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.

May 25, 2015

On the shrine grounds

Since there had been nothing to see on the grounds of the nearby temple, I decided to spend some time looking around the shrine grounds. Also it was very pleasant under the large trees. This picture is looking straight at the front of the shrine from the walkway that leads to it. I was surprised by the tree that partially blocked my view of the building. Usually the trees a placed so that the entire building is visible as you approach it.

This is one of the lions that protect the entrance to the building. Since the demons that might cause trouble are not physical, it is the non-physical aspects of the lion that keep out the non-physical demons, so a stone lion is just as effective as a real live lion. Some day I am going to have to track down how the Japanese and the Chinese before them learned about lions. They are not native to areas where either of these peoples live.

May 24, 2015

Contrasting religious buildings

 This is the gate to a Buddhist temple. The temple itself is quite uninteresting. It has no garden and consists of a single building that can not be viewed in its entirety because of the smallness of the land it is on. This gate is the only interesting thing about the temple. The structure consists of a gate on the first floor and a bell tower on the second. When Buddhism arrived in Japan about 1,500 years ago, it was accompanied by many features of the more advanced Chinese culture of the time. The Japanese soon adopted and changed these Chinese things but the temple still appear to represent human culture.
The Shinto temples, on the other hand, like this one that is just down the road a ways from the above temple, seem to represent nature. Shrines are almost always surrounded by a grove of trees and usually large stones and stone sculptures that being the view back to nature. Even the enshrined gods are often representatives of some specific aspect of nature and the way that nature impacts our lives.

May 23, 2015

Some homes

 I was walking through an area with many very nice homes. I wonder where all the money came from, both for the buildings and grounds but also for the upkeep.
This is a very narrow road with two-way traffic, which must involve a lot of backing up since the road is not wide enough for two cars to pass, maybe two motorcycles but not two automobiles. All the homes here have walls separating them from the street. I am tall enough to see over the walls without being too obvious about it. Behind the walls are large old houses with Japanese style gardens in front of them.

May 22, 2015

On the shrine grounds

 In the corner of the shrine grounds there was a large bush covered with blooming flowers.
I walked around the outside to the back of the shrine and found another entrance to the grounds. Just inside the gate there is a large stele but it is too worn to read the inscription.

May 21, 2015

A shrine

 I found a Shinto shrine with a large open area around it.
The doors to the altar were closed so I was unable to see what was enshrined. However, the branches in the vases were fresh so it was clear that someone was taking care of the place. Also there was an offering of a small bottle of sake, rice wine. These small bottles are called 'one-cup' and are the same size as a normal serving that you would get in a bar or restaurant.

May 20, 2015

A strange sidewalk

Walking on a street that I had never been on before, I found a long concrete sidewalk. It was raised a few inches above the level of the road and has posts to separate it from the road.

 The raised aspect became interesting when I came to a T-intersection. The raised sidewalk continued straight through, completely separating the two roads. There was absolutely no vehicle access from the side road to the main road. Rather inscrutable, if you ask me.

May 19, 2015

Flowers and an interesting road

 This stone wall provides the base for a hedge around someone's home, but it also provides a home for these pretty flowers
This road is a bit unusual. It carries two way traffic. The kanji painted on the pavement is pronounced jo and it means 'slow'. Nothing strange here, but look down the road. All of a sudden the right lane is blocked off and the road becomes narrower than a single lane. When I reached that point, I put my arms out and discovered that I could almost touch both sides at the same time. I think that even the minicars, the k-cars, would have trouble passing through here.

May 18, 2015

Two types of blockage

 It is a bit hard to see but there is a a piece of bamboo growing all the way across this road. Apparently this used to be the main road along the riverside, but new straighter streets have been built. Now it is only about a hundred meters long and is a curve that connects the two newer roads. I suspect that no cars use this part of the road since it is in about the middle. The drivers would probably exit at the end of the road nearest their house, leaving this section unused. In any case it would not damage the car if the driver just drove right through.
Here is a second blockage. This moveable dam is in the up position creating a body of water behind it. We have had a fair amount of rain so who ever controls the river is releasing the water slowly by damming at various places.

May 17, 2015

Sights along the road

 Buildings like the one on the right are common around farms. I think they were originally built to house the motorized equipment that is used in the rice paddies. However, as people stop farming, they become a place to keep old junk. Because Japan has a relatively large population on a small amount of land (think half of the US population in an mountainous area the size of the East Coast of the US between the mountains and the sea), it is very expensive to throw away trash. The regular trash and garbage pick up at homes, Mondays and Thursdays at my apartment, can only be done if you use special plastic bags that you must buy. Anything that will not fit in one of the three sizes of bags can only be throw away by special arrangement and at a relatively high cost.
This is a mechanism for controlling the water in the canals. Many of the smaller ones are moved by hand cranks but this one is large enough that it uses electric motors. If I were still doing a lot of art with hopes of selling it, I think I would do a series on these. I did one in Sendai and sold it for about US$300.

May 16, 2015

Rice paddy and the river

 The building is an apartment house with 18 units. In this part of town, the southern half, there is a limit on the height of buildings. They can not exceed three stories. In the area around my apartment building, the newer buildings are all at least ten stories and most more.

Actually the interesting thing in this picture, to me anyway, is the area that looks like a dirt field. Actually it is a rice paddy. The area used to be mostly rice paddies but as the farms have sold off the land buildings have started springing up so there is a mix of paddies and buildings.

In the past, the farmer's son would take over the farm when the farmer retired. The land would pass from father to son, over and over again, and be continuously farmed. However, the young people today do not want to become farmers, so the farm land is gradually being sold off and used for other purposes. One reason that this is possible is that farming has become more efficient and more rice can be grown on smaller plots of land. Also there is the fact that the Japanese are eating less rice than they used to.
The Naka River, Nakagawa, as seen though the trees.

May 15, 2015

 I went out for a short walk along the river. Lately I do not seem to be able to find time or energy for much walking. This statue was in the window of a beauty parlor.
I reached the river and walked along the western bank. Notice the barbed wire running across the middle of the picture. I've only seen barbed wire in two kinds of places, like this where the area beyond the wire is thought to be dangerous and on the tops of fences around shrine buildings. The purpose in both cases seems to be to keep out children, to discourage them from entering the area.

May 12, 2015

Out the window and a hanging scroll

 I was still waiting for the other members of the Go Club to show up and continued to explore. Outside the room where we play there is a large balcony. This is the view that it offers.
Many Japanese style rooms have a little alcove that is used for hanging scrolls, flower arrangements or religious displays. In the room where we play, the alcove contains this scroll. I can only read a few of the kanji and have no idea what the whole thing means. This sort of scroll usually has a famous saying of some kind, often related to Buddhism. Over the years, I have asked Japanese people to read these for me and very often they can not. They are displayed mainly for the artistic value.

May 11, 2015

Another landscaped yard and an office.

 This is the entrance to the home of one of the wealthy extended families in town. Apparent various members of the family have built homes on a single huge plot of land. The few remaining open spaces are all carefully landscaped like this.
I had arrived at my Go Club early so I looked around in the building, the Kominkan, which seems to mean something like public building. This is headquarters for the Nakabaru Senior Club. Each neighborhood has a senior club for people 65 and older and each senior club has a kominkan. In one tatami mat room, I discovered this little office. Notice the chair. It has no legs on it. When you sit on it, you rear end is less than a foot above the floor. The desk is low that you could use it when sitting on a cushion on the floor. The big block-like thing on the right is a moveable file cabinet and there is a laptop computer and a printer on the desk.

May 10, 2015

On the way to Go

 Very near where I play Go on Saturdays, an apartment building burned. I've showed pictures of the building with much of the top floor burned off. I've also shown the empty lot after the building was torn down. Now the space looks like this. The word around the neighborhood is that the own has decided to build a new apartment building but instead to build a new home using the insurance money.
Also nearby I found this rather interesting Japanese garden beside the traditional home that you can see in the background. The garden consisted almost entirely of trees, most trimmed in the manner of those on the right.

May 9, 2015

In the neighborhood

 I can see this tree from my living room window. The knobs on the ends of the branches are caused by the yearly trimming of the new branches.
Someone made these concrete objects and placed them in the canal. The flowers are replaced so that there is something in bloom constantly from early spring to late fall. The open area on the right is a large garden. Sometimes parts of it are used as a rice paddy and then at other times vegetables are grown in the same ground. So it looks very different depending on the time year.

May 7, 2015

Fast Food 11

 This is a coffee shop. I have never been in here but I can confidently say that they will have some food on the menu as well as coffee. Coffee shop food is usually something like curry or spaghetti and also cake. Pancakes are another common menu item in coffee shops.
Across the street, on the far side of the parking area, is a building where not too long ago my wife and I had noodles. It was part of a national chain that is cheep and good tasting. However, it is now under reconstruction and the sign, while quite cryptic, seems to indicate that it is going to be a large coffee shop that also sells coffee beans. Whatever it is, I think that I will go try it at least once because it is such a large  building for a coffee shop, especially out here in the countryside. A Starbucks in the city might get enough customers to justify the space, but not here Nakagawa-machi. We only have 50,000 people in the whole town and this location is not a place to attract large crowds of people.

By the way this is the last restaurant along this stretch of road. At the next intersection there are a few businesses but there is little more than housing on the far side.

May 6, 2015

Fast Food 10

 This building is a bit strange. It contains two restaurants, one of the first floor and one on the second. The entrance to the first floor is at the front on the main street but the entrance to the second floor is on the side street. The first floor is a yakiniku restaurant, where you get plates of raw meat and vegetables and cook them yourself over a grill at your table. The heat is supplied by either gas or charcoal, with the charcoal restaurants usually being more expensive. The second floor is an izakaya, a place that serves drinks and food. I went to a New Years party here a couple of years ago and the food was pretty good.
This place seems to change every six months or so. Nothing is successful. It has contained various noodle and tempura restaurants. At the moment they serve a special kind of noodles called Nagasaki Chanpon.

May 5, 2015

Fast Food 9

 This two story building contains apartments on the top floor and restaurants on the street level. Actually they are drinking places, rather than restaurants. The Japanese generally think that you should eat, often a lot, when you drink so most places serve both drinks, beer, sake, whiskey, etc, plus many small dishes of food. When I was younger, I used to go to places like this with friends but since I stopped drinking, I stopped.

The restaurant on the left, the one with the white sign, specializes in eel and the one on the right in chicken served in little chunks skewered on long thin sticks and cooked over an open flame.
 This place as you should be able to recognize also specializes in chicken. It is our local Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are thousands of these restaurants scattered around Japan and they all have a statue of Colonel Sanders standing by the door.
This is not a restaurant as such. It is a bakery. However, as with almost all bakeries, they have a place to sit and coffee is available. Coffee costs a hundred yen here. The bakery near our apartment offers coffee and onion soup in a large sitting area. Both are free, if you buy some bread product. They have sandwiches, or it is more accurate to say bread with things in or on it.