Sunday, November 27, 2005

Sales in Japan

One of the interesting things about sales in Japan is that occasionally you will find things "on sale" for the same price as before the sale. Often this is after a 30% discount.

One example is a bike store I usually shop at. This store always discounts most bikes and parts. The discount price is exactly the same as other discount bike shops. A few weeks ago, the one in Akasaka-mitsuke, Tokyo (Y's Bike Academy) had such a "sale." Most of the discounted prices were the same as before, but I noticed that they had raised the "regular" price, thus giving the 30% discount that they advertised. I told some Japanese friends about this and they said it is common.

Another thing you have to watch for is at department stores during year-end sales. They will bring in merchandise from somewhere else and put a nice red discount price on it. There may be no mention of a regular price. In my experience, this stuff is usually some cheap junk not even worth the sale price. I suspect that if they stocked it regularly at that price they could never sale any.

All of this is apparently legal in Japan. Even if it isn't, like most things in Japan, you can openly violate the law unless you piss off the wrong person (the wrong person isn't likely the average citizen) and then they will come after you. But they will only come after one violator. It is rare that they would try to clean up a whole industry even if the violations were widespread.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


We went to Kyoto (by shinkansen)for a few days last week, the 17th and 18th, just after Bush and Koizumi had visited. We stayed in a suite at the Westin Miyako Hotel---nice, but not really worth the price.

It was the first time in 18 years since I had been there. The thing that struck me was how clean the air seemed. It also seemed like a small town compared to Tokyo, which I guess it is. It was very relaxing until Friday morning when we went to see Kioymizu temple, one of the most famous in Japan. It was almost as crowded as rush hour on the Denentoshi line. Filled mostly with high school kids. Gotta say it was less then impressive compared to other places I have seen in Kyoto.

The autumn leaves were almost in full color---perhaps they are this week. One of the taxi drivers told us the best time to come is in the winter if we want fewer people. WHen I tell that to people in Tokyo they are shocked---who wants to go to cold Kyoto in the winter! So the cab driver is right. We will probably go again then and visit smaller, less popular spots.

One of the biggest surprises was a small okonomiyaki shop (Kiraku) we ate at on Thursday night. Some of the most delicious okonimiyaki either my wife or I have ever eaten. Also had delicious steamed mushrooms with bacon. It's just a few minutes walk downhill from the Westin Miyako Hotel. Can't wait to eat there again. And SHOCK!!! the staff was actually friendly and would talk to foreign guests in English. That is something I never see in Tokyo---at least not to engage in conversation. In Tokyo, it is only that required to get the money. Even in Japanese.

Kiyomizu in Kyoto--absurdly crowded

Kyoto Nov 17-18 views of side streets, unknown temple and Westin Miyako Ryokan

More Kyoto pics

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Interview with Tojo's Granddaughter

The right wing has been becoming increasingly influential in Japan for at least 10-15 years---witness the stubborn insistence by Koizumi visiting Yasukuni Shrine where convicted war criminals are enshrined along with ordinary soldiers who died in war.

Ms. "Tojo's" explanations and excuses for Japanese wartime aggression and crimes are nothing new---one often hears this stuff in Japan even from those who are not especially sympathetic to the right-wing views. However, I think it is a bit of a shock to see an answer like this:

Q: China has the right to protest though doesn'tÂ’t it? Japan invaded their country and killed millions.

Tojo: China played no part in the San Francisco Treaty. Countries that were not involved in the treaty or the Tokyo Trials have no right to talk about war criminals now. So why is China complaining now? The Japanese fought the Nationalists (KMT) not the Communists*. It is now a completely different country. China and Japan later signed a treaty and war criminals and prisoners were released. The word war criminal (senpan) does not exist in that treaty. They should abide by that treaty. It is unforgivable (zettai yurusanai) that they continue to interfere in our domestic affairs.

Naturally she denied any Japanese atrocities in Nanjing, ducked a question about Unit 731, and seemed flabbergasted that the current emperor (kinda) admitted that the Imperial family may be of Korean descent.

You can read the full interview here:

You can also read a short article by Karl Von Wolferen (the author of The Enigma of Japanese Power---one of the best books ever written on Japan, but dated now). He explains how the US support of Japan has allowed its continued isolation and how this isolation is now complemented by US isolation.

*Actually, the Japanese did fight the Communists as well as the Nationalists. The Communists were to some degree content to let the KMT fight the Japanese more than they did as they figured that Japan, sooner or later would have to abandon China and the the Communists could pick up the pieces. But to say that the Japanese never fought the Communists shows either that Ms. Tojo is being dishonest, or deeply ignorant of what went on in China or both. Of course, this is not really the point of the problems which exist between China and the Japanese people about World War 2 anyway.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Just let me cut you off

Another informal bike race today. This time it was with a Japanese guy about 50 years old. When I first saw him, he was going at a decent pace on an old steel framed bike with fenders. He was wearing sweats. Now I know that these are the guys who can occasionally be very, very tough. The young guys on nice bikes are usually posing and acting pretty. When it gets tough, they fade and drop almost immediately.

I passed this guy even though I hesitated at first. I am getting out of top shape now---a big reduction in mileage and very little focused training since August. He was going just fast enough to that I knew if he challenged me that I would have to really hustle much more than I wanted to today.

I passed and he was on me fast. I held at 22-23 and he did not drop. I did several short sprints to try to drop him at 25-28 mph, but he got right back on me. Even up a few "hills" he held--unbelievable for most around here. This was tough today as my heart rate was hitting 184bpm--when I am in top shape it rarely hits this high with that ammount of effort. Then we entered a curvy populated area for a kilometer or so and could not really do much and had to slow.

After about 1 mile of this (2.5 total), we were headed toward a switchback and he cut through the grass to get in front. Immediately, the pace slowed even though we were in an open area now, but he still was going over 20 mph. At first I thought he was taking a very un-Japanese turn at the front letting me draft instead of just leeching off of me. I was on his wheel for maybe 2 kilometers. (There is a HUGE difference between ridng behing another rider in the draft and being in front. I would guess the energy required drops 15-20% at times.)

Suddenly he sat up---a sure sign of tiring---and then he looked back and waved me by saying that it was dangerous. I laughed at that and stayed on his wheel. I knew if I passed I would be doing all the work again and he would be sitting back there leeching off of me until the end. No way. Strange that it wasn't dangerous when he was drafting me.

Anyway, we came to a split in the road and I went uphil to the street and he stayed on the river bike path. We rode parallel for a while and he was hammering to keep even with me, but ultimately backed off. (Nobody to pull him?) I went up the road another 2-3 kilometers and turned around to go home and saw him on the way back.

It would have been a nice day and nice little run if it hadn't have been for the gutless "abunai yo" hypocracy he pulled at the end. Usually, most Japanese just reach for their water bottle and pretend to be overwhelmed with thirst when they give up.

I wonder if he thought just cutting in front of me was all he would have to do. Did he figure I would just give up and stop or slack off? That is common in Japan. People cut in front of you all the time then slow way down. It seems all they want to do is cut you off and the block your path. This happens just walking down the sidewalk or jogging or anything. People will kill one another to be the first out of a train and as soon as they are out the door they will stop and block everyone else who is trying to get out. They seem to do this without thought. Apparentely, all you gotta do is jump in front of people and you have acheived whatever you are trying to acheive. Maybe it is away society bangs down the nail that is sticking up . You are going somewhere? Faster than me? Well, let me cut you off and slow you down like me.