Jun 24, 2015

The end of a good thing

I've been posting this photoblog for almost eight years and it has served my purposes well and over the years had a lot of viewers. However, I have run out of places to take pictures. Due to my physical and economic conditions, I can only move around in a 10 kilometer circle from my apartment. I have now shown all of the interesting places within that area, more than once in most cases. I will have no chance to go to new shrines and temples, so my posts would only become repetitive and boring. For this reason I have decided to stop making new entries. If something changes in the future, I will consider starting it again. In the meantime, if I find any new places I will post the pictures to my Facebook page. If you want, please send me a friend invitation and a personal message telling my telling me who you are so that I do not ignore your request because I did not recognized your name.

Thanks for following this photoblog. It has definitely been a good trip, but as they say in Buddhism, all things eventually come to an end.

Jun 22, 2015

Naka River

 This is the Naka River, Nakagawa in Japanese. The mountains in the background are to the south of town and block much of the bad weather from reaching us. The ocean is only about 10 kilometers directly behind me.
 They have been working on the river since we moved here and I have shown many pictures of the work sites. This picture was taken from the bridge and shows the large concrete slabs that have been changed in place along the bank to prevent flood waters from carrying off those banks.
This is the much smaller river (stream? brook?) that is between Naka River and my apartment. It merges with Naka River a couple of kilometers north. If you look carefully at the surface of the water, you can see little rings of waves. These are being made by small fish. I really don't understand it but I have never been able to find any fish in Naka River, but sections of this stream have lots of small fish. When I was a child, I called fish like this minnows.

Jun 21, 2015

Fire hydrant and survey markers

This is a fire hydrant. They are never free standing but are always built into walls or are flat on the sidewalk.
 The little spot on the sidewalk is a survey marker. It is on a bridge over the Naka River. The bicycle on the left was ridden by an old lady who stopped to see what I was doing. I guess she has not seen too many people taking pictures of the sidewalk.
Here is a closeup of the marker. You find find these on bridges and along the banks of rivers. They are particular important to show long term relative movement of the ground and structures. They are also extremely useful in determine exactly what happened after a major earthquake.

Jun 20, 2015

Staris and a garden

 This hill is in the corner of the largest park in the area, the one where the kids were playing soccer yesterday. These stairs are typical of those placed on trails. A length of wood is place horizontally on the ground and is held in place by two post driven into the ground. The space behind the wood is then filled with dirt.
This garden and the rice paddy immediately behind it (hard to see but there) are now in the middle of a housing area. I would expect that when the current farmer dies or retires the land will be sold and someone will put a building there.

Jun 19, 2015

Still walking

 This large rather strange looking building is a pachinko parlor.
I walked through one of the parks so that I could use the public toilet and then I stopped for a while and watch some grade school age kids playing soccer. I could not see a score board anywhere so I could not tell which team was winning. Since the players had uniforms and there was an adult official, I think this was probably part of a local league, probably based on schools or neighborhoods.

Jun 18, 2015

Coffee shop and warm weather clothing

 I've shown this building before, at an early stage of its reconstruction. The signs all say if is a coffee store and by town standards it is huge. Now that it has reached this stage it appears that the section on the right is going to sell coffee beans and stuff for making coffee and the section on the left will be a restaurant. There can not be enough business for a coffee shop of that size so everyone expects it to be a combined coffee shop and restaurant.
I took this woman's picture, not because there is something special about her, but because of her clothing. The temperature was above 80 degrees F but she is wearing a light jacket. This is typical of the people who grew up in this town. They do not think that it is hot until it is over 85 degrees F. I frequently find that I am wearing a T-shirt and shorts and everyone else has a jacket and long pants.

Jun 17, 2015

Another flower and a drug store

 This flower, as usual I have no idea what its name is, was so bright red that it drew my attention even though it was deep in someone's yard. I used the telephoto lens to take the picture.
This is a drugstore. The name according to the sign is Drug Eleven which I assume is a trying to steal a bit of the Seven Eleven brand recognition. I should point out that although the name Seven Eleven is still used the actual name and the one used in ads is Seven & iHoldings. A large company, iHoldings, bought the major shares of Seven Eleven in Japan and changed the name a few years ago.

Jun 15, 2015

Mos Burger and the river

As you can see from this sign in front of Mos Burger, they have 'Japanese Fine Burger & Coffee'.  Since Burger is in the singular, does that mean you can only buy one? A similar problem is the use of plural forms when English uses singular forms, for example, all over Japan you can find signs that say "Big Shoes Store". This indicates that the people who make these terms do not understand English. The Japanese language does not use singular and plural forms of words and nouns refer to the general category of that sort of thing rather than the specific. This causes Japanese a huge amount of trouble when learning English. The school teachers often do not understand this and the makers of the national college entrance tests, mostly college professors, seldom reach any level of understanding of this aspect of English. The result is that the tests do not include this sort of thing, so the public school teachers do not  teach it and neither do the prep schools, which means that it can not be included on the tests. It is a vicious circle.
This is the Nakagawa, the Naka River. The river has changed a lot in the three years that we have lived here. After a disastrous flood the year before we arrived, they rebuild large sections of the river bank, put a number of moveable dams, and dredged much of the riverbed. It is nice not have all the construction along the river, making walks a bit more pleasant, if not as interesting.

Jun 14, 2015

A couple of buildings

 I love this old red painted building. I have no idea what is in it or even where the door is, but the color, the faded red with the white underpainting showing through does something for me. I would love to use this color in a large painting of some sort.
We have a local Macdonalds but the rumors are that it may be one on the 1,200 Japanese stores that the company is going to close. However, if we do lose our Mac (which I have never been in), we still have Mos Burger, one of the Japanese equivalents. Actually the food is better and they are the only place that sells onion rings. Also on the menu, they have various things with chicken rather than beef, plus they have sausages that are almost hotdogs, so I have eaten there two or three times. However, I generally avoid American fast food stores in favor of Japanese fast food. I particularly like curry.

Jun 13, 2015

Ground Golf Equipment

 I finally decided that, if I wanted to get better at ground golf, I need my own equipment. We were told by members of our club that a store called Mr Max carried the equipment, so my wife I and walked to the store, about 15 minutes from home. When we got there, we found that they did not carry sports equipment. We also discovered that this store is actually Mr Max Select and that it only carries some of the things that are sold in their larger stores. When we got home, I went on the Internet and found that there was a regular full-sized Mr Max a little more than four kilometers from home. We decided that, when we had a free day and it was not raining, we would walk there. In the meantime we had to go to Hakata Station, so we checked while there and were told that there were no sporting goods shops nearby.

Finally we had a sunny day and because of a mix up in scheduling another group was using the grounds and we could not play ground golf. My wife and I decided to walk to Mr Max. It took almost an hour and the store had just opened for the day when we arrived. Inside we found a ground golf display in the sporting goods section of the large store. I had planned on buying only a club and a ball to minimize the costs. My wife promised to make a bag to cover the head. However, I found a boxed set containing a club, a ball, and a carrying case. I opened the box and checked out the club. It was different from all the others and, after trying a couple of swings, right there in the aisle, I decided I liked it. After the sales tax was added the final price was 15,080 yen (about US$125).

The picture above shows the equipment. I put my foot in the picture so you can get an estimate of the size. The small blue circle between the club and the bag is the ball. To clarify things, the long thin white object is part of the frame of a soccer goal which can be pushed on and off the ground.
This is a closeup of the head of the club. As you can see, it is different from a regular golf putter. It is designed to keep the ball on the ground so that there is less chance of the players being injured.

A couple of rainy days and then finally another nice day, so I took the clubs over to the ground where we play to try them out. I did not have the key to get out the holes so I just batted the ball back and forth between the markers that we have placed on the field to show the locations of each hole and its tee. I found that I was putting better already and that it appear that with a little practice my drives would get better.

The only problem is that because this is the rainy season we have not been able to play for a couple of weeks because of the condition of the field, standing puddles everywhere. Our next scheduled game is on Monday but, as has been the rule this year, the forecast is for more rain.

Jun 12, 2015

Another Go tournament

This was taken just before the first games started. We were divided into two groups: the good players and everyone else. Within the groups we were paired off randomly for the first game. The method used for this was the same as we use for ground golf. Numbers are written on the end of disposable chopsticks. These are then placed in a small bag that covers the numbers. You draw a chopstick and your name is inserted into the slot on the schedule that has the same number.

My first game was close for a while but in the end I lost by 12 points, not at all embarrassing but a loss. For the second round the losers were paired and the winners paired. I lost my second game by 4 points.

For the third round we were pair with someone with the same record. I was now playing with someone who is a real beginner. He was given a huge handicap because of the difference in our ability level. He started by placing 9 stones on the board at designated locations and then it was my first move. The woman who eventually won the tournament came over and started helping him with suggested moves. This made the game very difficult for me because she and I have equal ranks but she was working with the huge handicap. My actual opponent was just making the moves she suggested. I pointed out that there was no way that I could win with such conditions so she stopped helping. The second weakest player came over and started help out. I let him and finally won the game by about 100 points.

The fourth round, again the players were matched by their record so far. The second weakest player, a man  who is probably my closest friend in the Senior Club, was my opponent. He only started learning Go a couple of  years ago. We have played many games but he has only beat me once, so I was not worried about the outcome. As expected I beat him. I killed a large group of his stones, leaving him no chance of winning, so he resigned. His final record was one win and three loses, which meant he was awarded the Booby Prize. He had beat the player who I played in the third round. My final record was two wins and two loses.

In spite of not doing as well as I had hoped, I thought I might be able to win three games, it was a good day. I should add that this tournament was free. There were prizes for everyone. I got a large bag of sugar. Also the Senior Club paid for box lunches for all of us.

A very good day!

Jun 11, 2015

My drawings

As I think I mentioned, the rainy season has started and today we have having a ferocious downpour. I do have some more pictures that I took around Nakagawa Town, where I live, but they are still in the camera, so I thought I would do something different today. These are two pictures that I drew of Japanese buildings.

 This is an outdoor Noh stage somewhere along the west coast of Japan. I worked from a photo and have never visited the actual building. Noh is one of the tradition forms of musical drama and the traditional plays are still performed today. This building is evidence of those continuing performances.
This is an old abandoned home that I saw in Shikoku, when I was on the Ohenro Pilgrimage. We ate our lunch on the stone wall separating the homestead from a rice paddy. The island of Shikoku is leading the way in the transformation of the country as it ages. The young people are moving to the big cities because they do not want to be farmers and the older people are gradually dying off. This is leaving a huge number of empty buildings. In some of the small villages we walked through, fully half of the stores and homes were abandoned.

Jun 9, 2015

More old pictures of Sendai

 Another small pond near my old university. The topology of this area consists of a mish-mash of low hills and steep-sided valleys. As the area has been built up, many of the deeper valleys which contained natural ponds at the bottom have been turned into man-made reservoirs. In the above picture notice the large private homes in the background. They are in an area where the hilltops were pushed into the valleys so the land could be flattened. This particular development contains many high end homes.
This is either rental apartments or condos, I am not sure which. However, the landscaping is typical. Most large apartment buildings have gardens, large or small depending on the amount of land available.

Jun 8, 2015

Old pictures from Sendai

 I found these pictures in a misplaced file and do not think that I ever posted them here. This little pond is next to the road between Izumi Chuo and Parktown. I think that I was walking to my doctor's office when I took this picture. It is a good example of how parks are put in and then, except for once or twice a year tree trimming and grass cutting, they are ignored. You can see how overgrown and wild this place is.
This is the same park but just to the left of the above photo. If you look right in the middle of the picture you can see a small roofed structure. This is a gazebo where you could sit and enjoy the view of the pond. However, it is very difficult to get to because the path is completely overgrown. I have seen grade school age kids playing around it but I have never seen an adult there.

Jun 7, 2015

Ground Golf

 My wife and I participated in a Ground Golf tournament. It was held on the ground that we use for our regular Monday and Thursdays games but, instead of having one course on half the ground, like we do, they set up three courses covering the whole ground. These are the officials setting up the holes.
Altogether there were 44 teams completing. Our club fielded three teams: the strongest from the people who were able to attend, a mid ability team, and a team that had no chance of anything except maybe the booby prize, which they did not win, by the way.

Last year I was placed in the middle team, but this year I have improved enough that I was part of the top team. Everyone played two rounds of eight holes per round. When the dust had settled and there was lots of dust as you can see, we were in 11th place. We were competitive for a prize but during the second round we had a replacement player. I never did find out why the original member of the team had to leave. Anyway, the new guy was pretty good, but he had not played in a long time and completely lost it on two holes, dropping us out of contention.

After the awards ceremony, we had box lunches delivered and we all ate together under the cherry trees that line the park. It was a very good day.

Jun 6, 2015

A couple of strange plants

 This plant is actually food. They are beans that have sprouted and are starting to grow. We buy the already starting to sprout beans in a package at the supermarket. At home we put them in a bowl of water and leave them for a few days. When they get about six inches high, we cut them. They are good in salads or added to other recipes. The interesting thing is that, after they are cut, it is possible to change the water and let them grow again. Usually we can do this three times. In the picture, the beans are ready for their third cutting. After this we will throw them away because the fourth time they grow, they are stunted, tough, and very short so it is not worthwhile.
This is a large tree in the park where we play ground golf. This is the tree under which we leave all our stuff while we play. These leaves are not part of the tree but are instead some sort of parasite that grows in the cracks in the bark. The grow quite high in the tree. These were the lowest and they were above my head.

Jun 5, 2015

River fun

 This is our river, the one near our apartment that flows into the Nakagawa River. I guess I really should call the a stream or a brook, but they are all the same described by the same word in Japanese, kawa. Here you can see a bunch of kids with their parents, mostly fathers, looking for insects along the edge of the water. One of the things that are taught in Japanese elementary schools is insects and the kids are encouraged to go out and collect them. Once caught the bugs are kept in containers at home or at school. The kids are fascinated by them. There are even stores where you can buy some of the more exotic kinds.
Here we see the equipment that every self-respecting grade school student owns. There is a net and a covered box for keeping the insects after they are caught. Actually looking closely at the picture, it appears that the box is in this case a pail, which means that the boy is trying to catch waterbugs. This part of the river has no fish at all, at least in the three springs that I have been here I have not seen a single fish. A little way down river where the water is a bit deeper I have seen small fish, but not here.

Jun 3, 2015


 This stone wall is covered with little pick flowers. The wall allows the owner of the property, which is at a higher level than the path along the riverside, to use all of the surface of the land. Since, like most Japanese lots, this is very small a slope from the path to the property would mean that a large portion of the area could not be used.
This really bright white and yellow flowers were growing along the fence between the path and the river.

The rainy season officially started yesterday afternoon. Since then, it has been raining steadily, which I guess is appropriate. I should point out that the frequent rain we expect for the next month or some may require me to go back to a single picture each day because I will not be able to go out for the usual walks. In any case the rainy season will soon be over and then it will become extremely hot. I will also look through my files and see if I can find any photos that I have not yet posted here.

Jun 2, 2015

The path along the river

 Some of the path along the riverside, the part in parks, is paved, but a long stretch of it is dirt. This part is a very nice walk since, although in the city, it has the feel of the countryside, the river, dirt under your feet, and lots of greenery.
The dirt path ends just before the river nearer my apartment joins the main river, Nakagawa. The water you can see is the Nakagawa and maybe a hundred meters ahead our river joins from the left, blocking the riverside path. I turn and follow our river to reach home.

It is hard to see but just in front of the tree is man fishing from under a blue umbrella. As I got closer, he turned to see who was coming. He gave me a smile and a greeting and went back to his fishing. I was thinking of stopping to see if he was interested in talking, but I decided I was too tired, so I simply returned the smile and the greeting and continued plodding along.

Jun 1, 2015

The new bridge

 Walking back along the riverside, I came to the site of the new bridge and discovered that the bridge itself is now finished.
However, the approach is not finished. This is the current end of the bridge. The roadbed is about a meter above the ground level. Eventually they will build a roadbed and pave the surface so that a new road will take the bridge traffic about 200 meters to a main road.

I have absolutely no idea when the bridge is scheduled to be finished. Public construction like this is usually divided up into parts and each part given to a different contractor. This means that there are often long periods of inactivity as the work changes from one company to another. There is an advantage to this system that would not even be considered in many other countries. This systemit allows the funding for the project to be spread around, supporting a lot of both large and small companies, rather than all going to a single company. Funding brings up another reason for periods of inactivity in public works projects. The funding is often spread out over a number of years, which means that only so much work can be funded during a year and, when that is finished, things come to a halt until the next fiscal year.

May 31, 2015

More at the temple

 This is the central part of the altar inside the temple I showed yesterday. I have no idea at all as to whether the person depicted by the statue was a historical figure or something strictly from Buddhism. Whoever he is, someone takes very good care of him.
On the street outside there are large red banners. They are at least four feet long. Starting from the right, the first and third banners are the same and refer to some great teacher. I am not sure about the second one, but it does contain the word jizo, which usually refers to a roadside statue of a Buddha or some other character. The fourth banner refers to the 'unmoving kings', the warrior kings who keep out evil spirits. The first two kanji at the top of each banner are namu  which means something like 'Hail' and is usually used by the Jodo, Pure Land, Buddhist sects.

May 30, 2015

A strange little temple

 This looks like a prefab building and probably is, but it is also a Buddhist temple. It has no grounds but it is marked by a lot of red banners. The lack of grounds is not so much of a problem because it is facing a public park (in which I was standing when I took this picture). Behind the building (you can see the bare dirt) is a samll athletic ground of some sort.
The doors were open in what I assumed to be an invitation to enter and, since the concrete floor meant that I would not have to take off my walking shoes, I went in. The altar contained a lot of statues and other items, but the thing that stood out was the number of fresh flowers which meant that some one takes good care of this Buddhist temple.

May 29, 2015

Leaving the shrine and a tree

 From the entrance to the shrine grounds, the torii and the building are barely visible. Actually, the grounds are very quiet and peaceful. If I lived nearer, I would come here often.
A couple of months ago I showed this same tree but before the leaves had come out. Because the branches are so severely trimmed back, these trees take on an almost surrealistic shape. By the way, the circular red sign on the right is a notification that there is a fire hydrant here. In Japan most of the fire hydrants are level with the sidewalk so they are hard to see. Thus there are large signs so that the fire department can find them easily.

May 28, 2015

Another shrine

 I left the previous shrine and started walking again, but in few minutes found another. This open structure with a concrete floor is quite unusual. The sign in front was completely illegible due to weathering. The vertical red and white object in the center is a rope that connects to a bell. You ring the bell before offering prays to the enshrined god. The bell notifies the god that you are there. Apparently Shinto gods like to do things so they may be busy when you arrived. The gods also like to tour the area in which they live and that is the purpose of many of the festivals. The object representing the god is placed in some sort of vehicle, wheeled or carried, and taken around the area so that he or she or it may see the current conditions.
This is the main shrine structure on the same ground as the above.

May 27, 2015

A secondary shrine

 Off to the side, I found a secondary shrine. It is quite small, having a width of only a couple of feet.
The doors to the altar were open so I was able to see inside. The main object is a small, full color statue of what appears to be a man. I assume that the illegible writing is his name. My guess is that he might be the person who had the main shrine building built.