Archive | May, 2010


30 May

Last August I wrote a post about Star Wars Lightsaber Chopsticks.

(Click here to read that post.)

Well, the company that sold those chopsticks (Kotobukiya) is now offering 「日本刀箸」 (“Samurai Sword Chopsticks“).

As I said in my post about the Star Wars chopsticks, I don’t really have an interest in gimmicky chopsticks. I eat with chopsticks everyday…but I use normal chopsticks.

That said, I’d rather use these 「日本刀箸」 (“Samurai Sword Chopsticks”) than the 「ライトセーバーチョップスティック」 (“Lightsaber chopsticks”).
They’re kinda cool. Besides, when George Lucas made the Star Wars movie a lot of his inspiration came from Japan…the “Lightesabers”, for example, were based on 「日本刀」 (Japanese swords).

Anyways, these 「日本刀箸」 (“Samurai Sword Chopsticks”) are available in three different designs. They’re modeled after the swords of three famous samurai in Japanese history:  「伊達政宗」 (Date Masamune), 「真田雪村」 (Sanada Yukimura), and 「前田慶次」 (Maeda Keiji).

Chopsticks based on the samurai Date Masamune's sword.

Chopsticks based on the samurai Sanada Yukimura's sword.

Chopsticks based on the samurai Maeda Keiji's sword.

Chopsticks based on the samurai Maeda Keiji's sword.

The 「箸置き」 (chopsticks rests) for these chopsticks have the Family Crest for the samurai whose sword the chopsticks are designed after.

Each pair of these chopsticks cost ¥1,050.

Totoro in Toy Story 3

29 May

Do you know 宮崎駿 (Hayao Miyazaki)?
He is the Japanese master animator. His studio, 「スタジオジブリ」 (Ghibli Studios), has released some of the best アニメ (cartoons) ever, not only in Japan…but in the world.

In the same way as the master American animator, Walt Disney,…Mr. Miyazaki draws his cartoons completely “by hand”.

Some of Ghibi Studios’ masterpiece movies include: 「ホタルの墓」 (“Grave of the Fireflies“), 「魔女の宅急便」 (“Kiki’s Delivery Service“), 「千と千尋の神隠し」 (“Spirited Away“) and 「となりのトトロ」 (“My Neighbor Totoro“).

Movie poster for 「となりのトトロ」 ("My Neighbor Totoro")

In the movie 「となりのトトロ」 (“My Neighbor Totoro“), Totoro is a big spirit that helps two young sisters deal with the stress of recently moving to a new house in the countryside, and their mother is in the hospital and their father works long hours.

Have you seen this movie? Just like all of Mr. Miyazaki’s films, it’s quite good.

And then do you know the American “Pixar Studios” movie company?
They have also released some great movies. But their style is quite different from “Ghibli Studios“…for one thing, unlike Ghibli’s hand-drawn work, Pixar movies are made using computer technology.

A Bug’s Life“, “Monster’s Inc.“, “Cars” and “Toy Story” are all Pixar films.

Well, the people at “Pixar Studios” wanted to pay tribute to Hayao Miyazaki.
So, in the soon-to-be-released Pixar film “Toy Story 3” the Ghibli Studios character “Totoro” makes a cameo appearance!

"Totoro" is sitting next to "Woody" in 'Toy Story 3'


26 May

Yesterday my wife and I went to a festival that I had been wanting to see for years but never got a chance until this year.

We were a bit early for the festival so, since the festival was in 浅草 (Asakusa, Tokyo), we decided to go by the Tokyo Sky Tree tower and walk to Asakusa from there.

Tokyo Sky Tree behind 押上駅 (Oshiage Stn)

The Tokyo Sky Tree, currently under construction, now stands at 389 meters (it will be 634 meters tall when completed).

The Asahi Beer HQ is in Asakusa

Cruise boat

The Sensoji Temple in Asakusa was covered while it's being renovated.

Once we got to 浅草 (Asakusa), we went to watch the 江戸消防慰霊祭 (Edo Firefighters Memorial Ceremony).
This is the festival that I wanted to see yesterday.
It’s a ceremony to honor fallen firefighters. The ceremony involves the firefighters dressed as firefighters in Japan did centuries ago and doing stunts on bamboo ladders.
In ancient Japan, firefighters had to balance on such ladders while fighting fires and they would practice such stunts on the ladders in order to improve their strength and balance.
Modern firefighters in Japan still practice these stunts…for tradition and to improve their strength and balance.

Actually, last January I went to the 「東京消防出初式」 (“Tokyo Fire Departments New Year Drill“). That ceremony had many exciting shows including a similar ladder show. But it was still fun to watch again yesterday.

They use these hooks to steady the ladders.

After the ceremony was over we stopped by a store and I saw these vending machines. One looks like Ultraman…it sells, among other things, 「ウルトラコーラ」 (“Ultra Cola“).

We saw this pretty cat.

We don't have a cat...but this is our pet turtle.

Pac-Man is 30

24 May

On 1980 May 22, the Japanese video game manufacturer Namco released a new game that was invented by their employee 岩谷徹 (Toru Iwatani).

The game was called 「パックマン」 and was written as “Puckman” in the English alphabet in Japan.
On that day thirty years ago, the game was released at only one video game arcade (ゲームセンター) in 渋谷 (Shibuya, Tokyo).

The game was given the name 「パックマン」 because 「パック」 (“pakku“) or 「パックパック」 (“pakku-pakku“) is the word Japanese use to describe chewing (click here to read a post I wrote that describes this word and other like it in the Japanese language) and the point of the game is to maneuver the yellow Pac-man character around a maze and eat every dot in the maze without running into any of the four ghosts that run around the maze at the same time. There are four strategically-placed “power” dots that temporarily turn the tables and allow Pac-Man to eat the ghosts.

It was probably decided to use the letters “Puckman” to write the game’s name in Japan because “pakku-pakku” sounds similar to “puck-puck“…at least when said with a Japanese accent.

Anyways, this game was an instant success in Japan and caught the attention of “Midway” game manufacturer in America and a deal was struck to bring 「パックマン」 (“Puck-Man“) to the U.S.
But first, Midway decided, the name should be altered before kids in America vandalize the machine to make the “P” in “Puck-man” look like an “F”.

So, “Pac-Man” was introduced to America in the early ’80s and became a part of America’s pop-culture almost instantly.

Just like most kids in America (and probably other countries too) in the early ’80s, I was obsessed with Pac-Man for awhile.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been thirty years since Pac-Man was first introduced to the world!

I heard that Pac-Man was recently added to the “Guiness Book Of World Records” for being the most readily recognized video-game character around the world even today.

Even the Google search engine changed their logo temporarily to honor Pac-Man‘s 30th anniversary.
Click here to try the Pac-Man game on the Google website. Click the “Insert Coin” button the site, a game starts then use your keyboards arrow keys to move Pac-Man around the maze.

Samurai Blue ガンバレ!

24 May

First of all, my blog reached the 400,000 hits point today. At the current rate of over 2,000 daily hits, my blog should reach the half-million hits mark by late July.

Thank you to everyone who visits my blog.


Do you like サッカー (soccer)?
Personally, I don’t care for it much…but I know the “World Cup” is like the “Olympics of Soccer”.
The World Cup is an international championship soccer competition and it’s very popular around the whole world (except America 😉 ).

The 2010 World Cup is scheduled to begin on 2010 June 11. But currently there are some kind of “pre-World Cup” international soccer matches going on.

Tonight the Japan soccer team (nicknamed: “Samurai Blue“) is scheduled to play a game against the Korean soccer team in Saitama, Japan.

Ad for Japan's "Samurai Blue" team's soccer match against Korea this evening.

Here’s an Adidas Japan TV commercial for the Samurai Blue / World Cup:

ガンバレ日本! (Good luck Japan!)

Lydia Criss interview

23 May

Peter Criss was the original drummer of the hottest band in the world…KISS.
His ex-wife, Lydia Criss, has written an excellent memoir about life with KISS before and during their heyday in the mid-70s.

Lydia Criss was kind enough to do an interesting interview with me.

Ace talked all of us into going shopping at this store in Tokyo that sold only Nazi regalia…

(–Lydia Criss)

Click here to read Lydia Criss’ interview with me.

Oktoberfest in Tokyo

23 May

Do you know what 「オクトーバーフェスト」 (“Oktoberfest“) is?
Have you ever been to one? What city did you go to Oktoberfest in?

Oktoberfest is a German festival that involves a lot of German music, German sausage, and German beer.
The festival began in ミュンヘン (Munich), Germany in 1810.

I’m not German and I’ve never been to Germany, so I don’t know if the festival is the same in Germany as it is in other cities around the world.
But I love drinking beer and eating meat…so I think Oktoberfest is a great festival! I’ve attended Oktoberfest festivals in Japan a few times and once in America.

As I wrote above, the first Oktoberfest was held in ミュンヘン (Munich), Germany in 1810…so this year is the 200th anniversary of Oktoberfest.

Well, right now, the 「日比谷オクトーバーフェスト2010」 (“Hibiya Oktoberfest 2010“) is going on.
It started last Friday (2010 May 21) and will continue until Sunday, 2010 May 30 at 日比谷公園 (Hibiya Park) in Tokyo.

As the name implies, “Oktoberfest” is usually held in October (10月)…so I don’t know why this festival is being held in May–but it is.

I have been to the 「日比谷オクトーバーフェスト」 (Hibiya Oktoberfest) before. And I’ve been to the 「日比谷ワインフェスト」 (Hibiya Wine Fest) at the same park before, too.

Admission to the 「日比谷オクトーバーフェスト2010」 (“Hibiya Oktoberfest 2010“) is free and they have many German beers available with alcohol content ranging from 4.8% to 7.2% depending on the beer.

(Click here if you want to see the beer list on the official 「日比谷オクトーバーフェスト2010」 (“Hibiya Oktoberfest 2010“) website.)

I have also been to the 「横浜オクトーバーフェスト」 (“Yokohama Oktoberfest“) before at the 横浜赤レンガ倉庫 (Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse). That Oktoberfest is held in October every year.

Ad for last year's Oktoberfest in Yokohama

Also, for people in the 仙台 (Sendai) area of Japan, there will be two German beer festivals in that area this year…the 「仙台ジャーマンフェスト2010」 (“Sendai German Fest 2010“) from 2010 June 11 – 20, and the 「仙台オクトーバーフェスト2010」 (“Sendai Oktoberfest 2010“) from 2010 September 17 – 26.

Aboin finally became a police dog

20 May

From the 毎日新聞 (Mainichi (Japanese) Newspaper)





Can you understand that article?

It says:

“Aboin” passed the police dog exam after three attempts

An aging dog named Aboin finally passed the exam to become a police dog with the Saitama (Japan) Police Force after having failed the annual exam twice before.

His 30 year old trainer, Katsumi Sato, said “I’m relieved he finally passed. I want him to become a successful police dog.”

Aboin is a seven year old male German Sheppard, which would equal about 40-50 years old in human age.

At one point in the exam, Aboin didn’t respond promptly to the “Lie down” command.

Ms. Sato said “He has a bad habit of getting over-excited and distracted.”

Regardless, Aboin still managed to passed the test (which has a 70% success rate)

Ms. Sato was notified that Aboin is to report to duty on June 1 for a one-year contract in which he will be responsible for helping to guard VIPs and catch criminals.

(The photo was taken at 10:30AM yesterday at the police dog training camp in Saitama. Ms. Sato said “Good luck, Abo”)

The Holy Diver has passed away

18 May

When I go online, first I check my email.
Today one of my emails was from my friend Masa. He told me that the legendary heavy metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio has passed away.

After I check my emails, I always check my favorite websites for updates. There are a number of blogs, news sites, and others that I visit everyday.
But once I knew that Dio has died, I knew that some of my favorite music-related blogs would have posts about it…Hard Rock Hideout, Metal Excess, Metal Odyssey, Heavy Metal Addiction, and Heavy Metal Time Machine all wrote excellent posts about Ronnie Dio’s passing.

Ronnie James Dio was most famous as the lead vocalist for the metal bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath (after original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne was fired), and his solo band Dio.

I knew that he had been fighting stomach cancer but I was still surprised and saddened to learn that he died on May 16.

Ronnie James Dio, 1942 July 10 – 2010 May 16, R.I.P.

Here are a couple official promotion videos for two of his biggest hits with his solo band Dio, “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line“.
The videos seem pretty “cheesy” nowadays, but when they were first released in the ’80s they were cool (at least to the teenage heavy metal fanatic that I was back then).

I-pad customers in Japan get overpriced nothing from U.S.

16 May

A number of people in Japan ordered the new “I-pad” computer product by Apple Corp. from a retailer in the U.S. only to receive empty boxes.

The I-Pad from Apple

The Japan Postal Service said that the products were removed from the boxes before they reached Japan and that the U.S. Postal Service should investigate the cases.

The I-Pad won’t be on store shelves in Japan until later this month so I guess some people couldn’t wait and decided to order them from America.
But I’m sure they’re regretting that decision now after spending about ¥56,000 (US$600) for nothing.

Anyways, I don’t know much about the I-Pad but I wonder why anyone in Japan would buy electronics outside of Japan.
For one thing, Japan has the world’s leading electronics products and also I doubt the products outside Japan have Japanese language support.
For example, my computer keyboard and my cell-phone keyboard both have English letter and Japanese characters on the keys.

So, I wonder, why would these Japanese people order an electronics product from overseas rather than wait a few days to get it domestically with Japanese-language features?