Friday, December 9, 2011

Taking the last train...

There's definitely a different vibe when you have to take the last train from one sleepy little coastal town to another.  The daytime trains are full of high school kids-- some tough-looking with their moussed pompadours and facial piercings-- and quiet old women, some serious-faced business people in black suits.  Hours later, the day is done.  Now it's time to go home on the last train from the station.

The last train sits at the platform for at least 30 minutes, waiting while the clean-up crew works at sweeping the concrete clean of trash.  An elderly drunk comes off another train and barks like a dog, angry at the world and takes forever to climb the steps into the station.  You can press a button to open the train doors and get on, then press another to close them with a pneumatic whoosh.

Stretched out on the seats near the center of the car is a middle-aged man wearing a parka, his shoes off.  He looks as comfortable there as he would on his futon at home.  In the elderly priority seats is a tired-looking man in a long leather coat, a tie and black slacks.  He has a black leather bag at his feet.  Later, a boisterous group of older men get on-- they're all more than likely drunk-- and they joke and laugh loudly.  It quickly becomes their car.

There's not much to see out the train windows when it finally starts rolling.  Some lights from houses across what are probably rice fields, a clustering of lights and a convenience store sign, more lights here and there, but otherwise just the reflection of yourself in the glass opposite.

The friends get off at a tiny station with no one in attendance.  Then it's a quieter experience, just the clattering of the train's wheels on the track and the announcer's voice telling you you're finally home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Definitely an earthquake zone!

Yesterday morning was pretty interesting, if experiencing earthquakes interests you.  It interests me in that I'd like not to do it ever again but I'm interested in the next time it happens.  At about 4:30am, we had a 5.1 quake.  That one woke me up because it shook my bed for quite a while.  Later, around 10:45am, we experienced a 5.2 quake.  The second quake rattled the windows and went on for a while.

I remember having a roommate when I first came to Japan who told all the students he was looking forward to his first earthquake.  Personally, I could do without them.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's a pretty big burger... I guess...

O.M.G. Burgers (a hamburger restaurant in Kanagawa) touts a monster sandwich they call the Akebono Sumo Burger on their webpage.  It weighs approximately 6 pounds and comes with about 2 and a half pounds of fries.  If you manage to finish it, you win the equivalent of 300 USD and a t-shirt that proclaims to the world you ate half a cow.

Oh, and the burger is on the house.

For the ex-pat-- and the native-born as well-- Japan offers a wide variety of hamburger dining experiences.  You can try the classic taste of McDonald's (yes, yes I did), Burger King and Wendy's (they exited the Japanese market in 2009, but this December they're jumping back into the food fight with renewed vigor), plus the home-grown delights of Freshness Burger and Mos Burger.  If you're a fan of the manga Nana (and why aren't you?), you can try a Jackson Burger at Hachi's favorite place, Jackson Hole.  Which is a bar.

But not the original bar as seen in the comic book and movie.  In 2008, Jackson Hole moved from near the southern entrance of Chofu Station to new digs on the northern side, as some intrepid explorers in real-world manga locations have discovered.  Philosophers and those versed in mereological essentialism will have to debate whether or not a Jackson Burger in the new location is the same as a Jackson Burger at the old and if it presents a Ship of Theseus paradox.  I just know Hachi loves a Jackson Burger no matter where she sits to eat it.

As for me, a trip to O.M.G. Burgers is on my itinerary for the coming year.  After all, who wouldn't want to challenge the sumo burger, especially if there's a chance some bikers will be there to cheer you on?

Monday, October 31, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Happy Halloween!

Here are a few more of those delightful Tales of Terror videos. First up: a spooky sleep-over!

Looks like another of those ubiquitous school trips. Japanese students go on these excursions each year. Some stay within Japan, like these unfortunate girls, and others go abroad. Do you think this experience will cure Yuki of her school trip insomnia?

Here's yet another school trip.

Most school trips are meant to be educational experiences. From this one, I learned that if I leave my lip cream in the bathroom, I should just wait until morning to retrieve it.

Of course, terror doesn't confine itself to creepy old ryokan in the middle of the night. Sometimes it sneaks up on you around lunchtime in ordinary city apartments.

That was a lovely little flat. Didn't the sister decorate it nicely? Love the dot motif, but it's too bad about the visitor problem.

Well, there are dozens of those Tales of Terror on YouTube. But there are very few Spookey ones. Here's a favorite of mine:

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 28, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Halloween cosplay in Ikebukuro!

I didn't get to go to this, but Sakura Cafe (part of the hotel) in Ikebukuro held a Halloween cosplay party and it looks like everyone had a lot of fun.  Black cats, witches, zombies... characters whose identities I couldn't discern...  I always enjoyed my stays at the Ikebukuro branch of this hotel chain.  It's not that far from the station, features both hostel and "business hotel" accommodations, and -- like all the Sakura Hotels-- has a young, energetic staff that really go all out to make you feel welcome.

When I decided I was too boring to stay in Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku (and too cheap), I switched to the Sakura Hotels and made them my home-away-from home for my annual New Year's junket to Tokyo and the various Melt-Banana shows I attended.  I spent my last 5 nights in Japan at the Hatagaya branch, just a quick subway ride from Shinjuku Station and watched a really lousy American League baseball game in the cafe there waiting for my departure time.  Lousy in that the last couple of innings were interminable, one of those games where one team looks as though it's playing in slow motion and the other team just keeps hitting away.

Not a fun game.  Not a fun day.  But Halloween parties can be a blast.  I always handed out candy on Halloween at my old school, and we talked about the holiday's history and popular costume choices.  The classics proved popular, just like you'll see if you check out the photos in the link above.  You know what else is fun?

Spookey doing "The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)" from the old The Banana Splits Adventure Hour TV show!

October Is Still Spookey Month: If you're in Tokyo, go to prison for Halloween!

The Sakura Hotel Asakusa staff blog features a short article on an Alcatraz-themed restaurant that looks like the perfect Halloween destination.  Alcatraz by way of the Hannibal Lecter films.  I hope it's still there next Halloween because I will definitely go there and sample some of their liver with fava beans.  I'll have to pass on the Chianti no matter how nice it is; I no longer drink alcohol.

EEP! What we need after that is a palate cleanser of the musical sort:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Everyone seems to love Kuchisake-onna!

Why? I'm not not sure. All I know is, this blog gets a lot of Google hits for "slit mouth woman" or "kuchisake-onna," and Youtube features a surprisingly large number of videos describing her legend. As it turns out, she's not only freaky, she's also incredibly popular.

I also find her very tragic, but that's not saying I particularly want to meet her.  One of the most disturbing and therefore effective aspects of a lot of these Japanese horror tales is the arbitrary victim selection.  Few of these people deserve their fates, unlike in most Western horror stories.  You know-- the philandering lover, the know-it-all jerk, the greedy relatives, the kids who willfully ignore societal mores and go skinnydipping in Crystal Lake all receive their comeuppance.

But what about the kid who's just hanging out at home when a ghost comes to call?  Or the young woman who finds herself running a little late and gets stuck in an elevator?  Or the poor woman with the coughing fit in the park, and her child?  When Kuchisake-onna catches up to you, it doesn't matter if you're a nice person or not. And speaking of nice, here's another performance by Toy Missile, outside Shinjuku Station. This is where I saw them way back in August, 2007. Their official website seems to have gone dark, so it may be they live now only in my memories. And on Youtube.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: "Three People Are Coming" and a couple more Japanese horror shorts...

That's a pretty lousy elevator. I don't think I'd enjoy riding that one, either. I rode some creepy elevators during my time in Japan, but I was lucky in that I never had that poor girl's experience. Nice job with those English subtitles by "montecristo73returns," though. What else can we find? How about this one?

Lesson learned? Cram school sucks! Again, great job on the subtitles. But if you stay out of elevators and cram schools, you're completely safe, right?

Yikes! That looks a lot like my old apartment! Nice job, KuljeetChauhan. I have no idea where these short films come from. Shown on television? From a DVD? They're pretty cool and there seem to be dozens of them. Now... here's a movie I made. You may have seen it before!

Monday, October 24, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: At last-- Tsukiko versus Tomie in the new movie!

While we're on the subject of Japanese horror, the Tomie film series is apparently as unkillable as their eponymous villain. Tomie Unlimited is the newest offering from Toei Company, LTD. and it seems to be at least loosely based on the "Tsukiko" stories from Junji Ito's manga. This makes me happy, because I'm a big fan of those particular Tomie stories and of the character Tsukiko, the cheerfully amoral purveyor of candid photos of cute guys she sells to the girls who have crushes on them.

While the movie Tsukiko eschews her comic book counterpart's pixie cut and happy-go-lucky capitalist demeanor, Miu Nakamura makes quite a convincing Tomie.  Several of the scenes from the trailer look astoundingly like panels from Ito's stories.  It would be too much to ask for a completely faithful adaptation-- here, Tsukiko is Tomie's little sister rather than simply a classmate.  However, the publicity materials promising a Tomie who "reveals her true face only when she is with Tsukiko" make this the most intriguing series entry in quite some time.

In the comic, Tsukiko makes a fun and vivacious enemy for Tomie, and Tomie's position as the head of her school's Public Morality Committee provides a bit of ironic counterpoint to Tsukiko's scheme.  Just as Tsukiko abuses the privileges that come with being a member of the photography club-- access to a dark room and materials to make her illicit yet lucrative prints-- Tomie soon has her own club lackeys pursuing her unfortunate enemy.  And it becomes apparent that Tsukiko's crimes pale in the face of Tomie's monstrous true self and the bloody murders she causes during their personal war.

The stories also benefit from a unity of setting, unlike the other Tomie tales which are only loosely connected.  The idea of a beautiful yet thoroughly evil young woman who drives her lovers to madness and murder-- and yet cannot be killed herself, no matter how hard everyone tries-- is good for a few chills here and there, and benefit from Ito's trademark gross out scenes.  But by grounding her in a specific locale and taking some time to develop her victims Ito creates a cycle of stories that have no problem standing alone.  If character development is Ito's weak point as a writer, with the introduction of Tsukiko he solves this problem, and it helps bring Tomie herself into focus.

Even if you probably won't want to see what develops as a result.  Isn't that right, Tsukiko?  Tsukiko?  Oh yeah, the school officials suspended her.  Oh well.  That gives her plenty of time to get to know her new best friend, Tomie.  Here's Toy Missile, one of my favorite Japanese bands!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October Is Still Spookey Month: Here's Chiaki Kuriyama in an early horror role!

This is a scene from the original direct-to-video Ju-on (2000) that spawned the movie series, the American remake and its sequels.  I have no idea about the Ju-on mythology or back story, but I do know the American release of the first theatrical movie has a redundant title, and the Japanese release of the American version has a silly one.

While we tend to like our ghost stories set in the fall during Halloween season, Japanese culture favors the late summer during Obon time.  This scene establishes mood early with the oppressive cicada static in the background; that's the soundtrack of summer there in Japan.  They still ring in my ears and the I last experienced Japanese summer two years ago.  The school bell briefly heard brings back a lot of memories for me as well.  The cellphone is a neat plot device-- a more modern conduit for mysterious messages and voices from the other side, but its size and simplicity instantly date this movie.  It's a period piece.

The message with the repeating 4s may not seem particularly chilling to Americans like myself, but the Japanese word for 4 is "shi," which also means death, so this is a pun commonly used in J-horror.  Come to think of it, it might not be all that frightening even for a Japanese audience, because it's probably cliche by now.  Remind me to ask!

Still, four is just not an auspicious number; I used to go get check-ups at a local hospital that had examining rooms numbered 3 and 5, but not 4.  But it must be Kuriyama's lucky number, because she also appeared in a movie called Shikoku, the name of one of Japan's main islands (which uses its more benign meaning), but can also mean "land of the dead."

At least in that one, she gets to play the ghost rather than its victim.

Chiaki Kuriyama is one of the coolest people on earth.  Unfortunately, I don't find the little kid ghost anywhere near as creepy as Sadako from the Ringu series, or even Tomie. Heeeeeeeeerrrrrrre's Sadako:

Monday, October 3, 2011

Once again, October is Spookey Month!

Because Halloween is awesome and so are they, here's a video from Hamamatsu's all-girl punk band, Spookey:

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Hamamatsu Typhoon

Or "taifun," if you prefer.  Whatever you call it, however you spell it, Typhoon Roke smashed into my old hometown of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, on Thursday, September 22.  One of my good friends actually had to take his dog out for a poop during the storm.  Can you imagine that?  He and the dog are safe, but he told me trees were down, some roofs off houses, windows smashed and motorcycles and bicycles scattered.

I lost count of how many typhoons stuck Japan during the nearly six years I lived there.  Once, when I lived in Toyohashi, one of my co-workers and I were way out in the sticks teaching at a school branch located in a department store when a typhoon blew through.  We didn't know bus service to the train station had been cancelled, so like a couple of goons we stood at the stop for about half an hour before it dawned on us to go to a convenience store and call a cab.  We didn't get back to our apartment until after 11:30pm.  That was the kind of experience you can laugh about later.

Let me just warn you about one thing-- if you're planning on moving to Japan-- it will rain.  And rain.  And rain.  Japan is a very rainy country.  This is fine if you're also from a rainy country.  I'm not.  Riding a bicycle during rainy season, through the outer feeder bands of a typhoon when solid walls of water blow horizontally below your umbrella.  You will more than likely do these things.  Sometimes they're even fun.  Yes, I miss it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sayonara, Nuclear Power

Monday, September 19, saw about 60,000 people rally against nuclear power in Japan.  Nobel laureate Oe Kenzaburo helped organize the event, which included a march through Omotesando and Harajuku-- I'm guessing along Omotesando-dori-- to Yoyogi Park.

It must have been quite a sight.  Once, when I was vacationing in Tokyo, I found myself involved in a peace march in Shibuya.  I'm not sure how many were in the march-- possibly 1000 people or so.  They held signs in English promoting world peace, but they didn't exude radicalism or hippie-ism.  Nothing fringe-y, although I think peace should be a mainstream issue.  These were just ordinary people of all ages, many of them appearing to be clean-cut college students, the same kinds of kids I taught conversational English in Hamamatsu.  Maybe because I was the only American-looking person around, they singled me out for a lot of smiles and peace signs, which I happily flashed back at them, letting them know, "Hey, I'm for peace, too."

Having participated in a "No Blood for Oil" march during the Second Persian Gulf War way back in 1990, I know what it's like to peacefully protest for something in which you strongly believe.  Our protest didn't share the fun vibe the Shibuya peace march.  There are probably many reasons for this which I just don't feel like getting into; not only that, I'm hardly an expert on either American or Japanese culture.  But I do love peaceful protests.  Especially friendly peaceful protests.  Give me a smile and a hug and I'm much more likely to listen to what you have to say.  We may not reach an agreement, but we can talk it over and maybe make friends with each other.  Tote a gun and a frown, throw around threats, and we've got nothing to discuss.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Melt-Banana's new album...

That's right, MxBx has a new album coming out.  They haven't made the street date official, but the aiming point is spring, 2012.  They originally wanted to release it to coincide with their North American tour this fall, but "things [haven't gone] smoothly," according to their newsletter.

Well, that's something to look forward to for those of us who probably won't get to see them live as they swing through the US and Canada.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Melt-Banana's "Lost and Found" US/North America Fall 2011 Tour Dates

Looks like MxBx will be all over the place, possibly even somewhere near you. So you have no excuse for not seeing them. They put on one of the most incredibly kinetic live shows going and you never know what's going to happen. Here are the confirmed dates so far, so mark your calendars:

2011/10/01 Eugene WOW Hall (OR, USA)
2011/10/02 Portland Star Theater (OR, USA)
2011/10/03 Seattle Chop Suey (WA, USA)
2011/10/04 Missoula Badlander (MT, USA)
2011/10/06 Salt Lake City Kilby Court (UT, USA)
2011/10/08 Denver Larimer Lounge (CO, USA)
2011/10/09 Kansas City The Record Bar (MO, USA)
2011/10/10 Omaha The Waiting Room (NE, USA)
2011/10/11 Iowa City The Mill (IA, USA)
2011/10/12 Sioux Falls Boonies Bar (SD, USA)
2011/10/13 Minneapolis Triple Rock Social Club (MN, USA)
2011/10/14 Madison High Noon Saloon (WI, USA)
2011/10/15 Milwaukee The Cactus Club (WI, USA)
2011/10/16 Chicago Subterranean (IL, USA)
2011/10/17 St. Louis Cicero's (MO, USA)
2011/10/18 Bloomington The Bishop (IN, USA)
2011/10/19 Newport The Historic Southgate House (KY, USA)
2011/10/20 Lansing Mac's Bar (MI, USA)
2011/10/22 Cleveland Grog Shop (OH, USA)
2011/10/23 Ithaca The Haunt (NY, USA)
2011/10/25 Toronto Wrongbar (ON, CANADA)
2011/10/26 Montreal Il Motore (QC, CANADA)
2011/10/27 Cambridge TT The Bears (MA, USA)
2011/10/28 Hamden The Space (CT, USA)
2011/10/29 New York City Santos Party House (NY, USA)
2011/10/31 Philadelphia Union Transfer (PA, USA)
2011/11/01 Washington DC The Red Palace (DC, USA)
2011/11/02 Baltimore The Ottobar (MD, USA)
2011/11/04 Chapel Hill Local 506 (NC, USA)
2011/11/05 Atlanta The Earl (GA, USA)
2011/11/06 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/07 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/08 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/09 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/10 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/11 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/12 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/13 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/14 TBA (**, USA)
2011/11/15 Birmingham Bottletree Cafe (AL, USA)
2011/11/16 Mobile Alabama Music Box (AL, USA)
2011/11/17 Houston Fitzgerald's (TX, USA)
2011/11/18 Dallas The Prophet Bar (TX, USA)
2011/11/19 Austin Mohawk (TX, USA)
2011/11/20 San Antonio Jack's (TX, USA)
2011/11/22 Tucson Club Congress (AZ, USA)
2011/11/23 Mesa Hollywood Alley (AZ, USA)
2011/11/24 TBA (CA, USA) 2011/11/25 TBA (CA, USA)
2011/11/26 TBA (CA, USA)
2011/11/27 TBA (CA, USA)
2011/11/28 TBA (CA, USA)
2011/11/29 TBA (CA, USA)
2011/11/30 TBA (CA, USA)

In the meantime, here's a little taste of MxBx to whet your appetites:

And this, too:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My new t-shirt design...

Shop other personalized gifts from Zazzle.
You don't have to buy it, but I'm starting a clothing line celebrating the fun aspects of modern Japan. I figured if celebrities can do this by slapping some letters on a bunch of t-shirts and charge ridiculous prices for them, then there's no reason I can't do the same. Probably with much less successful results. Anyway, this is my inaugural offering.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Tour boat accident near my old hometown

A friend just emailed me this news-- a tour boat capsized on the Tenryu river. Seven are missing, including 2 children. That's still local news to me. All my best wishes and thoughts go out to their families.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Prinprin Monogatari!

I'd been looking for this for months. When I lived in Japan, I'd occasionally find this airing in the mornings or early afternoons on Cartoon Network. It's a puppet/marionette show called Prinprin Monogatari (or Purinpurin Monogatari). It originally aired on NHK in the early 1980s and has a gentle Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood feel. All I know about it beyond that is the characters would sometimes ride around in a Jeep.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Not so fast: Hamaoka shut-down update

According to the Japan Times, Chubu Electric has put off their decision to shut down the Hamaoka nuclear power plant. Since I posted about Mr. Kan's request earlier, I just thought I should update you. The request itself is non-binding, so it's not as if the prime minister ordered them to close it. This should be an interesting story to follow.

The Simpsons are going to Japan!

When kid students learned I'm a The Simpsons fan-- usually because I'd draw Homer and Bart as the dialogue characters as opposed to just writing down a couple of names-- they'd point at my drawings and say, "CC Lemon! CC Lemon!" I asked some older students about this and they told me about the Simpsons appearing in commercials for that soft drink (which tastes like someone dissolved lemon-flavored cough drops in ginger ale). Then we'd talk about the TV show and compare Bart's antics to Crayon Shin-chan's.

"I thought he was a good person!" one young woman said through giggles after I told her what a little bastard Bart Simpson is. Apparently, whether you're American or Japanese, you love your bad boys. At least in animated form.

The Hamaoka nuclear power plant is closing...

By request of Prime Minister Kan Naoto, it seems. You know, since an earthquake and tsunami has already caused something of a row at one nuclear power plant in Japan, they've decided this one is particularly vulnerable. The plant's closure makes a lot of my ex-pat friends who live in the plant's general vicinity very happy. I don't know how my Japanese friends and ex-students feel about it, but I'm going to guess the people I know best probably feel the same. I'd ask but I don't want to ruin their Mother's Day weekend with stupid questions. I'll bet it's a talking point this week at Pacific English School.

I'm no expert on the fission or the atom but since the prime minister has also asked people there to conserve electricity, I'm further going to guess they'll have to figure out some sort of power grid infrastructure adjustment so the lights will stay on in Hamamatsu and Shizuoka City. Yes, there may be power shortages in the interim. Summer won't be very pleasant without air conditioning, but a little mugginess indoors definitely beats the possible radioactive consequences of the major quake that's supposed to strike the Chubu region within the next 30 years. It does give a person an excuse to lounge about naked while drinking cold beer. As if we needed it, right? Right?

I think I've seen that nuclear power plant. I know it's near Omaezaki, which has a famous lighthouse. I went there with a girl I was dating and the way the drive plays out in my memory, we went past the plant and I said something stupid about Homer Simpson that didn't register with her at all. The Simpsons are minor soft drink spokespeople in Japan, not cultural touchstones the way they are here in the US. Then we sat together on the beach and watched the surfers bobbing on the waves as the sun went down.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Mos Burger addiction

I love keeping up with Japan. It's been almost a year since I left but I still love that country and its wonderful people. One way I keep a foot in Japan is by following the Sakura hostel blogs. I recommend you stay at a Sakura hotel or hostel when you're in Tokyo-- they're very reasonable, have excellent locations and the staff are friendly and fun. I regularly stayed in the Ikebukuro and Hatagaya Sakura Hotels (never tried the hostels because I'm just not a hostel kind of person). In fact, my last 5 nights in Japan were at Sakura Hotel in Hatagaya, which happens to have a Mos Burger right around the corner.

Here's a short blog entry about Mos Burger from one of the Asakusa hostel staff. It's got some fun info on the chain. Did you know Mos Burger introduced the first teriyaki burger? I didn't, but I do know teriyaki burgers are a staple of Mos-competitor McDonald's.

One thing I always enjoyed about Mos Burger is they don't prepare your meal until after you order it. Which means you have to wait a little longer than you would at McDonald's or Burger King, but you always get hot, fresh food served to you in a little wicker basket. Mos Burger's fries are incredibly delicious when hot. Sometimes I crave them.

My first Mos experience was way back in 2003, on my very first visit to Japan. I was in alone in Tokyo, out in Mitaka to visit the Ghibli Museum-- and because I'm math-challenged, I'd shown up too early to go in. See, your Ghibli Museum ticket comes with a specific entry time. It helps cut down on crowds and makes your experience inside the museum more pleasant. But if you're an idiot like me, you might misread the 24-hour clock and show up at, say, 1300 when you're supposed to be there at 1500.

Hungry because I'd skipped lunch in my determination to make my museum appointment (stupidity compounds itself), I set off down the street to find a lunch spot and kill some time. I'm not sure how far I walked, maybe 5 minutes or so, but I found a Mos Burger. I'd seen a few of those around Hamamatsu and Tokyo and decided to try. This was also my first time ordering food by myself in Japan. The restaurant employees got over their initial shock at seeing my white face stumble through the door and the girl at the register gave me a big smile and steeled herself for what she more than likely expected to be a confusing encounter with a jerk-ass foreigner.

Actually, with the Ghibli Museum right down the road, the Mos staff were probably used to dealing with us. The cashier showed me how to point at the menu and I quickly chose who-knows-what. A hamburger with what looked like chili on top and a side of fries and a soft drink. She gave me a plastic tentlike thing with a number on it and gestured towards the dining tables. I'm sure I was grinning like a fool.

The food came hot and I enjoyed my inaugural Mos experience. Later I learned how to say my order in Japanese and also to love their teriyaki chicken sandwich. The Mos Burger at Zaza City in Hamamatsu became a regular lunch spot for me on days I worked, and the one near Sakura Hotel Hatagaya became a place for me to grab a quick meal before going to a Melt-Banana show in Shin-Okubo or Shibuya.

The main source of confusion about Mos Burger is what the Mos stands for. Someone once claimed it was short for "Most Delicious Burger," but if you look at the food wrappers, you'll see it really stands for "Mountain Ocean Sun." But it is pronounced like the word "most" with the t chopped off, not moss.

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Japanese commercial

A former student of mine posted this and I thought it was amusing so I'm sharing it with you. Just to lighten the mood for a moment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Here's a more comprehensive list of charities

If you are so inclined, please check out this list and the information it contains about various organizations that are attempting to aid Japan during this crisis. This site also contains some useful advice on giving you might want to consider.

Donate money...

Here are links to the three organizations I chose to donate to (partially because I respect their missions and partially because of the percentage of the donation that goes directly to the relief efforts as opposed to administrative functions):

1. Save the Children
2. International Medical Corps
3. GlobalGiving

That's not a knock against these other organizations that are helping Japan now, too, many of which I've donated to in the past. I do things intuitively. Make up your own mind, but please help:

1. The American Red Cross
2. Salvation Army
3. Doctors Without Borders
4. Peace Winds
5. Operation USA
6. International Fund for Animal Welfare (for animal lovers)

This is only a very limited list. There are many other groups, agencies, organizations and foundations that are also contributing to Japan's needs. I urge you to take some time and find the one that feels right for you and help those who need.

Donate directly...

1. Food (instant foods, dietary supplements, baby foods)
2. Warm blankets
3. Clothing;
4. Baby clothes, and DIAPERS!!!!

Attn: Earthquake Relief Supplies
Miyagi Prefectural Office
3-8-1, Honcho
Aoba-ku, Sendai city, Miyagi
980-8570, JAPAN

Attn: Earthquake Relief Supplies
Iwate Prefectural Office
10-1 Uchimaru Morioka city, Iwate

Attn: Earthquake Relief Supplies
Aomori Prefectural Office
1-1-1 Nagashima, Aomori city,
Aomori, 030-8570, JAPAN

Attn: Earthquake Relief Supplies
Fukushima Prefectural Office
2-16 Sugitsuma-cho, Fukushima City
960-8670, JAPAN

NOTE: If you send food, please make sure all the items in each box are the same. Also, new baby clothes, not secondhand. That may change if things become more desperate, but apparently that's the rule for now. Believe me, your contributions will be GREATLY appreciated.

(From my friends Jon and Hiromi Bauer)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts of Japan on a terrible morning

We've got NBC and CNN on and I'm emailing friends in Japan. News of this nature is mindboggling; it's difficult to process. When I left Japan, my heart remained there-- so many friends, so much love. Today I'll be praying for them all.

Here's an ABC reporter describing her experience.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bizarre ending to the Tokyo-Hakone relay marathon!

<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="Wrong Time To Take Wrong Turn In Marathon Race">Video: Wrong Time To Take Wrong Turn In Marathon Race</a>

That poor guy! It looks as though he was focused a bit too much on the pace car, and the announcers could not believe what they were seeing. That's totally something I would do. Fortunately, his 10th place finish was enough to qualify his university team for next year's relay.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

"I am a Realist:" Shonen Knife from 1982's "Minna Tanoshiku"

I'm not sure who made this video (it was posted by "J4P4N"), but it's pretty nifty paired with this early piece from Shonen Knife.

Shonen Knife to start 2011!

With this as the first song you listen to, how can 2011 fail to be the best year you ever had? Hey ho, let's go! Let's go to LA!

Now you don't have to go to Tokyo to experience a Tokyo train platform...

This is Ebisu Station. A nicely shot video, very steady and clear. Yep, this is what it's like. That jaunty music is "The Third Man Theme," which was used in an Ebisu Beer commercial years ago and has remained a durable outdoor cue for various places around Japan. I first heard it in the small shopping arcade just off Hirokoji-dori in Toyohashi, Aichi. Despite having seen the movie several times, I completely failed to recognize this theme until just today! That's either a contextual thing or else I'm an idiot. Or both.

At any rate, watching this video makes me homesick for Japan.