"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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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tokyo's Shibuya Station To Be Rebuilt

Above, Shibuya Station in 2010. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Kaiju fans generally got their first good look at Shibuya Station in Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys in 1999. There, Gamera blasted several Gyaos birds and torched Shibuya Station (and much of the Shibuya shopping district) in the process.

Shibuya Station is undergoing a complete renovation (in fact, it will be rebuilt) that will likely render it unrecognizable from the way it looked in Gamera 3.

Above, Shibuya Station and Crossing. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Japan Times wrote:
East Japan Railway Co. said it will start laying the groundwork Thursday for wholesale renovations of Shibuya Station in Tokyo that will take more than a decade to complete. 
In the end, there will be a new 46-story building with offices and shopping malls, a single platform for Yamanote Line trains heading in opposite directions and easier access to the Saikyo Line, according to JR East.

The article includes an artist's rendering of what the station will eventually look like when the project is completed.

To read more, go here.

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

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

It's that time again! The following news release will be hitting early tomorrow morning:
With vacation season only a few months away and the opening of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. "Godzilla" coming May 16, Armand Vaquer, author of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," announced a pre-vacation season discount of 20% off the guide's cover price, making the cost of the book $12.00, plus $2.00 shipping and handling, for a total of $14.00 each.

"As vacation season is fast approaching and with the high awaress of the new "Godzilla" movie, it is time to launch the pre-vacation season sale of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan,"" stated Vaquer. "From Friday, April 25 to Monday, June 16, the travel guide will be available at a 20% discount directly from me."

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" is the world's only Japan travel guide tailored to fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy films who want to see locations and landmarks from the movies.

Orders postmarked Friday, April 25 through Monday, June 16 are entitled to the discount. 
To order, send your check or money order payable to Armand Vaquer at 18618 Collins Street, #105, Tarzana, California 91356.

Depending upon how many copies sell, this may be the last sale (it may be considered a clearance sale) of this edition as I am working on an updated/revised edition that will likely be ready later this year. Once the stock I have on hand on this edition is gone, it is gone!

Obama's 'Culture of Intimidation' Seen At The Bundy Ranch

The standoff at the Bundy Ranch last weekend in Nevada seems to be only the tip of iceberg when it comes to threats, bullying and intimidation employed by the Obama Administration's "culture of intimidation."

The Washington Times wrote:
Sending scores of armed agents along with helicopters and dogs to confront an elderly Nevada rancher over grazing fees may seem like overkill, but critics say it’s not inconsistent with the federal government’s recent approach to environmental enforcement. 
The simmering truce between the Bundys and the Bureau of Land Management comes after high-profile raids last year by armed federal agents on small-time gold miners in tiny Chicken, Alaska, and guitar makers at the Gibson Guitar facilities in Tennessee.

That doesn’t include more subtle threats, such as recent efforts by the Obama administration to raise grazing fees or pressure permit holders to transfer their water rights as a condition of renewal, said Ryan Yates, director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau.
Thankfully, armed Bundy supporters are remaining at the ranch. They are patrolling the ranch and are on the lookout for a return of the BLM. This may be due in part to Sen. Harry Reid's flapping mouth the other day when he said that "it's not over." Sounds like a not-too-veiled-threat to me.

Considering where Obama is from, Chicago, famous for "Gestapo tactics" that were decried by Sen. Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut in 1968, this really shouldn't have come as any surprise.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/apr/15/culture-of-intimidation-seen-in-nevada-ranch-stand/#ixzz2z51dMBEv

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Godzilla 2014 Collectibles Guide

Above, Godzilla poster by Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

If you are a Godzilla fan and are also a rabid (or just an earnest) collector of all things Godzilla, then you will probably have to take out a second mortgage on your house to be able to buy all the licensed movie tie-in products that are coming out (some already have) this year.

SciFi Japan has posted a "Godzilla (2014) Licensed Product Guide" of all those goodies that you may feel belongs on your Fortress of Solitude's shelves. There's plenty to salivate over!

I was wondering if someone was going to put such a guide together and I am glad to see someone has.

To view it, go here.

New Poster Celebrates Godzilla's Japanese Origins

A new poster from Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. celebrates Godzilla's Japanese origins:

Kansai airport to offer prepaid data SIM cards for foreigners

Above, the Docomo Tower in Tokyo from Harajuku. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

OSAKA, April 15, Kyodo

Osaka's Kansai International Airport will offer prepaid data SIM cards for foreign travelers through vending machines installed on the international arrival floor from April 22, the airport operator said Monday.

After inserting the card into a smartphone or a tablet device, the user will have access to NTT Docomo Inc.'s LTE high-speed data network.

Sold by So-net Corp., a unit of Sony Corp., the cards are available in two varieties -- 3,000 yen for 100 megabytes of data and 5,000 yen for 500 MB. The prices are inclusive of the consumption tax.

So-net says it offers user support in English and Japanese over the phone, in addition to multilingual information on its website (http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/en/index.html) that is also available in Chinese.


One In Four Japanese Are Over 65

Above, a shopping mall in Atami. 25.1% of Japanese are over 65. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan's population continues to age and the birthrate is way down.

The Wall Street Journal posted an interesting statistic on where Japan's aging population currently stands:
Travel agents and theme park operators beware! A record percentage of Japanese is now eligible for senior discounts. 
For the first time ever, one in four of Japan’s 127 million people is older than 65, according to statistics released Tuesday. The precise figure was 25.1%, as of Oct. 1.
To read more, go here.

Additionally, the working population of Japan is down. According to the Jiji Press:
The working-age population between 15 and 64 totaled 79.01 million, falling below 80 million for the first time in 32 years.

Lunar Eclipse

Well, I managed to conk out at 9:30 tonight, so I didn't get to see the start and height of the lunar eclipse. But, Jes woke me at 2:00 and we went outside. I took seven photos and the last one came out the best.

Here it is:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gundam Train Coming

Above, it is doubtful the train conductors will be wearing this uniform.

On April 26, the Nankai Electric Railways Co. will begin operation of its Gundam train that will connect Osaka with Kansai Airport.

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —In a way, it’s slightly ironic that Gundam, Japan’s most venerated giant robot, is honored with a huge statue that stands in the Odaiba district of Tokyo. The original series in the franchise was titled Mobile Suit Gundam, but that 18-meter isn’t going anywhere since not only is it incapable of walking, Odaiba is an island and we’re pretty sure it can’t swim, either. 
Coming soon, though, is a more logical way to pay homage to the franchise: a Gundam train. 
It’s been 20 years since Nankai Electric Railways started operation of its Airport Line, which connects Osaka with Kansai Airport. Nankai’s executives apparently concluded that the best way to commemorate this improvement in the mobility for the region’s residents was by teaming up with anime series “Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn.”
Unfortunately, the Gundam train will make its final run on June 30. They should make it permanent.

To read more, go here.

"Godzilla" Advance Tickets On Sale In One Week

Legendary Pictures Tweeted this today:

Tokyo Shopping Districts and Entertainment Centers Preparing for 2020 Olympics

Above, the Ginza shopping district. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Looks like Tokyo's retailers are getting the jump in preparing for the hordes of visitors for the 2020 Olympic Games.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun:
Shopping streets and entertainment districts in Tokyo are getting ready for the 2020 Summer Olympics, teaching store staff how to use English to assist foreign visitors while planning various events as cultural exchange programs before the big event. 
"May I help you?" Yuko Suzuki, 35, a greengrocer in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward asked a customer in English. The customer is Canadian English teacher Steven Conning, 34, who plays the role of a foreign tourist. The conversation is part of English lessons the ward office has been offering to local store staff.
This all sounds fine. But, what about communicating with foreign visitors who don't happen to be English-speakers? Will they also learn Spanish, French, Swedish, German, Hungarian, Portuguese, Polish and other languages?

To read more, go here.

Crooked Dingy Harry Reid Kin Plotting To Grab Bundy Ranch Lands

Reports that the Chinese want the land that was/is the center of the dispute between the federal government (the Bureau of Land Management or BLM) and rancher Cliven Bundy appear to be confirmed. And, Nevada Senator "Dingy" Harry Reid's son Rory is up to his eyeballs involved.

Newsmax is reporting:

The Nevada rancher who forced the federal Bureau of Land Management to back down last week may have been targeted because a Chinese solar company with ties to Sen. Harry Reid's son wants the land for an energy plant, several websites report. 
A report on Godfatherpolitics.com, says Chinese energy giant ENN Energy Group wants to use federal land as part of its effort to build a $5 billion solar farm and panel-building plant in the southern Nevada desert. Rory Reid, the son of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is representing ENN in their efforts to locate in Nevada. 
Part of the land ENN wants to use was purchased from Clark County at well below appraised value. Rory Reid is the former Clark County Commission chairman, and he persuaded the commission to sell 9,000 acres of county land to ENN on the promise it would provide jobs for the area, Reuters reported in 2012.

In addition to the county acreage, the federal Bureau of Land Management at one time was looking at BLM property under dispute with cattle rancher Cliven Bundy. The BLM is headed by former Harry Reid senior policy adviser Neil Kornz. 
According to BizPac Review, BLM documents indicate that the federal property for which Bundy claims grazing rights were under consideration by a solar energy company.
It appears that the plot is thickening! Crony capitalism with the Chinese communists!

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/bundy-ranch-rory-reid-harry-reid/2014/04/13/id/565328#ixzz2yrve60Z2

RENO, Nev. (MyNews4.com & KRNV) -- Senate majority leader Harry Reid hasn't been very vocal about the cattle battle showdown in recent days, but says "it's not over." 

Cell Phone Movie Night

One of the nice things about my new cell phone is that I can pick up the Internet on it and can watch movies that are posted on YouTube.

Last night, during quiet periods at work, I managed to watch two old movies that are favorites.

The first one was Operation Pacific (1951), starring John Wayne, Patricia Neal and Ward Bond. In this movie, Wayne is a submarine commander who has to figure out why their torpedoes aren't detonating upon impact on enemy ships and ties to woo back his ex-wife (Neal).

It has been a while since I've seen this movie and it was nice seeing The Duke in action.

The second movie was one I saw in an Inglewood, California theater when I was ten years old: Fate Is The Hunter (1964), starring Glenn Ford, Rod Taylor, Nancy Kwan and Suzanne Pleshette. In this movie, Glenn Ford is an executive of an airline company who investigates the crash of a passenger jet after take-off from Los Angeles International Airport that was piloted by an army buddy (Taylor). Fate Is The Hunter is (somewhat) based on a 1961 bestseller by Ernest K. Gann.

Fate Is The Hunter was a very engrossing movie when I was ten and it still is 50 years later.

I have to thank the people who uploaded these movies onto YouTube.

Bird Flu Virus Detected In Kumamoto

If it isn't one thing, it's another.

A chicken farm in Kumamoto Prefecture has been hit by a bird flu virus. Kumamoto is a prime gateway to Mount Aso Volcano National Park on Kyushu.

According to the Mainichi Shimbun:
KUMAMOTO (Kyodo) -- Two chickens tested positive Sunday for a highly pathogenic avian influenza at a farm in Kumamoto Prefecture where 1,100 chickens have died, setting off the culling through Monday of some 112,000 birds, the local and central governments said. 
The H5 virus was detected in the two birds during genetic testing of six chickens that tested positive in a simple test for bird flu, the prefectural government said. 
The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization will examine samples from the testing in detail, the local government said.
To read more, go here

Kamaasa Shoten Co. Blog Post Picked Up By The Japan Daily

Tonight, The Japan Daily picked up the blog post on my newest article at JapanTravel on the KamaasaShoten Co., Ltd.'s knife store in Kappabashi-dori (Kitchen Town) in Tokyo.

Kitchen Town is the place in Japan for professional or home cooks and chefs to buy all kinds of kitchen goods.

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Kamaasa Shoten Co., Ltd. Knives

Above, you know you're in Kitchen Town when you see the giant chef. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My latest article (or opus) for JapanTravel has just been posted.

This time, it is not about kaiju movie locations but, instead, it is on the Kamaasa Shoten Co., Ltd. cutlery (or knife) store in Tokyo's Kappabashi-dori section (better known as Kitchen Town) where I bought my roomie a chef's knife.

Above, the Kamaasa Shoten Co. knife store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
To read it, go here.

Godzilla T-Shirt

Here's a Godzilla t-shirt my daughter Amber spotted at a store called Hot Topic:

Why Does Airline Food Taste So Bad?

Above, an Air China jet at Narita Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Why does airline food taste so bad?

This is a question that some people ask. I raised the issue of lousy airline food recently after my trip to Japan in February. I stated that the food United Airlines served on that trip was mediocre at best.

The Huffington Post's travel blog has an article from Condé Nast Traveler on the subject of airline food and the conclusions they arrived at are surprising. Some I agree with, some I don't.

They start the article with:
It's a question every traveler has asked themselves at some point: Why does airplane food taste so bad? No matter what it is--fish, chicken, even pasta--every meal served in the air seems to taste undeniably worse than its on-the-ground counterpart. To get to the bottom of this dilemma, we consulted Grant Mickels, the executive chef for culinary development of Lufthansa's LSG Sky Chefs--who had some surprising revelations. Namely: That the food's not really the problem here.
If the conclusions they came up with (I will let you read the article in full so you can make up your own mind) is the case, then why do some airline's food is better than others?  If their "passenger's fault" conclusion as the "main reason" is true, then ALL airline food should be lousy. I had no complaints about United's meals until this most recent trip. I used to like their meals. The meals served on Singapore Air and Korean Air have been very good-to-excellent, in my opinion.

Some conclusions they came up with could be true for some people. I think the major problem is with quality control and freshness. At least the article does point out that the process of the preparation of flight meals has a lot to do with the problem.

To read more, go here.

NHK Tags House After Man Refuses To Pay Fees

Above, if you have a television set, you technically have to pay fees to NHK. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Suppose you're sitting at home and a representative, or, rather, a bill collector from your area's Public Broadcasting System (PBS) station shows up on your doorstep asking you to cough up $136.00 in fees for being able to receive PBS's broadcasts on your television, computer or smartphone. What would you do?

Well, if it were me, I would tell him to go fly a kite and slam the door (since I rarely, if ever, watch PBS).

In Japan, their equivalent to PBS is NHK and they expect Japanese residents to cough up money to pay NHK's licensing fees. This was even upheld by a Yokohama court last year in which anyone who can receive NHK's signal, be it a television set, PC or a smartphone, has to pay. Or, at least they are supposed to.

According to an article in Japan Today, there is no penalty for non-payment, but the NHK collector may take other actions to try to shame someone into paying.

They wrote:
TOKYO —We’ve talked before about the oddities of how Japan’s public broadcaster, NHK, goes about collecting its fees from ordinary citizens. Rather than sending you an official bill in the mail, collectors will come to your door and ask you for a stack of cash to cover the 13,600 yen residents are technically supposed to pay. 
However, many people refuse to pony up the money, since there’s no official penalty for nonpayment, and many feel that NHK’s programming is sub-par and rarely watch it. However, should you make one particular NHK collector walk away empty-handed, he just might mark your house for all to see, as he apparently did to one person we talked to.
This is like refusing to pay PBS and having one of their representatives spray paint your home in retaliation. Thankfully, this doesn't happen here. We just have to sit through PBS's droning pledge drives.

Thus far, I have not been harassed by anyone from NHK while staying at a television-equipped hotel or ryokan.

Yes, they do some things a bit differently in Japan.

To read more, go here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Tohoku Choo-choo!

Above, the reitred locomotive before restoration. Photo by LERK via Wikimedia.

Here's something I really wouldn't mind riding since I am a fan of steam locomotives (regarding the headline for this blog post, I couldn't resist).

The Asahi Shimbun reported:
HANAMAKI, Iwate Prefecture--A steam locomotive built in 1940 came out of retirement after 42 years on April 12, aiming to prop up local tourism and heighten interest in recovery efforts from the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. 
Named “SL (steam locomotive) Ginga,” the locomotive-driven train runs on a 90.2-kilometer route on the JR Kamaishi Line, which connects Kamaishi, in coastal Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the disaster, and Hanakami in the inland. 
East Japan Railway Co. restored the C58-239 model steamer, which was retired in 1972 and preserved at a park in Morioka, at the company’s maintenance factory in Saitama.
To read more, go here

Exhibit Focuses On Eiji Tsuburaya's Career

Above, this statue of Ultraman stands at the ROX Dept. Store in Asakusa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An exhibit honoring Japanese special effects pioneer Eiji Tsuburaya is now available for viewing in Tokyo.

According to the The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun):
An exhibition focusing on the career of Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) is under way at the Shinjuku Takashimaya department store in Tokyo. Known as “the grandmaster of tokusatsu (special effects)” for his pioneering work on iconic films and TV programs including “Godzilla” and the “Ultraman” series, he entertained the nation with his many distinct Ultraheroes and monsters. 
The exhibition runs until Monday.
To read more, go here

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