Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Post-Payday Trip to the Second-hand Store

Stuff in Japan is expensive. No one denies this. But when people move house, they tend to offload anything that doesn't fit in the new place at one of Japan's delightfully eclectic second-hand stores. Here are some highlights from our trip to the local "ACB" last weekend.

Most of the store like a well-stocked Salvation Army, but with a much lower ratio of clothes to other stuff.

A super-comfy double-recliner loveseat for 21,000 yen (about $230)? Yeah, we totally bought that. In fact, I'm sitting on it right now!

While we were checking out and arranging delivery they gave us some chilled tea. For some reason I seem to have felt really smug about this.

After we purchased our awesome couch, we started poking around, and things quickly got weird (as they are wont to do in Japan). The copy on this mini beer fridge reads:

"Drinking a glass of beer helps you release fatigue and mental stress when you come back home. Just pull down the lever and get a chilled canned beer for your relaxing time. COOLING CUBE creates a healing time and space beyond reality for you. SINCE 2003."


Not one, but three slot machines, each for under $600 bucks.

The obligatory pachinko machine.

An 88-key electric piano for . . . $125?

And, naturally, a mechanical bull.

(Seriously, I'm not kidding--that's actually a mechanical bull.)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Muromi Paper Lantern Festival

The Muromi River is one of the two little rivers that flow together at the point by our house. Yesterday, Nana and I (along with a bunch of co-workers led by Maureen, whom you may remember as the leader of our little Dazaifu adventure) rode our bikes a few miles upriver for the Muromi Paper Lantern Festival. 

The Muromi festival is just one of the countless local lantern festivals celebrated throughout East Asia. Though pretty humble when compared with some of the bigger festivals, the sight of all those lights flickering in the cool evening air isn't something I'll easily forget.

Here are some photos (and videos!) from our night:

The majority of the lanterns were simple colored paper bags with candles inside, arranged in a wild array of patterns.

Most of the patterns appeared to be abstract, though there were a few we could identify (fish, birds, something that was either a mermaid or a top-down view of a veil dance).
The lanterns marking the edges of the footpaths were all made by local schoolchildren.
 Some of these added some really neat colors to the mix.
 Others simply have a lot of personality, like this ogre . . .
 . . . and his red-faced companion.
It's hard to get the full sensation from these photos, though. For one, the spread was huge, and with the cool breeze blowing up the river, the lanterns were constantly flickering like waves of grain.

Here's an attempt to catch the flickering:

And here's an attempt to give a sense of the scale of the thing: