Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fake maiko.


These 2 young ladies in Gion were being photographed by a whole gaggle of foreign tourists who most probably believed they were seeing maiko or geisha.


In fact the 2 women were customers of one of the many "Maiko make-over" shops that are in Gion.


With prices ranging from 6,000 up to more than 40,000 yen. you can get made up and wear the costume and then wander around Gion.


So, how can you tell they are fake?

A simple rule of thumb is that if it is the daytime, then almost certainly they are cosplayers. Another thing to look for is how they walk. Very few non-maiko will be able to walk in the correct maiko way. The bags they carry and how they lift the kimono are also give-aways.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

St. Xavier Memorial Church


The St. Xavier memorial Church is located in Yamaguchi City. It was built in 1998 to replace an earlier church that "mysteriously" burnt down in 1991.


It was designed by the Italian architect Rugieri, and is constructed of marble and concrete.


St. Francis Xavier spent 6 months in Yamaguchi in 1550 as the guest of the local daimyo and it is said it was the happiest 6 months of his life.


The church bells can be heard all over downtown Yamaguchi, and they made me realize how much I miss the sound of church bells. Much nicer than the piped muzac spouting from the PA's in every other Japanese town.


There is a small Christian museum in the basement of the church with a small entrance fee. Entrance to the church itself is free.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Concrete wabi sabi: more steps.

Continuing with my exploration of the aesthetic potential in Japan's favorite material,.... more steps!

An Afternoon Around Sanbe Dam4128

An Escheresque view of the steps down sanbe Dam.


A very standard form of steps. These go down to the stream that run through Omori, Iwami Ginzan.


Of course concrete can be poured into any shape. These curved steps go down to the boat dock for the horikawa boat tour on the river in Matsue.


These lead down to a hot spring in the river at Tamatsukuri Onsen.


I really liked these that lead up into the Museum of Ehime History & Culture.


These last ones are not actually in Japan, but Seoul, Korea.

Monday, December 7, 2009

O-miki by the barrel

A morning at Matsuo Shrine 4450

A huge stack of sakedaru (sake barrels) at Matsuo Shrine near Kyoto. Matsuo is the home of the patron kami of sake brewers.


Sake when offered to the kami is known as O-miki. It is one of the primary offering (shinsen) to the kami. After a ceremony the omiki will be shared among the participants and congregation.

I don't drink sake, but gladly drink omiki.

A morning at Matsuo Shrine 4449

The wooden sakedaru are wrapped in a ricestraw blanket to protect them during transportation.

48 Hours. 225 of 600

Most of the major shrines will have a stack of sakedaru, usually, but not always, donated by brewers.



Sunday, December 6, 2009

Typical Japanese Landscape 26


Foothills of Katsuragi Mountain (Nara) at sunset.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

It's going to be a snowy winter...

kamemushi1 least according to these critters! They are Kamemushi ( Turtle Bug), and this fall there has been a much larger number of them invading the house. Local wisdom says this means heavier than usual snowfall this winter.


Members of the Pentatomidae family of bugs, in English they are commonly known as Stinkbugs because of the unpleasant smell they excrete when attacked. Many Japanese women and kids freak out if they see one as if it were a deadly creature, but in fact the smell is a little unpleasant but not that bad. Japanese say the smell of Cilantro is like that of the kamemushi, reason freash cilantro is hard to find in Japanese supermarkets.

In Vietnam they eat the bugs. From personal experience I can tell you that even after cooking they remain crunchy!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Round Windows: looking out.

Circular windows are not uniquely Japanese, but they do seem a little more common here traditionally.

Kennin-Ji, the oldest Zen Temple in Kyoto

The former Wilds Gallery, Omori, Iwami Ginzan

Tea room, Chofu gardens, Yamaguchi Pref.

Manor House, Takahashi, Okayama.

One weekend one year ago 1620
Park. Asari, near Gotsu

Wednesday, December 2, 2009



Haikyo is a Japanese word that means something along the lines of "ruin" and "abandoned building", and its a word that is becoming used in English now. There are lots of people who's hobby is exploring abandoned sites around Japan. Where I live close to half the buildings are abandoned, so it doesn't seem anything special.


This tiny haikyo was on the trail leading up to the small chapel at Otome Pass, in Tsuwano, the site of the torture and martydom of Japanese christians in the late 19th Century.


It was a small tea room/cafe, and was probably built in the late 1960's when Japan started to experience a domestic travel boom


One of the fascinations of haikyo seems to be that often things will be left untouched as they were.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Traditional japanese house


It's only been quite recently that I have begun to appreciate the aesthetics of traditional Japanese houses. This one seemed a little lighter than many.


I have also come to appreciate the gardens, though I can't quite get used to the fact that Japanese gardens are meant to be looked at, not walked in.

For many years I didn't even bother going into any of the many old houses open to the public.


This one is located in the small village of Chikauchi-cho, a few hundred meters from Takeuchi JR station in SW Nara Prefecture.


We stopped in on our way to walk the Katsuragi kaido. The place had obviously been recently renovated and had just opened to the public. Like many places off the beaten track, entrance was free.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Jellyfish invasion


Not sure what these species are. There was an interesting article in last week's Japan Times about the invasion of Nomura jellyfish, the worlds largest. The article is here

The one in the photo above was pretty small, and it was trapped in a tide pool.


Just off the rocks was this much larger one, about 50cms wide. While sailing off the Shimane coast I have seen some monsters more than 1 meter across, but apparently they can grow to 2 meters.