Saturday, November 27, 2010

Santa Pissed!

Tokyo - The Mannekin Pis at Tokyo's Hamamatsucho train station is all decked out for Christmas and sprinkling holiday cheer all over the platform. I'm sure there is a lovely Christmas carol about this. I think it goes something like: "I saw la la pissing Santa Claus, underneath the mistletoe last night..."

Related stories: You Too Can Prevent Fires
                   Sanders Claus Is Coming

Divey but Delectable

Bounty Hill, Tsurumi -  This little local eatery, surrounded by train tracks on two sides (top and back), was recently featured on a nationally broadcast Fuji network television show.  The program, Kitanachelin, hosted by the Japanese comic duo known as Tunnels (comprised of Takaaki Ishibashi and Noritake Kinashi) picks up where the famed Michelin restaurant guide leaves off. The show whose name marries the last two symbols of "Michelin" with the Japanese word, "kitanai," (meaning dirty) takes viewers to some of the most dirty but delicious dives in the greater Tokyo area. This week's episode took a peak at this fabulous but filthy restaurant built beneath the rails leading to Japan Railway's Tsurumi train station.  
For years before the segment aired the establishment looked pretty much as it does in the picture above, unassuming, uncleaned, and largely unvisited. Via the power of the tube, overnight it became the talk of the town with customers lined up out the door all day and night.


Related story: Breaking Barriers

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Herb & Dorothy

"Herb & Dorothy tells the extraordinary story of Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian, who managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means"....... (read more).

The film's director, Megumi Sasaki, says "The Vogels' message is also about access. Art is not limited to the elite few. You don't have to be wealthy or an art school graduate to enjoy art. If you are interested in collecting art you don't have to follow trends or others' advice. Just listen to your own voice. Trust your eyes and instinct. Simply take the time to look, look and look."

Today everyone has access to the bulk of the Vogel's extensive collection since the couple gifted it to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC back in 1992 (well after its value had appreciated to become worth millions).

To find out more about Herb & Dorothy visit the website.


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Here's  another interior decorating tip for those living on a shoestring budget ripped from the pages of the "Dual-use" Handbook (that I'm currently writing). Dual-use is an out-of-the-box concept built on the premise that not everything is what it seems to be. Take this ordinary tube of tooth paste for example (the brand pictured here is Meguru purchased via my food coop):

Sure it's great for fighting tooth decay, but that's not all. Observe:

It also makes a jammin' doorstop. This is one product that seamlessly crosses over from hygienic to photogenic in the blink of an eye. It's a dual-use decorator's dream. Oops! Sueezage problem?

We've got something to put a stop to that as well.

Simply retrieve your dual-use handkerchief/flag-of-surrender and ....

start waving.

Voila! You have a floor that's as gleaming as the.....

smile on your face (and the faces of your house guests too)!


Related post: Highly Collectible

Saturday, November 20, 2010


An installation by Yosuke Kobayashi as featured on Digital Stadium, a television program aired by Japan's public broadcasting service, Japan Broadcast Corporation (NHK) sometime last year.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tis the Season

Temple Valley - It's that time again. The first bottles of Beaujolais noveau wine have arrived from France, hitting Temple Valley with a bang. The normally restful residents of this once idyllic vale have been licking their lips for weeks in anticipation of the moment that the fermented spirits will slither down their gullet and warm the cockles of their hearts. "People here are really Beaujolais nouveau crazy," I said to M, my wife, as I related the story of a restless mob clomoring to get their hands on one of the countless bottles for sale at the local Seiyu (that's Japanese for Walmart) grocery store. Then she lifted her nose out of the morning paper and trumped my tale with an article about guests of a hotel in the Hakone resort area, just south of Tokyo, who were bathing in the stuff nightly.

Related story: Help Wanted? So much wine, so little time...

Smoke on the Water

You Too Can Prevent Fires

Tokyo - Fire is no laughing matter in Tokyo. As this picture of the Mannekin Pis replica (decked out in a Tokyo Fire Department uniform and propping up a "Fire Protection" placard) adorning Tokyo's Hamamatsucho train station might suggest, everyone is encouraged to "pitch in" and try to prevent fires from occurring.
Tokyo was devastated by hellish fires twice in the last century, once in the aftermath of the 1924 Kanto Earthquake and some two decades later in the fire bombing of the city toward the end of WWII. An article describing the Peshtigo fire, the deadliest fire in U.S. history, in Wikipedia notes an interesting connection between that inferno and the fires that consumed Tokyo and other Japanese urban communities during the war. It states: "The combination of wind, topography, and ignition sources that created the firestorm, primarily representing the conditions at the boundaries of human settlement and natural areas, is known as the Peshtigo Paradigm. This paradigm was closely studied by the American and British military during World War II to learn how to recreate firestorm conditions for bombing campaigns against cities in Germany and Japan. The bombing of Dresden and the even more severe one of Tokyo by incendiary devices resulted in death tolls comparable to or exceeding those of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

About the photo: This replica of Brussel's renowned Mannekin Pis ("Peeing Boy") stands on the southbound platform of Japan Railway East's Hamatsucho Station on the Kehein Tohoku line in Tokyo. Like the Belgian original, the Tokyo statue can be seen donning different outfits throughout the year.

A number of Peeing Boy statues can also be found inhabiting the interior of the Mannekin Pis restaurant in Olney Maryland where they serve up a large selection of Belgian biers (a.k.a. "beers" for our less urbane readers). How do I know all this you ask? Two words: Le Internet  (further note to our less urbane readers: the "t" at the end of Internet is silent).

Now a word on preparedness:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Zombies Are Coming


According to a an article on the Weird Asia News website, the Land of the Rising Sun is at risk from becoming the "Land of the Rising Dead." The report notes that while Japan cremates 99.85% of its deceased citizenry, its still vulnerable to a zombie attack.
The report comes just when we thought it was safe to go outside again, after the departure of the APEC leaders and their entourage. Oh well, in the meantime the denizens of Temple Valley, or at least some of the most sensible among them, have found a way to sharpen their defenses in the event zombies do infiltrate the borders of this island nation. The local Zombie Defense Committee (ZDC) is devoting hours and hours to a digital simulated zombie warfare software application called Plants vs. Zombies by PopCap Games. It's the one-person shooter  that PC Gamer has designated the Game of the Year. Plants vs. Zombies requires you to summon up your best strategy skills as you deploy zombie-battling plants on the front lines (your font lawn in this case) in the ultimate fight to save your brain from being devoured by the living dead. Relax already,  Plants vs. Zombies includes a mini-game featuring a "stress-free Zen Garden" where you can let your troubles disappear.  The Zen garden is also what makes Plants vs. Zombies the perfect training ground for the ZDC.

You can try the free online or download trial version of the product PC Gamer has designated the Game of the Year on Popcap's website. If you decide to try the game, and I strongly urge you to do so, be advised that the software maker warns you to:

"Get ready to soil your plants!
A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home, and your only defense is an arsenal of zombie-zapping plants. Use peashooters, wall-nuts, cherry bombs and more to mulchify zombies before they reach your front door. The fun never dies!"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

APEC Leaders Lose Their Shirts in Japan

Photo via website of the President of the Russian Federation

So far, this year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit being held a hop, skip and a jump away from Temple Valley has been a major downer. Not only do the residents of Temple Valley have to put up with the constant drone of security helicopters buzzing above their roof tops, the periodic cavalcade of police buses (some 21,000 police have been deployed to secure the Summit site) and checkpoints have snarled up traffic routes so much  that nobody can easily get to their favorite eatery in Yokohama's Chinatown, located a stone's throw away from the summit. The APEC leaders aren't the only ones who have lost their shirts at this year's summit. Chinatown restauranteurs have noted a steep decline in patron numbers and related earnings since the arrival of the APEC delegates and all the extra security measures, etc. that have come along with them, so much for economic cooperation. 

What's even more disappointing is that Japan has opted to forgo the donning of the silly shirts (see photo above) at this year's APEC Summit. Many analysts have suggested that this decision fits the staid national characteristic of Japan, but there is a back story here that they have overlooked.

It was less than a year ago that a vote of non-confidence in Japan's former prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, swept him out of office. What triggered Japan's highest legislative body's loss of confidence in the former leader you ask? Just take a look at the ousted head of state's sartorial style:

アップロード者 mintianjohns3. - ウェブカムでもっといろいろな人と出会いましょう。

Style always trumps substance. Japan's leaders have learned their lesson and vowed, "never again."

Related AFP story: In Japan's largest Chinatown, people avoid politics

Unlocking Imagination

Unlocking Imagination in Japan

President Obama will be traveling to Yokohama, Japan this week for the APEC summit where one of the items on the agenda will be beefing up the protection of intellectual property rights. Had the summit taken place a month later the delegates could have taken a short train ride to Tokyo’s Big Sight arena and witnessed perhaps the largest gathering of intellectual property criminals ever assembled under one roof.....(read more at Counterpunch) 

Help Wanted?

Domino’s Pizza Japan has advertised a one-hour job paying 2.5 million yen (about $30,000).  The job will go to anyone 18 years and older who comes up with the best way to celebrate the pizza chain's 25 years of operation in Japan and then implement that idea on the date of the anniversary. It's nice work if you can get it, the average hourly wage for part-time workers in Japan is around 1,000 yen (less than $10 if you simply convert it on the basis of the current foreign exchange ratio).

In a related story, French news agency, Agence France-Presse, reports that the Japanese government is ordering its embassies to reduce their bloated wine cellars, "including almost 7,900 bottles at one European mission alone."

...So much wine, so little time.

Friday, November 5, 2010


A Toilet Tale

Toilet tales, anyone who has ever visited the Land of the Rising Sun (that's Japan) usually comes home with one. This fall, Toilet, a film by Japanese director Nao Ogagami, made a fabulous addition to that ever rising fountain of fables. My wife and I caught the movie in a cinema located in Yokohama's High Island district one Wednesday morning last month or so. Wednesday is "ladies day" which means the usual ticket price of about 1800 yen (approx. 18 dollars) is cut in half for women. I was the only man in the entire jam-packed theater. Now here is the really weird part: this Japanese movie was entirely in English with Japanese subtitles!
Set in the U.S. and filmed in Canada, the movie stars renowned Japanese actress, Masako Motai, who plays the role of the grandmother to the rest of the lead cast of relatively unknown English-speaking actors. The story revolves around a family of three grown kids whose mother, a Japanese immigrant to the US, has recently died and their evolving relationship with their long lost grandmother who arrives in America just before her daughter's demise. Despite the fact that grandma can't speak a word of English and the children have virtually no knowledge of Japanese, the bonds that tie them together guide them toward overcoming the language barrier that seems to divide them in this humorous, heartwarming tale of human relationships. Running through the entire story is the central theme of, you guessed it, the toilet.

I give this movie eight toilet tissue rolls (using the standard international toilet tissue roll movie rating system, 8 rolls is roughly the equivalent of two thumbs up).

Just a reminder: Christmas is just around the corner. Why not try decorating your tree with toilet tissue instead of garland this year. It's the environmentally friendly choice. Ask yourself, What Jesus would do? Then make the right choice. If you click on the link and order via Amazon, a percentage of the proceeds will somehow eventually go to me.