Saturday, April 6, 2019

Back in the day, thirty years from now...

In Japan, generally speaking (very generally...) there are three groups of expats. There's a large group under two to three years on the ground as their companies have rotated them in and soon will rotate them back out again. And then there's the group over ten years here, these have pretty much made the decision to stay a significant element of their lives, though they may not have come to terms with this as yet. And then there's the pipeline between the two; those who haven't realized permanent residency is quietly creeping up on them.

Each of the individual identities have a series of bragging rights, the newer often about how wonderfully incoherent Japan can be through to the long stay "do you remember what it was like in the old days?". And the old days were interesting, a life without Facebook, Instagram or, more importantly as it were, internet of any kind. These days if you invite someone to an event they can just follow their phones, bak in the day for us it was a wing and a prayer. A map, via a fax machine (if you had one), strays and orphans. And yes, we'd take them in if they were really lost.

And then there's the "how did you first arrive". Only recently before I'd flown to the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time (in late 1991) had Russia opened it's airspace. I flew direct but not too long before that I'd have had the choice; freeze overnight in Anchorage, or develop a hangover in Hong Kong. A decade earlier had been so sensitive the Russians shot down a passenger liner (Korean Air 007) after it strayed of course and over Soviet territory (actually leading to the civilian release of GPS, as an aside). But as we were swapping stories we found another group smiling like Cheshire Cats. They'd arrived when Narita was still a rice field.

If we had postcards and fax machines back then, I wonder what it'll be like thirty years from now...






Sunday, February 17, 2019

Ten Months and Nineteen Days

Between September 20, 2019 and August 9, 2020, a mere ten months and nineteen days, Japan will host two of the greatest sporting events there are to be held upon this small blue planet. The Rugby World Cup will initiate celebrations inside The Ajinomoto Stadium in western (far western) Tokyo, though for the tour of the tournament it will be labeled, somewhat confusingly, The Tokyo Stadium. The opening match between Japan and Russia is being held here as the new National Stadium, under construction for an eternity, will not be complete. By a matter of a few weeks. Go figure...

Japan is slowly becoming conscious of the events to come. However the excitement is unlikely to build until a few weeks prior to the starting whistle though this fall we can look forward to moments of glory the likes of which are rarely seen. Snap shots in time such as Jonah Lomu inventing the Maori Side Step through, and over, a hapless Mike Catt in 1995, or Jonny Wilkinson snatching victory in the final seconds of 2003. Off the wrong foot!. (Spoiler alert, I was in stadium for that one). But the greatest for this host country would be Japan risking all and going for victory as they did so incredibly in 2015 (the South African fans subsequently gave up their seats on the train back to London for the Japanese fans; respect is all in rugby). 

It's been a while since we've enjoyed a major, global event in Japan. FIFA World Cup in 2002 was really the last one, some seventeen years ago. Awesome in its own right, we saw a media panic in advance of the invasion of the Mongol Hordes (metaphorically speaking and my apologies to my Mongol readers!) and the British Hooligans (for who, the local police kindly developed extra large handcuffs). The invasion though was called off due to high ticket prices and the cost of air transport in those days, somewhat out of the pocket range of your average hooligan. But in closing days of September 2019, Let the Games Begin!

PS: Invictus. I once asked Jonah (whom I had the privilege to get to know) if Nelson Mandela did actually say "you frighten me a little bit" as in the movie. He smiled but didn't answer. 






Sunday, February 10, 2019

A culinary tale in Tokyo

Everyone needs a hobby. Mine happens to be writing obscure articles in a blog about Japan and a little bit of photography (can't do landscapes but passable at available light portrait pics). But interests  often lie in many directions and one that always caught my fancy was the engineering of the fountain pen. I own many, use many less, but am always fascinated by the flow of the ink, barrel to tip. But this isn't about fountains pens, another of my interests is the engineering of the humble folding knife.

Strangely, the Rambo style blade, the Crocodile Dundee "that's not a knife, this is a knife..." never really interested me, though the creation of the blade is certainly a matter of art meets steel and science. No, it was the beauty of the elegant folding knife that caught the imagination and led to the creation of something of an ensemble in the attic (actually the study, but "attic" somehow resonates more effectively (actually, I don't have an attic at all if you were wondering)). In particular, the liner lock, a solution to deploying and retiring a blade with a single hand.

And one of the finest in my (remarkably) small collection is an example by the Oregon company of Al Mar. Al Mar, an Asian Special Forces veteran who volunteered for duty in Vietnam, also had an interest in design that he eventually brought to life. Recognizing the importance of both handling and usage, he designed blades with the thought of tactical usage in mind. And when he went to market, he took the manufacturing to the city of Seki in central Japan  (a little north of Nagoya, a little east of Kyoto) where some of the finest steel implements of Japan are created. And if you visit, yes, it has a Bladed Hall of Fame if you were wondering. When Al Mar sourced, he chose from those up there with the best of the best in the world.




Wednesday, January 30, 2019

And then there were 600

And then there were six hundred. A little over five years ago I started to write TenguLife for fun and quickly it somewhat took over my very existence. Of course in those days it was launched as "ButWhyThe BeginnersGuidetoJapan.blogger.com". With not that many people able to type it all in without making an error of one form or another. And so it was transformed to TenguLife and has lived as such ever since. And the purpose has remained the same from the origin; to introduce Japan to non-Japanese nationals. However then Japan started to read it too. In fact these days Japanese readership is the second only to American.

The articles have touched on the vacations of John Lennon in Japan, life and death, how to make a bullet train nose cone, how Japan nearly sold Buddha, a mystical mining disaster and most recently, the British rock band, Queen, performing in Japanese. I've carefully created each one from my own simple perspective, as far as humanly possible fact checking to provide an accurate though interesting background to the country. And it's achieved my original objective. It's been fun to write.

So if you have a question about Japan, are confused by a base-four counting system, wonder why katakana is a phonetic mirror of hiragana or are wondering what is the deadliest beast in the country, feel free to ping me. If you're reading this on a mobile you can reach me at jonathan@tengulife.com and if you're on a  computer you can see the contact information in glorious technicolor. Six hundred, not bad for a hobby...