Sunday, August 27, 2006

Sapporo Bound, Part II

In which our intrepid travellers board JAL flight 1021 for Sapporo's New Chitose International Airport.

As we left off last time, Lyani and I were sitting at gate 16 in Tokyo International Airport, waiting to board our plane. I was blogging away, trying frantically to catch up to the present--or so Lyani said. She cracked a joke about the piano player in this episode of "Family Guy", who is singing a narrative account of the Griffin family's post-apocalyptic journey, which rapidly becomes real-time (warning: Lyani and I think this is the worst episode of "Family Guy" ever). Our plane had pulled up to the gate, and I finished my blog entry and powered down my laptop.

Ask the PilotAnd now, let me take this opportunity to introduce you to one of the most amazing aviation sites on the Internet: I learned about it from the superb "Ask the Pilot" column on (the Pilot, alias "Patrick Smith", also has a book out, which I would highly recommend that you buy from Amazon!). Patrick Smith is an airliner pilot (currently on furlough, thanks to 9/11 and the havoc that our heavy-handed, inept attempts at "securing our airports" has wreaked on the airline industry) who writes about the joys of flying--interestingly, what excites him the most is not the defying gravity bit, but the fact that you can get on an airliner in Boston and step off halfway around the world--speaks frankly about security as it applies to commercial aviation, and dispenses much wisdom on the safety of modern air travel (hint: flying is the safest way to travel by several orders of magnitude). He also makes heavy use of the aforementioned (you wondered if I was going to remember to get back to that, didn't you?) in his column, linking to photos when making a point about specific models of planes, airports, etc. But, most exciting of all (at least for this geek) was the revelation that every aircraft has a registration number--usually located on the tail--that stays with it from the day it is built to the day it is retired from flying. This identifier even persists when one airline sells the plane to another! And wouldn't you know it, allows you to search by registration number!

JA752J, Boeing 777-346So I made sure to write down the registration number of our Boeing 777-300 (actually, thanks to, I learned that not only was it a 777-300, but it was a 777-346!) so that I could search for photos of this exact plane to see where it had been. Well, I am writing this from our hotel in Sapporo (the Hotel Monterey Sapporo, which I would highly recommend if you ever find yourself looking for accommodations in Sapporo), which has a broadband Internet connexion, so I have access to all the photos of our lovely plane that my little heart desires. If you, gentle reader, would but clicky clicky upon my photo of our plane, at right, you will be whisked away to the magical world of, which offers a bountiful harvest of photographic documentation of the very plane we rode to Sapporo in! Ain't technology miraculous?

The plane, it would seem, is pretty young, as the earliest picture I found on dates from 2003. And in fact, with a quick Google search, I found this page, which has a listing for our plane indicating that it was delivered to Japan Airlines on November 13, 2003. Amazing what you can find out with Google these days! (It seems that Patrick mentioned a way to find the production date of any airliner, provided you knew its registration number, in one of his columns, but I cannot recall it right now.)

Anyway, I think I am done geeking out now about information technology, so let me move on to the flight itself.

As I just noted, our plane was pretty new. And it looked the part: the seats were clean and unworn, the inner fuselage was spotless, and even the metal frames of the seats (the part that is bolted to the cabin floor) were shiny. Contrast this to the condition of the plane during your last domestic flight in the US, and don't give me the "but that plane was older" spiel, because a) it probably wasn't, and b) so what? you can replace seats, cabin panels, carpet, etc. We sat in the very back of the plane, where the side columns of seats were only two abreast, and it was an ideal place to sit. Well, other than the fact that JAL did not have passengers board by row number, which meant that we had to wait for people who were sitting in the front of the plane, but who had gotten on before us, to stow their carry-on baggage and get out of the aisle before we could pass. Come on, JAL, show some of that Japanese optimisation that made Toyota the world's most successful automotive manufacturer! Oh, but while I am on boarding, let me just say that other than the sub-optimal ordering, the process was amazingly smooth. When the boarding call for our flight sounded, a huge queue immediately formed (of course, it was one of the neatest lines that I have ever seen, Japanese people being the proficient queuers that they are) behind the gate. Lyani and I were probably the hundredth people in the queue, and we figured it would take all day to get on the plane. The line did not move at all for about five minutes (I think they were pre-boarding the elderly, disabled, and mothers with small children), but then it started moving, and it moved as fast as we could walk! Unbelievable! They had a pair of train station-like turnstiles in front of the entrance to the Jetway, and you just walked up and handed your boarding pass to the attendant, who stuck it into the turnstile just like you would your train ticket. It then popped out the other side and the attendant grabbed it and handed it back to you with a smile and a "arigatou gozaimasu". The process could have been completely automated, but leave it to Japanese companies to make sure that o-kyaku-sama (the customer-god) does not even have to go to the trouble of inserting his own boarding pass in the machine! :)

The coolest thing was that, from the moment we entered the airport to the moment we left on the other end, not once were we asked for photo identification! Contrast this with America, where you must show your photo ID at check-in, again at security, and possibly a third time at the gate, despite there being no laws on the books that require such a thing. Japan's approach to airport security was as close to perfect as I have seen: no making you take off your shoes, no confiscation of your tweezers and nail clippers (having my pocket knife taken was a little on the silly side, given the size of the blade and the fact that I could have easily improvised a better knife from materials readily available on the plane, but the way they handled it took the sting out of it), and best of all, no surly security personnel blaming you for the fact that their job sucks. Japanese airport security screeners probably have a crappy job, but they certainly do not let o-kyaku-sama see that written on their faces. They just screen for explosives and machine guns and let you through with no hassle and no sinking suspicion that Big Brother is watching you.

Oh yes, the flight. That is what I was supposed to be talking about in this entry!

Hello, blue skiesLike I said, the cabin was clean and well-appointed. We had a decent amount of leg room, our tray tables were clean and in good shape, the cabin service was excellent (the flight was just over an hour, so there was only beverage service), and the flight was smooth. The weather was gloomy and overcast in Tokyo, but we shortly climbed above the clouds into a brilliant blue sky (pictured at left), puffy clouds below and not a care in the world. We spent just about an hour above the clouds, though we were flying at a low enough altitude to catch glimpses of the scenery below through gaps in the cloud cover. As we were leaving the northern coast of Honshu, the clouds gave way to reveal some lovely bits of coastline, and then we were over the Tsugaru Strait (the bit of water separating Honshu from Hokkaido and connecting the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of Japan.

Map of HokkaidoIt took longer than I thought it would to cross the channel, it being only about 20 kilometres across. Of course, now that I look at a map of Hokkaido (pictured at right), I see that to fly to Sapporo, we would have probably been flying not across the strait proper, but rather across the large "bay" of the Pacific Ocean between Honshu and Hokkaido. In any case, we flew over the ocean for a few minutes, then made landfall on Hokkaido, and less than five minutes later, we were landing at Shin-Chitose International Airport (or CTS, in IATA parlance--not SAP, which turns out to be a small airport in Honduras, and also the reason why I could not find any direct flights from HND to SAP when I was searching on Travelocity and its ilk).

From Shin-Chitose, we took an escalator into the B1 level of the airport and walked through an underground passageway to JR Shin-Chitose Station. After discovering that JR Hokkaido still does not accept Suica, we purchased two tickets for around 1000 yen (just under $10 US) each for Sapporo. We boarded the train, found seats (thank goodness!) and settled in for a train ride that took just under an hour.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Lyani and I got to Sapporo. I love Japan's public transportation system: we got on the train, rode it right into Haneda, flew to Hokkaido, got on another train, and got off in Sapporo within two blocks of our hotel. Now that is convenience!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Sapporo Bound, Part I

Like two masochists in Hokkaido, we're Sapporo bound! [1]

Haneda control towerLyani and I woke up at around 07:45 this morning (actually, I got up by instinct at 06:30, but whatever), packed two backpacks, and set out for Haneda Airport. We stopped by Becker's Coffee Shop at our station to pick up a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant sandwich apiece, then hopped on a Keiyo Line rapid heading for Tokyo. We got off at the next stop, Shin-Kiba, transferred to the Rinkai Line, and rode it for a few stops to Tenouzo Isle Station, where we walked around the block to the Tenouzu Tokyo Monorail station. Once on the monorail, it took about 25 minutes to reach Haneda Terminal 1.

Japan AirlinesHaneda is an old airport, built in 1931, rebuilt--I assume--soon after the war and turned into a US Army Air Base. Haneda was turned back over to the Japanese in 1952, and served as Tokyo's international airport until 1978, when Narita International Airport (AKA New "Tokyo" International Airport, though it is a 60 minute express train ride from Tokyo) was built. However, you would not know that Haneda was not constructed five years ago from the terminal, which is conveniently connected to Tokyo's world-class public rail system, clean and up-to-date, with widescreen TVs and computerised displays everywhere. We had purchased our tickets through H.I.S., Japan's most popular travel agency (I just made that statistic up, but it may well be true), so we had a voucher sheet. Had we bothered to read it, getting our tickets would have been as easy as marching up to one of the many available automatic ticket machines, inputting a confirmation number, and selecting our seats from a touchscreen. Since we did not know this, we just asked a handy JAL attendant, who proceeded to walk us over to another JAL attendant who was standing in front of the automatic ticket machines, who then proceeded to enter our information in the machine and ask us about our preferred seats. We chose two in the back (the plane had three columns of three-abreast seating, except in the back, where the last two rows were two-abreast), one by the window and one on the aisle--I prefer the view from the window seat, but Lyani likes to be able to get in and out more easily. I should have paid attention to see what kind of equipment we would be flying on, but I will see soon enough. I guess it will be a Boeing 727, but it could also be one of the smaller Airbus models--I forget which model numbers are smaller at the moment.

After we had gotten our tickets, I confirmed with the attendant that our backpacks were both small enough to carry on, and Lyani inquired about liquids, then we approached security. I am happy to say that the Japanese extend their courteous brand of service even to airport security. I took the stuff out of my pockets and placed it in a small plastic tray that was helpfully provided ahead of the main security line, then walked up to the metal detector and x-ray machine. There was a table in front of the x-ray machine, and a security person, who I asked if I needed to take my laptop (on which I am currently typing this blog entry, at gate 16) out of my backback. She confirmed that I did, and pulled out a tray for it. I then waited to be called through the metal detector, as per standard operating procedures, which seemed to puzzle the security personnel a bit--I guess they expected me to walk on through right after depositing my bag. I went through the metal detector without incident--and there was no mention of removing my shoes--but when I got to the table on the other side of the x-ray machine, the security guy told me that the x-ray machine found something, and asked if it was OK to look through my bag. I said sure, and then he asked me if I had a knife or anything. I told him that I did not think so, at which point Lyani walked up, and said that she thought that it might have been my keychain that set it off--the key to our apartment is this big metal wafer. She pulled it out, then discovered that right under it was my Swiss Army knife! I had simply transferred it from the bag I carry to work to the stack of stuff to pack this morning, and Lyani had packed it without a thought. To me, it is more a tool than a knife, since I use the screwdrivers and so on all the time at work, but almost never the knife blade. And to Lyani, it did not seem like a "weapon" at all, probably because the blade is about five centimetres long.

Most of you probably have a story like this, where you inadvertently packed some verboten item in your carry-on luggage, only to have it discovered and subsequently confiscated by security. The story always ends something like, "and that is how I lost my heirloom Buck knife, passed down through my family for five generations." Of course, this being Japan, the security guy apologised profusely for inconveniencing me--the idiot who had accidentally packed a prohibited item--and whipped out an envelope with attached paperwork, which he started filling out. He asked me if it was OK for him to take the knife (he used the polite Japanese "o-azukattemo yoroshii deshouka?", which means something like, "is it acceptable for me to take temporary possession of this item for processing?"), put it in the envelope, and have it returned to me in Sapporo. I could not believe my fortune--I thought my 800 yen bought-from-Don Quixote knife was a goner for sure. I just had to write my name (actually, Lyani wrote it for me, as my handwriting is barely decipherable by fellow Americans, never mind Japanese people who don't even use the Latin alphabet to render their written language), and we were on our merry way, but not before the entire security staff apologised again for delaying us, ever so slightly.

And that is my big Japanese airport security horror story. Not so harrowing, is it? Granted, we did get to Haneda at 10:00 on a Friday morning, when it was almost devoid of other travellers, but I was very impressed with the polite and professional treatment we received at the hands of the security staff.

And by the way, while I was waiting at the table on the other side of the x-ray machine, I noticed a strange scanning machine. No sooner could I wonder what it was used for then did a security guy walk up to it, carrying two litre bottles of green tea. He placed the bottles on the machine, which started a progress meter moving on its small display screen. The progress meter took less than four seconds to complete, then it flashed a green light and displayed the Japanese equivalent of "all clear" on the screen. So this is Japan's response to the foiled UK terror plot involving liquid explosives: rather than ban all liquids from carry-ons, they simply ask each passenger if they have any PET bottles (in Japanese, this is literally "petto bottoru"), which they take over to the screening machine, then promptly return. So no need to sacrifice your liquid refreshment in the name of security, just come to Japan! :)

Our plane just rolled up to the gate, and it does indeed look like a 727. I will do my best to find out, then report back. So fear not, dear readers, you shall soon know what kind of plane I will be riding!

Just back from the JAL desk: it is a Boeing 777-300 (in Japanese, that is "Bo-ingu nana-hyaku nana-ju nana dashu sam-byaku", in case you were wondering). Surprisingly, the girl had to look it up--I just figured she would have known. Of course, I should have known just from looking at it if I was a real airliner geek. Planes and trains fascinate me, and I like to find out as much as possible about them, but I don't have the hardcore geekitude to memorise the different models by sight. That reminds me, though, of a story from my childhood. I grew up in a remote valley in Virginia, which was great for Air Force and Navy test flights by virtue of its remoteness. The planes would roar down the valley, often in speeds at the excess of the sound barrier (how do I know? from the sonic booms!), flying low enough to evade detection by "enemy" radar. Some citizens group distributed literature on how to spot the planes and call in to some complaint line. You had to tell the complaint line what model of plane it was, so they knew which military base to complain to, so the literature contained profiles and outlines of the planes as seen from the ground. I loved looking up, a sheaf of papers in hand, and determining what model of plane was buzzing our peaceful little farm. Of course, I never called the complaint line, because I did not want the planes to stop conducting their training runs in our valley.

M1A1 AbramsLater, when I was in Junior High in Staunton, my friend Ian had an awesome military hardware encyclopedia, which we used to flip through for hours, dreaming of how we would equip our armies if we had an unlimited budget. Sad to say, when the (first) Gulf War lit up CNN in 1991--I was 11--it was like pornography to Ian and I. We could not get enough of Bradley and M1A1 Abrams tanks, A-10 "Warthog" anti-tank planes, TOW and Tomahawk cruise missiles, and bunkers in the sand. There was a Gulf War video game released around that time for Super Nintendo, where you would cruise around in an Abrams, looking for Iraqis to blow up. Of course, the final boss was none other than Saddam himself. Ian and I would play that for hours on the small black-and-white television out in his playhouse. It was a perfect simulation for us.

Anyway, back to the present... it is almost time to board the plane, and "cat /proc/acpi/battery/BAT0/state" tells me that my battery has only 13060 mWh left, so I'd better end this entry here. Join me next time for info on the actual flight.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof is on Fire!

Because of the extreme heat, you see.

Sapporo BreweriesSo, it has been hotter than Helsinki around here recently, so Lyanka and I have decided to do the traditional Japanese thing and flee Tokyo for the more temperate climes of Hokkaido, specifically the grand olde citie of Sapporo. Some of my more cultured readers may recognise Sapporo as the name of a beer, and indeed the lure of visiting the Sapporo Brewery was a major factor in my desire to get my vacationation on in Sapporo. While we are on the topic of beer, and beers named after cities, let me just point out that the Kirin Brewery was established in Yokohama (only several blocks from our old apartment, at that) with help from one Thomas Glover, a Scottsman that I am proud to call one of my illustrious ancestors. Whether this claim contains any actual veracity is an investigation left to the reader. Longtime readers of the jmglov blog may recall that Lyani took a "field trip" (I would have called it a "feel good trip" instead) to said brewery, an occurance which I promptly chronicled here.

Yebisu BeerOh yeah, and beers named after cities: Yebisu, which comes from Ebisu, which is the same word, except the Japanese deprecated the hiragana for "ye" a long time ago (there was a "ye" character in the manyogana, if you are a hardcore Japanese or linguistics--or Japanese Lingistics--geek), as per this fine page (after linking the aforementioned page, I noticed that it belonged to none other than Jim Breen, fellow TLUGger, founder of the EDICT project, developer of the smashing WWWJDIC dictionary interface, and all-around fine human being). And what, pray tell, is my connexion with Ebisu / Yebisu? Well, that is where one Japanese office of Pricewaterhouse Coopers Japan is located, and said office handled my visa when I started working for Amazon.

So anyway. Off to Sapporo and the beer halls thereof we are, and not a day too soon, for they say "autumn weather" is coming to Tokyo next week. I will, frankly, believe that when I see it, since last year we had to use the air conditioner into the first week of November, and only had to crack the heater on a week or two before Christmas.

In other news, I have been playing a lot of football recently. I played with the FC chaps (and in this case, FC stands for "Fulfillment Centre", not "Football Club") on Thursday night, the Rabid Arsenal Supporters Clubbe (or R.A.S.C.E., or NAMBLA) on Sunday afternoon, and the HQ chaps on Tuesday night. Tragically, I had a sore thigh muscle that I didn't know about on Tuesday, so the first time I took a right-footed shot, I felt it, but good. The upside was that I got to use my left foot a lot, and found that it was not the inferior tool that I had remembered. Of course, it could have just been born of necessity, but I had a few Beckham-like shots with some really nice spin off my left. Anyway, three outings, three goals. Which is nice, since I had a nice long string of goalless matches before that.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Don't Step on the Backs of My Blue Suede Shoes

Or how the Japanese have not yet learnt the difference between shoes and geta.

I have to thank both Ota and Lyanka for many of the insights contained herein; I am little more than a synthesiser of their collective brilliance.

GetaAn interesting thing happened sometime after the war: Japanese people started wearing Western-style footwear. I mean, Western-style footwear other than boots, which soldiers (and probably factory workers) had been wearing for a while. Previously, most people wore geta (pictured at left, clicky clicky for the larger version), if they were a member of the samurai or merchant classes and wearing yukata--zori if they were wearing kimono or waraji if they were commoners.

All three of these types of traditional footwear are in the sandal family. Waraji are the forerunners of Birkenstocks: sandals made of hemp or straw. Zori are closer to flip-flops, lower and lighter than waraji, and with cloth straps instead of straw or hemp ones. Geta can best be described as platform sandals; they are basically a thick block of wood on short stilts, with cloth straps on top to bind the whole thing to the foot. Geta were excellent for the upper classes in feudal Japan, who wanted to keep their colourful kimono and yukata out of the muddy streets when they strolled about town, lording it over the commoners.

But why are all three forms of Japanese traditional footwear a type of sandal (i.e. having no back and attached to the foot only by two straps starting in the back third of the sandal and meeting between the big toe and the second toe of the wearer)? The answer is rather simple: the Japanese have not worn shoes in their houses since time immemorial. Westerners who have ever visited a Japanese friend (or even one of those new age hippy types who asks you to take your shoes off inside the door) know what a pain it is to take off your Western-style shoes when you come in, then put them back on when you leave. Or, if you are one of those new age hippy types or a Westerner who has lived in Japan and thus thinks it is a wonderful idea to ban shoes from the house (Ota and I rolled that way back in uni), you know what a pain it is to deal with your footwear, especially if you are going in and out a lot, carrying groceries in or some such.

One benefit of sandals is that they are very easy to take on and off, so they suited the Japanese lifestyle perfectly. You'd roll up to your house (or someone else's, if you were visiting), pause a moment in the genkan, turn around so your back faces into the house, and simply step out of your footwear and up into the house. Japanese houses have elevated floors, but genkan, or entranceway, is at street-level. And that is where you leave your shoes whilst inside the house.

When the Japanese started wearing Western-style footwear (i.e. shoes that enclose the entire foot and not just the bottom), they did not do away with the tradition of leaving their shoes in the genkan. Instead, they came up with a very Zen solution to the problem: allow the shoes to become sandals. Japanese people tend to ignore laces on their shoes--they tie them once, and then never untie them again. When they want to take their shoes off, say in the genkan of a house, they just pull each foot out. When they want to put their shoes back on when heading back outside, they just step down into the shoes, mashing the backs down so they can slip their feet in. At an izakaya, a Japanese beer hall where you usually sit around a lowered table and thus must take your shoes off, it is very common for the restaurant to provide a shoe horn or three, which people will happily use with their tennis shoes (or lace-up Oxfords, in the case of the sarariman), rather than going to the bother of untying and retying them.

Japanese shoes, circa 2006The result of this is that Japanese people's shoes take quite a beating. The backs of the average person's shoes are pretty ravaged, and it is not uncommon to see guys walking around with the heel of their athletic shoes so mashed down that their shoes have essentially become clogs. Seriously, where the back of the shoes should be, you just see the heels of their socks, with the heels of the shoes crunched under the feet. Shoes into sandals, you see. I realise this might be a bit difficult to picture, so please refer to the image at right (and clicky clicky, of course).

But there is another interesting side-effect of the traditional footwear. You see, when wearing a sandal, having an absolutely perfect fit is not necessary. If your heel and/or toes hang over the edge a bit, or if you have an extra few centimetres of "flip" and "flop" to your step, it is not a big deal. And that mentality has persisted. You often see guys in athletic shoes that are clearly several sizes too big, flopping around like clown shoes. And you also see girls rocking ill-fitting Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks (Manolos? Manonos? I can't tell.). Too big? No problem, let 'er flop. Too small? No problem, let your toes stick out the front. To heighten the comic effect, girls rarely fasten the back strap of their heels (if their shoes have a back strap).

So all shoes are backless in Japan, at least in the mind of the wearer.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Van Hella-Stupid Movie

And other high-brow media commentary.

Van HelsingI could hold out nae longa! After many months of resisting the siren song of "Van Helsing", I finally caved and watched it. And yes, to answer your question, it was every bit as awful as everyone who had ever seen it warned me it was. The only good thing about it was a few bars of awesome gypsy music in the soundtrack. I really like gypsy music, and if you do as well, you should immediately run out and buy "Le Violon Rouge", which features some amazing violin music in the gypsy style, as well as Samuel L. Jackson--"That's one #!@#!#@! red-@#%@%$ violin, ^$#$%@@*#@!". Well, not really. I mean, Mr. Jackson is in the film, but he is not his usual badass self. Well, a little, but he does not drop any F-bombs. I think. Hell, just watch the film!

Oh yeah, back to "Van Helsing". Total crap, and you all told me that, yet I still watched it. Why? Well, I have a certain soft spot for vampire fiction--if they make a film, novel, TV series, or lyrical poem containing vampires, I will most likely watch or read it, as the case may be. Oh yeah, and aliens! Almost as cool as vampires. Now if they would just make a movie about alien vampires, or something like that... heh heh.

In other media news, Lyani and I are still watching "Lost" at a pretty good clip--we are now about ten episodes into Season 2. And let me just say, the big "one of your favourite characters is going to die in the next episode!" stunt was pretty weak.

"Lost" is basically like junk food--you know it isn't good for you, but yet it is so delicious that you can't stop. The only thing I will give the writers of the show credit for is an interesting plotline and not being afraid to make us hate all the main characters. Of all the main characters, there is only one guy that I have never had a "I hate this guy!" moment about, and Lyani is the same way. Predictably, the one non-hated dude is different for each of us! :)

I have slowed way down on my reading as of late, both because my daily time on a train has dropped from close to three hours to 15 minutes, and because I am trying to spend my free time studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test , or JLPT (日本語能力試験, for you Japanese-speakers out there). These four letters, arranged just so, strike fear into the hearts of students of Japanese everywhere. The test has four levels, starting at Level 4, which is pretty trivial, and climbing up to the next-to-impossible-even-for-native-speakers Level 1, or ikkyu. I am going for Level 2, which is described thusly:
The examinee has mastered grammar to a relatively high level, knows around 1,000 Kanji and 6,000 words, and has the ability to converse, read, and write about matters of a general nature. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 600 hours and after completion of an intermediate course.

Lyani, of course, having just completed her Jedi training, has set her sights a notch higher. Yes, she is attempting the vaunted Level 1:
The examinee has mastered grammar to a high level, knows around 2,000 Kanji and 10,000 words, and has an integrated command of the language sufficient for life in Japanese society. This level is normally reached after studying Japanese for around 900 hours.

10,000 words! I don't think I even know 10,000 words in English! Interestingly enough, Lyani attended a lecture back at the IUC given by a professor of Japanese Linguistics, and he said that knowing 10,000 words in French, Spanish, or Italian would cover 95% of the language in general use. In Japanese? 10,000 words buys you a paltry 80%! This should not surprise anyone who has ever studied Japanese--as soon as you think you have a good basic vocabulary, you try to do something (open a bank account, buy tickets on the ferry to Okinawa, whatever), and realise that there are a bunch of words specific to that thing that you don't know.

So wish us luck, gentle readers! And if we don't make it, say a prayer for our passing...