Monday, April 23, 2007

London Calling

This will be the last post for two weeks or so as I make a quick trip to England.As stated in previous posts, Im off to Scunthorpe to see Scunthorpe United pick up the League One Championship title Saturday May 5th.I hopefully will be able to see a little more of Lincolnshire in the days before the game.
Prior to travelling up to Scunthorpe,a five hour bus ride from London, I hope to catch up with some friends in London and visit a couple of museums and galleries.
Next post should be up early May.

Kit Kats..Raspberry Flavour

Another new Limited Edition mini kit kat flavour appeared on the shelves of the local supermarkets and convenience stores last week.These raspberry kit kats are coated in brown chocolate on the outside and inside the fudge like biscuits have two layers of raspberry flavour coating.Not one of my favourite kit kat flavours but the banana ones would be hard to beat.

Appropriate or Not?

Not sure if Im being overly sensitive but I did a double take when I saw these two cartoons appearing in the two local newspapers.

Given the recent massacre in the States not sure if the Dilbert cartoon which appeared in The Japan Times Saturday April 21 was appropriate with its reference to serial killers.

The Bliss cartoon appeared in The Daily Yomiuri Sunday April 15 and again given the recent murder and stalking case in Japan I dont think it was in the best taste.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Friday Flash...Up the Iron

A sneak preview of the flag Im taking to Scunthorpe United's last game of the season against Carlisle Saturday 5 May.Scunthorpes nickname is "The Iron" and Ive also written some kanji on the flag which includes the words "believe" and "iron" in Japanese.Also listed is this seasons games and scores.Hopefully I can put it up somewhere in Glanford Park and get some signatures and autographs on it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Up The Iron

Scunthorpe United Football Club won promotion to the second tier of English football on Saturday.Home to Huddersfield.2-0.
It will be their first visit to what is now the Coca Cola Championship in forty three years.
Amazing,given that they were one of the favourites to be relegated at the start of the season and quoted at 66/1 odds to win League One.
Over the past fifty years Scunthorpe,nicknamed "The Iron",have consistently been one of the least successful clubs in the Football League.Every promotion since 1972 has been followed by instant relegation.
Claims to Fame
In the 1970s three English sportsmen of note played for Scunthorpe.Former Liverpool and England players Ray Clemence and Kevin Keegan played for Scunthorpe early in their careers while the English cricketer Ian Botham made 7 appearances when the team was in the lower divisions.
Another odd claim is the so-called "Scunthorpe Problem".In the middle of the word "Scunthorpe" is an obscene four letter word starting with 'c'.Obscenity filters on computer search engines tend to block the word because it is interpreted as a swearword.Often you will see variations of the word or the use of asteriks or stars to get round this glitch.
I've been following the rollercoaster fortunes of this small North Lincolnshire club since the 1980's.The big teams like Manchester United or Chelsea hold little attraction for me.Its the bread and butter,dour football fluctuating fortunes that claim my attention.
The heartbreak of losing promotion playoff chances in 2003,narrowly avoiding relegation to the Conference League in 2004.A turnaround in the 2005 season finishing in second place to Yeovil to win promotion to League One.
In 2006 The Iron finished in 12th place staying in League One to end their 49 year period without staying out of the bottom division for consecutive seasons.
The current season looked like a continuation of former seasons.The former long established manager of ten years,Brian Laws,left in November and the clubs physiotherapist Nigel Adkins was appointed as manager.There followed a club record run of 19 games unbeaten as the club led the promotion race since around Christmas.The chant "Who needs Mourinho,we've got our physio" gained currency as Adkins and his team advanced to promotion at Glanford Park.
I've been to Scunthorpe once before in the 2002/03 season and watched away games at York and SouthEnd and a third round F.A Cup game against Leeds at Glanford Park.
There are three games left in the current season to clinch the title against Tramere,Blackpool and the final home game against Carlisle.All things going well I shall be there at Glanford Park on May 5 when the League One Cup is presented.
Check out the link to Scunthorpe United on my webpage.
Up the Iron.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Flash..Random Photos

Just some random shots I took this week....

This sign appears above the entrance of a nearby apartment building in Osu Kannon.

"Happy" appears to be the name of the company that occupies the building.Only the big orange machine in the middle is a real vending machine.The ones alongside are just cleverly painted.

The name of a small bar on one of the backstreets behind Osu Kannon Temple.The sign virtually is the width of the premises.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Springtime in Shirotori Garden Nagoya

A few shots from Shirotori Garden in Nagoya from last Friday.

There are a variety of cherry blossoms in Shirotori Gardens with different shaped and shaded petals and blossoms.

The photo above shows a traditional style weeping cherry blossom with pink oval shaped blossoms.

The blossoms in the photo above are predominantly white while there is a small highlight of pink in some of the petals.

The pink and white blossoms on the same branch look a bit odd.In fact the tree appears to be a grafted variety with both white and pink circular blossoms covering the tree.

Finally another photo of a weeping style pink petalled cherry blossom tree.

Lizard...Banana Yoshimoto

Lizard..Banana Yoshimoto...Faber and Faber.1993.180 pages including afterwords.

I should have been forewarned by the gushing reviews on the back cover of this set of six short stories."Yoshimoto transforms the trite into the essential" (The New Yorker).Sorry trite is trite.Nor do the stories leave me with "a desire for more".(Times Literary Supplement).I found myself struggling to recall anything memorable after finishing the collection a week ago.
I thought the six stories felt forced.Slight.Chick lit.Murakami light in her flailing attempts at mysticism and spirituality..."He and I fit together so well,like the swirl on the yin/yang symbol-his tough resilence and my resilent toughness".(pg 120)
There were also annoying sentence constructions which may be the fault of the translator rather than wholly the fault of the author..."I use the word "frozen" because she moved with such fluidity that she almost appeared to be not moving at all"(p24)

If that wasnt enough there also seems overuse of certain adjectives throughout the stories for example the word "ample" as in "a sea of ample,waving bodies"(pg 24) and "ample breasts"(pg5). A slight digression but what are "ample breasts"?Enough or more than enough,plentiful,large breasts?Surely there are more suitable,original adjectives than ample.

Then again there are images that dont work or evoke anything for me but a sense of trying to hard."I had left the group, as a piece of ripe fruit falls from a tree and is swept away by the current of the river,and finally finds its proper place."(p152)
Despite re-reading this I still cant work out what the author wants to say or convey.The image of a woman as ripe fruit is hardly original either but where is her "proper place". Swept out to sea or did the ripe fruit sink to the bottom of the river?

Anyway in her afterword she said she had fun writing these stories.I wish I could say the same about reading them.

Nova Corps Refund Policy Ruled Illegal

The Japanese Supreme Court dismissed Nova Corps appeal last Tuesday over two earlier lower court decisions regarding its refund policy for early course cancellation.
The Supreme Court ruled that its method of settling by using a higher unit price than when the contract was signed is illegal and violated the Specified Commerical Transaction Law.
The decision stems from proceedings brought by a former student who tried to cancel early and demanded a full refund for lessons he hadnt taken.The Supreme Court upheld the earlier decisions of the Tokyo District Court and High Court and finalized the first two rulings ordering the return of all the money demanded by the plaintiff.
Briefly,when new students sign up with Nova they purchase points that they use to take classes.One point is equal to a forty minute class.If students purchase in bulk, say 600 points, the cost per lesson is reduced to around 1,500 yen while purchasing only 25points works out at 4,000 yen a lesson.
However if the students cancel their contract early points used are calculated at a higher rate than the students initially agreed upon when signing up.The Supreme Courts ruling held that Nova's method of settling at a higher unit cost limits the freedom of students to cancel their contracts.
The Specified Commerical Transaction Law covers early cancellation in six business activities including language schools,beauty salons and matrimonal agencies.
Comments in the papers from various interest groups suggest that Nova may have to revise its tuition discount system as a result of the Supreme Courts decision.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday Flash..Boom Boxes on Wheels..

One annoying feature of living in Japan is the often totally unnecessary, continuous bombardment of noise.A major offender and contributor to this aural pollution are the black trucks and buses decked out with loudspeakers perched on each side,front and back.Operated by right wing conservative groups they often play ear splitting nationalisic music.They usually roam the streets in pairs thus doubly their engine-grinding,blaring capacity.They seem to appear on national holidays and other historical events.

I've seen on more than one ocassion mothers try to cover the ears of frightened infants in pushchairs as these menacing monoliths drive by.The slogans painted on the sides of this truck are calling for the return of islands involved in a territorial dispute with the old Soviet Union.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tsurumai Park..Hanami Season April 2007

After a burst of warmer weather late last week the cherry blossoms are now at their peak in Tsurumai Park in Nagoya.Looking back at last years photos it seems they bloomed around the same time and appear to be of a similiar quality too.Obvivously its all too much for some people judging from the photo above.

A view near the station end of Tsurumai Park early Friday.

Another view of a crowded Tsurumai Park on Saturday.

Spring has Sprung

As well as cherry blossoms a number of other trees and shrubs put in an appearance this time of year.
Above is a star magnolia or shidekobushi.This is one of several species of magnolia that grow in Japan.Apparently it can grow up to four metres tall.It has either white or pink flowers.Each flower has twelve or more petals on the end of leafless branches.

Above is a mass produced bento or lunchbox available at a convenience store adjacent to Tsurumai Park,one of the big cherry blossom party sites in Nagoya.The shops were doing a roaring trade in food and beer when I bought my bento.

Kokeizan Eihoji Temple

About 20 minutes on foot or a 1000 yen taxi ride from Tajimi Station is Kokeizan Eihoji Temple.Established in 1313 it is a learning centre for Zen trainees who practice zazen meditation.
As well as two buildings listed as National Treasures the grounds include a traditional Zen garden complete with ponds,waterfall and bridge.

While it was very peaceful when I visited on early Saturday afternoon I noticed scaffolding and construction work was in progress on rebuilding buildings destroyed in a 2003 fire.

Lindsay Hawker..R.I.P

On a sombre note,one of the main stories last week involved the discovery of the body of a British woman in a condominium in Chiba Prefecture.The man who lived in the condo fled barefoot when several police officers visited him.Police have since placed the man, aged 28, on a nationwide wanted list.To date he remains at large.
According to the police the suspect had stalked Hawker, who taught English at a Nova Corp branch language school.Hawker had agreed to give him a private English lesson on Sunday,the day before her body was found.
What saddened me was the large amount of often uninformed speculation this tragic episode generated on TV,in newspapers and various online forums.My thoughts go out to Ms Hawker and her family for all unwanted exposure and unwarranted attention this event has brought down upon them...Rest in Peace.