Archive for the ‘旅行(travel)’ Category

Finally Kyushu

2013年 1月 10日

My first desires to visit Kyushu (九州・きゅうしゅう) arose in 1989 after hearing personal tales of Kagoshima (鹿児島・かごしま) from a native. Since moving to Japan in 2004, additional tales of Kumamoto (熊本・くまもと) and other Kyushu regions trickling in have given me a longing feeling, or more accurately – a lacking feeling. More recently, receiving foods and hearing of Nagasaki (長崎・ながさき) from one of the officiants at our wedding has planted another reason drawing me there.

We have visited her many times; however, she lives in Chiba (千葉・ちば) which is in the opposite direction. We joked about taking a trip together to her hometown, but getting everyone together never seemed practical and it just remained a dream. Japanese tradition has provided us with opportunity. Our friend got pregnant and still, in many households, the pregnant daughter returns to her family home to have the baby. On New Years Day she delivered her son after almost two full days of labor and they are both resting and recuperating now.

My wife is busily checking ways to get to Nagasaki during the three-day weekend in February. We have been surprised at the expense, but there is some hope of finding cheaper options. It will be a struggle for us as we have some financial difficulties and we are trying to fly to America in June as well after a three year absence; however, it looks like our chance so we must find a way.

It would be nice to see the Sakurajima volcano in the south, or the wild forests of Kumamoto, or remote Saga, but those dreams will have to wait as we will probably be bound to Nagasaki for our brief stay. Ancient new year celebrations will be held at that time though, so we are interested to view customs from another region.

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Banner Day

2012年 8月 8日

Today is a banner day – that is to say, I updated the banner image today. Previously I had used an image of rotting fishing ropes, but was constantly troubled with how to make the text legible over that image. The new image is from the photo trip to Shinojima for their Gion festival.

I pulled a lot of the color and contrast out of the background using GIMP; hoping that this would make it easier to view the blog title. Also, for visual reasons I wanted the strong lines in the image to be nearly horizontal. Someone with a sharp eye will notice that flags rarely flutter horizontally and the image is rotated 25 degrees counter-clockwise.

Shinojima JK

2012年 7月 17日

Two photo societies took a joint trip to Shinojima (篠島) for their Gion Festival (ぎおん祭り) on the 14th and 15th. While shooting at the beach these seven high school girls made me promise to upload their photos to the internet. They were attempting to do a “jump” photo. Here they are:

Shinojima JK four jump

Shinojima JK seven jump 4

Shinojima JK seven jump 3

Shinojima JK seven jump 2

Shinojima JK seven jump 1

Scoring Fame and Fortune

2011年 10月 13日

We had a photo society trip to Ise, Toba and Shima during the summer with another chapter from Nagoya. Both chapters were interested in having a little photo contest, so we submitted photos and let the judges figure it out. Last night at our monthly meeting we heard the results: I was very surprised when I heard that I had taken fourth place.

Both of these chapters are filled with people who have been practicing photography for a long time. Also a lot of them are retired, giving them free time to shoot away. I have never placed better than sixth in our monthly contest – which is just our chapter members – let alone in a bigger contest.

I was further surprised when our teacher came around with a prize envelope for me. I had no idea there were prizes. There was a certificate for 1000 yen inside. Doing a little math, you’ll figure out that a thousand yen is not a lot of money; particularly, if you back out the printing costs. We had a little dinner afterwards and some of our senior members were apologetic that my prize was so small; however, I assured them that I was just happy for the acknowledgement amongst such elite company.

Next month, the winning photos will come to our monthly meeting for a study session. I am looking forward to seeing the others. Contests after photo shoots are always tough because people are generally shooting the same subject. The fanciest lens and the best printing make a difference there; however, I think I got into the top ranks by looking at the world from a different angle: literally. Ironically, the photo is one which I totally overlooked in my first few passes through what I shot; sometimes you need to look again.

After the study session, I think I can upload an image for you. I’ll explain the shot a little at that time.

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

2011年 9月 14日

Being thrown curve balls of all manner, including a police interview regarding the apparent murder at one of my schools, so can’t yet get back to proper (excessive) posting frequency. After the move on Saturday, and the lag in getting internet connected at the new house, I should have an extra 20 hours a week to fill. I plan to use half of that for sleep, and a significant portion for late paperwork, but perhaps a portion can be used to fill these pages with tastes of my life in Japan.

Readers have made considerable requests for more of my photography and I hope to oblige. Various standards and rules prevent me showing certain works under consideration for contests; however, there is plenty of material otherwise uninhibited. Dog on Board (original)Here is a photo I took in Ise-Shima while on a photo trip with my chapter and a chapter from Nagoya. There was a surfing contest at this beach, but the waves were small: and the surfers, bored; which is a recipe for amusing behavior. This French bulldog really had a fascination with the board.

I was initially drawn to the scene because a number of senior members were shooting furiously from the bow of the board. As I moved quickly down the beach, I was approaching from the side; which is generally considered less favorable, but the dog cooperated by facing my direction. To date I have seen no other works including the dog on the board, so I may have been lucky with the angle. Odd angles seem to be my way (which could be a future post).

My friend who has been encouraging me in my Ubuntu usage, also impresses upon me to make use of GIMP for editing my photos. Even though an artist friend has made other software recommendations, the generally utility and free price of the GIMP make it very attractive. Dog on BoardHere is an image from the same photo with some intense color enhancement, which is only possible due to learning about more of the powerful selection tools in GIMP. Early color enhancement efforts would leave the dog looking yellow, or both the dog and board a bit blue. Here, I was able to make the yellow on the board stand out and change the almost murky water into a bright blue without damaging the dog’s appearance. Yet another critical point is that I could also keep the breaking portions of the wave looking sharp crystalline or white.

Ultimately this photo can’t be used for the Tsu Exhibition this year: not sharp enough to enlarge to zenshi-size; no other subjects to tie this to reality; and doesn’t include the board tip among other points. I will be submitting a photo this year and it will be one with the dog, but you’ll have to wait for more on that. Perhaps it can be my Christmas present to you all.

Black Crow Castle

2011年 9月 5日

Every time I think my schedule is tidied enough to allow multiple weekly posts, life swells up to squeeze that space; however, not to be deterred, I am looking forward to gaining ten to twenty hours of free time per week via our upcoming move. For now, rather than apologize for the dearth of trip photos, I will post one gem – if I may arrogantly label it thus – from our return trip, with promises of more.

Black Crow Castle 1
We stopped at Matsumoto on our way home from Niigata. Japan has a fascination with lists of threes: 3 must see tourist spots, 3 must see power spots, … Castles are not to be forgotten here, with: Himeji, Matsumoto, and Hikone (if memory serves) making the grade. Matsumoto castle, also called Black Crow Castle, was built in the 16th century and still stands today. Many points, including its master, make it interesting. Two towers in the main structure – visible in this photo – are one unique point. There is also a moon-viewing platform, which I will reveal in later uploads.

Another unique design feature is making the internal stairways extremely steep and making each step high, some as high as 50cm. Navigating your way inside is quite a chore. Samurai living inside such a building would be very adjusted to the stairs, but any invader unfortunate to survive all the way to the keep would be met with an unexpected challenge.

In the previous post, my final sentence was a bit of irony. Most people heading for Matsumoto have this historic structure on the top of their list but, for my career educator/administrator father-in-law, the historic school was his main focus. Black Crow castle was just bait to draw us into accepting his plan.

Confession time: another reason exists for not uploading photos right away. Submissions to contests are generally kept off the internet, at least until after the contest is completed. People are still waiting for me to upload a couple honorable mention winners.

Educational History

2011年 9月 1日

Yesterday we had a change in plans. Monday we drove up the Central Expressway to Niigata and were aiming to return by the Hokuriku Expressway for a change of scenery and, presumably, less traffic. As we passed through Matsumoto on our way north, my father-in-law started going on about Kaichi Elementary school and its history. When we stopped in a rest area for bathroom break and stretching our legs, he tracked down a book about Matsumoto and bought it. By the next day, he had thoroughly studied the book and decided we must see it.

You may wonder what would draw him to see the school, so perhaps a little school history and personal history are in order. My father-in-law became a principal in the later part of his career: at age 50 he was the youngest to achieve such position in our prefecture. Although he, like me, bemoans a number of frustrating points in the education system (and likely retired early because of them); he still feels an unbreakable bond to the education system.

In 1872, during the Meiji Restoration, there were major education reforms taking place and the lord of Matsumoto Castle felt the importance of good education. With that motivation he opened the Kaichi school in 1873 and it is still continuing its history today, making it the oldest existing school in Japan. Of course it has been housed in different buildings and has been physically relocated; however, it continued from its original charter. The building we went to see is apparently the front portion of the second school building (c. 1876) and is used as a museum and historic site today.

One point about this school and other historical schools I have visited which bothers me is the student artwork displays. There are 140 years of school history to choose from; however, the large display of student artwork is from 1942 and, let us say, it is fairly hateful overall. When I was in Iga-Ueno I had the same experience. Why there is a conscious decision to focus on this element is beyond me. It is definitely not the focus of persons in general society, so the focus is coming from education historians or someone related to these projects. On the other hand, furniture, textbooks, and other historic materials are displayed from various periods.

Since we were in the area, we also stopped by Matsumoto Castle.

Death and Taxes

2011年 8月 29日

So, my life has really been about taxes for the past year or so. I’m trying to get all sorts of outstanding paperwork issues put to rest and get full acceptance from possibly the least-liked division of our government. The sheer volume of paperwork is overwhelming and each time we communicate with the officials, they find some more to do. I’m wondering if this has any end. (On a side note: I was shocked by my latest recalculation of our monthly balance sheets, key word: red)

Anyhow, I was expecting to take a break for a couple days and drive my in-laws to visit relatives – whom I have not yet met – in Niigata prefecture. In particular, one relative had been hospitalized, so we were really hoping to visit her. Unfortunately, less than 24 hours before departure we were awakened with a call informing us that I will be driving the family to funeral services. Another reminder of how precious and fleeting life really is.

My introduction to family will still take place; however, protocol will demand more subdued celebration. We also had to interrupt other activities today for some emergency clothes shopping: my wardrobe lacked a couple of weather and ceremony related items. We will depart in just over 4 hours, so it’s off to bed for me.

Just For You

2010年 9月 7日

Linda's BoutiqueToday is just some friendly silliness. While I was in Venice I spotted a couple shops with names of people I know. Here are the photos I snapped. One is “Boutique Donna: Linda” for my sister. The other is “Trattoria/Pizzeria – da Roberto” for my friend, who I never met when we both lived in Seattle, but was drawn together with in Ichishi-cho, of all places.

da RobertoThe boutique seemed good, but we were rushing by on a mission so I just snapped a quick shot. It was on a winding alley a little off the normal tourist areas. The restaurant tempted me several times as we passed it on different days with empty stomachs. We never sat down and ate there, but maybe on another trip.

Every So Often…

2010年 9月 4日

Every so often, Mount Ranier shows it’s face; and on a rare occasion, it is completely exposed for our enjoyment. Reportedly about 120 days a year are sunny in Seattle and about 90 days a year Ranier is visible. When I took my parents-in-law to visit in August about 6 of 9 days gave us views like this. This was shot from a cruise on Elliott Bay with the Port of Seattle in the foreground and nothing but Ranier in all its glory in the background. Note the tremendous glaciers and snow pack in August, which are at all time record levels.Mount Ranier