Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My Two World Leaders

And Their Few Words

President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe
(pronounced AH-beh or, alternatively, SEN-sah-za-MEE-dee-ah)
offered some telling remarks this past Tuesday
to open Herr Kimigayo’s visit to the US.

(The full transcript can be found here but the following summary is really all you need.)
 
"Come on, we agreed we'd say nothing about the new military bases. Now shake on it."


Obama went first since the Japanese are polite like that.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

When the Coffee Machine Breaks

Idiotic Advice From An Unexpected Source

The editors over at Entrepreneur.com are a bunch of god damn geniuses. Day after day they crank out new articles, many of them with numbered lists in the titles, all on the subject of how to succeed in business. And day after day people gobble this stuff up, in the same way those insatiable housewives read every issue of Cosmo for their fix of 10 New Ways to Drive Their Man Wild in Bed.

Sarcasm aside – a rarity around here – Entrepreneur’s cadre of contributors regularly come through with some quality advice. The only thing that is usually lacking is the electric shock reinforcement therapy for a certain unnamed person around here who forgets the advice faster than it takes to read the article. 

So when an article like the one I just read gets published I have to call it out. 18 Unusual Habits That Boost Your Energy More Than Coffee reads like an internal moral struggle on the part of the writer who can’t decide if he should give real advice or just go for the affiliate clicks. As most of us do when our conscience is at odds with itself, the guy tries to do both, hoping the good stuff will in the long run make up for the instant gratification of the bad stuff. Come on, I’ll make you breakfast in bed.

Question: Why 18 Unusual Habits?

Couldn’t think of two more for an even 20? Didn’t want to miss out on any affiliate clicks by rounding down to 10 or 12 or even 15?

Here’s what the author – and Co-Founder of Empact – had to say: “To understand unique and healthy ways to consistently and quickly boost energy daily, I interviewed the country’s top ambitious young entrepreneurs, honorees of the Empact Showcase…”

Nice self-promo there.

OK, let’s see what advice the 18 Empact Showcase honorees have for us in exchange for a link.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Matsumoto’s Kōbō-yama

The Life & Times of a Non-Descript Mountain


Kōbō-yama does not draw much attention from the tourist and backpacker crowd. Visitors to Matsumoto, once they turn their eyes from the castle and the easy bustle of downtown, are drawn to the serrated alpine skyline across the valley to the west. Even to the natives Kōbō-yama goes largely unnoticed. And this is not surprising. Standing barely 50 meters above the traffic rolling up and down nearby Route 19, Mt. Kōbō can hardly be called a mountain at all.

Yet there is something very interesting about this very non-descript place. Two very interesting things, actually. One floats overhead and all around, as fantastic as it is fleeting. The other lies underfoot, old and unmoving and fantastically understated. One requires perfect timing. The other is constant as time itself.

Come in mid-April if you want to see both.

Read more at Taiken Japan...

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Rush of a Run Through the Woods

Chasing Down Time

The first thing I realized, chugging up through the woods, was that I miss this feeling. I miss the exertion, the adrenalin. The rush that only comes when the physical meets the emotional in a drawn-out moment that we wish could last forever. When gasping breath and pounding heart are forced to share one’s attention with the love of something as simple and elemental as the forested side of a mountain.

It seems frivolous from a distance, this urge to go run up a trail. And from a distance the feeling is easy to forget. Life gets in the way, in the form of kids and play, of work and self-ascribed responsibilities, and over time the pursuits that give us pleasure get pushed to the side.

We realize it. We mean to lace up those old sneakers and go recapture that feeling. I’ll get out this weekend. Or the week after that. When things slow down enough to justify the frivolity of a run up a mountain.

Steadily, the months pass. Then so do the years, if we let them.

And I saw that I was letting them, even as I said I would not.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

俳句(Haiku)

Jogging in the rain

Cherry blossom petals fall

And I slip on them.



(Based on a true story.)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tazawa-ko: Akita’s Deep Blue Jewel

Facts, Logistics & Fun

Photo: Agustin Rafael Reyes on Flickr
Tazawa Lake in Akita Prefecture is a near-perfect circle – and a perfect representation of Akita itself: unassuming, unspoiled and sublimely spectacular. Surrounded by mountains and laced with legend, this million-year-old volcanic crater offers the comfortable beauty of natural Japan without all the crowds.

Upon closer examination, we also see that unassuming Tazawa is quietly decorated with quirky details. But first…

A Few Facts

Initially thought by some to be an impact crater from a meteorite, research into the lake’s depths uncovered geological evidence of a tremendous volcanic eruption 1.4 million years ago that led to the lake’s present form. With no natural inflow or outflow, Tazawa’s waters consist entirely of eons of rain and snow.

With a surface area of roughly 10 square miles (26km2) Tazawa-ko sits well down the list of Japan’s largest lakes. But at 423 meters (1,388ft) she is Japan’s deepest. Drop Tokyo Tower into the lake and the top would still be 90 meters below the surface. Lake Tazawa sits at 249 meters above sea level, which means the deepest parts of the lake reach down lower than the waves crashing into the shores of Honshu. This translates into the lake never freezing over, no matter how harsh the Tohoku winter.

Read more at Taiken Japan...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Salaryman No More

Yen Pro Quo

There's a real good reason this is my first post since last Fall.
It has to do with that picture - more specifically, what's in it.

I moved my family back to Japan in July 2014. During our month in Fukushima, during which we did our best to decompress while simultaneously gearing up for our intended move to Nagano, I managed to land an interview for a teaching gig.

I don't know why I keep doing this. It is an undeniable fact that me and full-time jobs are about as compatible as Binyamin Netanyahu and any randomly-chosen sane person. I guess it's the idea that as a husband and father I'm supposed to do shit like this.

I enjoy teaching people, don't get me wrong. I get a kick out of it actually. As long as my students are all okay with having a good time first and are willing to consider any real learning a bonus they I'd say we're golden.

The downside is that my students - and my bosses too - expect me to show up every day. And on their schedule. No negotiating, no deal-making. Evening class means evening class, no switching to the morning so I can go home and eat dinner with my family like a real husband and father. Can't even move class across the street to the yakitori bar.

So while I liked my bosses, enjoyed my students and looked forward to seeing the other teachers at our weekly chat which everyone had a habit of callling a 'staff meeting', the immovable object that was the sum of demands of the job met with the irresistable force of my need for self-determination and I decided to return the keys to the company roadster you see in the picture.

So once again I am the master of my own schedule. I can use each hour of my day as I see fit. I can leave those neckties in the closet, stash the attache and settle down to dinner with my family.

Of course, now I have to figure out just who's going to pay for all that food on the table.