Japan – Niigata: when my camera was terrible

Today’s smartphone cameras have become so capable it’s hard to remember that carrying a camera was once a conscious choice. Once upon a time I had a camera in my pocket that was five times the size of a smartphone and it was complete garbage. Times have changed, have you noticed?

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On this blog, we are very, very slowly making our way through my past travels. Lots of Japan to go. Wanted to do a complete, worthwhile post on Niigata, but can’t. Nearly every one of my shots from that trip are absolute, grainy, garbage.

Most of that was me. I’m not the expert photographer I am now (cue laugh track including laughing by drunken hyenas). But also, at the time my camera was pathetic. I don’t even have it anymore, or remember what it was.

Here are the only shots worth posting. Enjoy. Who gardens better than the Japanese? Not me. Not you.

Uh, Niigata’s great. Go.

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the leaves have begun their mystical journey

I’m taking care of me Ma’s dog and I forgot how frantic and disorganized a multi-dog walk can be.  She wants to go one way, he another, and before I know it my plastic poo bags are out of my pocket and halfway across the courtyard.

I got them back later but in the meantime (of course) one of them was ready to go.  Seeing as how I was right near a trash can I tried to use a large fallen leaf as a plastic bag substitute.  Don’t ever try this.

Anyways, the leaves have begun their mystical journey.  All the colors, all the fun of Fall, which is by far my favorite season for a variety of reasons.  Soon, nothing but bare branches.

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Need to get out of this cubicle and on a hike.

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I don’t get it

Plastic straws will soon be banned everywhere, just like how putting chloroform in your coffee was banished to oblivion. But then I see this thing at a place that sold me food and drink for a nominal fee and it broke my brain:

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What the heck is this thing? It looks and feels like a plastic straw. But apparently it’s not. It’s made out of plants or something. So this thing will be legal, but the plastic straw will not.

I’m so confused, what precisely is the haters’ issue with the plastic straw? I thought it’s that it was plastic, and too small to be recyclable. So they want it banned.

But how is this plant based straw any better?

1) Uses plant material likely better used to feed humans or make compost or animal feed

2) Still takes up the same volume of space in the landfill/trash cycle as a plastic straw

3) Although the product claims ‘renewable and compostable’ what this really means in practice is it will compost in a landfill over 734 years instead of the 3,382 years that a plastic straw would take

4) Makes the ill-informed feel better about themselves when they actually should not

5) Illustrates the absurdity of feeling good instead of actually doing good

6) Is a hallmark of the future downfall of all Humanity as we struggle and bicker over foolish things while our culture, planet, and politics descend into the gutter

By the way, I’ve never used straws. I don’t get them. Just drink out of the glass/cup/whatever.

Please, help me.

Jacques and eggs

Eggs are back in the hater aisle.  Once again some study by somebody says they’re bad for you, way more dangerous to you than driving, drugs, drinking, dragons, or druids.  I don’t pay attention to these things.  It always seems like a study that says something about [insert anything here] is made up.  Probably because it’s made up.

Never fear, Jacques is here to demolish such nonsense with facts, wit, and plain happiness.  Definitely worth the read.

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“Fortunately, for the sane cook, butter and eggs will never be passe, even if some moderation proves to be wise. The egg is just too perfect.”

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I always try and have eggs around.  I needed a short meal before my hike today.  So all I did is scramble some eggs with harissa.  Nothing else, just eggs and harissa in some butter.  Then I toasted some wheat bread and melted some French morbier cheese on it.  Simple, easy, win.

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“Until then, if you don’t like my defense of eggs, go ahead: Throw some my way.”

Oh don’t worry, Jacques, no problems over here.  I’m sure I’ve written it too many times on the blog by now, but man do I ever love Pepin.

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.