Monday, October 23, 2017

Big in Japan

Up Close and Personal with a Giant Enema

They say that in Japan there is a mascot for virtually everything and I think Ichijiku, the Japanese pharmaceutical company specializing in enemas, has proven it.

This Friday Ichijiku’s penguinesque  enema-shaped  mascot, Kan-chan, made a rare public appearance at an upscale shopping emporium in downtown Tokyo and I was there to meet it. The drug company’s Twitter account says that Kan-chan “has plans to go many different places.” To be honest, before Friday, I could only think of one. Now after getting up close and personal with the company mascot I have to say that it could brighten up just about any dark corner. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Tokyo's Trump Tower: It's a House of Cards

Trump Tower in Ota Ward, Tokyo

While some may think no urban landscape is complete without one, it was completely surprising to spy this not-too-tony tower dubbed "Trump" tucked away in a kind of quiet little corner of Tokyo. This city spire was erected in 2014 and its owner (who is, by the way, not the 45th president of the United States) claims the building's nomenclature is derived from the Japanese word for playing cards, "trump." Meaning, if you haven't figured it out by now, Trump Tower Tokyo is a house of cards.

P.S. Now ICYMI, there is an entire city in Japan called Obama (but don't tell President Trump).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Where Have All the Protesters Gone?

All Quiet on the Anti-War Front
It's mostly the sound of crickets coming from the grassroots.

If you’ve picked up the paper this week, you might have come to the disturbing conclusion that the U.S. is marching ever closer to the brink of a devastating war with North Korea... (Read on in the Japan Times).

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Man of Letters

"A man of letters," that's me - in the Japan Times anyway. Here's my most recent epistle to the editor:

Firms, pay heed to where your ads show up

After reading the Feb. 13 story, “Weaponized buying as shoppers weigh boycott calls over firms’ political stands,” I ventured into the minefield known as Breitbart News.
Although the article described Breitbart as a conservative news and opinion website formerly run by Trumps chief strategist, its largely viewed as a gateway site for the alt-right and a sort of primer for would-be white supremacists. It has earned the moniker of hate site, for what many recognize as its incendiary mix of racism, xenophobia and more, all topped off with the burning fuse of fake news.
When I got to the site for my look-see I was a little surprised to find a SoftBank ad aimed at... (read on in the Japan Times).

Saturday, January 28, 2017


This battered yet imposing structure reminds me of Nagasaki, Japan's famed Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), an abandoned industrial fortress where workers once lived and harvested coal from mines beneath the sea. While Nagasaki's Gunkanjima is now a tourist destination and a frequent backdrop for science fiction movies depicting a dystopian future, our town's little Gunkanjima still at least seems to be home to employees of the adjacent factory it stands watch over.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Something Unexpected

From the Sept. 24, 2015 issue of the Hokkaido Shimbun
I found this gem of a newspaper article surrounding some sun-ripened, farm fresh produce from Japan’s northern-most prefecture of Hokkaido.

The story describes one hundred and five-year-old, Hidekichi Miyazaki, a born runner, but also somewhat of a late bloomer. Leading the life of a typical pensioner, Miyazaki would often pass his time in the company of friends, chatting away over a Go board (a game of strategy akin to Reversi or Othello). According to his Wikipedia page, as time wore on he sat by and watched as his fellow elderly Go partners passed away one by one. That's when he decided to run. 

At the ripe old age of 92 the theretofore not-so-athletically inclined Miyazaki was moved to give up the game of Go as well as other sedentary pursuits and take up sprinting. Thirteen years later the centenarian is still running strong with the 100 meter dash title, for his age category of 105 to 109-year-olds, firmly under his belt (although it’s unclear from the article I discovered exactly how wide the field of competition is for that class of runners). 

Despite his win with a time well under forty three seconds, Miyazaki was upset that he couldn’t finish in thirty five as he had hoped. It would seem like an unlikely goal to reach at this point but maybe we can expect the unexpected from someone who has already gone the extra mile to make up for lost time.

Post Script

I sent the article to my 92-year-old mother as a source of inspiration. She can expect to get a pair of sneakers for her birthday this year.

To find out more about Hidekichi Miyazawa visit his Wikipedia page.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Go Positively Ape

Or is it the year of the monkey? In any case, go positively ape this year. Speak only good, see only good, and hear only good things (like the Monkees).

Happy new year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Punch

Pictures Don't Lie 
Even when the captions that lie below them do

It’s that time of year again. The time when we step back and survey all we’ve accomplished over the past twelve months. And if nobody has noticed your deeds, you can either count yourself lucky or toot your own horn depending on what you’ve done. News outlets in particular... (read on at Counterpunch)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

A Stacked Deck

...of New Year's Cards

"Eureka!" I cried as I stood on the sidewalk gazing into the window of my local discount gift certificate shop. The place pays cash for unwanted gift certificates, etc. and then sells them below their retail value. It's a win-win deal for everyone and today I hit the jackpot. Sitting on the other side of the storefront window were bundles of freshly minted, postage-paid, blank New Year's cards ready to slap a message of good cheer on and send off to friends, family, people I'm not particularly fond of but because they send me a card, I send them one to, and more. The folks on my list all add up to a lot of postage and finally I caught a little break this year. 

After approaching the counter with a spring in my step, I happily forked over three thousand yen for 60 cards that normally sell for fifty two yen each at the post office. That's a ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY YEN SAVINGS (about one US dollar)!!!! It was starting to shape up into the best New Year's holiday ever I though, but rattling around in the back of my mind was this nagging question that wouldn't quit asking. "How could they sell postcards printed by Japan Post for less than the face value of the stamp?

Unable to contain the puzzlement within the confines of my skull, the question spilled off my tongue, in turn triggering this valley's rumor mill that runs all hours of the day and night. The word is that Japan's poor postal workers are saddled with the burden of selling a certain quota of cards. Denizens of Temple Valley say that many wind up purchasing them on their own and selling them to these aforementioned discount gift certificate shops. I've heard tell of some, working in far-flung areas where such shops are scant, that wind up taking a pricey bullet train ride into Tokyo where they try and peddle their cards to one of the many shops that dot the big city.

Okay now remember, this is just the word echoing through Temple Valley. I haven't fact checked any of it at all but it wouldn't surprise me if a government agency was trying to balance its budget on the backs of its workers. No matter how you cut the cards, it sounds like the deck might be stacked against these poor slobs and if what I've heard is true it's nothing to be happy about.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cutting Back

Measured against the signpost to his right,
 Wa-kun seems smaller than he was in 2011.

It seems as if Abenomics, the fiscal policies of Japan's right-wing prime minister Shinzo Abe, have forced people across the country to cut back. Even our local mascot, Wa-kun ("Lil' Al"), seems to have suffered a drastic cutback.