Archive for September, 2007

The curse of the middle name

Saturday, September 29th, 2007 by Chris

A pitch-perfect article in the Japan Times about the curse that is a foreigner’s relation with any Japanese government office:

The curse of the middle name


As I have done many times for the past several years – ever since my older son decided to become a professional student – I walked to my local post office to wire him finances. As a veteran, I came prepared: I had my personal stamp. I had copies of the last many times I had wired money. I had my postal savings passbook. I had my alien registration, my passport, and my driver’s license. All this because I always feared something would go wrong.

But I had had no difficulties whatsoever in numerous tries. Which meant the post office was due.

One Small Step for a Man

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 by Chris

One Small Step for a Man I discovered this delightful public-service announcement posted over the urinals in the bathroom of a visitor center on the slopes of Mount Chokai in the south end of Akita. It says “please take one more step forward.” Or in the words of our friend Andy: “You’re not as close as you think you are.”

Tastes Terrible; More Filling

Friday, September 21st, 2007 by Chris

We passed this wonderful advertisement (?) in the city of Sakata, Yamagata.  Unfortunately the building it was attached to was closed, so we never got to try this mysterious “blue soup”.

The text says “Kyuusai Blue Soup” and the speech bubbles above the guy’s head say “one more cup!” and “tastes terrible.”  We never figured out if this was an actual product or just an elaborate joke.

Kyuusai Blue Soup

My Cup Runneth Over

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 by Steph

Well, there’s been another water incident, only this one wasn’t confined to my high school. Last weekend some sort of typhoon passed over the great state of Akita, and we took a little bit of a beating. As it was a 3 day weekend, I missed most of the storm warnings, though I could tell something was up. As far as I knew, we just got a lot of rain, nothing special. When I arrived at school on Tuesday morning, I heard a slightly different story.

I was a bit confused when my co-teacher told me that the school was being closed because of wind. The weather outside didn’t seem so severe, and I’d been in much stronger winds in Noshiro before. My confusion escalated to alarm when I heard that the teachers were required to stay at school even though the students were sent home. Our school building is, let’s say, on the crumbly side and is currently undergoing extensive renovation. When I heard that something was dangerous enough to cancel class, but that the teachers had to stick it out, images of being buried alive in a pile of rubble flashed before my eyes.

Which is when I heard about the evacuees in the gym. And the pieces started to fall together… we weren’t bracing ourselves for wind after all. The Yoneshiro river which runs through town was full to the point of bursting, and things were starting to get wet. Things like entire rice fields and houses. I sat back and took it all in for a moment. Flood? Where was I when all this happened?

As school was technically closed for the day, I had to go out and forage for my lunch. My usually peaceful town was abustle with traffic. Restaurants were closed. Police had blockaded now-underwater river-adjacent streets. I’m told that snakes and frogs lined the retaining wall, fleeing from the swollen river as the water inched upwards. Isn’t that some kind of sign of the apocalypse?

Luckily, Noshiro and the Akita river area in general is built for this sort of thing, with wide flood plains. Nevertheless, over 25,000 people in Akita have had to evacuate their homes. Entire bridges are missing a little farther to the southeast. Let’s hope that typhoon season ends soon so we can all dry out a little.

Dépp-jà  vu

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 by Chris

I just wanted to post a quick follow-up to one of Steph’s posts from a few months ago.  We just salvaged the photos off Steph’s phone, going all the way back to February.  Among them were several gems from the high school festival she wrote about in July.  That would be the one with the Johnny Depp shrine and the Spider-man room.  So here they are. 

Reap your Rewards

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007 by Steph

The rice harvest has begun. Check out tomorrow’s post to see pictures of these 6 foot tall rice drying sticks half-submerged in flood water.


My Parallel UNIQLO

Monday, September 10th, 2007 by Chris

Clothes shopping can be a hit-and-miss affair in Japan, a country where most people are the size and shape of popsicle sticks. And, of course, Japanese fashion is famously strange at the best of times. Enter UNIQLO. UNIQLO is Japan’s version of The Gap, and Steph and I have had pretty good luck finding clothes there.

Japan is a madly seasonal country, and clothing stores are no exception. If you see a shirt or a flavor of ice cream you like, you’d better buy it now because they might not have it next week. The upside of this is that it’s always fun just to drop in and see what fun novelty T-shirts they’ve got today. American baseball team shirts are popular, and there are always a lot of random campy print T-shirts in styles from old-west to 1970s.

Type shirtsThe funny thing about random events is that they inevitably make occasional uncanny patterns and you never expect it. Thus I was surprised when, while waiting for Steph to try on some clothes, I stumbled upon a whole series of shirts about… fonts. The first one that caught my said (backwards) “Character Set Calligraphy Bitmap”. I looked below it and saw another: “METAFONT”. I kept looking and the typographical joy kept flowing: “OPENTYPE” “sans-serif” “ASCENDER”. These shirts are all produced by T-26, a font foundry whose fonts we sell at MyFonts and, in fact, whose shirts Steph has bought for me before.

Steph prevented my from buying the whole set, but I did walk out with two.

Pink ElephantBut the story does not end there. No more than a couple weeks later, we walked into another UNIQLO store, and there in the window was a Seattle landmark from my youth. Unable to believe the coincidences with my own life that UNIQLO was throwing at me, I walked out the proud owner of a new Pink Elephant Car Wash shirt.

For those of you who are curious, here is a picture of the whole rack of T-26 shirts:

T-26 shirts at UNIQLO

Fall Approcheth

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007 by Steph

The first leaves are starting to turn colors, and it’s almost apple season.
What happened to summer?