Monthly Archives: September 2007

A Surprise Birthday Party

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      Last Sunday I took part in a party. It was a surprise for a friend of mine, Kco. She and I joined in the same intensive course last week and whenever she mentioned the coming party my heart was beating. She hadn’t known that the party would be her birthday party until the birthday song started at the pub. I had to have hidden the plan for her birthday party from her. 

     The party was held at a pub between Imaike and Ikeshita. Most of the participants met at the subway station of Ikeshita and walked to the pub and on the way there everyone took a cracker secretly behind Kco.

    In the mean time, I was walking wondering how I could give crackers to the rest people who didn’t come to the station. But I was able to manage it easily. Since Kco just went to the powder room as we got to the pub, I was able to pass crackers to people who came there directly. 

     And another friend and the pub staff prepared for the CD of “Happy Birthday” and a birthday cake while Kco wasn’t in there. She came back to her seat and sat down. All people held their drinks. The introduction of “Happy Birthday” started and the light was turned off. Kco looked confused. 

  Happy Birthday to You!
  Happy Birthday to You!
  Happy Birthday Dear Kco!
  Happy Birthday to You!

     And crackers burst all at once and everyone gave clapping and then raised each glass to Kco. She understood everything and was all smiles.

     Everyone enjoyed over delicious foods and drinks, and karaoke. It must have been one of the greatest birthdays for her. Happy birthday, Kco!

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A Night Festival at Expo Memorial Park

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      There was a night festival at Expo Memorial Park in Nagakute, Aichi last Saturday and Sunday. And I went there in Saturday evening. It was very crowded on the way to the park. I was getting excited as coming up and the big Ferris wheel was becoming bigger and bigger.

     The Ferris wheel was burning bright with green lights in the dark. It was so beautiful. There were many events and shops under the Ferris wheel. I remembered the excitement at Expo held there two years ago. I made many friends at that time.

     When I entered in the event area, the bustle brought me back those days. There were many stands in the festival; Turkish food, Nepali curry, Polish food, German food, Chinese food, Spanish food…

     Wait! Spanish food? I looked into the booth when I saw Mariano, who used to be my Spanish teacher, cooking busily. (I’m having a break for leaning Spanish now.) 

     He was cooking something looked like takoyaki, or octopus flitters. I would have liked to try some, but there was a long line at his booth…According to a woman in the booth, it was not takoyaki, was a kind of Spanish omelet. Later I tried to buy some, but unfortunately the Spanish omelet had sold out.

     I heard drums. When I turned around I saw a stand where African goods were sold. And I saw a man eating something in front of the booth. He was Salam, a friend of mine. I was getting closer to him silently. He noticed me and called my name. And I also called his name, Salam! We hadn’t met each other for a year when we ran into at Sakae. He’s from Senegal. 

     I was able to see his friend Bassirou as well. I was happy because both of them looked fine. And I was able to see some Japanese friends there too in spite of such a crush.

     We had Ugandan pilaf and chapattis, and Chinese dumplings together. I had a nice time with my friends at a familiar atmosphere.  

Meguru: The Sightseeing Route Bus in Nagoya

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      On 17th, I tried to use a new bus system with a friend of mine. Nagoya city, where I live in, started to run the sightseeing route bus named “Meguru” in July.

     The bus starts at Nagoya Station and stops at Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology, Noritake Garden, Nagoya Castle, Tokugawa Museum & Garden, Cultural Path & Futaba Museum, Nagoya Municipal Archive, TV Tower, Sakae, Fushimi, and again Nagoya Castle, Noritake Garden and Toyota Commemorative Museum and returns to Nagoya Station.

     One ride is 200 yen, but if you buy a one-day ticket for 500 yen, you’ll get many services and discounts with it. For example, the admission fee of Nagoya Castle is usually 500 yen, but it’ll be 400 yen if you show your one-day ticket at the entrance.

     First my friend and I went to Noritake Garden. Noritake is a famous tableware company in Japan, especially by export western-style one. There are many old brick buildings in the garden. They used to be factories built in Meiji era about one hundred years ago. Now they are used as a museum, a shop, and a restaurant and so on. http://www.noritake-elec.com/noritake_garden.htm

     After lunch, we took the route bus again. I was surprised to find out the announcement in the bus was live. I hadn’t noticed that until the guide said, “On your hand you’ll see Nagoya City Hall. Ah now you may not see it behind the traffic signal though.” A volunteer guide was also riding.

     My friend and I got off the bus at Cultural Path and Futaba Museum. There are many historical sites around the area. We visited one of them, Futaba Museum. It was rebuilt at the present place as a museum, but was originally the house of Sadayakko Kawakami, who was the first actress in Japan about 100 years ago.

     I had wanted to visit the building since I happened to pass before it half a year ago. I like the outside, which is artistic and attractive. There are many displays as like old furniture, beautiful windows with stained glass, costumes, paintings and so on. They have a poster of Sadayakko painted by Pablo Picasso.

     Anyway, I liked the museum. The admission fee of Futaba Museum is 200 yen, but I paid only 160 yen since I showed my one-day ticket of the route bus. That was also nice. 

     I saw a boy sketching the museum when we came out of the building to take the bus. I asked him if he was a student of a university of art. But he is a high school student now, and he hopes to enter a university of art next spring. I said good-bye to him and got on the bus.

     My friend and I was getting tired, and got off the bus at TV Tower and went to a café. She had something cold and I had beer there. We could visit other places after the break, but we decided on stopping our tour there. You know, I still have many places to visit with the bus. I’m wondering where I go next time.

Nagoya Tour 3: Nagoya Castle

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(This is continued from the preceding blog Nagoya Tour 2: Atsuta Shrine.)

     We left Atsuta Shrine and headed for Nagoya Castle. Since I wrote about the castle alreay, I don’t mention about  it here today. But if you’re interested in the castle, how about taking a look at my previous blog?

http://moshimoshimo.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!1D0F2197A6F55843!1653.entry 

     We arrived at the east gate of the castle when we saw some English guides were waiting for tourists inside.  One of the guides was my teacher at an English guide training course at NHK Cultural Center. We asked her to guide KR in the castle. 

     Since other two guides had no tourists at that time, they also joined us. That is, three guides and three ex-students of a guide training course showed only one Canadian around the castle! 6:1! I thought the situation was as if some followers were going with a young prince when he traveled incognito in the old days.   

     It was muggy that day. In spite of the weather, the guides led us for a long time with many explanations. They were really nice and kind. I was very touched by their hospitality and plenty knowledge.  

     KR seemed to have many experiences here in Japan, went sightseeing of course, had an experience of aikido, one of Japanese martial arts, and tried Japanese food and so on. I hope the travel of Japan has become unforgettable nice memory for him.

Nagoya Tour 2: Atsuta Shrine

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      (This is continued from the previous blog “Nagoya Tour: Toganji Temple.)

     It started raining when we went out of the temple. We trotted to the car and left for Atsuta Shrine, which is known as the second venerable shrine in Japan. It enshrines Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, or the Kusanagi sacred sward, which is one of the three imperial regalia of Japan, and has about 2000 year history. 

     It was more crowded in the shrine than I had thought. I myself seldom go to shrines. If I visit a shrine, it’ll be a New Year’s Day. I wondered what people were coming to the shrine for on a day which was not special. Most people looked like that they just visited and prayed for their happiness and so on though. Since Atsuta Shrine is one of tourist attractions in Nagoya, there might be many people. 

     We were about to leave the hall of worship when we saw a wedding procession. Although I’m Japanese, it was my first time to have seen one. Wow! How beautiful! I felt as if I was in an ancient era. Nowadays in Japan, many couples have western style wedding at chapels even though they are not Christian. Probably most couples who have or had wedding at shrines are not Shintoists, either though.

     Since KR seems to be interested in Japanese swords, we went to the treasury in the shrine. At the entrance, the front desk clerk said, “In Japanese swords, blades themselves are art. Generally in western swords, scabbards are more decorative and artistic than blades. So compare each blade’s temper pattern and glisten. You’ll find out the differences and even think about each craftsman.” 

     As the clerk said, each blade of Japanese swords has beauty all its own. According to him, the swords which were given to the shrine had to be beautiful and be able to reflect as millers because they were thank and invocation offerings. They were created for sacred offerings not for killing people. Since I had never thought of that thing when I saw swords until that day, the visit to the treasury opened my eyes and was a nice experience for me. 

     After seeing many swords at the treasury, we had kishimen, or Japanese flat noodle for lunch in the precinct of the shrine, and then we headed for Nagoya Castle.

Nagoya Tour : Toganji Temple

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      A friend of mine M has many friends all over the world. She goes to her friends’ places and they also visit her. A handsome man KR, who is one of her friends, came to Japan to see her from Canada two weeks ago. She took him many tourist attractions as like Kyoto and Nara while he was staying here in Japan. She showed him around Nagoya on 15th when I accompanied them with another friend Kco.

     “Look like Poland.” KR seemed to have the impression when he saw my apartment building. That morning, M came to my place by car to pick me up with KR. KR is a Canadian, but his parents are immigrants from Poland. Since my apartment is a kind of public complex and all buildings are white and cubic, they may look like ones in a Communist country.

     First my friends and I took KR to a strange temple named Toganji in Motoyama. Why do I use the word “strange”? Well, how about visiting the temple once if you’d like to know the reason?

     Have you ever heard Nobunaga? Nobunaga is the name of one of the most famous samurai worrier in the age of wars in Japan. His brother Nobuyuki built the temple for enshrining their father Nobuhide about 450 years ago. But the original temple used to be in another place, and the present one was moved to the place about 300 years ago.

     There’s a huge statue of Buddha in the temple. Strangely most people in Nagoya don’t know the existence. The temple has not only the big statue but also many bizarre things in the precinct. Maybe the statue of sleeping Sarasvati, the goddess of music, speech, wealth, and wisdom is the most famous among them.  

     There’s a pagoda of Lamaism on the roof of Sarasvati hall somehow. It has two wooden sculptures of Lamaism god and goddess inside.

     There are many lingams and figures of snakes in the precinct of the temple as well. You may think that it’s weird and kind of grim that the temple has those objects.

     But I think the temple has a kind of relic of old aboriginal religion, especially invocation of fertilization and prosperity. You know, linga is the symbol for them. Snakes have much to do with water. Water is the ultimate source of life. I think the temple is interesting, and its fascination is the unsophisticated. 

     For KR, the temple was the first time to see a Buddhist temple. Later I was relived to hear that he had seen many normal temples in Kyoto and Nara.

     I’m going to write the continuance of our Nagoya tour later on.

Nagoya Castle Guided Tour

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On Tuesday of the fourth, I acted as a guide at Nagoya Castle. I am taking a class of English guide training in NHK Cultural Center and a practical guiding tour was held that day.

     There are about 20 probationary guides in the class. Those guides were divided into two groups, A and B, on the day of the guiding tour and each group had three foreigner tourists, who brought their babies, too. And I belonged to B group.

     OK, I’ll show you around Nagoya Castle then.

 

   *Outline
    
Nagoya Castle was constructed in 1612 on the orders of Ieyasu Tokugawa, the shogun, who established the Tokugawa Shogunate in Edo, a city is now called Tokyo in 1603. The Tokugawa Shogunate was the longest military government in Japanese history and lasted for 260 years. In 1600’s Ieyasu Tokugawa had still many enemies, especially in Osaka. As Nagoya is located between Osaka and Edo (Tokyo), he built the castle in order to ward off attacks from Osaka area.

     Nagoya Castle had flourished until Meiji Restoration in the middle of the 19th century. Unfortunately most of the buildings were burned down by the air raids on Nagoya in World War II, however, some towers and gates and most of the paintings on the sliding doors and walls in the palace survived the fire, and they became Important Cultural Assets. 

   *Inner moat and Omote-ninomon Gate
    
Inner Moat has no water. It’s because to protect the castle from intruders. Because the moat had no water, enemies couldn’t hide under the water, and they had to climb up and down the steep stone walls when they tried to attack the castle.

     There are three gates which survived World War II in Nagoya Castle. Omote-ninomon Gate, or the second front gate, is one of them. The gateposts and doors are covered with steel to protect from guns’ attacks. There are several holes on the mud-wall. They were used for putting firearms in.

   *Southeast Corner Turret
    
There are three turrets in existence in Nagoya Castle now, but there were originally eleven in Edo Period. Southeast Conner Turret is one of the three, which are the Important Cultural Assets. These towers were used for watchtowers and preparing weapons, not for enjoying the views. Each tower had equipment for battle; small doors for dropping stones and for sticking spears to enemies, for example.

 

   *The Site of Hommaru Palace
    
You can see only many stones there. There used to be a gorgeous palace in the place, but it was burned down in World War II. Now Nagoya City is planning to reconstruct the palace the 400th anniversary of the castle, and asking people donations! The reconstruction will start next year and will finish in 2025. How about coming see the palace 18 years later?

   *Stone Walls and Inscriptions
    
You’ll find many marks on the stone walls in Nagoya Castle. They were inscribed about 400 years ago. Ieyasu Tokugawa ordered feudal lords to build the stone walls for cutting off the lords’ power because most of them had used to be followers of his enemy clan Toyotomi. Gathering and setting up stones were very tough tasks. Each feudal lord put his men carve each individual mark on their stones to distinguish from others’ ones. Surprisingly, the stone walls were built in only six months! It is said 10000 people worked each day and a total of 2 million of people worked to set up the stone walls.  

 


                                                           
   *Kiyomasa Stone
    
Look at the big stone. It’s called Kiyomasa Stone. Kiyomasa is a man’s name. It is said that Kiyomasa wanted to show his beggest loyalty to Ieyasu Tokugawa. That’s why he may have found such a big stone. In a legend, he had a big performance for bringing the stone to the place. From Atsuta Port, it was pulled by the rope and log rollers when Kiyomasa stood on the stone holding a fan in the hand and singing an encouraging song with good-looking boys. 

 

   *The Castle Tower and Shachihoko
    
You may have thought the lord and his family lived in the castle tower, but they lived in another place called Ninomaru-Palace. The castle tower was originally used as a watchtower and a command headquarters in domestic wartime. It’s excellent architecturally. Usually the upper floor is smaller than the lower one. But the first floor and the second floor of the castle tower are the same size. So it had enough space to store weapons, food, and water and so on in wartime. Whenever I come here, I’m very impressed by the beauty and the strength of the tower. Probably people who lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries may have felt the power of the lord when they looked up at the tower as well.

      You see two of the shinning golden fish-shaped objects on the top of the castle tower. They’re called Shachihoko, a lucky charm. Shachihoko is often shortened to Shachi and those two are called Kinshachi. Kin means golden in Japanese. They’re covered with 18 karat gold. A total of 88 kilos of gold was used for both Shachihoko. I think the value of the gold is around 150 million yen now.

     Shachihoko is a kind of imaginary creature with a tiger head and a fish body and was believed to live in water and to splash water when there was a fine in old days. That’s why those Shachihoko were fixed on top of the roof to protect the castle tower from fire. The same kind of lucky charms are seen in other old Japanese buildings as well. Unfortunately the original castle tower and its Shachihoko were burned to ashes by the fires of war in 1945. It seems Shachihoko’s magical power sometimes doesn’t work. But Shachihoko is trying to protect us from fire still now. You can find its figure on the lids of fire hydrants in Nagoya City.

    *Observatory 
       Now the castle tower is used as an observatory and exhibition rooms. You can survey the view of Nagoya City from the top floor of the building.

 

   *The Three Historical Heroes

     Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Iyeyasu Tokugawa were born in this region and devoted themselves to unifying Japan during the age of wars. There’re very popular haikus, or Japanese poems, which describe the three heroes’ characters.
Nobunaga: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will kill it.
Hideyoshi: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will make it sing.
Ieyasu: If a cuckoo doesn’t sing, I will wait until it sings. 

    *Ancient Type Guns
    
The ancient type guns were first introduced to Japan in 1543 by Portuguese. The use of firearms spread quickly and brought a great revolution in military strategy.  

 

    *Pictures on the Sliding Doors and Ceilings of the Palace.
      
Before Hommaru-Palace burned down by World War II, there were many gorgeous and beautiful decorations on the walls and ceilings in the palace. Fortunately more than 1000 pieces of those precious pictures survived the fire and now are Important Cultural Assets. Most of the paintings were used gold. It’s said that gold can make the room bright because it had no lights those days. Now there’s a project of reproducing all the pictures to set them to the Hommaru-Palace which will be rebuilt by 2025.

    

     Thank you for reading! It was really hot outside that day! I was exhausted. But of course I had a precious experience this time. I hadn’t known many things on Nagoya Castle in spite of living the city for a long time unitl I started joining in the class. I thought I need to study more about our own culture. So, how about visiting Nagoya Castle someday soon?