Saturday, September 21, 2013

We Were Sailing Along

On Moonlight Bay....

Well, OK, so we didn't go sailing under the full moon.   But I did wander outside and snap this pic -

Taken with Nikon D7000 with 70-300mm zoom set at 300mm, using tripod and remote shutter.

In Japan, moon viewing is called Otsukimi and is often accompanied with eating dongo (rice dumplings) made of mochi (a sweet short grain form of rice). Japanese folklore says there is a rabbit on the moon who pounds mochi. Here is the outline of the rabbit and its stone pounding bowl. Can you imagine it? I find it a little easier than the Western tradition of the "man in the moon". But not much.  Perhaps some sake would help. 

Courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Anyway, moon viewing or Otsukimi is a lovely activity this time of year - a great way to enjoy the weather and welcome in the fall.

Until next, sweet sailing.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kick the Tires and Light the Fires

Two concurrent festivals are celebrated at Kashima Jingu Shinto shrine each September.   Kashima Jingu is one of Japan's largest shrines.  Believed to have been established in 660 BCE, it includes some 160 acres of land with gates, religious buildings, various martial arts dojo,  tea houses, deer (Kashima means "deer island" and deer are considered to be messengers from the gods), and a forest with over 10 varieties of trees, some of which are over a millenium old.  It is an island of serenity surrounded by the bustling "sea" of the city.

On September1st is Chochin Matsuri (lantern festival) and later on the 1st as well as on the 2nd is Jinko-sai (God's Blessing Festival).

The streets leading to the shrine are lined with vendors selling junk food, toys, and games.

During Jinko-sai, the object of worship of the shrine (a bronze mirror) that is usually kept in the main hall of worship, is placed in a smaller building.  The god - in Kashima Jingu's case, Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, god of martial arts - visits during this time.    The Lantern Festival is held on the 1st as well, to offer light to the Jinko-sai.

Paper lanterns (chochin) adorn tall bamboo poles that are bound with rope at the base and carried through the streets of Kashima.  Each of the 14 districts in the town builds a tree and has a team that carries and (hopefully) controls the heavy, and often unwieldy, structures through the use of ropes and poles attached to the central bamboo mast.    It gets tricky when they have to duck under a telephone line and occasionally a tree will come perilously close to the onlookers (I was hit by lanterns in 2005).  It is considered good luck to obtain a lantern from the procession.   At the end of the day, the lanterns are carried into the grounds of the shrine and burned on bonfire.   

Advertisements of businesses are displayed on posters around the base of the bamboo. 

When not carrying the tree along, the crew must keep the tree upright - a difficult task when the wind blows.  At times someone must climb up to untangle some lanterns.

Meanwhile, the shrine's five Jinko-sai floats are pulled through the streets and brought to a central intersection for everyone to see.  The floats are made of wood, including the wheels and weigh several tons.  One of them is over a century old.   They are moved by brute force - two large poles are used as brakes and for leverage for turning, and locomotion is provided by hoards of people pushing or pulling.  Dieties and historical figures adorn the top of each float - cleverly built to retract in order to duck under obstacles like telephone wires.

After the parade, at the central intersection, the floats are arranged on the cross streets so that each may take a turn being moved to the center of the intersection and rotated as musicians on the float play flutes, drums, and gongs.


But before that, there are songs played to which the crowd dances.    As with Obon,  there are young and old alike taking part, though K remembers there being more children in the past.  Both are fun,  but unlike the relatively sedate Buddhist dances of Obon, Shinto festival dances are loud and raucous. 

Until next, sweet sailing.

[For pics of the 2005 festivals, please visit my September 5, 2005 post on Pacific Islander: "Lantern Festival".  And for a comparison with Buddhist dance, see the 2007 post: "Kashima City Furusato Matsuri"]

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sweet Blueberries

A garden is something that keeps on giving...

Every few days K collects another cup of blueberries which we eat with our oatmeal at breakfast.

At dinner we often have nasu (eggplant) from our sole plant, piman (bell peppers) and cherry tomatoes.   And then there's the three okra plants which give us two or three fruit every day.

And for a little spice, there is red chili pepper, shown here with K's monster rosemary bush in the background.   This pepper is about 13cm (5 inches) long.

Do you know what is America's largest crop?

Lawn grass - with over 40 and half million acres!   Americans spend over 8 billion dollars a year and who knows how much time tending to grass - which they don't eat or even (ahem) smoke.  It just sits there absorbing chemicals (which pollute the ground water) and sucking up fresh water.   Oh, grass has it's uses, but that is what public parks are for.

The statistics are amazing:

PESTICIDE USAGE (from Beyond Pesticides)
  • 78 million households in the U.S. use home and garden pesticides.
  • Herbicides account for the highest usage of pesticides in the home and garden sector with over 90 million pounds applied on lawns and gardens per year. 
  • Suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticide applications per acre (3.2-9.8 lbs) than agriculture (2.7 lbs per acre on average). 
  • Pesticide sales by the chemical industry average $9.3 billion. Annual sales of the landscape industry are over $35 billion. 
  • Included in the most commonly used pesticides per pounds per year are: 2,4-D (8-11 million), Glyphosate (5-8 million), MCPP (Mecoprop) (4-6 million), Pendimethalin (3-6 million), Dicamba (2-4 million). 
  • A 2004 national survey reveals that 5 million homeowners use only organic lawn practices and products.
Imagine if all those lawns - or even half of each - were turned into vegetable and fruit gardens like folks in Japan and many other parts of the world tend to do.   Herbicide and pesticide use could be eliminated or at least greatly reduced.    People would naturally eat more fresh, whole, fruits and vegetables.  Neighborhoods would become more resilient against emergencies or shortages, and people might actually talk to each other more, share their food and get to know their neighbors.  Disease rates could drop because people would be exposed to fewer chemicals and would be eating a better diet overall.   Gas and oil use could be reduced, since herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers are all made from fossil fuels, and regular mowing would not be necessary so air quality would be better (2 cycle engines are the worst polluters).   Spending time in the garden reduces stress too.

Give it a try.  Even if you live in an apartment, hopefully your manager or condominium association allows you to grow a few things in containers on your patio or certainly in a window sill.  If they don't - work on changing that.

My youngest daughter grows herbs on her balcony in Texas. 


Alternatively, you can farm a small community plot like Bonnie does.
You can even try to grow something on the deck of your boat.  Just ask O Docker about that.  (Or maybe don't).  :)   Yes, there is a learning curve.  But approach it as you would sailing -  a fun and rewarding challenge.

Until next,  sweet sailing - and gardening.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

SailFest 2013

 Sequim Bay Yacht Club - SailFest 2013

Lake Crescent, Washington.  Nice variety of boats.  Note the BLUE Lido 14.   :)

Until next, sweet sailing.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Isn't It Good - Swedish Wood

In honor of our Swedish friend and intrepid Bluesette crew member Martin we feature jazz musician Magnus Lindgren and the Magnus Lindgren Frya (Four). This multi-talented arranger, composer, and musician began playing with Herbie Hancock at the age of 18.   His collaboration with trombonist ;) Nils Landgren was called by Sweden's Orchestral Journal, “Sweden’s answer to Quincy Jones”.

High praise indeed. Judge for yourself with his rendition of Bluesette:

All I can say of the performance of this group is an approving "dang"!

Until next,  sweet sailing.