Archive | November, 2010

Tokyo is to Osaka what New York is to California

26 Nov

My oldest daughter’s high school class took a three-day field trip to the Western Japan city of 大阪 (Osaka).

All of the photos in this post were taken by her during this trip.

The headquarters of the Japanese "Glico Candy Co.", Osaka, Japan

Have you ever visited Osaka? Have you ever visited Tokyo?
Did you notice how different they food and the people are?

Some people say that Tokyo is famous for fashion and Osaka is famous for food.
Do you know the delicious Japanese dishes 「お好み焼き」 (Okonomiyaki) and 「たこ焼き」 (Takoyaki)? Did you know that they are both “Osaka dishes”?

That’s not to say that Tokyo doesn’t have delicious food. In fact, Tokyo has more Michelin Star restaurants than any other city in the world.

And Tokyo has original dishes as well. Have you ever tried 「もんじゃ焼き」 (Monja-yaki)?
I guess you could call it “Tokyo-style Okonomiyaki”.

People from Osaka are more outgoing and friendly compared to people in Tokyo. A large number of Japan’s most famous comedians live and work in Tokyo but they’re actually from Osaka.
People in Osaka are famous for asking shop clerks for a discount when they shop. But that’s not done in Tokyo…here people just pay the listed price. People in Tokyo don’t feel comfortable “bargaining” for a discount.

Personally I think Osaka is a fun place to visit but I feel more comfortable in Tokyo than any other city. I enjoy living here. It has become “home”.

Anyways here are the rest of the photos that my daughter took that don’t have her or any of her friends in them:

The famous "Kani-Doraku" seafood restaurant

A type of "Takoyaki" called "Akashiyaki"

"Carl Corn Puffs" snack logo

The famous "Kuidaore-Tarou" statue

A train advertising "Universal Studios Japan" amusement park, which is in Osaka

Entrance to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) with X-mas decorations

Snoopy and Hello Kitty "Nikuman" meat-rolls at Universal Studios Japan. I guess Universal Studios in America doesn't have these.

Is "Hello Kitty" at the Unversal Studios parks in the U.S. too?

The giant X-mas tree at USJ.


In memory of “The Fox”

24 Nov

The late Eric Carr died nineteen years ago today.

Eric Carr was the second drummer for the rock band “KISS“. He replaced the original drummer Peter Criss who quit the band in 1980.

When Eric Carr joined KISS, they were still wearing their trademark make-up. So it was decided that Eric Carr would wear make-up in the persona of “The Fox” (former drummer Peter Criss had been “The Catman“).

"Creatures Of The Night", the only KISS album cover that has Eric Carr in his "Fox" make-up (he's at the top of the cover).

Eric Carr remained a member of KISS until he died of heart cancer at the age of 41 on 1991 November 24th.

I was already in Japan when Eric Carr passed away and I was shocked when I first heard the news that he had died.
As a KISS fan, I was dismayed that Eric Carr’s death was overshadowed by the death of Freddie Mercury, the vocalist of the band Queen, who died of AIDS the exact same day.

It’s not overlooked by KISS fans in Japan that Eric Carr died at the age of 41.

In Japan, there are three ages for men and three for women that are considered by be unlucky with a higher chance of illness or injury.

These ages are called 「厄年」 (“Yakudoshi“) which means “Calamity years”.
For women these ages are: 19, 33 and 37.
For men, they are: 25, 42 and 61.

Maybe you noticed that Eric Carr died at the age of 41 and the closest 「厄年」 (“Yakudoshi“) age is 42.
But the year before and the after 「厄年」 (“Yakudoshi“) are considered dangerous as well. They’re called 「前厄」 (“Maeyaku”) and 「後厄」 (“Atoyaku”), respectively.

It’s believed that people’s bodies are changing at those ages and are prone for sickness or injury.

Actually, I twisted my ankle a few days after my 41st birthday a few weeks ago. True story.

Are you at the age of 「厄年」 (“Yakudoshi“)? Take care!

Eric Carr, 1950 July 12 - 1991 Nov 24, R.I.P.

Japan will bring bullet train to Florida?

23 Nov

Japan is well-known for it’s excellent public transportation system. Especially in big cities like Tokyo.
Japan’s trains, buses and subways are clean, safe, extremely punctual, convenient and affordable.

Even though the taxis here aren’t really affordable (a taxi ride in Japan is pricey), they’re also clean, safe and convenient.

You may also know that Japan has an excellent 「新幹線」 (“Bullet train” (or “Shinkansen” in Japanese)) system.

"Shinkansen" (Bullet train) passing Mt. Fuji.

Japan’s 「新幹線」 (Bullet train) system is the world’s busiest and fastest bullet-train service.
The speed record was set a few years ago when the 「新幹線」 (Bullet train) reached a speed of over 580 km/hr on a test-run. With passengers though, the trains travel up to about 300 km/hr.

When U.S. President Obama announced that America would begin building and using bullet-trains systems in various parts of America with the first one scheduled to connect Tampa, Florida (my hometown) to Orlando and Miami, Florida many bullet-train companies around the world began bidding for the contract to build Florida’s first high-speed train service.

Map of Florida showing the planned bullet-train routes.

Companies in Canada, Germany and France are competing with Japan for the contract.

But it seems that Japan’s JR Tokai company has a good chance of winning the bid.

If Japan wins the bid then Florida will have a 「新幹線」 (Bullet train) system like Japan’s.


One of JR Tokai's 「新幹線」 (Bullet train) trains.

I wonder if America will be able to maintain the punctuality, safety and convenience of Japan’s train systems.

Have you ever ridden a 「新幹線」 (Bullet train) in Japan? Or any of Japan’s trains or subways?
Have you taken public transportation in other countries?
What are your impressions?


By the way, today is a national holiday in Japan…「勤労感謝の日」 (“Labor Day”). (Click here to read my short “F.A.Q.” about it.)

Top 5 X-mas Illuminations in Japan

21 Nov

In Japan, Christmas isn’t a national holiday. If December 25th falls on a weekday then it’s just a normal workday in Japan.

But that said, クリスマス (X-mas) is still a big holiday in Japan. Not the biggest though…the most important holiday in Japan is 正月 (New Years).

I wrote a post before that explains a bit about Christmas in Japan…and another one that explains a bit about New Years in Japan.

To summarize though, Christmas isn’t the same in Japan as it is in Western countries.
Even though New Years is Japan’s biggest holiday, stores and streets in Japan put up X-mas decorations on November 1st (as soon as the Halloween decorations come down) and take them down on December 26th.
On December 26th in Japan, the Xmas decorations are quickly replaced with New Years decorations which stay up until around January 5th.
So Japan is decorated for the imported holiday of Christmas for fifty-six days but only about two weeks for New Years.

Basically the image of X-mas in Japan is a romantic evening for couples on クリスマス・イヴ (Christmas Eve) and a day for families with children on クリスマス (Christmas Day).

One of the popular dates spots for couples on and before X-mas Eve is to look at クリスマス・イルミネーション (X-mas lights (or, as they’re called in Japan, “Christmas illumination“)).

X-mas illumination at "Roppongi Hills" in downtown Tokyo.

There is a website that shows some of the best 「全国イルミネーション・スポット」 (Illumination Spots around Japan).

One part of that website lists 「イルミネーションおすすめスポット Best 5」 (“Top 5 Recommended Illumination Spots”).

The list is:

  • 六本木ヒルズ Artelligent Christmas 2010」 (“Roppongi Hills Artelligent Christmas 2010” in Tokyo, Japan)
  • 神戸ルミナリェ」 (“Kobe Luminarie” in Kobe, Japan)
  • 2010SENDAI光のページェント」 (“2010 Sendai Light Pageant” in Sendai, Japan)
  • 第30回さっぽろホワイトイルミネーション」 (“30th Sapporo White Illumination” in Sapporo, Japan)
  • OSAKA光のルネサンス2010」 (“Osaka Light Renaissance 2010” in Osaka, Japan)

Also, check out this post that I wrote with photos of the X-mas illumination at Tokyo Tower and in Roppongi, Tokyo.
And also this one that I wrote about Omotesando, Tokyo turning the X-mas illumination back on last year after eleven years of not decorating.

How is Christmas celebrated where you live? Are stores already decorated for X-mas? Is looking at 「クリスマス・イルミネーション」 (X-mas lights) popular?

Chocolate for “adults”

18 Nov

I was going to write a post about U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent visit to Japan for the APEC Summit that was held in Yokohama, Japan last week.
This summit was for world leaders to discuss free-trade in the Asia / Pacific region.

President Obama made a speech when he visited Japan shortly after his election in which he mentioned that he had visited 鎌倉 (Kamakura, Japan) near Tokyo on a trip with his mother when he was six years old.
On that trip, he remembered, he visited the 大仏 (Great Buddah) and enjoyed “Green Tea Ice Cream”.

In that speech, President Obama said that he hoped to visit Kamakura again one day soon and eat Green Tea Ice Cream again.

His wish came true on his last day in Japan of this recent trip (well, he actually ate a “Green Tea Popsicle” rather than ice cream this time).

U.S. President Obama eating a Green Tea Popsicle in Kamakura, Japan on 2010 Nov 14.

U.S. President Obama in front of the 大仏 (Great Buddah) statue in Kamakura, Japan on 2010 Nov 14.


I also wanted to write about the 2010 Asian Games which are currently being played in Guangzhou, China.
Forty-five countries are participating in these games which began on 2010 November 12 and will end with the closing ceremony on November 27th.
Japan is doing pretty good in these games…but China, the host country, has the highest number of gold medals so far.

Japan is upset though by the results of the women’s Judo matches. Judo is a Japanese martial art and Japanese athletes consistently excel in international Judo competitions…but in the women’s Judo match Tomoko Fukumi of Japan lost in her match against Wu Shegen of China.
Although it appeared to most people watching that Japan was winning, the judges awarded the victory to China.

Hopefully this doesn’t add more tension to the relationship between Japan and China.
In both Japan and China recently there have been protests against the other country due to Japan’s arrest (and eventual release) of a Chinese fisherman who entered disputed waters that are claimed as territory by both China and Japan.
And in the same waters, on two separate occasions a Chinese boat intentionally rammed a Japanese Coast Guard vessel that was patrolling the area.


But I titled this blog post 「Chocolate for “adults”」 because I saw the Kit-Kat 「オトナの甘さ」 (“(Level of) Sweetness for Adults”).

I don’t eat junk-food often but two types of chocolate that I like are whiskey chocolate and dark / bitter chocolate.
This Kit-Kat is a bitter / semi-sweet chocolate so I decided to try it. It was pretty good.

The Japanese actress / singer 「黒木めいさ」 (Meisa Kuroki) is the promotion model for both the “regular” Kit-Kat (dressed in red) and the Kit-Kat 「オトナの甘さ」 “Sweetness for Adults” (dressed in black).


Have you heard any of these news stories before?

World Kindness Day

13 Nov

Today (November 13) is “World Kindness Day“.

Do you know this holiday?

Did you know that it was started in Tokyo, Japan thirteen years ago?

It was originally started by a Japanese college professor in Tokyo in the late 1960’s and was called “Small Kindness Day“.
The idea of the day was that everyone should do some small act of kindness to at least one person…making the world a better place to live.

On 1997 November 13 it became an international holiday and the name was changed to “World Kindness Day“.

Maid Train

8 Nov

Have you ever heard of Tokyo’s “Maid Cafes“?
These cafes, mostly located in the Otaku (geek) paradise of the 秋葉原 (Akihabara) section of Tokyo, are staffed by young women dressed in “French maid” outfits who greet the customers by saying 「お帰りなさいませご主人様」 (“Welcome home, master”).
They also draw cute pictures on the food with ketchup and play games with the customers.

Some people say that Japan’s bar-hostesses and cafe maids are both a kind of modern-day geisha.
Maybe it’s an “only-in Japan phenomenon”, but hostesses, cafe maids, and geisha all have in common that their purpose is to entertain customers (usually male) in certain eating and drinking establishments…but, contrary to a popular belief in Western countries, they have nothing to do with prostitution.

Well, the financially struggling Seibu Train Line that connects 埼玉県 (Saitama Prefecture) to 東京都 (Tokyo) has decided to try and take advantage of the popularity of maid cafes to attract more passengers to use their trains.

Beginning 2010 December 11, they will have a limited number of  「メイド・トレイン」 (“Maid Trains“).

These trains will be staffed by “maids” similar to the ones in maid cafes who will serve food and drinks and they will also make all of the train’s announcements.
Passengers will also have a chance to pay to have their photo taken with the maids (the same service is available at maid cafes).

Personally I have never been to a maid cafe. And I have no plans to ride the “maid train” either.
How about you? Have you ever visited one of Japan’s maid cafes? Or would you like to?
Would you ride the maid train?