Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tsugi no Asa and Mister Donuts Card

I had to run out of the apartment yesterday, and I'd forgotten to upload the day's post when I got back. So, here's two posts for you today.

Tsugi no Asa

"Tsugi no Asa" translates to "Next morning." The sign says "dining farm," but I'm not sure what that means. I just like the way the cat forms part of the kanji for "asa," and the tail curls into "no".

Mister Donuts Card

Mister Donut has an e-money system where you can get a plastic credit card-like piece of plastic (same size and thickness), but the card only has a barcode that gets scanned into the computer, and money gets credited to the Mister Donut database somewhere, rather than written to a mag strip on the card itself. I got this one as kind of a money-back points system for buying $18 worth of food and coffee, for 250 yen back. That's the value of one more cup of coffee. Kind of worthless, but the artwork is nice.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oct. 13-14 Weekend

KKB Days

The KKB TV station had their seasonal event to promote their new TV shows. I had to go up to Amu Plaza on Thursday, and I saw the crews putting up the stage, and the camera people blocking out the shots for the live events, so I knew what was going to be happening over the weekend. However, I had to work on Saturday, and wasn't able to get to Amu Plaza at all on the first day.

And it rained off and on on Sunday, so few people showed up to be in the audience then. (There were a lot more people in the department store, they just couldn't be bothered to go outside.) On the other hand, most of the stage events consisted of the program hosts talking to the audience, and interviewing guests (the woman above is wearing a red apron from some restaurant). There were a couple of music acts scheduled, but they looked like the standard boy bands, which I'm not interested in, and one manzai (comic duo) that I've seen before. The manzai guys are good, but their routine doesn't change much.

There were signs around the stage saying "no cameras or cell phones." A number of people ignored the signs, and the security guards didn't bother trying to enforce them. Even so, I didn't think that recording the event was worth the risk.

KKB also had booths on the promenade for people to pretend to be a voice actor, or newscaster, but no one was taking advantage of them when I was there. It's always the same booths from year to year, so I didn't take extra pictures of them this time.

The virtual reality booth in the back used the standard polarized 3D viewers that everyone else has, so I didn't bother seeing what they were showing. I assumed it was a 3D version of one of their regular programs.

I just hung around long enough to tell that there wasn't anything I had any interest in, then went home to work on the computer some more.

Milk Day

I'd been wondering when the next milk promo event was going to happen, but I was surprised to see that they'd scheduled it for this weekend. I had classes from 2-4 PM and then from 5 to 6 PM, and I got to the stage in front of 7-11 in Tenmonkan on my way to the school at about 1:45. That didn't give me much time to take photos, although at that point, all they had going on was a promo by the foamhead mascots, and giving out little cups of milk. The line for the free milk was too long, so I just kept walking.

(Mascot for Satsuma City, left.)

During my break, I headed back to Tenmonkan, but the milk table was already gone, and the stage was being torn down. Guess I didn't miss much.

Wine Festa

Also during the same weekend, there was a Wine Festa in the open space in front of Lotteria in Tenmonkan. I didn't look at the announcement board too closely, but in the past they've charged 1,500 yen ($13 USD) for tokens for three glasses of wine. I couldn't justify drinking that much wine during my break between classes on Saturday, and I didn't really want to spend the money on only three glasses, either.

Apparently I wasn't alone in that sentiment, since the space was mostly empty. Previously, the sponsors also had a live stage with musicians playing classical music, but not this weekend. That was another reason why I didn't bother spending the money.

Again, it rained on Sunday, and I just went up to Amu Plaza to check out the KKB Days event, and didn't walk back to Tenmonkan this time, so while I had the time to drink the wine on the second day, I didn't take the opportunity. Overall, a low-key weekend spent working, reading, and using the PC.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Minions at Large

Inflatable in Amu Plaza, advertising the latest Minions movie.

The black "scorpion's tail" in back is a ball and chain for the prisoner.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Mika Tsuki

Mika Tsuki, which is literally "Day 3 Moon", translates to either "new moon" or "crescent moon."
"Alcohol and food."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ill Duomo Sign

At least one person has a leg up on everyone else.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Suugaku Cafe - Sandeco

There's a coffee shop just across the street from City Hall that I see all the time when I go to and from the English school. They used to roast their own coffee, and I went one time a few years back to check it out. The hand-ground and poured coffee was good, but they were charging something like 400 ($3.70 USD) yen for one small cup, with no free refills, so I didn't go back.

Then, 2 weeks ago, a couple of my students told me about this "suugaku cafe" (mathematics), where the owner was a recreational math enthusiast. The cafe serves as a coffee shop during the day, and then as a cram school for junior high students in the evening. My students suggested I check it out, but they didn't know the name of the place. So I went online and did a google search on "suugaku cafe kagoshima". The results showed it was near my school, and the next day I had a little free time and was in the area, so I swung by. I was surprised to see that it was the former coffee roaster, Sandeco, and that they still had the same sign as before. Underneath the sign, it says "mathematics cafe and cram school." So, maybe it always was math-oriented and I just didn't realize it back then (but I don't think so. I think they may have changed ownership.)

In general, they look like a regular cafe, serving curry rice with sweet Kagoshima pork, and Shirokuma shaved ice desserts. This lunch set of the curry rice, onion soup, salad, and a small cup of hot coffee after the meal was 750 yen ($7 USD). A bit more than I want to pay for lunch on a regular basis, but it was good, at least.

The only thing that hints at the math aspect of the place is this row of text books, and the white case of drawers in the lower right corner of the nook. (Plus, advertising in the menu for their mascot, Suuga-kuma, (a play on Suugaku (math) and kuma (bear)).) The drawers hold 12 different math puzzles on 3x5 cards, and are divided up into 1st year through 3rd year junior high-level difficulties, 4 cards per level.

I asked the waitress how the system worked, and she explained it, saying that the easiest puzzle was in the upper left drawer, and the hardest one, which she thought was really hard, was in the lower right drawer. (So, difficulty goes from top to bottom, left to right.) I decided to try my luck with the easiest one. What I got was 2(x-1) = 3(x+2) + (x-4), solve for x.

It took me more time to figure out the instructions than it did to do the actual problem. I showed all my steps just in case that's what the rules required. While I was at the cafe, there were another 9-10 customers, who were also there to do the problems. The rules allow two puzzles per customer per order, so I grabbed the second puzzle for 1st year students. I messed up on one step, showing that it's better for me to not do these things in pen. I did correct my mistake, though.

Sandeco loves its coffee and math.

There's kind of a window display in the hallway leading from the door to the main seating area, and in the display were coffee-themed Halloween decorations.

The prizes for completing the puzzles correctly are little paper stickers featuring Suuga-kuma (a white caricature of a bear, wearing a textbook for a professor's cap) and some kind of joke saying. The one on the left says "eating meals, taking baths, and sleeping are good for you." There are a total of 50 seals, but only 12 puzzle cards, so I don't know how the cafe selects the seals you get at any given time, if they're related to the puzzle, or if they're totally random. (Think of the seal like getting a little gold star sticker on your assignment sheet. It'd be cheaper to just go out and buy your own star stickers.)

It's not worth going back every week just to collect the little seals, but I might consider getting one of the shaved ice desserts on a Saturday if I have a 1-hour break between lessons.

(Secret - I did sneak a look at the hardest problem just to find out how hard it is. It's pretty simple, but I'm having trouble understanding the Japanese instructions. It's asking for dy/dx of a simple equation, but I'm not sure if this is supposed to be differentiation or integration. I'm guessing differentiation. Keep in mind, this is a junior high-level problem, and in the U.S. in the 1970's, I didn't get into differentiation until I got into college.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Soba Day

Soba no Hi translates to "soba noodle day." On Saturday, I was talking to one of my English students, and I'd mentioned the curry festa in Central Park. He commented that he'd seen something set up in Tenmonkan and thought that it was related. However, I didn't think that the curry festa had anything else going on anywhere else, so at the end of the lesson that night I cut through Tenmonkan to see if I could find something. At the open space in front of Lotteria and Yamakataya, I came across this bunch of tables set up in preparation for "soba no hi" on Sunday.

I came back on Sunday, when I was waiting for the Pipi balloon show to start at the curry festa. It's basically just what the name says. The table at the far corner sold plates of soba noodles, and the customers then sat around and ate them.

There was also a cooler case holding "take-out soba" for 800 yen, and the soup for dipping the noodles in for 200 yen ($9.50 USD for both, total). Having spent 1,000 yen on Saturday for two small plates of curry, I didn't feel like spending another 1,000 yen for noodles, additionally I didn't feel like standing in line for 10 minutes to place my order.

The trays nearest the camera are for the toppings and sides.

The sides here are variants on sweet rice sushi rolls.

Plus tempura shrimp and veggies to put on top of the noodles, the idea being that you select what you want, noodles, sushi sides, and toppings, and pay whatever the total comes to. So, that could be 400 yen for just the noodles and nothing else, or 2,000 yen for a whole bunch of everything. Again, I didn't want to pay $10 for lunch, so I just took some photos and went back to the curry festa.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Aki no Fureai 2017

Also this weekend we had the Aki no Fureai (Fall Local Products) event at Amu Plaza, with entertainments provided by Japan Rail (JR) and a handful of live performers. The event itself was intended to sell shochu, tea, and other stuff from the neighboring areas. No idea how well the merchants did, but the audience for the live shows was around 20 people when I was there.

The first sign I had that anything was going on at Amu Plaza was the replica steam engine used for giving rides to small children and their parents.

I'm not sure what it uses for fuel. I guess it's a steam engine, but it didn't produce visible steam or smoke that I could see. I do know it's not electric, anyway.

The booths sold foods and crafts, and we also had the replica of the Kagoshima train system, with the city tram, and the Ferris wheel on top of Amu Plaza.

The local mascot for Yamaguchi prefecture was on hand, but I assume it's not supposed to be a green molar...

The live stage mostly consisted of promotions of the various products and places to visit. The one musical act that I saw was Tsumugin Chu, a traditional folk music duo, this time accompanied by a drummer. I've seen them before, and usually they play faster music. This time, though, it was more like a dirge, and I didn't try recording it.

Mr. Molar and Miss Yamaguchi prefecture posing for publicity shots..


After the curry festa on Sunday, I returned to Amu Plaza to check out the 4 PM live stage show. I caught this female kitsune (Japanese fox) posing for photos and promoting an onsen (hot spring spa).

The last singing act was Aimyon. She (like most musicians in Japan) billed herself as a "singer-songwriter," but unlike most musicians, she didn't start out with a copyrighted cover. Instead, she sang something that sounded like a protest folksong about a young woman that is a singer-songwriter. I didn't stick around. She's not bad, but it's not my kind of music. I took a few pictures for the blog, then did some food shopping, and returned to the apartment to play video games. A busy weekend, but nothing really spectacular.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Curry Fest 2017

This last weekend was fairly busy, compared to the last month. In Tenmokan we had the curry festa, Amu Plaza was hosting a local Fall products fair, and on Sunday there was Soba Day in the open space in front of Lotteria.

There were well over 20 restaurants and groups selling various kinds of curries and curry-related foods (curry buns, curry bread, curry omelets), plus advertisements for cars, TV stations and convenience stores. Some of the booths were very popular, with lines 1 hour long, while the others had no customers at all.

One of the tables was run by a junior high school group, and I guess they did sell out by the end of the day.

The big sign advertises beef curry.

The live stage was sponsored by one of the TV stations, I think MBC. One of the local personalities would introduce each of the acts, and generally relate them to curry ("this next performer likes curry, so let's all give him a hand"). I haven't seen any of the acts listed before, but I did recognize the name of a balloon twisting clown (Pipi) from schedules for other past events. The MC announced the violinist, Naoto, as have appeared on their TV program a few times before.

Naoto did a kind of "violin karaoke", playing on top of a CD of pre-recorded music. The first song was from the Macross anime. He sounded ok, but the sound tech added so much reverb that the music sounded too artificial. It's also protected copyrighted music, so I didn't bother recording it.

The next group was Breath. They did kind of a slow jazz that was ok, but again, it was copyrighted covers (youtube would flag and block them), so I didn't record it. I didn't stick around for any of the other music during the rest of the day, which was basically just Saori Yoshimura, a female singer, and then a foamhead mascot show. Everything ended at 5 PM, which I considered too early.

JoySound, a karaoke box, had their portable karaoke studio set up as well. Nothing says "curry" like self-conscious people singing off-key.

I did eventually get 2 plates of curry in lieu of having dinner Saturday evening. The first was a black ink beef curry. I had that last year, and it was just ok. The one pictured here was supposed to be a chicken curry, but turned out to just be veggies in a tomato base. Not bad, but not really curry. Both plates were about the same size, 500 yen apiece. I consider the portions to be a bit too small for the price ($4.75 - $7 USD), and otherwise wouldn't have gotten anything except that there was nothing available for dinner at the apartment that evening.


Having looked at the Sunday schedules for both the curry festa and the Amu Plaza events, there really wasn't anything on the live stages I had any interest in, and I knew that the rest of the events themselves (eating curry, or buying cheap jewelry) wasn't going to be any different for day two. So, I spent the early part of Sunday at home processing the photos I'd taken. I got out of the apartment at 2 PM, just in time to catch the last few seconds of Naoto playing back-up for Tsuyoshi Sakasegawa (it's had to tell if this is right because he has kanji in his name that's not very common and the pronunciation isn't clear just by looking at it). It was an acoustic set, but I didn't hear enough to be able to tell if I liked it or not.

Last up was the Pipi Balloon show. Turns out that "Pipi" has also done a little voice-over work, and had sung the jingle for MBC corp. TV ad (MBC owns one of the local radio stations, but is mainly a housing construction company). Pipi started out by promoting her work on the jingle, then led the children in a song-and-dance number about monkeys as she made the above balloon monkey. The rest of her show consisted of playing children's music off of a CD and making the matching balloon animal (half the balloon structures were pre-twisted before the show started). Nothing worth recording, but fun if you're a 4-year. After a few minutes, I left for Amu Plaza to catch their 4 PM show (with a stop along the way at a bookstore to check for new manga releases).