I went to Aso down near Kumamoto in Kyuusyuu a while ago.

Aso is a town which has what is apparently the largest active volcano in the world there. You can get there by car about 1.5 hour drive from near the center of Kumamoto. There is only a single road leading out to the place, so if you go on the weekend it will be super crowded and probably take twice as long. Best to go during the week.

Above is a picture of the crater (火口 – かこ) Below is the sign. See, it’s number one!

If you put this stuff into your bathtub (ofuro) at home, you can make it into a hot springs (onsen) with apparently the same type of water quality as this yellow stuff. Full of vitamins and minerals! Yum.

I also saw something that would just never happen in the states… In this giant tourist spot, they have a honor system sales box available. You just drop your money in the box, and pick up what you want. No human intervention at all! If you put this up in my town I bet the entire stand would be stolen in a second…

Also in the area there is this hill called “komezuka” which literally means “rice mound”. It is shapped like, uh… a mound of rice. The dip at the top is where the god of Aso took a dip to feed the people. Seriously though the shape of the hill is pretty mysterious.

Fun trip!


Great Dreams

I’m on summer vacation now so I don’t have a lot of time to… uh…

Okay. In fact, I have more time that I’ve ever had. I should be translating for TechJapan or something, but I’m just lazy. I started to move this site to a new, cheaper, less flexible hosting service, but I had trouble moving the board, and MovableType (not so movable is it!!!) so I decided to take a break. I’ll tackle it again later.

So, for now, you get a bunch of random stories.

People seemed to really enjoy talking about the healing properties of certain foods here in Japan. Of course in the states we say that carrots will give you rabbit eyes so you can see well, and stuff like that — but Japan seems to do this more often. Like, Hamamatsu’s Unagi Pie (Eel Pie) is good for your “staminia” *wink wink*.

This blueberry jam, is apparently super good for your eyes. Click for a bigger shot with a more readable label.

Here is a Pachinko sign I saw in Kobe a long time ago.

Hey… That’s a good question. I always wondered about that. Lots of smokey Japanese salarymen will line up for hours in the morning, just to get first pick at the hundreds of pachinko machines in the morning. Then, they will grab hold of this… “knob”, and hold it steady as they watch balls bounce up and down in this machine. If they stay a long time and have some skill, they can win lots of money. Must be great, just sit down, turn off your brain for a few hours, blast your ear drums from the racket of the balls, inhale about 10 years worth of second hand smoke, and hey, you’ll make a few hundred bucks.

Personally, I would rather sit in my room and read… Or wander aimlessly around the city… Or go to the dentist or something. In fact, I would pretty much rather do anything than play Pachinko…

Maybe there is something deep down in the Japanese psyche that despite my fluency in the language, and 3 years in the country continues to evade my understanding. Something that can never be fully comprehended by the gaijin mind. Some innate, 8th sense if you will, only possessed by “true” Japanese. People always say that no number of courses can allow one to truly understand the Japanese Mind. Alas… I will never reach that level…

Why DO people love the Pachinko???

Wait… What’s this now? Could it be?? The Answer!?

Ohhh!!!! DANG! Of course! It was right there all along! It’s because of the countless great dreams floating there! Man. I obviously am still a JapanNewbie if I didn’t even realize the root cause (根本原因) for this cultural phenomenon. If any of you guys in Japan have an urge to be surrounded by floating great dreams, just stop into your local Pachinko parlor.

This last one needs to be sent to Thank goodness for the zoom. 3x baby!

Dude collecting money for a good cause.

I dunno. Call me simple minded, but I thought that was funny.

Let the slacking continue…