Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Then, I was down at Dolphin Port one Sunday, and there were several sparrows flying around in the rafters on the second floor, chirping really loud. I figured I'd try to get one or two shots that might turn out to be interesting.

"You still here?"

"Finally, me time. Mi mi mi."


"I mean, yeah? You know?"

Monday, July 30, 2018

Hawaiian Fest, July 27, 2018

Not much happening this last weekend. I was cutting through Tenmonkan on Friday, when I discovered that the open space in front of Lotteria and the Yamakataya department store was being used for another Hawai'ian fest. In previous fests there was a lot more live music, and performers flown in from Hawai'i. Lots of food and clothing, too. This time, there was almost no food, and the selections of crafts and clothes were extremely limited. I didn't see more than 20-30 people in the audience at any given time.

The live stage events consisted primarily of hula dancing by the local dance schools, and maybe 3-4 appearances on stage by one band (I couldn't tell if they were Hawai'ian, or Japanese). The music was mainly old-school hula dance stuff, which is too slow and pretty for me. I took a couple photos on Friday, and returned home.

On Saturday, I went past Lotteria on my way in to the school, and then again when I went on break in the afternoon. There was nothing on stage both times. Finally, at 5:30 PM, as I was returning to the school at the end of my break, there was one hula dancer. I did swing by again Sunday afternoon, and they just had another hula dance group on the stage. Nothing really worth taking photos of.

Hula is apparently extremely popular in Kagoshima - I've seen over 20 groups from the different schools here. But, there are no stand-out dancers that I know. Mainly, they're just people taking lessons for the exercise; amateurs occasionally doing this as a hobby.

Not really great weather, either. Rain on Friday, humid on Saturday, and light drizzles on Sunday (turning to heavy rain Sunday night). A slow weekend.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Semi Semi

You know it's summer when you can't think over the buzz of semi.
I found this husk on a fence post at Reimeikan when I was photographing dragonflies.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Mugen Shinshi, vol. 4 comments

(Image from amazon.co.jp, used for review purposes only.)

Mugen Shinshi (Fantasy Gentleman), vol. 4, by Yousuke Takahashi, Grade A (Shonen Captain magazine, 1989-90)
I have to confess that I'm really not sure if the title is supposed to be "Shishi" or "Shinshi." I thought I'd seen and heard both readings, but "Shinshi" (紳士) is in my dictionary and "Shishi" isn't. I guess I'm going to start using "shinshi" for the title from here on.

Anyway, there's really not a lot to discuss in this book. Lots of silly short stories, with Mamiya having to cope with his prank-prone father, Kyoushiro, and murderous aunt, Neko. There is a growing romantic element between Mami and his girlfriend-by-default, Atsuko. The two try to kiss more often towards the second half of the volume, but are generally interrupted by Kyoushiro one way or another. There are quite a few female nude scenes, either at onsens or during dress changing sequences, and Atsuko is a professional stripper, so Takahashi tries to have Mamiya and Kyoushiro strip down occasionally "for balance." Mostly, this is still played for laughs, but if you're offended by cartoon nudity, this manga is not for you.

There's pretty much no horror at all this time, except for an illustrated 6-page short story at the end (a maid had died by falling down the stairs while tending to a young girl, and her bloody corpse continues to haunt the house long after her employer's family move out). Even here, the twist ending is played for laughs.

None of the chapters contribute much to the Mugen universe, with the exceptions of Chawan no Omoidasu (Teacup Memories) and Mamiya Tanjoubi Hiwa (The Secret Story of Mamiya's Birthday). Hiwa is another flashback, to a time when Kyoushiro, Yukie and Alucard were poor and living in a rundown apartment. The landlord was getting tired of waiting for the rent, and was going to make Yukie marry him if Kyoushiro missed the payment again at the end of the month. While Yukie thought her new husband was at his second house, he was in fact in jail, having gotten caught in another crime. Yukie was pregnant and the due date was coming up, so Kyoushiro and his Shinto priest friend broke out of prison, but when they got to the apartment, they learned that it was going to be a difficult birth, and the only midwife that could do the delivery was the priest's younger sister, and she lived on the opposite side of town. Kyoushiro then raced several miles with Yukie on his back, and they got to the midwife just in time. Years later, Yukie is showing her photo album to Mamiya and Atsuko, as Kyoushiro enters the room in a giant cockroach costume, so Mamiya hits him with a large wooden mallet.

For Chawan, Atsuko dreams that she's a little girl again, poor and living under a bridge, and that her mother has given her a teacup embossed with a moon and a turtle. That was the last time she'd seen her mother. Later on during the day, Mamiya is chasing after a thief that has stolen a priceless ceramic mug. The mug gets broken during the chase, and when Mamiya shows the pieces to Atsuko, she reacts to seeing the turtle and moon on one shard. She tells Mamiya about her dream, so the boy tracks down the fabled ceramics master that made the original cup to get him to come out of retirement to make a new one for Atsuko. The master forces Mamiya to go through an almost impossible series of challenges first, then agrees to fire up his kiln again. The master says that he'd given the original moon and turtle cup to his child, before the baby was taken away by its mother. Mamiya brings Atsuko to the master's hut, saying "here's your long-lost child." But, the guy starts poking Atsuko in the chest, answering that his missing child was a boy. Additionally, that moon and turtle cup had been so popular back in the day that many cup makers began producing cheap knock-off copies. Mamiya and Atsuko return home empty handed, and to help the girl feel better, Mamiya stops at a mountainside tea house to buy her lunch (she then eats 10-15 plates and bowls of food).

Sumamry: There are a few parody splash pages (Batman, Peter Pan, Lupin III and Castle Cagliostro) that are really good, and the other gag stories are pretty funny. Overall, highly recommended.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Dragonflies, July 26, 2018

While I was at Reimeikan, looking at the lotus plants, I found a couple dragonflies.

These shots were taken with the little pocket camera. It does pretty well when it can figure out what to focus on.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


The lotus plants in the moat around the Reimeikan history museum are in mid-bloom.

There's a bit of color right now.

And some promise of more flowers soon.

I've never seen seed cases when they still have the seeds.
"You're being watched."

I was actually amazed to find a seed case in the middle of drying out, with seeds still in place. The wiki entry says that they can be good eating.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Bird on a Wire

We get a few swallows in the neighborhood, and occasionally they can be quite loud. Usually, though, they don't let me get this close with the pocket camera to take these many shots.

"Dude. Feed me."

"Or, whatever."

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Age-paku, July 22

As mentioned last week, Amu Plaza had their Age-paku (fried foods) event from the 14th to the 22nd. They had live music Saturday to Monday the first weekend, and then Friday to Sunday the second weekend. The music on Friday coincided with my classes at the English school, and I had to work most of Saturday (when I wasn't working, I was in Tenmonkan and Central Park watching Ogionsa). There really wasn't much going on the second Sunday - just 1 Believe FNC at 1 and 4 PM, then Yoko at 5 and 6 PM.

I got out of the apartment at 11:30 AM Sunday to watch Ogionsa, but things did kind of slow down at 12:45, so I walked up to Amu Plaza. I've heard the name "1 Believe FNC" a few times in the past, and I've seen their offices over in the neighborhood near Terukuni shrine, but I've never seen them on stage before. I'd been led to think that they were an idol group similar to Seven Colors and Southern Cross. But, all they did was take turns break dancing to a hip hop CD. It's copyrighted music, and I didn't feel like recording any of the dancing. They were ok, but long on posturing and short on group skills.

It didn't take long to get a feel for what they do. After a few minutes, I returned to Tenmonkan to record more of Ogionsa.

After Ogionsa ended, I went back to the apartment to process the videos I'd shot. I kind of got the times confused for Yoko, and ended up missing her first set. I think I've seen her before at past music events, but I wasn't sure. Plus, I wanted a few photos for the blog, so I got to Amu Plaza again at 6 PM. The crowd of people there to eat and listen to the music was fairly heavy then, easily 100 people. Yoko tried to get them to clap and dance during her first few songs, and only one woman in the audience responded. Everyone applauded at the end of the songs, though.

Yoko is a good singer, but again, she's just doing karaoke to a CD playing behind her.

I took a few photos, then tried to go back home. However, one of the British guys I know (an English teacher who also makes his own music and had played at live clubs) saw me and wanted to talk. He thanked me for loaning him my Kaossillator synth, and we talked about music for a while as he killed time before going to a restaurant for dinner with some friends at 6:30.

As we were talking at the front of Amu, two young Japanese women sat down nearby and started taking selfies with their smartphones. One of them was shooting video of the people walking by along the sidewalk, and I noticed that she kept aiming the phone at me. I'd like to hope that she was shooting more selfies, but I'm pretty sure that she was recording me for some reason. I'm hoping I'm wrong, or that at least she has no plans of using the video for anything, because I wasn't doing anything worth filming. Sigh.

When the Brit left for dinner, I returned home and continued processing photos and video from the weekend. It was HOT Sunday, making up for all the rain on Saturday, maybe. I'm happy to stay indoors now, until the burning on my arms and back of my neck subsides. In the meantime, I'm planning on wearing long-sleeve shirts for a while.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ogionsa 2018, Day 2

"If you don't like the weather, just wait a few hours." Sunday morning, we had heavy dark clouds to the north, and blue skies to the south, and absolutely no rain. Day two of Ogionsa started with the staging at Central Park at 11 AM. Various groups then headed from the park, through Tenmonkan, to Street Car Street 6 blocks to the east. The parade itself started on Streetcar Street at around 11:30, first with the taiko marching group and children's mikoshi, then the women's mikoshi groups. Finally, the larger women's shrines, and men's big shrines joined in. At this point, it was very sunny and HOT outside.

Various people along the way sprayed the street (and paraders) with water to try to keep everyone cool. There weren't as many mikoshi as last year, and that was down from the year before, too. One thing that I noticed immediately was the complete lack of booths selling festival foods or drinks. At a minimum, I was expecting some of the restaurants or konbini on the route to have coolers of iced beer and soda for sale. But, no, nothing this time.

I wasn't planning to shoot any video at all, because the parade is always the same from year to year, and instead I'd get more photos. However, because there were fewer mikoshi, and more taiko performances, I shot about an hour of video (which is significant since Ogionsa only ran about 2.5 hours).

At 12:30 PM, I felt things were slowing down enough that I'd be able to walk the half-mile up to Amu Plaza to see what was going on there at the live stage for Age-paku (the fried foods fair I wrote about last week). 1 Believe FNC went on stage at 1 PM, and when I had enough of a feel for what they do (basically, they seem to be a dance troupe that performs to recorded music on CD), I returned to Tenmonkan.

One thing about the shrines - they seem to come from everywhere. All major shopping centers seem to have one in storage somewhere, as do the schools. I'm not sure how many of these shrines actually come from the main Shinto shrine themselves. In either case, the people carrying the shrines could be employees at the shopping centers or from hospitals, or are students from some of the nearby schools.

Whenever an event like this, which has some kind of religious element to it, begins or ends, there's a "boom-boom-boom" that goes off from somewhere. It could either be a small cannon, or big fireworks. I've never figured out where it comes from, but when I'm in Tenmonkan, it sounds close, and could be from Terukuni shrine (the place that held Rokugatsu-tou last week). This time, I wanted to go down to Terukuni to find out, since the parade was supposed to end at 2:30 PM, and I expected the booms at that point. So, when the parade looked to be winding down, I walked along Terukuni street from Streetcar Street.

Half a block down, I got to the Cross music shop. They sell CDs and instruments, and offer music lessons. Occasionally, they host live performances on the sidewalk in front of the shop (probably to advertise their lessons). This time, they had two women playing classical music on flutes.

After listening to them for a bit, I decided instead to hang out at Mos Burger nearby, in case the matsuri ended with more taiko. It did, so I recorded that, too (below). At the end, my arms and the back of my neck were burning, and I knew I'd be in for a world of hurt Monday, so I returned home when the work crews began tearing down the booths and sitting areas to allow traffic back on the streets, some time between 2:30 and 3 PM. After I got to the apartment, I heard the boom-boom-boom showing that Ogionsa was over. I still don't know where that's coming from.

As I type this entry up, my arms, chest (where it was exposed by my t-shirt) and face are beet red. Because of all the walking I do outside, I'd thought I'd already developed a pretty healthy tan. Apparently not, because you can't see it under the sunburn. Sigh. The back of my neck is going to be the worst tomorrow...

Direct youtube link, part 1

Direct youtube link, part 2

Direct youtube link, part 3

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ogionsa, July 21, 2018

I'd been looking forward to Ogionsa for weeks. It's the local summer parade of portable shrines (mikoshi) along Streetcar Street. It generally never changes, so I just wanted to take a few highlight photos for the blog, and just kind of sit back and enjoy the noise. Naturally, we had a typhoon come up from Okinawa Saturday morning, bringing rain all day.

The typhoon was predicted to swing off towards Shanghai, so Ogionsa wasn't cancelled, but the fringes of the weather system did hit us. Actually, it was weird - we'd get really heavy downpours for 20-30 minutes then a lull, followed by another downpour. The heavy rains kept coinciding with my visiting Central Park to take pictures of the entertainments on the live stage. And, the humidity was so bad it fogged up the camera lens.

The stage events started at 4 PM with the official announcements from the organizers, and was followed by a taiko group. Initially, there were maybe 30 people sitting out at the main tables in the middle of the rain, and another 50-60 farther back under the tents. As the rains got heavier, the people under the umbrellas kept thinning out.

There were about 4 food tables, and another 6-7 booths for children's games. But, the expected crowds never materialized, and the booths were mostly used by adults to escape the rain.

Things ran from 4 to 8 PM, and I had a break between my classes from 4 to 6:30. I got to the park and prepared to record the taiko group, just as the rain came down harder. I managed to get a couple photos before the music ended.

Next up was Hayato Kenshin, one of the Kagoshima masked mascots. Basically, this is a scripted mascot play, and I've seen this before. I went into Tenmonkan to look at the mikoshi groups before heading for Tully's coffee shop for a snack, and to sit and read some manga. Eventually, I went back outside, and the rain had stopped. I returned to the park, and the rain flooded down again. This pattern repeated several times before I gave up and went back to the school again at the end of my break. There was no point in taking more photos of the stage because the rain ruined them.

In Tenmonkan, though, they did have some of the mikoshi being paraded around the arcades. Lots of people taking photos and video. Occasionally, the groups would have to cross the bigger streets between roofed areas, and people got really drenched really fast. But they seemed to enjoy themselves anyway.

Overall, Saturday wasn't as much fun as I'd hoped it would be. After my last class ended, I went home, had dinner, and worked on my blog. Day two of Ogionsa was going to start at 11 AM Sunday, and I wanted to get up early for that, if it wasn't raining.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Always Burger Burger

I've written about Always Burger before, but I'd hadn't actually eaten one of their burgers up to this point. In part it was because of the price, or I wasn't hungry when their food truck was at an event location, or because their burgers looked to be designed to spill food all over your shirt as you were standing and eating them. But, one day I was jonesing for a burger, and the Always truck was parked in front of Amu Plaza. I got the Regular for 550 yen, and waited while the woman in the truck prepared the thing (frying the refrigerated patty and toasting the buns). It consists of the two buns, a thick slice of tomato, a stack of lettuce, and the patty, plus a fair amount of mayonnaise, mustard and teriyaki sauce. The paper wrapper is shaped like a cone, to make it easier to eat the burger without it disintegrating in your hands, but even so, it's taller than it's wide, and it is tricky to eat cleanly. Everything but the meat patty was good. The patty itself was kind of dry and tasteless, like it was made either with chicken or tofu. Not really recommended.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Komeda Breakfast Set

Komeda is a coffee shop chain. When I was living in Kanagawa, I'd occasionally ride my bike through Noborito, and I'd pass by the Komeda shop there. I'd think about going inside to try the coffee, but I never actually did because I always wanted to keep riding more. Well, a few months ago, Komeda opened up a shop in Tenmonkan, in what had been a pachinko parlor on Streetcar Street. When I saw that a cup of coffee was 400 yen ($4 USD), and that desserts started at 750 yen, I figured I was better off getting my coffee elsewhere.

However, many of my online business English students in the Osaka and Kyoto regions would talk about cafes having a "breakfast toast service," which Komeda also offers, and I was curious about that. So, one morning, when I got up early and had time to kill before taking the streetcar to work, I went to Komeda for breakfast (the front door is no more than 20 feet from the streetcar platform). 450 yen gets you a long piece of toast with either butter or strawberry jam, a small cup of coffee, and a small munchie. The munchie is either a hardboiled egg, an equivalent amount of egg salad (called "egg paste") or the anko (sweet red bean paste pictured above). I wouldn't say that this is really $4.50 worth of food, but if you just want a quick bite to eat while reading the paper in order to wake up before going to work, it's not that bad of a deal. I still prefer a different shop, Ran, the other side of Kotsuki river from my apartment. At Ran, 650 yen gets you 2 pieces of toast with jam, a small salad, coffee, a fried egg, a slice of ham, and jelly for dessert. I go there 2-3 times a year, when I'm yearning for fried eggs (I always have hard boiled eggs at home).

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Bright Chalk Art

New chalk art for the Bright used clothing shop. Not sure how to read the text at the top.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Year 11

Well, another year has come and gone for this blog. No real big highlights for the past year this time. Lots of events being held in the city, some good music, and a couple chances to meet with and talk to musicians I like. Nothing much in the way of art exhibits, video games, or movies. I did see the second half of Lupin III Goemon's Spray of Blood DVD movie, which was good, but nothing else. My Nintendo 3DS died, so I ended up buying two used Playstation 2 consoles in order to re-play Chrono Cross, which I liked (now I have a backup unit if the first one dies). Bought a Famicom Mini retro console, but I need to get a monitor with HDMI inputs to use it, and I haven't decided which monitor to get.  Started learning how to program in Free Pascal, and am writing about a cipher app I'm developing, over on my science blog. The app has been put on pause because I'm busy with work, but I've got over 16 blog entries written on ciphers, and I'm serializing a short story that I'm enciphering for anyone that wants to decipher it instead of playing Sudoku.

No real plans as I go into year 11 of this blog. We've got Ogionsa coming up this weekend, and another Yukata night the second weekend of August. Otherwise, just plugging away at what I usually do.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rokugatsutou, 2018

Well, I had no idea that Rokugatsutou, the big summer evening festival that celebrates the life of one of Kagoshima's most important leaders, Nariakira Shimadzu, was this weekend. Actually, it started Sunday night and continued to Monday (Umi no Hi = Sea Day). There were hints, particularly all the women wearing yukata and kimono, but part of that could be explained by the fact that it's summer, and they'd had the Age-paku event at Amu Plaza from Friday. However, Sunday night I had to go out to the Shiroyama supermarket at 10:30 PM, and two women, one wearing yukata, were walking past the apartment from the direction of Terukuni shrine and Central Park, which is where Rokugatsutou is held. but I hadn't seen any of the food stalls going up on Saturday, and I was still thinking that maybe the matsuri wouldn't be for another week or two.

But, I had to work at the school Monday night, and as I was walking by the park at 6 PM, I saw the crowds swarming through the food stalls. When I got to the school, the owner told me that, yeah, Rokugatsutou had started Sunday night. Oh well.

(Takoyaki - fried balls of batter with pieces of octopus inside.)

I didn't really miss that much Sunday, though. As I wrote for the Age-paku event, I still wasn't feeling all that great, and I was happier staying indoors during the evening, watching youtube videos and working on the blog entries. I had wanted to go up to Amu Plaza on Monday afternoon to catch some of the music at 1 or 2 PM, but I ended up sleeping late, not getting up until noon, and then having to go out for food shopping in the opposite direction at 1 PM. So, I missed the music at Age-paku Monday.

As for Rokugatsutou, it's an evening matsuri and things don't get started until the sun goes down after 6 PM. My first class started at 6:20 PM, and I couldn't get out of the school until 8 PM. By that point, I'd missed half of the performances on the live stage. So, all I really wanted to do was get some photos of the lanterns for the blog, and see if I could get a stage schedule to determine if there was much of a reason for sticking around until 9:30 PM when everything would end, or not.

The event can be broken up into the food and drink stalls in the street between Tenmonkan and the main shrine entrance, the lanterns, people watching, praying at the shrine, flower arrangement displays, and the live stage. I did get one cup of beer for 400 yen ($3.80 USD), and a starchy thing on a stick (kind of like okonomiyaki) that was supposed to have shrimp in it but didn't for 300 yen. Otherwise, I walked around a lot while waiting for the stage performers to change.

The lanterns have ads for shops, bars and banks on one side, and art by school kids on the other. Most of the kids art is pretty rudimentary, but there were a few pieces that were ok.

The ikebana always seems kind of slapdash to me, but this time a couple of the arrangements were a little more colorful.

The stage performances followed the same pattern as in previous years. There are 5-10 performing groups between Sunday and Monday, and each one has 3 "slots" to fill with whatever it is the members do. In some cases it's enka (Japanese folksinging) and an accompanying dance. In other cases it's kind of a kabuki act, hula dancing, or pop idol dancing.

During the enka and slow dancing, I'd wander around more to look at lanterns, or decide to get beer.

Southern Cross, one of Kagoshima's local idol dance groups, sang and pranced for 15 minutes. They usually do copyrighted covers, and their fans shout and make fools of themselves to the point where any video I take is not worth uploading to youtube. This time, I did record one song for the blog, and I'm hoping youtube won't block it.

More kabuki-like dance acting.

Hula dancing. After this, the stage lights were dimmed so the audience could watch the fireworks set off behind the stage. Nothing all that great, but it was fun to finally see some flashing lights and popping noises after so long.

Dance acting.

The evening ended with Wicky House bar owner, Wicky and his wife Kana performing 3 songs. One was a Southern All-Stars cover, the other was a really slow piece that I think Wicky wrote, and the last was the theme song he wrote for the Kagoshima United soccer team (which is played at the games held in Kagoshima). I recorded that last one, below. Again, Wicky may have copyrighted it, but I'm hoping it won't get blocked.

Everything then ended at 9:30 PM, and people started tearing down the food stalls. I went home, had dinner, and processed the files for this blog entry. Not a bad night, actually.

Direct youtube link