Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Veterinarian Image

I just like this picture. Found on the front window of a vet clinic near my apartment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Oni Koroshi

Yes, there's a chance that the 7-11 near you carries beer and wine. But, does it carry 7-11 brand wine? This is Oni Koroshi (Demon Killer), a sweet sake.

Recently, there's been kind of a war between the various konbini (Japanese convenience store) chains for dominance of the brewed coffee market. The can coffee market is over-saturated, and controlled by the beverage mega-corporations, so the konbini are looking to carve out a little money for themselves by installing fresh ground brewed coffee makers in their stores. Prices are anywhere from 100 to 190 yen ($1 to $2 USD) for small or regular cups of hot or ice coffee. Most of the beans are dark roast. I'd been told that 7-11 had the best hot brewed coffee for the price (100 yen for the small cup), and I'd been visiting each of the stores I found when I wandered the city to see which ones had the coffee machines (a few of them don't), and occasionally I'd buy a cup if I felt thirsty. The thing is, in one of the 7-11's I found a small discount table in one corner where they were trying to unload product past its sell-by date at about 20% off, including can coffee at 80 yen (normally, it's 120 for a small can). So, the shop's management is kind of competing against itself regarding coffee sales. Anyway, at the next 7-11, I looked for the same table and they had completely different stuff out for discount, including 6-week old Valentine's chocolate (I would have bought some if it was 100-200 yen per box, but it was more like 400-500 yen, which is still overpriced for what you get). The third shop had a 1.8 liter of 7-11 brand shochu for 700 yen, which is a really good price. Unfortunately, my hands were full with other purchases, so I went home, ate dinner, and then when I got back to the store, the one discounted shochu pack had been sold on me. So, I figured that I might as well get the cheapest sake (780 yen for 1.8 liters) and see how bad it is (very sweet, not much alcohol). A few days later, I was at Daiei department store, and I found plain Oni Koroshi sake at about 800 yen for 2.0 liters. That's definitely a better price, so if I ever do want cheap sake in bulk, I'll get it from Daiei.

Still, I think 7-11 brand wine is a funny idea.

Monday, April 28, 2014

J-Stars Banner

New fighting game out featuring the main characters from Weekly Shonen Jump magazine.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dai Hanya, 2014

Youtube video

I don't remember hearing about the Dai Hanya spring festival before, but there are photos on the net from 2 years ago, so obviously I'd overlooked it some how. Almost missed it this time, too. Dai Hanya is a major dance contest that attracts teams from all over Kyushu, and this year it was held on April 26th and 27th. On Saturday, I went to the school to teach from 1 PM to 3. On the way in, I was a little short of time so instead of going through Tenmonkan, I went by Central Park, a couple blocks further west. There, the city had set up a stage for some "cooperation event", and some politician was giving a speech. And there were some food booths at the other end of the park. After the lessons were over, I had a couple hours to kill before the last lesson at 7 PM, and I figured I'd swing back by Central Park and get something to eat on my way home. Unfortunately, during those two hours I was working, the stage and the food booths were all torn down and packed away. There wasn't anything to look at anymore, so I went home, where I was told that there was some event going on at the open space next to Lotteria inside Tenmonkan. Knowing that whatever event it was would be over by 5 PM, on my return trip to the school I just made sure to check the Lotteria space anyway. There wasn't a stage or any chairs to indicate something had been happening, but a poster on one wall announced that Dai Hanya was ongoing, and would be in the same location on Sunday.

So, Sunday rolls around and I return to Tenmonkan at 1 PM. I get to the open space next to 7-11, and there's a dance team just finishing up on one street. I watch a couple of other teams, then continue to Lotteria, where 6 more teams are lined up waiting to perform. The only problem with having the dancing on the side street here is that there's a lot of foot traffic from shoppers and young families taking babies out for a walk, all of whom had no interest in watching the event. This meant that when I filmed the dancing, people kept passing in front of the camera.

Teams were announced as being from Fukuoka, Nagasaki, and Miyazaki, all major cities north of Kagoshima.

I don't know what the story is regarding the red eye makeup and white stripe on the nose, but every single team had the exact same makeup, so I guess it's a festival requirement.

The open space next to Lotteria was much more conducive for setting up audience seating, so there were more people here to watch the dance teams. The thing I dislike about this stage is that the sun backlights it, making most of the photos washed out, with the dancers too dark. I couldn't get a good photo of the dancers in action here.

One of the dancers, talking to a friend.

Some of the other teams, waiting for their turn.

As I walked through Tenmonkan, I noticed a lot of European tourists. Thinking that they may have come in by one of the larger cruise ships, I continued down to Dolphin Port. There, I only saw container ships, so maybe the cruise ship was farther down the coast. On the other hand, a circus tent was set up in the Dolphin Port parking lot, indicating that I shouldn't be blinking right at this moment.

Happy Dream Circus. $15 per person.

The circus consisted of just the one tent. Given the admission price, I wasn't surprised to not see anyone going inside.

At the park on the other side of the Dolphin Port shops, there was a big crowd. A sign announced the "Mammoth Free Market", which is a combination of crafts fair and flea market (what the Japanese call a "mottenai fair", or "what a waste"; otherwise known as a chance to sell off things you don't want to keep, rather than throwing them away.)

(The Sakurajima volcano is visible in the background.)

Along with the crafts and recycle booths, there were food stalls, the Red Cross tent, and another Hanya stage.) I bought a small skewer of grilled pork for $1.30. Kagoshima is famed for having a kind of black pig with a distinctive flavor. It's expensive for what you get, but did taste good.

The main Dai Hanya stage. When I got back home (as I'm typing this up) I did a google search on "Dai Hanya". It's an annual event featuring 80 teams of up to 1,000 dancers total, in a competition. Stages are located all over the city, including in front of the main Chuo train station, with related events, and supposedly a bicycle ride. I didn't see any groups of cyclists, and the tourist agency websites describing the event didn't give details. Oh well, maybe next year.

The announcer identified this group as #42. That's only half way...
I guess each group dances for 5 minutes, which can include 2-3 song changes.

I watched 3 teams, then turned around to go back to Tenmonkan.

The raptors fly around the bay all the time, as well as over the main city center, up to Shiroyama (near my apartment). It's usually hard to get a good photo of them because they shy away when I take the camera out. But, this was the first time they were this close while I had the new camera with me, so I spent several minutes trying to get a shot, just before I prepared to leave Dolphin Port.

I'd been told that there were tents or booths set up at one of the two parks back near the apartment (Xavier, or Hirata). I'd walked past Xavier on my way to Tenmonkan and there weren't any tents there, so I planned on heading west to Central Park, then take the main street south to the Kotsuki river, which would bring me within a block of both my apartment and Hirata Park. Almost immediately, I reached a construction site a block from Dolphin Port. I like geometric images, and I was hoping that I could get some kind of picture to work with this time. For some reason, empty building frames don't look good once they get into the camera.

At Central Park, a truck had been brought in to supply a generator and lighting for another dance stop. Keep in mind, I'd been here yesterday at 4 PM and the other stage and food stalls were already gone. I wasn't expecting to see anything going on this time. I was just going to cut through here because it was the shortest way to get to Hirata Park.

As I continued to Hirata, I had to cross the main street at the signal. Looking down, I saw this little guy standing in the middle of the lane. When the light changed, he refused to move, and I expected that he'd get hit by a car. The first car just rolled harmlessly over him, then he walked to the curb and settled down to the business of eating loose breadcrumbs from a garbage bag that had torn open, while still completely ignoring the heavy traffic a few inches away.

Nothing was happening at Hirata Park, either. No tents, crowds or dancers. This sign did catch my eye though, on the door of an office building. "Tabaco no poi sute ha yamerunja-". (Don't throw your cigarette butts around". It's using a kind of word play to evoke "ranger" (yame runja- = Stop Ranger), to tie in with the "Power Ranger" character in the drawing.

From Hirata Park, I headed for the main Chuo train station. I need a new backpack, since I've worn a hole at the bottom of my current bag. I bought the old one 5 years ago when I was still working in Akihabara in Tokyo, and now I have to replace it. The Daiei department store across the street from the train station carries some bags, so I wanted to stop in there to see what they have. As I was getting close to the station, I noticed this cat hiding under a car in a parking lot. Thinking he might make an interesting photo, I pulled the camera out of my bag, and he bolted. I followed him past several buildings, where he finally stopped in a dark hallway. Unfortunately, it was a bit too dark and the camera wouldn't focus on him. Actually, there were several cats along my route. Not many of them looked interesting enough to photograph, though, but generally I don't see cats in this neighborhood. Then, when I got to Daiei, none of the book bags or hiking packs were sturdy enough for what I want (something I can occasionally go hiking with.) There had been an outdoor supplies store on the other side of the train station, so I headed there next. While the Hanya webpages mentioned dance events at the station, they were wrong. The only thing going on in the east plaza was a store selling snooty wines.

I went to the west side of the station to look for the outdoors store, but it looks to have gone out of business. So, I'll either need to buy a cheap book bag from Daiei, or go to one of the two other two supply stores in Tenmonkan and argue myself into spending $70 to $150 for something that is overkill.

My adventures for the day pretty much wrapped up with this chance encounter with a Groucho Marx flower at the west side of the station.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Flower City

Must be spring. The annual garden show is set up in the playgrounds along the Kotsuki river. This was a test for the new camera.

They've got everything here, including supplies for a rock garden. If some of these trees or rocks are too big or heavy to fit in your car, the garden show facilities include a shipping pick-up point for Kuro Neko (Black Cat), the Japanese version of UPS.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Waru Waru

Sign for Waru Waru, a restaurant in Tenmonkan. "Waru" means "smile" or "laugh".

Thursday, April 24, 2014


Stairway to Heaven? Or just the frame of a very narrow, very tall house?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bridal Show

One Saturday when I was walking back from the English school, I passed through Tenmonkan, where several of the shops had set up tables in the walkways to promote wedding facilities, travel agencies, and clothing shops. A stage was erected in the space in front of the 7-11 to exhibit dress fashions. The models were mugging for the audience, implying that part of the crowd was made up of their friends or family.

(The guy in the background on the bike rode by just as the camera was taking the shot. I took a few other photos of the same model, but she moved around too much. This is the only one where her face is fully visible.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

School Wall

The elementary school near me has a white concrete wall at one corner, and I think it had been decorated by past students. The paint is cracking and flaking off in places, so the school has decided to start repainting it.

The text on the right reads, "Heisei 25 Graduating Students" (Heisei 25 = 2013). On the left, "Arigatou saikou no Nakama-tachi". Nakama is usually treated to mean "friend", but has more of the meaning of "the people within my same group". "Saikou" is "supreme" or "most". So, "Thanks, best friends!" or "Thanks, best classmates!"

Although this photo was taken during the cherry blossom season, the petals are actually part of the painting.

As I was taking the above photo, some of the teachers were leading one of the classes out for a field trip. Since the only thing in the area is the Tenmonkan shopping complex, I think the purpose of the field trip was to teach the kids how to shop for new shoes.