Saturday, November 28, 2015

Please be aware of the feet

Aware where?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Pachinko Street

The main drag running from Streetcar Street to the southeast end of the Tenmonkan arcade is lined with several very large pachinko parlors, and they fight each other with advertising for customers. This means that there's more posters, big screen TVs and flashing lights here than anywhere else in the city. (Most of which everyone just ignores.)

(TVs are built into the wall, showing ads for the machines.)

When I was here one Saturday, it looked like a pachinko magazine crew was interviewing members of one of the parlors. I was never able to get a good photo of the gathering, so I didn't try.

Lupin III is a popular theme for the machines right now, as are Evangelion and Hokuto no Ken.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ginza Street

This is the view of the entrance to Ginza Street, at the north-east side of Tenmonkan, leading to the red light district. What I consider interesting here is the placement of chainsaw art.

The sign behind this piece announced a Japanese country-wide chainsaw carving contest at the beginning of November.

On the corner to the right is a police box. It's probably the most modern-looking koban in Kagoshima.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Climb

Even though I didn't get to see the rocket launch, I did take enough photos to justify putting them into a blog entry. As mentioned a couple days ago, I wanted to take the pictures from the top of Shiroyama. That's Shiroyama ahead of me in the above shot. The street runs along the south wall of Terukuni shrine, and past what had been love hotels, but are now mansion buildings (upscale apartments). The path continues straight into the trees, then turns into a flight of steps going up to the left.

I've taken pictures of the stairs before, so I won't bother doing that again. I've timed myself doing laps up and down, and at the best of times it's 15 minutes from this point and then back. The height of the hill is equivalent to a 35-story building, give or take a story. My goal is the parking lot in front of the hotel just barely visible as the brown structure at the top left of the photo. The stairs end at the left side of the hotel, about 12 feet from the top. There's a walkway that spans the entire length of the hotel and ends in another flight of steps up to a different parking lot on the other side of the broadcast tower. So, it's about 1 block to double back from the tourist parking to get to the north entrance to the hotel.

At the top, from the hotel parking lot. The volcano has been pretty quiet lately. I think all those clouds are just plain clouds. And in fact, this morning the Japan Times newspaper website had a story that the eruption alert level for the volcano has finally been downgraded again.

Tanegashima is somewhere out past the horizon to the south of the volcano. I was hoping that I'd see the rocket trail in this general direction. Turns out, though, that I may not have been able to take video of it anyway. For some reason, I'd pulled the memory card out of the camera and forgot to put it back. The big camera does have internal memory, but just enough to store 3-4 minutes of video, but not any more than that...

I've seen this submarine in the bay several times now. When I mentioned it to one of the taxi drivers waiting to watch the rocket launch, he acted like this is a common occurrence. I'd just like to know if there's any way to get tickets to ride inside it.

From this angle it looks like the boat is going straight at the sub. Actually, it just kept going down to the south end of the bay.

Now, on the walkway running below the hotel on the way up the hill, there was a Japanese guy with a good camera aimed at the volcano, and clicking away at about a 10-second rate. I asked him what he was doing, and if he was going to watch the launch. He answered, "no," and that he was there to make a time-lapse movie of Sakurajima. He also had a drone for taking higher altitude pictures. It was fairly noisy, and never got much more than 50 feet above the trees. It was cool to watch it hover, though. Maybe some day...

After giving up prematurely on watching the rocket and returning to street level, I walked past this bar that has this large medallion with the Alien on it, and the word "Power" underneath. There was no good angle for taking the photo without getting too much reflection off the glass. So, that was it for that day's excursion. The weather was nice, though, and I guess the walk up the hill counted as exercise or something...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


This could easily be a Small Adventure, except that I have pictures.

There's a small shop near the apartment, on the main street running from the freeway up to Streetcar Street, in the direction of the main train station, called Daiichi. I forget how long the shop has been there, and since it's right next door to a car dealership, I thought it was a bank outlet or something for funding car loans. They had some interesting banners a couple years ago, but nothing since then, and I've just ignored the place. But recently, as I went by one day, I saw the banner inside the front office for Tensai Bakabon. I debated with myself for a few seconds before taking out the small camera and going in the door. The receptionist sitting at the front desk looked at me, so I pointed to the camera and then the banner. Her face went white and she started to panic. She got up and ran around a barrier partition and came back with the manager. I asked him if I could take a photo of the banner, and he shrugged and said, "Sure". The receptionist was really relieved and just stood there and smiled. That's when the big projection screen behind her caught my eye. It was showing some kind of animation, and I then saw a door a little ways away with some flashing machines inside, and "Showroom" on the door. Thinking this was a game developer company, I asked what they sold here. The manager answered "pachinko machines". I should have figured that out on my own based on all the tobacco smoke in the air.

I talked with the manager a little bit more, mentioning that I don't play pachinko because I'm not good at it, but I do like the Bakabon manga. The guy said "wait a second," went around the projection screen, and came back with some promotional materials for the machine. So now, I have a confidential Baka-bot notebook, and some cool glossy art. Sweet!


Also, I'd mentioned yesterday that JAXA was launching a rocket from Tanegashima at 3:23 that afternoon. Short answer is that I missed it. The weather was good - partly cloudy, cool, not too windy. I hiked up Shiroyama, and got to the hotel parking lot a little before 3 PM. Some tourists came and went, but most of them just wanted to look at the volcano. I got the big camera set up on the tripod and took a couple photos of the old submarine sitting in the middle of the bay. At close to 3:15, some other people, and a couple taxi drivers, gathered near me to watch. I put the camera on record and aimed it at where I thought the launch site was. 3:23 comes and goes, and one of the people starts looking at his smartphone, and mutters "chuudan" (interrupted). He says that the launch will probably be rescheduled to 5 PM, and suddenly everyone leaves.

I don't have a smartphone, and no way of checking the net, so I stay until 3:40, then pack everything up to get ready to return to the apartment. Walking up the hill is hard work and I was covered in sweat. I was debating taking a second shower before going in to teach English classes at 5:30 PM (I'd have to leave the apartment to go to the school at 5 PM, and I might not be getting TO the apartment until 4:30 if I waited too long). So, I go to the stairs down the hill, which is completely surrounded by trees and buildings. In the apartment, I check the JAXA website, and it claims that the launch happened at 3:23. It's not until I get to the school that I learn that the rocket launched at 3:50 PM, when I was in the middle of the trees, and that the owner of the school and the other teacher had both watched it from the roof of the office building the school is located in. Sigh. Maybe next time.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Cleaning Service Logo

Japan is fascinated with commercial mascots.
Not all of the ideas work as well as others...


Just as a follow-up to yesterday's blog... I'd mentioned that the Tenmonkan Illuminations 2015 event on Saturday was only intended to run 2 hours, and that the stage had been dismantled that evening. And that there was nothing going on in front of Lotteria, while Amu Plaza had the university a cappella group singing on Sunday for 70 minutes for the Magio-net driving school promotion. And I'd written that Monday was a holiday - Labour Thanksgiving Day. Well, Monday has come and gone. The day started out cloudy and cool, and I had to go to a home supplies center to get materials for a new kerosene room heater we'd bought online (a spare kerosene tank, a garbage can, a broom, big brick to put on the heater to keep the room warm a little longer after the heater is turned off). The center is near the Frespo Park strip mall, in the Tempozan area, 20 minutes from the main train station by bus. We did a lot of shopping, and had a late lunch at a restaurant nearby. We didn't get back to Amu Plaza until 4:30 PM. Turned out, though, that all they had were some tables selling fresh green tea leaves. No event stage this time. I made my way to Tenmonkan, and the tables for the tarot and crafts people were being torn down when I got there, but there still wasn't a stage in front of 7-11, so no live events there either. And also nothing at Lotteria. Overall, a dead 3-day weekend. Which was compounded by heavy clouds that swept in at 4:30 PM, bringing rain and leading into a huge thunderstorm at 6 PM. The rain let up in the evening, and by midnight the moon was shining brightly overhead, and the sky was mostly clear. The weather looks promising for the rocket launch today at Tanegashima at about 3:20 PM. I'm going to try climbing to the top of Shiroyama hill to take photos from the hotel parking lot. I have no idea if the rocket is going to be visible at all from so far away (150 miles, maybe?) Hopefully, the launch won't be delayed much, because I have to be at the conversation school near City Hall to teach English lessons from 5:30 to 8:30 PM this evening...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Magio-net Christmas

Last week, Amu Plaza erected their big Christmas tree in the open plaza in front of the main train station. They also put up some lights and festive plants in the planter at the front of the plaza, but they don't have the climbing Santa figure this year.

I had to work on Saturday so I couldn't get up there then, and on Sunday we were doing some shopping so I only had a couple minutes to swing by the plaza to see what was going on. The main thing was that Magio-net, a driving school based in Kagoshima, was advertising their driving school services by displaying some motorcycles and small cars. The area was also being used by a couple crafts tables and local food producers.

(They know where you live.)

There was also a small performance area, not really a stage, where the Kagoshima University a cappella group was scheduled to perform for 70 minutes.

I only had time to listen for a couple minutes before we continued shopping. When we finished, the music was over and nothing else was happening in this space. What little I could catch of the singers was pretty good, although I think that the human beat box (the guy at the far right of the photo) wasn't really necessary. But, he seemed to either be a core member, or the group leader, so I guess no one here is going to try to get rid of him.

Otherwise, a pretty quiet weekend compared to the last 3-4 weeks. The Tenmonkan Illumination thing Saturday was just a short 2-hour one-shot, and the stage in front of 7-11 was gone by Sunday. The tables in the walkways were still there, selling rice, fish, nail art, tarot readings, and prepared food from one of the soba restaurants. I ended up getting a fish paste thing on a skewer and a small cup of amazake (sweet, unfiltered sake) for 330 yen total. That was good, anyway. Monday is a national holiday (Labour Thanksgiving Day), but we have to go do more shopping again (this time at a home supplies store near Frespo park (a soul-less strip mall) 30 minutes away by bus). I doubt there will be any events anywhere, and if there are, I'll probably miss them again.