Health and Sports Day

If you are a health buff who likes playing sports, spending the whole day sweating your fat off and enjoys living an active lifestyle, this holiday is for you!

The first ever Health and Sports day in Japan was held on October 10, 1966, to commemorate the opening of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. In the year 2000, it was moved to the second Monday of October under Japan’s Happy Monday System. They have chosen to celebrate it during the month of October to avoid the Japanese rainy season so that everybody can come out and enjoy the sun. In Japanese, this holiday is called Taiiku no Hi.

Japan is one of the few countries to have a public holiday celebrating Sports. Japan doesn’t only celebrate the aesthetic beauty of their country through colorful and traditional festivals; they also have holidays that give importance to physical activities, fitness, and health in order to develop a sound mind and a sound body. On this day, everyone in Japan including business establishments, schools, and other offices encourage their members to participate. Most of the elementary and middle schools also schedule their Field or Sports Day activities on the same day.

The sporting culture is strong in Japanese society. Most schools schedule a Sports Day, also called Field Day, several times a year. These Sports Days are called undokai in Japanese. As mentioned above, many schools set their Sports Day to be on the same day as the official Taiiku no Hi. Others, due to local weather conditions, schedule their Sports Day on a different day.  Then this event happens during the Saturday or Sunday in Japanese schools. Like any other important event; Japanese students spend a lot of time preparing long before the event. They spend many days practicing for their presentations and events because their parents and friends are surely going to watch.

One of the most popular segments is a game called Tamaire. Tamaire is a game traditionally played by elementary school children at sports festivals. It takes about 200 stuffed balls, two baskets, and two poles to hold the baskets. The balls are more like beanbags.  A number of children can participate although the official rules limit the number to 6 players. The winner is determined by seeing how many balls can be thrown into each basket within a time limit.

Aside from the school happenings, it is also expected that people will also watch sporting events such as the traditional track and field, which include the 100-meter event and the exciting tug of war. Much of the population of Japan is very interested in sports, so much so that they look forward to Sports Day as a mini Olympics.

Another unique competition that people in Japan are excited to play is called Mock Cavalry Battle. In this game, four people will be on each team. One rider will ride the other three. The designated rider wears a hat or a headband. The battle is to be the first to remove your opponent’s headband, as losing the headband means defeat.

Thus, the purpose of this health and sports day aside from promoting a healthy lifestyle is to uphold unity and camaraderie among the people in Japan. The purpose behind this activity is that the government wants to build cooperation, harmony, and a sense of solidarity among their people and to make their nation as one.



Culture Day

Another annual event celebrated in Japan is the Japanese Cultural Festival, also known as Bunka no Hi. This event always occurs on the 3rd day of November. This holiday is to commemorate that on this day in 1946, the constitution of Japan was officially announced. To commemorate this event, the date was declared as a national holiday two years later, in 1948. The purpose of the holiday is to promote the growth of the ideals of the Constitution, and the love of peace and freedom through cultural activities. This date, November 3rd, has also been used as a holiday since the Meiji Period, where it was called Meijisetsu. During that time, the holiday was to celebrate the birth of the Meiji emperor. Some see Culture Day as a continuation of the tradition of the Meijisetsu holiday.

Across the country, events with a deep connection to culture take place, such as cultural art exhibits and costume parades.

The Bunka no Hi is widely participated in by schools in Japan, from Nursery schools to Universities. In this festival, the artistic side and various academic ventures of the students are displayed. Primary and Secondary schools hold cultural festivals which students are required to attend. This activity is one of their requirements for graduation. In universities, attendance is not compulsory, which makes this an extracurricular activity for them. Usually, these festivals showcase what the students have learned. Visitors to these festivals are there not only to inspect the students’ achievements, but as recreation. Alumni of different schools also mark this holiday as a time to visit their schools. Classrooms and gymnasiums are decorated like restaurants and bistros, and the guests are entertained by presentations prepared by the students. This holiday promotes social interaction among the groups and fosters community ties.

On this day the presentation ceremony of the Order of Culture Awards is held at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The award is given by the imperial family and the emperor himself to recognize the outstanding contributions of people in the field of arts, culture, and science. The bestowal of this award is not restricted to only Japanese citizens; there have also been foreign recipients. For example, the award was given to the Apollo 11 astronauts upon their return from the moon. Last year, some of the awardees were Taeko Kono, considered one of the most important writers of Japanese contemporary literature; Takashi Negishi, economist; and Hiroshi Amano, Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for the year 2014.

The rest of the country celebrates with parades celebrating traditional Japanese customs, with the participants dressed in costumes from each era to demonstrate the flow of history. Events like these provide opportunities for the people of today’s generation to examine the culture that has been passed down through the ages. During this time, those with a proven track record of excellence in the performing arts give performances.

The importance of Culture Day has expanded, so that now the period from November 1 to November 7 has been designated as Culture Week, focusing on Culture Day. In schools some of the outdoor activities include the Sumoo (Sumo); Bon Odori (Bon dance), a traditional form of Buddhist ancestor worship; Rajio Taisoo (Radio exercise), marking the coronation of the emperor of Japan; Janken Championship (Rock-Paper-Scissors); and the Chorus, wherein large groups sing together in an outdoor setting.



Bridge Public Holiday

Just as other people from different countries around the world celebrate many different holidays, Japan also celebrates several holidays throughout the year. Given that the Japanese are known to be hard workers, they only have 15 days of holiday in a year approved by the government. Unfortunately, since many of their holidays are not fixed on the same day of the week, some years have holidays falling in the middle of the week. To make the best use of those 15 days, another holiday is inserted between two official holidays.

There is a Public Holiday Law in Japan amended in the year 1948 which states that when a national holiday falls on a Sunday, the next working day shall become a public holiday, also known as furikae kyujitsu which means “transfer holiday”. An ordinary day between two holidays is also considered a free day and is called a Bridge Public Holiday.

This year’s Japanese bridge holiday happens between the celebration of the “Respect for the Aged Day” and the “Autumnal Equinox Day”. During the “Respect for the Aged Day” which will happen on the 21st day of September this year, families celebrate and honor elderly citizens by visiting them or by giving gifts; while the “Autumnal Equinox Day” is the day the sun crosses over the equator from the Northern to Southern Hemisphere. The day for the celebration will be determined on the February of the previous year; this is due to the necessity of recent astronomical measurements. But for this year, it will be celebrated on September 23 and the people of Japan will be remembering the separation of religion and state in Japan’s post war constitution. This is the time of the year were families visit the graves of their departed family members, hold family reunions and go out of town to pay tribute to those who have passed away.

Since September 21 and September 23 are two holidays which are declared just a day apart, September 22 is therefore a Bridge Public Holiday and is usually a non-working day for most Japanese. Japan with its 15 days of holiday is considered as a lucky place compared to Wales and England which only have 9 holidays. The people of Japan consider these 15 days of  holiday to be their most precious time, using them to stay at home and relax, or spend time bonding with their families.

Remember, the average Japanese worker only has an average 18 paid vacation days per year. Furthermore, almost none take their full vacation allotment. Many Japanese take pride in taking no vacation during the year, preferring to work every day. For these over dedicated types, the Public Holidays becomes their only break from work.

So having said this about Bridge Public Holidays, who wouldn’t want to always have more Bridge Holidays? Other countries, not as industrious as the Japanese, also have ‘bridge’ holidays. In Italy, for example, almost everyone bridges their time between Christmas and St. Epiphany (6 January); they even use the same term for this practice. That much time off would be shocking for a Japanese worker.

As Japan is one of the safest and cleanest place around the world, why don’t we just enjoy this long holiday by touring Japan. Now that the brutal summer temperatures have abated, this is a great time to travel in Japan.

If you decide to take a trip during this time, make sure to plan well as you can expect busy traffic and thicker crowds in the streets. Nonetheless, this is still a string of holidays worth waiting for.

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The Toire Exorcism

Toire Monster

The Ghost of the Toire

The team was hunkered down in our hyper classified bunker located somewhere in the Tokyo metropolis. The second shift, in the form of Fred and George, had just arrived to take over for Tony and I. Fred looked much the worse for wear, with red-rimmed eyes, a sloppy shave, and a general air of defeat.

“Are you sure you can work today?” I asked, “You look like you haven’t slept in days.”

“I haven’t,” said Fred, “My girlfriend is convinced my apartment is haunted. She wakes me up ten times per night to check on the noises. Hell, when a small quake comes, she screams like a baby.”

“Haunted? What makes her think the apartment is haunted?”

“It started when the toilet went crazy; it started raising and lowering the lid randomly. I tried to tell her that it was probably broken, but ever since that night every little noise or shake sets her off.”

For those not familiar with Japan, the high-technology toilets are a common item here. They range from simple heated seat models to bum washing machines that blow dry your privates. If anything was ripe for haunting, it would be a Japanese toilet. Add in the fact that Japanese folklore has many types of ghosts associated with toilets, and you have a recipe for terror.

“So,” I said, “It looks like you have an Onryo in your Toire.”

“What’s an Onryo?” asked Fred.

“An Onryo is a vengeful ghost,” I said. “There are several types, from Hanako-san, to the Akaname monster, to Aka

Manto, to Reiko Kashima. Those are just the most popular.”

“I don’t believe in that crap,” said Fred.

“It doesn’t matter what you believe,” I replied, “What matters is what she believes. I believe that you won’t get a decent night’s sleep until you solve this problem.”

“How can I get rid of an imaginary ghost?” asked Fred.

“With an imaginary exorcism, of course!” I replied. “We can perform a Toire Exorcism to rid your home of this vengeful spirit.”

“What’s a Toire Exorcism?” asked Fred.

“Toire is the Japanese word for toilet and exorcism is the casting out of spirits. This’ll be great!”

Whether it was due to his sleep addled mind, or the conviction in my voice, Fred reluctantly agreed to invite us over to perform the exorcism.

“Now to prepare for the exorcism, you need to make a shopping trip,” I said.

“Shopping? What do I need to shop for?” said Fred.

“We have to sell this to your girlfriend,” I replied. “We have to show you went to a lot of trouble to cleanse the apartment of evil spirits.”

“OK,” said Fred, pulling out a clipboard, “Tell me what you need.”

“Twelve beers to start, better get the Yebisu tall boys. Hell, make it 24. Then you’ll have to get some Holy Water…”

“Wait,” interrupted Fred, “Where am I supposed to get Holy Water in Tokyo?”

“There are lots of churches in Tokyo,” I said. “Ride the Marunouchi line to Yotsuya, exit the station and turn right. You’ll see St. Ignatius Church. There are Holy Water bowls. Take a bit of Holy Water for the ceremony. While you’re at it, try to get the priest to bless the beer.”

Later that night, Tony and I congregated at Fred’s apartment. George couldn’t make it, but he wished us the best in our endeavors.

Fred had a standard Japanese style apartment, tiny but well appointed. Fred had added western style furniture, meaning he didn’t have to sit on the floor to eat, watch TV, or sleep. Instead of tatami mats, it had wood patterned linoleum strips for the flooring in the common areas and carpeting in the bedrooms.

Fred introduced us to his current girlfriend, Joy. She was an Aussie ex-pat working as an English teacher at one of the innumerable English schools located in Tokyo.

“I’m glad to finally meet Fred’s co-workers,” Joy said. “He’s so secretive about his work. Won’t tell me where he works, or who he works with. Do you all really work for a Top Secret government project?”

“Not at all,” I replied. Tony gave Fred the stinkeye behind Joy’s back. We don’t talk about work, ever.

“We don’t have any secrets,” I said, “You can visit us any time.” Fred looked like he was about to interrupt as I continued, “Fred didn’t want you to meet us because we’re assholes. We chased away his previous three girlfriends. Naturally, he’s reluctant to have us mingle.”

“Fred,” she said, looking back and forth between Fred and us, “I didn’t know you had other girlfriends here before me.” It looked like Fred and Joy were going to have a “talk” after we left.

“Fred,” I said, anxious to change the subject, “Did you obtain the blessed beer and Holy Water?”

“I got the Holy Water,” Fred said, “but getting the priest to bless the beer was impossible. I never thought a man of God would lose his temper like that. If I were Catholic, he would have excommunicated me. I was lucky to get out of there intact. Luckily, I got the Holy Water before asking for the beer blessing.”

“That’s OK,” I said, “We’ll just have to double up on the amount of beer we drink to complete the exorcism. That’s why I asked for the tallboy cans.”

“So,” interjected Tony, “did someone mention beer?”

A few minutes’ later, chilled cans (well, a “tinny” in Joy’s case) of Yebisu beer in hand, we inspected the door of the haunted toire. I flipped on the light switch that was mounted on the outside of the toilet room. Japanese homes keep the bathing room separate from the toilet, a much better design in my mind. As the light switch clicked, we could hear the spectral sounds of the toilet activating. Motioning for everybody to step back, I quickly pulled the door open. The toilet lid was cycling itself up and down.

“OK,” I said, “This might take a while; it looks like you have a severe spirit infestation.

“First, we need to replenish our beer supply. Joy! Fresh beers all around.”

Joy, who had backed into the farthest corner of the hallway, raced with alacrity to the kitchen to get fresh beers. I closed the door to the toilet to keep the spirits locked in.

A few steps down the hallway brought me to the bag of tools I had brought. As I pulled out equipment, Joy handed me a beer. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to a yellow electronic device.

“Electronic spirit level,” I responded, channeling my best Ghostbusters voice. I continued pulling out a Fluke Multimeter, some hand tools, and various other items.

We gathered outside the toilet door again as Joy handed fresh beers to Fred and Tony. Fred tried to demure, but at my insistence that drinking beer was part of the cleansing ritual, he accepted another.

Holding the level in front of me as if warding off a vampire, I opened the door again. The toilet seat was still cycling up and down. Motioning the others back, I slipped inside the toilet room and examined the setup. The toilet seat was one of those high tech devices common in Japanese homes. The seat, heated, of course, was plugged into a wall outlet. An electronic panel mounted on the wall controlled the various functions of the toilet.

Reaching down to the outlet, I unplugged the toilet seat. This halted the random cycling of the seat. I tried plugging it in again to see if a reset cleared the glitch, but the seat immediately started cycling again. I pulled the plug again. Leaving the meter on the top of the toilet tank, I backed out of the toilet room.

“Well,” I said, “I’ve managed to get the spirit to quiet down by blocking it with the spirit level. But the exorcism isn’t complete.” I drained the last of my second beer and handed the empty to Joy.

Joy had crept closer, encouraged by the silence of the toilet. “What else do you need to do?” she asked.

“Fred,” I responded, “I’m going to need the Holy Water and a fresh beer. I will have to step into that devil’s den and complete the exorcism.”

“Are you sure you’ll be safe?” asked Tony in his best afraid-for-a-friend voice. I thought he was laying it on too thick, but a glance at Joy showed she was eating up the performance. Tony has the kind of face that lets him get away with huge lies.

“Fear has never stopped me before,” I replied.

Fred arrived with the small vial of Holy Water and a fresh beer. Cracking the top of the beer, I pretended to examine the Holy Water. Beer in left hand, Holy Water in my right, I made the sign of the cross with the Holy Water and muttered the only Latin phrase I could recall from a misspent youth, “Omnia Vincent Amore!”

I entered the toilet, shutting the door behind me and took a seat on the closed toilet lid. Draining half the beer in a gulp, I popped the control panel off the wall. As I suspected, the remote was a wireless device. It contained a multitude of buttons, as well as a small LCD screen. The screen was blank, indicating a lack of power. Examining the back revealed a small panel locked down with a Philips screw. Unscrewing the panel revealed a pair of AA batteries. Removing the batteries took only seconds. I pulled a fresh set of batteries from my shirt pocket and inserted them into the remote. The old batteries went back into my pocket.

I examined the front of the remote as I sipped my beer. The LCD panel was now active. Unfortunately, my lack of Japanese skills made me feel like a chimpanzee in the pilot’s seat of the Space Shuttle. A few tentative pokes showed the remote was responding to the controls, but I had no idea of what settings I was changing. Hopefully, Fred would be spared a boiling water douche.

I put the remote back on the wall holder, ensuring it was firmly mounted. Plugging in the toilet seat showed no unusual movements.

Standing up as I finished the beer, I decided to bless the newly cleansed (spiritually speaking) toilet with my urine. Pressing the open button on the remote caused the lid and seat to lift normally. After a three (or was it four?) beer piss, the flushing button on the remote was also tested. I thoughtfully pressed the button to lower the lid and seat again.

Needing a strong finish, I decided to amp up my performance. Gathering all the tools up, I unlocked the door. Still facing the toilet, I backed out of the toilet while intoning in my deepest voice, “My Father plays Domino’s better than your Father!” I finished off with a flourish, spraying the Holy Water around.

“This house is clean,” I whispered, channeling my best Poltergeist imitation.

Fred stuck his head into the toilet. Encouraged by the lack of strange phenomena, he announced, “It’s stopped making those noises! Joy come and check it out.”

Joy was closer than before, encouraged by our performance. She was also obviously in need of a bathroom; legs squeezed together and dancing up and down. I guess the beer went through her faster than expected.

Joy quickly entered the toilet lifted the lid, and turned around. Her hands were on her slacks’ waistband when she noticed us watching her. “Shut the damned door!” she shouted, “I have to pee.”

“Sorry,” I replied, “It’s a necessary part of the process. We will now intone the Lord’s Prayer while you use the facilities. This will ensure the spirit won’t come back.”

Lips pursed together tightly; Joy considered her options. She could give us a quick glimpse or pee her pants. She jerked her pants down and sat as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the lid had closed behind her before she could sit. She had to stand again, pants around her ankles, turn around, bend over, and lift the lid. She sat back down quickly as we recited the prayer.

“..forgive us our trespasses,” I couldn’t continue despite my best efforts to control the laughter. We finished the prayer in a cascade of giggles and laughs as Joy’s face got redder and redder.

As Fred shut the door, we could hear her mumbling, “He’s right, they are assholes.”

We gathered in the living room and graciously accepted the last of the beer from Fred. As we drank, I put my tools and accouterments away. We heard the bathroom door open, but Joy did not rejoin us. Fred exited and went to the bedroom. When he came back, he said simply, “Joy’s packing.”

Tony and I finished our beers and stood to leave. It looked like Fred would soon be looking for girlfriend number four. Oh well, nobody ever said exorcisms were easy.

“Sorry, Fred,” I said, “Once she started asking about our work, she had to go. It was either this or exile to Monster Island. Look at the bright side,” I said as we exited the door, “This exorcism was great. We got rid of two demons for the price of one!”


Golden Week Holidays

This year, 2015, the schedule of the Golden Week Holidays will be Wednesday, April 29; Sunday, May 3; Monday, May 4; Tuesday, May 5; and Wednesday, May 6. That includes the the four official holidays (Showa Day, Constitution Memorial Day, Greenery Day, and Children’s Day), plus an extra “filler” holiday.

The extra holiday is generated when one of the official holidays falls on a Sunday. This gives the Japanese workers the same amount of holidays each year.

We Americans made a similar adjustment to many holidays by moving them from their original, fixed, date to the closest Monday. This was called the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. This gave American workers more three-day weekends.

For most Japanese, this is the longest holiday period that they can get for the entire year. By using a minimum of vacation time to bridge between the Wednesday and Saturday, a Japanese worker can get over a week off to visit family.

Many employers encourage this, as can be seen by the number of businesses that shut down completely during this period.

What does this mean for the average Tokyo expat? Well, don’t expect to get any banking done, as these are also bank holidays. If you want to travel outside of Tokyo, reservations will be hard to get, as well as being more expensive than other times of the year.

However, the important things, restaurants and bars, will still be open for business.


Tanabata Star Festival in Japan

Update for 2014


Tanabata, also known as the Star Festival of Japan, is typically held on July 7, the seventh day of the seventh month. In some areas, where the lunar calendar is still used to calculate this holiday, it occurs on August 7. Our recent trip to Fussa showed the festival taking place on 7 – 10 August.

The festival is based on a Chinese legend, with some Japanese twists.

In one popular form of the legend (there are over a dozen different versions); Vega, known in Japanese as Orihime (the Weaving Princess) is the daughter of the Sky King. She works for her father weaving beautiful cloth on the shores of the river formed by the Milky Way. Since her father loved her cloth very much, she worked very hard every day weaving to please him. However, in her heart she was sad because the time spent at her work was keeping her from finding her soul mate.

Orihime’s father noticed her sadness and arranged for her to meet Altair (known in Japanese as Hikoboshi, the cow herder). Hikoboshi lived on the other side of the Milky Way.

The match was a hit, the two fell instantly in love, and were married soon after.

Trouble quicky arose as, due to their intense love, they each neglected their duties. Vega no longer wove her magic cloth and Altair let his cows wander all over the sky. Darn love-struck kids!

As punishment, the Sky Father separated the two lovers, one on each side of the river Milky Way. They each reluctantly returned to their duties.

However, Vega was so despondent that her constant sorrow touched the Sky Father’s heart. When she pleaded to let them meet again, he consented to allow them to meet once a year, if she worked hard and finished her weaving. Her deadline for completing her work was the Seventh day of the Seventh month. Vega returned to work with a passion and was able to complete her tasks before the appointed day.

On the date if their first reunion, they were still blocked by the river Milky Way. The Sky Father had only given them the time off to meet, not the means to meet. There was no bridge to cross the river. Separated by the impassable river, Vega cried so loudly that a flock of magpies took pity on her and promised to make a bridge of their wings so that she could cross the river. With the aid of the magpies, Vega crossed the river and had her long awaited reunion with her husband.

Because magpies don’t fly when it is raining, the legend says that if it rains on the day of the Tanabata, the two lovers have to wait another year to meet. So rain on Tanabata is considered bad luck.

festival in JapanIn modern Japan, Tanabata is a festival where children write their wishes on strips of fancy paper, called a tanzaku, which are then put on displays made of the branches of bamboo trees.

The Japanese twist is that instead of wishing for presents or candy, the industrious Japanese child (possibly emulating the hard working Vega), makes wishes for better handwriting or study skills. Other wishes can be for good sewing, safety and health for the family, good fishing and harvests, and even cleanliness.

You may also want to check another well celebrated Festival in Japan, the Hanami Party in Tokyo.

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Fast and Economical Haircuts in Tokyo

Tokyo Barber

Caution: Your barber may not look this good.

I was forced to update this old post as the pricing at QB House has changed. Due to a recent consumption tax increase, haircuts now cost 1080 Yen. My regular QB House has updated their ticket machine to accept coins. While the fumbling for correct change is a pain, the service is still quick and professional.

After several months in Tokyo, I tired of paying upwards of $50.00 per haircut. When I started feeling envious of my bald friends, I decided it was time to find a more economical solution.

A bit of research showed that the cheapest haircuts in Tokyo are to be found at QB House . The English language version of their website did not have a handy locator map. A bit more research (this time with a translator) showed the Japanese language version had a locator map. You can view the map page here (Japanese language only).

The process is pretty simple. Walk in, buy a ticket at the vending machine for 1000 Yen, and wait in line. When it is your turn, you take the next available barber. Sorry, no picking and choosing. I have not yet had a bad barber.

Since the shops are small, only clients are allowed inside, so don’t bring the wife or kids. I also noted a sign that stated they reserve the right to refuse service if you don’t speak Japanese. However, despite my linguistic limitations, I have never had a problem with getting served.

Once in the chair, the barber will ask how you want your hair cut. This is where it gets difficult. My barbers always ask how many centimeters to cut (note that when they ask how many centimeters, they mean how many centimeters to cut, not how many to leave). I usually go with two centimeters (about 3/4 inches, for the metrically challenged) for my twice monthly cut. You can use sign language to show how you want your sideburns cut.

Once your cut is complete, the barber will vacuum up loose hairs, hold up a mirror to show the back, and give you a free comb.

I am usually in and out in 20 to 25 minutes, including the waiting time.

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Big Bird Raped by Godzilla

A recent news article in The Wall Street Journal (linked here) made me realize that the Main Stream Media is always seven years behind the real story.

As I have a seven-degree above Top Secret job in the T.H.U.M.B inverse skyscraper here in Tokyo, I have access to information that is not available to the casual reader. After several glasses of the very finest (cheapest) wine found in Maruetsu petit, I have decided to share my knowledge with you.

As the article mentions, Japanese scientists have been able to create Lab-Made Eggs In Vitro. What the article doesn’t mention is that this breakthrough occurred seven years ago. And (no surprise to the cognoscenti) the eggs being fertilized are not leading to mere human embryos, but to Godzilla embryos.Why waste time on human embryos, don’t we have enough humans already?

While I can’t say that these embryos have been brought to fruition, I might note that recent revelations about dinosaurs with feathers show that the most attractive mate for an adolescent Godzilla clone would look remarkably like Big Bird.

Poor Fred, he had no idea what he was in for, he really thought it was for an office Halloween party with designated costumes. In any case, we managed to bag several liters of Godzilla sperm for our lab. Fred is out on Workmen’s Compensation for the next seven months. He is healing up nicely and we will welcome him back with open arms. Any rumors that pain-killers were withheld until he signed a non-disclosure agreement are absolute nonsense.

Why did we need a new sample of Godzilla sperm, you might ask? Well, according to our mad scientists, to breed a real Godzilla we will need to iterate the DNA sequences many times to regress the germ line back to the original fire-breathing Godzilla. Luckily for Fred, his close encounter of the fourth kind was with a hybrid Godzilla made from a Komodo dragon and our sample extracted from fossils. The Godzilla Mini-Me was only seven feet tall and his Atomic Breath was barely above the normal rad score at Fukishima.

Our next generation is much larger, and we have hopes that they will be able to consume the waste from Fukishima. In fact, they seem hungry for that type of food. That is the real reason we are working feverishly to complete this project. Any rumors that the Godzilla clones will be housed on the disputed islands between Japan and China are relentlessly disavowed.

Of course, with all of these experiments, we have a lot of failures. The team has had Godzilla eggs for breakfast for the last month. One egg makes an omelet for 47 people. Dr. Seuss would have loved our (gamma irradiated) green eggs and ham.

Oh, and about the recent US President race and the debates; the guy who promised to kill off Big Bird will lose. We will let no one stand in the way of our progress and we need continued access to the only aphrodisiac known for Godzilla.

Remember, you read it here first.

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Comiket in Tokyo – Summer 2012

Dear TJL fans,
We are re-publishing our account of last year’s Comiket, which has proven to be one of our most popular articles. Hope some of you can make it to this year’s show.
In the midst of the sweltering summer, the TJL team decided to brave heat, humidity, and hordes of manga fans to bring you a report on the famous Comiket 2011. We went on the third day of the convention. We were warned the first day is overcrowded and the second day most of the team was working.
Comiket, stands for “Comic Market”. It is a Japanese practice to shorten words and phrases, sometimes making it difficult for non-native speakers to understand. But Comiket is so well known that it needs no explanation. It is a festival for manga creators, collectors, cosplayers (costumed players – see what I meant about the short phrases?), and fans to get together in a huge area.
Comiket takes place twice a year in Tokyo, once in August and again in December. This summer the three day festival took place on 12, 13, and 14 August. The location of the comic fair is the Tokyo Big Site convention center. The Tokyo Big Site convention center has a unique design of four inverted pyramids (called the Conference Tower) that make it a great landmark. There are two huge halls, called the East and West Exhibition Halls. The thousands of vendors filled up both the East and West Exhibition Halls.
Tokyo Big Site - AKA Tokyo Biggu Saito
Travel to Comiket
As advised by their site, the best way to get to Comiket is by using public transportation. If you are staying in Tokyo, the subway (Tokyo Metro) can be confusing. The TJL team disdains the use of expensive taxis (except for those nights at the Karaoke bars when the pleas of our fans force us to stay past the closing of the Metro), so we arranged our trip via the Metro. I was recently shown the best way to plan a Metro trip is through the travel site Hyperdia. Using the site is simple, but you need to know the exact name of the closest Metro station to your departure point and destination to use the site effectively. For example, Tokyo Big Site is not shown in the Hyperdia drop down menu because it is not a Metro station. You need to know the name of the closest Metro station. In this case the closest station is Kokusai-Tenjijo (which shows up in Hyperdia’s menus as “KOKUSAITENJIJO”).
After inputting the departure and destination points, Hyperdia generates several alternative routes. It also shows how much the fares will be and gives a pretty good idea of how long the trip will take. Printing out the route will ensure you have no trouble getting to the site.
Beating the Heat
As this is the summer convention, we were prepared for the worst. I brought my roll around carryon with a couple of bottles of water and a towel. I later learned that a hat would have also been nice as the sun was very bright in the garden area where the cosplayers roamed.
I saw three people who fainted from the heat while at the convention.
The towel is a necessary accessory for the Tokyo native. It is used in the summer to wipe sweat, shade the neck, and splashed with water from a bottle, can be used to cool the brow. The towel is also used year round to dry your hands as the public bathrooms don’t normally have paper towels or dryers. This is due to severe restrictions on litter in Tokyo. You will rarely find a public trash can.
Of course, there are vendors on site that sell snacks, drinks, and cooling ice cream. If you bring your own, you won’t have to wait in line. Late in the afternoon, I did fall prey to the temptation of a snow plate. The snow plate is a loosely packed snowball of ice shavings on a plate, with various flavors poured on.
I dutifully stood in line, paid my 300 Yen, and ordered by pointing. My problem was that the list of flavors spoken by the clerk was unintelligible to me. At my quizzical look, she slowly repeated the flavors (in Japanese, of course). The only flavor I understood was “LEMON”, which is the same in English or Japanese. Wanting to avoid fish flavored ice cream, I ordered the Lemon flavor. Minutes later, I was served.
Just as I was about to spoon up my first cooling taste of snow, my TJL teammate George asked, “What’s the first thing they teach Eskimo children?”
“What?” I responded with the spoon halfway to my mouth.
“Don’t eat the yellow snow!”
George thinks he is a wit. He is half-right.
That might have ruined the appetite of a lesser man, but didn’t faze me. However, I made it a point to learn more flavors for my next excursion.
Roaming the Halls
A pleasant surprise was that the convention required no entry fee for fans. The fees are paid by the exhibitors, who are there to sell their wares.
We spent several hours roaming the aisles and only managed to view a small portion of the available merchandise. An English map would have been nice. I have heard that one is available, but couldn’t easily find one. In any case, the TJL team scoffs at those who over-plan, over-organize, and over-agonize every trip.
I purchased several copies of comics from the distributors. However, examination showed that these were all “Adult” comics. I searched in vain for the non-“Adult” section, hoping to get a copy of “Sailor Moon” in the original language for my children.
Besides the comics, there were booths selling figurines and other items of interest to the ardent Otaku (Nerd).
The Cosplay Exhibition
The high point of the trip was the viewing of the gaudily dressed cosplayers. This took place in a garden area of the site. The cosplayers each staked out their area of the garden and posed for the photographers and viewers. The costumes displayed amazing attention to detail. Unfortunately, my knowledge of manga was too limited to guess which character the cosplayers were imitating. Still, it was a great show and I managed to get some good photos.
Note the attention to detail in the costumes. The girl on the left has even dyed her eyebrows to match the hair.
The cosplay exhibition ended promptly at 3:00 p.m.; which left a couple of hours to tour the halls. We noted that this year the moving sidewalks were turned off, probably as a way to conserve power. Japan is still suffering from the effects of the loss of the Fukushima reactor and will be in power conservation mode for the foreseeable future.
Heading Home
 After the tour through the various displays, the team headed back to our home turf in the Akasaka area. A vote was held and we decided to visit the awesome Authentic Burger restaurant to revive with a few quick beers and one of their famous burgers. Note that the link above is to Google Maps and it is a little bit off. The actual entrance to the restaurant is around the corner. Look for the awning with “Authentic” printed on it.
We all chose the standard draft to replenish precious bodily fluids. Then we had hamburgers and fries to replenish precious nutrients.
Over the dessert course (more beers, of course), we discussed the day’s adventures.
“Show me your loot,” George said.
I gave him my copies of manga (all adult titles, as I never managed to find the kid’s section).
“Go ahead and keep them for souvenirs,” I said.
George made appreciative noises as he thumbed through the mangas.
“Why don’t you keep them?” he asked.
“I wanted souvenirs for my kids. These are not appropriate. I thought I was getting Sailor Moon comics. It wasn’t until later I found out I had purchased the adult version.”
“Well, this sure looks like Sailor Moon. Thanks for the comics. Now I finally have the answer to a question I have had since I was a kid,” said George.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I always wondered; where the hell does Sailor Moon hide that big magic wand?”

Tokyo WiFi Options

On my most recent return to Tokyo via Narita airport, I was surprised at the number of Tokyo WiFi options that have become available.


tokyo wifi options

At Narita Airport, Japan

To start, there is free WiFi available at the airport. I logged on using my iPad. What stops most from using the service is the login screen that comes up on the first use. The screen is in Japanese and has spaces for two entries, which appear to be a login and password requirement. However, a look at the upper right hand corner of the Safari screen shows a link to the English page. On that page, you see that the two fields are used for requesting and verifying an email address. I entered my email address twice, and was able to use the free WiFi service. Due to lack of time, I didn’t do a lot of surfing, but the speed appeared to be fast enough for checking schedules and other lite surfing.


Another option that is now available is the WiFi device rental from SoftBank. I saw this as a new offering at the SoftBank counter in the Narita Terminal. SoftBank now offers a portable WiFi device with a flat-rate data plan.

Their rental plans include two WiFi router options, as well as a USB modem option. I would avoid the USB modem option, as the fine print states, “Japanese OS required”.  The mobile routers don’t have that limitation. However, the Mobile routers do require re-charging the battery periodically.

The stated speed of 7.2Mbps download and 5.8Mbps upload is below my recommended minimum for streaming video or Skype calling, but it is fast enough for light web browsing.

The price quoted is 1,890 Yen (1,575 Yen Rental Fee plus 315 Yen Administrative fee). Note that the minimum rental period is three days.

The beauty of these plans is the flat rate. SoftBank has been criticized in the past for excessive charges of per byte users. With the flat rate plan, there will be no huge surprises at the end of the rental period.

Softbank also offers iPhone SIM card rentals, 3G SIM card rentals, and Smartphone rentals. The drawback to those options is that many of us have all of our information (phone numbers, call lists, even passwords, etc.) in their current device. I don’t feel comfortable putting an unknown SIM card in my phone, and feel even less comfortable giving that SIM back to SoftBank to be used by the next tourist.

Tokyo Wifi Options #3 – BOINGO

I really wanted to give this service a chance in Tokyo. As an intermittent Boingo user, I wanted to get a chance to use my existing account. I downloaded the App for my iPad, using my apartment’s WiFi signal. The Boingo App has a fancy map that indicates supposed Boingo WiFi hotspots available. It would appear from the map that dozens of spots are available a short distance from my apartment. However, when I tried to use these hotspots, I could not use my Boingo account to login to the hotspots. Also, opening the Boingo App gave me a message that I needed to log on to a WiFi network to use the App.

If the only thing the App provides is a list of hotspots, which it in no way helps in connecting to the networks, it is not very useful. The built in WiFi finder on the iPad provides the same function for free. The only thing missing is the fancy map, but I can live without the map

Unfortunately, since I was unable to get either the App or the Boingo service to work, I cannot recommend this service.


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