A Winter Friend

by Momo the Wonder Dog

I have a new friend name "Jyo". He's a bird. Normally, I bark at birds and chase them off of our fruit trees, but this one is kind of cute and comes to visit by himself, so I leave him alone. Jyo eats insects that he catches in flight, so he's good to have around, though in winter he is more likely to be eating the red berries on the bush in front of our door.

Pandabonium says he is a Daurian Redstart which is fairly common in East Asia (though Pandabonium and K hadn't seen one before). In Japan they are known as jyo-bitaki (ジョウビタキ). You can tell he is a male by his coloring. He's pretty trusting and sometimes lands right on my house!

Jyo-bitaki on my porch railing.

He must live nearby because I see him every day. Pandabonium says he'll just be around for the winter and will fly north to Siberia in the spring sometime, which is too bad. But I'm sure glad I don't have to migrate like that. Imagine traveling that far twice a year without an airplane or ship to carry you - just flapping those little wings! I like staying in one place. Anyway, I'll enjoy seeing him this winter and I hope he comes back next year.

P.S. Woofing (um, speaking) of migration, a MUST SEE movie is "Winged Migration" (Le Peuple migrateur, 2001) by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud, co-directors. It will leave you in awe of our beautiful planet, the amazing journeys that birds take every year, and will give you a new appreciation for nature and perhaps life itself. It's spectacular!


"Upcountry" Maui Still Recovering

Thanks to "Kimberly127" for the her comment on the post Hawaii Blizzards today:

"My name is Kimberley and I live, well used to live, in the Kula area mentioned. My home was destroyed by the same flash flood that knocked the family in Hawaiian Homestead of the foundation. My family lost our home and everything we owned. This was a horrible act of nature and yet not enough to be considered a "federal" disaster. Not enough to receive any financial aid from our federal government.

"Hopefully Maui residents, especially upcountry residents, will continue to pull together because it seems all we really have is each other. To anyone still needing assistance the Red Cross has unbelievable volunteers that can reach out and help you. Let's pray for a less traumatic year, God knows me and my family need one."

Thank you for the comment, Kimberly. I wish you and your family well as you try to rebuild your lives. It is easy to read about a disaster and move on, but for those involved it takes a long time to recover from something like that. I know the good people of Maui will lend a hand.

This is also a good reminder for people everywhere to be grateful for the basic things they have - food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, and community. And to volunteer and/or contribute to organizations that are needed when some of our neighbors are affected by a disaster such as this one.

The following appeared in The Maui News on December 23rd:

Maui Red Cross volunteers, staff, donors help storm victims


Although the weather is clearing up, many Maui residents have been devastated by the Dec. 4-8 storm.

One family came to our Pukalani disaster recovery center seeking assistance after losing nearly all of their possessions in the Kula mudslide. As the mother of three young children approached our Red Cross table, she noticed a teddy bear.

Our volunteer offered the bear, and the client began to cry because it looked exactly like her young son’s favorite bear that was destroyed in the storm. She explained that the original stuffed animal had been a gift from the child’s grandmother on the day her son was born.

Her genuine gratitude brought everyone to tears and made us all realize how even little things can help others heal from their losses.

In the past few weeks, 40 Maui Red Cross volunteers and staff worked tirelessly running three shelters, conducting damage assessments, doing client casework, staffing Disaster Assistance Recovery Centers, serving 200 meals and distributing dozens of cleanup and comfort kits to victims of this local disaster.

Three homes on Maui were destroyed, eight incurred major damage and 37 sustained minor damage, which includes homes with up to 2 feet of water inside.

So far, we have assisted 23 Maui families with $12,000 in financial aid for their immediate emergency needs such as temporary housing, food, clothing, bedding and storage containers. We anticipate giving out an additional $18,000 for rent and security deposits to Maui residents whose homes were deemed uninhabitable.

Statewide, the Red Cross is assisting at least 35 families with about $50,000 in financial aid to help them get back on their feet.

Mahalo to our wonderful volunteers and everyone involved in the disaster relief effort, including Cafe La Plage, Longs Drugs, Minit Stop, Pukalani Superette, Safeway, Serpicos, Starbucks and Wal-Mart for their generous in-kind donations of food, coffee and cleaning supplies.

Together, we made a difference, and so can you, by supporting the Red Cross in Hawaii.

All American Red Cross disaster assistance is free, made possible by voluntary donations of time and money from the American people. You can help the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year, disasters like the Hawaii winter storms, by making a financial gift to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund, which enables the Red Cross to provide shelter, food, counseling and other assistance to victims of disaster.

The American Red Cross honors donor intent. If you wish to designate your donation to a specific disaster, like the Hawaii winter storms, please do so at the time of your donation.

To make a contribution, please call (808) 739-8109, go online to www.hawaiiredcross.org, or mail your donation to American Red Cross, Hawaii State Chapter, 4155 Diamond Head Road, Honolulu 96816.

Mariana Matthew is the Maui County director, American Red Cross – Hawaii State Chapter.

*"Upcountry" is a local Maui expression referring to an area on the western slope of Haleakala mountain comprising several communities.


Energy Lessons From An Island Nation

Developing solutions to Fiji's energy needs - FEA committed to renewable energy sources

By Lote Raboila
Department of Information

Fiji’s sole power provider the Fiji Electricity Authority has continued to improve its service delivery through the introduction of new energy sources.

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Established in 1966 as a statutory body, FEA has continued to divert into renewable energy sources due to the ever-increasing price of diesel, which has become a burden not only to FEA but also to the consumers who recently were slapped with a surcharge on their electricity bill.

FEA has conveyed that in Fiji’s ever-changing society, people’s lifestyles revolve more and more around the use of energy.

“Our homes, our businesses and even in our leisure time we all use electricity to make things work.”

Until recently, Fiji’s electricity needs were provided for by diesel-fueled generators, which was not only expensive but also harmful to the environment.

In 1983, FEA began to make a move to renewable energy sources with the opening of the hydroelectric facility at Monasavu. In addition, a new hydro electricity facility at Nagado near Nadi was opened in 2005, which now provides 2.8 megawatts of power.

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Project Manager Butoni Neori Drose explains the processes at the Wind Farm to the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

And FEA’s latest achievement in as far as renewable energy is concerned is the Wind Farm in Butoni Sigatoka.

Located on the windy hillsides overlooking Sigatoka Town, the Wind Farm sits on 48 hectares of native lease belonging to the Mataqali of Tabanivono and Sigatoka Yavusa, which expire in 2056.

FEA stated that engineers were determined that these winds were consistent enough to power wind turbines and they also understood that because the site was in a cyclonic region, low wind speed machines with anti-cyclonic measures were needed.

Wind studies and planning were carried out on the site and a call for tenders was made in 2004. FEA chose to utilize French made Vergnet turbines for this project because of their reliable track record.

FEA chief executive officer Rokoseru Nabalarua stressed that, “much planning had gone into this project. This location was selected after comprehensive wind mapping research, which identified consistent, ideal wind speeds and close vicinity to the customers.”

The wind farm project was constructed by French technology supplier, Vergnet Group of France at a total construction cost of over F$300 million.

Vergnet’s turbines were the right size for FEA’s grid and had anti-cyclone protection which was convenient in Butoni’s case.

The Wind Farm was officially opened by the Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Friday (26/10) where he was accompanied by several other Interim Cabinet Ministers.

There are a total of 37 wind turbines which stand at 55 meters and each turbine has two blades 16 meters long with a 40 minute lowering process (for maintenance).
The Butoni Wind Farm is expected to provide the Sigatoka Coral Coast areas with 10 megawatts capacity and is estimated to produce 12 million units per year of energy.

Therefore, it is expected to save up to 2,500 metric tonnes of diesel per year which equates to a savings of F$3million a year (at present prices) said Mr. Nabalarua.

However, Mr. Nabalarua highlighted that Butoni alone cannot fulfill all of Fiji’s energy needs but is one important component of FEA’s long term renewable energy plan.
This plan is manifested in FEA’s vision that is to ensure that it provides Fiji with 90% renewable energy by the year 2011. (emphasis added)

To compliment this vision, FEA is also developing a new 40 megawatts Nadarivatu Hydro Project in Nadarivatu in Ra, which has an estimated cost of F$100million. This is expected to be operational in 2010.

Likewise, a new wood chip project is underway in Lautoka, which will provide an output of 9 megawatts when it’s operational in 2009.

Related post - "Coconut Crude" which is about the sustainable use of existing copra plantations as a source of biofuels for local applications in electrical generation and public transportation.


Three Wheeled Open Sleigh


This picture, by Satoko Kawasaki, was on the Japan Times website. Santa-sama is seen taking a passenger around Tokyo's Marunouchi office district in his eco-friendly "Velotaxi" decorated for Christmas. Velotaxis are human powered with an electric motor assist. (It must be very good exercise - Santa seems to have lost a lot of weight.) They are made in Germany and are being operated in many cities around the world. The lights on this one are powered by electricity generated by rooftop solar panels during the day.

Here's promotional video about the Velotaxi (3 min 38 sec):


Making An Elf Of Myself!

Woof! It's that (nutty) time of year again, so I've made myself into an Elf.

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In fact, I made Elves of all three of us. Click on my picture to see me, K, and Pandabonium do a holiday dance for you - as Elves!

Happy Holidays!


Velorutionary Gift Idea

Not just a bicycle "under the tree" (not that there is anything wrong with that), here's a gift that puts your values in motion - literally. A $40 donation to UNICEF buys a bicycle to help health workers get vaccines and other medical aid to children.

"Having access to a bicycle for a health worker or midwife can help increase the health standards of children in remote villages and communities in developing countries." - UNICEF

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Whatever your religion or view of this season, in the developed world it has for better or worse become a time of (excessive) shopping. If we're going to indulge, why not make it serve a truly worthy purpose?

Thanks and "Glaedelig Jul!" to the Cycleliciousness [Copenhagen Bicycle Culture] blog, as well as the Velorution cycle store in London, England for passing it on.


The Sekine Collection

Last weekend "The Sekine Collection" of classic and sports cars were on display in front of "Cheerio" shopping mall in Kashima City.

The oldest car on display was a 1908 Ford Model T.

Three Datsuns (now Nissan) from 1935, 1950, and 1952 looked very "basic" and were quite a contrast with the high quality cars we associate with Japan today.

Several German and British cars from the 30's to 50's rounded out the collection.

Another interesting car was a white 1967 Mazda Cosmo, the first car to have a two-rotor rotary engine. A luxury touring sports car, they were built by hand at the rate of only one car per day.

There was a yellow 1968 Toyota 2000 GT, which has a beautifully sculpted aluminum body. The type was featured in the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice". Only 337 were built.

Perhaps the most beautiful car there, to my eye anyway, was a red 1971 Lamborghini Miura SV. "Miura" sounds like a Japanese name, but the car is actually named for a ranch in Spain where fighting bulls are bred.

I associate a funny TV commercial with this car. In 1971, singer/actress Sandy Duncan did 3 very popular bank commercials in which she played a teller who has a Greek customer with a difficult name to spell - Yannis Papadopoloulos - (he had to spell his name for her every time he came in). In the last commercial he is buying a car:

"Mr. Papadopoulos! What can I do for you today?"
"I am here to get new car loan."
"Oh that's great! What kind of car are you going to buy?"
"A Lamborghini Miura."
She gives him a puzzled look and he starts spelling it for her

So, for you car buffs out there, here is a slide show. Sorry Porche fans, but I didn't get individual pictures of the Carreras there, except for one. Those cars just don't appeal to my aesthetic sense.


Hawaii Blizzards

UPDATE: Another account of the storm. This time from a friend whose house is further up the mountainside than my daughter's and closer to where that one house was carried away by a mudslide. Comments in parenthesis added.

"It rained really hard for 12 days on Kula and the Kona wind (on Maui, a Kona wind means a wind from the South ) hit 100 mph blowing straight up from Kihei. The winds were in the 80MPH range up where we live. The power was out for 36 hours. (A neighbor), around the corner on Middle road has not had power or water since. A big mudslide came down (Keokea) Park and buried the water line under 20 feet of mud.

There are three little bridges lower down on Polipoli Road. A huge mudslide mixed with logs and branches and cars and trucks washed down into those
bridge gullies and plugged up the openings, overflowed over the road and
washed trucks and yards (away) and knocked some houses off their foundations.

One fellow left his Toyota pickup in his yard and when he woke up, the
Toyota was gone and his yard was gone. The pickup was found down the
hill, across Kula Highway under a mound of mud. Several of the new
homes in the Hawaiian Homes subdivision were knocked off their
foundations. The mud, trees, and water went through there at 12 foot high
and was still 3 foot high when it blew through Kihei (at the bottom of the mountain) to the Ocean.

Polipoli Road is closed. At every bridge there is a 20 ft deep gully, and yards missing and and houses damaged.

My neighbor lost most of his roof shingles. I'm so glad I enclosed the carport (last year). It would probably have flown away in an 80 MPH wind."


No fooling. In addition to the "extra tropical" storms that hit the US Northwest this week (I call them the "Thriller from Manila"), and Cyclone Daman which is winding its way through Fiji as I write this, Hawaii has had its own weird weather.

Blizzards on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on the island of Hawaii are only a small part of the story, if an attention grabbing one. (Not that unusual, actually). On Maui, there were heavy downpours and strong winds which resulted in flooding and power outages.

One of my daughters reports from her relatively new home in Kula, Maui (a community on the slopes of Haleakala volcano):

"...the weather has been insane here. Not sure if you've heard anything there but we've had MASSIVE rain and flooding on Maui. Tuesday and Wednesday there was massive wind and pouring rain. The gulch below our house-which in the last year and a half has never even trickled with water- became a 25 foot wide raging stream-full sized trees were being swept down stream. No problems at all with our house ( we had great builders!) but Kula got hit hardest-one house got hit by flood water and lifted off it's slab and carried 100 yards away (this was about five miles away from us). The guy inside had to climb a cactus to get onto his roof-ouch! No words to describe-crazy.

"All of Kihei and Kula were out of power Wednesday early morning through Thursday late night. What an adventure!"

I should note here that the "great builders" she is referring to are her husband, his uncle (a building contractor) , father-in-law, and cousin , all of whom also built their previous home.

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-photo Matthew Thayer, Maui News. This is the house my daughter mentions which was moved 100 yards.

The power outages were due to the fact that high winds snapped several wooden power poles, which were designed for 85 mph winds, near a major power plant like the proverbial "match sticks".

A news video from KGMB television with some good pictures is here:

KGMB Maui Cleanup Continues.


Fiji On Alert For Cyclone Daman

UPDATE II: Sunday, 9th December. Cyclone Daman went fairly far east of Taveuni and headed south as it dissipated, avoiding widespread damage to homes and farms. On Cikobia island the latest reports I have read say that most of the homes there were destroyed along with vegetation. The 69 inhabitants took shelter in caves and were safe. This storm obviously would have been much worse had it taken a different track.

UPDATE: Thanks to Wendy of Peceli & Wendy's Blog Babasiga for keeping us informed with updates. Here is the latest tracking map which was produced at 6 AM Fiji time Saturday.

As you can see, the storm made a sharp turn eastward and the center will now pass off shore to the east of Taveuni. There is still the possibility of wind damage and flooding on eastern Vanua Levu and Taveuni. "Several homes have been flattened in Cikobia (see map). Cikobia and North Eastern parts as well as nearby islands have been experiencing destructive hurricane force winds with average speed of up to 160 km/ph and monetary gusts of up to 240 km/hr." -Fiji Times (that's 100 mph with gusts to 150 mph).

Some of the villages along the north and east coast of Taveuni are in low lying coastal areas. Also the tiny islands of the Lau group are now in its projected path. About 30 of these islands are inhabited and the total population of the group is nearly 40,000.

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1800 UTC Friday - 0600 Fiji Time, Saturday


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Satellite image of Daman - core islands of Fiji circled.

Presently at Tropical Storm strength, Cyclone Daman is about 400 km North of Nadi and on a path that will cut through the middle of the island nation. Heavy rains and flash floods as well as sea flooding in low coastal areas are expected. Winds of 80 to 100 kph (50-62 mph) are forecast.

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I hope they do a better job of getting the word out than was apparently the case last April with Cyclone Cliff, so that damage can be minimized and people kept safe.

For a first hand account of Oregon's recent "extra tropical" storms, which orinated in the Philippines and crossed the Paific (!), check out the Snabulus blog.


Turning Over An Old Leaf

(Please click on the pictures in this post to view a full sized version in another window.)

Friday the 23rd was "Labor Thanksgiving Day" in Japan and K and I decided to head up to the north end of Ibaraki - our fair prefecture - to see some fall foliage (viewing autumn tints is called "momiji gari" in Japan) at Fukuroda no Taki, Japan's third highest water falls.

The combination of a day off, autumn leaves, water falls, and beautiful clear skies was just an irresistible draw for us - and a whole lot of other people. The drive to Mito City took the usual hour just as the odometer showed we had gone 50 kilometers, but north from Mito traffic quickly increased in numbers and slowed to a crawl. The next 10 kilometers took half an hour (that's 12 miles per hour for you folks in the USA). It was another 40 km to Fukuroda. At this rate we would arrive in the mid-afternoon, and get home late in the evening, having spent all day sitting in traffic spewing out exhaust in order to reach a place where we could be closer to and appreciate "nature". Welcome to modern industrialized life, full of such bizarre contradictions.

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The lowest portion of Fukuroda Falls

We decided to try to catch a train. I had noted on a previous occasion (see "The Red Gazebo") that the trains had left us in the dust as we sat in holiday traffic. At the end of that post I wrote, "The return trip was 106 km or 66 miles and took 3 hours and 45 minutes. That works out to 28 kph (17.5 mph). Poor K. Ah, that modern marvel of personal transportation, the automobile! Next time I'll take the train."

The JR Suigun line runs close to the highway we were on in many places, so we headed for the next station, which proved none to easy to find due to a lack of signage (the turn off the main highway was clear, but after that we were seemingly on our own and finally forced to ask an elderly gentleman on a bicycle for directions). As we approached the station parking lot, so did the train, and we watched in dismay as it pulled out as we parked! The next one would not be along for 40 minutes or so. We headed for the next station, thinking of catching the next train from there, but by the time we arrived, found a place to park and were ready to buy tickets, we decided to forget the whole idea and go home. All those cars were going toward the same area, and even if we got there by train, it was bound to be a crowded scene. Tactical retreat. Fall back, regroup.

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We stopped in Mito City and had a nice lunch, then returned home, disappointed, but glad we were not still sitting in traffic. Momo was glad to us come home early too. Good girl.

On Sunday we gave it another go. This time, the plan was to drive to Mito Station and catch the train from there. We could have taken a train to Mito City from a nearby station on the Kashima-Oarai line, but car traffic to Mito is not usually a problem, and the train fare to Mito is more expensive than that on the line going north from there. Go figure. We do use that line sometimes when traveling just to Mito, as I did the following Tuesday when I got my 3 year extension on my permit to stay in Japan (YAY!).

It turned out well. We got an early start. At Mito Station we went to the first car of the train. The people waiting were not glum commuters, but rather mostly families, hikers, and others off on a Sunday jaunt. While we waited, the driver came out of the cab and posed for photos with a couple of children (who were thrilled). Lots of smiles all around. The train was made up of new rolling stock - clean, quiet, and comfortable. We each had our reasons for being there, which were personal, but we were sharing space on this train and formed a little community - very unlike the isolation of travel by automobile.

Along the way some passengers talked with each other about their destinations and reasons for going to them. I gave up my seat for a time to an elderly woman who boarded the train for part of the journey. A teenage girl spoke with her for a while, as did K who sat next to her, I don't know about what. Others - a group of middle-aged men who were off on a day of hiking - made sure that she knew when we had reached her destination.

As we rolled along, I was reminded of one of the songs my girls used to like me to sing for them when they were little, "The City of New Orleans" - about the train of that name... "along the southbound odyssey, the train pulls out near Kankakee and rolls along past houses farms and fields..." but while that song is a lament of how rail travel has deteriorated in the USA, our journey showed what a joy taking the train can be in Japan. Houses, farms and fields gradually turned to the same plus rivers, and mountain ridges covered with forests of bamboo, Japanese cedars, poplars and maples. The scenery was so much better than the endless traffic, signs, advertising and commercial buildings of the highway.

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Canyon wall at Fukuroda

An hour and change later - the same amount of time as a car would take on a "no traffic" day - we arrived at Fukuroda. Waiting at the little station were two buses. One, a public bus which charged a fare for a complete route of stops for locals. The other, a free one for weekend tourists (that would be us!) which went directly to the falls area.

We had been to Fukuroda before. It was in early 2004 I think, before I had actually moved to Japan. On that occasion, K had driven the whole way. We had learned a bit of what we wanted to do and see this time, and looked forward to fall foliage. We were not disappointed.

The first time around I had been a little put off by the long tunnel which was built in the 1960s and leads from the edge of town to the falls, perhaps 200 meters. K explained that it allows people to visit the falls in winter when there is an ice festival here, without the dangers of hiking over an icy stream bed or path. As I thought about the large number of people who visit - there were a lot here this day - I realized that by putting in such infrastructure they actually preserve a lot of the natural elements from being destroyed under foot and at the same time allow a lot people to safely see this beautiful place - a tricky balance. My oldest daughter recently visited Yellowstone National Park with her family and was a bit taken aback by the "development" there. But the thing is this: if you seal places off to preserve them and don't make them available for people to visit, there won't be the necessary political support to continue to preserve them. If you over-develop them, then you defeat the purpose. Like I said, a tricky balance, but one which in the case of Fukuroda I think is being done well.

Coincidentally, just before this trip, K and I had been reading some passages by Henry David Thoreau to each other. His words came to life and were given added meaning for us in the autumnal tints we saw.

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The slow running river made for less spectacular falls, but lovely reflections

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A restaurant prepares "ayu" or sweetfish - a fresh water fish native to Japan, Taiwan and Korea which is cooked on a skewer by a charcoal fire.

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Along the way we stopped to enjoy miso dango - miso flavored rice dumplings

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Fukuroda no Taki (water falls). Not much water this time of year. The falls come down in four tiers with a total height of 120 meters (394 feet).

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K offers a prayer at a shrine inside a side tunnel near the water fall

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Downstream from the falls, visitors cross a suspension foot bridge.

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On the other side of the river, a steel stairway leads up the mountainside and disappears into the trees. K wanted to climb it, but I wanted to know first if she remembered how to perform CPR. She didn't, but fatalist that I am I went anyway.

We started up and near what had looked like the top when we had started, it just turned and continued up, and up, and up. I lost count at around 250 steps. Eventually the steel stairs ended....and were replaced by old stone steps, continuing a relentless steep climb. Stair climbing uses different muscles than bicycling and I was really feeling it. I finally stopped at place where I could get off the steps without falling down a cliff and told K to go on ahead. After about five minutes though I felt better and continued up another hundred or so steps and paused to rest again. By then I could see I was not far from where the steps ended at a level path, and just as I reached it, K was coming back. From a vantage point along the trail we could look down at the river at a point above the falls.
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Finally, around a bend, the trail came to an end at a viewing platform and we were rewarded with smaller, but very beautiful set of falls.
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Maybe it wasn't the stairway to heaven, but it was certainly worth the hike.

On the way down my thighs (quadriceps) felt like jello, but going that direction too had its rewards such as this view of the village below.
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Back on the main path at the bottom of the stairs, we headed toward the town and lunch. Along the way an artist was sitting near the river painting the scene.
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The restaurants and tourist shops were busy. Like tourist towns everywhere, Fukuroda has its "antiques" shop.
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We finally settled on a smaller restaurant next to the river and had a delicious lunch of ayu (a bit like trout, but sweeter tasting), rice, wild mountain veggies, pickles and miso soup. After that we bought a few souvenirs and headed to the bus stop.

We had forgotten to bring a return train schedule with us, so when we got to the station we discovered that we would have an hour wait. That was OK by us. They have a nice little park at the station, with a shelter and benches. We just relaxed there and shared the coffee from our thermos until it was time to go.

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The train was more full for the trip back, and though not crowded, we had to stand, but the scenery out the window was still wonderful so we didn't mind. As we reached a section where the highway was visible a number of people on the train remarked at the traffic - backed up and crawling along. We were happy to be on our "magic carpet made of steel."

"How beautiful, when a whole tree is like one great scarlet fruit full of ripe Juices, every leaf, from lowest limb to topmost spire, all aglow, especially if you look toward the sun! What more remarkable object can there be in the landscape? Visible for miles, too fair to be believed. If such a phenomenon occurred but once, it would be handed down by tradition to posterity, and get into the mythology at last. I am thrilled at the sight of it...I go half a mile out of my way to examine it. A single tree becomes thus the crowing beauty of some meadowy vale, and the expression of the whole surrounding forest is at once more spirited for it."

- Henry David Thoreau, "Autumnal Tints" 1862


A Peek Inside the Great Buddha's Head

Update to previous post. The Moody Minstrel asked what it was like inside the Kamakura Daibutsu. Well, here's a picture I took in there (see the exterior shots in the previous post for reference points).

I was facing the front of the statue and shooting more or less straight up. The open vents or windows in the back of the statue are behind - toward the top of the frame. But the bars you see is not the window, but is the hand rail of a work scaffold. The view looks up into the statue's head (emptiness!) and you can see the bronze straps which were added to reinforce where it connects to the torso. Also, you see many 'dimples' which are the insides of the 656 "rohotsu" or hair curls on the head.

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When first entering it is very hard to see until your eyes adjust, so you might miss a couple of things as you try to find your way in. One is a seated version of the guardian deity of the Yoritomo family (remember the First Shogun of Kamakura?). There is also an image of Yuten, a priest who restored the temple during the Edo period. A bronze tablet explains the work he accomplished.

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Moody also mentioned a large pair of straw sandals (waraji). I read somewhere they were donated by school children in Ibaraki, but Moody heard they came from Kashima Jingu Shrine. I don't really know. Either way they are from Ibaraki Prefecture and they are big - 2.8 meters long (over 9 feet), the size this statue would wear. A message with the sandals reads "Buddha must surely be tired after sitting there for some 700 years and we would be very pleased if he would wear these sandals when he takes a walk."

Thanks to Moody. As Art Baker and then Jack Smith used to say on American TV when I was a kid, "You Asked For It!"


All Buddhas Great and Small

Seventh and last in a series that began with Road Trip (Railroad That Is), continued with Putting On Airs followed by The Pirates of Ashinoko , Dîner Français and the First Kamakura Shogun , Katsu! or How to Make a Zen Vacuum Cleaner, and Engakuji - Honoring One's Enemies.

After we left Engakuji, we walked to the nearby Kita-Kamakura (North kamakura) Station and caught a train to the main station of the city then switched to the Enoshima Line for Hase, in the southwest part of Kamakura City.

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It was lunch time when we arrived, so a block from the station we found a nice soba restaurant and after a short wait enjoyed an excellent lunch. The restaurant was right on the corner of the main street and the short side street leading to Kaikozan Jisho-in Hase-dera (Hasedera temple for short).

Unlike Kenchoji and Engakuji which are Rinzai Zen temples, Hasedera is of the Jodo sect. In Jodo Buddhism, one does not engage in strict practices as is done by Zen followers, but rather entrusts enlightenment to the power of Amida, the Buddha of infinite light and life who resides in a place called the "Pureland", and Jodo followers express this entrusting by repeating the name of Amida "namo amida butsu" many times. Jodo Shu, one of many "Pure Land" sects, is based on the Amida Sutra which tells of the 48 vows which Amida, once known as Dharmakara Bodhisattva, took in order to become a Buddha. Buddhahood would only be attained if all 48 vows were fulfilled. The 18th vow, also called the Primal Vow, reads, "If I were to become a Buddha, and people, hearing my Name, have faith and joy and recite it for even ten times, but were not born into my Pureland, may I not gain enlightenment."

Since Amida did become a Buddha, all the vows have been fulfilled. Therefore, according to Jodo teaching, which was founded by Honen Shonin (1133-1212), anyone who sincerely places their enlightenment in the hands of Amida and recites his name is assured of a place in the Pureland and thereby will attain enlightenment. This religion and the related Jodo Shinshu sect that Honen's desciple Shiran Shonin (1173-1263) taught, became very widespread in Japan during the 13th century as it brought the religion to ordinary people. These are still the largest sects in Japan today.

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Entrance to Hasedera

Hasedera's history is much older than Jodo Shu however. Legend has it that in 711, a priest in Nara whose name was Tokudo, had two images of the 11 headed Bodhisattva of Compassion, "Kannon", carved from a single camphor tree. One of the images was installed in a temple there. The other was thrown into the sea with the wish that it would find its way to people in need of Kannon's help.

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Continuing this legend now from the book "Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan" by Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904):

"Now the statue floated to Kamakura. And there arriving by night it shed a great radiance all about it as if there were sunshine upon the sea; and the fishermen of Kamakura were awakened by the great light; and they went out in boats, and found the statue floating and brought it to shore. And the Emperor ordered that a temple should be built for it, the temple called Shin-haseidera, on the mountain called Kaiko-San, at Kamakura." And so, this temple claims to have been founded in 736.

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Main Hall, Kannon-do that houses the statue of the eleven headed Kannon, which, at over 9 meters (30 feet) tall, is the largest wooden statue of Kannon in Japan.

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Hasedera's bell, cast in 1264

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A thousand statues of the Bodhisattva Jizo (Jizo Bosatsu), spiritual guardian of children, both alive and dead, including stillborn babies and aborted fetuses.

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View of the Kamakura coast and Sagami Bay from Hasedera

There is also a tunnel one may enter to view a statue of Amida, however, that was closed during our visit as they were working on the tunnel.

Outside the temple again, we saw this rickshaw. I tried to hire this young lady to take me up the street to our next stop, but she suggested I could probably use some exercise and should walk.
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Rickshaw Driver - Don't know how she works in that long skirt.

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On the street below Hasedera is an old hotel, Taisenkaku. It was built in 1904 and is the oldest building of its kind in Kamakura and has been designated an important architectural asset of the city. It still operates today.

We headed up the main street again toward one of the most famous statues in Japan, the Daibutsu, or Great Buddha of Kamakura, which appears on postcards, and in books and travel advertisements the world over.

The temple's name is Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji (Kotokuin for short) and it too is part of the Jodo sect.
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There was a wooden statue and large building to house it built here in 1243. In 1252 construction of a guilded bronze version was started, but records are vague as to who was in charge or when it was completed. The large wooden hall was damaged by earthquakes and storms many times and then was washed away completely by a tsunami in the late 1400's, leaving the statue out in the open as it is to this day. Construction was quite an engineering as well as artistic feat, as the finished statue weighs 93 tons. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 moved the statue froward almost two feet. Being exposed to the elements has also taken a toll on its condition and it has had some repair work done on the bronze shell itself.

The Buddha image represents Amida and the face is beautifully sculpted. One can still see traces of gold here and there, in spite of the weathering. It is 12.3 meters (over 40 feet high), but rather than being an imposing powerful looking figure, the peaceful face makes it seem welcoming and calm.

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How does a big bronze Buddha stay cool on a hot August day? Vents in the back provide some relief. We went inside the statue and the temperature wasn't bad at all.

Kamakura gets lots of visits by students, on field trips studying the history of Japan. I had the feeling K had been here before...

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Along the road we passed a few Hawaii themed stores. This one, Cafe Hula, is across from the train station.

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Before leaving Kamakura for home, we walked the length of Komachi-dori Street which is lined with shops selling art, clothing, wood carvings, and of course, souvenirs. It looked like business was good. K found some gifts to bring home for family and friends (such gifts are called "miyage" in Japan).

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I didn't need another towel - tenugui - but this shop would have been the right place to find one. Every wall was lined with shelves of them.

Omiyage shopping over, we headed for the train station to retrieve our bags and start the journey home. And that, gentle reader, brings us to the end of the journey and of my story. We'd seen and learned a lot in three days and two nights and made many memories that we will hold and share for years to come.