On this web site, I will share with you some stories and pictures from the time when I lived in Japan as a member of the United States Air Force, and from various visits that my wife, Ritsuko, and I have made there since my departure from the military in 1978. I will add content to the site periodically in the "Articles" section, so please visit often. I hope that you enjoy the site.
As yukata (light cotton kimono) became common streetwear among Edoites, cotton tenugui hand towels likewise became a fashionable "must" accessory.Yuji Haraguchi: Changing the gourmet rules (life) Sat, 20 Jul 2019 22:56:05 +0900
With Ritsuko having been born and raised in a small town in rural Kagoshima Prefecture, I have had the opportunity to visit the area with her many times over the years.
stone lined stream that directs water to the Shimazu estate
Southern Kyushu is a beautiful part of Japan that receives sufficient rainfall for the mountains and valleys to be covered in lush vegetation, and has a long history of responsible productive use of the land and resources.
Walking through the countryside, one thing that you will notice are the centuries old stone lined aquaducts that are still in use today. Their presence and use give testament to how well the people of this region have managed, and continue to manage the flow of water from the mountains and into the fields and towns.
During our stay in Kagoshima on our 2016 Japan trip, we visited Sengan-en. Sengan-en is a park established on the grounds of a beautiful estate that has belonged to the Shimazu family for the past three and a half centuries. I will write more about the estate, garden, and museum in another article, however, I just wanted to share this video of a Sakon-Taro in operation. This is a water powered device that was used to remove the husks and to polish rice.
Below, is a video of the machine going through a cycle.
Video of Sakon-taro in operation - Sengan-en, Kagoshima, Japan
Sakon-taro rice husking device at Sengan-En, Kagoshima, beginning to cycle
Sakon-taro rice husking device at Sengan-En, Kagoshima, about to strike
A few years ago, Yuko Suzuhana, a beautiful and talented young graduate of Tokyo College of Music, trained in the classic art of Japanese poetry singing known as Shigin, shared her vision for starting a new kind of rock band with some of her friends.
Together, they formed Wagakki Band, a Japanese rock ensemble that is not quite like any group that I have ever seen or heard. As the name wagakki, a generic term for traditional Japanese musical instruments, suggests, the band incorporates a traditional musical style, specifically using the instruments Koto, Shakuhachi, Shamisen, and Wadaiko, along with electric guitar, bass, and drums into a sound highlighted by Yuko Suzuhana's beautiful vocals in the style of Shigin to forge a unique sound.
There are eight very talented artists in the band. As I noted above, Yuko Suzuhana is the vocalist. Daisuke Kaminaga plays the shakuhachi (bamboo flute). The percussion section of the band consists of two drummers, Kurona, who plays wadaiko (traditional Japanese drums), and Wasabi a percussionist who performs in a most unique style with a modern drum kit. Electric bassist Asa, and electric guitarist Machiya are the other musicians playing modern instruments. Kiyoshi Ibukuro plays the koto (a large harp like string instrument), and Beni Ninagawa plays shamisen in the style "tsugaru jamisen".
Each artist, in addition to being exquisitely talented musically, presents themselves in costumes that incorporate traditional style with modern. The vibe that they create is sublimely infectious, and their music and performances present a modern representation classical Japanese culture that is visually and audibly pleasing, representing their native culture in a most positive manner to the world.
When their first recording was uploaded onto YouTube, the band became an instant success, and after creating more music videos and live performances since 2014, their popularity has grown exponentially, not only at home, but all over the world.
A lot of their studio videos and live performances are on YouTube. I have embedded two in this article. The first is a live performance from 2017 of the band's iconic hit song "Senbonzakura" (1000 Cherry Trees), and the other is a video from a 2016 live performance in an outdoor venue in Nikko, Toshogu Shrine.
Wagakki Band Video - Senbonzakura (1000 Cherry Trees) - live 2017
The video below was filmed in June 2016, when the band performed at the 400th anniversary of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, Japan. Toshogu is a Shinto Shrine of great historical importance. It was built to honor Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder and first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate that ruled a unified Japan from 1600 C.E. until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
Live performance at Nikko Toshogu Shrine June 2016
Please look for more of their content on YouTube, and I hope that you enjoy the performances of Wagakki Band as much as I do.
On a rainy day in 1974, I was on my way out to the flightline to work on the air sampling equipment in a WC-130 when I decided to take a camera with me. I doubt that I had any motivation for doing so other than wanting to take some pictures of en route aircraft. However, maybe, just maybe I thought that some day, far in the future, when I am much older and as gray as that monsoon sky, I might like to look at these pictures again, and imagine the feeling of the drizzling rain, the sound of jet engines, and the smell of JP4.
Perhaps some of my comrades of the 610 Military Airlift Support Squadron will also enjoy these pictures, so here they are.
Looking toward the terminal, some of Lockheed's finest of the era - a line of T-Tails (C141's) and a FRED (C5A)
Down the other way, more C141's, and more rain; you can barely see the tower
Flight Crew boarding -- this one is ready to go
Re-fueling an enroute C141 - this brings back memories of being on the Yokota Air Base Flightline in the 1970's - I love the smell of JP4!
Here is where I was to work that day -- a Weather C130