Monday, November 28, 2005

Prices - Japan versus US

Most Americans (who have not traveled to Japan) believe that Japan is very expensive. I think this comes from the pre-bubble times in Japan (before 1990), when I think prices were very expensive. I remember hearing things like a cup of coffee for US$6.

But prices really aren't all that bad. As a matter of fact, my girlfriend commented that we spend more for meals in the States, even though we were getting better food and service in Japan.

One thing to consider is that in Japan, the listed price at restaurants is inclusive of everything. In America, we add tax (about 8%) and tip (about 15 to 20%). Our most expensive meal in Japan was a Kobe Beef dinner in Kobe. The price was JPY5500 (about US$47) per person. This is equal to paying about JPY4400 (about US$37) in the US (which after you add tax and tip, comes to about JPY5500). A steak dinner in the US with similarly high quality beef would probably cost more than this.

Of course, there are areas that are more expensive. Travel is one example. There are no freeways in Japan - all of the highways/freeways/expressways in Japan are tollways. And they charge by the distance you travel.

Trains are a convenient alternative, but they also are not cheap. Particularly if you use express trains, as they charge both for distance gone and add express train surcharges (a bullet train costs about twice as much as taking a local train to the same location, but does it in much less time). Thankfully, they have rail passes for foreigners which let you use the trains all you want which are reasonably (about US$250 for a week). They only work on JR trains (not the other lines or local subways), but that gets you most anywhere you want to go in Japan.

アメリカ人は日本がとても高いと思う。 多分バブル期を聞いたそうだ。その時、日本は高かったと思う。


日本にメニュー費用は包括主義だ。アメリカのレストランには食べ物と税金(~8%)とチップ(15-20%)だ。 日本に一番高い料理は神戸ビーフだった。5500円(~47ドル)一人当たりだった。アメリカに4400円(~37ドル)のメニュー費用は大体同じだと思う。アメリカの良質のステーキのほうが高いと思う。


Letter from Jimmy Carter

Ok, I think my Blog is getting a little too political, so I will try to write about other subjects more. But I saw this letter published in the Opinion section of the LA Times, and it matches many of my beliefs, so I couldn't resist posting it here...

This Isn't the Real America

By Jimmy Carter
Monday 14 November 2005

In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements - including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes. When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by top US leaders to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.

These revolutionary policies have been orchestrated by those who believe that our nation's tremendous power and influence should not be internationally constrained. Even with our troops involved in combat and America facing the threat of additional terrorist attacks, our declaration of "You are either with us or against us!" has replaced the forming of alliances based on a clear comprehension of mutual interests, including the threat of terrorism.

Another disturbing realization is that, unlike during other times of national crisis, the burden of conflict is now concentrated exclusively on the few heroic men and women sent back repeatedly to fight in the quagmire of Iraq. The rest of our nation has not been asked to make any sacrifice, and every effort has been made to conceal or minimize public awareness of casualties.

Instead of cherishing our role as the great champion of human rights, we now find civil liberties and personal privacy grossly violated under some extreme provisions of the Patriot Act.

Of even greater concern is that the US has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in US custody.

Instead of reducing America's reliance on nuclear weapons and their further proliferation, we have insisted on our right (and that of others) to retain our arsenals, expand them, and therefore abrogate or derogate almost all nuclear arms control agreements negotiated during the last 50 years. We have now become a prime culprit in global nuclear proliferation. America also has abandoned the prohibition of "first use" of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear nations, and is contemplating the previously condemned deployment of weapons in space.

Protection of the environment has fallen by the wayside because of government subservience to political pressure from the oil industry and other powerful lobbying groups. The last five years have brought continued lowering of pollution standards at home and almost universal condemnation of our nation's global environmental policies.

Our government has abandoned fiscal responsibility by unprecedented favors to the rich, while neglecting America's working families. Members of Congress have increased their own pay by $30,000 per year since freezing the minimum wage at $5.15 per hour (the lowest among industrialized nations).

I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of worship and in government, as church and state have become increasingly intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable.

As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights. Our country should be the focal point around which other nations can gather to combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality of our common environment. We should be in the forefront of providing human assistance to people in need.

It is time for the deep and disturbing political divisions within our country to be substantially healed, with Americans united in a common commitment to revive and nourish the historic political and moral values that we have espoused during the last 230 years.

Jimmy Carter

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Interesting perspective

Here's a letter to the editor by a Steve Anderson which was published in the San Luis Obispo Tribune news paper and posted on Sunday, November 06, 2005. It is a very interesting perspective. Definitely does make one wonder about the folks who believe in intelligent design and whether they would believe in this vaccine? Or even if you believe in intelligent design and a God watching over us, if you really need to take any steps to protect yourself - as shouldn't God be taking care of us?

Ok, enough said... Here's the letter to the editor...


Recent news about the avian flu virus has raised concerns from main street to the White House. There is the possibility, even likelihood, that the virus will mutate into a form that can more easily infect humans.

As the president pointed out, a vaccine cannot be made until this evolution occurs.

This raises the concern that it may be impossible to create enough vaccine fast enough to protect all our citizens. But there is hope.

Gallup polls tell us that up to 45 percent of Americans don't believe in evolution. Since random mutation is the engine of evolution, these same people must believe that the virus cannot mutate.

Therefore, there is no need to waste vaccine on folks who believe there is no possible threat to themselves -- thus leaving a sufficient supply for the rest of us. Perhaps the president, given his doubts about evolution, may wish to demonstrate his leadership by foregoing vaccination.

This approach has added benefits. Polls also tell us that disbelief in evolution is more pronounced among the less educated, the poor and conservatives. If the anti-evolutionists among these groups were to opt out of vaccination then, through immediate deaths and natural selection, we would reduce poverty, raise educational attainment, and become a more progressive society.

I am back

After almost 2 months in Japan, I am now back. I will be writing more in this Blog again.
2ヶ月日本にいて、もう帰った。 またこのブログで書く。