Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to make rabbits the kiri-e way

There are a number of approaches to the Japanese style of kiri-e (cut paper pictures). The Kinokuniya bookstore near me has several kiri-e books where the pattern is on one side of the colored paper and all you have to do is tear the page out and cut along the lines as instructed.  The teacher that I have learned from likes to go to the library and xerox pages from the books of Jirou Takidaira. He then staples the copy to a black sheet of construction paper and uses that as a stencil. His attitude is that even if every student uses the exact same pattern, the resulting kiri-e will be unique due to the choices of background papers used per person. Personally, I do want to try making my own pattern designs, but at the moment I'm still struggling to get the ones I'm given to come out the way I want.

(Starting out. Stencil stapled to black paper. Cutting mat and knife partly visible.)

Anyway. Start with a copy of the design you like. Staple it to a sheet of black paper. If you can get paper with a higher cotton content, it will have a patterned texture on one side. Having the textured side face up will give the kiri-e a little body. Then, just follow the instructions for chiseling a statue of a rabbit from a hunk of rock - remove all the pieces that aren't part of the rabbit.

(Finished "rabbit", with the stencil removed and the paper textured side up.)

Work from the center of the paper outwards. Don't remove the black paper from the staples until you're done, or the picture will get really hard to work with. Use a rubber cutting mat and a sharp cutting knife with a short blade and a 30 degree angle. Cut away from the corners and make sure that intersecting lines cross. Press down hard on the knife to ensure you fully cut through the black paper on the bottom. Don't worry too much about tearing something or cutting through something you didn't want to cut - you can always glue the ends back together. When you're ready to finish, cut the outer outline, remove the paper from the stencil if there's no border, or pull the staples out if there is a border. Either way, discard the remaining portion of the stencil.

(Flip side of the paper.)

Turn the black paper textured side down. This is now the outline of the picture you want to make, and the next task is to glue the right sized pieces of colored paper to the back. Be prepared to flip the outline back and forth as you try different colors to get a rough feel for how they'll look during the selection step.

I'll talk in a second about how to make sure the paper is the right size. Right now, center the paper over the back of the outline to verify the size is correct. If needed, trim any excess. If the piece becomes too small, either consider cutting a new piece and trying again, or take a smaller piece of the same paper and trim it to fit as filler.

(Gluing the door to the house.)

At the moment, I'm making the front door, which on a traditional Japanese thatched roof house was a sheet of white rice paper. The scene will be a late autumn afternoon, and light inside the house will be streaming out through the paper. So, I'll use a piece of white paper for the screen. I use a clear wood glue commonly found in Japanese post offices for gluing envelopes shut. You can just push the top of the bottle down to apply the glue to the outline (don't rub the bottle sideways or you'll get glue all over the front of the outline). I use a toothpick to kind of "brush" the glue on. With larger areas, you have to work a little faster to keep the glue from drying out or being absorbed into the paper before you're ready for the next step. Then just put the white piece, textured side down, in place over the door. Adjust it to be centered, and press down lightly to get it to adhere to the outline.

(Making the front wall of the house.)

Ok, how to get the paper to the right size. Select the kind of paper you want to use. Put it textured side down on the the table and place the outline, face down, on top of it. Using a pencil with a sharp tip, trace the pattern of the holes from the outline to the back of the colored paper. Remove the outline, and you'll have something like the photo above. Using the cutter knife, cut outside of the pencil lines by about 2mm (maybe an 1/8" of an inch). Obviously, the lines make up a full wall, so cut the paper to make one large piece for the wall.

(The front wall of the house.)

Apply glue to the area of the outline where the wall will go, and then put the wall into place and press down gently.

(Putting more of the "rabbit" back into the statue.)

From the back, you can see that I have the front wall, the "thatch" roof and the water for the waterwheel in place.

(Same picture, from the front.)

Looking at the picture from the front. I have a piece of white paper towel under the outline to make the picture stand out more for the photo.

(The picture, with all of the "rabbit" bits added.)

Just keep repeating the process of drawing the outline in pencil onto the back of the colored paper you want to use; cut the paper out with the cutter knife, 2mm outside the pencil lines; apply glue; and attach the colored paper. Remove any excess glue either with the cutter knife blade, or a toothpick.

(Finished picture.)

Take a stiff piece of white backing board and use that for the back of the kiri-e. The art supplies shop I go to will cut the backing board to the sizes I want for free. Just apply glue to the back of the entire kiri-e, and carefully set it in place on the board. It helps to have someone hold the board down for you, or it will leap up on you to attach itself to the glue and make a real mess of things. Alternatively, you can place weights on the edges of the board to keep it from moving. Soon after you're done, all the water in the glue will be absorbed into the paper and backing board and it will warp all over on you. Let the kiri-e air dry for a day or two and it should flatten out properly by itself. I've been known to put a couple heavy books on the picture (after the glue set) to help it regain shape. And then you're done, unless you want to frame it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tezuka exhibit in Kagoshima

From July 21st to Sept. 1st, the Nagashima art museum is holding an exhibit on Osamu Tezuka (900 yen for adults, 600 for high school students, 300 for elementary students and younger).

The main exhibit hall and ticket counter are in the basement of the museum annex building. After visiting the main exhibit, you can go back up to ground level and enter the main building to look at the rest of the exhibit.

I'd written about trying to find the Nagashima museum before, when they had hosted an exhibit on animator Kunio Kato. At the time, I'd thought that Nagashima was actually the Nakamura museum out at Kami Ijuin, and I didn't know that there was a museum close to the west side of the main Chuo train station. This time, I knew roughly where the Nagashima museum is, but I hadn't visited it yet so I only had a rough idea of how long it would take to walk there. To shorten the trek a little, I took the city tram from the platform near the apartment about 1 km to the platform nearest the museum (2 stops past Chuo station). That platform is along the same street leading to the San-El community building. Heading in the opposite direction, I went over the bridge crossing the train tracks and headed towards the shrine above the tunnel. From there, it's just a couple short blocks south to the big sign saying "turn here".

Well, technically, the sign says "turn here, museum 1km". It's at the top of one of the tallest hills in Kagoshima, and it's a half-mile hike up. The roads are narrow and twisty, we didn't see any buses along the way, and there were no taxis at the museum for getting a ride back down. It's a strenuous walk, and not fun on a hot day. Fortunately, the sky was cloudy and threatened to rain the entire time, so it wasn't as brutal as it could have been. The museum has a number of rooms holding permanent exhibits featuring bronze statues, porcelain pieces from around the world, and some European and Japanese oil painters (including Picasso and Kuroda). Naturally, there are "no camera" signs everywhere.

Gift shop.

Banner hanging over the stairs leading down to the annex basement. I didn't want to use the flash, and the camera had trouble focusing in the dim light. The banner is for Ribbon Knight, one of Tezuka's earliest serialized manga, which started in 1953. It was heavily influenced by the all-female Takarazuka Revue, since Tezuka had grown up near the Takarazuka theater.

Basement ticket lobby. Photography is encouraged in front of the life-sized character statues.

A poster with pretty much every major and supporting character used in all of Tezuka's manga. My favorites are Don Dracula (upper left corner) and his daughter, Chocola (at about the height of Tezuka's right elbow).

A couple more life-sized statues that you can have your photo taken with - Blackjack and Ribbon Knight. Blackjack was Tezuka's first successful attempt at entering the gekiga (realistic pictures) market in 1973.

The exhibit is focused specifically on Tezuka and features example panels of various manga (Atom Boy, Vampire, Blackjack) and some recreations of his desk and study area. There are two small theater spaces for watching Atom Boy episodes, and a glass case containing some old manga books. One exhibit room is dedicated to the newly released remake of Buddha, and I expect that the reason for having the Tezuka exhibit is to promote the new anime.

There had been a big exhibit on Tezuka in 2009 at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. It was a lot more inclusive, and had sections on some of the people that had helped Tezuka with his manga, plus information on Tokiwa-sou (the apartment building Tezuka lived in around 1952, along with a number of other famous artists). The Nagashima exhibit makes no real mention of Tokiwa-sou, or of COM, the short-lived magazine he founded to compete against Garo.

(One of the exhibit rooms.)

Overall, the exhibit is worth visiting, but the entrance fee is expensive for what you get. Just make sure you can get someone to drive you to the museum, if at all possible.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Kitaro DVD Review, vol. 5

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Gegege no Kitaro Magazine DVD Series, volume 5

The feature character is Sunakake Baba (Sand-throwing Hag). In the original Garo manga, Sanakake Baba is kind of a witch that lives in a hole in the middle of a forest. She grants magic items to normal people, but with certain conditions (in one case, a plain-looking guy wants to become handsome, and the condition is that he has to return to her in 1 year. He becomes a famous actor and kicks her out of the studio when she visits at the end of the year. Then, on camera, he morphs into a hideous troll and is stuck that way for the rest of his life). The current one-page description says that she's the reason you suddenly get hit in the face with sand when you're in the woods. In the TV series, she's one of Kitaro's primary supporters. When she has to fight an enemy, she throws sand at them.

(Ghost Party poster)

The two-sided fold-out posters are: Youkai Ryuu Kyuujou (Monsters' Imperial Palace, Weekly Shonen Magazine, 8/4/1968) and Obake Pa-ti- (Ghost Party, Weekly Shonen Magazine, 12/24/1967). I like Rokurokubi (Long-Neck Woman) eating soba noodles.

(Monsters' Imperial Palace poster)

The one-page feature monsters are Sunakake Baba (Sand-throwing Hag), Jigoku Dama (Hell Ball), Narigama (Chirping Kettle, also written as Kamanari: Kettle Chirping), Fukuro Sage (Dangling Bag) and Baribari no Tamago (Working Hard Egg).

The Tanaka wo Sagase (Find Tanaka) section finds our recurring background character to be the primary victims of the Baribari no Tamago and Jigoku Dama episodes, when Nezumi Otoko gives him the "Working Hard Egg"and "Hell Ball".

The DVD episodes are: Kofuku toiunano Kaibutsu (The So-called Happiness Monster, 02/03/1972), Kamanari (Kettle Chirping, 02/10/1972), Fukuro Sage (Dangling Bag, 02/17/1972) and Shinpaiya (Worry Shop, 02/24/1972). The extra this time is part one of the interview with Masako Nozawa, voice actress for Kitaro in the 1968, 1971 and 2008 (Hakaba Kitaro) seasons.

One section I haven't mentioned before is the "Manga igai no Mizuki Shigeru Kuradashi Korekushon" (Not including manga, Mizuki Shigeru Collection). It features cover illustrations he did for 4 of the Weekly Shonen Magajin issues in 1964.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guitar Weights

Utility pole near the school I work at. Occasionally, the weights remind me of electric guitar bodies.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 10 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D., vol. 10, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Motohiro mentions in the forward on the inside cover flap that this volume is different from normal in that rather than having 2 parts - the plot and the solution - in each chapter and 2 chapters per book, "In the Hand of the Witch" took up the entire book. It is his intention, though, to slowly reveal Touma's past throughout the series.

Majo no Te no Naka ni (In the Hand of the Witch, Great Magazine, 2001). Things start out with Touma's sister, Yuu, coming to Kana's house for a visit. Yuu had received a post card addressed to Sou, and she decided to hand deliver it from the U.S. It's a Halloween card set in Salem, Massachusetts, and has "See you again in the next winter" written on the front. There's no return address, but since Salem isn't that far from MIT, Kana asks if the girl can remember any events related to her brother from that location. After thinking for a couple of minutes, Yuu recalls one of the biggest incidents in Sou's life. He'd just been accepted to MIT at age 10, and he encountered two people. The first was Ed Wood, a college student, slacker, drunk and all around liar. Ed is supposed to be working on a team project to make a robot arm that can catch a ball thrown at it. Ed's job is to write the code for the arm, but his software doesn't work. Instead, he spends his time talking people out of their money so he can lose it playing poker. Ed's girlfriend wants her money back and asks why he hasn't applied for a part-time job at the State Prosecutor's office like he promised. Ed runs away, and the girlfriend tells Touma to keep clear of him.

(Touma meets Ed for the first time.)

At the Prosecutor's office , a new female lawyer, Annie Craner, has been assigned her first big case, to prosecute Sara Osborne for the murder of her husband, Mark, ten days earlier on March 10th. A pair of local cops on patrol in Salem had heard a gunshot coming from the Osborne estate. They broke into the house to investigate and found Mark dead, a nearby open window, and Sara cowering in the hallway near the body. No gun was found and no one else was on the estate. Sara was arrested, and her jury trial is coming up soon. Annie is discovering that the old men in the office resent her success, blaming it on her famous, powerful father, but he'd been fighting her tooth and nail every step of the way, saying that a woman's place is in the kitchen. So, Annie has a big chip on her shoulder and the need to prove herself. When she returns to her office, she finds a new part-timer entering past cases into the server database; Touma applied for the job in Ed's place. Annie and Touma get on pretty well, and she notices that the boy has the ability to see people as they really are.

(Police arrive right after hearing gun shots.)

Things get a bit rough when Ed continues to take advantage of Touma, taking money from him, and Annie gets her nose scuffed up by the more experienced, calculating defense attorney. Turns out that while Sara did have gunpowder residue on her hands the day of the crime, it was because she'd gone to a practice range that morning. Further, because she is a member of a UFO worship cult, the cult members gather around the court room, paint graffiti on Annie's car and call her a witch. One of Sara's cult friends, an old matronly woman, testifies that Sara is kind and gentle, and that Annie is bringing back the witch hunts to Salem. Finally, the defense reveals that the cops that had been on patrol that night had been demoted for botching a raid on Mark Osborne's secret weapons warehouse a year earlier. Mark was well-known as a weapons dealer, but no one could pin it on him. When one of the two cops heard about a deal going down at the warehouse, they raided the place without notifying their superiors. All of the bad guys got away, and now the two beat cops have a strong revenge motive. The bullet that had lodged in Mark's skull is compared to that from the guns of both cops and a match is found. Mark gets buried then and there.

(Touma rewrites Ed's code to get it to work.)

=================== Caution !!  Spoilers !! ================

Both being depressed, Annie tries to cheer up Touma by encouraging him to do what he feels is right for Ed. In return, Touma tells Annie about his theory regarding her court case. The next day, Touma rounds up Ed and they go to the robotics lab, where Touma gets Ed's code to work right. Ed collapses at seeing the 10-year-old rewriting code he'd spent hundreds of hours on. Meanwhile, Annie presents her case: A year earlier, Sara had started gun training, while also joining the UFO cult to establish a pattern. She was the one to report the illegal gun shipment to the cops. The resulting shootout was in a warehouse that stored bags of grain. Afterward, she snuck in and extracted the cop's bullet from one of the bags. She then rigged her husband's walking stick to act as a crude zip gun, and took the cane on the day of the murder as a way to ensure that she could get close enough to him. When the cops made their rounds, she acted like she was returning his cane, shot him in the eye and dropped the cane next to the corpse. Annie gets the judge to sign an exhumation order. There, in the coffin is the cane, and the bottom still has gunpowder residue.

(When Annie met Touma.)

=================== Caution !!  Spoilers !! Really !!  ================

The next day, Ed has moved out and left campus. His girlfriend tells Touma that his fixing the robot's code was such a big shock that Ed decided to go out on a hiking trip of the U.S. to find himself. She gives Touma an envelope with his money in it. Touma goes to the prosecutor's office to finish up his work, and Annie grabs him to watch her give her final summary in court. As they step outside, Sara's cult friend (the one that had testified for her) runs up with a gun and shoots Annie point blank. Touma is in tears as he rides in the ambulance with Annie, apologizing for being responsible for the entire mess. Annie tells him to cheer up - because of his help, she was going to flash the V-sign at him in court. She adds that he should continue using his gift to understand people more fully. Back in the present, Kana asks if Annie was the one to send the postcard. Yuu replies that she'd died in the hospital, and since no one was ready to replace her as prosecutor, Sara got a reduced 7-year sentence. Neither of them knows who sent the card. The story wraps up with Sou standing on the doorstep of the Mizuhara residence, calling out to ask if his sister is there.

Comments: This is a depressing story that emphasizes the adage "no good deed goes unpunished". But it does go a long way to explain why Touma is so reluctant to get involved in solving future cases. Recommended. (Note: The one thing missing from the explanation of how Sara killed her husband is "why". There's never any motive given. At the end of the trial, she's portrayed as cold, calculating and cynical, but it doesn't seem to be related to her husband's weapons trade. The only obvious motive is that he was 20+ years older than her, and she just wanted his money.)

(Sara's UFO cult friend accuses the lawyer of witch hunting.)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Q.E.D. volume 9 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D., vol. 9, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B

Geemu no Kisoku (Rules of the Game, Great Magazine, 2001). We get another non-murder mystery. This time, the shares of Roy Hills Co. plummet, and Roy, a former MIT grad, gets bankrupted. He is later seen in Shinjuku trying to sell jewelry on the streets but is being roughed up by a local gang. Touma and Kana happen by and Sou recognizes his former classmate. Hills explains that he'd gotten into a "game" with the billionaire venture capitalist, Jonas Solomon, lost, and been forced out of business as punishment. Some of the rules of the game are that if you lose, you can't talk about it, if you win you get lots of money, and if you fail, you get crushed. Hills gives Solomon's business card to Sou, and the boy tears it up saying that he doesn't want to take that kind of blind risk. So, Kana tapes the pieces together and mails a letter to Solomon. A few days later, Solomon's driver and bodyguard arrives to take the two of them to a secret castle in the mountains (looks east European). There, they meet an Italian mathematician with his girlfriend, and a pair of brilliant identical twin Chinese brothers.

(Sou explains his reasoning about why Jonas is running the game. Notice how the boy's appearance changes, making him adult-like between panels. This kind of inconsistency in the artwork is pretty common.)

Solomon explains the game: He'd given his deceased wife an expensive red diamond, which he has placed on a pedestal in the next room. Each team is to draw numbered lots, and one member of each will go into the room in numbered order and then come back out. They have the choice of taking the diamond, leaving it there, replacing it with a fake, or leaving the fake with the real diamond. Once they start, they can't quit; if they lose, they can't tell anyone else about the rules; if someone else identifies them as having the real diamond, they lose; but if they can correctly say who does have it, they win. Along the way, Kana ends up talking with Jonas and learns that his wife had once gotten really angry with him for having forgotten her out in the snow when he promised to get some coal for the eyes of the snowman she was making, because he'd gotten a business call. When the game starts, the Italian claims that he is guaranteed to win, while Touma tells him that there is one trick he's overlooked, and the Chinese brothers just repeat proverbs at each other. The next day, everyone is told that they're all wrong and that they all lose. During Touma's turn, the boy had revealed the reasons behind Jonas' game - the guy's dead wife had hidden the real red diamond because she was so angry with him, and Jonas has never been able to find it. Up until now, no one has ever won this game.

As Touma is about to leave, he tells Jonas that he understands the dead wife's final message to him. And that is, that just once, she wants him to lower his head to her and apologize. This is something that Solomon has never done before and he doesn't want to do it now.

No science this time, beyond a little bit of game theory (explaining how to win Jonas' game). Lots of great artwork of old European castles and mountains, though.

(Sou's apartment has very high ceilings.)

Itetsuku Tetsutsui (Frozen Hammer, or Sledgehammer, Great Magazine, 2001). (The title comes from a quote in the story, where a woman says that she learns something that crushes her heart like a hammer.) Some company has rented a dinner cruise boat on the Sumida river, in Tokyo, and during the cruise, three employees are surprised when a mummified arm falls next to them. The next day, Kana drags Touma to the Kachidoki Bridge, where her father is examining a very old crime scene. The Kachidoki is an old drawbridge, which hasn't been lifted in 30 years (since 1970). Trapped underneath, between the ends of the two arms, is a large pipe with a corpse inside. The police fail to find a way to pull the pipe out, so they're force to open the bridge, an event that attracts a lot of spectators, including one old woman that came from Brazil, and an old guy. When the corpse is taken out of the pipe, it's found to be wearing a watch made in 1975, and there's a piece of paper in a pocket that Touma recognizes as the Bridges of Konigsberg problem. The old man is standing near Touma and declares that he'd seen the boy giving a lecture in MIT a couple years ago. The guy invites Kana and Sou to his apartment nearby.

(Kishizaki remembers Touma.)

There, the old guy explains the Bridges problem - in the town of Konigsberg, there were 7 bridges over the rivers linking the town. The question was raised, could someone travel over each of the bridges once and only once? It wasn't until 1735 that Leonhard Euler proved mathematically that it couldn't be done. The old guy watches Sou looking at the pictures and diplomas on his wall, asks the same question regarding the 12 bridges that had been over the Sumida river in Tokyo 50 years ago but modified now that the Kachidoki bridge is lifted up, announces that he's the murderer, and challenges Sou to figure everything out. Based on the photos and diplomas, he and Kana determine the guy is Kishizaki, a brilliant mathematician. He'd married a waitress named Tae, but was almost immediately drafted into the military for WW II after that. Tae was told that her husband had been killed in the fighting, and their mutual friend, Fukamori, proposed to her to get her off the streets. Later, Kishizaki showed up at their door, but instead of getting angry, blessed their marriage. Eventually, it turns out that Fukamori was the one that filled in Kishizaki's draft papers and arranged to make it look like he was dead. So, Kana concludes that Kishizaki killed his ex-friend out of revenge.

However, Kishizaki has included several clues that revolve around a cheat involving the Bridges problem that point to a different culprit. In the end, Touma figures everything out, including the trap Kishizaki planted - any attempts to arrest Fukamori's real killer will fail. So, who killed Fukamori? Why was the Bridges problem drawn on a piece of paper and put in the victim's pocket? How was the pipe trapped in the jaws of the bridge if it hadn't been opened for the 5 years prior to the killing? What is the cheat Kishizaki uses to prove Euler wrong on the original Bridge's puzzle and how does it relate to the Sumida river variant? And finally, what was Kishizaki's real purpose to hiding the pipe specifically in the Kachidoki bridge?

=============- Spoilers ==============

Ok, yeah, the main science this time is math and topology. The cheat is to assume that all rivers have a source. If you go far enough upstream, you'll eventually get to the mouth of the river and you can go around it. The reason this is critical to the story is that the shrine where Kishizaki and Tae got married is at the mouth of the Sumida river, and there's a package waiting there for Tae - pages of her diary describing Fukamori's final days, which Kishizaki had taken. Which means that the cheat is a clue to Sou for untangling the murder mystery. If you like topology, this is a decent story for you.

Comments: Touma has several quirks. One is that he hates solving mysteries if he can avoid it. This could be attributed to his being lazy, but the fact that Roy Hills, one of his friends, was a victim and he still didn't want to get involved indicates that there's something deeper going on (this is actually explained in volume 10). The first chapter is kind of weak, since the hiding place of the red diamond isn't that hard to figure out, but the second chapter is great if you're familiar with Tokyo and you like topology. (By the way, according to the official City Chamber of Commerce page, the Kachidoki bridge has never been opened since 1970. Never. Recommended.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Dayan of Wachifield is the main character in a line of children's books from Japanese artist Akiko Ikeda. To celebrate Dayan's 30th anniversary, the Yamakataya department store in the Tenmonkan shopping district in Kagoshima is holding an art exhibit, with 3 scheduled in-person signings during July (signings limited to 100 people; I'm not sure how the selection is made). The exhibit is 600 yen ($6 USD) for adults, 400 for young students, and is running from July 18th to the 28th. There's a medium-sized gift shop on the Building 2 5th floor next to the escalators running up to the gallery space on the 6th. Since there's no cameras allowed in the gallery, I didn't bother trying to take photos. But, there is a large Dayan in the gift shop, and he was happy to pose for anyone that walked by.


Next up, Yamakataya is hosting Conan World in Yamakataya, from Aug. 9th to the 21st. 500 yen for junior high students and above, 300 yen for anyone younger. The event will include a quiz, an in-store "mystery" stamp rally, a gift shop and some kind of a stage show. Presented by the Tenpara cineplex.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hard Wild Coffee

I have yet to understand whether Japanese consumers are gullible, or Japanese marketers are clueless. Here, we have Japan Tobacco (Coffee Culture Factory) running a Hard Wild version of their Roots coffee. It actually tastes milder and sweeter (has sugar and cream added) than their other coffees. I bought it just to take a photo for the blog. If I want a "hard and wild" can coffee, I'll get Boss Coffee's unsweetened Silky Black. What gets me, though, are the TV commercials for any kind of beverage, be it coffee, juice, beer or genki drinks - the cans are empty. The actors are just pretending to be drinking something and doing a very bad job at it. It's like they're sending the message - "nothing is better than our drinks".

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ogion-sa, 2013

When being lazy creates more work for yourself.

Ogion-sa is an annual festival held in Kagoshima in July. This year, it was on the 20th and 21st. It's based on the earlier matsuri in Gion, in Kyoto. I knew it was coming up. I'd caught part of it last year, and I wanted to watch more this time. But, the kiri-e class was scheduled on the 21st, and I work on Saturdays, so I figured I'd watch as much of Ogion-sa as I could on Saturday when I went in to teach English at the conversation school near city hall. My work started at 1 PM, so I left the apartment at noon. However, there was nothing happening along the event route on tram street leading in to Tenmonkan. I looked around for the advertising posters, and verified that it was on the 20th and 21st. However, since the posters are in Japanese, I'd been too lazy to read the fine print. Looking closer, I discovered that the Saturday portion was to be from 6 to 9 PM. Ok, fine, I'll come back later.

After work, I return home and eat dinner. I don't get out until 8 PM. I return to tram street, and again, no parade. So, I track down another poster, and looking closer at the fine print, I notice that it's in the Tenmonkan arcade, which is one of the walkways within the Tenmonkan shopping complex (actually, it's very close to the magic shop/coffee cafe, the JAXA museum and the anime bar). When I get to the arcade, I find that the event is just the leaders of the different mikoshi groups giving speeches, Shinto priests blessing everyone, and the marchers doing chants to build up their excitement level for the next day. The last group finished their part at 8:30 PM. If you're not one of the marchers, or you aren't interested in Shinto ceremonies, you can skip the Saturday event. Most people here do.

And then they leave.

Ok. So (I'm using "so" a lot here), Sunday. On Sunday, I have the kiri-e (cut paper art) class at the Mirai-kan (environmental museum) the opposite direction from Tenmonkan. The class was to start at 1:30, and I figured that if I got an early enough start, I could watch part of the main Ogionsa parade before I had to leave. I get out of the apartment at 11 AM, and... nothing is happening at the event route. I go look for another poster, and this time I find that the main event is from 1 to 6 PM. Sigh. There's no way I can stick around to watch the first few minutes of the parade, and still make it to the Mirai-kan before 1:30 PM. Instead, I return home for an hour and a half, then I go to the kiri-e class. When that ends at 4:30, one of the women offers to give me and a few others a ride in her car to Tenmonkan. By that time, all of the marching groups have finished parading their mikoshi around, and the priests are giving a final blessing to the last group before they pack their stuff up.

(One of the smaller mikoshi.)

However, there is still the faint sound of drums coming from the direction of the Maruya Gardens department store. It's the last taiko group, giving a 30-minute performance. The crowd around them was packed enough that I had trouble finding a good place for taking photos. I could only record the last 2 minutes before they finished and the PA system announced that everything was over for this year. The streets would be opened to regular traffic in a few minutes, so would everyone please get out of the way.

If I were less lazy, I'd have read the posters up front and saved myself some unnecessary walking... Well, there's always next year. The Taiko group was really good, anyway.

Youtube video