Monday, March 30, 2009

BBQ in the park under the cherry trees (hanami 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

World Baseball Classic: Pool A Games (Tokyo)

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".

Oh really?

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

Mr. Harlequin Contest: Vote for Ricky Roma!

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 into your browser.

You can also check out Justin's personal website for a closer look.