Dec 31, 2014

Antoku Park

 This is the burial mound in the southwest corner of the park. The leafless trees are cherry trees and, as I have previously shown, they are beautiful when in full bloom. At the moment they look rather desolate. The people you can see on the left are, apparently, a father and son. The father is teaching the son how to correctly swing a baseball bat.
The only tree in the park that has any leaves on it is this one. I guess it must be a palm of some sort.

Dec 30, 2014

After a fire

 Across the street from the building where  my Saturday Go Club meets, there was an wooden apartment building with four apartments. I did not notice when it happened, in spite of it being only a kilometer or so from my apartment, but the entire top story burned. The walls are still intact but you can see that part of the roof is missing and some of the windows are damaged.
Here is another view that shows that the surface of the roof is gone. It is hard to see in the pictures but there is a yellow tape stretched around the fence and there are red signs saying that the building is dangerous and has been condemned. It is going to be interesting to see how long it takes to tear it down. Once that is done I expect that they will either turn it into a pay-by-the-month parking lot or build a new building on it. There is also the possibility that it will just stay an empty lot until the owner can sell it.

Dec 29, 2014

Something fishy going on

 I was on my way to my Go Club which meets just a couple of hundred meters down this road. I have walked by here many times and wondered why this section of the small canal has a net over it. It is hard to see in this picture but it is there. I was a bit early so I stopped to make a more careful examination.
To my surprise, a very large carp swam out from under the cover at the end and came right up to where I was standing. Soon there were around a half dozen of them swimming around. All the same grayish color as this one. From the way that they were paying careful attention to me, I decided that it must be about their dinner time. I imaging that the owner comes everyday at about this time and gives them food. The net is there obviously to keep the kids from fishing and the adults from bringing a net and scooping them up. Even there rather plain colored fish are quite valuable here.

Dec 28, 2014

How to pack ten eggs

The traditional packaging in Japan is quite different. This is not traditional but it is similar in many ways. Here ten eggs are placed in a plastic dish and the entire thing is then covered with a plastic net that is pulled tight and tied at the top, leaving a loop so that it can be easily carried.

The table in the picture is our dining table. It is a kotatsu. It has a heater underneath and there is a blanket under the table top, between it and the frame. However, this one is unusual. It has chairs and is the normal height for a table. The image of a kotatsu is a very low table with short legs where the person sits on a cushion on the floor. I've never been comfortable while sitting at a regular kotatsu. I do not bend in the right places, so we have not had one for years. However, when shopping for furniture for our new apartment we found this. It is a good place to sit and read at night. It keeps your feet nice and warm, and if you are the only one in the room, you can usually turn off the air conditioner.

Dec 27, 2014

At Mirikaroden

 I think I have finally figured out why the removed the fountain that used to be in the light colored circular area and filled in the stream that carried the water across the yard. Just passed where the fountain was, they have built a new driveway so that cars can enter. The cars can then let passengers off in this area. The main entrance to the building is just to the left. The car can then continue to the right and directly enter the parking lot.
I think I have mentioned that I take an exercise class on three Tuesday afternoons a month. This picture shows the set up. We each have a chair and a little platform. During the class, for two 10 minute periods, we step on and off the platform at the rate of 80 steps a minute. The height of the platform is adjustable and on the first day of class we take a variety of tests and the university where the program was developed recommends a height based on that data. We spend the rest of the 60 minute class doing various forms of stretching and also five minutes of what they call slow jogging, which consists of jogging at 120 steps per minute for one minute followed by 30 seconds of walking at a slower pace. Each day at home we do the platform activity and the slow jogging. However, recently because of my hospitalization and a damaged knee I have skipped the slow jogging and have only recently started the platform activity again. I have been amazed at how much difference it makes in my overall condition.

Dec 24, 2014

Inside the shrine and a three-wheel motorcycle

 I crossed the street and looked inside the little shrine I showed in the last post. The fresh flowers indicate that someone is taking care of the altar. I have no idea who is represented by the stone figure.
I put my cameras back in my pocket and turned to continue on my way when I saw a three-wheel motorcycle. It was passed me before I could get my camera out again, but it was extremely unusual. I could not see a brand name so I don't know if was purchased or constructed by the owner. It was in extremely good condition, much better than the MotoGuzzi motorcycle that I had when in my twenties.

Dec 23, 2014

Street scenes

 As I have pointed out before, the trees along streets and sidewalks are kept well trimmed to prevent the root systems from growing too big and destroying the pavement.
This is an interesting juxtaposition that you frequently see in Japan. The traditional roadside shrine to a Shinto god and a modern roadside drink machine. When I first came to Japan, there were more shrines but now there are far more machines. Aesthetically I find it displeasing, but when I am out walking and get thirsty the ever present drink machine is nice.

Dec 20, 2014

Don't do this and a school

 This is the view under my desk. It is an excellent example of how not to arrange the various cables and power cords connected to your computer. I should crawl under there and coil the various excess amounts and tie them off with string of electronics use ties, but as I am getting lazier every year, and I have had a lot of years, it will probably never get done.
Walking to Mirikaroden, I tried a foot path behind a grade school. It was outside exercise time, or maybe just recess, but there was a large number of students out in the playground.

Dec 19, 2014

A rainy day in Nakagawa-machi

Although it was raining, I thought the sky was quite artistic.

Dec 17, 2014

More about farming

 This is a closeup of the broccoli flower. They are actually kind of pretty, especially at this time of year when there are few flowers around.
This is a large field of lettuce. There are two types and neither is the typical icebox lettuce that we usually get in salads or in a restaurant on the plate with the main dish. These my wife and I usually just call greens.

Dec 16, 2014

Things along the way

 I heard a loud noise and looked up and saw a large airplane flying very low. This is under the flight path for approaches to the Fukuoka Airport. The airport is only six or seven kilometers straight ahead. It is actually in the city. The plane will fly off to the right where it will turn and fly in the direction of this photo. We constantly have planes overhead during the day but on this day they were extremely low.
Nearing my goal, you can see Mirikaroden on the right in the background. This field was broccoli and it appears that the farmer is letting it flower to get seeds for next year.

Dec 15, 2014

Walking to Mirikaroden

 On this day I decided to walk to Mirikaroden. There are many routes that I can take but on this day I decided to walk by this shrine.
This is a typical scene in this area. The parking lot of this private home has the family's vehicles, a small truck and a tracker with attachments for working in the rice paddies. Also notice that the family has gardeners come and trim their trees. Most houses do not have natural looking trees. They are trimmed so that the leaves grow in little clumps with empty spaces in between.

Dec 13, 2014

My little display

I thought you might like to see the little display I have on the top of the cabinet next to my computer. To give some idea of the scale of the picture the Santa Claus in the front is about a centimeter tall and the figure in the rear on the left is 10 centimeters tall.

To the left of Santa is a plastic block containing a likeness of Sakamoto Ryoma (Japanese name order), one of the prominent figures in the overthrow of the Shogunate. On the right is another block of plastic with a likeness of Kobo Daishi, a Buddhist priest who I mentioned in the last couple of posts. Both of these were apparently made by focusing laser light into the block. They are rather amazing to look at since they are made from very thin lines inside the solid block.

Directly behind Santa is a small Buddha from Thailand. It was a gift from an old friend. Behind that in gold with a black background is another Buddha. This one I purchased during a visit to Yamadera, a temple that is reached by climbing a thousand stairs. I posted pictures of this trip in this photoblog about three years ago.

In the back row on the right is a model of a Northern soldier from the American Civil War. He has fallen off his horse, which is something that happened to my great grandfather during that war, so I image it as a statue of him. The rectangular red and black thing is a lacquered box with an Indian style elephant painted on it. Next to it on the left is a small raku pot that I made when I studied pottery in college. Finally on the left is a figurine that I bought in Tashkent. It is a bearded man holding two baskets of fruit.

In addition, there are two paperweights in the shape of ducks. I have had them since I was about two years old. You can just see the tail of one of them on the right. On the far left just a hint of a brass vase from India can be seen. I purchased this in a Glenelg antique shop in Adelaide, Australia.

Dec 12, 2014

Local Corn

I like corn very much and in season I will often have only corn on the cob for lunch. My wife told this to one of her friends and the next time the friend visited she brought this package of locally grown corn. As you can see from the size of the pencil, the cobs are quite short.

When I boiled them and started eating, I discovered that the kernels are very chewy, which apparently accounts for the name mochi corn. Mochi is a typical Japanese food. Here is the introduction to the Wikipedia entry.

Mochi (?) is Japanese rice cake made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki.[1] While also eaten year-round, mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time. Mochi is called môa-chî (麻糬) in Taiwan.

Mochi is a multicomponent food consisting of polysaccharides, lipids, protein and water. Mochi has a heterogeneous structure of amylopectin gel, starch grains and air bubbles.[2] This rice is characterized by its lack of amylose in starch and is derived from short or medium japonica rices. The protein concentration of the rice is a bit higher than normal short-grain rice and the two also differ in amylose content. In mochi rice, the amylose content is negligible which results in the soft gel consistency of mochi.[3]

Except for the kernel skins, the texture and taste of the corn was quite similar to mochi. A few days later mochi corn appeared in our local supermarket so I was able to enjoy it a couple of times before the season was over. I am definitely looking forward to having it again next summer.

Dec 11, 2014

Engineering and nature

 This is another view of the construction of the new bridge. The structure with the horizontal cross piece is being used to move the large steel beams from the land out onto the bridge itself. These steel beams are put together on the shore and are made from small sections bolted together. When they are about half the width of the river, the structure is used to move them into the proper place on the bridge and hold them while they are bolted to the support structure.
Back along the side of the river, I found these very bright flowers. If I had a little bit more time, I would start learning the names and identifying features of the plants and animals that I see on my walks.

Dec 10, 2014

Another statue and the new road

 This is one more of the statues in the small temple that I have been showing. This is obviously a Buddhist monk, probably Kobo Daishi. The reason I know that it is not a Buddha is that his head is shaved. The object in his right hand is called a vajra, originally a weapon used by Indra, a Hindu god. In Buddhism it is used symbolically to resent resolve to become enlightened and it is also used in some rituals in Tantric Buddhism.
The small temple is next to the new bridge that I showed a few days ago. As I left the temple, I realized that they were already working on a new road leading from the bridge to the nearest medium sized road.

Dec 9, 2014

Inside the small temple

 Since the door was open and the floor inside was concrete, I entered to get a better look at the altar. The statue in the middle of the displace, on the right here. Is a depiction of Kobo Daishi, the founder of the Shingon sect, so that makes it clear what type of Buddhism is represented here. The large statue on the left is a Fudomyo, a protector demon, who keeps evil away. The smaller statue between them also seems to be a protector demon of some sort.
The smaller statues in front to the large seated image of Kobo Daishi are probably also representations of him. I have a very small image of Kobo Daishi that I keep with some Buddhist and other things, I guess you could call them nicknacks. I will post a picture of it after I finish this walk.

Dec 8, 2014

A very small Buddhist temple

 As I exited the park, I noticed a small building with a lot of flags. When I got close enough to see, the flags indicated that it was something Buddhist but the building did not look like a temple at all. It seemed more like the prebuilt sheds that you see behind farm houses. Since the door was open I decided to go in and have a look.
There was a very complex altar with a number of statues. It was obvious from the fresh flowers that at least one of the neighbors was taking good care of the contents and probably coming here every day for some kind of devotion. Since I could not figure out what sect was represented here, it is not possible to guess at what form the devotion would take, or if you could even call it a devotion.

Dec 7, 2014

Reached the goal

 I finally reached the park that was my goal. I found this artistic structure alone the path. At the far end there is a bench. I suspect that sometimes people use this area for picnics, maybe even with a fire.  Actually there were two paths in the park, both paralleling the river. One runs along the top of the banking and on this day was in the bright sunlight. The other is farther away from the river and a bit up the hill and under the trees. I decided to keep walking and see how far I could go.
This was the end of the trail. There was a tall wire fence with a locked gate. I think that the tall buildings in the distance are the beginning of the built up are of Fukuoka City.

Dec 6, 2014

Places to rest

 As I was looking that the buildings above the dam, I noticed that one of them had a crane on the roof. It sat their for the entire time that I was looking at it. The Naka River seems to support quite a few large birds but not as many as were around the river in Sendai.
Europe and other places have stone circles, but Japanese parks often have log circles, although sometimes what looks like a log is actual a concrete sculpture of a log. I was a little mystified by them at first, but then I discover the reason for having. They are a place for children to play. The kids seem to like to walk around them stepping only on the tops of the logs. In some parks they are not circles but long wavy snake like shapes.

Dec 5, 2014

Moss and a dam

 This is a closeup of the moss growing on one of the trees in the park I showed yesterday.
This is a moveable dam, but it is much bigger than any of the others that I have seen. Each of the towers, which rise from the dam support abutments, Has a building on the top. The windows allow the occupants to look out in all four directions, so I guess they have something to do with the disaster. They are high enough that no matter how much rain we get they will still be above water and, considering the distance from the sea, they would still stand after a monster tsunami. One thought I had is that they may store essential equipment in the rooms for use in a disaster.

Dec 4, 2014

Passing through a park

 Along the riverside there is a nice park, not the one that is my goal, but a pleasant one to walk through none the less. The river is about 20 meters to the right and there is a paved path along the top of the banking next to it.
Some of the trees in the park are covered in a light green moss. It is definitely on the north side of the tree so I guess I won't get lost. I have no idea why but many of the trees are not moss covered as you can see from the first picture. That is the north side of that tree but there is no moss.

Dec 3, 2014

A new bridge in the making

 I've shown this place a number of times, starting when they first started building the abutments on the river banks. Now, they have actually started putting in the bridge itself. There is a long stretch of the river with no way of getting across so this is going to be very useful. However, there are no access roads. All the roads in this area, on both sides of the river, are like mazes. It appears that they are going to build at least some at short access road on this side. The next time I walk to this area, I will look around a bit and see if I can determine what they will do.
This is what will probably be the last structure that is actually part of the bridge. As the road moves to the left, I think they will bring in additional dirt and make a solid foundation.

Dec 1, 2014

Still along the river

 When I walked a little farther, I discovered that what I had though was a small tree was actually only some tall weeds growing from a pile of stones that are the high point on an island that is usually about 5x20 meters in size. The excess water is a result of the last typhoon, which did not really effect here very much but did drop a lot of rain on the mountains to the south.
Along the riverbank there were some very pretty flowers. The red and green made me think that they would make good Christmas decorations.

Nov 30, 2014

Along the Naka River

 I reached Nakagawa, the Naka River, and found that there was much more water than usual. You can see something in the water just below the middle of the picture. This is a little tree that is growing on what is usual an fairly large island. The concrete wall on the right is a recent addition that was constructed last year to contain future flooding. There was a very bad flood along the river the summer before we arrived here and they have spend much of the last two years working on the river banks and putting in moveable dams.
Nakagawa does not seem to have very many fish in this area so this is a rather unusual sight.  I think the reason for the lack of fish is that the depth of the river changes so much and so frequently. There seem to be more small fish in the river at the point where it comes out of the hills and more larger fish closer to the ocean, but few along this stretch.

Nov 29, 2014

North along the river - a new walk

 I walked west from home but found some roads I had not yet taken. This house was rather amazing. The roof is so complicated and the little balconies are so solid looking that I found the entire house surprising, not at all like the other house in the area.
I reached the river, if I can call such a small stream a river. It was the last days of September so there was still many flowers and lots of green. I decided that I would follow the river north, toward Fukuoka city, and go to a riverside park that I had passed a number of times but never entered.

Nov 28, 2014

The Japanese verb 'suru', to do.

This was in the newspaper. The specific article is the one with the bar graphs and it discusses how many people are starting to abbreviate suru to just ru attached to a noun. The examples given in the bar graphs, reading from top to bottom are chin-suru,  a cash register making a noise; jiko-ru, having an accident; not sure of the pronunciation but probably koku-ru, to proclaim your love; and taku-ru, to ride in a taxi. The red areas are the percentage who use the form, the yellow are the percentage who have heard the form, and the grey is the percentage who have never heard the form.

In language school I learned these as chin-suru, jiko-suru, koku-suru (although not used) and takushi-suru. Actually in language school these all required the particle wo between the noun and suru but this is omitted in casual conversation.

This is just one more example of how the Japanese language has been rapidly changing since after WWII. Forms are being reduced (suru to ru) and many restrictions are being removed. For example, in school about 40 years ago I learned that zenzen, meaning not at all, had to be followed by a negative verb. However, when I got to Japan I found that a few people were using it with positive verbs to mean all or every or completely. Now, most college students do not even know that there used to be such a restriction on the use of zenzen.

Nov 27, 2014

My last posting on the 13 kilometer walk - a watercolor sketch

Just before exiting the valley and entering the rice paddies, I stopped for a rest and did this 10 minute postcard-size watercolor sketch of the river. While I did oil paints when in school and more recently pen and ink, I am now learning to do pure watercolors. As you can see, I am finding them challenging to say the least, but I do believe that I am gradually improving.

While doing this sketch, I sat on a bench under a small roof next to some sort of equipment related to the river. I think that it may have been a pump to bring water from the river up to the level of the paddies, a vertical distance of less than two meters.