Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's for You

Japanzine features a "literal translation" of a typical Japanese phone conversation that really rings true. It goes like this:
A: This is Tanaka
B: I’m sorry. This is Watanabe, but...
A: Oh, thank you. I’m sorry.
B: I’m sorry. I have no excuse for the other day.
A: No, no. I’m always in your debt.
B: Excuse me, it is bad of me, but... (Read the rest of the conversation and the less literal translation on the Japanzine website).

Friday, May 20, 2011

Path to Enlightenment

Sojiji Temple, Yokohama

About the photo: Sojiji is the temple from which Temple Valley gets its name. This photograph appeared in the Weekend Scene section of the Japan Times. The online site features some nice shots from all over Japan taken by visitors and residents of the archipelago, both famous and not famous. After I sent this photo in to the paper I decided I didn't like it and was going to go back (it's literally a stone's throw away from my home) and take the same view from a different angle. I never did. I guess that's the path not taken.

Related: Crossing Paths

Monday, May 16, 2011

Bouncing Back

7/11 Post 3/11

Two months after the devastating events of 3/11, the 7-Eleven convenience store (see photo on Flicker) in the tsunami-ravaged city of Iwaki in Fukushima prefecture is back in business.

Recommended reading:

3/11 in Light of 9/11

I recently discovered an interesting Yokohama blog, Loco in Yokohama. Well I actually didn't "discover" it. It's a popular Japan-based English language blog that has been around for a while. In the author's insightful essay (From 9/11/2001 to 3/11/2011) on the 3/11 earthquake he delivers a stirring and thoughtful account of that fateful day as he experienced it from nearby Name of the Chrysanthemum Station and neatly ties it together in light of the impact the events of  9/11/2001 had on him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Carried Away

Temple Valley - This is one of half-a-dozen crow warning signs that lie along a block-long-stretch of my son's school route. Either some kid was carried away by one of these winged creatures or somebody just got carried away with the signage. The former scenario is very possible. These aren't your garden variety blackbirds, these are humongous jungle crows. At least the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is (or maybe was) doing something to stop these menacing marauders from the sky. The Washington Post's Blaine Harden filed this report in 2009 from the front lines of the municipality's decade-long war with this avian adversary: In Tokyo, Hitchcock Isn't Around, But He Seems to Have Sent the Birds.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Take Me To Your Leader

Sankei Biz has an interesting photo of Democratic Party of Japan Secretary General, Katsuya Okada, meeting with local officials from Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. Okada is among the group of Japanese central government officials. Fully suited up in anti-radiation protective gear they stand in stark contrast to the locals who are not. One of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People of 2011," Katsunobu Sakurai, appears in the photo. Mayor of Miyagi Prefecture's Minami Soma City, Sakurai used YouTube to deliver a desperate plea for help on behalf of the municipality's citizens in a message that was heard around the world.

A Perfume by Any Other Name

Here is an interpretation of a music video by the Japanese pop music sensation, Perfume. The fan video (on the right) comes from Mexico - further evidence that popular music from the Land of the Rising Sun is striking a chord around the world. Try synchronizing the left and right screens for maximum enjoyment.

Related post:
Breaking Barriers

You might also be interested in:
Different Takes

When Every Minute Counts

Nuclear Regulators Leave Kan to Fill in the Blanks

Dear Prime Minister Naoto Kan,

I applaud your call to suspend operations at the Hamaoka nuclear power station (in Shizuoka Prefecture). It's good news following on the heels of the public resignation of your senior nuclear safety advisor, Toshiso Kosako. In the wake of his tearful protest against raising the radiation exposure limit for children in Fukushima, it looks like you're now taking a step in the right direction.... (Read on at the Japan Times).

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ear to the Ground

"Ever wish you had cat ears? Thanks to a new quirky device out of Japan, now you can," writes Samantha Murphy of Tech News Daily. Murphy says the "new communication tool called "necommi" - from the company neurowear - uses brain waves from emotions to control and wiggle wearable cat ears."  It's not as silly as it seems. Read more about it at Tech News Daily.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Costume Contest

I like this show. Called Kasou Taisho (Costume Contest), it's aired twice a year and features ordinary people doing some out of the ordinary stuff.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hanging in the Balance

Fish drying on my uncle's laundry line this past March on the day that radiation levels spiked in Tokyo.

When he invited me to try them grilled, I couldn't refuse. It wouldn't have been polite. Upon finishing the last morsel, I guzzled down the glass of warm beer he poured and peering into the bottom of my drinking vessel spied a furry brown life-form clinging to the inner hull. The man is a master breeder of mold. A sprinkling of radiation or a dash of fungus? If I had to choose between them I don't know which I would have picked.

Related Stories: Today's Forecast


First In Last Out (FILO) might be the order of the day at this coffee shop and other establishments of similar stature. If the patron sitting closest to the door refuses to budge, everyone is stuck.

Related stories: Small Reaches New Heights
                        Size Matters
                        History in a Cup

A Time to Plant

Tamatsuri planting festival, Tsurumi Shrine, Yokohama (April 29, 2011)

I tried to get a less anatomically-focused photo but all the other pics I took were a blurry mess. If it's in your nature to learn more about how the phallus is feted in Japan try the Lonlee Planet blog.

Related article: What's Springing Up

A Time to Rant

I was reading the Common Dreams website (Bill Moyers says the online resource is a "must" in his life and work) recently.  It's a compendium of "breaking news & views from a progressive perspective. And the latest ideas, opinions and in-depth analysis by some of the world's best progressive writers, thinkers and activists." The sight gleans articles from various publications (that it then posts under the Fair Use doctrine of US copyright law) and publishes insightful original reporting and commentary from a host of well respected contributors.

I had one or two of my own articles published on the site some time ago. I submitted a couple of more articles for publication (in reference to the leaking nuclear reactors at Fukushima) over the last couple of months but they were rejected. I guess they have a higher standard now. I am kind of disappointed with Common Dreams though. It's not because they rejected my last couple of submissions. I get rejected all the time. Just the other day  my proposal to use the bathroom at a fancy downtown hotel was rejected. It was no big deal I quickly found another outlet. I know how to cope with rejection. I'm used to it.

I guess I'm disappointed because their standards are high but not that high. It hit me when I read a recent short commentary by Abby Zimet in the site's sidebar feature entitled "Further." The entry, entitled U.S.A.! includes a Youtube video that captures the glee with which many Americans have celebrated the killing of Osama Bin Laden. In her two line description of the video, Zimet writes:
"A redneck in West Virginia celebrates the death of Bin Laden in quintessentially American fashion. Who ever said we, as a nation, lack dignity or grace?"
I got her disappointment, embarrassment, etc. with knee-jerk reactions but I didn't think it required a response in kind. Then I discovered another great thing about the Common Dreams website - the comment section. Anybody can post anything they want as long as it's not derogatory (unless you're a contributing editor - then anything goes I guess) and you get to have your name appear alongside the long list of luminaries whose words of wisdom appear in the main featured articles section! It's great!! I go by the moniker "Cupcake." Here's what I had to say in response to U.S.A.:

I’m a fan of comedian Jeff Foxworthy. I really like his jokes that start out with, “You might be a redneck if…” They are usually good natured and there is often something about them that hits home with me. When I read the line: “A redneck in West Virginia celebrates the death of Bin Laden…,” it sounded vaguely like a Foxworthy joke only the words hit below the belt. The statement is as loaded as the gun the guy in the video fires into the wind. The use of the word “redneck” here alone speaks volumes of how powerful educated elitists can wield words like a sword to create artificial divisions and defend their opinion at the expense of any kind of meaningful and inclusive dialogue. If you hope to win the heart and mind of somebody toting a loaded sidearm, it’s probably best not to insult him. Then again if you want to exclude them from the discussion go ahead and take a potshot.
No matter how you cut it, “redneck” like its lexical cousin “white trash” is derogatory. In describing the latter term, Matt Wray, the author of Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness, writes:
“It conjures images of poor, ignorant, racist whites: trailer parks and wife beaters too many kids and not enough government cheese. It’s hard to care about such people. It’s even harder to take them seriously.”
During the West Virginia coal mine wars striking miners who donned red kerchiefs around their necks were quickly labeled “rednecks” by the Pinkerton guards and armed forces sent in to “put them in their place.” The derisive term stuck for years, hanging around the necks of union miners, who were a perennial target of discriminatory employment practices and more. Today people of West Virginia, one the poorest populations in the US, are a favorite target for the “redneck” tag.
Would we frame the actions of the Commander-in-Chief, who actually ordered the killing of Bin Laden and later lauded it in his address to the nation, with an equally derogatory expression? Certainly not, but there is a fine line between that and the tendency to paint the many poor and undereducated who often wind up serving as the cannon fodder for our Imperialist adventures around the world with the “redneck” brush.
Now while I was spending a good half an hour of my life typing this comment, somebody at the Common Dreams website went and changed the word "redneck" to "yahoo. " That's good because they realized the term was offensive and replaced it with another perhaps less pejorative term but the real crime here for me was that it rendered my lengthy diatribe entirely pointless (ahhhh!). I could have been watching TV during that half hour or driving an all terrain vehicle around town while shooting a six gun into the wind (like the guy in the video on the Common Dreams website). That is, if I had any of those things. Then something extraordinary happened. It was something that I have only experienced once or twice on these web pages. Somebody commented on my comment! Somebody actually read what I wrote!! I forget exactly what it said but I think it all boiled down to "you might be a redneck but we love you anyway." It was a gratifying affirmation of my existence.

The View from Here

What do local Temple Vallians think of American's celebratory reaction to the killing of bin Laden?  I don't know, everybody has stopped talking to me (due to a series of unrelated incidents that happened a long time ago). The Japan Probe website, however, has translated some comments made by Japanese netizens from Japan's popular (and notoriously mean spirited) Channel Two message board as well as interviews with some surviving relatives of the 9/11 World Trade Center massacre that appeared in the mainstream Japanese press.

Final Thoughts on the Death of OBL from Michael Moore via, uh, Common Dreams - it's a really great site(added May 13).

Related: Remember Operation Nifty Package?

March Against Nukes

Protest in Shibuya May 7

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Size Matters

Lego guys next to glass encased Children's Day doll
"It's big." That's what people usually say when they see it. It was a gift to my son, Ichiro (not his real name), from his great aunties for his first Children's Day. It was huge and fragile and impractical to take home across the Pacific so we left it in good hands, tucked safely away in a darkened corner of my mother-in-law's closet. And there it stayed, patiently waiting.

When we moved to Japan some years later our humble abode was just too small for this hugely festive adornment. It took up as much room as a small child, and since we already had two of those battling for space in our cramped one bedroom place, we decided it would be best if it remained in safe storage just a little while longer.

Nineteen Children's Days have come and gone since Ichiro was gifted this glass encased museum piece and we now finally have just enough room in our home to display it. It's just in time too for this year my son will celebrate Coming of Age Day. It's the day that 20-year-olds in Japan officially reach adulthood, the day they put all their childish things away.

Related story: Koi Boy is Coming!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Crossing Paths

Sojiji Temple, Tsurumi ward, Yokohama

Rising from the Rubble

The Asahi Shinbun reports that in the Tsunami-ravaged areas of northeastern Japan "the wood among the debris was saturated with salt from the seawater, which means it could emit harmful substances or corrode incinerators if burned."  When incinerated hydrogen in the debris would combine with chloride from the seawater to form the toxic compound, hydrogen chloride. So far Miyagi and Iwate prefectures (Fukushima which is still busy grappling with the ongoing problem of the disabled reactors is saddled with the additional burden of radiated debris) are looking at ways to mitigate incinerator emissions of hydrogen chloride. I just wonder if discarding these huge mountains of refuse in Miyagi and Iwate is the only option. Although full of painful memories as well, I wonder if some of it could somehow be reused as Dan Phillips (the speaker in the video) from Phoenix Commotion has done with discarded trash and used to give new life to much treasured homes.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Small Reaches New Heights

Tokyo - This slim structure in Tokyo's Shinjuku ward may not be the smallest building in town but it's one of the trimmest and tallest edifices I've seen this week.

Housing and architecture related: In My View

Have a Seat

In his post(Going Rogue for Urbanism)on the Utne Reader website, Will Wlizlo writes that “chairbombing is the latest subversive idea to get community members to sit around and, you know, talk to each other."

The folks in this video would have their work cut out for them if they ever came to Temple Valley. International travelers and others stopping in Japan, often complain about the country's lack of public benches. Last year the Japan Times' Edan Corkill covered Tokyo's bench gap in an insightful article entitled, Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down in Public.

Related: A Seat for Sore Eyes