Thursday, August 31, 2017

Streetlight Housings

I've walked along this street so many times in the last 6 years, between the English school and Dolphin Port. But it never occurred to me before to look up at the lights.

The light housing endcaps all have seaport-themed designs on them. No idea how many total designs there are, or how far along the main street these things stretch. I may try finding out some day, when I have a full day to burn, the weather is good, and I need the exercise. I assume that it's at least a mile.

Well, ok, not ALL of them are water-themed. But, this one's at least connected to the big Ohara dance parade festival in October, so it's still related to the locality.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A boat-load?

Is this what they mean when they say Casio has a butt-load of watches?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Small Adventure 54

There's an armored car (really, an armored van) company that operates in Kagoshima, I see them quite frequently in Tenmonkan, picking up the day's sales money from various shops. What's interesting is in the different postures the escort guards take depending on the "importance" of the delivery. Normally, you'll have the van park near the entrance of a shop, two guards in full uniform go inside, and come back out a few minutes later with one of them carrying a satchel. Occasionally, one guard will stand next to the door while the other goes into the shop and then comes back out. A few times, though, there have been three guards. Two go inside the shop to get the satchel, while the third stands next to the van, holding a long wooden staff (a bo). Generally, it's the smallest, oldest of the three that gets bo duty.

It makes sense, that in a crowded area with lots of pedestrians that you wouldn't want guards with firearms taking aim at a would-be thief. Just hit him with a stick.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Yukata Night, Aug. 26-27, 2017

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Yukata Night event that was supposed to be the weekend of Aug. 5th, but had gotten cancelled because of the typhoon that completely missed us. Well, turns out that the good shopkeepers of Tenmonkan really want the customers, so they rescheduled the event for this last weekend. Again, the idea is to have customers wearing yukata (evening kimono), and getting discounts on whatever they buy during the evening. So, things started at about 5 PM Saturday and ran to about 9 PM, and then repeated on Sunday. There was a live stage at one end of the arcade, arts and crafts tables, activities for children, and a few restaurants selling food out of doors, and "shochu street" (mentioned below). I had to work a bit on Saturday, with a class at 2-3 PM, and then a second class from 6 to 7 PM. As I was going home from the first class, the food booths were still setting up, and the two guys in the photo above were just doing a sound check.

The schedule for the first day was: 5:00) Fish Girl Kampachi Show, which apparently was a kampachi (yellowtail fish) giveaway; 5:30) Aya Katou (above and below), who did soft J-pop; 6:00) Yoshi's Bossa Nova; 7:00) Japanese Jazz; 8:00) Bingo. As mentioned, I had to work, so I missed most of Aya's show, and all of the Bossa Nova. I caught a bit of the jazz band, and skipped the bingo entirely. I did see the bingo part last year, though. The idea is that you spend a certain amount of money at the shops and bring the receipts to get a bingo card. Winners of the bingo game can get big prizes, like TVs, PS4s and bread makers. But, my luck with these kinds of things is really rotten, so I didn't bother.

(The sign in back says "fish girl".)

Ok, shochu street is essentially just an advertising campaign by some of the shochu makers. There's about 5-10 different brands of shochu (distilled alcohol), and you can get a watered down glass with a couple ounces of shochu on the rocks for 100 yen (90 cents USD). I got two glasses, which was ok, but I wasn't inclined to keep spending money just to get drunk. They were advertising another shochu street for November, which will probably be just shochu and food. (I did see it last year, but that was when I had the kidney stone and wasn't in much of a mood to try the food then.)

During the day, a couple guys (including the one on the right) were selling rickshaw rides to anyone in yukata that wanted a quick tour of Tenmonkan.

Here we have the jazz group. They were ok, but they were doing copyrighted covers, so there was no point in recording them.

Then on Sunday, the schedule was: 5:00 PM) Kyara Kagoshima (foamhead mascots promoting places around the prefecture - "kyara" = "character"); 5:30: Kaito (a juggler); 6:00 Music Create Rien; 7:00) Santa Hula Studio (hula dancing); and, 8:00) bingo again.

Back at the beginning of August, I got a big stack of books for my birthday, and I've been working my way through them ever since. Right now, I'm reading Prolog Programming, which is a pretty dense book. I've been struggling with the syntax and logic concepts of the Prolog language for the last week, and spending a lot of time at the computer trying to get the example programs to run. That's pretty much what I was focused on until 4 PM on Sunday. Also, I'd gone to Mister Donut on Friday, and received 4 "campaign cards" for the money I'd spent on the order, but there was nothing on the cards saying what the campaign was, just that they'd expire on Sunday. So, at about 4 PM, I ran over to Mister Donut and spent another $7 on donuts and coffee to get two more cards. I turned them in, and found out that if you have 6 of the cards total, you get a points card with 250 yen ($2.25 USD) in store credit on it. Essentially, a 10% points back card. I stuck around until 5:30 PM, eating donuts and reading more of the Prolog book, then returned to Tenmonkan.

The thing is, I've seen the foamhead mascot show before, and there was no point in seeing it again. I've also seen Kaito several times. He's a good juggler, but his show rarely changes. I've already got video of him on youtube. I have no interest in the hula dancing, and dinner at home was going to be the same time as the bingo giveaway. That just left Music Create Rien. When I arrived at the Yukata Night site, some woman acting as announcer was going through the audience and challenging children to rock-paper-scissors, and giving away small packages of snacks to anyone under 6 years old (I didn't qualify, no matter how hard I tried). When she took a break, Rien (above photo) would play copyrighted covers, alternating between jazz, pop and Disney. They were ok, but not worth recording. I stuck around long enough to figure out what was going on, then turned home to process photos and type up blog entries.

Not a really exciting weekend, but not a complete waste. At least I got some shochu, and managed to get a few of the Prolog programs to run. Plus, donuts.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Tamiya Racing

For the last week, the Tamiya remote control racing car company had tracks set up in the open space in front of Lotteria. 500 yen ($4.80 USD) for anyone that wanted to race the cars. The place was almost deserted during the week, but things did pick up on the weekend. Saturday during the day, it was mostly young kids playing around. In the later afternoon, a few guys in their twenties were racing against each other. I was busy on Sunday, and I didn't manage to swing by at all, so I don't know if anything was different then.

The tables at the back sold snacks, and Tamiya goods.
You can see from the below photo that the big track is guided, so there's no chance of spin outs and little chance of flipping off the track. Kind of like a Matchbox Cars track for adults.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Fujio Fujiko A Collection Item

Fujio A, one half of the team that created Doreamon, went on to write the horror manga Smiling Salesman.

Which you can now wear on your body.

Smile, you're on camera.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Kamakura Monogatari, vol. 34

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

Kamakura Monogatari, vol. 34, by Ryouhei Saigan, Grade: B+
Saigan has a pretty good list of titles to his name, dating back to 1975. His longest-running title may be Kamakura Monogatari, which started in 1985, in Manga Town magazine. I haven't read this one before, but I found myself in possession of vol. 34, and it was a pretty easy read. The main character is Isshiki Masakazu, a mystery writer that lives in the temple town of Kamakura, just 30 miles southwest of Tokyo. He occasionally works with the police to solve crimes that involve the supernatural. His wife is Akiko, a small 23-year-old woman sometimes mistaken for a school girl. The artwork is clean, but cartoony, as are the character designs. The stories involve monsters and the "other world," but can't be classified as particularly scary (instead, think "atmospheric"). The obi (paper wrapper) advertises a live-action TV series based on the manga.

The chapters in this volume are stand-alone stories, sometimes treated as "Night Gallery"-like episodes where the only connecting thread is that Isshiki shows up in the last panel as a friend or acquaintance of that chapter's protagonist. Which can be confusing if you're picking up the books in the middle of the series.

(Kana discovers the yokai library.)

Yoru no Toshokan (The Night Library)
Kana is a high school girl staying with her aunt following the deaths of her parents and younger sister in a house fire. The aunt owns a bar, and the noise at night gets in the way of Kana's school studies. One evening, she decides to take a break and go to a konbini (convenience store) but along the way she gets lost and stumbles across a yokai library. In the library is a former classmate who died 6 years earlier, and is now spending his time learning the yokai language. The library head notices that they have a living human guest, and he gives her a member's card that lets her come back any night she wants. The next few nights, she leaves to study outside, and discovers that the yokai newspapers at the library carry ongoing human world news stories, including the names and photos of the criminals, and other details unknown to regular humans. One of the stories is about a serial killer that's been attacking female bar owners, and the villain identified in the paper is one of the customers at Kana's aunt's bar. Kana returns home just in time to catch the killer threatening her aunt, and he decides to go after Kana instead. That's when the auto-defense mechanism built into the library card triggers, stunning the bad guy long enough for the police to arrive. The next night, Kana returns to the library and checks the paper for the night of the house fire, and finally learns that it was not caused by her father, like the human news reported, but by a faulty power adapter. She vows to live life for all four of the family, graduates from college, and opens her own library, of which Isshiki is a patron

(Akiko buys herself a new alarm clock, and still oversleeps.)

Shunmin (Deep Sleep)
Akiko has a problem with oversleeping, so she goes to an outlet store to buy an alarm clock. She sets the alarm that night, and still doesn't wake up early the next morning. In fact, she doesn't wake up at all. Isshiki takes her to a hospital, where the doctor can't find anything wrong with her, other than that her breathing is shallow and her body temperature has dropped. Isshiki learns that another patient, a boy, has been admitted with the same symptoms, and his mother says that it happened right after she'd bought an alarm clock from the same store. Isshiki checks the back of the clock, but can't read the yokai lettering on the instructions label. He takes Akiko's clock to a friend, who translates the label for him, and it turns out the clocks are for hibernating animals. The numerals on the face aren't for minutes and hours, but for days and months. Isshiki moves the alarm hand backward, the bell rings, and Akiko wakes up refreshed. No one knows how the outlet store got the clocks, but NASA buys them up for its deep space exploration ships.

(The mother cat dies and is visited by the cat version of the grim reaper.)

Makai Tenshuu II (Demon World Reincarnation II)
A mother cat is starving and unable to care for her 3 malnourished kittens. She tries to catch a mouse for them, but fails and is hit and killed by a car. She's visited by a cat grim reaper, and refuses to go to the afterlife. The cat reaper relents and allows her to turn into a monster spirit to look over her kittens. Unfortunately, when she returns to the house, her brood is gone, presumably eaten by a dog. In despair, she haunts a forest where she happens upon a human baby that had been abandoned by its mother. She cares for the baby for one year, until a dog monster spirit arrives and tries to eat it. She fights the larger monster off, and it gracefully admits defeat and leaves. Sometime later, two men come into the woods with a search pig, and they locate the cave with the baby and take it back to human society. The cat spirit is relieved that the baby will be safe now, but sad at being alone again. At that moment, she's visited by a cat Buddha that rewards her by showing that her kittens had been found by a human couple and they are now healthy and living well. The mother cat then spends the rest of her time sleeping peacefully in a sunny part of the woods.

(A cactus dream.)

Saboten no Yume (Cactus Dreams)
There's a yokai cactus that only blooms once every 500 years, and only generates one seed each time. Isshiki and Akiko see the announcement on the TV news, and that night they have a dream of visiting that cactus out in the middle of a desert. The next day, he notices that his own cactus collection has a strange little cactus he's never seen before. Then, he's called by the police to assist in a murder case. The victim is identified as a local troublemaker that had been previously arrested for poisoning cats. One of the people interviewed in the neighborhood is a local leader whose cat had been poisoned. This guy also has the same weird cactus in his green house. The next day, the head of a hospital is found dead in his home. This victim had covered for his son, a doctor guilty of malpractice and who had killed the town leader's wife the year before. Isshiki notices that both of the weird cactii are getting bigger, and the town leader's cactus has blood stains on it. An analysis of the victim's bodies also shows that they died from multiple fixed-location puncture wounds. When Isshiki confronts the incompetent doctor at a restaurant about his late father's crimes, the cactus crashes through the window, interrupting him to say that he's been in a dream ever since the story started. Isshiki wakes up. The cactus had heard Isshiki's call for a new mystery story, and had been writing one for him all this time - the dream was the story it was writing. But, now its time in this world is up and it has to leave. It hands Isshiki the manuscript and vanishes. Unfortunately for the hero, he can't read yokai text, and his chair is now full of large needle holes.

(Andorodoro (bottom right) discovers the yokai sports village.)

Kamakura Mishon (Kamakura Mission)
Takos Andorodoro is a hit man who looks like a yokai, and works for a third world dictator, eliminating his boss' enemies. After the latest hit, he's summoned to the leader's office and told that he has a new mission. There's another Olympics coming up, and the leader wants to ensure that their athletes get more gold medals this time, so the assassin is to go to Japan and track down a new energy drink, "doronawa," that will get past all the known doping tests. Andorodoro flies to Japan, where he sees many other spies all looking for the same drink. It's sold out of the shops, but Ando is told to go to a Sports Village, which may still have some left. He follows the directions, gets lost, and happens upon a yokai town with monsters competing against each other. Additionally, he's being tailed by Kisaki, a Japanese government agent that wants to know what he's up to. The two find themselves competing together in the games with the yokai. One of the events involves a smoke that removes the evil from people's hearts, and Ando confesses his history to Kisaki. He was named after a dark god in the hopes he'd grow up strong, and he'd originally been a strong athlete, but he'd been forced to join his country's army at age 15, and things went downhill from there. Most of the yokai events are pretty easy, and for the marathon, everyone gets gold medals (actually just tin plate). In the end, Ando has had fun, and almost forgets why he was there in the first place. In the souvenir shop, he spots the doronawa sign, and gets a case of bottles. The clerk mentions that if a human drinks it, they'll burst into flames, so it's not useful as a PED. He and Kisaki promise to keep in touch, but when Ando gets back home, he's surrounded by soldiers and told the leader had just been overthrown by a military coup, and Ando is their next main target. He drinks a bottle of doronawa, his body gets incinerated by it, and his soul transmigrates to the realm of the dark god Andorodoro, where he's recognized as the land's new ruler. He mourns not being able to see Kisaki again, but dedicates himself to slowly improving his new domain.

(Akiko finds the Rip van Winkle chest.)

Rippuvan Uinkuru no Tamatebako (Rip Van Winkle's Treasure Chest)
Isshiki and Akiko are watching the TV news, and a story on three school girls that have disappeared and not been found. Akiko says that she's going to go out shopping, and her husband warns her to be careful because she's easily mistaken for a child (she gets confused by this because she's 23). Before she gets outside, she hears a voice telling her to do something. She opens a storeroom and finds a chest. She opens it, and disappears in a puff of smoke. Time passes, and Isshiki gets concerned that Akiko hasn't come back yet. Unable to find her, he contacts the police and soon here's a nation-wide alert, and everyone that thinks she's cute (human and yokai) forms fan clubs for her. A few days later, one of his acquaintances, a kind of Buddha, comments that this is just like when Isshiki had disappeared at age 10, but he doesn't remember any of that. Isshiki goes to a library and looks in old newspapers, finding an article detailing his disappearance along with that of two other younger boys. He was the only one of the three to reappear 2 weeks later. He talks to an older female relative that repeats the story, indicating that he'd been rescued by his own grandfather. He goes into his grandfather's study and looks at his research notes. In there he learns of the Rip van Winkle chest. He summons the chest and goes inside, and almost immediately meets the two boys that had disappeared before, and had been his playmates while he'd been in the world inside the chest the first time. They go to a castle, where Akiko refuses to play act as a princess, while the other three missing girls are having a great time. Additionally, there are three scary-looking yokai men that are volunteers, taking care of the children abducted by the chest. In fact, the two boys had been abused by their father, and the girls were bullied at school and had been about to commit suicide when the chest found them. The chest had gotten confused by the weird stuff in Isshiki's house, and had thought that both he and Akiko had been in danger. The other kids refuse to leave the chest, so Isshiki and Akiko exit at the end of the normal 2-week cool-down period. Unfortunately, Akiko's new human fan clubs now stand outside her house, yelling for her to pose for photos for them during the day, and the yokai clubs yell for her at night.

(Enma Daioh: "You lied, so I'll rip out your tongue. April Fool's. Just kidding - I love a good joke, too.")

Shigatsu no Kyousoukyoku (April Capriccio)
One morning, the human TV news announces that zombies are attacking people outside the Kamakura train station. But, it's April 1st, so "April Fools!" Even the yokai world plays pranks on each other. One monster threatens to eat someone, then yells out "April Fools." Enma Daioh, the gate keeper to the afterworld shows up to rip out the demon's tongue as punishment for lying, then yells out "April Fool's" as well. Elsewhere, Kidobo and his group of partners (they're pictured on the back cover below) are working on a plan to overthrow the current yokai leader. Kidobo (I may have the pronunciation wrong) was the one that set up the zombies at the train station that morning. His idea is to use April Fool's Day to pretend that they are a TV director and actors taping an episode of a prank show involving the yokai leader. Kidobo arranges with a smuggler to buy 50 hand guns and boxes of silver bullets, but pays for the transaction with fake money. The group gets to the leader's palace, bluffs their way in, and opens fire on the yokai leader. Problem is, the smuggler sold Kidobo plastic pellet pistols as a joke, and the leader fakes dying as part of the punchline ("April Fools!"). Kidobo escapes, and vows to try again, forgetting to release the zombies from his contract with them. So now, the zombies are roaming outside Kamakura station for several more days after April 1st before finally rotting away.

(Dark god Andorodoro in the background, and Kidobo and his "TV crew" in the lower corner.)

Summary: The chapters here are all fairly innocuous. The ideas are interesting, though, and the humor is pretty gentle. Recommended if you don't mind the character designs, and you like yokai.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Small Adventure 53

I was at the Doutoru coffee shop in Tenmonkan a few days ago, sitting at a table on the second floor, drinking an ice coffee. At the table next to me sat a short, dapper-looking Japanese gentleman with a grizzled goatee and medium-length black hair laced with gray. He wore a white suit and slacks with a white button-down shirt and tie, and what I guess was a white Fedora. On the table were sheets of music, and he was painstakingly writing out new notes on one score sheet.

I considered asking to take his photo, and then asking some of the musicians I know if he's someone famous locally, but he looked pretty intent on his work and I didn't want to disturb him. He's distinctive enough, though, that someone may recognize him just from a verbal description.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Scooter Sticker

Fenix Motors.
This sticker showing the need for speed probably would be more impressive if it wasn't on the mud guard of a scooter with a top limit of 30 MPH.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Diesel Perfume

Just when you think you know that you can tell the difference between a real thing and parody, you get this.

Diesel perfume, fuel for life, for women only. I guess there are biker chicks that LIKE smelling like they've been trailing behind a semi on the freeway all day...

Monday, August 21, 2017

Light Switch

Sometimes, the capsule ball dispensers have stuff for 200 yen ($2 USD) that I have to get "just because." The little LED light switches was one such item.

Basically, they're a plastic box (2"x1"x3/8") with the switch and the internal LED, plus a sheet with two stickers. Since the second sticker just had "ON/OFF", I tossed that one and used this one. I hadn't really been thinking about putting the sticker in the indented part of the face, but it just worked out that way. All I wanted was for it to be centered right.

You light up my life. To an extent. Primarily at night when it's otherwise dark outside.
I'm going to get some double-backed tape, and then stick this thing to the side of a utility pole.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aug. 20 weekend

The whole past week was kind of an up and down thing. Obon Matsuri (Summer vacation) ran from the 11th to the 17th, but I had to work on the 11th to make up for missed English classes due to the non-typhoon the week earlier. I had planned to do a variety of things during the remaining break, including some long walks and one or two photo sessions outside, but instead ended up stuck in the apartment most of the time. I still made use of the opportunity to read many of the books I received for my birthday, and writing up almost a month's worth of blog entries and reviews. Obon officially ended on last Thursday, but a lot of people took one-two extra days of vacation to travel longer. In my case, I had 3 classes in the afternoon on Friday, with nothing much else going on, and another three on Saturday. Saturday was a different case, in that a JAXA rocket launch that had been postponed a few days earlier was rescheduled for 2:29 PM. The downside was that I had a class from 2 to 2:50 PM. The upside was that the owner of the school was willing to let me continue the lesson outside at the top of the building's stairwell. The problem was that I'd thought that the owner and the other teacher were going to go up to the roof as well, and when the clock hit 2:30 and they hadn't said anything, me and my student went upstairs by ourselves, only to discover that we'd missed the launch by a couple minutes. There was just a smoke trail in the sky. But, this is the closest I've gotten to seeing a launch in the last 6 years and now I at least know what direction to face next time. Sigh.

The main event, though, was the big Kagoshima summer fireworks display down at Dolphin Port, Saturday evening from 7:30 to 8:45. This year I didn't have evening classes, and I could have an early dinner so I got out of the apartment to go down to the bay at 7:10. From past years, I knew that Dolphin Port would be packed, and that the top of the Shiroyama hill would be too far away to see the fireworks properly, so I was thinking that I'd try visiting what I considered to be a "secret" viewing area a few blocks north of the aquarium. I'd discovered this area two years ago when I shot my time lapse video of the volcano. You have to walk along the main street north from the aquarium until you reach a hill with a street running 4 blocks down to the bay again. At the end of the street is a senior community center, and baseball and soccer fields. It's also where Saint Francis Xavier is reported to have landed at Kagoshima in 1545. That was the plan. However, as I was walking through Tenmonkan, I encountered one of the people I know here, and he decided that he had to guide me to the park in front of City Hall to show me the fireworks himself. The City Hall park is a long wide boulevard, lined with tall buildings. My guide sat down about a third of the way along the boulevard, and we waited. There weren't that many people, and the fireworks was fun to watch, coupled with a sound system playing Also Sprach Zarathustra during part of the display, and a laser show during another part, but there were three fireworks launch sites at Sakurajima, and two of them were mostly blocked by the lines of buildings. Next year, I'll know better.

On Sunday, I went to the aquarium for the afternoon and had dinner at the Royal Host family restaurant near the apartment. So, I didn't get a chance to visit Amu Plaza to catch the last of the live music for Age paku. Oh well. At least I could watch the dolphins, seals and squid swimming in their tanks.

The next event is going to be the Yukata Matsuri, which was also rescheduled due to the typhoon on Aug. 5th. That's going to be this Saturday and Sunday (26th and 27th), in Tenmonkan. There's going to be a stage in front of the 7-11, but I can't find a schedule for live music (just a bingo game for giving away prizes on Sunday). I'll have to wait and see if I have any classes Saturday night again.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ajin, Bilingual, vol. 1 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used for review purposes only.
Image taken from the Kodansha page.)

Ajin, Bilingual, vol. 1, translated by Kou Ransom
Kodansha Publishing has joined the other Japanese manga publishers that have bilingual manga for teaching children English. I've seen English/Japanese Doraemon volumes recently, and I discovered bilingual copies of Urusei Yatsura in the Maruzen bookstore in Kagoshima shortly after I got here, 6 years ago, and there have been others. Right now, though, we have Ajin, AKA - Demi-Human, with Ko Ransom listed in the translation credits. Ko's name doesn't show up anywhere else in an search.

Before I start on this, I'd like to lay a little ground work. There's a professional translators association based in Tokyo, and they offer periodic workshops for members trying to get started in the industry. I took one of these workshops last Spring, and the main focus was on fine-tuning our translations (Japanese to English) to be natural-sounding, rather than literally accurate. The point being that clients want high-level translations without having to hire a separate native-checker to do rewrites and clean-up. I think a lot does depend on the client, because in the case of Japanese companies, there is a need for the translation to be relatively close to the original text to avoid the sense that the translator made a mistake. Regardless, the workshop taught that translations shouldn't feel like translations.

So, looking at the first few pages of Ajin, vol. 1, the very first thing that struck me was just how stiff and unnatural the English is. I won't quote the dialog here, or scan any of the pages, because I feel like I'm skating on thin ice in commenting on this kind of book, especially since Vertical (owned by Kodansha) has the U.S. rights to this title. Anyway, yes, the translation is pretty faithful to the original Japanese, so anyone trying to learn English is going to get a decent exposure to English vocabulary, but the sentence structure is very tortured. Working backwards, from English to Japanese, isn't very easy either, because the English text fills the word balloons (which haven't been re-laid out to allow for regular English sentence structures) and the original Japanese source text is crammed into the margins in a really small font, making it hard to read.

As an English teacher, I find it difficult to recommend these kinds of bilingual manga to students of either language, because of the above restrictions, and the 1,000 yen price tag ($10 USD with tax). That's well over 40% above the regular manga cover price. So, yeah, not recommended.

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Big Dog

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

The Big Dog (Ookii Inu), by Sukeracko (2017), Grade: B+
There's almost no information on Sukeracko (spelled Sukerakko on Manga Updates) in English, and his/her main prior title is just Bon no Kuni. There's a little more information on their website, such as Sukeracko being an illustrator/manga artist living in Kyoto, but that's about it.

Ookii Inu is a collection of short stories that mostly ran in Itan magazine in 2014, but there are a couple older ones from 2013 from other publications. The artwork is very simple, with clean thin lines and cartoony characters. The stories are very gentle, and embrace the off-beat. The dialog is in casual Japanese with simple kanji, and is fairly easy to read. I do admit that I kind of skimmed over two of the chapters towards the end because they didn't really catch my attention. The rest of the book is good, though.

(Takada offers a fish sausage to the big dog, then wonders if it is lonely at night.)

Ookii Inu (The Big Dog)
Takada is a friendly salaryman that has learned how to speak to dogs. One day, his friend decides to go to India for a few months to study yoga, and he asks Takada to house sit for him. In reality, the guy only makes it to Okinawa, where he spends several months scuba diving and getting drunk. The guy lived in a neighborhood where all the houses look the same, and the only landmark is a big dog that lives nearby. A really BIG dog. Takada befriends the dog, brings it some small snacks, and decides to name it "Pero" for the sound it makes when snatching food out of the air. Takada gets talked into visiting his friend in Okinawa for a few days, and when he comes back, he wants to tell the dog about the new name, but it's nowhere to be seen anymore.

(Takara's grandfather prepares to go traveling with the other 6 Lucky Gods.)

Shichifukujin Tabe (The 7 Lucky Gods Go Traveling)
Takara (Treasure) is a young woman that broke up with her boyfriend, and the only person that consoled her was her grandfather. Now, her grandmother has died and Takara's grandfather announces that it's finally time for him to reunite with the other 6 of the 7 Japanese Lucky Gods and go on a trip again. He claims that they had ridden around on their boat for a long time together, but eventually split up and went their own ways. He asks Takara to help him get set up on the internet to track them down. Takara humors the old man, but pretty soon, it's clear that he's not crazy. One of the gods is a motorcycle fanatic, the other hangs out on Facebook all the time, and the two oldest gods just stay in their apartment and watch TV. When they're finally all reunited, they invite Takara to go with them, and her fear is that she's going to be taken to Heaven and the afterlife.

(Mikami is finally allowed to celebrate Christmas at home with her mother.)

Kurisumasu Mikami (Christmas Mikami)
Mikami is an office worker still living with her mother. It's now Christmas Eve, and Mikami runs out of the office to go buy Christmas cakes and presents to deliver to other people, like she's done every year after getting her current job. This time, she gets paired up with a guy working part time for the cake shop, Santa (literally "3 Fields"), who is dressed up as Santa. Mikami resents the disruption to her routine, but Santa stays out of her way and lets her buy up all the cakes and deliver them to her chosen recipients. Eventually, Santa gets Mikami to explain herself, and the woman says that when she was a child, she'd always wanted to celebrate Christmas, have a tree, exchange presents and eat Christmas cake, like all the other kids did, but her mother had never heard of Christmas and had no interest in these things. So, when Mikami got old enough, she started celebrating Christmas her own way in spite of her mother. Santa gets Mikami to act her feelings out loud, then tells her to say the same words to her mother. At the end of the night, Mikami goes home, tells her mother she wants to celebrate Christmas this year with a tree and Christmas foods. The older woman grudgingly agrees to the tree, and supplements her regular sushi with some Christmas chicken. Mikami thanks Santa, and promises next year that there will be presents. Meanwhile, Santa ends the season at home, eating Christmas cake alone in front of the TV.

(Sakura gets to see real tree blossoms for the first time.)

Ume * Momo * Sakura (Plum, Peach, Cherry)
Ume, Momo and Sakura are 3 brothers that have grown up together in the future. But, the Earth is dying, and humankind has found another planet to move to - Toui-sei (lit. "Distant Planet"). Ume and Momo decide to move to Toui, but Sakura refuses to leave their father behind. The old man has a few trees growing in the backyard of the house, where his wife was buried after she died. He's going to stay there for the rest of his life, with the memory of his wife, and he tells Sakura to move to Toui, too. Sakura refuses, and spends his days working at a parcel delivery service that ships packages to Toui (3 years one-way). Unfortunately, the ground is dying, as are the trees in the backyard, and people keep leaving Earth, so days will go by with no customers at the shop. One day, about 6 years after Ume and Momo left, Sakura is at the shop with his boss, when a huge typhoon hits land with hurricane-force winds. Sakura runs out of the shop and heads for home. He finds his father in the backyard, trying to protect the trees, and has to drag the old man into the safety of the house. A few minutes later, the trees come crashing down. A couple of days after that, Sakura himself gets a package from Touei - it's a glass case filled with cuttings from a cherry tree. His father sees this, and finally agrees that he will go with Sakura to Toui, with the approval of his wife's spirit.

(Asai decides to get drunk at home, only to have Ton pass out on their front steps.)

Kare no Tomodachi (His Friend)
This is one of the chapters I skipped over. A woman, Asai, is friends with a guy named Ton. The story revolves around her constantly reframing what the word "friend" means and who it refers to.

(The big eat-off comes to a peak.)

Hourai-kun (Mr. Hourai)
This is the other one I skipped. An older woman works in a soup kitchen, and ends up in a cooking contest against a kitsune (fox) named Hourai (Hourai only likes eating fried tofu skins). He tries to mess with the old woman during the contest, until his daughter snaps at him (she hates having to eat the same thing - fried tofu skins - all the time).

(Poro offers his hat to Pero.)

Chiisaii Inu (The Small Dog)
We're back with Takada from the first chapter. This time, the main character is Poro, a tiny chihuahua owned by the guy that had gone to Okinawa. We see the world through Poro's eyes, and his main concerns are eating, going outside for walkies, getting intimidated by a doberman, and talking with Takada in dog speak. One day, they head down to the beach and run into Pero (Pero didn't really disappear, he just wanted to go for a walk. He did come back some weeks later). Initially, Poro suffers from overwhelming shyness and embarrassment over having to wear a cute little hat. He overcompensates and impulsively bites Pero on the paw. After returning home, he crawls into a corner and hopes to die. But, his owner coaxes him out of the house, and they go with Takada to the beach. But, Pero is just waking up from a nap and, while still half-asleep, mistakes Poro for a snack and eats him. Poro comes to, thinking that the inside of a stomach is comfortably warm, then realizes that he's riding on top of Pero's head, well above the tops of all the nearby houses. Poro likes being able to look down on the doberman, and he apologizes for biting Pero. They become friends.

Summary: As mentioned above, these are gentle, off-beat stories with happy endings. The artwork is simple, but the characterizations are good. Recommended.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

TV Crew

Tenmokan is the biggest shopping district in the city, it's centrally located, with the tram line running through the middle, and there's usually a lot of people out shopping. So, it makes for a natural location for TV crews to shoot filler footage of crowds and occasionally interview people. I haven't seen that many interviews in-progress in the 6 years I've been here, but it does happen sometimes.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Near-Full Moon, June 11

(I'm catching up on my backlog.)
Another rare clear night a couple months ago. Tried taking photos with the pocket camera. This is the only one that turned out.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back Clock

I found this interesting. Why would anyone want a clock designed to be backwards?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Good Cut

Maybe not great, but at least good.
Goodbye July.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Agepaku, Aug. 13

For the next couple weeks, Amu Plaza is hosting Age-paku, which effectively translates to "Fried Food Eating." It consists of 8 or so booths selling fried chicken, fried rice, churros, etc. There is a live stage, but only 2-3 music performances each on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All of the music is soft and/or J-pop. Nothing I have much interest in. I had to work all Friday to make up for the classes that got cancelled the week before because of the typhoon, and the fact that this Saturday is part of Obon Yasumi (the 1-week summer holiday). Technically, Friday should have been a day off as well, but at least I got paid for it. I pretty much stayed home on Saturday, focusing on one of the math books I got for my birthday. I did visit Amu Plaza for an hour on Sunday, but I wanted to just sit in a coffee shop and finish reading the math book, so I listened to enough of the above duo to know that I didn't want to record them, and then went to the coffee shop. The next singer, a female soloist, wasn't going to be on stage until 6 PM, which would have been 2 hours later, so I didn't stick around that long. When I finished my book, I did some shopping for the week, then went home to work on the computer again.

(Edit: This group's name is "second hand stores".)

Another slow week. At least, for right now, it isn't raining. It is hot and humid, though.