Landed two days ago about noon, checked into the hotel and tried to stay awake until evening. Full day of teaching yesterday, and testing in the afternoon. Everyone did well and passed. Gosoke was quite happy. More seminars today and I picked up my Howard Clark blade that I bought last year and had polished and mounted by Keith. It is indeed a light saber; wicked light and fast, and being made out of L6 it ain't ever gonna set a bend. Photos pending so stay tuned. After a late lunch we had the enbu in the evening -- all the sensei doing their thing. Yamada-sensei and Gosoke went last and did some jo and some of the advanced wakizashi. Then we all piled into the restaurant for some dinner, bad jokes, and off-color stories. Need some sleep now as tomorrow we start at 9am sharp. I'm signed up to compete in a bunch of events and sadly cannot use my sword as an excuse if I miss my cuts!
When I was a wee lad, my dad used to come home from business trips to the UK and bring back for me a can of confectionery perfection: the Chocolate Oliver Biscuit. Every time I've gone to London I have scoured the aisles of Harrod's but I could never find them. But now: "Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life At Last I Found Thee".
Gotta hand it to the Japanese Police, they got that whole driver's license renewal process down cold. A month before my birthday of the year my license expires, I get a postcard telling me I have until a month after my birthday to renew. Since I had one minor moving violation within the past five years, I had to do the regular renewal (one hour.) If I had a perfect record I would qualify for speed renewal (30 minutes.) First floor, general reception, they took my license, stuck into a machine and spit out a completed renewal form. All I did was fill in my name and birthday and sat on a bench before the eye check room. Stare into the machine and say which way the C is facing: up, right, right, left. OK, done. Proceed to photography; look into the light, pop, ok next proceed to counter #5. Hand over license and form, receive new form and old license with a hole punched in it. Minor spelling issue with my name here, but corrected quickly. Next window, pay 3600 yen and receive two stamps (actual stamps, like postage -- one for 3000 and one for 600 yen.) Step up to the machine and punch in pin twice to set, then upstairs to counter 300, and redirected to room #32. Hang out for 20 minutes until the 1:30 class starts. Here begins the one hour session. First watch the 30 minute video; don't drive drunk, don't drive sleepy, don't drive in a hurry, don't drive like a twit. Here we get a small sense of The Japanese Way -- the big message of driving drunk and killing a pedestrian is: since you are in prison, your wife will have to go to visit the victim every day in the hospital and deal with the lawyers, and finally the stress, pressure, and guilt will get to her, and she kills herself. So don't drive drunk or you will cause your family undue horrors. After the video we had a 30 minute lecture, 25 minutes of which was the intimate details of the changes to the driver's license law and how to renew five years from now. The remaining five minutes was on the detailed stats of driving accident deaths. Curiously enough, most deaths are in fact due to lone two-wheel drivers killing themselves. Basically making this whole course largely pointless, since I was pretty much the only person in the class without a 'regular' (4 wheel) license. And actually my license is only a scooter license, not even a proper motorcycle license. After the class we got a stamp and then went to pickup our brand new license, complete with embedded IC chip, which eventually will be used by Big Brother to track our every move. But for now is only compatible with the machines...down the hall. Touch your license, type in the PIN and reveal: a full screen image of: your license. The only information NOT shown on the license that is available via the IC reader is my "koseki" aka census registration, a very Japanese thing. Every Japanese person born in Japan is added to their family registry at birth. When they get married, girls (ONLY girls, unless the boy explicitly gets "adopted" into a family that has no natural male heir) are removed from their original koseki and added to their husband's. One's koseki is considered "personal information" and it is a breach of the personal information protection law to have unnecessary personal information. So for example when a client opens a new account for securities trading we take a copy of their driver's license to verify their name and address. But of course their koseki is irrelevant, so on the photocopy of their license we draw a big black line through their koseki to ensure that we are not in breach of the personal information protection law. So anyway someone finally figured out that since one's koseki is printed on one's driver's license, and there are basically no situations that require one's koseki but DO require a copy of one's license, then perchance it's a good idea NOT to print one's koseki on one's license? So on new licenses there is a big blank space for koseki. Can't wait for the crackers to start pounding away on the IC chip's encryption publishing lists of people's names, addresses, birthdays, koseki, and photographs. Then again this is Japan, land of rampaging citizen apathy; lowest voter turn-out in the modern world, and basically zero response to issues of personal privacy like IC-chipped drivers licenses. Probably the only person in Japan who cares is Joi Ito.