Saturday, April 29, 2006

Random thoughts about things that drive me nuts or make me mad and sad.

Woke up this morning to a cloudy overcast looking seriously like rain. Accordingly, my golf plans were aborted. So I enjoyed the peace and quiet until the S.O. woke up. With my upcoming move, she is going to be a unique problem...she'll be going with me, mostly because I'm too much of a wimp to send her packing, but she can drive me you will see in a bit.

Read e-mail, drank coffee, looked at porn blogs. After breakfast, she asked me if I want to take her to a recycled furniture shop in Machida.

"No, I really don't. However if you want to go I'll take you."

She wants to go. So then I ask the next question that needed answering:

"Do you know where it is and if its open today? It is Midori no Hi you know, and the first day of Golden Week".

She assured me her friend had told her it would be and she showed me the directions her friend had written down. She even brought out her road atlas. It did not seem too hard, although there was no quick way to get there and it was going to take some solid navigating on my part. The task would be made doubly difficult because the S.O. has absolutely ZERO sense of direction. As for reading a map and matching it to landmarks, forget it.

Japanese maps are a unique problem for me. I have no English ones, all the ones we have are from the S.O. and are in Japanese. Since I can only read about 1000 Kanji this means I have a 1 in 2 chance of not knowing the correct reading of the character(s) I am looking at. Then not only do I have to interpolate the meaning, but I also have to look for the road number which is always written in the smallest type possible. However, undaunted, off we set.

Initially there were no problems. However what her friend had failed to mention was that the shop is actually in a suburb of Machida to the north, which meant I had to navigate several cross routes and also find a train station I'd never heard of before. All while driving in traffic made doubly crowded because today was the first day of Golden Week..............

However, we got to the right road and it turns out it adjoins a pretty park. The rain is just starting to come down steady. I ask her the name of the shop.

"I don't know......"

Great. "Is it on the left or right and do think it will have a chukyou sign (中古 used) ?". Same response. It just gets better every minute.

Finally there appears a rather large, warehouse looking place on the left. I tell her I'm pulling into the parking lot. Sure seems empty for a Saturday. There is of course a reason:

本日は休み!(We are off today!)

My fingers tighten around the steering wheel. I breathe as deeply as I can and it is taking every thing in my power to restrain the urge to push her out of the car and let her walk home. However I know better than that so I keep silence, all the while squeezing the remaining leather off the steering wheel. Pain really begins when I hear her next statement:

"Well, at least we know where it is now. You can bring me back again sometime".

Squeeze the steering wheel, breath deep, count to 10--repeat as required. They hang people for murder over here.

"So we came all this way for nothing long as we are out, want me to take you to lunch?. I saw a good Japanese restaurant a ways back"

"No thanks, I'll just wait till we get home........."

Remind me again why I stay in this relationship, the luster seems to have left. However, I 've learned a thing or two from my younger years and just quietly ask her to help me remember the turn back home. It will be a left turn at 52. She misses the sign looking at a store on the wrong side of the road. I miss it too, but thanks to my keen sense of direction (NAVY TRAINING SIR!), I navigate us home OK. I even took a look at the map again and figured out a short cut to save time on the next trip. Damn I'm good! Thank goodness Puffy and Yumi are on the radio. Gives me something to think about, besides exporting the S.O. to North Korea.............


Speaking of North Korea , the President of the United States met with the mother of abductee Megumi Yokota today. This is HUGE news here in Japan and actually surprised me a great deal considering that in the US there is not so much knowledge of the whole issue. For those who missed out here is a review:

Megumi Yokota was last seen pausing at a traffic light by her home in Niigata, a badminton racquet stuffed in a white bag and a black schoolbag clutched in her hand. Then she vanished without a trace. That was 25 years ago. Her mother Sakie thought she would never know where her 13-year-old daughter had gone, until she read a series of articles in a newspaper three years later suggesting that North Korean agents were snatching Japanese citizens off the streets and whisking them to their motherland. Sakie's suspicion turned into conviction when a North Korean defector to South Korea told officials he had seen Megumi in Pyongyang on five occasions.

Tales like Megumi Yokota's have long aggravated the historically rancorous relations between North Korea and Japan. North Korea's Stalinist regime had consistently denied that it had anything to do with a series of disappearances in Japan two decades ago. No longer. In a stunning about-face, North Korean President Kim Jong Il confessed at a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last week in Pyongyang that his country's spies had indeed abducted 13 Japanese citizens from 1977 to 1983. He blamed the kidnappings on special-forces agents "carried away by a reckless quest for glory," apologized for their actions and assured Koizumi that they had been punished. (Kim, according to most analysts, led the special forces for a stretch during that period.) Having got that off his chest, Kim promised a moratorium on his country's provocative missile tests and agreed to let international inspectors visit its nuclear facilities. These moves could help bring North Korea, which the Bush Administration counts as one of the "axis of evil" states, out of its long political isolation. Time Asia-2002.

Why did they do this? Because rather than simply hire some Chinese citizens who spoke Japanese of which there are plenty in China's northern provinces, North Korea decided it would be easier just to steal some Japanese instructors. Stealing a 13 year old seemed a good way to develop "seed corn" for the future. Read the rest of the story here, it's indeed sad. They did a movie about it in 2005 called the "Abduction of Megumi Yokota". North Korea claims she committed suicide, the family and the Japanese government are not buying it:

North Korea admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese citizens, and let five victims return to Japan, saying the other eight -- including Yokota -- were dead.Tokyo, however, says the North has never provided conclusive proof of her death, and many in Japan suspect that she could still be alive in the reclusive country. Japanese officials also met with a North Korean man who Pyongyang said was Yokota's husband in 2004.North Korea provided what they said were Yokota's remains to Japanese officials that year, but Tokyo says tests showed the ashes belonged to other people.
Song denied in the interview with Kyodo that Yokota was still alive. "Megumi's death is clear," he was quoted as saying. "The more we explain about the abduction issue, the more questions come up and I think it's impossible to find the way to a solution."
Japan's top government spokesman said Wednesday Tokyo wants to step up cooperation with Seoul on the abduction issue. The families of Japanese kidnapping victims have also called for closer ties. Kyodo, citing unidentified police officials, said Japan had asked South Korea if it could interrogate a man held by Seoul on suspicion of being involved in Kim Young-nam's abduction. Japan on Wednesday said it provided South Korea with blood samples from Hae Kyong, now 18, so it can conduct its own DNA analysis. The samples were handed over to the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday evening. South Korea estimates 542 soldiers from the 1950-53 Korean War are still alive in the communist state, and that the North is also holding 486 South Korean civilians, including Kim. Most others are fishermen whose boats were seized since the war's end.North Korea denies holding any war prisoners and says the civilians defected voluntarily. South Korea has raised the issue of abductees and prisoners of war in Red Cross talks with North Korea, but failed to make any headway. (AP) April 13,2006.

As much as I like to bash Bush, I think this is a great gesture on his part, but I am not sure what else will come from it besides a greater awareness of what a bastard Kim Jong Il is. Fundamentally, the chess board between Japan, China, North Korea and the US remains the same. China could probably do the most to influence this situation, but their record on human rights is not exactly stellar either and they still refuse to cut Kim Jong Il loose. I'm glad Bush agreed to do this though, good for him.

For Japan, this was a great day to see one of its own feted by the President of the United States, in the Oval office no less. Ought to be interesting to watch the news over the next few days.


And finally came across this little tidbit on the news today. Watched an interview with the founders of the "Sweet Jesus, I hate Bill Oreilly" web site. I especially enjoyed this vision of Bill working for Pravda (also known as Fox Faux News.......):

Don't laugh if the money was right, he'd do it!


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