Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The new Fukuoka Tower

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Monday, March 30, 2009

The original Fukuoka Tower

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sanku Shrine, Hamada

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As the name suggests, Sanku shrine is actually 3 different shrines grouped together. Located on Rte 186 on the way out of Hamada, the shrine with the biggest honden is actually the least used.

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It's the first shrine I've come across that enshrines Tajikarao, the "strong man" kami who pulled Amaterasu out of the cave. He is also one of the kami that descended from "the high plain of heaven" with Ninigi. His head shrine is up in Nagano at Togakushi Mountain, which legend has is the rock door that hid Amaterasu.

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Right next to the main shrine is Ashio Shrine, and it is used a lot, so much so that it had a new shrine building built last year.

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Ashio shrine is where you go to pray if you have any foot or leg problems, which is why so many pairs of straw sandals are left as offerings.

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The kami of Ashio shrine is Sarutahiko who was a giant of a man with a huge red nose, often depicted looking like a tengu. He was an "earthly" kami who met the Imperial party descending from heaven and guided them. He ended up marrying uzume.

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I've never come across Sarutahiko being connected with foot healing before, so its probably a local thing. Actually, none of the local people I asked knew the kami's name was Sarutahiko, a not uncommon phenomenon.

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The third shrine is on the other side of the river and the tunnel of vermillion torii mark it as an Inari shrine. At first I thought it was a private shrine as to get to it you have to walk through a lumbermill and also it is not marked on the map. Companies will often build a company shrine to Inari.

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As I drove by a couple of days ago I noticed that all the trees lining the path up to the shrine were sakura in full bloom.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The blushing bride

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I was down in Hiroshima earlier this week and while I was wandering around Shukkeien, the well-known Japanese garden near the castle, I saw a couple having their wedding photos taken.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big Roof Wide

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I've been going down to Masuda a lot recently so I took the opportunity to revisit Grand Toit with a wide-angle lens.

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Grand Toit, from the French for "Big Roof" is the unofficial name of the Shimane Arts center, so named because the building is clad in locally produced kawara, rooftiles.

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Opened in 2005 and designed by Naito Hiroshi, I must admit that the building has grown on me. The light inside, and the space of the internal pool are very nice, though the overall form of the building from a distance is still not appealing to me.

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This time I paid to go in and see an exhibition in the main gallery, but as yet I have not been inside the auditorium.

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My favorite aspect of the building though is the highly polished wooden floor and its reflections. I'll post more of those shots later.

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For more posts on Grand Toit click here

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Sakura madness finale

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Well,.. the sakura are in full bloom now, and still no sign of blue tarps!

I've come to the conclusion that Ohanami is pretty much a thing of the cities and towns.

For the first few ohanami seasons I experienced in the countryside I asked my neighbors if they had been cherry blossom viewing, and they just looked at me quizzicly.

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The main reason I think is because cherry trees are everywhere round here! In any direction you look there are cherry trees. In fact they cherry trees outnumber the people, whereas in the towns and cities people outnumber the cherry trees by a factor of many hundreds. So, round here cherry blossom viewing is not a special activity, its just something you do everyday.

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I prefer the wild cherry trees that are scattered all over the mountainsides rather than the ones planted densely in lines.

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But my favorite view is at night.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Gotsu

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The draincover for Gotsu shows a stylized view of what you see out of the train window as you come into the town from the east. The flowers are azaleas, the town flower, and cherry blossoms.

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The new doubledecker bridge carries traffic on the by-pass, avoiding the town centre. The lower level is for local traffic between Watazu and Gotsu Honmachi. Gotsu is the smallest of Shimane's cities, but is really just a collection of villages spread over the surrounding area, including my own village.

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A view of the bridge from the Gonokawa River.

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Behind the bridge is Hoshitaka Mountain, "Star Mountain". The star is most visible after a snowfall, or when the azaleas are blooming, or at night in August when it is lit up. Star mountain gets its own post in a few days as there is a lot of interest.

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Looking east over Gotsu. That is Star Mountain on the right.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sakura madness.

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Just in front of our frontdoor is a cherry tree we planted 3 years ago.
I noticed yesterday that one bud had bloomed.
Strangely, I felt no compulsion to spread out sheets of blue plastic, invite dozens of people, get stinking drunk, and do karaoke.
I guess I just don't appreciate nature!

Friday, March 20, 2009

For safe childbirth climb the mountain

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This is the start of the path that goes up to the top of Isari Mountain, near Yasaka, south of Hamada.

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We were told there was a shrine on top of the mountain that local women used to pray for safe childbirth. When we started we didn't realize just how high it was, 714 metres, and it had some great views over the Chugoku Mountains.

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The Chugoku mountaisn are not particularly high, but they are pretty steep, and its a fairly remote region.

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The shrine itself was a tin shack that had been built around an older hokora (wayside shrine). No-one knows when or why the shrine was established.

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It's an Asama Shrine, commonly known as the goddess of volcanoes. The kamis name is Konohanasakuyahime, and she was the wife of Ninigi who was sent by Amaterasu to subdue and rule over Japan. The head shrine is Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha located at the base of Mt Fuji. She is one of several kami that are known for protection of safe births.

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North of Isari Mountain is the higher Taima (hemp) Mountain.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Typical Japanese Landscape 17

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Driving around the past couple of days, this has been a typical view. Fields of rape.

It used to be far more typical.

If you want to know about rapeseed in Japan, this article is excellent.

In fact at a cursory glance the website seems to have some excellent articles on the state of Japanese agriculture as well as information on traditional foods and methods.

Down in northern Hiroshima in Oasa Town they have planted all the unused land in rape. It is then sold at a competitive price to local households. The used oil is then collected and used to power the towns buses and taxis.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Shimane by numbers. Part 3

Continuing my look at some interesting statistics concerning the prefecture I live in,... Shimane.

This time just one statistic.

Shimane has the oldest population in Japan.

What that means is that 27% of Shimane's people are over 65 years old. And that figure seems set to continue to grow. I know up in the mountains near here is a village where the youngest person is 73!

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Like Mrs. M, the lady we bought our house from.

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Or Ebiya-san who lives over the river in Kawado, who at 83 years old is a damn site more spritely than many much younger than him. He designed and makes Hero Flutes, kagura flutes that can be played more easily than traditional kagura flutes.

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Of course the one place you will see these old people is in the gardens and fields. I read that the average age of farmers in japan is 70!

The young people continue to leave the countryside for the cities, and I find it hard to imagine what it will be like in another 20 years as many of these elders pass on.

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For now I enjoy learning from the grandparent generation. They are often sharper and smarter than those who grew up in the 1960's and 1970's, and still know how to make things and live in the environment they are in.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bamboo forest

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There is something quite magical in bamboo groves. I've been trying to capture some of it for years in the camera.

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You can't catch the swaying in the wind,....

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... and you can't catch the clacking as they bang into each other,....

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.. but I am fairly pleased with some of the color and light that I did manage to catch on a trip up in to the mountains around Yasaka last year.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Myriad Yakushi

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Yakushi Nyorai is the Japanese name for the Buddha of Medicine & Healing.

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These statues, about 25cms tall, are at the Ichibata Yakushi Temple between lake Shinji and the Japan Sea coast up in Izumo.

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Ichibata Yakushi is primarily known as a temple to pray at for eye problems.

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Originally of the Tendai sect, it is known as a Rinzai temple, but actually it is the head of its own "religious corporation", with 31 temples nationwide.

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Not sure exactly how many little statues there are, but it runs into the many thousands.

Friday, March 13, 2009

March Harvest

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Red cabbage, or in Japanese, Murasikikabestu, which means purple cabbage, never seems to grow as big as regular green cabbage, but I always grow a couple just so I can make pickled red cabbage.

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Mizuna, commonly known as Japanese Mustard in English, has been grown in Japan since ancient times, but probably came from China originally. Good in salads or as greens.

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Brussel Sprouts, Mekabetsu in Japanese, are not common. Like most people it seems, I hated brussel sprouts as a kid, but now have come to love them. I just steam a bunch, lightly salt them, then munch on them all day as a snack!

Regular cabbage, daikon, green onions, and carrots are still in abundance.

As usual I am behind schedule in the gardens. I haven't even finished planted potatoes yet and need to do some weeding and mulching before planting....

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