Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Flash

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

An example of keitai culture.One of my co-workers elaborately decorated cell phones.Complete with its own downloaded ring tone and accessories its become an individual fashion statement.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bicycle Bicycle I wanna ride MY bicycle...

Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
First there was a problem with publishing this hence the delay.Second this is a two part account of my recent encounter with the Japanese Police...
Ok so to begin...riding my bicycle home two Thursday nights ago (April 13) I was stopped by two members of the local police force.They wanted to check my bicycle and also my Alien Registration Card.Bicycle theft is a major crime in Japan and much time and effort is spent fighting this threat to the fabric of society.I'm required as a non Japanese resident living here to carry the Alien Registration Card at all times.They noted the details and also the number of my bike.
Despite a communication gap I was polite so were they.I explained that I'd bought the bicycle second hand and we parted amicably.Or so I thought...

Last Friday (April 21) the doorbell rang around tea time.Mormons! I thought as I opened the door.No it was the two officers who held in front of me a sheet of paper written in English to the following effect...
"We know you stole the bicycle.If you put it anywhere please tell us.Please come to the station with us."
Well what would you do? I repeated that I'd bought it second hand and that it was downstairs parked along with all the other bikes.I grabbed my coat to accompany the police and help them with their inquiries.
As I was driven to the nearby station I was thinking what would Raskolnikov do? Or Winston Smith?....

Bicycle Bicycle I wanna...Part 2

Bicycle 2
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
At the station I was led into the Criminal Investigations Section past a group of bored looking detectives.I was made to sit down in a small dank interview room.(Cue Winston Smith and the Ministry of Love).
An officer with basic English language skills entered the room.The first thing he asked me was why I had stolen the bike and he warned me to tell the truth and confess.I told him I'd bought it at a second hand shop and was prepared to show him where.His response was to again ask me to tell the truth and confess.I just repeated myself saying that I'd bought it two years or so ago.
After a brief discussion with the other six officers who had joined the fun he agreed to take me to the shop.
We drove to the shop which in reality is more an ordinary car garage attached to a house rather than a commerical premise in an unmarked mini-van. 'We' being the English speaking officer,the two original officers and a police photographer.
Once at the shop the three officers entered while I posed for photos outside the building in front of a growing crowd of rubber-necking locals.
After about ten minutes the officers emerged with the news that there was no record of my bike and that the shop sold all its bikes with a special seal.
We returned to the station for more questions and photos and fingerprints.The officer said that they would do more research and contact me.I was given a ride home and the bike in question was taken away.Presumably as evidence.
On Saturday still feeling uneasy I went down to the local International Centre for some legal advice.The lawyer was fully booked but a helpful interpreter there managed to get me a quick ten minute chat.
I was reassured that though I couldnt prove I'd bought the bike having lost the receipt nor could the police prove I'd stolen it.I felt somewhat better.
I was also advised to continue to cooperate with them and not get aggravated.
Life Lesson..dont throw away receipts,dont buy anything secondhand and remain cool and collected no matter what....

Monday, April 24, 2006

The Devil's Highway

The Devil's Highway
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea.
Just finished reading this detailed book about the deaths of 14 Mexicans in 2001.They died while attempting to cross the US/Mexican border.The well researched book covers the events leading up to their deaths and the immediate fallout.
Given the current controversy,government policy and protests concerning illegal immigration it seemed timely to read this book.
The author uses a number of sources to flesh out those involved be they the Border Patrol officers,the illegal immigrants or the Coyote gangs who organise and run the crossings.
Urrea uses Sheriff and Justice Department reports and Mexican Consular papers as well as survivors testimony to put a human face on this issue.
The book has a useful section for further reading.
Its not an issue that will be resolved easily nor one that is going to go away in the near future.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Flash

Japanese Starbucks Mugs
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
It seems theres a Starbucks coffee shop on every corner and new shopping mall in Japan.
Each city sells its own unique collector mugs bearing designs and features of that area.The Tokyo mug has the Tokyo Tower on it,while the Yokohama mug boasts the LandMark Building and the neighboring ferris wheel.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Magazine Rage

The funniest thing I read in an otherwise pretty nondescript week concerned the antics of an elderly Ibaraki man who took umbrage at being asked to stop reading the magazines in his local convenience store.
Apparently the 70 year old man frequented his local Seven-Eleven store on a daily basis.
Last Wednesday,having spent three hours browsing, the manager asked him not to read the magazines without buying them.
The man left.He returned with a chainsaw.Gunning its engine,he was quoted as saying "I'll cut you to pieces".He left the engine running and resumed reading while the manager phoned the police..

Its not uncommon to see customers leafing through the magazine racks in stores and bookshops.
Browsing through the thick manga books,gazing at the soft porn,fashion and weekly gossip and sport weeklies.
Some stores have even gone so far as to post signs asking customers not copy books or magazines.
There have been an increasing number of instances of browsers using the digital cameras on their cell phones to photo material and articles they are interested in without actually buying the books or magazines.
It may not be long before cell phones are banned in such places to prevent such occurances...

Japanese Snack Food

Japanese Snack Food
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.

Theres a humungous variety of snack food available in Japan.Curry and crab flavored chips vie for the attention of customers and their wallets alongside such exotic fare as corn potage sticks and squid jerky.

Long May You Run...(or hobble in my case)

Holy Week and Easter Sunday have passed over.As it were.Almost without a trace in this land dominated by the Shinto and Buddhist religions.I'm staring at another birthday later this week.I get less enthusiastic and inclined to acknowledge them as time passes.Enough said...

Friday, April 14, 2006

Friday Flash

Lantern Nagoya Castle
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
One of many paper lanterns put up in Nagoya Castle grounds to illuminate the cherry blossoms during the hanami season.The "shachi-hoko" or dolphin like creature on the lantern is a symbol of Nagoya City and two golden 3 metre long replicas stand at each end of the castle roof.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Masks and Allergies

Masks and Allergies
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Seems at this time of the year at least a third of the population is wearing some kind of mask.To ward off bird flu? No.The masks are used as protection against hay fever,pollen allergy or kafunsho as the locals say.
After WW2 there was a shortage of timber for building so the government planted vast areas of the Japanese Alps with fast growing sugi or cedar trees.This has led to an unfortunate rise in the number of pollen allergy and hay fever sufferers.
The fine mesh cotton face masks in the photo are thought to help stop the inhalation of pollen by those afflicted.Television screens are full of ads for masks,special mesh doors and close knit clothes said to alleviate the condition.
Common symptoms include a constant runny nose,sore throat and itchy red eyes.
The cedar pollen season runs from February to April though it varies in duration and severity from location to location and year to year.Due to last years weather and rainfall last season was particularly severe compared to the milder season being experienced this year so far.
To compound matters some sufferers also have to deal with the hinoki or Japanese cypress that begins to flower in late April and May.
From talking with various people it seems that being a sufferer isnt a matter of hereditary or genetics.Its possible to go for years being immune and then for no reason be struck down.Conversely it can also disappear for no evident reason which must come as a relief to sufferers as well.In the meantime mask makers and others continue to market their products....

Nagoya Castle Grounds.

Nagoya Castle:Blossoms
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
The cherry blossoms in Nagoya reached their peak over the weekend.Even at 10a.m on a Saturday morning the grounds of Nagoya Castle were swarming with locals and tourists alike viewing the blossoms and snapping away with their cameras or even video taping the scene.
The spring weather remains fickle.While Friday was a pleasant,calm 15 degrees Saturday afternoon turned into a windy murky affair as sand or dust from China clouded the atmosphere almost in a smoglike fashion..

Cherry Blossom Posing

Cherry Blossom Posing
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Many people took advantage of the fine Saturday morning weather to view the blossoms and pose for photos.This woman,impeccably dressed in seasonal pink was with her equally well dressed partner making the most of the day.Here she is posing by one of the trees in the grounds of Nagoya Castle.

Meet Arrow

Arrow The Orca
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
I got my adoption certificate and other information about an orca (killer) whale I have just sponsored through WDCS,Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.Arrow was born in 1976 and is a transient orca i.e he moves up and down the coast of British Columbia around Vancouver Island.As opposed to having its own particular feeding area.
In the past I have sponsored children, at times with dire results.Apparently one was killed by a landmine while another was hit by a bus.I just hope Arrow doesnt decide to beach himself or otherwise meet an unfortunate accident due to my small donation.Check out the WDCS link at the top of the page for more details...

Friday, April 07, 2006

Friday Flash

Cherry Blossoms 2
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Another shot of Tsurumai Park Nagoya.Today April 7 is probably the peak day for blossoms here as tomorrow rain is forecast.Weatherwise today its going up to 18 degrees centigrade,calm and partly cloudy.In other words a great day off to be outside..

Monday, April 03, 2006

Cherry Blossoms...Finally

tsurumai park
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
Unseasonal weather mid week delayed the arrival of the blooms but by last Friday they were well on the way to being fully out or "mankai" as the locals put it.

In fact there is a very precise scale used to measure the percentage of blooms on a tree.A tree with 30% blooms is sanbuzakai, a tree half or 50% blooming is gobuzakai,80% is hachibuzkai while a tree with 100% blossoms open is mankai.

Essential equpment for hanami or cherry blossom parties includes a blue plastic sheet or tarp on which to sit,bentos or boxed lunches and a grill on which to cook soba noddles or even seafood.And of course beer and sake.
I was lucky enough to attend two such parties over the last weekend.One was a chilly night affair in the grounds of Nagoya Castle while the other was in Tsurumai Park on Saturday afternoon.Warmer but more crowded cheek to jowl with groups of raucous salarymen and family groups.

It reminded me of nothing more than the penguin colony in March of the Penguins.Very noisy and territorial,squatting and defending your area from the encroachments of other party goers.
Actually, the best spots are taken early.Reserved and staked by covering the area with a blue tarp or plastic ground sheet.Often a person remains behind to guard the site from possible claim jumpers.If its a company party I've been told this onerous and at times chilly job falls to the newest and youngest workers who must remain vigilant and are later joined by their more senior colleagues

Stake Out Tsurumai Park Nagoya City

Stake Out
Originally uploaded by pookie_san99.
There was a story in the papers last week about an unemployed man being arrested for receiving money in return for holding a place for cherry blossom viewers in Ueno Park Tokyo.Its uncommon for people to be apprehended for holding a cherry blossom viewing spot.The man had allegedly sold the space for ¥1000 but told the police he'd been asked to hold it...

In the photo above these early morning squatters are claiming their spot in Tsurumai Park.It was round 8 a.m when I took this photo so they were in for a long wait till the arrival of friends or co-workers later in the day...

The Map That Changed The World by Simon Winchester

Just recently finished reading this account of William Smith.Apparently he's the unsung father of modern geology.I'd never heard of him prior to picking up this small print paperback at a sale.The "Map" of the title refers to his handpainted map which shows the layers of rocks beneath England.The book describes his scientific discovery of fossils and rock strata and his single-minded task in creating a geological underground map of the country.
The story unfolds in the midst of the Industrial Revolution at a time when science and discovery were flourishing and knowledge expanding.Its also a story of professional and scientific rivalry and jealousy.
That Winchester likes Smith is a given but he doesnt paint him as a saint.While showing how he was wronged and why he remains an obscure figure Winchester also notes Smiths own personal failures and faults.
Definitely a worthwhile read not only for shedding light on this relatively unknown figure but also for the background material Winchester provides about the Industrial Revolution and canal building and society which flesh out and bring to life what might otherwise be a somewhat dour bland tale.

Its the End of The Year As We Know It....

With the beginning of April a new financial year dawns.A raft of new laws including a controversial one regarding the resale of second hand electrical goods came into force April 1st.
Some businesses closed.My local CoCo curry shop shut abruptly March 31st.It was being gutted next morning at 8 a.m.What I thought was a reasonably busy petrol station also met the same fate.A swarm of workers descended to disassemble the pumps and equipment.
There were also more personal changes such as alterations to bus and train timetables or the annoying fact that NHK has decided to broadcast its 10pm bilingual news at the earlier time of 9pm.I finish work at 9pm and dont get home till 10pm so I will be even more ill-informed than previously.Other changes include the removal of a D.J on the local radio station to be replaced by some ridiculous program called "Heavens Kiss" or something equally garish...only in Japan.