Friday, July 29, 2011

Filming something

写真はしないで下さい the guard said.

But I couldn't understand his Japanese.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Finally got my phone back

Now I can start posting stuff again :)

Sent from my iPhone 4

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Cafe Pensacola near Iidabashi Station

This post is just a quick reminder to my (future) self - and a shout-out to my Dad - that I found the "Cafe Pensacola" on a side street near Exit B4b at Iidabashi station (subway - not JR)

I'm currently making use of my first FON Internet purchase - and while I think 480 yen per 24 hours is theft and should be severely punished - at least it's not slow.

Sitting on an uncomfortable stool at a Starbucks (whatever happened to the big over-stuffed chairs?) and banging out some emails, blog entries, and whatever else strikes my fancy.

This trip we're staying at a Monthly Mansion (モンスリーマンション) near JR Kawasaki. There are a few companies offering places like this for short-term rent. They do not require "key" money (one of the stupidest concepts ever thought up in my opinion) which is great, and there's no "check-in" like a hotel. You pay up front for your stay (and you can literally make it any number of days you wish, with the price dropping for extensions in increments of 10 days (10-19 days, 20-29 days, etc.) and they send you an 暗証番号 (pin code or password) for an automatic lock on the door of your apartment. You just show up on the first day of your stay, punch in the code, and you're in.

I've gotta say that so far the apartment leaves much to be desired. You get what you pay for in Tokyo, and we didn't want to break the bank because our intention is only to use the place for sleeping and showering. We ended up with some tragic room-that-couldn't-be-rented-so-we-converted-it-to-a-monthly-mansion place. I'll take pictures. It's pretty humorous.

Life is all about experiences. This is yet another adventure for me and my family, and the truth is that experience is the only thing that counts when you're lying in your coffin. Can't take any of the rest of it with you.

I think towards the middle of August we're going to start hating it and mentally preparing to return to the US, but at least I have the opportunity at my age to literally run operations in a foreign country however I think is best for the company. Not a bad position to be in - I'm thankful and looking forward to pulling in some solid numbers these first couple months.

The only thing that will kill me is an unannounced 停電 if it happens. Power outages suck.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Heading to Japan Tomorrow

We'll be on a flight from IAH to NRT tomorrow at 11 am CST!

I'm really happy to be heading back (again). I never get tired of Japan...

This time we're focusing on Sales as the technology piece is firmly in place and chugging along. I'll be spending most of my time in Tokyo - but some in Fukuoka, Osaka and Kobe as well.

If anyone is in Japan and would like to meet up - I'd be happy to meet (as long as it's somewhere kid-friendly because I won't go anywhere without my daughter during my free time!)



I like tattoos. I've blogged about my experience in Japan being that I have some tattoos in plain sight.

I recently got a new tattoo of my daughter's name with Sakura blossoms behind it.

The kanji were written by my wife. I begged her for 20 months to write it for me because I wanted my daughter's name in her mother's handwriting. Finally she gave in - and here we have the finished product!

The characters are 結ぶ "to bind" 里 "native place" (your home) and 愛 which means love of course.

Two villages bound by love = super cute baby girl.

I love her name. It's a character longer than most names, and you don't even want to know how many names we gave her total, so she'll probably grow up mad that we gave her such a complex first name.

The mysteries of love sweetie. Daddy and Mommy couldn't come up with anything simpler than this!

Apple's Back-to-School offering not that great

I'm typically loathe to diss on Apple - but this year's back-to-school offering kinda sucks. They used to give away an iPod (I did that deal one year and gave the free iPod to my sister-in-law) which at the time was worth more than $100.

We're going cheaper - and we're using a method of "rebate" that will include some "forgetful" buyers that don't use the credit! Or perhaps a student will use partial credit but months into the term forget about their available balance.

Or perhaps there won't be anything on the App Store some of these kids want.

I think this is a departure from a really great program. I think you should sell them a Mac and give them $200 off an iPad - now that would be an effective deal.

Monday, May 02, 2011

This bike screams pimp

It's a lifestyle choice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

We really, really can't catch a break

Breaking news of a 震度6弱 earthquake that, once again, rocked Fukushima. I felt it a bit here in 鶴見, but I'm sure it was nothing compared to what they felt.

Naturally, immediately after the news breaks in to regularly scheduled programming and we have video feeds of what it looked like near the epicenter within about 20 minutes.

Go go technology.

The TEPCO guys are on TV answering questions from reporters about how this latest quake affected the plant and the on-going work to secure the nuclear fuel.

Man I'm tired of these things. At this point, it's a conditioned response - I'm not afraid for my own physical well-being so much as I fear for my wife and daughter.

Where are they? Are they safe? Do they need help?

Questions always running through your mind. And with a few days respite - you start to think, "ok this part of the world has exhausted it's ire and another part of the world is up for the next round of natural disasters."

And then BAM. It hits you again.

The biggest question of all is always, "Is it just getting started this time?"

Earthquakes build. They don't hit with sudden force, they "wake up". I'm not a geologist, but I can imagine in my head that when two tectonic plates rub together, the shift that creates an earthquake is not a spontaneous lurching from position A to position B, but a grinding from start to finish. As the grinding begins, it makes logical sense that the intensity may pickup if the plates hit a small area of less friction or if the force of the initial movement literally grinds smooth a tiny portion of the plate, I could imagine how for a few seconds the newly freed (from friction) plates would slide suddenly and forcefully.

Regardless - the very beginning of an earthquake is always an awakening of the Earth in way that you know is natural on an Earthly-scale, but utterly foreign within the scope of our human senses.

The people here are very accustomed to earthquakes. They don't ignore them - ever, but there is a general sense of the Earth rolling from time to time being a part of life in Japan. That comfort zone is still very foreign to me. As soon as I feel the Earth begin to wake up, I start thinking "how big will this one get?" and automatically assume this time the ground will split open and all the denizens of Hell will descend upon us. And by "denizens of Hell" I mean a ton of molten rock and ash raining death upon the land. Hellish enough by any standard - Biblical or Scientific.

That particular experience is not on my bucket list.

Saturday, April 09, 2011


Saturday, April 02, 2011

The first kid on the block

I'm not sure that I'm the first in Japan, in fact I'm pretty confident I'm way down the list, but I do know I'm the first in the neighborhood to get my hands on two shiny new white iPads! Thanks for sending them along Dad!

Friday, April 01, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like 春

I love cherry blossoms. I love drinking beer in the park and looking at all the trees in bloom. I love when the sky is blue and the breeze is noticeable but gentle.

This was a great 花見 in the park.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Here's a little collection of some of my favorite phrases in English translated into Japanese:


Automation is Salvation.


Choosing is Refusing.


Money is the root of all evil.

That's fun - copy and paste it into Google Translate if you need to see the readings - it's more fun in Kanji.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm sure I've blogged about 差別(さべつ) before, but whenever I find some evidence of it being alive and well in Japan, it is my sworn duty to post said evidence online.

This is by no means indicative of everyone in society by any means - but it is clearly a money-making sentiment in this district.


金粉(きんぷん) is a particular kind of sake with gold flakes floating amongst the sweet deliciousness of fermented rice grains.

Heck yes I drank it.

Next time someone tells me I'm full of shit, I'm going to tell them it's gold plated.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hell Yes

This is how you say ヒーロ in Japanese:

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Fair and Balanced

I like to consider myself a scientist. I hate doing experiments and keeping track of data - but all the other science-y aspects like thinking hard and nodding approvingly when piles of data are presented in dry, overly difficult scientific papers are just my style.

I subscribe to EuroTechnology Japan's newsletter. They have posted three really fantastic updates regarding the situation in Japan with the nuclear power plant. I invite everyone to read it and soak in the knowledge like your skin soaks in... ok it's too soon for that kind of stuff.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Awesome ramen

Check this place out. This is authentic Hakata ramen. It's gritty, grimey, and I'm not sure if the walls were white or if they were covered with hardened lard from years of neglect, but the ramen tasted great.

I can still smell the oily filth on my hair and clothes. And you don't need to know what the aftermath is going to look like. It's going to be epic.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


That is all.

At least I'm not alone

In thinking that Japanese is hard.

But I have these questions:

1. How did they calculate their "time to learn" values?

The tiny text says that the US Department of State compiles this information based on the amount of time it takes a native speaker to achieve proficiency. But - how did they calculate that?

2. What is "proficiency" as far as they are concerned?

3. Who was tested?

Infographic for Languages

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A good example of the difficulty of reading Japanese.

All kinds of students of Japanese have faced the challenge of learning hiragana, katakana, and kanji.

Each student overcomes these challenges in their own way and at their own pace.

To the people who haven't started learning these writing systems, often the questions of "how hard is it?" and "how long does it take?" bubble to the surface of one's mind.

I would like to present the simple facts:

1. There are 46 kana that we use in both the hiragana and katakana sets. That's 92 kana total.
2. The Joyo kanji set comprises over 1900 kanji (it's like 1965 or so but I'm writing this without access to the Internet right now so I cannot look it up)

Just to start reading, Japanese learners(stupid iPhone spelling mistake now corrected) are facing a set of at least 46 characters, but to underhand modern Japanese with borrowed English words, 92 characters are required.

That's not quite four times the letters we have in English, but it's quite a bit of memorizing (trust me).

Then you encounter stuff like this. I'm glad Western stories have entered Japan, but I can only imagine the challenge it poses for Japanese children to have to flip-flop between English and Japanese.

Do they have a foreigner check this stuff?

It's one thing to understand the English meaning of words.

It's quite another to post "mouth to mouth" exercise on a poster in front of a daycare promoting your focus on English.

I want a room like this

I don't know what I would use it for though. Drinking is a likely choice.


Sometimes the way Japanese people shorten things annoys me (e.g. ヒャクパ), but other times the shortened form is so beautifully simple but meaningful that I'm impressed.

花見 translates literally "flower watching" but is typically reserves for that special time of year when the cherry blossoms bloom. Typically we use this term when we are going to have a picnic in the park where the blossoms are thick and the beer flows freely.

This picture was taken indoors, so the tree is obviously fake, but you get the idea. Now imagine a whole forest just like this!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

All this reactor news is making me tired

I've perused a dozen or so articles this morning that still focus on the wrong aspects of the disaster.

Yes - they need to cool that fuel down. Radiation isn't (and never was really) the biggest disaster to come out of the tsunami.

The big disaster are the lingering micro-economic ripples that come from all of the following:

1. Fear of living near Fukushima. Business, agriculture, and any tangential industries will all take a many-decade hit.

2. Prejudice against those from towns near Fukushima. The Japanese are famously prejudiced against a variety of backgrounds for an even wider variety of reasons. The inhabitants of the area will be labeled and their future prospects severely limited within Japan. My wife was first to point this out as I previously wrote.

3. Tourism. Even the one week is a hit, but what's going to happen will last longer than one week. The reluctance and uncertainty will outlast the immediate dangers of radiation exposure. Business people will probably come back quick, but I think large amounts of tourists will take longer to return.

4. Food. Japan imports nearly 52 billion in food annually, and exports less than 4 billion, so the problem is not one of being unable to feed the population, but one of commerce for these smaller areas. Each area of Japan is "famous" for some particular type of food or drink, and the affected areas will lose this revenue for some time.

All of that is dwarfed by this part:

5. The Japanese government is going to get stuck with the bill for cleanup.

I already commented about this earlier, but the point cannot be made plain enough. Far worse than radiation is the bill to fix this mess. Those consequences, passed on as debt to the domestic and foreign publics (taxes and bonds), is going to really hurt Japan for many years to come. What was already a stagnant economy may have just been delivered a death blow for 10+ years from now.

So sad. Gut wrenching.

Sent from my iPhone 4

Friday, March 18, 2011

I just saw the saddest thing on the news

It goes without saying that a cry for help from the victim of a tragedy will tug on your heart in new and excruciating ways. When said victim writes a letter and sends it to a news station because they cannot use the phone, the Internet or any form of broadcast communications, you can sense a tear welling in the back of your eye even before said letter gets read aloud.

Of course, in such a situation, the network absolutely must choose the guy or gal with the saddest, meekest possible voice to read said letter from said victim.

The letter that choked me up in the passive aggressive sense said, in closing, 頑張りも限界です。

If you have been a student of Japanese for any amount of time, you know that 頑張ります! is to a Japanese person all of "keep going!" "you can do it!" "don't give up!" "fight!" and other encouraging phrases all rolled into one.

A Japanese person saying 頑張りも限界です。is like an English-speaking person basically giving up on life.

I have lived in and visited Japan for many years now, and I have never heard anyone say 頑張りも限界です。

These people are hurting in the worst possible way.

Sent from my iPhone 4


This is great sign.

I went to a super sentou tonight (スーパー銭湯) alone because my mother-in-law had a free ticket that expired today and no one else wanted to go.

It is pretty near the Fukuoka airport actually. It's called 万葉の湯 (まんようのゆ) in case anyone wants to check it out.

Anyway, the sign is on the inside of the locker you are assigned and tagged with (they gave me a bracelet with a bar code - that's being tagged) when you enter. You have to hand over the key to the locker where you put away your shoes as well - probably so you can't run away.

Though the bullet points list multiple offenders, that lovely word 入れ墨 tops the list. いれずみ means "tattoo" and literally translates "ink in".

I like how they put 入れ墨シール in brackets just so there is no mistaking they mean get the hell out.

Naturally, I did not get out.

Three tattoos all in very visible places make me an easy target. I've been kicked out of various bath houses on multiple occasions, but since I got my daughter's footprint done, I've escaped eviction. Luck?

The other unwanted customers are drunkards, people with gang affiliations, and people with pets.

Damn animal lovers.

A really good game

First - I don't know why this game is worth ¥5950 when all the games around it are ¥1950 - it must be really good.

Second - what kind of student carries a massive sword and is associated with wizardry? A badass one? Definitely.

Third - people still have PS2s? And use them?

Oh how far we've come

中古品 means "used goods" but this particular package gets the junk goods label.

Also - 無保証品 means "no guarantee"

It's Apple! It's gonna work! Right?


Thursday, March 17, 2011

I like MIT

Always have. I especially like when really smart people get together and explain things in really straight-forward ways.

This article actually makes me feel better. I know that they are only using data that has been released, and that is still the primary worry - that the data the public is getting has been manipulated in some way - but their analysis of the data is comforting. Because they are all much smarter than I am.

This is quite interesting information

For a moment, I lost myself in the academics and read with pleasure. I like understanding new and difficult things (well - difficult depends on your particular specialty I suppose - I can't cook to save my own life but I'm sure many don't consider it difficult).

Check out information on radiation.

And the military does it military style

Though Japan doesn't officially have a "military" per se (自衛隊 means "self defense force") - they are swooping in to do things in typical military flair.

From about 7:30, they brought in water canons (trucks) and dropped nearly 30 tons of sea water from the air using Chinooks (thank you Boeing).

Reactor #3 is still steaming - so it ain't cooled down yet.

I also think the twitter stream relative to "原発" (nuclear reactor / nuclear power plant) is quite interesting. Many of the people on twitter are saying the same thing that I have been - get out.

If you want an interesting exercise in reading plain Japanese - no textbooks, no formalities, just people talking - search "原発" on Twitter right now.

Love me some BBC

I like the BBC. They are rarely the absolute first news agency to report something breaking, but when they finally get around to publishing something - it's deep, well thought-out, well written, and includes absolutely none of the US hysteria so typical of both the Left and Right news media.

The BBC tells the truth as they see it - with no frills and no excuses. It's part of being British I guess to have a very stoic way of observing life as it happens. A blessing in the media. Terrible if you're trying to have a laugh and you have to endure British humour at it's most sour.

Today I read an article in the BBC about the Nuclear disaster efforts, and I was especially keen on the following passage:

The US state department has urged Americans living within 80km of Fukushima Daiichi to leave the area - a much wider exclusion zone than the 20km advised by the Japanese government.

Mr Edano described the US approach as "conservative".

Britain has advised its nationals currently in Tokyo and to the north of the capital to consider leaving the area.

France has urged its citizens in Tokyo to leave the country or move south. Two Air France planes are due to begin evacuating French nationals later on Thursday.

That's quite the reaction all around I must say. France has always been particularly good about protecting their own, and wasting all of their peoples' money in the process, but for the British to actually say people in Tokyo should "consider leaving the area" - well that's tantamount to drag-Queen sensationalism if you're British. Amazing.

And the Japanese government continues to say very little on the subject of "are we actually in meltdown?"

Like I said - I totally understand that the government cannot simply hold a press conference and say, "well, look, this is really shitty news, but basically since last Friday radiation has been escaping, and, well, with the explosions and fires and what-not, the reactor cores have been compromised. Radiation is now leaking out, and there really isn't anything for it but to run away."

A statement like that would cause mass hysteria. And the damage from the ensuing chaos would probably be worse than radiation exposure (depending on the dose of course).

If you're in Japan and reading my blog (there isn't a single person in Japan reading my blog), I would say get as far from Tokyo as you can as I've been saying for days. If you're not in Japan and reading my blog (all the rest of you), call your friends living in Japan who are say "the media says things are not dangerous - it's no big deal" and hit them over the head with a large chunk of you're-an-idiot-the-government-doesn't-care-about-you until they come to their senses and take a trip West. The wind is blowing West to East after all (Zephyr anyone?), so we should escape into the wind.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A boy's gotta eat

Despite the terrifying prospects of the world's first multi-reactor failure in a country that has some experience with nuclear devastation, three times a day my thoughts are pushed from the spotlight as my stomach takes center stage.

一風堂 (いっぷうどう) is one of the best Hakata-ramen restaurants in the world in my opinion.

一風堂 can be translated "one style hall" where the kanji for "hall" is a hang-over from an older age before we had borrowed English like レストラン.

The 一風堂 style actually comes in two flavors (a bit of irony with lunch tastes good). They serve their 赤丸 style with their sweeter white style (I always order 赤丸 so I realized as I was writing this that I have no idea what the white kind is called in Japanese!).

一風堂 has set up shop in a number of cities around Japan, with one in 町田 close to where I practice yoga having opened rather recently.

Highly recommended if you're looking for great ramen.

Edano is getting grilled

Right now there is a news conference, and the reporters are laying into Edano. The US has issued an alert to it's nationals saying they should evacuate up to 80 Km from the Fukushima plant. Japan has evacuated up to 20 Km and says people within 30 Km should stay inside.

Quite the disparity no?

We're like 1000+ Km away, so my family is personally safe, and for the situation that allowed me to make such a decision early on I am very grateful. I hope these people have somewhere to go. Keep in mind it was 5 Km at one point. Now we're at 80 Km from the US. France and Germany told their nationals to get out of Japan entirely.

I wonder how close we are to the peak of this.

Sent from my iPhone 4

Radio Silence

TEPCO and the Japanese Government have been on radio silence since late yesterday - there have been occasional talks, but they are always a rehash of old information. Not the flurry of news conferences that immediately followed the disaster.

So - what changed?

The chemical reactions didn't just stop or run out of energy. They haven't paused to catch their breath.

The tactics to fight rising temperatures haven't suddenly become more effective (although the overall temperature in the region has dropped dramatically - but not enough to counter nuclear fission).

This is the calm before the storm I would say. Perhaps it's a bit on the negative side - I could be much more optimistic and say "wow they got it under control! Great!"

Is there anyone that would believe that? Anyone foolish enough to accept that our leaders are somehow more capable than we are? It's really unnerving to have so much media attention, chain-explosions, radiation spikes and drops - and then...

Nothing at all.

Let me save you some embarrassment

When I first came to japan, when I bought my first おにぎり, I had absolutely no idea how to open it. I found where the plastic was folded together and started pulling and tearing. Now this might seem like a no-brained to most (and I'll admit I'm weak in the 常識 area) but for those of you who don't know how to do it, I thought I would post a simple pic and leave you with some simple advice:

Look for the red arrows.

It says "したにひく" or "Pull Down"


The Japanese really have a flair for onomatopoeia. This word - のどごし means "the feeling of a drink going down your throat".

In English we might say "gulp" or "glug glug glug" depending on which part of which country you grew up in. I'm sure there are other words we use for this as well.

And you may even see it in a cartoon or hear it on tv.

The Japanese go and name a best-selling beer using such a word. They love them some onomatopoeia!

And yes, it felt good going down my throat (door is wide open folks - get it? WIDE open?)

Man I hate double-speak

Isn't saying "The Japanese Government will bear most of the burden" the same thing as saying "the citizens of Japan will have to pay more in taxes for perhaps multiple decades to recover from the damage that ultimately was caused by private for-profit industry while those companies who are really responsible for poor design and inadequate safety measures will be free to return to profitability as soon as possible"?

I mean - why wouldn't the NYT just call a spade a spade?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Compared to the past

Activities of Aftershock
The activities of aftershocks of "The 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake" has been very active. As of 12:00 JST, 15 March, the aftershocks larger than magnitude 7.0 occurred 3 times, and those larger than 6.0 occurred 45 times. The aftershocks have occurred in the large area off the coast of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki Prefectures. When compared to past cases, the activity of aftershocks is very high.

I think that says it all - this is different than anything before it. People are freezing, people are hungry, the earthquakes keep happening... So sad :(

M6.0 off the coast of Chiba @ around 1 pm JST

This place cannot get any relief. I think that the 70% chance of the 7.0+ will come true at some point - and that it'll be big. I hope it won't go to 9.0 like the original biggun - but it feels like the 9.0 was just the beginning - I don't know why I feel that way, probably just nerves saying that where there's smoke there's fire and that worse things are coming.

We're far far away now - so I can only watch and hope people are ok.

Radiation "increased sharply" Wednesday at 10 am JST - GET OUT!


One of the isotopes that we're facing (if things crack and go nuts) is the radioisotope Iodine-131.

I'm learning all kinds of interesting stuff about chemistry and physics (with respect to the wind and movements of particles):

Radioactive decay

131I decays with a half-life of 8.02 days with beta and gamma emissions. This nuclide of iodine atom has 78 neutrons in nucleus, the stable nuclide 127I has 74 neutrons. On decaying, 131I transforms into 131Xe:

The primary emissions of 131I decay are 364 keV gamma rays (81% abundance) and beta particles with a maximal energy of 606 keV (89% abundance).[3]
The beta particles, due to their high mean energy (190 keV; 606 kev is the maximum, but a typical beta-decay spectrum is present) have a tissue penetration of 0.6 to 2 mm.[4]
131I is a fission product with a yield of 2.878% from uranium-235,[5] and can be released in nuclear weapons tests and nuclear accidents. However, the short half-life means it is not present in significant quantities in cooled spent nuclear fuel, unlike iodine-129 whose halflife is nearly a billion times that of I-131.

Want a list of all the earthquakes?

You can actually see a list of how bad things are over the last few days.

Anywhere else on Earth get even half this many earthquakes in a calendar year? I'm not sure - I should check.

We need to cool it down - but the workers cannot approach the building

Can you say "holy shit"?

This thing is out of control - it's been out of control - it was never under control. It's a Nuclear chemical reaction! There's a reason we bury these things under tons of concrete.

Great - she just announced there is a huge earthquake warning coming. Fukushima is getting knocked the hell out these days.

"Please get under something and avoid falling objects..."


It seems to me that this situation is not under control. Image credit goes to NHK and clicking the image will take you to the English live stream online.

Domestic English-speakers can actually choose English language from the sub-audio options on NHK channels (it's a button on your remote - check it out)

First time since WWII Japan has recorded this many victims

I found a better stream of the NHK site -

You can get 512 Kbps from there - a nice size picture if you have the bandwidth to handle it.

The dead and missing now exceed 11,000 - someone state-side was musing that this could end up in the 30,000 range...

Possible? I hope not. That's staggering.

Kobe took 6000, the Twin Towers took 3000 - will Fukushima end up taking 30,000?

And will this be the Tohoku Earthquake dead, the "Big Tsunami" 大津波 dead, or the Fukushima dead?

And do any of the above questions matter that much?

It's time to protect lives. Get away from there - get 10 times further away than the government advises.

Double speak

What the hell is this:

In Tokyo, the metropolitan government said radiation reached around 20 times normal levels in the capital on Tuesday morning but said governor Shintaro Ishihara said the levels would "not immediately cause health problems". (full article)

What does "not immediately" mean? Why isn't anyone demanding an answer to what kind of health risks exists in the "not immediate" future?

3 months? 6 months? What if my life is actually getting shorter from the far end slowly, and I'll only find out when I hit 55 and die from some special complication connected with radiation?

Damn politicians and their double speak. Of course "not immediately" is true - you can't argue with a fact! But you can see beyond the lie and question the integrity of their position.

I saw a quote (an old quote - but one that I had forgotten) today that reminded me why the Japanese government is so effective. Almost from birth - it teaches people not to use their brains.

To find yourself, think for yourself. --Socrates


Here is a bit of slang out of the earthquake aftermath. This elderly lady had seen a 10m tsunami in 78 around the Sendai area (though I didn't get the exact location, I think she said Iwate).

命てんでんこ means 自分の命を自分で守る

It's powerful stuff. I'm sure she has a really deep explanation for how she came up with this song (did I mention there is a song?) but I had to leave the room where the tv was before I got to watch the whole program.

Sent from my iPhone 4

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another reason I love Apple

Heart-warming when big corporations do the right thing just because they know it's the right thing to do.


Yes - there are such things as miracles.


30 means 300

The government continues the widen the circle of mandatory evacuation. First it was 2-5 on Friday, then 5-10, then 10-20, and now we have within 30 Km is unsafe.

When the government says "30" I hear "300". Their job is to maintain order in the face of chaos. Their only function is to keep the general population believing that things are under control.

They are all individual human beings with all the same short-comings and frailties as any of the rest of us. They have no great insight, no super powers, and no advantage of the individual brains of the citizens at large.

And people simply refuse to think for themselves.

At this point - it's almost appalling. People we know in Yokohama are saying "what's the problem? It's still perfectly safe here - we're far away!"

Citizens of history will know that the fallout from Chernobyl scared people living as far away as France.

Despite Japan's issues - this guy has cojones

I gotta admire someone with cojones large enough to spend probably a week in the enemy's territory and escape with video without anyone ever knowing.

Huge Cojones.

Tremendous amount of radiation measured

#4 reactor at 福島第一原発 is now burning - and they have measured a "tremendous amount" of radiation near the plant.

So - meltdown is underway it seems. One of the reactor cores has cracked.

Humans !> Nuclear Power

While I think Nuclear Power is actually a good thing - nothing comes without risks. We need to simply understand what we're dealing with better and build a better mouse trap. The world cannot continue on oil and coal - and we don't have green alternatives ready to scale in mass - so for now, we need to take this as a lesson.

So many people are going to cry out against Nuclear Power - but this isn't someone's "fault" - you build a facility to withstand the most dangerous models you can predict using the most data you can collect - but this was beyond "reasonable" in terms of sheer power and force. Nature is pissed the hell off.

Evacuating 20 Km from the plant and staying indoors up to 30 Km

The next thing they will say is that a strong Northern wind has picked up contaminates and is currently blowing them towards Tokyo.

I hope hope hope hope hope they don't, but it seems like everything I'm thinking in my head comes true an hour later.

I should stop thinking. This is a time I want to be wrong wrong wrong.

The world simply cannot imagine the ripple effect this is going to have in all walks of life. Japanese production is so intimately tied to all the electronics that we consume and love in other countries (most especially in the USA) - and the effects of this are going to come a month or many months later. That's just one economic aspect. It's going to hit hard in industrial production, research, politics, etc.

They are restoring train service in Tokyo - but the possibility of another 7.0+ still looms large. I'm sure the city will handle quake after quake - it's built exactly to withstand such events - but the mental toll of continued quakes, or another Tsunami - at some point the psyche is going to turn ugly and in the absolute worse case scenario, people start doing crazy things.

This society is far more hardened against mass panic than other countries - another mystery that attracts me to Japan - but there is only so much a human can take before things start going bad.

NHK Live Stream

I didn't realize that I hadn't shared this NHK Live Stream before now. It's broadcast almost always in real time with translators going sentence by sentence and letting you know what's going on.

Things are very, very bad for the Fukushima reactor. Radiation levels are 8 times what can safely be absorbed by a human body in a year near the plant. People are being told to stay indoors - not open the windows - and not use ventilation.

To me - that sounds like being trapped. These people closest to the reactor are in big trouble, and the fear is that wind and rain will quickly carry this stuff to Tokyo.

Even if it's a weak form, even if it doesn't cause any sickness or side effects, can you take that chance with your children? There are no stakes I would put on her life. None at all. All these people should go away just in case.

Another reactor and the wind

Wind is now blowing north to south, and the second reactor housing exploded in the night.

They evacuated the plant operators and they think there is the possibility that the reactor core cracked.

It feels like it's just a matter of time before it goes full meltdown. It won't be as bad as Chernobyl, but its getting worse and worse.

Rods in the second reactor cannot be cooled

They reported half an hour ago that they were pumping 4.4 tons of water per second through the second reactor in order to cool it down, and just now they reported that the water was all gone. That second reactor is not going to last like this.

A full scale meltdown? Maybe not yet, but we are pointing toward that eventuality.

Sent from my iPhone 4

On the Shinkansen to Hakata

We decided that if the reactor was going to suffer a full meltdown, it would probably happen within the next 48 hours. At that point, the extent of the nuclear debris being pumped into the air from either an explosion (unlikely) or simply the steam bleeding they are manually performing would be made clear. If the nuclear debris in the air is such that Tokyo and Yokohama are exposed to any level of radiation at all beyond what our sun rains down on us every day - well that's a level of risk I'm not willing to gamble on with my daughter.

We will ride out the next few days far away from any possibility of radiation exposure - and then see what happens.

Worst case scenario - we leave Japan via Fukuoka.

Best case scenario - the Safety Agency gets a grip on the Fukushima plant and averts a larger environmental and health hazard.

Over 10,000 have already died - this country has suffered quite enough.

Radiation = 放射線 (ほうしゃせん)

These are words I never thought I would teach on my blog - words that I never thought I would have to use at all...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Scary first-person video

Credit goes to Gizmodo:!5781566/this-is-the-scariest-first+person-video-of-the-japan-tsunami-yet

Another explosion at the power plant

Ok - I'm probably going to die here along with 15 million other folks when the nuclear rain starts pouring down on Tokyo.

This is definitely not what I thought was in store when we came to Japan in January.

It's almost time to get the hell out of here and run away to Fukuoka. I told my friends I wouldn't go down to an Earthquake, but I'm not so positive on my chances against Plutonium.

Earlier estimates revised

Looks like it was about 30 minutes from earthquake to tsunami impact around Sendai. Up from my earlier 15 minute estimate. They say the dead will largely be elderly people who didn't have the speed or strength to escape in time. It's really sad.

You're starting to see some stories of families being reunited or people being found in extraordinary circumstances (like the guy who was washed out to sea and found two days later - luckiest dude in the whole city).

That stuff does little to balance against the horror, but its better than nothing.

Sent from my iPhone 4


That is biting the hell out of your tongue.

My sister said "I bit my tongue and then pulled it into my mouth scrapping my teeth along the way.

Why would you not open your mouth first before retracting your one and only tongue.

Tongue, as most know, is 舌 (した) but we also say ベロベロ (which has a rather explicit double meaning).

It's been upgraded here

I previously said that I couldn't understand why the west was reporting an 8.9 magnitude because it was 8.8 over here. Well, now they say 9.0 like the US recently reported.

Wow. I've been in a few earthquakes, but a 9.0 is at the top for sure.

The dead and missing toll jumped from 1700 to over 3000 while I took a nap this afternoon. Legs feel like whipped wet noodles after walking 27 Km. I'm too old for this crap...

But they discovered two people alive trapped someplace (didn't hear where from the news caster). Thats good news.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

And the meltdown happened

As we suspected, the meltdown, a level 4 disaster on the international scale of 0-7 happened today. I don't know all the details except what the NHK is reporting, but having significant amounts of radiation affect the building where the reactor is contained doesn't sound good.

It may not be three mile island (yet) and lets hope it doesn't get there, but last night the guy came on tv and said "the reactor hasn't been damaged, radiation is contained."

And we all sat around the tv saying "bullshit".

We are still feeling the effects of the quake here. I'm waiting to get a haircut and felt a good size tremor just now.

A list of some of the dead

America doesn't do this. I don't understand why. These people had families and people loved them and will miss them. Now everyone in the country has a chance to ask that they rest in peace following whatever religion they wish.

I think it is honorable for a country to publicly acknowledge the loss of it's citizens. These people were just as important as any other member of society.

A comparison of earthquakes these last 100 years

Looks like this one is the biggest by far. I'm not sure why the west keeps reporting 8.9. Every agency in Japan is reporting 8.8.


I like to translate the above as "this big f$&(er" but I'm sure that's not how teachers would translate it :)

This is kinda BS

The kanji in the image says "ほあんいん 「はつでんしょ がおおきく こわれた とは かんがえにくい」"

The government agency responsible for safety is saying "it's difficult to tell if there is any significant damage to the power plant"

This kind of statement is a complete lie. They are judging based on the radiation detected in the air. The operators have started venting to release some of the heat to cool down the core. Detecting radiation, I'm sure, is a fool-proof science that couldn't possibly be inaccurate (/sarcasm)

These guys are covering up ahead of a meltdown. I hope it doesn't come to that, but the Fukushima nuclear plant is FUBAR at the moment.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The trains have stopped

And no one has any idea what to do. We all stood around for about 30 minutes before people started making their moves to various places.

Not an exit

I checked to make sure no one was trapped under the pile. Seems like it was mostly paper records and the workers were nowhere near it when it happened. That's good news.

Ambulances outside a wedding hall

Particularly sad on your wedding day. These trucks literally filled the entire street.

I only saw one person brought out on a stretcher before I decided to walk away.

Something you never see

Tokyo station and a standstill. Only a natural disaster could cause this.

I walked from Iidabashi to Tsurumi last night dragging an empty suitcase for 27 Km. It was a mass exodus of humans trying to get back to their homes. No buses, no trains, cars back-to-back for 27 Km. No one was moving anywhere for any reason. Crazy times.

Most of these people probably slept close to where they are sitting. The staggering power of mother nature.

One of the kanji you see on tv a lot after something like this happens is:

行方不明 (ゆくえふめい) - whereabouts unknown or simply "missing"

The count last time they updated was 628. There are a lot of scared families out there right now worrying about the people they love. Pretty sad circumstances.

It wasn't the earthquake that did much, just shook us up and gave us a ride. It was the resulting tsunami that has laid waste to Miyagi-ken. The time between the earthquake and the first wave was probably less than 15 minutes. Not long enough to get to safety.

Basically, the moment that quake hit, a few hundred people were going to die. And the saddest part is that they probably had time to realize their fate. A wave that big and strong takes time to reach land, and you can see it far out in the ocean.

We will never know what those who died thought or felt minutes before the end, but it makes me sad to imagine the fear they must have felt.

Everyone eventually dies, but I wish that no one had to die with fear in their heart.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I like this style

The Japanese have great sense of modern and traditional combined into a single presentation.

檜風呂(ひのきぶろ) Japanese Cypress bath.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Something you definitely don't see everyday in japan

I didn't know these cars had even made it far outside California, let alone across the Pacific Ocean.

希少 (きしょう) - rare. Very very rare. And I found this one parked next to a Circle K of all places.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dripping drool

偽物 (にせもの) ー

It looks so delicious, but its all fake :(

Thursday, February 17, 2011




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The sale aisle

It's so funny the differences that strike you when you're somewhere new. Minus the labels and cellophane, this is how the Japanese have gotten down for thousands of years...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crazy Japanese Valentine's Day bear

For every ex-lover that dumps you just before the big day

ぬいぐるみ仇討ち (ぬいぐるみあだうち)

Stuffed animal vengeance.

Both those words are nouns, so this would grammatically equal the substance of revenge in stuffed animal form. Word power!

Chinese wine

30 proof - good wine.

It's very sweet and brown like brandy.

紹興酒 (しょうこうしゅ)

Old Chinese wine.

Probably can't read the text in the second image, but this wine is traditional when a couple has a daughter. Our little girl is now 15 months and this was the second trip to Japan!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I think we know

How the Japanese envision footballers. While it's probably true that a certain ethnicity makes up a large percentage of sports players across a variety of sports, this is a little on the prejudiced side.

Prejudice = 差別 (さべつ)

Friday, February 11, 2011

I guess the small one has a purpose

Small houses? Kiddie clowns?

I don't think I would fit in the middle one. They would have to just man-up and save my life on the spot.

救急車 (きゅうきゅうしゃ) Ambulance.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No wonder they read English so well

Who in the world uses "municipal" and how in the heck did that word make the final cut for a bus stop advertisement? I can think of at least five better words for the TOEIC to test on: hood, city, local, district, and latte.

Ok so not all of them work well in this context, but any of them would be used more frequently than municipal.

The tragedy here is that the kanji pictured just means "city" or "town" to us.

900円 for an app that isn't going to help you communicate more natively!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wow they just keep coming

I think the translation on this one is a bit on the weak side personally:


kaimono no wari ni osoka ttana. dokozodeyoroshiku yatte itanoka?

You're pretty late to have just gone shopping. Have you been making out someplace?

In the context that I'm used to hearing it, やる always takes on a more intense sexual connotation. I would probably translate the above something like "have you been screwing around?" because that feels far closer to the intention of the sentence rather than being simply a literal translation of the Japanese.

Probably best not to use やる when you're talking to a girl for the first time.

Unless you think she's down.

Sent from my iPhone 4

Another classic from the dictionary.

This one is for my friend wireball


Watashi wa EIRIAN ni yuukai sareteita.

I was abducted by aliens.

Coincidentally I like the power of the kanji multiplier.

While 誘拐 is abduction, 幼児誘拐 yields kidnapping. Not that kidnapping is a serious issue here in Japan, but there may come a time where you see something on the news about a child having been kidnapped, and it would be good to recognize the kanji in that event such that you can keep an eye out.

If you do happen to see the child on the street with their kidnapper - do what I would do: run that bastard down and crack their skull (not the kid).

Kidnapping is bullshit.

Sent from my iPhone 4

This is hilarious

So my favorite iPhone dictionary is Kotoba! (get it on the app store) and the examples included come from the tatoeba project which is an open collection of examples sentences that have been crowd-sourced.

Sometimes you come across gems like this:


chinamini koko isshuukan wa, tatoeba FURAGU ga tatte iyoutomo,H SHI-N ga nai koto wa kakutei jikou dakarana. shibaraku no kan, shinbou na!

By the way, this week - no matter what flags are set - it's a certainty that there will be no ecchi scenes. You'll just have to bear with it a while.

The Japanese in this post that I was focused on is 因みに (ちなみに) and it appears that someone in the community uses this expression to lament about the lack of sex scenes in movies...

Well who can blame them right?

Sent from my iPhone 4

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Touch screen lockers in machida station - nice!

And you can pay with your Suica card, •Ö—˜‚ȁ` (‚ׂñ‚è)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

True Wagyu (和牛)

A friend of mine treated me to a real feast. A friend of his from Kobe runs a wagyu teppanyaki restaurant in Ginza. He had been telling me for years that he would take me there on one of my trips to Japan, and finally our schedules aligned properly such that we could make the trip.

This restaurant serves only the highest Kobe beef. It goes without saying that the meat comes from Kobe, with a pre-meal history of Kobe beef and Tajima beef written in English and Japanese (I got the English version - regardless how well you read or speak a language, it is nice sometimes to read something in your native tongue).

I'm not sure how the blog formats the images, so I'll just write everything here and ask that you refer to the images wherever they end up on the page.

My lesson on this trip was オウギュウ. I had no idea what he was saying. Big beef? King beef? Middle cut of beef? There are various kanji that have the reading "おう" but none of it made sense.

Turns out he was being a cheeky tart. It was おう for オウジ or "Aussie beef". After we ate he said "it was really Aussie beef." and watched my eyes grow wide. Then he said "ウソウソ" for "just kidding".

But was he really joking or not? I wonder...

Anyway - it was delicious!

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Things you don't see everyday in japan

For some reason it took me this long to realize that I could update my blog from my iPhone and attach pictures. I'm not great in the common sense (常識 じょうしき) department, but I'm good with book stuff so I give myself a pass.

Here is a beautifully done wall on the outside of a bicycle shop in Machida (町田). Now that I realized the easy way to update my blog, maybe I'll actually do it more often.