Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bloglovin' and blogging

I'm doing the regular(ish) JapanBloglist 'latest blogs added' post today and I keep on seeing links to this BlogLovin' website, so I thought I'd sign up. Please  Follow my blog with Bloglovin.  It seems I already have one follower which is a nice surprise!

Big shout out Diamond Geezer and thanks for the link back to this humble blog.  Every year DG does a report on what blogs link to him. Last year I was rightly dropped off his list due to my lack of posting. He is one the reasons I started blogging back in 2006, but I have never been able to match his prose, style and 100% reliability in posting every single day since he started in in 2002: Yes, over ten years of blogging. I agree with his observation about how many blogs these days have abandoned the bloglist as a way providing links for readers to their favorite blogs, however I disagree with his observation that the number of bloggers is decreasing. I continue to get new blogs submitted to The Japan Blog List, there is usually at least three or four a week.

In other blogging news I've been helping Rick start up Tokyo Hometown. He approached me via Japan Blog List looking for some help to setup a blog and I volunteered to help him get started. He has got some interesting anecdotes and photos about life in Tokyo. He does not want comments, which I have so far been unable to change his mind on, so if you want to give him any feedback you have to find his email address on his 'about' page.
Update : He has changed his mind and now allows comments!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Onagadori (Long Tailed Rooster) center Kochi

When my wife was preparing our itinerary for our trip to Shikoku we got a number of tourist brochures posted to us from the local tourist information office. One such brochure had an attraction that immediately caught my eye. It had merely three sentences and a small photo: "The Onagadori is a rare bird that has been adopted as a natural treasure and bred in the Onagadori Centre. The tail of the male bird can grow to over ten metres long. Onagadori have been bred in Kochi since the Edo era to improve the species". There was no address or phone number and just a red blob indicating it's location somewhere vaguely near Kochi City. Ten meters? are you serious ? this I have to see.

After a little more research I found a map that included the location and we set off to visit the birds in the afternoon on a Wednesday. After stopping to ask for directions at a petrol station, we arrived at the centre to find it firmly closed, even though it was only around 3pm. There was no indication as to why it was closed or even if was still in business, however the sound of a cock crowing convinced us it was worth coming back for.

The next day the hotel receptionist managed to find a telephone number for the centre and called them to confirm the opening times. Apparently yesterday had been some sort of chicken holiday and they had been closed, but they were open today. So we set off for a second time and arrived back here:
Onagadori centre Kochi city
We paid the 500 Yen entrance fee and the lady behind the counter took us around to the back. She apologised profusely for not speaking any English, and we apologised for not understanding any Japanese. The bird cages were all closed, but soft clucking and shuffling noises indicated that each cage was indeed occupied.
Custom built cages for the roosters.
The lady produced a battered copy of National Geographic magazine from 1970 with a fascinating article regarding the birds and a Polish bird fanciers magazine with an item on the birds as well. She then opened just one cage and allowed us to admire the bird inside.
A mighty fine bird

The tail is absolutely unbelievably long!
It is so long she keeps it coiled up neatly and attached to a hook inside the cage you can just see on the left above. She gently uncoiled the tail and allowed us to gingerly lay the fine black feathers over our arms for a photo opportunity:
We admired the bird and his feathers and I took a few more photos, before he was soon closed up again in his custom built cage. I got to take a few more photos of some the exhibits of photos of the birds with celebrities and various other momentos. I also noticed a 1982 copy of the Guinness Book of world records (sadly the record does not appear to be on their website). On our way out, as the lady once again apologised for not speaking English, she gave us a tail feather from one of the roosters.
I just measured it at 2.22m. We are at a bit of a loss as to what do with it. Any suggestions?

I really hope the centre survives and continues to breed these wonderful creatures
The address is 4-8 Shinohara, Nankoku-shi, Kochi-ken, Shikoku ( if you head out of Kochi city towards the airport, it's on your left on route 55 just beside the Yellow Hat tyre garage.

Opening times are 09:00 to 17:00 from March to October, and 09:00 to 16:00 the rest of the year. Tel: 088 864 4931.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ginza Art Gallery tour

I have enjoyed the Improv comedy shows from The Pirates of Tokyo Bay on several occasions and every time I go I always buy some raffle tickets for the prize draw they hold each time. The last time I went to What the Dickens to enjoy the show, I was delighted to win a free voucher from the team for an Art Gallery tour in Ginza. It made a nice change to take a half day off work and spend it visiting six different art galleries earlier this afternoon.

Our tour guide Yoko selected a range of galleries to visit that cover a variety of different styles. One of my favorites was the Shukado gallery. In contrast to the other galleries, where the paintings are hanging on the walls, here we were treated to examine some fine Ukiyoe prints carefully extracted from storage. The gallery assistant explained that collectors have to keep the wood block prints away from light to prevent them fading. There were some Views of Mt Fuji from the famous artist Utagawa Hiroshige, and other prints including one with a giant spider which was very striking.

At another gallery the walls were filled with the works of André Cottavoz. Now there's an artist that really laid it on with a trowel. I casually enquired about the price of the one of the, almost three-dimensional, works of art: it was 2.7million Yen. The gallery owner also admitted that the price had come down from the previous price tag of 3.2 million yen. For Cottavoz, who died recently, it seems death has not brought on a increase in the price of his paintings.

In the final gallery we visited, three of Lee Mingwei's installations are on display. The works were not for-sale, I leave it to your imagination why that is so.

Our guide was friendly and enthusiastic. If you were a tourist visiting Tokyo with limited time and a very keen interest in purchasing art, I think she would be helpful in locating galleries and talking with the staff. For residents: have a wander around Ginza, drop into some of the over 200 galleries and let me know what you see.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Dragonfly Nature Park, Shimanto City, Shikoku

The Dragonfly Kingdom Nature Park is a well known attraction in the area. Just outside the town centre of Nakamura in Shimanto-ku is a 50 hectare park featuring enough habitats to give you the potential to see 76 different species of dragonfly.

Construction of the Dragonfly sanctuary began in 1986 with the conversion of some abandoned paddy fields into ponds with a variety of flowers selected to be attractive to dragonfly. Work has continued and now includes a sizable museum and fresh water aquarium. Of course, not all the dragonfly species are observable in the nature park at any one time, the different species have hatching periods between March and December.

If you arrive on very wet day, like we did, you may see only a couple of the insects outside in the park. However, while the specimens mounted in display cabinets inside can't quite match the sparkling iridescence of real live creatures, they certainly give you an excellent display of the wide variety that exists.
The aquarium section of the museum housed some of the most enormous and unusual fish I've seen. The stars of the show are the Arapaima Gigas.
If you show up at 4pm, you might get to help feed them if you are lucky. They snap up their dinner of small fish with lightening fast bites. It quite enthralled these young children, which also gives you an idea of the size of the fish.
All my other photos of the fish were of poor quality. This is one of the less bad ones of one of the many unusual species they have there. The 80 large and small tanks contain over 300 different species with more than 3,000 specimens of freshwater fish and estuarine water fish from Japan and around the world. Most are well labelled with the latin names.

Entry to the Nature park is free, The museum and aquarium are open from 09:00 to 17:00 every day except Monday, Entrance fee 840Yen. (420Yen for children.)

 Access is 10 minutes by car from Nakamura station on the Tosa Kurishio line. Many more pictures on the Dragonfly Kingdom website. ( Japanese text only)

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Bleach the new toilet cleaner?

Taken from my cell phone earlier this evening at Roppongi. Anyone know who he is? Update: Thanks to RudeBoyAbroad for the details : He's called Ichigo and he's a Shinigami. He fights supernatural bad guys in the series called Bleach. So named because he cleanses souls so that they can pass on to the afterlife, and because the creator liked the Nirvana album "Bleach." Wow, a whole wikipedia dedicated to the series.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Lawrys Akasaka Tokyo

Went for some prime Rib this evening at Lawry's Akasaka Tokyo. We all went for the 'Party Course' menu. Tempting little non meat starters of Salmon and shrimp, the 'spun salad' ( way too much dressing for my liking) and the soup came first to make the mouth water. Then the huge famous meat trolley comes round :

The meat was very tender and tasty. What was surprising, for such an American based eatery, was the Yorkshire pudding. To finish was an 'English Trifle'. The yanks at the table were perplexed by the name, and the Brits at the table were equally confused when the small portion of sponge cake arrived. But hey who knows what an English Trifle really should taste like in Tokyo?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum

We went to a number of museums during the holiday. One of the most modern and stylish looking building was the Sakamoto Ryoma Memorial Museum in Kochi.
Sakamoto Ryoma was born in Kochi in 1835 and made a major contribution to changes in the political scene in Japan. He was assassinated at age 33 shortly after he formulated the Eight point program for the modernisation of Japan.

The locals are understandably proud of their local hero, the airport is named after him and one Kochi cafe manages to produce an impressive portrait of Ryoma on their cafe lattes. It's a shame I only discovered that today otherwise I'd have my own photo to share.

The museum located on the coast about 20 minutes drive from Kochi centre is open from 9am to 5pm all year round and entrance fee is 500 yen.

There are not that many exhibits for such a large building and very little English text. The museum website reproduces the brochure which contains basically all the exhibit labels that were in English, so unless your Japanese is very strong it does not take that long to go round.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Japanese Castles

I've just come back from a couple of weeks holiday. During our trip we visited three different castles. Just for fun, no prizes, see if you can identify these three castles .