Monday, November 30, 2009


The standard melonpan with a grid-shaped pattern.

One with chocolate chips.

Maple melonpan. This one tasted like maple syrup. There were four pieces in the package.

You can see custard sauce in the maple melonpan.

I couldn't have all the three at once, so I had halves of the first two and pieces of the maple melonpan with a canned coffee.

Today let me introduce a bread called "Melonpan"(pan means "bread"). I've been a fan of this bread since I was small, and a few years ago it was so popular across Japan that there was often a melonpan stall in the parking lot of a supermarket, home appliance retailer, and what not.

But this melonpan doesn't include any melon juice at all. It was named melonpan just because it has a grid-shaped pattern on the surface, which looks like a melon and because sometimes it inculdes an artificial melon flavor. This bread was invented in the period between the latter half of the Meiji era (1868-1912) and some time after the first World War ended.

I spotted three types of this melonpan at a supermarket. Each of them cost only about 1 us dollar, so it might be suitable for snack.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Matsumi Park

If you come here for the first time, you should go up the tower.

Tiny falls in the premises of this park.

These ducks came close to me when I tried to take pics of them.

Maple leaves were turning to be red.

You can go up as high as this.

I looked south from the top of the tower.

You can see Mt. Tsukuba far away in the center.

I came across these two cats. The cat is my favorite animal.

There are indeed lots of parks in my city, and each one of them is really beautiful in any season. And that's the reason I took pics of Expo '85 park this month. In a sense, autumn is the best season to be in any park in my city, and I often see some people enjoying sports, or adults playing with their kids.

The reason why my city has a lot of parks is that the structure of my city was preplanned carefully and those who planned might have thought several parks would make my city more comfortable to live in. And as I play tennis on a weekly basis in some of those parks, I really appreciate their presence.

And this Matsumi park is the only park where we can command an overall view of my city. All you have to do is pay about 1 us dollar to go up the tower by way of the elevator. And you can see the horizon in all directions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


There are lots of temples in my city.

This temple belongs to a religious party called "Soto Shu".

Like in the premises of a shrine, there is a place called "Chouzuya".

We are supposed to wash our hands and mouth before offering a prayer.

This object is called "Maniguruma".

By rolling it once, we offer the prayer inscribed in the roller.

This is a hearth where we put sticks of incense.

When I'm asked by foreign people about where to visit in Japan, I often say "You should visit our temples and shrines". So I introduced the latter in the posting "Shrine" in September. And today let me show you what a temple is like.

A temple was a place where monks did ascetic training and it has a close relationship with "death" So we can see lots of tombs in the premises. While a shrine belongs to Shinto religion, each temple has a different religious party such as "Jodo Shu", "Tendai Shu", "Nichiren Shu","Shingon Shu" and so on.

And people are supposed to offer a prayer differently. What we should do in common are: 1. To wash our hands and mouth. 2. To throw money in the offertory box called "Saisen Bako". At a shrine we are supposed to shake the bells and clap our hands twice when we pray, but temples require us to pray in a different way according to which party the temple belongs to.

Though our junior high-school education tells us the difference between a shrine and each temple, I don't think all the Japanese people know it well.

Monday, November 23, 2009


There were five pieces of Yubeshi in a package.

Yubeshi is produced in both western and northern Japan.

The inside looks like a caramel, but Yubeshi is much softer than it.

Coffee would also go with this, but usually we have it with green tea.

I went to Sendai city in Miyagi prefecture a few years ago, which is the biggest city in northern Japan. The city is renowned for the fact it was ruled by a military commander "Masamune Date" about in the 17th century. After that Sendai city started to flourish and now it is the place people visit for the purpose of shopping and seeing Date's residence called "Aoba Castle".

Historical details aside, Sendai city is also known as a place that produces lots of good confections. And this one called "Yubeshi" is one of them. It tastes like sweet soy sauce and is elastic like a gummy candy. And it often includes pieces of walnuts.

You don't have to go all the way to Sendai to get this. This kind of confections are sold everywhere in Japan and I bought this at a nearby supermarket.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Center of my city

  A bridge that leads to the core of my city.

 That dark tall building is a fancy hotel that people from other prefectures take advantage of. 

  Two big shopping center on both sides of the street.

   A clothing shop called "Right-on".

Under a bridge that is being illuminated.

  Some high-schoolers confess their love on this bridge.

There are a lot of good restaurants in this "aiaimall".

The wall on the right side is a fountain.

I went to the center of my city in the night and took some pics. It is where the terminal station of Tsukuba Express is, and people living near the central part of my city use the station to commute to Tokyo. My city started to be developed around in '85, when Expo '85 took place in a place a bit far from this center (to see what Expo '85 is, look at one of my older postings).

Most of the stores here are open until 8pm, and the restaurants till 10pm. So people I saw while taking these pics might have been on their way to or from the restaurants. I usually don't go out at night, but when I do, I have a coffee at a Starbucks or rent a dvd to watch on the night.

But it is reported in a newspaper that these days people refrain from dining or going out to cut back on their expenses. Having said that, there are some good restaurants like an all-you-can-eat one that serves really good pizza and it never stops having many customers even when our economy is this stagnant.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The animes for people of all age

At one section of a home center, they sell Ghibli goods.

I think every Japanese would recognize this cat.

Some stuffed toys as tiny as this would be also cute.

The more, the better in this case.

The animes that impressed me the most when I was a kid were ones like "NausicaƤ of the Valley of the Wind", and "Kiki's Delivery Service" by Studio Ghibli. I want Japanese anime to be popular all over the world, but if I was asked to introduce some anime to a foreign person who's not familiar with anime at all, would I have to recommend to him "The melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya"? Sure, it is now a widely supported anime especially among anime fans, but those who don't know much about our anime wouldn't understand some words spoken by the heroine such as Moe. And I don't think Haruhi anime should be recommended to everybody.

But all the animes by Ghibli Studio have been popular with people of all age in Japan, and as they never include lewd expressions, even a father and his children can watch them comfortably. I remember my school showed one of Ghibli animes in an extracurricular class, so I think the teachers thought it was even educational. And as the anime NausicaƤ shows, some Ghibli animes in fact deal with some environmental issues.

Some Japanese animes might do harm to kids, but as you know not all the animes aren't like that. I don't think only the Ghibli animes should be shown to kids, but if you want your kids to grow healthily, "My neighbor Totoro" is the one to be recommended, and when they are teens, Lucky Star should be watched as an anime that represents a good side of Japan.

Monday, November 16, 2009

To be a metal fan in Japan

The bass guitar was helpful in learning the music theory.  

My rear pick-ups are called "Screaming Demon"

I want a bigger amplifier to play louder.

The multi-effector that I use to distort the guitar sound.

With a better amp, I would used some of these to play more naturally.

I haven't seen any Slipknot fan in person. This is a ticket for their live performance in '08

I hope younger people listen to heavy metal so that this genre will be more popular.

I listen to many kinds of music from jazz to heavy metal, but I have to admit heavy metal music is the best genre for me. I've been a metal fan for a long time, but what is it like to be one in Japan? There is well-known bands that play metal-like music like X-Japan, and the sound of Visual-kei bands are sometimes similar to metal music. But most of Japanese people don't call theirs outright heavy metal music especially the latter's.

In the 80s and 90s, when heavy metal was all the rage all over the world, people who listened to metal in Japan belonged to a minority. It might have been cool to listen to Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne, the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Europe, the us, or Latin America, but there has been a tendency in Japan to discriminate against people who listened to metal. Those discriminating people called heavy metal "heavimeta", and those who played metal were made fun of.

Sometimes those who played metal music on TV acted like comedians and such shows led people to think heavy metal, or "heavimeta" is funny.

Even today, Japanese people who listen to heavy metal would say "I listen to metal", instead of "heavy metal" in order not to let people associate them with the funny wordage "heavimeta". I wouldn't care about being hated for listening to metal music, but don't want to be made fun of.

Friday, November 13, 2009

You can rent cds

You can rent a newly released cd for two days.

...and the price ranges from 1 to 3 dollars.

Anime Dance cd. All the song of this album are remixed anime songs, such as a remixed opening song of Lucky Star.

A Haruhi cd from the first season.

These days people don't buy cds, but they download songs off the Internet. You know, when it comes to owning songs, the Internet enables this for free, and I sometimes do it. But if we really want all the songs off an album, downloading and compiling the songs might be pain in the neck.

Those who splurge on music might not mind buying cds, but in Japan we can rent a cd for about a few dollars. Usually a rental cd/dvd shop charges you about 3 dollars a cd, but there is a bargain day at least once a week. On such a day people can rent a cd for a dollar, and they would think downloading doesn't add up after all, because if we rent a cd we can also look at or copy the booklet and the sound quality of the cd is of course very good.

But the problem with the rental cd shops in Japan is they never let people rent a foreign cd before 1 year passes after the release. If I want to rent anime cds, I can rely on such shops, but I have to wait for a year to rent a new Bon Jovi cd. And I don't wait for the latter.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ushiku Nature Park

Only a suburban city could afford this kind of park. And my area is a mixture of rural and urban.

Japanese silver grasses.

A kind of hardy orange.

A solar clock indicates the time. Yes, when I came here it was about noon.

A lizard was on the leaves. Is this smaller or bigger than the one in your country?

The name of this butterfly might be "Indian Fritillary" if my research is correct.

A female praying mantis.

A grasshopper called "Patanga japonica".

This building is called "The Nature Center" where you can rest and do research on wildlife.

Many kinds of birds that can be seen around here were on display.

In Japan you see lots of insects flying around, and if you leave open the windows of your room for 30 minutes or so, insects will sneak into your room. This is why I don't open the windows so often. It's fall now, so the number of insects coming in is smaller, but in the summer you will bump into insects many times while you're on the bike.

When I was a kid, there was already video games and some of my friends played them after school was over, but most of the Japanese parents didn't like their kids to stay home, and told them to do some kind of outdoor activities such as sports, and my friends and I went in the woods to catch some insects like beetles.

This Ushiku Nature Park is where you can see lots of insects and plants. We usually see many insects on the street, but if we really want to observe and take pics of them, this is the place where you can do both.