Arts and Flowers

Last Tuesday, K attended some internationalization lectures in Mito City and I tagged along as it was held next door to the Ibaraki Museum of Modern Art, which is right on Lake Senba, which in turn is adjacent to Kairakuen park and the ume festival.

My first stop was the museum. Though I had been there before, there were two paintings in the their permanent collection which I had missed - a Renoir and a Monet. They were also having a special exhibit of Japanese art depicting heros and heroines in Japanese history and folklore. This was to be the last day.

As I approached the door, an American man walked up and said "konichiwa". He introduced himself as Tod, working for the Ibaraki International Association, and asked if I was there to see the exhibit. I was. He asked if I had a ticket yet - I didn't - and then told me happened to have an extra one and gave it to me.

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Ume trees in front of the Ibaraki Museum of Modern Art

The museum, which opened in 1988, has interesting architecture and a good collection of Japanese modern art including some by Tsune Nakamura (1887-1924) who lived in Ibaraki and whose house is on the grounds of the museum.

The Renoir is "Portrait of Madamoiselle Francois" painted in 1917, the same year as Girl with a Lace Hat, which I saw in Tokyo last month.

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Mademoiselle Francois by Renoir

The Monet was painted in 1886 and titled "The Grotto of Port-Domois". Monet painted it during his stay on Belle Ile, a small island off the coast of France. It is an excellent example of his work. At first I didn't understand why I had not heard of it before, but later discovered that it had been in a private collection before being aquired by the museum.

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The Grotto of Port-Domois by Claude Monet

The colors of the water are in deep blues and greens. Monet captured the way the light played on and in the water. It is mesmerizing. I spent a lot of time in front of the painting at varying distances. I found it to be best viewed at about 5 meters, 15 feet. I really love it.

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Portrait Taira Takanori, Warrior and Poet (1922) by Tomoto Kobori

The special exhibit that was closing after today was of Japanese art depicting heroes in Japanese stories and history through the 12th century. Samurai mostly. The paintings were done within the last century and a half, many of them on either large folding silk screens or scrolls, with some of the more recent ones on canvas. I spent an hour and a half in there that morning.

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Kobuntei villa in Kairakuen park as seen across Lake Senba

Then I walked around Lake Senba to Kairakuen park, which took about 45 minutes. The views of the ume trees across the lake were superb. The sky was clear and the temp in the mid or high 60's. The park was very busy as it was a holiday (spring equinox). At Kairakuen, I spoke with an older Japanese woman (who was curious about this "gaijin" coming to Ume Matsuri) about the ume blossoms. I had a nice bento lunch, and enjoyed the trees which were in full bloom - better than last week. There were some people in Edo period costumes roaming around, which was cool. I found one tree I had not seen before that was mostly white blossoms, but had some branches with deep pink flowers on it.

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Pink apricot blossoms on a white tree.

When K was done with the lectures, she came out with a ticket to the museum. It turns out Tod was a speaker in the morning at the same event and as it was the special exhibit's last day, they gave everyone at the lectures a ticket. As it was mid-afternoon, we had plenty of time, so we went through the museum (2nd time for me, but I was happy to see it all again).

One of the paintings I admired was made up of two scrolls hanging side by side. One showed a woman bowing down and facing it an old man with a staff and closed eyes. I admired the economy of lines in the scroll of the old man and was fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two. The woman was painted in full, bright colors. The man, just grays it seemed and with a minimum of lines and paint, yet he was a complete looking figure with a lot of depth. Extraordinary work I thought. An example of "less is more". None of the signs are in English in the museum, so I was in the dark about what it was about. When K saw it she read the explanation about it, but did not remember "the rest of the story" as I then immediately did. The scrolls depict the daughter of Kagekiyo finding her father. K just thought is was an old story, which is is, but it is also based on history.

The Kamakura period (1185-1333) started when the Genji clan ousted the Taira clan and set up their own military government just South of present day Tokyo, and Japan fell under control of the Shoguns for several centuries. The daughter of Kagekiyo, who was the highest ranking warrior and leader of the Taira, fled after the defeat of her father. Kagekiyo himself gouged his own eyes out after his defeat, and was exiled to Kyushu in Western Japan, where his daughter later found him.

K just thought it was about the Noh play, but I remembered that it is based on a true story. Why? Because the daughter fled to THIS area, where a temple I found a year ago that was built in 1189 now stands. You can read about it in my post Further Back In Time in the May archives.

I really felt it was serendipitous that I would be attracted to that art and then find out it was based on a story connected to my own neighborhood and which I had written about in the blog. Maybe it is just that my subconscious made the connection. Anyway, it was a neat experience.

Another interesting thing happened to K, who discovered that the last 13 water color paintings in the exhibit depicting scenes from famous "Heike" tales (Heike is another name for the Taira clan which held high offices in the 12th century and clashed with other clans such as the Genji), were done by one of her favorite artists. She did not realize it first because she did not know that he did this kind of art. He is world famous for illustrated children's books. The artist? Mitsumasa Anno - author and illustrator of "Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar", "Anno's Journey", and many others. These paintings were really exquisite and K has ordered a book about them.

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A pair of Pintail Ducks (Anus Acuta)

Next month the cherry trees that line the paths by Lake Senba will be in bloom. I'm looking forward to going back for a stroll around the lake.


The Great Sea Reef

When asked to think of a great reef, what comes to mind? The Great Barrier Reef of Australia of course, the world's largest. But after that I think we start floundering (pardon the fish pun) to name another.

The second largest barrier reef is the Mesoamerican reef along the east coast of Central America. Most people have not heard of it, but would not be surprised after a moment's thought.

Third largest? Africa? India? South America? Nope. Would you believe it is in Fiji? Believe it or not, it's true. The Cakaulevu Reef of Fiji (the "C" is pronounced like "th" in Fijian), also known as the "Great Sea Reef" is the third largest barrier reef system in the world covering an area of over 200,000 sq.km. (77,000 square miles). It is home to thousands of species of marine animals and many of them are found nowhere else on our precious planet.

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New Damselfish - photo by Helen Sykes/WWF

Fiji's Great Sea Reef is not well studied, and a recent 12-day survey revealed a staggering array of life, including a new species of reef fish. Scientists on the survey, led by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), recorded a new species of damselfish (Pomacentrus sp.), unique mangrove island habitats, several threatened species including green turtles and spinner dolphins, as well marine life not previously recorded in Fiji's waters. This included 43 new records of known hard corals.

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In this picture of Fiji from space, Cakaulevu Reef can be seen in the top center area.

The reef stretches along the north shore of Vanua Levu Island, Fiji's second largest. It has been subject to poaching, overfishing, sand dredging and other destructive activities in the past. Eighty percent of Fiji's population lives along the coastlines and their livelihood depends on the sea. To protect this important reef, the local chiefs have begun to implement a system of waitui tabu, areas where fishing is prohibited. By 2020 they hope to have about 30 percent of the reef designated as Marine Protected Areas. This is backed up by stiff fines on any poachers and enforcement at sea. The first area under protection is in the north eastern section of the reef.

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Ratu Aisea Katonivere, a self-described “conservation convert,” is the paramount chief of the province of Macuata on Vanua Levu. He is also the Roko Tui Macuata (Roko Tui signifying a government position), responsible for Fijian administration in the province. His area comprises 110,000 people living in 117 coastal and inland villages, including Labasa, one of the largest towns in Fiji (and one of the homes of Peceli and Wendy's blog "Babasiga").

Ratu Aisea said of the new protected areas, "We hope it will begin the journey to bring back the richness of these once plentiful waters - not only for ourselves, but also for our children."


Omedetou Emi!

Thanks to the Moody Minstrel for the good news that Emi Kinoshita has placed 4th in the Japan High School Kyudo competition held in Fukuoka this past weekend. Emi is a former student of K and attends the school where Moody teaches.

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Emi Kinoshita - Fourth Place

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Congratulations Emi!

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The Eight Steps of Shooting an Arrow in Kyudo


Umematsuri - Plum Festival

In last year’s post about this festival Ume Festival: When Is An Apricot A Plum? I discussed whether an ume was a really a plum, or was instead an apricot. It is in fact more closely related to the apricot. To avoid confusion, I will simply refer to them as “ume” in the is post.

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Pink ume no hana (ume blossoms)

Every year from late February through March, the ume trees in Japan come into bloom. Due to the long winter they were a bit late this year. Happily for residents of Ibaraki Prefecture, there is a park in our capital city of Mito with a thousand ume trees of over 100 varieties, as part of one of the three most highly praised landscape gardens in all Japan.

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South edge of the park.

The park is called Kairakuen which means “garden to enjoy with people” and is so named because it was the first such park to be open to the public. Built in 1841 by the 9th Lord of Mito, Nariaki Tokugawa, Kairakuen covers 13 hectares (31.4 acres), about half of which is covered in ume trees. There are also cedar (sugi) and bamboo groves to enjoy. It is perched at the top of a rise overlooking Lake Senba.

He also built a villa on the hill, with superb views of landscaping and the lake (which is itself surrounded with cherry trees that bloom in April). The lines of the villa and the flow and openness of its interior space would certainly have pleased even Frank Lloyd Wright.

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An aside here: Wright spent a lot of time in Japan. Japanese architecture and construction greatly influenced his work. He designed one of the two train stations in Nikko, which is still in use, as well as the Imperial Hotel, which was in Tokyo. When the hotel was replaced by a larger building, the lobby and entrance were moved to an outdoor architectural museum in Nagoya called Meiji Mura (which I highly recommend visiting).

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View of Lake Senba from upper floor of Kobuntei

Lord Nariaki Tokugawa was a poet and people would visit the villa to share poetry, play music, and have tea ceremonies. The villa’s name is Kobuntei, which comes from an old word for plum. I have also read – at an information table in the villa – that the kanji characters used to spell it mean “love of literature”. I am not literate in Japanese, so I don’t know which or perhaps both are correct, but either way the name is appropriate. There is a tea house, annex and main house, which is three stories. This house was destroyed near the end of World War Two, but rebuilt in the late 1950’s to the original plans. The elaborately painted sliding doors – each room has a tree or flower theme – were carefully reproduced using photos of the originals.

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White blossoms on one of the older trees.

We had waited to see the blossoms until more than 60% of the trees were in bloom, we had a free day, and the weather looked like it might cooperate. The day we went, the weather was beautiful with totally clear skies and a temperature around 16C (61F) or so.

Parking at the base of the hill near the west end of Lake Senba, we walked through a newer section landscaped with ponds, ume, weeping willows, and pines, then up steps to the main gate of the park. The blossoms fill the air with their gentle sweet scent. There are several hues of blossoms and varieties have with single, double or triple layers of petals.

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View of Lake Senba from our picnic spot.

After wandering around the paths of the ume gardens, we took a lunch break, buying bento lunches. I had one like K had last year, and she had one which came as three trays stacked in an oversized plastic replica of a traditional Japanese medicine box. We found a spot on the lawn, still dry from winter, with a nice view of an ume tree and Lake Senba. We shared of course, so K had the meat portions of my lunch (except for the seafood) and I had some of her veggies.

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O-bento - box lunches. So oishii (delicious)!

There are shops and booths next to and within the park selling souvenirs and food items, many ume related of course. One popular product is “umeshu”, a wine made by putting green ume into shochu, a clear liquer. The most common use for ume that one sees is umeboshi, a small pickled ume, colored red, which often decorates the rice portion of a bento lunch (see the photo in this post). I like the smaller ones which tend to be less sour. Syruped ume are delicious and are used in miyabi-no-ume – sweetened ume inside of mochi rice cake. There are ume teas for sale too and one can buy postage stamps commemorating umematsuri, Kairakuen, and other Ibaraki sights.

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After that nice picnic, we headed for another attraction – at least for Pandabonium - the Ume Ambassadors. Each year a number of young women are chosen as greeters to welcome people to the festival and pose in kimono for photographs. K didn’t think the two girls we saw this year were quite as pretty as the three we saw last, but I disagreed. We did agree that this year’s kimono was better, but now that compare the photos I'm not so sure. Seemed so at the time. You decide.

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Three of last year's Ume Abassadors entertaining Lord Pandabonium

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Two 2006 Ume Ambassadors, Michiko (left) and Ikumi (right)

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Scarlet ume contrasted against a pine.

And for those Kuching Kayakers who recently have displayed a keen interest in (ahem) esthetics, I am posting a photo of all ten Ume Abassadors for 2006 (they take turns on duty, two or three at a time).

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All 10 Ambassadors superimposed infront of Kobuntei villa.

We walked the paths along the bamboo and through the cedars on the way out. We've made several visits here over the last year, and never tire of it.

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Walkway dividing bamboo and cedars - the middle path?

One cedar there is 700 years old and the one next to it must be close. Next to them is a spring pouring forth prodigious amounts of water that is said to be good for one's eyes. Even with all the people at the park, and there were hundreds, there was a sense of peace, beauty and balance.

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Old cedars.

K has business in Mito City one day next week and I’ll tag along so we can take another look. More trees will have bloomed and others will have begun to lose their blossoms. I’ll also spend some time at Lake Senba and take in one of the current art exhibits nearby (Mito has some very nice museums).


Ume Blossom Time

The ume trees in our yard, and around the neighborhood, are blooming. Tomorrow we'll go to Mito City and take in the Ume Blossom Festival at Kairakuen Park. Ume is usually translated as "Japanese Plum" although they are really apricot trees. The weather should be fine tomorrow and it is reported that the trees at the park are 60% in bloom. I'll tell you all about, with pictures of course, next post.
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Our pink ume blossoms.


The Way of the Bow

The bow and arrow have been used for hunting and war for thousands of years. In Japan, archery began to be used in religious rituals during the Nara period (710-794) and Heian period (794-1185), and found its way into Imperial Court events as well. Archery in Japan is called "Kyudo" which means "the way of the bow".

During the Edo period (1603-1868), an annual contest used to take place at a famous temple in Kyoto which goes by the popular name "Sanjusangendo" (hall with 33 bays). This temple, the actual name of which is "Rengeo-in", was founded in 1134 and has buildings that date back to the 13th century. It features a very long building that houses 1000 statues of Kannon, the Bodhisattva of mercy. K and I visited there in Spring of 2004.

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The 1,000 statues of Kannon

The main building has a corridor that measures 2.2 meters wide, 5 meters high, and 120 meters long (in yards: 2.2x5.5x131). Warriors would enter a contest of skill, called toshiya in which they would see who was best at launching arrows the length of the hall without hitting the walls, ceiling or floor. (For comparison, the Olympic archers shoot at the range of 70 meters.) Moreover, they would have to do this while sitting and shooting arrows all day and all night - 24 hours. The best recorded performance was in 1686 by a samurai named Wasa Daihachiro who took 13,053 shots, of which 8,133 succeeded!

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The 120 meter long hall

As gunpowder weapons came into use, the bow was used less and less in battle, but Kyudo was retained as a martial art form. During the Meiji era it was brought into school curriculum, and today some high schools have Kyudo teams. The bows (yumi) measure over 2 meters long, with the grip positioned below the halfway point. As with other martial arts in Japan, in its purest form, Kyudo is a spiritual art. The point is not merely to try to hit the target. "Correct shooting is correct hitting".

The rice planting festival at Kashima Jingu shrine each May 1st features demonstrations of "yabusame" - horseback archery. Unlike Kyudo, yabusame is only used for religious rituals.

Today, one of K's students who stays in touch, Emi Kinoshita, sent K an email. Emi is a serious Kyudo student and holds the top position in high school Kyudo competitions for Ibaraki Prefecture. She will be representing Ibaraki at the national competition being held in Fukuoka (on Kyushu island) next weekend.

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Emi Kinoshita takes aim.

We know that Emi will do her best and wish her the best of luck. Gambatte, Emi!


Rowing Skiffs

One of the paintings we viewed in the exhibit from the Pola Museum last month was "The Pink Skiff" painted by Claude Monet in 1890. It is a large painting - about 135x176 cm (53x69 inches) - and depicts two women in a skiff, perhaps two of his daughters, rowing on the Epte River in France. It was his last large painting of figures in nature and an exploration of how to capture the motion of grass and shadows under water.

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The Pink Skiff - Claude Monet

Interestingly, it has some Japanese elements in it, such as the color of the skiff, the exageration of the length of the oar, the diagonal placement of the skiff and oar, and cutting off the boat at the right edge of the painting. Interesting, but not surprising. Monet collected Japanese prints.

While some of us love to kayak, rowing a skiff was a popular activity in the 19th century. It still is to some extent in certain places. One such place is the River Thames in England. Some of the other Monet paintings we saw were of the Houses of Parliament on the Thames. And the Thames reminds me of a story. (Oh come now, I can hear you all moaning and saying "oh, no". Just relax and read on).

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Anyway, there was a gentleman who used to go rowing on the Thames by himself every weekend. One day he was merrily rowing along when a barge passed close by. The wake of the barge tossed his boat a bit and he lost grip of one of his oars, which slipped out of the davit and quickly drifted out of his reach. Needless to say perhaps, it was going to be a bit of a "sticky wicket" to get home with only one oar.

Happily, our gentleman spotted another skiff in which a man was rowing two ladies about, seated in the stern in their Sunday finest with pretty parasols to shade them. In the bow of the other boat our gentleman spied an extra pair of oars. Ah, he was saved! With great relief he called over to the other boat, "I say, my good man, could you lend me one of those oars?"

The other man's face turned red and he immediately turned his boat away, calling back in an indignant voice, "I beg your pardon governor, thems ain't 'ores, thems me sisters!"


Sprite of the Crumpled Rose

In two posts last summer (July's "Tall Stories" and August's "Bon Dance Update") I took you to nearby Hamanasu Park with its tall observation tower and beautifully landscaped park. The park was built to commemorate おおの (O'ono) village - the area where we live - being incorporated into Kashima City in 1996. Around the same time there was a serious problem with beach erosion which had started years earlier. It wasn't so much that the Pacific Ocean was washing away the sand, rather it had to do with people making off with beach sand to use for fill and contrsuction, even though it was illegal to do so. A series of hammerhead shaped breakwaters were built along the coast to help capture and retain more sand. On one of these breakwaters, a statue was errected that is related to Hamanasu Park. It is of a "sprite" or fairy. In Japanese tradition, sprites occupy every living thing, and many inert objects as well. This is the sprite for hamanasu.

I had read of it at the park, and even seen it at a distance from the park tower which is a ways inland. As today was sunny and relatively warm, we decided to go see it up close.

Getting there was not quite as easy as we had anticipated, as there was construction which closed the road leading to it. We had to detour to the south and walk along the beach to reach it. That was fine, as the salty ocean air was wonderful and we could look at sea shells along the way. Besides, after a long winter Pandabonium needs some exercise.

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click for more shells

The statue is pretty large as was made evident by the contrasting height of a fisherman out on the breakwater. The image is uplifting to see, as she has one arm raised high with a bird perched on her hand.

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Up close, one can view a relief of Hamanasu flowers on the base. Pandabonium here with his winter hair cut....

So what is Hamanasu? What does it mean? Hamanasu is a rose that has been cultivated in China and Japan for over a thousand years. It likes cold weather and so the northern most Japanese island of Hokkaido is famous for them. Hamanasu park marks the southern most boundary of the growing region for this flower. In Latin it is called "rosa rugosa" - crumpled rose. There are some growing in our neighborhood, as our house is just a few kilometers almost directly inland from the park.

Hamanasu or Rugosa Rose

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Today there were two fairies.

The nice weather brought quite a few people out for a weekday. A couple of guys were trying their luck at fishing.

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There were six or so surfers out too - in wetsuits of course. Even with the sunshine, the ocean spray kept the air moist cutting visibility.

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Some men were working on a fishing boat which was high and dry on the sand and fenced in with driftwood and bits of flotsam and jetsam.

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I've named this fishing boat the "Flotsam Maru"

Looking back toward shore, we see the Hamanasu Park Tower which reaches 77 meters above sea level and has a great view of the coastline and even as far inland as Mt. Fuji on a super clear day. See the post "Tall Stories" in the July 2005 archive for some pics from up there.

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With the long cold winter we've had (is it spring yet?!), it was sure nice to get out and feel the sun and breathe some fresh air.


Momo's Brigade

Well, it isn't a "brigade" actually, which has two to four battalions plus support and consists of up to 5,000 people. It isn't even a battalion, frankly. OK, I have to admit it's just Momo and me. But the name, "Momo's Brigade", is catchy, don't you think?

One of my pet peeves about Japan is the trash (garbage, rubbish, junk, "pilau" in Hawaiian). For starters, they over-package everything here. I mean, why is there a cellophane bag around the bananas? Bananas come with a wonderful biodregradable wrapper on each and every one right off the tree. Apples here come in cardboard trays with individual foam netting around them. Give me a break! Japanese apples have no flavor to start with (they've never tasted one from Washington State I guess), even Fuji apples from New Zealand taste better. Japanese apples cost a fortune and are loaded with pesticides, so what's the big deal with the packaging? Could it be to justify the absurd prices? That and the fact that Japanese consumers want blemish free produce, even if it is poisonous. Go figure. Or how about the cookies which come in what would be a one pound package in the USA, but contain only half as many cookies, if that, each individually wrapped?

Then there's the bottled water/canned soda/coffee/beer machines on every street corner syndrome. Not only do they add to the rubbish equation, the machines use up energy and the refrigerated ones contribute to global warming with CFCs. Wouldn't a simple drinking fountain do? Fast food (sic) restaurants and convenience stores produce more than their share of trash (or rubbish for you British folks) as well. Add it all up and you have a country with the most incinerators in the world (even with the small population) and perhaps record amounts of trash along the roads.

OK, let me say right here that this is not intended as a rant about Japan. I could think of far more important topics if I wanted to do that, and frankly as someone who holds a USA passport (at least for now) I find it difficult to point fingers at other countries these days. This is just day to day kine stuff. But, even so, what to do? "Ah well, that's the way it is, just live with it" is one way of seeing it, and for a year or so I have done so. But I'm not a "just live with it" kind of person.

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Momo The Wonder Dog

Last week I was reading the Bula Fiji blog about the problem of rubbish on public beaches in Suva, Fiji. I chipped in with my comments that in Hawaii, groups of people - businesses, churches, temples, community associations, etc. - "adopt" a highway, and that section of the road is posted with their name. Every so many months, they go out and clean up the litter with bright orange bags and the County of Maui comes by and picks it up to take to the land fill. It is a never ending job, of course, but at least for a while the roadways look clean. I like the story of a Maui motorist who threw a cigarette butt out his window in front of the mayor of the time, Hannibal Tavares, who was driving behind him. Oops! Mayor Tavaraes followed the man until he stopped, then made a citizen's arrest for littering. I loved it.

So the other day, while walking Momo (or was Momo walking me?, I forget which it was) I saw a beer can in the same place it had been for the last four months - not on a highway mind you, but on a street in my little village neighborhood - and it irritated me, to put it politely. Like the nail under the dog you read about on Robin's blog recently. Something in me clicked and I thought, "If not now, when? If not me, who?"

So, I have "adopted" my Momo-walking routes in our neighborhood. I carry two plastic bags with me. I've always carried one anyway for Momo's waste that goes into the "burnable" trash, and now I carry a second one for "non-burnables" such as metal cans, bottles, etc. As we walk I wear a plastic glove and pick up any rubbish we come across and put into the appropriate bag. I was astounded at how much there was the first time I did that! We take different routes each walk, so I pick up different areas each time.

The burnable trash gets picked up from a neighborhood bin twice a week. The non-burnable (which ends up in a land fill) gets picked up once a week. Bottles and cans and some other things we could recycle, but most of what I pick up is too dirty or broken to prepare for that.

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People who throw things from their cars haven't changed their habits yet of course, but the amount I have to deal with each time gets less and less, my little neighborhood is cleaner, and I'm happier. I'm thinking of putting up a few anti-litter signs too.

I can't change the world, so I'll try to focus on what I can change. By the way, if you happen to pass through my neighborhood, wave if you see us, and beware that if you litter, something bad may "inexplicably" happen to you or your car!

So if there is something bugging you, think about what you might do to tackle the problem yourself, and join "Momo's Brigade". Who knows? We might make a whole lot of things better.


Hawks, Crows, and Eagles

About four months ago, I was riding my bicycle through the rice fields by lake Kitaura, and noticed a red hawk and a crow facing off for an aerial battle. I stopped my bike in front of the field and watched as a "dogfight" ensued before my eyes. The hawk had evidently decided this field was his hunting ground and the crow therefore was an intruder.

I've seen crows gang up on a hawk before, to keep the hawk away from their nesting areas, and therefore, eggs. A hawk is larger and a better flyer, but is no match when outnumbered three to one.

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The hawk keeping right on the crow's tail.

This fight was one on one, and something to see. As they climbed, dived, swooped and turned, each bird gave it their all. The crow seemed faster, but the hawk was quicker. The crow seemed brighter, but the hawk was smarter. It seemed neither had the advantage at first. But in the end, the hawk was all over that crow. His size, flying skill and strength overwhelmed the crow, who retreated to a distant field. It helps to click on the pictures to see the larger versions.

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The crow (right) taking a last look at his opponent before "bugging out". Note the position of the hawk's tail who was about to turn sharply toward the crow.

Yesterday the sky was mostly overcast. In the early afternoon it started to break up a bit with lighter spots and even some blue sky peeking through here and there. As I walked out into the front yard, I heard a familiar high pitched whine and the sound of the air being ripped apart as if it were a sheet of paper. We hear that sound often, as the Mitsubishi F-15 fighter planes of Hyakuri Air Base to our north return from practicing out over the Pacific, usually followed by a Kawasaki T-4 trainer. But this sound was closer than usual, and I looked up to see a lone Mitsubishi F-15J "Peace Eagle" cut across the sky directly overhead in a sharp left bank. He was low, perhaps 400 meters (1200 feet), maybe less, above me. Narita was reporting the cloud ceiling as 1500 feet broken and he was below the clouds. I could clearly see the pilot through the canopy.

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Water vapor condensing in the wing tip vorticies.

When he came around a second time, I went back in the house and grabbed the camera. When he came around for a third time I took a few pics. The angle was not as good as the first pass, and I had to follow him with the camera while holding down the shutter button due to the delay of the digital camera. But I managed to catch a picture while it was right over me, condensating water vapor trails coming off the wing tips.

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The second shot - by pure coincidence - included a crow. For a moment it looked like another aerial dogfight!

Pacific Island Music, News, and More

A big Vinaka vaka levu (Fijian thank you) to Peceli and Wendy's blog Babasiga, about their life in both Fiji and Australia, for bringing a cool website to my attention. Jane Resture's Fiji Home Page has a wealth of information about Fiji and be sure to check out her postcards section for some really great old photos of Fijian people and scenery.

If your interest lies in other Pacific islands, visit her Oceania Home Page.

Also added in links is an excellent news source from the East-West Center and the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawaii: Pacific Islands Report. As newspapers in island nations have a struggle paying for internet news sites, this website is a good way to catch up on what's going on all around the Pacific.

Last but not least, for your listening pleasure, is a link to Pacific Island Radio featuring a mix of traditional and contemporary music from Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia over "Live 365". So click on the link and enjoy some island tunes while you surf the web.


Second Impressions

A few weeks ago K had a meeting to attend in Tokyo. An exhibition of European impressionist art was going on, so we decided to leave early and take in the exhibit before K's meeting in the afternoon. The bus we were taking was late. An accident involving both sides of the expressway between home and Tokyo had closed it to through traffic. When the bus did pick us up, it was forced to take surface highways, with traffic lights all along the route. A bus ride that usually takes a little over an hour turned into two and a half hours. By the time we reached Shibuya-ku, the ward where the museum is located, it was time for K to head for her meeting - no art for her, not even lunch. The exhibit was excellent and I felt very bad for K.

Sunday, the 26th, was the last opportunity to see it, and as it happened, K had business in Tokyo again. This time her appointment was in the morning and we encountered no transportation problems. So, by mid-day her business was done and we were at the Bunkamura museum in the Shibuya-ku section of Tokyo. Bunkamura is a private museum built next to and connected with the Tokyu department store there. They have no permanent collections, but rather book art exhibits from museums which do as well as offer concerts, dance performances, and films.

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This little girl looked as bewildered by the big city as I was.
(click to see the surrounding picture)

The exhibit consisted of eighty paintings by twenty-two artists. They belong to the Pola Museum of Art which is located in Hakone, an area to the west of Tokyo at the foot of Mt Fuji that is famous for its onsen (hot spring) resorts. I reluctantly post a few pics of paintings. They are all wrong of course - the sizes, textures, light, colors. Still, I can't very well write about an art exhibit and not show at least a hint of what I saw.

Renoir - Young girl in a lace hat

I love impressionist art and the Pola has a great collection. There were some ten works by Renior including "Girl in a Lace Hat", which is stunning to see in person. Well, all of them were amazing in person compared to the pictures of them one sees in a book. There were sixteen by Monet. Other familiar names were represented of course - Cezanne, van Gogh, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec. Pontillist paintings by Seurat, Signac, Pisarro, Cross and Petitjean were there too. And there were other artists I was not so familiar with, but found delightful as well such as Redon, Sisley, Sidaner and Bonnard.

There is a connection between European impressionist art and Japanese art. In the late 19th century, Japan was opening up to the world (the Meiji Restoration) and things Japanese were all the rage in Europe. The style of Japanese art with its bold use of primary colors had a big influence on artists in Europe at the time.

One of my favorite artists, Paul Gauguin, had four of his paintings on display, two of them from his days in Tahiti. If you have read my post "The Forgotten Islands" you may recalll that it was Gauguin's works that later brought artist Robert Eskridge to Tahiti and led to his adventures on Manga Reva.

Gauguin - Dog in front of the hut, Tahiti

Paul Gauguin started life as a successful stock broker who painted as a hobby on weekends. He walked away from it all to pursue painting, even though it resulted in losing his wife and family. Edgar Degas bought some of his paintings, and it was money from that which financed his trip to Tahiti where he spent two years.

When K and I had viewed all the paintings, we bought a few items in the gift shop, then went back through the exhibit again, spending more time with the paintings we liked best. (There were several Monets we would have loved to bring home with us.)

Monet - Sunset on Seine in Winter

Outside, on the traffic choked streets, the rain was falling steadily. The sidewalks crowded with people jostling their umbrellas, loud speakers blairing from the huge video screens mounted on sides of the tall buildings, elevated trains roaring by. It was an all out assault on the senses.

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lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, noise - help!

I was happy to leave. But for that afternoon, we had been transported to other places and times, and seen them as colorful impressions through the eyes and minds of artistic geniuses.