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.

Nov 26, 2014

The end of the walk

 I stopped at Mirikaroden for a drink and a chance to sit down are rest for a while. I still had about a 20 minute walk to get home. As I was leaving, I saw the personnel from the children's section setting up scarecrows at the side of the road. They are directly across the street from the entrance to the new children's building, so a lot of kids will enjoy them.
About half way from Mirikaroden to home, I passed these two women. The cart contained some farm equipment and a dog. I was tempted to move around to their front and ask if I could take a picture but in the end I settled for this. This by the way is quite typical of the way that women working in the paddies or gardens dress. Hats with huge brims to keep off the sun, big baggy padded pants, and a number of layers of shirts usually ending with a white one.

Nov 25, 2014

Walking through the rice paddies

 I was on a narrow paved road through the rice paddies. At one point I found this very smokey fire, where they seemed to be burning weeds and things they had cut from around the paddies.
Looking back in the direction from which I had come, I could clearly see the shape of the land. On the left and right there are steep sided hills. In the middle you can see a raised area and behind it some higher hills. The space between the raised area and the distant hills is the protected valley where I had spend much of the day. The two rivers exit the valley at the base of the hills on the left and right. The Takatsu Jinja in on the hill at the left and the Sakuta Jinja is nearby at the narrowest point along the river. You can see how easily the valley could have been defend in periods of warfare, making it an idea location for villages. The raised area is called Antokudai. Antoku was the name of one of the early emperors who lived in this area for at least part of his life.

Nov 24, 2014

Nearing the end of my walk, but not there yet

 This is the way rural Japan used to look before the commercial interests started moving into the rice paddies. This is what might be called a homestead. There are a couple of buildings with landscaping and a surrounding wall. My guess is that the family owns, or owned, all of the surrounding paddies. There are limits on the size of the paddies that one person (one family?) can own. These were enacted in order to keep the rich from buying up the land and turning the majority of the farmers into essentially serfs. The maximum size is large enough to support a large family and to have are small but reasonable income from selling the remainder. In addition to growing rice, many farmers add smaller areas of other vegetables and fruits that are sold to the local markets.
This is something that may be unique to Japan. It is a stone store. These rocks are all for sale and are used when developing a Japanese style garden. Most homes with gardens have at least a few large stones somewhere in the layout.

Nov 23, 2014

Interesting sights

 This is some sort of industrial building in the middle of the rice paddies. Farming is not a popular occupation with the younger generations, so much of the farm land is being sold and turned into housing areas or places like this. Also people are eating less rice than in the past so less paddy land is needed. This also makes the price the farmers get for their rice lower, again decreasing the incentive to farm. Basically it is only the older generations who still farm and they sell off their property to support their retirement.
I noticed this strange little door below the window in the side of a large building containing some sort of machinery. I can not for the life of my come up with a reason for this little door. There is a large door, big enough for a car, around the corner to the right.

Nov 22, 2014

Walking north

 At the end of the paved path, I found a rest area with a roof. As you can see the valley here is not much wider than the river.
A few hundred meters past the narrowest place in the valley the land opened out into the large plain that extends at least 10 kilometers, all the way to the sea. This artificial embankment was a bit strange. As you can see they had cut through it when they made the road, but they had build a concrete wall instead of just making a slope. After thinking about this for a while, I suspect that this wall was part of the fortifications that protected the inner valley. This could have been the first line of defense for forces protecting the inner valley.

Nov 21, 2014

North toward home

 Leaving Sakuta Jinja, I started walking north toward home. I was on an apparently newly built paved path that ran along the side of the river.
As I pointed out before, to the south was a large flat area surrounded by hills with only the two river valleys as entrances. As I walked the hills came closer and soon I was in a very easily defended narrow valley. It was quite obvious why people 3,000+ years ago elected to settle here. The hillsides were so steep that the path became more like a bridge. One side was supported by posts, some actually in the river, and the other side was sometimes touch the ground and at other times on posts. I wish this was nearer to my apartment. It is a great place for walking.

Nov 19, 2014

A final picture of Sakuta Jinja

Just to the north of the shrine I found what appeared to be a newly constructed bridge and crossed to the other side of the river. I walked back to the shrine, which you can just see through the trees, and found stairs leading down to the river. There must be a river god of some sort enshrined here. The path and the stairs would be used during festivals and ceremonies.

If you have been following this photo blog for a long time, you may remember that I have posted pictures of the festival for the river god enshrined near my apartment in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Every year during the summer, there was a festival where they floated colored lanterns down the river. A flat area beside the river was used for singing and dancing. There were also many stalls where people could buy food, beer and Japanese sake.

According to the local news, Sakuta Jinja will have a festival at the end of the month, but I will not be able to attend because of the remaining effects of my recent hospitalization. Maybe I will be able to make it next year.

Nov 16, 2014

Still at Sakuta Jinja

 Over the lintel of the entrance to the building was an interesting piece of painted woodwork. To me, it looks quite a bit like rather abstract clouds, but I am not at all confident that that is what is represented. If you enlarge the picture, you can see that the pattern is repeated over the door to the altar. This is clearer in the next picture.
This door is the door to the altar where the local god resides. You can see the pattern clearly. The white sign above the door simply gives the name of the shrine. There are pictures around the top as is usual in a shrine.

Nov 15, 2014

Sakuta Jinja

 I have never seen anything like this before. Many shrines have a number of torii that you pass through as you near the building but this one has a straw rope with hanging ends stretched between two poles. You pass under it to reach the building with the altar. Maybe it is some sort of barrier to keep out impurities. Shinto is very much about purifying things.
Once passed the straw barrier the shrine is guarded by two stone statues of lions. I assume that the knowledge of lions came to Japan along the Silk Road. As early as the 4th century, objects were being imported from the Mediterranean region, so I would expect information as well as objects were transmitted along the various routes.

Nov 14, 2014

Sakuta Jinja

 Sakuta Jinja sits beside the river in the narrowest part of the valley that opens into the large flat area. The river is not the right and the hills on either side are only a couple of hundred meters apart. Although it does not mention the name of the shrine, the earliest Japanese history book mentions the river, Sakutaunade, and says that there is a place here to pray to the gods.
Here at the foot of the torii, people have left many small stones as offerings.

Nov 12, 2014

Things in a construction company yard

 The buildings belong to a construction company. The one of the left was a very small hexagonal building with a hall to another larger building. I suspect that it may actually be a toilet. However, the reason for the large plastic jack-o-lantern is completely beyond me.
On the opposite side of the road, there was a dirt parking lot and this plastic snowman. It really makes me wonder.

Nov 10, 2014

The protected valley

 The area I was in was a huge valley, completely surrounded by hills except for where the two rivers passed through them. The area in the picture above has been rice paddies for around 1,500 years and was farm land for another 1,500 years before that.
This is one of the rivers, a stream really, that cuts through the surrounding hills. Now of course, there are many houses in the area but people have been building in the valley longer than they have been farming. The hills in both pictures have the remains of forts which protected the only two access routes, the rivers. The hills, although not too high, have very steep sides and effectively block movement through them.

Nov 9, 2014

Leaving the hill

 This is the path that I followed to return to the lower ground. It was very steep in places and actually a bit dangerous. If I had realized how steep it was going to be, I would have borrowed one of the walking sticks that I found near the bottom of the stairs.
 Almost back to the flat river valley, I found this lumber yard hidden in the woods. It looked like they prefabricated house parts under the roof, but I could not be sure. The man on the far left was doing something with newly cut wood but I could not see what it was.
Back near the stream, I found this greenhouse. Believe it or not, this is asparagus. It appeared that they were letting it grow so that they could harvest the seeds.

Nov 8, 2014

Takatsu Jinja

 When I got up close to the small building, I was able to see the altar. A bit surprisingly it contained a model of a shrine. The doors of the model were closed so I could not see into its altar.
 Beside the small building, I found another shrine, but this one was very small, only about a foot high. It was obvious that someone had been here within the last few days and placed the greens in the red holders.
To leave the shrine, I had to around the building that I had seen first as I came up the stairs. The path continued up the hill. You can see from this picture how steep the hill was at this point.

Nov 7, 2014

Still at Takatsu Jinja, even after a week's delay

I'm sorry for the week with no posts, but I was hospitalized. In spite of two CT scans, fMRI and numerous blood tests, they were unable to completely solve the mystery of what was wrong. The actual pain that sent me in an ambulance during the middle of the night was quickly discovered and is not serious. It requires no further action at the moment. However, some of the blood test results were way, way above average and they were unable to determine the cause because within a couple of days they were back to normal. Hopefully, this will not happen again.

 I was finally at the top of the stairs and could see some of the buildings in the shrine. The one straight ahead was closed so I could not see what was in it.
 However, to the left at the top of the stairs was a building with an open altar. I tried to see through the holes in the doors behind the red vases, but it was too dark inside.
Turning left again, I found a short stairway of natural bedrock that when up the hill and behind the altar. There I found another small building.