Monday, 21 August 2017

Okawachiyama Part 1: The Village

So yesterday I decided to actually use my rest day to go out. I decided to go to Ookawachiyama (大川内山 - link leads to their Japanese website), which is a place that I've been wanting to go for a while. Originally, I planned to go there on the 22nd of July, because there was going to be some sort of lantern event going on, but I had work. Still, I wanted to go before the wind chime festival was over so without really thinking about it, yesterday became that day.


Ookawachiyama is about 40 minutes away from Sasebo (by car). I managed to make it there using the voice navigation of Google maps, but I did get lost once, so I would really recommend you go with someone who can read a map.


Also, there is parking! I didn't really research this well enough, but I decided to trust in the fact that the village had a website and therefore must have made arrangements for visitors. The car park I ended up in had this little rest shop at the entrance with a really pretty porcelain mural at the front!


The white and blue bridge is the "Nabeshima Clain Kiln Bridge with Tile and Ceramic Dragons". At the back is the potters' grave, where about 880 unknown graves are gathered into a pyramid. According to a sign near the grave, many Korean potters came to Japan after Japan's invasion attempt of Korea in the 1950s. Their graves face Korea, symbolising their desire to go home.

I almost went to the graves to take photos but I realised that this was a grave and managed to stop myself in time.


And since it was still the wind chime festival, I managed to take lots of photos!


I'm not too sure what this wheel is for but I liked it.


As well as the big mural that depicted the village.


This is basically a collection of pottery shops and it's a good (or perhaps I should say dangerous?) place to come to if you're looking to get cups, plates, bowls, etc.


The first thing I did was to walk to the entrance of the village, because I wanted to see the Potters' Bridge. 



To the left of the bridge was a monument of the crown prince and princess.


The ground in front of the potter's bridge is covered with broken pieces of pottery and it made this really pretty tinkling sound when I walked across it. Well, sometimes anyway. At other times you just hear the porcelain breaking and I decided to be a lot more careful not to fall.


At the other side of the bridge were some wind chimes and this little garden, with water falling into the pond periodically.


This is the little house that provides the water.


After looking around, I walked back towards the village, following the path of the river.


The river basically forks into two near the Nabeshima clan kiln bridge (one leads to it and the other leads to the stone bridge below).




The village is exactly like what I saw in the google photos! It's very lovely and quiet and it was a pleasure to just wander around and listen to the wind chimes. I took several videos and pieced them together so if you're interested, you can watch it and hopefully get a feel of what I experienced.


I was so tempted to get something, but I managed to exercise some self-control (for the moment).


And more photos of the windchimes.





If you'd like to learn more about the town, you can download a PDF of the map that they give out at this link. The PDF is basically a map of the town and a few explanations of key points. And like I mentioned, here's the video that I mentioned earlier:


Next post: Lunch + the rest of the village

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Oreo & Hershey's Sweets Taste Test

I was at the supermarket last week when I remembered that Oreo has released a line of sweets. It's supposed to be only available this summer, so I decided to look for it and I found that Hershey's released a line of sweets as well!


And because my willpower for sweets is practically non-existent, I bought everything that I wanted to try and spent last week constantly snacking.


And I figured that since I was eating, I might as well make notes and share them, in case you're like me and want to try the sweets but have more willpower and will only get one or two.

1. Oreo cake (130 yen)


I liked how this looked because it promised to be an oreo in cake form. Well, it was pretty good, but it wasn't amazing. I couldn't really taste the oreo filling in most of the cream - the only time I tasted oreo was in the crushed oreo bits in the center of the cake.

Hershey Cookie & Cream Sand (130 yen)


Yes, this is called a "sand", I'm guessing it stands for sandwhich? This reminded me of dorayaki and the cake part was really fragrant and delicious. Unfortunately, that meant that it overpowered the cream and I didn't taste Hershey's cookies and cream in this.


Crepes - Hershey (140 yen) and Oreo (130 yen)


Since there were two of these, I ate them at the same time. The pastry for both of them was nothing to shout about, but the Oreo crepe tasted a lot like the Oreo cookie (at least way more than the cake) and I found that I really liked it.

The Hershey's crepe, on the other hand, made me worry that I have forgotten the taste of Hershey's cookies and cream despite that being a huge treat for me when I was young. It was nice, but the taste of the crepe was stronger than the taste of the cream and it reminded me of the cake in the Hershey's Cookies and Cream Sand.


Eclair - Hershey (130 yen) and Oreo (120 yen)

front: Hershey's. back: Oreo

And another two sweets that I ate in together because I couldn't decide which to eat first (and ended up alternating bites). The eclair is my favourite of the Hershey's sweets and I even preferred this to the Oreo version. The cream here was nice and strong and I finally tasted the cookies and cream. Too bad the pastry was only so-so.

The Oreo eclair definitely looks better (or maybe I'm just a sucker for things with something crumbled on top) than the Hershey's one. As with its Hershey's counterpart, I liked this best of all the Oreo sweets that I tried, probably because the taste was the strongest. And like the Hershey's version, the pastry was only so-so.

If you're only going to buy one sweet, you should definitely get the eclairs.

Also now I need to start eating healthy (until I see the next limited edition sweet).

Sunday, 6 August 2017

(Part Of) Japanese Church History

Today happens to be the anniversary of the Church that I'm attending in Sasebo and 平和聖日 (Holy Day of Peace) for the 日本基督教団 (United Church of Christ in Japan - for convenience,  I use 'the Church' and 'United Church of Christ in Japan' pretty much interchangeably in this post, but I am not talking about the whole of Christianity in Japan) and there was a message from the organisation, plus today's sermon was about it and I wanted to share what I learnt.

By the way, I assumed that today was 平和聖日 because the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki on August 6th, but apparently, it's basically the first Sunday of August, which happens to be on August 6th this year.

The Church that I'm currently going to was started in 1889 and is closely tied to the history of Imperial Japan. When the navy of Imperial Japan decided to make Sasebo one of its naval bases, Sasebo turned from a village of under 4000 people turned into a major port. In that same year, the Japanese Church sent missionaries to Sasebo and that's how the Church started. In other words, the history of the Church I'm attending is closely tied to the navy of Imperial Japan.

Which leads us to the role of the Church during the war. History books might have told you about State Shintoism during the period before WWI and the Church was also drawn into it. During WWII, the Japanese Church worshiped the Emperor as God as part of worship. That included things like 宮城遥拝 (kyuujyou youhai), which is basically facing the Emperor and saluting, forcing Korean Christians to worship at shrines, and others. In fact, from the 24th to 26th of June, 1941, the Church sang the national anthem (君が代; kimigayo), did the 宮城遥拝, and prayed for the war dead during the General Assembly for the founding of the United Church of Christ in Japan, using the reasoning that "while we are Christians, we are also Japanese citizens and must show our loyalty to the nation" (rough translation, actual Japanese is 「われは 基督教信者と同時に日本臣民であり、皇国に忠誠を尽くすを以って第一とす」)

In fact, the Church actually sent a letter to other Churches within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere called 日本基督教団より大東亜共栄圏に在る基督教徒に送る書翰 (the translation is basically the first part of the sentence), which included things lines like 「世界は畢竟キリスト教によりて救わるるのである。しかも武士道の上に接木せられたるキリスト教に由りて救われるのである」(The world is saved by Christianity. Moreover, it is saved by Christianity which is grafted on to Bushido).

And in this way, the United Church of Christ in Japan supported Japanese war activities, which  repented for in the 'Confession on the Responsibility During World War II'. As a result, when there was a 大嘗祭 (daijyousai; the first offering of rice to a newly enthroned error) in November 1990, the Church opposed the movement to use state funds for religious ceremonies. And this June, with the special law for the Emperor to step down being passed, the Church is once again reminded of the events of 1990.

Interestingly enough, this confession was published in the name of the chairman, not on behalf of the Church. Even 50 years later, there are still people opposed to having this become the official confession of the United Church of Christ in Japan because it might hurt the Church (from what I heard today. The confession was approved by the committee so I'm not too sure what the difference in it being published in the name of the Chairman and in the name of the Church is).

And this is why the Church now is active in taking a stand against the revision of the constitution and militarisation in general. Up until now, I've never really understood why, but knowing the history helps to put things into perspective.

Further Reading
Most of my information was taken from today's sermon and the message that was handed out, but I did find these resources online:
Catholic Church History in Japan (Didn't really use it for this post but it's fascinating reading)
Confession on the Responsibility during World War II
Sasebo Naval Base  (not about the Church but it was interesting!)
日本基督教団より大東亜共栄圏に在る基督教徒に送る書翰  ( and this is the google translated version)