Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fish Bike

Ok, I was up at Streetcar Street, walking towards the main train station. I strolled past this bike, and then just stopped.

I can not imagine, under any conditions, why an unwrapped piece of raw fish would be sitting on an unanchored plate on the back carrier of a bike with no shocks, in the middle of a public area where no one eats outside while walking.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas Tree, Nov. 6

Completely different tree ornament at Amu Plaza this year. Apparently people were tired of green.

It's interesting to see this put together, from an engineering viewpoint. But, it's NOT a Christmas tree.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Amupla Christmas Market Nov. 27, 2016, Live

The Amu Plaza department store has their outdoor Christmas market now, until the end of the year. It's the first real live music event in the city this Fall, and I've been waiting months for it. I was busy in the apartment until 3:30 PM Sunday, but I did get outside, and I caught a bit of the music. The first guy was doing Karaoke, which was ok, but it was copyrighted music and there was no point in recording it for the blog. I didn't catch the name of the second group, but it kind of sounded like fan-fu-re (fanfare?), and they were from Fukuoka. I recorded the first song, but for some reason the camera failed to start recording the second one, and I didn't notice it right away. But, here's the one I did get.

Direct youtube link

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Robot Duster

So, there I was in the arcade center in Amu Plaza, and I was looking at the UFO Catcher machines...
The prizes in the crane arm machines can be divided into six categories. First, there's the question of how easy or difficult the prize appears to be to get ("Can I get this for less money than if I bought it from a store?") Then there are the issues of size and desirability ("Do I have a place to put this?" and "Is this something I want?") So, some of the machines will have prizes that look easy to get, but are either things I don't want, or too big to keep. I'll still try to get those prizes anyway if I know of someone I can give them to. But, I have to have the right combination to justify playing the machines: Easy to get, and small enough to put into storage or too big but I have someone I know that would take it. But, there are items that are a little more practical, such as the projection clock, that I do want, just for the blog.

Anyway, one of the machines had this little "robot cleaner", and I thought I had a chance at it. I put in 500 yen ($5) to get 6 chances, and discovered that the arms were sprung - they just slid around the edges of the box. That was disappointing, so I just hit buttons to burn the rest of the credits, and discovered that the arms would hold just enough to slide the box backward an inch at a time. It was sitting on 2 dowel rods, and if the front corner of the box went back enough, it would fall off the other rod and into the hopper. After using up the first 6 credits, I got some more change and kept trying.

On my 14th try, and after 1,300 yen, the box finally dropped. Actually, this isn't a "cleaning robot." It's just an automated floor duster. The box comes with 20 cleaning sheets, and you attach one sheet to the velcro strips on the bottom of the unit. Turn it on, and it rolls across the floor, dusting it with the sheet. The unit is about 6" across, so it doesn't clean a lot in one pass. On the other hand, the way it handles obstacles is fun to watch, and it is capable of getting itself untrapped without help. Unfortunately, there's no "drop switch" so it can't tell if it's reached the edge of some stairs, or the region in front of an outside door. Still, it's a fun toy, and I do have a use for it for making cat videos. If I ever get a cat. And, I got it for less money than if I'd bought it at a store.

(Sidenote: I did eventually find someone that really wanted to give it a new home.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kitsune Mask Capsule

When I was at the capsule ball banks in Amu Plaza, looking at the Cup no Fuchiko Halloween figures, I happened across a new line of Japanese masks. I wanted the demon, or full length kitsune (fox) masks. Of course, I ended up getting the half-length kitsune mask instead.

It's pretty small, at under half an inch across. It could be used as a bracelet for a small child, or as a cellphone strap. 200 yen ($2 USD). The painting on it is very good, though.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Naniwa vol. 1 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images use here for review purposes only.)

Naniwa Zenidou, by Yuji Aoki (1945-2003), Grade B

I've never read the original Naniwa Kin'yudo (The Way of the Osaka Loan Shark) series, which ran from 1990 to 1997, in Morning magazine. Naniwa Zenidou (The way of Money, published by Aoki Productions, following Yuji's death) follows two men living in Osaka - Keiji Koyabu, and Yuuichirou Aoi. When the story starts, the younger Aoi is accompanying his boss, Koyabu, to a cemetery, where the older man is paying respects to his deceased wife. We're told that she'd died 10 years earlier when she and Koyabu were trying to run away from some men that were chasing after them (the implication is that the men were yakuza), and their car was hit by a truck. At the time, Koyabu was trying to conduct a business deal worth millions, and he'd been betrayed by his four partners - Tsuichirou Gametsu, Keisuke Tantsubo, Hakio Gero and Kusashi Wakiga. Koyabu is back, and now he wants revenge, and his money.

(Koyabu and Aoi are at the upper right. Gametsu is at the top left, along with his girlfriend Ikumi, and one of his minions, Koshio Tabeno.)

Initially, Koyabu targets Gametsu, the owner of a chain of family restaurants (Gametsu used the money he'd swindled from Koyabu to start up his franchise). His mistress, Ikumi, is also seeing a manager at one of Gametsu's competitors, which Koyabu hopes to use as leverage against Gametsu. But, as he and Aoi try to develop their plan, they find themselves blocked by a minion that only pretends to betray his boss, Tabeno, and by Ikumi (she had worked as a model on the race car circuit, but her father owned a big corporation before his death. Ikumi was the daughter of the guy's mistress and was disowned by the rest of the family when the old man died. So, she's got great business sense, but no money of her own.) Things get further muddled by a group of insider traders that are also attempting to manipulate Gametsu corps.' stock price.

(The first 2 pages, at the cemetery, and the start of the flashback with Koyabu's deceased wife.)

The artwork is intentionally simplistic, although the backgrounds are pretty detailed. The character designs don't look that great, which is why I give this manga a B grade. However, if you want to learn more about Osaka, there are many location scenes to look at. There's also a strong focus on banking and the stock market here, with descriptions of short selling, the markets as a whole, day trading, and insider trading. If you want to learn a little about financial dealings in Osaka, this is a good start.

(Koyabu and Aoi try to deal with a stalker, who turns out to not only be the guy that stole Aoi's ex-girlfriend from him, but is also a member of the insider traders interfering with Koyabu's revenge plans against Gametsu.)

This is a big 300-page plus volume, with a $7 price tag. It ends with the insider traders threatening to expose Koyabu's plans against Gametsu, before he can even get really started on them.

Summary: An Osaka businessman betrayed by his partners 10 years ago wants his money back, and revenge against the four. Ok artwork, a good story, and lots of financial information. The book ends on an early cliffhanger. Recommended if you want to learn about the financial underworld, and plan to get the entire series.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Graph Contest

Kagoshima has some of the weirdest public exhibits I've ever seen. A couple weeks ago, one such was for a contest for some graphs created by school children.

The contest included an awards ceremony, which was scheduled in the middle of one of my lessons, so I missed that part.

This graph represents the recycling of plastic drink bottles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Kanoya Bara Matsuri

Kanoya City is on the other side of Kyushu from Kagoshima, and they're mainly famous for their rose garden. They held a "Rose Festival" from Oct. 29th to Nov. 20. I wasn't able to go during the first two weeks because of my kidney stone. The only opportunity I had was on the last day, Nov. 20th, when it was raining. There's a bus that runs from the main Kagoshima Chuo train station, and uses the ferry to cross the bay to Tarumizu, and goes to a stop about 2 miles short of the park. We had to take a taxi the remaining 2 miles, up a big hill to the rose garden at the top. Getting the taxi was easy, because the bus driver called the cab company for us in advance, so the taxi was waiting for us at the bus stop when we arrived there. The weather has gotten cooler as well, so most of the flower petals were already gone at this point.

(Home of the wood people)

The bus was 1,500 yen each way ($15 USD) (2.5 hours), plus 1,000 for each taxi, and 1,000 for entrance to the park. It was a pricey day trip.

(They don't have long lifespans)

(Photo pose board)

We arrived at about 3:30 PM, and the gift shop closed at 4:30 PM. There were a few nice-looking flowers, but nothing worth taking photos of, especially since the sky was so dreary. They had a couple green houses as well, where people could pay to gather their own clippings.

(Another pose board)

We may try again next Spring, if the weather is good, the flowers look better, and we have more time to stay longer...

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Kiss My Nagasaki

Is that what all the cool kids are calling it now?

Monday, November 21, 2016


I was walking through the main train station one evening, and noticed a foamhead mascot standing in front of the souvenir shops. I wanted to take a quick photo and keep walking on, but the actor noticed me pointing the camera, and insisted on posing for me.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Raptor in the City

I was walking to work back at the end of August, and I heard a bird call from a couple blocks away. Eventually, I got past enough of the buildings to see it sitting at the top of an antenna tower or something, making what sounded like a rather forlorn cry. I only had my little pocket camera with me, and I took several photos, only one of which turned out at all. I got to the other side of the building and decide I'd shoot a little video, but I couldn't hold the camera steady, and it didn't want to focus right. I didn't have much time, so I continued to the English school. I haven't seen this bird since then. This is the best I've got of it.

Direct youtube link

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Small Adventure 49

A few weeks ago, I was walking on my way to the English school on the other side of the Tenmonkan shopping complex, when I spotted a shiny silvery metal disk at the side of the street. From a distance, it looked like it could be a 100 yen coin (worth about $1 USD), but as I got closer I could tell that design was wrong. I figured that it might be a game arcade token, so I went to pick it up just to have it as part of my collection. But, it turned out to be one of the U.S. State Quarters, for Virginia. It was a bit chewed up, from having a few cars drive over it.

Not really sure how a U.S. quarter made it to Kagoshima like that, or why someone would throw it out on the street. But, it's mine now.

Friday, November 18, 2016


They're everywhere. And they're watching.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Amu Plaza Illuminations

New illumination lighting going up in Tenmonkan.

And the finished lighting up at the main train station.

There was some kind of ceremony on Sunday to announce the turning on of the new Amu Plaza lighting, but I missed it. The stage and chairs are being torn down now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

No Super Moon

Yup, it happened again. Every time something interesting is going to happen in the sky (an eclipse, a meteor shower, or the super moon), the sky clouds over and we have rain. That's what happened on Monday. And naturally, the next night, the weather was perfect. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Homemaker Festa

Last Saturday, the space in front of Lotteria in Tenmonkan was used to host a "Housewife/Homemaker Festa."

I'm not sure what the mascot is for. It resembles the one for one of the gas stations (radiator man), but this one might be for solar-powered housing or air conditioning.

People keep taking my camera and telling me to get into the shot. I wish they'd stop that.

The booths consisted of stuff that would appeal to housewives, like ads for interior designers, and new curtains.

They even had a stage for live music. This is the same sax quartet that played at Shochu Street a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately, this time they were doing light jazz medleys, and covers of copyrighted TV anime theme songs (Sazae-san), so I didn't bother recording them. But, they played well and were popular with all the old people sitting in the audience.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Yet another Yamakataya Ad

From the small bed, lamp and chandelier, my guess is that Barbie suddenly and mysteriously grew up, but her clothes didn't.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Light Repair

This repair truck was sitting in the middle of the street intersection where the street cars keep rolling by. All this work to repair a electric wire.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Kochira Kameari, vol. 200 comments

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Kochira Kameari, vol. 200 (Weekly Shonen Jump, 2015-16), by Osamu Akimoto. Grade: A.

I mentioned way back that the long-running manga, Kochira Kameari, was ending in Sept., with both the last chapter running in Shonen Jump magazine simultaneously with the publication of volume 200. And I'd also said that the book was completely sold out in Kagoshima on the first day. A few weeks later, the bookstores received second-edition printings, and those have stayed on the shelves pretty much since then. #200 is a thick volume, at 400-pages, and a price tag to match (700 yen, plus tax ($7 USD). But, it's a great book to have.

(Fold-out poster)

The cover is silvered, making it bright and shiny and impossible to scan. There's a fold-out poster with some of the main characters on one side, and all 200 covers on the other. There's no real point in summarizing the stories, because each chapter is only 16 pages, and they usually all follow the same pattern. In one, the main character, the geek-boy slacker beat cop Ryotsu, enters a cage match contest for drone operators (he wins using underhanded tactics, but has to donate the prize money to the police department). In another, his friend, rich boy cop Keiichi, has to go to Hokkaido to build recreations of various tourist spots within a week because his parents (who are separated) have 60 minutes to come in, have fun, eat a joint dinner and then leave again, and they each want to do different things while they are there (turns out they did it as a practical joke birthday present for him, but they misremember his name and birth date).

(Example chapter splash page, showing part of Tokyo and the Skytree. Pictured to the left, Ryotsu and Keiichi.)

The artwork is extremely clean, and the backgrounds are often highly detailed. Most of the humor is slapstick, but there's a lot of information and explanation on a very wide variety of topics, from how to make original plastic models to how to do animation, and from how to repair watches to how to make a vacuum-powered building climber. In fact, the main reason for reading Kochira Kameari is to learn about Japanese subculture. If there's something new and faddish, it would appear in this manga within a few weeks. Actually, when I was in the U.S. 10 years ago, I was roasting my own coffee. I also went on occasional business trips to San Jose, CA, where I could buy copies of Weekly Shonen Jump. Two of the stories at the time had Ryotsu opening up his own coffee shop within the police building, and then being banished to pick coffee beans in Jamaica. I particularly loved those two stories, which centered on how to roast and grow coffee.

(Ryotsu gets his retirement certificate - which reads, "Ryotsu you idiot, give me back my money!", and a send-off before the #200 volume celebration can start.)

The main kicker right now, though, is the last chapter in the book. Turns out, to drive sales, Otomo changed the stories between the weekly magazine chapter and the final book. For the most part, the details are the same - Ryotsu sets up a big stage display to introduce the top 10 characters (supposedly from reader-call-in surveys), then skips a bunch of them to get to the next joke. In the magazine and book, they have one police woman, a character that sleeps too much, and a "wild guy" that keeps shooting at everyone, but there are small differences. The main departure is in the magazine, where a "cool" detective is finally brought back to the series to be a recurring character, only to find out the series is ending. Everyone then runs to join in the final "photo pose" in the last 2 pages. In the book, Ryotsu's chief announces that the department is overjoyed at being able to give him his retirement farewell gift. Which is just a ruse to get Ryotsu out of the building so everyone else can eat the prepared banquet uninterrupted. Ryotsu realizes he forgot his cellphone inside, returns to see the food, then spits on everything to make sure no one will eat any of it. The page ends with the rest of the officers looking at the banquet and refusing to touch it.

Summary: Overall, #200 is a fun book, and an easy read. The tie-in to the magazine is clever, and I liked most of the stories. If you're studying Japanese, and/or Japanese subculture, I recommend starting Kochira Kameari at maybe about book 190 and work forward. The series was originally just a "bumbling cop slapstick gag" title, and didn't really start getting into subculture until much later (maybe about book 60 or 70). So, you'll want to sample the books to see what you like and don't like. But the last 50 volumes or so are all good.