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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday September 23rd, 2008. Today we will be talking about a man all the girls love.

Every year around this time of year the Japanese magazine "an an" puts out an issue that rates famous people in categories like "The most huggable man" or "The most sexy man". Before the article is put out they release the categories and over 10000 people vote on who goes where. According to this article the winner for "The most loved man" is Kimura Takuya.

This is no surprise really because Japanese woman love Kimura Takuya (Kimutaku for short). He is like a mini-God for them. Not only did he win "The most loved man" award this year, but he has for the past 15 years! Along with this 15th victory in that category he also got first place in "The man I would like to get hugged by," "The man I would love to have for a lover," "The most sexy man," and "The man with the most fashion sense." For those of you have have never heard of Kimutaku and don't know what he looks like, what do you think this guy looks like? I just want to know what kind of image you get about a guy that gets first place in all of those categories. You can see a picture of this guy below.

Personally I don't see what all the hype is about, but I am not looking at the guy though they eyes of a Japanese woman. Kimutaku is part of a Japanese music group called SMAP. They are mighty famous in Japan. Almost everyone knows just about all of the songs put out by SMAP. Below you can see one of their more popular songs.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 好き(すき). It is pronounced suki and means love. I think those awards are rigged.

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

Monday, September 22, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 22nd, 2008. Today we will be talking about a comet.

What do you think about when you hear the word "comet"? For me it will always be Halley's Comet. I remember way back in 1986 when we could last see Halley's comet. Seeing that up in the sky was one of things that helped to spark my interest in nature and science.

Besides Halley's comet, there are a lot of comets out there. It is estimated that there over 3000 of them in our system. So, what exactly is a comet? Well basically it is a big dirty snowball that just happens to be in outer space. It is a lot of ice and rocks packed together and revolving around the sun. The thing that makes comets different from meteors is the fact that when the comets get close to the sun they have a coma, or tail. The tail is made from the sun vaporizing the comet's ice.

An interesting fact about a comet's tail is that it is always behind the comet. Sometimes the tale is in front of the comet. This is because the fact that the light from the sun pushes the gas from the comet away from it. This is probably a little hard to visualize because you never feel any pressure or force from the light of the sun, but in the vacuum of space the effect is huge. You can see this effect in an instrument/toy called a radiometer. You can see a video of one below.

So, what is all this about comets? Well this all comes from a news story that you can see here. It seems that two Japanese men named Itagaki and Kaneda saw a comet that has not been seen in over 100 years. The name of the comet 205P/Giacobini after its discoverer Michel Giacobini. Giacobini discovered the comet in 1896, but it was not seen on the way out of the solar system. Now that they have found the comet again we can track it and find out when it is going to make close passes with the Earth. That is a good thing.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 彗星(すいせい). It is pronounced suisei and means comet. The next time Halley's comet shows up it will be 2061. Hmmm... I wonder if there will be any other ones in the mean time because that is a long wait.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday September 21st, 2008. Today we will be talking about ecologically minded power companies.

Well, first thing is first I guess. The one or two people that actually read my blog probably noticed that I didn't post anything yesterday. I was a little busy and I decided to take a break from pseudoscience for this week. Worry not, though, because it will be back next week in full force.

Today I found a nice technological article about solar power being used by big Japanese electric companies. You can see the original article here. I am so happy that these electric companies have finally gotten onto the ball about this.

I did a little post about solar power back in the beginning of July, but I never did say anything about how solar power works. So, before I actually get into the new story, I want to talk about what makes solar power work. There are actually a couple of different types of solar power. One form uses the a lot of curved mirrors to focus the light from the sun onto a tower. The water in that tower is made to boil because of the concentrated heat from the sun and that steam moves a turbine which makes electricity. That type of solar power is not what I am referring to though. I am talking about the solar power obtained by solar panels (also called photovoltaic cells).

Solar panels work though what is called the photoelectric effect. Basically what happens is some lights hits the surface of a material (it does not have to be a metal or a semi-conductor) and an electron is released from that material. Why are the electrons released? Well think of it this way; electrons are held in place in the material by an attraction to its positively charged nuclear core. If something comes in that is stronger than its attraction to it's core, it will be knocked away and be free to leave the material. The attraction between the electron and the core can be expressed in the form of an energy, but so can light (some types of light are more energetic than others). So this means if the light has more energy than the electron's connection to its core the light will knock the electron free.

That all happens for only one atom, but solar cells are made up of billions of atoms. This means that if light with enough energy is coming in a lot of electrons are leaving their atoms. These electrons are made to flow and like magic we have energy from a solar cell. Scientists are working hard to find new materials in which the electron is not bound strongly to its nuclear core. When these materials are found the effectiveness of solar panels will go up and they will produce more electricity.

Now, with that out of the way, I can talk about the news story. Two of the biggest energy providers in Japan, Tokyo Denryoku and Kansai Denryoku, made a promise that they will be using solar power to power about 40000 homes a year by 2020. This is a huge change in their normal practices of using fossil fuels to create electricity. They say they are converting 30 places into solar power factories and plan on producing about 40000 kilowatt hours a year. According to their sources this will keep about 70000 tons of CO2 out of the air.

But, wait, there's more. Not only are they making the solar power plants, but they decided that they should be riding around in electric cars. They are going to buy 10000 new solar powered cars along with other types of electric cars. This will make up just about a third of their fleet when they do get the cars. Every little bit helps. You can see one of these electric cars below.

Ugly is not the word I am looking for, but it's close.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電気(でんき). It is pronounced denki and means electricity. I wonder why a lot of people never think to put solar panels on their roofs? Sure they cost some money to install, but they pay back a lot in the long run.

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

Friday, September 19, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday September 19th, 2008. Today we will be talking about elevators that have the right stuff.

Ever want to go into space but don't want to deal with all the forces caused by rockets? Well according to this article, you may be able to do that yet. A team of people in Japan are proposing that we build an elevator into space. Yep, you read that right. An elevator where someone can literally say "The next stop is Earth orbit."

So, how does this all work? Well first thing is first. You need top floor for the elevator. Scientists decided that for everything to remained balanced they would have to string the cable from a satellite that is in geosynchronous Earth orbit (i.e. always over the same spot on the earth no matter what). This satellite will be about 36000 km (22000 miles) from the surface of the Earth. The top of the elevator cable itself will be attached to another small satellite that which will be at a distance 1/4 the distance between the Earth and the moon, or about 100000 km (62000 miles). You can see the proposed idea below.

Now let's think about this for a second. The elevator idea is fine if it gets off the ground, but the elevator cable itself is going to be 100000 km long right? If that's made out of iron that will be extremely heavy, right? There is no way that they could string up that much iron. That is why this team is proposing using something called carbon nanotubes.

Carbon nanotubes are just cool, and they are just what you probably think they are. They are extremely small tubes that are made out of carbon atoms. These tubes can be used to transport stuff and they are good conductors of heat, but the important thing is that they are extremely strong and much lighter than steel. You can see a picture of what one of these tubes would look like below.

Now that we know how we might be able to build the elevator, that leaves the question of why we would build it in the first place. Well, first thing is first, an elevator to space is just plain kick ass. But, I am sure that is not on their proposal. The real reason is that if you use an elevator to get into space they cost of bring heavy things like rockets into space is about 1/100 of the cost we have to pay now. It takes a lot of money to get away from the gravity of Earth. Sure it will cost a lot of money to build, but in the long run it will be worth it.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 宇宙(うちゅう). It is pronounced uchuu and means outer space. Maybe I am one step closer to my dream about getting to go to outer space.

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

Thursday, September 18, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 09

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday September 18th, 2008. Today we will be talking about going to hot springs in Japan.

I am so happy that it is starting to get cool in the mornings and evenings. This is really my favorite time of year. A little hot during the day, but not too cold at night. Perfect really.

This time of year is (for me) the start of the hot spring season. There is nothing better than laying naked in a hot bath when the air around you is chilly. Especially if you had to go on a long hike to actually reach the hot spring. Also, if you can, drinking while taking a hot bath is great.

There are a couple of steps that you have to take to take a bath in a hot spring in Japan. The first one is probably the easiest one: finding a hot spring. Hot springs pop up like weeds in most places. Once you find your hot spring you take off your shoes and put them in a shoe locker. Take the key from the shoe locker to the front desk and pay for your hot spring experience.

At this point the person at the front desk will take your shoe locker key and give you a wrist band. The wrist band will have a number on it and a key hidden in it. You have to find your way to the changing area appropriate for your sex. Don't follow the colors because this could get you in trouble. Sometimes blue is on the female's door. Just watch to see who goes into what side.

After you get to the changing room find the locker that has the same number as the one on your wrist band. Use the key to open the locker. Get undressed and throw all your clothes into the locker. Use the smaller towel that the hot spring staff provides you with to hide what God gave you and lock up the locker.

Now it is time to get wet. Before you actually job into the hot spring you have to get clean. Yeah. I know it doesn't really make sense. You are going to the hot springs to get clean, but you have to get clean before you get in. This is because if you clean yourself with a shower before you enter the hot springs the water will remain clean longer. Plus, this is the way Japanese people take showers as well (they keep the same bath water for the whole family).

Now that you are clean it is time to get into the hot spring! At most of the hot spring places there are both inside and outside baths. Both of them are relaxing, but I think the outside ones are much better. Like I said before the cold air and the hot water is great. I love it when it is snowing while I am in the hot water. Plus, if you find a place with a good view, it makes the experience all the better. Watch the clip below and just think about being in one of those baths.

Depending on the hot spring you may get a robe to wear after you dry off and leave the baths. You can put it on and wander around the hot spring building. After you are done that you can get changed into your street clothes, hand in the towels and get your shoe box keep back. It always feels good to leave with that warm hot spring aura wrapped about my body.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 温泉(おんせん). It is pronounced onsen and means hot spring. I think maybe I will go to an onsen some time this weekend. It will be fun.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday September 17th, 2008. Today we will be talking about baseball.

Do any of you watch or play baseball? I grew up in a family that routed for the Yankees, except for my sister whole later came to her senses and started routing for the Yankees as well. I never really played a lot of baseball. I did enjoy trying to hit the fast ball with the little wooden stick, but I was never really good at the game.

The rules for baseball in Japan are the same as they are all around the world. Japan has two different baseball leagues: the central league and the pacific league. Both of the leagues only have 6 teams in them. Here is a list of the teams.

Central League:
Yomiuri Giants, Tokyo Yakult Swallows, Yokohama BayStars, Chunichi Dragons, Hanshin Tigers, and Hiroshima Toyo Carps.

Pacific League:
Hokkaido Nippon-ham Fighters, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Saitama Seibu Lions, Chiba Lotte Marines, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks

The Yomiuri Giants are like the American Yankees. They were known for winning the championship a lot in the past, but haven't really been doing anything lately. The strange things about these teams is that almost all of the team names have the names of companies in them. The teams are really not teams for an area, but are teams for companies.

There are a lot of things that are the same between baseball in America and baseball in Japan, but one of the differences is how the fans act and cheer for their team. Most American baseball fans just sit back and cheer their own team on in the way they see fit. Sure some fights might break out every so often when they beer is flowing, but it is a very nice way to cheer for your team. On the other hand you can see the Japanese way to cheer for their team below.

Yep, the chant and the dance are all made up and all the fans just perform the dance. It is a little creepy for me to see thousands of people all doing the same dance and chanting the same thing. One word comes to mind: cult. But, that is what works in this country, The fans of the team buy little megaphones and the like and have a good time cheering on their team. All the best to them

I know some of you are reading this and thinking that baseball is a sport and not a game. Well, I guess you are right about that. So, let me just add this classic baseball video game to the end to make all right with the world.

Does that make you feel better?

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 野球(やきゅう). It is pronounced yakyuu and means baseball. Literally translated it means field ball. That could be any sport really.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday September 16th, 2008. Today we will be talking about Japanese comedy.

For me there is nothing more entertaining on TV than Japanese comedy. Sure some of it can be over the top and a bit wacky, but that is exactly what makes it get to watch. The comedy show that I watch on Tuesday nights is called Lincoln. I have no idea what it is named after a president of the United States, but I don't think the people that made the show know either.

The show features a bunch of Japanese comedians doing wacky things for no real reason. The two hosts of the show are Matsumoto Hitoshi and Hamada Masatoshi. Those names are a bit of a mouth full even in Japan so people usually just call them Matsumoto and Hama-chan.

I love watching the antics of Down Town. They are older than most of the other comedians that are still working today so they get a lot of fear and respect. Hama-chan always likes to smack around the younger comedians a little. They do have a bit of a cruel streak, but they are truly fun to watch. The picture below shows Matsumoto on the left and Hama-chan on the right.

One of the most popular things they do is the special where they can't laugh at anything. If they do end up laughing (and they usually do) someone comes out to measure out some sort of punishment for them. You can see an version of this below. Enjoy.

They do a lot more than this, but I do love to watch this kind of stuff. Yes, I know it is a little bit low brow, but there is nothing wrong with be a little low brow every so often.

There is a lot more I could tell you about Down Town but I will save that for the time that I am going to talk about their show called Down Town DX. For now if you think you like their brand of humor, give them a look up on youtube. It makes for an entertaining day.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is お笑い(おわらい). It is pronounced owarai and means to comedian or comedy. The comedy range in Japan goes from wacky to crazy, but never ask a Japanese person to understand sarcasm. That is something they will never really understand.

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

jjnn monday: Science - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 15th, 2008. Today we will be talking about the moon.

During this time of year in Japan everyone is looking up into the sky. They are looking to see the wonderful full moon that is up there at the moment. This time of year is called juugo no hi and it is the traditional start of fall in the old Japanese lunar calendar.

I love the moon. I used to go out at night and just lay down in my yard and look up at it and the rest of the sky for hours. Of course August was the best time to look at the moon because you could also see the perseids meteor shower at the same time.

Since we are on the subject of the moon here are a few random facts about the moon. The moon is about 380000 km from the earth. This is one light second so when we look up at the moon we are actually seeing as it was a second ago. Some evil alien race could be destroying the moon now and we would not even know it for another second. The name of the moon came from germanic word meaning month. We only actually see one side of the moon. This is because the moon's rotation was slowed and finally locked a long time ago. The far side of the moon is a lot more boring than the side that faces us because it is almost all white. If that side of the moon ended up facing us, we would not have grown up with any man in the moon (or in the case of the Japanese a rabbit that lives on the moon and makes mochi).

Any way, this leads to this article about the moon. Tokyo's science center known as the mirai-kan decided to hang up a copy of the moon so that everyone could see it even in the middle of the day. That's a great idea I thought. The made their 6.5 meter diameter moon out of 3000 panels of diodes. You can see a picture of it below.

They dimmed the diodes or made them brighter so they fit the NASA images of the moon. I would like to see this up close but today was the last day that it was on display. Maybe next year if they bring it out again.

I will leave you with this moon related clip.

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 to moon. You know I never could see a man in the moon. My pareidolia switch must be broken.

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

Sunday, September 14, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday September 14th, 2008. Today we will be talking about a dancing festival that takes place in Niigata.

Every year around this time of year in Niigata city (close to where I live) there is a dancing festival. The name of that festival is the Niigata sou-odori. In the festival dancers from all across Niigata come to give performances. This year there are 255 dance groups with over 12000 people dancing. The festival started yesterday and will go until tomorrow.

So, what kind of dancing can you see there? Anything from traditional dancing to hip hop and everything in between. Below you can see a picture of one of groups in more traditional costume.

Here is a compilation of what some of the dances look like. Most of these are more traditional.

The festival as it is now is based on a 300 year old festival called the Niigata Geta Sou-odori. In the original festival people would dance with geta (Japanese wooden shoes), lanterns and umbrellas. Seven years ago they decided to revive the festival in the way it is now. You can see an example of the dancing with wooden shoes below.

I can hardly dance with normal shoes on, so I personally think that is amazing.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 踊る(おどる). It is pronounced odoru and means to dance. I think that the only dance that I can actually dance is the chicken dance...

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

Saturday, September 13, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday September 13th, 2008. Today we will be talking about cold readings and physics.

A few years ago in Japan in Niigata and I suppose in Tokyo there was a psychic reading boom. Almost all young (20s and 30s) ladies would go out every weekend, or more often, to get a psychic reading. The psychics here are just like those in every other country around the world. The supposedly tell you about your future about everything from your job to romance.

Personally I can see myself going to a cheap psychic for a little entertainment value. The cheap ones cost less than movies (here at least) and give you a nice topic for conversation at work the next day. The problem I see with psychics is when people actually start to believe in them. They start to believe and soon enough almost all of the money they earn goes directly to the psychic. That is when it crosses the line from light hearted entertainment to being a scam.

Why am I saying psychics are entertainment and not a means of getting serious information about the future, or about a dead loved one? Well, that's because there is no such thing as real psychics. Simple as that. All psychics do is a combination of detective work and acting. This is called cold reading. The psychic (I will call them that even though they have no "psychic" powers) trains themselves to get a lot of information from a person with a look and by asking leading questions or making leading statements. Watch the psychic below and see if you can spot the cold reading.

The first thing he said "Old lady, but with black hair." he said because he knew that any one in the audience would know an old lady and the chance of an old lady having black hair is not that low. Notice when he was saying that names he says a lot of them at once. This is called shot gunning. If you say enough names you are bound to get one right. A lot of psychics don't go that far and just say a letter. He than gives a lot of statements. He looks at the reactions from the people he is giving readings to and changes his statements accordingly. He is not actually saying anything, the people in the audience are saying everything for him.

This next clips is an explanation of cold reading by Orson Welles. This is one of my favorite clips.

So, any way, psychics may be good entertainment, but don't start believing them. Remember to look at things a little skeptically.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 超能力者(ちょうのうりょくしゃ). It is pronounced chou-nouryoku-sha and means psychic. The chou part means over and above and nouryoku means powers. So in Japanese a psychic is a person that has powers over and above normal people. That makes sense I guess.

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

PS: This is the 100th post for JJNN yay!

Friday, September 12, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday September 12th, 2008. Today we will be talking about suica and pasmo.

When I lived up north I used to travel on trains a whole lot. During the peak it would be about twice a day. Trains are used a lot more for commuting to work in this country than in America. The thing I hated about using the train was buying the ticket. I always went to different places so I always had to buy tickets of different prices. That means I would have to look up at a map like the one below and try to figure out how much money I was suppose to put in the ticket machine.

That is no easy task if you are in a hurry. I have been close to missing many a train because I was trying to figure out just how much the ticket was suppose to cost. Sure, you can buy the cheapest ticket and pay the difference at the stop you get off the train, but that is just a pain in the arse.

Way back in 1998 a company called Sky Rail Services decided to put make their train pass a little more high tech, They made their pass into an IC card, more widely known as a smart card. An IC card is a card that has a little integrated circuit on it. The integrated circuit contains some numbers. This is the user's unique ID. When the card is placed on the reader the card transmits the numbers over to the reader, The reader than sends those numbers to the central processing system. That system makes a note of what station you get on the train. When you use the card to get off the train it makes a note of that also and looks up the price of traveling between those two stations. It than deducts that money from that amount of money that you got stored on your card. Simple, fast and efficient.

JR (Japan Railways: the biggest train company in Japan) decided that it was not to be left in the technological dust. So, in 2001 JR released suica, which is another IC train pass. You can see a picture of a suica card below.

In 2007 another company put out a cared called pasmo. It is exactly the same as suica, but it was designed to be used on train systems that did not belong to JR. But, as it is now, it if you are in Tokyo you can use either suica or pasmo on all the trains and buses.

So this is old news, right? Yep. But, I found a new news story about using suica and pasmo on the buses. You can see the news story here.

Now that these IC card systems are on the buses as well as the trains a couple of problems have cropped up. About 60000 problems. As I explained above, the system has to tell the central processing system where and when you used your card. Sometimes on buses there is a data error when sending the card's information. This data error causes a buzzer to go off on the bus. When the drivers hear the buzzer most of them thought it was OK to reset the IC card system, but it turns out that in 60000 of those cases the data error occurs after the information has been sent to the central processing system. This means that they money for the ride is taken out of your account once before the reset and once after the reset. It may not be a lot of money but multiply that by 60000 and you get 11,000,000 yen. That is a lot of money that suica and pasmo should not have.

The companies are now training the drivers on what to do in case of data errors. They are also setting up a place people can go if they think they lost money. I will leave you with a bunch of commercials that show you all the things you can do with suica.

Notice that you can buy things at stores with it and even have it on your cell phone. What a great time we live in.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電車(でんしゃ). It is pronounced densha and means train. I miss traveling by train every day. I guess there is more freedom with a car, but there is more to see when you travel to a place by train.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 08

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday September 11th, 2008. Today we will be taking about a food that is eaten in the fall in Japan.

I am so happy that it is getting cooler. Of course the fact that the temperature is going down means that it is getting into fall, but it also means something else in Japan. It means that it is time for yaki-imo! I love yaki-imo. It is a great hot treat on a long cold night.

So what is yaki-imo? Well it is just basically baked sweet potatoes. They either cook them on a grill or in a hole or even on hot rocks. Some times you can see families gather together fallen leaves in their yard so they can cook the sweet potatoes on the burning leaves. Yaki-imo is extremely simple to make and so good to eat. Here is a picture of some yaki-imo.

Looks good right? Well there is only one problem with yaki-imo. Well, besides the high calorie problem. It is the fact that these potatoes are sold off the back of trucks. That would normally be a good thing because you don't have to go all the way to a store to buy them, right? Well, I guess it is good, but these trucks have to do something to get every one's attention and let everyone know that they are in the area. Well, they do that with loudspeakers. Just check out the clip below.

This one actually starts to play music, but a lot of them don't (thank a deity for that one). They basically drive around the residential districts and yell over the loud speakers about how great and tasty their potatoes are. I don't know about you, but the more I hear that yelling the less I want to buy a potato and the more I want to throw a brick at the truck.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 芋(いも). It is pronounced imo and means potato. Being from Maine, I am legally under a binding contract to tell you to buy Maine potatoes. Boycott Idaho! (Just kidding!)

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday September 10th, 2008. Today we will be taking about my favorite game of all time.

I think everyone out there, even the people that hardly ever play video games, has a game that is special to them. A game that they call their favorite. What is that game for all of you? For me, that game is Chrono Trigger. It was the first game that I was totally absorbed into. I loved the graphics (at the time) and the way it played. I spent hours and hours on that game leveling up so that I could get every ending. Even to this day I still want to go out and buy the old system and get the old cartage and play it once again.

Fortunately for me, I don't have to go that far. It turns out that I don't have to go as far as buying the old system. According to this source and this source Nintendo is putting Chrono Trigger out on the DS this winter! Yay! I think I found my Christmas present to myself.

Here are a few pictures from the new remake:

Looks a lot like the original, right? Even after 13 years it still looks good. The only difference is in the first picture. The brackets around the characters and the two bars below them. The reason for those are the fact that the game is going to be played with the DS's touch screen (though it can be played the classic way as well) and the new fighting system that the game is going to use.

According to the second source Chrono Trigger is going to be using ATB ver.2 as its battle system. ATB stands for Active Time Battle. It is the same type of system that is used in some of the final fantasy games. It means that the time keeps flowing throughout the battle. Time does not stop to let you make choices. Look at the picture below.

The bottom blue bar is the ATB bar. When that bar gets full the character can make an action. When 2 or 3 characters are ready they can perform combos with each other to inflict more damage. This is like the original game.

The game looks good so far and I can't wait for it to come out. Here is the teaser trailer. Enjoy.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 懐かしい(なつかしい). It is pronounced natsukashii and means something like a thing from your past that brings back memories. There are a lot of words in Japanese that are just hard to translate into one or two English words.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday September 9th, 2008. Today we will be taking about a popular Japanese cartoon.

Take a look at the following clip.

That is the opening to a very famous anime in Japan. If you ask 100 people random on a street if they know the song or the anime more than 90 would probably say yes. The name of the anime is very simple: Sazae-san. The story of the anime is also very simple. It just follows the every day lives of the people in the Isono and Fuguta families.

So why is Sazae-san so well known? Well for one thing, simple is best. People love the simple stories of every day life that these other families go though. It is almost like becoming a part of the family, or even looking over your backyard fence at the family next door. The other reason Sazae-san is so well known is that it has been going for a long time now. It started as a comic strip (like the ones we see in newspapers) in 1946. The comic officially ended in 1974, but newspapers to this day still run reruns (is that the right word for a comic?) of the originals. The move from comic to anime happened in 1969. It is still running to this day, which means that Sazae-san is the longest running animated series ever. 39 years and still running strong. And you thought that the Simpsons was a long running series.

Well now you know what everyone knows about Sazae-san, but I didn't really say anything about the people in the show at all. The main character is Sazae Fuguta. Sazae and her husband, Masuo Fuguta, and child, Tarao Fuguta, live in the same house the with the rest of Sazae's extended family. The rest of the family is Sazae's father, Namihei Isono, mother, Fune, little brother, Katsuo, and little sister, Wakame. I know all those names are a mouth full, but they grow on you after a while because most of them are puns on different forms of sea life. You can see a picture of the extended family below.

From left to right it is Namihei(father), Katsuo(brother), Sazae, Tarao(son), Tama(cat), Masuo(husband), Wakame(sister), Fune(mother).

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 船(ふね). It is pronounced fune and means boat. This is just to point out one of the many naming puns in this series. Almost everyone is named after something that has to do with the sea. The mother is named Fune which means a boat. The sister is named wakeme which is a type of seaweed. The list goes on and on.

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

Monday, September 8, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 8th, 2008. Today we will be taking about the sun.

You got to love the sun. Without the sun there would be no life on this planet, and in fact no planet at all to speak of. The sun gives us things like light, warmth, the aurora and other good things. It also gives us bad things like sunburn and heat stroke.

So what is the sun? It's a start. I know, I know. You all know that. Well, what is a star? A hot ball of gas that is so dense that it produces the pressures and temperatures needed to create a nuclear furnace in its core. That's just cool. There are many different types of stars and many different things that happen when stars die. I don't want to go into depth about that, but I do want to talk a little about this news story.

The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Academy (JAXA) announced on the first that they detected consecutive shock waves around a solar flare. A solar flare is basically an explosion that happens on the sun's surface. A lot of energy is released from these explosions. The seem to be caused by untangling of magnetic lines, but no one really knows what specifically causes them at the moment. Below is a cool movie that shows these solar flares.

So the JAXA team used a special telescope called SMART (Solar Magnetic Activity Research Telescope) to take a close look at the region around a solar flare. You can see what they found in the pictures below.

The found 3 different shock waves that occurred within 10 minutes of each other. The shock waves are marked with red, green and blue crosses. The shock waves are actually compression waves in the plasma that makes up the sun. Again, that's just cool. The plasma that makes up the sun is being compressed into a wave just like the water on the surface of a pond after you throw a rock into it. But, these waves move a lot faster and longer than the waves on a pond. They move at a few hundred kilometers an hour and travel a tens of thousands of kilometers before dissipating. I would hate to get into the wave of that wave.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 波(なみ). It is pronounced nami and means wave. I wonder if this is also the word they use for the wave at a baseball game.

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

Sunday, September 7, 2008

JJNN Sunday: Leftovers - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Sunday September 7th, 2008. Today we will be taking about yakitori and random movies.

I have a lot of favorite Japanese foods. When asked I usually say sushi is my favorite because it is the one that I eat the most, but I think that yakitori is probably tied for first place. Yakitori has a special place in my heart because it is fast, cheap and goes well with any type of alcohol.

So, you may ask, what is yakitori? Yakitori is basically grilled chicken served on skewers. There are many different types of meat from all over the chicken (and sometimes other animals) grilled up in tasty ways. You can see a picture of a yakitori stand below.

Looks good, huh? I found a news story (it can be seen here) about a city in southern Japan called Kurume. Back in 2003 the people of Kureme found out that their city has the most yakitori stores per population in all of Japan. Ever since that fateful day they have held a "yakitori festival" once a year. This years festival started yesterday and goes on though today. If I could actually get there in time I would be heading there now. I can't imagine a better day than one I can walk around and eat lots of yakitori.

In other news, I found a random video while on youtube. What? "That's not news"? Well, yep, you're right. It's not news at all. But, I thought the video was cool so I decided I will post it any way. The name of the video is "Run!" and it is made by a person named Aoki Jun. All I got to say about this movie is that it is great! Take a look for yourself.

Aoki Jun also has other movies that he has made. This is his website. Most of them don't have any Japanese in them so they are good to watch for anyone. Enjoy them.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 焼き鳥(焼き鳥). It is pronounced yakitori and means yakitori. Yaki means bake or grill and tori means chicken. Finally a name that makes sense.

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

Saturday, September 6, 2008

JJNN Saturday: Pseudoscience - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Saturday September 6th, 2008. Today we will be taking about waking dreams.

Have you ever had a time when you were sleeping and you suddenly woke up? Did you find that you couldn't move when you woke up? When you woke up did you ever feel that there was someone or something in the room with you that wasn't supposed to be there? Maybe you saw or just felt a figure in white or a small green man with big eyes. Anyone have any of those experiences?

If you did have any of those experiences you were not be haunted or being looked over from aliens from across the void of space. What were you experiencing is known as a waking dream. Waking dreams are actually a common experience that happens to everyone around the world all the time.

I want to explain what a waking dream using an example from my own life. About 6 months ago after a long day at work and shamisen practice I crawled into bed for a good night's sleep. I quickly drifted off to a very light sleep. It was than that I woke up in a total panic. I knew for sure that there was something or someone in my room. I looked around, but there was no one there. I could feel them standing there near my door. My body was fighting to react to the terror, but I found that I couldn't move at all. I was struggling as hard as I could to get up and run to the other side of my room, but I couldn't move at all. The only thing that I could move were my eyes. I knew that this thing in my room would come to attack me, and sure enough it did. I could feel it suddenly move forward and grab my foot. As soon as it grabbed my foot I found that I could move. I jumped away and looked around and surely enough it was only me in that room.

So, what exactly happened? A lot of things actually. The person that I felt in my room was a dream. I couldn't see it because it wasn't there. There are people that go though a deeper version of waking dreams that do actually dream something in their room. Why couldn't I move? Well that is for my own safety. When a person goes into REM sleep the part of the brain that controls body movement shuts down for a little while so we don't react to our dreams in real life. When people have trouble shutting this part of the brain off it leads to things like sleep walking. So, not being able to move while dreaming is a normal thing. Why could I move at the end? Well that is because the terror of the whole experience ended up fully waking me up. Why did I dream that there was something in my room? I don't know. I guess that is what I am the most paranoid about so it came up in my dreams.

What do you think my reaction would be if I didn't know about waking dreams? I would have thought it was some type of ghost in my house. At that point I heard that there was a ghost in my house any way so I guess that would be the logical conclusion. But, I have heard of waking dreams. I was able to figure it out as soon as I fully woke up and wrote it off as a natural thing that happened in my brain, not an evil spirit in my room. I was lucky that I heard about waking dreams because if I have not I would be living somewhere else at this point.

The thing is, not a lot of people actually know what waking dreams are. They have this weird experience and don't know what to think about it. A lot of good ghost and daemon stories come out of waking dreams. Any story that has some sort of spirit that sits on your chest so you can't move is actually a waking dream. This includes stories about old hags (the origin of the term "hag ridden" for someone that looks tired), incubus, succubus and other ghosts.

The thing is this changes by society. People a long time ago heard the stories of succubus so that is what they experienced. If your culture has no stories like the story of the succubus you never experience a succubus waking dream. You would experience the waking dream that fits your society and culture. After the stories of Roswell and aliens in the west a lot of people have experienced waking dreams that include aliens. That is how a lot of abduction stories got started. It not something from outer space, it is something from inside your head.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 夢(ゆめ). It is pronounced yume and means dream. In Japanese they say yume wo miru, which means to dream. If you literally translate those words it means to see a dream. I sort of like that.

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

Friday, September 5, 2008

JJNN Friday: Technology - 06

Welcome again to JJNN for Friday September 5th, 2008. Today we will be taking about Google.

What is your search engine of choice? For me it is Google. Sure, there was a time when I had dial up and I used the AOL search engine. And of course for a while I used yahoo, but for years now I have been sticking with Google. A lot of people use Google because it is simple, effective and helps you find exactly what you are looking for.

But, like most big and lumbering companies, Google Japan is starting to get the slightest bit paranoid. Google is getting paranoid that yahoo will take over its share and it will no longer be a top search engine. So, what would you do if you were worried about something like that? Well according to this news story you advertise like there is no tomorrow!

But, what is the best way to advertise? How will you know if you are advertising in an area that will end up increasing the numbers of your users? Well, Google found out (somehow...no one seems to know how) that people that use Ikebukuro station use yahoo more than Google. Because of that Google decided to start an ad campaign in Ikebukuro station. The ad campaign will also spread to all the other stations in Tokyo because of advertisements in trains like the one in the picture below.

Google is also hitting Japan big time with there "Things you can do with Google" ad campaign. Below is an example of one of the advertisements.

I like Google so I wish them the best of luck here in Japan. But, I really would like to know how they found out that there are more yahoo users than Google users in Ikebukuro. Sounds suspicious to me.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 妄想症(もうそうしょう). It is pronounced mousoushou and means paranoia. Paranoia...cha-cha-cha.

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

Thursday, September 4, 2008

JJNN Thursday: Culture - 07

Welcome again to JJNN for Thursday September 4th, 2008. Today we will be taking about a type of summer festival.

There are many different types of festivals in Japan. These festivals range from the "normal" festivals in which people pull around portable shrines to the "wild" festivals which always seem to involve either fireworks or fire of some kind. I am going to talk about one summer festival that goes on in the Niigata prefecture city of Shirone (now part of Niigata city).

The Shirone festival is actually more of a battle. They don't use knives or even swords in their battle though. Their weapons are much bigger. You can see a picture of the weapon below.

Yep. That's a huge kite. The Shirone summer festival is a huge kite battle. There is a river down the middle of Shirone, and every year in June two teams come together to fight each other over the river. It doesn't really matter who wins. All that matters is that everyone has a good time. You can see what this kite battle looks like below.

You have probably heard of kite battles in which the teams try to snap the ropes of the opposing team. Something like that happens in this battle as well. But, that is not the only way to down your opponent. The kites that are used for this battle are so huge that they need a lot of moving air to stay aloft. Most teams just position themselves in front of their opponent so they block the wind. Simple and effective.

I took part in this festival years back. I remember that it was a whole lot of running. You have to make sure you hold on tight to the rope because a sudden wind could yank it out of your hand. Also, you have to be sure not to get in the way of any rope that is being pulled tight. That could lead to an injury, a missing limb or even death. If you keep that in mind though it is a fun festival and worth going to see sometime.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 凧(たこ). It is pronounced tako and means kite. I haven't flown a normal sized kite in years. Maybe I should buy one and go to the beach to take it for a spin.

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

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

JJNN Wednesday: Games - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Wednesday September 3rd, 2008. Today we will be taking about a new version of the PSP.

Many of you have probably heard of or used the PSP. For those of you that are not into gaming I will say that the PSP stands for playstation portable and it is like the playstation's version of the game boy. The version of the PSP that is out now is called the PSP 2000. The PSP 2000 has been on sale since September of last year. But, in August Sony announced that on the 16th of next month they will be releasing the next in their PSP line, the PSP 3000.

So, what's the difference between the PSP 2000 and 3000? Well according to this article there are some design and technical changes. Look at the picture below to see if you can find the changes.

In the picture the 2000 is on the top and the 3000 is on the bottom. Hmmm? Changes? Well, to the naked eye there is not really a lot different design wise. It seems that the 3000 is a lot more rounded on the sides and the logos have been moved around a little.

There are actually 3 major changes. The first one is to the left of the "PSP" logo on the bottom of the 3000. That little hole is actually a microphone. Sony decided to jump on the random microphone within gaming platform bandwagon. They should have seen that it didn't really go anywhere for the Nintendo DS and just left it out, but they decided to put it in any way. They are even making games that use that microphone technology. Personally I don't needed to be yelling into a microphone to win a game if I am in a train or anywhere outside my house. Sort of takes the "portable" part off the PSP.

The second change is the location of the buttons. They just did this so that the location of the buttons on the PSP match the location of the buttons on the PS3 controller. What a company will do to tie its consoles together and try to make more money, huh?

The 3rd change is the display. Sony found a way to make their already beautiful PSP display even more beautiful. I don't know exactly how they did it, but look at the following picture.

The top of the picture is the 3000 and the bottom is the 2000. Both of them look good, but as you can see the colors come out more boldly on the 3000 than the 2000. Personally I would not use the PSP to watch movies or look at pictures, but a screen like that can make games a lot more interesting to play.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 液晶(えきしょう). It is pronounced ekishou and means liquid crystal. The technology for liquid crystal displays really has gone a long way since I was young. They can do so much with those types of displays now.

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

JJNN Extra

Those of you that know me know that I am from the state of Maine. Here is a bit of Maine related hijinks I found. Anyone that has ever lived in, or even been to, Maine will find this funny.


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

JJNN Tuesday: Entertainment - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Tuesday September 2nd, 2008. Today we will be taking about 20th century boys.

20th Century Boys is the name of a manga that I have been reading recently. It has a great story and the art is good so I figured I would talk a little bit about it. Recently the manga was made into a movie. That is how I first heard about it. I saw the following commercial on TV.

Needless to say that perked my interest. I liked that symbol of the eye within the eye and the hand. To me it was simple, but powerful. Any way, after I saw that I decided to dig up as much information as I could about 20th Century Boys. I found out about the manga so I decided to buy a few of the books. Needless to say I was addicted before the end of the first book.

Before I tell a little bit about the story I want to show another commercial for the movie. I know it is a little long and all in Japanese, but just take in the visuals and the music.

So, the basic story flows around a totally normal guy named Kenji. Kenji is in his mid-30s, not married, working in a convenience store, and always carrying around his sister's kid. A totally normal existence. This all changes one day when the police come. The police tell Kenji that a person that he delivers alcohol to disappeared with the rest of his family. When Kenji goes to that man's house to pick up the empty bottles he runs into that symbol with the double eye and the hand.

That symbol is a connection with Kenji's past. When Kenji was in elementary school he was in a group with his friends. He thought up many wild stories about what will happen in the future. Stories about an evil group that will try to take over the world with viral weapons, laser guns, bombs and giant robots. The symbol was the symbol of his group, but it is also being used by someone in the present day.

What's the connection? Well, that's something that you are going to have to find out yourself. I don't want to spoil the wonderful story. The writer and artist Urazawa Naoki knows how to tell a story that sucks people in. His other manga Monster is also the same. The manga is licensed by VIZ so it should be sold in English some time.

By the way, I forgot to say that this manga takes a lot of things from rock and roll. The title itself is from a song by T.Rex. I bet you all have heard the song even though you might not know the name. I will leave you all with that song.

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 世紀(せいき). It is pronounced seiki and means century. The final chapter of the manga is actually put out under the title 21st century boys. I have a lot of reading before I get to that point though.

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

Monday, September 1, 2008

JJNN Monday: Science - 05

Welcome again to JJNN for Monday September 1st, 2008. Today we will be taking about cancer and coffee.

Personally, I really don't like coffee. I only drink it when I am really tired or I really need some quick caffeine. I don't like the taste and I don't want to even think of drinking. That was why I was surprised when I read this news story.

Scientists working for the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare have found a connection between drinking coffee and the prevention of endometrial cancer. Endometrial cancer is a cancer to the lining of the uterus. This type of cancer is a major heath problem for older women all over the world.

The team of scientists have been sending out questionnaires for the past 15 years. About 54000 woman from age 40 to 69 sent in their answers. This information was used to try to link coffee intake in the woman that do and do not get this type of cancer. The results they found were surprising. You can see them below.

The height of the bar is equal to the risk for endometrial cancer. The meaning of the bars (from left to right) are, less than 2 cups of coffee a week, one or two cups of coffee a day, and 3 cups or more of coffee a day. The scientists set less than 2 cups of coffee a week as a risk level of one to make it the watermark for the experiment. They found that the chances of a woman getting this cancer if they drink one or two cups of coffee a day goes down to 0.61. Also if they drink 3 or more cups the chances go down to 0.38.

This is great news. An easy and quick way to avoid a nasty type of cancer that a lot of people like to do any way. But, this leaves the question: why does this work? Well, many people believe that this type of cancer is set into being by an over abundance of estrogen and insulin. Coffee seems to have what it takes to put these two chemicals back into harmony so they don't end up triggering the cancer.

As a side note, scientists have found that heavy coffee drinkers also are at a lower risk for liver cancer. Maybe I should start drinking coffee after all...

Any way, it is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is コーヒー(こおひい). It is pronounced koohii and means coffee. Personally I am more of a green tea man.

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