Friday, December 26, 2008

2008: The Year in Review

Next month Chorus, Isolate, Confirm will be four years old. They grow up so fast, don't they? When my blog's birthday is coming near, I like to recap the year's events and reminisce. Let's make like a mirror and reflect.

In January I explained why Kojima Yoshio is funny (or was funny...he hasn't been on TV much lately), asked the question "What's the deal with Stef?" and experienced iPod trouble.

In February I attacked the Delight Factory, saw The Police and recommended the music of Jerry Schroeder.

In March I BLEW THE LID OFF the Nomigawa boat graveyard and did my fourth annual Big Walk.

In April I saw a funny TV commercial, drank with Fiance's co-workers in the park and (accurately) predicted that Perfume was on a fast track to super stardom. Sure enough, they'll be one of this year's headlining acts on the New Year's Eve Kôhaku Uta Gassen music competition.

May was a busy month indeed. The highlight, however, would have to be my un-anesthetized vivisection of the Interchange ESL textbook and its ghastly illustrations.

Speaking of ghastly, June saw Debbie Schlussel, Cal Thomas, random stabbings AND blue Pepsi! The horror!

In July I pounded a big drum. I encouraged high school girls everywhere to enjoy the benefits of underwear. And I made the Japanese language just a little brighter with my own made-up words.

In August I turned 30 and there was much rejoicing. Then I used my Maximilian whirling blades of robotic death on an issue of Tokyo Notice Board.

In September I jumped on the Sarah-Palin-Is-Rubbish bandwagon. Then I built a bandwagon of my own: the Facebreaker-Is-Rubbish bandwagon.

October saw my attention divided between political intrigue and a most inconsiderate man whose failed suicide attempt killed a lot of people other than himself.

In November I was the curmudgeony old man who shook his cane at young good-for-nothing whippersnappers on the Yamanote Line. I also did a fairly timely video game review (Bleach: Soul Carnival) and a not-so-timely one (Life Force).

And this month Tokyo Tower turned 50 and I experienced a Christmas miracle!

Heartfelt thanks go out to all my regular readers. I encourage you all to write comments on my posts. Doing so will likely push me to update CIC more often.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Mission

Ever since I first moved to Japan five and a half years ago, I've had this unfulfilled obsession with taking a decent photo of Mt. Fuji. I live close enough to the mountain to see it on a very clear day, but not close enough to take a respectable shot of it. I had today off but Fiance's employer, in a blatant attempt to make the baby Jesus cry, forced her to work on Christmas Day. The weather was clear and not too cold, so I decided I would put some real effort into satisfying my photographic ambition.

In the days leading up to my winter vacation, I had been consulting Google Earth to find a train-accessible vantage point from which to photograph my target. My research suggested that I'd find a clear line of sight from the cemetery behind Kômyôji, a temple near Kôzu Station on the JR Tôkaidô Line. The cemetary straddled either side of a walking path going up the side of a big hill called Mikanyama, which was the highest point in the immediate area.

I trusted Google Earth's guidance and boarded an Odakyû Line express train for Odawara. Odawara is not actually on the way to Kôzu; from there one has to double-back and ride two stops in the opposite direction on the JR Tôkaidô Line. But I wanted to go there to get some photos of Odawara Castle, just in case my Mt. Fuji mission ended up a failure (in which case I'd simply have written in this post that my mission was only to take photos of Odawara Castle...MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!).

But here's something I didn't notice during my Google Earth research: Between Shin Matsuda and Odawara, the Odakyû Line turns sharply and heads south for several minutes. During this stretch of track, the land to the west of the train is relatively flat and Mt. Fuji is plainly visible through the windows. I managed to get this shot during that window of opportunity:

Not bad, if you don't mind the power lines. Unfortunately, however, I do mind the power lines. So, unsatisfied with the photo I'd just taken, I continued the mission as planned. I got off the train at Odawara and walked to the castle, where I took these:

On the way back to the train station, I passed a little boy with his father. The boy pointed at the castle behind me and yelled, "Odawara-jo da! Yaaaay!" and then started to do a kind of Cossack dance as he walked. As he danced, he sang a song that went like this:

Odawara, Odawara, Odawara-jo!

I made the short trip from Odawara to Kôzu, my shutter finger twitching with the anticipation of my very own Most Dangerous Game. Mt. Fuji would be mine! I checked the way to my chosen vantage point on a map posted outside the station. Apparently I didn't check thoroughly enough because I then proceeded to get lost in the surrounding neighborhood for about twenty minutes. At long last, I found Kômyôji and the path leading up the hill. Just a fraction of the way up the hill, on the path between the two graveyards, I looked west and saw what would have been a perfect view of Mt. Fuji.

It would have been perfect, if not for the all clouds that had sprung up around the mountain peak during my visit to Odawara. The sky above me was flawless and blue, yet the sky around Mt. Fuji was hidden by clouds that didn't seem to be moving at all (despite the ridiculous winds I was experiencing on the hill). I waited there for thirty minutes, but the view looked like this the entire time:


All I wanted for Christmas was a photo of Mt. Fuji, and the one decent photo I got was marred by the presence of electrical wires. But if you think I'm above cheating to call this mission a success, you are mistaken, my friend. PhotoShop, don't fail me now.

Oh lord, mercy! It's a Christmas miracle! It's more beautiful than the Paramount Pictures logo! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

And that is the story of how I took a perfect photo of Mt. Fuji with no power lines, telephone poles, buildings or clouds obscuring the view. It's a long story. Maybe, for the sake of brevity, I'll omit the part about PhotoShop.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fifty Years of Tokyo Tower

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Tokyo Tower, the tallest man-made structure in Japan. Though foreigners' first impressions of the tower often involve the words "Eiffel" and "rip-off," a person residing in any part of Japan today would likely pick Tokyo Tower as Tokyo's most emblematic landmark. In celebration of this big, red jumble of TV antennae, Chorus, Isolate, Confirm presents: FUN FACTS ABOUT TOKYO TOWER!

FACT! The 333-meter tower's ribbon cutting fell on December 23, 1958 (Showa Year 33). Whether this numeric alliteration was intentional or not is unclear. It had been determined that, for a single tower to serve the TV broadcasting needs of the entire Tokyo area, that tower would have to be at least 380 meters tall. Out of concern over high winds shaking the tower, however, the height of the final design was scaled down.

FACT! A public survey was conducted to collect suggestions for the tower's name. There were a total of 86,260 respondents. Among those, Japan Tower, Peace Tower, Showa Tower, Prince Tower and Space Tower were popular suggestions. For some reason the name Tokyo Tower was selected even though only 223 respondents (0.26%) had so voted.

FACT! The tower's original nighttime lighting scheme consisted entirely of incandescent light bulbs lining the tower's four corners from top to bottom. In 1989 those bulbs were replaced with 176 floodlights surrounding the tower's base. The colors used in this lighting scheme are periodically changed in complement with the season.

FACT! A five-story building called Foot Town lies nestled between the tower's "feet." Foot Town houses an aquarium, a wax museum, a Guinness World Records museum, an optical illusion gallery and a convenience store.

FACT! It costs ¥820 to ride the elevator to the Main Observatory (at a height of 150 meters). To continue from there to the Special Observatory (250 meters), it costs an additional ¥600.

FACT! Being the emblematic structure that it is, Tokyo Tower has been destroyed in various Japanese monster movies, including Mothra (1961), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, (1964) Gamera (1965), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs. Mothra vs. Mecha-Godzilla: Tokyo SOS (2003).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008