Even though I dislike wasteful construction projects, I will admit that Japan is safer from natural disasters than it would otherwise be without the Japanese tendency to overbuild. From Earthquakes to tsunamis to typhoons, there are plenty of hazards in Japan, but by and large plans are in place to deal with them. Most every river in Japan has a high, sloped levee made of reinforced concrete to guard against flooding, and large concrete breakwaters surround much of Japan's coastline, lessening the impact of a big wave. Every community in Japan has a designated "evacuation area," a place where you're supposed to go in the event of a natural disaster. And in the event that homes are destroyed, people here know that temporary housing units that can be erected quickly will be provided by the government, as happened after the earthquakes in Kobe and Niigata. Perhaps in the future America can take some pointers from Japan in this area (and a few others I could point out).
There is one corner of Japan that isn't overdeveloped: the northernmost island of Hokkaido. A very cold place in the winter, Hokkaido is the "bread basket" of Japan, and companies use the image of the island to sell everything from milk to butter to corn. Because the island was for the most part settled after Japan began to modernize in the 1870s, cities in Hokkaido often feel quite different from the rest of the country, from the rolling hills and beautiful Catholic Church of Hakodate in the south to the quaint canals of the port city of Otaru. Sapporo is a bustling modern city that was designed by American urban planners, and it's also the home of the Sapporo Brewing Company, Japan's oldest. Every August thousands of Japanese from the Tokyo area go to Hokkaido to escape the heat. It large natural areas and open roads make it popular with motorcycle aficionados from all over Japan, too.
J-List carries the hard-to-find UMD movies for PSP (yes, the naughty kind), a great new way to enjoy Sony's new handheld. While several of the UMD titles have been released as region free, most of the recent releases have been zoned for region 2. This is bad news for owners of PSPs bought in the U.S., but if you're in Europe, where the PSP has just been officially released, it's good news, since both Europe and Japan are region 2!
Pictures walking around Baltimore. It really was a beautiful city, and I liked it a lot. They have a thing for crabs there, as you can see by this beautifully decorated crab near a restaurant that sells crab soup.
At fan-dubbers night, watching the excellent Evangelion ReDeath by Studio Sokodei, a parody redub that I'd seen before, but enjoyed anyway (Oh baby...). Since I was involved with Seishun Shitemasu -- a bunch of guys with a VCR, I felt rather proud.
Then it was time to get ready to return to Japan. But wait, I had an empty suitcase -- what was I going to do? Fill it was cool food from the U.S., that's what. You don't think of things like Shreaded Wheat, tortillas, pretzels and salsa as being that big a deal, but try living in a country where they have none of this stuff. And to top it off, it was a Giant on the East Coase, so we got to find lots of things we don't have in California like Utz potato chips.
Hate to say it guys, but it's a trend. Once again, I got on the flight, this time being one of the first on the plane. No magazines, not even Black Golf-Playing Entrepreneur. Only the Good Book. I have nothing against the Book, but I can't help thinking it's yet another symbol of some unhealthy changes that have happened to my beloved America since its citizens decided it would be a good idea to give one party control of both the Presidency and both houses of Congress. Kind of like women not being able to get prescriptions for birth control pills because pharmacists don't think they should be using birth control or having sex. It's somewhat alarming. This was United by the way, again.