Google+ Rurousha 流浪者: April 2011

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Tokyo questions

Why is it always the women with the ugliest legs who wear the shortest skirts? I accept that it's de rigueur in Japan to go as short as impossible, but some lasses truly suffer from excessive confidence. A little body dysmorphic disorder might be in order.

Why do men think it's OK to wear white socks with black shoes and a black suit?

Why do women not realize that they should keep their knees together when they sit down in a short skirt? Or do they simply not care? That reminds me: even men should take into account that if you sit in a crowded train, you really don't have to spread your legs a meter apart. It doesn't prove that you have balls.

Why do people bolt past you near a train station and then stop dead in their tracks at the ticket gates, fumbling for their ticket or Suica? How long have you known that you're on your way to the station and just possibly conceivably might need your ticket at the gate?

Why do middle-aged men force themselves past you and stand right in front of you at a red light at a pedestrian crossing, only to stroll oh so leisurely across the street? Will it really kill your male ego to wait behind me?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

I can't get rid of Roppongi

Ah, the irony. Barely a fortnight after my bitter complaint about Roppongi, I get two regular assignments, both in you-know-where. (I work with words. I write them, I edit them and I teach them. Mostly, but not only, English.) Twice a week I'll be living the high life as an awkward impostor in luxury offices on the top floors of Mori Tower and Izumi Garden Tower. I was born under a very odd star. How else does a plaasjapie (country bumpkin) always end up in these unlikely situations?

My first startled thought when the Mori Tower job was confirmed: "What if there's an earthquake while I'm up there?" Then I tried to reassure myself that I would probably be safer in Mori Tower with its ultra-modern technology than in many two-story houses in Tokyo. A person who works in the building has assured me that the swaying during a quake is "very slow and very gentle". This was said in such a serious, solemn fashion that I almost look forward to my first heavenly aftershock.

I've learned that Mori Tower not only has its own electricity generators, it's actually supplying energy to the beleaguered Tepco right now. Read more hereBe that as it may, I still think Roppongi Hills, the complex in which Mori Tower is the centerpiece, is an architectural mess.

Izumi Garden Tower, on the other hand, has a beautiful inner courtyard, lots of natural light and a logical flow. I have a thing about flow: sentences, buildings, music, water, air ... it must all flow with a natural rhythm and no unnecessary obstructions. Czesław Miłosz expressed it beautifully: "To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in posterity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness."

Izumi Garden Tower has grace. It also has a bookstore and a Paul bakery. I'm happy.

What, exactly, stops at Tanashi?

You can take the girl out of copy-editing, but you can't take copy-editing out of the girl. It's a curse: I flinch when I see an incorrect apostrophe s. I flinch a lot. Especially when it's my own mistake.

I have high standards for public English in native speaker environments, but here in Japan I enjoy the quirky, creative and at times unfathomable version of English as she is spoke. Here’s an example of not-quite-clear usage that would send any copy-editor into a tizzy. It's an announcement on express trains on the Seibu Shinjuku Line to Hon-Kawagoe: "Next stop Tanashi. It stops at all stations after Tanashi."

Each time I hear this, I get an overwhelming urge to rush up to the conductor. "What? What stops? Our universe stops hurtling through space for a brief pause at all stations?"

Yes, I know, I'm being silly.

PS: Should that be native-speaker environments with a hyphen? You see? It's a curse ...

Sunday, 24 April 2011

The labyrinth that is Shinjuku Station

I have no sense of direction. That might explain why I started in Africa but ended up in Japan. When I'm outdoors in the wilderness, I can track the sun's movements or read the constellations at night, which means I know north from south and east from west, but a city confuses me. No animal tracks or elephant dung or bird calls to lead you to the nearest water hole.

Just kidding. I may have been born in Africa, but that does not make me a Khoisan tracker. Seriously, though, I'm easily bewildered in a big city, especially if I have to use underground passages. When I resurface, I can't distinguish between my left and my right hand, never mind the four main directions.

I'm familiar with Tokyo's transport system and happy to travel without a map, but Shinjuku Station remains a labyrinth with Medusa hissing in every air vent and the Minotaur snorting in dark corners. (I wonder if there's an equivalent in Japanese mythology? Something to research. *)

Every time I go to Shinjuku Station I get lost. My Tokyo Metro Map tells me I can catch the Marunouchi Line at Shinjuku Station. Well, yes, you can, but if your starting point is the bookstore Kinokuniya at the far southern end of the station, it's going to take you at least ten minutes to walk to the Marunouchi Line at the other end of the station ... and that will only be possible if it's 5 am in an empty station. If you want to navigate a jam-packed station at rush hour, you might make it in fifteen minutes if you have zero regard for good manners or the safety of your co-commuters. If you're like me, you get side-tracked by interesting cul-de-sacs, or you suddenly wonder if you could possibly find that elusive Odakyu Line entrance while you're in the general vicinity of the Odakyu Store, or you start thinking that maybe now's the time to figure out how to get from the western side to the eastern side until you remember you're actually trying to get from the southern side to the northern side ... and by that time you're so befuddled that you're back at Kinokuniya before you can blink.

Or maybe not. I suspect I have a mental compass that unerringly leads me to books, be it through subterranean tunnels, across continents or through parallel universes. All of which can be found in Shinjuku Station.

Last week I had to meet a friend at the Mitsui Building in Nishi-Shinjuku. Oblivious as always, I managed to go to the wrong Mitsui Building. There are two: one in Higashi-dori and one in Ome-kaido-dori. I was supposed to go to the former; I went to the latter. Ah well. It only took a few minutes to walk to the right building once I'd figured out my mistake, and in the process I discovered several interesting new places that definitely require further exploration. There are lots of skyscrapers going up in 8-Chome, and 6-Chome and 5-Chome seem to be a begging-to-be-investigated hotchpotch of high-rises and old homes in small alleys.

I've also realized one of the reasons why I like Nishi-Shinjuku is the trees: gorgeous trees that are allowed to grow tall and spread their branches across the street. I should clarify this statement: there are trees all over Tokyo, but often their branches are ruthlessly trimmed, leaving only a thin main trunk with a bit of green. I've always wondered why: is it to limit leaves in streets or is it to prevent power lines from getting snarled up in branches? Here in Nishi-Shinjuku, though, the avenues are broad enough for really big trees, and - perhaps because it's a new area - the power lines are buried underground. Whatever the reason may be, it's a tranquil green forest.

Combine that with awe-inspiring architecture and enough quirky old alleys to beguile a visitor, and you'll understand why I'm usually grinning while I'm walking through this area.

* Added a few days later: I couldn't find a Medusa equivalent, but there's a Minotaur-like creature in Japanese mythology called an ushi-oni () or ox demon. From Wikipedia: "Another well-known ushi-oni is a massive, brutal sea-monster which lives off the coast of Shimane Prefecture and other places in Western Japan and attacks fishermen. It is often depicted with a spider- or crab-like body." Uh-oh. The Hero loves fishing, but he does fly fishing in rivers, so he should be safe?

Easter in Japan

I only realized it was Easter when I received an e-card from South Africa. Unlike Christmas, which is celebrated with capitalist glee, Easter doesn't register in Japan at all.

That intrigues me, since all those bunnies and Easter eggs and marshmallow chicks provide an unlimited opportunity for kawaii-ing. The association of rabbits with eggs would cause a great deal of confusion, but never mind, there's already an assumption that Santa Claus is Jesus Christ's father. Let's not split hairs. (Well, do you know the familial relationship between Izanami and Kagutsuchi? Then don't laugh if this part of the world doesn't know about the three hypostases in one ousia.)

Japan loves bunnies so much that Beatrix Potter is probably better known than Sei Shōnagon. Wherever you go, you're confronted by Peter Rabbit on cups, towels, doilies and dish cloths, which is OK, and alarmingly often on grown women's bags and clothes, which is definitely not OK.

So why do they ignore the commercial goldmine that is the Easter bunny? My amateur conclusion is that Japan doesn't need another folklore rabbit because it already has one in the moon. When westerners look at the moon, they see the figure of a man, but Japanese people see a rabbit pounding rice. The association also involves a pun, as is so frequently the case in the Japanese language: to pound rice is もちをつく mochi o tsuku, often abbreviated to もちつき mochi-tsuki. That also happens to be a homophone for full moon (more specifically, the full moon of the 8th lunar month), 望月 mochizuki, and that's enough to immortalize the link between heavenly body and floppy-eared animal. These days the rabbit is a common motif in art, on writing paper, on pottery, on sweets and cakes.

Thus Easter in Japan is a normal weekend without cute fluffy critters, and I'll have to make do with a KitKat in lieu of an Easter egg.

Mistress Maypole saves electricity

We're trying to save electricity in Tokyo, due to Tepco/Tōden's problems at the Fukushima power plant. The current reality of a limited power supply is déjà vu to me: South Africa experienced rolling blackouts, called "load shedding", for several years. It started in December 2005, when a generator at Koeberg, a nuclear power plant near Cape Town, was damaged. Not by a tsunami, but by a loose bolt that had been left inside during routine maintenance. I jest not. This forced a shutdown which resulted in a power shortage in the Western Cape. Further nationwide blackouts – caused by a lack of skills, planning and maintenance – followed in 2007, when I had already moved to Japan.

My main concern in 2005 was the possibility of break-ins at my house when the security system was disabled; my main concern in Tokyo is a disruption of the commuter train services. Another potential nightmare is a lack of aircon during Tokyo's insufferably humid summers, traditionally the period with the highest power consumption, and we're all praying to the kami that Tepco will get its act together before June. Possibly not, but hope springs eternal.

Anyway, we're supposed to be trying to save electricity, but Tokyoites have been spoilt by their own efficient technology: when it falters, many individuals remain oblivious. The other day I watched as a student walked into his classroom a few minutes before his lesson would start. (I was lurking in a corridor behind my favourite pot plant, reading a newspaper.) It was a beautiful spring day, a balmy 20 degrees, with bubbly sunlight pouring into the room. The man immediately lowered the blind, and switched on the light and aircon. Thus cocooned in a familiar artificial environment, he could relax.

I promptly succumbed to obstreperousness. When the bell rang to announce the start of the lesson, I assumed my briskest jolly hockey sticks manner and marched into the room. "Good morning, Mr Sato, and how are we today? We can't waste this lovely day, can we, and must help Tōden, mustn't we, so let's raise the blind and open the window and switch off all these contraptions. There, now, isn't that nice?"

Please note the royal we that sneaked into my monologue.

Mr Sato was shell-shocked, but he gamely struggled with verb conjugations while his teacher sat in a halo of golden sunlight, beaming beatifically.

I get away with this behaviour because I am une femme d'un certain âge. Byron wrote in his Canto VI: "A lady of 'a certain age,' which means/Certainly aged." Charles Dickens wrote in Barnaby Rudge: "Maypole was really an old house, a very old house, perhaps as old as it claimed to be, and perhaps older, which will sometimes happen with houses of an uncertain, as with ladies of a certain, age."

I shall henceforth refer to myself as Mistress Maypole.

Friday, 22 April 2011

A rice cake in a drawing

I learned a new Japanese expression today:  絵に描いた餅 (e ni kaita mochi). It means "a rice cake in a drawing", in other words, a rice cake you can't eat. It's the equivalent of "pie in the sky" or "castle in the air". PS: My thanks to The Hero for this one.

And yet the books will be there

And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
"We are," they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters. So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it's still a strange pageant,
Women's dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.
 — Czesław Miłosz

Monday, 18 April 2011

Happiness is whole-grain bread

Happiness is walking into the depachika in Matsuzakaya, intending to buy that fluffy French stuff that's called "bread" in Tokyo, and screeching to a halt in front of a special promotion by Linde Bäckerei, a German bakery in Kichijōji. I'm well aware of Linde, but they're too far from my home for regular visits, which makes their one-week promotion (only one week? drat!) in the shitamachi an extra special treat.

I bought two whole-grain loaves, healthy and heavy and heavenly. This is the kind of bread that puts your teeth in mortal danger: crunch down at the wrong angle, and it's bye-bye crowns. Such an incident would be unfortunate, since a loaf is roughly the same price as a crown, but who cares … I could eat whole-grain bread of the wholest variety. Happy.

PS: Depachika is a contraction of depaato or department store plus chika or underground. Food halls in Tokyo's big department stores are usually in the basement.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Tokyo glimpses 2

Pansies. Everywhere in shitamachi alleys, pansies in flower boxes, on window sills, in front of doors, nudging through bicycle wheels; red, yellow, purple; smiling, grinning, laughing. Also cyclamen in every shade of pink.

Japan's cherry blossoms are beautiful, but in many ways I prefer the period just after the popcorn explosion, when trees are covered in young leaves of the softest green. It's a time of so much promise.

What is it with old people and boiled sweets? An old-timer sits down in the train, and within seconds you hear rustling cellophane and baby suckling sounds.

Friday, 15 April 2011

A cuckoo's call

As you've probably gathered by now, language is my first love. The Hero, on the other hand, is my last love, but I digress.

The haiku of Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉) and Kobayashi Issa (小林 一茶) hold a special place in my affections partly because they're so beautiful in the original Japanese, and partly because they provide an absorbing study of the challenges of translation. Here's an example of a haiku by Bashō in Japanese, followed by a literal translation and two creative translations (found here and here):

郭公 / 声横たふや / 水の上
hototogisu / koe yokotau ya / mizu no ue
cuckoo / voice lie still / on the water

cuckoo: its call
stretching out
across the water 

the voice of a cuckoo
dropped to the lake
where it lay floating
on the surface

When I read it, the words a cuckoo's call lingers on the lake popped into my head, but I'm not a translator!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

I hate Roppongi

There's one area in Tokyo that I've always avoided: Roppongi. The area tried to go upmarket when the massive commercial/residential complex Roppongi Hills was completed in 2003, but it could never hide its sleazy soul. Go there on any evening and you will see the greedy and the desperate; the Goldman Sachs types who believe that virility equals bank account; and the women who pretend that they believe it, too.

I've been invited to restaurants in Roppongi, but the first time I went there voluntarily was on a public holiday to visit Tokyo City View, the observation deck on the 52nd floor of Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. It was a clear day and I wanted to see Mount Fuji. I also wanted to take photos of Maman, the giant spider sculpture by French sculptor Louise Joséphine Bourgeois.

So off I went. Ag nou ja. Some excursions are more pleasant than others.

I arrived early to take spider shots, but the Roppongi Hills plaza was cordoned off. I wandered around the complex, killing time until the observation deck opened at 10. What an awful place! Clashing architectural styles with no unifying motif. An illogical lay-out that requires hundreds of maps, signs and arrows that do little to solve your confusion. Dead, empty spaces. Despite the size of the complex, shops that look dark and cramped due to low ceilings and artificial lighting.

When 10 o' clock arrived, I could enter Tokyo City View, but my disappointment continued. You cannot buy a ticket for the observation deck only: you can either get a ¥1500 combination ticket for Tokyo City View and the Sky Planetarium, or a ¥1800 combination ticket for Tokyo City View, the Sky Planetarium and the Mori Museum of Art. I figured for ¥300 extra I might as well go the whole hog.

I've never been to a sightseeing spot with so many notices, rules, regulations and gloved attendants telling you what to do and where to go. Very politely, of course, but you have to shuffle along with the crowd and follow the Crustimoney Proceedcake in the immortal words of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Tokyo City View has beautiful 360 degree views of the city, but visitors are battered by atrociously bad pop music all over the floor. Worse, they simultaneously play different songs in different areas, which means you're looking at Mount Fuji's icy perfection while reeling under quadraphonic assaults by the worst singers in human history. It was so bad that I left much sooner than I would've liked to. I should add that I'm a classical music fan. Why couldn't we have listened to Bach, Mendelssohn or, if you want to go modern, Isao Tomita? All would have been perfect for those wide vistas.

I escaped to the Sky Planetarium, but that was a disappointment too. The first exhibition, reached after being shepherded by yet another army of white-gloved attendants, was "Starry Tokyo Nights". It depicted the constellations above Tokyo, which you can't ever see through the city's neon glare. I watched this artificial rendering and remembered the vast expanse of the African night sky: Orion the hunter marching across the heaven, with the Southern Cross pointing the way home. Then we walked through what was described as a "three-dimensional universe". It felt nothing like that. It felt like a dark stuffy room with intensely irritating New Age music and a rickety lighting system.

I went to the Mori Museum of Art with some trepidation. As it turned out, justifiably so. The museum had an exhibition by Odani Motohiko. If you Google him, you'll find descriptions such as "exceptionally bizarre sculptures of decay" and "Erectro: Bambi is a  taxidermied fawn with metal braces on its legs shows sweetness and innocence alongside the very different concepts of cruelty and pain". I love books and music, but I'm an idiot when it comes to modern art, and at that stage Roppongi Hills had inflicted enough cruelty and pain on me. I fled home to nurse my sweetness and innocence.

I'll stop kvetching now. You can see photos taken on that day here.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nuclear spill vs coffee spill

Give me a glass of red wine and I'll spill it, usually on a white tablecloth. Coffee? I'm guaranteed to slosh it all over myself, the carpet and any human within splatter distance. I dropped a full cup of café mocha from Excelsior Caffé on the floor at my new workplace within a fortnight of starting there. I can't even blame it on a quake – Namazu was taking a catfishnap at that particular point. (You can see great Namazu woodblock prints here.)

My big fear is not a nuclear spill, but another coffee spill, and that has governed my behaviour during recent biggish aftershocks. I was at the office yesterday morning when a 6.2 quake struck Chiba, south-west of Tokyo, just after 8. Since I had arrived early (I start working at 8:30), I was sitting at a small table tucked away in a corner behind a pot plant, reading a book. My coffee stood on the table in front of me. Our regular cleaning woman was vacuuming a nearby office.

Then Mr Chiba Tremor arrived with a ribs-rattling jolt. It was pure instinct: I continued reading – hey, it's a really interesting book, OK? – but immediately grabbed my coffee and held it down on the table. A non-Japanese colleague came scuttling past. "Let's go!" he cried. I ignored him and continued clutching my coffee, which was trying to jump off the table. The cleaning woman was still vacuuming serenely around jitterbugging chairs. "Maybe I should dive under a desk," I thought, "but what do I do about my coffee?" So I stayed put, and a few seconds later Namazu stopped his tantrum.

I took a deep breath, downed half my coffee and refocused on my book. The cleaning woman stopped vacuuming, unplugged the vacuum cleaner and rolled the electric cord into a neat coil. As she walked past me to the next office, she greeted me with a cheerful "ohayō gozaimasu" and a bow. A few seconds later the vacuuming resumed. The letsgoing colleague had not returned yet.

I felt like a bit player in a Monty Python movie.

I've mentioned before that we sometimes receive a warning on our mobile phones just before an earthquake strikes. (Read more about this system here.) Earlier this week I happened to be in a coffee shop in Takadanobaba with The Hero when everybody's phone went whoop-whoop-whoop at the same time. The general reaction was remarkable. Everybody glanced at their phones and … did nothing. We waited. A few seconds later we felt a hiccup. We waited. The earth was quiet. So we continued with our coffee and our lives. I couldn't stop my grin. It was surreal: the sudden simultaneous whoops, the self-control, the resignation, the segue from abnormality into normality.

I love this place.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I'm either monumentally stupid or freakishly courageous, I didn't run out during the Chiba quake because in Japan it's safer to stay in a building while the earth is shaking than to stampede outside. Go? Righty-o, but where? Scrum down an emergency stairway while the building is having an epileptic seizure? I think not.

Wisdom is a butterfly

I'm not sure why I'm thinking of so many favourites from yesteryear - maybe all these aftershocks are making long-forgotten memories fall from my brain's cobwebby cupboards - but here's another beautiful excerpt, this time from the poem Tom O'Roughley by W.B. Yeats: 

An aimless joy is a pure joy …
And wisdom is a butterfly
And not a gloomy bird of prey.

I wish my niece in faraway Kleinmond could illustrate this poem. She's a children's book illustrator.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The heart's porcelain is fragile

This morning I thought of an Afrikaans poem that applies to Miyagi, where so many people lost their homes. It was written by Ernst van Heerden in 1975, and it describes a man's emotions as he watches movers packing his possessions. The residents of Miyagi had a very different experience that was anything but their own choice, but don’t you think the poem's last line is particularly poignant?

The poem is called 'n Tyd van verhuising (A time of moving). This is a very free and not professional translation at all, and I deleted line breaks, but here we go:

To the movers

Carry softly, friends, because knickknacks and pottery, plates and fine glass contain a lifetime of dreams and desires;

Carry softly, colleagues, because bed, table and desk press against the chest's thin skeleton;

Carry softly, judges, because your verdict of my tiny industry is captured in pictures, books and my old easy chair;

Carry softly, gods, because the heart's porcelain is fragile, vulnerable and readily hurt: the crates that hold a life can break so easily.

Aan die verhuisingsmanne

Dra saggies, vriende, want sierpotte en erdewerk, keurborde en fyn glas sluit 'n hele lewe met sy drome en verlangens in;

Dra saggies, mededraers, want die drag van veerbed, tafels, lessenaar druk teen die bors se dun skelet;

Dra saggies, regters, want die oordeel oor my klein bedryf lê vasgevang in prente, boeke
en 'n eie ou gemakstoel;

Dra saggies, gode, want die hart se porselein is broos en tot veel seer en kwesbaarheid geneig: die kratte van 'n lewe kan so maklik breek.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Give that fish some Valium!

Yesterday at 11:46 pm we had our strongest aftershock to date. The Japan Meteorological Agency rates it 7.4; the United States Geological Survey has downgraded it to 7.1. Either way, it's the biggest so far. When my friend Sara heard about it, she decided somebody needs to give the catfish some Valium. I said maybe we should add Ritalin, too.

I was at home and wide awake, reading the classic 1959 book Meeting with Japan by Italian author Fosco Maraini, who was interned in Japan during the Second World War. When the rattling started, I didn't even get up from my zabuton, though I did stop reading and I did skrik a bit. (Skrik is an Afrikaans word that means to become frightened or to be startled.) I guess my definition of "big earthquake" has changed forever. What would've scared me badly a month ago now has little effect. The aftershock didn't stop me from sleeping like a baby …

I never did understand that expression. That's the last thing babies do!

Anyway. I slept like a log, because I'd walked quite far that day, hunting pink blossoms. That also explains why I haven't done much blogging in the last week. You can see photos here, here and here.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Japan sinks (日本沈没)

March has not been a good month for Tokyo, not in the last 100 years.

The American air raid of 9 to 10 March, codenamed Operation Meetinghouse, was one of the most destructive bombing raids in history. According to the World War II Database:
Night of 9-10 Mar, Operation Meetinghouse: 279 B-29 bombers dropped incendiary bombs and destroyed 267,000 buildings and homes or 41 square kilometers of Tokyo. Americans estimated 88,000 killed, 41,000 injured, and 1,000,000 displaced. Tokyo Fire Department estimated 97,000 killed and 125,000 wounded. Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department estimated 124,711 casualties and 286,358 destroyed buildings and homes.
The bombing raids were so effective that the American air command concluded by July 1945 that no viable targets remained on the Japanese mainland. Read more here.

Then, on 11 March 2011, at 14:46, the Tōhoku earthquake struck. It destroyed the Tōhoku coast, but it has also had a lingering effect on Tokyo.

Japan sinks

This morning I discovered a movie that is the scariest I've ever seen, and I don't scare particularly easily. It frightened me because we've just lived through something similar.

The movie, based on the novel by sci-fi writer Komatsu Sakyo (小松 左京), is called Nihon Chinbotsu (日本沈没 or "Japan sinks"). It was originally released in 1973 and remade in 2006. It tells the story of massive earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis that destroy Japan. In the original movie, the entire country sinks; in the remake, a solitary hero played by SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (草彅 ) saves Japan by detonating warheads that separate the country from the tectonic plate that's pulling it down.

Can't Tepco employ Kusanagi?

You can watch the full 2006 version on YouTube under the title "日本沈没---NIHON CHINBOTSU (SINKING OF JAPAN) PART 01" (followed by PART 02, etc).


  • I have lost a great deal of respect for a great number of people.
  • I have lost all respect for the Western media.
  • Intelligence is rare; a cool head is scarcer than 294Uuo. Google it, but I should warn you that it is radioactive.
  • In the contest between reason and emotion, emotion usually wins.
  • When people do not understand something, they worship it, or they flee it.
  • In a crisis, you're better off relying on a Japanese man, even the much maligned  草食系男子, than on Charisma Man.
  • The best place to be during a massive natural disaster is Japan. The best place to be is Japan, full stop.

Friday, 1 April 2011


I have a new favourite Japanese place name: Wakamatsu-kawada 若松河田. My favourite used to be the trip-off-your-tongue word Takadanobaba, but now I prefer the lilting rhythm of Wakamatsu-kawada. It's a residential area in Shinjuku as well as a train station on the Toei Ōedo Line.

The four kanji in Wakamatsu-kawada mean young pine tree 若松, river  and rice paddy . That's beautiful, too.


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