2005/10/17

Momo's Walk - Talk of the Town

Momo (the wonder dog) has been here 6 months now and has made lots of friends in the neighborhood. On her walks, she sees other dogs as well as folks on bicycles or working in their fields, and kids walking to or from school. Most of them know her by name. As her house is just a few meters from the street, anyone passing can see her. So now, a number of people stop to say hello, pet her, or even bring her treats.

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Momo now has a welcome sign and a nameplate on her house, though strangers don't get a warm reception.


She likes lounging on her deck, especially in warm weather. Most of all she looks forward to her two daily walks. Here are some of the sights along the way. Which way should we go?

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migi? (right?)



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hidari? (left?)


We go to the right. One hundred meters down the street, past three homes and a small construction company office, we come to the local shrine, Tsubaki (camelia), set amoungst about an acre of cedars and oaks.

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The smaller of two buildings at Tsubaki Shrine
.

A bit further along the residential street is the local Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect. There is a swing, a slide, and a teeter-totter in the yard for children to play on. Perhaps the ghosts come out at night to play as well. Unlike temples in Hawaii and other parts of the Americas, which have services every Sunday, schools, Boy Scout Troops, etc. Temples in Japan, for the most part, are only active during Buddhist holidays and funerals.

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Then comes a small family run grocery store/gas station, Kurakawa's. The grandmother Kurakawa and her daughter-in-law take turns operating the store while her son delivers the kerosene for our tankless water heaters and LP gas for our stove. I buy things there whenever I can, as I want to support family businesses which are disappearing all too fast in developed countries, and maintain a good relationship with my neighbors. So what if it is a little more? It saves a trip to town and is only a couple of minutes from the house by bicycle.

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Some of the dry goods at Kurakawa's have been on the shelf so long that they are covered in a thick layer of dust which , when I make a purchase, the the elderly Mrs. Kurakawa wipes off with a cloth while offering her apologies. We laugh about it and then she rounds down the total a few percent to give me a discount. I once tried to purchase envelopes there. They had preprinted boxes for a five digit postal code. Japan has used seven digits since early in 1998, so they were at least seven years old. Although I was willing to pay, I was given them at no charge. Don't worry, though, the produce is fresh.

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Across from Kurakawa's is an old white warehouse for storing rice. It is crumbling a bit at the corners, revealing the structure of the walls, which are made of wood, sticks, straw and coated with earth. This type of building can be seen in older parts of towns all over Japan. Next to it is an old storefront, which used to have kimonos on display in days gone by. It has a new roof, as the back of the building is still someone's home. You can also see the local red post box in this photo.

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Off on a short side street is the community center. It is where every couple of weeks the neighborhood recycleables are collected. Meetings and activities for retirees are held here too. It is also where a veteranarian day was held earlier this year and we brought Momo down for a rabies vacination and to register her as our dog. On adjacent land is a croquet court - a game popular with retirees in Japan.

As we make our way through the streets, there are lots of vegetable gardens. Taro, sweetpotatoes, daikon radishes, beans, corn, lettuce, pumpkin, brocolli, you name it, it is here in season. Lots of flowers too including some surprises for me, such as gingers and hibiscus which are abundant in Hawaii and Fiji. Several people have a trellis of wisteria, which are a beautiful sight in spring. Fruit trees too, even kiwi. Every season is brightened by something in bloom.
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Always something in bloom and a butterfly here if you look close.


There are a lot of retirees in the area. It is not uncommon to have three or four generations living under one roof. So an everyday sight is an older person keeping active by walking or working in the garden. Sometimes just seated in a garden enjoying some sunshine and air, or talking to friends and neighbors. Momo always brings a smile to their faces as we pass and she is greeted with ohayogozaimasu (good morning), kawaii ne (she's cute!), or sanpo desu ka? (you are going for your walk?).

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On one of the routes we take, we always stop by to say hello to Goma. Goma is the Japanese word for sesame seed and is also the name of one of Momo's friends. Goma is an old dog with thick black fur that is grey in some places and missing in others. He is a bit overweight, so on a diet and exercise routine. I don't know his age. His left eye is clouded by cataract and he doesn't have many teeth left. But Goma and Momo get along even though Momo is hyperactive and Goma moves in slow motion. They visit each other on their walks. Goma's owner often brings treats and always takes time to pet and talk to Momo.

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Ol' Goma


Momo likes to tug on the leash. Not sure why. If I let go of it, she doesn't go anywhere, just waits until I pick it up and goes back to tugging. On a long walk she'll slow down as she tires, but otherwise it's "full speed ahead" until she finds something to sniff.

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the homestretch


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Had we gone to the left today, we would have gone by my barber's house and shop.


After 20 to 30 minutes, we arrive back home. Momo likes for me to turn her loose at the edge of the property so she can sprint the last few meters to her waterbowl. Sometimes she races around the house a couple of times running as fast as she can. Then she settles down to watch the world go by or take a nap. We hope you enjoyed the walk around the neighborhood and a glimpse at where we live. Momo and I sure did.

12 comments:

YD said...

It's such a nice place! Love the close-knit community lifestyle in quiet towns!

Momo is cute! How old is she now?

Pandabonium said...

Thanks. I always like to live in small towns where neighbors know each other and there is a sense of community. I think a major problem with modern culture is we all become little parts of a big economic machine with no personal value, and thus no values ourselves. We live to produce and to consume as ends in themselves.

We don't know Momo's age, as the previous owner abandoned her and we took her in after she hung around our house for a couple of days, hungry and covered with weeds. The vet guessed she was 4 or 5 years old.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Your neighborhood has a very similar atmosphere to mine but isn't quite so tightly packed. I live on a street that is almost all houses crunched together about a block deep on one side and half a block on the other, and then it is all fields (mostly rotate between tobacco and various tubers). I'm told that it used to be the center of a village that got swallowed up by Aso town long ago. The crumbling, old hulk of the village hall/post office is now used as a storage shed, though the old postal sign is still visible.

And now Aso town has been swallowed up by Namegata City...

The Moody Minstrel said...

Hey, Pandabonium!

Did you and your household (including Momo-chan) come through that earthquake okay???? :0

Pandabonium said...

Moody, yes, thanks. You and yours too I trust? I was in the middle of a comment on yd's blog when it hit. It was not the usual swaying, but a verticle jolt and vibration followed by swaying. Quite frightening. K went out and comforted Momo who was startled by it.

Oddly enough in a couple of days it will be one year since I arrived in Japan to be greeted by the big quake in Niigata!

Happy anniversary?

PusBoy said...

Nice tour. Are there a lot of Americans in your neck of the woods, or is it common for signs to be in English?

J-apricot said...

Lovely photos. I love them, especially the cosmoses.

Pandabonium said...

Pusboy - In my neighborhood, just myself and 1 Canadian. I have seen fewer Americans in my 1 year here than I have fingers. But, it is common for businesses in Japan to use English in signs, though often such signs make no sense, are mis-spelled, or out of context.

The Moody Minstel has more experience with that than I. It can be pretty funny at times.

I guess it is meant to be a sign of being modern (or "hip") to use English words. The Kurakawa's don't speak a word of English, and most of the people who live within a mile don't either, but the store says "liquor & foods". Good eye.

Today, in a neighboring "city", I saw a book store that said "Book" on the front, yet they have no English language books! Go figure.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks, j-apricot.

Cosmoses - so that's what those flowers are.

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

The family businesses losing out thingy, happends here, too. More and more people prefer to shop in air-conditioned hypermarket, they can buy almost everything from fish to TV!

I hope you do sento as well, another way to keep the gossip rolling :) My all time favourite during my stay in Japan!

Pretty interested with the pre-1998 envelopes as well, it tells tale, history, and we live in such a transition period, no?

Left of right, you're in the right neighbourhood :)

Pandabonium said...

LOW,

Someday I may devote a post to why I think globalism is going to go into reverse and people will reorient themselves back to their local area. I think it would be a good thing.

As for sento, no I don't. We have a big furo in our house, and there are no nearby baths to go to. This area is also not known for onsen. But the main reason is that I'm what is called a nekojita or person with a "cat's tongue". I am very sensitive to hot things - food, drinks, soups, and yes, even baths. Even though I can control the temperature at home, it just isn't my thing.

Actually all my senses are sensitive. I not only can hear ultrasonic burlar alarms - such as in jewelry stores - they hurt my ears. A good excuse to stay out of jewelry stores- (^_^).


word verification: svumm n. the sound a Volvo engine makes when revved up.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Local sento seem to be fading out now that the water and sewer systems have been modernized. Virtually every household in this area has its own bath now.

Ironically, you're far more likely to find sento in a big city than out in the country since city housing often tends to be SCaRD (Small, Cheap and Run Down) on account of obscenely expensive land, rent, and utility prices.

For people that prefer public baths, the recent trend has been for "hot-water parks/places", which are to sento what supermarkets are to mom & pop stores. They're usually huge complexes with many different kinds of baths.

I avoid them like the plague, and not necessarily because the hot water bothers me.

As for English being "hip", it's true. In fact, it used to be bigger. The Japanese language, ironically, is actually making a comeback, though kids are showing less and less proficiency in it. In the early '90s young people used to walk around with their noses in English magazines...while actually reading Japanese magazines hidden inside! Recent pop diva Ayumi Hamazaki actually made waves by being the first pop singer in decades to refuse to put (weird and often meaningless) English lyrics in her songs!

Wow... It's almost scandalous for one's native language to be popular here...

ossqftc - (n, obs. jarg.) Short for "OS/square foot contraption", vernacular for a computer running the OS/2 operating system.