Thursday, February 8, 2018

A Year without Wisdom

There is no stopping them. Year in, year out, they come. It's usually sometime just after New Year's day. You can hear them before they pounce upon your doorstep. I don’t mean the relatives (but them too). I mean the lions. 

Prowling the neighborhood with a retinue of flutists and drummers in tow, they stop here and there, do a little dance, and if you want, put your head between their incisors to make you all the wiser they say. Except this year. This year they didn’t come. They were stopped dead in their tracks… by my mother-in-law. She stopped them from coming by dying.

Since my nephew, the village elder (a young elder at 30-something) that usually leads the lion dancing party was in mourning for his departed grandmother, decorum dictated that he refrain from taking part in the age-old annual custom. Now without anyone to follow in his footprints the whole village has found themselves mourning the loss of the lions and whatever wisdom they might bring.

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)