Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Famous for?

This is 羞恥心 (Shuuchishin) performing their song um..羞恥心 (Shuuchishin).

(thanks to youtube user iideainet)

The song is used as the ending theme to the show that the three members of Shuuchishin regularly appear on, クイズ!ヘキサゴンII (Quiz Hexagon II). The three members, Takeshi Tsuruno, Naoki Nokubo, and Yuusuke Kamiji are well-known on the show for being...well..morons. They regularly place at the end of the paper test that the contestants have to take before each episode and a lot the different events on the show are dependent on them and their female counterparts Yukina Kinoshita, Suzanne, and Mai Satoda being idiots who can't read, don't have any common sense, and are generally unfamiliar with things that regular Japanese people should know. I don't know most of the things that appear on the show but hey, I have an excuse. The six of them provide lots of unintentional comedy and give the host (whom I don't like and won't name) lots of opportunities to berate them for being morons.

The females actually had a single out first as the unit Pabo, 恋のヘキサゴン (koi no hexagon):

(thanks to youtube user justwanahvefun)

Koi no hexagon topped out at number 19 on the charts while Shuuchishin has gone as high as number 1 on the Billboard Japan charts.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

オッパッピー O! Pa! Pi! your mail with a Kojima Yoshio stamp!

I was doing a favor for a friend at the post office the other day (they know who they are and they better be grateful) and I picked up the latest issue of エンタメポスト (Entameposto which is - I assume anyway - short for entertainment post office). Along with with stamp sets of the Hanshin Tigers (understandable), Ichiro and Fatsuzaka Dice-K D-Mat (hometown boys done good!), Doraemon (famous worldwide!), and Ayumi Hamasaki (half-deaf hit machine!) was the biggest icon of all...

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

Yup, for all you comedy and speed-o lovers out there, the Kojima Yoshio stamp and postcard set! Yours for 5500 yen!

Let's take a look at some pictures stolen borrowed from エンタメポスト:

Each stamp is 80 yen which means if you use them with the postcards you'll lose 30 yen. If you do use them with a letter, you should take care and use it with the appropriate receiver and situation in mind as this column goes into. Imagine:

Situation 1
University student looking for job: I need to send this very important document right now! I only have my Kojima Yoshio commemorative stamps though! I guess they'll have to do!

Very Important Man Who Regularly Receives Very Important Documents: Why is there a naked man on this stamp?

Assistant: I believe he's wearing a speed-o, sir.

Very Important Man Who Regularly Receives Very Important Documents: Whatever. [Dumps letter into bin without opening it]

Situation 2
Guy desperately in love: That girl in another prefecture needs me to do something romantic to win her heart! I'll write her a love letter! It's perfect! Oops. I only have these Yoshio Kojima stamps! She won't notice!

Girl: It's a letter from that guy who keeps bugging me! I wonder if I should go out with him? What's that in a corner? Yoshio Kojima? That reminds me! [Dumps letter into bin absentmindedly without opening it, goes to watch エンタの神様 rerun]

Remember! Only 5500 yen!

Read more:

Bonus: Try and ask any at least half-way sarcastic Japanese person who has watched either a news report about Ichiro in which Americans were interviewed or an MLB broadcast he was involved in. Do they say Ichiro like a Japanese person normally would or do they say it in a mock American tone like "Ee-chee-roe"?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TBS, 2002 and the cancellation of Kinniku Banzuke

Question: What do Kinniku Banzuke, Ultraman Cosmos and Food Battle Club have in common?
Answer: They all caused headaches for TBS in 2002.

Food Battle Club (フードバトルクラブ) was a showcase for the premier competitive eaters of the day including Takeru Kobayashi 小林尊 and his main rival at the time, Nobuyuki Shirota 白田信幸.

However, the death of an Aichi prefecture junior high school student during a bread-eating contest caused such programs (Food Battle Club and other specials) to be taken off the air. The last Food Battle Club (FBC 3: THE SPEED) aired in April, 2002. Competitive eating shows would make a comeback years later due to popular demand but they haven't had the impact they had back in 2001 and 2002.

(As a side note, I remember watching the FBC shows. In one particular contest Kobayashi and some other guy faced off in tuxedos to a steak speed-eating contest. All dressed up...and then they said "Screw the utensils" and just picked up their steaks in their hands and started gnawing on them. Further research finds that that was from FBC The King of Masters )

In June 2002, Ultraman Cosmos main actor Takayasu Sugiura 杉浦太陽 (now known as Taiyo Sugiura 杉浦太陽 and also known as the guy who got Nozomi Tsuji of Morning Musume pregnant) was charged with extortion and assault stemming from an incident two years prior. TBS and affiliate MBS pulled the remaining Ultraman Cosmos episodes and re-ran other Ultraman shows in it's place until the next Ultraman show was ready to go.

Sandwiched between the end of FBC and Ultraman Cosmos was the end of Kinniku Banzuke.

Since Kinniku Banzuke (Muscle Ranking aka Unbeatable Banzuke) seems to be going strong on G4 people are still trying to figure out what it was that actually caused the show to go off air. Mike Hale's review of the show in the NY Times mentions that the show was still getting high ratings when it got pulled due to injuries. So what exactly happened?

(By the way, I'm using various Japanese sources that I'll link to. If you find any errors in how I translate certain lines, please let me know.
Also, the following pictures come from various sites and are linked to or used without permission. If you hold the copyright to them, please mail me)

The answer lay with something called 力島 (chikara jima, which can literally mean Power Island). It was a multi-part course much like the other events on Kinniku Banzuke.

The ball (or in this case the "rock") that you see below seems to have caused the problems.

During a single taping of the show on May 5th, 2002 (this is the date of the incident according to TBS) two university students, a transfer student from China and a local, were injured on two separate parts of the course.

The transfer student was injured during the ロックバレー ("Rock Valley") portion of the course where one has to get on the ball (which is 1.8 meters in the diameter and 47 kilos in weight) and go across a waterway (which is 2.5 meters in width and about 1.4 meters in depth). The student lost his balance and fell, injuring his cervical vertebrae and had to be taken to the hospital.

Despite the injury, the show went on. The other student (some sources say they were injured back-to-back) was injured during a different portion known as the ロックアタック ("Rock Attack"). During the Rock Attack the student was unable to stop the rolling rock (which was coming down a 15 degree incline) and also injured his back. The student was taken to the hospital (some articles say that he was parazlyzed).

Overhead view of the course:

TBS shut down the course - despite saying that others had participated with no problems and that they had had some people test out the safety of the course - and later released a statement saying the show would be put on hiatus while they re-thought and re-examined the safety aspects of the show.

Kinniku Banzuke as it was never went back on the air. Five months after the incident, perhaps to create some distance from the old show, TBS premiered Taiiku Ookoku (体育王国) which was essentially the same program but safer. It lasted until September 2003. The Japanese wiki states that one of the reasons it might have gone off the air was due to the beginning of TV Asahi's 報道Station (Houdou Station) whose main host was Ichiro Furutachi 古舘伊知郎 whom many may recognize as the lead announcer during many Kinniku Banzuke and SASUKE broadcasts. Taiiku Ookoku was followed by Golden Muscleゴールデンマッスル (also known as 黄金筋肉) but that show too only lasted a year, going from 2003 to 2004. The shine (and possibly the thrill) of the shows had worn off. Recently, a spiritual successor to these shows, Taiiku no Jikan 体育の時間 ran on TV Asahi for less than half a year.

So while American viewers are just getting warmed up these shows seemed to have run their course in Japan. There are rumors that they're going to scale back on Sportsman No. 1 shows (perhaps not airing the Geinojin Sportsman shows or making them shorter) and SASUKE has only broken a 16 percent rating once in the last three years. One hopes that TBS doesn't give up on these shows just yet.

Added: DUH. I should have checked the wiki first and saved myself the time. The Japan Times has an archived article here. Eh, it was fun to research and write about anyway.

Articles used in this post:

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obligatory Sakura (桜) Post 2008

No SASUKE Maniac for me tonight.

Well, last year I went to Tokiwa Park and took photos of the cherry blossoms and the monkeys. This year I wasn't as ambitious so I just took photos of some areas near where I live to fulfill my sakura obligation (lest they take away my gaijin blogger rights).

I can't really pinpoint where I took each photo but the majority of these are from the center of Ube, near Shintencho (新天町).

Enjoy! Or not.

Monday, April 07, 2008

SASUKE MANIAC April 7, 2008 Sort of liveblog! サスケマニア

I was supposed to go to bed early but eh, whatever.

Daisuke Miyazaki! The 20th was his first SASUKE ever! BUT! So many people before him failed that day! Can Daisuke ignore that and conquer SASUKE!

Daisuke and his teammates discuss tactics while watching the other competitors. Kore wa daijoubu! Terebi de zen zen chigau! White people sighting!

Let's go into his background!

He's a handball player! He's a Sportsman No. 1. Miyazaki Daisuke!

Hey! That's cheating! Daisuke and his handball buddies get a chance to practice with the trampoline for the Jumping Spider. Maketakunai!

Naoki Iketani and Daisuke talk shop! Hey! Yamamoto! And Mr. SASUKE. Yeah.

Nakagawa Handball player has to go earlier than the others.

Kazuhiko Akiyama! He failed during the Half-Pipe Attack.

Nakagawa gets busy with the SASUKE SPRAY!

Steps. Pole Maze (skipped the Log Grip). I remember this. They clipped his run. Mainly because the pole got stuck like it usually does at the beginning of the show. He retires at the Jumping Spider.


The day goes on. Some people fail!

Izuma handball player! Not as much problem with Pole Maze. He almost slipped during the Jumping Spider but was able to adjust. Half-Pipe Attack! He overshoots! So a misjump on the Jumping Spider is survivable if you can get your legs set.

Let us relive Shingo Yamamoto's miss on the Half-Pipe Attack. It makes the others a bit more nervous.

Daisuke is warming up! But there are still 18 more people to go before him! Better early than late is how Daisuke thinks.

Let's see Iketani's scrawnier than usual body fail the Spider Walk portion of the Jumping Spider.

Shinji Kobayashi goes looking for trash under the Jumping Spider.

The other handballers get a big kick out of their teammate failing the Log Grip.

Not-Olympian Okuyama! And Levi (google hits) Meeuwenberg! They finished! Everyone else did not!

Oh good. We get to relive Kongo's goofy looking fail on the Flying Shoot.

Takeda, Jordan Jochtev, Takamasa Nagasaki and Yuuji Washimi all fail. Just not in that order.

More Daisuke warming up! He should have worn the Sportsman No. 1 yellow jersey or something.

Over the course of the day the pressure built up for him I guess.

Here he goes! His teammates pray for him. Is there a handball deity to pray to or something?

Mr. Handball Miyazaki Daisuke!

Zard! New single! Um.

Yazawa Eikichi wants you to buy a place to live!

Bones! What? Is it a TV series? Movie? I am so out of touch. I just started renting episodes of Rome.

Reina Tanaka beats up Tsuyoshi Kusanagi!

Rookies! I think heard about that show during SASUKE.

Back to Miyazaki! Steps. Log Grip. He took a couple seconds to get set there. Shogakkou sannensei is when he started playing handball! Handball boom! Pole Maze. Jumping Spider! Takai! Takai! He definitely got some height on that.

Half-Pipe Attack! Miyazakiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He was on then he was off. It happened quite often that day. More people passed the Jumping Spider only to somehow misjudge something about how to land, mostly ending up on the end of the platform, lose their balance then fall off.

Masaka no retire!

Oh. Daisuke makes a sort of prediction! His handball number is 21 so the 21st SASUKE will be THE ONE.

His handball teammates want to try again!

Another Bones CM. Maybe it will appear at random times on my TV like all the other foreign shows.

OK. That bear is all grooving out and stuff.

OK! OK! I'll find out what Bones is. Enough with the commercials!

Daisuke waxes philosophical about SASUKE. Mochiron dashitekudasai! He wants to try again.

And that it's for another week in SASUKE Maniac!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Kafunshou and you 花粉症アンドユー

(Yes, I know hay fever season is almost over -- better late than never!)
((Argh. The title I had originally planned for this post was: I'll kafunshou you!))

Allergic rhinitis.
Hay fever.

Whatever you want to call it (really, it's up to you), it's really damn irritating if you have it. Thanks to the decision to start importing timber and stop harvesting the trees that were planted to reforest post-War Japan hay fever has been the bane of many a Japanese and a boon to the medical supply industry.

Before I decided to go to the doctor for some medicine that actually worked for me, I tried to give it a go with some regular store-bought medicine. The medicine I picked up for myself worked to some extent but I've always had to augment it with things. Lots and lots of things. Stuff to put in my nose before I go out. Stuff to clean out my nose after I go out. Stuff to chew on to help clear my nose. Stuff for my eyes. More stuff for my eyes. Stuff for my clothes and furniture. And don't forget the masks.

Also, I check the kafun tracker every morning. Very helpful. This is tonight's kafun forecast:

I generally ride a bicycle to get around town so I need a mask plus some kind of protective glasses to keep the damn pollen out.

This year, I bought darker glasses like the ones I just linked to. Coupled with the mask, it had the unfortunate effect of making me look like some kind of criminal:

OK, maybe not that bad. I don't have a mustache and hoodie. It's something more like this:

Anyway, I went to an ear-nose-and-throat doctor who stuck metal objects up my nose (it was my first time to that sort of doctor and boy, was that part a surprise), told me I had hay fever (umm..thanks doc) and gave me some medicine that cleared me up for like a month until about now when it started really bothering me again.

Because I was hay fever symptom free (for the most part) I put this entry, which I had been planning since the beginning of hay fever season, on the back burner but going to the doctor today reminded that I had a duty. Yes, a duty to post a photo I had taken several weeks ago of an Arthur doll wearing a mask. And protective glasses. Let it never be said that I am one to shirk my responsibilities.

Cranky old man cranky, old about MLB opener in Japan

Update: Huh, this came off a bit more ranty then I was planning. Read the other links which are funnier than what I ended up writing.

This story is a bit old (almost a week!) but I just came across the other day and it's just too strange to pass up.

Furman Bisher is 89 (90 this November). He's been covering sports for a long long time. Right now he works for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where they've given their columnists their own blogs. In his March 25th entry he decides to make his opinion about how the opening game of the 2008 season is being played by the Red Sox and Athletics in Japan. Did I mention he's 89?

He starts off talking about how the first game of the season has always been played in Cincinnati...

Well, not any longer. Money can change any habit. Eight springs ago the Mets and Cubs opened the season, not in Cincinnati. Guess where? Tokyo. That Tokyo, the guys who gave us Pearl Harbor. Some people don’t like you to bring that up, trade with Japan is so hot. But I’ve got a long memory. I saw what a few bombs can do to our property.


I'm assuming that the entry is supposed to be about tradition but Mr. Bisher just goes all over the place:

A Japanese newspaper chain, Yomiuri, foots the bill for this Oriental excursion. Yomiuri is not exactly the Chicago Tribune of Japanese baseball. Yomiuri owns several teams. The Tribune owns only one team, and that team hasn’t been in a World Series since World War II. (Sorry to have to bring that up again.) Yomiuri’s team has been the Yankees of Japan, and I’m not sure, but I think they call themselves the Giants.


It would be my guess that in Japan, emperors don’t throw out first balls, or even have any kind of presence at such a sweaty game. I saw a game in the Tokyo Dome once, but it was more dome-shaped then. It now appears to have gone oblong to oblige the new long-ball society.

It is standard foreign-blogger-in-japan operating procedure to point out errors such as how the Yomiuiri (yes, they're called the Giants, Mr. Bisher) only owns one team and how the emperor is not really the equivalent of the President of the US (anymore) but Prime Ministers have thrown out first pitches in recent years. Thankfully the rest of the sports blogosphere and Bisher's own commenters take him to task for his inane ramblings.

But it's not just his ranting about the Japanese that's so jarring. There's his odd comment about making baseballs:

So much for tradition, of which about all that remains is that the baseball hides are actually sewed together by hand by ladies in some Latin American country.

Wha? So in addition to being xenophobic he's also a supporter of slave labor? And don't forget that when he refers to "our property" Hawaii was just that to the US at the time: property. Not a state yet. Just some place a bunch of fun-loving plantation owners thought would be a nice place to grow pineapples (NOT native to Hawaii, just to let you know) provided the government help them get rid of that pesky monarchy.

By the way, war is bad. Of course it is. No one who is commenting about this article is going to dispute that part. A lot of people agree with the underlying point of the entry ("Changing tradition is bad.") but the way in which it came off ("Those damn Japanese need to stay off our lawn.") was utterly distasteful.

The Art of Ube: ??? 宇部の彫刻

The devastating aftermath of World War II left Ube city in ruins. As the people began to rebuild their city they felt a desire to transform the desolate land into utopia. Projects along with reconstruction were started with people's hopes to maintain a strong tie with nature. The urban renewal projects brought in landscaping and horticultural programs. And in 1961 the Yamaguchi Open-air Museum was born.

No. ??

Located across the street from the Yamaguchi University Hopsital.

Leave your best name for this sculpture in the comments. You may win a prize.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008



The really small text says: I use it every minute of every day of my life no matter what I'm doing!"

And yes, the font choices are intentional.