Archive for the 'Hachimantai' Category

The Earliest Sunset in Hachimantai

©2012 Jason Hill

We are  getting closer to the earliest sunset of the year. November 23 is what I like to call the “One month pit.” What I mean by this, is that on November 23, the sun will set at 4:14pm (setting earlier the next day), then one month later it will set again at 4:14pm (setting later the next day). In my area the earliest sunset will be on December 2 at 4:10pm and stay that way until December 13. During this month of darkness, it’s almost impossible for me to do any photography after work since it’s pitch black when I’m finished. I usually have to wait until early March until I can get any after work photography done.

One thing you should keep in mind is that the earliest sunset of the year is earlier than the solstice, which in my case is December 21, and due to the geometry of our orbit and how we measure time compared to this, it’s usually about two weeks earlier than solstice. This time is also different depending on your time zone and what latitude you live in. I use the iPhone app “Darkness” to figure this out. If you are a photographer and you want to take advantage of that “golden light”, you should start to learn about when the sun sets and rises in your area. It will help you in planning for your shoots.

For a better explanation, check out this article on Earth Sky  for more info. Here is a loose order of events:

[Earliest Sunset  – Winter Solstice – Latest Sunrise]

There is usally a two-week gap between all them, but it really depends on where you live.




Hachimantai’s Late Spring

We’ve had a long, long winter here in Hachimantai City. Usually, I can expect to see cherry blossoms bloom around the middle of the month, however this year it is April 27 and they still haven’t bloomed. Daffodils are other flowers are also very late with their arrival. In fact, we’ve had snowfall as late as last week. Here are some photo of the late April snow:

Late April Snowfall in Hachimantai

White Snow Cover on the Mountains

Even the poor flowers got buried. I was worried they wouldn’t make it under the heavy snow, but most of them seemed to have pulled through.


New Flowers Punching Through the Snow

Yesterday, it seemed that spring was finally making an appearance. The grass started to glow green and warm winds blew over Mt.Iwate. That is usually a good sign that spring is on the way.

Gentle Sunset over Mt.Iwate

To put this all in perspective: This is the first time since I came to Japan that I’ve seen snow this late in April. In fact, if you browse my flickr archives, you’ll see with the cherry blossom photos of previous years that spring is usually quite a bit more punctual. I even spoke to a local farmer about it and he says he has never seen anything like it before. Is this a sign of rampant climate change, or just a random act of nature. I have a sad feeling it’s the former.

Invasion of the moths

  This week Iwate just turned into a strange horror film. I could see the signs a couple of months ago, but I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. You see, Iwate has always had a ton of moths in July and August. They range from really small to as big as your entire face (wing span included.) I’ve never minded them before, and I actually found some of them to be quite beautiful, but something was a little different this year.

   It all started when I headed out to the grocery store to pick up some, well,  groceries. I parked my car and headed toward the main doors. Then I looked up.  The entire wall was covered end to end with moths. I had never seen anything like this before. Big ones, little ones. Blue ones, green ones.  Some laying eggs, others swarming. I could not believe my eyes.  I ran into the store, and saw that many of them had found their way inside as well. Many of the clerks were swooshing them with brooms.  But the clerks were outnumbered.  I found the entire spectacle almost funny. I just assumed it was a cyle year for moths and that was the end of it, grabbed my groceries and went home.  Then things got personal.

    Yesterday I had some laundrry drying outside. I folded up all my shirts and put them in my shirt drawer. This morning I went to grab one of the shirt, and when I unfolded it I was greeted with the most shocking thing I’d seen in a while. I huge moth, half crushed, but still moving, was smearing yellow eggs all over the shirt and spewing some sort of webbing around the eggs. Now, I’m a big nature fan, but I’m don’t like it when nature takes it road show to my bedroom.  Basically, I freaked, threw the shirt away and my stomach has been upset all morning.  All this of course lead me to write this blog post. 

    As Steven Colbert might put it. I am placing the moths on notice. They’ve crossed a line.

Beard Tales

For the first part of this year, I am to sporting a beard. I have always been curious to know what I’d look like with a full grown piece of fur on my face. The reaction from most people has been quite favorable, with many saying it makes me look more mature and intellectual. I was curious, however,  to know what my students thought about it.

Last week, I got my chance. I was at one of my elementary schools, and a couple of sixth graders approached me in the hall. They immediately pointed at the beard and told me how cool they thought it was. Then one kid said, ” you are Santa Claus.” I paused for a moment, then pointed out that Santa has a white beard. He looked at me, almost puzzled, then suddenly his face brightened, then he said, “black santa.”

Indeed. God bless you Japan.

Week of Crushing Immobility(Part 2)

As you might recalled from my last post, I twisted my ankle while playing a volleyball game at school. I begged and pleaded with the staff to let me walk it off, but given the size of the swelling, they insisted I make a trip to the doctor, and prevented me from walking on it. This is the continuation of that post. Please enjoy.

Continue reading ‘Week of Crushing Immobility(Part 2)’

Week of Crushing Immobility(part 1)

If I were asked by someone what my worst experience in Japan was, I would have to say that this week would come very close to being the winner. I spent the last week hobbling around in a leg cast, and it left me unable to leave my house. But it’s not quite as bad as you think. What happened to my leg? Here is my sad little story.

Continue reading ‘Week of Crushing Immobility(part 1)’

“Concentration” in Japanese

In what is perhaps the most awesomely translated game name I’ve ever heard coming out of Japan, I learned what the game “Concentration” means in Japanese the other day.

First of all, I should explain that I use “Concentration” as a way to practice vocabulary with young learners of English. I usually choose eight words, then print out two sets of them. During a class we’ll practice the target vocabulary, then I’ll lay out the cards on the black board in a 4X4 pattern. Young children love this game, and they enjoy trying to get a matching pair of words.

Well, the other day, I was playing this game with a group of first graders and the teacher mentioned how much she like the game herself. I asked her if this was a game that is played in Japan. She mentioned it was quite popular and is called “神経衰弱(shinkeisuijaku)” in Japanese. I didn’t get a chance to look it up until recently, but when I did, I almost fell out of my chair. I asked her again about the name. I asked  why it was translated into “Nervous Breakdown.” She couldn’t give me an answer.

I can only imagine what late night session of “concentration” by a group of overzealous salarymen lead to the game being called “Nervous Breakdown.” Somebody had to be playing this game at gunpoint.

La Lune

La Lune, originally uploaded by jasohill.

Did you catch the total lunar eclipse on August 28, 2007? It wasn’t hard to see from Matsuo, Hachimantai City. All I had to do was look up. There were clear skies all evening. Still, it wasn’t an easy subject to capture. Even though my lens is a 200mm zoom lens, I still had to do a lot of cropping to get this image.

Many of my students has no idea how a lunar eclipse happens, so I spend the first fifteen minutes of my classes today giving them a quick astronomy lesson. Most seemed bored, but there were a fair number of students that wanted to know more. I’m glad I was able to reach out to them.

Update: English meaning section. I almost forgot to post what the Japanese word for Lunar Eclipse is. In Japanese you say gesshoku(月食) for a lunar eclipse and nisshoku(日食)for a solar eclipse. They mean “Moon Eat” and “Sun Eat.”  If it’s a total eclipse of sun sun, you say kaikishoku(皆既食)、and of the moon, kaikigesshoku(皆既月食.)The more you know…

My Dress Shirt; Show it to me

Recently, I have found my problem solving skills to be in a state of atrophy. This might be due to the lack of challenge at my work place, or perhaps laziness in general. Going from a stressed out University student to glorified human tape recorder(read:ALT)  carries with it some serious consequences; many of which I probably won’t realize until long after I am out of Japan. As a way to improve my mind, I have been reading more, attempting some challenging logic puzzles and playing some sudoku. I have found the results of my training to be quite satisfactory, and my head no longer seers in pain at basic computations.

However, Japan always seems to find a way to brake my brain in two. I’m not sure if it is the culture to blame, or rather the company in particular, but I am flabbergasted at what I encountered on Thursday evening at a local dry-cleaners. I had dropped off a dress shirt there the other day and was going to pick it up. I thought this would be a routine trip. Oh, how wrong I was. Here is how things played out. The dialogue was in Japanese, but it has been translated into English for your enjoyment.

Continue reading ‘My Dress Shirt; Show it to me’

Shigyoushiki time, baby.

  If you found yourself choking on the first word up there in title, have no fear. I will explain it all to you.  The 始業式(shigyoushiki) is the ceremony that schools hold at the start of the new term. In this case it is the second term, and it starts right now.  This ceremony is not as formal as most are.  It doesn’t even involve wearing a tie in most cases. 

   The Shigyoushiki is to let the students know that they should move from their summer vacation study schedule to a regular school schedule.   Otherwise they might not know they are actually suppose to attend classes again(they never stop coming to school, however.) I’m actually sure they would know about the new term, but you never can be too sure; and never being too sure is what Japan is all about.  Practice, practice and more practice.  Constant Vigilance!!!

    I took part in this ritual and it wasn’t all that bad. The principal came up and spoke of all the recent elementary school deaths around Japan(perhaps as a subtle hint not to die this term.)  He also wanted us to try our hardest and never give up, and that it’s time to pick up the pace and study like tomorrow was never going to come.   Constant Vigilance!!!

   Never mind that I had know idea when this ceremony started. I decided to be vigilant and get up at six am, so I could make it there without missing the ceremony. I made it with one and a half hours to spare. A close call. But I was vigilant!!!