Archive | March, 2009


31 Mar

Last Sunday we (my wife and I) bought our oldest daughter a 携帯電話 (cellular phone).

Of course, all three of my daughters really want a 携帯電話 (cellular phone)…but we decided not to get them one until they start 高等学校 (high school).

In Japan, most kids who are in public 小学校 (Elementary School) or 中学校 (Junior High School) can walk to school…but once they start 高等学校 (High School) they usually have to take the train to school.

My youngest two daughters are in 中学校 (Junior High School) and they walk to school. But beginning in early April, my oldest will start 高等学校 (High School) and she’ll ride the train with her friends to school every day.

So, my wife and I decided to get her a 携帯電話 (cellular phone).
Most important to us, her phone has email and GPS tracking (in an emergency, we can track her location on our 携帯電話 (cellular phones))…but her phone has every function available on Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones)—email, internet, 「おさいふケータイ」 (cell-phone wallet), GPS, TV, radio, MP3 player, etc, etc.!

Her phone is much better than my wife or my 携帯電話 (cellular phones).

Of course, her sisters are jealous! But, next year my second daughter will begin high school and I’ll have to buy her one…and then the youngest daughter when she starts high school too!


Speaking of  携帯電話 (cellular phones), I recently learned that a cell-phone called “Blackberry” is popular in America.
Do you use this phone? Do you like it?

It looks like this:


I’ve never used a “Blackberry” so I can only speculate…but it looks much less convenient, handy, and cool than the average 携帯電話 (cellular phone) in Japan.

First of all, it looks like a pocket calculator.
And it has a really wide keyboard with one key for each of the 26 letters of the English alphabet…like a computer keyboard. (The letters are arranged in the typewriter “QWERTY” order, too.).

It looks like you’d need both hands to type an email. Is that right?
Seems slow and inconvenient.

The numbers on it are also on ten keys on the left side (presumably they’re the keys you’d use to dial a phone number).

A Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phone), on the other hand, simply has the ten number digits keys (1-9 and 0) which double as both the English alphabet keys (in alphabetical order) with each key used for three to four letters.
The “1” key is usually symbols such as “@, ., -, _, etc”, the “2” key is used for the letters “A-C” (both upper and lowercase), “3” is used for “D-F”, etc.

That’s in “English” mode.

In “Japanese” mode, the same number keys are used for the Japanese “alphabet“.
“1” is 「あいうえお」 in ひらがな (hiragana), and the corresponding 「アイウエオ」 in カタカナ (katakana),
“2” is used for 「さしすせそ」 (and, of course, 「サシスセソ」)), and so on for the keys 3-9 and 0.
Of course, to get 漢字 (kanji characters), you’d simply type out the phonetic spelling in ひらがな and the possible 漢字 (kanji characters) choices appear.


That may not make sense to you if you don’t know about the Japanese writing system…but, believe me, it’s quite easy.

Better than the Blackberry, Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones) are slim. So, everyone in Japan types out cell-phone emails using one hand…actually just the thumb on one hand is used to type the whole mail!

Another thing about Japanese 携帯電話 (cellular phones) that make typing emails easy is the “predict” function.

Once you type the first ひらがな character in a common word or phrase (and also in a word or phrase that you have typed out before), the phone will offer you that word or phrase again and you can easily insert it into your email.

For example, I often email my wife while I’m on the train heading home after work and ask her 「今日の夕食は?」 (which means: “What’s for dinner today?”).

If I typed that out in English, it’s twenty-four characters. In Japanese, it’s only eleven…but with my 携帯電話 (cellular phone)’s “predict” function, I only need to type one character (「き」) and the phrase 「今日の夕食は?」 appears.



Which reminds me of another subject…

In America (and maybe other countries too), businesses will often advertise their telephone number not with the numerical digits…but using the corresponding letters that are on the keys of a telephone.
To make their phone number easier to remember.

So, for example, a car dealer in America might have a phone number like 555-2277 but would write their phone number as 555-CARS.

In Japan, cell-phones have the English alphabet on the keys (as I just mentioned above)…but most home phones don’t.

So Japanese companies don’t use English letters to make their phone numbers easy to remember…but they use alternative pronunciations of the numbers to make clever expressions.

For example, I saw an ad for a pawn shop the other day. Their phone number is 78-2840.
In Japanese, that would normally be pronounced “nana-hachi-ni-hachi-yon-zero“…but the pawn shop had ふりがな over the numbers that showed the reading as 「しちやにはしれい」 (shichi-ya-ni-ha-shi-rei) which is an alternative reading of those numbers—but it also means 「質屋に走れい」 (“Run to the pawn shop”).

Many companies in Japan write the phone numbers with clever play-on-words like that.

Japanese Robin Hood

29 Mar

I’m sure you know the story of Robin Hood. The English thief who stole from the rich and gave to the poor.

Did you know that there are two “Japanese Robin Hoods“?

One of them was a 忍者 (ninja) who lived in the 16th century named 石川五右衛門 (Ishikawa Goemon).
Like Robin Hood, he stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
He’s most famous though for being executed by getting boiled alive in a large iron pot. Because of this, Japanese old-style iron baths over a flame are called 「五右衛門風呂」 (“Goemon Bath“).

The other “Japanese Robin Hood” lived in the 19th century. His name was 次郎吉 (Jiroukichi)…but he is most often known by his nickname: 「鼠小僧」 (“Nezumi-kozou“…or “Rat urchin“).
As with Ishikawa Goemon, he is sometimes called a “Japanese Robin Hood” because he stole gold from homes of wealthy (samurai) and gave to the poor.

He was apprehended by authorities twice. The first time he was given a penitentiary tattoo, and the second time he was decapitated.

His grave is in Tokyo…and it is popular with students taking school entrance exams because 鼠小僧 (“Nezumi-kozou“) was such a successful thief (he burglarized hundreds of samurai homes) and, like Robin Hood, he was extremely popular with common people that the students hope some of his good luck might be passed to them.

Visitors to the grave of 鼠小僧 (“Nezumi-kozou“) will often shave off a bit of the grave stone for luck.

「鼠小僧之墓」 "Nezumi-kozou's grave"

「鼠小僧之墓」 "Nezumi-kozou's grave"

The sign says you can shave this rock in front of Nezumi-kozou's grave (for luck).

The sign says you can shave this rock in front of Nezumi-kozou's grave (for luck).

Nezumi-kozou's gravestone (people used to shave it for  the other rock was added in front of this gravestone for shaving).

Nezumi-kozou's gravestone (people used to shave it for the other rock was added in front of this gravestone for shaving).

This cemetary also does pet funerals. This is a pet grave marker.

This cemetary also does pet funerals. This is a pet grave marker.

From there, we walked around the town. The grave of 鼠小僧 (“Nezumi-kozou“) is not far from the 国技館 (Sumo Arena).

桜&提灯 (Cherry Blossoms and paper lantern)

桜&提灯 (Cherry Blossoms and paper lantern)

「ライオン堂」...a store where Sumo wrestlers shop for their XXL clothing.

「ライオン堂」...a store where Sumo wrestlers shop for their XXL clothing.

A poster advertising a Sumo wrestler's upcoming retirement ceremony.

A poster advertising a Sumo wrestler's upcoming retirement ceremony.

We had a picnic lunch in a Japanese garden near the 国技館 (Sumo Arena):

The Sumo Arena is visible outside the Japanese garden.

The Sumo Arena is visible outside the Japanese garden.


A スズメ (Sparrow) was sitting on the bench next to us.

A スズメ (Sparrow) was sitting on the bench next to us.


28 Mar

Some items I’ve heard on the news recently:

  • A woman in her fifties asked a man in his twenties to stop playing a noisy video game on a crowded commuter train in Saitama, Japan.
    At which, he became irate and insulting…and began to punch her in the face!
    He managed to break the woman’s jaw before other commuters restrained him!
  • Another man in his twenties pushed a elderly woman off of a train platform in front of an oncoming train at 東京駅 (Tokyo Station).
    She was hit by the train…but luckily the train was already coming to a stop and her injuries weren’t life threatening! The man, of course, is being charged with attempted murder.
  • Beginning April 1, 2009, Japan Railway (JR) train stations in Japan will become completely “smoke free“.
    Currently, every station has designated smoking areas…but starting next Wednesday (April 1), every station will be entirely “no smoking”.
  • There is a new disturbing current trend among teenagers in America. It’s called “xting“.
    “Sëxting” is the act of teenagers (usually girls) taking photos of themselves n@ked or semi-n@ked with their cell-phone camera and emailing them to friends.
  • Toyota (currently the #1 car maker in the world) may be forced to help bail-out America’s “Big 3” car makers (Ford, GM, and Chrysler).
  • The American rock band KISS is planning to release their first studio album of new songs in eleven years in September 2009.



27 Mar

Yesterday we went to the 六義園 (Rikugien Japanese Garden) because the (Cherry Blossoms) are in bloom now.

Before we left home, my wife and daughters made a picnic lunch for us…so we had a 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing picnic) in the garden.

From there, we walked up to the 東京大学 (University Of Tokyo) area before we went home.

Here are some of the photos I took:

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)







Japanese traditional tea house



鯉 (Carp)

鯉 (Carp)


Japanese landscape artists

Japanese landscape artists



椿 (Camellia)

椿 (Camellia)





One year

26 Mar

Today is March 26, 2009.
I started this blog on March 26, 2008…one year ago today. (Click here to read my first blog post (there’s not much to it!)).

When I first started this blog, I’d get an average of 10 visitors a day…some days, only one or two.
Now, I get an average of about 400 visitors a day…sometimes up to 700.

I’ve written 225 posts so far and received 2,068 comments so far.

Thanks to all my visitors…I hope you all continue to read my blog and comment often!

47 Ronin

25 Mar

浪人 (Rōnin) means “masterless Samurai“.

When a (Samurai) lost his leader or master because of death or any other reason, he would either commit 切腹 (ritual suicide) or become a 浪人 (Rōnin).

There’s a famous story of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin).

The tale of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) is a true story (probably embellished over the years).

Basically the story is of a Samurai who unintentionally insults a higher-ranking Samurai.
One thing led to another and finally the slighted, higher Samurai accuses the other of attempted murder…and he’s found guilty and forced to commit 切腹 (ritual suicide).

The higher ranking Samurai knew that the other had 47 Samurai who served him (who were now 浪人 (Rōnin)) that would surely try to avenge their master…so he surrounded himself with extra bodyguards to protect himself from their attack.

The 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) knew that they couldn’t kill the other Samurai with so many guards protecting him…so they did nothing for months.

The whole town lost respect for them and mocked them as cowards.

It was all a part of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin)’s plan…once the higher Samurai let his guard down because he no longer felt any threat from the “coward” 浪人 (Rōnin)—that’s when they struck!

After they killed the man responsible for their master’s death, they all committed 切腹 (ritual suicide) to retain their honor.

The graves of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) is at the 泉岳寺 (Sengakuji Temple) in Tokyo.

I went to the graves of the 四十七士 (forty-seven Rōnin) and took some photos. It was raining a bit today…I think the overcast, rainy weather added to the atmosphere.

Here are the photos I took today:

Not 泉岳寺...but outside the subway station.

Not 泉岳寺...but outside the subway station.

Entrance to 泉岳寺 (Sengakuji Temple).

Entrance to 泉岳寺 (Sengakuji Temple).

Shop selling souvenirs...including 「四十七士提灯」 ("47 Ronin paper lanterns")

Shop selling souvenirs...including 「四十七士提灯」 ("47 Ronin paper lanterns")





Some of the 47 Ronin's graves

Some of the 47 Ronin's graves

Some more of their graves

Some more of their graves

And more...

And more...


By the way, did you know that the American actor Keanu Reeves will star in the upcoming Hollywood movie to be titled “47 Rōnin” about this tale?

Also, in modern Japan, the term 浪人 (Rōnin) is sometimes used to describe someone who’s failed their high school or college extrance exam and must wait a year to try again.


24 Mar

Japan’s national 野球 (baseball) team is called 「侍JAPAN」 (“Samurai Japan“).

The World Baseball Classic (WBC) series began in 2006. There have been only two WBC series so far…the one in 2006, and the second one went from March 5, 2009 and ended today.
(Click here to read my earlier post about the World Baseball Classic (WBC)).

The champions of the WBC 2006 series was 「侍JAPAN」 (“Samurai Japan“)…and Japan defended their title today.

"Ichiro" Suzuki of the 「侍JAPAN」 ("<em>Samurai Japan</em>") team.

"Ichiro" Suzuki of the 「侍JAPAN」 ("Samurai Japan") team.

On March 21st, the semi-finals of the WBC ’09 began with four teams:
Japan, Korea, USA and Venezuela.
On March 21, Korea played Venezuela and won with a score of 10-2…eliminating Venezuela.
On March 22, Japan played the USA and won with a score of 9-4…eliminating America (USA).

The final game of the WBC 2009 today was Japan vs Korea…and Japan won with a final score of 5-3.
At the end of the ninth inning, Korea scored a point which brought the score up to 3-3…so the game went into “extra innings”. In the tenth inning, Japan got two more points to win the series!

侍JAPAN」 (“Samurai Japan“) are the world baseball champion team.

(Did you watch any of the games?)

Airplane crash

23 Mar

At 6:48AM JST this morning (Monday, March 23, 2009), a Federal Express (FedEx) cargo plane arriving at 成田空港 (Narita (Tokyo Int’l) Airport) from Guangzhou, China crashed and burst into flames.

Image from TV of the plane crash in Japan's Narita Airport.

Image from TV of the plane crash in Japan's Narita Airport.

This was a cargo plane, so there were no passengers on this airplane…only the American pilot and co-pilot were onboard. They both died.

Just like yesterday, it is very windy in the Tokyo area today. At the time of the crash, the wind was blowing up to 72Km / hour (about 45 miles / hour).
The wind is being blamed for causing the airplane to bounce on the runway and burst into flames.

Here is a YouTube video of the news report showing the tragedy:


22 Mar

Today is the last day of a 三連休 (three-day weekend).
(Click here to read why Friday was a holiday).

As I mentioned in an earlier post (Click here to read it), we paid a visit to our family grave on Friday…then we went to the 「アンパンマンとやなせたかし展」 (”Anpanman & Takashi Yanase Exhibit“) at the 日本橋三越本店 (Mitsukoshi Dep’t Store head store in Nihonbashi, Tokyo).

Here are some photos I took:

Advertisement for the exhibit near the store

Advertisement for the exhibit near the store

"Roll-panna chan" has a split personality. She can turn on her friends.

"Roll-panna chan" has a split personality. She can turn on her friends.

Some of the main "good guys"

Some of the main "good guys"

They've become bugs!

They've become bugs!

「カキクケコちゃん」って! Funny name!

「カキクケコちゃん」って! Funny name!

「だいこんやくしゃ」 His name sounds like "Radish-actor"...but it means "Bad actor"

「だいこんやくしゃ」 His name sounds like "Radish-actor"...but it means "Bad actor"

The "Hamburger Kid"

The "Hamburger Kid"

After we left the exhibit

After we left the exhibit


Yesterday the weather was really nice in Tokyo. Clear sky, comfortable temperature…perfect weather. So we walked around downtown and stopped in a few stores to get my kids some things that they need for the new school year.


Yesterday’s weather was perfect…but today’s rainy and very windy. And a bit cold.
It’s too bad because today’s the Tokyo Marathon!
It started at 9:05AM this morning in 新宿 (Shinjuku, Tokyo) and is still going as I type this.
I’m watching it live on TV. It’s scheduled to end at 4:30PM.
The finish line is in お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo). As of 3:20PM (when I writing this), about 26,000 runners have crossed the finish line…there are still about 9,000 people running it.

It’s too bad they didn’t hold the marathon yesterday when the weather was so much better!

Anyways, I mentioned the Tokyo Marathon in a post a few days ago. (Click here to read it.)

At the beginning of the marathon all 37000 people were crowded together

At the beginning of the marathon all 35000 people were crowded together

Japanese ‘Get Well’ wishes to America

20 Mar

A nineteen-year-old young American man named Christian Schmidt who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA was recently diagnosed with a severe form of cancer.

He has been receiving extensive, painful chemotherapy treatments nearly everyday for hours at a time. Due to the treatments, he has lost all of his hair…so his mother made a local request of her neighbors for donations of hats for her son Christian.

It must have been a surprise to her when she received hats from all over America. But I bet it was a real surprise for her to receive one from Japan!

Christian Schmidt’s hometown of Tuscaloosa, Alabama has a sister city of 千葉県、習志野市 (Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, Japan), and the mayor of 千葉県、習志野市 (Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, Japan) found out about Christian Schmidt’s situation and decided to send him a hat from the Narashino High School baseball team (who are set to play in Japan’s National High School Baseball Championship Tournament for the first time in over three decades).

Along with the hat, 千葉県、習志野市 (Narashino, Chiba Prefecture, Japan) sent Christian 千羽鶴 (1000 Origami Cranes)…which is a Japanese traditional “Get Well” wish.