Summer 1997

Aug. 30

Autumn is right around the corner, so this will be the last entry in the summer edition of my trusty journal. It has been hot here lately, although cooler than average. I'm a child of winter, though, so I'll be glad with the mercury starts to fall.

Some interesting news since my last entry--Another Diederich, Lynn Diederich, saw this home page and contacted me a few months back. We exchanged a few messages, and it turns out that my great grandfather and his grandfather were brothers. I learned that my great, great grandfather, Frank Diederich, came to America from Illerich, Germany, in 1843 with his parents, John and Gertrude. He was 3 years old. They settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Pretty cool.

If you have any info on the Diederich clan, Lynn would like you to drop him a line.

In other news...

I've lived in Tokyo for a total of six years now. I love Japan: my wife is Japanese; I'm studying the language; I work for a Japanese company.

But it's time to vent. This is an age-old practice I started way back in 1993 during the year I spent reporting for a daily newspaper in Lake County, Calif. But that is another story.

Japan is a strange but wonderful country. It is also, at times, very frustrating. Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took her parents, brother and his two children to the beach in nearby Chiba Prefecture.

The hotel was nestled into the side of a mountain that overlooked the Pacific. The beach was great, but the hotel was so nice that it was tempting to stay inside.

The view was fantastic and meals were included in the package. And the best part: it was an onsen, or hot-spring resort. Perhaps that is why we had to pay $200 per person to share one suite.

The downside

As with all hotels in Japan, check-in was at 3 p.m., but check-out was at 10 a.m. And amazingly, despite the high rates, the onsen didn't open until 10 a.m. Want a relaxing morning soak before checking out and hitting the road? Too bad.

While I'm venting, I might as well get a few other grievances off my chest. (The following are all in good fun.)

Tips for getting along in Japan (Part I)

1. Put salt on watermelon.

2. Put corn on everything, especially pizza.

3. When walking down a corridor or hallway with a group of people, make sure everyone walks abreast, thereby blocking other pedestrians in both directions.

4. When walking along a crowded sidewalk or passageway, move slowly and zig-zag so no one can pass, periodically stopping suddenly for no apparent reason when someone is right behind you.

5. When waiting for an elevator and the door finally opens, rush right in without waiting to see whether anyone wishes to get out. (Ditto with trains and subways.)

6. When sitting on the train, pick your nose and then discreetly roll the boogers onto the shoes of the person seated next to you.

7. When sitting in the section reserved for the elderly or disabled on the train, pretend like you're asleep when someone comes along that deserves to sit there.

8. If you are a middle-aged man, make disgusting sucking and slurping noises while seated on the train even though you are not eating anything.

9. If you are a young woman and lucky enough to get a seat on the train, act like you're asleep so you won't see the dirty old men who are staring at you.

10. When driving along a narrow street with no sidewalks in a crowded neighborhood full of children and old people who have a tendency to wonder into the middle of the road, drive at a high rate of speed--especially around corners.

July 5

Hope everyone had a happy Fourth of July. The U.S. holiday is not really big here in Japan, so I mostly milled about as usual. In other exciting news, I have been keeping tabs on NASA's Pathfinder mission. As most of you know, the probe landed on Mars yesterday and has sent back a slew of photos and other data scientists hope will tell them if there is, or ever was, life on the Red Planet. Here is one photo that seemed hauntingly familiar.

June 28

Well, here it is ... one year later. Yes, today is the The Diederich Journal's first anniversary. And, according to my trusty Web counter, we have logged 1,727 hits over the past 12 months. I'll be changing the layout in a couple weeks--or will try to. So check back when you have the chance. Thanks for stopping by.

June 12

Noriko and I met Elvis in Hawaii last month. We caught one of his shows at some cheesy dinner theater on Waikiki. Let me tell you: THAT GUY IS TALL! I'm around 5 feet, 8 inches (which, I admit, is short--even in Japan). But anyway, see for yourself.

June 7

My how time flies. The Diederich Journal is coming up on its first anniversary--with a whopping 1,600 hits! My wife, reading this over my shoulder, just said: "And most of them were from you," meaning me, of course. Well, maybe so....

Noriko and I just returned from two weeks in the States. We spent the first week in Hawaii and then went on to Ohio to visit my folks. Very exciting.

Sure, we had loads of adventures--as you would expect. But I won't bore you with any of them now. Maybe later. However, I do want to share a rather traumatic experience.

It started innocently enough. My brother-in-law asked us to pick up a couple of those Tamagotchi virtual-reality pets. They've been sold out here in Japan for months, and he wanted to impress his girlfriend by giving her one. I guess he wanted the other one for himself.

After scouring two malls, we found them at K-B Toys. At $18 a pop, they weren't cheap. But then my wife told me that they were selling for up to 30,000 yen ($280) each on the black market in Japan. Unbelievable! The clerk told us that purchases of Tamagotchi were limited to two units per person. We each bought two.

I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so I fired one up. The word "Tamagotchi" literally translates to "egg watch," which is basically what they are--eggs that tell time. But of course, that is not all.

After turning them on, a pulsating egg appears on the liquid-crystal display. Five minutes later, a "chick" hatches and the game begins. Using one of three buttons, you must feed, play with and clean up after your video-game pet. And when it goes to sleep, you must turn out the light.

Neglect results in death, and how they grow up depends on your "parenting" skills. Adult Tamagotchi come in a wide variety of shapes and have their own personalities--some are cute, well-mannered creatures; others are ugly, lazy and spoiled.

I named mine Hugh. According to the chart, he was "healthy, but liked to stay up late and wake up late." This was fine with me: Like father, like son. According to Bandai, the toy's maker, Tamagotchi come from another galaxy. Here on Earth, one day is equivalent to roughly one year.

I have to admit that the gadgets are addictive. The creatures require almost constant care, and the average lifespan is two weeks.

Hugh at age 15
I coddled Hugh. I took him with me everywhere and spoiled him with frequent snacks between meals. And I never turned down his incessant calls for attention. That rascal sure loved to play the "direction" game (I'd have to guess which way he'd turn--left or right--and if I guessed correctly, he would get all excited and beep like mad). But to be honest, raising Hugh was starting to interfere with my work. In fact, I heard that several people in Singapore have been fired for being obsessed with their Tamagotchi. Apparently, these workers would rather sacrifice their jobs than let their pets die. Perfectly understandable.

To make a long story short, Hugh died today. He was 18.

I'm too shook up to write any more, so I'll sign off here and continue this another day.

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