Sunday, November 30, 2008

day 334 - Irozaki

The next morning the wind has dropped marginally and the planned boat trip from Shiroda to Irozaki goes ahead. The clunky old diesel-driven imitation Chinese junk looks seaworthy enough and we head south.

In the bays it's quite calm...

... but the open sea is rough. Amazingly, on nearly every outcrop there's a crazy rock fisherman with a death-wish. (You may have to double-click this one to see him.)

A generous passenger takes an extreme close-up of the happy couple.

There are inlets everywhere, and Irozaki Harbour's a complete contrast to the wind and waves just a few hundred metres away.

Lyn's didactic digit points out some of the local produce - edible shellfish (whelks?) and seaweed.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

day 332 - Shimoda

Beautiful weather. Thankfully there were no tsunamis we had to be careful to. (To which we had to be careful? Nani-nani...)

So anyway, we've just been on our final Big Holiday in Japan. We weren't online for a week or so, so these next few posts are retrospective. 

Our first port-of-call was the beautiful city of Shimoda on the Izu Peninsula.

It also happens to play an important part in Japanese modern history, since it was here that US  Naval Commander Perry arrived in the early 1850s with his fleet of steam-powered Black Ships and "suggested" that Japan might want to open up its ports for international trading. (Coincidentally there were also huge forests of oaks in the region which would make excellent charcoal for steam engines.)

It was good timing, as the major nations of the day had technologically by-passed Japan which was stuck in its own form of feudalism. The Meiji Restoration that followed was probably the antecedent to Japan's current strong economy and relatively affluent and stable society.

We went on a cruise around Shimoda Harbour on a diesel replica of the main Black Ship complete with dummy rotating paddle-wheel.

Perry and the US are celebrated widely here. The canal and street bear his name, and the whole incident has been absorbed into the Japan narrative.

Looking back at the modern resorts and the mini-torii - it's not Miyajima, but it's cute...

Friday, November 28, 2008

day 331 - Fujicolor

After being amazed at the sheer height, mass, symmetry and beauty of Fuji-san, the first thing most people want to do is to capture the perfect image. Visibility is a problem. At that altitude, it's a rare day when there isn't cloud obscuring the summit.

The second problem is that most people are speeding past in a train. You may not want that factory in the foreground.

... or a wall.

A bridge is a little more aesthetic.

We scanned the horizon, fingers poised, all the way up the Izu Peninsula by bus between Dogashima and Shuzenji, envisaging curling waves with Fuji behind a la Hokusai, only to be foiled by cloud cover.

The following morning, as the local train pulled out of the Shuzenji station, there it was. Just sitting behind the houses and a row of hills...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

day 330 - Bamboo. Leaf & motif

The bamboo motif still crops up frequently as decoration on other works of art.

Bamboo-leaf motif.
Fushimi-Inari Taisha,

Detail of a screen door at the home of Ganzan Harada-sensei (my shakuhachi teacher.)

Very cheap plate.


Ponticho, Kyoto

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

day 329 - bamboo. Ritual ablutions.

Near every temple and shrine in Japan you'll find somewhere to perform ritual handwashing.


Traditionally these scoops were bamboo, although increasingly they seem to be aluminium or plastic.

The handle is driven into a slot in a larger culm.

Izu Shuzenji temple.

Occasionally the scoops are ingeniously crafted from a single piece of bamboo, with a side-shoot forming the handle.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

day 328 - bamboo and ritual

We were invited to our local shinto shrine Yashiro-Ohtashi for the annual Yudate purification rites. The priest boiled branches of bamboo, sprinkled the attendees with water and gave us miniature Chinowa wreaths to hang over our door at home for good fortune.

Lantern poles clash,
Aboshi Lantern Festival.

The young men of Shinzaike lead the parade and processional float at the recent Autumn Festival.

Pilgrims' Walking Sticks.
Outside Engyoji,
Mt Shosha.

Prayers and fortunes woven into bamboo around a sugi (Japanese Cedar.)


Monday, November 24, 2008

day 327 - the bamboo brush-off.

Animal-friendly brush.

Shodo & Sumi-e.
Traditional fude for both sumi-e (brush painting) and shodo (brush calligraphy) were always bamboo with bristles from various animals. The exception were those made by certain Zen buddhist monks who refused to use animal products. The monks developed a technique of repeatedly splitting the fibres on the end of the bamboo (like a chasen tea-whisk) until they achieved a brush effect.

Sumi-e. One of the first subjects that sumi-e students tackle is bamboo itself...

A range of fude (calligraphy brushes.)

The brush individualises kanji characters. This is "Lyn" ("RIN" = trees or forest).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

day 326 - bamboo to a Tea

Tea Ceremony - also called The Way of Tea - has been an integral part of the Japanese way of life for centuries. The chasen (whisk), chashaku (tea powder scoop) and hishaku (hot water scoop) are all bamboo.

The chasen, ingeniously carved from a single piece of bamboo, is used to whisk the ground tea and water into a froth.

Chashaku. The tea scoop.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

day 325 - bashing bamboo

Bamboo as percussion...

Kokiriko - Ainokura Percussion.
When we stayed overnight in a gassho-zukuri (praying hands grass-house) in the Ainokura Valley our host demonstrated the kokiriko (Japanese onomatopoeia?) which was made from recycled bamboo from the roofs of old houses. Seasoned over decades - sometimes even hundreds of years - and impregnated with the smoke, soot and creosote from indoor fires, the percussion instrument had a very resonant cascading sound quality which accompanied traditional local songs and dances.

Bamboo chimes & xylophones are found throughout Asia, including Japan. These wind-chimes from our apartment sound a lot like Indonesian gamelan or Malaysian anklung.

Friday, November 21, 2008

day 324 - Akashi O-hashi

Last weekend we had to see Kobe again. On the way we stopped to get a closer look at The Bridge we usually speed past on the way somewhere else.

An Australian callistemon bottlebrush grows on the pier under the huge Akashi Bridge. Akisho-Kaikyo O-Hashi is the world's longest suspension bridge (more than one-and-a-half Golden Gates.) It links Kobe (Honshu Island) with Iwaya (Awaji Island) and is one of a series which links Honshu to Shikoku across the Seto (Inland Sea.)

The Akashi Strait is a designated International Waterway which necessitated a minimum 1.5 km width unimpeded shipping lane. The distance between the two central pylons far exceeds this at 1.991 km. The overall length of the bridge is 3.9 km.

Sea-level view. The cables support a 6 lane expressway. Despite a toll of 2300 Yen (that's $A 36.56 at the current exchange), 23 000 cars use this crossing every day.

A separate service road and pedestrian walkway under the expressway. 
The world-record 300 m. pylons are supported by equally monumental foundations, the biggest being 85 m wide and extending 65m below the sea-bed. That's a hell of a lot of concrete.

Bridge Under Construction. (Unknown photograher.)
Building began in 1986. When the disastrous Hanshin Earthquake struck in 95, the completed "twin towers" were moved apart more than a metre. After some quick recalculations the main span was infinitessimally widened. The bridge was completed in 1998.

My shoe appears bigger than the fishing boat 8 stories below the glass decking.

Even knowing the thick glass has withstood thousands of feet over ten years, there's still a slight feeling of vertigo seeing the sea so far below...

Viewed through the hole in this monument the bridge doesn't look all that big. You wouldn't know that those "thin" supporting cables are 1.1 metres thick or that they contain 300 000 kms of wire!

The Japanese are justifiably proud of Akashi O-Hashi. One of the early motivations for its construction was the sinking of two ferries in the 50s which resulted in the loss of 168 children. The bridge has been designed to withstand typhoons of  286 km/h and earthquakes measuring up to 8.5 (Richter.)