Daibutsu, Kamakura

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

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's Wrong with this Building?

A Haikyo or abandoned building from somewhere in Hokkaido, Japan

Hmm, what is this building? Is it a school or a recreation center? Let's see.

It looks like it is not being used. It's abandoned. I wonder why?

This room looks to be in really good condition. Clean, organized, tables set-up for events or meetings. But why does this building appear to be unused? Wait, what's that through the window in the other room?

What's going on in there? It looks like I can see the sky through the roof.

Uh oh. What happened here? I think I know why this building is not being used.

Look, there is a giant hole in the roof.

How did that happen? An earthquake? Too much snow? A structural deficiency?

That's one big sky light. Probably the building should be torn down. It doesn't look safe. Who is responsible for this?

These very interesting photos are from this excellent Haikyo website. Apparantly this building is from somewhere in Hokkaido.



A fairly large earthquake has just struck the los Angeles area. The reports state it was about a 5.4 to 5.6 on the Richter scale and relatively shallow so it felt pretty strong. They are reporting that it was only 7 kilometers below the surface. It lasted at least 2 minutes from my guess. The news is saying people as far away as Las Vegas felt it as well. There are reports of some damage in some communities East of Loas Angeles.

My building in downtown Los Angeles shook pretty strongly but we are not evacuating. This was the biggest one I have felt since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake here which was a 6.8. That one did massive damage to my university there in Northridge.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Courtesy and Respect

Why does it seem like there are so many people with a lack of courtesy or respect or just have a bad attitude toward other people in this country or at least in Los Angeles?

I think every American needs to visit another country such as Japan or the Scandinavian countries so they can witness how much more polite people are.

Ever since I visited Japan, I have become more aware of how rude people can be in Los Angeles. Certainly there are rude people everywhere, including Japan. I understand that I have never lived in Japan for an extended period of time. But I have spent the equivalent of several months there and I definitely can tell the difference in how people interact with each other.

Some long-time foreign residents will certainly give many examples of rudeness they have encountered in Japan, especially examples of unkindness they have encountered that they feel have been directed at them due to being non-Japanese. I have read about the un-friendly elderly person and other examples. And if you have ever read anything from Debito.org, you will think Japan is a very unfriendly place for foreigners.

But I feel that these negative interactions are relatively rare compared to in America. I also feel that most instances of discrimination in Japan is more a misunderstanding by Japanese that foreigners do not understand Japanese culture and is not actually based on hate. While I feel that the majority of discrimination in the United States is based on hate.

Here is why I felt like writing this post. On Friday, July 25th, I went for my usual walk around Downtown Los Angeles during my lunch break. On the way back to the office I witnessed four separate examples of rudeness, disrespect, and impatience. Although these events were very, very minor, they still revealed to me a big difference between Japan and the United States in how respectful people are. Or at least it reveals something about Los Angeles.

The four examples I witnessed below occurred within about 5 minutes of each other.

The first incident. I saw a man finish drinking from a plastic cup. He then tossed the empty cup onto a newspaper stand a kept walking. There were trash cans all around the area but obviously he was too lazy and disrespectful to throw his trash into the trash can. When you see how much trash lines the streets and freeways in the U.S., you will know that this is a fairly common and disrespectful occurrance. In Japan, one of the things that sticks out in my memory is how clean it is.

The second incident. Myself and one or two other people were walking along the sidewalk. A driver in a minivan had to turn right into a driveway but had to wait for us pedestrians to pass. But another man in a large delivery truck behind the minivan decided to lay on his horn because the minivan was blocking his way. It's possible the minivan did not put his turn signal on but that really doesn't matter. It just demonstrated typical impatience and rudeness in this city. I do not recall ever hearing people use their car horns in Japan. and I have seen many situations in Japan while driving that if had occurred in America would have resulted in not only a horn but probably a middle finger and an obscenity.

The third incident. I was waiting at an intersection for the light to turn green. Two ladies were waiting on the other side of the street to cross also. A third lady who was not with them was just behind the two other ladies. The light turned green but the two ladies did not immediately start walking because they were not paying attention. I could tell the lady behind them was clearly annoyed that they were in her way because she made a face and stared at them. It was very, very subtle but to me was clearly an expression of annoyance. Once again, I do not recall ever seeing people in Japan get annoyed like this. Maybe some obachan but that's about it.

The fourth incident. This time a car was going to turn right on the red light. In the U.S you can turn on a red light while in Japan, or at least in Tochigi, you have to wait for the light to turn green. The only thing of course is you have to wait until it is clear to turn. There was oncoming traffic so the driver turning right waited. The driver in a car behind him obviously got impatient and they laid on their horn. Whether the driver who honked did not see the oncoming traffic or just thought the other driver could have gone is irrelevant. it was just another of the many examples of impoliteness and impatience in this country.

I know that there may be many people who will say I am overreacting and that these examples were very minor. But, like I said, after encountering how seemingly polite and respectful people are in Japan, these "minor" incidents stand out to me more.

I do admit that I also act in this way sometimes, probably too much. I too find myself sometimes getting impatient with a slow driver and then tailgating them, or giving a look of annoyance to someone but I am really trying to do this less.


I am told that a "meme" is something that gets passed around on the Internet. You follow the rules and then you "tag" someone else and ask them to do the same.

I was tagged by Thomas at Hello Mother, Hello Father.
Here are the rules.
1. List the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

  1. I was born and raised in Santa Barbara, California, a popular seaside tourist city an hour North of Los Angeles. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 21. People ask why the heck did I leave beautiful Santa Barbara? I guess I was bored and wanted to experience the big city. Plus, Santa Barbara did not have any ice rinks and I wanted to play ice hockey.
  2. I have had only four jobs in my entire life. I worked at McDonald's in SB for four years; at REI, an outdoor equipment store, for five years; and my current job at a government agency. For two years, I worked at a bike shop on weekends while working at my current job.
  3. I went to college on the 10 year plan back in the 90's. My problem was I wanted to also play hockey, go mountain biking, go skiing and snowboarding, go out and have fun, etc. School and homework were not always a priority. But I eventually finished thank God.
  4. Since 2003 I have been to Japan five times visiting my wife's family in Tochigi. Before that the only foreign countries I ever visited were Mexico and Canada, both of which are really not that foreign to a Californian. Japan was (and is) so different and unique and I love visiting.
  5. Although I've always been very active, I have never broken any bones. Except my nose was broken playing hockey. And lots of stitches.
  6. I have a pug named Mollybu. The bu is supposed to mean pig in Japanese and she looks and sounds like a pig. And eats like one.
  7. The tallest mountain I have been to the top of is 14,500 feet or 4,420 meters.

I don't know if they have already been tagged but I am tagging David at About Tochigi, Dateline Osaka at Life in the Korean Ghetto, Ad at Japan Navigator, Gerald at The Level 8 Buddhist, Roaf at Gaijin Tonic, Michael at Big Red Dot, and Martin at Kurashi - News From Japan.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Strange Coincidences of Life

I recently read the book, The empty mirror : experiences in a Japanese Zen monastery by Janwillem Van de Wetering.

It was an ok book. The author traveled to Japan in the 1950's to learn about Zen Buddhism and live in a Zen monastery. From my reading, my view is that he did not learn much. It seems he was feeling the interest in Zen based on it's new popularity within the new 50's lifestyle of beatniks and others.

Although I understand how difficult life is in a Zen monastery, the author clearly did not want to partake fully in the requirements of the Zen monastery. He gave a hint of this in the book by revealing how he often slept in late or pretended he was sick in order to avoid the daily early morning zazen sessions. My feeling is his slacking was probably much more then he revealed in the book.

Here is something strange or bizarre. I finished reading the book about July 1st or 2nd 2008. On July 5th, I decided to look the author up in Wikipedia. As you can see from the Wiki article, the author had just passed away the day before on July 4th 2008. Just one of those bizarre little coincidences in life I guess.

Peak Oil

Here is a really good article from the Los Angeles Times regarding the debate about whether we have reached the peak of the world's oil supply. One of the reasons the oil trading market has gone crazy driving up the cost of a barrel of oil and the cost of gasoline is this fear of future oil supplies.

Here is a good quote from the article:

Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer group, doesn't care when the peak will come.

"We should be planning as though we're there," he said, "because from a national interest standpoint, from an economic standpoint and from an environmental standpoint, our dependence on oil, whether it comes from California or Saudi Arabia, is unsustainable."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Fat Man" Bomb - Is it Art or is it bad taste?

A California artist has created a replica of the Fat Man atomic bomb that destroyed Nagasaki in World War II. The piece, made of wood, is currently on display at a gallery in Texas.

Art, bomb, Robert Wilhite

The artist sees his creation as a thing of beauty and he wants other people to see it's beauty as well, but to also stop and realize that this is also a weapon of mass destruction.

Reactions to the piece of work have been from dismay to admiration.

The artist, a 62-year-old Venice, California resident, said the idea for the bomb took root in the early 1970s when he was a professional water show diver working in Japan. There, he visited Hiroshima Peace Park.

The work reveals what many American's feel about the end of World War II and the use of the atomic weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some American's are horrified that these weapons were ever used and feel there was no justification for using them. While others strongly feel the weapons ended the war early and saved thousands of American soldiers lives by preventing the necessity of an invasion of Japan.

My personal feelings have changed over time. I used to also think that the use of these bombs was necessary. But the more I have thought about it in recent years, the more I realize that there is never a necessity to bomb civilians, women and especially children.

(Los Angeles Times)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

120 Day Celebration

We recently celebrated my son's 120 Day celebration, 120 days since he was born. My wife made a delicious meal for the event. The meal included some stones. The stones are for the baby and we pretend to feed them to him. According to my wife, the stones are meant to signify a life of strong, healthy teeth.

My wife however did not know exactly what the 120 Day celebration was or what it meant. I did a little Google searching but could not find anything about the 120 Day celebration.

Has anyone heard of this event or know what it means?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Buddhism may be dying out in Japan

According to an article in the New York Times, Buddhism may be dying out in Japan.

The article states that "Buddhism in Japan is often called “funeral Buddhism,” a reference to the religion’s near-monopoly on the elaborate, and lucrative, ceremonies surrounding deaths and memorial services. But that expression also describes a religion that, by appearing to cater more to the needs of the dead than to those of the living, is losing its standing in Japanese society."

The article further states that "Perhaps most significantly, Buddhism is losing its grip on the funeral industry, as more and more Japanese are turning to funeral homes or choosing not to hold funerals at all.

“That’s the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn’t meet people’s spiritual needs,” said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. “In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that.”

“If Japanese Buddhism doesn’t act now, it will die out,” he said. “We can’t afford to wait. We have to do something.”

I'm not sure how to interpret this article. On one hand, my impression is that Japanese people today are not as religious as people in other countries. When I read about Japanese history, I have the belief that the people of Japan used to be much more religiously fervent in the past but that religion, both Shinto and Buddhism, no longer play as important a role in their lives.

On the other hand, maybe the article missunderstands Japan and Japanese beliefs, especially relating to religion. Japanese people may very well have a high level of spirituality that just does not manifest itself the way religion does in Christian, Muslim or Jewish countries.

My feeling is that it is somewhere in between what the article states and reality. Religion probably is not as important in Japan as it may have been 200 years ago and the Chief Priests concerns may have some validity. At the same time, Japanese people will always have some level of spirituality.

I do hope that what the article states is not true. It would be sad if Buddhism was dying out in Japan. I think Buddhism is a very important part of Japanese culture and tradition.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Japanese Man Died of Overwork

We've all heard of the stressful life of the Japanese Salaryman but this story takes it to the extreme.


Officials say Japanese man died of overwork
Toyota car engineer regularly worked 80 hours of overtime per month

A Japanese labor bureau has ruled that one of Toyota's top car engineers died from working too many hours, the latest in a string of such findings in a nation where extraordinarily long hours for some employees has long been the norm.

He was only 45 years old when he died in 2006. He was the lead engineer in developing a hybrid version of Toyota's blockbuster Camry line. One of the side effects in the effort to stop global warming I guess, overworked Japanese engineers dying from heart attacks.

It's an interesting ruling because I have never heard of anything like this in America. It would never happen in American courts I think because it would be ruled virtually impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the workers death was caused by overwork rather then some other cause.

Even if he didn't smoke and he was realatively healthy, it would seem that there is no way to prove that he didn't die for some other reason. It's not like every single worker that works 80 hours of overtime keels over and dies. Maybe he was unable to handle stress as well as others. Just another reason it seems amazing that a court would give this ruling.

I'm surprised that this type of case would pass muster in a country such as Japan that is much less letigious then the United States.

Here is another interesting article about this story from the Washington Post.

Monday, July 07, 2008

President Bush Mountain Bikes in Japan

There is one thing that I really like about President George Bush, he is an avid mountain biker. President Bush owns a very expensive full-suspension Trek mountain Bike and he tries to ride when he has the opportunity, especially at his ranch in Texas.

Mr. Bush will be attending the three-day G8 summit being held in the northern Japanese town of Toyako, a secluded hillside resort overlooking a scenic lake on the island of Hokkaido. He will be bring his bike and plans to do some riding while in Japan.

"I'm looking forward to it. I think they've got some beautiful trails," Bush told Japan's Fuji Television in an interview broadcast last week.

"I've just got to be careful not to fall off," he said.

During the G8 summit in 2005 in Gleneagles, Scotland, Mr. Bush scratched up his face in a collision with a police officer.

Mr. Bush took up mountain biking several years ago after he started having pain in one of his knees while jogging. The president currently owns several full-suspension mountain bikes that range in price from $2,500 up to $5,000.

AFP and Washington Post

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Blog Ideas

I am trying to think of a better organization for my blog(s), such as various blogs (but not too many) that are more focused to a specific subject. Although it is not my goal to have the most visitors or the most popular blog, certainly like anyone else, I want to have posts that are of interest to those who visit.

I've come to the realization that successful blogs tend to be focused on a certain subject such as Japan, baseball, politics, Buddhism, Stuff White People Like, etc etc. Blogs that are about general experiences and things you do are more geared towards family and friends. Correct me if I'm wrong in that understanding.

I have my regular blog, toshogu.blogspot.com, which is supposed to be a general blog about anything. However, as you can tell by the web address which comes from the Toshogu Shrines of Nikko Japan, this blog seems to be more focused on my interest in Japan. It would seem to me that if your interest is Japan that you couldn't care less about mountain biking or Buddhism and vice versa, if you like to read about Los Angeles you couldn't care less about Japan.

I recently created fixlosangeles.blogspot.com as a blog to air my gripes about Los Angeles and suggestions on how to fix LA. It will probably also include general Los Angeles specific posts.

I also recently created tornadoes28things.blogspot.com with the idea that maybe this blog would be my general blog about whatever. I am not completely sure yet.

What do you think? Is it a good idea to have a blog or blogs that are more about a specific topic?

Is it a good idea to turn this blog into a Japan specific blog and have the other blogs for my other interests? Let me know what you think.