Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Dunkin is Actually Dunkin'. Oops.

Okay, so when did Dunkin' Donuts start putting - correctly - the apostrophe in its logo? It wasn't there at one point, right? Well, it's there now, and I'm embarrassed that I scolded the coffee-and-donut behemoth in a recent post about National Punctuation Day. The day after I accused Dunkin' Donuts of not having the apostrophe that indicates the omission of the g, I went to work and saw the logo. It contains an apostrophe. The next day I saw three Dunkin' Donuts stores while walking around New York City. Again, each logo had the appropriate apostrophe in the appropriate place. When did this happen? And why did I never notice? My powers of observation when it comes to grammar - and especially grammatical mistakes - are acute, so it confuses me to no end that I would think Dunkin' Donuts didn't have an apostrophe when it indeed does.

Ever since that post, I've searched for a Dunkin' Donuts logo that did not have the apostrophe. I've sent an e-mail to the corporate office asking if the franchise was ever presented as Dunkin Donuts. I eagerly await a reply.

In the meantime, I apologize profusely to Dunkin' Donuts for my egregious error.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Japanese Neko Campaign 2009: Success!

I love cats, and I always look for them whenever I travel. Here are the fluffy felines I encountered during my last trip to Japan.

Cat in Japanese is neko, and the kanji character for it looks like this:

The Park Next to the Tokyo Dome (name unknown)
I saw three nekos on my first full day in Tokyo, at a park next to the Tokyo Dome. Two of them were scared, but this one didn't seemed a bit interested in me.

In fact, I think my presence bored him.

Here's one of the scaredy cats. He had no idea that I'm a fan, not a foe.

Yanaka, Tokyo
An old neighborhood in northern Tokyo, Yanaka is home to quiet, narrow streets and temples. And apparently, lots of cats.

After exiting the Tokyo Metro at the Nishi-Nippon station, I walked up a steep hill and stopped at a park, where I saw the above sign. I'm not exactly sure what it says, but essentially the sign tells us not to feed the cats in the neighborhood. I thought the sign did a great job because there wasn't a cat to be found in that park.

This cat found me rather than me finding her. I was about to take a picture of the Niomon Gate at Yofukuji Temple when I heard a meow. I looked to my left, and this beautiful black and white cat was staring at me from her perch on the wall.

She jumped down from the wall, and walked in my general direction. She wasn't approaching me because she was slightly scared by my presence, but I could tell she was also intrigued by me as well. She had a very strong and loud meow.

She rolled around in front of the beautiful Niomon Gate.

This is her friend, who also had a curious interest in me. I couldn't get close enough to pet either of them, but I was happy to see them. They seemed clean, healthy, and content to live on the temple grounds.

Also within the Yanaka neighborhood is a delightful street lined with old shops and cafes. These two torties were hanging out near the steps that lead down into the section known as Yanaka Ginza. They must be siblings; just look at his brother below.

What a skinny little guy! I heard the little bell on his collar and found him rolling around in this tiny alley.

The entrance to Yanaka Ginza is marked by a set of stone steps that lead down into the little street. I saw this tucked in a corner at the top of those steps. I assume that these little boxes serve as houses to the torties I met. I was happy to see this because it gave me hope that someone is taking care of these cats.

Can you spot the cat in this picture? While walking through the Yanaka Cemetery, I saw this stoic cat near a gravesite. Sitting rigidly and with focus, he appeared to be paying his respects to the entombed.

I almost felt guilty for disturbing his moment of introspection and tranquility, but he didn't seem to mind.

Here's another hidden gem. This orange cat was lounging in the cemetery.

For some reason the Yanaka Cemetery is a haven for cats. Shortly after seeing the first two cats, I saw this gorgeous black cat near another cluster of graves.

It was a hot day; I wonder if the stones helped keep the cats cool.

During my JapanBall excursion to Iwakuni, I saw this great cat.

He was sitting in Kikko Park, just beyond the statue of Hiroyoshi Kikkawa, a daimyo who commissioned the building of the Kintai Bridge.

We all stopped to greet him and take pictures of him. Yet another cat who seemed bored in the presence of humans.

Yamagata: Largest Cat Ever
I went to visit my friends Michi and Kyoko in Yamagata, a rural prefecture in northern Japan. They are the owners of Nyan-chan, the largest cat I've ever seen.

He looks normal in this picture, but . . .

. . . you can see a bit of his girth in this picture. The size of Kyoko's hands is normal, neither big nor small. But they look tiny against Nyan-chan's giant belly.

Here's a better look at Nyan-chan's tummy as Michi does a little dance with him. What a great cat. His visible fang teeth belie the fact that he's so laid back and quiet. He has an aversion to flash photography, but other than that, he was cool and friendly.

Michi and Kyoko took me on a hike up a mountain to Yamadera ("mountain temple"), a famous sightseeing spot in Yamagata. We met a couple of cool cats owned by the lady who runs the parking lot.

Cats in Japan seem more pliable than cats here in the States; they don't seem to mind people picking them up and throwing them around.

This white cat takes a bath in the parking lot at the foot of Yamadera. He reminds me of Sam, an old cat our family had when I was in high school. The parking lot lady told us she has seven cats and a dog.

On my way to the train station the next day, I walked around this park on the grounds of Yamagata Castle. I wanted to approach these cats to take better pictures of them, but I wasn't sure if the old man with them was crazy and homeless, so I thought it would be best to keep my distance.

This kitty spotting was a lot of fun: Hello Kitty! I visited her house in Sanrio Puroland - yes, I did - the details of which will be posted in a future blog entry. She was waiting for her fans to pose for photo ops.

While I love seeing the cute neko-chans, it does break my heart that there are so many feral strays in the world. But the cats I saw on this trip to Japan looked healthy, especially the ones at the temples in Yanaka, so I'm thankful for that.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Today is National Punctuation Day, and I'm a huge fan! I love all things related to grammar, even the difficult stuff. Punctuation usage can be tricky, which is why I think a lot of people use punctuation improperly. Some people aren't up for the challenge, so they give in to laziness and apathy. Luckily, I'm not the only person in the world who is geeked out about the proper implementation of commas, colons, and semicolons. Jeff Rubin is a former copy editor and the founder of National Punctuation Day. I complain about bad grammar all the time, but Rubin actually makes corrections to newspaper articles and sends them to the writers. He's my hero! His dedication to punctuation has sparked a lot of discussion on this day that he created. A Google search of "National Punctuation Day" resulted in twenty articles, including one from a Canadian paper lamenting the absence of an apostrophe in Tim Hortons, their national Dunkin Donuts chain. For that matter, Americans can lament the lack of an apostrophe in Dunkin Donuts as well.

I'd like to thank Rubin for his yeoman's effort in making us aware of this seemingly simple, yet often overlooked, part of grammar. He's sparked debate, and I hope he has inspired the punctuationally challenged (I know punctuationally isn't an actual word) to tackle their fear of punctuation and practice National Punctuation Day every day.

In honor of National Punctuation Day, I'm posting one of my favorite signs from this year's trip to Japan. This was on the bathroom door in my Kyoto hotel room. Since we're focusing on National Punctuation Day, I won't discuss the obvious - and hilarious - grammar issue caused by the Japanese-to-English translation. No, I'll simply mention that the first period is not necessary because there is only one English sentence on this sign. The sign should (technically) read, "Please close the bath door because a fire alarm will be worked by a steam." (I laughed out loud when I typed that.)

Happy National Punctuation Day!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

I'm fortunate that the kind folks at yesnetwork.com posted my stories about the five baseball games I attended while in Japan. Please check them out here. Special thanks to Kevin Sullivan and Jon Lane for all of their help.

Obsessed with Japan

Spending two weeks in Japan gave me a lot of things to see, do, think about, write about, and take pictures of. It'll take me probably two more weeks to sort through everything. Just warning you that I'll be bombarding you with blog entries about Japan every day for the next couple of weeks. Or months. Or years.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Power Sightseeing Part III: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum

Last week we had a day off from baseball in Hiroshima, so our JapanBall tour did some power sightseeing. The third stop was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

A friend of mine asked me last year if I felt weird going to a museum that recounted the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He thought it was strange for Americans to visit such a place, fearing that we would feel self-conscious. My response was that I neither dropped the bomb nor had anything to do with the decision to do so. My presence in Hiroshima is no stranger than Japanese visiting Pearl Harbor or Germans visiting Winston Churchill's World War II bunker. In fact, I wish every American could visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.

The most recognizable building in Hiroshima is the A-bomb Dome (Genbaku Dome). Originally named the Hiroshima Prefectural Commercial Exhibition Hall, it was later named the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It is located 490 feet (150 meters) from the hypocenter of the atomic bomb, and it is the only structure in the area to survive the explosion. The building appears as it did immediately after the bombing. Keeping the building intact was the source of controversy among the residents of Hiroshima; some wanted the building demolished while others wanted it to remain standing as a reminder of what nuclear weapons are capable of doing. The A-bomb Dome was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996.

To the left of the A-bomb Dome is the Aioi Bridge. The T-shaped bridge was the original target for the dropping of the bomb. The boys in the Enola Gay missed the bridge, but they weren't off by much.

Looking down the Motoyasu River, it's hard to believe that this tranquil spot was filled with chaos on August 6, 1945. The river was filled with corpses in the aftermath of the explosion.

The Motoyasu Bridge spans the Motoyasu River. Scientific studies have shown that the A-bomb exploded directly above the Motoyasu Bridge, based on the damaged the bridge sustained.

The Children's Peace Monument is dedicated to the memory of Sadako Sasaki. Sadako survived the atomic bombing in 1945, when she was two years old; however, she developed leukemia ten years later. While in the hospital receiving treatment, Sadako was inspired by a friend to fold paper cranes based on a Japanese legend that says if one folds a thousand paper cranes, that person will be granted a wish. Although Sadako did fold a thousand paper cranes, her wish of survival was not granted. She died on October 25, 1955, at the age of twelve.

Sadako's friends and classmates raised money for a memorial to Sadako and to all children who died from the effects of the atomic bomb. The Children's Peace Memorial was unveiled in 1958.

Sadako's story has inspired books - the most recognizable being Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr - and even other monuments, and the City of Hiroshima established a Paper Crane Database. People from all over the world send in folded paper cranes and their personal messages of peace, which are added to the database for posterity.

The placement of the Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims allows us to see directly to the A-bomb Dome. The Cenotaph for the A-bomb Victims was designed by Kenzo Tange, who was a professor at the University of Tokyo in the early 1950s and is now a leading architect. The monument covers a chest that contains the names of the people who died as a result of exposure to the atomic bomb. A flame is lit in the hopes that it will be extinguished when the world is rid of all nuclear weapons. The memorial's inscription reads "Let all the souls rest here, for we shall not repeat the evil."

This view of the cenotaph shows the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in the background. This year marked the third time I visited the museum, and the experience is intense. The museum presents the facts about the day of the bombing, as well as the months leading up to it, in a fair and matter-of-fact fashion. One of the things that impresses me the most is that the city clearly does not feel sorry for itself. The museum freely admits Japan's role in making itself the target of such a severe act of war, giving step-by-step accounts of Japan's colonialism and her contribution to the escalation of World War II with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It is not a place for the faint of heart: The stories are brutally honest; the pictures are astonishingly raw.

On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. That event sealed the city's fate; it will forever be associated with that horrific act of war. Hundreds of thousands of people died from the blast or side effects from it, and the city was reduced to rubble. Yet Hiroshima is proof that a vibrant city can literally rise out of the ashes of a difficult history, and reminds us all that this must never, ever happen again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Power Sightseeing Part II: The Tide is in and the Deer are Out in Miyajima

Last week we had a day of from baseball in Hiroshima, so our JapanBall tour did some power sightseeing. The second stop was Miyajima.

Less than an hour away from Hiroshima lies the tourist attraction of Miyajima, which means "shrine island." The island is considered one of Japan's three most scenic views. (The other two are Matsushima "pine island" in Miyagi Prefecture north of Tokyo and Amanohashidate "bridge in the heaven" in northern Kyoto Prefecture.) Miyajima is bestowed this honor because of the stunning orange torii that sits in the waters before the Itsukushima shrine. Well, it sits in the waters when there are waters.

I almost blew off this part of the tour because when Marc and I went last year, the tide was out, making the view a little . . . eh. Don't get me wrong, I appreciated the opportunity to be there, but I wanted to see in person the same thing I saw on the posters in train stations. Instead, I saw algae and sand. I wasn't disappointed, because I thought it was cool that people could walk up to the gate, but I just wasn't as thrilled as I thought I'd be.

Miyajima 2008 - At low tide

Fellow JapanBallers Dan and David somehow checked and found out that low tide wasn't until 5pm that day. So, at the last minute, I decided to go, and I'm glad I did because the boys were right: The tide was in!

First we waited for the ferry to take us to the island.

After a few minutes on the ferry, I took the picture I wanted to take last year!

Once on the island it doesn't take long to see the pests - I meant deer. They have free range of the island. Now that I've called them pests, I just read articles on Japan Probe and a blog about Itsukushima Shrine that say the deer starving to death because of a feeding ban! Now I'm sad!

Look how cute he is! I don't want them to steal my maps, but I don't want them to starve, either. Poor babies.

Speaking of maps, here's a deer eating a map he pilfered from a tourist.

And this one is going to buy something sweet at this shop.

And here's a little guy on the side of a hill. What's he doing?

He's eating leaves! Okay, good. I feel better about the ability of deer to forage for themselves rather than rely on tourists for sustenance. (Those blog entries I read were a couple of years old, so maybe things have improved.) Back to the torii . . .

Ahh, what a difference a little tide makes!

I was lured by these oysters grilling on a rack. I stopped only to take a picture, but the nice oba-san (old lady - but not in a bad way) working there persuaded me to sit down and eat a couple. She's a really good salesperson. Or I'm a really big sucker. Or both.

Waiting for these oysters almost made us late for the ferry. I stress when I'm late, but I tried to keep my cool. The oba-san assured us we would have no problem making the ferry, and she was right. Really delicious yaki kaki!

So Part II of our power sightseeing day was a success. On to a more somber venue: Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum.