31 Jul 2015

Kwaidan

When I had organized a shelf, I found the DVD 'Kwaidan'. Kwaidan (Kaidan) are Japanese horror/ ghost stories which are connected to old Japanese folktale. If you say 'Kwaidan', some of the famous stories such as 'Hoichi the earless' and 'Oiwa-san' pop up in my mind.


Basically I don't like horror stories at all. But summer is the season of horror stories in my country. Why? I don't know the true reason, but a scary story is enough to chill yourself out during a hot summer. And in conjunction with Obon season in August (a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the spirits of ancestors), it gives colour to ghost stories.

I'll tell you about a bit of story 'Hoichi the earless'. According to legend, Hoichi was a blind minstrel who lived at a temple with a kind priest. He was particularly good at playing biwa (a sort of Japanese lute) and performing the Tale of the Heike (an epic historic story of the war between two clans for control of Japan). One night, a samurai approached him to ask the play for his lord. Then the samurai led Hoichi to the nobleman and he performed for him.

The following evening, the samurai returned to Hoichi, and led him back to the nobleman. But the priest noticed Hoichi's mysterious absence, he led other monks to chase Hoichi next night. What they found was that Hoichi was playing biwa in the middle of the cemetery. They dragged him back to the temple, and Hoichi explained the events to the priest.

The priest realised that Hoichi had been bewitched by ghosts. To protect Hoichi, the priest painted his body with kanji characters of the Heart Sutra and told him to remain silent and motionless when the samurai appears at night. The sutra had rendered the Hoichi's body invisible. The ghost samurai appeared and was angered that there was no Hoichi's appearance nor response. But the ghost could only see his ears, because the priest had forgot to paint his ears. And then the samurai ripped his ears off...

When I was young, we visited my cousin's house during the summer. Their house is an old huge farm house. What we played at night was 'visiting a haunted room'. Actually it wasn't haunted, but was a disused room. My cousin who had a long hair was dressed as a ghost and hid in the dark room. And then my sister and I walked through the room with a torch. We romped and yelled. It was scary enough for me but fun. This is one of my memories during summer.

Today's Sky


27 Jul 2015

Daifuku

Using leftover azuki beans, I made Daifuku this time:) It's a Japanese confection. With the finest Japanese green tea from Shizuoka prefecture (Japan).


26 Jul 2015

Azuki-beans Muffins

I used to bake a cheese cake or gateau chocolat. They are good for a party or big family, but too much for only two of us. Also I can't bake a nice hard cheese cake anymore because cream cheese  (Philadelphia cream cheese) is now spreadable and soft, and no longer hard as before. It was hard to beat it up, but I prefer a hard cheese cake. There must be another cheese which is suitable for my desirable cheese cake, but unfortunately, I haven't found the way.

Anyway, we've tried not to eat sweets too much for our health, because sugar is biologically addictive. But you know, sometimes the body wants. So I bake muffins as a treat. I wanted to add the Japanese green tea powder; matcha to these, but I don't have it, so it's plain muffin with azuki beans.


When I travelled to Koiwai Farm (Iwate Prefecture) in Japan several years ago, I ate a wonderful cheese cake (below) which was rich and heavy. I want to taste it again!!!

Today's Sky


23 Jul 2015

Today's Sky


Okinawa

Since I watched BBC documentary series 'Japan; Earth's Enchanted Islands', I've thought about the southernmost prefecture; Okinawa. Because it reminded me of my trip there. Okinawa is one of the tropical islands in Japan. It used to be an independent 'Ryukyu Kingdom' during 1429-1879. So it has a completely unique culture and language.

Even though it's a part of Japan, it was more expensive than travelling to South Korea (especially from my hometown). I decided to go there several years ago, when I got airline mileage points.:) To save more money, I put off the peak season.

The airplane took off from my local airport. And in the airplane, I heard the unfortunate news saying Okinawa onset of the rainy season on that day... Oh dear... To come right to the point, the weather was not so bad. I could enjoy a hotel's private beach under the slightly overcast sky. If there was strong sunshine, the colour of the sea must have been a more beautiful bright blue. Even so, the view of the ocean was different from the north where I lived. I was happy because it was almost empty as if our own private beach.




The Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium is one of the largest aquariums in the world. It was one of the places I wanted to visit. Whale sharks and manta rays are kept in the huge main tank. It was such a  fascinating view.


 



I felt as if I was in a different country. The north part of Okinawa has an open and warm atmosphere like a resort, but the south has a bit of a dark image because of the scars of the WW2. I travelled around the south using a taxi, visited Ryukyu castle, calcareous cave, and Peace Memorials as well. The taxi driver told me the tragedy which happened around the south, but it was a good to know our true history. All in all, it was a nice trip. I also enjoyed cuisine, culture, sightseeing and shopping very much.

21 Jul 2015

Today's Sky


Aquarium

I heard from my mother that a new aquarium Sendai Umi-no-mori Aquarium was opened in my hometown on 1st July 2015. The new location is the place which was flooded from the tsunami (2011).

There was another aquarium in Matsushima, but it was closed on May 2015 due to antiquated building. So, most animals moved to the new place.

I remember there was a plan to build a new aquarium after the earthquake, but it was a controversial plan at that time. It seemed difficult to realise the plan. And then I moved to the UK. I'd completely forgotten about it. When I heard this news, I quite surprised it was built so quickly.

On December 2015, the new Sendai Subway Tozai Line is scheduled to open. It will be convenient access for the zoo and this aquarium. Sendai should be able to attract more guests. :)

19 Jul 2015

Today's Sky


A Small Share Receiver

Once the council posted a notice on a message board saying don't feed birds on a pond, because they are concerned about someone who gets a small share from it. But the message didn't work. People didn't stop feeding birds, because it has been one of their joys in their lives.

Recently I often see a small animal, but I wasn't sure if it was a rat, a mouse or a vole. But we took this photo and checked the website. It's a 'RAT', a small share receiver!!!
Seems like it lost its shyness...


18 Jul 2015

Resident In Our Garden

After watching BBC programme 'Springwatch', we hung the bird house on the tree. But we found a blackbird's baby in the bushes. This house is too small for a blackbird, but seems like the house is unnecessary in our 'WILD' garden.


Can you see it? It's in the middle of the photo. Brown body with yellow-ish beak is visible among the ivy. The funny thing was it didn't move at all when we watched. It kept the same position. Later, the father came to feed it. Lovely.

17 Jul 2015

Today's Sky

3D Card

I got a 3D birthday card from my Japanese friend. It's goldfishes in a fishbowl. :) 
 

14 Jul 2015

Contradiction

There is concern about the impact of the mass media on children. Even though there is the children's rating system, I don't think it's very effective. Because it's accessible for everyone. That's why parents try to protect their children from the harm that comes from TV, films and game shows.

On the other hand, every time I turn the TV on (in the UK), many dramas and films about detective, thriller, murder, killer, drug, ghost, alien, zombie, and something such bloody violence things leap out. Less heart warming. That means if you reach at the age which allow you to see these programmes, violence and drug scenes are always everywhere. Under these circumstance, it's no wonder that children take an interest on them. It's just my opinion, I feel a contradiction about dramas in the UK.. I think television companies should much more pay attention to their power and influence on people, more carefully and seriously.

In my country, I think there are many stupid TV programmes, but there are more romance and comedy dramas as well. But I also have a question about tabloid TV shows. Because I feel they raise a topic repeatedly, blow things out of proportion and sometimes build up people's anxiety.

13 Jul 2015

Wrabness Walk

The RSPB Stour Estuary Nature Reserve is in Wrabness. Wrabness is a small peaceful village, located between Manningtree and Harwich in Essex.
 
 
We walked onto the public footpath, and this unique building which overlooks the River Stour cought our attention at first. It is known as 'Julie's House' or 'A House for Essex', which was created by the artist Grayson Perry, who won the Turner Prize on 2003.


We looked closely at the house, tiles, window, ornaments, everything was elaborate.


We walked the banks of the River Stour estuary. It is an important wildlife site, and is managed by RSPB (The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds).


We saw some beautiful turquoise blue dragonflies.

 


I am at a loss for words to describe this area, but I felt something different as if there were natural or human spirits. The path was along the river, and has an atmosphere of openness, but also looks hidden place by trees and far from the river as well.


The beautiful flowers were blooming.

 

Everything was ok even though we didn't have a map. Our only failure this time was that recklessly we didn't have a bottle of water...

 

Ted 2

The silly comedy film 'Ted' returned and we watched it. He is an annoying teddy bear, but lovable. I am glad that the story is continued from the first film. Most actors play the same characters and new characters were played by famous people. And also Ted himself was a bit... dirty in the film, because he is aging as the same as us!?

For me, who grow up with watching 'Doraemon (a robotic cat who travels back in time from the 22nd century to aid a bullied boy using many futuristic tools)', Ted is a fantasy being, similar to Doraemon, that kids wish once to have it in their lives as a friend. Well..... Ted is rude though...

12 Jul 2015

Chrysanthemums

The big mouse brought me back with a big bouquet of the chrysanthemums for the small mouse's 40 and something birthday. What a lovely husband! They are so beautiful. ;)

But he doesn't know Japanese people only place the chrysanthemums on a grave of the deceased... especially white chrysanthemums are symbols of funerals and used for funerals and graves in my country. So we normally don't decorate a table with the chrysanthemums.

However, the chrysanthemum has been cherished in Japan for a long time. In fact, it is a symbol of the Japanese Emperor and the Imperial family. It's a culture difference, isn't it? I don't mind it unless I am in the UK. In fact, I sometimes buy them for table decorations.

11 Jul 2015

Mendokusai

It's not easy to learn foreign languages, but it is easy to remember bad words or slang or awkward expression, isn't it?

One of the Japanese words the big mouse learnt quickly while we stayed in Japan was 'Mendokusai'. It literally means "it's troublesome", but I think this word is very ambiguous because you can use it when something is too much of a hassle, or when you can't get very enthusiastic about something and don't want to do anything, or when it's difficult to handle someone who disagrees with you and annoys you. It's a sort of evasion, but a convenient word.

7 Jul 2015

A Basket Bag

Today, 7 July is the day of the star festival. I'd forgotten about it until I read the news this morning, because in my hometon this event is held one month later, in August. I was supposed to be born on this day, but seemed like I decided to stay in mum's womb a bit longer. I must have already been a slow-tempo person.

I took out this basket bag from the closet. This is the one my sister gave me as a birthday present, several years ago. It suits for summer kimono for the festival. I don't have an oppotunity to wear it in the UK, but this bag is good for summer, isn't it?

5 Jul 2015

Messing - Tiptree Walk

There was a powerful thunder and lightning storm last night. But the temperature went up to 26 degrees Celsius. It's a hot day with strong sunshine after the heavy rain. We went for a walk. Perhaps it's about 5 miles? We got a route map from the website, but we partly changed the last route. We started from the pub in the pretty village of Messing. According to Wikipedia, Messing is the birthplace of Reynold Bush, ancestor to the Bush family, former Presidents of the USA.



It was already hot. We saw some plants on the field.



There are interesting flowers poised on the edge of path.


Hey, how on earth can you wear business trousers for walking??? Also I sometimes see some people wearing shorts for walking and moving deeper into bushes. I wonder if they are ok with nettles and other plants. I always bring a jacket as protection even it's hot weather.


We kept walking under the sun.


We witnessed an eggshell of a bird after the event of the natural world. Tragedy...


We enjoyed watching plants this time.


We passed through the wood. It was like a place with full of spirits of nature. I was thinking about the film 'Into the Woods' which I watched in the airplane.



Every person we saw was talking about last night's storm. A man passed by recommended us to see a pond near there because there were many dragonflies. We went off the path to see a pond. Actually it was nice. There were many big dragonflies and colourful small dragonflies. They are invisible on this picture, but they were flying over the pond.


There was a nice hut, someone created.


 We corrected the route, and kept walking.



The ground was not so bad actually, even though there was heavy rain last night. The ground dried up so quickly.


We crossed the camomile field where the smell was good. And the peaceful farm view was nice.



Below is the Rampart, the ancient defensive barrier. But now also looks like rabbits' warren. The big mouse said it is called the Rampart. I thought he is so clever and knowledgeable at first as he recognised it from the shape. But in fact, this explanation was on the directions note... Anyway, the village Messing is close to a site 'The Rampart', which according to legend is where Boudica was defeated by the Romans. Boudica was a queen of the British Iceni tribe and fought against the Roman Empire. That means the Rampart is very old, about 2000 years.



We crossed another wood. It was partly very muddy...


But here was very dry and hard as if it's a concrete-covered path!


This plant must be 'foxglove'. It's interesting name, isn't it? According to Wikipedia, many suggestions for the derivation of the name 'foxglove' has been offered.



Face like wood and animals.



At this point, proper directions leads you back to Messing, but we decided to go to Tiptree, because it was not so far.


I like Tiptree. We could see the mill. It was a hot but nice walk. Oh, by the way, I got fix the trainer sole at a shop, which was unglued at the last walk. It seemed be perfectly fine, but the sole of opposite side of trainer was unglued this time... oh dear...