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20 Years ago in Kobe, Japan

17 Jan

Today is 2015 January 17th…the 20th anniversary of the huge 1995 January 17th earthquake in 神戸 (Kobe), Japan.

I’ve experienced many earthquakes since I came to Japan in 1990…but only two that were big enough to destroy a city:
the 1995 Jan 17th Kobe Earthquake, and
the 2011 Mar 11th Sendai Earthquake and Tsunami.

Memorial ceremony in Kobe for victims of the 1995 Jan 17th earthquake. (Photo © Getty Images)

I never want to experience such a massive natural disaster ever again!

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Two dozen years

17 Oct

Today is October 17th, 2014. I came to Japan on October 17th, 1990. Twenty-four years ago.

I was born and grew up in America. But I only lived there for twenty years. I’ve lived most of my life in Japan now.

I’m sure you can imagine, Japan was pretty different 24 years ago.
Even Japanese people in their twenties or younger can’t imagine if I tell them what Japan was like when I first came here!

One big change is that there was no internet or cell-phones when I came here.
Everyone, including me, had phone cards for pay-phones in their wallet. If it was announced that a train was running late, suddenly everyone on the platform would line up to use the payphones (that used to be on every train platform) to call their office to tell that they might be late.
Nowadays, people take out their cell-phone to either call or e-mail their employer if the train is late.

Also, train stations didn’t have escalators or elevators like they all do now.
If someone was in a wheelchair, the train station staff would carry his wheelchair up or down the stairs!
When my kids were babies, my wife and I had to carry their strollers up and down the train station stairs when we used the train.

Now, all train stations in Japan have automatic ticket gates and IC cards (I wrote a post here about them).
But when I first came to Japan, every train station…even the big major ones…had staff with hole punchers at the ticket gates.

To enter the train station, commuters would hand their ticket to one of these guys and get the ticket punched and handed back to them.
Then when they exited, these guys collected the tickets…and they’d tell you if you owed more money on your fare.
They were really fast! Especially at busy stations like Tokyo Station or Shinjuku Station!

Punching a ticket

As I said, there were no cell-phones or email in 1990. Nowadays, if the person you’re meeting is running late, you can just call or email their cell-phone. Life wasn’t always like that.
When I first came to Japan, there were chalkboards at every train station that anyone could use to write a message to the person they were waiting for.
There were always messages on them such as “To ____, I went ahead. I’ll wait for you at the restaurant.” or “To_____, you were late so I went home.

These were commonly used in Japan before cell-phones.

I’ve seen a lot of changes in Japan since 1990. I wonder what changes the next decades will bring!

Big Bird came to Japan

31 May

I didn’t know that there was a Sesame Street special that had Big Bird visit Japan.

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He and his dog got seperated from their tour group in Tokyo which led to a number of cultural misunderstandings … such as Big Bird thinking people were telling him that they were from the U.S. state of Ohio when they greeted him with “Ohayo” (‘good morning’)… until he was helped by a mysterious woman who turned out to be “Kaguya-hime” (a famous Japanese folktale “Bamboo Princess”) and she helps him and his dog get back to Sesame Street in America.

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Here’s the special on YouTube:

Skyline

14 Apr

My first car in Japan was a Nissan Skyline.

The Skyline is a nice car!

So, it was a nice surprise when I went to the shopping mall today with my family (in the car we have now, a Toyota) and I saw that they had vintage Nissan Skyline cars from the 1950s to the 1990s on display!

Here are a few photos I took:

1957 Nissan Skyline: 

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1962 Nissan Skyline:

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1965 Nissan Skyline:

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Mine wasn’t this old. I had a 1986 Nissan Skyline Turbo years ago.

19 Years Ago …

17 Jan

Today (2014 January 17th) is the nineteenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which struck Kobe, Japan on 1995 January 17th.

I wrote a post about it five years ago.

It was the first of two major earthquakes that have struck Japan since I’ve been here … hopefully there won’t be another!

The Simpsons meet Japan’s Studio Ghibli

12 Jan

It seems that an upcoming episode of the American TV show “The Simpsons” will have the characters in the worlds of Japan’s Studio Ghibli!

Studio Ghibli is the creators of the excellent Japanese anime movies such as “My Neighbor Totoro”, “Spirited Away”, etc.

I would like to see that Simpsons episode!

Here’s a preview for it:

How many characters / movies from Studio Ghibli can you spot?

Eric Carr RIP

24 Nov

Eric Carr, the former drummer for KISS, died twenty-two years ago today.

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Here’s Eric Carr with KISS at the Budokan in Tokyo in 1988: