"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, October 1, 2014

UFO Over Tarzana?




Actually, it was a drone flying around the local supermarket parking lot that was loaded with LED lights.

Japan Increases Duty-Free Items For Foreign Tourists

Above, the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As expected, Japan has increased the items that can be purchased by foreign tourists duty-free.

Kyodo News reported:
The Japanese government expanded Wednesday its list of duty-free items for foreign visitors to include foods, alcohol, drugs and cosmetics on top of electronic goods, clothing and bags already exempt from the consumption tax.
The consumption tax currently stands at 8% in Japan, but there are discussions of raising it to 10%.

This is great news for tourists as the items are the most popular souvenirs for visitors to Japan.

To read more, go here

Japan's Shinkansen Turns 50

Above, a Tohoku shinkansen in 2006. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Today's the day that Japan's shinkansen (bullet train) marks 50 years of service.

News On Japan reported:
Japan's Shinkansen bullet-train has marked its 50th anniversary. The first Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka debuted on October 1st, 1964, ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics. 
On Wednesday, a celebratory event was held at Tokyo Station.
 To read more, go here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

George Reeves, Framed!

Finally, I got the recent acquisition framed. Jes and I went to the local Bed, Bath & Beyond store. While there, I picked up a frame with a matte.


While there, I took this shot of Jes in the scented candle section wearing a George Reeves style Superman shirt:


Yumenoshima (Dream Island) In Tokyo

Above, the forward deck of the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Godzilla fans are already familiar that the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident, were big influences on the creation of the Godzilla character.

The Lucky Dragon No. 5 (Daigo Fukuryu Maru) is presently housed as an exhibit in Tokyo's Dream Island Park in the Koto Ward. The Japan Times has posted an article by Kit Nagamura on Dream Island. The article points out that, along with the Lucky Dragon No. 5, there are other things to see.

Nagamura begins the article with:
Yumenoshima (literally, “Dream Island”) in Tokyo’s Koto Ward is aptly named because as in real dreams, the island’s narrative encompasses both bucolic and nightmarish elements. 
I alight at Shin-Kiba Station, the final stop on the Yurakucho Line, and stroll north to Yumenoshima Park for a bit of dream analysis.
The history of Dream Island is also provided by Nagamura. The Lucky Dragon No. 5 exhibit is open to the public. Admission is free.

Above, the building that houses the Lucky Dragon No. 5 exhibit. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Lucky Dragon No. 5, because of its influence in the creation of Godzilla by Toho, is spotlighted in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan on page 25.

To read the article, go here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Volcanoes of Japan

Above, the peak of Mt. Fuji from the timberline. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Big Sushi, Little Fishes: A Japan Blog has posted an article on the "Volcanoes of Japan" due to the eruption of Mount Ontake.

The article points out that 72% of Japan is mountainous with 110 of Japan's mountains being active volcanoes, including Mount Fuji. The article also include links to the Wikipedia list of Japan's volcanoes and the watch list of 47 of the most active volcanoes (that are monitored 24 yours a day) by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA).

Volcanoes have played roles (of varying degrees) in some kaiju movies over the years. These include Rodan (1956), in which the two Rodans are killed by an eruption of Mount Aso; King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) has the big battle between Kong and Godzilla start on the slopes of Mount Fuji; and Godzilla falls into the cauldron of Mount Mihara in Return of Godzilla (1984). Godzilla escapes Mount Mihara in Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989).

Above, a couple from Hong Kong inside of the Mt. Aso Volcano Museum. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

These are all covered in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. On page 37, that spotlights Mount Fuji, there is a USGS map of the major volcanoes of Japan. Many of these volcanoes are visited annually by tourists and hikers and have visitor centers with exhibits and educational programs.

Finally, Japan Today asks the question: Could Fuji be next?

Celebrities In Japanese TV Commercials

Japanese television commercials are odd to foreigners, but some of the weirdest ones have included American celebrities.

Here's a video of several such commercials:


Lost In Translation (Or Something)



The news coming from the Japanese authorities on the number of casualties from the eruption of Mount Ontake has been confusing. 

Different outlets report 27 dead, while others report four. It seems different outlets are reporting differing numbers which is not unusual during the early stages of a story. However, this story has been going on for about two days.

But, the oddest thing of all has been this story at Kyodo News and other outlets:
Eight climbers presumed dead following the weekend eruption of Mt. Ontake in central Japan were transported by rescuers to the foot of the mountain on Monday. 
As roughly 550 police, firefighters and Self-Defense Forces personnel resumed their rescue operations, halted the previous day due to toxic gas near the peak, rescuers took the bodies of five men and three women down the 3,067-meter volcano.
"Presumed dead"?! Don't they know if the eight "bodies" brought down are dead or not? Doesn't the Kyodo News have reliable government sources to tell them whether or not the "bodies" brought down Mount Ontake are dead?

What kind of reporting will be next?

"The body, presumed dead, was cremated yesterday." 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mount Ontake Erupts

Above, Mount Ontake in eruption. Associated Press photo.

The current news over the sudden and unexpected eruption of the Mount Ontake volcano in Japan reminded me of the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington. Several people were killed or missing following the eruption that blasted away much of the mountain's peak. Some people were never found.

The Japan Times reported:
OTAKI, NAGANO PREF. – Rescue workers on Sunday found more than 30 people unconscious and feared to be dead near the peak of Mount Ontake, which erupted the day before on the Nagano-Gifu prefectural border, a Japanese police official said. 
There has been no official confirmation of the death toll, but the reports strongly suggested the eruption could have caused one of the largest number of deaths in recent years in Japan. 
The victims, who had been climbing the volcano when it erupted Saturday morning, were found in a state of cardiopulmonary arrest when rescue operations resumed earlier Sunday. Fears of fresh eruptions and toxic gas preventing rescue efforts on Saturday. 
Hundreds of people, including children, were stranded on the mountain after it erupted without warning, sending ash pouring down its slope for more than 3 km. Most made their way down on Saturday evening.
Mount Ontake is Japan's second highest volcano.

The first national park I've visited was Mount Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. Lassen Peak was the last volcano to erupt in the continental United States until the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.

Following the eruption of Mount St. Helens, the insurance company I worked for at the time sent a catastrophe team to Washington to handle the massive number of claims generated. One of my co-workers was one of those sent and she brought back some volcanic ash for everybody. I still have a small vodka bottle of it.

To read more on the Mount Ontake eruption, go here.

Current Pick-ups

The good folks over at The Japan Daily have picked up several of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

Two of them are:



To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Restaurants In Tokyo

Above, an Asakusa sushi restaurant. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

For you "chow hounds" who like Japanese food of different varieties and restaurants with differing themes, Tokyoing.net has a four-page list of restaurants in Tokyo that will satisfy your culinary cravings.

To see their list of restaurants in Tokyo that travelers should check out, go here.

Japan's Shinkansen At 50: Turning An Ambitious Dream Into A High-Tech Reality

Above, shinkansen trains at Tokyo Station in 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Next Wednesday will mark the 50th anniversary of the first passenger service with Japan's shinkansen (bullet train).

The Japan Times has an interesting article on how an ambitious dream was turned into a high-tech reality.

They begin with:
At 5:59 a.m. on Oct. 1, 1964, the signals rang on platform 9 in Tokyo station to announce the departure of “Hikari No. 1,” the first scheduled train on the Tokaido Shinkansen. In the early light of dawn, the train glided past Yurakucho, providing passengers with elevated views of the famous old Nichigeki theater on the left and the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Imperial Hotel on the right.

Soon afterward, in the countryside beyond Shin-Yokohama, the train smoothly accelerated. When it was announced over the public address system that the train had reached its maximum speed of 210 kph, it set off cheers, whistles and applause from its jubilant passengers. 
While many people tend to dwell on the shinkansen’s speed, it deserves equal praise for other attributes, such as comfort, punctuality and, above all, safety. Over the past five decades, the Tokaido Shinkansen alone has carried more than 5.6 billion passengers while maintaining its unblemished safety record.
From there, the article tells of the original plans for the shinkansen and how it developed into the train system that debuted in 1964.

To read more, go here.

The Tokyo Reporter's "Learning To Stomp: The Man Inside Godzilla"

Above, Haruo Nakajima getting into the Godzilla suit in 1954. Photo by Toho Co., Ltd.

The Tokyo Reporter is best known as the online media outlet for the seedy underbelly of Japanese society. Generally, their articles tend to be on crime (murder, government corruption, yakuza, etc.) and vice (porn, prostitution, soaplands). But today, they have something a little bit different.

Today, they feature an article on the original Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima.

They begin with:
Over two decades, Haruo Nakajima stomped his way into history. 
With the Toho film “Godzilla” in 1954, Nakajima became the first man to don the rubber suit of Japan’s most famous kaiju monster.
Above, Haruo Nakajima with model Miki Hayashi in 2011. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

From there, writer Kenji Nakano takes us on a stroll down the "memory lane" of Nakajima's experiences while donning the first Godzilla suit in 1954 and his preparations for the movie.

To read the article, go here.

Additional Pick-ups


The last blog post told of the blog post pick up by the Daily Travel Health Tips on the redback spider and dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes in Tokyo.


The good folks at The Japan Daily have also picked up that blog post and one on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

To read The Japan Daily, go here.


Daily Travel Health Tips Picks Up One



A different online newspaper has picked up a blog post from yesterday.

Daily Travel Health Tips picked up the blog post on "Deadly Creatures Are Attacking Tokyo!" The post wasn't about giant monsters (kaiju), but on the dengue virus-carrying mosquitoes and the venomous redback spiders.

To read Daily Travel Health Tips, go here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Max Borenstein Returning To Write "Godzilla 2"

Above, a scene from Godzilla. Photo: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

The Godzilla world is abuzz with the news that screenwriter Max Borenstein will be returning to write Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla 2.

Moviepilot.com posted:
Legendary Pictures has closed a deal for Max Borenstein to write the screenplay for the sequel to Godzilla, which Gareth Edwards will direct. 
Borenstein wrote the script for the first Godzilla film, as well as the upcoming Skull Island, which was teased at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
I thought Borenstein did a good job with Godzilla (after several changes in writers).

Skull Island is a prequel to King KongGodzilla 2 is slated to be released on June 8, 2018. It should have a good screenplay, Borenstein will about three or four years to write it.

To read more, go here.

Deadly Creatures Are Attacking Tokyo!

Above, a redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti). Photo: Australian Museum.

First, it was mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus (that can be fatal to humans) have been attacking people in Yoyogi and Sumida Parks (and elsewhere) in Tokyo.

Now it is deadly redback spiders!

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —Venomous redback spiders, which are indigenous to Australia, have been found in Tokyo for the first time. 
Ten spiders were found in a park in Mitaka on Thursday, NTV reported Friday.
What will it be next?

Perhaps Tokyo needs a savior to save the populace from these creatures:

Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.
To read more, go here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dengue Fever Suspected In Sumida Ward of Tokyo

Above, the Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Beer Hall in Sumida Ward. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Another person has possibly come down with dengue fever after being bitten by a mosquito at Sumida Park in the Sumida Ward of Tokyo.

The Japan Times reported:
The health ministry said Thursday that dengue fever infection may have spread to Sumida Ward, Tokyo, relatively far from where recent infections with the mosquito-borne tropical disease are believed to have occurred. 
A woman in her 20s from Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, was bitten by a mosquito while at Sumida Park for about two hours on the afternoon of Sept. 14, the ministry said. 
She began to show dengue fever symptoms on Sept. 19 and is still hospitalized. She has not traveled overseas recently nor visited Yoyogi Park or other places in Tokyo where infections happened.
The infections started in Yoyogi Park, which is near Shibuya. Other infections have been reported from other areas of Tokyo. Sumida Ward is miles away from Yoyogi Park and is across the Sumida River from Asakusa. The Asahi Beer Hall and Tokyo Skytree are in Sumida Ward.

To read more, go here.

U.S. Starbucks To Acquire Starbucks Coffee Japan

Above, Shibuya Crossing with the Starbucks in the Tsutaya Building in the background. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While I was in Japan a few years ago, I stopped into the Starbucks coffee shop at Shibuya Crossing (also known as Shibuya Scramble) in the Tsutaya Building. This is the Starbucks whose dining room overlooks Shibuya Crossing and was featured in Lost In Translation.

I had with me at the time a couple of Starbucks gift cards that I received during Christmas. The cashier girl just stared at them and said they don't accept them in Japan. It was my impression that this was the first time she ever saw a Starbucks gift card.

Maybe all that will change once the acquisition by Starbucks Corp. of the stores in Japan is completed.

According to the Asahi Shimbun:
U.S.-based Starbucks Corp. said Sept. 23 that it will pay 99.5 billion yen ($914 million) to acquire the remaining 60.5 percent share of Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd. that it does not currently own. 
The world’s biggest coffee store chain said it will acquire the remaining shares through a two-step tender offer process.
To read more, go here.

Payback Against The Waxman-Berman Machine

Above, Paul Bannai receives a novelty frog gift from
Armand in Bannai's Gardena district office in 1974.
Two years ago, thanks to reapportionment and the wacko new primary election system in California that pits the top two vote-getters against each other, even if they are of the same party, Rep. Brad Sherman had to face Rep. Howard Berman in the general election.

At the time, many GOP bigwigs were tripping over themselves in issuing endorsements of either Sherman or Berman, I stayed true to my conservative principles and endorsed and voted for Republican Mark Reed in the primary. Unfortunately, Reed wasn't one of the top two vote-getters so it ended up being a choice between Sherman and Berman.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not particularly enamored with some of the policy positions of Brad Sherman. I was not fond of Howard Berman either. Both are liberals. But the choice was made easier for me as I remembered how the Henry Waxman-Howard Berman machine installed a carpetbagger into the 53rd Assembly District (Hawthorne-Gardena) to run against Assemblyman Paul Bannai with big West L.A. money backing him. I worked as a field representative for Bannai off and on (college permitting) back in those days. So, it was natural for me to give Mr. Berman a little "payback."

Therefore, I came out in support of Brad Sherman and Sherman sent Berman into retirement. Some of my conservative friends almost had strokes over this. But, as Sir Winston Churchill put it, "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Above, Paul Bannai and Armand at the Little Tokyo Oshogatsu celebration on New Year's Day 2014.

In case you would like to read a little about the Waxman-Berman political machine, former Bannai campaign director Allan Hoffenblum has an article about it.

To read the article, go here.

Latest In Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily have picked up more blog posts from yesterday for sharing with their readers.

They include:



To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Toronto Sun: Losing Track At Tokyo Station

Above, at one of the shinkansen tracks at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo Station is celebrating its centennial this year and the Toronto Sun has an article on Tokyo's busiest train station.

The article reads, in part:
Thirty-seven storeys below, the station looked like the most elaborate of toy train sets, with local trains constantly rattling in and out and bulbous-nosed shinkansen sliding snake-like away every few minutes. But Tokyo Station celebrates its centenary in 2014, and following completion of a five-year project to restore its original elegance has become more than just the place to catch a train. It's now one of the most photographed landmarks in the city centre and a destination in its own right. 
A train-spotter's paradise, the station is the capital's busiest in terms of departures, the origin of multiple suburban routes and of bullet train lines that spread out to cover the country. Several city subways pass through as does the Yamanote Line, which provides an elevated and very scenic circular tour of the city, all adding to the convenience of staying at the station.
To read more, go here

Hillary's Hollywood Sheeple Begin To Mobilize



Oh, great. Like a over-played or over-shown re-run, we get to see a 66-year-old Hillary Clinton run again for president in 2016, if the sheeple in Hollywood have their way.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:
It's back to the future for Hollywood's Democratic activists, many of whom are convinced that former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will run again for president and are lining up to show support. 
As Clinton, 66, was in New York on Sept. 21 for the annual Clinton Global Initiative gathering, the leading pro-Clinton super PAC held an event for more than 70 supporters at the Pacific Palisades home of producer Howard Gordon and wife Cambria. The event was organized by the Ready for Hillary super PAC, which bills itself as a group "encouraging" Clinton to run while laying the financial "groundwork" for a campaign. Several of those at the gathering, co-hosted by producer Ryan Murphy and husband David Miller, told THR that they believe Clinton likely will declare her candidacy soon after the November midterm elections.
This will be an interesting campaign as there are those on the far-left fringe totally unhappy with Hillary Clinton. She now has as sordid record as Barack Obama's secretary of state who screwed up on Benghazi and the subsequent cover-up (including the memorable, "What difference does it make?!").



BBC's "Living In: Tokyo"

Above, a view of Shinjuku from Tokyo Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The website of the BBC has posted an article in their Travel section on Tokyo, Japan.

The title of the article is "Living In: Tokyo" by Lindsey Galloway and, as the title implies, discusses living in Tokyo for expats.

The article begins with:
Described by residents as a “mixture of many faces” and a “Disney remake of Blade Runner” thanks to its diverse, trend-setting inhabitants and futuristic backdrop, Tokyo buzzes with an eclectic energy. But despite being one of the busiest cities in the world, it is also one of the most accommodating to outsiders and expats.
 To read the article, go here.

Tokyo's Haneda Airport Awarded 5-Star Award By Skytrax

Above, Godzilla and Destoroyah battle at Haneda Airport in 1995. Photo: Toho Co., Ltd.

Haneda Airport in Tokyo is making its way to becoming an important international airport. Currently, most flights to the Tokyo area in Japan come in through Narita International Airport, which is an hour's ride from central Tokyo.

Haneda has just been given the distinction of being named a five-star airport by Skytrax.

According to Rocket News 24 (through News On Japan):
If you've ever visited Japan, chances are pretty high that you've been through Narita International Airport. The smaller Tokyo International Airport, commonly called Haneda, is, however, actually located within the city, but has until recently been considered Tokyo's main domestic airport.

But all that's about to change. As well as increasing the number of destinations it serves, Haneda has been improving its facilities and significantly upping its game in an effort to become more of an international hub. In fact, it was recently awarded the coveted 5-Star award from the ratings company Skytrax, making it the first airport in Japan and only the fourth in the world with that title. 
Haneda Airport is also familiar to Godzilla fans. It is the site of the final battle between Godzilla and Destoroyah, Godzilla's meltdown and the death and revival of Godzilla Junior in Godzilla vs Destoroyah (1995). Haneda also suffered damage in War of The Gargantuas (1966).

To read more, go here.

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