日本での一年間

April 24, 2011

Short Hiatus

Filed under: Uncategorized — myyearinjapan @ 11:48 pm

I am currently out of town will not be able to update my blog for the next couple of weeks.

April 23, 2011

Signs

Japan has a tendency to make everything cute. From No Smoking signs to manhole covers, the most mundane things are overly adorable. I have posted many other sign pictures on here before, including the beware of bear sign, the sign asking you to prevent forest fires, the water system mascot sign (at the bottom of the page in the link), and this sign proclaiming Toyooka to be a town of bags. Here’s some more fun signs!

This sign says Kids House No. 110. Its a government program to help keep kids safe. People in the community volunteer to have this sign posted outside their house, or put a sticker in the window. Homes displaying the No. 110 emblem are supposed to be safe havens for kids to go to when they are in trouble.

Mr. Cool Frog says, "Dont toss trash into the river! The river is for everyone and we should all protect it together."

At the construction site, the sign politely bows to me to apologize for any inconvenience.

Isnt this manhole a bit too cute? It has characters from the Yamata no Orochi legend, in which the god Susano slays the great Orochi serpent.

On a train with no glass windows, a sign telling everyone not to stick out their hands or head because its dangerous.

April 22, 2011

Sawaike, A Japan Top 100 Pond

Last week, I posted pictures of Ryuzugataki, which was declared one of the top 100 waterfalls in Japan. Today I have pictures of a pond that was declared one of the top 100 ponds in Japan. Yes, some group really bothered to pick out the top 100 ponds in the country. This is not a joke.The pond is called Sawaike (沢池) and it is a good ways off the beaten path. The road to get there was extremely narrow and a bit frightening. The pond was quite nice though.

pond

My friend looks out over the pond. I can see a house in the background. I can't believe that someone lives there!

April 21, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 4 – 70% Bloom

Continuing with the Cherry Blossoms. The 7 stages of the blooming cherry blossoms are bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜). The cherry blossom full bloom that everyone is always clamoring to see only lasts about 2 weeks! Many people plan to travel when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, but it’s hard to predict exactly when they will blossom and the spring season is busy, so good luck getting a hotel room in Kyoto or other major cherry blossom viewing areas during this time.

These pictures were taken during the main event of my town’s cherry blossom festival. They usually have a schedule packed with events, including fireworks and musical performances. This year, they had a very limited schedule because of the earthquake and tsunami in Northeastern Japan. They still lit up the trees at night and had a few food stalls and added one extra event, which they called candle night. They were asking everyone to buy a candle for disaster relief and they placed the candles on the ground in the shape of a heart.

Sakura by the river at night.

Look at those lovely blossoms. Sorry they are a bit blurry. I did not have a tripod and was doing my best to brace my camera against the tree trunk.

From a bit farther away

They had a candle night. Buying a candle gave money to the earthquake victims. It was in the shape of a heart.

The heart from farther away.

April 20, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 3 – Half Bloom

In my previous post, I included some pictures of the cherry blossoms as they were just starting to bloom. Once again, the seven stages of cherry blossoms, according to Yahoo Japan,  are bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜).

These pictures are of roughly half-bloomed cherry blossoms (sakura).

half bloomed. More like...some of them have bloomed and some are being stubborn.

Walking the pink(ish) path

April 19, 2011

Cherry Blossoms Part 2 – Beginning to Bloom

A couple weeks ago, I posted some pictures of the local cherry blossoms, pre-bloom. These pictures were taken on April 2nd, when the cherry blossoms were just starting to bloom. That would put them in the second category of the yahoo Japan cherry blossom blooming categories or beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め). (To recap, these are the 7 categories: bud (tsubomi つぼみ), beginning to bloom (sakihajime 咲き始め), half bloomed (gobunsaki 5分咲き), 70 percent bloomed (nanabunsaki 7分咲き), full bloom (mankai 満開), beginning to fall (chirihajime 散り始め), and completely gone (hazakura 葉桜).)

April 2nd and 3rd was initially supposed to be the day of the big cherry blossom festival because it fell during the period that the Japanese Meteorological Agency had predicted that the trees would be in full bloom. The festival didn’t happen that day for 2 reasons: 1) The cherry blossoms weren’t blooming like they thought they would. 2) Out of respect for the earthquake victims. Japan fell into a state of jishuku(自粛), or voluntary restraint, after the earthquake and the general feeling that everyone needs to pull together and cut back seeped into aspects of everyday life all over the country, even in places far removed from the disaster area like my little town in the West.

Looking at the cherry blossom tree path.

You can see how the trees are turning slightly pink.

Not many people were on the path, but even without cherry blossoms, the weather was lovely and some people came to walk along the path anyway, including this family.

Looking at the trees from across the river.

April 18, 2011

No Shopkeeper Used Car Dealership

Going along with the store-without-people idea that I wrote about yesterday, today I have some pictures of a little car dealership not too far from where I live. If you didn’t stop to read the sign, you would probably just drive right by this place and wonder who parked all those cars on the side of the road. But if you take a closer look, there is a sign shouting “Used Cars” and then underneath that proclaiming, “No people. Please take a look.” There’s also a number you can call if you are interested. I pass by this place almost everyday and I think I’ve only seen people here once or twice. I’m not sure how good business is, but if any cars have been sold or new cars have come in, I haven’t noticed.

Cars galore.

This little truck costs 130,000 yen or about 1,500 USD.

The sign for the "store" is across the street. And there are more cars parked there as well.

"Come on it and take a look!"

April 17, 2011

No Shopkeeper Store

This store has no shopkeeper. Right now, there is nothing for sale, but at another similar store, I saw fresh produce, including green leafy veggies and adzuki beans. Each was pack into a little plastic bag and closed with tape and had a price sticker on it. There’s a money box that looks like a piggy bank with a lock (but nothing as fancy as the things they have at the Piggy Bank Museum, it’s just a plain wooden box.) And There’s also a notebook and pen, so people who buy things can make a note of it.  I can’t imagine this business model working anywhere but rural Japan. I’m sure that everything would be stolen if a store like this were to open in the states.

The sign literally says, "no person selling shop." Money is supposed to change hands without having to see the other person's hand.

April 13, 2011

Ryuzugataki, a Japan Top 100 Waterfall

Japan likes to rank things, and then to brag about things ranked among the best. Japanese people flock to anywhere UNESCO has called a World Heritage Site, while most Americans I know don’t even know what a UNESCO World Heritage Site is. Ideally, things are in the top 3 or top 10, but for places like out here in the middle of nowhere, we’re willing to settle for the top 100. And my town brags about several places ranked in the top 100 in their category. I recently visited a top 100 waterfall.

I posted some pictures a few weeks ago about another waterfall, but that waterfall doesn’t make the top 100. The only accolade it has to brag about is being a Prefectural Site of Natural Beauty.  Ryuzugataki (竜頭が滝) is bigger and therefore more impressive. I guess that’s why it makes the top 100. There are 2 waterfalls there. The larger one is about 40 meters (141 ft) and the smaller is about 30 meters (98 ft). (They call them the male falls and the females falls, respectively.) We didn’t have time to visit both, so we just went to the bigger one.

I cant believe how small and insignificant it looks in the picture. Its actually 40 meters tall!

Hitting the water.

After looking at the waterfall from the front, we crossed these rocks so we could get a different view. My friend was wearing high heels! Not ideal footwear for hiking around waterfalls...

Looking at the waterfall from the side. You can also go sort of behind the waterfall to get an even more interesting view, but I didnt feel comfortable taking my camera with me.

Another view from the side.

April 12, 2011

When the Children Have Gone

My city currently has 20 elementary schools. Last year they had 21. Next year, it will be 19. If you go to Tokyo and see all the young people, it’s hard to remember that Japan suffers from a serious double whammy of low birth rate and aging population. But in rural towns like mine, the signs are everywhere. In the past 5 years, 5 elementary schools have been closed down in my town. Former schools now stand empty, monuments to more bountiful times. As I mentioned before, the law in Japan says that elementary schools need to be in walking distance from kids’ homes. But schools can still be several kilometers away, so some kids walk over an hour each way to get to school.  However, when the teachers and other school staff starts to outnumber the students, there comes a point where running so many small schools is just not practical. The students who went to schools that were shuttered take a bus to school (They use a city bus and put a sticker that says “school bus” on it). The students who walked in the first place, still walk. This creates a big exercise gap among the students who live in different areas of town. And one person who lives near a shuttered school said that the kids in her area are getting pudgy.

And rural areas, the aging population is a difficult problem. The city and the prefecture are working hard to convince people to make U-turns (people who left coming back) and I-turns (people who aren’t from here to move here), but it’s a tough sell. Even if people want to stay, if they want a more relaxed lifestyle in a quiet mountain town, there simply aren’t enough jobs. Almost all the major companies in Japan are based in Tokyo. The government, financial sector, and entertainment industry is all based in Tokyo. Young people often leave for university and find that it’s easier to stay a big city and find a job there, then it is to come back home and work around here. My town has been getting slowly and steadily smaller and smaller every year.

There's still a sign by the road telling you to watch out for children.

I was visiting the community across the street from this school and the people running the center said that they miss the childrens' laughter.

I tried to look inside a classroom from the window. It looks like they still have all the tables and chairs just stacked and stored there. Also, they had stacks of futons. I thought of the recent disaster in Northeastern Japan and realized that if necessary, people could come here and use the school as an evacuation center, even if it isn't a school anymore. That seems like good planning to me.

No kids out on the playgroud today.

What's with the palm tree? They get a ton of snow in this area. This palm tree's existence confuses me.....

The flowers still bloom, even with no one there to enjoy it. Well, I was there, so I benefited. 🙂

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