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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.

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.)

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 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:

Sept. 28, 2014 - Japan's Mt. Ontake volcano erupts for 1st time in 7 yrs. - 31 feared dead

Today about 550 police, firefighters, and Self-Defense Force personnel have resumed a rescue operation for climbers trapped on a volcano that erupted yesterday shortly before noon. Mount Ontake, elev. 3067m (10,062 ft), Japan's 14th highest mountain, straddles Nagano and Gifu prefectures in central Japan.

About 230 climbers, many on the peak to view the beautiful fall foliage, & mountain hut workers have made their way down since the eruption. One female hiker has died, 42 others were injured, and some 40 people are still taking shelter in 4 huts. Seven more people are still unconscious and 6 remain buried under as much as 50 cm (~20 in.) of volcanic ash.

Officials at the Japan Meteorological Agency said clouds of debris flowed more than 3 km down the southern slope and warned that large volcanic rocks could fall within 4 km from the craters. Eruptions were continuing as of 5:50 AM on Sunday and entry to the mountain has been restricted.

Interestingly, as one of Japan's 25 highest peaks and its 2nd highest volcano, I had the pleasure of climbing Mt. Ontake-san 13 years ago under calmer conditions.

In Japan, it's not that uncommon for climbers and tourists to be caught up in volcanic incidents. In 1979, 3 people died and 11 suffered injuries in an eruption of Mount Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, southwestern Japan, which sent huge rocks into the air.

Two tourists died in 1997 after inhaling volcanic gas near the crater of Mount Aso. In that same year, 4 hikers died after breathing in gas on Mount Adatara in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.

On June 3, 1991, Mt. Unzen, a volcano on the southern main island of Kyushu, erupted violently and claimed the lives of 43 scientists and journalists.

Mt. Ontake eruption
Mt. Ontake eruption - Sept. 27, 2014
(Photo credit: AP)

Video of Mt. Ontake eruption - Sept. 27, 2014
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

[Sept. 29, 2014 update: BBC is reporting that the bodies of 31 hikers have been found near the top of Japan's Mt. Ontake a day after the massive volcanic eruption. Facing poisonous gases and fearing another eruption, rescue workers were able to transport just 4 of the 31 victims to the foot of the mountain by Sunday night. The 4 were officially pronounced dead when they arrived at the bottom of the mountain. The remaining 27 are all feared to be dead, but officials have not yet formally confirmed the deaths of any of them, and were listed as having heart and lung failure, the customary way for Japanese authorities to describe a body until police doctors can examine it. About 10 of the 31 victims were found lying too close to the spot where smoke was still billowing out of the volcano and could not be rescued.]

[Oct. 1, 2014 update: Search operations had to be suspended yesterday @ 2 pm due to dangerous concentrations of poisonous hydrogen sulfide gas near the summit and an increase in volcanic tremors on the mountain. Today more than 1,000 police officers, firefighters, and Self-Defense Forces personnel resumed the search and were able to recover many more bodies and carry them down the mountain on stretchers, in spite of the difficulty of staying on trails covered with 30 cm (~12 in.) of ash. The death toll now stands @ 47, making this the worst tragedy caused by a volcanic eruption in Japan since detailed records began after World War II.]

[Oct. 5, 2014 update: Japanese authorities have confirmed the deaths of 4 more people from the eruption of Mount Ontake last week, now bringing the number of deaths to 51. Today's search operation was once again suspended due to rain in the morning and the approaching Supertyphoon 18 (see Oct. 5 post above). Twelve hikers still remain missing.]

[Oct. 12, 2014 update: Yesterday more than 1,100 rescue workers (the most ever since the 9/27 eruption) continued their search for 8 people still missing from Japan's worst volcanic disaster in around 70 years. 2 people were found under rocks near the summit, now raising the death count to 56. The search operation is being hampered by wet volcanic ash which, in some places, buried rescuers up to their chests. On Friday, at least 6 search members had to descend the mountain after they came down with altitude sickness or hypothermia. The rescuers are in a race against time to find the missing people as Typhoon 19 (Vongfong), the 2nd powerful typhoon to strike Japan in a week, will reach the Mt. Ontake area, just 200 km (125 mi) west of Tokyo, early Tues. morning.]

[Oct. 16, 2014 update: Nagano Prefecture's disaster response task force announced today it has decided to end its search this year for the 7 missing hikers due to the growing risk of secondary accidents. With winter approaching, search conditions on the volcano have deteriorated due to the season's first 5-cm snowfall yesterday and sub-freezing temperatures. About 1,900 policemen, firefighters, and Self-Defense Forces troops (the most ever since the 9/27 eruption) were mobilized today for the final search, while 5 helicopters flew over areas inaccessible by foot, with relatives of some of the missing people aboard one of the helicopters. Search operations will resume next spring.]

Sept. 28, 2014 - Video of my Sept. 3-21, 2014 U.S. vacation

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

0:00 Takeoff from Tokyo Narita Airport
1:15 United Airlines real-time flight tracker map
2:30 Landing at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport
4:35 Houston downtown skyline, from the U.S. 59 freeway
5:47 Harris County Bayland Park senior education programs
6:41 Mom's Bellaire Garden Club meeting & party, Russ Pitman Park
7:40 Squirrel stealing/eating seeds from Mom's backyard bird feeder
8:49 Takeoff from Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport
10:48 Landing at Denver International Airport
12:21 Reconnecting with Tom for 1st time in 29 yrs. @ Denver airport
12:45 Dillon Dam Brewery, Dillon, Colorado
13:04 Tom & Amy chatting on highway to Steamboat Springs, Colorado
13:29 Mountain stream on Meadow Creek Trail, White River Natl. Forest
14:05 Sunrise over Lake Dillon, Colorado
14:36 Sammy the golden retriever gets belly rub from Tom
15:21 Detailed "how to" explanation of Tom's $5500 Santa Cruz Tallboy mountain bike :-)
17:36 Riding along the Cherry Creek Bike Path, Denver, Colorado
19:40 Washington Park jog & bike road, Denver, Colorado
20:13 Panorama of Smith Lake, Washington Park
20:34 Canada geese, Washington Park
24:18 Flower garden, Washington Park
25:09 Riding Tom's bike around Washington Park
27:09 Panorama of Grasmere Lake, Washington Park
27:40 Landing at Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport (from Denver)
29:42 Waving @ Southwest Airlines baggage handlers from inside plane
30:11 Mom's Bellaire Life seniors club ice cream social
30:32 HUGE mansion @ 4528 Oleander St. in Bellaire, TX. This 14,620 square foot (1358 sq. m.) single family home has 7 bedrooms, 8.5 bathrooms, and is valued @ $3.8 million.
30:43 Panorama inside Buc-ee's, a new chain of roadside stores in Texas
30:57 MANY birds feasting in Mom's backyard bird feeders
32:07 JP & Julia chatting on highway to Windlinger Ranch, Kerrville, Texas
32:44 Friday night party in lakehouse @ the Windlinger Ranch
33:49 Tucker the ranch dog
34:19 Saturday chats in the Windlinger ranch house
35:00 Group hike around the Windlinger Ranch
36:10 JP's amazing Texas BBQ chicken & sausage
37:08 Chowing down on BBQ, potato salad, beans, and pasta salad
37:33 Sun. morning breakfast in the Windlinger ranch house
38:18 Lunch w/ my buddies @ Goode's BBQ on Kirby Dr., Houston, Texas
39:32 Panorama of reflection pool, fountains, lake, and miniature train in Hermann Park, Houston, Texas
40:55 Houston Metro trains @ Hermann Park/Rice University Station
42:55 Landing @ Chicago O'Hare International Airport (check out all the skyscrapers along N. Lakeshore Dr.)
44:18 Landing at Tokyo Narita Airport (check out my plane's shadow on the ground!)

Sept. 27, 2014 - Pics from my Sept. 3-21 U.S. vacation

To describe my 17 days in America as "magical' would be the understatement of the year. Meeting up with some of my most favorite people for the first time in nearly 3 decades warmed my heart & soul.

Besides hanging out mostly in Houston and joining in on a number of Mom's senior citizen activities, I was able to make a side trip to Colorado's beautiful Rocky Mountains as well as a return trip to the stunning, 263-acre Windlinger Ranch in the Texas hill country, both of whose pics I decided to put in separate photo albums.

I sincerely hope they will allow you a quick glimpse & appreciation for some of the amazing scenery that I was blessed to experience. My video is posted above! smiley  

Houston's Japanese Garden
Houston's Japanese Garden
(View entire 114-pic album here.)

Colorado's Rocky Mountains
Colorado's Rocky Mountains
(View entire 104-pic album here.)

Windlinger Ranch, Kerrville, Texas
263-acre Windlinger Ranch, Kerrville, Texas
(View entire 48-pic album here.)

Sept. 1, 2014 - 7 cool photography tricks with your smartphone

In the latest video by the Cooperative of Photography (COOPH) online magazine, pro photographer Lorenz Holder, famous for his incredible snowboard pics, demonstrates 7 amazing smartphone photography tips that'll help you capture some great shots you probably never thought were possible:

1) Panorama sequence
2) Pano drive-by
3) Zoom lens
4) Macro lens
5) Reflector
6) Tripod & shutter cable
7) Underwater housing

I believe #6, tripod & shutter cable, is my favorite! smiley

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

Aug. 31, 2014 - New "About Me" page

Cowboy Gary(Urban) Cowboy Gary
My website is about to celebrate its 5th birthday, and for the past couple years or so, I've been toying w/ the idea of adding an "About Me" page to my website, but always kept procrastinating 'cause it seemed so self-serving.

But recently I heard from Kim Komando, America's digital goddess, that having an About Me page is very important to the Big G watchdog of cyberspace in ranking webpages in its search results. Hmm.

Then I got to thinking that this sort of page could possibly answer the same kinds of questions that inevitably first come up in conversations here with students and new how I ended up in Japan, what's my background, interests, hometown, and what's my life in Japan like.

So....believe it or not, I finally got a round tuit (round tuit). smiley

Honestly speaking, it's fairly boring reading, but if you were ever at least a tiny bit curious about these questions I'm sure you've laid awake at night wondering about...ha-ha...then I hope you'll have time to read my very LONG story!

I just hope you don't doze off in the process... smiley


Aug. 27, 2014 - Countries with a Smaller Population than Tokyo

The Greater Tokyo Metropolitan Area, with nearly 37 million souls, has more residents than 136 nations of the world - that’s about 70% of the world's countries. The amazing graphic below, compiled by Professor Alasdair Rae of the University of Sheffield, shows the nations (in red) with fewer people than Tokyo. In Prof. Rae's words, “Yes, it’s a bit pointless, but it’s also true...” smiley

Countries with a smaller population than Tokyo
Countries with a smaller population than Tokyo
(Photo credit: Professor Alasdair Rae; larger image here, full-size image here.)

Here are some other interesting facts about Japan & the world's most populous metropolis, which has been my home for the past 23+ years: 
  • Population of Japan: ~127 Million (11th overall)
  • Population of Tokyo: 36,923,000 (#1), 17 milion more than New York City (#13)
  • Tokyo Metro Land Area: 13,500 km² (5,200 mi²), 2nd in size only to the New York Metro Area at 30,671 km² (11,842 mi²)
  • Tokyo is NOT a city: Generally regarded as a city, Tokyo (東京), the capital of Japan, is actually one of the 47 prefectures, the equivalent of a U.S. state. Tokyo includes 23 special wards, 26 cities, 5 towns, and 8 villages, each of which has a local government. Thus, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is headed by a governor, not a mayor. Tokyo also has a string of numerous outlying islands, which extend as far as 1,850 km (1,150 mi) south from central Tokyo, including the beautiful Ogasawara Islands. Nicknamed "The Galapagos of the Orient" (due to their extremely rare flora & fauna), these islands were designated a natural World Heritage Site in 2011 & include Iwo Jima, site of the famous WorldWar II battle.
  • Japan’s Urbanized Population: 91.3%
  • Habitable Land Area: ~30% of total, which means Japan’s entire population is squeezed into an area about 30% the size of the state of California or the nation of Germany
  • Just for Fun - Obesity Rate: 5% (157th overall)
Professor Alasdair Rae, senior lecturer at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield, U.K.
Tokyo: Largest City in the Known Universe
List of metropolitan areas by population

Aug. 21, 2014 - Japan's Self-Defense Forces play war games at the foot of Mt. Fuji, Japan's holiest mountain

On Tues. August 19, 2014, Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers began their annual live-fire training exercises at the Higashi-Fuji training field in Gotemba, near the foot of Mt. Fuji, a World Heritage site and Japan's holiest & most revered mountain.

A total of 2,300 personnel, 80 tanks and armoured vehicles, 20 aircraft, and 600 vehicles participated in the exercises, just 100 km southwest of Tokyo. Fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks, guided missile systems, and other artillery fired at targets at the base of Mount Fuji, where soldiers demonstrated tactics to fight off foreign invaders.

Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers also practiced paratrooper landing drills, and rappelled down from UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. Defense officials said the exercises, which last until Sunday, are aimed at showcasing Japan's ability to repel a hypothetical invasion of far-off Japanese islands.

Japan's military role is now expanding at home and abroad under the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which last month approved a reinterpretation of Japan's war-renouncing constitution to allow the military to defend its allies abroad....most notably the United States.

Mt. Fuji is one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains" (三霊山, Sanreizan), along with Mt. Tate and Mt. Haku. To protect Japan's cultural heritage, Fuji-san has been designated by the government as both a Special Place of Scenic Beauty (特別名勝, tokubetsu meishō) and a Special Historic Site (特別史跡, tokubetsu shiseki), and was added by UNESCO to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site on June 22, 2013. The summit has been thought of as sacred since ancient times and was forbidden to women until the Meiji Era. smiley

- The Telegraph - view full 17-pic photo gallery here)
- Wikipedia

Japan's GSDF conducts exercises near Mt. Fuji
(Photo credits: Top: Toshifumi Kitamura; Bottom: Shizuo Kambayashi)

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

Aug. 20, 2014 - Feeling the Wind

Working as a university professor in Japan is definitely not a get rich quick scheme, but the beauty of the job is that you get a 2-month vacation TWICE a year. YAY! Right now I'm in the 3rd week of my summer vacation and loving it!

Not writing any books this time nor climbing any Japanese high peaks like I normally do....just hanging out, tweaking my website a bit, and doing a LOT of cycling up and down the Edogawa riverside on sunny days.

A few years ago while I was out on my mountain bike, I took a breather at the "Kaze o Kanjite" (風を感じて, "Feel the Wind") statue in Junsai-ike Park (じゅんさい池公園) in Matsudo, Chiba (千葉県松戸市). In the pic below, I'm in my usual attire, sporting 4 kg (~9 lbs) wrist weights on each arm.

And for some reason, this month so far I've encountered an above average number of days with fairly strong headwinds. So I'm hearing the naked statue lady's message loud and clear, as I'm definitely "feeling the wind"! smiley

"Kaze o Kanjite" (風を感じて, "Feel the Wind") statue
"Kaze o Kanjite" (風を感じて, "Feel the Wind") statue
Junsai-ike Park (じゅんさい池公園), Matsudo, Chiba (千葉県松戸市)

Aug. 13, 2014 - Optimizing AdSense online course

Habit No. 7 of Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is called "Sharpen the Saw." It means that if we really want to be as effective as possible, we should continuously search out opportunities for self-renewal, self-care, self-respect, and self-improvement in 4 areas of our lives: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual.

I haven't always been that great at this sort of stuff, but so far this summer vacation, I'm doing the best I can. Life-long learning! Yee hah!! smiley

Optimizing AdSense online course certificate
Optimizing AdSense online course certificate

Aug. 10, 2014 - Japan gets hammered with torrential rain from Typhoon 11

Right now Typhoon 11 is wreaking havoc on Japan during the beginning of the Obon holidays, the summer's busiest vacation period, disrupting travel plans nationwide. Flooding, landslides, nearly a million people evacuated, and hundreds of flight cancellations are causing many troubles.

And one of the most shocking stats I just learned is that in the past 24 hours (as of 9:05 am Sun. 8/10), the village of Umaji-mura in Kochi Prefecture has received an absolutely shocking 859 mm (~34 inches) of rain. And since Aug. 1st, some parts of Kochi Prefecture have received over 2 meters (~6 ft. 7 in.) of rain. OMG!

Please remember these folks in your prayers.

Typhoon 11 24-hr. rain accumulation
Typhoon 11 Amedas 24-hr. rain accumulation
(Photo credit: NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation))

Typhoon 11 Amedas weather radar
Typhoon 11 Amedas weather radar as of 2 pm, Sat. Aug. 9, 2014
(Photo credit: JMA (Japan Meteorological Agency))

Aug. 6, 2014 -  Brazilian Students Learn English By Talking To Lonely Chicago Seniors

The video below is without question one of the most touching videos I think I've ever seen.

Here are the facts:
- More than a half million young students in Brazil want to practice English
- Seniors in a Chicago retirement community just want someone to talk to
- The idea: bring them together

The CNA English School's Speaking Exchange program connects students and seniors over the Internet, using an exclusive digital tool that uses video chat technology to bring Brazilian students face to face with Americans.

It's a great chance for students to practice English and meet people with lots of stories to tell, as well as an excellent activity for elderly to feel active and make new friendships. It's a true win-win situation for all. BEAUTIFUL!


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

Aug. 3, 2014 - 30th Ichikawa Fireworks Festival (第30回市川市民納涼花火大会), Sat. Aug. 2, 2014

This video shows the beginning and ending of the 30th Ichikawa Fireworks Festival held on Saturday, August 2nd. A total number of 14,000 fireworks were displayed this year and some of them were special fireworks to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the founding of Ichikawa City, Chiba.

The fireworks display was held from 7:15 to 8:30pm along the Edogawa riverside, a 15-minute walk from Ichikawa Station on the JR Sobu line.

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

Japanese audiences are always SO polite! I'm always impressed by the cordial applause & appreciation they show @ the end of these shows. smiley

July 29, 2014  - Sad news from Houston

Mom just lost her best friend in the whole world, the loyal one who's been by her side thru thick and thin for at least the past decade. Your prayers for my mom, sister, and the rest of the family will be deeply appreciated. There's now a big, sad hole in their lives. frownie

Chance Wolff
(Jan. 1, 2000 - July 29, 2014)

Some notable quotes from his memorial post @ Facebook:

"You were so loved, Chance, and you sure gave plenty back to us. We will miss you so much."  --Christy--

"Our furbabies leave permanent paw prints on our hearts. My heart is heavy with you."  --Lori--

"Cutie pie of a big black dog. Take care." --Lissa--

"His life started out rough (we got him from a woman who climbed into a yard to free him from the chain he was on that had grown into his neck) but he sure had a wonderful life with your mom! Luckiest dog ever! And I am so grateful for your mom for, among a million things, taking him when I was in such a hard situation. Yay Chance and yay Wolffs! xoxo"  --Sarah--

Chance Wolff Flickr photo album
Chance Wolff Flickr photo album
(click image to view all 26 full-sized pics)

July 26, 2014 - Hundreds of flying silver carp near Illinois' Spoon River

A family went "fishing" down a small drainage ditch sometime during the summer of 2010 near the flooded Spoon River in West Central Illinois, USA. Upon their return home, they counted 70+ 5-10 lb. silver carp that had landed in the boat. Now this is MY kind of need for a rod and reel.  smiley

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

July 24, 2014 - The cost of a phone call to heaven

A man in Topeka, Kansas, decided to write a book about churches around the world, but thought that the place to start, since he was American, would be the United States. With that in mind, he decided to fly to New York where he goes into the Cathedral of St. John, the Divine. He begins taking photographs, etc., when he suddenly spots a golden telephone on a wall with a sign, which reads "$10,000 a minute."

Intrigued, he seeks out the priest and asks about the phone and sign. The priest advises him that this golden phone is, in fact, a direct line to Heaven and, if he wants to use it, he can talk directly to God. “Thank you very much,” he says and continues on his way.

Continuing through many other states, he finds the same phone, same sign, and gets the same answer, until finally, he arrives in Texas. Upon entering Sanctuario Guadalupe Cathedral in Dallas, lo and behold, he sees the usual golden telephone with a sign. But THIS time, the sign reads “Calls 25 cents.”

By now fascinated, he gets hold of the Bishop and says to him, “Bishop, I have been in cities all across the country, and in each church I found this golden telephone, was told that it was a direct line to Heaven, and that I could talk to God. But in all the other churches across the country, it was $10,000 a minute. Your sign reads 25 cents a call. Why?”

The Bishop smiles benignly at him and says “Oh, my son, that’s very easy to explain. You see, you’re now in Texas and, of course, it’s a local call from here.”

July 21, 2014 - 71-year-old Japanese man scales Mt. Fuji 1,673 times

71-year-old Yoshinobu Jitsukawa (實川欣伸) has climbed Mt. Fuji a record 1,673rd time! WOW! Jitsukawa, a resident of nearby Numazu in Shizuoka Prefecture, made his record climb up Mt. Fuji on July 16. He made his first ascent of Mt. Fuji in the summer of 1985 when he went with his family at the age of 42.

He thought it would be a one-shot deal, satisfying his desire to climb the mountain at least once in his lifetime. But several years later he accompanied a Chinese trainee from his workplace up the mountain, and then got hooked.

Jitsukawa uses his Mt. Fuji climbs as “training” for his much loftier goal of scaling each of the highest peaks on all 7 continents. He's already scaled 6 out of 7, including 5,895-meter Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, which he climbed at age 57.

Having failed at Mt. Everest last spring after his party was forced to call it off due to a massive avalanche, he'll be giving Everest another shot next spring. Go Jitsukawa-san! Awesome. smiley

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Yoshinobu Jitsukawa
71-year-old Yoshinobu Jitsukawa (實川欣伸), center,
celebrates atop Mt. Fuji after his record 1,673rd climb
(Photo credit:

July 14, 2014 - SURF'S UP! LET'S HANG 20! smiley

More than 50 dogs competed Sunday in the 9th annual Petco Surf Dog Competition in Imperial Beach, California.

"About 5,000 people and their dogs attended the competition, which also featured a dog wash, an adoption by the San Diego Humane Society, a giant inflatable slide for kids, and a makeshift dog park. Money generated from each surfer’s registration fee was donated to the humane society." (Source: San Diego Union-Tribune)

Imperial Beach is a suburb of San Diego and is the most southern beach city in Southern California and the West Coast of the United States.

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

July 12, 2014 - Deadly mudslide in central Japan captured by surveillance camera

A terrifying mudslide, brought on by torrential rains spawned by Super Typhoon Neoguri (named "Typhoon 8 (台風8号)" in Japan) which swallowed houses and killed a 12-year-old boy in the central Japan town of Nagiso in Nagano Prefecture, was caught on video Wed. July 9. SCARY STUFF!!

Nationwide, Typhoon Neoguri killed 7 and injured scores, forced tens of thousands to seek emergency shelter, and was one of the strongest storms to ever strike Japan in July. Fortunately, here in the nation's capital we didn't even have strong winds or rain.

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

July 10, 2014 - Texas adds 1 million new jobs compared to California's 25,000

"Since December 2007, Texas payrolls have grown by 9.5% and by more than one million jobs through May 2014, while California employment has increased only 0.16% and by fewer than 25,000 jobs over that same period."

Texas vs. California jobs
Growth in jobs in Texas vs. California since Dec. 2007
(Photo credit: AEIdeas)

What's the difference?

"Texas — is pro-energy (i.e. fossil fuel energy), it’s a right-to-work state, it has no state income tax, its electricity prices are significantly lower because it doesn’t have a renewable energy mandate, and its regulatory burden on businesses is much lighter. In other words, Texas has created a pro-business and pro-growth environment. Meanwhile, California has created an increasingly anti-business climate with some of the highest state tax and regulatory burdens in the country, which along with sky-high industrial electricity prices (83% higher than in Texas." Source: AEIdeas

Reminds me of a graphic I posted on my Facebook timeline in Feb. of last year:

California regulates -- Texas innovates
California regulates....Texas innovates
(Photo credit:

This was just after "Business Facilities" magazine had yet again named Texas its 2012 State of the Year, for having the most dynamic economy of any state in the nation. "Employers the world over continue to look to Texas as the epicenter of job creation thanks to the conservative fiscal principles of low taxes (including no state income tax), reasonable regulations, fair courts, and promoting a skilled workforce. The study also noted Texas' growing population and strong infrastructure as factors in its success." Source:

July 6, 2014 - Japanese university English speech contest

What the #*%$@? Yet ANOTHER speech contest? smiley This university's ESS (English speaking society) holds 2 contests a year, and the 2nd one held in late June is a recitation contest just for college freshmen, where they recite from memory a famous speech from history, like JFK's inaugural address or Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech. These kids were AMAZING!!

Japanese university English speech contest

Japanese university English speech contest

July 1, 2014 - Mt. Fuji 2014 climbing season opens!

It's official!! Mt. Fuji's main Yoshida Trail is now open. Around 100 Mt. Fuji climbers greeted the 4:30 am sunrise from the summit this morning. Climbing season for the main Yoshida Trail on Japan's highest peak and newest UNESCO World Heritage Site has now officially begun. smiley

Sunrise from Mt. Fuji on July 1, 2014
Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers

More details on climbing Mt. Fuji can be found on the most visited page of my entire website:  Climbing Mt. Fuji (富士山) - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Useful iPad Tools for the EFL Teacher

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Preparing and Presenting Scientific Posters

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Mt. Senjo-ga-take (仙丈ヶ岳) and Mt. Kai-koma-ga-dake (甲斐駒ヶ岳), Japan's 18th & 24th highest peaks

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Nov 18, 2014

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Mt. Yatsu-ga-take (八ヶ岳), Japan's 33rd highest peak

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"The View from the Top of Japan" book

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Oct 14, 2014

Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Oct 13, 2014

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Oct 12, 2014

Mt. Ontake-san (御嶽山), Japan's 14th Highest Mountain

Pics, maps, and trail description of my Aug. 2001 climb of Mt. Ontake-san (elev. 3067m), Japan's 14th highest mountain.

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Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, October-December, 2011

Posts include Tokyo sunsets, Katie Davis, foster mom for 13 abandoned Ugandan girls, & a 101-yr.-old Michigan woman who drives an 81-yr.-old roadster.

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Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, April-June, 2011

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Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, July-September, 2011

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