Monday, March 31, 2008

Bon Juk (본죽) Rice Porridge Restaurant

Another trend in South Korea, this one of a culinary nature, is the recent proliferation of "juk" restaurants. Juk is rice porridge and is considered to be very healthy.

Since the last time we were in Busan, a company called "Bon Juk" has set up camp at a large number of locations around the city.

When we visited a Bon Juk shop across the street from the DMV in Busan, we had a seafood juk and a beef juk. The picture here is of the seafood juk.

While not flashy, it was quite good (and very filling!).

I wonder if there are any juk shops in Shin-Okubo yet. If not, I imagine that this would go over quite well in Japan. I'd be willing to bet that one pops up somewhere in that part of Shinjuku ward before too long.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trip to Busan (South Korea)

Just got back from a week in Busan, South Korea to spend time with family and friends.

It was great to see everyone and catch up--we hadn't made the trip since 2006.

As always, Korea changed a lot since the last time we were there. There are gadgets everywhere now; money, signatures and other personal information are often transmitted wirelessly in places as diverse as convenience stores and the DMV.

Other innovations/trends abounded as well, and one of them was the newest (?) type of vending machine that has popped up everywhere--a book vendor.

The one in this photo was at the DMV, but the most common place to find them is in train stations. Books (paperback) usually sell for 2,000 won each which is pretty cheap. 2,000 won is roughly the equivalent of 200 yen or two US dollars.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

T-up Mascot

This bird is stationed out in front of some big new mall not far from Okurayama train station in Kanagawa prefecture.


Hawker Family Visits Tokyo

Lindsay Ann Hawker, who was murdered a year ago by a suspect who still remains at large, has a family that refuses to rest until the murderer is found.

Lindsay's family helped the Chiba Prefectural Police pass out flyers with Tatsuya Ichihashi's photo printed on them while asking passers-by for help and information that might lead to his arrest.

Lindsay Hawker's parents, William and Julia, and sisters, Louise and Lisa, return to the UK today.


Bank of Japan Still Without a Governor

Ken Worsley executes a fine dissection of a Yomiuri newspaper article on the BOJ woes over at Japan Economy News. Definitely worth a read.

Why was that article allowed to be translated into English in the first place?


Sunday, March 16, 2008

White Day: Blue Man Group in Tokyo

We've managed to get in a lot of theater so far this year!

Glengarry Glen Ross, Cirque du Soleil, and now Blue Man Group.

On the occasion of White Day 2008, I managed to snag four tickets to the evening Blue Man Group performance at Invoice Theater in Roppongi (click here and here for ticket info).

As expected, it was an excellent performance! I saw them once back in the 90's in America, and I think that the Tokyo show includes a bit more variety and audience participation. It was also in a much bigger theater, and the three blue men made it a point to wander all over the place during the show.

I would highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for some good entertainment in Tokyo! If at all possible, get a poncho seat!

Word of advice: they sell draft beer in the lobby, but they don't let you take it in during the show. Food either. I recommend buying some cans beforehand, stuffing them in your pockets and smuggling them into the theater.

Don't drink too much though. There's no intermission, and having to take a monster leak will only distract you from the stuff happening on stage (yes, I'm speaking from experience). The show is a little over an hour and a half long.

After the show we went to a nice place called Bar del Sole (click here for Japanese) which is right up the road from Invoice Theater. It's a nice Italian bar with a decent selection of food and drink (and gelato!).


Friday, March 14, 2008

Police Issue Poster of Disguised Hawker Murder Suspect

The Chiba Prefectural Police have come up with some hypothetical images of what Tatsuya Ichihashi might look like if he were to venture out in public in disguise.

This still taken from a news program last night shows what Ichihashi might look like if he were to grow his hair long and dress like a woman, and the picture on the right is just the murder suspect with dyed hair and glasses.

Perhaps they should have included one of him in a surgical mask. Half of Tokyo is walking around with them on these days due to the kickoff of hay fever season, so he would have no problem blending in.

It was reported by Kyodo (click here) that the Chiba police force have printed 4,000 posters and at least 30,000 fliers featuring the disguised Tatsuya Ichihashi to be distributed around Japan.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hospital Rejections of Emergency Patients Endemic

Update 1 [March12, 2008]: The Japan Times spent a little extra time crunching the survey numbers it seems. Apparently there were more than 24,000 instances where a patient seeking emergency medical care was denied admission by at least three hospitals. Of this number, a little more than 14,000 were classified as "seriously ill". 8,618 cases involved individuals aged 14 or younger, and 1,084 involved pregnant women.

Original Post:
I commented on this last year (click here), but now there's more information coming out about the practice of hospitals rejecting patients in Japan.

A recent survey revealed that more than 14,000 patients requiring emergency medical attention in 2007 were rejected by at least three hospitals, and a little over 1,000 were denied by at least 10.

I actually saw a late-night news program/documentary about this same topic on TV last week. They interviewed some health professionals who mentioned that they had been coached on the best ways to reject patients. They showed several clips of ambulance dispatchers calling hospital after hospital and the voice on the other line giving one excuse or another for why they couldn't accept the patient.

Several times it sounded like the person on the other end of the line just couldn't be bothered to deal with any extra excitement at that hour of the night. To be fair, however, I saw footage of an ER on the news this evening, and they were clearly understaffed. Obviously, some of the rejections are warranted.

In the article, it was reported that one woman was rejected by 49 hospitals before finally being admitted (her fate was not noted). The survey did not keep track of how many people died as a result of the hospital rejections, but such cases have been publicized recently.

In December, an 89-year-old woman died after an ambulance crew spent two hours trying 30 hospitals before finding one that would accept her for treatment.

The news program that I saw on TV mentioned that while being an ER doctor in the United States is a position that commands a decent amount of respect and pay, the same can not be said for the situation in Japan. Naturally, not that many med students plan to become ER doctors.

I would love to see comparable numbers for hospital rejections (patients being denied admission), specifically with regard to patients requiring emergency treatment, in the United States. I'm sure that it happens--I just want to know how often. And how often is insurance a factor in whether or not a patient is admitted to a hospital?

Anyone have any info on this?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Baseball (NPB) News at TPR

I posted again over at Trans-Pacific Radio on the upcoming baseball season.

This time the article is about player moves during the off-season. There were several sales and trades, and a bunch of good free agents headed for the majors.

Please have a look and leave a comment over there.

Click here to read NPB: Off-Season Player Moves.

Two guys who are mentioned in the article are former Tokyo Swallows players Alex Ramirez and Seth Greisinger. The were both allowed to leave after the club decided (incorrectly) that they were replaceable.

A huge hole in the outfield has been left by Ramirez, and the team is now looking for its new ace pitcher.


Hanakoganei is Growing

I'm continually thinking about what should be done to make this area more convenient and livable for taxpayers (i.e. me!), and therefore an intense fascination and expectation starts cooking inside me every time a lot is cleared and the foundations of a new building are being built.

Naturally, I was quite concerned about the financial potential of the eki-mae (near/in front of the train station) neighborhood when the convenience store in my building closed. In retrospect, however, I think that their failure to put alcohol on the shelves might have been their undoing. And I don't know, maybe Daiwa House, the proprietor of the building, told them they couldn't sell chu-hi because the tenants upstairs would have to deal with drinkers, young and old, on all-night benders in the deck chairs below (yes, they had patio furniture out in front of this convenience store). Basically, the closure of that shop can probably be chalked up to a bad business decision (no alcohol equals no business).

Even though the shop is still empty, it now looks like there was nothing to worry about. Old businesses are being recycled all over the place. Even though one of Matsumoto Kiyoshi's (a massive chain of drug stores) branches closed at the end of last year (which also worried me), it turns out that they were just moving 150 meters up the street. They now have four times the floor space and a much better location.

The old building, which was a bit of a ghost hall for a while, now has a Docomo (cell phone provider) outlet on the first floor and an izakaya on the second floor. Not that either of those businesses are particularly convenient for me (I have an au phone, and we already have several izakaya near the station), but it's an obvious signal that there's enough potential business in the area for these companies to come in here.

I'm not saying that Hanakoganei is becoming the Kunitachi of the Seibu-Shinjuku line (although that would be nice), but it's getting nicer and nicer. My word of advice to the city planners at this point, if they're reading this (ha!), is not to forget about nature. We know there's a giant park on the south side of the station, but there are only about five or six trees in the entire eki-mae rotary on the north side.

Please dig up a few of those sidewalk bricks and plant some saplings.


Friday, March 07, 2008

New Baseball League Being Put Together in Japan

A quick article from Kyodo today mentioned that a new baseball league is now in its infancy down in the Kansai region (near Osaka) of Japan.

One team, the Kishu Rangers, has already been set up, and another three clubs are slated to be started this spring. The four clubs will officially begin playing during the 2009 baseball season. The Rangers are based in Wakayama prefecture, while one new team will be established in Osaka prefecture and two others and Hyogo prefecture.

The four team league, known as the Kansai Independent League, hopes to have eight teams set up in the long-run. It is the third independent league currently running in Japan at this point, and it joins the Shikoku/Kyushu Island league and the Hokushinetsu Baseball Challenge League in offering alternatives to this baseball-loving nation. The Island League was established in 2005, and the BC League was inaugurated last season.

The Kansai Independent League plans to go with a 72-game season (half that of the pro league's season) and league-standard 1.8 million yen salary for all players. The league is being organized with the help of Hiromichi Ishige (pictured above), the former manager of the Orix Bluewave. Ishige will act as commissioner of the Kansai Independent League and was also partially responsible for the creation of the Island League back in 2005.

The four new teams should help Japan to find more sources of player development--a task that NPB doesn't take very seriously. Pro teams in Japan would do well to affiliate themselves with one of these new teams, or any of the previously established teams in the other two independent leagues, and start a multi-tiered player development system akin to that used in MLB.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Streaker Taken Out by Australian Cricket Batsman

Australian cricket batsman, Andrew Symonds, puts an end to a 26-year-old streaker's run during a match versus India.

The streaker, Robert Murray David Ogilvie, was fined $1,500 for his foray onto the cricket field.

Update: the new video is in slow-motion so it's a little easier to follow.


Saturday, March 01, 2008

Happy Independence Day (South Korea) [삼일절]

TPR has a good write-up on the South Korean independence movement that occurred on March 1st, 1919.

On the Korean calendar the "day" is referred to as 삼일절 (samiljeol), and the independence movement itself is known as 삼일 운동 (samil undong).