Sunday, February 28, 2021

Geisha Coke

Found this artwork on a Coke vending machine at the top of Shiroyama. Haven't seen anything like this anywhere else. Very nice.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

This area patrolled

Found this sign on a vending machine at the top of Shiroyama. "This area patrolled."

Friday, February 26, 2021


While I was shooting the time lapse video of Sakurajima with my GoPro, there were several birds in the area. Initially, I spotted about 6 hawks (or kites, I don't know the difference) circling around for close to 2 hours. Later, I noticed a heron flying in from the north end of the bay, and continuing down south to at least Kotsuki river, if not further. A little after that was a seagull. I haven't seen gulls around Kagoshima at all before, so that was a surprise.

One hawk kept flying around a cargo ferry that was loading up a little off to my right, which was in easy shooting distance of my regular pocket camera. Its mate sat on an antenna near the warehouses next to the ferry. I tried working my way closer to the antenna, but some old woman came up on the walking path just at that moment, and for some reason made a beeline directly at the GoPro. I hurried back to the tripod to protect it. After the woman left, finally circling around me because I stood between her and the tripod, I turned back to the antenna, but by then both hawks were gone. Sigh.

The hawks were fun to watch, but really hard to get good shots of.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

The Cog is Dead t-shirt 2, and a short adventure

Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, I decided to return to Waterfront Park to experiment with the GoPro. I'd been out the day before to test the time lapse feature on the camera, but the default setting of 0.5s intervals was too slow to produce interesting video of the ash plumes from Sakurajima (behind me). Tuesday morning, I spent an hour scouring through the online user manual PDF to figure out how to change the settings. I find the manual to be confusing, so it took me a really long time to understand the user interface. Eventually, I got it, and I headed out to Waterfront a little after 3:30 PM.

I arrived at the park just before 4 PM, and it was WINDY. My plan was to use one of the nearby pavilion benches to hold my backpack and gear, set up the camera along the fence, activate time lapse, and then return to the bench to wait and read manga magazines for 2 hours. I pulled the tripod from my bag, set it up on the ground in front of me, and started to take out the camera bag, when the wind suddenly whipped up so hard that the tripod skittered right at me like an alien trying to kiss me. That called for a change of plans - the camera's not that heavy, and I was afraid the tripod might tip over and fall into the bay if left unattended.

I carried all my stuff to the fence, got the camera ready, took this still photo of me with the Cog shirt, and then aimed the camera at the volcano and hit record with a 2 second interval time lapse. The wind was still strong, but not dangerously so, so I sat on the ground and tried reading Shonen Jump, until my leg fell asleep. I got up to walk around and wake my leg back up. When I was distracted, there was a huge gust of wind and the tripod flipped forward. There was no real threat of it going into the water, but it started falling over on its side, which probably would have shattered the screens. I leapt out to grab it, and got lucky. From this point on, I stood right next to the camera, and stabilized it when the wind picked up again. Anyway, the lens was no longer pointed in the exact same direction, so I knew the video was compromised.

After about an hour and a half, the battery dropped down to 15%. Sakurajima wasn't doing anything interesting, and the wind over the top of the cone was flattening out any ash that was coming out (so, no chance of big, tall columns of smoke reaching up into the sky). I stopped the recording, and changed batteries. At this point, the sun was going down behind me, and there was a chance of a red sunset through the clouds racing across the far horizon. I turned the camera around to face the city skyline, and hit record again, this time with a 0.5 interval time lapse. And this was when I started getting angry.

Some time after 5 PM, more people came out to walk around the park, jog, or ride bike. Up to this point, they mostly ignored me, although one friendly guy did stop to talk for a few minutes. But now, with the camera pointed inland, everyone seemed intent on walking right in front of it, looking right into the lens and deliberately screwing up the shot. Fortunately, with the time lapse, they'd only be visible for 2 or 3 frames, but it was the deliberateness that bothered me.

I had an English lesson at the school at 7 PM, so I hung out at Waterfront until the sun was fully down and the sky was turning black; a little after 6:30 PM. The wind was getting stronger, and the air was more chilly, to the point my hands were beginning to ache and I was thinking about zipping up my windbreaker. The second battery had dropped to 18%, so it was time to give up. I put the magazines in my backpack, collapsed the tripod, and hand-carried that with the camera still mounted to the nearest McDonald's, about 5 minutes away. I ordered a Gran Bacon Cheese burger for 330 yen ($3 USD), put the camera and tripod away in my bag while I waited for my order to come out. Then, I ate my dinner on my way to the school, another 5 minute walk away. I got lucky - I finished the burger just before my student caught up to me from behind and began talking to me, so I didn't have to apologize for having my mouth full.

I got home at 8:30 PM, had a real dinner, and copied the files off the camera to my laptop and checked out the videos. They were all useless. The camera had been bouncing around so much, even though it was imperceptible to me, that everything was just shaky and jumpy. Sigh. The only good things to come out of this was the shot of the Cog shirt, and my learning more about what the camera can do. Plus, I also had my burger.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021


Just a photo of the sign for Pellot restaurant, in the red light district. I like the simplicity and elegance of the artwork.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Angel Kiss Sign

I was over at the red light district side of Tenmonkan a few days ago, and decided to take pictures of a few of the signs. This one is for Angel Kiss, a "sexy cabaret." All shows are 35 minute sets, and the prices vary based on start times. The most expensive period is from 8:30 PM to last order. 6,000 yen is about $57 USD. Looks like you get all you can drink (doesn't say if this is shochu and soda (chuhi), soft drinks, or whatever alcohol you want), and snack nuts. There's no mention of what VIP gets you for the extra 1,000 yen. I'm leery of going by myself, and I don't know of anyone else that would want to drop 4,000 yen to go with me.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Inari Fastwalk

Direct youtube link to part 1

Testing the GoPro timewarp feature while visiting different parts of Kagoshima city, including the Reimeikan gate, Inari river, and the hill overlooking the older parts of Kagoshima.

Direct youtube link to part 2

Direct youtube link to part 3

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Snow Cap

We had snow last Thursday. At least, I'm told we did, in some of the higher-lying areas. I got to the English school at 4:30 that afternoon, when it was raining, and Sakurajima was lost in cloud. One of my students that evening told me she'd seen the mountain, and the top half was solid white. When I got out, it was dark and I still couldn't see anything.

The weather was perfect Friday morning, but I couldn't get to a good place for taking pictures until later in the afternoon. What little I could see of the top of Sakurajima was just rock - most of the snow had already burned off. The photos above were taken as I was walking into the school again at 3:30.

I couldn't get to Waterfront Park until after the lesson ended, at 4:30 PM. Even in the hour between photos, the loss of snow is measurable. The weather continued warming up, and by Saturday almost all the snow was gone, except what little was hiding in the shadows.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Shokugatsu Gou

There's a little food and entertainment event running this weekend in Central Park, translating to "meat month" (it's a play on the Rokugatsu-gou event in June/July (Roku Gatsu is "6th month")).

Largely, the idea is to promote some of the local restaurants, who have booths here selling beef, pork, grilled chicken skewers, ramen and curry rice. Unfortunately (or, fortunately depending on your viewpoint), the staff at the entrance is checking body temperatures, and having everyone write down their names and addresses for Covid tracking. I'm not a big customer at these food events, because they are generally overpriced for what you get, so I don't really have much interest in mingling with people here otherwise.

Not much distancing.

The only thing I would pay attention to is the live stage, except it's just dance teams from some of the dance studios prancing in front of other people's copyrighted music, and some bad manzai (slapstick comedy duos). If I tried recording any of the dancing, youtube would block the music.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Saigo Takamori fastwalk, parts 1 and 2

Retracing Saigo Takamori's final days during the Seinan Conflict of 1877, using the GoPro's Timewarp function.

Direct youtube link

Direct youtube link

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Baskin-Robbins Disney Hina Matsuri

Hina Matsuri (doll festival) is a girl's day in March when families set out a "hina display" of little dolls representing the Emperor and Empress, and their attendants. Disney is getting into the game, with Mickey and Minnie-themed ice cream cups at BR 31. I got this handout advertising the cups from the shop in the food court in Amu Plaza. I'm not expecting to buy one on March 3rd, though.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Three Pleases

"Mitsu no onigai" (literally "three pleases", but more properly "three requests").
No smoking, No pets and Don't ride bikes here. But, maybe service dogs are ok.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


I assume "tappiness" was someone's idea of a funny play on "tap" and "happiness." The idea is that you put your smartphone on the interface panel when you buy a drink from the vending machine (a "tap"). This gives you points for the Line application, which is Japan's answer to youtube, ("happiness").

"Try! Try!" No, wait. Is no try, is only Dew.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Amu Plaza Choco Marche, Feb., 2021

Amu Plaza is the big department store next to the main train station. Every year, for at least the last 5 years, they've had a ""chocolate marche" (small booths selling Valentine's Day chocolates and snacks), for the week or two just before the 14th. Generally, it's a madhouse of high school girls and OLs (office ladies) trying to find good chocolates for their boyfriends, or giri (obligation) chocolates for male coworkers and family members.

I got up to Amu this year both on Saturday and Sunday, and it was an absolute ghost town. Less than a third of the shops than normal, and no more than 5 people looking around at its peak while I was there. I felt sad for the poor sales girls working the shops part-time. I expect that all the booths ran at a loss.

I never buy anything from the Marche, though, because it's always horribly overpriced. I did get a lot of giri choco from my students this year, which they bought mainly from convenience stores (one student works at Yamakataya department store, so I expect she got an employee's discount there).

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Seminar Accounting and Little Marketing

Found this poster in a display board at Streetcar Street, for a seminar on accounting. I think the use of manga art is interesting, and the fact that the four women are all subservient to the one guy in front. The photo quality's not that great, because even with my arms up over my head with the camera, the poster was another 3 feet higher and 6 feet farther away across some bushes.

The katakana reads "ri-teru ma-ketingu," and the best I can make out is that it's supposed to be "little marketing," but I have no idea what that means. Maybe it's just a short presentation on marketing. I dunno. But it's about $75 for one person. Again, I found the use of manga art interesting.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Shiro Valentine's Day Chalk

"I forgot Valentine's Day? Aww, shoot."

Friday, February 12, 2021

Kiyotaki River fastwalk

Trying to find out what happened to the falls at Kiyotaki Koen (clear waterfall park).

Direct youtube link

Thursday, February 11, 2021

No Pig Parking

There's a soba noodle restaurant in Tenmonkan that uses a pig butt and tail as its logo. Recently, I found this "No bike parking" sign in the alley along the shop. Pigs can't win.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

No Fishing

The water front along the Waterfront Park along Kinko Bay gets a lot of people walking and children playing. So, the city put in "no fishing" signs to deter would-be fishermen. The question becomes, what do you do if you get the fishing jones?

Answer - You jump the fence, trespass, picnic and THEN fish in the no fishing zone.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Little Bird

I like these little guys. They're very active and agile, but they never stay in one place long enough to get a good shot of them. Recently, I was at the school when I found that someone had kicked a garbage bag out into the street, where it split. This guy was bravely avoiding the cars in order to get a bite to eat. This was the closest I've been able to get to one (within 10 feet), and a couple of the shots came out ok.

"Yes, this is my good side."

Monday, February 8, 2021

Kimetsu no Yaiba Briefs

Hot on the heals of the Demon Slayer ties, we have the briefs.

These are $10 a pair, making them more affordable than the $30 ties, but I wouldn't want to be hit by a car and found to be wearing them in a hospital.

No, I don't think so.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Kimetsu no Yaiba Ties

I was in the Aeon department store, in the Men's section, and discovered Demon Sword character ties. About $30 each. Not sure anyone in Japan would dare wear one in the office, or with a school uniform, so I don't know if there's a real market for them, but they look ok.

The fronts of the ties are pretty safe and mundane-looking. The character images are on the short ends, which would normally be hidden behind the rest of the tie. So, maybe you could get away with wearing these in Japan if no one looks very closely at them.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Shiroyama Fastwalk video

Direct youtube link


I've been experimenting with the GoPro Hero 8 over the last couple of weeks, to see what I can get out of it. Two of the experiments were with time lapse videos of the Sakurajima volcano. On the first one, I used the default of 0.5 second intervals, but the playback was too slow to be interesting. The second was at 2 second intervals, and the wind was too strong, blowing the camera around on the tripod and destroying the shot. Additionally, the wind flattened out the ash plumes, so none of the ash went up very far.

The third trial was for GoPro's "time warp" function, which you can see in many online videos with sped up footage of events that normally take a long time to experience. While you can manually set the interval times, the camera's auto setting will calculate how fast you're moving and automatically set the interval that best matches what you're doing. I decided that I'd use auto first just to get a baseline video, and that the route would be walking up Shiroyama hill, and then down the other end at the Reimeikan natural history museum.

The weather was perfect on Feb. 3rd, so that's when I set out. The entire walk took maybe 45 minutes (I wasn't timing myself), and I stopped in a few places to add narration. The GoPro has a screen button to switch between time warp and real-time, so I'd time warp while walking, and change to real-time when I wanted to talk. Total playback time is 13 minutes, with close to half of that being me talking about the history of the area. When I got back home, I discovered that the camera disables the microphone in time warp mode. I can understand that with interval recording, but I was hoping that changing to real-time would also activate the mic. I also discovered that the camera splits videos into shorter segments with weird-ass numbering (i.e. - GH010183, GH020183, GH030183, GH010184, GH010185, where 10183, 20183 and 30183 are all parts of the same recording session). So, the time warp video has this jump cut right in the middle of when I was talking at Reimeikan. Sigh.

The main differences between time warp and time lapse seem to be that time warp uses digital camera stabilization, and that battery life is extended a little more in time lapse. Normally, the batteries zero out after close to 60 minutes in normal recording mode and time warp, but time lapse looked to take closer to 80 or 90 minutes. That, and time warp has the real-time speed button on the screen. If you're using time warp and want to record sound, you have to stop recording, switch to normal record mode and start recording again. This is bad if you want to have seamless transitions between moving really fast, and then moving normally. It may be possible to use the tablet to remotely control the GoPro, so I don't have to juggle the camera while pressing physical buttons, but that means having to carry the camera in one hand and the tablet in the other (since I don't have a second person to walk with and assist me), and that's not going to be comfortable after a couple of hours of walking.

Anyway, after discovering I didn't have the narration recorded, I had to go back out the following day to walk the route a second time, with the GoPro in normal record mode. And, I had to roughly time the narrations in my head at each point. Sometimes I talked a little too long, and others a little too short, so I had to do a lot of cutting and stretching to get the timings to more or less work out. But, I also made sure to get background sounds (bird calls, me walking and breathing hard up the steps) that I could splice in for the fastwalk sequences. I had initially planned to use some of the royalty-free music the Lightworks editor offers. I decided on Lightworks based on some reviews of what the free version supports. I can't afford the $24 or so per-month fee for a monthly subscription, and the music turns out to be $29.99 per song. Yeah, that's not worth it, given the extremely low view counts of my other videos. So, I just used the background sounds instead.

Editing the full video suddenly revealed some limitations of the free version of Lightworks. I'd stripped the audio tracks off of the video files by using Audacity's "import/export" functions. I had three video files I did use - a normal mode introduction to the video (30-45 seconds) and the two halves of the split fastwalk. Then there were 6 real-time audio tracks for a total of about 45 minutes. I had to cut and splice audio under the fastwalk video segments (anywhere between 3-10 seconds per segment (i.e. - up a flight of stairs, along a flat area, up a different set of stairs, places with different bird songs), plus the narrations, which ran between 30 seconds and 5 minutes each). I'd gotten up to about 10-12 audio segments and 7 minutes of video when Lightworks started crapping the bed. Switching between editing audio and project would cause zoom to jump to max zoom out. The playback position marker would erase the sound tracks on the screen (the sound itself was ok, but I couldn't tell what audio segment I was on), and at one point, I wasn't able to select audio segments to move them or do fade-ins/fade-outs. Eventually, I had to give up and export the half-finished project to an mp4, create a new project and then import that mp4 back in plus my remaining sound files, to edit the second half of the soundtrack. Even then, I started getting the unwanted zoom-jump problem when I had around another 10 audio segments laid down.

Fortunately, the videos I'm planning for The Black Chamber recreational cryptography youtube channel don't use time warp, or very many audio or video segments (beyond normal editing to remove mistakes or long dead-air gaps). I'm hoping those will go more easily. Overall, I spent a full evening editing in the background sounds and narration (5-6 hours). The final result isn't perfect, but it's good enough for the experiment. If you like the video, please press the "Like" button on youtube. If I get over 100 "likes", I'll consider making a second fastwalk video. There's a lot of history in this area, and some interesting sightseeing, and I can easily come up with 10 ideas for fastwalk "themes" (including the final battle between Saigo Takamori and the government he helped create, a walk around the volcano island, and the caves the military dug for bomb shelters during WW II).

Friday, February 5, 2021

K@ito Drone

I was wondering what happened to juggler/performer K@ito after Dolphin Port was torn down. The Port shopping complex had been a popular spot for street jugglers and clowns to set up stage and try to entertain tourists. Even before the Port was scheduled to be torn down, Covid-19 messed stuff up by forcing a ban on cruise ship tourism. On Sunday, I was down at the nearby Waterfront Park, trying to test out the new GoPro with time lapse video of the volcano (I'll have to try that again another day), and I spotted K@ito attempting to practice in the area. I say "attempting" because he kept attracting people that wanted to talk to him.

The main distractions were two female friends. However, he did manage to get them to take pictures of him in mid-juggle (see above).

But, what they were using for the camera is K@ito's drone. It got a lot of use because K@ito wanted to show it off to his friends, and they wanted to play around with it. I was a bit surprised that he had the drone, because the Japanese government has been trying to restrict ownership and usage of drones ever since one was found stranded on top of a government building (I think it was the Diet building) some years ago.

It's very compact, but handles very stably. I'd like to get one for myself, but I don't actually have much real use for it, and not many places I'd be able to fly it.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Izakaya no Machi

Drinking places that provide finger food in Japan are called "izakaya." There was a block of about 20 little izakaya up near the main train station. I went in there a couple times, for drinks and fried chicken skewers. They were cozy little shops, able to hold no more than 5-6 people each. Decent food, lots of alcohol, but a bit pricey. And then, all of a sudden, I find that it's being torn out.

I don't know if it's because the "village" was losing money following the Covid-19 shutdown and subsequent social distancing, if there's a plan to replace everything with more modern shops, or if it's just going to turn into another parking lot, then apartment complex.

Yet another bit of history that's been lost in Kagoshima. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Ginga Maru

I was down at Waterfront Park (where the Dolphin Port shopping complex used to be) and found the Ginga Maru. According to the Ship Spotting website, it's a "training ship" operated by the Japan Agency of Maritime Education & Training for Seafarers.

I was initially attracted by the lifeboat pods. I don't know anything about these, but I assume they're for surviving on very heavy seas.

This entire back compartment is just for holding the anchor rope spools. That surprised me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

GoPro / Cog is Dead Shirt

I've started up a new youtube channel for recreational cryptography, called The Black Chamber. In order to get the video I want, and to handle a wireless mic, I ended up having to buy a GoPro Hero 8 a little while back.

It's a cute little device, very compact, but pricey. I've been getting a lot of use out of it, though, which is good. The touchscreen doesn't like my fingers for some reason, so I mostly control it through an app on my Android tablet.

I wanted to get a shot to post to The Cog is Dead steampunk band page to show off the t-shirt I got for Christmas. So, while I was out with the GoPro on Saturday, when the weather was almost perfect, I decided to test it out with a still photo. I think it did a good job on the colors and resolution.