Friday, April 3, 2020

Small Adventure 75


This isn't really a small adventure in and of itself, just something I wanted to mention that I have nowhere else to put.

One of the things I've noticed since the Covid-19 virus has had more of an impact on Japan is that the Tully's coffee shop chain has stopped selling coffee in-shop in washable coffee cups. If you get coffee to drink in, or take-out, it's all served in paper cups. This would make sense - the staff is at less risk if they don't have to wash and re-wash used porcelain cups all the time. Except, they still serve cake, pie and spaghetti on regular plates and with regular silverware. And none of the other places (Starbucks, MOS Burger, Doutoru or whatever) have changed to drink-in paper cups.

Weird.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Reimeikan Gate, 200220




The protective construction sheeting is down, showing a little more of the new Reimeikan history museum front gate.



It got big when we weren't looking.



Fish and weird end-post mask thingie.



Dragon fish. Mmm-mm. The best kind.



Looks like they're pre-planning the little unmanned abandoned information booth, too.



One week later, the upper wall has been painted in.





I wonder if the gallery area behind the windows will be open to the public.



"Not quite done yet."

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Bart Window




Someone broke the window of a fashion shop in Tenmonkan. Security cameras caught it as it happened. If you recognize the culprit, please contact your local authorities.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Q.E.D. iff volume 15 review


(All rights belong to their owners.
Image from Amazon.co used here for review purposes only.)

Q.E.D. iff, vol. 15, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
This book came out at the same time as the latest C.M.B., and I did buy them together, but I loaned this one to one of my students, and I didn't get it back until just a couple of days ago. So, now here we are.

Sono Sekai (That World, Shonen Magajin R, 6, 2019)
Thirty years ago, overly strict and demanding patriarch and village leader Choujirou Reimei was beating the crap out of one of his sons, Touga. The dispute was over Touga's insistence on leaving Reimei village to seek out his fortune in Tokyo. When untied from his tree, Touga kept trying to crawl away, so Choujirou yelled at him to go ahead and never come back, adding that the trip down the mountainside in the winter would most likely kill him, if he wasn't eaten by bears first. Fast-forwarding to the present, new lawyer Chidori Kirishima is pleading for help from Kana and Touma. She's still really inexperienced, and her first serious job is to handle an estate case, where some mysterious stranger has instructed her to bring Touma along for the reading of the will.

The trio go to Reimei village, where things are mostly quiet. The kitchens at Choujirou's mansion are busy, though, with the return of the old man's heirs. They have the oldest son, Mansaku; the oldest daughter, Kyouko; the youngest son, Momohiko; and the youngest daughter, Rei. There's a lot of money involved, since the Reimei family has been linked to the main government since the Edo period (several hundred year's worth of history), and they own most of the land around the village. The estate has a high cliff, and a small lake, both with Shinto shrines. Choujirou and Mansaku are both Shinto practitioners, and Mansaku as the oldest living heir is expected to get everything. That night, there's a big dinner, and the four heirs complain about Chidori and her two compatriots being where they're not wanted. Toward the end of the evening, Mansaku is spotted wearing his white robes, outside by a tea garden house. The guests all go to the house, but Mansaku isn't there. Someone notices him outside the back of the tea house, strung by a rope upside down from a high tree branch. When he's lowered to the ground, Mansaku isn't breathing, and there's blood leaking from a knife wound in his chest. The police are called, and Det. Ameyama arrives on the scene. He's fairly competent, and he goes through the motions of having his men investigate the crime scene, and interrogating the witnesses. In a small creek in the garden near the tea house, they find a note with a mysterious marking - a dot-dash-dot pattern above what looks like a square letter "L". The main local priest pretends to not know what it means.

Kana and Chidori talk to the priest the next day, and he tells them that there are really only two direct heirs to the estate, Mansaku and Kyouko. Rei and Momohiko came from different mothers. Suddenly, the priest realizes that the symbols found by the body are somehow related to the long-missing son, Touga, who had his own shrine up on the cliff. Back at the tea house, Touma is walking in the hallway and looking at a copy of the symbols when he sees something near the baseboards of the back wall. Suddenly, people outside start yelling and running toward the lake shrine. When they get to the edge of what's really just a big pond with the shrine set up in the middle, they find Kyouko lying dead in the only rowboat on the estate. This is definitely a murder mystery, and a second note is found on the body, this one a straight line over a circle with a dot in the center. The police use an inflatable raft to get to the woman, who has rope marks around her neck. The second note seems to point more directly at Touga. However, Momohiko keeps playing word games with the cop interrogating him, which seems odd.

Kana and Chidori climb the path up the cliff to what had been more of a small cabin, but which is completely destroyed now. Inside are old math textbooks, and it becomes clear that Touga had fought with his father over a desire to go to a university in Tokyo to study for a math degree, when the old man had a "you live in this village, I own you" mindset. A plaque board that had been at the doorway of the cabin also has the symbols from the death notes, plus one more at the bottom - a smudgy "less-than" sign. Det. Ameyama decides to take on a quest to find this "Touga," who apparently had last been seen in Boston. In Boston, a university admissions clerk tells him that they did have a "Touga," but after graduation, he'd taken on a software engineering job in California. In Silicon Valley, Ameyama talks to Touga's former boss, who says that Touga had changed his name to Shigeru Yoshida, and had a daughter. When the daughter graduated from a nearby high school, the two of them left for her to go to university somewhere. Ameyama goes to the high school, and gets permission to look through the yearbooks, where he finds that Touga's daughter is actually Chidori Kirishima (in the yearbook, it's Chidori Yoshida). Back at the mansion, Rei is walking along the cliff and is attacked from behind. She is taken to a hospital, where she says she doesn't know what had happened to her. The note found near her has the "less-than" sign on it. Det. Ameyama orders Chidori arrested.

Kana tried to surprise Touma by telling him what they'd found at the cabin ruins, but the boy has already figured it out. Touga was enamored with math, and had modeled his "Shinto name" after Euclid's Axiom's. The "dot-dash-dot" part is the straight line connecting two points. The square "L" was the right-angle. The other straight line referred to parallel lines not meeting, and the circle with a dot in the middle was "a line drawn around a fixed point creates a circle." The "less-than" sign is really a reference to the "parallel postulate." Everything is pointing to Chidori as wanting revenge on her grandfather's family, and killing them all off to get the inheritance. But, Kana thinks she's innocent and wants Touma to prove it.

Questions: Is Chidori innocent, or is she playing Kana? If innocent, then who is the real killer, how did they commit the murders, and what do the symbols left by the bodies really mean?
Math: The discussion of Euclid's Axioms, and how they tie in with the story plot.

----- Spoilers -----

The killer made a mistake. The symbol found on the plaque board at the ruined cabin was smudged up. The last symbol really should have been a closed triangle, since the postulate is "if a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced indefinitely, meet on that side on which the angles are less than two right angles." That is, the three lines make a triangle. The killer apparently didn't do quite enough homework. Anyway, they slipped up regarding Mansaku's Shinto vestments as well, dressing the body in the wrong clothes before tying it up behind the tea house. The trick was performed with a pinhole camera effect. There's a hole in the baseboard of the back wall of the tea house that's fitted with a glass lens. The killer put a bright light on a small piece of wood and floated it on the creek between the tea house and the tree. After some time, the light reached the body, where it was reflected to the lens in the wall, and projected right-side up on the front paper screen of the tea house, making it look like Mansaku was standing at the house entrance before turning and moving away. Hence, the "two points, straight line" clue.

For Kyouko, the killer had a rope with one end tied to a tree at the far end of the lake, submerged under the surface of the water, running up to the roof of the shrine structure, and then looped under the water to the near shore. When Kyouko got to the shrine in the boat, the killer grabbed the end of the rope near him and yanked on it, causing the loop to leap from the water and tighten around the woman's neck. With Rei, the "less-than" sign implied an accident on a hillside, which she survived. And, all of the clues pointed to Chidori in order to cut off the last of Touga's line, leaving the killer as the only one that was still standing. But, along with the misunderstanding of the last postulate, and a few other slips regarding Masaku's Shinto outfit, the real killer is revealed to be Momohiko, who had inherited his father's mean streak. At the end, after Momohiko is led away, Touma comments on how he'd met Touga at MIT when they were both in Boston, which is why he'd been brought in to keep a protective eye on Chidori. There's a male silhouette standing at the front gate of the estate, and the young woman is instructed to go invite her father inside.

Hito ga Mada Mirukoto ga Dekinai (I Still Haven't Seen People, Shonen Magajin R, 1-2, 2020)
It's the future again, and Kana is a young lawyer handling robot attacks cases again. The attacks are minor, and in some cases, it's just a matter of service robots (i.e. - a dog-walking robot) that seem to be dropping things or breaking their programming. One robot is dressed up as a maid in front of a goods shop in Akihabara. It gets sexually harassed by a greasy otaku, and it suddenly attempts to kill the guy. The owner has to smash it in the back of the head with a bat to save his customer. There are 200 pending complaints against a specific development company, so Kana starts following up on some leads. Pretty quickly, she runs into Touma, who is playing his part as a genius software developer who knows her only from the last story about the gimmicked court AI. Some company is claiming that their cleaning robot went rogue and smashed through a plate glass door, and they want the insurance money. In fact, one of the employees had deliberately broken the glass with their shoulder and propped the robot on the shards to frame it.

The next case is the dog-walking robot, which indeed veers off its programmed route to stop at the middle of a bridge to stare at the river below for a while with its camera eye. Touma asks the owner for the robot, and he goes back to his houseboat under the expressways in Tokyo to take it apart. He finds a wireless chip tacked onto the main motherboard. He then goes to the manufacturers - Fero Inc. - to find out what they know. There are three people at the table, an older woman and two men. The woman seems to be a spokesperson (or the CEO), and one of the guys is a corporate lawyer. Initially they try to evade the questions, but Touma knows too much. Eventually, they state that there was this really brilliant AI programmer who was highly unstable. He's not at the company anymore, but he's the reason for all their problems. The lawyer reveals the guy's name as Dr. Alrushe. Touma and Kana go to Fero's R&D labs and find Alrushe's office cluttered and abandoned. On one shelf is a photo of a beautiful singer, and on a bench are the internals of a large cleaning robot. Some guy sneaks into the room, and asks if they're looking for his partner. This new guy is Luis, and he'd been working with Alrushe for a while. They go to a coffee shop, and Luis says that Alrushe had been working on an AI problem, and it had left him a nervous wreck. Eventually, he'd claimed that he was near a breakthrough, but at about that point, Luis spotted someone who looked like an assassin going to the office, and then coming back out. Luis never saw Alrushe after that. A little later, the corporate lawyer gets a text message demanding $300,000 in return for a missing robot.

Touma is standing out at a railing in a deserted park, and the same assassin-looking guy comes up behind him to shoot him with a silencer. Kana drops from the tree above and quickly subdues the killer. Touma and Kana bring the guy to the houseboat for interrogation. He says that, yes, he'd been sent to kill Alrushe, but the researcher wasn't in his office at the time. He has a jacket camera disguised as a frog broach on his lapel for documenting his contracts, and it proves that he's telling the truth. He tells Touma what he knows, and is then handed over to the police.

Questions: So, what is going on? How does all of this tie together? Where is Alrushe, how did he avoid death, and why did he put the wifi chip on the dog-walker robot?

Science: Just some speculation on the future of AI, and a riff on Asimov's Three Laws.

----- Spoilers -----

Touma reassembles the walker robot and addresses the video camera, saying that he knows what's going on and wants to talk to the person at the other end of the connection. He asks, "What's your name?" and the robot pauses before answering "Galatea." (Galatea is the name assigned to "the statue carved of ivory by Pygmalion of Cyprus, which then came to life in Greek mythology" (from the wiki article). Touma and Kana are granted permission to meet Alrushe. Basically, the researcher had been working on perfecting a self-aware AI. He'd added wifi chips to various Fero Inc. robots in an attempt to increase the amount of interaction Galatea received with the real world, but the leaders of Fero found out. They wanted to keep the secret for themselves, and hired a contract killer to snuff the researcher. However, he'd hid himself in the case of one of the cleaning robots, and snuck away unseen along with the server box containing the Galatea program.

Some distance away, at a remote house at the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean, Touma and Kana meet Alrushe. Our hero lays out what he suspects, and the other guy tries to laugh it off. But, Galatea tells him "thank you" for all he's done, and a picture of a beautiful woman is superimposed over the hardware case. A little later, Touma, Kana and Alrushe are in a judge's office along with the Fero woman and the lawyer. The case being argued before the judge is "who owns Galatea." Alrushe has a copy of the original code, which the judge orders to be given to Fero, which makes the woman and the lawyer absolutely ecstatic. But, the caveat is that 5% of anything they make on sales related to the software goes to Alrushe for the next 10 years (they're not so happy about that). So far, things seem to be going smoothly, until Touma explains why Fero Inc. really wants Galatea. The idea is that the software has gone fully self-aware, making it more-or-less on par with humans. So, what happens if you just shut it off? Fero's ultimate goal is to learn what lies after death by "killing" Galatea over and over again, hunderds, if not thousands of times. Which is something you can't legally do to flesh-and-blood people.

Horrified, Alrushe grabs the only currently working Galatea server and prepares to smash it to the ground to prevent the worst case scenario from happening. The judge rules Galatea sentient, and any attempt to shut it off or destroy the disks is tantamount to murder. He tasks the responsibility for ensure the AI's well-being to Kana, and Touma volunteers to help. The chapter ends with a male chef robot cooking meals in the kitchen of a small monastery somewhere near a coastline. A monk praises the robot's great work, but he has to ask if it's really happy here. There's a mostly-blocked image of the server sitting on a small table nearby, as the robot says "Yes, I can see the sea from here."

Summary: "Sono Sekai" is kind of a contrived murder mystery, and there's no really good reason for the tricks to have been so difficult for anyone else other than Touma to figure out. Specifically, the killer did everything to frame Chidori, when no one else in the family even knew she existed. Yes, the finger of suspicion could have been pointed to Touga, but as far as anyone else knew, he'd been eaten by bears 30 years ago. And, I do take umbrage at Motohiro's romanticization of humanoid robots and AI. That, and there's no way that the first working implementations of self-aware systems would fit in a half-sized tower box. But, this is fiction, so anything can be possible in this universe. Regardless, the stories are ok, and I liked seeing a return to a math-based story after such a long drought. Recommended if you like the series.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Reimeikan Gate Work




No idea how the work is coming along on the new castle gate in front of the Reimeikan history museum.



But, part of the protective screens had been pulled back, so I decided to take advantage of the geometric shape of the scaffolding revealed.




Sunday, March 29, 2020

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Friday, March 27, 2020

Honeymoon Walk?


I'd written close to one month ago that with all of the early panic over Covid-19, I didn't know how this would affect the Ryouma Honeymoon Walk. Ryouma Sakamoto was one of the early conspirators working with Saigo Takamori to overthrow the Shogunate in the 1860's, to restore the Emperor to power over Japan. While I can't find specific information on this event in the wiki articles on either man, what I do remember (which could be mistaken) was that Ryouma and his wife had worked their way down from northern Kyushu to what is now Kagoshima (at the time, known as Satsuma) while being pursued by the Shogunate's forces. After meeting Saigo, Takamori suggested that Ryouma return home via a roundabout route, using the honeymoon following his recent marriage as a pretext. Part of this route in Kirishima (at the north end of Kinko Bay) is now used for the Ryouma Honeymoon Walk event (originally held in the late Fall, moved to March because people complained about the weather being too cold for it). The event is spread over two days, and can have up to 5 routes, from 10 km to 20 km, running through flower fields, or up into the mountains.

I've been trying to do the mountain route for the last few years, but that has either conflicted with my work schedule on Saturdays, or the weather had been bad. Since it costs about $20 round trip to take the train to Kirishima, and there's something like a $10 in advance entry fee, I've only wanted to go when the skies are clear. Several weeks ago, the event website stated that the walk was still a "go", but the staff were going to be using masks and hand sanitizer for safety measures. After that, I got preoccupied, and it was only last night that I decided to look at my photo of the ad poster to double-check the dates. Turned out that it was supposed to have happened on the 21st and 22nd. Well, that was in the middle of the extended panic, so I'm assuming that it did get canceled. Sigh.

Last year, I said "Well, there's always next year." I was wrong.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Dec.-Mar. articles in the media

Here's the batch of articles to show up in the media from Dec.-Mar., regarding anime, manga and related stuff.

Japan Times

When American country meets Japanese anime

Picture the fun at a manga museum

Tokyo manga hotel makes virtue of sleepless nights

Remembering Satoshi Kon, one of anime's best-loved creators

Japanese manga artist Yoshiharu Tsuge honored in France

Back to the future: The world celebrates the 50th anniversary of Doraemon

GeeXPlus brings anime YouTubers to Japan

New Osamu Tezuka-inspired manga created by AI to be published

Olympic orbiter: 'Gundam satellite' hitches ride to ISS to promote 2020 Games

From anime to reality: Mobile 25-ton Gundam robot to be built in Yokohama

Daily Yomiuri

Manga Artist takes up Uighurs suffering

SpyxFamily manga successfully revives a popular trope

Anime song diva Mitsuko Horie to celebrate 50th anniversary in style

Tokyo: Conveying feelings of animators to fans

What could a geographical era and childhood anime have in common?

It's all-you-can-read manga for extended spring vacation.

Celebrating 50th Anniversary of Doraemon

Demon manga features unique protagonist

Recalling the joy of concerts with anime singer Yoshiki Fukuyama

Popular manga "Chihayafuru" characters, RWC mascot appear as manhole art in Tokyo's Fuchu

Asahi

"One Piece" manga series tops 460 million copies in print

First Saudi Anime Expo held, in pivot toward entertainment

Musicians seek to express epic Tezuka manga through song

Events based on "Evangelion" planned for Hakone resort

Art posters for Olympic Games on display at Tokyo museum

To beat piracy, "Cardcaptor Sakura" posted on YouTube first

Fans can now whet appetites for anime at Narita Airport

Extended "In This Corner of the World" adds subplot, depth

"Japan Sinks" gets first anime adaptation series for 2020 release

"Weathering With You" picks up 4 nominations at Annie Awards

Manga heaven: Akita museum sees visitor surge after makeover

Teaser, visual released for "Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045"

2nd Evangelion store in Tokyo now open in Shinjuku Ward

40,000 drawings in 7 years lead to award-winning anime "On-Gaku"

1st part of 'Sailor Moon' movie to premiere in September

Tsuburaya, Toei team up to create CG anime 'Kaiju Decode'

18 'Demon Slayer' volumes claim top 18 spots on manga chart

"First Inspector" film wraps up "Psycho Pass 3" series in spring

Second season of 'Beastars' animal anime gets the go-ahead

First 'Demon Slayer' exhibition to open on March 20 in Tokyo

First 5 seasons of "Detective Conan" to stream free on YouTube in 2020

Chihayafuru Fund boosts 'karuta' card game matches

'7SEEDS' second season to stream worldwide on Netflix March 26

Latest in "Violet Evergarden" series due for April 24 release

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wicky House Gokuaku Pyori Poster




More anisongs at Wicky's House bar and restaurant.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Yamakataya Ad - Spotlight Ready




A simple, straightforward cosmetics ad that proves anyone can look pretty with the help of a good photoshop artist.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Vent Vert Date Sign, Feb. 6




Ok, this is going to be a test of my backlogging ability.

Vent Vert is a hair salon just outside of Tenmonkan, and they often have a marker board out front with some kind of artwork commemorating something that happened on that day. On Feb. 6th, they had "Tsumutsumu no Hi" (Tsumtsum Day), which apparently is a tribute to a series of stuffed toys (tsumu = "to stack") and a video game, tied to Disney Tsum Tsum. This is a thing I was blissfully unaware of before doing my due diligence for this blog entry...


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Kamuya Ride, vol.3


(All rights belong to their owners.
Image from Amazon.co.jp used here for review purposes only.)

Kamuya Ride, vol. 3, Masato Hisa. Grade: A-
Monko and Ousu are hogtied on the backs of the black shields being carried victoriously to the village of Yamato. The Black Shield leader, Ototachibana, is greeted by Princess Ayashikusa with a light pat on the head for doing a good job (which thrills both of them to no end). Monko easily frees himself from his bonds and comments on there being one more guest at this party. The Princess looks up and recognizes Ousu as fellow royalty, demands he be freed right away, and immediately bows down to apologize for this horrible breech of manners. But, when Ousu says it's ok because it was Ototachibana who ordered him tied up (he's still smitten with her), the Princess turns feral rabid and attacks him, before becoming all sweetness and light again. Monko and Ouso are allowed to enter the town on their own, where Monko tries selling some of his haniwa (clay figures) to the villagers. He then decides that he's going to try making a new haniwa on his own, and sets out for the nearest pottery shop. Meanwhile, the demon that has been opening gates to the other world has returned to his base - a floating jungle situated at the top of the cone of Mt. Fuji. The bridge leading to the jungle is packed with dead bodies. In the jungle itself are two unusual women - Ishikoridome (lizard-based) and Koyane (frog-based, or something with toad-like eyes). Ishikoridome greets the newcomer as Uzume (bird-based). They get into an argument over whether they should be indiscriminate in killing humans, or just target the strong ones. The heart of the argument is over how they can find the "first one" that had fallen to Earth 200 years ago and made the kilometers' long human-shaped crater from volume 2. A few other characters show up before Ishikoridome and Uzume go into full-blown battle against each other.

On his own, Ousu wanders the village and runs into his older brother, Oousu. They greet each other, and then Oousu sends Ousu to the work hut of the pottery master, Toreho, to find Monko. Meanwhile, Toreho is berating one of his apprentices for their shoddy workmanship, destroys the guy's bowl, and tells him to try again. Monko arrives, and Toreho goes into shock at seeing him, but recovers. The two of them go into Toreho's shop, and talk while Monko bakes up a haniwa of a fish. Elsewhere, Princess Ayashikusa gives a status update to her father of the monsters Ousu fought. The man sits hidden behind a screen, so we can't see his face, but he reacts violently at hearing that Ousu met up with Monko, who is said to be the "bearer of the clay armor." Time passes. Ousu gets to Toreho's shop, but Monko is now at the King's rooms, trying to give him the fish as a present. The King reveals his face, he's big, mean and angry, as he demands to know why Monko is still alive.

Toreho explains that a long time ago, Monko and he had worked together as potters. But, Monko went by the name Nomi back then. Nomi was a natural, gifted craftsman, and was revered by the other guys in the shop. He had attracted the attentions of Emperor Ohirowake and the previous Isachi Emperor Misakisumou. Nomi was summoned to the Emperor's part of the village compound, and the others didn't hear anything from him after that. Toreho snuck to the outer compound wall and tried to talk to Nomi through a gap in the wall, and his friend told him that things had changed and he'd never be able to return to the shop. Some time later, Toreho snuck back to the compound wall, which exploded on him. Inside, Nomi was standing in a strange ceramic armor, and the head of Misakisumou was now hanging from the corner of the roof of the Emperor's building. Back in the present, Ohirowake accuses Monko of having come back from the dead to overthrow his second Emperor.

Monko just tries to give the fish haniwa to the Emperor, who bats it away, saying he doesn't want it. Monko tries to escape, but the building is surrounded by armed guards. Ototachibana and Ayashikusa both arrive, and there's an extended cat and mouse chase, where Monko works to get to the haniwa of his Ride armor, and everyone else tries to keep him from activating it. Towards the end of the fracas, the demon monsters in female form, Ishikoridome and Koyane arrive at the front gates of the village. Koyane uses her toad-eyes to control various villagers and use their eyes to see what they see. Ishikoridome had gotten drawings of their three enemies from Uzume and is currently searching for them to fight them - Monko, Ousu and Ototachibana. Monko escapes Ototachibana and falls from the compound wall into a river where a village boy is fishing nearby. Monko holds his finger up to his lips to keep the boy from yelling out, and winks. Koyane is linked to the boy at this point, and she acts like Monko was just trying to seduce her (and she liked it). She also links to Toreho, and finds Ousu in the pottery hut. Ishikoridome sets out to commit carnage. She pulls out a weird machine in the shape of a magatama (a mystical comma-shaped stone produced from the Jomon era (1000 BCE) to the Kofun era (538 CE)), which rips her skin off like paper. She turns into a crazy-looking humanoid flower and promises to hurt a lot of the villagers staring at her in horror.

Summary: Lots of really good artwork and combat sequences, making for a fast read. I'm getting uncomfortable with the increasingly homoerotic S&M bondage poses, though. However, I do like Hisa's spin on Japanese mythology, and the usage of known found haniwa. Recommended.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Girl's Day - Shiro




I realize that the sign says Girl's Day, with the Hime-chan doll display, was on March 3rd. But I didn't see this artwork in front of Shiro Hair Salon until yesterday.

Nice art.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Snow Oni




The announcement board of the school near City Hall had a new seasonally-themed art piece, this one for Setsubun (Feb. 3rd). Even the snow people have their demons.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Pepe




I met Pepe, and talked with him for a couple hours, back over a year ago. He's a nice guy who performs as a clown at Dolphin Port on various days, as well as around Kagoshima prefecture. I've seen him a few times since then at Dolphin Port, but always when he's in the middle of his act. There were a couple times I spotted him at Central Park, where he was practicing his juggling and I didn't want to interrupt him. I don't think he remembers me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Soulless




Found this bookbag at Junkudou bookstore. Uploaded the photo to Facebook, where a few of my friends just ragged on the extra space between "my" and "tote." I was just wondering what would happen if you used it to carry around a Kindle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Nanasi Cat




One night, I was walking back from Tenmonkan past The Bar Has No Name, when I discovered that the advertising sandwich board had been stored in a well-lit walkway, giving me the opportunity to take a better shot of the cat.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Small Adventure 74


I was walking from Amu Plaza to Tenmonkan when I got to the Takamibaba intersection. I had to jog around the corner a few yards to get to the crosswalk to get past the streetcar platforms. As I was making that jog, just past the Family Mart konbini, I noticed a pinkish clear plastic pencil case lying on the sidewalk. Getting a little closer, I realized that it held paper money. I looked around to see if anyone nearby had dropped it, but there was no one in the immediate area. I didn't open the case, so I couldn't tell exactly how much was in it, but a quick estimate made it maybe 4,000 or 5,000 yen ($40-$50 USD), if all it contained were 1,000 yen notes. If there were 10,000 yen notes in the middle of the stack, it could have been as much as $220, maybe.

The general practice in Japan is to turn over found money and wallets to the nearest koban (police box), but the closest one was half a mile away. Instead, I figured I'd try talking to one of the clerks in the Family Mart, which was much closer. The clerk I found inside looked puzzled, but did accept the pencil case. Then, he noticed that along with the money was a receipt for a purchase at his shop, and he said he'd take care of it. Seeing the Fami-Mart receipt, I decided that whoever had dropped the case would try backtracking their steps, and yeah, would try coming back to this konbini.

So I go back outside and a couple seconds later, just past where I found the money, I noticed a small black object that looked like a glasses case. Inside that were a pair of glasses, and what could have been a cigarette lighter or an asthma inhaler. Thinking that whoever had dropped this stuff must have been an extremely helpless, clumsy old woman, I picked up this case and dropped into the konbini again. This time, the clerk was just coming around the aisle, with a middle-aged housewife in tow. When I held up the glasses case to say that I'd found something else, the woman announced, "That's mine, too!" She grabbed the case from me with a "thanks" and quickly turned around to resume her shopping.

I had shopping of my own to do at Donkey, several blocks farther away, so I didn't really dwell on the fact that the woman could have acted a lot more grateful than she'd had. But, the question in the back of my mind remained - "Is it altruism if there's a 90% chance that someone's watching to punish you if keep the money?"

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Uniform Preorder Days




The space in front of the Yamakataya department store was set up to handle the crush of parents trying to get tailored school uniforms for their children entering school for the new academic year. Preorders were taken during the entire weekend.



With a government-ordered 2-week closure of all schools due to Covid-19, and a cancellation of graduation and school entrance activities, plus the postponement of new employee welcoming ceremonies at companies country-wide, Yamakataya may have over-estimated the demand for their services. Abe's 10% sales tax increase in October has been depressing shopping behaviors, too.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Keep Out




The noodle restaurant on the 6th floor of Maruya Gardens has an interesting way of telling you that some items are not on the menu...

Friday, March 13, 2020

I Feel Young Today

Direct youtube link


Back in 1987, I was trying to break into standup comedy, and I spent a lot of time with a few other young comics that were working the same clubs as me. One day, one of them announced that he'd heard that musician Peter Himmelman was going to be shooting a music video at a bar and live stage club in downtown Minneapolis, and there was an open call for extras to play the audience. We all had that day free, and there was kind of a hope that this might give one of us some kind of a break or something. At a minimum, we'd get a free copy of Himmelman's new CD, Gematria, and the food was supposed to be catered. So, yeah, I was in the crowd for an entire day as the director shot, and reshot scene after scene for the song, I Feel Young Today. This was in the middle of the winter, and the very last part of the shooting involved standing outside in line in front of the bar in sub-zero temperatures for 15-20 minutes. I've always liked the cold, so that part didn't bother me.

The years went by, and I always wondered how the video turned out, because I never saw it when it was supposed to air on MTV. A couple years back, I wrote to Peter, asking about it, and he replied back that he remembered that video shoot, and that the song was on youtube. He added that he hoped I'd find myself in the video somewhere. I tracked down the video, and, nope, I'm not in it. In fact, there's very little of the crowd in the entire thing, and I was standing at the end of the line at the front of the bar, where the camera pulled away just before getting to me (to avoid showing just how short it really was). Time passes again, and I forgot the name of the song again. This evening, just before I started writing this entry, I decided that I wanted to include the link to the video in my records, so I tracked it down again and rewatched it. It still depresses me that after something like 10 hours in the bar, jumping up and down during shots, and then standing around waiting for the director to figure out what he wanted next, that nothing directly related to me ever came out of it. But, I did manage to cram my face with free food before anyone else could get to it, and that did make it all worthwhile.

1987, when people had big hair.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Baby Keeper




I guess this is what happens to bee keepers that decide to start their own families.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Bear, Rabbit Chipmunk




Illumination display in the water pond in front of Dolphin Port.



In answer to, "Name three animals that can no longer be found in Japan."

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Let's Feel All About Kagoshima




New advertising banner for the March Kagoshima Marathon.
Kagoshima has all the feels.
Shame the marathon got canceled because of the coronavirus.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Moon 20200202




The sky was clear for a few minutes one night.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hall Travelers




Spotted this moving truck at the loading dock of Houzan Hall, the big music hall and stage building next to Central Park. I tried checking the announcements board at the front of the building to find out what Hige Dandism is, but there was nothing. The wiki page says that Higedan is a J-pop group.



I just liked the art at the back of the truck.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Wicky Otayori Poster




New artwork for the otaku anisong event at Wicky's House.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Coffee 1 Woman




There are offices for an internet provider up near the main train station. Recently, I noticed signs in the windows of the second floor indicating there may be a coffee shop of some kind in the building. Maybe it's a service for new customers waiting to have their application paperwork approved.



"Juuden@cafe" (Seems to be a charging station.)



Anyway, the coffee is 1 woman. I don't know if this is cheap or not because I don't know the current exchange rate for women. I don't carry any of them in my wallet, normally.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Hokuto no Ken Shochu




Found at Donkey in Tenmonkan. I don't think I've seen this in Kagoshima before. I remember reading a newspaper article announcing the tie-up with a distillery in Saga prefecture and Hokuto no Ken, but I can't find it online anymore. I may have to consider getting a bottle, but I think they're something like $30 a piece, which is on the high side (I can get 1.8 liter cartons of regular shochu for 1400 yen, and I'm satisfied with that).

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Webmoney




Or charge your e-wallet with Webmoney. I don't recognize the character designs. Seems to be related to a Korean manhwa series, Ragnarok


Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Google Pay Cards




Along with the Loppi ticket system, you can buy Google Play cards for use with Google's online games (I guess, I don't participate in these kinds of things myself).



Play RPGs on your phone without actually using your phone to make the payments.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Loppi




All Japanese konbini have electronic pre-pay/ticket ordering machines. 7-11's used to be called Loppi, but I don't see the name now, so I can't be sure that it hasn't been changed. You can buy prepaid phone service numbers here, or advance purchase event and concert tickets.



I was just interested to see that the girl's monthly Ribon magazine has a 2.5 million Ribon Girls event coming up. If you like the Ribon manga series.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Bright Chalk - Madonna




It's been months since Bright changed its chalk art sign. Looks like it just happened a day or two prior to the photo. Very nice, clear colors this time, although Madonna's face is a bit off...

Saturday, February 29, 2020

C.M.B. volume 43 review


(All rights belong to their owners.
Image from Amazon used here for review purposes only.)

C.M.B., vol. 43, by Katou Motohiro. Grade: B
We're back with 4 stand-alone chapters.

Ki no Awanai Yatsu (Incompatible Guy, Monthly Shonen Magajin 9, 2019)
The story starts out with a bit of history regarding the Kurds in Iraq. It then switches to an archeological dig 50 km out in the desert, run by Professor Tarheru (Tarheel?). The professor has invited Shinra to the dig to see the work in progress, but his primary apprentice, the young Kurd Mulato, is miffed at having to share the professor's attention. He angrily stomps into his tent, and runs into a young Kurdish woman named Salumar. Salumar is currently trying to escape Iraq and avoid being the victim of an honor killing. Her parents had escaped Iraq to live in France, where Salumar was born. When she was 9, her father died in a construction site accident, and her mother had to raise her on her own. Her uncle, Kashim, agreed to take her into his own family, and for a while everything was ok. Then, about 6 months ago, her mother called to say that she was having trouble staying in France, and Kashim decided to marry the girl off in an arranged marriage to a relative. Salumar ran away to try to find some way to get to France, but in doing so, has embarrassed her uncle, and his only choice is to have her killed to restore his honor.

Tatsuki tries to work with the French Embassy in Iraq to get their cooperation, but the clerk there can't do anything unless the girl can show her passport and ID card at the main airport. If she does that, he can arrange for air tickets out. Unfortunately, Kashim confiscated the passport and ID card and locked them away somewhere. Mulato keeps trying to talk Salumar into going back to her uncle, begging forgiveness, and accepting her fate, and acting confused when she refuses to do this. In the end, Shinra and Tatsuki decide to get Salumar to the airport anyway to try and bluff their way through customs. Mulato goes to Kashim's house and rats on them. Kashim and his male cousins race to the airport, spot the girl, and prepare to kill her when they get the chance.

Questions: Why is Shinra's plan so poorly thought-out this time? Will Salumar get out of this alive?
Natural History: Just a little background on Kurdish history and honor killings.
Payment: Nothing mentioned.

--- Spoilers ---

Mulato is willing to work with Shinra when they have shared goals. He tricks Kashim into showing where he'd stashed the girl's passport and ID (behind a painting), and gets the uncle and relatives to follow the wrong car. When the jilted groom-to-be sees the girl getting stuck at the ticket widow for not having a passport, he lunges forward to stab her in the back. Of course, it turns out to be Tatsuki dressed up as Salumar, and she throws her attacker to the ground and demands to know what crime this is. Meanwhile, Mulato is in a different taxi with Salumar, and they reach the U.S. Air Force base, where a black female soldier welcomes the girl to safety.


Toumei Zakana (Transparent Fish, Monthly Shonen Magajin 10, 2019)
In New York, at the Alan and Ellie Art Museum, there's been a break-in and assault on the co-founder, Alan. He's put into a hospital, and Shinra is called in to help Ellie and the museum guards figure out what happened. The museum is currently running an exhibit on climate change, and some nutjob is apparently trying to have it shut down (they received a letter earlier threatening to kill everyone associated with the exhibit). There's only one entrance into the museum, and that's across a small bridge over a reflecting pond-like moat, and the security cameras didn't record anyone coming in that way. Just before the attack, one of the displays, a stack of Earth globes, was knocked over with a crash, and a different painting was set on fire. There were three guards in the main exhibit room at the time, and no one could have gotten past them while they were putting out the fire to get to the back rooms to attack Alan near his office. Tatsuki, Ellie and the guards run through all the possible scenarios and come up blank.

Questions: Is there an attacker? Or, is this the work of a ghost? How did the assailant get past the cameras and guards unseen? What does Shinra's comments about ghost fish relate to?
Natural History: Just talking about the camouflage techniques of the ghost fish.
Payment: None mentioned.

--- Spoilers ---

There's an aquarium in the museum with a bunch of translucent fish. For normal sea fish, the backs are darker and the underbellies are lighter. In this way, predator birds have difficulty spotting normal fish from the air because their backs blend into the color of the water. And predator fish coming in from below lose their prey with the lighter stomachs blending in with the sky above. Shinra states that the villain came in dressed as a workman carrying a large sheet mirror. The mirror reflected the bridgework back at the camera, making him appear invisible on playback. Then, inside the museum, he turned the mirror around so that the back would blend in with the interior walls of the room. He used the globe display and burned painting as distractions to get past the guards, and broke the mirror up and hid the pieces in with the wreckage from the painting frame to dispose of it before escaping through the storage area back exit. The FBI does catch the guy, but he claims innocence. Shinra tells them to check the his sneaker soles for glass fragments.

The reason why Shinra helps Ellie this time is because of the importance of the freedom of speech in the arts, which he sees being threatened in his own museum. (This story may be in reaction to the public response to a comfort woman statue that appeared in an art exhibit in Aichi, in 2019.)


Haisha (Dentist, Monthly Shonen Magajin 11, 2019)
Tsuneya Kozumi is an unemployed system engineer going into a dentist's office to get a cavity filled. In the waiting room are: a high school girl talking on her smartphone; an old woman with her granddaughter looking at a picture book, and Shinra. Tsuneya gets called into the operating room, has his tooth filled, returns to the lobby to pay his bill, then heads back outside, where he is surrounded by mist. When he comes to, he's back in the dentist's office lobby. He wakes up in a shock, and everything repeats. After several groundhog day loops, he starts to panic, so he asks the school girl next to him if she's noticed anything weird going on, adding that he thinks he's in a "time leap". She gets angry and calls the police. They haul him away and he wakes up in the lobby again. He tries asking the grandmother, and the same thing happens. Cautiously, he tries asking Shrinra for help, and the boy says, "yeah, so?" Shinra's first suggestion is that there's been a break in the timeline. His second is that maybe there's something impeding his future. And so on (each time, Shinra forgets his previous advice). Finally, the boy asks if there's another exit. Maybe there's a hint in the lobby that he's overlooked.

Questions: What's going on? Is Tsuneya another killer with amnesia which will be revealed at the end? Is Shinra the one messing with him? If not, what are the hints, and what needs to be set right? Is this even about Tsuneya at all?
Natural History: Nothing.
Payment: None:

--- Spoilers ---

Eventually, Tsuneya realizes that the high school girl's phone ringtone matches that of his old girlfriend. The little girl has a beauty mark on her cheek right where his girlfriend's was. The teddybear on a back shelf is like the one his girlfriend used to love, and the next dental appointment would be on her birthday. Turns out that some months ago, Tsuneya had been in the middle of a really difficult programming job, and it was affecting his health. When his girlfriend tried to get him to go to an onsen with her, he went into a rage and broke up with her. A little later, he collapsed at his desk at work, had to be taken to a hospital, and lost his job. Tsuneya then tries to collect all the clues to try to see the woman again. After scheduling his next appointment for 2 days after the original date, he goes outside the building, and rather than being engulfed in mist again, his phone rings. The little girl in the office thanks the old woman that had been talking to her, and runs outside. In truth, the entire story revolved around the girl, who never would have been born if her parents hadn't gotten married. She runs to Tsuneya and the former girlfriend, now his wife, and both of them are looking several years older. She grabs their hands and they walk into the mist together. Shinra stands outside the door, wondering what had just been going on.


Kameo Gurasu (Cameo Glass,  Monthly Shonen Magajin 12, 2019)
In London, an old man named Morgan Alburn is sitting in his house, looking at a strange lamp. A Greek bowl is placed upside down on the shoulder of a female statue, which is standing on an inverted bowl for a base. In the statue's other hand is a light bulb. He says that this is really unusual, and asks himself if he can use this. Over in Japan, Shinra and Tatsuki are walking in the school hallways with their classmates. The other kids are trying to find a venue for their Christmas party, and they decide to hold it in Shinra's museum. The boy is less than happy about this, in part because of the possibility that some of his exhibits may be damaged. The money for the party isn't an issue because he can always get what he needs by drawing on the power of his C.M.B. rings. At this point, Mou Segirl drops by. She says that she'd been visited by this guy named Alburn, who'd given her this sad-sack sob story about needing to sell a weird antique to raise money for his wife's heart bypass surgery. He showed her a photo of the lamp, and said he'd sell it to her for 10,000 pounds. Mou wants Shinra to go with her to evaluate the lamp in person and tell her if the Greek bowl is authentic. If it is, she can turn around and sell it for 100,000 pounds.

Shinra and Tatsuki dislike Mou's intent to defraud a desperate old man out of his money, but Mou offers to tell the boy something that will turn his life around, so the three of them fly to London. There, Alburn pulls the lamp statue out of a very elaborate metal case, and both Shinra and Mou determine the bowl to be the real thing. It had probably been used by someone who didn't know its real value to cobble together the lamp from scrap. Mou offers the guy the 10,000 pounds, but he starts to cry and says that after approaching her, he returned to the hospital where his wife revealed that the lamp was really just junk and that they shouldn't take advantage of Mou this way. He returns the lamp to the case and prepares to leave. Mou demands to give him 3,000 pounds anyway just for the surgery, and that she'll take the thing off his hands. Alburn produces papers handing ownership of the lamp over to her, with a clause stating that she agrees not to complain if it turns out the components of the lamp really are worthless. Mou signs the contract, Alburn gets his 3,000 pounds, Mou gets the lamp, and everyone goes their separate ways.

Questions: Is the lamp real or not? If not, what can Mou do, and can she get her money back? Is 3,000 pounds really enough to pay for Mrs. Auburn's heart surgery? Does she die before she can be saved?
Natural History: Just a bit of background on the value of Greek bowls, and the occasional practice of using antiques to make kitsch art.
Payment: Shinra gets told a secret.

--- Spoilers ---

Mou takes her lamp to a testing lab, where she's told that it's a fake. All of the components in the statue, base and shade were made recently. Back in England, Alburn and his wife are cackling evilly over their success at tricking the Queen of the Blackmarket trade. They'll now be known as the Pair that Pulled a Fast One Over Mou, and they'll be able to open up shop on the blackmarket themselves and command top dollar for the inventory they've amassed. Workmen are currently boxing everything up in the house to be moved to a warehouse prior to starting up their new business endeavor. Suddenly, Mou and two henchmen appear at the top of a stack of crates, having overheard the confession. At the time of the deal, Shinra had commented on the quality of the carry case, and had taken that opportunity to slip a homing beacon inside it. The case was actually a standard magician's trick, with space for holding two lamps, and two doors - one that opens when the case is turned upside down. Mou had been shown the real lamp, but had then been given the fake one. Shinra and Tatsuki are crouched off to the side of the room, watching this. The boy had used the beacon to track the case to Alburn's house. Because the guards are armed with submachine guns, Mou has the upper hand. She tells the two would-be traders that she'll generously buy everything they have for half-price. Later, at a pub, Shinra demands to receive the information Mou offered for payment. She tells him that there's talk on the grapevine that someone is trying to get the C.M.B. rings from him.

Summary: None of the stories really stand out. Incompatible Guy is kind of irritating because Mulato acts like a spoiled brat, and the entire subject of honor killings is treated superficially. Plus, the ending trick was telegraphed too obviously. Motohiro has used mirrors and reflective surfaces several times before, so that trick was also telegraphed in Transparent Fish. He's also employed the "villain as protagonist in a dream" trick a few times. The only thing interesting with Dentist was in the reveal for whose dream it really was. And Cameo Glass was a run-of-the-mill whodunnit. I knew the case was gimmicked, I just didn't know the specifics of the design. The reveal that someone is after the C.M.B. rings kind of fell flat because that was one of the sub-arcs back when the series first started. However, the back splash page advertising book 44 announces that this will be a 4-chapter arc, and the artwork shows six new characters, a flashback page to three of Shinra's "fathers" from the British Royal Museum, and the title "C.M.B. Satsujin Jiken" (C.M.B. Murder Incident). So, maybe we'll get more background on the three previous holders of the rings, and how Shinra had been raised. Recommended if you like the series.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Small Adventure 73

Nothing over-reacts like a panicked Japanese. Because of coronavirus fears, the Tokyo marathon is being scaled back to eliminate general public participation and only allow elite runners. The Kagoshima marathon at the beginning of March was fully canceled. The Ramen-Oh contest to see which restaurants have the best ramen, held in front of Dolphin Port Feb. 22-23, was canceled. The 20 km Ryouma Honeymoon Walk in Kirishima (just north of Kagoshima) March 21-22 hasn't been canceled yet, but the homepage has a list of health precautions the organizers are taking (everyone wears masks, and there will be hand sanitizers wherever anyone gathers).

Less than 40% of Japanese polled are interested in attending the Tokyo Olympics events, and "#justcancelit" is trending on Twitter. The government has ordered schools to close for the next 2 weeks, which is making the parents of 2-income families mad because they can't find daycare options for their kids. There's a news story in the Japan Times today that panicked hording of Chinese-made tissue and toilet paper has resulted in shortages in several cities, which includes here in Kagoshima. I went to Donkey last night and all the shelves had been emptied.

The English school I work at is small, so there hasn't been pressure to close yet, but I don't get paid if I don't work. And, the owner has put in a table for hand sanitizer, which is new.

We'll see what else gets canceled in the next few weeks. Sigh.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Tege Tege Highschool, Feb. 23




I wrote up this long description of what I did on Sunday, and how I discovered the MBC Broadcasting company's Tege Tege Highschool live event at Amu Plaza, and then I accidentally overwrote the file. Now I have to write this all over again, and I don't really feel like it.



Anyway, I went to Amu on Saturday after the Ramen Oh event at Dolphin Port got canceled, and arrived at Amu a little after 5:30 PM. Everything was already buttoned up, so it was looking like Tege Tege had been canceled as well. The sign above gives instructions for combating the coronavirus. "Be safe to enjoy! No health, no fun!"



However, when I returned on Sunday at 2 PM, it was back in more-or-less full swing, with a lot of people wearing face masks. The promenade area had activities for kids, and examples of club demonstrations. The main plaza area had the live stage and a general "no cameras" rule. Most of the stage stuff consisted of MBC personalities joking with the audience, some dance studio performances, a couple manzai comedy duos, and a little professional live music,



One of the boating clubs ran a sculling and kayaking simulator demo.



An arts group let people make their own bubble aquariums with fake fish.



A technical high school put together a Minions-based electrical maze game.





One of the MBC personalities. He was the one at the food city market in the Dolphin Port parking lot a couple weeks ago.



High school science team putting on a smoke ring box demo.
After a little while, I went into Amu and sat in Seattle's Best Coffee for an hour reading C.M.B. and Q.E.D. manga. Then I went home and played on the computer for the rest of the day. Overall, not an exciting weekend.