Thursday, February 28, 2013

Octopus Bread

The bakery in the basement of the Maruya Gardens building in Tenmonkan recently started producing tako pan (octopus bread) (regular cheese bread with a sliced sausage and a little catsup. The eyes are sesame seeds.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kouryuu Center Crafts

The International Exchange Center had another crafts display in the first floor lobby. This one featuring lots of straw and textile creations.

A straw ship based on the Chinese 7 Lucky Gods.

These are a variant on temari, which are embroidered thread balls that Japanese children make.

A family of shrimp.

Jizo statues. While based on the figure of an Indian Buddhist monk, the Japanese version is usually dedicated to newborns and the unborn.

Any guesses?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

TV Interview

The Tenmonkan shopping complex is a fairly popular onsite location for TV news crews. I generally see a cameraman and director standing around a few blocks farther west, along the Tram street. This time, the crew was close to the sites of Infinity and Nana Anime Bar, and a small girl was being prepped to do the shoot. The camera doesn't have a TV station's call letters on it, so maybe it's not directly related to a news broadcast. The tarp in the background is covering the construction of a new 7-11.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Streetlight Panel

There's no real rule for how streetlight poles are supposed to look. Each neighborhood can have different pole designs or ornamentation (the extreme example is in Tokyo, where in one neighborhood, the poles have Ultraman-influenced designs). This is the main street that runs from my apartment down to the freeway entrance. I've been along this street a few times, but this was the first time I noticed the cutout panels at the top.

I don't know if there's a reason for the shape of the cylinder at the top of the pole. Maybe it's part of some secret communications system...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Garbage Day

Apartment buildings have dedicated trash drop-off locations in or near their buildings. That's not true for small shops and businesses facing city streets. In the latter case, there's public pickup points that the trash can be left at, the night before the trucks come by. Generally, these spots have wire mesh bins that can be locked to prevent anyone else from using them. Here, the green curtain is to discourage pigeons and crows from scattering everything all over the place.

It wouldn't be Japan if there wasn't a full bag of empty beer cans in the garbage.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More River Work

The stretch of the Kotsuki river near my apartment seems to be receiving more construction work than elsewhere. Last year, the water break visible in the upper right corner was put in, spanning the full width of the river. This time, work crews are doing a series of shorter projects, but I'm not sure exactly what they are. The outcrops only extend partway into the river, and appear to end in a single jagged step.

Close-up of outcrop #4.

Outcrops #1 and 2 (from right to left).

Close-up of outcrop #1. The two big keystones appear to be waiting to be set into place where the big white sandbag is.

Friday, February 22, 2013


UFO Catcher dolls get discarded occasionally. Even so, it's sad when they show up among the ranks of the homeless. This one was hanging out in Tenmonkan, near the Terukuni shrine police box.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

JAXA Museum

This one surprised me. I was walking in Tenmonkan one day recently, when I suddenly noticed this model rocket on the corner of the building. Seems that JAXA (the Japanese version of NASA) is putting in a small museum and public education center on the 2nd floor. It's reasonable, since JAXA has a rocket launch site on Tanegashima island, which is within the boundaries of Kagoshima Prefecture.

The sign says that the museum is coming soon. It will include information on the universe, astronauts and "gourmet space food".

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Honganji, 01/19/13

Also on my route to the conversation school, this one on the northwest corner of Tenmonkan, is the re-roofing project for the Honganji temple. I wrote about this a few weeks ago, thinking that it was nearing completion. I may have been wrong about that, though. Looks like it's still got a ways to go as of Jan. 19...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Pachinko Banners

It's been a while since I ran any pachinko banners. It's because most of the new machines have been for the AKB-48 pop idol group, which I think is over-exposed already. Now, though, there's a new Golgo 13 banner that I like a lot.

Money King Legend

Not sure what the name of this one is. The pachinko machine is based on some Japanese Edo-era TV drama.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gusto Banners

Gusto is a family restaurant chain, similar to Embers or Perkins. Right now, they're running an ad campaign tied in with Anpanman.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saigo and Friend

This Sunday morning, I was walking to the International Volunteer Center to sit in on a Toastmasters meeting. As I neared the Kagoshima Prefectural Museum, I noticed a crowd of tourists standing in front of Houzan Hall, looking at the statue of Saigo Takamori across the street. Then I noticed the statue. These guys are notoriously camera shy when they're over at the Kotsuki river, but this time, he just ignored everyone.

In America, you get pigeons.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kitchen Yamamoto

On the north side of Tenmonkan, there's a small curry rice restaurant called Kitchen Yamamoto. I'd tried taking a picture of the New Year's decoration on the front door before, but the night shot didn't turn out well. Since it's on my way to the one school I teach at part time, I figured I might as well take a better shot during the day.

Their logo is one of the 7 Chinese lucky gods.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dream Jam

There's an old building just south of Tenmonkan that used to house a karaoke bar called Dream Jam. The second floor is now a beauty parlor. First floor looks abandoned from the street. I'm surprised that it hasn't been torn down to make room for another parking lot.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kotsuki wildlife

Now, as I was heading out to the People's Park (Kenkou no Mori koen), I really wanted to find wildlife in the Kotsuki river along the way. It's pretty common to spot white herons, but they spook relatively easily and fly off if they notice the camera, or if they don't, the whiteness of the feathers throws off the white balance of the camera. Either way, the challenge is to get a decent photo of them. This is the best I could do.

Grey herons are even worse, because they can recognize the camera lens from 20 or 30 yards, and they always fly off immediately. This guy was probably half asleep and so didn't react to me, but the white feathers just simply reflected too much light for the camera. That's what I get for using a simple point-and-shoot.

When I took this shot, I was only looking at the bird. It wasn't until I got back home and was editing the photo on the computer that I realized that there's a snake sunning itself on the next rock over. I'm told that herons can eat snakes so this image takes on a slightly different meaning now.

The river has several species of ducks. I think the most common is the mallard. But, it was the first time for me to see this species. They were a bit distant to really get auto-focus right, but the shots came out better than for the herons.

At the time, there were also three black birds that flew up and down the river a couple times, but they never stayed in one place for me to try to take a shot. The wings were about the same span as for the herons, but they had very long, narrow bodies. I think they were cormorants, but I don't know if cormorants fly as far south as Kagoshima in the winter.

The river supports a wide variety of life.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

People's Park

Back in 2011, I participated in the Kagoshima Gurutto Stamp Rally, an annual event designed to encourage people to visit various museums and parks around the prefecture by offering chances at some prize drawings. One of the locations participating in the rally was Kenkou no Mori park, an exercise area easily reachable by car.  Well, a few days ago, I decided that I needed to get back into the long-walk habit, and that morning I set off along the Kotsuki river heading northwest, on the same route as the earlier Straight Out, 2, walk. The last time I was in this area, I'd seen a sign for 2 different locations, but the closest one, a park of some kind, was still another 3 km away, and I'd turned around to return home before the sun went down. This time, I left earlier, and after 2 hours, got back to where the sign is. The road veers a bit south away from the river, goes up a 360 degree turn bridge, and then follows up the side of a steep hill to the flat area above. Along the way, this yellow observation tower sticks up above the trees.

Past the first two sets of parking lots, there's a croquet (gate ball) field. Practice putting courses line the walking path. The path continues to the left and up another hill.

At the top of the hill, looking down at the croquet grounds. Sakura-jima looms in the background.

Children's play area, identified as the 'family area'.

And here I get the first confirmation that I've been here before. But, at that time, I was in someone else's car, being driven around to the stamp rally sites with 2 other people. I think it's safe to say that a fifteen minute ride to the park by car is somewhat less exercise than a 2.5 hour walk along the same route. The building holds a swimming pool, a cafe and a volleyball court with room for about 10 nets.

Entrance to a walking path around some playing fields. The yellow tower is at the far end of the path.

At the top of the tower, looking back down the way I came. The tanks visible in the upper left corner are part of the city's waterworks. I'm probably 6-7 miles from the apartment, and 7-8 miles from the main train station and downtown. From here, though, there's little indication that the city is anywhere close.

Still in the tower, looking down at the walking path and a soccer field. The volleyball court building is to the left, past a second playing field. From here, I returned to the building, located a set of vending machines, and got myself a can of hot creamed corn soup for lunch. It took two hours to retrace my steps back home, and at the end my left ankle was acting up. I guess it's time to take more frequent, but shorter walks.