- Senior glasses, senior moments… New blog post: http://t.co/Q4D02gcl9S 09:11:47, 2014-08-13
- Something lost in translation, perhaps? New blog post: http://t.co/RNLPjGtbt5 09:36:45, 2014-08-14
- With the myriad possibilities of web design, why does it seem like every company is using the same Bootstrap-based design? 05:51:13, 2014-08-15
- @LilJimmi @slurve It’s a design I like, but I’m noticing how ubiquitous it’s become. I’m sure there will be a new hotness soon enough in reply to LilJimmi 07:24:02, 2014-08-15
- There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is free beer. It comes in a very small glass though. http://t.co/tyigkx5FDF 06:55:52, 2014-08-16
- If you’re wondering where I got the free beer… New blog post – Kamakiri Udon: good udon, free beer http://t.co/s5eUvpj1UF 01:43:35, 2014-08-17
- Obon week in Japan, and the Gokoku Shrine’s Mitama Matsuri, featuring 6,000 hand-painted lanterns. New blog post: http://t.co/6hHXv8wWlD 02:30:20, 2014-08-17
- RT @InkTanked: Sadly, it seems, Japan is preparing for war. http://t.co/Wm1Fxj7zYP 02:35:11, 2014-08-17
- RT @AustinSeraphin: A number of Philadelphians agree we should have a Ruby conference. The awesome people behind @SteelCityRuby released so… 18:04:34, 2014-08-18
- A life size replica of a D51 locomotive, made from 4,000 pieces of cardboard. New blog post: http://t.co/L9Er8IwMdh 05:55:31, 2014-08-19
A few weeks ago we saw the full scale cardboard replica of a D51 locomotive:
Nagasaki resident and artist Shima Hideo used a total of 4,000 pieces of cardboard to create the whole piece, which is 2.9 meters wide, 12.5 meters long, 4 meters tall, and made up of over 1,500 separate parts. The exhibition is touring the country… Seeing the artwork up-close, you’ll be amazed by the detail created from cardboard.
We stumbled across it as we passed through the main hall of the 14 story IMS building, which is attached to the shopping mega-complex that surrounds our neighborhood’s Tenjin station.
Anything and everything to do with trains is a popular hobby in Japan – much more so than in the US – since trains and subways are the primary mode of transportation here.
Every time they move the train to a new location, they have to disassemble it and reassemble it. There’s a great time lapse video on the Asahi Shimbun site showing the process (unfortunately there are security restrictions on the video, so I can’t embed it here).
Note that the artist who created it, Shima Hideo, is not to be confused with the Shima Hideo who invented the world’s first bullet train, the Shinkansen, and died in 1998.
This past week was the time for Obon in Japan:
Obon (お盆?) or just Bon (盆?) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of one’s ancestors. This Buddhist-Confucian custom has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves, and when the spirits of ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.
Most companies shut down for most of the week, so people can return to their hometowns. The Wall Street journal reported that Tokyo was deserted. In contrast, our Daimyo neighborhood in Fukuoka was packed. During every weekday afternoon this past week, the streets and shops were as crowded as a typical Saturday night.
The nearby Gokoku shrine had their own Obon related festival going on this week, every night from Wednesday to Saturday:
Six thousand lanterns illuminate the shrine grounds for this festival of light, giving thanks to one’s ancestors and those who have died in war. Live stage with Japanese drumming, gospel and more, plus a mini flea market, and stalls selling all sorts of matsuri foods.
We paid a visit last night. The festival itself was modest, with about a dozen or so stalls selling food and various arts and crafts. The main attraction was the thousands of lanterns, many of which had unique, hand-painted designs.
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but there is free beer. It comes in a very small glass though.
We’ve had dinner a couple times now at one of our neighborhood udon shops, Kamakiri Udon:
…The noodles, which are made in-house from Itoshima flour, are soft yet resilient and retain a slightly wheaty flavor. You can enjoy them in warm bowl of flavorful broth or cold with the dipping sauce on the side. Kamakiri Udon offers the best of both the Sanuki and Hakata styles of udon. The donburi include the perennial favorites—katsudon, oyakodon and tendon—and you can also order a mini size (¥300~) to go with your udon. Last but not least, don’t miss the eye-catching “free small glass of beer anytime”. As the name suggests, you can order one glass of beer at no charge, day or night…
The small free beer, of course, entices you to buy a full glass, which we have done faithfully
The udon is superb, and so is the donburi and tempura. The challenge is that the shop is very small, with only a bar counter and 4 tables, so you have to go during off-peak hours if you don’t want to wait.
The menu has no pictures, and no English, so you need to be ready to communicate in Japanese. It was a month between our first visit and our most recent visit, and I noticed my ability to read the menu improved considerably in that time. I still can’t read the kanji characters, but I was able to decipher about one-third of the menu.
For more pictures, and contact and location information, see Fukuoka Now.
Spotted in a nearby department store, which is actually not far from this store.
Update: I decided to look this up. They actually have a cartoon Doctor mascot (it looks like that’s his face on the top of the box). It turns out the name is supposed to be short for “assembly.” But as always, the Japanese never seem to bother checking with a native speaker when they name their products in English.
- Pyramid shaped watermelons for $1,000, fish heads galore, and incredibly delicious dessert breads – New blog post
http://t.co/acAFcGZcBA 06:45:08, 2014-08-06
- RT @the_zenspider: Reminder: delete your code: https://t.co/Jf2PUhnMM4 07:54:23, 2014-08-06
- Small world: Fukuoka is a city of 1.5 million, and we just met the woman who moved out of our apartment right before we moved in. 19:18:47, 2014-08-07
- RT @CatWarr: If you're curious about what life is like for Americans in Japan, check out @mtoppa's blog. http://t.co/TUOX63QL77 19:30:44, 2014-08-07
- Watched The Congress (movie) last night: it was the most engrossing and innovative movie I’ve seen in a long time http://t.co/ZTDwY4Usn5 20:56:51, 2014-08-09
- A Japanese shrine wedding, playing old string instruments, and a historical faux pas. New blog post: A day in Dazaifu http://t.co/vvFl0a0Ev2 09:47:11, 2014-08-10
- @pete_schuster I haven’t, but I saw it mentioned in that review. A just read a summary of it – sounds intense. Do you recommend it? in reply to pete_schuster 09:48:52, 2014-08-10
- Sad news: Studio Ghibli – creators of Howl’s Moving Castle and other great Miyazaki films – will stop making movies http://t.co/q9Xj3E10k8 05:41:13, 2014-08-12
- @speno I hadn’t heard that, so I checked. The announcement was made in typically vague Japanese, so it’s hard to know
http://t.co/jSWBiZW1a7 in reply to speno 08:02:41, 2014-08-12
I was noticing how small and hard to read the Japanese characters were in my textbook. But it’s not the book – it’s my eyes. Here in Japan, they call a spade a spade (at least with some things – definitely not with others). I have bought “senior glasses.”
“Senior moments” will be next.
We visited the small town of Dazaifu a few weeks ago (I’m just getting around to writing about it now!). Dazaifu is about a 30 minute train ride from Fukuoka, and it’s a popular tourist day trip destination. It’s most well known for the Tenmangu Shrine and the Kyushu National Museum.
About 1,500 years ago, Dazaifu was the site of the imperial office at the head of the government overseeing Kyushu, making it a major regional government center–at that time, equivalent to a national government, because Japan was not yet a unified “nation” by any means. Foreign ambassadors from Korea and China stayed in Dazaifu on many occasions. During the Nara and Heian Periods, Dazaifu became a place of exile for court nobles, including the highly regarded poet and scholar Sugawara no Michizane…
When Michizane died in the early tenth century, many natural disasters occurred, and people assumed this was his spirit taking revenge for being wronged. The Tenmangu Shrine was built on the site of Michizane’s grave, and offerings were made to him to in an attempt to prevent further calamities.
Today, because the Tenmangu Shrines are related to scholarship, many students visit and rub the heads of bull statues (said to make you more intelligent) before praying at the shrines for success in studies or examinations. The shrine is also famous for its approximately 6,000 beautiful plum blossoms, which bloom in February…
We went on a sunny Sunday afternoon and the shrine grounds were crowded. People were busy offering prayers, rubbing the bull heads, and checking their o-mikuji (fortunes). You pay 100 yen (about a dollar) for an omikuji, and if you get a bad one, the tradition is to tie up and leave it. You can see in the picture people buying them on the left, and tying them up on the right. I just learned from Wikipedia how this tradition originated:
When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree or a wall of metal wires alongside other bad fortunes in the temple or shrine grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (松 matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (待つ matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer.
We were lucky enough to see a wedding procession at the Shrine while we were there. After that we took an escalator up the side of a steep hill, which leads to the Kyushu National Museum. Kyushu is the southernmost of Japan’s four largest islands, and Fukuoka is its most populous city.
Kyushu has always had its own culture and traditions, and has for most of its history been governed largely as a separate entity from the rest of mainland Japan. Even in contemporary times, with modern infrastructure and unity, citizens of Kyushu have maintained a sense of pride in the region’s unique qualities. …[The] museum opened in 2005 to become the fourth national museum in Japan, and the elegant building architecture alone makes it a sight worth seeing. Because Dazaifu was historically a center of international exchange and communication with China, Korea, and other parts of Asia, the museum has made efforts to introduce the history and culture of Kyushu in a wider, Asian context.
The museum had an interactive room, where you could use traditional musical instruments, etc, which the boys enjoyed. Overall the museum is what you would expect from a high quality history museum, and they had audio guides in English, which made it accessible to me and the boys.
We also enjoyed the shopping street that leads up to the shrine and museum. It has a mix of tourist trap shops and some more interesting restaurants and shops that look like they’ve been there forever. It’s also home to the coolest Starbucks I’ve ever seen, which I wrote about earlier. We had a good lunch, and Kai got a cool t-shirt at a samurai shop. They had various shirts featuring the kamon (emblems) of famous historical families. Maria belatedly realized she committed a minor faux pas by asking if they had any for the Minamoto clan, which her family is descended from. They were a northern clan, and the north eventually conquered the south, so it’s sort of like asking for Grant memorabilia in a Civil War shop in South Carolina.
- Sad but true – New blog post: Discontinuing WordPress plugin support http://t.co/bJANY9ss68 06:11:07, 2014-07-30
- Achieving the impossible: passing a Japanese driver's license exam. It’s excruciating for Japanese & foreigners alike http://t.co/HMgMXkTnKr 08:32:23, 2014-07-30
- I don’t think refilling water pistols with the shrine’s purification water is an approved use http://t.co/aSoBAc0FyX 06:54:19, 2014-07-31
- Maria is quoted extensively in this IT World article on innovation in Japan http://t.co/fCTr9Uipix 18:48:12, 2014-07-31
- I wish they had this shirt in my size, because I really want to be a "Desperado Legend Monster.” New blog post: http://t.co/4lShUNe3IM 02:42:45, 2014-08-02
- Great fireworks, yukatas, and good snacks (but we decided to pass on the pig intestines on a stick). New blog post: http://t.co/rybhMljjwZ 11:37:04, 2014-08-03
- Emergency birthday cake problem solved – New blog post: Happy Birthday Eidan! http://t.co/exmm5eWylR 06:04:32, 2014-08-05
The Iwataya department store is a few blocks from our apartment. It’s one of several massive shopping complexes in the Tenjin area. I can’t be bothered with 90% of what all the department stores here have to offer: a mind-numbingly endless array of women’s clothes and shoes. But I’ve been back more than once to the high-end grocery store on the lower basement level of Iwataya. Almost everything there is very expensive, and is meant for special occasions (or for people with money to burn), but it is fun to look at. It’s actually almost hypnotic.
So this is not where people do their everyday shopping. But if you’re looking for examples of those outrageously expensive Japanese square watermelons you’ve heard about, this is the place.
We have bought some of the dessert breads, which are absolutely delicious.