Traditional rice harvesting

Rice is a beautiful crop as you can see from these pictures. The bright yellow green plants pop against the dark green of the surrounding hills. Most of our team volunteered to harvest rice using traditional methods (second photo above). Ray and I opted out. As an ex-farmer and a farmer’s daughter, we had both put in enough hard work on farms that the prospect of farm work wasn’t appealing. The process is fascinating, however, as the video linked (under process) shows. Modern techniques have been adopted where the farmers can afford the equipment.

The workers from our team wore rubber boots, wellies as the Brits call them.

Japanese Vending Machines are a win

(A guest blog by Ray Shortridge)

Unlike Pachinko, playing the vending machine slots is a guaranteed win for the player.

Japan has the highest per capita number of vending machines in the world. Let’s focus on one vending machine commonly seen on the street, beverages. Here’s one stocked with a wide variety of types of drinks.

A player wins > 99% of the time, because the vending machine vendor maintains the machine assiduously. In Japan, one rarely encounters something broken. Although, if a machine lacks, sufficient coins to provide change, then it won’t let you play.

The bottom row of Boss cold coffee in a can products warrants closer attention. On a video commercial played in the subway car, I had seen Tommy Lee Jones evidently shilling Boss coffee. Well, if the Man In Black guy likes it, then I’ll give it a shot. Must be good.

I played against Boss, for 110¥, and selected the tan 3rd can from the left, cafe au lait. I WON! 😀😀😀 And it was delicious.

Wrestling with Sumo

Sumo is a fun sport to watch but often a bit bewildering for non Japanese. Basically, whoever gets shoved out of the circle first or made to touch the ground with any body part except for the soles of their feet loses. There’s a tremendous amount of religious ceremony due to the sport’s Edo period beginning and its ties to Shinto religion. Here is one of the best explanations I found for neophyte attendees. Sumo basics

We went to one of the really big tournaments and the audience was really excited. The actual matches last only seconds, but the preparation and ritual before the match takes much longer.

It was a large crowd in a large stadium. Finding our seat was difficult as the ticket didn’t have a translation and the apparent entry gate wasn’t the right one. Fortunately, the stadium staff members were very helpful and spoke excellent English

The sumo wrestlers are huge! Yet, they move with surprising grace and agility. The extra weight they carry subtracts about 10 years from their life expectancy and leads to illnesses such as diabetes.

We’ve Got Big Drums

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On the way to our workout/class for Taiko drumming, we spotted a fun workout gym. Now for the fun part. Here’s a sample of what we were trying to do. Fun video of Taiko drumming

Our instrctor uses the big drum. She played an amazing concert for us. I have video but we were asked not to share on line. (Close friends can ask for a link if you promise, like me, not to share it online. We not only have video of her but also of Ray and I )

Smaller drums in storage.

Pachinko, the Japanese alternative to casinos

Pachinko machines are sort of a vertical pinball machine. One of my coworkers collected antique models (at what I considered exorbitant prices). So I was excited to see Pachinko parlors near our hotel. The older models are classy in the same way as classic movies. The newer models are glitzier but the concept of play remains the same.

If you’re interested in playing pachinko, this link https://www.wikihow.com/Play-Pachinko gives a good description. From Wikipedia: “By 1994, the pachinko market in Japan was valued at ¥30 trillion (nearly $300 billion).
As of 2015, Japan’s pachinko market generates more gambling revenue than that of Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore combined.

The entire Wikipedia article and references is at this link. Now, pachinko is spreading, mostly to other Asian countries, so it’s a trend to watch.