Monday, February 15, 2010

Next Years Firewood


One of the smartest things I ever did was put in a woodstove. Combined with the insulation and draughtproofing I've done it has meant that essentially my heating bill for the past 6 winters has been zero.


Even before this winter is over I am stacking the firewood for next winter. So, where do I get all this free wood?


Just had a 2 ton truckload of posts and beams from a house being demolished. The building company have to pay to dump all the wood at a site 10K away, so they are only too happy to give it us for free. It's cedar, which is not the greatest firewood, it burns hot and fast, but sometimes thats useful.

Before they demolished the house we went in and took out some nice double-glazed windows and some double doors which will fit nicely in my house. Some of the 4 by 4's I will denail and trim and use for construction too.


For good firewood you need a nice hardwood, and we are getting that from our local shrine. They have just cut back a lot of the trees on the hill, and as they can't afford to pay to have it taken away they too are happy that we will. There is a lot of Kashi, white oak, which is excellent firewood, and a lot of Tsubaki, Camellia, which I don't know about as firewood, though I've read that it is cut for firewood in some places.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chuya Nakahara's hat

One day in Yamaguchi City 5932

Recently someone described me as having a fetish for manhole covers. Not sure if it's true and accurate, but I do find them a fascinating way to learn about places.

For anyone who truly has a fetish for them, Yuda Onsen in Yamaguchi Prefecture is the place to go. In this small town they have dozens and dozens of different designs.

One day in Yamaguchi City 5931

This group of four all show Chuya Nakahara' hat. He was a local boy who made quite a name for himself as a poet during the Taisho period. He was influenced by Dadaism and later French Symbolism, and though not so well known outside Japan was known for his avant gardeism and bohemianism, though apparently he is most wull known for the hat he wore.

One day in Yamaguchi City 5930

He died young at only 30 years of age. There is an excellent site in English on him here

One day in Yamaguchi City 5933

The town has a small museum containing his manuscripts and other materials from his short life.

One day in Yamaguchi City 5927

Friday, February 12, 2010

Red hats & bibs: around the trees


The last time I visited Tachikue Gorge I was really lucky to get some quite magical light.

As well as along the cliff, some of the 1,500 statues are placed around some of the huge trees there.


There may be times during the year when the gorge gets visitors, but each time I've been there I have been the only person there.


The first time I visited I had walked for three days over the mountains from Iwami and down the Kando River.


Buses from Izumo Station, 8k away, stop at several point along the gorge.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Asia Pacific Import Mart


The Asia-Pacific Import Mart and West Japan General Exhibition Hall are located just north Of Kokura Station in Kitakyushu and is part of the redevelopment of the old indistrial/port area.


It's part of Kitakyushu's FAZ (Foreign access zone) an attempt, somewhat successful, to forge stronger links between North Kyushu and the mainland of Asia.


It was finished in 1998 and was designed by Nikken Sekkei.


The AIM is home to a variety of restaurants and shops featuring products from the Asia Pacific region.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The view from the highest castle in Japan


Getting up to Bitchu Matsuyama castle, Japan's highest, is not very easy. There is no public transport up the steep road, though you can drive or take a taxi three quarters of the way up, there is still a steep climb to the top. From the bottom allow a good hour to walk up.


The view down to Takahashi, about 1,000 feet below is worth the climb though.
Takahashi and its castle doesn't get a lot of visitors as its not on the Shinkansen, but its worth a visit.


As well as the castle there are a lot of Edo-period buildings in one section of town and a wonderful zen garden. Nearby is a wonderful Tadao Ando building housing a large art museum. There's lots of signs in English.


The rest of Takahashi is a a fairly typical "cookie cutter" Japanese town.

Its located on the JR Hakubi line which connect Okayama City with Yonago, Matsue and Izumo.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The highest castle in Japan

At 430 meters above sea level, situated atop Mount Gagyu in Okayama, is Bitchu Matsuyama Castle, the highest castle in Japan. It overlooks Takahashi, and is also known as Takahashi Castle.

A castle was built here in 1331, but this later castle was built in 1683. It is one of the handful of original castles left in japan, and is the only Yamajiro (mountaintop castle) with a Tenshu (Keep)

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the castle was abandoned and partially destroyed, but beginning in 1929 sections of the castle and its impressive fortifications have been repaired and restored.

The castle is open daily and there is a 300 yen entrance fee. Unless you are a castle freak, the most impressive thing is the views from the castle, and some of those I will post tomorrow.

The view is worth the climb. More posts on Japanese castles.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Red hats & bibs: cliffside


Buddhist statues wearing red hats and bibs can be found all over Japan. In wayside shrines and altars there will be alone or in small groups. In larger temples there may be many of them in lines.


In Tachikue Gorge on the Kando River a few k south of Izumo City, there are hundreds of them arrayed along a cliff for about 500 meters.


There are 1,000 statues of various buddhas, and 500 statues of Buddhas disciples.


This area was a centre for Yamabushi until Shugendo was outlawed in early Meiji.


Buses from Izumo Station stop along the gorge.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Concrete Wabi Sabi: Virgin tetrapods

Concrete Wabi Sabi: Virgin tetrapods

Concrete Wabi Sabi: Virgin tetrapods.
I like this photo because without any scale reference, one could be looking at something architectural, a stadium maybe.

But in fact, it's just a line of new tetrapods waiting to go in place to "protect" the riverbank. New concrete can have an aesthetic quality, in my opinion.

There are tetrapod production sites all over the place. Mostly they are made in situ, you just need the molds and a constant stream of cement trucks. I haven't been able to find the numbers, but I'm willing to bet that Japan leads the world in the number of cement trucks per capita.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Japan from the air.


Flying back into Japan on Wednesday I was able to get a few decent shots. This first one is somewhere in north Kyushu.


Kyushu has a lot of active volcanoes, and I've studied maps to try and find which one this is, but couldn't be sure. If anyone knows, please let me know.


Kochi City on the south coast of Shikoku.


Somewhere in eastern Shikoku.


In the middle of Awajima, descending to land at Kansai Airport.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The biggest shimenawa in the world


The biggest shimenawa in Japan, and therefore the world, is located up in Izumo at the great shrine of Izumo Taisha.


It adorns the Kagura den, located next door to the shrine proper.


It's more than 13 meters in length and weighs somewhere between 5 and 8 tons.


A new one is constructed every 3 years.