Saturday, August 24, 2019

Hanabi Taikai 2019

The weekend was kind of hit-or-miss this time. I got some translation cleanup work on Friday, so between that and my regular English teaching classes I was stuck indoors all day. The weather was poor, with predictions of a typhoon coming in, so I was wondering if the annual fireworks display at Dolphin Port would be canceled Saturday. Last year, I had to work until 8 PM, and I got out of the school in time to run down to Dolphin Port and catch the last half hour of the display. This year, I was expecting to work all evening again, but when I got my schedule I discovered that the regular evening classes had been canceled. So, I was pretty happy when I left the apartment at 12:45 PM Saturday afternoon to go to the school, but I quickly realized that I'd forgotten my pocket camera. I didn't have time to go back and get it, and I just kept walking to Junkudo to get the week's newspaper for the school, and then swung by Lotteria to check out the open space there. They had a "Furusato" (local hometown) event going on Friday through Sunday, with farmers selling local produce, a couple food trucks offering pizza and hamburgers, and a small stage with occasional live entertainment. The Southern Cross idol dancers had been featured on Friday, but they weren't doing anything when I'd gone into the school that day. I didn't have my camera now, but all they had on stage was some 4-person group I didn't know doing bad karaoke. After my classes on Saturday, I did my milk buying for the week and returned home for a couple hours, to check email and eat an early dinner (and grab my camera for later).

The fireworks were scheduled to start at 7:30 PM, and the skies had gone from cloudy to mostly clear back to heavily overcast again. However, the ad on the radio indicated that the event hadn't been canceled, and I got back out of the apartment at 6:50 PM. In the last five years, I've had problems finding a good place to watch the fireworks. Initially, I'd gone down to Dolphin Port, but the crowds were horrendous, and I had to stand back by the parking lot, with the tree branches in the area blocking the view. The next year I went up Shiroyama hill and watched from the parking lot, but I was so far away (2-3 miles) that the biggest fireworks were only 2-3 inches across at that distance. The third year was canceled because of a potential typhoon. The fourth year, someone I knew spotted me on my way through Tenmonkan and insisted on taking me to their favorite viewing area, which turned out to be in a narrow corridor of apartment and office buildings in front of City Hall, where 60% of the display was blocked off. And of course, last year I missed most of the fireworks because I had to work late. This year, I absolutely wanted to try an idea I had.

Some time ago, I'd shot a time-lapse video of the Sakurajima volcano, and I'd discovered the location where Saint Xavier had landed in Kagoshima during his journey to convert the Japanese to Christianity several hundred years ago. The memorial for the landing spot is half a mile north of the aquarium and ferry buildings, next to a senior care center. The land behind the center holds a soccer field and baseball diamond, and is right next to the mouth of the Inari river (which had been the heart of the original Kagoshima port town, and is now part of Ishibashi (stone bridge) park). My plan was to go to the baseball field and see how crowded that was. I expected that it would be mostly deserted, and I'd have a clear view of Sakurajima from there. Otherwise, the barrier wall behind the senior care center fronts a walkway skirting Kinko Bay, and I could lean against that and watch from the edge of the Bay. As mentioned above, I got out of the apartment at 6:50, and I started walking toward City Hall. Along the way were couples in yukata (evening kimono) and families heading in towards Dolphin Port. In fact, when I got out of the school down by City Hall at 4:30 PM, lots of people were already walking towards the Bay to pick out their places for the evening. By 7:30 PM, I'd gotten to the Bay, near the aquarium, but I still had a long way to go to get to the landing spot. The fireworks started, and I could pick them out between the trees lining the areas occupied by fishing companies, construction companies and the bus parking sites. Mostly, I just heard the explosions and popping. I stopped at a 7-11 to get a bottle of Coke and a fifth of cheap whisky to have something to drink that night. 10 minutes later, at 7:40 PM, I arrived at Stone Bridge Park, and took a staircase down the hill to get to the edge of the Inari river mouth. I followed the barrier wall, where a number of families had set up picnic tables and folding chairs to watch the festivities. As I made my way along the barrier wall walkway, I realized that the baseball field was surrounded by trees, and there was no view of the volcano. Instead, I found an unoccupied point along the walkway and made my camp there. I had a beautiful, unbroken view of the fireworks, and I wasn't so far away that they looked like a postage stamp. I took a few photos, some video, and enjoyed my whiskey and Coke.

Japanese fireworks are paid for by companies and department stores. One way to tell how the economy is doing is by estimating how much fireworks any particular sponsor bought. You can tell when the crew is switching sponsors because there's a long lull between bursts. During one lull, a Japanese guy, looking to be a factory worker, turned to me and asked in broken English if things were over yet. I replied back that the schedule said that it should end at 8:40, and there were still 15 minutes left. I then asked if he were drunk, and he answered with "No money." He thought about this for a second, and joked that "no money" sounded like "nomu nai" (can't drink). "No money nomu nai". I thought that was pretty funny. The fireworks started up again, then went into the big finale, and ended right before 8:40. (The total display was just marginal, indicating a weak economy this year.) The Japanese guy went his way, and I followed the crowd out through Stone Bridge Park, along a path different from the way I'd arrived. I got to a new stretch of street, a few blocks north of the old Kagoshima train station, and reached a point where a couple in front of me was blocking the way as they slowly strolled forward. It was starting to rain, and they had their umbrellas out. I looked at the street - there was a wide shoulder along the sidewalk, and no cars coming up behind us. Up to this stage, I'd often gone into the street to walk around people going slower than me, and I was going to do this again now. I stick my right leg out and get ready to step down on the black tarmac, when I suddenly discover that the sidewalk is raised 8-10 inches above the street and there's nothing under my foot now that my entire weight is coming down on it. I fall face first into the street, and my instincts kick in, so I catch myself on my left hand, right shoulder and right knee. I go down cursing, and get back up right away. The couple I'd tried to pass ask if I'm ok, and I just say I'm fine. At the time, it felt like I'd scraped up my left palm and wrist, and my right knee, but later they just turn out a bit sore, and I didn't tear up the knee of my jeans as I'd feared I'd had. The greatest damage was to my pride, and I'd given up on that one ages ago.

(Looking through the old main gate at Stone Bridge Park.)

After reaching the old train station, the streams of people leaving their viewing spots went from the tens, to the hundreds. Getting closer to City Hall, we had to stop at the street lights so the traffic cops could direct everyone back and forth. From the aquarium to Tenmonkan, when the lights changed to east-west, the crowds of people crossing the street in front of me were nearly uncountable. This is also when the rain started coming down harder and I had to decide if I was going to pop into a konbini to buy a cheap plastic umbrella. My hope was to make it all the way to Tenmonkan, where the walkways are covered, and then stop at the police box there, where they had cheap, tiny umbrellas out for emergencies like this. I'm starting to get soaked, and I want to avoid the bulk of the people, but I stay on the main sidewalk and hug the buildings to avoid getting too wet. Finally, I get to Tenmonkan, and try ducking into part of the less trafficked walkways to get away from everyone else. I'm not the only one to think of this, so I still have to fight my way past the more casual strollers. When I eventually get to the police box, all the emergency umbrellas are gone. I walk through the arcades and get to the south end of Tenmonkan, only to find that the rain is just pounding down now. A good 50 people are loitering around, trying to decide what to do, and another 20 are queued up in front of the taxi stand, waiting for taxis to arrive so they can ride back home. I work my way back a block to 7-11 to buy a cheap plastic umbrella for 500 yen ($5 USD), and they have nothing left. Instead, they have a line 10 people long just waiting to use the store's toilets.

I go back to the south end of the arcade, and throw myself out into the rain. 2 blocks farther down, I get to a Family Mart. They've sold out of all the umbrellas in the main store display, and a clerk is carrying an armful more out from the back room. There's about 20 people in the store buying umbrellas, more snacks for the night, and lots more beer. I get my umbrella, then check to see if I'd broken anything when I fell. I had my backpack with me, and the pocket camera in a belt pouch at my right hip. Fortunately, the pack didn't have anything valuable, and I hadn't landed directly on the camera. I get to the street, and the rain is coming down even heavier. I get more soaked now than when I didn't have the umbrella. I don't get home until 10 PM. I took 50 minutes to walk to my fireworks viewing spot, and over an hour and ten minutes to get back.

It's now Sunday noon, my time. The Ventures are playing their 60th anniversary concert at a music hall in Tenmonkan in 2 hours. I have family things I'd already committed to before learning about the concert so I'm going to have to miss it again this year, too (this is the third time I've missed them in 4-5 years).

Just another day in paradise.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Aloma Care

When your aloma needs looking after. $35/hour, is cheap, if you love your aloma like I do.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Small Adventure 66

Back some months ago, I was walking down the street in the direction of Tenmonkan, and I passed by a building where the ground floor was being renovated. Initially, it had contained the offices for a map printing company, but they'd moved out and the floor space had gone unused for half a year. As I got closer, I saw a little old guy with some papers rolled up under his arm. He was facing off against a taller well-dressed guy in a striped suit, and his female partner. The guy in the suit and the woman seemed to be in their late 40's or early 50's. The dynamic was that the little guy was the contractor for the renovators, and the other two owned the lease on the building. The lease owners were trying to tower over the contractor, but he was completely unintimidated. He just looked up at them and said "We finished the work specified in the contract." The suit guy bellowed "Nan datto!" ("What did you say?") and the woman screeched "Uso dessho" ("You're lying/kidding, right?")

They continued yelling on the sidewalk as I kept going. It's always nice to see a country live up to its reputation for deferential politeness. (Note: The window still has 'Tennant wanted' on it.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Bright - Gang

More chalk art for Bright men's clothing store. I can't figure out the top word. Something "Gang."

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Small Adventure 65

Some weeks ago, I was walking from Tenmonkan to the apartment. I got close to the building where the Nabeshima Yakiniku (grilled meat) restaurant is located. Nabeshima is on the fourth floor, and there are fashion shops and offices on the other floors. There's a small open parking lot at street level at the left side of the building. A delivery truck had pulled up, and the driver parked on the street in front of the lot entrance before jumping out and running into the building. Some young guy (maybe college age) had his car in the lot, and when he and his friend were preparing to leave, they discovered their way blocked by the truck. After a few seconds, the driver got out of his car, swearing at the top of his lungs. He walked to the front of the truck and slammed his foot against the driver side headlight (he just bounced harmlessly backward, leaving the truck unscathed) then stomped in a rage into the building, stopping confused because he had no idea what floor the driver was on. I kept walking, so I have no idea if the kid tried confronting the delivery guy or not (if he really wanted to leave the lot, being nonconfrontational would have been the wiser option).

Japan. It's a safety country.

Monday, August 19, 2019


Ok, I wrote that on Saturday, Amu Plaza had their Kid's Challenge Fest on the big promenade, and the 3-on-3 basketball exhibition in the plaza in front of the train station. The fest had lots of children's activities, plus the live stage with the yosakoi dancing. I was really looking forward to more live entertainment when I went back up on Sunday, and I was thinking the b-ball thing would be just the one day to avoid the players from injuring themselves doing something stupid.

Imagine my disappointment when I got there and all of the tables, chairs, tents and the stage for the kid's challenge fest were gone, and the 3-on-3 was still running. I don't understand this country. Anyway, I spent part of the afternoon in Seattle's Best, drinking coffee and reading the last one of my cryptography books. The rest of the afternoon was spent food shopping, and working on the computer at home.

It wasn't anywhere near as nice a day as Saturday, with gray, overcast skies, but it wasn't quite as hot, either. Obon ends as I write this, and everything goes back to normal on Monday. Sigh.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Kid's Challenge Festa, Aug. 17

We're reaching the end of the Obon holiday period. Outside of the Bon Odori event on Aug. 8th, I haven't seen much in the way of real activities elsewhere around Tenmonkan or Amu Plaza. Mostly, it's been temporary play areas set up for kids. On Saturday, though, Amu Plaza had a "Kids Challenge Festa" on the promenade in front of the big statue. This consisted of some interactive activities, and a table selling shaved ice desserts (kakigori), which was good, because we finally had clear skies and temps in the 90s.

There was also a stage, but no schedule. At about 1:30, they had three dances by a yosakoi dance group from Satsuma Sendai (video below). The stage was a bit small for them, and they occasionally ran into each other. And, at the end, they were sweating hard. Still, it was fun to watch.

Over in front of the station itself, there was an exhibition 3-on-3 basketball game featuring a few of the pro players from the Kagoshima team.

I guess it was fun for anyone that likes pro sports.

I had to do shopping for the week, so I left after a little while, but I may be back on Sunday to see what else is going on.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Natsu Matsuri

I was up at Amu Plaza on Friday, and the children's play area had been removed to make room for some kind of Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) ceremony.

The two flower things on the stage are mikoshi (portable shrines). The brown box on the ground in front of the stage is a coin donation box. The altar at the far end of the stage seems to be for present donations or something.

I have no idea when the ceremony was set to take place. When I got back up here on Saturday, the stage and chairs were gone, and a 3-on-3 basketball game was in progress.

Friday, August 16, 2019

SPL Truck

Speaker trucks are a big thing in Tokyo, especially in Akihabara, where they just drive around to promote various TV anime shows. But, recently, Kagoshima has been the victim of this truck playing boy band songs. The website for Star Project Linx kind of seems to be for a host club, or something.

I don't care enough to get more detail on them. For the most part, everyone else on the streets just considers the truck to be an irritating source of noise.

I guess it's ok, if you like this kind of thing.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Kyushu gets the weirdest bugs. I don't know what this is, it showed up outside the apartment building one night towards the end of July. It wasn't afraid of the light, and it didn't try to escape me when I got too close. It didn't like being flipped on its back, and didn't want to grab onto the leaf I was trying to use to scoop it up to move somewhere else.

I did eventually manage to get it on the leaf and moved over to some bushes. I don't know if this is a beetle, or some other kind of tree-based insect. Go out and multiply, little bug. Multiply.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Wicky's House Anisong Poster - July 14

The next poster advertising the anisong (anime theme song) sing-along night at Wicky's House. Yuki-hime likes to chill at Wicky's during the summer.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Small Adventure 64

I've run photos of speaker trucks before. These are the big semi trailer trucks with advertising of boy bands or TV anime on the sides of the trailer, and speakers blaring out music. The other night I was up at Streetcar Street, walking towards Donkey when I heard this really loud music coming my direction. I looked around for a truck (a few other people were rubber-necking, too) but I couldn't find anything. Eventually I spotted a younger guy riding a mama-chari (a cheap single gear bicycle with a basket on the handlebars). The bike was covered in red LED traffic cone lights, and he had a boombox cranked all the way up to 11 taped to the handlebars where the basket would go. His taste in music was horrible.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Georgia Gundam Cans

Georgia can coffee has tied up with Gundam to sell a limited-edition Gundam Emerald Mountain can series, for the 25th anniversary of the anime.

It's just this little artwork on the side of the can. If you have a smartphone, you can go to the Georgia website to get wallpapers of the can art. (I don't have a smartphone.) Of the 20-30 Coke vending machines I've found around the city, only two carry these cans, and it's only one slot in each machine. Not sure why it's such a small-scale campaign. Both machines sell the coffee for 100 yen per can, and it's not great coffee.

I'll probably stop buying it now.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Bon Odori Matsuri, 2019

It's Obon season again, when the ancestors come back from the dead to check up on how their descendants are doing. The main holiday/travel period is from Aug. 12 to 18. Honganji Temple had their Bon Odori (Obon dance) festival Thursday night from about 6 PM to 9 PM.

I had to work Thursday from 4 to 8 PM. Honganji is less than a 5 minute walk from the school, so I was able to swing by just before the dancing started.

Leading up to this, the schedule showed some PR stuff, and some school bands. The MCs spent a little time interviewing the musicians and singers.

Everyone else was just waiting for the music to start.

And then it started. The dance is primarily a slow circle around the tower, with a little hand waving.

I was going to get a glass of beer (400 yen), when one of the other revelers insisted on buying me a cup of shochu on the rocks (200 yen). That was nice of him. A little later, I had dinner waiting for me at home, so I left.

It was a nice night. Hot and humid, but at least the rain had stopped for the moment.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Yukata Nights

"Yukata" refers to a kind of kimono made of light fabric generally worn outside at night (yu = evening). Some people like wearing them during the summer, so the shops in Tenmonkan encourage this with their "Yukata Night" event (this year on Aug. 3rd and 4th). The basic idea is that the shops offer discounts or coupons to shoppers in yukata. The event itself starts around 5 PM, with food and drink tables in the arcade in front of 7-11, and a live stage at the far end of the arcade. There's also rickshaw rides for 1000 yen ($10 USD).

They also had ice carvings both days.

I had to work on Saturday until 8 PM, but things were still going strong then. The booth directly to the right sold shochu for 100 yen per cup. I got two cups, two different styles. That was good. Then I went to an Italian restaurant for dinner. Also good.

There were several activities for kids, including rubbing a block of ice to free the toys and fans frozen inside.

Back during Rokugatsu-gou, I wrote about the soft drinks served in what looks like an inverted light bulb with flashing LEDs inside. This is one of the tables selling them. 500 yen for one, and people usually just throw the bulb away when they're done. Turns out the part that looks like the threaded metal end comes off to allow the server to pour syrups into them. I probably won't ever buy one, but I'm tempted to take a used bulb out of the trash some time to clean it up and get at the flasher circuit.

I did have a short break at 5 PM on Saturday, and I managed to catch a bit of a promotion for travel to a couple cities. The promo was billed as a contest between two sets of mascot girls. The ones on the right are dressed as stag beetles.

I don't know what the girls on the left are supposed to represent.

Sunday, 6 PM.  Sachi played J-pop and movie theme songs. The audience liked her, but all the songs are copyrighted and would get blocked by youtube and Facebook, so there's no point in my recording her (most of the other people there had no such compunctions, though).

More ice carvings.

I've already written largely about what went on Sunday. I bought a Corona from Wicky (he had a small beer table set up in front of his bar) for 700 yen, and read cryptography books until Yoko came on stage. Again, more pop and movie songs. The sun was going down and the stage didn't have it's own lighting, so it was getting a little too dark for the pocket camera. I had to take 20 shots for one to come out right. At 8 PM, the manzai comedy duo Party came out to host the Bingo game. All of the cards were already sold out by then (500 yen for one) so I didn't try playing this time. Prizes included a Playstation 4, a small HD TV, packages of fruit and 3-bottle packs of shochu. I wouldn't have minded getting some of the shochu, but I have no room for a PS4 or a TV. I went home to finish the ROKR robot kit, and eat dinner.

It's hot now.