"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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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Video: "The Atomic Cafe"

In case you've never seen it, here's The Atomic Cafe (1982):

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily picked up three of yesterday's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Little Tokyo's Atomic Cafe

Above, The Atomic Cafe at its original location.

Back in the 1980s, I watched a movie on Cinemax called, The Atomic Cafe. It was a documentary of the atomic (and hydrogen) bombs with loads of footage of bomb tests and the atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, plus old propaganda films. I still have the movie on tape, but it is available for viewing on YouTube (I recommend it).

When I saw the title of an article on the local L.A. public television station KCET, "Atomic Cafe and the Old Brick Building in Little Tokyo," I just had to take a look.

A century-old building in Little Tokyo is meeting up with the wrecking ball to make way for a new Metro station. The building houses The Atomic Cafe.

According to the article:
When news spread about the demolition of the old brick building at First and Alameda Streets in Little Tokyo, it was a sign that the city had committed itself to the future. The century-old building will be replaced by a new Metro subway stop, slated to become a major transportation hub that will transform the way we travel through downtown. This may be good news from an urbanist perspective -- but what about the history? Should we be paving over a precious link to the past in the name of progress? 
Last February a large crowd gathered inside the building (now a branch of local chain Senor Fish) to honor its legacy. Much of the conversation centered around the Atomic Cafe, which occupied the building for almost three decades and best known as an after-hours hangout for the local punks and weirdos in the '80s.
 It is an interesting article and it shows, once again, that another piece of Los Angeles history won't be around.

To read the article, go here.

10 Must See Places In Niigata

Above, inside of a Niigata city tour bus. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Four years ago, I took an excursion to Niigata, Japan for a couple of days. I wanted to see the Sea of Japan (sorry, South Korea) side of Honshu.

My visit to Niigata was confined to the city. I visited Hakusan Park, an art gallery and visited their community center to see a photographic exhibit. I also took their bus tour of the city.

Tsunagu Japan has posted an article on "10 Must See Places In Niigata." Had I seen this or a similar article four years ago, I would have extended my stay and ventured out into other areas of the prefecture.

Maybe I'll return there in the future and check out the places listed.

The article begins with:
The long and narrow country of Japan is divided into what are called the 47 prefectures, but are actually 43 prefectures, 2 urban prefectures (Osaka and Kyoto), one territory (Hokkaido), and one metropolis (Tokyo). 
Each area has their own unique nature, with their own good characteristics and peculiarities. 
Of course, when you talk about sightseeing in Japan, places like Tokyo and Kyoto are famous, but other than that there are plenty of sightseeing areas to go to. 
Among those is Niigata prefecture. 
Niigata Prefecture is divided into 4 geographical areas, Joetsu, Chuetsu, Kaetsu and Sado region. Niigata prefecture is long and thin, and it has the third-largest area next after Nagano prefecture in Japan. 
This time, we would like to introduce the recommended 10 must see places which is surely mentioned in the sightseeing map in Niigata.
Since my visit, the city opened the Niigata Manga Animation Museum. That's one of the places I would like to see should I go back.

To see what Niigata prefecture has to offer, go here.

Tokyo Named "World's Safest City"

Above, a view of Tokyo looking towards Shibuya from the Tokyo City View in Roppongi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

New Zealand's Stuff.co.nz reported that Tokyo is the "safest" city in the world according to the 2015 Safe Cities Index by The Economist.

They reported:
The index, which looks at digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety, ranks the Japanese capital ahead of Singapore second and Osaka third. European capitals Stockholm and Amsterdam complete the world's top five safest cities. 
Australia's most populous city, Sydney, just missed out the top five (by less than a point) coming in at number six in the Index. The habour city was followed by Zurich in seventh place and Toronto in eighth. The world's friendliest city and arguable Australia's "hippest" city, Melbourne, was named the ninth safest city in the world. 
Only one USA city made the top 10 in the Index; the city that never sleeps – New York – rounded off the top 10.
To read more, go here

30 Most Popular Japan Sightseeing Spots For Foreigners

Above, Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills in Tokyo. No. 19 on the list is here. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

About a week ago, I posted about the "Top Ten Favorite Sightseeing Spots For Foreign Tourists In Japan." The source was from TripAdvisor thorough Japanese Info.

Now, we have "30 Most Popular Japan Sightseeing Spots For Foreigners," as posted by Tsunagu Japan. Again, their source was...(drumroll): TripAdvisor.

Like the previous list, I've been to several of them.

Tsunagu Japan begins their post with:
One of the most daunting things about any international trip is deciding where to go once you get to that country. If you’re coming to Japan, you’re probably flying into Tokyo, staying here for a bit, and then taking advantage of your JR Rail Pass to travel the country.  
But where are you going? And why? Sure, see some temples and shrines. Or a castle. Or a giant Buddha. Or an art museum. Which one, though? In what city? Do you even know what prefecture that’s in? 
TripAdvisor has saved you some time poring through guidebooks and watching NHK specials to bring you 30 of the most popular sightseeing spots in Japan as voted by foreign tourists just like yourselves (2014 June). Here is a run-down of the list, from #30 to #1, with a brief description and reviews. 
To see the list, go here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

New Air Force One Jets Coming Later This Decade

Above, the forward section of SAM 27000 at the Reagan Library. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is hard to believe sometimes how time flies.

It has been about 25 years since the current Boeing 747-200 Air Force One jetliners (SAM 28000 and SAM 29000) were put into service during the administration of President George H. W. Bush. "SAM" stands for "Special Air Missions."

Plans are now in place to replace those two jets with newer model Boeing 747-8.

According to an article in Financial Times:
One of the world’s most exclusive customers could be the last buyer of the aircraft that democratised long-haul air travel after the US defence department selected Boeing’s 747-8 to be the US president’s new Air Force One. 
The fleet of presidential aircraft, due to enter service later this decade, could be among the very last passenger versions of the long-haul aircraft to be built because airlines increasingly favour two-engine long-haul aircraft over four-engine craft. 
The new aircraft will replace a pair of 747-200s that came into service as the presidential aircraft in 1990, during the presidency of George HW Bush. The type became an all but inevitable choice after the Pentagon decided that the presidential aircraft needed to have four engines. The only other currently manufactured four-engine long-haul jet is Airbus’s A380, manufactured in France.
Above, the tail section of SAM 27000. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Originally, the jet-age Air Force One (with the distinctive graphics we are familiar with) started out during the Kennedy Administration with a Boeing 707 (SAM 26000). SAM 26000 was relegated to back-up status when SAM 27000, another Boeing 707, was put into service in 1972 during the Nixon Administration. SAM 27000 now is on display at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

SAM 26000 is now on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB near Dayton, Ohio.

To read more, go here.

Dollar Falls Below ¥118 In Tokyo Trading

There seems to be some monetary adjusting going on as the U.S. dollar fell below ¥118 today.

According to The Japan Times:
The dollar slipped below ¥118 in Tokyo trading Thursday as selling picked up pace after a plunge in Japanese stock prices. 
At 5 p.m., the dollar stood at ¥117.70-71, down from ¥118.13-15 at the same time Wednesday. 
This is the reason why I feel that going with tour companies who base their tour prices on the rate of exchange is folly, especially when the dollar falls in value against the yen. That makes tours more expensive.

Hopefully, this is just temporary.

To read more, go here

Hostel Rocket: How To Visit Kyoto On A Budget

Above, JR Kyoto Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Everybody likes to save money, right?

If you are one of those who are thrifty in their demeanor, here's a blog post that will get you to the ancient city of Kyoto on a budget.

The blog, Hostel Rocket has posted some tips on saving some cash on getting to and seeing the many attractions that Kyoto has to offer.

They begin with:
When most people think of Japan they think of breath taking temples, of elegant geisha and of stunning kimono; stereo-typically they think of Kyoto. Japan has some stunning sights to experience but it all comes at a price. In this guide I will help you to experience this ancient city without blowing your budget.
Above, Kyoto Tower from a video by Armand Vaquer.
For kaiju fans, there are some Kyoto locations/landmarks that were featured in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) and in Gamera 3 (1999) that you can visit, such as Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto Station and Kyoto Tower. These are covered in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

To read more, go here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Got Me Some Readin' To Do

Good old Amazon. I ordered Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 the other day and it arrived today. It is about the January 16, 1942 crash of TWA Flight 3 that took the life of Mrs. Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and 21 other passengers.

The story about the crash on Mount Petosi (outside of Las Vegas, Nevada) has fascinated me ever since I read the book, Gable and Lombard back in the mid-1970s. Debris from the crash still sits on the side of Mount Petosi today and, presumably, some human remains.

I happened to be looking at YouTube videos about the crash a few nights ago and discovered that a book on the crash was published two years ago. So I ordered it.

Thumbing though it, I found the above photo of Eddie Mannix with Clark Gable and Al Menasco leaving the El Rancho Hotel in Las Vegas on Jan. 20, 1942. Eddie Mannix, Vice President of MGM, was later involved in the controversy involving his wife Toni and the death of Adventures of Superman star George Reeves.

Much has been written about Eddie Mannix and his health problems in the 1950s and 1960s. He apparently was in good enough health to make the rough trek up Mount Petosi to identify the remains of Carole Lombard. Gable was MGM's biggest contract star.

I got me some reading to do tonight.

The Neverending Battle For Superman

Above, the very first published Superman story appeared in the first issue of Action Comics.

Just about everyone knows that the character of Superman/Clark Kent was created by two Cleveland, Ohio boys, Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster.

Siegel did the writing and Shuster did the illustrating.

Above, Laura Siegel Larson at the Superman Celebration luncheon last August. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After receiving no success in having Superman picked up by a publisher, the Superman character was picked up by a publisher (now known as DC Comics) and the rest is history.

But there's much more to the history.

Sedgwick Law has posted a history of the legal battles between Siegel & Shuster (and their heirs) and DC Comics.

Here's a snippet:
By now, the story behind Superman’s origins is well-known.  Created by teenagers Joseph Shuster and Jerry Siegel in the 1930s, Superman first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938.  Shortly thereafter, Shuster and Siegel reportedly sold to what is now DC Comics their rights to the Action Comics storyline, including the Superman character as he then existed, for $130.00 and additional, annual “work for hire” payments for supplying material to DC Comics.  Superman would, of course, then go on to become one of the most well-recognized and financially successful characters in comic book history, generating millions of dollars in subsequent sales, spin-offs, movies and merchandise.  In the years that followed, both Shuster and Siegel would attempt to regain ownership of Superman and a more appropriate share in DC’s profits from the booming franchise.  Ultimately, various lawsuits, settlements and copyright extensions restored their names to the Superman comics’ credit pages, and deals were made to provide pensions and other compensation for the co-creators’ heirs.
Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster have both passed on. The battle has been taken up by their heirs, most notably Jerry Siegel's daughter, Laura Siegel Larson.

To read "the rest of the story" (as the late Paul Harvey used to say), go here


If the state or federal government passes a mileage tax, they would have to add a device to your car to tally your miles. Who is to stop them from adding another "little feature" to the device? The Left-wing California legislature is already looking into a mileage tax. 

Our freedoms are constantly being eroded and the sheeple are letting it happen.

Leftist Democrats would love to import this from the U.K.

Why do you suppose they are pushing the global warming hoax? It's all about government control, folks!

From The Federalist:

The New Outer Limits
"We are controlling transmission. . . .  sit quietly 
and we will control all that you see and hear."

(Infowars News)  -  The UK government today announced a plan to remotely control vehicles on roads using wi-fi technology in order to reduce traffic and offset global warming, the latest manifestation of the ‘Internet of Things’ that will stir up concern amongst privacy advocates.

A report released today by Ofcom, the government-controlled body which regulates communications in the United Kingdom, lays out a blueprint that could be realized in as soon as 10 years where cars would communicate with each other to “reduce congestion”.

The proposals are being billed by some media outlets as a means of solving traffic jams and taking the stress out of finding a parking space, while also serving to reduce “greenhouse gases” and offset global warming.

However, buried in the report is a detail that will horrify many libertarians and privacy advocates.

The state plans to achieve this new high-tech solution by fitting sensors in all cars that would wirelessly send information to a “central traffic control system”. The control system would then react by imposing remote speed limits on each vehicle, a “shockwave effect” which would cause each one to brake and accelerate in unison.

In other words, in the name of reducing traffic and helping the environment, the government could at any time seize control of your vehicle against your will.

Such a system would also obviously empower the government to keep a flawless and permanent database of the precise travel details of every single driver in the country, which would likely be utilized for criminal investigations.
“M2M sensors in cars and on the roads monitor the build up of congestion and wirelessly send this information to a central traffic control system, which automatically impose variable speed limits that smooth the flow of traffic,” states Ofcom. “This system could also communicate directly with cars, directing them along diverted routes to avoid the congestion and even managing their speed.”  
“M2M sensors could also be attached to the mechanical parts of a car, such as ABS wheel rotation sensors to measure speed. This information could be wirelessly communicated to nearby cars, which have onboard computers that process and react to this information.”
To read more, go here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Superman Celebration In Classic Images Magazine In The Works

Above, Jack Larson addressing the plaque dedication gathering. Photo by Steve Kirk.

It looks like last summer's Superman Celebration will get a magazine write-up in the not-too-distant future.

Jim Nolt, who was the ringleader of the Superman Celebration, posted this at Facebook today:
Good news... Steve Friedman's been in contact with Classic Images magazine, and they've promised an article about Celebration 2014 featuring many of Steve's photos in an upcoming issue. I'm working on the text this week and will get it to Steve by the weekend.
Steve Friedman is a professional photographer from New York who attended the Superman Celebration and took many photographs of the weekend's events (plaque dedication, luncheon and Pasadena Playhouse tour).

To view Classic Images magazine's website, go here.

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily have picked up three of today's blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Michelle Obama Is No Pioneer

Above, Pat Nixon in Saudi Arabia in 1974. 

It is sometimes funny how the media just fawns over the Obamas.

The latest is this on Michelle Obama from the Associated Press:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — For first lady Michelle Obama, just a few hours in Saudi Arabia were enough to illustrate the stark limitations under which Saudi women live. 
Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly colored jacket — but no headscarf.
The media seems to be trying to make Michelle Obama as some sort of pioneer or something by not wearing a headscarf in Saudi Arabia, a strict Islamic country.

Well, First Lady Pat Nixon did not do so either during a state visit to Saudi Arabia in 1974. So Pat has Michelle beat by nearly 41 years.

To read more, go here.

Jumbo Chef and Kappabashi

Above, the Jumbo Cook sculpture in Kappabashi. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After spending around 16 hours in a Keisei Line train car in Chiba Prefecture and eventually reaching my hotel 22 hours after landing in Narita International Airport due to snow last February, I headed over to Kappabashi (Kitchen Town) to pick up a chef's knife for my roomie Jes.

I got to Kappabashi within fifteen minutes after my taxi picked me up from my hotel in Ueno. Kappabashi is situated between Ueno and Asakusa (it is technically in the Asakusa Ward of Tokyo).

I knew I was at the right place as we passed the giant chef sculpture. According to Time Out Tokyo, the sculpture is known as "Jumbo Cook."

CNN has a July 2011 article on Kappabashi. About the Jumbo Cook, it says:
Take exit number 3 out of Tawaracho Station and walk west along Asakusa Dori for a few minutes, then look up -- you’ll have arrived in Kappabashi when you see the giant chef's head atop a store called Niimi. 
Appropriately dubbed “Jumbo Cook,” the 11-meter-tall, 10-ton sculpture greets visitors to the neighborhood in more than a figurative sense, as the main Kappabashi Dougu shopping street runs north from this landmark.
The article describes different stores in Kappabashi where "local chefs and restaurateurs daily rely on this food-supply wholesale district for their sashimi knives, signboards and everything in between."

Even if one is not a culinary student or a chef, Kappabashi is an interesting place to browse and shop for pretty much everything for the kitchen.

To read more, go here.

Sharyl Attikisson To Testify At Senate Attorney General Confirmation Hearings

The Senate hearings for the confirmation of Loretta Lynch for U.S. Attorney General will be getting a lot more interesting this week.

The Daily Signal reported:
Former CBS reporter and Daily Signal senior independent contributor Sharyl Attkisson will testify at this week’s confirmation hearings for Loretta Lynch, who was nominated by President Obama to replace Eric Holder as U.S. Attorney General. 
Attkisson, who was invited to speak on a panel of witnesses by the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, will address issues concerning freedom of the press. 
Attkisson has been highly critical of the Justice Department in her investigative reporting of Operation Fast and Furious and the Benghazi terrorist attacks. 
While covering these events, Attkisson alleges that the Justice Department illegally monitored her phone and computer.
Attkisson is suing the Justice Department (run by Eric Holder) for $35 million for tapping into her phone and computer.

To read more, go here.

The Best Sushi At The Tsukiji Fish Market By Mr. Sato (Part 1)

Above, the sushi breakfast I had in 2010 near the Tsukiji Fish Market. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In December 2010, I paid a visit to the famous Tsukiji Fish Market. After wandering around the fish market, I headed to the restaurant and shop area next to the fish market for an early-morning sushi breakfast.

I was not disappointed in my meal. It was the freshest tuna (prepared in several ways) sushi I have ever tasted.

Mr. Sato of Rocket News 24 recently paid a visit to the sushi restaurants next to the Tsukiji Fish Market and he has reported his findings on what he feels are the best sushi restaurants there. His report is to be in two parts. Part one has been posted.

In this part, he visited four sushi restaurants and compares them.

The article begins with:
Obviously, if you love sushi, Tokyo is probably your number one foodie vacation destination, but Tokyo is a big place! There are plenty of excellent sushi restaurants–and plenty of great ones at that. But for seriously fresh sushi, there might be no better place than right off the boat. 
And if you want sushi right off the boat, you’ll want to head to Tsukiji-shijo, also known as Tsukiji Fish Market, the “biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.” While that might sound a bit daunting, worry not! Today, we’re going to visit four Tsukiji-shijo sushi restaurants with none other than our very own Mr. Sato!
To read more, go here

Japan's Business Hotels Targeting Foreign Guests

Above, the Dormy Inn in Niigata. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan's business hotel operators see opportunities in the current surge of foreign tourism. Several operators are upgrading their current hotels or building new ones to meet the expected demand as the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gets nearer.

According to Nikkei Asian Review:
TOKYO -- Japanese business hotel operators are trying to attract more foreign guests by upgrading their facilities or building new ones. 
Greens, which operates 50 business hotels nationwide under the Comfort Hotel brand through a franchise agreement with a U.S. company, will open its first new hotel in five years this autumn. 
TKP, a company that leases conference rooms, plans to open 10 business hotels by 2017, mostly in urban areas. 
Kyoritsu Maintenance, operator of the Dormy Inn chain of business hotels, will in fiscal 2015 set up a new hotel brand that takes traditional Japanese aesthetics as its theme.  
Another company, Fujita Kanko, will in April begin fully renovating the main building of its flagship Shinjuku Washington Hotel.
I've stayed at a Dormy Inn in Niigata in 2010 and at a Washington Hotel In Nagasaki in 2007. Both were nice places to stay and their prices were very reasonable.

To read more, go here

Monday, January 26, 2015

InsideJapan's Top Ten Tips For Travel In Japan

Above, Nakamise Street in Asakusa, a souvenir hunter's paradise. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The InsideJapan blog has posted a set of top ten handy tips for travel in Japan.

Reading them over before going over to Japan on vacation will help make the trip smoother. Before going into their top ten tips, they wrote:
Between them, our staff have well over a century’s experience living and working in Japan, and have travelled every inch of this wonderful country – from the snowswept plains of northern Hokkaido to remote Yonaguni Island in the far southwest. 
As you might expect, our band of intrepid explorers have picked up all kinds of invaluable hints, tips and advice along the way. From getting hopelessly lost in the backstreets of Tokyo to making all kinds of cultural faux pas – we’ve made all the mistakes there are to make in Japan and lived to tell the tale. It’d be a shame not to pass on our insider knowledge so that you don’t have to do the same!
To read their tips, go here.

Democrats Want To Impose Mileage Tax On California Drivers

The Looney Left Report

The Looney Left in Sacramento is now claiming that because gasoline prices have dropped, the state of California is not getting as much revenue in taxes. Now they are thinking about imposing a "mileage tax" on California drivers.

According to CBS in San Francisco:
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With an increase in electric and hybrid vehicles along with better fuel-efficient vehicles, changing Bay Area drivers habit are posing a serious problem for state coffers. 
As motorists use less and less gas, gas tax revenuesto pay for state highways, roads and bridges shrink. Meanwhile, as gas prices fall, so does the sales tax generated by fuel sales. In California, among the taxes collected on fuel is a 2.25% sales tax on gasoline and a 9.67 percent tax on diesel. 
Some state lawmakers feel a mileage tax is the best solution.
This is what happens when you have a state controlled by one party with no real opposition party to thwart their schemes for a California socialistic utopia.

One one side of their mouths, they want people to drive hybrids and fuel-efficient cars. After many people have done so, they then cry from the other side of their mouths that the state is not taking in as much tax revenue, so they want to gouge drivers with a new "mileage tax." If they were to implement a "milage tax," do you really think they would abolish the present gasoline taxes? Not on your life!

Besides the article, the comments posted by readers are good reads. Most of the the comments are right on the mark. And this is a San Francisco station?

To read more, go here.

And, for another report on the mileage tax, go here.

Panic In The Sky: Asteroid To Pass By Earth, Can Be Seen With Binoculars

Jeepers, Chief!

A big asteroid will be passing by Earth tomorrow night and, with good binoculars, people will be able to observe it.

According to Disclose.tv:
January 25, 2015 - An asteroid the size five football fields is approaching Earth and is expected to pass by on Monday. It will be visible through strong binoculars – definitely worth getting; the next time such an asteroid could be this close again will be in 2027. 
At the closest point to the Earth, asteroid 2004 BL86 will be at a distance of 1.2 million kilometers which – approximately three times the distance from the Earth to the moon. Estimated to be 0.5 km in diameter, it is classified by scientists as potentially dangerous.
Above, you won't need a big telescope like this, just a good pair of binoculars. 

Read more: http://www.disclose.tv/news/As_big_as_five_football_fields_MASSIVE_ASTERIOD_to_be_visible_from_Earth_in_just_a_DAY/113314#ixzz3PvTEoDIg

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

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

They include:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The National Art Center, Tokyo

Above, a view of The National Art Center from the Tokyo City View atop Mori Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last February, I went up to the Tokyo City View at the top of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills.

While I was photographing the views of the city, one building caught my eye as its architecture was quite unique.

It turned out to be The National Art Center, Tokyo.

Tokyo Drive posted some photographs of the architecture of The National Art Center, Tokyo. To view them, go here.

If, by chance, you take a trip to Tokyo and want to visit The National Art Center, Tokyo, here's their English website.

U.S. Ranks Low In Quality In Hotel Wi-Fi

Back in 2007 and 2010, I went to Japan with my laptop computer for downloading photographs and for Internet access. Previous to this, I had to use the hotel's computers (some were free to use, while others charged a fee). Unfortunately, they were useless for posting photographs online.

Also, I was at the mercy of the fussy Japanese keyboards. They would work in English, but if I hit a wrong key or something, they would revert to Japanese.

I figured I'd bring my laptop with me so I could get free Internet access through my own machine. But the fly in the ointment was that I had to plug in my laptop to their system and my plug-in cables did not match theirs.

During last year's trip to Japan, I stayed at the Tsukuba Hotel in Ueno who had free Wi-Fi available. Unfortunately, their system wasn't that good as the signal from their routers had a tendency to fade in and out (they were set up in each floor's hallway across from the elevator). Still, it was better than what was available during prior trips.

The Los Angeles Times has an article on worldwide rankings of hotel Wi-Fi systems. Oddly, the U.S. ranks low, and even behind Russia, of all places.

They wrote:
Bad news for hotel guests who love to update their Facebook status, stream YouTube videos and upload Instagram photos: When it comes to quality wireless connections at hotels, the U.S. ranks 40th worldwide, behind South Korea, Poland, Vietnam, Mexico, Russia and India, among many others.
The good news is that the U.S. ranks high in giving out WiFi free of charge. 
The ranking comes from a new study by Hotel WiFi Test, a site that takes WiFi data from travelers to gauge Internet speeds at hotels around the world.
 To read the full article, go here.

Some Airlines Drop Fuel Surcharges (Yours Isn't One of Them)

Above, oil prices have dropped and airlines have switched to fuel-efficient jets like the
Boeing 787, yet they still tack a "fuel surcharge" onto tickets. Why? Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Oil prices have plummeted in recent weeks, yet the airlines (for the most part) refuse to give up their "oil surcharge" fees.

Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare has an article at the ABC News website on why this is so.

He begins with:
When I began writing for ABC back in 2008, one of my first columns was about the "madness" of fuel surcharges, which were high but so was oil, hovering around $130 a barrel. 
Today, oil has plummeted to less than $48, but the insanity continues. An example is the price of a ticket on a major U.S. airline's New York-London route, $1,092. It includes lots of taxes and fees imposed by both governments, but the really interesting part is the rest of the ticket. 
Base fare: $403 
Fuel surcharge: $458 
Crazy, huh? A surcharge costing more than the ride. Worse, $458 is the same surcharge levied back in August when oil was nearly twice the price. So why are so many airlines still charging so much money? Because they can.
It is still best to shop around for the best airfare prices. I have settled on GatewayLAX for airline tickets to Japan (and I have used them for domestic flights, too) as I have obtained the best prices through them over the years. I've used Priceline.com and Travelocity in years past, but GatewayLAX consistently has them beat.

To read more, go here

Tokyo Daily Life's "Summary of Yurakucho"

Above, the Yurakucho Mullion. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The areas of Hibiya, Yurakucho and Ginza is pretty familiar to Godzilla fans.

In 1954, Godzilla stomped through Ginza and demolished or torched the Wako Department Store at Ginza Crossing and the Matsuzakaya Department Store.

Hibiya is known as the place where the Godzilla statue stands on a pedestal in Hibiya Chanter Square.

Yurakucho is known as the location of the Yurakucho Mullion buildings where the Toho Nichigeki Theater once stood (it was also demolished by Godzilla in 1954 as an "inside" joke). This means that Godzilla made an appearance in Yurakucho.

But there is more to Yurakucho than just the Yurakucho Mullion. There are stores, bars and restaurants galore jamb-packed in a small area. One of my favorite sushi restaurants (a revolving sushi restaurant) is just under the shinkansen tracks.

Tokyo Daily Life has posted an article (with plenty of photographs) of Yurakucho.

The article begins with:
Yurakucho is a shopping district adjacent to Marunouchi and Ginza. Going south on Naka Dori Street, you can reach there. You can enjoy contemporary and neat Tokyo, such as the Tokyo International Forum and the redeveloped buildings at the east side of Yurakucho station. There are commercial facilities that have the advantage of fashions at the east side of the station, such as Hankyu MEN'S TOKYO, LUMINE and MARUI. On the other hand, you can also enjoy miscellaneous and common Tokyo, such as Japanese taverns at an area called Gado-shita (below the girder) including Yakitori Alley. Yurakucho is a very interesting area where various aspects of Tokyo can be seen. By the way, the boundaries between Yurakucho and Marunouchi or Hibiya are indefinite, so I introduce the area along Naka Dori Street on an article of Marunouchi, and Nissay Theatre and the Imperial Hotel on an article of Hibiya.
 To read more, go here.

Free Kindle App Available!

Did you know that you can get a free Kindle app for your smartphone, tablet or computer? Well, you can!

Amazon.com has this posted on the page for the ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan:

Why would you need a Kindle app? It is because of the formatting of some ebooks. Not all ebook formats are compatible with existing software.

I found out a few years ago that some devices will not properly display Kindle-formatted ebooks. Before purchasing a Kindle-formatted ebook, people need to find out if their browser, software, app or programs are compatible with the various ebooks so that they render correctly. One digital size does not fit all.

One fellow complained that the ebook was "unreadable" in his device (whatever that was). I checked with other people that obtained the ebook and they all said it looked fine to them. So it obviously wasn't compatible with the device he was using.

Since then, I have cautioned people to check their browser, software, app or other programs to make sure that the Kindle program is compatible before purchasing. I have received no complaints since.

Amazon.com is making it easier by providing a FREE Kindle app! Go here to get it and The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan ebook!

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The good folks at The Japan Daily have picked up several blog posts, including one from Monster Island News, of yesterday.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Godzilla Via Satellite

Above, a satellite view of Kurihama Flower World. Can you spot the Godzilla slide?

The other night, I was looking up something in Yokosuka, Japan. After I was done finding what I was looking for, I decided (for the fun of it) to see if I can get a satellite view of the Godzilla slide at the Kurihama Flower World park.

Sure enough, once I located the park through Google Maps, I zoomed in on the park and hit the satellite view feature and was able to find the Godzilla slide pretty fast.

Above, a little closer view. The Godzilla slide casts a familiar-shaped shadow.

As you can see from the accompanying satellite photographs, Godzilla was relatively easy to spot by his distinctive shadow. The overhead power lines that I knew were there were also an aid to finding the Godzilla slide.

Above, zooming in on the Godzilla slide.

In the photographs, it is easy to spot the shadow image of his dorsal spikes and tail.

Above, a view of the Godzilla slide from the ground. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If Godzilla were a real creature and the Japanese Self Defense Forces had to find him via satellite, this would be what they would likely see to pinpoint where to direct their weapons.

The Godzilla slide is covered in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan on page 32.

Breakfast At Tsukiji

Above, a quick photo op before breakfast.

The historic Tsukiji Fish Market is set to close for good next year and the market will be relocated to its new facility that is to open in November 2016.

So, if you want to see the historic fish market and partake in an early morning breakfast at a restaurant next to it, now's the time to do so. I went to the fish market and had a sushi breakfast at a nearby restaurant four years ago. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Time Out Tokyo has an article with a list of the best places to eat inside and outside the market.

They begin with:
The Tsukiji wholesale market is one of Tokyo's most prominent sightseeing spots, always attracting hordes of both tourists and locals. Although a culinary experience here usually involves sushi or other seafood fare, Tsukiji connoisseurs know it's not all about raw fish. Here's our list of the best places both inside and outside the market for everything from classic curry rice, surprisingly tasty bread, and the obligatory super-fresh sushi, so set your alarm clock and start the day with a truly extraordinary breakfast. Don't bother to get up early on Sunday or holidays though - the market is always closed on those days (as well as on certain Wednesdays). 
To read more, go here

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