Ritsumeikan Swords

Continuing the recent trend of writing about alma maters, here’s something really fun I spotted when googling “Ritsumeikan.”


Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto had a small forge (tanrenjo) set up during World War II which made swords for the military and the war effort. The forge was led by Sakurai Masayuki, the second son of Sakurai (Manji) Masatsugu, a well known early gendai swordsmith. He originally signed Masatsuna. He worked in Fukuoka, Osaka, and Kyoto (Ritsumeikan University). He was an early teacher of Seiho Sumitani (Sumitani Masamine), who became a Ningen Kokuho Tosho (Living National Treasure Swordsmith) from Kanazawa.

Good lord, you have no idea how much I want one of these things. I’ve never been a big fan of class rings and that sort of junk, but a class SWORD-sign me up! Does it just seem like a good idea because I spent all of yesterday reading the new Harry Potter book inside as the typhoon raged across Taiwan?

Check out the original page for more photos and information.

Nikkei: How to sit on commuter trains

Nikkei offers some very specific tips from the pros on how to find a seat on Japan’s crowded commuter trains:

Before you get on the train:

  • Line up at worst 4th from the front (in cars with seven-person benches and 3 doors): The 5th in line may not be able to sit. In that case, wait for the next train!
  • Line up near the smoking area of the station: There are many who get on late because they are distracted by smoking. Few people will put out their cigarettes just to line up.
  • Line up behind the door second closest to the stairs: There are usually a lot of people getting off at the door nearest the stairs, so you may be held up getting on the train.
  • Line up near areas where stairs or offices make the waiting area smaller: It’s hard to line up there so there will be fewer people lined up.
  • Line up at the very end of the platform: There are simply fewer people there.
  • Do not line up behind couples: They move together, so if a couple is in front of you you can’t move quickly to grab a seat.
  • Once you are on the train:

  • Stand in front of the person who moves to sit on the end seat: The end seat on a bench is the most popular since you don’t have to deal with people sitting next to you on both sides. Once that seat opens, people who were sitting in other seats will often move to the end. You should stand in front of them because it is likely they’ve been riding for a while, increasing the likelihood that they’ll get off soon (leaving the seat for you!)
  • Look for indicative signs that people are about to get off: Looking out the window, putting away books or headphones, glancing at the tsurikawa (straps to hold on to to keep you from falling over), any signs that they might get off soon.
  • Judge from clothing or items in riders’ hands where they will get off: Check for school uniforms or company seals or envelopes to predict where they’ll get off. You can also tell from regular clothes, such as a housewife working part time or a student at a preparatory study school.
  • Remember the faces of people who always get off at the same station: Salarymen are the easiest to remember. It is also effective to write your own list of people’s features.
  • You can guess where someone will get off by what they’re reading: Hardcover readers are long commuters, while people reading paperbacks often have short commutes. You can also tell where someone will get off by labels indicating the libraries where the books came from. There are also theories that people who read sports newspapers tend to have long commutes.
  • The bulk of the story comes from interview with self-described experts on finding seats in crowded trains Hajime Yorozu, a worker at a publishing company who is such an expert he has his own mail magazine and book on the topic.

    The list in Japanese can be found at this blog in case you don’t believe me. The above image was ripped off from this blog that also covered the Nikkei story. Thanks again, Technorati!

    Rutgers Proposal for Colleges Meets Alumnae Resistance

    Rutgers Proposal for Colleges Meets Alumnae Resistance

    A Rutgers University task force is recommending creation of a college of arts and sciences that would standardize admissions criteria, graduation requirements and other procedures. Under the proposal, some Rutgers colleges would function as campuses, but no longer by name as colleges.

    The suggestion, which is part of a 175-page report that is scheduled for release on Monday, was criticized yesterday by the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College, which introduced a Web site earlier in the day, savedouglasscollege.org, calling for the measure’s defeat. The group said the proposal would mean the end of Douglass College.

    The university president, Richard L. McCormick, said in a telephone interview last night that the report would undergo months of discussion. He noted that the plan was not calling for a merger; the colleges would retain their distinct qualities.

    “It recommends creating something that every other research university has, a college of arts and sciences,” Dr. McCormick said. “And it recommends calling our residential campuses what they are: residential campuses.”

    He created the 75-member Task Force on Undergraduate Education in April 2004 to guarantee that in emphasizing research, Rutgers does not shortchange undergraduates on courses and access to faculty members. In addition, Dr. McCormick said, he wanted to bring unity to what he called “a patchwork quilt” of schools and programs situated in New Brunswick and Piscataway.

    Besides Douglass, which is an all-women’s college, Rutgers College, Livingston College and University College would all be affected.

    “What it does, it effectively ends Douglass College,” said Sheila Kelly Hampton, class of ’70, who is president of the Douglass alumnae group. “By calling it a campus, they just are talking about where someone happens to live. They don’t address many of the student life issues and program issues.”

    Dr. McCormick disagreed. “Douglass will be as it is now, a women’s-only campus, and will continue to have its signature courses on women, retain its distinctive mission and continue to reflect its unique history,” he said.

    Each individual college now sets its own criteria in certain areas, including admissions, honors programs and graduation requirements, and none have faculties of their own; they are served by a general faculty of arts and sciences, he said. A new college of arts and sciences, under a unified structure, would simplify standards for students, faculty and administrators, and get faculty members more involved with students, he added.

    But the executive director of the alumnae, Rachel Ingber, class of ’83, said: “Eliminating colleges does not bring faculty closer to students. It creates one huge university where undergraduates don’t have small colleges where they can get academic advice on curriculum programs and the unique mission that Douglass College provides for women.”

    This may be removed from our usual topics, but since I am a Rutgers graduate, and I know a number of other Rutgers alumni read this blog, I just wanted to point out this important development concerning the school.

    The current president of Rutgers University previously managed to scuttle a recent plan proposed by our former governor James McGreevey to merge Rutgers university with the states other medical and research oriented universities. This plan would have done little to improve the quality of medical education or research, while confusing the organization of the university as a whole. The previous plan was entirely based around the medical and research divisions of the universities involved, which included Rutgers, UMDNJ, NJIT and possibly others, while providing no reasonable plan for the administration of liberal arts and undergraduate departments. This current report seems to be a response to that, confirming that undergraduate education must be a priority at public universities.

    I haven’t yet read the actual report (although I intend to), but after spending four years at Rutgers, New Brunswick I’m rather familiar with the organizational structure of the university. As it currently stands, Rutgers New Brunswick is actually a network of several nearby campuses in the neighboring towns of New Brunswick and Piscataway, linked through a system of free buses. As a large university, Rutgers consists of several different colleges, and each college is associated with a different campus. Each college has a unique history and origin, and today there are five liberal arts colleges, which share a common faculty of arts and sciences, and a number of specialty schools, each of which has their own faculty for their specialized programs. Students in specialty schools (such as Engineering, Pharmacy, Mason Gross School of the Arts etc.) also take at least a basic number of liberal arts classes as well, which are the same classes that members of the five liberal arts colleges take.

    Here is a brief summary of the history, characteristics, and my thoughts on the future of the four liberal arts colleges, in chronological order of their founding:

    Continue reading Rutgers Proposal for Colleges Meets Alumnae Resistance

    Correction: Government only sort of asking people to use their real names on the Internet

    Japan Media Review follows up on earlier Kyodo reports that the Japanese government was trying to end anonymity on the Internet by teaching them to use their real names on blogs from a young age, information that I passed along earlier.

    Turns out the government has a slightly more nuanced take on the situation:

    Later Monday, however, an anonymous blogger who calls his Weblog a “Diary of a Kasumigaseki Bureaucrat” (Kasumigaseki is the Tokyo district where most government offices are located) took the trouble of leafing through the panel’s draft report that had been published online earlier in the month and discovered that many of the Kyodo report’s descriptions didn’t match what the panel actually said in its report.

    For instance, the blogger noticed that nowhere in the report did the panel actually advocate calling on people to use their real names in cyberspace, or to drop using screen handles. Rather, it outlined a more subtle argument. It noted that the prevalence of anonymity in Japan has led to an atmosphere in which many feel that it doesn’t matter what they do or say in cyberspace so long as they are not caught. To that end, raising the credibility of the Internet in Japan will require an improvement of general public “morals” online. Consequently, the report said, “It is necessary to teach [children] how to interact naturally with each other in cyberspace, using either their real names or some kind of assumed name.” Thus, he noted, the Ministry accepts anonymity, so long as it is practiced with good “morals.”

    Moreover, business journalist Hiroyuki Fujishiro, writing his own column about the blogging world for Nikkei BP, checked the 86-page final draft of the panel’s report that appeared Tuesday. He noted that much of the rather inflammatory writing in the original Kyodo article, in which the Internet is called a “hotbed of evil” or “hotbed of dangerous information” and where anonymity is linked somehow to online suicide sites or to online information about bomb-making, does not appear in the report. He did find, however, that the panel displayed considerable concern about the “dark side” of the Internet, one feature of which was the irresponsible behavior that stems from anonymity.

    I highly suggest that you check out Japan Media Review if they’re at all interested in Japanese and wants to read news about Japan or in Japanese. Their analysis is great and they offer a good set of links as well. Especially now that I don’t have the time to exhaustively check Japan news myself, I may end up depending on their coverage to keep up with media happenings. Thank god they’re funded by the US government.


    New light thrown on origins of Chinese culture as lost civilization emerges

    One of the world’s great cities once flourished here at Jinsha village in China’s southwest, the 1000 B.C. equivalent of New York or Paris, and then inexplicably vanished, leaving no trace behind in the historical records.

    Until recently, locals had no idea they were living on top of a great lost bronze-age civilization.

    Myanmar Woman ‘suddenly grows penis’

    Medical doctor Aye Sanda Khaing put it in layman’s terms in a local journal: “Her penis appeared at the site of her clitoris,” the doctor was quoted as saying.

    Regardless of the official findings, local villagers and other curious Myanmar nationals are flocking to the Aung Myay Thar Yar pagoda, in this new satellite township 19km from Yangon, to see Than Sein for themselves and make donations to him or the temple.

    Up to 400 gather at the pagoda each day, often in a courtyard under colorful umbrellas to ward off the sun’s rays, waiting for the chance to talk with and touch Than Sein.

    Japanese researchers invent promising new HIV drug

    The drug’s main feature is that it shuts out the AIDS virus at the point when it tries to intrude into a human cell.

    Current AIDS medicines can lose their effectiveness in a few days when the virus changes and develops a resistance to those drugs. But AK602 is different because it reacts to human cells instead of attacking the virus, Mitsuya said.

    Developers and purists erase Mecca’s history

    Sami Angawi, an expert on the region’s Islamic architecture, said 1,400-year-old buildings from the early Islamic period risk being demolished to make way for high rise towers for Muslims flocking to perform the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest city.

    “We are witnessing now the last few moments of the history of Mecca,” Angawi told Reuters. “Its layers of history are being bulldozed for a parking lot,” he added.

    Angawi estimated that over the past 50 years at least 300 historical buildings had been leveled in Mecca and Medina, another Muslim holy city containing the prophet’s tomb.

    Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s dominant doctrine which promotes a strict narrow interpretation of Islam, was largely to blame, he said.

    Racist Korean Commercial

    When looking for an example of “krumping,” some kind of new dance style, I came across this interesting, if a little long, cell phone commercial from Korea (set in Australia apparently). While watching, try and notice:

    1. The cool dancing — there’s a lag in the middle but when they dance it’s good.
    2. The group of “black people” who try and shoplift merchandise from the supermarket where the heroine works and then later feebly chase and attack her for no reason (only to be heroicly rescued by the hero on a motorcycle — how daring!). Is black people stuffing duffel bags full of merchandise really a problem in Korean supermarkets in Australia? I was under the impression that there wasn’t even much of a black population there.
    3. The random panel of white people she’s auditioning for at the beginning and the end of the video. I guess auditioning for the white people makes it that much more dramatic than if she were trying to get in a Korean music video or something.

    I mean, I guess you can’t avoid the use of quick symbolism in a short, silent film such as this. But “blacks = thugs, whites = rich and powerful record executives” seems a little too convenient. (Thanks to Kancoma for the link)

    ‘Evil dragon’ snared via online game

    TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan police captured a heavily armed fugitive whom they had been tracking for more than a year Wednesday after he exposed his whereabouts by playing online computer games.

    Taiwan evening newspapers said Chang Hsi-ming, wanted for murder, illegal possession of weapons and multiple kidnappings, was found via his Internet protocol address after police found out he often played games online.

    The head of Taiwan’s Criminal Investigation Bureau personally led the siege against Chang’s hideout in central Taiwan, with more than 130 police and two armored vehicles as he was known to be armed with assault rifles and hand grenades.

    Chang was shot in the chest and shoulder during a gun battle and taken to hospital.

    Police had offered a T$10 million (US$312,500) reward for information leading to the capture of Chang, dubbed the “evil dragon” by local press.

    Guantanamo Bay better than my hometown, says Rep Simmons

    This is what my representative, Bill Simmons (R-CT) has to say about Guantanamo Bay:

    Simmons: Guantanamo conditions better than critics claim

    Norwich Bulletin

    U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, said recent criticism of U.S. activities at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba are unfounded, based on his tour of the facility Monday.

    “My impression was that the military personnel there are highly professional, well-trained and very much in charge of the situation,” Simmons said Tuesday during a telephone conference call from his Washington office. “It appeared to be very professionally run and, from what I saw, very different than what I had expected.”

    Simmons and 10 other members of Congress toured the facility Monday, witnessing an interrogation of a detainee, eating a detainee-style lunch and visiting the base’s detainee hospital.

    The treatment of prisoners from Afghanistan and Iraq has come under sharp criticism.

    But Simmons said conditions at Guantanamo are significantly better than most maximum security prisons in the United States, such as Somers in Connecticut.

    I’ve never been inside the prison, but they just killed a guy there and from what I hear it’s every bit as gruesome as Oz.

    Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro sued for insane claim that ‘French cannot be used to count’

    Translated from Yomiuru. Do I really need to comment? Whether or not the suit has any legal merit, Ishihara is a complete and total nutjob.

    Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro being sued for statement that “French is disqualified from international use”

    The head of a Tokyo French language school filed suit on July 13th against Tokyo prefectural governor Ishihara Shintaro (72) in response to his statement that “French is unable to count numbers, and so is disqualified from use as an international language.” In the suit, which was presented to the Tokyo district court, the plaintiff claims that the governor’s statement “damaged my reputation and interfered with my business” and is demanding total damages to the order of ¥10,500,000, as well as a public apology.

    The plaintiff is Malik Berkane, head of the Class de France (Tokyo Minato-ku), as well as 21 other French interpreters/translators and researchers.

    According to the complaint, the statement in question was uttered in October of last year during a meeting of the General Support Foundation for the Establishment of a Metropolitan University of Tokyo at the Tokyo governmental office. Teachers from the former Prefectural University’s literature faculty, which includes French, were speaking in opposition to the establishment of the new university, which decreased the size of their faculty. Ishihara, in addition to his statements on “French’s disqualification” also said that “it is utterly ridiculous that that these people still clinging to French are opposed to the opening of this school.”

    The plantiff’s claim states that “It is in fact possible to count in French, and it is also a common language in international organizations.”

    According to the governor’s office, “Because the complaint has not yet been delivered, we cannot offer any comment at this time.”