Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What are cool in Japan? – クールジャパン

There is a TV program called “Cool Japan” introducing unique and interesting things from foreigners’ eyes in Japan, and they celebrated a hundredth anniversary the other day in which they listed the coolest 20 things. Can you imagine the top 10 winners?

1. High-tech toilet
2. Cherry blossom watching party
3. One coin (100 Yen) shop
4. Fireworks
5. Plastic samples of food
6. Onigiri (rice ball)
7. Capsule hotel
8. Bon odori (group dance in summer festivals)
9. Autumn leaves hunt
10. Shinkansen (bullet train)

I show the snap shots of probably less-known choices from #5 thru #8 below:

As for toilets, we recently renovated ours in our 30-year old house. The one we chose was Toto’s top-of-the-line “Neorest” because it is a heated and water-washing seat, typically a must-have in Japan today, it flushes minimum water, and also the shape is very refined. How high-tech? The lid opens up and the small light goes on for itself as it senses someone comes in, the seat is warm as you set it, various options are available for water-jet modes such as sharp, mild, or vibrated, and it can blow the air to dry the wet. Some of the features are actually handicapped-friendly.
For the second toilet, we bought Toto’s “Purest EX” as it was less costly but stylish, and on top of it we installed INAX PASSO, another high-tech toilet seat that we have used for about 5 years.
One problem ☺: You cannot try to find which model you like the most at the shop!


1. 洗浄便座
2. 花見
3. 百円ショップ
4. 花火
5. レストランの料理サンプル
6. おにぎり
7. カプセルホテル
8. 盆踊り
9. 紅葉狩り
10. 新幹線

高機能トイレと言えば、築30年の我が家のトイレを最近改装した。選んだ便器は東陶のトップモデルネオレスト、洗浄・暖房便座は当然として、節水性や外観の洗練度で納得した。番組ではこうした便座の機能の一部は身体の不自由な人のために考えたと言っていた。もうひとつのトイレには同じく東陶のピュアレストEX、これはもう少し手頃でデザインもスタイリッシュだ。こちらは5年くらい使ってきたINAX PASSOという洗浄便座を組み合わせている。

Thursday, October 22, 2009

鶴川を歩く - A Walk in Tsurukawa


On my way of hiking in Tsurukawa, I happened to hit Yakushi Pond, and it was a perfect spot to rest and relax for a while. From this park, Dahlia Garden, my destination, was about 1 kilometer. It seemed the peak of the flower season already passed slightly. I did not feel walking more to go home and took a bus to Machida station.

武相荘 - Old House of Jiro Shirasu


I mistakenly read in the Google Map that the distance from Buaiso (Shirasu House) in Tsurukawa to Machida Dahlia Garden was quite short and it motivated me to walk, but the fact was a rather long hiking of about 90 minutes. Tsurukawa in Machida City is a broad area with undulating hills, now fully developed as a huge bed town with quiet residential houses. Like many other new places though, I seldom see people on broad streets, and it gives me an impression that this nice area is superficially deserted.
About Jiro Shirasu, I did not know even his name while he was active, and it was only a couple of years ago when I first read his “Japan without Principles” as it was deduced from Inazo Nitobe. Since I started living near Kamakura, I read more about him as he was closely connected there, and his presence grew larger in me. In short, he was chosen to grow in an extremely rich environment, but his firm confidence in how a noblesse should behave socially was crystallized through his young ages in England. He was indeed a man of discipline and particularly applausive was his cosmopolitan vision daring to speak out that the war against USA was stupid under purely uniform situation of the nation 70 years ago, and became a farmer predicting the loss of war and the consequent food shortage. The farmer house he bought in Tsurukawa was nick-named Buaiso which meant “Unsociable House”, and the two Kanji characters were taken from the bordering two provinces of Musashi and Sagami. I think it was charmingly smart name.
He was a man watching the practical progress of forming the current Constitutions under the American occupation confronting US deputies, and he used to say that it was not totally the right way to conclude any nation’s Constitutions, but at the same time admitted that some of the elements such as Abondonment of War were Gifted achievement which would have been otherwise impossible.
The pictures shown here are Buaiso and the current surroundings. They prohibited the pictures inside. The admission of 1000 Yen sounded excessive and I thought a half should be reasonable considering their content.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

続・タメルラーノ – Tamerlano continued


I wrote about Domingo and Temerlano in end August, and afterward I was looking for a performance with counter-tenor singers. In the end, what I came across with was the recording by Gardiner under Erato label.
Two singers featured in this stage were Derek Lee Ragin for Andronicus and Michael Chance for Tamerlano, a most interesting couple. For me, Michael was so impressive in Messiah many years ago that he fundamentally built a solid confidence in me for counter-tenors. As for Derek, he was one of two singers whose voices, female and male, were engineered to compose the voice of “Farinelli” the movie. His emotional singing was the highlight of the making DVD of this movie, and I was thinking of trying more Handel songs by him.
This performance was recorded in 1985, some three years after the renowned Gardiner’s “Messiah”, which means that he challenged this opera in rather early days. Having chased him and his concerts in San Francisco, Granada, and Paris so far, I was kind of secretly proud of being a rare and passionate Japanese fan of the Monteverdi Choir as such, but in reality there are still so many things that I am not totally aware of.
The quality of performance is quite high and because this opera contains many charming arias, I can spare my time for a while long enough to listen to and compare two different performances.

Monday, October 12, 2009

白根山 - Mt. Shirane

カメラはニコンD5000が電源関連部品の不具合によるリコールで修理中なので、以前のCOOLPIX P50を持って来た。

From Kusatsu hotsprings, we went to Mt. Shirane today and up above was perfectly clear autumn sky. It has been a while since we stopped by at this volcanic summit last time, and the usual approach to Yugama Lake was closed. The alternative route was on the left that offered splendid views of Yumiike Lake or Japan Alps mountains. We were told that the underground temperature went up extremely indicating increased volcanic activity and the surrounding area of 500-meter diameter was made prohibited to enter since this spring.
The return bus was somewhat smallish vehicle of Kusakaru Transportation and it was fully packed, but the driver kept explaining various details of sights like a tour guide to make the ride almost an entertaining sight-seeing tour.
As for pictures, my Nikon D5000 is gone for a repair of recalled electronic component and I brought my old COOLPIX P50.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

ヘンデルのロドリーゴ – Handel’s “Rodrigo”

Al Ayre Españolの演奏でヘンデルの「ロドリーゴ」を約束通り入手して聴きました。
このオペラはVicer se stesso è la maggior vittoria (己に勝つことが大きな勝利)というのが本当の題名で、第一幕、第三幕などかなりの部分が散逸していたため、それらのピースが発見され再構築によって演奏可能になったのはここ何十年かの研究による成果とのことです。
録音は24ビット96kHzの Zaxcomを使い、モニタースピーカーはSonus Faberとデータが記されていました。空間的にはコンパクトな録音だと思います。

As promised, I obtained and listened to Handel’s “Rodrigo” performed by Al Ayre Español. The true title of this opera is “To conquer oneself is the greatest victory”; the large portions of Acts 1 and 3 have long been lost and its realization had to wait for discoveries and reconstructions through studies in the recent few decades.
Soloists in this recording except one tenor were all in female voice range with 3 sopranos, a mezzo-soprano, and a counter-tenor conflicting with male roles in some cases, but this arrangement sounded reasonable in the sense of music performance. I found Anne-Catherine Gillet among them who had played Micaëla in “Carmen” at Opera Comique.
The overall impression was not as moving as “Amadigi”, and it seemed more an experimental work to be truly “Italian” by young and ambitious Handel before being recognizable exactly as Handel. Between recitativoes were some amiable melodies in arias that must had been successful, and those in Act 2 were quite dramatic.
For recording, they used Zaxcom 24-bit 96k system and Sonus Faber was the monitor speaker according to the data. The acoustics was compact dimensionally.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

鞆の浦 – Plan on hold in Tomonoura


The new bridge construction across the bay in Tomonoura, Hiroshima has been my concern and I thought Fujita (Governor and junior in school) enjoyed little wisdom to value the traffic problem against Tomonoura as our cultural asset. I feel quite comfortable today with the court’s order to halt the construction in concern of its damaging the scenery.
To me, Hiroshima is my birthplace, and among a few times of my past visits to Tomo, particularly memorable was when I walked around the town with my college classmate staying her family home for one night. We had something in common: we were freshman (& woman) in Tokyo from the same countryside.
Tokyo metropolitan highway is an example how ugly a development could be as it covers over Nihonbashi bridge, the core landmark of Japan itself. Once done, no way to be retrieved, and Yamba dam appears to be another same issue.