Tag Archives: summer

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.

Dancing Center Stage

August Abandon Afoot

More midsummer fireworks lie loaded on the launchpad, if that’s your thing – Mizunami has their display tonight, as part of their 54th annual Mino Genji Tanabata Festival (a month after most other observances), featuring teams of dancers and taiko drummers on stage for the 16th year now. It takes place Friday through Sunday in front of Mizunami Station. Everyone is invited to hop into the frenzy of the parade. There’s also a “clay objêt” Toudo Festa competition, in which teams have a frenetic 48 hours to sculpt clay into whatever their imaginations can conjur up.

You could consider Mizunami’s Tanabata fest with its dancing a warmup for Nagoya’s 15th annual Nippon Domannaka Matsuri, or Domatsuri for short, to be held from August 23rd to 25th. Some 23,000 dancers on over 200 teams from all over Japan and the world will carouse and compete for championship original folk dance honors.

The only rules, according to the official website, are “each dancer must hold a naruko, or clapper, and … a melody from a local folk tune of the participants’ home area must be incorporated in the music.” As with Mizunami’s revelry, they encourage the audience to join in the dancing as a means of cross-cultural communication, and welcome last-minute entries without reservation, so to speak.

And as long as we’re on the subject of Nippon Domannaka (the very center of Japan), it’s not just figurative talk when people speak of our central location, or the logistical benefits of relocating the national capital to Gifu to help alleviate congestion in Tokyo.

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Here’s a picture of Yasaka Station, the centralmost station in Japan, on the Nagaragawa Railway Etsumi-Nan Line. The diesel-powered single-car line, which you can use to get from Mino Ota on the Taita Line to Gujo (station photo below), also stops at the centralmost hot spring in the country, accessible directly from Manthatsamouthful Minamikodakaraonsen Station (station and spa are under the same roof). Of course the all-night trance-like dances at Gujo are for many a must-see, gotta-groove to thing this time of year as well…

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…as is, for those who can bear to watch, the bridge-jumping, river-plunging tradition on the river you may be able to view from this walkway. I think they jump from the bridge just a few steps to the left of where I took this photo.

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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.

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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Baking Bad

Tajimi broiled away yesterday, as the publicly announced temperature surpassed 38, and the quasi-thermometer in front of Tajimi Station read 39, and later at least 39.2, as you can see. I had to swelter a bit to get this one.

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Again, as long as you were moving, it seemed fine. Standing still, such as to photograph this spectacle, especially at the taxi stand where cabriolets panted hot breath to prepare the cool ride, was when it hit you hardest. Note the hand fan in this driver’s window.

Lots of people at the station were shooting pictures of the heat gauge, including a taxi driver who sees it all time. One cabbie told me this temperature isn’t the official one recorded near the Tajimi interchange, and is probably a little high. The actual high was 38.5, enough to make us the hottest city in the nation for the second day in a row. Let’s go for three.

Yellow Means Caution

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Some of these sunflowers near the tracks were wilting, it was so hot. The one above is seen in front of a flashing yellow traffic light in front of the sun, yellow on yellow silhouetted on yellow.

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Finally, some cold blueberries coming into season to cool you off. Having these for breakfast as the Olympic opening ceremonies unfold.

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Summer Snacktime

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Summer is in full gear, and besides eel and cold noodles to fortify yourself, there’s always kakigouri, shaved ice, among traditional Japanese ways to eat the heat. Here, green tea and strawberry milk mountains of ice, simple yet straight to the jugular, are attacked from the peak down at Lamp Cafe. It was agreed about half this size is really enough.

In other summer refreshment news, pomelo is now available for a limited time as a shochu flavoring. Try this and the shiikuwasa and plum flavors of Suntory’s Strong Zero offerings. Soft on the carbs, but tasty and refreshing.

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And once again, with a best supporting actor award to my tatami, kudos to these genuinely different and recommendable potato chips, (lightly salted) Kata Age chips from Calbee.

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Now, I’m not a potato chip fan by any measure. But, slow-fried in oil approximately equivalent to the national petroleum reserves of Norway, these thick-sliced, “chewably delicious” golden guys are truly coronary inducing crisp. Raditional, indeed.

Sorry for the decadence. It’s a little habit I’ve picked up (plug alert) doing radio at FM Pipi, where they often test out different snacks on the air, letting listeners hear every lick, crunch, slurp and chew. Besides the eating noise factor, I also have never understood the blatant commercial product advocacy/criticism on this tax-funded public station. No complaints at all, just puzzling.

Hard to Swallow

And speaking of baffling, blatant eating sounds (if not sound eating) on the air, have I aired my supreme annoyance and flabbergasted flummoxedness at the incessant, heavy-handed use of gulping, swallowing sounds in Japanese TV commercials for beer and other drinks? I get it that it’s visceral and supposed to make the drinks more appetizing, but enough already. I’m nonplussed. Is it any accident that American TV ads don’t do that?

And a last bit of indulgence: I had some Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the first time in ages today. Now I realize why they were on sale: They melt like the Dickens in this heat (will people similarly abuse my surname in years to come? Sorry, Charlie; Hopeful me… (check out that link – credits to McCarthy-era-blacklisted Herschel Bernardi (I remember Arnie and the lunchbox/briefcase intro à la 2001), though this “alternate opening” I definitely remember in some form, and George Carlin)). I had to scrape the amorphous contents off the brown paper cup with my two front teeth.

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Yes, that Pennsylvania zip code leads you to Hershey, the now Surrey, UK-based never-say-melt competitor to Nestlé. It’s 8:45. Do you know where your fave Co is HQ’d??

And what of that “cocoa mass” ingredient? Was this written presumptively before the Higgs Boson virtual discovery announcement? As opposed to “dark matter,” “milk matter,” “cocoa antimatter,” or my midriff. Someone please end this murky matter and send the chemical makeup of cocoa mass.

Lighting It Up

There was a little stall-type festival along Nagase dori today, apparently marking Gion, the beckoning of departed souls of loved ones and ancestors back to their earthly homes. People will light small mukaebi fires outside their front doors Friday night to show the spirits the way.

Despite working in beautiful more-or-less downtown Tajimi for over four years, I’d missed this one until now. Maybe it always comes on a weekday? Or perhaps being limited to Nagase dori was the issue. Anyway, good times.

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The majority of revellers were young people – junior high or elementary school kids, some in yukata, enjoying themselves and the bustling atmosphere. Red paper lanterns with bamboo fronds lit the way.

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Later, some folks lit up small fireworks on the banks of the Toki River.