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Pretty in the snow

OK, I had a pretty negative article about the hate bus. But this is a beautiful day here in Nagoya. It just keeps snowing, and snowing, and snowing as I exactly said below. This is really only the third day that I’ve seen snow in Nagoya. The first was around Christmas 2008 and it was really just flurries. The next was New Year’s Eve in 2009. Off and on snow had been predicted, then retracted, then posted again. Well, we’ve had mostly ON and it is really, really nice. I don’t need to drive anywhere, I don’t need to take the train. I have no idea if the roads are bad or if the train schedules are messed up. I do know that I went for a walk and had a blast. The snow makes things so peaceful.

I wanted to make sure I got out before it turned to rain, or stopped. But it is continuing.

Street scenes.

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

I love my furry winter coat. No, that is not real fur. It is another UNIQLO purchase.

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

She’s got to be really cold.

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

The shrine across the street from my apartment.

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

And some local greenery (in black and white).

2011 snow in Nagoya

 

Ugly, even in the snow

I written about the Hate Bus multiple times. Today it is snowing, and snowing, and snowing. It is quite remarkable and beautiful. I love seeing the snow. I decided to go for a short walk to try to get some good pictures of the neighborhood in the snow. As I was crossing the street, the hate buses were at the intersection. I really dislike the hate buses. But this time I was completely covered up – I had on a full cap that even had flaps covering my ears, and my hood was up. So I stopped in the middle of the street and pointed my camera straight at the lead truck. Screw them.

Hate the world in your Chevrolet

 

Now, as I have pointed out before, these are Nationalist groups. So why, oh why, is this vehicle a CHEVROLET?!? Do they not see the irony? Or maybe they don’t hate the US.

Anyway, they are not pretty, even in the snow.

Hate bus

 

Hate bus

 

No thanks, I’d rather read about it

A recent article in the Japan Herald states, “Third of young Japanese men have no interest in sex.”

Japan’s birth rate is plummeting because more than a third of Japanese males have no interest in or are actively averse to sex, says a survey.

According to the survey of 671 men and 869 women, issued by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, 35.1 per cent of men aged 16 to 19 said they are not interested in or averse to sex, more than double the 17.5 per cent of men in the previous study in 2008.

Really? REALLY? I wonder about their statistics. AFP reports on the same news, as do many other news agencies.

Japanese, in general, are not great at responding to surveys. How were these surveys performed, in what context? It is true that the birth rate in Japan is really low, and the population is declining. It will be a real strain on the country to support all the aging people right now. If current eating habits continue though, I predict the life span of the Japanese will actually decrease for a while in the future. But I digress. Economic models still seem to be focused on growth instead of sustainability, so until Japan shifts their model to a sustainment model, it will be difficult. With neighbors like China, staying out of a growth race is pretty hard, but one that probably can’t be won.

World birthrate

 

What is leading to such a reduced birth rate? Developed countries or countries with strong regulations on birthrate (China) tend to have lower birth rates. Japan clearly falls into that category. But if I look at the life of a typical Japanese young person, would I want to have kids? Likely, if single, they are living at home or in a small mansion. If married, they are still likely living with one of the parents. Not a whole lot of time for privacy. Plus, people really do work late into the night, easily between 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm. So people are tired and have no privacy. Two strikes against a good sex life. Then, if a couple does get it on, do they want to have kids? Space is small, living is expensive, and having kids amplifies those problems. Many couples are going childless or opting for one child. There are exceptions of course, but I know of few families with more than two children.

What about the 16 to 19 year olds? Are they really so uninterested in sex? I don’t think so. Any trip to a 7-11 will reveal lots of sexually explicit manga [LINK]. Lots of manga shops have huge areas devoted to 18+ manga. My local manga shop is Toranoana and walking through the floors is quite the eye opening experience.

Manga shop

 

Recently, Tokyo has passed a law that will require a lot of restrictions on manga. This news even made the Wall Street Journal.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly on Wednesday enacted an ordinance that vastly expands a law meant to restrict people younger than 18 from purchasing or flipping through manga depicting rape, sex crimes, incest and “sexually explicit acts and graphic images that are not acceptable morally.” By making previous rules broader and more clear, the Tokyo government will have the authority to deem more manga as “unwholesome books,” which restrict where and how they can be sold.

Perhaps these days, the 16 – 19 year old boys would rather read about sex than actually participate, then spend the next 2 hours trimming their eyebrows and styling their hair. Yes, the AFP article even dredges up the Herbivore man again.

Of course, all my comments are merely speculation. I’ve done no personal research with the 16 to 19 year old boys in Japan.

Staying toasty

I’ve maybe been complaining about how cold it is. Maybe that’s only on Facebook or Twitter, but it’s cold for Nagoya. There’s no central heating in my apartment although I do have radiated heat through the floors in part of my house. Not all rooms, so I have cold areas and warm areas. I like the heated floors, but because they are heated by hot water, my gas bill gets pretty high in the winter.

One way to combat the cold temperature though is to wear warmer clothes. So I’m sitting here in wool socks, a wool sweater, and thick “house pants,” plus a HEATTECH (link in English or Japanese) turtleneck from ユニクロ (UNIQLO). Yes, here I am talking about underwear again.

HEATTECH Turtleneck by UNIQLO

 

UNIQLO, as I have posted before is about the only place that I can find clothes that come close to fitting. I’m preparing to go to Hokkaido in a couple of weeks, so I figured I needed long underwear. Everyone swears by HEATTECH so I also bought some long underwear there. And now, I can’t stop wearing it or buying it. Do people in the States often wear longjohns to work? Do you have to reach a certain age to do so?

HEATTECH Tights by UNIQLO

 

I don’t know the answers to those questions, but I am not alone in my love of leggings in Japan. Nor does it seem to be an age thing. Many of my younger colleague’s tights poke their way out from under their pants when they sit with their legs crossed. And we know from past posts that leggings under pants are fashionable. So on these colder days, I shamelessly wear my long underwear to work, smugly knowing that I am staying warm.

I do keep it a little old school on the tights, going for the waffle material as opposed to the silky material they offer as well. I almost went with camouflage as well, but I don’t have anything camouflage, so why get the tights? I can’t emphasize enough that, although they pants and sleeves are a little short, the HEATTECH is really nice to have and makes the chilly Nagoya mornings and nights a little toastier.

And for my Midwestern friends and readers, the weather here is nothing compared to your winters. I know it. But I’m a Californian now.

Future Vision

Rumor has it that as you get older, it gets harder for you to read smaller (or regular print), especially in low light. It’s called presbyopia.

Mayoclinic.com states:

Presbyopia — the gradual loss of your eyes’ ability to focus actively on nearby objects — is a not-so-subtle reminder that you’ve reached middle age. A natural, often annoying part of aging, presbyopia usually becomes noticeable in your early to mid-40s and continues to worsen until around age 60.

You may become aware of presbyopia when you start holding books and newspapers at arm’s length to be able to read them. If you’re nearsighted, you might temporarily manage presbyopia by reading without your glasses.

Unfortunately, I can attest first hand that the rumor is true and annoying. Over the past few years, my ability to read small print in low light has deteriorated greatly. So for all my colleagues I used to tease on business trips when they held their menus far away, or brought the menu closer to a light, enjoy your Schadenfreude. It totally sucks.

One form of a Japanese vision test eye chart

 

My eyes are messed up anyway, farsighted with astigmatism. As I’ve gotten older, my farsightedness has actually improved, while my near vision for reading has gone south. So really, the solution should be bifocals or progressive lenses. Sigh. I can still read fairly well without reading glasses though – or at least I can read English. I’m completely blind reading tiny Japanese text with furigana. It is impossible, so I have a pair of reading glasses (and not the pharmacy reading glasses – no sir – my farsightedness and astigmatism precludes that) that I use when I am reading Japanese or small English text.

When I was back in the States in November, I had a pair of lenses replaced because they had become too scratched somehow, and I was tired of seeing starbursts at nighttime through my frames. As a vain guy, I have three pairs of glasses so it wasn’t a major impact, but these frames I wore probably 90% of the time. OK, 99% of the time. I went to the doctor and had them arranged to be express shipped to my brother’s place in Boston since I was not going to be back in LA.

My everyday glasses

 

Fortunately, the glasses arrived in Boston while I was still there, I popped them on, and they felt really, really good. Ahhhhhh. Then I pulled out my iPhone to read something, and I couldn’t make out a thing. Everything was completely blurry.

Simulated reading results with new lenses

 

The previous year, my Doctor and I had reached a bit of a compromise. We thought that I could go with my 2008 prescription that overcorrects my farsightedness, and helps my reading ability as well. It isn’t really enough for reading, but it is adequate. I didn’t want to transition to bifocals yet because that is admitting that erectile dysfunction is just around the corner. Actually, I didn’t want to make a change just prior to moving to Japan. In 2010, I got another eye check and of course things had changed. So I had a new prescription and again my Doctor and I agreed to stick with the old prescription but to perhaps update my reading glasses.

When I went to get the new lenses, the optician pulled the 2010 prescription to make the lenses, resulting in beautiful distance vision but horrible reading. Of course, I found that out in Boston. I also had gotten rid of all my old prescriptions in Japan because they were “out of date.” Luckily, my optician agreed to send me the new old prescription and now I am in the process of getting new lenses in Japan.

Of course, in Japan, the lenses are much more expensive. Nothing like paying for lenses twice in a 3 month period. And I was greeted with a matrix of options … how much thinner, what kind of coats, and how much edge distortion are you willing to accept? I kind of shot for the middle – I hope the lines will be straight enough. We’ll see in one week how well the new lenses work.

I had Tomo with me to help with the transaction, and even with him present it was hard to communicate the various things I needed / wanted. However, I’m pretty confident we got the right lenses on order in terms of correction. I’m just worried about the extra stuff like the coating, the index of refraction, and the distortion. Oh well. Time will tell.

Catch Up Post – Shanghai – October 2010

Last year at the beginning of the year, or maybe even earlier, Tomo and I were walking through Nagoya Station and walked past a bunch of images of some of the country pavilions for the upcoming World Expo in Shanghai. They looked really cool, and we decided that we would visit Shanghai and the World’s Fair in 2010. Tomo did some quick checking, and we booked a trip in June. It is really easy for Japanese to travel to China – they just get on a plane and go. Americans still need to get a visa. I was quite fortunate that I had a trip to LA coming up, so I was able to arrange for my visa there. Otherwise it would have been much more difficult and slightly more expensive to get in Japan.

World Expo 2010 - Shanghai

In the end, we had to cancel our trip in May due to work scheduling conflicts. Everything was refundable except for our Expo tickets. After some investigation, we decided to give it another shot and book again in October. We were minutes away from cancelling again due to scheduling conflicts, but decided that the proper work / life balance was more important. In the end, there was no major issue going, but sometimes you just don’t know.

We figured that the place may be less crowded in October compared to May since the initial excitement of the event would be over. Ha ha ha ha ha ha. We were wrong.

But first, before we even got to the Expo, we were in Shanghai and that was cool in itself. We were staying at the Portman Ritz-Carlton, which sounds a lot fancier than it really is. Sure, it is a very nice hotel, but it isn’t a small, little boutique hotel. It has over 600 rooms. However, I am not complaining.

I had been to Shanghai before, and there were definitely some areas that I wanted Tomo to see. We started walking, and Tomo had picked out some interesting places along the way too. The goal was to walk from the hotel, eventually getting to the walk street area of Nanjin Road, and then ending up at the Bund for a view across to Pudong. From there, the night would be whatever it turned out to be.

Shanghai

10 years ago, on my first visit to China, walking along the streets of Shanghai was amazing to me. The fact that I was actually in China, walking down the street, was cool enough in itself. Now, I live in Asia, and everyone around me is Asian, and walking down a street in Shanghai is kind of like walking down a street in Japan, or Taipei, or Bangkok, or Singapore, or …. Of course, the cities I mentioned are extremely different, but they are all starting to merge into a similar style of “major Asian city.” Still, even on this trip, I found it exciting to be in Shanghai, walking down the street.

We first stopped at a restaurant that served soup and dumplings. It was incredibly cheap, and really good, and soon got very crowded. If you can imagine, I was the only white guy to be found.

Shanghai restaurant menu

 

Shanghai restaurant crowd

 

We made it to Nanjing and continued to walk to the Bund. The last time I was here was during the day, and I got some interesting pictures at that time.

Older pictures.

Shanghai Nanjing Road

 

Shanghai Nanjing Road

 

Recent photos.

Shanghai Nanjing Road

 

Bund at night

 

Of course, when we finally made it to the Bund, the experience did not disappoint. The old of the bund contrasted against the new of Pudong across the water. Interestingly, I found the view to Pudong very interesting the first time I was in Shanghai, and yet at that time there were only a few buildings, primarily the TV tower. Since then, other buildings have been built that are quite spectacular.

Pudong

 

While we were wandering around, we split up taking pictures. As I was peering across the water, I was approached by three girls who started chatting me up. They had just graduated, were from Xian, had been to the Expo that day, and so on. I’m always a little cautious of wily strangers but I chatted back. Tomo joined me and they continued to talk and next thing we knew they were inviting us to a cultural exposition just down the street. Why don’t we come with them? Ahhhhh, no thanks. I have no idea where that was actually going, but I think they probably weren’t from Xian, probably didn’t go to the Expo, and were out gathering people for something. I doubt it was anything to serious, but we elected not to go. Instead, we went to a restaurant / bar on the Bund for a light snack and a great view at a sky high price. It was worth it though.

View from cafe

 

We wanted to check out the view from the Pudong side as well, so we rode a really cheesy “train” underneath the river to Pudong and enjoyed the “art” exhibition on the way. After accomplishing our mission, we returned across the river, to the subway, and back to the hotel after a remarkably full first day.

The next day, a Thursday, we planned on going to the Expo. The weather was pretty miserable in the morning. Rainy and not so warm. That did not deter us, or hundreds of thousands of others as well. What we had heard turned out to be true, the place was PACKED! The grounds are huge, so at first it seems pretty wide open. But then you start making your way to the pavilions and it is crazy. Of course we went to Japan first, and the girls had told us that you can jump the line if you have a passport of that country. Japan did NOT have that policy. The same treatment for all people. And the line was about 4 hours to wait. That didn’t sound fun and we were living in Japan anyway, so what’s the point? Next up, Saudia Arabia. 6 hours, and jammed packed with pushy people. That didn’t look fun either. At this point, there was a little tension.

Gateway

 

The line for some exhibition.

Exhibition line

 

I got a big kick out of the signs reminding people of proper manners. As if it would help.

Manners, please

 

Manners, please

 

Be careful

 

Thank goodness for New Zealand. They were our gateway to smaller, more accessible pavilions. We finally started going into some of the smaller country pavilions and at this point I can’t remember all the countries we visited. I will try: New Zealand, Singapore, Australia, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Finland, Croatia, Slovenia, Canada, USA, Mexico, Brasil, The Netherlands,

Switzerland.

Switzerland

 

UK.

UK

 

Luxembourg.

Luxembourg

 

For my space geek friends out there, Slovenia.

Slovenia

 

France.

France

 

Architecturally, Finland was my favorite. Australia had the best “show” but Canada’s Cirque de Soleil designed experience was cool as well. Slovenia had the coolest exhibition, Croatia’s was by far the cheapest and most lame, and Brasil was disappointing as well. Mexico was very interactive and fun, the Netherlands was just trippy, and the USA tried really hard to be gracious.

In and around Finland.

Finland

 

Finland

 

Finland

 

Canada.

Canada

 

I will say that the passport trick worked really well at the US pavilion, and while others queued for a long time, I waived my US passport, got a friendly, “Where are you from?” and was given immediate access, +1.

USA

 

One of my biggest excitements, which I paid for dearly later, was discovering Mexican food at the Mexican pavilion. Ooops. The Mexican pavilion was full of interactive art.

Tomo in Mexico

 

Me in Mexico

 

Mexico

 

In spite of the rain, we had a long and complete day in the country pavilion area of the expo. To say it was huge is an understatement. Am I glad we did it? You bet.

World Expo 2010

 

Prior to going to China, everyone was telling me to bring Immodium or some other intestinal troubles masking agent. I told myself I would be careful, I was only there for a few days, I was in a major city, and there would not be any problem. Until Friday morning. Yikes! I was miserable and could not keep any food in my stomach. Nothing like spending a vacation day timing trips to the bathroom. I ended up sending Tomo away to do his own thing because I could not imagine being away from the room. Fortunately, I started feeling better and by 3:00 pm was ready to risk an adventure in the city.

Tomo really wanted to go to another restaurant in his excellent Japanese guidebook. Since I couldn’t find any English language guidebooks for Shanghai in Nagoya, how could I overrule his request. We took a taxi to the general area and arrived to see that the entire block where this restaurant was supposed to be was now a giant construction zone. That’s progress! And also really frustrating. With guidebook in hand, we went to a different restaurant in a different part of Shanghai that turned out to be right where we were the night before. Anyway, the food basically was a great choice, and was basically chicken and noodle soup. My stomach was on the road to recovery.

Not an easy menu to choose from.

Choices

 

Coca-Cola products, Coke and Sprite.

Coke

 

Sprite

 

We still had one more ticket for the Expo, so we decided to go to the technology and commercial side of the Expo across the river. We had heard that it wasn’t crowded. Whoever told us that was completely mistaken. It was even MORE crowded, perhaps because it was a Friday night. The most popular pavilion? The Coca-cola pavilion – a 5 hour wait. We wandered through a few pavilions, and then wandered around the grounds for a bit, and decided we had saturated on the Expo.

Coca-Cola Happiness Factory

 

Other interesting pictures from the commercial pavilions.

World Expo 2010

 

World Expo 2010

 

Our plan was to go back to Pudong and go to the top floor observation deck of the Shanghai World Financial Center. I never imagined walking across a glass catwalk at the 97th floor of a building, but I did. For someone who doesn’t like heights (me), it was surprising easy. Maybe it’s only open heights that bother me. I think it is a beautiful building.

Shanghai World Financial Center

 

Trying to get THE picture

 

At that point it was pretty late, and we were tired and hungry, so we ate at some western place on the lower levels of the building. Whatever I ate was good for my stomach so I was happy.

Our last day was easy, we took advantage of the hotel spa and then went to Din Tai Fung, this time in Shanghai and right next to the hotel, and were able to meet up with ex-colleagues of mine who are now living in Shanghai. That was cool.

Finally, to put the finishing touch on the trip, we rode the MAGLEV train to the airport, reaching a top speed of 430 km/hr (267 mph).

MAGLEV train station

 

Not quite 430 km/hr at this time, but close.

Speeding to the airport

 

Again, a very good trip – one of the great advantages of living in Asia is to be able to take a long weekend to Shanghai.

Catch Up Post – Taipei – September 2010

In September, I took a trip to Taipei with Tomo and his parents. Tomo and I had planned to go, but then Tomo thought it would be fun for his parents to come along too. So three native Japanese speakers, one native English speaker, in Taiwan. The communication challenges were potentially difficult, but we learned that a LOT of people in Taipei speak a little Japanese (might have something to do with 50 years of Japanese occupation (I didn’t know that)), Taiwan uses traditional Chinese characters instead of simplified Chinese characters, and folks speak a lot of English as well.

Taipei

Since the trip was over three months ago, I can’t pretend to remember all the details. I can say it was a terrific trip, and I really enjoyed Taipei. It was a friendly city.

Taipei

Of course, upon arrival and check-in, our priority was to get to Din Tai Fung. There are Din Tai Fung everywhere these days, and I was first introduced to it in Los Angeles. There the wait is almost always over one hour. We went at a strange time, so we were seated pretty quickly. Of course, the food did not fail to satisfy me. I love the soup filled dumplings. Interestingly, in LA, most of the kitchen staff were Hispanic. In Taipei they appeared to be Chinese.

Din Tai Fungi

What to order

The kitchen

 

When we left the restaurant, we were hit with some pretty hard rain, so we shopped around a little and then made it back to the hotel. The rain went away and then we went to the dried food part of town. These shops are really popular with the Japanese, and it seemed that dried squid was the most precious commodity. I had some, and absolutely hated it. It reminded me of strongly fish flavored shards of glass. Sound good? I thought not.

Dried food shop

Dried food shop

Dried food shop

 

From the dried food area we went over to another area where we did a bunch of tea sampling. The shop had a whole tea sampling course, starting from weak teas to really strong teas. It was very interesting. The hostess spoke Japanese very well, so I just nodded and pretended I knew what was going on and looked to Tomo for a translation.

Tea sampling

Tea sampling

Tea sampling

 

Following the tea sampling, we made a scramble to one of the night markets – Shilin. We wandered through the market and ended up eating some “big chicken.” Apparently this is pretty famous. The night market was impressive – the sounds, the smells, the tastes. I don’t think I bought anything but we had a good time wandering through.

Big Chicken

Big Chicken  

The next day, as is the custom of Japanese tourists, Tomo and his parents wanted to go to the gold mines outside of the city in the northeast corner of the island. We figured out by train and by bus how to get there, and then somehow got off track with time and missed the train with the good connection. We ended up negotiating, with the help of hotel staff not even associated with our hotel, a cab for the entire day. From the central part of town, out to the goldmine areas, and back. The areas are Jiufen and Jinguashi. We first went to Jinguashi, which has a gold ecological park where you can learn about the gold mining in the area. I got to touch the world’s largest gold bar – weighing a cool 220 kg. It is just sitting there, somewhat protected, but still …

Gold  

Jiufen has many narrow walkstreets, and was made famous by the movie, “A City of Sadness” and apparently like all places made famous it has become a big tourist attraction. We were able to walk around and enjoyed a nice lunch there before making our way back to Taipei.

Juifen

Juifen  

The area of Jiufen and Jinguashi is the rainest in all of Taiwan. We were not disappointed.

In the evening, we went to Taipei 101, which at one point was the world’s tallest building. It is a beautiful structure, and I really enjoyed the tour and the explanation of the architecture, building design, etc. The weather was still kind of bad, so our views were somewhat obstructed. I found the damper to be the coolest thing.

Taipei 101

Taipei 101 damper  

I thought these barricades were interesting.

Construction barricades  

The next morning, we went to a place very near our hotel that was in the Japanese guide books. The food was spectacular, and the menu incomprehensible. It was packed, and it appeared to be mostly Chinese speaking locals or tourists. I was the only white guy there, as was the case at most the Taipei restaurants.

Breakfast  

Breakfast  

Then we went to National Palace Museum. Honestly, it was too packed with too many pushy people to make it even close to enjoyable to me. I took it as a bit of a warm up to Shanghai. But what I remember the most is the crowd, the noise, and my growing impatience. Luckily we enjoyed the grounds before heading back to the hotel.

Grounds at the National Palace Museum  

The rest of the day was spent at a different hotel, taking a bit of a break, enjoying the pool, club lounge, and spa. We went to a different night market to cap off the evening. The next morning Tomo’s parents were adventurous and went back to the dried food place while Tomo and I crossed up our plans and schedules and basically enjoyed a nice lunch!

Night market

Night market  

I highly recommend Taipei to folks who are in Asia and want a fun, lively, friendly city. We had a great time.

New Year’s Eve Slumber Party

The New Year’s Eve party has come and gone and it seems to have been a success. I never really set a time for it to begin, so at the beginning of the evening Tomo and I were all dressed up with no place to go!

Wondering if anyone would come or not

 

Note I tried a little experiment with these pictures – perhaps a failed experiment. I changed the mode to a program mode because I didn’t want the camera to compensate for a lack of light and over-expose. So, although the party was appropriate mood-lit for a party, every picture is now really dark. Oh well, lesson learned.

Anyway, Tomo had time to watch a little TV before the guests started to arrive. Some were late because they were busy cleaning their room, another was late because their 1.5 hour nap turned into 3 hours, and some were just late. But almost everyone made it.

The plan was to eat, watch a comedy special, and maybe consume a little alcohol. Between the 10 of us, 14 beers, 4 bottles of champagne, 2 bottles of white, and 1 bottle of red were consumed. I think I had at least half a bottle of champagne just myself. Or more. Nobody got sloppy drunk, so the party was able to sustain for a bit.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the food. I heated up about 4 liters of chili (yes, really, 4 liters) wondering if anyone would like it. As it turns out, people did. Some were surprised that it wasn’t a little spicier, so I broke out the cayenne especially for them. I should have gotten Tabasco as well.

Enjoying food at the party

Enjoying food at the party

 

As the night progressed, people got more and more interested in the comedy television special.

Enjoying TV at the party

 

We had a countdown and popped some “crackers.” When I was running errands, Tomo told me to get some crackers. I told him I didn’t think we needed to add anymore food. I thought he meant crackers, you know, like crackers. But turns out クラッカー. or crackers, are like firecrackers. He described them as pulling the string and then they pop. Oh, right. Then I added that I didn’t want the streamers flying out and making a mess. After all, I had just spent three days cleaning. He told me I could find some that didn’t have any streamers. I sort of forgot about them and had no idea where to buy them anyway. But then I went to a 100 yen shop and thought, well, maybe they have “crackers” and maybe I’ll buy some. I never go to 100 yen shops, I absolutely HATE 100 yen shops, but I wanted a small plate for a candle and I wanted to spend no more than 100 yen. So there I was, and I found the mother load of crackers. And, if you can believe it, I even found “No Dirty Cracker.” I think that meant that the streamers streamed but were then captured. I snooped around a little more and then determined that was probably the case. Those crackers were definitely worth it. The text reads, “散らからないクラッカー”, (chirakaranai kurakka-), which roughly translates to “non-scattering cracker.”

No Dirty Cracker!

I just noticed the warning label on the back. Make sure you play with the adult and do not put it in the pocket.

No Dirty Cracker usage instructions

 

After the New Year, the TV special ended, so Tomo broke out his collection of Studio Ghibli movies and folks watched, “紅の豚” (Porco Rosso). Why Tomo brought that collection from Tokyo baffles me, but it was a success. People started wearing out by then.

Enjoying movies at the party

 

We watched the Shiina Ringo Expo 2008 live concert DVD that Tomo and I went to. That was a pretty incredible concert. By then I think I had a lot to drink because I don’t remember tons of that time. Odd. Maybe I was talking to others at the time.

After that DVD finished, Tomo suggested we rented “The Hangover” with Japanese subtitles. Hmmm, so that meant I needed someone with an Apple Store account in Japan to rent it. With so many music fans, that took about three seconds. By this time everyone was getting pretty tired. As I thought, the party turned in to a big slumber party, but the expectation of where and how people would sleep was far less than I thought it would be.

Resting until the sun rises

Resting until the sun rises

Resting until the sun rises

 

I think the heated floors kept everyone pretty cozy, although the wood isn’t particularly soft.

The sun came up, the trains started run, and slowly people started to wake up. Slowly.

Rise and shine

 

By 8:30 am or so, everyone had left and I had the chance to go to sleep. As the host I didn’t really feel like I could go to sleep. So I kept myself going. I woke up at 10:00 am or so, feeling really, really, really bad and tasting nothing but champagne. I’ve never been so drunk that I’ve gotten sick. Really. But on 1/1/11 I was soooo close. But all I could think of is that if I puked I’d never want my chili again. So somehow I successfully held back, fell back asleep, and was able wake up around noon and start cleaning. I didn’t feel very good most the day, but was better in the evening and full speed today.

Thanks to my Japanese friends who broke from their usual traditions to enjoy a house party at my place. This is most likely my last New Year’s in Nagoya, so it was really nice to be able to share it with Japanese.

Blogging Statistics for 2010

Last year, on January 2, I tweaked my blog and published some statistics. I guess this is becoming a tradition because I did it again. This year, no visual updates, but I did update the underlying WordPress software. If anyone finds any problems with the blog, drop me a note.

According to one plug in, since I started the blog I have had 4035 unique pages served, 88337 total sessions, and 249,759 total hits. This is a running sum, up from 2250, 33950, and 103380 from last year. Not completely sure what it means but it is interesting.

Last year I added a visible blogging statistic plugin. It has been interesting to see the results. Japan is leading the way viewing the blog, primarily because I got linked on a national news site and got quite a bump for a few days.

Number of hits for the year

 

I’ve had visitors from every state in the union, with California leading the way. I’ve had visitors from a total of 123 countries, out of the 194 countries recognized by the US, +1 since the US does not recognize Taiwan as independent from China. That’s 63% of the countries in the World. I need Africa and South America to step it up a little. Where is Uraguay? Burkina Faso? Come on people! According to that statistics plugin my site has been viewed 12,693 times with 8112 unique visitors.

Blogging statistics