Tuesday, September 9, 2008

September harvest


The gardens continue to produce an abundance of tomatoes, both large, and cherry. Most of my neighbors trim their tomato plants to a single upright vine which soon dies. I make a cage of steel mesh and let the plants spread like a jungle. I'll be picking tomatoes until the first frost in late November, and then there will be kilos of green tomatoes to have too.

red peppers

The bell peppers continue to fruit. I let them ripen now into sweet red peppers. They too will kepp producing for 2 more months.


Had a small harvest of swedish turnips, known as swede in the UK, and rutabaga in the US, no-one here has seen any before. The tops started to rot, probably due to the excess ofrain the past month, so they should have grown a few more months and gotten bigger.

Still more eggplants to pick everyday.

This years sweet potato harvest will be small again this year. The vines were doing great yesterday, but sometime during the night wild boars (inoshishi) dug up and ate a lot of the fattest.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Tajikarao kagura mask

Tajikarao 1

These are 2 slightly different versions of the Tajkaro mask, one with a moustache, one without. He appears in the Iwato story, wherein Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, has hidden herself away inside a cave.

tajikarao 2

The kami try various ways to get her to come out until finally Uzume does a striptease that causes the gathered kami to roar with laughter. Amaterasu peeks out to see what the fuss is about and Tajikarao grabs her and pulls her out of the cave.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dogo salamanders


Yet another manhole cover from the village of Tsuma on Dogo, the largest of the Oki Islands. It shows freshwater salamander, known as sanshowo in Japanese. In my area they are called hanzake, and we have the largest salamanders on the planet, but thats another post.


Dogo and the rest of the Oki Islands are rightfully famous for thie seafood and wondeful clear waters, great for swimming, scuba diving, and fishing.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Japanese self-images

A Genealogy of 'Japanese' self-images.

Eiji Oguma

Trans Pacific Press

ISBN 1-876843-04-7


Of all the myths propagated about Japan, the one I find most disturbing can be illustrated by a quote by Taro Aso, the man in line to be the next Japanese Prime Minister. He said "“Japan is one nation, one civilization, one language, one culture, one race, none of which can be found in any other country”. It is disturbing that even a cursory glance at Japanese history reveals the assertation to be false and yet it is believed by so many, Japanese and other, but it's also disturbing because the idea is the bedrock of the whole "field" of Nihonjinron, and also used to justify Japan's deeply embedded racism. What is more surprising however, is that this idea is very, very, modern, being created in the postwar period but not becoming dominant until the 1960's.

Eiji Oguma's excellent, authoritative study of how the Japanese define themselves follows the debates and lines of thought from the Meiji period up until today, drawing from archeology, history, linguistics, anthropolgy, ethnology, eugenics, folklore and philosophy, and the complete break that occured with Japan's defeat in the war. Prior to that the Japanese defined themselves very much as a "mixed-race" with ancestry traced to north, east, and south asia, as well as ascribing their roots to Greece and Italy!!! Of course this definition allowed them to justify their invasion and colonisation of Korea, Taiwan, and China.

The book fleshes out many of the Japanese politicians and thinkers of the 20th Century as well as proving detailed study of how their colonial citizens were treated, and of course provides the explanation for much of Nihonjinron.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ichiyama Kids Kagura Matsuri


Last night was one of my favorite matsuris. It was the Kids kagura matsuri in the nearby village of Ichiyama. We've been every year for the last 4 years, and as usual we had a great time.


I enjoy it partly because its great to see kids focus their energies on something other than video games, TV, or martial baseball, but its also enjoyable because of the friendliness and hospitality of the village. Of course free sake is a draw, as well as 50yen yakitori! The first dance (photo above) is always the purification, Shioharae, and this is where the youngest kids start. This year the 4 dancers were all elementary school students.


The second dance, the welcoming the kami, was performed by 2 10 year old boys who were a little more seasoned than the first 4.


In between the dances the kagura group leader introduced some of the new costumes the group had acquired. They had received a grant from a foundation in Tokyo. The outfit above cost more than $8.000. Figuring in the pants, undershirt, wigs, masks, and other paraphenalia, a kagura dancer can be wearing up to $20,000 worth of costume. Mostly this is paid for by donations from the villagers.


The canopy above the dancers is called a tengai, and the kami descend through the paper streamers to "possess" the dancers. The dancer in the Hachiman dance above is 14 years old.


Of course, my favorites are the Oni,.. the demons, the ogres... with the continued depopulation of the villages, there are fewer kids to dance nowadays, so for some of the larger dances adults have to dance the parts.


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Kannmai Matsuri

This short video was shot 2 weeks ago on the small island of Iwaishima. It shows the beginning of the Kannmai matsuri, as 2 rowboats, accompanied by a flotilla of gaily decorated fishing boats, head out to see to meet 3 boats coming from Kyushu carrying priests.

kannmai 1

The priests are from the village of Imi in Kyushu, and come here every 5 years fro the matsuri.

kannmai 2

The priests boats land on a beach in a bay on the other side of the island and perform a ceremony. In 886 a delegation of villagers were travelling back to Imi from Kyoto and were hit by a bad storm. They took shelter on Iwaishima and in gratitude for the help they received from the people on Iwaishima they performed ceremonies for the local kami, Kojin. This was the start of the Kannmai Matsuri which now occurs every 5 years.

Kannmai 3

After the ceremony the boats form a convoy and head back to the harbor on the other side of the island. I counted more than 30 boats in total.

kannmai 4

At the harbor the villagers wait to greet the priests. The older women play shamisen, the young boys play drums, and there are 4 miko. All the men of the village are on the boats.

There now follows 3 days of kagura performances.

Previous post on Kannmai Matsuri

Friday, August 29, 2008

Monkey raid


Sitting at my computer yesterday I heard a rustle in the persimmon tree just outside the screen door. An adult monkey had jumped into the tree to try and grab some unripe persimmons. As I moved to grab my camera he jumped back onto the fence.


There were 4 other monkeys sitting on the fence, and as I went outside to try and get some photos they jumped down and ran back into the forest. The leader sat on the fence and watched me.

There are between 20 and 30 monkeys in the troop that live on my mountain. This was a raiding party of adults, no children.


On the topic of monkeys allows me to post some photos I took while in the mountains of Miyajima. The deer is being preened by the monkey, probably for lice or some other such tasty morsel. A fine example of mutual assistance.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Typical Japanese landscape 5


The sun sets over a paddy of ripening rice.
This photo was taken in my village while walking to Bon Odori.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Matsubara Inari Shrine, Miyoshi


Inari shrines are immediately recognizable by their "tunnels" of vermillion Torii. Inari is primarily the kami of rice harvest, but this one is in the middle of an urban area, surrounded by bars, snacks, restaurants, and other forms of "entertainment".


This can be explained by the fact that Inari is the patron kami of geisha and prostitutes, and therefore shrines can often be found in the traditional "water trade" areas of town.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nima Sand Museum (outside)

Nima Sand Museum

Driving along Route 9 as it passes through the town of Nima one is struck by a strange site;- 6 glass and steel pyramids rising out of the hillside. This is the Nima Sand Museum.

Sand Museum9383

Nearby is Kotogahama beach, known for its "singing sand".... actually it just squeaks when you walk on it, but that was the inspiration for the museum. The building was designed by Shin Takamatsu, who was born in Nima. The tallest pyramid was designed to be tall enough to be seen from his mother's gravesite.

Sand Museum9364

The main pyramid houses the world's largest sand timer, and other than that there is little to see inside the museum.

Sand Museum9384

However, the museum was featured in a hit TV drama, and that has provided the impetus for many to visit it.