Monday, April 30, 2007

Trans-Pacific Radio

Intriguing interview by Fareed Zakaria (donning kid gloves) on the topic of "comfort women" during the second world war.

Another good post by frequent contributor Masaki Hisane regarding the revision of Japan's pacifist constitution.


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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Big Rabbits

North Korea is apparently interested in breeding these big guys as a source of food.


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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Strange Week for Tokyo Swallows

Yokohama Baystars Series

The first two games of the week (both versus the Yokohama Baystars) were rained out. It wasn't until Thursday that a pitch finally got thrown at Jingu stadium.

Ishii, Tokyo's veteran starter, only plunked one guy that evening, but that plunking was representative of his control during the less than four outs that he was allowed to stay in the game (he gave up eight earned runs and three walks during that time).

The game was virtually over by that point, but the fun didn't start until the top of the 7th inning (pitching his 14th season for Tokyo is Masataka Endou).

The clip below does a good job of showing what transpired with the score 10 - 0 in Yokohama's favor...

I don't know whether or not the two beanings were intentional. I will say that the second one probably was not intentional because Murata ducked into it. He's lucky it didn't hit him in the neck.

One at least slightly credible argument that the plunkings were on purpose is the fact that three Tokyo Swallows players (all of them foreign) were clocked prior to the fracas recorded above. Ramirez was drilled in the first inning, Guiel got plugged in the third, and Riggs took one for the team in the fourth. I'm not saying that Endou's back-to-back "dead-balls" were retaliatory in nature, but Furuta did seem kind of miffed that Yokohama's shortstop, Ishii, stole second base on the pitch immediately before the one that Uchikawa took square in the back.

It's also possible that player-manager Furuta (Tokyo's catcher), whose potty-mouth allegedly got him tossed, took a page out of Hiroshima manager Marty Brown's book by getting himself sent off ("inspire the troops" line of thinking). Play did improve during the just-concluded series against the Chunichi Dragons. However, Furuta has a long way to go before he is considered to be in the same company as Brown. Marty sure knows how to start some drama!

Chunichi Dragons Series

The Dragons are arguably the best team in the Central league this year, and even with ace Kawakami on the injured reserve list, they still have a bullpen full of reliable starters and closers.

The first game of the series on Friday night turned out to be a pitcher's duel between Tokyo's Seth Greisinger and Chunichi's Kenta Asakura (1-2). Greisinger (3-1), in his fourth start of the season, pitched a complete game shutout (9 strikeouts, no walks) while giving up only four hits.

During the second game on Saturday, well... let's just say that Fujii (2-2; 5.66 era) and Takai (0-1; 11.57 era) better get their acts together or they're going to be on the farm team again soon. Final score: Chunichi 16 - Tokyo 7.

Tonight's game looked a little bit better for the home team, although the start was a bit rocky. Rookie fireballer Tatsuyoshi Masubuchi got rocked early on, but settled down a bit after that in being gifted with the "no-decision". Endou (the same pitcher featured in the above clip) earned the win with only 16 pitches (he worked the sixth inning).

Guiel finally homered, and the lineup featured a couple of wise moves on Furuta's part. With Aoki's slugging percentage and batting average (not to mention his OBP) being what they are (stratospheric), it was kind of ridiculous to keep him in the leadoff slot. Riggs took the day off, and Aoki took the vacant number three position in the batting order.

Iihara filled in at leadoff, and Miyamoto, who is hitting .316 right now, got bumped up to the number two slot. The result was a two-out rally, seven hit, six run sixth inning that put the game out of reach.

Final score: Chunichi 6 - Tokyo 10.

Series: Chunichi 1 - Tokyo 2.

Strange, strange week.


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Saturday, April 21, 2007

I Blog Like a Boy

This "Gender Genie" over at bookblog analyzes text and decides whether the writer is male or female.


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NEC Soccer Team

Here's another acting job (click the "play" button on the left) that I did recently. I show up, very briefly, in the middle of this web advertisement. Not all that exciting, but it's actually an OK-sized job due to the print ad campaign that is supporting it.


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Friday, April 20, 2007

The Landlord

Nastiest landlord ever!


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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Train Station Gadgets

While walking through Shinjuku station (subnade underground walkway) we stumbled across a DVD Rental vending machine.


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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No More Visa Waiver Status for South Koreans


Police around the country need to be prepared to come to the assistance of Koreans (and other Asians as well) as the hate crimes start up following Seung-hui Cho's rampage at Virginia Tech University yesterday.

Many people are too stupid to differentiate between the actions of one and the people of an entire nation, culture, religion, or group, so there will likely be some retaliatory crimes unfolding in the coming days and weeks. It goes without saying that such crimes should be dealt with fiercely by police.

It is my sincerest hope that what I have just written turns out to be completely wrong, and that people instead focus their energy on amending America's "gun culture".


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Monday, April 16, 2007

Ticket to Ride

A salaryman standing near us on the train this evening was reading one of those comic books with lots of sex scenes in it.

And people wonder why there's a groping problem here...


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Friday, April 06, 2007

Tokyo Wins Second Straight

Tokyo's Greisinger pitched seven excellent innings to earn the win for the home side. He gave up only three hits, the last of which was a single to Hiroshima's pitcher, Aoki (of no relation to Tokyo's Aoki), to lead off the third inning. After that he retired 15 straight batters and earned himself several high fives and a warm seat on the bench as Kida and Takatsu, to Tokyo bullpen veterans, were called in to close the evening out. Greisinger struck out four and didn't give up a walk the entire night.

The final score was 2-0 in favor of Tokyo, and center fielder Norichika Aoki (guaranteed to show up in the states within the next couple of years) went 3 for 4 with a home run and a batting average that moved up to .556 through the first 6 games of the 2007 season. Many are saying that he may be the guy that flirts with the .400 mark the entire season. I don't see it staying that high (although his newfound willingness to be patient and get walked is very encouraging), but over .350 is definitely in the cards. At the very least, I think we can expect 215+ hits from the guy this season.


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Mushrooms Walking Down the Street


A quiz for those of you who don't live in Japan: what are these walking mushrooms the official mascots for (i.e. what product)?


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Lindsay Ann Hawker's Death: Police Mistakes and Suspect Escapes


Update 11: [Friday April 6th] Not much in the print news yesterday (Thursday April 5th), but there were a couple of articles this morning. Police are now saying that prime murder suspect, Tatsuya Ichihashi, may have fled from the area near Gyotoku station by bicycle [Mainichi]. It was earlier thought that he had taken off in a taxi.

The face masks that are routinely donned during hay fever season, and the umbrellas on rainy days, are probably making it possible for Ichihashi to move around quite easily right now. It is not suspected that he is still in the area near the apartment. Most educated guesses put him in Tokyo. In other words, he will not be found unless he makes a very big mistake (i.e. needle in a haystack).

The Japan Times ran an interesting article this morning in which they interviewed the head of the Gyotoku police station (which has jurisdiction in this case), and a couple of retired detectives. Echoing the criticisms logged on this site in Update: 9, they agreed that the police regarded Tatsuya Ichihashi as a major person of interest when they went to his apartment building. Therefore, police statements that they had no idea they would find a dead body in the apartment, or that this wasn't anything more than a routine missing persons case, don't really sound convincing.

Akio Kuroki, a retired Tokyo police detective, said, "There is absolutely no way that nine well-placed (officers) would fail to catch one guy. There are huge contradictions in the police explanation."

Police continue to be protective of the minute details of the case. Exactly what transpired between police and Tatsuya Ichihashi after he answered the door, exactly how Lindsay Ann Hawker was murdered, and whether or not she was sexually assaulted are conspicuous omissions from the information that police are releasing to the public. A London website (thisislondon.co.uk) reported two days ago that Hawker's neck was broken. This had not previously been mentioned in the Japanese press.

It is unclear whether this protection of information is in line with investigative protocol, or if it is intended to hide other obvious police blunders that may have occured.

It could also be argued that police are carefully trying to avoid painting the image of a serial killer. There are several factors in this case that might lead one to believe that this was a well-planned murder, and that the suspect is likely to kill again in the future.

Given the suspect's history of stalking, it is hoped that the Gyotoku police department is reopening other missing-person cases in their area that had been previously abandoned.
Update 12: [Sunday April 15th] Nothing new has come to light in the past week. The dailies have not found any reason to keep printing photos of the prime suspect, Tatsuya Ichihashi. Ichihashi has apparently disappeared without a trace.
Ichihashi's bike was located near the station where he lives, so the theory that he fled by bicycle has obviously been discounted.


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Tokyo Finally Wins!!


Ishii threw one-run ball through seven innings on five hits and three walks. The good defense provided by Iihara, Miyamoto, Tanaka, and Riggs, teamed with a couple of well-timed stikeouts, definitely helped ensure that his era would dip back down under 2.00 (currently 1.929).
Ramirez and Iihara chipped in with solo home runs, and Tokyo roughed up Hanshin middle-reliever Hashimoto for three runs in the bottom of the seventh to put the game out of reach. Takastsu provided adequate cover for his first save of the season.

It was a slow game from the start, and it was definitely a relief to get the first win of the season. We should have gotten the win on Tuesday, but a bit of rusty pitching combined with Kanemoto at the plate did away with that dream. Once again tonight, Tokyo outhit their opponents.

As I have said many times before, top three is not a big stretch for us (no matter what all of the baseball talking heads say) so long as we stay healthy. Yes, losing Iwamura was a big deal, but our young guys are a year better, so we should start to see some good things from them. We just beat the team who is hands down the number two team in the Central league (even I admit that), and they don't look nearly as sharp as they did last year (yes, I know it's only April). I'd say that we still have a shot at the playoffs.

And if old stand-by's like Shiroishi, Suzuki (Ken), and the like are kept out of the lineup for the bulk of the season, then Tokyo should be OK.

Congrats are in order for Ishii (Kazuhisa), who, as always, looked like crap from the stands, but managed to pitch a rather solid seven innings. Also, Iihara deserves at least two beers for the kick in the ass he gave to Miyade (who took the day off).


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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Yikes!

From the LA Times:

Benjamin Houghton had fewer reasons than most to fear the surgery he'd
scheduled at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center to remove his
potentially cancerous left testicle.

For one thing, the 47-year-old Air Force veteran and father of four already knew that he could function normally with a single, healthy testicle.

For another, he was getting his surgery in a system that has prided itself
on its pioneering efforts to prevent medical errors. One top VA official said
the VA's approach to safety is considered "a benchmark by healthcare organizations throughout the world."

But in Houghton's case, the hospital missed the mark. Last June 14, doctors
mistakenly removed the right testicle instead of the left, according to medical
records and a claim filed by Houghton and his wife Monica, 39.


Click here for the entire story [LA Times].


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PC vs MAC




I'm not picking sides; I just thought this was funny.
Caution: adult language.


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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Domestic Reporting on the Lindsay Ann Hawker Murder Case

Update 10: [Wednesday April 4th] No new information was divulged by the news or in the daily newspapers, but an article in the Asahi shows that the Lindsay Ann Hawker murder case was the number three story in terms of on-air time in Tokyo from March 26th to March 30th. The total time logged on four channels during the five day period was 3 hours, 33 minutes, and 32 seconds.

While this blog reported that the mass media was initially slow to report details of the case (lagging far behind reporting in England--were they waiting for some kind of press club release?), it is clear that authorities have been keen to keep suspected murderer Tatsuya Ichihashi's face at the front of the collective consciousness. Ichihashi's whereabouts are still unknown.


Update 11
Update 9
Updates 7 and 8
Original story (plus updates 1 - 6)


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George!

Hey! I've been looking all over for you, young man! Just what do you think you're doing in Inageya?


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AP Poaches Another One of my Stories

Yes, the Krispy Kreme Doughnuts phenomenon has been an ongoing sensation (click here and/or here) on this silly little blog for quite some time. But the Associated Press is a little slow in stealing my thunder [Newsvine].


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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tokyo Drops 4th Game

Tokyo lost its fourth in a row to mark its worst start in more than two decades.

Kanemoto's grand slam off of Ishikawa in the top of the 5th inning was enough for Hanshin to come through with the win.

As was often the case last year, the Swallows outhit their opponents but gave up more runs in the end. The two errors coughed up by the home side didn't do any good either.

The most surprising performance came from Tokyo's Tanaka who had a couple of nice plays at second base and went 3 for 5 at the plate. Guiel, for his part, managed to draw three walks.


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Lindsay Ann Hawker Update


Update 9: [Tuesday April 3rd] The news last night showed security camera footage of Hawker and Ichihashi (pictured left) in a coffee shop the morning that she disappeared. It is suspected that she went to his apartment by taxi shortly thereafter. Note: this photo is from about three years ago--a more recent one might be helpful.

She was apparently scheduled to teach her first lesson at NOVA at 10:50am that morning, so there is some speculation going on as to why she would hop in a taxi to travel the three minutes to his apartment only half an hour before work.

The police still have not commented on whether or not Hawker was sexually assaulted by the suspect. There also seems to be sustained effort by police to cover their own backs because the suspect slipped out from under their noses. This morning's edition of the Japan Times provides some new information about how he was able to get away:



Police found Hawker's body the following day buried in a sand-filled bathtub on
the balcony of the Ichikawa condominium. Ichihashi escaped during a subsequent
chase, losing his shoes in the process. Officers were questioning his neighbors
when he bolted.

Why were officers questioning neighbors before they were finished questioning the suspect? The actual number of officers on the scene is difficult to pin down (the number is routinely reported as several, with most reports saying between five and nine officers were sent), but it is obvious that Ichihashi was a major suspect. Japanese police are generally allowed by the courts to do whatever they want in an investigation, so it is mind-boggling to hear that they tried to gather incriminating evidence through Ichihashi's neighbors rather than set about searching his house immediately. By stating that they were busy questioning other people when he ran away, they have simply dug a bigger hole for themselves.

At the very least they should have apprehended him on the spot as a 'person of interest'. Officers in Japan are granted phenomenal amounts of leeway when it comes to detaining and/or questioning suspects.

This case seems to be another example of a botched investigation on the part of police. If the suspect is not caught soon, then we should start to hear some serious howling about how things were not done correctly from the beginning (the initial news conference last week was actually delayed because Mr. Hawker spent more time than expected asking the police questions. At the time, he said he was satisfied with the investigation. However, this observer suspects that he was just being polite).


Update 11


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Monday, April 02, 2007

Hanami Season, 2007

Cherry blossoms as seen last Friday afternoon.


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Tokyo Gets Whupped

Tokyo had their helmets handed to them over the weekend. In a three game series versus defending central league champion Chunichi Dragons, the Swallows never really posed much of a threat after the first game. Tokyo has now started the season 0-3 and sit at the bottom of the central league. It's the first time this has happened since I moved to Japan in 2002.

After being swept down in Nagoya, Tokyo begins its first home series of the season against last year's number two team, the Hanshin Tigers.

As usual, relief pitching is a problem for Tokyo. Several guys are injured or ailing, so we're going to see a variety of people on the mound over the next couple of weeks. Look for names like Tateyama, Sato, Hanada, Takai, Takatsu, and Kida (as well as a number of second year guys) to appear on the scoreboard. Whatever combination of pitchers comes on in relief, you can expect at least three runs to be sacrificed. This will continue to take place until player-manager Atsuya Furuta figures out who is going to stay, and who heads to Ikebukuro to play on the farm team.

In other news, shame on Tokyo's front office for not allowing Furuta to go after Nakamura. The guy obviously has a lot to prove this season, and now Chunichi have him at third base for next to no money. Barring injury, Nakamura will probably have a 100-plus RBI season again this year.


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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts (Tokyo)

The waiting time (in hours) at the shop not far from the south entrance of Shinjuku station.


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The Lotteria...Koala (I think)

Keeping watch at the Lotteria in Tanashi station (Seibu-shinjuku line).


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