Monday, May 31, 2004

Cardboard Condominiums

It was like walking into one of William Gibson's books. Between the Shinto Priest and Yodabashi, in storybook like contrast to both, lies these 'cardboard condominiums'. I was astonished. I recalled seeing these in my minds eye, and up to this point these cardboard dwellings had only existed in my imagination. They grew to be there from reading one of William Gibson's books, (I think "All Tomorrow's Parties"). These are people's homes, no more than four or maybe five feet to the carton ceilings. Some seemed to be well established with small items to sell, while others looked to be more newly inhabited. The address of these condominiums is beside the street the runs under the JR Umeda station. When I stepped back into the sunlight on the other side of the tunnel, I felt as though I had just trod out of a page of prose and back into the real world.

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Shinto Priest

On the way to Yodabashi, I passed this Shinto Priest quietly standing in this very high traffic area with his collection bowl in hand. There are two major religions in Japan. Shintoism and Buddhism. Most Japanese when asked wouldn't say they are religious, and most probably wouldn't be able to distinguish between Buddhism and Shintoism either. The lines of separation between the two religions that were drawn and fought over centuries ago have been blurred into a state of not just oblivion but harmony. But a significant number of the population participate in religious events either at New Years or in the Buddhist festival when everyone visits their ancestral home. This number is possibly as high as ninety percent. Religion plays a major role in Japanese culture.

Thursday, May 27, 2004


This is Yodabashi Umeda. (Umeda is a major transportation hub in Osaka and tends to attract a multitude of people). Seven giant floors of electronics from thousands of cell phones and digital cameras to computers and shavers. For the geek in me it is mesmerizing, mind numbing and hypnotizing to wander around the aisles and floors analyzing and comparing everything. Prices seem to be higher for most items here as compared to Canada, apart from laptop computers which seem to come in at slightly lower prices and give you more bang for your buck. All the OS's are Japanese though so you'll have to spend some time getting aquainted with the written language if you want to use one. The electronics industry is one of the many narcotics that exist for anyone here in Japan. Japanese go about their hobbies in a very intensive manner. They are culturally renown for their precision and diligence and these qualities are reflected in their pastimes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Narrow Escape

As my train swooshed into the subway station at a good clip I saw a several small squadrons of troops marshalled on the platform. They were spaced apart about every other door. Each squad contained approximately twenty troops and they were perfectly lined up in five rows of four. As my train slowed to a stop and the doors opened the command was given and each squadron stormed their door. Two such squadrons invaded my subway car and one entered the door I was standing close to. Their precision attire matched their precision execution. Each wore a matching yellow cap, matching brown outfits, right down to the matching socks and shoes. It had been raining this day, and each had a yellow cover for their matching backpacks and matching yellow umbrellas. As they flooded the door closest to me I feared for my safety. I was relieved when they mostly ignored me, instead getting ready to surf the subway. As the doors closed they grasped one another’s hands, arms, or any other handy purchases, and as the train accelerated, the squad flowed like a blob of mercury. Hanging only on to themselves they flowed with the momentum of the train, drifting backwards under acceleration, side to side with the sway of the cars and forward as we slowed to a stop. As we got going several of the curious looked up at me, a gaijin, a strange face on the subway. I was interesting, almost as interesting as they were. The school children started whispering to one another, more furtive glances in my direction. My stop was coming up and I had to get out the door lest I be late for school. I became worried, as my path lay directly through the blob, would I be able to wade through and make it to the door before the conductor blew his whistle and sped off to the next station? As the doors opened I bravely took on the mass of children, cheerfully uttering a quick ‘Sumi masen’ (excuse me) and then a relieved ‘Arigatoo gozaimasu’ (Thank you very much) to the children’s teacher as I breathlessly slipped unscathed on to the platform.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Great Asian Wisdom

Especially when you first get started at it, using chopsticks is not so hard. But. After a little while it becomes tedious.
Were it not for the wine it might even be infuriating.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Pizza LA

The Pizza LA place in my neighbourhood has about 12 of these little scooters used to deliver pizzas around Sekime. They zip in and out all evening long, so Osakans obviously do like Pizza. There are many 'interesting' toppings available though, toppings such as eggplant, shrimp, corn, and mayonaise amongst many others. If I could only read the language, I'm sure this list would be both greater and more interesting. I can only go with what I've seen or tasted. Food is often a surprise in Japan. Good thing I like surprises.

Ninomaru Garden

Inside the castle just behind Ninomaru Palace is found Ninomaru Garden. It is a traditional Japanese garden, designed around a large central pond by a landscape architect named Kobori Enshu (1579-1647). There are three islands, the Island of Eternal Happiness, Turtle Island and Crane Island. The rocks are all placed with care, (it is an artform to do that correctly). The garden really is beautiful to take in. The trees and foliage all came later. Initially the water and rocks were what made the garden.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Nijo Jo

Nijo Jo. Here I am just inside the Eastern Main Gate, Higashe Ote Mon.

Inside the palace was unbelievable, if only I had some pictures to share, but I was not allowed to take any, it was against the rules. The artwork painted directly on the walls was very interesting, done by Kano Tan'yu, (a renown Japanese artist) in about 1627. The floors were intriguing as well. Most of the floor boards squeaked and creaked with each step. Since the Shogun was very nervous about being betrayed he took many precautions. The floors (called Nightingale Floors) were designed so that each board squeaked as it was stepped on, and the high pitch sound that is made gives the floor its name. It still worked pretty well as I did my best not to make them squeak. Even those evil Ninja's would have a hard time sneaking around the castle after the Shogun went to bed.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Nijo Jo

Nijo Jo. This is the inner moat. Castles in Japan had as many as five moats. The outer moats were quite far away from the castle, and encircled the town which was devoloped around the castle. The walls are most impressive, and have endured time far better than the castle buildings themselves.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Nijo Jo

On Monday afternoon while I was in Kyoto I visited a shogun castle. Nijo Castle was built by Ieyasu Tokugawa, who was the first of a line of 15 Tokugawa shoguns to inhabit the castle. The fifteenth shogun restored sovreignty to the emporer of Japan in 1867. The following is found inscribed on the brass plaque at the castle.

Nijo Castle (Nijo Jo) was built by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1603 for the defence of the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and to serve as an official residence for visiting shoguns. It was greatly expanded and renovated in 1626. The present Ninomaru Palace, in the Ninomaru or secondary enclosure, essentially dates from that period. The former Katsura-no-miya Palace, built in 1847, was removed from its original site and rebuilt in Nijo Castle’s Honmaru or main enclosure.
The Ninomaru Palace is an excellent example of the buke shoin-zukuri of residential architecture. Its principal buildings, known as the Tozamurai, the Kuruma-yose, the Shikidai, the Ohiroma, the Sotestsu-no-ma, the Kuro Shoin, and the Shiro Shoin, are laid out in a diagonal configuration along the pond in the Ninomaru Garden. Each room inside these structures is distinguished by it own unique features, such as the height of its floor, the form of its ceiling, the details of its design, and so forth; and the rooms are magnificently adorned, each according to its intended use, with exquisitely painted walls and doors and with carved transoms, ornamental metal work, nail head coverings, and so forth.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Kyoto Tower

This evening I was in Kyoto. Kyoto is just north of Osaka, about 40 minutes and 600 yen away, by train. Pictured here is the Kyoto tower reflected in the glass facade of the architecturally impressive Kyoto Station.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Lunch under the JR

Do you see the resturant underneath the train line? Look a little closer it looks pretty dark in the picture, mind you it was quite dark inside as well. I suppose it is what you would expect of a resturant any where in the world that is underneath the rail line. It was somewhat dingy and dirty. The chairs were old and the atmosphere was quite smokey. It brought to mind the interior of a 1940's diner, perhaps a place where university students would have met to discuss some deep subject. The food was decent though, and I really enjoyed the thumping of the train as it rolled overhead. In spite of and because of the environs it was a most enjoyable meal. I probably won't be back though. Posted by Hello

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Pop Density

This crosswalk is near Osaka Station, one of the major hubs of Osaka. This picture is taken near lunch time and depicts a typical amount of people that cross everytime the light changes. Posted by Hello

The inaugural post.

While I'm new to posting, I'm not new to blogs. The job of writing everyday seems daunting though. How can I measure up to many of the bloggers I've read? A legacy of great blogging goes before me and now I feel I must measure up, or die a slow (and painful to the ego)death in the deep dark dungeons with the likes of abandoned blogs, stacks of 5 1/4" floppy disks and 8 track tapes.
My intentions are to post daily photos and add some scrawlings as time permits, of my adventures in the city of Osaka Japan. I am currently living in an area of Osaka known as Sekime, hence the name of this journal. Much of the time I’m not unlike a baby boy, growing used to all the new things of his world. Do we get off the train now? Hai means yes? What’s that? Is that food? Can I cross the road now? Questions coming out of my mouth are no more complex than that of a 4-year-old. Humbling indeed. Sometimes I have feelings of utter inadequacy, sometimes of wide-eyed wonder. Some of the time I can marvel at the Sovereignty of God and at other times I balk at the sheer enormity of the tasks at hand.
Today I leave you with a little tidbit. I am astounded at how full the trains are at 9pm on a Friday night. In Osaka, the primary mode of mass transportation are the trains and the subways. I came home tonight on the train and I amongst the majority that had to stand up because all the seats were taken. There are eight different subway lines, and four different train companies, each running one or more rail lines. Needless to say that is a lot of passengers. The picture is the JR loopline station Tamatsukuri. The two trains run a loop around the city in opposite directions.

JR Loopline Posted by Hello