2008 September 1 Monday thru September 7 Sunday.

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Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were the days of the Okagura Festival お神楽まつり here in the Kagura District of Asahikawa.   

It is held every year on September 1, 2 and 3.   

Unfortunately, this year it rained on September 1 and 3.   Rained Big Time.  

September 2 was a beautiful sunny day, and I was able to video tape the children of Kagura Elementary School as they carried the Omikoshi 御神輿 (portable shrine) along the main streets of the Kagura District.   

I will be putting that video on my PrivateHokkaido channel at YOUTUBE in the near future.   

Tuesday was also a big day for HOMAC, as they held a big Sports Festival 運動会 at the Taisetsu Arena.   

All of the HOMAC stores in the DoHoku Area 道北 were closed on that day, so that everyone could participate in the event.   

After the big sports day event, everyone went to TsuboHachi 居酒屋つぼ八 for dinner and drinks.   

After that, many of them went to a place in Kamui called HiBana 火花 which is another Izakaya type of restaurant.   

Ikuko has a part time job at HOMAC, so that is the only reason I know anything about this.   

I myself did not participate in any of these activities, until about 11:00 p.m. of September 2.   

I was alone at home, drinking some TAKA  貴 brand NihonShu 日本酒 and playing the bass guitar, when suddenly I heard Ikuko's voice calling me from the entrance of our classroom.   

At first, I thought I was hearing things 空耳 but in fact it was Ikuko's voice.

When I put down my bass guitar and walked over to the entrance to take a look, Ikuko was standing there in tears, with two of her coworkers from HOMAC standing at the open door.   

My first question was;  "What Happened?"   

The answer was that Ikuko had fallen down and injured her shoulder.   

I could see from a close examination that she may have dislocated her shoulder, so I called her mother and auntie and told them what happened.   

After they came to my classroom to see Ikuko for themselves, we decided to call an ambulance and have Ikuko taken to the Red Cross Hospital.   

At the hospital, the doctor confirmed the fact that Ikuko had indeed dislocated her shoulder.   

After he popped her shoulder back into its proper place, and put on a big Velcro bandage, we left the hospital and went back home.   

Good Gawd!   I never knew that eating and drinking at a Pub Restaurant 居酒屋 could be so dangerous.   

This particular Izakaya has rooms where they have tables in the style of HoriKotatsu 堀コタツ.   

A KOTATSU 炬燵 is table with very short legs.   

The ones that most people might have in their homes also have an electric heater attached to the bottom of the table board, and also a thick curtain hanging from the outer edges of the table and down to the floor.   

These traditional Japanese style low tables are meant to be used while sitting on the floor.   

In some modern Pub Restaurants, the seating arrangements have been modified so that a hole has been dug from the floor level down to about one half of a meter in depth, so that the customers can sit on the floor at the KoTatsu and let their feet hang down into the hole.   

This design makes it feel more like sitting on a bench that sitting on the floor.   

It is much more comfortable for people who may have sore legs.   

Anyway, to make a long story shorter, Ikuko was walking between these tables on her way towards the toilet, when she somehow managed to step into the hole with her right foot, and fall to the floor hitting her left shoulder hard.

I myself have sat at such tables at Pub Restaurants many times before, and I could not visualize how someone could so easily injure themselves in this way.   

Ikuko's repeated explanation of her accident caused me to become even more bewildered about the whole affair. 

So, on Sunday September 7, I drove her down to the very same restaurant at about 16:50, just before opening time, to have a look at the accident scene for myself. 

We talked to the manager and I looked at the big room where it all happened, and I could see no negligence on the part of the Pub Restaurant for faulty equipment, or dangerous surroundings, so I apologized to the staff for barging in on them before opening time, and distracting them from their preparation work.

Conclusion?   Ikuko herself, had been careless in not watching where she was walking and had caused the accident to herself, by herself.   

WATCH YOUR STEP is common sense, in the world of the living.   

XIT happens.    Accidents do too.   

That is why, they are called ACCIDENTS. 

Words have specific meanings.   

Pay closer attention to the world around you and watch your steps carefully.   

Your damn lucky you didn't hit your head on the ground first.   

You could have been in one helluva worse condition than you are right now.   

Count your blessings and throw away the BLAME GAME.   

You did this one, to yourself.   WATCH YOUR STEP.

The photo in today's blog was taken on July 2, 2006.   

It was taken at ShoSanBetsu 初山別村 along the Sea of Japan. 

I even took a dip in the shining sea that day, before I took this photo.   

This photo was copied and pasted here without any changes whatsoever.   

It was taken by my 3.0 Megapixal Digital Camera on that very lovely day.   

I took a very large number of photos on that day,  but this one was THE BEST of the lot. You can even see RiShiri Island 利尻島 in the background, thru the gates of the ToriI 鳥居.   

Also known as RiShiri FuJi.     A photo says it all.      

Hokkaido = BEAUTY.      

Come and see it for yourself, sometime.

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2008 August 1 Friday thru August 17 Sunday.

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My long 3 week summer vacation is finished today.   

Usually during this time of year, I go for long drives and camping here and there around this beautiful island.   

This year, I stayed at home.   

The main reason being, I had rediscovered my Digital Video Movie Camera, after having not  used it for about 3 years.   

I have about 8 Mini DV cassette tapes that I had filmed in locations like Otaru and Niseko, but had never transferred them onto a computer hard disk.   

So I did that.  Also, I was encouraged by the good results I had gotten from filming at the Hokkaido Newspaper's annual Big Fireworks Display on July 31, and I planned to do an even better job of filming at the Hanabi in Kagura held every year on August 14.   

I went to the festival grounds about one hour early, and filmed the trees illumination and the live music show on stage before the start of the fireworks.   

I was able to get a place right in front of the stage with an excellent camera angle for the upcoming launch of the fireworks.   

I had my tripod down low and was sitting down during the entire display.   

This time, I was careful not to make the mistakes I had made on July 31 while I was filming.   

I used up the entire 60 minute tape and felt really good about my filming session.   

Felt really good until I got home and attempted to download it all onto my computer hard disk.   

That's when I discovered the awful truth.   

The camera hadn't recorded anything at all!!!!   

WHAT IN THE WORLD????   

I got out the owner's manual and looked through the back pages.   

I soon discovered what the problem was.   

The recording and playback heads of my camera were DIRTY!   

The manual also said that a message will appear on the camera screen telling me when it is time to clean the camera heads. 

No such message ever appeared.    

I went from feeling really good, to feeling really bad in the space of just a few seconds.   

What a fool I had been.   

I never thought that the camera heads were dirty, because I haven't used the camera all that much.   

I was wrong.   The next day, I went to a big electronics store not too far from my house, to buy a camera head cleaning cassette, and 3 new recording tapes as well.   

When I tried to clean the camera heads with the cleaning tape, I discovered that I had to do it three times in order to get them really clean.   

Then I discovered that the recording cassette tape which I had used to "record" the Hanabi in Kagura, was worn out and would not record anymore.   

I will not make this same mistake ever again.   

Next year for the Hanabi in Kagura I will use a brand new tape to record the marvelous show.   

In my opinion, this year's 20th anniversary of Hanabi in Kagura was the best ever.   

They even had the fireworks synchronized with the loud music that they were playing during the entire event.   

I really missed a grand opportunity to make an excellent DVD this year.   

I'll get it right next year.    On Saturday, Ikuko and I went to visit the family gravesite in Kannon Dai, on the top of the hill near the former Inosawa Ski Ground.   

The weather was very nice as you can see from the photo above/left.  Tomorrow, it is BACK TO SCHOOL.   

See you all again at that time. 

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2008 July 30 Wednesday and July 31 Thursday.

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On July 31, the Hokkaido Newspaper held their annual Big Fireworks Display 花火大会 along the banks of the Ishikari River 石狩川 just below Tokiwa Park.   

Charles Hamel and his oldest son came over to my place at about 18:40, and soon thereafter walked with Ikuko and I over to the same location that we went to on July 25 when we watched the Yomiuri Newspaper's Fireworks together.   

This time, instead of my snapshot camera, I brought my digital video camera.   

It has been a long time since I have used this rather expensive but very good DV movie camera, so I had to sit down and read the instruction book again.   

I bought a new tripod because my very old one broke during the photo session on July 25.   

The four of us arrived at the river bank about 10 minutes before the start of the show.   

When the final salvo of fireworks was finished at about 19:50, we all walked into the downtown area where the 3・6 Downtown Merchant's Festival was in full swing.   

As usual, there was a lot of interesting and amusing things to see there.   

When I got home, I downloaded my fireworks video onto a special computer hard disk, and began the editing process.   

I was able to come up with the best 18 minutes of the fireworks display and put it onto a customized DVD.   

The quality of the video is very good on the DVD.   

I will send a copy of the DVD to my sister who lives in Seattle Washington.   

For most of the rest of you, I have begun uploading the movie to my YOU TUBE account which is called PrivateHokkaido.   

You can see the videos from that server, by clicking here.   

The image quality of the DVD is much much better than what you can see on YouTube, but you can still get a good feeling for the excellent timing and combinations that the fireworks professionals put together, for the dazzling light show.   

ENJOY!!!

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2008 July 25 Friday thru July 28 Monday.

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Summer vacation starts off with a bang.   

At about 18:40, Charles Hamel and family drove all the way from Shibinai to the Asahikawa Michi no Eki, which is right next door to my classroom.   

At about 19:00 Charlie and I walked on over to the river line below Tokiwa Park, and set up our cameras and tripods just below ShinBashi bridge.   

The women and the kids, took the bus and arrived a bit later.   

I was surprised to see that the place was not all that crowded.   

In fact, it looked about half empty.  I was drinking a bottle of Otokoyama Sasa Ori as I always do at this event, but I didn't share any with Charles.   

Sorry Charlie, you have to drive back to Shibinai when this is all over, but I can walk home.   

By the way,  Charlie got some really good photos of the event, which you too can see by clicking here.   

Three full weeks of no classes to teach for me, so I will be able to get out and about, or just stay at home and do some cleaning up, and bass guitar practice. 

The more I play the bass guitar, the more I like it.   

Oh No!!!   Another obsession!   

Time to get out the alto recorder again too.

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2008 July 22 Tuesday thru July 24 Thursday.

2008jul24bieifirefestival

Just one more day of classes until the start of my summer vacation.   

On Thursday July 24, Ikuko and I went to the annual Biei Fire Festival 美瑛火まつり for the first time.   

Every year on July 24, they hold this powerful event.   

Why has it taken me so long to get there and see it for the first time?   

Lack of planning.    For years, I have been driving thru Biei on my way to the Mt. Tokachi Observation Area 十勝岳 望岳台 and FukiAge Outdoor Spa 吹上温泉露天の湯, and I have seen the posters for this event many times.  Finally this year, I made the smart decision to go and see it.   

It was awesome.    The contrast between WATER and FIRE has never been more obvious.   

Charles Hamel and family were at the event as well, and Charlie has a new digital camera, Canon EOS Kiss F 10.1 Megapixel DSLR which takes awesome photos!   

CLICK HERE to see one of his best.   

A photo good enough to be published in National Geographic Magazine.   

I also took a lot of photos on that night, with the very first digital camera I ever bought. 

The CASIO QV-3000EX.   This camera has the largest diameter glass lens, of all my digi cams.   

Perfect for night time photos.   

With a digital camera it is cheap and easy to take a massive amount of photos.   

Among those many photos, there are always some really good ones.   

Once and a while, a really great photo.   

You can see a slideshow of the best photos I took at this event by clicking here.   

The origin of this festival in Biei, has a lot to do with the repeated eruptions of Mt. Tokachi in the years;  1857, 1887, 1926, 1962 and most recently in 1988.   

That is very active volcano, if ever there was one.   

As you can well imagine, having a volcano blew it's top in a place that is close to where you live, is a big disaster for human beings.   

The main purpose of this festival which began exactly 20 years ago in 1988, is to beg the mountain to remain quiet, and not blow up again.    

It seems to have worked so far.  I think that I will make this one of my yearly traditions, and go every year from now on.   

After all, I have had the experience of driving from Seattle Washington to Spokane Washington on May 18, 1980 when Mount St. Helens blew up.   

It was a scary experience that I will never forget.   

There is nothing humans can physically do to prevent a volcanic eruption. 

Spiritually, we may have a chance, if we show our respect for the power of MOTHER EARTH.   

That is the real reason why this festival is so important.

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2008 June 2 Monday thru June 4 Wednesday.

2008jun04gokokujinjasai3

This week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday is the 護国神社祭 here in Asahikawa.   

The GoKokuJinJaSai is held every year at this time, and for the purpose of remembering all of the Japanese soldiers and civilians who have died in times of war.   

Every year during this event, there is a rainstorm usually together with thunder and lightning.   

This is known as "The Rain of Tears" 涙雨 and is said to represent the tears of sorrow caused by the suffering of war.   

The main locations for the festival activities is the GoKoku Shrine itself which is located in 春光 right next door to the JSDF base.   

Also, there is a three day carnival in Tokiwa Park that looks something like the photo above/left.   

Wednesday morning I had no classes, so I was out driving around enjoying the sunny morning.   

I drove past the GoKoku Shrine and all around the perimeter of the JSDF base several times.   

Today was a special day on the base, and all of the troops were in full battle gear, driving tanks and every other vehicle they own, including small boats and helicopters.   

Of course, they were displaying the unit colors and other battle flags as well.   

I stopped along the public street just outside of the fence and watched for about 5 minutes.   

It was pretty cool.   

In fact, on Sunday June 8, the JSDF base in ShunKo will have an OPEN TO THE PUBLIC day between the hours of 09:00 and 15:00.   

I already have two events that I will attend on Sunday, but hopefully I will also be able to make it out to the base again before 15:00.   

I'd like to take a closer look at those helicopters that fly over my neighborhood several times a day, every single day.   

After watching the troops on parade, I drove over to Tokiwa Park to watch the carnies set up their stalls.   

They were just getting started when I got there at about 10:40.   

The library doesn't open until 11:00, so I had a lot of time to just wander around the park, and observe their work in progress.   

Tokiwa Park, by the way, is recognized as one of the 100 most beautiful parks in all of Japan.   

There is even a small stone and bronze plaque at the entrance of the park that says so.   

It truly is a wonderful park, both during the day and also at night.   

From 15:00 until 20:00 I had straight classes at my classroom, but right after that, I took a taxi to Tokiwa Park and wandered around among the huge crowd for about 2 and one half hours, sipping on a big bottle of 男山笹おり, as I always do, and taking many photos.   

During my time there this evening, many young people, mostly college students, called out to me and I talked with them for a few minutes each time.   

I even ran into a group of four girls who go the the Kosei Nursing School, and they all gave me a big hug.   

Confirming once again, that the best things in life are,.........   

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2007 December 3 Monday.

It's time to sing some Xmas Songs.   

I think I'll bring my guitar along. 

This morning at Chestnut Tree Kindergarten くりの木幼稚園, I sang 5 Xmas songs, SLOWLY, in English in front of all 220 some children.   

They already knew two of them, but they sing them in Japanese. 

So, we had a bilingual sing along.   

Last night, I spent some 3 or 4 hours making the 6 laminated flash cards that you can see in the photo above/left.   

When I did this same gig last year, I though to myself, that it would be nice to have a big colorful picture that I could use to explain the song before I start singing it.   

Suddenly, last night I remembered that tomorrow is that gig again!!!   

RUSH JOB.   But, I got it done, and it worked well today. 

Each flash card represents one song.   

Starting in the upper left corner is the one for Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer.   

Below that is the one for Santa Clause Is Coming To Town. 

Top center, Jingle Bells. 

Below that, Frosty The Snow Man. 

Upper right corner, Winter Wonderland which I did not sing today, and lower right corner, you guessed it,.....Silent Night.   

I'll be doing this again at the Young Buds Kindergarten, next Monday morning.   

I also wrote a short essay entitled;  The Century of Self * Edward Bernays and the Art of Public Relations.   

You can read it too by clicking here.   

If you have time, you can also watch a very interesting BBC documentary about it on You Tube by clicking here.    

Things aren't always what they seem to be.      

Thoughts are things.    

Action ALWAYS follows Thought.    

The Thought always comes First.    

The action always follows the thought.   

Think about it.

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2007 October 31 Wednesday.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!   

What does it all mean???   

Are you talking about NOW, or about the ORIGINS of this cultural icon.   

It was a perfect night for walking around in the neighborhood, and NOT ringing anybody's  doorbell.   

I finished my last lesson at 19:00 today, so I took advantage of the extra free time to take a not so long walk in the coolld evening air.   

I was imagining myself as a twelve year old me, the one that I remember, and went to the 100 Yen Shop, Rabbit, and onto the river line cycling roads.   

My intentions were strong, but my bare feet and toes in sandals, were getting too cold to bare any longer, so I took a shortcut through Crystal Park, and came back home by about 20:00.   Everybody else were wearing socks and shoes.   

They have more common sense than I.   But I am WILDer.   

Not Oscar, but Norman.   

I write for fun.   I write as a hobby.   

If you don't like the stuff I write, CLICK ON THE RED square with the white X.   

That is your eXit window.    

Either way, HAPPY HALLOWEEN to each and all of us who are aware of this event.   

It only happens once a year so, remember it and recollect upon it, as each and every cycle of the sun goes around and around.   

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2007 September 1 Saturday.

What a noisy day it was today! 

As I have mentioned from time to time during the past two months, this building is getting a complete face lift, on its outside walls.   

All of them. 

Today again, it was my turn. 

What they are doing now, is using mini jack hammers, to remove some of the small bricks that are glued to the outside of the concrete walls. 

About a month ago, a man was walking around on my balcony, tapping on all of the bricks with a metal rod, to see which ones had come loose during the almost 20 years, since this building was built. 

If he found a loose brick, he would put a piece of green vinyl tape on it.   

These are the bricks, which the jack hammers have been removing for the past 3 days. 

Today, was the heaviest of operations on my walls.      

Which is good, because I don't have any classes here today.   

I spent most of my day reading the book, which I talked about in yesterday's blog.   

Not only is this book interesting from the standpoint of its information on Hokkaido, it is also a BLAST FROM THE PAST 懐かしい思いをすること,  reminding me in extremely vivid detail, about how I used to study the Japanese Language every day, while I was living in the USA, and while I was, waiting and praying for a job opportunity in Japan, to come my way. 

Before I began to study the Japanese Language in 1976, the only things I was interested in, were playing my guitars, and running around with pretty girls.   

I lived in a very small world at that time. 

Nowadays, I can speak, read and write Japanese sooooooooo much better than I could up until about 17 years ago, but I still need to use a dictionary from time to time, to understand the true meaning of, fuzzy vocabulary. 

Especially since yesterday, when I bought my new study book.      

Anyway, the intense noise of the jack hammers, just a few meters away from my ear drums,  continued from 8:00 until 11:40, and then again from 13:10 until about 17:30. 

Geeeez Louise!   

I hope they have finished that part of their job, on my part of this building.   

I have NO COMPLAINTS about it.   

In fact, I was thinking about calling it;   The Jack Hammer Symphony in F Sharp Minor.   

Who knows?   

Maybe we have a HIT here.    

Finally, at about 19:30, I walked on over to the Chubetsu Park 忠別公園, to see what was happening at the annual O Kagura Matsuri  お神楽祭り, which is held every year on September 1, 2 and 3.   

The photo which you can see above/left, is the only decent photo out of the total of 21 snapshots that I took today.   

That is why, I always take a lot of photos.   

Only about 10% OR LESS of them will be any good.   

Today, the VIBES were at ONLY 5%.   

Good enough.    I got ONE good photo.   

Tomorrow will be yet,  another day, but at that time also,  it too will BE TODAY. 

It is always NOW.   

Anyway you slice IT. 

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2007 August 14 Tuesday.

BIG EVENT today again, in the Kagura District of Asahikawa. 

The annual 花火 in Kagura, which always happens on August 14, regardless of the day of the week. 

Today was no exception.   

Thousands and thousands of people from all over the city and the KamiKawa Basin towns and villages, gathered here, right next door to my classroom, to see a fantastic, and no holds barred, giant fireworks display.   

My wife's family, most of whom live here in Asahikawa, all gathered together at the Soba Restaurant ChoGoRou そば処 長五郎. 

Which is located directly below my classroom.   

Then, we took our folding canvas chairs and walked on over to the river bank, to stake out a land claim, and sit down, awaiting the start of the show.   

During the walking process to our final sitting destination, Ikuko's mother got separated from the group, and Ikuko and I, both went out to look for her.   

I almost bumped into her, on the riverside plaza of the snack and drink bars, along the way.   

I gently guided her back to the location where everybody else was sitting.   Then, I hit the trail one more time, to look for Ikuko.   

I couldn't find her, but I did buy a cocktail or two along the way.   

I got back to Base 147, just as the BIG BANG was about to take place.   What an EXCELLENT show it was, and is, each and every year.   

No expense spared, and nobody disappointed.   

Another, in a long series of "WIN/WIN SITUATIONS"   An annual event that I look forward to, with much anticipation. 

Each and every year.      

I hope you do too. 

It looks better from the standpoint of BOOTS ON THE GROUND.   

Love it, OR, Leave it.     Your choice.   

Always has been.   Always will be.

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