Sunday, October 24, 2004

Big earthquake

Probably known to anyone who watches the news, but there was a big earthquake in Niigata prefecture last night at about 6. At least 16 killed, hundreds injured. We felt it in Yokohama. I was with a student when it hit. Not only was it strong--about 4 on the Japanese scale in Tokyo/Yokohama---but what was unusual was that it lasted so long. It had to be over 30 seconds. Then a few minutes later, another similar one hit.

Since that time there have been numerous aftershocks in Niigata. A disasterous year so far with the severe typhoon damage, the bear problems, and now, earthquakes.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Tama River between Tokyo prefecture and Kawasaki prefecture. Posted by Hello

Bike path along the Tama River-a bit narrower here than most parts. Posted by Hello

Octber 14, 2004. On a 55 mile ride along the Tama River seperating Tokyo and Kawasaki. Posted by Hello

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Typhoon 22

It has been a while since a post. No big news, just a late season typhoon moving thru Kanto now. Winds at about 35mph and heavy rain. We were in downtown Tokyo and failed to make it back home again before the worst of it hit. Wind destroyed my umbrella and I had to run about .5 mile home in a typhoon. The wife was as slow as a turtle, so it took her an extra 10 minutes to return. Omoshiroi desu ka?

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Murder in Japan

Although the Japanese government pushes the idea that the increasing crime rate here is due to foreigners, stats don't show that. Foreigners commit a very, very small percentage of crimes. That percentage is further distorted by the fact that many crimes foreigners commit cannot be committed by Japanese---for example visa overstay violations.

In the last week, a mother and her 3 children were stabbed to death by an intruder. In another case, two young boys were beaten and murdered by a friend of the father. In the latter case the police had known the children had been beaten before--as did the child protective services, but did nothing. One reason given was that children were to be removed from the home of an abusive parent, but the law said nothing about removing them from home with abusive people who weren't parents. Also, one bizarre statement that the so-called "police officers" made was that since the children didn't actually say they had been beaten, nothing could be done. (The boys' faces were swollen and bruised enough for a shopkeeper who saw them called the "police".)

A month or so ago a nutjob stabbed 7 people in two separate houses to death. It was revealed that complaints had been made to the clowns posing as police about the nutcase attacking and threatening people in the past. Supposedly, nothing could have been done then either unless he had been caught in the act. Since the clowns spend most of their time sitting in police boxes with A/C watching citizens being attacked by yakuza thugs and refusing to intervene, it is unlikely they could ever catch many criminals in the act of anything. (Yea, the yakuza watching incident happened last month when a guy ran to the stooge box and begged for help. The two '"police officers" stood cowering in their booties while the thugs beat and took the man away. This is not the first time such an incident has happened.) Remember about 20 years ago when American taxpayers sent high ranking police officials to Japan to study the secret of its low crime ways? Never got much worth a damn and if you live here, you can understand why. They did get the visiting foreigner ass-kiss and snowjob treatment though.

I do apologize to any real law enforcement professional who may be offended by my calling the Japanese imbeciles "police officers."

Friday, September 03, 2004


is on its way. Yea, it is still hot, in the mid 80s, but it is "cooling" down at night. I can't wait. Autumn in Tokyo is very mild and except for shorter days, it is hard to tell fall from summer. But there is a little difference. People with full autumns like those in the northern U.S. would be disappointed. Outside of Tokyo in the mountains it can be beautiful, but the crowds on weekends make it something to avoid.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Vote for which wonderful candidate?

Yea, wonderful was used sarcastically. I cannot vote for Bush because not only has he trashed what I thought were, at least in theory, traditional Republican stances---control of spending etc. (actually this seems to be more of a myth than policy anyway)---he sent our military into Iraq for reasons which he still cannot explain clearly and got nearly 1,000 American soldiers and many, many more Iraqis killed. Having been in the Air Force, this misuse of our military men and women angers me greatly. We will probably lose at least hundreds of more lives in the years before we can leave.

I had thought of voting for Kerry---and am still considering it. However, the more I hear from him, and his allies, the more I want to vote for Ralph Nader as a protest vote. Let's see, Hollywood actors seem to be pulling out the stops to get rid of Bush, and since Kerry happens to be the alternative, get him in office. Wow, the Hollywood candidate. Movie stars for Kerry. Not impressive. Makes me very leary of him. And I won't even mention Kerry's embrace of Michael Moore, who is the left's extremist nutcase answer to Rushy Limbaugh. (Along with Paul Krugman of the NYT).

Then this week Kerry spoke of how he wouldn't have sat for seven minutes after being told of planes hitting the Twin Towers, but would have left and....and what? His explanation for his vote authorizing Bush to decide to invade Iraq is gutless. Legislators use that excuse to duck their duty to declare war or not. This way, if it goes well, they can say they voted for it. If not, they can use the Kerry ploy to say, yea, I voted to allow the president to decide to go to war, but I didn't vote for war. Spineless crap. Now he is talking of troop withdrawals from Iraq!! So let's see, we go invade a country, cause huge damage physically, politically, and socially, then cut and run. Is that what he means? If so, then Ralph will get my vote. He has no chance to win, thank goodness, but he can keep me from puking while voting for one of the others. Oh, and Kerry trying to put on the "I am a hunter and gunowner" act fools nobody. Listen to his deer hunting story---it sounds like a joke, but he was serious. Perhaps someone should take him snipe hunting...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

38 straight days of 30 plus centigrade

A record in Tokyo. Strangely enough, although I have always disliked hot weather and preferred winter and autumn, the heat only bothers me when I go to work. Naturally, I wear a tie which doesn't help.

When I cycle, it doesn't bother me at all. Just take plenty of water--3 liters in a CamelBack, a bottle of sports drink and stop for more if necessary. Rode 54 miles today and never noticed how hot it was. Did get a little dehydrated though.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Aaahhh...the Japanese have a unique love and respect for nature, much more so than other cultures have....Posted by Hello

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Americans never apologize

This is the most recent slur against Americans by many Japanese. It is supposedly because if we apologize, we admit liability and can be sued. This came from the accidental sinking of the Japanese ship near Honolulu by a US Navy sub. According to the Japanese government and especially the press, America did not apologize for that. Remember how many times Bush and others apologized? It got so bad that a lot of columnists--no, not the right wing nutter type--were writing angry columns about us over-apologizing. Especially to a country with a murderous past in WWII in China and other countries. Note that Japan did not apologize to China until 1995--50 years after the war ended.

The skipper of the sub came to Japan a year or so later, after the court-martial to personally apologize. Many of the families refused to see him, saying that if he had been sincere he would not have waited a year. As soon as I heard that, I understood why the Chinese do not trust nor accept the Japanese apology. After 50 years? Obviously insincere. In fact, for many politicians of the nutty rightwing here, which includes many factions and supporters of the ruling LDP, do not see anything wrong with what they did in China. Nanjing is a Chinese and American lie anyway, they claim.

Anyway, Americans and Japanese apologize for very different things. Americans don't apologize for some things that Japanese normally apologize for, and visa versa. Japanese, for example, will intentionally or accidentally bump into you, push you, step on your foot, perhaps even knock you down, and will not utter a single word of apology--well a large percentage won't. Especially on the train. Apparently, all personal responsibility ends once you enter. Knock down granny before she knocks you down. This behavior often applies on sidewalks too.

However, they will apologize for things that seem trivial, and puzzling to Americans. For example, some students while learning English will apologize for making a mistake. Drives me nuts. Apologies, all the time, everywhere if you are a customer or temporarily in somebody's consciousness. But if it is something big, hell will freeze over before you get an apology. Ask China.

(Since our excursion into Iraq, and the perverted, criminal behavior of a few of our MPs there, it has become harder to criticize Japanese actions in WWII. The dodge is to switch the argument to the U.S. actions. It seems whatever the US does serves as an excuse for anything Japan does or has ever done. There is little sense among many of the possibility that Japan was wrong in its actions no matter what other countries do or did.)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Gaijin...urrrrg! I despise that word

Contrary to many simple minded non-Japanese, that word does not simply mean foreigner. Gaikokujin is a respectable word for foreigner. Gaijin is often preceded by the word baka, or idiot. The word is at least slightly derogatrory and you won't hear someone who is trying to be polite to you call you a gaijin.

Until very recently, the word was only used when referring to people of European descent. (Many Japanese view us with favor and deference compared to how they view non-whites. That in itself is quite disgusting). Now, it is supposedly being used for all races and nationalities---at least that is what some of the English language newspapers say. (Often these papers serve as explainers and apologists for unpleasant Japanese realities to gullible foreigners).

One interesting thing is that when I was in college in the US, most Japanese there would refer to Americans in general as gaijin. Now if that bigoted word means foreigner, why the hell were foreigners (Japanese) in America calling American citizens foreigners?

Gaijin literally means outside person. Traditionally, and even today, to be outside the group is very uncomfortable for most Japanese. In fact, ostracism used to be a severe punishment in old Japan and still serves that purpose today. The outsider in the American way of thinking has been viewed as an attraction, often someone fighting for good. That wasn't and isn't the Japanese point of view. So the next time someone calls you a gaijin, put an end to it fast. I do. And for goodness sake, if you are a foreigner don't run around calling yourself a gaijin. If you insist on doing so, place the aforementioned baka in front of it. It will then describe you better.

A family death 10,000 odd miles away

For the second time this year, there has been a death in my family. On January 4th, it was my aunt Daisy who died at least 10 years early from smoking related causes. Last Thursday, my uncle Blaine, a retired Washington D.C. Metropolitan PD detective died 10 or so years early from a heart attack. He too, had smoked since he was a teenager.
Since I won't be able to go back for the funeral, I can just sit here with memories of him. He was a man whom I greatly respected. He achieved a lot with his life, something not easily for people born and raised in rural West Virginia. I am especially sorry that I hadn't seen him for about 15 years.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Typhoon Approaches

The first real typhoon season typhoon is approaching, though I guess "typhoon season" may not really be accurate yet. It means a day indoors for me---my day off and no bike riding. Of course if it isn't windy I could take my older bike out. I haven't ridden it for 11 months. I am becoming citified. Complaining about rain. Never thought I'd do that!

Thursday, July 22, 2004

39 degrees centigrade

For the last few days....just a bit hot. I nearly cooked on two bikes rides. Felt like the highway was a frying pan. My water bottle became so hot that it seemed like my drink had been heated on the stove. Much hotter this year than last.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Rainy Season is over and

I couldn't even tell it started. Hardly any rain in the Kanto area. The Japanese are sort of notorious for believing Japan is the only country on earth with 4 seasons---you'd be shocked at how many supposedly educated people believe this. Probably think the earth is flat too. Some claim the "rainy season" is a fifth season, so Japan is the only country with 5 seasons. I suppose I could talk about West Virginia with 4 seasons plus squirrel, turkey, deer, bear, rabbit season etc. Oh, and harvest season, and planting season. Unfortunately, if I did, nobody would get the joke. Then some of the "unique country" nitwits would then say, "Japan has fewer seasons than any other place on earth."

The general rule is to ignore any statement that begins, "Japan (or the Japanese) is the only...." whether uttered by a Japanese or a foreigner. Especially by a member of the Japanapologist club.

Friday, July 09, 2004

The hidden secret of Japan is its food

For some reason, Japanese food is not popular in the US except for sushi, and once you get away from the large cities on the coasts, even that may not be all that popular.

I had always liked most Japanese food, but since coming back to live this time, I wonder how I could ever do without it again. The variety of fresh seafood is something that I have never seen matched elsewhere. It seems like nearly every kind of fish is available in local supermarkets. Fruits are quite expensive and often the quality is not especially high (unless you pay even more for it) but at least I can buy an apple that tastes like an apple instead of the taste-free things we get in American supermarkets.

I have started a new "hobby" over the last few years. My wife and I go to at least a couple of ryokans every year, and I love to test the food they serve. Often it is something I have never eaten before and which isn't easily found in Tokyo restaurants.

In May we went to a ryokan in the Nikko mountains. Dinner was served in our room as is traditional and consisted of about every type of yuba known to man. Yuba is a food derived from tofu, if my understanding is correct. Now it wasn't all delicious, but I found one yuba dish which was outstanding. Unfortunately, neither I nor my wife can remember the name. Not a big deal, because I doubt if one can buy it in Tokyo anyway. Naturally, the fish at that inn was delicious, but I am biased---I love fish anyway.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Long, Hot Ride II

Well, the heat wasn't as bad as I had feared. It was over 90 degree though. I had plenty of water and 1 liter of my favorite sport drink, Pokkari Sweat. (taste is much better than the old Gatorade) plus some Weider energy gel. Could have used more sunblock. I had some rated 50++, but still got a little burned. Oh well....

Hot, long ride

At over 35 degrees centigrade and plans of riding over 80 kilometers today, it promises to be this year's most challenging ride. I seem to have a problem keeping the speed and effort down, so I'll see how it goes today.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Tour de France in Japan

The Tour started last Saturday, but it isn't broadcast in Japan. The only way to listen is on the OLN website's audio feed and it is very unreliable---full of starts and stops. Quite frustrating, but I am up until 1230-1 AM every night trying to listen to it. If I can't hear it, I follow the live reports from several cycling websites.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Cycling "Hills" in Tokyo

One of the basic requirements for most competitive cyclists is the ability to climb well. Naturally, to train for that, one needs hills. Unfortunately, those are in very short supply in my area. So I end up finding the steepest and longest "hills" I can and climb them repeatedly at least once per week. Then, if I ever see a real hill during a ride, I will hopefully be able to climb it without embarrassing myself.

Today I spent about 45 minutes climbing 2 hills, one a short little bump of about 50 meters and maybe a 9% grade. The other was about 100 meters and lightly steeper. I would ride up one then ride down the other and go back up the opposite way. Sort of a wimpish workout even at maximum effort, but it is the best I can do in the area. At least I didn't have pedestrians and cyclists walking and running into me.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Cycling near Tokyo

Often when one reads of cycling in a foreign country, you get a wonderfully romanticized view of beautiful scenery, and kind, thoughtful, people. Well, that is in reality not likely to be anymore true than it is in your hometown.

I ride nearly every day along the Tama River which divides Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures. I can get in a ride of over 70 miles, or do a quick 15. Weekends are difficult to ride as you get the path filled with your usual absentminded wanderers. I entirely quit riding on Sundays a few years ago because it became outright dangerous. During the week in the morning before work, I am able to ride and even get in training rides; sprints, intervals and time trials.

What are the problems then? Perhaps it is nothing unusual for riding in a huge city, but the absolute absentmindedness and carelessness of people is infuriating. It is very common to come close to a serious accident at least weekly because someone looks right at you and decides to cut directly in front of you anyway. After slamming on the brakes and making some comment to mister or misses numbskull, I get an apology about 10% of the time. (Yea, I know, you may have heard that the Japanese are ALWAYS apologizing. In reality they don't always do so, especially if there is a real fault on their part. And when they do, we must go along with the pretense that a simple apology makes it all OK).

The biggest danger, however is not really pedestrians (or autos), but is other cyclists riding "mama-charli," the old-fashioned cheap, heavy bikes that most people have here. Traffic laws apply to them, but those laws are rarely obeyed. People blow red lights, shoot thru crosswalks, jump from the sidewalk into the street without so much as a glance to check traffic. This is hard to believe until you see it. Apparently, if one doesn't look before doing something, he won't see any danger, and if he doesn't see danger, it either doesn't exist, or he isn't the one responsible for avoiding an accident. Just yesterday, when I was riding on the street going to Tama River, some old guy jumped off the sidewalk directly in front of me. Fortunately, there were no cars coming, so I could swerve right, but I came within a foot or so of hitting him at about 25 mph. (I had been watching him, as I knew he had that certain braindead look about him so I was prepared).

Often, in bright sunshine or in rain, you will see people riding with an umbrella. Sometimes, this is held directly in front of them so that they cannot possibly see farther than a foot ahead of their front tire. You'll also see about 50% plus of mamachali cyclists riding with semi-flat tires and the lack of control that leads to.

Those are just a few of the frustrations. Of course if you get in an accident because of the actions of someone, you are in for an even bigger surprise.....