Tired of going to Dreamination? How about this?

Good morning everyone,

It looks like we can expect rain this afternoon and continuing throughout the day. The rest of the week will see a mix of sun and clouds and daytime highs just around 14C or 15C which is pretty much normal for this time of year.

Have you been to Dreamination yet this year? I haven't actually. I'm sure I'll swing by it once, but I've been avoiding all the cute couples...it's too depressing. Of course it's great to see so many happy couples, but it also makes me feel old...ha ha!

I wonder if this one might be more fun?

The Annual “Pageant of Flower and Light” at Hiroshima City Botanical Gardens in the hills above Itsukaichi will be held every weekend and national holiday in December.

  • Illuminated dinosaurs
  • Giant Christmas tree candle installation
  • Giant Mt Fuji tableau
  • 11m tall bamboo Christmas tree
  • 20,000 LED “maze of light”
  • Live music concerts

Free Shuttle Bus between Itsukaichi Station and the gardens

  • Departs Itsukaichi JR Station North Exit: 15:30, 16:10, 16:50, 17:30, 18:55, 19:35
  • Departs Hiroshima City Botanical Gardens: 15:50, 16:30, 17:10, 18:35, 19:15, 20:45, 21:20
  • Adults ¥510
  • High School Students/Seniors ¥170

Final admission at 20:30

Have any of you been? Is it worth it? I wonder if it is...

Have a great day!

Burger heaven

Good morning everyone,

The good news is that we're back to mostly seasonal weather this week-although it will rain tomorrow afternoon. The bad news is that still means daytime highs around 14C and overnight lows around 5C all week.

The Earl of Sandwich liked to play cards and liked to eat. But there was no room for a plate and cutlery at the card game and playing cards with greasy, dirty hands wasn't an option. So, the sandwich was born. The bread wasn't the main ingredient, it was merely something to hold the meat, and Lotteria seem to agree with their latest limited-time offering, the Hamidashi (“Sticking Out”) Double Steak Burger.

The same maniacs at Lotteria who brought us a sauce so spicy you have to sign a consent form to eat it are going all out for “Good Meat Day”. Hamidashi means jutting out, and it’s a name that fits. The two 100-gram (3.5-ounce) slabs of Angus beef steak hang out over the sides of the bun, and while undoubtedly delicious, it probably isn’t something you want to try to eat in front of someone you’re trying to impress, especially given the amount of garlic, mixed in with Lotteria’s special soy sauce-based steak sauce.

The burger will be available for just six days, from November 24 to November 29, at Lotteria restaurants across Japan. The 29th has become known as Meat Day as the two days can be read in Japanese as ni and ku, where meat is niku. November 29 goes one further still, 11-29 can be read as “ii niku,” or “good meat”.

▼ Should you wish, you will also be able to buy the Hamidashi Steak Burger with but a single steak.

▼ Lotteria are also launching some suitably high-class Truffle Salt-flavoured French fries to munch alongside your steak sandwich.

The luxury burger does, however, come with a luxury-burger price tag. The Hamidashi Double Steak Burger comes in at 1,900 yen for the burger on its own. The truffle and salt-flavoured french fries, which are available from November 24 through to the end of December, will set you back 310 yen.

I know what I'm having for dinner next weekend! Ha ha! How about you? Does it look tempting?

Have a great day!

Another reason to love Japan

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be a cold start to my run this morning, but I expect I'll be loving it by the time I'm done...the whole week is looking slightly cooler than usual for this time of year-we can expect daytime highs in the low teens, whereas they're usually in the high teens. As of right now, there's no rain in the forecast, but that could change.

Japanese trains are awesome for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how amazingly punctual they are. But on Tuesday, a train on the Tokyo-area Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company’s Tsukuba Express line failed to stick to its timetable.

The line connects Akihabara in Tokyo with Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture, and on weekday mornings there’s supposed to be a northbound train that leaves Minami Nagareyama Station at 9:44 a.m. However, on November 14, the train instead left at 9:43:40, 20 seconds earlier than it’s supposed to.

Before the day was done, the Tsukuba Express management issued an official apology, posted to the company’s website.

The statement reads:

On November 14, at approximately 9:44 a.m., a northbound Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company (main office in Tokyo, Chiyoda Ward, President & CEO Koichi Yugi) train left Minami Nagareyama Station roughly 20 seconds earlier than the time indicated on the timetable. We deeply apologize for the severe inconvenience imposed upon our customers.

It’s pretty common knowledge among Japanese people that Japan’s trains are far more precise and punctual than their overseas counterparts, so a friend asked me for my take on this. “I’m Japanese, and even I think it’s excessive to make such a big deal out of a 20-second mistake, but as a foreigner, how do you feel about it?”

At first, I sort of agreed with him. I doubt most people would even notice a 20-second difference, and with trains coming every four minutes on the Tsukuba Express line in the morning, does it really make much of a difference?

But then I thought about it a little more, and realized that because Japanese trains are usually so punctual, some people plan their rail commutes so that they arrive at the platform just as the cars are pulling up (plenty of people even synchronize their watches with the clock at their local station). It stands to reason, then, that at least a few people would miss a train if it left 20 seconds earlier than usual, and even if there’s another coming in four minutes, adding four minutes to that leg of their commute might cause them to miss other transfers on the way to their destinations, with the effect snowballing enough that they end up being late for work or school.

Four minutes times a few transfers could cause someone to be 15 minutes or so late, and while that’s not a huge difference, it’s still an inconvenience, and a potential embarrassment, for the people affected, and all because Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company didn’t deliver on its promise that the train would leave at 9:44, not 9:43:40. Even if that’s not the sort of mistake that absolutely demands an apology, there’s nothing wrong, and definitely something admirable, about taking a moment to say sorry for any problems that the early departure may have caused.

So yeah, if someone at Metropolitan Intercity Railway Company got reamed out by his boss for a 20-second screw-up, I feel for him, since I don’t think it’s worth getting that bent out of shape about. But at the same time, the fact that Japanese companies care so much about customer satisfaction, consistently try to look at things from the end-user’s point of view, and are willing to offer a sincere apology even for understandable inconveniences is, really, one of the most beautiful parts of Japanese society, and one of my favorite things about living here.

Have a great day!

Is it wrong for me to want these too?!

Good morning everyone,

I wonder if we'll see snow in northern Hiroshima this week? It'll be cold enough-they're saying that the overnight lows will be between 0C and -3C up there for most of the week. It won't be much warmer here either, we can expect overnight lows between 4C and 8C all week with daytime highs in the low teens.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Happy Meal, and to celebrate it McDonald’s Japan are including travel-size versions of five popular games: Twister, Uno, Game of Life, Pop-up Pirate, and Monopoly, as well as Ronald and friends-decorated playing cards.

The first three games (Game of Life, Uno and Twister) will be included in Happy Meal sets in restaurants across Japan from November 17, with the remaining three (Monopoly, Pop-up Pirate and playing cards) available from November 24. McDonald’s Japan have also produced a series of videos explaining how to play each of the games, for kids (and adults) who didn’t have a huge number of rainy Sundays as a child. Here’s their promotional clip for the Uno pack:While the Game of Life, Pop-up Pirate and Monopoly games are miniature McDonalds-themed version of the originals, perfect for gaming on the go, Twister has been given a twist of its own, swapping full-body contortions for some nifty finger-work. The Game of Life has also been altered, to the McDonald’s Crew Game of Life (hair net not included), which Japanese social media users were particularly intrigued to see.Even though the Happy Meals are aimed at children, judging by the reaction of adult Japanese internet users, children will have a fight on their hands to get hold of the games before stocks run out.

▼ Stab your sword in the wrong hole and get a violent reaction from Ronald.

Normal playing cards are getting a McDonald’s makeover too with designs featuring Ronald McDonald (bizarrely called Donald McDonald in Japan), the Hamburglar and other characters.Even as an adult, the Happy Meal toys often appeal, but the small serving size is probably enough to put most people (including certain gluttonous writers) off, but with these board games, it might be time to swallow one’s pride and order one (or three). The campaign starts on November 17 and is planned to run for around three weeks, or until stocks run out.

You'll find me there for sure! All of these games look fun! How about you? Tempted?

Have a great day!

Life expectancy is up

Good morning everyone,

It looks like we'll see rain for most of the morning, but it should stop around lunchtime. The rest of the week will be dry, but it won't be much warmer. In fact, it'll be cooler tomorrow with a  high of 12C and Monday will get up to 14C where it will stay for the rest of the week.

Healthier lifestyles and higher incomes have helped increase life expectancy in the 35 OECD nations by 10 years in the past half century, according to a report published Friday. The OECD's 'Health at a Glance 2017' report said the average life expectancy throughout the group of countries -- which includes the U.S., Canada, Australia, Japan and most EU nations -- now stands at 80.6 years, an increase of more than 10 years since 1970.

"Healthier lifestyles, higher incomes and better education have all contributed to boost life expectancy in recent decades," the report said. "Better health care has also helped".

The longest-living are the Japanese and the Swedish, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report. Life expectancy at birth in those two countries was put at 83.9 years, with Spain and Switzerland not far off on 83 years. At the other end of the scale of the OECD countries is Latvia, with a much lower life expectancy of 74.6 and Mexico at 75 years.

However, while some factors like a decline in smoking rates and higher health spending have helped achieve these figures "there has been little success in tackling obesity and harmful alcohol use, and air pollution is often neglected," the report warned. If the rates of smoking and consumption were halved, life expectancies would rise by a further 13 months, the research found. A main driver of the higher life expectancies has been steadily increased spending on health care, the OECD said, while pointing out that the growth has slowed since the financial crisis a decade ago. "Health spending per capita has grown at around 1.4 percent annually since 2009, compared to 3.6 percent in the six years up to 2009," the report's summary said.

The U.S. tops the list for health spending per capita -- at $9,862 per year, more than double the OECD average -- but the report points out that the benefits are derived not just from how much money is pumped in but how effectively it is used. "Reducing wasteful spending is key to maximise the impact of public resources on health outcomes," the report says, pointing to the increased use of cheaper generic drugs in some countries -- including the U.S. Health spending per capita was also relatively high in Switzerland, Germany, Sweden and France, where it totalled 11 percent or more of GDP.

The report also warns against the overuse of antibiotics.

Obesity remains a major problem with more than half, 54 percent, of adults in the OECD countries overweight and nine percent obese. "Obesity rates are higher than 30 percent in Hungary, New Zealand, Mexico and the United States," said the report.

On the plus side, fewer people are dying following heart attacks or strokes and across the OECD countries, five-year survival rates for breast cancer are up to 85 percent and just over 60 percent for colon and rectal cancers.

What do you think? Is there anything else we could be doing to live longer?

Have a great day!