Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Driving in the snow to work

I took a 9 minute video of my commute to work in today’s snow storm. I figured some of you guys out there might want to see what its like to drive on the other side of the road… in the snow.

Like I mentioned in the post I uploaded earlier today, my area doesn’t get snow all that often. Most areas of Japan that receive little to no snow fall during the winter have many drivers who don’t change their tires to snow tires. My area is very close to mountain areas that do get a lot of snow so I got snow tires with my car. When driving on snow days like the one today, you will find the traffic slows down to a crawl due to stalling cars and minor accidents due to slipping on regular weather tires.

During the video I comment about driving conditions and an accident I noticed along the way. I know it causes a lot of trouble, but I really hope it snows just one more time before April. That would be nice.

Anyhow, enjoy the video and my commentary.

Snow Day! Finally.

DSCF0001After what seemed like a ton fruitless forecasts for snow that ended up bringing freezing rain or sunny days, I finally got my snow day.

It doesn’t really snow much where I live. Over the past four years of living here I’ve only seen it snow once or twice on average, sometimes as much as four times in one season.

This year was different though, it hasn’t even snowed once. Sure we’d get about an hour of sleet but it was never that fluffy sticky stuff that piles up to make the snow I want and have come to get used to over the past few years. Well, today my wish was granted. Not only did today’s forecast not even mention snow for my area, it was supposed to be clearing up from a light drizzle by around the time I took this picture and video.

DSCF0002Suffice to say, I am very excited as I hurriedly type out this entry before work. I have to drive in this awesome stuff but I am not too worried, I have plenty of experience from working in the mountains a few years back. I have snow tires that rarely get any use now but I am glad I didn’t cheap out and change them out myself every winter season. I think most of my neighbors don’t even have them. Hopefully for their sakes the road doesn’t slick too much for them, a lot of those cars look to be front wheel drive.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will snow enough to play in it at school with the kids today during lunch recess. That would be neat. I am sure the kids are just as stoked as I am!

I’m so psyched I even shot a short video to commemorate this special day.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Volunteer fire fighters practicing nearby

DSCF0007After a long day of driving around with my wife and son, I noticed the local volunteer fire fighting brigade was out practicing with their pump truck at a nearby river.

I felt kind of strange shooting a video of the guys testing their equipment but I figured my readers would like to see something very uniquely Japanese. Japanese fire engines come in all sizes, from about 3/4ths the size of a US standard fire engine to a micro truck size like the one featured in this video.

My brother in law is a volunteer fire fighter in his hometown and from what I’ve learned, the job consists of a lot of long weekends and holidays practicing with equally long nights drinking with the guys. At first glance, it sounds like fun, but its really not. You’re on call 24/7 and its very, very hard to avoid meetings, practices, and other meets. This is all on top of your day job where many Japanese experience 8 hour days most times with overtime. Coming home after work for more training is really rough.

From what I’ve heard, Japanese volunteer fire fighters in smaller towns and villages do not actually volunteer for but rather they are persuaded, sometimes forcefully. This is mostly due to a lack of local fire houses nearby that can do the job or they are home owners and are required to join up and do their fair share for the community. My brother is the former, he was not as willing to join and now kind of lives a little far from his hometown to make it worth his while.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

KFC Double-Down hits Japan

DSCF0033After years of not living in the US and salivating over videos on YouTube heralding the awesomeness of the bun-less chicken sandwich that goes by the name of double-down. At last, I finally got one of my own to try.

I love to eat! I am always looking for new and bizarre foods to try and the double-down satisfies all those criteria and more.

Much to my delight and surprise, my wife came home a few nights ago with a bag containing two double-downs. I wasn’t expecting much but I was a little disappointed they were smaller than I imagined. By Japanese standards they’re not all that small but I guess my imagination got the best of me and turned it into some giant chicken meat burger when its not much bigger than a big-mac in reality.

DSCF0034Anyhow I bit into the double-down with the ferocity of a wild animal and found it to be quite delicious. The combination of chicken breast and bacon paired with melted cheese in the center just hit the spot for me.

The meaty goodness has turned me into a believer. It may not look good but trust me, its delicious. Alas, its not healthy at all and I don’t expect to have it very often but I sure do hope it remains a permanent menu item in Japan. Its cheaper than a Japanese KFC 2pc chicken meal and tons tastier. A much bigger value for your yen if you ask me. I think the biggest reason I am not too fond of KFC in Japan is that they only serve original recipe. No crispy, and crispy is what I like. Come on KFC Japan, get some variety!

So the double-down is a win in my book. I look forward to chowing down on another soon.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Power lines get in the way of good shots

DSCF0002Lately, my area has been having really good weather. Today was no exception as the sky was absolutely clear, without a cloud to be seen.

I haven’t taken a picture of Mt. Fuji for a few months so I figured I might as well get some use out of my HD video camera and digital camera. The funny thing about taking pictures of something as visible as Mt. Fuji, it was really hard to get an unobstructed view of it.

 DSCF0001I live in a fairly flat, and lightly populated area for Japan but there's enough power lines to make it feel like I am in the middle of a large city. Even when I tried to take a picture of Mt. Fuji from the large park nearby, I couldn’t get a wire-less shot.

Its really a shame as I think Japan still has a lot of beautiful scenery and vistas. I wonder sometimes why Japan zoning and city planners didn’t have much foresight into where power lines were placed and how much sunlight they block out just from city streets and neighborhoods. DSCF0005I live in a somewhat newly developed area yet it would seem like there was never any real planning put into where the poles were placed.

For a country that has such frequent earthquakes, there aren’t many places that have underground lines run. Its really a shame because underground lines would probably keep roads clear of rogue poles, and safer during earthquakes if those poles or wires were ever to fall (which they often do).

DSCF0008Anyhow, I think I’ve said enough on this topic. I am not very fond of the Japanese sky filled with miles upon miles of wire. Cleaning it up would help so much. It would help shots like the one I took today just look so much better!

Here are some HD videos I uploaded to YouTube as well.

A river that runs by my apartment.
A quick video of Mt. Fuji as seen from the grass field of my local park.
The best shot I could get of Mt. Fuji from my neighborhood.