Wednesday, December 17, 2014

What One Likes...

At this time of the year, I am always saying “ I can’t believe it’s already the end of year"
Christmas is just around the corner.
Well, Santa may not be scheduled to come to little Sho (my grandson, 1 year and 9 months old) this year, instead, my husband and I invited his family to Adventure World at Shirahama at the end of November.

As is always the case with training animals, I hear the knack of training a dolphin is to reward it with food for every successful performance. However, the first step is to build a trusting relationship by taking good care of them. Dolphins are said to be naturally smart and playful. A trainer says she just waits for them to get interested in doing something and encourages them to do more and further. Eventually they try to reward her patience and tender loving care with their good performance. Pleasure becomes mutual. 

I don't know how long it has taken but their wonderful art of collaboration was amazingly fun and moving.


Dolphines  are moving around with a trainer on their heads affectionately and proudly.

A young white bear was playing with a ball jumping in and out of water, making a splash.   


A penguine was just like Sho

A giant panda was nonchalantly munching bamboo leaves in a leisurely manner. That reminded me when my family went to see a giant panda at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo some decades ago. Two giant pandas were given from China to commemorate restoration of  diplomatic relations with Japan in 1972.  They died in around ten years, however,   at that time there was another one. It was still the center of attraction and all we remembered was a large crowd with the attendants urging us visitors to move forward without stopping. This time visitors were few and we enjoyed watching them in our own time. Soon after that I knew twin cubs were born here.

My cat Coo is very curious about Sho’s plaything. While  Sho is at my house, Coo usually keeps his distance  from him and peeps at him playing with those things in the nook. “When cat’s away”, Coo will play. After Sho is gone, the world is Coo’s oyster. Who knows when Coo will be a performing cat; counting the number or spotting colors..



Best wishes for happy holidays and a happy new year,  dear friends!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Small Fishermen's Town

The third trip with my sisters and brothers-in-law was to Tomonoura (鞆の浦) in Fukuyama, Hiroshima.  

This quiet peaceful inland seascape explains itself. Tomonoura, situated at a bay facing the Seto Inland Sea, is part of Seto Inland Sea National Park; the first national park in Japan,

  The big island in the middle left is Sensuijima Island

The circular shaped historic harbor also makes Tomonoura famous. It has retained harbor facilities since Edo Period (1600-1867) such as a lighthouse, old fashioned stair-like pier.

As a hub port, it was thriving. Geographically the current changes around there, so it was called the port “waiting for the tide has changed”


At water front with lots of fishing boats. You can see an iconic lighthouse at the bay in the far right of the picture. The port is now mostly used for fisheries. Red sea bream (真鯛) fishing is famous. They served excellent dishes at the hotel we stayed.

light house
A well-known animated movie producer Hayao Miyazaki of Studio Ghibli was also fascinated and inspired by this place and stayed here for two months, developing the idea for “Ponyo” (崖の上のポニョ)

at  a lounge at the hotel we stayed

This ferry boat is modeled after Irohamaru that was a merchant ship Sakamoto Ryoma (1836-1867) got a lease on to carry supplies from Nagasaki to Osaka.

However, the collision off Tomonoura wrecked and sank it along with its shipment in 1869. The wreckage was discovered by the volunteer group here more than 100 years later and are exhibited at Irohamaru Museum.
This renewed ferry gets you to Sensuijima Island(仙酔島; the island beautiful enough to mesmerize even legendary mountain hermitin five minutes. I’d  like to visit it again to lose myself in that ancient nature.  


                                                A crab (forefront) holding a small sardine crawls up from the sea.
                                                I wonder where it carries the catch.

Taichoro (対潮楼), adajacent to Fukuzenji Temple, was used as a guest house during Edo Period. Then Korean emissary admired  the view from here and called it the most beautiful scenery of all Japan



Recently Tomonoura has attracted a lot of attention with a campaign to save the symbolic view of harbor from being spoiled by the prefectural government plan to build a bridge there. The District Court issued an injunction to suspend the plan. I hope other alternative plan to revitalize the region will be successful.

Haru-no-umi (春の海 the sea in spring) was composed by Michio Miyagi(1894-1956) from his memory of Tomonoura he saw as a child before he lost his sight at the age 8.

It was his father's home village.


This trip was to celebrate  my sister’s publishing her first tanka poems and to celebrate brother-in-law’s birthday as well.

The title  "半透明のカプセル”(Translucent Capsule) is taken from her poem;

父と母の 共に在りし日 やはらかき 半透明のカプセルに包む
( I'd wrap in a soft translucent capsule/ the days when Father and Mother were alive )

This capsule contains lots of her precious history that I could open and take out anytime I'd like to.
The memory of this trip will be stored in my own capsule  in my heart.


the map of Hiroshima


Friday, August 29, 2014

Summer Retreat

It was hot or rainy this summer here. To escape from summer heat and above all to enjoy family reunion, my husband planned to take a trip to our favorite destination; Shinshu, Nagano Prefecture.
Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a very popular tourist attraction. I had wanted to go there.

The thing I was worried was how the weather would be during the trip because it had been very unstable in most part of the country.

When we left the hotel for the highland in the early morning because the weather forecast said it was likely to rain in the afternoon, we saw thick mists covering the mountain ranges.  The weather makes or breaks the pleasure of Alpine views. Poor visibility due to a bad weather could spoil this holiday…
However, Lady Luck was with us.
When we came out of  Kurobe Dam station(1470 meter above sea level) after a 16-minute trolly bus ride through the tunnel followed by climbing up 200 stairs, to my joy, a clear grand view came into my eyes.


Kurobe Lake

Kurobe Dam(1450m) discharges more than 10 tons of water per second from the gate every day from late June to mid October.


After a while, sunshine in the morning made a rainbow over clouds of spray.

We walked over the dam to Kurobeko(黒部湖)station to take a cable car to kurobedaira(黒部平)

Mount. Tateyama Range (3015m), a part of Northern Japan Alps, with mists rising up was clearly seen from there. 

It seems ages since my family took a trip altogether last time. This time a 17-month-old Sho joined. It made his grandpa all the happier. Sho is his pride and joy!

at the obsevation deck at Kurobe Dam

Can you see a square framed grayish structure in the mid right of this picture? 

That is Daikanbo(大観峰 2316m) station on the side of the Tateyamas, where a ropeway carries us tourists up to. The 1.7km long ropeway connecting Kurobedaira (黒部平1828m) station with Daikanbo station has no single support towers between the two to protect surrounding mountain scenery.

This photo was taken on the way back 

Kurobe Lake seen from higher observation deck

At Daikanbo we again changed from a ropeway to a trolly bus running through the tunnel crossing just below the Tateyamas to the other side of it. That was our destination: Murodo(室堂2450m), the highest point of the route. This whole route directly connects Nagano Prefecture with neighboring Toyama Prefecture, however, we left our car at the hotel so we had to return from there.

The scenery before us was beyond my wildest dreams. 

Mikuriga-ike Pond; caldera lake
Mikuri means “the kitchen for the deity”. They say the dishes for an offering to the deity of Mount.Tateyama were made here by using this water.
As you can see from the picture, this place offers accommodation facilities such as Japan's highest situated hotel or lodges or camp grounds.

There are a variety of hiking trails leading to the summit of the mountain(3015m). You can enjoy leisure walk as well. With little Sho with us, we took one hour walk around the Mikurigaike Pond. A patch of snow still remains.  

I recognized a volcanic activity by a sulfurous odor in the air near Hell Valley (地獄谷)

Through telephoto lens, hikers looked like a procession of ants on the ridge line.


"Here's looking at you, kid" 

It was a perfect day. Among others, I was happy to share the joy with my family

Nagano Prefecture via Wikipedia


Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Fascinating Midsummer Night in Nara

Nara Toka-e (奈良燈花会; the candle festival) is an annual event held at Nara Park for ten days from August 5th to 14th. 20,000 candles at several venues gently adorn an ancient capital of Japan 1300 years ago. They are lit up by volunteers one by one to pray for people’s happiness by candlelight. .

 After going to the concert, my husband and I strolled around the Nara Park to enjoy Tokae.

Candlelights set on the green grass and around the pond were suitable to surroundings, making a soothing, peaceful ambience.

looking down at Sarusawa-ike Pond

Candles were lined along the bridge leading to the pavilion. The reflection in the water turned the pond to a heavenly place. Can you see some people paddling ?  


Ukimido pavilion with a hexagonal cypress bark roof over Sagiike Pond

                     Let light stream forth into the minds of men.

              Let light descend on earth (from The Great Invocation)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Last Sakura at Yoshino

Well Sakura, cherry blossoms, are giving way to fresh leaves around here now but to conclude this year's Sakura groupie I went to Mt.Yoshino, Nara. 
In season, they started blooming from lower areas called Shimo-senbon, then moving up to Naka-senbon ( middle areas) and to Kami-senbon (upper ones) , finally up to the inner areas called Oku-senbon. Senbon means 1000 trees, so totally there should be 4000 but actually there is said to be around 30,000 now.


                          seen from Hanayagura (花矢倉)at Kami-senbon

The cherry tree legend at Mt.Yoshino started when En-no-Ozunu, a founder of Shugendō religion, engraved the image of Zaōgongen, a kind of deity, on a cherry tree when he attained enlightenment after a 1000 day- ascetic- training in the mountain in the latter half of 7th century.

 Since then worshippers have offered and planted cherry trees.

Many of Sakura here are Shiroyama-zakura or Oriental Cherry. The flowers bloom at the same time as a bit reddish new leaves appear so you can tell from Somei-yoshino, whose flowers bloom first.


I have been here several times in spring, in summer and in autumn. There are so many historical figures related to this place but I’d like to say a bit about two of them today.

First, Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune. Last year when I visited Yoshimizu Shrine, I saw these kimonos related to Shizuka-Gozen, Yoshitsune’s lover, on display. This was the place where they hid themselves from a party of pursuers. She danced the last dance for Yoshitsune on their painful parting here (1185), then he left her and continued running away.

Yoshitsune (1159-1189) was expelled by his brother, Yoritomo and ended up killing himself at the age of 31. With this tragic life and death despite his great accomplishment in the battle against  the Taira clan, he has been favored by many Japanese who sympathized his misfortune and unfulfilled potentiality. "Hangan-biiki" came from him that means to sympathize and support the weaker side who has enough ability. As is often the case with the popular personalities in the history, there are many other stories about him, however, this mentality has been familiar to many Japanese people.

Secondly, speaking of Sakura of Yoshino, we can’t forget the well- known poet, Saigyo(1118-1190) . He was once an Imperial Palace Guard (北面の武士)for the retired Emperor, which was assigned to young warriors who were excellent both in literary and military arts and good looking as well. However, he became a Buddhist monk, for reasons unknown, at age 23. He travelled a lot, making soul-searching journeys and one of his favorite places was Yoshino. He loved Sakura very much and wrote many poems about them.



吉野山 こぞのしをりの道かへて まだ見ぬかたの 花をたづねむ

“I’ll forget the trail I marked out on Mount Yoshino last year, so go searching for blossoms in directions I’ve never been before”   ( translated by Watson Burton)


Before Saigyo’s time, Sakura blossoms in the mountain were objects to be admired in their imagination and written in the poem but Saigyo is said to be the first to go and see in the mountain and appreciate Sakura at first hand.

願わくは花の下にて春死なむ そのきさらぎの望月のころ
“Let me die in spring under the blossoming trees, let it be around that full moon of Kisaragi month” (translated by Watson Burton)
This “Kisaragi”means February but in the new calendar it is around the end of March; Gautama Buddha was supposed to have died on Kisaragi 15. Though this poem wrote many years before Saigyo’s death, the fact he actually passed away just as he wished and yet just one day later than Buddha’s  surprised and amazed people in those days.

“Please offer Sakura flowers if there would be someone mourn for me”

taken last May
Here is a humble cottage where he is believed to have stayed for a while
at Okusenbon, where it is enclosed with forest. There are high summits and ridges and eroded V-shaped valleys leading to Kumano, Wakayama, so called Ōmine-okugake Route (大峯奥駆道)
; one of pilgrimage routes as well as Shugendo practitioners training route.
Yoshitsune's another hideout was 20 minutes' walk down from here. 

Sakura trees at Okusenbon are not many, besides, I heard they were not blooming yet, so I didn’t visit it this time.  I imagine how he would see and admire Sakura.


Sakura here are truly gentle and lovely.

On the way back, I saw this cloud. Looks like a dragon?

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