Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Kokura Gion Daiko Festival

I was in Kokura for the last day of the Gion Daiko (Drum) Festival. Groups perform in various streets of the city with drums and small hand cymbals, while many of the public don yukata to watch them.

The Self Defence Force marching band was also getting about playing marching music on the move, and Japanese pop songs when they halted.

Even the very young take part in the drumming. They go at it until they flop.

A drama with drums and flutes is played out in the shrine inside the castle grounds.

Some groups depart from the castle pulling wheeled festival carts mounted with drums.

It's mostly girls and young ladies who wear yukata, but some stylish young men are seen wearing them too.

The drumming goes on constantly and can be heard everywhere.

Not all groups are the same. As soon as this group set up its drums and flags, a file of policemen appeared and surrounded them, gradually blocking them off from the audience. Presumably they are one of the 'antisocial elements', maybe be bosozoku or yakuza in training.

This group were pretty rockin'.

The drumming went on after dark. This crew was taking apart their wagon at 8pm before adjourning for drinks under a tree in the local park.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Around Kokura and Mojiko

At the end of a row of warehouses is a vision of Byzantium. Or maybe Venice. It turns out to be a very grandiose wedding establishment.

Tanga Market has some of the scruffiest shops I've ever seen. Next to this unappealing meat shop is an even more unappealing whale meat shop.

Some parts of Kokura are glamorous and new...

...others are not particularly glamorous or new.

Kokura seems to have more than its fair share of very naughty children. Well, it was very hot.

There's a lot of steel around Kokura. The Sumitomo steelworks raises its chimneys behind a heap of scrap metal.

In the docks areas, everything has its number. "Please tie up your ship, the No.18 I believe, at No. 46, and put your goods in Nos. 7 and 9".

And if your goods or ship should catch fire, here's the fireboat.

Kyushu Railway History Museum

I was wondering whether or not to visit the Kyushu Railway History Museum. But when I saw these posters outside Mojiko station, I made up my mind to go.

I wasn't disappointed. The whole museum was a celebration of metal and other materials in various finely crafted forms.

Kids seemed to like it. These wicked children were being positively encouraged by their grandmother, a wicked lady herself, to misbehave.

This particular type of train used to go past my house. It was a joy to see it again.

The Japanese have managed to connect railways with food in the form of the station lunch box (ekiben). Regional specialities and local ingredients are used, and the containers are typically works of art in themselves.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mojiko 'retro'

A short way from Kokura is Mojiko, an area that has a number of old buildings in a good state of repair (or nicely faked). This situation has been used skilfully to turn the area into a tourist trap. Old in Japan is often referred to as 'retro'.

The area is close to the Kanmon Bridge linking Kyushu to the main island, and Moji is dotted with wharves and harbours. A triathlon was being held around the little port area.

Some buildings are newer than others, although appearances can be deceptive. The building in the foreground is a reproduction of a building in Dairen, China. It isn't old at all.

Mojiko has some association with bananas. My curiosity didn't extend much beyond snapping this manifestation of the association.

This building is widely touted as being a 'wooden building'. It's doing a very good impression of being a brick and stone building.

Mojiko Station is modelled on a station in Italy. It's a fine, atmospheric place.

This young woman with pigtails sported a sun umbrella, itself a rather retro statement for the young these days. Her high-heeled sandals made an attention-grabbing clatter as she passed beneath the iron-work.

Mojiko has many interesting buildings besides those listed on the tourist maps. This Chinese restaurant gave what seems to me an authentically Chinese impression.

The old Iwata sake shop. The current owners have a marked fondness for the lotus flower.

The Koso Hachiman Shrine proved a good place for eating breakfast. Cool breezes blew off the sea. As I was eating my morning buns, two elderly shrine gentlemen brushed the steps, while several Shintoists arrived in their cars, made their morning obeisances, and drove off.

The Mojiko local beer factory, brewer of Kokura's Sakura beer. I tried the hefeweizen and found it very palatable and nourishing. Some of the triathlon people staggering past looked as though a short weizen rest would have done them good.