Tag Archives: heat

Through the Roof for Good Measure

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Like the city workers from the last entry, these high school students were also out measuring rising temperatures today with this high-flying contraption, possibly as part of their summer homework. They also seemed to be lowering something on a string below the bridge. I learned they were measuring the difference between asphalt-level and other air using the giant foil-wrapped phone receiver/steamship smokestack/tuba bell things hanging from the tall bamboo pole. All well and good, but it does seem everybody’s taking the temperature and nobody’s doing anything about it.

Window Dressing

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And as long as it’s a late summer slow news day the heat is making me repeat myself, here’s the stationary parasol of choice in these parts, a sudare screen, in this case one I put up at work next to our new covered deck to battle blinding sunset light. Naturally, just since I put it up, the sun seems to have started setting Stonehengelike behind a big building across the river, making my lean-to lattice largely moot.

Sun Roof

It’s been a while since I added to our little collection of objects and customs that live on in Japan but scarcely anywhere else. It’s a meme I call “cultural Galapagos.” Nothing necessarily implied as to good or bad – just idle observation. This is a good one, I think.

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It’s impossible to go very far outdoors without seeing someone shielding themselves from the sun with, yes, a parasol. It’s invariably* a woman under the usually black or off-white arch, presumably for skin protection, though in the absence of sunglasses or a visor it surely must save squinting eyes, too. On these days when every living creature seems to seek out and cling to any available scrap of shade (at “don’t walk” signs, I carefully maneuver myself into the shadow of even the skimpiest utility pole), taking your own umbrage is arguably the most basic form of self-defense short of the shirt on your back. Though there may have been a brief parasol pitching dalliance in the west a few years ago, the smart, sproutable sunscreen has survived in Japan as a cultural archetype for centuries, never really going out of fashion. Umbrellas for rain, for that matter, are also more common here. In more entrenchedly motorized lands, we tend to dash from car to building with nothing between us and the downpour.

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No relation to parasols other than as another manifestation of our steamy, sultry status, but various pairs like this, working for the city of Tajimi, were out with these curious-looking devices today, measuring temperature, heat as perceived by the body, and the effect of the heat on sound transmission (maybe; I couldn’t quite make out the quick answer they gave, and didn’t want to bother them by asking again. Then again, maybe the sound of their voice just didn’t carry in the heat. Or maybe that’s just so much of my own hot air).

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

*Update: Make that “variably.” After I wrestled yesterday with whether to make a gender association and finally settled on doing so, this man was out using a parasol this morning just to make me look self-consciously stoic. Invariably happens that way, doesn’t it?

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Summer Hotter Than Others

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Rainy season clouds have parted, giving way to a more typical summer variety, pointed out here by a pair of anemometers atop Tajimi Station. Below, the sun loses the battle of the blue and the grey for the last time. Now it’s here to stay.

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Large (behe?)moths have descended en masse, my neighborhood supermarket has started eel cookouts, folks are breaking out the fireworks along the river near work, and Toki has already begun water shortage warning announcements. Summer is here. Yesterday and today reached 99° F. I’ve heard this year may be a hot one for the ages.

Update: It was almost 102° today. Good enough for number two in the nation.

Heat Sink

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It’s been oppressively hot and humid, especially in the mornings this week, but today is giving us a bit of relief, some typical rainy season precipitation notwithstanding.

Moon Screen

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Nighttime in my case has been pretty hard to bear, too, with a screen in need of repair keeping me from having a flow of fresh outside air. This was the moon a couple of evenings ago. About the best nighttime moonshot you could manage with a handheld iPhone 5 and no editing, only cropping.

The Case of the Missing Mexican

I took a train to Kozoji today and, setting out on foot in the baking heat, relied on a five-to-seven year old memory and my general sense of direction (though I’d only previously gone by car) to take me to Jerry’s Uno, the nearest Mexican restaurant to Tajimi that I knew of. The good news is, it was intact. The bad news is, what was intact was my memory and sense of direction. Unfortunately not Jerry’s Uno.

When I stopped into my secondary destination across the street, the Village Vanguard novelty store, the staff member I asked had no idea where any Mexican restaurant was, though the place I thought it should have been was a recently closed Okinawan restaurant. As I walked out of the Vanguard, Jerry’s Uno’s fate became clear:

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Some of the doors and windows from Jerry’s had actually been recycled into part of the Vanguard’s storefront (right smack next to where the clueless staffer had stood). Anyway, this post is about something that’s not there. Seems like I would’ve heard of Jerry’s demise, but hadn’t. So scratch that option off your list, as I have from mine. That would seem to leave Nagoya for your Mexican cravings from now on. I’ll try to post something about one of those places sometime.

I don’t know that the temperature was unusually high, but it was one hot, tiring walk to and from nowhere. But I needed the exercise anyway. Probably averted some heartburn, too. Hard to miss seeing the bright side with a walk like that. The sunny side of the street was everywhere you turned.

By the time I got back to Kozoji Station, each step was short and tentative, my face somewhat anguished, and my occasional sighs of exhaustion probably audible to anyone around me. I stopped in for an iced coffee and an air-conditioned breather at the Mister Donut there.

The Case of the Hard-to-Find Doctor

The Village Vanguard, which also has a branch near Loft in Yaba-cho/Sakae in Nagoya, always has neat and wacky goods that are fun to look through or buy as presents. They even had Dr. Pepper soda and A&W Root Beer, by the can or case.

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Linguists’ and language lovers’ post-script: Besides Exceed (clothing; still around??) and Lead (education, among other things), the Village Vanguard is one of a handful of Japanese companies with their names shamelessly purloined from famous jazz clubs written in the International Phonetic Alphabet in their logos.

Stalking the Wild Rhubarb

A Taste of the Old Country

Perhaps if I had to choose one food I miss from the US that I can hardly get in Japan, besides whole turkey, it would be rhubarb. Enter this rhubarb jam from Musée de Paris in Tsurugasawa, Midori-ku, Nagoya.

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I had some on toast and even with yogurt, in which it tasted especially like rhubarb pie. That’s a taste for sore buds, right at home in a midsummer night’s dessert. Yogurt (I prefer regular plain Bulgaria from Meiji) with jam for breakfast is also a good way to get a cool start on these sultry dog days. I just learned why they’re called that: It’s when Sirius, the Dog Star, rises and sets opposite the sun. So much for the lazy dog theory.

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While not unheard of, rhubarb is a rarity in any form in this country. I recall the Anna Miller’s family restaurant chain in the Kanto area (good Reuben sandwiches as well) used to serve the pie. And I remember seeing a recipe at a cafe in Nagoya for, I think, rhubarb lemonade. I’m still trying to find a place that actually sells fresh stalks. Don’t make the same mistake I made many years ago – promising to make rhubarb pie for my Japanese host family, only to find out that the fuki I bought shared nothing in common with rhubarb except similar looks. Unqualified fiasco.

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Below, pineapple and Paradis (amaou strawberry/passionfruit) varieties from Musée.

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A bowl of Grape-Nuts served by an Anna Miller’s waitress to anyone who gets today’s title. You’ll know if you lived consciously through the seventies in the States and had a TV.

Whatever Your Field, Ochobo Offers Professional Help

On an old recommendation (for what, I can’t remember now, and in fact I only went because I was asked to go), I took a drive to Ochobo (Chiyobo) Inari shrine over toward Ogaki city past Komaki, Iwakura and Ichinomiya yesterday. It’s a shrine for good luck in matters of business, work and jobs, particularly in merchandise and sales.

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Shortly after entering the street leading to the shrine, I stopped at a little restaurant run by a former Chunichi Dragons player named Taiho. Having retired from baseball in 2003 to make a job change of his own that’s certainly a labor of love, Taiho-chan is a friendly, down-to-earth chap who’ll cook and bring your order to you, depending on what it is. Above is some handmade rectangular gyoza that needed no dipping, having plenty of its own flavoring. I also had some of his tasty kushi katsu, deep-fried breaded pork on a skewer. It’s a specialty of the area.

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Above, farther down the street, protein-rich grasshoppers for sale, with apologies to David Carradine. Along with ayu (sweetfish) and catfish eateries, eel restaurants offering summer stamina dominated the length of the steamy way. It was so hot. It seemed like a bubble of humid heat was trapped in that old-timey strip. One thing I didn’t have a chance to try was the famous pork chashu at a restaurant near Taiho’s. I must mention here, I used an edge blur and color tweak effect to enhance these first three photos. Once in a while it’s appropriate.

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Above, the shrine proper. Being an inari shrine, offerings of atsuage, triangular deep-fried tofu sacks on rings of straw, were available for purchase at the entrance. You lay the bag on a large tray, toss a (preferrably five yen) coin into the collection box, and pray for your workplace worries or woes to work out.

Below, accumulated atsuage is scraped off to the left from the offering tray. I guess the fried tofu bags are for scooping up good career karma like the sushi rice they normally hold*, though their fate is ironically less certain (there is a sign saying you’re free to take some for yourself, so maybe it’s not all wasted). Shrinegoers can also place small candles in a case, put their business cards in a rack to solicit divine assistance, and, after donating a coin, lift rocks for perspective on work.

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Below, patrons aim to toss coins to have them land on the roof for good job fortune in the central foreground. I can think of at least one business that benefits from all this.

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The shrine and the tiny village area around it seem strangely plopped in the middle of relatively large open expanses of rice fields. You wonder how it came to be.

Fields of Dreams, Or Co-oh-oh-oh-oke-lahoma!

Along the way back on east-west route 130 (which turns into route 67), I saw some truly towering lotus plants, high as an elephant’s eye, and very nearby, a patch of hundreds of Coke vending machines sitting inexplicably (like Ochobo Inari itself) in an open field. The bizzarreness just begged mentioning (unfortunately I wasn’t in photo-op mode).

On this road, the entire Inazawa plain area between the Kiso River and Kiyosu, also encompassing Tsushima, verily abounded with plants, shrubs, and trees of all kinds. They’re all raised for sale to local gardeners and landscapers. The soil is fertilized by the nutrient-rich Kiso River.

This week being the peak of the Obon summer vacation season, traffic was patchy, but even what would normally be the evening rush hour didn’t slow me down much.

*Update: The animistic Shinto god of inari shrines is a fox, and foxes have a predilection for atsuage.

Further Update (September 1): Maybe about the time I reached Komaki Airport, Venus was coming out from under the moon’s crescent thumbnail. News of the occultation escaped my attention, but maybe somewhere in the corner of my eye, I fancifully imagine I caught it. I remember seeing my neighbor photographing the crescent moon, but I don’t think that can have been the same day.

High Times

A day in pictures at Tajimi’s biggest festival of the year.

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Making my steamy way from Tajimi Station toward the city library, I passed a long line of people, above, waiting to get into some kind of event in what’s normally the Toushin Bank parking lot. Unagappa peeked his head out, looking a bit overwhelmed thanks to a freak of juxtaposition and angle. I was reading that women prefer to be photographed from the left, and men from the right. I think Unagappa’s kappa cap looks better at a jaunty angle from his right.

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Lots of people brought out the yukata and jinbei to enjoy and be part of the festivities. There was no shortage of volunteers around to pass out fans. It was absolutely sweltering.

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Above, people started staking claims and camping out early on the north bank of the Toki River. Below, stalls on the south bank seen through a decorative kikuchi flower emblem on the railing of Showabashi bridge.

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Below, afternoon revelers cruise the stands on the south bank.

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A cotton candy engineer whips up a pleasing pink cloud on a stick, sheilded from too much sun by a sudare straw screen.

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Gradually more and more folks began to throng and swell the little river road as the sun set opaque light red…

…and then the fireworks began, as they say.

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Over the years here, I’ve gotten more used to fireworks, and learned more about them little by little. For instance, as long as you’re looking right at them, the noise isn’t so much of a problem (generous quantities of beer or spirits don’t hurt, either). I decided I like the more fine, detailed type than bigger, brighter light.

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As my workplace is an ideal viewing location, I’ve always just been stationed there with food and drink for the whole show, but this year I also walked a bit through the crowds on a path kindly cleared and maintained by police, getting a new perspective, and a welcome bit of self-generated breeze. There was enough actual wind aloft, blowing thoughtfully northward, to clear out the blackness and keep it from becoming one big cloudy mess. Viewers in the path of the detritus may have a different story to report.

As long as you kept moving, you weren’t actually blocking any one person’s view. Not sure how that works out ethically for individuals. A new twist on 赤信号皆で渡れば怖くない, perhaps.

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This year there was a coded message that the only intermittently audible announcements invited us to figure out. Also attempts at musical choreography, which some said they could do without.

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One last scene, reminding me of a nebula in starry space. The dark area corresponding to interstellar dust is the silhouette of a well-manicured pine.

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