, over the past few years, they have done a lot of work on the park. The path on the left is one the results of this construction.

May 30, 2012

Off to the dentist's

 To get to my dentist's office in Parktown, I usually walk to Izumi Chuo and then take a bus. Sometimes I walk. It takes just under an hour. On this day I decided on the bus and as I walked to the depot, I saw the gateball players again. Everyone things of gateball as a game for old people and that is the image that I have. However, every once in a while I remember that I am already older than many of the players.
 At Izumi Chuo, I stopped for coffee at Starbucks and took this picture of the pyramid over the stairs leading down to the bus depot.
 I went over to the station building to use the public toilets before getting on the bus and found a large group of women, what my wife and I call "young mothers", women who are in the late 20s or 30s and usually have young children. I never did figure out what was going on. The tables held small packets of various kinds of food and what looked like jewelry and trinkets. While I was standing there, a long line formed behind the woman in the white sweater(?). Most of the women seemed to know each other. It was all very strange.
 My dental appointment was for 2:30 in the afternoon, so I had lunch at the little shopping center nearby. The place is actually a bread shop but they have an all you can eat lunch for 850 yen. There were five or six varieties of bread, two soups, salad fixings, five or six vegetables, spaghetti, rice, and three deserts. It was very good. I particularly liked it because I was able to fill up on vegetables. I am not a vegetarian but I do not eat much meat, no  beef at all. After I ate I walked across the street to a little public park. This was the flight of stairs leading down into the park.
 The park is centered on a small pond. I sat at the picnic bench and drew a couple of pictures of the little structure in the distance.
There were a couple of people sitting on the bench under the roof of the structure.

May 29, 2012

Aoba Matsuri

 Here are some more pictures of the dancers.
 I left the building while the dancing was still going on and started toward the subway station.
 One of the buildings that I passed has a large space built into the first floor. It was filled with dancers from a different group.
 This wagon was set up as an outdoor stage. I was tempted to return to downtown Sendai in the evening to see the actual festival but decided against it. I was still tired from having the flu during the previous week and there would be so many people that I would not be able to see much anyway. Maybe if I still drank, I might have gone in order to sample the sake that would be freely flowing.
At one intersection I found this group of cute little kids, who were going someplace to dance.
 Almost home I discovered that they were actually beginning to repair the road at the end of the bridge. There has been a huge bump and a deep dip at the corner since the road buckled during the earthquake.

May 28, 2012

Aoba Matsuri continued

 I went to lunch with the teacher and other students in my art class and then some of us students went to an art exhibit in Mediatek, a large public building that houses art galleries, a library, rental space and other stuff. The exhibit was reasonably good but, when we came down the elevator, the first thing I saw on the first floor was these two women.
 They were part of a festival dance group that was performing in the large open space.
 Fans are a frequent part of festival dancing.
 There were a lot of individual performances inter-spaced with larger group dances.

The music that goes with a festival, a matsuri, features drums and flutes and has a very energetic, driving rhythm, the kind that makes you move whether you want to or not.

May 27, 2012

Aoba Matsuri

 Here is another picture of the intersection at the bridge. They have flatten out all of the places that rose up or sank during the quakes.
 On my way downtown to my art lesson, I noticed that they were apparently starting work on the riverside again. However, a couple days later I passed by and everything was gone, including the portable toilet. The work crew must have used the space to get organized.
 When I got downtown, I found that the preparations for the evening Aoba Matsuri, aoba is a place name and matsuri means festival were in full swing. These two floats were waiting on a side street.
 This road is divided with a wide garden area with trees in the middle. This gate had been set up at the entrance to the space between the lanes.
 When I had almost reached the building where I have my art lessons, I discovered this group of people. It was  a wedding party going to the wedding hall that is across the street. I wonder what they would have done it it was raining?
At noon, after my lesson was over, I discovered costumed dance groups waiting along the sidewalk.

May 26, 2012

Going home

 Standing at the top of the access stairs, I looked out to the east. It appears that before all the buildings were constructed it may have been just possible to see the ocean from here, which may have influenced the shrine name.
 Starting for home, I found this green windbreak on the stairs to a two story apartment house. Many of the new buildings in Sendai have bright or at least distinguishing colors.
 Since I moved into the area, this has been an empty lot but they are now obviously starting some sort of new building, probably an apartment.
 This is a yakiniku restaurant, yaki means grilled and niku means meat. At your table you have either an open gas grill or a charcoal grill. The meat and vegetables come raw and you cook them yourself. Yakiniku is very popular. This restaurant, which I have never been in, is extremely unusual in the the name, rairai, is written in kanji that are upside down. The two largest repeated kanji on the two signs each means 'come'.
 This is a wall that collapse during the earthquake but now has been completely repaired and the temporary road that they built in the riverbed has been removed.
The next day it rained but they were starting to repair the earthquake damage to the road at the bridge nearest my home. The sidewalk pavement has been removed and the little pylons are now marking the curb.

May 25, 2012

Kifune Jinja, Part 2

 This is the front of the shrine. The light brown object inside the door at the bottom is a donation box. People usually give the god a small, 1, 5, and 10 yen being very frequent, gift. The ritual varies a little from shrine to shrine but almost always consists of pulling on the rope (which is connected to a bell) to make a sound to alert the god that you are there, giving a small gift, clapping your hand and a moment of silence (pray?). At the beginning of the process, at the end, and sometimes in the middle, too, you bow to show your respect.

Behind the door and at the back there will be an altar, usually inside a closed cabinet. The altar often contains a mirror but in the few that I have actually seen there have been a variety of objects.
 I walked around to the side and took this picture which is looking out through the door. You can see the donation box on the bottom left.
 At the side there was a door to get inside. If you look closely you can see that the lock is not securing the door. It is only attached to one side. What is keep the door shut is a piece of plastic string that is tying the handles together.
 On the other side there was a stele with a bas-relief carving of a human figure. I have no idea who it represents.
 This is a close up of the row of bottles and cans that can be seen in front of the door in the first picture. The two cans are beer, the bottles are Japanese sake, and the box is fruit juice. Alcohol is very closely associated with the gods and is present in abundance at festivals. When I first came to Japan, these gifts were left unopened, but as economic conditions worsened and the number of homeless grew, some people started taking the gifts and drinking them. So the practice gradually changed and now most drinks or food is opened before it is left for the gods.
Under the trees I found this stele. The two kanji at the top mean mountain god. There were some smaller characters at the bottom but they were too worn for me to read.

May 24, 2012

Kifune Jinja

 I finally located the entrance to the shrine (jinja in Japanese). It was rather rundown to say the least. The torii at the entrance was broken. The missing piece were nowhere to be found so, between that fact and a look at the worn surfaces of the breaks, I assume that it was destroyed long ago. Also as you can see the grass has not been cut. I took this picture over a fence, like those on either side of the stairs. To reach the stairs I had to walk back about 10 meters and then walk along the public space beside a drainage ditch. Also I was unable to determine the pronunciation of the name of the shrine. Later I asked a couple of Japanese people but they did not know. I finally found it on a website that showed all the shrines and temples in Izumi-ku. The name is a special reading of the kanji, kifune jinja, which phonetically means sacred boat shrine. At this point we are less than 20 kilometers away from the sea which may have been visible before all the modern buildings were erected. This area was, in the past, a maritime power, establishing trading forts all the way to Shizuoka Prefecture and was heavily involved in national politics and power struggles.
 At the top of the flight of stairs, the guardian lions were worn almost beyond recognition. From the above mentioned website, I found that the shrine is two or three hundred years old, so it is likely that the lions have been there since it was first built.
 At the top of a second flight of stairs there was a long narrow unpaved path. This is the view back toward the stairs.
 Turning around, I faced the shrine and took this picture. It is physically quite small but I could see nothing unusual about it.
The protector lions at the shrine are new and in very good shape, as are the stone lanterns behind them.

May 23, 2012

Still walking - trying to find the shrine

 I looked around the graveyard a bit more and then started back down the hill.
 Part way down, I found a stairway leading down into the valley. It was very well tended and the buildings at the foot of the stairs looked promising as a possible site for the shrine.
 At the bottom of the stairs, I found these irises and an extremely well kept landscape.
 At one point I thought that this might be the back of a shrine but it turned out to be a private home.
 On closer inspection, I discovered that I was wandering around in someone's private yard. There was not a shrine in sight. I quickly walked down to the nearest street, what I was on was a wide driveway. Just before reaching the street I saw this rather picturesque house.
After wandering around the area for another 15 or 20 minutes, during which I did not see any people, I finally found a map of the area. The shrine was marked on the map and was actually just a little ways behind me.