Sunday, December 27, 2009
So a few weeks ago I headed to the small town of Nomura to check out their 158th annual sumo match. Nomura is a small country town located about two hours to the south of Matsuyama. We got there around 11pm, just in time to eat chanko nabe. I think that's how you spell it. For those that don't know, this is another boil-everything dish, but it's particular to the sport of sumo, mostly because this nabe has just about every type of meat and vegetable imaginable packed into it. I'll put up a picture of it. Probably the best part was the large, human-sized cauldrons that they were cooking it in. The whole event had that small town feel to it, it's not a well known match, but they've been having it for quite a while.
We went inside the arena, which was about half the size of my high school's gymnasium, and sat down to watch the matches. There were no yokozuna's at this match (for those who don't know, yokozuna is the highest league of sumo wrestler), but there were still a fair number of professionals competing. I'd like to go on record and say that sumo wrestling is one of the politer sports I've ever watched. If one of the wrestlers attacks before the other is ready, they stop, apologize, and being again. A little different than boxing back in the states. (Side note: I still don't understand the big deal about the whole Mike Tyson biting the ear thing. I mean, the object of the sport is to knock your opponent into unconsciousness by beating them with your fists. Who cares if the guy takes a little nibble? But I digress...) Considering the massive size of some of the competitors, I was expecting a few more KO's, but the matches were fairly tame. Sometimes it seemed a little unevenly matched, with a 80kg guy taking on someone who must have been 150kgs, but for the most part, the matches were pretty straight forward. I made sure to take some videos, so I'll put them in the next section.
Ahh, one other thing, at the end of the match the two highest ranked wrestlers performed a special honor for some of the families who attended. This involved taking their babies and walking them around the ring. I could describe it more, but I think the video says it all, so check it out. All in all, a really interesting day.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I didn't take many pictures on the trip I took to Hiroshima with my parents, but I did manage to get my camera out to take some shots of the Genbaku, or A-bomb, Dome. To say it's a sobering sight is to greatly understate the area. I'm not very interested in the debate over whether or not the US should have used this weapon during the war, the salient points have been discussed for over 60 years by smarter minds than my own. Indeed, the morality of what happened didn't really enter into my mind as I walked around the site. Instead, I was struck by the dichotomous nature of scientific progress. The ability to harness the power contained at the atomic level can at once save humanity, or be instrumental in its efforts to destroy itself. Then again, on reflection, I don't think that the dichotomy of good and evil is contained in science, but within ourselves. Science qua science is by nature amoral. Discovering and analyzing the properties and relationships inherent to our physical universe is a project that transcends ethics. It is in the application of such knowledge that we err. The entire Hiroshima area is a testament to what humans can do when we give in to our more destructive urges, which, history being the primary witness, are legion. When I look at these pictures, it reminds me that we must tread carefully, and to always understand to the fullest the ramifications of our actions. Humanity, not science, is the entity that so precariously stands at the edge of the abyss. I believe in scientific progress, but knowledge without reflection is, at best, dangerous, and we should never forget the lessons taught by monuments such as these. If not out of respect for the past, then for the protection of our future.
Another good meal! One of Lisa's students took us out to dinner in the city for a nabe party. For those who don't know, which I assume is most of you, nabe is like imotaki in that its modus operandi is "take-everything-you-want-to-eat-and-boil-the-hell-out-of-it." Except instead of a metal pot, you use a ceramic pot. We started off with a nice boiled squid and sashimi, and then moved on to boiled fish, cabbage, mushrooms, lime, lettuce, seaweed, and giant green onions. I've included before and after pictures so you can get an idea of how this works. The best part is that you use a portable stove on your table, so this is a great method of cooking for my apartment, which is starting to get ridiculously cold now that winter has arrived. Luckily for me, some of the old occupants of my place already bought a nabe pot and a portable stove, so I've been making stuff like this for the past two weeks. Great party food. Itadakimasu!
Sometimes I just don't understand the Japanese. Why even bother shaping it like that, if you're going to put a warning sticker on the bottom? I love the fashion over here, people will wear just about anything with American connotations, even if they have no idea what the cultural significance is. Then again, I shouldn't be critical, considering the amount of people in the States who get tattoos in Asian languages without bothering to check if what they're getting inked on their body actually means what they were told it meant. I've heard horror stories before. Anyways, I thought this was pretty funny, so I took a picture of it. Enough said!
Still catching up on posts from a few weeks ago. Another trip that Gentry and I took was to visit the Ishite temple with Azami and Lisa. I'm no expert on Buddhism, so I couldn't tell you what sect was being practiced here, but I will say that the temples in Japan differ greatly from the temples in Nepal, which was to be expected, I guess. In any case, we took a full tour of the place. In addition to the giant bell that comes standard with all Buddhist temples, there were about ten different buildings scattered over the compound where you could pay your respects, as well as pay a few coins out of your pocket to support the local monks. One of the cooler things was getting to go inside one of the buildings and joining in a mantra with one of their head monks. A bit of culture shock though, in the outer room was a man chanting into a microphone, which was being broadcast over the entire area. That in itself wasn't odd, but the fact that he had his cell phone out next to all of the holy documents he was singing from was a little off. Kinda made it less impressive. Maybe it's because the Nepalese lamas don't have cell phones, but I just can't see that sort of think happening near the feet of the Himalayas. Oh well, different cultures, different customs.
Another interesting point was walking through a crevice in the hillside and seeing the back area behind the temples. Talk about your grab bag of statues! I posted some pictures, see if you can spot the deity that looks suspiciously like Vigo Mortensen! All in all, a really interesting place. Gotta love the smell of hundreds of sticks of incense!