Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trump's Visit to Japan


President Trump made a 13-day of five countries in Asia, starting with Japan (followed by S. Korea, China, Vietnam and the Phillipines). An earlier post on this blog showed some of the reactions that the print media had during Trump's initial election.
The above tweet shows the leaders of America and Japan posing with the performer of last year's popular novelty song PPAP, Pikotaro. Interestingly, the flasy gold costume that is the trademark of Pikotaro is practically camouflage in the decadent dining hall.

Cultural humor for the ex-pat crowd in Japan. Japanese people are always very polite, diplomatic and complimentary to foreigners. The above tweet captures that experience suggesting that Japanese people probably complimented Trump for being able to use compliments; which foreigners in Japan find to be a tiresome, shallow and cliche remark to give people but Trump has proven that he loves any kind of compliments and will prolong his interactions with people as long as such positivity flows.

Trump critics pointed to photos of him dumping fish food into a koi pond at a high-class facility in Tokyo, suggesting that this was a faux pas reflecting Trumps borishness, callousness, cultural insensitivity and lack of gratitude for the experience and blindness to the opportunity to use the situation as a meditative exercise in slow contemplative interaction.

Note the above picture. It is interesting that Trump often takes the same standby pose when listening to foreign dignitaries in front of cameras; holding his shoulders squarely to the cameras, hands pressed together when he is not speaking with gestures to a large crowd, legs spread apart occupying space in a type of pre-meditated power move. While the emperor is turning his body toward Trump while smiling warmly and he seems to be speaking freely in a light and friendly manner.

The above tweet again focuses on the koi photo but Japanese Twitter users were more defensive of Trump than the general American population (the majority of whom disapprove of Trump in general). The user here points out that Trump was only following the lead of Prime Minister Abe, exactly. The feeling here is that "the media" (some media outlets and commentators) omitted the context of the situation to make Trump look bad. Others went even further to blame Abe for conducting himself brutishly in this situation.

Prime Minister Abe made his own gaffe during a round of golf with Trump, when the PM tumbled backwards into a sandtrap but then scrambled back to his feet, seemingly while being ignored by the golfing party.

The last tweet is in line with previous jokes about Trump's unrefined tastes for gourmet food and his preferences for fast food and sodas.
Handlers arranged for Trump to eat hamburgers from a Tokyo burger joint.
While President Obama visited a world class sushi restaurant that would be beyond the budget of ordinary people, the burger that Trump ate costs about 1200 yen (about 11 dollars). Interestingly, the locals have been flocking to try the burger set that Trump had and for the low price, it is not a big risk for anyone to try.

An interesting article about the technical difficulty of translating Trump's speaking style into Japanese.

The above video compares the visit that Obama made to the Emperor and the visit by Trump. Opponents of Obama were critical of his overly polite bowing and suggested that it was an embarrassment to American diplomacy fitting in the thematic attacks that American liberals are weak and tend toward globalism rather American interests. This is surely the exact type of points that Trump used to propel himself onto the American political stage, so he must have been planning on how he would handle the gentile situation while projecting strength and differentiating himself from his political antipole.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Shiramine Shrine Tanabata


"Jingu" - Shrine Name Suffix Terminolgy
Shiramine Shrine, "Shiramine Jingu,"  in Kyoto is among a small group of shrines which are designated by the term "jingu" rather than the typical word for shrines, "jinja." "Jingu" shrines have some special relationship with the imperial family. Other famous examples of jingu shrines include Heian Jingu (also Kyoto), Kashihara Jingu (associated with the first emperor), Ise Jingu (in Mie prefecture) and others.
Other naming convention include the use of "~gu" in shrines which deify and individual; such as the Tenmangu shrines (Kitano Tenmangu in Kyoto and Osaka Tenmangu), which deifies an ancient nobleman/scholar.
The title of "taisha" or "grand shrine" is ascribed to some major shrines that have a number of branch shrines; such as Kasuga Taisha (from Nara), Sumiyoshi Taisha (Osaka).

Shiramine Shrine
The shrine was built in 1156. The shrine was dedicated to Emperors Junnin (733-765) and Sutoku (1119-1164), this imperial connection explains the "jingu" classification of the shrine.

Sutoku is an interesting figure in Japanese history. Shiramine shrine has that emperor's official tomb. After a tragic life, lost battles, exile court intrigue Emperor Sutoku death was followed by a series of disasters in Japan. This lead people to believe that the deceased Emperor had become an onyo (a vengeful spirit). The legend of Sutoku persisted to the point that he was thought to have transformed into a tengu (supernatural demons thought to live in the wilderness) becoming one of the Three Great Onyo of Japan (along with the Tamamo-no-Mae the nine-tailed fox and Shuten-doji the ogre bandit leader). The enshrining of Sutoku was meant to appease his spirit and seal away his curse.

Shiramine shrine also contains a small shrine to Tomo-no-Osha, the god of martial arts.

The shrine also has a connection to a nobleman who supported the ancient kickball game of kemari, so there is a monument to kemari and the shrine built upon the connection to that ball game and the martial arts to being associated with all sports; there are shrines decorated with sporting equipment and the shrine office sells charms for a number of specific sports, including horseback riding.

A shrine to sports filled with memorabilia.
A local professional soccer team is featured prominently.
Information about posted regarding the martial arts shrine.
Offerings and sacred strips of paper (shide) in front of the shrine.
The shrine has several annual festivals:

  • 5/5. 9:00~. - Martial Arts Festival (demonstrations of martial arts such as kendo, iaido and kyudo)
  • 11/15 - Archery ceremony
  • 4/14. 10:40. Kemari kickball game.
  • 7/7. 13:30~. - Tanabata festival and komachi dance.
  • First Full Moon of October - Harvest Moon Viewing with traditional dance.
  • 11/23 - Ohitakisai, a bonfire ceremony.

Tanabata, is the star festival that is celebrated on July 7th. During this festival people hang their wishes of strips of wish papers (tanzaku) on bamboo branches.
For tanabata, Shiramine Shrine has a special ceremony in which the decorate the shrine with bamboo and paper and stage a ceremony featuring people dressed as the celestial couple of the tanabata legend.
The highlight of the special tanabata festival in the Komachi Dance. This is a dance where elementary school girls dressed in kimonos of Nishijin (a Kyoto specialty fabric) and circle around a bamboo stalk and ceremoniously dance.

Orihime and Hikoboshi, the star crossed-lovers.
Note the spinning/weaving devicec that Orihime is holding.
Orihime and Hikoboshi framed with paper decorations.
Decorations haning from the bamboo branches.
Tanabata bamboo. Like a Christmas tree for the summer.
The girls here are in a nice formation for the photo.
Drus in Japan often have this "mitsu-domoe" design on them.
The purple headbands affix silver flower decorations.
Nice pose here and you can see the central bamboo stalk.
Note the hair styling here.
A wistful pose is part of the Komachi dance.
A dramatic salute pose as they bang the drums.
It is often difficult to catch uniform poses from large groups of dancers but this is a nice photo.
The group dances in a large circle.
Note the kagura-dan, ceremonial stage building, in the background.
Note the Nishijin fabric of the kimono.
Note the long sleeves in the furusode style kimono.
The half-Caucasian (?) girl stands out in this group.
The Komachi dance in motion.
A shot of the girls lined up.
The shrine is always looking for volunteer elementary school girls who want to participate in the event.
Elementary school girls posing with their classmates.
Paper fruit decorations.
Paper decorations in front of the kagura-dan.
A variety of designs for the ema plates at this shrine.
Note that the prayers on the plates read as cheers for sports teams.
The round plate in the corner is from someone who wants to make it into the high school baseball championships.
The bamboo being taken-down after the ceremony, visitors remove the decorations.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Holiday at an Empty Amusement Park


Hirakata Park is an amusement park between Osaka and Kyoto on the Keihan line, at Hirakata Koen Mae station.

The entry fee to the park is only 1400 yen but the rides cost extra; a few hundred yen each or you can buy the All Access Pass for 3000 yen which allows you to ride as much as you want. There are discounted prices for elementary school students.

Hirakata Park was also featured earlier this year for their interesting performance skits:

The top tier of amusement parks, such as Universal Studios and Disney, draw most of the attention. But parks other parks, such as the one at Hirakata, offer a different kind of experience while being less crowded.

Hirakata Park was open for New Year's Day on 2017 and provided a special experience as it was amazingly devoid of costumers. It was surreal being in an operational amusement park where there was no waiting for rides, no bustling crowds but only quiet pathways lined with festive lights.
Hirakata Park prepared a field of LED tulips.
You can see the red lights of a passing roller coaster.
The ferris wheel can be seen in the background.
You can walk pathways underneath the roller coasters.
The supporting structures of the roller coaster.
A visitor casts a silhouette in the tulip field.
An interesting pedal powered roller coaster; you have to be ready to burn some calories to make it around this low track but you can bring one friend to help you.
Roller coasters and a log ride crowd into the same spaces.
A map of the park highlighting the seasonal illuminations.
Many rides like this with no lines; the operator will start the ride for the first person to show up.
Nets of LED lights cover these bushes.
New Years is about spending time with you family in Japan.
This family has gone to the park rather than the traditional family, temple and shrines functions but I am sure it will be a special memory for the impressionable youngsters.
A decorative treehouse in the background which fits with the park's fantasy theme of elves, goblins and wizards.
This bridge passes over a canal used for a tube boat ride.
Colored lights illuminate the structure of the roller coaster.
A swing ride for the personal amusement of a single family at this moment.
Beautiful pathways of light.
I light how the reflective concrete creates an illuminated backdrop which draws the eye to the dark figures of the coupe sitting at the picnic table.
A tunnel of lights. The directional LEDs are arranged so that you see a different color depending on which direction you are facing at the time.
The zodiac creature of 2017 in Japan; the rooster.
A gallery at the park exhibited materials from the game series "Dragon Quest."
The slimes are a long running mainstay of the Dragon Quest series.
Another recurring monster from the Dragon Quest series; the golem.
The "DiskO" ride in operation with only one customer on board.
A section of the park with a crystal theme that has orchestrated arrays of light and subdued music.
A long trail with pop-music whihc is paired with arrays of LED light-bars which create a beautiful light-scape.
This long trail is where people would line up to wait for the park's largest roller coaster.
Briskly walking through such a crowd maze is a novel experience.
Empty gardens bathed in light.
The park's ogre character reminds me of the creatures from the movie "Ernest: Scared Stupid"
This monster reminds me of the Summoned Skull from Yu-Gi-Oh.
The Christmas tree near the entrance.
The park had a lonely feel to it.
Near the large Ferris wheel that is a trademark of the park.
An amphitheater but no performers.
If all the visitors inside the park suddenly congregated here the seat would not have been 25% full.
LED lights lining the canal of the log ride.
Roller coasters, a log ride and a tower drop in the background.