Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Japanese Cemetery

Photo 1: pails and ladles used for carrying water to clean memorial markers at cemeteries
Photos 2 and 3: the sotoba, or tablets of the dead, placed beside some Japanese gravestones
Photo 4: a memorial with recently placed flowers, candle, and incense sticks

The Japanese typically cremate their dead, and the ashes of the deceased are inurned at Buddhist temples, not Shinto shrines. The total cost of plot and marker can easily run to more than 1 million yen, or 10 thousand dollars. And if one wants to ensure that the deceased receive regular memorial services for up to 100 years from contemporary and future generations of monks and acolytes, better prepare to fork over an additional million yen- death is an expensive (and lucrative) business here in Japan. Fortunately there is this consolation: only one marker per patrilineal family branch is required; all immediate members of a given family are "interred" in the same memorial. The Japanese delight in summertime chill-inducing ghost stories, so I took the following photos (with my inexpensive Japanese digital point-and-shoot) at dusk.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Hokkaido Countryside

If you say to yourself as you look at these photos, "That doesn't look like Japan", you echo my own observations. As the shots of scenic as well as urban Hokkaido show, the prefecture is like no other in Japan. Hokkaido's uniqueness is one of the reasons I so like it. But Hokkaido, like the rest of the country, has its active volcanoes- one of them (with volcanic gas issuing from its flank), Showa Shin-zan, appears in the bottommost picture.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

More Otaru Photos

The photos show street views of my favorite city in Japan, Otaru, Hokkaido. I've been to Nara, Kyoto, Kamakura, and Hakodate, all of them better known than Otaru as cities of cultural and historical importance, but in my view none ranks with the latter in the picturesque, an aesthetic value in short supply in most of urban Japan.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Miscellaneous Photos: Otaru, Hokkaido

Otaru, Hokkaido, is the most architecturally interesting city I have visited in Japan, not excluding Kyoto. Otaru's Historic District is extensive and contains dozens of buildings, preserved by local ordinance, dating from 1900-1930. Though some are abandoned and in disrepair, many are home to thriving commercial establishments. Sapporo stone is usually used for the exterior of these structures, while wood is employed for the frame.