徳島 英会話教室 


2011-2012 Fantasy Football Champion!

Seventeen grueling weeks of Fantasy Football trash-talking has ended only to find one last man standing with a megaphone in hand, and that would be my team, THEPOINT5 ALL-STARS!  I will remember this season most for my patience in waiting to take injury-prone Matthew Stafford who I drafted in the 5th Round as the 9th QB taken overall in our very competitive head-to-head 12-team league!  As I predicted from Week 1, Stafford would have a breakout season, and he did just that!  Stafford finished the regular season with 5,038 yards passing and 41 touchdowns, both Detroit Lions single season records!  His 5000 plus yards passing, places him 5th in NFL history for most passing yards behind only Drew Brees who broke the record this year and has topped 5000 twice in his career; retired Hall of Famer Dan Marino; and 3-time Superbowl Champion and 2-time MVP Tom Brady ~ not bad company for a third year pro!  In terms of Fantasy Football, he was clutch in my 3 playoff games, compiling for 1284 yards passing, 12 touchdowns, and 121.36 Fantasy Football points in Week 15, 16, and 17!  And despite having drafted RB Chris Johnson with my first round draft pick, most experts’ Fantasy Football bust of the year, I still won my league even with the 6th playoff seed!  Shout-out to the ‘Beers Smokes Liquor League’ ~ until next year fellas!

Dalai Lama visits Japan, meets with disaster survivors

According to the Kyodo news service, The Dalai Lama on Saturday visited an area devastated by the March earthquake and tsunami and took part in a Buddhist memorial service for the victims.  The 76-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader offered words of encouragement to survivors during the service at Saiko Temple in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.  With about 1,000 people attending, the Dalai Lama said that as a human being he shares the pain of survivors who lost their loved ones, and that he hopes people will be able to overcome their sorrow and rebuild their lives.  In Ishinomaki, about 3,800 people were killed or went missing in the disaster, the largest number of victims in a single municipality.  The Dalai Lama also plans to visit other hard-hit areas, including Sendai and Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture.  He visited Tokyo in April and held a special Buddhist service for victims of the March 11 disaster, but was unable to visit the devastated area.  Before his visit to Ishinomaki, the Dalai Lama, who arrived in Japan on Oct. 29, made a speech in the city of Osaka and visited Wakayama Prefecture’s Koyasan University, which is affiliated with Koyasan Kongobuji Temple. The university invited the Dalai Lama to celebrate its 125th anniversary. (Jim Seida, MSNBC)

Dalai Lama’s Visa Request Denied by South Africa

In a previous blog titled, The new Tibetan Prime Miniister-In-Exile I wrote the following: “Despite his best efforts, there is no doubt the Chinese government will continue to demonize the Dalai Lama as a separatist wherever he travels despite his life’s mission to bridge differences between the parties.  The Chinese government regularly warns world leaders not to meet with Dalai Lama, or risk political repercussions.  A sad state, which requires confident world leaders to look past political threats and see the Dalai Lama as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate that he is.”  And on this note, I’d like to offer a recent disappointing example of the South African government folding to Chinese political pressure by denying the Dalai Lama a request for a Visa in order to attend fellow Nobel laureate and friend, Desmond M. Tutu’s 80th birthday celebration (2011).  Despite what excuses the South African government may offer for the denial of the Visa, the reason is simple, China is South Africa’s largest trade partner and with such a partnership there are always concessions that are in order.  Unfortunately, when one gets in bed with China, it’s sad how quickly moral values are conceded and in South Africa’s case, respect for its own long history of fighting civil injustice as well.  By ending apartheid, I believed new South African leaders had garnered a tremendous amount of world credibility and a respected voice on international civil rights issues if they chose to use it.  Unfortunately, for those still suffering and fighting for civil rights around the world today, I wouldn’t expect South African leaders to speak up without big brother Beijing’s permission.  It appears civil rights, which will forever embody the history of South Africa, is now nowhere near the forefront of their government’s agenda any longer ~ a sad state of forgetting where you came from if you ask me..  In a show of support for his friend, Archbishop Tutu lashed out at the South African government, calling its conduct disgraceful and discourteous toward the Dalai Lama.  More specifically, he also criticized President Jacob Zuma and his African National Congress directly saying his government doesn’t represent him and only represents their own interests.  In 2006, I had the great pleasure to see the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu speak at the Hiroshima International Peace Summit.  Incidentally, the governor of Hiroshima at the time did not attend the event for world peace in his own city, need I explain why..

October 2014: Desmond Tutu slams South Africa for denying Dalai Lama access to Nobel peace prize winners’ summit

Dalai Lama & Artbishop Tutu

Danjiri Festival! Kishiwada, Osaka

It’s been over a year since I last visited Osaka, so it was nice to be back, and nicer having experienced the Danjiri Festival in Kishiwada for the first time!  Danjiri are large wooden carts in the shape of a shrine or temple. The carts are crafted out of wood with elaborate carvings.  The Kishiwada, Osaka Danjiri Festival is a two-day Autumn festival in September.  It is widely considered one of Osaka’s most famous and dangerous festivals.  On the day of the festival, town members pull their danjiri through the streets and around corners at speeds that have caused accidents and fatalities in years past.  Although I anticipated a more dangerous environment, in actuality it didn’t appear to be at all.  I’m sure there have been several advancements to the quality of the danjiris throughout the years, so I couldn’t imagine one tipping over at the pace I witnessed.  Nevertheless, precaution is advised if you plan to attend this festival.  According to local history, about three hundred years ago, Nagayasu Okabe, a feudal lord built Shinto temples to pray for a rich harvest, and he permitted town folks to come into these religious areas of his castle while pulling a danjiri.  To this date, it’s customary for Danjiri festival participants to enter into Shinto temples and pray together at the conclusion of the event.  All in all, it was an exciting and interesting festival to have seen, and definitely made a weekend trip to Osaka all the more memorable!

Note:  Follow this link to all the pictures I took:  Danjiri Festival Album

Japan Wins the 2011 Women’s World Cup!

In recent years, the Japanese women’s national teams have had an uncanny ability to rise to the occasion against the United States women when the lights are shining the brightest.  This 2011 World Cup victory versus the United States was not the first time when an unlikely Japanese women’s team defeated the American women for all the glory.  As recently as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a similar story played out as well.  The Japanese women’s softball team faced an American team that had won 4-straight gold medals and entered the finals with a 22-game winning streak spanning years.  As the heavy underdogs on this Olympic stage, the Japanese women defeated the Americans for the gold medal.  And in this year’s World Cup, the Japanese women have done it again.  Entering into this year’s final versus the United States, the Japanese women had lost to the Americans 25 straight times in soccer, which allowed them to once again play the role as underdogs.  With respect to sports in general, I understand playing the role as the underdog has its advantageous, but being the favorite also has its benefits as well – a point not often made.  Most teams favored or expected to win have an aura around them, which creates a level of intimidation, an advantage the Americans weren’t able to tap into versus the Japanese this time.  Whether they took their eyes off the prize a little with respect to the Japanese and their homeland crisis, we will never know, but clearly being the favorite again did not help them as the Japanese were never intimidated and appeared more focussed despite the natural disasters that have recently ravaged their country.  I think it might have been possible when gloves touched for the first time before this fight, civility took precedent when a stare down may have been more appropriate if you catch my drift…  nevertheless, the victory for the Japanese team was earned and well deserved.  However, the defeat wasn’t as heartbreaking as one might imagine for most Americans, because as most Americans do, we are a culture that roots for the underdog, and despite this sporting defeat in “soccer” – I think most Americans appreciate the broader significance this win will have for the Japanese people.  The American women fought hard, and had their chances, but it appeared Japan was more destined to win this one for their country and all those who have suffered at the hands of the earthquake and tsunami – reminiscent of the 2009 New Orleans Saints Superbowl victory in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  Congratulations Japan!

Women’s World Cup Final!

The United States and Japan have reached the final of the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany!  An improbable journey for both countries, as both teams were dealt with enormous challenges to make it to the final two of the most prestigious tournament in women’s soccer. In the case of the United States, the team appeared finished when entering into an extra time period trailing Brazil by a point, only to score in the closing minutes to even the match and eventually win in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.  As for Japan, no one expected this team to have reached it this far, and having already beaten the host country and favorite, Germany in the quarters to advance, one could say they’ve already won their Superbowl.  However, Japan, nor the United States were content with their quarter-final success.  Both teams have shown an incredible grit and will to win that continued through the semi-finals as the United States defeated France, while Japan upended Sweden’s dreams setting up this weekend’s final.  As an American, I will be rooting for Team USA to win, but living in Japan, I understand first hand what this country has endured in recent months and realize how a win on this stage may be the spiritual lift this country desperately needs.  Despite who wins, it’s been an amazing ride for both teams who have provided some very exciting soccer, even to someone like myself that had to Google ‘penalty shoot-out’ just to make sure I referred to it correctly!  Regardless of your level of soccer enthusiasm – if you live in the United States or Japan, it’s time to get your fish and chips ready, break out a sports towel, even it says Seattle Sounders or Seahawks on it, wave them around in the air like you just don’t care, and ask yourself and all your rowdy friends, “Are you ready for some fooooooty?!!” 

United States vs. Japan


Marketshare in China ~ at what price?

Business Insider recently reported that China is trying to buy into Facebook, as the leading online social network explores plans to partner in China.  If the deal goes through, China’s position is not expected to be large, but is cause for some level of concern.  The Communist Party, despite three decades of economic reform, insists on its monopoly of political power.  And to maintain that monopoly, the government operates as a constant watch dog of its citizens and the various forms of new internet media.  A bit of irony, since the media is the government watchdog in most free democratic countries.  At present, the Chinese government is in the midst of the most comprehensive crackdown on society since 1989.  Chinese leaders clearly view social media as a threat to their rule, especially after watching protests around the world generated online that have rocked governments.  It is common knowledge, many American companies stumble in China because the government tends to favor locals when it comes to regulations.  As a result, foreign companies agree to sell the Chinese government a stake in their company, resulting in Beijing having an operational voice.  Although the level of involvement may vary, censorship of some form is no doubt at the root of their demands and a rather large compromise for companies such as Facebook.  Some companies like Google have taken a strong ethical stance on the subject of censorship in China, resulting in a high-profile fallout with Beijing over the matter.  Then, there are companies like Microsoft, which recently partnered with China’s Baidu in order to expand its web search market share in China.  Microsoft’s decision to compromise internet freedom for the sake of future profits is disappointing, and Facebook appears to be treading down dangerous waters as well – a slippery slope of business over ethics that I wanted to bring attention to.

Is Beijing’s Censorship Machine Going Hollywood?

The summer is a time for Hollywood blockbuster movies to drive audiences to the theaters all over the world, and the new Transformers movie is no exception.  It recently broke the record for July 4th tickets sales in the U.S. and it’s been smashing records in many of the 110 countries around the world it’s showing in.  It has already made almost half a billion dollars worldwide.  However, according to CNN reports by Fareed Zakaria, it is not being shown in China, because Beijing has imposed a moratorium on new foreign films in order to encourage the Chinese people to watch a state-sponsored propaganda movie called, The Beginning of the Great Revival.  The film is being released this year to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. It describes the party’s influence as having led China down a glorious path of ethnic independence, liberation, national wealth and strength.  However, it conveniently left out any mention of the Great Leap Forward, the famine, the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, or the cultural genocide of the Tibetan people from 1951 to the present.  The Chinese Communist Party has made sure that this movie will be seen by its people.  The movie is being shown in more than 6,000 theaters accompanied with massive publicity.  This obvious grand scale attempt to temporarily mute the outside world while it brainwashes its people to be patriotic is very disturbing to the say the least.  I have little doubt that Transformers will be shown in China at some point, but that’s not my point…  The Chinese government will stop at nothing in order to censor its people, its media, the internet, the outside world, and not to mention the truth.  This type of government propaganda should be brought to proper light, because when coupled with government censorship, billions of Chinese are in danger of being grossly misinformed without any ability to determine the truth for themselves.

Samsung Galaxy S2

After some considerable research on the subject of smartphones, I recently became among the first in Japan to own the Samsung Galaxy S2!  Released by Docomo in Japan on June 24th, 2011 and in my hands the same day, this phone is amazing to say the least!  It features a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED screen which is incredibly crisp.  The back of the phone has a 8 megapixel camera with an LED flash.  The phone takes great looking pictures and can also record HD 1080p video.  There is an additional front facing camera that is great for video calling with specific applications.  The Samsung Galaxy S2 runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread with a 1.2 GHz dual core processor.  This phone is fast, ultra slim and sets the bar very high as far as I’m concerned, it will be interesting to see how the iPhone 5 counters later this year!  I’d expect Apple to be a little concerned…  it’s quite possible the days of Apple holding back features on their products for future generation upgrades maybe over…  if Apple has any tricks up their sleeves this time, I’d suggest they not hold back, because the Galaxy S2 ain’t playin’.  Having initially launched in Europe and South Korea, and last month in Japan, the company has already sold a record 3 million phones in 55 days!  The U.S. launch is expected soon…

Product Review Grade: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

A very bad boy

Happy Birthday America!

This was an old blog I posted in 2007, but decided to re-post it today as a cultural exchange blog for my new students!  America celebrates the 4th of July as Independence Day because it was on July 4th, 1776 that members of the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and adopted the final draft of the Declaration of Independence – a document officially declaring separation from Great Britain, thus resulting in the birth of the United States of America. Celebrating Independence Day is impossible without fireworks, an American tradition. While back home in 2007, I went to the fireworks show at Gasworks Park, the most popular place in Seattle to take part in the festivities. Check out my video below of the fireworks show at Gasworks Park in Seattle!

The new Tibetan Prime Minister-In-Exile

Lobsang Sangay, at 42-years-old was elected the new Kalon Tripa, or the Tibetan prime minister-in-exile.  This is now the third direct elections for the seat as prime minister of the Tibetan people.  Sangay, a Harvard University scholar was born in India and succeeds the incumbent, Samdhong Rinpoche, who was chosen twice to the post.  Rinpoche had become the first directly elected prime minister to a five-year term in September 2001 after the Dalai Lama called for a directly-elected political leader.  Sangay’s five-year term is expected to be full of challenges, as the Tibetan parliament finalizes the transfer of political power from Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama to the newly elected political leader.  At 76-years-old, the Dalai Lama has succeeded in introducing changes in the Tibetan Constitution by relinquishing political authority to a democratic process.  Although no longer the Head of State, or the Chief Executive of the Gaden Phodrang of the Tibetan Government, the Dalai Lama’s vision for Tibetan’s will be respected by the newly elected prime minister.  Including the most important matter for Tibetans, applying the Dalai Lama’s Middle-Way Approach policy in dealing with the Chinese government and its occupation of Tibet. 

The Dalai Lama is expected to stay busy and involved in Tibetan matters moving forward; in addition to his religious responsibilities, the Dalai Lama is expected to continue to meet with world leaders to speak on behalf of the Tibetan people and the lack of human rights within China.  However, I think a delicate balance of involvement is necessary as the Dalai Lama must help to elevate the position of prime minister by taking a less public role as the face of Tibetan political issues.  Despite his best efforts, there is no doubt the Chinese government will continue to demonize the Dalai Lama as a separatist wherever he travels despite his life’s mission to bridge differences between the parties.  The Chinese government regularly warns world leaders not to meet with Dalai Lama, or risk political repercussions.  A sad state, which requires confident world leaders to look past political threats and see the Dalai Lama as the Nobel Peace Prize laureate that he is.  The new Tibetan Prime Minister will no doubt have these and many other political obstacles to overcome in order for his voice to be heard.  As China continues to grow stronger as a world super power economically, politically, and militarily, the challenges for Tibetans grow larger.  Despite China’s growing influence, I hope that world political and business leaders still hold China accountable for its dreadful human rights record, because there are more important things than the economy and money, one being – human life. 

The Tibetan Government in Exile

Established in 1959, the Central Tibetan Administration, or officially the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, is an organisation based in Dharamsala, India.  It operates under the direction of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Prime Minister.  In short, its mission is to rehabilitate Tibetan refugees and restore freedom and happiness in Tibet.  It aims to develop cultural and political nationalism among Tibetans by establishing and maintaining – social, political, and economic boundaries to promote its sovereignty.

Note:  The LIAISON OFFICE OF H.H.THE DALAI LAMA for Japan & East-Asia (in Japanese http://www.tibethouse.jp/

The Tibetan Flag

Unite For Japan

Started by Ken Watanabe, Unite For Japan is an organization helping Japan with earthquake and tsunami relief efforts.  For more information visit http://www.uniteforjapan.org

It’s Spring!

The cherry blossom, or sakura, is Japan’s unofficial national flower.  The cherry blossom season is relatively short and most varieties of cherry trees only blossom for a few weeks at most in the spring.  From late March to early April, cherry blossoms go into full bloom all over Japan!  The flower is a symbol of spring in Japan, and the season marks the beginning of a fresh new fiscal and academic year in Japanese society. Although this year’s cherry blossom viewing celebrations have been subdued across the country with respect to the thousands who have lost their lives and many still suffering – the sight of the flower still brings hope and optimism for better days still to come.  Today, April 11th marks 1 month since the deadly earthquake and tsunami struck off the northern coast of Japan. 


Cherry Blossoms


The Ring of Fire

The Ring of Fire is an area where large numbers of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean.  In a 40,000 km (25,000 mi) horseshoe shape, it is associated with a nearly continuous series of oceanic trenches, volcanic arcs, and volcanic belts and/or plate movements.  The Ring of Fire has 452 volcanoes and is home to over 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.  About 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 80% of the world’s largest earthquakes occur along the Ring of Fire.  Ten percent of the world’s active volcanoes are found in Japan, which lies in a zone of extreme crustal instability.  Moreover, Japan dangerously lies at the intersection of four tectonic plates; the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate, the Pacific Plate, and the Philippine Sea Plate.  These plates all meet on the island of Honshu, the largest of the many islands that comprise the country of Japan.  Thus the reason why the country is extremely vulnerable to earthquakes.  There are approximately 1,500 earthquakes recorded yearly in Japan, and magnitudes of four to six on the Richter scale are not uncommon.  Minor tremors occur almost daily in various parts of the country, causing slight shaking of buildings.  Unfortunately for me, even if I was still living in Seattle, Washington, the situation may not be any safer.  A message of caution to my friends and family living in the Pacific Northwest of the United States who are unaware, the Juan De Fuca subduction zone is the only significant fault line on the Ring of Fire NOT to have experienced a major earthquake in the last 50 years.  Please take precautions as natural disasters as in Japan can occur at a moment’s notice. 

Empire State Building, New York City

New York’s tallest landmark was lit in the colors of the Japanese flag in a show of support for Japan following the deadly March 11th earthquake and tsunami.  The illumination was part of a global lightshow of support and awareness-raising for quake and tsunami relief held at landmarks in the United States, Canada, China, Malaysia, South Korea and New Zealand.  The expression of international support was led by New York City’s Empire State Building, whose upper decks lit up with Japan’s national flag colors at sunset.

April 4, 2011

Earthquake, Tsunami and Radiation Fears in Japan! – (Updated: May 24, 2011 9:14 AM JST)

A short note to my friends and family, Tokushima has not been effected by the earthquake, tsunami, or any radiation and I am fine.  This blog is to provide a somewhat detailed chronological summary to what is occurring in Japan.  As many in the world are now aware of, on the morning of March 11th there was a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit off the eastern coast of Japan.  This is said to have been the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history.   The result of the earthquake triggered an incredible tsunami up to a record 38 meters high (124 feet) which devastated numerous towns beyond recognition.  In terms of where the earthquake occurred, the Tohoku region was the hardest hit.  Tohoku means northeast in Japanese, and includes Fukushima, Yamagata prefectures and Sendai City, the capital of Miyagi prefecture which was only 130 km (80 miles) east from the epicenter.  Tokyo, 373 km away from the epicenter also felt the lengthy quake and its many aftershocks that still continue.  Life has hardly returned to normal for the over 12 million living in Japan’s capital city as transportation remains inconsistent, and food and water has been limited. 

Moreover, a second and serious nuclear power plant explosion occurred on March 15th at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant operated by a private company, the Tokyo Electric (Daichi) Power Company (TEPCO).  The explosion was followed by reported fires, which created an already apprehensive public to fear the spread of radiation.  The Japanese government has evacuated residents living up to 20 km from the plant and advised residents 30 km away not to go outside, or voluntarily evacuate themselves.  The U.S. Embassy in Japan is advising Americans living within an 80 km radius (50 miles) to evacuate the area and the State Department strongly urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Japan at this time and those in Japan should consider departing.  On April 11th, the Japanese government expanded its current 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture to include several additional highly radioactive hotspots.  On this same date one month after the initial earthquake, the Japanese government’s nuclear safety agency decided to raise the crisis level of the nuclear power plant accident from 5 to 7, the worst on the international scale.  Level 7 has formerly only been applied to the Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union in 1986, however, the volume of radiation released from the nuclear plant in Japan is one-tenth that of Chernobyl, according to the agency.  Japan’s chief cabinet secretary added, unlike the Chernobyl disaster, the Fukushima case has caused no direct health problems.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supported the Japanese government’s analysis by adding, in Chernobyl the reactor exploded while in operation, but in Fukushima the reactors stopped when the earthquake hit and the pressure vessels housing them did not blow up.  On March 18th, one week after the massive quake, the Japanese agency initially declared the Fukushima trouble a level 5 incident, the same as the accident at Three Mile Island in the United States in 1979.  Unfortunately, the situation has worsened, especially for Tohoku residents in Japan.  It is uncertain whether the nuclear plant is under control, if a major nuclear meltdown is eminent, or what the potential repercussions will be for the entire country.  To make matters worse, on March 15th one of the nuclear reactor containers was discovered to have been damaged, indicating that radioactive steam was spreading outside.  The government played down the extent of the initial damage and has been conscious not to over excite the public.  On March 16th, in an attempt to console and encourage the nation, Japan’s emperor gave an extraordinary nationally televised address telling the country to never give up hope and expressed he was deeply concerned and stated the situation is critical.  An inspiring address, however has fueled the public demand for more immediate answers regarding the true state of the situation from its government.  The monitoring of radiation levels in the surrounding cities continue, including in Tokyo where radiation levels have increased; however, not near the level of concern yet, according to the governor of Tokyo.  Despite these attempts to reassure the public, the nation is becoming increasingly worried.  Japan’s science ministry has finally begun publishing radiation levels monitored nationwide on its website, with the information also available in English, Korean and Chinese.  The ministry’s website (link) began showing the data on March 19th, with the prefectural information updated twice a day.  

At Present

Despite an initial evacuation of 700 workers from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant where only 50 heroic workers stayed, there are now 180 plant workers at the site working to avert a nuclear catastrophe at the expense of their own health and lives.  On March Read the rest of this page »

Back in Tokushima!

I’m now back in Tokushima!  To all my students and friends, I can be reached at:


Mt. Bizan View of Tokushima City

California Sunshine!

Visiting southern California in the winter makes one truly appreciate the difference weather makes in one’s quality of life.  When I left Seattle, it was cold and raining nearly everyday.  This is something I should be used too, since I’m from Seattle, but having lived away in better climates these past several years, I was reminded how much I hate the rain!  Spending 2-weeks in California visiting my friends Nawang and Rigo was the winter weather escape from Seattle I desperately needed.  I can still recall the recent feeling of playing tennis (6-3, 7-5 :))  in a T-shirt and shorts in the California Sunshine in December!..  I don’t know about you, but in the winter I have a hard time remembering the feeling of humidity, heat or any type of summer weather for that matter, so spending some time in southern California was a welcome reminder how the sun feels when it shines.  Living in Tokushima it can be very cold in the winter and very humid in the summer, but for the most part it’s at least sunny year-round…  incidentally, both Tokushima and Los Angeles are both 34th parallel north cities…  My time in California was spent mostly between hanging out at Nawang’s in Anaheim near Disney Land, a trip to L.A. to watch Slam-Dunk Champion rookie All-Star Blake Griffin and the Clippers play…  and a trip to San Francisco to ring in the New Year!  Overall, it was a great time and I’ll leave it at that!  And lastly just for Xbox statistical records, I left California on a six game Madden win streak vs Nawang!  Manning to Wayne all day baby!..       

Note:  For a look at all the pictures I took, see my California Winter 2010 Album!

Vegas Baby, Vegas!

Well, I’ve now made my way down to California and almost immediately headed to Las Vegas for 2-nights with Nawang and Rigo!  Although the weather in southern California was suspect at first, things have now turned less than unusual as Christmas day was in the mid 60s and sunny.  Onto some highlights in Vegas, but as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so I’ll be brief.  This was now the fourth time I’ve been to Las Vegas and although the strip has changed, the energy in the city hasn’t!  With two friends that view Vegas as a weekend option anytime of the year, we drove and stayed at T.I., situated on the north side of the strip, accessible to most everything.  After winning a little at black jack, enough to pay for room expenses, I bet on Boise State (-16) to beat Utah in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas.  With Vegas flooded with both teams’ supporters, Boise State beat Utah 26-3 and daddy won a new pair of shoes, literally.  Check out my picture with some of the Boise State fans!  All in all, it was another great time in Vegas!  Our late night highlight included drinks at club Lavo in the Palazzo hotel!  Check out that place if you ever in Vegas!

Good-bye Seattle, Helllooooo California!

LinkFall and Winter 2010 in Seattle pictures!

Winter in Seattle

Winter in Southern California

Shorewood High School

After leaving Warrenton, Oregon, my family moved to Seattle, Washington where I graduated from Shorewood High School in the Shoreline School District. Shorewood High School has a student body population of approximately 1700 students, a big difference in size from the 300 students at Warrenton High School. In 2009, Shorewood High School students put the school on the map by making a YouTube video that was nationally recognized for its creativity. Accepting a challenge from its rival district high school, both schools created a lip-sync video done in a single, unedited take, known on the InterWebs as a “lip-dub.” The challenge which may have once appeared uninteresting to the outside on looker, became a viral media buzz when Shorewood High School students made their video completely in reverse, including having to sing their lyrics backwards!  Check out the video and a look around my old high school stomping grounds!

YouTube Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7TI-AJi2O8

Oregon Coast Road Trip

This past weekend, I headed down the Oregon coast to the small town of Warrenton, Oregon where I spent a large portion of my childhood growing up. Warrenton has a population of approximately 5000 people and is situated between Astoria and Seaside, Oregon, which are separated by less than 20 miles. I spent a lot of time between these three cities growing up and is the reason I am writing this blog. I hope I can share with you a little history and beauty of these old American towns.

Before moving to Warrenton, my family lived in Astoria until about my first grade year in elementary school. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria, Oregon is a town slightly larger than Warrenton, with a population of approximately 10,000, its history dates back 200 years. The town was named after the famous American investor (and first American millionaire) John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria in 1810. Astoria, Warrenton, and Seaside’s economies have long been centered on fishing, fish processing, and lumber. Astoria still feels like an old American town today, and is the reason why a countless number of Hollywood movies have been shot there over the years, including Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Free Willy, Short Circuit and of course Goonies. While in Astoria, I stopped by the old Astoria County Jail, which is now an Oregon Film Museum. The location was used in the opening scene in the 1985 movie, Goonies.

From Astoria, Warrenton can be reached by crossing the Highway 101 bridge. Warrenton is where I completed elementary school, junior high school and 1 year of high school before my family moved to Seattle, Washington. I have a lot of fond memories growing up in this small town, and it was nice to visit all the familiar places after all these years. Warrenton is most famous for Fort Stevens State Park, which was the primary military defense installation for the Oregon coast. The fort served for 84 years, beginning with the Civil War and closing at the end of World War II. In addition, not too far way is the Peter Iredale shipwreck from October 25, 1906 (which happens to be my birthday and no I’m not over 100). The wreckage is still visible, making it a popular tourist attraction as one of the most accessible shipwrecks from the Graveyard of the Pacific.

And last but not least, Seaside, Oregon is another small town not too far away and is famous for the Lewis and Clark Turnaround. The Turnaround at Seaside, Oregon is designed as the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. A bronze statue of Lewis and Clark stands facing the Pacific Ocean at the west end of Broadway at the Turnaround on the center of the Prom. The monument commemorates the 18 month, 4,000 mile journey from Saint Louis to the Oregon Coast the two American pioneers trailblazed.  Check out my pictures below!

Note:  For a look at all the pictures I took, see my Oregon Coast 2010 Album

Back in Seattle!

Another long overdue post to my blog, but here goes an update to MY LIFE AND TIMES!  I’m currently in Seattle and have just recently finished up my post-baccalaureate certification in teaching English through Seattle University’s Graduate College of Education.  As many of you may have noticed by now my blog design and address have changed!  Apparently, Microsoft recently decided to drop Windows Live Spaces, the site I have been blogging from since 2005.  This is change I’m not sure I can quite believe in yet, but this is my first attempt at a blog from my new web address at https://tashirabgey.wordpress.com  The good news is I haven’t lost any of my old content, as my previous posts have been transferred over to this site, but with some formatting issues…  The learning curve will no doubt be a little aggravating, especially when I am planning to write a lot more in the coming months…  Stand-by, have a seat, or just check back later while I get accustomed to Word Press blogging!

Seattle Mariners vs Texas Rangers, American League Champions! September 18, 2010

Sayonara Pictures!

My Trip Home to Seattle and Portland 2010

Recently I returned to Japan from another exciting 10 nights in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.  Thanks to the power of Facebook, I’ve had an opportunity to catch-up with many old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  Through Facebook’s social network, I’ve been able to reconnect with friends from all over the world, including a recent drink in Portland with a friend from my childhood growing up in Warrenton, Oregon.  Warrenton is located on the northwest corner of the Oregon coast.  I attended elementary and junior high school in this small town, which has a population of approximately 5000 people, and only 300 students in the entire high school.  At some point, I plan to revisit my old hometown, write a blog about it and share some pictures – so stand-by for that!  Back to my trip to Seattle and Portland, this year’s events include spending time with my family, highlighted by a day at the Woodland Park Zoo with my niece, nephew and my friend’s family and kids!  After being all over Seattle, it was down to Portland, Oregon for the Tibetan West Coast Picnic, a little basketball, and a chance to spend time with some old childhood friends!  Good times!
Note A link to my Seattle and Portland 2010 picture album!

Korea-Town in Tsuruhashi, Osaka

Recently, I visited Osaka again to check-out its Korea-Town located in Tsuruhashi.  Many of the shops in this area are run by Japanese-Koreans, known as Zainichi, or recent immigrants to Osaka.  Tens of thousands of Koreans were brought to Japan as a form of cheap labor during Japan’s occupation of the peninsular.  While many Koreans are third generation, the term Zainichi means ‘staying in Japan,’ suggesting a status in the country that is far from permanent.  Despite these derogatory Japanese terms creating an uneasy relationship with the state, Tsuruhashi manages to provide a distinct feeling of being in Korea while catering to mostly Japanese customers.  In Tsuruhashi’s Korea-Town, there is a wide range of Korean street food, and one can find every imaginable way for the use of kimchi.  While walking along the main Korea-Town street, I came across Hiro’s Guest House, a recently opened modern youth hostel of sort.  Run by Hiro, an English speaking Japanese-Korean, his Guest House offers an open cafe-kitchen to the public allowing food in from the market with an admission of 350 Yen, which includes self-service to a variety of teas, juices and coffee.  This place is a welcoming international place to rest with internet access and several cheap sleeping options from bunk-bedding with others to futon rooms, I recommend a stay here if you’re ever in Osaka!  

The Dalai Lama in Matsuyama, Ehime!

This past Sunday, I visited Matsuyama in Ehime Japan to attend an event to see the Dalai Lama.  Ehime is located on Shikoku island, one of four prefectures on Shikoku and is 2.5 hours from Tokushima.   The Dalai Lama is in Japan for a nine-day visit at the invitation of the Shikoku Buddhist Association and Okinawa Mahabodhi Association.  This is now my seventh time to see the Dalai Lama in my life and second time in Japan, the first visit being in Hiroshima in 2006.  With a capacity crowd of over 5000 people at the Ehime Budokan stadium, the Dalai spoke on ‘The ways of leading a happy life,’ through compassion.  “When you have compassion, your basic mental state becomes strong and stable. Just like a strong immune system which fights away disease, with a stable mind you can confidently face problems and dangers,” said His Holiness.  The Nobel Peace laureate stressed on the need for compassion in developing a ‘sense of global responsibility and a wholistic point of view’ to confront the challenges of war and conflict.  “The entire world is a part of ‘we’.  Economically, environmentally we are interdependent.  Looking only after the interest of yourself, your family and your nation creates problems,” said the 74 years old Tibetan leader.  His Holiness encouraged the audience to cultivate ‘infinite compassion’ through practice and advocated new means of fostering moral ethics by adopting ‘secular means.’  “These days people spend lots of money on cosmetics.  Put some effort in bringing inner beauty.  There is no expenditure in making your inner beautiful,” advised the exiled Tibetan leader.  After the event, unexpectedly the Dalai Lama’s motorcade past right by me, and I just missed a perfect picture with my camera!  A nice capping moment to another great experience!

Surfing at Ikumi Beach

Towards the end of Nawang and Rigo’s trip to Japan we took the train down to Ikumi beach in the little town of Toyo.  Ikumi beach is located 2-hours south of Tokushima City near the Tokushima/Kochi prefecture border and is popular for being a world class surfing beach.  Shikoku Island is home to some of Japan’s best surf.  In 1997 Ikumi beach hosted the Tokushima Pro Surfing World Championships.  Our trip to Ikumi was for the sole purpose to take a surf lesson, a first for all of us.  When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, it was raining unfortunately and the surf school instructor said no lessons were being provided, so we had to wait until the next day.  The next morning, we checked-in for a private lesson, including board rentals, and then hit the waves – literally.  Simply making it out into the waters was challenging at Ikumi beach as the waves can be so strong that it can knock you back as you try to make your way out!  In short, surfing was incredibly challenging but worth the trip!…  by the end of the experience, we were all making our way through barrels with ease!  Wink  This being the last blog about Nawang and Rigo’s trip to Japan, let me say thanks again for making the trip, it was definitely great times!!  See ya in Cali someday!!
                                                I think this is me

Rafting Down the Yoshinogawa River!

Continuing on about Nawang and Rigo’s Excellent Adventures in Japan…  another highlight of our action packed 2-weeks together included a rafting trip with the Happy Raft company down the clear waters and challenging rapids of the Yoshinogawa River.  The Yoshinogawa is the second longest river on Shikoku Island, it’s 194 km long and spans across all four prefectures on the Island.  It is regarded as one of the three greatest rivers of Japan along with the Tone and the Chikugo, and is nicknamed Shikoku Saburō (Saburō is a popular name given to third sons in Japan).  After the last night of the Awa Odori Festival, we set off at 11 A.M. Sunday morning to the small town of  Iwahara, Ootoyo-cho located in the middle of Shikoku Island.  Happy Raft has many adventure options including, One-Day rafting, Canyoning and combinations of the two, but due our time constraints we chose the Half-Day Oboke course.  Oboke is the name given to the rafting canyon, which means in short, big danger.  Ironically, Oboke just happens to be the middle name of Bani, an Australian friend of David my co-worker who decided to join us on our journey.  With a video camcorder in-hand, Bani, a.k.a. "Big Danger" documented our experiences, including some of his own dangerous highlights.  Words are hard to epress how much fun rafting was, and although I admit I am not much of an extreme sports person, this was a lot of fun and I definitely plan to take a crack at the One-Day course in the future!  Thanks to Bani, I don’t have to write too much more about the experience, because he made a YouTube video of it!  Just a small disclaimer, when Bani asks me, "Can you tell us about this shirt of yours?" I thought he said, "… about this trip of yours?"…  That wild outback Australian accent will get you every time…  🙂
Note: For more information about Happy Raft, see their website at www.happyraft.com  

The 2009 Awa Odori Festival!

This 2009 Awa Odori was one of the best in my many years in Japan, because my good friend Nawang and his friend Rigo came to Japan to take part in the festival!  During their 2-weeks in Japan I experienced many new things myself, so I plan to write a few blogs detailing some of the many highlights of our time together.  After spending a couple nights in Osaka, Nawang, Rigo and I headed back to Tokushima where I introduced them to the largest 4-night summer dance party in the world, known as the Awa Odori Festival.  As I have in the past, we danced the first night of the festival with the Tokushima International Association (T.I.A.), a fun international dance group.  Unlike many professional groups that practice months prior to the festival, T.I.A. is called a niwaka-ren, meaning a group that just goes out and wings-it.  After a reception party with food and dollar beers, we practiced and took their new, and in my case polished dance skills to the big stage!  The second night of the festival, I arranged tickets to watch the show from the stands to get a different perspective as spectators of the dancing.  The third night of the festival we danced with the Asahi Beer group.  Unlike with T.I.A., where foreigners are given a lot of rope to be funny and are expected to act like “dancing fools” for the amusement of the crowds – Asahi Beer is a proud group, comprised of almost all Japanese members, including the celebrity Asahi campaign model, Koboyashi Yumi.  Being introduced to the group for the first time by my student Toru, the pressure was on all of us to dance to the best of our abilities.  With T.I.A., we wore the traditional “happi” coat and headband, however, with the Asahi Beer group we were required to wear the white shorts, plus the “tabi” socks as well.  In full traditional Awa Odori gear, we danced into the night with as much grace as 3-guys filled with Asahi Beer, wearing tight shorts and uncomfortable rock magnet socks could have mustered…  All kidding aside, a BIG THANK-YOU to Toru, his wife and sister for the wonderful experience!

                        Nawang, Toru, his sister, wife, and Rigo

My Trip Home to Seattle 2009

Continuing about my recent trip home…  After my stop in South Korea, it was onto Seattle to catch-up with friends and family!  This 2-week trip home was great and the weather was beautiful, as it always is in June and July!  A nice two month break from Seattle’s annual year long rain festival…  Umbrella  There were many highlights on this trip and I’ll share a few…  The first weekend, I went to my first ever professional soccer game, a Major League Soccer (M.L.S.) match-up between the Seattle Sounders and the Colorado Rapids!  Although I’ve never been a big soccer fan, living outside the United States I’ve come to realize first-hand that American basketball, baseball and football are hardly worldwide popular, and most often takes a back seat to soccer around the world.  With this new appreciation and liking of the sport, I watched Seattle’s finest score 3 goals to defeat Colorado in the rowdy section with my season ticket holding friends.  As I always do when I return home, I like to have a day with my niece (7 years old), and this year we included my nephew (2 years old) and my friend’s child (2 years old) for the first time.  The day was action packed and included a visit to the Seattle Children’s Museum, rides at the Seattle Center Fun Forrest, and a trip to Toys R’ Us!  Great times and great pictures!  Another highlight was a ghetto Vegas night party with my friends at a hotel near the old Tulalip Casino!  Tulalip, Washington has two casinos, an old one and an extravagant newer one.  Sure, going to the new Tulalip Casino is where some people think is where it’s at…  but some things are not necessary, like all that “Pirates Of The Caribbean” horseshit, or “Rock and Roll Grunge Tip”.   Guys like us gotta kick it old school.”  If you didn’t catch that, it was a quote from Swingers.  After a game of Texas Hold “Em, we headed to the casino, played some Black Jack with the Tulalip locals, and everyone in our group got comped a meal!  Props to Tenpa for convincing the Pitt Boss we deserved it!  Final highlights include, celebrating the 4th of July at Seattle’s International Beer Festival and spending time with everyone at a barbeque hosted by my older sister and her family! 
Note:  For a look at all my pictures from my trip home, see my Seattle 2009 album!

Seoul, Korea 2009

Recently, I returned to Japan from a 2-week vacation to Seattle to see my family and friends!  The vacation to Seattle was a lot of fun and I’ll write about the highlights of that trip in another blog, but first I’d like to share my experiences from my 1-night layover in Seoul, South Korea!  On my way to Seattle while flying Korean Airlines, I took a look around Seoul, the Korean capital and the largest city in South Korea.  With a population of over 10 million people, Seoul is the economic, cultural and political center of Korea.  Rushed for time, I checked into my hotel in Itaewon and took a quick stroll around the popular international district.  Located near a U.S. Army base, Itaewon is densely packed with many diverse ethnic restaurants and is known for its nightlife.  After consulting with many of my Japanese students who have been to Korea, it became evident that it was necessary to try some Korean barbeque.  Similar to Japan, Koreans also enjoy sliced meat at barbeque restaurants with table grills.  In Itaewon, I gave it a try and to no surprise it was good!  I like that  Koreans add several side dishes to enhance every meal, a little extra bang for your buck!  Plus I’ve always been a fan of kimchi, Korea’s best known food.  After eating, I headed to Dongdaemun Market.  With no time to mess around with subways, I moved around by taxi, which are very cheap in Korea!  Just whip out Korea’s largest bill, a 10,000 won and you should be good to go wherever $8.00 will take you…  As you can imagine, I was rolling pretty phat with a wad of cash equivalent to very little!  Dongdaemun Market was alright, but I was there just for the experience, so I wasn’t able to appreciate the bargains for shopping it’s famous for.  There were some cool hip-hop dance groups performing though!  The next day, I went to another famous market called Namdaemun Market.  The open-air market’s history dates back to the Joseon Dyansty (1392 – 1910)… not to be confused with the Portland Dynasty (2001 – 2007)… and since, it has become the main place to exchange daily products between urban and rural areas of Korea.  Finally, I stopped by Gyeongbokgung Palace, the oldest and most grandest of the five palaces of the Joseon Dynasty and had a chance to watch a Royal Guard Changing Ceremony! 
Note: For a look at all my pictures in Korea, check out my Seoul, Korea 2009 picture album!

Elliott Yamin at Osaka Billboard Live!

Recently, I went to Osaka to watch Elliott Yamin perform at Osaka Billboard Live!  Elliott Yamin rose to fame during the 5th season of American Idol in which he placed third in the popular American singing contest.  His self-titled album, released in March 2007, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart and at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.  The album was certified gold in the United States in October 2007.  Retitled Wait for You, the album was released in Japan in May 2008 and certified gold here in September 2008.  The 5th season was the first that American Idol aired in Japan and was also the first season I ever watched the show… and I have to admit, I became hooked.  Whether because Japanese television is limited in good variety, or because singing is so popular in Japan, I found myself tuning in to popular culture every week rooting for Yamin, clearly the most gifted singer from the 5th season.  After Elliott Yamin’s debut album, he recently released his sophomore album, titled Fight for Love in May 2009.  His single You Say is currently the #1 R&B single in Japan.  After the concert, I had a chance to meet him and wish him luck in the future…  I also invited him to karaoke after the show, but after back-to-back concerts on consecutive nights he kindly declined…  either he was too tired, or didn’t want to go head-to-head with my skeelz…  音楽  I’m thinking the latter as well… 
                 nevermind the red on his head, that was my camera

Japan Wins second World Baseball Classic!

The 2009 World Baseball Classic (W.B.C.) is over and Japan has won again beating their Asian rivals and Beijing Olympic champions South Korea for their second consecutive W.B.C. championship!  Watching this game on television with the entire country of Japan, I could feel the tension mounting as Japan stranded several runners in scoring position and clung to one run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.  With only a one run lead and a 22 year old young pitching superstar Yu Darvish coming into the game to close it out, I had a feeling there was more drama yet to come…  Darvish looking shaky under the immense pressure walked two batters and gave up the tying run before finally retiring the side providing extra innings for Korea.  As Japan came up to bat in the top of the tenth tied with Korea 3-3, a script that could only be written by the Japanese baseball gods was being played out.  With two outs and runners on second and third, Japan’s favorite son, Ichiro Suzuki came to the plate with the weight of an entire nation’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders…  Having been in this position before, as expectations were high as the first Japanese position player to ever play in the Major Leagues, Ichiro responded in 2001 by becoming the American League’s Most Valuable Player, the Rookie of the Year, winning the Batting Championship, and a Gold Glove all in his first year with the Seattle Mariners!  And on this final day of W.B.C. baseball at the age of 35, Ichiro added to his legend in Japan and to his Cooperstown Hall of Fame induction resume by coming through in the absolute clutch lacing a hit up the middle scoring two and giving Japan a 5-3 lead, good enough to capture its second W.B.C. championship!
The peace symbol still takes precedent over throwing up a #1

2009 Tomida Kindergarten Graduation

Last Saturday morning was the graduation ceremony at Tomida Kindergarten and it marked my third year of teaching at the school.  As I’ve written before, teaching English at the kindergarten is a very rewarding feeling knowing I’m probably their first English teacher and what they carry onto elementary school is from our lessons together.  Tomida Kindergarten is a unique private school which incorporates regular English classes for its students, an important skill necessary earlier than ever before.  Recently in Japan, the government has finally taken measures in order to adopt English language education more formally at the elementary school level.  Beginning officially in April of 2011 and in Tokushima City this year, English will be officially recognized as a subject for 5th and 6th grade students, requiring schools to administer 35 periods a year.  Previously, English was often incorporated into Integrated Studies periods as a component of “International Understanding,” but this relaxed education policy will soon change.  The focus of the new English curriculum guidelines will focus on speaking and listening only, in order to ease the burden on junior high school teachers who previously had to teach all four components of the foreign language from a beginning foundation.

Kyoto University Bound!

Recently I received news that Hiroaki, my student attending Bunri High School in Tokushima passed Kyoto University’s entrance examination!  Kyoto University is the second oldest university in Japan and is ranked among the top 25 universities in the world and is considered the Yale of Japan, it follows only Tokyo University as the most prestigious university in the country.  Tokyo and Kyoto University were once imperial universities, which trained Japan’s leaders before the war.  The competition to enter the top public universities in Japan is cut-throat, tests results mean everything.  Students applying to national public universities take two entrance examinations, first a nationally administered standardized achievement test and then an examination administered by the university that the student hopes to enter – not easy.  Some national public schools have so many applicants that they use the first test as a screening device for qualification to take their own admissions test.  Such intense competition means that many bright students fail for admission to the college of their choice.  An unsuccessful student can either accept admission elsewhere, forego a college education, or wait until the following spring to take the test again. A large number of students choose the last option. These students are called ronin, meaning a masterless samurai – then spend an entire year, and sometimes longer, cramming for another shot at their dream university.  A painstaking, life holding decision in which every day is in preparation for another chance to start their lives.
                             me & Hiroaki

Yoshinogawa Riverside 10K

This past Sunday, I was back at work in preparation for the 2012 London Olympics as I ran in the Yoshinogawa Riverside 10K starting in the rural town of Kamojima, Tokushima.  Having already completed my first half-marathon recently, I decided to hang-with the amateurs today and show them a thing or two about running…  including, how I like to run with an Ipod and the cool new running shoes I recently bought…  The Yoshinogawa is the second longest river on Shikoku Island, it’s 194 km long and spans across all four prefectures on the Island.  It is regarded as one of the three greatest rivers of Japan along with the Tone and the Chikugo, and is nicknamed Shikoku Saburō (Saburō is a popular name given to third sons in Japan).  This scenic run along the Yoshinogawa River captures the beauty of Japan’s country-side, as mountains and farms can be seen in every direction.  On this sunny morning, I ran a personal best just under 1-hour in a time of 59:35!  Good enough to capture first among foreigners competing (unofficially) – I only saw two other visible foreigners in the race and they finished behind me!  #1  Hot

50th Anniversary of Tibetan Uprising Day (video)

Today is an important day in Tibetan history, 50 years ago on March 10, 1959, thousands of Tibetans stood up and protested the illegal occupation of their country.  And as a result, they were brutally killed by the Chinese military.  This day has now come to be remembered as Tibetan Uprising Day.  On March 10th, Tibetans and its supporters from around the world gather to commemorate the lives of the over 87,000 who died voicing their opposition to Chinese forced assimilation.  On this day, we remember the brutal atrocities of the past, while protesting the ongoing human rights violations and cultural genocide of the present.  Over 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a direct result of China’s illegal occupation.  The reality today is China has never been held accountable for its atrocities of the past and continues aggressions to silence Tibetans today, most notably last year in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics.  Days following the 49th anniversary, Tibetans living under the oppression of the Chinese rose up again, resulting in over 200 hundred Tibetan deaths, over 1000 injured, with several thousands arrested, detained or missing.  However, their actions were not in vain as it once again exposed the brutality of the Chinese government at a time when the world was watching.  The lead up to the Olympics saw people from all over the world protest the Beijing Olympic torch run for Tibetans and human rights, resulting in several detours and world media attention.  Several world leaders applied pressure on the Chinese government, resulting in false promises of honest dialogue with Tibetan leaders.  The Chinese government managed to weather the Olympic storm last year and today their determination to prevent another is clear.  Today, thousands of military convoys patrol the streets in Tibet’s capitol, authorities have imposed a security lockdown, tourists and international media have been barred.  It will no doubt be an immediate death sentence behind very tightly closed doors for Tibetans who dare to speak their minds in protest on this day.  However, no number of armed soldiers will ever be able to silence the spirit and determination of all Tibetans around the world!  FREE TIBET! 

Note: In 2006 I did a presentation commemorating Tibetan Uprising Day in Japan.  Check it out below!

If you would like to see this video translated in Japanese. Click this link: COMMEMORATING “TIBETAN UPRISING DAY” IN JAPAN (IN JAPANESE)

63rd Anniversary Marugame International Half-Marathon

Recently I ran in the 63rd Anniversary Marugame International Half-Marathon in the small rural town of Marugame, Kagawa located 2-hours north of Tokushima.  With a population of 110,000 – Marugame hosts an annual marathon with over 7000 participants, including international running stars such as Kenya’s Mekubo Mogusu, Britain’s Mara Yamauchi, and myself from the United States.  Mogusu and Yamauchi won this year’s men’s and women’s division, respectively – and I followed about 90 minutes behind them in a time of 2 hours and 33 minutes.  After starting even with the Kenyan superstar, I quickly found myself trailing him, several senior citizens, and every tank top and short shorts wearing runner in the winter conditions.  Although I’ve run in several 10ks in the past, this was my first attempt at running 21km (13 miles) and after finishing it may be my last…  This was by far the most professional running event I’ve taken part in to date.  With the start and finish line beginning and ending at the local stadium, this event was extremely well organized.  Running along the streets of Marugame to the cheers of thousands of supporters and local Taiko drummers was a motivating feeling, every bit necessary in order to finish the full 21k…  Prior to the run, I had doubts whether I could finish the race within the 3-hour limit, but I’m happy to report "YES, I CAN!" – just barely… 





Note:  For the full translation of Barack’s Obama’s Inaugural Speech in Japanese visit the following link!



2009 Tokyo Oshogatsu (video)

In Japan the most important and elaborate holiday is Oshogatsu – the celebration of the New Year!  During Oshogatsu, making a new year’s visit to a shrine or temple in order to pray for a prosperous new year is Japanese tradition.  Typically, most Japanese will pay their respects on any day from January 1 – 3, which are usually holidays in Japan.  In the past, I’ve visited Oasahiko-jinja (shrine) and Yakuou-ji (temple), Tokushima’s most popular shrine and temple for celebrating Oshogatsu.  However, there is no comparison to visiting the massively popular Meiji-jingu (shrine) in Harajuku and Senso-ji (temple) in Asakusa during Tokyo’s Oshogatsu!  As you can imagine the lines were extremely long at both historic places and it took forever to get to through…  but worth the wait!  Check out my Tokyo Oshogatsu video below and my picutres in my Tokyo album

Meiji-jingu (shrine) is located in Harajuku, Tokyo.  It is the Shinto shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.  After the Emperor Meiji died in 1912 and Empress Shōken in 1914, the Japanese people wished to pay their respects to the two influential Japanese figures.  Thus, Meiji-jingu (shrine) was constructed and their souls enshrined on November 1, 1920.  Over 3-million people a year visit the shrine during the 3-day holiday from January 1 – 3!

Asakusa is a district in Taito, Tokyo, most famous for the Senso-ji (temple), a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Bodhisattva Kannon – it is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant.  The outer of the two entrance gates is the Kaminarimon ("Thunder Gate"), this Buddhist structure features a massive paper lantern dramatically painted in vivid red-and-black tones to suggest thunderclouds and lightning.  Beyond the Kaminarimon is Nakamise-dori with its numerous shops.  There are various opinions about the origin of the name of Asakusa.  Many believe it originates from the Tibetan word "Arsha-kusha" (meaning the place for a saint). 


2008-2009 New Year’s Eve in Tokyo! (video)

Recently, I returned to Tokushima from a 2-night trip to Tokyo in order to ring in the new year in style!  This trip included several events, including a visit to Tokyo’s most famous shrine and temple!  As for Meiji-jingu and Senso-ji in Asakusa, I’ll save that experience for a separate blog and focus on New Year’s Eve for now.  New Year’s was great!  Although counting down to the new year in Japan is not common, there are no shortages of countdown events in a city with over 12 million people, including nearly 400,000 foreigners.  During the day I strolled around Shibuya – known as one of the fashion centers of Japan, particularly for young people, and as a major nightlife area.  Shibuya is often considered the Times Square of Japan and is famous for its hectic intersection crossing.  In the evening I went to an early show at Tokyo Billboard Live, a classy concert hall located in Tokyo Midtown to see Arrested Development.  I like the genre, but not a super big fan of Arrested Development – really just wanted to check out Tokyo Billboard Live regardless of who was performing…  as for the concert, it was great!..  Arrested Development can still rock and every seat in the house was good!..  Afterwards, it was back to Shibuya to count it down at Vuenos Tokyo and onto Rappongi for after-hours!..  Good times!..  Check out all my pics in my Tokyo picture album and also my New Year’s video below!  Happy New Year to all my friends and family back home! 

Seattle Homestay Program!

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Nima & Elizabeth in Kobe!

Recently I met my father’s friend Nima and his wife Elizabeth in Kobe.  This is the second time I’ve spent time with them in Japan, as 3 years ago they visited Tokushima.  Like before, Nima and Elizabeth are traveling throughout Asia with over 20 students from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state.  Elizabeth is a teacher at the university and both are lucky chaperones on this exciting international journey.  Having already been to Mongolia and China, I caught up with them on their leg through Japan.  With some time away from their students, I met them in Kobe for some sightseeing!  Kobe is a sister city to my hometown Seattle!  Founded in 1957, the Seattle-Kobe relationship was the first such partnership for both cities. The exchanges between the two cities are many and varied, ranging from cultural and educational to business and governmental.  While in Kobe, Nima, Elizabeth and I visited Kobe’s chinatown, also known as Nankinmachi. From Nankinmachi we walked to Harbor Land/Meriken Park, a popular seaside entertainment zone.  There, we made a trip to the top of the Kobe Port Tower and toured the Kobe Maritime Museum/Kawasaki Good Times World.  After a short swing through Kobe’s Old Foreign Settlement, we were pretty much exhausted.  I wish Nima and Elizabeth all the best as they continue their travels, and hope to see you guys next June! 

Note:  More pictures in my Kobe album

In Kobe Chinatown