Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

Happy Year of the Dragon from Kagoshima!

Friday, December 30, 2011


I've never seen a Kumade (Bear's Paw) ornament used for New Year's before, but there's instructions for making one at the Yamaha papercraft pages, so I decided to make it for the upcoming holiday. It's one of the easier projects to construct. The only tricky part is in cutting out the gold coins and masks, then trying to figure out how to glue the coins correctly. Stands about 5" tall. Hopefully it will do its duty and attract good fortune next year.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Review; Sayonara Nippon

(All rights reserved by their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Most people know of Katsuhiro Otomo from either his Akira or Steamboy movies. Some may have seen his work in Robot Carnival, Memories or Metropolis. But, he's been drawing manga since 1973, when he graduated from high school, although he didn't really get rolling until 1979. One of his earliest pieces was Sayonara Nippon, released as a collection of short stories in 1981. The Akira manga began serialization in 1982, and while there's a notable improvement in the character designs and pacing from Sayonara, the background artwork is just as good.

Sayonara Nippon (Farewell Japan), by Katsuhiro Otomo, Grade: B+
As mentioned above, SN is a collection of short stories, but they mostly have a common theme and overlapping characters. In the first story, "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", the owner of a small bar, a dowdy older woman, gets bored with waiting on a sleeping drunk and three deadbeat members of a rock band. To shake things up, she decides to wave the band's tab in exchange for them backing her up at a nightclub. When showtime arrives, the band is shocked to see her all glammed up, and even more stunned to discover that she's packed the place with top staff members of various record companies. Turns out that back in the day, she was a knockout torch singer. The band members fail to sign a record deal, and the old woman falls asleep at the end of the night before the group photo is taken. Later, she's back behind her bar with just the photo as a souvenir, and the band members continue to bicker over which of them is the worse player.

(The bar owner, and the photo at the end of the torch song performance.)

This is followed by "Sayonara Nippon" parts 1-5, which revolve around a starving karate and judo master who is attempting to take over his late father's dojo in New York City. Over time, he befriends a Japanese woman living on the floor above him in the hotel, and a black kid that wants to take up lessons for free (the kid's father is a pro boxer, who beats the crap out of the karate master in exchange for a $50 fight fee to be used for the dojo lessons). Later, the "hero" rescues a white woman who's being assaulted, then gets insulted by her when he finds her coming out of a brothel with a client. She does relent and returns the gi jacket he'd given her (because her clothes were torn in the assault) with a Japanese flag sewn on the back.

In the next chapter, a Japanese businessman on a trip to his U.S. branch office gets lost in Harlem, and because he doesn't understand English, thinks that the black guys trying to point him in the right direction are trying to rob him. He gives the two all of his belongings and runs away. The businessman encounters the karate master and begs for help in getting money. (The master's response is "just go into the bathroom and cry"). Later, as the two Japanese are working at a restaurant to raise some cash, the businessman sees the two black guys and alerts the karate master. The fight is brief and succinct. But, when the master discovers that the two are undercover cops on a stake out, the situation gets muddled. Eventually, the businessman gets his stuff back and happily returns to Japan, leaving the karate master behind to gripe about not having gotten paid for his efforts.

(The karate master getting attacked in his dojo by angry gang members.)

With "Sayonara Nippon 4", a traveling Japanese guitarist makes his way from LA to NYC and decides to crash at the dojo for a few days. He's recognized by the girl on the floor above as a former band member from a big group in Japan, but the guitarist is realizing that there are a lot of people better than him. He then hitchhikes his way back to the west coast to return home. The karate sensei, on the other hand, is starting to develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and is getting close to losing his job as a part-time dishwasher at the restaurant.

(Points if you recognize the reference.)

Part 5 is probably one of the funniest things I've read from Otomo, ever. A Japanese cart vendor selling tai-yaki in NYC goes toe to toe with an Italian pretzel vendor. Initially the turf war consists of the tai-yaki vendor offering an "eat 30 tai-yaki and they're free campaign", while charging customers fifty cents per tai-yaki when they fail. The pretzel vendor tries the same thing, but the Japanese guy hires a shill who can wolf down all 30 pretzels easily. The Italian counters by hiring the karate master for two days in a row to eat the 30 tai-yaki. The first day goes without a hitch, but the second day, the tai-yakai are made double-size and the sensei gives up. The other shill returns for more pretzels, this time bringing a homeless guy with him. So, the sensei brings 5 homeless guys along himself. Eventually, both carts are swarmed by homeless guys that take all the money as well as the food and both carts. When the two groups run into each other at an intersection, the Japanese and Italian vendors declare war on each other and the rumble begins with both sides being backed up by hordes of homeless. The sensei prepares to attack, but the other shill simply asks how much he's getting paid. The shill is getting $5, and the sensei got $3. The shill adds that he went to Harvard, and this is the best money he can get afterward. The sensei and the Harvard grad then stand side-by-side and watch the brawl unfold.

(Jazz and small club venues make several appearances in SN.)

Chapter 7, "The Saint Comes Along the Road", follows several people as they interact within the Japanese music industry. The president of a record company is living a colorless life, both at work and at home. His assistant is about to be tasked with producing the record of a no-name young female singer. The singer runs away from her rich parents to work in a restaurant to succeed on her own. The three musicians from "East of the Sun" drop in on the record company assistant in order of bum money off him (they'd gone to school together and as their senpai he's forced to help them out). One morning, the company president receives a letter saying that four friends he'd made when he was working in New Orleans are planning to fly to Japan to meet him. The president then tasks the assistant - who can speak some English - to act as a tour guide for the 4 black jazz musicians. The 4 Americans are incredibly lively and shake things up wherever they go. They talk the assistant into booking a small club in Shibuya for them to perform for a small party for the company president. The next day, the female singer arrives at the studio, but the three deadbeat musicians are late - the one had hocked his drums already, and none of them have the money to take the train to the gig. Instead, the three run across Tokyo. Only the lead guitarist can cover the full 4 miles, and even he arrives 2 hours after the start time. The president gets called on the carpet by a rep of the corporate umbrella that owns the recording company, who complains that the company hasn't released a good record yet and it may be time to let the president go. He returns to the studio to find that his 4 friends are the ones backing the girl in the session and the sound coming out is really good. They're all using electric instruments, because even they had to change with the times (they're playing part-time at a disco club on Royal Street). When they finally leave for their flight home, the company president starts feeling that his life has infinite possibilities again.

(The chapters all have realistic splash pages that don't actually show up in the story itself.)

"The 'A' Murder Incident" wraps up the book. A Japanese part-timer is having a bad week. On the way home from his job, he walks in front of a construction site and gets hit on the head by a falling bucket. In compensation, the work crew gives him 50,000 yen ($125 USD at the time), but he has to share it with three of the deadbeat neighbors in his apartment building. When he gets to his room, he finds the dead body of Hiroshi, his neighbor, propped up against the outside wall in front of his window. He tries to figure out who could have killed Hiroshi, but the only suspect he can think of who had a grudge is himself. Two of the deadbeats come back to the apartments with a bottle of sake and descend on the guy's room to do some drinking, and one of them decides to play "tell a secret", adding that he once killed someone. The injured guy accuses the friend of killing Hiroshi and opens the door to show them the body. Later, the other two are walking along the street commenting on how someone can have forgotten that they were a murderer, while the injured one is at the police HQ trying to explain that someone else had done it and it's just a matter of figuring out their "trick". The detective in the room is looking annoyed. (The entire story revolves around the one guy suffering short-term memory loss after receiving a concussion.)

Summary: "Sayonara Nippon" is a gritty look at life in the ghettos in NYC and Tokyo, filled with fighting and some drugs. It's a brief introduction into the much grittier world of "Akira", minus the really black humor that Otomo revels in. If you like Otomo's later work, then you may be disappointed by SN. But, it's still funny, and several chapters have been fan scanilated already. Recommended.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tintin and Tezuka, again

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

A year ago, (Jan. 7), I speculated on the possibility that Osamu Tezuka had originally been influenced by Herge's Tintin. My rationale was that parts of the story in Shin Takara-jima are very similar to that in Red Rackham's Treasure, published 3-4 years earlier. The problem is that Tintin is drawn really well, and if Tezuka had one of Herge's books in front of him to copy in 1946-7, his first manga would have looked a lot more polished. That, plus I have no proof that Tezuka had access to the Belgian newspaper that Tintin was serialized in.

(Back cover art, showing the modern version of Tintin and Snowy for contrast.)

On the other hand, I've never really studied Herge's works all that closely, and I hadn't paid attention to his growth as an artist, either. So, when I received 4 Tintin books for Christmas (Tintin in the Congo, Tintin and the Picaros, The Castafiore Emerald and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets), I was particularly interested in the fact that the cover for Soviets is much more primitive and crude than all the others. Turns out that just as Tezuka hated what his mentor, Shichima Sakai, had done to Shin Takara-jima, Herge disliked the overly heavy handed anti-communist propaganda his editor had insisted on for his own first story. The difference is that Tezuka completely redrew Shin Takara-jima for later reprint, while Herge redrew and recolored everything BUT Soviets for the book releases (the earlier, cruder Tintin stories having originally appeared in black and white in the newspaper serials). According to the wiki entry, because Herge refused to do a book release, Soviets became a collector's item and a number of pirate copies came out. In the 70's, Herge relented and authorized an official book reprint, but with virtually no changes. (Compared to Tezuka, whose estate didn't authorize the original unretouched version of Shin Takara-jima to be reprinted until the 2000's.)

(Here we have a speeding car. Compare this to Petey's car in Shin Takara-jima. Notice how the headlights give the vehicle an anthropomorphic feel.)

Which means that with the unretouched Soviets we have access to Herge's earliest work (dating back to 1929), and we can compare that with Tezuka's own first story (released in 1947). And yes, the visual similarities are striking. Note that the other stories immediately following were equally crude but were redrawn to look the way they do now in modern reprints. Shin Takara-jima is what you would get if you copied early Tintin, and then changed it somewhat to "personalize" it. The Tintin in Soviets starts out very rough. At one point I thought I was looking at a 35-year-old man - pudgy and with bags under his eyes. There are a number of panels where the characters look like they've been copied directly from Windsor McCay (which is reasonable, given that Herge had stated that he really liked Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)) while in others Tintin himself is just a round ball with a stick nose and two little dots for eyes.

(Tintin received a black eye in a previous panel that leaves him looking like a zombie here.)

If you're a fan of Herge, then you probably already have all of the Tintin books. If not, then Soviets is definitely worth getting just to see Tintin proto version 1.0. If you're a fan of manga, it's worth getting Soviets to put it side-by-side with the original version of Shin Takara-jima to see if I'm wrong or not. I still have no proof that Tezuka had access to the unretouched Tintin artwork when he first started out, but I am willing to buy into this particular conspiracy theory.

(The polar bear is classic Windsor McCay. After a year of practicing, Herge is finally figuring out how to draw Tintin consistently, but still having trouble with Snowy's legs and trunk.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sunrise, again

I was thinking of getting the sunrise again, for Christmas morning this time, but the sky was overcast and there was no point in getting up early for it. The next morning, I overslept by half an hour, but by checking out the webcam, it was obvious that, again, the weather was cloudy and there was no shot. That night was clear, though, so I set my alarm for 6 AM for the 27th.

It's getting close to freezing now, but there are sill people at the top of Shiroyama doing radio exercises, several of whom hung around to take photos of Sakura-jima, and the sunrise, afterward. My camera just does not handle night shots well, and low-light areas come out grainy. I took 52 photos, and only 12 came out well enough to be useful.

Lots of texture to the clouds this time. During the 1.5 hours I was on Shiroyama, the volcano was spitting out ash. Eventually, it thinned out enough to ride the air currents.

You can see the twisting to the clouds to the right.

Clouds look a little angry right now.

The sun finally starts clearing the hills in the distance. From this point, the camera gets swamped and the details of the sun's disk disappear into one huge white blob. Interestingly, while trying to frame the shots, I looked at the sun long enough to get an afterimage on my retinas that lasted 15 minutes. When I closed my eyes, the sun's disk as it cleared the hills appeared perfectly. Looked weird when I aimed at the sidewalk and the subtracting of colors made the afterimage turn a misty blue-gray.

False color image enhanced to better show the volcano ash riding the air currents.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Annotum sucks.

A few days ago, I was updating one of my knol articles over at the Google knol system when I noticed a statement at the top of the screen saying that knol is being discontinued in May. This bothered me a lot, because my blog article index is written up as a knol, as are my lists of Gakken Otona no Kagaku kits. In fact, I was in the process of typing up the English translations of the Japanese circuit names for Gakken kit #32, and my plan was to upload it as a new knol in a few days. And now, I'm being told that knol is being taken down. Sigh.

However, there was also a note saying that knol is being replaced by something called "annotum", tied in with wordpress. This is a little strange since wordpress competes with google's blogspot, which I'm already using. Anyway, since I'm not being given any choice, I set up a wordpress account and clicked on the link to export the knols over to annotum, This step worked pretty flawlessly. Then I tried to create a new article for the Gakken kit #32 entry. That was a nightmare. Annotum is badly implemented, and the steps for putting paragraph breaks into the document just ended up adding new blank sections at the bottom of the editor to what seems to be an academic paper. There are 50 different experiments for the Gakken kit, and I had just added section 9 when I accidentally clicked on "publish" when I really wanted to preview the document. When I went to edit it (annotum strips out carriage returns and puts everything into one big block of text), suddenly ctrl+enter worked for adding paragraph breaks and I'm now faced with having to move 9 sections of text (one per circuit) back into the main body again. I just gave up, deleted the new article, pasted my document from Word into a new knol, and exported the knol into annotum (which went without a hitch).

A couple days go by, and I decide I want to check the Otona no Kagaku kit list to add the release date for kit #33 (the desktop robotic vacuum cleaner) because Gakken just announced the official date (Jan. 30). This is when I discovered that for some reason, one of the pictures of the kit covers was resized wrong in annotum. There's no easy way to resize it, and no way to access the html code for the page. Then I find out that annotum demands to have image files hosted on its own server, meaning that I'd have to grab all of the cover images from Gakken and upload them to google, probably violating copyright laws. Then suddenly ALL of the hot links to the Gakken covers got stripped out and the entire page turned naked on me.

This is stupid. There's no point to my using annotum. But now, all of my knol articles are tied up in this crappy software because they've been exported over. Fortunately, knol has an option to bundle up all of the old articles into one big zip file that I could download to my laptop. Unfortunately, it's all in ONE BIG FILE. I spent a full day clipping out each of the 27 articles one by one, and fixing the mess created by google in this latest step ("a name=" code was stripped out, anything in kanji was corrupted, and the HTML code was "pretty-printed" in such a way as to mess up the final display format). On top of having to fix all of the links between the files. Double sigh.

The point is that my knols have been moved over to Additionally, I have the circuit descriptions for Gakken kit #32 uploaded now, if you're interested in them. But, I'm not willing to just give up the Wordpress blog account, so I'm going to use that for only writing about the Otona no Kagaku kits.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Commentary: Monthly Shonen Ace

(All rights reserved by their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Monthly Shonen Ace is another one of those monster-sized phonebook magazines aimed at the audience of Afternoon, with a 974+ page count, and a 690 yen price tag.

Ace is targeted at older teenagers and college students, with genres that include SF, fantasy, sword and sorcery, school life and girls with guns. The artwork on the whole is above average, and there are quite a few popular titles and artists, including:

(Steins Gate)

Sora no Otoshimono - The TV anime aired last year.
Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu
Code Geass: Renya of Darkness
Keroro Gunso
Steins Gate
Deadman Wonderland
Baka and Test
Neon Genesis Evangelion
Fate / Stay Night
Guyver the Bioboosted Armor

(Hitsugi no Chiaka)

Promising titles include:

Hitsugi no Chiaka - Sword and sorcery adventure following a young fighter. Chapter 2 runs in this issue.
Shinai Mijikashi Koiseyo Otome - Combat maids and Dansou shinobi
Tokyo ESP - Silly story, great artwork
Tokyo Ravens - ESPer fights
Tower of Aion - Manga based on the MMORPG
Bibliotheca Mystica de Dantalian - Post-WWI mystic power hunter mysteries

(Debi Maji)

Of the entire magazine, I think the only title I have any interest in at all is Deadman Wonderland, which has great artwork, action-packed fight scenes and good-looking characters. My main complaint with DW is that the story got weird in the middle and hard to follow. I had been reading the scanilations of Baka and Test, because the basic premise caught my eye, but there haven't been any new translated chapters out in a while.

("Mio and boar", from the Nichijou series.)

As for freebies... There are no foldout posters in this issue, but there is the one piece-it-together-yourself figure from Nichijou shown on the cover. It's very well-made. It's also part of a planned 3-figure set, with the third figure coming out next month. I bought this issue mainly because the figure looks moderately festive and I wanted something to put on the seat of the papercraft sleigh I'd made for Christmas.


Summary: Lots of girls with guns, knives and scary mystic powers. Good artwork on the whole, and many well-known titles. I got this issue primarily for the freebie, but I'm glad that it gave me the chance to read the latest Baka and Test chapter. Recommended.

A warning - while there's no overt sex in this issue, there is some female nudity. If this offends you, then don't read this magazine.

Dates for this week:
Birthdays (10):
Steve (comedian) Allen, 12/26/1921
Charles Babbage, 12/26/1791
Alan King, 12/26/1927
Stan Lee, 12/28/1922
Nichelle (Lieutenant Uhura) Nichols, 12/28/1932
John von Neumann, 12/28/1903
Davy Jones, 12/30/1945
Rudyard Kipling, 12/30/1865
Micheal Nesmith, 12/30/1942
Roderic (Pope Alexander VI) Borja, 1/1/1431

Died (7):
Jack Benny, 12/26/1974
Ambrose Bierce, 12/26/1913
John D. ("Travis McGee") MacDonald, 12/28/1986
Robert (Boyle's Law) Boyle, 12/31/1691
Randall ("Lord Darcy") Garrett, 12/31/1987
Victor Bouno, 1/1/1982
Jack. C Haldeman II, 1/1/2002

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Anpan

Merry Christmas! (For those of you that celebrate it. Hoppy Holidays for everyone else.)

(There's a restaurant near the Kagoshima-chuo train station that serves fixed menu lunch and dinner sets, and they have an Anpanman figure out front to help advertise them. Recently, he's been gussied up for the coming season.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Comment: Classic Children's Comics

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)
(It's a big coffee table book. It was too large for the scanner.)

As a consequence of helping out Aaron Neathery a little on his Endtown webcomic, I found myself the recipient of one of the coolest Christmas gifts ever - a personalized copy of The TOON TREASURY of Classic Children's Comics, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Spiegelman should be recognizable as the editor on RAW magazine and creator of Maus. He and RAW publisher Mouly got together and shifted through mountains of pre-Comics Code kids comics to distill down to a bare 375+ pages of prime examples of great art and storytelling. Artists in the collection include Walt Kelly (Pogo), Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine), Carl Barks (Donald Duck) and C.C. Beck (Captain Marvel).

(Carl Barks at his best. Donald as a gopher just keeps cracking me up.)

The Treasury is a fast read - you can go through the entire book cover to cover in 4 hours, but it's better to spread it out over several days and enjoy the artwork. There's an amazing diversity in the stories (Little Lulu, Gerald McBoing-Boing, Fox and Crow, and Dennis the Menace) and style (contrasting Carl's Barks' "Donald" with Dave Berg's "Fantasticland Alice"). Nothing, though, can compare with Basil Wolverton's "Foolish Faces".

(Flopper the Frog, from Flip and Flopper.)

I read some of these comics when I was a kid in the 60's, and they're even better now. Although, I wish I could have discovered Dick Briefer's "Frankenstein" a long time ago; there's a lyrical whimsy to the monster that underlies its cartoony style and kid-friendly setup. Don Arr's "Flip and Flopper" is wonderfully twisted as well, with its statement that there are "22 miles of string in an acre of stringbeans". Gotta love that kind of conversion formula.

Of course, what makes the book special is Aaron's signature on the inside cover page, featuring Gustine. But I can't guarantee that you'll get an autograph of your own like this if you order the book off Amazon (order it anyway - who knows, you may get lucky). Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick review: Yuukoku no Rasputin, vol. 2

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

A year ago, Yuukoku no Rasputin volume 1 came out (dated Dec., 2010, which means that it hit the shelves at least a month earlier). This is the manga version of Masaru Satou's novel Kokka no Wana. Masaru had been a Russian foreign affairs officer stationed in Moscow between 1998 and 2002. "Yuukoku no Rasputin" is a fictionalized account of what happened leading up to his arrest and and eventual conviction. The artwork is by horror artist Junji Itou (Gyo, Spirals) and Takashi Nagasaki produced the adapted script.

The primary groundwork leading up to Mamoru Yuuki's arrest - his dealings with the Russian government and some tit-for-tat public works that get twisted into "proof" of embezzlement - is laid out in volume 1, and then further illustrated in vol. 2. This time around, we're witness to more of the cat-and-mouse games the prosecutor, Takamura, uses against Yuuki in order to bring down Yuuki's boss. The premise of Masaru's account is that the boss, based on Muneo Suzuki, is the victim of party politics, and was railroaded for being on the losing side of a political war, that the entire case against Yuuki and his boss was simple misrepresentation of normal activities in the foreign affairs office. In this sense, volume 2 is one big mind-game played out between the "human information vending machine" Yuuki, and the guy that "keeps plugging in 100 yen coins", Takamura.

(Yuuki (left) uses mental gymnastics to hold his own against Takamura (right).)

The artwork is solid, trademark Junji grittiness, and the pacing is slow and deliberate. Don't expect "The Bourne Identity" here - no big brawl scenes or car chases. Just one person's attempts to keep his sanity within the Japanese penal system as a criminal suspect, where even the opportunity to enjoy a spoonful of ice cream has to be considered part of a "relaxing vacation". Recommended.

(Fictional version of Muneo Suzuki.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Doc Rat Caption Contest Winner

Back around June, I was introduced by Aaron Neathery to the Doc Rat webcomic drawn a by real-life Australian doctor who goes by the pen-name "Jenner". At the time, I was visiting the comic's web page and I noticed the link "Prizes". Turns out that Jenner draws a stand-alone joke panel every 2 months and then challenges his readers to come up with a caption for it. Best caption gets used in the final artwork, and the winner gets the signed original in the mail. With nothing better to do, I submitted a caption for the July-August entry, and admittedly I felt that the joke was really weak. A day or two later I got an email from the artist telling me that I'd been the first to in send an entry. Then, time went by.

(Caption Contest drawing #49, from Doc Rat, by Jenner, with the winning caption. All rights to these images belong to Jenner. Image posted here with permission from the artist.)

The Sept.-Oct. entry got posted and time continued to go by without a July-Aug. winner being announced. So, I sent an email in asking if he'd gotten busy and fallen behind schedule (it usually takes about a week or 2 for him to tabulate all the entries, pick a winner, sign the art and mail it out, so it's not something that happens right away), and yes, things had gotten hectic, but he promised to catch up on the backlog. About a week later, I got another email announcing that I'd WON the July-Aug. prize. Cool. I still think that my joke is weak, but now my name is up on the Past Prizes page, and I'm not going to complain about that. (Although I'm afraid it may hurt my chances for winning a second time, and I think the Sept.-Oct. picture is much funnier.) However, he'd gotten busy again and didn't actually get around to mailing the drawing out until Dec. 5th. It's taken almost 6 months since I first learned about the contest to get the artwork in my hands, but better late than never.

("Doc Rat" sketch that was included on the outside of the package next to the mailing address. All rights belong to Jenner. Image posted here with permission from the artist.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dolphin Port illuminations

The second of the illuminations mentioned in the Update newsletter is at Dolphin Port, a 5-8 minute walk from City Hall. I didn't notice the number of LEDs for the display, but it may be under the 100,000 of the City Hall lights. The displays are spread out around the shopping complex, with the most eye-catching one being the Christmas tree setup at the main front entrance.

A number of the displays are animated, either with alternating strings of lights turning on and off, or small motors driving limited-motion creations. I went on a Thursday at 8 PM, when there was little foot traffic. The air temp. was probably around 45 degrees F, and much lower than the people here care for. Additionally, now is the time of the Bonnenkai parties (end of year drinking parties), and a lot of people may have been at those. Then again, Dolphin Port is just a few blocks from the Tenmonkan shopping complex, which also bleeds off a lot of the traffic that would rather go somewhere covered and with a lot more shops.

(The two smaller white figures between the snowman and the reindeer are Moomin and Miffy, which are both very popular in Japan now.)

(A panorama view of Dolphin Port shot from the edge of the bay, facing away from Sakura-jima.)