Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mario Odyssey Figures, Part 2




After writing up my adventures with the one Mario chocolate egg box, I was preparing to have an English class with a video game fanatic. I decided that it might be interesting to buy 5 more eggs, and do a capsule opening event during the lesson (plus, I wanted more of the chocolate). So, I swung by Donkey on my way to the school, got the eggs, and ate the chocolate on my way in.



Unfortunately, it turned out that neither he, nor the other student sitting in the class have played the game the figures are from. The fanatic doesn't like Mario, and the other student doesn't collect figures. The entire thing turned out to be a bust, but I got chocolate out of the deal, and I'm not complaining.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Tram Accident




Like most Japanese cities, Kagoshima has a train system that connects different parts of the city to the rest of Kyushu. Unlike most cities, we don't have a subway system, because the city is at sea level. Instead, there's the street car system, which consists of two lines. The first, Taniyama, runs from the old Kagoshima station at the north end of the city, south past City Hall, then a bit southwest through Tenmonkan to Takamibaba Street, before making a sharp left turn to go back south through Korimoto, South Kagoshima, and finally to the other end of the line at Taniyama Station. The second line, Korimoto, also starts at the old Kagoshima Station and uses the same tracks through Tenmonkan to Takamibaba, but then continues straight to the new main Kagoshima Train Station, before turning south, and then east to terminate at Korimoto and then backtrack to the old Kagoshima Station. In effect, the two lines form a rectangle with stringy bits running out from the corners at Takamibaba and Korimoto.



I have a class Friday mornings at 10 AM down at South Kagoshima, and I usually take the 9:35 Taniyama line. One morning, I got to the Takamibaba intersection only to find that one of the cars had been knocked off the tracks. Given the lack of broken glass, it had either been hit by a big truck, or the driver just really wanted to get through the intersection before the light changed. There was no way that another car would be able to squeeze past to go down to Taniyama, but the next car coming up was for Korimoto and I just had enough time to run for the other platform to jump on the Korimoto car before it headed to the main train station.



At this point, the fork truck was just being maneuvered in for lifting the front of the errant car to put it back on the tracks. The Korimoto route is much longer than the Taniyama route to get to the shared platforms at Korimoto, and I got to the platform right at 10 AM. I was rifling through my papers, only to realize that I didn't have the student's number written down anywhere to let them know I was on my way, but would be late. We had to wait for the traffic light to change, so the car could go through and turn to the left to the Korimoto platform. There was a Taniyama car at the platform, waiting for the light to change in its direction. As we pulled into the platform, the Taniyama car pulled out and left several of us stranded by just a few seconds. Sigh. I'd gotten a transfer ticket, which now seemed useless. I looked down the tracks to see if I'd get lucky with one last car that had managed to get through Takamibaba before the accident. I didn't see anything, so I climbed the stairs to the crossover bridge to get across the tracks to the sidewalk. At the top, I looked back, and spotted a car marked "Old Kagoshima Station" changing lines and pulling up to the platform I'd just left. Hoping against hope that this car was being repurposed to take stranded people to Taniyama, I ran back down the steps and asked the driver when the next car might arrive for Taniyama. He just shrugged, apologized, said there was an accident at Takamibaba, and he didn't know if there'd be another car to Taniyama or not. Then, he drove off to Takamibaba.

I went back up the stairs, crossed over to the sidewalk side, then had to climb a different set of stairs to cross over the big street to get past the intersection and keep going south to South Kagoshima, which was at least half a mile away. Taking a taxi kind of crossed my mind, but there weren't any nearby, and I didn't want to pay the money for one. I ran half the way, and walked fast the other half. When I got to South Kagoshima, I had to trudge up the stairs for another crossover bridge over another big intersection. Finally, I got close the school, and I checked my phone - I'd just gotten a call from the student, asking if I was ok, but it would be faster at that point to climb the 2 flights of stairs to the class room and just enter the building than it would be to return the call. Fortunately, the student had seen the report of the tram accident on her smartphone, and expected that that's why I was late (I got in at 10:20). Unfortunately, the weather has turned hot in the last few days, and it took me most of the class time to catch my breath and stop sweating.

After the class ended, I took the Old Kagoshima line tram to return home. At 12 PM, we got about 6 blocks short of Takamibaba when the driver came on the PA to announce that there'd been an accident up ahead, and if we wanted to continue to Takamibaba or Tenmonkan, that we'd need to get out here and walk. Sigh. Fortunately, there was a 7-11 right across the street from where I got out, so I quickly got myself a bottle of water, and started walking.



At Takamibaba, some official, surrounded by a bunch of reporters, was loudly giving some kind of a speech in front of the derailed car, which was now back on the tracks, but on the wrong set of rails (for Tenmonkan, not Taniyama). A second car latched onto the first one and started pulling it in the direction of Tanimaya (the main streetcar yards are about a mile south of the main train station, and I think the idea was to pull the damaged car down to Korimoto, turn west, and get to the yards through a backdoor).



But, things could have been worst. It could have been raining.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Unicorn Donut




Tully's coffee shop had a "white unicorn donut." It's plain sugar frosting on top of a cranberry-flavored pancake batter donut. About 280 yen ($2.75 USD). Interesting branding concept that doesn't quite work...

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Exhaust Window




You can find the oddest things in Japanese office buildings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ash Tuesday




No, this is not Kagoshima on a foggy day.
Woke up yesterday morning to find that Sakurajima was just spewing out ash, and the wind had shifted to blow it our way. It was like this pretty much all day. The timing was off, too. Saturday, during the music fest, the weather was perfect. On Sunday, a little cloudy, but still not that bad. Monday night, we got heavy rain. After the rain was done, Sakurajima acted up. Sigh.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Kagoshima Music Fest, May 10-11, 2019

Day 1


I had real mixed emotions leading into this year's KMF. On the one hand, I like some of the music they have every year (the line-ups change each time, which apparently is based on auditions or some kind of a lottery). So, it could be a good time. And, it is one of the biggest free music events in Kagoshima. On the other hand, I only really like three bands for the music - Bon DX (Ska), The Pints (Irish punk) and South Shaker (80's heavy metal long-hair covers), and only South Shaker was on the line-up. Worse, they were scheduled to play from 5:45 PM to 6 PM on Saturday, when I had classes. Initially, I had a break between 4:30 to 6 PM, but the 6 PM class got cancelled. That made me happy. Then, the owner of the school asked me if it was ok to move my 7 PM class forward to 6 (so that he could go home early). I requested a 6:15 start, and he agreed to that. So, I'm now really looking forward to Saturday evening, since I have enough time to run from Central Park to the school (5 minutes away). Except that the band up before South Shaker ran past their required stop time...


(Suimori and Tsurupi Karin)

I had wanted to get out of the apartment early on Saturday to catch some of the bands in the morning, since the KMF started at 10 AM. But, one of my other students wanted a 10:30 AM class. Along with all my milk shopping for the week and stuff, I didn't actually get out of the apartment until 1 PM, and I had a 1:30 PM start at the school. That just gave me a couple of minutes to swing by the park and take a few photos. The women above (Suimori and Tsurupi) did a campy idol bit, while Tsurupi (right) seemed to be pro wrestling with one of the fans at the front of the stage when I arrived.


(The Band)

The Band was setting up on Stage 2, and I missed them actually playing. My 1:30 PM student told me she had to park in the lot underneath the park, and there was some kind of loud music playing at that time, which was probably these guys.



I got back to the park at about 4:30 as Blue Edge was just wrapping up. Not really sure what kind of music they were doing, since I didn't take notes. I think it was jazz covers.



The Kagoshima foamhead mascots were out in force to promote the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.


(Toshi the Wanderer)

When I got to stage 2, Toshi recognized me from last year, and introduced me to the violin player, a Canadian named Gaze Santos, playing with him just for the fest. Gaze and I talked a bit, but Toshi had to start playing right away. We ended up running into each other again later, and talked about music, anime and manga. I recorded one song from the set, and Gaze played very well on it. It was a good set.



Konbanwa did some harder rock songs, which were pretty good. But, I wanted to get something to eat, so I stopped at the food booth run by Wicky Toshi (Wicky's House), and got their ome-rice with cheese, and ate that while the next guy played. The ome-rice was good enough that I didn't bother taking pictures of the next act.



Dep is a Deep Purple/Led Zeppelin cover band, although they did start out covering Queen's "We Are the Champions". The rest of the band was ok, but the lead singer mangled the lyrics. It didn't help that they wouldn't stop when told their time was up. I kept looking at my watch, as it got closer to 6 PM. Finally, Dep finished, and South Shaker got up and immediately jumped into their set - three 80's long hair songs I didn't recognize. I spent the entire time recording them (below), then ran back to the school. Fortunately, the owner decided to give me 5 minutes to stop sweating (the weather was perfect, but getting hot) before starting the lesson.



Since the last lesson did begin at 6:15, I was able to get out for the night at a little after 7 PM. That allowed me enough time to see Zon Jovi - a Bon Joni cover band. They did ok, but weren't anywhere near as good as the Bon Jovi cover band that played last year. The lead singer was too stiff and lacked stage presence.


(Horafuki)

The gospel group Mozes sang next, but I don't like gospel. They were followed by Horafuki, who did a kind of hard-edged jazz with Ramones overtones. They were good.



The night ended with 1010, who did decent Toto covers. I found myself, in my business clothes, and with my backpack over my shoulder, dancing along the side of the stage with two of the MCs. That was fun. Then I went home and had dinner, and spent the rest of the evening on the computer.

Day 2

(Kafka)

I had wanted to get back to the park as early as I could to try to catch the 50's rockers The Bogies, but things came up and I couldn't get out the door until right around 2 PM. I got in just as Kafka was in the middle of her set. She's got a kind of Joan Baez vibe, on moderately hard jazz songs.



Suizin also did jazz rock.



Candyman did the Tennessee Waltz, and several Billy Joel ballad covers, but the singer also mangled all the English lyrics.



Now, Shears was good, doing American rockabilly. They were fun.

I skipped Yasashii Mirai (A Gentle Future), and DJ Pocky's band to go get some coffee from MOS Burger, and a box of lemon Oreos from a drug store selling them for 100 yen (90 cents USD). When I got back to the park, I played 3DS video games as I waited for the next band to go on stage to take photos of them. I did want to see the winery ducks, but family stuff happened again, and I missed them.



Turned out, though, that there was an unofficial "third stage" run by Toshi the Wanderer, with a write-in line-up.



Strictly amateur hour, but everyone was having a good time.



Maburai did a kind of protest folk rock. They were introduced as the Grand Prix winners in the "old men category" of a nation-wide TV talent contest. They were ok.



Kouichi also did a kind of protest folk rock. (Sometimes, it's difficult to find the right descriptions for Japanese musicians.) He was pretty good. On a side note, I uploaded all of the good photos I kept (I shot a little under 400 pictures over the two days, and about 70 were worth keeping) to Facebook, and Kouichi and his guitarist both requested tagging themselves on two of the photos.



Tempura is a cover band for the American group Pantera. They rocked. The members of South Shaker (two of whom are from Kanoya, on the other side of the Kyushu peninsula from Kagoshima), stuck around for the second day, and both of them banged their heads to Tempura.



One of the difficulties in documenting big music fests like this is that certain people like to walk into the middle of the crowd and just stop without looking around to see if they're blocking anyone taking photos or making recordings behind them. With the number of people in the park, it was nearly impossible to get closer to the stage without my messing up someone else's shots. Sigh. Anyway, this was Apple Jam. The clown outfits are part of their gimmick, but they actually played decent Japanese rock. The lead guitarist showed up, sans outfit but with the face glitter, to play on a couple other bands, including Wicky's All Stars.



The lead singer of Kafka remembered me from last year, and agreed to pose with me for another shot this year. I'm wearing my Scary-Go-Round "Bears will eat you" shirt.



Go! Go! 0185 did campy 80's rock. Silly, but upbeat.



For absolutely over the top glam rock, nothing beat Trinity (I recorded one song, below). I never quite figured out if the lead singer was female, or a drag queen. The crowd loved her.



Toshikazu Maruno toured the U.S. 2016, and has 3 CDs out. Born in Kagoshima. He did a good straightforward set.



Wicky Toshi finished off the line-up with his Wicky's All Stars, which normally does Southern All Stars covers. But, this time he had an extended band, including surf guitarist and guitar instructor Nonki, and all the songs were much harder rock pieces. Great set. Unfortunately, it's still copyrighted music and wouldn't have gotten past the youtube filters. And, the evening sky, harsh lighting, and misters kept interfering with the camera's light monitoring, so most of the shots didn't turn out.



The MCs closed out the night by having a bunch of the performers get on stage for a final couple songs, plus photo ops. That also rocked. The stage shut down somewhere around 7:30 PM, and I was still pumped by the time I got home. I spent the evening with dinner, and editing photos and video for uploading to Facebook. Because Facebook doesn't really allow embedding video links in blog software, I spent part of Monday writing up this blog entry and posting the below videos to youtube. Probably the best KMF I've been to yet.

I mentioned in the entry on Dai Hanya that when I make the videos smaller (640x480) for uploading to youtube, I was getting a lot of pixelation, and I wasn't really sure why. I'm using a Japanese product, called Movie Studio, and all the menu items are in Japanese. I think, at some point recently, the manufacturer made an update that changed the screen resolution to something unusable. Scouring through the movie settings, I found one that seems to translate to "quality" (preview, low, normal, high). It defaults to "normal," so I tried changing it to "high," and the results were greatly improved. Really, I'd say that "normal" is "low" and "high" is what "normal" should be. Anyway, the only views for any of these videos on youtube are me writing up the descriptions and copying the embed links for the blog entries, so I guess image quality isn't that much of a factor.

Direct youtube link 1 (Toshi the Wanderer, South Shaker part 1)


Direct youtube link 2 (South Shaker part 2, Trinity)

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Can Coffee People are People, too




I was walking along the street one day when I passed this particular vending machine. The sign on the lower front looked pretty haphazardly installed, and I was thinking it was really unprofessional. Then the message hit me.



"Can coffee people are good people (even though it is a can...)"

The "all new" photo just shows all of the existing, old brands. Again, the message is going over my head, but I think the idea is, "if you drink our can coffee, you can't be as bad as the coffee itself is."