November 30, 2009

Otobarunotaki (乙原の滝), a waterfall almost secret

Surprisingly near. Only a stone throw away from Beppu city, behind this nearly abandoned amusement park, one can find an astonishing 60 meter high natural waterfall.

Surprise! This waterfall is created by an underground spring up at the top of the cliff.

Slippery and wet stones aren't for sitting. The surrounding ground is extremely damp and the nature and vegetation around it is relatively rich in variety.

Refresh yourself! Falling water makes a breeze strong enough to raise your coat and hair up. It maybe quite refreshing during the hot summers of Kyushu but at this time the breeze seeps quickly into bones.

If the waterfall is beautiful so is the pathway up there.

At this time of the year many of the deciduous trees have dropped their leafs.

We were fortunate to see some of them still in bright autumn colors. Thanks goes to our dear active upstairs neighbors! They suggested the trip.

November 28, 2009

One man's point of view of a society

I went to Japan to learn about Japanese way of living. I also wanted to learn why Japanese think the way they do. In the following I'll try in my best way to explain what I have observed about Japan. I want to emphasize the fact that I'm writing entirely from my own point of view, there may be many other opinions and point of views, they may differ or be similar. As with my own view, it can't surely be taken as universal fact. This is a a lot of text but no need to worry, you can stop at any time, it may be even recommended. So here I go and unfold my mind.

Concept of ie. Today, 27.11, our lesson about the concept of house (家) responded to many of my own thoughts about Japan, Japanese way of life and problems sourcing from the Japanese society. I hope I can describe these observations well enough in English. If I fail, at least give credit of taking the challenge.

A conversation with our upstairs fellow couple brought up thoughts and opinions about Japanese family. Opinions that were in a way incubated in my mind for quite a while and are now ripe to write out.

I said loosely Japan is suffering form an illness. Japan is ill, and the illness is called concept of ie, the familyhood. Illness sounds a rough word to describe whole nations way of behaving but somehow at the same time it seems appropriate word and not exaggerating the situation at all.

Before going to core of my topic, I need to explain some more background information. Ie is what we learned today at the Japanese history, culture and society class. Our teacher can be said to be a very talented teacher particularly in a topic concerning culture of Japan, for she has lived in Canada for several years, therein finishing her studies on comparative literature. I could say that, instead of being one with Japanese society, she has more of an observer's aspect to Japanese life, gained from living abroad for a long time. My intention is to use her story as an example to get the text going, so please forgive me, for at the beginning there's no discovery of miracle revealed.

Talking about our teacher, she is not married, nor has she got any children. She is the oldest in her family of three daughters. That would mean there is no male, a man, to carry on the long family line, or in practice, there is no one to carry on the family name. Both of her younger sisters are not able to continue with inherited family name, because they're expected to take on their potential husband's sure name, what ever it may be, and continue husbands kindred. It is true that in a marriage both parties can hold on to their original family names but when it comes to children, to truly progress in the family tree, both need to have same family name. What can our teacher then do? She's probably at her 40s and yet not married.

Why I ask such question? Well, what we learned about concept of ie is that, one the worst things that a descendant can do to ancestors is to not continue their family line, but to end it. Not marrying and out of babies, simply put, the family line could terminate at the dot. No more family - and grand parents would be let down.

She has a way out though. As the eldest daughter, she should get together with a man who is not the first-born of his family, and upon marriage is ready to take on a new family name. The eldest son of any family wouldn't do because he is the person continuing his own familyhood with his own family name, and therefore not ready to adopt anyone else's family name, but only ready to keep his own. In our teachers case, only imagine the rationale of questions on a first date with a husband-candidate or the number conditions that would be needed to submit to a dating agency. So to keep our teacher's family line going she as the eldest should do the righteous thing to respect ancestors' desire and to keep the ancestor-relationship good - marry and breed a child, ideally a son, with a man who's upon marriage able to adopt her sure name.

Sounds probably complicated yet not impossible. But what one could think is, what's the big deal here? Why it is so important to continue the same family line? What are the implications that may occur if one fails to continue family hood? Will it be the end of world, will the long dead ancestors return to the face of earth - to the material world, and haunt their children or grand children? If such a thing should happen, why would they ever do it - under what motive? I mean aren't that sort of thoughts, "my family line is the one which is to continue", rather selfish, and against basic Japanese values. Okay, right, let's assume that worst scenario would happen and misfortune would fall over descendants life, only to be on the safe side on these assumptions.

Having this said, I can easily add that one doesn't need to be a physicist to tell that a lot of pressure is placed over the eldest son or daughter of the family. And as a matter of fact the pressure relates more earlier stage of family life as well. What if the mother of the family isn't able to produce a son, or a child at all, for she has miscarriage or because of any other reason? In that case a lot of pressure would fall over her life too. She wasn't doing the right things, praying enough in the right shrine and failing in what ever one can do to assist birth. And even the father may feel pressurized, though he might hide it, it isn't too difficult to notice neighbors and colleagues at work gossiping around about his or his wife's inability to bring out a son to continue family line. The way I see it, brining new life to world is awash with pressure.

Well, one could think, with a child or two, things would be wonderful and there should not be a sign of worry. If this was the case, I wouldn't be writing this, or even thinking about this kind of things. When a child is born, truck load of extra pressure is poured and mixed into family context. Issues can rise especially of the way the child will be raised in the future.

In an edged example, the Japanese head of family, later I want to tell more of head of family, is working for a company, or more accurately, he's a fighter of the company. Going to work early, returning late, making him spend barely any time with family or children. It's not even probably in his wish to spare a minute with them, so he's happier to be out of house. Unsurprisingly the social distance between father and children can extend to distant lengths. Father doesn't know how to behave or to talk with his own kind, nor does his kids know how to relate to their father. Father is the one who you see little and talk to even less. He is still a father and represents the image of father - is this how father should be?

Father being at work or anyhow out for most of the time, the demanding task of raising children is left entirely as mother's responsibility, which is presumed also by father. The mother-child relation ship will grow strong, both trusting and understanding each other, but totally imbalanced when compared to father-child relationship. Some mother's are able to relate to their children with an objective stand point, seeing both their good and bad sides and reacting to them wisely, while others, the major part, develop to over protective and over caring, denying all the negative sides, while only cheering the positive sides, all ways being on child's side, and every time avoiding confrontation with them - even in situations where confrontation would be much needed to steer to right path and distinct right from wrong. This they easily neglect to carry out, while thinking their status as mother is to educate and care about their beloved ones. Name that has been given for these kind of people, especially male, is mother complex, an over-dependent relationship to their mothers.

I see that many of these issues in society go as far as Japan's history can be traced. At the early times no such thing as family, as we know it, existed. Since Nara and Heian periods the men of the country were engaged in something as lightly tying as visiting marriage. Lucky for the men, they only needed to visit women to dust some sheets, after which it was up to the woman to breed, raise and bring out a child ready who is ready to face the world. At the same time men might have as many as four lovers, with whom he would exercise same mating habits, all of whom would later breed children of his kind. One man could have as many women as he wanted, limit was simply set to the amount he could possibly handle at once. Exhausting? - probably, but according to every mans sole needs.

With the old visiting marriage tradition Japanese continued until Kamakura period. Then the lawmakers introduced a law of family. Roughly I could describe it as rising the status of man to a master of the house with all the possible physical, mental and legal power. For examplem, from being able to decide who he's children were to marry, to if he wanted to declare a divorce. Woman had no say in divorces. All they could do was to obey husbands order. This law of change in family format was brought by neo-Buddhist, but ran quite same lines with visiting marriage. Still men could have their lovers and make love with them whit out a hint of bad conscious. And wifes were to accept this, after all it was a law and law should be obeyed over anything.

Laws are not always however the best things to guide our lives. In Japan's case, the twisted laws made country ill - so ill that it even today suffers from the aftereffects of those laws. Something that seemed right for the law makers back then produced so many unseen problems in the far future. This is my view and therefore one could think otherwise, but I see that the law makers truly had no clue what was best for the people of the nation, instead they were more concerned of their political regime and its future state.

What I mean by future state? Let me briefly explain. In the early Meiji period, the concept of ie took its solidest from. This was because the leaders of the country steered whole Japan to be the world's superpower. The ambiguous constitution of great empire of Japan was introduced and with it the nation as whole started to prepare for conquering surrounding countries, namely to follow the example of several other countries at the time, which were hastily colonizing powerless countries around the globe. Japan didn't want to be left aside on the race and there they went, sailing around pacific, rumbling around Korea, China and Russia, in their great adventure to redraw the borders of Japan. Big headed they started, but when all this had to end in drama and destruction at the end of second wold war, they were exhausted and ready to stop.

What had happened on that time between and especially after? Japan had made all the effort to mobilize every capable human being in the nation to fight the war they had so keenly engaged into. From elementary school students to house wifes and their husbands, everyone was needed to contribute to common good, decided by the mighty leaders of the nation. For a moment the plan worked and produced the much wanted result. Men were ordered to make their duty by dedicating their life to work, that is to work for any company outside their home, leave early, come back late. Women were ordered to take care of household and children, raise them well and provide a good base for them to grow as future fighters, loyal to their nation. And that's what they did, 356 days a year. Taking care, tendering, loving, teaching, driving and so forth, housewife's tasks were so broad they could be sated as more full time work. And the children grew and become loyal fighters for the future great empire of Japan. At the same time men didn't need to stick on one woman, a way that allowed even larger number of children to born. A really terrific baby boom of the time was created. Today it is impossible to keep up the large generations as they retire.

Japanese illness is a culmination of many factors. But over anything else, I diagnose it as combination of two; the post-war era and early law makers failures, who baldly engaged Japan into unnecessary violence and distress. Now they need to pay the price in social struggle and problems generated with it; underdeveloped family relationships, domestic violence, social pressure, aging population, only to name some. I pretty damn much hope that the law drafters regret and shame themselves because of the way they managed the nation. Where was the much praised Japanese feature of farsightedness, the quality of seeing the result in long-term? Perhaps current social situation was avoidable but too far to be visible, and perhaps now it's too late to take correcting measures. My naïve belief that is that the society will naturally fix it self, though in extremely very long time. While waiting let's cross fingers for the future and realize that the situation is not actually that bad even now. Now I thank you for reading my whole pouring, even though it was only one man's loose view.

November 27, 2009

Second visit to Saganoseki

The Saganoseki peninsula, near Oita-city with a view to Pacific Ocean hides unexpected beauty inside. Slightly hilly terrain, cozy fishing villages along the coastal road, clear blue water sparkling under the sun, that and more is Saganoseki. Check the rest of the story and you know what I mean. There are a lot of pictures in this post.

Morning dew on a rice paddy, which we passed on our walk Crop had been gathered by reaping and the unneeded straw had been laid on the field.

A reservoir dug in the mid-part of peninsula. Scenic but unfortunately man-made.

Uhm... 'Strange stone' sounds tempting and dangerous at the same time.

This shelter at the top of our climb is an ideal place to do cherry blossom tree viewing but the season is off.

Saganoseki lives through fishing. The first and largest fishing port viewed from the window of a lunch restaurant.

Ocean as far as eye can see. The road to the tip of peninsula opened a view towards Pacific Ocean.

Our day of travel was Monday, and because of the Labor Thanksgiving Day, a public holiday. Many Japanese came to relax and do fishing.

A jam-packed fishing port.

Some random fishes caught by a holiday fisher.

The shore was not sandy but full of small stones rounded by combers.

Lighthouse at the tip of peninsula. In the time of Second Wold War two huts were in the place those trees at the left. Today the stone foundations are still in place.

Lighthouse or white tower...

A chocolate filled bun on an afternoon break. Great snack and best round rolls that a bakery in Oita station offers.

Down at the sea level. The sound of waves in front of endless sea made us look hypnotized.

Who knows, maybe we were hypnotized. Are you?

The sun had enough of the day and started to set.

And here is the final view of the peninsula. Sun set and there was only darkness. We were tired, our feet hurt and ready to go home. But it was a trip well worth doing - I recommend!

November 26, 2009

News links from Oita University

Oita University and Oita Press publishes news in their web pages from time to time. Let's take a look at what events they have covered about exchange students' activities.

2009/11/11, cherry blossom tree planting in Bungotoyooka:

2009/9/30, exchange semester's opening ceremony:

2009/10/17, study trip to do za-zen and mandarin picking:

2009/10/21, visiting teacher from University of Melbourne giving a guest lecture:

November 23, 2009


Me kävimme viime lauantaina bambu-lyhty festivaalilla. Kun me saavuimme asemalle, kaupunki oli valmistettu näin. Odotin minkalainen se on illalla!

Me kävimme katsomassa ruskavärejä linnallekin, koska meillä oli aikaa ennen valofestivaalia. Ruska oli aika lopussa, mutta kuitenkin puut oli kauniita.

Kun meidän kaveripari oli kävelemässa linnan puistossa, japanilaiset joilla oli ammatti kamerat tulivat ottamaan kuvia heistä; oli hauskaa! He tulivat Yamaguchista valokuvakurssin takia.

Kun me tulimme takaisin linnalta, valot oli jo päällä ja paljon ihmisiä oli paikalla.
Bambu-lyhdyn valo oli tosi kaunis ja lämmin valo.

Tien molemmin puolin oli paljon lyhtyjä. Kaikki tiet olivat tosi romanttisia.

Tämän paikan maisema oli mahtava!! Oli tosi tosi kaunis.

November 22, 2009

これはなんですか。What is this?


First time to see this kind of beautiful of box.What could it hold inside? It's almost too nice to open but shall we have a look?


It is the German Baumkuchen The king of cakes, made of dozens of thin layers of lightly baked batter. This one, however, is not from Germany but from Yufuin, and its layers are flavored with Yuzu citrus fruit.

It was terrific!Thank you Yumiko's uncle, aunt and mother!

November 20, 2009

Being アホ in Japan

Back to the family name topic. Japanese people have reacted quite elusively when hearing it. Here are some of the responses:

Mrs. Kumahara, Secretary, International Students:
"Uhm... excuse me Lauri, how do you actually say your family name?"

Mr. Bahau, Professor and a teacher of Japanese Management:
"Hih, hih, huh, hih... (covering mouth with a hand)"

Many of the colleague students at the Uni.:
"アホ!? ほんとおおお?"

Assiciate Professor. When checking the name list, instead of reading the whole word, she spelled it out letter by letter, "Mr. A-H-O".

All expectations of negative receiving were wrong and in vain. Nobody has even called me by アホ! Could it be because Japanese, from their nature, are thoughtful and sincere. Maybe so.

November 11, 2009

Cherry blossom tree planting in Bungotoyooka

Last Sunday began in under a beautiful sunny weather. Our dear teacher from Papua New Guinea had invited us to plant cherry blossom trees. The place was Bungotoyooka, a serene fishing village north-west of Oita.

Together with the local community and students from the Asia Pacific University (IPU) we planted about 100 cherry tree seedlings to the sea-banks of the village.

The head of education in Hiji area launched the event by planting the fist tree. A discussion with him revealed that he was rather interested about the education system of Finland. He even wanted to travel to Finland to know more but was too busy to to it.

Press was there too. One of our fellow students, after planting this seedling, was interviewed by a news reporter.

Every cherry blossom tree was decorated with the planter's name plate. Now we have one tree of our own in Japan!! After 10 years it will be nice to return there and see the same tree again (if its still alive).

What a heap of pork meat! Planting session was followed by BBQ and several music performances.

This bottle, which kids had filled, was full of tiny crabs or something - jumping a round and moving quickly. I had to be fun to collect them I guess.

Two days after, on Tuesday, a story appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbum! It was about our international event with a photo and interview! It is great that they've recognized this joyful event!

November 5, 2009

ゴキブリ Cockroach





November 4, 2009


Check out this blog: There ミケルさん, a fellow exchange student from California, has written several interesting posts about the time in Oita. I haven't had time and brain to write about everything. But fortunately he has covered those and some other funny events along the way...

November 3, 2009

The big fish hunt

The Oita River runs only 200 meters away from our apartment. Plenty of fishes jump at the river, making fishing a very tempting hobby.

So few weeks ago, with a big catch in my mind, I purchased fishing gear from the local store, 神力商店 (こうりき), downtown Oita city.

Two weeks passed. Alas, all I caught was some random seaweed, empty seashells and a Fugu - the poisonous blow fish. Some might consider Fugu a lucky catch, since its high price at high-end restaurants. But not wanting to die yet by eating its poison I released it back to river.

Yesterday, in turn, was a glorious day in the history of fishing in Japan! There it is! The first big catch: Japanese Sea Bass, or in Japanese: Suzuki - as the car maker.

Having no scale or gauge leaves its weight and length a mystery. Yet, for the record Suzuki can grow to a length of over 1 meter!

Big thanks to 神力さん and the fisherman who kindly advised in techniques and gave the lure for this one!
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