Thursday, October 30, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 15

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday October 30th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a thing called a furoshiki.

After world world two the use of the plastic bag in Japan became widespread. It was only after the war that it could be seen and used in every day life. Before WWII the Japanese used something totally different to carry around things. It is something very simple, but it something that is so economical and environmentally that I wish that it was in every day use today. The thing that the Japanese used was called a furoshiki. You can see a picture of one below.

Yep, you're right. That is just a piece of cloth. A simple every day piece of cloth. But, it is what the Japanese figured out to do with this cloth that makes it so great. They found so many different ways to tie the cloth so that it can be used to carry anything from big boxes to watermelons. They even sometimes make bags out of them. You can see pictures of some of these furoshiki creations below.

The name furoshiki means something like bath sheet. The is because a few hundred years ago in Japan no one really had a please to take a shower or a bath at their house. They would all have to go to public bath houses. When they did go to public bath houses they would wrap up everything they needed in their furoshiki. That is where the name comes from.

The use of furoshiki have gone well beyond that. Now people even wrap gifts in the furoshiki if it is for a special occasion. Also, people tend to wrap up their boxed lunches in furoshiki. That way they can use the furoshiki as a little table cloth while eating. It makes for an easy way to eat lunch that is also very clean.

Just as an example of how they tie these things take a look at the videos below.

Cool, huh?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 風呂敷(ふろしき). It is pronounced furoshiki and means furoshiki. I hate to say it, but I use plastic bags to carry around my boxed lunch.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday October 29th, 2008. Today we will be talking about another classic game that I love.

So, a few weeks back I got talked into buying a play station 3. Well, to be honest, it was going to happen any way, but it happened faster than I originally though it would. The PS3 has an online store where you can by classic games. While looking though the classic games I came across one called Xenogears. I love that game. I have started it many times over but have yet to finish it. I decided that I am finally going to finish the game, so I am playing it at the moment.

Xenogears is the story of a guy named Fei. He lives in a small village in the mountains. He was not born in that village, but was brought there when he was very little. Fei has no thoughts about going out into the big world, but something happens to his village that changes that. His life is turned upside down in just one night. I don't want to get into the story too much because I want people to play this game. It is so worth it. Below you can see a video of the opening sequence of the game.

The graphics are great for a game that is over 10 years old, don't you think? The events in the opening sequence happen a long time before the events in the game itself, but everything is intertwined. This game really has a deep story where you can control 10 characters. The story goes into all the characters pasts and shows what drives them to do what they do.

As with almost all role playing games there is fighting. The fighting system is interesting in xenogears. You can either fight with your hands or weapons (depending on the character) or in a giant robot. Nothing feels better than smacking around a giant robot with another giant robot. You can see some of the fighting below.

It is definitely worth a play if anyone has access to it in any of its forms.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 戦う(たたかう). It is pronounced tatakau and means fight. I really do love the unique fighting system in this game.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday October 28th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a Japanese comedy group called The Rahmens.

There are many different types of Japanese comedy groups out there. Before I talked a little about the famous group called Down Town. This time I want to talk about one that is not so famous, but is damn funny. Their name is the Rahmens. The Rahmans are a pair named Kobayashi Kentaro and Katagiri Jin. They do a lot of sketch comedy as well as stand up. I want to show a few examples of their sketch comedy. They make something called "The Japanese Tradition." It is set up like an educational film about Japanese culture, but it is really funny. I am happy someone decided to subtitle these things.

The first example I want to show is about apologizing. Take a look.

No, the Japanese don't actually apologize by laying on the floor or digging holes, but it would be funny if they did. My favorite apology stance is the ninja one. I might try that one sometime tomorrow just to see what happens.

The next video needs a little explanation. There are a few set ways to end parties in Japan. If it is a party with a school it is usually ended by singing the school song. Another way is to say "banzai" with everyone you drank with. The last way is to clap. This is called tejime and can be seen in the video below.

Personally I like the singing of the school song the best. There is always some drunk teacher around to conduct the singing with a used chopstick. Got to love it. The last video is about sushi. I think I might have shared this one with you before, but it is worth another watch if I did.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 寿司(すし). It is pronounced sushi and means sushi. I love sushi.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, October 27, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday October 27th, 2008. Today we will be talking about water on the moon.

More than likely, almost as long as humans have looked up towards the moon they have wanted to try to visit it. Even Jules Verne wrote about the idea of going to the moon in his book From The Earth To The Moon. Of course that dream of visiting the moon went unaccomplished until July 20th 1969. That was a monumental day in scientific history. The only problem with going to the moon is the fact that the environment there is just not hospitable for human life. Humans need a lot of things to survive. Everything from just the right type of atmosphere to drinkable water.

There are some people that say if water (in the form of ice) is found on the moon than something can be done to make the atmosphere and make the moon habitable. The only problem with this is the fact that if there is any ice on the surface of the moon and it gets hit by sun it will go though a process known as ablation. That means the solid water will go straight to water vapor without going though the intermediate liquid step. That means as soon as there is ice on the surface it will not be there any more as soon as the sun hits it.

It sounds like there just won't be any ice on the surface, right? Well, technically, there is still hope. Scientists just have to find a place in which the sun never shines. I know that sounds like the old "Stick it where the sun don't shine!" and I guess it is close. It is more like "probe were the sun don't shine." I guess that is actually worse.

Luckily enough there are places where the sun's rays don't reach. The most promising of these places is known as the Shackleton crater. The Shackleton crater is one that lays on the south pole of the moon. The lip of the crater shields the inside from sunlight so that it is in almost constant shadow. If there is hope for ice on the moon that crater is the place to find it.

So, what if there were ice in the crater? How much ice would there be? Well the crater has a diameter of 19 km (about 12 mi) and a depth of about 2 km (just over 1 mile). If we assume that the crater is shaped like a tube (in other words no sloping sides) and was completely filled with ice it would be: pi*(19/2)^2 * 2 (this is the area of the circle at the top times the depth of the crater). This would be 567 cubic Km (or about 2625 cubic miles). If that were all water how much would it be? It turns out to be just under the amount of water in lake superior. That is a lot of water. My calculations are actually an overestimate because I am not taking into account the sloping crater walls and the fact that the crater would not be totally full of water, but it is still a whole later of water.

Last year Japan sent it's satellite named Kaguya in the direction of that crater. Kaguya is in orbit 100 km (about 62 miles) over the surface of the moon. It has a resolution of about 10 m (32 feet) per pixel. That is good resolution for a satellite of its type. You can see Kaguya below.

So, what do you think that Kaguya found in the crater? As it turns out, absolutely nothing. I guess that is an understatement because Kaguya found a lot of dirt. But, Kaguya did not find what it was looking for, ice. It is really too bad that water was not found, but there is always hope for ice in other areas of the moon. The Kaguya team is planing on going on to the north pole of the moon soon.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 月(つき). It is pronounced tsuki and means moon. The Japanese have a rabbit in the moon instead of a man in the moon.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday October 26th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a new type of future fashion.

There are a lot of strange types of fashion out there. If you have ever been to Harajuku on Sunday morning you have seen most of them. Of course there are always people looking out for the next thing that might be a fashion trend. Where is the best place to look? Normally people wouldn't think that fashion makers would be looking towards science for their fashion ideas, but in this case they did.

Last week I talked a little about a guy named Mr. Shimamura who got his nobel prize from the isolation a glowing protein from jellyfish. A Japanese company decided to use this type of protein to make silk. This silk has the special property that it can be seen to glow if looked at though specific filters. The company has even used coral to produce the colors of red and orange along with the original color of green. You can see what this silk looks like when seen though a filter below.

The team that is working on producing more colors and types says that it wants to see this type of silk used normally in fashion within the next 5 years. I don't know if this will make a new type of fashion or just set fashion back to the 80's when just about everything glowed. I think it is time to be scared...very scared.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 光(ひかり). It is pronounced hikari and means light. Always look on the lighter side of your life...

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, October 24, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday October 24th, 2008. Today we will be talking about what can happen when you divorce someone online.

Love comes in many forms. There is the love between parents and children, the love between siblings, the love that only lovers know, and of course there is the love that can be felt for people you meet online. This story has to do with that last kind of love. Actually, it is more about what happens when online love goes wrong.

In Japan there are a lot of online role playing games. One of the most popular ones is called Maple Story. The thing that makes it popular is the fact that you can play it for free. People from all ages and walks of life flock to play Maple Story. In the game you and your friends go out and try to defeat monsters. You can talk to people in the game and work together. The only problem is that some people get into the game too much and actually fall in love with the people on the other side of the character they are speaking with. Oh, by the way, you can see a picture of Maple Story below.

The news story that I want to talk about this time is what happens when love on the internet goes bad. Like any good love story I guess I should start from the beginning. This love story starts with two people, a 43 year old lady named Mayumi from southern Japan and a 33 year old guy from northern Japan. They were both very into Maple Story. They met somehow and ended up falling in love. They eventually decided to get married. I am not talking about a real world wedding here. I am talking about getting married within the game. Not quite normal or legally binding.

The only problem was that things do no end "happily ever after." Something happened to cause the online husband to want a divorce. The thing is, they were not actually married so he just said something like "We are now divorced." That made Mayumi angry. What do you think she did at this point? Well, she ended up doing the equivalent of online murder. She knew her "ex-husband's" password so she used it to go in and erase his character. Very simple and a lot less bloody than actual murder.

The only problem with this online murder (besides the fact that is a psycho thing to do in the first place) is the it is also against the law. No, we are not talking about murder 1 here. We are talking about a law about unauthorized access to computer accounts. Under this law, if Mayumi gets convicted, she can get up to a year in jail or a fine of up to 500000 yen (about 5000 USD). Again, not as bad as the sentence for an actual murder.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 離婚(りこん). It is pronounced rikon and means divorce. Why would anyone bother with an online divorce. You could just go off line.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 14

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday October 23nd, 2008. Today we will be talking about yet another Japanese festival.

As I have said many times before, I love festivals of all shapes and sizes. It just so happens that according to this story a major festival went on yesterday in Kyoto. The name of the festival is the Kurama Fire Festival.

Festivals are always cool, but when you add the extra spice of a lot of fire to the festival it becomes just that much cooler. The basic story of the festival all started way back in the year 940 AD. At that time there was a lot of small battles around Kyoto as well as large earthquakes. This all set a very dark tone in Kyoto. The emperor at the time , emperor Suzaku, decided that he wanted to do something to help cheer up the people of his capital city, so he arranged a huge march after dark with the portable shrine of the deity of the royal house at the front of the procession. Because the march was at night they needed something to light the way. The emperor came up with the idea to use reeds from the Kamo river. The whole procession was over a kilometer long and was apparently amazing because the people of the city decided they wanted to pass down the night march tradition to their children.

The shape of the march has not really changed over the years, but the scope has. Well to be precise, it is not the scope of the march but the scope of the torches that has changed. The festival now uses huge torches that can be about 4 meters (13 feet) in length and weigh over 100 kilograms (220 pounds). You can see a picture of these torches below as well as a video from the event this year.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 火(ひ). It is pronounced hi (as in "he")and means fire. The word brings Bevis and Butthead to mind.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday October 22nd, 2008. Today we will be talking about a game that is suppose to help people stay healthy.

There are many different reasons to play games now days. I still remember a long time ago when games were just for entertainment, but games can be played to do anything from study for a test to learn how to cook now. I guess video games have come a long way since pong.

There are even games out now to help people say healthy. You can see one of them here. The game is for the DS and it has a name that can be roughly translated as something like "You can learn so much about your lifestyle rhythms just by walking." That is a mouth full so I hope that Nintendo gives it a better name if they decide to sell it in America.

As you might be able to tell from the name of the game, this game is all about how much you walk every day. When you get the game you get a little device that you carry around with you. This device collects all the information that the game needs to know about how much you walk every day. The device is so small that you just have to throw it into a bag or into your pocket and forget about it. You can see what one of these devices looks like below.

At the end of the day all you have to do is send the information from the little device to your nintendo DS. The DS will than take that data and play with it. It will plot how much you walk and use the information you put in about the length of your stride to calculate how far you walked as well. It also calculates funny things like how many steps it would take you to walk to Mars. You can see a picture of this screen below.

It looks like a good game and something that might help keep people healthy for a little while. I think that I might look into the game when it comes out.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 散歩(さんぽ). It is pronounced sanpo and means walk. I try to walk every day, but lately I think I like sleeping more than walking.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday October 21st, 2008. Today we will be talking about random animation that I found.

I looked hard, but there was really no good entertainment news out there today. That is why I decided to do what I always do when I can't find anything else to do: I turned to youtube. I decided to find some good Japanese animations that don't use a lot (or any) Japanese) and that are entertaining. The first animation can be seen below.

It is very simple, right? That is why I like it. That, and it is almost exactly my life on the weekend. Sitting at home, reading books, watching TV, avoiding people that come to my door and poking at my cell phone. The home page of the person that made the animation can be found here.

The second video is a animated music video to a song called "Sakana no Uta." That translates roughly to "The song of the fish." It may not look like it, but apparently the person that made the animation is not a pro. There are some amazing amateurs out there, aren't there?

This last one really makes me think. The animation really only tells part of the story. I wish there was more to see. I will have to see if I can find out more about the people that made the animation. All I know is that they did it for a university project.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 自主制作(じしゅせいさく). It is pronounced jishu seisaku and means home made. Speaking of home made, I decided that I am going to learn how to make a hat, I figure if I make one I won't go and loose it like the ones that I buy.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, October 20, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday October 20th, 2008. Today we will be talking about something that will help me get though the winter.

I know know if it is getting cold where you guys are, but I can tell you that in the morning at night here it is really getting cold where I am. It has gotten to the point where I want to get out my heaters and turn them up to high. I say "heaters" because Japan does not believe in central heating. I always joke with my friends saying that the warmest room in my house during the middle of the winter is my refrigerator. That means that there are only so many ways to survive the winter in a old drafty house like mine. The first way so to drag out a lot of heaters and turn them all up onto high. Another way to survive the winter is to spend the whole winter under a kotatsu. A kotatsu is a table with a blanket around its edges and a heater on the bottom. You can see a picture of a kotatsu below.

I love kotatsu, but once you sit under a kotatsu, you never want to leave. I have spent many a lazy winter weekend not leaving the house because I was comfortable sitting under the kotatsu. I have even spent many a night sleeping under the kotatsu as well. A lot of Japanese people say that you will catch a cold if you sleep under a kotatsu, but I have never gotten a cold because of that.

Another thing that helps people in Japan get though the winter is Japan is called a kairo. Kairo are little bags of chemicals that suck in oxygen and go though a chemical reaction that releases heat. The actual chemical reaction is

Fe + (3/4)O2 + (3/2)H2O -> Fe(OH)3 + 96 Kcal/mol

In other words powdered iron reacts with oxygen from the area and water vapor that is also in the area and produces Ferric (III) Iron Hydroxide (AKA rust) and some energy. This energy is in the form of heat and it makes everyone happy on a cold winter night.

The only problem with these kairo is the fact that they only last for so long. Sure the reaction could last up to eight hours depending on the amount of iron powder in the kairo. After the reaction is done with there is no way to change the rust back into iron, so the kairo has to be thrown away. These things were made to be disposable, but that is not very environmentally friendly, is it?

That is where Sanyo Electronics comes in. Sanyo wanted to find a way to get just as much heat, but also be more environmentally friendly. They ended up coming up with a new type of electric kairo called the eneloop kairo. Eneloop stands for Energy Loop. You can see the kairo below.

It looks sort of like a mouse, doesn't it? The eneloop kairo uses two rechargeable double A batteries. It can be used up to 5 hours on 4 and a half hours of charging. It is also said that it can be charged up to 1000 times without having to change the batteries at all. When the batteries do finally fail, they just need to be switched out and the kairo can be used again. This thing will definitely help me though the winter.

As with all things, there is a down side. The first downside I can see is the wait. With the traditional kairo, when one runs out all you have to do is open another package and you got instant heat, but with this you have to wait for it to change for it to be used again. That means there is a significant wait between uses. The second downside can be seen if you look at the kairo from an ecological point of view. Sure you will no longer be throwing away old kairo (basically rust and a little cloth), but ever 1000 days (3 years of constant use...but who would use a kairo in the summer?) you have to throw away 2 batteries. The batteries contain heavy metals and are very bad for the environment. In the long run I wonder if these things are very ecologically friendly or not.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 懐炉(かいろ). It is pronounced kairo and kairo (sometimes translated as "hand warmer" even though it can be used for any part of the body now days). I sort of like the old kairo that you stick to the inside of your shirt. Those keep you warm all day. Some times the kairo react strongly and become really hot.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday October 19th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a newly discovered type of jellyfish.

This year there have been a lot of Japanese people that have received the Nobel prize. One of these people, named Shimomura Osamu, got his Nobel prize for isolating and finding uses for a strange type of glowing protein. This protein, known as the Green Fluorescent Protein, is used in a lot of medical research to tag other proteins. This way we can know where certain proteins are in a human body at any time. It is very interesting. The green fluorescent protein originally came from a small jellyfish. Mr. Shimomura was so interested to see why the jellyfish glows that he spent his life isolating that one protein.

There are so many different types of jellyfish out there. Today I want to talk about a funny looking one that was just found off the coast of Japan. You can see the original article here.

Jellyfish really do come in all different shapes and sizes. They also run the range from being colorful to being almost totally clear. The new type of jellyfish is on the small side because it has a body that measures just about 17cm (about 7in) in diameter. What sets this new type of jellyfish apart (and why I am talking about it) is because of the coloration. Take a look at the picture below.

Cute, isn't it? The reason why I am talking about this new discovery is because of what the Japanese are calling this new jellyfish. Their new name is Red Lantern Jellyfish. Well, now that I read the name I guess I got to say that it does look like a red lantern. What makes it all the more funny is that in Japan a red lantern is put outside of bars at night to single that they are in operation. This is used in a lot of the sketchy parts of town. You can see an example of this type of red lantern below,

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 提灯(ちょうちん). It is pronounced chouchin and means lantern. Now every time I go out drinking all I will be able to think about is that damn jellyfish.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, October 17, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday October 17th, 2008. Today we will be talking about ROBO JAPAN 2008.

When I went to Tokyo for the Tokyo Game Show I stayed in a place called Yokohama. Yokohama is a very nice place. On the last day that I was in Yokohama I was wandering though a giant mall and I came upon a sign that said simply ROBO JAPAN 2008. Needless to say that really got my attention. I was thinking of staying there and checking it out, but my friends called me to the TGS, so that was off the list.

ROBO JAPAN 2008 was a huge robot festival. It included 45 different companies that brought over 100 different robots. Among these robots was the world's smallest robot. This robot walks on 2 feet and is only 3.4 cm (just over an inch) tall. A lot of people came to see all of the robots that were in the festival. The most famous robot at the festival was ASIMO. You can see a video of ASIMO and everything it can do below.

ASIMO looks a bit creepy when it is running.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 走る(はしる). It is pronounced hashiru and means run. The elementary school kids that I teach always find a way to make me run when I don't want to. Bah.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 13

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday October 16th, 2008. Today we will be talking about the renewal of an old Japanese festival.

Like everywhere else is the world Japan is slowly moving into the future. With this inevitable advance comes the loss of old traditions and waves of thinking. This means that a lot of the old festivals that the Japanese people used to celebrate have long ago gone to the way side and are no long celebrated. As a person that loves festivals of all different kinds, this is almost a crime.

Luckily there are people that look into these old festivals and try their best to bring them back. The latest of these festivals that has been brought back from the dead is called the Yowatari Shinji. It has been brought back after being absent for over 180 years. The festival takes place in Kyoto and involves the people that go to Kurita shrine walking in the area around their shrine at night in other to purify the area. As they walk around the area they carry around elaborate lanterns. You can see some of these lanterns below.

So, what caused the festival to come back to life? Well, in this case it was some local collage students. Some students from the Kyoto University of Arts and Design decided that they wanted to bring back the lanterns so that everyone can enjoy them. On top of that, they decided that they also wanted to design and build the lanterns.

Twenty university students got together and built 5 different giant lanterns. The lanterns measure 2 to 3 meters on a side and feature many different creatures from Japanese mythology. All of the students say they are happy to that they could bring the lanterns back to the Kyoto night-scape.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 大学(大学). It is pronounced daigaku and means university. I guess it is almost time for me to go back to university and get some more higher education.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday October 15th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a new Japanese game that I have my doubts about.

As I said on Tuesday I saw a whole lot of games when I went to The Tokyo Game Show. There were a lot of good games. There were a lot of games that I want to buy when they come out. On the other hand, there were some games that I really had my doubts about.

The game that I have the most doubts about is an online game called Meet Me. You can see this game at For one thing I have had my fill of online games. Especially massively multi-player role playing games like World Of Warcraft. I guess that is more of a personal opinion than anything else, but I just can't see anything worthwhile in those games any more.

Meet Me is more than an online game though. It is a virtual representation of Tokyo that people can go to and buy land and live a nice virtual life. That's right, people don't have to deal with the troubles of the real world because they can live their lives out (well actually the lives of their characters, but most people base their characters on themselves) in a virtual world. This game has everything from vehicles, dance halls, cafes, places to fish, and a night life. You can see a few pictures from Meet Me below.

So, how does this game work. First you have to sign up. The company than gives you 3 months of free land in this virtual land. After that you make yourself and plop yourself down into your virtual land. From there you learn how to move around using cars and buses as well as just walking. When you get to where you want to go you can talk to anyone that is there. The people there can see your virtual self and interact with it.

So what happens when your free 3 months are over? Well than you have to start putting money into the whole thing. You are kicked out of what ever house you had and you have to buy your own house. I don't know how much it costs because the website did not say. In other words, when you are just getting used to your new virtual world you have to pay to stay there. Yet another reason to doubt the system.

There is one more reason to doubt the system. The fliers that they handed out at The Tokyo Game Show were are little suspicious. The front of the fliers were fine. They show pictures of the game and tell a little bit about it. The problem is with the back side of the fliers. The back side has pictures of 6 cute Japanese ladies with Meet Me shirts on and it says that you can have virtual dates with them if you get the game on time. Virtual dates... Oh my! That would be the line between stupid and sad. Though, I have got to say that this company does know how to make good fliers for the game show. I saw more lonely guys in that one place than I have seen in over a year.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is デート(でえと). It is pronounced deeto and means date. I don't think I really want to include myself in with the rest of the lonely guys at TGS.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday October 14th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a traditional Japanese instrument.

As I have said on many occasions I play a traditional Japanese instrument called the shamisen. I have already talked about that a lot so today I want to talk about a different type of instrument.

This time I want to talk about daiko. Daiko are Japanese drums. They are usually huge, but they have small versions of them as well. You can see a picture of one of the huge daiko below.

There are many groups all over Japan that play the daiko. Most of the groups play daiko for festivals or other such events. There are also groups that are very famous because they play daiko. The one that is closest to my prefecture is called Kodo. They always play on Sado during the earth festival in the summer. You can see a Kodo video below.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 太鼓(だいこ). It is pronounced daiko and means daiko. I always wanted to learn how to play the taiko, but it is not really something I can practice in my apartment.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, October 13, 2008

JJNN Special: Tokyo Game Show

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday October 13th, 2008. Today we will be talking about my latest trip to Tokyo.

This weekend was an extremely long weekend. I spent Saturday and Sunday in Tokyo. It was a fun time, but I don't think I have run around so much in a single weekend in a long time.

Let's start from the beginning. On Thursday of last week I got a message on my phone. It said simple that I can not make or receive phone calls. In other words my phone was no longer really a phone because it doesn't work any more. I figured out that I had to go to the apple store to get the thing fixed. The closest one just happened to be in Tokyo. I guess it was a good thing that my phone broke when it did.

Saturday morning I woke up early and got on a bullet train down to Tokyo with my friends. The bullet train was so packed because it was the first real day of a long weekend. Everyone managed to get seats, but everyone was sitting away from everyone else. When we got to Tokyo station I met up with some of my other friends and told everyone I had to get my phone fixed. A couple of my friends showed me the way to the apple store and I made an appointment to get my phone fixed. The appoint was at 5pm and it was after 1 when we got to the store so we decided that there was no point going to the game show if we would only get to be there a couple of hours.

Instead of going to the game show we decided to go around and find a place to eat. While we were waiting for another one of my friends to meet up with us we found a nice park and explored it. You can see a couple of pictures from the park down below.

I spent the rest of the day waiting to get my phone fixed and wandering around with my friends. We ended up going to Akihabara (the geek capital of Japan) and seeing some of the arcades. There was also an adventure in a costume shop and other shops that I won't be getting into.

That night I ended up staying in Yokohama. The place that I stayed in was a huge spa. It has 7 floors of different baths. The roof also has a great view of the huge ferris wheel that stands in front of the building. The place where I slept was a huge room filled with lots and lots of chairs. The chairs fully recline and are comfy enough to sleep in. It is cheap and a good place to sleep. The only problem is that people snore. When you are sleeping in the same room with lots and lots of people you are bound to hear lots and lots of snoring.

The next day I met up with my other friend and we headed off the to Tokyo Game show. There was just so many people there. It was crazy. It took forever to get to any one place because of the wall of people. It was good to see just how many people are into games though. There were people from all over the world and all walks of life there. Of course most of the people were japanese, but I know there were also people form America, Canada, Germany, Korea and China.

There were so many games that grabbed my attention when I was walking though the game show. Everything from the Taiko no Tatsujin (the Japanese drum game) for the wii to Metal Gear Online to Tenchi 4. I also saw that there will be a new Professor Laiton (I don't know how they spell that in the American version) game and Genso Suikoden game. It was enough to make anyone that loved video games to just drool. You can see a couple of the pictures below.

That's just about it. I don't watn to go into depth about anything because there are just too many question marks about most of these games. I couldn't tell you when most of them come out or about the plot or anything, but I can tell you that most games do look good.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ゲーム(げえむ). It is pronounced geemu and means video game. I haven't really played any games in a long time, but I guess I am going to start playing again sometime soon.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, October 10, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday October 10th, 2008. Today we will be talking about the future here now.

I watched a lot of movies when I was young. Everything from Ghostbusters to Gremlins. There was always one movie that stood out to me though, Robocop. I always thought it would be cool to have my brain put into a robot. All the long life and power of the robot with the brains of the human. Perfect really.

Well, according to this story, we are taking a step closer to that dream. No, we are not taking brains and putting them in machines. We are taking whole humans and building a robotic suit around them. I know the idea is closer to Gizmo Duck from the Disney cartoon than Robocop, but I still like Robocop better.

A Japanese company called Cyberdyne (cool name, huh?) has produced their own version of a robotic suit called HAL. The name of the company seems to be a throwback to a company name in Terminator and the name of the suit seems to be a throwback to the name of the computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL actually stands for Hybrid Assistive Limb. They named it that because they designed this robotic suit to help people who have trouble walking or moving otherwise. You can see a picture of HAL below.

The version of HAL in the picture is the full body version. There is also another version that is just the bottom half of the suit. That other version is geared towards those whole have trouble or have lost the ability to walk only. Personally, if I am going to get a robotic suit, I think I would get the full body version. You can see HAL at work in the video below.

That is an old video, but the maker of HAL has constantly been upgrading HAL ever since. The big news on the HAL front is the fact that are not selling the robots. That's right! You can buy one of robots and walk around like that now. How much do you think these things cost? Well, let me tell you that it is not cheap. A one leg version of the suit comes with a price tag of 150000 yen (a the current sucky market prices just about 1500 USD) a month! The two legged version is 220000 yen (about 2200 USD) a month. That is for a 5 year lease. My wallet says ouch.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ロボット(ろぼっと). It is pronounced robotto and means robot. And, yes, domo arigatou mr. roboto.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 12

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday October 9th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a Japanese game.

There are few games out there that are popular in Japan and many people think come from Japan. Today I want to talk about one of them: igo. Igo is also known as simply "go." The rules to go are very simple, but the game it self is very deep and complex.

Well, first thing is first. Go is not originally from Japan. It came from China (like so much in Japanese culture) and has been doing well for itself in Japan since the 7th century AD. Must people found out about Go from anime or manga so they think that Go is from Japan. I know it was that way for me.

Let's get into the board and the rules. The board is a 19 by 19 grid. The thing that sets Go apart from other grid based games is the fact that the pieces (stones) are played on the places where the lines intersect, not in the squares the the grid forms. You can see a game in progress below.

Put simply Go is a battle to get the most area on the game board while loosing as few of your own stones as possible. You loose your stones when they are completely surrounded by the stones of your enemy. When that happens your enemy gets to take your stones and use them against you at the end of the game. That's basically it. Simple, right?

It is simple, but it can be extremely deep. To win the game you don't count the number of stones that you have down on the board you count the amount of area under the control of your stones. This means that you have to gain a lot of area by putting down only a few stones. On top of that you have to make sure the enemy can not sneak into your area and steal it from under your nose.

When both of the players can put down no further stones without either doing something illegal or making their area smaller the game goes into the end phase. In this phase you take the stones that you took from your enemy and fill in their area with them. They also do the same for your area. After all the stones are put down everyone counts how much area they have. The person with the most area is the winner. Below is a video that shows the whole process though quickly.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 囲碁(いご). It is pronounced igo and means Go. Way back when I used to be into Go, but I was never very good at it. I do like the feel of of slamming a stone down onto the game board though.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

JJNN Vacation

Hi all.

I am going to take a day off from the blog. Things have been happening very fast and furious lately so I just want to rest for the night. I will be back tomorrow on the normal schedule. Also, I am going to be taking Saturday off because I am going to be going to the Tokyo Game Show on that day. I will be back Sunday with a report from the TGS. That will send in for my game post for this week.

Any way talk to you all tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday October 7th, 2008. Today we will be talking about crazy Japanese game shows.

When people that live outside of Japan think about Japan when it comes to TV shows they usually think about the "crazy" Japanese game shows. You know the kind of game shows I am talking about, right? The type of shows where people have to jump from platform to platform and if they miss they end up in water or flour or something like that. Another type of game is the one where people have to run around and do crazy stunts or end up covered in slime. All in all very entertaining. The classic example of these types of games is called Takeshi's Castle. This game show debuted in 1986 and went on to 1989. There was also a revival that aired in 2005. You can see a clip from the show below.

The company that originally produced Takeshi's Castle (TBS: Tokyo Broadcasting System) seems to own the rights to this type of game in Japan. Any game that has people doing crazy things on big sets outside is done by TBS. They have sort of gotten attached to their ideal of games like this. They have gotten so attached to it that they don't like to see anyone else do it.

Apparently TBS is suing ABC (American Broadcasting Channel) for airing a show that is sort of like Takeshi's Castle. You can see the news article here. TBS was not happy to see the ABC show called Wipeout. I have never seen the show, but apparently Wipeout resembles Takeshi's Castle to such an extent it is basically the same show. TBS told ABC not to air the show, but they ignored the order so now TBS is threatening to sue. I doubt this will go very far though.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 番組(ばんぐみ). It is pronounced bangumi and means (TV) show. Not all Japanese TV shows are crazy game shows. Those are just the ones that I like the best.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, October 6, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday October 6th, 2008. Today we will be talking about an award that is even better than the Nobel prize.

Notice I didn't say in what way these awards were better. I am talking about the famous (infamous) ig noble awards. What? You have never heard of the Ig Noble Awards? Well, I guess they don't get as much press as their big brother (no actual relation) the Nobel Prize, but still an award is an award, right?

So, what are the Ig Nobel Awards for? Well they are awards are given to scientists that do research that is not quite... normal. They want to reward people that give their lives away to researching a topic that at first seems weird, but might lead to great results and be though provoking. A good example of this was a winner from Japan last year, Yamamoto Mayu. Ms. Yamamoto decided to study cows. Not, too weird yet, right? Well let's take it a step further. She decided to study cow dung. A little out there, but not that bad really. This is where it gets weird. She found out that you can actually distill vanilla essence out of cow dung. Weird! That is what constitutes an Ig Nobel Prize.

The contender from Japan for this year can be found here. It seems that 3 Japanese people have found out that amoeboids can solve mazes. Apparently these microscopic creatures can solve their equivalent of a hedge maze just like a human can. On the outside this sounds like a stupid experiment, but this is a sign of intelligence in a creature that everyone assumed was not intelligent.

If you want to see more about the Ig Nobel awards you can find their website here. You can see an example of these awards down below. The video is as random as the prizes can be themselves.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 迷路(めいろ). It is pronounced meiro and means maze. Every time I think about mazes I think about labyrinths. Every time I think about labyrinths I think about David Bowey.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday October 5th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a terrible movie.

I was busy all day so I didn't have enough time or energy to actually find a news story. So instead of looking for one at this point of time I am going to talk about the movie that I am watching at the moment on TV. That is the only connection with is now playing on Japanese TV. Sorry guys.

Any way the movie that I am watching now is called the Poseidon Adventure. It was made in 2005 and is a remake of the 1972 classic movie. The basic story is about a huge ship that was suddenly flipped upside down. It is the basic man against the environment, escape the dangers and get out with your life type of movie.

So, why am I talking about this movie? Well other than it is what I am currently watching it is the fact that it sort of gives science a huge slap in the face. The ship is turned upside down in the first place because of a huge tidal wave in the middle of the ocean. You can see this scene down below.

So, what is so wrong with this scene? Well how about everything. Let's focus on the wave though. Why is there a huge wave in the middle of the ocean? In the movie itself they call it something like a "rogue wave," but that is crap. Just think about it. Have you ever seen a wave like that in the middle of the ocean? The answer is no because waves do not act like that.

How do ocean waves work? Well just like all other wave of the same type. The wave propagates (moves) though a material (water, air etc) but the material itself does not propagate with the wave. For example, with sound, the sound waves go from my mouth to some one's ear, but the air from my mouth does not go to the person's ear. The material just helps the waves move. The same thing goes for ocean waves. The energy moves though the water, but the water itself does not move.

Well than, why do we see waves on the beach? Well that is because there is still energy left over. The energy propagates though the water and as the water gets more shallow the energy actually pushes the water up and onto land. This is the same principle for normal waves and for tidal waves. The source of the energy is just different.

So, why is the wave in the movie crap? Well unless the area the ship was in was extremely shallow there would be no reason why a wave would form out of the ocean like that. And if that area of ocean was shallow the boat would be screwed any way.

I know what most of you will say. "It is a movie. Forget the science and just enjoy it." I can do that for most movies, but for some movies truly terrible science ruins my enjoyment of the movie. Especially when it is something that the rest of the movie is based of from . I guess I am just a scientist through and through.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 津波(つなみ). It is pronounced tsunami and means tidal wave. The other English name for tidal wave is tsunami. A raw English word that comes from the Japanese.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday October 4th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a form of prayer.

Have you all seen kung fu movies? In 9 out of 10 classic kung fu movies there is a scene in which the main character looses his master or his lover or his kid or something like that and goes into training so that he can defeat the person that did the killing. Training of the body is easy, but than the main character finds out that he has to "train" his soul in order to defeat the bad guy. How does he do this? Most of them do something like seen below.

They purify themselves by sitting or standing under a waterfall. Usually these scenes take place in the middle of the winter as well when the temperature is at or below freezing. Somehow cold water hitting main character's skin causes the main character soul to be pure and allows him to kick major ass.

Unfortunately real life is not quite like the movies. How do I know this? Well 4 or 5 years ago in the middle of the winter I went out to the middle of nowhere with a bunch of people and actually tried out the whole sitting under a waterfall thing. I am pretty sure that my soul (if there is such a thing) was as dirty after the waterfall as it was before the waterfall.

Of course there is a lot more to the process than running out and jumping under a waterfall. There is a whole Shinto and/or Buddhist (see my post for August 23rd) process involved. Some of the processes include a lot of bowing, dressing in special clothes, chanting a sutra (Buddhist script), praying to a Shinto god, and lots of yelling. You can see what happens in the video below (though the end of the video is actually the start of a Shinto fire walking ceremony. That is a topic for another time...though as a side note I did the fire walking thing as well with the same group).

So why do people really do this? What do people get from going under a waterfall in the middle of the winter? Well it is suppose to help you change yourself. If you don't like yourself or what you do going under a waterfall is suppose to help you deal with your past self and change who you are. It is also suppose to be a form of prayer. There are some people that even say that going under a waterfall helps make you more beautiful.

What does this actually do for a person though? Well I can see how the shock of being hit by a lot of cold water can help you deal with some emotional problems. I can tell you from personal experience that after you are done and warming up by a fire it does sort of feel like a rebirth of sorts. As for helping with beauty, it is easier to just wash your face in cold water every morning. I don't think it really does anything but help close up those pores. As for prayer, that will open a whole bag of things that I just don't want to deal with.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 滝(たき). It is pronounced taki and means waterfall. I think I might want to try the waterfall training again because I didn't get pictures the first time. I would like to do it in the summer next time though.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, October 3, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday October 3rd, 2008. Today we will be talking about the end of an era.

When you think about computer storage what do you think about? Do you think about huge hard drives? Do you think about USB flash memory drives? Do you think of DVDs or CDs? What about before all those things? No I am not talking about cassette drives. That is going way to far back. I am talking about those little 3.5 inch disks. I mean just look at it...

Doesn't just looking at it bring back memories? I mean I can remember having to deal with stacks of those things to install large games in the days before CDs made things easy. One game that I always played way back in the day took 14 disks to install. Though after CDs came out I always used my old 3.5 disks to practice for card throwing. They were just heavy enough to help with accuracy without being too heavy and hurting the wrist.

Any way, now that I brought you on a trip down memory road, I have some bad news. I was a little shocked to read this. Apparently Mitsubishi (one of the largest producers of 3.5 disks in Japan) is going to stop producing these disks in March of next year. This is more than likely going to be the final blow to this technology. Though many have seen this coming for many years it is still a little sad. Even though I say that none of my computers actually have a 3.5 disk drive...

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 消滅(しょうめつ). It is pronounced shoumetsu and means termination. I guess I never really felt the same feelings for the 5.25 inch disk as the 3.5 inch disk.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 11

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday October 2nd, 2008. Today we will be talking about the Japanese tradition of telling stories.

Everyone loves a good story. Weather it is in the form of a movie, the lyrics of a song, a book or a story passed on orally. In Japan there is a tradition of telling stories orally. They call this form of story telling rakugo. I have been to see rakugo many times and it is always a great experience. I could try to explain how rakugo works, but it would be easier to show an example. Take a look at the video below (rakugo performed in English).

As you can see there is one guy that sits on a cushion and tells the story. He says the lines of all the characters plus the narrator by changing his or her voice and changing the way he sits to represent the ways the characters act. There are hundreds of classic stories that most Japanese people know. The people that follow rakugo know most of these stories by heart. The story from the video is not one of the classic ones. It is set in modern day. A lot of the classic stories are set in the 1800s.

It is a very simple form of entertainment, but it does what it is suppose to do, entertain the masses. I always like a good rakugo. If you ever get the chance go out and see one. It is very much worth it.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 落語(らくご). It is pronounced rakugo and means rakugo. There are even some rakugo artists that star on a game show that airs every week. They have to tell jokes to earn points. That is always good entertainment as well.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday October 1st, 2008. Today we will be talking about another game series that i love.

There are a few games out there that I just love. I talked about my favorite game, Chronotrigger, before but there are a lot of other good games out there. Another game series that I love is called Tenchu.

The are many games for many systems in the series, but the basic point of every game in the series is the same. You play a ninja and you have to sneak around a stage without being seen and take out the enemies. It is a simple objective, but it can be hard to actually accomplish.

The news on the Tenchu front is that Tenchu 4 is coming out later this month (it is called 4 but it is like 8th one in the line). I can't wait to play this game. It is going to bring back so many old memories. It always feels good to sneak around a stage with no guards spotting you. Also, nothing makes you feel more smart than using your ninja gear at exactly the right time to get out of a tough spot and still not get spotted.

The main characters are the same as in most of the other games. There is a male ninja called Rikimaru and a female ninja (also known as a kunoichi) known as Ayame. You can see a picture of these two down below.

Now that you know what these two look like, let's see what they can do in the newest game. It seems this game has new ways to hide (like within objects or under the floor. There are also new ways to kill your enemies by surprise. The video below shows a couple of new things. Take a look.

It is amazing that a video game can look so realistic. What I worry about is the new controls. This new Tenchu game is on the wii so I wonder how they are going to incorporate the wii controller into the game play. I guess I will have to buy it to find out. (Not that I wasn't going to buy it any way).

Any way, just for a blast from the past I am including the following video. It has characters from the original Tenchu game dancing a little dance. This is just funny.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 忍者(にんじゃ). It is pronounced ninja and means ninja. I wonder if it is too late to get some ninja training in.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday September 30th, 2008. Today we will be talking about an entertaining Japanese park.

There are many forms of entertainment in this world. They range from things like thrill rides that work on your emotions (feeling the scare before the drop of a roller coaster or laughing because you find a comedian funny) to things that entertain you because they work on other people's emotions (the best example of this is schadenfreude: feeling joy in other people's suffering). Within that range lies the human ability to entertain ourselves by making fun of things that are obviously out of place.

There is a park in Himeji (in southern Japan) called Taiyou Park that falls within that last category of entertainment. I bet you are thinking "It's a park. How could anything really be out of place?" right? The answer is everything. The park was built to have a place where all the world heritage sites can be seen in the same place. That's right, it is only a 10 minute walk from the pyramids to Tiananmen Square. Just outside of Tiananmen Square stands a giant replica of a haniwa (an ancient Japanese form of earth-ware that is in the shape of a warrior). I guess pictures speak louder than words so I will just post a few pictures of this amazing park and give a brief explanation of each.

This is a Colombian God backed by those kooky inhabitants of Easter Island, the Moai.

From the pyramid you can see a lot of things. First, on the right you can see the back of the sphinx. In the middle you can see a tiny pyramid that is about 1.2 meters tall. In the back you can see Tiananmen Square and a couple of towers from a famous temple in China.

There are a lot more good examples, but there are too many to choose from. If this park were not so far away I would definitely go there. Nothing so entertaining in this world as climbing a 2 kilometer stretch of the Great Wall of China to see an ancient Japanese castle being built off in the distance.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 公園(こうえん). It is pronounced kouen and means park. I am so happy that there is a park near my house. I would go crazy if I had absolutely no connection with nature in my area.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Monday, September 29, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 29th, 2008. Today we will be talking about Japanese DNA.

Deoxyribonucleic acid. I love the way that it just rolls off the tongue. Sure it does not sound as cool as acetylsalicylic acid, but DNA is just a little bit more important in the grand scheme of things than aspirin.

DNA really is amazing. It is an extremely tiny nucleic acid, but it contains all the information that is used to make up what we are. It is the DNA that says that we grow up with two arms and two eyes. Thanks to DNA we are not a thousand armed cyclops (though if we all did grow up as thousand armed cyclopes we would think that thousand armed cyclopes were sexy). The basic shape of DNA is a double helix. You can see what it looks like below.

Notice that the two helixes are held to each with things that look like sticks. Those sticks are actually called nucleotides. I know that is a big word, but stick with me for the moment. There are only 4 different types of nucleotides: adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine. So far so good, right? These nucleotides are complicated chemicals. They can only be around the ones they really love. For example Adenine would never be caught dead going with guanine and cytosine. Adenine will only make a pair with thymine. The same goes for guanine and cytosine. These pairs are called base pairs. (Yes, there are some times when these rules don't actually get followed, but I don't want to get into that stuff).

This leads nicely into the news story. You can see the original story here. It seems that some Japanese scientists processed the DNA of about 7000 Japanese people and found out that the genetic makeup of Japanese people can be seen to come from two different places. Some of the DNA is like that found on the part of Asia that is closes to Japan and the other part is found to be like the DNA that comes from the native people of Okinawa (an island group to the south of Japan).

I guess DNA analysis isn't really needed to figure that out. It makes sense in the end really. The two groups spread out to the nearest island and they find each other. They are not all that different in appearance any way so they mate and leave ancestors on that island that have that unique mix of DNA. History is full of stories like these.

The doctor that is in charge of the project says that there are only two major differences between the two types of DNA: the genes for hair and the genes for ear wax (yes there are genes for ear wax). The people that have the Asian mainland DNA have stiff hair and produce ear wax that is not so wet. The opposite goes for the people with the DNA from Okinawa.

This type of research is always very interesting. It helps people find out where their race came from in the first place. There is always so much that we can learn from this type of research. But, there is always precautions that we have to take with this type of research as well. It might seem a little far fetched, but I can see people being turned down for jobs or being bullied in the future because of what kind of DNA they were born with. A good example might be a type of medical insurance that will not cover people with a certain type of DNA because they are more susceptible to a certain type of disease. We have to be careful not to let something like that happen.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is デオキシリボ核酸(でおきしりぼかくさん). It is pronounced deokishiribo kakusan and means DNA. I am always a bit wary of acids that don't burn things.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday September 28th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a Japanese bird.

The bird of the prefecture that I live in is called the Japanese crested ibis. It is known for living on a large island that is part of my prefecture called Sado. The only problem with that is that all of the wild ibis in Japan got whipped out back in 2003. There are birds that are growing up in protected places so the bird does not totally disappear, but it is endangered and on the brink of extinction. Now there are a total of 122 of these birds that live in Japan.

So, what does this bird look like? Before I show you a picture prepare yourself. It is an ugly bird. You ready? Here we go.

Nice, huh? So, why am I talking about this bird? Well, there is actually some good news on the ibis front. You can see this news here. Last Friday on Sado Island 10 birds were released in the wild. This is the first time this bird has been in the skies over Sado in about 27 years.

This is a good thing. Any time when an animal that was on the brink of extinction (or in this case, it was actually extinct in Japan) is brought back to the wild. The group that released the 10 birds wants to release another 50 of them by 2015. Years from now the skies of Sado might look like they did before humans messed up the bird population.

From the picture it is a little hard to tell how big this birds actually are. They are very very big. The video below shows the birds and a big dog. They are just as big if not bigger.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 朱鷺(とき). It is pronounced toki and means Japanese crested ibis. It is good to hear that the birds are back. I hope they can stay in the wild with no problems.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday September 27th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a Japanese lake monster.

Almost every culture that lives near water has to deal with some sort of creature that lives within the depths of the water. Weather it be a deep river, a lake or the ocean there are almost always Gods or monsters associated with the body of water at some point in its history. Wether it be the famous Loch Ness monster or Champ who lives in Lake Champlain in New York. Other examples are Whitey, the monster that lives in the White river in Arkansas, or the Kraken that is said to live in the ocean.

Large body of water, even if it is shallow and can't really support large animals, is said to have one of these monsters. The one thing that connects these monsters is that the bodies of water that support the animals are murky. If the water is murky you can't see what is just below the surface so any disturbance on the surface could very well be a monster. Sure, those ripples could be made by a large school of fish that are looking for something to eat (something that happens everywhere in nature) or it could be some sort of undiscovered or forgotten anima: AKA a lake monster (something that is extremely rare).

Like everywhere else in the world lake monsters are not rare in Japan. They have special monsters called Kappa that are said to live in almost every river in Japan (though no one has ever actually filmed or taken a picture of one). Also, in some lakes, there are lake monsters.

In one lake in Kagoshima prefecture called Lake Ikeda there is suppose to be a lake monster. This lake monster is called Isshii. It is suppose to be named after Nessie. Below you can see a picture of Lake Ikeda fronted with a sign that is suppose to show what Isshii looks like.

Well, apparently Isshii was not only named after Nessie, but the statue was also made to look like the statues of Nessie. The basic story of Isshii started in 1961. Apparently someone saw a hump coming out of the water and it was estimated that the length of the creature that had that hump was from 10 to 20 meters (about 32 to 64 feet) long. Later it was said to be sighted in 1978 and 1991.

What could this thing be? Well I doubt it looks anything like that statue, because no one has ever seen its head. The best way to figure out what the creature might be is to look at what animals we know live in the lake. A lot of fish live in the lake, but the best known of these can be seen below.

That is a huge eel. Like it says in the picture it measures to 170cm (about 5 and a half feet) in length. Probably the most likely explanation for Isshii is one of these eels coming to the surface and swimming around looking for food. The way the eel moves can be described as a hump coming out of the water if you can't actually see the eel (black eel on dark colored water). It is basically case closed in my book, but what do you guys think?

Thanks to Isshii the number of people that go to Lake Ikeda has gone up a lot. Thanks to the monster and the way town uses it to draw people in, the town around the lake is booming. I guess pseudoscience can be used for good, but I would rather not see it at all to tell you the truth.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 鰻(うなぎ). It is pronounced unagi and means eel. Unagi refers to fresh water eels while anago is Japanese for salt water eels. Both taste good though!

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Friday, September 26, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday September 26th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a new Japanese robot.

There are a lot of robots made in Japan. There are robots that do everything from putting cars together to dancing traditional dances. Sure, the ones that put the cars together actually do something that is useful, but even the ones that do things like dance teach the engineers that make the robots a lot about how to make new types of robots. Even the most useless robot can end up being useful.

The newest of the robots that does not really seem useful is called Seiko-chan. This robot can do something I could never do, it can ride a unicycle. I never really wished I could ride a unicycle, but now I don't want to loose to a robot. Maybe I should learn. You can see this new robot in the video below.

Like it says in the video, the robot has advanced sensors and a balance system. It is by trying to advance those sensors and systems as well as making the robot better in general that the robot industry in Japan jumps forward compared to the robot industry in other countries.

Seiko-chan is suppose to be the cousin of an earlier robot invention named Seisaku-kun. This robot rides around on a bike. Like Seiko-chan he keeps balanced and moves according to advanced sensors. You can see what he can do down below.

I don't think I could get up a slope that steep on my bike.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 一輪車(いちりんしゃ). It is pronounced ichirinsha and means unicycle. To become an elementary school teacher in Japan you have to know how to ride a unicycle. It is on the test to become a teacher.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 10

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday September 25th, 2008. Today we will be talking about yet another fall tradition in Japan.

There is nothing that most Japanese people like better than looking at nature. Sure, a lot of them never actually take the time to leave the city and venture out into the country side to actually see the nature first hand, but at least they can see it on TV. During this time of year a lot of Japanese people love to travel around the country and see the colorful fall leaves.

I have to agree. The fall colors are extremely beautiful. Japan is a very long country so people can enjoy the fall colors for over a month. There are even special maps that people can see at travel agents that show the best time to go to certain areas of Japan to see the best fall colors. An example of one of those maps from a few years ago can be seen below.

You can see that the earliest time that people can really see the fall colors is October 20th way up north in Hokkaido. The latest is around November 30th way down south. Of course it is going to be different in different places. This does not take mountains and valleys into account really. Well, now that we know when to look, let's see what we actually see. You can a leaf viewing video below.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 紅葉(もみじ). It is pronounced momiji and means leaves changing colors or Japanese maple. Two years ago around this time I went up to Aomori around this time of year. The leaves were really beautiful.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday September 24th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a new game that I would love to play.

To tell the truth, there are no new games that really do anything for me anymore. They all seem to tell the same story with the same flat graphics. Sure, I would still call myself a gamer, but I guess I am more of a classic gamer now. I like the games from the old days when the story came before the graphics.

Now, I am not saying that all games with good graphics automatically have bad story lines, though that seems to be the trend. I am excited to say I think I might have found a game that has both great graphics and what looks like a great story line. The name of the game is The Last Remnant. You can see the article here.

The article doesn't actually say a whole lot, but it does go into a little detail about the battle system. It seems that every character have things called arts. There are 3 basic types of arts: Fighting Arts (really should be called Martial Arts...), Mystic Arts, and Item Arts. They are really self-explanatory. The Fighting Arts are for attacks, the Mystic Arts are for magic and the Item Arts are used for items. The picture below is an example of a Mystic Art called Assault Acid.

Sounds like most old tried and true game systems to me. The thing that gets me is the health gauge up at the top of the screen. I really want to see how they balance the Allies vs. Enemies system to make it fully playable. It seems like it might unbalance a game like this one, but they might have thrown something into the system to bring the balance back. Below you can see a game trailer, enjoy.

Looks good to me. It will be released (almost) all around the world on on the Xbox the 20th of November. It will be released later for the PS3. The price in Japan will be just a little over 8000 yen. A bit steep, but I think that it might be worth it.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 攻撃(こうげき). It is pronounced kougeki and means attack. Some of the Fighting Arts in this game look nice.

That's it for today. See you next time at JJNN.