Nagasaki – reborn

In going through the few photos I have of Nagasaki, the other major bunch are of the hypocenter or peace park. That post will be a long one on history, with a lot of the photos from the park and my thoughts on the museum. However, today is just one shot. I came across this photo and I was shocked I had it. This is at the hypocenter. I had to go back and look it up, I was in Nagasaki in April of 2004. So this is Nagasaki in the Spring, 59 years after a nuclear weapon exploded right above this location. I’ll leave any conclusions and thoughts to you.

Osaka – Shitennō-ji

I just didn’t take as many photos back then, I guess. Go to a temple, take only two shots? I’ve talked about how this can be a good thing. But when I don’t remember all that much about the visit, I guess it can also be a bad thing.

About an hour’s walk from Sumiyoshi-taisha is Shitennō-ji, another very old temple with a long history. It’s beyond my memory, but this is an excellent summary.

Shitennō-ji is said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan but sadly all the buildings date from a 1960’s rebuild. Still worth a short visit.

a different flavor of coup

I feel quite comfortable in saying that if you’re a country’s leader, but guilty of genocide, that it’s not actually a coup if you get yourself overthrown. Aung San Suu Kyi rightly lost her darling status years ago. So she doesn’t merit the coup term if a bunch of folks put her back into house arrest with a bunch of tanks in the driveway. Her own people have suffered much worse, by the millions.

Plus, Burma isn’t a real democracy. Sure, there are now two full sets of elections in the past, but the Army never really gave up full power. The Army always maintained the interior and exterior security ministries, and rigged the game so the legislature was always at least minority controlled by them. So is a really a coup when the Army never actually gave up power? I suppose so, I guess, if you go by the dictionary.

But it doesn’t mean we have to care. Or do anything about it. Swapping Suu Kyi with an Army goon general is just swapping one form of evil from another. They deserve each other. Burma’s people don’t.

Osaka – Sumiyoshi Taisha

If you’re in Osaka, you kind of just have to. Osaka’s most famous shrine, seat of all Japan’s Sumiyoshi shrines, and the subject of many legends, Sumiyoshi Taisha is said to have been originally built in 211. Founded by Empress Jingu it’s a shrine to the sea, dedicated to the Sumiyoshi Sanjin or the sea’s three gods. Back then, the shrine was right against the sea itself whereas today it’s somewhat inland.

The appropriately, galactically famous Sorihashi Bridge, one of the most beautiful and quintessential of Japan’s taiko bashi or drum bridges. This is one of my most favorite shots of all time, it was done with my old bad camera, and has its flaws but I still dig it.

The shrine’s west entrance, looking from west to east, with the gate up front, and the bridge in the background.

One of the rarest things I ever saw in Japan, a legit memorial for World War II. The shrine being dedicated to the sea, this of course makes sense. This was tucked away in a corner area and I kind of stumbled into it. I sadly don’t read Japanese in any form anymore, but this is a heavy cruiser. I don’t know the ship name or class, but the painting is an older version of the ship, I think, since the heavy cruiser has only two forward turrets instead of the later installed three.

The secondary temple.

If I’ve got my bearings right, this is the north side of the trio of the three main sanctuary structures. I always love the candid shots I get of just ordinary people happening along their daily lives, unaware or uncaring that this weird dude is taking very serious (bad amateur) photography.

Ōsaka-jō – and why building expensive castles usually doesn’t work

So you want to build a castle. You’re a powerful man but you have a boss. And his castle is awesome. So you want to build one that’s even better than his. So your tower is taller, you throw some gold leaf on there, and you probably think you’ve done an awesome thing.

Problem is, your boss dies, and you’re left hanging with this big, huge, expensive castle while your enemy instead has a massive killing machine of a mobile field army. Oh, and sorry, fixed defenses are generally of only limited value during a long running military conflict. Just ask China how well the Great Wall was at keeping out those dastardly Mongols.

Ōsaka-jō was built from 1583-1597 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi who wanted to mirror the digs of his boss (at the time, everybody’s boss) in Oda Nobunaga. But then Oda died. And soon the son in Toyotomi Hideyori gets Ōsaka-jō.

Then one day in 1600 this ordinary, average, nondescript guy named Tokugawa Ieyasu wins arguably one of the devastating and decisive battles in military history at Sekigahara. Toyotomi loses badly, but it takes Tokugawa until 1615 to acquire enough balance of power to finally settle the score. Tokugawa’s army of several hundred thousand men overpowers Ōsaka-jō, burns it to the ground, Toyotomi dies by his own hand, and Japan’s history is essentially written for the next two hundred years.

Tokugawa rebuilds the castle, because of course. In the subsequent centuries it does what a lot of wooden buildings do throughout history, it burns repeatedly. Gets rebuilt. Then burns again. Then the castle is rebuilt with public contributions. Then during the Boshin War it’s taken and burned again. Then it’s rebuilt, but this time as an arsenal. And so the the Americans carpet bomb the place into oblivion in August 1945.

Only in the late 1990’s is the castle itself restored. But in typical Japanese fashion, it’s done in concrete and not wood. Every time, it still gives me a lack of understanding chuckle at the lack of authenticity and reverence the Japanese have for historical sites and buildings. Nothing quite like the calm, religious experience of a glorious temple, when you can buy hello kitty right inside the door from one of my merchant stalls.

This was a neat visit, it’s cool to look at and the ground themselves are beautiful more as a garden or a park. The tower is interesting, but it feels stale and not real. Probably because it’s concrete and not real. It’s not one of my favorite Japan locations, by far, but it’s worth a short trip if you’re in town.

And also, if you have a Bond style villain demi-god level of power in your future somewhere, don’t build a castle or a god-like evil lair. Building expensive castles usually doesn’t work, see Ōsaka-jō. Or Bond will blow up your lair. Focus on mobile field armies or goons instead.

Hong Kong’s fragile democracy was daggered today

If you want to get a good idea of just how viciously evil Chairman Xi is (and with what callousness he views hundreds-of-thousands of virus deaths) you need look no further than what’s been done to Hong Kong these last few months.

To Xi and the Communist Party a global catastrophe they caused is the chance to crush any remaining freedoms in Hong Kong for good.  Effective today Beijing basically just said they can rule by decree and override Hong Kong’s neutered legislature.

That’s it folks, there’s nothing left.  The executive, the business community, and certainly the police are already apparatchiks, without elected legislators who matter it’s over.  There’s nothing stopping Beijing from criminalizing anything that displeases them.

Kindly observe how the planet does not care.  America is lead by a guy who clearly doesn’t believe in universal human rights.  Britain only wants a trade deal from China.  The EU is so dysfunctional it couldn’t change the battery on a wall clock.

A lot of folks have made the case since 1989 that China was somehow a safer global power than the Soviet Union ever was because China wasn’t actively trying to export their system of governance to the world.  I disagreed then, I disagree now.

Xi and the Communist Party have a very clear idea of how they believe the entire human race should live.  Anybody who thinks they’re going to stop at Hong Kong is a fool.  If I was Taiwanese, I’d be terrified.

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Circa 2022, they’ll do the same thing to this guy, only at 1am and inside his home

ordinary average gentlemen descends from Honey Tower to greet infected filthy masses

When he’s not writing more esoteric, baffling Xi Thought, or establishing a mini-apartheid state, or eating barrels full of honey straight from the hive, Chairman Xi must have a busy life. So it’s pretty cool of him to descend from his famous and luscious Honey Tower to confer with a few people from the degenerate masses [who were prescreened for both disease and political affiliation and had their families held hostage at knifepoint until the cameras left].

Hey, it’s already been over a month since people started dying, but in all honesty you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near these people either. Viruses are bad things, and dictators need to avoid bad things, in order to do bad things to other people. Like locking up doctors who try to stop a bad virus from happening, that’s a bad thing.

But Xi has adopted Putin’s tactic of being a Tsar/Chairman. The sins of the Empire are the fault of local officials, only. If only Xi knew what was going on, surely HE would have put a stop to it. Only through HIS benevolence is government waste and corruption even held in check. Hell, without Xi, coronavirus would be in your kitchen right now, eating your food and beating your family with a cricket bat.

So here’s to you Chairman! [breaks full bottle of baijiu over dirty peasant’s head; alcohol gets in eyes, which the face mask is completely ineffective at protecting; peasant screams in agony; fawning sycophants clap in rhythm]

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you’re not going to die of coronavirus

I mean, you might, I suppose it’s possible. It’s also entirely possible you could get hit by lightning or mauled by a panda bear. I saw an article this morning that said people are confusing coronavirus with Corona beer. This is further evidence of our inevitable surrender to an alien race after only 17 minutes of sustained combat. Also, apparently you can’t buy a face mask in the US anymore as they’re sold out. Seeing as how all those masks are Made in China, don’t expect a resupply anytime soon, folks.

I’m not saying this coronavirus isn’t a big deal, but perspective is required. Is this really front page news? It’ll probably kill a few hundred people. This is a tragedy, but in 2017 1.24M people died on the planet’s roads. Go ahead and try and conjure in your brain an image of 1.24M people. Also in 2017, 435K died from malaria. Are malaria and safe roads front page news?

I hold nothing but contempt for the news media because they are mostly biased (one side or the other), but really my issue is always the news media isn’t guided by perspective. When your first priority is profits, sensationalism sells. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been part of the news media’s history since somebody wrote yesterday’s events on a shard of rock (Did Blura really cave in Ug’s skull?!!!), it’s just really, really troubling to me because it spins people in the wrong directions.

You’re not going to die of coronavirus. But, just to be safe, you should take the following immediate actions:

1) Buy at least 18 bottles of Corona beer

2) Purchase the board game Pandemic so you and your loved ones have something to do when the zombies are battering down your door

3) Panic

4) Write on Twitter about how much you hate [insert anything here]

5) Crossword puzzles!

6) Crack each other’s heads open and feast on the goo inside

7) Buy a shotgun so that when coronavirus is under your bed you’re armed and ready, shotguns are also efficient at protecting you from panda bears

8) Since face masks are sold out, wear a ski mask instead; conduct all your normal errands while safely wearing said mask, such as banks, the grocery, and elementary schools

9) Shake your fist at coronavirus while intoxicated on Corona

10) Avoid all roads and areas where mosquitos live

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the spin cycle continues

Kindly observe (again) another act of senseless evil by human scum.

Kindly observe (again) how said human scum will now be given a platform by the shameless media to become famous and get their message out.

Kindly observe (again) how the political, business, entertainment, and/or educational elite express the same pointless platitudes without ever proposing any concrete solutions whatsoever thus ensuring its continuation for the next few decades at least.

Kindly observe (again) as the usual rhetorical bomb throwers use this event to justify whatever proconceived notions they have on religion, terrorism, guns, culture, and/or whatever and compete to see who can shout the loudest.

Kindly observe (again) as this spin cycle continues.

Kindly observe (again) that it will happen (again).

We recommend you do as I do, which is to not pay attention.  For the average person on the street, it’s not even worth it anymore.  You can’t change it, and you’ve got problems of your own to deal with each and every day as you live your life.  This sort of thing is now as common as the changing of the seasons, and it’s not going to stop, so why bother expending your very valuable mental energy on it?

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Version #13 of 83 – Circa 2019

Kamakura – Engaku-ji

Lost amidst the fervent nationalism that’s now the norm in the Western Pacific is how longstanding and deep the ties are between peoples.  From 1274 to 1281 the Mongols, alongside their Chinese and Korean vassals, conducted a series of invasions against Japan.  All failed for a variety of reasons, not least of which was a series of typhoons and the emergence of what would become the samurai warrior class.

In 1282 to commemorate the victories, honor the dead on all sides, and to push forward Zen Buddhism in Japan, the then shōgun Hōjō Tokimune ordered the construction of Engaku-ji.  He enlisted the help of a Chinese monk in Mugaku Sogen.  Zen became a huge part of the ruling culture’s psyche and was integral in the emergence of the samurai and what they were.

In the sense, Hōjō got exactly what he’d wanted.  He’s buried there.  And while the days of the Kamakura Shōgunate long passed it remained a key feature in Japanese Buddhism throughout history.  It’s a must see if you’re anywhere near Kamakura and it couldn’t be easier to get to via JR East’s Yokosuka Line which essentially drops you right at the temple entrance.

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The Sanmon, two story main gate, looking from it’s back towards the entrance.  As is typical for just about any ancient Japanese structure, fire constantly requires rebuilding.  The current version was reconstructed in 1785.

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Now walking up from the front of the Sanmon.

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Engaku-ji is still a functioning temple.  I didn’t get too close but there were folks practicing archery.  Note the target in the distance.

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Note the guy on the right with a typical Japanese longbow, as tall as a man (he is kneeling).  Despite the reputation of the katana, I suspect the real killers on most Japanese battlefields were the archers.

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I love the contrast in light on this shot.

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Find the fishy.

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The monk’s quarters.

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The Great Bell, Ogane, cast in 1301.  The largest temple bell in the wider Tokyo area.