My new CR-Z!

On April 19th bought my first brand new car. A 2011 Honda CR-Z! Since I had no real plans to buy a car this came as somewhat of a surprise. Seeing as my 2002 Accord, Tomo-chan, was having continual problems, however, each of which led to very costly repairs, this seemed like the right thing to do. My new CR-Z, which as of yet has no name, is fully-loaded and is really, really kool and fun to drive. Needless to say I am absolutely thrilled. Still, saying goodbye to Tomoko-chan was a very sad moment for me. To be honest I cried a little. I will miss her.

Two days after buying my new car, I learned that Tomo-chan already has a buyer! Knowing that she won't be lonely makes me feel very happy. Hopefully her new owner will be able to complete the repairs she needs, and take good care of her.



March 11th was very frightening for my wife and I. Until March 12th, we spent the entire time doing everything we could to confirm the safety of my father- and mother-in-law living in Sendai, but due to power outages and an interruption of phone services we were unable to contact them. The next day, our friend living in Tokyo, Emiko Orimo-san decided to drive to Sendai in order to help her family. That day, Orimo-san dropped in to visit my in-laws, confirmed that they were safe and took a photo of them for us. When we received the image via email and saw their teary-eyed, smiling faces I thought it was the most beautiful photo in the world. From the bottom of my heart, I am very thank for Orimo-san's kindness.

Since the occurrence of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake Disaster, I have been searching for a way to offer my support. Because I live in Chicago, going to the site of the disaster and providing support is impossible. Donating money to the American Red Cross was an effective method of helping, but rather than just sending monetary contributions I continue thinking about how I want to offer support to the victims living in the Tōhoku and Kantō regions that connects me to them emotionally.

On March 18th, "Our Man in Abiko" started a project for helping Japan. In order to heighten understanding and share the experiences and sentiments of the Great Earthquake's victims and their supporters, he drew upon the power of bloggers, and by combined their posts about the Great Earthquake and Tsunami, created a book. Immediately, I too sent Orimo-san's photo and my own writings to him. When my submissions were accepted, I was very happy. The book known as "Quakebook" has been quickly growing in fame and notoriety.

Now, Quakebook's the contributors are more than just everyday bloggers, celebrities are participating as well. In order for the book to be readable by people all over the world, the book is now being translated into different languages. Today, Quakebook was finished and became available for purchase. All proceeds from the sale of Quakebook will be donated to the disaster sites via the Japanese Red Cross. This is a very important project. To all readers of my blog, I kindly and humbly request that you please purchase this book.

Buy Quakebook: http://amzn.to/quakebook
For more information: http://www.quakebook.org/


Family's safety confirmed!!

The past few days have been absolutely horrifying and the final outcome of this catastrophe is still unclear. In the midst of all the concern and fear, my wife and I received a bit of very happy news in the form of a photo of my mother- and father-in-law. The photo was taken by my wife's highschool friend who made the long and potentially dangerous drive from Tokyo to their hometown in suburban Sendai. The photo shows our teary-eyed Mom & Dad smiling, happy and safe, and it's easily the most beautiful photo I've ever seen. My personal thanks go to all who kindly offered their words of concern and support.

The image on the left is a photo of Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture-- a place where I was able to spend a wonderful time with my wife and Mother- and Father-in-law. Hopefully the sun will rise once again over this gorgeous landscape and the treasures that surround it.

Photo courtesy of RadioSioz. < どうもありがとございます。


God Please save Japan.

The past two days have been absolutely terrifying as my wife and I sit in our home in Chicago, unable to do anything at all, while continuously watching the news feed on NHK and trying over and over again to phone my mother- and father-in-law in Sendai, wondering if they are OK. Seeing the horrifying images on the news, I can't stop wondering if Mom and Dad are safe, if they have anything to eat, where they are, if they're cold or possibly scared... I can't stop thinking about my wife's Uncle, Aunt and cousins who live in Fukushima Prefecture. How are they holding up? Did their house survive the disaster?? The only fact my wife and I have is that Mom and Dad survived the catastrophe. We know this only because Dad was able to send a couple of text messages to my sister-in-law who then relayed them to us.

I see so many people's homes and lives washed away by the 10-meter-high tsunami. I see families on TV desperate for help and in dire need of safety and rescue. I often can't fight back the tears that spill from my eyes out of feelings of despair and fear for the lives of all the people in northern Japan, not to mention the helpless feeling of not being able to do anything to help them.

Power and telephone services are down throughout the region which has completely cut us off from any way of communicating with our family. Something so very simple as making a phone call is impossible, which is a powerful fuel for the feelings of worry and anxiety that have overwhelmed our home. To make matters worse, the growing concern about the Fukushima nuclear power plants' condition adds yet another degree of uncertainty and concern.

How will Japan manage to recover from this horrible disaster? Will the people of the country that I love so dearly ever be able to return to their normal lives? An 8.8 magnitude Earthquake is absolutely unimaginable. Unfortunately, the obscure nature of what lies ahead is bound to continue for quite some time.


Scandals in Sumō

I never had too much interest in Baseball, and to be honest I am completely uninterested in American Football. Basketball bores me and most other popular sports like Golf, Tennis and the rest just put me to sleep. I rather like soccer but don't have enough interest in it to follow the careers of players or memorise team stats.

After spending the vast majority of my years hating sports in general I was really happy to find one about which I'm genuinely excited, and that fully captures my interest to the point where I'm disappointed when I've missed the televised events.

The sport that I love is Sumō! Every year I really love watching every televised match of each of the six annual tournaments. I enjoy keeping up with the wrestlers' statistics and watching their careers develop. I get excited about the history of Sumō and hearing about the achievements of the retired champs in comparison to the those of the up-and-comers.

Having explained this, I can scarcely find the right words to describe the disappointment I've been feeling after learning of the recent scandals and schemes that have plagued the only sport I love. The tragedies started this past summer when upper-ranking (ōzeki) wrestler 琴光喜 (Kotomitsuki) was expelled from the Sumō Association for his involvement in an illegal gambling ring that ran bets on professional baseball. Now, just yesterday it was announced that the 2011 Spring Tournament has been cancelled due to the latest scam, known as the 大相撲八百長問題 (Ōzumō Yaochō Mondai / Sumō game-fixing problem) in which wrestlers participated in match-fixing in exchange for financial reimbursement. 3 lower-mid-level wrestlers have been found to have incriminating text messages on their phones proving that they're guilty of the crime. Unsurprisingly, both the baseball gambling ring and the match-fixing problem have direct ties to the Yakuza, bringing further disgrace to the time-honoured sport of Sumō.

I don't know what the future holds for Sumō, but for now, there a lots of hard-working, honest people and fans who are greatly impacted by the cancellation of this year's Spring Tournament. Tickets were already being sold, preparations already being made, and excitement already building. Hopefully we'll still have the summer to look forward to. Hopefully the wrestlers who are sincere and honest still have bright careers to look forward to. Hopefully those that have ideas about participating in any shady activities will pull themselves together and steer clear of any wrong-doing. It would pain me greatly to see such a treasured tradition fall into the depths of shame and dishonour. I'm sure there are others who feel the same as I do, and probably many more who carry feelings that are even more impassioned than mine.

The poster used as the image for this post is about the investigation into the current match-fixing scheme. The title reads, 元大鳴戸親方『八百長―相撲協会一刀両断 (Moto Ōnaruto-oyakata 「Yaochō - Sumō Kyoukai Itten Ryōdan」). Doing my best translate this (after getting a little help from my wife), it would say, "Sumo Association Elder, Naruto-oyakata on Match-fixing - Getting Straight to the Core Issues."*

*Note: "Naruto-oyakata" is the proper way to address the current Japan Sumo Association Elder and head coach of the Naruto Stable, 隆の里俊英 (Takanosato Toshihide).