Archive | May, 2011

五百羅漢

29 May

Today we went to a special, temporary exhibit at the 「江戸東京博物館」 (“Edo-Tokyo Museum“) titled 「五百羅漢」 (“Five Hundred Buddhist Saints“).

Originally scheduled to be 2011 Mar 15 - May 29...it was postponed due to the Sendai Earthquake---the exhibit's dates are now 2011 April 29 - July 3.

This exhibit has paintings by the Japanese artist Kano Kazunobu depicting scenes from stories about the “500 Saints of Buddhism”.

I’m not familiar with these stories because I’m not a follower of Buddhism (or any other religion). And I’d say that very few Japanese people know about these stories either.
Buddhism came to Japan from China (which got it from India) and it’s traditions were “Japan-ized” and incorporated with traditions from Japan’s native “religion”, Shinto.
Even though parts of both religions are traditions in Japan (for example, “Shinto” or “Christian”-style weddings, and “Buddhist”-style funerals), almost no Japanese person actually believes in religious doctrine.

Even though I don’t know about the religious stories, like most of the other people at the exhibit, I was interested in the history and artistic value of these paintings that were drawn about 200 years ago (and most were destroyed in the Allied bombings of Japan during World War II).

The "saints" healing animals.

The "saints" saving people from "Hell".

If you want to see these paintings, they’ll be exhibited until 2011 July 3rd.

Disneyland for half-price

28 May

From 2011 July 8 until August 31, 「東京ディズニーリゾート」 (Tokyo Disney Resort), which is the collective name for Tokyo Disneyland and it’s neighboring Tokyo Disney Sea together, will offer their one-day passport tickets for children between the ages of four to eleven for half-price (children under four are always admitted for free).

This is the first time Tokyo Disney has cut their prices like this. The reason they’re offering this special bargain is to help raise the spirits of children in Japan since the devastating earthquake last March.

Tokyo Disney Resort‘s “one-day passport” is valid for one park or the other (not both) for one entire day.

The price for the “one-day passport” is normally ¥6,200 (about US$76.68) for ages 18-59, ¥5,500 (about US$68.02) for ages 60 and over, ¥5,300 (about US$65.55) for ages 12-17, and ¥4,100 (about US$50.70) for kids aged 4-11.

But from July 8 – August 31, the kids “one-day passport” will be reduced to ¥2,050 (about US$25.35).

This doesn’t affect me since my kids are all too old for the reduced ticket price…but if you have young kids and you’ll be in the Tokyo area in July or August of this year, you should consider taking advantage of this half-price ticket.

Rainy day in Nezu

23 May

It was forecast to rain today but my wife and I decided to go to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

I’ve written posts about this shrine before when we’ve gone there on sunny days and during festivals.

When we left our house the weather was sunny and warm. It was hard to believe that the TV weatherman said it would rain in the afternoon.

At lunchtime the weather was still nice, so we stopped at a convenience store and bought some beer and sandwiches and ate lunch in a park not far from the shrine.

After lunch we headed to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine) as the sky was turning dark and the temperature began to drop.
It was a good thing that we brought our umbrellas because it began to rain hard as we were leaving the shrine.

Here are the photos that I took:

These turtles were cute…but our turtle is cuter! ;)

I think this bird was a type of 「白鷺」 (Egret).

The torii at the entrance to 根津神社 (Nezu Shrine).

Japanese lamp.

Sign says 「根津神社」 ("Nezu Shrine")

A row of over 150 "torii".

Click here to see my post with a video I took while walking through these.

25,000th Big Mac!?

19 May

Have you ever watched the documentary about the fast-food industry in general and McDonalds in particular titled “Super Size Me“?

That movie introduces you to a man named Don Gorske who claims to have eaten at least one, but usually two, Big Mac sandwiches from McDonalds every single day of his life with the exception of only eight days since May 1972!

On 2004 July 19 Don Gorske ate his 20,000th Big Mac and he was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for having eaten more of the burgers than anyone else in the world.

Don Gorske tried his first Big Mac on 1972 May 17 and he liked it so much he ate eight more the same day…and on 2011 May 17 (the day before yesterday), exactly thirty nine years after eating those first nine, he was recognized with a special ceremony at his local McDonalds for having eaten his 25,000th Big Mac.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Gorske said he loves Big Macs and intends to continue eating them daily.

甘くないコーラ

15 May

I think cola has a different image in America than it does here in Japan.

In America, I think, it’s more common for people of all ages from children to adults to drink cola. But in Japan, generally speaking, sweet drinks and foods are usually consumed by children and young women.

People my age, especially men, in Japan normally drink coffee, tea and alcohol. I also don’t have much of a “sweet tooth”. I don’t eat chocolates or candies very often and I seldom drink cola or other sweet drinks.

I like coffee (“normal” coffee…not the overly sweet type found at places like Starbucks) and, of course, beer.

So, in an attempt to lure more people like me into drinking their product, Pepsi-Cola in Japan is offering a new type of cola called “Pepsi Dry“.

The label says 「甘くないコーラ」 ("not sweet cola").

Supposedly this new cola is half as sweet as normal cola and has a “dry, crisp taste”.

I think I’d like this more than normal cola…but I probably won’t bother to try it. As I said, I’m not much of a cola drinker.

How about you? Do you have a sweet tooth? Would you try “Pepsi-Dry”?

Near beer…no thanks

10 May

Suntory Beer has a new beer in Japan.
It’s called 「絹の贅沢」 (literally: “Luxurious Silk“).

Embarrassing name for a beer and a generic-looking can design…but it was on sale so I bought half-a-case.

It’s tastes good.

But don’t confuse it with Suntory‘s other new offering in a similar can…

I'd never buy this!

This is Suntory “All Free”. Non-alcoholic beer.
Non-alcoholic beer—none for me, thanks.

Do you like beer? What do you think of “non-alcoholic” beer?

Disaster in the sky 74 years ago

6 May

Nearly everyone is familiar with the images of the 「ヒンデンブルク」 (Hindenburg) disaster.

The shot of it bursting into flames just as it was landing in New Jersey, USA on it’s three-day flight from Germany is one of the most famous photographs in the world.

The hard rock band Led Zeppelin used it on the cover of their 1969 debut album.

Led Zeppelin I

But did you know that the Hindenburg disaster happened on 1937 May 6…seventy-four years ago today?
Neither did I. But that’s one of the wonders of living in the Information Age. Without even leaving my living room I can check Wikipedia‘s page about the Hindenburg and learn that there were only 97 passengers and crew on board the zeppelin on it’s fatal journey…and most managed to survive somehow. There were 36 fatalities.

Besides the famous shot of the Hindenburg burning, the radio news announcer, Herbert Morrison’s broadcast is also well-known. Especially his line:

“Oh, the humanity!”
–Herbert Morrison

Another wonder of the internet is YouTube.
I was able to find a YouTube video showing a newsreel from 1937 about the Hindenburg Disaster:

The zoo is free today

4 May

In Japan, April 29th, May 3rd, May 4th and May 5th are public holidays.  Collectively they are known as 「(ゴールデンウィーク」 (“Golden Week“).  Technically only those days are public holidays and therefore only the May 3-5 period is “Golden Week”, but many companies allow their employees to have a Golden Week holiday from 「昭和の日」 (“Showa Day”) on April 29th until 「子供の日」 (“Children’s Day”) on May 5th.

(Click here to read my FAQ that explains a bit about the Golden Week holidays.)

Today is May 4th…「みどりの日」 (“Greenery Day“) in Japan.

This is the day to appreciate nature.  Every year May 4th is one of three days that all of the public 動物園 (zoos) and 水族館 (aquariums) are open with no admission charge.

So you can go to the zoo or aquarium in Tokyo for free today…if you don’t mind the crowd.

Of the three days that Japan’s zoos are open for free, May 4th is the most crowded because it’s the day that is a national holiday.
Tokyo’s 「上野動物園」 (Ueno Zoo) will be particularly crowded because in addition to the zoo being open for free on a national holiday today…Ueno Zoo recently got new pandas.

The three days of the year that Japan’s public zoos and aquariums are open for free are May 4th (“Greenery Day”), 都/道/府/県民の日 (Prefecture Residents’ Day) (each prefecture’s “Residents Day” is a separate day), and the anniversary of the day that the zoo / aquarium first opened.

So, for Tokyo’s public zoos, the days that they’re open for free are as follows:
-May 4th 「みどりの日」 (Greenery Day)…which is today.
-October 1st 「都民の日」 (Tokyo Residents’ Day)…as for the Tokyo’s neighboring prefectures, 千葉県民の日 (Chiba Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on June 15th, 埼玉県民の日 (Saitama Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on November 14th, and 神奈川県民の日 (Kanagawa Prefecture Residents’ Day) is on March 19th—so Chiba Zoo, Tobu Zoo, Yokohama Zoo, etc. will be open for free on their respective prefecture’s Residents Day.
-And the other free day is the anniversary of the zoo’s grand opening…so, for each of Tokyo’s public zoos and aquariums, that day is:

Ueno Zoo...open for free every March 20th (first opened on 1882 March 20).

Tama Zoo is open for free on both (May 4) today and (May 5) tomorrow (both are national holidays). Tama Zoo first opened on 1958 May 5th.

Kasai Seaside Aquarium...open for free every October 10th (first opened on 1989 October 10).

Inokashira Zoo...open for free every May 17th (first opened on 1918 May 17).

Ooshima Zoo is always opened to the public for free.

Do you like zoos and aquariums? Which is your favorite zoo? Have you seen any of Japan’s zoo?

If you want any information about these zoos and aquariums in Tokyo (or the ones in the neighboring prefectures), feel free to ask in this post’s comments or e-mail me…I’ve been to them all.

(Images in this post are from the Tokyo Zoological Park Society website).

Is it right to cheer?

3 May

It was reported on the news yesterday that the self-credited mastermind of the 2001 September 11 terrorism attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in America, Osama Bin Laden, was killed by the American military.

Without a doubt, anyone responsible for crimes against humanity such as Bin Laden was should be brought to justice.

But I’m not sure I agree that the celebrations and cheering across America that was shown on the TV news yesterday is appropriate.

A crowd in Washington DC cheered the news that Osama Bin Laden was killed in a firefight with the U.S. military.

The Americans crowds that were shown on TV were chanting “USA! USA! USA!” and singing pro-America songs such as the American National Anthem.

It reminded me of the images of the reaction in some Middle Eastern countries about ten years ago after the WTC attacks on America.
There were some anti-American crowds in some countries who were cheering America’s loss.
It was quite offensive to see!

I certainly wouldn’t compare a villain such as Bin Laden to the innocent lives lost on 2001 September 11th…but seeing Americans cheering may fuel “anti-American” feelings in some countries.

World’s oldest orangutan died in Tokyo

1 May

In 1955, 上野動物園 (Ueno Zoo) in Tokyo was given a three-year-old オランウータン (orangutan) named 「モリー」 (“Molly“).

We first saw her at that zoo in the ’90s, when Molly was in her forties. For an orangutan, that age is already elderly.
By the time we first saw Molly she had gone blind in her left eye and she had to use her hand to hold her right eye open in order to see.

My family and I really liked Molly and we visited her every time that we went to the zoo.

But then in 2005 when we went to Ueno Zoo, we were sad to find that Molly‘s cage was empty. As Molly was quite old for an orangutan at that point, we suspected the worst and thought that she had passed away…until we noticed a sign that said Molly had been transferred to 「多摩動物公園」 (“Tama Zoo”).

Tama Zoo is also in Tokyo but it’s in rural western Tokyo where there’s more room, so Tama Zoo is much larger that metropolitan Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo.

We hadn’t been to Tama Zoo for awhile and we like that zoo a lot. So during 2005′s Golden Week (which, coincidentally, is the week-long holiday period in Japan that happens to started two days ago) we went to Tama Zoo and saw Molly looking happy in the zoo’s large orangutan enclosure.

Well, it was announced in the news that Molly, who was the world’s oldest orangutan, died yesterday (2011 March 30) from old age (she was 59 years and 4 months old).

Rest in peace, Molly.

Here are some photos that I took of her at Tama Zoo in May 2005:

A visitor to my site named Jean Adams emailed me this wonderful picture of Molly that she drew after seeing a photo of Molly in her local newspaper in England:

Since Molly has passed away, now the current oldest orangutan in the world is now a 57 year old female named “Gypsy” who also lives at Tama Zoo in Tokyo.
She likes to look through fashion magazines! :)

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