Saturday, December 31, 2016

Kit-Kat Japanese Sake

Here's something for you if you're not done celebrating New Year's Eve yet.

I was at the Don Quixote souvenir shop when I saw this package for Sake-flavored mini Kit Kat bars. 700 yen ($6.50 USD), making it much more expensive than I'd liked, but I'm willing to make sacrifices for the blog.

There are 9 little bars in the box, made with white chocolate. There's a VERY small scent of sake to the bars, but absolutely no sake flavor at all. It just tastes like white chocolate with too much sweetener. The first bar made my tongue tingle a bit, but I didn't get the same effect with any of the other bars the next day.

It's fine as a gag gift, but not worth paying this much more for as a snack.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Google Doodles, 2016

I've been collecting the Google doodles that I like for the last few years. Previously, there had been so many (science-related, Japan-related, animated or game-based) that I'd divided them up into 6-month groupings. This year, though, back in June, I'd forgotten to post the batch for the first half of the year, and had even neglected to look for new ones until well into July. After I'd caught back up, I realized that there hadn't been all that many doodles that I wanted to highlight, so I decided I'd just wait and run them all at once at the end of 2016.

So here we are, at the end of 2016 (as far as I'm concerned). These are the Google doodles that caught my attention this time.

Wilbur Scoville's 151st Birthday (Game)

90th Anniversary of the first demonstration of Television

Hidetsugu Yagi's 130th Birthday (Inventor of the TV aerial antenna)

Dmitri Mendeleev's 182nd Birthday

Tamaki Miura's 132nd Birthday (First internationally heralded Japanese soprano)

Leap Year 2016

Caroline Herschel's 266th Birthday

Claude Shannon's 100th birthday

Yuri Kochiyama's 95th Birthday

Lotte Reiniger's 117th birthday (animated)

Karl Landsteiner's 148th birthday

Juno Reaches Jupiter

37th Anniversary of The Neverending Story's First Publishing

Takizo Iwasaki’s 121st birthday (Inventor of plastic display food)

Antoni van Leeuwenhoek’s 384th Birthday

Walter Cronkite's 100th Birthday

340th Anniversary of the Determination of the Speed of Light

105th Anniversary of First Expedition to Reach the South Pole

Franz Sacher's 200th Birthday

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Night Boat

When I came back from Kanoya (the Rose Matsuri on Nov. 20) by ferry, I tried taking night shots of the boats on the bay. This is the only one that turned out. I guess it's a cruise ship, but I don't know which one.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Jacob Spice Curry Truck

I was surprised to see this truck from Jacob Spice selling curry rice. Food trucks are rare in Kagoshima.

It's a small truck, and kind of cute. Maybe next time, when I'm more hungry, I may try the curry.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ARTS, Set 2, Dec. 25, 2016

On Sunday, the 25th, I had to finish the translation clean-up project I was working on. Then, we went to the main Kagoshima science museum/planetarium in Kamoike to watch Galapagos, the current Japanese-dubbed American movie showing on their IMAX screen. It was ok, but at $12 per person, and only a 40 minute run-time, it was too short. I did like the penguins, and diving birds. That ended at 5 PM, so I missed ARTS' first set, which went from 5 to 5:20 PM.

We took a taxi back to the apartment, where I grabbed my tripod and both cameras, and hiked up to Amu Plaza in time for the second set. However, there were so many people in the audience (well over 100) that there was nowhere to set up the tripod. My plan had been to record the entire set with the new pocket camera, and take still shots of the band members with the big camera. I had to give that up, and just settled on recording the set while hand-holding the small camera. That worked out ok, in that it made it easier to zoom in and out when I wanted to. Unfortunately, Chopper, Bon's back-up singer for the set a couple weeks ago, insisted on dancing right in front of me. I couldn't tell him to get out of the way, and I couldn't move from my space near the left side of the stage (because there was nowhere else to move to). So, I was stuck trying to shoot past, or around him. Still, it was a great set, and I loved every minute of it.

Bon DX and ARTS are both Ska bands, and Bon and his sax player are in both of them. DX has more of a guitar sound, while ARTS is brass-heavy. At the last Bon DX show, I bought Bon's latest ARTS CD, and I've been listening to it when I can over the last couple weeks. Two specific songs from the CD were performed during the set - Caroline, and Go! Ska Go! Both are great songs, and Bon kind of goes nuts on the trombone on them. They did one encore song, for a 35-minute set

Afterward, the line to buy the ARTS CD was the longest I've ever seen for a Bon show, at a minimum of 20 people. But, he seemed pretty happy to see me at the end, telling me to upload the video files to youtube. Then I got him to pose with me again, along with the alto sax player. Overall, a good night and a fitting end to the one month of music for the Christmas Market. Now, I'm sad that there's nothing else music-wise to look forward to for the next few months.

Direct youtube link for part 1

Direct youtube link for part 2

Direct youtube link for part 3

Monday, December 26, 2016


One night recently, I decided to try Coolish, a chocolate-flavored frozen ice milk packaged in a squeeze pack. No idea why anyone would have come up with this idea and expect it to be popular during colder months.
You can't drink a brick from a squeeze pack...

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Dec. 23-24

Merry Christmas!

This weekend was kind of hit-or-miss. Leading up to it, I had to work most of the evenings during the week, giving me only a few minutes to try checking out the music at the Amu Plaza Christmas Market once or twice. Because the schedules were never posted anywhere, the only way to find out who was playing was by actually going to the department store in front of the main train station. But, I did have the flier showing the main acts for each day (although there were no times listed), so I knew that most of the stuff wasn't anything I cared much about. And, usually when I did get there, it was just as one of the acts was ending their set. I caught a few minutes of the group above. I didn't get their name, but they were doing a slow ballad, so I went into the store, got free sample coffee from Kadi and did a little last minute shopping for gifts before going back home.

Then on Saturday, I came back up to Amu Plaza to ask the MC for the schedule. It was all gospel and slow music, so I gave up.

Different group, but still slow music.

Calligraphy Exhibit

Earlier in the week, I happened across this demonstration of Japanese calligraphy in the space in front of 7-11 in Tenmonkan.

It's a promotion for a calligraphy exhibit in the Something Gallery. The announcement at the top of the board says that there's going to be a "giant calligraphy" on Jan. 2nd at 3 PM.

The character they're drawing is for "change".

Mu FM Radio Christmas Concert

The school I work at is one block from City Hall, and the big boulevard that runs down to Dolphin Port. Friday, the 23rd, was a national holiday, the Emperor's birthday. So, the regular schools and some shops were closed. I did have classes in the afternoon, and for a while I could hear music coming in through the window. After my classes ended for the day at 3 PM, I headed over to the park, where Mu FM radio was holding their Christmas concert for the day. The temperature had dropped and a strong wind looked to be blowing in a big storm, so I didn't want to hang around the event all that long. Unfortunately, the stage schedule didn't list much of any interest. There were some games for kids, and one table selling overpriced food and beer. The juggler, K@ito had a couple sets, and the emcees were Party, who I've met before. Otherwise, it was mostly gospel and kids' chorus groups.

Party kept themselves huddled up in the sound booth tent along with K@ito, so I didn't have a chance to talk with them at all. Instead, I headed for Amu Plaza to check the schedule (see above), then I went home to do translation clean-up work.

Tenmonkan Happy Christmas Concert

On Saturday, Tenmonkan had their Christmas event in the space in front of 7-11. In the afternoon, they had a couple foamhead mascots handing out snack presents to the children. And, the main Emcees were Party (the two younger guys at the sides of the stage).

The line is mostly made up of parents, dragging along a few kids.

The schedule listed a school cheerleading group, the foamheads, Southern Cross, and Bon DX.

Southern Cross is the local girls' dance team. They prance around on stage while doing karaoke to other people's music. They've got a small, but vocal fan following that generally embarrasses themselves while the girls dance. That fan group was out in force that evening, outshouting the sound system.

There's a tradition in Japan of eating pre-order, pre-cooked chicken, and "Christmas cake" on Christmas Eve. We'd put our orders in for both at the Maruya Gardens department store on the other side of Tenmonkan, and I had to go pick the food up at 6:30 PM. I came back to the Christmas concert event in time to get a couple photos of Southern Cross. At that time, I spotted the drummer for Bon DX setting up at the back of the stage. We talked a bit, and I apologized for not being able to stay and watch them play. Unfortunately, we had to eat dinner in the apartment at 7 PM, when Bon was scheduled to start his set. Sigh. But, the drummer did warn me that Bon's sets at Amu Plaza on Sunday were going to be at 5 and 6 PM, and Bon would be playing with his second band, ARTS. I've never seen ARTS play before, so I really wanted to go to Amu Plaza on Sunday for that.

The rest of Saturday evening was spent at home, with a quiet dinner, and then I had to put in another 4 hours working on the translation clean-up project before going to bed.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Attack on Titan, vol. 21 review

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

Attack on Titan, vol. 21, Hajime Isayama. Grade: B
Eren flashes back to when he first met Armin (the smaller boy had been bullied by a couple of bigger kids, but he'd claimed that he'd won because he hadn't run away). Then, Jiiku comes up, riding the wagon giant to claim Bertolt. Eren threatens to kill Bertolt, so Jiiku leaves to grab Reiner instead. However, he comments that they are related. Then Mikasa, Levi, and some flunky dragging Erwin's crippled body along all arrive at Eren's location, and the next war starts. The problem is that both Armin and Erwin are still just barely holding on to life, and Levi has control over the one vial of titan serum. Eren and Mikasa want to save their friend, while Levi and the flunky want to save their leader. The flunky adds that there were NO survivors from the soldiers outside the wall that had been distracting the simian titan while Levi could get close to him. They NEED Erwin to have any chance of defeating the titans. Eren and Mikasa are dragged away, but when Levi tries to inject the serum into him, Erwin manages to bat the needle away. Levi interprets this as being Erwin's will, so he injects Armin after all. The boy turns into a regular titan. Bertolt regains consciousness just in time to be eaten, and he screams for help as the rest of his former teammates stand back and watch.

(Eren realizes that Armin is still alive, and yells at him to not give up.)

Armin sees the face of a titan in his dreams, then wakes up fully restored. He gets hysterical when told that Erwin died so that he could live, and he's having trouble coping with the pressure put on him to take Erwin's place as a strategist. There's a lot of whining and arguing until Sasha, who has been badly injured as well, hisses that the noise is bothering her. Armin settles down, and the survivors split up, with Jan, Connie and the flunky taking Sasha to safety at the top of one of the walls, and Levi, Eren, Mikasa and Hange going into the city ruins to look for Eren's father's house.

(Armin-titan eats Bertolt.)

The 4 explorers reach the smashed building, which still has a big boulder sitting on it. They move the boulder, and go into the basement, which is still in good condition after all these years. There's a locked door at the bottom of the stairs, but Eren's key doesn't fit the lock. Levi kicks the door down. Inside is what looks like the normal office of a medical doctor, with books, surgical tools and vials of medicine on all the shelves. Mikasa discovers a keyhole in the side of Grisha's old desk. Eren uses the key and unlocks a drawer that has a false bottom. Inside are three diaries that Grisha had kept while he was alive, to be passed on to Eren when the time was right. Eren and Mikasa read the first book. Inside the front cover is a photograph of Grisha as a young man, some woman the group has never seen before, and a small golden-haired boy on the woman's lap.

(Mikasa and Eren agree to read the first diary together.)

The scene changes to a late-1800's European style city, with zeppelins plying the skies. Grisha is a young boy, maybe 8-12 years old, and he has a younger sister named Fay. They live in a fenced-in prison inside a larger, technologically advanced city. Eventually, we learn that there had been two groups of people - the Eldians and the Maaru (I'm guessing at the spelling). About 1,700 years before, the king of the Eldians, Fritz, had been visited by the holy titan Ymir, and he then led an army of titans against the Maaru in a long war. More recently, the 145th king in the Fritz line decided he didn't want to fight anymore, and he took a small group of his followers to Parady island, where he had the bigger titans stand to form the core of the outer wall surrounding his new stronghold. All the remaining Eldians were rounded up by the Maaru and jammed into their current internment camp. They must wear a maple leaf-like star burst armband at all times, and they're not allowed out of the camp without papers. One day, Grisha and Fay see a zeppelin, and Grisha decides to rush past the guards at the gates so that Fay can get closer to the air ship. They're spotted by two Maarians, one of which tells Grisha to stay and look at the ship, while the other promises to take Fay back to the gate. When Grisha gets home later on, he learns that his sister is dead, and the two workers claim innocence. Grisha's father kowtows to the internment guards until they leave, and the boy explodes at him that they're lying. The older man gives him a history lesson to explain their current situation (either like the Jews in Europe at the beginning of WWII, or the Japanese in the internment camps in the U.S.). They live or die at the will of their captors.

(Grisha tells the rebels about the titans on Parady island, and that their current mission is to rise up against the Maaru and get their titans back.)

Time passes, and Grisha grows up and becomes a doctor. One of his patients has a cross scar on his arm, and when Grisha asks about it, he's invited to a secret meeting of Eldian rebels. One of the rebels had seen what had happened to Fay (the one worker had gathered up some friends, and they'd set dogs on the girl to maul her to death) and this prompts Grisha to carve a cross in his own chest as a mark of solidarity. Grisha becomes something of a historian researcher, uncovering texts talking about the old war (the Ymir of 1,700 years before looks a lot like the Ymir of today, and there are two other titans - an armored type, and the wall kicker, that resemble Reiner and Bertolt). The rebels are visited by a young woman who is a direct blood-line descendant of King Fritz, whose family had been left behind with the exodus to Parady island. She falls in love with Grisha and they get married and have a boy that they name Jiiku. A few years later, the Maaru government announces that they're going to attack the island, and they're going to recruit all the young male Eldian children to fill up the ranks of their army. Jiiku is one of the kids on the list. The rebels get a letter from their mysterious leader, Fukurou (Owl) saying that the Maarian objectives are the same as the rebels' - to tear down the Paradian walls and release the giants - so the rebels are to stay quiet and comply with the orders. Grisha thinks that having Jiiku in the Maarian army could work in their favor. Unfortunately, a little later, Jiiku betrays the rebels to the Maarians, and every single one of them gets rounded up.

Summary: Finally, some answers. There WAS something outside the walls beyond the desolation and rogue titans (no guarantee that it's still out there now). And, the reason Jiiku resembles Grisha is that they're father and son. The fact that Grisha was found wandering outside the Parady city walls is that he'd probably just recovered from eating a rogue titan and had lost his memories as a result. But, there are many more new questions now, such as why the younger titans look so much like their ancestors, why Jiiku is so desperate to wipe out the Eldians on the island, and what's going to happen if the titans sealed inside the outer wall get released. Anyway, Bertolt is dead, so that just leaves Ymir, Jiiku and Reiner on the enemy's side, and Armin is now capable of turning rogue along side Eren (we don't know what his rogue form is yet, but it might be another Wall Kicker). It's just a matter of time before Mikasa remembers Annie Leonhart (assuming they can find another vial of titan serum). Recommended if you like weird giants eating each other.