Friday, September 18, 2009

Visiting Lake Biwa(2)

When I woke up at 6:30, the sun was just rising.

After breakfast, I took a nap. I was not going to think about "the ladder" this day, but instead enjoy sight seeing. I had two aims for this sightseeing day. One of them was Chikubu-jima, which is located in the middle of Lake Biwa, and is called "Gods living island".

This is the ship that I boarded for Chikubujima from the hotel.

It took 20mins to get from the hotel to the island. When I saw the island, I felt that the forest was damaged so much. I discovered the reason why after landing the island (There is a guideboard which explains the damage of the trees). It is because of the river birds' (cormorants') excrement. The water quality of Lake Biwa has increased within the past 20 years, so the population of river birds has also increased. It makes damage to the trees worse. Though I know the reason of forest's damage, I still have a question. Why was there little damage in the past, despite the good water quality? If the forest had been damaged much like it is, the big trees seen in the above picture wouldn't exist.

Chikubu-jima island's circumference is only 2km (1.3miles). This island is surrounded by a steep cliff, so there is only one place which ships can reach. The location of the island is the deepest of Lake Biwa. This means that the island is a prominent cliff from the bottom of the lake. How was this cliff made?

This is a fountain, which was dug after an oracle was received by the shrine on a day of the 21st century.

climbing steep stone stairs...

It is Hogenji temple, which was established in the 8th Century. However, this building was reconstructed in 1942. This is a Buddhist temple.

and walking through a corridor...

reached Chikubushima shrine. It isn't a Buddhist temple, but another religion, It is a Shinto's shrine. In Japan, it is common for two different religions to co-exist in one location. This may be difficult to understand for those in monotheistic religious states.

This shrine has a unique praying system. A person writes his / her name and prayer on two little pottery dishes...

and throws them to the outside gate of shrine.

After 50mins had passed, I got in the ship to go back to the hotel. I dined at a all-you-can-eat buffet in the hotel, but I ate moderately. I had a second aim for this day, to eat a unique kind of Sushi, Funa-zushi, at another restaurant.

What is funa-zushi? It is a combination of rice and fermented Lake Biwa fish! Some people say that it smells awful but tastes terrific. Other people say that it isn't a food of human should eat. This town, Makino, has a famous funa-zushi restaurant, so I thought that it was a chance to challenge. The main restaurant course is expensive (lunch: from 8,000yen (80dollars, 60euros, 53 pounds)), therefore I went to a branch of the restaurant. The branch served Funa-zushi chazuke, which is Funa-zushi + green tea + rice for 1,200yen (12dollars, 9euros, 8pounds).

This is Funa-zushi chazuke. To tell the truth, it smells like rotten fish... But it is clearly different from the smell of fish bodies which I saw yesterday. I dared to put the fish up to my mouth... It tastes good because of its unique sour flavor and body, like cheese. I can't eat it everyday, but every once in a while, I can enjoy it. In addition, the combination of funa-zushi and chazuke (green tea + rice) is harmonious. It was a special dish.

A waitress asked me, "Are you OK? Some guests said that they can't eat..." I replied that it was very good, and the waitress breathed a sigh of relief.

Anyway, I admire the man who invented funa-zushi. (detail: for its unique preparation and taste.

With my satisfied mind, I got on a train. This time, it took 2 hours, to get back to my everyday life. I was headed down a turned-back road.

Next year, I will take a trip to Makino to check "How do I lean my ladder lean against the right wall?" and to feel the abundant nature. Maybe I will also eat funa-zushi. Though this trip was off the top of my head, I feel I will do it again. It was lucky, I think. In the rest of my life, how many places like Makino can I find? How many times can I visit such places? At the end of this trip, I thought about this.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Visiting Lake Biwa (1)

Stephen R. Covey wrote: "If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster." I think my own life has already started traveling down a turned-back road (I will be 39 years old soon), therefore I want to lean the ladder to lean against the right wall. How can I do so? My busy everyday life makes me think unclearly. Every half year, I think about "the right wall – my life's aims and directions" during a silent night. However, this summer, I thought it would be good idea to take a trip somewhere to think over "the right wall" But where? Then, my childhood memories came back to me; it was Makino, near the northern part of Lake Biwa*. My family and I enjoyed swimming and chasing fish and insects in it's abundant nature. Does that nature still exist?

*Lake Biwa: It's the largest lake in Japan; its size is the same as the island of Singapore, the circumference is about 241km (150 miles). It's the third oldest lake in the world (following Lake Baikal and the Caspian Sea), therefore it is a precious environment for many endemic species.

The day to take a trip will come soon.

The commuter train took me to Makino. It took 2 hours.

From such a familiar-looking urban view...

to this rural view. It feels like leaving the everyday world and entering another world.

It took more than one hour before I arrived at Makino station. Only three people got off the train. Heading to the hotel I reserved, I began to walk.

There was clear water, crowded water grass, and many fish, which are never seen in urban areas, in the stream. Also a black butterfly was flying near the stream. I was glad to see that the nature I had seen thirty years ago is alive.

After several minutes, I reached the hotel.

My room was located in front of a beach. For a time, I lied down on the bed and rested.

I drank water and took a small bag, then began to walk along the Lake Biwa beach, remembering childhood memories and thinking about how to lean the ladder to lean against the right wall

At the beach in front of the hotel... I thought, something smells, like rotten fish. What happened? I moved my viewpoint from the beach road to the water's edge. There were many fish bodies in a long line.

I was scared spitless. Was this the nature I saw a little while ago? Awful. But I also saw many fish swimming in the lake. Why?

I asked a man who cut down beach grass, "Why were so many fish dead?" He replied, "They are ayu (sweetfish). In this season, all ayu produce eggs and die. Ayu's life span is only one year."

That means the fish bodies are a seasonal event. I breathed a sigh of relief, but was still surprised. When I was about to think about how to live for rest of my life, I encountered the end of many lives.

Changing my mind, I walked with my iPhone shuffling my music library, wishing my iPhone select calm tunes.

(This island is Chikubu-jima, where "Gods live")

The first song which my iPhone selected was The Beach Boys / God Only Knows. I got a jolt from this good selection by co-incidence. After that, my iPhone continued to select such calm and deep songs: Oasis / Stop Crying Your Heart Out, Kirsty MacColl / Perfect Day, Paul McCartney / Somedays. Wonder of wonders, no noisy tune was played.

Ten minutes passed, I went by a group of high school students playing in canoes. I bet they never think back on the roads of their lives.

It took about one hour to reach these blocks. They were constructed in 1703 by an official who could stand no longer this area's water damages. He left a thing which is still alive through 300 years. It reminded me of Akira Kurosawa's film "Ikiru" ( "To Live")

A turned-back road. No sooner than I begun to go back to the hotel, my iPhone played Guns'n Roses. I thought it was my iPhone's magic end and selected J.S. Bach / French Suite by myself.

Those high school students, whom I saw outward were about to go back to school. They never realized, however, that they surely approached the turning point of their lives. At that time, I had passed my turning point and was walking down a road already traveled.

After arriving at the hotel, I took a nap, bath and had good dinner. With my satisfied mind, I relaxed and thought about "Do I make my ladder lean against the right wall?" "How do I find the right wall?" As a result, my mind is filled with thanks to my family, friends, co-workers, and customers.

I went to bed, although I didn't wanted to sleep, because I was full of thankful memories.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Using My iPhone for three months

Using my iPhone 3GS for three months, this gadget has changed my everyday life. What has it changed?

I have become able to read most of the information on the Internet during commuting, which includes e-mail, Twitter(including writing for it), blogs (by RSS Reader) , social bookmarks and SNS. Because I follow not so many blogs and Twitter users, I can read their full content within my 50 minute train commute (going and coming total).

This change also effects how I use my free time in my house – Reducing my PC time increases my family time. Truly, my iPhone has changed my everyday life.

What is the bad effect of my iPhone? It is difficult to find, but I manage to... It is decreasing my time to read books. However, I can find a good result in that. Prevuously, I continued to read a book outdoors even if it was is not very interesting, but now, if I find a book I take outdoors not so interesting, I switch it to iPhone contents. So I have become to be able to spend my time reading only interesting books.

My home screen now: (Maybe it will change in the near future. It is one of attractive points of iPhone – the evolving gadget.)

The first line: Picture viewer (flower icon) is very often-used. It contains pictures of the past 12 years, so I appreciate them and show them to friends.
The second line: Dictionaries. Consulting dictionaries is my custom. Therefore I thank my iPhone. Anytime, anywhere I can seek my needed information.
The third line: The others. SkyBook is a viewer for Japanese public domain novels on the Internet. After checking Internet contents, if I don't have any interesting books, I read classical novels by SkyBook.
The forth line and the Dock (the fifth line): Viewers for Internet contents and iPod.. I think that Echofon (formerly Twitterfon) is the best free application of many Twitter clients for easy-to-understand interface and stabilization.

peripheral goods:

Using my iPhone 3GS for three months, this gadget has changed my everyday life. What has it changed?
PDAIR leather case: This good has a belt-clip. It is useful for me especially in summer; I wear only shirts, not jackets for business in summer. Shirts have breast pockets but they leave the possibility of dropping my iPhone. This case is safe for carrying the iPhone and it is easy to pick up.

Anti-glare film: I never mind some scratches on the iPhone body, but I do on the screen. In addition, I don't like glare and fingerprints on the screen. This film guards my iPhone from those problems.

Noise-cancelling earphone: audio-technica ATH-ANC3 BK I selected this earphone for two reasons. The first; it features a small canal, so it is able to store and carry easily. The second: users reviews of Amazon Japan and so on. This earphone works effectively when I'm on a train. It decreases outside noise, so I don't have to turn up the iPhone volume. I know iPhone's original earphone is useful (equipped with remote controller. This noise cancelling earphone doesn't.). However, I think the health of my ears is more important than an easy-to-control iPhone.

What are iPhone's attractive points? Usefulness? Cool user-interface? Yes, I think so. In addition, in my opinion, the most favorable point of iPhone is possibility to customize one's iPhone like I have above. Also for other most hobbies, customizing has been intriguing and exciting. For example, cars, cooking, and PC. In particular, iPhone is the gadget you carry anytime, anywhere, therefore you can get a bigger reward from customizing iPhone than the others. Moreover, abundant applications and peripheral gears accelerate your customizing mind. iPhone is the gadget which teases us in a joyful way.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Top tunes on my iPod in August, 2009

1. Paul McCartney / Summertime
2. Vanessa Paradis / As Tears Go By
3. Keisuke Kuwata / MERRY X'MAS IN SUMMER
4. Ryuichi Sakamoto / Lost Theme
5. Ryuichi Sakamoto / Yamasaki 2002
6. The Beach Boys / Kokomo (from "Cocktail" Soundtrack)
7. Ryuichi Sakamoto / to stanford
8. Ryuichi Sakamoto / Bring them home
9. Southern All Stars / Taiyo wa tsuminayatu
12. Ryuichi Sakamoto / ice
13. Bach, J.S. / Inventions No.14(Takahiro Sonoda)
14. Flipper's Guitar / Wild Summer
15. Ryuichi Sakamoto / aqua
16. Bach, C.P.E. / Wurttem Sonata No.1-3(Glenn Gould)
17. The Beach Boys / Sloop John B (Stereo Mix)
18. Flipper's Guitar / Southbound Excurtion
19. The Script / Before The Worst
20. The Script / Talk You Down
21. Ryuichi Sakamoto / glacier

Most of these tunes except Ryuichi Sakamoto are the results of my playlist I made for this summer.

I listened to No.1 again and again, because this cover version reflects this laziness of summer well. Many people may recommend Janis Joplin's cover version of "Summertime" and I admit it is good, however, I feel Janis' fire-like version surpasses "laziness" – I can't remeber that this song's original is a lullaby when I listen to Janis' version – So I didn't select Janis'.

Napping is my favorite. In particular, in summer. Summer napping which gets rid of my tiredness with sweat is a pleasure of life, I think. However, I had always felt loneliness after waking up after napping before I married. It is a feeling of deep isolation like being alone in the world, though the sun was high and shining and neighboring kids were laughing outside. No.2 reminds me of those feelings of isolation nowadays. I usually never feel such isolation since being married. I am reminded of this not by the original version, but by Vanessa's version. Her singing recalls the loneliness of summer afternoons. So this song is a summer song for me.

The Beach Boys made many summer songs, but No.17 is included in an album which is one of their "most unlike summer" albums, "Pet Sounds". I don't understand why I selected this tune for my summer playlist. Maybe because the song's promotion film described that the members played in the pool.

I'll be fond of making a new summer playlist for next summer.