< class="pagetitle">Posts Tagged “Dogo”

At over 3000 years old, Dogo Onsen is the oldest onsen in Japan, and it’s right here in Matsuyama. When the tourism bureau was considering these newfangled RF tag-based tourist guides, they hired a bunch of temps to explain the trial devices to tourists, and a friend of mine was among them. Being something of a technology buff, I had to go check it out.

There were actually two devices. The first was an LCD screen map on a lanyard that pointed out interesting things as you walked around the area. You could choose from two preprogrammed routes: one that took you to interesting historical locations, and one that took you to shopping locations in the area. You could also just walk around, and it would alert you when you got close to a point of interest. It was interesting, but struck me as a bit of a dumbed-down GPS navigation device.

The second device strapped to your wrist and felt much like an oversized wristwatch. To check the devices out, you had to fill out a paper with your home address and email address. The wristwatch device used RF tags to email you information on the shops whose RF “targets” you touched with your wrist. It felt kind of kludgy and inefficient, if you ask me.

Overall, a valiant first effort by whatever company put the program together, but not quite ready for prime time. The tourism bureau seems to agree, because the program was killed after a few weeks. I’m sure the technology will be ironed out in a few years. In the meantime, it was neat to have participated in the pilot program.

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It’s been an interesting day. I woke up super early this morning (5am is super early for me now) to go see this year’s fighting mikoshi festival at Dogo. I didn’t bring my real camera because I didn’t want it to get rained on, so I’m glad I got decent photos and video last year. The pics snapped with my phone camera are pretty useless, but Kevin got a decent video or two.

It’s been raining for the last three days, actually. It started out as a nice steady light rain, but just in the last few hours it’s gotten heavier. At this point though, the rain isn’t as big a deal as the wind, which almost inverted my umbrella as I was riding to work. You see folks, Typhoon 18 is about to hit southern Japan.

I hear about typhoons pretty regularly, but I don’t usually pay attention to the warnings because the east-west mountain range just south of the city usually diffuses any strong weather before it hits Matsuyama. (Unless of course, I’m riding a bicycle across a series of bridges that day. Then it will undoubtedly rain cats and dogs.)

This time is a little different though. I actually have a typhoon warning on my phone, evening classes at my school were canceled (which I didn’t learn until I had already pedaled over there), and the business next door to my apartment building piled sandbags in front of their door.

I think we’re in for some real weather here.

If I don’t post again, look for me in Oz.

******** Update October 9th, 2009 ********

Much ado about nothing down here in Matsuyama. It hardly rained that night, and the next day was beautiful. The city of Tsuchiura, in Ibaraki prefecture however, was not so lucky:

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Do you know how a sumo match works? Basically, the loser is the first one thrown out of the ring or the first one to touch the ground inside the circle with anything other than the soles of his feet. Now imagine for a moment that you’re watching a sumo match; except instead of a pair of 350 lb men, the competitors are 350 lb shrines carried on the shoulders of forty men. Now imagine that there are men standing on top of these shrines taunting the other team as they crash into each other at a full run. Does what you’re imagining look about like this?

This is a picture I took yesterday at the Matsuyama Mikoshi festival, just before impact. A mikoshi is a portable shrine, a spiritual vessel used to carry around the patron god of a normal Shinto shrine once a year when it’s paraded through the streets of the surrounding neighborhood to bring its inhabitants and businesses good luck.
Speaking of good luck, the chosen route for my neighborhood’s shrine took it right past my apartment on Monday night. I took this picture and video leaning out the window by my stove.
They’re louder than I expected, but I still have no idea what they’re saying.
The men’s shrine was followed shortly by these two teams of cute (kawaii!) kids carrying their smaller versions.
 
Surprisingly, they left the shrine in the empty lot next to my apartment overnight before the matches Tuesday morning. Here’s the team about to maneuver the shrine into the place.
 
Here’s the team actually setting it down.
 
And there it sat until morning.
 
So I took some more pictures.
 
Most of the actual matches took place early in the morning on Tuesday. The crowds were thick on every available viewing place.
 
What does it actually look like in action, you ask? Here’s a video I took of an actual bout taking place. You can see the initial charge with the whole team pushing on the backs of the men in front of them, the initial impact when the shrines hit each other, the teams slowly turning while each team is trying to push the other backwards (100 men in a giant disorganized pirouette…), and the shrines and teams pulling apart when the match is over.
 
The winners were happy enough to do some crowdsurfing from the top of their shrine.
 
After the bouts were all over, there was a closing ceremony with all eight of the shrines that were in the day’s competition.
 
There were also some food vendors set up to catch the foot traffic.
 
I bought a frankfurter on a stick and fresh french fries from two of the stands. Then, feeling rather weighed down by the grease, I stopped by a Lawson’s convenience store (it’s so much easier to just say “conbini”) and grabbed an onigiri rice ball and a drinkable carton of active-cultured yogurt. Walking away from the site, I was surprised to see some of the contestants and other event participants leaving in the backs of open-bed trucks.
 
Overall, a highly enjoyable and exciting festival.

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