Monday, December 31, 2007
Fake degree scandals are a dime a dozen in South Korea (click here, here or here for recent examples) . The testing/credential-obsessed nation has been forced to do some soul-searching as it turned out that non-Korean English teachers (mostly teaching kids at private language schools) weren't the only ones being dishonest.
Now it appears that the same thing is going on in Japan. Personally, I'm not surprised because like South Korea, Japan is also crazy about testing kids into oblivion in order to earn four-year holidays at name-brand schools so that they can then cop desk jobs at name-brand companies.
The story in the Yomiuri was quiet enough. Japan has suffered through its own share of corruption scandals this year. Dishonesty has been rife enough in business and politics that people are a little corruption-weary at this point, so there's no telling if the masses are willing to tolerate another eduction-related scandal at this point. Many will recall the string of bullying-related suicidesbullying-related suicides that broke in junior and senior high schools at the end of 2006. Perhaps this next scandal will have to wait until 2008.
In case you didn't read it, here's a quote from the Yomiuri article:
Forty-eight academics at 43 universities possess bogus diplomas they were
awarded by overseas organizations claiming to be universities, an Education,
Science and Technology Ministry investigation has revealed.
The "overseas organizations claiming to be universities" are, of course, diploma mills. So, yes, this is exactly the same as what has been going on in South Korea. It should be interesting to see how everyone deals with this in the coming months. However, the way that the Japanese media has dealt with it thus far signals that they are content not to add to the soul-searching that is already going on.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Alex Ramirez (formerly of the Tokyo Swallows) is slated to earn 1 billion yen from his two-year deal with the Yomiuri Giants. It was not mentioned whether or not that figure includes incentives.
A few of us were half-wondering why he wasn't (openly) contemplating a move to the majors, but the answer may now be clear.
Yomiuri was hoping to add some right-handed power-hitting to its lefty-dominated lineup, and Ramirez would fill that void nicely on most any team either side of the Pacific (judging by how he played this past season).
It was reported that the Swallows refused to offer Ramirez more than a one-year deal. If that's the case, then shame on them! I know that it's common for a lot of players to be let go when a new manager comes in, but Ramirez now ranks very favorably among the elite hitters in Japanese baseball history. I think most will agree that he's got several good years ahead of him.
Tokyo deserved to lose him.
I just wish it wasn't to Yomiuri.
Prosecutors are seeking a five year sentence (article in Japanese) for the disaffected brainiac.
TATP (pictured in both crude and dry forms), Yoshihiro Terasawa's explosive of choice, was found at his home.
Brian Sikorski, a guy I grew to love this past season, has been allowed to leave the team as well. Sikorski was easily the Swallows best option in middle/late relief this season. A right-hander with an odd hitch in his pitching motion, he was happy to throw on consecutive nights, and he always seemed to want the ball (no matter how many guys were already on base). The same could not be said for most of the other pitchers on the roster.
It was announced that Sikorski will pitch for the Chiba Lotte Marines under manager Bobby Valentine in 2008. The 33-year-old will make roughly 70 million yen (no word on incentives). He had previously played for Lotte for three seasons (2001-2004). He signed a one-year deal with Chiba.
Sikorski joins left-fielder Alex Ramirez, and pitchers Seth Greisinger and Kazuhisa Ishii in the bewildering parade of talent that has exited Jingu stadium during the off-season this year.
No? Well, it isn't actually a joke. It's just the latest publicized case highlighting the charade that is Japan's health care system. To be fair, one hospital did finally admit her after her heart had already stopped. They revived her but then lost her shortly after.
This episode occurred in Osaka, but it could have been anywhere.
Update [January 4, 2008]:
Here's another one. This guy got in a wreck, and was denied by a bunch of hospitals before succumbing to a loss of blood.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Some of Lindsay's friends were picked up by the media campaigning in Harajuku on Sunday. They were pictured wearing Tatsuya Ichihashi (the only suspect in the case) t-shirts and handing out flyers asking for information about Ichihashi's whereabouts.
The Japan Times ran an article on it today, and the nightly news did a quick recap of what went on. They also displayed some doctored images that showed what Ichihashi might look like in disguise (e.g. with a mustache, wearing sunglasses, long hair, etc.).
Yup, the same place that Ramirez signed.
Yomiuri and Greisinger have signed off on a two-year 500 million yen (unconfirmed) deal.
Great. Now the Yankees of Japan have the top three starters in the Central league. Uehara is slated to move back to the starter's role, and as you'll recall he's no slouch. That means that Yomiuri will have its hands full deciding who it's ace is. Uehara, Takahashi and Greisinger all pitching on consecutive nights for the same team (with Kroon coming in to tidy up any close contests). I'm sure everybody in Yomiuriland is just tickled that there's no salary cap in Japan.
Furthermore, Yomiuri can just let the rest of its bullpen battle it out for those last two rotation slots. There's a lot of talent in there, so the competition should be fierce. Utsumi and Kisanuki have to be the favorites for numbers four and five, but the depth is there to make sure that, even if there are a couple of injuries, Yomiuri will be able to maintain the best rotation in Japan.
Call me crazy, but I've got them pencilled in as Central league champs already.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Tokyo has allowed three of its top players to walk.
Greisinger, the winningest pitcher in the central league this season, was not re-signed.
Ramirez was also released by the Swallows. You will remember that Ramirez easily outclassed the CL MVP (Yomiuri's Ogasawara) this season, and would have easily won that honor had his team not been so utterly crap.
Number two in the rotation, Kazuhisa Ishii, walked on out to Saitama to join the Seibu Lions. He'll serve as a nice one-two punch with Wakui out there. We snagged Seibu's pitching coach, but Mr. Araki is going to have his work cut out for him at Jingu.
I wouldn't mind the personnel losses so much if I knew that the cash saved by not paying those three extra huge contracts would be reinvested in the team (like the farm team, for instance), but the front office is all but guaranteed to pocket it.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Here are a few websites/blogs that I have been paying a lot of attention to recently.
I usually only plug charities that I like, as well as Japan-related sites such as TPR and JEN, but I thought I'd add a bit of variety this time and highlight a couple other sites that don't fall within those genres.
You probably already know that I'm very fond of Korea, and I spend a lot of time
reading through posts over at The Marmot's Hole. The whole spectrum of life in Korea gets covered over there, so it's definitely worth a visit every now and again.
Re-Entry Japan is a new addition to the blogroll and is a site that shines a spotlight on the new practice of treating long-term residents in Japan like criminals (fingerprinting). Wait, please remind me once again why I'm paying taxes?
65-years-old and still storming around Mt. Everest. That's my friend Mr. Ota who lives just down the Seibu line from here. He has posted a treasure-trove of beautiful photos from his travels, and I'm sure that the collection will grow and grow because he has more trips in the works. The site is primarily in Japanese, but it's quite easy to navigate just by clicking. I'm not nearly as rugged as he is, but looking at those photos makes me want to head to Nepal. Tomorrow!
And this site is just plain fun (thanks for the heads up, RFD!).
Nothing I say is ever original, so now you know where I steal stuff from. Enjoy!
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
If you arrived in Japan today, then you were one of the first to get fingerprinted and photographed just before shuffling off to collect your bags. Yes, Japan has gone back in time and brought back the xeonphobia of yore in an unexplained and ill-advised attempt to prevent
terrorism non-Japanese from re-entering the country after being kicked out for overstaying their visas.
Japan Economy News has a good discussion going on this very topic, so if this issue affects you or someone you know, then please head on over and check it out.
Hey, I have an idea. If they're going to treat us like tourists, then maybe we should pay taxes like tourists!
Just a thought.
Monday, November 19, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
I recently did a bit of ballroom dancing in a period drama that is going to air at the end of this year.
I daresay that the tux looks normal, but the 'tache...well...not so much.
I think I kind of look like a younger version of my high school physics teacher.
Or maybe a conductor (of a symphony orchestra--not a train)?
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Monday, November 12, 2007
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Monday, November 05, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
While cruising through Gaijinpot.com this morning, looking for interesting tidbits on nothing in particular, I noticed a job ad for audio transcription. After clicking the link, I found that the company in question, Urban Connections, a "language solutions" firm in Tokyo, was hoping to add more freelancers to its network of audio transcribers.
An audio transcriber, just to be clear, is anyone who puts what is being said on paper. What is being said can involve everything from the minutes of a meeting to an interview to governmental press conferences, and the typing might be done live (on site) or while listening to a recording of the proceedings.
Anyway, Urban Connections is looking for freelance transcribers who would have the option of working at home, and the published wage is 8,000 - 10,000 yen per hour (US$70+/hr) of audio transcription. They ask that applicants have some free transcription software, an internet connection, Skype (which is also free), and a transcriber's foot pedal (which can be purchased for between fifty one hundred dollars).
Wow! That's a lot of cash for typing. So I dug a little deeper.
I googled "Urban Connections, transcription" and was led directly to the company website. Sure enough, they do a lot of conference organization, translation, interpretation, and transcription. And they're looking for interns, by the way.
The first two sites returned in the Google search were part of the company's site. Number three, however, linked to a Metropolis interview with Urban Connections founder Larry Greenberg.
Summary of the interview:
"We rarely outsource transcription work for people to do at home."
"We pay by the hour, which starts at JY2500 for a qualified person."
And what about a highly-skilled transcriber who brings
more value to the job?
"A 70-word-per-minute typist who is very knowledgeable about current
events, for example, could expect JY3000 per hour."
It looks like this is one of those rare cases where both the job ad (ie. false advertising) and the reality (ie. about one third the published wage for experienced transcribers) have been made public at the same time.
Either someone at Urban Connections is trying to bait a bunch of people into applying so that they can search for the proverbial diamond in the rough, or some staffer really goofed on the wage over at Gaijinpot.com when they posted the ad.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Saturday, October 27, 2007
You probably already noticed, but there is a big thermometer planted in the upper-righthand corner of this site. It's a link to the Donors Choose site where people can donate to a wide array of teacher-initiated projects.
The concept is simple and brilliant. Teachers write up proposals for projects that they would like to do in their classrooms and then post them on Donors Choose. Some teachers want to buy projectors to help make their classes more interactive, while other teachers are just looking for better calculators for their math classes. There are also plenty of schools looking for outside funding for their libraries. Then people like you can peruse the proposals and donate specifically to the project(s) that you think deserve support.
It is possible to search for projects that come from schools in very high poverty areas; one could also elect to send their money to hurricane battered school districts. The choice is yours.
I have assembled a short list (also known as a challenge on Donors Choose) of some of the projects that I think are worth supporting, and the list can be accessed by clicking on the thermometer at the top of the page or by clicking here.
Many school districts are woefully underfunded, and this is one way to reach the teachers who are truly trying to do more for their students.
NOVA appears to have gone belly up. The company has filed for government protection under Japan's Corporate Rehabilitation Law.
The official line is that NOVA is in the red to the tune of about 44 billion yen, but Japan Economy News' Ken Worsley estimates that the company's debt is even more astronomical (perhaps as high as 55 billion yen).
This picture was taken at the Takadanobaba branch at about 5 p.m. today. The customers in the picture were somewhat taken aback that the end had finally come. I heard several comments about how many "points" and how much money (thousands of dollars) had been lost.
"So is the money gone?" they asked somewhat rhetorically. At least the questions seemed rhetorical.
I wish that I had had information about a class action lawsuit that was underway to give them.
Is there one?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
The last time I wrote about exercising at Tipness, I concluded the post with a story about a man who was treating the locker room like it was his private bathroom.
Here's another one.
Maybe people are just tired after their workout, and their brains sort of shut off once they reach the locker room. That's where I most often witness extreme cluelessness when I'm at Tipness.
Today was no exception.
Between the lockers and the showers are the sinks. Six of them. Some guys like to plop down on a stool in front of the the mirrors and start their regimen of grooming after getting out of the showers. Q-tips, tissues, hairdryers and soap are provided, so it's not uncommon for four of the sinks to have a half-naked guy perched in front of the them at any one time.
The hairdryers get a pretty good workout themselves. Some guys like to use the hairdryers to dry off more than just their hair. Chest, back, and pits are all fair game. This was happening so often, apparently, that Tipness felt it necessary to post a sign saying that hairdryers are not supposed to be used to dry one's chest, back, or underarms no matter how hairy said body parts might be.
The gentleman at the sink closest to me when I was getting ready to take a shower was technically following the rules. He didn't have much hair up on top, so I was a bit puzzled to see him pick up the hairdryer. But he didn't use it to dry his wet torso. No, he went a bit further south and stuck the dryer directly between his legs.
The sign on the wall doesn't say anything about that body part.
For the first Tipness Oddballs story, click here.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
DeOrio and I just posted another podcast dealing with Japanese baseball over at TPR .
This podcast deals with the Central League (the league that our beloved Tokyo Swallows play in).
I encourage you to read the article and listen to the podcast. The content differs quite a bit between the two...which is probably due to the fact that we were drinking when we recorded it.
Monday, October 22, 2007
I've been talking about food a lot lately, so I might as well stick with the theme.
Tonight we went to a new restaurant in Takadanobaba called "B side". Big Box, the concrete behemoth that stands guard over Takadanobaba train station, received a makeover this summer and reopened on October 19th, 2007. Those of us who had been there will recall that the place was dingy and had very little going for it. I used to use the toilet there on occasion, but that was about it (the toilet paper was clean).
Well now Seibu has smacked fresh wallpaper over all the dinginess, so everything should appear clean for a year or two. The elevator even apologized to us by flashing the message, "Sorry, this elevator is crowded." Too true.
Up to the 9th floor we went to have a look at the new tenants. They now have a couple of izakaya's up there which is an intelligent switch from the large, 70's era conference rooms that probably got very little attention. Takadanobaba is a town chock-full of students, and cheap eats are the way to go. Big Box finally figured that out.
We opted for the non-izakaya place that is up there. As mentioned before, it goes by the name of B side and it occupies the south side of the building, so you can see lots of apartment buildings and the JR line tracks from the seats near the windows.
Other positives? Let's see...they have Gargery Stout on tap! Gargery is a Japanese microbrew (?) that isn't half bad although I prefer their Estella (yes, the glasses are really shaped like that. If you need to take a leak while drinking a Gargery, just put the glass in your shirt's breast pocket).
B side is striving to be one of the pricier options in town. The Gargery was reasonably priced at 700 yen per glass (it's near 1,000 yen at my local watering hole), but nothing else was. There were so many things wrong about the place that I don't know where to start...
This was my dinner, beef stew. It set me back 1,800 yen. Wouldn't mind the price so much if it came with something. It didn't. A la carte doncha know. Had to pay extra for bread. And just to give you an idea of the portion I was afforded, I positioned my bread on the edge of the plate. Yeah, I found the bottom of the bowl pretty quickly...
Wouldn't mind the price so much if it tasted better than instant stew. It didn't.
The presentation was nice, but I was shocked by the flavor. The beef stew at Jonathan's family restaurant chain is twice as good (and half the price).
And Yong-nam's pork was about as good as I usually make it. Which begs the question, "Why should we come to your restaurant if you cook about as well as I do?" (The answer should be obvious to those of you who have sampled my cuisine.)
What gets me is that this restaurant obviously hopes to be a fancy alternative for the business people of the area. They got the jazz music right, and everyone is dressed up really nicely, but they serve soft drinks with straws and the expensive cutlery is teamed with paper napkins (much like at our place). And the cherry-colored wood ceiling near the windows? Nope, it's just wallpaper. I could go on, but I already sound foolish enough...
So all together, we spent more than 6,000 yen on McDonald's-level food and two glasses of beer. I recommend giving them some time to sort things out; maybe they'll figure out how to cook in a year or so.
Even then, I'd highly recommend taking your wallet and your stomach to Shakey's Pizza which is just up the street.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
The same two teams will battle it out in the Japan Series this year.
The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters from the Pacific League will take on the Chunichi Dragons of the Central League later this month.
The Fighters (not the Ham Fighters) won the series last year, and are favored by this observer to repeat in 2007. Fighters manager, Trey Hillman, recently accepted top job with the Kansas City Royals in the MLB, so this will be his last bit of baseball in Japan for a while.
However, Chunichi is a force to be reckoned with. They moved through the CL playoffs without dropping a game. They swept the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants in 3 and 5 game series, respectively.
The Fighters won the stronger Pacific League berth by winning a five-game series versus an impressive Chiba Lotte Marines team that won the title in 2005.
The Pizza Hut guy showed up with this pie earlier this evening.
It's the "Gourmet Pizza" outfitted with a "Cheezy Roll" crust. The doughy rolls around the perimeter of the pizza are filled with, you guessed it, cheese.
It was good. I don't really remember what was on top of the pizza except that there was no seafood. I requested that explicitly.
All I recall from dinner is the fact that every slice was followed by a couple of cheezy rolls.
A bunch of us went to a good bar down between Motomachi-Chuukagai and Ishikawacho stations (not far from Yokohama and right next to Chinatown) last night.
I partook in the devouring of one of those chickens that are roasted in the rotisserie out front. It was good! Several other items on the menu are delicious as well, but I will definitely go back for the chicken.
Guinness on tap and a dartboard in the corner, so I was happy.
If you have a chance to stop by, I highly recommend it!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The playoffs are underway in Japan! This is the first year that both divisions are going with a two-stage tournament to decide who heads to the Japan Series.
First, the third and second place teams in each division play a best-of-three series to decide who will play the regular season champion.
Both leagues have already made it through the first stage of the playoffs.
In the Central League, the Chunichi Dragons swept past third place Hanshin. The big difference between the two teams in that series was pitching. Hanshin has been weak offensively all season, but what they lacked in hitting they usually made up for in solid pitching.
That did not happen in this series.
Chunichi will face regular season champion Yomiuri in a best-of-five series.
In the Pacific League, the Chiba Lotte Marines were pushed to three games by the Softbank Hawks before finally booking their ticket to Hokkaido. Good pitching all around in that series.
The Pacific League Championship Series is already level at one game apiece. Defending Japan Series champions Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters took the first game with a complete game from Yu Darvish. Lotte came roaring back in the second game this afternoon with a ridiculous amount of offense.
Game 3 of the PLCS is slated for 6pm tomorrow night (Monday at Sapporo Dome).
We had already taken a day trip out to Kamakura with our friends, Arata and Junko. This is a picture of the Buddha statue that Kamakura is famous for.
We headed out that way again a couple of weeks ago to commemorate our second anniversary. Yong-nam grew up near the ocean, so she really wanted to go somewhere with water for once (we always head for the hills when we have time to get away).
Enoshima is an island that is basically a tourist trap. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge that carries bike, car, and foot traffic. We didn't really spend any time on the mainland beach because it looked like this:
Unfortunately, this is the first thing we saw when we arrived on Enoshima:
Enoshima is basically a rocky mountain out in the water that is dotted with soba shops, souvenir shops, a big garden (that you have to pay to look at), a few escalators (that you have to pay to ride), and about 9 million cats.
I'm kidding about the cats, but the deal with the escalators is true.
There are a lot of cats though. A lot of cats! Apparently Enoshima has a very progressive immigration policy regarding stray felines. Every time you turn a corner in Enoshima, you are bound to see at least one cat.
Here are a few that we stumbled across:
I don't really remember a whole lot about our short tour around Enoshima, but I'm proud of the fact that the only thing we spent money on was ice cream.
For the record, Kamakura is definitely worth the trip, but I would advise finding a different beach. I don't think it's possible for all of them to be that dirty. I would only recommend going to Enoshima if you've already seen almost everything else in the Kanto region of Japan.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
In a recent press release, US president George Bush urged congress to pass several pending FTA's.
One of the agreements that is still in limbo, of course, is the KORUS FTA (Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement).
Negotiations were fast-tracked the last time around, but now both sides are balking at the thought of making the FTA official. Politicians on the US side seem particularly antsy. There has been a lot of talk about renegotiating.
The press release naturally paints a rosy pitcture when describing the benefits for the American people.
It was pointed out that South Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world, and a report released by Yonhap news agency shows that South Korea is America's 7th biggest trading partner right now.
Friday, October 12, 2007
The season is over and change is the force du jour in Swallows-land.
Here's a quick recap:
Furuta's replacement as manager looks to be Shigeru Takada.
The head pitching coach will be Daisuke Araki (a former Swallows player) who is being brought in from Seibu.
It appears that Alex Ramirez has played his last game in a Swallows uniform. The likely Central League MVP is now a free agent, and the boys at Yakult don't seem to care enough about winning to keep him around.
Dickey Gonzalez (who missed the entire season due to surgery), Adam Riggs, and Adam Guiel are slated to return.
Pitchers Greisinger and Sikorski would be logical hold-overs for the team (they're the only two pitchers on the team who consistently did their job well), but Yakult doesn't like people who demand market-value in contract negotiations. We'll have to wait and see on that one.
Career saves leader, Shingo Takatsu, has been told to find employment elsewhere. Takatsu experienced his worst season ever in Japan, and saw his era balloon to above six.
More to come...
Update 1: [10/13/07, 1:55pm]
Shigeru Takada, the man who has been offered the Tokyo manager's job, said that he cannot make a full commitment to the job until after his current team is done playing. Takada is now the GM of the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. His team, as you know, is prepping to defend its Japan Series title.
Update 2: [10/22/07, 11:39pm]
My prediction that Alex Ramirez would win the CL MVP award was probably not the wisest thing I've typed this month. Ramirez, as I've bragged a million times before, plays for the Tokyo Swallows...the worst team in Japan this year. MVP's in Japan, at least so far, do NOT come from last place teams.
However, I will state once again that he had, without a doubt, the best numbers in the league this season.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Japan is set to level the playing field by requiring that all foreign nationals submit to fingerprinting and photographing at the nation's points of entry. The new system will start on November 20th.
This is a trend that was made all the rage when the United States started it a few years ago, and similar programs are being operated in countries from Europe to South America.
Like other nations, Japan's government sees this as, "a bid to block the entry into Japan of individuals designated as terrorists by the justice minister." Apparently nobody bothered to tell them that all recent terrorist acts committed within the Japanese homeland have been carried out by Japanese nationals.
Another major difference between the United States and Japan is how "free" the person is after clearing immigration at the airport. A visitor to America is, for the most part, allowed to go and do as she pleases (so long as it coincides with the type of visa that the person has in her passport). No special card is issued. Japan, on the other hand, requires that foreign nationals report any change in residence or job to their local ward or city office. They are also issued cards that mark them as non-Japanese and must carry these with them at all times (not doing so is illegal).
Personally, I am not a big fan of all the fingerprinting and photographing, and I would like to see it done away with everywhere. That said, Japan is perfectly justified in embarking upon a little tit-for-tat because Japanese people are forced to deal with this type of humiliation when they enter countries in Europe and the Americas.
At the same time, Japan should do away with the "gaijin cards" (foreign registration ID cards) now that it has an effective way to keep undesireables out of the country. With both systems intact, non-Japanese are essentially "on parole" while living in Japan.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
The men's toilet on the third floor at Nishi-Waseda has been remodeled!
If you've ever tried to use a squat-style toilet, then you probably understand my feeling of euphoria. I have never really enjoyed pooping in a hole whenever I go camping, so I don't see any reason to make it a habit when I'm at work.
Any male teacher at Waseda will be able to tell you that the only western-style toilets at the Nishi-Waseda campus were located on the first and third floors over in building number one. Those two bowls were getting so much attention that they became a little wobbly. Now they have backup.
And for those of you who are so inclined, and are in possession of a small behind, one of the new toilets is equipped with a "washlet".
If so, you had better listen to this. TPR interviewed several people connected to NOVA, and a lot of useful information ended up in the podcast posted over at TPR in the form of a podcast titled Nova Employees: Their Voices, Their Stories.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Some women have been rejected by more than ten hospitals!
Many stillbirths have resulted from the refusals over the past few years.
I am sure that there are instances where a patient can be refused admission to a hospital (infectious diseases), but this is a bit crazy. While it's no secret that the number of "preemies" born in Japan is nothing less than shocking (in other words, obstetricians might be wary of lawsuits resulting from premature births gone awry), one would be excused for thinking that a country facing such a severe demographic crunch would bend over backwards to welcome all potential citizens into the world.
Nagai, a Japanese photo-journalist with extensive experience in war-torn parts of the world, was shot at point-blank range (Times Online) by a Burmese soldier while filming anti-government demonstrations in Myanmar.
The Myanmar government had originally said that Nagai had caught a couple of stray bullets, but recently recovered video evidence shows otherwise.
If you would like to see the video as it was shown on the news in Japan, please click here.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Lindsay's sister, Lisa Hawker, provides a window to how her family is coping with the loss, and how they are haunted by the fact that Ichihashi is still roaming free.
Tokyo just swept the Tigers. I don't know how or why it happened, but it did.
My only regret is that I opted not to go to the stadium today because I thought it was going to rain. Instead I went to Dave's house to watch the game on his 150" screen TV (I swear, that TV is huge!) which, to be fair, was a decent compromise because the beer's a lot cheaper. He whupped my ass in some stupid PS3 baseball game that he apparently plays every day to make up for the fact that I depleted half a fridge drawer full of brew.
Here's a quick rundown of the three games:
Tokyo 8 -- 1 Hanshin
W: Greisinger (16-6, 2.73 era)
L: Andou (2-1, 3.75)
Greisinger did the job again. He scattered eight hits over eight innings, and had some solid run support to help keep things cool. He also helped his own cause with a two-run double in the second inning.
Tokyo 9 -- 6 Hanshin
W: Kawashima (4-1, 3.13)
L: Watanabe (1-1, 2.55)
Game 2 bright spots:
Five starters had multi-hit games, and Yuichi led the pack by going 4 for 5!
The relief pitchers allowed no runs off of only four hits through four innings of work. The highlight was definitely Hanada coming in with two men on and no outs and then proceeding to strike out the next three batters that came to the plate.
Tokyo 3 -- 0 Hanshin
W: Ishii (8 -- 10, 4.28) [complete game shutout!]
L: Uezono (6 -- 5, 2.69)
Game 3 bright spots:
It's all Ishii here. Complete game shutout! He only gave up two hits and beaned only one batter (Akahoshi took one for the team...he'll definitely feel that one in the morning). He struck out nine and didn't walk anybody.
The infield defense was pretty solid (especially Miyamoto and Hatakeyama), and both Yuichi and Aoki had multi-hit games.
We showed the kind of baseball that we should have been playing all year. The surprising thing is that the most solid performance during that three game stretch was from Ishii. An even better surprise has been the display of some of the raw talent that has stayed cooped up on the bench all season. Yuichi has been on fire! The kid raised his batting average back up over .400 by hitting 9 for 14. Hatakeyama is also a solid performer who can handle a couple of different positions, and Kawamoto has all but ended Tokyo's search for a new catcher. Add to those names the more established Iihara and Tanaka, and you've got more than half a starting lineup of guys who are 25 or 26 years old. Throw Miyamoto, Ramirez, Aoki, and Guiel into the mix, and you have a team that, teamed with the right coaching, can make a serious run at the playoffs next year.
Mysteriously, pitching is slowly becoming less of an issue. I don't really know how to explain it. Usually the starters begin to burn out in September (understandable when you consider that they throw between 150 and 300 pitches on "off" days), but guys are starting to find their control down the stretch. I think part of it has to do with the fact that most of our starters have spent a considerable stretch of the season on the sidelines, so they're more rested than they would normally be. We're out of playoff contention at this point, but a final month of play above the .500 mark would definitely be a breath of fresh air.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Garrett DeOrio's detailed introduction to the LDP presidential election, was published over at Pajamas Media (they actually posted it about an hour or two after the election results were announced, but we won't hold that against them).
Lots of interesting tidbits about Japanese politics in that article, so read up!
Friday, September 21, 2007
Women have never been allowed to set foot in the ring, and they weren't even allowed to watch sumo until the 19th century.
Luckily she was stopped before more damage could be done.
TPR is looking to interview people who work for NOVA language schools. It doesn't matter what your position is within the company, please get in touch with them if you're willing to be interviewed for a docomentary that they're doing.
So if you or somebody you know might be interested, click here for more information, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more evidence that the end is near, read this article from the Mainichi.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
A new podcast on Japanese professional baseball (Pacific League) was just released over at Trans-Pacific Radio.
Just like last time, there is a very large difference between the print and audio versions of the publication. There's a big more background and history involved in the podcast itself.
Thanks for listening!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Tokyo player-manager Atsuya Furuta will resign as manager of the Swallows at the end of this season.
The Mainichi reported that the team had hoped to keep him on as manager, but not allow him to continue as a player. I don't know where the Mainichi is getting its info because it has been an open secret during the second half of the season that other people were being considered for the job.
He is reportedly resigning to take responsibility for Tokyo's last place showing this season. I'm pretty sure that he was either asked to resign, or just decided that he wanted to avoid the embarrassment of not being offered another contract at the end of the season.
So I guess he'll become a baseball commentator for a while, and then he'll manage again in about three or four years.
Don't worry, Mr. Furuta, lots of players turn out to be lousy managers their first time around. Mr. Oh is doing much better with Softbank than he ever did with Yomiuri.
Update: The 8-7 loss on Monday means that Tokyo has been mathematically eliminated from a berth in the playoffs (enticingly known as the "Climax Series").
Sunday, September 16, 2007
The fascination with foreign script, especially English, printed on garments has long been strong in countries like Japan.
The actual meaning of the word or phrase used doesn't really factor in whether or not it gets stampted on a t-shirt or the front of a baseball cap. Sometimes random song lyrics, or buzzwords pulled from magazine articles, find their way onto the clothing sold by otherwise respectable retailers.
Additionally, grammar doesn't really matter most of the time, so long as the finished product looks cool.
The photo to the left is from a while ago at Jingu stadium. The grammar is fine, but it definitely qualifies as random.
In case you can't make out what it says, I'll rewrite it here, "If you start throwing hedgehogs under me, I shall throw a couple of porcupines under you."
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Third win in a row. You know what that means, don't you? We will probably drop the next four straight.
Tokyo 9 -- 7 Yokohama
W: Greisinger (15-6, 2.80 era)
L: Yamaguchi (0-3, 5.82 era)
Kawamoto went 4 for 5, while Ramirez and Aoki also had multi-hit games. Guiel hit his 27th home run of the season.
Going back to August 19th, the streakiness has been comical:
Win 3 (most recent streak)
Congrats to Ramirez who drove in his 100th rbi of the season during the game tonite. That's five years in a row with 100-plus rbi's! He's only the 3rd player to ever do that in Japan! Thank you, Rami-chan, for not being as streaky as our pitchers all these years. I hope Tokyo throws the checkbook at you this off-season!
Update 1: [Sunday September 16, 2007, 5:20 pm]
As predicted, we just lost the final two games of the series with Yokohama.
Guiel has hit a home run in each of the last four games. I just wish that he'd start doing it when runners are on base. All four of them were solo shots.
Update 2: [Monday September 17, 2007, 12:04 am]
Another game for the "L" column. Ishii gave up five earned runs in the first frame, and that's all it took.
Tokyo 7 -- 8 Chunichi
W: Yamai (4-3, 3.57 era)
L: Ishii (7-10, 4.54)
Good pitching from Brian Sikorski when he needed to get guys out. Guiel hit his fifth solo home run in as many games. Kawamoto continues to show that he is Tokyo's best option as far as catchers go. Tanaka continues to flirt with the .300 (batting average) psychological barrier.
By my calculations, we should lose the game tomorrow as well. Wednesday will probably be a win.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Tokyo followed for straight losses with a pair of wins over the mighty Yomiuri Giants.
Uehara was lucky to escape Tuesday's rain-delayed game (he was in the middle of getting embarrassed when the rain allowed him some time to regroup and collect his thoughts). He got the save on Tuesday, but his services weren't needed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Tokyo outhit Yomiuri 40-18 in the three game series, and in the last two games Tokyo's pitching never posed a serious problem.
Tokyo 5--6 Yomiuri
W: Kisanuki (12-7, 3.07 era)
L: Ishii (7-9, 4.39)
Tokyo 9--4 Yomiuri
W: Fujii (6-9, 4.70)
L: Utsumi (12-7, 2.76)
Tokyo 5--0 Yomiuri
W: Ishikawa (3-6, 4.58) [complete game]
L: Kubo (3-4, 4.15)
Tokyo now sits 15 games behind third-place Yomiuri (and a spot in the playoffs).
Silver Lining (in reference to the "15 games behind" part--not the "taking two of three from Yomiuri"):
Ishikawa pitched a complete game shutout on only 102 pitches. He was perfect through 4 1/3 innings. It has been a long time since he's won a game, so I'm sure he's just as tickled as everyone else.
Sikorski continues to lower his era (currently 3.27). After a rocky start to the season (he actually came in part-way through the first half of the season), he has proved himself to be a reliable middle reliever. You've gotta like his demeanor when he's out there. He doesn't hide from big hitters, and he doesn't get flustered when somebody gets a hit off him. And his work ethic is perfect for Japan. I've never met the guy, but it's easy to see that he wants to be pitching every night of the week. Furuta has obliged by using him for a couple of innings once or twice a series.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I'm watching it unfold on TV right now.
He's scheduled to make an official resignation speech soon (2pm Tokyo time).
More over at TPR.
Does this mean that Taro Aso (in terms of competence and intelligence, he is Japan's version of Dan Quayle) is the new Prime Minister?
Update: [September 16, 2007, 9:19 pm]
It looks like Fukuda has garnered heaps more support than Mr. Aso, so we can rest easy knowing that Aso will miss another chance at being the prime minister of Japan.
The election for president of the LDP, who is then crowned PM, will take place on Sunday the 23rd of September.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Yoshihiro Terasawa, 38, planned to blow up a train on the Seibu-Shinjuku line prosecutors alleged Monday.
Terasawa denies the allegation, but readily admits to making about 92.5 grams of TATP (triacetone triperoxide) at his home. TATP was the explosive agent used in the bombings in London back in July of 2005.
With a bomb plot and actual explosives in his possession, I was curious to see if the media would call him a terrorist. In other countries, having only one of the two would qualify an individual as a terrorist.
I have found one instance where international terrorism was referred to (in Japanese), but I haven't seen Terasawa called a terrorist yet. I wonder if anyone in the mainstream media dares to get to that point.
Update: [September 12, 2007] Apparently nobody cares about this story. The media has ignored it.
It seems like the guy was arrested in June or July, so why did it take so long for us to hear about it? Is the story true? Was it leaked? If it was leaked, why aren't any of the major news outlets pursuing the case?
I can understand that the authorities wouldn't want to alarm commuters when there's no real threat of danger, but the silence is strange. Call me crazy, but if the suspect in question were non-Japanese, this would be a whole different ballgame.
Maybe I'm just being overly-sensitive because prosecutors allege that he was planning to bomb the train line that I use every day.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Through games played on September 9th, 2007.
Hokkaido (Nippon Ham)--67 wins, 53 losses, 4 ties, 0 games back
Softbank--65 wins, 53 losses, 4 ties, 1 game back
Chiba (Lotte)--62 wins, 52 losses, 7 ties, 2 games back
Seibu--57 wins, 65 losses, 2 ties, 11 games back
Tohoku (Rakuten)--57 wins, 65 losses, 2 ties, 11 games back
Orix--54 wins, 66 losses, 5 ties, 13 games back
Hanshin--67 wins, 52 losses, 4 ties, 0 games back
Chunichi--66 wins, 54 losses, 2 ties, 1.5 games back
Yomiuri--69 wins, 57 losses, 1 tie, 1.5 games back
Yokohama--56 wins, 61 losses, 1 tie, 10 games back
Hiroshima--50 wins, 70 losses, 2 ties, 17.5 games back
Tokyo--48 wins, 70 losses, 0 ties, 18.5 games back
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Unfortunately, Tokyo had another bad series.
We just dropped three straight to Chunichi (in Nagoya).
Tokyo 1 -- 6 Chunichi
W: Asakura (12-6, 2.72 era)
L: Ito (0-1, 12.00 era)
None of our relievers gave up a run.
Tokyo 2 -- 5 Chunichi
W: Okamoto (4-2, 2.68 era)
L: Hanada (2-2, 2 saves, 4.25 era)
Kawashima pitched seven solid innings. His era now stands at 1.69. The long wait for him to get healthy was worth it (except for the fact that we're still crap).
Tokyo 1 -- 4 Chunichi
W: Nakata (12-7, 3.86 era)
L: Greisinger (14-6, 2.64)
Our three relievers only gave up two hits.
Tokyo 4 -- 15 Chunichi
Ever sleep late after switching your alarm off while half asleep? Yup, me too.
Gauri Nanda (27) has invented an alarm clock that might just cut down on the number of times we are late for work or school. The alarm sounds, and then the clock runs away!
That's right, it's on wheels, so it takes off across the room, and you have to employ several sleepy senses, as well as catlike reflexes, to find the damned thing and turn it off.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Tokyo and Hiroshima were given the night off due to the fact that it was raining sideways.
Dome games survived.
Softbank 8 -- 6 Rakuten
W: Yanase (3-1, 3.23 era)
L: Arime (1-8, 4.05 era)
Yomiuri 3 -- 1 Chunichi [12 innings]
W: Uehara (4-1, 27 saves, 1.45 era)
L: Hisamoto (1-1, 4.05 era)
Hanshin 1 -- 0 Yokohama
W: Fujikawa (5-2, 37 saves, 0.78 era)
L: White (0-3, 6.00 era)
Thursday, September 06, 2007
Bigger waves, incidentally, will lead to an influx of surfers and tourism revenue. The hope is to build a surf destination that can rival Shonan beach.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Greisinger (14-5) pitched a gem last night! He faced only 30 batters in a complete-game-shutout that included 10 strikeouts, no walks, and only three base hits.
Tokyo 1 -- 0 Hiroshima
W: Greisinger (14-5, 2.50 era)
L: Hasegawa (1-4, 3.35 era)
This evening, Ishii (7-8) picked up his first win since July 8th by giving up only four hits and two runs. He walked one, beaned another, and struck out eight in 7 1/3 innings of work.
Miyade hit his second home run in as many nights, and catcher Kawamoto went three for four (including his fourth home run of the season). Tanaka also went three for four and raised his average to .297 which is absolutely shocking when you compare it with how he was hitting at the beginning of this season (which was probably about the same as my ability level).
Tokyo 5 -- 3 Hiroshima
W: Ishii (7-8, 4.16 era)
L: Aoki (3-10, 5.30 era)
This article in the Guardian talks about how school children in Taiji, Japan are being fed dolphin meat that has alarmingly high levels of Mercury.
I have complained about the practice of hunting dolphins before, and it was also discussed at length in the comments section of this post over at TPR, and now finally some people close to the hunt are breaking rank and sounding the alarm.
Not that anyone in the Japanese media is paying attention.
Monday, September 03, 2007
Wow, that was quick!
Only one week after being appointed to the post of Agriculture Minister, Takehiko Endo submitted his resignation today to take responsibility for financial improprieties.
This is another big embarrassment for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government. He just reshuffled his cabinet last week in response to his party's resounding defeat in the July House of Councillors election. Endo was one of his new appointees.
Endo is the third Farm Minister to bow out in shame since Abe became Prime Minister last September. Toshikatsu Matsuoka ended up committing suicide in response to a political funds scandal, and his successor, Farm Minister Norihiko Akagi, was forced to resign over a separate scandal. Endo is the third Farm Minister to resign from the post in the last year.
Wait a minute, I thought that corruption was only a problem in developing countries!?!
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Iihara had another error tonight. He let the winning run reach base in the bottom of the 9th. A single by Sheets and an intentional walk for Kanemoto meant that it was Sakurai's turn to be the hero. A base hit to center field was all it took. Game over.
Tokyo 2--3 Hanshin
W: Fujikawa (4-2, 36 saves)
L: Tateyama (3-11, 1 save)
Dark Cloud: You guessed it...relief pitching.
Kawashima gave up only one run in six innings of work. He scattered five hits and had seven strikeouts against two walks.
Ramirez went four for four and accounted for both of Tokyo's runs (thanks to his 22nd homer of the season). His league-leading batting average now sits at .353.
Well, it was mercifully short.
By my watch the film was over in about 85 minutes, give or take (not including the credits or the 15 minutes of ads that preceded it). An hour and 25 minutes is just enough time, apparently, to recycle all of the material from the first two Rush Hour installments.
Parts are entertaining, but Rush Hour 3 is basically the same fight involving the same people in a new setting (Paris). The once comical chemistry between Chan and Tucker has passed its sell-by date (think Danny Glover and Mel Gibson in the final Lethal Weapon), and we should all hope that the owners of the Rush Hour franchise quit while they're ahead (ahead?).
A grown up version of Soo Yung and her father, Ambassador Han, return to the fold, and Max Von Sydow (playing Reynard) takes a turn as the fatherly aristocrat. Hiroyuki Sanada (as Kenji) and Yuki Kudoh (as Jasmine) give Japan a substantial presence in Rush Hour 3. By the way, good work on the Japanese, Jackie! You sounded great!
The show is stolen by French taxi driver, George (played by Yvan Attal), who deftly transforms from anti-American pacifist to blood-thirsty, Starbucks-swilling, "super-spy" chauffeur. The chase scenes involving George's taxi and the never-far-behind-Parisian-Triads are good fun.
Other than that, director Roman Polanski makes an appearance as a body-cavity-searching French detective.
I'm going to have to agree with everyone else when they say, "meh", on this one. While I enjoyed the experience as a whole (partly due to the fact that draft beer is on sale at the snack counter at Toho Cinemas in Roppongi), I recommend holding off until the DVD release. And then you should wait until somebody else buys it and borrow it from them.
One of the trailers.
Saturday, September 01, 2007
I learned a lot about beer from that man. He wrote a lot of good stuff, much of which could be classified as travel writing, that revolved around finding the world's best brews and whiskeys.
In his honor, I will read everything that he's published about whiskey as well. That was another one of his areas of expertise.
He died at home at the age of 65. He had suffered from Parkinson's for at least the last ten years of his life.