Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Banpakku Train Fair

Banpaku Train Fair

During the last weekend of March, Banpaku held a number events during the fine weather and the beginning of the cherry blossom season, though it was a bit too early for most of the park's cherry trees.
There was a special train fair involving sales from train merchandise vendors, promotions from train companies and family friendly attractions.
The park was also featuring a burger expo, a special re-opening of the the Tower of the Sun's interior and ongoing exhibitions of World Expo 1970 materials in the Expo Pavilion.
Below are photos of the event relating to the Train Fair:

A train wagon that takes visitors around Bankpaku Park for a fee.

Bins full of train souvenirs; handle straps, mirrors and signs.

An expensive souvenir; a ticket machine being sold for 75,000 yen.

A miniature train line that carries kids around a loop.

Osaka recreated with a PlayRail set; here is Osaka station.

Kyocera Dome.

Osaka station with the Osaka Gas Company sign and the HEP5 Ferris Wheel.

Osaka Castle Park: with a paper castle and plastic trees,

The cherry trees are blooming at Sakuranomiya station.

Kyocera Dome, Tsutenkaku tower and the Harukasu office building.

Note the trainyard that is near Osaka Castle Park (Osakajo-koen) station.

Miiko Kouzaki. A girl from the promotional series  "Tetsudou Musume" ("Railway Girls"), representing the Wakayama Electric Railway. The cat represents Tama, the honorary station-master of Kishi station.

Madoka Toyokawa, the Tetsudou Musume character for the Osaka Monorail.
You can see the representative of Izumi Central Station, Koumi Izumi, in the background with the long hair that looks like Hatsune Miku.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Expo '7o Park


Tower of the Sun.

Late plum blossoms (?) with a macro lens.

Tower of the Sun in the background.

Tower of the Sun in the background.
Zooming in from a distance so the Tower of the Sun fills the frame.

Camellia garden.

Camellia in a stream.

A very small spider in a flower. Using a +3 macro lens.

Bamboo garden decoration.

An orb of flowers.

White magnolias.

A pink cherry tree.

Late plum tree? Early cherry tree? 

Large cherry tree in a very early stage of blooming.

Same shot as above but the polarization lens is adjusted to darken the blue of the sky and let the white of the clouds and blossoms pop more.

One of the train ride that goes around the park.

People getting excited for the cherry blossoms. 
The emblem of World Expo 1970 recreated with flowers.

Interesting coloration on these flowers.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Circular Polarization Filter

While many filters can now be replaced with digital photo-processing applications there are several types of lens filters that allow for quick and versatile ways to improve photos.
These filters are situation specific so you may want to consider the types of photos you will be taking when experimenting with filters or choosing what to carry around with you.
Recently I have been experimenting with a number of filters; mostly a snow-cross filter a linear polarization filter, both of which are fairly inexpensive (new for 1300 yen). You can sometimes find cheap lens filters in the used part of a camera that are half-price or less.

Below is a Marumi Cicular PL (polarization); note the textured adjustment ring. Also in the photo is a coin purse from a 100 yen store (Daiso) which serves as a great way to carry a 55mm filter as it can attach to the outside of a bag and you can choose different case colors which are made of soft interior cloth with nylon zippers. This way different filters are easy to identify and don't rattle make rattling sounds like the hard plastic cases.

Marumi CPL, Daiso coin purse/ filter case.

A circular polarization filter adds another layer of treatment to the lens the filter-out light from different directions. This is good for reducing glare from reflective surfaces (such as water) or shooting through glass (to reduce glare and reflections). The circular polarization is quite similar to the linear filter when shooting through glass but gives you a lot more flexibility to adjust the image when shooting scenes with bodies of water or against diffuse skylight.  
Polarization filters work depending on the direction of the light entering the lens so the lens is design to rotate independently from the connector, so you can turn the lens and shoot rapidly for several slightly different images

Below are four different images, shot in rapid series. Note how the blue of the sky changes and the brightness/whiteness of the tower pops more, all within one rotation of the lens.

The least contrasted position. Note how hard it is to make out the eye on the "face of the present"

Letting in more of the reflected sunlight.

Brighter whites, the blue of the becomes deeper.

The brightest point, the contrasts are sharper so the arms of the statue look less brown.

A burst of shots taken while adjusting the circular polarization filter ring.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Annual ALT transition period

The academic year transition in Japan

Financial dry season

As academic calendar transitions schools go into spring break, graduation ceremonies are held.
For ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers/ a common job for foreigners in Japan) this means the dispatch companies will enter a new round of competitive bidding to get contracts to provide services for the boards of education. There is also a break in employment for those teachers.
During this break time many people are looking for new employment and facing an uncertain future.

Below is a chart featuring 6-years of data (starting May of 2012) provided by a [foreign/non-Japanese] English teacher showing the fluctuating monthly income that goes with the job in Japan. Note the different colors that each represent a different employer and the cyclical nature of income which has major valleys around this spring break. Also note the various bar segments that indicate unequal levels of pay from primary employers which lead to more diversified multi-employer situations.

Job hunting season

Now is the time when people search for new jobs. For most people this means searching the internet for jobs that employers advertise on the public market. But the best jobs are filled by word-of-mouth among acquaintances, which means that socializing among colleagues is an important part of surviving in Japan. The low tier jobs have a constant stream of people passing out of the revolving door.

With this period of free time, there is an opportunity to pursue as many possible venues of employment as possible to find the best available offers.
Interviewing for a number of jobs, you are bound to find some interesting interview questions. You can also collect some interesting information from interviewers.

Below are some examples questions and tests that are given to English teacher applicants:

Grammar Tests

This test involved correcting a series of sentences. Red letters are added here as a hint.

  1. Bob went to the supermarket to by some grapes, but there wasn't none.
  2. The President would like all foreigners to go to the asembly at three o'clock.
  3. There are many deers in the forest and they all like to eat green grass.
  4. Peter is do really well in class and he make the learning environment fun for the rest of the class.

Filling in the blank with the best word

1. Bob bought some (         ) shoes, and now he is lacking in funds.
a) cheap
b) expensive
c) fancy
d) dirty

2. Terry is a (      ) person, and he is never late.
a) puncture
b) punctual
c) personable
d) punishing

3. Dinosaurs became (       ) millions of years ago.
a) examined
b) engraved
c) extinct
d) enjoyed

4. The (        ) mind was lucid during the evaluation.
a) patient
b) patient's
c) patients'
d) patients

Filling in the black with the best expression

1. I'm so tired I ________  for a week.
a)  can sleep
b) could sleep
c) could have slept
d) can't sleep

2. Why did you stay at a hotel when you were in Paris? You ____ with me.
a) could stay
b) can stay
c) could have stayed
d) should stay

3. What was the problem? Why __ leave early?
a) had you to
b) did you have to
c) must you
d) you had to

Draw a tree

[For this test you can imagine varying levels of artistic skill being demonstrated but I suspect that the purpose of this test may be to see how efficiently a person can manage their time. Or perhaps there is some sort of psychological classification system for people who choose certain elements. ???]

Comparative and Superlative FORMS

Write the comparative and superlative form for each of these adjectives.
  1. good         better                     best
  2. beautiful   more beautiful      most beautiful 
  3. big            
  4. bad

Past tense and past participle

  1. do             did                      done
  2. find          found                  found
  3. cut
  4. run
  5. say

Japanese Work Culture Test

Which of these are inappropriate ways to spend free time at school?
  1. drink coffee or tea
  2. read a book
  3. play games on your smart phone
  4. listen to music
  5. study Japanese for the JLPT test.
  6. take a quick nap
  7. watch Youtube or use SMS
  8. plan your upcoming lessons
  9. talk on the phone
You forgot to bring your own lunch today. What do you do?
  1. On my free time, I will go out to eat at a restaurant nearby school without permission.
  2. Ask the vice principal for permission to go out for lunch.
  3. Call the office to get permission.
  • You receive a name card from someone, you have to (stand / sit) first, receive the card with (one hand / both hands)...

You feel sick at school and you want to leave school to see a doctor. What do you do?
  1. Ask an English teacher and get permission to leave school early.
  2. Ask the vice-principal and get permission to leave school early.
  3. Ask both the vice-principal and the company and get permission to leave school early.
You have difficulties with one teacher at school. What do you do?
  1. Just endure it.
  2. Report to the principal of the school
  3. Get advice from the company or the person in charge.
Suddenly the HRT left the classroom due to an emergency situation. You are the only teacher in the classroom. What do you do?
  1. Continue the lesson.
  2. Wait for the teacher to come back.
  3. Get another teacher yourself.
  4. Let students call another teacher.
The HRT has a request for the next lesson, however you think it is too easy or not fun for students. What do you do?
  1. Tell your opinion to the HRT and do your own lesson
  2. Follow what the HRT requested.
  3. Suggest your ideas but follow the HRT's request.
A student touches you in an inappropriate manner, or says something inappropriate. Which of the following would be INCORRECT?
  1. Report it to the vice-principal or the company.
  2. Ignore it.
  3. Scold the student.



Japanese Teacher Embezzelment

Japanese School Scandal

A teacher was caught embezzling funds from a school sports club by working with a sports equipment dealer to supply phony expense receipts to extract club funds.
Over a period of several years the teacher took over 511,000 yen from the fund that that was collected from students' club fees.
The 63 year man who was a teacher and club mentor for the public high school was repaid the funds, was forced out of his post and forced to make a public apology at a special school-wide assembly.
The man's name and the details of the story were published in major newspapers. Teachers and students at the school openly remarked at what a disgrace the scandal was.

Following the publication of the story internet trolls targeted the school. When searching for public places on Google, internet users can write public reviews and give 1-5 star ratings. With this system, one user gave the school a one-star review and wrote negatively of the teacher. The same user had several other reviews attributed to their account; all of which were used to criticize schools which had similar scandals that had been published. Several months later, looking back at the review page, the comments are gone; perhaps the critic deleted their account or perhaps it was removed from the system somehow (contested by the school? "Flagged as inappropriate"?)

The story is surprising in that the offending teacher was at the ripe old age of 63, presumably with a long career in education.
The incident serves to make the public suspicious of scammers who take advantage of school budgets and begs the question of how much graft is going on undetected.

This story is reminiscent of the public servant a few years ago who gained internet notoriety for his tearful apology, following a scandal of expense padding and petty cash abuse, which went viral and even gained attention outside of Japan:


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Osaka's Bid for World Expo 2025

Osaka for World Expo 2025

The World Expo is a recurring event that is organized by Bureau International des Exposition ("BIE"), based in Paris [France]. Like the Olympics it is a major event that showcases different countries and the honor of hosting the event is awarded to different nations after a lengthy bidding process.

The World Expo has been an ongoing effort since the initial World Expo was held in London in 1851. That expo demonstrated remarkable examples of the industrial revolution and "The Great Exhibition"
was held in the famed Crystal Palace of Hyde Park with over 6 million visitors. The World Expo has since been organized by different groups and the time increments between expos is not set as consistently as the 4 year Olympic cycles.

The BIE has several types of expos: World Expo, Specialized Expo and Horticultural Expo.

The last Specialized Expo was held in Kazakstan.
2017 Specialized Expo: Astana, Kazakstan
Theme: Future Energy
Venue Size: 25 hectare
Visitors: 3.98 million

After hosting the 2008 Olympics, China also hosted the 2010 World Expo.
2010 World Expo: Shanghai, China
Theme: Better City, Better Life
Venue Size: 523 hectare
Visitors: 73 million

The Specialized Expos are smaller affairs with a limit on the size of land used and the period of time for which the expo is to be active. The expo is Astana lasted 93 days with about 3000 cultural and "thematic" (the theme being "energy") events which attracted an average of 50,000 visitors per day.

There are four expos that are already slated: 2019 Shanghai, 2020 Dubai, 2022 Amsterdam and 2023 Buenos Aires.

The 2025 World Expo is still in the planning phase with three cities bidding to be the host: Osaka [Japan], Ekaterinburg [Russia] and Baku [Azerbaijan].

Osaka hosted the World Expo in 1970. That expo was held at the site that is now called "Banpakku" near the suburb of Ibaraki, which has enjoyed a recent boom in popularity with the opening of the Expo City shopping development.

Initially, there were four cities bidding for the Expo but Paris [France] dropped out early on. The bidding process has moved on through presentations into an examination phase in which BIE representatives visit the candidate cities. The BIE representatives ("the enquiry mission") arrived for a three day visit on March 5th; meeting with high level government officials in Tokyo, then travelling to the Kyoto to see major tourist and cultural attractions representing Kansai then visiting Osaka to see the presentations for the planned site on Yumeshima Island.

There has been widespread support for the bid around Osaka, the five-petal rainbow cherry blossom logo is a common sight around the city and the office of the prime minister has released promotional videos in English (subtitles in Japanese, English and French).

The 2025 World Expo is going to be following the 2015 Milan World Expo.

2015 World Expo: Milan, Italy
Theme: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
Venue Size: 110 hectare
Visitors: 21.5 million 

The Osaka bid outlines the following expectations:
2015 World Expo Candidate: Osaka, Japan
Theme: Designing Future Society for Our Lives
Venue: The southern part of Yumeshima Island (also proposed for the 2008 Olympic bid)
Projected visitors: 28 million

Japan hosted a smaller "Specialised Expo" as recently as 2005 when Aichi prefecture had their expo with the theme of "Nature's Wisdom." After that expo the 173 hectare venue was re-purposed into a park with a pool, skating rink and even a re-creation of the house from the animated film "My Neighbor Totoro."


Monday, March 19, 2018

Nipponbashi Street Festa 2018 - Unknowns ???

Unidentified Cosplay of Nipponbashi Street Festa 2018

Can you identify these cosplay characters?

Steam-punk girls with a huge axe and many gears.

A were-wolf member of Shinsen-gumi?

A were-wolf soldier?

A robot, gundam, EVA, ogre, soldier, SWAT officer?

A nine-tailed fox?

The wrong alley to get lost in.

Real tattoos?

She found a wall where her hair can blend in.

This guy has a full body emrboidery of an anime girl on his coat.
It is like itasha fashion and I love it.

A cat girl.
With Pop Team Epic in the background.