Nishikanasa Shrine 西金砂神社

A few weeks ago, M Jr. and M Jr. II put on kimonos and took part in a shintō ceremony at Nishikanasa Shrine in the north of Ibaraki Prefecture. It’s an annual ceremony to wish for peace, tranquility, and a fruitful harvest, and the same shrine holds another along similar lines once every seven years. On a much larger scale, it holds yet another that takes place just once every 73 years, which is apparently the longest period of time between, er, holdings for any such event in Japan. The latter is called — I think: I couldn’t find a definitive reading for the kanji — Taireisai, and involves the usual sweaty, drunk, half-naked locals transporting heavy and unwieldy portable shrines from Nishikanasa to the coast and back, over the course of ten days. Which wouldn’t be quite so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that Nishikanasa is at the top of a mountain, and can only be reached by a steep and winding road and two even steeper stone staircases.

The Taireisai has been held a total of seventeen times since the year 851, with the last time being in 2003 and the next in…2076! Mrs. M’s father said that bad luck (traffic accidents and the like) befell some of the 2003 participants and was concerned that M Jr. II might be in line for some himself, until we explained that this year was the smaller, annual version.

Nishikanasa is a beautiful spot and feels genuinely spiritual — mysterious, even — compared to most of the other shrines and temples to which I’ve been. A few hikers came and went while we were there, and I’ve put that twisty mountain road on the list of climbs that I’d one day like to try by bicycle.

“Praise; auspicious”

Food quiz no.3

These are some pictures of my breakfast a couple of weeks ago — or at least, part one of my breakfast, as I tend to wake up at about 4/4.30, have bread or toast with my morning coffee at 5, then sit down with the children at about 7 for part two.

This isn’t bread or toast but something that I mashed up with olive oil and pepper, although hardly anyone else in the known universe would use the same combination.

The question is, what is it exactly? Answers, as usual, in a comment.

Food quiz no.2

Like the mystery item in my previous food quiz post, this was purchased from Gyōmusūpā and looks equally weird. It’s an egg, of course, but what kind? Answers in a comment, please!

(The more observant among you will have noted the resemblance between the egg and my, er, “hairstyle.”)

Black on the outside and green on the inside — yum, yum! Actually it didn’t taste as odd as it looked — didn’t taste of much at all, in fact.

A Walk in Yamagata

This is one of those, “Aah, things were so much easier before COVID…” posts, from a time when we could all still move around freely, go on holiday, go to work without having to wear a mask, etc. etc.

Miss Beautiful Happiness, a friend of ours from our time living in London (Mrs. M met Miss Beautiful Happiness when they worked together in a Japanese restaurant, and we invited her to our wedding), lives with her mother in Yamagata, and for the past several years we had been promising to visit her there in the greetings on our New Year’s cards.

In the summer of 2019, Mrs M. and I decided that M Jr. and M Jr. II were finally old enough to withstand the long journey from Ibaraki by car (about five hours excluding pit stops), and booked a hotel room for two nights in Yamagata City.

We had a lovely time with Miss Beautiful Happiness on our one full day there, and on our final morning I woke early, went for a walk, and took these photographs on my iPhone — the first time I had had the time and the space to do something like that for quite a while.


“Asahi Town”


This is the kanji for “love.”

And this, belive it or not, is the kanji for “poo.”

This one means “spring” (as in the season).


(I have no idea what this inscription says — is it kanji, katakana, or even the English alphabet?)

Purely by the by, after more than three decades as a white-with-sugar coffee drinker, I converted to a black-with-no-sugar one in Yamagata. There was a very nice Japanese-style breakfast at the hotel (rice, grilled fish, miso soup, pickled vegetables, etc.), but it only came with green tea. The vending machine in reception had sold out of everything except Boss “Craft” black in a plastic bottle, which I purchased reluctantly. Back in the dining room, however, tasting this was an epiphany and I have been making black coffee in my cafetière/coffee plunger/French press every morning, ever since.