Tag Archives: insects

Points of Light

Toki has Bon dancing on Chuo Dori before and during its fireworks. Many people watching the dancing tonight seemed hardly interested in the skypoppers in the background. Among the various colorful yukata of both dancers and watchers were these robes I though depicted the swoopdown swallows I recently wrote about, until I realized they were great blue herons flying upward. Kind of Escherian, especially considering they both frequent the Toki River.

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Music for the dancing was performed by shamisen, shakuhachi bamboo flute and taiko players on a stage in the middle of the street, and emceed by a professional announcer.

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Rounded domes of fireworks patterns, lanterns, ceramic fuurin wind chimes, and, here, even a passing older gentleman’s white hair populated the evening’s floating world.

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On the subject of flashing points of light, I was hoping to show you photos of fireflies this summer, but they are even more elusive than I thought. Maybe next year.

And this is probably as appropriate a place as there’ll ever be for this indispensible nugget: After years of fruitless furtive roadbound glancing to see if anyone’s blinkers were in sync with mine (which futility led me to wonder if car manufacturers deliberately set every single car’s blinker timing differently so as to ensure each one stood out; two in synch and stacked in parallax could look like one, for instance), like a slap-happy syncopated lightning bug, I recently finally found visual harmony: a Suzuki Cervo ahead of me was flashing in unqualified perfect unison with my turn signal. Not some alternating in-phase, out-of-phase approximation. A lockstepped, serendipitous synchronicity, an amber alignment perchance mined from the same hunk of quartz somewhere in Brazil or backwoods Arkansas. It was sublime.

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And then, as the traffic light changed, like a fleeting fireworks trail or a fuurin bell’s fading ring, or summer itself, our do-si-do dance of light was gone.

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.

Walk Comes Naturally

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Evolved, Involved Insects

As these crickets, recently numerous along the macadam and curbs by the Toki River, showed, it was fine weather yesterday for, uh, walking…

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With more pressing matters to attend to, this pair preferred to be left alone, crawling away as I shamelessly snapped (in fairness, I first, acting on instinct, whipped out my iPhone camera when I thought it was just one big bug). PDAs (no, not the iPad Mini – public displays of affection) aside, they are law-abiding pedestrians, generally sticking to the shoulders whenever possible.

Hugs All Around, Or Keep Off the Grasshopper

Update: A friend who last week saw and photographed an identical scene in the same area decided to check up on it. It turns out this embrace is not mating as such, but a ritual of males laying exclusive claim to their chosen mate – they ride piggyback on the female all day. Possessive types, I guess. Anyway, I (and the crickets) stand corrected.

Osteria Budget

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Selvatico Osteria & Bar is another one of those places I’d seen but never gone to. Osteria is Italian for “tavern,” but it’s a really a gourmet Italian restaurant that also serves drinks. They emphasize using a variety of vegetables. It’s not far from route 19 near the Cultural Hall. Just look for the white-top olive green Mini by the Italian flag.

On arriving, I was told it would be at least an hour’s wait, but an older couple graciously noticed and left their table for me. Very thoughtful.

After seeing this was a higher-class sort of place (their website even mentions a dress code, I later saw), I felt a bit guilty about ordering the most basic lunch special, as opposed to the more expensive course-type options, but what I ordered is, after all, recommended by the chef for middlebrow first-time customers like me.

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Following an autumn-fitting cream of mushroom potage with latte-like foam on top, I had a kind of crab and salmon gratin appetizer sprinkled with herbed breadcrumbs that tasted, and I mean this in a good way, like Stouffer’s Stove-Top Stuffing. Then came the bacon-zucchini pasta above. With salad, bread and a drink, the lunch was ¥1370.

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Afterward nearby as I walked back toward work, I caught a fairly camera-friendly butterfly flitting around a strawberry plant. Like elsewhere, the leaves are beginning to turn. Happy autumnal equinox.

Walking Weather

Nice weather recently, especially before and after work, means people are getting out more just for a walk. From Sunday evening’s walk, a blue-hour shot of the Tajimi Library:

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A few blocks away, a man was cooking out for his family on a small grill in his doorway as his goldfish, always on view in a tank outside, lower left, watched a rare nighttime light show of their own. After asking if it was okay to shoot, I hoped I might capture the orange of the fish and the fire more equally, but I didn’t want to bother the BBQ with fiddling with the camera, so just took one quick shot. I wasn’t lucky enough to catch respected the fish’s shyness by cropping out their faces.

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Speaking of oranges, here’s a butterfly (lower right-center, with black and white wingtips) between orange-painted wood and orange algae (?) on a rock during another walk this afternoon. While butterflies have been frequent flutterers of late, dragonflies have been especially noticeable this past month. Mosquitoes, gnats and other insects, which along with spiders’ webs have been markedly few this summer, seem to finally be on the fly just in time to, uh, enliven our walks.

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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.

Swordplay Wordplay and Lost Flight

I just had swordfish without realizing what it was – otherwise I would’ve taken a picture for you. Anyway, it’s supposed to be another heat-beater food, which I didn’t know or had forgotten. Here’s the by-now traditional “Too-late, ate-it-up” shot, the bits of charred swordfish sitting like stone islets at Ryōanji Temple in Kyoto (okay, maybe not):

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The thin-sliced ginger was actually from pickled cucumbers (don’t we call those pickles? But these definitely weren’t “pickles”). At first blush, the grilled meat looked like pork, or beef. Not particularly fishy in taste, which brings us back to yesterday’s Charlie the Tuna bit. Such an elegant world we live in, to come full circle like this in 24 hours. Like a limp-finned fish or something.

Speaking of rowing in circles, this unfortunate dragonfly spent its last hours flopping/floundering/foundering in circles on my baking terrace as Tajimi flew into “hottest city in Japan” standing once again today with a high of 38° C [pumps fist, full of “Yattaa! Knew we could do it” pride, yet head bowed in deference to the fallen dragon/damselfly (North America’s are so tiny by comparison), not having garnered actual permission to publish the image].

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It seems to me the ephemerality of the lives of dragonflies and cicadas (locusts) captures the sense of evanescence Japanese have so traditionally admired in the falling (not simply blossoming) of sakura, which has also been abused in the imagery of kamikaze pilots, but that reminds us of the urgency (though perhaps ultimate ungraspability) of the here and now. End of quasi-philosophical musing (Translation: Big dying/dead bug on davenport caught my eye, but made me feel guilty to commit such a solemn scene to pixel).

And speaking of flying in circles, we recently hit the 75th (is that all??) anniversary of aviatrix Amelia Earhardt’s disappearance. One of the first books I remember reading was her biography. It seems they’ve recently identified more cosmetic supplies as being closely associated with her and/or her era on a South Pacific Island.

Anyway, thanks to this evening’s meal, I’m no longer lost at sea and have joined the ranks of those who know (albeit may soon likely forget) the difference between/among swordfish, sailfish, and marlin. Someone was recently recalling memories of Oda(?), a Japanese Olympic fencing champion, hence my sword/fence reference vis à vis whatever the heck I just ate.

With appropriate respect for the fallen, may we all make the best of this fleeting season of growth while the sun shines, challenge the undared, and champion the cycle of life on land, sea and air.