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The Tokyo subway terrorist attack

20 Mar

Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the 1995 March 20th sarin gas attack on three lines of the Tokyo subway system.

sarin attack

I remember that day well.

Prior to that cowardly attack, I had never heard of “sarin gas”. But it’s a nerve agent that is deadly and is easily airborne.

This attack was carried out by the bizarre followers of the equally bizarre Asahara Shoko in the weird “Aum Shinrikyo” cult.

I had known about this cult before the March 1995 attacks. I had seen some of their brainwashed followers in a public park doing some kind of yoga-like stretches and chanting. So I knew they were strange…but until 1995 March 20th, I didn’t know they were dangerous, as well.

It was reported after the attacks that the “reason” these people put containers of nerve gas on trains that killed thirteen people and injured thousands was because they were brainwashed by the cult’s leader, Asahara, that he was the second-coming of Christ and this attack was needed to hasten “Judgement Day”. Or something ridiculous like that.

After this attack, the train and subway lines in Japan were on “high alert”, public trash bins were removed from all stations (a number have since been replaced with a new “transparent” design), there were “Wanted” posters all over Japan for the people responsible, and the “Aum Shinrikyo” cult was designated as a terrorist organization and forced to close down.
Unfortunately though, the members of the cult who weren’t arrested simply changed the name of their group to “Aleph” and still meet under that name.

Melon Kuma

2 Jan

In Japan, cute mascot characters are very popular to help promote many stores, restaurants and merchandise.

Even the Tokyo police, fire department and Japanese military have mascots.

Also, cities and prefectures in Japan have cute or funny mascot characters that are related to some local food or animal.
They are used to help promote tourism to the area.

These characters are normally cute … or at least try to be.

So, the new mascot for the northernmost Japanese prefecture of Hokkaido was on the news recently because not only is the character not cute… but it’s actually on there scary side!

Hokkaido is famous for the wild bears (熊 (kuma) in Japanese) and the cantaloupe (メロン (melon) in Japanese)… so the character is 「メロン熊」(“Melon-kuma“).

image

It’s a bear with a Japanese cantaloupe melon for a head … and has angry eyes and huge teeth!
It’s also fond of trying to bite people!

Quite different from the usual mascots in Japan!

Here’s a video of the melon-kuma trying to bite people and promote tourism to Hokkaido:

New Year ’13 Station

1 Jan

In Tokyo, there is a subway station named 「辰巳駅」(“Tatsumi Station”).

The Japanese kanji characters that spell “Tatsumi” are the characters for “dragon” and “snake”.

So, for that reason, every twelve years … including this year … that station is a kind of unofficial New Years station.

This is because 2012 was 「辰年」(“the Year of the Dragon “) and this year (2013) is 「巳年」(“the Year of the Snake “).

So, for this New Years, Tatsumi Station changed the signs in the station to read:

辰 → 巳
(Dragon → Snake)

image

It’s great!

Tokyo is the travelers’ favorite city

19 Dec

The Trip Advisor website had a survey for travelers to rank world cities in nine categories such as friendliest locals, cleanliness, public transportation, etc.

Tokyo ranked first place in five categories and second place in another.

Tokyo Tower (image from "Trip Advisor")

Tokyo Tower and Zojoji Temple (image from “Trip Advisor”)

Here are the top three cities in each of the nine categories:

Category First place Second place Third place
Friendliest locals Cancun Tokyo Lisbon
Friendliest taxi drivers Tokyo Cancun Singapore
Best taxi services Tokyo Singapore Dubai
Cleanest streets Tokyo Singapore Zurich
Ease of getting around Zurich Vienna Singapore
Best public transport Tokyo Zurich Munich
Best value for money Lisbon Budapest Bangkok
Best for shopping New York City Bangkok Dubai
Safest city Tokyo Singapore Dubrovnik

And here were the ones that were voted as the worst in the same categories (except for “Safest city”…for some reason that category wasn’t listed on the site):

Category Last place Second to last Third to last
Friendliest locals Moscow London Hong Kong
Friendliest taxi drivers Moscow Beijing Brussels
Best taxi services Moscow Beijing Kuala Lumpur
Cleanest streets Mumbai Marrakech Punta Cana
Ease of getting around Mumbai Punta Cana Moscow
Best Public Transport Hanoi Sharm el Sheikh Marrakech
Best value for money Oslo Moscow Zurich
Best for shopping Moscow Oslo Punta Cana

Have you been to any of these cities? Do you agree with the ranking?
Which cities would you rank as best and worst?

Pepsi…Vader or pirates?

4 Dec

Once again, Pepsi Japan is offering special collectors’ edition bottles and cans.

Starting last October 23rd (2012), Pepsi Japan started selling 「エナジーコーラ」 (“Energy Cola”) for a limited time in cans with an image of fire and Darth Vader from the Star Wars movies.

Energy Cola contains five ingredients that are meant to boost energy:
Royal jelly, argenine, asian ginseng, guarana extract and caffeine.

pepsi-vader

And in late November (2012), they began offering their NEX cola in bottles with images from the Japanese マンガ (manga comics) called “One Piece“.

pepsi-piece

Which would you choose?

Famous Japanese

27 Nov

People around the world can name American presidents, American movie actors, American pop music artists, American companies, and American fictional characters.

They’re world famous.

It’s been that way for at least a few generations now.

But before I came to Japan, there was no internet back then and Japanese food and pop culture wasn’t popular around the world like it’s become in recent years.
Back then, I wouldn’t have been able to name a single Japanese prime minister.
The only Japanese actor I knew back then was Pat Morita (from “Karate Kid“)…and he was actually a Japanese-American.
The only Japanese musicians I knew were Yoko Ono and the Japanese heavy metal band Loudness.
Of course, I would have been able to name a number of Japanese companies such as Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, Honda, etc.
As for Japanese fictional characters, I knew Ultraman and Godzilla.

I’ve now been living in Japan for most of my life…so, I probably know more about Japan than I know about America anymore.

How about you? How familiar are you with Japan and Japanese culture?

What famous Japanese people do you know?
Japanese characters?
How about Japanese food / dishes?
Actors / actresses?
Bands / musicians?
How about Japanese words?
Japanese cities?
Or any other things you know about Japan?

Unusual pizza coupons

21 Nov

In America, does Domino’s Pizza have funny or unusual coupons?

Or is it another “only-in-Japan” thing?

Because, once again, Domino’s Japan is offering 25% off specials to customers that fit some crazy stipulations.

Some of the funny new Domino’s Japan coupons.

For example, customers in Japan can get 25% off their pizza order if the pizza delivery person sees that they:

– have facial hair (a beard and/or a mustache),
– have “piggy tails“,
– have a last name with four Japanese kanji characters (very few Japanese people have such a long name),
– have a twin sibling,
– are wearing  glamorous clothes,
– are in the eleventh grade (high school ID required),
– have a pet parakeet,
– are wearing a “dorky” T-shirt,
speak with an accent from another area of Japan (than the one they’re currently in), or
– show a receipt that proves they’ve already ordered a Domino’s pizza earlier that same day.

Coupons can’t be combined in one order…but if someone meets all of the above stipulations, they can get 50% off of their order (the odds of such a person existing are probably extremely slim though).