Sunday, November 14, 2010


Hanbi (花火) is Japanese for fireworks. Literally it is flower-fire. Nice!

Summer is the season for fireworks displays in Japan and each city of reasonable size puts on a display. In the months leading up to these events, you can pick up newspapers dedicated to the upcoming pyro-gasm which provide locations, dates, number of rockets to be launched, and recommendations for dining (It's like the fantasy football guide to explosions).

The biggest around here is actually run by a quasi-religious group which launches about 100,000 shots meaning they start the show at 10AM before anything can be seen, but certainly heard (I guess God knows it's happening?) To me this is like getting all the fat from a hamburger without any of that annoying flavor or enjoyment.

The biggest non-deity related display is in Osaka and is called the Yodogawa Daikai.

I have the good fortune of knowing a couple who lives on the 10th floor of a building situated right in front of the spot on the Yodo river from which the shots are fired.

My completely inadequate linguistic skills would do a massive disservice to the glory of the event so in lieu I have uploaded a movie from the event.



This was from the middle - the whole event lasted about an hour.

Here is what I call 'suckers' streaming from the event like ants from a garden-hose induced tsunami (I am so sorry to the ants of my youth).

Who wants free alcohol with no id check?

How to get the ever-loving crap sued out of you in the states:

serve free alcohol to a group of passersby with no license or id check like this smiling temptress of the liquid mind-hammer.

By the way - civilization did not come to a horrific and immediate end following this encounter. But the afternoon was more enjoyable!

Fun with the language

The word for cavity in Japanese is "mushiba" 虫歯

the characters translate to "bug teeth"

much more frightening than a fancy-pants word for 'hole'.

How Japan works: part 1 - Healthcare

As most of my readers are US-based and are about to have their health care reform repealed faster than two-day old curry following a tequila shot contest, I thought I would explain how health care works in the People's Republic of Japan.

Each month the modest sum of about 3% of my paycheck is withdrawn for my national health insurance. This rate is adjusted to income levels so if you regularly bathe in a golden tub, you are probably paying more. As a lowly English teacher, it works out to about $100 a month (although given that the dollar is as strong as my average poker hand, it's more like $130).

In exchange for this contribution, the government picks up 70% of the medical bills I rack up. This includes dental. Some of the bills I have faced include:

molar filling: $14
benign tumor removal from leg: $150
two wisdom teeth removed plus medicine: $58
doctor consultation: $4
regular teeth cleaning: $11

These prices all strike me as profoundly reasonable.

And for those of you now thinking 'Yes, but didn't you face Soviet-breadline-style waits in dark and dank bunkers of depressive socialism?' I would point to the fact that the last hospital I visited had automated check-in and a player piano plucking out Elton John tunes in the lobby and my average dental appointment wait time has been negative 5 minutes. (that is, if I am early, they are ready to point blue lasers at my cavities and fill them with space-age polymers).

And while my initial consultation involved a rather lengthy wait, when was the last time your scheduled doctors appointment occurred withing an hour of you walking through the door?

That's right! despite what Glen Beck's weepy chalkboard-directed diatribes may indicate, a national health care system does not necessarily require you to address your physician as 'comrade' and submit to dentistry-by-hammer (or hammer and sickle).

Not that all is perfect here of course. One friend had knee surgery and was told to endure without sufficient pain killers. And another doctor who looked like he had enjoyed his (and my) share of bourbon over the astronomical number of years he had been stuffing his maw with rice balls, insisted on jabbing a needle into a lump he was positive was filled with liquid (it was not) despite my assurances that it was in fact solid (it was).

However, I have the choice (yes, that's right, I can choose where to get my medical treatment since hospitals and clinics are largely private - they are simply reimbursed by the government) to avoid certain facilities and spend my yen at the hospital with the robot-piano and HAL-tastic check in procedures.

The key to happy treatment seems to be youth.

The older doctors have a bedside manner that would make Hannibal Lecter blush and the unwavering insistence in their convictions reminiscent of a typical American Idol audition contestant. However, the younger doctors are much better and willing to talk to you, listen to your input, and explain the procedure (as well as use as much anesthetic as you need).

Getting better every year!

Too Long

I could explain how I have been busier than a one-legged man at an ass-kicking contest, but that wouldn't excuse my extreme delinquency in updating the blog. And I could further promise future diligence in updating but hollow promises are about as attractive as sun-baked kimchi-stuffed rats.

So let's just get back to business and dispense with the bullshit