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Home: Gary J. Wolff's Blog: Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives, April-June, 2014

Gary J. Wolff's Blog Archives
April-June, 2014

This page shows archived posts for Gary J. Wolff's blog from April-June, 2014.



June 26, 2014 -  Climbing Season Sale on my new "Climbing Mt. Fuji" eBook!

The View from the Top of Japan

(Buy for yourself or give as a present to that someone special by clicking on "Give as a gift." Either way, just enter coupon code VQ82V @ checkout to get the discounted price.)

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.

This eBook will make a GRRRRRREAT travel companion on your mobile device as you make your way up Fuji-san's slopes....besides, it even costs less than a cup of coffee @ Starbucks! smiley  

June 24, 2014 - 10-cm hailstorm strikes western Tokyo

Due to seriously unstable atmospheric conditions today that created 10-kilometer high cumulonimbus clouds, parts of western Tokyo including Mitaka & Chofu were blanketed with accumulations of up to 10 centimeters of hailstones, some up to 3-cm in diameter. Uh, it's LATE JUNE, folks!!

I was totally shocked watching the TV evening news, seeing bulldozers & backhoes having to remove so much hail that it resembled snow drifts in winter. The images truly blew me away. I have 2 words for all of this...GLOBAL WARMING! smiley

News source:

Tokyo hailstorm, June 24, 2014
Tokyo hailstorm, June 24, 2014
(Photo credit: Rocket News 24, Tokyo)

June 19, 2014 - University of Texas @ Austin Commencement fireworks show

By all means, don't you dare miss the amazing fireworks along with the famous "The Eyes of Texas" song at the University of Texas Tower as the UT Class of 2014 celebrates their commencement on Saturday, May 17 in Austin, Texas. WOW! smiley

University of Texas @ Austin Commencement fireworks show, Sat. May 17, 2014
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

June 8, 2014 - Texas Longhorns baseball team reaches the College World Series!!

For the first time in 3 years, my alma mater's baseball team has reached the U.S. College World Series! Starting from a field of 64 teams, the Texas Longhorns first won their 1st round regional tournament in Houston on June 2 and then won the 2nd round super regional tournament in Austin on June 7. This year Texas Tech & TCU are also among the best 8 baseball teams in America, so 3 of the 8 teams in the CWS are from the Lone Star State. Yee hah!!  smiley

The Horns have been national baseball champions in 1949, 1950, 1975, 1983, 2002, and 2005. You can view the CWS tournament bracket here by clicking open the little CWS box in the center of the page. The Horns will first square against UC Irvine on June 14. Go Horns!!

2014 Longhorns baseball team
2014 Longhorns baseball team
(Photo credit:

May 31, 2014 - Japanese university ESS (English Speaking Society) speech contest

For the 5th consecutive year, on Sunday, May 18, 2014 I had the pleasure of helping judge a university student English speech contest sponsored by the university's ESS (English Speaking Society). These students were truly amazing, giving up a whole Sunday to give a 7-min. speech which they composed themselves. As one who has taught English in Japan for over 23 years now, it always warms my heart to see such conscientious efforts to learn English!

meiji speech contest
meiji speech contest

May 19, 2014 - Garrett D'Aigle Ukulele Concert in Balboa Park: Part 1

I was SO delighted to see my dear buddy playing his ukulele in the beautiful rose garden in Balboa Park in San Diego, California, as part of the LaVon Wageman Show. I've known Garrett ever since our college days at the University of Texas @ Austin, and that was a very LONG time ago! smiley

Although Garrett took up the ukulele only about a year ago, he has always been an accomplished singer, guitarist, mandolinist, harmonicist, and pianist. In fact, the way we met was he was playing John Lennon's "Imagine" on the piano in the lobby of my campus dormitory one day while I was on my way back to my dorm room.

I've been a BIG fan of his thru the years and have enthusiastically promoted his music every chance I've had in diverse places like Port Aransas, Texas; Glacier National Park, Montana; Nova Scotia, Canada; Phoenix, Arizona; Mazatlan, Mexico; and even Tokyo when he visited me in Year 2000. Here is the flyer for the 2 gigs I booked for him while he was here, one @ Bobby's Bar in Ikebukuro and the other @ The Fiddler in Takadanobaba. 

A big, hearty thanks to LaVon for her great show and the wonderful video below, which even includes numerous beautiful pics of the Balboa Park rose garden embedded in the video. You can view more of the videos from her show here.

The Part 2 video of Garrett's ukulele concert can be viewed here.
(If player above is not visible, you can view the Part 1 video @ YouTube here.)

0:00 "Here Comes the Sun," The Beatles
2:02 "Wonderful World," Sam Cooke
3:45 "My Girl," The Temptations
6:08 "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head," B.J. Thomas

May 10, 2014 - Maria Lourdes & band, live @ Ihawan Philippine nightclub, Tokyo, Japan

Jazz vocalist Maria Lourdes performed tonight @ Ihawan Kabukicho with the Kose Kikuchi jazz quartet, along with guest singer Carru Torreña, who performed 2 songs beginning @ the 10:46 mark.

Maria began singing when she was just 5 years old, and won a television singing contest in her native Philippines at age 8.

She's still passionate about singing and runs Maria's English and Singing (MES) School in Hamamatsu, Japan where she serves as a voice coach and cram school teacher.

Thank you, Maria, Kose, & Carru!!

More info:

Maria Lourdes & band, live @ Ihawan Philippine nightclub
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

May 5, 2014 - Dreams of Space Travel 「夢の宇宙」

Commercial space tourism envisioned by billionaire Sir Richard Branson (リチャード・ブランソン卿) is coming ever closer to reality as his spaceflight company Virgin Galactic (ヴァージン・ギャラクティック社) finalizes the testing of its suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo, making it possible that its first commercial flight may occur as early as sometime later this year.

A ride on SpaceShipTwo will cost $250,000 (2500万円), and 18 of the 650 passengers who have already paid for their tickets are Japanese, including 68-year-old Kozo Hiramatsu (平松庚三), a Tokyo management consultant who signed up 10 years ago.

Sir Richard Branson, an amateur adventurer who is world-famous for his publicity stunts, has been interested in space since at least the Apollo era, and is expected to be aboard the maiden flight along with some members of his family.

SpaceShipTwo will carry 6 passengers at a time and launch from underneath its carrier aircraft called WhiteKnightTwo, separating and rocketing to more than 60 miles (100 kilometers) in altitude where passengers will experience 3.5 times the speed of sound, a few minutes of out-of-seat zero gravity, and be able to view Earth from the blackness of space.

For the return trip, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo is designed so that it can move its rudders back to a configuration that allows for gliding, allowing it to land back on Earth on a normal runway.

Launches and landings will occur at SpacePort America in Upham, New Mexico, a taxpayer-funded $225 million facility offered to Virgin Galactic in December 2005. Spaceport America, the world's first purpose-built commercial spaceport, is located on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range.


Dreams of Space Travel 「夢の宇宙」
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

April 27, 2014 - 10 things Japan gets awesomely right

As a follow-up to their recent article on the 10 things they thought Japan gets terribly wrong, RocketNews24 has gathered the opinions of mostly foreigners on the top 10 things they truly love about living in Japan.

"Although Japan is not without its faults, it is nevertheless an incredibly efficient and easy-to-live-in country, and we’ve discovered that there are numerous things that the Japanese get not just right, but awesomely right."

Here are the top 10 things they love about Japan:

 1. Vending machines
 2. Food
 3. Removing your shoes when going indoors
 4. Taxis
 5. Convenience stores
 6. Recycling and waste management
 7. Punctuality
 8. Customer service
 9. Toilets
10. Drinking pretty much anywhere

Read the full article here:

Japanese food
Food, one of the top 10 things Japanese get awesomely right
(Photo credit: Motuviget)

April 21, 2014 - 15-year-old Minami Katsu (勝みなみ) becomes youngest winner on Japan's women's LPGA tour

Minami Katsu (勝みなみ), a 15-year-old Japanese high schooler, has become the youngest winner in the history of the Japan LPGA tour by shooting a 4-under 68 on Sunday to win the Vantelin Ladies Open at the Kumamoto Airport Country Club.

Minami, an amateur, finished the tourney at 11-under 205, one stroke ahead of South Korean Lee Bo-mee, and just this month became a first-year student at Kagoshima High School on Japan's southern main island of Kyushu.

Source: Associated Press

Minami Katsu
15-year-old Minami Katsu (勝みなみ), youngest ever winner
in the history of the Japan LPGA tour
(Photo credits: (L) - LPGA of Japan; (R) -

April 14, 2014 - 1993 Xmas tape of Tokyo

In Dec. 1993 I bought a used Sony Handycam, my first ever movie camera, and commenced to have a LOT of fun filming scenes from my everyday life in Tokyo, including inside my Japanese apt., the neighborhood shopping street, and even in my construction co. office. I subsequently then made a tape & sent it to family & friends in the states as a Xmas present. Recently I tried digitizing the 2-decade-old VCR tape and have regrettably failed miserably (WAY too blurry), but maybe you can still get a feel for those magic days in Tokyo.  smiley

A couple of interesting observations are the McDonald's breakfast sets as cheap as ¥379 (~$3.45 at the time) and the train/subway staff still collecting tickets prior to the advent of IC card/ticket gate machines. But by far the most exciting part of this 2-hr. video is the 30-min. segment @ the famous Pub Elvis karaoke bar in Takadanobaba. And by all means, don't miss the amazing Aki/Tamura-san show that starts @ the 1:34:06 mark. smiley

1993 Xmas tape of Tokyo
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

     0:00 Window shopping in Shibuya
     2:33 Gotenyama Park House Mansion, Apt. 204
   17:25 Gotenyama Garden & Waterfalls
   20:32 Kita Shinagawa Shopping Street
   45:50 Morning commute to the office
   48:07 Breakfast @ McDonald's
   48:25 Very CROWDED Shinagawa Station & riding on the Yamanote Line (OMG!)
   54:20 JR Shimbashi Station & riding on the Ginza subway line
   56:06 Toranomon Station & Nishimatsu Construction
   58:56 JR Shinjuku Station east exit & Higashi-Shinjuku shopping street
1:05:46 The FAMOUS Pub Elvis karaoke bar in Takadanobaba
1:42:22 Aaron Narakiyo, Elvis Impersonator
1:44:28 Gary's English class for Tokyo Metropolitan Government 23-ward employees

April 10, 2014 - "Sakurafubuki" (桜吹雪, cherry blossom blizzard)

The cherry blossoms normally peak in Tokyo around the beginning of April, when both the school year and business year begin in Japan, and so are symbolic of a fresh start. And from the time the blossoms first open until they start falling off the tree, they rarely last for more than 2 weeks, representing the fragility and shortness of life. Now you see them, now you don't.

And by far one of the most stunning aspects of their demise, is the remarkable way the cherry blossoms fall off the tree and get blown around in the breeze, resembling a snowstorm. So it is no big surprise that the Japanese refer to this phenomenon as "sakurafubuki" (桜吹雪, cherry blossom blizzard).

In the past few days, I was able to catch 2 cherry blossom blizzards on film, one just outside my apartment and another on the university campus where I teach. Enjoy!

"Sakurafubuki" (桜吹雪, cherry blossom blizzard)
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

April 8, 2014 - Billy Bob's Texas' 33-year anniversary

The following was last week's 1-minute radio broadcast entitled "This Week in Texas History," produced by the Save Texas History program of the Texas General Land Office:


(Source: This Week in Texas History, April 2014, Week 1)


When I first heard this story on-air a few days ago, it practically brought tears to my eyes, 'cause I had the pleasure of working in Ft. Worth at the time. Billy Bob's Texas was in fact a favorite happy hour watering hole for my fellow City of Ft. Worth transportation department coworkers. smiley

And in Dec. 2005, while I was briefly back in Ft. Worth as part of a Xmas holiday road trip to visit all of my former Texas abodes, I took the opportunity to swing by Billy Bob's to reminisce and to have my pic made (below) for my 2006 New Year's postcard, referred to in Japanese as a nengajo (年賀状).

Ft. Worth in the early 80s was quite an exciting place to be as it underwent a magical renaissance, including a massive redevelopment of the downtown area. There was a popular bumper sticker at the time that read "Foat Wuth, ah luv yew!" (Ft. Worth, I love you!). That message still touches my heart, 'cause yes, Ft. Worth, I still do!! smiley

Billy Bob's Texas
My 2006 New Year's Japanese postcard (nengajo, 年賀状)
Billy Bob's Texas, the world's largest honky tonk

April 7, 2014 - The stunning Moon/Jupiter April 6 sky show

Last night around 9:30 pm, I caught an amazing sight in the sky. The 6-day-old moon & Jupiter, the brightest and second-brightest objects in the April 2014 evening sky, were VERY close together. Wow.

moon & jupiter matchup
Courtship of Moon & Jupiter, April 6, 2014

Interesting Jupiter facts:
- The largest planet in our solar system
- The 5th planet from the sun
- Located more than 5 times the Earth’s distance from the sun (483,800,000 miles (778,500,000 km))
- Rotates once around its axis in less than 10 hours
- Radius of 43,441 miles (69,911 km), about 11 times that of the Earth

April 5, 2014 -  Disney's World of English videos

Back in the mid-90s, I had the opportunity for 3 years to sing and dance in children's English education stage shows by Disney's World of English. These shows, conducted in public halls throughout Japan, were a true joy. The beauty of this part-time weekend job is that it didn't interfere with my day jobs, and allowed me to see 44 of Japan's 47 prefectures. Without question, it was one of my most glorious experiences in Japan. The job also entailed telephone English speaking and singing lessons one evening a week for young Japanese children, requiring us to learn over 60 Disney songs.

Below are videos of 3 of the shows I had the pleasure of "performing" in. smiley My pics are here: Disney Kids
World Family's Family College Show, Hamamatsu, Japan, July 19, 1997:
I believe a couple of my favorite parts are starting from the 18:20 & 25:05 min. marks.

World Family's Family College Show, Hamamatsu, Japan
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

World Family's Family College Show, Gifu, Japan, June 30, 1996
I believe one of my favorite parts is starting from the 19:45 min. mark.

World Family's Family College Show, Gifu, Japan
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

World Family's Puppet Show, Yamagata, Japan, Sept. 16, 1995
I believe a couple of my favorite parts are starting from the 9:35 & 19:40 min. marks.

World Family's Puppet Show, Yamagata, Japan
(If player above is not visible, you can view video @ YouTube here.)

April 2, 2014 - Brown-eared bulbul (hiyodori, ヒヨドリ) feasts on the fresh cherry blossoms today just outside my apartment veranda

The cheery, cherry blossoms are now in their glorious full bloom in Japan's capital.

brown-eared bulbul
Brown-eared bulbul

April 1, 2014 - Old VCR tapes of Japanese TV acting gigs get digitized... sort of (not all of the decade-old videos converted that well)

[Note: This is NOT an April Fool's joke!] smiley
New Zealand ambassador & other diplomats at an Asian summit lose their cool after falling under the spell of evil space ninjas

Nimpu video screenshot
Nimpu Sentai Harikenja (忍風戦隊ハリケンジャー),
Channel 10, Sun. Mar. 24, 2002, 7:30 am
(Click image above to view video on my Acting and Modeling in Tokyo page)

Miscellaneous Japanese TV acting gigs

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

0:00 Art Nature TV commercial (Don't blink at the very end of this commercial or you'll miss the handsome figure skating judge on the far left!) smiley
0:27 "Brides from Abroad," Sunday Big Special, TV Tokyo, Jan. 13, 2002, 7:00 pm
1:16 Hollywood Documentary, BS-i, Dec. 2, 2001, 9:00 pm
1:50 Sma Station-2, Shingo's Hato Bus Tour w/ Gaijin, Feb. 22, 2003, 11:30 pm

More funny acting/modeling pics & videos can be found on this page: Acting and Modeling in Tokyo

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Gary J. Wolff
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