Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Energy Stingy Japan - Except for One Very Popular Place

Among developed nations, Japan is very energy efficient. The average Japanese person consumes about half the energy consumed by the average American and Japan has the slowest growth of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the industrialized world.

However, there is one place where energy usage is surging. That place is one of the most popular places in every Japanese home. The bathroom. Specifically it is the Japanese toilets.

Japanese toilets have progressed from basic human waste recepticles before 1980 to today where they have features such as heated seats, heated water to wash your bottom and high end toilets that sense when someone enters or leaves the bathroom, raising and lowering their lids accordingly.

One of the features, the heated seat, is popular due to Japanese homes being pretty cold in the winter. I know first hand the joy of sitting on a heated toilet seat in a frigid Japanese home.

These toilets are not cheap. The luxury models can go for more then $4,000. The Japanese government is struggling to meet obligations under the Kyoto global warming treaty and they have studied the issue of energy consumption in the Japanese household, specifically the toilets.

However, the government has found it difficult to get the average Japanese citizen to give up there comfy toilets. So the government has instead worked with toilet manufacturers to help reduce energy consumption.

So, like many things in Japan, technological innovation may be the answer. Toto, Japan's largest toilet producer, and other manufacturers have invented the intelligent toilet. A newly installed intelligent toilet after a few days in a household memorizes when and how family members do their business. Then, with history as its guide, the toilet intermittently heats up its seat and warms its water.

When no one is likely to be in need, the toilet is cool.

Here is a typical Japanese toilet with a control panel mounted on its right side.

(Source information: Washington Post)

Monday, June 23, 2008

High Gas Prices - A Permanent Shift?

Gas prices in the Unites States and around the world are at record highs. Here in Southern California, the average price for regular gas is around $4.50 per gallon.

Like a lot of things, there are highs and lows. The economy will have good years and bad years, the real estate market will go up and down, everything has a cycle. However, I think the cost of oil and gas is different. I'm not saying that the price of gas will never go down because it eventually will. What I am saying is that the days of cheap gas in the United States are over forever. Booming economies in China, India and elsewhere as well as eventual diminishing oil supplies say so.

Even so, it is truly amazing to hear the Chief Executives of General Motors and Ford state that we are seeing a "permanent" shift away from large vehicles in the United States. Except during a very brief period in the early 70's during the Arab Oil Embargo, big cars in the Unites States has been a fact of life, almost like a Constitutional or God-given right.

It's not entirely a bad thing of course. It is these market driven forces that are finally getting Americans to give up their huge polluting, green house gas producing monsters.

Unfortunately there are still several large nations that are not allowing these market forces to naturally encourage their citizens to buy more fuel efficient vehicles and to conserve. In China, India, Mexico and several other nations, the government subsidizes gas for their citizens. In China and Mexico, they still pay less then $3.00 per gallon of gas, therefore distorting the natural market forces that otherwise would encourage conservation. This has the added effect of driving up worldwide demand for oil even more and causing some of the increase in fuel prices. People who live near the Mexican border in San Diego are increasingly driving across the border for cheap $2.50 per gallon gas. Not exactly encouraging conservation. China is one of the few countries where the sales of large vehicles is actually increasing.

I take the subway to work here in Los Angeles. I can see first hand the effects of the high gas prices. The trains are a lot more crowded.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crazy Utsunomiya Man

Here are some pictures from a family relative who lives in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan. He is a really funny guy. He likes to be called Walt. I like to call him Crazy Utsunomiya Man.

A park in Utsunomiya.

Here is Crazy Utsunomiya Man at a park in Utsunomiya.

Here's Crazy Utsunomiya Man enjoying some fine Utsunomiya water.

Here is Crazy Utsunomiya Man fishing at a local park. I wonder if he caught anything?

Here is Crazy Utsunomiya Man's house. I wonder if he rides that scooter. If he does and you are ever in Utsunomiya, better watch out when you are on the street.

Here is Crazy Utsunomiya Man's house in the summer-time.

Here is his house in winter-time.

Crazy Utsunomiya Man is very entertaining and I always enjoy visiting him when I visit Japan.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Knife Attack in Japan

I read in today's Los Angeles Times about the sad knife attack incident in Akihabara. It's sickening that when someone decides they don't want to live anymore they decide to take other people out with them. It was the same thing at the Virginia Tech Massacre as well where a suicidal person went on a killing rampage and decided to take as many people out first before he killed himself. And it is almost always a he. The only female massacre that I recall was one a few years ago where a former female postal worker returned to the postal distribution center she worked at in Santa Barbara California and killed six people. I believe it is the nations worse mass shooting by a female. Ironic that I actually grew up in Santa Barbara.

At least the sicko in Japan did not have a gun or it would have been a lot worse. Of course gun advocates in the U.S. would say that if other people in the crowd had had a gun they could have stopped the madman. I personally don't think letting people carry guns around is a good thing but that just me.

An interesting but probably meaningless observation is that in the picture in the L.A. Times as well as in the Japan Times showed some foreigner's assisting the wounded. Below are the photos.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Haikyo - Exploring Japanese Ruins

If you are interested in the exploration of Japanese Ruins or Haikyo you should check out this blog post from Michael John Grist of MJG: Japan about his exploration of Sports World in Izunagaoka.

This is one of the best Haikyo blog posts I have read. The reason is because the way Michael describes his adventure, you feel like you were there. You can feel the eeriness and the sadness of this now abandoned place while imagining what it must have been like years ago full of people.