Archive for the ‘観光(sightseeing)’ 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.

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

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.

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

Tall Cool One

2010年 9月 3日

Demands on my time are high, but I am back in Japan, so it’s time to get posting. Summer this year was filled with activity and travel, so I have a lot of photographs to post as well. Parents Needle (straight)Recently I have been spending a little time learning about how to use GIMP (like Photoshop, but cheaper) as well, so I can trim and repair and adjust the photos a bit.

The second trip was to Seattle. My wife could not join us, so I took my parents-in-law on their first trip to my hometown. We arrived to the announcement that the weather was 12 degrees Celsius. I was sure the Japanese attendant had made a translating error since 20 degrees is just a transposition in Japanese and it certainly couldn’t be that cold. Well, the staff was accurate… it was cold. Fortunately it warmed up and we had beautiful weather the whole trip. A couple mornings had clouds and rain, but otherwise we were ecstatic.

One evening I took my parents along and all five of us enjoyed the Sky City restaurant at the top of the Space Needle. Certainly I have had better food and the prices are a bit high; however, the food was quite good and I was happy to pay for the view and the experience. King crab legs, salmon, seafood pasta, steak, and vegetable gateau were our selections. Everyone seemed pleased. We also ordered some Beecher’s cheese wrapped in prosciutto for an appetizer and sampled the wine. At the end of the meal we had chocolate cake and cobbler with ice cream.

We could clearly see all the way to Canada and Oregon, making it one of the best days of the year and our reservation included sunset.

Today’s photo is a composite of two photos made with some additional software I have been trying out.

Correction: This photo is a composite of three photos made with software from ArcSoft, but first I rotated all the images in GIMP so the tower would not appear bent. See the first attempt here.

Gondolas and Rickshaws

2010年 8月 18日

Gondola 1When people hear ‘Venice’, they often think, ‘gondola’. Considering them the normal transportation for Venice is a bit of a misconception. Normally people travel around by water taxi, water bus, or boat; similarly, to how people in most cities would use taxis, buses, or cars/trucks. Gondolas are really a traditional item left over as a tourist draw. In this sense, I consider them similar to rickshaws, called jinrikisha (人力車), in Japan; which are normally seen around certain temples in Kyoto or Nara. Likewise, both of these modes of transportation carry high costs.

Twenty years ago I took an overnight trip to Venice while working in Sicily. At that time, I heard the price and flatly refused to ride in one. As a matter of fact, I would say you wouldn’t catch me dead in one… unless I was on a honeymoon. Us In GondolaHere we are being escorted around by Eros, recommended by Leslie of Genninger Studio. He gave us a 45 minute tour that kept to relatively small and unoccupied canals, but gave us a taste of tour by swinging past Maria Callas’ opera house and Mozart’s lodgings.

Gondola 2Gondoliers are a select group and are highly skilled. They maneuver narrow canals, sometimes barely wider than two boats. I have never seen their boats touch each other nor any walls or bridges. Their feet, however, will touch all manner of pylons, ledges, or even walls. I have seen some step completely off their boat in motion, leaving one momentarily wondering if they are setting the passengers adrift.

Water taxi drivers are also similarly skilled and given time in September, I may upload some shots ducking under bridges.

I’ll take a moment here to talk about the fact that Venice is sinking. When I was a schoolboy, we often heard tales about how Venice would soon be gone as buildings submerged and collapsed. Growing up knowing the history of Underground Seattle, it was not hard to fathom such a thing; however, the exaggeration was apparently the fault of one vocal person and a lot of wild imaginations.

Reportedly the nominal rate of sinking is 1 millimeter per year, which is one centimeter every decade, or ten centimeters in a century. Perhaps we will be able to visit Venice again in the future. My same school teachers insisted that the seas would rise horribly due to global warming but, decades later, the beaches and tides don’t really seem so different.

It is true that during high tidal seasons, various buildings and squares have ‘issues’.

Doling Them Out

2010年 8月 17日

Far to busy to sort photos from this trip and edit them, so I will dole them out one at a time for now. We arrived in Venice about 10pm and had debated spending the first night at the airport and staying in the Hotel Danieli only the second and third night. Being a five star hotel, the cost is quite high and we felt it might be wasted to arrive at midnight; however, the hassle of moving locations and packing and unpacking won out. We took a water taxi straight to the canal entrance to the lobby and managed to get situated around 11pm. Very lax security in Italy helped speed things along. For a few minutes we were really sheepish and certain that we had gone out a wrong exit or something.

Double Lagoon ViewThe lobby is in a 14th Century palace and was actually a courtyard garden. Entering through that historic grandeur definitely felt nice. Three palaces are connected together to make the hotel, our room was in a modern (19th or 20th Century) wing.

Our room was a double lagoon view. We had seen a photo of a different room we wanted, but found it was a junior suite. Gleefully, the desk clerk offered us that room and indicated the increased cost of just over 300 Euros. Staring into my wife’s beautiful brown eyes, I pondered anteing up until the travel exhaustion gave way to a deeper consciousness; which screamed out, “Didn’t you hear? That’s 300 Euros more, PER NIGHT!” Giving a friendly chuckle I said that was outside of our budget and we’d spend the money on food.

From the photo, the ample size of the bed chamber is fairly clear. Two of the floor to ceiling windows open onto balconies overlooking the broad walkway by the lagoon near Piazza San Marco. Apparently some guests complain about the noise: late at night the adjacent Piazza San Marcos leaks revelers onto the walkway under the windows; and early morning brings cargo traffic, cruise ship horns and tour groups. With the solid wooden shutters latched and ear plugs in, we were blissfully unaware. Off our entry hall were a marble bathroom and a dressing room, as well.

For us this was definitely a luxury expenditure, but on a non-honeymoon trip it might be nice to stay in one of the cheaper rooms there.

Being Italy, there were a few slips in service, but being the top hotel in Venice, we had a superb concierge staff who managed many things for us and potentially saved us a few hundred Euros on our Tuscan lodging. Yes, I tipped them handsomely.