Police Harassment

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves

With all of the events happening in the States with the police brutality, I am somewhat thankful that Japan is relatively safe, and I don’t have to deal with all of that.   But with that said, foreigners are not exactly free from harassment.

I have been stopped, questioned, delayed, and racially profiled for no good reason other than the fact that I am not Japanese on several occasions now, and its always the same excuse from these clowns….we’re just trying to prevent crime.  Yeah right.  The Japanese police aren’t known for being the righteous squad, often being in the headlines for corruption and committing public nuance and indecency crimes themselves.

Yesterday during my lunch break, as I was trying to scout a place to eat during my break, a police car with two officers slowly rides up beside me.  As this was happening, I began to think oh no, here we go again…here comes the endless line of questioning.  Where are you from?  Where are you going?  Where do you work? Do you have ID on you? etc. etc. 

I came up onto an intersection, and as I was about to cross the street, the officers in the car turned left in front of me, so I stopped.  At that moment, the police car also stopped and police officer in the passenger seat, rolled down his window and stuck his head out… here we go, I thought.  He gave me this really odd and creepy smile and waved me across.  I hesitated for a second and proceeded to cross the street, but as I did this, the patrol car moved forward as well, so I stopped and signaled to the passenger to just go ahead, but he kept signalling to me to go ahead.

At this point I was getting annoyed and suspicious.  I looked up at the traffic light to see if it was still green to make sure that I wasn’t giving them some kind of excuse to stop and detain me as they usually do.  I had the green light and so did he, but since I was a pedestrian, I had the right of way.  But I decided not to go forward because these guys were obviously trying to get me to do something so I would arouse suspicion.  I stopped in my track, crossed my arms to give them a clear indication that I was  seriously annoyed at them.

So here we were, both playing chicken at the intersection, both refusing to move.  All I wanted to do, is to just have a nice quiet, uneventful lunch, and it appeared that that wasn’t happening.  So, instead of crossing and risking getting stopped for some stupid made up reason, I started to walk back the other direction.  It was only then the officer rolled his window back up and proceed.  What an asshole!

As I read the news today, I found yet another story about police brutality in the States.  Although the police are a bunch of racist, perverted, drunken assholes in Japan, at least they don’t beat or kill innocent people, so I guess the situation  here is not as bad as it could be, but it sure is annoying.

 

Found an old friend (wrist watch from the 80’s)

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

In my previous entry, I talked about looking for an old Alba watch that I had when I was in elementary school.  It was an Alba/Seiko Y749-5030A.  After scouring the internet looking for someone who may know where I could find one, I lucked out and came across someone who happened to be selling the Y749-5020A. It isn’t the exact same model that I owned but functionality-wise, they are pretty much identical.  The only real difference aside from the color, is that the 5020A comes in a 50 meter water resistant casing as opposed to the 100 meter water resistant casing that the 5030A’s have, and they come with a metal bracelet instead of the silicon watch band.  I prefer the silicon over the medal bracelets, because bracelets not only feel heavier, they don’t fit as well on me.

I decided to bid on the watch anyway, because I figured that this would probably be the closest thing I will be able to find to the model that I use to have.  It was in excellent shape.  As a matter of fact, like the Person’s watch that I bought a few weeks ago, it was a dead stock, which means that its pretty much brand new and never been worn.   The seller was selling it for about $60 USD which is an excellent price considering that they use sell for nearly twice as much back the days.  i know this, because the watch came with the original Alba price tag still attached.  I didn’t want to spend too much over the $60 asking price, although I had the option of ending the auction early and winning the watch, if I spent $10 more.  But I decided risk it and waited the 2 days for the auction to end.

While waiting for the auction for the Y749-5020A to take its course, I did some research on the Y749 movement, and found that it was used in many different model watches.  I could have spent a lot less and settled on another used Y749-5000 series Seiko watch, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.  After all, what I am really looking for is the Y749-5030A, which seems to be much more rare and elusive than the other Alba models.

I also was able to find out that the movement inside Person’s watches are also made by Seiko and based on the V701 movement which are used in MANY Seiko and non-Seiko brand watches, which was somewhat of a surprise to me, although I think I may have known this and had just forgotten.    This particular movement seems to be so common that they are still being sold today.   Since I gutted an old Person’s watch that I had cannibalized to repair a very old watch that owned since high school, I now have a shell available that I can pretty revive into a working watch.  So I went onto eBay and bought a new V701 movement for about $21 USD (including shipping to Japan).  Once it arrives, I can repair the Person’s watch and I will then have 3 Person’s watches.  I might even paint it a different color so that I would have the same watch in 3 different colors.

After two days of waiting, the auction finally came to an end, and I was the winner.  Being somewhat of a rare find, I was a bit worried that someone might outbid me at the last moment, which would have been heartbreaking, and I contemplated paying the extra $10 so that I could end the auction.  But I decided to take the gamble, and it paid off.  So now, I own an Alba Y749-5020A.  It brings back so much memories from my childhood, even though its not quite the same.  One thing that I immediately noticed is how compact this watch is.  The Casio TS-1200 thermometer watch is also pretty small and compact, but look noticeably larger than the Alba.   I will continue to search for the Y749-5030A  in the hopes that I will be able wear the same exact model watch I had as a kid , but the 5020A is still a great find.  And being able to hear that cricket-like alarm again makes things all the better.

 

 

“Tachishon” -What we shouldn’t be teaching our kids

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Comic relief, Life in general, Politics, Rants and Raves

 

I have been in Japan for nearly 20 years now, and still, not a day goes by where something doesn’t shock or amaze me.  And today is no different.  But before I go into my rant over the event that shocked and amazed me, I will need to give a bit of some background info into the culture of child raising in Japan.

 

In Japan, there is this weird and frankly very disgusting culture of urinating in public.  Of course, many people here find it to be a lewd and completely repulsive habit, but at the same time it has been accepted as social norm in this country.  As a matter of fact, many parents even go as far as encouraging (yes…ENCOURAGING) young boys to pee in public.  When little Taro wants to go pee, usually the mother (yes MOTHER…keeping it real) who would escort the boy to a nearby bush, wall, or ally -or even sometimes right out in the open for everyone to see, pull down his pants, and encourage him to pee shamelessly while others watch.  Go ahead Taro, mommy’s too tired (and lazy) to take you to a restroom and teach you the proper place to urinate.  Fast forward 30 years, and now this young boy is a middle aged man who thinks it’s okay pee anywhere he sees fit, like a stray dog marking his territory, because that is what he was taught to do.

 

A few years back, I remember reading this story about a man who had urinated in the same elevator at train station EVERY DAY for nearly six months.  He had caused over one million yen (or ten thousand US dollars) damage to the elevator after it corroded beyond repair.  Can you imagine having to use that elevator and the unbearable stench it must have created?  The funny part is that he had the nerve to dispute the cost of the repairs in court, siting that many of the urine-damaged parts should have been recycled.   If I were the judge, I would have given him some jail time in addition to several months of community service for being a public menace.

 

You may be thinking that this is an extreme case, and perhaps it is, but I can also testify that urination in public is a regular occurrence.  If you don’t believe me, I would be happy to escort you to the ally next to my grandmother’s house which was apparently a favorite peeing venue for those who would drink at nearby pubs and bars, and wanted to quickly relieve themselves outdoors.  Fortunately, those pubs and bars have gone away over the years, but the rancid odor from past patrons still exists.  And on any given night in Shinjuku or Shibuya, its almost a certainty that you will see a drunk or perhaps sober man urinating in public somewhere.

 

So by now you are probably wondering what this event is that’s got me up in arms.  Well, tonight as I was walking home from work, and hiking up the long flight of stairs leading up to our neighborhood Shinto Shrine, I heard an election campaign van for Masako Shirai, a local assembly person for the Japan Communist Party (I kid you not -this is real), blaring her name and campaign slogans from the loud speakers on the top of van.  Not knowing why this van was even parked there, I was initially pretty irritated that this woman would make such a racket in #1. an otherwise very quiet and uneventful neighborhood, especially so late in the evening, and #2. parked right in front of a Shinto Shrine.  I am not a religious person, but I do take offense to those who disrespect a sacred site such as this.  A lot of people take that Shrine pretty seriously and to disgrace it with noisy campaign rhetoric spewing from loud speakers is pretty deplorable and disrespectful.

 

As I got to the top of the stairs, I spotted the van immediately and walked towards it.  I wanted to tell the people who were campaigning in that spot to move to a different location because they were obviously disturbing the peace.  The loud speakers were really that loud.  But as I got closer to van, I immediately noticed that no one was in it.  The repetitive campaign slogan and the calling out of Masako Shirai’s name was on tape which was infinitely looping. Arg!  What a major annoyance and no one to complain to about it, I thought to myself.  I looked around the van, and at first it appeared to be completely abandoned despite it running with all of its lights on, and the loud speaker going.

 

As I came around to the other side of the van, that’s when I spotted HIM.  A small little man who appeared to be in his 60’s or 70’s wearing a Masako Shirai campaign jacket facing away from me and towards a pile of leaves in front of the Shrine.  It was quite obvious what he was doing, so I waited until he was finished.

 

As he finished up and pulled up his pants, he turned around and spotted me standing next to the campaign van.  I glared at him in anger, and before I even said a word, he began apologizing profusely.  I pointed to the Shrine, and explained to him that little kids play in the very spot he just urinated on.  I also told him that he was repulsive and that a man his age, wearing a campaign jacket, and driving a campaign van that endorsed a public official should be ashamed of himself.  I then pointed to a life sized picture of Masako Shirai that was plastered on a large sign on top of the van, highlighted by no less than 10 spot lights, and asked the man, do you think she would approve of you defacing my neighborhood and a religious monument.  He bowed deeply and again apologized profusely.  I then told him never to come to this neighborhood again EVER, or I will write a very lengthy letter to Ms. Shirai  and perhaps her opponent, about his actions tonight.

 

He crawled into his van sped off quickly in shame.    I didn’t want to be so hard, but I was genuinely irritated that this man would drive into my neighborhood and just pull down his pants and pee -disrespecting our local landmark which is respected by many of the residents in our neighborhood.  I hope it teaches him that we are not his toilet and to think carefully the next time he has the urge to relieve himself in a place other than a toilet.

Ladies and Gentlemen…WE GOT HIM!

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Politics, Rants and Raves

And its about time too….  Way to go Obama!

 

One Month Later

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Disaster, Family and Friends, Life in general, Rants and Raves

Its been just over a month since the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami shook Japan and claimed over 13,000 lives (and counting.)   Although almost everything is back to normal in terms of transportation and electricity, life in Japan has changed quite a bit since.  The Japanese government is claiming that they have removed and destroyed contaminated crops and livestock, people are very cautious about buying anything produced in the northern areas of Honshu (the main island) due to the spreading of the radiation.

Supplies are slowly returning to the stores; it’s still a bit difficult to find 2 liter bottles of water in my area because people are still hoarding despite the number of messages from the government and ad councils telling people to be more considerate and only but what they need.  My local liquor store always seem to be in supply of water because they have a 2 bottle per family per day limit, which is very smart, although they must have a hard time controlling that.  If people have the strong desire to hoard, they’ll find some way to do it despite the local policies and restrictions.

Electricity has been on constantly in my area (knock wood), but that could easily change when the summer heat hits and people start using more electricity to cool their homes.  I conscientiously try to limit my use of power around the house.  I even contemplated shutting down this blog server, but decided to keep it up and running because it has been a very effective means of communicating to my family, friends, and relatives who read it.    Internet has been the only reliable means of communication during times like this, as mobile networks and land lines tend to easily get flooded by people frantically trying to get through to people in earthquake stricken areas.  As long as electricity stays up, I should be able to communicate to the outside.

As for the radiation, so far it has only effected us a minimal level.  As I mentioned earlier, people are being more cautious about where their food comes from and not drinking from tap water whenever possible.  The Japanese government is now saying that the power plants could take several months to a year to deactivate, which means that it could (probably will) continue to spew harmful radiation into the ocean and atmosphere.    Although thoughts of permanently leaving Japan has crossed my mind, it is a lot easier said than done, because I am so deep rooted here.  It would take take a lot of time and effort for me to relocate elsewhere….time and effort that I am not quite ready to commit just yet.

It’ll be a very long time before we are fully recovered.

A Small Sense of Normality

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Disaster, Life in general, Rants and Raves

Its been 17 days since the big earthquake, and there have been literally hundreds of subsequent earthquakes since.  We even had an earthquake early this morning, but of course it was no where close to be being as bad as the one on March 11th.   Sometimes I feel the building shaking even when the building isn’t shaking.  Even little rattle, every little sway makes me think we’re having another earthquake.  But even with all of this, I feel that a small sense of normality is returning.

I no longer have to take taxis and the bullet train to work (although I did kind of enjoyed that).  I am able to find small bottles of water here and there, and there is no real shortage of food.   My area doesn’t seem to be too effected by the schedule power outs.  Although I am grateful to have electricity on tap 24/7 (or at least when I am at home),  I would be more than happy to do with out if it meant that it would help someone else out.  Right now, I only use the dining room lights with a single LED light bulb to conserve electricity.

The hoarding and the glutenous behavior still continues, which saddens me.  I wish that people would realize that there are people and small who rely on stuff like fresh uncontaminated water, yet they still buy water and milk by the case, and I still see empty shelves at the supermarket.

But the one thing that makes me sick the most is the whole Tokyo Dome fiasco.  For those who don’t know, Tokyo dome is a huge indoor sports arena located in Tokyo.  It is often used to host night events like big sporting events and concerts.  The Tokyo Yomiuri Giants baseball team was suppose to have their opening night game there this week, but several people as well as government officials protested that they should really consider canceling in consideration of the current power outage situation.  However league owners say that they will only merely postpone the game, and will eventually hold an indoor game with full lighting sometime within the next few weeks.  I don’t understand why there is a need to have a night game in an indoor arena.  Baseball is an outdoor sport that is intended to be played during the day.  And guess what?  If you have the game at an outdoor stadium, or even in a plane Jane ball park, people will come!

I don’t think these people will ever understand unless their electricity is shut off for several hours day..sad and childish indeed!

 

In the Midst of Chaos

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Disaster, Life in general, Rants and Raves

It”s been crazy, to say the least. It’s amazing how one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, can become a third world nation overnight. No food or water at the stores, long lines to get supplies, power rationing and scheduled outages, no gas, public transportation crippled during peak hours, and bone shaking aftershocks in the middle of the night currently sums up the situation now.

Japan has gotten a lot of praises for being a nation of model citizens in times like these because there has been no violent crimes or looting, which usually takes place after major disasters like this. As a matter fact, there have been reports of vending machine owners opening up machines and handing out free drinks to people to help out. For the most part, I agree that Japan is a very admirable nation in that respect. However, there is one thing that Japan is extremely guilty of which is really starting to affect the many, and that is hoarding.

Within 12 hours of the first M9.0 earthquake, it became absolutely impossible find bottled water ANYWHERE.  It’s wasn’t as if buildings crumbled  and that the water was shut off (at least not in my area), and yet people here felt compelled to run to the super market and hoard.  I agree that in the aftermath of a natural disaster, it is important to reasonably stock “enough” food and water so that you can survive a week or two, but there are bounds of reasons for everything.  Buying out whole shelves of milk for example is completely illogical and irrational.  Milk is a perishable food that cannot be stored for long periods of time, so whoever decided to stock milk is a complete idiot and just made it difficult for everyone else who really needs it.

In addition to food and water, people are also hoarding fuel.  This has caused public transportation to stop or limit their services in may areas.  What really makes me upset about this, is not only the fact that people are taking more than they need, but they needless waste it.  Case in point, on the way to the airport yesterday to pick up family, I was overtaken by so many people needless speeding (going speeds exceeding 130km/hr) when they should be conserving fuel.  Another case in point. one of those cars that overtook me was a Lamborghini Diablo.  REALLY? a Lamborghini during a time when people are lining up 2 to 3 hours to get gas…REALLY??   Some people just don’t get the graveness of this situation.

Transportation has been steadily getting worse, because the company that owns the troubled nuclear power station in Fukushima prefecture, started rationing power to different areas of the country, while other areas are left completely without power for 3 hour blocks.  Being a very power hungry nation, Japan highly depends on electric power to run its vast network of commuter trains.  Without these trains, the nation is pretty much crippled. People are unable to get to work or home, traffic lights cease to function cause mass gridlock on the roads, and homes are without heat and electricity for several hours at a time.

Luckily for me, I live in an area which seems to be exempt for the schedule outages.  I am not sure what the reasoning behind this is, but I am not complaining.  Some have speculated that its because there’s a large community of senior citizens in this area, including senior citizen homes, so a three hour outage may cause too much grief and hard-aches among the elderly.

Unluckily for me, I depend on the bus system to take me to the station every morning, and this morning I found a sign at the bus stop saying that they were limiting service from today.  I had no choice bu to take a taxi to the station everyday last week.  Admittedly, it was pretty nice to be able to take a taxi to the train station and then the bullet to Tokyo where I work, but I would  trade that just to regain a sense of normality.

The Aftermath

Author: mirai  //  Category: Life in general, Rants and Raves

It’s been two days since what is believed to be the worst natural disaster Japan has ever experienced.  In addition to a magnitude 9.0 earthquake (upgraded from a previously reported M8.8 -which is only the 4th largest earthquake in recorded history), there was also a series on tsunamis that wiped out many areas in northern Japan.  And to make to things even worse, there are now fears of a possible meltdown of a nuclear reactor in that area.

In my area, things are relatively unaffected.  I came home to find that our laundry pole had fell off its hinges, but that’s about it.  Not even a broken dish, or picture frame out of place, so I am truly counting my lucky stars.  I do however, feel that food supplies might become an issue in the next few days, as people react to the disaster and overstock their supplies.  I went the convenience store today only to find that a lot of the non-perishable goods to be gone, along with water supplies.  But at this point, I a not too concerned about running out of food our water because most of the infrastructure in this area is up and running, so supplies will most likely replenish in time.

Our area continues to experience an occasional jolts here and there, but nothing too big.  In general, earthquakes don’t frighten me, but if we have another one like the one two days ago, and I am alone, I might be a bit scared.

Tomorrow’s Monday, which means another day at work.  Honestly speaking, I’ve contemplated not going, but I think my company depends on me to be there.  We all need to pitch in an do our part in times like this, so I will be there as I normally am.

 

For everyone else , take care!!  Miwa…haven’t heard from you…hope that you’re okay in Sendai.  Check in if you can!

 

Singapore

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Life in general, Rants and Raves, Travel Blog, Work Related

I have been in Singapore for the last 3 days now on business, and so far it’s been a blast.  The only thing that could be better is the weather, which is very similar to the weather on Guam.  It’d be sunny most of the day, then all of a sudden rain.  And like Guam it seems to rain everyday.  Other than that I really like it here.  The food is good, the people are friendly, and  of course the entire city is immaculately clean.


I am staying a small hotel near the touristy part of the city near the Singapore river.  There are lot of restaurants and bars around here, too bad most of the restaurants are Japanese though.  My hotel is…well,  bit strange.  There is no way to really describe it accurately, but I’ll try.


The room itself is pretty spacious, but vertically spacious.  You see it’s a two story room and the bedroom is on the second floor, or to be more accurately a  loft.  Sounds cool right?  That’s what I thought before I arrived but in reality, it the worst use of space ever designed.  I mean who ever design this room should really take lessons from the way the Japanese people fully utilize small spaces effectively.  It seems that this room has a whole heaps load of space in terms of square or more like cubic footage, but the space usage was not planned out too well.   For example, (and I will post pictures later so that you’ll understand what going on about here),the bottom has a pretty sizable living quarters, at least by Asian standards (by American standards, this place would be a walk-in closet), but it has this very wide writing desk thingy that takes up about 20 sq. feet of space.   But to make things a bit strange, there are steps that lead up to the top of the desk, and connects to another flight of steps that connects to the loft.  So in other words, to get to the top of the loft you have stand on top of the desk.


As for the loft itself, it barely is big enough to do anything but sleep.  The width of the loft is about 1/3 the width of the bottom level, which in my opinion kind of dumb.  Why waste space by making this a loft in the first place?  I think they should have made this a full sized floor to take full advantage of the  available space.  But I guess that would have been less cool looking.


Finally, the REALLY strange part of this hotel is  that the whole hotel complex is shaped like the letter H, and my room is on the inside portion of the top of the H.  That means that I am directly adjacent to a bunch of rooms on the other side.  This would not really be a big deal except for the fact that the side room facing  inside of the H is one huge two story glass window.  Now, here is the interesting thing, either the people of Singapore have absolutely no shame, or there’s some kind of voyeurism thing going on here among the guests in the hotel, because people (both men and women) would shamelessly prance around in their rooms either partially or completely nude with their curtains wide open for the world to see (not that I am watching of course….not intentionally at least…except for maybe the blonde girl on the ninth floor) Quite a strange phenomenon, and takes a quit a bit of getting use to.  As for me, I immediately close my curtains when I get back from the office.  No one is going to be peeping in on me.



New Camera!

Author: mirai  //  Category: All Posts, Rants and Raves, Techie Stuff

After nearly two weeks without a camera, the new camera finally arrived.  I was a picky this time, because I am not exaggerating when I say how much I loved my old Canon Ixy 1000.  I didn’t want to replace with just anything, not even another newer Ixy.  The newer models oddly enough have LESS functions than the older ones.  I guess the whole idea is to sell less complicated cameras,so  that the majority of the public can use them easily.  Unfortunately, something that is just point and shoot is not enough for me.  I like some degree of manual control so that I can manipulate the photograph. But nowadays, most of the cameras being sold are pretty dumbed down so anyone can use them.


The Ixy 1000 that we’d been using for the last 3 and half years was nice in that it had fully automatic point and shoot mode, and a manual mode where I can control lighting through ISO settings, etc so that I could take pictures without using the flash (even dark areas).  The newer cameras always try to select the right settings for you automatically  so that you get a good picture, but often times turn out to look like an amateur took the picture.



Through my research, I found that Canon’s Ixy 3000IS is the last model that Canon made that featured a fully manual mode.  Nowadays, if you need a camera where you want to be able to control light settings, you would have to buy a DSLR camera.  I don’t mind DSLR’s but they are a bit big and cumbersome to carry for little trips here and there.  Also, it takes too much care, as you have to disassemble lens and and body, clean them, and store them separately so that they don’t collect dust and scratches, or even break.


I looked all over for the Ixy 3000IS, but they were last sold in 2008, and have somewhat become a rare and premium item in Japan.  Even the used ones are being sold over retail price.  And of course, the electronics shops only carry the latest cameras, so it’s impossible to find the 2 year old model in brand new condition.


My only options at this point were to either settle with what is available on the market today, or scour the world wide web for an Ixy 3000IS in brand new condition.  I chose the latter.  In the UK, the 3000IS goes by Ixus SD990IS and in the US, it goes by PowerShot SD990IS; I guess western countries don’t like the name Ixy…I wonder why.



I noticed that both the US and UK also carry high premiums due to the rarity of this camera. In the States, I have seen them go for as high as $1000.  The retail price is only $399.  In the UK, the price is a bit more reasonable -about 320BP.  I lucked out and found one I the States in brand new condition for $290 (over $100 off the retail price), so I ordered it right away.


So far, I have had for less than a week and its quite nice.  It’s a bit more complicated than the Ixy 1000, but its a lot more reactive and faster.  The below photos were taken with my iphone, not the Canon.