Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shimenawa & trees


Shimenawa, the sacred ropes that mark sacred space, can often be found wrapped around trees.

Sometimes the tree features in an old story or myth, but most often they are simply very old.


Shrines are one of the few places where these ancient trees can still be found in Japan.

One way I look for shrines is to look for an unusually large clump of trees in the landscape, and often that is where the shrine is.

A walk from Tsuwano to Masuda 7079

One historian has suggested that when Japan first began building its capital cities in the Nara area the cutting down of the forests led to all kind of environmental problems so shrines were placed where the rivers came out of the mountains and therefore were protected.


There used to a lot more of these sacred groves of ancient trees but the government cut them down when they closed half the shrines in the country. They were local "folk" shrines, not "national" shrines with connections to the imperial rulers, and so were irrelevant to the new state shinto they created.



Saturday, February 27, 2010

Holiday snaps


Extremely busy right now. I have 4 tons of wood to move, cut, and stack. On top of that spring is very, very early, so the garden is needing a lot of attention. So,.... no time to write blogs, so for now some snaps from last years vacation to Turkey. Above is Pamukkale.


And this is Cappadocia


Thgere were, of course, lots of mosques.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kamikaze Kuisine

One day in Shimonoseki 1003

The manhole cover of Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi shows a Fugu, a Pufferfish. Famous as an expensive and very poisonous delicacy in Japan, it is illegal to eat in Europe and other countries.
Every year in Japan people die from eating improperly prepared fugu.

One day in Shimonoseki 933

The Karato Fish Market in Shimonoseki is where most Fugu in Japan is sold. A lot of fugu now is farmed, and they have even developed a completely non-toxic strain.


The fish market also sells a little whale meat, though it might be dolphin as research has shown that up to a third of all whale meat sold in Japan is mislabelled dolphin meat.


Its not a great shot, but this shows some fugu in their natural habitat. When we visited the Kaga no Kukedo the boatman threw some food into the water by the boat for them.

I tried fugu a couple of times and found it nothing to write home about. Not especially tasty, and certainly not worth the high price it is sold for.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thanks to my wife


This is my beautiful wife Yoko.

One Day in Marrakesh 5175

While there are countless reasons for me to thank her, in this instance I'd like to thank her for all the help she patiently gives me with this blog.


I'm sure it is no fun researching obscure points in topics she has absolutely no interest in.


Monday, February 22, 2010

The Kaikyo Dramaship


The Kaikyo Dramaship (kaikyo means straits) is located in Mojiko on the Kyushu side of the narrow Kammon Straits that seperate Kyushu from Honshu.


It houses various displays concerning the history, culture, and nature of the straits.


It was opened in 2003 and the Environmental Design Institute and the Morikawa Design Corporation were among its group of designers.


It's right on the waterfront with excellent views across to Shimonoseki. Entrance is 500yen for adults and it's open from 9 to 5 daily.


Moored just in front was this strange looking tour boat named the Voyager.


It was built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1993 and supposedly the design was inspired by Saturn. Unfortunately it was taken out of service last year as it was no longer financially viable.

Sunday, February 21, 2010



Suise -en is built on a strip of land dividing two ancient ponds at the base of Mount Miwa in Nara. It is on the yamanobenomichi. I can find almost no information about the place.


Is it a shrine? or is it a temple?.... it has the trappings of both, which is how most religious sites were until the Meiji government "separated" Shinto and Buddhism. Here is an Inari shrine. (or is it Dakiniten, the buddhist manifestation of Inari?


In my original notes I have the names Benzaiten and Hachidai Ryu. hachidai Ryu is the Eight Dragon Kings, and is also sometimes equated with Benzaiten. Both have a strong association with water, so that makes sense.


There are also lots of buddhist statues. It was here that I found this tableau of lucky gods.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Red Hats & Bibs: Individual style


Conforming to the group, and not standing out from the crowd, are attributes much cherished in Japan. And so it is also for the statues. There is a standard cap and bib that most statues wear.


Among the 1,500 statues in Tachikue Gorge, however, there were some statues wearing unique and individual outfits. This guy could not be cosier.


For some the Russian peasant woman look is the way to go.


Kawaii (cute) is always an option in Japan.


But for some, "au naturelle"

How Japanese tunnels are built


Our new tunnel will shorten our drive down the river to Gotsu by a little more than 200 meters. Being straight the tunnel will also be more fuel efficient to drive. A rough calculation says that with present traffic density the fuel savings will have paid for the tunnel in only a few million years. Incidentally, that is my village to the left of the tunnel.


This is the machine that actually drills its way through the mountain. I was expecting to see a huge machine almost as big as the tunnel.... watched too many movies I guess! These smaller drill splay out at any angle.


The next stage is to put up steel arches and then a series of steel beams are driven into the mountain radiating out from the tunnel. Then the tunnel is coated in a thin layer of concrete.


The purpose of the steel beams is to stop the tunnel collapsing under the weight of the mountain, represented here in this demonstration by steel nuts.


Next a thick, waterproof, plastic membrane covers the inside of the tunnel followed by a frame of reinforcing rebar,


The final stage involves this huge machine on rails which is a movable form. Its used to pour the final inner walls of the tunnel.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tunnel under construction


We are getting a new tunnel!!!
This will make the drive to Gotsu at least 15 seconds quicker.
Well worth the billions of yen it's costing.


On Tuesday the construction company had an Open Day so that members of the public can view and inspect where all their tax money is going.


It was kind of cool, though I would rather have seen it with the men and equipment in operation.


Tomorrow I will post about the construction method.


About 300 meters in, only 363 more meters to go!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Japanese Tunnels


There are a lot of tunnels in Japan. Not surprising really considering how mountainous it is. The Japanese have become the worlds experts on tunnel construction and have built the longest transport tunnel in the world, the 54k train tunnel connecting Honshu with Hokkaido.


In the 1930's there was a plan to connect Tokyo with the rest of the empire with a high-speed train line that would pass under the sea from Japan to Korea. Incidentally, this is the origin of the Bullet Train.

The little train tunnel above is on our local train line and was dug by hand.


This pedestrian tunnel with hi-tech light show connects Tenmangu Shrine with the National Museum in Dazaifu, Fukuoka.


This somewhat older hand-dug tunnel connects the village of Kimach in Izumo with the sandstone quarry on the other side of the hill.


This long straight pedestrian tunnel goes under the sea and connects Kyushu with Honshu.


What japan also has is thousands and thousands of kilometres of road tunnels. Many of these continue to be built on little used roads and simply "straighten" existing roads that follow rivers.

Which brings me to the subject of tomorrows post.....