Sunday, May 31, 2009

The quiet seaside

It's been awhile since I've posted. I've recently started a new Japanese language class and have been back to work after the "Kobe Swine Flu Hysteria"!

KOBE INFLUENZA UPDATE: As I mentioned in some previous posts. It was all hype and hysteria. Things are pretty much back to normal and almost no one is wearing masks now. Finished! Hopefully the local businesses will recover quickly. The local economy took quite a hit recently since so many folks in Kobe were hiding under their table,crying with masks on; afraid of a relatively weak form of the flu!

Recently I was on a field trip with my class to the seaside in the small city of Akashi. Akashi is located between Kobe and Himeji and is a quiet little fishing city. We were hanging around the waterfront drawing pictures of the fishing boats.

If you've ever wondered what a Japanese fishing boat looks like, here's your chance! It was cool to see lots of great blue herons strutting about on the bows of the various draggers and long liners. What I found the most interesting (especially since I grew up in a fishing town in Canada) was how remarkably "unseaworthy" these fishing boats looked! Honestly, I don't think I'd be caught dead on any of them going out to sea. They looked as if they were about to sink right there.

Here's a little video I filmed yesterday. just another "odd" thing I noticed while going about my daily business!

Human Damage Accident?!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Roh Moo-hyun and some things in Japan

Just a quick update on things:

1. I was shocked and saddened to hear about the suicide of former South Korean President, Roh Moo-hun. He was being investigated for a bribery scandal. I remember being present at the candle light protests in Seoul in 20004 when the government attempted to impeach him.

Here is a video from my You Tube Channel about those protests. This was taken by my friend. Myself and two friends went into Seoul that night (we lived in Ilsan) to check things out). You can see me at the end of the video I think.

Protest in Korea (President Roh Impeachment)

2. Influenza A hysteria is still holding on in Kobe. People are, in general, being completely irrational and buying and surgical mask that isn't tied down!

3. Schools all across Hyogo and Osaka Prefectures reopen tomorrow.

4. I'm off to a You Tube meet up this afternoon in Osaka.

5. I've been running a lot....feels good.

6. I plan to run in 2 full marathons this Fall...that's why I've started to train!

7. I just had a wonderful breakfast!

Monday, May 18, 2009

More cases of H1N1 and stuff like that

Although most schools are closing, I have to report to work this morning. I'm going to leave the house later than usual and have been told to avoid rush hour. The thing is, I bet most companies in the area have been told the same thing which will probably just push the rush hour ahead by an hour. So, when I leave later this morning, I'm sure things will be just as busy at the train stations.

Here's some new SICKO news:

Over 1,000 schools, kindergartens in Osaka, Hyogo to be closed due to new flu
Japan Today

More than 1,000 educational facilities—kindergartens, and elementary, junior and senior high schools—in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures have decided to suspend classes for certain periods following the confirmation of new flu infections in the prefectures, local authorities said Sunday. The two prefectures have requested private schools to follow suit.

78 domestic new flu infections confirmed

Japan Today


The number of cases of domestic new flu infections in Japan hit 78 on Sunday after a total of 70 high school and college students as well as teachers and others in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures were confirmed to have been infected with the new strain of influenza A.Read more...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Schools close all over Kansai

As far as I know, I have work tomorrow, but here is some interesting news for a lot of other teachers I know.

570 schools in Osaka, Hyogo to be closed due to flu

Around 570 educational facilities—kindergartens, and elementary, junior and senior high schools—in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures have decided to suspend classes for certain periods following the confirmation of new flu infections in the prefectures, local authorities said Sunday. In Osaka, 20 prefecture-run high schools in the cities of Suita, Toyonaka and Ibaraki, where infected high school students live, will be closed through Saturday.

The two prefectures have requested private schools to follow suit. Osaka Gov Toru Hashimoto told a press conference, ‘‘I ask Osaka residents to wash their hands and wear masks...While the prefectural government will take all possible measures (to counter the new flu), I expect the people of Osaka to remain calm.’’ Hashimoto also said it would be necessary to shift the current emergency response to the new influenza to that for seasonal flu at some point, saying, ‘‘Otherwise, urban functions will be stalled.’’
Japan Today

More Kobe Flu and a Sea of Masks

There are more people wearing masks in Kobe than you can shake a stick at! Of course, on any normal day of the year, no matter where you are, you'll see lots of people wearing masks. they are either fearful of spreading infections or acquiring them. Today is a little different. With 4 confirmed cases of domestic H1N1 here in Kobe (as of today).

Most schools in Kobe city and Osaka city have been closed due to the flu "hysteria"...and it truly is hysteria here in Japan, mostly to the sensationalizing of H1N1 by the Japanese media (they are really blowing things out of proportion!). I work just outside of Kobe City and am scheduled to work as usual tomorrow morning, but I have a feeling things might change later this week as the new flu seems to be spreading throughout Hyogo Prefecture.

I was told hat I had to wear a mask while working tomorrow so my wife and I struck out to find some at a local pharmacy. It wasn't such an easy task. Masks are going like hotcakes in these parts (medical masks are the Japanese "hotcake" for sure!). Eventually, after 5 or 6 pharmacies we visited apologized to us (in the ever polite Japanese way) about being completely sold out, we were able to find one package of masks for me at a pharmacy (or chemist for any fine folks from the British Isles who may be reading this)close to my house. I'll be ready to look like a doctor while going to work tomorrow morning. The question is, how many students will actually show up tomorrow?

Here's the latest news on the Kobe H1N1 from JapanToday:

Japan confirms 13 more flu cases; total domestic cases rise to 21
Sunday 17th May, 03:38 PM JST


A total of 13 students from a high school in Osaka Prefecture and one in Hyogo Prefecture were confirmed to have been infected with the new strain of influenza A, the health ministry and local authorities said Sunday, bringing the total number of domestic infections in Japan to 21 in the two prefectures.

The confirmation follows the discovery of Japan’s first eight domestic cases of the new flu in Hyogo, which adjoins Osaka, on Saturday.

‘‘We need to be fully prepared to prevent the further spread of infections,’’ Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura told reporters.

The 21 cases exclude four cases discovered during onboard quarantine inspections at Narita International Airport among a group of Japanese students and teachers who flew home from the United States after a trip to Canada.

Of the 13 new cases, nine are from Kansai Okura Senior High School in the city of Ibaraki and none have traveled overseas recently, the Osaka prefectural government said.

About 110 students at the high school have shown symptoms of influenza since around Monday, according to the privately-run school.

The school will be closed from Monday through Saturday. Experts suspect a group infection at the school.

The other four of the 13 are from Kobe High School, a public-run school whose three students are among the first eight people confirmed to have the new flu.

The government on Saturday shifted the stage of its new-flu action program from ‘‘a period of overseas outbreak’’ to ‘‘an early period of domestic outbreak’’ and called for companies and schools in the areas concerned to allow individuals to avoid commuting during rush hours.

Commenting on the discovery of the first domestic infections in Japan, Masato Tashiro, chief of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases’ influenza virus research laboratory, said that community-level transmissions may have begun in Japan.

Tashiro, a member of the World Health Organization’s emergency committee, told reporters at the organization’s headquarters on Saturday that several hundred people in Japan may already be infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza A.
See original...

Here is the latest coverage from the Japan Times Online:

Teens in Kobe test positive for H1N1
First in-country swine flu cases shut schools
Kyodo News

Schools in the Kansai region were shut down in three wards in Kobe and in the nearby city of Ashiya after a local high school student became the first of a spate of nine domestic cases of H1N1 swine flu.

The student, who has been hospitalized, is a 17-year-old male from prefecture-run Kobe High School who has never been overseas, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

Two other students from the school, a male and a female, also tested positive later in the day, along with five more people from a different high school in Kobe, and a high school student from Osaka Prefecture, the ministry said.
Read More Here...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

H1N1 vs. Kobe

1st domestic infection of new flu confirmed in Japan

The first domestic infection of the new strain of influenza virus A in Japan was confirmed Saturday, the health ministry said. The patient is a 17-year-old male high school student in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, who has no record of overseas travel, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Two other senior high school students from the city—one male and one female also with no record of overseas travel—have also tested positive for the new flu in local laboratory tests, according to the Kobe municipal government.

At a hastily called press conference, Yoichi Masuzoe, Japan’s health minister, said the government ‘‘will detect through aggressive epidemiological study those who had close contact with the patient to hospitalize them or to urge them to refrain from going out.’’

Prime Minister Taro Aso issued a statement in which he said, ‘‘The government is ready to take measures to prevent the expansion (of the new flu)...I hope people in Japan remain vigilant while staying calm.’’

Specimens taken from them are analyzed by the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo, the ministry said. Japan Today...Read More...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Engrish Rocks!

I was in a local "Big Box" store last night called Izumiya. It's a great shop and when wandering around you almost feel like you're back in a big box store in North America. You feel that way until you see something like this!

"Under Ground Ride on Fuckin Age"....yep...this was embroidered on a backpack in the children's section of the shop. I took this with my camera phone. Brilliant "Engrish!"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Curry in Kobe

Who says that filling mailboxes with advertisements and leaflets doesn't work? last night we found one in our mailbox for an Indian restaurant in Sannomiya called Aarti. looked good. So we made the team decision ( in my wife and I) to go there this afternoon for lunch. So off we went earlier today to Sannomiya and just behind JR Sannomiya Station, we found Aarti. A great feast was then had!

Here is Aarti Indian Restaurant, located just behind JR Sannomiya Station. Look for Nishimura Coffee and there's a little road between it and a pachinko place. It's about a block up the road, just after the AM/PM convenience store.

Some great lunch specials. I had the 1000Yen one!

Here's my plate. 3 types of curry and rice. There was nan bread to follow as well.

My wonderful wife had spinach curry. I've never seen or tried spinach curry before, but it was really good.

The nan bread was HUGE and tasted so great. They had an oven at the entrance of the restaurant and a guy was stationed there making fresh bread.

When all was said and done, this is what my plate looked like. It was a true feast.

My wife's only complaint was that she would have preferred the curry to be a little spicier. Myself, I am a true wuss when it comes to spicy food (even though I lived in South Korea for 5 years),so I was content with a milder curry.

Oh yeah...another H1N1 case!
Another student confirmed to be infected with new flu; 4th case in Japan

Another male student who arrived at Narita airport from the United States on Friday was confirmed to be infected with the new flu strain, the health ministry said Sunday, bringing the number of cases of new flu in Japan to four.

The student was on board the same flight as a teacher and two other students who were confirmed Saturday to be Japan’s first cases of the new strain of the H1N1 influenza A virus.

A further 48 passengers and crew who were on the Northwest Airlines flight are being monitored at an accommodation facility near the airport for 10 days and the health ministry is conducting follow-up checks on all the other passengers.
Read more...(Japan Today)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

First H1N1 Cases in Japan....ah shit! life became just a little more difficult. I live in a mask culture. People in Japan wear masks at the drop of a hat. Not ski masks or welding masks(which are popular with middle aged women in Korea), but surgical masks. Yep, when someone is sick and doesn't want to share it, or wants to prevent getting little germies, they wear little white or blue masks.

Look! It's me wearing my fashionable, "Stay Away Influenza" mask! I actually feel like I'm beginning to fit in here!

Well, ever since the "swine flu"...or the name I prefer, H1N1 has been sweeping across the world, I've had to wear a mask t work. it's a regulation. All the teachers and students are supposed to wear them. I suppose not everyone though. The kiddies in the daycare don't have to. The masks are uncomfortable, hot and obviously not very effective. BUT....I will be now forced to wear one (it's some sort of government regulation at schools) of the cursed things indefinitely since as of TODAY, Japan has it's first OFFICIAL cases of H1N1. Yep, 3 people from Osaka. Two high school boys and their teacher who had been staying at a home stay in Oakville, Ontario, Canada! Eeeekkkkk.....

Osaka school holds assembly to explain new-flu infections to students

An Osaka Prefecture-run high school held an assembly Saturday to explain developments after two of its students and a teacher were found on their return from a trip abroad Friday to have caught the new strain of influenza in the first cases of the new flu in Japan. Masato Nakanishi, chief of the Osaka prefectural education board, told reporters that the school in Neyagawa, Osaka, will remain open as usual as students who did not take part in the trip are unlikely to be infected with the disease.

The two 16-year-old students and the 46-year-old teacher had been staying in Oakville, Canada, from April 24 on a short-term study program. In the face of reports about the spread of the new flu in Canada, the school sent 50 masks to the group of students there. They did not wear the masks as there were not many local residents wearing them, school officials said. ‘‘It may have led to a different result if they had wore masks,’’ the school principal told reporters.
Japan Today...

The best way to describe the Japanese Media's way of dealing with the H1N1 situation up until this point has been frenzied hysteria. It's only going to get worse from now on! By the way, what is the level beyond "frenzied hysteria"? "Shitting your pants everywhere panic"??? I'm not sure!

Of course...I almost forgot, check out my latest You Tube creation!
Weird Crap under a Bridge

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sparkling Walter and Aso's "obligations"

A hectic and relatively stressful two work days this week have finished and I have one more day left. Yep, that's right...I work on Saturdays. I don't work every Saturday, but it was offered to me and the money is good. Money is good. We all seem to need money. I'm one of those fine folks who may be just like you and needs some money. I also need some Ice Florts and Sparkling Walter!!!

I saw this menu somewhere in Sannomiya (Kobe's downtown hub) and took a picture with my cell phone. I love English flubups! After a nice Iced Flort, you can wash it all down with a crisp and cool bottle of Sparkling Walter(I hear the Sparkling Edmund is quite yummy too!).

Mr. Aso is a true Romantic!

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso strikes again with his touching remarks. Yep, after getting married at the age of 43, he said he then fulfilled his "obligation" of having children. Ah shucks...that's sweet! I bet that must have made his 2 children feel all warm and fuzzy inside.."Daddy's little obligations."

I just read about that in Japan Today.

Aso says having children an 'obligation,' but later retracts remark

Gaffe-prone Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that he has fulfilled an ‘‘obligation’’ because he has two children, but he later retracted the remark made during a parliamentary debate about Japan’s declining birthrate.

‘‘I may well have fulfilled an obligation because I have had two children since getting married at 43,’’ Aso told the House of Representatives Budget Committee in a debate with Chinami Nishimura, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan.

‘‘I do not hear people say in this country that it is good to have a child or it is fun (to have child). I keep hearing that it (having a child) is tough,’’ Aso said, noting he enjoys seeing his children, who are 20 and 23.

But he later retracted the remark, saying there are various reasons for not having a child.
Read More at Japan Today...

Also, I just subscribed to the "Japan Podshow" this evening and will give it a go tomorrow on the JR as I head to work. I'll let you know how it is!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Podcasts and Avocados in Japan

The last day of Golden Week vacation is almost over. It's sad, but it's true. In just a few hours I'll be facing a room of overly "genki" little people, excited to be back at school. I suppose it is a wonderful if not remarkable thing that my students love school, but this "love" goes hand in hand with explosive amounts of energy. it'll be somewhat hard to face since after 8 days off of work, Thursday will seem like a "uber Monday."

On a brighter note, we had a wonderful dinner tonight. My wife had bought an avocado not long ago. To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to do with it, but I was under strict orders that it had to be part of our dinner tonight. Well, I came across a simple, yet great idea while searching around the "interweb"...trying to figure out what to do with this mysterious piece of fruit.

The answer???

An "avocado BLT"! Yep, that's right! Toasted rye bread (not easy to find in Japan), chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado! I was really surprised, and pleased at how well the avocado went with the sandwich.

I just wanted to show this little fella! While visiting Korea last month, my wife and I picked this up and brought it back. goes wonderfully with and sort of cooked meat!

Baekseju (sold under the brand name Bek Se Ju; literally "one-hundred-years wine") is a Korean glutinous rice-based fermented alcoholic beverage flavored with a variety of herbs, ginseng most prominent among them. According to some, the name comes from the legend that the healthful herbs in baekseju will help you live to be 100 years old. From wikipedia...

Last night, I went to a live house here in Kobe with my friend Patrick to check out a band called The Musique. They were really good. On our way out of the club we noticed this sign...nuff said!

On another note, I've decided to move forward with a new project. I'm going to start a podcast about life in Japan. I've been thinking it through for a long time, but have decided I'd really like to do it now. I'm in the planning process so I think it will be a few weeks before I have something produced. I've mapped out several topics and will be contacting prospective guests very soon. I also have to spend some time learning the software. In the beginning I think I will be editing with Audacity. I've used it a little in the past, but want my first few shows to sound "decent." That means I'll have to do some practicing. I also plan to do some shows using Skype, but will buy an mp3 recorder sometime soon so I can do in person interviews.

Hope you'll be listening once I get things off the ground.

Some Sad Search Engine News

I'm a little glum. A little down one might say. Why you ask? Well, simply put, one of my favorite podcasts just got the axe. BUT....there is some light at the end of this tunnel. Search Engine is a wonderful podcast created by Jesse Brown, a CBC technology journalist. Search Engine deals with hot button topics in technology such as piracy, net neutrality, citizen journalism and how topics, such as these, impact our society. I religiously load this podcast on my iPod every Monday and always enjoy listening to it during my morning commute. I listened to it today and Jesse Brown announced, that EVEN THOUGH, Search Engine has become THE most popular and most downloaded podcast on the CBC, they've gotten the axe. In the latest round of CBC budget cuts, search Engine was cut too.

Now, the light at the end of the tunnel...a bright light at that. Our intrepid journalist, Mr. Brown, has decided he wants to continue taking on the stories he has been on Search Engine. AWESOME! Thank you Jesse! Search Engine has just been picked up by TVO, TV Ontario and will be starting again soon. I just subscribed in iTunes and am looking forward to Search Engine continuing from their new home.

Long story short, if you're a tech head like me and interested in how technology and the internet impacts society and us as individuals, listen to Search Engine.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Children's Day

Happy Children's Day everyone! Yes, it's May 5th, a national holiday and some startling news has come out on this day to celebrate all things "children." There are far less than at any other time here in Japan. Yep, that's right! Due to Japan's declining birthrate, it's apparently the 28th year in a row with the lowest , under 15, population.

Japan's child population falls to record low

The number of children aged under 15 is estimated to have totaled 17.14 million in Japan as of April 1, marking a record low for the 28th straight year due to the declining birthrate, according to a government report released Monday.Read more...

Last weekend, I went to Nara Prefecture with my wife and inlaws. We had a great time wandering through the countryside. This wasn't random rambling though, we had a purpose. We visited the historical village of Asuka.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

You Tube Cripples Itself to Protect Korean Users

You Tube Cripples Itself to Protect Korean Users


Last week, YouTube responded in unprecedented fashion to demands by a foreign government. Recent Korean legislation requires sites to verify users’ citizen identity numbers before allowing them to post any publicly viewable content on a Korean web site. That covers even a simple comment on a news story, so as for uploading a video to YouTube? — don’t even think about trying to be anonymous.

Rather than comply with what’s widely perceived as a privacy invasion, Google elected to voluntarily disable comments and video uploads from Korean user accounts. That way Koreans can use the site passively and anonymously. The company event went so far as to spell out that Korean users are free to choose a different country setting when they want to participate more fully in the site. After choosing a different country they can then set the language to Korean and then upload and comment away like normal.

YouTube has had to deal with a barrage of government demands in the last few years, facing shutdowns in India, Turkey, and Brazil, and once Pakistan’s attempt to block the site lead to a global outage. YouTube has at times responded by limiting local access to its site, but in a way that complies government demands rather than skating around them. For instance, in 2006, it censored defamatory videos of Thailand’s king in order to keep the rest of its site available to Thai users.
See original story here....