Saturday, 12 July 2008

It's been a while...

See I knew I would loose interest in this blog. I knew disclosing the details of my life on the internet wouldn't last long. 

I have something else up my sleeve, which I will talk more about soon. 

In the meantime, keep in touch by email.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Tonight in the 1°C winter temperature I went out and took some photos of the Christmas decorations near my house. The pictures below are of the lights in the garden of the fire station and the big Christmas tree in the shopping mall at Miyahara.

Yes the supermarket is close

I have told many people my new apartment is very close to the 24 hour supermarket. In fact I am even closer than the supermarket's own carpark which is on the opposite side of the road. You can see my apartment in the white circle.

The circus is here!

I am very excited the circus has arrived in my neighbourhood and will be here until February. What I am worried about however is they have a few scary animals like lions and tigers. I am worried that if they escape they could end up near my house!

Monday, 10 December 2007

Yearbook published and being distributed this week

My annual Christmas publication has been published and is being distributed this week.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

The 40th Tokyo Motor Show

This November 8th I attended The 40th Tokyo Motor Show at Makuhari Messe in Chiba Prefecture. The show attracted 1.5 million people whilst it was open and 75,000 of those attended on the day I did.
I have never seen an exhibition of such quality and flamboyance as the Motor Show. There was no detail left to chance. Every stand was of an exceptional standard and appeared as if the show had only opened 10 minutes before my arrival, not 10 days.
Below is a sample of the 253 photographs I took on my visit. The pictures are in no particular order but I have put some notes near some of them.
All of the car makers present used 'hired' females to compliment their products on display. Daimler-Chrysler with their Jeep brand were no exception.

Above, is a new style motor car from Citroen. The interior is somewhat interesting.

The new Nissan NV200. More information about Nissan at the Motor Show and the NV200 is available by clicking here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Yes, it has been a while...

Yes it has been a while since I updated my blog. I have been super busy in recent times, working 7 day weeks and not much free time to spare. But now my serge of overtime is done and I will now resume a normalish schedule which could possibly mean regular blog updates.

I know there are some people who check in regularly at my blog. People who I never would have expected to follow my adventures. There have been a couple of random comments left in the last week or so.

If you are reading the blog it would be great to get an email from you. You can email me using the information in the Interact section on the left panel of this page. I will be sure to reply to you promptly. There is so much news which I do not share via the blog so email will ensure you are even closer inside the loop.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Apple™ introduces the new iPod™ lineup

This post comes live from the Apple™ Store in Ginza, Tokyo. The store I always call into whenever I am in Tokyo city.

I just can not control my love for Apple products. At the moment I only own an iPod Nano™ but I hope to change that soon with the acquisition of some additional technology made by Apple.

Their latest release of the iPod line up including the new iPod Touch™ is just amazing! I do not listen to my iPod much to justify upgrading. It was kind of a novelty when I bought it and I only occasionally use it nowadays.

Apple do what they do so well. Their latest range of products are amazing and the design style is unprecedented. I can not wait to get my hands on the Apple iPhone™ when it hits Japan in 2008.

Check out the Apple website for yourself at It is like porno for the techno geeks!

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Disney On Ice

Today I had the day off work and saw the Disney On Ice 100 Years of Magic show at Saitama Super Arena which is not far from home.

It was a really super show. I bought a ticket in the expensive seats thinking that would be the best place to avoid all the great unwashed children, but I was a bit mis-guided in that thinking (wonder why?). There were kids seated in the low and high rent seats. Nevermind, they were pretty well behaved. There was about 15-20,000 seats.

The show went for near-on two hours and it was action packed with all the usual Disney characters but unlike I have seen before they were moving around on a ice skating rink! Pretty cool I thought.

There are seven different shows touring the world at any one time so I must keep an eye out for it in other places around the globe.

Friday, 10 August 2007

English Summer Convention at Shiga Highlands, Nagano Prefecture

Three foreign friends and I were invited by the Takasaki City University of Economics English Language Club to attend their annual convention in the Shiga Highlands near Nagano City in the Nagano Prefecture.

Basically every year this group of university students have a three day summer event where they totally immerse themselves in the English language and go about having a whole lot of fun at a hotel far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. They invite some foreigners along to give guidance and to help facilitate some of the activities.

Jacob, Brooke, Meagan and I set out on Wednesday morning with the group of 80 students in buses from Takasaki City in the Gumna Prefecture to Nagano which was about a three hour bus trip. We arrived mid-afternoon at the mountain hotel. The trip up into the mountains was simply amazing - Japanese don't build highways anywhere on the ground. If the highway is not on a bridge it's in a tunnel - standard rule it seems.

Through the event we played heaps of interesting games, some of which were uniquely Japanese and others we were very familiar with. There were competitions, challenges, study groups and general stuff aimed at promoting English communication.

What was interesting about this was it is the first time I have witnessed at length Japanese being Japanese but communicating in English. It was certainly interesting to see how they interact with each other and see them carry out their customs in the Queen's own language.

It was also interesting to fully realise the value of learning a language from a native speaking teacher. These university students hadn't and had developed their own unique style of English which was great amongst their group but for anyone external it was very difficult to understand. We were getting annoyed at them because they were so far off on their own tangent and they were getting annoyed at us because on occasion no matter how hard they tried we couldn't understand them. Us four foreigners would escape to our hotel room at night to consume beverages of the alcoholic variety to relieve our tensions.

By Friday morning we were pleased to be on our way. The event was fun but it was a strain on the patience. The students were staying at the hotel an extra night so we made our way by bus and train back to Nagano City where we spent part of the day sightseeing there before returning home on the Nagano Shinkansen Service later in the afternoon.

It was hard to believe that Nagano City hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 1998. Apparently the city put on a good show for the games but returned to a modest state once the event was over. This was obvious. It was a very relaxed place.

Friday, 27 July 2007

Hiroshima to Tokyo

Jacob was enthusiastic to visit another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hiroshima but I wasn't so convinced so we did our own things. I returned back to the Peace Museum and continued to go over the material which I had missed out on the day before. I took a tonne of pictures.

I also visited The Hall of Remembrance in the Peace Park which you can read more about by
clicking here. This was a pretty moving experience.

Jacob and I met at Hiroshima Station at 12.30 sharp and headed on a short train journey to the
Mazda factory. Mazda occupy a sub-city in coastal Hiroshima where they have their global headquarters and major factory. The tour was amazing and I learnt and saw so much but unfortunately no pictures were allowed. I am now wanting to visit the Toyota factory as that is apparently the supreme of all car plants. ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM - click YouTube Video for more...

Following the Mazda tour we caught the Nozomi Superexpress Shinkansen Service back to Tokyo. We covered near-on 1,000 km in 4 hours and 3 minutes.

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Kyoto to Hiroshima

Jacob had a few more places of significance he wanted to visit but I was a bit over temples, shrines and UNESCO World Heritage Sites so I headed off to Umekoji Steam Locomotive Museum. The museum was really interesting. Many steam engines all housed in one of those round railway buildings with the turntable out front. I even went for a short ride on a steam train.

Near noon Jacob and I meet back at the hotel and boarded the Nozomi Superexpress Shinkansen Service bound for Hiroshima. We travelled again about 500 km in about 2 hours. We arrived in Hiroshima around 2.30 PM. We checked into the New Hiroden Hotel near Hiroshima Station.

Our major mission in Hiroshima was to visit the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. We promptly got on our way using the Street Car service that covers the city. The A-Bomb Dome was simply amazing. I'd seen pictures before and read about it but it was more interesting that the books and pictures. It was a truly remarkable structure in so many ways. It had a very interesting feeling about it too.

As it was getting later in the day we had to be somewhat efficient and make our way through the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to the Peace Museum before it closed. We spent about an hour and a half in the museum before closing time. The museum was an amazing place. I'm never usually much fussed about reading all the material in a museum and studying the displays in detail but this museum was an exception. The atomic bomb disaster was a very interesting thing to learn so much about. I strongly recommend the museum to everyone.

75,000 people are buried beneath this small mound of soil.

Once we were outside the museum we walked through the Peace Park again and took the Street Car service back to the hotel. As our stay at the museum was cut short by closing time I was determined to return in the morning to study the entire museum.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Tokyo to Kyoto

Today was the first day of my three day vacation. This morning my buddy Jacob and I travelled using the Nozomi Superexpress Shinkansen Service from Tokyo to Kyoto - 513 km trip made by train in around 2 hours (it was bloody fast - 250 km/h plus).

We arrived just prior to lunch and what was alarming when we arrived was the lack of people. Kyoto has a population of about 1.1 million but that is a small number compared to the 35 million which I am used to. Going to Kyoto was like a trip to Dannevirke in the Southern Hawke's Bay in New Zealand.

Once we'd checked into the Karasuma Kyoto Hotel we headed for the Golden Pavilion/Kinkaku-ji in the northwestern end of Kyoto. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can click on the hyperlink for more information but my opinion of it was pretty bland. It looks big in all the pictures you see but it was quite small and you couldn't get very close. The surrounding environs were quite nice though. I really like Japanese gardens.

Following Kinkaku-ji we went along the road to Ryoan-ji Temple which is a Zen Temple. Zen is quite a peaceful thing for me. When you first arrive and see the big Zen gardens you think what is this all about but after a while looking at it you kind of get a relaxed and peaceful feeling. We looked around quite a few other places in this district of Kyoto before heading back to the hotel.
I was wearing new sandals and my feet were blistered and near-on bleeding!

In the evening we headed further into the CBD from the hotel to the district of Gion. Gion is famous for Geisha which are "woman of art". You can pay over gazillions of yen to be entertained by these exclusive woman. They're pretty hard to see because they frequent areas which are hidden and reserved only for those who have money but we managed to spot a couple. They're done up in make-up and their faces a pearly white. I first thought they were the Japanese version of a prostitute but apparently they don't do that sort of entertaining - well it's not normal practice anyway.

Monday, 16 July 2007


I've had a couple of enquiries today after news broke this morning of a large earthquake hitting Japan.

I DO NOT live near the affected areas.

The earthquake struck the WEST coast of central Japan at 10:13 AM. The areas worst affected are about 250 km from Tokyo which is on the EAST coast of central Japan.

The earthquake registered 6.8 and tremors were felt by many here in the Tokyo Area. The tremor in Tokyo was during my first lesson of the day.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

So it happened - train accident causing death...!

After a year and eight days in Japan I have experienced my first train accident involving a person - commonly referred to in Japan as a "human accident". In the first three days of being in Japan in 2006 my train hit an object but today it mowed a cyclist down on a level crossing.

I can't believe how the accident happened really. Level crossings here have barrier arms and bells well beyond what one would describe as sufficient. There would have to be something horribly wrong with you or a negligent act to find yourself in front of a train.

Anyway, I was sitting in my usual spot right up in the front of the train. We were cruising along between 85 and 100 km/h when I heard the driver in his cabin make a shouting sound as we came around a corner to the concealed crossing. I'm thinking it was the Japanese equivalent to "fuck" he shouted. Anyway there was a big crash and I could hear something bounce along under the carriages. The driver in a very professional and Japanese way gently applied the brakes and we came to a stop. I would have thought a sudden application of the strongest railway anchors would have been more appropriate but that would have equalled bad customer service! So gently it must be.

It was ages before I knew it was a human accident. In fact about half an hour or so had passed. The driver and conductor got out of the train and walked to the back. Being in search of information because I was late for work I walked to the back of the train to see what they were doing. They were out making sure the level crossing was okay and that the arms were up and traffic flowing. It was all very casual. I was starting to get shitty by this time as I was very late for work. I spoke to a Japanese man and said "too many meetings and not enough action" citing that the railway people who were standing around chatting. He translated that into Japanese and the other passengers in our area were roaring with laughter. The train staff must have a policy not to go searching for the "human accident" victim as death is almost a certainty.

After a while the rescue tender from the city fire department came and I saw them with a stretcher which then made everyone realise it was a "human accident". So by this time they had organised for us to evacuate the train and walk to the next station (bloody miles in 30+ degrees and humidity!).

You can see in the pictures below all the passengers sliding from the train. They took two of the long bench seats out and we all slid down them. It was interesting to say the least! Seats have Velvet upholstery so you slide nicely.

Trains vs humans are very clean. The body was cut up into many pieces and the bicycle was shredded. No blood splashes. Below are some pictures, although not so clear because of my camera phone. Nothing too gorry. What happens in these crashes is much of the body gets lodged up under the train carriage so it's a bit hard to see. Once we had all safely got off the train the rescue team were going to lift the train with some hydraulic equipment to get all the bits together.

One of the pictures, although not clearly, shows really the most visible bit of the deceased being one of their legs cleanly taken off at the hip. Don't worry, the mobile phone camera couldn't capture the details as well as my eyes could so it's safe viewing! Note, the blue tarpaulin in the pictures was not consistently held up and there was more but camera memory isn't so big!

If you look directly under the dangling hoses between the two carriages you can see the remains of the victims leg. It seems to have been torn from the abdomen at the hip region.

All the passengers being evacuated from the train by sliding down the seats with the help of the able people of the Saitama Fire Department.

Looking from the front of the train towards the back. You can see how far the mangled body was strewn under the train. Back to the second carriage.

Monday, 18 June 2007

1st Anniversary Week

It's hard to believe that the time has rolled around to tick off one year out of New Zealand.

The last year has gone by so quickly. At the end of last week it was a year since I finished my job in Napier and Saturday was one year since I left New Zealand. The beginning of this week marks a year since I was in Singapore and then towards the middle of the week I mark off the first year of my stay in Japan.

When it's all said and done, there isn't really much I can comment about it. It's been a pretty good year all up. I'm even confident to say I'd live the year all over again if I was given the chance.

But going forward it's all about new opportunities. Some people say that if it isn't broken don't fix it. Japan isn't broken. Japan is in fact very comfortable right now. What needs to be considered however is the fact that Japan was by no means intended as a forever thing; it was only originally embarked on as a one year exercise. Never mind, plans change [for the better] and in this case it doesn't really make much difference. I haven't really got a time line or a deadline, it's just about whatever feels right on the day. 

This living overseas business is a privileged lifestyle not experienced by the masses. I know many people who I went to school with are long stranded in New Zealand: kids, jobs, mortgages; and I'm sure they'd love to be away experiencing the freedoms of the world. Need I go on any longer!

Welcome to my second year abroad.

Friday, 15 June 2007

So it's been a year without wheels

So it's been a year today since I drove a car on a public road. Doesn't seem so long ago although I often wondered if I still knew what to do.

Anyway the opportunity presented itself today with my best buddy Jacob moving apartments from Takasaki to Kitamoto. Jacob and I rented a Nissan Cube from Nippon-rent-a-car Company and drove the 120 km round trip to collect and deliver all his gear to his new place.

Because I'm one of the few folks around with an international drivers licence I did all of the driving. It was so much fun. Driving mustn't be something you forget because right from when we pulled away from the rental depot all the skills were put to use in quite a natural way.

Essentially all the roads are much the same here when compared to New Zealand except in Japan it is left priority rather than right. Nearly all of the signs are in English as well but there are an occasional few which I worked out either through common sense or by their shape and colour.

I requested the man at the rental company programme in the car navigation system to guide us on our journey. I'm not sure what he put in there but it wasn't correct so we went the route we thought was correct and arrived at the destination bang on. 

There are two types of roading systems here: national routes and expressways. National routes are commonly referred to as local roads and the speed limit is generally capped at 60 km/h. The nation is networked with such roads. Expressways span the nation as well but are all toll based and with tolls set at twice the price of gasoline they aren't exactly a cheap option. We opted for the national route 17 because it runs near my apartment and Jacob said he's seen a sign for it near his place so it we just followed it we'd be sure to not get lost. The theory was wise.

I estimated the 60 km journey should take roughly an hour but three hours later we arrived. The routes are littered with traffic lights and the journey is stop, start, stop, start all the way. Obviously there is an incentive to use the expressway system to speed up the journey but then they hammer motorists with the high prices.

Largely the Japanese are good drivers (in their home country). Everyone maintained some sort of order, safe following distances and no stupid changing of lanes etc.

The Nissan Cube was so cute. I especially requested it and paid a little more to have a Cube. It drove very nicely. The power under the hood was okay although I wouldn't have wanted to be relying on it to perform well on a road with steep gradients. I couldn't believe the space in the front and back though - it's supposed to be a compact car but it's amazing how they've organised the space.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Paul McCartney - Dance Tonight

I'm liking Paul McCartney's new album Memory Almost Full and it's main track Dance Tonight. Check out the full official music video from YouTube here...

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Found the national firearms stash!

Guns are a bit outside the vocabulary of most Japanese. In fact, they really are just something that is seen in a Hollywood Movie. Well that is what I thought until I found a shop in a very ordinary part of Tokyo's Ueno. The pictures below describe very well what I saw. I'm assuming they were all real. What struck me most was how modestly priced they all were. Some of those automatic models were quite a bargain! So maybe Japan isn't as safe as the Japanese folks make out.