Daibutsu, Kamakura

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

Friday, December 23, 2011

Pub Snack Allure

I like the name of this pub. Pub Snack Allure. This is in the pub district in Otawara Tochigi-ken.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Meat Shop

Two meat shops in Otawara Tochigi-ken. These are both in the pub district neighborhood. But I don't think either of them sell meat. Someone lives above Meat Shop Torikin and when I walked by he was just opening the metal doors but I did not see any meat. The other meat shop appeared to be an abandoned haikyo building.

Meat Shop Torikin that doesn't sell meat.

Meat Shop Haikyo

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pub Alley

Here is an alley, or very small street, full of small pubs and bars in the Otawara pub neighborhood. There were about 10 or 12 just in this little section that ends just up ahead. The one nearest sells Mackinlay's Old Scotch Whiskey.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Economist on the Olympus Scandal

Tribal Japan

Japan’s cherished loyalty system is part of the problem

ON NOVEMBER 25th the venerable Foreign Correspondents’ Club
of Japan experienced a volley of camera flashes, jostling television crews and shouts of “heads down at the front!”—the sort of attention it has rarely enjoyed since the country began its gentle slide down the world’s news agenda. The occasion was the return to Japan of Michael Woodford, the former boss of Olympus, a Tokyo-based lens-maker, who had been fired in October after he started asking awkward questions about $1.3 billion in suspicious transactions. His subject, in a nutshell, was corporate governance—not something that, in the abstract, usually sets reporters’ hearts aflutter. But as the club pointed out, not even the Dalai Lama had drawn such a crowd.
Mr Woodford, who is adroit in the spotlight, says the whole saga has been like walking into a John Grisham novel. Having been sacked by the board and stripped of his office, home and company car on October 14th, the 30-year Olympus veteran—one of just fourgaijin to run a leading Japanese company—was told to catch a bus to the airport. The American Federal Bureau of Investigation, Britain’s Serious Fraud Squad and the Japanese authorities are all now on the case.
Mr Kikukawa, Mr Mori and the company’s statutory auditor have since resigned from the board of Olympus, accused of a huge cover-up of securities losses dating back to the 1990s. But other board members who supported them and who dumped Mr Woodford still have their jobs. The company insists that he was fired for failing to understand its management style, and Japanese culture, not for being an awkward whistleblower.

But in retrospect, he says, one of the most chilling moments came when he was still chief executive and had unsuccessfully challenged his chairman, Tsuyoshi Kikukawa, to explain the missing money. He found another director, Hisashi Mori, also seemed to be stonewalling him. “Mr Mori, who do you work for?” he recalls asking, expecting the answer to be Olympus. “Michael, I work for Mr Kikukawa. I’m loyal to Mr Kikukawa,” Mr Mori is said to have replied.
If every foreigner who didn’t understand Japanese culture were fired there would hardly be a gaijin businessman left in the country. The corporate ethos of every culture is in some sense unique. Japan’s is especially perplexing, not just because of its well-known emphasis on loyalty to the group, seniority-based pay and long-term job security. Firms are also doggedly clannish on the inside. As Mr Mori implied, loyalty to a manager or department can trump loyalty to the firm—even if that works against everyone’s long-term interests.
The other difficulty, which extends far beyond business, is a general suspicion in Japan of outsiders’ points of view. Take Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power plant, wrecked by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. A recent report by Bloomberg, citing minutes of a 2009 meeting, revealed that TEPCO and its regulator, the Economy and Trade Ministry, dismissed scientific findings about the risks of such natural disasters that could have helped prevent the meltdowns of three of the plant’s reactors. The nuclear industry is deeply incestuous. Not only do bureaucrats parachute from their ministries into the utilities, but their sons and daughters occasionally marry each other too. Nicholas Benes, who founded the Board Director Training Institute of Japan, a non-profit organisation, says that having more outsiders on TEPCO’s board, whether independent nuclear specialists, foreigners or women, might have helped ring alarm bells. As it was, 18 of the 20 voting members on TEPCO’s board came from the company itself.
Tribalism extends to politics and the media too, frustrating debate, good policy, and the ability to call politicians to account. Members of Japan’s two biggest political parties acknowledge quite candidly that their first loyalty is to their faction’s boss, not to any policy. Hence the ruling Democratic Party of Japan often appears to be more at war with itself than with the opposition.
As for the media, senior reporters are assigned to cover factional power struggles within the parties, whereas complex policy questions are often covered by junior hacks. The mainstream media has a system, known as the Kisha Club, that tends to encourage complicity with official sources and conspires to keep trouble-making riff-raff out of press conferences. Financial journalists quietly acknowledge that one reason they buried Mr Woodford’s claims on the inside pages early in the Olympus scandal is that the story was broken by an obscure monthly magazine. Worse, Mr Woodford first spoke to the Financial Times, not the Nikkei Shimbun.
Time for a shake-up
In politics, there are encouraging signs that some of this is starting to change. The prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, has made policy front-page news for the first time in years, with his decision to push Japan gingerly towards negotiating a free-trade treaty with America and at least eight other countries, under the framework of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Meanwhile, on November 27th, a publicity-seeking former governor, 42-year-old Toru Hashimoto, dealt a severe cuff to both mainstream political parties. Beating a candidate they jointly supported, he won election as mayor of Osaka on a single campaign pledge: to unite the city and prefecture of Osaka into one large metropolis that would strengthen its finances as well as its bargaining power with the political establishment in Tokyo.
His appeal suggests one stark aspect of governance in Japan—the patience of voters with hopeless mainstream politics—may at last be weakening. But in the tradition-bound, loyalty-bound business world, there is as yet little such clamour for change, from employees or shareholders, however much Mr Woodford has rattled their cages.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bee pub

More pubs next door to the Dead Space pub building in the Chuo bar district in Otawara Tochigi-ken . We have Bee pub, Voila, Mirai, some lounge, and a couple other pubs I can't read. I did not get a chance to go here at night on the weekend. I wonder how busy these places are.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Club Palette, Mickey, Amigo and Dead Space

  • I found a club and bar district in the small Tochigi city of Otawara. The neighborhood is called Chuo. There were dozens and dozens of bars and pubs within a small neighborhood. I will post photos of some of them. Here is Club Palette, Club Mickey, Club Amigo (I think) and Club Dead Space.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Takashi Miike's Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Takashi Miike has remade one of the greatest samurai films of them all, Hara Kiri. The original is my favorite samurai film of the over 100 I've seen which include Seven Samurai, Ran and others. The brilliant Tatsuya Nakadai stars in the original so I am very curious how well Miike did in remaking this masterpiece, especially since he has chosen to make this film in 3D.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Occupy Los Angeles - Obama is a Douche Bag

Occupy LA Hospital

They promote cannibalizing the rich. Yummy. 

South side of City Hall

Down with the evil, lazy, greedy rich. Apparently all wealthy people did not work hard and earn their money.

They even have a university. Economic 101 - Occupy LA University

The 99% have fallen on hard times it appears.

Fight the power. The red star and fist is eerily reminiscent of the old Soviet Union if you ask me.

Fine dining at Occupy LA Restaurant.

Very nice likeness of Timothy Geithner. Bad teeth though.

You suck billionaires. And so do you Obama.

See, I knew it. It IS class warfare.

Occupy LA Library.

No one likes an ass hole.

Obama is a douche bag.

The prime evil doer. Actually, I do agree with this. Greenspan sucks.

Pile 'O Signs

Occupy LA wants a small footprint.

Occupy LA tent city South.

The Evil Doers

A very wide range of demands.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

How Japan's Oldest Wooden Building Survives Giant Earthquakes

Below is an interesting article on how Japan's ancient pagoda's survive earthquakes and weather.

How Japan's Oldest Wooden Building Survives Giant Earthquakes


How Japan’s Oldest Wooden Building Survives Giant Earthquakes
Japan has been struck by magnitude 7.0 or greater earthquakes a staggering 46 times since the pagoda at the Horyu-Ji Temple was built in 607AD. So, how did the 122 foot tall structure stay upright through all that shaking?

Multi-story pagoda technology arrived in Japan during the sixth century alongside Buddhism from China. On the mainland, pagodas were traditionally built of stone. However given Japan's seismic instability and higher annual rainfall, that design was simply untenable. But, after much experimentation, Japanese builders figured out how to adapt them to the shaky conditions through three design changes: the use of wide and heavy eaves, disconnected floors, and a shock-absorbing shinbashira.

Japan is a wet country with roughly double China's annual precipitation. So, to keep rainwater from running off building and onto the soil surrounding the foundation, potentially causing the pagoda to sink, builders extended the eaves far away from the walls—constituting up to 50 percent or more of the building's total width. Builders employed a series of cantilevered beams to prop up the massive overhangs. Then, to combat the buildings' severe flammability, the eaves were then laden with heavy earthenware to prevent tinders from igniting the wooden structure underneath.

Side note: Boy are pagodas flammable. The Toji pagoda, Japan's tallest wooden structure, has burned to the ground after being struck by lightning three times since its first building in 824. Fire-by-lightning-strike is actually the primary way that pagodas are destroyed, hence the inclusion of the large metal spire on the roof that acts as a lightning rod. In fact, only two Japanese pagodas in the last 1400 years, the pair at Todai-ji temple, are known to have actually collapsed from shaking alone.

The wide and heavy eaves aren't only good for fire protection, they also act as enormous stabilizers with a huge amount of inertia that must be overcome for the building to begin swaying. And even with the strongest of jolts, the eaves will cause the building to gently sway rather than shake.

The Horyu-ji pagoda doesn't have any central load-bearing beams like you'd see in modern construction. Since the building tapers as it rises, no single load-bearing vertical beam connects to the one below it. The individual floors themselves aren't solidly connected to their neighbors either, just piled atop one another with loose-fitting brackets. This is actually a big advantage in earthquake country. During a shake, the floors will sway in a slithering fashion, with each floor moving in the opposite direction of the ones immediately above and below. This allows the building to more fluidly ride the seismic wave than a more solid building would.

To keep the floors from flexing too far, builders came up with an ingenious solution—the shinbashira. It looks like a large load-bearing column, but it doesn't actually support any of the building's weight (that weight is supported by a network of 12 outer and four inner columns). Built from a large pine trunk, the shinbashira is strung from the underside of the roof and hangs down a shaft in the center of the structure. Sometimes it's buried into the earth, sometimes it rests lightly atop the ground, and occasionally it doesn't even touch the ground—it just freely hangs. The shinbashira acts as a massive tuned mass damper, helping to mitigate the earthquake's vibrations. It also prevents the floors from swaying to the point of collapse and absorbs some of the momentum of the floors as they strike against it. Basically, it's a giant stationary pendulum with enough mass to prevent the lighter floors from freely swinging around.

This same damping technology is still in use today. The The Taipei 101 employs a massive 4-story, 730-ton steel pendulum hung from the 92nd floor to prevent the building from swaying in high winds. The Citicorp Center in New York, uses a 400 ton concrete block to prevent movement during hurricanes.

[Wikipedia 1, 2, 3 - Economist - Asia Times - National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering- Top image courtesy of (c)Tomo.Yun (www.yunphoto.net/en/) ]

Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Simple Stone Lantern

I love this stone lantern because of how simple and plain it is. This is in the front of a small neighborhood temple in Otawara Tochigi-ken.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Beehive House

This large lantern is located at the entrance of a very nice house in Otawara, Tochigi-ken. I bet you're wondering why I call this the Beehive House. It's because that's what the sign says. It says Hachisu or Hachinosu which means a beehive. The name of the family that lives at this house is named Hachisu or Hachinosu. Thanks to Takahiro Yamamoto who informed me of that.   

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Samurai Manhole

This is a manhole photo in Otawara I posted this last year but I wanted to post it again since I found who I believe the samurai is. I believe this is Nasu no Yoichi. There is a statue in Otawara that also is Nasu no Yoichi so he must be a symbol of the city.

Nasu no Yoichi (那須 与一?) (c. 1169 – c. 1232) was a samurai who fought alongside the Minamoto clan in the Genpei War. He is particularly famous for his actions at the Battle of Yashima in 1184. According to the Heike Monogatari, the enemy Taira placed a fan atop the mast of one of their ships, claiming it protected the ship from arrows, and daring the Minamoto warriors to shoot it off. Sitting atop his mount in the waves, his target atop the ship rocking as well, Nasu nevertheless shot it down with only one shot. (Wikipedia)

Nasu no Yoichi, as depicted in a hanging scroll in the Watanabe Museum. (Wikipedia)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Otawara Lord's Residence?

While walking in Otawara in Tochigi-ken I came across this really interesting gate. When I saw it I thought it reminded me of a gate to the Edo residence of a minor Daimyo or some other Tokugawa official. But it is not in Edo but in a very average neighborhood in Otawara. I tried to peak through the gate and I think it's just someone's residence. I would love to live in a house with an entrance like this.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Quake Damaged Cemetery

On my recent visit to Otawara in Tochigi Prefecture, I noticed a fair amount of earthquake damage from the March 11 disaster, especially to the local cemeteries. I was a bit surprised as I would have thought this type of damage would have been repaired by now but I guess many of the residents just have not had a chance to repair the cemeteries yet. Of course this damage pales in comparison to the damage closer to the quake zone along the coast.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fallen Torii Gate

At the Otawara, Tochigi-ken Shinto shrine, this torii gate was destroyed by the March earthquake.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Demon of Otawara

I came across this today during one of my many walks around Otawara. It was next to the door of some type of business. I am not sure what it is but it looks like some kind of a demon. So I call it the Demon of Otawara.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Guardian of the Bar

I think this is the guardian of the entrance to the Saito Asian Old Bar. This bar is one of maybe 30 or more in a small area of an Otawara Tochigi-ken neighborhood.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Otawara Archer

This statue is in the city of Otawara in Tochigi-ken. It is on a two-lane busy street near my in-laws house. I don't know the  background of this statue or who it is. Can anyone read the plaque on the base of the statue and tell me what it says? It is interesting that this archer is not in samurai attire so I am not certain what era it is supposed to be from or even if it is a warrior. The bow is a traditional bow used by samurai it appears. Samurai bows were asymmetrical. The samurai archer actually grasped the bow closer to the bottom rather in the middle of the bow. Some historians state one reason for this was that early bows were made from a single bamboo stalk that was narrower at the top, therefore the samurai grasped the bow lower on the wider and stiffer part of the bow. Later, samurai used composite bows but they continued to grasp the bow lower near the bottom, maybe to keep the long bow from tripping them or their horse up.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Japanese Playground

For some reason most playgrounds in Japan are dirt rather than grass. I'm not really sure why. Below is a small neighborhood playground in Otawara Tochigi-ken where I take my two boys to often. Although it is dirt it is still a nice little playground for them to have fun at.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japanese Bugs - I don't like them

I am not a big fan of bugs in general but Japanese beetles are especially disgusting and freaky looking. But my two small boys love them just like the average Japanese child. I don't know why beetles are so popular in Japan. They look nasty. Below are a couple of beetles that my two boys had kept in a small box. Before we returned to America we let them go in a small park in Otawara.

There are also a lot of dragonflies in Japan. But unlike Japanese beetles, I think the dragonflies look pretty cool. Here is a dragonfly I tried to get close to before it flew away. Sorry for the blurriness. I was taking the photo quickly with my phone.