The Week in Photos

November 30, 2009

Mt. Fuji sunset, as viewed from my bedroom window.

My new friend.

Did I mention that he is kind of enormous?

As we all know, photography is the Japanese national pastime…

…starting from a very early age.

Autumn leaves are at 86%, per the nightly news.

Transportation, version 0.1

The evolution of transportation.

The future of transporation, the upcoming bullet train.

Sobering thought for the day…

An odd subway warning (approbation of strangers is worse than being caught in a door).

Slow shopping, so hurry!

An exceptionally rare photo of mother bus and newborn buslet in their native habitat.

Sadly, no dogs allowed, or perhaps no sad dogs allowed.

Here’s a product we’ll likely not see in the US.

Someday, I want to find out what this is.

And finally, a glimpse of storybook Japan, still there if you know where to look.


The Tube versus YouTube

November 30, 2009

One of the major changes of my life since first coming to Japan several years back has been the availability (or lack thereof) of entertainment options of the televised variety. I have not as yet figured out the logistics of getting American TV on my computer, because it seems that the major services (Hulu, etc) do not operate outside North America. Consequently, I lost track of Jack Bauer after season one, and Tony Soprano was still in ascension the last time I tuned in. Actor/politico Fred Thompson still presided over the “law” portion of Law & Order, with Sam Waterston as his assistant DA; now I hear that Waterston has been promoted to full-fledged District Attorney. Good for him; he deserved it. He has one of the finest legal minds of his generation. Last summer, upon arriving back in Canada, I finally caught the closing season of Six Feet Under. That was a must, as a) I really liked the show, and b) I was afraid that somebody would inadvertently mention the ending and spoil it for me.

Japanese TV is a mishmash of a) odd game shows in which one person eats something, and a panel of observers nod, smile and make presumably sage comments about the mastication process; b) corny musical comedy variety shows (think Hee-Haw with an Asian twist, and you won’t be far off); c) sweeping historical dramas with such lush costuming and cinematography that subtitles are rendered pointless; and treacly tearjerkers about dying grandparents, lovers or dogs (these do not require subtitles either, as I won’t watch them). Once or twice a week there is an American movie, usually in English, and inevitably heavy on special effects of the explosive variety.

The upshot of all this is that I spend rather an inordinate amount of time cruising around YouTube, both the Japanese and American versions. On the American version, I can keep up with current events as recounted by my favorite unbiased reporter, Bill Maher. Japanese YouTube has turned up such luminaries as prodigy guitarist Sungha Jung, ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro, and Okinawa songbird Rimi Natsukawa, all mentioned in an earlier installment of this blog. My most recent find is a young classical piano player by the name of Aimi Kobayashi. Fourteen years of age now, she has been playing since she was three, and if the results are any indication, she has been practicing, oh, about thirty-three hours per day in the intervening years. Here is the YouTube link for a performance by her when she was four years old:

And another from when she was six:

Is this kid amazing, or what?

A friend of mine from the States emailed me another YouTube link last week, entirely different in nature, but well worth a look if you haven’t seen it. It is titled “Beatles 3000”, and it is a look back at the Beatles’ impact on popular culture from a vantage point one thousand years in the future. It slyly suggests that we don’t always get it just right when we look back at historical milestones, that our understanding might be a tiny bit skewed from reality (in the video, the Beatles are identified as John Lennon, Paul McKenzie, Greg Hutchinson and Scottie Pippen; they achieved fame upon arrival in America for Ed Sullivan’s iconic Woodstock Festival, etc.). It should be good for a belly laugh or two, especially if you were around for the Beatles’ original invasion of the US.