Tag Archives: walking

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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Taster’s Choice

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Take Five

Upwards of forty downtown Tajimi establishments are teaming up for this first annual upcoming event, similar to a barhopping “machi-kon,” called “Yume Machi.” Over the course of two days, for the ¥3500 price of one ticket (¥4000 the starting day of the event), you can eat, drink, shop or otherwise partake of services at any five participating shops, restaurants, cafes or bars at no extra cost. You get a map of all the stops and a special hand fan to encourage walking from place to place and identify you as a participant.

It’s a good value, a way to try out some places you thought were out of your price range, and maybe even a chance to make some new friends. Event menus for each spot are here. Tickets are available at participating stores and through the website.

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The event flyer and website are also touting a smartphone app that seems to feature coupons and information on area events and businesses. It seems to be a web app and is called “Tono App.”

Coming Into View

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The milder weather has had buds very pregnant with color, as seen in a photo from a walk in Kyomachi, Tajimi, a few days ago.

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These others are from a walk yesterday, when things really began a-bursting. Above, another rare Kasukabe plate on a March into spring. Today is the vernal equinox, also a national holiday. Traffic should be heavier than a normal Wednesday.

Grow in the Dark

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Life even sprouts in a ceramic sculpture on Heiwabashi Bridge.

A Shot in the Light

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This flower was so high up, short of ending up with a silhouette from beneath, I had to shoot it from above blind. Selective focus/white balance and shutter-releasing blind with one steady hand that’s also holding the iPhone camera itself facing you, is no barrel of monkeys (does it sound like one?). Have to say I’m pleased with the results, even if that’s what I look like.

Hitch Your Store to a Wagon

Here and Gone

Walking along Oribe Street yesterday, I came upon a group of a dozen or fifteen people gathered in front of an area that’s normally just an empty, nondescript driveway. A couple of tables had been set up in front of a truck, and folks were checking out goods on the tables, but the crowd was so dense I couldn’t make out the cause for the commotion.

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On asking what they were selling, I found out it was sweets and snacks from Kobe, and the makeshift shop would only be there another half hour. Since it seemed to be drawing such a crowd, I decided to pick up some arare, small rice crackers coated in soy sauce and various flavorings.

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This kind of intinerant shop is about as analog as it gets these days, so it’s nice to see it attracting so many people. It makes me think, accurately or not, of medieval times or the old west, when travelling wagon-bound shops may have brought spices or snake-oil to isolated towns, outposts, and frontiers. I imagine the neighbors all call one another when someone sees them setting up. This one comes here about once a month, and only for an hour or two. Besides the little rice crackers, they had several kinds of cakes. Short of knowing someone in the loop, I think you just have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

Happy Day

Today’s mild weather was such a welcome relief, and how fitting it was. It started when I woke up to some relieving and exciting news (more on that below), and continued through the day.

First, as this weather was something to savor, let me share a little footbound exploration using that walking map I mentioned recently.

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Just right of the center of this view of the map (with explanatory speech bubble below it) is Hakusan Shrine (pictured below), known as a healing spot in central Tajimi. Above and to the left of the shrine on the map, you can see the location of Tourin Syunyo cafe and gallery. I’ll blog about the map (really a coordinated effort to raise awareness of these wards’ arts offerings) more comprehensively as I try to visit some of the spots.

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Meanwhile today, there was great news about the LiveCode Kickstarter – a huge growing surge over the past couple of days from people all over the world has put the campaign over the top. Now with less than 24 hours remaining, there’s still much more to aim for: LiveCode’s maker, RunRev, has set “stretch goals” beyond the original lofty target, which itself, frankly, looked unattainable to many only a few days ago. Sorry to get a bit technical here as I explain, but it’s a significant event, I think.

The first stretch goal, basically allowing automatic handling of any mobile screen resolution, has been reached. This has always been a significant roadblock for all mobile developers whenever new devices come out (Retina, iPhone 5, odd-sized Android phones, etc.). And it will continue being just as big a pain for most everyone to scramble to support, season in and season out, except for lucky LiveCode developers.

And just now as I’ve been typing, the second extra goal has been met. This will let users automatically use native themes for iOS, Android, and other mobile platforms. Up to now, we’ve had to create many of our own interface elements, which is often even better (more original, attractive, and fun), but for many apps this will make the process much quicker, and allow for apps with a more conventional look-and-feel (sometimes more marketable).

The third new target is to bring Cocoa support to Mac desktop app deployment. All the features of the latest Mac OS, continuing into the future, will be at your disposal. Your Mac apps will be as slick and integrated into the OS as anything out there.

The Kickstarter is now the most highly-pledged open sourcification project ever, and seems headed to end up in the all-time top ten tech Kickstarters. The LiveCode user/developer community is abuzz with plenty of other ideas and plans of their own (that’s what open-sourcing enables) now that the main goal is a fait accompli.

Thanks to everyone who contributed, and let’s make one more final push for Cocoa. You can still pledge if you haven’t already. It’ll take a mighty finish. Tell anyone you know. Blog it, Facebook it, tweet about it. Use LinkedIn, Line, or a large megaphone. It’s individuals like you who make the difference.

Weathering Cold Times

A few pictures mainly from a walk in Honmachi, Tajimi on Thursday. On the left, peeled plaster rises rather Mt. Fuji-like toward roof rafters on Oribe Street. In the next shot, offerings at a small ceremony at a wee Inari shrine I’ve mentioned before. I learned it’s actually an Inari shrine, meaning the ceremony was for the sake of business. Fittingly, sitting around a fire lit in an old steel drum, a handful of hardy old-timers braved the cold with the help of some sake and food donated by local businesses. It’s certainly not getting any warmer – unforecast snow covered rooves again (bottommost) this morning in Toki.

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Second from the bottom, a peek into what I imagine was once a mildly thriving, covered backalley of bars near the Ogaki Kyoritsu Bank. I guess the tiny izakayas must still do some business among longtime residents, but I don’t think anyone’s using terms like “renaissance” or “comeback” in regard to these erstwhile hotspots.

Now Showing

A Shot in the Arm

Well, ain’t that a kick in the head. No sooner do I do a little cheerleading and blog about a Kickstarter fundraiser, than Kickstarter comes out with its own iPhone app (free!) the same day. The LiveCode project needed something like this.

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Art in the Park

Also kicking off today is the Ishoken Graduate Exhibition. Students graduating from the Tajimi-sponsored ceramic arts school are showing their earthen theses at Ceramic Park Mino through Sunday. A hands-on ceramics lab and design course are also being offered at the facility today.

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I talked to the owner of art de vivre cafe (thanks for the kumquats, Tomo!), a graduate of the program, who said the students come from, and ultimately disperse back to, all over the country, putting careers on hold for a year to concentrate on their art. I’ll try to get up to the show for some photos.

A Shot in the Dark

Finally, a sock-soaking walk in today’s cold rain netted me just this:

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No, this Taita Line train hasn’t rudely run up against a defenseless traffic sign. It’s what’s underneath. This underpass beneath the JR Chuo and Taita lines, with a clearance of just 160 centimeters, was listed on the map below as a little thrillseeking spot (I’ll have more on the map in another post). Having run up against a closed “Honey’s Diner” (perhaps not so ironically, someone else I asked today recently had the same not-so-sweet experience, minus the rain, being, like a frustrated Pooh, unable to gain access to this purported Honey west of the station), this low point was now destined to be the highpoint of my walk. Though I’ve been there before, just for kicks, I ducked by to see.

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My mission, should I choose to accept it: while simultaneously disentangling a complex, insidious snarl of 60′s TV spy and detective drama cliches and characters, to delve into the dark depths of the subversive passageway, track its clandestine comings and goings, assess potential sources of leaks, tease out its secrets, thwart imminent threats, and generally save the planet, being ever careful to dodge nefarious puddles and sporadic dripping train fluids.

Never a second thought. I was game.

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Though the sign states a 1.6 meter limit, the actual height is higher. No need to duck. I walked under it with my umbrella overhead. And there are little side nooks to stand in if a car comes through. And yes, they do. Especially thrillseeking taxis, it seems. Beeping their horns at cold, splishing, dimly lit, umbrella-toting, thoroughly engrossed, picture-taking underpass pilgrims. I half expected Tige Andrews to come chasing after me for jaywalking. At one point I thought I was about to be cornered by an unknown agent on a stealthy new kind of Segway. You can imagine my relief when the silhouette turned out to be an obaasan pushing one of those upright personal grocery carts. Relatively unscathed, and with the security of the free world more or less assured, I eventually scampered back to the safety of Nagase Dori and a rich, hot, foamy cafe latte at art de vivre. You want thrills? I got thrills. I know of an even slimmer chute under the tracks in Toki that will keep you glued* to the edge of your seat, at least until the next Kickstarter commercial.

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*Think about it.

East of the Sun and West of the Moon

They Might Be Giants

Having been laid up for a bit, I decided to take a walk during the mild afternoon today in Toki. With the sun at my back, I sauntered eastward, hoping to find a bit to blog about as well.

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By the time I reached the midpoint of my loop and turned back in the direction I came, the clouds had covered the sun, which was a relief since it would’ve been blinding. I snapped the shutter on this VW Bug that, like another I saw last year, still has a rare old Gifu license plate with only one kanji.

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The Bug was a giant compared to what was down the road a bit. This Daihatsu Midget has been here ever since I can remember. It has its own little parking space under a corrugated roof in front of the owner’s house. It’s always spotless. And I don’t think it’s ever driven. A little research revealed it’s likely a first-year (1957) model. Subsequent models had such modern luxuries as steering wheels, doors and four wheels. This is in fact the well-known tuk-tuk that’s chugged and beeped through the traffic throngs of Southeast Asia for over half a century. It’s actually classified as an autorickshaw.

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After I got back home, the clouds had floated to the eastern sky, bringing a cool rain, and with the sun back out in the west, this double rainbow.

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That might be a heavy-duty ham’s antenna. I guess it’s still a relatively common hobby among older men here. Me, I’m just an amateur ham…

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This is the building that used to house Sabbat Sabbat Jazz Bar. I hadn’t realized until now that it closed last summer until further notice, apparently. Not being Spiderman, and having to carefully use my left arm as a rain roof for the arm/hand/thumb-capturing lens-at-the-edge wide-angle iPhone, this was the best angle I could get to match the building’s distinctive arced roofline with the rainbow.

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None of these rainbow images are enhanced. Only cropped. If I could get idyllic scenes with rolling hills and stately oaks and little lambs to adorn the lightshow, or even graphic urban blight, trust me, I would. The horizon-al reality of where I live is wires, antennas, corrugated tin and cramped, often uninspired architecture, not new enough to be a statement, not old enough to be antique, not Dickensian enough to be a player in its own right. For every borderline workable angle like this pair of rooves, there are a thousand useless ones. I just make what I can of it.

And the Moon Jumped Over the Cow

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Finally, a little while ago, this. Behind those dark clouds and the rainbow had been this mooing mingling of multicolored light. In the constellation of Taurus, the Moon is right in the head of the bull, with Jupiter right in the, uh, bull’s eye. And I think, by Jove, to the lower right of the moon faintly in this picture, the other eye, the red giant Aldebaran.

Lost and Found

Google’s free new Maps iPhone app was welcome news for anyone around here (and perhaps anywhere) who’d come to expect reliable map coverage for free on their iOS device. That it came with turn-by-turn voice navigation this soon was a wonderful unexpected Christmas bonus. A great big thank you to Big G for that. They may have taken the high-tech high road by choosing to provide it for free despite it not being pre-installed anymore.

I tried out the new navigation, technically still in beta, on my iPhone 5 (iOS 6.0), and was pretty happy. As a driver, I really felt like I was using navigation for the first time. There are new options like avoiding toll roads, and displaying public transportation and walking directions. Extra information like StreetView and online restaurant reviews is easily visible without leaving the app. It quickly recalculated routes when I took unscheduled turns. It even kept working after I turned off the screen by pressing the power button on the top edge of the phone, though in truth by pressing it I intended to shut it down completely as the battery was draining and I knew where I was at that point.

It took me to my destination without a hitch, though the place I was going was closed (the app’s Open Sesame button feature is rumored to be in pre-alpha testing). In fact there is a place in the app that shows business hours (none shown in this case), but the info may simply not have been available.

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I was going to Soya Coco, a cafe in Sogi, above, which a recent magazine listed as being open that day (though closed on cold/snowy days), but the owner came out to tell me it was only open on weekends. The app, like Apple’s (no way around it) half-baked attempt at atlasing, does have an option for reporting new or wrong information. I’ll have to get back to Soya Coco another time.

One oddity the app did display was sometimes skipping names of intersections (not that all crossings have names anyway) when telling you to turn. For example, it would say “Turn right at onto 69.” If there’s no name or landmark associated with the intersection, they could simply leave out the “at.” Now if only the WordPress iOS app would leave out “smart” quotes, life would be peefect. That typo is thanks to the iPhone 5′s changed touchscreen, the worst manifestation of which is an often (accepted up to at least iPhone 4) ignored tap on the space key, prevalent and documented enough now to be considered rife. Ithink it’s actually an pverall issueof periphery taps being ignored. Younormally don’t see it here because I take the time to check and edit.

Other than that, the main downside I experienced was the battery usage and heating of the phone, which is only to be expected, and is true of any navigation app and smartphone. Shutting off the screen (if voice directions are enough) would probably cut down on that. I’d also make sure the app was completely off when I wasn’t actually using it (by double-tapping the home button to bring up the active apps on the bottom of the screen, long-pressing any app icon there, and tapping the red minus badge of the wiggling Maps app). Of course, extended use would really call for a car adapter.

So thank Google for restoring and improving a basic free feature the iDevice had clearly lost. This is some of the company’s bread and butter, pavement they’ve been pounding step by step for years (one of their long-term goals may be to be at the center of a fully driverless road transportation system), and something no one should expect Apple to be able to match any time soon. Tim Cook’s moral compass-guided apology was well-placed. One wonders what Steve Jobs would have said (“That’s not the wrong turn you’re looking for;” “There’s great enlightenment to be found in the middle of the Australian desert, you know”). Credit where credit is due, I’d say. No reason we can’t all have a piece of the pie.