Friday, September 28, 2007

Japan: "We want more babies, but we'd like someone else to deliver them."

We've been treated to scads of revelations of pregnant women being turned away by hospitals (in Japan) recently.

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.


Japanese Photo-Journalist Killed in Myanmar

Kenji Nagai was murdered.

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

Prospective NOVA Employees

You should definitely click on this or this before buying your ticket to come and work in Japan.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Interview with Lindsay Hawker's Sister, Lisa

The facts remain the same. I don't know how many times I've posted about this, but the police still have no idea where Tatsuya Ichihashi is.

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.

Click here for other posts related to this topic.
Update: [September 27, 2007]
Julia and Bill Hawker, Lindsay Hawker's parents, are now in Japan to mark the six-month-anniversary of Lindsay's death.
They have expressed frustration that the police aren't keeping them thoroughly updated on their search for the only suspect in the case, Tatsuya Ichihashi.


What the Hell's Going On?

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:

Game 1:
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.

Game 2:
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.

Game 3:
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

TPR's DeOrio Strikes Again

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

Woman Sets Foot on Raised Sumo Ring!!

A female spectator broke a centuries-old tradition by setting foot on the raised sumo fighting ring that is considered to be "sacred".

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.


Calling All NOVA Folks!!

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:

For more evidence that the end is near, read this article from the Mainichi.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Family at the Game

Tokyo versus Hanshin at Jingu stadium. Photo courtesy of Dave Watkins (September, 2005).


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

New NPB Podcast

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

Furuta to Retire Completely

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

Garment-style English

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:
Lose 3
Win 4
Lose 5
Win 2
Lose 4
Win 3 (most recent streak)
Lose ?

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.

Silver Lining:
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)

Silver Lining:
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 Swallows

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.

Tuesday's Game:
Tokyo 5--6 Yomiuri
W: Kisanuki (12-7, 3.07 era)
L: Ishii (7-9, 4.39)

Wednesday's Game:
Tokyo 9--4 Yomiuri
W: Fujii (6-9, 4.70)
L: Utsumi (12-7, 2.76)

Thursday's Game:
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

Sayonara, Shinzo Abe!

DeOrio (of TPR fame) wrote a good piece for Pajamas Media about the resignation of Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.


Breaking News: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Resigns

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

Bomb Plot; Seibu-Shinjuku Line

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

NPB League Standings

Through games played on September 9th, 2007.

Pacific League

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

Central League

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

Another Sweep

Unfortunately, Tokyo had another bad series.

We just dropped three straight to Chunichi (in Nagoya).

Game 1:
Tokyo 1 -- 6 Chunichi
W: Asakura (12-6, 2.72 era)
L: Ito (0-1, 12.00 era)

Silver Lining:
None of our relievers gave up a run.

Game 2:
Tokyo 2 -- 5 Chunichi
W: Okamoto (4-2, 2.68 era)
L: Hanada (2-2, 2 saves, 4.25 era)

Silver Lining:
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).

Game 3:
Tokyo 1 -- 4 Chunichi
W: Nakata (12-7, 3.86 era)
L: Greisinger (14-6, 2.64)

Silver Lining:
Our three relievers only gave up two hits.

Aggregate Score:
Tokyo 4 -- 15 Chunichi

Go Tokyo!


I Need One of Those!

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 Game Called Due to Typhoon

Tokyo and Hiroshima were given the night off due to the fact that it was raining sideways.

Dome games survived.

Pacific League

Softbank 8 -- 6 Rakuten
W: Yanase (3-1, 3.23 era)
L: Arime (1-8, 4.05 era)

Central League

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

Typhoon Number Nine

Update 1:
The typhoon blew through early this morning and is headed for northern Japan at a snail's pace (it's moving slower than most people ride their bicycles).
In the Kanto region (Tokyo plus a small ring of prefectures), 1 person died and at least 34 people were injured due to the heavy rain, flooding, landslides, and wind.


Grab Your Board, We're Going to Wakayama!

Wakayama prefecture plans to construct a reef off its coast in order to produce bigger waves.

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.


No More Coca-Cola

South Korea has made a very smart investment in its' children's long-term health by deciding to severely restrict the sale of junk food in schools.

I wonder what would have to happen in America for the government to impose a similar ban on schools. This would mostly be related to vending machines on school premises, but there are also school districts that have/had fast food (like Taco Bell) in them.

Apparently, legislation (in the United States) was penned that would allow the government to author nutritional guidelines for what food and drink could be should at a public educational facility, but that attempt was defeated by the Senate Agriculture Committee back in 2003 or 2004. I'm not sure whether anything else of significance has happened since then to get that initiative, or a similar one, back on track.

Congrats to South Korea for getting it right!


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Greisinger and Ishii

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)


It Happened Again

Mr. Idubor has been locked up. This case sounds very similar to what happened to my friend, Josh, a couple of years ago.


I told you eating dolphin was a bad idea!

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

Farm Minister Takehiko Endo Resigns

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!?!


Facial Hair

Now those are some sideburns!
(on a late night train headed west from Takadanobaba station on the Seibu-Shinjuku line)


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tokyo Drops its 5th in a Row

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.

Silver Lining:
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.


Rush Hour 3

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

Michael Jackson (3.27.42 -- 8.30.07), R.I.P.

Michael Jackson died a couple of days ago. No, the other Michael Jackson. The one that I actually would have enjoyed having a drink with--the "beer hunter" Michael Jackson.

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.


Milford Gordon

Sachi and Adam's pet bunny, Milford.

In this photo he's just doing his thing, I guess.

We looked after him for about a week while his parents were on holiday.