Monday, December 31, 2007

Final Sunset of 2007

December 31, 2007 (behind Mt. Fuji). Happy New Year's!!


Resumé Padding

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

Christmas 2007

The next morning in Nasu. A cup of coffee before hitting the onsen (natural hot spring bath).


Christmas 2007

On vacation in Nasu (Tochigi prefecture). The Harvest Club hotel there is brand new and gorgeous. We've now been to four different HC hotels, and it's probably a tie right now between the Nasu hotel and their Kyu-Karuizawa hotel for top of the charts.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ramirez Signs Big Deal with Yomiuri

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.


Terasawa Bombing Decision Expected January 28, 2008

The would-be bomber of the Seibu-Shinjuku line that has largely escaped media scrutiny is awaiting the result of his court case.

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.


Sikorski Flies the Coop

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.


Oh Doctor, Where Art Thou?

Did you hear the one about the 89-year-old woman who was rejected by 30 hospitals and then died inside the ambulance that was ferrying her?

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

Bad PR for Softbank

Adam's phone.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lindsay Ann Hawker Update

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.).


Guess Which Team Greisinger Signed With?

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 Yogurt Bird Update

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

Poop Boot

Stepped in dookie while out trekking around in Kanagawa, so this boot wasn't allowed in the car on the way back to Tokyo.