Monday, August 01, 2005


August 1 2005
The humidity,rain and heat of the rainy season have been replaced by the humidity and heat of summer.In addition there are the cicadas.Big cricket like insects.The size of your thumb.Ive been awaken the last few mornings by their urgent metallic rasping.It has the same effect as fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.Or sirens on Stukas.Im instantly alert unable to return to sleep,lying inert bathed in a sweat atop a soaked futon.
Summers not all that bad.As I noted last entry the summer sumo tournament is in July.As well there are numerous firework festivals and smaller local festivals to take your mind off the weather.
Tajimi, where I work had its annual fireworks festival yesterday.As usual the area in front of the train station is given over to various performers and performances during the day.Closer to the river where the fireworks are set off both banks are lined with stalls selling food,drink and other diversions.
Among summer treats you can try choco-bananas;bananas dipped in chocolate,eat soba noddles,partake of grilled eel or corn cobs or even baked octopus balls.
The traditional bowls of shaved iced make a welcome appearance.It comes in an assortment of flavors.My favorite being a thick sickly blue syrup "Blue Lagoon".My least favorite has to be a concoction that involves mixing a couple of spoonfuls of azuki beans (red soya beans) into the shaved ice.
The diversions include trying to capture goldfish with what amounts to a tea strainer.This involves a fair degree of skill as the paper scoop soon gets wet rendering it well nigh impossible to catch anything.Usually the vendors give you a wimpy little goldfish out of sympathy for your pathetic efforts.Insult is added to injury when 1 day later you return home to find said fish floating upside down in the aquarium you bought specially for it.
Anyway the fireworks at Tajimi are by all accounts modest when compared to larger cities and displays.Seems theres some kind of rivalry a Freudian pryomania envy .Whatever, the display lasts for one hour 7.30-8.30pm filling the air with gasps and cheers from admiring locals watching their taxes going up in smoke.
There are the rare accidents associated with such events.A few years ago a number of people were crushed to death after too many people got on a bridge after a display ended.Then theres the occassional mishap with explosives and spontaneous combustion.
The festivals also offer the chance to parade about in your yukata and geta.Yakata are the cheaper,lighter equivalent of a kimono and have in recent years enjoyed a popular resurgence particularly with the younger generation.Teamed with geta-laquered wooden sandals, they are the fashion item of summer.The yukata come in a rainbow of colors and the obi or waist band sets it off stylishly.Cheap imported Chinese fabric and hemp have made them more price friendly.My favorite being a purple and pink get up with a Hello Kitty motif and matching fan protruding at a rakish angle from your obi.Enough already.
Random Notes
Oceans 12...Why?Take the money and run.My God what was I thinking when I rented it?What a travesty..Id read the reviews,should have known better.Not really any plot.The running joke seems to be on the audience.Lots of dead space and scenery changes to mask how dire and threadbare it all is.
Internet Suicide Pacts
Read an interesting article recently about a morbid trend in Japan.Internet suicide pacts.You meet like minded people via websites set up for such purposes.Internet suicides usually die in groups of two,three,or four.The largest group thus far has been seven found last October.

Why the complusion to die in a group? i hear you ask.According to Yukiko Nishihara, a counsellor "the answer has to do with Japanese society and its tendency to organise itself into hierarchical groups.Japanese have weak individual identities and feel more secure losing themselves in and identifying themselves with a group." Yikes was my first reaction when i read this .If this wasnt worrying enough theres also the comment that "consistent with Japanese psychology,the rise of internet suicide has provoked a reaction of helpless panic".
Not only in this area either.One only has to think of the slow reaction after the Tokyo earthquake recently.Earthquake reports were delayed due to outdated computer programs and some officials didnt bother to answer their phones and return to work as required.
One shudders to think of a possible terrorist attack in Tokyo.The loss of life and carnage due to the inefficient buck-passing bureaucracy doesnt bear thinking about....

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