Friday, August 28, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Gundam is an 18m tall "life-size" statue of a figure from Japanese anime that is 30 years old. He is located on Odaiba in Tokyo and so far no other of the old capital cities in Japan has one. This summer he has been visited by a gazillion pilgrims. It is possible to join a special queue to walk between his legs and touch his warm fibreglass feet and feel at one with the statue. If you gaze at Gundam long enough his eyes may light up, his head move and steam may come out of his backpack. They say Gundam will be dismantled at the end of August but I really think he ought to remain for, oh, at least 700 years.
The Kamakura Daibutsu is, according to Wikipedia, an "approximately 13.35m" high bronze statue of Amida Buddha. He is located in one of the cities that has been capital of Japan over the last 1000 years and is more than 750 years old. The reason he is called The Kamakura Daibutsu is because there is another one (bigger but not as friendly looking) in one of the other old capitals, Nara. Every year lots and lots of people visit. It is possible to queue up to enter inside the statue where you can touch the cool metal and feel at one with the statue. If you gaze at the Daibutsu long enough you may become enlightened.
Many grasshoppers and three moutlings later Trevor emerged all grown up on Sunday. Turns out he's a "ko-kamakiri", meaning little mantis (statilia maculata), so is not particularly large (there is also the large oo-kamakiri). He is very elegant and has some interesting markings on his neck and claws, and I think he is also might be a girl. Here she is viewing the world from the vantage of James' shoulder.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I have twice previously remarked that where we work, home of the once famous Earth Simulator supercomputer, is in the toxic waste part of town, but presented no evidence in support of my claim. The main feeling of toxicity actually comes the solvent smell that necessitates the windows always be kept closed. But this is difficult to capture, even with a digital camera. Then there things like this elegant unfenced local business nestled in the densely housed residential neighbourhood just over the road. No way it is remotely earthquake proof so can only represent a hazard to the neighbourhood. Perhaps it is supposed to be art; the junk heap is meticulously arranged and since this photo was taken has been further adorned by the addition of a number of bicycles (not ours, luckily).
Thursday, August 20, 2009
See how the butter fly has sucked out so much yellow from the daisy that its wings are turning the same colour... That's how it works, right?
[taken near our house in Kamakura]
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Cicada live in the earth for years, then climb up something, rip open their skins and flap away, make as much noise as possible for a bit, until one day they fall out of the sky dead, usually on James' head. Perhaps one should wear a cycling helmet after all.
This picture is of a discarded carapace, which means that the macro lens was allowed to be purchased well before the end of bug-season!! hurrah! As a result, Japan is out of recession for about the first time in a decade.
Monday, August 17, 2009
On reaching the summit of the mountain around 3000m, the wind drops, the rain stops, the clouds lift, and one finally finds out what's on the other side of the mountain. Drop off the summit, eat the last of your three day old marmalade sandwiches, and prepare to destroy your legs with a 1000-1500m descent. Of course if you are more sensible, having gained this ridiculous height you will make the most of it and spend a few more days walking along the ridge before descending.
The full story.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Up above 2700-2800m it should become all ropes, rocks, ladders and chains. More so in the Kita Alps than the Minami Alps, but last week's Kaikomagatake has some on its north side. Luckily, all the mountain hardware is designed to be passable by even the tiny legs of the older generation of Japanese, which is reassuring, although I have to admit to being nervous of the abunai (dangerous) marks on the map and having been terrified, mostly by the penalty for failure (ie let go of that chain and its a sheer drop to nowhere fast), on several occasions over the past 8 years.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Inching up the mountain, precariously unbalanced on at least two walking poles each, mountain walking has become very popular with the older Japanese, who like to travel in groups. Consequently we find we are generally very close to the the fastest walkers on the hills, and it is very rare that we come across a woman faster than me. Of course I do cunningly get James to carry almost everything, which speeds us up a great deal compared to those foolish girls who insist on carrying their own stuff.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
By popular request... a bonus photo today! In my previous post I discussed haimatsu but showed none. So here it is. This is pretty high up, around 2800m, so it is getting very short. Even I can see over the top of this!
As the trees thin out a bit, some where above 2000m the minami alps get flowery. At first they go for drama, as in the photo. As you get higher the flowers get more delicate, until right on the tops (3000m) you are in dinky alpine flower territory. The trees also shrink with altitude. Around 2600-2700m the maps are marked with "haimatsu", which, according to the interwebs, is Japanese for the dwarf siberian pine, pinus pumila. However, the haimatsu region is more special than that name implies, being alive with birds and insects, and many different dwarfy trees and shrubs all intermingling, with not much growing to more than 2m (giving James great views). It is like a garden paradise - for 2 months of the year...
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
A Japanese mountain walk should begin in the trees. In summer it is usually too hot, very sweaty, and very very noisy, because of all the semi (cicada). Not so hot or noisy last week as it was rainy. The mountains are very steep, so no boring trudge before the climb starts. Right from the bus stop the only way is up.
Monday, August 10, 2009
We climbed some mountains, in the minami (south) alps. My impression is that this range is more full of life than the rockier kita (northern) alps. The route was obtained in the usual way, by placing a map and a beer in front of James and seeing what shapes his mountain genius made of the paths. The result involved about 2700m up and 2700m down in 3 days, two new hyakumeizan (one of them twice). The most ingenious part was, however, the high-season overnight stop at a mountain hut shared only with about 10 others, and it wasn't James' fault that the helicopter hadn't visited for a while meaning meaning there was no dinner (although the cat was curiously fat and sleek). In addition, someone organised this spectacular sunset specially for those who ventured so far into the wilderness.
Ow, my legs hurt.
[all mtn pics taken with James' diddy lx3]
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
We found Trevor in James' precious herb "garden" (=2 plant pots) on Saturday. Back then he was small and brown. Then he moulted, got much bigger, ate two grasshoppers and has now turned grasshopper-green.
I'm not so sure about keeping predators as house pets, but he is certainly cute...
Monday, August 3, 2009
Despite mud baths alternating with sunbathing, some find the whole Zen thing a bit of a yawn.
[Kosokuji, SW Kamakura]