Thursday, December 31, 2020

Google Doodles, 2020, Part 2

I'm still collecting the links to the Google Doodle's that I find interesting, for science, math, Japan, animation, and game-related doodles. There haven't been as many that I like, though.

Julius Lothar Meyer's 190th Birthday

Celebrating Alexandre Dumas

Halloween 2020 Game

Benoit Mandelbrot's 96th Birthday

26th Anniversary of the Grotte Chauvet Discovery

Celebrating Winter 2020 and The Great Conjunction!

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Tenmonkan Crosswalk Cover

The city's been building this cover over the crosswalk at the east end of Tenmonkan for several weeks late at night. It's finally finished, but it makes no sense to me. It's too far up from the street, so any rain coming in at an angle is going to land on the pedestrians. It's not a crossover bridge, and you can't walk in or on it.

Be interesting to see how aerodynamic it is in the middle of the next major typhoon.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Bodies on the Ground

Close to a year ago, I was walking along a street when I heard a strange squealing. At the intersection, kitty-corner, was a building next to a small parking lot at the corner. The building housed a motorcycle shop, and farther down the street was a clinic that apparently specialized in senior care. At this time, one of the employees from the bike shop, and two women from the clinic were standing by the corner of the building, trying to figure out what to do next. A little behind them, about 3 feet from the sidewalk, was an old woman lying face down in the gutter that ran between the building and the parking lot. She might have been in her late fifties, or as old as her seventies. She had straggly short gray hair and spindly arms and legs. She wore a short dirty pink pajama top over an adult diaper, and no shoes or socks. Every time someone tried to get her to stand up and go back to the clinic, she'd start squealing and try to hide her head in the gutter again. I didn't stick around to find out what would happen at the end. When I returned to the area an hour later, everyone was gone and it looked to be back to normal.

Two years ago, I wrote Small Adventure 57, about an old man that apparently passed out on the sidewark near Amu Plaza. You can click on the link to read that story.

On Dec. 18, I was returning from Minami Kagoshima. As I got off the street car at the Takamibaba stop, I noticed a police car at the opposite side of the street. Near the front of the patrol car were two paramedics kneeling in the street and strapping an older guy into a stretcher. The older guy wasn't moving. A few feet farther along the street was a car parked with one wheel up on the curb. One of the police was directing traffic. Along the sidewalk, about 6 people stood around and just watched the action. I couldn't see any broken glass or blood, but a couple cops were interviewing someone and taking notes. I couldn't tell if the guy on the stretcher had been hit by the car, or if he'd been driving the car and blacked out or something.

Kagoshima. It's a strange place to be.

Monday, December 28, 2020


Maybe 8 years ago, I was kind of forced into listening to Japanese radio for reasons left unsaid. Every so often, there'd be an ad for something that sounded to me like "Julie-E." I asked a few people what "Julie-E" could be, and they had no idea what I was talking about. A few years later, when the ad came back on, I tried listening to the name as closely as I could, and suddenly it came out as "Churi-ii". Again, no one I asked knew what I was referring to.

Finally, in October, I was in the hospital recovering from eye surgery. I had a TV next to the bed, and when I got really bored, I'd turn it on. And then, there was this ad for the Zurich Insurance Group, promoting car insurance. And at the end, the jingle announced, "Churi-hii."

So, yeah. "Zoo-Rick" sounds exactly like "Chew-re Hee" in Japan. Go figure.

Sunday, December 27, 2020


It's been nearly 10 months since I last saw Pop+Sugar advertised for Anisong night at Wicky House. I've missed it. But, the cover is $20, and only includes 1 beer. I didn't miss it that much...

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Tenmonkan Christmas Market Comments

In past years, this space in front of the Yamakataya department store has hosted a little Santa's house, games, food stalls, live music and gift shopping. This year, all they have is a table for picking up Christmas cake pre-orders. This photo was taken on the 25th. Turnout looks pretty disappointing.

The sign nearby directs parents to "Santa Photo spots". No Santas, just children's drawings of him you can take your photo next to. It's been a pretty sad year all-around.

Friday, December 25, 2020

Fireworks, Dec. 22

Tuesday night, I was just preparing to go outside at 6:30 PM for a 7 PM lesson when I heard a lot of bangs outside. When I got out the door, I could see the fireworks going off up at the parking lot of the Shiroyama Hotel at the top of Shiroyama hill.

I'd gotten out a little late, and just had time to take a few photos as I was waiting for the elevator. At street level, my line of sight was blocked by apartment and office buildings, but I could hear all the booms speeding up. About 20-30 other people came out and gathered in the streets to watch the display. I was hoping that it would last another 10 minutes, when I'd get to Central Park and have a clearer view during my walk, but they did the last burst of everything and it was all over in maybe no more than 15 minutes total.

No idea what it was for, and no one else I talked to at the school mentioned it. Could have been for the start of the Japanese holidays period, or another tribute to hospital workers dealing with Covid. Either way, I just wish I could have watched a little more of it.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Vent Vert Santa Artwork

Santa in a sock.
"Ho ho ho."

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Post Santas

Box art in front of the main Post Office on the other side of Tenmonkan.
"Ho Ho Ho. You need more stamps."

Second post box dressed up as Santa. How does he get around so much?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Cie-na Christmas Candle Chalk

Cie-na is a small coffee shop up at Streetcar Street.
I like this chalk art on the sign on the sidewalk in front of their entrance. Especially the tiny Santa.

Monday, December 21, 2020

E-Sports, Dec. 20

The second half of the Tenmonkan Christmas Market event, on Sunday, was just an E-Sports demo. Not really sure if this was intended to promote a competition conference of some kind, or to get interest in online betting on sports video game tournaments. Either way, turnout was limited to no more than 20 spectators.

The two guys on stage took turns batting. I don't know if they also acted as pitchers, or if they were solely up against the computer. A few people in the audience were recording the game on camcorders, but I don't really know why. They also had competition video game rifle shooting, rowing and cycling (racing bikes on stands, with the course projected on wide screen TVs). Maybe it was the cold, but no one had any interest in playing anything except the target shooting game.

The two guys at the extreme right of the photo provided color commentary of the baseball game. Very silly.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Bon Deluxe Finally Live, Dec. 20

Amu Plaza has been doing a horrible job of holding live music in front of the main train station for the holidays over the last couple of years. This year, things were even more scaled-back because of the pandemic. They only had performances on a tiny, unlit stage on Sunday, Dec. 20th. The only group I had any interest in was my favorite Japanese Ska band, Bon DX. Even they were scaled-down, with just the three members: Bon on vocals and acoustic guitar, Sada on sax, and Riko, a new woman on hand drums (apparently she's a professional taiko drummer, and is going to move elsewhere soon to coach taiko professionally).

It was a fairly subdued set, running 40 minutes, but with none of the higher-energy songs that I really like.

Still, it was nice to see them again, after nearly a 1-year hiatus.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Nonki at the Tenmonkan Christmas Market, Dec. 19

I had to work on Saturday, and for various reasons I wasn't able to get out of the apartment until 2:30 PM (the first lesson started at 3 PM). I had to walk through Tenmonkan, and I arrived at the Tenmonkan Christmas Market stage in front of 7-11 (near Starbucks) just as Nonki was finishing his Ventures surf music medly. I only had 1 minute, and I hadn't known he was going to be playing that day. I grabbed a few quick shots, hoping some of them would turn out, and kept walking. I was close enough to the stage that he did recognize that I was there anyway, and he did a couple of vamp poses for me, that the camera wasn't quick enough to catch. Sigh. I'm not too dissatisfied with what I did get, though.

I didn't get out of the school until 7 PM, and everything was already over for the night. One sign did say that the market would run Sunday as well, but there was no stage schedule. I'll have to wait until tomorrow and head back to Tenmonkan around noon or 1 PM and see what's going on. Amu Plaza also has live music on Sunday, and Bon DX is supposed to play around 6 PM. It's a small, kind of enclosed area, and the department store is promoting social distancing, so I don't know what to expect. I may not be able to get close enough to the stage for photos. We'll see.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Ramen Stamp

I found this little guy lying in the street near Kotsuki river. I don't know who exactly this is supposed to be, but I suspect he's a rakugo comedian, shown here eating ramen. He's actually a rubberstamp - the underside has an image of his face. Someone probably got him from a capsule ball machine (gatchapon).

As I was trying to position him to show the stamp in the base, he escaped and tried to make a bid for freedom. And that's the last I saw of him.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Painless Dentist

You're not always given the choice, but when you are...

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Demon Dance

Been a long time since I've seen these guys. The red and blue demons were at the Christmas event at Amu Plaza last year. The green kappas are new. They were dancing around Tenmonkan in front of the Yamakataya department store Sunday afternoon.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Zodiac Cipher 340 Cracked After 51 Years

Youtube Direct Link, Part 1  

Youtube Direct Link, Part 2  

Youtube Direct Link, Part 3  

Youtube Direct Link, Part 4  

 Youtube Direct Link, Part 5

Friday, December 11, 2020

Covid Phones?

On Saturday, there was a small event in Tenmonkan. Some of it, at least, seemed to be promoting child safety.

The writing on the inflatable seems to be mostly copyright info.

The exhibit was made up of these stand cards. The one on the left lists emergency phone numbers. The one on the right talks about the Corona virus.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Design Poster

Not exactly sure what this is advertising. Found it in a display case up at Streetcar Street. I suspect it's an ad for a design company, and you're supposed to use your smartphone on the QR code to get more info at their website. Manga design is everywhere.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Cli Ni Calengi Neer

Ad up on Streetcar Street for a technical college. Points if you can read it.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Coffee Chalk Art

Found this chalk art outside a coffee shop up at Streetcar Street. 600 yen ($5.50 USD) for a cup of Vienna coffee. This is in keeping with prices at other sitdown cafes.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Shiro Santa Chalk

Hair Salon Shiro is finally back open after months of dormancy. Their Santa chalk art is positively dynamic. Claus is ripped for the new year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Real Menu

In Japan, "menu" refers to any kind of price list. So, what we have here is a "menu" for a beauty salon. Beyond this, I'm stumped. Is a digital perm something for curling the hairs on the back of your fingers? Or is this something that is just performed on your photo in Adobe?

And 10,500 yen ($100 USD) for a "real" is just "unreal."

Saturday, November 21, 2020


I have a science page over on Wordpress that I've used for close to 10 years for my Gakken science kit, math, Java, synth, and 3D puzzle kit blog posts. For the past 2.5 years, I've also been writing up my experiences in cryptography, and cipher solving.

Last month, I decided to start up a Patreon account based on these cipher articles, and I moved the cryptography articles over to a new Wordpress page called The Black Chamber. If you like the Crypto-Quip puzzles that show up in some newspapers, then I invite you to follow me at The Black Chamber.

If you don't like cryptograms, but you would like to see more Japan-related blog posts and/or videos here on Blogspot, I'd like to ask you to help support me and this page over at The Black Chamber patreon page. Either way, I am going to start making some cryptography-related videos that will eventually start showing up on youtube, and I'll announce them here when they're ready.



Sunday, November 15, 2020

Reducing food waste

The Japanese government, and the food industry here, occasionally makes big waves over the amount of food waste in the country, and they will spend part of a news cycle pretending to want to do something about it. Recently, this has surfaced on the radar again.

This time, in typical Japanese behavior, they have a typically Japanese solution - removing the days from "best used by" marks. The reasoning goes that consumers buy food and then don't use it. At some point, they look at the Best Used By date, see that the food is one or two days past the date, and then throw it away out of the fear that it's already spoiled, or won't taste good. So, by removing the day from the package, the argument is that those same consumers will be spurred by the uncertainty (is it still good or not?) into eating or using that food right then and there, rather than tossing it or putting it back on their shelves to throw it away later.

I'm wondering why the food manufacturers don't simply use the last day of the month for the Use By date. Maybe it's more about saving money by using a little less ink on each product...

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Trombone Chalk Art, Nov. 2020

New chalk art in front of the Trombone coffee shop in Tenmonkan.

"It's time for "Fall foods." Let's all eat lots of delicious things. We're waiting for you."