Monday, July 25, 2011

Setsuden aka The Brown Out

Before John and I came here we were hearing all sorts of things about how there wasn't going to be enough power in Japan this summer because of the nuclear plants that are off line.  We heard that there might be rolling blackouts in the afternoons or that trains might not be running normally and that it was basically going to be a disaster.

Well, electricity is a big concern, but so far there have not been any black outs.  Instead, campaigns have started up, and everyone is voluntarily conserving as much power as possible (in the majority of cases) in order prevent black outs and to allow trains to function normally.  This is especially important to a lot of  tech companies because they say that having to turn computers and servers off for 3 hours would basically be devastating to their work.  (John can explain this better than me).  So, this electricity saving campaign has been named Setsuden.  I don't think anyone really loves it, but it's better than the alternative.

I've been taking pictures of everything I can to illustrate it, but I always seem to miss the TV screens that show current electricity usage.  Earlier in the summer consumption was at about 70-75% of what can currently be provided during peak times, but as it's gotten hotter consumption has increased to about 85-88%.  I haven't seen numbers hit the 90's yet, but I'm sure it's coming.

This is the main logo for the campaign that we see all over the place.  Lights are being left off as much as possible.  Air conditioning is being used sparingly, government offices (including schools) are required to keep it at 28 c which is 82 f and many other offices are leaving theirs that high voluntarily!

This is one of the subway ticket machines.  They've turned about half of them off to use less power.

Some vending machines have been turned off completely (notice the tape over the places you would put money in) while other are now set to turn off at night or to not light up.

Almost all down escalators (and some up) have been turned off.

There are also many encouraging signs.  This one says Genki for Japan, which sort of means health or energy for Japan.

A sign at a restaurant.

Well, you can't really read the sign hanging up here (blame John's iPhone), but it says Cheer Up Japan, and has a lot of signatures on it.

At Shrines, people will often buy blocks of wood and write wishes on them.  This one isn't in perfect English, but the sentiment is clear.

So, I'm not sure if I've covered everything you're all wondering about what it's like here in regards to the recent disaster.  But if you have questions or want to know more, just leave a comment!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Ao Oni (Blue Demon)

I'm sitting here, having what is in my mind a delicious beer (but apparently not according to the users on BeerAdvocate), but perhaps my tastes have been tainted by the lackluster Japanese market.

The beer is unfiltered and has a full bodied taste unlike many other beers on the Japanese market. The nose is malty with some hints of citrus (but mostly malts). Once it hits your tongue its still pretty malty (as far as west coast IPAs go) but has a good amount of hops to balance it out. I would comment on the mouth feel, but no one cares.

Apparently the owner of this brewery worked at Stone Brewery for three years, which means this beer is very bitter by Japanese standards. Importantly, this actually tastes like an American beer and is not as light and "empty" as many other Japanese beers I've had. Even the very hoppy beers I've had that are trying to copy the West Coast IPA style seem to go just for insane bitterness and forget that there are other tastes that one might like to find in a beer to balance the tastes.

I only bought one can of this (for 410 yen which is more than it goes for in America) but I think I'll be buying some more in the near future.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


While perhaps a 5.0 earthquake does not warrant three exclamation marks, a 5.0 earthquake felt while in Tokyo tower does.

We went to Tokyo Tower for Wendy's birthday because they have a birthday deal that involves free cake. We actually live kind of close, so we just walked there from our apartment, waited in line for tickets, purchased them, rode the elevator to main observatory, and observed the view.

Turns out that Tokyo Tower is a hot date spot so there were many couples enjoying the view. This, and the fact that the windows were slightly dirty, made taking pictures difficult. Here's one I took from my phone. It's pretty bad as far as picture go, but you get the idea. I took some with my real camera, but my netbook can't process them (and I forgot the appropriate cable).

Anyway, after enjoying the views from Tokyo Tower we then went to the Tokyo Tower Cafe where they presented us with a free piece of (chocolate) cake. We sat down to eat the cake and suddenly the whole tower started to shake back and forth. The shaking was significant enough to cause the light hanging from the ceiling to noticeably shake back and forth. This went on for perhaps 3 minutes (longer than the earthquake because of the residual motion) and then stopped. No one else seemed that concerned. We then got on the elevator and went to the bottom.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Big Earthquake!

There was a 7.0 earthquake this morning a little farther out in the ocean from where the the original one was in March.  We're fine (and it appears that was no significant damage), but we definitely felt it.  The US Geological Survey is reporting that it happened at 10:57am, but they're wrong it was actually 9:57am.  I was lying in bed trying to decide if I should wake John up to go to church or just let him sleep all day, and then the earthquake hit and woke him up for me.  This one lasted longer than any of the others we've ever felt and it was the first time that I was absolutely certain it was an earthquake, not just my imagination.  We thought it must have been a big one, or else the epicenter must have been extremely close to Tokyo.  So we got up and went to church, and when we came home it was on the news.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Apartment Update

Alright, as promised, I'm putting up pictures of the new apartment.  As it turns out, our first night here was a freak occurrence, and there have been no more loud nights, so we're quite pleased with the place.

We now have a super high-tech bathroom.  This is the little control panel (on the wall about the toilet paper) that lets you have multiple flush options, multiple bidet options, and a bunch more stuff that I haven't even figured out yet.  There are also multiple control panels (two in the bathroom, one in the kitchen) to control water temperature and fill the bathtub automatically.

From the door this is the view down our apartment.  The first doorknob you see goes into the bathroom, then the hallway has closets on the left and the "kitchen" on the right.

Yep, this is my kitchen, still.   I'm getting bolder in it though, I think I'm going to attempt some beef bourguignon this week.

Underneath my one burner is our evil washing machine.  I am now able to wash and dry clothes like a pro (well...) but when the cycle is finished the door stays locked, and even when I push the buttons that are supposed to unlock the door, it still doesn't open.  John says I need to be more scientific in my approach, but what normally happens is I push the unlock button, nothing happens, I turn the dryer back on, push unlock again, turn it off, push unlock, turn it on, push ever button on the machine, yell at the machine, lie down on the floor in defeat thinking that our clothes will be trapped forever, sit up, and realize that it has miraculously unlocked.  I'm starting to think that there might just be a time delay from when I push the button to when it actually unlocks...

Here is our living room area.  It's still all one room, but having this much space is a HUGE deal in Tokyo.  The couch is even long enough for a person to sleep on!  If only we were living here when Christian came to visit.

This is our little table where we eat breakfast every morning!  In the old place, we always just ate it in bed, because as John said, it felt like the bed was most of the apartment anyways.

Here you can see the little divider that separates the living room area from the bedroom area.  It's also a dresser, so most of our clothes are stashed in there.

And we have a KING sized bed.

But, maybe best of all is our view, as you can see here, it is a normal out a window view, as opposed to our old view (below) that looked straight into an office that was about 6 feet away.

It was super creepy.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

See Don Quixote on TV! (kind of)

Ok, pics of the new apartment and a blog about the brown out coming this week, I swear!  But for now, I have your weekly Don Quixote update.

A couple of days ago I had MTV Japan on, and saw the new Black Eyed Peas Video.  They filmed it in Tokyo, and there is a super short little clip filmed from the building right next to ours (ok, it's diagonally next to our...but seriously, it's like 35 steps from our apartment) AND it's facing Don Quixote.  So, enjoy the whole video please, but especially from 2:22 to 2:26.  Don Qui is the building with the bright yellow sign.

On a side note, until watching this, I didn't even realize how many of the lights are off at night, because a good number still are on.  And if you go up to an observation deck the city still sparkles at night, but it's nothing compared to what it was.

Three Pictures and a Comment

The following are three pictures which I have taken in the last couple of days. They are not related to each other in any way, except perhaps that they were all taken in Japan.

First we have a mural. This decorated the wall of a 9 story karaoke building. Each floor was "fairy tale" themed. I'm guessing this was inspired by Pirate of the Carribean. Doesn't this guy look reminiscent of Orlando Bloom?

Just when I planned to start my own business selling teacup poodles the apartment complex slapped this sign up on the wall. I knew I should have read the contract more carefully. I guess I'll have to outsource the breeding to China.

Third, we have an anti-nuclear power plant demonstration. These protesters, led by a van with a bull horn were shouting such things as "lets close all the nuclear power plants" and "there shouldn't be nuclear power plants." The reality is that Japan gets about 30% of its power from nuclear sources so any change will be very difficult.

There are actually power problems in all of Japan right now because people are scared of nuclear power. Japanese law requires that the reactors be inspected every 13 months. Before they can be restarted the plants must get the approval of the local government. Now local governments are refusing to give there approval (citing safety concerns) and so more than 60% of Japanese nuclear power plants are offline even though many of them are completely undamaged.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Like a Hurricane

Apparently Wendy promised you weeks ago that I would write a blog detailing the dinner that I went to. Well here it is:

One of the other summer interns that I work with is from Japan and so her father invited me, and another summer intern, to have dinner with him and a few people he works with. This began by going to his office, taking a short tour, and then going to a resturant. We apparently rented a room in the resturant (pretty common in Japan) and then we started the dinner. Keep in mind that the entire time the interns father is attempting to embarrass her, but only speaks Japanese.

The first thing on the schedule was to order some wine. However, it would take a minute to chill the bottle (or something) so we, of course, had to order a beer to drink while we waited for the wine. Eventually the wine came and then the food started. There were probably seven different courses of food. All of them very small and most of them having something to do with a sea creature. About halfway through, the main dish came out - a complete fish.

This fish still had all the parts of a fish such as the eyes, the gills, the fins, the tail, the rib cage, the heart etc, but it was also cooked all the way through. Armed with only two chopsticks, I began by making an incenscion from the from behind the gills to the tail on the top of the fish. Then I opened it up and tried to excavate whatever meat could be found. The edible portions had to be sorted from the inedible portions (or at least those portions which I was foregoing e.g. The heart) before I could eat them. In the end, it worked out to about one bite of food for every 30 seconds. Delicious.

Unfortunately, we then ran out of wine, which meant we would have to move on to something else. Turns out something else was sake. Then out came a plate of breaded fried things. One of them was a sea urchin. Having never eaten a sea urchin before I couldn't decide if they would be classified as shell fish (they are it turns out), so I didn't eat it even though apparently its a delicacy. I tried to get someone to look up sea urchin for me on their phone but no one really wanted to.

Finally at about 10:30 they threw us out of the resturant because it was closing. This, however, is not the end of the story. In Japan, after a dinner such as the one I've just described there is the nijikai (which means the second party). So the night was only half over. We then had to go to a hotel bar close buy and continue socializing until 1:15. Then I had to go meet Wendy and Christian at a club close to our house.

Japanese clubs are an interesting thing. People don't actually dance together, they just sort of stand in lines and dance by themselves.