Saturday, July 31, 2010

七月三十一日(shichigatsu sanjyuichi nichi): July 31

The end of July. How fast time flies! How was your July? I was busy for both public and private. There were many gatherings this month and I met many friends after a long time.
Tonight I watched the TV program of the 33rd Sumida River Fireworks festival, which lasted for about 2 hours. There were more than 20,000 fireworks shot off. They were so beautiful. Last year there were more than 940,000 spectators.
I think the fireworks festivals in Japan are one of the best summer things we can be proud of. I hope you have a chance to see them wearing yukata (浴衣) someday. I am looking forward to seeing one of them next week.

Friday, July 30, 2010

七月三十日(shichigatsu sanjyu nichi): July 30

It rained a lot in the morning. But it cleared up in the afternoon.
I went to see a movie "Inception" starring Leonardo DiCaprio with a Japanese actor Ken Watanabe (渡辺謙). This is the 20th movie for me to see at the theater this year. It is a complicated movie and I did not understand at first, but it was interesting in a sense. It is a strange story about the dream. Not only one dream but layered dreams. It is the world of imaginary, therefore there were many interesting scenes such as zero gravity or unbelievable setting.
I think Leonardo DiCaprio is a good actor. Especially I liked his "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" (1993) and "Titanic" (1997).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

七月二十九日(shichigatsu nijyuku nichi) : July 29

It rained heavily. In the morning when I got on the train, the man near the door stood up. I like to sit on the corner or at the end of the seat, so I felt lucky and took that seat. But soon after that I found the reason why he gave up sitting there and stood up. The rain came in and he got wet. So I also decided not to sit that place and moved inside.
At night I heard the news say it rained a lot in many places in Japan and there were many damages too. In Hokkaido it rained 171.0 ml for 24 hours and it is the first in history. In Kochi it reached 319 ml for 24 hours by 11 AM of 29th which is also a record. Some rivers are overflowing here and there. Depends on the place people are advised to evacuate.
It is estimated to rain tomorrow too.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

七月二十八日(shichigatsu nijyuhachi nichi) : July 28

There was the 2010 July Grand Sumo Tournament in Nagoya from July 11 to July 25. Prior to this tournament there was a gambling scandal among the Sumo World. Therefore NHK (Nippon Hoso Kyokai: 日本放送協会), Japan Broadcasting Corporation decided not to broadcast live matches this time. Usually the champion is awarded with the Emperor's Cup, but this was also cancelled. There was an audience of 94,900 for 15 days but this was 9,400 less than last year.
Yokozuna Hakuho (横綱白鵬) became a champion with a perfect 15-0 record for his 15th Makuuchi Division title. He has won all his 47 matches and become a champion with perfect matches three times straight which was the first in history. Congratulations!
But since there is no Emperor's cup this time, I feel sorry for him.

七月二十七日(shichigatsu nijyushichi nichi) : July 27

In today's newspaper there was an article regarding the average life expectancy. That of Japanese women is 86.44 years old and of Japanese men is 79.59 years old. They have been renewing for 4 years straight. Japanese women's average life expectancy extended for 0.39 years longer than last year and it has been the longest in the world for 25 years. Japanese men's average life expectancy also extended for 0.30 years longer than last year but the ranking became the 5th from the 4th. It's been 36 years since the ranking became worse than 4th. There are 6.85 years difference between Japanese men and women.
The top 5 ranking for women is 1st Japan (86.44), 2nd Hong Kong (86.1), 3rd France (84.5), 4th Switzerland (84.4), 5th Spain (84.27).
The top 5 ranking for men is 1st Qatar (81.0), 2nd Hong Kong (79.8), 3rd Iceland and Switzerland (79.7), 5th Japan (79.59).
It seems in Japan, Hong Kong, and Switzerland people have long lives.

Monday, July 26, 2010

七月二十六日(shichigatsu nijyuroku nichi) : July 26

This morning from 6:30 till 7:45 I saw Daidaikagura (太々神楽) at Hokosha (宝光社), Shinto music and dance numbers offered to Gods. There are 10 parts in Daidaikagura, but I saw half of them.
After breakfast I went to the beautiful pond called Kagami ike (鏡池), literally mirror pond where you could see the upside down mountain in the face of the water. It was so beautiful. I saw a gold carp there.
I visited Hinomikosha and Iizuna daimyojin(飯縄大明神) too.
After lunch I visited Zenkoji(善光寺) temple too.
The weather has been very nice, but on my way back there were thounder storms, which reminded me of the weather in Florida.
I had a very nice vacation. I hope you can visit there too.
After coming back home late at night, I ate unagi (うなぎ), eel because today is doyo no ushi noshi (土用の丑の日), the ox day of dog days. On this day we are supposed to eat eel to get energy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

七月二十五日(shichigatsu nijyugo nihci): July 25

I went to Togakushi (戸隠), Nagano (長野). I left home around 4:10 am and arrived there around noon by bus. Togakushi is famous for the secred place, myth, shrines, hotsprings, mountain, ski and buckwheat.
For lunch and dinner I ate buckwheat noodle called soba (蕎麦) with other dishes. I took a hotspring bath too.
There are 5 shrines in Togakushi jinja (戸隠神社). They are Okusha (奥社), Chusha (中社), Hokosha (宝光社), Kuzuryusha (九頭龍社), and Hinomikosha (火之御子社). Today I visited three of them. At Okusha I had a formal visit with ritual Shinto prayer called norito (祝詞) and sake offered to the shrine called omiki(御神酒).
Okusha is in the higher place of the mountain and I had to walk about 2 km. While I was walking, it reminded me of some national parks in the United States. The place has nearly 2000 years history, and the Japanese cedar trees are so high. They are about 700 years old or so.
I hope you have a chance to visit there.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

七月二十四日(shichigatsu nijyuyokka) : July 24

It was hot again.
There were beautiful yamayuri (ヤマユリ), golden-banded lilies behind our house these days. They were so beautiful and smelled good. I was looking forward to see them in full bloom. But unfortunately somebody cut them and brought away yesterday. I was shocked to find it today. I did not understand why that person could do such a thing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

七月二十三日(shichigatsu nijyusan nichi) : July 23

It is taisho (大暑), one of nijyushisekki (二十四節気), 24 solar terms. The last one was shosho (小暑) on July 7 and the next one is risshu (立秋) on August 7. Taisho literally means big hot. And it was really hot today. In the morning there was an earthquake.
July 23 is known as fumi no hi (ふみの日), Day of Letter. It was instituted in 1979 by the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (now Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications) to aim to be a help to succeed the letter culture through the pleasure of letter and happiness of receiving letters. They usually issue special stamps on this day every year.
Tonight I had a welcome and send off party of the colleagues. 31 people got together including special guests, 3 of those who have already left the office earlier this year. It is nice to have contacts with ex-colleagues. We enjoyed the party. The presents were really nice. We made a special book for each person with many pictures and messages from all colleagues and ex-boss. We wished their good luck.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

七月二十二日(shichigatsu nijyuni nichi) : July 22

It has been getting hotter and hotter. Today the highest temperature exceeded 39.4 degrees centigrade in Tajimi, Gifu (岐阜県多治見市:gifu ken tajimi shi) which is the hottest this year in Japan. 144 places among 921 points it went up to higher than 35 degrees centigrade. That is mousho bi (猛暑日) again.
Many people were carried to the hospital by ambulance because of necchusho (熱中症), heat injury. Some of them even passed away.
If the average temperature goes up 1 degree in Tokyo and Osaka, they say the personal consumption nationwide will increase up to yen 433,300,000,000. The beer gardens are becoming popular and popular.

七月二十一日(shichigatsu nijyuichi nichi): July 21

It was another hot day. Most of schools are already in summer vacation. Therefore the trains seem to be less crowded.

Tonight I had a reunion of Expo '92. There were 35 attendants at the Japan pavilion at that time. One third is living abroad such as in USA and Spain. One of them came back from NY on business and vacation and the other is going to London to study Master's course this summer. 10 of us got together at a restaurant in Ginza (銀座) to welcome her and send her off. Some of them got together at the wedding in March, but I have not seen others for a long time.
The name of the restaurant is Kassui ryori Ginza Yamato (活水料理銀座やまと). We wondered what kassui means. Kassui literally means living water. Their dishes were healthy Japanese foods such as tofu (豆腐) and yuba (湯葉). They need good water therefore they might have named "living water dish" but we are not sure. We enjoyed talking too much to ask about it to the waitress. We stayed there for about 3 hours and a half, but we still have lots of things to talk.
They are always stimulative. I feel I am lucky to have worked with them at Expo '92.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

七月二十日(shichigatsu hatsuka): July 20

It was another hot day here.

Today I happened to hear that The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach where I have worked for 2 years received the Foreign Minister's Commendations (外務大臣表彰:gaimu daijin hyosho) FY 2010.
This year Commendation was awarded to 58 individuals and 39 groups.
They say:
The Foreign Minister’s Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups of outstanding achievements in international fields, to acknowledge their contribution to the promotion of friendly relations between Japan and other countries. The Commendation also aims to promote the understanding and support of the Japanese Public for their activities.

I am very glad to hear about this and feel proud of having worked there.


Monday, July 19, 2010

七月十九日(shichigatsu jyuku nichi) : July 19

It is a national holiday called umi no hi (海の日), Marine Day. It was instituted in 1996. At that time it was July 20, but it has been on the third Monday of July since 2003 under the Happy Monday System. It is a day to appreciate the blessings of the sea, and to express wishes for the prosperity of Japan as a country surounded by the sea.
It was very hot today. Most of the places recorded the highest temperature of the year. The highest today in Japan reached 36.8 degrees centigrade in Kyushu. It is like body temperature.
When the highest temperature exceeds 35 degrees centigrade, it is called moushobi (猛暑日) in Japanese.
This is the end of 3-day weekend. Therefore there were many traffic jams here and there.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

七月十八日(shichigatsu jyuhachi nichi): July 18

The rainy season has finished and the summer has begun. It was very nice today.
My colleagues came to my place, and we had nice French lunch and Tuna dinner.
We went to Jogashima (城ヶ島), where is the very tip of the Miura Peninsula (三浦半島:miura hanto). The landscape is very beautiful. Since it is a peninsula, we could see both Boso peninsula (房総半島:boso hanto), Chiba (千葉) in the east and Izu Peninsula (伊豆半島:izu hanto), Shizuoka (静岡) in the west. Furthermore we could see Oshima (大島) in the south, and the Mt. Fuji in the west too.
At dinner we ate the famous tuna dish called kabuto yaki (かぶと焼). It is a grilled tuna head. Usually they are eaten by 10 people or so, but six of us ordered, therefore there were so much meat. It cost yen 12,600. You need the reservation.
After that we went to see the festival for Kainan shrine (海南神社:kainan jinja) nearby. The festival lasted for two days. We could see special parades.
We enjoyed one day trip.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

七月十七日(shichigatsu jyushichi nichi): July 17

There was a special event at the Hibiya kokaido (日比谷公会堂) in the afternoon and I attended that with friends. There were many interesting performances, speeches, a lecture, and an award ceremony.
The lecturer was Mr. Toshitaka Mochizuki (望月俊孝) who is very famous for the Treasure Map. Last year I attended his joint lecture with Mr. Ken Honda (本田健) once in June. He showed us how to grant your dreams. He said "The formula of life is quality by quantity. Write your goals. But it is better to have goals not by letters but by images. It is important to work to your subconscious by repeating the impact."
On our way home, we could happen to see the fireworks festival from the window of the train. We felt lucky.
By the way the new Skyliner has just started running between Nippori (日暮里) and Narita Airport(成田空港:narita kuko). It takes only 36 minutes and costs yen 2,400. Very good!

Friday, July 16, 2010

七月十六日(shichigatsu jyuroku nichi): July 16

Last night there was an announcement of the 143rd Akutagawa Award (芥川賞:) and Naoki Award (直木賞). This time both awards were given to women writers. Akutagawa Award is given to Ms. Akiko Akazome (赤染晶子) who wrote Otome no mikkoku (乙女の密告), Secret Information by a Maiden. Naoki Award is given to Ms. Kyoko Nakajima (中島京子) who wrote Chiisai ouchi (小さいおうち), Small House.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

七月十五日(shichigatsu jyugo nichi): July 15

I went to the Okuma Auditorium of Waseda University (早稲田大学:waseda daigaku) to attend the Symposium on Human Security. Human Security -Its History and Future- toward the achievement of the MDGs.

It was the first time for me to enter the Okuma Auditorium. I sat on the chair on the 2nd floor, but I could see the stage well. Every seat is provided the channels of earphone for interpretation, the jack of the internet, and a folding table.
It was supposed to start at 1:30 pm and end at 5 pm but delayed a little bit.
To my surprise there were so many high school students too. How nice to have interest in international matters since young!
The reason why I attended this time was I am interested in one of the panelist, Ms. Sadako Ogata (緒方貞子) who is the chief director of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency), and who used to be the high commissioner of UNHCR.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

七月十四日(shichigatsu jyuyokka): July 14

There was a meeting in the morning. We went out for lunch. There was a nice restaurant I wanted to take them, but it was full and we could not enter. There was another one next door. We tried. But it was full again and we could not enter. So we decided to find other place. At the third one we were escorted to the best room in the restarurant and had a nice lunch. In the middle of eating, the master came and offered us special desserts. We felt very lucky.
There are sayings regarding three. One is nido arukoto wa sando aru (二度あることは三度ある) which means what happened twice surely happens once more so be careful. The other is sandome no shojiki (三度目の正直) which means the third time is the charm. Which do you believe?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

七月十三日(shichigatsu jyusan nichi): July 13

I have stayed at the hotel for 5 nights and applied for No Clean Service twice and got 2 coupons. The hotel will close at the end of September. I was not sure if I have a chance to come back to the hotel to use the coupons or not. So I decided to use them for my lunch.
There were 3 restaurants I could use the coupons. I chose the one that had "Afternoon Tea Set." (See the picture) When I went to Hong Kong for a long time ago, I ordered that for the first time and liked very much. In Japan I have ordered it with my friend before but I have never ordered it by myself, because it is rather expensive. But with the yen 2,000 coupons, I could order it and enjoy sandwiches, scones, and cakes with a pot of apple tea. Thank you for the good system!

Monday, July 12, 2010

七月十二日(shichigatsu jyuninichi): July 12

I went to see the National Diet Building. This was the second time for me to see inside the building. When I visited before I felt how small it was comparing to the TV relay broadcasting. This time it was not so small than my memory. And I noticed that it must have been the hall of the House of Councillors. Because the fixed number for the memebers of the House of Councilors is 242 and that of House of Representatives is 480.
Outside at the garden there were representative trees from each prefecture.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

七月十一日(shichigatsu jyuichi nichi): July 11

There was an election of the House of Councilors today.
Since I had to work I went to vote last week. This is called kijitsu mae tohyo (期日前投票), voting before the date. They say 12,086,491 people did that in the nationwide which is increasing 11.93 % than last time in 2007. This was the best in history.
Besides the election there were two big sports news. One is the opening of the Grand Sumo Tournament at Nagoya. Since there was a gambling scandal, they decided not to broadcast timely nor to give the emperor cup. This is quite unusual.
The other is the final match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa. Which do you support?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

七月十日(shichigatsu toka): July 10

It was fine and very hot today. I went to Kamakura (鎌倉). It is a very history place with many famous temples and shrines. This time I visited the statue of the Great Buddha (大仏:daibutsu) and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (鶴岡八幡宮) shrine. Please see the pictures.
Many Japanese are usually both Buddhist and Shintoist at the same time. Kamakura is a good place to see both religions, that is, to see temples for Buddhism and shrines for Shintoism.
Last time when I visited Kamakura was in March. At that time I went to see the fallen big Ginkgo Tree at the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. But I could not see the remain at that time, but this time I saw the bottom of the tree and the transplanted branch.
There are many big lotus flowers at the ponds.
After a long walk I got suntan on my shoulders.

Friday, July 9, 2010

七月九日(shichigatsu kokonoka): July 9

This morning I called at the maid service and applied for the No Clean Service. When I came back, I picked up the coupon. It was consisted of five pieces of yen 200 coupons which can be used at the restaurants and bakery in the hotel or room service and mini bar in the room.
When I applied for the same kind of service at the different hotel, it was yen 1,000 coupon which can be used not only at the restaurants but also at the convenience store of the hotel. It was convenient but no change was returned. Therefore you'd better use more than yen 1,000.
This time it is yen 200 coupon by 5 pieces, so it may be better, but unfortunately we can't use them at the convenience stores.
Each has a good point and a bad point.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

七月八日(shichigatsu yoka) : July 8

I am staying in a hotel in Tokyo and will be here for 5 nights.
There is "No Clean Service" in this hotel. It is a UNICEF program to conserve natural resources and to protect the environment. Those who stay in a hotel for more than 2 nights can ask not to clean the room nor change linen or the amenity goods such as sheets, towels, toothbrush and so on. Instead they can get a yen 1,000 coupon (1 room per 1 day) which is available inside the hotel at the restaurant or convenience store or souvenir stores. You can apply for two nights consecutively. On the third night your room will be cleaned for the sanitary reason. It is not available on the day of Check In and Check Out.
I think this is a very good program.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

七月七日(shichigatsu nanoka): July 7

July 7 is known as tanabata (七夕), literally means seven evening. It is the Star Festival. It is supposed that the two stars (Altair and Vega) which are separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way meet once a year on this day.
Unfortunately it was raining again. Since it is rainy season in Japan, it tends to rain every year. Even if it rained, there are stars above that.
So people wish something to the stars, and many people write their wishes on strips of fancy paper which is called tanzaku (短冊) and they put them on displays made of the branches of bamboo trees.
Here attached one of the bamboo trees appeared in a building. Here and there you can find those bamboo trees, and the paper are provided near there so that you can also write your wishes.
What is your wish?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

七月六日(shichigatsu muika): July 6

Do you have a pet?
When I was young, we had a dog. But not now.
The most popular pets in Japan are either dogs or cats. Dog is inu (犬), cat is neko (猫) in Japanese.
When I was in Florida, every host family had a dog. They had a dog inside the house. In Japan many people usually have a dog outside the house. Some smaller dogs are sometimes kept inside the house. Cats are usually kept inside the house.
Now I am watching TV program which happens to deal with pet problems.
In today's paper there was an article of the baby dogs of the very famous CF character dog of the cellphone company. The CF is a series of a family. There are four members in the family, but the Father is the dog. Now the election is nearing. Therefore the story is about election. The series started when I was in the USA. At first I felt strange because of the casting. But the dog became very famous and I am used to it now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

七月五日(shichigatsu itsuka): July 5

It is hot and humid today. It seemed to have rained heavily in the afternoon and night in some parts of Tokyo, though I did not notice until I heard the night news.

When it is hot and there is no air conditioning, we use an electric fan called senpuki (扇風機). Outside we use a fan called sensu (扇子) or uchiwa (団扇). The big difference is that sensu is a folding fan and it is convenient to carry. You can buy them from yen 100 at Yen 100 Shops, but usually they cost from yen 1,000 to yen 5,000 or so.
Uchiwa is fit to the summer casual kimono called yukata (浴衣). Many people often wear yukata when they go to see the fireworks festival. Japanese fireworks festival usually lasts for one hour and a half or so. They are so beautiful.
I hope you have a chance to see them someday.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

七月四日(shichigatsu yokka): July 4

Next Sunday we have the election of the half members of House of Councilors. I am going to work next Sunday, therefore I went to vote earlier. This is called fuzaisha tohyo (不在者投票), absentee voting.
Different from the USA, our voting is always held on Sunday, from 7 am to 8 pm usually at the public places like schools or city offices. We still use paper and pencil not computers. There are small ballot paper and we write the name of the candidate we want to vote and fold the paper in half and put into the box.
There are two pieces of paper. One is for the election district member and we write the name of individuals. 146 out of 242 members are chosen by this way. The other is for the proportional representation. We wiil write either the name of the individual candidate or the name of political party or its abbreviation.
In the USA they get the sticker "Voted!" after finishing. But I got a pocket tissue which has the advertisement of the date of election next Sunday.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

七月三日(shichigatsu mikka): July 3

There was a reunion of my high school classmates tonight. Reunion in Japanese is dosokai (同窓会), literally means same window meeting.
It's been 10 years since we had the reunion last time. But most of them looked the same. This time we invited the homeroom teacher. We have not seen him for a long time, so he was the only one who looked changed a little bit. But he looked fine and nice.
In our high school, there is no rearranging the class when we became juniors or seniors. That is we have been in the same class for 3 years. This is very rare. So most of us are still getting along well with each other.
However after so many years from high school graduation, it has become difficult to keep in touch with everyone. Therefore there were 21 people out of 45. So the organizer named it "Half-reunion."
We had the party at the Chinese restaurant. And the following party was held at the karaoke room where we sang many old popular songs. After that we visited the newly-wed wife and son of our classmate at the hotel. Finally we went to the family restaurant. We really enjoyed getthing together and are looking forward to the next time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

七月二日(shichigatsu futsuka): July 2

Speaking of July, we think of tanabata (七夕), Star Festival on July 7. It is the day when the Altair and the Vega between the Milky Way meet once a year. Around this time we decorate the bamboo tree with oblong cards on which we write our dreams.
What kind of dreams do you have?

There are many famous Star Festivals in Japan. In Kanagawa (神奈川) prefecture, Shonan Hiratsuka Tanabata Matsuri(湘南ひらつか七夕まつり) is one of them. It's been 60 years since the festival started. It started on July 1 and lasts until July 4. In the first year there were only 100,000 visitors, but now there are 2,300,000 visitors.
Unfortunately I could not find any English page of this event, but you can see some pictures from the following site.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

七月一日(shichigatsu tsuitachi): July 1

Another month has just started. July is shichi gatsu(七月). The old name is 文月(ふづき:fuzuki or ふみづき:fumi zuki), literally meaning letter month.
July 1 is known as the opening of Mt. Fuji which is the tallest mountain in Japan. It is 3,776 meters high. I have once climbed there with my friends in the last summer of my university life. I got mountain sickness, and it was really hard to climb up after 8th station of the Mt. Fuji. We could see the top, but it was very far. Before climbing, I thought I would be thirsty so I brought the frozen drink. But it was a mistake. At that hight it is very cold. I should have brought something hot. At the mountain lodge, we were served a cup of Japanese hot tea. How delicious we could feel!
There is a shrine on the top. I drew a fortune slip called omikuji (御神籤). It was daikichi (大吉), very good luck. I was so happy that since that time I stopped drawing a fortune slip in other places.
There is a post office there. I like sending cards from the very special places so I sent a postcard from there too.
Nice memories, but for me once is enough.