Check out this article in the Guardian: Japan’s asbestos time bomb
This is a HUGE problem on my island. Before they built the longest, tallest, and most expensive suspension bridge in the world between Awaji Island and Kobe, the only way to cross was by ferry. Hundreds of ferry boats operated by several companies made the trip between the island and the mainland (mainly Kobe and Osaka) every day. Of course, the bridge eventually killed this industry, and predictably, left thousands of locals without jobs.
My company employs several of those ex-ferry workers. In fact, the guy who sits right next to me is one of them, and he is talking about going in for tests not covered by our yearly physical because his wife is worried sick. You see, his job on the ferry often consisted of tying down stuff with lines, and the ropes they used were apparently partially made of thickly braided asbestos strands. They used the same type of ropes right up until the ferry company went out of business…. There’s not much you can say to someone after they tell you something like that, is there?
Well, I gave him an apple I picked up in the cafeteria today and told him that in the states, we say it “keeps the doctor away.”
The poor bastard grinned at me, then ate the whole thing, core and seeds and all. He is just living day-to-day and hoping for the best, I guess.
What the fuck else can he do?

Matsuda Yusaku

I totally scored an out-of-print DVD box set of the entire Tantei Monogatari (Detective Story) series on Yahoo Auctions last night! This was a very famous TV series in Japan and is virtually unknown overseas; the same goes for the star of the show, Yusaku Matsuda (best known overseas as the character Sato in the movie Black Rain).
He was the shit back in those days, and his popularity hasn’t waned a bit over the years. I take pride in being his greatest gaijin fan – only a real fan would consider a 300 dollar DVD box set a real bargain, figuring, you know, that it’s an investment.

International Symbol of Marriage

Thanks to all you truly compassionate friends and readers who have sent me this over the past couple weeks – HAHA… But the joke’s on you, because in less than a year’s time I’ll be living in the steamy jungles of SE Asia, building my army of monkeys and surveying a nice spot for my teak plantation while my wife teaches all day at the university… I’ll think of you all fondly then.


Bathhouse murals fading fast in Tokyo
I’ve never been to a sento in Tokyo, but I’ve seen these murals in Shizuoka and Nagano. The one in Nagano was at an ancient bathhouse with a single medium-sized bath and rust-colored hot water trickling from corroded lead pipes. The room was lit with a single bare bulb, and besides our group, the only other customers were shriveled old ojisans who claimed the rust was good for their kidneys. All I know is that it smelled like old pennies, and I rolled around in the snow outside to wash the rusty coating off my body afterwards. The one Shizuoka was really funny because on the opposite wall was a window from which you could see the actual mountain depicted in the mural (Mt. Fuji).
Like most other disappearing forms of art, I find this extremely sad, but I’m happy I’ve seen the real thing.
BTW, they sell poster replicas of these murals at the Loft (at the Shinsaibashi branch, at least), but they are quite expensive (over 3,000 yen) IMHO.