Archive for category culture and communication

London in lockdown

Some pictures and questions for my EFL students.

What famous buildings can you see in this picture? Which city is it in? When was the picture taken? Why are there no people?

What are these buildings? Why are they lit in blue? What is the NHS? Visit this page: how many of the 19 famous places in UK do you know?

Who is this man? Why was he on TV saying “thank you” on May 1, 2020?

The chippy’s great! RIP Victoria Wood

The chippy’s great! And so were you, Victoria Wood (1953 – 2016).

A multi-talented woman: she could sing, dance, play and write music and created some of the funniest comic scenes and characters of British television from the 1980s onwards: the “Dinnerladies”, Margaret of “Pam and Margaret”, Mrs. Overall. She liked to work with a certain set of actors, here are many of them singing and dancing with her as they go to the “chippy”.

And here, in a more serious mood, is Victoria interviewed by fellow comedienne Dawn French:

Is it time to get other companies involved in the Fukushima cleanup? And how not to criticize

TOKYO Nikkei–With no end in sight to the contaminated water problem at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there is a growing sense that the cleanup efforts are failing because of Tepco’s insistence on using its own technology and not looking for help outside its tight circle of corporate and government allies.

via 2013/10/26 19:07 – ANALYSIS: Has Tepco’s Go-It-Alone Approach Reached Its Limits?.

The article gives a couple of frightening examples. The first concerns “the advanced liquid processing system (ALPS), which is capable of removing 62 different types of radioactive substances from contaminated water.”

ALPS was initially scheduled to go operational last autumn, but trial runs did not begin until this March… Just three months later, one of the ALPS tanks was found to be leaking radioactive water and the entire system was shut down.

When will it be operational again? Tepco cannot say.Who built this troubled system? Toshiba.

So the government solicited bids for a new water treatment system. Guess who won the bid? Toshiba!

On Oct. 10, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry awarded the project to Tepco, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. and Toshiba Corp.

Have other companies developed similar and more successful water treatment systems? I’m glad you asked. Yes, they have. One of them is French company Areva. They also made a bid, but lost.

The problem is not just that Japan wants to keep this cleanup work to Japanese companies. The companies involved in nuclear power plants form a tightly connected network, nicknamed the “nuclear village”.

The Nikkei comments:

Japan’s plant engineering firms and manufacturers have a global edge in developing water-treatment and groundwater control systems. Why the members of the nuclear village do not harness those firms’ technological expertise is a mystery.

“It’s a mystery” is a euphemism, something Japanese are very good at. It’s a veiled criticism, a form of criticism that is socially and politically acceptable when dealing with sensitive matters.

Mike “in Tokyo” Rogers reported earlier in October on what happened to a prominent TV news personality who was less euphemistic in his criticism of the government budgeting more for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics than for cleaning up Fukushima (and see more details in the comments of that post) And even his comments were typically indirect*. When criticising others (and especially others in power), Japanese are instinctively careful.

There are, I think, several reasons for this and cowardice is not among them. I’ll get to these later, but for now, let’s get back to Tepco’s never-ending sad story.

The Nikkei continues its criticism of Tepco and the government by pointing out that other private companies, including some abroad, have already developed technologies to deal with some of the problems Tepco is facing in Fukushima.

One high-profile example of a nuclear power operator refusing to accept help from the outside can be found at Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.’s reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture. The plant — which plays a critical role in Japan’s nuclear policy — is still running on an experimental basis due to a series of problems despite being 18 years behind schedule.

France put its reprocessing method to commercial use in the 1970s. But Japan rejected the French know-how, adamant about developing its own technology.

Then, using a typical Japanese rhetorical style of putting the punchline in the conclusion, rather than at the beginning of the article, the Nikkei writer delivers the main point of his article: the problem of removing the fuel rods from the reactors. This is the second, frightening example:

Decommissioning the Fukushima plant, which will probably take several decades, involves the dangerous work of removing melted fuel rods from the furnace — a task with which Japan has zero experience. The government has ordered the Japan Atomic Energy Agency to begin basic research on the subject.

But the technology, developed by the private sector, is already available in other countries. The U.S. has removed all the fuel rods from a reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in Pennsylvania that suffered a meltdown in 1979. In another example, Russia handled the removal work at the Paks nuclear plant in Hungary.

Japan does not have the luxury of spending time needed to develop original technology. Limiting all the work to the members of the nuclear village will only lead to more problems down the road.

In my experience, Japanese people tend to be hypersensitive to criticism, partly as a result of the Read the rest of this entry »

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Tokyo School Principal: Don’t Report Bullying to the Police, Or Else! | RocketNews24

Just came across


Bringing you yesterday’s news from Japan and Asia, today.

where I found the following, which I hadn’t heard of:

A student from a private integrated junior high/ high school in Tokyo filed a complaint with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police as a victim of bullying. It was later learned that the 15 year-old high school student was allegedly advised by his principal not to go to the police on threat of not being able to enter high school.

The boy and his mother claim that he was sworn to silence as a condition of his graduating from middle school. However, as the bullying continued into high school he decided to go to the police.

via Tokyo School Principal: Don’t Report Bullying to the Police, Or Else! | RocketNews24.

Also check out this survey on when Japanese have their first kiss.


I am wonderful – Wikipedia says so!

If everyone reading this donated ¥1000, our fundraiser would be done within an hour. But not everyone can or will donate. And that’s fine. Each year just enough people decide to give.This year, please consider making a donation of ¥1000, ¥1500, ¥2000 or whatever you can to protect and sustain Wikipedia.


Jimmy Wales
Wikipedia Founder

via Make your donation now – Donate.

I use Wikipedia just about every day. It’s invaluable for the work I do and for my various blogs.

So when I saw the above, I decided to donate, and I got a nice letter from Sue Gardner in return:

Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!

It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

On behalf of… the half-billion other readers of Wikipedia and its sister sites and projects, I thank you for joining us in our effort to make the sum of all human knowledge available for everyone. Your donation makes the world a better place. Thank you.

…And if you’re interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it.

If you haven’t tried editing Wikipedia articles, why not consider it? You’ll be part of this amazing project to make accurate human knowledge available online. It’s easy and fun. All you need is a username and a verifiable email address.

Japanese traditional means of keeping cool – wind and water

wind chimes 風鈴 (fuurin)

wind chimes 風鈴 (fuurin)

Feeling the heat? Then get out of the kitchen and check out these two great blog posts by my Nara Lady English bloggers:

  1. wind chime temple by Nara storyteller, and
  2. have a bit of coolness, by Sarah

akame 48 waterfalls, Nara, Japan

akame 48 waterfalls, Nara, Japan

Need still more cooling? Check out these Nara Lady English Bloggers:

  1. Heaven @ 2700 metres

    Norikura, Nagano, Japan. (Photo by Stardust)

  2. Alpine Meadow and Aquatic Fairy

    baika-mo = Aquatic fairy

    “baika-mo” Aquatic fairy (photo by Cosmos)


  3. a scorching hot day

    Kobe Harbour - photo by Chambered Nautilus

    Kobe Harbour – photo by Chambered Nautilus

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Sherlock (TV Series 2010) – IMDb

A modern update finds the famous sleuth and his doctor partner solving crime in 21st century London.

via Sherlock (TV Series 2010) – IMDb.

I don’t watch TV except for major soccer games. Oh, and the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series.

The first series was just re-shown on Japanese TV (NHK Satellite) Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings, in preparation for the airing of the new (2nd) series which starts this coming Sunday evening.

It is very well done, production-wise, and the dialogue is fast and snappy.  A running motif is people’s assuming John Watson is Sherlock’s “date” – characters pause significantly before referring to Sherlocks’s…. friend.

There is an unfortunate concession to political correctness: Sherlock’s drug habit is turned into nicotine patches. Yawn.

Both actors are younger (SH – 35, JW – 39) than most previous filmed versions (tho Jude Law gives Martin Freeman a run for his money).

The stories are updated to include today’s technology – John Watson writes up the cases on his blog, and much use is made of the web and mobile phones, especially in the first episode of the first series, a Study in Pink (based on Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet”).

They are hugely enjoyable. If you’re near a TV this coming Sunday and have access to NHK Satellite, check it out.

Here’s a Telegraph article with photos about the (in Japan) upcoming 2nd series, and here’s the series’ IMDB entry. A third series is coming next year.

Cherry blossom viewing? There’s an app for that! Check out the “hanami” app for iPhone & Android

People in Japan love cherry blossom, especially standing or sitting under it and getting drunk just enjoying its intoxicating sight and perfume, which activity is called “hanami” 花見 (literally “flower-watching”).

Cherry blossom is rather later this year than usual. Must be global warming. Wait. Maybe global cooling? No, that idea was dumped in the ’70s. Climate change. That’s it. Must be.

Last year, the cherry blossom was in full bloom, or “mankai” 満開 for entrance ceremonies the first week of April.

Sakura - cherry blossom - blooming on a Kansai campus, April 6th, 2011

Sakura - cherry blossom - blooming on a Kansai campus, April 6th, 2011

This year, full-bloom is this week in many parts of Kansai. Last week, Mike Rogers and friends had a hanami-party beside a Tokyo river, proving that you don’t need a whole lot of cherry blossom to have a great party.

But where to go to see the blossom at its best? Dates vary with geography and type of cherry tree.

Here’s the answer:the “hanami” app for iPhone and Android!

the "Hanami" app for iPhone and Android

the "Hanami" app for iPhone and Android


via 無料のiPhone&Androidアプリ「お花見ナビ2012」- お花見特集2012 – Yahoo! JAPAN.

“1,000 + hanami spots in the palm of your hand. See the stage of blooming at a glance.”

(In Japanese only, maybe.)

One of my earliest memories in Japan is visiting a friend in April. Walking around the small town with his wife and his two young daughters, we came to a field with a big old cherry tree in it. We wandered over, sat down, popped the sake bottles, and just enjoyed watching the petals flutter down and the children playing in the warm sunshine. No blue sheets, no karaoke, no drunken shouting. Just the magic of the blossom and the sunlight playing on open hearts.

For some great photos and a little culture, and all in English, please visit

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The end of Facebook? Engagement is not the same as “liking”. Who knew?

I subscribe to Bob Bly’s marketing newsletter. Even though I’m not a marketing guy, I always learn something useful about marketing (and teaching involves marketing, even if it’s the basic “know your audience” thing) and about good writing, as you can no doubt tell by the scintillating prose on this blog.

Mike Rogers has ranted written frequently about Facebook and other social media. Here’s just one sample: Too Many Social Media Parties

There’s so many social networks. I won’t name them, you probably know more than me. I use Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. From what I’ve seen, there seems to be way more social networks than we could possibly need.

Well, here’s an excerpt from a Bob Bly’s ezine I got today, specifically here’s the part that refers to Facebook:

Ad Age, a six-week study of Facebook’s Fan pages showed a mere 0.45% of fans engaged in any way beyond clicking “Like.” This indicates that Facebook fan bases and actual engagement aren’t the same thing.

The average engagement for the 10 brands with the largest fan bases (like Harley Davidson, Nike and Porsche) was 0.36%. The
highest engagement was in the alcohol category and the lowest in laundry detergent, social platforms and apps.

In other Facebook marketing news, my colleague Brian Croner reports that “world famous Sun Valley Ski Resort here in Idaho,
invested their entire $950,000 ad budget in Facebook advertising in 2011 and it bombed. It bombed so bad in fact, they fired
their marketing director. Last year they had more snow than they knew what to do with and still couldn’t pack the hotels after
using FB exclusively.

This article appears courtesy of Bob Bly Direct Response Letter. Visit Bob’s website at Check out his site for excellent marketing/ad copy writing tips and advice.

And here’s another article, from February this year, that suggests Facebook’s “like” might be losing out to LinkedIn’s “Inshare” button. Whatever that is: Are People Falling Out Of Love with “Like”?

Look across the Web and you see it. While content surfers “like” plenty of content, they’ve fallen hard for LinkedIn’s “inshare” tab. It’s long been true of business news, which users overwhelmingly share with their professional networks; but even at general interest sites such as Time and the Atlantic, the “inshare” is beginning to steal some of Facebook’s “like” button’s thunder.

Andrew Lipsman, ComScore’s vice president of industry analytics, says he believes that the “trend you’re honing in on, and that I see, too, is a lot more ‘insharing’ going on now, which I think has to do with LinkedIn’s effort to turn its network into less of a utility and more of a content site.”

Hugo – the movie by Martin Scorsese

Yesterday, I saw Martin Scorsese‘s latest film, “Hugo” , the 2D version, not 3-D. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I’ve seen too many so-so 3D movies recently, and our daughter gets bored and takes off the glasses anyway about half-way through, so we went for the 2D version.

The movie was very enjoyable. It turned out to be a different movie from the one I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a fantasy, like Johnny Depp‘s Alice in Wonderland, or The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec.

But it isn’t. Though it includes some elements of magic realism, it is the rather Dickensian story of a young orphan, Hugo, and his relationship with a grumpy old man (Ben Kingsley) who runs a toy shop in the Gare Montparnasse. Who is this old man, who confiscates Hugo’s precious notebook and who is so angry and silent about his past?

The story has several whimsical moments, which seem to have little to do with the action of the story, but add greatly to its charm. Here’s one: Isabelle (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) recites the first few lines of the following poem in an attempt to prevent Hugo from being arrested by another whimsical character, the station Inspector, brilliantly played by Baron Sacha Cohen, whose surrealist dialogue and deadpan delivery (and slightly Cockney accent) reminded me of both Peter Sellars and Peter Cook.

MY heart is like a singing bird

Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;

My heart is like an apple-tree

Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;

My heart is like a rainbow shell

That paddles in a halcyon sea;

My heart is gladder than all these,

Because my love is come to me.


Raise me a daïs of silk and down;

Hang it with vair and purple dyes;

Carve it in doves and pomegranates,

And peacocks with a hundred eyes;

Work it in gold and silver grapes,

In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;

Because the birthday of my life

Is come, my love is come to me.”


[A Birthday” is reprinted from Macmillan’s Magazine April 1861.]

via A Birthday, by Christina Rossetti.

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