Monday, February 8, 2016

Flea Market, Feb. 6

Last week, we had Setsubun at the Terukuni shrine on Wednesday. Thursday afternoon, I was walking by the shrine grounds when I noticed booths and tents being set up in the parking lot, which I thought was kind of late, since the bean throwing event had already finished. Saturday, I was walking to the school to teach classes when I heard loud announcements coming from the PA in that parking lot. I swung back to the shrine during my break at 2:30, and realized that they were holding another of their flea markets that weekend.

A few other tables were selling used items and collectibles.

There were also some people selling local produce, including yummy tiny fish.

Others had old-school toys.

Plus there were booths with grilled corn, yaki soba and other foods, as well as hand-made crafts. It was fun to look at, but there was nothing I wanted to spend money on.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Matching Winnies

It's hard not to notice matching Winnie the Pooh accessories.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Fairy Whispers

The nearby Yamakataya department store has advertising posters near the exit by their perfume and makeup section, and I always walk by it on the way to work (it's next to the open area by Lotteria, which I always pass through). And they consistently have the ugliest posters I've ever seen. I have no idea what the marketing department in Japan was thinking when they came up with this one. Maybe that painted mannequins sell perfume.

Friday, February 5, 2016

S Pulse Camp Announcements

This last weekend was pretty much of a loss as far as events go. There was nothing in front of Lotteria on Saturday, and Amu Plaza was just running some kind of bargain sale in the open space in front of the main train station. On Sunday, there was a very short ceremony announcing the training schedule for the S-Pulse soccer team. This consisted of the corporate sponsors giving little speeches to the players and audience, and a table being set up to show the corporate gifts given to the team management. Very business-like, and very boring. The audience was kept at a distance with a barrier chain, and their only option for fan support was to wave the little orange flags that were handed out at the beginning. It was scheduled to start at 3 PM, and I didn't manage to arrive at Lotteria until 3:15, when everything was already wrapping up.

I doubt any of these guys have played on the field in, like, forever.

The gifts included bouquets of flowers, and a giant diakon (radish). Plus shochu.

I wonder if the fact that the 30-person audience consisted primarily of older housewives means anything.

The ceremony ended with a brass band playing marching songs. At 3:20, the band leader looked at the organizer, who just shook his head. That was the band's cue to leave, and they just walked out. And like that, everything was done and people wandered away.

The schedule consists of a few exhibition games, and a "J League New Year Cup" over the next week.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Yokai Dai Senso comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Yokai Dai Senso (The Big Yokai War), by Shigeru Mizuki, written by Hiroshi Aramata: Grade: A
I'm a little confused as to the timeline involved with this manga. According to the wiki entry on the Great Yokai War movie, there seems to be 3 components at play. First is a book Aramata wrote, entitled Teito Monogatari (The Tale of the Imperial Capital), which began serialization in 1983. This apparently was part of the inspiration for the Great Yokai War live action movie that came out in 2005. Other inspiration included Mizuki's Gegege Kitaro manga. However, the "Yokai Dai Senso" manga (shown here) drawn by Mizuki also came out in 2005 and, while it follows the main plot of the movie, has several major differences (such as Katou's henchwoman being a yokai named Hanako in the manga, and Agi in the movie; the movie uses a lot more monster machines; and the hero's sword doesn't break in the manga.)

(Hanako is out in the woods vacuuming up stray yokai, but manages to miss the one that befriends Tadashi.)

The wiki entry describes the movie, and Aramata's book, as a retelling of the Tale of Momotaro, in which Momotaro (Peach Boy) drives demons out of an island. The problem is that in Mizuki's version, the main villain is a wizard named Katou, who creates a monster plant with the help of the yokai girl, Hanako; and Hanako uses a yokai vacuum cleaner to capture other yokai to cremate and sacrifice to the plant. The hero, a young cowardly boy named Tadashi, succeeds in defeating the plant, and probably killing Hanako, but Katou runs away with plans on returning again later. This storyline really isn't that similar to the Momotaro story in question, although there are a couple parallels. Anyway, if you read the wiki summary of the movie, you'll know most of the story for this manga.

(Tadashi and the remaining yokai go into a mountain cave to meet Dai Tengu, the oni that gives the hero sword to Tadashi.)

The artwork is typical Mizuki. If you like Kitaro, you'll like Senso. There are several cameos, including an appearance by Mizuki himself as a crazed yokai specialist, and part of the story takes place on Yokai Road, a tourist attraction in Tottori that features statues of many of Mizuki's manga characters. Later in the story, the statues come alive to join in the battle against Katou.

(The Yokai Road bronze statues come to life.)

It's a simple story with fairly simple Japanese. If you're a first or second year Japanese language student, you shouldn't have any trouble following the dialog. It's also a decent introduction to Japanese society, given that Tadashi's schoolmates, and his mother, all act in stereotypical ways (typical for a manga story, anyway.) Recommended.

(There are three splash pages in the gallery at the end of the book, implying that this story was originally serialized in a magazine somewhere, but there's no mention of serialization in the copyright section. Katou is in the top background on the left page, and Hanako is next to his right eye. There's no explanation for why she follows Katou, other than that she just likes causing problems. Katou just doesn't like humans.)

(The back cover has a lot of empty white space.)

Summary: Aramata is a fan of Mizuki's, and he wrote a story featuring Mizuki's yokai. A live action movie was based on the book, and Mizuki seems to have drawn a manga related to the movie, I guess. It's a fun manga, and recommended if you like Gegege Kitaro.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Setsubun, Feb. 3rd

Setsubun was held in Japan on Feb. 3rd. The traditions revolving around this holiday kind of depend on the region, and/or family you're with. In many households, the adult males will put on demon masks and terrorize the children. The kids, in return, throw beans at the demons (oni) to chase them out of the house. In other cases, the children will stand at the doorway of the house or apartment and throw the beans while yelling "Demons out, good luck in." Yet another tradition is for families to visit the local shrines, where the priests and heads of sponsoring companies toss out bags of candy and beans to the audience. That's what we have here at Terukuni Jinja, near my apartment.

I arrived just before 4 PM, when things were supposed to start, and the parking lot was already packed. There was no option for getting any closer to the stage, and at any rate all that was at stake were candies and dry, flavorless beans. I stayed at the back, and watched as the adults went crazy for anything that got close to us. The entire event lasted 30 minutes. After that, half the people simply left, while the other half went to a booth to buy their own bags of beans. Also, one other custom is that after throwing the beans, you pick them up and eat the same number as your age for good luck in the coming year, but no one did that in the parking lot, that I saw.

Direct youtube link

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Army Men Samurai

In retrospect, I really have to wonder what took so long for this idea to surface - taking the green plastic Army Men concept and translating it to other cultures. This capsule ball series has 10 different figures, including a wash woman spectator, a local government official (like a policeman), a peasant spectator, and then paired samurai. One of the pair is attacking, and the other has been slashed. 2" tall, 200 yen ($1.60 USD) each.

The plus side of the U.S. Army Men figures was that you got a huge bucket full of them for a few dollars. The green samurai figures are one for $1.80. Not quite the same level of a bargain.