Self-Defence Force Land

You may have heard about this place in the news. It’s called the Rikujou Jieitai Kouhou Senta-, or the Ground Self-Defense Forces Public Information Center. It was part of a scandal involving wasteful government projects just after the defeat of the LDP in the last election. At that time it only received about 2,600 visitors per week, despite costing millions of dollars to run. Thanks to the scandal, however, it’s getting really crowded these days, although it remains to be seen what will happen when they start charging admission in April.
It’s kind of a mediocre museum that you can walk through in about 15 minutes. There’s a history of the SDF, a bunch of tanks and helicopters, a 3D movie theater, and you can try on army uniforms or other military equipment like flak vests and parachute packs.

The obligatory omiyage (souvenir) shop complete with military-themed cookies and candy.

These “Dead or Alive” cookies are described on the box as a game of Russian Roulette. Ten out of 12 are regular sweet cookies, but two are extremely spicy and taste awful.

To get there, take the Tobu-Tojo line, or Yurakucho/Fukutoshin Line to Wakoshi Station. From there, it’s about a 15-minute walk. Here’s a map:

Official site: (Japanese only)

Cherry Blossoms vs. Plum Blossoms

Yesterday I realized that despite having lived more than 15 years in Japan, I can’t tell the difference between a plum blossom and a cherry blossom. Even more shockingly, my Japanese wife, and many other Japanese people can’t either. They both come in a wide variety of colors, and both blossoms have five petals each.

Of course sakura (cherry blossoms) and ume (plum blossoms, or more accurately, Japanese apricot) do bloom at different times, so if you see them in February you know they’re probably plum blossoms, and if you see them in April, they’re probably cherry blossoms. There are some plum blossoms still on the trees now, though, and there were early-blooming cherry trees a few weeks ago, so it’s not always easy, and you often see them misidentified on various websites and blogs.

Anyway, I did some research, and here’s how to tell the difference:

1. Look at the stems. Cherry blossoms are usually connected by a long stem to the branch. Plum blossoms are usually (but not always) stuck right on the branch.**

Cherry blossoms

2. Plum blossoms tend to be round, whereas cherry blossoms are oval, and tend to have a little indentation at the top of the petal.

Plum blossoms.

Cherry blossoms

This is my son Matthew enjoying some early-blooming cherry blossoms called higan zakura in Ueno Park yesterday.

By the way, these photos (except the last one) come from the excellent stock.xchng website, an excellent place to find free photos on the Web.

** Sorry, originally I had posted this photo as an example of cherry blossoms that are off the branch. I have been informed in the comments section, however, that they are actually cherry-plum blossoms. Not all plum blossoms grow on the branch, so you have to be careful.

Japanese Floorplan Fails

I was browsing in a bookstore last week and came across this book called Henna Madori (Strange Floor Plans). All of them are from real apartments.

This is a six-room apartment, but the rooms are only three tatami mats each (one tatami mat is just under two meters x one meter), and you have to go through the toilet to get to the bathroom.

It wouldn’t be impossible to live in this room, would it? You can’t get into the bedroom because there’s no door from the entrance area, but at least there’s a toilet!

There has to be a reason for putting the bathroom and toilet in the very center of the apartment, right? There has to be.

The arrow at the top indicates the toilet. If you want to get into the kitchen, you have to go through the toilet.

You’d have to be pretty skinny to get out of that toilet!

This one has three toilets and two bathtubs.

This is a nice, spacious 3LDK (three bedroom apartment with living room, dining room, and kitchen). The only problem is that to get into the room in the middle with the arrow pointing to it, you have to go out on the balcony.

Henna Madori only costs 500 yen and is quite entertaining if you can understand some Japanese. I read through it in an hour or two, but find that it stays with me, as I continuously wonder about what the advantage of having a bathroom and toilet in the middle of your room are, or what kind of family needs three toilets and two baths.


This statue of the Manneken Piss on the platform of JR Hamamatsu Station has been dressed up in a fire fighter’s uniform for the Spring Fire Prevention Campain.

This sign in the Yanaka District of Tokyo says “No thieves permitted beyond this point.”

This banner is advertising a graveyard. It struck me as odd to have the same type of festive advertisement that is used outside fast food restaurants.

This poster on a train in Osaka says, “Groping forbidden. Absolutely forbidden.” It’s written in Osaka dialect using the word “akan” which means the same as the standard “dame” (forbidden).

So, the price is 586,530,000 yen (about $US 5.1 million)?

Giant pylons.

Japanese People’s Most-Hated English Words

This is from a 2-channel discussion I chanced upon. The thread’s title was “English words you hate.”

1. Encyclopedia
I don’t have a reason, but it just sucks.

2. I agree

4. Virus
It’s not an English word, though.

5. Experience
I can’t pronounce it.

7. Yield
It sucks.

9. adjourn awkward

10 I don’t like “christmas”

12. gender
“Sex” is good enough!

13. Korea, Korean

14. vocabularly. I always write “vocabullary”  or “vocaburary” by mistake. It bugs me because its not an adverb, but it ends in “ly”.

16. Bomber.
It should be “bommer”

17. ostrich

19. unnecessarily
No matter how many times I study it, I always spell it wrong.

20. leave
It tends to come up a lot in listening tests.

21 . It’s not a word, but “Why not?” meaning “Let’s do it.”

22. jewel

30. sino

31. statistics

33. NOVA

39. appreciate

34. due
It’s hard to grasp the meaning instinctively.

42. as
But if you get used to it, it’s useful

43. world, girl, earn

46. embarrass

47. entrepreneur
It doesn’t sound at all like antorepurena-

50. respect

54. I don’t like “due.” Somehow I don’t want to use it.

55. giant, tiger, dragon

56 . All English words suck.
I hate English!!!!!

59. wood
I was shocked when someone didn’t understand when I tried to say such an easy word

64. Death to “as”

72. laboratory
I don’t like where the stress is placed when it’s pronounced

73 vacuum
The two U’s in a row is creepy.

78. Involve is by far the word we should get rid of

81. parallel

82. nip

87 : juvenile
It sucks. When I saw it in a vocabulary book, I thought “You’ll never remember that!” but unfortunately, I did.

89 chignon

90. I hate words that are hard to pronounce.
In the past, when I practiced saying “fifth floor” I started to get a neurosis about it. Now “not at all” is no trouble for me, but at first it was quite difficult.

92 Penis

94 :名無しさん@英語勉強中[]:2008/11/13(木) 02:07:11

95. floccinaucinihilipilification

96. environment

98. This isn’t a word, but I don’t like violent expressions like “jump down someone’s throat.

99. simultaneously

100. committee
Couldn’t they shave a letter off somewhere?

101. I don’t like “reckon”
Come on, just use “think” or “guess.”

107. extravaganza

109. Korean

114. conference、confference、confferrence、conferrence
Could someone let me know which one is correct immediately?

115. coffee

118. get