Archive | September, 2008

World News

30 Sep

Some recent news items that have occurred around the world:

  • As I mentioned in this post, the 相撲 (Sumo) wrestler 若ノ鵬 (Wakanohou) was banned for life from wrestling 相撲 (Sumo) because he was caught with marijuana.Well, he has just recently claimed that the 相撲 (Sumo) Association in Japan bribes wrestlers to lose matches.

    He said that if he is reinstated, he will help to clean up 相撲 (Sumo). I can’t help but wonder, if he knew about rigged matches, why didn’t he clean up 相撲 (Sumo) before he was caught with drugs!

  • A forty-year old woman in 神奈川県横須賀市 (Yokosuka, Japan) was arrested for strangling her 11-year old son to death.
  • A railroad signal in Japan malfunctioned on Sunday, 28 September 2008 forcing the Japan Railway Company (JR) to halt 新幹線 (Bullet train) services for about four hours, affecting thousands of passengers.
  • The country of Austria has changed their age of suffrage (voting) to 16 years old. So now, any Austrian who is at least sixteen can vote in national elections.
  • The legendary actor Paul Newman died on Friday, 26 September 2008 of cancer. He was 83 years old. He had acted in Hollywood for over sixty years (my personal favorite of his numerous movies is “Cool Hand Luke“).
  • A woman in America found a bat in her coffee filter after she had drunk a cup of coffee. The health department couldn’t test the animal because it had been cooked by the hot water in the coffe machine…so the woman had to undergo rabies treatment.
  • Four boys in Texas, America whose ages ranged from 11 to 15 often broke into the home of one their 63-year old neighbors to steal his junkfood.
    The homeowner finally caught them in the act recently and confronted them with a shotgun.
    The children were unarmed and never threatened or hurt the man, nor did they take anything except candies and cookies.
    But still, the man pointed his gun at them and ordered them to their knees. They began to beg for their lives. He hit them with the gun and kicked them…then he shot one of the boys, who was 13, in the back and killed him!

    The most shocking part of this story, to me, is that the man was acquitted in court of any wrong-doing!

運動会

29 Sep

Yesterday was my youngest daughter’s 運動会 (Sports Day event) at her school.
She’s in the sixth grade (which, in Japan, is the highest grade in 小学校 (Elementary school)), so this was the last Elementary school 運動会 (Sports Day event) for my kids.

運動会 (Sports Day events) are usually held from kindergarten to high school in Japan in September or October…but my oldest two daughters had their 中学校 (Junior High School) 運動会 (Sports Day event) last June (it was the first of my kids’ 運動会 (Sports Day events) that I didn’t attend because it was held on a weekday due to rain on the original day it was scheduled. (Click here to read my post about it)).

運動会 (Sports Day events) at Japanese 保育園 (Nursery Schools), 幼稚園 (Pre-schools) and 小学校 (Elementary schools) usually are decorated with strings of world flags hung over the school yard (中学校 (Jr High) and 高等学校 (High School) usually don’t decorate this way for their events).

My daughter played the trombone in the marching band for the commencement of the 運動会 (Sports Day event), and she ran in a couple races and other events during the day. As they usually do, the 運動会 (Sports Day event) started at 9:00AM and went until noon and we stopped for lunch (my wife and daughters had prepared an excellent lunch for us) and after lunch, the games re-started and the 運動会 (Sports Day event) finished at about 3:30PM.

I participated in the PTA 綱引き (Tug-Of-War).

A long day. But, as always, alot of fun!

This was the last 運動会 (Sports Day event) at the 小学校 (Elementary School)…next year, my youngest two daughters will be in 中学校 (Junior High School) and the oldest will begin 高等学校 (High School)!

カブちゃん

27 Sep

About two months ago we bought a pet 甲虫 (Rhinoceros Beetle). We call him 「カブちゃん」 (Kabu-chan)…he was given this name because “Rhinoceros Beetle” is Kabuto-mushi in Japanese (and the suffix chan is often added to nicknames (usually girls)…kun is usually used for young boys. There are cases where chan is OK for a boy’s nickname…so, although our beetle’s male, he’s “Kabu-chan” because “Kabu-kun” is odd. (Maybe that’s confusing if you don’t understand Japanese culture!?)).

Anyways, we often buy (or sometimes catch) 甲虫 (Rhinoceros Beetles) every Summer…because, like most Japanese kids, my kids like 甲虫 (Rhinoceros Beetles). They are a popular pet in Japan in the summertime. The オス (males ♂) are especially popular (and more expensive) because they have long horns…and they fight each other (for the メス (females ♀)).

Japanese boys like to watch the male beetles fight each other. There’s even a game in Japan about fighting beetles (called 「むしキング」 (Mushi King)) that young boys like.

The life span of 甲虫 (Rhinoceros Beetle) isn’t very long. Less than half a year (late Spring until early Autumn). So our 「カブちゃん」 (Kabu-chan) probably won’t be with us much longer :(
So, today I was holding him and he walked up my arm up to my back. For an old guy, he’s still pretty 元気 (energetic)!

While the beetle was walking on me, my wife took a few photos of him:

Some news

24 Sep
  • Air India flight 307 left 成田空港 (Narita Airport in Chiba (near Tokyo)) for India on Sunday, 21 September 2008 but had to return to Narita because parts of the engine fell off…and struck two parked cars near the airport.One piece of debris sliced through the wind-shield of a car like butter. Luckily noone was hurt.
  • The American Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, U.S.S. George Washington, is scheduled to arrive in Japan tomorrow to commence being homeported in 横須賀 (Yokosuka (south of Tokyo)).A large number of protesters are expected to greet the ship because many Japanese are against having a nuclear-powered or nuclear-armed ship even visit Japan, not to mention being stationed here.

  • On Monday, 22 September 2008 (two days after his 68th birthday), 麻生太郎 (Tarou ASOU) was chosen to be the new Prime Minister of Japan.

    (My post about the former Prime Minister, 福田康夫 (Yasuo FUKUDA), resigning on Sept 1st is here).

秋分の日

24 Sep

Yesterday was a Japanese holiday, 秋分の日 (Autumn Equinox)…so we all had the day off.

Both the 秋分の日 (Autumn Equinox) and 春分の日 (Spring Equinox) are holidays in Japan. Japanese people pay a visit to their family grave on these holidays.
(See my FAQ here to read about Japan’s holidays).

After we went to our family grave site, we decided to go to the Tokyo Dome City amusement park because we still had ride tickets from our last visit there.

I agreed to ride on the big, wild roller-coaster with my kids.

I’ll never do that again! I used to really like roller-coasters when I was my kids’ ages…but I’ve decided that I don’t like them anymore!

I thought I’d be able to take a video of the ride…but the amusement park staff wouldn’t let me bring my camera on the ride. It’s just as well…I couldn’t have been able to use my camera since both of my hands were holding the handrail on the roller-coaster with a deathgrip for the entire ride!

(But last month I took a video of this roller-coaster while I was standing safely on the ground. It’s on this post).

After the amusement park, we walked to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

This is a video of the shrine’s entrance:

Nezu Shrine has a row of over 150 Torii Gates.

Here’s a video I took while walking under all of the 鳥居 (Torii Gates):

Here’s the rest of them:

A few more videos of the shrine:

From there we walked to 上野 (Ueno) and went to some temples, the park, and a few stores around there.

We found this small (cicada):

We had dinner in an 居酒屋 (Japanese izakaya restaurant).

We went home from 上野駅 (Ueno Train Station)…and walked past the Hard Rock Cafe, Uyeno-eki Tokyo.

Here’s a video I took walking to the entrance of 上野駅 (Ueno train station):

DAIGO

22 Sep

DAIGO is a new celebrity in Japan. (His official blog is here (Japanese only)).
His grandfather was a former Prime Minister of Japan (竹下登 (Takeshita Noboru)).

DAIGO is the singer of a rock band called “Breakerz“, and he often appears on TV and says funny things and does his trademark pose.

Also, his band’s song appears in the Japan showings of the Hollywood movie “Wanted” and DAIGO dubs in Japanese for the lines of James McAvoy in that movie.

Recently, James McAvoy was in Tokyo to promote the movie “Wanted“, and he met DAIGO.
James McAvoy is 29 years old and DAIGO is 30. When James was told DAIGO’s age, he said “I thought he was nineteen!”

Here’s a picture of DAIGO and James McAvoy promoting “Wanted” in Tokyo. They are both doing DAIGO’s trademark pose:

Last week, we found out that DAIGO would be appearing at a shopping mall on the outskirts of Tokyo on September 21 (yesterday).

So we went there yesterday to see him. And it seemed that every other person in Tokyo had the same idea!
It was really crowded!

Here’s the crowd that gathered to see him:

All the girls in the crowd starting screaming once he appeared. Like a rock concert!

We got there too late to get a good spot…we could only hear him. We couldn’t see him past the crowd. But we didn’t really mind…we still had a good time at the mall.

Here are four videos I took (only the immense crowd can be seen):

After DAIGO finished and left, the crowd disappeared and the shopping mall was much more normal:

***

At the mall, we went to many stores of course…one of them was the game center (arcade).

Here’s a short video I took in there. At the end of the video, you can see a UFO catcher (crane game) with ice cream in it:

Jerry Yellin’s Book

21 Sep

I received an email from Jerry Yellin.

His new book will go on sale soon.

Here’s his email:

My book, The Blackened Canteen is in the queue at Amazon.com and will be available for purchase soon, like the end of next week. However, we would like to ask you to hold off buying it for now so we can have a Volume Sales Day on October 3rd with lots and lots of books being bought on that day to attempt to get it on the best seller list.

I would appreciate your sending a personal announcement to everyone you know, ask them to see the three-minute video and read the testimonials from Yoko Ono and members of the families whose relatives are the major characters in the book at www.jerryyellin.com and if they are interested to join us in passing this information on and making a purchase on October 3.

I am hopeful that this book will be a catalyst of understanding between people and nations, a history lesson for young people, a reminder to us older folks what kind of world we lived in when we were younger and what we fought for and, most important for all of the WW II veterans families a chronicle of our lives from 1941-1945 and beyond.

Here is a short synopsis of the book:

This book is about five Americans: Jack O’Connor, Monroe Cohen, Ken Colli, Newton Towle, crewmen on B-29’s who were killed in a mid-air collision on June 20, 1945 over Shizuoka, Japan and Richard Fiske, the bugler on the battleship West Virginia when it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. Intertwined with the American airmen are the lives of three Japanese: Hiroya Sugano, 12 years old when his city was bombed in 1945, now a 74 year old doctor, Takeshi Maeda, the navigator on the torpedo bomber that sank the West Virginia, and Fukumatsu Itoh, a city councilman who buried the Americans and later became a Buddhist priest. Only two survive today, Dr. Sugano who has conducted a joint Japanese/American Memorial Service since 1972 at a site where Mr. Itoh created a memorial tablet on Mt. Shizuhata near Shizuoka and 89 year old Takeshi Maeda. A three minute video clip of the 2008 ceremony can be seen at my website (www.jerryyellin.com)
The lives of all of the people mentioned above became entwined when World War II began. Some of their young lives have been fictionalized with the express permission of George O’Connor and his mother Joan, nephew and sister-in-law of Jack O’Connor, Lucy Towle Spence, daughter of Newton Towle, and Robert Towle Newton’s brother, Ken and John Colli namesake and nephews of Ken Colli. Published accounts of Richard Fiske’s life and several meetings I had with Dr. Hiroya Sugano and Takeshi Maeda also contributed to this story.
Whereas the story itself is told as fiction, the facts are historically correct. History Professor Paul Zigo at Brookdale College in New Jersey whose master’s thesis portrayed the attempt by Japan to avert a war with America by negotiation and was negated by Secretary of State Cordell Hull gave me permission to use his research and checked my story for accuracy. I have created several fictional characters as an enhancement to this true story.

Thank you all very much.

[Jerry]

矢切りの渡し

20 Sep

Today we went to the river area because the weather was good for just being outside…blue sky and comfortable temperature.

It was a nice day out.

First, we saw two chickens that were just walking around.

Here’s a picture and a video of the rice fields that were near the river:

At this river is the 矢切りの渡し (Yagirinowatashi river ferryboat) that has been operating from that spot since the 江戸時代 (Edo Period, when Tokyo (東京) was named Edo (江戸) and wasn’t yet Japan’s capital).
This ferry still carries people across the river. Since there are now many bridges spanning the river and one can cross on foot, bicycle, car or train…the ferry is for sightseers now.

At the entrance to the ferry’s boarding area, there’s a very small shop that sells trinkets, souvenirs, snacks, soda, ラムネ (Japanese Ramune pop), and beer.
So we bought something to drink and walked around.

While we were there, my daughter found some てんとう虫 (Ladybugs):

+++

After we got home and had dinner, we watched 「なでしこ隊」 (Nadeshikotai) on TV.

It was an emotional drama about the true story of a group of Junior High school girls who helped at the base in Japan where 神風 (Kamikaze) pilots took off on their missions during World War 2.
The show is based on the experiences of one of the girls from the Nadeshikotai who is still alive today.

As I mentioned in this post, in Japan the Kamikaze has a different image than in the West.
Here, they are seen as tragic heroes who sacrificed their lives for their country.

Expensive Fruit

19 Sep

Japan has a reputation for having extremely expensive fruit. You can see people talking on the internet about $100 watermelons and $40 apples in Japan.

This is true. You can find fruit sold for those prices in Japan…but it’s not the normal case.
Usually fruit is sold at normal prices here.

“So, what’s up with the overpriced fruit?” you may wonder.

Those are premium fruits sold to be given as gifts. The best fruit of the season to give someone on a special occasion.

This gift メロン (melon; cantaloupe) sells for 一万円 (¥10,000 (US $90)).

A premium cantaloupe (melon), like the one in the photo above, or apples, pears, tangerines, grapes, peaches, or almost any other fruit can be found priced at about ¥4,000 – ¥30,000 (US $35 – $280) in Japan.

As I mentioned, these fruit items are given to people on special occasions.

Of course, people normally eat “regular” fruit, which can be purchased from the supermarket or a fruit stand at normal prices.

There are many occasions to give gifts in Japan.

    A few examples:

  • When you move into a new house, you give a small gift to your neighbors and introduce yourself (as opposed to the custom in America that is the other way around: people there give the new neighbor a gift).
  • When you go to a wedding or funeral in Japan, you give a gift of money in a special envelope.
  • New Years money to children.
  • When visiting someone (at their home, in a hospital, etc).
  • At the start of a new season (beginning of Summer, Spring, Winter, Autumn), people often give friends a special gift box of coffee, beer, soap, etc.
  • At birthdays and Christmas, of course.
  • When someone does something special for you.
  • To “repay” someone who gave a gift to you.
  • When you return from a trip.

There are other occasions that Japanese give gifts…these are just some of the common ones.

Sports News

17 Sep

I’m not a big sports fan, but a few sports-related items were in the news recently. Some good and some bad news.

  • Japanese professional wrestler, 山本尚文 (Naofumi Yamamoto), has just been hired by the American World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) company.He’ll begin his training in Florida this month.
  • 浅尾美紀 (Miki Asao), the 17-year old younger sister of Japanese beach-volleyball star, 浅尾美和 (Miwa Asao) just died on Friday, 5 Sept 2008, from the serious head injuries she sustained when she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle last August 12th.
  • The 2008 Paralympics Games will end today.
    As of this moment, China has the most medals and Japan is in 18th place with 24 medals (5 Gold, 12 Silver, and 7 Silver).

    All of the athletes, whether they won a medal or not, are stars!

    But, Japan’s fifth gold medal was won by 国枝慎吾 (Shingo Kunieda) for wheelchair tennis.

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