Thursday, July 31, 2008

day 213 - goodbye Hammes family!

It's the time of year when we lose many of our neighbours here at Shirasagi Residence, Himeji and gain new ones. Goodbye Mitch, Merry, Sarah & RJ! This is how we'll always remember you - cycling around Himeji...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

day 212 - Ukai (cormorant fishing) at Arashiyama

Soon after sunset the fisherman light their firebaskets upstream from the dam...

The spectators' boats are also man-powered, so there are no outboards to spoil the atmosphere.

The team moves as one.


Back in your basket and home to bed...

The Japanese have been using cormorants to fish for around 1300 years. There are written records of ukai here in Arashiyama going back at least 1000. The practice has largely disappeared, but recent cultural tourism by both locals and foreigners has rekindled interest and kept it economically viable. Both Lyn and I remember reading about the technique when we were kids, but we never dreamed that one day we'd actually witness it!
The fishermen train the common sea cormorant to work on a lead and harness. The birds dive into the river from the prow of the long boat and quickly retrieve the ayu (sweetfish). The small ones go straight down the gullet, but the larger ones are restricted by a ring at the base of the bird's long neck. The leader of the fishing team has to manage the six or more leashes to pull in the catch, get the bird to disgorge the fish and quickly get the cormorant back into the river without getting its line tangled with all the others.
The fish are attracted to the boat  by charcoal fires burning in metal baskets at the bow. The fishermen also drum on the side of the craft and chant. Does this attract the fish? Wakarimasen. But it certainly adds to the primal spectacle.
The birds are treated well. Wild cormorants may only last five years, but trained ones are well-housed, have no predators and are well-fed. They form a special bond with their owner - often being regarded as one of the family - and the partnership often exceeds twenty years... 

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

day 211 - Arashiyama

Just to confuse the tourist, the Togetsukyo Bridge 'divides' the Hozu River and the Katsura River.

The english word 'rickshaw' is a really bad attempt at the japanese jinrikisha (jin= human, riki= strength, power, sha= vehicle.) The forest across the Togetsukyo is the base of the Mount Arashiyama.

"Fireworks Cause Fires and Burn Monkeys' Asses" (Loose translation.)

If your pockets are deep, you can dine on the river and watch the cormorant fishing later.

More people seem to wear traditional clothing around Kyoto, particularly the yukata in summer.

The boats on the other side of the river are for tourists to watch ukai at night.

Our weekend in Kyoto was so busy that we need a week to show you the photos... 
Last Saturday afternoon we went to Kikunoi Restaurant, just off the Shijo-dori. It was one of the best kaiseki meals we've had. Thanks to our community english student Yumiko. Unfortunately we were too busy eating to take photos. Then we took a local train to Arashiyama, also one of our favourite places, to see ukai, traditional night-time cormorant fishing. We'll post the photos of the fishing tomorrow.

Monday, July 28, 2008

day 210 - Kyoto... again

My Blue Heaven.
Heading for the roof garden at Kyoto Station.

Kyoto Tower reflected in the Kyoto Station.

Kyoto Tower.

Slab o' Dried Fish.
Nishi Markets.

Tako (octopus)
Nishi Markets.

(Nishi Markets.)

We keep coming back here. We just can't help ourselves...

Sunday, July 27, 2008

day 209 - everyboy's doin' a real ol' dance now...

The Awa-Odori is the local dance of the Kagawa Prefecture in general and Tokushima in particular. Everyone does it at festivals... (dancin' in the streets)... whenever the opportunity arises. We visited a museum in Tokushima dedicated to the dance. It's contagious. We couldn't help ourselves...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

day 208 - The Naruto Whirlpools

What we all come to see!

Aerial of Naruto Ohashi.

Approach to the bridge.

Seawater drains over the rocky ledge.

The pedestrian section is suspended below the traffic, so cars are just a rumble overhead.

Glass viewing sections in the floor.

is now connected to the 'mainland' of Honshu in two places. We came by train via the Seto Ohashi ('Inland Sea Bridge') in the NW of Shikoku. The Naruto Ohashi carries the last section of the expressway which carries auto traffic all the way from Akashi, near Kobe (i.e. the NE of Shikoku - see a map!) We took a local bus from Tokushima to see the famous bridge and the Naruto Whirlpools.
The bridge is built over a rocky ledge across the channel. The straits are so narrow, and the volume of water so great, that the outgoing tide forms spectacular vortices close to low-tide. By walking halfway across the bridge you get a seabird's-eye-view of the action. You can also go out for a cruise and get swirled around!

Friday, July 25, 2008

day 207 - Takamatsu by night

A ferry passes the pier.

The Moon and Takamatsu.

Setoshirube is the Red Light House at the end of the Tamamo Breakwater. Why is it red? Wakarimasen.

Saint Roberto of Takamatsu.
Tamachi Arcade.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

day 206 - Yashima-ji

Yashima temple lies atop a 300m high roof-shaped plateau. The cable car had been suspended (ha ha), so we took a bus up a very hairy road.
Buddhist pilgrims (with white robes and hiking sticks) try to visit all 88 of Shikoku's temples. Yashima-ji is #84 (coincidentally where we both began and ended OUR pilgrimage.) This is also the site of the Battle of the Clans (see July 22.) The temple grounds are immaculate but the surrounding tourist attractions are sadly run-down.

A pilgrim praying at the Main Hall (13th Century.)

From the top of the plateau you get a good view of both the Seto (Inland Sea) and the city of Takamatsu below.

Father-and-son admire the mother-and-child tanuki. Her right breast is shiny from visitors' constant rubbing for good luck.

Mother-and-child Jizo.

The Pond of Blood. Peaceful now, but if you stood on this spot 800 years ago after the battle of the clans, you would have seen the water turn red from the washed swords of the victors...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

day 205 - lotus study

Lotus in bud.

Lotus almost in bloom.

Lotus fruit pod.

(More shots from the Shikoku Folk Museum, Yashima.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

day 204 - Takamatsu

Bracket-fungus and spores cover a tree in the forest which houses the Shikoku Minka Museum at Yashima near Takamatsu.

Hydro-power isn't new. Water has been used for centuries in Japan to grind cereals and crush sugar -cane.

Shoyugura (Soy Sauce Warehouse, 1836.) Soy sauce has been made since the Edo Period. After manufacture the soy sauce was stored in earthenware flagons. 

The farmers of Shodo Island couldn't get professional Kabuki actors to visit their remote home, so they built this theatre (with revolving stage!) and staged their own amateur productions in autumn and spring to celebrate rice planting and harvest.

A three day weekend on Shikoku and we visited one of the best folk museums to date - Shikoku-Mura. In the 12th Century Yashima  plateau (5K's east of Takasmatsu) was the site for a momentous battle between the powerful Genji and Heike clans. For a place of such historical significance, it's looking a little run-down in 2008, but the museum itself is a gem. There are authentic buildings here from all over the Kagawa-ken prefecture, many of them deconstructed elsewhere  brick-by-brick and post-by-post  and rebuilt here in perpetuity...

Monday, July 21, 2008

day 203 - pine bark

No reason. I just like it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

day 202 - sour sobs

Yep, they're the ones. The same bulbous pest of gardens and cultivated agricultural lands throughout southern Australia. Our friend Jill bought these potted ones from a florist in Himeji a couple of months back. Let's hope some keen Japanese gardener doesn't think it would be really cool to plant these out in the wild...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

day 201 - MaxSafeT

Please do not bring cameras, cigarettes or bombs into this supermarket. Thankyou for your cooperation.
Local MaxValu.

Friday, July 18, 2008

day 200 - Go slow for Buddha...

Speed sign outside a temple.

PS: Yay! Our 200th day in this beautiful country!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

day 199 - intergenerational

'... and never the twain shall meet.'

Twain station, somewhere in Wakayama prefecture.