torsdag, juni 28, 2007

Vulcanos rule

Sakurajima seen from the southern city of Kagoshima. Norway may be full of stunning mountains but suffer from an acute lack of vulcanos, whereas Japan due to tectonic placement is "lucky" enough to possess a number of the lovely lava buddies.

Sakurajima is one of the active ones, as seen up close with smoke billowing forth. Used to be an island but a violent eruption connected it to the mainland. Covered in volcanic rock and strangely enough, the place where you can find the world's smallest mandarins and the biggest radishes, reaching a diameter of 60+ cm!

søndag, juni 24, 2007

Tiniest beer in the world

Must be. It is common knowledge that many things are miniatuarised in Japan, but 135 ml beer cans? One sip and finished. Then again, the market has spoken so there must be some demand.

fredag, juni 22, 2007

Return of the kamikazes

Maybe the one Japanese word most foreigners would know, divine wind and all. Down in Chiran in Kyushu, the southernmost of the Japanese main isles, they even have a "Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots". A somber memorial affair, with portraits and stories of the 1036 pilots who took off on one-way missions bound for the Allied fleets at Okinawa. Especially poignant were the many farewell letters, ranging from "I'm going to die in the Okinawan Sea. Even after my death I protect my country, Japan" to "How many people will cry for me when I die?"

The kamikazes return from time to time in Japanese debate on how to represent the war and those who fought it. This May saw the release of another kamikaze film, "I go to die for you", which received some criticism for glorifying war and the pilots. Maybe due to the fact that known nationalist and Tokyo governor, Ishihara Shintaro, was instrumental in producing the film. Trailer here, but like most movies in Japanese cinemas no English subtitles are available, so obviously it will be somewhat difficult to grasp any political subtext!

mandag, juni 18, 2007

Sacred gateways

I never was unduly fascinated by zen gardens, kimonos, tea ceremonies and the other vestiges of "mystical Japan", but I must admit one weakness, the torii.

Something about the form of these Shinto gateways, who mark the passage from the profane to the sacred in the same way as portals in other religions, is just damn aesthetically pleasing. Pure beauty. You can walk the streets of Tokyo past shops and offices and bam, suddenly a small Shinto shrine appears. Gets me every time.

This torii is supposedly the most photographed in Japan, standing in the shallows of a small island off the coast of Hiroshima. When the tide is low it is actually possible to walk up to it.

The island is also populated by wild deer, enabling this bonus shot for Bambi lovers:

søndag, juni 17, 2007

Don't cry for me Fukuoka

Hilarious this wannabe-Argentinianism of the supporters of Avispa Fukuoka, a football team languishing in the division of J2. Not only the homage to Maradona and Evita, but also the extensive use of Spanish slogans! The season ticket holders pass even boldly stated yo soy el verdadero 12, ie "I am the real number 12", the most dedicated supporter faction, the twelfth member of the team.

Quite interesting that in a country very much influenced by English, they in this case chose to turn to Spanish. Must be some interesting cultural influences at work here, maybe the effect of latin immigrants, though I did not spot a single one. Or maybe somebody realised that the most fanatic supporters in the world are Argentinian, let's just copy their set-up.

Researching using the almighty internet provides some answers, turns out that Avispa Fukuoka has had a string of Argentinian managers, and also some players, including one Hugo Maradona, indeed brother of el Diego!

Also, only in Japanese football can you see players politely bowing to the referee and asking for forgiveness when yellow-carded, even the many Brazilian players!

søndag, juni 10, 2007

Women only

Yesterday I came across one of the the famed "women only" metro cars. Love the sugary design choice. Says a lot about Japanese culture that there even is a need for metro cars reserved for women, but I guess it is one way of trying to deal with the problem of gropers at rush hour.