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Gary J. Wolff's Blog

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

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

Enjoy...

Cheers, 
Gary


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


June 8, 2019 - Are you a Twit Face? laughing icon


Are you a Twit Face?




May 19, 2019 - Spring 2019 Tokyo Flowers

If you ever find yourself too stressed out, I hope these beautiful flowers will help soothe your soul as much as they have mine...



Spring 2019 Tokyo Flowers
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)




May 16, 2019 - Why are the Japanese growing light bulbs on rice terraces in Wajima, Ishikawa?

In March 2007 the powerful Noto earthquake hit this area, injuring more than 300 people and causing 1 death. As a memorial, people initially placed millions of candles around the rice fields in Shiroyone Senmaida (1000 rice fields, 千枚田), where the rice terraces slope down toward the Sea of Japan.

Due to the popularity of the spectacle, the candles were later replaced with solar LED lanterns—and the tradition continues today. Every year the lanterns are installed at the end of September and are left up through March when work on the rice fields begins again.

The fields remain lit for about 4 hours after sunset, changing colors from pink to green, gold, and blue every 15 to 30 minutes. The 4 colors represent the 4 seasons of Wajima, which is located at the tip of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture.

solar LEDs in Wajima, Ishikawa rice fields
Solar LEDs in Wajima, Ishikawa rice fields
(photo credit: Getty Images)




April 30, 2019 - Spring flowers at Hitachi Seaside Park (ひたち海浜公園)

This amazing 200-hectare park, right on the Pacific coast and only 2 hours from Tokyo by train, is without question one of the most remarkable parks I've ever seen. The park is most famous for its 4.5 million "baby blue eyes" flowers (nemophila), whose translucent-blue petals peak every spring during Golden Week, drawing TOO many tourists. The park features blooming flowers in all 4 seasons including a million daffodils, 170 varieties of tulips, narcissuses, poppies, roses, zinnias, sunflowers, kochia (summer cypress), and cosmos flowers. The park also includes cycling trails on an exclusive right-of-way and a small amusement park with a Ferris wheel.
Park website: https://hitachikaihin.jp/en.html

Baby Blue Eyes flowers
Baby Blue Eyes flowers
View my entire Flickr album here:
Hitachi Seaside Park (ひたち海浜公園) 




April 21, 2019 - Japanese target bird golf (ターゲットバードゴルフ)

Target bird golf is a fun sport among elderly Japanese who use a badminton birdie (shuttlecock) for the golf "ball." The folks in this video were enjoying a round of target bird golf along the banks of the Shin-Nakagawa river in Tokyo on Sun. morning April 14, 2019 during the peak of cherry blossom season.


Japanese target bird golf (ターゲットバードゴルフ)
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)

I was 1st introduced to target bird golf 6 years ago on the banks of the Edogawa river. Here's my video I made that day.




April 16, 2019 - Today's inspirational quote

"Live your second childhood today and mentally relive the days when as a child you ran free, when there were infinite possibilities of what you could feel, accomplish, and see in the world. Allow for the energy of your remembered freedom to thunder through you, and you will free yourself from the false obstacles your adult life has put in your path. Today is the day to play!"

—Michael Bernard Beckwith—




April 9, 2019 - 2019 Chidorigafuchi Cherry Blossoms (千鳥ヶ淵の桜)

After all these years, Tokyo's Chidorigafuchi Park is still one of my favorite cherry blossom viewing spots. If you get a chance, please check out the rest of my pics at Flickr.

2019 Chidorigafuchi Cherry Blossoms (千鳥ヶ淵の桜)
2019 Chidorigafuchi Cherry Blossoms (千鳥ヶ淵の桜)
(Click link above to view entire photo album.)




April 2, 2019 - Here’s a retirement speech you don’t want to hear from your boss:

"As a symbol of our gratitude, we'd like to present you this special gold watch to serve as a reminder of your many years with the company. It needs a lot of winding up, is always a little late, and every day at quarter to five, it stops working." laughing icon




Mar. 31, 2019 - Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival (中目黒桜まつり)

Before coming to Japan, I'd never even heard of the nighttime light-up of flowers, but now it's fair to say I'm thoroughly hooked. ​​And embarrassingly, even after nearly 3 decades here, it wasn’t until just last year that I was introduced to the amazing Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival (中目黒桜まつり) by my very kindhearted Canadian musician friend Mr. Jonny Barefoot.

The very narrow canal is lined with TOO many shops and food stalls, with lots of spring-themed festival food, including the seemingly over-the-top promotion of pink champagne. A few too many people for my liking, as some sections, especially near Nakameguro Station, were a bit difficult to walk around with so many revelers, but it was quite the exhilarating sight to see nonetheless.

My low-quality iPhone pics don't do the place any justice, but I hope you can somehow get a feel for the magic of these beautiful, nighttime illuminated cherry blossoms as much as I did a few nights ago.

Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
Nakameguro Cherry Blossom Festival
(View entire photo album here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmCqMTWs)




Mar. 28, 2019 - It's once again that magical time of year in Tokyo!

The beautiful cherry blossoms started opening up last week and today have reached full bloom in the nation's capital. The cherry blossoms in Japan are a very significant symbol of renewal and starting a clean slate. Hence, both the new school year and fiscal year begin April 1st in Japan. They are also a symbol and reminder of the fragility of the human existence. The blossoms rarely last more than a week to 10 days, and then they are GONE.... until next year.

Japanese sakura
Japanese sakura
(View full album here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjdwVfcy)
(Photo credit: Yahoo Japan)




Mar. 11, 2019 - A public pay phone? What's THAT? smiley

When the magnitude-9 Great East Japan Earthquake (東日本大震災, Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) struck 8 years ago today, even though cell phone networks bit the dust, public pay phones turned out to be vital lifesavers, as they continued to be operational after the disaster.

But in a survey by major telecom firm NTT East of parents with children in elementary school, nearly 80% of them said their children don't know about pay phones or have never used them.

To increase awareness of pay phones, NTT East has set up a website with quizzes, videos, and virtual-reality experience for children to learn how to use public pay phones, and also featuring a pay-phone locator. Wow! laughing icon

Source: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/




Mar. 6, 2019 - 2019 Cherry Blossom Forecast

Only 16 more days till the cherry blossoms are forecast to begin blooming in Tokyo on Mar. 22! Yay! This is the same day as last year, but 4 days earlier than the average blooming date over the past 10 years. Full bloom in Tokyo is forecast for Mar. 30. Can't wait! smiley

2019 cherry blossom front in Japan
2019 cherry blossom front in Japan
(Source: sakura.weathermap.jp/en.php)




Mar. 4, 2019 - Tokyo is very CONVENIENT! smiley

If there's just 1 word to sum up my lifestyle in Tokyo, it'd be "convenient."

My tiny apartment is only a couple minute walk from the subway station and within a couple hundred feet of a 24-hour 7-11, supermarkets, drugstores, 100-yen shops, recycle shop, police box, my bank, 24-hour fitness gyms, medical clinics, pachinko parlor, karaoke boxes, and multiple ethnic restaurants.

And even the sometimes annoying-yet-tolerable noise from living in a somewhat commercial district is a small price to pay for all this ultimate in convenience.

Just the other day I was reminded of another example of the Japanese high-tech convenience I often encounter, this time an automatic hand washer/dryer in a men's toilet of all places. laughing icon And the hand dryer is in the sink:



Japanese automatic toilet hand washer/dryer
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)




Feb. 25, 2019 - Welcome to Spur, Texas, America's first tiny house friendly town

For the past several decades, massive urbanization and social changes in America have caused many small towns to lose their residents to larger cities, where better jobs and opportunities exist. But big cities have also raised the economic threshold necessary for even the most basic living expenses to the point that they have become unaffordable for many of their citizens.

In July 2014, Spur, Texas passed a city council resolution that declared Spur the nations’ first tiny house friendly town. This old west Texas town, with a population of only 1000 and just an hour's drive east of Lubbock, now welcomes new pioneers and their tiny houses, generally defined as between 100-400 square feet. Lubbock is the vibrant, rapidly-growing west Texas city (pop. ~300,000) which is home to Texas Tech University.

As one who lives by himself in a tiny 1-room, 250-sq. ft. apartment, I can definitely relate to this kind of lifestyle. So if you've ever thought about scaling down and simplifying your life, Spur, Texas could be just what you've been looking for! smiley

More info: https://www.spurfreedom.org/


tiny houses in Spur, Texas
Tiny houses in Spur, Texas
(photo credits: spurfreedom.org)




Feb. 18, 2019 - Guam vacation - Feb. 13-15, 2019

Last week I was able to escape Tokyo's brutal cold winter for a few days of sun and surf in the beautiful US territory of Guam, where I haven't been in 12 years. I figured it was about time to get back and refresh my data. laughing icon

Guam has become TOO commercialized, especially with hordes of Japanese and Korean tour groups, but there're still lots of beautiful natural spots to see, like Marbo Cave and Ritidian Beach shown below in the photo collage, as well as in my Guam Flickr photo album. Enjoy!

Guam collage
Guam vacation - Feb. 13-15, 2019
(view my entire Guam Flickr photo album here)




Feb. 6, 2019 - TODAY'S HUMOR (今日のユーモア)

These are actual resume items submitted by job seekers, followed by the personnel director's comments:

"Objective: My position will have pleasant surroundings, a reasonable salary, low pressure, not require me to bring work home, and good benefits." --- Just what we’re looking for. When can you start?

"Salary required: To be paid enough to buy a better house than I and my family currently live in, which has 4 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths, and a fenced yard. Inflation must be taken into consideration." --- We think that sounds fair! We feel totally responsible for your standard of living.

"Current salary: $36,000. Salary desired: $250,000." --- I know I said "you have not because you asked not," but this might be stretching it.

Requirements: "I'll need $30K to start, full medical, 3 weeks vacation, stock options, and ideally a European sedan." --- Wow, all we have to do is provide a new BMW to help swing your decision?

Cover letter: "I'm the best accountant you're ever going to find. If your company doesn't want to pay for the high quality, don't call." --- Thanks for the tip – we won’t call!

Cover letter: "My top motivator is MONEY. If asked to choose between a professional desk job and one sanitizing a barnhouse that pays more, I'm headed for the farm." --- Are you competent or just greedy?

Cover letter: "I've updated my resume so it's more appalling to employers." --- I find myself totally shocked already! laughing icon




Jan. 30, 2019 - Surf's UP... right in the heart of the world's largest metropolis!

Citywave Tokyo opened on August 11, 2018, and appropriately so since Tokyo will be hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics where surfing will be an official Olympic sport for the first time ever.

Located in central Tokyo only a 5-min. walk from Oimachi Station in Shinagawa Ward, Citywave Tokyo is part of “Sporu Shinagawa” (スポル品川), a sports park which features 7 olympic sports, and joins other Citywaves in France, Swizerland, Germany, Austria, Israel, with additional locations planned for Russia and America.



Citywave Tokyo surfing machine
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)

The German inventors, Rainer Klimaschewski and his wife Susi, who are both trained engineers and were freestyle ski champions during the 80's, have been developing action sport simulators for over 20 years.

Their early inventions included mobile water ramps to practice their ski jumps year-round and a rotating endless ski slope. Then, inspired by river surfing pioneer Arthur Pauli, they developed a rotating “dry-wave” modeled on the Eisbach Wave in Munich. Their first surfing simulator made it possible for surfers to execute the turns and tricks of real surfing without ever getting wet.

But when the Klimaschewskis realised that genuine simulated surfing needed real water, after countless prototypes and tests, the first endless stationary deepwater wave known as Citywave was created.

More info on Citywave Tokyo, in Japanese, is here: https://citywave-tokyo.jp/




Jan. 22, 2019 - New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, Day 8 (January 20) (大相撲一月場所)

On Sunday I had the pleasure of viewing a sumo tournament for the first time in over 20 years. In spite of yokozuna Kisenosato having already retired a few days prior, and another yokozuna and ozeki having already withdrawn due to injuries, I got to see some of my favorite sumo wrestlers, including Kotoshogiku, Takakeisho, and Takayasu.

If all that weren't enough, for the very first time during my nearly 3-decade tenure in Japan, I got to see the Japanese Emperor and Empress with my own eyes, who visited the Kokugikan sumo arena on the same day as me. This was their 23rd visit to the arena and their last as Emperor and Empress before Emperor Akihito's abdication in April.

Don't miss them waving to the crowd at the 21:16 mark in my video below, and also the incredibly heartwarming applause from the sumo fans. Wow, it almost made me cry.



New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, Day 8 (January 20)
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)

0:05 Juryo entrance (west)
2:00 Juryo entrance (east)
3:41 Pano inside Sumo Hall
4:00 Makuuchi entrance (west)
6:11 Makuuchi entrance (east)
9:32 Yokozuna entrance
11:45 Kotoshogiku vs. Kaisei bout
14:06 Nishikigi vs. Ichinojo bout
15:38 Takakeisho vs. Onosho bout
17:11 Takayasu vs. Shohozan bout
19:10 Aoiyama vs. Hakuho bout
21:16 Japanese Emperor and Empress greet crowd
22:24 Sumo hall fans give rousing applause to Emperor and Empress




Jan. 7, 2019 - "GW’s 7 Magical Days in Pattaya, Thailand" (my new eBook)

GW's 7 Magical Days in Pattaya cover image
Hot off the press! The eBook project I started on Dec. 31st to document my amazing February 2018 Pattaya, Thailand adventure... over 4600 words (*), 30 pics, and links to 27 video clips in my Pattaya YouTube video... is now complete. YAY!

Pattaya is a coastal resort city about 100 km (62 miles) southeast of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand, is one of Asia's largest beach resorts, and is the 2nd most visited city in Thailand, after Bangkok.

Highlights of the adventure include the breathtaking aerial view of Mt. Fuji, the Sanctuary of Truth, the Art in Paradise 3D optical illusion museum, the Pattaya Floating Market, Underwater World Pattaya, the motorcycle-driven mobile women's bra, shoe, and dress shops, and of course, all the stunning sunsets I saw between Feb. 7-14, 2018. 

My latest eBook is now available for only $1.99 in the US Kindle store, or ¥214 in the Amazon Japan store (アマゾン日本). If you don't have a Kindle (neither do I), you can download the free Kindle app (Kindle無料アプリ) and read my eBook on your PC or mobile device by clicking on the "Read on any Device" image in the right column on the pages linked above.

I sincerely hope you will enjoy reading this documentation of my February 2018 Pattaya adventure, and that you will find at least part of it informative or interesting, just as if you were taking the trip with me! smiley

(*) an estimated 58 pages if it were a physical book




Jan. 2, 2019 - Hatsuhinode (初日の出) 2019, First Sunrise of the New Year

I'm sure most folks will think this is about as exciting as watching paint dry, smiley but after all these years of living in Japan, I still think it's really cool how many Japanese like to kick off the New Year by viewing the first sunrise. Before sunrise on January 1, many people will drive to the coast, climb a mountain, or go to the top of a tall building or structure like the Tokyo Sky Tree or Tokyo Tower to view it. Because it was cloudy on Jan. 1, MY 1st sunrise of 2019 occurred on Jan. 2 at 6:50 a.m. laughing icon

The background music I chose is one of my favorite songs, Yanni's "In the Mirror."

Best wishes for a wonderful 2019!



Hatsuhinode (初日の出) 2019, First Sunrise of the New Year
(If player above is not visible, you can view video at YouTube here.)







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Website Updates

Jun 23, 2019

Useful iPad Tools for the EFL Teacher

This article identifies a few of the most useful iPad tools for EFL teachers and describes how they are actually being used in and out of the classroom.

Continue reading "Useful iPad Tools for the EFL Teacher"

Jun 23, 2019

Mt. Notori-dake (農鳥岳) and the Shiranesanzan (白根三山)

Pics, maps, and trail description of my Aug. 2011 climb of Mt. Notori-dake and the Shiranesanzan in the Southern Japan Alps.

Continue reading "Mt. Notori-dake (農鳥岳) and the Shiranesanzan (白根三山)"

Jun 23, 2019

How do we book the Notori-goya mountain hut?

Hi Gary, It is nice to read your writing about Mount Notori. I am planning to climb Mount Kita-Aino-Notori next month. Do you know how we can book the

Continue reading "How do we book the Notori-goya mountain hut?"

Jun 22, 2019

Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The most frequently asked questions about climbing Mt. Fuji, including info on routes, maps, videos, transport access, traffic stats, weather, and climber stories.

Continue reading "Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)"

Jun 22, 2019

Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Page 2

Page 2 of the most frequently asked questions about climbing Mt. Fuji, including info on routes, maps, videos, transport access, weather, and climber stories.

Continue reading "Climbing Mt. Fuji - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), Page 2"

Jun 18, 2019

Where to start the Mt. Kita-dake hike?

Hi there, in regards to starting the Mt. Kita-dake hike say around 10:00 hrs, would it be best to start where you finished and walk up towards the hut

Continue reading "Where to start the Mt. Kita-dake hike?"

Jun 18, 2019

Mt. Kita-dake (北岳), elev. 3193m, Japan's 2nd Highest Mountain

Pics, maps, and trail description of my Oct. 1993 hike to the top of the easily accessible Mt. Kita-dake, elev. 3193m, Japan's 2nd highest mountain.

Continue reading "Mt. Kita-dake (北岳), elev. 3193m, Japan's 2nd Highest Mountain"

Jun 18, 2019

How to get my Mount Fuji walking stick stamped a few days before opening season?

Planning to climb Mount Fuji (weather permitting) during the 1st week of July, just a few days before the opening season, as I will be leaving Japan on

Continue reading "How to get my Mount Fuji walking stick stamped a few days before opening season?"

Jun 14, 2019

Mt. Fuji Mountain Huts (富士山の山小屋)

Listing of Mt. Fuji mountain huts for the main Yoshida trail, along with website addresses, phone numbers, elevations, and sleeping capacities.

Continue reading "Mt. Fuji Mountain Huts (富士山の山小屋)"

Jun 08, 2019

Gary J. Wolff's Blog

Gary J. Wolff's blog keeps you up-to-date with my everyday life in Japan, as well as recent additions/changes to the GaryJWolff.com website.

Continue reading "Gary J. Wolff's Blog"

Jun 08, 2019

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, October-December, 2014

Posts include Diamond Fuji viewing spots & dates, NORAD Tracks Santa, Midtown 2014 Xmas Illumination, fall colors in Nishizawa Valley, and a total lunar eclipse.

Continue reading "Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, October-December, 2014"

Jun 06, 2019

About Me (How I ended up in Japan...)

How I ended up in Japan and a short discussion of my background, interests, hometown, and life in Japan. I hope you’ll have time to read my story!

Continue reading "About Me (How I ended up in Japan...)"

Jun 05, 2019

Mt. Kasagatake (笠ヶ岳), elev. 2898m, Japan's 34th Highest Mountain

While this mountain was basically all an uphill climb, the 1800-meter elevation gain to reach the summit of Mt. Kasagatake was more of a workout than I'd bargained for.

Continue reading "Mt. Kasagatake (笠ヶ岳), elev. 2898m, Japan's 34th Highest Mountain"

Jun 05, 2019

Mt. Kashimayari-ga-dake (鹿島槍ヶ岳), elev. 2889m, Japan's 36th Highest Mountain

When my climbing buddy and I scaled Mt. Kashimayari-ga-dake (鹿島槍ヶ岳) in Aug. 2007, it was our 2nd attempt, having failed 2 years prior.

Continue reading "Mt. Kashimayari-ga-dake (鹿島槍ヶ岳), elev. 2889m, Japan's 36th Highest Mountain"

Jun 05, 2019

Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳), elev. 2932m, Japan's 26th Highest Mountain

Despite being a relatively easy climb, Mt. Shirouma-dake is without question one of Japan's most dangerous peaks, claiming lives just about every year.

Continue reading "Mt. Shirouma-dake (白馬岳), elev. 2932m, Japan's 26th Highest Mountain"





Pattaya ebook cover
Just released!
Only $1.99 at Amazon
(¥214 at アマゾン日本)




Alaska ebook cover
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥340 at アマゾン日本)




Summer 1974 hitchhiking trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ at Amazon (¥105 at アマゾン日本)

What's New?

  1. Useful iPad Tools for the EFL Teacher

    Jun 23, 19 01:17 AM

    This article identifies a few of the most useful iPad tools for EFL teachers and describes how they are actually being used in and out of the classroom.

    Read more

  2. Mt. Notori-dake (農鳥岳) and the Shiranesanzan (白根三山)

    Jun 23, 19 12:26 AM

    Pics, maps, and trail description of my Aug. 2011 climb of Mt. Notori-dake and the Shiranesanzan in the Southern Japan Alps.

    Read more

  3. How do we book the Notori-goya mountain hut?

    Jun 23, 19 12:21 AM

    Hi Gary, It is nice to read your writing about Mount Notori. I am planning to climb Mount Kita-Aino-Notori next month. Do you know how we can book the

    Read more









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Gary J. Wolff
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GW's road trip ebook cover
Only 99¢ at Amazon
(¥114 at アマゾン日本)




new Climbing Mt. Fuji book
Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)




Only $2.99 at Amazon
(¥343 at アマゾン日本)