Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Walking around in a mall

As I'm on vacation now, I went to a shopping mall in a city called Moriya yesterday and took some pics.

I saw an Evangelion calender for 2010. This anime was broadcast in '95, but due to the sequels released as movies, it is still popular among people. 14 years has passed since its TV version, so I guess it has fans aged teens to thirties. 

Basically I don't play video games now, but I'm very familiar with the Final Fantasy series. This shop was selling a FF XIII for 7,800yen, or about 85 us dollars.

One of the heroines from FF XIII called "Oerba Dia Vannile". I always wonder why all the characters from the FF series have to look like foreign people. But the clothes she's wearing won't fit Japanese girls. And i think it is one of the reasons why foreign cosplayers look better.

A Pocketmonster dvd was being sold. I used to watch Pokemon and the anime young people would first think of must be this followed by Doraemon.

A sergeant Keroro movie will be released soon. On your right you see a Draemon movie. You can watch these movies for 1,000 yen or 10.9 us dollars on the 20th or 30th of a month. 

A Precure movie will be due out soon. Girls would know more about this than me. 

Whenever I walk about in the street of a city or in a mall, I often see anime or video games advertisements. I remember once an American actress saying "Japan must be full of anime advertisements". It is not completely right, but holds true to some extent. As I was born in Japan and grew up watching anime, I think nothing of those anime advertisements displayed everywhere, but foreign people would think differently. But some of those foreign people who like anime or video games would enjoy seeing them.

Monday, December 28, 2009


This one is called "Negima". "Negi" means onion, and you can see two pieces of onion between the three pieces of chicken.


This is also "Negima", but this is seasoned with salt. As you can imagine, this has a lighter taste.

This is "Tsukune". This is similar to a hamburger steak and is made of ground meat. 

This is "Liver". As the name suggests, it is grilled liver of chicken.

Yakitori goes very well with sake. 

And this sake has 16% alcohol and is made in a prefecture called Toyama

Today let me introduce a Japanese dish called "Yakitori". It is basically pieces of chicken pronged by a skewer. We have it on many occasions, for an ordinary dinner, on a birthday, at a party, but all in all we have it at a Japanese bar. Of course it also goes well with beers, but usually people have it with sake (Japanese liquor). And there's also a restaurant called "Yakitoriya", and it only serves yakitori and alcohol.

Yakitori is so widespread that people can buy some at a stall like this , and it is also sold at a supermarket. Some of you might know the anime Lucky Star, and in the episode 1, Konata and her friends say that people don't like to have the last one piece of yakitori on a dish( they start to talk about it in the video at 5:30)  When we order it at a bar, they serve several yakitori on a dish. People have it one by one, but when there are 5 yakitori on a dish and 4 people are at the table, they would hesitate to have the last one. That's what Konata was talking about, which actually happened to me before.

I think not all Japanese dishes aren't favored by foreign people, but i think this yakitori can be enjoyed by people from many countries.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Tsukuba Expo Center -part 2-

This model is called "H-Ⅱ rocket" , which was used to put satellites in orbit. The technology of this rocket was later handed down to H-ⅡA rocket in '06.

This exploration ship is called "Chikyu", which means "the earth". It can dig as deep as 7000m from the seabed.

A model of "The Shinkai 6500" , which can go down 6,500m deep into the sea and do research. This dives in deeper than any other submersible.

This robot is called "PINO", which was designed to resemble a toddler. 

A toilet in a spaceship.

An astronaut sleeps in a place like this in space.

The pictures of the Japanese astronauts. 

A stall was selling souvenirs related to science.

You can bring home these space food as souvenirs.

This space curry was actually brought to space. One package costs more than 5 us dollars.

When I came to this city for the first time, I didn't know that there were lots of scientific laboratories, and when I grew older I came to notice I was not good at science, so I was indifferent to the fact this city is called "Tsukuba academic city". But when I walk about in a shopping mall, I sometimes see foreign people having a conversation with Japanese people in English, and since we rarely see foreign people in Japan, such a moment is when I recognize my city is where people from abroad come in order to cooperate with Japanese scientists.

Like I said before, those scientific laboratories are open to the public during the summer, and the botanical garden accepts any people. So it is not too much to say my city is open to people who are interested in what the laboratories are doing.

As I chose law as my major, I tend to forget the importance of scientific research, but when I pass by the Institutes in my city, I think of people who are striving to make our life better. And this Expo center shows the fruits of the efforts made by those people. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tsukuba Expo Center -part 1-

An adult has to pay about 3 us dollars to enter.

This is called "Marine Observation Satellite-1", which contributes to the preservation of the environment.  

These Japanese swords were produced in front of the people at Expo '85.

This is a map of the exposition that took place in '85. 

An overall night view of the exposition.

A high-vision camera that was used back in '85. 

This robot has a camera and it takes about 20 to 30 seconds to read a music score. This instrument-playing robot was state-of-the-art in the middle of the 80s. 

 This vehicle is called "KAZ". This is powered by the motor and it can drive at the speed of 311km/h. And it emits one third the amount of CO2 ejected by a gasoline-consuming car.

The interior of the car. 

There is a facility called "Tsukuba Expo Center" in my city and it houses a planetarium and displays things related to Expo '85, scientific research, and space exploration. My city is called an "academic city" and it indeed has lots of national Institutes that specialize in science and renowned high schools that let the students to go on to college. And there is a huge library near the center of my city that has tremendous amounts of books and it is very crowded over the weekend. In other words, my city has lots of institutions that cater to the need of people who want to know more about things.

And this Expo center is one of them that stimulates people intellectually. Its planetarium changes its content often, so even those who lives near this facility can enjoy it. And some of displays are often so specific that ordinary people would find it difficult to understand them.

Then again, even I could enjoy seeing those displays because there was an explanation for each exhibit. And when I visited here the other day, there were even preschool children who were excited to see those.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas season

A Christmas tree in front of the biggest department store in my city.

This mall was displaying an illuminated Christmas tree.

Whether the religious or secular way, people like to celebrate this western culture.

A merry-go-round was decorated with the illumination.

Any couple would enjoy strolling this street. 

This illumination is called "Milky Way". 

At the concourse of the department store. 

100 Christmas trees dedicated by children and companies in my city.

The percentage of the Japanese people who believe in Christianity is about 0.8% of our population, and most of the others believe in Shinto or Buddhism. Still, lots of people in Japan celebrate Christmas in the secular way. By "the secular way" I mean things like lovers liking to spend the 24th or 25th together, families having a special dinner, kids giving a present to each other.

As seen in the episode 11 of Lucky Star, Konata's father was going to give her a present, and this is typical of today's Japanese family. And the Japanese children would associate Christmas with Santa Claus, and guys and girls are out to find a partner to spend the holy night with before Eve comes. But I doubt most of them know that the 25th is the day when Jesus Christ was born.

When Christmas is over, people then start to think of how to celebrate New Year's Day, as it is the biggest event in a year in Japan. I'm sometimes amazed at the speed with which people switch from the Western culture to the Japanese one. But most of the shops in Japan must benefit from having the 2 big events in two weeks.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bad Ass Coffee

I was really happy to hear my city would have this shop.

Besides regular coffee, you can also choose flavored coffees.

I've been to Hawaii before, and this interior reminded me of the trip.

People would associate Hawaii with surfing.

You can buy some Hawaiian goods.

Can you recognize that the ice cubes are a bit black? Those ice cubes include a bit of coffee so that they won't dilute the coffee when they melt. 

As I told you before I'm a huge fan of coffee (especially iced coffee), and I made postings on coffee shops like Doutor, Veloce, and Backyard Cafe. And this one called "Bad Ass Coffee" opened in a nearby shopping mall in '08. I visited another Bad Ass Coffee in Makuhari , Chiba prefecture, two years ago, and I wished then there had been one in my city. So when I heard the news that we'd have one in my city, I was really happy.

This shop came from Hawaii, as the interior suggests, and it features Kona coffee, which can be harvested in Hawaii. I think Japanese coffee shops are not bad at making coffee, but when it comes to really good coffee, I should visit American coffee shops or others from Europe. I've visited many Italian restaurants and they served delicious and aromatic coffee. And when I went to California a decade ago, the coffee at a hotel was also better than ours. So basically I think coffee should be brewed the European or American way.

I usually have instant coffee at home and canned coffees when I'm out, but as a coffee aficionado I need to have a superb coffee from time to time. And this shop offers a "bad-assed" coffee indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Year-end lottery

There is one lottery stand in the center of my city and I bought some here.

It shows the history of winning big prizes at this stand. The most recent one was about 1.1 million dollars in '08.

Each piece of lottery costs about 3 dollars, but you have to buy at least one unit (10 pieces). You can choose whether "serial number" or "random number" for one unit.

There are three lotteries called "jumbo" in Japan. They are a) Dream, b) Summer, c)Year-end jumbo. a) is sold in spring, b) in summer, c) around the year end. The reason why these lotteries are called "jumbo" is because the top prize in each lottery is about 3.4 million dollars at a maximum ( to win 3.4 million, you need to have additional two adjacent numbers).

For example, in this year-end lottery there are 70 top prizes (2.3 million dollars), and 140 second prizes(1.1 million). The probability of winning the first prize is 1 out of 10 million, and the second prize 3 out of 10 million. But some people never fail to buy these jumbo lotteries, and this year-end lottery is the most popular one in Japan. You can buy these lotteries at a shopping mall or elsewhere, but the most popular lottery stand is the one called "West Ginza chance center" in Tokyo.

I've never won big money on lottery, but I succumbed again to the temptation to buy some this month.

The money collected by selling those lotteries are allocated to the fund of local governments. And it is Mizuho Bank that is in charge of selling those lotteries.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ninomiya park in December

This clock tower is the symbol of this park and it is pretty accurate.

Japan is one of the countries in the northern hemisphere where you can spend winter comfortably.

Some trees were already waiting for the spring to come.

You can reserve a tennis court on the Internet.

We can often see pine trees in Japan.

A bird was basking in the sunshine.

This promenade beside this park takes you to the center of my city in about 20 minutes.

We're now in the middle of December, but it's relatively warm in my city, which is about 60km away from Tokyo. The average high of the last week was about 12 degrees(Celsius), so it was suitable to play tennis outside. As I told you before, I like to play tennis on weekends and since this city has many parks that have tennis courts, I can almost always reserve a tennis court for Saturday or Sunday.

And this Ninomiya park is the most popular park among tennis players in my city. It holds tennis events many times through a year, and as this park has 6 tennis courts and some benches to sit on and chat, young people get together and enjoy tennis like a party.

This area is called Ninomiya and its land price is the highest in my city as the surroundings are nice with small but nice shops like beauty salons, bakeries, clothing stores and so on. And we can enjoy natural beauty as well in this park.