Saturday, July 31, 2010

Garden report

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The garden takes a lot of my time. I am usually always behind schedule, but this year the weather was behind schedule so I was actually caught up. June is mostly spent weeding in preparation for the rainy season. Now Im doin a lot of hand watering... carrying watering cans 150 meters... and of course harvesting and storing.

This year has been the best zucchini harvest ever. Usually by July the zucchini plants have been destroyed by little orange bugs. I have tried everything to get rid of them, bar using chemicals, but nothing has worked. This year the cool weather has meant no orange bugs, so I pick about a kilo of succhini every day.

Breakfast is always a skillet of potatoes, zuccini, egg, topped with salsa. This year its store bought salsa.

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Cucumbers are also very prolific. I dont usually plant them, but the missus nagged, so I put 3 plants in that have produced about 30 cucumbers so far. Because of the cool year the lettuce kept going until July, but now I have "liquid salad" for lunch,... chilled gazpacho.... cucumber, tomato, green pepper, red pepper, onion.... all from the garden. The olive oil is store bought.

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For supper last night.... zucchini au gratin, with sweetcorn picked an hour before dinner. Apparently sweetcorn can handle being under a meter and a half of water. This weekend will have to pick the rest of the corn and start harvesting the edamame.

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Beets is another crop that has done really well with the unseasonably cool year. Pickled beetroot is impossible to get here so thats how I use it.

Was a terrible lima bean crop this year, though green beans did well. Tomatoes are in full swing and the peppers have picked up, though eggplant is still lagging.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation 2010 Day 5 Stuttgart

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I used to live in Germany, but I never made it down south, so this was my first visit to Stuttgart.

The Hauptbahnhof is huge, but there were'nt that many people around.

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Out on the streets though it was a wonderful warm sunny spring day so the crowds were out.

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Lots of old baroque buildings with statues of famous people looking down.

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I was really taken with the big, steep rooves with their dormer windows.

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The Sclosskirche (Castle Church) was only open to visitors for a few hours a week and I happened by at an opportune moment so could enjoy the deliciously decorative baroque interior.

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In the afternoon I met up with a friend and enjoyed a few beers sitting outside the new Art Museum.
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Then it was time to wander over to the Liederhalle (concert hall), continuing to snap pictures as I went.

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The main reason for my visit to Stuttgart was to hook up with some old friends who were on the last leg of their European Tour.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Inasa Shrine

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Inasa Shrine, also known as Hayatama Shrine, is located in a shady cliffside grove on the path to Kofukuji Temple near Inasa Beach.

It enshrines Takemikazuchi, who, according to the Yamato record of events, was one of 2 kami sent down from the high plain of heaven by Amaterasu to arrange the transfer of Japan to her descendants from Okuninushi, a story known as Kuniyuzuri, and which took place a few hundred meters from this site.

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Izumo records however make no mention of Takemikazuchi, rather they say that Futsunushi was the sole emissary. Futsunishi is considered the ancestor of the Mononobe clan, and Takemikazuchi is the ancestor of the Nakatomi, later renamed Fujiwara. As the Fujiwara increased their power at the expense of other clans, notably the Mononobe and the Soga, it seems that Takemikazuchi took on attributes and roles formerly held by Futsunushi.

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I will write a more detailed post on the Kuniyuzuri myth as soon as I have posted on one more shrine in the area.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Sagi Mai in Tsuwano

This is a follow-up to the videos I posted yesterday.

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Every year on July 20th and 27th the Sagi Mai is performed as part of Tsuwano's Gion Matsuri.

Though known as the Heron Dance, the birds being imitated are in fact Egrets.

The dance, like the Gion Matsuri itself, was originally from Kyoto, but during the time that Kyoto was a burned out, war-destroyed, ghost town many aristocratic refugees fled to Yamaguchi, and it was from here that the dance was introduced into Tsuwano.

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The people of Tsuwano faithfully kept the dance in its original form and in 1953 they went to Kyoto to teach the dance and it is now performed there again.

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As well as the 2 dancers dressed as egrets, there is a full complement of other dancers, musicians, singers etc all dressed in period costume. The music accompanying the dance seems to be based on ancient Chinese-derived court music rather than any folk tradition.

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On both days the dancers perform at various sites around the center of the town, starting in the afternoon.

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Also performed is the Egret Chick dance, a recent invention of the town. The young girls didnt smile much, which may be due to the solemnity of the dance, or the summer afternoon heat.

As the dates for the festival are fixed they often fall on weekdays which means that the events are not too crowded.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heron Dance (Sagimai)



Just got back from Tsuwano where I watched the Sagimai, the Heron Dance. Tomorrow I will post details and photos, but for now here is a short video.


There was also the Heron Chick Dance, of much more recent vintage.

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What was intriguing was just before the dances were to begin a real heron landed and strutted around seemingly quite immune to the dozens of photographers taking its photo.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Shrine haikyo

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I first came across this abandoned shrine on a walk around Nagahama about 7 years ago. 25 year old maps still showed a shrine here, so it must ahve been abandoned in the intervening years.

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The torii had been dismantled, but 2 fine examples of local ceramic Komainu still remained on guard.

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In the shrine building itself little remained but the tatami.

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The only religious objects remaining were a couple of gohei. The shintai, the object in the honden into which the kami descends, will have been transferred to a nearby shrine. This in essence de-consecrates the site.

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Ive been unable to find out the name of the shrine or why it was abandoned. Unfortunately I dont know any priests in the Hamada area.

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The other building at the site was filled with all kinds of junk

Friday, July 23, 2010

53,000 knotted handkerchiefs

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Stopped by the Hamada Childrens Art Museum to check out the latest exhibit, owing much to Christo methinks.

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The building is covered with 53,000 handerkerchiefs knotted together. Each handkerchief measures 30cms by 30 cms.

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Its part of Tsunaide Aato ( Connection Art) a collaboration between 6 Japanese artists.

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On Saturday the hankies come down off the building and then the garden and grounds of the museum will be covered in hankies.

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It makes for some interesting light inside the building.

Hamada Childrens Museum of Art is located on the hilltop next to the University of Shimane, overlooking downtown Hamada.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Solitary Japanese Bicycles 2

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Some more portraits of solitary Japanese bicycles. This one was in Tsunozu, Gotsu, Shimane.

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The Japanese word for bicycle is "jitensha", but this style, by far the most common in Japan, is known as "Mama Chari" from mama's Chariot. This one was at a shrine in Waki, Gotsu, Shimane
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Though ostensibly designed for mothers to carry kids and shopping, the mamachari is used by all ages and genders. This one is on the shore at Tatimigaura, Shimoko, Shimane.

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prices range from $100-$200, so they are considered disposable. Cheaper to dump and buy a new one than to maintain and repair. This one is in front of a sake brewery in Yunotsu, Shimane.

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"Serious" cyclists por scorn on mama charis, but then anyone who wears spandex and those dorky helmets has no right to make fun of anything. This one is in Tomonoura, Hiroshima.

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This final one obviously belongs to a kagura dancer or fan. I found it in Nagahama, Hamada, Shimane.

Solitary Japanese Bicycles 1 has some other pics.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Matsue National Government Building

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Opened in 2004, this building houses a variety of National govedrnment offices that previously had been scattered across the town. The Immigration Office is here, so I and other foreigners who live in Shimane visit it often.

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It was designed by Shin Takamatsu who also designed the Kunibiki Messe building across the road.

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The south facing surface of the building has glass louvers to cut down on the airconditioning bills and the roof features a rainfall catchment system.

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Other than that it is a fairly ordinary office block.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Teono Shrine

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Teono Shrine is situated atop a small hill, Honozan, between Izumo taisha and Inasa Beach. The 2 kami enshrined here are Taokihooi, a god of measuring, and Hikosashiri, a god of carpentry. They are considered to be the ancestors of 2 branches of the Imbe Clan, and in the Kogoshui version of the Iwato myth the 2 were charged with the construction of a "great palace" outside of the cave that Amaterasu was hiding in. Some consider this to be the first kagura den. Most likely this was the shrine for the builders of Izumo Taisha.

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Behind the shrine is a sacred tree home to Shirohebi Daijin, I suspect the site of a visit by a white snake, considered particularly portentious.

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Next to the shrine is a small park with an observation tower offering views over the surrounding country. The long beach is Nagahama, and according to the Kunibiki myth it is a rope that tethers this peninsular to Mount Sanbe, just visible in the distance.

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Much of the land down below would have been water 100 years ago. Lake Shinji has been reduced by over one third and land reclaimed earlier in the twentieth Century. The Hi River once emptied into the sea here but now empties into what is left of lake Shinj. 10,000 years ago this peninsular was an island separated from the mainland.

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Downtown Izumo City in the distance. The plastic greenhouses in the forground are for grapes for the Shimane Winery.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lotus Blossom Viewing

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Just got back from a visit to the Korakuen, one of the three top gardens in Japan. Located below Okayama castle in Okayama City, the lotus blossoms were on display for the hordes of photographers.

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The lotus blossom is one of the most recognised Buddhist symbols and can be found in much Buddhist art. The pink blossoms represent the historical Buddha.

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Lotus root is edible and can be found in Japanese cooking. Known as Renkon, it is good in soup or as tempura.

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There was a second pond with white blossoms. In Buddhist symbolism they represent purity.

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I find the leaves at least as interesting as the flowers.

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