Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hanami Day and Night

It's Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) again. Sunday, a few people gathered in the park along the Kotsuki river near the main train station to play music, talk and have lunch.

Turns out that the city also had a small flower-viewing event running over the same weekend. Part of it included the "flower boats" staked out in the middle of the river.


And lights along the walls.

It was an evening event, from 6 to 10 PM. Along with the flower boats and lights on the embankment, there was a small tent in the park with a screen and slide projector for showing a pictorial history of the city.

Night flower viewing isn't a really popular activity, but there were a few people out on the walking paths for it. A few others had dinner under the trees.

The weather turned nice for the weekend, and we had a half moon at 8 PM. I tried getting artsy, with a shot through the branches of one of the cherry trees. I really need to get a camera with a threaded housing for accepting moon filters.

I didn't have the tripod with me, so this was a hand-held shot. Turned out pretty good.

Humans weren't the only ones out for a romantic dinner under the stars.

Monday, March 30, 2015

KTS New Programs Event

On Saturday, KTS TV hosted a short event in front of Amu Plaza to advertise their new Spring season program line-up.

Most of the booths were for specific shows, but a couple sold food, and one was an attempt by the Kagoshima soccer team to attract more fans. For the most part, the visitors ignored all of that and just stood around to look at the local celebrities that came out on stage.

TV cameras were set up for live-streaming the event, but were left unmanned during the long breaks between stage performances. I was surprised, though, at how many security people they had.

Sign board showing the stage schedule. Most of the performances were just interviews with local personalities. No dance groups or musicians this time.

The KTS stupid-bird logo bounce room for kids was back and fairly popular.

One of the stage events, featuring two guys I don't know. The schedule indicated that they were from a late-night weather show, but what little I watched had them cracking jokes to the audience. The performance was well-attended, with the audience space being packed when I tried to leave.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Kagoshima Plushies

All of the Kagoshima foamhead mascots have been interpreted as plush dolls. Available at one of the souvenir shops in Tenmonkan.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Shiori and Shimiko, vol. 4 review

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

Shiori and Shimiko (2008), vol. 4, by Daijiro Morohoshi, Grade: A-
This is the last volume in the series so far. These chapters appeared in Nemuki magazine from 2001 to 2007, and this book was published in 2011. There may be more chapters in the future, but we probably won't see them in book form for a couple years from now. So, I'm assuming that this is last of them for a while.

(Dan and Ikai see the Daruma, one of Inoatama's "7 Mysteries".)

Ikai-san no Shunjun (Mr. Ikai's Indecision)
Ikai is Dan'itchi's editor at Gero Publishing, and he's come to make sure the horror writer gets this month's manuscript done on time. Unfortunately, Dan is feeling uninspired, so he talks Ikai into wandering the neighborhood in search of the unexplained. In Japan, every city has its "7 Mysteries", and Inoatama shouldn't be an exception. They visit a shrine which is known for a daruma doll that terrorizes victims at night with a "Daruma is falling over, daruma is falling over" chant (the daruma hides its faces in front of a tree, and the children behind him try to escape. When he turns around, anyone caught moving has to take his place.) Most of the mysteries are sillified versions of regular ghost stories, and are so common in the area that the shrines sell souvenirs and stamp cards for collecting all seven. Other "mystery sites" include Boris' Neko-ya shop and Dan'itchi's own house (Dan is the only one that doesn't know that his wife is the 7th mystery, and she stamps Inai's card when her husband isn't looking).

(A tanuki has taken Boris' treasure map and is trying to run away. When Boris and his assistant get too close, he turns into a kotatsu (heated table) that the frigid cats love sleeping next to. Then Shimiko shows up.)

Inuma no Hihou (Inuma's Treasure)
Humanoid-cat Boris and his assistant buy some trash from a friend, known as Mr. Otter, with the hopes of finding something in the collection worth reselling. One of the trinkets is a hollow toy with a treasure map. Boris and his assistant follow the map, which takes them to a ski resort in the middle of winter. It just so happens that Shiori's class is on a ski trip there, so Boris has to avoid being spotted by his owner, while contending with a tanuki that's also after the map. Shimiko is a horrible skier, and she smashes into the tanuki, killing it. She gets the map and reads out the clues so that Boris can overhear them. The map points to a shrine dedicated to enchanted dogs (Inu-ma). In the back of the shrine is a tunnel that leads to a pack of were-dogs that enjoy eating cats. Boris and his assistant locate some urns that are obviously the treasure, but they trip an alarm that alerts the dogs. Everyone runs outside, into the path of Shimiko and some of her classmates. The dogs are dispersed and the urns are found to contain old bones. As Shiori prepares to go home at the end of the day, she sees the tail of a cat hiding from behind a tree, and suspects that it's Boris.

(Fuumi and Natsuko / Shiori, Shimiko and Ms. Zeno.)

Zeno Okusan no Ocha (Ms. Zeno's Tea)
A school girl named Fuumi wanders the paths that lead to the other world and finds herself at the home of Ms. Zeno. They have a cup of tea, and then the girl visits Zeno's house for a while before going home. 4 months later, her friend, Natsuko, comes out to Zeno's house and asks if Fuumi had forgotten something there. Natsuko states that she'd visited her friend at her house, and things had gotten weird. Her father had been an alcoholic wife-beater, and her mother and brother had lived in fear of the guy. But, Fuumi had brought some tea back home that Ms. Zeno had given her, and after drinking it, her father had turned into a plant that produces its own alcohol, and her mother and brother became different plants that just sit in front of a window all day. Fuumi doesn't want to report this to the police because everyone is happier now, but she's sure that she left something at Ms. Zeno's house and she has no idea what it is. Natsuko relates this story to Ms. Zeno, and the woman instructs one of her housekeeper things to take the girl inside to see if she can find whatever it is.

In the house, the thing mentions that he was probably human once, but he's forgotten his past, his name and even what he looks like. He and his partner change names every few minutes because they can't recall the last named they'd used. As the two walk through the house, they're followed by little doughy rolling balls that turn out to be memories that people left behind. Natsuko is afraid that she's forgetting things too, and starts to panic. Pretty soon, though, she stumbles across a massive collection of old things, and realizes what her friend had left behind. She goes home, and meets Fuumi the next day to hand over half of the girl's face, and we get to see that Fuumi had turned into a plant herself without realizing it. Shiori and Shimiko talk to Ms. Zeno about this afterward, and the woman admits that occasionally she "shares" this special tea with some of her visitors if she thinks they need it. The two girl's look in horror at the tea cups in front of them, and the woman enigmatically comments about "never having given that tea to them", but there's this doubt lingering in the air...

(Mizuki finds a monster outside her room. Maybe it's really just a stray dog.)

Ido no Naka Utayomu Sakana (The Fish Reading Poems in the Well)
Mizuki is a girl in the same class as Shiori and Shimiko. She and her family are down on their luck and decide to move into an abandoned house that has a well in the back of the lot. As they unpack their belongings, Mizuki's mother finds her diary and starts to read it. The girl grabs the book and tries to find a place to hide it, settling on taping the thing to the underside of the tarp covering the well. Pretty quickly, the family discovers some poems carved into the wood next to the doors and windows. The poems are about looking at a sunset, at a beautiful woman and at the well. Additionally, there are claw marks at one corner outside the house, and dishes and a carving knife mysteriously disappear. One day, Mizuki walks into one of the rooms and encounters a monster that seems to have someone fused to its back. The thing escapes out the window, and the girl calls on her classmates to help her. Mizuki also looks at the spot on the wall that the monster was searching and finds a painting of a deep sea fish hidden behind the wallpaper. Shimiko identifies the poems and fish painting, and determines that the house had once belonged to Gyosui Kayama, a poet active in the 1950's. By linking each poem with the location where it was carved in the house, she guesses that Gyosui had gone insane, killed his wife and then thrown her body down the well.

When they lift the tarp, Mizuki's diary is shown to be missing, probably having fallen into the well itself, so she distracts the other two girls in order to retrieve it. Shimiko goes down the ladder in the wall to find Mizuki. Then, the monster appears from behind a tree, startling Shiori so that she falls into the well and lands on Shimiko. The well turns out to be dry, and there's a tunnel at the bottom that leads to a cave that has been furnished to look like a room in the house, complete with the missing dishes and knife. Mizuki is in a daze, sitting at the table. She recovers and grabs the diary from the floor. The monster enters the room, and identifies itself as Gyosui. He thinks that he'd accidentally fallen down the well, and had died, then his wife, who had held a grudge against him, somehow managed to fuse herself to his back. He's been carrying her around ever since. She forgives him, and they change places. His wife had been an artist that loved painting imaginary scenes of weird fish from China. She decides that it's her turn to be in charge, and she opens a portal to swim to China. This causes the well to flood, and when the three girls swim to the surface they find themselves in the duck pond in Inoatama park.

(Shiori is about to be killed by Shiroi, Kurokawa and Risa.)

Majutsu (Black Magic)
Kurokawa was a school student that liked painting creepy buildings filled with monsters. His classmates included the guy Shiroi, and the girls Risa and Makiko. Makiko calls Shiori to the art room, and talks about the latest incidents that happened in the city. The bodies of Kurokawa and Risa had been found on the streets near the river, mangled like they'd been chewed up by wild dogs. In fact, Kurokawa had gone missing a few days earlier, and Makiko had been looking at one of his paintings, which he'd said was some kind of black magic spell. Risa and Shiroi had joined her in the room, and she read a poem that Kurokawa had written. Nothing happened right away, but as they were walking home next to the river, they found themselves being stalked by something that looked like a monster from the painting. They split up, and the monster caught up to Makiko, but just stared before leaving. She went back to find the others, and saw Shiroi standing over Risa's body. Shiroi comes into the room, and they talk a bit more. Later, Makiko, Shiori and Shiroi leave, with Makiko going back into the school, saying she'd forgotten something. Shiroi relates his part of the story, saying that after they got separated, he tried finding Risa, and arrived just as a different monster was killing her. It looked at him and left.

Shiori realizes that their stories don't match. Then, Makiko returns and they walk over to the river just in time for the monster to show up again. They run and split up, and Shiori suddenly finds herself inside the weird building from the painting. Risa's chewed up body is there as well, and then Shiroi arrives. A goat-horned demon appears and claims to be Kurokawa, the one that had killed Risa, but he's attacked by the real Kurokawa and is revealed to be Makiko in disguise. Turns out that Kurokawa had tried to use his painting to perform a black magic spell, but had been killed by one of the monsters. Makiko witnessed this, and figured out that the spell needs to be read with three people in the room. She read the spell, then killed Risa as a sacrifice. This time, she got Shiori involved because she needed a third person again to enter the painting. Kurokawa, Makiko, Shiroi and Risa can all shapechange, and the other three are under Makiko's control. Shiroi can't change, and is going to be the next victim. However. the other three turn on Makiko and Shiori is ejected from the painting, with orders to burn it right away. She does, and then she narrates that both Shiroi and Makiko stopped coming to school and were never seen again.

(The Worm Princess picks the wrong city to give birth to.)

Nanika ga Machi ni Yatte kuru (Something is Coming to Town)
Strange little insects that have bodies made from toothpaste tubes, light sockets, broken bowls, etc., start showing up in Inoatama city. They terrorize the local monsters, and begin killing all of the dogs, cats and crows. This puts Boris the cat and his assistant in a bad situation. Next, bigger crab-like things arrive to punish anyone that picks on the smaller insects, including Kitora and Dan'itchi's wife, who both like eating the things. Kitora is captured, but Dan's wife has learned to shapechange after being turned into a fish, and she out puffer fish's the crab soldier. The local monsters retreat to one shrine, along with Shimiko. They piece together what is happening. Seems that something like this took place in Chofu a few months ago, according to one of Shimiko's email friends. Insects come in, the animals disappear, some kind of princess arrives, Shimiko's friend drops out of contact, then a month later, she replies that everything is fine again. Meanwhile, Shiori encounters the princess, which is a giant worm. The worm is living in the basement of Tomoko's house (Tomoko being the cannibal) and is forcing the girl to prepare meals for her and her minions. Shiori is captured by the princess by mistake, and runs to another part of the basement where she sees Kitora bound hand and foot. Shiori releases Kitora and they try to escape again, but as they crawl through a tunnel under the house, it collapses over the worm and they land inside. There, they realize that the princess is growing a full replica of Inoatama city, and when it's completely ripe, it will take the place of the old city, which will turn into foam and disappear (like with what happened to Chofu). Not liking this choice of futures, Shiori and Kitora rip the princess apart, and are rescued by Shimiko and the local monsters. The princess turns to foam and disappears, most of the insects die, Tomoko turns one of the crab soldiers into stew, and Dan'itchi's wife turns the remaining things into pickles. Peace returns to the city.

(Sometimes, it's best not to keep really old books.)

Youkai Shisho (The Monster Librarian)
Kiichi is a newly appointed yokai librarian, and his job is to track down old books that are about to become yokai themselves (in the Shinto religion, anything that is around people long enough will turn into yokai, so they need to be properly purified, first). Kiichi has learned that Shimiko's bookstore has one very old, potentially dangerous book, but the girl won't turn it over unless he pays $80 for it. Unfortunately, the librarian doesn't have that kind of money, and it looks like everyone in the store is going to die because of it.

(Hadamochi (Shiori) faces the Yokai (Dan's wife).)

Shiori to Shimiko Mononoke Roku (Shiori and Shimiko's Record of the Unexpected)

Kiichi is back. This time, he has an old scroll that he wants to show to Dan'itchi's wife. There's a mixed up, and Shiori and Shimiko get their hands on the scroll instead. This causes them to be whisked 200 years in the past on a quest to help out Sanmoto, a very powerful, very angry monster. The problem is that the samurai Hadamochi, as described in the story in the scroll, is supposed to be visited by monsters who are trying to scare him out of his house. In fact, Hadamochi is standing his ground and Sanmoto thinks his reputation as a terrifying creature is at stake. He'd tasked Kiichi to locate 3 women to help him, and the librarian wanted to get Dan's wife, but she was busy. Shiori and Shimiko try a couple tricks, which fail, and then end up violating the rules of Japanese monsterhood by hitting Hadamochi over the head with a log, knocking him unconscious. They use a shapeshifting mirror from one of the monsters so that Shiori can stand in for Hadamochi when Sanmoto comes to the house to take matters in his own hands. This is when Dan's wife shows up in full monster mode. She scares Sanmoto by accident, and he gives up trying to change the outcome of the story in the scroll. When Hadamochi recovers, he has no idea what had been happening around him.

Comments: This is probably my favorite volume of the 4 (looks like there's only 4 books in the series). I especially like Dan's wife, and her appearances in the last two chapters. Highly recommended.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Shiori and Shimiko, vol. 3 review

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

Shiori and Shimiko (2008), vol. 2, by Daijiro Morohoshi, Grade: A-


Petto no Sanpo (Taking the pet for a walk)
Shiori encounters a nice, older woman that needs to run some errands and she asks her to take her pet for a walk. The pet's name is John, and it knows the route to follow. The only problem is that "John" is invisible, and tugs on its leash like it weighs 200 pounds. Shiori needs extra weight so she calls Shimiko for ballast. John drags them into another world, where the two girls have different adventures. In this other world, John becomes visible as a 6-foot tall monster made up largely of a mouth with teeth. In the end, John drags the two girls back to their world, where they meet the older woman. She gives them tiny keychains as thanks.

(Shiori's trinkets defend themselves from Shimiko's shellfish.)

Zakka no Senso (Sundries War)
Shiori and Shimiko find themselves in a strange shopping arcade and end up buying junk they don't need (Shiori gets some small trinkets and Shimiko buys a big seashell). They bring their finds to Shiori's house, where it turns out that Boris has stopped eating food. As the two girls puzzle out whether the cat has found a new master to mooch off of, the trinkets begin waging a war with the seashell. Things start getting out of hand, until Boris runs in and smashes everything. Picking up the broken pieces, they find a flier that they'd been given in the arcade, but had ignored until now. They check out the address and discover it's called Neko-ya (Cat Shop) and is being run by Boris in human form, with an assistant. The assistant buys a bento dinner, and the two eat it, thus answering the question of why Boris isn't hungry at home anymore.

(Betty plays with the Zeno household staff.)

Zeno-Okusan (Ms. Zeno)
The normal-looking older woman is back, and has asked her friend to take care of one of her other pets for her. Shiori and Shimiko meet Dan'itchi's big faced wife, and learn that Mrs. Dan'itchi is the woman's friend. They get suckered into taking the pet, Betty, on another walk. Betty drags them to the woman's house. She apparently is named "Zeno", and her two housekeepers are hairy objects that look like Thing from the Addams Family. They give up, and take a monster bus back home, arriving very, very late.

(Trying to exorcise the weird cat-face monster.)

Meiwakuna Shin'nyusha (The Inconvenient New Guy)
Shiori sees a weird-looking idiotic cat-like thing jumping into her family's garden, but it then quickly disappears. Soon, anything with a face (photos, dolls, other people) begin looking just like the cat-thing, and it seems that Shiori herself is going to turn into this new idiotic creature. The only defense is to slap the target in the face...

(Print out this picture and fold it Mad-magazine style to find Boris.)

Hon no Sakana (Book Fish)
Shimiko is working at her father's shop when a huge book gets delivered (it's taller than she is). The book swallows her and she finds herself in a place where all of the fish are really books. She encounters a fisherman who talks her into joining him in catching book fish. The problem is that you have to use bits of your own body for bait. Shiori arrives at the shop and is also eaten by the book. For her, the challenge is to locate Boris. If she gets the location wrong, she has to allow a puzzle master to bite off her head. Because Shiori and Shimiko are being targeted by different tricks, they keep having to save each other and they do finally figure out the way to escape the nightmare. Back in the real world, someone comes into the store and captures the huge book in a net, explaining that it is a highly-prized human-eating book fish.

(In old-book hell.)

Furuhonya Jugokuyashiki (Used Bookstore Hell Estate)
Shimiko's father has gone missing. There's a rumor that he had been contacted by someone that asked him to visit their house to look over a collection of old, used books that the owner wants to sell. Shimiko and Shiori track down the house, and find that it is bigger on the inside than the outside, and is filled with useless, dirty books. They get lost in a maze of stacks and shelves, and it seems that the house is a trap that swallows up people that like old books, and that Shimiko's father is one of its more recent victims. (Other victims include people that just like to stand in stores and read for free, and those that simply must have every volume of long sets of books.)

(At a party which serves muru muru, and soup that doesn't want to be eaten.)

Mishiranu Machi de (The Unknown City)
Shiori is walking in a strange part of the city. She gets to a crossover bridge that only has one side. At the base of the bridge, some kids are digging a hole. A car drives by with her brother, Shou, as a hostage of the masked thief Cat Man. Kitora also drives by in a wagon pulled by a horde of mice. In the back of the wagon is a giant egg that Kitora claims is the product of the love between her and Dan'itchi. Things get more and more out of control, ending up with a big banquet in a mansion where everyone Shiori knows is trying to eat food that keeps trying to escape from them. Cat Man arrives to steal the egg and is unmasked to reveal Shimiko. The egg turns into a monster that destroys the mansion, then Shiori finds herself back at the bridge. Shou finds her and directs her to climb down into the hole the other kids are digging. When she comes out the other side, she wakes up in a hospital bed, surrounded by her worried family and Shimiko. On the TV behind them, a news reporter talks about a train accident that resulted in 2 people dead and 17 severely injured. Shimiko comments that Shiori could have been one of those 17, while Shou adds that he'd come out of the accident with just a bump on his head.

("Where is it? Where has it gone? Have you seen my face?")

Kao - Hoka (Face and Other Stories)
This chapter is a collection of short horror stories that mostly revolve around things reported to have happened to other members of Shiori's family, including a school girl looking for her missing face, a pair of bodiless faces floating down a rain-swollen river, and a rumor of stray animals in an alley that have human faces growing from their bodies. Another story has Shimiko's store being haunted by a ghost that likes reading books for free (she exorcises it by giving away the endings of the mystery stories it's reading), and a family of ghosts that haven't quite noticed that all of them have died already.

(Part book store, part aquarium, specializing in book fish.)

Hon no Sakana 2 (Book Fish, part 2)
Shimiko's book store gets infested by little air-borne fish that eat all the words from the pages of some of the books. A larger fish shows up to eat the smaller ones, and then steals a book before disappearing into a different volume. Shimiko gets Shiori to help her, and they end up visiting another book store where the owner specializes in book fish. He even has the huge human-eating book from the previous story. Shimiko discovers that the fish that took her book is a kind of long eel that resides across multiple volumes of encyclopedias. She has to find the used bookstore that has volume 1 of the set to locate the eel's head in order to get her book back. Unwilling to wait, she grabs the eel's body and it pulls her into the encyclopedia. A few minutes later, she calls Shiori on her cell phone. She did manage to get her book back, but the volume 1 that the eel's head had been in was in a store in Hokkaido, and it's the middle of deep winter in Hokkaido now. She has to take a bus back to Tokyo, and she catches a cold along the way.

(Shiori sees the night fish.)

Yoru no Sakana (Night Fish)
Inoatama City is in the middle of a small inconvenience right now. People and buildings have been disappearing. The rumor going around the school is that a few of the other students had reported seeing a big fish swimming in the night sky. Then, whoever saw the fish, and their home, disappears the following day only to be replaced by replicas made up of seaweed. Shiori sees the night fish, and calls Shimiko for help. More and more people disappear, including Dan'itchi's wife and child, Kitora, and Shiori's little brother and her parents. Kitora pops back up, but now has the body of a crab. She and one classmate had been abducted only to find themselves in a weird ocean-like place that was so wonderful that they escaped just to invite their friends to join them.

(The war between the fish people, and some of their captives.)

Dan'itchi and the two girls follow Kitora and their classmate to the "Ocean of Night". The path takes them past Ms. Zeno's house, and she has her housekeeper things act as guides to the Ocean (which she is very familiar with). In the Ocean, all of the missing people have been turned into fish, and are very happy with their new lives. Until they discover that they're being kept as prey for a race of fish people. The fish people prepare to eat their food, but they keep getting attacked by a very attractive young fish woman, and her big rolling coral monster. In the middle of the Ocean town square is the Fish Queen - a strange spiral-like fish that spins in a circle while reading a book. Shimiko recognizes the book as one she'd left on the monster bus when she'd returned home from Ms. Zeno's house in a previous chapter. Before the fish people can eat the humans, the young fish woman and the coral monster arrive to cause havoc, killing fish people and injuring the queen. The two are revealed to be Dan'itchi's wife and Kutoru. Everyone escapes but are pursued by the night fish. It eats the escapees, which turns them back human. All of them are restored, with the exception of Dan'itchi's wife. She is resigned to live out the rest of her life with a small face and humanoid body, but her husband still loves her in spite of he deformities.

Comments: Again, the stories are a mix of macabre and silly. The artwork is getting better, but Moroshi still has trouble drawing profiles. Highly recommended. All of the stories ran in Nemuki magazine from 1998 to 2001.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Riverwalk, 150323

I've been wanting to go down to Kotsuki river early some morning to see if I could catch some birds when they were out eating. The problem is that my getting up early and the weather being good didn't always match up. I finally got the chance at 7:30 Monday morning. Not a lot of the colorful birds like over at Reimeikan; mostly ducks, sparrows, pigeons and crows. And the ducks didn't get out of bed until closer to 9 AM. I took 80 shots; these are the ones that turned out.

There were about 20 ducks, consisting of about 4-5 families scattered a few blocks apart along the river.

The "river" is a big drainage ditch that sits about 20 feet below street level, with paved walkways on both sides. There's a lot of slit that gets washed down from the hills, and when the city puts off dredging it, the runoff builds up along the sides and gets covered in grass, which attracts the birds and various feral cats. As I was walking along at river level, I looked up and saw this little guy sitting on a metal fence post near the top of the wall. I got one photo in before he saw me and flew off.

This guy was brave. Usually, the herons and cranes in this area hate cameras, but this one let me get about 6 feet away.

6 feet, with a x50 zoom means that I could finally get a close-up that shows some of the details of the feathers.

The volcano was visible between a break in the buildings, and it wasn't erupting this time. Air was very misty, though.

A lot of these little flowers growing in the shade on the walls along the river.

It was a nice day to be out in the sun.