Dragons in the Sky

Dragons in the sky

We are experiencing a bit of heavy downpour over here in Tokyo. Lots of rain, lightning and thunder. It’s not just Tokyo, but cities in other prefectures too. Some have to deal with knee high floods. The rescue teams are all out and about. There have been some casualties. I hope the number doesn’t increase. Trains have been temporarily stopped along certain lines. Quite the inconvenience this downpour is causing.

On a different note, it’s only using storms like these that I might get to see lightning. I took out my camera, took in the rain with an umbrella and my gorillapod. Took some photos… decided “nah, I don’t have to proper gear to be out in this downpour waiting for lightning”, so I went back in and just sat in the comfort of my balcony waiting for lightning to strike! It was a pretty long wait since I only had my camera pointing in one direction. When I thought I had enough of taking shots and was just about to pack up, a big one appeared. Murphy’s law strikes again. I sat till my camera ran out of juice (haven’t charged it for a while. only 2 bars left on a D80). I’ve only got 5 shots though. Anyone with experience taking lightning shots?

Dragons in the sky

Dragons in the sky

Dragons in the sky

Dragons in the sky

moving on


I’m still in denial. It was so sudden and I still find it hard to believe. I still think that I’ll receive an email from him anytime now. I haven’t been sleeping very well for the last few days. Have to get myself really tired so that I’ll automatically doze off.

People move on. I have to move on. My research lab is going to disappear from April next year. The students will all be sent off to other labs. It’s kinda sad… But, at least we still have 6 months together. We still have 2 official lab activities left for the year. Participating in the campus festival and a study trip. Hopefully this will give all of us some closure.

Chest still hurts a little, but I’ll manage. I do have some regrets though. Some usual ones like “I should’ve studied harder”, “I should’ve listened to him more” etc. Alot of “should’ves”… actually, now that I think about it, I did not always do my best, but I always did what I could. So those regrets, are not really regrets. He was a mac otaku too. My biggest regret is that I did not show him my iPhone. ><

in loving memory


This is a personal post. I lost someone dear recently. He succumbed to cancer 2 nights ago. I can’t find words to express my sadness. He was my boss, my mentor and my friend. I went to his wake today and will be saying my last goodbyes at his funeral tomorrow. My heart aches and I feel some kind of heavy thing weighing above me… He was a great man and I had the utmost respect for him.

Noguchi sensei, I miss you… I’ll never forget you and what you have always tried to teach me. May you find rest and peace.

Photos from Zuihouden


Sent a post from Zuihouden earlier from the iPhone. Here are some other photos I took at and around the Zuihouden area. Zuihouden (瑞鳳殿), Kansenden (感仙殿, captured above) and Zenoden (善応殿) are the mausoleums of the first (Masamune), second (Tadamune) and third (Tsunamune) feudal lords of the Date (pronounced DA-TEH) clan. Did I get right? Lots of graves in the pictures. ^^. Can you find the photo of the dragon with the “fire hydrant” sign in the background? I quite like that one.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention earlier, there’s a small museum filled with artifacts that were excavated after the fire (that burned down the original mausoleums in WW2), and before the various re-constructions. It’s really interesting. They found remains of the various lords. For Masamune especially, they found his hair samples!!! That means that they have a sample of his DNA right? Someone help me out here. ^^. Based on what they found, they created a lifelike replica of him. I couldn’t take a photo inside the museum, but you’ll be able to see what he looked like. He’s not a tall fellow, 159cm. Besides the remains and human skulls etc. on display, there were also some treasure that was buried with him and his son and grandson. Old katanas, old rusted katanas but still pretty well preserved considering the 400 odd years of being underground. This is a place you would like to visit when in Sendai.

The Art of Delivery

Read this commentary on Japan Today. How to disagree agreeably. I grabbed the whole article and put it in here.

I think it’s not so much about disagreeing agreeably, and not always about winning brownie points, but sometimes it’s all about getting your point across and have on the table for discussion/consideration (there are other times when you should just thump the opposition ^^). Of course there are alot of other factors involved, e.g. culture, who you’re talking with, your position in the group etc. What I think this article does, is show one of the many ways of effectively delivering opinions. The “No no, you’re wrong. It’s like this….” can work very well too. It all depends on the context. Always consider the context!

One thing I do believe in though, is that one should never insult the other party with lines like “you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about!”. ><

How to disagree agreeably
By Craig Kirkwood

“You’re wrong and you’ve got no idea what you’re talking about!” They were the first words out of Mike’s mouth when his HR department head told him he didn’t need extra staff to meet his sales target. The HR head, who we’ll call Nomura, said “all other departments have to do without extra staff at this tough time in the company’s performance and so do sales.”

It was like waving a red flag in front of a bull and Mike reacted accordingly. Mike didn’t get to be the sales director of this large multinational consumer goods company in Tokyo by always being the nice guy and accepting at face value what was said to him. Actually he was quite proud of his aggressive demeanor and driving forcefulness.

Yet, since he had been in Japan, he found he wasn’t winning a lot of the discussions he was having and things were not going his way as often as he wished. When we met over a coffee a couple of weeks ago to discuss his frustrations, I went through some of the principles of “Gaining Willing Cooperation.”

That is, show respect for the other person’s opinion. Never say, “You’re wrong.” In any disagreement, the most important point is to keep lines of communication open in order to ensure your own idea or opinion is heard. Too many times, when we immediately react in the negative to another person’s opinion, we end up putting them on the back foot and in most cases they will switch off to what we want to say.

In Mike’s case, he didn’t care; he knew what needed to be done and expected everyone to toe the line. He could always drive his point hard and get things done in his home country but here in Japan he found that this sort of approach was just not working. Sure, people would listen and give off the right signals as though they understood what needed to be done, yet when it came to execution, nothing was being implemented along the lines he thought everyone had agreed to. Mike felt that going at it harder and making sure everyone knew he was the boss would do the trick. But by the time he came to see me, things were just going from bad to worse.

I took him through a process that would help him organize his thoughts before he jumped all over someone with a differing opinion. Before responding to a person’s opinion or idea, I asked him to take a few seconds to consider:

— what he thinks (of the opinion or idea he has just heard)
— why does he think that (what has been his own experience with this idea or opinion)
— finally, what evidence does he have that makes him feel this way (through his experience, does he have an example he could put forward that demonstrates either the positive or negative aspect of the idea).

Once he has processed this, he could use what we call a cushion, that is, a way to soften the blow or response, something that will acknowledge in a friendly way that he has heard the other person, it could be something like, “I know where you are coming from”, or “I understand why you say that.”

Next is to give an example of a situation he has actually experienced without using a negative filler word like “but,” “however,” or “nevertheless.” I told Mike how this was one of the hardest things to do when responding to an idea which you don’t agree with, but through constant use and practice, it can be done with outstanding results. I said, “As soon as you do say ‘but’ or ‘however,’ the other person immediately knows you disagree with them and therefore the lines of communication will be closed without even having your own idea heard.”

Once his example has been explained, he needs to give some evidence which shows how things turned out. Finally, he can then say something like, “Therefore I believe …” and state his own idea or opinion in a way that will certainly get heard by the other party and may even be received in a favorable light. Most important of all though is to ensure your own opinion is heard and on the table for debate.

Mike actually tried this “Disagree Agreeably” process on Nomura the other day when it was decision-making time between senior managers of the company on a new policy of introducing casual business attire to the workplace, a trial had been in place for the past month and they needed to make a final decision which way to go with business attire.

Nomura said that with casual business attire in the workplace over the past month, he believes it provides an environment of creativity and increased productivity. Mike was against the idea of going casual and he was almost ready to respond in his usual direct way when he remembered our talk. Instead he said, “I can see why you might say that.” (Cushion) “Last week we had a very important client visiting our corporate office. (Example) At the end of the day, our guest casually mentioned to me how ‘unprofessional’ some of my co-workers looked in their casual clothes. (Evidence) I am now concerned it will affect our future business.” (Own opinion) This example shows that relaxing our company dress codes can impact our business in a negative way. Therefore I believe that we need a more professional dress code re-instituted.

How do you think it turned out this time for Mike? I am pleased to say he won through and by the looks of things for Mike, his opinion and ideas will be heard and acted on a lot more in the future. He now knows how to “disagree agreeably.”

The writer is president, Dale Carnegie Training® Japan (www.dale-carnegie.co.jp)

An old essay about Japanese Women

Don’t really remember when I wrote this. Probably during my sophomore year in university… in other words, a long time ago. ^^ It was homework. I had to write an essay and there were a few topics to choose from. At that time, I happened to choose this one. Found it today while going through some old backup CDs. Anyone used to keep time capsules? I reckon old backup CDs are just like time capsules. Open them up many years later and you’ll be surprised with what you find in there. ^^

“Discuss the future of Japanese women”.

Yamatonadeshiko (graceful Japanese women) have been known as one of the most obedient and modest women in the world. They had been educated to walk 3 steps behind men. That has been an ideal of Japanese women, and even now many Japanese men wish to have such woman as their wife. However, one of my Japanese friends told me, ‘there are no more Yamatonadeshiko in Japan’. This essay will discuss the future of Japanese women in society. To be able to predict the future position of Japanese women, a comparison will be made between the differences of women in Japan during the post war period and today, with a brief reference to the distant past. This essay will attempt to set up a general trend in changes made to the status and thinking of women in Japan in the areas of marriage, employment and family life.

During the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868AD) and the Meiji Period, which lasted till 1912, subordination of women to men was greatly emphasized in Japanese society. This was largely due to the adaptation of the Chinese Neo-Confucian ideology in society at that time. In 1945, after WW2, the new Constitution granted individual rights and gender equality to the Japanese people. Therefore the men and women of the postwar generation grew up in an environment that preached equality between the sexes. The women born between 1946-1955 are in the vanguard of increasing affluence. They are much more convenience in accomplishing household chores and therefore have more time to pursue their own interest. Their experiences have been molded not by the old framework of obedience, self-sacrifice, passivity and resignation but by the framework of the postwar period, which stresses equality, freedom, self-fulfillment and optimism; they are educated and socially aware (Iwao, 93). Iwao mentions that it is important to examine the lives of this generation of women, as they are the socialization agents of young people today. The first postwar generation of women in Japan had greater economic freedom and independence because many of these women received a university education and took a job upon graduation. Their new gained economic independence provided them with more options and a greater diversity in lifestyle.

Therefore with marriage no longer essential for economic and social survival, the marriageable age extended considerably and marriage became a less pressing concern for women today. In 1990, the average age for a first marriage was 25.8 years for women and 28.5 years for men, one year later than the average marriageable age 10 years earlier (Iwao, 93). The reason behind this is with greater affluence and a better education; the women of the postwar period (born after 1946) are more active and thoughtful in choosing or not choosing a spouse. This is a major difference with their parents, whom had little say in choosing a marriage partner as marriage was arranged between families (Ishimoto, 63). According to Iwao (93), when they do get married, their expectations of marriage have changed in some aspects and while remaining stable in others. Financial security and similar ideas on how to raise children for example remain the same while being in love and keeping the romance alive after marriage became more significant to the generation of today.

Many Japanese women of all ages, whether they choose to work or not, consider family and home life as their first priorities. Iwao (93) states that home management and their children’s education require heavy demands on the energy and intellect of Japanese women. Even if they decide to work, they do so at the family’s convenience.

Let us now examine how workingwomen compare to workingmen in Japan. An Equal Employment Opportunity Act was established in 1985 by the government to ensure that companies provided equal employment among the sexes. Although this Act was enacted, there was no penalty for companies, which do not follow it. When the Act was revised in 1999, a penalty was incorporated which was the public humiliation of the defiant company. When coming out to work, women are hired under different conditions as men. Apart from their standard duties, they are also required to serve tea to their male colleagues and to guests. Japanese women do not get paid the same salary as their male counterparts. As of 1990, for every ¥100 a Japanese man earns, the women earn about ¥61, which makes up about 61% of the Japanese workingman’s pay. Iwao (pg161, 93) shows in a survey conducted by the Bureau of Statistics, that the number of women venturing into industries previously monopolized by men- such as medicine, civil service, engineering etc, is increasing. But the opportunities for women to be promoted are much less, 1% for women, than men, which makes up 16.3%; survey conducted in 1985 (Iwao, 93). One reason for women’s reduced chances at promotion to managerial posts is the tendency of their male colleagues to lock them in traditional female roles, at home providing support for their husbands. But women do get ahead and land in top executive positions. Even in the politics women do get ahead. An example would be Doi Takako. She was the Chairperson of the SDPJ (Socialist Party) for nearly 5 years.

Now in the area of family life, a survey that Imamura (87) conducted in 1987, 50 percent of women stopped work after marriage even before the first child was born. In the story of Akiko (Iwao, 93), Akiko stopped work after she was seven months pregnant. This is a widely held belief in Japan that mothers should devote full time to raising her children. Most Japanese women with a choice whether to work or not after having their first child will have the most tendency to choose the latter. Japanese husbands when they receive their pay, will give it fully to their wife to control. Because of this fact, Japanese women hold the purse strings of the family. Therefore Japanese housewives manage the household with great freedom and autonomy as compared to their western counterparts. In a 1987 survey (Iwao, 93), both Japanese men and women largely support the pattern that women should quit work when children are born but return to work when they are old enough to need less care (43% among men and 52% among women).

The amount of women who work for the same company for 10 years or more has increased over the past 10 years from 9 percent in 1980 to 26 percent in 1990. The average working age of women in 1990 was 36 years, 10 years older that the average for 1960 (Iwao. 93). Married women make up the majority of workingwomen, and the percentage of part time workers rose to 28 percent as of 1990 of all employed women. Many of these women, in the middle and older age groups, are returnees- those who left full-time jobs to raise families and came back to the work force once their children were grown.

So far, this essay has shown the general cycle that many Japanese women go through today, namely; work, stop work when raising a family and return to work when children are old enough to cater for themselves. With that this essay reports that women in the Japanese society are gaining more recognition than the past. As a result, Japan has seen her first female foreign minister, Tanaka Makiko. Even the tradition of the imperial family would be amended to accommodate the possibility that Crown Princess Owada Masako would give birth to a female heir to the Chrysanthemum throne. Japanese women have advanced in industries once dominated by men and proved that women can perform on par with men. But despite their many advances into the many streams of society, Japanese women will continue to consider the home extremely important and their family will continue to play an important part in lives. Although still bound by some aspects of Japanese tradition, the Japanese women have evolved from one of passivity to one whom has a more active role in the Japanese economy and society.

Iwao, S (1993) The Japanese Woman. The Free Press, New York
Imamura, A (1987) Urban Japanese Housewives. University of Hawaii Press
Kikue, Y (1992) Women of the Mito Domain. University of Tokyo Press
Ishimoto, S (1963) Facing Two Ways. Stanford University Press

After reading this, what do you think? How is the Japanese woman coping nowadays?

On Wonfes 08 in the Summer

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I survived wonfes (short for Wonder Festival) and came out alive and kicking. Ok, it wasn’t that difficult. It was my first wonfes, but it probably won’t be my last. Let’s see what winter wonfes feels like. I hope nothing goes wrong with the escalator next time. Learnt a few lessons. Oversleeping is punishable by two excruciating words, 完売 (KANBAI). haha. That means sold out btw. Good lesson don’t you think? Just wondering, do you have like a certain genre of figures that you like? I tend to like figures with swords. Just like this one of Aya here.

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Cute figures perhaps? There’s a whole cheerleading team here. There were quite alot of people taking photos of them. I had to wait my turn and then squeeze in to get a shot. Exhibitions like these are also good opportunities to use and get used to your camera. Know what kind of settings are best for certain situations. I’ve seen people carrying really huge SLR cameras with external speedlights, diffusers etc. SLR owners without those external flashes made do with a diffuser. A proper one or a make do one with just paper rolled over the built-in flash. Of course there were a majority of people who only used compacts. And I’ve seen some people carrying really compact ones. There was this one which was probably just twice as thick as the plastic ipod nano (the first nano I think). And I peeked… I looked at his tiny screen and from what I saw, the photo looked great. I remember reading somewhere that it’s not the camera, it’s knowing how to fully use it that makes the difference.

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I’m no expert in photography. I regretted not bring along my Ricoh R8. If you want marco shots, that’s the best camera period. You can shoot marco 1mm away from the subject! It’s really fun! There were so many tiny Zero-s from Code Geass. Each one was going for almost ¥2000.

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At wonfes, I only had my Nikon D80 with the Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens. For me, that’s a very versatile lens. 18-200mm lets me take a good range of photos. VR (Vibration Reduction) is good… necessary for low light conditions. For camera settings, I usually go with aperture priority first, then shutter priority and finally manual if I can’t get what I want with the first 2. Occasionally I’ll use the “scene” modes. Sometimes the camera really knows best. ^^. Btw, I like the 風神雷神 (FUJIN RAIJIN) characters. Here’s 雷神 (RAIJIN). God of Thunder in Japanese folklore.


For all the photos I took at wonfes, I only used ISO400 and shutter priority. Not every photo turned out great though. Shows that I still have much more to learn. How about you? What settings would you use here? This is 風神 (FUJIN) btw. God of Wind.


These photos were taken at the ALTER stall. See that cute bunny girl in the middle? Recognise her from anywhere? She was used in the opening for 電車男 (DENSYAOTOKO). You can see her in the opening down here. Just to sidetrack a little, see how familiar it is to the promotional video for Daicon IV.

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Find these 2 tanks familiar? Does Metal Slug ring a bell? I was surprised to see these. Metal Slug’s a classic. One of my all time classics. Do you think arcade centers can adjust the difficulty levels of the games? The games at certain arcade centers are just plain hard!

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This one of Saber. I haven’t read the manga nor seen the anime, but I will get to it sometime! Like this pose where she’s dashing through with sword in hand.

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Another one for you Code Geass fans. Actually I don’t like him all that much. He whines and is too rigid. “Why so serious.”

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This has to be one of the top highlights of the day! I went to wonfes wondering if I would (maybe hoping to) bump into dannychoo. I met him when I was wandering around the F block (at photo x 152 in my flickr photostream). I was taking some photos and I saw this guy taking photos. I saw him from the side and there was something familiar about him… I actually observed him for a little bit. I didn’t have a choice. ^^ He was busy taking photos. I went up to him and tapped his shoulder. “Hi Danny!” I was pretty excited. You read about him and you finally get to meet the guy! He’s very friendly. Maybe I’ll get to sit down and have a proper chat with him sometime. But not today. He just arrived and I was sure that he had alot of photos left to take!


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I forgot who this mecha is supposed to be. Anyone can help me out? He’s just plain cool.

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Jin-Roh (人狼): The Wolf Brigade figures from Revoltech. Great detail and articulation. I’m thinking…

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I like this figure. “Girl with no name.” Sounds cool and mysterious…

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From Kotobukiya. Upcoming Shocktrooper figures for the new Star Wars animated movie “The Clone Wars”. Pretty nice I must say.

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Yoda rocks!

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There’s this little complaint I have. Have anyone seen the movie Big? You know, the one with Tom Hanks. For the next 2 pictures, I’ll quote from the movie. “Where’s the fun in that?” Sure, Decepticons can fly and transform into jets. But he’s Iron Man! He doesn’t need to be disguised as a jet. And what’s with the “Please do not touch” sign behind the glass casing. I can’t touch the figures inside the glass casing! ><


Would you buy this? Spiderman transforms into a bike and venom into a GT.


The spoils of war! I only came back with 2 figures. One was an event only Robotech Cyclone bike/armor. All black. The other was an 一騎当千 (IKKITOUSEN) character, 趙雲 子龍. I have been looking for her for quite some time. As you know, I like figures with swords. Especially if it’s a katana. The rest were just magazines and leaflets I got while walking around.


I love these cows…

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So, that’s wonfes summer. Looking forward to wonfes winter!

Btw, you can find most of my wonfes photos at my flickr photostream. I’ve flagged some photos that are “adult”. You have to be signed in to view those I think.