chiba

In the Heart of the Chiba Jungle, with Monkeys Too

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Cross Step Creek, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

Summer is here.  I do love summer. The heat is relentless.  The storms are fierce, but best of all is the freedom to wander with a camera.

This year my photo wandering partner, Tomo, and I returned to Yororukeikoku.  Tomo chose to bring a TLR to capture the day.

Yororukeikoku lies deep in the heart of dog shaped Chiba prefecture.  A place so unvisited at this time of year, that we passed only to other hikers on a 10 kilometer trail in over 5 hours of time.

It took a bit over 2 hours by train including the double car Kominato line.  We took the train to the end of the line at Yororukeikoku station, snagged the remaining rice balls tow local summer mikans (mandarin organs) from the local conbini and made our way down the road.

The asphalt was streaming hot.  The conversation bounced around until I mentioned that it would be incredible if we encounter some “real” Chiba monkeys.  We both kind of laughed and kept stepping.

The winter storms had wrecked havoc on the paths, and many trails had been closed.  Our first major obstacle was getting around a fallen tree.  Not a big deal, but we would see other trees uprooted, and small landslides along the way.

The path criss crossed a small creek about a dozen times.  Sometimes it took us a minute or two to find the path on the other side.  After a rain storm, I am sure that the path would be even harder to keep track.

Lucky I had been breaking in a new pair of hiking shoes, which kept my feet dry and my ankles from twisting.

The first real rest we took about 2 hours in on the hike was an old homestead built in the 19th century.  All that remained were some of the foundation’s stones, and piles of broken shells and pottery.  It was a perfect place to break out some dried fruit and ice water, and just listen to the sounds of the countryside.
Jungle Hill Homestead with Ceramic Fragments, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

We got back on the train, and we began to ascend out of the valley.  This is when, even though we were in the shade, the sweat began to pour from all of our pores.  We reached the first ridge in the forest when sometime darted down a tree on our left.  At first we both thought a raccoon, but, it scampered rather oddly, it was then we realized it was an honest to goodness Chiba monkey.  My home, I had made in jest, had come true.

But we weren’t out of the valley yet and we still had to climb higher.  After some strenuous moments of plodding forward we reached the top and a small paved service road.  The rest was mainly down hill.

Coming out of a the forrest there were a few small farms ahead.  When a small brown blur bolted across the road.  Yes!  We had seen another monkey.  Not only one, but in the trees and bamboo on our left we could see others jumping about.  I was elated!  After seeing a half dozen snakes, and countless frogs, we had eyed the reclusive Chiba monkey.

They must prove problematic for the farmers, because in this part of the jungle they had fenced in their farms, I speculate to keep the monkeys out.

 

Monkey Tree with Wiresm and Shadows, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

The road leveled out to view rice paddies to our left and right.  The sun was falling and the sky was filling with some cloudy wisps.  The Kazusa-Ōkubo station was ahead.  We had about 40 minutes before the next train.  No one was insight.  This station’s area was the inspiration for the Okubo Nekobus stop in My Neighbor Totoro.
Wating for the Train, Kazusa-Ōkubo Station, Yorokeikoku, Chiba

We rested.  Shot our last couple of pictures, and waited for the train.  The sounds of summer were mesmerizing.  The chorus of cicadas, crickets, frogs, all in discordance harmony.  Not a soul was around.  Except, for the guy who drove up in a car, used the bathroom, then kicked up dust on his way out.  That was it.  We drank some cold water with paintings of Totoro to our backs and waited for the train.

A great day out in the jungles of Chiba.  Something I need to do more often.  I need to escape the concrete jungle for a lush green one.
Rice Paddy with Wires and Clouds, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Rice Paddy to the Hills and Sky, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Rice Paddy with Narita Memeorial Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

Time Heal Scars, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

 

 

Small Gorge with Stream, Yoroukeikoku, Chiba

Return to Okitsu Beach

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Diver's Fishing Basket

 

It has been a while since I have taken the time to gather my thoughts and post.  There has been much that has been swirling around my heart as the summer heat rises, and energy can be sapped.

There are times the world is overwhelming.  There is too much stimuli.  Not only too much, but it is often distorted through the lens of propaganda and misinformation.  The constant stream weighs heavily on my as I make my way.

It with all these emotions that we packed up the car and headed for the annual Slump Tennis beach BBQ party.  What is Slump?  That is a good question.  It is a casual group of friends that all play tennis together.  I, myself, don’t chase the fuzzy yellow ball, but my wife does.

Okitsu beach is on the southern end of series of beaches of Katsuura on the Chiba Peninsula.  It is a quiet town, that in it’s glory days was a small thriving fishing port.  Those days are long gone, but the fisherman’s boats and nets still trek out into the open Pacific Ocean.

Okitsu beach is a place for families.  There are nearly no groups of boys hoping to pick up some bikini clad girls.  None of that here.  Just lots of families gathered together for a day of fun in the sun.

We were lucky that the skies were a bit overcast which kept the mercury low.  The day before had seen a high of 35C (95F).  The sun poked out from time to time, but for the most part it was a lovely day with out searing our flesh.

It was great to let the cold salty waters wash over my overloaded heart and mind.  Just to get away from the city sprawl and reconnect with the beach of my youth.  I love to just wander around the old town, and walk up and down the small sandy stretch of beach.

The beach is littered with fragments of Japanese blue and white porcelain pottery.  No one has been able to tell me why there is always so much pottery to be found on this beach.  Do the fisherman just toss bowls into the waves when they are done with them?  Some of the pieces have had their sharp edges polished by the surf and the sand.

I was thankful to be away from it all.  To be able to relax with some friends, have some good food, play a little beach baseball, and to wander with my camera.

When the times are as turbulent as they are these days the first tragedy is the truth, we need the time to reconnect and sort though and discard the unneeded.  The day at Oktisu Beach helped to put it all back into proper perspective.

 
High Tide Coming Storm

Okitsu Lazy Nets

Creeping VInes into Cold Storage Warehouse

Boats Docks Sea Hills Sky, Okitsu Beach

Contemplating Temple Lotus Leaf, Rain and Bang

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Contemplating Temple Lotus After the Rain, Ichikawa, Japan

 

Last night the winds howled around the apartment buildings and homes in my neighborhood.  The rain splattered against my window.  The night was one of constant interruptions.  No real quality sleep, just lots of sleep deprived dreams of oddities.

Then without warning the floor moved.  It wasn’t a shaker.  It didn’t build to a crescendo and released its power.  It was as if the world’s table had been slammed into and then it was over.  It was enough of a jolt to induce a surprise.  As quickly as it came it was gone.

On my walk to the station I often pass through a temple on top of a hill.  The vividness of the green Japanese maple caught my eye, and I walked over the circular driveway to get a different vantage point.

I looked down into the claw pots that were filled with lotus leafs.  They too were incredibly green.  There were jewels floating on the gaps over the leaf’s veins.  I starred.  Did hail fall from the sky in the storm?  I was curious so I ever so gently poked the bobble with the tip of my umbrella, and it moved.  Not ice, but crystal clear water.

The walk through the temple always calms my nerves.  I take the time to look around to see what is blooming, greening, and fading away.

Rain, will bring flowers.  The earthquakes bring fear.  They all can be released though the passion of attempting to live life though artistic expression.

 

The Saitama Side of Life

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Monolitic Saitama Riverside

 

I visited the border town of Misato yesterday.  Thats right a border town, for it is just over the border from both Chiba Prefecture, and Tokyo.  The sun was pretty harsh as I made my way over to the river.  The levees are huge cutting off all view of the river.  I had to climb a series of concrete steps to stand atop the levee.

The weeds were thick and coming right up to the edge of the steps.  It was like how I imagined finding an ancient Mayan pyramid that had been swallowed by the jungle.

The flood plain that stretched out between the Saitma and Chiba sides of the river were low and wide.  A small island of trees had even taken root in the middle of the flood plain.  I gazed out over the grass and river as my eyes focused on the far side that was Chiba prefecture.

I wondered what this area must have been like 50 years ago.  When there was little out this way that had been constructed.  Or even to go farther back in time to the Edo period when this area might have been largely un populated.

Times change, bridges are build the old is knocked down and the so-called modern replace it.  Somewhere between the sky, river and asphalt lies the truth.

 
Sky, Chiba Prefecture, River, Saitama Prefecture, Road

Found Japanese Booty of the Copper Kind

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Antique Japanese Copper Coin with Embedded Grain of Sand

 

While combing the beach in Okitsu for broken bits of celadon and bits of pottery with blue glazes I came across a rather odd little circular object.  When I first spied it the disk in the sand I thought it was a washer from one of the fishing boats that dock on both ends of the beach.

I reached over and picked it up, to next think that I had found a modern 5 yen coin that someone had dropped in the water and had tarnished.  Part of the disk was missing, and the hole in the middle was square.  I thought that was a bit odd because modern five yen coins have a round hole, and have the look more off brass rather than copper.

I showed it to some of my mates back at are BBQ area and they said I had found a bit of Japanese treasure.  After doing a little digging around on the internet, I can determine that the coin is at least pre-Meiji era (1868).  it is most likely from Edo era (1603-1868).

I have beach combed in Florida for years always dreaming of finding a little piece of pirate booty, only to travel halfway around the world to find a piece of Japanese treasure.

Green Curtain Madness

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Green Vined Wall with Weeds and Sign, Ichikawa

 

Using nature to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter is nothing new; however, since the March 11, 2011 triple disaster Japanese have been planting green curtains.  The idea behind green curtains is that the leaves will absorb the sun’s rays, release oxygen into the air, and keep homes and offices cool.  Commonly planted vines are cucumbers, goya, and morning glory.  The climbing vines are planted in front of window that will allow air to pass through, but keep out some the harshest sun.

This was not the case with this little house in Ichikawa.  The entire home has been completely engulfed in an ivy vine that the windows have completely disappeared. The only part of the home that has not  been completely covered with vines in the front door.

I wonder if these vines really keep the home cool?  Greeny green in Ichikawa sounds pretty good to me.

 

All Gone, All of It

Monday, June 10th, 2013

All Gone, All of It

 

The saga continues.  The hovel is gone.  The trees that reached towards the skies are gone.  The scaffolding and the vinyl is gone.  There is nothing left of the the store that once was.   All we are left with are is the semi-leveled earth.

Last week I was pleased that at least the trees had been spared, but that pleasing sensation gave way to dread as I passed by the location today to find a utterly empty lot.  The tree had been completely uprooted and disposed off.  A larger tree that was in the backyard was only a stump today.

All gone, all of it.

 

The Hovel is No More

 

 

Y Tree with Crumbling Home

The Hovel is No More

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

The Hovel is No More

 

The space is the same.  The fence is the same.  The fork in the tree trunk is the same.  Now the hovel that was there is gone.  It is only a flattened piece of land.  It was sad to see it go but it was so decrepit that it was better to be leveled than left to crumble into itself in the next shaker.

Good bye!  It was a pleasure gazing at your corrugated siding, and your sliding windows.  I will miss you.
Y Tree with Crumbling Home

Y Tree Home

Monday, May 6th, 2013

Y Tree with Crumbling Home

 

This home is on my way to the bus stop in Okubo, Chiba.  It has been there for years.  I noticed on my most recent passing that the storefront and the home has been abandoned.  The building is so decrepit that the owner has draped netting and has roped off most of the home to attempt to keep it from further crumbling.

I really doubt if it will do any good.  The next large shaker that hits the Chiba area will demolish this home.  It is shame because this home has so much character, but it has out lived its ability to stand on its own.

Just a sweet object to gaze at on my way home.

 

Cherry Blossoms Just about Gone, but not Forgotten

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Prayer Cherry Blossom, Ichikawa 2013

 

About two weeks ago back in Miami I started to get a bit nervous as my friends started posting about the wonderful cherry blossoms they were experiencing in Japan.  I had to take a deep breath thinking that this could be the fist time since moving to Japan when I would miss the cherry blossoms.

On average, from what I have gathered, the blossoms arrived about 2-3 weeks earlier than usual.  Would I miss the official arrival of spring as heralded by the tiny flowers?  Fortunately for my mind’s grace and the powers greater than my own the little wonders continued to hang on after I had arrived back in Tokyo.

I desperately wanted to go out with the crowds on Sunday to catch the last of the weekend hanami (flower watching) parties but I was kept shut in by rain, cold, and jet lagged induced narcolepsy.  The weather had cleared up substantially by Monday to the point where I was able to ride my cycle and explore the Ichikawa streets.

The crowds were already gone except for a small group of women and children here and there enjoying the last of the flowers.  Retirees were still out with their tripods and ultra lenses waiting for that decisive moment, and then there was me.  Stepping through the streets and temples with nothing but my little Ricoh GR.

I am thankful to the creator for allowing me to witness the spring with my eyes and heart.  The coming of spring is special amongst all people.  It is the beginning of the year that is commemorated with the keeping of passover in the faith of my ancestors.  Here in Japan it is also the mark of the new year.  The youth will start their new grades by the second week of april just as the last of the blossoms are drifting off the trees.

The blossoms signal new times.  There are new hopes that blossom quickly that if one chooses to pursue will transform into  fruit.

The cherry blossoms are only here for a short time.  Enjoy them before they are washed out into Tokyo Bay.
Chasing Cherry Blossom Petals, Ichikawa 2013

 

 

Cherry Blossom Lanterns Flower Park, Kasai, 2013

 

 

Skyward Cherry Blossom, Ichikawa 2013

 

 

Cherry Blossom with Pond, Ichikawa 2013

Lunar Seagull Twilight Waltz

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012

Moon Seagull Twilight Waltz Over Tokyo Bay

As we get deeper into autumn the twilight creeps up so quickly.  It seems as if the golden moments of the setting sun fade into night.  The moon was out early this evening high in the sky.  Seagulls waltzed under rippled skies.  The luna in all its majesty smiler a happy one as it too watched the aerial display.

Swooping down on its dinner the birds would skim the water.  Looking for that meal so that they could be satisfied.  All under the moons watchful eye.  The more terrestial rippled clouds gave way to a obsidian water.

They danced.  I watched.  The sun continued to set.

 

Those Natural Moments, Make Our Days

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Living Sentinels and the Watchtower

Today I was talking to a good friend of mine who has been going though some tribulations.  There are times in our lives no matter what we seem to do that the events in our have a way of dragging us down.  My friend commented that what actually lifted him up and over the much of everyday life was some poetry.  They were in fact a collection of haiku.  It was art that lifted up his soul and refreshed his spirit.

I too find that art has the power to lift me out of depression.  Art has the power to wipe the stains of life clean as I search out inspiration from the world around me.  I am surrounded by concrete; therefore, sometimes the only nature I am exposed to are confined to terra-cotta pots.  The largest recent inspiration comes from the skies above.

Today it came in a garden at a Buddhist temple.  I find it so relaxing that after a day of work to wander through this temple on my way back to the station.  Today a pair of large trees, with gnarly roots captures my soul.  I, of course, had passed them hundreds of times, but today was different.  I stood and watched them.

Some goldenrod also caught my eye as it was jetting out from the edge of a canal.  The earthy yellow pollen may be aggravating my allergies, but the colors are so soothing to gaze upon.

It is these little encounters with nature in an urban world that make my day.  I hope that others out there can reap the benefits of being in tune with the natural world around them.

 
Goldenrod Canal Riverside Embankment

Autumn Acorn Memorial Gate

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Acorn Memorial Gate

It was just another sign of the passing from summer into autumn.  I spotted a few acorns that had been gathered and placed on the wooden gate of an old temple in Ichikawa, Chiba.  It is still early enough in autumn that the acorns were still green.  The green so beautifully contrasted against the centuries of patina on the wooden gates.

It truly seems like one day it was summer and the next day I am pulling a hoodie over my head to keep the chill factor at bay.  The wind was whipping around as gray covered the skies that this little acorn spoke out to me.

“Here I am!” it announced to the world.  I wonder how many had passed under the gate and missed this green gem.  Is the little acorn not speaking loudly enough?  Or is it that it is only there for the people that are operating on the same wave length.  Whoever placed the acorn there was also tuned into his/her surroundings.

As the phases of the moon tick off towards another year, it is always those little reminders that let us know the season, and our place in it.

Be on the watch for those acorns, for the changing leaves soon come.

 

Bridge to My Dreams: Ichikawa Style

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Bridge to My Dreams: Ichikawa Style

Once upon a time a young man had many dreams.

Visions filled his head of brides, paths, towering heights over vast expanses of water.

Was it Key West?

Was it the San Francisco Bay Area?

Or was it Myoden in Ichikawa?

The young man thought he knew the answer, but he does not know.

He only knows that a young man once dreamt of bridges stretching to the horizon.

The young man dreams.

The middle aged man remembers the dreams.

The old man collages the dreams and reality.

 

Bridge to My Dreams: Ichikawa Style.

Getting Comfortably Lost in the Chiba Countryside

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Rice Paddy with Twist, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

I am fortunate to have a friend like Tomo.  He and I take a photographic journey every summer.  Each year we go someplace different and wander around with our cameras chatting away as we go.  This broiling summer Tomo suggested that we head to Chiba Prefecture’s country side.  A place called Yorokeikoku Valley.  We were blessed by some cloudy weather, so it wasn’t as hot as it could have been.  We even got caught in some rain, but it didn’t dampen our mood one bit.

It was a bit of a challenge to just get to, but the journey is what makes it so magical.  I met up with Tomo at Shin Urayasu station and boarded the Keiyo Rapid train out to Soga.  At Soga, we transferred to the Uchibo Line until we reached the little station commuter station of Goi.  There the real journey began.  We bought an all day pass to ride the Kominato line.  It is known for its one or two car trains.  The train otakus (geeks) love to ride and photograph this line.  There was even an old fashioned train girl who would sell, inspect, and punch the traveler’s tickets.

We got off about 3 stations before the last one and started to walk some of the old country roads.  It was a great feeling to be out of the heat of the city, and be surrounded by farms, cicadas, and trees.  We passed though some tunnels which here in Japan have the reputation for being haunted on our way to the next station.  We had to wait a good 45 minutes since the Kominato line comes only about once or at the most twice an hour.

Being out in the country I am reminded how much more there is to Japanese society than the city.  In fact, most of Japan was an agricultural society up until very recently.  Most of the society were subsistence farmers  just a few notches above.  The rural life was the Japanese life.  Walking along the old roads and coming to a rice paddy that tucked into one corner is the family cemetery.  The hillsides were dotted with tiny Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples.

In an odd way I was reminded of the parks between the hills Berkeley and Contra Costa County.  They are very country, even though you are only 45 minutes from San Francisco  there are reminders that the city isn’t that far away.  There were still signs of Japan’s industrialization at just about every turn we took.

All that is true, but the country is the country.  The loud tranquility was a beautiful excursion from the hustle of Tokyo Life.

I look forward with an open heart to wander Japan’s rural side with camera in hand.

Rice Paddy with Cloud Hole, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Cedar Forrest, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Country Road, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Le Petit Rapids, Yorokeikoku, Chiba, Japan

 

Copyright 2007© m2c LucidCommunication - Jacob Schere