Things to know before visiting Japan

This is an excerpt from a letter I sent to my step-daughter before she brought my son over to visit me in Japan for the summer. At the time I had only been in Japan for about six months (and living in Tokyo at that) so some of the comments may seem somewhat biased and naive. I have removed any personal references from the letter and, in some places, have made additional comments where my current opinion differs from that which I held at the time the letter was written. Still, it contains what I thought were the most important things to keep in mind at the time.
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Scientology, the Ultimate Implant

(L. Ron Hubbard)

Original Founder’s Bulletin #1


The Ultimate Implant

My dear old friends,

You had better take a seat for this one, I am about to shatter some realities here. This may very well be the most incomprehensible and fantastic account you have ever conceived; but I am afraid it is all too true.

The story is long and very, very complicated; but in a few words I shall give you more truth per square word than you’ve probably heard for some time now. As some of you may have suspected I came from another world. Many facts have remained undisclosed because of the existing reality level on earth; but there are things you should know.
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Peace, Tolerance, Truth

This simple phrase, which appears at the opening of the Manifesto of the O.T.O., is often encountered as part of the introduction of many a formal letter within our Order. As often as we may have heard or read this phrase, how many of us have actually stopped to consider the implications of each of the three simple words contained therein.

Peace and Truth are easy enough. Everyone seems to understand the principles behind these words, even though we may not always put those principles into practice. Tolerance, on the other hand, seems to be a more nebulous quantity. Oh sure, we mostly know what it means in a literal sense, but would we actually recognize it if we saw it walking down the street or experienced it in our personal lives? I would like to dwell for a moment, if I may, on my own views regarding the significance of tolerance. Not that I am in any position to boast, mind you. In fact, I have found this article to be one of the most difficult I have written in the history of the Breeze. The overall concept and the feeling of what I wanted to say having been in the works for over six months, the precise words and ideas continued to elude my grasp.
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Old Posts

If anyone is wondering why, in December 2013, I’m claiming to have entered the blogging world when there are posts from back in 2009… it’s because at one time I was toying with the idea of using WordPress and I signed up for an account on and posted a few missives. I’ve imported them to this blog as well, for what they may be worth.

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A Luddite Enters the World of Blogging


Well… I’ve finally decided to upgrade the web site that I started some 16+ years ago. It’s not that I don’t embrace change. It’s just that so many of the so-called CMS (Content Management System) packages available at the time I first started looking didn’t meet my criteria. Being a software developer by trade, my preference was to develop something of my own.

That was years ago and… here I am… supporting the same static web pages that I mostly wrote when the site was first published. And, of course, the CMS developers haven’t been sitting still in the interim. Most of the major packages that are available today do more than I could ever hope to duplicate by writing my own. After some mind-numbing research, I decided to pick WordPress as the basis of the site renovations (I also happen to have some experience writing posts under WordPress so that influenced the decision to some extent.

The legacy web site contains a number of static pages which have turned out to be popular resources and which have established themselves as reference links on other web sites. I intend to keep those URLs alive, albeit many will undergo significant editing as I move the information from the existing pages to the new WordPress system.

My interests and experiences are many and varied (hence, the “eclectic” in the site’s sub-header). Hopefully, future posts will sort themselves into a small handful of meaningful categories and maybe the occasional off-the-wall topic. Till then, feel free to browse the legacy site at http:://

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Energized enthusiasm…

Well… once again I survived the annual neighborhood festival. Being in somewhat worse physical shape than usual and less prepared this year than last, I really wasn’t sure how well I’d hold up. To make matters worse, I spent more time helping out on other stuff (like setup, teardown, etc) than I did last year.

On Saturday morning I helped with the children’s mikoshi (a smaller version of the portable shrine that the local kids carry around — see below). Both of my kids had soccer practice — which I suppose implies it’s own kind of ritual, but after another manner. Anyway, I got to blow the whistle for half the route — which doesn’t seem all that hard until you realize that continuous staccato blasts of breath interfere with one’s proper intake of air while having to walk and help hold up what is still a very heavy object as the kids start to run out of gas. And it seems to me there were fewer kids this year… no doubt the result of the unusually warm temperatures we’ve been experiencing (which adds a double dose of “argh” for the adults helping out ;-).

Anyway, that went well, save for my sunburn. Later that afternoon, after a sufficient intake of beer (the standard festival fuel) and an unsuccessful attempt to take a short nap, I wandered down to the local shopping street to help set-up a tent and wheel a huge scaffold structure down the main street (part of which was closed for the festival’s evening events). Then more beer, of course. Later helping a drunken acquaintance find his way home (not part of the festival, of course), followed by more drinking. Having gotten home as 1:30am, I kinda figured I’d be somewhat less than my normal self for the following day’s activities. I was right.
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Eat or be eaten…

The following is an excerpt from an email conversation with a good friend of mine…

That said, I will continue to eat all of the life forms that taste good on this earth. Whether I am liberating some part of them in the process I am not certain, but the eating is good :)

Agreed. Of course, if you consider that predation is part of Nature (and not only among humans), you could make a case that it’s part of the Will of the fish to be eaten. In that way, you’re *helping* it to fulfill its central purpose. You didn’t think fish were put here just to eat, fuck, and swim around, did you?

Not only that, but if you believe the Buddhist clap-trap about souls being reincarnated as fish as a result of their bad karma, then who are we to decide how that karma was meant to play-out. If you become a fish because of eating too many fish, then you’re *supposed* to be eaten, no? Eating the fish allows him to balance out his earlier indiscretions and get on with his spiritual evolution.
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Nirvana for the masses…

Ya know… when organized religion gets hold of a good idea, more often than not the idea becomes perturbed in such a way as to ensure the ultimate indispensability of the organization formed to promulgate the idea. Miguel de Molinos, for example, taught that all we really had to do was contemplate God and we could form a direct channel with the divine — but they imprisoned him and banned his book because the party line at the time, as now, was that you need a professional priesthood to act as go-betweens to carry the messages back-and-forth. Most religions have similar perturbations in their messages. For that matter, so do most branches of the medical profession.

I was just reading an article the other day that happened to mention, in passing, that the “goal” of Buddhism was, at one time, the attainment of Nirvana but later that was later “changed” to be the attainment of Nirvana for all living beings. I’ve heard it both ways. But this was the first time it really struck me that one of those goals could be viewed as self-serving from the point-of-view of the “organization” known as Buddhism. That is, if all you’re interested in is Nirvana for its own sake, you hardly need Buddhism (the organization) once you’ve mastered the basic concepts and meditations. You certainly don’t need the priesthood once you’ve achieved your goal. But… if you can be convinced to postpone your “departure”, as it were, until *everyone* made it out, the organization would always have a reliable cadre of followers.

Now… I don’t mean to sound crass or selfish. I’m all for enlightenment on a large scale and if I am presented with the opportunity to speed up the process for someone else along the way, all the better. But suppose this “enlightment for all beings” thing is really just another perturbation introduced into an otherwise effective system in order to preserve the organization itself and provide job security for the established priesthood? If that were so, would the “goal” of “enlightenment for all beings” seem all that altruistic any more?

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Politics as usual in Japan

Well… it’s erection time again in Tokyo. Oops… I meant “election” (get your mind out of the gutter for once, will you?). How do I know, given that foreigners can’t vote in public elections? I know because my otherwise quiet neighborhood is innundated with trucks and cars sporting loudspeakers the size of my desk, driving up and down the streets spewing their political rhetoric as loudly as they can. It seems that lately there are more of these vehicles than before — each supporting a candidate for some minority party that doesn’t stand a bat’s chance in hell to win against the incumbent (elections in Japan are largely symbolic since it’s very rare for an incumbent to actually *not* win back his seat each time).

I really have no idea why these guys think that the way to win an election is to drive around the neighborhood during the day waking babies from their naps, causing dogs to howl like they’ve just been tazered, and preventing me from concentrating on the software code I’m trying to write. Oh yeah… you can leave that last part out — I can’t vote so nobody really cares if I can’t concentrate in my own home. The Japanese, however, seem to have a curious apathy toward these loud goings-on. At least I’ve never heard anyone complain. Several years ago I used to work in a tall building across the street from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (the “Tocho” — then, as now, the tallest building in Tokyo). At least two or three times a week, more when elections were near, huge busses, painted like military vehicles with heavy screen over the windows, would circle the Tocho blasting some kind of rhetoric or another. It was often so loud I could hear it from the 20th floor of a high-rise office building. Likewise, one can often see politicians and other manner of kooks blasting their propaganda through huge loudspeakers in front of major train stations. In highly populated areas like Shibuya there are often two such spectacles going on within earshot of each other. And hardly anybody gives them a second thought. (It might be interesting to note that Shoko Asahara, the man behind Aum Shinrikyo and the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, once campaigned for public office using a similar methodology — in that case, the loudspeaker van was surrounded by Aum followers dressed in elephant headgear. Now *that* would have been something to see…)

From what I’ve been told, there are no laws in Japan limiting how much noise one can make on public property. It seems the only real limit is technology and the unspoken threat of being sued by someone for hearing loss. I’ve often thought of starting a campaign whereby people could report where and when these loudspeaker-carrying vehicles were operating and post an ordered list of the worst offenders — the point being that the public could then vote them out of office to send a message. Of course, the public being what they are, the publicity would probably have the opposite effect. I’ve also thought that maybe I could encourage people to start a grassroots movement to explicitly vote for those candidates who refuse to disturb the peace of their neighborhoods by blasting their voice all over creation. But… alas… I can’t vote so the powers-that-be aren’t likely to even care.

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News as Entertainment

I was just reading an editorial article on the recent “rise-and-fall” of media reports concerning the novel A/H1N1 outbreak. The author seems to confuse a lack of panic with “scoffing” at the alarmist stance taken by the media at the start of what is clearly a pandemic of global proportion. I can certainly relate. The only opinions that seem to make it into the mainstream media these days are those at the extremes. On the one hand, you have those who believe that the current strain of A/H1N1 is a lethal killer waiting to jump out of the shadows and take out half the planet’s population. On the other hand, you have those who believe the whole scare was trumped up by the media outlets as a publicity stunt (well… ok, maybe nobody has used those exact words… yet). What you don’t hear nearly as much (unless you consider the WHO and CDC websites “media”) are the balanced reports of what’s really going on and how likely we really are to fall victim to this particular threat.

Those who would have you believe that Armageddon is at hand point to the last huge killer pandemic in 1918, when the Spanish Flu claimed around 50 million lives. In that case, experts say, the same strain showed up in a milder form the previous Spring but came back with a vengeance when the regular flu season started the following Autumn. The Spanish Flu of 1918 was eventually identified as another strain of H1N1 (nobody knew that at the time, obviously — apparently, someone was able to recover samples of the 1918 virus from the Alaskan permafrost). Every year since then (and even before then) has brought with it some kind of flu virus (twice a year, actually, if you consider that flu season in the Southern Hemisphere is six months out of phase with that of the Northern Hemisphere). Since one of the survival mechanisms of the flu virus is constant mutation [1], every year’s seasonal flu is slightly different from the year before. Health officials attempt to predict these mutations and concoct a vaccine each year specific to the predicted strains — and most of the time it works. What tripped the alarm this year is: (a) the fact that there hasn’t been an A/H1N1 virus circulating in recent memory so it was believed that humans had no natural immunity, (b) the virus seemed to be affecting more than just the very young and the very old, and (c) it appeared in the Spring — somewhat unusual for influenza… and very similar to the situation leading up to the pandemic in 1918.
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