onsdag 31 juli 2013

Trip to Korea and Japan: Day 12 - Otaru Rocks

(Click here for first day, yesterday and all trips)
Otaru was my second day of measurements in Hokkaido, and from yesterday's Yoichi and its Fugoppe cave we moved on to Otaru and the Temiya cave. There I again was given such help and hospitality, this time by Mr Ishigami Satoshi. The Temiya cave's rock is also from late Jomon times (300 AD), but differs in several ways from Fugoppe.
It is not really a cave, to start with, as it was found in 1866 when mining rocks at the Otaru coast west of the city. It was then protected for a century only by an open air wooden shelter, which still was lucky as it may as well have been destroyed. The layers covering the rock art also has almost no cultural remains, and the rock in itself is harder than at the Fugoppe site, producing deeper but rougher figures. Still, the erosion was less here (even though the rock gets lots and lots of water in winter) then at Fugoppe. I also got a lot of good advice from the curator of nearby Otaru Museum, Mr Ishikawa Naoaki.

Having done that, I now enter a stage of data analysis, but basically the data collection is done and I can therefore say my trip has been a success here in Japan (and Korea), regardless of the results, and I feel a great relief as it was quite an honor to get the scholarship from SSAG. The immense help I have gotten here in Hokkaido has meant the difference between potential failure and the current success. AT the center of all stand Mark Hudson who went to a lot of work to help an unknown PhD student from the other side of the world. Without him I would not have come in contact with helpful Professor Jeff Gayman who facilitated the contact with my excellent guide and translator, Miss Iki Shuka.
Shuka-san and her mother has shown my the image of Japanese hospitality and opened their home to me during these few days, for which I am very thankful. Miss Iki has an excellent grasp of English and I would recommend her as a guide and translator if you are in Sapporo and she has time to spare from her university studies (sorry Shuka-san if I am putting you out on the job market here, I just had to tell them how good your english is ^_^).

Anyway, after finishing up with the measurements, we walked down to Otaru center. Otaru is the kind of famous tourist spot that Japanese and foreign visitors go to to walk along picturesque streets with small stores, a water canal, and maybe for a romantic weekend. It used to be the central (and large) port of Hokkaido and it has a city plan that consist of quite a lot of small streets and such. If you come to Sapporo for vacation, Otaru is simply one of the places to go.

In the evening I got invited to the home of Shuka-sans family for dinner and an overnight stay (again, the hospitality,eh!). Her mother has her own atelier and the family has a tradition of creative work, her uncle for example doing very beautiful mosaics. I got treated to all different kind of local tastes, it was really good (oishiiii!).

Otaru city center

Covered arcade

Miss Iki showing me the food stalls

Old railway turned to a green corridor in a quiet and soft neighbourhood

Crisper chicken is hard to find. They actually sells the chicken by telling how good the outside is.

Naruto is the name

Temiya museum

We killed some time at the local hardware store. Which sold pets. Kawaii!

If you look at this extremely cute hamster he looks like he prays when he is drinking

The rock art at Temiyu

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måndag 29 juli 2013

Trip to Korea and Japan: Day 11 - Cave, Whiskey and Onsen

(Click here for first day, yesterday and all trips)
The day started with rain and sirens as a car had somehow managed to flip on its roof just outside, but it seemed like relatively undramatic by the time I woke up. Today was an important day as I was going to meet up with my guide and translator, miss Shuka, to go to the small town of Yoichi and visit the Fugoppe cave and its rock art. When we met up at JR Sapporo Station I got a pleasing surprise as it turned out that her mother, an artist and teacher, would join us for the day as she is an ardent fan of Youichi and its surroundings, so my lucky string of getting a lot of personal and enjoyable contacts here in Japan continued.
We went by train to Yoichi and had a very enjoyable Osaka-style lunch at a restuarant just across from the railway station. After that we actually got picked up by the museum attendant Mr Yoshihiro Inui who drove us there in his car. The rock art at Fogoppe cave was made by hunter-gatherers of the Jomon period, which came before the Ainu people and of whom possible the Ainu are descendants. It was hidden by an earthquake in the 7th century and then found again in 1950 and then protected by the glass chambers in 1969. I wont go into details but the measurements went exactly as I expected and would have them, and Mr Yoshihiro was extremely helpful with everything and I actually got several thick publications from his as an extra gift. He then afterwards even drove us to the Nikka Whiskey distillery.
There they had free tasting so if you tried everything you would actually risk getting a little woozy.
After that we went to what I may actually have been more nervous about than the rock art measurements, and that was the local Onsen bath. As many of you interested in Japanese culture, going to these public baths is both an excellent chance at having a nice Japanese cultural experience but also to do the wrong things. The event about foreigners being banned mentioned in the article above actually was in the city just next to Yoichi (in Otaru) so it didn't exactly lessen my worries.
In the end I think it did go well, and it was indeed an experience I will treasure having partaken in. I could obviously not take any photographs from this time but what happened was roughly as in the article:
1. Pass through curtains to changing room.
2. Undress completely
3. Bring your towel and soap with you and enter the baths.
4. Wash yourself properly sitting on low stools and wash yourself carefully to remove all soap etc. Possibly ue towel or scrubbing thingie for this.
5. Enter bath with towel on head or next to bath.
6. Enjoy bath.
7. Possibly go to next room where there may be an open air bath. Otherwise/Later
8. Shower with water now feeling almost cold in comparison.
9. Dry yourself with your towel.
10. Exit baths.

Thats the theory. What I can add is:
a) Better to bring liquid soap than a traditional soap (like I bought at the JR station) as it is easier to keep afterwards.
b) Evidently the japanese have no problem wringing the water out from their towel after bathing and using this (for me) wet towel to "dry" themselves. ^_^ This didn't even enter my head, so what I did was put my towel an a shelf next to the showers and then retrieved it afterward the bathing was done.
c) To be really sure none of the locals would take offense, I soaped myself *three* times. This may indeed have been overkill, but on the other hand I became squeaky clean and I could relax more afterwards. Somehow I also after each soaking relaxed more and more and began forgetting the unusual feeling of being all naked with other naked strangers in a new situation and got into it.
d) I had heard the baths can be really hot but I had no such problem. Still, about 15 minutes was enough for me and it took me maybe another 15 minutes in front of a high speed fan in the relaxation room to get my body temperature down afterwards.

Afterwards we ate a very affordable dinner at the onset, with squid and pork cutlet in my case. Then it was the last bus home to Sapporo at 8 pm.

Sumimasen, this picture was not sharp, will do another one tomorrow, Shuka-san, but your mother is smiling so lovely I had to show it.

The usual cold tea as a starters and some local cherries.

All this for just 1000 yen each, eh! (66 SEK/11 USD)

*And* this excellent desert that I really cant begin to explain the taste of. Oishii! as they say in Japan.

The small hill of the Fugoppe cave

Inside even the glass protection...this is the part I photographed.

The material of the rock was tuff, and is created from volcanic ash and is a soft material that it was easy to see had been affected by erosion.

Three sorts of whiskey to try and then some apple wine and...

...apple juice.

The Nikka whiskey can actually be found in every small store but some of them at the store here was only sold at the shop, which made for a nice present.

Resting room at second floor after the onsen bath where we also ate dinner.

Excellent squid for starters

And another fine meal for 600 yen (yes, thats only 40 SEK/6 USD)

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söndag 28 juli 2013

Trip to Korea and Japan: Day 10 - Classical Classical Sapporo

(Click here for first day, yesterday and all trips)
Sunday was a rather quiet day for me, it rained a lot and I wanted to rest a little as tomorrow I will start my excursions and data collection. Still, I went to Kitara Hall in Nakajima Park and listened to HBC Junior Orchestra playing a whole batch of classical music.  For an amateur of such music, it sounded like the real deal even if the ones performing would be teenagers only. They played a lot of classics that you recognize like the Nutcracker's suite, so it was really good value for 1000 yen (65 SEK/10 USD) only in this impressive concert hall.
When I was queueing something special happened. Two young ladies from the ticket both came and asked me if I was Mikael Jonsson, as I seemed to be the only westerner among say 400 japanese, they wouldn't have a hard time finding me, I guess. ^_^ Evidently I had paid to much yesterday and they wanted to repay me. Very nicely done, and I even got a small present as an excuse.

One of the guys living at my place works as a cook at a place that got three (!) Micheling stars, and this morning he treated us with something best described as a bouillebas with rice. Pretty nice...

Queueing for the concert

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