What's the Drill?

At last, Kimie and I are done with the dentist for a while. Each of us had some problems needing care, so early this year we went to our local dentist together. Funny thing about it was that our dentists are a husband and wife team - Dr. and Dr. Hitomi. Kimie needed to have a wisdom tooth removed and another tooth filled. I had two teeth with old fillings which had cracked open and needed root canals and crowns.

So for some months, we've gone to the dentists' office together every couple of weeks to have the work done, never really knowing which of the husband and wife team would be working on us on a given day.

Happily, Japan's "pinko-commie" single payer health insurance (as some Americans might see it) paid the bulk of the cost. Whatever. We're happy.

Now, we're done. Finished. Over. Until our next check up. So, in celebration of that, I give you Allan Sherman's "The Painless Dentist" song.

And if you'd like more Allan Sherman, be sure to visit Sweet-Bluesette.


Shave Ice and Kyudo

The morning after our sail, we awoke to the sight of long fishing boats crossing the lake to check nets. The yacht harbor is closed on Tuesdays, so this would be a day for a different sort of adventure than sailing.

miso soup, nori seaweed, salmon, egg, bean sprouts and ham on the little stove, banana and orange slice, raw egg, pickled veggies, natto (fermented soy beans), rice, and salad.

After breakfast Kimie drove us to Kasama Inari, the third largest Inari Shinto Shrine in Japan. Inari is the kami (god) of fertility and agriculture which is said to reside in the mountains in winter and in the rice fields during growing season. Worship of Inari spread during the Edo era. The shrines dedicated to Inari have many statues of kitsune - pure white foxes that act as Inari's messengers. Kasama Inari was founded in 651.

The town of Kasama still has an old feel to it with narrow streets, low rise buildings and shops fronting the shrine.

main entrance to the shrine

purification fountain used to rinse one's hands and mouth before entering the shrine

main gate

East gate - 1814

main building or "Haiden"

behind the main building is the "Honden" which is where an object of worship is kept. This one dates to about 1854-1861

The sun was merciless and after viewing the grounds and buildings, we decided to cool off with a treat.

A press squeezes out long thin strips of cold jelly made from tengusa seaweed. Vinegar dressing, green tea powder, and horseradish are added. The result is called tokoroten, and has been a summer treat in Japan for over 1300 years.

Kimie cools off with a peach flavored shave ice.

It was getting close to lunch time, so we headed for JA Pocket Farm DokiDoki - a farmers market and restaurant operated by the Ibaraki farmers association. The "Restaurant in the Woods that serves Home Food" is a favorite of ours, as the food is all local, fresh, and of high quality. Martin gave this 5 stars last time he visited. He wrote, "What I really liked was the friendly atmosphere and the focus on local, Ibaraki-made ingredients. All dishes in the different stations had memos explaining what the dish contained, and many also the name and photo of the farmer and the chef who had created the food."

Then it was on the road again, following the eastern edge of Japan's second largest lake, Kasumigaura, through Itako City and along the Tonegawa river to Katori Jingu in Chiba Prefecture, the ancient Shinto Shrine that we visited last year for sakura viewing (posted as Katori Jingu Sakura).

Katori Jingu, with its forest of ancient cedars, was much cooler than Kasama Inari and we enjoyed wandering the paths.

This anchor belonged to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force training ship, Katori, which was built in 1970 and was named after the shrine. In 1995, it was replaced by the Kashima - named for the related shrine in our town. (The Kashima is now in Baltimore, by the way, with two other Japanese ships and the crews will pay a visit to the Arlington National Cemetery.)

Martin stumbled upon their Kyudo Dojo. Kimie made an inquiry, and we were welcomed in to watch them practice. In Kyudo (the way of the bow), the targets are just 36 cm (14 inches) in diameter and placed at a distance of 28 meters (92 feet). They were most gracious in making us comfortable, serving us drinks, and explaining various aspects of how Kyudo is done. For more about Kyudo visit Zen's Sakai 1 - if by land.

A cool drink, the quiet pace of Kyudo, and the songs of cicadas made for a relaxing end to the day's adventures.


Two Plus Two

Bluesette had guests this week, sailing with four aboard for the first time. I was interested to see how that would work out. I made sure we kept our weight toward the front of the cockpit and was happy to find that she sailed just fine.

Beautiful day on the lake with Mt. Tsukuba clearly visible some 38 km (23 miles) in the distance.

The weather was good, if hot (32°C or 90°F), and winds were a comfortable 5 knots - enough to move us along, but not so much as to make weight distribution for balance much of an issue.

First stop, of course, was for lunch at Mama's Kitchen. Three of us had pasta with nasu (eggplant) and horenso (spinach) with a spicy sauce that was just right, while Kimie satisfied her carinvore urges with a stir fry pork dish and some sausages.

Then it was on to the harbor and a full afternoon of sailing.

Martin has been sailing with us before - back in November when it was raining cats and dogs.

Our other guest was camera shy, but Martin grabbed my new Olympus μ 8010 and took several shots of Kimie and I and the scenery while I was busy at the tiller. With four in the boat, I would change sides when we came about, while everyone else stayed put. If the wind picked up while Kimie was on the lee side, she would just crouch by the centerboard trunk to help balance the boat. It worked out fine.

Look! Up in the sky. It's a bird, it's a plane, it's.... a wind vane.

After sailing, we checked into the hotel on the lake, Ikoinomura Hinuma, to relax in their bubbling onsen spa and enjoy an excellent dinner.

Our Japanese style rooms overlooked the lake.

Sunset on Hinuma - fishermen standing in the lake



This picture of cirrus clouds over Yokohama is from Yomiyuri Online (newspaper). Cirrus are made up of ice crystals, and with the sunlight hitting at just the right angle, the crystals act like prisms giving off this colorful display of the spectrum.


Grazing In The Grass

by Momo the Wonder Dog

When it gets hot around here, I usually hang out under my bench on the patio. Sometimes I'd dig a hole in the shade of the pomegranate tree, but Pandabonium and Kimie would always scold me for doing that. It wasn't good for the tree and I was always getting dirty.

Well, no more. They went out and bought some grass sod and put it down on either side of our front walk, right in front of the patio and some of it is under the pomegranate tree. It's just a few square meters, but plenty for me. Like almost everyone around here, we don't have a lawn. Most folks just grow vegetables and fruit trees or maybe decorative trees, but no lawns.

I really like my little patches of grass. It feels so soft and cool. I don't get dirty nor do my toys and I can lay there and watch the birds, and the bugs, and the whole world go by. Or just snooze.
This week, they're going to plant flowers along the edge.

While I do nibble on the grass by the side of the road - "michikusa" - during my walks, I don't really graze on my grass. But how nice it is to just relax on the grass. Here's The Friends of Distinction with Hugh Masekela's song "Grazing In The Grass":

Can you dig it? No! No more digging!

the Wonder Dog


The Froth of July

The Mayflower's destination was Virginia, but the boat landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. A passenger's journal for Dec. 19, 1620, explains: "We could not now take time for further search or consideration; our victuals being much spent, especially our beer ..."*

Thanks to the foresight of the Founding Fathers and the bravery of the revolutionaries, American citizens today aren't required to wear hats like these:
Happy Independence Day, America. Be safe out there.
*from Time Magazine 1977 http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,945768,00.html#ixzz0shgCwRK0


Welcome Back M and J

After a hiatus of over six months, I'm happy to see "M and J Adventures" blog (written by she who goes by NZM) back with a new look and posting more great pics and adventures by this globe trotting duo.

Check out the recent post about their visit to a Picasso Museum in Barcelona, from which I "borrowed" the above image.



Three More And She's An Ace

The other night, Kimie went out to check on Momo and found her chewing on a....what is that? One of her toys? A bone? I was called to bring out a torch (flashlight) to see what it was.

None of the above. It was a dead mole which we discovered later had the misfortune of burrowing up right in front of the part of the patio where Momo's food dish is located.

As this is the second time she's caught a mole, I'm thinking of making a stencil so we can paint her kills on the side of her dog house.

Momo was a little put out that we took away her "toy". She didn't understand at all.

Who me? I wouldn't hurt a fly.