Monday, July 27, 2009

Damage from the storm

I took my camera around to snap a couple of pictures of some damage from the storm. Really there wasn't much in our area.

A large section of this concrete retaining wall was washed away:

And a number of fishing boats tied up along the riverside were sunk, but it probably won't be too hard to salvage them at low tide:

Not too sure if this was storm related but this car took out a no entry sign before plowing into this metal fence:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Torrential rain hits town

Yesterday we had a massive rain storm that at one point dropped an astonishing 114 mm of rain in a single hour on Fukuoka.

I took this video of the rain from our balcony at the height of the storm, though it doesn't really do it justice!

There has been a lot of damage in the city and suburbs from floods and landslides. All of downtown Fukuoka was knee deep in water yesterday evening and thousands of people along riversides had to be evacuated. A number of people were killed either from landslides destroying their homes (including 6 residents of an elderly care home in Yamaguchi) or from being washed away by flood waters (including a 7 year old boy not far from where we live).

Looks like the rain has passed and the floodwaters have receded. And this isn't even the typhoon season!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

My Rant: Canadians in Japan who don't have common sense

Pretty much every foreigner living in Japan will go through periods of culture shock where they have difficulty adjusting to their new surroundings. When I moved to Japan for the first time the company I was working for gave a lecture on this where they explained that most people experience peaks and valleys going from loving Japan to hating it and then back again in relatively short order. The longer you stay the less pronounced these mood swings become and you eventually sort of figure out your place and develop a bit of an equilibrium with the country.

Recently my attention has been drawn to the writings of a newly arrived Canadian who is clearly having some issues with Japan. Like I said, pretty much every foreigner goes through periods of hating this country (including me), but most of them only express their frustration to friends in casual conversation or perhaps emails to family back home. This Canadian on the other hand has unfortunately been given access to the English language media in Japan through which he can express his frustration. The results are some of the most obnoxious, arrogant and just plain awful articles I've ever seen. They are the type of thing that give us Canadians living here a bad name.

The first article is written as an open letter to Japan’s environment minister Tetsuo Saito to complain about the lack of wildlife in Tokyo. It was published in the Japan Times, the leading English language newspaper (Article) and entitled "Silent Spring in Tokyo". For starters the arrogance and inflated sense of self-importance it takes to write a letter to a member of the Japanese cabinet – in ENGLISH – in order to lecture him about policy issues a few months after arriving in the country is just mind-boggling (edit - in fairness this letter-style is apparently the format that the Japan Times requested so it isn't entirely his fault that it comes off as being so arrogant. Fault the Japan Times for creating a format that invites this kind of stupidity). More than that, however, the content of the letter is just awful.

First he complains that, unlike Canada, there are no “squirrels or chipmunks, raccoons, skunks, rabbits, foxes or deer” in his neighborhood. This is just stupid. For one thing, a quick search of the internet revealed that skunks have never existed in the wild in Japan to begin with and I'm guessing some of those other animals may not have either. Moreover, the author makes no allowances for the fact that he is living in one of the most densely populated urban centres on the planet. The greater Tokyo area has more than 30 million people (roughly equivalent to the entire population of Canada) living within a piece of land roughly the size of P.E.I. Any idiot with an ounce of common sense would realize that it isn’t realistic to expect flourishing wildlife within such a densely populated area.

The next article by this writer turned up this week in the Commentary section of JapanToday – one of the bigger (though certainly not one of the better) online English news sites. Here he offers us his views on what is wrong with Japanese baseball games (Article). This is what really pissed me off with this guy because I love going to Japanese baseball games and think they are great fun.

Basically what happened is he went with his son to a game and decided to buy tickets in a section reserved for fans of the visitor’s team even though he intended to root for the home team. He did so because it was cheapest ticket available. As anyone who has seen a Japanese baseball game knows some sections of the outfield seats are divided between the sections for home and visitor fans. Those seats are for people who want to join in organized cheering for their team and usually the die-hard fans sit there. For those that don’t want to take part in that cheering the vast majority of the seats elsewhere in the stadium are basically just normal seats where you can quietly watch the game irrespective of which side you like.

So he completely ignores the custom (and common sense) and buys seats in the visitor’s section with the intention of rooting for the home team. And – will wonders never cease – he apparently did not have a good time as a result. Unbelievably the fans – whom he derisively refers to as “cheering zombies”- were making a lot of noise and standing up to cheer, which apparently differed from the serene quiet experience he was looking for at a baseball game. To be fair I can understand how a fan of North American baseball would be surprised to see how noisy and active Japanese baseball fans are (I certainly was). But the common sense reaction to that is “oh they seem to do things different here. When in Rome….” and then just respect the difference. His reaction however is to write a bitter article attacking Japanese baseball fans and engaging in some sort of amateur cultural-psychological explanation for why the Japanese prevented him from having a good time:

“Japanese cheering sections are, like many things in Japanese society, exclusive clubs. Outsiders are rarely allowed in. That’s my explanation for what happened to us at the baseball game. Sure, we had tickets that entitled us to sit where we wanted. But the Yokohama fans didn’t want us in their section. I guess they felt they owned that part of the ballpark, and we were uninvited guests.”

Well, yes, Mike, when you completely ignore the customs that the fans have developed over the past 70 plus years of pro ball here its not surprising that you might get treated as an uninvited guest.

The only part of the article where I thought he had a reason to be upset was where he claims a woman sitting in front of him slapped his son after he stepped on her belongings. This is definitely inappropriate and would send me through the roof if it ever happened to me, though something tells me he is misrepresenting the actual facts of this encounter – especially given the fact that according to him it was the woman and not him who ended up calling security.

I'm inclined to think that this kind of cultural arrogance is in part bred by Hollywood. Last night I was watching "Angels and Demons" and it kind of struck me as ridiculous that Tom Hank's character was in any way involved with the plot. I mean, he doesn't speak Italian, German or Latin yet the Vatican authorities feel obliged to go all the way to the US and fly him straight to Rome because, apparently, there aren't any experts on Italian art in all of Italy who could help them with their investigation.

Of course its just a simple plot device because the movie is in English and they needed a reason to have the dialogue in English so why not make the main character American. But I think this sort of film also sends out a message that people in the rest of the world know nothing about their own countries and its up to Americans (and their junior partners north of the border) to go around telling them how to do things. In Japan, that results in Canadians writing terrible letters to Japanese leaders in which they state the blatantly obvious (Tokyo has less nature than Canada) and seem to expect that to resolve the problem. As though the whole country was waiting for someone to point this out and now the Environment Minister will respond "Oh my, you are right! OK....what should we do.....Oh I guess we'll just have to expropriate the homes and businesses of millions of people at a cost of hundreds of billions of dollars in order to create a bit more habitat for all those Canadian skunks and chipmunks that for some reason aren't running around the streets.....yes, that makes sense. Thank you Canada".

Monday, July 20, 2009


Our friends from Thailand had a birthday party for their 5 year old son. He likes dinosaurs a lot so that is what we got him - and so did everyone else so they will be shipping a ton of dinosaur toys when they go back to Thailand in a couple of months. Hence the dinosaurs everywhere. Ena and Tai Ching lit the candles on the cake:
Our friend Oi giving the birthday boy a heartfelt lecture on the benefits of clean living (or something like that, I don't remember what she was saying):
Party goers revelling:
I'll definitely miss these parties at the Kaikan when everyone leaves in a couple of months.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Fukuoka Zoo - the only place in town where getting monkey poo thrown at you is a serious concern

Ena and I took a trip to the Fukuoka zoo today. This is by no means a world-class zoo (well, not that I would know what a world class zoo is but....) but for the 400 yen admission we can't complain.

The zoo has your regular lineup of rhino, giraffe and other exotic animals like this zebra:
Far and away the most interesting though are the chimpanzees. They have a large climbing-set built for them to jump around on:
The best part of the chimpanzees though is that there are signs all around warning people that the chimpanzees will throw their poo at you so be careful (which is what this sign says. The letters in red are the Japanese word for "poo"):
After seeing this I took a look around and sure enough, not 2 metres away from the sign I found chimpanzee poo on the walkway:
Fortunately we didn't get any poo thrown at us, but I did manage to communicate with one. Well, maybe communicate isn't the right word. I looked at him and he looked back with an inquisitive look. He paused for a moment and then tilted his head back and spit a massive ball of phlegm right at me. Fortunately his shot landed short and I didn't get any on me, but it certainly made my day.

After leaving the zoo we went to a little park with a viewing platform over the city:
I have to admit that the mountains in western Fukuoka are more attractive than out where we live in the east end of town:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rainy Twighlight in Kashii

On our way home today there was a kind of rainy/sunny sunset that made the sky look quite brilliant. I had to take a few pictures of it.

This is Miyuki Street next to the Fukuoka bank where we sometimes park our bikes:
Pausing on a bridge:
There is a rainbow somewhere in here:
Traffic on Route 3:
The sun sets behind Island City:

Our future home

Ena and I went with the agent today to meet the landlord of the apartment we want to rent. A formal meeting is part of the process of getting an apartment here. They were quite nice and we were very surprised to learn that his wife (who was also at the meeting) had lived in Victoria for two years. Even more of a coincidence was that she had worked in the same shop in the Empress Hotel that Ena did (a few years earlier) and they even knew some of the same people. Quite a small world.

While we were there (they live next door to the apartment) I took a few pictures of the place. This is the building, ours is the second from the left (with the white sign posted on the door):
Unfortunately the pictures of the interior don't really give it justice but this is the kitchen/dining room:
And the loft in the second floor:
This is the view from the second floor balcony (the building backs onto a forested slope):
In front of the building is a really quiet neighborhood with some gardens, this is next door (its hard to believe that I took this picture in the middle of the city, it feels like we are in the countryside but within about 50 metres of this picture is the usual urban landscape):
We are looking forward to moving in at the end of next month!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yama kasa festival

Ena and I got up at 3AM this morning to watch the Yamakasa festival downtown with a bunch of friends. It was a lot of fun despite the early start! Above is a video I took of the biggest mikoshi being wheeled around by the participants, it was quite a nice site. This is the biggest festival in Fukuoka.

It was still dark out when we got to the festival, which started at 4:59AM:
There were 7 giant mikoshi that got carried around downtown, they were quite brilliantly colorful:
We staked out a spot in front of a temple where the priests blessed the participants as they came by:
By 6AM the festival was over and the street was opened to traffic again:
Half my classmates had to go to school for class today but fortunately I had a day off!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kittens on a moped, Ena's haircut, fixing a Famicom and other news

This was another nice week in which we didn't go anywhere particularly photogenic due to the rain but nonetheless took a few pictures.

My 1250 yen Famicom called it quits during the week. Determined not to let it die, I pulled it apart with my new tools:
This is what the insides look like:
Much to my delight I was able to get it up and working again. The problem: 26 years worth of accumulated dust.

On Thursday I came home and found that the kittens had made a new home on my Icelandic classmate Gunnar's moped:
I'm not sure if he's noticed this or not.

Ena got a haircut on Friday and looks even more beautiful than ever (if that was possible):
Friday night we had a party for our friend Oleg and Tijo's birthdays:
It was a lot of fun.