Thursday, February 26, 2009

"Dark Clouds Growing Darker, Thickening Atmosphere..."

I've begun to notice a change in atmosphere on the trains and at work. You can't read of companies laying people off every day and not worry about whether you will continue to be able to pay the rent and buy food. Some example sentences in a few different articles I read just today:

- Japan's exports plunged more than 45% in January compared to a year ago to hit the lowest figure ever recorded, official figures showed.
- Japanese exports to the US, which is at the centre of the slide, fell nearly 53% in January while shipments to the European Union retracted by 47%, Japan's finance ministry said.
- The government said last week that Japan's economy was in its most serious crisis since World War II, after it contracted an annualised rate of 12.7% in the last quarter of 2008.
- Gloom over Japan economy deepens
- Other analysts are worried that the Japanese economic recovery could be completely derailed and that a mild recession could be on its way.
- Japan posted a record trade deficit in January, with exports tumbling 46 percent from a year earlier, as the global economic downturn tightened its stranglehold on overseas demand.
- The Finance Ministry said Japan's trade deficit for the month widened to 952.6 billion yen ($9.92 billion) — the fourth straight month that imports exceeded exports. It was the biggest trade deficit since the government began compiling comparable data in 1979.
- Japan, long criticized by trading partners for its big trade surpluses, has become a net importer in recent months because of the global slump. Exports were cut nearly in half, as shipments of cars, machinery, electronics and semiconductors to all major markets plunged.
- The latest data mirrors the sharp declines throughout the export-reliant continent and signals that the pain in Asia may only deepen in the months ahead. South Korean exports fell a record 33 percent in January from the previous year, Taiwan's retreated 43 percent, and Singapore's fell 35 percent.
- Exports to the U.S. fell 53 percent, with car shipments down 81 percent on a value basis. Japan's trade surplus with the U.S. fell 75 percent to 132.8 billion yen.

This is not looking good. As other people are reading similar dark and gloomy news reports (and people are beginning to lose their jobs), the collective dark radio waves are something palpable in the air. I want to be positive and forward-looking, but the increasingly stormy seas seem to be leading into a full-scale raging typhoon. Hopefully not, but the downward spiral is still headed down. How to turn it around.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Monday, February 23, 2009

National Geographic Articles on Japan

Articles related to Japan in National Geographic Magazine:

July 1997
Pages 42-57

Okinawa: Claiming Its Birthright
June 1997
Pages 86-105
Summary: Japan's southern outpost has hosted the U.S. military for five decades. Some argue that's long enough.

Storm Watch Over the Kurils
Oct. 1996
Pages 48-67

The Great Tokyo Fish Market: Tsukiji
Nov. 1995
Pages 38-55

Oct. 1995
Pages 99-113

Up From Ground Zero: Hiroshima
Aug. 1995
Pages 78-101

Kobe Wakes to a Nightmare
July 1995
Pages 112-136

Inner Japan
Sept. 1994
Pages 65-95

Kyushu: Japan's Southern Gateway
Jan 1994
Pages 88-117

Japan's Sun Rises Over the Pacific
Nov. 1991
Pages 36-67

Suruga Bay, In the Shadow of Mount Fuji
Oct. 1990
Pages 2-39

Japanese Women
Apr. 1990
Pages 52-83

In a Japanese Garden
Nov. 1989
Pages 638-663

The Prodigious Soybean
July 1987
Pages 67-91

Tokyo, A Profile of Success
Nov. 1986
Pages 606-645

The Pearl
Aug. 1985
Pages 193-223

The Preposterous Puffer
Aug. 1984
Pages 260-270

The Japan Alps
Aug. 1984
Pages 238-259

Hagi: Where Japan's Revolution Began
June 1984
Pages 751-773

Japan's Izu Oceanic Park
Apr. 1984
Pages 465-491

Silk - The Queen of Textiles
Jan. 1984
Pages 2-49

The Japanese Crane, Bird of Happiness
Oct. 1983
Pages 542-556

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!
July 1983
Pages 2-35

The Lost Fleet of Kublai Khan
Nov. 1982
Pages 634-649

The Chip: Electronic Mini-marvel
Oct. 1982
Pages 421-457

Plight of the Bluefin Tuna
Aug. 1982
Pages 220-239

The Bonanza Bean - Coffee
Mar. 1981
Pages 388-405

Bamboo, the Giant Grass
Oct. 1980
Pages 502-529

Jari: A Billion-dollar Gamble
May 1980
Pages 686-711 Japanese paper mill taken to Brazil.

Hokkaido, Japan's Last Frontier
Jan. 1980
Pages 62-93

Day of the Rice God
July 1978
Pages 78-85

Japan's Amazing Inland Sea
Dec. 1977
Pages 830-863

Japan's Warriors of the Wind
Apr. 1977
Pages 551-561

Kyoto and Nara: Keepers of Japan's Past
June 1976
Pages 836-859

Oil, the Dwindling Treasure
June 1974
Pages 792-825

Those Successful Japanese
Mar. 1974
Pages 323-359

Quicksilver and Slow Death
Oct. 1972
Pages 507-527

Human Treasures of Japan
Sept. 1972
Pages 370-379

Living in a Japanese Village
May 1972
Pages 668-693

Nature's Night Lights: Probing the Secrets of Bioluminescence
July 1971
Pages 45-69

Ama, Sea Nymphs of Japan
July 1971
Pages 122-135

Scientist Studies Japan's Fantastic Long-tailed Fowl
Dec. 1970
Pages 845-855

Kansai, Japan's Historic Heartland
March 1970
Pages 295-339

Okinawa, the Island Without a Country
Sept. 1969
Pages 422-448

Snow Festival in Japan's Far North
Dec. 1968
Pages 824-833

The Bonins and Iwo Jima Go Back to Japan
July 1968
Pages 128-144

Kayak Odyssey: From the Inland Sea to Tokyo
Sept. 1967
Pages 295-337

Japan's Sky People, the Vanishing Ainu
Feb. 1967
Pages 268-296

Shrimp Nursery: Science Explores New Ways to Farm the Sea
May 1965
Pages 636-659

Tokyo, the Peaceful Explosion
Oct. 1964
Pages 445-487 (Regarding 1964 Tokyo Olympics)

YWCA: International Success Story
Dec. 1963
Pages 904-933

Round the World School
July 1962
Pages 96-127

Oregon's Sidewalk on the Sea
Nov. 1961
Pages 708-734

Japan, the Exquisite Enigma
Dec 1960
Pages 733-777 Tradition continues as innovation drives Japan's booming economy

Deep Diving off Japan
Jan. 1960
Pages 138-150

Around the World and the Calendar with the Geographic: The President's Annual Message
Dec. 1959
Pages 832-866 Melville Bell Grosvenor ...... summarizes his own fact-collecting tour of Asia

Okinawa, the Island Rebuilt
Feb. 1955
Pages 265-288

Cruising Japan's Inland Sea
Nov. 1953
Pages 619-650

The Yankee Sailor Who Opened Japan
July 1953
Pages 85-102 On July 14, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his black fleet into a harbor south of Tokyo and opened Japan to the rest of the world. (100th anniversary)

The Fur Seal Herd Comes of Age
April 1952
Pages 491-512

Japan Tries Freedom's Road
May 1950
Pages 593-632

Okinawa, Pacific Outpost
April 1950
Pages 538-552

Adventures with the Survey Navy
July 1947
Pages 131-148

Backwoods Japan During American Occupation
April 1947
Pages 491-518

Sunset in the East
June 1946
Pages 797-812

American Pathfinders in the Pacific
May 1946
Pages 617-640

Face of Japan
Dec. 1945
Pages 753-768

Behind the Mask of Modern Japan
Nov. 1945
Pages 513-535

Okinawa, Threshold to Japan
Oct. 1945
Pages 411-428

The Society's New Map of China
Jun. 1945
Pages 745-746

Peacetime Rambles in the Ryukyus
May 1945
Pages 543-561

South from Saipan
April 1945
Pages 441-474

Springboards to Tokyo
Oct. 1944
Pages 385-407

Manipur - Where Japan Struck at India
June 1944
Pages 743-750

Japan and the Pacific
April 1944
Pages 385-414

Timor, a Key to the Indies
Sept. 1943
Pages 355-384

War Finds Its Way to Gilbert Islands
Jan. 1943
Pages 71-92

Japan Faces Russia in Manchuria
Nov. 1942
Pages 603-634

China Opens Her Wild West
Sept. 1942
Pages 337-367

Unknown Japan
Aug. 1942
Pages 225-252

Hidden Key to the Pacific: Piercing the Web of Secrecy Which Long Has Veiled Japanese Bases in the Mandated Islands
June 1942
Pages 759-785

Facts about the Philippines
Feb. 1942
Pages 185-202

Around the World for Animals
June 1938
Pages 665-714

Women's Work in Japan
Jan. 1938
Pages 99-132

Friendly Journeys in Japan: A Young American Finds a Ready Welcome in the Homes of the Japanese During Leisurely Travels Through the Islands
April 1936
Pages 441-480

Motor Trails in Japan
March 1933
Pages 303-318

Japan, Child of the World's Old Age: An Empire of Mountainous Islands, Whose Alert People Constantly Conquer Harsh Forces of Land, Sea, and Sky
March 1933
Pages 257-301

Tokyo To-day
Feb. 1932
Pages 131-162 (Reconstruction after 1923 earthquake)

Some Impressions of 150,000 Miles of Travel
May 1930
Pages 523-598 (William Howard Taft, former President's travel tales)

The Columbus of the Pacific: Captain James Cook, Foremost British Navigator, Expanded the Great Sea to Correct Proportions and Won for Albion an Insular Empire by Peaceful Exploration and Scientific Study
Jan. 1927
Pages 85-132

Goldfish and Their Cultivation in America
Oct. 1924
Pages 375-400

Sakurajima, Japan's Greatest Volcanic Eruption: A Convulsion of Nature Whose Ravages Were Minimized by Scientific Knowledge, Compared with the Terrors and Destruction of the Recent Tokyo Earthquake
April 1924
Pages 441-470

How the Earth Telegraphed Its Tokyo Quake to Washington
Oct. 1923
Pages 453-454

The Empire of the Risen Sun
Oct. 1923
Pages 415-443 Country will rebuild after disasters

Some Aspects of Rural Japan
Sept. 1922
Pages 275-301

The Arctic as an Air Route of the Future
Aug. 1922
Pages 205-218

Adventures with a Camera in Many Lands
July 1921
Pages 87-112

The Geography of Japan: With Special Reference to Its Influence on the Character of the Japanese People
July 1921
Pages 45-84

Western Siberia and the Altai Mountains: With Some Speculations on the Future of Siberia
May 1921
Pages 469-507

Shifting Scenes on the Stage of New China
Nov. 1920
Pages 423-428

The Making of a Japanese Newspaper
Oct. 1920
Pages 327-334

Around the World with the Salvation Army
April 1920
Pages 347-368

Oct. 1914
Pages 415-420 Series of photographs from Japan, Korea, and Burma

Young Japan
July 1914
Pages 54-64 Every year, a half-million children are born.

The Probable Effect of the Panama Canal on the Commercial Geography of the World
Feb. 1914
Pages 245-248

Do Volcanic Explosions Affect Our Climate?
Feb. 1913
Pages 181-198

Glimpses of Japan
Nov. 1911
Pages 965-1002

Recent Population Figures
Aug. 1911
Pages 785-786

Race Prejudice in the Far East
Dec. 1910
Pages 973-985
Summary: If the United States is to retain influence in Asia, argues the general manager of the Associated Press, Americans and Europeans must recognize that racism toward the people who live there can give rise to potentially dangerous levels of resentment.

Glimpses of Korea and China
Nov. 1910
Pages 895-934

Notes and Scenes from Korea
July 1908
Pages 498-508 (J-rel)

Why Nik-ko Is Beautiful
April 1908
Pages 300-308

Koyasan, the Japanese Valhalla
Oct. 1907
Pages 650-670

The Giant Spider Crab from Japan
April 1907
Pages 280

Women and Children of the East
April 1907
Pages 248-271

Cultivation of Marine and Fresh-Water Animals in Japan
Sept. 1906
Pages 524-531

Japan, America, and the Orient
Sept. 1906
Pages 498-504
Summary: Once perceived by the U.S. as a Yellow peril, Japan now appears to be a beneficial and friendly influence in Asia.

The Population of Japan
Oct. 1905
Pages 482
Summary: Thought Japan's population growth from 1893 to 1903 was not excessive, the recently industrialized island nation faces the issue of urban overcrowding, a problem already well known to Western countries.

Japan and the United States
Sept. 1905
Pages 432-434

The Purpose of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance
July 1905
Pages 333-337

A Chapter from Japanese History
May 1905
Pages 220-228

The Fisheries of Japan
May 1905
Pages 201-220

The Characteristics of the Japanese People
March 1905
Pages 93-100

Observations on the Russo-Japanese War, in Japan and Manchuria
Feb. 1905
Pages 80-82

Some Facts About Japan
Nov. 1904
Pages 446-448
Summary: Japan has abundant coal and raw materials to become a great industrial country.

Geographic Notes
Oct. 1904
Pages 427

Some Early Geographers of the United States
Oct. 1904
Pages 392-404

The Fisheries of Japan
Sept. 1904
Pages 362-364
Summary: Japan's shore fisheries export herring, sardines, and bonito. One out of 20 Japanese is a fisherman.

Agriculture in Japan
Aug. 1904
Pages 323-326

Lessons from Japan
May 1904
Pages 221-225
Summary: Japan produces strong, durable paper and also profits from its bamboo groves.

Japan and China - Some Comparisons
Feb. 1901
Pages 69-77
Summary: The progressive Japanese are compared to and contrasted with the more traditional Chinese. The author concludes that the origins of these two peoples must be quite separate.

The Manila Observatory
Nov. 1900
Pages 427-438 ... storm forecasting....

The Commercial Development of Japan
Sept. 1899
Pages 329-337

Deep-Sea Exploring Expedition of the Steamer Albatross
Aug. 1899
Pages 291-296 Planned voyage from San Francisco to Japan

President Alexander Graham Bell on Japan
Dec. 1898
Pages 509-512
Summary: The President of the National Geographic Society predicts a brilliant future for Japan, and commends the Japanese for their emphasis on education.

The Recent Earthquake Wave on the Coast of Japan
Sept. 1896
Pages 285-289 ["earthquake wave" = tsunami]

Dec. 29, 1894
Pages 193-199


Sunday, February 15, 2009

"Shibuya to Hiyoshi on the Tokyu Line at Night- 1991"

Back in 1991, I carried a video camera with me nearly all the time. This video is of a nighttime trip I took from Shibuya to Hiyoshi on the Tokyu Line

It's only ("only?" Hmmm...) been a little over 17 years, but things feel quite different on the trains these days. No wonder, when you stop and realize that it's a different generation of young people on them - and the young people in this 1991 video are now middle-aged....

The sights and sounds of the trip will likely be familiar to anyone who used that line around that time (October 1991). Several of the windows were also open, which is quite rare now. People seem to like(?!) riding around in sealed boxes now - no mater how nice the weather is outside.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

"Last of a Long Day at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show"

Watching only the edited set of videos I took on Saturday, October 26th, 1991, the four clips only amount to around 25 minutes, but if I add up the time I spent editing out those 25 minutes from the original two hours I took in 1991, it amounts to about the same length of time I spent with video camera in hand on the day itself in real time (all day that is). That, combined with watching the entire thing (a few times) intently, has brought the day to the forefront of my mind, and I remember the fatigue of the day. Tired here in 2009 from the editing process and remembering how it was to be banging around in 1991 in that crowded show all day (fun, but headache-inducing) leaves me feeling like I've now had quite enough of the 1991 Tokyo Motor show!

I might even have forgotten the headache, but there I am on the screen (not in the edited material posted to YouTube) taking a break in the middle of the day and telling the camera (and 2009 me) that I have a headache and I'm getting tired of the still photographers banging into me as they physically force their way to the front, while I'm trying to take video scenes.

Watching my 1991 self and the 1991 scenes and sounds; and then thinking about it, the specific memory of the headache (and escaping outside for a break) come back. The headache had three causes basically - 1) the incessant, competing, loud, and conflicting noises of the show, 2) being continually banged into as I attempted to hold the camera steady for video recording, and 3) the heat - the exhibition halls were overheated... no doubt for the many scantily clad show-women.

All-in-all, taking a good look at my 1991 material keeps leaving me with (among a flood of related memories) thinking of the following:

1) It's a different era! A seamless flow of time between 1991 and 2008/2009, but there is a great wall somewhere in-between now and then. Different clothes, different hairstyles, different feeling in the air, different thinking, and different this, that, and other things.

2) The "bubble years" are always portrayed on Japanese TV as something akin to "the roaring twenties" in the US, but for most people at the time, it was just news stories of excess on TV, and most people's lives were - shock & surprise - a carryover from a few years before. I have video of children playing in the street in the "shitamachi" area of town (sometimes/often radically-wrongly translated as "downtown" - a more accurate translation would be "low area of town" or "the far side of the tracks", "the poor side of town" etc.) and old 1950's style buildings, etc. What people don't seem to generally comprehend is that the plans laid in that era are what resulted in the modern Tokyo of today. So to around-20 people who say "I wish I could experience what it was like in the roaring 'bubble' years", I say "Take a look around - you've got it! They didn't then, but the results of their plans for shiny new structures and modern lifestyle have arrived! You're there! Now!"

3) The fragility of memory. After watching several 21st century fictional portrayals of the "bubble years", I had begun to see the era as having been (somewhat) that way. This has been the biggest surprise of all for me - since I was here for the entire time, I should know very well how it was, but it has taken watching hours and hours of my life then (recorded by me at the time), to bring back the authentic memories of how it felt and what the atmosphere was, and that atmosphere is radically different from what comes across in modern fictional depictions of the era on TV and in movies.

Number three in particular should give one cause to pause and think hard about... things - all things. If you can be pushed away from reality by fictional depictions of something you lived through (and should know as well as anyone), how can you correctly understand a reality you have had no proper exposure to?

4) From the evidence of young modern actors faultily attempting to portray young people of a different era, it would seem it's no easy task to comprehend how it felt to live in a particular era. (How I wish I had a time machine to go back and sample different eras! I would especially like to go back for photos of certain key events. Better yet, video! Actual video of ancient peoples - would they seem more familiar than expected, or more alien? Of course, to really do the job properly, you would have to be invisible. The sudden appearance of a biped with a picture & sound recording device wouldn't exactly be taken in stride....)

Derailing here... so I'll stop. Here's the link to the fourth & final (unless at some point I use parts of the 90 minutes cut out in editing) of the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show series:

And if you'd like to follow October 26th, 1991's Lyle through the day, here are five videos (the fifth one being a short clip of riding in a car that evening) that cover nearly the entire day. There's one gap between leaving Tokyo Station at the end of 1991-TMS #4 and getting in the car - maybe I'll get to that at some point.

"Tokyo Auto Show - 1991 #1" (I misnamed it; it should be "motor", not "auto")

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #2"

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #3"

"Tokyo Motor Show - 1991 #4"

"Driving in Tokyo - October 26th, 1991"

And here are some still photos from the 2003 and 2005 shows:

Tokyo Motor Show - 2003 (a couple of photos at the top & one at the bottom)

Tokyo Motor Show - 2005

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

PS - Valentine's Day in Japan - when women give chocolate to men. I considered posting some pictures of stores selling chocolate, but then I thought "Naw - why do that? It's just a local way of handling a foreign import."

Monday, February 09, 2009

"Cars, Cameras & Models - More of 1991 Tokyo Motor Show"

I thought I would wrap up the subject of the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show with a third edit of the material I took that day, but after editing another five-and-a-half minutes out of the next (around) forty minutes of tape, I decided that was long enough and I'll have to edit one more to wrap up that topic. The video is here:

Incidentally, have on-line videos been playing well for you over the past week? I've been experiencing what looks like a slowdown, probably due to excessive demands being maid on the servers. I read somewhere that something like fifteen hours worth of video is uploaded every ten minutes, or something like that. It's amazing the system works at all with that much material constantly pouring into it! Still, I wonder if the slow results are from my provider's servers, or the servers on the other end.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Friday, February 06, 2009

"Grueling Commute in Tokyo"

The daily commute started fairly normally, but then got "fun" on the second train. As I walked into the train, near the front of the wave of people, two determined gorillas took up position directly under the hanging straps near the opposite door. As the twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or however many people (unwillingly made into canned sardines) behind me pushed me into the gorillas, they braced themselves and - doing a good imitation of the Berlin Wall, steadfastly guarded enough empty space in front of them for four people to stand with ease.

And there we were - lots of sardines smashed up against me, driving me into the pair of gorillas, who then looked over their shoulder's at me from time to time with "Why are you touching me...?" looks. For thirty minutes they pushed back mightily - defending that poor, vulnerable empty space - and for thirty minutes, we bipeds-turned-into-sardines behind them, suffered. As the train rolled towards its rendezvous with train number three, I contemplated the pleasant idea of the two of them getting run over by a large, heavy, speeding truck....

Pulling into the transfer station, I expected the two gorillas to also do their best to block people from getting off the train and proceeding to the stairs, but once the doors opened at the station, they turned into regular bipeds. It may be that they were trying to keep a meter of space between themselves and a woman against the far door, lest they be accused of improperly touching her, which is a life-ruining, jailable offense now. Meanwhile... their actions meant that the women in the sardine pack behind them were being smashed that much more tightly between different men. Myopic vision - such a horrible thing. Probably a very large proportion of the suffering in the world is due to someone's bloody-minded myopic vision.

Train number three.... Fun-fun-fun. As I climbed the stairs to the platform, I heard an announcement saying the train was behind schedule, but I didn't think too much about it, since there are so many trains in the morning, the schedule doesn't matter too much so long as they're running. But... as the train came in and I merged with a line (the platform was completely full and people pushing onto the platform from the stairs forced me into that action), I noticed that the train was unusually packed and would likely require a little muscle to get onto.

Crossing the threshold from platform to train, it wasn't as bad as I expected, but the train didn't get under way right away, as it usually does, and as it sat there at the platform (waiting to take on more bipeds in order to take some pressure off of an overloaded train behind it I imagine), more and more people forced their way on-board.

Looking between a couple of heads back towards the platform, I saw four High School girls standing between the lines of people waiting for the next train (and this is the difference between a couple of decades ago and now - many people don't even attempt to get on a really packed train now), staring back at the tightly packed people in the doorway with wide-open eyes and open mouths. I couldn't help but smile at their reactions. It must have been their first experience at a Yamanote Line hub station during the morning crush-rush. They seemed particularly impressed with a nicely dressed young woman who forced her way on, and they kept looking down at her shoes only half on the train - no doubt wondering what would happen to her nice shoes when they were caught in the closing doors. (Incidentally, that's no big deal - the doors have rubber edges and don't press hard enough to break bones or do any serious damage to shoes, etc.)

The train did eventually get under way however, and by then, a few more people had forced their way aboard, so the woman on the threshold who was only half-way in the train, was now fully aboard (behind the newcomers). It was just like the old days in the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line express trains, crowded to a point that's strangely less stressful than when the density is less, but people are still bumping into you - and I suppose "bumping into you" is the key there. When it's really tightly packed, there is no bumping into anyone, since it's just one huge mass of people, so when the train lurches, the crowd inside moves as one - individual will has nothing to do with it.

Further down the line, I realized that I might miss my connection to the next train if I didn't move down the train to a door nearer the upcoming stairs at the (next) transfer station, so I got off (without much trouble, surprisingly) and walked down the platform. As I got in line again to re-board the train, I realized (with a slight sense of alarm) that I might not be able to get back on. The train wasn't sitting around waiting this time, so I began pushing, backing towards the door, and when I got close, I pushed harder... no go... harder still... still no go, so I reverted to 1991-Seibu-Ikebukuro-Line-Express mode (like that wild video... who took that anyway?), and - pulling with my arms from the top edge of the door frame, and pushing with all the strength of my legs, I finally got so my feet were wedged against the bottom rails for the doors. At this point, with both arms up against the upper door frame and both feet set, I formed an arch with my body that could withstand a lot of pressure, and waited for the doors to close, holding back the combined pressure of many compressed rib cages.

Most new arrivals to the platform took one look at the situation and either didn't even try to get on, or went down the platform further in search of a less crowded door. One extra guy forced his way on to the side of me though, and he had a hard time of it, but did finally manage to compact everyone enough to get on. The doors closed somehow and we moved out. (Incidentally, they must use very powerful motors in the trains here, I can't remember ever feeling that the train was having trouble accelerating - no matter how heavily loaded it is.) As the train moved out, it became apparent that the man on my left was not enjoying the ride - maybe he was being smashed into the vertical handrail by the doors - but there was absolutely nothing I could do. I was pinned against the door myself and unable to move anywhere. Fortunately it was only about a three minute ride to the next station.

As we pulled in, I observed that I was right in the middle of the opening, so I anticipated jumping out of the train through the middle of the opening as soon as the two doors were half open. The train stopped... and it sat there for a few seconds without anything happening "Come-on! Get a move on! Open the bloody doors already!" I thought. Then the doors just barely moved about a centimeter, and it was suddenly apparent that there was so much pressure against the doors from the inside, that they couldn't open! But being right there in the middle, I reached my fingers in and gave a mighty pull - forcing the doors open enough to jump out the middle. As I reached my left leg out to cross the train-platform threshold, someone stepped on the back of my right shoe, almost ripping it off my foot. Out on the platform, I stumbled a little, and as I hopped on my left leg long enough to get my right show on, I had a flashback to a news reel from about thirty years ago, where they showed several people's shoes left behind on the platform after a crowd had fought their way onto a train....

Next train - no problem! But I was still frazzled, and when I finally reached my desk, my workmate wasn't overjoyed to hear my tales of the morning battle to get to work. I almost think (recognizing that it is in no way comparable in a serious way) that I can understand (a little) what soldiers feel like when re-entering society, where friends and family don't want to hear what it was really like. You think a wild experience is something people want to know about - but in the passion of decompression, it seems to scare/disgust/worry/something people. So, I suppose the only way to convey it, is to write about it (hello folks!).....

So how will tomorrow's commute be?

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

"The Japanese Automotive Industry - 1991 & 2009"

The Japanese automobile industry was still flying high in 1991 - and a lot of industry money and public attention was spent on the auto show that year. Foreign manufacturers were also pushing to get a better foothold in the Japanese market, in contrast to some large companies not even bothering to display anything at the last show (although private import companies displayed some of these missing companies' vehicles). For a look back at 1991, see this video (the second one covering the show that day):

Beyond the cars, the people had different hairstyles, hair colors, eyebrow thicknesses, and were wearing different clothes. I'm not sure what to think about the car industry - considering how many cars the world's manufacturers are capable of pumping out every month, you have to wonder if it makes any sense to fill up the world with fire-breathing machinery. Something without the internal combustion might be nice - electric?.....

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon