February 27, 2009

Koumpounophobia ... how on earth could I forget to mention this phobia

If you are afraid of buttons, or Neil Gaiman, you should not watch this video. You have been warned.


Dear Diary, part 2 My Aha moment...

Well, as it always, goes....had absolutely NOTHING to worry about.  Actually had FUN working.
I realized before going to work, that I have a phobia...phobias, to be exact.  I'm afraid of being late, and I'm afraid of making mistakes.  I didn't realize that it was so bad that I actually get heart palpitations! BUT, the realization, turned out to be the first step.  After acknowledging my fears, they acknowledged me too.  

Fears: So, you finally figured us out.
Me: Yeah, you've always been there?
Fears:  Since kindergarten.
Me: Hmpf.
Fears: ...

and that was it.  I didn't care anymore.  They might come back again, but I think I 'll be alright, since now I know what to look out for.  So, I'm thinking maybe I should make a journal (or blog) only about phobias...there might already be one out there!  I'm gonna go check!

OK, I checked...there were several...but they don't have ALL the phobias listed.  Some have more but others would have a different variety, etc.  My two BIG phobias, turned out to be :

fear of being late : ALLEGROPHOBIA
fear of making mistakes : Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Mistake Phobia ...they both sound wrong...will have to look harder, they sound like mistakes.
Atychiphobia: Fear of failure.
That sounds more like it, I suppose. But it still doesn't sound correct. Wow, I need help!

February 26, 2009

Dear Diary,

Aaaah, I have been on a "vacation" for several months.  Not that I didn't WANT to work.  I just couldn't FIND anything that I REALLY wanted to do.  I have been very lucky in the past with finding the right jobs at the right time. Very lucky.  I've met a few famous and MANY great people.  
Tomorrow, I have to work.  Well, I don't HAVE to, I could've said "no" and eaten away a little more of the tiny stash I have left... However, I said "yes" and now it is an obligation and for some reason, I am already stressed out.  It's a one day thing.  So I go in, do my "stuff" (translating) and I'm out... I used to look forward to this kind of job... Now, I dream of working at a desk like the one above... Ngh. (Not is a room from a museum in Kobe.)
When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I wanted to be a "muse".  I don't think I knew what the word meant, I just liked the sound of the word. Mmmmuuuuzzze.  A substitute teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I said "a muse!".   I remember her saying something like..."well, that's interesting, but that's not a job, you know."  I threw up after that.  A small Niagara Falls...
I feel like that now.  Over 30 years later, and I haven't changed a bit.
I will start working as a librarian's assistant from March...I hope that will get me a little closer to my dream job at a beautiful desk...fingers crossed!

addition:  my husband may have hit it on the nail...why do I always feel a little blue after I accept a translating job?  why don't I look forward to them?  
His answer: you have to hide "you" when you translate.  you like to say what's on your mind, and when you are a translator, what you think is not meant to be're probably not you when you translate.
I, have turned out to be a control freak.

February 23, 2009

Tulip Season (1)

Tulip season is sneaking up on us.  The bulbs that were planted over a month ago are gradually poking their way out of the earth!  Every year, I mean to 'document' their growth...and never do!  But this year, with this blog, it looks like I can make it happen!  The first photo, taken today seems to have my finger at the bottom...sorry 'bout that!

Nagasaki - part 2

                        The view from the inside out.
The Nagasaki City Library is a very nice, very NEW library.  They have a nice amount of fiction and non-fiction books on various genres.  (The books on the shelves looked kind of like what I have at home...which I thought was interesting, and a tad bit disturbing...)
They do need more English books on Nagasaki and Japan but of course, if you can read Japanese, there's tons of books to read on the history of Nagasaki.  

When I visited in December 2008, I spent about an hour or so reading about the REAL inspiration for Madame Butterfly...Tsuru Glover - the wife of Thomas Glover (from Scotland), one of the few foreign business men in Japan in the later 1800s.  Their former residence is also a wonderful place to visit while in Nagasaki.
The brand new library from the outside.

I can't say it enough...Nagasaki is an often overlooked place...please visit if you are ever in Kyushu!

February 21, 2009

Jeff Beck concert

I saw Jeff Beck in concert on Thursday night. He was, as always totally awesome. The ultimate guitar king... The whole band was great but OMG, his bass player was awesome too! She has a myspace site

I am going to try to write a more appropriate comment on the concert at the music flat when I have the time...
Just needed to mention, that it was a great concert...wish I could've seen the performance in Tokyo too. Jeff Beck played with Eric Clapton. Why does Tokyo always get to have all the fun?!

February 16, 2009

Hillary is here! with updated notes for Feb.17

Although it is nice to have the U.S. Secretary of State choose Japan as her first stop in Asia, I can not help but feel a little frustrated.  Not with the choice, but with the current Japanese government officials that she has to meet. 
Sleeping officials are not the most troublesome of worries we have in Japan. (Believe it or not, I actually feel sorry for the guy...)It was reported today that the GDP for Oct. to Dec of 2008 was at it's lowest, shrinking 12.7%

Last year at least 1,300 companies filed for bankruptcy in Japan.  (Among those companies was the nation's largest importer of foreign books and magazines.  )  However, there seems to be little to no sense of crisis in both the government party and opposition parties.  They are both very eager to find faults with each other instead of focusing on passing necessary bills.

Hopefully a little bit of Hillary Clinton will rub off on the government here...
I also hope that the talks she is planning to have with the families of abducted Japanese nationals by North Korea, will be fruitful. 

*The sleeping minister, Nakagawa, has resigned from his post.  The rumors are that he was drunk, not just sleepy.  Oh well, so much for my feeling sorry for the man.

*The last time Hillary was here it was 13 years ago as the First Lady.  She has asked Prime Minister Aso to come to the USA on February 24th.  If he goes, he will be the first foreign guest at the White House for President Aso...oh dear....

Murakami Haruki's speech at the Jerusalem Awards

Two of his books that I could find in my pile....I have no idea where I hid "Norwegian Woods".

It seems that Murakami-san had a hard time deciding whether he should be at the awards ceremony or not.  
His acceptance speech touched on the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a rare moment for a 
Japanese author to speak his mind while on an international podium.  I haven't heard or read his entire speech (have yet to find it) but from what I have heard so far on the radio, I agree with his line of thoughts...
There is an interesting website called The Black Ship with news on his acceptance speech etc.

His official English (Random House) website is at
They have not updated it on this subject at the time of this post...

Thanks to quadrillepad's blog, I have been able to read the full text of Murakami's speech..and you can too at:

February 15, 2009

Murakami Haruki wins an award...

Interesting... Murakami Haruki has won an award....and although I haven't read enough of his work to be an official fan, I thought I'd mention this.

You can get more information from this article,7340,L-3660005,00.html

I am going to have to be honest... I had not heard of the Jerusalem Award up until now.

The "neat" thing about this occasion is that Murakami-san is scheduled to receive it in person, something that he doesn't do very often.

Overseas, Murakami-san is a very popular author and of course in Japan too...however, not as much as you might think.  I have heard Japanese readers say that his novels are too "westernized" in presentation among other things.  I will reserve my opinion on this until I read more of his work.  I am trying to read both the Japanese originals as well as the translated versions so that I can give this a "fair" amount of thought.
But it must be nice to be honored by readers of different nationalities and cultures.  Murakami Haruki is one of the fine authors of Japan and deserves recognition inside and outside of Congratulations!

buying English books in Japan

I know there is Amazon and other great sites that you can buy your books online...but isn't it great to be able to walk into an English bookstore away from home?

The website for Random Walk Books in Kobe is up and running...not in English YET, but if you can read Japanese, plllleeeeaaaase check it out.  Let's support our one and only independent English bookstore in Kansai!  Oh, and no, I don't work there.  I do know the people that own the store...I am just a very enthusiastic book lover (that used to work in a book store) and I would like to help in any way I can!

February 14, 2009

My Valentine's Day Rant

Coldplay performed today in Kansai, and I didn't get to see the concert.
My husband went though...oh, by the way it is Valentine's Day...and he is out having dinner with co-workers...after they enjoyed the concert...

Did I mention that it is Valentine's Day?
In Japan, V-day is for girls to buy chocolates for their boyfriends, husbands and co-workers.  

There is a separate day, White Day on March 14th, set aside for guys to thank the people who gave them chocolates on V-day.  It is called White Day, because the candy industry in Japan wanted everyone to buy marshmallows...So, it is also known as Marshmalow Day.


I don't need no marshmallow.   I do like them though...marshmallows...

I wonder if the universe is trying to tell me something as I sit here and type this at 9pm, Saturday night, Valentine's Day....
from one of my favorite sites the hubble telescope

I am going to go read now...

I just "realized" there is no legitimate reason for Valentine's Day to be celebrated in there!

February 11, 2009

Mr. Big is back!

An American band that is very popular in Japan... Mr Big.  
(Has nothing to do with S&TC.)

They are most famous for their songs "To Be With You" and their rendition of the C. Stevens song "Wild World".  In Japan their latest hit was "Superfantastic", a song that was like an ode to the above two songs.
Paul Gilbert (guitarist) left the band in 1990 and Richie Kotzen took his place. However, Mr. Big disbanded in 2002 and went their individual ways.  Each musician has solo albums and other band projects going on but it is great to be able to see these guys back together again. (Richi Kotzen will not be in the band but he has his own solo stuff going on too.) 
I hope this will give the band a long deserved chance to be Big not only in Asia but their home country as well.  They are all very talented, I could not say this enough.  I will be going to at least one of their concerts in Japan to be held in June.
For more info in English

The CDs in the picture are autographed by Pat Torpey (drums) and Eric Martin (vocals) when they were in Japan to promote their solo work.  I had the wonderful opportunity of making special radio programs with them on several occasions and they were both wonderful people!

Finished Digital Fortress....good grief

This book was published over 10 years ago...I finished reading it just now.  Way too late to be complaining, but I started this and will finish it.

I enjoyed the suspense.  I have now read a few posts on this book and some people did not enjoy the "nonsense" about all that technical jargon etc... I don't have a clue either way so I will have to admit that didn't bother me much.  
(I am so sorry to have to do this but nothing has ever irked me so much in a book.)
The remaining errors I found are:  
1) the name Tokugen Numataka... which is really  not an error, just too ancient of a name (like calling someone Alexander the Great) that I find it kind of cute.

2)chpt 18 "memboko" supposedly means "honor", which they did get right in the epilogue "memboku".  So, you are thinking it is just a typo the "o" should've been a "u".  Yeah well, it's like saying "yonder" or "wonder" or better yet "ponder" instead of "honor".
3)chpt.53 the switchboard operator says "Honorable Chairman", again this is so old Japan, so 1500's it's cute.

4)end of chpt 18 "shichigosan" is not the seven deities of good luck.  It is a traditional rite of passage festival for children who reach the ages of shichi (7), go (5) and san (3).
The seven deities of good luck are "shichifukujin".  You can see where that went wrong...

Now, after reading the book I realize that *spoiler alert* 
an anagram was vital to the story thus Tankado.  HOWEVER, Mr Brown could have easily thrown out the N and made the code name Dakota instead of NDakota .  He would then have been left with a very VERY common (but not too common that it is boring) name: Kadota.

Then I would not have gotten so frustrated and posted this meaningless thing.

So, if there are any authors out there thinking about adding a Japanese name to their next book, please contact me and I will, free of charge,  do a reality check for you.  Do not let something that can be easily diverted, get in the way of a good story.

BTW, where are Soshi and Hulohot from?  Ngh.. 

Sorry Dan, I am looking forward to your new book and will probably read Deception Point sooner or later.

February 10, 2009

Doh! Attention authors! Please be careful when choosing names for your Japanese characters!

I know, I know....I said I wasn't going to write about books on this blog, but this is kind of related to my ongoing "living in Japan right now" theme.  

I found "Digital Fortress"  at the bottom of my pile of unread pbks. I was like, oh, some Dan Brown I haven't read! I kinda enjoyed Angels & Demons and the DaVinci Code, so why not? I already own the darn thing so I might as well read it! I have only read a few chapters so far and I really hate picking bad parts of a book no matter how much I might dislike one...'cause let's face it, it's someone's "baby" and you don't want to scream "ugly!" at it...well at least you don't want to rub it in too much...right?

However, I have to say that the name Ensei Tankado is not Japanese and that I am very disappointed with this error. Japan has a limited number of last names, not that there aren't a lot, but there is a system among the chaos. "Tan" and "kado" just don't go together. (It would have been ok if it were Tanikado.)

I can't say that Ensei is not a first is not impossible, there could be someone out there with that name, but it is not a John or a Dan or a would be like calling someone "Weariness" or "Expedition"(that's two different meanings that the word ensei actually has)...again, not impossible, but VERY unlikely.

That's why I didn't even guess that the guy was from Japan until the chapter that introduces him as being born in Hiroshima (even then I thought his mother or father was from another country and that would explain the exotic name).

This is why I dislike reading books by "non Japanese authors" who try to write about Japan or a Japanese character. There are some good stories out there, and many distinguished authors like Donald Keene...but the majority of it is full of mistakes and even if I KNOW it is fiction, it feels like a slap in the face that just wakes me up from the dream of reading...

Sorry, I just had to say this.

Well, back to reading the book...if I finish it I will post whatever "new" things I find out about the Japanese.


February 8, 2009

Random Walk Books -English Book Store-

Today was a fine day to be out in Kobe! I had a wonderful breakfast with some friends. 
After that I went down to the English book store "Random Walk Books" in Motomachi. 
They were still busy moving books around and not all of the boxes are open yet but there was still plenty to choose from.

I bought "Wild Ducks Flying Backward" by Tom Robbins and the first two books in the Dresden File series by Jim Butcher. It may not be a smart thing to buy two books of a series without reading the first one...but I had a feeling I would like it so went with my instincts. 
Did not want to get off the train on the way home because I got so wrapped up in it!

The bookshop's website is not up yet but you can send inquiries to

My "books I am reading now" list is getting way too long, even for me. I have one I read before I go to bed, two I read in the living room, two for train rides...BUT I think the Dresden File book one "Storm Front" is going to keep me busy for the next couple of hours.

Here's a look at the entrance half of the bookstore:

.....and this is their picture book corner.  I love Dr Seuss!

February 4, 2009

OMG David Sedaris was in Japan...

When I first heard that David Sedaris would be publishing a new book, I thought...oh goody!

It took me (what felt like) forever to get my copy but I finally read it (a couple of weeks ago actually).  Since I haven't started to write about books on this blog (and will probably let that be), why am I writing about this one?  Because the last chapter of this book is "The Smoking Section" - an essay (or more like a blog) about David's struggle to quit smoking.  Of all the places he chooses to begin this challenge... 

Japan - a country where it is still hard to find coffee shops that aren't filled with smoke, a place where you can not wake up and smell the coffee because all you smell is that funky cigarette odor.  (Of course I am exaggerating, but only by 1 pixl.)  So it was a delight to read about somebody choosing Japan as a place to quit smoking... it's like two stories in one.  
1. a struggle to quit smoking.  2. a view of Japan from a unique individual such as David. (  By this I mean a funny, sarcastic and rather witty gay man.)  

I kind of wished he wrote the whole book on Japan.  There are quite a few books about the gaijin  (foreigner) experience of living in Japan and the majority of them are dull, repetitive and quite frequently filled with language mistakes.  The essay "The Smoking Section" was a "breath of fresh air".
Oh, the title of this book "When You are Engulfed in Flames" comes from a phrase that David found in a hotel booklet under the "safety section"... Japan is filled with unique and sometimes poetic signs (ok, ok, mistakes).  
My recent finds are:
"It Looks For" (from a real estate company flyer)
"Hare Style" (a beauty parlor sign)
"Stuff Only" (on a door that says "staff only" in Japanese)

February 3, 2009

Spring is here?

Originally meaning "the time in between seasons", SETSUBUN now  means "the beginning of spring"..and in Japan that is today. 

February 3rd is the Setsubun festival day and in many shrines across the nation, handfuls of beans are thrown at people to ward off evil and welcome good fortune.  At homes with children, the father often wears a mask of an "oni" (goblin dude) and the children will go wild throwing beans at the oni while screaming "oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi" (goblins go out, good fortune come in).

I don't have any children, but I am contemplating whether or not to start throwing beans at my husband....

If you have been to the grocery store in Japan lately you would have seen bags of roasted soybeans like can eat the beans, they make for good tsumami (snacks that go good with sake or beer).  I do not recommend eating the ones you've thrown around the house...

pickles anyone?

I went to go buy a birthday present for my mother in law.  Every year, so far it has been flowers.
Then, last year the unthinkable happened... 

They have some sort of flower-shop association in Japan where they will send flowers from the nearest flower shop of the receiver.  You don't get to choose which flower shop will be doing the actual sending, but it is still a fairly reasonable deal.

HOWEVER, last year the flower shop that delivered the bouquet turned out to be the funeral home that we used when my father-in-law past away.  (He was a sweet old man.) The funeral home has their own flower shop, and although they don't specifically -specialize-only in funeral flowers, that is still the majority of their business...I OBVIOUSLY had no idea that they would be sending the flowers.
My m-i-l is a former flower arranging teacher.  When it comes to traditional flower arranging in Japan, it is an expensive art to learn and to teach.  The teachers are very strict and have a lot of pride in their art....and if she is a m-i-l, well then, double the pride.  

So, my m-i-l asked the delivery girl what flower shop she had come from...and the answer (understandably) made her "raise her eyebrows".  (I wasn't there but I can see it all happening.)  
We had a chat that night over the phone.  I really would rather not remember it but I do....I was in a pickle, that was for sure.

So, this year, instead of a bouquet of beautiful flowers, I sent her a package of packed pickles.
$50 worth.  

(The pickles in the picture are what I bought for my own consumption....they were about $4 each.)  There are thousands of different kinds of pickles in Japan.  Each region has its own specialty.  I live in a region called Kansai (famous areas include Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe).
Kyoto has the most popular pickles in this region so it is a nice thing to send to anyone, not just a m-i-l.  Some are sour, some are sweet, some are flavored with miso....The ones I bought today are standard salt pickles...I love pickles so much that all I need for a nice lunch these days is a bowl of rice, a cup of hot green tea and of course, some pickles.

Oh, and while I was at the department store I found three people trying to get on the wrong escalator ... I would try to get off the escalator and someone would be facing me and trying to get on it...three one day... They all looked terribly embarrassed but for some reason so was I!

February 2, 2009

all English Book Store in Kobe

I don't have a picture of the store...yet, but it is back in business.  The only all English book store that closed it's doors this January 15th has reopened!  It is now a 100% independent book seller.

Located at the southern tip of the Sanomiya Mall, it is now called Random Walk Books and is still on the second floor, 3rd shop down from the Chinese restaurant on the corner of the mall.

Right now they will be keeping the doors open every day of the week.  I'll try to post more details as soon as possible, but I just wanted to let anybody out there in the Kansai area know, that there is a place where you can get (or order) English books.  

For those of you who don't know the former store, it is unlike any of the other mega-chain book stores in Japan.  This one makes you feel like you've stumbled into an old shop back home with great books from science fiction to philosophy to choose from.

They are supposed to have a website online soon and I will be posting that link here too.

Please help support the only independent English bookstore in the Kansai area.  I know I will!

Nagasaki part 1 (Megane Bashi)

Megane Bashi (or Glasses Bridge) is the oldest brick bridge in Japan.  It was the first of it's kind built in 1634.  
The day I took this picture the winds were pretty strong so, there are small waves on the surface of the river.  If there were no waves, then the bridge would have reflected more clearly on the water...making it look like a pair of gigantic  eyeglasses staring right at you.  It is 22 meters long.  In 1960 it was designated as a national cultural asset. 

 If you stand on the bridge or around it and start taking pictures of it, one of the nice citizens of Nagasaki is bound to come forward and explain all of this to you.  It happened to me...twice...  I didn't have the heart to say that I already knew all of that.  The people of Nagasaki are really nice.  I know it is ridiculous to stereotype, but everywhere I went there was always somebody willing to explain the history of the city and it's buildings...and I don't even look like a traveler!

Many people who travel to Japan will visit Tokyo and Kyoto.  Some people will even try to get to Hiroshima...(even Che Guevara has been to Hiroshima!) but in my opinion, not enough people travel to Nagasaki.  One of the reasons is because the bullet train (shinkansen) does not go all the way to Nagasaki.  (There are mainly two reasons for that and I will try to explain that some other day...)  But I still think that Nagasaki, although it is rather inky dinky in size, is a good place to learn about some of the most interesting and devastating times of Japanese history.