Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What do you want to be when you grow up?

What do Japanese kids want to be when they grow up? According to an annual poll by Dai-Ichi Mutual Life to elementary school and younger children, professional baseball player is the most popular occupation for boys, followed by football (soccer) player, and scholar/doctor. Food creator such as a pastry chef/baker is the most popular occupation with girls, followed by kindergarten teacher, and nurse. Baseball and football players had been the top two since the Dai-Ichi Mutual Life started the survey in 1989, but both fell to forth place in 1999. With Ichiro, Godzilla and Matsuzaka doing well in the Major League and Shunsuke Nakamura becoming MVP in the Scottish League, professional athletes seem to have regained popularity in the last several years. Carpenter came in fourth for boys, which I think is typically Japanese and reflects the craftsman culture.

Records in my my kindergarten year book show that I said "I want to become a stewardess, so Mummy, can I learn English?" I don't remember saying that at all!

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Singing Roads

There's a road that plays a song when you drive over it. The 320m-Melody Road running through Wakayama prefecture Kimino-cho Akagi area plays Kyu Sakamoto's "Miagetegoran Yorunohoshiwo" for about 30 seconds.

You need to keep the car windows closed to hear well.
Driving too fast will sound like playing fast-forward. Driving around 20km/h (12.5mph) has a slow motion effect, making you almost car sick, according to a report. 40km/h (25mph) sounds a bit slow. You get best results driving at 45km/h change in(28mph). The last sharp curve doesn't work that well.

"Melody Road" (patent pending) was first experimented in Hokkaido Shibetsu-gun Shibetsu-cho. According to the developer Mr. Shinoda of Shinoda Kogyo, he first heard a sound when driving over the grooves of the asphalt road which he had accidentally scraped by a bulldozer. Then he realised that the sound changed with the driving speed. So he thought, by adjusting the grooves, you could even turn it into a song. Melody Road has multiple thin grooves on the surface. The pitch changes by the groove interval; a narrow interval gives a high-pitched sound, and a wide one will give a low-pitch sound.

You can listen to the experiment sound by cliking on one of the icons (AIFF or WAV). The song is "Shiretoko Ryojyo".

These's also a Melody Raod in Numata-shi, Gunma prefecture, which plays "Natsuno Omoide (Summer Memories)".


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Swords and Bats

I'm seeing shameless amount bats broken and thrown away in the waste basket. The spring training is a testing place for new models, so a lot of bats do break during free batting. Even so, it's a bit too much. Lighter bats, together with the consumption mentality must be the cause.
Batters opt for lighter, easy-to-manage bats to respond to breaking balls, and it's the same trend in the Major Leagues. But bats weren't commodities to be wasted in such a way. Being made with natural wood, some bats go along much better than others, even with the same shape and weight. A really good bat makes you feel that it's guiding you to hit the ball. I would save those kinds of bats and not use them for screwball pitchers for fear they might get broken.
May be it's similar to how a samurai treats a sword.
I used to be called "Samurai Toyoda" when I was an active player, and so I collected a lot of swords. I was especially attracted to the beautiful guards of the swords. I later gave them all away to other people, but still own about 100 sword guards.
Once, I was given a sword. Since then, my wife became ill, and other misfortunes followed. When I showed the sword to an expert, he informed me that there was an engraving which said "killed so and so with a big slash". I was scared stiff, and had it taken away to be purified.
But the person whom I entrusted the sword died soon after. Could it have been a curse sword? May be it's just my imagination, but there's something scary with swords. When you draw a sword with refreshed spirits, it feels really satisfying; when you draw with a bad mood, evil thoughts are sure to occur.
This kind of man-tool relationship must have continued when men started swinging bats. You can feel the craftman's soul in the bat, so in our days, we avoided breaking them as much as we could. We refrained from using too light bats, even if they were more easier to swing.
A bat reflects the day, and the game. It's more than a mere tool for me.

Toyoda Yasumitsu (Baseball critic)
From the Nikkei Feb 1, 2007

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Sumo Stable These Days

Sumo stable master Shikoroyama Tsuneyuki writes of his new stable building in a Nikkei article (Jan 23, 2006). He was formally known with the fighting name of "Terao", taken from the maiden name of his mother who died of cancer -- very unusual way of naming for a sumo wrestler. He was handsome and slim with long legs, and popular among female fans. He was my grandfather's favourite, so that's why I know his name despite my uninterest in sumo. In my childhood, I thought the sumo broadcast on TV was the most boring thing in the world.

3 years ago, I became independent from my brother's Izutsu-beya (stable) which was originally set up by my father. Until our stable building was ready, the wrestlers and I lived in a rented apartment, and held practice at a sumo ring made inside a warehouse. The training hall was away from the apartment, and the bathroom was too small for the customary mass-bathing. It must have been inconvenient for everybody. Now we have a 6-story building with the training hall on the first floor, dormitory for the young wrestlers and the office the second floor, training gym and laundry on the third floor, individual rooms for the high ranking Sekitori wrestlers on the fourth floor, and my home on the fifth and sixth floor. Convenience isn't always good though, and I feel lack of intensity than before. In the days when the training gym was located far from the apartment, the wrestlers had some urgency to go when they could, or else they might miss training. But now at the new building, I take a glimpse inside the gym on the third floor and find wrestlers fidgeting with their mobile phones. Call them young folks of today -- but you can't keep in shape like that, and distraction can lead to injury. If people are given fulfilling environment, maybe they just take it for granted and won't appreciate. A new independent stable like us have no inheritance of know-how seen in established stables. The wrestlers must be taught from scratch -- everything from daily greetings and respects to sumo basics, and cleaning. Sloppy sweeping is no surprise -- I was once shocked to find a young one wiping the low dining table with a cloth, using his feet! Sometimes, I feel as if they'll never learn, but we just have to keep on telling them. My stress has increased in proportion with the size of the building.

Reference: Life as a professional Sumo wrestler

Terao homepage
It says "New Wrestlers Wanted".


Monday, January 08, 2007

Please Refrain from New Year Calls

A newspaper ad:
To mobile phone users -- the dog's last, and the boar's first request.

For the first 2 hours of the new year, please refrain from making "Happy New Year" calls and mails.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Geeky Mothers

A mother of a 3 year old girl makes “character bento (lunchbox)” every morning, using tweezers, scissors, star-shaped and heart shaped cutters…She takes 1 or 2 hours and creates Dorae-mon, Kitty, Anpan-man, etc. from food material, takes a picture of the finished bento, and posts it on her blog. She gets 30 to 40 comments. Now, she has over 200 “character bento” buddies over the internet that she has never met. (from the Dec 28, 2006 Nikkei)

I couldn’t find her blog, but got 556,000 hits searching “kyara-ben” (short for character bento) on the net. Here’s a site called “Kyara-ben Club", with 74 members.

I’m not sure if kids brought up on kyara-ben become otaku.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

School Dinner Monitor

Children in Japan usually eat school dinner in their classrooms. The school dinner is considered part of the educational curriculum, so a group of children take turns every week to serve their class. They wear aprons and caps which they take home at the end of the week to be washed and ironed.

Parents are given the monthly lunch menu, so they can avoid cooking similar things for dinner. (I never check though.) The menu shows calories, protein, and ingredients by nutrition groups.

I was really surprised at the news on banning junk food from school meals in England. Chocolates, crisps, and fizzy drinks?! It wasn't like that when I was there 30 years ago.

The obesity rate is increasing in Japan, as well as in many other countries.
While searching the web, I found an article on school dinners around the world - quite interesting.

By the way, Japanese lunch boxes are often very appealing to the eye, from the usual to the very creative.