Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Flash

Cherry Blossoms
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Well after spring-like weather on Monday encouraging the cherry blossoms to bloom we've had cold wintry temperatures the rest of the week and yesterday snow flurries and wind which stopped the flowers in their tracks.The flowers are maybe 80 % bloomed at most.
Today, Friday 31 March at Tsurumai Park I braved the chilly winds and 10 degrees celsisus weather to glimpse the first flowers.
Hopefully this weekend will be warmer as I've got a cherry blossom party to attend.....

Monday, March 27, 2006

Nagoya-Jo Nagoya Castle

Nagoya Castle 6
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The castle and its grounds are one of the most popular attractions in Nagoya.As well as the Castle there are gardens, a Noh theatre and a teahouse in the grounds.The Castle grounds also boast many cherry blossom trees which unfortunately werent flowering yet when I visited last Saturday.Come next week however the area will be abuzz with parties and patrons enjoying the blossoms.
By way of compensation a grove of plum trees had bloomed earlier and were getting lots of attention.
As to the Castle it was built between 1610-1614 by Tokugawa Ieyasu.The original Castle along with most of Nagoya was flattened by the American bombing raids of WW2.In 1959 a ferro-concrete replacement was completed.Of note are the two famous shachi-hoko (dolphin-like creatures) which are at either end of the Castles roof.
Inside there are various displays of armour and family treasures on show.You can either climb the stairs or take the elevator to the top floor of the Castle and get a panoramic view of Nagoya City.The Castle is a five minute walk from the nearest subway station Shiyakusho on the Meijo subway line.It costs 500 yen to enter the Castle and even at 9a.m on a Saturday morning one must queue up in orderly fashion to purchase a ticket from one of the machines at the entrance gates...

Sumo-Spring Grand Sumo Tournament

The tournament wound up yesterday in dramatic fashion.Yokozuna Asashoryu won his 16th Grand Championship in a playoff with fellow Mongolian wrestler Hakuho.Although he lost the playoff Hakuho`s record of 13 wins 2 losses virtually guarantees he will get promoted to ozeki rank next basho.Ozeki Kaio began the final day at 7wins and losses apiece.A loss would mean demotion from ozeki ranking and his possible retirement.Kaio said before the tournament he'd rather retire than be demoted.Being 5 wins 7 losses with 3 days to go it seemed unlikely that he'd get the necessary three wins.Somehow he managed to do it including a final day win against Hakuho.
Finally Tochiazumas bid for yokozuna rank was thwarted with 3 early losses.He rallied toward the end of the contest including a final day win against Asashoryu.His winning record of 12 wins 3 losses while not considered good enough for promotion does ensure that his bid for the yokozuna ranks can be extended to the next tournament.I hope he's successful...

Cherry Blossom Update

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Just a quick update on the cherry blossoms.The Met Agency initially predicted that Tokyo's cherry blossom date would be March 25 this year.Then it moved the date forward to March March 22-just a day later than the actual date which fell on March 21.
Its rivals Weather News first forecast Tokyo's blossom date as March 29 then revised it to March 25 a few days astray of the actual offical start date of March 21.
So who cares if the dates are out a day or so?
Evidently many people.Beyond the blossoms beauty there is an economic factor.Convenience stores and other outlets near popular parks do a roaring trade in bentos,paper cups and plates,tarps and beer.
In some cases sales of bentos double or treble over the brief flowering frenzy.
Stores,cities and tour guides among others need accurate information to provide their customers with the best viewing conditions possible,
Given todays fine weather cherry blossoms should make their appearance here in Nagoya mid-week.
The photo above is not of cheery blooms but plum flowers in the grounds of Nagoya Castle.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Friday Flash

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Frantic feeding frenzy at Shirotori Garden.For 50yen you can purchase a small paper cup of fish pellets and feed the koi or carp that live in the ponds of the garden.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Of Cherry Blossoms and Sumo Wrestlers

Last Years Cherry Blossoms
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
From recent reports it appears competition is heating up between private weather forecasters and the state run Meterological Agency to predict when cherry trees will bloom this year.
There is some disagreement between the blossoming days predicted by the two organisations.In some cases the predictions vary up to 10 days.Last year the Met Agency predictions were off by several days.

As warmer weather comes much media attention is turned toward the delicate pink flowers.The nation follows the so-called "cherry blossom front" as it moves south to north over about a month from early March each year.
Why the fanatical interest and protests when the predictions are astray?...
One answer may be that the traditional appeal of cherry blossom viewing comes from the fact that they are so short lived and fragile.Prone to light winds and rain.They are a reminder that life is tenuous and temporary.Apparently if you want your daughter to live a long life dont name her Sakura.
The other answer is that the flowering cherry trees provide an excuse for hanami (cherry blossom) parties.

Accurate predictions are thus crucial not just for the planning of viewing trips but also for the often loud and drunken parties.It remains to be seen which predictions will prove correct and which company will retain its credibility.
At this stage Tokyos trees are expected to start blossoming on March 22.As for Nagoya and other parts of Japan late next week seems to herald the transient blooms arrival...

An intriguing eight days in the Spring Sumo Tournament thus far.Tochizama remains on course for promotion to yokozuna,sumos top rank.At 6 wins and 2 losses he has to record 13 wins to be considered for promotion.He's aiming to become the first Japanese yokozuna since Takanohana retired in 2003.
Meanwhile Kaio has overcome a terrible start to balance the books at 4 wins 4 losses apiece.He has to post a winning record to avoid dropping from the ozeki rank.Should he fail its likely he will retire after this tournament.He was given a rousing welcome when he entered the ring before his last two bouts.He's one of my favourite wrestlers having yo-yoed between promotion and demotion over the last few years..

Mobile Phones...Keitai Culture

Mobile Phone
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Last week a Japanese company,Softbank Corp agreed to buy Vodafone Groups Japanese mobile phone unit for 1.8billion yen.Softbank is Japans second largest Internet access provider.Vodafone with 15 million Japanese customers has a 17% market share but lags behind its two big rivals NTT DocoMo and KDDI Corp in terms of network coverage and subscribers.
The mobile phone business in Japan is an 8.5 trillion yen market.In fact to call the "keitai" mere mobile phones is to overlook their versatility and the multitude of functions they can now perform.

As well as mundane email and phone calls,they can be used for online services such as video and music downloads,share trading and auctions.Most models also come equipped with digital cameras.

One of their more sensationally reported uses has been the so-called keitai encounters via email dating sites.Such sites are said to make it easier for "enjo kosai" (paid companionship or teenage prostitution)to take place.
My Vodafone keitai (above) though two years old comes with a 1.3 mega pixel digital camera.Most of the features I dont use,though I can access sites such as CNN.I mainly use it to get weather reports and train timetables.
And if you're wondering..yes it is pink.I told the Vodafone staff I didnt care what colour it was as long as it was bilingual and NOT pink! Of course I got my bilingual phone but its HOT pink.At least it stands out and I havent lost it yet....

Friday, March 17, 2006

Friday Flash March 17 2006

Yellow Orchids
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Yellow Orchids on display at the Orchid Gardens in Nagoya City Japan.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Brownie Points...

New York Brownies....
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The weather has reverted to winter like conditions after briefly flirting with Spring on Saturday which had mild temperatures and light breezes laden with the scent of newly blossomed daphne.Snow flurries and 5 degrees celsius brrr...

To cheer me up on this miserable morning I received an early White Day gift.( See photo above).As you will recall White Day March 14th is for the cynically inclined among us payback day for St Valentines February 14th.
Thank you Halli.I can recommend both her baking skills and her website.
Click for the link at the top of this page....

Also of note yesterday saw the start of the Spring Sumo Tournament in Osaka.Theres more than the usual interest with a few wrestlers looking for promotion such as Tochiazuma while others such as Kaio need a winning record to avoid losing his ozeki or second highest ranking...

Whale in a Can

Whale Meat Can
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
One of my more distressing discoveries recently was this can of whale meat.Alerted about it by a colleague I purchased my can from a local Family Mart store.
Overpriced at 470 yen and probably illegal in most civilised countries I still wonder at finding it so freely available on the shelves..
Below the Whale Meat title (in capital letters) the label crudely translated states"There exist in the world one million minke whales"
Maybe its a way to justify the continued "research program"....

Lunch Boxes...Bentos

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

One feature of food in Japan is the ubiquitious bento.
They are readily available from many convenience and department stores and also railway stations among other places.
Lunchboxes vary according to seasons and regions.

Prices also range from around 300 yen upwards.The more expensive ones contain seafood delicacies such as sea urchin.
The lunchbox pictured cost me 500 yen.
It conforms to the tradtional 4:3:2:1 ratio of 4 parts rice,3 parts fish or meat,2 parts vegetables and 1 part either pickled vegetables or dessert.
Consideration is also given to the color content of the box.The more colorful the better.The actual container can be a simple stryofoam box or a more elaborate and expensive wooden lacquered container....

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday Flash March 10 2006

Tajimi Manhole Cover
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Each city or town in Japan has its own distinctive man-
hole covers.The covers reflect the local area and are often decorated with flowers and other things that symbolise that place.

This particular example comes from Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture and includes items of pottery which is Tajimi's and the neighbouring areas main industry and employer.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Future Of Life

The Future Of Life
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
While reading Edward Wilsons book "The Future Of Life" I heard that the worlds total population had hit 6.5 billion people.Wilson,along with other experts and organisations calculates that the population will peak around mid-century 2050 at 9 to 10 billion,hopefully.
Wilson estimates that the the worlds environment or biosphere would be capable of sustaining 17 billion but at great cost to living standards and natural resources.

His central theme is the problem of providing a decent standard of living for everyone in the world while also preserving as much of the rest of life as possible.Before its too late.
He charts mans effect on the biosphere by looking at different areas such as Hawaii and species such as the Vancouver Island Marmot.
Lots of facts and frightening figures.For example,he quotes the then latest (2001) models that predict earths mean temperature will rise between 2.5F and 10.4F by 2100.Even if fully adopted the Kyoto Protocol will only decrease this rise by as little as 0.1F.The effects of global warming can be seen already at the North Pole.Only last week I read two articles predicting the demise of polar bears.

By 2100,Wilson raises the prospect of a world with no Amazon,Congo or New Guinea rain forests.Coral reefs,rivers and other aquatic habitats will have deteriorated badly.Also gone would be half or more of Earth's animals and plant species.Lost irretrivably to future generations.
Despite the doom and gloom the book finishes in a positive mood.The author notes the rise of conservation groups,eco-tourism and various NGO and government programs and the fact that adequate resources exist to address the problem which is the core of the book.
To quote him "A civilisation able to envision God and to embark on the colonisation of space will surely find the way to save the integrity of the planet and the magnificent life it harbors"
I hope so....

Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota Vancouvernsis)

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
One of the species that Wilson mentions in his book is the Vancouver Island Marmot.By 2000 it had fallen to about 70 individuals in the wild making it Canada's most endangered species.With its fluffy chocolate and white fur it is the equivalent of the koala or panda as a charismatic animal.
It lives on the high subalpine meadows of Vancouver Island's Ranges.It was pushed to extinction by the clearcutting of forest below its normal subalpine habitat.Attracted instinctively to what they thought were subalpine meadows the marmots numbers decreased.Firstly, they fell prey to the predators on the lower slopes.Secondly,their hibernation cycle couldnt adapt to the new snow fall patterns or temperatures.
The only way to save the species was thought to be a captive breeding program which if successful might lead to resettlement in protected natural subalpine areas.
As Wilson reports the captive program appears to be going well.For more information check out the website link on the top of my homepage...

Skating On Thin Ice...Nagoya Sports Center

Nagoya Sports Center
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Monday March 6 2006
Despite the apparent popularity of figure skating in Japan it seems that there has been a decrease in the number of facilities.
Shizuka Arakawa,recent womens figure skating gold medalist commented it was hard to find a good time to practice due to crowded rinks.One newspaper report stated that the number of rinks in 2002 was 94 compared to 127 in 1997.Most of those closed were privately owned.
I live above the ice rink in the photo.Judging by the numbers of budding skaters and hockey players arriving and leaving at all hours of the day and night this rinks future appears assured.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Flash March 3 2006

Nagoya Port Building
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

The Nagoya Port Building at Nagoya Port is built to resemble a ship.Theres an observation deck on the top giving a great view over the harbour.