Archive | May, 2008

Nuclear Warship

28 May

The American Navy’s aircraft carrier, USS Kitty Hawk, just left Japan where it was stationed south of Tokyo for the past ten years. The Kitty Hawk will be decommisioned.

In the past 25 years, there have only been three aircraft carriers stationed in Japan…the USS Midway, then the Midway was replaced by the USS Independence (which was bigger), then the Independence was replaced by the even bigger USS Kitty Hawk (which is the ship that just left).

I’ve been in Japan long enough to have seen all of those carriers.

Now, the ship that is set to replace the Kitty Hawk is the USS George Washington.

Many of the people who live near the US Navy base are protesting the arrival of this ship (which is due here this August).

There are mainly two reasons that they don’t want this ship to come to Japan.

The main reason is that the George Washington is a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Japan has a rule that ships that are nuclear (including both nuclear armed and nuclear powered) are not permitted in Japan.

But somehow the US government has convinced the Japanese government that it’s necessary to have this ship stationed in Japan.

The other reason is that the USS George Washington is even larger than the Kitty Hawk. This means that there will be an increase in the number of American sailors stationed in Yokosuka…

and it also means that the berthing dock meant for the carrier will need to be excavated to make it large enough for the ship. This, some residents fear, will damage the marine eco-system.

Daylight Savings Time

27 May

The Prime Minister of Japan is trying to get Daylight Savings Time (or Summer Time as it’s known in England) re-introduced to Japan (Shortly after WWII, America implemented it here…but it didn’t go over well and was abandoned after only a few years).

Many Japanese Senators are saying that they will vote against it if it gets introduced as a bill. This is because many believe that the “benefits” of it are over-rated. That an extra hour of daylight after work doesn’t lead people to enjoy the outdoors more during the work-week, and it doesn’t save a considerable amount of electricity.

So they plan to vote against it because suddenly telling everyone to reset their clocks every six months would lead to unnecessary confusion and hassle.

Personally, I hope Japan stays as it is…that is, no Daylight Savings Time. I was always glad Japan didn’t have that system.

I think most Americans and Europeans actually like Daylight Savings Time! Do you?

I don’t. In the average house, there are quite a few clocks (wall clocks, alarm clocks, computer clock, cell-phone, watches, TV, etc)…what a pain re-setting them twice a year!

If you like to wake up early and finish work early…why not just leave the clocks ahead all year?

Anyways, if other countries like Daylight Savings Time, that’s fine…but I hope that it doesn’t come here.

I’m sure it won’t.

Website update

23 May

I’m in the process of redesigning my website (again).

There’s a link to this blog on it. So instead of visiting my blog directly at the wordpress URL, please go to My Website’s Main Page which is at:

Please bookmark that URL.

Thanks…and sorry for any inconvenience.


22 May

It’s kinda old news now…but there’s a new popular Enka singer in Japan.

“Enka” is a traditional type of Japanese music, often called Japanese Blues.

It is extremely popular with elderly Japanese people. That generation listened to Enka since they were young…but young people today don’t usually listen to Enka. They like pop music.

But “Jero“, the 26 year old Enka singer, is re-introducing Enka music to young fans.

The most surprising thing about “Jero” isn’t that he’s young. It’s that he’s a black American from Pennsylvania who sings these traditional Japanese songs while wearing hip-hop style clothes!

His real name is Jerome White and he’s 1/4 Japanese. His Japanese grandmother introduced him to Enka music.

He studied the Japanese language and came to Tokyo about five years ago. He’s fluent in the Japanese language now. And he made his debut last February with the song 「海雪」 (“Umi-yuki”).

I don’t really like Enka music much (I don’t like American Blues music either)…and the novelty of Jero doesn’t make me listen to Enka, so I never give him much thought.

But I was reminded of him because I just saw him in a TV commercial for a canned coffee. So I decided to write a blog about the first foreign Enka singer.


21 May

I just read this news article:

Yahoo News article about US court case

In summary, it says that a U.S. court ruled that the design of American monetary currency “discriminates against blind people”.

They said this because U.S. paper bills are all identical in size, shape, color and texture. So it’s difficult for people with poor vision to differentiate between different denominations.

America is the only country whose money is like that.

And since this court ruling, it seems that America’s money will finally be redesigned so that the different denominations have either a different color, size, or texture (ie: braille on the notes) like the rest of the world.

Japan’s paper money, for example, is in different sizes and colors, and the bills have braille on the corner of them.


19 May

I added a new FAQ entry to my website.
Click here to see it.


Yesterday we went to the 三社祭 (Sanja Festival) in Asakusa, Tokyo.

This is one of the three biggest festivals in Japan. It goes for three days…this year it was from Friday, May 16 til Sunday, May 18. Saturday was the biggest day. It gets real crowded.

I’ve been to the Sanja Festival a number of times over the years, so I wasn’t going to go to it this year. But yesterday (Sunday) was a nice day, so we decided to go to it.

Sanja Matsuri means “Three Shrines Festival” and it’s called this because of the three お神輿 (Mikoshi…or “Portable Shrines”) that are carried in the festival.

Japan has many “Mikoshi Festivals” like this one in the Spring and Summer. They are elaborately decorated and quite heavy and are carried enthusiastically by a large group who at times will lift it up and down while they are carrying it…and sometimes even toss it up and catch it!

(I’ve participated in carrying Mikoshi a couple times at a local festival. They’re very heavy and carried for hours! It’s quite a workout!)

The Yakuza (Japanese mafia) will often participate in larger festivals like this one; often carrying a Mikoshi and bearing their signature full-body tattoos (which are almost never shown in public)…and sometimes getting up and standing on the Mikoshi itself!

Standing on the Mikoshi is not only unsafe, but it also offends the Shinto priests who own the Mikoshi.

So last year, the police warned the mafia not to stand on the shrines, but they did it anyways…and one of them broke (Mikoshi…not mafia)!

One reason I decided that I wanted to go (besides the nice weather) was that I heard that the two larger Mikoshi weren’t going to be included in this year’s Sanja Festival, and that there would be a large police presence to insure order because of last year’s antics…so I wanted to see if this year’s festival was much different than previous years.

The only major difference that I noticed was that there wasn’t anyone standing on the shrines this year.

Festivals in Japan are always a time to relax and have fun…but the Sanja Matsuri has a bit of a “rough” image.

Maybe that’s part of it’s appeal.

Anyways, we walked along the Sumida River to the festival and we saw some Sumo Wrestlers and I took their picture and I also took pictures of the river and the building and boats along the river, and a picture of the Asahi Beer Building and then some pictures at the festival including the Children’s Mikoshi.

I also took some videos and uploaded them to my YouTube page.

It’s late now and I’m too tired to comment on each picture and movie…so I’ll just put them all here (if you have a question about them…please post it in the Comments section).

Anyways…it was a fun day. I really like festivals in Japan!

Cold again!?

14 May

Last week it had been getting warm. I was wearing short-sleeved shirts. It is mid-May after all!
But since Friday, it has been quite cold again! Today I wore a long-sleeved T-shirt under a sweat-shirt…and a wind breaker jacket. Feels like winter!

And there’s a typhoon in the Pacific Ocean near Japan…so it was raining the last few days. It stopped raining this afternoon, and it’s supposed to be nice weather for the few days at least.

Hopefully it gets warm again soon!


Did you hear about that big earthquake that struck China a couple of days ago?

Thousands of people died. It’s a tragedy.


Did you see the link in the righthand column of this blog (under the “Pages” category) for “My Website’s Main Page”?

Click that link, then click the link that says “Clicking here” to go to my Website’s other pages.
From there, you can visit My Guestbook (feel free to comment in the Guestbook…and under any blog post on this blog too).

If you can’t find the links that I just mentioned, you can just click this link:


I’ve lived in Japan since 1990, so of course I’ve been to many places around Japan (and Asia, and America) than just the ones I’ve mentioned in this blog.

Some other places I’ve been to at least one time:

All over Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki,
Hokkaido (and the Sapporo 雪まつり (Snow Festival)),
Nikko (and the 江戸村 (Edo-Mura)),
Nagano (and the ’98 Winter Olympics there),

If you plan to visit Japan, and have any questions…maybe I can help.

Rainy weekend

10 May

I had planned to go to the 神田祭り (Kanda Festival) today…but it was a rainy day today, and my two oldest daughters have First Semester Exams at school next week—so they need to stay home and study this weekend.

So we just stayed at home today and my daughters studied. I helped them with their Math and their English lessons.

If their math assignments get much more difficult, I won’t be able to help them with it anymore! The math they’re studying is hard!

Tomorrow, my youngest daughter’s school is having a Kids Sumo Tournament. My kids aren’t gonna participate, but I’m on the school’s PTA so I’m going there to help set up and clean up when it’s over.

Then my kids and I are gonna take my wife out for Mother’s Day dinner.

地震だ (+_+)

8 May

A fairly big 地震 (earthquake) just hit Japan!

The epicenter was in the Pacific Ocean near 茨城県 (Ibaraki Prefecture) north of Tokyo.

It registered a “5” on the Japanese earthquake scale (Japan doesn’t use the Richter Scale). The Japanese Shindo Earthquake Scale goes from 1 (mild tremors) up to 7 (can topple buildings).

One main difference between the Japanese scale and the Richter Scale is that the Richter Scale assigns an earthquake one rating based on it’s strength at the epicenter…but the Japanese scale assigns an earthquake different ratings for how strong it was at different locations.

So, this earthquake was a level five at the epicenter, but in Tokyo it registered a level three. Big enough to shake our apartment, but nothing fell down in our house…and my kids slept right through it.

But it raised my wife’s and my heart-rate.

A Japanese expression, translated into English, says that the four scariest things are, in order:

Earthquakes, lightning, fire, and a father’s wrath.

I hate earthquakes!

Golden Week

6 May

Right now, it’s “Golden Week” in Japan.

黄金週間 (usually referred to by the English name “Golden Week” or simply “G.W.”) is May 3 (健保記念日 (“Constitution Day”)), May 4 (緑の日 (“Greenery Day”)), and May 5 (こどもの日 (“Children’s Day”))…but just before these holidays is 昭和の日 (“Showa Day”) on April 29, so some companies give their employees the week of April 29 until May 5 off for Golden Week.

By the way, until 2006, Greenery Day was on April 29 and May 4th was called 国民の記念日 (Residents’ Day).

(If you want to read a bit more about Japan’s holidays, click here to see my summary of Japanese holidays on my FAQ page.)

This year May 4 is on a Sunday so Greenery Day is observed on Tuesday, May 6. So this year’s Golden Week is from Saturday, May 3 til Tuesday, May 6…a four day weekend.

So today’s the last day of Golden Week…tomorrow we go back to work (or school, in the kids’ case), so we’re just relaxing at home today.

Yesterday, though, we went to 原宿 (Harajuku). We knew it’d be especially crowded during the holidays…but Harajuku is where all the teenagers hang out and shop, and many stores were having sales for Golden Week so my kids wanted to go there.

Here’s a couple pictures of the famous 竹下通り (Takeshita Street)…it’s always crowded there, but it was unreal yesterday:

From there, we walked to 表参道通り (Omotesando-doori), which is like the Rodeo Drive of Japan with all the luxury brand stores. We went to the giant “Kiddy Land” toy store.

Then we got dinner and went home.