Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Musashi Mausoleum



The Musashi Mausoleum is interesting in that it doesn't seem to have generated all that much interest. That is, it's a very large, open area filled with Zelkova trees, and contains the burial mounds for both the Taisho and Showa emperors and their wives (Empress Teimei and Empress Kojun). Yet, there were very few visitors whenever I swung by, and there's almost no information on it online in English.


(Entrance from parking lot.)

The mausoleum is a little tricky to get to. The best approach is to exit the JR Takao train station and go down the street one short block to the 7-11. There's a map board on the corner showing the directions. It's about 1-2 miles from here. My path was to turn right at this corner and take 20 to the first signal light. Turn left and go down the hill to the river. Follow the river to the right about 1 block, to the entrance of a large local park. Go where the little path sign is pointing over the little bridge and then go straight and up the hill. Stay to the left, going about 2 blocks left then 1 to the right. The entrance to the mausoleum is to the left, near the police box. Car parking is to the side on the left. There's no real place for locking up bikes, but they discourage bringing the bike into the mausoleum grounds proper because it's disrespectful, so I just locked my bike to a tree neat the car lot.



There are a couple of manned security guard houses scattered around the grounds, but it looks to be a lonely job, since there's one person per guard house, and almost no visitors swinging by to ask questions.



While the Tokyo Tourism info site lists four people interred on the grounds, there are 6 burial mounds. Apparently I only took photos of the name markers for the 4 principal people, so I'm going to have to go back later and find out who I missed). Here's the full album.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hachioji Ruins



Not too many people here seem to be aware of it, but there was a castle built in the late 1500's, at the end of the warring states period, up in the hills just a little ways out from the JR Takao train station. There's nothing much left of it, but it's still possible to visit the area and it does make a nice hike. This is where having a car is useful, because the entrance is a few miles from the station, and there's a parking lot about 100 feet from the entrance. To get to the starting point, face out away from the Takao station exit. Go straight out until you cross under the Chuu-ou expressway. Turn left immediately after the expressway and follow this road until it ends after about 1-1.5 miles. You're now at the ranger station at the trail head. The castle ruins (八王子城跡) have been registered as one of Japan's 100 top historical castle sites.



I parked my bike at the ranger's building, and the two guys there *very* patiently explained the rules to me. There are two parts to the park, one that's only open to guided tours, and the other that I could explore on my own. The castle grounds were down to the left and only open to the guides. The shrine and the tallest reachable hill (Honmaru) were to the right and up the hill behind the building. I'd have to leave my bike in front of the building because, as they put it - jitensha wa dame (bike is no good). They gave me a couple of maps, and I refilled my water bottle at the nearby fountain and then I set off up the hill.


(Kannon Shrine Glen)



Within about a block, I reached a small shrine building and a little shop where a group of men were selling hothouse flowers. I saw the steps behind the shrine leading farther up the hill, but I wanted to see what was down the road past the tables with the flowers. I went along the base of the hill and pretty quickly the road turned into a narrow path that then entered a glen with about 20 stone markers dedicated to the Buddhist goddess Kannon. The markers lined the glen just inside the tree line. It was maybe 50 feet long, and on the other side of the glen there was a small dirt trail that snaked along the base of the hill about another 100 feet. Suddenly, the trail opened up on a wide, flat, grassy field.

















Along the side of the field, in the shade of the tall trees, a handful of people sat, smoking or reading books. Most of the trees had signs asking us to not litter, to clean up after any dogs we brought with us, and to beware of mamushi (pit vipers). Near the little trail is what looked like an old gate, and wide stone steps leading down to a bridge over a small creek. After exploring the other side of the creek (where the area at river level looked like it had been landscaped for putting up houses or farms), I returned to the main field only to discover it completely empty. I assumed that the people had taken my little trail out because there weren't any other exits, but I can't be sure of that.


(Old map plaque.)

As I retraced my path on the little trail, I found a branch path leading up the hill and I followed it up in the hopes that it would take me to Honmaru. At first, I found another clearing with some scraggly trees. On the other side of the clearing, I picked up a bigger path going up to the left. A hiker heading down told me that the shrine, and Honmaru, were up ahead of me, so I pressed on.



Pretty quickly I figured out why "bikes are no good" - the trail was steep and covered with tree roots. Even a mountain bike would have trouble here, and that'd definitely damage the roots. This was strictly a hiking path. After 20 minutes, I was drained and thinking about going back down. I'd gone through half my water, and I'd already spent 2 hours on my bike just getting out to Takao from Noborito (at least a 30 mile ride). Then, I encountered another hiker, who told me that I'd be able to reach the top of the hill in 10 minutes if I pushed it, no later than by 3:30 even if I took my time (it was about 2:55 then). When I tried to tell him that I'd rode in from Noborito and was exhausted, he kept staring at me and saying "gambare! gambare!' (try hard, try hard).


(Looking out over Hachioji, and maybe Tokyo in the hazy distance.)


(At the top of Honmaru.)

Deciding "what the heck", I continued on. About 5-10 minutes later, a couple heading down the trail told me that Honmaru was another 10 minutes away. I didn't like the way this was turning out. But, I kept plodding up the root-covered dirt path. Finally, I reached a flat area with 3 shrine buildings. A little off to the left was a second clearing with three old men standing around and chatting. The trees here had been thinned out to allow a view out over the horizon to Hachioji city, and farther on to Tokyo (barely visible through the haze). Some brass marker plates showed an ancient version of a map of the area, plus identifying landmarks on the horizon. This second rest area was surprisingly ill-kept, with one wooden bench broken up and lying askew, and the stone steps leading up to one of the 2 monument stones also beginning to collapse.


(Signs of decay.)



The old men ignored me, so I continued up the path behind the shrine buildings another 5 minutes. Here, I reached the top of the hill, and was now at Honmaru. In fact, it was just a small clearing with another shrine, a marker, and another stone monument. I bowed to the shrine then headed back down. The trail is rough and it's really hard on the knees going from tree root to tree root. About halfway down, I could faintly hear the announcement of the next arriving train coming from the station a couple of miles away. When I got to the bottom, I reached the torii gate next to the table with the flowers. Following what I thought was the path out, I discovered myself returning to the ranger's building from the direction of the area that I'd been told was open only to guided tours (fortunately, the rangers were in the office and didn't see me coming out).


(Stairs leading to Honmaru.)

Back at my bike, I refilled my now-empty water bottle. One of the rangers came out and we talked a bit, then I aimed myself back to Noborito. It wasn't until the following day, as I was studying one of the maps, that I realized that the path going through the Kannon shrine glen wasn't on the map. But, it did act as a short cut between the Honmaru hill trail and the castle ruins. And, I'm guessing that the people sitting and reading at the ruins hadn't been taken there by one of the guides, either.


Beware the mamushi.)

I had fun, but I'm disappointed in not finding any mamushi. Maybe next time. Here's the rest of the album.



(Shrine building near the flower table leading to the Kannon shrine glen.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Caterpillar

Riding along the bigger rivers means that you occasionally encounter more lifeforms than you would otherwise. So far, I've seen a river snake (he escaped before I could take a photo), the preying mantis, and now this little guy. He was trying to cross the bike path (why? to get to the Starbucks on the other side) and doing a pretty good job of it. About 3" long. Interesting camouflage as well - the horn at the bigger end actually represents the tail. The mouth is on the small, tapered end. In Japanese, this is an imomushi (芋虫), but I can't find a specific species name for it.



This part of the bike trail is about 4 miles from the Takao foothills, which I visited the same day as part of a trip up to look at the ruins of Hachioji castle. On the ruins grounds in the hillside forest, there are signs warning against encountering monkeys and mamushi (Japanese pit vipers). I'm hoping I can find a mamushi next time.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Little Big Sight



The little big sight in Yokohama wants to grow up to be like it's brother big Big Sight in Odaiba.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kogado Software Sale



Back in August, the Kogado video game company decided to have a sale on their games, music CDs and branded goods (t-shirts, figures, keychains, cell phone straps) in Akihabara.



Along with the goods for sale, they had a small stage set up where some of the voice actresses and singers performed. It was a two-day event and was fairly well-attended when I dropped by. No more than 100 or so people sitting and watching the show, but all of the seats were filled.



I like this building. It's at Chuu-ou Dori and Kanda Myoujin Dori. The wall panels slide shut to create a fully enclosed space.



I like this design. Bambi goes feral.



Even bunnies have a dark side.




Friday, September 25, 2009

History of Manga

Stop me if you've heard this one before...

I first got interested in anime when I saw the movie "Akira" in 1990. I started learning Japanese a short time later in order to understand the TV anime shows I was watching, and one of the tools I used for my studies was a book copy of a Lupin III TV episode. From there, I continued reading (loosely speaking; it was really more a matter of looking at the pictures and tricking myself into thinking I understood the story) a variety of manga, including 3x3 Eyes, Geobreeders, Akira, Video Girl AI, Lupin III, Dragon Ball, Dr. Slump and Gunsmith Cats.

But, before all this, I was a big fan of western cartoons, specifically the works of Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, the Fleischer Brothers and Winsor McCay. I wanted to become an animator myself, but I lacked the artistic skill. Instead, I went the history route, reading every book I could get for biographies, studio histories, industry histories, and so on. My heroes were Preston Blair, Vlad Tytla, Shamus Culhane, Max Fleischer, McCay, Avery and Jones. The more I dug, the more I learned, and the more I wanted to dig.

Then, time passed, and I discovered anime and manga. And my tendency to dig and inquire caused me to try to do the same with this new interest. Problem is, there's not that much information available in English (regardless of the number of books out and entries on Wikipedia) and my understanding of Japanese still isn't where I want it to be. But...

I'm finally having fun. I've found the "James Burke" effect in the manga field. Person A influences person B, who nurtures persons C, D and E, who turn around and create tributes to person A. I'm nowhere near the source of the material (I need to go back to SAM for that), but a series of coincidences have combined to my benefit. First, it started with my visit to the Kawasaki museum for the Shonen Sunday, Shonen Magazine DNA exhibit. There, I picked up an English translation of the exhibit, which lists 100 of the most influential manga from the two magazines.

At the same time, I saw a model of Tokiwa Manor at the DNA exhibit. Wanting to learn more, I checked Wikipedia, where I found that Tokiwa was an apartment building that Tezuka (Astro Boy) lived and worked in for 2 years. His assistants at that time lived there as well. I then started looking up the info on his assistants, including the creators of Cyborg 009 and Doraemon, and the people that usually dropped by to visit (creators of Tensai Bakabon and Gegege no Kitaro) and started reading some of their books as well. This played into the fact that earlier the curator of the Suginami Animation Museum had shown me the souvenir books of the Tokyo International Anime Fair's Awards of Merit. The Merit awards went to the people that had made major contributions to the anime industry, including Tezuka, and the creators of Doraemon and Cyborg 009. Interestingly, some of the Merit Award winners also had works published in Shonen Sunday and Shonen Magazine and are included in the list of the 100 works in the DNA exhibit.

In the midst of this, one of my students mentioned Tezuka's "The Crater" as one of his favorite manga, so I found used copies of the 2 volumes and read those. One of the stories in "The Crater" is a "shout-out" to the artists working for Shonen Champion magazine in 1969 - half of whom came from Tokiwa, most of whom found fame in the manga world, and several of whom had won the TAF Merit Awards. Then, in Tensai Bakabon, there's a tribute to Shigeru Mizuki (Gegege no Kitaro). The more I dig, the more I want to keep digging.


(Tezuka's shout-out.)

But. As you may have noticed from the length of this blog entry, I also like to record what I've learned. And that's what's happening here. I've taken some of my other posts on the net and collected them in one index page. As I write more, I'll add to that index. (Especially the DNA exhibit - there's lots of material in that English handout).

Welcome to the world of manga history. It's kind of big, rather dusty, and there are a number of major gaping holes. But, I call it "home". Hope you like it.

------------------------

Below are some of the Tokiwa Manor people that are next on my list to research, their names in Japanese, followed by the name of one of their major manga titles (in Japanese) where available.

Hiroo Terada 寺田ヒロオ
Sportsman Kintarou (スポーツマン金太郎)

Fujio A Fujiko 藤子不二雄
Parasol Henbe (パラソルへんべえ)
Laughing Salesman (笑ウせえるすまん)

Hideko Mizuno 水野英子
White Troika (白いトロイカ)

Shinichi Suzuki 鈴木伸一
Bubble (バブル)

Naoya Moriyasu 森安なおや


Tokuo Yokota よこたとくお
はじめはじめのそのはじめ

Yoshiharu Tsuge つげ義春
The Screw (ねじ式)

Shunji Sonoyama 園山俊二
Gators (ギャートルズ)

Jirou Tsunoda つのだじろう
Scary Newspaper (恐怖新聞)

Takemaru Nagata 永田竹丸
Oh! Oyome-chan (おっと!おヨメちゃん)

Kunio Nagatani 長谷邦夫

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Piece of Peace



The Parco department store in Chofu has an exhibit on display in their toys section on the 5th floor, called Piece of Peace, Part 2. It's a collection of world heritage sites, including the Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame and the Great Wall of China, all constructed with Legos by Kazuyoshi Naoe. It first opened at the Shibuya store, then went on tour to Nagoya before apparently returning to Tokyo. Part 1 was created 2 years ago, when I was still in the U.S. Along with the building models, there's a table where kids can play with a handful of pieces, and a place where you can buy a variety of sets for your own.



There've been complaints lately that the Lego company has drifted away from it's original concept of having fun just building things using your imagination, towards more commercial, self-contained models specifically for making Star Wars and pirates sets. But, you've got to admit, the architectural sets are pretty cool.
















Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Toshiba Science Center



One thing just leads to another. In this case, when I was in the lobby of the TEPCO electricity museum, I found a brochure for two other science places - one was in Ueno park, which is a bit too far to travel to just for that, and is currently highlighting a history of electricity exhibit similar to TEPCO's; and the other is Toshiba's science center. The Toshiba center is one building within their R&D complex, and is located along the Tamagawa river where highway 1 crosses it. It's about halfway between the Kawasaki art museum in Todoroki (where the Shonen Sunday and Magazine exhibit was held) and the TEPCO museum. Which makes it about 30 minutes from the apartment by bike (actually, it came out closer to 40 minutes this time because Japan's in the middle of a newly-created 1-week holiday called Silver Week, and hundreds of people had gone out along the river for picnics and baseball games, turning the bike path into an obstacle course).



The first floor of the science center has a small cafe (no gift shop, though), and some exhibits on electricity, magnetism, nuclear power and Toshiba's new maglev train propulsion system. Almost half of the exhibits were out of commission for one reason or another. Fortunately, the Van de Graaff generator room was working. They have demonstrations every hour, and I'd stuck around long enough to catch one. It's essentially a matter of standing in an electrically isolated room, touching the generator, and having your hair stand up on end. I don't have enough hair to make it interesting for me to do this, but it was fun watching other people doing it.





The second floor contained exhibits on Toshiba's laptop and notebook PCs, solid state hard drives, fuel cells and flat screen TVs. In one room, children received balloon animals and adults were able to participate in the new motion capture system (you stand in front of a green screen and your movements translate into a video game character's combat against an oversized monster). Another computer/camera setup allows the operator to apply virtual makeup and hairstyles to let you see what they'd look like on you before shelling out money for them.


(Clock)


(Detail at base of clock)

Also on the second floor were some wind up dolls that either inspired Gakken's upper-end series, or were the Gakken kits themselves. The dolls included the arrow shooting boy, the tumbling man, and the tea cup carrying boy. Unfortunately, they were behind glass and I couldn't watch them in action.


(Tea cup carrier and the Somersaulting doll)

The third floor showed medical equipment in use, including sonograms, MRI scanners and other stuff. They also had examples of light bulbs dating back from the 1800's to modern-day LED bulbs, antique clocks, and more windup dolls. Part of the floor had 2 employees refurbing some laptops, but that area got closed off at 3 PM before I had a chance to learn more about it.


(Arrow shooting doll)

While I was there, an international student tour group came through wearing bright orange vests for easy identification. They looked to be mostly high school students from India.



I had fun on the third floor, and while watching the Van de Graaff generator. I don't think the Toshiba center is worth coming in from Chiba to visit, but if you're in Kawasaki I recommend it. I should also mention that the receptionists can speak some English, and the center's brochures are in both English and Japanese.