"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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Friday, January 31, 2014

The Japan Daily Picks Up 3 Blog Posts

The Japan Daily has picked up three of my blog posts. They are on free Wi-Fi in Kyoto, the last domestic ANA Boeing 747 flight and on guidelines on foreigner-friendly signage.

To view The Japan Daily, go here.

Japan Tourism Agency Sets Guidelines On Foreigner-Friendly Signage

Above, new sign. From NHK World video.
Japan is stepping up its efforts in making the country more tourist-friendly.

The other day, I blogged about the sign changes in Hiroshima. Now, the Japan Tourism Agency has issued guidelines for foreign signage throughout Japan.

According to News On Japan:
The Japan Tourism Agency has devised guidelines to improve signboards and make them easier to understand for foreign visitors. 
Tourism officials are trying to turn Japan into a more tourist-friendly country by enhancing explanations of facilities and places in foreign languages. 
The draft guidelines say names of facilities, such as parks and museums, will be translated. For example, "Hibiya Koen" will become "Hibiya Park." 
To read more, go here.

Also, NHK World has an article on this along with a video. To view both, go here.

How To Get Free Wi-Fi In Kyoto

Above, a view of Kyoto from Kiyomizu-dera. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The other day, I posted about free Wi-Fi in the city of Osaka, Japan.

JapanTravel, the site I contribute to, has an article on where to find free Wi-Fi in the city of Kyoto.

The article starts out with:
The best way to get free Wi-Fi in Kyoto is to stay in a Wi-Fi hostel or hotel. After a big day out, you can relax in your pajamas while catching up with friends from home or uploading your photos, leaving your day free to go sightseeing.
From there, the article provides information to places with free Wi-Fi, including links.

To view the article, go here

Survey: 70% of Otakus Choose Hobby Over Love

A new article in RocketNews24 caught my eye as the word otaku was quite prominent. Then I read further and it occurred to me that I know a lot of fanboys who are too devoted to their hobby (in this case, kaiju fandom) to even bother with finding a mate. The article can apply to them.

According to the article:
Over the years, the term “otaku” has, as well as being accepted into the English language, come to mean not just computer or anime fanatics locked away in their bedrooms, but any person who shows above-average fondness for any given hobby or pastime. Crazy about pop idols? You’re an otaku. Can’t get enough cosplay in your life? Same for you. Have a collection of video games so large that your friends casually refer to your house as “the library”? You’d better believe you’re an otaku. 
But is your passion for your hobby so great that you would willingly choose it over love and romance? A recent survey asked a group of otaku that very question, and found that 70.1 percent of them said they’d shun love in favour of their hobby if it came down to it.
 To read more, go here.

Final All Nippon Airways Boeing 747 Domestic Flight Is Fully Booked

The last domestic flight aboard the Boeing 747 has Japanese aviation fans scrambling to purchase a ticket.

According to News On Japan:
Aviation fans in Japan have rushed to get a seat on the Boeing 747's final domestic flight scheduled for March 31st. 
All Nippon Airways said all the tickets were sold shortly after it began accepting reservations on Friday morning for the flight from Naha Airport in Okinawa Prefecture to Tokyo's Haneda Airport. 
All Nippon Airways (ANA) is quitting the use of the 747 due to its age and low fuel-efficiency.

I flew aboard an ANA Boeing 747 in 2004 from Osaka to Narita International Airport. At the time, I was surprised that a big jumbo jet would be used for short domestic flights.

To read the full story, go here.

NHK Chairman To Face Diet Over "Comfort Women" Comments

Above, the National Diet Building in Tokyo where the NHK chairman will be grilled Friday. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you thought "foot-in-mouth disease" is just only prevalent with President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and commentators over at MSNBC, guess again.

The new head of Japan's NHK Broadcasting is in hot water over comments concerning World War II "comfort women".

According to Japan Today:
TOKYO —Japan’s public broadcaster was defending itself Friday over claims of political interference in its coverage of the Tokyo governor election, as its chief readied for a Diet grilling over his comments on “comfort women”. 
Publicly-funded NHK admitted it had asked an academic to avoid talking about nuclear power during his radio slot ahead of next month’s election, which is effectively a contest between a candidate backed by the pro-nuclear government, and a former premier who wants all of Japan’s reactors permanently shuttered. 
But the broadcaster said Friday it had only done so because it was not able to book a pro-nuclear guest to balance professor Toru Nakakita’s opinion. 
The furor comes as the corporation’s new chairman is embroiled in a row over comments he made at his first press conference, when he claimed the system of sexual slavery used by Japan’s imperial army in World War II was “common in any country at war”. 
Critics say the view—which finds echoes among supporters of right wing Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—makes him unfit to lead an organization that should uphold the highest standards of truth in its journalism. 
Katsuto Momii is due to face a Diet committee later Friday over his comments.
To read the full story, go here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Warner Bros. Consumer Products Shakes Up Toy Fair Season With Humongous Licensing Programs, Including This Summer's Much-Anticipated Film Godzilla From Legendary Pictures

Source: Warner Bros. Press Release

BURBANK, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Warner Bros. Consumer Products (WBCP) is storming into the 2014 Toy Fair season with an impressive line-up of global licensees in support of the Studio's beloved entertainment properties, milestone anniversaries and upcoming theatrical debuts. Leading the way this year is the highly anticipated film from Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures, Godzilla, which hits theaters on May 16, and will be supported with an epic toy line-up from master toy partner Bandai America Incorporated, and many more partners around the world.  WBCP will also highlight Middle-earth with the long-awaited finale of The Hobbit Trilogy, The Hobbit: There And Back Again, supported by its strong roster of worldwide licensees. Additionally, The Wizard of Oz will lead WBCP's milestone celebrations in 2014, which will all see exciting licensing support from a number of cross-category partners this year. WBCP and its licensing partners from around the globe will also spotlight product inspired by fan favorites such as its DC Comics portfolio, including evergreen Super Heroes Batman and Superman, and Looney Tunes, The Big Bang Theory, Harry Potter and more to round out the Studio's unrivaled portfolio.

"With a host of renowned licensees signed on to support a broad spectrum of entertainment properties, Warner Bros. Consumer Products enters the 2014 Toy Fair season ready to delight," said Brad Globe, president of Warner Bros. Consumer Products.  "And with fan excitement for Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' Godzilla running high, we're eager to bring the buzz to Toy Fair with a toy line-up that is fit for the 'King of the Monsters.'"

Godzilla: A Blockbuster Block-BusterWith a nearly 60-year heritage, Godzilla and his trademark ROAR are recognized throughout the world by fans of all ages.  Master toy partner Bandai America Incorporated will capture the thrills of the motion picture with an innovative line-up of toys inspired by the film.  The highly anticipated film will also see support from JAKKS Pacific, Inc. as it brings this iconic and legendary figure to life with a line of large-scale figures and other toy products inspired by the "King of the Monsters"; Rubie's will design Godzilla costumes that are sure to delight children and adult fans; NECA will also be supporting Godzilla with a comprehensive line of novelty and collector toys across a variety of price points; and Sideshow Collectibles will offer authentic statues; among many other partners around the world.

For more, go here.

Is Valentine's Day Celebrated In Japan?

Above, Ginza's Mitsukoshi Dept. Store advertising Ginza
 Sweets Collection 2014. Photo courtesy of  AngloInfo Tokyo.

The other day, a friend asked me if Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan. I told her yes, but it is somewhat different than how we celebrate it.

According to Japan Travel Advice:
14 February 2014 
Event: Valentine’s Day 
Location: All over Japan 
The tradition in Japan is for the girls to give chocolates to the boys. The favour is returned to the girls on a special day called White Day, which is celebrated a month later on March 14th.
I thought this explanation was right to the point.

For more information on Japan's festivals and events in February, go here.

U.K. Cost of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan"

UPDATED June 13, 2014.

A query was received from the United Kingdom on the total cost of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan (including shipping).

Thank goodness I won't have to trot over to the post office to find out as the USPS has an online calculator on figuring shipping costs to other countries. While I still have the information, I figured I would share it here so that others from the U.K. would also know the total cost.

The cost to ship a copy would be $5.50* (first class). That, plus the cost of the book ($15.00) adds up to $21.50. Using the Universal Currency Converter, $26.00 was converted to the British pound as follows:
21.50 USD  = 12.6739 GBP  
So, if you are from the United Kingdom, this would be the total amount.

*Note: Originally, the amount for postage was $11.00. That was obtained through the United States Postal Service's online calculator. However, I went to a postal machine at my local post office and it weighed the book and it came up with the lower amount.

Nagasaki To Erect Monument For POWs Killed In Atomic Bomb Blast

Above, remnants of the Urakami Prison can still be seen at Nagasaki's Peace Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A story in the Asahi Shimbun about local Nagasaki residents seeking to remember POWs who died in a prison camp when the atomic bomb was dropped caught my attention. The prison camp was formerly a junior high school.

A monument is being planned to be erected on the former POW prison site to memorialize the POWs.

Above, Urakami Prison building foundation ruins can be seen from both sides of the
 walkway to the Peace Statue at Nagasaki's Peace Park. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There was another prison in Nagasaki and it housed Chinese and Korean prisoners along with staff members and public residences, the Urakami Prison. It was the closest facility to the atomic bomb hypocenter. The site of the former prison is now a part of Nagasaki's Peace Park. For details on the prison, go here.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In Today's Mailbox

Above, U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin. Photo by Matt Bevin campaign.

A nice thank-you letter arrived today from Kentucky's U.S. Senate candidate Matt Bevin.

Bevin is a running against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the GOP primary this year. As I am disgusted with McConnell's performance as Minority Leader and his mudslinging campaign, I made a campaign contribution to Bevin. The letter thanked me for my contribution to the campaign.

Bevin has been endorsed by the Senate Conservatives Fund, Madison Project and Gun Owners of America. He has also the backing by such groups as the United Kentucky Tea Party and Take Back Kentucky. Influential individuals such as Glenn Beck, Mark Levin and Erick Erickson are also backing Bevin.

For more on Matt Bevin's campaign, go to MattBevin.com.

Japan Is Most Popular Asian Country For Google Street View

Above, the Matsushima Bay waterfront with Godaido Temple in backround.

The Next Web.com (TNW) is reporting that Japan is the most popular country for people who use Google Street View.

It happens that Sendai, Japan is one of the more popular places in Japan for Street View eyeballers.

According to the article:
Japan is attracting all of the attention when it comes to Google Street View — the service that provides 360-degree images of locations, landmarks and cities — in Asia. That’s according to data released by Google for the first time today. 
Now with nine countries from Asia on the service, the Internet giant has tracked global traffic to Street View in the region. The findings overwhelmingly show that Japanese places are drawing more eyeballs than anywhere else in the continent.
Near Sendai is Matsushima, one of my favorite areas of Japan. For this blog post, I did a Street View of Matsushima Bay with the Godaido Temple in the background (I visited Godaido in 2006). Street View is easy to use (I used the Japanese site for the Matsushima picture and it was still easy to use, despite not knowing Japanese), so give it a try.

To read more, go here

Kansai Airport Offers "VIP" Escorts For Travelers

Above, Kansai International Airport. Photo by NASA Earth Observatory.

Kansai International Airport (near Osaka, Japan) is offering a new service for travelers.

OSAKA, Jan. 28, Kyodo 
Kansai International Airport will offer from Sunday a "VIP service" for escorting a departing traveler for check-in and through security and immigration checks to the departure gate for 20,000 yen ($195), excluding tax, the operator of the Osaka airport said Monday. 
An airport employee will meet the passenger at the curbside for those arriving by vehicle or at the exit ticket gate of the railway service. The passenger will be assisted through immigration, wait for the flight at a dedicated lounge and be sent off at the departure gate, New Kansai International Airport Co. said. 
Mainly targeting business travelers, the company said the charge for two people totals 30,000 yen. Reservations are necessary and accepted by phone (072-455-2888) and e-mail (kixvipservice@kaakix.co.jp). 
An arrival service is also offered for 5,000 yen per person for escorting a passenger from one of the two post-immigration arrival exits at the international section or the exit at the domestic flight arrival area to the curbside area or the train ticket gate.

Hiroshima Changing Street Signs To Ones With English Terms

Above, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is taking another step in making the country more "foreigner-friendly." The latest comes from the city of Hiroshima.

Kyodo News reported:
The infrastructure ministry started work Wednesday in Hiroshima to replace signs that bear Japanese names for streets in Roman letters with new ones with English equivalents, as part of its efforts to make signs across Japan easier to understand for foreign visitors. 
A signpost for "Rijo-dori" at the center of the western Japan city read "Rijo dori Ave." Wednesday morning. 
The Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry is also scheduled to change "Heiwa odori Ave.," a main street in Hiroshima, into "Peace Boulevard." A total of 58 signposts in Hiroshima Prefecture will be replaced by the end of March.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Osaka Free Wi-Fi Launched

Above, Osaka Castle. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Osaka's plan for free Wi-Fi service is more extensive than what was announced last November (and reported here).

The Asahi Shimbum reported today:
The Osaka Government Tourism Bureau will start providing free Wi-Fi service for tourists from Jan. 29 throughout the prefecture at such locations as tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and on public transportation, it announced on Jan. 28. 
The goal is to provide useful information for visitors to the city and allow them to share their travel experiences online. 
The "Osaka Free Wi-Fi" service will be available in about 44 locations (163 access points) when it first launches. That number is scheduled to increase to 3,000 locations (8,000 access points) by December 2014, with expansion expected to continue.

The Osaka Free Wi-Fi service is a collaborative effort by the Osaka prefectural government, the city of Osaka, the Kinki District Transport Bureau of the land ministry, NTT West Corp., NTT Broadband Platform Inc. and other public and private-sector organizations.

As it is now January 29 in Japan, the service has already started.

To read the full story, go here

Universal Releasing "King Kong vs. Godzilla" and "King Kong Escapes" On Blu-ray

Above, King Kong vs. Godzilla. Photo by Toho Co., Ltd.

Blu-ray.com is reporting that King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes will be released on Blu-ray disc on April 1 by Universal Pictures.

It appears that both will be "bare-bones" discs and will only contain the U.S. releases. No price information has been provided.

The U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla was the first Godzilla movie I saw in a theater when it was first released back in June 1963.

As I have both movies on DVD, I will probably pass on these, but if either are not already in your video library, you many want to pick them up.

Japan's Expressway Stops: Food and More

Above, travelers entering the expressway stop's main building. Photos from a video by Armand Vaquer.

A recent story by RocketNews24 on a unique expressway roadside stop reminded me of one I saw in 2004 while headed up to Koriyama from Tokyo. More on that later.

Above, one needn't have to go inside the expressway stop
 for food. This one had a convenient food vendor outside. 

Unlike the rest areas found along U.S. interstates, the one we visited was more like a mini-mall with several restaurants and souvenir shops to choose from. The rest stops in the U.S. are a "hit & miss" kind of thing when it comes to restroom cleanliness. The Japanese ones, called "parking areas" by Japanese motorists, are quite clean. The one I visited also had a big dining area inside so diners won't be bothered by insect pests while dining.

As mentioned earlier, RocketNews24 posted an article about a new expressway stop that will take the traveler "back in time" to Japan's Edo Period. A previous expressway stop was recently renovated with a recreated an Edo Period townscape. It is certainly a good diversion (especially if one is traveling with small children) for the weary traveler. This rest stop is located in Hanyu City in Saitama Prefecture, which neighbors Tokyo to the north.

To view the article, go here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Lonely Planet's "A Broke-Ass Guide To Drinking In Tokyo"

Above, a Kirin beer vending machine at Toho Sound Studio in Setagaya. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo has a reputation for being an expensive city. Some of this reputation is justified and some of it is not.

The good folks at Lonely Planet has a guide to stretching your yen while out bar-hopping around the city.

They start off with:
When planning a night of overindulgence, it’s important to know what you’re up against. In this case (as in most cases) your enemy is expensive prices. So I’ll lay it out: generally speaking the average cost of a beer in Tokyo is around ¥600 and the average mixed drink is around ¥800. On their own, these prices aren’t too bad, but knowing you (or rather, knowing me), you’re not gonna have just one drink. 
So what’s a broke-ass who wants to get drunk supposed to do? Drink in the streets! It’s totally legal in Japan to drink pretty much everywhere, so your best bet is to go to any of the many convenience stores that seem to be everywhere and buy a chu-hi. A chu-hi is a can of shochu mixed with some kind of citrus carbonated water. The combination is so good that a chu-hi ‘strong’ (which are around 8% abv), tastes like a refreshing soda. Because of this it’s important to pace yourself. You do eventually want to make it into a bar, don’t you? Keep your eyes peeled for vending machines that serve booze. Unfortunately they are harder to find now than they used to be.
The photo at top shows were one can buy a beer at a vending machine in Setagaya. Down the hatch!

Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/travel-tips-and-articles/a-broke-ass-guide-to-drinking-in-tokyo#ixzz2ranqnw8S

Funny Tweets From Japanese Bathrooms

RocketNews24 has an amusing collection of the best toilet photos that were Tweeted in Japan. The one above isn't one of them, but you get the idea.

Before the photos, they wrote:
Though not something we usually think about in our day-to-day lives, toilets are actually kind of awesome. In addition to the wonderful sewer systems that keep our living environments clean and us healthy, the toilet can be a magical place of undisturbed tranquility. Jun’ichio Tanizaki even dedicated a significant portion of In Praise of Shadows, a landmark essay about Japanese aesthetics, to why he thought Japanese bathrooms were so great. 
Tanizaki’s writing was published over 80 years ago and things have changed a lot since then–but Japanese toilets can still be awesome. Or least pretty funny. Here are 19 of the best toilet photos tweeted in Japan!
To see the photos, go here

Starbucks Overtakes McDonald's As Top Eatery In Japan

Above, the McDonald's golden arches are prominent in this Shibuya street view. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

During my previous visits to Japan, I have partaken at several McDonald's and Starbucks locations and have found both chains' restaurants usually crowded.

Nikkei Asian Review has reported that Starbucks is about to overtake McDonald's as Japan's top eatery.

They reported:
TOKYO -- The Golden Arches are about to turn silver in Japan. 
Starbucks Coffee Japan Ltd. is set to overtake McDonald's Holdings Japan in terms of domestic earnings.  
Pretax profits at Starbucks Japan are expected to hit an all-time high for the third straight year in fiscal 2013, which ends in March. 
The Japanese unit of U.S. coffee giant is heading for top spot in the restaurant and food service industry for the first time since it moved into Japan in 1995.
To read the full story, go here.

Japan Daily Picked Up Blog Post and We Have Rain!

Above, the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. Photo from a video by Armand Vaquer.

The Japan Daily has picked up the blog post on the six top things to do in Tokyo when the trains stop running.

To view The Japan Daily, go here.

Additional good news, we are actually having some measurable rain in Los Angeles tonight. This is the first rain we've had since December. February is usually our rainy month, but it has been drier than a bone out here for weeks. Hopefully, February will pull us out of the drought.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Six Things To Do When The Tokyo Trains Stop Running

Above, Shibuya Station. The article says there's plenty of bars to hang out
in near the station and there's no closing time law. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Huffington Post has an article on six things to do if you should find yourself stranded away from your hotel in Tokyo after the trains stopped running in the middle of the night.

This has never happened to me, although I had to work around with no subways running to get to the Tsukiji Fish Market. The ever-convenient Tokyo taxi cabs remedied that "problem" for me. I was planning on sleeping in another hour that morning, but an earthquake woke me up.

The article begins with:
Instead of curling up in a corner and crying your eyes out until public transportation will take your sorry ass back home, spend the train downtime wisely. Tokyo's trains shut down between midnight and 1 a.m. (depending on the line), but the city doesn't just pack up and wait for shit to start running again (around 4 a.m.).
Hachiko even gets a mention in the article, too!

To read the full article, go here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Working On Japan Itinerary

Above, a view of Yokohama from the Landmark Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The itinerary for the upcoming trip to Japan is coming along well. I have about two days to do stuff on my own before Jonathan Bellés arrives from Spain. This will be my seventh trip to Japan.

One of the things already set is lunch with two executives of JapanTravel (formerly known as JapanTourist), which I am a contributor to.

Another is a visit to the Godzilla slide in Yokosuka at the Kurihama Flower World. While in the vicinity, I may be meeting up with a college buddy (from my Young Republicans of El Camino College days) who lives in Yokohama. I haven't seen him since the 1980s. If the meet-up comes to pass, hopefully it will, this will my first visit to Yokohama since 2005.

One of the things I am planning to do in Tokyo, souvenir-wise, is to pick up a chef's knife for Jes (I can tell she is feeling better since she asked about it today). We already have it picked out and where we'll get it. I'll probably get a few other things as well.

More things will be added as they fall into place.

Pentagon To Launch Blimps To Guard Against Cruise Missiles

Above, a Goodyear blimp in Carson, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An article caught my attention (and a friend will find this interesting as well).

CBS News reported:

THE PENTAGON -- The Pentagon has discovered a gap in the defenses of Washington, D.C., and it's about to test a solution. 
But depending on your point of view, the solution is either vital for national security or a threat to American privacy. 
Starting this fall, two blimps will float at 10,000 feet over the Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in an attempt to develop a defense for the nation's capital against cruise missiles fired from ships offshore.
My friend is a blimp fan and he'd love to see a lot of blimps floating around. Maybe the Pentagon will accommodate him?

To read more, go here.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hiroshima's Atomic Dome To Be Reinforced Against Earthquakes

Above, the Atomic Dome. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima will be reinforced beginning in 2015, the 70th anniversary year of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, to withstand earthquakes.

According to News On Japan:
The Hiroshima municipal government has decided to reinforce the Atomic Bomb Dome, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, to cope with possible strong earthquakes.
To read the full story, go here.

Japan Relaxing Carry-On Flight Restrictions

Above, Narita International Airport's Terminal One departure gate lobby. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While I have some misgivings about some regulations on carry-on luggage on domestic and international flights, the recent trend on relaxing some rules are good pertaining to bringing liquids on board a flight is a good thing.

Japan is the latest country to relax restrictions on carry-on luggage and liquids.

According to Kyodo News:
Japan's transport ministry has decided to ease its restrictions on liquid and gel carry-on items for travelers on connecting flights from abroad in line with a global trend to relax baggage controls, ministry sources said Friday. 
The restrictions have been in place in airports worldwide due to heightened security for international flights after a foiled terrorist plot in 2006 to blow up a number of aircraft flying from Britain to the United States. 
Japan's change in policy for liquid and gel-like carry-on items, such as wine and lotion, will come into force Jan. 31, the sources said.
I usually limit my carry-on baggage to two items, my laptop and my camera bag, so this has never been a problem for me. Everything else is checked in to my big suitcase (that I dub "The Monolith").

To read more, go here

South Korea Demands Sea of Japan Name Be Changed

Above, a view of the Sea of Japan from Niigata. Or is it the East Sea? Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It must be the silly season in Asia.

First, China, Japan and Taiwan (did I leave anyone else out?) are squabbling over a chain of islands. Now, South Korea wants name of the body of water internationally known as the Sea of Japan, that separates South Korea and Japan, changed. Huh?

According to the Jiji Press:
Washington, Jan. 22 (Jiji Press)--The United States continues to refer the body of water between Japan and South Korea as the Sea of Japan, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Wednesday. 
"The U.S. Government uses names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a well-named board. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names' standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan," she told a news conference. 
South Korea demands that the name be changed to the East Sea.
This came about when the Virginia Senate's Education and Health Committee passed legislation that requires all public school textbooks in Virginia to identify the waters as the Sea of Japan and East Sea. The article states that many Korean Americans live in Virginia.

I suspect that the Virginia state senate is controlled by liberals and that they are behind this. Gee, we can't offend anybody, despite the fact that the name, Sea of Japan, has been around for ages, can we? Political correctness again.

To read the full article, go here.

Japan Daily Picks Up 2 Blog Posts

Above, the Godzilla statue at Toho Studios. The Japan Daily didn't pick up the
Godzilla story, but here's a picture of the Big G anyway. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Japan Daily has picked up two blog posts on the topics on the broken Japanese television shows and why people like riding Japanese trains.

I was wondering if they'd pick up the rebuttal to the Forbes article predicting that the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla will flop at the box office this year.

To read the latest Japan Daily, go here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forbes Contributor Predicts "Godzilla" Flop

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

It may happen, and it may not.

John Furrier, a contributor to Forbes.com, predicts that the upcoming Legenday Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla will be a box office flop. He named it as number one of three big Hollywood productions that will be flops in 2014.

On Godzilla, he wrote:
Following are our predictions and analysis for the Top Three biggest flops of 2014, in order of magnitude (net loss):

1)Godzilla. Hands down, “Godzilla” will be the biggest box office bomb of 2014. Godzilla as a character is box office poison. The fact is the last 3 Godzilla movies released domestically have flopped: “Godzilla 1985” made $4M; “Godzilla 2000” made a whopping $10M and the last attempt at a Hollywood-style big budget remake, also called “Godzilla” bombed so bad that its lead toy licensee went bankrupt. Had the movie made a profit the studio wouldn’t have just let the rights expire in 2003 without even attempting a reboot or sequel. They had 5 years to make a new film based on this property yet they passed. Think about it—Sony, the studio that greenlights sequels to most anything—”Resident Evil 6″ is on the horizon and don’t forget about “Underworld 5″—walked away from investing another cent in Godzilla.
Furrier neglects to factor the 1985 dollars and adjust them to inflation when it comes to Godzilla 1985. Plus, the studio who produced and distributed it paid relatively a paltry sum. So, $4 million in 1985 dollars was not that bad a return.

On Godzilla 2000, the movie was poorly marketed and many people thought it was a sequel to the 1998 Matthew Broderick disaster, which, by the way, deserved to flop. It didn't look like Godzilla or act like Godzilla. Additionally, he fails to mention that both Godzilla (1998) and Godzilla 2000 made money in the home video (VHS, DVD) market. (Godzilla 1985 is currently in limbo as far as home video rights are concerned.)

So far, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. seem to be doing everything right this time. Whether this translates to "more butts in seats" remains to be seen. The fan buzz on the movie has been very positive. That's another thing Furrier neglected to consider. Godzilla has a fan base (although not as big as the Star Wars or Star Trek fan bases) that will drum up more positive buzz should the movie meet their expectations. Good word-of-mouth is something that cannot be ignored.

To read the full article (Furrier does have more to say on Godzilla), go here.

Japan Times: "Godzilla Returns"

Above, the Godzilla statue at the main entrance of Toho Studios. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As my attention was directed to my "roomie's" recent hospitalization, I missed a Japan Times article on Godzilla that was posted January 11. I finally caught up with it.

The thrust of the article is this:
It's been almost 60 years since the celluloid monster, awoken and empowered by radiation, first ravaged Tokyo. With a U.S. reboot scheduled to be released worldwide this summer, we examine the shifting views of the savage beast over time.
 To read the full article, go here.

5 Ways Japanese TV Shows Are Broken

Above, a television set in a ryokan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Whenever I've been in Japan, I've occasionally perused the local television shows. Some I've found amusing (a lot of them are just crazy), while others would seem to be the cure for insomnia.

Apparently, quite a large segment of the Japanese citizenry finds the offerings on television to be boring. Perhaps there's not enough tokusatsu shows? They need to show more kaiju movies?

Here's how RocketNews24 begins their article on the "5 Ways Japanese TV Shows Are Broken":
There are certain things almost everyone who moves to Japan seems to like. The food? Tasty and healthy. Public transportation? Clean and punctual. But Japanese TV? Let’s just say there’s a reason Internet access is one of the first things new arrivals in the country look to outfit their apartments with. 
It turns out this lukewarm reaction to the country’s programming isn’t just a foreigner thing, either, as some 75 percent of Japanese citizens polled by the Asashi Shimbun newspaper also said that TV has become boring. Today we look at why.
To read the full article, go here

42 Reasons Why We Love Riding The Rails In Japan

Above, a cleaning crew waits to begin preparing a shinkansen train for the next scheduled run. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the most enjoyable things I found about Japan was their trains. After going through Immigration, Baggage, Customs and Currency Exchange, the next thing to do before leaving Narita International Airport is to go to either the JR Narita Express or Keisei Line ticket windows to purchase a ticket for the train ride into Tokyo. After this, a stroll to the gate to catch the train. The trains in Japan are clean, comfortable and very relaxing.

RocketNews24 has compiled a list of 42 reasons why we love riding the rails in Japan.

It starts off with:
Coming from abroad to live in Japan, there’s a lot to love–and there’s a lot to be frustrated about as well. One thing that nearly everyone loves about Japan though is the trains! With many of us coming from rural areas where you either drive or walk, being able to hop on a train pretty much any time anywhere can sometimes feel nearly miraculous. Tired? Distracted? Had too much to drink? Raining? None of that matters, because you’re on a train! 
And we’re not the only ones who think so either. Today we’ve compiled a list of foreign residents’ favorite things about trains in Japan. Check them out and see if your favorites made the list!
To see the article, go here

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Godzilla: Awakening" Announced

Legendary Pictures has announced a graphic novel movie tie-in, Godzilla: Awakening.

According to We Are Movie Geeks.com :
You can experience Legendary’s GODZILLA before it hits theaters in the all-new graphic novel ‘Godzilla: Awakening’, on sale May 7th Get all the info here: 
Co-written by Greg Borenstein and Max Borenstein (screenwriter of the forthcoming movie), this epic adventure, set decades before the film, is the perfect way for fans to experience the new Godzilla before seeing it in theaters.

Eikaiwa Limbo For English Teachers In Japan

If you have considered becoming an English language teacher in Japan (I did at one point), you may want to think again after reading an article posted by The Japan Times.

They start it with:
Every year, thousands of young native English-speakers fly to Asia in search of an adventure, financed by working as English teachers. They come from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., Britain, Canada and elsewhere. 
But it can be risky leaping into another country on the promise of an “easy” job. In Japan’s competitive English teaching market, foreign language instructors are treading water. “Subcontractor” teachers at corporate giant Gaba fight in the courts to be recognized as employees. Berlitz instructors become embroiled in a four-year industrial dispute, complete with strikes and legal action. Known locally as eikaiwa, “conversation schools” across the country have slashed benefits and reduced wages, forcing teachers to work longer hours, split-shifts and multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
I remember the uproar when the biggest eikaiwa, Nova, collapsed and left hundreds of foreign teachers stranded in Japan back in 2007. When the collapse started, teachers didn't get paid on time or not paid at all. It was one big mess.

I made a trek to San Francisco to attend a recruitment meeting for another company. I found that much was promised and much was not mentioned or minimized. To make a long story short, the misrepresentations made by the company caused them to fully reimburse me for my travel expenses. So I ended up with a nice little 2-day paid "vacation" on their dime. (Funny thing, an insurance claims job came through while I was there.)

To read the full story, go here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2 Blog Posts Picked Up By The Japan Daily

Two of today's blog posts were picked up by The Japan Daily online newspaper.

The ones they picked up were on the Starbucks planned store in Tottori Prefecture and one on ANA's apology on an "offensive" advertisement.

To read more, go here.

Submarines: USS Nautilus Anniversary and Lunch Pail

Above, my first lunch pail was one of these. This one is now being offered on eBay.

This morning, I was reading the BBC's website and they noted that 60 years ago today, the USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine, was launched.

They wrote:
It's 60 years since the world's first nuclear-powered submarine was launched. The USS Nautilus was the first "true" submarine as it did not need to be refuelled and could remain submerged for months. So what was it like living on it?
When I was a kid, I was a big submarine fanatic. I had books on them and some of my favorite television shows included Silent Service and Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea. Both featuring submarines. The BBC article on the USS Nautilus reminded me of my first lunch pail (they are called lunch boxes now, but back then they were made of metal, so pail was appropriate) which was of, naturally, submarines. According to current offerings on eBay, the lunch pail depicted the USS Seawolf and the USS George Washington.

I remember using that lunch pail for years. It also included a Thermos bottle (those things didn't last very long since they had glass inner linings that broke when they were dropped).  According to the eBay offerings, the lunch pail was vintage 1960, which is the period I got mine.

To read the BBC article on the USS Nautilus, go here.

Starbucks Close To Total Japan Domination

Above, a Starbucks in Ginza, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Several months ago, I wrote about a new Tully's Coffee shop opening in Tottori Prefecture in 2014. (To see that blog post, go here.)

Now, RocketNews24 is reporting that Starbucks is following suit in opening their first store in the prefecture by March 2015.

They reported:
Tottori Prefecture, the final frontier. It may sound strange, but when it comes to Starbucks, Tottori is uncharted territory and the only prefecture in all of Japan without a Starbucks location. That will all change soon as the coffee giant plans to open a new store somewhere within the small prefecture’s borders by March 2015. 
With the largest population of elderly folks in all of Japan, it might seem natural that Tottori went without a Starbucks for so long. However, you might be surprised to find that there are places in Tokyo that have yet to see the familiar green and white mermaid.
For regular coffee, I prefer Tully's (the regular coffee at Starbucks tastes burnt to me, although I do like their hot cafe mochas). So, if I should ever go to Tottori Prefecture, at least there will be a Starbucks there in the future should I want a cafe mocha. Tully's has a good cafe mocha as well, by the way.

If you have been given any Starbucks gift cards during Christmas, you can't use them in Japan. I tried once and found that the Japan Starbucks shops don't accept them. The workers just stare at them in wonderment.

To read the full article, go here.

ANA Apologizes and Will Modify "Offensive" Ad

Above, a shot of the offending ANA ad.

All Nippon Airways has apologized for an advertisement that some western viewers found to be racial stereotyping.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways says it is modifying a TV commercial after apologising to customers who complained it used racist stereotyping. 
But the airline insists it meant no offence. 
ANA started airing the new 30-second television advertisement on Saturday, aimed at promoting its beefed up schedule of international flights from Tokyo's Haneda airport in March.In the commercial, two Japanese men in ANA uniform discuss in English how they might boost the image of the airline as an international carrier.

One of them says: "Let's change the image of Japanese people."

"Sure," replies the other, who is now wearing a blonde wig and an improbably long rubber nose.

White westerners are often believed in Japan to have big noses, blue eyes and blonde hair, characteristics generally thought desirable among Japanese.
The ad doesn't bother me, but then I don't have blond hair or a "Mr. Mxyzptlk" nose.

Read more and see the ad: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-news/all-nippon-airways-sorry-after-complaint-advert-is-racist-20140121-315fv.html#ixzz2r3JfFcFe

UPDATE (1/22/14):

From Japan Today:
TOKYO —Japan’s largest carrier All Nippon Airways said on Tuesday it was pulling a TV advertisement featuring a Japanese actor in a large false nose and blonde wig after it was criticised online for having racist overtones.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Adam West's "Batman" Coming To DVD

The show premiered in January 1966 in ABC-TV. It featured a who's who of guest stars playing guest villains. For the first two seasons, two episodes a week (actually two-parter cliffhangers) were shown. It was a pop-culture phenomenon with bright colors and wacky camera angles.

The show was Batman, starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin.

I can remember to this day the night my grandfather was over for dinner, which was only a few weeks before his death on February 12, 1966, and seeing Batman for the first time. As soon as the cartoon opening began with Batman and Robin running towards the camera with Neal Hefti's catchy theme (I have the original soundtrack album that I played to death), my grandfather started laughing like crazy. He was a fan of the Adventures of Superman that starred George Reeves, so this campy show must've taken him by surprise.

Above, Adam "Batman" West at the 2012 Comikaze Expo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Later that summer, a feature-length motion picture of the show was released. We saw it at the Centinela Drive-In Theater. The second feature was Our Man Flint with James Coburn.

The last season of Batman saw the introduction of Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) and the show was cut to one night per week. It was cancelled due to sagging ratings by ABC, but another network was interested in renewing it. That didn't happen as the sets at 20th Century-Fox were already demolished. Too bad.

Above, Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig and Armand in 2005.

Word has gotten out that the Batman television show will finally be released on DVD (the movie version has been out on DVD for quite a while). It's about time.

Obama Blames Sagging Poll Numbers On Racism!

You can't make this stuff up!

“There’s no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president,” President Barack Obama said in the article by David Remnick, that will be appearing in the New Yorker magazine's Jan. 27 edition. He was complaining about his sagging poll numbers.

Really now?

The President has made some odd statements (besides many lies) in the past, but that one is a doozy!

Could it be that your poll numbers are sagging because you made a bad economy worse, stuck us with an idiotic healthcare system, lying repeatedly, ruined the space program, made the U.S. look bad internationally, weakened our defense capabilities, a lousy leader, Benghazi, IRS targeting, spying on U.S. citizens and a socialist idiot?

What a dope!

Superman-Batman Movie Delayed To 2016

Above, the cover of World's Finest Comics no. 163 by Curt Swan and George Klein.

It looks like fans of the "World's Finest" team, Superman and Batman, will have to wait another year before a movie pairing both will be released.

According to Japan Today:
LOS ANGELES —Warner Bros pushed back the release date of the still untitled film that will bring together superheroes Superman and Batman, delaying it by almost a year to May 2016, the studio said on Friday. 
The sequel to last year’s hit Superman film “Man of Steel” was revealed at the Comic-Con convention last July by director Zack Snyder, who said the two DC Comics’ caped crusaders will face off against each other.
DC Entertainment is a division of Warner Bros.

Superman and Batman starred in a series of team-up stories in World's Finest Comics that spanned over several decades.

To read the full story, go here.

Windows XP Phaseout Puts 13 Million PCs At Risk In Japan, Says Experts

Above, a Japanese ATM kiosk. Most of the world's ATMs will be
vulnerable to attack due to the phaseout. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Did you know that Microsoft is going to stop supporting Windows XP operating systems in April?  Yes, it's true, and many (and I mean MANY) personal and business computers around the world will be vulnerable to attacks and viruses.

Japan's personal and business computers that are operating on Windows XP will be likewise vulnerable.

According to The Japan Times:
More than 13 million personal computers in Japan will be exposed to higher risk of virus and other attacks starting in mid-April, experts warn. 
These computers are still running the Windows XP operating system, which Microsoft Corp. will stop supporting entirely on April 9. 
An estimated 7.23 million Windows XP-based PCs are still in use by companies, accounting for 20 percent of all PCs in Japan. Migration to newer operating systems, such as Windows 8.1, has been slow, especially at small and midsize firms, because managers are either unaware of the problem or want to avoid the cost of updating.
Windows XP was introduced in 2001 (hard to believe it has been that long, since my now-discarded Acer laptop was bought in 2007).

Thank goodness my main computers are based on Windows 7 (which is a better operating system than Windows 8) and oldest computer is on a Windows 98 system that is no longer a target to attacks and viruses (I just use it for word processing anyway).

To read the full story, go here.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tips To Make Your Travel Photos More Dynamic

Above, the Bandai Bridge in Niigata, Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Due to the hospitalization of my "roomie" this past week (she's doing better, but still not yet out of the woods), I had to miss the Los Angeles Times Travel Show being held this weekend at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

I was perusing their online Travel page and found a good article with 14 tips on making your travel photographs better.

The article begins with:

You’ve come home from your trip and you’re looking through your photos, but they’re not as dynamic as the destination you’re remembering. Our photo experts and editors gathered a list of 14 tips for making those memories as good as those in your mind’s eye.
If you are shutterbug as I am, you may want to take a look at the article so your future travel photos are much more dynamic.

To read more:

Japan's 2013 Foreign Visitors Total Revised

Above, Asakusa's Nakamise Street, Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) announced revised numbers of foreign tourists who visited Japan in 2013.

According to the Asahi Shimbun:
The number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2013 soared by 24.0 percent from the previous year and exceeded the government’s target of 10 million for the first time, according to estimates. 
Figures released by the Japan National Tourism Organization on Jan. 17 show that 10,364,000 people visited the nation for tourism, business or other purposes last year.
Previously, it was announced that 11,250,000 foreign tourists visited Japan in 2013. The JNTO figure deducts the number of permanent residents from that total.

To read the full story, go here.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Foreign Tourists Vital To Japan's Economy and Foreign Relations

Above, a Nagasaki tour boat prepares to depart. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Asahi Shimbun posted an editorial on the importance of having foreign tourists visit Japan.

They wrote:
An increase in the number of foreign visitors brings economic and various other benefits to Japan. 
Spending by foreign tourists on hotels, restaurants, leisure activities and shopping contributes a great deal to revitalizing the local economies. Main tourist resources are basically existing facilities, social and cultural assets, and natural scenery. In other words, there can be effective ideas to increase tourism that don’t involve any massive investment. That’s why tourism is an important element in the government’s strategy for stoking economic growth.
Japan now is trying to reach a goal of 20 million foreign visitors per year by the 2020 Olympics.

To read the full editorial, go here.

Holdout Japanese WWII Soldier Dies At 91

Above, Hiroo Onoda at the time of his surrender in 1974.

Japan Today reported:
TOKYO —A Japanese soldier who hid in the Philippine jungle for three decades, refusing to believe World War II was over until his former commander returned and ordered him to surrender, has died in Tokyo aged 91. 
Hiroo Onoda waged a guerrilla campaign in Lubang Island near Luzon until he was finally persuaded in 1974 that peace had broken out, ignoring leaflet drops and successive attempts to convince him the Imperial Army had been defeated. 
He died in a Tokyo hospital on Thursday of heart failure.
I remember when this story first broke back in 1974. I found it quite interesting that a Japanese soldier hid in the jungle for nearly 30 years believing that World War II still hadn't ended. It was big news back then.

To read the full article, go here.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Days of Uncertainty

My "roomie" Jessica is in the hospital in very serious condition with liver failure. As such, blog posts will be much fewer and far between during this time of uncertainty.

Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated.

20th Anniversary of Northridge Earthquake

It is hard to believe that today marks 20 years since the 6.7 magnitude Northridge Earthquake hit the Los Angeles region.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was living in North Hills (in the San Fernando Valley) at the time. My daughter Amber was asleep in her room and I was asleep in mine when the quake hit at 4:31 in the morning. I tried to get out of bed to get Amber but the shaking was so violent that I was kept from getting out of bed. It was jumping like Linda Blair's bed in The Exorcist (1973).

Eventually, we got out of the building and headed to the parking lot in back. All the other tenants of the apartment building were there. I had the only working television set, a battery-operated Sony Watchman and we were able to see the news coverage of the quake. The quake knocked out all power to the city and it was strange seeing so many stars in the sky.

We put all of the building's children in one car so that they would be kept warm and they would be comfortable being with their friends. It was weird seeing the building shake when the aftershocks hit. Several of us went into the building to check for residents who may have needed assistance in getting out.

I had about $2,000 in property damage that FEMA took care of. They were quite efficient during those days.

The quake came almost 23 years after the February 9, 1971 Sylmar Earthquake. We are due for another big one as we seem to have major ones in 20-year intervals.

We had a small quake centered near Universal City last night in "celebration" of the Northridge Earthquake.

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