Funeral for Taiho, Japan’s greatest post-war sumo wrestler


Taiho, one of Japan’s great yokozuno sumo champions, had a lavish funeral with mountains of white flowers. Current champion Hakuho led the mourning. Taiho was very hot in his youth. He was half-Ukranian and born in the Soviet Sakhalin island, which are claimed by the Japanese as the Karafuto island.

taiho_yokozuna2 Funeral for sumo legend Taiho

Spring flowers

Spring flowers

I love spring. It’s been cold here the past two weeks, and the ever vigilant newscasters are reporting that the cherry blossom season is now one week behind the previous estimate. There’s actually a nightly map showing the progress from south to north, and west to east for peak blooms. It’s flower mania.

The photo above is an unknown (to me) woodsy flower growing outside our apartment complext. Below is quince plus some other very common small white flower shrub.


And just around the corner, near the house demolitions, is this amazingly fragrant small bush. It smells like honey. I wonder what it’s called?

Fragrant shrub, Shin Nakano

Tokyo winter gardening

Tokyo winter gardening, Tsubaki

My first winter garden has been a surprise for me. Japanese love to talk about their wonderful four seasons. I expected that winter would mean no flowers and scarce greenery. That’s why I left the East Coast of the United States over twenty years ago.

Yet winter in Tokyo offers many opportunities for flowers– particularly annuals like pansies, decorative kale, geraniums. Even plants I expected to die back are sprouting new growth in mid-winter, like two small roses on my balcony. Most specatcular is the tsubaki (つばき), a winter camelia I bought around new year’s. Another variety is called sazanka (さざんか). There’s even an early plum tree blooming on the path we take to the JR station.

Across from the same plum tree, we saw a tiny, surprisingly round, green bird that is active in winter, the mejiro  (目白). It’s adorable.

uguisu (うぐいす)

And, finally, I am surprised to see so many plants common in Northern California growing in the Tokyo winter, including brugsmania (called Angel’s Trumpet in Japan) and “purple princess.” Very unexpected.

“Er, well, I suppose I was in love with a man myself”

Junjou romantica

Following a few blog links, I discovered this year’s most popular Boys Love anime, Junjou Romantica, with seasons 1 and 2 appearing on television. With a cast featuring university students, professors, and a famous novelist, this story tells the connected stories of four male couples.The title can be translated as Pure Romance.

Like all Boys Love, this anime is clearly written by and for women. Gay romance and sex is a fantasy displaced onto men for maximum erotic exploration. Few if any of the characters identify as gay. The sex is generally forced and desire denied, while simultaneously there’s also sweetness and true love.

Super hen, ne. ちょう変、ね!(Very twisted).

Equally amazing is that these shows have a huge international fanbase, who fansub them into English within a week or two of broadcast. All episodes can be found online for free. Season 1 can be found here.  The first five episodes of Season 2 here.

Here’s some more stills, showing ostensible rejection of attention, “but” . . .

Junjou Romantica

Sex that’s borderline rape.

Junjou Romantica

More denial of desire.

Junjou Romantica

A rare role reversal, saved for the finale of Season 1.

Junjou Romantica

The voice actors are hilarious, and the visual style very entertaining. When the characters frequently become mad, the drawings get simplified, and characters regress to children. There’s also some excessive use of falling flowers.

Season 1 has a rock and roll love song in the opening. I’ve learned most of the lyrics:

I want to see you, just want to see

If the more we’re together, the lonelier we get,

Let’s hold each other’s hands until we’re not lonely anymore

Don’t let go of that hand, don’t let go

Because I’m here beside you

Keep on smiling, always smiling

And make flowers bloom

Junjou Romantica

Balcony garden

I am blogging while sitting on my comfy new bean bag (thanks, Muji). Outside the living room window is the beginning of our balcony garden, five plants, including the pink rose house-warming present from wonderful ceramics studio student Ni.

Beyond the flowers are the peachy-pink grill of the balcony, and then the urban jungle of mountains (eleven story neighboring buildings) and deep valleys of two to four buildings extending to other residential and commercial high rise centers. You can see in the photo that we just added a wood boardwalk to the balcony floor.

I am learning the names of my plants in Japanese. From left to right:

1. ばら (桃色): Rose (pink)

2. クロホシクサ (白色): Eriocaulon parvum (white)

3. リンド (青い):Gentiana scabra (blue)

4. ヒューケラマーマレード :Heuchera marmalade

5. マーガリット (黄色): Daisy (yellow)

Arrived on Easter Sunday

Pansies growing in small sidewalk crack

Shu and I arrived in Tokyo on Easter Sunday after a cramped flight. I slept 15 hours after Makoto gave us the keys to our tiny flat in Nakano. This blog will chronicle our two month stay this spring in the neighborhood near Shinjuku and Narita Higashi, where Shu’s parents live and operate a ceramics studio.

Our trip was timed to allow Shu time to set up a small gallery show with his parents this Friday. It combines his drawings with his parents’ ceramic work in a broad theme of “Haru” or spring. Unfortunately, our trip required me to miss my favorite Xtian holiday including bunnies, pastels, chocolates, and Dolores Park’s annual Hunky Jesus contest.

In addition to the art show, Shu will be working on his next two novels– one set in his childhood neighborhood that includes Nakano, the other at Penn State where he used to teach Comparative Literature. My plans are to continue my human technology consulting, improve my Japanese language abilities, and learn more about shared urban spaces in Tokyo.

The first night I heard crows outside our flat. So familiar from our bedroom in San Francisco.