Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Does Gray Count as a Spring Color?

Since Ye Olde Academy is a private school, we're able to do some things that the public schools can't. For example, though the latter were ordered to eliminate their Saturday morning classes and restrict themselves to a Western-style, five-day week, we had the option of not following suit (which was a good thing since our biggest rival schools stuck with their 5.5-day schedules). On the other hand, that fact that we're private means we're run more like a corporation than a school, i.e. our administrators can't simply ignore federal labor laws like the public school system does on a regular basis. That means that, while we have a 5.5-day class schedule, the faculty can only be made to work a regular 5-day week. That means that those of us that teach Saturday classes, like me, have a substitute half-day off sometime else in the week.

Today happened to be my half-day furlough, and I'd taken the afternoon off, giving me my first fully-open day in what seemed like ages. I still had some things to do, though. For example, I had a large load of laundry which I wasn't able to hang up outside on account of the really crappy weather. I therefore took it to our local coin laundry, popped it in a drier, put in enough coins for about fifty minutes of drying, and then realized that I had almost a full hour to kill. That reminded me that I hadn't yet taken any Spring pictures to post on my blog, so I grabbed my camera and headed out in search of some color.

The prospects looked about as bleak as the sky. Cherry blossoms don't last very long in the best of times, and we'd just been through an unholy succession of storms. It was also late enough that those few blossoms that remained were pretty well overwhelmed by leafy growth. I headed toward a couple of areas I knew of, but hadn't visited before, that were known for their cherry blossoms, and I came out disappointed. Undeterred, I spent some time circling around on roads I'd never taken before. There were things to see here and there, but most of the time I'd catch sight of something far too late to stop, and a lot of the time there were no good places to park even if I could find somewhere to turn around, anyway. (Many if not most Japanese would simply park their car in the middle of the lane and turn their hazard lights on, but that always irks me, so I don't do it myself.) There was also the no small issue that the most colorful sights tended to be in people's private gardens, and I could only wonder what their reaction would be to a strange gaijin parking by their house and taking pictures. Trying to be ambitious only got me onto one-lane back roads whose "pavement" was narrower than my BLUE RAV4. Eventually I decided just to look around and see what I could see on the more substantial roads.

2010 spring drive 1
This is what it looks like in the middle of April, 2010, in the rural headlands of Namegata City. Freshly-plowed rice paddies look pretty eerie under an ominous, gray sky. Here and there you can see splashes of color among the trees, so all is not gloomy.

2010 spring drive 3
Here and there a few artificially-planted trees and flowers try to make a bold statement, but on these deserted country roads (or, in this case, a local sports ground quiet and empty in the off season) it's like a shot in the dark.

2010 spring drive 4
The landscape of inner Namegata, with meadows of rice paddies surrounded by clusters of hills, can seem pretty surreal at times.

2010 spring drive 5
Every once in a while I could see a big cherry tree in bloom in the distance, but trying to get close to them seemed more trouble than it was worth. Then, all of a sudden, I stumbled on these reasonably-sized veterans at the entrance to a Shinto shrine. The name on the sign was "Kashima Jinja", which makes me wonder if it's one of the satellite shrines to the main "Kashima Jingu" back in Kashima City. I debated going into that spooky-looking tunnel of trees (the end of which can be seen in the photo) to have a look at the shrine, but I decided to press on instead.

2010 spring drive 6
Then there were little surprises. This little guy was a much more vivid shade of magenta than my camera was able to reproduce (and it was a lot darker on that hinoki-lined street than it looks in the pic), but it really seemed to jump out of the gloom.

2010 spring drive 7
Then, as I found myself circling around on yet another unknown, narrow road, I suddenly came through a surprising corridor of cherry trees that just appeared out of nowhere. I pulled off onto a little side street so I could get out and take this shot back the way I came. But then there was the sight that lay ahead of me:

2010 spring drive 8
It wasn't listed on Navi-chan's map at all, and there were no advance warnings of any kind, but the signs said that this was the ruins of "Kannonji". It was apparently a temple to Kannon, the Buddhist Bodhisattva (saint/angel) of Mercy (and the namesake of Canon, inc.), that was established around 500 years ago but had long since been destroyed. I didn't read the signs all that carefully (since I'd left my car running at the entrance), so I'm not sure how old this gate is, but the roof is definitely modern, as are the metal hoops to prevent people from driving in. Behind it can be seen a bell tower that no longer houses a bell. (Sadly, a closer pic I took of it didn't turn out.)

2010 spring drive 9
Just past the gate, off to the left, was this spooky, old stone foundation, long since overgrown with trees. (It was a lot darker in there than the pic makes it seem.) There were a lot of ancient dedication stones all over the place, all of them written in archaic language that I couldn't hope to read.

2010 spring drive 10
Then, just a little further in, there was this very new building. The signs said that it housed surviving relics from the old temple including its principal image of Kannon. It was locked, however, so I made my way back out.

2010 spring drive 11
This was the view coming back out through the gate and looking toward the temple's modest graveyard. There was still a lot of Spring color scattered about.

After that I climbed back into the BLUE RAV4, content that the drive had been worth it, and headed to the nearest main road so I could find my way back to the coin laundry. By the time I got there, someone else had already taken my stuff out of the drier so they could use it. I folded everything up, loaded it in the car, went home, and had a nice, WARM cup of tea. (It had only been around 6 degrees Centigrade [around 40 F] outside and damp!)

Tomorrow I'm back to work again.


  • Laundry...cherry blossoms...laundry, oh hell!

    WV viabledo

    By Anonymous Dave, at 12:08 AM  

  • Lovely pictures of cherry blossom. This reminds me of a post u did about two years ago about a visit to a shrine u and your two kids make.

    Anyway, the place looks well taken care of. Weren't you spooked at all?

    By Blogger gus, at 12:12 AM  

  • You have some very cool trips when you don't have everything all laid out. Keep it up!

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 2:01 PM  

  • Nice pics. The trees have been a nice contrast to the gray skies. What an interesting find, the old temple grounds.

    Well, this morning, April 17, it snowed here! Where is Spring?

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 11:03 AM  

  • Tell me about it. I got up this morning to find about half an inch of snow on the ground. It was all melted away by 9:00, but it's a good thing I took the day off from work! (The kids were doing practice for the sports festival today, so there were no classes. Poor things...)

    By Blogger The Moody Minstrel, at 11:40 AM  

  • Ah, great finds, MM. I was beginning to miss your Spring shots. Beautiful blossoms. Thanks.

    By Blogger HappySurfer, at 7:00 PM  

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