Traveler’s Notebook

"Traveler's Notebook (Passport)" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: SONY SLT-A77V, 35mm, f/2.4, 1/1500 sec, ISO640
“Traveler’s Notebook (Passport)” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。How’s it going?

Today my brand new Traveler’s Notebook (passport size) arrived on my doorstep. I’ve been looking at these notebooks (formerly named Midori) for a while now, and after watching numerous YouTube videos and reading reviews, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered mine.

I went with the “camel” color leather, which not only looks great but smells nice too. If you aren’t familiar with a Traveler’s Notebook, it’s basically a plain leather cover, with inserts that are held in place with elastic bands. There are two sizes: the regular size and the smaller passport-sized version, which is the one I went with.

The most common inserts are notepads (lined, graph, or blank), monthly planner, weekly planner, and daily planner. In addition, there are craft folder sleeves, plastic zipper pocket, and plastic sticker pockets.

My starter set came with a blank notebook and two extra elastic bands. I ordered a craft sleeve and zipper pocket separately, and these three inserts are a nice start. It’s not too bulky, so I think I can add one more notebook (probably a lined version) and it will be perfect. I also attached a couple of small binder clips to the craft sleeve which acts as a little loop for me to attach my pen.

What’s great about the Traveler’s Notebook system (and there are many cheaper clones available) is that when you fill up one insert, you can just pop in another one. It’s super versatile!

If you do a YouTube search for Traveler’s Notebooks or Midori Notebooks, you’ll see that many people love to use them for artistic journaling. Some of the examples are pretty amazing, especially the sketchbook notebooks. Just check out this Flickr group to see some awesome sketches.

I’m using mine to do some little sketches, practice writing hiragana/katakana, and take notes. I’m also using it to replace my wallet – to hold a couple credit cards, blank checks, and some cash. And of course a couple Instax prints of the family.

I’m really happy with my Traveler’s Notebook and can see myself using it for a long, long time. 😄

"Traveler's Notebook (Passport)" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.5, 1/100 sec, ISO2000
“Traveler’s Notebook (Passport)” Cedar Park, 2017

Your Name – 君の名は

"Movie Night" Austin, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/3.2, 1/100 sec, ISO1250
“Movie Night” Austin, 2017

こんばんは。

This evening I went with my friend Mikey to watch the Japanese anime blockbuster “Your Name / 君の名は”. It’s the highest-grossing animated movie in Japan of all-time, surpassing even Spirited Away, which is my favorite Studio Ghibli film. I’ve heard so many great things about Your Name that I had high expectations for it, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed! I thought the story was amazing, the visuals stunning, and the soundtrack was great. There were several powerful moments, where I could forget that I am a 48-year old 伯父さん and just simply shed an emotional tear or two. Dark theaters you know! But to me, the movie was that good.

But, the only negative to me (pointed out by my more perceptive viewing companion, Mikey) was the placement of the Radwimps song at the beginning of the film. I do like the song a lot, but it “cheapened” the movie a little bit. Instead of a pure cinematic epic, the song brought it down to a tv-like quality since it looked like the opening of a tv anime. And they showed a lot snippets of upcoming scenes. It was weird.

Despite the opening, I thought Your Name was a brilliant movie. I plan on seeing it again soon, and of course owning it when it is released in stores. Recommended, but bring tissues!

Here’s the official trailer:

And another Radwimps tune from the movie, with plenty of great movie scenes:

I hope you had a nice Friday!

またね~

A Treat for My Wrist

"Keeper" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/20 sec, ISO3200
“Keeper” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。How’s it going?

It’s the 2nd day of Spring Break for the kiddos, so I worked from home in the afternoon. I think they are old enough to take care of themselves, but I still worry! 😀

New Watch

Well, I kind of knew for a while now that I wanted to get a new watch, and I also had narrowed it down to a certain model. I just had to decide on the size and the color. The watch is a Seiko diver, the SKX. There are different variations: 007 – 42mm with black bezel and face; 009 – 42mm with blue and red “Pepsi” bezel and blue face; 013 – similar to the 007, but a 38mm size.

I went with the SKX007 because I thought the Pepsi blue/red of the 009 wouldn’t look as good with different watch straps, and didn’t go for the 013 because I already have a smaller-sized watch. Plus, I liked the classic black of the 007.

I bought the model with the black rubber strap instead of the metal bracelet to save a few bucks and I knew that I would take off whatever it came with to replace with a zulu strap. In fact, I ordered a black zulu strap with the watch so that I could change it immediately. I read that getting the old watch band off was difficult and by god, it was a pain! Even with a dedicated tool, it was a struggle and my fingers are sore. But in the end, I won and got the rubber strap replaced with the plain black zulu strap. I think it looks great. And so comfortable! This watch/strap combination feels a lot better than even my 37mm Seiko SNK809 with 18mm zulu strap.

One other thing I love is the raised design on the back of the watch. It features a flowing wave 🌊, which is on all the Seiko dive models.

"Wave" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/100 sec, ISO2500
“Wave” Cedar Park, 2017

Speaking of dive models, this SNK007 is ISO 6425 compliant, which means it has been tested to meet or exceed some pretty impressive specifications, including depth rating of at least 100 m (this watch is 200 m). So I guess I can be confident taking this watch anywhere. In other words, I don’t have to worry about it. Here’s to a bit more peace of mind!

The SKX007 is the most expensive watch I have ever bought, but that’s not saying much since I am such a cheapskate where watches are concerned. This watch is generally regarded in the watch community as one of the cheapest yet respectable diver watches, but for me, it’s a definite keeper and the highest quality timepiece I own. I am expecting it to be my daily watch for the rest of my life. We’ll see!

I hope you had a nice Tuesday!

おやすみ

バロン

Weekend Watching – Tokyo Tarareba Musume (東京タラレバ娘)

It’s been a while since Yoshitaka Yuriko has been on tv, but finally she’s back starring as Rinko Kamata in Tokyo Tareraba Musume (東京タラレバ娘). It’s a fun romantic comedy about three 30-year-old unmarried women and their relationship adventures. The story is just so-so, nothing new (so far), but the acting is good and there are some really funny scenes, where the character’s emotions are visualized with CGI effects, such as lightning coming down from the sky to vaporize the person who pissed Rinko off, or Rinko being shot with an arrow when she gets back-stabbed by a co-worker. The timing is great, and Yoshitaka Yuriko’s expressions are perfect.

As of episode 4, it’s a must-watch for me, but of course I tend to like these not-too-deep doramas. I love Japan so much, and I especially enjoy the scenes of the city. The izakaya that many of the scenes takes place in looks so great. My favorite type of restaurant/bar!

Please take a look at the teaser for the show below:

And lastly, I love the ending theme song by Perfume. It’s great! Enjoy:

The Bond Strap(s)

"Spectre Bond Strap" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5, 1/30 sec, ISO3200
“Spectre Bond Strap” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。Are you well today?

Continuing with my mini-obsession with my new watch, I decided to get a couple new watch straps. I mentioned in a previous post that the band that came with the watch wasn’t highly regarded and that a NATO strap replacement is recommended. Well, I did a little research into the style I wanted, and I ended up going with the “Bond Strap”, which is the same design that James Bond wore. But, he actually wore a couple different styles. In 1964’s Goldfinger, Sean Connery wore a black, green, and red striped design, while in 2015’s Spectre, Daniel Craig wore a black and grey striped design. Naturally, I got both!

"Goldfinger Bond Strap" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/5.6, 1/40 sec, ISO3200
“Goldfinger Bond Strap” Cedar Park, 2017

What is nice about the NATO style straps is that they are very inexpensive. I paid about $10 each. They are both pretty good, but not perfect. The black and grey Spectre strap is a good thickness, softer, and more comfortable, but the buckles are a shiny stainless steel. I prefer the darker matte finish of the stock band. The black, green, and red Goldfinger strap is thinner, harder, and the buckles are a nice matte nickel color. Unfortunately, they are a little too big and prominent, plus I think there are one too many buckles. There’s a way to loop the strap around two of the buckles so that it is more secure, but I don’t think I need that, so I might Dremel off one of them.

I like the NATO straps, though, and I bet if I search hard enough, I will find the combination of smaller matte buckles and softness. But perhaps it’s not about finding the perfect one, but enjoying the variety that comes with owning several different types. 😊 Luckily, NATO straps are easily removed and replaces, so switching it up to suit your mood is not an inconvenience at all.

I hope you had a nice Thursday!

-B

New Watch – Seiko 5

"New Seiko 5" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO640
“New Seiko 5” Cedar Park, 2017

こんばんは。Howzit?

One of the things that I am guilty of collecting are watches. I love them! I must have owned about 15 of them during my lifetime, and yesterday I had a total of 6. But now, that total is 7 because I just got a new one – a Seiko 5 model SNK809. It’s my first Seiko and also my first “Mechanical” watch. I love it!

I had to Google the difference between “Mechanical” and “Quartz” watches, and during my research, I found out that mechanical watches (no battery) are preferred by the traditionalists while battery-powered quartz watches are preferred by the more practical people. The Seiko 5 is an Automatic mechanical watch, which means that you don’t need to wind it to provide power – the kinetic movement that is generated by just wearing it will wind up the spring. It’s very cool! I love not having to worry about a battery.

The downside of this type of watch is that if you don’t wear it for a couple days, it will stop running, so you’ll have to reset the time if that happens. Fortunately, just a few shakes of the watch will “wind up the spring” and it will start running again. Also they are not as accurate as a quartz watch, but losing or gaining a few seconds a day is acceptable to me.

There’s definitely an allure to these purely mechanical watches. There’s a smoothly sweeping second hand instead of the quartz “stepped” movement, a nice ticking sound (like the show 60 Minutes), and the transparent back allows you to see the moving pieces. They are certainly more charming than the cold “soul-less” quartz watches. At least according to most watch aficionados. 😄 But I think I’d agree with that. I get the sense after reading the forums that people form more of a bond with their mechanical watches vs quartz models.

"Seiko 5 Display" Cedar Park, 2017
Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 23mm, f/4, 1/100 sec, ISO2500
“Seiko 5 Display” Cedar Park, 2017

The Seiko 5 is considered a decent entry-level automatic watch. I bought mine for about $53, which is a real value. Build quality is excellent, but the band that comes with it is regarded poorly. I ordered a “Nato” band which will arrive in a couple days so we’ll see the difference. Honestly, the stock band seems ok, if a little rough. But since almost all the watch otaku say to replace it with a $10 Nato, I figured there must be something to that.

Like I mentioned, watches are one of the things I like to obsess over, cameras being the other. There’s a watch shop near my parents’ house that I have to visit whenever we are in SoCal. I haven’t bought a new one since 2011, so I have been overdue!

I hope you had a nice day!

おやすみ

バロン

Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu / 逃げるは恥だが役に立つ

Hi! I finished watching Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu (逃げるは恥だが役に立つ) a couple weeks ago (and it’s showing on TV Japan now) so I thought I’d write my thoughts about it.

First off, I enjoyed it quite a bit! It’s got a sort of “underdog guy gets the pretty girl” thing going on like Densha Otoko, but it’s a little more nuanced in that the woman, Mikuri, played by Aragaki Yui, has her own flaws. The plot is basically that the two main characters enter into a contract marriage out of convenience, but over time they develop feelings for each other. It’s a predictable story, with the inevitable break-up and reuniting, but it’s fun nonetheless.

There were some really funny off-the-wall parts, with parodies and references to other shows and celebrities. My favorite was when the couple were traveling by train to a ryokan and she does a mini-parody of a JR ad. It was pretty clever. Also, the supporting characters are funny and do a good job keeping the plot interesting. I think the final few episodes dragged on a little too much, but still, it wasn’t too long.

Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu also had a really popular theme song, sung by Hoshino Gen, who played one of the main characters. At the end of each episode, the cast dances to the song, and it became a mini-sensation in itself. Even the US Embassy in Tokyo did their own version! If you watched the 2016 Uta Gassen, you saw Hoshino Gen performing the song.

If you have the chance to watch Nigeru was Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu, I recommend it! Aragaki Yui and Hoshino Gen are great in it. It probably won’t win any awards, but it’s a fun show!

Cold Case / コールドケース

My second dorama to watch this year is Cold Case (コールドケース) which is the Japanese version of the US crime/detective show. It’s a 10-part series, centered around a group of detectives who take up unsolved cases from years ago. I enjoyed each episode because the plots were so varied, and there’s a ton of nostalgia too because some of the episodes flash back to the 80’s and 90’s and occasionally play pop songs from the era. なつかしい!. But, there’s also an episode in which the crime happened in the 50’s, and then an overarching story which takes place in the present. So there’s a ton of opportunity for the stories to go in many directions.

One of the things I really liked about コールドケース was the casting. Yoshida Yo (吉田羊) in the starring role did a great job, and the other detectives were strong and believable, each with their own mysterious pasts. None of them were explored deeply except for Yoshida’s character, but I’m hoping for another season so we can find out more!

If you like serious crime/detective shows, I highly recommend コールドケース. There’s no comedy or lighthearted moments, so if you are looking for hijinks you will be disappointed. But if you want good acting, believable characters, and a clever plot, give it a watch!

Lastly, check out the Instagram feed for the show to see photos of the cast which includes many guest actors. It’s fun to see them enjoying behind-the-scenes moments which is a huge contrast to the serious plots!