Friday, May 31, 2013

Gomi House 2

A little farther up the block is a second house that puts the first one to shame.

I think this sink is just here for decoration...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gomi House 1

In my earlier quest to collect all the local memorial markers I could find, I had encountered a street sign pointing to the Kagoshima War Memorial Cemetery, fairly close to the Yamada Denki consumer electronics store. However, the sign is aimed at the Arena, which was built on the grounds of the old Kagoshima prison, so I didn't know if they were the same thing. Finally, I needed an excuse for a short walk, and I figured that locating the cemetery was as good a reason as any. The sign states that the cemetery is 1 km (0.6 miles) from the main street, but the street it's pointing down ends at the Arena entrance (the Arena is an event venue). So, I went through the park next to the Arena, and started hunting around for more signs showing where to go, while essentially heading in a straight line south. When I got to the foot of the big hill blocking my way, I veered west, which brought me past these two houses.

The first looks like someone just kept building on top of it with different materials and designs each time.

The car port gives the impression of belonging to one of the little construction companies that litter the city. I doubt that anyone seriously believes that they can find whatever they want in here...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Evening Cover

I wanted to have something to read one day, so I picked up a copy of Evening magazine, which carries Moyashimon. There's something to be said for reading the manga as it comes out bi-monthly, rather than just buying the collected book (that is, you get the magazine cover art).

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

International Center

The International Exchange Center is in the Volunteer Center building, near the Reimeikan history museum. One half of the ground floor is dedicated to women's equality issues, and the other half has books and displays on countries from around the world. One Friday, I was looking for a place to drop off some books in case someone else wanted to read them, and I stumbled across this display of Chinese-related information and photos of past IEC-sponsored events.

I was surprised to see myself in one of the three photos, this specific one for the Chinese kiri-e event last Fall.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Roots Coffee Tablets

Japan Tobacco owns the Roots can coffee brand. Some time ago, they decided to package coffee candies with one line of the can coffee. The kiosk in the International Center still carries them, even though they've been discontinued elsewhere. Originally, the price was 147 yen, but the kiosk has it for 105 yen a can. You get three little candies, which are like espresso-flavored breath mints. They smell much better than they taste. There's a URL for the candy maker, Montoile, but the website doesn't mention any of the three lines of coffee candies Montoile made anymore.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Naughty Bikes

Naughty motorcycles for your naughty hair.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kinokuniya Display

I had to take these shots from outside of the shop, so the camera had problems focusing. This is a display for study guides for getting into school. The Conan and Doraemon characters are congratulating kids on passing the entrance exams, I think.

The children's corner is partially visible from the entrance. Anpan-man is a big draw here.

And, ads for the latest Yotsubato and One Punch-Man manga.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Shiro-kuma, Kuro-buta

Kagoshima has one specific tram system, with cars decorated in a wide variety of designs. Most are product, service or company advertising. A few are rolling PSAs, and some promote city events. So, if there is a particular car that catches your eye, the odds of seeing it again are kind of low. Plus, unless they're waiting for the street light to change, they don't stay in one place long enough to get good photos of them.

This is Kuro-buta/Shiro-Kuma (Black Pig/White Bear). I'm not sure why it has this particular combination. I'd guess that it's because of two of Kagoshima's more popular local products - black-hair pigs, and Shirokuma-brand shaved ice deserts.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Confusing Gusto TV Ad

You really gotta wonder about Japanese advertising...
Gusto family restaurants are currently running an "American Fair" campaign. One of the dishes is a hamburger with egg, sausage and bacon. The other is a kind of seafood gratin or pasta or something. In the TV ad (you can see it by clicking on the middle or right buttons at the bottom of the campaign page), three cowboys are invited to try Gusto's new "Texas BBQ Hamburger". All three of them hate it. The tag message says that it's made to match Japanese preferences. The fourth guy, Chicago-born "TV talent" Dave Spector dressed up as a fake Japanese, yells out "it's really delicious!"

I guess the point is that if you want American-style food, eat something else.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gundam Pachinko Banners

Time for more pachinko parlor banners. Currently, Gundam is popular.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


T-Bone is at the north end of Tenmonkan, across the hall from the koban (police box) and 1 block west of Maruzen bookstore, placing it along my regular route when I go to and from the conversation school I teach at occasionally (it's also in the same building as Naughty Hair, if that means anything...) So, while I'm standing at the light on my way home, waiting for it to change green, I'm looking right up at the sign for T-Bone. Having seen T-Bone Walker performing on TV back as a teenager, I wondered what this place would be like.

It's a small, intimate bar that hosts live Japanese blues performances a few times a month. Very dark interior, with a big screen TV on one wall showing baseball games when there's no gigs playing. When I went in one Wednesday night, I was the only customer, so the bartender/owner and I spent the hour talking. He's an incredibly friendly guy, but doesn't speak much English, so it really helps if you know Japanese. During the entire time, Eric Clapton's latest CD - Old Sock - was playing on the sound system.

T-Bone's has a fully stocked bar, and even boasts its own brand of shochu (which tasted a lot like Bacardi rum). The prices are bit on the high side; a large mug of beer and a shot of shochu came to 1400 yen ($14 USD). And, the cover for the live shows is 2,000 yen, but that's pretty much normal for Japan. Anyway, it's a nice place, and if you want live jazz in Kagoshima, I suggest dropping by.

Monday, May 20, 2013

One Piece Dashboard

Someone likes their One Piece UFO Catcher dolls.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Georgia Benz

Georgia Coffee is being packaged with small Mercedes Benz models. The cars aren't spring-loaded, but the tires do rotate, at least. This is about as close as I'll ever get to owning a Benz. Measures about 1.5" long.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


JAXA, the Japanese version of NASA, finally opened up its museum/gallery/shop/information center in Tenmonkan. I just happened to drop by during the open house. The space is on the second floor of the building near Maruzen bookstore. It's pretty small, and the 40 visitors there made it fairly packed. One of the TVs is a 3D screen, showing satellite fly-bys. The other screen showed informational space exploration videos. The ceiling over the stairwell is painted with phosphorescent stars illuminated by a black light.

The shop has pins, patches, pictures, posters, information on Tenmonkan's origin as an Edo-era star observatory, and freeze-dried "space food". The center is free to visitors. I'm hoping that they'll start carrying information regarding upcoming rocket launches from the Tanegashima pad, which is a few hours south of Kagoshima by ferry.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Monsters U.

The cineplex in the main train station building is promoting the upcoming Monsters University movie.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sakura no Uta Candy

Back in March, I mentioned that Family Mart was running a Sakura no Uta campaign advertising the latest Vocaloid installment. One of the products available was the above bag of flavored hard candies. Well, what happens occasionally is that the kiosk shop in the Volunteer Center building will get its hands on certain branded products and sell them for about 10-20% off. Eventually, the price gets slashed further to unload whatever wasn't already selling. At about 85 yen (85 cents USD), I figured it was worth getting a bag for the blog.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Moyashimon Takarakuji

There's a rather interesting little activity going on in the bookstore in the Daiei department store near my apartment that I haven't seen elsewhere. It's a raffle (takarakuji, in Japanese, which means "a lottery"). You buy a ticket for 500 yen ($5 USD), which you select from a box at random. You open up the ticket and you get your choice of prizes for the letter that appears on the sheet. Right now, the raffle is for Moyashimon. There's some other anime-related stuff coming from Banpresto in the next few months. I got a  "D" ticket, which gave me a choice of one of 2 packages for stationary with stickers, and a choice of 1 of 4 bookmarks. The clerk added a rolled up mini-poster (the paper is really thin, and didn't scan well).


I asked how long the raffle will run at that shop, and the clerk answered "until everything goes", which could be years from now. The low-level prizes are worth less that the 500 yen price, but better prizes include some very nice plastic figures of the human characters, and some large plush dolls of the yeasts. I'm tempted to watch the prizes case to see if the lesser stuff starts thinning out, which would boost my chances of winning a plushie...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sumi-e Event

The weekend of May 10th, the International Exchange Center hosted a Sumi-e exhibit. The teacher of a Kagoshima school had his work set up in the middle of the room. Everything else was painted by his students. Some of the pieces are really good.

(This one was by the teacher of the sumi-e school.)

Keep in mind, these are all ink-wash paintings.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Kyokushin Karate Tournament

On the last Monday of Golden Week (May 6), I attended a Kyokushin-style karate tournament, which was held in an athletic center near Kamoike. At-the-door was 1500 yen, but I got my ticket in advance from FamilyMart (500 yen discount, but with a 100 yen service fee). Things got started at 9 AM, with the children's matches. The actual black belt matches kicked off at 1 PM. When I arrived right at 1, the last of the children's rounds was just wrapping up on the red mats at the right side of the above photo, The audience consisted mainly of friends and family of the participants, and a few of them were eating bento box lunches that they'd brought with.

(Trophies, and the table with some of the officials.)

According to the wiki entry, Kyokushin is an offshoot style, developed by Korean-born Masutatsu Oyama (he emigrated to Japan in 1938 and later changed to a Japanese name). He studied Okinawan karate as well as judo, and took a couple mountain-retreat self-training trips that lasted about 3 years total. In 1953, he started up his own style of school in an empty lot in Tokyo. At some point, the school reached about 12 million members. Mas died in 1994, and the school splintered as several masters bickered over who should succeed him.

(Official ceremonies, which started at 1 PM.)

I'm not sure which branch held this tournament. The wiki entry indicated that the different branches don't recognize each other, and therefore you're not going to see them competing in each other's events. This particular tournament was full contact. The children's rounds, and the first few matches of the lower-level black belts used helmets and hand padding. Attacks to the face and back were off limits. But, punches to the chest and stomach, kicks to the legs and head, and knee jabs to the thighs, stomach and sides of the chest were encouraged.

Several school leaders gave speeches encouraging the "display of fighting spirit".

(Two of the higher-level black belts, fighting without helmets.)

The style is characterized by a kind of hook punch to the chest and sides, and some occasional kicks. It looks like kick boxing, and I had a lot of trouble identifying any specific techniques. In the early rounds, a couple contestants accidentally hit their opponents in the edge of the helmet, earning them "chui's" (warnings). However, there were two spinning kicks, where the back of the heel seemed to bounce off the opponents' shoulders and into the side of their heads. In both cases, the opponents fell to the ground like bricks, and medics ran onto the mats to put neckbraces on the fallen and carry them off on stretchers. Rather than being DQ'd, the fighters were given full "ippon" - 1 point perfect wins. So, bumping someone in the face is bad, but sending them off the floor in traction is good.

After the first round eliminations, the younger groups performed kata, and the top black belt contenders went through 4 rounds of breaking boards (foot stomp, punch, elbow strike, kick). Each competitor could decide how many boards to use, and when they were done, the judges yelled out the number of boards actually broken. There was also a demonstration of weapon use by the highest-ranking school leaders, but that wasn't quite as solidly-performed as I would have expected.

No true martial arts tournament is complete without the hard-nosed, bald-headed floor judge.

The tournament seems to have been recorded for TV playback, and had its own announcers' table.

This was one of the last rounds. The heavier guy won mainly through sheer mass. Opponents pummel each other for 2-3 minutes, and if both are still standing, the 4 corner judges make their decisions. In the case of a tie, the round goes another minute. Victory goes to the one that dominates his opponent. A couple of rounds were obviously mismatched, in that the smaller guy threw the best punches, but the bigger one just pushed the smaller one around through sheer weight.

The photo doesn't do this guy true justice. His chest was one solid welt that was so bright that, without the camera, I could see the red from where I was sitting 100 feet away. It was a very brutal tournament.

There were interviews of the winners of the top rounds. This one was given near me by one of the winners going into the final round to decide the first and second place standings. I'm curious if the "no face attacks" rule is to ensure that the competitors look good on camera afterward.