Archive | April, 2009

On this day…

9 Apr

Do you know the famous Japanese dog 「忠犬ハチ公」 (Faithful Hachiko)?

Probably every Japanese person knows the story of Hachiko.

Hachiko was an 秋田犬 (Akita-inu dog) who moved from 秋田県 (Akita Prefecture, Japan) to Tokyo with his owner because he (his owner) got a teaching job at 東京大学 (University Of Tokyo).

Hachiko would see his owner off every morning at 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station (in Tokyo)) and then go back to the station in the evening to greet his owner when he returned.

One day, though, his owner didn’t return because he died while at work. But Hachiko continued to return to 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station) every evening at the same time to wait for his master.

It’s a true story of loyalty and friendship.

There’s a famous statue of Hachiko at 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station) in Tokyo. (There’s also another lesser-known statue of Hachiko in his hometown in 秋田県 (Akita Prefecture, Japan)).

The statue of Hachiko in front of 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station) was erected on April 8, 1934.

So, every year on April 8th there is a memorial ceremony for Hachiko at the statue at 渋谷駅 (Shibuya Train Station).

Hachiko statue in Shibuya on the April 8, 2009 memorial ceremony.

Hachiko statue in Shibuya on the April 8, 2009 memorial ceremony.

There’s a Japanese movie about Hachiko…and now Richard Gere is promoting a Hollywood remake of this movie that he stars in.
(Click here to read my post about this movie and a bit more about the dog.)

The movie, titled “Hachiko: A Dog’s Story“, will debut in Japan on August 8, 2009.

On May 12, 2009, a new statue of Hachiko will be erected at お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo). This date was chosen because it will be 88 days before the new Hachiko movie’s release date.*
(Eight in Japanese is 「」 (“hachi“)…which sounds like Hachiko.)

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April 10, 2009 (tomorrow) will be the 50th wedding anniversary of Japan’s Emperor and Empress.
And last January 7 (2009) was the 20th anniversary of the day he became the Emperor (his father (the former Emperor) died on January 7, 1989).

So this year*, November 12 will be a legal holiday in Japan. It will be to celebrate both the Emperor’s twenty years on the throne and fifty years of marriage.

November 12 was chosen rather than January 7 or April 10 because it was decided it would be better to celebrate both on a separate date…and the Emperor’s 戴冠式 (coronation ceremony) was on November 12, 1990.

(*November 12 will be a holiday this year (2009) only).

靖国神社の桜祭り

8 Apr

Today my wife and I went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine).

靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a beautiful shrine in Tokyo that is dedicated to all who have died defending Japan in battle.

Some of the WW2 veterans enshrined at 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) have been classified as war criminals by Allied courts. So, for that reason, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is a controversial place, especially with neighboring Asian countries.

To me, 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) is Japan’s equivalent to America’s Arlington Veterans Cemetery in Washington D.C..
Nothing wrong with honoring those who sacrificed their lives for their country. (I’ve written a few other posts about 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)…click here to read one.)

Anyways, the reason we went to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine) was to see the 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) there.

The (Cherry Blossoms) in Tokyo are close to the end of their short life. They are beginning to fall to the ground. Soon they’ll be gone until next year…so, as we do every year, we’re appreciating them before they’re gone.

Whenever the wind gently blew today, the 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers) would fall to the ground. It was like a beautiful pink snowfall!

Here are some of the photos we took today (in many of them, you can see the falling 桜の花びら (petals of the Cherry Blossom flowers)):

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

Entrance to 靖国神社 (Yasukuni Shrine)

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Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

Can you see the falling petals in this photo?

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

You can see the falling petals in this picture too!

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

Sakura petals are floating in the lake.

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屋台 (Festival food booths)

屋台 (Festival food booth

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

Entrance to the world-famous 日本武道館 (Nippon-Budokan)

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Statue of a 19th century Japanese politician 品川弥二郎 (Shinagawa Yajirou)

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New school year

8 Apr

Yesterday both my oldest and my youngest daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremony).
My oldest daughter began 高等学校 (High School (10th grade)) and my youngest daughter began 中学校 (Junior High School (7th grade)).
(My second daughter is now a 中学校三年生 (Jr. High 9th grader)…her last year of 中学校 (Junior High School)).

Since two of my daughters had their 入学式 (School Entrance Ceremonies) on the same day, my wife went with our youngest daughter and I went with our oldest daughter.

I can’t believe how fast they’re growing up!

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On a different note, here are a few photos that I meant to add to my blog before but never got around to it. Taken from various places around Tokyo at various times this past year:

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated for New Years 2009.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

Tokyo Tower illuminated with "2009" for New Years.

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

An extremely large doll display for ひな祭 (Doll Festival).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

Over a hundred of Torii Gates at 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

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About twelve days ago at 六本木ヒルズ (Roppongi Hills), an artist named Yanobe Kenji displayed his 7.2 meter (23.6 feet) tall robot called “Giant Torayan“.

He bills Giant Torayan as

…the ultimate child’s weapon, as it sings, dances, breathes fire, and follows only those orders given by children.

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

The fire-breathing "Giant Torayan".

Click here to visit the “Giant Toryan” website.

King Kong vs Godzilla

6 Apr

In 1933, the American movie King Kong was released. It’s about a movie director in Depression-era America who takes a crew to a place called “Skull Island” to film a movie.

They quickly realize that “Skull Island” is no ordinary island. It’s full of giant pre-historic predators.
One night, the native people kidnap the American actress and offer her as a sacrifice to “Kong“, the giant ape.

The rest of the American film crew rescue the actress and the director decides to take Kong back to New York City because a huge ape will make him more money than his movie could.

The movie’s most famous scene is when the misunderstood King Kong is forced to climb the Empire State Building and fight for his life.

The original King Kong

The original King Kong

King Kong was remade twice. The first remake was in 1976. In this version, it’s an oil company that discover Kong, and instead of climbing the Empire State Building, King Kong climbs to the top of the World Trade Center in New York City.

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Then in 2005, a remake of the original 1933 King Kong story was done.

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King Kong is an American pop-culture legend.

The Japanese equivalent is ゴジラ (Godzilla).

The first ゴジラ (Godzilla) movie was released in 1954.
ゴジラ (Godzilla) was supposed to be the result of radioactive nuclear testing. The creature was originally a threat to society…but to expand the audience to include families and children, some ゴジラ (Godzilla) films portray him as the hero.

Promo poster from the first 「ゴジラ」 (Godzilla) movie, 1954.

Promo poster from the first 「ゴジラ」 (Godzilla) movie, 1954.

ゴジラ (Godzilla)’s name should technically be spelled as “Gojira” in English because that’s the correct pronunciation of his name.
The name ゴジラ (Gojira (Godzilla)) is a mix of the words 「リラ」 (gorilla) and 「クジラ」 (Kujira (whale)).

There have been many ゴジラ (Godzilla) movies released in Japan. The most recent was on the 50th anniversary of the first ゴジラ (Godzilla) movie…in 2004, 「ゴジラ ファイナル・ウォーズ」 (Godzilla: Final Wars) was released. (It won’t be the “final” ゴジラ (Godzilla) movie though…there is a plan to make a new ゴジラ (Godzilla) movie on the 60th anniversary of the original—in 2014).

「ゴジラ ファイナル・ウォーズ」 (Godzilla: Final Wars) movie poster, 2004.

「ゴジラ ファイナル・ウォーズ」 (Godzilla: Final Wars) movie poster, 2004.

ゴジラ (Godzilla) is a pop-culture icon even in America. I used to enjoy watching ゴジラ (Godzilla) movies dubbed in English when I was a kid.
In fact, a survey was done in the 1980’s of the general American public to name “famous Japanese people”…ゴジラ (Godzilla) was one of the most common answers! (Another common one was “Bruce Lee”…whose not even Japanese)!

So, it was inevitable that America would release a Hollywood version of ゴジラ (Godzilla).
The trailers for the 1998 U.S. movie looked exciting! But the trailers are all you need to watch…the movie was generally a disappointment.

Poster for the US version of "Godzilla", 1998.

Poster for the US version of "Godzilla", 1998.

Here’s the trailer from the 1998 US movie “Godzilla” from YouTube:

So, it makes sense that these two iconic monsters met in battle.
In 1962, Japan released 「キングコング対ゴジラ」 (“King Kong vs Godzilla“).

Poster for 「キングコング対ゴジラ」 ("King Kong vs Godzilla"), 1962

Poster for 「キングコング対ゴジラ」 ("King Kong vs Godzilla"), 1962

There’s an urban legend that in the Japanese version of this movie Godzilla beats King Kong, and in the English-dubbed version King Kong wins. But it’s not true…the ending is the same in both versions: King Kong is the only monster to emerge from their underwater battle.

Here’s a trailer from the 1962 movie 「キングコング対ゴジラ」 (“King Kong vs Godzilla“):

さ・く・ら・ま・つ・り

5 Apr

Today we went to a nearby 桜祭り (Cherry Blossom Festival) and enjoyed a 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) picnic that my wife and daughters made.

Our lunch was おにぎり (rice balls), 卵焼き (Japanese grilled eggs), broccoli, chicken, (strawberries), cookies, and beer*!
It was an excellent picnic lunch!

(*Of course, only my wife and I had beer. Our daughters had tea. 😉 )

Here are some photos we took:

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Many people were enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

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There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

There are many turtles, ducks and carp in the pond.

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Drying in the sun

Drying in the sun

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Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

Cherry Blossom tree next to a bus stop

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

「かき氷」 (Shaved Ice) vendor

This week’s tragic news…

5 Apr

Some terrible news from around the world this week…

    A rash of shootings in America:

  • On Friday, April 3, a man barricaded the back door of an immigrant center in Binghamton, NY, USA with his car, then went in through the front door and began shooting people.
    He killed thirteen people before killing himself.

  • On Saturday, April 4, a father in Graham, Washington, USA shot his five children (ages 7 – 16) to death and then killed himself.
  • Also on Saturday, April 4, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA responded to a call about domestic violence. When they arrived at the house, a 23-year-old man wearing a bullet-proof vest shot the three responding officers.
    SWAT officers arrived soon after but were unable to help the shot officers for hours because the man in the house held them at bay with gunfire.
    By the time the three officers who were shot were retrieved by the SWAT team, they had bled to death.
    And possibly due to global warming:

  • A large ice bridge in the Antarctic Ocean has collapsed.
    Scientists say it was holding a huge ice shelf in place and now that it’s fallen, the ice shelf (which is the size of Jamaica) will begin to float away which may cause it to melt and raise the sea level.
  • Not totally unexpected, but North Korea launched the missile* that it had been getting ready.
    (*North Korea claims that it isn’t a missile…but a satellite.)
    It flew over Japan. Part of it landed in 日本海 (the Sea Of Japan) and the main part of the missile flew over Japan and landed in 太平洋 (the Pacific Ocean).
    If any part of the missile entered Japan’s land, air, or sea borders, Japan was prepared to shoot it down.
    Here is a YouTube video of CNN‘s coverage of the launch and Japan’s reaction:

Japanese McDonalds

4 Apr

マックドナルド (McDonald’s) fast-food restaurants has stores around the world.
No matter which store you go into, the menu is basically the same. Some items, though, are customized for individual countries.
For example, I’ve heard that McDonald’s in India doesn’t serve beef burgers (pork or chicken instead), in Germany they serve beer 🙂  (some fast-food restaurants in Japan, such as Freshness Burger and First Kitchen serve beer…but not マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan)), and in the Philippines they have spaghetti on the menu.

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マックドナルド (McDonald’s) in Japan has many unique items on the menu, too.
Some are “limited time only“…such as the Lettuce Pepper Burger that was on the menu a few years ago. I really like that burger…but unfortunately, they don’t serve it currently.

New items on the menu at マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan) include:

The 「マックホットドッグ」 (McHotDog) and 「マックホットドッグ・メガソーセージ」 (Mega Sausage McHotDog), which are breakfast items and only available until 10:30AM.

「マックホットドッグ」 (McHotDog) and 「マックホットドッグ・メガソーセージ」 (Mega Sausage McHotDog)

「マックホットドッグ」 (McHotDog) and 「マックホットドッグ・メガソーセージ」 (Mega Sausage McHotDog)

The 「チーズカツバーガー」 (Cheese Cutlet Burger), which is a cheese-filled pork cutlet sandwich.

「チーズカツバーガー」 (Cheese Cutlet Burger)

「チーズカツバーガー」 (Cheese Cutlet Burger)

マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan) has the regular “Cookies & Chocolate McFlurry” and “Oreo McFlurry” ice cream dessert.
But they also have the 「マックフルーリー抹茶&オレオクッキー」 (“Green Tea & Oreo Cookies McFlurry“).

「マックフルーリー抹茶&オレオクッキー」 (Green Tea & Oreo McFlurry)

「マックフルーリー抹茶&オレオクッキー」 (Green Tea & Oreo McFlurry)

The 「えびフィレオ」 (Shrimp Filet-o Burger):

「えびフィレオ」 (Shrimp Filet-o Burger)

「えびフィレオ」 (Shrimp Filet-o Burger)

「シャカシャカチキン」 (Shaka Shaka Chicken) is a chicken filet in a bag that you add spice powder (chili or black pepper) and shake the bag to mix the spice (“Shaka Shaka” is a Japanese onomatopoeia for shaking):

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Besides cola, milk, coffee and orange juice, etc マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan) sells 爽健美茶 (Blended Tea):

「爽健美茶」 (Blended Tea)

「爽健美茶」 (Blended Tea)

マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan) also has a ¥100 and ¥120 (about US $0.99 and US $1.19) menus which includes hamburger for ¥100, cheeseburger for ¥120, ice cream cone for ¥100, Shaka Shaka Chicken for ¥100, milk shakes for ¥100…and the 「マックポーク」 (McPork sandwich) for ¥100:

「マックポーク」 (McPork) ¥100 (US$0.99)

「マックポーク」 (McPork) ¥100 (US$0.99)

And All-You-Can-Drink coffee is also only ¥120

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If you visit a マックドナルド (McDonald’s) in Japan, you’ll be sure to notice people looking at their cell-phones while they’re waiting in line and when they get to the cashier, they might show their cell-phone to the person behind the counter. This is because マックドナルド (McDonald’s) in Japan offers weekly cell-phone coupons.

Have you ever tried any of these items at a マックドナルド (McDonald’s) in Japan? Does McDonald’s offer unusual menu items where you live?

BTW, I wrote a post last November when マックドナルド (McDonald’s Japan) introduced the Quarter Pounder Burger.
Click here to see it.

新宿御苑

3 Apr

Today my daughters each went out with their friends.
My oldest daughter went to お台場 (Odaiba, Tokyo) with her friends,  my second daughter went to the 動物園 (zoo) with her friends, and my youngest went to 東京ディズニーランド (Tokyo Disneyland) with her friends.

So, my wife and I decided to go to 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) together at 新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden).

新宿御苑 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden) is a very large, beautiful park with both Japanese and Western-style gardens right in the center of metropolitan Tokyo.

We had a nice picnic lunch in the gardens and went home before our daughters were due home and we all had dinner together.

Here are some of the photos we took today:

「東京体育館」 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gym) was used in '54 World Wrestling Championship and '64 Olympics

「東京体育館」 (Tokyo Metropolitan Gym) was used in '54 World Wrestling Championship and '64 Olympics

「新宿御苑の千駄ヶ谷門」 (Sendagaya Gate to Shinjuku-Gyoen)

「新宿御苑の千駄ヶ谷門」 (Sendagaya Gate to Shinjuku-Gyoen)

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)

桜 (Cherry Blossoms)

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The skyscrapers of Shinjuku can be seen from the gardens.

The skyscrapers of Shinjuku can be seen from the gardens.

ツバキ (Camellia)

ツバキ (Camellia)

There were many people enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) today.

There were many people enjoying 花見 (Cherry Blossom Viewing) today.

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ボケ (Flowering Quince)

ボケ (Flowering Quince)

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Japanese garden

Japanese garden

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(Click here if you want to see the official 新宿御苑の花見 (Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden‘s Cherry Blossom Viewing) page.)

My wife and I also stopped by 上野 (Ueno, Tokyo) to see the (Cherry Blossoms) there. It was very crowded there (as expected).

The crowd at Ueno.

The crowd at Ueno.

ジミー・ミリキタニ

1 Apr

About three years ago my wife and I went to the Tokyo screening of the movie 「ミリキタニの猫」 (“The Cats Of Mirikitani“).

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The movie is a documentary by Linda Hattendorf about ジミー・ツトム・ミ力谷 (Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani).

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In the beginning of the documentary, Linda Hattendorf simply films and interviews a homeless Japanese artist who lives on the street near her apartment in New York City selling his artwork (many of which features cats).

But then the “September 11th” attacks on the World Trade Center happen and Linda sees the artist, Jimmy Mirikitani, still on the street breathing the toxic dust in the air from the fallen towers…so she invites him into her apartment. And that’s when they change each other’s lives.

She discovers that he was born in California (and therefore was an American citizen) and raised in 広島 (Hiroshima, Japan).

When he was a young man, he moved back to America to pursue his dream to become an artist. But when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, he was put in an internment camp and lost his U.S. citizenship.

A chain of events led to him becoming homeless and stateless. But with Linda’s help, he reacquired his American citizenship, located long-lost relatives, paid a visit to the internment camp that had caused him to resent the U.S. government (but revisiting it helped him to overcome the anger), and also visit his hometown in 広島 (Hiroshima, Japan).

She also helped him get an apartment of his own and a job teaching art.

It’s a touching story. You can read about it in more detail on the official website (Click here for the English version…or click here for the 日本語 (Japanese) version.)

The reason I’m writing a blog post about this story after it’s been three years since I watched the documentary is because I just found out there is a show of phots of  ジミー・ツトム・ミ力谷 (Jimmy Tsutomu Mirikitani) and a new painting by him at a vegetarian restaurant in 渋谷 (Shibuya, Tokyo) called Nagishokudo from March 29 until April 18, 2009.

If you’re in Tokyo, you should go see it if you have a chance (especially if you like vegetarian food since restaurants like that are fairly uncommon in Japan. (As for me, I’m definately not a vegetarian so I don’t think I’ll be going there for the art show)).