adventure of my life (Hajime Hirayama:平山新)

2015 2Q

Please refer to blog in frontpage


My First Guide Experience

On April 6, I took a half paid holiday in the afternoon in order to guide the members of the Todd Wolfe Band. They came to Japan to give their rock concerts. They didn't have concerts on the day. Chris, who is my English teacher, gave me this chance to be a tour guide. I prepared some guide courses and finally chose the shortest two-hour course after consulting Chris. The tour included Tokyo met. Gov. Observation room  and Meiji Shrine. I prepared the contents of this guide using the internet and prior preliminary inspection. Guiding is my first experience and it needed a little bit long time for the preparation. In the morning on that day, Chris mailed me and said "Don't forget! We are a team." This words made me ease. In addition, after meeting with the band members --Todd, Roger and Justine at 2 p.m., I soon understood that they were frank and friendly. So I could completely get relaxed. This guide experience taught me a lot of things. Some of my observations from this guide are follows. 1.Americans are generally cheerful, not hesitant, and sociable compared with Japanese. 2.They often asked me some humorous and  sometimes difficult questions. example: They told me to want meet the Tokyo governor as a joke and said "Where is his room?" ( looking up the building) Why crows and pigeons are few in Meiji Shrine? (Certainly no bird dropping was found.) 3. They asked me to translate the short poems of emperor Meiji and empress Shoken into English.(I was embarrassed because two short poems have very deep meaning, It is even difficult to explain even In Japanese. 4. I felt lack of hearing ability. I sometimes couldn't get the meaning when they speak to each other quickly. 5. If my explanation was not inform to them, I needed to change the other way of sentence. example: Emperor Meiji's poem have deep meaning.It is a kind of " the rule of life". => They didn't understand. so I changed the sentence like this => It is a kind of"secrets of success in life" On the way, we dropped in the coffee shop in the observation floor. And We had a small talk about our family,job, Chris's bicycle accident, commuter fee allowance and tax. "爽快" :Beating drum seems  excited or thrilled. Before good-bye, I was given a T-shirt with the picture of the band group and shook hands with them. This t-shirt became a memorial item of today's  guide experience for me. This experience gave me a boost to continue my English lessons.
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Chris(R) and The Todd wolfe band in front of the Tokyo Met. Government, beside a Cherry tree and the banner showing Tokyo Olympic 2020 Logo T-shirt with a picture of the band. from ( R-L) Todd, Roger and Justine
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An Ancient Glorious City:  Nara

Nara was an ancient capital in Japan in the 8th century. The capital lasted for 84 years before Kyoto became capital in 794 AD. This glorious capital was described by an ancient poet, like " a fragrant flower in full bloom." Nara was the cradle of the great Japanese arts and the essence of culture in the long-ago Tempyo Period. The old, world-famous temples and shrines of the province of Yamato (presently Nara Prefecture) have handed down to us their precious history. Among those are the cathedrals of Todaiji, Kofukuji, Yakushiji, Toshodaiji and the Kasuga Grand Shrine, which are settings where one can encounter the rich, elegant Tempyo Culture. As you go through the corridors, and glance at the tiled roofs of these cathedrals, the Tempyo Culture will make you forget all about time and space, and will whisper to you about the old days of well over a thousand years as if they were yesterday. The Buddha in Nara Nara is also a treasure-place of the Japanese arts. Since the introduction of Buddhism, the Buddhist Images played particularly important roles in creating special "Plastic Arts" in the artistic fields of Buddhism. The formative (plastic) beauty of our country has been created from the change from the youthful appearance of the Hakuho Period through the gorgeousness and maturity of the Tempyo Period, the delicacy and grace of the Fujiwara Period, and finally to the vigorousness and animation of the Kamakura. Some of the representative sculptures are statue of Ashura enshrined in the Kofukuji Temple, a masterpiece of the Tempyo Period;  Eleven-Headed Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy) enshrined at Hokkeji Temple, a product of the Jyogan Period, during which the craftsmanship of wooden carving was popular. Many other famous Buddhist Images are still exist(extant) in the ancient city of Nara. As one stares at the face of the Buddha, one gets the feeling that the statue will begin talking at any moment. It is probably true that the passion with which many people make wishes to the Buddha, are in the mind of the Buddha. Significant Traditional Events in the Ancient City of NARA As Nara is known as the home of Japanese history and culture, it is not surprising that its traditional events, which are carried out throughout the year, are indeed colorful. Some of them are, 1. Ceremonial Burning of Wakakusa-yama Hill whose flames illuminate an evening sky in winter 2. Water-Drawing Ceremony of Nigatsudo (February Hall) and Cherry blossom viewing in spring 3. Firelight Noh (the perfection of that art, performed with an open-air fire for a background) in summer 4. Kasuga Grand Shrine Lantern Lighting Ritual (in which about 3,000 stone and hanging bronze lanterns are all lit at once, forming a simple yet elegant atmosphere) in summer 5. The Deer horn Cutting Ceremony in autumn It is no exaggeration to state that the four seasons are beautifully colored by the numerous traditional events that add a sweet innocence to the charm of Nara. Arts and Crafts of Nara Nara is the birthplace of the culture of Japan. Many traditional arts and crafts suited to the natural features and life style of Nara have been handed down to the present day. The techniques of the ancient artists who created the masterpieces designated as Important Cultural Properties have been preserved in this district. These refined techniques can be seen in the splendid works preserved in the Shoso-in (the depository for the treasures of Todaiji Temple) and various temples, shrines and museums. These works are not only magnificent, but also have a feeling of dignity and grace. The artists have given us works containing the essence of Nara, its culture, and its history. Traversing times the spirit of the artisan still exists. This description is quoted from this site. Notes: Tosyodai-ji From 2001 to 2009 the main hall was renovated. I saw this process through a documentary  on a TV program. At first, the parts of the hall were disassembled. Next, they checked the parts and some were replaced with new ones. Finally, after that they reassembled the hall. In surprise, no nail was used in the old building and even Buddhist sculptures( refer to the website). Another surprising thing is some decayed parts are replaced by combining with new woods by  special mosaic techniques using  traditional tools.  Surface of the pillars appear ripples pattern  by the  traditional plane and this ripples add something deep and beautiful atmosphere on the pillars. The renovation took totally 8 years.
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nara-map Osaka:the economic center of western Japan Osaka is located 500 km west of Tokyo, roughly in the center of Japan. Osaka City, which was incorporated in 1889, has a population of 2.6 million and an area of 221 square kilometers.

From Ancient times to Middle Ages

Since ancient times, Osaka has been a gathering place. Located at the concourse of a vast web of busy river and sea routes, it naturally grew into a flourishing economic center and became the gateway to Japan for travelers and traders from all over Asia. In the 5th century, Osaka began to flourish as the political and economic center of Japan. Many foreign visitors brought (with them) knowledge and artifacts of advanced culture, and new technologies in ceramics, forging, construction, and engineering. They also brought a new religion, Buddhism, which ?began to spread very quickly to the rest of the country. As Buddhism spread, Prince Shotoku constructed Shitennoji Temple in Osaka in 593 A.D., and the city became a base for international exchange with the Asian continent. In 645 A.D., the Emperor Kotoku moved the capital from Asuka (Nara) to Osaka. He built the Naniwanomiya Palace, which is considered to be the oldest palace in Japan. Even though the national government later moved to Heijo-kyo (the city of Nara), then Heian-kyo (Kyoto), then Kamakura, and finally to Edo (Tokyo), Osaka has continued to serve as a sub-capital, and to play a crucial role as a major gateway for foreign culture and trade. During the 14th century, Osaka was largely devastated by a series of wars. Then in 1496, Rennyo, a high-ranking priest, began construction of Ishiyama temple and the monk's quarters on Osaka's Uemachi Daichi heights. This temple later came to be called Ishiyama Hongan-ji, and the area around it as Osaka. Thereafter, Ishiyama Hongan-ji functioned as an invulnerable fort to defend against attack by warlords. In the end of 16th century, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi controlled all over Japan and placed the central government.

An Economic & Cultural Hub in Edo Era

As Japan entered the Edo Period (1601-1867) controlled by Tokugawa family, when the political capital was moved north to Edo (present-day Tokyo) and the country was completely isolated from the rest of the world, Osaka was restored from the ashes of civil war and quickly grew into a thriving economic hub. It became known as "Japan's kitchen" because essential goods including rice, the staple food of the East, were sent to Osaka from all over Japan for shipment to other parts of the country. Osaka was also contributed to ?the development of Japanese education. Schools established in Osaka turned out many scholars who strongly influenced their times. One school, the Tekijyuku, was established for the study of Western sciences and medicines. Its students included some men who became instrumental in reforming Japan's government when, in the mid-19th century, the nation began to move out of isolation and into the modern age.

The Manchester of the Orient

After the Meiji Restoration (1868), enormous social change, far-reaching reforms to the economic system, and the moving of the capital to Tokyo contributed to a decline in Osaka's prosperity. This caused the city to go through a transformation from a base of trade and finance to a factory zone. So much smoke began spewing from factory smokestacks that by the end of the 19th century Osaka was being called the "smoky city." It was even nicknamed the "Manchester of the Orient."

Devastation during the War and Today

Continuous air raids by American bombers during World War II leveled(knocked down) almost one third of Osaka, destroying many of its commercial, industrial and public facilities. But after the war, Osaka's positive thinking citizens restored the city to an economic prosperity exceeding prewar levels. Today, the city is home to scores of companies across the sectors of industry, commerce and business. These have helped make Osaka the economic heart of western Japan.
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This writing and pictures were quoted from the internet

Izu garden in 2015 Golden Week

I went to the Izu garden with my mother from May 1 to May 4. During those days, we were lucky that the weather was mostly good. The garden now became more colorful, compared during my previous visit last month, March 22, during which it showed colorful, compared to my previous visit last month, March 22, during which it showed only brown and dull colors. Some parts of the lawn are still brown but the most parts are changing into green. Weeds also started growing on the lawn. From this spring to autumn, I will become busy to maintain the garden. I'll go there at least twice a month. Impressive incidents 1. Some of the nuisance weeds were clovers and the other vines, but this year bulbous weeds were added. 2. Two deciduous trees were cut and some branches of some other trees are trimmed. 3. Two of cherry trees died.They have no leaves this year. 4. Two flower bed surrounded by timber were made and the soil were changed by mixing with organic and chemical fertilizer. 5. In order to make vigorous trees, I gave follow-up fertilizer to some trees. 6. Wild boar's meat and fresh Japanese royal fern could be eaten at the villa's annual party which was organized by the villa's management office. 7. I repaired the door of the old shed using a piece of timber board and mended the curtain's fray using needle and thread. 8. An IP camera was set. I can see the garden from Yokohama in real time.
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Pictures from ?the IP camera on May 5,2015
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Comparison between May 1 and March 22
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Travel to Osaka and Nara

My wife and I went to Osaka and Nara for sightseeing ?during May 8 and 10.
The first day:
We left home at 05:30 and arrived Osaka at 08:16 and our baggage was deposited at Nishi-kujyo Sta. Then we headed to Nara and arrived there at 09:30. We visited (1)Koufuku-ji temple,(2) The observation floor of Nara prefecture's office,(3) Kasuga-shrine, (4)Todaiji temple,(5)the ruin of Hiejyo Palace,(6) Toshodaiji temple and (7)Yakushiji temple. Those shrine and temples are on the list of World Cultural Heritage. In order to keep this cultural buildings, they need a large amount of money needed elaborate maintenance. Actually, some temples and shrines we visited were under renovation, and covered by thick cloth. We had to pay from 500 to 1000 yen per person as an admission fee. We came back to Osaka at 18:00 and had a dinner at (7 )a Kushi-katui restaurant by the (8)Tuutenkaku Tower. The area is called Shinsekai, which literally means "New world". This place was once an amusement park which was built in 1912. The tower was imitated Eiffel Tower and built the symbol of the park and entertained many citizens at that time. we stayed Hotel Kintetu Universal city. The hotel is located in front of the Osaka USJ : Universal Studio Japan. **Kushi-katu :deep-fried breaded meat or vegetables on skewers Tako-yaki :grilled octopus-filled balls made of pancake batter Okonomi-yaki:Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients.
The second day:
We enjoyed the ?USJ all day by mainly ?show attractions such asHarry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Terminator 2:3-D, WaterWorld( A series of tremendous stunts just like in the movies. An adventure show full of breathtaking action). In the night, we dropped in a restaurants arcade adjacent to the hotel which offer from ?tako-yaki, okonomi-yaki to ramen. We hesitated about the choice for a while, and finally decided to eat ramen. ?Half of the guests were Chinese at that shop.
The third day:
We left the hotel at 08:45 and went to Osaka(Umeda) Sta to deposit our baggage. Then we visited ?(1) Osaka castle, (2) Osaka history museum, (3) Douton-bori, (4)Teki-Juju, and (5) Osaka Sta. square. We came back to Yokohama by Shin-Kansen ?and arrived at 22:24, then picked up a Taxi and got home at 22:50. ** Amazing accurate Shin-Kansen Do you know how often the trains run during peak hours? The trains run every 3.5 minutes at peak hours. This interval is the time to stop the train not to crash the previous train in case of emergency. **Osaka Castle?is widely known as an emblem of the power and fortune of Hideyoshi Toyotomi. In 1583, Hideyoshi began construction at the former site of Honganji Temple and completed the magnificent castle, which was reputed as being unparalleled in the country. After Hideyoshi's death, Ieyasu Tokugawa, who worked for Hideyoshi as his chief retainer, was appointed to the Shogun and he established the shogunate (government) in Edo (Tokyo). In 1615, Ieyasu ruined the Toyotomi family and destroyed Osaka Castle . Thereafter, the Tokugawa shogunate reconstructed Osaka Castle. It held the castle under its direct control until 1868, when the Tokugawa shogunate lost power and the castle fell. In 1931, the Main Tower of the Castle was reconstructed in the center of Osaka Castle, which was used as a military base, with funds raised by the citizens. The present-day Main Tower is the third generation. It follows the Main Tower from the Toyotomi period, which was destroyed by fire during the Summer War, and the tower from the Tokugawa period, which was struck by lightning and was burned down. **hydrological engineering(river management) in Oosaka city
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Edo period(1700's) Today: Some rivers were made underground Today's Google Map
Some of the pictures I visited this time  
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Izu Garden on May 16

I left my house at 2 pm ?and went to Izu. On the way, I picked up Mr. Hayakawa who is my friend from junior high school times and arrived at about ?4 pm. I started to maintain the garden such as pulling weeds and planting some flowers for about one hour. Mr Hayakawa in short pants, ?also helped to pull weeds . After took a bath, we ?had a dinner with beer and shochu (a Japanese distilled ?alcohol) ?while talking about ?our junior high school days and our senior life. The next day, I mowed ?the lawn for the first time of this year. He also helped to trim the tree branches and raked and clean the garden with broom. ?We went back to Yokohama at 2 pm.?Later, he emailed to thank ?me and also to inform me that he was bitten by gnat (blackfly ). ?Both his legs were swollen ?under the knees. I apologized to him for not warning him about insects in mountain areas.
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Izu Garden on May 30

Some topics on May 30 and 31 1.?My net wear was perfect. In order to prevent insects such as black fly, I wore ?a net jacket and trousers. In addition, I sprayed ?an insect repellent on the wear. ?I put on T-shirt and short pants under the net. But the net protected my skin from insects completely. 2.Most flowers such as ニチニチ草(Madagascar periwinkle) were kept full of vitality even through they were not supplied with water. 3.MCP(chemicals) was effective to kill trouble-some weeds such as clover and 血止め草( lawn penny wort) ?without harming the lawn. 4. Azalea ?has many species. ?One of the species is ?satsuki azalea which is now in bloom (No 3 pic)
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My younger son left our home

My younger son Satoshi ?left my home today and started new life at Nishi-Ogikubo in Tokyo. He rented a 1LDK condo. The condo is located within 5 min from the station and very convenient to commute and do shopping. The company where he works now pays half of the rental fee. My elder son left my home last August and started his life at Shizuoka, My wife and I feel a little sad because two sons left our home within a year.   Nishi-Ogikubo This station is located 20 km west of Tokyo station and 22 km north of my house in Yokohama. His company is near Tokyo station so he can commute about 30 min by Cyuou Line. There are many narrow streets around the station, Many small but cool ?or something dear shops are lined along the street.    
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This Year's Hydrangea

It is said that the best way to enjoy viewing on hydrangea every year is not to prune them, but they grow bigger and some will be about 2 meters. This tall one is not suitable for appreciation(viewing) in my small garden. So pruning is necessary. I did pruning last year after the Hydrangea bloom was over. However, this year's blue hydrangea is bigger than last year. Actually pruning should be done after bloom, but this year's one has many flowers, so I cut some flowers for a cut flower viewing. I put them in a vase and decorated it on the dining table.
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New leaves came out vigorously New leaves of my garden's Japanese fern palm "ソテツ” came out vigorously. Every mid June , the new leaves begin to out and the leaves become like water fountains. Then the leaves gradually open and become dark green. I really feel that ?nature is mysterious and the scenery is very beautiful. The second picture shows the new leaves are just about ?to expand.
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Izu Garden in June

Izu Garden in June
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Gardening correspondence course

I started to learn ?gardening using a correspondence study from June 12. This course consists of 3 text books, 3 DVDs, 6 drills, 2 design training sheets. This course must be finished within 8 months. *How to proceed with the course: 1.Read the texts and watch the DVDs. 2.To the certain points. The students must submit the drills to the JGS(Japan Gardening Society) and need to get above 60 points. In case of failure, the drill must be re-submitted. After recieving the score and teacher's comment, the students need to review refering the texts and the DVDs. 3.After finishing the 6 drills, draw 2 designs. One is " a ground plan and garden sketch" . The other is Yoseue(寄植え) design which is a ?style of planting flowers together in one pot. One can get the certification of gardening cordinator after finishing all.
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pic 1: a example of gardening design ?pic 2: The correspondence materials

Suwa Lake

Suwa Lake and Tateshina My wife and I traveled for two days to visit at Suwa lake and Tateshina Heights from July 7. We left my home at 9 o'clock and arrived at the side of the lake at 11:30. As soon as we arrived, we had an early lunch at Oginoya and ate Kamameshi which is a dish of rice, meat, and vegetables boiled together in a small pot. After lunch we visited several famous sightseeing spots in Suwa . 1. Takashima Castle The castle was build in 1598. Takashima family lived there for over 270 years before the Meiji era. The castle was surrouded by water, so it was named as "water castle" and it could be seen as floating in the lake. The castle was destroyed at the beginning Meiji era , but the tower was rebuilt in 1970. 2.Katakura-kan Kanetaro Katakura, who is the second of Katakuragumi(company) made this Katakura-kan as a recreation facility for their employees . Katakuragumi started silk business in Okaya town near Suwa. and became successful with their business and the number of ?factories built became about 100 include Korea and Taiwan. The silk factory in Tomioka, Gunnma prefecture established by the Japanese government also became Katakura's factory in 1939, which is designated as a world culture heritage in 2014. When he visited in Europe , he was impressed about ?the well filled social welfare and decided to build this facility. This facility consists of two buildings,public bath and recreation hall, both are designated as the Japanese important culture property now. The two building were completed in 1928 after the land was reinforced by hammering 1800 pine trees into ground. 3.Suwa Taisya Suwa Taisya is the general name consists of four shrines --上社本宮 kamisya-honmiya, 上社前宮kamisya-maemiya, 下社春宮Shimosya-akimiya, ?and 下社秋宮Shimosya-harumiya. The Taisya is one of the oldest shrine and has no main hall. Instead, the Ichi tree or Taxus cuspidata, and cider tree are enshrined in Shimomiya-akimiya, Shimomiya-harumiya respectively. Oyama mountain is enshrined in two Kamisya shrines. It is said that old Shinto shrines had no main hall and enshrined several things of nature. The famous shrine "Onbashira" festival is held every 7 years and the each shrine's dedicated 4 big pillars are replaced by new cut trees of about 200 years old. 200,000 shrine followers and sight-seekers participate in this festival.
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Tateshina Heights

Tateshina Heights Tateshina is 200kms west of Tokyo and famous as a summer resort and winter ski area. My wife and I stayed at a hotel in the heights on July 7 after sightseeing Suwa Lake area. The hotel was little bit old but the service was good. The room was spacious and the view from the room was wonderful. Although the weather was not good, we could see the mountains, Tateshina lake, and well maintained garden of the hotel. We enjoyed French course dinner and onsen(hot spring outdoor bath). Next day, we went Kuruma-yama to see the Nikkou kituge - a kind of yellow lilies. According to the internet, the flowers were in full bloom. But we arrived there, we couldn't see the flowers. Later we found the flowers could be seen in the middle of the mountain. The area was protected against deer by electric fence. In order to clime the mountains in the middle , we used the ski lift on going , and walked down spending 30 mins. After that, we visited an English garden called Barakura Garden, but it was not good than expected. The garden seemed not well maintained and  I felt all garden assistants were busy to sell souvenir goods or served foods.  
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Gardening in July

Gardening in July Rainy season was completely over around July 20th. During this rainy season, the flowers and trees were growing rapidly. Messy weeds were also growing here and there. Every time when I arrived at the Izu house, pulling weeds was my first work. I went twice in July. The recent visit 25th-26th  was extremely hot so I needed to take a rest every 30 min .During the rest time, I changed my clothes , took some water and salt, and cooled my body using a fan. ■Recent routine work (Main garden area) 1. Pulling some weeds in turf and in flower beds (30 min) 2. Trim tree branches (30min) 3. Cut the turf in the 4 cm heights and about 70 liter turf will be cut (20min) (Entrance slope and surrounding area) 1. Pulling some weeds and trim tree branches (30 min) 2. Cut the turf with cutter machine and cleaning the cut leaves(30 min) ■Additional activities when  I have time to spare (Back yard) 1. Pulling the weeds (30 min) 2. Cut the weeds by cutter machine (30 min) 3. Clean the garbage yard of weeds and branches ===branches are cut within 40 cm and bundle them using strings. ===harvested turf leaves are put into the garbage plastic bag (Flower beds maintenance) 1. Check the flowers and add some fertilizers and water if needed 2. Plan the  planting flowers in the space for the next time's visiting (Sprinkle herbicide(weed killer)) 1. Some difficult area to remove weeds or messy areas are sprinkle with weed killer. 2. Clovers and other vine weeds are killed preserving the turf using special weed killer. Izu Garden Plan izu-plan
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Fireworks display  2015.8.4

On the way back home , I noticed that today was the fireworks display at Rinko Park in Yokohama. This is because many people on the train wore yukata and also a train conductor announced  about the fireworks exhibition.  While we were having supper, the fireworks sound could be heard.  The display started at 7 p.m and ended 8:15 p.m.  I could see the fireworks from the balcony and enjoyed it for a while. These pictures were taken using my iphone camera. It took about 3 second to release the shutter. The pictures were not clear but Yokohama's Landmark tower and other buildings also could be seen. cf. 2015 fireworks in Japan
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Garden Design

One of the most troublesome exercises of my gardening correspondence course is a gardening design . This exercise is needed to be drawn both as ground and perspective designs . I'm not good at sketching, so I decided to do this excise using Excel and MS-Paint, both  are usually included in the Microsoft OS PC. Some of the merit of using Excel are, 1.easily drawing the design with overlapping grid-lines 2.easy to cut,copy, rotate and revise 3.easy to enlarge or to reduce 4.overlap some pictures  using layer function 5.easy to make resources of real trees and flowers by Excel's removing background function. IZU投影図法 (1)  The perspective design was from the view of the cottage side Izu Garden General View  izu-garden   gardenplan Group Planting One of the exercise of the gardening corresponding course is to make  group planting. This was the first time to create  a design referring to the gardening text. Then , I went to a flower shop and bought some flowers. But it was difficult to buy  some flowers to fit my design. So I changed the color coordination,  especially the color of the center flower from green to burning red.  I also bought the  soil including some nutrients(compost) , and red clay ball as the base for the pot(terracotta). The selected flowers were 1.coleus (コウリス バーニングレッド ) 1 2.Madagascar periwinkle(ビンガ京風車:日々草の1種)  2 3.Impatiens(インパチェンス) 2 4.Cosmos sulphureus( キバナコスモス)  1  
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Nagano and Matsumoto Cities

I'm planning to visit the heart of Nagano prefecture  - mainly Nagano city and Matsumoto city. These cities  were once the capital of different prefectures and merged into one prefecture later . Nagano City has  been developed as the town of  Zenkō-ji (善光寺)  temple. This developing  city style is called Monzen-machi or 'temple-city' . Monzen-machi is a town around a famous large temple or shrine  that was developed after merchants and manufacturers gathered there to conduct business, targeting workers and visitors of the shrine or temple. Matsumoto City has been developed as the town of castle  called Jhoka-machi or 'castle town'. Jhoka-machi is a town around castle in the Middle Ages that was developed after samurai-warriors, merchants and manufacturers gathered there to conduct politics, and business targeting workers and visitors of the town.
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Itinerary : Sep. 11(Fri) 6:00 : Leave my home in  Yokohama  and drive  243 kms 10:30: Arrive  at Nagano City and visit  Zenko-ji temple and have lunch 14:30 : Drive 30 kms. if we have a time, we might drop in Nozawa town - famous ski resort. 16:00 : Arrive at the Hotel Harvest Madarao , then walk around the wooden area 18:00:Have dinner and dip in onsen (hot spring bath) Sep.12(Sat) 8:45: Leave the hotel and drive 104 kms 10:30: Arrive at Matumoto City and  visit Matumoto Castle and some famous sightseeing spots 14:00:Leave the city and drive 231 kms 17:30: Arrive at my home in Yokohama  
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These 6 pics above are  from the Internet. ==== The following  are some famous sightseeing spots explanations   in Nagano and Matsumoto from   the Internet Zenkō-ji (善光寺) was built in the 7th century. Nagano City, established in 1897, was originally a town built around the temple. Historically, Zenkō-ji is perhaps most famous for its involvement in the battles between Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen in the 16th century, when it served as one of Kenshin's bases of operations. Currently, Zenkō-ji is one of the last few remaining pilgrimage sites in Japan. Zenkō-ji was founded before Buddhism in Japan was split into several different sects, so it currently belongs to both the Tendai and Jōdoshū schools of Buddhism, and is co-managed by twenty-five priests from the former school, and fourteen from the latter. The temple enshrines images of the Amida Buddha. According to legend, the image, having caused dispute between two clans, was dumped into a canal. It was later rescued by Yoshimitsu Honda. The temple was thus named "Zenkō," according to the Chinese transliteration of Yoshimitsu's name. Matsumoto Castle (松本城 ) is one of Japan's premier historic castles.[1] The building is also known as the "Crow Castle" (烏城 Karasu-jō) due to its black exterior. It was the seat of the Matsumoto domain. It is located in the city of Matsumoto, in Nagano Prefecture and is within easy reach of Tokyo by road or rail. The castle completed in the late sixteenth century, maintains its original wooden interiors and external stonework. It is listed as a National Treasure of Japan.Matsumoto Castle is a flatland castle (hirajiro) because it is not built on a hilltop or amid rivers, but on a plain. Its complete defences would have included an extensive system of inter-connecting walls, moats, and gatehouses. 重要文化財 旧開智学校 1873(明治6)年に開学した日本で最も古い小学校のひとつ、開智学校の旧校舎。1876(明治9)年に竣工し、1963(昭和38)年まで使用されていた。 設計者は松本出身の大工棟梁・立石清重。日本建築の大工が西洋建築を真似て建造した「擬洋風建築」の代表例として知られ、国の重要文化財に指定されている。 内部は資料館になっており、江戸時代の往来物や明治時代から現代までの教科書など、教育や建築に関連する資料が展示されている。 斑尾高原(まだらおこうげん)は、斑尾山の山麓に位置する高原リゾート地。標高約1,000mに位置する。長野県飯山市と新潟県妙高市にまたがっている。豪雪地帯ならではの豊富な雪を利用したスキー場や、避暑地となる高原の気候を特徴としているが、近年の暖冬の影響で年々雪量が減ってきている。 スキー場、ホテルを中心に長野県道・新潟県道97号飯山斑尾新井線に沿うような形で小規模な飲食店やペンション街が展開している。 野尻湖(のじりこ)は、長野県上水内郡信濃町にある湖。古くは信濃尻湖(しなのじりこ)と呼ばれた。芙蓉湖(ふようこ)とも呼ばれる。ナウマンゾウ化石が出土する湖としても知られており、発掘調査が行われる。湖沼水質保全特別措置法指定湖沼。天然湖で、妙高高原、黒姫高原とともに妙高戸隠連山国立公園に指定されている。 東の斑尾山と西の黒姫山に挟まれた標高654メートルの高原に位置する。面積は4.56平方キロメートルで、長野県の天然湖としては諏訪湖に次いで2番目に大きい。水深は38.5メートルもあり、貯水量では諏訪湖を上回る。湖の水は池尻川を通じて流出し、関川へ合流して日本海に注ぐ。 成因には諸説が存在し、斑尾山の噴出物によってせき止められたという説と、黒姫山の噴火により発生した、池尻川泥流によりせき止められ、その後、湖の西側が隆起したと言う説がある 松本市 有名観光地:松本城(国宝・国の史跡)、上高地 国宝松本城を中心とする旧城下町である。幸いにも戦災を免れた[1]ことから、旧開智学校(重要文化財)などの歴史的建造物が多く残る。他に戦災を免れた中規模の旧城下町としては、金沢市や川越市などがある。 キャッチフレーズは「文化香るアルプスの城下町」、「三ガク都(楽都、岳都、学都の三つのガク都。音楽、山岳、学問で有名なため)」などがある。市のマスコットはアルプちゃん。 日本で最も古い小学校のひとつ開智学校の開校、改正高等学校令に基づく全国9番目の官立旧制高等学校である松本高等学校の招致など、教育に熱心な面があった。国立大学法人が1県1学の県に於いて本部が県庁所在地以外に置かれているのは、信州大学の他は弘前大学(青森県弘前市)・滋賀大学(滋賀県彦根市)・広島大学(広島県東広島市)・琉球大学(沖縄県西原町)のみである。 また、小沢征爾ら一流の音楽家の集うセイジ・オザワ 松本フェスティバルの開催、全国に(一部海外にも)広がるスズキ・メソードや花いっぱい運動の発祥、映画やテレビドラマなどのロケ支援を市が行うなど、文化を尊重する気風は今も健在である。 県庁所在地ではないが、日本銀行松本支店、松本空港、信州大学本部、FM長野本社、陸上自衛隊松本駐屯地などがあり、特に日銀の存在は松本市をして、長野市とともに複眼構造をなすことにより、県の経済の中心に押し上げる役割も持っている。  

Travel to Nagano and Around

Some topics In zenkouji-temple, I experienced Okaidan(お戒壇). Visitors may descend Okaidan(admission fee 500 yen). A sharp downstairs to a twisted black tunnel under the altar. People proceed to the darkness groping the wall with one's right hand and find the handle of the Heaven.  Then grab the handle and shake several times.  Proceeding farther after that, people go back to the bright ground . Proceeding in the darkness with uneasy mind is effective to let one's mind to admire the arrival point( the present). Miso-soft ice-cream: Nagano is famous for miso- fermented soybean paste. But can you imagine miso and ice-cream is a good match?  The blend of sweet ice-cream and salty miso flavor are certainly good match. I enjoyed this simple taste and felt refreshed after eating..  Tea break at a souvenir  shop:There are many souvenir shops along the Nakamise(仲見世) shopping street at Zenkouji temple.  Sometimes salespersons ask visitors to try some samle foods and then ask them to have tea and sit and rest. While drinking tea, other food samples are also provided with  tea. My wife and I  usually buy some foods  because the foods are delicious and their hospitality are nice, too . The Fujiya Gohonjin(藤屋御本陣):This restaurant  was build 360 years ago as a hotel for Daimyo or feudal lord like  Maeda lord who was one of the rich lord of making million -straw bag of rice per year. The building was renovated in 1925  and now became a tangible cuture asset . I visited there and was deeply impressed by its exterior and interior as well.  
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From top left pic 1~3: The front approach to Zenkouji-temple and its gate and main hall  4~5:The Fujiya 6:A Soba restaurant(lunch) 7: Nagano JR Sta. 8:Nojiri Lake  9: Hotel Harvest

Travel to Matsumoto

Some topics Morning of Madarao(斑尾の朝) After breakfast, I went outside and enjoyed the fresh air. The air was full of the smell of flowers and trees. This place has been planted with many colorful lilies and zinnia. I also could see beautiful mountains. 姨捨山 ON the way to Matsumoto, we dropped in Obasute Mountain SA. From this place, Breathtaking panorama including Nagano City , Tikuma  River and Japan Alps could been seen. Obasute literally means to abandon one's old mother. There is a legend that a person took his old mother and left her in the mountain due to his family's harsh life, but he regretted this conduct when he saw a beautiful moon. Next day he went back and took her home again. 松本市中町通り Traditional old shops are lined along  Nakamachi street. This place was once flourished as wholesale store town such as liquor , clothing. But , the end of Edo period and the initial time of Meiji era, several big fire happened. In order to protect them from the fire, warehouses with thick plaster were built and this simple white and black colored house have produced old good times atmosphere.  
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From top left  pic 1~2: Hotel Harvest Madarao 3:Obasute SA. 4~5:Matsumoto Castle  6~7:Former Kaiti School 7:Nawate St.  8:Nakamachi St.

Izu Hawaiians Park

There are numerous sightseeing spots near my Izu house. The most famous one is Nirayama Reverberating  furnace (反射炉) which is about 6 kms from my Izu house. Other spots are Nagaoka hot spring (長岡温泉), Awashima Marine Park , Mitu Sea Park , Izu Panorama Park and so on. I went to the Izu Hawaiians Park with my mother , my sister and brother-in-law. It's 13.4 kms from the Izu house and takes about 20 mins by car. Once this park was called Orchid Park. So the park is provided with not only Hawaiians dance stage hall , but also tropical botanical garden and zoo. This park also has restaurants  and souvenir factories such as cakes and local beer. Hula Girls show for 40 mins was great and the employees' hospitality was nice . But I thought the business to manage the park seems to be difficult because there are many similar parks in Japan .
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