Jul 31, 2014

More Tanabata

Inside the station building, I found another hanging in the stairwell between the second and third floors. The second floor has shops and the third has a branch office of town hall. There is also a room for the public where we have a GO club meetings. I just realized that I forgot to mention that these are a traditional part of Tanabata, a summer festival.

Jul 30, 2014


This is at the station building and in front of a day nursery that takes care of children on a regular basis while the parents work. The very strange looking tree is actually a bamboo pole with the branches still on it. During July, these are placed around in public places and people write their wishes on a piece of paper and tie it to the tree. Last year they even had one in the public area of the wing of the hospital I was in. Supposedly your wish may come true.

Jul 29, 2014

Parking lot cashier

The large black writing says that this is the exit to the parking lot. The canvas cover protects the machine from the sun which is very hot here because of the strong ultraviolet. Having the cashier machine out of the rain is probably a good thing, too. When you enter the parking lot, you get a card from another machine. As you exit, you must stop and insert that card in this machine which calculates the fee. You can pay in bills and/or coins. After you put in the money and get change, if any, the black and yellow bar will raise and you can leave.

Jul 28, 2014

Parking lots

This is a rental parking lot with lots on both sides of the road. The picture I  posted yesterday showed the bedding, futons, that you can see on the right. From that one story house, my apartment is the third one. There is a three story apartment building, the white one, then a private home and finally our building at the point where this road dead ends.

This area has many rental parking spots. We are less than a five minute walk from the Shinkansen station that allows access to the big city, Fukuoka, in less than ten minutes. Driving from here would take thirty to forty minutes depending on traffic. Another reason for all the parking spots is the increasing number of large apartment buildings. These usually do not have parking or, if they do, there are are an insufficient number of spaces.

My apartment comes with a free parking space. There is one for each apartment. However, we no longer have a car, so we only use it for guests.

Jul 27, 2014


This is a very common sight in Japan. Many people sleep on the tatami mat room floors. This is very efficient because at night it is a bedroom but during the daytime the same room becomes a living room. A kotatsu table, a low table with an electric heater built into the underside of the top and a few zabuton, cushions to sit on, is all the furniture you need.

Sleeping on the floor requires a mattress and what is called a futon, a heavy blanket that has a sheet like thing wrapped around it. You can get the idea by imagining a large, very thin pillow with a pillow case. Because people sweat and otherwise get the futon dirty, they are aired everyday. This is a house, the third from my apartment, with all the futon hung out in the sun.

Apartment buildings are very colorful sometimes, with each balcony decorated with multicolored futon.

Jul 26, 2014

The entrance to my apartment

This is the first floor entrance hall to my building. The apartments are on the left through the door and mine is on the second floor opposite the stairs.

The silver colored object on the wall is our mailboxes. There are three apartments on each floor. On the wall on the right is a board for posting notices about upkeep, trash collection, and other things related to the building's community. The black, white and blue object under the mailboxes is a wastebasket for chirashi, the ads that people put in your mailbox. In the US, I think it is still illegal to put anything other than mail in a mailbox, however, here there is no such restriction so everyday we get a dozen or so ads. They immediately go into this wastebasket. A huge waste of paper!

Although there is a door to the outside (behind me), there is no lock on it so we occasionally get a salesman or some religious person. Earlier in the month we had two young Morman women come to the door to try to convert us. My wife invited them in on the condition that they not talk about religion. We gave them a cold drink and some cookies and talked to them about Japan. They were interesting. We invited them to come back but they haven't. I wonder if they told their supervisor about it and were forbidden to come back for fear that we might convert them.

It is so hot here that I am unable to go out for walks so for the next month of so I will be posting single pictures each day. The temperature here is above 35 degrees C (96 degrees F) every day and the humidity is averages around 70%. It is too hot to go out for walks, so I will be limited as to how many pictures I can take. As soon as it cools off a little I will start taking long walks again and post three pictures a day again. Please bear with me.

Jul 25, 2014

Seedlings in a rice paddy

 This is a rice paddy that has just been planted with seedlings. The paddy is flooded and then as the rice grows the paddy is allowed to dry out, so at harvest the ground is completely dry. This makes it easy. The water makes the ground soft so the transplanting can be done by machine. Then harvest is simpler because the ground is firm.

The buildings in the background are Mirikaroden on the left and a large kindergarten on the right. The building with the curved roof is the town swimming pool.
This rectangular block of rice seedlings was apparently leftover from the planting. The blocks are a standard size and are put into slots in the machine which separates them a plants a few stalks at each point.

Jul 24, 2014

Mountains and water control

 Looking over the flooded rice paddy at the mountains in the distance. The river that passes close to my apartment arises in the valley in the middle of the picture. Once it cools off a little in the fall, I plan to take a bus into the valley and then walk to the shrines and temples in the hills. There are also the remains of some thousand year old fortified places, dare I call them 'castles'?
This is one of the water control canals that are used to flood the rice paddies, just before the seedlings are planted. in the middle of the picture you can see two wooden boards that are currently blocking the exit. There are sandbags backing up the boards and blocking some of the leakage. Also to left of the boards, you can see the slots for a board which would block all the water flow in the main canal. This would be used when the two boards were removed. All the water in the canal would be diverted into the paddy. Many researchers believe that the need for constructing extensive canal systems to bring water to the paddies, the necessity of sharing the water in some fair way, the maintenance of the system, and construction new of canals as needed are the root source of the trend toward socialistic governmental systems were rice paddies are a major crop.

Jul 23, 2014

A strange interesction

 This is one of those very common but weird intersections that occur all over Japan. Notice that the zebra crossing lines only appear on three of the four possibilities. This means that, if I am walking on the sidewalk to the immediate left, coming into the picture on the side road, and I want to cross the main road and continue along the right side of the same road, I have to cross three zebra crossings instead of one. When I arrive at the intersection, I have to wait for the traffic light so that I can turn left and cross the road I had been walking on. Then I have to wait for the light to change so that I can cross to the other side of the main road. Finally I have to again wait for the light to change so that I can cross back to the side of the road that I had been on before I got to the intersection. Considering that the traffic lights at many intersections take between four and five minutes to complete a cycle, this can add a substantial amount of time to your walk.

A few weeks ago I believe I mention that I asked a police officer what the reason for this was and he said that he did not know and that, when he thought about it, it did not seem to make sense.
I was nearing Mirikaroden, which you can see on the far side of the garden. This garden appears to be some sort of community project, maybe they are learning about farming or maybe they are going to sell the harvest to raise money for something else.

Jul 22, 2014

More things to the left

 Rice paddies and mountains. This is what I think of when I think of rural Japan.
I love this building (large shed?). It would make a good subject for a pen and ink drawing with just a touch of added color. The area inside, include the parts with out a roof, are filled with old cars. It may be garage with old cars that are scavenged for parts or it may be something else entirely. When it gets cool enough to actually go for walks again, I will have to find a way to get closer and find out what kind of place it actually is.

Jul 21, 2014

Turning to my left

 I crossed the road so that I could take this picture of the farm on the left side of the road. This is very typical of Japanese farms. It is relatively small and many of the rows of plants are covered with vinyl hothouses.
A little farther along a came upon this group of weeders. I watched them for a few minutes and they seemed to be a hobby group who are farming for pleasure, not profit.

Jul 20, 2014

Nearing Mirikaroden

 My goal for this walk was the large buildings just to the right of the center of the picture. The road here is new and slopes gradually down from a hilltop to the flat area below. The building is called Mirikaroden and is what the Japanese term a culture center. There is a large auditorium when they have various presentations, both live and movies. There are classrooms where they offer many different subjects. This is where I go for my watercolor lessons and also for my exercise class. My wife also attends a music and rhythm class here. In addition to all this there is a small museum concerning a local intellectual and the town library. One of the three buildings contains a swimming pool and an exercise room. The fees are very low for both classes and general use. The final building is new and contains a children's center.
About half way down the slope, I turned to the right and took this picture of the rice paddies, many of which were flooded in anticipation of the nearing planting day.

Jul 19, 2014

Bike Box

 In Japan the word bike refers to a motorcycle.This sign is on the side of a large metal box and it is an ad for a bike garage, a metal container that is the right size for holding a motorcycle, scooter, or other two wheeled vehicle. They both rent out space and sell the bike boxes. By the way, look at the string of English words in blue. This is an example of why English teachers will continue to find jobs in Japan.
From the side, I could see that there were two rental bike boxes here. Behind them are larger rental storage containers. Japanese houses and apartments do not have much storage space. It is often insufficient even for clothes, bed clothes and that sort of thing, so storage boxes are very popular and you often find them on empty land. For a small piece of property, you can make more money be installing two layers of storage boxes than making a parking lot. For larger properties, parking lots make more profit.

Jul 17, 2014

Still on the sidewalk

 This is looking back toward the kofun signs. They are just about under the overpass.
This rather garish store front says that they specialize in setting broken bones, moxa, and acupuncture. I wonder if the red is supposed to remind people of China, the source of the second two treatments.

Jul 16, 2014

A 4th century kofun

 This marker was on the sidewalk at a place on the road where they had dug out a hill to keep the slope of the road from becoming too steep. The marker says that this was the location of the EGE Kofun, a grave mound. that was built during the last half of the 4th century.
On the concrete wall opposite the post was this sign. It shows pictures and tells what they found in the kofun when they excavated it before the road was built. They found a bronze mirror, a sword  and a magatama bead plus some wooden objects.

Jul 15, 2014

A truck farm

 The area for about a half mile south of my apartment has a very mixed land use. As you can see in this picture there is a truck farm in an open field. Then beyond it is a parking lot of about the same size. Then in the distance there are large apartment buildings. At this point we are about a 10-minute walk from the train station. Nakagawa town is divided into two parts and the east-west dividing line is about a mile (1.5 km) south of my apartment. On the north side tall apartment buildings are permitted, but on the south side all structures are limited to three stories. The southern part of town has more rice paddies and feels much more like the countryside. I might like living there except that transportation is by infrequent buses and there are no local supermarkets. We don't have a car and in any case I don't have a license so our present local is perfect.
As I was standing there, I saw a large commercial airliner preparing to land at the Fukuoka airport. You can see how low it is flying because of the cloud cover. The plane is just about the right side of the center building.

Jul 14, 2014

An entrance to a home and an inrrigation canal

 This is the driveway into a private home or maybe it is homes. There appears to be more than one building in this compound.
This is an irrigation canal, or I should say 'two irrigation canals'. They run side by side for more than a hundred meters and at this point the separate, one going under the road and the other straight ahead. Notice that there is a removable panel between them  and another panel is blocking the canal on the right, so the water flow can be directed to the rice paddies that need it. The farmer's cooperative builds and maintains these canals and also insures that all the members get a fair share of the water.

Jul 12, 2014

Along the road

 This is the entrance to a traditional style Japanese home.
Just down the road, the area is more built up with a couple of tall apartment buildings and a lot of modern homes but there is still a rice paddy in the middle of everything. The rice stalks have just been transplanted from greenhouses where the seeds are grown into 15 to 20 centimeter plants. These plants are replanted into flooded paddies. As the plants get taller, they will stop adding water to the paddies and by the time the rice is ready for harvest the paddies will be completely dry.

Jul 11, 2014

Leaving the shrine

 This is the view looking out from under the torii. It is the same narrow lane that I used when I entered.
At the corner with the main road, actually an only slightly wider country lane, I noticed something that I have not noticed when I entered. The house on the right does not have a straight wall and each segment protrudes a different length. I was very tempted to knock on the door and ask to see the inside. I wondered if the rooms also had these strange walls or if there were lots of small room so that from the inside you might not notice. Many Japanese houses have a lot of small rooms that have sliding doors so that they can be opened into bigger rooms if desired.

Jul 10, 2014

Jiroku Shrine

 This is looking from behind the main building toward the entrance. The torii is hidden behind the tree on the right.
Many of the trees here, and at other shrines, are covered with moss. I am not sure, but I suspect, that back in Stone Age Japan there must have been some tree worship included in the local religions.

Jul 9, 2014

More at Jiroku Shrine

 Leaving the small shrine I returned to the side of the main building. The building that enshrines the object that represents the god has a fence around it. This seems to be a frequent practice particularly in shrines that also serve as playgrounds.
Looking through the fence I could see that the altar doors were closed so there would have been nothing to see even if I could approach the stairs leading to them.

Jul 8, 2014

Still at the shrine within the shrine

 This is what is on the altar of the small shrine. There are three stone objects, all apparently have been worked but their possibly use is not obvious.
The entrance walk and main shrine building as seen from in front of the small shrine.

Jul 7, 2014

A second shrine on the grounds

 On the grounds of Jiroku Shrine, there is a second torii and a very small stone shrine. I assume that the name of this shrine is written on the rectangular plate between the two horizontal parts of the torii, but I could not read them because of the weathering. You can see the actual shrine behind the torii on the right.
The entire structure is only a little taller than me and contains some stones. The two doors on the left are to a storage shed or more likely toilets, but I did not investigate.

Jul 5, 2014

More things at Jiroku Shrine

 I do not know what this is. From the overall shape this looks like a GO board or a SHOGI board, but the only lines on the top are shallow grooves around the outside, about a centimeter from the edge.
This is the fountain where you ritually purify yourself by washing your hands before approaching the shrine proper.

Jul 4, 2014

Jiroku Shrine

 This is the view from the top of the stairs. The gate, I guess you could call it, consists of two stone uprights and a wooden crossbar decorated with a straw rope. Just beyond the gate is a pair of stone lanterns, one on each side of the path, that are about one and a half meters tall. After the lanterns come a pair of lion statues to protect the shrine.
This is one of the lions.

Jul 3, 2014

Rice shoots and the torii

 As I walked down the lane, I found a parking spot filed with rice shoots. These are grown in specific sized blocks that are just the right size to fit into the planting machines that can be attached to the general purpose tractors that are used in the rice paddies. These machine are often shared among a group of small farmers. They will get together and form a cooperative that shares the costs of buying equipment and maintaining it. I believe that the cooperative culture that accompanies rice farming accounts for much of Japanese socialist tendencies.
Another fifty meters and I arrived at the entrance to the Jiroku Shrine.

Jul 1, 2014

Stopping at Chiroku Shrine

 The shrine is a block ahead on the left.
The entrance to the shrine is down a long narrow lane between houses. You can see half of the torii and a short flight of stairs that mark the entrance.