Sunday, May 29, 2005

mysterious mando mitami

tori gateway to the Gokoku temple
tori gateway to the Gokoku temple,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
A work colleague mentioned the mando mitami festival for this weekend. Great, I am definitely interested. I mentioned it to everyone during the week leading up to the event and no-one had ever heard of this festival. I was beginning to worry this was someone's idea of a practical joke.

After a champion's dinner at an Indian restaurant, the 3 of us dodged and weaved through waves of pedestrians and zebra crossings, over the moat bridge and parked it near the Gokoku temple.

This is a video clip.
You can watch it on Vimeo.
drummers going ballisticIt was definitely on. Stupid me left my tripod at home, but check out some of these photos anyway. The festival write-up called it a nuptual tie dance. If my Japanese was better, maybe I could confirm that... In the mean time, the pictures will have to speak for themselves. The drummers we're very loud and excellent, the sword dancers a little zany, so imagine a psychotic performance when you look at this photo and these short movie clips.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

pick up the hotness

Pick up the hotness of your choice!

Friday, May 27, 2005

POW concentration camp #55

I'd have to say I was quite pissed off after finishing a hard days work, catching the train back to Hiroshima, only to find my bike wasn't where I'd parked it. A good hard look in the area was fruitless. Other bikes were standing there, staring at me like an idiot. It was no use:
  • stolen... maybe;
  • or perhaps the rumoured bike Nazis had cleared off with it.
In the unlikley case of a true theft, you'll never get your bike back. If the parking police have cruised the area and picked up your bike, it may take a journey, a few thousand yen, and a few curse words, but you can get your bike back.

After half a week of asking around for any intelligence on the location of the bike prisoner camp, a liberation mission came to light. I paid the ransom to the crusty gate-keeper and filed the paper work with the crusty key-master. "Gimme me bike back, you bastards!"

Free again, I rode off down the city streets, with the wind in my ¥1,000 cut hair. Even without a helmet, I ride safe in the knowledge that no vehicle driver would ever nail a cyclist.
The Geneva Convention was an agreement among the nations of the world directing countries in the proper treatment of Prisoners of War.

Japan never signed this agreement.

alien species

Working in Japan requires that one must register as an alien. Anytime you change address you must update your details at the local ward office. At first I thought it was a way for the cops to round up a few gaijin anytime they needed to raise revenue or have a laugh.

I just moved in to a different apartment last weekend and needed to update the details on my alien registration card. My Japanese language is still terrible, but luckily for me, many of the staff at the ward offices seem to know enough English to do the job. I swear he first asked me in Japanese though, "Which UFO did you arrive from?" At least that's what it sounded like...

After a few minutes he scribbled something on the back of my card and it was all over. Back to cycling by the riverside...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

unhealthy ancient cinema habits

For all you folks back home that haven't taken advantage of the fact that movies come out to the cinema on time, please feel free to wait the extra months or years before I rave to you about some movie that you will have already forgotten about.

For some reason cinema and beer are really expensive in this country. Yet you can have the two together. Anyone know why they cost so much though? In fact food and eating healthy are far more expensive than smoking cigarettes. The bonus of smoking is that you lose your appetite and eat yet even less - I'm sure the Jenny Craig of Japan and the budget and financial planners are on to this!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

the big Yamato

Yamato scale model 133_3310_pan
Yamato scale model,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
My friend Yukio, from Kobe, drove with his wife, Keiko, to Hiroshima for the weekend to visit their son and myself. What an honour!

After my Japanese language lessons finished for the week, I met up with Yukio and was introduced to the family before we headed for a very impressive Japanese restaurant.

The feast was exquisite and much more than just another chop-stick practice session for me. Real sashimi, 刺身, is exactly what was served up, so fresh that the head of this fish was still jittering with nerves - now that is what I call FRESH fish! Calamari and other delights all heartily stuffed their way into our tummies. おいしい Yum!

Yukio taking in some air on the ferry rideIndeed it was a grand dinner on Saturday night, followed by a Sunday drive to Kure, and a ferry ride to Etajima. Leaving the docks of Kure I saw the biggest cranes I've ever seen in my life, like mechanical arms of the BFG reaching out over the harbour waters.

Yamato movie posterA comic guided tour of the Etajima's Imperial Japanese Navy Candidate School followed our peaceful lunch on the beach.

2-man subIn the afternoon we stopped in at the Yamato museum, detailing the history and artifacts of the incredible shipping and naval activities. The huge 1/10 scale model of the Yamato battleship is amazing and to think that it was 10 times bigger means it was absolutely gigantic. Big enough to make more than one Yamato movie.

Arigato gozaimas to Yukio, Keiko and Hideaki. You really made it an excellent weekend for me.


With work starting at 5pm each weekday, you've got to wonder how I spend my days. Most of them have vanished with seemingly simple tasks, like working out whether you really are buying the smallest packet of rice or something that is just not rice at all.

With a little prompting and a lot of help from my Japanese language classmate, I went and checked out apartment options around town. It is true: You can rent an expensive shoe box - and Japanese feet are generally smaller than others!

umbrella in ShukkeienThe stable and subtle sandwich grabbed my eye in the convenience store, while my friend grabbed a sushi pack. We munched inside the entrance of the Shukkeien garden, while garden staff were trimming the lawn and massaging the soil around the roots of a small bush.

fish in ShukkeienCruising around the garden, it is very pretty and very peaceful. A tiny tea plantation and a small bamboo forest stand by the river in the back corner. In fact everything here is a miniature version of many scenic views, the name literally means shrink-scenery garden. There's a big pond in the centre modelled on Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, China, with plenty of carp fish and a type of jumping fish. Shukkeien turtlesLittle islands around the pond are covered in turtles all praying to the sun god. All the animals here appear to be well trained and will approach tourists crossing the rainbow bridge, like Flipper, they put on a real show (probably more than 88 episodes worth).

Words can only begin to describe the beauty. I'm going back again soon to fork out another ¥250 and take some photos! A picture tells a thousand words, so get Flippr! - flickr wallpapers.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Yahua garden

Yahua garden
Yahua garden,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
Yuhua Garden was built by the city of Hiroshima in commemoration of the fifth anniversary (1991) of its friendship city relationship with Chongqing in China's Sichuan province. Based on designs sent by Chongqing, the garden incorporates characteristics particular to Sichuan gardens and, with its classical design, reveals traditional Chinese garden-building theory and techniques.

"Yu" of Yuhua is the old name for Chongqing, and "hua" means splendor and beauty.

The garden covers approximately 1,700m2 and is surrounded by a wall with lattice-style windows. Inside, a variety of traditional structures - a walkway, gazebos, and gates - and settings with a pond, trees, and rock formations all lend a unique ambiance, allowing visitors to meander through and enjoy the scenery in any of the four seasons.

The eastern half of the gardens forms the entrance and exit and is an arrangement of inner gardens and three gates, two small and one large. The western half, which evokes images of natural beauty, consists of a central pond (Xiqiu Pond), two gazebos (Liuxiang Gazebo and Yanxiu Gazebo), and one walkway (Danbi Walkway). These elements compose the heart of the garden.

The City of Hiroshima
March 1992

chizu keki & 14 cuppas


is the slogan for blue flat cafe, where Greg and Kate, my Japanese language classmates, and I stopped for a munch after class.

Mike and I had tried to grab a coffee here ages ago but the café doesn't open too early in the morning.

Greg and Kate ordered some substantial meals as their lunch. I'd already eaten my disastrous left-overs hours ago. I ordered a cafe latte and a チズ ケキ chizu keki (cheesecake) - just a little something to tie me over during the hour break before the Japanese tea ceremony.

Sounds a bit of a girly thing, but I'm thinking it can't be all girls at this tea ceremony otherwise it'd be called the Japanese Nuns' tea ceremony. If you're the sort of person that learns by making mistakes then this is the sure way to learn a lot in a short space of time, verging on total embarrassment. I'm certainly not getting any climbing done around here, but if you need to work on dexterity, then this is the ticket. It is comforting when my Japanese colleague tells me that theceremony is difficult even for Japanese people to perfect.

See how your bladder goes after about 14 cups of tea!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Hiroshima Flower Festival

Hiroshima Flower Festival
Hiroshima Flower Festival,
originally uploaded by vfowler.
May 3rd, 4th & 5th is the Hiroshima Flower Festival. I found no particular reason for calling it a flower festival, but the street parade was alive and kicking. Music, song and dance blaring down the street was fantastic!

Many locals seem to have tired of this annual event, which grew out of the celebations following the Hiroshima Carp's first championship in 1975, and are weary of the in your face commercialism that seems to override the "festival" spirit. The event does pull in thousands of people from near and far, and it's well worth a wander around, if only to observe the mad scramble for the flowers that adorn Peace Boulevard on the final day.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

bigger balls

Desperate for some fresh air and a quiet space, I took up the offer of some weekend time at Ian's place. Two hours by local train and ¥1,620 (AUD$20) later, I arrive in Kudamatsu. If you say it with an Australian accent, no ticketing staff will ever know where you want to go. So it's "Kudamatsu" ...? Yeah, that's what I said. What's the difference?

Well after dark, it is still important to practice your swing. Just south of the train station dozens of golfers were playing not your usual game of whack-fuck. Multiple storeys of swingers all practising their drive into the night air. With so many golf balls being slammed almost simultaneously, it makes a great drumming noise.

Without hesitation, Ian showed me around to the friendly Canadian neighbours' place. I noticed that people tend to live in houses a lot more here than Hiroshima. Many houses have absolutely brilliant gardens, all maintained to the nth degree. Sharlene's place is still a typical Nova apartment, but about 10 times cleaner and nicer than what we're sharing in at the moment. Sharlene loaned her bike for me to use, a familiar mamachira style bike.

Kudamatsu is a little too small to really go out on the town. Even just for dinner, Ian and I headed to the adjacent Tokoyama? After a great tasting dinner and a beer to wash it down, we wandered around to explore the Saturday night offerings. The Russian doll venue with its proud poster displaying the wares, looked like it wasn't even open tonight. Several other bars we investigated for opportunity were strictly no gaijin venues, especially if you can't even ask for a drink in Japanese!

Sunday rained most the day. Ian located the nearby entertainment warehouse with karaoke, billiards, ten pin bowling and various poker machines. Ian proceeded to kick my arse in several games of 9-ball at the pool tables. He tried to teach me a few tricks along the way, but all I could walk away with was 2 things:
  1. The balls are bigger, and thus the cue is heavier.
  2. The tables are lower, and thus the cleavage is more apparent.
Great! Just need to work on my form a little more...