An end, a beginning 〜 終了、そして、開始

Look closely.  It is a person bundled up against the cold.  He or she has been sitting on that blue sheet all night.  No, this is not a homeless person, but rather, someone taking part in an important spring ritual here in Japan.  He or she is a place holder in a park where later in the day friends will join for “hanami” or a cherry blossom viewing party.  Since the blossoms don’t follow the calendar, hanami parties often miss the actual peak and can be held under really miserable conditions.  But Japanese people are fanatics for the season, which is also an end and a beginning.  Schools and universities hold graduation ceremonies in late March, and then turn around a week or two later and welcome their incoming students in early April.  So, the annual riot of cherry blossoms comes right around this turning point, which makes them all the more poignant.  Kids leave their classmates and move on to other schools or jobs under the cherry blossoms.  Retirees say goodbye to long-time colleagues during the drifting of the petals.


Rikkyo University is no exception to the March-April turning point, of course.  I said farewell to an excellent senior class in the choir.  I will miss their musical talents, as well as their bright personalities.  You can sense the latter in these photos, can’t you?  Here they are.  Well done, seniors!  Come back often to visit!

Tomorrow and the following day (April 4-5) Rikkyo University holds its seven entrance ceremonies at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space.  The choir, glee club, and university orchestra are on duty, as am I, the conductor for the ceremonies.


Yesterday was Sunday (April 2), my last chance to visit a local church before the choir resumes its duties in the university chapel.  One of my colleagues will take services at Tokyo’s All Saints Anglican Church on a monthly basis, so I joined the service there.  The church was a surprising find, squashed in between modern houses and apartment buildings.  The poor thing hasn’t been painted for an eon, and looks in a sad state from the outside.  But once inside, the visitor is surprised by the beauty of the space.  It’s surprisingly light and airy, and is decorated by paintings done by a parishioner.  Here is the exterior and interior of All Saints Church:


As is my usual practice, I walked the 7 km to the church, and then another 4 back to the university, stopping of for lunch in a place who’s mascot is a huge poodle.  He wanders the restaurant freely, greeting diners, and then plopping down on the outside deck to watch the street scene.  I wanted to take him home.  For a couple of minutes, anyway.


On my way back I passed through two beautiful temples.  After all, one shouldn’t be partial to a certain religion over others, should they?  After the morning spent in the Christian zone, I figured an hour or so in a temple would be a perfect balance, so to speak.  And they are so photogenic!


That is about all for this overly-long post.  I will close by posting a few photos from a spring break walking date with “the wife.”  We strolled over to the very retro (read, slightly tatty) Oyama Happy Road Shopping Arcade for coffee and some photo time.  Here is what we saw.



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A photo walk 〜 撮影会

This being the graduation season in Japan, there is much to report.  However, we will leave all that for a day later this week.


There is also much in the world that one wishes to comment on.  My country, the USA, is apparently striving for a gold medal.  The medal titled “World’s Most Selfish Country.”  America First!  Rich People First!  “Down with sentimental thoughts such as love for your neighbor and pity for those less fortunate!”  Well!  The editorial staff here at “The View” are quite displeased about these disturbing treads.  One can only hope that the good and caring folks – who are in the majority – will eventually prevail.  So, let’s set that topic aside, too.


Today’s subject is one that will ruffle no feathers, and cause no one to argue with their neighbor.  Flowers.  Who doesn’t love a flower?  I bet even Donald Trump and his minions enjoy flowers.  (Or maybe not…)  On Saturday, the 18th of March, eleven members of the Rikkyo Chapel Choir who enjoy photography met at Tokyo’s Hama Rikyu Teien Garden to take on the fields of yellow blossoms.


After trying to do something photographically original with the millions of yellow flowers, I switched over the photographing members of our group.  People’s faces turned out to be far more interesting flowers.


1. Camera duel among the flowers 花畑での写真バトル

2. This year there has been an explosion of DSLR, mirrorless cameras, and advanced compact camera ownership in the choir.  It may be time to start a choir photo club.


3. After a focusing on group photos, I started to zero in on faces.  What a fascinating object to photograph is a face.  グループ写真を撮った後、次にポートレートを撮ってみました。人間の顔は本当に興味深いですね。

4. The sky was bright overcast, so these portraits seemed to work best in black and white. 空は薄く曇っていたので、眩しい光を利用し、白黒もトライしました。

5. The second part of the day was spent at Odaiba, photographing the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay after dark.  My photos of the bridge turned out pretty cliche, so rather than post those, I’ll share a few shots I did like.


–the setting sun on an overcast day

–early evening at Odaiba

6.  Finally, here are the members who participated to the end of the day.  It was cold and windy on the bay after dark, but we persisted until 7 pm.  Souls and bodies were refreshed at TGIF.  Now THAT’S a hamburger worthy to be eaten!


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Arrival of the choir 〜 聖歌隊が到着しました

I’m afraid my days as a cycling tourist are done for the time being. Yesterday 40-some enthusiastic singers arrived in Iwai for a week of intensive rehearsals. Since my job isn’t really cycling, but rather, leading this choir, I’m back on duty. There will be photos of the choir later, but today a couple of shots of the coast at Iwai are all I have time to share.

We are staying at a new (to us) place called Sajimu Minshuku. My building is over 100 years old, and beautiful. The rehearsal spaces are also spacious and comfortable. I think it will be a good week.

Since there are two choirs now, our university organist, Sakiyama Yuko, came along to help with running the rehearsals.

The two photos below are taken from a point about 5 minutes walk from our location. The third is in the hallway outside my room.

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Curse of Choir Camp, or Soggy Riding once again 〜 合宿の呪か?

Kamogawa to Iwai, 82 km, 8 hours.

I’m beginning to wonder if riding to choir camp isn’t an activity banned by the gods. This is the third time I’ve done it, and the third time I’ve ridden in day-long seriously soaking rain. Two years ago on the way to the same area as this year’s choir camp I wore the brakes to nubs in the mountains and spent the next day riding with no brakes whatsoever. The summer before that I rode two full days in rain. And today, after two hours of light rain, the next six hours of riding were done in seriously wet conditions. Road gunk eventually clogged up my Brompton’s derailleur leaving me with only 3 of 6 gears working. At least the brakes held up!

On the positive side, all of my belongings were double bagged, so nothing important got wet. My rain gear kept most of the rain off my body as well, and my iPhone functioned well as a wet-weather camera (all pix today were taken with it). But you really can’t change the fact that strong headwinds and heavy rain makes for less than pleasing riding conditions.

Looking on the bright side, my four-day goal to ricde 300 or more kilometers from Tsuchiura to Iwai via the Boso Peninsula coastline was successfully completed, and turned out to be 90% enjoyable. A Brompton folding bike CAN serve as a touring bike, though it is not happy when the road gunk gets in its chain and shifting mechanism.

Tonight I have the Minshuku Sajimu all to myself. Tomorrow 40 some young singers from the Rikkyo All Saints Chapel Choir will join me, so the peace will be shattered, and I will go back to work (gladly) for a week. Before the students arrive, I’ll share photos from the last leg of my journey.

1. Sea views before the rain started to get serious

2. A pleasant break was spent at Rosemary Park, a Shakespeare-themed area along the way

3. The southern part of the Boso Peninsula is famous for flowers. Here is a field where people could pick and take home their choice of blooms. The fragrance was quite strong.

4. Proof of wet conditions

5. Dark, rainy days are perfect to explore a Shinto shrine that just happens to have a spooky a cave in the precints

6. Before the last hour leg into Iwai, I enjoyed a small reward in Tateyama City. When damp with sweat in cool weather, though, it doesn’t pay to sit around for long. Short breaks were the norm today.

7. Finally, there were more mysterious Christian signs in some of the villages I rode through. Who puts these up, I wonder?

(The wages of sin are death. The Bible.)

(The kingdom of God has drawn near. The Bible.)

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Day 3, or Wind & Wetsuits 〜 風とサーフィング

Day three of my “Big Fun” is already over. One day to go to the goal, and a weeklong pause in order to run the annual spring choir camp.

While pedaling along today I started to figure out how long it has been since I last rode this many days in a row. It seems it has been 45 years! If I wait another 45 years to do this I’ll be… well – one doesn’t like to think about such things. The last time I did as much consecutive riding was when I was a junior high school student, and my Boy Scout group rode around the Olympic Penninsula in Washington State, a trip of some 500 miles, or 800 km. I am encouraged by the sucess of this trip to do more of these extended rides.


Today I rode only 65 km, from Shirako to Kamogawa where I am staying tonight. The Wind Gods did indeed smile on me, and I blew through the first half of the ride with a brisk tailwind. That part of the area wasn’t particularly picturesque, but I did see a dream boat, and a lovely temple, thanks to a slight detour.

The atmosphere of the peninsula changed considerbly as I rode along. South from Shirako, surfing is the thing, with shops catering to the sport everywhere, and the beaches teeming with people in wetsuits. Another detour to the coast from the town of Onjuku brought me to a surfer’s paradise. Big waves, clear skies, warm temperatures. I’d like to share a video of the amazIng techniques I saw, but blogging on a cell phone has its limitations. It was impressive, though.

Two things caught my eye as I rode through the Katsuura area: tunnels and dolls. Let’s begin with the dolls. Today was the “Big Hinamatsuri” (or Great Doll Festival) in the town, so everywhere I looked there were fabulous displays of dolls. The best was a shirne in Katsuura, which had dolls perched on bamboo poles, in the shrine itself, and in a display in the shrine office.

To my sister Lynda – you’d have loved it!

Tunnels. Well – some were fun. Many of the car tunnels have narrow side tunnels for bikes, and these were a gas to bomb through. Narrow and dark, and absolutely deserted. The other side of the coin were those without side tunnels, when I had to ride my legs off in competition with the cars. Not too much fun, though the drivers were considerate enough.

After three days of fabulous weather, they say it is going to rain all day tomorrow. I am not concerned! In fact, I welcome it! After carrying around my raingear for 230 km so far, it’s time to give it a try. AND, the iPhone 7 Plus is waterproof, so tomorrow I’ll share some soggy shots with you.

To conclude today’s post, here are a couple more of those mysterious Christian signs I found. They appear in the oddest places – on fences, on the walls of abandoned buidings, and on some homes. All in villages with nary a church. Fascinating. (the first one says “Believe in the true god – Jesus Christ”. The second one is jollier – “If you die with your sins you’ll go to hell for ever”)

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