Monthly Archives: August 2009


$%#@*! NHK

My building had a water maintenance work yesterday, and so I had to be home around 13:00 to 14:00 to let the workers in.  When the doorbell rang around 12:30, I went to answer the door and, thinking that the maintenance staff had come early, didn’t bother to check the peephole.

Instead of the workers, there was a very serious looking man, possibly around my age or a little older, standing there with a briefcase and clipboard in hand, and a large electronic device hanging from his neck.  He immediately flashed a badge in front of me, which proclaimed him to be from NHK.  I knew what he was there for – I’ve been in Japan long enough to know that he wanted me to pay a TV fee.

According to Wikipedia, there is a mandatory fee that everyone who owns a TV needs to pay.  I find this ambiguous regulation totally ridiculous though – one has to pay what is essentially a tax, simply because one owns a TV?  However, I’ve also heard from everyone I’ve spoken to that one doesn’t need to pay – certainly no-one I know does.

What really bugs me though, is that I don’t watch Japanese TV.  I don’t understand the language!!  Yet, even though I tried to convey this to the NHK “money collector”, he still kept pressing me to fill out a form with my name, address, telephone number, AND bank account information.

Needless to say, I resisted, saying no, I didn’t want to do it.  He tried to make me understand that it was a “rule”, and mandatory.  Not having any English pamphlets on him, he even went so far as to dig out a Chinese language pamphlet he had in his briefcase to show me because it had 1 (one) English phrase on it – “Broaden your horizons with NHK”.

Yeah.  Right.

It ended with him asking if I would be around next Sunday, so that he could bring an English language pamphlet.  I said, maybe and left it at that.  Frankly, I don’t have any intention of paying this ridiculous fee.  If I actually watched NHK, I might feel more inclined to do so, but given the way things are now… no.  Plus I don’t see why NHK has to be such a bully about it when other channels stations such as Tokyo TV, Fuji TV, etc, also all broadcast for free but don’t come knocking on people’s doors to get them to pay.

I’m just going to have to remember to use the peephole.


Yatta, Yatta!

Quote from Neal: “This song makes you feel that life’s not so bad”

For more information about this video, check HERE.

Sights & Sounds


Shortly before Josh left Tokyo to head back to Philly, he and I headed over to Odaiba to check out the new Gundam statue they’d recently erected in order to promote both ecology and raise awareness of Tokyo’s bid to host the 2016 Olympics.  It was a ridiculously sunny day and I got nicely sunburned, but the statue of Gundam itself was very impressive.  For anyone intending to see it, best head over to Odaiba before the end of August since I believe it all comes down after August 31st.

We wandered a bit more around Odaiba after checking out the Gundam statue, to places like the mini Statue of Liberty, and Tokyo Big Site (though no exhibitions were taking place on that day).  There was also an absurd homage to Obama nearby – in one of the pictures below you’ll see a cutout of Obama, and people were encouraged to stand beside it and scream “Yes, we CAN” as one of the staff took their picture.  Obama-mania has even reached the shores of Japan.  Far be it for me to speculate on politics, but I have heard that people are so enamored of Obama because of both his charisma/clean image and his positive message of hope, which apparently is sadly lacking in Japanese politics (at least since Koizumi stepped down).

Enjoy the pictures of Odabai below – ALL courtesy of Josh, so please ignore the “copyright N.J. Matusya” text that was auto inserted – ALL images are his. (he also took pictures of people taking pictures, quite interesting)

no images were found

no images were found


Useful info when visiting Tokyo

A colleague of mine in the US recently wrote to me asking for tips that he can use when he visits Japan with his family next month.  This is probably the 3rd or 4th time that I’ve done this for friends/colleagues and I suddenly realised that it would make things a whole lot simpler to put all this online.  Below is what I wrote to my colleague, and I’ll be updating it over time, hopefully with information expanding it beyond the Tokyo area (since, embarassing as it is to admit it, I have yet to visit places like Kyoto in my whole 7+ years here…)

I do have a write-up on my trip to Kusatsu earlier this year, and I have visited Hokkaido (hmm.. will have to write up about that at some point…) but following is info more pertinent to places to see/visit around Tokyo.

(update – I think I’m going to re-organize this a little better over the coming days – more info to come!)


Places to go and things to see in Japan

(work in progress)

Updated: August 20, 2009

It’s a good idea to take the “limousine bus” from Narita.  It’s a bit more expensive than taking the train, but if it’s your first time, and you’re tired, you don’t want to be fiddling about with luggage, transferring from train to train, etc.  You may want to try making a reservation, or at least getting a sense of the timetable from HERE.

Disney is a full day trip – and you DEFINITELY want to plan for that happening on a weekday.  Weekends, the crowds are insane and you can wait up to 2 hrs in line for a popular ride.  There’s also Disney Sea – if you want to do both, then you have to plan for one day each, since they really are full day activities.

Tsukiji fish market is also quite cool, though please don’t be like the other crazy foreigners and bring your luggage there :p  People are really busy and there are carts and stuff zooming around so luggage would be quite dangerous.  To give you a bit of an idea, here’s a write-up I did for when I went there with my family earlier this year.

If you’re going to Tsukiji from Shinjuku, you’ll probably have to leave around 04:30 in the morning.. at latest 05:00 since you miss out on the major auction if you get there any later than… 06:00.  Also keep an eye on the Tsukiji CALENDAR – some days the fish market is closed and it would be a bummer to get up that early for nothing!

I’m not sure about the largest Ferris wheel – but one of the largest is in Yokohama.  The ferris wheel is part of a small amusement park that is especially pretty at night.  Also in Yokohama is the “Red Brick Warehouse” containing lots of small shops – one that stands out in my memory is a store that sold a large number of handmade glass creations.  Yokohama might very well be an all day trip as well, assuming you leave late in the morning, and stay till evening.  You could end things with a trip to the Ramen Museum, a 10 minute train ride away from Yokohama!

For a quick jaunt out of the city, Kamakura is a picturesque tour.  Lots of temples, a small beach, and good eating places.  There’s also a well known statue of Buddha that’s pretty neat, and you can even climb inside the statue (though it’s not that big and pretty dark).

Another place that’s interesting to see is Odaiba – pity you’re not coming till September since there’s a lifesize Gundam statue there till August 31st.  (I’ll be putting pics on my blog on that shortly, just so you see what you’re missing 😛  But hey, at least you can hang out with the mini statue of Liberty!  😉

Akihabara is a cool/freaky place to visit – probably not an all day trip.  Perhaps you could combine your Tsukiji fish market visit (in the early morning) and go on to Akihabara after that (though things don’t open there till.. at least 09:00 or later, so you would have time to wander around/eat breakfast (of raw fish) in Tsukiji.

Tokyo Tower is cool, though I feel it looks more interesting at night.  I would suggest combining a trip to Roppongi Hills with that.  For example, go to Roppongi Hills in the late morning, early afternoon.  You can go up the observatory for a great view of Tokyo, and see the museum, eat, etc.
Then in the evening head to Tokyo Tower for the night view.  There is even a (very small) live band performing there on some days.   Finally, if you still have the energy and want to experience the Tokyo nightlife, you could head back to Roppongi after Tokyo Tower since night time is when all the clubs and bars start opening up.

Harajuku/Meiji Jingu shrine is much more interesting on Sunday mornings – that’s usually when all the people wearing the more…”interesting” outfits come out.

Asakusa is also a definite tourist attraction, with numerous temples, a long shopping street that sells innumerable trinkets, Japanese sweets, clothing, and much much more.  Perhaps a half-day trip, and one that might be combined with a quick walk around Kappabashi street – the best place to be if you want to see where most Japanese restaurants buy the knives, pots, pans, dishes, fake display foods, coffee grinder… you name it, Kappabashi probably has it if it’s related to cooking.  (a brief write-up is HERE)

Finally, a useful link is the train guide.   Will definitely help you figure out which train to take from where.   And speaking of trains, Tet usefully also provided the following link to info about a one-day pass for the JR line!


What a depressing way to go

“He died while testing a concrete canoe” – that is one heck of a depressing eulogy.  I mean… when I first read the story, I wondered what on earth the kids could have been thinking.

However, a quick Google search brings up THIS, which implies that concrete canoes do actually serve as engineering/structural challenges in those respective fields of study.  Nonetheless… a very sad way to go… 🙁


Yellow Submarine, Purple Submarine…

I know it’s been almost a week since my last post, but honestly, it’s not for lack of material. 🙁

I think the biggest thing that makes me lazy about posting is the fact that I want to include pictures.  I have the pictures, but first I need to copy them over from camera to computer.  Then I need to go through them and weed out the blurry and boring ones.  Next I need to resize them.  After that, I need to create a gallery folder in WordPress, upload the pictures into that gallery and, if I’m really feeling in the mood, caption them all.

I think you’ll notice that my recent posts have been sadly lacking in captions. :p

Yes, I know it’s not a big deal, but… energy lacks when I get home from work, so…hurrmm.  Well, I will post some more soon.

In the meantime, because this video clip has not been viewed enough times and because I’ve somehow woken up this morning with the Beatle’s “Yellow Submarine” song on endless repeat in my head (and I don’t even like the Beatle’s!!!), I give you…


Shakin’, shakin’

There was yet another quake this morning around 07:51.  It didn’t feel quite as powerful as the last two recent ones, partially because it was also offshore, but I think the fact that I was in my office building (a new structure, and probably much more quake-proof than my apartment) also lessened the shakin’, the bakin’, the rollickin’ rattlin’ quakin’.  😉

no images were found

Food & drinks

Eat your hambugers if you want blond hair!

I bought a TV very recently and though I mostly use it to watch US TV shows that I’ve…”obtained” *cough-ahem*, I do occasionally switch it on to see what’s showing on Japanese TV (the 7 or so channels that are broadcast for free).  Most times, the programs consists of sports, news, and extremely bizarre-if-not-downright-ridiculous TV talk shows.  So I don’t watch Japanese TV all that much.

One night though, there was a program in English! 😯 I couldn’t stay up too late (early shift at work the next day) but I did spend a few minutes watching the show, which happened to be a discussion between a Japanese and a Westerner on a new (for me) Japanese word – Y?shoku.

Essentially a “redefining” of Western food by the Japanese, Yoshoku includes such staples as “Omurice“, “Curry Rice“, “Spaghetti Napoletan”, and “Hambagu”.

I could write more on this, but I came across an excellent article available at the NYTimes on this very topic (and also explains the subject of my post). 🙂



no images were found

I rarely look through and see what Akismet catches, but I noticed today that 16 comments had been flagged as spam and decided out of curiosity to skim through them and see what had gotten caught – the results were definitely good for a chuckle and I thought I’d post them here for posterity. 😛

For some reason, my “Testing” post generated the most comments – 9 to be precise.  For a post only containing 27 words, I get spam along the lines of:

Cheap Viagra Online: Good article, lots of intersting things to digest. Very informative
Ventego: Interesting and informative. But will you write about this one more?
Babafisa: what a lengthy and in depth article but full of useful information

For my “A trip to Izu” post, I got a couple, but my favorite was: Say I freeze meat in January. The package has an expiration date of February. When I thaw it in June, why doesn’t it remember immediately that it should have gone bad four months ago?

And last but not least, for my “Minami-Senju Matsuri” post:

Zashkaser: Wow, must have been a terrifying experience! I’m glad both you and Ashley were ok, and that nothing got stolen.I hoped you gace the superheroes a good tip

*all typos are theirs, not mine :p