I returned to Kochi, via Osaka.

I arrived in Osaka in the middle of the night. Wandering around, I encountered the echo of a huge gong, and speeding up and down drums. The dancers were pretending to be rabbits, dogs, etc. After every song they all changed instruments. Soon, the cops came by and shut them down, after allowing them to collect a donations from the audience. They then loaded everything into their mini j-van, and were gone.

Osaka is kind of dingy.

Secret Christianity. This trip will be characterized by lots of pictures of grids & patterns on the ground.

Up all night, seeing faces everywhere. This particular design cannot be an accident.

Bert was right next to him.


Church organ? No, simply a folding gate. Everything above-ground in Osaka station was burnished, shined. It's not like China where even on new, just built interior walls there are mysterious black scrapes, 6 feet off the ground, making me wonder how anyone even reached anything way up there.

Gingko painted on a light pole. There seem to be all kinds of art-based projects connected with public infrastructire. The grid, noduling pattern on this telephone pole is intense, too.

I lived in Kochi for three years, but haven't been back to in ten. I love the place, and wander around taking pictures of it all, and writing things up in detail.

I took the overnight bus to Kochi - this is "downtown", during the Sunday market. Average age 75, average height 150 cm. Nothing visible at all has changed in 10 years. The same internet cafe is in the same spot, the same paid parking lots everywhere, etc.

Hirome Ichiba hasnt changed a bit. Neither have the priorities of the local government - controlling bike parking is the number one issue - sadly, it's still out of control. An interesting thing about Japan is the lack of immigration. The toughest, hottest jobs are all done by local kids - making takoyaki in the sun all day, construction work in the heat, climbing rural hills and cutting wood, planting rice.

There is so much open space in the park! It's a huge change from China's claustrophobic, overly busy & commercialized parks - designed to constrict public activity while pretending to support it. This park was the site of a big protest against the first Iraq war when I was here, in 2002-2003 - I remember everyone holding candles. Totally ineffective, of course. And now Japan is re-interpreting their peace constitution. I do like the hexagonal pattern, too. The park does still have a population of drunks, though. But they're civilized drunks.

Early yosakoi dancers. Generally, Japanese local governments manage to purchase flooring tiles which neither crack after 6 months of use, nor are extremely slippery when it rains. Chinese government procurement is not designed that way - maybe it's intentional, but everything is obviously breaking after 2-3 years.

There has been an explosion of good plant selection in landscape since I left! Public plantings are now random mixes of wildflowers. They're just plopped down, and left to grow the way they like. It's great! So different from the rigid, monoculture style of deathly, drab plants they have in Beijing.

A little water feature south of obiyamachi. Nobody ever hangs out here, but it's still well-maintained.

I rented a city bike for 500 yen (35 rmb), no deposit, no id required. It runs smooth, too. Riding around & feeling the cool ocean breeze, although it's hot & humid.

Japanese hotels don't let you check in til 3pm (and kick you out at 10am). While waiting, I found this nice little park. Wildflowers overgrowing, a low pullup bar (not perfect, but better than the monotonous weird metal "workout" equipment in most Chinese parks), no fences around (for some reason, everything in China is surrounded by fences), and public bathrooms. This is good government. Besides bike parking the other massive interference in public life you witness is the obsession with garbage. There are NO garbage cans except in very particular places. So, if you buy something, get ready to carry it around all day with you until you get home, where you put it into individual, small, expensive, transparent customized garbage bags for inspection and pickup. Does this actually do anything at all? *Note that they do have public garbage cans in front of convenience stores. That's about it though.

Clean, open water in the middle of town, with giant (2 feet long) fish swimming around. No railings, which wouldn't be ok in the US. In China you would not be able to prevent this from filling up with garbage.

Returned to the old go center - this guy didn't remember me, but we used to play all the time. He's getting older, but still has a few tricks up his sleeve. The average age actually seemed a bit lower than last time I was there, though - exactly 10 years ago. There are now a few guys under 40. The old guy who'd use a long cigarette filter, and never actually take a puff, but rather let his cig slowly build up 2 inches of fragile ash, was gone.

The master, (standing in the back, in a blue shirt) hasn't changed a bit. Puttering around writing results of tournaments on the board, taking care of things. He immediately remembered that I had moved to China, and told me about a few other foreign visitors they'd had over the years.

The intense rain & dark concrete gives Kochi a great look - deep green, dark grey everywhere. Everything gets smoothed out, and cracks filled in by weeds.

Mathematical patterns based on tetris / pentomino / grid-based thinking / tiling the plane are everywhere here. Each town has customized customized manhole covers which must have been made by mathematicians. Patterns in the tiling are complex and consistent - there aren't random gaps. Not at all like China where they're brutally simple, and often wrong. The yellow blind-person tiles are spreading out of control in Japan, just like China - how does something like that happen? One feels that the tiles are more of an artistic element here. Another major difference is that bicycling is done on the sidewalk here - versus on the road in China. Which is better, safer? Who even knows - no movement towards synchronized policy is happening. I suppose biking on the sidewalk won't work in China, because they're all full of parked cars. In 30 years, will all the sidewalk parking in China be moved to automated pay parking machines, like it is in Kochi?

Looking down Obiyamachi. It's still dying. You can still ride your bike down the middle, dodging "biking prohibited" signs and slow-moving students - sort of like the game "paperboy". I have not yet had a chance to visit at night, to see the laptop-bearing fortune tellers, israeli jewelry-sellers, or high school buskers, but I don't suppose they're gone.

Kochi hotel, facing north, cost 5k yen ~ 330rmb, what a deal!

The end of the first half of day one.