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 in my walls or attic. When I first heard the pitter-patter of little footsteps scurrying along the other (unseen) 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


Monday, July 29, 2013

What's In Store - Cookiyo-e

I don't have a store but if I did, I would sell these:


Related post: The Cone Zone

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Election All a Blur

In the aftermath of Japan's recent national elections, some disappointed supporters of musician and Green Party candidate, Yohei Miyake, have blamed the loss of the progressive campaigner on what they believe was a virtual media blackout. This week Twitter was aflutter with folks decrying the lack of media coverage on Miyake and as evidence more than one sharp-eyed observer has pointed to this photo accompanying an election story in one of Japan's three largest dailies, the Asahi Shimbun.

The front page of the paper features a photo of  Miyake giving an electioneering campaign performance to a huge crowd in front of the entrance to Tokyo's Shibuya Train Station. While the article mentions every other political party, it spares no ink on the Green Party nor its main candidate who is pictured on stage in the photo. 

Despite any obstacles he may have faced in getting his message across, Miyake didn't do too bad a job for a minor party candidate in an electoral system that is geared toward the big party machines. In fact he actually garnered more votes than a couple of his winning opponents and if that sounds a little fuzzy, take a closer look at that photo again. 

On closer inspection it would seem that the paper has digitally erased the words on the Green Party banner in the lower left hand corner. I don't know if I'd call it a news "blackout" but it does seem to have been a bit of a blur.

Related post: Fanning Flames of Hope

Monday, July 22, 2013

Learning to Relax

Craneview Junior High
Ahhh sweet summer vacation! This is the moment school kids clad in hot wool uniform pants and skirts have been literally itching for all semester long. It's hang time, nothing to do but kick back and chill out. 

That is unless your my son Jiro or one of the five hundred and twenty five some odd other young scholars who attend Temple Valley's Craneview Junior High School. Early this morning I found the lad completely decked out in his formal school regalia, including the wool pants, white button down shirt, tie, the whole works. Lunch pail in hand and out the door by 8 am, he was headed off to a full day in the world of academia,well at least a full day of art club. 

Craneview Junior High is where he and nearly all the rest of his schoolmates will be spending every day for the next two weeks and then on and off for the rest of the summer vacation. While they'll be whiling away the hours in club activities (and just about everybody belongs to a school club or sports team of some sort) they'll be learning a thing or two too. One thing you can rest assured they won't be learning though is how to relax.

Related post: A Sticky Situation

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Sticks 'n' Stones

The Power of Words

Earlier this year the Associated Press (AP) was the first major US news organization to take a step forward in nixing use of the term "illegal immigrant" in all future stories. It was a forward thinking word choice by the AP, which reasoned that only actions and not people should be labelled as illegal. The decision will help put an end to the use of an expression that has shaped public perceptions for the worse. 

My local English language newspaper, The Japan Times, seems to be moving in the opposite direction. The paper recently used the word “mongrel” in reference to a Japanese person of mixed ethnic heritage. 

It’s a loaded expression and one that, as The Japan Times noted in a previous story, triggered a minor uproar when President Obama used it merely in reference to his own ethnic and genetic background. 

I may have missed some subtle nuances between the lines but standing alone there after falling in the middle of the article with a big thud, the word just hit me like a ton of stones.

Related: Regret the Slur @MediaBugs

Friday, July 12, 2013

Growing Cities

Going Green

Tokyo, like every other citiy across Japan, was once crafted entirely from wood. If architect, Michael Green, gets his way, a growing portion of it may be again.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Fanning Flames of Hope

Election campaign "fan"
The heat of the sun beat down on the streets like a hammer on an anvil. If this was a taste of climate change, I needed to find some way to adapt and quick. Then there it was at the end of an outstretched hand. 

It was the campaign flyer for the Green Party's Yohei Miyake, the singer-turned-politician who is vying for a lower house diet seat in Japan's upcoming elections. Most importantly it came in the form of a little hand-held fan that maybe suggested change could be in the air. All it would take to start it all off was a feint breeze powered by one's own hand. 

I'm not eligible to vote in the election but if I were, I think I would
cast it for Miyake. I like the tone of his campaign.It's got an upbeat message that you can really dance to.

Green Party candidate Yohei Miyake 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Pain in the Neck

Interview with an Orthopedist

Stack the Bones Game
 We were hitting it off just fine, the backbone doctor and I. I liked the direction of the conversation. It pointed directly at me and my minor medical ailment.* He spoke English right from the start which gave me ample opportunity to use all the medical vocabulary I've learned while living in Japan

My sojourn here has given me a chance to catch all those missed episodes of the hit TV show ER, starring George Clooney, et al. The show was aired for a while on what I would call Japanese public television’s equivalent to Masterpiece Theatre.

I thought I really impressed the learned doctor with my mastery of medical terminology because about ten or fifteen minutes into our chat he suddenly shouted, “Let’s go!” The pop invitation filled me with wonder as I pondered continuing the discussion over a steaming cup of hot sake at some local watering hole. 

Then to my surprise the good doctor switched language tracks telling me in Japanese to “please stop at the reception desk on your way out.” The words hit me hard with the sudden realization that our conversation had reached the end of the line. The “apostrophe s” in his “let’s go” was entirely me. It was the kind of “let’s go” a baseball stadium usher might use if he found you sitting in the good seats when your tickets had “bleacher section” printed all over them (I would imagine). 

It really should have come as no shock that when it came to making polite conversation, he made minimal use of niceties. After all he was a bare bones kind of guy.

*I'm just well-rounded - Some of the best medical minds have said I have the body of a middle aged man and the neck of an octogenarian, all topped off with the mind of a child.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Meaning of Sukiyaki

Hear Kyu Sakamoto sing "Sukiyaki" here (on YouTube).

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Banging the Drum

That's my backstage pass from a gig in Shimokitazawa (Below North Creek), a hip little pocket of Tokyo. That is, hip until sometime last month. That's when my band of drummers (Kitamada) and I teamed up with some cool kids from the isle of Hachijojima to play a small club there. That's the moment I'm afraid the whole place went Jersey (that's bowling talk for right into the gutter) and Shimokitazawa's cool straight up the creek. That's that I guess and that leaves nothing to do now but bang the drum slowly for what was once trendy.

That's a sample of Hachijo Taiko (a style of Japanese drumming unique to the isle of Hachijojima) from Kitamda's Yoshio and Harumi Endo. In the world of Japanese drumming, or wadaiko, hachijo taiko is an island unto itself where Yoshio Endo is something of a legend. The song is traditional but beyond that nothing is scripted here. There are no notes on paper and nothing to memorize. The rhythm just flows like waves on the water in a musical odyssey that sweeps you away in whatever direction the wind happens to be blowing that day. Born on an island that was once used to confine political dissidents and others, this misfit isle of music known as hachijo taiko is hemmed in only by that realm of endless possibilities known as the imagination. That is kind of cool after all I guess. 

Monday, June 10, 2013


Photo of AKB48 Theater in
Akihabara, Tokyo
 by Karl Baron via Wikipedi
Yokohama - This past weekend fans of Japan's all-female pop music phenomenon, AKB48, got the chance to vote for their favorite group member. The voting is traditionally (since ca. 2009 anyway) conducted via ballots that come packaged with what has been dubbed an "election single" by the band's producers and a stroke of evil marketing genius by critics

Anybody with a yen to vote was able to participate in this year's election process that was topped off with a jam-packed stage event featuring a bevy of performers from this Far Eastern nation's updated and more feminine answer to the Vienna Boys Choir. 

The winner of the periodic selection process gets the chance to stand front and center stage as the band's lead performer until she is voted out in the next election or reaches the group's ripe old retirement age somewhere shy of twenty five or so, which ever comes first.

This most recent vote proved to be an upset victory for the newest leader of a group which has been plagued by controversy in recent months. Just how upsetting was it? The expression on the faces of the less lucky contenders (pictured in the Tweet by Twitter user, @MnYooo_ij, embedded below) upon supposedly hearing the announcement of the winner may speak louder than the volumes of CDs the band has sold around the globe. Or maybe not, you can freely elect to make of them what you want.

Related reading:

Fountain of Youth Found @ The Temple Valley Times

Dancing to a Different Beat @ The Temple Valley Times

Friday, June 7, 2013

In the Eyes of the World

Japanese Rep Tells UN Body to "Shut Up"

(see correction below)

On Tuesday the Japan Times carried an article (“Rights groups tell Japan to fully tape interrogations of criminal suspects”) noting how “the U.N. Committee against Torture issued a statement pointing out that Japan’s criminal justice system should do away with its traditionally strong reliance on confessions by suspects, and demanded it implement “safeguards such as electronic recordings of the entire interrogation process” to prevent wrongful convictions.” 

It's a welcome statement from the UN’s Committee against Torture (CAT). I just wonder if Japan will take it to heart right away. According to reports on Twitter and in the Tokyo Shimbun, Japan’s human rights ambassador, Hideaki Ueda, made another statement at the CAT meeting which raised eyebrows. During the meeting a delegate from Mauritius criticized Japan’s criminal justice system as being “medieval.” Ueda quickly retorted, declaring that when it came to human rights Japan was “the most advanced country in the world.” Recognizing that he misspoke, the Japanese official soon corrected himself, saying that Japan was rather “one of the most advanced countries in the world” on human rights issues. When the gaffe earned less-than-veiled snickers from the other international representatives present at the forum, Ueda immediately fired back with a less-than-diplomatic “SHUT UP” and chided the group for laughing. The Japanese representative’s response seemed almost medieval in light of modern standards of international decorum. 

When state officials from anywhere behave so badly with the eyes of the world on them, I shudder to think what goes in their corner of the globe when no one is looking.


This appeared as a letter in the Japan Times on June 13 (entitled Medieval Standard of Décor). An online comment there points out that it contains factual errors regarding remarks made by Hideaki Ueda, Japan’s human rights ambassador to the U.N. The letter notes that, according to the Tokyo Shimbun, Ueda stated that Japan was “the most advanced country” in the field of human rights. In fact after exhorting the other diplomats in the room to "shut up" the ambassador simply reiterated that Japan was “one of the most advanced countr(ies) in this field.” After interviewing blogger Shinichiro Koike about the incident it seems that the Tokyo Shimbun didn’t go the extra step to check out his story and got some of the facts wrong. While Koike has since cleared up the minor misunderstanding on his blog, the factual errors continue to spread like a disease that has now infected the pages of this paper and I regret that I was the carrier. I should have checked the facts more thoroughly before dashing off my letter. It shouldn’t have been too hard to do, after all we no longer live in the middle ages.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Beyond the Outer Limits


"Television controls society. Now we will control Japan." 
No that's not from the opening voice-over for the Japanese version of The Outer Limits. It's what Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) chairman, Hiroshi Inoue told the television station's new employees back in 2002. The author of a blog called Ruinet recently gleaned the Internet* for some choice words of wisdom that have fallen from the lips of the Japanese media mandarin over the years. Among them were some of the following that Inoue has uttered during the last decade and a half in speeches welcoming new employees to the TBS fold. 

(Note: I think a couple of these quotes cry out for a pounding of the fist on a desk or something while shouting them out loud in a dictatorial voice.)

1998 "TV is a brainwashing machine. Even lies turn to truths once they've been broadcast."

2002 "Television controls society. Now we will control Japan."

2003 "Most Japanese people are stupid. They don’t know anything until we in television tell them what to do."

2010 "You are the chosen ones. You are on the side that moves the world via journalism. On the other side is the general public who are moved by the information we provide. It’s we, the chosen, who say what in Japan is black or white."

While they all sound pretty bad, Inoue may merely be channeling a mainstream sentiment that runs through a big chunk of the global media landscape. Sadly it's one that's taking ethics beyond the outer limits.

*Here and elsewhere.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

It's in the Mail

The Price of Peace with N. Korea

Is it better to rent or own? It’s an age-old debate and one where the White House has drawn a line in the sand right along the 38th parallel...(read on in the Japan Times' Reader Mail section). 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Best Guest Estimate

Washington D.C. - I slide the printed reservation across the counter surface and into the hands of the clerk manning the business side of the front desk.

After giving me the once over he starts to quiz me with a curious look on his face. "What's the guest's name?" He queries.

Somewhere in the heart of Washington D.C.
It's an odd way to phrase the question, I think to myself, but then assume it's his way of being polite and I just give him my name.

After checking my name against the hotel's guest list he tells me, "Go ahead and put the bags on the luggage dolly for the bellhop to bring up to the room. The suitcases will be there when the guest arrives."

I tell him, "I am the guest." 

"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were the baggage delivery man." He replies, not all that apologetically.

Not knowing exactly what to say, I simply utter, "Oh," while nodding my noggin up and down like one of the mindless Washington Nationals bobblehead dolls I later almost buy in the lobby gift shop. I guess it's my sartorial style, maybe the baseball cap, that fools him. I don't know for sure. I never ask him for clarification.

He then offers: "Would you like the bellhop to carry your bags up to your room?" 

I wave off the courtesy and tell him I can carry them up myself. After all I guess I'm somehow suited for the job.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Superbowl Meets its Match


"Why do we even have football when this sport exists?!"
                                                        -Andy Stone 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Fish Out of Water

This is where it happened. Right here, some seventy years ago, where the pond used to be. It was this place that spawned a mysterious illness that gripped an entire generation. Its  origin and the cure that would end it had eluded the finest medical minds of the time. 

After exhausting every possible scientific avenue they turned to the family priest, a figure of little note from an obscure religion born via an equally obscure figure less than a century before. 

"It flows from the water," he told them and within less than an hour they were hauling dirt and sand from the nearby cliffs to fill in the crystal clear tranquil body teeming with aquatic life. 

That's when it happened. It was a miracle. Within less than a month all were well. Every one of them went on to play, sing, dance, and live life to its absolute limits - that is everyone except the fish who used to live in the water. 

Related post: The Picture of Evil

Thursday, January 31, 2013


Sometimes "we" at The Temple Valley Times turn to other Times' to make sure we are keeping pace with the times and other Times'. Recently we turned to the pages of The Japan Times and this time we were a little puzzled by what we read, but we love puzzles! 

Here's a puzzle embedded in a January 25, 2013 Kyodo news story ("Tepco plans to dump 'cleaned' Fukushima No. 1 water")published in the Japan Times.

Maybe they shouldn't put the puzzles inside the news stories.

Even More Puzzling

What's even more puzzling in this article, about plans on the drawing board at the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco)to dump radioactive water stored at its crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima into the sea (phew!), is the next and last sentence which reads:

"But as the new facility is not capable of removing radioactive tritium, an official said Tepco will consider diluting the processed water before releasing it to the sea."
I'm not the only one who is puzzled either. One reader, dubbed "Crank Dub," writes in the comment section beneath the article on The Japan Times website: 
"So, forgive me if I've misunderstood this: they are going to dilute the contaminated water before putting it in the ocean. And what magic substance will they use to dilute this water? Perhaps water? Before putting it into the sea water? Genius. Whatever they're being paid, double it."
On second thought Crank Dub doesn't seem puzzled at all. He/she seems to get it and asks all the right questions. I'm just puzzled why the Kyodo reporter didn't do the same.

Related post: Times Mistaken 

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Picture of Evil

If you want to lay your eyes on the picture of pure evil, just visit my mother-in-law. That lady will show it you for sure. She has it stowed away in one of her jam-packed closets. It's a seventeenth, or maybe eighteenth, century calligraphy scroll depicting the Japanese kanji character for "evil." There used to be a second scroll, depicting the character for good, but it burned to a crisp in a terrible raging inferno over a century ago. Meant to hang beside each other in perfect balance, the works of art came with a stern warning. The caretakers of the scrolls were never to display one without the other, especially "evil," lest something awful befall those who gazed upon it. 

Now all my mother-in-law is left with is "evil," so she keeps it hidden away in a dark dank closet where nobody can find it unless they know exactly where to look. I've never seen it unfurled but I know exactly where it lies. It's buried under a huge pile of other useless crap and fortunately for me and everybody else my mother-in-law never displays it. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Oldies but Goodies

Here's an oldie but a goodie, Donguri Koro Koro (The Rolling Acorn), as performed by a couple of sorta oldies but goodies (Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell) just a few years ago.

  Catch the Moon, a compilation of children's classics from around the globe, sung by Lisa Loeb and Elizabeth Mitchell for kids of all ages

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Times Mistaken

The Japan Times (my other paper, when I buy it) is a great periodical featuring some excellent writing and in-depth reporting that may go above and beyond what most newspapers of equal size would dare attempt these days. Most of the time it's on target but sometimes it's off. The other day I stumbled across this  example of one of those times - times that The Japan Times could have done better.

I believe the writer meant "hordes of people"  not "hoards of people" but I could be wrong.

Hoards of Errors

Is it hordes of hoards, or is it the other way around? I'm confused and so is The Japan Times apparently when it comes to these two homophones. 

The Times must have a hoard of dictionaries squirreled away somewhere around the office to help them figure this word problem out. They are most likely in a pile of dust covered tomes that were used by the hordes of proofreaders who probably once quietly toiled away there under green tinted visors until they were replaced by spell check and eventually all went the way of the dinosaur. 

If someone did stumble upon one of these  volumes and cracked the spine open they might find that hoard, as my Webster's dictionary notes, is "a supply or fund stored up and often hidden away" while horde, according to the same volume, is "a teeming crowd or throng." 

Here is a hoard of Japan Times articles I recently uncovered that feature the word "hoards" where the writer probably meant "hordes." I hope the Times sorts these words out soon. It's enough to make hordes of angry grammarians stand up and cancel their newspaper subscriptions!

Click to enlarge.


The Japan Times isn't the only news organization susceptible to this kind of goof up. Regret the Error, an award winning book on media mistakes and more by Craig Silverman tells about an identical mix up occurring at another venerable newspaper. I wondered if the Japan Times was immune to making the very same blunder and was surprised to learn that it was decidedly not.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Slippery Slope

Teahouse at Koishikawa the morning 
after a snowfall*
I couldn't just sit there and wallow in the agony of defeat. If she could do it so could I! If that old lady could shovel the snow off my walkway, I could shovel the snow off everybody else's walkway. Then I would be remembered forever as the foreigner who saved Temple Valley from being buried alive. Fame and glory would be mine! So that's exactly what I did. 

Concealed by the cover of darkness I ran my shiny new snow shovel up and down the entire length of the paved hill that leads up to my walkway and a little beyond. When I was finished I was dripping wet with sweat and on the brink of exhaustion but at least there would now be enough room between the mounds of fresh fallen snow to wheel an ambulance gurney through if I needed one. In other words, I felt satisfied with the job I did and walked down the slope that led to the street below to admire my work from a distance. 

Trekking back up the hill toward home I spied old man Yoshida picking away at the edges of the path I had just finished shoveling. I couldn't figure out why he needed to make the path any wider. I imagine he was trying to clear a space broad enough for two ambulance gurneys to be wheeled through in case he needed one as well. 

Then traffic really started to pick up along the slope. Just as I was nearing Mr. Yoshida, down the hill barreled Mrs. Naka at an almost breakneck pace but not in so much of a hurry that she didn't have time to stop and chit chat with Mr. Y for a second or two. "That's pretty hard work, huh," she said. While Y's reply seemed totally incomprehensible through the wool muffler wrapped around his mouth, by the nodding motion of his head he appeared to be in agreement.

"NOOOO! What do you mean?! I did all that work!!!" I screamed inside my head as I smiled and passed them both by. I couldn't believe it! That old geezer had stolen all my glory. Not only that, I had purposely left some snow on either side of the shoveled sidewalk as part of my grand master snow removal plan. 

I don't just go out there and start flinging snow all around willy-nilly. I think about it before I do anything, for years in this case. In the event the sidewalk iced over during the night I thought it best to leave a little white powder on either side to provide some traction for people descending the hill on their morning commute to work. Now that plan was all for nothing. 

I returned home feeling more defeated than ever. All through the night I could hear the sound of metal scraping cement as everybody who lives along the lane came out one by one to expand on the perfectly fine route I had already carved out. The racket continued almost until midnight when I finally succumbed to the spell of the sandman.

By the time morning's light had illuminated our valley, I had completely forgotten about the previous day's deprivation (i.e. the stolen glory). That is until that hideous sound once again penetrated the confines of my mind. They were at it again! What were they shoveling now? I had to see for myself what they were up to.

As I headed out the door, Em (my wife) handed me a bag full of trash. I imagined is was meant to serve as a cushion in the event I slipped on a patch of ice. She thinks of everything like that. Sure enough the sloping walkway was a solid sheet of glass from top to bottom. As I navigated my way down the frost covered hill I stumbled upon Mr. Wada who advised me to stick to the snow on the edges of the path for better traction. "I know! That was my whole idea in the first place," I said inside my head as I nodded and thanked him for his guidance. 

After climbing down the treacherous path and depositing my garbage for pickup at the bottom of the hill, I took a long sweeping look back up at that icy hump I had just miraculously descended. I realized then I would need the aid of a Sherpa mountain guide to get back up. As I cooled my heels and waited for the noonday sun to turn the sidewalk into a more navigable flowing creek, I wondered where this slippery slope all began?

*Image of woodblock print by Hokusai from the Library of Congress 

The path I shoveled looked something like this:




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Sky Has Fallen

Staring out in silence at this pure white snowy scene, I should have been filled with a supreme sense of serenity. All I could feel was that terrible weight on those poor snow encrusted boughs. 

Limbs that once reached for the heavens, were now saddled with a heavy burden and forced to bow to the ground. I watched in horror as they snapped one by one and came crashing to the earth with a terrific thud. That’s when something suddenly snapped inside of me. Then I realized there was one thing that had to be done. 

This snow storm would be different from all others that had ever befallen Temple Valley. This time I would shovel my walkway, instead of letting my neighbors do it for me like I usually do. Responsibility had come knocking, in the form of branches top-heavy with crystallized vapors fallen from the sky, and I would answer shovel in hand. 

Curiously or not, the opportunity to assume this responsibility as an adult member of the community had fallen on the Japanese national holiday known as Coming of Age Day. That’s the day when twenty-year-olds in Japan celebrate becoming an adult. Sure, maybe I was late to the party by a couple of decades but the important thing was I had arrived. All I needed now was a shovel. 

As any adult knows, the road to responsibility isn't always smooth. Since it was a national holiday, the local hardware store was shuttered for the day. That meant the mega do-it-yourself center located two miles away across the frozen tundra was the closest place I could get my hands on a shovel. 

Yes it was tough going but the prize waiting at the end of the arduous journey was well worth the hardships faced along the way. Upon entering the front door of the huge lumber and hardware emporium, my eyes were met by a silvery flash of light reflected from what was everything anyone could want in a snow shovel.  

Attached to the shiny metal alloy scoop was a beautifully varnished wooden stick topped off with a bright red handle that screamed “I want to hold your hand.” So I did and after forking over fourteen hundred yen (about 16 bucks) to the cashier, I dashed home through the snow and slush with all deliberate speed. I was up to my knees in frozen muck but all I could think of was putting the metal to the macadam and letting that little shovel plow a path that people in Temple Valley would be talking about forever. 

Then I heard a sound more hideous than fingernails across a chalkboard. It was the sound of broom bristles against bone dry concrete. That’s when I looked up and saw her. Most people here call her “the lady that lives behind the Tanaka’s” but to me she is the Snow Queen of Temple Valley. 

Using nothing but a small potting trowel and whisk broom she had cleared the entire walkway around my home and beyond, making a swath wide enough for a small parade to pass through. Standing there with my shiny new shovel in hand, I watched what I was afraid were the last vapors of breathe leave my lungs in huge panting puffs against the backdrop of the Snow Queen's ever mounting piles of pure white crystals. Then, as if that huge weight had descended upon my shoulders and forced me to bow toward the ground, I thanked the queen for all her hard work and looked for a place to rest my broken spirit. After depositing my unused shovel by the front door, I entered the warmth of home and, exhausted, fell on the living room couch with a terrific thud.

From the Twitterverse:

For more cool snowmen (aren't they all?) from the Internet and beyond click here.

Unrelated post with a similar title: The Sky is Falling