Monday, April 25, 2005

Huge train wreck

Mainichi Shimbun article
Japan Times article

This is just frightening. Apparently, this train was running behind, due to overshooting a previous station by eight meters and having to back up. So, it seems that the driver was going a little too fast, trying to get back on schedule. He hit a curve too fast, and four cars derailed. (There was an early report of a car on the tracks, but that seems unlikely, considering the location.) The 23 year old driver, who had been working for JR for 11 months, spent hours trapped in the crushed first car, and currently is in critical condition. (UPDATE: According to the Japan Times, he has not been found in the wreckage yet.)

The train smashed into an apartment building. (pictures) One of the cars actually looks smashed flat and wrapped around the corner of the building...

JapanRail is falling over itself apologizing and mobilizing investigators.

I don't know what to say. The pictures and video are shocking.

The train was only a minute to a minute and a half behind schedule.
Investigators have found crush marks on the rails that might indicate that the rails had some sort of debris on them before the train came by, which, combined with the speed of the train, forced the derailment.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Japan-sponsored A-bomb exhibit to open in U.S.

The Japan Times Online

I'd be very interested in seeing this, but alas.... Anyone up for/able to go to this? It'll be at the Peace Museum in Chicago from May 6 to August 14. Apparently it'll be a small exhibit -- 41 photos and 23 objects -- but they'll have an A-bomb survivor from Nagasaki there to talk about his experiences.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The new pope, according to the Mainichi Shimbun


Interestingly, when the names of popes are rendered in Japanese text (romaji), they use the Latin forms. So instead of John Paul II, they say Johannes Paulus II (Yohane Pauro nisei)(ヨハネ・パウロ2世). Benedict XVI becomes Benedicto (ベネディックト16世).

Sunday, April 10, 2005

From the "makes perfect sense if you think about it" dept.:

I'm watching a program on NHK educational right now. It's a "how to speak German" show. Interestingly, they sometimes mention English equivalents:

"Ich bin" は英語で "I am" ですよ。

Now they've got three native German speakers on a chromakey stage, demonstrating "wie bist du" and "ich bin." Silly. Yet, far less silly than some of their English conversation shows.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A teachable moment.

We were talking about food in one of my classes yesterday. I asked my student, "What kind of food have you never tried, but want to?"

She thought for a moment.

Then, she said:

"California roll."

Well, that took me by surprise... (^_^)

Thursday, April 07, 2005

This will mean nothing to most of you, but...

I just saw Shimura Ken ("Baka-dono") and Kitano Takeshi (MXC, Zatoichi, many other films) do a comedy special. Damned funny. But the last bit was Shimura on shamisen, and Kitano doing a "Stomp"- style tap dance routine...and it was beyond cool.

Wish I could've taped it.

...okay, never mind...


Random weirdness

After work tonight, I wandered over to the local convenience store to grab some food. I used the ATM there to grab some cash -- payday is tomorrow, but I was flat broke tonight. I decided to take out 3000 yen (about $28 at current rates).

Instead of the three ¥1000 bills I was expecting, I got one ¥1000 bill, and a ¥2000 bill. Now, you might think that there's nothing wrong with that. After all, a ¥2000 bill is roughly equivalent to a $20, and after all, that's by far the most common bill used in the U.S., right?

Nope. Oddly, the ¥2000 bill is almost never used on an everyday basis in Japan. A number of stores will actually refuse to take the thing. When you do spend one, it's like spending a dollar coin or a two dollar bill in the states -- the cashier has no place to put the damned thing.

Too bad, really. The two-thousand yen bill has a nice design, with a picture of a temple gate from Okinawa on the front, and an illustration from "The Tale of Genji" on the back. Well, if I do end up spending it, I know that the convenience store will take it.

It's a slow news day in Japan

On the one-hour NHK 10:00 news, one of the three feature stories was on the sudden appearance of BOTS in online gaming. They showed gameplay of "RAGNAROK ONLINE," and explained how 'bots are making the game less fun to play for Japanese gamers. "...and when bots sweep in and take away all the available points, human gamers are made unhappy..."

Happy spring, everyone. I actually had to put away the space heater and take out the oscillating fan today. My co-workers are still wearing the (school logo) sweatshirts, while I switched to the polo shirt a week ago. Today was the first day they didn't ask me, 寒くない? (aren't you cold?)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

So I bought me a new phone.

DoCoMo Net - D506i

My old phone, the D505i, was getting pretty beat up, so I began thinking about getting a new one. It was only idle thoughts, until I looked around my apartment, and realized that I could afford to get one with the loose change I have piled up around here!

Seriously, I've got over $100 in ¥500 coins alone! Plus another hundred ¥100 coins, and a whole lot of ¥50 and ¥10 coins...

I should take all of this to the bank tomorrow. (No, I didn't actually pay for the phone in coins. It would have been amusing, though.)