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."

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Green Stylish Laundry

Coin Laundry Green.

"because every laundry is different
The Electrolax Group.The world's No.1 choise.
The Electrolax Group is the world's largest of powered appliances for
kitchen,cleaning and outdoor use.More than 55 million Electrolux Group products
(such as refrigerators,cookers,washing machines,vacuum cleaners,chain saws
and lawn mowers)are sold each year to a value of approx.
USD 14 billion in more than 150 countries around the world."

Maybe they include spellcheck in the chain saws...

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Potato Chalk

A few blocks from my apartment, in a neighborhood I don't normally visit, there's a little mom-and-pop grocery story that often has amazing chalk art advertising various produce, although it doesn't change up much. This time, they have a bag of Japanese sweet potatoes (Satsuma imo).

Monday, November 9, 2020

River Cats

River cats just want to have fun.

With a bun.

In the sun.

On the run.

We done?

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Chained Minion

One day, I was walking along the Kotsuki river, when I found a lost keychain figure lying at the base of a bridge barrier wall.

A broken-footed, broken chain Minion. I hesitated to approach it to take a photo...

The reason I hesitated was that there were well over 100 sparrows sitting on the power lines directly overhead. After the city decided to cut down all of the trees that had been growing along streetcar street, they no longer have normal places to roost.

Every 10-15 seconds, there were soft "plop" sounds along the sidewalk. I took my photos and left as fast as I could. Bye-bye Minion.

Saturday, November 7, 2020


Built for comfort, not for...
Not really sure what it's built for.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Power Line Testing

If you've ever wondered how countries with electric street cars check their power lines to make sure they're not sagging dangerously...

Well, this is how it's done in Japan. With a long measuring stick.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Dokin-chan Eye-Power Up

I found this chalk board in front of a beauty salon, featuring Dokin-chan from the children's anime, Anpanman. "Koi suru otome me chikara up" - "Boosting the eye power of maidens in love." 

In other words, making you prettier to appeal to the object of your affection. Or not...

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Sakurajima Eruption, Nov. 3

Walking in to the school this afternoon, I was greeted by this burp of ash and steam.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Ohara Matsuri, 2020

I'd been surprised when about one month ago I started seeing posters advertising the big Ohara dance festival, slated for Nov. 3rd. I wasn't expecting the city to allow something that traditionally packed a lot of people into a small space along Streetcar Street in Tenmonkan. I was looking forward to seeing what Covid-19 Ohara would be like, but I had no intention of risking my health just 3 weeks after eye surgery. (Just as a reminder, Ohara is a local event, where companies have their employees dress up in some way, and then do traditional Japanese dances in a short 4-block loop along Streetcar Street to traditional koto and bell music. During the breaks, everyone runs to get cups of watered down shochu. That's on the first night. The next morning, the dancers are limited to children, school groups and marching bands.)

This year, Nov. 3rd was a national holiday - Culture Day. I had to work in the evening, and I figured that it'd be right in the middle of the first night of Ohara. The student was going to be driving from out of town, and traffic and parking would be bad, so the school and I agreed to have the lesson from 4 to 5 PM.

This morning (as I write this Tuesday night) I'd just gotten up at 10:30, when a series of "booms" went off outside. Fireworks are traditionally used to mark the start of big events, so I was a bit concerned. As I was getting ready to go outside at 12:30 PM, there was another series of booms, which I was afraid meant that everything was over already. I got through email and all the other stuff I do at the start of the day and headed to Tenmonkan. The streets were open to traffic, and there were a couple food tables set up along the sidewalk selling candied apples and candy. I had to walk 6 blocks into Tenmonkan before I found an advertising poster, which confirmed the worst - Ohara had been dropped down from one evening and one morning, to 2 hours that morning, from 10:30 to 12:30. When I walked back, the food tables were packing up and leaving.

Not sure if I really missed anything, though. When I did get into the school for the class at 4 PM, the owner told me that the city had really shrunk the festival, and that there may not have been much in the way of participants at all. Even so - sigh.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Spider, 103020

Last year, there was a fairly wicked-looking spider that had spun its web along the top of the bushes lining a park near the apartment. I've been looking in the same area this year for the last two months, and haven't been able to find any of its offspring. Then, a few days ago, I was down at the volunteer center at the other end of Tenmonkan, and found this beauty in the bushes at the edge of the property. The camera absolutely refused to focus right, and I took close to twenty shots, completely unable to tell where the thing was pointing. When I got home, I found that one of the pictures actually came out about right.

Sunday, November 1, 2020


 I had to work pretty much all day on Saturday. I didn't see anything interesting on the way through Temonkan in to the school at 12:30 PM. I got to the school at 1:20 PM, and the lesson started at 1:30. Close to 2 PM, we were suddenly bombarded by the extremely loud sounds of a taiko (Japanese drum) group. Neither the student nor I had any idea of why there'd be taiko this early. We thought that maybe it might be something connected to Ohara Matsuri on Nov. 3rd, but that didn't make any sense. The drumming continued on for another 30 minutes, with short breaks between songs. When my lesson ended, I ran outside to see what I could find. 

There was nothing on the streetcar street running in front of the school and City Hall, and nothing in the boulevard park running from City Hall down to the bay. The drumming had stopped for another break, and I had nothing to work with. Then it started up again, so I followed it to the parking garage beside City Hall. There, in the basement level of the garage were about 20 people in street clothes playing a bunch of drums. I only had a couple minutes before my next lesson started, so I went back into the school rather than trying to take photos or asking someone what they were doing. I assume that they were practicing for Ohara. The noise ended about half an hour later.

I had a longer break between lessons from 3:30 to 5:10 PM, so I went to Tully's coffee shop in Tenmonkan, about a 5 minute walk from the school. I didn't see anything Halloween-related  during that time. Instead, I just sat in Tully's, reading SpyxFamily. It's a silly manga about a spy in a fictional European city that has to get close to a target, Donovan Desmond, from a fictional eastern European city to assassinate him. The job requires putting together a fake family, where the child enters an elite elementary school that the target's son will be enrolling at. The "hero", Loid Folger, rents a young girl (Ania) from an orphanage, then gets into an agreement with a young woman, Yol (Yol needs a date for a party on a Saturday night, in exchange she'll pretend to be Loid's wife and Ania's step mother for a few weeks). What Loid doesn't know is that Yol is a top-notch assassin, and Ania was created by the government as an ESPer (she can read minds). For the first two books, SxF is a sitcom as Loid and "family" stumble through their mission to approach Desmond.

Actually, there was a bit more interesting happening Friday night. I had a class from 7-8 PM. When I got out, I saw a couple people in amateurish zombie make-up returning from a Konbini carrying bags of snacks and entering a side door of a bank. I assume there was a company party that night. And, when I got into Tenmonkan at the main walkway, a group of 20 or so people in costumes (monsters, superheros, etc.) were walking along holding trash bags and tongs. A few of them attempted to pick up cigarette butts from the sidewalk with the tongs, but otherwise everyone was just talking and joking with each other. Nothing worth taking photos of, and I couldn't tell if this was a work crew put together by the City, or if they were employees of the area shops.

Back to Saturday, my classes ended at 9 PM. I walked along streetcar street, hoping to see cosplayers riding one of the streetcars, or drunk people in makeup coming out of a bar in the middle of Tenmonkan. But, nothing. However, at one intersection in the Tenmonkan complex, I ran into two very beautiful women wearing Chinese vampire outfits (bright red China girl dresses, batwing headbands, wigs and fangs). I was about to ask if I could take their picture, but they walked away in the opposite direction and it felt too awkward to try to follow them. (I did also see one guy, a westerner, but I have no idea from what country, absolutely massive, in a Thor costume with bulked up foam rubber arms, going into MOS Burger with his son. Again, I was going to ask to take a photo, but he got into MOS before I had the chance.)

About 4 years ago, Amu Plaza had a live music party the Saturday night before Halloween that was an absolute blast. The following year, they'd scaled back to just a DJ and a bunch of people in costumes. Two years ago, they had a few food booths and someone doing zombie makeup, but no real music. Last year, there was almost nothing Saturday night, and a children's trick or treat parade through the department stores Sunday morning. This year, Amu spent the Saturday putting up Christmas lights and their plastic light "tree." I went up to the main train station on Sunday, and the tree was finished, and the only other thing they had in the plaza were a couple tables selling jewelry and handcrafts. Sigh.

The only other Halloween news for Japan as a whole, according to the newspaper websites and some TV news stations, was that the number of cosplayers in Shibuya was way down from last year (there was a bit of disorderly conduct and vandalism last year that the government swore they'd crack down on). This year, the Shibuya district was flooded with cops in uniform. The Yomiuri paper (which is more conservative and ultra-nationalist) over-reported the numbers of revelers in cosplay, while the more centrist Japan Times, and left-leaning Asahi showed that the area was mostly deserted, except for office workers heading home, and police patrols. The Japan Times stated that the real Halloween costumed partyers were in other cities, where they were ignoring requests to stay home, and instead were packing into various bars (obviously, that wasn't happening in Kagoshima).

For me, just another boring night of boredom.