1995: My First Web Page

I have been searching through my archives for the first web pages I ever wrote. Unfortunately, I did not make any personal backups. I guess I thought the web pages were going to last forever. Maybe I didn’t think it was valuable and worth archiving, it was only a few pages of text anyway.

Much to my surprise, I found some of my earliest work on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It appears my first local ISP kept my old page online until 2008, even though I switched to a different ISP in 1999.

This is actually my second web site. My first website was on a shared server at the University of Iowa. I did several Japanese web projects when I was a student, they could have been as early as 1993. But I have not been able to locate any copies of that work or fix a date. The Internet Archives has archives dating back only to 1996.

My Links to Japanese Topics site originated on that uiowa.edu server, I moved them to this commercial server when I graduated. In those early web days, there was no such thing as a search engine. People made lists of links and traded them on the web. Around 1995, primitive search engines like AltaVista appeared. Locating and cataloguing useful links was still terribly time consuming, web searches were not very useful.

I started cataloguing Japanese Newspaper Web Links as soon as they appeared on the internet. This was my first website, sometime around the release of the Mosaic Browser’s support for Japanese language web pages, circa 1993. I am certain it was written before 1995, so I’ll just date it to ’95. If you want to see the page as it was originally displayed, you will have to manually change the text encoding to ISO 2022-JP. Most people don’t even know this browser option exists, modern software recognizes Japanese encoding automatically. But way back in the day, you had to switch encoding manually.

I thought this was the start of a New Golden Age of Japanese language learning. It was expensive and difficult to get native language reading materials. Imported books and magazines usually sold for 250% of their cover price. I spent thousands of dollars on textbooks, dictionaries, and magazines. But now we could get Japanese reading materials for free.

I was particularly proud that I received an email about my newspaper site from Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times. She said it was “invaluable to my work.” I would really like to dig up that email to cite it directly, I’d put that up on my front page as an endorsement. I’m sure I have the email archived somewhere, but for now, it is another antiquity lost to time.

How to Write a Japanese Résumé (履歴書)

About 15 years ago, I published a document about how to write a résumé in Japanese, a 履歴書 (rirekisho). This small 1.7Mb PDF file contains a high resolution scan of blank resume forms, and detailed instructions in both English and Japanese for writing a résumé and a cover letter.

This document will require advanced level Japanese skills, and that is kind of the point. If you really need to write a good rirekisho, you are probably applying for a job that requires a high level of Japanese fluency, including the ability to write standardized business documents and correspondence.

Recently I discovered other websites are publishing this file, even selling it as an ebook. This document is the result of my semester-long project in my 5th-year Japanese language class. It contains short Fair Use excerpts from Japanese textbooks and business publications, so it seems especially unfair for other people to reproduce this work and charge money for it.

So I’m republishing it on my blog for free. Please do not pay money to download this file. You can get it for free right here.

1998: Hot New Products from Japan

Long ago around 1998, I used to publish a website with scans of new or unusual  products that appeared in Japanese magazines. Some of them are now obsolete, some have become commonplace. So I thought it would be worth republishing this little time capsule of 1998, exactly as I published it back then. I have several more of these articles, and I’ll post them all.

New Hi-Tech Japanese products

Here are some new products on display in Japanese magazines


These are the new global satellite phones, and a sattelite text pager. These are made by Kyocera. There is a note describing the cost per minute in Japan and the US. Note that the cost in Japan is $2.61 per minute, compared to $6.54 in the USA (at an exchange rate of 130 Yen per US dollar).


And who could resist a “maneki neko” for their portable phone? It lights up and glows when you talk and transmit!. The maneki neko is a traditional figure, a friendly beckoning cat. I suppose it makes your portable phone a little more “friendly.”

Bodymon: body monitoring devices

Body monitoring toys are a new fad.


This “Slim de Major” is a device about the size of a Tamagotchi, and has a tape measure included. You enter your body measurements, and apparently you also input your exercise activities. It keeps track of this data, and judging from the game icons, it tells you whether you are fat, thin, or have a big butt.


Update: My sister looked at this page. I told her I couldn’t figure out what the top right icon meant. She said it obviously means “Thunder Thighs.”


This device measures blood pressure and heart rates. Its can monitor continuously and issue alarms.


I’m not quite sure what device does. It is called the “Tsubo Curator” and it measures and tracks your “tsubo” (whatever that is). The background has pictures of thumbs with various moods and conditions (stress, irritability) written on them. I assume the device measures the skin on your thumb and assesses your condition.

Update: I located “tsubo” in a Japanese dictionary, and it describes tsubo as a point on the body where you would perform moxibustion. These are some type of “energy points” on the body, like acupuncture points. The theory is that your body’s energy flows through these points, and this device must measure it somehow. I’m not too sure how it would do this, maybe galvanic skin response or something simple (it’s a simple little device).



Sony’s Pocketstation is a tamagotchi-sized accessory for your Playstation. You can carry it around and play the game on the little screen, or use it with your Playstation. Can I bring my Crash Bandicoot over to your Playstation for a visit?


Electric scooters. Not exactly high-tech, but it looks like a lot of fun. For Japanese speakers: note use of the popular catchphrase, “dacchuu no” (don’t you know?)


On the left, a silly toy called “Digi-Ken.” It appears to be an old traditional kids toy, there’s a large sphere with a hole, its suspended on a string, and you have to swing the sphere and try to spear it. Except this one is digital. I guess it plays music and lights up if you succeed. I hope it is more interesting to play with than a Yo-Yo.

On the right is the Polaroid Xiao camera, it takes small instant pictures, about the size of those print-club stickers you see everywhere. A nice idea, to make a tiny camera that can make instant prints in this format.

Fancy Wristwatches


The Seiko wristwatch on the left stores about 25 phone numbers or website addresses. I don’t see the point of pushing a bunch of buttons to input a complex URL into my wristwatch, when I could just write it down on a piece of paper. Note that the watch is displaying the URL for Seiko, which is.. www.seiko.co.jp. I never would have guessed, since the display ran out of room after only “http://www.s”

The watch on the right has a special sensor (the grey patch on the front). It can measure sound waves in the air and determine the beats per minute of the song you are hearing. Apparently, this BPM data is vital for people who go to dance clubs.


The “Ruputer” (wrist computer) is a full PDA that interfaces with your desktop computer. You can not input data directly, but you can use it to download data from your desktop PC’s scheduler and address book. The Ruputer will retrieve and display it.

The Red and The White


Every year, I try to watch the NHK Kouhaku, the big New Year’s Eve music show. It’s a tradition in Japan, this is the 65th show so it is officially labeled 第65回NHK紅白歌合戦, literally it means “the 65th Annual NHK Red vs. White Music Battle.”

It’s hard to locate the Kouhaku on the internet, and it can take days before it even appears. I am just watching it now, long after the holidays. Most of the show is J-Pop, but I skip that and go straight to the old timey Enka singers, that’s always a huge spectacle. Where else on the internet can I see a guy in a squid costume, leading a line of men doing the “ika odori,” the squid dance? Yes, this is actually a thing. Enka music makes a lot of nostalgic references to remote village traditions, like the Hakodate Squid Festival. They have a parade and everyone does the ika odori. Even I did the ika odori.

Peter Payne, Pornographer

I’ve been censored again, ironically, by a pornographer. He has censored me before, so this time I saved my remarks, and I’ll post them here for your evaluation. But first let’s examine the censor.

Peter Payne first came to my attention in the early 1990s. Payne moved to Japan and started an online business exporting Japanese pornography. He sent pornographic spam hawking his wares to email addresses (such as mine) he harvested from Japanese-related Usenet newsgroups. I immediately complained to his ISP that I had no interest in receiving his pornographic spam. Payne responded by claiming I had signed up to receive the spam, when I would never do any such thing. But that was back in the days when spam was taken seriously by ISPs, so the spam stopped, despite Payne’s protestations of innocence. I would have been glad to never hear of him again.

But since his early days as a porn peddler, he branched out into selling anime and manga, becoming quite a self-declared authority on the subject. Payne now drones on about anime subjects on the Japundit blog. And here is where we tangled again.

Peter Payne wrote an absolutely absurd article about how Japanese people can’t deal with their memories from World War II except through the metaphor of anime and manga. When I paraphrase his argument this way, I convey it far more clearly and concisely than he did in the original article. Let me quote the paragraph that set me off:

If you asked Japanese who they considered the most respected “military heroes” of the country were, you might find some who would answer Amuro Rei or Bright Noah or Captain Okita/Captain Avatar, the legendary characters from these war-oriented anime series.

I responded:

When I ask my Japanese friends who are the greatest Japanese war heroes, they tell me stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyoyomi Hideyoshi, Takeda Shingen etc. Not a single one of them has ever cited imaginary warriors from anime.

I suppose it depends on who you hang out with. I suppose it’s only natural that if you peddle porn and manga, you have lowbrow friends. But don’t let that warp your perceptions of Japanese society as a whole.

This is my problem with anime otaku. They spend so much time watching and discussing absolutely mind-rotting drivel, attempting to make it into something far beyond what it is: lowbrow entertainment. And then they make sweeping generalizations about Japanese society based on their “insight” into the culture, as they gleaned it from cartoons. I think this is terribly offensive, I argue that it is a thinly disguised form of racism. They are stereotyping a whole culture, based on ridiculous ideas they learned from comics or other comics fans.

So it is at times like this I enjoy pointing out that Peter Payne is a pornographer. A person who knows all the latest Japanese porn actresses but knows nothing about legendary samurai warriors (known by every Japanese schoolchild) could not help but form a warped opinion of Japanese culture. And of course he is particularly touchy about his profession, censoring any reference to it on the blog where he tries to “redeem” himself by pretending to be an astute cultural commentator.

Others agreed with my remarks, now the first comment in the censored thread starts, “I agree,” but she is agreeing with ME and not Peter Payne. This is not obvious since Payne deleted my remark. This is a devious way to manipulate your blog’s commenters, to make it look like they agree with the article, rather than agreeing with my dissent. This is shameful. But Peter Payne has no shame. That’s why he has a nickname: Peter Porn.

Sony Style 1996

I bought some Sony gear in 1996 when I was in Tokyo. In some ways, this gear represents Sony at its peak, these designs have never been surpassed. And in other ways, it is all totally obsolete. But it continues to serve me well, so I thought it deserved a little homage.

I was shopping in the consumer electronics stalls in Akihabara when this Sony SRS-T10 portable speaker caught my eye. The design was so compelling, it was a little round oval like a clam shell. It’s a limited edition that was never sold outside Japan.

I asked if I could see it, the speaker opened up like a flower, I said it was beautiful. But the vendor said, “You don’t want to buy this, it sounds like crap!” I figured it was about as low-fidelity as I could tolerate, but at least as good as the speakers in a laptop. He insisted I hear it before he would sell it to me. The vendor loaded it with batteries and plugged it into a little CD player, I thought it sounded fine, considering how cheap it was, under $20. So I bought one, much to the exasperation of the vendor, he thought I was crazy to like such a piece of crap.

I asked the vendor if he had anything that sounded better. He showed me a slightly bigger model, the SRS-T50. This model had more batteries and can pump out a lot more volume. It uses the same basic design with little wings that fold out to reflect the stereo sound. But the vendor objected again, he said this speaker sounds like crap too. So once again, I had to hear it before I could buy it. I thought this model sounded pretty darn good, so I said I would take two of them, and again, the vendor growled with exasperation, I had to laugh. I gave one of these speakers as a gift to my brother, he said everyone asks where he got it, and comments on how good it sounds.

It’s a shame Sony never sold this particular unit in the US, they sold the same speaker in a garish yellow and grey “Sports” design that was a huge flop, I think it would have done better in the stylish Tokyo black and grey. My only problem with the design of the SRS-T50 is the placement of the power switch on the top. I throw this speaker in a bag or suitcase, the switch gets bumped and it powers on, wasting the batteries. So I usually just put a piece of tape over the switch before I carry it.

That’s my pet peeve, I used to carry my CD player in my briefcase, the switches would activate, and by the time I discovered it, the batteries were exhausted. I looked around a long time for a CD player with no protruding switches, I was determined to find the ultimate design, it took a few weeks of research, but I finally found the Sony DiscMan ESP D-777.

This was really what I’d gone into this store to buy, this premium CD player was hard to find and I’d spent weeks hunting for it. Now the vendor was quite pleased, he said, “oh yes, this really is excellent equipment, Sony’s best. But it’s quite expensive.” And indeed it was, for it had Sony’s latest design. This was the thinnest CD player ever made, the smallest, most minimal mechanism that could play a CD, thanks to the new NI-MH battery design. Previously the thinnest CD player had to be thicker than its AA batteries. Now it only had to be thick enough for the rechargeable NI-MH flat packs, about 2/3 less space.

What really sold me was the remote. All the new music devices in Japan used little remote controller badges, you’d clip it on your lapel and plug your headphones into it. Then you could remotely control your CD player, skip tracks, adjust the volume, etc. without ever having to touch the player. You can see my remote buttons are worn down from constant use, but the player is in pristine condition. I used to keep the player in its case in my jacket pocket, with the badge clipped to my lapel. Everyone in the US asked what it was, there were no remotes like that available in the US yet.

I remember paying about $200 for the D-777, which was a lot of money even back then, most portable CD players were between $50 and $100. About 9 months later, I saw the newly imported D-777 for sale in Best Buy for $395. What a deal. But there still hasn’t been a CD player made that’s better than this unit.

And that’s the problem with the D-777, it was a huge design accomplishment, Sony still lists it on their history website as one of their greatest products ever. But today you can get a better music experience in an iPod Shuffle that’s smaller than the Sony remote controller. The D-777 was the last, best CD player ever, I used to mix and burn my own CDs and I carried it constantly, it was so light and easy to carry. But mp3 players made it totally obsolete. Still, Sony’s design innovations like the remote controller were very influential in the design of the next generation of mp3 players.

I haven’t used my CD player in years, not since I bought my first iPod. But the speakers still work great, and I plug them into my iPod and iPhone all the time. The speaker technology is outdated, but I’ll keep using them until I find something that sounds better, and looks better.

Cheat Sheet

A long time ago, I was walking down the street in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, and I came across a strange thing lying in the street. I found a pen with a label stuck on the side, bearing cryptic Asian writing. I had no idea what it was since I had not yet started studying Japanese at that time. I saved the pen, it’s been quite a few years since I have seen it, but I just ran across it today so I thought I’d scan it in and preserve an image of it.

Here’s a closer look at some of the writing on the pen. The text says “shinbun” (newspaper) in both kanji and hiragana.

It was many years later, after years of study of Japanese that I finally figured out what the pen was for. It’s a cheat sheet for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, which is given annually in the location where I found the pen. But words like “shinbun” are very simple, even a beginner would know them, so this would be a cheat for the lowest level test. If you need to cheat on L4 on the JLPT, you might as well not even take the test. The funny thing about this pen is that both the kanji in ‘shinbun” are wrong. But there’s one more odd thing about this pen. You have to fill out the JLPT test with a number 2 pencil, so this cheat pen would have stuck out like a sore thumb.


On a fine spring day in late April, I visited Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. This temple was constructed in 645 AD and is Tokyo’s oldest temple. Sensoji is dedicated to Kannon, the Goddess of Mercy. There is a legend that two fishermen pulled up a statue of Kannon in their nets while working in the nearby Sumida River, so this temple was erected on the site next to the river where the statue was found.

Each year on the third sunday in May, the Sanja Matsuri is held, a festival celebrating Kannon and Sensoji Temple. The matsuri was just over yesterday, I wish I could have been there. So I’ll just put up a slide show with my best pictures for everyone to enjoy. Click on the photo to see the slide show.

The Smokatorium

Japanese attitudes towards smoking are a bit different than here in America. I was taught that it is considered rude to smoke out in public in Japan, since you are polluting other peoples’ space, but it is polite to smoke indoors, even if there are non-smokers present, as long as it is in an enclosed area where the smoke can’t escape out into the public. Even after living in Japan for a while, I still wonder if my Japanese teachers (who were nonsmokers) were just making this up, or whether such attitudes really exist, I still can’t tell.

I remember a funny story from a few years ago, the
Prime Minister (Nakasone, I think) was a chain smoker, one of his idiosyncracies was the elaborate antique lacquerware smoking set he kept on his desk. An anti-smoking group accused the Prime Minister of setting a bad example for children, he responded that he would henceforth set an example by smoking as much possible.

People in Japan feel free to smoke anywhere at all, and non-smoking zones are pretty rare. There has been considerable government resistance to establishing any sort of anti-smoking rules or anti-smoking publicity. This is largely because the Japanese Government owns 65% of Japan Tobacco and part of every tobacco purchase goes directly into the Japanese Treasury. Some people
even speculate that the Government encourages smoking because it reduces the average lifespan, killing off elderly people who would otherwise be drawing a pension, saving the taxpayers a fortune.

But those attitudes are changing. Before I left on my trip to Japan, I heard that Chiyoda-ku passed a law completely prohibiting smoking in public, and on the public sidewalks in particular. The rationale was that Chiyoda-ku has extremely crowded sidewalks in areas like Akihabara, and smoking caused a danger to others,
lit cigarettes could injure people or burn holes in their clothing. Of course that’s merely a propaganda point to give everyone a good reason to cooperate. I was skeptical that such an anti-smoking campaign could be successful.

But one day I got off the train in Akihabara, I was just about to light up, and then I noticed signs painted on the ground at every street corner, declaring that a No Smoking order was in effect everywhere in Chiyoda-ku. Nobody was smoking outside the train station, which is a pretty unusual thing. I stopped at a Police koban and asked if it was true, that smoking was completely prohibited everywhere in Chiyoda-ku. The policeman said you can not smoke on the street, but there are a couple of places where smoking was still allowed indoors. And he directed me to a place where smoking was permitted, I call it "the Smokatorium."

After you walk through the double-door airlock entrance, the first thing you notice about the Smokatorium is the overpowering density of cigarette smoke, and that every single person is smoking.
Everyone is drinking coffee and smoking, talking on the phone and smoking, reading a book and smoking, but everyone is actively smoking, and they leave immediately when they’ve finished smoking. The premise of the Smokatorium is that it’s a room with vending machines, you’re encouraged to buy a can of soda or coffee to help defray the expense of providing a smoking lounge. The smoke is so intense that you couldn’t possibly stay there longer than it takes to smoke a cigarette, and then you leave. Each table has a huge air vent built into the tabletop, you flick your ashes into the air intake, and it sucks the smoke out of the air too. The air currents are quite strong inside the room, but the wind was full of stale smoke. I thought it would be less smoky to stand close to the air intake, but quite the contrary, all the room’s smoke was rushing right past me into the vent. After smoking a cigarette, staying inside the Smokatorium for just a minute or two, I felt quite ill like I’d been suffocating for lack of oxygen, my clothes reeked of smoke, I wanted to take a bath and change my clothes. Perhaps this was the whole point of the Smokatorium, negative reinforcement.

And the negative reinforcement is right up in your face. Covering the walls of the Smokatorium are anti-smoking posters, I saw one and immediately burst into laughter at the silly infographic-style images. I’ve posted a couple of those graphics in this story, and you can inspect the entire poster by clicking on the image below.

The reason I call this place the Smokatorium is because it reminds me of the old Judge Dredd comic strip. In the future world of MegaCity, tobacco possession is totally illegal outside the Smokatorium. If you want to smoke, you must go to the Smokatorium, where you are issued a bubble helmet, it’s like a space suit helmet but it has a little hole in the faceplate where you can insert a cigarette. You exhale into the interior of the helmet and the smoke is blown out a vent into the room. The room is so thick with smoke that you can barely see, so everyone gets fresh air from their helmet’s oxygen tank, and nobody has to breathe secondhand smoke. In a comic strip I remember, someone is arrested and charged with possession of tobacco outside the Smokatorium, so Judge Dredd sentences him to an extremely stiff penalty, one minute inside the Smokatorium without a helmet.

Ever since I smoked a cigarette at the Akihabara Smokatorium, every time I smoke, I have the sensation that my nostrils and lungs are burning. So I decided to quit smoking completely. I’m wearing a nicotine patch right now, this is my 3rd day of no smoking. If I ever feel like I want a smoke, and I need to motivate myself to stay clean, I’ll just think about the couple of minutes I spent inside the Smokatorium without a helmet.


One of the first words I learned when I started studying Japanese was “jisaboke.” Literally “jisa” means “time difference” and “boke” means “stupidity” so combined it means “time difference stupidity.” But jisaboke really means “jet lag.”

I’ve never had such a bad time with jet lag before. I’m usually a night owl, staying up until 3AM, but since I got back from Japan, I’ve been staying up until 6AM or more, and sleeping all day. My schedule is completely backwards. But I am finally recovering a normal schedue, today I managed to get up at 9AM after getting to sleep at 1AM.

I was worried I’d have terrible jet lag problems when I got to Japan, you really have to live on a daytime schedule because the trains stop running at midnight and you have to go home or else you’re stuck wherever you are until 5AM when the trains start again. I even got a prescription for sleeping pills in case I had trouble getting to sleep. But I never needed them at all. The moment I got to Japan, I got up with the sunrise (which was about 4AM since they don’t have Daylight Savings Time) and I fell dead asleep about 9PM.

But now that I’m back, my schedule is in shambles again. I feel lethargic all day, and some days I sleep 4 hours out of every 8, it’s like my day is 12 hours long. I can’t keep my mind on my work, I feel like the past week has been a total loss.

I used to joke that I lived on Tokyo time even in the US, waking up and going to sleep at roughly the same times as people do in Japan. But I wasn’t really that close. Now I know what it’s really like to be that far off the local time zone, and it’s wearing me out.

Anyway, this is a sort of apology for not having blogged much since I got back from my trip. I’ll get my life back in order shortly. I mean, really REALLY get my life in order, I decided to quit smoking and I start on the nicotine patch tomorrow morning. I have a feeling I’ll have a lot of nervous energy I’ll need to channel into something.

© Copyright 2016 Charles Eicher