All posts tagged: japanese

Cherry Blossom at Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is Japan’s greatest castle. It’s the largest and most visited. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and several parts of the complex are National Treasures. The city of Himeji is one of the stops on the shinkansen bullet train running between Osaka and Hiroshima so it’s easy to reach. The castle is visible from the train station at the opposite end of the main street. Himeji is also known as Shirasagi-j0 or White Egret Castle, this is in contrast to the Crow Castles at Matsumoto and Okayama. Years of wear and tear had left the castle somewhat rundown, so a major renovation project took place recently. The castle reopened to the public on March 27, 2015 and now has bright white walls and pale grey roof tiles. The cleaning meant that my older images of Himeji needed updating and there’s no better time to do it than while the cherry blossom is blooming. Luckily we got the blue skies I wanted for “postcard” shots of the castle. Finished off with a few pics in the last …

Onbashira – Suwa Taisha Kamisha

Onbashira is a traditional log riding festival held in held in Suwa Town, Nagano Prefecture every six years. Tree trunks are dragged from the mountains to the Suwa Taisha Shrine to be raised as sacred pillars. Kiotoshi “tree falling” is where men risk their lives riding the tree trunks down a steep slope. This takes place in two locations, first there is  “Kamisha” near Chino, then a few days later there is “Shimosha” near Shimosuwa. On the three days of the Suwa Taisha Kamisha the “tree falling” is followed by  kawagoshi “river crossing.” A small rope is towed across the river (in one case by an ugly duckling with swans) which connects to the larger ropes that drag the tree trunk. Dignitaries are carried across the river. Then the brass band wades across! The tree trunk, bedecked with a couple of dozen men, is dragged from the riverbank. Rescue services stand by to try and prevent any of the participants from drowning. An amazing spectacle to witness.

Reforming a house in Japan

On April 3rd 2015, I moved into the new house. I was well aware that it would need some renovation work. Inside was mainly cosmetic and could wait, but the outside needed immediate work. Some of the drains at the house had been detached by previous typhoons. Leaks had occurred where water pooled up on the balcony and flowed in through air vents. Other water leaks had been caused by air vents missing hoods. In Okinawa rainy season is May to early June. It’s wet but the rain is falling vertically. However in  July, August and September there are typhoons. If you have an ocean view,  you are going to get hit by the full force of the wind and horizontal rain. The first job was to buy a power washer and clean the dirt off everything within reach. This enabled me to reveal any cracks in the concrete and assess the problems. Most homes in Okinawa are built out of reinforced concrete with a core of steel rebar. They are strong and able to withstand …

The Nago Bypass and Beyond

A couple of weeks ago I dropped in at the Yanbaru Sangyo Festival in Nago which showcases business in northern Okinawa. I made contact with a few local farmers and other small businesses that produce unique Okinawan products. Hopefully I will meet them again when writing or shooting magazine articles. Another aspect of the festival was showing current and future development plans in the region. Of biggest interest to me were plans for the expansion of the Nago bypass In the image above we see the Nago bypass. Currently, after leaving the expressway at Kyoda you drive north along the coast on the 58, then take a right at the Blue Seal / Mcdonalds junction as you enter Nago. At the next traffic light you turn left onto the new bypass. The image however also shows that the south end of the bypass will eventually join back to the 58. The yellow section of road is a further possible overwater extension connecting the bypass with the expressway. (This could also be done overland) In this …

Snow Monkey Magic

Bathing naked in a hot spring is a common, if not daily, event for many Japanese. The warm mineral waters soothe aching muscles and relax tired minds. In a country renowned for its almost fanatical work ethic, traditional onsen pools provide a moment of much needed relief. The Japanese people, however, aren’t the only ones enjoying the thermal waters. When snow begins to fall, a new group of bathers comes down from the mountains, and soaks in the steam enshrouded pools. Lounging around, they scratch and watch the world go by, unconcerned by the presence of video cameras and photographers. They are the ultimate hot spring aficionados — Japanese snow monkeys. In a remote part of the Japanese Alps, near Shiga Koen Volcano, there is a quiet steep-sided valley called Jigokudani. A rough translation of the name would be Hell Valley, and every winter hell freezes over. A thick coating of snow and ice covers the valley sides, but plumes of steam continue to rise from the river below. There is also the faint, but …

Crusader for Health – Interview with Dr. Makoto Suzuki

Dr. Makoto Suzuki is a cardiologist and geriatrician. In 1976, he moved from Tokyo to Okinawa and began work at the Ryukyu University Hospital. While working in the field of community medicine, he discovered that there were an unusually high number of very healthy old people living on Okinawa. He began the Okinawa Centenarian Study, which has documented the phenomenon for more than 30 years. The findings of his research became the basis of several books that became bestsellers in Japan and around the world. How did you discover the phenomenon of Okinawan longevity? “I had heard that there was a very healthy old lady living in Yomitan Village, so I, and two others from the hospital, went out to meet her. She was over 100 years old, but when we arrived she was outside cutting the grass with a sickle. I was amazed at how fit and strong she was. When we talked to her, she didn’t think she was unusual at all. In fact, she pointed out that another healthy centenarian lived directly …