Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sakurajima Walking, Part 4

Kyoto Observatory

Just past the shrine is a road the leads up through a residential area. Back when I first came to Japan in 1992, I'd gotten a membership to the International Youth Hostel system, and a 2-week JR train pass. I spent my first two weeks traveling around the country and staying at different hostels. So, I have kind of a fondness for them. At some point, I'm going to get another membership and visit them again, starting with the one on Sakurajima.

Along the way, I encounter the Kyoto University Volcanic Observation Center. Maybe it's just me, but I really think that the people who have the volcano should be the ones working to specialize in understanding it. Not some university 400 or whatever miles away on the main island. Anyway, I think all the researchers were over in Kagoshima shopping for clothes in Tenmonkan, or something.

This guy is on the slope overlooking the entrance to the research center parking lot. I guess it's a carving of an elephant. Elephants are well-known to be great predictors of volcano eruptions.

This is his better side.

Sakurajima Youth Hostel

Finally, I get to the entrance for the youth hostel.

Big building, but kind of run down. I'd heard that it was being renovated last year, but that apparently didn't extend to repainting the name on the front. Anyway, when I had the membership, youth hostels would close from 10 AM to 4 PM and kick everyone out to reduce the chances that homeless people would use them as crash pads. It's close to 1:30 PM now, so I don't bother trying to look inside.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sakurajima Walking, Part 3

Tsukiyomi Jinja

The information center is about a 10-minute walk south of the port, past the Rainbow Hotel, and the Nagisa ashi-yuu (open air hot spring foot baths). Along the way are a number of gift and ramen shops, and the entrance to Tsukiyomi Jinja (Moon Shrine). I haven't visited this one yet, so I go up the steps to the top of a small hill.

Pretty traditional building construction for a small shrine.

However, the inside is in really good condition, and is obviously ready to accept visitors for the next ritual.

Close-up of the back wall. The disc on the table is probably a mirror.

Next to the entrance is a trash bin. This is where visitors discard their old protective amulets at the end of 12 months, when they arrive to buy replacements.

Last year was the Year of the Snake. Poor snake.

Next to the main building is a smaller shrine where visitors give offerings of one-cup sake (300 to 400 yen each). Lots of offerings this time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Yes, We have No Destroyers

Two days after the Sakurajima walk, I returned to Dolphin Port to see if I could tour the destroyer. But, there was nothing there. Who knew that destroyers were water soluble?! I hope this is a lesson to the Navy in the future.

Out in the bay, this boat was heading up north towards Aira. It's a cement boat, meaning that it's not going to dissolve, but it's just as much at risk as the destroyer because we all know that cement can't float.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sakurajima Walking, Part 2


Sunday morning comes and the weather is good. Nice bright, clear blue sky, but hot. I jump on the computer to verify the geocache locations one more time, then get out the door a little late. Along the way, I stop at a supermarket for a 2 liter bottle of water (89 cents) and a big peanut brittle cookie-like thing ($1.50). I hold off on getting anything more food-like because this store doesn't sell much in the way of sandwiches, and I want to get something at the grocery store on the island. I walk down to Dolphin Port and then over to the aquarium and the ferry port building, arriving just as the 1 PM ferry is leaving. I wait the 15 minutes for the next ferry, and eat the peanut brittle thing during the ride. The ferry has a small ramen shop, but it's too busy serving the other passengers, so I don't buy anything. The kiosk is about 20% more expensive than regular konbini are, so I don't get any snacks here, either.


The ferry will arrive at the port at point 1. The Information Center is at point 2, away from the observation building, down at sea level. The observation building is at point 3 (1,000 feet up) (the grocery store is where the red line stops going to the left and starts snaking up the hill. As for point 4...

Port View

As the ferry is pulling out of the harbor, we come under attack from a nearby friendly destroyer.

This is one of 2 boats currently docked in Kagoshima and open to tourists.

I'd like to know if they leave the keys in the puddle hopper.

Looking around

The north end of Kinko Bay is where Aira City and Kajiki are located. Aira has the giant cedar festival, and Kajiki hosts the spider fighting contest.

South lies open sea, and after a 1-hour jet boat ride, Yakushima.

West is Kagoshima City. The Ferris wheel is located on top of the main Chuo train station, and is about a 5-minute walk from my apartment. So, that's roughly where I started from today.

Pretty quickly, the ferry gets out past the break walls.

Gotta wonder if these guys ever complain that their perfect day of fishing is interrupted with the capture of an actual fish.


The Chinese astrological calendar includes dragons as one of the 12 animals. I'm pretty sure that dragons were included because they show up in the clouds all the time.

At the port

Sakura-chan. I need to send this photo to Bill Griffith and see if it's disturbingly cute enough to get into Zippy the Pinhead. Anyway, I'm now on Sakurajima.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sakurajima Walking, Part 1

A situation that I wasn't expecting to happen for a while finally raised its ugly head - I was about to run out of material to post for this blog.  I've been busy this last month, and coupled with the bad weather we've been having, I hadn't gotten outside much with the camera. First, when I was planning on a hike up Kanmuridake, we had a major storm, coupled with my receiving a short-term contract cleaning up some Japanese to English translations. That led to a few more contracts that shot the next 3 weeks. To be honest, even when I wasn't doing the contract work, I was doing stuff that kept me indoors, including the M.C. Escher kiri-e, and writing a Java applet for accessing the various functions of the Gakken Pocket Miku synthesizer. I finished the kiri-e after 2 weeks, but I'm still working on the Java app. (I can't get all of the MIDI SysEx calls to work according to the Yamaha NSX-1 MIDI datasheet, but what I do have working is pretty cool. What I'm doing now is trying to implement support for the Roland A-300 MIDI controller keyboard. Then I'll think about shooting a youtube video of the results.)

So. Here I am, the Summer completely gone, and almost nothing left to post for the blog. On Sunday, the weather cleared up, and I decided to grab both cameras and a bottle of sunscreen, and head for Sakurajima. For those of you that don't remember, Sakurajima (Cherry Island) is the island on the other side of Kinko Bay that has the active volcano on it. It's accessible by a ferry that runs from Dolphin Port every 15 minutes, for 160 yen ($1.60 USD) one way. Because it's an active volcano, the government prevents anyone from getting 2 km (1.2 miles) from the top. There's an observatory 330 meters up (1,080 feet), on the side facing away from the main cone, that I've been to twice. From the port, it's about 30 minutes to a grocery store where the road forks (north to the fishing village at the north end of the island and east to the observatory). It's another hour to the observatory.

There are two geocaches on Sakurajima. The first is near the parking lot next to the observatory. Since I don't have a GPS, and the best I can do is zoom in somewhat using Google maps Earth-view, I don't have a lot of hope in finding that one. However, the other is an Earth cache, which just requires taking a selfie photo from the entrance of the Information Visitors Center, with the volcano in the background. That much I can do.

The plan was to get out of the apartment at noon on Sunday, walk the 2 kilometers to the ferry port, ride the ferry to Sakurajima, swing by the youth hostel to get the Earth cache photo, then go to the grocery store for snacks before heading up the mountain to the observation building and the second cache. With luck, I'd get to the top by 3 PM, then back down to Kagoshima by 5, and home by 5:30 or 6, having taken enough photos to last me a week on the blog.

As a sidenote Small Adventure: There have been a few events at the Amupla plaza and in Tenmonkan, but nothing worth taking pictures of. Many of them have been stage events for young school kids to show off their j-pop choreographed dance routines. One was a kind of local products market near Lotteria in Tenmonkan. The funny part of the market was that at one table selling shochu were three members of the Kagoshima professional soccer club. Turns out that one of their sponsors is a shochu distiller. While Japan as a whole really supports the national Samurai Blue team, the Kagoshima pro team gets little respect, having to huck alcohol to customers that don't want to make direct eye contact with the players.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Izuro Street Banners

The walkways along Tram and Izuro streets almost always have banners or something set up. Once the summer lanterns were taken down, new banners went up advertising Izuro Street itself. The image is of one of the two big stone lanterns that used to mark the entrance to the city a couple hundred years ago. Both lanterns are currently at the intersection of Tram and Izuro streets.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Back in the 80's, I was interested in western animation, and animation history. Along with collecting the cartoons by Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, and Bob Clampett, I also spent a lot of time watching independent films, especially those from the International Animation Festivals. These festival collections would be shown in an art theater in Minneapolis, and one such collection featured a short by local artist Gav Gnatovitch. You can see it below on Gav's youtube channel. Gav since went on to produce Longhair and Doubledome, which had a short run on Cartoon Network. He says he's working on a new short due out in early 2015.

I've wanted to get an animation cell from Lazar, but it turned out to be in the $150 range, so I commissioned Gav to do a sketch of Lazar. This is what I got for my birthday last month. Isn't he just adorable?!