Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sumadera Temple : Six Jizō

Six Jizō, this time from Sumadera temple - these fellows work to ease the suffering and shorten the sentence of those serving time in hell, to deliver the faithful into Amida’s western paradise (where inhabitants are no longer trapped in the six states of desire and karmic rebirth). Jizō is a Bodhisattva, one who achieves enlightenment but postpones Buddhahood until all can be saved. In particular, the six Jizō represent the six realms of existence (and each can be recognized by certain mudras and objects within their possession):
  1. Beings in Hell (Jigokudō 地獄道). The lowest and worst realm, wracked by torture and characterized by aggression.
  2. Hungry Ghosts (Gakidō 餓鬼道). The realm of hungry spirits; characterized by great craving and eternal starvation.
  3. Animals (Chikushōdō 畜生道). The realm of animals and livestock, characterized by servitude.
  4. Asura (Ashuradō 阿修羅道). The realm of anger, jealousy, and constant war. Asura are powerful, fierce and quarrelsome demigods and, like humans, are partly good and partly evil.
  5. Humans (Nindō 人道 ). The human realm where enlightenment is within their grasp, yet most are blinded and consumed by their desires.
  6. Deva (Tendō 天道). The realm of heavenly beings filled with pleasure. Deva posses godlike powers and most live in delightful happiness and splendor for countless ages. However, their powers blind them to the world of suffering, to which they also belong. Some believe that because their pleasure is greatest, so too is their misery.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sumadera Temple : Pagoda

Sumadera temple, from which I have previously posted a picture of lanterns from the graveyard, is large and really quite quirky - full of unusual little things that are not common to most Japanese buddhist temples. It's very easy to spend an entire afternoon wandering around and marveling at all the interesting buildings, statues, and art in this quiet retreat. The 3-tier pagoda is impressive and stands atop a hill that overlooks the temple grounds.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ツマグロヒョウモン (Tsumaguro-Hyomon)

Photographed in a community garden near Suma, this is the Indian Fritillary (Argynnis hyperbius) butterfly or Tsumaguro-Hyomon in Japanese. It is a member of the Nymphalid or Brush-footed butterfly family.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nagata Night Market

Throughout the summer the local shōtengai (Japanese commercial district running along a certain street) hosts an international food bazar and night market on the 3rd friday of the month. Many small restaurants offer foods and drink from throughout Asia, and with live music and karaoke the atmosphere is light and festive. For this go-around dinner featured a chicken marsala kebob, Myanmar curry, mango juice, and home made makkori (Korean rice-based wine). I truly enjoy Japanese cuisine, however it is also nice to have some different tastes and smells from time to time.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Danjiri Matsuri #4

Last image from the danjiri matsuri, where even the kids get into the act.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Danjiri Matsuri #3

Each danjiri is carved with intricate scenes depicting wars, heroes, religious figures, and animals; each one is a mobil work of art. The danjiri go fastest turning corners. This is accomplished by four men pulling sets of levers which cause the danjiri to skid, allowing the shrine to turn. This is the most dangerous part of the matsuri; when the dancers have the greatest chance of falling off the danjiri and the danjiri has the greatest chance of slipping out of control and colliding with the hapless spectators.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Danjiri Matsuri #2

Just before the teams start to pull the danjiri, there is a slow chanting by each puller. A whistle is blown and the team springs into running. The chanting grows to a furious pace as the team shouts and yells. The thick pulling-rope can be up to 650 feet long and the pulling-team as large as 1000 people. The privilege of dancing on top of the danjiri goes to the carpenters. They are called daiku-gata and each one creates his own style of dancing, varying on traditional themes. With thousands of participants and tens of thousands of spectators, danjiri is easily one of Ōsaka's rowdiest festivals.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Danjiri Matsuri #1

Last weekend the citizens of Kishiwada, Ōsaka, got riled up for the Danjiri Matsuri the same way they have for the last three hundred years. Each district of the city creates a danjiri (pictured), and starting early in the morning with the sound of a blaring siren, all 33 danjiri teams haul their danjiri at a breakneck pace through the city streets for hours while stalls along the roadside sell trinkets and food for the spectators. All the danjiri are made entirely of zelkova wood. Each danjiri weighs 4 tons, is 12.5 feet high and 8 feet high. Each is constructed by master woodcarvers and carpenters.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tsukimi 月見

Today is the Tsukimi matsuri (literally moon viewing festival), a Japanese tradition originated from China, which is an annual festival honoring the autumn moon. Traditionally, tsukimi dango (Japanese dumplings) and Japanese sake are placed on a tray and susuki (pampas grass) are arranged in a vase in order to celebrate the beauty of the moon. People view the mid-autumn moon quietly at home, gardens, shrines, and temples. Also, it's widely believed that the shadows on the moon surface look like a rabbit pounding mochi rice cake on a usu mortar, which is why some Tsukimi dango (like these) are shaped like rabbits. More recently some fast food restaurants in Japan, such as McDonalds, offer a special fall menu featuring fried egg (yolk looks like a full moon) sandwiches known as Tsukimi burgers.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nagata Streets : Resident

A local feline resident seated comfortably atop a automobile parked in a nearby factory. A few days after this photo was taken this entire parking lot was torn apart to make room for the street widening project that is happening all over Nagata. Some streets are already quite wide, wider than many residential streets in most parts of Japan. Streets that are only two lanes are being widened to four lanes - at the cost of locals private property lines being shortened.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nagata Streets : Curiosity

Bottle discarded outside of a local Nagata factory that, over time, has been covered in layers of mud and some other unknown manufacturing byproducts.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nagata Streets : Old Building

Old shop near the Nagata Port. Another characteristic of the renovated landscape of Nagata is the common presence of parks. Parks, which often have playgrounds for children, can be found about every two blocks within the more spacious re-built areas of Nagata, the older areas have no room for such parks. They serve as gathering areas in case of emergency and also often have a source of water. Similar "pocket size" parks can be found in residential areas of Tōkyō.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nagata Streets : Old Port

Old town Nagata is located near the ocean port, which houses a few fishing boats and is a launch for locals who have personal water craft. Much of this area survived the 1995 earthquake and the many fires that followed immediately after. The mostly wooden buildings and structures, and the very narrow layout of the streets and neighborhoods is considerably different. Most of Nagata now has rather wide streets and spaciously organized neighborhoods - which are safer in the event of a natural disaster or fire and the emergency vehicles have greater access.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Nagata Streets : Tobacco & A Manga

Next few posts are going to be from around the area I currently call home, Nagata. The area is a mix of residential and industrial landscapes, and as I have previously mentioned a great deal of this part of Kōbe was destroyed in the 1995 earthquake, which also makes Nagata a mixture of old and new architecture. This series will concentrate mostly on the older areas of town, that survived the quake but now face the economic hardships of modernization and a city that has lost much of its influence as a busy international port. Here is a fellow taking, what I assume is a much deserved, break outside a small metal working factory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Road Barriers Revisited

Back in April I shared some of these animal themed road construction barriers from around Japan, and now I have collected some new ones. I was able to find an elephant, alas it is was not pink. Guess the pink bunny will have to do. Leave it to the Japanese to include a little dose of cute in every facet of life.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Yagi 山羊

The Goat goes:
(me-e me-e)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Frog 蛙

This fellow is a fairly common little graffiti work, but you have to hunt for it and it might pop-up in some unexpected places. Frog in Japanese is "kaeru," which is the same sound for the verb "return/to return" (also "kaeru") but both are spelled differently using different kanji/kana. Which gives rise to the pun:

お金が返る。(Money returns)
Which sounds like,
お金が蛙。(Money is frog)

Honestly I don't 'get-it' but I have a real difficult time with japanese humor, which is often wordplay especially in Rakugo, but is also present in Manga, Anime, and of course a night out drinking with Japanese friends.

The frog goes: ケロケロ (kero kero).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Gamera ガメラ

Gamera is a giant, flying turtle from a popular series of kaiju (Japanese giant monster) films. Created in 1965 to rival the success of Toho Studios' Godzilla during the giant monster film boom of the mid-to-late 1960s. Though not as popular as Gozilla, Gamera has gained fame and notoriety in Japan (less so abroad). This 'baby' Gamera is only about 5feet and is currently chained safely outside a gift shop. Whether the chain is to protect him from us, or us from him is, however, unclear.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Japanese Retail Aesthetics

Retail consumption and retail brand awareness are important to the average Japanese city dweller. It is difficult to walk down any street in the city centers of this country without spotting a number of designer brand name logos on the shop bags of many passersby. Not that this is unique to Japan in anyway, it is perhaps a keystone of modern capitalist societies. However, not all cities pay so much attention to the retail stores themselves. Some of these outlets are like galleries (or works of art) and are entirely unique, but still have a certain familiarity; the clean lined and hyper detailed Japanese aesthetic - also found in Japanese landscape gardens, formal tea ceremony rooms, and architecture. Pictured is the Onitsuka Tiger store in Kyōto, one of my personal favorite brands of overpriced shoes originally made in Kōbe.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pimp My Scooter

Near the Kamo-gawa in Kyōto, just in front of a convenience store, was a small group of motorcycle and scooter enthusiasts displaying some of their labors. In Japan if it has at least one wheel and it is some sort of active form of conveyance (be that train or cargo truck, unicycle of motorcycle) then it has an associated club, enthusiasts, hobbyists, magazines, and plastic models. Also, these passionate folks have covered these wheeled objects of affection with neon, LEDs, and chrome from top to bottom. For this particular evening, everything was bathed in a neon halo and every inch was shinny or blinking; blanketed in LCD monitors, speakers, and or computers. From the drivers view these look more like jet airplane cockpits then scooters. The owners were more then happy to show them off to the many gawking passerby for a photo-op or just to share admiration of a truly pimped out ride.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Kamo-Gawa 鴨川 At Night

On a recent trip to Kyōto I took a stroll along th
e Kamo-gawa, wild duck river, and captured the lights of this very swanky restaurant reflected on the river surface. The Kamo-gawa is approximately 14 mi long and the riverbanks are popular walks for residents and tourists. In summer, restaurants such as this one, open balconies looking out to the river.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Akashi-Kaikyō Night View

Previously I shared an image of the Pearl Bridge from atop Mount Maya in the evening, well I finally got a chance to visit Maiko after sundown to get a closeup view. Visiting the bridge in the evening was a wonderful experience, quite, peaceful and relatively few people. The Akashi-Kaikyo bridge has a total of 1737 illumination lights and on the main cables three high light discharged tubes are mounted in the colors red, green and blue that can create a variety of combinations that reflect like a rainbow on the oceans surface. The long exposure I used to capture this image created a halo on the almost full moon, and an airplane that was passing overhead was turned into a dotted red line arched across the sky.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Maiko Earthquake Memorial Festival

At the end of August Maiko, which is in Tarumi Ward west of Kōbe City, hosted an annual Hanshi-Awaji earthquake memorial festival. The festival featured hundreds of lanterns decorated by local school children. These cute and sometimes heartfelt messages were aglow against the backdrop of the twinkling lights of the
Akashi-Kaik Bridge. The atmosphere was contemplative but festive and the sounds of the crashing waves and smell of the sweet/sour salty sea air was relaxing and provided a welcome change from crowded and smoggy city.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Kaiyukan 海遊館

Kaiyukan, or "playing in the sea pavilion," is the proper name of the Ōsaka aquarium. It is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and its inhabitants are displayed in 15 tanks, each representing a specific region of the Pacific Rim. The central tank, representing the Ring of Fire area of the Pacifc Ocean, is nine meters deep and home to a whale shark. Visitors start their tour of the aquarium on the 8th floor and slowly spiral down floor by floor around the central tank. Some of the tanks stretch over several floors, making it possible to observe the animals from different depths and perspectives. The organization, architecture, and marine life chosen for the Kaiyukan follow, in part, the Gaia Hypothesis advocated by Dr.James Lovelock. This hypothesis includes "a theory of the Earth as a living organism - where the evolution of the species and their material environment are tightly coupled. Pictured is a Moon jellyfish at play in the sea pavilion.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ōsaka Aquarium 水族館

Last weekend I needed to beat the intense heat wave that has engulfed Japan. Really it is killer hot this summer, literally as of August 17 heat exhaustion has claimed 132 lives, with 31,579 people hospitalized since May 31 according to Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The Ōsaka Aquarium was just the ticket, cool air conditioned comfort for body and temper, and a feast of sites for the eyes. My favorite part of this wonderful aquarium is the last floor where the jellyfish live. Pictured: Box, Sea Nettle, and the upside down jellyfish.

"Takin' on the jellies. You got serious thrill issues, dude." (Finding Nemo)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sorakuen Garden One Last Time

One last image from the Sorakuen Garden, the Kawagozabune reflected in the central pond.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sorakuen Garden Sculptures

Light sculptures at the Sorakuen Garden, this event really called out to photographers, well most events of any consequence seem to attract photographers in Japan, mostly serious amateurs of retirement age with either the latest and greatest equipment or a vintage collection that would be at home in most museums. Oh and tripods, lots and lots of tripods. Of course I was one of those photographers, just a little younger then some - with my small LX3 and tiny bendy tripod. It is nice to live in a place that has so many photography enthusiasts - it's not at all awkward to take photographs when everyone else doing the same with phone, camera, or video camera. However, it does beg the question: how many of these photographs look exactly alike?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sorakuen Garden Tea House

Window from the tea house at the Sorakuen Garden reflected in the lake below, and the silhouette of a woman in a kimono preparing for a show that will take place on the garden grounds shortly after this photograph was taken.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sorakuen Garden Stable

The mansion and annex originally situated within Sorakuen Garden burned down during World War II air raids, only this western style stable (now a museum), fence, and gates remain. In 1963 the Sorakuen Hall and teahouse were completed and Hassam House, formerly of the Kitano district of foreign settlements, was moved and rebuilt on-site. The aforementioned Kawagozabune was restored and added to the garden in the 1980's.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sorakuen Garden 相楽園

Japanese landscape gardens can be categorized into three classes; the Sorakuen Garden falls in the category of Tsukiyama (artificial hill) garden. Sorakuen is comprised of ponds, streams, stones, trees, flowers, bridges and paths, but as the category name suggests, is specifically identified by its artificial hills. The artificial hills or mounds at Sorakuen are landscaped with trees and stones that enhance the beauty of the mossy lake, and the graveled bridge at the center. The garden is a wonderful place to wander about, and is an oasis from the city just beyond its walls.