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Making Your Surroundings Better

May 6th, 2007 at 10:16 pm

One of the lessons that my father taught me was to always leave a place in better shape than when you arrive. When I go on my walks in Japan, they always take a bag along to pick up trash that I find along the way. It's one of those little things that anybody can do to help make the area around where they live a little better.

Japanese Farm House

May 5th, 2007 at 02:39 am

This is a typical Japanese farmhouse that I came across the other day while out on a walk.

Video Coke Machine

April 24th, 2007 at 02:37 am

This was kind of interesting. It's the first time I have seen a Coke machine with a video in it. The video was playing Coke commercials along with an educational tape that showed how to use your phone to purchase a Coke (that's right, you don't even need change to buy a Coke in Japan. Just swipe your cell phone and out comes a Coke.)

Manhole Cover

April 19th, 2007 at 06:15 pm

I came across a new manhole cover design while wandering around town:

Worst Store Name Ever

April 17th, 2007 at 07:38 pm

Having lived in Japan for over 10 years, most strange spelling and names don't even grab my attention anymore, so when something does, it has to be really awful. I came across this clothing store for kids in a mall near our house. Probably not the best name for a store of any kind...

Flower Clock

April 14th, 2007 at 08:23 am

You can tell it's spring not only by the time, but also by all the flowers around the clock Wink


April 12th, 2007 at 06:27 pm

One thing that I like about Kobe is that there are random sculptures all over the place. I took about a 20 minute walk from the immigration office to the train station the other day and these are all the sculptures I came across along the way:

Tomorrow's Hands

April 11th, 2007 at 06:33 pm

I came across this wall in a park - all the bricks tiles in the wall are the hands of children:

Manhole Art

April 11th, 2007 at 03:13 am

Some more of the decorative manholes I came across recently (I get really strange looks from people when I stop to take photos of these Wink )

Cherry Blossom Viewing

April 10th, 2007 at 10:09 am

This weekend the cherry blossom were out so my wife and I took a day to go cherry blossom viewing. Neither of us likes the crowds of the main places that people gather to view them, so we headed out to the countryside and found a river lines with them without hardly another person around:

Spring Time In Japan - Cherry Blossom Rice Wine

April 9th, 2007 at 08:28 pm

You know that it's springtime in Japan because the cherry blossoms are out and ever conceivable thing in Japan has that theme - including cherry blossom rice wine (sake)

Paranoia Paradise

April 9th, 2007 at 02:55 am

I love the signs in Japan Smile


April 8th, 2007 at 09:51 pm

As you might imagine, parking in Japan is always a challenge. Often they will stack cars as in this photo:

Great Hanshin Earthquake Clock

April 8th, 2007 at 08:09 am

I was wandering around Kobe this weekend when I came across a memorial for the Great Hanshin earthquake that happened in 1995 - believe it or not, I was there for it. Although I lived a bit outside the disaster zone, I was there within a few days in order to help my wife's aunt. It is certainly a natural disaster that I hope I never have to live through again...

Pachinko Machines

April 7th, 2007 at 09:00 am

I was wandering the other day when I came across all these old pachinko machines!

More Manhole Covers

March 1st, 2007 at 09:59 pm

Here are a couple more manhole covers I came across the other day:

Tree Growing In A Tree

February 22nd, 2007 at 11:35 pm

I always find nature amazing. I was on a walk the other day when I found a tree that was actually growing inside another tree. Apparently a seed from a nearby tree had landed in an open area of the branches and began to grow.

Drying Laundry

February 15th, 2007 at 09:19 pm

We don't have a clothes dryer. The vast majority of people living in Japan don't. Electricity is expensive and there just isn't room in most apartments and houses for the dryer, so everyone hangs their clothes out to dry.

Before I came to Japan I would have assumed that hanging clothes to dry would be a real pain compared to simply throwing them into a dryer. I've found that hanging clothes is therapeutic in a relaxing kind of way and actually enjoy it.

Why Men Love Valentine's Day In Japan

February 11th, 2007 at 05:36 pm

While my counterparts will be spending nearly $120 and deciding between candy, an evening out with their significant other, flowers or jewelry, I'll be sitting at home relaxing without a worry in the world becasue I don't have to do anything on Valentine's Day.

I have no doubt that whoever brought St. Valentine's Day to Japan must have been a man. There's no way it could be any other way - the Japanese Valentine's Day is a dream come true for men. That's because there is nothing for men to do on Valentine's Day in Japan. Yep, you read that correctly! Men do absolutely nothing. It's the women that bring chocolate, candy, etc to the men. Speaking from a man's point of view, this is pretty darn hard to beat.

Now men don't get off completely free in all of this. I'm sure that Japanese women soon figured out that this whole deal was a bit backward compared to the rest of the world, but once it had been established, there was no way the men were going to make the switch. Instead of fighting men tooth and nail on this, women instead made up a new day - called White Day - celebrated a month after Valentine's Day. On White Day men purchase chocolate, candy, etc for women. While men would have preferred to have come out of the entire process without any obligation, they acquiesced on this one point figuring they still came out well ahead in the deal compared to men everywhere else in the world.

Men in Japan quickly realized the advantage of having White day a month after Valentine's Day because it gave them something every man needs - basic guidelines and time to prepare. First, men are only required to give chocolate back to those who actually give them chocolate. Even better, since men get to see the gift given to them first, they have a pretty good idea exactly how much effort they need to put in and what they have to spend on the return gift. This makes the entire Valentine's Day experience a lot more enjoyable (at least for men).

So while the rest of you are trying to decide whether to purchase that heart shaped box of chocolates or the teddy bear on your way home at the drugstore on February 14, I'll be sitting on the couch watching TV with a beer in hand wondering what nice surprise I'll get. Hmmmmm, maybe living in Japan isn't all that bad after all...

Telephone Cards

February 2nd, 2007 at 09:22 pm

When I walk anywhere in Japan, I'm always on the look-out for used telephone cards that people throw away after using them. When I first came to Japan, they were easy to find, but now that most people carry around cell phones, it's much more of a challenge. I would estimate I have amassed a collection of about 10,000 cards all of which I have found over the years.

More Strange Product Names

January 29th, 2007 at 06:07 pm

As I walked quickly through the store yesterday, I looked for some more names of products that probably wouldn't make it too well in the US (there are plenty in Japan).

In the comments of Calpis, scfr suggested I introduce those that don't know to Pocari Sweat:

I came across some chocolates with the name Asse:

and sometimes I wonder if the Japanese just accidentally use the wrong word. This is for a snack called Leafy, but it seems to me what they wanted to call it was Flaky:

I'm sure I'll come across more to share...


January 28th, 2007 at 09:33 pm

One thing that I have noticed is that there are a lot of clocks in Japan. I wonder if it is part of the being on schedule attitude that the public transportation runs by? Unlike in the US where you can be in a jam if you don't wear a watch, practically anywhere you go you can find a clock in Japan.

I found this clock at the top of a hill at a scenic view spot. If I had been in the US, I would have questioned what a clock was doing at a scenic view spot, but not in Japan. It seemed perfectly normal.

Of course, now that I have made the connection that there are a lot of clocks, I'm starting to see them even more. Maybe it's time I gave up my watch Wink


January 27th, 2007 at 06:14 pm

One of the things that I really enjoy about Japan is the arts. In the area where I live, there is a lot of pottery made. Often times the pottery makers will set up tented booths at shrines and sell their wares. It's always a joy to walk through and see all the items they have for sale and they are almost always reasonably priced if there is something that catches my eye

Vending Machine Can Stickers

January 25th, 2007 at 10:37 pm

One thing about Japan is that it is a land of vending machines. And the cans that often come out of those machines have stickers on them for prize contests. Basically, you collect so many stickers from the cans, send them in and if your card is drawn, you win a prize.

While I get a few hundred dollars worth of stuff from these contests every year, I don't spend a cent (or yen in my case) collecting these stickers.

I have gotten into the habit of picking up cans thrown on the street and throwing them away properly (an old habit taught to me by my father to always leave any place you go better than when you arrived). If those cans have a sticker on it (which they often do), I take it as my payment for cleaning up.

The prizes in Japan can be quite good -- my winter coat, spring jacket and portable CD player are all prizes just to name a few. So in the end I get some good exercise (walking), make the area a bit cleaner, and get cool things for my effort. Seems like a good deal to me.


January 24th, 2007 at 09:37 pm

There are some things in Japan that will never be popular in the US because of their name. There are a huge number of examples, but here is one from a recent trip to the store:

It's a drink called Calpis (say it out loud and what does it sound like?)


January 22nd, 2007 at 08:19 pm

One thing that you don't see a whole lot of in Japan is graffiti (at least in comparison to similar sized cities in the US and Europe). I think it's a combination of less people doing it as well as better clean-up when it does occur. So I was a bit surprised when I came across this piece under a walkway on my walk this morning.

While a lot of people consider graffiti to be an art form (and there is some graffiti that I believe is well done), for the most part I think it's nothing more than an eyesore. It also costs a lot of taxpayer's money to clean it up which means the money isn't available for other things.

Strange Banner Advertising

January 21st, 2007 at 07:24 pm

One thing that you see in Japan as you go down streets is a lot of banner advertising. Many stores, gas stations, car dealers, etc fly banners in front of their storefront to attract customers. On my walk this morning, I found these banners advertising something that caught me a bit off guard: grave site plots.

It just seems kind of tacky to be flying these signs over the graves of people, but maybe it's just me...

Sake Barrels

January 20th, 2007 at 10:14 pm

On our trip to the God of Wealth shrine yesterday, there was a whole section where companies had left offerings of barrels of rice wine to Ebisuten (the god of wealth) for the coming year. All the barrels piles upon one another made for a pretty impressive display...

Light Bulb In Nature

January 20th, 2007 at 06:07 am

One of the funny things about Japan is how often technology is so close to nature. I tried to capture it in this photo with a bare light bulb hanging outside in the middle of a beautiful shrine garden - didn't come out quite as I hoped, but does give a glimpse...

Chocolate Extreme: 99% Cacao

January 19th, 2007 at 04:27 pm

I like dark / bitter chocolate and the cacao craze has definitely hit Japan. I was in the store the other day and saw bars of 99% cacao being sold. Even though I do love dark chocolate, I'm not sure even my taste buds could handle something like that...

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