Mar 31, 2015


 This is the administrative office for the building. Notice the safe sitting on the floor. If anyone works in here, they have to sit on a cushion on the floor.

I waited until well after the starting time for our club, but no one came. I decided that I must have missed some announcement and went back to the first floor. On the wall near the entrance, there is a large white board that shows the monthly activities. Go was no listed for today. In fact, I discovered that it was a national holiday, Spring Equinox Day, so there was absolutely nothing scheduled. Since I no longer work, holidays are not relevant and I missed it.
I decided to go home and left the building. Outside I noticed that the monkey masks that have been laying on this stele for at least a year were gone. I wonder why?

Mar 30, 2015

At the Kominkan

 I arrived at the Kominkan, the building on the right, from the read rather than the front as I usually do. The white building in the middle of the picture is a volunteer fire department site that houses a single fire engine. Buildings like this are scattered all around the town.
I entered the building and discovered that I was the first one to arrive, so I explored the second floor where we play. This very nice clock was on the wall in the hall. It is relatively new and was made in Japan. The strange looking guy reflected in the glass is me, of course.

Mar 29, 2015

 I've been unable to discover what this place is. The landscaping is very nice and the buildings are quite large. At first I thought it might be a Buddhist temple, but after looking around a bit I decided that it must be a private home of a very rich person.
A little further on I found this garden between a canal and the houses. Since spring seems to have arrived to stay, there were a lot of flowers here.

Mar 28, 2015

Still walking

 The fence on the right is the same one that was in the second of yesterday's pictures. On the extreme right you can just see a children's slide. Many Shinto shrines have a playground on the grounds. If they don't, children still come to them to play. There are few open spaces and shrines, because most of them are very old, have a relative large amount of space remaining around them.
After passing the shrine, I turned and started back on the road that would eventually lead north to the back of the building where I was going to play Go. As you can see, the road was very narrow with a lot of twists and turns. This is a two way road, by the way. If two cars meet, one must back up or pull into someone's yard. Luckily, people in Japan are very polite and not likely to have road rage.

Mar 27, 2015

The southern continuation of our road

 At the intersection I turned right and looked down the southern continuation of our road. There was nothing special about it at all, nothing particularly interesting. However, at the end I could see some trees and they are usually an indication of something to see, a well landscaped home, a temple or shrine, or maybe a park. So, I started walking.
When I reached the trees, I discovered that it was the back of the neighborhood shrine. I decided that, after my afternoon of playing Go, I would stop at the shrine on my way home. One interesting thing was that there was a fence all the way around the shrine property so there was no way to enter from the back. If a person wanted to visit the shrine, they would have to walk all the way around the block and enter from the other side, through the torii at the front.

Mar 26, 2015

A new road near home

 I was looking at a map and realized that the road that my apartment entrance is on actually extends on the other side of the main road. The road stops one block north where my building is but continues from one block south of the main east/west road. This day was Saturday, the day I go to my Go Club, so I decided to leave home early and take a long way around approaching the Club from the south rather than the north as usual. This is the intersection of the east/west (right/left in the picture) and the north/south (near/far) roads. The building on the left is the Vis a Vis cake shop, one of our favorite places when we are not thinking about our weight.
I crossed the intersection and continued south until I reached the first road to the left. The second building straight ahead contains Furin, our favorite restaurant. I've shown it before. They serve Chinese food but in a French fashion and often the meal is actually a mixture of French and Chinese. The nearest building is a dentist specializing in children.

Mar 25, 2015

There and back

 I reached the Station Building and found, in front of the elevator, a sign about my Go Club, the line that starts 3/19. That was the date, of course. The next space has the character for tree which is also used in a combination with other kanji to mean Thursday, which in Japan is tree day. In the next box, 3F means the third floor and the writing says 'Go and Shogi Club'. The final box shows the time.
After playing six games of Go and miraculously winning five of them, I returned home. As I passed the entrance to the house next door, I noticed that the bonsai was beginning its spring growth.

Mar 24, 2015

Stamps and pictures

 In Japan people use a small stamp with their name on it, instead of a signature. This is called a han, the large red characters on the building, or a hanko. The word han can refer to either the stamp or its impression, while hanko refers to the stamp itself and not the impression.  If you take your hanko to the local city office, you can register it and then receive a document showing that this han is yours. In the past a registered han with the supporting document was necessary for all legal documents, but not too many years ago a law was passed allowing signatures, but they still tend to be limited. I've had my signature accepted but still had to produce a registered han to prove that the signature was mine.
Little booths like this appear all over Japan. They sell lottery tickets. I don't know much about them since the odds of winning are so low that I think it is a waste of money. When a booth like this sells a winning ticket, people will flock to the booth mistakenly thinking that it is like to produce more winners. I'm not sure exactly what new tickets are being sold, but sometimes when I pass by here, there are long lines, as many as twenty people, waiting to buy tickets for the new lottery.

Mar 23, 2015

 The new woman on the first floor has placed these plants outside. I think they will be very nice when they start to flower.
I was on my way to the station building, passing this empty lot. Actually I am surprised that it has not become a parking lot, although it is probably too expensive to fill it in. It used to be a rice paddy and the ground is about a meter below the level of the road. I expect that any day we will find out that someone is going to build a new apartment building or a new store.
One problem with it now is that people are dumping trash here. Not household trash but tree trunks, branches and cut grass. I know that on the other side of the lot there is a sign indicating that the lot is for sale. Maybe there will be something interesting put in here, but probably not, most like just an apartment building.

Mar 21, 2015

A crack in the wall

 This crack suddenly appeared in the wall beside the entrance to my apartment building.
When I looked closely, it was easy to discover the problem. This is the trunk of a small tree that lives in the dirt behind the wall. It is going to be interesting to see what is done about this, if anything. I looks bad and will get worse, but there should be no structural damage to our building even if the wall falls over.

Mar 20, 2015

Door decorations

 A new person has moved into the apartment below us. The family that lived there previously moved out a couple of months ago and a woman has moved in. I have not met here yet, so I don't know anything about her. When we came here, we followed the traditional Japaneses custom of introducing ourselves to everyone in the building and giving them a small gift. We gave the usual, small towels that are useful but cheap. In any case it is the thought that counts.

The door is now decorate with a number of objects and a couple of them seem to be made from straw and may be Shinto objects to protect the apartment.
You can see these two little animals in the first picture. They are in the window next to the door. We are much more practical. We do not have a decoration but instead have something that keeps the bugs away. There were some mosquitoes when we first came but with the container of chemicals they stay away.

Mar 17, 2015

Me, an unusual alien

 This is the cover of a free monthly magazine that is received by all the members of the Senior Club, the name in red at the top is 'Senior Nakagawa'. It is generally an information magazine that contains information about past and coming events.
This is one of the inside pages where they had a special section about me. It is more than half the page. I was one of participants in a ground golf competition. The woman who interviewed me said that she had checked and as far as she was able to determine I was the only none Asian member of a Senior Club in Japan. I also was told that these magazines are made for each senior club and they cover all of Japan. The interviewer also said that to the best of her knowledge I was the first 'foreigner' to be featured. The reason I put foreigner in quotes is that in Japan people from East Asia are usually not included in the term foreigner, especially Koreans and Chinese.

Mar 16, 2015

One of the places where I Go

The room where my Thursday Go Club meets in behind the windows on the third floor of this light blue building, the Hakataminami Station Building. I still have not figured out whether the club is sponsored by the town or by the company that runs the building. In any case, each time we meet, there is tea and a large quantity of cookies. It is surprising how much energy is required for all the thinking involved in five or six games of Go.

Mar 15, 2015

A treasure house and a dead tree

 This white building is typical of those that were found in traditional homesteads of wealthy families. They were very strongly built and had a large lock on the door, making them very difficult to rob. There are TV programs where they go around the country with antique specialists who open these buildings, sometimes for first time in generations, and evaluate the contents. They find some really worthwhile art in many of them. Also historic items.
Next to the building is a little garden. The large tree has mostly died but it has been left as part of the landscape. One the left the trunk has been capped with a metal protector which keeps the rain from rotting the wood. You can see the shimenawa, the straw rope, around it. This part is still alive and does send out small branches but each fall these are trimmed back to keep the tree from growing and spoiling the garden.

Mar 14, 2015

A rainy day

I'm not feeling very well today and the weather perfectly matches. It is raining and very humid. It is so cloudy and a bit foggy that the mountains that are normally visible from my window are completely hidden.

The strange looking thing at the top of the picture is a long metal pole for hanging laundry. It can be used as a place to put bedding or, using the curly wire underneath the main pole, a place to hang the laundry on coat hangers.

Mar 13, 2015

Finally at Mirikaroden

 I continued down the little side road. Looking back I could see the Buddhist memorial from the side.
I arrived at Mirikaroden, where I was going to have an exercise class. In the large entrance hall there was an exhibit of calligraphy by grade school children. Having a 'good hand' is very important in Japan. Even in this day of computers and automation, resumes, for example, are still supposed to be handwritten. All the supporting data is typewritten, but the resume itself is to be done by hand. Also there is a standard form for the resume that is available in all bookstores.

When I retired, I was on the committee that searched for my replacement and a teacher for another department. This is rather unusual but there was no one else with my qualifications and experience as selecting English teachers. The position was advertised in various places and we received many applications for the two positions. After the office had screened out the ones that did not meet the stated requirements they made copies of the remaining documents and sent them to the committee members. There were 110 applications, all with supporting documents including at least three papers. Everyone of the applications by Japanese had the standard resume form and they were all handwritten. Everything else was typed. The few foreigners who applied mostly submitted Western style typed resumes, although there were one or two in handwritten Japanese by the applicant. That was, by the way, a terrible job. I had to read all 110 applications, about 90% of the total amount was in Japanese, make notes on each and then contribute to committee meetings in the 110 was reduced to six. It was the hardest work I had done in years.

Mar 12, 2015

Moss and a Monument

 This low wall and the base of the hedge are covered with moss, giving it a rather ancient look. This area is old so it could be ancient.
This is a Buddhist monument to the dead in Japan's war, no specific people, just everyone who died on both sides.

Mar 11, 2015

New and Old

 This the new. It is going to be a two-story wooden frame building, probably someone's home. Japanese buildings are built so that the frame supports the entire weight of the building. I understand that in American homes, for example, the walls are designed to support much of the load. The Japanese design means that it is relatively easy to change the floor plan if the building is remodeled. In some of the schools I've worked at, the classrooms could have the walls moved to adjust the rooms to expected class sizes. I was told by the foreman for one construction company that they were able to stay in business with the work that my school gave them each year and almost all that work was changing the layout of the rooms.
Here is the old. It is a large, nearly five feet tall, stele. There are characters engraved on it, but there were old and worn so I could not read them. Notice the way that the fences are stopped to allow the public access to the stele. Also someone is caring for it because there is a small bunch of flowers in front of it. I think that it probably is dedicated to a local god.

Mar 9, 2015

Surprises along the road.

 This is the first time that I have ever seen a manhole cover not set properly in place. I can't figure out why it is this way. If it were workmen, you'd think that they would have noticed that it was not back in its proper place and we don't have kids running around do things like this. So in the end, I just shook my head and took a picture.
I was very surprised to see the gardeners working this early in the year. Usually people have their trees trimmed after there has been a fair amount of growth in the spring. I had to admit, however, that the trees definitely needed some work.

Mar 8, 2015

Walking to class

 I could not find a sign to indicate what this antenna was for, but I suspect that this is the communication headquarters for a taxi company. Or it may be for some other kind of company that has communications in their vehicles. Most companies now use smart phones because they are both a phone and a device for data retention and record keeping. However, some companies that have old radio systems have kept them, taxi companies being the most common.
This is a row of identical houses. The only difference that I could see was in the way that the entrance was decorated. It seemed like a miniature Levitt Town, PA.

Mar 7, 2015


This fairly large drink vending machine has a large gray box next to it. The green sign says this is a 'Recycling Box' and asks for cooperation in separating the used containers. The holes are labeled, on the left is a hole for cans and on the right one for PET bottles. There has been a push by the government to increase the amount of recycling, but it is different in different cities. For example, we have to separate our trash into burnables, cans, PET bottles, glass, and dead batteries. Also there is a special collection for large items. Sendai had more categories, even milk cartons were collect separately.

Mar 6, 2015

Nearing home

 This little lion like animal was protecting the gate of a home that I passed. This animal is called a shishi or karashishi, where shishi is translated as lion but it can also refer to other magical animals that ward off evil. Kara in the second version refers to the Tang Dynasty in China, because the idea was imported from China during that dynasty.
While the general practice in Japan is to name the spaces between roads, a few streets do have names, mostly adopted during the American Occupation. On this corner I found these signs giving the street names, Momiji dori and Akashiya dori. Dori means street and momiji refers to a maple tree. I thought akashiya referred to a kind of Japanese tree, but I can't find it in my dictionaries. I do know that it is a fairly common family name used by some famous TV personalities and cartoon characters..

Mar 5, 2015

The new bridge from the other side of the river

 This is the new bridge that I showed from the far side of the river a few days ago. You can see the construction of the access road at the end of the bridge.
On this side of the river, they are also building a new access road. It will be about the same length as the other one, a couple of hundred meters, and will connect to the nearest through road.

Mar 3, 2015

Along Nakagawa

 This is a large apartment complex, public, I think, which means low rents paid to the city. The thing that attracted my interest was the decoration on the ends of the buildings.
The Naka River, or Nakagawa in Japanese. This is a very peaceful walk with the river on one side and a long narrow park on the other. As you can see, there are not many people, but on weekends there are quite a few people out for walks.

There is a question when changing river names from one language to another: Should the entire name be left as is with the word 'river' added or should the original word for river be dropped complete? In going from Japanese to English, this gives us two options:

Nakagawa River
Naka River

I have been favoring the second but this can be a mistake if someone wants to search for a map or other information about the river.

One reason I use the second method is my experience when doing research on Vietnam. I found with a small river with a very large name. After some research, I discovered that the river name was only the first syllable, after that it was all the word river repeated in a number of different languages including a phonetic rendition from French. At the end of it all, the English word 'river' had been attached. Although I do not remember the exact number of times the concept 'river' was repeated, it was more than five. So the name was actually something like this:

Vietriverrieverriverriverriverriverriverriver River.

Mar 2, 2015

An overgrown bridge and a tree

This deep, steep-sided valley contains a little stream that flows into Naka River. This bridge appears to be completely overgrown. I could not tell whether it was still usable or not. It is possible that the paved path that I was on is more convenient than the old bridge so it may have just fallen into disuse.
Trees are so sad looking in the winter. Each fall the gardeners trim almost all of the growth from the previous summer, so there are almost no small branches. Doing this keeps the trees from grown and most of all it keeps the roots from growing and disturbing the flat ground. This trimming is particularly common in parks and along roadsides.

Mar 1, 2015

A cat and some salt

 This not very pretty cat was eating from a plate that someone had left on some stairs leading from the path down to the water. The cat was more interested in the food than me but it did turn this once to check and make sure that I was harmless, not a dog or something.
I crossed a bridge to get back on my side of the river and to head for home. In the middle of the bridge was a viewing area so that people can look at the river without blocking the sidewalk. These two bags were just sitting there. When I looked at them closely, I discovered that they were salt for drivers to use if the bridge got icy. So far this winter has been very mild so I do not think that there has been any day when the salt would have been needed.