Matsugamine Church

Matsugamine Church (松が峰教会) in Utsunomiya city is made of Oya stone (大谷石).

In February, I visited there at night and posted a photo of this church taken with a real Fisheye lens and explained briefly about this church.

Fishing the Church
The beauty of chilling winter is the clear air and sky! Though it was windy at dusk and nobody was there, it was worth visiting and photographing with the blue sky behind.

Inside photo of this church can be seen there.


The Weirdest Christmas Tree!

Butterfly resting after the eclosion

Since today it was the coldest day so far this winter, we came up with an idea of visiting a green house that provides us with spring-to-early-summer temperatures and heavenly moisture, located within the Igashira Park (井頭公園) complex in Moka city (真岡市). For those who are curious about this park and the city, please go check this article in our Budget Trouble blog (though the article's not yet fixed... Sorry for that).

As you can see photos above, a series of butterflies are waiting for you there. They are beautiful and lovely. When it's sunny, you simply forget that it's Christmas season if you are a resident of the northern hemisphere.

I was so eager to photograph them but I had to wait for 20 minutes or so until the condensation on the lens disappeared... What makes this green house unique is a Christmas tree decorated with a bunch of butterfly pupae! REAL ONES!!! No kidding! They're not socks, LED lights, or plastic toys.

Lots of pupae hanging. ALL REAL!!!
From some butterflies have already emerged and the shells are empty, others are not.

(Left) Pupae decoration   (Right) Overview of the tree
The fee to the green house is 400 JPY (adult). From 9:30 to 16:00.

This is a Macro Monday entry.


Bronze Statue Of Sacred Horse

It was a beautiful day today, though it was cold... When we went to downtown, I stopped at Futaarayama shrine (二荒山神社) to photograph whatever looks interesting. I captured the bronze statue of the sacred horse there.

This is a Black and White Weekend entry.

Have a wonderful Christmas Holiday!


The First Macro Of My Own!

You have no idea how desperate I was to have my own macro lens for years. Since I have been a good boy, Santa Claus came to our house a little bit earlier and dropped off a Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di Macro 1:1 Nikon F-mount for me.

I attached it to my Nikon D200 and photographed water drops on the CD, which resulted in utterly abstract images!

My new gadget - I'm loving it!

Many thanks to my Santa's helper -  Ms. T!

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone.

This is a Macro Monday entry.


Long Time No See...

Terribly sorry for being away from the photo-blogging sphere... I hope that there IS still somebody who is curious about visiting my blog:)

I marked December 15th on my calender as Otariya Festival (冬渡祭) that is organized by Futaarayama shrine (二荒山神社) in our town, Utsunomiya. 

Since we've featured this festival in our other blog, Budget Trouble, those who are interested in the background of this event, please take a look at  this article. And the photo of this festival taken last year is shown here.


Yabusame Performance

Sorry for my absence from the blogging scene...

Yesterday we were at Nakamura Hachimangu (中村八幡宮) in Moka city to participate in Rei Taisai (例大祭). This festival is one of our favorite matsuri. They provide with bunch of events, Yabusame (流鏑馬), Daidai Kagura (太々神楽), sword performance named Batto Embu Taikai (抜刀演舞大会), and mikoshi procession, of course.

Have a nice week.


Kaminokawa Town Summer Festival

We, as Utsunomiyans, used to go to the local summer festival called "Tenno sai (天王祭)". But this year, Ms. T. was encouraged to carry mikoshi at the Summer festival in Kaminokawa town (上三川町) by her friend, Sayaka SATO. Her family owns a fancy construction company (佐藤材木店) there.

We went there, had the same outfit as you can see in this photo and had a good time.

We really appreciate Ms. and Mr. Sato's hospitality!!!


Mikoshi Procession

Summer is the season for the festival in Japan.

The festival we went today is called Miyaichi festival (宮壹祭). In principle, mikoshi (a portable shrine) is owned by each district and the carriers in the district wear the same uniform with its logo. At Miyaichi festival, you can only see ONE mikoshi carried by a variety of participants coming from Utsunomiya downtown, as well as mikoshi freaks coming from outside of Tochigi prefecture.

This year, we have several mikoshi carriers coming from the tsunami devastated area in Tohoku... Though they also could be refugees that had been evacuated to Utsunomiya city...

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 32. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!

Update: For those who are curious about how I took this photo, here is the answer.
I was not on the mikoshi, but my camera was approx. 3 meters high from the ground. I am not a mutant in the movie X-Men. So I don't have the ability to jump 3 meters, stay in the air, and take photos...
What I did was attaching monopod and remote cable release to the camera and doing the blind shooting by walking backwards in front of mikoshi! Does it make sense???


Tsuruta Pond

We are currently in the middle of the rainy season and I am sort of reluctant to photograph when it's wet. But occasionally I strive to be an early bird and head to the pond named Tsuruta pond. It takes approx. 5 min to get there by car.

I was the only human being there when this photo was taken. I could only hear ducks making noise in the mist...

The haze has gone when the sun appeared and when it's not windy, the surface of this pond looks like a mirror with a few feathers floating.

Here is another photo taken there. Eventually you can see ducks (click image to enlarge)!

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 29. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!


Dance Performance

Prior to the rice planting ceremony organized by Moritomo Takino Shrine (森友瀧尾神社) in Nikko city, we had a dance performance offered to the God of cultivation. Two local lasses volunteered to be dancers...

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 28. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!


Planting Ceremony

We live in the 21st century and pretty much most of the agricultural processes are done mechanically. If you live in the countryside, you are fortunate to be able to see rice planting done by humans. It's a ritual ceremony organized by a countryside shrine.

In Nikko city, Moritomo Takino Shrine (森友瀧尾神社) is known for having the biggest shimenawa (注連縄) in Tochigi Prefecture. Shimenawa is made of rice straw shaped to look like two ropes tangled together. Shimenawa is supposed to keep the evil spirits away from sacred grounds.

Moritomo Takino Shrine owns rice fields where the straw for a big shimenawa comes from every year. Shimenawa is exchanged for a new one in December.

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 26. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!


Me No Hot, No Pain!

Another self-torturing performance freaked us out at the Tagesan Fudoson (多気山不動尊) fire festival.

Young monk appeared in public with a handful of bamboo branches in his hand, then approached the big metal bowl filled with boiling water. After reciting a sutra, he revealed his upper body. We just held our breath and waited for his next move to come...

He broke the silence by frantically spraying boiling water on himself. We were just speechless at this show of extravagant discipline. Bamboo branches shuttled between the pot and his body more than 10 times until his body was (most likely) cooked.

When it was done, he was overwhelmed by the standing ovation.


Fire Walking at Tagesan Fudoson

Buddhist monks walking on fire is an eye-catching event we love to see. Today I went to Tagesan Fudoson (多気山不動尊) by Mt. Tage (多気山) in Utsunomiya city. It's a Shingon school (真言宗) Buddhist temple that is said to be established in A.D. 822 by Sonchin (尊鎮), one of the disciples of Monk Sho-do (勝道上人). Hayagriva/Bato Kannon (馬頭観音) used to be worshipped there until A.D. 1355 but Utsunomiya Castle Lord, Kintsuna Utsunomiya (宇都宮公綱), transferred Acala/Fudo Myo-oh (不動明王) to the temple. Due to this Buddhist guardian, this temple is called "Fudoson (= a temple worshipping Fudo Myo-oh".

Last year we went to see a fire-performance done by Buddhist monks at Kobugahara Mt. Kongo Zuihoji temple (古峯原金剛山瑞峯寺) in Kanuma city (鹿沼市) and posted an article in our another blog, Budget Trouble. Practically what I saw today at Tagesan Fudoson is very similar to that event performed at Zuihoji temple.

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 25. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!


I am back!

Dear visitors,

I am terribly sorry for being away from your wonderful blog(s). Due to my family issue that happened soon after 3/11 disaster, I sort of lost my motivation to photograph. To be honest, I still am but I find it inappropriate not to update my blog.

From now on, I will resume posting photos, though not as often as I used to do.

This photo was taken last spring at Korinji temple (広琳寺) in Utsunomiya city with my old film camera, Nikon F801S with a fish eye lens, of course. It's totally out of the season now but the 200-year-old cherry tree should be worth sharing with my visitors.

This is also an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 24. If you want to see nice photos taken in Japan, don't forget to visit!!!



I Lost My Hero

Again, I am so sorry for not updating my blog...

My father has been struggling with his health for over a decade. Last weekend his condition worsened dramatically and all possible measures you can imagine were used to rescue him at the hospital. My wife and I stayed at the hospital for four days and have been with him all the time. I slept 6 hours during those 4 days there. He passed away late at night on March 23 from pulmonary dysfunction.

He was sent to the hospital by ambulance and left there by hearse...


Update On Us and Our Area Part 2

I am terribly sorry for being lazy and not updating for a while and not visiting your blogs lately...

As I already said a couple of times in my last two posts, our family members are all fine in the northern part of Kanto area- Utsunomiya city, Tochigi Prefecture. When compared to what people in the coastal region in Tohoku area have been suffering, our damage is extremely subtle. As you can see in the photo above, occasionally old buildings are shown to be half collapsed. These buildings are in the process of demolition, because otherwise a total collapse caused by aftershocks is very likely.

Fig. 1 The frequency of quakes. Gray bars (left) indicate quakes that happened before the major disaster (red). The Y axis denotes the numbers of aftershocks per hour and the X axis indicates time.

Numbers of aftershocks are getting fewer and fewer, although it still shakes significantly more than before the major quake (red bar on March 11th, 14:46 Japan Time).

Fig 2. Average magnitude of aftershocks. The red bar reached at magnitude 9 which is the biggest number ever recorded in Japan. Y axis indicates average magnitude of aftershocks per hour. Gray bars denote quakes that happened before the major disaster.

The magnitude of aftershocks remains unchanged...

The only concern we are facing in the Kanto area is a lack of gasoline, which is mostly attributed to the psychological (= hysterical) reaction of the customers, combined with the temporary decreased supply from the vendors... Hope that the situation will be improved next week.

Our government is doing their best to prevent from the worst case scenario at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Lots of rumors are spreading in all sorts of media you can think of as to what is likely to happen in the northern part of Japan but I have been visiting one site from time to time for updates on the power plant in a critical situation. It is also useful for future prospects.

I strongly recommend everybody to take a look at this article posted on March 16 there. Dr Don Higson actually has said everything that's been on my mind and there's absolutely nothing else to say. Dr Don Higson is a retired nuclear safety specialist and Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, Fellow of the Australasian Radiation Protection Society.
Sure, this is an article posted three days ago and what was written is not what is happening now but I agree with his interpretations of the events that occured at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Dr. Higson's personal views started as follow:
I believe it will eventually be understood that events over the past few days at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan have demonstrated the safety of nuclear power. In what may have been the worst earthquake and tsunami ever to have occurred, the approximately 40-year old nuclear plants have been severely damaged. Three of them are likely to be written off - like many other industrial installations in that part of Japan. However, the reactor containments have remained intact, releases of radioactivity outside the site boundary have not reached dangerous levels and there is no risk to the general public.

For over a decade I have been using radioactivity at the university and I am not so concerned about low levels of radioactivity in our region...

This is an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 18

This is also a Black and White Weekend and Sunday In My City.


Have a wonderful weekend.


Update On Us and Our Area

First of all, thank you very much for your kinds words and concern about us. I really appreciate it. Secondly I am sorry for not replying...

We are doing fine. None of our family members are dead or injured. Due to the unprecedented shaking that took place on March 11, we had a minor damage at home (as you can see photo above), located in Utsunomiya city, Tochigi Prefecture. But it's nothing comparative to what happened to the coastal area of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures.

As it is constantly reported on all sorts of media, one of our main concerns is the radioactivity leakage from the Fukushima #1 nuclear power plant. Fortunately we are not within 20 km of the power station that is in critical situation of cooling down the nuclear reactor. It is fortunate that Onagawa nuclear power plant near Sendai city is still under control! It's so nearby the epicenter.

Since where we live is so far away from the Pacific coast, our lives are OK. As you can see in the photo shown above, we have had very minor damage caused by the quake. In some area of our city, we have problems with electricity and telephone services. The majority of JR trains lines are still out of service. Gasoline supply has been out of service since yesterday and this is probably the biggest issue for most of the inhabitants in our prefecture since driving a car is indispensable. More and more shelves at supermarkets are getting bare, as well.
Other than that, our area is so quiet. I haven't heard any ambulance sirens since yesterday. The people here appear to be saving gasoline. The streets are not so busy. Rather, it's so quiet, I have to say. We posted photos of our neighborhood on another one of our blogs, Tochigi Daily Photo, here.

Here is the funny part. Did I tell you that we don't have a TV and radio at home? We totally rely on the internet for getting updates and we have been listening to the BBC live video, as well as reloading Japanese newspaper websites. Never before have I been exposed to such a massive flow of British accents. By the time everything's back to normal, I will be so familiar with many varieties of British accents!

What we are really worrying about is the aftershocks that are continuously happening. I feel like living in an airplane cabin or on a train all day...

Fig. 1 Everything started at the time when the red bar was recorded. Gray bars indicate quakes that happened before the major disaster. The Y axis denotes the numbers of aftershocks per hour and the X axis indicates time.

This is all written in Japanese, but just take a look at the times that the aftershocks happen. You can see how often it's been happening. It IS gradually getting less and less as the time goes by. Which is good news!


Fig 2. Average magnitude of aftershocks. The red bar reached at magnitude 9 that is the biggest number ever recorded in Japan. Y axis indicates average magnitude of aftershocks per hour. Gray bars denote quakes that happened before the major disaster.

The average magnitude, unfortunately, remains high... The data does not make me happy...

This is a Black and White Weekend and Weekend Reflections #77,



I am alive!

For those who sent me messages concerning my family and me, I really appreciate it. As the title says, my family members (including our cats) and I are ALL FINE. FORTUNATELY my city is located inland Japan. It's quite far away from both sea sides.
Up to now, there are no Utsunomiyan fatalities (people in Utsunomiya). When considering what this earthquake with a historic magnitute of 8.8 has caused in Tohoku region, I have to admit that our area have had very little damage. Our life lines- water, electricity, gas, and internet connection- are all fine, although aftershocks keep coming up every 5 to 10 minutes (which make us nervous).

The photo shown above is the one I took at my parents home. One big window fell apart, plenty of glass cups and dishes were crushed, and the Japanese dolls were dancing like crazy...

Again, thanks for worrying about us and I hope that things will get back to normal soon.

This is also an entry for Show Me Japan Vol 1, Issue 17.


Takamori SAIGO

His name is Takamori SAIGO (西郷隆盛). He was one of the Samurai who played major roles in Meiji Restoration (明治維新). I photographed his bronze statue at Ueno Park, Tokyo. He's also known as a dog lover!

Image from Wiki

His last stand against the Meiji government in the Battle of Shiroyama was the historical basis for the 2003 film The Last Samurai. Katsumoto, played by Ken Watanabe in the movie, is based on SAIGO.

This is a Sky Watch Friday and Walk In The Street.


Have a wonderful weekend.