Sunday, November 16, 2014

Standing in the Twilight

Would make a nice new home for
Yokohama's Silk Museum
One of the first places in nineteenth century Japan opened to trade with the West, the port city of Yokohama has long been famed for its unique examples of Western architecture from that period and onward. 

Built in 1910 to serve as a silk warehouse this storied structure (pictured above) is one of a handful of such buildings to have survived a devastating earthquake that rocked the region in 1923 as well as the ravages of WWII. After withstanding the firestorms of Mother Nature and war, in the end it's perhaps no match for human greed. Unable to turn a profit from this touchstone with the past, the current owner plans to turn it into rubble very soon.  

As of yesterday the building was still
Nov. 15 - Scaffolding goes up for
slated pull down. The office building
to the right, owned by the same
realtor, dates to 1911.
standing and as of today a petition to save it is still up on Change(dot)org for anyone interested in taking their own stand for this historic landmark before it falls to the wrecking ball.

Visit the Save [the] Silk Warehouse site and The Japan Times  to read more about the building and the architect who has tried to save it from demolition.

Related stories: 

Building Character
Shock to the System

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hitting the Mark

There I was standing on the northbound platform just minding my own business when I spied him out of the corner of my eye, calling out from the other side of the train tracks. He was hard to miss with his eight foot bow and arrows in tow, an amateur archer I supposed. From his platform perch he motioned in my direction, but he seemed to be beckoning to anybody but me and oddly enough, or not, I was the only one paying him any attention.

Then luckily, or not, his cries managed to penetrate the cool veneer of a young hipster (he wore sunglasses) who had just joined the ranks of the northbound traveling band. The young man picked up the piece of paper that pops across the way had been desperately pointing to all this time. "It's nothing," he screamed with a look of utter disdain as he flung the small scrap of certainly something to the south corner of the earth. When the wind returned it to whence it came I could just make out that that something really was just about nothing, simply somebody’s discarded receipt from the nearby Mos Burger fast food joint.

Looking a little sheepish the old archer did exactly what I would have done if I had been in his shoes - shift the blame on somebody else. So he saw an easy target and took his best shot, saying, "Sorry! I thought the foreign gentleman dropped it and that perhaps it was something important."

Suddenly the same crowd who had ignored this voice from the other side for the better part of five minutes were all ears, and all eyes for me. Their cold stares pierced my core like poison-tipped arrows. Never one to litter, “No it’s not mine,” I protested, but I cried out in vane. They had all turned away to board the just-arrived train, leaving me with all the blame. Feeling nothing but shame I acted a little insane and kicked that receipt as if I were kicking a field goal in a football game. Then as I watched it float to the ground below, my gaze fell upon the sharp eyes of my southbound foe with the bow and in them I saw the sense of supreme satisfaction. He had hit the mark and the mark was me.

 Note: These drawings are just temporary placeholders. I'm going to do them over in oils on canvas. In the meantime just imagine them in all their future glory!

Monday, October 14, 2013

On the Wild Side

Image from T. Hardwicke's Illustrations 
of Indian Zoology (via Wikimedia Commons)
I love wildlife. I just don’t like it living in my walls. When I first heard the pitter patter of little footsteps scurrying along the interior side of my ceiling I suspected I had a small uninvited guest with a pointed nose and long thin tail.

After careful research I discovered that one of the best ways to get rid of a rodent, short of getting a mongoose or a deadly snap trap, is to douse your house with peppermint oil. Apparently what kryptonite is to Superman, peppermint is to mice.

So I’ve drenched the place in peppermint oil, and loaded the crawlspaces with containers of commercial peppermint-scented rat and mouse repellent. Take one whiff while walking past my front door and you would think I was running a candy cane factory. If the floors weren’t so dirty, I might be tempted to lick them. The place smells absolutely delicious except to a mouse I hope.

In fact I’ve been doing more than hoping my furry friend leaves, I’ve been praying it goes. One night this past week while my thoughts were deep in prayer and peppermint fumes filled my head I saw a vision. It was the vision of a rat jumping from my rooftop to my neighbor’s next door. Only on closer inspection I realized it was more of a cat than a rat. In fact it was civet, a masked palm civet to be exact, which sounds a lot more exciting and exotic than a mouse, except when it’s running around your attic. 

The good thing is civets are natural predators of rodents, which it turns out aren’t living with me after all. I’ve got civets in my attic instead and the bad thing is that they are repelled by the scent of garlic. I just don't know how that's going to pair with the peppermint.

Monday, September 23, 2013

What Counts

Poster from PFAR
Legions of protesters marched on Tokyo yesterday in an ongoing campaign to wipe out racism in Japan's capital city and beyond. Prompted largely by a growing number of anti-Korean demonstrations that have ripped through the heart of Tokyo's Koreatown, yesterday's anti-racism rally swelled with supporters who numbered anywhere between one and three thousand. Among Japan's three biggest dailies, the Mainichi Shimbun put the crowd count at 2000 while its major competitor, the Asahi Shimbun, made a more conservative estimate of 1200. No matter how you figure it, in the final estimation the number of anti-racists beats out the number of racists by an overwhelming margin and I guess that's what counts most of all.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Poisoned Minds

I wonder what’s going through the minds of the folks at the Yokohama Board of Education. According to a recent story in the Japan Times the city’s Board of Ed has recalled a junior high school textbook due to its “descriptions of the mass lynching of Koreans following the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake.” 

During the aftermath of that massive temblor, fear mixed with old hatreds to create a tornado of violence that swept up Yokohama’s small ethnic Korean community in a path of death and destruction. In his book, Yokohama Burning, Joshua Hammer writes that army commanders whipped up rumors about Korean well poisonings.” The lies added more fuel to the fire as vigilantes roamed the streets, hunting for human prey. 

Here in Yokohama's Temple Valley people still recount how a few hundred people fleeing for their lives sought sanctuary in the local police precinct station under the command of one Tsunekichi Okawa. The story goes that not long after this desperate group of innocent men, women and children were safely nestled within the confines of the precinct premises, state-sanctioned killers showed up looking for their pound of flesh. 

It was then that Okawa, a man of quite ordinary stature emerged from within. Staring the prospect of his own death straight in the eye, he is said to have looked the rabble up and down and told them "if you want to kill them, you'll have to take my life too, but first go and fetch me a jug of that poisoned well water you're crying about." Then jug in hand, Okawa downed the entire contents of the vessel proving beyond a doubt what he already knew. The poison was all in their minds, where it still seems to be today.

(Portions of this story came from a previous post.)

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Out of Left Field

With 4000 hits under his belt, a pin-striped Ichiro Suzuki reaches another baseball milestone and the music plays on...


Friday, August 9, 2013

The Asterisk *

Greg Mitchell writes, "Few journalists bother to visit Nagasaki, even though it is one of only two cities in the world to "meet the atomic bomb," as some of the survivors of that experience, 68 years ago this week, put it.  It remains the Second City, and "Fat Man" the forgotten bomb. No one in America ever wrote a bestselling book called Nagasaki, or made a film titled Nagasaki, Mon Amour. "We are an asterisk," Shinji Takahashi, a sociologist in Nagasaki, once told me, with a bitter smile. "The inferior A-Bomb city"....(read more )

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Less Than Meets the Eye

See update below.

When H meets I

Okay, so I’m perusing an article by Stuart Heritage in the Guardian’s Shortcuts blog and the first words to meet my eyes are “eyeball-licking.” Eyeball-licking! Yuck! Who in their right mind would ever do such a thing? Then I read where it says “this is an article about oculolinctus, an eye-licking fetish that is currently sweeping across the schools of Japan.” 

Oh Japan, that explains it, 'nuff said. No reason for me or anybody else to bother lifting the lid on this story and giving it a second look. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just another link in a long chain of weird news stories that seem to be more often than not made in Japan for some odd reason. 

Fortunately Tokyo-based writer, Mark Schreiber, did take a second look. He discovered that this strange story which was covered by news outlets across the globe not only stretched back to Japan but stretched the truth to its extreme limits. Writing in the Number 1 Shimbun, Schreiber says that “it was not especially difficult to at least cast doubts on the sweeping claim that large numbers of Japanese adolescents were suffering from an epidemic of tongue-induced pink eye.” 

While I admittedly have no idea what the Guardian’s intrepid reporter did to get his story, the urban myth-buster from Tokyo went so far as to practice journalism (go figure), contacting a couple of Japanese ophthalmological associations, a school clinicians’ organization and other medical professionals. “None of them had the faintest idea of what I was talking about,” Schreiber says, which leads me to believe that there is a lot less to the Guardian’s story than meets the eye. 

Further reading:

Read "Lick This!" by Mark Schreiber to learn more about how the tale of a fake fad made in Japan made its way to the pages of newspapers, etc. all around the globe. 

Find, or file your own, related reports at (a sort of crowd-sourced news correction service) under "Recent Bugs."

One more thought: 

In taking a good hard look at the source of this story, Schreiber discovered it to be Butch (Bucchi) News, a questionable website produced by Core Magazine. Core is a less-than-reputable institution whose offices, Schreiber notes, were “raided by police on suspicion of obscenity last April.” Not only that, the editor of one of Core’s biggest magazines, Schreiber points out, “had the distinction of becoming the first person in Japan arrested under new laws banning child pornography.”  

I am a parent of a Japanese adolescent so this hoax did hit kind of close to home but I’m pretty certain no parent anywhere in the world would want to have his or her child looked upon through a distorted lens like the one held up by Naver Matome or Butch News.

A version of this post was originally published on


In the Guardian: "The readers' editor on… how we fell into the trap of reporting Japan's eyeball-licking craze as fact."

In his August 25 Open Door column, Chris Elliott, the readers' editor for the Guardian, cites an apology from writer Stuart Heritage and notes how the paper dropped the ball on this story.

Heritage is a popular and witty writer for an excellent paper, the Guardian. The Guardian was certainly not alone in reporting on this trend that was not but its fix to the story puts it head and shoulders above the pack of less responsible media outlets who refuse to set the record straight.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Mailman Knocks

"Is this you sir?," the mailman asked. "I couldn't think of anyone else this could be for around here except you."

I told him my name wasn't Candyholic and he walked away with the undelivered envelope and a puzzled look on his face. 

Maybe he knew me better than I knew myself.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August 6

"i will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world" 
 - Sadako Sasaki