2 October 2014
Can you believe it's October already? We've been travelling for two years and a month already, albeit with a short trip back to the USA for family stuff. Doesn't seem as if we've been on the road that long.
Japan continues to delight and fascinate. There are so many little things that are just different and quirky. So many tiny details that add to the aesthetic values that make up the Japanese landscape and city scape.
There's the delightful bakery on the go, a little truck with fresh baked goods and a friendly guy who drives around neighborhoods with a loudspeaker, announcing he's there. We just happened to find him one day. His English is minimal, so it isn't easy to pick out something. But it's fun and, well, quirky.
There's also the building that looks as if it might be a
former synagogue. No one knows, or no one is able to tell us. We have
We found a new area of our town or neighborhood, up the hill, with a different set of tiles on the sidewalk. These feature designs that are quintessentially Japanese, like the sumo wrestler. (The international sumo championships have been going on the past few weeks, so Mr Sumo Tile seemed appropriate.) But there are also tiles that represent the neighborhood: the blue bridge, the man guiding his boat around like a gondolier. Just, very much a part of our neighborhood scenery.
Plus more tile along our road, with different motifs.
Because it's autumn, the face masks are prevalent. Well, they may be common during summer as well, we don't know. But just about every little corner market carries face masks. And the packaging is often amusing. I liked the baby penguins with the masks.
Also new and exciting manhole covers - I thought these with the lilies or amaryllis blooms were exceptionally lovely. They're located by the river, and are rather old - much of the metal between the painted colors (or maybe enamel?) has gotten rusty. But they were so pretty, I just had to include them.
As is normal for autumn everywhere, some days are warm and sunny and like an extension of summer. Other days are chilly and grey, drizzly or rainy, and we can tell winter is not far away.
On the sunny days, we'll do something fun like grab takeaway food and go for a picnic by the river. Japanese food seems to be designed for takeaway - the plastic bento box meals are wonderful, and we often pick these up for a quick and inexpensive dinner. How often do you get salmon, rice, a variety of vegs including lotus, and maybe some tempura and a little bit of omelet? In one box? With of course some gold decorations on the black.
The sandwiches, however, are a little confusing to those of us from other parts of the world. Packaged sandwiches most often are two halves of two different sandwiches. So here I have pork katsu (breaded fried pork cutlet) with shredded cabbage and sliced tomato on sort of a light seed bread. The other half of the sandwich is tomato, lettuce, and what I thought was sliced cucumber, on whole wheat bread. Turned out the sliced cucumber was sliced potato. Yes, a potato and vegetable sandwich. Tasted better than it sounds. We're still adjusting to things like two halves of different sandwiches.
Walking along the riverside, from bridge to bridge, I found a lovely garden of container plants under the freeway. And a man who was tending to the plants. I'm not sure if this is a public or private garden, but it was a nice use of normally unused space.
There are all kinds of interesting things along the river walk - or, as the sign calls it, "The Walk Route of the Waterside." Apparently there are all kinds of historic things that took place in this neighborhood, and there are commemorative buildings or statues or something. Not that we can figure out what most of them are, since the signs are almost always in Japanese. But, well, this is Japan, so I suppose that is to be expected. However, it makes things like the sign about what animals one might see a bit frustrating - I'd like to know what the fish are, since we see them jumping. We thought they were salmon. None of the pictures look like salmon. So, oh well, who knows.
I particularly liked the places where vines were removed from the retaining walls. The residual bits of vine look like sketches on the walls, and become their own art!
The hat, of course, found fun places to hang out. Our favorite was the bicycle, which seemed to have some kind of motor built into it. The hat was happy to find a ride, rather than having to be carried around.
We're still waiting for the fall foliage. But we're willing to wait. People go out hiking in the mountains and gorges, knowing that higher elevations get cold sooner than the lower areas of the country - and so the foliage is already changing color in the mountains.
But in Japan, mountains mean volcanoes. There are some 110 active or dormant volcanoes in Japan. While many of these volcanoes are monitored for activity, the study of volcanoes isn't an exact science. Each volcano is different. Each volcano may also have different kinds of eruptions.
Mount Ontake had a hydrovolcanic eruption - meaning the groundwater in the volcano was heated to super high temperatures by the magma inside the volcano, and that boiling water and steam were what travelled up the channel and erupted from the fumeroles, sending rock and ash some two miles into the sky. No magma came up.
Rescue efforts continue, but are hampered by continuing tremors, which could be signs of impending second eruptions. Plus there are poisonous fumes that have been coming up as well.
So given all that - and add in that while Mount Ontake had wooden shelters near the peak, Mount Fuji has none - we're going to skip Mount Fuji, unless we can see it from the train as we head to Kyoto. We'll see the little bit of foliage that is changing around here, rather than chasing the color in the hills and mountains. Because one small earthquake and one volcanic eruption at a distance are enough exciting disasters for us. (There have been 40-something confirmed deaths on Mount Ontake, most from being hit by flying/falling rock, and then being buried in the ash. It really is very sad to watch the papers each day and see the numbers climb.)
We'll continue to enjoy the flowers at lower elevations, and keep our explorations of Japan at ground level.
Besides, the fire walking was exciting enough for this visit!