Silent Night

JR (Japan Rail) Christmas Express advertisement from 1992.


Rain will change to snow on to late at night
Silent night, Holy night
Christmas Eve one-shot, and I'm sure you will not come
Silent night, Holy night

I feel like I always say, if tonight it is not likely to come true, the thoughts that I have hidden deep in my heart...
Silent night, Holy night

Silver glitter Christmas Tree is in the corner that lasted into the night,
feelings for you still
Silent night, Holy night 

Wherever you are these holidays, I hope you are close to those you love.



Number 9

No, I'm not referring to Revolution 9 by the Beatles.

The fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 is performed throughout Japan every December and was even featured at the Winter Olympics of 1998 in Nagano (see this post from two years ago).

WHY is this music such a hit with the Japanese?  Last year, CBS made this report:

Long time favorite of mine, too. In fact, maybe I'll name my next boat "Ode to Joy".  (nah)

Happy Holidays.


Children Full of Life

"Mr. Kanamori, a teacher of a 4th grade class, teaches his students not only how to be students, but how to live. He gives them lessons on teamwork, community, the importance of openness, how to cope, and the harm caused by bullying.

In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates.

Toshiro is an amazing example of what all teachers across the world should be like. He truly understands what teaching children is all about and certainly made a positive difference in the lives of these 10 year olds."


The Passing of Tonga's King George Tupou V

King George Tupou V of the Kingdom of Tonga, passed away on March 18 of this year during a visit to Hong Kong. He was 63 and had been King since September of 2006. The Tongan newspaper Matangi Tonga reported the cause of death was leukemia.

In 2008, under great pressure from the people who had demonstrated and rioted for democratic reforms, the king had made the Parliament an elected body for the first time. Previously the majority of members of Parliament were appointed by the king. He also sold off his ownership in state property and gave up many of his day to day responsibilities in running the country.

In addition to the throng of local mourners, the king's funeral was attended by representatives of the British and Japanese royal families, and heads of government from around the Pacific. The services were a combination of Tongan rituals and traditions from the Free Wesleyan Church including hymns, bible readings, prayers and eulogies.

King George Tupou V

Related post: Fate Is The Hunter - regarding the 2006 death of Prince Tu'ipelehake and his wife Princess Kaimana of the Kingdom of Tonga along with their driver in a car crash in Menlo Park, California. Tu'ipelehake was nephew to King Tupou IV (so cousin of Tupou V). Importantly, he had also been the leader of the democracy movement in Tonga.


Pine Tree Islands Boats

Matsushima Yacht Club, Miyagi Prefecture - August 24, 2011


I took this on a short holiday in Miyagi, the prefecture closest to the epicenter of the 2011/3/11 earthquake. I put off posting about it, but have decided to do so soon.


Time Lapse Gratitude

I shared this video with several people and the response has been so positive that I am posting it here. Enjoy...

trivia: there is an Indian woman shown in the clip who our friend Martin recognized as Vandana Shiva. Although I know very well who she is, and even thought "what a great smile" when I first watched this clip, I totally missed identifying her.


The Letter

We went to Shibuya again to see some Dutch paintings.

Readers may recall that the last time we went to Bunkamura exhibition hall, Pandaonium managed to get us "lost on the way to the Geographer". I've had other troubles in Shibuya before, such as the time six years ago when I was waiting for K to get out of a business meeting and find me at the station, I was approached by an English speaking prostitute (yuck) who was annoyingly persistent and repeated everything I said (she was practicing her English!).

The place is crowded, noisy, and populated by odd characters, which may be fun for some people, but not this shy panda. It's a zoo. On top of that, as if Japan weren't trying to squeak by with all but two of its 56 nuclear power plants off-line and depending instead on imported oil and LNG, all the neon signs and billboard-sized flat screen displays were lit up and the speakers were pounding out advertising like there was no tomorrow (hmm, could be).

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lights, video screens, loud speakers, crowds, traffic, trains, wackos - help!

This time at least, I didn't get lost and we arrived in 7 minutes by the most direct route from the station. The exhibit was excellent with the main attraction being Johannes Vermeer's Girl Reading a Letter, which can normally be found at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, but has been out of public view for the past two years undergoing renovation. Nice shade of Blue, don't you think?

For three of the Vermeer letter paintings, it was the first time to be exhibited in Japan.
The theme of the exhibit, which included over forty works by Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Jan Steen, Gerard ter Borch and many others, was "Communication: Visualizing the Human Connection in the Age of Vermeer". The paintings depicted people playing music, talking, singing, partying, consulting attorneys, doctors, and so on, and of course, reading or writing letters.
Our favorite of the day was Vermeer's “A Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid”, 1670

A Lady Writing - Vermeer c. 1665-1666

After viewing the exhibit we went into Tokyu department store which is connected to Bunkamura, and had tempura lunch at a top floor restaurant. The food was OK, but I was a bit miffed that my lunch cost ¥800 yen more than K's, even though they were identical, only because hers was labelled "lady's lunch". Hers also included sherbet which mine did not. On the way out I noticed some photos of some elites who had dined there - Frank Sinatra, Jacques RenĂ© Chirac, Bill Clinton, and others.

Though it was still early, we headed home, and it was perhaps a good thing that we did. For later in the afternoon, around 4 pm, in a walkway between Tokyu department store and the train station a woman her 70s felt she was being stared at, so ran up behind a woman of 61 and stabbed her with a knife leaving a 5 inch deep wound in her back and other cuts in her chest and arms. The victim survived. Such violence is the stuff of Hollywood movies, rarely the streets of Japan.

Well, violence is certainly one way to communicate, but really, she should have just written a letter.

As much as I like to complain about "the big city", we are really quite fortunate to be close enough to make a day trip of it and so able to enjoy a wide range of cultural treats such as this exhibit, and come home to our quiet "village" by the lake.


The Google Limits

There is nothing wrong with your computer terminal. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling this blog. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. If we so choose, we will make this blog unavailable. You have entered Google Blogger.

The hell of it is, when I went to leave a comment on another blog - Proper Course as it happens - and was required to log in, I was told that gmail (google) had detected "suspicious activity" on my account and therefore I needed to jump through some hoops. In the meantime, my email and blogs were "frozen".

Suspicious activity? Like the fact I often log in to gmail on my wife's computer and forget to log out before logging in on my own computer? The multiple BCC emails I send to friends and family? Or perhaps it is the complaints I made about how sucky the new universal look and feel of the "new" Google empire is, as they move toward making all of their web applications look the same in name of corporate unity and to hell with functionality? In addition, the new "privacy policy" (sic) basically combines all data gathered about you from any of Google's apps - gmail, blogger, youtube, google, google+, etc. - and puts them into one database... to "enhance" your Google experience of course!

Whatever. I apologize to my readers for any inconvenience. It was, of course, for my own security, in the same way TSA strip searches grandmas and children in the name of security, while allowing the food service and cleaning personnel access to aircraft with no check points save swiping a magnetic card at the door. Welcome to the new corporate internet world order.

I had already set up a new email account when Google announced the coming changes. I also don't do Facebook or Google+. You can bet I will find an alternative to blogger - or stop blogging. I am not one to put my whole life on the internet (I think I do plenty of that already, thank you very much), and making some young jerks filthy rich by providing my personal details for them to exploit, with advertising revenue and IPOs, doesn't thrill me. I'll be happy to do that (maybe) when they cut me a fair percentage to pay for my content - which they have yet to offer to do.

To add insult to injury, when I attempted to comply with their requests I found myself faced with a page asking for my phone provider, so that they could text me a message or a verbal one by landline. Um. I don't own a phone. No one told me that was a requirement for using Gmail or Blogger. I very rarely use a phone and when I do it is K's landline and occasionally Skype. I then was asked to provide an alternate email address. I gave them three, one of which is the one I will be using instead of Gmail from here on.

So if anyone is wondering, that is why my email and two blogs have been off line for a while. I was happy that they contacted me within a few hours and restored my blogs. They neglected to inform me why this happened so I don't know how to prevent from reoccurring.

As I told Odocker recently, I am buying a manual type writer (true). I'm trying to figure out a way to stay online and maintain my blogs, but if I can't maintain control over my own content, I may go "analog". Perhaps an old fashioned snail mail newsletter would do as well - and would be self limiting to people who really were interested. Never forget that they need us more than we need them. Prophetic clip:

Please stay tuned. Sorry, I forgot. Your other mind control machine - TV - is probably tuned to a sporting event this weekend. Perhaps I'll address how to free yourself from that as well in a future post.

End of rant transmission.
1 - The Outer Limits http://youtu.be/8CtjhWhw2I8
2- The Prisoner (1967)


We Do Miss Fiji

One of the most beautiful videos I've seen in a long while - underwater sites in Fiji and Tonga. It goes by fast, so just pause it as you please to take in the scenes.

Full screen is a must for this one:

We will return one day.

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Turning to final approach, Matei airport, Taveuni, Fiji


A B C D Goldfish?

L M N O Goldfish!

O S A R Goldfish! C M?

O I C D Goldfish!

Or do you?

(full screen highly recommended)

Painting a cross section of goldfish between each layer of resin, artist Riusuke Fukahori creates three dimensional images, much in the way 3D printers work. The result, as you can see, is a stunning illusion.


It Is To Laugh

According to ancient mythology, Japan's Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami, went into hiding in a cave after an argument with her brother that had resulted in the death of one of her attendants. As a result of her entering the cave, the world was plunged into darkness. What to do?

Eventually, she was coaxed out by the prayers and dancing of Ame-no-Koyane-no Mikoto, Hiraoka shrine's main diety along with the laughter of the other gods.

Nowadays, there is an annual Laugh Festival held at Hiraoka Shrine in Higashiosaka, Osaka Prefecture. Priests and followers give it their all to laugh out loud, long and hard.

Other countries and cultures have laugh festivals as well. And laughter can lighten one's burdens even if one has to "fake it" at first. Our minds and bodies are so intertwined that the physical act of laughing or smiling will trigger happy feelings in the mind. Like yawning, laughter is contagious.

So have a good laugh. Even the gods will enjoy it.

Daffy and Porky in Robin Hood Daffy (1958)


Momo Rocks-in the New Year

Momo likes to drum. When she sits on "her" bench on our front porch and wags her tail, she hits the storage box of the storm shutters which sounds like a drum. Of course, off camera she can really get into it at times and make sound like a "taiko" drum.

2012 is of course the Year of the Dragon. Our friend Arkonbey, who draws comic books and graphic novels (among other talents), recently got the idea for a comic about an all girl puppy band called the "Glitter Dragons". To read about how he came up with the idea and the name, check out this post on his website Obscurum.

Arkonbey emailed and asked if he could model the drummer after Momo and of course we said that would be a great honor. So now Momo is drumming for the "Glitter Dragons".

Here is the band on stage:

Drawing by Arkonbey, over-painting by his significant other, Sweet Enemy

And now the Glitter Dragons have their own blog. Click on the logo above to check it out!

Momo, you rock! You never cease to amaze us. Thank you Arkonbey and Sweet Enemy. Happy New Year of the Glitter Dragons!


Ending 2011 On A High Note

Friday we took the car on an hour and a half journey west, while Bluesette crew member Martin rode the train two hours eastbound, to meet up in the town of Ushiku, Ibaraki as a way to celebrate the end of 2011.

First we visited the Ushiku Daibutsu, a steel framed bronze statue of Amida Nyorai - Buddha of infinite light and life. The statue, built by Higashi Hongwani (lit. East Temple of the Primal Vow) and completed in 1993, stands 120 meters (394 feet) tall from ground to top and 100 meters (328 feet) from head to toe.


Comparison of Ushiku Daibutsu to the famous budda in Todaiji Temple in Nara, the Statue of Liberty, and of course Gojira (Godzilla).

It is more than merely a landmark as the interior has several floors of exhibits which tell the history and teachings of Buddhism. At chest level there are windows allowing one to glimpse a view of the surrounding countryside. As the weather was very clear, we were able to see Tokyo Sky Tree and Fuji-san which is 95 miles to the West.

Here's Martin ringing out 2011

After coming back down to earth, we were famished so headed for the *NEW* Doki-Doki restaurant. I have mentioned the original Pocket Farm Doki-Doki, which is closer to Lake Hinuma, in previous posts. Martin blogged about it here: Five Stars For The JA Ibaraki Pocket Farm Doki Doki Restaurant. The restaurant/farmers market was started by the JA Ibaraki - the farmers association - to provide an outlet for locally grown produce and meat. They offer a huge selection of fresh, local foods, prepared using the favorite recipes of farmers and chefs. All you can eat. It's always a great experience.


Round one for me - all vegetarian except for a piece of fish. Kimie tried the pork "shabu shabu" with her fist tray. We all went back for 2nds and 3rds.

After the leisurely lunch, in spite of feeling like a nap, we headed for Chateau Kamiya. This is the site of the Japan's first winery, built in 1903. At the time, they had vast vineyards and VIPs would come out from Tokyo for "secret" parties. The building was designed by a French Architect and the vines were brought from Bordeaux. The brick buildings are now a National important cultural property.


Chateau Kamiya

The vineyards were gradually sold off for development decades ago and the ownership changed. They no long make wine there. Instead, they make a local beer and import wine from France (mostly) which they re-bottle. Martin tasted some and said it was awful. With good wines from France, Germany, Chile, Argentina, the USA, and Australia readily available in Japan, one wonders why the Chateau Kamiya would bother trying to sell sub-standard re-bottled wines. Seems a losing marketing strategy to me.

There appeared to be some earthquake damage to the clock tower of the main building. Only the shop was open - the museum, wine making room, and restaurant were all closed. Might have been a great place to visit at one time, but I can't recommend it as we saw it, other than to view the buildings for their architectural historical value, and this lovely Iigiri tree with its bright red grape-like bunches of berries in the main courtyard. The Iigiri is native to China, Korea, Japan and Taiwan.


Then it was time to head home. While the Chateau was a disappointment, the Daibutsu was uplifting and the meal at Doki-Doki a delicious feast. An interesting monument, delicious food, and friendship - a great way to celebrate the end of the year.

So long 2011.