Monday, October 5, 2015

Geopark Office

Lately I've been seeing a few signs scattered around Kagoshima connected to something called Geopark. I'd tried searching on the net to see if there was more information regarding where all the "Geopark" sites are, and what they're for, but outside of a vague announcement on a city government page there wasn't much. Recently, though, I noticed this sign in front of a building across from city hall.

Inside the lobby is a display for the Ohara parade where local residents dress up and perform various dances along street car street.

Yes, the parade occasionally has rabbits.

There's also a small showcase room talking about local history, and exhibiting things from Kagoshima's sister cities, including Naples, Italy, and another city in China.

An example of silk thread artwork.

The Naples case.

A very impressive miniature set.

The hallway had signed rugby uniforms.

And, in the entrance was one of the typical Geopark banners. I never did locate the official Geopark office, but a sign at the elevator said that it was on the 5th floor, leading me to think it's just an office, and probably not a visitor space, but I could be wrong. Anyway, the 6 weird shapes on the banner indicate the different kinds of features attributed to the places in the areas that are identified as Geo Park spots. In general, there will be a sightseeing marker at the spot explaining the importance of that location, either in terms of volcanic activity, the fact that it's next to a natural sciences museum, if there's something that happened politically in the past, or if it relates to the fish in the bay. I haven't seen a map or brochure showing where all the signs are, so it's kind of a hit-or-miss activity. The sign next to the natural science museum beside Central Park was in Japanese and English, but it didn't really talk about anything new and exciting that you couldn't have gotten by going directly into the museum itself.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Oct. 3 and 4

Time for another composite blog entry combining everything that happened over the weekend. I had to work for a few hours on Saturday, which was when the Yamakataya department store held another of their culture class demonstrations. Unfortunately, this time there wasn't anything worth taking pictures or video of, simply because of bad timing. When I went in to work, the Taisho harp class was just getting ready to start playing. I've run pictures of them before, and I only had a few minutes to get to the school, so I decided to skip taking photos this time. When I got out of class at 3 PM, there was just one older guy on stage, singing an old folk song. There wasn't much point in taking a picture just of him, and again, I was on kind of a tight schedule. I had to do some food shopping, then I returned to the apartment to get some work done for the online school I contract with. When I went back outside to return to the school for my 6:30 PM class, the Yamakataya event was over. I've taken video of past performances, so I didn't really feel like getting more now, if I couldn't get something really spectacular. Therefore, no big loss.

Sunday, I went back to Tenmonkan. The event space in front of the Lotteria where the Yamakataya event had been held was now turned into a flea market. Again, nothing much to write about, so I continued down to Dolphin Port in the hopes that there might be something going on there this weekend, but there wasn't. However, we'd been getting some really strong winds lately, blowing out all the clouds, and the sky has been almost crystal clear blue the last 2-3 days. Sakurajima has also been pretty quiet, so I wanted to see how the new little pocket camera would handle the colors and contrasts of the bay and volcano.

I think it did a good enough job.

Note the hills in the far distance. That's the opposite side of Kyushu, the Osumi peninsula.

The little camera didn't capture them as well. They look a lot more distinct to the human eye.

(Shown here is an artist called "Skull Works". The artist himself is in the black hat and gray shirt to the right of the plywood wall.)

From Dolphin Port, I walked back up to the main Chuo train station to see what was going on there. Fortunately, Amupla was hosting an art market, which had a live stage. The schedule board only had 2-3 bands listed for both Saturday and Sunday, and I was arriving just a few minutes before the last band, Hideki Kaji, started playing. The area right in front of the stage was too crowded, so I went up to the second floor balcony and lucked out in getting a place fairly close to where I could see the band ok. I caught 3 songs by them, then went up to the 6th floor of the department store to see what they had there.

(A better close-up of some of the art.)

Face painting doesn't always include painting faces.

Direct youtube link

A few days ago, there were banks of capsule ball dispensers, maybe close to 100 machines, on the 6th floor of Amuplaza. This time, though, the dispensers had been taken out to make room for some kind of art exhibit. I hadn't bothered to record the name, but I think it was something like Benese. Lots of weird juxtapositions of ideas, combining alligator heads with the parts of RC cars, daruma dolls designed as cats, pigs and street punks, and so on. I took pictures of the pieces I liked best, then returned home to edit the Hideki Kaji video and write up this blog. It was a nice day for it.

(Daruma in a hoodie.)

The Seven Lucky Gods, but instead of their traditional ship, they're wearing life vests in a rubber raft.

A Swiss army knife case for a smart phone, and a cribbage board for an airplane seating chart.

In Japan, insect repellant incense coils are very popular during the summer to keep mosquitoes away. Here, the coils are in the shapes of Nasca Lines.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Area 51, vol. 5 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Area 51, vol. 5, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A

(Prince Charming thinks he's found a "triangular-shaped rice ball".)

H17) It Taste Strange
We finally learn Lieutenant's name - A. Felix. Felix visits McCoy's offices on the abandoned subway platform, and he asks her for help. Seems that a terrorist group has resurfaced, but the U.S. Army doesn't know what they're after. McCoy goes out to do some research and tells her new assistant to leave Kishirou's hat alone and go get her some musubi for lunch. Charming has no idea what a "musubi" is, and first tries visiting various shops to ask around. No one has a clue, including the owner of the Area 51 sushi shop. But he'd heard that it's shaped like a triangle, and therefore is probably one of those giant triangle-headed worms living in the forest. Charming tracks down a "musubi", which almost kills him. He's rescued by a forest tengu (Japanese demon), who takes him home and shares a rice ball with him. When Charming asks how to kill a "musubi", the tengu just stares at him, then finally says, if you want a musubi, you just ate the last one. Charming panics and gets the tengu to give him the recipe for rice balls, which include umeboshi - red salted plums. Unfortunately, while the tengu still has cooked rice and seaweed, he's out of umeboshi. Fortunately, the grocery store nearby carries them. Charming rushes to the store.

Meanwhile, McCoy learns that the terrorists are planning to make a golem - a huge mud giant that could destroy Area 51. She calls Felix and alerts him to the danger. To make the golem, they need mud, blood, and a special spell scroll. The terrorists have two factions - one has the scroll and the other has the needed ingredients. Felix takes his men to the one location they know of, a grocery store. Which is where Charming is also headed. The store is sealed off and the soldiers won't let him inside. Desperate, he sees a sign for a fortune teller that promises to "find what you're looking for". He enters the building, and the teller straps him into a fully working replica of a divining rocket chair. He's told to picture what he's looking for, and then the chair launches into space. From that vantage point he locates the "umeboshi" and the chair shoots down into a building where a swamp monster is conducting some kind of illegal transaction. Charming sees what looks like large, red, wrinkled plums, and offers $10 for them. The gang attempts to kill him for the interruption, and he defends himself with his sword. He takes the umeboshi back to the forest to have the tengu make him some rice balls. He then returns to the office, bruised, battered, and filthy. McCoy complains that he's late and she's starving. She wants to eat NOW. Back at the grocery store, Felix's men can't find the scroll, but they locate a memo saying that the terrorists are having a meeting somewhere else at 3 PM to cast the spell on the blood to make one half of the golem (the transformed blood then just needs to be mixed with mud to complete the process). 30 minutes ago. The Army runs to the meeting spot, only to find a dead swamp monster, a bunch of other bodies, a suitcase full of money, and a $10 bill under a small rock (to keep it from blowing away in the wind). Felix yells out that the transformed blood is going to look like big, red, wrinkled plums. McCoy and Charming finish off the rice balls, and she comments that they taste strange this time.

(Charming locates the Horseman's head in with all the cabbages bound for Behemoth, while Pike asks if they should help save their new assistant. McCoy thinks that he should be fine on his own here.)

H18) Her Name is Cowberry
It's a busy day, and McCoy gets three job requests. The first is to find the missing head of the headless horseman. Something banged into the horseman's back at 11 PM, sending the head flying through the air, only to land on a barge of cabbages heading to Ganesh's park, where they're going to be fed to Ganesh's latest acquisition, the monster Behemoth. The second comes from Lieutenant Felix. Someone he'd talked to is going back home after 30 years, and he wants to meet a former flame from 30 years ago, named Cowberry. Supposedly, there are only 2 kinds of people that can leave Area 51 - political leaders and the yakuza, but there is one more. And finally, Amaterasu wants her broken skylight repaired. It was damaged right at 11 PM. Charming comments that he'd been attacked by something while he was outside getting groceries for the night, and it left deep tracks in the ground while also breaking his sword when he protected himself from it. McCoy locates the barge with the horseman's head, and Charming has to fight Behemoth to save the head. When the horseman leaves, McCoy notices the marks on the back of his head, which match the ones on Amaterasu's roof, and those that Charming saw. McCoy tracks down Cowberry, who is an old woman now. The detective brought the golden dragon from volume 3, and she and Cowberry fly into the air to fulfill the client's request to "look down". Turns out that the client is an alien that's returning to his home planet, and Cowberry was an abductee that he'd fallen in love with. The crop circles the alien inscribed all over Area 51 are many, many cowberry's, also known as cranberries. The alien's expectation that Cowberry could see this picture from the air came from the fact that originally she had wings. But after breaking up with the alien, she'd chopped her wings off to pass for human when she decided to marry someone else. She shows McCoy an old photo, then says that her answer to the alien is "no". She wants to stay on Earth. A little later, McCoy finds the horseman again and asks if he is still looking for the one that beheaded him. He answers that that's his only reason for existing and wants to know if McCoy had learned anything. She says, "Yes, her name is Cowberry".

(When Hades killed Zeus.)

H19) Zeus Has Died, Right?
Some street kids are watching an episode of the anime Jabberwocky (Masoto's earlier manga title) on the TV in Zeus' used electronics shop. He chases them away, while also grousing at a small dog that's hanging around out front. At her office, McCoy is visited by Hades, Zeus' older brother. Hades had killed Zeus (according to legend; it's not something that happened in the manga), but it's come to his attention that the tooth McCoy had left behind at the prison when she sprung Hebi was probably made from Zeus' lightning bolt weapon. The reason Hades had killed his brother was to be able to take his seat in the Council of the 10 Gods. If it becomes public that Zeus isn't dead, Hades will have to fight him again. McCoy tells Hades that the tooth could have come from some other lightning-using god, and he leaves saying that that's what he wanted to hear. However, word on the street is that Zeus may be alive and there's a huge bounty on him. In his shop, Zeus (who'd undergone plastic surgery to have his appearance altered) is surrounded by smoke.

(Ginkaku, left; and, Kinkaku, right.)

One of the two street urchins shows up in the middle of the smoke, holding a bottle trap. Zeus is sucked into the trap, and the child runs across the street to give the bottle to someone named Ginkaku. Both Ginkaku and Kinkaku are demon brothers from the Chinese "Journey to the West" legend, and are acting as bounty hunters right now. They've got various treasures that make them almost invincible - the trap bottle, a fire glove, and the Seven Stars sword that has been melted down to make rifle rounds. They're also incestuous sadomasochistic lovers. They kill the one urchin and ignore the other, while maintaining their stakeout of Zeus' shop. They see McCoy dropping by and prepare to simply kill her.

(Zeus prepares to use his lightning weapon against the mutated Ginkaku, when the dog that has been hanging around his store suddenly makes an appearance..)

H20) Only That Dog Knew
Zeus, trapped in the bottle, attempts to use his lightning to escape. This fails, but it throws off Ginkaku's sniper shot. McCoy tries to escape, but is caught by Kinkaku, who tries to roast her with the glove. There's a lot of running around, fighting and stuff, until McCoy manages to pull the stopper out of the bottle. She gets Pike to shoot a bullet into the jar, which cracks it. Zeus uses his lightning again, this time shattering the bottle and getting free. He fries Kinkaku, but Ginkaku, who's still standing on the roof of the building on the opposite side of the street, uses the Seven Star bullets to turn himself into a full-fledged demon. Zeus prepares to use his lightning bolt weapon to defeat Ginkaku, but that's going to tell the world that he's still alive. Then, Zeus notices the small dog that had been hanging around his shop. It turns into a monster, eats Ginkaku, and runs away. McCoy explains that Hades had given them a hint before - as long as everything was settled quietly, he wouldn't have to kill his brother again. Right now, the only other one who knows that Zeus is alive is the dog. It returns to his owner and takes its proper shape as Cerberus before settling down next to Hades. On the final page, we see that Hades really misses being able to hang out with his brother.

(Hades and his pet, Cerberus.)

(Who both miss Zeus.)

Short Story: Until You Finish Area 51
This was the other story I fan translated. Masato is given an ultimatum by his editor to finish the latest chapters before the deadline. He fails, and it looks like he's going to get his fingernails torn out in punishment. Again.

(Prince Charming, and Joe, the alien. On the front cover, McCoy and Cerberus.)

Summary: Ginkaku and Kinkaku are really over the top. Their interactions aren't overly gross or explicit, but most western readers are going to be turned off by them. Otherwise, this is another great book. Recommended, with reservations. I loved the musubi story.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Area 51, vol. 4 review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Area 51, vol. 4, by Masato Hisa. Grade: A

(The Council of 10 Gods, in order from right to left.)

H13) Let it Go and Become Easy
As McCoy and the prisoner walk out of the prison by using Zeus' power to stop time, the Council of 10 Gods convenes an emergency meeting in the Gods of Earth restaurant. The council consists of Ra (Egypt), Morrigan (Celts), Marduk (Mesopotamia), Odin (north Europe), Mokosh (Slavic), Shiva (India), Tsukuyomi (Japan), Tezcatlipoca (Aztecs), Seitentaisei (AKA: Son Goku, China) and Hades (Greece). While the gods argue over whether to get personally involved, or let the American soldiers handle the problem (and Odin just keeps trying to get people to calm down and drink more), McCoy drives the prisoner away in her car. However, rather than tell her where "that guy" (her sworn enemy) is, the prisoner throws himself out of the car and over the cliff they're passing by. A snake slithers out of the brain of the corpse and turns into "Saisho no Hebi" - "The First Snake". No one knows where it originated from, but it's undying and had been imprisoned in the head of a human to isolate it from the rest of the world. It's out now, AND it wants the sword embedded inside McCoy in order to raise an army of snake demons to overthrow the Council of 10. The other Council members want to know what the god from McCoy's country, Tsukuyomi, is going to do about this, but he remains silent. Silent, but not inactive. Amaterasu has been dispatched to the American military base to help locate the enemy. She gets the Lieutenant to help her out, and when they get a lead, she teleports to the target site. Meanwhile, Saisho no Hebi denies knowing anything about McCoy's enemy, and slowly starts preying on her fears and doubts, bringing up bad memories and eating away at her sense of self. Pike tries to protect her, but it's too late, McCoy's control over Kusanagi is failing and her body is ripping in two again. Hebi can't touch the sword directly, but if Kusanagi fully rejects McCoy, then Hebi can claim it himself.

(His Majesty, the First Snake)

McCoy recalls a stakeout with her partner, an older guy named Asamatsu, apparently killed by a monster. Then, her lover, who committed suicide in front of her by shooting himself in the head. This is followed by Kishirou accusing her of causing Kirimaru's death. Slowly, but surely, Hebi is winning.

(What's made her so angry is that her name is Tokuko...)

(Now, Hebi is just messing with her.)

(But, the plan is working. Quetzalcoatl joins his master, Hebi.)

H14) Finally, I Can Buy a Donut At the Main Street and Go Home
Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god from Mesoamerica, locates Hebi and greets him as "Masterly father". They wait as Kusanagi continues to emerge. Pike tries to get through to her, and McCoy does manage to summon him and fire off one bullet, but it's no threat to Hebi. Then, a Yatagayasu (Japanese 3-legged crow monster) smashes down on Quetzal long enough for Amaterasu to arrive. Hebi orders Quetzal to keep Amaterasu busy, and they fight for a while. In McCoy's head, she remembers her lover, who seems to have suffered from extreme depression. He talks about having nothing to leave behind in this world if he dies. McCoy tried to support him, and eventually got "good news" from her doctor. She rushed home to share it with her boyfriend, but it's too late, as he is in the process of committing suicide. The darkness inside her turns into a creature holding a fetus between its fingers. This is a mistake, because this last piece of information had been a secret between only her and "him". McCoy goes into a blinding rage, literally pulls herself back together and summons Pike to blow holes through both Hebi and Quetzal. Quetzal panics, grabs what remains of Hebi, and flies away. McCoy's aim is bad in her current state, and she keeps missing. When Pike runs out of bullets, she passes out and collapses into Amaterasu's arms. Amaterasu comments that if she'd known that things were going to turn out this way, she wouldn't have bothered asking the U.S. Army for help.

(Was working. Until McCoy got angry.)

The Council calls McCoy to testify in front of them, and she claims that Kusanagi is now safe from Hebi for all time. The Council is happy with this outcome and lets her go without a warning. Outside the chamber room, Lieutenant and Amaterasu chat while they wait for the decision. Amaterasu splits, and McCoy talks Lieutenant into taking her somewhere for donuts. The Gods leave, all except for the drunkard, Odin. He pretends to stick around to keep drinking, then summons Brunhilda. He tells her to mobilize the Valkyries and have them kill McCoy and bring him the sword.

(Prince Charming faces off against McCoy and Pike.)

H15) You Guys Still Doing Situation for 800 Years?
McCoy is deep in the middle of a thick forest in search of a thief. The criminal is the tsukumogami (animated object) vase that has lived for 100 years (first seen way back in volume 1). The vase stole a lacquer box from a Japanese mermaid princess, and the victim has hired McCoy to get it back. McCoy stumbles across a battle raging between two armies, and only one side is willing to pause in the fighting long enough to talk to her, so she rescues one of the fighters and escapes into that side's castle. The fighter turns out to be one of seven dwarfs, who serves to protect their princess and her lover. Pretty soon it's obvious that the princess is Snow White, and the prince is Charming. And the war has been going on for 800 years. McCoy asks this group about the vase, but no one seems to have heard about it. The only other person there, though, is the maid, Fredrika, who is obviously in love with the prince. That night, McCoy notices Snow and the maid taking a stairway down to a lower floor, but she ignores this and goes to bed. The next morning, the dwarfs find the body of a witch named Mason, and under her are the broken remains of the vase. Since the only way for a tsukumogami to die is to be destroyed by another tsukumogami, McCoy and Pike become the prime suspects. Then, another dwarf rushes up to announce that Snow White has apparently been poisoned and is dying. While the other suspect would be Fredrika, Charming accuses McCoy and goes into a towering rage as he attacks her with his sword.

(All that remains of Snow White is the memories.)

H16) There is a Job Called Detective's Assistant in the World
When the princess is in danger, Charming goes ballistic. McCoy and Pike can't stop him normally, so they toss a clip at him, and then light up the gunpowder after the prince cuts the bullets in half with his sword to create a smoke screen to escape. Outside the castle, McCoy is captured by the enemy forces, bound and chained before being dragged to the other castle. However, the Queen on that side orders the prisoners freed so they can chat. Turns out that the "evil Queen" looks just like Snow White. In fact, the massive mirror that the queen used to use when she asked "who is the fairest of all" had become 100 years old, causing it to turn into a tsukumogami, which made her reflection real, and it escaped. Actually, the story of Snow White is that the "princess" is the queen's shadow, and she's been fighting for 800 years to get it back. Armed with this knowledge, McCoy returns to the first castle, where Snow is revealing herself to be the killer. She'd captured the witch, Mason, and had been torturing her for years. She then hired the tsukumogami vase to steal the mermaid princess' lacquer box from Japan because it contains a smoke that represents captured time, and killed both the vase and Mason to cover her tracks. She'd taken Fredrika to the dungeons the night before to reveal her secret, trap the mermaid smoke inside the maid's body, and used Mason to create a spell to make Fredrika and Snow look like each other. Prince Charming and the 7 dwarfs are locked in the room with the maid, but McCoy arrives in time to stop Snow just outside the room and make her confess. Since Snow is a tsukumogami, as is Pike, Pike is able to destroy her and she turns into thousands of shards of glass before becoming the queen's reflection again. Then we learn that Fredrika is the mermaid from Hans Christian Andersen's story, and she'd rescued Charming prior to turning human. Charming tries to rescue her, but the smoke escapes and 800 year's worth of trapped time catches up to everyone in the cellar. Everyone, that is, but the Prince. Fredrika bit her tongue and then kissed Charming at the last moment. The immortality of the mermaid blood cancelled out the trapped time from the smoke, and he's left as normal. Pike is finally able to shoot through the door to free the Prince, and McCoy offers him a job as her new assistant.

Short story: You have Eight Good Legs
This is the one I fan translated. Krakken decides to use his shapeshifting powers to open up a maid cafe, only to have two idiot robbers break in to try to take the "maids" hostage.

Summary: Drama! Love! Hate! War! Gods! Princesses! Snakes!
Highly recommended as long as you're not easily offended.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Security Light

There's a parking lot near my apartment, which is used by some company for their employees' cars. I walk by it all the time, but just recently, something at the top of a power pole caught my eye for the first time.

The security lamp is just clamped in place. I assume this arrangement works just fine for the lot owner, but still...

It is kind of amateurish. I think it's been up there like that for at least a year.