Monday, July 31, 2006

Tajimi City Summer Festival

Tajimi Summer Festival 2
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Tajimi City had its annual Summer Festival yesterday.A chance to dress up in your yukata and clip clop about in your geta.
Throughout the day from nine a.m various groups performed on the temporary stage near the station.A very colorful spectacle.

The main event of the day was the hour long fireworks display from 7:30pm.The fireworks were launched from two sites nearby the Toki River banks.The best vantage point is the bridge between the two sites.Failing that a spot near either of the sites is also good.By 5:30pm most of the good positions had gone.Marked or reserved with chairs,mats,tables,cushions or tarps.
The food stalls on each bank were doing a roaring trade.The smell of squid,grilled noodles,burnt bacon and crepe batter hung over the area.
The fireworks got underway on schedule.The crowd "uhhed" and "ahhed" as each series of starshells and rockets exploded.
In the background a massive stereo system blasting out the soundtrack of "Top Gun" and Bon Jovi.
The detonations of some of the larger explosives set off some young children crying,while someones dog equally shaken began to howl.Which begs the question..why bring a dog to a fireworks display?
Trying to capture the pryotechnics on camera proved difficult.I swopped tips with an elderly man afflicted with the same problems.Too much exposure,too little?..a matter of trial and error.Seems the best results were obtained by waiting for a rocket to rise then count to two and shoot.Hopefully one captures the resulting explosion.Then again good timing has never been one of my virtues.
The photo above, shot from the bridge over the Toki River, was one of my better if not great efforts from last night.

GoldFish Scooping

GoldFish Scooping
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Apart from choco-bananas (see below) a typically Japanese summer festival activity is goldfish scooping.For a small outlay one is given a small paper scoop.About the size of a tea strainer.
Covered with tissue like paper.The object is to capture the elusive fish before your scoop gets sodden.Once wet the paper crumbles and splits rendering the scoop useless.
Its very difficult.Supple wrists and dexterity are required.As also are patience and concentration.
I marvelled as a young boy skimmed at least six of the wary creatures into his saucer before his scoop was destroyed.
It appeard from the short time I watched that no one left empty handed.Even those who were unsuccessful in capturing a fish were given a bag containing a couple from the generous vendor to take home.

Tajimi Summer Festival

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
For me choco-bananas are as much a part of Japanese summers as are fireworks and hot weather.
Yesterday,Sunday 30th July,Tajimi City had its annual summer Festival.It started around 9a.m with a big stage set up near the station.From that time till I left round 9pm various performing groups ranging from traditional drum groups to hip-hop dancers took the stage.
It was difficult to work as the noise from "the music" filtered into our classrooms as a continuous dull thud.Headache inducing.
Distracting to those trying to master the complexities of the English language.
Anyways after my release from work I sampled one of the above choco-bananas..they seem to have all the food groups combined on one stick for a relatively cheap 200 yen.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Friday Flash..

Fireworks Hanabi Season
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
After Mondays blog about the rainy season the weather has suddenly transformed into full blown summer mode.Its been very hot from Tuesday onwards round the mid 30s and dipping to around 25 degrees at night.
Nows the time for "natsu-kaze" (summer colds) as people rush from the arctic air conditioned subway cars to the outside heat at train station platforms and then again snap-frozen on the JR trains and their refrigerator like carriages.
Nows also the time for summer festivals and also hanabi (firework festivals).Seems each small town and city has its own fireworks display usually in early to mid August.Tajimi City has its own festival on Sunday.Weather permitting I'll try and get some photos....

Monday, July 24, 2006

Eel Appeal

Unagi Day
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Since the Edo Period it has been traditional to eat eel on the 23rd of July,the Day of the Ox under the old Chinese calendar.It marks the start of the hottest period of summer.
Usually Japan is in the fiery grip of early summer.Eel is said to ward off the debilitating energy sapping heat.
This year however the rainy season has been prolonged.Outstayed its welcome.An active rain front remains.Bringing floods,mudslides and death.
Tajimi where I work has several unagi-ya,eel restaurants.In the past freshwater eels were caught in rice paddies and streams.Now, however most is raised on eel farms.Aichi Prefecure has a number of commerical farms but the leading area is located in Shizouka Prefecture.
Each region has its own recipes and dishes.Even the way of gutting eel varies from Kanto to Kansai.
In Nagoya, hitsumabashi is a popular way of serving eel.Its a style of eating grilled eel together with rice.Tare, a thick soy based sauce is basted on to the eel to add flavour.After grilling the tare basted eel turns a rich golden brown.Green tea is also poured over the eel to add flavour.
Most of the students I talked to yesterday had or were going to have eel at some meal.Although most regarded eel as expensive this didnt seem to deter them from following tradition...

Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament RoundUp

Entering The Ring Ceremony
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Yokozuna Asashoryu won his seventeenth Emperors Cup as the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament ended on Sunday.He finished with a 14 win 1 loss record.His only loss was to Hakuho on the final day.
Hakuho finished with a 13 win 2 loss record.Unfortunately his promotion to yokozuna will have to wait.Hopefully a good performance at the September basho will see his elevation to the top ranking.Also on hold for promotion is Miyabiyama.
The other wrestlers I follow, Kaio and Baruto, both managed to finish with winning records.
The photo shows the daily dohyo-iri (entering the ring ceremony) held before the start of the maku-uchi or top five rank bouts.The wrestlers enter the ring wearing ceremonial aprons or kesho-mawashi.After performing a short ritual they depart...

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday Flash

Friday Flash
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Good Weather For Ducks

The rainy season is having a final burst of activity.Its been raining for the last two days.Non-stop.Steadily.Damp.Dank.
Even the cockroaches have taken to using umbrellas.
As I blog this,at least 14 people throughout the country have been reported killed.Victims of heavy rain,floods or mudslides.
The inclement weather is set to continue for another day or two yet...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Nagoya Summer Grand Sumo Tournament 2006

I had my annual day out at the sumo on Friday.For some it may be a day at Melbourne for the Cup or Addington or Riccarton during Show Week or even Ascot.For me the sporting event of the year in Nagoya has to be the annual Grand Sumo Tournament.
I arrived on Friday, day 6 of the basho, a little later than I anticipated.
Having slept in I still managed to get a ticket and found my seat by about seats were vacant as the lower ranked wrestlers went through their paces.
I like going early.You can get a feel for the place.Scout out all the souvenirs.Work out what to have for lunch.Sit closer to the ring on some of the more expensive cushions.Study the upcoming bouts between the higher ranked wrestlers.
As it was a boiling,sweaty day outside I passed on the chanko nabe this year.It was just too hot and unbearable trying to digest the hearty nabe in the 35 degree heat.I opted for a sumo boxed lunch instead.
The Prefectural Gym starts to fill throughout the early afternoon.The higher ranked wrestlers fight between 5pm and 6pm.
I saw Kaio and Baruto win their bouts while also enjoying the long and theatrical pre match antics of Takamisakari who was promptly lost his.
In the last bout of the day Asashoryu showed why he is the only top-ranked wrestler or yokozuna with a powerful display coming back from injury in the last basho.
All in all, a good day out.The number of foreign wrestlers and spectators seem to increase each year while the vast majority of Japanese spectators appear to be elderly.Having said that though, I sat next to a group of four twenty-something locals,only one who had been to the sumo before yet all seemed to enjoy the experience and would, like me, be back again next year.

The day after I attended the basho Russian wrestler Roho and Chiyotaikai had a "contentious" match.After Roho was pushed from the ring and had lost the bout Chiyotakai joined him outside the ring and said something to him.
The upshot appears from the news reports that Roho having lost his temper later injured his hand having put it through a door and reportedly assaulted two photographers.There was a photo of Roho in the daily paper with his right hand bound in a towel.
For his post bout performances Roho was suspended for three days from the tournament.He has since withdrawn from the basho.
At work today some of my students were critical of both Roho and also Chiyotakai for their unsportsmen- like actions.Apparently its rare for a wrestler to be suspended even more so for actions outside the ring.

** Marine Day**
Today Monday 17th July is a public holiday.Marine Day, the official start of the summer season.Or the drowning season for the cynically inclined.
The local region had a short heatwave last week.Temperatures in the mid 30s and the odd death from heatstroke being reported.This has been ended abruptly with the last throes of the rainy season and slightly cooler if wetter days.
Im still trying to work out which I like less; hot humid days with 98 percent humidity or hot rainy days when the heavens open up.Lashing and dernching you with horizontal rain that no umbrella can hope to ward off....

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Flash

Spent today as I promised myself earlier in the week at the Summer Sumo Tournament held in the Aichi Prefectural Gym in the grounds of Nagoya Castle.
As it was around 35degrees,humid and thunderstorms forecast, I didnt partake of the chanko nabe on sale.Instead I indulged myself by buying a sumo boxed lunch.More details on Monday as its too hot to type and sweat over a hot keyboard at the moment.....

Monday, July 10, 2006

Its Sumo Time Again in Nagoya

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Yup the Summer Grand Sumo Tournament rolls or waddles into Nagoya.It started yesterday Sunday at the Aichi Prefectural Gym in the grounds of Nagoya Castle.For two weeks.From 9a.m to around 6pm each day.
I plan to go to this Friday.I'll have to queue for a general admission seat at 2,800 yen as all the other reserved seats have been booked out.I plan to get there round 8a.m as there are only a limited number of these seats on sale.
It may well be the last time I get to see Kaio in Nagoya as the ozeki is now 33 years old and battling both back problems and demotion.I'm also looking forward to seeing Baruto and Hakuho, who is aiming for promotion to yokozuna, but lost his first bout yesterday.
The photo today shows some of my past tickets and sumo programs.
You can get daily reports and information at

Tanabata July 7th.
The Tanabata or Star Festival is held on July 7th each year and celebrates the meeting of two lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi once a year.The Milky Way as legend has it is a river made from stars that crosses the sky and separated the two lovers who could only meet once a year.This special day is the seventh day of the seventh lunar month.People generally celebrate this day by writing their wishes on small pieces of paper or "tanzaku" and hanging them on bamboo branches.Many areas also have their own local traditions and customs.

World Cup Football Finals 2006
Well what a month of soccer.I started out watching some first round games in New York and watched the final here at 3a.m in Nagoya.
Before the final,there was the mens final from Wimbledon to watch from 10pm to around 1a.m followed by the sumo highlights of the opening day and then the soccer which finished up round 6.30a.m.
Needless to say I was a little sleepy today and lacking energy and sleep.Onward to South Africa in four years time...

Friday, July 07, 2006

Friday Flash

Niki de Saint Phalle
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Nagoya City Art Museum has a retrospective exhibition of the artist
Niki de Saint Phalle.I had no idea who she was before I trotted down to the Museum.She died in 2002.Evidently she was a member of the Nouveau Realisme Movement.Her work was influenced by Gaudi, after she visited Spain and his famous gardens and among others, Dali.
On display are some 100 works from mosiacs,paintings and collages to these huge sculptures.The postcard in the picture above"Big Lady" stands at least two and a half meters high.All of the sculptures are vividly and colorfully painted.She seemed to use many different materials in her works from old rusty kitchen utensils,plastic flowers and toy soldiers as well as papier mache.
Admission for adults is 1,100 yen and runs till August 15th

Monday, July 03, 2006

Buckets of Rain

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Another hot humid week.Tajimi, where I work ,located some 50km out of Nagoya had the highest temperature in Japan last Thursday hitting 35.2 degrees.Tajimi is regularly the hottest place in Japan over the rainy season and summer.
Another week of early morning football World Cup matches.I watched the England/Portugal game.It started here in Japan round 11:45pm and ended after the penalty kicks round 3am.I had to get up at 7am so was feeling somewhat lethargic at work that day.

Another week when I farewell another of my long term and learned colleagues.I had the pleasure to work with Kwok at Tajimi before he was promoted and transferred to another school.Indeed I had the pleasure of working with both Kwok and Peter who seemed to arrive within a week of each other some three years ago and then both leave a week apart.
I'm indebted to Kwok on many fronts.Not for only his bad puns,or listening to my whining.He's pointed me in the direction of authors and novels such as Don Quixote.
He helped me set up this blog site answering my questions when things wouldnt load up or crash.He has his own webpage at or you can just click the link on my page.
He also made me aware of various obscure musicians including one Bob Dylan.Cheers mate.

"May you build a ladder to the stars....

Blue Shoes and Happiness. Stiff..The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Blue Shoes:Stiff
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Im slowly getting through my stockpile of books.Here are two more I've recently read and recommend.
Stiff..The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.
Author..Mary Roach. Publisher..W.W Norton. 292 pages.
An irreverent funny science based book on cadavers.The writer looks at the process of death,the different ways cadavers are used such as "crash test dummies" and how cadavers are disposed,for example by cremation or burial.
Various chapters describe cadavers use in the criminal,accident inquiry and medical fields.Theres also a chapter on organ transplants including a look at head transplants.
The author asks questions I'd be too embarassed to ask.For example when told that male penises and testicles bloat after death she asks how big.."Softball large or watermelon large?"
A not too serious informative look at a side of life most prefer to avoid thinking about.Let alone write on the subject.

Blue Shoes and Happiness.
Author..Alexander McCall Smith. Publisher..Pantheon Books.
227 pages
I spent an enjoyable week travelling to and fro work reading this book,the seventh in the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series.
Once again I was absorbed by the adventures of Mma Ramotswe ,a traditionally built woman and the characters who live in Botswana.As with the earlier books you learn more about the characters pasts and the history of Botswana.
I get the impression that the traditional society of which Smith writes is under threat from the modern world.One of the threats is AIDS or as the characters refer to it as "the cruel sickness" which leaves many children without parents and being looked after by their grandmothers.
While this book,like its predecessors, can be read alone I feel maximum enjoyment is derived if you start with the first in the series as you watch characters form and develop through the books.