Sep 29, 2017

Suburban housing

This is surprisingly common in suburban Japan. My town, Nakagawa-machi [Nakagawa Town], which will become a city [Nakagawa-shi] next year, is a bed-town for Fukuoka city, at least the northern half is. There is a train station from which you can get to one of the main centers in Fukuoka in only nine minutes, although the trains run only every 30 minutes or so. On the other side of my town there is a large bus center from which there are frequent buses to the other main center in Fukuoka.

The northern half of Nakagawa was built up about 20 or so years ago and consists of mainly restaurants and small business along the main streets and individual homes on the back roads. However, now that the population is expanding, new houses and buildings are going up, particularly along the border between the two halves of town. The building codes are different in the two areas.

This is quite typical of new housing both here and in Japan in general. It is a large private home squeezed in between to small factories. The house is large by Japanese standards but it has almost no yard. The only good thing is a view of the river but there is no convenient access to the riverside. The location is probably fairly noisy during the daytime but quiet at night. I have not gone over to check but I think that the house may be located one road back from the main road that parallels the river.

The riverbank is covered with concrete blocks to prevent damage in case of a flood. A few years ago there was a bad flood, so over the last three years, the town has lined both banks of a long stretch of the river as well as installing a number of dams. The dam in my recent posts being one of the new additions.

Sep 28, 2017


I do not know the name of these flowers but they are all over the place and certainly brighten up the countryside.

In most places the red flowers predominant but along the river we also can see the white ones. The blossoms are quite large, each being about the same size as my fist. The colors are intense. When I took these pictures, it was very cloudy, so dark and dreary that I was carrying an umbrella.

Sep 25, 2017

Along the Naka River

The path along the Naka River (Nakagawa) is one of my favorite walks. The round trip is about five kilometers which is just right for an afternoon stroll. However, as you can see in this picture the riverside is being changed by new constructions. This appears to be an apartment building but I can not really be sure until the scaffolding comes down.

I live in Nakagawa-machi, Naka River Town in English. However, next year we are scheduled to become a city. There are various criteria for upgrading a locale's status from town to city and I do not know all of them. However, I do know the last one that was met because there was a lot of talk about it. To become a city a town's population must reach and remain at 50,000 or more. Our population is now about 50,200 and the prefecture has started the coordination that is necessary before the official upgrade takes place. The zoning laws are interesting here. The northern half of the town borders on Fukuoka city and functions as a bedtown. The southern half has more farming and the mountains. Tall buildings and large stores are allowed in the north but in the south they are limited to two stories, or maybe it is three, I am not sure.

You might wonder what the advantage of being a city is over being a town. It is in the control of the budget. The prefecture has a lot of control over how towns spend their budgets but much less control over the budgets of cities.

In the last couple of posts I have mentioned a man who was piling up stones and pulling up vines. When I came back the next day, this is what I found. Someone had apparently used a weed-wacker to cut back the vegetation along the paved path. In this picture the river is just to the left between the levee and the plants.

Sep 24, 2017

The day after my last post

The day after my last post, I decided to take my camera and go back along the Nakagawa River. This first picture is the large pile of rocks that I had seen the day before. The high rock is about the same height as my head would be if I were standing on the water. I can not imagine how much work it took to drag these out of the riverbed and pile them up.

 The next picture shows the bridge. The man was no longer there but you can see the large pile of stones around the base of the support column. The larger rocks are larger than a person's head.

The view I had as a sat and ate my lunch was quite pleasant. There were small birds butterflies, and other insects. I even saw a Kingfisher, kawasemi, in Japanese. They are used as a symbol for the town.

 In the top right corner of the last picture you can see a dam. This dam is only a couple of years old and was built in response to severe flooding five years ago, the year before we moved here. There is a large pond behind it and it seems to be a key point in the system to control the water levels in the river. It looks like it may be a moveable dam, but I can not find a location where I can see the details well enough to be sure.

Sep 22, 2017

Interesting sights around town

Yesterday, I walked south along the Nakagawa River (by the way -gawa means river in Japanese, so what I wrote actually means 'the Naka river river). I brought water, a hard-boiled egg, cheese and some crackers to have a one-man picnic at the end of the riverside path.
As I walked along, I notice something new. In the middle of the river, there was a huge pile of stones. It was four or five meters long, at least three wide, and about two tall. It was obviously manmade. I've seen small piles of stones along the river and assumed that they were made by kids playing in the river. This mountain of stones was so big that it must have taken many hours of work to construct. I scratched my head a bit and continued along the path.
As I got nearer the end of the path, it was more and more overgrown by plants, especially vines. It was actually difficult to walk. I waded through the greenery and finally reached the end of the path which is just passed a bridge that crosses overhead. The support for the bridge splits the river into two separate branches, but only when the water level is high. Yesterday, the water was flowing only in the stream farthest away from me.
If you continue on about three meters passed the end of the paved path, there are two places to sit and observed the river. One is concrete and the other is wood. I choose the concrete one and sat down. As I ate my lunch, I looked back toward the bridge and realized that a man and his dog were behind the support where I had not previously been able to see them.
As I watched, the man waded out into the river and started throwing stones, large and small, out of the riverbed and onto a pile behind the bridge support. He worked quite hard for a while and then climbed out of the river, sat down, and ate his lunch. I assumed that he must have been the one who made the pile that I had seen before.
I was fascinated by the river, the birds, flowers, and insects, so I sat there a long time. The man got up and left, walking away from me along the path. I saw him stop and start pull vines off the path. Then he produced a pair of scissors and started cutting back the other plants that were hanging over the path.
As I passed him on my way home, he was still clearing the path. I made a slight bow, which he returned, but he did not respond to my thank you so I just kept walking.
You sometimes see the most surprising things while out walking.
I should add that many people do volunteer work around the town. There is a group that plants flowers along the sidewalks and takes care of them. Neighborhood associations periodically clean up the streets and sidewalks.