Feb 28, 2015

The god and the river behind him

 This is statue of Dainichi Nyorai that stands before the tree that was in the last couple of posts. Notice that across the river, someone has put the Japanese style bedding over the wall to get some sun. This is a standard practice: if it is sunny, the bedding is hung in a sunny place outdoors.
Behind the tree and the statue was a small river, or maybe it is simply a drainage canal. In any case, there was a row of sandbags blocking the flow. I think they may be doing some work along the riverbank, for instance, improving the area where this water flows into the river.

Feb 27, 2015

A Shinto Buddhist site.

 As I approached the tree, I realized that the tree had Shinto decorations but the statue next to it was Buddhist. The statue represent Dainichi Nyorai and here is what the Wikipedia article has to say about this god/Buddha amalgamation.

"Dainichi (lit. "Great Sun") is worshipped as the supreme, primordial sun Buddha and also appears as the central figure of the Five Wisdom Buddhas.[7][8] Under the syncretic doctrine of honji suijaku, the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu was considered a manifestation of Dainichi Nyorai.[8] The term Nyorai (lit. "thus-come one") is an epithet for the enlightened Buddhas that occupy the highest rank in the Japanese Buddhist pantheon.[9] In the Mandala of the Two Realms, the principle mandala for ritual activity and contemplation in Shingon Buddhism, Dainichi Nyorai appears in the centre of both the Diamond Realm and the Womb Realm.[10] In the former, as defined by the Dainichi Sutra, Dainichi represents the "metaphysical presence that embodies reason"; in the latter, as defined by the Diamond Peak Sutra, Dainichi represents the "epistemological presence that embodies wisdom"."

This branch of Buddhism is called esoteric and as pointed out there was a period when Shinto and Buddhism came together as a single religion. This has changed as the government left the picture but places like this still retain the mix.
Here is a shimenawa tied around the knots in a branch of the tree.

Feb 26, 2015

A cat and a tree

 This cat stopped and appeared to be interested in making friends, but it stalked off when I took out my camera. Maybe it was camera shy.
I was following a paved path that runs between the river and the road. I came a large tree, the biggest in the area, and discovered that it was more than just a tree but it was also some sort of religious site. You can see the shimenawa rope tied around the trunk so the site must be Shinto.

Feb 25, 2015

More sights along the river

 There were home along the road next to the river. This is a fairly common sight in the Japanese countryside. These are daikon, a kind of radish, hung up to dry or just to save until eaten. Another common sight is onions.
This is also a common sight in Japan. It is a public toilet. As you can see, anyone using the urinal is essentially standing out in public. The little sign or the left side of the door indicates that this is for both males and females. There is one stall with a door and a traditional Japanese style squatting toilet for both men and women.

Feb 24, 2015

Sights along the river

 This the work being done on the approach to the west side of the bridge. I would guess that since they are actually working on the roadbed that they will be finished soon and that the bridge will be a new place where I can cross the river.
Once passed the new bridge, I walked along the paved path that follows the riverside for a kilometer or so.

Feb 23, 2015


 This is a home for the elderly. I have no idea what the qualifications are to get in but that is what the sign says.
Since they were first building the foundation I have shown pictures of the new bridge over the Naka River. It looks like it will be finished pretty soon. Although there is obviously more work to be done, it appears that the roadbed is essentially finished.

Feb 21, 2015

Ever onward

 I was walking north paralleling the far side of Naka River. This was my first visit to the area. This house with a very nice garden was connected to the street by a narrow paved bridge over the water distribution canal.
It is a little bit hard to see because of the shadows, but this is a broken concrete block that has been carefully tied to a utility pole with some heavy rope. I stood there for a long time, pondering why anyone would take the trouble to do this, and the best answer I could come up with was that its purpose was to get people to stop and ponder the reason for its existence.

Feb 20, 2015

Back to the walk that was interrupted by an interruption to the interruption

 After walking a little further I came to a T-intersection where I found this shrine to a god, a kami, whose name is written on the stele. I always thought that leaving a gift of a stone was a Buddhist thing, but here people have left many stones.
The little roofed shrine at the top contains a statue that apparently is a representation of the god. It is interesting because it has many Buddhist-like characteristics, the back panel, for instance. There is a smaller statue of a female figure, probably his wife, and some offerings. The bottle with the red ribbon is a non-alcoholic strawberry drink, Chanmery, and the smaller plastic bottle of R-1 is a yogurt drink that is quite popular here as a breakfast supplement.

Feb 19, 2015

Going, Going, Gone

 This is nearing the end of the final game. The winner will received the first place prize for the top group. In the end the man on the right won.
The short man in the middle beat me in my final game. If I had won, I would have been standing there in his place, received the award certificate and small prize for placing third in the lower group. However, in the game he thoroughly beat me so I ended up in fifth place.

After the awards were handed out, I went outside to check on the bus schedule and found  the bus waiting at the stop so I hopped on and went home. I was very, very tired but it was a fun day and I will definite go to the next tournament which is being planned for the fall.

Feb 18, 2015


 Since we were not wearing shoes in the area where the tournament was being played, the toilets had to have shoes to keep your feet clean. This is a standard practice in Japan. The bottle on the chair next to the door is some sort of germ killer. Most public places have this sort of thing as a way to reduce the chance of the flu spreading. This toilet is the men's room, by the way.
This is the entrance to the women's room. Do you notice anything different between the two pictures?

The shoes in the men's room were left just the way the men stepped out of them when leaving. However, in the women's room, the shoes are all carefully turned around so that it will be easy for the next person to step into them.

Feb 17, 2015

More Go

 This is me playing one of my games. I usually do not post pictures of myself because I am behind the camera. But I was interviewed three timed (news because I was the only foreigner there), and I gave my camera to one of the interviewers and asked her to take some pictures for me.
Here is the way part of the room looked while we were playing.

Feb 16, 2015

Still on the Go

 This is the official referee, shimpan in Japanese, telling us about the rules and the sequence of play. The first game pairs were assigned by chance. Then after that you played a person who had the same record as yours and was about the same rank. I lost my first game so in my second game I played someone who had also. The winners played the winners and the losers played the losers. The referee is Mr. Irie and he is my teacher during my Friday afternoon lessons. He is very strong and has a shelf full of trophies that he won when he was younger.
This is me making a move in the middle of my first game. My opponent beat me and went on to beat everyone else he faced, so he was the overall winner of my class. The group was divided up into two groups, the stronger dan level players and the weaker kyu level players.

The ranking system is interesting. Each step represents a one stone handicap. The handicap stones are placed on the board in specified spots as the first play of the game. Kyu levels range from 35-kyu to 1-kyu, with 1-kyu being the strongest and 35-kyu someone who has never played. I am a 2-kyu and my goal is to become a dan level player. The dan levels go from 1-dan to 9-dan with 9-dan the strongest.

All of the professional players are dan level. There is one pro player who is ranked as 10-dan but this is actually a title given to the winner of a tournament and not really a ranking.

Feb 15, 2015

Returning to the Go Interruption

 I met someone I knew as I approached the site so I did not take a picture of the outside of the building. Together we entered and made our way to the second floor where we had to take off our shoes. After registering, I entered the room where we were going to play. I discovered that some of the people from my two Go clubs were already there.
As with all Japanese events, our tournament started with a series of speeches. You can see how excited everyone is. The man in the middle is the head of the town Senior Club, the sponsoring organization. If I remember correctly there were six short speeches. They were actually short in terms of clock time, but in terms of internal time they lasted for what seemed like forever.

Feb 14, 2015

An Interruption to the Interruption

This is a special post for a special friend who asked me to post about Valentine's Day in Japan.

On February 14th in Japan, females give chocolate to males, starting in grade school. Then on March 14th the male is supposed to give the female chocolate or flowers. It is more complicated for people who are dating age but I am not sure of the details so I will just keep silent, preventing my foot from entering my mouth. One interesting aspect of this practice is girichoko, giri means duty or responsibility and choko is chocolate. Girichoko is the chocolate that women give to the men around them at work, particularly supervisors, and it is usually small, just a couple of pieces and mainly symbolic. When I was teaching in a two year, post high school women's program, school was still in session and I received girichoko from most of my students. After I moved to a university, the school was in a vacation period so I no longer received girichoko from my students. Today's newspaper had an article saying that people were now using the word gimuchoko, gimu meaning office. This is a replacement for girichoko and consists of a small handful of chocolate taken from an open bag of cheap chocolates.

 This is the display of Valentine's Day chocolates at our local supermarket. This display has more expensive chocolates that you can have gift wrapped. Behind me is a display of the regular chocolates bars, etc, that they sell all year around but have been moved from the usual location to this special display.
 My friend asked about Valentine's Day cards. I have never received one and do not know of anyone else ever receiving one, so I went to our local stationary story, the only place to buy cards. While crossing the store to the card display, I discovered this small section that had a few small packages of chocolate plus things for making or wrapping chocolates. Everything they had was on these two sections of shelving.
At the card section I looked carefully but there were no Valentine's Day cards, only birthday and greeting cards, confirming my understanding that they are not popular.

Feb 13, 2015

Around Town Hall

 Immediately in front of the Town Hall is a fairly large rice paddy and behind paddy to the south are some one story homes. As you can see, this is much closer to the southern mountains than the area where I live.
These two buildings are annexes to the Town Hall. They seem to have something to do with business licensing and other such things.

Feb 12, 2015

On the Go to Go

 Although it was 8:55 this was the first of the day's Kawasemi buses and I was the only passenger. I suspect that the bus would have started picking up a lot of riders after passing the half way mark on the loop. People would be going to the station to take the train into Fukuoka city.
I arrived at my stop after about 20 minutes. The stop is at the Nakagawa Town Offices, where all the paperwork is done and the records kept for the town. The bus is the one I just got off. The building where the Go Tournament will be held is off to the right and behind this building.

Feb 11, 2015

Going to the Go Tournament

 Since the tournament site was quite far from my apartment, I had to take a bus to get there. First, I went to the bus depot in the Hakataminami Station Building which is less than a10 minute walk from home. I got there early and spent the time walking up and down in this long hallway. On the left are aquariums with local fish. On the right there is a cafeteria with three restaurants. At the far end you can see some people in the sitting area. The buses are outside on the left.
When my bus arrived, I went out and got on board. This bus is called the Kawasemi (a local bird) and there are three routes around the town and the buses alternate directions. However, they only arrive once an hour from each direction. If I missed this bus, I would be at least an hour late for the tournament. The buses only cost 150 yen (about US$1.50) and there is a 50 yen discount for the elderly, etc. It does not matter how far you go on the bus, the price is the same. A complete circuit of the route takes close to an hour. When we first moved here, we took the buses and rode from the station back to the station as a way to learn a bit about the town.

Feb 10, 2015

Still at the Minakanushi Shrine

 According to the writing on the frame, this is a picture of the god of the shrine. I can see his name but I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce it.
I looked around the small grounds and found this very nice stone bowl for purifying yourself before praying. This must be a popular shrine, even though small and local. The white object is a towel for drying your hands after washing them. Most small shrines, those that are not particularly overwhelmed with visitors, do not have such things. You tend to see them only at the larger, more popular shrines.

Note: I know that I wrote that I would show pictures of the Go Tournament that I participated in, but I decided that I should finish the pictures of Minakanushi Shrine before changing to the tournament.

Feb 8, 2015

Still at the Shrine

 If you look back at the picture of the shrine building, you can see some small objects at the left side. When I went over to investigate. This is what I found. Usually this sort of display indicates that the shrine is for children who died either soon after or before birth.
Up under the eaves in the shrine roof, I found this picture which shows a warrior with a sword and bow leading a horse toward a building. From the writing on the frame, I believe that this is a god and probably the guardian deity of the shrine.

Note: Tomorrow I am competing in an all day Go tournament sponsored by the town. I've been told that there will be at least a hundred people there. I will post some pictures on Wednesday, if it is appropriate to take them.

Feb 7, 2015

A Shinto Shrine

 I found a small Shinto shrine beside the road. I think the name is Minami Kannushi Jinja. I entered the small grounds to have a look around.
The shrine was constructed of stone but there was a sheet metal roof over the whole thing. I think that this is probably so that people can come to pray even on rainy days.

Feb 5, 2015

More construction on the river and a really nice house

 There is a section of the Naka River that is around a kilometer long and it is all under construction. Hopefully, the next time we have a huge amount of rain, there will not be flooding into the housing areas.
This is a large house by Japanese standards with an even larger landscaped area around it. As you can see at the sides of the picture there is a wall around the property so the garden is not visible, but what I was able to view through the entrance was very, very nice.

Feb 4, 2015

Mountains and Rivers

 When I took this picture I was standing at a spot less than a 10 minute walk to the west of my apartment. You can see how close the mountains are, only a couple of kilometers. They and mountains about 10 kilometers to the east protect us from much of the bad weather.
They are still working on the Naka River. The summer before we arrived here two years ago, there was a very bad flood, the worst in many years, so they decided to rebuild most of the banks and deepen the riverbed, plus putting in some dams. The work has been going on continuously since we came.

Feb 3, 2015

More interesting things along the way

 This crane looked at me when I stopped to take its picture, but it did not fly away. It must have understood the fence and the three meter drop between the road I was on and the riverbed.
I arrived at one of the main east/west roads and found a man watering the plants along the roadside. Typically in Japan when they build roads they place plants and trees between the sidewalk and the road, but they do not budget any upkeep so they soon die. Here as in many other places, the local people use the little plots of land for flower gardens.

Feb 2, 2015

A gate and a river

 I wish there had been a person here so you could see how low this gate actually is. When I stood directly in front of the gate, I could see over the top of the little roof that covers it. Many gates, particularly in traditional walls are very low. I believe that the main purpose is Buddhist, to force the person into a state of awareness. This is the same as the walkways in Japanese gardens that are made from irregular stones, again forcing the person to pay attention to the present. One additional point with the low gates is that back in the age of continuous fighting throughout the country, a low gate put the invader at a distinct disadvantage when carrying a sword of spear.
I came to the river and started following a very wide sidewalk. The sidewalk was wider than the water in the river.