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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's blog is my mini-journal about It...

  •  lets you know whenever any new pages are added to
  •  allows me to periodically share some interesting stuff about Japanese culture  
  •  keeps you up-to-date on any other postings or news regarding



Recent website updates (at bottom of the page)
Feel free to share your comments below.

Mar. 1, 2015 - Akihabara traffic cone juggler

Akihabara is never a dull moment. Yesterday just before our Tokyo PC Users Group Akihabara tour, a few of us were entertained by this amazing young man who was performing in the square on the north side of JR Akihabara Station "Electric Town" exit, near the Japanese idol girl group AKB48's theater. Among other things, he was juggling TRAFFIC CONES! smiley

Akihabara traffic cone juggler
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

If you're interested in discount, backstreet electronics shops, you might enjoy the pics from our Tokyo PC Users Group's Akihabara Electric Town tour.

Feb. 20, 2015 - How 'bout some bacon & eggs for breakfast?

Although we were first warned about cholesterol in 1961, America's top diet and nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop cholesterol warnings, considering cholesterol to not be a "nutrient of concern."

The panel cited mounting research that because cholesterol from the diet represents only about 20 percent of the cholesterol circulating in the human bloodstream, lowering cholesterol intake will affect blood cholesterol levels only marginally.

So we can now eat eggs again! The WHOLE egg. smiley

But that's not all: Saturated fat is also making a comeback. Sweden just became the first western nation to officially reject low-fat diets in favor of a low-carb high-fat diet, basically saying steak is better for you than bread.

Australian cardiologist Dr. Ross Walker says that's not the only pro-fat study. "Cambridge University just released a trial with 600,000 people, 32 different trials put together, and there's no link between meat, eggs, dairy, and heart disease."

But the new view on cholesterol in the diet does not reverse warnings about high levels of "bad" cholesterol in the blood, which have been linked to heart disease. Moreover, some experts warned that people with particular health problems, such as diabetes, should continue to avoid cholesterol-rich diets.

Excuse me now, while I catch up on all the delicious cholesterol I've missed out on during this past HALF-CENTURY! smiley

bacon and egg breakfast
Bacon and egg breakfast
(Photo credit:

Feb. 13, 2015 - Japanese inventor of soy sauce bottle dies @ 85

Japanese industrial designer Kenji Ekuan (榮久庵憲司), whose most popular invention is the world-famous red-capped Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, has died at age 85.

Ekuan, a former monk at a Hiroshima temple, later pursued a career in design, graduating from the prestigious Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1955 and founding his design studio two years later.

His other designs included the Yamaha VMAS motorcycle, the Komachi bullet train connecting Tokyo and northern Japan, the Narita Express airport liner, audio equipment, and company logos like the ones for the Ministop convenience store and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

Kenji Ekuan in 2003
Kenji Ekuan in 2003
(Photo credit: AP)
Kikkoman soy sauce bottle
Kikkoman soy sauce bottle
(Photo credit: Mj-bird/Creative Commons)

Feb. 11, 2015 - How former Megadeth lead guitarist Marty Friedman (マーティ・フリードマン) attained fluency in Japanese

The 52-year-old former guitarist for the platinum-selling thrash metal band Megadeth of the 90s explains in the video below how he successfully became fluent in Japanese.

Friedman, who has now become a TV celebrity, says he attained Japanese fluency before ever moving permanently to Japan in 2003, by teaching himself and working his way through correspondence courses even while on tour. And Friedman insisted on conducting interviews only in Japanese while touring in Japan.

"Just like music," he says, "when you start, you've got to jam with everybody, even if you don't like the situation. You've got to find those situations, and don't blow 'em off when they happen."

The J-Pop scene welcomed him relatively quickly. He was still shredding on his guitar, but now he was accompanying Japanese pop, country, and rock stars. He started writing a weekly opinion column on J-Pop. Over the years, Friedman's language skills have landed him on Japanese television, and not just on music shows — he does cooking shows too.

Friedman says he's appeared in over 600 TV shows, movies, and ads, including "Mr. Heavy Metal" and "Rock Fujiyama," television shows he hosted in the mid-'00s, as well regular stints on the NHK show "Asia Music Network," his weekly NHK radio show, news shows, political shows, and as a guest on the myriad Japanese variety shows.

Wow, way to go, Marty. Good job! smiley

Marty Friedman on "How to Teach Yourself Japanese"
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Source links: marty-friedmans-journey-to-japanese-pop marty-friedman-became-a-japanese-superstar-20140819

Feb. 10, 2015 - It's still Diamond Fuji viewing season in Tokyo!

"Diamond Fuji" is a phenomenon which occurs when the sun sets into or rises out of Mt. Fuji's cone, setting off sunbeams that resemble a glittering diamond, and is a popular target of both amateur and professional photographers in Japan.

I took the snapshot below this afternoon @ 5:07 pm from my apartment building. Too bad I don't have a better, say, with a 300mm telephoto lens. smiley

Diamond Fuji from Tokyo - Feb. 10, 2015
Diamond Fuji from Tokyo, Feb. 10, 2015, 5:07 pm

In December I decided to put together the webpage linked below, listing the best high-rise spots in Tokyo for viewing Diamond Fuji along with recommended dates, sunset times, admission fees, and links to Google maps: Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

Feb. 7, 2015 - Texas Rattlesnake Logic

As part of some commentary about the recent rash of evildoings in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world, I heard this timely & appropriate piece on the radio yesterday, written last year by a Texas rancher:

"Here in West Texas, I have rattlesnakes on my place, living among us. I have killed a rattlesnake on the front porch. I have killed a rattlesnake on the back porch. I have killed them in the barn, in the shop, and on the driveway. In fact, I kill every rattlesnake I encounter. 
I kill rattlesnakes because I know a rattlesnake will bite me and inject me with poison. I don’t stop to wonder WHY a rattlesnake will bite me; I know it WILL bite me because it’s a rattlesnake and that’s what rattlesnakes do.

I don’t try to reason with a rattlesnake or have a ”meaningful dialogue” with it...I just kill it. I don’t try to get to know the rattlesnake better, in order to find a way to live with rattlesnakes and convince them not to bite me. I just kill them.

I don’t quiz a rattlesnake to see if I can find out where the other snakes are, because: (a) it won’t tell me, and (b) I already know they live on my place, so...I just kill it...and move on to the next one. 
I don’t look for ways I might be able to change the rattlesnake to a non-poisonous rat snake…I just kill it. Oh, and on occasion, I accidentally kill a rat snake because I thought it was a rattlesnake at the time.

Also, I know for every rattlesnake I kill, two more are lurking in the brush. In my lifetime, I will never be able to rid my place of rattlesnakes. 
Do I fear them? Not really. Do I respect what they can do to me and my family? Yes!! And because of that respect, I give them the fair justice they deserve...I kill them.

As a country, we should start giving more thought to the fact that these jihadists are telling the world that their goal is to kill Americans and destroy our way of life. 

They have just posted 2 graphic videos on the internet showing them beheading Americans. They are serious. They are exactly like rattlesnakes. It is high time for us to start acting accordingly!"

[Author unknown. No further explanation necessary.]

Texas rattlesnake
Texas rattlesnake
(photo credit: Casey Kanode)

Feb. 5, 2015 - Top 10 winners in the International Pun Contest

  1. A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."
  2. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says "Dam!"
  3. Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly, so they lit a fire in the craft. Unsurprisingly it sank, proving once again that you can't have your kayak and heat it too.
  4. Two hydrogen atoms meet. One says "I've lost my electron." The other says "Are you sure?" The first replies "Yes, I'm positive."
  5. Did you hear about the Buddhist who refused Novocaine during a root canal? His goal: transcend dental medication.
  6. A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "Because," he said, "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer."
  7. A woman has twins and gives them up for adoption. One of them goes to a family in Egypt and is named "Ahmal." The other goes to a family in Spain; they name him "Juan." Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. Upon receiving the picture, she tells her husband that she wishes she also had a picture of Ahmal. Her husband responds, "They're twins! If you've seen Juan, you've seen Ahmal."
  8. A group of friars were behind on their belfry payments, so they opened up a small florist shop to raise funds. Since everyone liked to buy flowers from the men of God, a rival florist across town thought the competition was unfair. He asked the good fathers to close down, but they would not. He went back and begged the friars to close. They ignored him. So, the rival florist hired Hugh MacTaggart, the roughest and most vicious thug in town to "persuade" them to close. Hugh beat up the friars and trashed their store, saying he'd be back if they didn't close up shop. Terrified, they did so, thereby proving that only Hugh can prevent florist friars.
  9. Mahatma Gandhi, as you know, walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. This made him a super calloused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.
  10. And finally, there was the person who sent 10 different puns to friends, with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Feb. 3, 2015 - Super Bowl XLIX from the New Sanno Hotel, Tokyo, Japan

Thanks to my buddies, James & Joe, I was able to watch Super Bowl XLIX from the New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo, and it was one of the best football games I've ever seen!

Game time in Japan was @ 8:30 am, Mon. Feb. 2, 2015. This amazing party cost only $10, which included a gorgeous, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.

The New Sanno Hotel is a wonderful, reasonably-priced accommodation in central Tokyo which serves the U.S. military community.

Katy Perry performing @ Super Bowl XLIX
Katy Perry performing @ Super Bowl XLIX
(Click here to view my 32-pic Flickr album)

Feb. 1, 2015 - Checking your email every few minutes?

Thanks to our smartphones and tablets, a lot of us check our email over and over from wherever we are, because we dread missing anything from anyone, whether urgent or not.

Sounds stressful, doesn't it? Well, it sure can be, but perhaps there's an alternative. What would happen if you checked your email only 3 times a day?

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada took 124 people and split them into 2 groups. One group was asked to check their email only 3 times a day, while the other group was told to check their email just as often as they could.

This went on for a week and then, the 2 groups traded places: the people who had limited checking their email now had to start checking their email all the time..... while those who had been checking their email constantly now had to stick to only 3 times a day.

Researchers found that in both cases, when people in either group were asked to look at their email just 3 times a day, their stress levels went down.... way down.

They say unless there is a real emergency, it's probably better for you to sift through your emails in a few chunks of time during the day, rather than on demand.

Tim Ferriss, author of the top-seller The 4-Hour Workweek, calls email "the greatest single interruption in the modern world." He also recommends checking email only twice a day.... @ 12 noon & @ 4 pm.... and to never check email first thing in the morning. Good luck with THAT.

But wait, how about work emails? Well, that's another matter entirely. smiley

Source: The Osgood File, Jan. 19, 2015

Jan. 25, 2015 - Danish archer video becomes internet sensation

Lars Andersen, a Danish archer who has studied historical descriptions of ancient war archery to re-discover their techniques, is now known as the “world’s fastest archer.” Over the past few years, he has fine-tuned his skills and is now able to fire three arrows in only 0.6 seconds.

Two days ago he released a video demonstrating these forgotten techniques and how holding arrows in the firing hand and placing them outside of the bow allows archers to fire at speed and while running.

The video hit its 1st million views on YouTube within 13 hours, was watched more than 4.5 million times in under 24 hours, and at the time of this posting had been viewed over 10 million times. WOW. To say this video has gone viral would be the understatement of the year! smiley

(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Jan. 22, 2015 - Real-time, animated world hacking map

Feeling nervous about your PC getting hacked? Take a look at this real-time map of global hacking attacks, developed by a St. Louis-based company called Norse. At a glance, the color-coded world map shows in real time the highest ranked countries which are both attacking and being attacked, plus the type of hacking attacks. AMAZING!

Real-time animated world hacking map
Real-time animated world hacking map
Click here to see the amazing live action.
(The animated attack lines didn't display properly on my iPhone or iPad,
so perhaps it's better to view the map on your PC.)
(photo credit: Norse Corp.)

Jan. 8, 2015 - "Winter Hiking Tips" by Wes Lang

1) Don’t do it – Stay at home. Curl up under the kotatsu with a good book in your hand. Hug your loved one. Skype with your relatives. Watch a cool mountaineering movie. Hang out with your friends. Plan some amazing summer trips. Just don’t risk it by going out there and tempting fate. Yeah, I know you only live once, but do you really want to play Russian Roulette?

Ok, now that you’ve chosen not to heed my advice, let me give you a few tips. Read more...

Jan. 5, 2015 - First Full Moon of 2015 in Tokyo

1st 2015 full moon in Tokyo
1st Full Moon of 2015 in Tokyo
(taken @ 5:07 pm, just after moonrise)

Jan. 1, 2015 - Happy New Year!!

This is the most amazing animated New Year's greeting card, designed by the talented graphic designers @, and sent by my dear Mom (click image below to view it). This animation shows 7 famous clocks around the world striking midnight on New Year's Eve (be sure to click special link at the end of the animation to learn more about these 7 famous clocks, including Big Ben in London).

Happy New Year, everyone, and best wishes for a wonderful 2015, the Year of the Sheep! smiley

sheep counting men

Dec. 30, 2014 - The Motivating Magic of Songs in the EFL Classroom

This newly published article covers tips on how singing English songs helps motivate Japanese university students in EFL classrooms in Japan. Written in Jan. 2014, it just now appeared in the "My Share" section of the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of The Language Teacher, published by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT).

Dec. 29, 2014 - "2014 - The Year in Review"

It's been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.

The full-size 2014 pics are here:

See you next year! smiley

Dec. 27, 2014 - Somebody in Texas LOVES me! smiley

The most AMAZING Xmas package arrived from Houston yesterday!

Here's a breakown of my Xmas stash:

- 6 bags of Nora Wolff's world-famous Texas Trash snack mix, a tasty concoction that's graced the Wolff household and its environs for at least the past 4 decades
- Costco's premium "Chocolates of the World" from Italy, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium (Yummy!)
- Bath & Body Works anti-bacterial hand gel
- Texas Longhorn muscle shirt (to show off my ripped Schwarzenegger physique next summer)
- Texas Longhorn bottle opener that plays the Longhorn Fight Song
- Texas Longhorn soft & comfy flip-flops
- Texas Longhorn gourmet salted peanuts

Needless to say, I'm gonna be "ready to go" for the Longhorn football team's match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks in next Monday's Advocare V100 Texas Bowl in Houston. smiley

I'm without question the luckiest guy on the planet. THANK YOU, MOM!

Mom's 2014 Xmas presents
Mom's 2014 Xmas presents

Dec. 26, 2014 - Diamond Fuji Viewing Spots, Dates, and Times in Tokyo

"Diamond Fuji" is a phenomenon which occurs only from Oct. to Feb. when the sun sets into or rises out of Mt. Fuji's cone, setting off sunbeams that resemble a glittering diamond.

After a failed attempt to view Diamond Fuji on Dec. 23, 2014 atop Mt. Takao and a lengthy but very fun Xmas Day Diamond Fuji discussion thread with my friends in the "Hiking in Japan" group @ Facebook, I decided to put together the webpage linked above, listing the best high-rise spots in Tokyo for viewing Diamond Fuji along with recommended dates, sunset times, admission fees, and links to Google maps.

Berndt's Diamond Fuji
Diamond Fuji photo taken Feb. 17, 2011 by Berndt Otto

Dec. 25, 2014 - My all-time favorite Xmas music video - Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"

I just LOVE these 2 brilliant musicians. Merry Xmas, everybody!!

Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"
Andrea Bocelli & David Foster performing "White Christmas"
(YouTube has restricted embedding of a video player above,
but you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Dec. 25, 2014 - NORAD Tracks Santa over my hometown Houston, Texas

Wow, Santa just made the rounds in Texas and passed thru Houston around 12:45 am local time (UTC - 6 hrs.). Besides Houston, other observation points in Texas where Santa was tracked by NORAD include Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio. Wow, nearly 6 billion presents delivered so far... smiley

NORAD Tracks Santa in Houston - 2014
NORAD Tracks Santa in Houston - 2014

Dec. 25, 2014 - Santa Claus spotted by NORAD Santa Cam as he flew past London, England, U.K.

NORAD Tracks Santa 2014 - London, England, U.K.
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Dec. 24, 2014 - NORAD Tracks Santa over Tokyo, Japan

Santa just made the rounds in Japan from Iwo Jima to Sapporo, and passed thru Tokyo around 11:15 pm local time (UTC + 9 hrs.) on Xmas Eve. Other observation points in Japan tracked by NORAD included Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Okinawa, Yokohama, Nagasaki, and Itsukushima. Wow, already over 970 million presents delivered so far...

NORAD Tracks Santa in Tokyo 2014
NORAD Tracks Santa in Tokyo - 2014

Follow Santa as he makes his 24-hour journey around the globe in real-time 3D animation:

Dec. 20, 2014 - Greg Irwin's 2014 Xmas Concert

I just LOVE this man's voice... smiley

  (If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Dec. 13, 2014 - Midtown Christmas 2014 Illumination

This year's Midtown Christmas Illuminations in Roppongi, Tokyo features a "Midtown Cruise," created by a half million twinkling lights. The illuminations in this walking cruise include "Tree Illuminations," the "Starlight Road," a pathway of glittering white and blue lights, 9 trees that sparkle in the shape of a champagne glass, a pink 60-year-old "Miracle Tree" where you can make a wish, and the climax of the journey which is the absolutely breathtaking Starlight Garden, whose "Space Journey" theme features 180,000 lights including a new "stick illumination," the first of its kind in Japan that sends light up to 4 meters into the air.

If all that weren't enough, you can also see the "Enya Tree," a small, white-sparkling fir tree planted in November 2008 by the world-famous Irish singer Enya, with a wish for "coexistence between humanity and nature." More details on the 2014 Midtown Xmas Illuminations, which can viewed till 11 pm every night thru Xmas Day, can be found here:

My 11-min. video of the 2014 Midtown Christmas Illuminations
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Here are some video highlights:

 1:48  The 9 champagne glass trees
 2:22  Starlight Garden show
10:38  Miracle Tree (make a wish!) smiley
10:55  The Enya Tree

Dec. 7, 2014 - Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors (六義園紅葉のライトアップ)

Every fall, this beautiful, 300-year-old Tokyo garden hosts a 2-week event to light up its beautiful fall colors. This year it was held Nov. 20 - Dec. 7, 2014. Below are some of my pics. The rest are here: Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors, Dec. 5-6, 2014

Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
Rikugien 2014 nighttime lightup
The full 54-pic album is here:
Nighttime lightup of Rikugien fall colors, Dec. 5-6, 2014

More info on the Rikugien Garden:

Dec. 2, 2014 - Golden Ginkgo Trees, Tokyo, Japan

Gaien Ichou Namiki Dori (外苑いちょう並木 通り, Ginkgo Avenue) is one of my favorite spots to view fall colors in Tokyo. Today the golden ginkgo trees were spectacular, as they are every year this 1st week in December.

golden ginkgo trees in Tokyo
Golden ginkgo trees in Tokyo
View 15-photo Flickr album here:
Golden Ginkgo Trees, Tokyo, Japan, Dec. 2, 2014

Google Map 

My video from Dec. 2009

Nov. 30, 2014 -  Christmas Sale on both of my mountain climbing eBooks!

The View from the Top of Japan
Christmas Sale now on


Buy for yourself or give as a present to that someone special by clicking on "Give as a gift." Either way, just enter the coupon code below @ checkout to get the discounted price:
The View from the Top of Japan: UX49L
Climbing Mt. Fuji: HR93T

The View from the Top of Japan
eBooks from Smashwords, the world's largest distributor of indie eBooks, are available in 9 different formats, including the html & pdf formats for reading on your PC or for home printing. Or they can be downloaded to e-reading devices such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and most other e-reading apps.

These eBooks will make GRRRRRREAT stocking stuffers or can be printed out as coffee table books.... besides, they even cost less than a cup of coffee @ Starbucks! smiley  

Nov. 26, 2014 - Preparing and Presenting Scientific Posters

Japanese university students are often called upon to prepare and present posters in their technical English classes. A tall, handsome university professor from Houston, Texas spoke Mon. Nov. 24, 2014 at the JALT2014 national language teacher's conference in Tsukuba, Japan to share online resources his 3rd-year university technical English students use to prepare their scientific posters.

These resources included the design and layout of posters, sample poster templates, posters prepared by his former students, and also a sampling of posters presented in the poster sessions at this 4-day Tsukuba language teacher's conference.

If all that weren't enough, the presentation was captured in a breathtakingly exciting video (ha-ha!), which along with online notes & more details from the presentation (including all links) can be viewed here: Preparing and Presenting Scientific Posters

JALT2014 presenter Gary Wolff
JALT2014 presenter Gary Wolff

Nov. 19, 2014 - Happy Birthday to ME! smiley

Here's an absolutely hilarious video from my wonderful sis on the occasion of my birthday. Check it out by clicking the image below!

Birthday Gary JibJab
View funny video @ JibJab here.

Nov. 18, 2014 - World's tallest man meets world's shortest man

Sultan Kösen, 31, the tallest man in the world, is a Turkish farmer who measures 8 feet, 3 inches (~251 cm) tall. On Thursday, for the first time he met Nepalese weaver Chandra Bahadur Dangi, 74, the shortest man in the world who is just 21½ inches (~55 cm) tall. The occasion was the 10th annual Guinness World Records Day, which celebrates record-setting achievements around the globe.

World's tallest & shortest men
World's tallest & shortest men
(Photo credit: Daniel Deme/

World's tallest & shortest men
(If player above is not visible, you can view video here.)

Nov. 13, 2014 - Taylor Swift (テイラー・スウィフト) is HOT....even in Japan! smiley

I spotted this ad for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album inside a Tokyo train car on my way home tonight. Wow, go テイラー!! smiley

ad in Japan for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album
Ad in Japan for Taylor Swift's new "1989" album

Nov. 10, 2014 - My 1st mountain climbing book shows up in my doc's office

Maybe you can imagine my shock & pleasant surprise recently to see my 1st mountain climbing book, "The View from the Top of Japan," on the shelf in my doctor's office waiting room. Wow!

"The View from the Top of Japan" book

[OK, well in the spirit of full disclosure, I DID give this book to my doc back in the spring of last year, but it was great to see that he's sharing it with his other patients!] smiley

Nov. 5, 2014 - Are you a Twit Face? smiley

Are you a Twit Face?

Nov. 3, 2014 - Fall colors (紅葉) in Nishizawa Valley (西沢渓谷)

Yesterday I had the pleasure of seeing one of Japan's top 100 waterfalls, along with some stunning fall colors.

Yamanashi Prefecture's Nishizawa Keikoku (西沢渓谷), about a 90-minute train ride and 1-hr. bus ride west of Shinjuku, is one of the most beautiful valleys of the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park and features several waterfalls, including the spectacular 5-tiered Nanatsugama-Godan-no-Taki.

It's particularly beautiful during the peak of the autumn leaves season in late Oct. & early Nov. The hike was organized by Jambo International.

Click thumbnails below to open full-size images,
or click here to view entire 68-pic album.
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Nishizawa Valley
Fall colors in Nishizawa Valley
My full 68-pic Flickr album is here:
Fall colors (紅葉) in Nishizawa Valley (西沢渓谷)

My 2.5-min. Nishizawa Valley video
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Nishizawa Valley Hiking Map (in Japanese)

Nishizawa Valley Google Map

Oct. 29, 2014 - Happy Halloween from Tokyo Disneyland! smiley

Halloween in Tokyo Disneyland
Halloween in Tokyo Disneyland
Tokyo Disney Resort official website
(Photo courtesy: Nozomi Uchibori)

Oct. 28, 2014 - Merry Halloween!!

One cannot help but admire the brilliance of Japanese creativity.... in this case, celebrating the Halloween season with a sneak preview of Xmas. smiley

Merry Halloween
Merry Halloween!!

Oct. 19, 2014 - NASA gets into Halloween spirit with jack-o-lantern pic of the sun

jack-o-lantern sun
Jack-o-lantern sun
(Image credit: NASA/GSFC/SDO)

This image, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory on October 8, is a composite of two images of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths at 171 and 193 Ångströms (not visible to the naked eye), appearing gold and yellow to create a jack-o-lantern like appearance.

Blending together the 2 sets of extreme ultraviolet wavelengths shows the sun's most active regions, which appear brighter because those are areas that emit more light and energy.

WOW! Trick or treat!! smiley

Oct. 14, 2014 - Typhoon Vongfong slams Japan; 2nd in a week

The 2nd powerful typhoon in a week has struck the entire Japanese archipelago, leaving a broad path of destruction in its wake. Typhoon Vongfong (a Macao Chinese word meaning "wasp"), also known in Japan as Typhoon 19 (台風19号), has killed 2 people and injured at least 93 nationwide, with 1 missing.

A 90-year-old man was found dead in an irrigation channel in Tottori Prefecture and a 72-year-old man drowned after driving his light truck into a pond in Ehime Prefecture.

Injuries include a 39-year-old American pilot whose light plane crashed in the city of Ibusuki in Kagoshima Prefecture, near the southernmost tip of the main island of Kyushu, and a man in his 20s and a 9-year-old girl, who in separate cases, both had a finger severed when high winds slammed doors shut.

On Oct. 7 Vongfong strengthened to super typhoon status with wind speeds of 180 mph (80 m/s) and a central pressure of 900 millibars, making it the strongest tropical storm on earth since Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines last November with maximum sustained winds of 195 mph (87 m/s), killing over 6,000 people.

Although Vongfong weakened to a tropical storm before making landfall on the southern main island of Kyushu, the most notable impact of the storm was the nationwide rainfall amounts, as seen in the graphic below. In Satsumasendai City in Kagoashima Prefecture, the storm dumped 85 mm (3.3 in.) of rain during a 1-hr. period on Mon. morning.

As of midday Monday local time, the highest rainfall total from Vongfong anywhere in Japan was found in Kunigami (on the northern end of Okinawa Island) where 21.95 inches (557.5 mm) of rain were reported. Also, some parts of Okinawa, Miyazaki, and Kochi Prefectures received well over 400 mm (~16 in.) in a 24-hour period.  

- NHK World
- The Weather Channel Hurricane Central

Typhoon Vongfong nationwide 24-hour rainfall amounts
Typhoon Vongfong nationwide 24-hour rainfall amounts,
as of 6:10 am, Tues. Oct. 14, 2014
(red bars indicate >100 mm (3.9 in.), many of them >400 mm (~16 in.))
(image credit: NHK)

Oct. 12, 2014 - Danny Macaskill rides Scotland's Cuillin Ridgeline

In general, I'm not a big fan of cyling in the mountains (especially if they're on the same trail I'm hiking on), smiley but this remarkable video shows one of the most incredible, daredevil feats I've ever seen. Danny Macaskill took a death-defying ride on his Santa Cruz Bronson mountain bike along the notorious Cuillin Ridgeline in his native home on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Posted just 10 days ago, as of today this video has been viewed over 15 million times. I believe my favorite parts begin @ the 1:44, 2:00, 2:17, 3:06, 3:37, 4:30, 5:17, 5:42, 6:08, & 6:19 min. marks.

  (If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Mountain biking in Scotland:
Santa Cruz bicycles -

Interestingly, I had the pleasure of riding my friend's $5,500 Santa Cruz Tallboy last month in Denver (Thanks, Tom!): smiley

Santa Cruz Tallboy
Santa Cruz Tallboy
(my entire 105-pic Colorado photo album is here)

Oct. 8 - The total lunar eclipse from Tokyo

Well, I got to see the 1st half of it....before the clouds moved in. smiley And yep, in that 1st pic, I captured a jumbo jet flying across the face of the moon!

The partial umbral eclipse began @ 18:15 & the total eclipse began @ 19:25.

By far the best lunar eclipse I've ever seen, even though I missed the entire 2nd half! smiley

total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo
total lunar eclipse from Tokyo

Oct. 6, 2014 - Total lunar eclipse - Wed. Oct. 8

A total eclipse of the full moon will occur on Wed. October 8, 2014. For North America and the Hawaiian Islands, the total lunar eclipse happens in the wee hours before sunrise on October 8. For New Zealand, Australia and eastern Asia (including Japan), the total eclipse is seen after sunset on October 8. A partial lunar eclipse can be seen before sunrise, October 8, from much of South America, or after sunset, October 8, from western Asia.

Here are the viewing times for Tokyo (& Houston): smiley
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 18:15 (4:15 am)
Total eclipse begins: 19:25 (5:25)
Greatest eclipse: 19:55 (5:55)
Total eclipse ends: 20:24 (6:24)
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 21:34 (7:34)

October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse map
October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse map
(Image credit:

More info:
When to see it from your location:

Oct. 6, 2014 - Up in the east, down in the west

These 2 pics were taken within 5 min. of each other.

14.10.6 moonrise
Mon. Oct. 6, 2014 moonrise, 5:18 pm

14-10-6 sunset
Mon. Oct. 6, 2014 sunset, 5:13 pm

Oct. 5, 2014 - Here comes Typhoon Phanfone. Watch out, Tokyo!

Category 4 Supertyphoon Phanfone (Typhoon 18, 台風18号), a Laotian term for "animal," is already pounding islands south of Kyushu with torrential rains and wind gusts of up to 101 mph as the storm heads north towards Tokyo.

Winds at Japan's Kita-daitō (North Daitō Island) gusted to 45.3 m/s (101 mph) at 2:35 pm JST (1:35 am U.S. EDT) on Saturday, before the wind observations were knocked offline. Minami-daitō has set an all-time calendar-day record for the month of October with 217.0 mm (8.54 inches) of rain, beating the old October record of 198.5 mm on Oct. 26, 2010.

Heavy rains from Phanfone are the main threat, and are likely to bring dangerous flash flooding and mudslides. One precipitation forecast model predicts that Phanfone will dump widespread rains of 4-8" (102-203 mm) across much of Japan.

Two top models for predicting typhoon tracks, the GFS and European, predicted with their 12:00 Zulu Saturday runs that Phanfone would hit the main Japanese island of Honshu near 18 UTC on Sunday, and make its closest pass by Tokyo around 9 am Monday morning Japan time.

As of 9 am Sun. morning, the U.S. Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center is forecasting Typhoon Phanfone to pass within only 19 nautical miles (~35 km) of the Yokosuka navy base, just south of Japan's capital. Should make for a very interesting Monday morning commute for the 9 million residents of Tokyo's 23-ward metro area. frownie anime

Source: Dr. Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground

Typhoon Phanfone radar
Typhoon Phanfone radar, as of 9:15 am, Sun. Oct. 5, Japan time
(Photo credit: Weather Underground)

Typhoon Phanfone storm track
Typhoon Phanfone storm track, as of 3 am, Sun. Oct. 5, Japan time
(Photo credit: U.S. Navy Joint Typhoon Warning Center)

[Typhoon Phanfone (Typhoon 18, 台風18号) postmortem:

- Widespread flooding occurred across Japan, especially in Shizuoka Prefecture where over 400 mm (~16 in.) of rain was recorded in some areas within a 24-hr. period. Over 19 inches (~480 mm) of rain fell in the prefecture's mountainous regions over a 3-day period.

-Tokyo recorded wind gusts up to 70 mph (~31 m/s), and sustained winds around or above 40 mph (~18 m/s) lasted for about 2 hours in the city.

- 3 people are dead and 4 others are missing. A member of the U.S. Air Force drowned while taking photos on the coast of southern Okinawa Prefecture on Sunday. Two other fellow US airmen were also washed out to sea and are still missing.

- Also on Sunday, a university student disappeared while surfing in rough seas off the coastal city of Fujisawa, south of Tokyo.

- On Monday, 2 men in Yokohama died after being buried in mudslides at different locations.

- A junior high school student is missing after being taken away by high waves from a beach in Yokosuka.

- 62 people were injured across the country.

- JR rail officials suspended services on the main JR Tokaido Line in Shizuoka City after a landslide washed away a short section of track. Officials are unsure when trains will be able to start running again.

- Airlines cancelled about 630 flights on Monday morning, mostly to or from Tokyo's Haneda Airport.

- Over 2.9 million people were issued evacuation advisories.]

Oct. 1, 2014 - Emily Skye's 30 Day Ab Shred

Go Emily! WOW! smiley

  (If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

Emily's site:

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