a_cubed: (Peace)

Almost a year since my last blog post. Very bad of me. The last one was a report that I’d finished Kiki’s Delivery Service Book 2. It’s taken me ten months to finish books 3 and 4, but I’ve now done so. I’m just over half-way through Book 5 (which I’m racing through, having read the first 150 pages of 280 in just over two weeks). I’ve also now seen the recent live action Kiki movie. This is definitely derived from the first book, rather than from the Ghibli animation. In some ways it sticks closer to the book. For instance Kiki cannot accept money in return for her magic services. It’s never quite explicit in the book, and the “economics” of this are somewhat glossed over in terms of how she manages daily existence if she can’t earn money (or possibly can’t even deal with money directly). There’s something of an implication of receiving services in “barter” for her own and she can certainly accept gifts in kind in exchange for her services. Although this bit is closer to the book, and some of the scenes/sequences in the movie are heavily inspired by chapters in the book, it’s still quite a departure from the book in many terms. In the book there’s a sequence with a girl asking her to deliver a black envelope to another girl, which it turns out is an old tale of witches cursing people. In the book this is dealt with on the small scale of the girls involved only, whereas in the movie it’s part of the plot whereby after this incident people start distrusting Kiki and even returning things she’s delivered to them, back to Kiki instead of back to the sender.


I watched the movie in Japanese (no choice – there doesn’t seem to be an English subtitle version available – but I wanted to do that anyway). Since I know the story pretty well and it’s a kids/teen movie, I was able to follow much of the dialogue well enough, but I certainly wasn’t understanding every sentence in detail. Harder than the book, of course, since spoken word is harder to follow because of speed and difficulty to re-tread (I was watching it with $DAUGHTER so could hardly stop every thirty seconds and re-play to get the dialogue, though I may do some of this later to try to improve my Japanese listening).


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished


a_cubed: (Default)

As I noted in March, I had the second book of the Kiki’s Delivery Service series on order having finished the first book. I didn’t makea precise note of the day it arrived, but it wasn’t long after the 9th of March when that post was made. Tonight I finished book 2. I made much more of an effort to read at least six pages a day of this one, and to catch up if I missed a day. The book is 380 pages, although that seems longer in some ways than it is since it’s got a number of illustrations, some of which are full page or half the page. Japanese literary typesetting is also quite different to English in that it’s set vertically. Just as with English texts, this means much of the dialogue only takes up part of a line. However, since japanese books, like English ones, are taller than they are wide, the resulting white space in Japanese is a larger proportion of the page. For dialogue-heavy sequences with  lot of short statements, this can mean a page using less than half the space.


I have book three on the shelf, so it’s on to that, tomorrow.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

As I wrote last July, I started trying to Read Japanese (Teen) Literature. Well, I’m nowhere near as fast reading Japanese as the person I was sniffy about who took a month to read a Pratchett. However, eight months later and I finally reached page 259 of Majou no Takkyubin this evening. Book 2 is on order and should be delivered soon (for Y1 plusY250 P&P). Plus there’s a live-action movie due out soon. It’s almost impossible to find English-subtitled Japanese movies in Japan, of course, but as with the book I will try this out to see how well I can follow the movie. In particular I’ll be interested to see how much they follow the book, whether they draw anything from the Ghibli movie (that one was as close to the book as Howl’s Moving Castle was, by the way, i.e. it was clearly inspired by it but not in any way even an attempt to do any kind of semi-faithful translation to the screen) or whether they do their own thing with the concept.


It took me a long time, but I’m still pleased with being able to do this.




a_cubed: (Default)
(Note: this postmay appear twice, though it looks like LJ have screwed up the cross-posting system Iwas using from my WP site.)
I signed up today for a conference in Spain. They are using PayPal for taking registration. I’m trying to avoid PayPal, but as the only alternative (bank transfer) is a real pain to do from Japan, I bite the bullet when the other party only offers PayPal as a sensible option. So, I was directed to a PayPal site to process the payment, having given them all the registration details they demanded (including them requiring a landline phone number! I just re-entered my mobile number, which they had already also required). The initial PayPal page was all in Spanish. There was no visible button for changing the language. An understandable (to me) bit asked for my country, so I selected Japan and the page renewed into English. Odd, but useful to me. So, I gave them my credit card details including the billing address and submitted them. The “review and confirm payment” page then came up in Japanese. These days I know enough Japanese to have been able to figure this one out.

So, PayPal displayed itself in three different languages during one transaction, with at no point that I could see a visible button to select a language I can definitely use, and with some apparently random selections of which language to display a particular page in. This is not good internationalisation.

Typhoon 26

Oct. 15th, 2013 05:49 pm
a_cubed: (Default)

2013 Typhoon No. 26 will make move through Tokyo area in the next 12-18 hours. It is not seriously dangerous, though will disrupt transport. Luckily for me I have no appointments tomorrow so will just work at home. $WIFE has to go to the office (but has rearranged a meeting outside since her interviewee is not sure of being able to make it in) but she uses the subway to get there, so should be fine.


Current Mood: (crushed) crushed
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Many may know of Studio Ghibli’s movie “Kiki’s delivery service”. What many may not know is that this is based on a series of books by a Japanese author (although set in a fictional Eastern European country [one with a coastline]). The books are really sets of short stories rather than novels per se, or so $WIFE tells me. Having watched Kiki (in Japanese 魔女の宅急便 or Witch’s Home Delivery Service) too many times lately due to $DAUGHTER, and having had $WIFE explain that the author had finally finished the series of books of tales with a finale in which Kiki’s daughter (by Tombo) heads off for her “year away” at 13, I asked $WIFE to get the books for me. It seemed to me that I should be up to reading teen literature in Japanese. She picked up the first book earlier this week and I’ve now started reading it, which is quite hard going but so far just about feasible for me. I’m reminded of an experience in the mid-90s though. A friend of mine was a nurse in London at the time and I used to visit her whenever I was there. At first she was staying in the nurses’ accommodation – multiple occupancy apartments owned by the hospital, and quite nearby (in this case right next door). She had a roommate who was a fairly nice guy but not really the intellectual type. My friend is an SF reader, though not an active fan. She told me on one visit that her flatmate had borrowed one of the early Terry Pratchett Discworld books from her and finally returned it a month later saying he’d really enjoyed it. it wasn’t that he’d taken a month to get around to reading it. He’d taken a month to read it. Being both heavy readers my friend and I found this rather alien. We figured he must be having to read every word as an individual word and then figure out the meaning of each sentence before moving on to the next. I’m feeling a bit like this with starting to try to read Japanese for “pleasure”, though of course part of the purpose is to improve my Japanese, but I’m also reading it because I want to know the story. I think I may be already ahead of friend’s flatmate’s English reading ability, though.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: Mononoke Hime OST


a_cubed: (Default)

So, for once I’m moved to do a non-book review blog.


The week before last I cut my finger. About a 1cm long shallow slash just below the last joint of my right index finger. So, this kind of things happens all the time, and why am I blogging it? Well, because I gut it on some cheese. Wow, that was some sharp cheese!


I made soup last night with some kabocha (Japanes squash variety with inside flesh pretty much like a pumpkin but with a green skin) and with some satoimo (also called taro, under which name you might have seen it outside Japan in restaurants, particularly in slices for tempura). This is a relatively common dish for me these days. The recipe is based on a leek and potato base (which can be used for all sorts of other flavourings like asparagus). I just substitute some kabocha and satoimo for the  potato. The particular satoimo I had in is one with a purple flesh as well as purple skin (most of the ones available in Japan are purple-skinned but have pale yellow flesh). Combined with the orange kabocha flesh this usually makes for a yellow/orange soup. However, the purple flesh meant that, like mixing all the colours of plasticine together, the result was pretty much brown. A slight purple-tinged brown in this case, but definitely brown. Very tasty, though.


I’m now mostly back to my normal diet now. At least I’m able to eat high residue foods like Weetabix and brown bread again. I’m still being quite careful with spices, working my way back up to chili, via increaing amounts of pepper and ginger in things. I’m still avoiding Indian (I had an Indian the evening before my colitis attack and while I’m fairly sure it wasn’t the direct cause, I am pretty sure the spices did not help) and Thai so far, and only using tiny amounts of (fake)wasabi in soba dipping sauce and sashimi soy dipping sauce.


I had one of those odd coincidences last night. I bumped my little side table with my leg as I sat down and spilled some coffee. A very small amount got onto the TV remote controller, though I was fairly sure it was only on the surface and didnt get inside at all. We were watching an episode of Once Upon a Time at that point, so I didn ‘t need the TV controller, only the media player controller, until after the episode. It didn’t work. So, figuring it was a coincidence I swapped out the batteries for a pair in my laptop bag, as they were the closest to hand. Still no joy. I left it until this morning to see if it was moisture inside, but still no joy. Before trying to replace the unit, I tried with a fresh set of batteries from the cupboard and it worked. The batteries in my latop bag must have been there too long or were used ones I’d put in there while travelling at some point and not taken out. Ho hum, at least I didn’t find this out after buying a replacement controller.


Current Mood: (numb) numb
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Japanese has a lot of homophones. This is at least partly due to their importing of Chinese characters and their pronunciation. Japanese has a much more limited set of phonemes than Chinese and so symbols which have different sounds in Chinese get imported into the same sound in Japanese. These collisions or near collisions make Japanese a great language for puns, as are Chinese and English for both related and different reasons. My flashcard system Anki is set to give me 15 new cards a day from (currently) the JLPT 1 set of vocabulary, which some kind other user have entered (I alter them to my needs and preferences as they come up). Today, the word 幹部 pronounced “kanbu” meaning executive, senior manager or officer came up. I often double-check words for extra meanings (and particularly for use as adjectives – many Japanese nouns can be used as adjectives with the particle な or the adjectival phrase 的な added). The electronic dictionary I use does lookup by phonetic entry (using roman letters though it has a kana entry option as well, though most Japanese people seem to use the roman letters, too). The first entry for “kanbu” is not the word I was looking for, but the homophone 患部 meaning “diseased part”. Great fun for puns, methinks.


Apologies if the Japanese characters don’t get transferred to LJ properly.




Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

Typhoon

Jun. 19th, 2012 10:38 pm
a_cubed: (Default)

There’s a typhoon comng through Tokyo just now. It’s 23:30 and the wind is really picking up. It’s going to be tough to get to sleep with this noise which is a shame because I wanted to get an earlier night than before. Oh well, coming through overnight means les disruption to things like trains. I just hope it sticks to timetable and is really gone by tomorrow morning. I have an early flight out to Germany on Thursday and if there’s significant disruption to schedules on Wednesday there may be knock-on effects on Thursday. I got delayed by 16 hours (luckily at home nt at the airport) last year due to a typhoon and have twice been caught on Shinkansen trains (each time for about 5 hours) by them.


The people I fel sorriest for are those in the Tohoku area still in temporary accomodations from last year’s earthquake. Yes, there are still significant numbers in that kind of situation. While not as bad as last year’s season when a couple made direct landfall in Tohoku (this one mad landfall just south of Nagoya so will have spent the worst of its Fury on Shizuoka, Tokyo and Chiba before hitting Tohoku) it must still be adding more misery on top of a hard life up there.


Current Mood: Hiccoughing
Current Music: Dr Who Season 6 Soundtrack, plus Typhoon WInd Accompaniment


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

I’ve been meaning to post this quick one for a while. $WIFE was reading a biography of Agatha Christie last year and found one comment on Christie’s habits a bit odd. The translator had reported that her favourite drink was half-cream half-milk. $WIFE thought this sounded incredibly rich. Half’n”half may be fine as a whitener in coffee but it would be a bit rich. After thinking about it for a while, I realised that the translator must have mis-translated “half-cream milk” (an older term I remember from my childhood for what’s now in the UK called semi-skimmed milk). The translation was fairly recent, though I’m not sure when the original was written, so this may well be a case of an earlier term confusing the translator who know the usual current terms of whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed instead of the old “full cream”, “half cream” and “no cream” terms.


Current Mood: fragile
Current Music: Mononoke Hime Soundtrack


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

I’ve been meaning to post something about this for a while. Japan has a number of critus fruits of which I’ve never seen mention outside Japan. I use three of these (and lemon juice) for flavouring fizzy water as a lower calorie alternative to the CC Lemon soda I used to drink. (I stopped because it was unavailable after the earthquake last year for a while and having weaned myself off it I reduced my calorie intake by sticking to fizzy water with a little flavouring of pure citrus juices.) The first is the yuzu which is a medium sized (about the same size as a Seville orange) yellow fruit usually with a bumpy at the stalk connection. It’s used in quite a lot of Japanese flavourings. For instance yuzu-flavoured soy sauce is quite common. It’s sharp but not particualrly astringent. Next we have the sudachi which looks a little like a lime and is similarly quite hard, though rounder. It’s imilarly astringent. It’s much more sour than the yuzu and very rarely eaten directly, though $WIFE says her farmer grandfather like to eat them (they had a few trees on the farm). Lastly there is the kabosu a yellow green fruit slightly larger than the yuzu. This is more commonly eaten as fruit than the other two. It’s also used by others as a drink flavouring, sometimes being available on ANA flights when they bring drinks round after the meal service, for example. There’s a number of other critus fruits available in Japan that I haven’t seen elsewhere but as I haven’t tasted them (or their juice) I’ll leave those for another day.




a_cubed: (Default)

SO I’ve now been sudying Japanese for eight years. In the first few years I was only so-so committed to spending the time on it. After my sabbatical here in 2007 I got much more committed to it and since moving here I’ve started using the Anki flashcard system which encourages me in a number of ways to study quite hard (1-2 hours per day typically, self-study, plus a one hour personal lesson every week). With both my teacher in the UK and my new teacher here, sometimes I’d feel like I was making no progress. That’s because they’re good teachers and are always pushing just beyond my confort zone, so I always feel like I’m working hard, and sometimes I’m failing at things. $WIFE and $COLLEAGUES do tell me I’m improving, though. Certainly I can read more of the kanji I see on the street and occasionally I can keep up with (some of) the substitles (part of the normal broadcast) on news programmes that $WIFE watches. I can even sometimes figure out the meaning of an unfamiliar word and its pronunciation because I already know its constituent kanji characters from other words (or on their own).

Today I managed something that I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to. When I bought my current laptop the store didn’t have extra power supplies available, and when I enquired later they don’t stock them as standard and advised going direct to ASUS. Before Christmas I checked with ASUS and they didn’t have stock. Today I checked their website and they had stock in, so I ordered two extras (I need one for home, one for the office and one for the bag). Yes, I do need these – once in the past three months I forgot to unplug the power supply at home when heading into the office – luckily I was able to keep things short in the office anyway and come back home for the rest of the day. Why this is relevant to my improving Japanese is that the Asus Japan website is entirely in Japanese and I was able to find what I was looking for, check they had stock and go through the whole ordering process, while being absolutely certain I understood everything on the way and without having to look any words up in a dictionary. I’ve done similar things before, though I usually have to ask $WIFE to help or at least look a few things up in the dictionary. Now, this is obviously not fluency. I have a long way to go yet. According to my Anki studies I’ve only completed the JLPT2 vocabulary and have another 3000 words/phrases to learn to get to JLPT1 (the highest level and supposedly equivalent to high school gradate Japanese, at least in listening and reading, with some claim to “writing” ability but no speaking test). However, it is progress. I was also able to have a real conversation with $FATHER-IN-LAW and $MOTHER-IN-LAW at the New Year family party without needing interpretation by $WIFE. My grammar used to be ahead of my vocabulary. I think it’s now the other way around and I must add appropriate grammar cards to my Anki deck and interleave new vocabulary with the grammar. I think it will take me until 2015 to be basically fluent and maybe 2017 before I think I could even approach doing my job in Japanese. But, it’s nice to feel progress and have confidence that the work I’m putting in is paying off.


Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished
Current Music: We Too Are One - the Eurythmics


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Peace)

Since first coming to Japan in 2007 I have been researching Japanese government identity registration systems. Although providing some of the background to the papers I’ve co-authored on social and legal aspects of privacy in Japan I haven’t published any of this work yet. The trouble has been that it keeps getting bigger. Every time I think we’ve got a handle on the issue and just have to tie off a few loose ends, I find that the loose ends are actually spaghetti links to a new area that needs covering and which changes our view of the current situation. So far I’ve read material covering Japanese registration of residents back to the import of a Chinese family registration system in the 6th century up to the merging of the database for the current citizen and non-citizen registration systems. A recent book on Japanese immigration, focussing primarily but not solely on the Zainichi Korean question and its development from 1945 to the early 1980s (though including some relevant background from before the war and including a round-up of developments up to 2008) seemed a useful addition to my reading on this subject. I wasn’t disappointed. Borderline Japan (Foreigners and Frontier Controls in the Postwar Era) by Tessa Suzuki-Morris is an excellent examination of the status of the main group of foreigners in Japan. Extensively edited to create a single coherent volume from a number of previously published pieces, this also adds more depth to the constraints of material published as book chapters or journal articles elsewhere, and makes it available in one volume. The xenophobia, communist witch-hunting and duplicity of both the Japanese government and others (notably the US and the International Committee of the Red Cross as well as the governments of both North and South Korea) through over sixty years of dealing with the post-colonial issue of those of Korean descent in Japan are dealt with in good but not excruciating detail. I learned a lot about how others living in Japan have been, and indeed still are, treated by the Japanese government and understand a lot more about the dynamics of the political situation here with regards to foreigners rights. The origins of elements of my core research interest, that of government ID registration systems, were clearly visible here although that wasn’t the focus of this book.


Even without a research reason, I think this was a very useful book for anyone living in or considering living in Japan, whether Japanese or not.


Current Mood: (pensive) pensive
Current Music: Escaflowne Movie Soundtrack


a_cubed: (Peace)

My local swimming pool re-opened again today. It had been closed for the last ten days to help save power. Even now it’s only open until 18:30 each day. The Sumida City Gymnasium in nearby Kinshichou, which I go to on Tuesday when my local pool has its weekly closure day, has now re-opened its pool as well (repairs were needed to the adjustable pool floor which was damaged int he earthquake). It closes at 18:00 each day. I’ve been ill with a really bad cough for the last ten days anyway so probably would not have been able to swim during most of this period. I did my usual 50 lengths in just over 30 minutes – a little slower than standard but only just, so not bad after ten days off and while still a little under the weather. So, back to the exercise and diet regime now that I’m mostly well and that the pool is available again.


The supermarket had more stock back on the shelves again this evening, including a full load of milk at variant fat levels. I’ve learned how to distinguish the different milk types in Japanese. This was necessary since it turns out that the main problem with milk (and a lot of other drinks) seems to be that the main Japanese factory for making and printing tetra-paks (milk, juice, iced coffee and a nuimber of other beverages are still mostkly distributed using classic 1L tetrapaks in Japan) is in Tohoku and has been badly damaged by the quake. This means that not all the usual brands are available so I need to be able to read the labels quickly and easily. Unlike the UK where there were generally three types of milk ordinarily available (and mostly the milk producers had agreed a colour coordination scheme for the caps of the plastic bottles they all moved to a few years ago): skimmed (<1.0% fat: red cap), semi-skimmed (2% fat: green cap) “full” fat (3.6% fat: blue cap). Here they have: 無脂肪牛乳 mushibou gyuunyuu (0-0.5% fat); 低脂肪牛乳 teishibou gyuunyuu (05.-1.5% fat); 成分調整牛乳 seibun chousei gyuunyuu(1.5-3% fat, or 4+%, just to be confusing); 牛乳 gyuunyuu (must be full fat milk approx 3.6%). These are terms mandated by consumer protection law. Oh, they also have pseudo-milk drinks which include some milk content which are called 加工乳.


I’m not sure if this availability was just that I went in immediately after they put stock out for the coming-home-from-work crowd or if that supermarket now has more stock available than before. They’re still limiting milk purchase to one carton per customer, though. They had orange juice, though just one supplier (not my preferred brand but it will do). No yoghurt available at this point, though. The rest of what I wanted to buy (fajita ingredients: tortillas, peppers, mushrooms, spring onions, sour cream, chicken breast) was all available in pretty much normal quantities. Some other stuff is still limited, like instant ramen bowls.


I had a first meeting today with my Japanese colleague who was in the UK during the quake. He reported that his office was pretty much a shambles when he came back including a very heavy table he has in there which had been moved a good three feet and dumped all its covering of boks onto the floor. Most of the contents of his shelves had ended up on the floor, too. He’s on the 8th floor of that 12 storey building and some of the offices on storeys above were in worse condition he reported. In some the doors had become jamed and in other they couldn’t be opened without a lot of messing around due to the things (mostly books) that had colonised the floor behind them.


I am considering what I might do with our bookshelves to help in any future quakes here. The ones which aren’t already attached to the wall need to be so attached, that’s easy. But I think I need to try and put some kind of holder on the front of the shelves to keep the books on. I’m thinking that some curtain cord and hooks might be enough to do the job. We’ve already bought and applied something that was planned before the earthquake but not done at that point, which is some sticky gel material for holding down electricals and the like. It’s been applied to the flat screen TV (they’re far less stable than old CRTs of course) on the new unit which I built and installed the dayt before the quake. The TV has barely moved in the strong aftershocks we’ve had since so I think it’s in pretty good shape now. I did wonder about other possibilities as well, but I think the gel is sufficient. It’s pretty expensive, though. ~Y5000 for four decent size pieces to put under the TV stand feet. We’ve also sorted out a stopper for the sliding door kitchen cupboard. Funnily enough all the kitchen cupboard and related stoppers were sold out quite quickly after the quake from local DIY stores and similar.


Now that this shelving unit has been built we’ve finally got all the boxes of books emptied. There’s still the DVDs and some books in a couple of cupboards that I’d like to get onto other shelves at some point, but at least everything is out of boxes and the extra bedroom is cleared just in time. Any time now for that. Friends should keep an eye on the LJ version of the blog where a friends-locked announcement will be forthcoming at the appropriate time.


Current Mood: awake
Current Music: None


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Peace)

So much for lemons. I think there are very limited supplies getting through and we’re not finding them, mostly. Part of the problem is that whole milk just doesn’t work (it sends my skin nuts and Tomoko is very wary of high-fat things as she doesn’t want to gain too much weight just now – an easy thing to do at present and as I know from bitter experience, it’s much easier to put it on than take it off). Our local supermarket hasn’t had any at all available since we bought 1L a few days ago and the other store we went to today in Asakusa had a modest supply, but only of full fat.


The situation at Fukushima is now improving rather than variable. The worst impact seems to have been a rise in the Iodine-138 levels in Tokyo drinking water to the point where it’s contraindicated for regular consumption by babies under one year. There’s no problem for Pregnant women, though. This news, of course, led to lots of idiots rushing out and panic buying bottled water, leading to those with new-borns having difficulty getting it (resupply being still disrupted, and bottled water was a sensible purchase i the first few days when things were a little uncertain). I despair of my fellow uhman beings’ lack of ability to understand any semblance of risk, sometimes. Those flying long haul to get away from the “radiation danger” in Tokyo have, of course, exposed themselve to an extra dose of radiation far in excess of what I have been exposed to here in Tokyo. Being a 50k+ flyer for years, of course, my exposure on a yearly basis is fairly high due to plane travel, but then I’m aware that it’s not at harmful doses.


Tomoko heard a joke about a smoker standing outside their office building puffing away and discussing their concerns about the Fukushima plant radioactivity…


The serious widespread impact of the earthquake and tsunami, after the 10,000+ (probably more like 20-25,000 in the end :-( ) directly killed, is likely to be the rolling power cuts during what is predicted (through long range forecasting, which isn’t that accurate, it must be said) to be a quite hot summer again. Coping with 30+ degrees overnight without air conditioning is not fun, and for the elderly particularly could easily be fatal.


Current Mood: (calm) calm
Current Music: Much Ado About Nothing soundtrack


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

The supply shortages seem to be easing, with some things becoming available again. Bread is now generally available in bakeries, though in quite limited supply at supermarkets. Meat is more available again at supermarkets and fish never really went away. Fresh tofu is limited. Milk is non-existent. Yoghurt almost so. Even soy-milk is almost unavailable, though we did find some of that today. Fresh fruit and vegetables are almost at normal availablility. Most pre-packaged drinks are limited or no supply.


The news from Fukushima is a little worse, but even so I’m not panicking the way some people are. Our options are quite limited given Tomoko’s condition. Even if we wanted to, the airlines wouldn’t let her fly and a long haul flight would invovled a certain does of radiation that wouldn’t be advisable. Unless things keep getting worse and worse at fukushima the risk in Tokyo is non-existent. Closer to, there are some risks, but even there the advice on evacuation is the right level, I think.


I got almost no work done this week, between the continuing bad news about the effects of the tsunami and the regular aftershocks, I was too unsettled to concentrate and focus to the level needed. I’m hoping to get back to work this coming week.


The planned power cuts have been almost entirely averted due to people keeping their power consumption down. I’m not sure whether that will last, though. We’ve been doing our bit by replacing the lights with new LED ones, which run at half the power consumption of fluorescents and hugely better than incandescents. I was surprised when we moved in that many of the bulbs here were stillo incandescent. Too small for CF bulbs, but the new LED ones are fine. Gradually working our way through the replacements. Sumida City have decided to close the Ryogoku swimming pool from 21st to 31st March to save power (it does take a lot to filter and light such a pool, though the heating I’m fairly sure is done by gas). Since the Kinshichou pool is still out of action due to the damaged floor, that’s no swimming for me for the next week. As my diet is disrupted by the supply problems, I’ll have to be careful and see what else I can manage for exercise and try to keep the food intake monitored.




Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Peace)

So, people have been asking how things are on a regular basis, so I thought I’d give an update on the situtation here. Everyone must know y now that the earthquake has been measured/estimated to be 9.0 on the richter scale. By far the most powerful measured in Japan since they started keeping records and measuring in the late 1800s. The earthquake itself caused some structural problems and injuries and deaths but the tsunami on the Tohoku coast about 250 miles North of Tokyo and where the epicentre was, caused huge amounts of destruction. Whole towns and villages seem to have been swept away, some losing half their residents as well as all of their buildings. The TV in Japan just keeps showing the footage of these terrible events.


We’re having continued aftershocks, which is disconcerting but nothing worse personally. Both TOmoko and I are getting “phantom quake” syndrome (quite usual in these circumstances) where our bodies for some reason report a non-existent quake. The Japanese Met agency estimated on Satuirday that there was a 70% chance of an aftershock of 7.0 magnitude or greater within the next three days, which passed without such an event. I’ve been using this nice online mashup to see what and where the events have been, after the fact. Sometimes we get a warning via a mobile phone app that a quake is coming, though we didn’t get one of those for the big one on Friday.


Last night saw a 6.2 quake inland in Shizuoka, which is worrying because that’s a different fault line and the line that is overdue for a big shift according to some reports. That one could hit Tokyo much more directly than the one on Friday.


Day to day life in Tokyo is rather disrupted. I was working at home anyway on Friday, and have been staying at home since. I can’t say I’ve been getting much work done. It’s hard to concentrate at the level I need for the stuff I need to do just now when the world shakes every hour or so.


Due to various nuclear power plants being offline at present (they’re checking the safety of others in the region affected very carefully as well as the Fukushima plant) Tokyo Power (TEPCO) have instituted rolling blackouts and are asking people to reduce their power consumption as much as possible. The blackouts aren’t occurring mostly, due to the reduce load that is being asked of the system. An exaple of this is that larger installations are running with many fewer lights. Our local supermarket has only half their sets of fluorescent tubes going and the Kinshichou JR train station probably had only a third of their lights on yesterday afternoon.


As some of you know I’ve been working on losing weight for the last couple of years and go swimming almost every day as part of that. Apart from Friday itself my local pool has mostly been open. They re-opened at 13:30 on Saturday and closed slightly early on Sunday and Monday to conserve power (they’re also on fewer lights than normal). They’re closed Tuesdays but said on Monday that they expect to be back on normal operation today, unless Sumida is scheduled for a blackout (which is hasn’t been so far). On Tuesdays I normally go to Kinshichou pool one stop East along the Chuo line, but their movable pool floor was damaged by the quake so the pool there is out of service for the meantime.


Some of my friends have left Tokyo or Japan due to the power plant at Fukushima, but I’m not really worried about that. They seem to have it under control and the danger is localised only.


What is worrying me is the food supply situation in Tokyo. I haven’t been out yet today Wednesday, but yesterday the supermarkets and convenience stores were all running out of much of their supplies of fresh and semi-fresh goods. There was just about no milk available anywhere yesterday, and very little in the way of vegetables. Bread has very limited availability. Meat is running out. Instant Ramen noodles were gone by Sunday or even Saturday. Eggs are mostly gone. My wife thikns this is over-buying and hoarding by people, but the pattern seems more like shops not getting re-stocked to me. There is a problem with fuel deliveries which is hampering deliveries up to the disaster sites as well, because the petrol refineries are mostly shut down. This is not getting any news coverage really, probably because the nuclear power plant is more sensational, but to my mind is a potentially bigger problem. Because Tokyo apartments are so small and shops so distributed, most people don’t stock large amounts of food in the house and if supplies don’t start flowing soon, there will be people starting to go hungry. We’ve got a few days of supplies in before we have to start living off dried food stocks and that’s the point at which it’s a matter of nutrition starting to be a problem rather than just choice disappearing. Tokyo is a very modern city but it depends very heavily on significant logistic chains. I’m surprised how easily this has been disrupted. I can understand the fresh things like milk being disrtupted, particularly as the area worst effected is one of the largest dairy areas in Japan, but the lack of any real re-stocking in our local supermarkets and covnenience stores suggests that very little supply is happening. I did see a 7-11 truck doing some deliveries to their local store on Sunday, but that was just one truck.


Current Mood: (nervous) nervous
Current Music: Much Ado About Nothing Soundtrack


Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

In Japanese shibaraku (しばらく) means “a short while”. $WIFE just spotted and re-tweeted a Japanese message defining (a-la Uxbridge English Dictionary) the word mubaraku (むばらく — the Japanese pronunciation of Mubarak’s name). It is defined as “about thirty years”.




Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

So last year we bought an apartment in Japan. Well, I say “we” but actually my other half bought it. I still own my apartment in Reading, and she was able to get the mortgage on her salary alone, so it made the paperwork somewhat simpler. However, there are some issues for the longer term. Japan’s family law is primarily derived from the German Bundesbuch civil law system that they imported in the late 19th century. This was derived from the Napoleonic code. Under such systems, the disposition of property after death is not really under the control of the person themselves. If there are offspring and a spouse the offspring receive half the property or its equivalent value (I’m not sure if this is just real property – land, houses and apartments or all assets) and the spouse the other half. This is the same as in, say, France and is something that couples from the UK retiring to France have been warned about in recent years. If there are no offspring, the parents if they are alive inherit half and the spouse the other half. But it gets even worse. Married couples have very limited ability to transfer assets between them and if my wife had made me automatic co-owner of our apartment (i.e. the element of it that she paid for with the deposit – the bank still owns the rest) then I would have been liable for a capital gains tax on that transfer. Crazy, but historically the upper classes in Japan would try to avoid taxes by moving things around as part of dowries and the like and marriages often ended in divorce so property was seprately held (that’s what I’m told anyway). As I’m now paying half of the mortgage for the property, we have to make sure I get receipts from my wife for the payments I make to her for the mortgage. New-build apartments typically over the last twenty years have been depreciating rather than appreciating in value so who knows what happens to things if the worst happens (I’m fervently hoping it doesn’t but there’s always risks). There’s also the question of which set of laws holds sway over my liquid and property assets in the UK while I am resident in Japan but still a UK citizen with holdings in the UK. Under UK law everything would go to my wife if I didn’t have a will and other than that it’s mine to give away (more-or-less – it can be challenged by/on behalf of next of kin).


It just seems a bit weird to need a receipt from my wife for the mortgage payments, really.




Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

a_cubed: (Default)

Christmas in Japan is rather odd for a Westerner. Just like in the US or Europe, images of the Coke-inspired (i.e. Red and White) Santa Claus are all over the place, as well as the evergreen symbolism of midwinter solstice. Howeever, Christmas Day isn’t a holiday. The current emperor’s birthday is the 23rd December, so that is a holiday, but Christmas Day itself is just a normal day, unless one is among the tiny number of Christians in Japan, where it’s a religious day for them. The build-up is pushed by retailers, with Christmas decorations all over the place. These are replaced on Boxing Day with the Japanese New Year decorations instead. New Year is the big holiday season here, really.


This year, Christmas Day falling on a Saturday makes it a non-working day, but it still feels rather like all build-up and no pay-off.


Following my family tradition, I cooked a Christmas dinner for Tomoko and myself last night, as best as I could manage. Last year I brought a small (non-alcohol, and you wouldn’t believe how hard those are to get even in the UK, now) Christmas pudding with me. This year, having moved across in February, I didn’t arrange that. Still, we had smoked salmon for a starter, and this year we managed to find a department store in Ueno that had small turkeys available (just 1.8Kg, which is about right for two people, and fits whole into our small combination microwave/toaster/oven). So I did that with roast potatoes, roast carrot and roast taro (Japanese sweet potato – can’t get parsnips in Japan but these make a nice substitute – not as sweet as a parsnip, though) plus green beans and tender stem broccoli (first time I’ve ever seen tender stem broccoli in Japan).  You can’t get packets for bread sauce so I made my own again – not too much hassle and unlike some of the shop-bought ones I can use nutmeg instead of clove – some of the so-called luxury shop-bought ones in the UK are so clove-flavoured I can’t eat them. You can’t get cranberry jelly or cranberry sauce. Maybe I’ll see about buying some cranberries in the autumn next year and making my own sauce. I couldn’t find a suitable  Christmas dessert. One of the local bakeries had some stollen earlier in the week, but they’d sold out by yesterday when I decided that was the only possible Christmas dessert available. So I just bought Haagen Daas ice cream instead. Nice and luxurious, though not traditionally Christmas. The Japanese have a “traditional” Christmas  cake: sponge, strawberry and cream. Very strange.


Today we’re on our way to Nagano for a brief holiday. I’m typing this on the Shinkansen from Ueno to Nagano, and will send it via the 3G Internet connection. We just had “Christmas Dinner”, i.e. lunch on Christmas day. Smoked salmon and turkey sandiches (that’s sandwiches with smoked salmon and sandwiches with turkey, not sandsiwches with turkey and smoked salmon together). Leftovers, basically. Another Adams family tradition since we have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and then leftovers for the next couple of days.


As you can tell from all the food, I’m off my diet for the holidays. I think it’s a sensible thing to do. I don’t plan to go mad and balloon back up, but I’ve lost a decent amount of weight this year and am now down to less than 86Kg, so I can afford to indulge a little over the holidays and not be set backj too far in my progress to the target of 75Kg or so. Over halfway there, until the holiday binge kicks in, anyway.




Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

October 2016

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30 31     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 06:58 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios