30 Jun 2011

Rainbow

I saw a rainbow today :) Every time I see a rainbow, I feel like I got something nice without doing anything for it.

When I travelled to Windermere in the UK with my friend, we got up early and climbed up the Orrest Head. It's a hill, you can enjoy a splendid panoramic view of the Lake District.

It was strange weather, rainy and sunny morning, but we saw arch of the rainbow very clearly. I was moved by the beautiful scenery, it was so impressive!!

The Gold Seal

Last May, I travelled to Fukuoka by myself. Fukuoka is a city in Kyushu Island in southern Japan. I visited the Fukuoka City Museum to see the famous Gold Seal. If you are Japanese, I think you’ve definitely seen it in history textbooks.

Nakoku (aka Na no Kuni) was an ancient Japanese state, assumed to be located near the modern Fukuoka City around the 2nd century. It still has a lot of mysteries. According to the ancient records, Emperor Guangwu of the Han Dynasty (China) granted Nakoku a gold imperial seal. Over 1500 years later, in 1784, this seal was discovered by a Japanese farmer. It was a great discovery, and it verified the fact of the existence of Nakoku. The letters on this seal read ‘Kan no Wa no Na no kokuo' (the king of the Na state of the Wa (Japan) of Han Dynasty). The seal was representative of the diplomatic policy of the Han Dynasty of China (206 BC – 220 AD).

I had thought that the gold seal was as big as a fist or bigger, but it was as small as a rubber. And incredibly to me, the seal glittered! It was in a tall-glass case and a guard was always sitting facing it, very closely. I looked the seal carefully, but the guard's eyes bothered me a little bit, because in front of the case, there was only me.

As well as the gold seal, other display items were quite interesting for me. The culture and history of Kyushu was significantly different from Northern Japan. It was heavily influenced by other countries. If time permitted, I would like to study it very carefully.

Fukuoka City Museum
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29 Jun 2011

Brownout

The Japanese government has appealed for people to save electricity. Some major power plants were destroyed by the tsunami, and this creates concerns about power shortages in Japan. The government, many shops and companies are already working on ways to save electricity. If you go to train stations, shops and offices, they are darker and warmer than usual for summer. I think that’s probably a good thing - it was too bright indoors before, and we were totally unconcerned about it power consumption.

There are some interesting items to feel cooler in summer on sale in the shops. They are nice but occasionally silly items: solar power fans, cool bed-mats, cool ties etc. If it’s hot why not just take off your tie?

I like Kakigori (crushed ice) with strawberry syrup; it makes you feel cooler. Other popular syrups are lemon, green tea, melon, ‘blue Hawaii’. It has a long history in Japan - during the Heian period (194-1185), only upper-class people were able to eat it with the sap of a sort of climbing plant. I’ve never tasted crushed ice in other countries, but there are wide variations like Patbingsu in Korea, Nam Kang Sai in Thailand, Piragua in Puerto Rico etc...

I have a snow cone maker, which only needs water (ice) and syrup. That’s my favourite summer item when I want to cool down.

28 Jun 2011

Stress-free Time

I left the company for personal reasons, and am preparing to go to the UK. Now I'm under nonstressful circumstances and I feel good and happy! Sometimes you need such a moment in your life.

24 Jun 2011

Rainy Season

We are in the rainy season now. It is caused by the collision of cold air from the north, and warm air from the south. This causes a stalled stationary front over Japan for more than a month. It doesn’t rain all the time in this season, but we have hot and very humid weather. The rainy season starts a month earlier in Okinawa than in the main island, but Hokkaido has no rainy season.

I don’t like the rainy season. It makes my hair messy and it’s annoying to commute in the rain - but I like the sound of rain at night. It’s nice to go to sleep to the sound of water drumming on the roof. It’s a natural healing music.

Why don’t we call it nice weather when rain has a healing effect? It’s the water of life and blessed rain as well!

On the other hand, sometimes it brings floods, landslides and other disasters. But we have always lived with nature.

Rain reminds me of the first line of the famous Japanese poem; Ame ni mo makezu.
Ame ni mo makezu (Be not Defeated by the Rain)
Written by Kenji Miyazawa / Translated by David Sulz
Be not defeated by the rain, Nor let the wind prove your better.
Succumb not to the snows of winter. Nor be bested by the heat of summer.
Be strong in body. Unfettered by desire. Not enticed to anger. Cultivate a quiet joy.
Count yourself last in everything. Put others before you.
Watch well and listen closely. Hold the learned lessons dear.
A thatch-roof house, in a meadow, nestled in a pine grove’s shade.
A handful of rice, some miso, and a few vegetables to suffice for the day.
If, to the East, a child lies sick: Go forth and nurse him to health.
If, to the West, an old lady stands exhausted: Go forth, and relieve her of burden.
If, to the South, a man lies dying: Go forth with words of courage to dispel his fear.
If, to the North, an argument or fight ensues: Go forth and beg them stop such a waste of effort and of spirit.
In times of drought, shed tears of sympathy.
In summers cold, walk in concern and empathy.
Stand aloof of the unknowing masses:
Better dismissed as useless than flattered as a “Great Man”.
This is my goal, the person I strive to become.

18 Jun 2011

Lunar Eclipse

There was a lunar eclipse the night before last. Did you see it? I was in a deep sleep. At any rate, it was not a total eclipse from here, but it was a beautiful full moon.

There is a 10th century Japanese folktale; Princess Kaguya, also known as The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari). The story is this: One day, the old man went to bamboo forest and found a mysterious shining bamboo tree. Cutting it, he found a lovely baby girl inside. He and his wife raised her as their own child.

Thereafter, she became a beautiful woman, and many young men proposed to her, especially five princes who were eager to marry her. But she didn’t want to marry and said she would marry the prince who brings her the special item she wants. It was an impossible task and nobody succeeded.

After that, the Emperor also hoped to marry her. Her parents were pleased, but she continued to rebuff his proposal. Every night, she looked at the moon and cried sadly. Finally she confessed her secret to her parents that she came from the capital city of the moon, and had to go back. The Emperor sent thousands of guards to her house, trying to prevent her from returning to the moon; but when the moon people came to collect her, the guards were blinded by a bright light, preventing them from doing anything. The girl returned to the moon, and her parents and the emperor were sad.

Honestly I have no idea of what this story is trying to convey. The original has more detail, of course. There are several theories around as to the meaning of the myth, but I think nothing really stands out. I can tell you one thing for sure - that the moon has been mysterious for all generations, all over the world and has influence on the individual’s emotions.

15 Jun 2011

Attraversiamo

'Attraversiamo': this means ‘Let’s cross over’ in Italian. If you know this word, you’ve probably read the book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, written by Elizabeth Gilbert. I think it’s a most impressive word. My best friend in India gave me a copy of that book as my birthday present last year, and now I’m halfway through it. The film starring Julia Roberts was produced with the same title, and it was released in 2010. The film helps me to read and understand the book in English. The book hit the bestseller list, and received empathy from women all over the world, because the theme is a concern for women the world over - but with a witty story.

In teenage years and twenties, I enjoyed my life, but also had the bitter experience of divorce. I’ve never regretted it, rather I made positive progress. I think I was bright with hope and inspiration, that I could do everything I wanted. But in my thirties, as I get older, unsuprisingly and just like the heroine in the book, I had found it difficult to keep a mental balance between work, love, body, and an uncertain future. By the time I noticed this, I was experiencing ups and downs, and I grew timid.

Now I am in control of myself and everything is going well, bit by bit. There is more than one way to overcome each difficulty, depending on the person. A bad situation cannot last forever.

12 Jun 2011

Rembrandt: The Quest for Chiaroscuro

Yesterday, I went to Ueno, Tokyo to see the Rembrandt Exhibit at the National Museum of Western Art. I like Dutch artists, because some of their use of light and shadow. I don't know so much about arts, but they always influences the senses and intellect spontaneously. Representative Dutch artists include Johannes Vermeer, Frans Hals, Rembrandt Van Rijn, etc…

I already had an advance ticket for the exhibit before the disaster. Honestly I was wondering if it would be possible for me to go to Tokyo, but I made up mind to go. It was the day before the last day of the exhibit, so very crowded, but a really nice day trip. I was happy to be there :)

The exhibit included many prints and paintings gathered from the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam, the British Museum, the Louvre Museum and other major museums. Some works were printed on Japanese paper; it was interesting to compare the works on different kinds of paper - the light seemed to be different.

Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (Leiden 1606 – Amsterdam 1669) was the son of a miller. He studied art, and later produced many works in Amsterdam. Despite his successful career as an artist, his personal life was not so smooth. His life experience and deep insight affected his works.
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo,
designed by well-known Swiss-born French architect, Le Corbusier.
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Rembrandt: The Quest for Chiaroscuro
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There are Auguste Rodin's sculpture replicas in the forecourt;
Auguste Rodin, Burghers of Calais
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Auguste Rodin, The Thinker (Enlarged)
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Auguste Rodin, The Gates of Hell
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10 Jun 2011

Japanese Astronaut

A Japanese Astronaut Satoshi Furukawa blasted off on board the Russian spacecraft Soyuz on 8th June. He was a surgeon at hospital who became an astronaut candidate in 1999. He will stay on board the International Space Station (ISS) for 6 months and run his commission.

Now, he is in the universe. What does he really think when he see the earth from faraway universe?

9 Jun 2011

Festivals in Sendai

The most famous festival in Sendai is the Sendai Tanabata Festival (Star Festival) , which began shortly after the city was founded. It was cancelled during the Depression and World War 2, but still it survives.

It is held every year on 6-8 August. Sendai was hit by the strong earthquake on March, and the Aoba Festival (on the third Sunday in May) was cancelled, but the Star Festival will be held in 2011, for recovery and the spirit of the people.

This year, together with other festivals of the Tohoku Region (Akita, Aomori, Iwate, Fukushima, Yamagata), six great festivals will be held in Sendai on 16-17 July. That means you can see famous Tohoku festivals all at once, in Sendai.

Also the Sendai Pageant of Starlight 2011 (December) will be held too - even though all the lamps were swept up by the tsunami. Why don't you visit Sendai? You will feel the energy of the Japanese who have taken things positively and made the best of their circumstances.

1 Jun 2011

The Notebook

The famous Japanese actor, Hiroyuki Nagato, died on 21 May, 2011, at the age of 77. He was famous for his happy marriage. He devoted himself to caring for his wife in his later years. His wife was the Japanese actress Yoko Minamida. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and died in 2009. Constant care for an Alzheimer's sufferer is not an easy job, even for a loved one. After she died, he totally languished and lived in a sort of social cocoon.

This couple always reminds me of the novel, ‘The Notebook’ which is written by Nicholas Sparks, a bestselling American novelist. Honestly I haven’t read it but saw the film (2004). It’s a romantic film about a couple - Allie and Noah - who fell passionately in love, and got together over many years. In the film, an elderly Noah is reading out of a notebook to an elderly Allie about a story about the two of them in their early days, but she doesn’t recognise the story or their family due to her deteriorating dementia. Even so, for a few moments she comes back to reality and realises that the story is about them, but she relapses again. Noah reads it out to her again and again to see the real Allie for a brief time. One morning, they are both found dead peacefully, holding hands…

Oh gosh, I’m near to tears, I just wrote this article…

Anyway, I think everybody can be a couple like them, but it’s not easy. Sometimes you need to be patient, sometimes you may get angry and quarrel over something stupid, but essentially you need to understand him/her. To do that, it takes a long time to build up ties together. I think it’s true love :)