Tag Archives: birds

Wind in the Road

Let me introduce yet another funky little cafe tucked into the hills and winding backroads of rural Gifu, Fuu.

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This cozy little rustic hideaway, in its third year of business, lacks any significant signage beyond its immediate surroundings, so no one just happens to wind up there. It’s in Azuma, Akechi-cho in Ena. In your navigation software, enter the Japanese kanji (not the usual katakana) for kōhī (珈琲) and then fuu (風).

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You’ll be greeted by the kindly owner and ushered down a hall to a wood slab table in front of a little wood stove, or perhaps to a front room where the morning sun will keep you warm. Another hardwood floored room has a dugout horigotatsu in the middle for warmth.

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The name, the owner will be glad to tell you, comes from the breeze that blows through, giving a refreshing, cooling feeling in summer. In winter, the same draft renders the woodstove the heart and hearth of the place. It gets bone-chilling without it. Still, as it’s on the leeward side of the surrounding hills, the weather is consistently milder than the rest of Ena and Nakatsugawa. You can see some of the dried kindling under the bookcase below. It reminded me of college days when we chopped wood most every morning to stoke the day, and somehow made a fractured axe last all winter in the process.

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There’s a nice selection of books, many about design and style, for inspiration and information. You’ll also find artwork in every nook and cranny. Do let me know next time you find an actual cranny somewhere, by the way. The only ones I’ve actually seen have strangely always been in print, and invariably right next to the words “nook(s) and.” Uncrannily peculiar.

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While the owner’s real pride is a slowly prepared cup of coffee to sip in this idyllic nest in the woods (with a healthy serving of the story of how it all came to be, hacked out from a jungly old bungalow after a life in the concrete jungle of Nagoya), she does serve pasta lunches for those who come on an empty stomach.

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She was kind enough to throw this sweet potato on the wood stove (in foil on the stove above and in the raw below), serving it with green tea after the lunch and coffee, on the house. It was a nice experience, skinny skin and all.

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That heat, something we tend to take for granted even without much domestic central heating here, really became a theme running through it all. Also playing through (which reminds me, Fuu, unfortunately(?) like much of rural Japan, is also surrounded by golf courses) was French chanson music. C’est si bon.

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Antiquey items and of course plenty of pottery for sale line the variegated walls, shelves and staircases.

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Below, complementing a roundtable with all different school chairs à la Momogusa, is an old card catalog salvaged from a school library. By sheer coincidence, someone else on the other side of the world just had the same idea. Maybe it’s just that I used to be a library worker that I thought it interesting. I once checked and corrected my university’s entire general collection card catalog, card by flippin’ manila (get it?) index card. Remember your Dewey decimals, Huey, and never forget, always nothing before something. Only an old-school librarian may get that. Never mind. Throw analog on the fire and curl up like smoldering pages with a good book blog on your Kindle.

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Anyway, the proprietress will be glad to have your company, and only too eager to share her stories with you. She related, for instance, that the fall foliage north of Fuu on route 109 was quite spectacular, and that deer and wild boar (hey, no librarian jokes) roam the hills with abandon and a mariachi band (just seein’ if you’re paying attention). I myself spied an intriguing pair of birds running out of my car’s way which I thought might be rare grouse (raichou), which I recall are the official bird of Gifu prefecture, though perhaps they only reside at higher elevations. They may also have been thrushes*. They seemed brown and spotted, without the long tail of pheasants, and scurried along the ground rather than flying.

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Props to an iPhone app called Strip Designer, which I used to put together the collage of photos at the top of the post. Well done, and it was either free or discounted to 85 yen.

*(Sixties spy spoof/superhero reference alert) Jeepers, I learned through this that robins, would you believe, are the most common kind of thrush. Once again proving that to write will always win over chaos, and a labor of love will always make you get smart. And Robin’s your rich uncle, Bruce Wayne.

Blue Rays

With last night being the second full moon in August, we had a rare blue moon.

Ray, Ray, Ray, Ray...

No moon for you here, but plenty of blue, and a peppery sprinkling of black – in the center-right, above, are the starlings that roost in the trees by the library, out cruising for dinner with occasional separate sorties and regroupings.

Below, the same rays as above, a little later, under a more menacing, Dickensian sort of sky. I think the bats were out by the time I took this one, no doubt summoned by the Bat Signal.

Ray for the Orange and the Blue

Stellar Lineup

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Armed with modest telescopes, high-grade sunspot-viewing film that looked like silver leaf, cheap solar filters, and one decent camera, our budding stargazers’ club set out yesterday morning to view the solar eclipse.

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Fittingly, the “Ring of Fire” eclipse was visible over a wide swath of the Pacific Rim ring of volcanic activity, bridging continents and straddling the international dateline to occur at once on both Sun-day in the western US, and Moon-day in East Asia.

Still Life With Self-Portrait, Landscape …and Oh, the Moon Jumping Over the Sun Jumping Over My Head

Looking toward the sun through the solar filter sheet, I captured my own reflection, with a flower between me and the sheet. I ended up with the crescent on my forehead. I’m told this moonhead thing is an auspicious occurrence in the Sailor Moon manga world.

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Solar Flare

Next is looking toward the ground away from the sun. It’s a reflection in the solar filter sheet. The sun is to the upper right, and the crescent by the utility pole was actually gotten by lens flare. Whatever works. Getting the scoop on an iPhone was a bit of a challenge.

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The sun’s rays cast double shadows during the peak. Wildlife seemed to get a little wilder, with a darting pheasant, cawing crows and a couple of barking dogs acting up as the temperature cooled down. It never did get all that dark.

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Trademark Infringement

Below, you might barely be able to make out the sideways, out-of-focus Apple logo on the back of my iPhone reflected backwards in the scratchy solar filter, mimicking the bite taken out of the sun. At one point, the crescent was actually pretty moonlike.

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Below, totality as seen through the film-protected telescope.

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A River Runs Through It

From our vantage point in Onadacho near Asahigaoka, we happened to have a good view of the Amazon.com distribution center (below) now being built north of Tajimi Country Club. The mammoth facility will eventually employ a thousand locals, helping boost the local economy, as the very construction of it probably is right now. I wonder, though, if anyone’s considered how it might affect the already turgid traffic predicament we have here, what with delivery vehicles constantly moving in and out.

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Spotted Speeding By

Speaking of traffic, here’s your out-of-state license plate of the weekend: Miyagi (no photo). The metallic silver compact passed a slow-moving scooterist on a solid orange centerline on a bridge, no less. A surprising eclipse in itself. Though as I recall, it was a Toyota, not a Mitsubishi. Thank you, dear driver, for supporting the local economy.

Crane Convergence

During a recent walk, I somewhat craned my neck to get a view of the new Tajimi Municipal Hospital under construction (still digging the foundation, it seems) beside the current building, as a jet maintained a holding pattern overhead.  Services at the hospital were recently partially privatized as well, allowing it to operate more efficiently.  Once the new facility is completed, offices and equipment will be moved from the old building, which will be razed for needed parking space.

Further on in my walk I saw crews cutting fast-growing grass on the banks of the Toki River, swiftly followed by swallows swallowing up the teeming insects shaken out, as cranes of the flying type preened themselves on sandbars, occasionally flying off.

Low Overhead Tribute

These Air Self-Defense Force jets were flying over Toki in what seemed to be the “missing man/person” formation this morning.  They made at least seven different passes around 10:30.

Hard to see, I know, in this mobile format, but there’s one trailing toward the upper-right, and three toward the lower center.  The roar was hard to miss if you were in Toki.

As a bookend to that, a large bird passed over the Toki River in Tajimi at sunset.

Growth is (Almost) Everywhere

Spring is really in full swing now, with flora and fauna beginning to teem all about.  The newborn bird(s) outside the office tweet for snacks from mom and dad.  Myoga is growing by leaps on my veranda.  Spiders cast their nets wide, while swarming insects take delight in getting in my face during my late afternoon walks in Toki.  Sometimes the bugs’ cutting edge cloud networks make me feel like a model for Peanuts’ Pig-Pen.

Watching Paint Dry

Another sign of the season, at least in the west, is spring cleaning.  At work, we’re in the process of moving my office, and among other things, it’s involved lots of cleaning, tossing, building and painting.  Above, used paint buckets sit behind the building by a patch of clover and thistle.

Top Secret

Below, if you look closely, you can see someone added two marks to the end of the writing on the paint brush, changing hake, meaning brush, to hage, or baldness.  It’s a reference to the boss in the photo above, who has little use for, well, brushes anymore.

But fear not, furless fearless leader.  I’ve used anti-glare filters, masks and strategic cropping, and redacted any names where necessary to maintain top security for our illustrious head of operations.

Below, cohorts assist in the cover-up.