Food Holes?

I'm not sure if "Food Holes" is a failed attempt at copying "Whole Foods" or a mistransliteration of "Food Halls" ("hall" and "hole" are both ホル in katakana)
I'm not sure if "Food Holes" is a failed attempt at copying "Whole Foods" or a mistransliteration of "Food Halls" ("hall" and "hole" are both ホル in katakana)27-Sep-2014 19:53, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 4.0, 7.507mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1600
 

We went past the Hallo Day grocery store last night, not far from Meinohama station. Once we stopped laughing at their “Food Holes” slogan, Kai, Maria, and I put our heads together and came up with 2 possible explanations for it:

  • It’s a failed attempt at copying the “Whole Foods” name.
  • In going from English, to Katakana (the Japanese writing system for foreign words), and back to English, someone made a transliteration mistake with “Food Halls.” It can be hard to know how to pronounce English words (Hal vs. hall, for example). so “hall” may have been translated as ホル (ho-ru) which would make it indistinguishable from “hole” with Japanese phonetics.

Twitter weekly updates for 2014-09-17 – 2014-09-23

Beer Air

The Beer Air beer garden at Fukuoka airport
The Beer Air beer garden at Fukuoka airport09-Sep-2014 18:12, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1250
 

This Summer and Fall the Beer Air beer garden is open at the Fukuoka airport. It’s on the outdoor observation deck, so you can watch the planes take off and land while enjoying dinner and a beer (or two). The airport is right in town, and has its own subway stop, so it’s easy to get to. And it’s extremely popular: we went with my Japanese tutor, and she had to make reservations a month in advance.

It features a huge buffet and a decent beer selection. The food and beer were good, but there’s nothing especially spectacular about them. It’s more the unique location and experience that makes it special. The place was packed, mostly with groups of co-workers coming there after work to unwind. I got a kick out of the automatic beer dispenser: you grab a chilled mug from the freezer, put it in the machine, and push the button. Then it tilts the beer and fills it just right for you.

More info and pictures are at Fukuoka Now.

The Beer Air beer garden, at Fukuoka airport
The Beer Air beer garden, at Fukuoka airport09-Sep-2014 18:43, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1000
 
The view from Beer Air
The view from Beer Air09-Sep-2014 18:09, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 1600
 
The automatic beer machine at Beer Air
The automatic beer machine at Beer Air09-Sep-2014 18:17, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.125 sec, ISO 1600
 

The iPhone 6 frenzy in Fukuoka

TV camera crews filming the line a the Apple store, for the new iPhone 6TV camera crews filming the line a the Apple store, for the new iPhone 6
TV camera crews filming the line a the Apple store, for the new iPhone 619-Sep-2014 07:06, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
 

The morning news here yesterday was covering the crowds at the Apple stores in Japan, where some people had been waiting in line for days to buy the new iPhone 6. My post from a couple days ago showed the nascent line forming at the Fukuoka Apple store. So yesterday morning I took a walk down the block to see how it had grown. There were TV camera crews there covering the scene and interviewing people. The store is on a corner, and the line ran the full length of the block, wrapped at the next corner, and ran about one-third of the next side of the block. There were about half a dozen policemen there, to keep the line optimally organized, to minimize interference with the daily foot traffic on the sidewalk.

There were a couple guys out front with signs and suitcases, offering to buy iPhones at a good price. The iPhone 6 is not available yet in Korea and China. Shanghai and most of South Korea aren’t any further from Fukuoka than Tokyo, so these guys were probably planning to resell them in Korea or China at exorbitant prices.

These guys are offering to pay a good price to anyone willing to sell them a new iPhone 6These guys are offering to pay a good price to anyone willing to sell them a new iPhone 6
These guys are offering to pay a good price to anyone willing to sell them a new iPhone 619-Sep-2014 07:18, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
A man with his new iPhone being interviewedA man with his new iPhone being interviewed
A man with his new iPhone being interviewed19-Sep-2014 07:17, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 
The line for buying a new iPhone at the Fukuoka Apple store wrapped around the blockThe line for buying a new iPhone at the Fukuoka Apple store wrapped around the block
The line for buying a new iPhone at the Fukuoka Apple store wrapped around the block19-Sep-2014 07:15, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 200
 
Everyone who had been waiting in line for a day or two collected their trashEveryone who had been waiting in line for a day or two collected their trash
Everyone who had been waiting in line for a day or two collected their trash19-Sep-2014 07:17, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 100
 

Twitter weekly updates for 2014-09-10 – 2014-09-16

Today and yesterday

These are some pictures from today and yesterday, to give you an idea of what a typical day is like here for us in Fukuoka. I usually work in our apartment – the picture of the schoolgirls is from our deck on the 4th floor. Now that the boys have started school, Maria and I usually go out for lunch. There are lots of good places where we can eat for about $10 each, so it’s not too expensive. After we had lunch today, we spotted a line forming in front of the Apple store, for the iPhone 6 release in a couple of days. Yesterday after lunch, we stopped by one of the many wonderful bakeries here. The smell is so good when I walk in, it almost brings me to my knees every time. After the boys came home from school yesterday, I finished up my work, and then Eidan and I took the 3 minute walk to the small park in front of the Solaria Plaza shopping center, so he could drive around his new RC car, which is his current obsession. We usually have dinner at home, but tonight we went to a nearby tonkatsu restaurant, at Kai’s request. The picture of the tricked out van is actually from a few days ago, but I couldn’t resist adding it ;-)

Tricked out van, spotted in FukuokaTricked out van, spotted in Fukuoka
Tricked out van, spotted in Fukuoka11-Sep-2014 11:19, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 4.0, 7.766mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
Eidan with his new RC car, in Kego parkEidan with his new RC car, in Kego park
Eidan with his new RC car, in Kego park15-Sep-2014 16:23, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.002 sec, ISO 200
 
When Kai wants tonkatsu for dinner, Kai gets tonkatsu for dinnerWhen Kai wants tonkatsu for dinner, Kai gets tonkatsu for dinner
When Kai wants tonkatsu for dinner, Kai gets tonkatsu for dinner17-Sep-2014 17:41, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.04 sec, ISO 800
 
The first campers at the Fukuoka Apple store for the iPhone 6 release, 2 days from nowThe first campers at the Fukuoka Apple store for the iPhone 6 release, 2 days from now
The first campers at the Fukuoka Apple store for the iPhone 6 release, 2 days from now17-Sep-2014 11:34, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.001 sec, ISO 200
 
A bakery on the lower level of the Parco department storeA bakery on the lower level of the Parco department store
A bakery on the lower level of the Parco department store16-Sep-2014 11:29, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.025 sec, ISO 200
 
Schoolgirls headed down our streetSchoolgirls headed down our street
Schoolgirls headed down our street16-Sep-2014 09:13, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 5.6, 15.893mm, 0.013 sec, ISO 200
 

Japan’s Respect for the Aged Day, and demographic collapse

Today is a national holiday in Japan: Respect for the Aged Day. And there are a lot of elderly citizens to be respectful to. 26% of Japan’s population is now 65 or older. In the US, it’s 13%.

There’s also a record number over 100:

Reaching the century mark remains a relative rarity for humans, but it is increasingly less so, and perhaps nowhere more than in rapidly aging Japan. The number of Japanese who are at least 100 years old, known as centenarians, has reached 58,820, according to the latest government estimate… A Japanese woman is the oldest person in the world, 116-year-old Misao Okawa, according to Guinness World Records. The oldest man is also Japanese, 111-year-old Sakari Momoi… Advances in health care are contributing to increased longevity in Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has 46.21 centenarians for every 100,000 people. [Compared to 17.28 per 100,000 people in the US]

Chart of births and deaths in Japan
Chart of births and deaths in Japan16-Sep-2014 18:54
 

Japan is a rapidly aging society, and is suffering a massive demographic collapse:

Japan’s population began falling in 2004 and is now ageing faster than any other on the planet… [B]y 2060 the number of Japanese will have fallen from 127m to about 87m, of whom almost 40% will be 65 or older…

The government is pointedly not denying newspaper reports that ran earlier this month, claiming that it is considering a solution it has so far shunned: mass immigration. The reports say the figure being mooted is 200,000 foreigners a year. An advisory body to Shinzo Abe, the prime minister, said opening the immigration drawbridge to that number would help stabilise Japan’s population—at around 100m (from its current 126.7m).

But even then there’s a big catch. To hit that target the government would also have to raise the fertility rate from its current 1.39, one of the lowest in the world, up to 2.07. Experts say that a change on that scale would require major surgery to the country’s entire social architecture…

Roughly 2% of Japan’s population is foreign. And even this figure includes large numbers of permanent residents — mostly Chinese and Koreans — who have been here for generations. Tellingly, the recent story about the government’s discussion of immigration broke in the right-wing Sankei newspaper, which is especially unlikely to embrace the idea of a Chinese family living on every Japanese street.

A curious aspect of all this is the population of Japan’s largest cities is actually going up. There are fewer people each year, but the ones who remain are moving to Japan’s 3 biggest cities, resulting in an even more rapid collapse of population in most of the rest of country:

People continue to migrate from around the country to the three major metropolises, Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya, where around half of the nation’s population is now concentrated… [There are] municipalities in danger of disappearing altogether.

There are plans being made for Fukuoka and other regional cities, to stem the tide:

Since the late 1970s, Sapporo, Sendai, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka have been viewed as key regional hubs. Despite depopulation elsewhere, these four cities, known collectively as “Sas-Sen-Hiro-Fuku,” have either maintained their size or continued to grow. The prefectures of which they are the capitals—Hokkaidō, Miyagi, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka, respectively—account for roughly 10% of Japan’s gross domestic product and are home to about 12% of the national population. Each of these cities is an academic center hosting a major national university, and all four also have professional baseball and soccer franchises, providing each with a firm local identity. Some people in the national government see these cities as a potential breakwater to stop the flow of migrants to Tokyo.

Earlier this year Fukuoka was designed one of six special economic zones:

…The idea is that in the tokku, as the zones are known in Japan, firms will be able to take steps that are too controversial for the country as a whole, such as hiring and firing workers more easily. The rules are later to be extended nationwide. The brand-new tokku cover a vast swathe of ground. Greater Tokyo is included, as are the region of Kansai, Narita City in Chiba prefecture and Fukuoka. In total, an area producing nearly two-fifths of Japan’s GDP will fall inside the zones…

If you read the articles linked above, you’ll see that these attempts at changes routinely get watered down in their actual implementation, so the big changes that are needed to reverse Japan’s population decline just aren’t happening on a sufficient scale. A likely long-term outcome is that Japan will lose its position as a country with one of the highest GDP’s in the world, and end up being similar to Switzerland: a country with a small but relatively wealthy population.

Going to the movies in Fukuoka

Eidan, all set to watch a movie at the Toho cinema in FukuokaEidan, all set to watch a movie at the Toho cinema in Fukuoka
Eidan, all set to watch a movie at the Toho cinema in Fukuoka23-Jul-2014 10:51, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.1 sec, ISO 1600
 

We’ve been to the movies a few times since we arrived here this summer. There are a couple cinemas within a 10 minute walk of our apartment, which makes it easy. But what makes it hard, of course, is the language barrier. A few weeks ago I took the boys to see the Japanese movie Eight Rangers 2, which is a sort of comedy version of Power Rangers. It was a gamble: there were no English subtitles, but the comedy seemed broad enough in the trailer that I thought we might enjoy it anyway. Unfortunately it turned out to be a dialog driven film, and mostly incomprehensible to me and the boys. Kai and I both fell asleep, but Eidan said he enjoyed it.

At any given time, about a quarter of the movies being shown here are Hollywood films. They usually open here a few months after their release in the US. You have to pay attention when buying tickets, as you sometimes can have up to 4 options: 2D or 3D, and subtitled or dubbed. Today we saw Guardians of the Galaxy on its opening day here (2D and subtitled, meaning that it has the original English dialog and Japanese subtitles). We all enjoyed it, but I felt the intensity of some of the violence made it hard to sit back and enjoy the comedy of the film (go ahead, call me old).

The theaters here are nicer than your average theater in the US, mainly because they don’t have to worry about people breaking stuff. So Eidan had a nice soft booster seat instead of a hard plastic one, and the seat arms each have an extension that swings, which can hold your popcorn and drink. Perhaps the best feature is that all the seats are assigned (and people actually sit where they’re supposed to), so you don’t have to worry getting there early to find seats together.

There are some really posh theaters in Japan too, although I don’t know if Fukuoka has any. Here are some pictures of the sleek and immaculate Toyosu theater that Maria and I went to in Tokyo, back in 2007.

The movie trailers also show more variety in how they’re put together than the strict formula followed by US movie trailers. Here’s one of the ads for Guardians of the Galaxy (there are actually 3 in this clip – I’ve set it to start on the most interesting one). The narrator’s saying something along these lines at the beginning: “Has life got you down? Are your daily life and chores becoming painful? Have you fallen out of your groove at work? Then you’re in need of a little break…”

Twitter weekly updates for 2014-09-03 – 2014-09-09

Fukuoka City Hall, Part 2: why fight city hall when they have good beer?

The Kyushu Beer Festival, at Fukuoka City Hall
The Kyushu Beer Festival, at Fukuoka City Hall04-Sep-2014 16:52, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 

Not long after the water park was taken down in front of city hall, the Kyushu beer festival took its place. Craft beer is probably as popular in Japan as the US, and the festival featured over 50 beers from Kyushu breweries (Kyushu is the third largest island in Japan, and Fukuoka is its largest city). The entrance fee of about $30 gets you a festival beer glass and 6 tickets, good for beer or food. The festival lasted 5 days, so you didn’t have to drink 6 beers in one visit!

The heat and humidity of the summer is gone now, and Maria and I walked over on a perfect Fall evening last Thursday. We met my Japanese tutor and her boyfriend there, and hung out for a while. And, of course, we enjoyed the beer! Of the breweries that were there, the only one I was familiar with in the US was Hitachi No Nest, which Maria likes more than I do. The beer I liked most that I tried was from Far Yeast, which I’ll also give points for having the best name. They had live music each night as well, but we went early, and left before any of the performances started.

If you’re a beer nerd and want to know about all about the Japanese beer industry, check out Brewed in Japan (Maria knows the author). And if you like looking at pictures of beer, and pictures of people drinking beer, the Kyushu Beer Festival website is now displaying a bunch of event photos collected from Instragram (just scroll down their home page a bit to see them).

04-Sep-2014 16:01, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 4.0, 6.732mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 400
 
The Kyushu Beer Festival, at Fukuoka City Hall
The Kyushu Beer Festival, at Fukuoka City Hall04-Sep-2014 16:08, Canon Canon PowerShot ELPH 110 HS, 2.7, 4.3mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 200
 
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