"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Number of Foreign Visitors To Japan Reached All-Time High In March

Above, the Godzilla statue in Hibiya. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

People must have read about the grand time I had in Japan (despite the snow) in February as foreign tourists flocked to Japan in record numbers in March, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

The Bangkok Post reported:
TOKYO - The number of foreign visitors to Japan reached 1.05 million in March, an all-time high for a single month, topping the previous high of 1 million in July last year, an estimate released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation showed Wednesday. 
The figure for March was up 22.6% from the same month a year earlier.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Latest Blog Pick-Ups

The Japan Daily picked up a couple of blog posts from today.

The first is one about H.I.S. Co.'s plans to purchase an offshore island near Sasebo City in Kyushu to turn it into a casino resort.

The second was on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan pre-vacation season sale that starts Friday, April 25.

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Japan's PM Shinzo Abe On The Cover Of Time

Love him or despise him, but no recent Japanese prime minister has rattled the cages of Japan's neighbors as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has.

The current issue of Time Magazine has Abe on the cover and includes an interview with him.

Time Out Tokyo reports:
Well, well, look who it is. In his interview with Time magazine, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tackles sensitive subjects including the country’s territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku islands, Japan’s remorse over its ‘brutal wartime record’, and the controversy surrounding reports that he has considered revising the 1993 Kono Statement which recognised the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of Asian ‘comfort women’.
Along with those topics, Abe also discusses Abenomics. It is sure to be an interesting read.

To see Time Out Tokyo's article, go here

New "The Flash" Television Show

Above, this is the new tv show Flash. How can someone be
 "the fastest man alive" in such a baggy and ridiculous costume? 

So, there's going to be a new The Flash television series.

It is being developed by writer/producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns. And, it is to air on The CW and it stars Grant Gustin and Candice Patton.

From the looks of the costume, I think I will pass on it. The costume of the 1990s television series looked much better (although the fake muscles were a bit overboard).

Looks like another Hollywood super-hero screw-up is in the making.

People's Republic of California Wants Pro-Boy Scout Judges Banned

The Looney Left Report

The People's Republic of California has come up with something that just boggles the mind.

The Daily Caller (thanks to The Federalist blog for the alert) has unearthed a plot by the left-wing-dominated California Supreme Court Advisory Committee to ban members of the Boy Scouts of America from serving as judges.

The Federalist Reported:
The People's Republic of California is proposing to ban members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from serving as judges because the Boy Scouts do not allow gay troop leaders, The Daily Caller has learned. 
In a move with major legal implications, The California Supreme Court Advisory Committee on The Code of Judicial Ethics has proposed to classify the Boy Scouts as practicing “invidious discrimination” against gays, which would end the group’s exemption to anti-discriminatory ethics rules and would prohibit judges from being affiliated with the group reports the Daily Caller.
This is what happens when wacko left-wingers have complete control of a state. California is essentially a one-party state controlled by radical, left-wing Democrats with their committee and judicial appointments.

According to a reliable source, the California Supreme Court Advisory Committe has strongly denounced the BSA for a long time as being "an inappropriate group" yet they "allow formation of pro-gay associations that support the advancement of gay judicial candidates."

To read more, go here.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Latest News

Above, The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan table at last year's Mad Monster Party. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is three more days (June 25) until the pre-vacation season sale of the print edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan goes into effect. The travel guide's Facebook members don't have to wait and they can get the 20% discount now as a thank-you for their support. The sale runs through Monday, June 16.

For details on the sale, go here.


In regard to the ebook edition at Amazon's Kindle Store, I woke up today to receive a message from Amazon that the royalty payment for last month's sales (which was a good month, by the way) has been deposited. My thanks to those who purchased the ebook edition!

H.I.S. May Buy Island Near Theme Park For Casino Resort

Above, many islands dot the Kyushu coast and may be candidates for a casino resort. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Sasebo may be known more than just the Saikai Bridge and the Hario Towers (featured in Rodan (1956)) if casino resort developers have their way.

The Japan Times reported:
H.I.S. Co.’s Dutch-themed Huis Ten Bosch amusement park along the Nagasaki coast is considering buying a deserted offshore island in an expansion to boost its appeal as a possible site for a casino resort. 
“We are planning to buy new land to offer more games at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park,” Hideo Sawada, chairman of the Tokyo-based travel agency and park operator, said in an interview last week. “There are a lot of deserted islands nearby.” He said at least ¥100 billion is needed to fund a gambling resort at the park. 
Huis Ten Bosch and sites across Japan are preparing to compete for possible gambling resort developments before the nation ends a ban on casinos, with preliminary legislation expected to be passed in the coming months. Global operators from Las Vegas Sands Corp. to Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. have said they are prepared to invest billions of dollars should they win permits for casinos in the world’s third-largest economy. 
Japan’s casino market could eventually generate $40 billion in annual revenue, trailing only China’s Macau as a gambling hub, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets estimates.
Above, the Shin-Saikai Bridge near Sasebo City. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Huis Ten Bosch is near Sasebo City (the train I rode on passed it while on the way to Sasebo in 2007) and is twice the size of Tokyo Disneyland, according to the article. There are many offshore islands near Sasebo, Nagasaki and Fukuoka, so any one of them could be a prime candidate for a casino resort.

To read more, go here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"The Real Face of Jesus?"

The only Easter thing I did was to watch a History Channel video on the Shroud of Turin, "The Real Face of Jesus?"

Whether or not the man whose image is on the shroud is Jesus doesn't matter. This is an interesting video and worth a look.

36 Classifications of Japanese Train Nerds

Above, shinkansen trains at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Rocket News 24 has posted an article on 36 (yes, 36) varieties of "train nerds" (people who love trains).

I was surprised to read about the different train otaku sub-cultures the article came up with.

The article begins with:
You may already be aware that there is a subculture of train fanatics in Japan known as densha otaku, or train nerds. But did you know that there are loads of sub-subcultures within the densha otakus? From those obsessed with train noises to experts in train lunch boxes, we’ve got them all covered for you.
The article has a cool photograph of a model train layout that includes Tokyo Tower.

Are you a "train nerd" and, if so, what category(ies) do you fit in with?

To read the article, go here

Crazy China: Seizes Japanese Ship For Pre-War Debts

It is starting to look like the Chinese government is crazy.

Japan Today reported:
TOKYO —The Japanese government on Monday warned that the seizure of a Japanese ship in Shanghai over pre-wartime debts threatened ties with China and could undermine the basis of their post-war diplomatic relationship. 
Authorities in Shanghai seized the large freight vessel in a dispute over what the Chinese side says is unpaid bills relating to the 1930s, when Japan occupied swathes of China. 
The move is the latest to illustrate the bitter enmity at the heart of Tokyo-Beijing ties, with the two sides embroiled in a spat over the ownership of a small archipelago and snapping at each other over differing interpretations of history. 
Shanghai Maritime Court said Saturday it had seized “the vessel Baosteel Emotion owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines… for enforcement of an effective judgement” made in December 2007.
Wondering what this is all about? The article goes on to state:
Reports said in 1936, Mitsui’s predecessor, Daido Shipping Co. rented two ships on a one-year contract from Zhongwei Shipping Co. 
However, the ships were commandeered by the Imperial Japanese Navy and were sunk during World War II, reports said. 
A compensation suit was brought against Mitsui by the descendants of the founder of Zhongwei Shipping Co, and in 2007, a Shanghai court ordered Mitsui to pay about 2.9 billion yen in compensation. 
Mitsui appealed against the court’s decision, but in December 2010, the Supreme People’s Court turned down their petition for the case to be retried. 
Mitsui has argued that it is not liable for paying compensation given that the ships that Daido rented were requisitioned by the Japanese military during the war, Kyodo News said. 
On Monday, Japan’s chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga said the seizure undermined the 1972 joint communique that normalised ties between Japan and China, in which Beijing agreed to renounce “its demand for war reparation from Japan.”
This is like someone here suing Japan (such as descendants of the owner of the pier that was damaged by Japanese submarine shelling in 1942 near Santa Barbara, California) for compensation for wartime damages today. We have courts crazy enough to allow such a lawsuit go forward.

Suga makes a good point that China agreed to renounce any demands for war reparations from Japan in 1972. Nice of them to live up to their agreements, eh?

This is total stupidity on China's part. It looks like they are trying to bully Japan, by using any means, over the Senkaku Islands dispute. They just may lose a valuable trading partner in the process.

But this should come as no surprise. People forget that China still has a communist government, which, by the way, controls the Chinese judicial system.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Matsushima Bans Seagull Feeding To Save Islet Pines

Above, a passenger on a Matsushima cruise boat feeding gulls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2006, I went to Matsushima Bay to see the spot where my dad had his picture taken in front of the Godaido Temple in 1951, just before he was sent over to Korea.

While there, I took a boat cruise that circled around the many islets in Matsushima Bay. During the cruise, we were entertained (and overwhelmed) by many of the bay's seagulls begging for food from the passengers. The birds were quite aggressive and would take food from the passengers' hands.

The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) reported that a ban on feeding the gulls is now in place as their droppings may be endangering the pine trees that grow on the islets.

They wrote:
Feeding black-tailed gulls has been a popular activity on the sightseeing boats that cruise around the Matsushima islets, considered to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan, but local authorities banned the practice this month in a bid to protect the islets’ famous pine trees from withering as a result of nitrogen in the droppings of the gulls, who have bred in large numbers in the area. 
Tourists who looked forward to feeding the birds have expressed disappointment, but the government of Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, has called for visitors’ understanding, saying it is the pine trees that make Matsushima (literally, pine island) what it is.
Above, some of the islets of Matsushima Bay. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The ban on gull feeding will have a duration of one year. Gull-feeding or no gull-feeding, a visit to Matsushima Bay is one I recommend. Matsushima Bay is often compared to Carmel, California for its scenic beauty.

To read more, go here.

The World's Best Destinations For Solo Travel

Above, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is part of the "Grand Circle" on the list. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

People have asked me if I enjoy traveling to Japan solo or not. It really doesn't make that much difference to me as I know people in Japan with whom I meet up with for lunch or dinner and other kinds of activities. So I don't feel that I am alone there. I find that going on my own allows me the freedom to do whatever I want and whenever I want.

The Huffington Post Travel blog has an article on the world's best destinations for solo travel. One of them is in Japan, but you'll have to read the article to see where in Japan.

They start with:
Travelling alone is no longer taboo. In fact, it's trendy to go alone out of choice. Celebrated as a way to learn about oneself, more people are discovering the freedom of exploring a new place on their own terms. From the frozen heartlands of Iceland to the sultry beaches of Belize, many destinations are independent traveler-friendly. Community groups, meet-ups and a vast wealth of online and digital resources make it easier than ever to go solo. Paris even has fun speed-dating styled language improvement events. Still undecided? Here are some tips on destinations known to be safe and where to look in each. Happy solo travels!--Anisha Shah
I don't see why solo travel was ever "taboo" (as they wrote), if it ever really was.

To see the best places for solo travel, go here

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" News Picked Up By The Free Library

Above, Yuu Asakura with The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The news release on the pre-vacation season sale of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan (at a 20% discount) has made it on The Free Library.com.

What is The Free Library?  According to them:

Since 2003, The Free Library has offered free, full-text versions of classic literary works from hundreds of celebrated authors, whose biographies, images, and famous quotations can also be found on the site. Recently, The Free Library has been expanded to include a massive collection of periodicals from hundreds of leading publications covering Business and Industry, Communications, Entertainment, Health, Humanities, Law, Government, Politics, Recreation and Leisure, Science and Technology, and Social Sciences. This collection includes millions of articles dating back to 1984 as well as newly-published articles that are added to the site daily. 
The Free Library is an invaluable research tool and the fastest, easiest way to locate useful information on virtually any topic. Explore the site through a keyword search, or simply browse the enormous collection of literary classics and up-to-date periodicals to find exactly what you need.
To see the posting at The Free Library, go here.

More Pick-ups By The Japan Daily

The Japan Daily has picked up some more blog posts, including on on Tofugu.com's "Ultimate Guide To The Japanese Toilet."

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Tofugu.com's Ultimate Guide To The Japanese Toilet

Above, a western-style toilet in Japan with gadget controls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Many westerners are be intimidated when confronted by a traditional Japanese squat style toilet, especially if they've never used one before. Since squatting is not normally done in western countries, the muscles required for this aren't as conditioned as the average Japanese person's. (This makes me wonder: How do elderly Japanese people handle this, especially those who have difficulty with their legs?)

Westerners's fears basically center around two things: 1. What if you didn't pull your pants down far enough (or the right way) and your "business" lands inside? 2. What if you lose your balance while squatting and you fall back and land backwards right into it? (The second one was also told to me years ago by a magazine publisher who lived in Japan for a while. He said he was always worried about the possibility of this happening.)

Thankfully, Japan has adopted the western-style sit-down type of toilet that we're all familiar with. The nice thing about those, many of them have nice gadgets including bidet sprayers with temperature and force adjustment dials and heaters.

Luckily for me, I've never had to confront this problem during my seven trips to Japan. I've seen restrooms in major Tokyo department stores that had both kinds available.

If you are planning to visit Japan anytime soon and have concerns that the only available toilet is the squat kind where you're at, Tofugu.com has an article on "The Ultimate Guide To Pooping In Japan."

It begins with:
I’m sure most of you are familiar with the wondrous Japanese toilet, especially since Tofugu has written before about some of the specialness that is the Japanese potty. However, no matter how much you’ve read, you might find yourself unprepared with the reality of trying to use a Japanese toilet. Thus, I’m going to walk you through where to find the restroom in Japan and some of what might be in store for you once you’re inside.
To read more, go here

More Blog Posts Picked Up By The Japan Daily

The Japan Daily has picked up several more blog posts. Among them are these two:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Japan News: Is Tokyo's Azumabashi Bridge Too Red?

Above, the Azumabashi Bridge with the Skytree and Asahi
Beer Hall in the background. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Azumabashi Bridge that connects Asakusa in the Taito Ward of Tokyo to the Sumida Ward across the Sumida River (the Asahi Beer Hall and Skytree are in the Sumida Ward) is to be re-painted soon. But a debate is brewing on what color should it be. Currently, it is red and some say it is too red.

According to an article in The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun):
Is the bridge too red? Color and architecture experts are debating whether the 132-meter Azumabashi bridge in Tokyo’s Asakusa district—across the Sumidagawa river near Sensoji temple in Taito Ward—has too bright of a red hue. 
The bridge is located about 100 meters east of the famed Sensoji temple and will be repainted soon. As the color deviates from a standard set by the local government, some people insist the bridge should be painted in a different color. A symposium to contemplate the bridge’s color has been held, and the issue may develop into a landscaping debate involving local residents and various other parties. 
The original Azumabashi bridge was built in the Edo period (1603-1867), but burned down in the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. In 1931, the Tokyo city government built the current bridge with its triple arches.
Above, this photo was taken on the Azumabashi Bridge looking towards Asakusa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I like the red color. It is a nice contrast to the drab grey of the surrounding structures.

To read more, go here

Godzilla Special Screening May 3 In Little Tokyo With Koichi Kawakita

Above, special effects director Koichi Kawakita and Armand in 2000. 

A special Godzilla celebration will take place in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 3.

Anime News Network reported:
Los Angeles, CA – April 16th, 2014 - In celebration of Godzilla's 60th anniversary, Anime Jungle presents two special screenings of GODZILLA at the Aratani Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday, May 3rd. The 3:00pm screening will be dubbed. And the 6:00pm screening will be with the original Japanese audio with English subtitle. The screenings are planned as a part of Fiesta Matsuri by JACCC (Japanese American Cultural and Community Center) in Little Tokyo. 
They will invite two guest, Mr. Koichi Kawakita, director of Special effects and Mr. Norihiko Iwasaki, Marbling Fine Arts Co. Before each screening, Mr. Kawakita and Mr. Iwasaki will give a live demonstration of Special Effect with miniatures “Model and Camera Demonstration.”

Reading further down the article, it appears that the Godzilla movie will be 1989's Godzilla vs. Biollante, not 1954's Godzilla.

To read the full article, go here.

Jackpot Day As Japan Daily Picked Up Several Blog Posts

It looks like I hit the jackpot over at The Japan Daily as they picked up several blog posts from the ol' rancho and from Monster Island News and Godzilla 2012 blogs.

As you can see from the accompanying snips, they picked up quite a number of them.

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Japan Tourism Agency To Spy On Your Tweets

With the continued controversy over the spying of U.S. citizens by the NSA and other government agencies still raging, it is a wonder that the Japan Tourism Agency would join the act at this time.

eTurboNews reported:
TOKYO, Japan - The Japan Tourism Agency will analyze tweets by foreign tourists during their visits to Japan, in an effort to make the country a more attractive destination for visitors from overseas. 
An official at the agency said the government hopes to understand the needs of foreign tourists, as their numbers are expected to increase toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. 
A data processing company commissioned by the agency will be responsible for analyzing the tweets after purchasing data from the U.S. company Twitter Inc., according to the agency official.
Granted, anything posted on Twitter is fair game for anyone to see, but it may cause enough of a chilling effect on privacy-minded tourists from the U.S. to stop them from posting tweets.

It may sound like a good idea, but people are getting a bit fed up of having their personal business spied upon by any government, no matter what the stated purpose may be.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Got News Wire Picks Up Monster Japan Travel Guide News

The news release on the pre-vacation season sale of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide to Japan that the press release service I use is beginning to hit at different websites.

The most prominent, so far, is Got News Wire. Along with picking up the news release, it also indicates that is one of the "most popular" with their readers.

To read more, go here.

Monster Japan Travel Guide News Picked Up By The Japan Daily

The news on the pre-vacation season sale of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan is starting to circulate around.

The Japan Daily's Leisure section has picked up the blog post notice (although Yuu Asakura seems to have "lost her head" in the process).

To see more, go here.

Tokyo Station Platform Roof To Be Replaced

Above, the Yamanote Line and the Tokyo Station platform roof, from a video I shot in 2004.

The East Japan Railway Company will be replacing a Tokyo Station platform roof for the first time since the station opened in 1914.

According to The Japan News:
A JR East official said the company decided that two of the 14 cast iron pillars holding up the roof will be preserved as a “monument” in recognition that the roof is a historic piece of architecture that survived the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945 during World War II. 
The roof covers the platform of tracks No. 5 and No. 6, used by Yamanote Line trains and Keihin Tohoku Line trains bound for Ofuna Station.
It is interesting that the roof withstood the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake and the Great Tokyo Air Raid of 1945.

To read more, go here.

Foreigners Flock To Hiroshima Museum

Above, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The Peace Memorial Park and Museum in Hiroshima, Japan has announced the attendance figure of foreign visitors in 2013.

The Japan Times reported:
Visits to The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum by foreign tourists hit a record high of 200,086 in 2013, the museum announced Wednesday.

The total number of visits to the museum in 2013 was 1,383,129 — an increase of approximately 100,000 over the previous year.
To read more, go here.

Monster Japan Travel Guide Pre-Vacation Season Sale News

Above, Miki Hayashi with The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

PR.com has distributed the news release on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan pre-vacation season sale.

Here's the release's direct link:

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Pre-Vacation Season Sale

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