Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cooling Off in Moriguchi           避暑のため守口へ

As temperatures have been hovering around 36 degrees Celsius (97 degrees Farenheit) of late, I took in the surrounding skyline of Moriguchi City from the Pines Beer Garden, which is located 15 minutes from the center of Osaka at the Moriguchi Royal Pines Hotel

With comfortable seating for over 150 people, you can experience the all-u-can eat and all-u-can drink affair for 90 minutes at 3,800 yen ($38).  With the Pines Beer Garden in operation until the middle of September and this year's theme being "Pirates of the Caribbean",  I recommend those in the area to consider stopping by to cool off from the scorching summer heat.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Moriguchi City, it is home to the headquarters of two very famous Japanese companies - Sanyo and Panasonic.  Add the Moriguchi Royal Pines Hotel into the mix and you have the three powerhouses of this Osaka suburb.


150以上のゆったりとした席があり、3,800円で90分の食べ放題・飲み放題を楽しむことができます。今年のテーマは「カリブの海賊」で、 ビアガーデンは9月中旬まで営業していますので、是非一度この場所で夏の暑さから逃れてみてはいかがでしょうか。


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Goodbye Rainy Season and Hello Summer!    梅雨が終わり夏が来た!

As the month long rainy season in Japan has come to yet another close, this past weekend marked the beginning of summer.  Realizing that area beaches would be packed with people, I opted to have the beach come to me by attending the final day of the four day Beach Volleyball Osaka Cup held in the center of Osaka to witness the men and ladies dive, spike and serve their way to the championship.

As the location of the Osaka Cup in Nakanoshima is normally an empty space, the tournament organizers had to bring in tons of sand to re-create a beach volleyball court in addition to constructing the grandstands for fans to watch.  It just goes to show what is possible with a little imagination.

To follow-up my day of "fun in the sun", I headed out towards the Kobe Marine Air JAIRA Riding Club on Port Island in Kobe to have my first horse riding experience in Japan.  As it has been years since I have mounted a horse, it took a little time to get acclimated to the height of the thoroughbred.  However once I was in the saddle, everything went smoothly as I was taught the basics in my introductory lesson.

For as little as 2,000 yen ($20), one can enjoy a horse riding lesson with a trained professional at JAIRA's state-of-the-art facility.  As all lessons are conducted on a "reservation only" basis, be sure to make your appointment in advance.

1ヶ月に渡り続いていた梅雨も終わりを迎え、この週末には梅雨明けが宣言されました。ビーチは人で埋め尽くされるだろうと予想した僕は、ビーチバレー大阪カップ 中之島大会の最終日を観戦することでビーチを堪能することにしました。
ビーチバレー大阪カップ 中之島大会が行われた場所は、普段は何もないため、主催者はビーチバレーのコートを作るためにたくさんの砂を運び込み、さらに観客のためのスタンドも作らなければならなかったようです。何もないところに、こんなビーチバレーコートが良く出来たものです。
次に太陽の下で楽しんだのは、神戸ポートアイランドにある神戸マリンピア JAIRA 乗馬クラブでの乗馬です。これが、僕にとって日本で初めての乗馬となりました。最後に乗馬をしてからもう何年も経っているので、サラブレッドの高さになれるのに少し時間がかかってしまいましたが、一度馬に乗ってしまうと、入門レッスンで教わった基礎の通り、スムーズに乗ることが出来ました。

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sky Beer Garden                スカイビアガーデン

Yesterday I traveled to Wakayama City located in Wakayama Prefecture, which is only an hour to the south of Osaka, to experience THE beer garden in town.  The Sky Beer Garden, which is located on the top floor of the Kintetsu department store next to JR Wakayama Station, can seat over 300 people comfortably and has a retractable roof that occupies 180 people in case of bad weather.

With everything being self-service, one can come and enjoy the all-u-can eat and all-u-can drink setup for a reasonably-priced 3,300 yen ($33) for two hours.  With a big screen TV showing area sports, you can root for your favorite team while enjoying the varied selection of food and drinks.

As the beer garden is in service until the end of August, for those of you living in Wakayama or planning to visit, I would make an effort to stop by the Sky Beer Garden for a relaxing time.


Monday, July 12, 2010

Fushimi Inari Shrine Visit             伏見稲荷大社へ

After seeing pictures and video clips, I finally made the trek to visit Fushimi Inari Shrine located to the south of central Kyoto.  With intermittent rain throughout the day, the number of visitors at the shrine for a Sunday was less than normal, however the ratio of non-Japanese (mainly westerners) compared to Japanese seemed to be about 7:3.

The shrine founded in 711 will be celebrating its 1,300 year anniversary next year.  As Nara is celebrating its 1,300 year anniversary this year, I am expecting there to be many events and activities at the shrine next year worth visiting.

The main attraction at the shrine is the roughly 10,000 small torii (shrine gates) that go beyond shrine to the far reaches of the neighboring hills.  The entire journey supposedly takes two hours to complete.  However due to the weather, I decided to forgo reaching the summit and turned around less than a quarter into the journey.

The remarkable thing about the 10,000 shrine gates is that they all are sponsored by corporations spanning the entire country with the company name and the year when the sponsorship was made carved into the wooden gate.  To sponsor a gate, prices start from 500,000 yen ($5,000) and go over 1,000,000 yen ($10,000).

As Inari is originally known as the "god of rice", many visitors come to pray for success in their businesses nowadays.  For those of you wanting good luck in your future business dealings, I highly suggest a visit to Fushimi Inari Shrine.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Inoriboshi Star Festival            平成OSAKA天の川伝説 2010

Tanabata, known as the Star Festival in English, is held on July 7 every year.  This year marked the first year that I could experience a starry night for the Star Festival as July 7 is normally overcast or rainy due to it being the rainy season.

In celebration of the Star Festival, the city had a special event, which allowed participants to purchase Inoriboshi, twinkling light balls, and toss them into the river running through the center of the city.  As you can see from the pictures above, in total 50,000 blue LED light balls were used to beautify the waters of the business district on a picturesque summer evening.

七夕を祝って、大阪市による平成OSAKA天の川伝説 2010が開催されました。参加者は、いのり星(プラスチック球の中にLEDライトを内包したもの)を購入し、自分の願いを託し、大川に放流します。写真をみていただくと分かるように、5万個の青色のLED電球に彩られ、 辺りはまるで絵のように美しい夏の夕暮れ時となりました。

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 4th of July               【祝】7月4日 アメリカ独立記念日

Yesterday marked for the first time for me to attend the Kobe Club's annual 4th of July BBQ Pool Party celebrating America's independence from England 234 years ago.  Even though the Kobe Club is a membership only club that has been in existence since the late 1860s, the club had a special offer for non-members of the foreign community to partake in the club's 4th of July festivities.

With an American style BBQ along with a three piece jazz band to add ambience, many of the party attendees enjoyed lounging around and swimming in the pool to cool off from a hot and humid summer Sunday afternoon.

After the conclusion of the BBQ party, I stopped by the Nu Chayamachi shopping district located right in the heart of Osaka to see none other than myself displayed as the infamous Yukichi Fukuzawa, who is best represented by being the face of the 10,000 yen ($100) note.  Referring to the last picture in the series, it is amazing how a little make-up and a wig can turn a fairly young westerner into an over 60 year old Japanese.  Yes, believe it or not, that is really me!

BBQパーティーの後、ほかならぬあの有名な福沢諭吉に扮した自分がディスプレイされているのを見るため大阪の中心にあるNu 茶屋町に立寄ってきました。最後の写真についてですが、少しの化粧とウィッグでまだ若い部類に入る西洋人が60歳以上の日本人に化けてしまえることは驚きです。信じるも信じないも、あれはほんとに僕 なんです!!