1000-yen high class burger available at MosBurger

The new high-class hamburger offered by Mos Food Service (MosBurger), the “Takumi 10”. Using safely-raised eggs and domestic bacon, it also comes with a Japanese-style sauce. The odd high price is “the result of emphasizing quality and disregarding commercial concerns.”[Jiji Tsushin]

Comment: I might split this with someone. But 1000 yen for a damn burger?! Forget it.

Report From Kyrgyztan

The following piece was forwarded to me by my friend Charles, currently living in Kazakhstan. My only comment is that the holiday of Nevruz which he refers to was this past Monday (March 21), and I was in Almaty, Kazakhstan visiting Charles on that day last year. It was clearly the most important festival of the year, with much of the city, and even thousands of visitors from provincial areas gathering in the city square and celebrating long into the night. Try to imagine how a mass cultural patriotic holiday like this transitioned into the street revolution that you have been reading about in the news.
For links to continuing coverage, see the Registan blog.

According to the Kyrgyz Republic’s long-lived president Askar Akaev, the recent parliamentary elections passed in “genuinely democratic, transparent and honest” atmoshpere and symbolized a “major success and celebration of democracy”, thus proving that “democracy extended deep roots in the fertile Kyrgyz soil”. Were this idyllic and impeccable depiction true, the Kyrgyz people wouldn’t come onto the streets and rally in front of state buildings to protest the current regime’s scandalous attempt to forge the elections.

As an indignant reader of “Moya Stolitsa Novosti” (MSN) wrote in her letter, the scale of bribing and cheat during the 13 March runoffs was appalling. In the University polling district of Bishkek, where President’s daughter, Bermet Akaeva, ran for seat after the first round of the elections on 27 February, she witnessed as school masters, apparently threatened to be sacked if they didn’t collaborate, brought their employees and relatives from all over the city to the polling station. They concealed photos in their passports with pieces of paper as a sign for election committee’s members, who calmly produced voters’ lists, letting the ardent “constituents” put signatures against bogus names, and dispensed the bulletins, which subsequently went into voting boxes in Bermet Akaeva’s favour. What is even more scandalous, on exit they received from 150 to 300 soms (41 soms equals 1 $) after entering their signatures in a sheet.

Even after the elections were over and all the Kyrgyz people were supposed to unite in celebration of the “deep-rooted” democracy and greet the new parliament members, “honestly” elected by their votes, the extent of the ruling regime’s interventions into the political life was so blatant that sometimes it was ridiculous to witness. On 18 March the US ambassador to the Kyrgyz Republic Mr. Stephen Young gave a press conference in the “Akipress” news agency and assessed the past elections. Starting to his presentation, he said that he was prepared to everything and showed a pocket lantern to the surprised reporters, hinting the embarrassing development that took place the previous day. Electricity was cut suddenly and the lights went off completely when ENEMO’s (European Network of Elections Monitoring Organizations) international observers gathered in the same building to introduce their report on the elections.

A month earlier, something similar happened to the Freedom House printing press, the only independent printing house in the country. On February 22 the electrical power was cut off, allegedly due to staff’s violation of safety requirements. By providing professional printing services to over sixty local and regional newspapers, it had been irritating the government since its opening last year. Seemingly, the MSN’s allegations against Akaev and his family served as the last drop, as he accused the newspaper and the Kyrgyz media in general of “systematic information terror” and has declared his intention to file a criminal libel suit against the MSN newspaper, which is also printed by the independent press. The remarkable and eloquent thing about the development is that electrical power was cut off just 4 days before the national parliament elections. The incident was widely accused by local and international media and NGOs. The Freedom House itself, the international freedom and human rights watch-dog based in US, voiced its concern over the development and named it as an “act of censorship” and an “attack not only on a legitimate business operation, but also on democracy”.

Beginning this article yesterday, I did not suspect I would be writing these final lines in an office in Istanbul while my Kyrgyz compatriots are writing history on the streets of Bishkek. Emotions are overflowing me at this great moment. Occasionally it becomes hard to check tears of happiness, passion and hope as I feverishly press the refresh button of my browser to track the pages of websites updating news from Ala-Too square, the main square in Bishkek, practically in the real time mode. These emotions are: happiness to see my people united in the critical time of change, passion at the sight of my brothers and sisters’ blood shed for the sake of this change, and hope for the brighter future for my country. The timing of the uprising, coming right after the ancient holiday of Nevruz, is highly symbolic, too. It has been widely celebrated by all peoples of Central Asia and has symbolized the New Year and change for both nomadic and settled tribes of the region for thousands of years.

The last developments in Kyrgyzstan openly manifest that the elections have been the last drop for the long-suffered Kyrgyzstanis. The Kyrgyz people have been traditionally viewed as the most tranquil and peaceful nation in the Central Asia, not disposed to change the current developments and force out the ruling regime, more so. Yet, however radical and unexpected Akaev’s ouster may seem, it stands in line with the velvet revolutions in the former Soviet Union, and in greater scale, conforms to the flow of history: discontented nations sooner or later overthrow their repressive authorities. Whatever the circumstances behind the latest events in Kyrgyzstan may be, now that Kyrgyz people persisted and managed to express their will, they may be proud to be named as the most democratic in the Central Asia.

So, dear brothers and sisters, accept my genuine congratulations on emergence of a new democracy! Regarding the questions Max raised here, I am positive they won’t take 15 years for the new authorities to answer!

Ritsumeikan University to Move Headquarters

The new law school
New location at Nijo Station, Kyoto to open next fall

Ritsumeikan University announced on March 24 that it would build a new building Southeast of JR’s Nijo Station in Chuo-ku, Kyoto, moving its headquarters operations and law school there from the Kinugasa campus (in Kita-ku). It will begin construction today and plans to finish by September 2006.

The new building will have one basement floor and 7 above-ground floors. The lot area is 8118 square meters, and the groos floor area is 27147 square meters. The land will be purchase from the Japan Post Private Company. Total construction costs, including land costs, will come to 1 billion yen. The building, when completed, will be used by 700 teachers and students.

Nijo Station

In addition to the headquarters operations and law school, facilities for the Business Management Section, which trains business school masters students and certified public accountants, and the “University Administrator Development Graduate School” which develops university management specialists, will also move into the new building. All of these schools concentrate on working adults, so the move near JR Nijo, which is also accesible to the City Subway, takes into consideration those commuting to class.

Besides its Kinugasa campus, Ritsumeikan also has a campus in Kusatsu, Shiga, making the Nijo building the university’s third campus.

: Kinugasa was always a pain in the ass to get to, but that’s what made me the fit individual I am today, so I’m not complaining.

Aichi Expo Opens Today, MFT watches from a distance

Well, it finally started: the Aichi World Expo 2005. It promises to usher in the next wave of technology (Robots), showcase the best the world’s got to offer, and is being held in the economic power of Asia’s fastest-growing city. Thanks to major sponsors, Toyota, for both holding the Expo and building the Nagoya International Airport to support it. Japan’s Yokoso! tourist PR campaign led up to the event, with even Koizumi appearing in commercials welcoming visitors to experience the country of ancient culture and futuristic technology, or whatever he said. Some visitors to Japan will be able to get their hands on special PDAs that will allow them to make phone calls and get pertinent information. Not everyone agrees that Japan is the best tourist destination, though, citing not only language difficulties but more basic tourism problems — Japan’s stores don’t accept foreign credit cards, and there is no reliable hotel information for most destinations.

Despite all the fuss about walking robots, the most popular attraction at the expo is likely to be Totoro’s house, a life-size recreation of the lovable creature’s home in the classic movie, My Neighbor Totoro. For all the hype about this being a World Expo, it’s really going to be mostly Japanese tourists in attendance. Fact is, there probably won’t be throngs of people from all over the world storming the country to get a peek at what the Expo’s got to offer. Like most people who are curious about the bampaku, I am content to read about the highlights online (and I’ll be sure to blog anything good I come across).

I don’t know about you, but the Internet makes me a lot less curious about the world. Now that I can read all sorts of really general information on the Internet for free, I feel like I already have a sense of what those places must be like. The Marmot’s Hole, for one, has completely ruined me on Korea. I have gotten such an inside scoop from Marmot and his blogroll that I kind of doubt I’d be missing much. When you’re an adult and the thrill of going out and getting drunk fades, all that’s left is more going out drinking. Doesn’t matter where you are, if you work full time then you don’t have time for much else. It’s all the same — the minute differences between countries that you care about can be easily digested in a foot-long blogroll.

No wait, I take it all back. I wish I could be there. I really really do.

Hideki Matsui, a Rod Stewart fan?!

Love this picture!
From the always lovable SUNSPO:

Tampa, FL (Tashiro Manabu and Ami Shunsuke reporting) — Yankees outfielder Hideki Matsui (30) took his first full day of rest during this year’s Spring Training on Mar. 23. Matsui has been at his best in the exhibition games, but the secret to his success can be found in the sweet voice of pop singer Rod Stewart (60). It’s been his favorite recently, saying that it’s really great to listen to while training (?!). (Photo: “Godzilla” Matsui takes a ride in his car to get refreshed on his full day off)

“Godzilla” smiles as he does his situps. Even away from the field he cannot take a break from his training routine. With a 333 batting average, 5 hits and 15 RBIs in the exhibition games, the outfielder is at his best. But why Rod Stewart?

“I hadn’t really listened to him before, but the singing and the music are very easy on the ears. It’s great for training, so I love putting it on.”

As Matsui trained the sweet strains of Stewart’s unique voice could be heard on the stereo speakers. When he came to America, “The Great American Songbook Vol. 3” (A cover album of American standards including Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”) was among the CDs he brought with him. He bought it because it had a comfortable sound that he might have heard somewhere before.

He likes it enough that he’s considering getting the previous two volumes, and he listens to it every time he trains at home. The tag team of Rod Stewart and Godzilla will shoot for the stars this season, so watch out!

My Comment: That last sentence conjures up images that I wish I could Photoshop. Who knew Matsui had such lame taste in music? God this guy is hideous:


Nakajima Miyuki says “NO” Declines to Appear on Horie’s Nippon Broadcasting

Tamori, Kuramoto Sou join the singer… A major impact on future programming

Singer-songwriter Nakajima Miyuki (53), who was a popular personality on Nippon Broadcasting’s late-night ratings gem, “All Night Nippon,” talk-show host Tamori and others declared on March 24 that they would boycott appearances if Horie Takafumi’s (32) Livedoor grabbed managing rights of the TV station. The channel has submitted this in writing to the Tokyo High Court.

According to the document, besides the above-mentioned tarento, Emoto Takenori (57), a news analyst who has worked for the station for 23 years, cameramen Kuramoto Sou (70) and Ichimori Hajime (57) have submitted that they will stop work, and if all the signatories leave Nippon Broadcasting at one, it will be a major blow to Horiemon (Horie’s affectionate nickname).

“All Night” began broadcasting in October 1965. Besides Nippon Broadcasting President Kamebuchi Terunobu, famous faces such as Beat Takeshi, Akashiya Sanma, Kuwata Keisuke (of the Southern All-Stars), and Matsutoya Yumi have worked as personalities on the show in the past, and even now Ninety Nine is hosting the show and it continues to receive high ratings.

In the document submitted to the Court, Nippon Broadcasting stressed, “A talent boycott would mean lower ratings and lower our value as an advertising medium.”

Anti Semetic Bobby Fischer to Find a New Home in Iceland?

By now many of you have probably heard that Bobby Fischer has been granted citizenship by the government of Iceland and should be well on his way there. This was accomplished through a special act of the Icelandic parliament, sponsored by a Mr. Saemundur Palsson, who have the following comment to the press, “I hope that he will stop cursing the Americans now. It has gotten him into so much trouble.” Unfortunately, Mr. Fischer was not quite so sensible. The NYT quotes him as saying, “This was not an arrest, it was a kidnapping cooked up by Bush and Koizumi. They are war criminals – they should both be hung.”

Bobby Fischer is of course the former world chess champion, on the run from US authorities for playing a chess match in a country which no longer exists in violation of economic sanctions. Despite actually being Jewish, he became a rabid anti-Semite and after years of hiding resurfaced as a caller to radio programs in Iceland and the Phillipines ranting about how fantastic it was that the World Trade Center had been destroyed and calling for the extermination of the Jew-infested US Empire (his sentiment of course, not mine).

More information on Bobby Fischer, as well as links to recordings of some of his insane radio interviews can be found here.

Considering how his bizarre anti-Semitism, I was curious how this attitude might fit into the general perception of Jews in Iceland, and after a little research found this article, which is very likely the best word on the topic on the entire Internet. I would like to quote from the conclusion:

However, one cannot say that Iceland was a case of “antisemitism without Jews”. Iceland’s antisemitism first appeared concerning the Bolshevik connection, but only in small measures. It was not until the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Germany that Icelandic antisemitism became transparent. The anti-communism elements in Iceland, most notably the newspapers Morgunblaðið and Vísir, showed considerable antisemitism, especially when the persecutions in Germany became more visible. After the Kristallnacht the existing support for Germany decreased, and vanished almost completely after the Russo-German pact of 1939. Consequently, criticism of the German antisemitism inflated and antisemitic remarks receded.
Iceland’s Jewish policy was in most ways similar to these of other Nordic countries. However, what differed was Hermann Jónasson’s lack of flexibility while, on the other hand, other Nordic governments allowed proportionally more Jewish immigration on humanitarian grounds. On the total, it seems that Iceland took much less part in the rescue of German Jewry than most, if not all, European countries, contrary to Jónasson’s statement of the opposite. Although the general Icelander was usually friendly and compassionate towards the Jewish refugees, the Government showed a totally different attitude.

Anyone interested should read the entire paper.

【お構いなく宣伝】最近GREEにハマってます Lived in Japan? Use GREE to find people you met there!


A friend recently turned me on to GREE, a kind of Japanese Friendster. Like Friendster, you can use the site to register friends, hobbies, alma maters (almas mater?) or whatever. Another great feature is that it lets you run your blog’s RSS feed through the site, which I have done. You need an invitation to join, so anyone who’s lived in Japan, reads Japanese reasonably well, and wants an invite can feel free to ask me for one. Enjoy!

Beijing Post Publishes Posthumous Interview With Isaac Asimov

Danwei reports that Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series is finally being published in Chinese, and in honor of this the Beijing News has put out a special science fiction issue. In addition to articles on Chinese language SF, they have also managed to get an interview with the man himself, (English translationthe first he has given since passing away in 1992.

Isaac Asimov passed away on 6 April 1992, so to be able to conduct this interview we must thank a scientist named Vikkor Mallansohn – according to Asimov’s novel [The End of Eternity] he invents something in the 24th century that makes a “time kettle” possible.

Among the highlights of the interview is this exchange on the much discussed Al Qaeda connection. It’s worth noting here that (according, again, to Danwei), both ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘Foundation’ are translated the same in Chinese (基地)

TBN: What a terrible reader. Reportedly there are people who have examined Bin Laden’s choice to name his terrorist organization “Foundation” (Al Qaeda) and have concluded that it is perhaps because of your influence, that he was a science fiction fan in his youth. What is interesting about this is that you wrote the Foundation under upon the instigation of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and many scholars today believe that the United States is a New Roman Empire.

Asimov: I don’t know whether Bin Laden really understands English. “Foundation” (Al Qaeda) does resemble a group exiled from civilization, but they are at a lower level rather than a higher one. The US is unquestionably the most powerful country today, but I have a hard time determining whether it is in a process of decline akin to that in Foundation. This is perhaps the mystique of history; we can learn lessons and gain inspiration from similar historical situations. But I must point out that the “Empire” in my novels is not a country, but rather a description of a stage in the progression of the people of Earth. You can see that personal names are of all different types, not merely American.

The Ansible website has a good (if somewhat tongue in cheek)article on this theorized connection.

The small but alarming coincidence is that this is Asimov’s “Foundation” series (Seldon’s outfit is called the Foundation), allegedly popular among Arabic-speaking SF readers under its translated name Al Qaeda. Usually rendered into English as The Base, this also means The Foundation.

So, was Osama bin Laden inspired by Asimov’s fiction to establish his Al-Qaeda in an impoverished country, there to await and assist the fall of the West, issuing portentous videotapes the while?

Interestingly, while the Al-Qaeda/Foundation link is still a matter of controversy, it is generally accepted that the Foundation trilogy was in fact an inspiration for Shoko Asahara, the founder of the Aum cult responsible for the Tokyo subway sarin gas attacks several years ago.
More on this later when I have time to do some checking.

Beastly doctor snaps up women on All Fours

More Waiwai nonsense:

She thought something was amiss when the doctor told her to strip naked — she only had a painful chest. Still, her physician was one of the most famous in Japan, so she assumed he knew what he was doing.

She even went along when he told her to get on all fours and crawl. And she still didn’t complain when the doctor pulled out a digital camera and began taking photos. But she knew something was really wrong when she wasn’t charged for the examination.

Sadao Tanabe, the renowned cardiologist from posh government-run Bokuto Hospital who probed the young woman, was arrested on March 10, Shukan Jitsuwa (3/31) notes.

“Loads of filthy photos were found on the personal computer seized from the doctor’s home. He’d downloaded most of them from adult sites. But there were also photos of about 20 naked women. They were nearly all in their 20s or 30s and there was about 10 shots of each of them,” a police investigation source tells Shukan Jitsuwa. “The photos were of women standing up, lying down, crawling on all fours. The ones on all fours were most frequent. The cameras were taken at all different angles, from the side, from behind, whatever. I don’t care how famous a doctor he was supposed to have been, I can’t believe he had the temerity to take photos like these.”