Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A break from blogging

It looks like I won’t be able to update my blog for at least another week or two. I am going to be outside Japan (in fact I will be home, in Cyprus for about two weeks) during that time. I will be sure to post pictures and update the blog as soon as I get a chance though, I promise :)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Security and Safety Expo 2009 at Tokyo Big Sight

Today I made the trip to Odaiba (well, more specifically Kokusai-Tenjijo) to attend the Security and Safety Expo (Riscon 2009) today. From robots to  signaling equipment to hazmat suits, there was something for everyone  but I was most impressed by the Tokyo Fire Rescue team who showed off both a rescue robot and more importantly, let ordinary people be "firefighters” but I get ahead of myself so let me try to make this more interesting and do it in a “album” kind of way again.

You can see the album here. I also uploaded two movies I made of the demonstrations I watched. I am embedding them below:


Sunday, October 18, 2009

The “Japanese Wedding” Protocol – the invitations

P8140374 Even though a lot of things about Japanese weddings may have changed over the years (and I will talk about these in more detail later) one thing stayed the same – there is a very well defined protocol in inviting and accepting (or rejecting) the invitation. If someone invites you to a Japanese wedding they will not just hand you an invitation – no, no… They will give you a little packet containing  the marriage ceremony details, invitation to a part (or multiple parts) of the ceremony such as the chapel (the trend these days), the dinner, and one of the after parties (yes there are multiple usually) and a postcard for RSVP. It is this postcard that I want to focus on…


What’s so special about RSVP you might say and I must admit it is rather similar to an RSVP card in the US but there is one little procedure one needs to follow which I think reflects the Japanese culture’s many aspects. See, there are some not-so-out of ordinary fields such as the name, address, and a message for the couple. The really interesting part is where you are supposed to circle a phrase signifying whether or not you will attend. The two phrases, 出席 (will attend) and 欠席 (will be absent) both start with the honorific “ご”. In English one can think of this as an RSVP card which has a phrase like “I will honor the party” and in Japanese it is pretty normal since it is the owner of the party referring to the presence of the invited. However, since it would be rude for the accepting/rejecting person to use this phrase for himself/herself when returning the RSVP, one is expected to cross out the “ご”.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

L versus R strikes again in Japanese English

Unfortunately these keep showing up. One would think a spell-checker would pick up most of these but they are still there… The first one is from the supermarket. It used to be wrapped around an apple. The second one is from a restaurant’s menu by a lake near Mount Fuji. Spot the problem? I don’t know if it is overcompensation in this case but this is something that happens much more rarely – an L for an R… Of course this one would not be caught by a simple spell-checker but something a bit smarter which aims to find L <-> R substitutions could pick it up.

Ah the researcher in me is flaring up again :P



Monday, October 12, 2009

A faster way to get to the Narita Airport – NEX version 2


A pretty late (though still hopefully useful) piece of information for those out there who are going to travel to/from the Narita Airport in Tokyo (成田空港) – it looks like Japan Railways has a new, faster version of its Narita Express. Narita Express is one of the cheapest (though definitely not the cheapest – that honor belongs to the busses running to and from the airport) and quickest ways to get to the airport. This new train, comes with a bunch of new perks. According to the Mainichi Daily News:

  • There is an active vibration control system which makes for a smoother ride
  • All seats have power sockets for passenger’s use
  • There are new security features such as cameras, dial locks for luggage space, etc.

Interestingly, both trains share the same top speed. You can find pictures of the actual train, as well as some videos on Shibuya246’s page here. It definitely looks like an impressive piece of equipment. This new train, which has the model number E259, is replacing the older, E253 model. According to Wikipedia, so far only 10 of the 26 N’EX services are so far using the newer model. It will not be before June 2010 that all of the older models are replaced.

On somewhat related news, from the same Mainichi story, it looks like there will be a new train line for getting to Narita, called “Narita New Rapid Line” which will be run by the Keisei Electric Railway Co. Competition is always good so I am looking forward to hearing more about this new line which should open to service in the Spring of 2010.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

When recycling gets picky in Mitaka


I have been a big fan of recycling since moving to Japan and even though things could get a bit inconvenient at times due to only certain types of garbage being picked up on a given day I thought it was still worth it. After all, it is very important to recycle…

Very recently thought something interesting happened. Instead of letting us put our garbage in our own garbage bags, which let us recycle all the extra plastic bags we got from supermarkets and other stores, we are now required to put both burnable and non-burnable garbage in special Mitaka City bags which the city sells at supermarkets. Garbage put out in other types of bags are simply not picked up with this purple “Attention” message pasted on the bag. The “official” garbage bags themselves do have 2 sentences in English (and Chinese, Korean and a few other languages) on them but this purple piece of paper does not.

I wonder if other cities have started doing something similar and what the “official” reason is for using these bags.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A wedding in Yokohama


I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend’s wedding which took place yesterday in Yokohama. It was my first “Japanese wedding” though just like most other young people these days, the wedding was “western style”. It took place at a hotel in Yokohama, with an initial section taking place at a chapel. These “hotel weddings” have become the trend among the young Japanese, who enjoy the chapel/church setting even though they themselves are not Christians.

Attending a wedding ceremony, just like many other cultural “concepts”, is a ceremony itself, based on very strict rules dating back hundreds of years. There is so much to write, both about the rules and the wedding itself but I am really busy these days with studying for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and working at the office so I guess these will wait for now…