The picture quality isn't great on this one, and my apologies for that, but I think you can still read the sign pretty easily. It's the welcome sign for a small store in Karuizawa.
This shop is on the road that leads from Karuizawa shinkansen (bullet train) station out to the Ginza area of this quiet Nagano prefecture mountain town.
I have no idea what the shop sells (it was closed for the winter)...I'll let you take your own guess.
The apostrophe leads me to believe that it could be the owner's (nick)name, but regardless of whence it originated I'm sure that several tourists before me have noticed it while walking by.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Eight of us went to go see The Robert Glasper Experiment at the Cotton Club on Saturday night.
I first saw him perform at the same place back in April of this year, and it was great to hear several of the songs that I knew from his third album, In My Element, which was released in 2007. But that outing was a night with The Robert Glasper Trio, and this Saturday was a very different experience indeed.
Glasper's most recent album, Double-Booked (2009), is a solid and balanced slate of songs recorded by both The Trio and The Experiment. Saturday's performance involved songs by the latter with some intriguing covers thrown in for good measure (Radiohead, no less!).
Again, seeing and hearing the songs performed live adds several new layers of meaning to what I have been listening to for the past several months. And the band's playfulness and chemistry made for a very entertaining night that had my head rocking from the very moment that drummer Chris Dave started hitting things.
Also quite memorable for me was the liberal use of vocoder and keytar by saxophonist Casey Benjamin, and the connection between bassist Derrick Hodge and Chris Dave is truly a sight to behold. The grooves and riffs underpinning the Experiment's music makes this act an experience of both discovery and deja vu for any fan of jazz and hip hop.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The Beaujolais Nouveau just hit shelves a week ago, and the reaction was pretty muted compared too years past. On the left is a photo from my local supermarket, Seiyu, where all the expensive wine was deserving of in terms of presentation was a big unused cooler with an island made from a red, felt-covered box.
There's a write-up on this phenomenon and how it pertains to Japan here, and since we're talking about alcohol anyway, let me take a moment to pimp a project that I'm working on right now.
"Japan Eats" is a new website that tries to introduce a wider audience to Japan's varied culinary and alcoholic delights. I host a show on the site called Japan Booze Blind in which blind tastings are used as an excuse for drinking alcohol early in the morning.
The site just officially went live today, so please stop by and check it out.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Saw this delivery guy doing a very delicate balancing act in order to work on some unknown problem with the light fixture at the back of the cargo bay.
Ever heard of a stepladder?
It's a little hard to tell from this photo, but he's got one of those hefty cargo straps rigged like a tightrope, and he used that in order to reach the problem area on the ceiling.
Didn't stick around long enough to see if he broke his neck on the dismount...
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Monday, November 09, 2009
Tatsuya Ichihashi, the suspected killer of Lindsay Ann Hawker, spent much of the last year working for a construction company in Osaka prefecture where he had a room in the outfit's dorm.
He was apparently able to fly below the radar due to alterations to his appearance that may have included plastic surgery. He is said to have often worn hats and glasses to help mask his appearance.
The Japanese nightly news is currently doing a roundup of his recent whereabouts and possible connections.
Having failed miserably at figuring out how Ichihashi could survive on the lam for so long, hopefully the police use the recent lessons learned to reassess cold cases involving other dangerous individuals that they lost track of long ago.
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Or that's what it sounded like when I read this in the Mainichi today:
According to investigators, the picture was taken prior to the cosmetic surgery. The man had a beard and mustache in the picture, but police intentionally erased the features in the released picture to avoid confusion.
So it would appear that the police have provided the public with a photo that won't really help the people who have seen him recently understand that they have actually glimpsed the fugitive himself, Tatsuya Ichihashi. Why? Because when they saw him he had a mustache and beard in addition to all of the cosmetic surgery that the media is currently talking about.
And it won't really help the rest of us either. If he's still sporting facial hair, then how does that doctored photo assist in his apprehension?
Or did the police hold off on releasing the photo long enough so that Ichihashi would have plenty of time to shave...?
Well, either way, I think it would be helpful if police released the original, untouched photo as well.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
The Mainichi reported that Lindsay Ann Hawker's accused murderer is suspected of having had plastic surgery at a clinic in Nagoya late last month.
Tatsuya Ichihashi has been on the run ever since he managed to elude a football team's worth of police officers that cornered him at the scene of the crime (his apartment) back in March 2007.
Police apparently headed to Nagoya soon after they received the news that someone resembling Ichihashi underwent a cosmetic procedure. There is no word yet on what type of appearance-altering procedure he had done.
Update (11/5/09; 11:30 AM):
The TV news is finally running with this story, and Ichihashi's face is once again all over the place. It is pretty remarkable, however, that he was able to waltz all over the country visiting different clinics and not sounding any alarms. The Japan Times carried this more detailed story today.
Update (11/6/09; 10:55 AM):
The Japan Times posted the before and after photo of Ichihashi (above right) that police obtained from a clinic in Nagoya. It appears as though the fugitive has been hard at work remolding his facial features.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Friday, September 11, 2009
With Scott Lawson's bachelor party set to kick off tomorrow morning, I thought it might be the right time to remind him what he's getting into.
This is a photo taken from the evening gift exchange at our Christmas 2008 getaway to Karuizawa. Just came across it while deleting files from my camera's memory card.
I believe that the sparring set was a gift from Andy (he always gives the most creative/hilarious gifts), and Yuki went straight to work on Scott's jaw.
Definitely a match made in heaven! Wedding date: October 3rd, 2009.
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Some college friends of mine in Atlanta are doing something that I greatly admire. They're trying to improve the community where they live by mentoring and providing healthy lifestyle choices to the youth in the city. They are doing so through a foundation that they created called The FitWit Foundation.
My friends Ben and Josh are spearheading the foundation's efforts, and I know that they also run a separate fitness and tutoring program called FitWit that I believe involves Josh's wife, Erin.
It sounds like things are going well for them in Atlanta, and the best part is that they're truly helping to make a difference.
If you're interested in donating to The FitWit Foundation (registered nonprofit) to help them with their mission to battle childhood obesity rates, please register at Network for Good so that you can do so right now online.
Alternatively, you could write to Ben (email@example.com) or Josh (firstname.lastname@example.org) and share your thoughts on what they're doing.
[photo stolen from FitWit's website]
Sunday, September 06, 2009
This is a video I shot with my digital camera at a festival that I went to last weekend in Koenji, Tokyo. This is the rhythm section of one of the dozens of troupes that dances down the street during the parade. Definitely one of my favorite summertime festivals in Tokyo.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
We had the distinct pleasure of seeing RENT in it's final world tour as a Broadway musical. It's final stop happens to be Tokyo, and original cast members Anthony Rapp, Adam Pascal, and Gwen Stewart have joined the cast for this last hurrah.
The show was fantastic, as expected, and was blocked differently from the way that I remember it, but then again there's always so much happening on stage that every time I see the show I'm probably just seeing something that I missed before.
I was fortunate enough to see the original cast production of the show in New York City back in 1995 (?), and again in London in 1998.
And the biggest thrill of the evening for me, actually, was getting to meet Anthony Rapp briefly outside a restaurant (Delerium Cafe) in Akasaka about an hour after the show's conclusion.
Of course I made sure to get my program signed, and had about a 15-second chat before I decided to stop wasting his time.
Monday, August 10, 2009
My favorite football team (no they're not in the Premier League) is Leicester City, a team that made its way back into the English Championship this season.
As everyone on the team has been saying that they needed to do, the Foxes started the season with a come-from-behind win (2-1) over Swansea on the opening day of the 2009 campaign yesterday.
This is fantastic news for me (as well as all of their other fans, no doubt) because supporting Leicester was becoming a lot like rooting for the Tokyo Swallows.
You see, Leicester got relegated to League One for the first time in team history two years ago, and that's exactly what would have happened to my favorite baseball team several times over if such a system were in place (thankfully it's not).
But there back up on the doorstep of the Premier League, and a strong start to the season might mean an outside shot at the playoffs.
At the very worst, fortunately, a return to League One appears to be out of the question.
Monday, July 27, 2009
I played a hitman in an episode of Hanchou which aired on Monday nights on TBS in Japan. It's finished its' run now, but it was a reasonably popular drama about a team of police officers and detectives that dealt with the various n'er-do-wells that haunt the crowded confines of Tokyo.
The headliner of the series was Kuranosuke Sasaki, and he played the lead detective of the team.
In episode number 12, Michael Shorter was my name, and shooting mafia-related types hanging out in Tokyo was my game. But in the end I was rather easily apprehended by the cops. The featured guest of this episode was kabuki actor Kamejiro Ichikawa who played the role of Andy Matsuo.
The episode took several days to shoot, of course, and the longest of those days was spent out at a complex of warehouses in Chiba where the episode's climax occurs and the bad guy gets nabbed.
One of the highlights of the day was the BBQ that the crew set up for dinner. They brought out a very good variety of beef and pork cuts and had three separate grills going at the same time.
It was just what the doctor ordered as I had spent the previous two hours on set with a gun pointed at my nose.
There's a quick preview of episode 12 viewable here. If you go to that page, you should see a small, round, red button on the left side of the screen. Clicking that will open a player that will show you the very short trailer for the show.
And yes, that's me in the beard.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
From the Burlington Free Press:
|BASER, FREDERICK "CHUCK"|| |
| FREDERICK "CHUCK" BASER BRISTOL - Frederick "Chuck" Baser, 31, died suddenly of natural causes on Saturday, June 6, 2009, at his home in Bristol. He was born on Sept. 17, 1977, in Middlebury, the son of Frederick and Marian Baser. He graduated from Mt. Abraham High School and Colgate University where he sang with Colgate 13. Chuck was a member of Bristol Conservation Commission and was active in restoration of Sycamore Park. Chuck loved the outdoors and he enjoyed fishing, hunting, jack jumping, and boating. He was a skilled woodworker and nothing pleased him more than a beautiful piece of wood. Chuck touched many lives in small and profound ways. Chuck is survived by his parents; and his brothers, Nicholas Baser and his wife Janel of Phillips, Maine, Gregory Baser and his fiance Nicole of Salt Lake City, Utah; his niece and nephew, Adelaide and Silas Baser, who brought him much joy; grandparents Frederick and Nettie Baser and also Gertrude Burke; many aunts, uncles, cousins, and great friends who loved him and will miss him very much. He was predeceased by his maternal grandfather Gerald Burke and his aunt and uncle, Kathryn and Ned Henderickson. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Thursday, June 11, in St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Bristol. Interment will be in Mt. St. Joseph Cemetery in Bristol. Friends may call at Brown-McClay Funeral Home in Bristol on Wednesday, June 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Town of Bristol c/o Conservation Commission, P.O. Box 249, Bristol, VT 05443.|
Chuck was a good friend from the theater crowd in Bristol, Vermont. I also have fond memories of watching him and Pete Buonincontro pump out adirondack chairs, benches and porch swings for their "Bristol Butt-rests" line several summers ago when we were all in Bristol at the same time.
Please feel free to post any stories you have about Chuck in the comments below.
You will be missed, Chuck. You will definitely be missed.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Had a little bit of a mishap on Monday evening and gave my trusty cell phone a 40 minute dip in the washing machine. It came out looking all sparkly and shiny, but it didn't really feel like turning on.
And no, I hadn't backed up my address book.
So we headed over to the au shop in Tanashi on Tuesday afternoon to figure out what could be done. Apparently you can ship your phone off to the manufacturer, and they can often get the data off of a phone that has drowned. The service takes about a week and costs 10,500 yen (roughly US$100). But while we were chatting about what to do, and the guy I was talking to was explaining my options to me, my phone started to buzz as an e-mail came through.
Why the au guy hadn't bothered to check whether or not the data was retrievable is perhaps an issue for another time, but the good news is that he was able to get my entire address book out of it and onto my new phone.
And my new phone is the green one pictured above. It has an eight mega-pixel Sony Cyber-shot camera crammed inside it, and there seem to be a lot of bells and whistles that I still have no idea how to use.
The one thing that I don't like so much about it is the fact that the 'clear' button rests just slightly below the down button, so it's very easy for people with adult-sized hands to hit them both at the same time.
Other than that, I don't have any serious complaints as of yet. I never thought I'd buy a slide phone, but my options were a bit limited to be honest with you. I'm still a little bummed because I really liked my old phone. It had a scrollbar which made tearing through a long message or my address book very easy.
Oh well. That's life, I guess. I learned my lesson. I immediately backed up my address book, which was miraculously salvaged from my water-logged cell, when I returned home.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
I'm very happy to report that Ricky Roma (Justin Berti) won a very tight contest in the Mr. Latin category of the Harlequin modeling contest!
He has already commenced his duties as "Mr. Latin", and I know that he's already been to a couple of events to help promote the Harlequin brand.
I'd like to thank everyone who voted on his behalf, and I'm sure that Ricky will second the "thanks" if he ever happens upon this post.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
This poor guy missed several trains, and I'd be willing to bet that he didn't make it home that night. I was on the evening's final train headed to Honkawagoe, and I nudged him as I walked by, but he was out cold. After this train there were only a few more left, and even money says that fellow passengers left him sitting right where he was.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
If you don't listen to much jazz, you need to start doing so now. The Robert Glasper Trio is in Tokyo at the moment, and as you probably won't have a chance to see them perform at the Cotton Club this time around, you should make it a point to get your hands on In My Element.
Yong-nam and I went to watch the trio (Glasper on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Damion Reid on drums) tonight along with our good friends Dave and Hisae. It was a playful, euphoric experience that, without a doubt, won me over as a lifelong fan. I've just now downloaded Glasper's first album, Canvas, from iTunes and plan to pipe it through the living room system for the next several weeks to come.
Can't wait for the third album which Robert mentioned will drop in July 2009!
Check here for Glasper's MySpace page.
By the way, Robert Glasper was very gracious and signed autographs and took photos with anyone who asked. That definitely ain't normal.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 02, 2009
As of yesterday, smoking was completely banned on the platforms of JR train stations in and around Tokyo, Japan.
Many will remember that up until two days ago, anyone could light up in open-air smoking sections on many JR station platforms. If you happened to be in the train car that stopped directly adjacent to the smoking section, and had a little help from the wind, it was not uncommon for the smoke to blow inside the train. It was just lovely.
But those days are finally gone, and another small step has been taken to divorce Japan from its "smoker's paradise" moniker.
Japan's largest tobacco company, JT, which is partially owned by the government's Finance Ministry, has enjoyed a snail-paced assault on its profit model over the years by anti-smoking regulators.
Some have argued that this latest move is not big enough and took way too long to materialize, but I'm actually quite content with these small victories. It seems to me that this will further load the debate in non-smokers' favor as smoking becomes increasingly demonized in Japan.
Monday, March 30, 2009
We had our annual bbq hanami party at Koganei Park yesterday afternoon. The weather was beautiful, if a bit chilly, and the flowers were just starting to bloom on the cherry trees. We were a bit early this year, so the trees still need about a week to reach full bloom. However, I prefer the park when it's not quite as crowded. There's more space to pass out drunk (a la the guy in the photo on the left).
We played some Bristol Horseshoes and cooked up several kilos of quality meat. Adam and Sachi brought Ryuma out for what I believe was his first hanami party. Our friends Hiroshi and Kazue brought a magnum of Moet which, I must admit, was a first for me sitting in the middle of the park!
There may be more parties to attend this coming weekend, but we will have to wait and see. If, however, yesterday was my only chance at hanami this spring, then I can live with that. Everyone had a good time yesterday.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
We just finished shooting a feature film about "vulture" investment funds and hostile takeovers. The film is called "Hagetaka" (the vowels are basically the same as in Spanish, so say it like that and you'll have the pronunciation right...four syllables), and it was shot in Tokyo over the past two months. Keiji Ohtomo directs.
This is the film version of a TV drama that was popular a few years ago. Many of the actors from the drama, such as Nao Omori and Chiaki Kuriyama (of Kill Bill fame), are also in the movie.
I play the young, straight-laced righthand man of one of the main characters (played by Tetsuji Tamayama) who heads a Chinese government-backed investment fund that is attempting to buy out a famous Japanese auto company.
The other actors that were major players in the Chinese fund were played by Joe Nakamura and Asuka Higuchi. Asuka is shooting a TV show in Beijing at the moment, but I was able to hang out with Joe this past Thursday night when NHK and Toho threw a party to celebrate the completion of filming.
Hagetaka hits theaters in Japan on June 6th.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I spent Friday through Monday at "The Big Egg" (ie. the monstrosity that is Tokyo Dome) watching the WBC games between Japan, South Korea,
Taiwan Chinese Taipei, and China. We had good seats off to the side of the foul pole in right field and enjoyed ourselves immensely even though I think we grew to dislike that stadium a little bit more with each passing game.
That place may have 40,000-plus seats, but it's not designed to hold that many people. The corridors where the vendors are situated are incredibly tight, and several of the bathrooms have nasty traffic-jam inducing pinch points near the entrance/exit (don't put the hand driers near the door!). Also, it feels like the stands are made of fiberglass or something. Whatever.
The paper cup pictured to the right is what you receive when you try to smuggle your own drinks into the game. The small print under the teary-eyed baseball player reads, "I'm sorry, but it isn't possible to take that pet bottle, can, bottle in the stadium".
They don't pour your beers out, they just empty them into these cups that are supposed to make you feel ashamed (?) of yourself for not agreeing to pay 800 yen (about US$8) for a draft beer with five inches of foam. That means that if you have a sixer in your bag, and the door guards find it when they rummage through your stuff (which they do to everyone), then you're going to be walking to your seat with a half dozen cups of beer in hand. Drink quickly!
Actually, the best way to go about smuggling beer into the Tokyo Dome, and you didn't hear this from me, is to put a couple beers at the bottom of a bag/backpack wrapped in an extra sweatshirt or something, and one or two in your coat pockets, and then carry one or two out in plain view. They'll usually nab the ones in plain view and then forget about checking for any more. Then you obligingly pour your two 'diversion beers' into paper cups.
It goes without saying that this is never really an issue at Jingu. They just pretend like they're searching your bag. At Tokyo Dome, however, they will dig around a bit, and if you didn't bury those cans, then they will be found.
I'm not sure whether they're worried about plastic/aluminum/glass drinking containers raining down on the field during the game or if they're trying to reduce the amount of garbage that is brought into the stadium every night. If they're worried about fans throwing things, then they'd be wise to stop selling baseballs at the concession stands. And if it's the latter that they're thinking about, well, congratulations, you just doubled the amount of garbage by forcing me to drink out of an extra non-recyclable container.
Anyways, back to the baseball. I didn't have a ticket for Thursday's Japan-China game, but I saw Korea kick the piss out of
Taiw Chinese Taipei on Friday. On Saturday we witnessed the shock defeat of the Chinese Taipei team by the Chinese during the afternoon, and then returned that evening to watch Korea get whupped by team Japan (mercy rule). Sunday was the elimination game between Korea and China in which the former earned a berth in round two, and the latter, under former Orix Buffaloes manager, Terry Collins, was sent packing after another 7th-inning mercy rule game.
Monday night was the big rematch between Japan and Korea that didn't go well for the Koreans on Saturday night. This game, however, was totally different, and the stakes were quite high considering the fact that the loser will most likely have to square off against Cuba in the beginning of the next round.
There's a good discussion of this game over at the Tokyo Swallows website (English), but I'd just like to point out that I felt like "Samurai Japan" didn't do its homework before the game on Monday.
So much time was spent analyzing the mythical samurai-slaying slider of one Kwan-hyun Kim (whom they teed off on two nights before) that it appeared like the team Japan hitters were still looking for sliders when Monday night rolled around. Oops!
They didn't see many of them because it looked to me, judging by the speeds blipping up on the scoreboard, like the Korean pitchers were relying heavily on fastballs to both sides of the plate.
Long story, short: Korea won the rematch 1-0, and Matsuzaka will probably have to deal with the Cuban batters this coming weekend.
By the way, and I know that it's been said before, but Japan manager, Hara, is the weakest link on that team.
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
A close friend of mine, Justin Berti (aka Ricky Roma), is competing in the Mr. Harlequin Contest.
You remember him, right? Remember "Glengarry Glen Ross" from last year (here, here, and here)? Ricky Roma?
Well Justin/Ricky is currently in second place in the "Mr. Latin" category, and making a good showing every week. He has a few more weeks to catch the leader, and if you're interested in helping a good friend of mine, please keep reading.
Go to this link and follow the voting instructions.
You need to register one of your e-mail addresses in order to vote, but don't worry, they won't spam you. They will, however, send you a confirmation e-mail (which you should delete, rather than open, lest you cancel your vote) and a couple of other messages informing you how the contest is going. The most important thing is that you go to the link listed above and vote! If you have a hard time accessing the link, cut and paste http://www.iammrlatin.wordpress.com into your browser.
You can also check out Justin's personal website for a closer look.
Friday, February 27, 2009
13-year-old Noriko Calderon, born in Japan to undocumented parents from the Philippines, was told that she is allowed to stay in Japan by the Justice Ministry.
The catch? Her mother and father, Sarah and Arlan, must return to the Philippines as they have violated the immigration law by either entering the country illegally or over-staying their visas.
Mrs. Calderon spent nearly a year in prison for immigration-related violations back in 2006 and 2007, so this case has been brewing for quite some time.
Mr. and Mrs. Calderon were ordered to report to immigration today, Friday February 27th, for deportation. The Justice Ministry has been very inflexible in this particular case despite the fact that there is a precedent of giving lenient treatment to individuals with extenuating circumstances.
A group of politicians from the ruling LDP have publicly requested that the Justice Ministry issue special residence permits to the family.
In 2007 when the Calderons were first sentenced with deportation, the Justice Ministry granted special permission to stay in Japan to 7,388 illegal residents. 20% of them had originally entered Japan illegally.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Left the apartment yesterday without my beloved iPod. It wasn't on purpose, it just happened. Before getting on the train I debated returning home to retrieve it, but I decided against it.
I decided that it might be a good experiment for me to attempt to make it one full working day without the aid of my mp3 player.
Boy was that a stupid idea.
- The whole ride to work I got to listen to people sniffling and sneezing like there was a ragweed patch in the middle of the train.
- In the shops I had to navigate the incessant "Welcome to our humble store!" and other sales-related, but automated, jingles that routinely assault shoppers' aural faculties here.
- In Vie de France (a bakery/cafe) I was treated to a teenager barking into her phone at her obviously at-fault boyfriend. For 25 minutes.
- On the return trip home, the business guy sitting next to me repeatedly cleared his throat as though he was intending to spit something large down a drain that I couldn't immediately perceive. However, the drain appeared to be in my general direction.
So let's just say that I learned my lesson. If I happen to leave the apartment without my music again, then I'll be scurrying back home before you can say, "Christopher is a lame-ass twerp". But even if you do say it out loud, which some of you will, it won't matter because I'll be listening to Murs.