Cutting down on electric consumption in Japan

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Our consumption of electricity of August went down by 44 % than last August.

We were all surprised to find out as we saw the bill from TEPCO. Given the fact that last August we were all away about one week in August, we have almost saved more than 50% of electricity.

 

Since the power plant problems, we have always been thinking about how to be free from nuclear power as much as possible. Then we did these things.

1.    Replaced incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs.

2.    Bought a new TV, a new fridge and a new washing machine. Three of the ones we replaced were more than 12 years old.

3.    Used air conditioning only for its drying function.

4.    Used a big electric fan in the living room.

5.    Planted bitter melons to make a shade. Bitter melons give us energy.

6.    Turned off the heater on the toilets.

7.    Cooked rice on a gas stove. It took only 10 to 15 minutes, while it takes 45 minutes

by electric rice cooker.

To save more electricity, I should stop using the dish washer. But we can save water by using dish washer.

 

My conclusion is that we all consume too much unnecessary electricity at home.

Also our houses are designed to consume more electricity. We are trapped.

 

It’s fun to think how to save energy.

Green tea in Australia

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011

I had a chance to meet an Australian business consultant who has started a green tea business in Australia. He seems to be a very able and distinguished consultant. He is friendly, positive, has a sharp mind, and often told us jokes.

His schedule was quite tight but we all felt grateful that he visited Shizuoka to taste and talk about tea.

 

He is going to spread and enhance tea drinking customs and culture in Australia. They have already started to grow tea plants as a trial. I thought it’s a good idea because Australia and Japan are located in reverse climates. If we grow tea plants in both places, we can enjoy first fresh green tea not once a year but twice a year.

 

I guess agriculture isn’t that simple and easy, though. But it’s worth trying.

He also emphasized health benefits by drinking green tea. It is said that green tea prevents many kinds of illness, inhibits carcinogens, lowers cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and helps to reduce weight. Since I was a child, green tea was always with me. So I didn’t think it’s anything special. However I feel very happy that some people from different cultures appreciate its benefits and our culture. Having thought about culture,  many kinds of Japanese things stem from tea ceremony, such as flower arrangement, housing, tea utensils, calligraphy, and kaiseki cooking. I’m sure his plan will go well and will make people happier and healthier.

I was also interested in his occupation. I understand his mission is to encourage emerging businesses in Australia. I think it is challenging but sounds very exciting. I wonder if I could find something beneficial from different countries to introduce to Japan. To do so, traveling to many places and meeting people are important things.

Mt. Minobu, Kuonji Temple

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

If you go to Shimobe hot spring, you might want to visit this temple. One American who has visited many temples in Kyoto or Kamakura told me that this Kuonji Temple was the most impressive one. As you walk in the second main gate, you’ll see long and steep stairs. Climbing up the stairs will be good exercise for you.If you are not strong enough to do so, you can go up by car. 

This temple was founded by Nichiren who established the Nichiren sect about 758 years ago. Nichiren had many hardships and danger in his life. He was persecuted and exiled to Izu or Sado Island or he was almost executed but each time some miraculous incident occurred and his life was saved. I enjoyed reading the stories along with looking at the paintings in the temple. At the time Nichiren lived, Japan had many troubles such as big earthquakes, famine and epidemics. People were suffering from these problems. Nichiren suggested his ideas to the leader of the country writing in “ Rittusyou ankoku ron” but the government didn’t listen to him. I think Nichiren was a very political person so his teaching may also be political. One of the famous persons who lived his life according to this teaching was Kenji Miyazawa.

I don’t know much about Buddhism but Zen seems to be more individualistic than Nichiren’s attitude. Zen seems to be a fight within one’s inner self. I heard one priest was chanting sutra. Nichiren’s chanting style sounds very powerful using drums or other instruments. I like listening to many kinds of sutras. I don’t always understand the meaning but I feel relaxed whenever I listen to them. One person told me, the important phrase in Nichiren “Nanmyou hou renge kyou” saves you from disaster. When the person has to pass by somewhat spooky places, she always chants the line quietly.

 

 

Hot spring in Yamanashi

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

It has been really hot and some might not even want to think about going to a hot spring. Shimobe hot spring in Yamanashi is great one in this case.

 

Shimobe is located in south west of Yamanashi prefecture. Yananashi is next to Shizuoka prefecture. This time of the year, many roads have heavy traffic so our choice of destinations and means of transportation are very important.

We were really lucky to choose Shimobe because:

1.    We were not caught in any traffic jam.

2.    Shimobe was cooler and quieter than other areas.

3.    Shimobe hot spring’s water is low in temperature (31 Celsius or 41 Celusius). In one bathing room, there are two big bathtubs with low temperatures and one with a relatively high one, so that we can alternate. In summer a low temperature bath is preferable. I could stay in it for a long time.

This hot spring is as much as 1,200 years old. Lord Takeda, who used to govern this area, loved this hot spring. This water is good for recovery from injuries. Probably Samurai warriers healed themselves in this hot spring.

 Also some writers such as Masuji Ibuse stayed at this hot spring.

This hot spring water is drinkable. As we went into a room, a woman at the inn gave us a big bottle of sake. First I thought “ What a welcome drink !”

But it contained hot spring water, not sake. “This water is good for your stomach,” she said. This hot spring isn’t very refined but it reminds me of old Japan. I hope it stays as it is.

Hiking around vegetation limit in Mt. Fuji

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

We went on a hike between the 5th station and 6th station of Mt. Fuji.

Many people climb Mt. Fuji straight to the summit in summer. But let me recommend this hiking course as an alternative. It’s relatively easy and it doesn’t take a long time. But please be sure to wear the right clothes and shoes. Also it’s better to go early in the morning to avoid thunder showers. It’s more enjoyable to go along with someone who knows the area well.

Start at Fujinomiya 5th station. Walk up to the 6th station then go toward Houei crater. If the weather is clear, you can view spectacular craters and Mt. Houei. Unfortunately, the day we went there, it was foggy and a little rainy.

However, we enjoyed the changes as fog and cloud were constantly moving. This man is from Oregon in the U.S.A and said he likes this misty cool air since it reminds him of the weather of Oregon. In fact, the temperature below the mountain is really high and humid, while on the mountain, it is cool and comfortable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we go up we can enjoy seeing the change of vegetation and above the 5th station is the vegetation line. There is no greenery beyond this line so we can really appreciate how vegetation manages to live in harsh environments. It is beautiful and touching. For example, look at this Japanese larch.

We can see tall Japanese larches in lower places but here it grows horizontally.

 

 

These flowers were blooming around the crater. He said they are pretty.

These are called Meigetsu-sou or Reynoutria japonica. I like this area because we can observe a great gap in vegetation. Descending only a few steps from rocky, desert like terrain, you will suddenly find yourself in a beautiful forest. This forest smells wonderful. About 30-minutes walk leads you to the parking lot at 5th station.

 

The man from Oregon is going to climb to the summit in a few days and he will find another aspect of Mt. Fuji’s beauty.

This place is on the Fujinomiya trail in Shizuoka. From July 15th to Aug.28th, tourists can’t drive up to the 5th station. They can take a bus from train stations, such as Fujinomiya or Shin-Fuji. Or those who drive can park their

cars at Mizugatsuka and then they can take a bus to the 5th station.

And when you go back to Fujinomiya City you will be hungry, so it’s time for Yakisoba. By the way, I heard Fujinomiya Yakisoba which has already been popular all over Japan is going to be introduced in New York.

I hope people like it. At least the man from Oregon said “ oishii ! “ which means delicious in Japanese.

 

Mt. Fuji in Summer

Monday, August 1st, 2011

This year’s weather is something unusual. Normally, Mt. Fuji can’t be seen this clearly in Summer. (The photo was taken on July 23rd)  It is often covered with fog or cloud. A friend of mine who regularly visits us in Summer even said that Mt. Fuji doesn’t exist: it’s an imaginary mountain!

 As we had guests from a foreign country, we took them closer to Mt. Fuji.

This place is located to south east of the mountain. The Houei crater looks different shape from when viewed from Fujinomiya which is to south of Mt. Fuji. As many people know, Mt. Fuji has erupted many times, and the most recent eruption took place at this Mt. Houei 304 years ago.

 Some people ask me if I am concerned about another eruption. I am not worried about it. The power of nature is beyond our control. I’d rather enjoy myself each day, each moment, without worrying about the future. Besides, a friend of mine who works for Fujinomiya city hall told me that they always monitor low frequency vibration of Mt. Fuji so they can tell if anything wrong is going to happen or not.

 I like to view Mt. Fuji and I understand why many people have been worshiping this mountain as a sacred one.

  On our way to this site, we saw many people (more than 100 people, some are Japanese and others are from foreign countries ) walking along the road. I don’t know if they mean to climb from zero station to the top or just hike around the foot of Mt. Fuji. Usually people start to climb from the 5th station. It’s the high season so private cars aren’t allowed to go as far as the 5th station. They must be parked in lower parking space and everyone must take a bus.

 People should do enough preparation before climbing. Otherwise, even without an eruption, Mt. Fuji can be more dangerous enough.