Jan 31, 2015

Sights around the neighborhood

 This dog was sunning itself on the top of its doghouse. He looked at me carefully but otherwise did not move and did not bark. I wondered if the reason for the green netting was that the dog tried to jump the fence.
This tree is loaded with some sort of citrus fruit, possibly mikans but that are very yellow looking so they are probably something else. There are many different varieties of citrus trees grown in this area. People use them in various kinds of homecooking. We sometimes get some fruit or something make from the fruit from our friends who have a tree in their yard. Most of a friends are from local farming families so many of them have a house with a relatively large yard.

Jan 28, 2015

A temple?

 This appears to be a little temple related to the Zen sect. However, the building is very small so it can not have more than two or three people in it at one time. I assume that there is a small altar of some sort inside and that the doors are only opened for funerals. You can see a little of a very small graveyard on the left.
This is then entire graveyard. It looks like it may only be for one family, but I am not sure. It certainly is not for more than a two or three families at most. Graves in Japan do not contain the person's body or even the ashes. The monuments represent the families and the person's 'soul' is thought to reside there. A soul in Japanese is quite different from a Western soul and it is more like the person's essence, the part that is reborn. There seems to be a large number of interpretations as to just what this thing that is reborn actually is. The definition seems to vary depending on the sect and the person.

Jan 27, 2015

My Saturday Go Club

 We meet on the second floor of the Kominkan that I showed yesterday. The stairs to the second floor are typical of many Japanese buildings, very steep and very narrow. This picture shows that only about two thirds of my foot is able to touch the stair, the rest just hangs off into space. Even the Japanese complain about stairs like this. Any new building will have less steep and broader stairs. When buildings are remodeled one of the main projects is to replace the old stairs.
This is my Go Club. We have between six and ten people show up each Saturday. We can not have many more because we do not have stones and boards for more than six simultaneous games. The man standing at the back is the strongest player in the Club and he is the teacher for my Friday afternoon Go lessons.

Jan 26, 2015

On the way to my Saturday Go Cllub

 I've shown this stele before, but someone has replaced the straw rope, so I thought I would show it again. Also you can see some little reddish things on the shelf at the bottom of the stone. These are little monkey masks and they have been there since I moved to this area. They seem to be made from ceramic or something hard, the one on the right is broken, but is still there.
This is the Nakabaru Kominkan. You can see the name written in kanji over the door. Nakabaru is the name of this part of the town (where I live) and komin means public, kan means public building. In English this might be called the Nakabaru Public Building. We play Go in a small room on the second floor and have parties in a large hall with a small stage and an attached kitchen . Recently I was there for a Shinnenkai, or New Year Party. We had box lunches for a local supermarket (very good, by the way) with beer, Japanese sake, or something called shochu, a distilled drink made from many different things, potatoes, rice, wheat, and some other stuff. Depending on which thing it is made from each taste completely different from the others. Some are very good and some are terrible.

Jan 25, 2015


This was the first and heaviest snowfall of the year so far. According to the weather programs on TV, the temperature this year has been almost all at or above the average, so this winter is going to end up as one of the warmer ones on record. The areas along the Sea of Japan and to the north have had a lot of snow but the temperatures have not be particularly low.

Yesterday I went to my Go Club that meets on the second floor of an unheated building and we did not put on the air conditioner. It was chilly but not at all uncomfortable with reasonably heavy clothes. Under whatever I wear, I have a long sleeved heattech pullover and that holds in my body heat.

Jan 23, 2015

Home again

 I am almost home. I live in the second block on the left, just past the red fish that is wearing a top hat. The horizontal structure at the end of the road is the Shinkansen tracks. It has been visible in each picture looking down the road.
Almost there. My apartment building is the three story gray building on the left.

I just noticed that, because I used a telephoto lens in the top picture in order to frame the content, the Shinkansen tracks look closer when in fact they are farther away. Camera optics do strange things sometimes.

Jan 22, 2015

Almost home

 I can almost see my home from here, but I have come to another river with no bridge. My apartment building is on the corner of the third block. However, I will again have to turn right and walk up to the bridge before I can cross the river. This is actually the small stream whose name I can never remember, not Naka River, which is much larger.
This is the riverbed but there is almost no water in it at this time of year. There is still some flowing water but the water is only a meter or two wide and a few few centimeters in depth. The continuation of the road I have been walking on is just in front of the cars in the parking lot on the right.

Jan 21, 2015

On the road again

 This is looking back the way I came. Notice how close the mountains are. Also most of the older roads in the area have a canal for carrying paddy water running along side.
Turning and looking in the direction I've been walking, you can again see mountains, a little farther away but still close. There is one more town and another river valley in between.

Jan 20, 2015

The longcut

 I turned right at the river and walked to the bridge which I crossed and then turned left and returned to the road but on the opposite side of the river. The road is on the other side of the houses on the left. From this bridge there is a couple of kilometers in a down river direction (north) of riverbank and bottom construction.
Back on the road again, I found a house with a small but very pleasant Japanese garden. There were even some flowers in bloom.

Jan 19, 2015

On the road

 After passing through the parking lot, I continued along the road and found a storage area for rocks. These rocks will be used to make gardens in the yards of new homes. No garden is really complete without a large rock or three to balance the vegetation.
I continued along the road, but came to the river and discovered that there was no bridge. As you can see the road continues on the other side but the only way to reach it is to turn left of right and go to the nearest bridge.

Jan 18, 2015

Starting for home

 I decided to take the back road that parallels the main road. This picture shows where I entered it from the two direction section of a T-intersection. Far in the distance there is a horizontal line over the road and it is only about two meters on the other side of my apartment which is on this same road.
After a single block I discovered that the road ended and was replaced by a parking lot. However, I could see that the road continued on the other side, so being a foreigner I just walked through the lot and out onto the road on the other side.

Jan 17, 2015

More in the area

 When I crossed the Naka River, nakagawa in Japanese, I found that they were still working on the river, constructing stronger banks. It appears that when they are finished they will have rebuilt about 10 kilometers of the river. They are adding or repairing the concrete banks, adding a solid bottom under the river and building moveable dams and adding a bridge.
One of the things that I noticed about the buildings in the Fukuoka area, compared to the buildings in the Sendai area, is that they are much more colorful here. This is a pink building with a red one behind it.

Jan 15, 2015

Views in the area

 This tree has been trained so that it stretches across the complete driveway. Pieces of bamboo are tied to it for support and there is a strong support near the ground because the tree is completely out of balance and would probably just fall over with the support and the bamboo. There are many trees that have been trained like this. Sometimes they cross a driveway and at other times they follow the property line. It, of course, takes many years to grow a tree like this. In many ways, it is similar to bonsai, in that it takes lots of time and care.
This is back along the river. There is a woman and a child looking at something in the water. I usually walk on the right bank of the river, but today I decided to cross the bridge and walk on the other side. On the right you can see the stone stairs leading from the footpath to the riverbank and the cherry trees along the path.

Jan 14, 2015

Compatible religions

 This is the little building that shelters the Buddhist altar that I showed yesterday.
This is the same building, and my finger, as above, but from this angle you can see the torii and the shrine of the Shinto altar that I showed the day before yesterday.

Shinto and Buddhism get along well and most people will claim to be adherents of both religions. They each lay claim to different parts of life so they are able to get along without conflict. Many sites are cared for by a monk or priest of the other religion and there are many sites like this one where the same location contains altars for both religions.

Jan 13, 2015

Buddhism and Shinto sharing the same property

 This is the back of a little stone shrine as seen from the road.
This is the altar of the Buddhist site that shares the same ground. The writing says that this is the 19th of the 88 sites on the Buddhist pilgrimage around Nakagawa town. It is dedicated to the 1,000 armed Kanon. The thousand arms represent Kanon's ability to save many people at the same time.

I've mentioned the 88 site pilgrimage before, but I still have not obtained a map showing them. They apparently went out of favor before WWII but many of the sites still remain and a cared for daily. Other sites have disappear or are located on private property where they are no longer open to the public. I have been told that the town library has a map showing the locations of all 88 but I have not yet had a chance to check. If they have a map, I will try to get a copy. I would like to walk around and photograph all of the locations as they are today.

Jan 12, 2015

Red berries

 This is the little stone shrine building that houses the statue that I showed yesterday.
Near this shrine I found these bright red berries. They were a welcome blaze of color in the otherwise rather dull winter landscape.

Jan 10, 2015

Shrines, shrines and more shrines

 In this area there were shrines, seemingly everywhere. All of that I could see were on private property but near the road. Her is another stele, you can tell it is Shinto because of the straw rope. There are also some small offerings of food and drink and some green leaves, all marks of Shinto shrines.
Down the road, I found another little shrine, but this one had a small statue inside. You can tell from the headdress that it represents a Japanese but whether it is a person or a god, I don't know. Again the fresh green leaves indicates that someone takes good care of this.

Jan 9, 2015

Small shrines

 This is the front view of the little private shrine that I showed yesterday. From the front, I could see that inside were two drinks and a small stone. The kanji, Chinese characters, carved into the stele gives the name of the family to which the shrine is dedicated.
A little further down the road, I found another private shrine. This one was even smaller but was on private property and facing away from the road so I could see no more than the outer shape of the little building.

Jan 8, 2015

Along the road

 Brick walls or any other sort of brick construction is quite unusual in Japan, so I was surprised by this long chest high wall. The reason that brick is seldom used is that brick structures are very weak and tend to collapse during earthquakes and all of Japan is subject to frequent tremors.
A little farther along the road, I came to this Shinto shrine. Apparently it is a private shrine. The greenery was fresh so someone is taking care of it. However, the little wooden building was empty.

Jan 7, 2015

Still at the shrine

 This is the main door to the altar, in fact at this shrine because of the small size, it is the only door. The white area that you can see inside is a mirror. Many shrines have a mirror as the main object on the altar. There seem to be a number of reason for the shrine, but the basic idea is that the mirror captures the essence of the person reflected in it. The earliest Japanese myths have the Goddess Amaterasu giving her mirror to her grandson and telling him that it contains her essence. Mirrors also ward off evil beings, because when they see themselves in the mirror, the horrible image scares them away. Also I think that there is also some idea of the worshiper seeing their own essence when looking into the mirror.
Beside the shrine is a cherry tree. The best trees have trunks that look like this, showing both their age and the hardships they have survived. The name of this shrine, if you will remember, was Kasuga or SpringDay. Cherry trees blossom in the spring and the flowers symbolize the sadness reflected by the short life of the beautiful blossoms, paralleling the short but beautiful life of humans.

Jan 6, 2015

More at the shrine

 Shinto shrines often have boards like these, called ema, where people write their wishes and leave them for the gods. This group were obviously made by children.
They covered covered the length of the fence and were probably made by students at a local kindergarten.

Many shrines are famous for a particular thing that the god might grant. For example, a large number of shrines are famous because students preparing for the college entrance exams leave ema asking that they be accepted at some university. Once the word spreads that students who leave ema have a high acceptance rate, more and more students arrive to leave ema and to greet the god at the altar where they leave a small offering of money. It is the thought that counts, not so much the amount.

Jan 5, 2015

Kasuga Shrine

 Kasuga Shrine is very small and it is squeezed in between a parking lot and a home. The only things there are a cherry tree, a torii, and the shrine building.
Kasuga is the name of the next town to the east of here and I believe that at various times in the past the town lines were in different places. Actually I am not sure when Nakagawa came into existence or what it was before it became Nakagawa.

Kasuga is a very common place name throughout Japan. There was a Kasuga nearby when I lived in Sendai at the opposite end of Japan. The kanji, Chinese characters, used for the name mean 'spring' and 'day', but the pronunciation is not the same as it would be if one were talking about "a spring day in May", for example.

Jan 4, 2015

Contrasting corners.

 I crossed the river by the bridge at the end of the park. Immediately on the other side of the river is an intersection and on the far left corner is this Shinto stele. Someone has left flowers as an offering.
On the far right corner, however, I found this. The yellow had is what first graders have to wear when going to and from school. So, I assume that this sign is warning drivers that young children may suddenly run out into the street. The raised hand is something that they learn to do in school. They are supposed to raise their hand to make themselves more visible to drivers. I'm not sure it actually does this, but it certainly makes the children more aware of traffic, which is a good thing in itseld.

Jan 3, 2015

Along the riverbank

 These trees are all cherry trees. They are extremely beautiful for about a week in the spring, just trees during the summer, and almost nothing now.
They have cut the grass in the riverbed and I was surprised to see these short flights of stairs leading down to the water. There are stairs like this every 50 meters or so for quite a long way. What was surprising about them is that there is no way to get to the other side without wading through the water. In the old days, before the cities put in water systems, people got their water from the rivers and streams. They also washed their clothes and food in the water, so this type of stairway has an old fashion, nostalgic sort of feeling to it. I guess they, along with the old fashion looking stone banking, were put there as part of the decorations in the park.

Jan 1, 2015

Happy New Year

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