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Let me introduce you to…

13 Nov

I have written a number of posts about interesting people. Most of whose stories are related to Japan in some way.
Maybe you haven’t seen many of them…so I decided to put links to all of them on a new page that I titled “Who’s Who?“.

Please check them out and leave comments to let me know what you think.

The new page is here.

アメリカ独立記念日

4 Jul

Today is 7月4日 (July 4). 「アメリカ独立記念日」 (American Independence Day).

I don’t usually do anything special on this day. Although there are many 花火大会 (fireworks shows) in Japan during the summer, they don’t usually start until late July or early August.

Watching fireworks is a “Fourth Of July” tradition in America, but I don’t live in America.
(It’s possible that the U.S. military bases in Japan will have a fireworks show this evening. I’m not sure. I don’t live near any U.S. military base anyways).

But anyways, in honor of the 234th anniversary of America’s independence from England, I am writing a list of some of American inventions that have changed the world (in most cases, for the better).

So, according to the U.S. Patent Office, this is a list of some of the numerous things that have been invented in America:

  • Swim Fins: (1717) Invented by Benjamin Franklin
  • Franklin Stove: (1742) Also invented by Benjamin Franklin
  • Refrigeration: (1805)
  • Circular Saw: (1813)
  • Dental Floss: (1815)
  • Morse Code: (1832) Invented by Samuel Morse
  • Revolver (Firearm): (1836) Invented by Samuel Colt (founder of the Colt Gun Co.)
  • Vulcanized Rubber: (1844) Invented by Charles Goodyear (founder of Goodyear Tires)
  • Safety Pin: (1849)
  • Potato Chips: (1853)
  • Rolled Toilet Paper: (1857) Surprised this one took this long. Before this invention, people were using pages from old newspapers and magazines or leaves from plants.
  • Escalator: (1859)
  • Roller Skates: (1863)
  • Cowboy Hat: (1865)
  • Paper Clip: (1867)
  • Barbed Wire: (1867)
  • Cash Register: (1879)
  • Electric Chair: (1881)
  • The “STOP” Sign: (1890)
  • U.S. "Stop" sign

    Japanese 「止まれ」 ("Stop") sign

  • Ferris Wheel: (1891)
  • Zipper: (1891)
  • Radio: (1893)
  • Flashlight: (1898)
  • “Teddy” Bear: (1902) A toy maker made a stuffed toy bear and named it “Teddy” after the U.S. President at that time, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who went hunting but decided against killing a bear cub.
  • Air Conditioning: (1902) Before this invention, places in the southern U.S. such as Florida (where I grew up) were unpopular to live.
  • Airplane: (1903) Invented by the famous Wright brothers.
  • Ice Pop: (1905) Usually called by the brand name Popsicle in the U.S. In Japan, it’s called 「アイスキャンディー」 (“Ice Candy”). It was invented by an eleven-year-old American boy.
  • Automobile Self-starter: (1911) Eliminated the need to engine hand-cranks on cars.
  • Fast Food Restaurant: (1912) For better or worse, these changed the industrialized world.
  • Traffic Signals: (1912)
  • Fortune Cookie: (1914) Although many Americans associate it with Chinese food, the “Fortune Cookie” is only found in Chinese restaurants in America. Actually, it was invented by a Japanese-American man.
  • Ice Cube Tray: (1928)
  • Electric Razor: (1928)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies: (1930)
  • Electric Guitar: (1931)
  • Stock Car Racing: (1936) Led to the formation of the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR).
  • Corn Dog: (1942) Called a 「アメリカンドッグ」 (“American Dog”) in Japan.
  • 「アメリカンドッグ」 (Corn Dog)

  • Napalm: (1943) A terrible substance used as a military weapon.
  • Supersonic Aircraft: (1947)
  • Windsurfing: (1948)
  • Cable Television: (1948)
  • Polio Vaccine: (1952)
  • Barcode: (1952) Invented in America, but Japan turned them into an art form.
  • Eight-track Tape: (1964) This impractical medium for playing music was actually popular for about a decade.
  • KISS "Alive II" on 8-track tape

  • Snowboarding: (1965)
  • Inline Skates: (1979)
  • Space Shuttle: (1981)
  • Nicotine Patch: (1988) To help people quit smoking. I wonder if it actually works.
  • Global Positioning System: (1993) Commonly known by it’s initials GPS.
  • Self-balancing Personal Transporter: (2001) Commonly known by the brand name “Segway“.

History timeline

21 Nov

By no ways a complete list, but here is a timeline of some highlights of world history.

Japan-related dates are written in red.

  • 1281: Mongolia was conquering most of Asia. As the Mongolian Navy was heading to Japan to invade, a giant typhoon sunk their entire fleet. Thus saving Japan.
    That typhoon was called 「神風」 (“Kamikaze“), which means “Divine Wind“, in Japan.The World War 2 Kamikaze pilots were named after this typhoon.
  • 1346: The Black Plague started and eventually killed nearly half of Europe’s population.
  • 1492: Christopher Columbus lands in America. But he believed he was in India and called the inhabitants “Indians“.
  • 1603: 「江戸時代」 (The “Edo Period“) begins in Japan.
  • 1680: The 将軍 (Shougun), Tsunayoshi, loved dogs and enacted a number of laws protecting dogs and making harming them a criminal offense.He is therefore often called “The Dog Shogun”.
  • 1776: America declares it’s independence from England.
  • 1789: French Revolution began.
  • 1804: Napoleon became the Emperor of France.
  • 1854: U.S. Naval Commodore Matthew Perry forced Japan to open to trade with the West.At first Japan resisted and the island of Odaiba was built in Tokyo Bay to defend Japan from the American forces. But Perry’s fleet of black ships were too intimidating and Japan enacted law to allow trade with the West in general and America in particular.The resulting influx of American goods and culture sparked Japan’s “Westernization”.

An Ukiyoe portrait of Cmdr. Perry. His name is written as 「ぺルリ」 ("Peruri") because that's what it sounded like to the Japanese when Perry said his name with his American accent.

  • 1859: Charles Darwin published his book “The Origin Of Species“.
  • 1861: The U.S. Civil War began.
  • 1868: 「明治時代」 (The “Meiji Period“) started in Japan. This was a period of modernization.
  • 1876: Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone.
  • 1904: The Russia-Japan War began. Russia underestimated Japan and lost the war.
  • 1905: Albert Einstein published his “Theory Of Relativity” (E=MC?)
  • 1912: The “unsinkable” RMS Titanic sunk.
  • 1914 – 1918: World War 1.
  • 1937: The zeppelin Hindenberg exploded over the U.S. state of New Jersey.
  • 1939 – 1945: World War 2.
  • 1941 December 7: Japan attacked the U.S. Naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • 1945 August 6: America dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of 広島 (Hiroshima).
  • 1945 August 9: America dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan. This time on the city of 長崎 (Nagasaki).
  • 1961: Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first man in space, starting the “Space Race” to the moon between America and Russia.
  • 1964: Tokyo, Japan hosted the Summer Olympics. The first Olympic games hosted in an Asian city.
  • 1969: U.S. Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first (and so far, only) man to walk on the moon.
  • 1972: Sapporo, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics.
  • 1990 October 17: I (“Tokyo Five”) came to Japan.
  • 1995 January 17: 「阪神淡路大震災」 (Hanshin-awajidai-shinsai), (“The Kobe Earthquake“) destroyed the city of 神戸 (Kobe, Japan).

    A collapsed overpass after the Kobe Earthquake; 1995 January.

  • 1998: Nagano, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics.
  • 2001 September 11: Both of the World Trade Center in New York City, USA and The Pentagon in Washington D.C. are attacked by commercial airplanes hijacked by terrorists. Both of the towers in NYC were destroyed completely.
  • I know that I left out many important dates. Feel free to write any that you can think of in the comments section of this post.

    And did you witness any historic events?

    August 1st birthdays

    1 Aug

    As I mentioned in the previous post, today is my oldest daughter’s sixteenth birthday.

    On the day she was born in 1993, the TV news here in Japan showed two Japanese twins who had become famous a year earlier because the both turned 100 years old.
    The day my first baby was born these twins turned 101.

    Their names were 「成田きん」 (Kin Narita) and 「蟹江ぎん」 (Gin Kanie). After they became famous all over Japan, they often did TV commercials in the early – mid ’90s.
    As a term of affection, they were called 「キンさん、ギンさん」 (“Kin-san, Gin-san“).

    「キンさん、ギンさん」 (“Kin-san, Gin-san“) were born on 1892 August 1 and lived to be 107 and 108 years old, respectively.

    「キンさん、ギンさん」 ("<em>Kin-san, Gin-san</em>"). (Their names mean "Gold" and "Silver")

    「キンさん、ギンさん」 ("Kin-san, Gin-san"). (Their names mean "Gold" and "Silver")

    I knew since the day my oldest daughter was born that 「キンさん、ギンさん」 (“Kin-san, Gin-san“) shared a birthday with her.

    But I found out today that the Japanese astronaut, 若田光一 (Koichi Wakata), who just came back to Earth from a mission with the Space Shuttle Endeavour also has the same birthday as my daughter.

    He was born on 1963 August 1.

    So he returned from his mission in space just in time to celebrate his birthday on Earth. The first thing he did was eat 寿司 (sushi).

    wakata-koichi

    45 Years Ago…

    24 Nov

    Forty-five years ago last Saturday, on Friday 22 November 1963, the U.S. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
    And forty-five years ago today, on 24 November 1963, the man who was arrested for assassinating President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, was killed by Jack Ruby.

    jfk1

    This happened before I was born (my parents were only 14 years old at the time), so of course I have no memory of it…but I’ve heard that people who were alive can still remember exactly where they were when they heard that JFK was assassinated. Kinda like the September 11 attacks of 2001 (Speaking of which, Click here to read my Sept 11 post).

    +++

    Anyways, yesterday we went to a キク祭 (Chrysanthemum Festival). The キク (Chrysanthemum) is the official flower of Japan’s royal family. In fact, the 皇位 (Japanese Imperial Family) is often referred to as the “Chrysanthemum Throne“.

    dscf3961dscf3964dscf39661dscf3967dscf3974dscf3976

    After that, we went where my kids really wanted to go: shopping. They’re girls, so that’s their hobby! 🙂

    We took the train to a store that was having a big sale. My wife and daughters shopped, while I waited outside with a coffee and a newspaper.

    Anyways, here’s a common sight on the platforms of train stations in Japan…the KIOSK that sells newspapers, magazines, snacks, gum, candy, bread, beer, juice, cigarettes, hand towels, neckties, etc:

    dscf3978