Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Omisoka - New Years Eve

Ōmisoka, New Years’ Day, is the second most important day of the year in Japan. There are a few reasons for this, the largest being that it is the final day of the year and precedes the most important day of the year.

Like in many places and for many holidays there are some common traditions people have for this day. Here are a few:

Ōsōji (big clean up)– In Japan in preparation for the New Year it is customary to clean basically everything; your house, your office on the last day of work before the New Year break, and yourself. This has, in part, to do with Shinto belief in which cleanliness is the most important virtue and signifies a fresh clean state for the New Year. People in Japan also attempt to settle all debts, obligations and problems in relationships to start clean in the New Year.

Decoration – Many people in Japan decorate for the New Year. Common decorations are Shimekazari (rope of straw with dangling strips of paper) which are said to prevent malevolent spirits from entering the building and Kadomatsu (pine boughs, bamboo and bamboo grass) which is said will bring good luck throughout the year. In Shinto they bring good luck because Toshigami (a god of the New Year) bless clean buildings that have Kadomatsu.

Food – It is tradition to prepare the New Years’ Day feast (Osechi ) on New Years’ Eve. On New Years’ Eve at around 11:00 PM people eat toshikoshi-soba or toshikoshi-udon (Long thin Buckwheat noodles). The reason for this is Toshi Koshi means crossover year noodle and long noodles represent long life.

Kōhaku Uta Gassen (Red vs white singing contest) – Many people tune into NHK in the evening on New Year’s Eve to watch this program. The show is a singing contest, popular singers from the past year are gathered together and divided into teams. Female singers are grouped in the Akagumi (Red team) and male singers are grouped in the Sirogumi (White team). Both teams alternately sing until around 11:30, then audiences and selected judges cast their votes on which side sung better. The winning team gets a trophy and a flag. Program ends at around 11:45, various midnight celebrations are then shown.

Ninen-mairi (two year travel for prayer) – Many people go to shrines or Buddhist temples on New Years’ Eve. Shinto shrines (and some Buddhist temples) prepare amazake (sweet Sake) to pass out to crowds that gather to say prayers, make wishes, etc. The shrines sell charms and people bring in last year’s charms for disposal.

Joya-no-kane – A Buddhist tradition, that is thought to have originated in China first done in Japan during the Edo period, is to ring giant bells (kane) 108 times on New Years’ Eve. The ringing of the bells starts at different times at different places, some have it at say 11:00 and it finishes just after midnight. The reason they ring the bells is because in Buddhism, it is said that humans have 108 earthly desires that are the source of all sufferings, and each toll of the bell helps people rid themselves of one of these desires; therefore people will start the New Year with a pure mind. Many Shinto shrines follow this practice as well.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Ranma Diorama's



For Christmas this year my sister gave me the Ranma dioramas seen in the picture above.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Japan

Christmas is a primarily Christian holiday, less than 1 percent of Japanese are Christian. This is why Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan. Just because the Japanese aren’t Christian and likely do not know what Christmas stands for it is still celebrated in Japan. In Japan, Christmas Eve is celebrated more than the Christmas Day. A tradition for Christmas Eve in Japan is for young men to give their girlfriends gifts like jewelry, take them out to eat at a restaurant, and maybe a night at a hotel.

The Japanese do decorate using Christmas things like Christmas trees, lights, and Santa Claus. Though most of the decorating is done by businesses, who very much would like that people celebrate Christmas like it is done in the United States. Christmas cards are given out by some people but not red ones; red cards are used to print funeral notices.

Gifts are given to children if the child still believes in Santa Claus. Children generally do not give presents to parents, since Santa only gives gifts to Children. Santa is called Santa Claus or Santa no ojisan (uncle Santa).

Common foods eaten on Christmas are Christmas cakes. Which are a sponge cake and look like miniature birthday cakes with Christmas designs (things like Santa Claus being on them). It is possible that this started out having something to do with Christmas day being Christ’s Birthday, but as far as I know it is unknown if that is the case. Cake shops throughout Japan always try to sell all their Christmas cakes before Christmas Eve. Any cakes left after Christmas are seen to be very old or out of date. Women over 25 years old used to be called:unsold Christmas Cake. This saying is becoming less common.

Thanks to heavy advertising by Kentucky Fried Chicken; chicken thighs and legs are commonly eaten on Christmas in Japan. Another popular food eaten on Christmas in Japan is pizza.

Like in the United States, the Japanese also have Christmas specials for example there is a Ranma Christmas episode, a Love Hina one, and a Your Under Arrest one, etc.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tennō Tanjōbi - Emperor's Birthday

On December 23, 1933 the current emperor of Japan, Emperor Akihito, was born. In Japan, whatever day happens to be the current emperors birthday is a national holiday. This practice of making the emperor's birthday a national holiday has been around since 1868.

There are only two days of the year in which the Imperial Palace is open to the public; The Emperor's Birthday and January Second. This is a time for the Imperial family to meet and greet their loyal Japanese subjects, in the sense that they show up on the balcony and wave behind bullet proof glass. Admission is free. Upon entry into the courtyard below the balcony members of the public are given a free Japanese flag, which is generally waved when the Emperor finishes his address to the people. Shouts of Banzai (which means 10000 years but in this context means long live the emperor) are also commonly shouted. The crowd is generally made up of old people and tourists.

There is some doubt as to the date of the first emperor of Japan but the commonly accepted date is 660 BC. When Emperor Akihato became emperor on January 9, 1989 - succeeding his father Emperor Hirohito (who was emperor for longer than any other emperor, reigned for 63 years)- he became the 125th occupant of the Chrysanthemum throne (common name given to the Imperial throne of Japan in English).

The first Emperor of Japan is commonly consider to be Emperor Jimmu, though very little is actually known about him. Most of what is known about Jimmu comes from the oldest historical work existing in Japan: the Kojiki. There is even debate as to whether or not he really existed, not surprising when it is said he lived 126 years and his posthumous name means "divine might" or "god-warrior" since posthumous names are a Buddhist tradition and Buddhism didn't enter Japan until centuries later. According to Shinto belief, Jimmu is thought to be a direct descendant of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. Partly because of this until 1945 the emperor was officially regarded as divine and was in many ways treated like a living god. People were not allowed to gaze upon him directly and had to prostate themselves on the ground as he passed.

Trivia on Emperors in Japan:
-The Emperor nowadays is not the chief executive. The Constitution of Japan explicitly vests executive power in the Cabinet and the Prime Minister. He has no reserve powers related to government. The few duties he performs are closely regulated by the constitution.
-The Japanese have several words for Emperor. When talking about the Japanese emperor the word Tenno (heavens ruler) is used, the old term Sumeramikoto (heavenly ruler above the clouds) can be used as well. When talking about an emperor who is not or was not an emperor of Japan the term kōtei is used (Chinese word for emperor).
-It is the oldest continuing hereditary monarchy in the world.
-There have been female emperor's (the term Empress is used for wife of the emperor). Though as of 1889 females can not become emperor.
-The Japanese imperial dynasty consistently practiced official polygamy. This practice did not end until the Taishō period (1912-1926).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Gift giving in Japan

The Japanese give gifts very often, not only because they want to but because of giri (loosely means social obligation). This is not uniquely Japanese, many cultures and people feel they have to give gifts to certain people on holidays/birthdays, particularly if the person had given them a gift.

Some gift giving etiquette (these are generalities since some people will be more informal):
-Give gifts with both hands. Giving a gift with one hand out front and another to the side or behind your back show a lack of intimacy or sincerity.
-Take some time thinking about how much to spend on the gift. Don’t want to spend too much making the person feel socially obligated or spend too little and insult them.
-It is customary to initially refuse offered gifts a few times. The giver of the gift will insist that you take the gift anyway. This is a common verbal dance that everyone knows how will end (you accepting the gift).
-People when given a gift will often put the gift to the side without opening it. This is done to save face, if the gift does not meet the standards or expectations of the receiver, thus preventing embarrassment.
-Purchased gifts are generally preferred to homemade, since homemade are usually considered cheaper.
-How the gift is wrapped is in many ways more important than the actual gift. Very few people wrap the gifts themselves instead have it wrapped by a professional or have it in a department store bag.
-If given a gift, give a gift in return.
-If giving a personal gift, do it one on one not when in a group.

Some gifts not to give:
-Anything in four parts/set of four since the word for four is the same as the word for death (shi).
-Avoiding nine is a good idea as well since it is a homophone for suffering.
-Combs. The word for comb is Kushi which when broken apart means suffering (ku) and death (shi).
-Green Tea. Generally not a good idea since is used at funerals and memorial services.
-Clothes that touch the skin to the elderly, is considered an intimate gift.

Gifts are given for many reasons, here is some (list is incomplete):

Temiyage: Gifts given to say thank you or sorry.
Omiyage: Souvenirs. It is customary to bring back souvenirs for coworkers/family when you go on a trip. The reason for this is to assuage the shame of leaving to take a vacation/trip. These are also the gifts you would give to someone when you visit someone’s home for the first time. It is impolite to not give a gift when visiting someone’s house (called tebura -meaning empty handed).
Hikkoshi Aisatsu: Gifts given when moving into a building or neighborhood by the newcomers to introduce themselves. Traditionally this was a dish towel. Though more commonly nowadays some type of sweet like cookies or rice cakes are given instead.
Osenbetsu: Farewell gifts given to people who are leaving town or departing from a job. The most common gift is cash. A thank you card is generally expected in return.
Go Nyu-gaku Iwai: Gifts given to children who are entering a new school. Most common given gifts are school related ones like books.
Omimai: Gifts given when visiting someone in a hospital. Most commonly given gifts are cut flowers and books. Do not give plants with roots since it symbolizes a long stay or camellias which remind people of death.
Go-Kekkon Iwai: Wedding gifts. Usual gift given to the newlyweds is cash, preferably crisp new bills since they symbolize the couple's new life together. The person throwing the wedding gives a bag of gifts to the guests as well.
Go-Shussan Iwai: Gifts for healthy newborns. The gift is usually given a week after the babies birth and is usually things like clothing and toys. If the baby is not healthy it’s a good idea to wait to give them the gift until the baby is healthy. In return the parents of the baby will give a small gift usually something like a cup with the babies name on it.
Ososhiki: Funeral gifts. Guests usually bring money, old used used bills to symbolize being unprepared, and are given a gift in return.

Oseibo and Ochugen

Oseibo is a custom of presenting a gift to an indebted person (co-workers, bosses, relatives, match maker, teachers, friends, etc…) at years end (usually between December first and December twentieth).

Ochugen is like Oseibo, except it is mid-year commonly given around July fifteenth. The celebration of Chugen maybe older than Oseibo. Ochugen comes from Taoism with July 15 being a ceremonial day of Taoism, it is also a day of Obon of Buddhism. The Taoism was gradually mixed with the Buddhism, and people came to distribute the gift to the vicinity and the close relative. That present was originally the one offered to the dead at Bon Festival. The old Chinese myth that made this a celebratory day in Taoism is about a god who was born on July 15. The god loved people and forgave their sins, people celebrated the god by setting a fire all day long and donating some gifts.

The most popular presents to give on Oseibo and Ochungen are Sanchokuhin. Sanchokuhin are items sent directly from the production shop or factory. Stores in Japan have made gift giving very easy, promoting Sancokuhin. The stores put up lots of displays and the customer then chooses the item/items they want and the store will have it delivered to any address in Japan. Generally the types of gifts are meat or fruits, dry food or kitchen items in bulk or basically anything that can be eaten or serves a practical purpose in any household. Generally the gift giver shouldn’t give decorative items or souvenirs. The reason for that, is so that if you get a gift that you don’t like or won’t use you can give it to someone else. Some housewives in Japan have made this passing on gifts into an art form, buying almost no presents instead give out the gifts they’ve received. Though they have to be careful to not give the same gift to the person they got it from.

It is thought that Oseibo, the year-end gift, is more important than Ochugen (midyear present). Part of the reason for this is that it coincides with company employees receiving a special bonus in addition to their monthly salaries. Average amount spent per gift is around 5000 yen (though this varies greatly on who your giving the gift to -bosses tend to be given better gifts, how obligated you feel to the person, your budget, etc…)

Oseibo and Ochugen gifts are usually wrapped in noshi (pictured above).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Vital Points/ Pressure Points

The use of pressure points and hitting vital points has been a part of combat since prehistoric times. This is obvious from the study of isolated tribal people who live similarly to prehistoric people; like the Aleuts (or as they call themselves the Unangan, which means "the people" in their language). The Aleuts are a tribal people that inhabit the islands called the Aleutian Islands (about 1,800 km southwestward from the Alaskan mainland). They have a martial arts style derived from watching animals fight, particularly sea-lions and dogs. In their observations they noticed that the animals will attack particularly vulnerable parts of the body.

Both Chinese and Japanese martial arts make use of vital spots/pressure points. Ranma in the manga occasionally makes use of these types of attacks, for example the fight with Kuno or the fight versus the Dojo Destroyer. Takahashi is not a martial artist and does not have Ranma use the actual vulnerable spots (nerve clusters, organs, etc.), instead uses places considered to be them in popular culture/chosen at random and then have him or another character state he hit them.

A story in which Ranma fights human characters would likely have him use these types of attacks occasionally. While there are many attacks Ranma is unlikely to do, since he doesn't want to maim or kill his opponents, there are many he would be expected to use or prevent his opponent from hitting. It would be out of character for Ranma to do attacks like a finger gouge to the eyes, hit the mastoid process (which could cause loss of motor control or paralysis), or rabbit punch someone to the base of the skull (could damage the cervical vertebra causing paralysis or death). Ranma in all likelihood has a lot of knowledge on human anatomy (kind of needs to so as to not hurt his opponents, even if he doesn't know the scientific names for the body parts, additionally supported since Ranma can be seen reading these types of charts in the manga -example Miss Hinako intro arc). The thing is I have no idea as to how a writer would convey the use of these types of attacks in literature. Too detailed will likely just annoy readers. Writing it like this: "Ranma did a quick jab to the brachioradialis muscle in the upper lateral forearm temporarily paralyzing Ryoga's arm." Is probably not the way to go about it. This is in part why I dislike and haven't posted any story I attempted to write, I really don't know how to write a fight scene (there are other reasons as well).

Though Ranma is also likely to use foot reflexology is called Zoku Shin Do, massage (offers one to Nabiki, gives one to Akane to calm her down, gives Rouge the Ashura one during battle), chiropractics (Ranma is shown reading a book on it), Acupuncture, Moxibiton, etc. outside of battle as well such as healing ones or for pleasure.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hanetsuki

A New Years game in Japan played by girls, which is becoming less popular over time, is hanetsuki. The game is somewhat similar to badminton or shuttlecock except there is no net. The game is played with a rectangular wooden paddle, called a hagoita, and a shuttlecock, called a hane (pictured above). There are two common variations of this game.
Tsukibane: one person attempts to keep the shuttlecock aloft as long as possible.
Oibane: Two people batting the shuttlecock back and forth.

In the two person version girls who fail to hit the shuttlecock get marked on the face with India Ink. Traditionally, the longer the shuttlecock remains in the air, the greater protection from mosquitoes the players will receive during the coming year.

Some history on the game:
The game dates back to at least 1433 AD. The game was originally a game for nobles played by both males and females. Over time guys stopped playing and it became a girls only game. As more time passed 19th century children started playing with the woman. Which brings us to the current time period where the game is no longer very popular.

The hagoita are very popular though, with people collecting them. The unusual shape of the hagoita plus the many different decoration of them make it a popular and desirable form of Japanese art. In the middle of December, the Hagoita Market is held at Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo, where hagoita are sold at numerous stands. The paddles come in different sizes (ranging from really small to too large to ever play the game with, some over 4 feet), and most of them feature portraits of kabuki actors and beautiful Edo ladies. Though they also have many other designs like celebrities and popular culture (things like Harry Potter and Hello Kitty).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Birthday in Japan

The Japanese do not have any special birthday celebrations. Birthdays in Japan are now celebrated almost exactly the same as they are in the United States. People give the person with a birthday some gifts or a birthday card. A birthday cake is often given with birthday candles and people sing "Happy Birthday to You" - in English. That song is one of the most well known songs in the world. I've seen it sung in many movies in which not even one person spoke English (trivia -that song is copyrighted and will be, under current laws, until 2030; it makes around 2 million dollars a year on royalties).

Prior to the 19th century, the Japanese used a solar-lunar calender. The way in which peoples age were determined was strange. At birth the child was considered 1 year old and then on New Years day (which was later in the year than January first is now) the child would become two. Here is an example, child born in what is now November would become two on New Years day. This is in part why New Years day is the biggest holiday in Japan. Birth dates and ages are now determined the way they are in the USA (on actual birthday and first anniversary of that day child is one).

Some ages have special meanings and rituals or are milestone ages.

Shichi Go San -Seven Five Three
The ages of three and seven for girls and five for boys are milestone ages. The numbers three, five, and seven are considered to be lucky according to Japanese numerology so these ages are considered important in a persons life. Shichi-Go-San festivals are held every year on November 15th of every year.

Seijin No Hi - Coming of Age
Twenty years old is a major day for everyone. When a person is twenty they become legal adults and are given many rights like buying alcohol, getting married without parental consent, entering legal agreements, etc. On the second Monday of January festivals for people becoming twenty are held across Japan.

Yakudoshi - Calamity Years
There are some years that people in Japan believe are times of calamity (called yakudoshi). In these years is is believed that people are likely to experience misfortunes or illness. It is generally believed that men's yakudoshi are the ages 25, 42 and 61, and for women 19, 33 and 37, though there are local and historical variations. The ages of 42 for men and 33 for women are considered to be especially bad and are called honyaku (great calamity). The reason these years are considered particularly bad probably has to do with how those number can be pronounced. 42 can be pronounced "shi-ni" which is a homophone of the word "to death," and 33, when pronounced as "sanzan" means "hard", "terrible", or "disastrous". It is a common practice to go to a Shinto shrine and have an exorcism (yakubari) to prevent bad luck. The year before yakudoshi, called maeyaku, and the year after, called atoyaku are also considered bad luck.

Kanreki or Honkegaeri
Either term can be used. Kanreki means return calender. Honkegaeri means return to one's birth sign. Men celebrate kanreki on their 60th birthday. The traditional calendar was organized on 60-year cycles. The cycle of life returns to its starting point in 60 years, and as such, kanreki celebrates that point in a man’s life when his personal calendar has returned to the calendar sign under which he was born. The celebration of this feat has been popular since the Edo period, and because it is connected to the idea of rebirth, it is customary to give the celebrant a red cap, a seat cushion, and a chanchanko vest similar to those they used as a newborn.

Ga No Iwai (or Toshiiwai)
Ga no iwai is a Japanese rite of passage celebrated at various ages to pray for long life. Since at least the sixteenth century, ga no iwai has been celebrated when one turns sixty (kanreki) seventy (koki), seventy-seven (kiju), eighty (sanju), eighty-one (hanju), eighty-eight (beiju), ninety (sotsuju), ninety-nine (hakuju), one-hundred (jōju), one hundred and eight (chaju), and one hundred and eleven (kōju).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Playing video games

I recently read a news article that quotes a study that determined that approximately 97 percent of teenagers, 81 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, 60 percent of adults ages 30 to 49, and 23 percent of adults age 65 play video games (study by Pew Internet & American Life Project).

I play video games and know that a lot of other people do as well; I just did not expect the number of people that play to be so high. Most of the people I know either don't play or play very little. Recently, as in the last year or so, I have been playing video games much less. The reason for that is simply because I've been spending most of my time reading instead. I do not purchase games when they first come out, instead I wait for the prices to come down and more often than not I'll by them used.

The game I played most recently was Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past for the Super Nintendo. Even though it is an old game it still is one of my favorites. I like playing older console games using emulators on the computer. I could play the games on the systems (I do have that game and system) but playing them on emulators offer several advantages. The best thing about emulators is the fast forward button, playing parts of games in fast forward really cuts the amount of time doing repetitive tasks. My recent play through of Zelda was looking for glitches. There is a Faq on gamefaq.com about the glitches and playing the glitches made a replay of the game more interesting. I did not find any additional glitches or tricks though.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nengajou - New Year Cards

The exchanging of nengajou (New Years cards) started in 1873 when postcards were first introduced to Japan. It caught on big. The average family sends over a hundred nengajou to their relatives, friends and colleagues. Virtually all businesses mail new years cards to their customers. To get an idea as to how many cards are sent, nengajou accounts for almost 20% of all annual postal revenues. Approximately 35 billion cards are sent every year.

Postal workers in Japan do not get New Years day off, since it is the busiest delivery day of the year, they do get December 31 and January 2nd off though. Post offices in Japan will hold nengajou so as to deliver them on January first. To ensure that post cards are delivered on January first the post office in Japan has taken steps like placing special temporary mailboxes adjacent to permanent ones at post offices for nengajou. Every card put into the temporary boxes between December 15 and 25 gets a special postmark and is delivered promptly on New Years Day.

Cards can be made or purchased at many places but government postcards are available only at post offices for 50 yen each. These government postcards are blank on one side, where you would write your greeting, and have a lottery number and a new year postage stamp printed on the address side. The New Years lottery cards were first sold in 1949. Demand for lottery cards exceeds supply, they usually sell out in the second week of December (they print around 4 billion of these lottery New Year cards every year). The lottery is drawn on TV, and the winning numbers are published in newspapers on January 15. If you win you can get your prize at the post office. Prizes vary, but some typical prizes are commemorative postage stamps, televisions, and of course cash.

Popular pictures on cards are illustrations of the animal for the coming year under the Chinese zodiac. After that are New Years motifs such as kadomatsu (decorations made of pine branches), kites, plum flowers, and the sun rising against Mount Fuji.

A bit of etiquette: If you get a card from someone you did not send a card to, it is customary to send a card on January 6, formally asking them to take care in the cold weather. If there has been a death in the family, it is customary to send a mochu (bereavement card) to inform people they shouldn't send you nengajo.

It is customary to write Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu (Happy New Year) on the cards and what you've been up to lately. For variation you can also write kinga shinnen the more formal version of Happy New Year or shinshun no oyorokobi o moshiagemasu meaning: I would like to wish you a pleasant spring.

-The picture above is taken from Azumanga Daioh volume 2 and displays a nengajou (though it is a custom made one not a purchased one with the lottery on it). Teachers giving New Years cards and receiving them from students is common.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Physics for Future Presidents

Physics for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines by Richard A. Muller is a pretty good book that tells some of the basic things on physics a president (really everyone) should know. It is not very technical and doesn’t go into immense detail (and simplifies/rounds) but does what it is supposed to do, namely give the reader some basic physics knowledge; explaining why things are or aren’t done in various ways. I was familiar with this book’s author prior to reading the book, since I watch a lot of documentaries and his name has come up in several of them.

The book covers five topics; terrorism, energy, nukes, space, and global warming. Personally I found the chapter on space to be the most interesting but I doubt most people would. While the book is on physics it touches a few other subjects as well like economics (bases energy choices partial on price - things like coal being the cheapest) and politics (things like propaganda and policy). I agree with the author of the book on many things, but not everything (I'm not a scientist and it is mostly the non-science parts I don't agree with). The author claims to be giving a purely scientific view point, but doesn't use neutral terms often making it very clear what his view point is (in other words he doesn't just give the facts).

The chapter on terrorism, I pretty much agree with everything. Worry about terrorist's making or acquiring nuclear weapons is overrated. The fear of suitcase nukes also overrated since conventional bombs, though larger, could cause equivalent or even greater damage. The Davey Crockett (portable nuclear weapon) if blown up in central park would not result in much damage beyond central park. That dirty bombs, conventional bombs with radioactive material added, are not as dangerous as they are often portrayed to be since the radioactive material is most dangerous to the person who makes the bomb. Once it blows up it would spread out the radioactive material making it less dangerous, possibly even less dangerous than the area's natural radioactivity. I definitely agree with him that what is most dangerous for terrorists to use would be biological attacks.

The chapter on nukes was interesting. The author’s preferred method of next generation nuclear energy production is PBR (pebble bed reactor). I don’t really have a problem with nuclear power; it is safer, healthier, and cheaper than several of the alternatives (like coal). PBR might be safer but what it is fueled by is likely to go up in price so a breeder reactor (a type of reactor that produces more fissile material than it consumes) might be more practical in the long run. The author feels that the nuclear waste problem isn't really a problem, many people probably don't agree. Personally I'm starting to wonder if someone will find (or make) something that eats the toxic waste. I know this is unlikely since it is highly radioactive (everything is a little bit radioactive), but animals have been found that eat strange things, like worms that eat heavy metal toxic waste.

The book advocates 'clean coal' because of its sequestering of carbon dioxide. As I have mentioned before, I do not like the term clean coal, but I agree that sequestering the carbon dioxide is a good idea. If you are using the coal it is better to sequester the carbon dioxide than to release it into the atmosphere. Though using alternatives is still better and there are other problems with coal besides it releasing carbon dioxide that I dislike.

Geothermal not considered a good alternative for energy, but only mentions it as a power source. It is good in some locations for power generating but it is even better when used as a heating/cooling system (Geothermal heat pump), which would reduce energy used for heating/cooling.

Mentions replacing lights with fluorescent lights to conserve power, does not mention that many of them contain mercury and makes only passing mention to LED's. There are other alternatives like OLED (organic light emitting devices) which use even less power than LEDs.

Mentions that corn is one of the worst bio-fuels, which is something I have stated before. The book advocates the use of faster growing grasses that grow more efficiently if bio-fuels are used, which is a good idea, capitalize on land usage and power supply. There are many problems with using farmland to grow fuel for cars since it does do things like raise the price of crops, increase the cutting of trees, leads to more hungry people, etc.

The book does not see electric cars as being a viable alternative since he thinks it will end up costing more since battery life is insufficient. I don't agree with this. While it is true that batteries do not have as much energy storage as gasoline, battery technology is improving at a faster rate than internal combustion engines. Found this part to be misleading since it mentions that gasoline has 100x greater energy content than rechargeable batteries but doesn't mention that gasoline engines are not very efficient using only around 20% of energy potential (they could be made much more efficiently, this is obvious if you look up a particular car model from 1993 and then 2005 and find that the newer one gets less miles per gallon, has less towing power, and the same horse power). He calculates price by having to replace batteries, which prices are going down and are improving, but does not factor other advantages to electric cars - servicing costs being less (things like less movable parts which means the parts will last longer/less wear and tear, that cars will not need oil changes), that electric motors are cheaper and easier to make than conventional engines, that they are environmentally more friendly than existing cars, that it is easier to reduce emissions at the power generating plant than it is to do so for every car, etc.

The best policy for energy according to the book is conservation, which is something I agree with.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Suika-wari

Suikawari (watermelon splitting) is a somewhat popular summertime game held at beaches, festivals, and picnics.

The most common way it is played is: A watermelon is laid out, sometimes on a tarp, and participants attempt to smash it open. Each is blindfolded, spun around three times, and handed a bokken to strike with. The first to crack the watermelon open wins. After it is broken the chunks of watermelon are shared among participants.

This shows up fairly often in manga and anime, for example, in the Ranma manga there is a beachside battle version of this and in Azumanga Doiah Tomo wants to break the watermelon with her hand via a karate chop.

Kingyo-Sukui - goldfish scooping


Kingyo-Sukui is a traditional childhood game played in Japan since the seventeenth century, though it's modern incarnation didn't appear until around 1910. The game is played by attempting to catch goldfish in a tank with a net. The net, called poi, is made of a handle with a loop of wire and paper over the loop. The game is pretty difficult and takes some skill because once the paper gets wet it breaks under the goldfish's weight. Goldfish are not always used sometimes they are substituted with other things like balls or turtles.

This game is most often played at stalls during summer festivals and is not a competition. Participation typically cost around 100 - 500 yen and players get to keep the scooped goldfish (they are given a bag to carry them). Generally the person playing keeps playing until their pois are broken. If the player is incapable of capturing a goldfish, the shopkeeper will often give them one anyways. The shopkeeper can alter the rules if they want to. Some shopkeepers will give a stronger poi if given more money or offer prizes, other than goldfish, to people who catch a lot. Some shopkeepers will rig the games, there is a reason that the Japanese call carnival games kodomo-damashi (which means cheating the kids/ tricking the child). That said, there is a national gold fish catching league as well that has very specific rules and championships.

Here is a link to a Javascript based goldfish catching game, even on easy it is not very easy: KingyoSukui

This game is seen in many manga and anime. In the above picture, taken from the Ranma manga, Ranma playing this game leads to him being able to master the Amaguriken technique.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Carbon Offsets

Carbon offsetting is giving money to offset the amount of carbon you or an organization uses. People can calculate how much carbon is released into the atmosphere because of their actions at many sites like The Nature Conservatory or the Environmental Protection Agency. The money spent on carbon offsets is used on various endeavors that would reduce the amount of carbon released into the environment. Depending on the program this could be done in many ways. Putting money in renewable energy sources which include wind power, solar power, hydroelectric power, geothermal power, methane collection, and biofuels. Some of these types of offsets are used to reduce the cost differential between renewable and conventional energy production, increasing the commercial viability of a choice to use renewable energy sources. Other offsets are designed to make existing energy sources more efficient and reduce their pollution or properly dispose of the waste chemicals created. Still other types focus on land and forestry usage. Many of the practices done have secondary benefits, things like more room for wild animals, decreased energy usage, reduced energy prices, more efficient products, etc.

There are some negatives of course. Writing a check is not an excuse to not reduce your own environmental impact but some people see it as one. Some of the alternatives have negative side effects. Bio-fuel, for example, is sometimes not a good alternative to gasoline. Biofuels made from corn cause the prices of corn to go up - which has the side effect of increasing the price of foods containing corn and meat from animals that were commonly fed corn. The corn based biofuels used in the USA are made with the parts of the plant that are edible by humans and animals which means that it is not available to those humans/animals. There are plants that are more efficient than corn to use as well, some other types of grass grow much faster and taller (corn is in the grass family).

There are various ways to reduce carbon usage and there are sites online which give carbon credits for free like Care 2 which has click to donate.

Brighter Planet is currently running a campaign that will donate 136 pounds of offsets (which it estimates is the equivalent of one day's worth of CO2 emissions). I have placed on this page in the upper right corner a badge which links to this campaign. The first 25 people to click the link and sign up will offset 136 pounds of carbon each.

More info can be found on various websites like these:
Climate Crisis - the site for Al Gores movie An Inconvenient Truth.
Take Part - a site with information on things people can do
Pollute Less - another site with information about reducing carbon impact.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nabiki reading the manga


I recently found the above screen shot taken from the anime in which Nabiki can be seen reading a volume of the Ranma manga. So I wonder who is writing it in the anime or is it somehow magical giving her insider information?

Giving Blood

I recently donated blood. I am sad to say that donating blood is not something I commonly do. It is important that people donate blood since many people need blood and there is not a good substitute for it. There is almost always a shortage of blood available. I have never needed a blood transfusion but many people do need them. If I ever do need a blood transfusion, I would hope that other people have donated blood. I do not have a good excuse for not giving blood. I am healthy enough to give blood and do not have a fear of needles (Trypanophobia). The reason I don't give blood often is mostly laziness. I will make an attempt to give blood more frequently in the future.

In the United States you can give blood every 56 days. In Japan you can give blood a maximum of three times a year and there has to be a three month period between the times you give blood.

More information about donating blood in the United States can be found at: GiveLife.org It also has some interesting games like Blood Trivia which is a Jeopardy type game about blood.
I have found on the web a blog in which a foreigner to Japan tells about his giving blood in Japan and that can be found here: Rejected from Donating Blood

Monday, December 1, 2008

Five random things on Japan 3

1.Japan does not have daylight savings like many other countries do. Daylight savings time was introduced in Japan by the Occupation authorities in 1948, but was later (1951) abandoned by the Japanese government. There are people in Japan petitioning for it and some parts of Japan have tried to implement it. For example, some parts of Hokkaido attempted this year to implement daylight savings time but it didn't work. Here is an article with more information: Japan's meager daylight savings.

2.The Japanese word for “body fat” is shibō 脂肪 and has the same pronunciation as 死亡 “death.”

3.Japanophilia, shinnichiha in Japanese, is an interest in, or love of, Japan and all things Japanese. To be called a Japanophilia in China or Korea is a grave insult (if you don't know why look up World War 2).

4.There is a saying about the tallest mountain in Japan (Mt Fuji). The saying goes that there are two types of fools; those who never climbed it and those who climb it twice. The reason for the saying is because the mountain is so beautiful when seen from a distance that everyone is tempted to climb it, but if you climbed it once, you quickly realize that all you see is ugly rocks. This saying has not stopped tens of thousands from climbing it more than twice though.

5.The public radio station (NHKradio) in Japan, during the early morning, broadcast Radio taisō, which is warm-up exercises (calisthenics) along with music. It became popular in Japan just after World War II and is still used among students and workers in companies to help raise morale and form group unity. The exercises reflect the general role of exercise in Japanese culture-to serve as a symbol of unity and cooperation among the Japanese, as well as to raise energy levels and encourage good health. This can be seen in many manga like Yotsuba&!. The pages below are from the Yotsuba&! manga showing Yotsuba doing radio exercises for the first time.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Black Friday and shopping in Japan

The day after Thanksgiving in the United States has been dubbed by some as Black Friday. This is in reference to the heavy shopping traffic on that day, a comparison to the extremely stressful and chaotic experience of the 1929 stock market crash called Black Tuesday. This is not a holiday, rather it is a big day for shopping with many stores opening early offering special deals for the Christmas season. Which if you go by when they started putting Christmas stuff up, began two weeks before Halloween. This practice of putting Christmas stuff up a long time before Christmas is not unique to the USA. Japan, for example, does it as well with some places selling Christmas cakes so early that they would spoil if you kept them until Christmas.

I dislike shopping with a passion, yet I commonly shop on Black Friday. The reason for this is because even with the crowds you can actually get some very good deals and occasionally free stuff. I do not spend the night camping outside of a store in the hopes of getting a deal on a big electric product like a television or a computer. I never really got why people did that. The items are not in my opinion worth waiting hours in the cold for. This happens at other times besides Black Friday and is also not limited to the United States. It happens in Japan as well with people sitting outside for days for a new gaming system or video game. The Dragon Quest RPG games, the most popular Role Playing game series in Japan (in the USA the Final Fantasy series is most popular - I like Dragon Quest, the first four of which were called Dragon Warrior in the USA, much more than Final Fantasy), have had long lines and people staking out outside the stores for every release of the series. I show up after the stores open and grab some of the lesser wanted and higher supplied deals. For example, I purchased blank media and a computer flash drive for discounted prices, the stores order many of these unlike the computers or TV's that are on sale.

This years turn out at the stores I went to was much less than last years, though I do not go to the most crowded stores like Wal-mart (I never shop Wal-mart). The stores I went to were very well organized and had many lines open. I was lucky and did not have to wait more than a few minutes in line at any of the stores I went to. My best purchase of the day was at a book store called Half-Price Books. The store sells used books for half the manufactures listed prices. This being a book store there was not a very long line. I was given upon entering the store a five dollar off coupon and a reusable bag (the type many places sell for around a dollar to use instead of plastic bags). They had a Black Friday special of 20% off their normal prices so I bought 19 books and two video games. I really like that store. They even occasionally have manga in the original Japanese at extremely low prices, most of it is Shōjo (manga for girls) though. One of my purchase was a volume of Sailormoon, in Japanese, for 80 cents.

-Some trivia on shopping in Tokyo Japan:
  • Many Japanese people do not store up a lot of food, rather they go to buy food everyday.
  • Large shopping carts filled with groceries is not a common site in Japan instead you see people carrying small baskets.
  • The average Japanese house does not have a large freezer or a pantry for storing food long term.
  • While indoor malls are pretty much dying out in the USA (a new one hasn't been built in years), they are common in Japan in part because they take up a lot less room and land is expensive in many parts of Japan.
  • Walmart is not very successful in Japan like it is pretty much everywhere else (besides Germany).
  • Akihabara, in the Kanda district near central Tokyo , is known as electronics town. There are many stores where you can buy or sell computers, electronics, anime and otaku (person with obsessive interests, particularly anime, manga, and video games) goods.
  • Jimbocho, a district near Akihabara, is the place to buy books in Japan with many book stores. It is also near Ochanomizu which is where around fifty percent of Japan's student population studies in Tokyo.
  • Ikebukuro has massive, amongst the worlds largest, department stores.
  • Tsukiji has one of the biggest fish markets in the world.
  • More about places to shop in Japan can be found on many websites like this one: Tokyo Essentials.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Day - USA

Here is some trivia/facts about Thanksgiving Day.
  • The fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.
  • This holiday is a harvest feast/festival.
  • Thanksgiving Day was first was declared an official holiday by Abraham Lincoln on October 3 1863.
  • Thanksgiving was originally a religious observance for all the members of the community to give thanks to God for a common purpose.
  • The National Turkey Federation estimated that 46 million turkeys were consumed in the United States on Thanksgiving Day in 2007.
  • Every year Macy's holds a Thanksgiving Day Parade, the first one took place in New York City in 1924.
  • The first recorded Thanksgiving ceremony took place on September 8, 1565, when 600 Spanish settlers landed at what is now St. Augustine, Florida, and held a Mass of Thanksgiving for their safe delivery to the New World, followed by a feast and celebration.
  • The more commonly thought of one, held in 1621 by the pilgrims off the Mayflower, occurred sometime between September 21 and November 11 and was three days long.
  • What is generally thought off as pilgrim clothing is not what the pilgrims actually wore. For example: Buckles did not come into fashion until late in the seventeenth century and black and white were only commonly worn on Sunday and formal occasions.
  • Watching football on Thanksgiving has become a common custom for many people. The National Football League and the (no longer in existence) American Football League have played games on Thanksgiving every year since their creation. - I do not watch football.
  • Watching television specials like a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is also a custom many people follow. - including me.
  • Thanksgivings Day is also held by the Native Americans as National Day of Mourning. They annually hold protests and view it as a day of remembrance for the Democide (term used to include forms of government murder that are not covered by the legal definition of genocide) of the Native Americans.
  • Turkeys are the most commonly eaten food on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The first presidential pardon of a turkey was by George H.W. Bush in 1989. Since then every Thanksgiving a turkey is pardoned by the current president.
  • Wild Turkeys are not very easy to catch since they have excellent visual acuity, a wide field of vision, very good hearing, can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour on the ground, perch in trees on occasion, and can fly for short distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.
  • Turkey's are omnivores.
  • Turkey's on factory farms have truly appalling existences. Videos can be found on animal welfare sites like Peta but I wouldn't recommend watching them unless you like seeing birds in misery and being mistreated. Peta has a petition to be sent to turkey breeders asking that they take steps to prevent cruelty to the birds. The petition and video can be found here: Breaking Investigation Reveals Holiday Horrors for Turkeys
Here is a site for further information about Thanksgiving myths: Deconstructing the Myths of “The First Thanksgiving”

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price


The book Wal-mart: the High Cost of Low Price is a behind the scenes/making of the documentary with the same name. I generally do not watch making of video's and I am even less likely to read a making of book for a film. Which probably makes a person wonder why did I read it. I read it because I wanted to see the differences in how the documentary was made in comparison to a major motion picture (I have watched a few making of videos), wanted to see if it included some more facts that did not make the film, and because it was short.

The book gives a break down on how the research was done and talks about the shooting and editing a bit. It mentions problems that were encountered making the documentary like insufficient funding (mainly because no one wanted to go against a company as big as Wal-mart), trying to keep the fact that they were making a documentary about Wal-mart secret (so as to not allow Wal-mart to spin the facts or attempt to shut down production), and not scheduling enough time. The most interesting thing, at least I think so, was that there was a deluge of information on the bad things that Wal-mart does. A lot of times people who make documentaries have to spend a lot of time gathering up and searching for information, this movie had the opposite problem, there was so much information that they didn't know how to add anywhere near all of it.

While I did kind of like the pointers that are interspersed through out the book on how to make a politically motivated documentary and connect with grass roots organizations to get the message out; I would have liked it if they had added more information on Wal-marts practices. It is highly unlikely that I will make a film of my own, though not entirely unfeasible since I do know how to use a digital video camera and can edit video on a computer (though not at a professional level), so most of the information is basically useless. Considering the amount of information he claims was available on Wal-mart, he could have put a chapter or two just on facts not included in the movie or added them into the making of part.

Overall it was an okay, but not a great book. It feels as if the author rushed while writing the book and could have done a better job, at least that's the impression I got while reading it. I did find the process of making the documentary interesting enough to finish the book but I really think it should have included more on the subject of the movie as well as the making of the documentary (that and I would like to know more about the acquiring information for the China segment). If you just want the information on Wal-mart the book does, at the end, include a list of links to get more information on Wal-mart via the internet. The documentary was much better than the book.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Underrated: The Yankee Pot Roast Book of Awesome, Underappreciated Stuff


I was at the library the other day and I saw the book: Underrated: The Yankee Pot Roast Book of Awesome, Underappreciated Stuff. It looked interesting, so I decided to take it out. I am kind of glad that I did. The book uses a rating system derived from commercial success, critical success, cultural success, and how cool the thing is to determine how underrated a thing is. While it makes an attempt to categorize how underrated something is, it really is subjective.

I agree with the book on somethings, for example: I really like the movies Angus, Gross Pointe Blank, and Mallrats. I find Puffins (the birds) to be underrated, at least when compared to Penguins. Tecmo Super Ball was my favorite of all video football games even though latter games had better graphics, more choices of plays, and are more challenging.

The majority of the things brought up in the book I had no opinion on or didn't even know about in the first place. It good to learn about new things, even if they are just popular culture (or in this case not as popular as the authors thinks these things should be). I learned several things from this book for example that there was new episodes of Futurama. Some examples of things that I do/did not know enough about to form an opinion or know about at all are:

Some television shows on cable like The Jon Stewart Show and Lucky Louie. I do not have cable and even if I did it is unlikely that I would pay extra for premium channels like HBO. I have seen some cable television shows though via other peoples house's, DVD, and the internet on occasion.

Some of the foods mentioned: Diet Dr Pepper - I do not drink or eat 'diet' things and I do not like carbonated beverages so have not tried diet Dr Pepper. McDonald's sweet and sour sauce - I don't go to McDonalds and even when I did I wouldn't get this since I don't eat chicken. Have never seen or heard of Ellio's Frozen Pizza's. et cetra.

Other things were before my time, or in the case of many of them, at a time when I was too young to be interested in them. For example, Good Times which aired before I was born.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Kinrō kansha no hi - Labor Thanksgiving Day

November 23 is a holiday in Japan called Kinrō kansha no hi (Labor Thanksgiving Day). It was made a national holiday in 1948. The purpose of this holiday is to praise labor, celebrate production and give one another thanks.

Prior to 1948 this holiday was a holiday to celebrate the yearly rice harvest. The imperial harvest festival was called Niiname-sai. Niiname-sai was made a holiday during the Meiji period but was celebrated before the Meiji period as early as 678 AD. During this festival, at the end of each years rice harvest, the emperor would offer newly harvested rice to the Shinto divinities of the Sky and Earth and taste the rice for the first time. Niiname-Sai is still held privately by the Imperial Family.

In 1948, the holiday was renamed and changes were made in how it was celebrated. The reason for the changes were to get away from religion (it was viewed as a Shinto celebration) and to mark changes brought about by the postwar constitution of Japan. It became a day to both honor those people who's daily work ensures the country's economic prosperity and to recognize and give thanks for fundamental human rights. For this reason events are held throughout Japan, that encourage thinking about the environment, peace, and human rights.

As well as being Labor Thanksgiving day and a day to celebrate the rice harvest festival, November 23 is also Nogyosai. Nogyosai is an unofficial holiday for farm hands established in 1962. Nogyosai is celebrated by displaying exhibitions of agricultural output (things like machines, tools, fertilizers and technical literature) through out the country.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did not do the research

I was reading some fiction and found quite a bit of it to be funny, not because it was meant to be funny, but because the authors clearly did not do the research on the subject matter. This is fairly common in fiction and some so called non-fiction. Some recently encountered examples:

Statement:two characters being adults. Setting Japan. Stated age of characters: 18.
Reason it's wrong: Age of adulthood is 20 in Japan. Update 3/11/2009: There has been debate in Japan to lower the age of adulthood from 20 (which it has been since 1876) to 18, though according to Japan Times a government poll shows that 70% of people polled are against the change.

Statement:Person makes statement indicating that they do not have freedom of speech in that country.
Reason it's wrong: Country was Japan and Article 21 of the Japanese constitution grants freedom of speech.

Statement: Mobile phones don't exist. Setting: Japan. Year: 1994
Reason it's wrong: Mobile phones have been around in one form or another for a long time. Radio phones were used in World War 2. Car phones have been around since at least the 1950's. The funniest thing about this though is that 1994 was a huge year for cell phones in Japan. In 1994 regulatory reform allowed for cellular phones to be purchased rather than rented in Japan and people bought a lot of them.

Statement: Don't worry I'm on the pill (birth control pill). Setting: Japan Year:1994
Reason it's wrong: Birth control pills were not legalized in Japan until June 1999. Even now people in Japan rarely use birth control pills (around 1.3 percent of Japanese females between 15 and 49 years old use it).

Statement: Safest place in the jungle is on a lions back.
Reason it's wrong: Lions don't live in the jungle they live in the Savannah.

Thing shown: Dinosaur eating grass.
Reason it's wrong: Grass did not evolve until around 55 million years ago, long after the dinosaurs died out. Update: 3/11/2009 there have been recent findings of 65-million-year-old phytoliths resembling grass phytoliths in some dinosaur feces, so some dinosaurs may in fact have eaten some plants very similar to grass.

Thing mentioned: Hunting animal in someway makes a noise announcing it's presence.
Reason it's wrong: Animals that are hunting attempt to be as stealthy as possible to avoid notifying it's prey.

Thing shown: A device is used that can see into the infrared spectrum will see pictures through walls.
Reason it is wrong: Heat simply doesn't go through walls in such a way to form a picture. An episode of mythbusters even showed the inability of infrared to look through glass.

Statement/thing shown: Asteroid belts are extremely difficult to traverse and require great skill.
Reason it's wrong: They are very easy to traverse, unmanned probes have no trouble, they are not that close to one another.

Statement: Mentions of Salem witch burnings.
Reason it's wrong: no witches were burned in Salem, they preferred to hang people.

Thing shown: Gun has no recoil
Reason it is wrong: Guns have recoil.

Superpower: Ability to use 100% of brain power.
Reason it is wrong: Mostly redundant, people already use 100% of their brain power. Many things like CAT, PET, and MRI scans have proven that there are no inactive regions of the brain.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Answer to ranma related keywords used

As I have stated in a previous post, the best thing about a counter is finding out the keywords used to find the site. Some are really interesting, most are asking a question, and some I have no clue as to why the search engine would direct the keyword to my blog in the first place. They also tell me what readers, or potential readers, of this blog are looking for, sadly according to statcounter 87% of the people who come to this blog are looking for porn of one type or another. I will now answer some of the questions that the keywords used imply.

Keyword: meaning of ranma in japanese
The name Ranma can actually mean a variety of things; Ran can mean disordered, confused, chaotic, boisterous, abusive, reckless, random, excessive, indiscriminate, extravagant, inordinate, haphazard, reckless, social disorder, disturbance, rebellion, civil war, war, riot, revolt, be corrupt, be demoralized, and used to in the past but no longer mean ulceration and decomposition as well.
Ma in compounds simply means horse. Outside of compounds it can mean other things but I won't go into that. -source few online dictionaries and the defunct Wotclub Faq

Keyword: nickname shampoo calls ranma
Shampoo calls Ranma Airen which isn't so much a nickname as a term of endearment. Airen is mandarin chinese and literally means love person Ai=love Ren=Person. It was for a long time the predominate word used when referring to your spouse.

Keyword: weapon ranma used the most
Ranma frequently uses weapons, generally improvised objects laying around. Personally the weapon I think he uses the most is a staff/polearm, since he has grabbed up sticks/brooms/poles etc.,on a number of occasions and used them in combat.

Keyword: Kasumi love Dr Tofu
There is no evidence that she loves him and the Ranma ½ memorial book/Art of Ranma ½ written by Takahashi has a love chart that states his love is an unrequited love.

Keyword: Ranma fight all out
I'm not sure where the idea that Ranma doesn't hold back or fights all out comes from. Ranma, baring the battle with Saffron and possibly Happosai, has held back his abilities the majority of the time. The reason I say this is because he clearly did not hit many of his opponents as hard as he could (Ukyo, Konatsu, etc.). He did not kill or maim his opponents which he would have had he not been holding back. He generally tests his opponents, fighting at what he perceives to be their level, and he clearly plays with some of them for example Kuno (once he decided to get a bit serious Kuno was taken out faster than anyone could see). He does not use ki blasts or the majority of his techniques every time (he rarely uses ki blasts). He is perfectly willing to fight many of his opponents on their terms (limiting himself to their styles and rules of combat). Many of his opponents he didn't even hit once for example Miss Hinako and the french guy. et cetra

Keyword: Ranma wear make-up
Ranma does wear make-up while in disguise. Wore make up during Orachi arc, wore lipstick on date with Kuno to get wishing sword (Genma even suggested it), can be seen applying powder to face while getting ready to trick Ryoga, etc.

There were more that would take longer to answer, or I refuse to on principle such as the ones asking where to get the Ranma hentai doujinshi that have to be purchased for free, and some non-ranma related ones I might answer later (if I feel like it).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three)

On November 15, or the nearest weekend, people across Japan take their three and seven year old girls and their three and five year old boys to visit the local Shinto shrine. Most girls are dressed in kimonos, while the boys don haori jackets and hakama trousers. Though in recent years an increasing number of children are wearing western-style dresses and suits. The reason people take their children to the shrine on this day is because November 15 is Shichi-go-san, which means seven-five-three. The numbers three, five, and seven are considered to be lucky according to Japanese numerology. This is a Shinto festival, not a recognized holiday.

This festival is said to have been celebrated as far back as the Heian period (794-1185) where nobles celebrated the growth of their children on a lucky day in November. The festival was subsequently set on the fifteenth of that month during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), because the fifteenth was considered one of the most auspicious days of the year in the Japanese almanac. Shogun Tsunayoshi Tokugawa was said to be celebrating the growth of his son, Tokumatsu, on that day.

As time passed, this tradition passed to the samurai class who added a number of rituals. Children, who up until the age of three were required by custom to have shaven heads, were allowed to grow out their hair. Boys of age five could wear hakama for the first time, while girls of age seven replaced the simple cords they used to tie their kimono with the traditional obi. By the Edo period (1603-1868), this practice spread to commoners, who began visiting shrines to have prayers offered by priests.

The customs for this day have changed very little. The only real changes are that the custom of children having shaved heads no longer exists and people like to take a lot of photographs of their little kids all dressed up.

Children are given Chitoseame (thousand year candy) on Shichi-Go-San. Chitoseame is long, thin, red and white candy. It is given in a bag with a crane and a turtle on it. Chitoseame is wrapped in an edible thin clear rice paper film that resembles plastic. The crane and the turtle traditionally symbolise longevity in Japan. The candy and the bag are expressions of parents' wish that their children lead long and prosperous lives.

Onna-Ranma hit Akane?

I was recently wondering something, some Akane fans defend her hitting him because he insults her. Which is not a good argument, hitting people is not, or rather should not be, acceptable behavior in retaliation for an insult. Though our society does have the double standard in which it is deemed acceptable for a girl to hit a guy but not for a guy to hit a girl. In fact a girl hitting a guy is often viewed as being both humorous and empowering for women. This double standard is common in all types of fiction, not limited to comedy, or even limited to fiction.

The argument doesn't really work even if you do view that as acceptable, Ranma doesn't insult or belittle her anywhere near as often as some fan fiction portrays him to (and she doesn't hit him as often as fan fiction portrays). It also doesn't work since Akane has hit Ranma for other reasons, unconnected in anyway with his words or actions, or regardless of them. I can list some examples but I don't feel the need to since most people who have read the manga will probably remember an instance of her hitting him for another reasons like the actions of others, for example Nabiki and Shampoo. Though Ranma on occasion did do jerkish things, like sneaking up on Akane - which interestingly enough was rarely something she hit him for.

I was wondering would people find it humorous/acceptable if Ranma had splashed himself, so as to utilize female form, and then hit Akane in retaliation for her insults and actions (Akane has done many jerkish things as well, like insulting him, dating Ryoga to make him jealous, or using/making fun of his cat phobia - which was very often the reason Ranma insulted her that resulted in her hitting him)? In other words, if he had hit her as a male people would not find it funny but would it have been acceptable/funny if Ranma did so in female form?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Five random things on Japan 2

1. Japanese people, and Asians in general, drink from smaller cups and bottles than westerners do; partly because they have smaller bladders. This might also be part of the reason that Asians have the lowest rate of bladder cancer. Example: Japanese people purchase coffee in cans often. The common sizes for canned coffee is 250 or 190 ml, though iced coffee cans tend to be short and fat and contain 280 ml. The standard size in the USA for a canned beverage is 12 U.S. fluid ounces which is 355 ml (Europe standard cans are 330 ml, Australia the standard can size is 375 ml, etc..). Though one brand named American Coffee sells it in a US sized can.

2. A voluntary program is to start, in the beginning of 2009, in which labels breaking down the carbon emitted in production, packaging, transportation, and disposal will appear on many of Japan's consumer goods. The reason this is being implemented is to persuade companies and consumers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. More info: Japan to launch carbon footprint labeling scheme I think this is a good idea and may cause some consumers to think about the amount of carbon that is released in producing the items they purchase.

3. Since bottled water is so popular, some companies in Japan have decided to sell cans of air. Need Fresh Air? Japan Sells Oxygen-to-Go When I first heard of this I thought about the movie Spaceballs in which they also have canned air. I probably would not buy this since I think of it as being silly and I don't even purchase bottled water (for a variety of reasons).

4.Biwa Lake is the largest lake in Japan. It shows up in Japanese literature often, particularly in poetry and in historical accounts of battles, because of it's proximity to Kyoto (which used to be the capital of Japan). It's nearly 4 million years old and has a very diverse ecosystem (more than 1100 kinds of living things in the lake, including at least 58 endemic species). The musical instrument called a biwa (a Japanese short-necked fretted lute) is shaped like the lake. The biwa is also the chosen instrument of Benten, Goddess of music, eloquence, poetry, and education in Japanese Buddhism. The character Monron in the Ranma movie Big Trouble in Nekoron, China is based on Benten and plays a biwa.

5. The numbers 4 and 9 are considered to be bad luck in Japan. The reason for this is because the number 4 is a homophone for death and the number 9 is a homophone for suffering. Therefore, one should not make presents that consist of four pieces, etc. In some buildings, particularly hotels and hospitals, the room number four is skipped, similar to how in the USA and Canada many tall buildings do not have a floor labeled 13, because the number 13 is considered an unlucky number in the USA and Canada.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What animals are known to eat kittens?

I have seen this particular question, or a variation of it, show up multiple times in keywords used to find this blog and I figure I might as well answer it.

Many animals will eat kittens if the opportunity presents itself but kittens really do not have animals that generally prey on them. For instance, a raccoon will on occasion eat a kitten (raccoon's are capable of killing things bigger than kittens like small dogs) but generally prefer fruits, insects, small mammals and human left overs. A hawk will on occasion eat a small kitten if it can but generally prefers small mammals less likely to be defended and other birds. Wild dogs will on occasion eat kittens. Human beings will occasionally eat them, an example that I heard about is that in Switzerland farmers would sometimes eat kittens if the cat had an excess number of them using the logic that if they are going to kill them anyways they may as well eat them, I do not know if this practice is still done though.

The animal that kittens are most likely to be killed and eaten by though is other cats. It is not uncommon for cats to eat stillborn kittens and placentas, to regain energy/nutrients from birthing them. Some first time mother cats will eat non-stillborn kittens but it isn't really all that common.

Some reasons mother cats will kill and sometimes eat kittens are:
*can't "switch off" hunting behavior during play and kills the kitten
*thinks kitten is defective
*thinks kittens have poor chance of survival anyway (due to food shortage or external threat)
*Handling by others obscures mother's scent on kittens, so she doesn't recognize them as her own
*Feels odds are insurmountable and can't protect kitten
*To increase the chances of successfully rearing their surviving kittens
*Territory, will on occasion kill rival female cats kittens
*eat it if it died of natural causes to not attract other predators and for food

Male cats will kill kittens:
*for food
*smells the scent of a rival tomcat and decides that the kittens have been fathered by the visiting tomcat
*takes over or inherits a territory may be driven to destroy any kittens in order to spread his genetics
*in attempting dominance over a kitten may accidentally kill the kitten
*from being repelled while trying to mate with mother cat might take frustration out on kitten.

Information about Swiss eating kittens comes from this blog Hello Cute Animals and I looked up the Swiss Society for Animal Welfare/ProTier as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Religion in Ranma ½

Whether or not you are a religious person, religion has affected you in some way. For example, if you live in a Christian country it is very likely that you have developed some Christian morals and/or habits. If nothing else you likely know of some religious holidays for example, Christmas and Easter.

Religion and myth appears in fiction often; most of the time it is not really noticed. The Ranma ½ manga has a lot of religious symbols and references that most people don't really notice unless someone points them out. In fact if you know Ranma ½ mostly through fan fiction, Ranma (the character) does not seem like a religious person at all.

While Ranma's religion is unknown, I find it most likely that his religion is a mix of Shinto and Buddhism given what is seen in the manga. Ranma can be seen praying in a few story arcs. Most visible example is his praying during the Koi-rod story line, though he can be seen praying on a few other occasions as well (praying at his family grave comes to mind). Ranma believes in both the Kami and in there being an after life. Though unlike most people his belief is not based solely on faith. He has seen the power of the Kami (Shinto wards have actual effects) and met the Kami (the Oni is a type of Kami and so was the divine horse - of the 8 million or so Kami animal types are the most common). He has met spirits and ghosts, seen the shores of Sanzu (the Buddhist river of the dead), and seen a ghost enter into heaven.

Some of the other religious imagery seen in the manga:
-Kasumi wears a crucifix.
-Nabiki wears a crucifix during the initial date in the ten yen date arc.
-The Tendo dojo has a Kamidana (small Shinto shrine that is hung on a wall).
-The Tendo's have a Butsudan (a Buddhist shrine for in the house).
-The person that waters her front yard, getting Ranma wet, is practicing a form of misogi - a Shinto purification ritual.
-Kodachi goes to a Catholic School.
-One of the competing plays during the Romeo and Juliet story arc was doing a play involving Jesus Christ.
-Shinto and Buddhist priests are seen several times in the manga, as well as Taoist Monks.
-Ranma goes to both Shinto and Buddhist Shrines.
-Religious holidays are shown in the manga for example, Christmas and New Years (New Years is a religious holiday because the 108 bell ring during the ghost cat storyline is a Buddhist celebration with each bell rings represent 108 elements of bonno, defilements, or Kilesa in Sanskrit, which is said people have in their mind).
-Volume 37 and 38 both show aspects of Shinto and Christian weddings (Akane is dressed in Shinto wedding garb and Christian style wedding dress respectively).
-The battle versus Herb takes place at and destroys Mount Horai which is a mythical mountain similar in nature to Mount Olympus of Greek Mythology.
-Akane in a dream sequence chases Happosai with a cross.
-Sanzu the Buddhist river to the afterlife shows up a few times (Noodles of strength arc, Herb arc, etc.)
-Rouge cursed form is a goddess/demoness in Buddhism, Shinto, Hindu.
-Tea Ceremony has origins involving Zen Buddhism and Confucianism.
-Martial arts has many ties with religion including: Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism and/or Shinto.
-Ikebana (Flower arranging) has roots in Shinto and Buddhism.
-et cetera

Two religion inspired things that deserve singling out:

The Orachi arc is a retelling of the Susano (high ranking Shinto wind god) battle versus the Orachi. The Ranma characters play the part of the god, the broom being used as a stand in for Kusanagi (legendary sword), and the cross dressing is used as the trick.

The second thing that deserves singling out is Saffron. Mainly whether he is a god or not. Going by a monotheistic religion such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam; no Saffron is not a god. Going by polytheistic religions such as Shinto, Voodoo, and ancient religions (Greek, Roman, etc.); then yes Saffron could count as a god. So really it is entirely up to the readers interpretation and can be taken either way, though by Shinto, the predominate religion of Japan, he would be considered a Kami. Saffron's comments are about ascension and rebirth which is what happens when a being transcends from mortality to either demi or full blown godhood and his pagoda has symbols of divinity on it. Though Saffron more resembles the western phoenix than he does the Japanese type.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bunka no hi - Culture Day

November 3, is Culture Day (Bunka no hi 文化の日) a national holiday in Japan. This holiday was first held in 1948, to commemorate the announcement of the post-war Japanese constitution on November 3, 1946. The purpose of this holiday is to promote culture, the arts, and academic endeavors. As Culture Day exists to promote the arts and various fields of academic endeavor, local and prefectural governments typically choose this day to hold art exhibits, culture festivals, and parades.

Every year on this day the Emperor of Japan hands out Bunka Kunsho (Order of Culture - the highest rank of Culture Award) to a few people who devoted their lives to promoting Japanese culture or higher achievements in academic fields. The Order of Culture award was established on February 11, 1937. Many other awards are also given to thousands of people who made distinguished contributions to Japanese society. Many institutions of higher education such as Japanese universities and high schools hold Culture Day to display their research projects, hold debate sessions, etc.

Prior to being Culture day, November 3 was called Tenchōsetsu. Tenchōsetsu was first celebrated as a national holiday in 1868 (before the calendar was changed to Gregorian was September 22), in honor of the Meiji Emperor. With the death of the Meiji Emperor in 1912, November 3 ceased to be a holiday until 1927, when his birthday was given its own specific holiday, known as Meiji-setsu.

This day was a religious holiday from the early Meiji era to just after World War II. The ceremony performed at the Three Sacred Halls (kyūchū sanden) is called the tenchōsai, or Rite for the Longevity of Heaven and Earth. On the day of the celebration, the tenchōsai was performed in the Three Sacred Halls, and the Rituals for the Day of Celebration for the Longevity of Heaven and Earth (tenchōsetsu no gi) was performed at the palace. The emperor received felicitations from the imperial family then goes to the Toyo-no-akari Hall where he received felicitations from high-level ministers and ambassadors or representatives from each country. Following this, there was a celebratory banquet.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween

Today is Halloween, the time of year in which little (and not so little) children dress up in various costumes and go trick or treating (go to houses with lights on and are given candy). Most people reading this know about Halloween since it is an international holiday and even if it is not celebrated in your country, you likely know something about it from American popular culture - things like Halloween movies and Simpson's specials.

The Japanese have a tendency to adopt anything that they find interesting, cool, or fun into their culture. Even though Halloween is of Celtic origin and the average Japanese person likely does not know the origins of Halloween; Halloween and many of its traditions have been adopted into Japanese society. Adding Halloween to their culture was a very easy transition since many aspects of Halloween already existed in Japanese society.

I have seen it mentioned that O-bon is Japan’s Halloween. It is not, though there are a few similarities; both days are about spirits is one such similarity. O-bon is, in my opinion, closer to All Souls Day or Día de los Muertos (the Mexican day of the dead) than Halloween.

Pumpkins have become a symbol of fall and of Halloween. The Japanese really like pumpkins and make many foods with pumpkin. Here is a link to some: Japanese pumpkin recipes. There are many foods that have been made in pumpkin flavor, for example, they sell pumpkin flavored kitkat bars in Japan.

A traditional thing to do on Halloween is to go to a haunted house or scare people. This is, and has been, a part of Japanese culture for a long time. The Japanese have a game, very similar to haunted houses called Kimodameshi which I wrote about earlier and can be read here: Kimodameshi.

Trick-or-treating is not something that existed in Japanese culture but has been taken up by the Japanese. In Japan, trick-or-treating is not usually house-to-house. Instead schools, hotels, apartment complexes, after school activity centers, libraries and restaurants hand out candy and small gifts (things like cards, oranges, and small toys).

The Japanese have many ghost stories and legends with monsters. They also make a lot of horror films. I really like a lot of Japanese horror films, though the most famous in the USA is probably the Ring, which was an alright film but I wouldn’t rate it as one of the best. A common ghost story, with several variations and movies, told at just about every school in Japan is Hanako of the toilet. The story goes like this: In the lavatory at the third stall you call Hanako and she will show up and say “yes” and then ask you what we should play. In some variations she is nice and wants to play, sometimes she just wants to scare people, and sometimes she kills people. This story is similar to the US story of Bloody Mary in which you stand in front of a mirror saying Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, in that both summon a spirit by calling it's name.

On Halloween there are Halloween festivals and parades in which a large number of people go in costumes with various rewards for best costume (A Halloween parade can be can be seen in Your Under Arrest Anime). Many Japanese people like to dress up in costumes, even when it isn’t Halloween. Halloween just gives them another reason to do so. The Japanese cosplay (Costume Play) quite a bit. Cosplay can be seen at public events such as video game shows, cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. Some Japanese teenagers gather in places like Tokyo's Harajuku district to engage in cosplay. The Akihabara district has a large number of cosplay cafés, catering to devoted anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses at such cafés dress as game or anime characters; maid (or meido) costumes are particularly popular.

Japanese businesses like Halloween; that is not really surprising though since most businesses will use any excuse to sell stuff. Pastry shops sell various pastries in Halloween shapes like bats, Toy shops sell teddy bears dressed as pumpkins, etc…

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ambush


The above pictures are of Ranma sneaking up on Akane and surprising her (the first one is actually the setup to his surprising her, results are on the page after it - not shown here). This is a tactic Ranma uses quite often in the manga, on many characters(not just Akane), for varying reasons. Most of the time he does it is just to see their reaction, though he has used it in battle as well. No character can consistently prevent Ranma from sneaking up on them, the picture below is of Ranma sneaking up on Cologne.

As the manga progresses he tends to do this more often. This tactic is not used as often as I feel it should be in Ranma fanfiction. There are several fics I've seen where using this tactic would have been both in character and beneficial for Ranma to use but he did not. Fanfiction Ranma prefers frontal assault far more than his manga counterpart who will often use other means.


Ranma doesn't always stealthily approach or just show up faster than the person can react to, he and most of the cast use the much more common ambushing practice of concealing yourself until the opponent passes by. They use this for various purposes - surprise attack most common, information gathering less common but still done. This has varying degree's of success, for example, Gosunkugi's and Kodachi's attempts are not very successful. In fanfiction it is far more common for villains, rather than the protagonists, to use various ambush techniques, even though it would be in character and extremely useful.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Gender Genie

I recently found a website that uses an algorithm to determine a persons gender based on what words they use while writing. The site is here: Gender Genie. I played with it by putting posts from this here blog on it. It correctly got my gender around 70% of the time. Of course that means 30% of the time it did not. I find it interesting as to what words are considered more female/male. Going by that males are more likely to talk about objects/statements and females more likely to talk about people/personal opinions.