Monday, August 8, 2011

This story smells

Welcome back to JJNN.

As you can probably tell by the dwindling number of posts that I am making, school has entered summer vacation and I am spending less time at my computer so I don't have a lot of time to actually write posts. I will try to get one or two news stories to you a week if I can.

Today's story is from the Japanese Slashdot site.

This might actually be under the banner of TMI (too much information), but I have noticed lately that my sweat is actually smelling worse lately. I am thinking it might be a change in diet or the fact that I am (gasp) actually exercising lately. It could be one of many different things, but the fact remains that I don't like the smell. Luckily I have a nice strong deodorant that helps me out.

Luckily there might be some more help on the way. A Japanese fabric maker named Shikibo Ltd. and a perfume company named Yamamoto Perfumery Co. Ltd. have teamed up to help tame bad smells all across the land. Together they came up with a smell fighting fabric that is called Deo Magic.

You may be asking yourself how it was that two companies that deal in two very different types of goods decided to come together and make a fabric that can erase bad smells. It all started with a popular Japanese TV show called Knight Scoop. The basic theme of the show is people will call in with a question and the show will send famous actors or comedians out to go and figure out the answer.

The episode that brougt the two companies together was "What does my tool box smell so bad?" The president of Yamamoto Perfumery made an apperence in that episode and he solved the problem of the smelly tool box. Basically the president of the company knew that perfumes can be made from the excreations of civets (which smell very bad) so he made a perfume without adding the excreation. When he sprayed the perfume into the tool box the resulting smell was better than the origional perfume.

A worker at Shikibo saw the show and decided to call Yamamoto Perfumery. They decided to work together and make a fabric that can erase bad smells. Future applications may be covers for dipers or in old person's homes.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 悪臭(あくしゅう). It is pronounced akushuu and it means bad smell.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Eel anyone?

Welcome back to JJNN.
Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

Eel cooked with a sweet sauce
Doesn't that look good? In my opinion, there is nothing better on a hot summer day, especially if I am feeling drained of energy, than eel cooked in that way over rice. It tastes good and never fails to give me my energy back. I know to most people a meal of eel does not sound that appetising, but when it is cooked correctly it is amazing. Also, there is also a day that is usually at the end of July, called "doyou ushi no hi," in which eel is the food of choice. This all brings us to the picture below:

Japanese Eel Egg
As the caption says, that picture is the egg of the type of eel that can be found in the oceans around Japan. So, what is the big deal about eel eggs? Well, up until a few weeks ago no one knew where the eels actually went to lay their eggs.

Back in 2009 a group from Tokyo University were lucky enough to find 31 of the eel eggs. There were no more breakthroughs into the eel egg mystery until the 29th of last month. The same team found 147 of the eggs on the West Mariana ridge. That would normally not mean much, because tides move things rather quickly in the ocean but some of the eggs were just laid, leading the team to believe they have finally found where the eels lay their eggs. Hopefully this discovery leads to more eel production and a lower price. I love me some eel, but it is just too expensive now.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 鰻(うなぎ). It is pronounced unagi and it means Japanese eel.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Beating the Heat with Chilled Rice Meals

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from MSN news.

There are a lot of ways to keep cool. There is always going to a pool, going to a mall to steal the air conditioning, or even eating some ice cream. Personally, I am trying to stay away from ice cream, because I find that once I eat ice cream just once I crave it every day until the end of the summer.

So that leaves me going to the mall and looking for something else to eat that will cool me down. Luckily there is a new trend in Japanese restaurants in which they are serving chilled rice meals. The Japanese version of the restaurant chain Denny's came up with a winning combination when they made a chilled rice and mackerel soup. Normally a meal is considered popular if it sells 10 times in a single restaurant in a day, but the soup (seen below) apparently sells more than double that amount.


Chilled Rice and Fish Soup
I don't want to turn this into a commercial for Denny's or anything, but there is a lot of good that comes out of that meal. For one, it cools the person that eats it down. That goes without saying, but it also only has about 460 calories (less than a medium sized plate of pasta) and has an effect on the body similar to non‐digestible oligosaccharides. In other words, the body's reaction to the chilled rice is slowed down when compared to normal rice and the secretion of insulin is also slowed down, which makes it harder for the body to produce fat. Sounds good to me.

The article ends with a recipe for a chilled rice meal so I figured I would pass it on to you. You will need 100 grams of chilled rice, 1/6 of a block of tofu, 1 slice of pan-fried pork, one piece of okra, one package of ochazuke mix and 150ml of ice water.
1) Cut the fried pork up into 5mm squares and cut up the okra into small pieces.
2) Let the tofu get a little dry before breaking it up and mixing it with 1.
3) Quickly wash the chilled rice and place in a blow. Place 2 on top of the rice and put the ochazuke mix on top of that. Add the ice water and you are finished.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is ご飯(ごはん). It is pronounced gohan and it means rice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chimpanzee and Mimicry

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

For years it has been said that chimpanzees in the wild have the ability to mimic each other, but that has never been tested scientifically. That is, until now. A team from Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute along with a team from Oxford University have set up an experiment to see if chimpanzees will actually mimic each other in an laboratory environment.

The experiment is simple. It used two chimpanzees, a mother and son pair named Ai and Ayumu respectively. The researchers set up two stations with two monitors each. The stations are separated by 2 meters (6.6 feet). One of the chimpanzees would press a button on there screen (the buttons are separated by color or by symbol) and the other chimpanzee would watch that and push the same button on their monitor. They did this 78 to 87 percent of the time.

The chimpanzees at their stations.
It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 霊長類(れいちょうるい). It is pronounced reichourui and it means primate.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I Don't Think This is the Natural Habitat.

Welcome back to JJNN (for the second time today.)

Today's news story comes from the Yomiuri Online.

Imagine this. You work in a small school. It's the 4th of July and you come to work early despite it already being  oppressively hot to find a weird smell coming from the pool  area of the school. You walk to the pool and find a total of 30 dead bluegill fishes floating in the pool.

That is exactly what happened in a small town called Kurate in Fukuoka prefecture. But, that's not the worse part. The same thing happened the next day, only with 40 bluegills. How could the same thing happen two days in a row? Well the fact that pool is outside helps. The pool itself is surrounded by a two meter tall chain link fence with a lock on the door, but there is no roof, so who ever decided to pull this off just threw the fish over the fence with enough good aim so they landed in the pool.

Well, I don't what else to say about this one. The police are looking into it, but, personally, I think this is just a damn good prank. It would be terrible to be one of the students that like to swim because the swimming pool was suppose to open on the 4th.


Imagine seeing a total of 70 dead versions of this in your pool

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is プール(ぷうる). It is pronounced puuru and it means pool.

Soba and Time

Welcome back to JJNN

Yet again today I feel a lot like translating old Japanese stories. This one is called Toki Soba (Time and Soba) and is an old rakugo story. I got the original Japanese from: http://www.geocities.co.jp/HeartLand-Gaien/7211/Japanese/tokisobaj.html

Enjoy

Time and Soba (Toki-soba)

________________________________________

During the Edo period in Japan there were soba carts that were known as two-eights. They were known as two-eights because one bowl of soba cost (2 times 8) 16 mon (mon was the unit of currency that was used during the Edo era).

One evening, as happens many evenings in the big city, a man comes up to one of the many soba selling carts.
“Oh good! Soba.”
“Welcome.”
“What kind of soba do ya got? Hmm... You have both the hot and cold soba. I think I will go for the hot soba because I need something to warm me up on such a cold night as this.”
“Coming right up.”
“How’s business?”
“It’s not going very well now.”
“Really? That’s great.
“What? I said it’s not going very well.”
“That’s great though. If someone has good luck, they will soon find their luck has turned bad. The same goes for people with bad luck, it will soon change for the better. That is how the world works. Don’t worry. It is called business because it keeps you busy after all.”
“I guess you are right. I will have to remember that.”
“I love your cart’s lantern. It displays your shop’s symbol so prominently. Your shop does have a great symbol. An arrow hitting a target has a lot of meaning. I have a feeling that you are going to make a lot of money tonight. I think I will come looking for your symbol again another night as well.”
“Thank you very much. Here is your soba.”
“What? You already cooked it? I wish all soba carts were like this one. I am very impatient so when I have to wait I get mad. If I don’t get my soba soon after I order it I don’t feel like eating it any more.”

The man just kept on talking.

“Oh! Look at these chopsticks! I love this place. Most soba places use chopsticks that have already been used by other customers. I don’t want to use chopsticks like that, especially if the tips are still wet! No thank you! This place is nice...

“This is a nice bowl. A nice looking bowl helps keep the customers more hungry. It makes the soba look all the more delicious. This soup smells good. You used a lot of fish stock in the soup, didn’t you? It must have been hard to make a soup as good as this one. You’re a good cook if you can get a flavor as good as this. Most two-eight's soups are far too salty. I eat at a lot of places but this is just good.

“Man, these soba noodles are thin. This is just how the noodles should be! Some times I come across shops that sell soba noodles as thick as udon (another type of Japanese noodle). It’s not like I am going to a soba shop as a replacement for a good bowl of rice, just as a light snack. That is why soba noodles have to be thin.

“This is the first time I have had such delicious soba! I am not just making this up or anything! Oh! Look at this chikuwa (tube shaped fish-paste cake). It’s so thick! Are you OK? Are you sure you can cut the chikuwa this thick and still make a profit? There are places that pass off a wheat-gluten bread for chikuwa. I hate that. That type of food is for sick people. This is the real thing.

“Man, this soba is great. I have never eaten better soba in my life. But, I just ate some disgusting soba at another stand and just came here to get the bad taste out of my mouth. I don’t think I can eat any more tonight.”

“I understand, sir”

“How much is it?”

“Including all the toppings, it is 16 mon.”

“I only have small change, so please put out your hand and I will put my money in your hand.”

“OK.”

“16 mon, right? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... What time is it?”

“Hmm, it’s 9.”

“10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16... Good bye!”

The man got up and walked away.

Another man, who had come earlier to eat some soba, had seen the whole proceedings.

“What the hell. That guy sure could talk. As soon as he got the to soba cart he started talking and he didn’t stop until he left. Couldn’t he just shut up and enjoy the soba?”

The man thought back about the experience.

“The man started out with saying that he was cold and needed to warm up. It’s not like it’s the soba cook’s fault its cold. Then he asked about business. The cart owner said business wasn’t going so well, but that guy said that was good because luck changes, or something like that. He also said something about how business keeps people busy. Then he went on about how he loved the cart’s symbol and how he thought the owner of the cart was due to make a lot of money. He talked way too much. He went on about the chopsticks, the bowl, the soup and even the chikuwa. With how much he talked, I thought that he was going to get up and run away before he paid the bill, but he did pay the bill.

“I thought it was going to make for a more interesting night! Damn it! There has to be something. Let me think it over again. First, the man asked how much the soba costs. Why would he ask that? Everyone knows its 16 mon. He said he only had small change so he would put the change into the owner’s hands. But, the way he was counting out the money was almost like a kid would do. He counted to 8 and than asked what time it was. The owner told him and he continued to count. Something is off! Why did he ask what time it was? Why would he do that while he is paying the bill?

“I know something is off! He asks the price, he is told it is 16 mon and he starts to count it out. When he gets to 8 he asks the time. He is told that it is 9 and he keeps counting. Why does he ask the time? What a second! He asks the price and is told it is 16 mon and he starts counting. When he gets to 8 he asks the time and is told that it is nine, but he starts counting again from 10! I knew he was cheating the owner! He is paying one less mon for the soba than he should! Damn that guy is good! I will have to try this myself!”

The man didn’t have enough small change to do the trick that night so he had to go home that night. During the next afternoon he got enough small change and left early to find a soba cart.

“Hey! Soba cart! How many times do I have to yell for you? I have been chasing after you. What types of soba do you have? Oh, you have the hot soba and the cold soba. Well I will go for the hot soba. It’s cold so I need something to warm me up.”

“What? It’s actually warm today.”

“Hmm... You’re right. Today is warm. Yesterday night was cold.”

“Yeah. Yesterday night was very cold.”

“How’s business?”

“I actually have a lot of people that visit me every night for my soba, so things are going well.”

“Really? (Damn it! I can’t say what that other guy said!) But, you can’t let your guard down! If you have good luck it will soon turn bad. If you have bad luck, it will soon turn good. That is how the world works. Don’t worry. It is called business because it keeps you busy after all.”

“You’re right. I will keep that in mind.”

“I think you understand what I am trying to say. Oh, look at your cart’s lantern. You have a nice symbol on it. It’s an arro... Err... No it’s not. It is a circle around the Chinese character for grandson (In Japanese that can be read the same as a word that means the “total loss of money”). What? Was this cart originally owned by your grandfather? What a... good name. I have a feeling you are going to make a lot of money tonight.

You know I am very impatient. I want to see what I ordered in front of me soon after I order it. If I don’t see my food soon... I guess it doesn’t really matter. A good person from Edo needs to know how to wait. But, no! You’re making me wait here! Where is my soba?”

“I’m so sorry. I ran out of hot water so it is taking more time than usual to make your soba. But, don’t worry, I just finished.”

“OK! Finally soba! Oh! Look at these chopsticks. I love this place. Most places have chopsticks that have already been used. I don’t want to use chopsticks that other people have used. Especially ones that are still wet. This place... Hey! These chopsticks are used! Well, I guess it’s not such a big deal.

“The number one rule for soba shops is that they have to have a good looking bowl. A good looking bowl makes people want to eat more soba because the soba looks so good in the bowl in the first place. I have never seen a bowl like this in any other soba place... This bowl is disgustingly dirty! It’s also cracked! How does the soba stay in the bowl? I guess the bowl doesn’t really matter if the soba tastes good.

“This smells great. It smells like you used a lot of fist stalk in your soup."

He drinks the soup and wants to spit it up again, but stops himself barely.

“Put some more hot water into my soup please. This has a strange flavor. I have eaten salty soba soup, but I have never eaten bitter soba soup. Well, you know what they say; the most bitter medicine is the most effective. This soup is probably good for my health or something.

“I like my noodles thin. I have seen some shops that sell soba that is as thick as udon, but it’s not like I come to soba shops to eat a full meal. Thin noodles are the best. I hate thick noodles... Hey! These are way too thick! Isn’t this udon? No? It’s soba? I see... It almost looks like the neck vein of a person with beriberi. It’s going to be hard to eat with that image in my head, but I guess I will try any way. Gah! It’s been cooked too long. It’s almost like an udon snake. Well, I have a weak stomach, so this is probably perfect for me...

“Hey, where is the chikuwa? I can’t find it. You did add chikuwa to my soup, right? Ah! There it is. How did you cut it so thin? Did you use a plane? What? You did it with a knife? Really? You’ve got some real skills. I once ate at a soba place that tried to pass off wheat-gluten bread for the chikuwa. I hate that! What’s this? This isn’t chikuwa! It’s that wheat-gluten bread! I don’t believe this place...”

He finishes eating.

“How much does it come to?”

“Including everything that would be 16 mon.”

“I only have small change so put out your hand and I will put the money into it.”

“OK.”

“16 mon, right? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8... What time is it?”

“It’s 4.”

“5, 6, 7, 8, 9...”

And he ended up paying too much for his soba.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Dancer's Fan

Welcome back to JJNN.

I decided to translate another Japanese story today. The story orginally comes from http://hukumusume.com/douwa/pc/jap/07/04.htm Enjoy.

The Dancer’s Fan


A long time ago in Kyoto there was a famous dance instructor who has many students. One of his favorite students was a girl by the name of Yukie. Yukie absolutely loved to dance and practiced her dancing hard every day.

Every time Yukie came to the dance school she would bring her dancer’s fan. A dancer’s fan is a folding fan that is bigger than a normal folding fan and is usually covered with beautiful drawings. Yukie’s fan was given to her by her father and the design was made by a very famous artist. As you can imagine, Yukie’s fan was very beautiful, with a drawing of a singular cherry blossom at the peak of its beauty.

Yukie spent a long time practicing every day with her fan, but one day, for some reason, she forgot her fan at the dance school. The dance instructor, when he noticed the fan for the first time, thought that it was strange that Yukie would forget her favorite fan. He decided to just give it back to her the next day when she came back for dance practice.

The strange thing was, the next day Yukie didn’t come to dance practice. She didn’t come the day after that or even the day after that. The dance instructor was getting worried about Yukie so he picked up her fan and gave it a good looking over. He was shocked to see that the drawing on the fan changed from a singular cherry blossom to many cherry blossoms filling up the entire span of the fan.

At that moment the dance instructor’s friend, a fortune teller, came and paid him a visit.

“Welcome, my friend. Here, take a look at this. One of my students forgot this here. Isn’t it beautiful?” he said passing the fan to the fortune teller.

“It’s beautiful... But, I’m sorry to say that these flowers will not last until the end of the day.”

After the fortune teller left, the dance instructor found himself worrying about what he was told about the fan. As he looked at the fan he found himself getting more and more drawn in by its beauty. He only came back to reality when is wife came into the room and told him that his dinner was ready. He had no idea how much time actually passed as he was looking over the fan.

The dance instructor stood up, still holding the fan, and he was surprised to see a couple of pale pink flower petals fall from the open fan. Even though there was no wind the petals flew up and danced in the air before disappearing into the darkening sky.

“What sort of magic is this?” said the instructor dumbfounded. He looked down at the fan and gave out a shocked yell when it saw that the fan, which before had a drawing of beautiful flowers, was not completely blank.

“Something must have happened to Yukie!”

The instructor ordered a carriage and hurried on to Yukie’s house. As soon as he got to her house the door opened and Yukie’s mother came out.

“My daughter has just died. Please come to view her body,” said her mother.

As they walked into the room the instructor found his breath taken away by shock. Yukie was lying in the middle of the room, as if she was sleeping, and she was surrounded by the cherry petals that have come out of the fan.

The end

Friday, July 1, 2011

Non-news day

Welcome back to JJNN

Today I am in the mood for translating so I decided to translate a traditional Japanese story called Manju Kowai. Below is my translation. Enjoy.

Manju are scary

Manju are Japanese sweet buns that go well with green tea
Originally taken from: http://www.geocities.co.jp/HeartLand-Gaien/7211/Japanese/manju.html


One night at a local inn and bar a group of men came together for a drink. They decided it would be fun telling each what they are scared of.

“I’m afraid of snakes. I can’t stand they way they move.”

“I don’t like tanuki because they can change form into monsters.”

“I hate spiders. I can’t stand their sticky webs.”

“I can’t stand bats. I don’t trust things the fly around at night.”

“I simply hate caterpillars. They are always hiding on the underside of leaves.”

“As for me, I don’t like ants. The fact that they move in a long line like that is creepy.”

As everyone was telling what they were afraid of, there was but one man that remained silent.

“Come on, Matsu! What are you afraid of?”

“Afraid? I’m not afraid of anything.”

“Not even snakes, spiders or ghosts?”

“Nope. Not even close to scared of those things. You should wrap a snake around your head to cool yourself down when you get a headache. When a tanuki jumps out at you as a ghost you should drag it to a river, clean it up real good and present it to your friends. You should stir up your natto with the legs of any spider you come across. You should use bats as an umbrella. You should poke a stick into a caterpillar and make it into a toothbrush. ”

Suddenly the man stopped talking.

“What’s wrong?”

“I remembered there is one thing I am afraid of.”

“Well, come out with it! What are you afraid of?”

“I . . . I’m afraid of manju.”

“Manju? Is that some sort of animal?”

“No! I am talking about the sweet! I get sick just thinking about them.”

Matsu’s face started getting paler and paler.

“Ah! I feel terrible after thinking of those things! I am going to go for a sleep in the other room.”

Matsu ran into the other room and jumped into a futon.

All the other people had a really good laugh when they saw what happened to Matsu. They all agreed they wanted to play a trick on him.

They all ran into the city and bought up every manju that they could find. Everything from manju made from Japanese rice wine to manju made from buckwheat and even manju used for funerals.

They brought all of those manju together and put them on a tray. One of them snuck into Matsu’s room and put them next to him. They all then laid back and waited for the fun to happen.

“Hey! Matsu! Wake up! It’s time to go.

“OK. I’ll get ready, but promise me you won’t say anything more about manju!”

“What ever you say. We won’t say another thing.”

That is when they heard Matsu yell.

“Oh no! Manju! My room is filled with manju!”

Everyone in the other room was laughing at the little trick they played.

“Ah! How did this happen! You promised me! I’m so scared of manju!”

The more Matsu yelled the more the others laughed.

“Ah! Rice wine manju! So scary!”

“Ah! Chestnut manju! I can’t believe this!”

“Ah! These manju are so yumm. . . scary!”

The other’s figured out something when wrong with there little prank so they looked into Matsu’s room.

“You look so happy eating all the manju that we bought. Come on, Matsu. What are you actually afraid of?”

“At the moment I am afraid of hot green tea.”


Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting in Japan

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from asahi.com

How many of you guys enjoy a good sit down to watch TV every now and again. I know I have a lot of shows that I like to watch on a regular basis and I get a little grumpy if I can't watch them. Unfortunately, starting next month there might be a lot of people that might not be able to watch TV any more.

Here in Japan the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) have decided that they don't want to have any more analog broadcasts any more starting on the 24th of next month. From that day on they will switch to Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting (TDB). In other words, it is a digital signal that is not transmitted by a satellite but from a transmission tower on the Earth.

That’s fine because it will give everyone a new, higher quality version, of all their favorite TV shows. But, as with most things, there is a drawback. There are a lot of people that have yet to upgrade their TVs or get a digital tuner box for their home. Which, of course, means that from the 24th of next month they will not be able to watch TV any more.

At the end of May, 510 thousand homes without the ability to watch TDB. The bright side is that now there are only 335 thousand homes unable to get TBD. Within the number is also the number of houses unable to get the signal because they live in the shadow of a tall building or in the mountains.

Personally I wonder about those people that just haven’t gotten the tuner. It was given out freely by the government for over a year. The MIC has been running commercials constantly, peen pushing their mascot on people during sporting events and even taking out ads in newspapers amongst other things.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 地デジ(地デジ). It is pronounced chi-deji and it means Terrestrial Digital Broadcasting.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It's getting hot for TEPCo

Welcome back again to JJNN.
Today's article is taken from Net Nihonkai.

As I said in my last post, it was extremely hot yesterday. Not only was it hot around where I lived, but all over Japan. Most places in Japan had high temperatures over 30C (86F) yesterday, and it looks like today is going to be more of the same.  In the room where I am working now at around 8am it reached 30C and has a humidity of around 75%.

The problem is that when it gets hot and humid like that people run to their air conditioners. The majority of the air conditioners that people use are old and not energy efficient, so a lot of energy is used by them on hot days. Just yesterday at around 4pm the peak energy output was around 40 million kilowatts. That number is just under 90% of TEPCo's total energy output. If it gets hotter TEPCo is going to have a hard time keeping up with the energy demands so they are asking people to save as much energy as possible.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 節電(せつでん). It is pronounced setsuden and it means to save electricity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's HOW hot!?

Welcome back again to JJNN.

Today's article is from asahi.com.

This isn't really a news story like the ones that I usually do. This is just an update on my life that also has to do with an article I found. Long story short, it's extreamly hot here. I live just south of the hottest place in Japan. Today the temperature climbed up to 36C (96.8F) here at just past noon. Now that it is around 3pm the temperature is just a little bit hotter.

This is going to be a long summer.

Water proofing saves a life

Welcome back to JJNN.

This article is from the Japanese version of Slashdot.

When is the last time that you bought a cell phone? The last phone that I bought was an iPhone. I got the iPhone because I wanted a phone that has a lot of extra features that I could modify. Other people buy phones because they can be used to watch TV or they have a cheap calling plan. One other reason a lot of people that work on or in the water buy their phone for is the waterproofing. A phone that is waterproof can still be used after it is dropped in the water so it is a great advantage for those types of people.

Waterproofing is overlooked by a lot of people because they never think their phone will get wet to the point where it will stop working. Today's article is all about a man that is now very glad that he didn't overlook the waterproofing option. On the 18th of June a truck driver was on a ferry crossing from the island to the mainland of Japan. Apparently he got a little seasick so he leaned over the rail to throw up. At the same time the ferry hit a wave and he was tossed overboard. The ferry was about 2km (about 1.2 miles) off the coast at the time the man fell off and the water was extremely cold so there was no way that the man would be able to swim back to the shore.

Luckily, the man's waterproof cell phone was tucked safely away in his pocket. He took it out and called the number for emergencies at sea (in Japan the number is 118). He was actually very lucky that he got a signal that far from the shore, but the call did go though and he was picked up within 40 minutes of falling off the ferry. He had to be treated for hypothermia, but in the end everything worked out for him because of his waterproof cellphone. That is something to think about the next time you buy a cell phone.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 防水(ぼうすい). It is pronounced bosui and it means waterproof.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A long, hot, summer on the rails

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Japanese version of Slashdot.

This is going to be yet another in the series of articles about how is trying to save energy to deal with the possible energy crisis this summer. This time the focus is on Japan's main railway company, JR. At the moment JR is trying to save money by suspending the use of escalators, cutting back on the number of trains running on their system and turning up the temperature at which the AC kicks in.

Those are all working to some degree, but according to JR that is no enough to reach there goal of cutting back on their energy usage by 15 percent when compared to last year. They went back to the drawing board and decided that the best thing for them to do would be to just turn off the AC all together in all of their stations from noon to 3pm. According to their calculations that would save enough energy to go well over their goal so they decided to only turn off the AC their 40 most busy stations from noon until 1:30pm. Even that would go over their goal so they decided to up the number of trains to the number before the earthquake (for the weekdays only) and also lower the temperature that the AC will kick in (from 31C to 29C(88F to 84F) in the stations sand from 28C to 26C (82F to 79F) in the trains. They will also start using escalators again.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 暑い(あつい). It is pronounced atsui and it means hot.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reviving lost farmlands

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

In the ancient times when a group conquered a town in battle it was said that the victor would sow the fields with salt so that no one would be able to grow any crops in those fields again. Turning our eye back to modern Japan, the same sort of thing happened to the northeast after the earthquake of March. Of course no one actually sowed the fields with salt, but the tsunami that resulted from the earthquake brought a lot of sea salt up onto land and into people's fields.

Professor Nakai from Tohoku University believes he not only found a solution for the salted fields, but might have found a good way for the entire farming community to rebuild itself. That solution comes in the form of a plant that produces yellow flowers and has the unfortunate name of the rapeseed plant. Rapeseed plants are known for being highly resistant to salty fields and even end up leaching the salt of the field over time. The seeds can be used to make oil or even bio-diesel fuel.


Rapeseed
 Professor Nakai and his team are using this year to test out 30 different types rapeseed and see how much they all reduce the amount of salt in the soil. They are using 1.4 hectares in a place called Wakabayashi that was effected by the tsunami in order to test the plants. If all works out well the rapeseed plants will be used not only to take the salt out of soil, but to also be used as a cash crop in the mean time. Professor Nakai hopes the rapeseed plant will be a symbol of the northeast Japan coming back to life.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 塩(しお). It is pronounced shio and it means salt.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hayabusa and Guinness

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article appears in the Japanese version of slashdot.

 Way back in May of last year I talked about the unmanned space probe called Hayabusa. To make the long story of Hayabusa very short, it went into deep space, landed on an asteroid and came back to earth with particles of that asteroid. That makes Hayabusa the first probe to bring something back from an object in outer space other than the moon. To celebrate that fact, Guinness visited Tane-ga-shima to present JAXA with an award for that and also one for having the prob that traveled the furthest in space and survived the return trip.

The awards were accepted in front of the rocket bay known for having the biggest doors in the world and also for making the balloon that flew the highest in the world.

In other Hayabusa news, it seems that 3 different movies are in the process of being made in Japan for Hayabusa. Out of those three movies, it seems that Watanabe Ken may be staring in one of the movies.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 惑星(わくせい). It is pronounced wakusei and it means planet.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An electric pot (and not in the way you are probably thinking)

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article comes from the Yomiuri Online.

Ever since the huge earthquake in Japan that occurred 3 months ago people are finding new ways to deal with emergency situations in Japan. Lifelines such as gas, water and electricity are something that people have to struggle to reestablish after a major earthquake, so there are companies that are trying to find new and novel ways to help people that have lost a lifeline.

In this case we are talking about both electricity and clean drinking water. One of the best way to make sure water is free of viruses or bacteria is to boil it. A company from Osaka called TES New Energy have found a way to connect boiling water and the production of electricity. It is actually an ingenious little pot that is pictured below.


The Electric Pot in action charging an iPhone
The pot can create electricity because a temperature difference between two different metals with a common connection point (thus forming a circuit) produces electricity. This is know as the thermoelectric effect. The temperature difference at the bottom of the pot and the top can be as much as 400 degrees Celsius. That temperature difference along with the choice of metals for the pot produces enough electricity to fully charge an iPhone in about 3 to 5 hours.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 熱(ねつ). It is pronounced netsu and it means heat. There sure are a lot of new and wonderful ways to make electricity.

Friday, June 10, 2011

From Nuclear to Wind

Welcome again to JJNN.

Today's article is from Yahoo! Japan's news page.

This is yet another in the long series of articles about nuclear power and what will happen in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Today we will look at what will happen to the land that has been evacuated in the 20km radius around the power plant.

As it stands now, the are many ghost towns in the area around the power plant. The government and TEPCo have to actually buy all of that land from the owners to make up for the nuclear meltdown (though I am sure it doesn't actually even come close to make up for it). So, in the end TEPCo is left with a lot of land and no way of producing power. In the end TEPCo decided to turn to wind power generation.

It should be pointed out that in most cases a wind power generation plant can not produce as much energy as a large sized nuclear power plant, but the area around the old Fukushima nuclear power plant has a couple of big advantages. The first one is the total amount of land. There is a total of 628 square km (over 155,182 acres) of land to work with. They can put a lot of individual windmills on that land without the worry of bothering anyone with the noise of the windmills. The second advantage is that the average wind speed in that area is much higher than the average for all of Japan. Also, in the winter the wind comes from the mountains while in the summer it comes from the sea, so there is a constant even wind throughout the entire year.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 風(かぜ). It is pronounced kaze and it means wind. The place where I live now is famous for strong dry wind in the winter, too bad that wind doesn't come during the long humid summer.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Living off the grid

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is taken from Searchina news.

This is yet another in a lot series of articles all about saving electricity. This time the company Sharp has vowed to produce a house, which they have decided to call the "Eco-House," that actually uses 0 electricity from the power grid. The goal is to produce a house that has the usually appliances, but have those appliances use only a fraction of what the traditional appliances use. The house should be comfortable to live in, but still use as little electricity as possible.

Sharp has a challenge ahead of them. The house is located in the middle of Osaka, one of the hottest cities in Japan. Cooling the house in summer and heating the house in winter is going to take some energy. But, never fear, our old friends solar panels and efficient batteries are here. That is basically Sharp's plan, use efficient and low energy consumption appliances and offset the energy usage with solar panels and efficient batteries.

If that were all there is to this story there wouldn't be much of a story actually. Sharp has taken a few measures to make the house use even less energy. The first of those steps is called HEMS; which stands for Home Energy Management System. HEMS is a system in which the owner of the house can use their television or a tablet computer to check on the power consumption of the house as a whole and also the consumption of each appliance in their house. It is a way to get the owner of the house more interested in power saving. HEMS can also be used to see how much power is being produced by the solar cells, how much electricity is being stored in the batteries and how long the batteries will hold out under the current usage rate.

Sharp is also looking deeper into appliances that run on DC power. They want to use DC power because that is the type of power that is produced by solar cells. If the appliances run on DC power then the power will not have to be changed to AC power between the solar panel and the house. This will make for a more efficient use off the energy produced by the solar panels.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 太陽(たいよう). It is pronounced taiyou and it means sun. Imagine what we would be able to do if we were able to full tap the power output of the sun.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Japan's XFEL

Welcome back to this enlightening edition of JJNN.

Today's article is brought to you by MSN.

There are many types of lasers out there on the market. There are laser pointers that come in a verity of colors, there are laser light projectors used in concerts and even sharks with (freeken) lasers on their head (OK, maybe that last one isn't for sale). Earlier this week two research groups in Japan announced they amped up another type of laser radiation. Though this type of laser light will not be on the general market, it will be important for science in the long run.

Before we get into the specific type of laser light that the Japanese research companies improved upon, I want to quickly talk about laser light in general. Laser is actually an acronym. It stands for light amplification though the simulated emission of radiation. In the most simple case a gas exists in a chamber that is capped by two mirrors (the front one is not fully silvered). The gas is simulated by and electric charge and the outer shell electrons gas go into an excited state. As the electrons fall back into the ground state they release light which is all coherent. The light bounces around between the mirrors and in the process gets amplified but other electrons releasing their light.

That is a basic gas laser. There are also other types of lasers. There are solid lasers and also the type of laser that we are going to talk about today: the XFEL. XFEL stands for x-ray free electron laser and it produces laser light when electrons are accelerated to extremely high speeds and than suddenly decelerated. XFEL radiation can be very bright and it can be used to image minute structures and processes.

The smaller the wavelength of the laser the better it is at imaging structures and the more projects it can be used in. This is where the Japanese laboratory RIKEN and the Japan Synchrotron Radiation Research Institute come in. Those two labs have successfully reduced the low end of the wavelength of the traditional XFEL laser from 0.15nm to 0.12nm. The leader of the project, Tanaka Hitoshi, says that the laser can be used in everything from making new medicines to nanotechnology. He also says he wants to get the wavelength down to 0.06nm.

The XFEL laboratory: Sakura
It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is レーザー (れいざあ). It is pronounced reezaa and it means producing electricity. Now if they can produce a laser like that laser that popped all that popcorn in that one 90's movie (what was the title of that movie?)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Transmitting on Solar Power

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is from the Yomiuri Online.

As I have said a few times before, Japan is in the middle of a little power crisis. Everyone is looking for ways to save electricity and money in the long run. If a person, or a family, or a community or even a company can save electricity now that means fewer brownouts during the summer and more happy people in the long run.

One of the biggest companies in Japan, and its largest broadcaster, NHK, wants to do its part for Japan's power crisis. NHK's plan will take 2 years to complete but the general idea is that they want to service about 200 million households with their broadcasts without using one kilowatt from the power grid.

The mystery of how they will accomplish this task is solved when one looks at where NHK's main broadcast station is located. The facility is actually located about a half and hour south of where I am by train and it is one of the sunniest locations in Japan. That's right, they are going to broadcast using the power of the sun. They plan on producing 200o kilowatts of electricity by using 15 thousand square meters (that's almost 18 thousand square yards) of solar cells which will come to about 10 thousand panels. The total cost should be somewhere near 1.8 billion yen. A lot of money, but a worthy cause.

It is  now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 発電(はつでん). It is pronounced hatsuden and it means producing electricity. I always wanted a house with solar panels. They always seemed so futuristic to me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Goverment trying to save energy

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article is taken out of the online version of the Mainichi Newspaper.

After the earthquake that occurred in the north east of Japan in March Japan has been facing an energy crisis of a sort. In the month or so after the quake TEPCo (Tokyo Electric Power Company)  implemented daily scheduled power outages so that people would not have to deal with a complete lack of electric power. After a few weeks TEPCo was able to get its old coal fired power plants up and running again to make up for the energy difference and the scheduled power outages were stopped.

That is fine for now, but there is still a major problem looming on the horizon. That problem would be the heat of summer and the rampant use of air conditioners. Now, I am not telling the people of Japan that they shouldn't use air conditioners to cool down their houses (I hate the heat so I use an air conditioner any chance I can in the summer time), but the use of power may lead to brownouts in Japan's current state.

That is where Japan's Ministry of the Environment comes in. They have a goal of decreasing Japan's weekday power consumption by 25 percent in total. They decided that the best place to start was the many city halls and town halls throughout Japan. From July they have asked the city halls to take one day off during the week and instead work on Saturday. Sunday will be a day off like it always has been.

It's an interesting solution, but I wonder if it will really work. The people that run the town halls have to work with many other groups that do not normally work on a Saturday. In other words, even if a particular department was told to take the day off, they might not be able to because they could not make the necessary work contracts on Saturday. It seems a lot of people that work in the city offices wonder if the plan will actually work.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電気(でんき). It is pronounced denki and it means electricity. Those scheduled power outages were a pain, but at least we knew they were coming.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A small piece of mind

Welcome back to JJNN

Today's article is taken from Yomiuri Online.

Ever since the nuclear crisis happened in North Eastern Japan, people have felt the need to have more information about what is going on in and around the nuclear power plant. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (who, admittedly was not really up front about everything that happened in the early days of the crisis) decided one way to give people piece of mind was to put up a 24 hour web camera that can look over all of the reactors in the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.

The web camera can be accessed by anyone by the following link: http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/f1-np/camera/index-j.html. You might have to install a plug in to actually see the video, but it is worth the effort. The drawing below the web camera actually shows where the camera is looking from above. There is also a lag of about 30 seconds between when the video is shot and when it shows up on computer monitors, but that can't really be helped.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is カメラ(かめら). It is pronounced kamera and it means camera. Last winter a bought a new camera that takes great pictures and good video. I really have to remember to take it with me when I go to places.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Haptic Buttons on Touch Screens

Welcome back again to JJNN

Today's article is from RBB Today. It is also a story from Wireless Japan 2011.

With the use of smart phones with touch screens and other forms of touch input devices becoming more and more prevalent as time goes on, there is a decided decline in the amount of mechanical buttons on phones and other input devices out there. As a story from my personal life, I have been using an iPhone for about 2 or 3 years now so I am used to the touch screen. Last night I became a regional manager in my job so I got a special cell phone for use on business. Of course that new phone is not a smart phone and it does not have a touch interface. When I started using the phone it felt strangely responsive. I could tell what I was opening and using more easily with that new (extremely low powered) phone.

That is the very problem with phones and other devices with a touch input. It is hard to tell if you hit the button (icon) to start an application or (on the other hand) it is easy to hit buttons by accident. There is no tactile response to the user's input so it can be extremely unintuitive for first time users to touch screens that are used to traditional buttons.

This is where the good people at KDDI step in. They wanted to find something that would bridge the gap between the feel of mechanical buttons and the ease of a touch screen. KYOCERA Cooperation (a part of KDDI) produced a new form of haptic technology (technology that takes advantage of the sense of touch) that be Incorporated into touch screen devices to give the feeling of mechanical buttons to a touch screen. You can see a phone with a haptic touch screen below.

Cell phone with a haptic touch screen
The process is really actually very simple. When someone touches an icon or interacts with the touch screen in some way the phone vibrates for a very short duration. That quick vibration is interpreted by the brain as being the same as pushing down a mechanical button. There are even 3 different types (durations) of vibration that are used for different actions on the touch screen.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 感覚(かんかく). It is pronounced kankaku and it means sense. I wonder when cell phones will start taking advantage of the sense of smell.

Monday, May 23, 2011

NTT Docomo's Translation Telephone

Welcome back to JJNN

Today's article is taken from RBB Today.

It is said (by good ol' Mr. Wiki) that there are anywhere between 3000 to 6000 languages currently at use all over the world. Differences in language along with cultural differences can lead to major political misunderstandings which can also lead to bad blood with countries that speak different languages. That is one of many driving forces that have pushed people to produce a device that can be used as a universal translator.

Of course there have been many different translating devices on the market over the years, but NTT Docomo (a Japanese telephone company) is in the process of producing a phone that will work as a perfect translator for those using it. The basic idea can be seen below.


Basic idea for the translation phone
The scenario Docomo is using in the picture above is a Japanese mother calling her daughter's American host family. As soon as the mother dials out to another translation phone (apparently her daughter brought one with her to America) the two phones are connected to Docomo's server though a conference call bridge. When the user speaks into the cell phone, the server samples the audio, figures out what language it is, puts it though a speech to text protocol, translates that text to the other language, and finally outputs audio in the other language with a text to speech protocol.

This phone sounds like it could help in international business or political relationships. Of course, as with any futuristic technology that is running with today's protocols and hardware, there are going to be some bugs and drawbacks that have to be worked on by Docomo. One thing that seems like the weak link of this system is voice to text system that is used before the translation. If the user does not speak clearly all the time that will mess up how the speech changes to text, which will end up messing up the translation as well. This is especially not good for Japanese where the end of verbs is very important and one small change causes by a slurred vowel can change a sentence from affirmative to negative.

The phone will apparently do a lot of other things like share schedules that have been translated and the like, but that is still in the planning stage. Below is a picture of what text output of a conversation had with the phone. As an English teacher I give my thumbs up to the translation.

Translation cell phone example conversation
It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 携帯電話(けいたいでんわ). It is pronounced keitai denwa and it means cell phone. When I first got to Japan my cell phone was from Docomo, but now I am with softbank because of my iPhone.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A cesium absorbing material

Welcome back to JJNN

Today's article was taken from the International Business Times.

One of the major results of a nuclear meltdown is the release of strongly radioactive elements into the environment in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant. It takes a lot of time, energy, money and danger to clean up a meltdown site. Any little thing that will help speed up the process and cut down the risk of radiation exposure would be greatly appreciated by those that have to clean up the site.

Luckily for the people that have to clean up (and still contain) the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima a Japanese research center has discovered a material that can absorb a lot of a radioactive material known as cesium. The material, which is a solidification of titanic acid, was developed by the people at Japan's National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). One cubic centimeter of this substance can not only trap up to one gram of cesium but it also holds the cesium better than the prior clean up agent, borosilicate glass. In fact, after a week of high temperature tests, it lost 1/170th the amount of borosilicate glass.


Crystal structure of solidified titanic acid

Here are some quick facts of solidified titanic acid:
     Crystal width of .02mm (.000787in)
     Crystal length of 5mm (0.2in)
     Production method: titanium oxide and cesium are desolved into molybdenum and go though electrolysis
     Can be made under normal temperatures and pressures

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 結晶(けっしょう). It is pronounced kessho and it means crystal. There are people in the world who try to make crystals something special by saying they have "healding powers," but I always think that a crystal is amazing just the way it is (even if it doesn't have any special powers).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Rogue planets

Welcome back to JJNN

Today's second article is also from the online edition of the Yomiuri Newspaper.

When most people think of solar systems they probably think of one sun (or maybe a binary star) with planets rotating around it. If that image is expanded, most people think of a galaxy as something that contains many solar systems. In other words as something that contains many suns with many many planets rotating around them.

For the longest time that was the basic idea, but that idea was upset by a paper written by Professor Ito Yoshitaka from Nagoya University and assistant professor Sumi Takahiro from Osaka University. The paper, which was published in Nature, detailed that there are probably hundreds of billions of rogue planets in flying around the universe.

What's a rogue planet? Well basically it's a planet that is not gravitationally bound to (thus not revolving around) any star. It's really a cool idea if you think about it. A planet hurdling though space not effected by any star unless it's path happens to get close to a star's gravity well. With a number like "hundreds of billions" and an area the size of the universe as well as an amount of time from when planets started forming to the present time; it could be quite possible that a rouge planet could wander into a star's gravity well and be captured. In other words, it could be possible for an "alien planet" to become part of a solar system. You can see an artist's reprensentation of what a rouge planet might look like below.


Possible repersentation of a rogue planet

This leads us to two questions: How do planets become rouge planets and how can we detect those planets? Rouge planets are created when planets that are rotating around a planet are effected by the gravity of other planets or other objects around the sun and actually get ejected from their orbit. The rogue planets are actually detected because of an effect called gravitational lensing. Basically, an object that has a large mass bends space-time around it to the point in which it actually bends the path of light around it like a huge lens. When one of the rogue planets moves in front of a star (when viewed by the Earth) the amount of light from that star actually increases until the plant moves away from the star.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 惑星(わくせい). It is pronounced wakusei and it means planet. I am wondering if a percent of the "dark matter" (matter which we can't account for in the universe) is not made up of these rogue planets.

200th post! (plus some rainy day news)

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article was taken from the online version of the Yomiuri Newspaper.

Coming from America, I have always been familiar with a year that has 4 seasons: spring, summer, winter and fall. In contrast, Japan actually has a year that has 5 seasons. It has the normal four seasons plus a rainy season that lasts from around the end of May to the beginning of July. The start and the total length of the season depends on when the heavy rain starts and stops. All in all, it's a miserable season for those of you that don't like hot, humid and rainy days.

Maybe it is because Japan has a deep connection (sometimes hate) of their 5th season that Japanese scientists have felt the need to study its properties. Way back in 1901 scientists erected 37 rain collection stations scattered all throughout Japan. The amount of fallen rain at different points in the rainy season was noted from 1901 to 2009 (it is still probably being noted now, but for this study the data stops at 2009).

The scientists at the Meteorological Society of Japan (MSJ), have decided to take the average of the amount of rain that fell from 1901 to 1930 and set that as the benchmark for future comparisons. In other words the average from 1901 to 1930 is set as the normal rain level and all future averages are compared to it.

The MSJ found a few interesting trends after they correlated the data. First is the good news, the amount of rain that falls in the begining of the rainy season has been decreasing over time. In fact there has been a 20% decrease from the 1901 to 1930 average. Now for the bad news, as the end of the rainy season the amount of rain that falls on the Japan Sea side of Japan has increased to about 2.5 times the 1901 to 1930 average. On the other hand, the amount of rainfall on the ocean side of Japan has not really changed much. These trends can be seen in the graph below.



The blue in the graph is the ocean side of Japan, while the red is the Japan Sea side.

The people at the MSJ say that the increase might have been caused by global warming. They have no real data to prove that at the moment, but they are looking into it with computer simulations. The leader of the MSJ also says if the global warming gets worse the rainy season in Japan will get longer and might even change the rainy season for good.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 梅雨(つゆ). It is pronounced tsuyu and it means rainy season. Personally I am not a fan of the rainy season, but at least I don't live on the Japan Sea side of Japan any more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lowering Your Energy Bill with Bitter Melon (Goya)

Welcome back to JJNN.

This post is about an article that appears in the Yomiuri's online edition.

Saving electricity has become a big thing in Japan ever since the major earthquake that happened in March. With the partial meltdown of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and the shut down of many other nuclear power plants it is hard for TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) to keep up with the everyday power demands of the people they are suppose to be providing with electricity. The situation got so dire after the earthquake that there were scheduled power outages for wide areas that went on for about a month.

Luckily (not really lucky for the environment though) TEPCO got some coal fired power plants up and running to make up some of the difference, but there is probably going to be more scheduled power outages during the summer when people start using air conditioners. That is where the good people of the "Nagareyama Committee for the Advancement of Bitter Melon Curtains" come in.

Sure, their committee name may be a mouthful, but they are doing what they can to help take a step closer to nature (without actually hugging any trees) and save some money on their home's energy bill. The committee passes out the seeds to a vine known as the bitter melon or the bitter gourd. The vine itself can grow to up to 5 meters in length and it produces a fruit that is extremely bitter. You may be wondering what a vine that bares bitter fruit has to do with saving money on heating and saving electricity. Well, the picture below might help solve that mystery.


A house covered in Bitter Melon vines
 The theory is that if a house is covered in a leafy vine, like the one from the Bitter Melon, it will reflect away enough of the sunlight from the exterior wall of the house that the temperature inside the house will go down. A cooler house leads to less use of air conditioners and other coolers, which leads to less use of electricity. People in Nagareyama are really jumping on the this method to save electricity as well. Last year 360 houses were given 1500 vines in total, but this year 1970 houses have applied to get the free vines, which is about 5 times more houses than the committee was counting on.

It really is an interesting way to be environmentally friendly and also save a buck (or yen or what ever currency you want). Not only does it help cool the house in the summer and maybe keep the house warm in the winter (by acting as another layer of insulation), but the plant also takes CO2 out of the air and produces fruit that can be eaten (even though it is bitter). All in all it sounds like a good plan to me.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 蔓(つる). It is pronounced tsuru and it means vine.. Of course this can be done with any vine that will grow long enough to cover an entire building, but I think the Bitter Melon is probably the way to go.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Green tea

Welcome back to JJNN.

Today's article comes from one of Nagano's local newspapers.

It's that time of year again. Well, actually it is a little past that time. I am, of course(?), talking about the time of year to pick new tea leaves. The tea picking process started on the 14th in the little village of Tenryu located on the southern edge of Nagano prefecture. That is actually 11 days later than normal because of frosts that occurred in the spring.

If I am asked if I like to drink coffee or tea I will always say that I want to drink tea (though in reality I end up drinking more coffee in a day than tea). Tea is an intricate part of the Japanese lifestyle and also helps to support many villages that would normally not be able to grow anything else. That is the case with the small village of Tenryu, which is made out of many sloaps and vallies. Tenryu's tea fields are 290 to 400 meters (.18 to .25 miles) above sea level.

The tea is picked by breaking off the stem below the leaves (which come in sets of three) so the leaves are not damaged. Below you can see a picture of the picking process.


Picking Tea
 It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is お茶(おちゃ). It is pronounced ocha and it means tea. Nothing better on a cold morning than a hot mug of tea.

See you next time at JJNN

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Wireless Battery Charging

Today's article is from ITmedia News.

Potentially, one of the most important technology breakthroughs that may happen in the future is the advent of a more powerful (power dense) battery that can be charged and discharged repeatedly over many years (or decades). Science is taking many different baby steps towards making a super battery by searching for many different viable materials, but it will take a long time until we can make a truly efficient battery that is not only low in cost but safe for the environment.

On way to keep batteries safe for the environment is to keep them out of landfills. The use of rechargeable batteries can of course cut down on the number of batteries going into a landfill (well slow the process any way), but in this fast paced world who has the time to put batteries into a charger and plug that charger into the wall? Well, I am sure 99% of the people in this world do actually have that kind of time, but for those of you that don't there is the Charge Pad from Panasonic which is picture below.


Charge Pad and battery packs
The Charge Pad is a smart little device that charges up batteries using a system called "Qi," which was thought up by a company called Wireless Power Consortium. Qi is a wireless charging system that can be used on any company's chargers. To uses the Charge Pad all you have to do is place your specially designed battery pack on top of the Charge Pad and it will start to charge automatically.

Quick stats:
   Size: 146mm * 170mm * 20mm (5.75in * 6.7in * .8in)
   MSRP: Around 5000 yen

As I said above, a specially designed battery is needed to use this charging system (or most specially charging systems for that matter). Panasonic will start to sell the Lithium Ion 5400 and 2700 battery packs at the same time as the charger (scheduled for June 26th). Those battery packs will have a USB cable and can be used to charge smart phones and other such devices. The battery packs themselves take 7 hours and 5 hours to charge respectively.

It is worth noting at this point that rechargeable batteries can not be charged just by placing them onto the Charge Pad. A special case is needed for the batteries. In other words, instead of putting batteries into a charger and plugging the charger into the wall, they are placed into a charger and put onto the Charge Pad. Not really much of a difference there.

There have been other devices like this around in the past, but one thing that makes this device stand out from the rest is it's "Moving Coil" technology. The Charge Pad will actually be able to detect where the battery pack is placed and be able to movie its recharging coil to that place. Almost like magic. The process can be seen below.

Moving Coil Technology
It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 電池(でんち). It is pronounced denchi and it means battery. Writing this post reminds me that I have to buy some new batteries for my wii remote.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Personal Radiation Detector

Today's article was taken from Yahoo's news page.

As everyone probably knows there was a huge earthquake off the coast of Japan on March 11th, 2011. That earthquake damaged one of Japan's nuclear power plants which is located in Fukushima. The power plant started going though a shutdown using generators because outside power was cut off. Not long after the earthquake a title wave hit the power plant, destroying the generators and shutting off the water cooling system for the nuclear fuel. That, of course, (as it does) lead to a partial melt down and several radiation leaks.

That happened 2 months ago today. At that time a lot of people that live in the Northern part of Japan were worried about an increase in the normal background radiation because of the nuclear melt down. It was a very real fear for those that lived near the crippled nuclear power plant, but the problem was the people that lived far away from the plant and were panicking because of a little extra radiation. The fact is that no one knows what a little extra radiation does to the human body, but the chances of it resulting in cancer is low.

This brings us to the article I linked to above. It seems a company called RAE Systems has made and started marketing a personal radiation dosage detector. You can see the detector along with its USB stand in the picture below.

RAE Systems's DoseRAE
For those of you that might be interested, here are so specs:
   Can be programmed to take a data point at any time between 30 seconds to 3600 seconds.
   Can measure data ranges from 0.01 mSv/h to 10Sv/h.
   Data can be transferred to a computer and it can be charged by means of USB.
   Comes at an alarm (vibration or LED lights) that can be set using a computer (XP or Vista).
   Current radiation dosages can be displayed on a computer when in a USB dock.
   MSRP: 79800 yen

It is a little pricey, but for those that are truly worried about their radiation dose (those that live close to the power plant or those that have to work at it), it might be a good buy. Other than that, I would say it is a geek's must buy fashion accessory because it comes with a nice plastic clip that can be used to clip it firmly in place in the front pocket. Very sexy.

There is one drawback though, the device uses thin film technology (instead of the same technology as a Geiger counter) so it will only truly detect X-rays and gamma rays. It can not really be used to detect the radiation caused by alpha particles or beta particles. It is not an all around detector, but and all around detector would be much bigger and cost a whole lot more.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 放射線(ほうしゃせん). It is pronounced hoshasen and it means radiation. I know that radiation can be scary because it is something that we can't see, but hey if it gets bad enough maybe we will all end up like the hulk or spider man.

See you next time at JJNN!

Busy, busy!

Hey everyone.

Yet again there was a huge gap between one blog and the next. I am working on reducing or eliminiting those gaps entirely. Just a quick upday for now and hoepfully later today or later this week I will get back on track when it comes to this blog and update at least 5 times a week.

As for my life, (sorry it has nothing to do with sci/tech really) I am now at a different school but still keeping up with my teaching job. I am still trying to get into translating, so that pratice is also taking up a lot of my time.

Any way, let's hope I can keep this up.

As always, feel free to comment and join the conversation. See you next time on JJNN.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tests and snow

Walking to the test in the snow


Yesterday and today were two very important days in the lives of many young people in Japan. They were two days that actually shaped the future of the many thousands of Japanese students who wish to enter a Japanese collage.

It is not very easy to enter collage in Japan. There are many tests that have to be taken and essays that have to be written. The first (and some would say the most important) of those tests is the National Center Test for University Admissions.

That test is almost always held in mid-January. It might seem a mystery that the test is held in the middle of the winter, but keep in mind that the Japanese school year starts in April. If the test were any earlier the student would not have time to learn the material on the test (Japanese schools teach for the test...but that another discussion for another time) and if it were any later the results could not be used to apply for university.

The Center Test for this year just happened to over lap with a major snow storm that covered almost all of Japan with a lot of snow. 20 tests sites were effected by the storm with delays of 15 minutes to one hour for about 5600 students. There were also 17 students in all that just couldn't make it to the test on time because of all the snow.

Snow was not the only problem to hit the test takers this year. At one of the test sites in Nagoya there was a power outage that lasted about a minute and 40 seconds. The students had to turn their papers over and wait for the power to be restored. Also 98 students will have to take their English listening tests again because their listening apparatus failed.

What I love the most about news stories like this is the fact that they are news stories at all. This would not make a news paper or even an online news site if it happened in America. It just goes to show how important tests are to the Japanese I guess.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 試験(しけん). It is pronounced shiken and it means test. I used to like taking tests when I was in junior high school. I guess I was a little weird.

See you next time at JJNN!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

When you got to go (play a video game) you got to go



I have seen many strange things in my life, but I got to say the video game in the video above takes the (toilet) cake. I think that most have you have heard of the new game controllers that were put out for the xbox and the ps3. Those controllers are innovative because they allow a player to control their character without the traditional controller. Sure, they are nice controllers and all, but they don't let a player control a game with pee.

That is exactly what "Toilets," the urinal video game system, lets players do. Notice that I didn't say it was a video game. It is actually a video game system that has a library of at least 4 games that are all controlled by a pressure sensor in the urinal.

As you probably expect, the games in "Toilets" are not the normal run of the mill games that you find for other game systems. The simplest of the games gives a score based on the amount of urine. Another game is a race against time to erase graffiti on a wall...with urine. The next game pits you against the person that urinated before you to see who had the highest pressure. The last one is the most controversial because the pressure of the urine determines how many pieces of clothes blow off from a woman in the game.

All of those games sound crazy, I know, but what is one factor that keeps most gamers coming back to their video game system over and over? I think it is probably that drive to get a high score. That leads to a tiny problem with these systems because one person probably won't be able to get back to the same urinal all the time to work on a high score. Worry not, though! It turns out if you have a USB memory stick you can plug it into the "Toilets" and save all your high scores to impress friends and family later.

As a side note I think that the name of the game system comes from the Japanese for "toilet" and "let's." I think it was suppose to be a play on words for "Let's go to the toilet."

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 小便(しょうべん). It is pronounced shouben and it means urine. Man, I really have to pee!

See you next time at JJNN!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A late happy new year


You know, it just occurred to me that I haven't wished all of you a happy new year. So from everyone at Jei's Japan News Network (that would be me) happy new year to one and all.

Every year is a special year, but 2011 is a special year in an emotional and numerical sense. I found this nifty article on wired vision and it goes into some of the reasons why 2011 is numerically special.

The one that grabbed my attention is 2011 is actually a sum of 11 consecutive prime numbers: 157 + 163 + 167 + 173 + 179 + 181 + 191 + 193 + 197 + 199 + 211. Not only that but 2011 itself is also a prime number.

Not only is 2011 a prime number but it is known as a sexy prime number. Why is it sexy? Well that is because the difference between 2011 and the next prime number (2017) is 6. If we go for the Latin, 6 is written as "sex" which automatically makes those numbers sexy.

I would write more about the year but I think I am coming down with a cold and I want to take it easy (plus...how can I top a sexy prime number?)

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 素数(そすう). It is pronounced sosuu and it means prime number. I wish I had more sexy prime numbers in my life.

See you next time at JJNN!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Welcome back to JJNN!



Welcome again to yet another incarnation of Jei's Japan New Network. After having no time to keep up with this for the longest time I have decided to give it another try. Hopefully this time I can keep it going.

Today I want to look at an interesting news story I found on asahi.com. According to the story a scientist named Kawai Tsuyoshi from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology produced a molecule that changes color with just the slightest application of light. Professor Kawai and his team discovered the discovered the key to their light sensing molecule by examining many of light sensing molecules in the human eye. They wanted to find just the molecules that possessed the largest reaction (either changing of color or shape) in the presence of light. The resulting molecule has an almost 100% reaction rate to even the most minimal source of light.

That may not seem very exciting, but it actually has many different applications. One of the most exciting is in the field of optical media. Conventional optical media is written using the heat of LASER light to change the surface of a disc. If the disc uses this new material, those same changes in the disc can be made with just the application of the light. There is no need to wait for the area of the disc to heat up so it will be a faster process. It should be possible to produce "burn" (it no longer actually takes burning though) a disc in about 10 times the speed of a conventional disc using only about a hundredth of the power. Professor Kawai also says it should be possible to make a 100 layer disc with this material so the amount of storage should also go way up for they new type of disc.

It is now time for the word of the day. Today's word is 光(ひかり). It is pronounced hikari and it means light. Anything seems more futuristic if it has LASERs in it.

See you next time at JJNN!