Sunday, May 28, 2017

Verny Park ( ヴェルニ公園 )

Another beautiful park in Yokosuka is Verny Park. While Tsukayama Park ( 塚山公園 ) and Kinugasayama Park ( 衣笠山公園 ) are rightly famous for cherry blossom viewing (and there are plenty of others in this beautiful town) and Taura Ume no Sato ( 田浦梅の里 ) in Yokosuka and Kairakuen ( 偕楽園 ) near Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture are famous for plum blossom viewing, Verny Park is the place for roses.

Verny Park is named for Léonce Verny. The memorial plaque to Mr. Verny reads;

Verny, a French naval engineer, came to Japan in 1865 to take charge of the Yokosuka Arsenal construction at the request of the Tokugawa Bakufu government whose aim was to strengthen the country's naval forces. His duties as administrator and constructor extended beyond the Bakufu government into the Meiji Reformation with the construction of the Kannonzaki Lighthouse, the Hashirimizu waterway, and the development of brick production. He also established a technical school inside the arsenal where he worked at training Japanese technicians before returning to his home country in 1876.

Léonce Verny

A part of Verny Park as seen from Liberty Cove Apartments with the Naval Base on the other side of Yokosuka Bay.

In good weather during the spring and summer the park is full of people taking pictures of roses. While I was taking the photographs for this post I was surrounded by many Japanese people doing the same.

A row of standing cages for climbing roses.

Verny Park has a number of places for people to gather. A popular place to take pictures is near a dome surrounded by deep red roses. While I was there a group of elderly people and their family members came to take pictures in a spot made for that purpose.

Now, more roses. Many of them are planted in beds with placards saying what hybrid of rose they are and when they were hybridized. Where I have that information I put it in the captions.

Blue Light 1995

Princess Michiko 1966 - The year she became Princess by marrying Emperor (then prince) Akihito

There are very many more. An entire book could be written about all of the rose hybrids that are grown in Verny Park. There are a couple of other things as well. There is a museum commemorating Léonce Verny, a cafe, and a 16 inch gun barrel salvaged from the battleship Mutsu. Perhaps I'll include those in a later post.

For now, one more commemoration, for Tadamasa Oguri (in Japanese surnames come first, so Oguri Tadamasa).

Oguri Tadamasa  1827 - 1868

The memorial plaque to Mr. Oguri reads;

Holding successive official posts as Magistrate of Finance and Magistrate of Diplomacy in the closing days of the Tokugawa Bakufu government, Oguri served as part of Japan's first delegation to the United States, and with the support of France promoted construction of the Yokosuka Arsenal. He also contributed greatly to Japan's modernization through the reformation of the military system, while also establishing a French language school. After the restoration of Imperial rule, Oguri was dismissed from his post for advocating armed resistance and was eventually beheaded by the Imperial Army in his territory at Gonda Village, now Kurabuchi Village, Gunma Prefecture.

Stones from the riverbank where he was beheaded were brought to the Park and are arranged near Mr. Oguri's statue.

A last photograph that combines roses with the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (Navy).


Sunday, May 7, 2017

Tsukayama Kōen ( 塚山公園 ) and William Adams' Tomb

My (almost) home town, Yokosuka is famous for a number of things involving places and events both ancient and modern. It is also has a number of famous and wonderful parks. Tsukayama Park ( 塚山公園 ) is famous for its cherry blossoms. Cherry blossom viewing ( 花見 ) in Japan is a seasonal national pastime and feels a lot like the 4th of July in the Unites States. People go to the parks where they can view the cherry blossoms, layout blankets and have picnics with their families.

Tsukayama Park is one of the "Top 50 Scenic Beauty" sites in Kanagawa prefecture. It is at the top of a mountain in Yokosuka that was once in the fief of Miura Anjin ( 三浦按針 ) aka William Adams.

I normally edit images to a width of 640 pixels to best fit on the screen and save bandwidth, but I left the map image full size, so if you click on it you can actually read it and find the park.

A view of the U.S. Navy Base from the park.

And now some views of the park. I got there in early summer long after the cherry blossoms were gone, but the park is still peaceful and beautiful. It was a very hot day with plenty of haze in the air, as you can see in these pictures. Even so, it was comfortable in the park at the top of the mountain. (Ok, in the U.S. we would call it a hill.)

Some of you may have read the novel Shogun by James Clavell. In this novel a major character is Englishman John Blackthorne. Shogun is based on real historical events as are most of Clavell's novels. In this novel the character Blackthorne is based on the real life adventures of William Adams.

NOTE: The Wikipedia article gives Adams' grave as being in Hirado, but this memorial was only erected in 1954. He was granted a fief in Hemi that is now part of Yokosuka. History records that he wanted to be buried in his fief on a hill facing Edo and said so on his deathbed. Although he did die in Hirado, this is, in fact, where he is buried. Being samurai and a hatamoto to Tokugawa Ieyasu it would be expected that his wishes would be respected.

Here are some pictures of his gravesite. His Japanese wife, Oyuki, is buried there with him.

So, if you have any time in Yokosuka, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, visit Tsukayama Park and enjoy the thousand cherry trees and hanami. It is a lovely park.

William Adams from SamuraiWiki
Wiliam Adams and Yokosuka published by Yokosuka City.


Friday, August 5, 2011

There are Dragons

If you should be hanging around in Chinatown in Yokohama at the end of January or the beginning of February (depending on the year) you may encounter dragons!

They approach!

They see you!

There is no way out!

And there are more;

But they are only here to wish you the five happinesses!

and there is music and dance.

So don't be afraid of dragons.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

My Favorite Izakaya; Sakato-ya 坂戸屋

It occurred to me that I did not provide directions to Sakato-ya, so another post would be in order. Plus, I just wanted to post more pictures of my favorite place.

At the end of every year, Shie-chan closes the izakaya for a week. After the New Year holiday she reopens. To celebrate the reopening she wears fine kimonos for the first three days. Here are some pictures from the first week in January, 2011.

My friend Emoto-san tried to get me in trouble with the next photo, but since Shie-chan is a close friend of both my wife and me, it didn't work.

Shie-chan and I - Photo taken by Emoto-san trying to get me in trouble.

As I wrote in my earlier post, she always serves food of the highest quality and the atmosphere is warm and friendly.

The map:

View Larger Map

It is in Wakamatsu-cho, the third door down from the 7-11; to the right (southeast) in the image above. Look for the name Sakato-ya in Japanese - 坂戸屋

The street view:

View Larger Map

More pictures (taken at other times);

Me with some of my friends.

One of the many cool things about izakayas is that you can buy a bottle of your favorite drink and drink what you want, leaving the bottle on the bar until you return. When you return, you just grab your bottle and have a drink. Of course the price is 30% to 100% more than you would pay in a store, but that is not the point. You may identify your bottle by writing your name on it with a paint pen, or by hanging some "bling" on it.

My bottle is the one with Linus on the top.

One more thing, she saved two beautiful pomeranians from certain death by adopting them. They were orphaned from their owners as a result of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power facility and now live with her. The dog's owners were relocated to emergency housing, but were not permitted to take their dogs. The dogs were put up for adoption, and Shie-chan adopted them.

This is Rachel...

My friend Ina-san with Rachel

and this is Bera (I know, I have trouble telling them apart too);

My friend Imori-san with Bera


Monday, July 4, 2011


As you may have noticed, I have made a few changes here.

One of the reasons that I like Blogger is that, in addition to the programed editing functions (which make it really easy), I can get into the HTML directly and make adjustments there. I have already done this a few times for font and color changes.

All of the photos that I use are edited down from the original size to a width of 640 pixels. That is still larger than the display size. I decided that I wanted you to be able to see larger pictures without having to reopen them in another window or tab. So, I adjusted a few block widths. After that the blogging team (me) went through all of the previous posts and selected "X-Large" in the editing options. If you open the image in another window or tab you can see the 640 pixel wide version. In time I will get most of these in their full size, unedited version in my gallery here. That work is ongoing. I hope that you enjoy the result.

Here is another picture.

This is in the Arrival area in the South Terminal in Terminal 1 at Narita Airport next to a snack stand.

UPDATE: Apple iCloud no longer supports the Photo Gallery, sadly.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Kamakura Daibutsu at the Kōtoku-in ( 高徳院 ) Temple

This is probably the single most famous work of art in Japan, the Kamakura Daibutsu at the Kōtoku-in (高徳院) Temple. There are a number of famous Daibutsu ( 大仏 ), I have previously written of the Nihon-ji Daibutsu on Mt. Nokogiri.

Many websites, including the Wikipedia article linked above, say a lot about the height, weight, etc. of this statue. None of that does it justice. It is important to remember that, first of all, many people in Japan are still believers in Buddhism and this site is sacred to them. There is, in fact, a functioning Buddhist monastery which monks work to maintain the site.

The Kōtoku-in Monastery is a temple of the Jōdo-shū (Pure Land or Land of Ultimate Bliss) sect of Buddhaism. The idea is that the believer can attain the Pure Land (of Ultimate Bliss) by recitation of the name of the Amida Buddha.

The Daibutsu is not far from the ocean. It was cast of Bronze in 1252 and was housed in the Kōtoku-in temple. The temple, having been destroyed by storms and rebuilt twice, in 1334 and 1369,  was washed away in the tsunami of September 20th, 1498. Since then the Daibutsu has been in the open air.

The Daibutsu and the monastery are in Kamakura just a short walk away from the Hase Station of the Enoden Line.

As one approaches the gate, the Buddha looms above.

The Daibutsu 大仏 dominates the grounds. (Yes, this used to be inside of a temple.)

In addition to being a religious site, it is a cultural site for the Japanese as a visit to Independence Hall is to an American. While I was there I was approached by no fewer that 4 groups of elementary school students who wanted to tell me (reading from a script provided by their school) that they are elementary school students studying English. They asked where I am from and wanted to take a picture with me. I presume that the picture is to provide proof to their teacher (I think that they all had the same teacher) that they completed their assignments. Here is a picture with the second group that approached me. This picture was taken by one of the kids from the group.

A side view.

The grounds also have some beautiful, secluded areas. Strange, with all of the crowds surrounding the Daibutsu, that only a few feet away are areas where people don't generally go, yet they are open to the public.

There are also ancient monuments. Here is one.

For ¥20 you can go inside the statue. My pictures there did not turn out well as I am using only a (slightly better quality) pocket camera. Still, here is a shot from inside the statue looking up to where the head is attached. You can see the reenforcing that was installed during repairs to the statue that occurred in 1960.

The following is a plaque that is inside of the statue. It tells of some of the construction techniques used to build it.

The English text on the plaque reads (I have retained the original capitalization):
Construction Techniques Observable in the Inner Hollow of the Kamakura Daibutsu

The Kamakura Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Kamakura) was built in the middle of the Kamakura Period, seven and a half centuries ago. Upon entering the inner hollow of the statue, one can observe the surprisingly sophisticated techniques that were used to create this statue. Due to its immense size, this statue was cast in 30 separate stages. The lattice pattern of the interior walls indicates that a large number of molds were placed on top of each other in layers. In order to securely connect together the separately cast pieces, a completely unique and ingenious method was employed connecting the pieces from the base to the top of the statue. Known as ikurakuri, this method can be broadly divided into three different types (see figure).

In 1960 a program was established by Kotoku-in temple to conduct major repairs of major cultural assets. Fortified plastic ERP was applied to the neck in order to reinforce the neck of the statue, and a stainless steel plate was inserted between the statue and the pedestal on which it rests as a means of protecting the statue against earthquakes.
For someone who loves History, in Kamakura and in much of the rest of Japan something incredible is just around the corner. I did not get an opportunity to visit the many other sites in this area. I did stop by the Hase-dera (see here and here) but did not go in due to the lateness of the hour (they had closed). I truly believed that I would be able to return, and I will, but it will a long time before I am able.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Great East Japan Earthquake Disaster (東日本大震災) of 2011

I was onboard USS George Washington, moored in Yokosuka, when the earthquake occurred. Even floating on the water, we felt strong and sustained shaking. Yokosuka was mostly undamaged, but as you can read on many sources, much of Japan has been devastated. The aftershocks continue. The ground has been shaking almost continually since Friday afternoon.

Japan earthquake: Tsunami hits north-east

I meant for this blog to be a light hearted travel blog, but Japan is a land of earthquakes. Living or traveling in Japan involves living with earthquakes. In the past 5 months I have felt 3 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater. Actually more than this graphic shows.

This one is very terrible. As a result of the earthquake tsunamis have caused entire towns to disappear. Four trains full of passengers have disappeared. A cruise ship with 100 passengers onboard has disappeared. There is terrible tragedy and much suffering.

Please pray for those who are suffering.

Magsx2 has pictures and video

A note about the nuclear power facility at Fukushima, it is a boiling water reactor. A chernobyl is not possible in this design. That is not to say that it cannot become a very serious situation. Allahpundit, who is knowledgable about this stuff, has a running blog on it. The short version, nobody really knows anything.

The Google Crisis Response page has continually updated news and Twitter updates. They also provide a means of donating to the Japanese Red Cross.

UPDATE: When I wrote this post the earthquake had not been known by any particular name. It is now known by many, particularly in the West as the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake, and by most in Japan as the Eastern Japan Great Earthquake Disaster" (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) (東日本大震災), so I have changed the title of this post accordingly.

As I post this update on July 6th, almost 4 months after the earthquake, a huge number of people are still homeless and the toll of the dead continues to rise. Please pray for them.

UPDATE 2: Here is a collection of video. Some of this is heartbreaking.
Japan tsunami videos: Footage you have to see to believe.