May 30, 2010

The Fat Cats of Waseda

Perpetually lounging around the side entrance of Building 6 on Waseda campus are three imposingly large cats. (Two pictured.) To some of the students, their presence is merely tolerable. Others go out of their way to give them treats. And to the rest, the cats are hiding in plain sight.

There are other strays on campus (and in the surrounding area), but these three are the most visibly cared-for. This is courtesy of Waseneko, one of Waseda's many "circles" (societies). Its club members have provided cat houses and feeding bowls. Fund-raisers have even been held so the cats can be spayed, thereby saving Waseda from being the university equivalent of the old lady who has hundreds of stray cats roaming around her house.

May 29, 2010


In front of a liquor shop on Waseda-dori. Last year's hyotan gourd plants (mistakenly labelled luffa plants) were so successful, the shop's owner was giving away seedlings for free. The left is your standard gourd, the right, a sennari gourd. I chose the sennari plant for sentimental reasons: they were abundant on the grounds of my kindergarten school, to the extent that the school was called Sennari Kindergarten.

May 23, 2010

Yoyogihachiman Shrine Goldfish Festival

The Goldfish Festival in Yoyogihachiman Shrine was held today, in the pouring rain. The festival's origins lie in the development of the Yoyogi area over 150 years ago. Residential areas were being created at the time, and goldfish were the perfect accessory for the ponds people had in their yards. The Goldfish Festival was an opportunity for people in the community to gather, playing goldfish-scooping games and dancing. When goldfish went out of fashion in the early 1900s, however, the festival petered out. After an absence of 90 years, the festival was revived in 2003, after which it has been held annually.

The shrine's website assured visitors that the tall trees would shield them from the rain, but no such luck. A surprising number of people showed up, but they were not without their rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas.

Goldfish scooping, as popular as ever. People seemed to be doing very well, despite the flimsiness of the scoopers.

The entertainment portion included performers, who were allotted about 10 minutes each. Here, a quartet of women in Hawaiian-ish dressing unveil their magic tricks.

The combination of magic tricks and Hawaiian costumes and old ladies and dancing at first glance seemed bewilderingly inappropriate for a shrine festival, but it's an attitude that strikes me as modern Japanese: context and references are only lightly dwelt on, and lack of self-scrutiny is the engine that allows people to do their thing.

May 22, 2010

Everyone Loves Little Dogs

Tokyo is too small for golden retrievers and labs. Instead, we're overrun with chihuahuas and dachshunds and other dogs that from afar more closely resemble large rats. But how they are loved. Above, two policemen spend about 5 minutes playing with the blue-jeaned man's little poodle, getting it to dance on two legs. (Alas, you can only see the dog's tail in the photo.) You know you're living in a safe country when policemen aren't even feeling like they have to be pretending to work.

If you have three tiny rat-dogs, that would add up to one cocker spaniel.

Blowing in the Wind

(In Waseda.)

The long branch extending towards the sky looks as thin and fragile as a giraffe's neck. A stiff breeze would snap it in two and send the leaves hurtling through the air. Fortunately, it looks as substantial as a pom-pom and would therefore be unlikely to cause any wreckage.

May 20, 2010

Establishing Shots from "The Humble Frog Escape"

Zoom in
A happy, tranquil frog on a smooth rock. Seemingly without a care.

Zoom out
The frog is actually entrapped inside a small plastic box, kept as a pet in a garden supply store. Not so happy after all.

May 18, 2010


On the Hibiya Line, a kid inadvertently demonstrating the perfect example of mixology: Power Rangers-ish T-shirt, printed cloth backpack, and cat-print shorts, all in orange/brown tones.

May 17, 2010

Not Quite

(In Edogawabashi)

By the time this statement has been made, the climber has fallen off the mountain.

May 16, 2010

We Can Sleep Anywhere

The kid's head looks oddly limp.

He's completely zonked out. This is a much more impressive feat than sleeping on the train.

May 15, 2010

Scenes from a Wedding

My oldest brother got married at the Ayana resort in Bali. The bride and groom stood on top of the plumeria to say their vows.

The professional photographers reminded me of paparazzi. The staff kindly offered to take photos with the guests' cameras, allowing them to fully engage in the festivities.

Plumerias are an inspired choice for a bouquet -- we don't have them in Japan.

The banquet was held outside, under the stars.

May 12, 2010

Faith and Sacrilege

These small baskets are actually offerings. An ubiquitous sight in Bali, they can be seen in front of stores, shrines, sidewalks, even on the shores of the beach. Part of a Hindu Balinese ritual, these offerings are made three times a day.

Filled with flowers and a bit of food, they unintentionally become bird feeders.

In the parking lot of the supermarket chain Hardy's. These offerings have been run over by a taxi.

And perhaps as the final indignity: in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, a monkey, after emptying the contents of the offering, goes so far as pulling apart the basket.

May 11, 2010

Is That Why Your Men Are So Fine?

Inside Hardy's, the oft-sighted Indonesian supermarket chain. The one I went to was cheap (compared to Japanese prices) and well-stocked, particularly in biscuits, condiments, and souvenir chocolates.

(An aside -- when my mother asked the hotel staff what made for a good souvenir, one answered with 100% sincerity, "Tim Tams". Indeed, boxes of the Australian biscuit were piled high on shelves in the supermarket. Their only concession to being a Balinese souvenir were the words, Bali, printed in large letters on the box.)

Anyway, this store also had an impressive array of nutritional supplements on display. With choices like "Gain Mass", "Lose Weight", and "Six Pack", idealism seems to be the key ingredient here.

May 10, 2010

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Part 2

Yams for monkeys, kept under lock and key. Visitors can buy bananas. Giving them your own food (candies and such) is frowned upon but that didn't seem to be stopping anyone.

Attempts to tame the monkeys are met with absolute dissent.

I held my hands out to a monkey to see if we could experience a hominid connection. The monkey got mad that my hands were empty and bit me.

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, Part 1

(In Ubud, Bali.)





May 9, 2010


For my birthday, I received a teleidoscope. Unlike a kaleidoscope, which which lets you view objects mirrored inside the instrument, a teleidoscope allows you to see objects outside it.

A teleidoscope image of my dad using his laptop.

May 8, 2010

Beach Bounty

Bali beaches need a serious cleanup. How hard can it be to hire a couple of people to pick up candy wrappers and tubs of face cream that are floating near the shore? Yet, in spite of the not-nearly-blue water and beach litter, there were still signs of pretty ocean life.

A coconut that had washed up on the beach, the outer skin soft and nearly waterlogged. I threw it repeatedly against some rocks, cracked it open, and filled half a pet bottle with coconut water. Alas, the hotel staff warned me against drinking it, and rightly so: one cautious sip and it was clear it had gone sour.

May 7, 2010

Born and Bred in Bali

Count the number of chickens hiding in plain sight. In Bali, chickens can be seen roaming in and around homes like cats in Japan.

Black and white chicken.

All the dogs I saw in Bali looked more or less like this dog: mangy, free of collar, energetic yet laid-back.

And then there were the occasional ducks roaming the streets.

May 5, 2010

Neverland Via Bali

The beach in Nusa Dua. A kite in the form of a ship was used to advertise water sports.

Four to a Scooter

In Bali, driving from Nusa Dua to Denpasar. The ratio of scooters to cars is much higher than in Japan. While that in itself isn't a surprise, my first time seeing the scooters and cars speeding down long, traffic light-sparse stretches of road and duking it out for driving space was a bit of a shock. The generally passive act of gazing out the window suddenly turned into a nerve-inducing experience.

At first I thought this woman was clutching a stuffed animal for comfort.

Turns out, it was her baby.