Telephone Card Collection


For a short time, relatively speaking, I collected Japanese Telephone cards.  Like most of my hobbies, I really shouldn’t use the past tense.  Most everything is just on hiatus (like a TV show that nobody has the guts to cancel)  I am not actively collecting them anymore.  Of course, with the extreme popularity of cell phones in Japan, is highly unlikely that anyone is–no, I take that back.  In Japan,. somewhere, there is probably a dedicated group of telephone otaku who still actively acquire and trade these cards.  If I search the internet, I am bound to find this group.  It is highly unlikely that I will ever do that, but it is still comforting to know they are out there…….somewhere.


Kansai Airport
This collection is probably more a reflection of my Japan obsession than my collecting obsession.  I don’t really have an attachment to the cards, but I have an attachment to the time they represent.  I lived in Japan PI and PC (Pre-Internet, Pre-cell phone)  Actually, that is not completely true, or at best, a small misrepresentation (at worst it is a completely bald faced lie–but let’s try to be optimistic here)  The internet existed when I was in Japan, it just wasn’t user friendly, wasn’t even remotely ubiquitous, and Al Gore hadn’t made any claims to its origins.  Cell phones existed, and while not huge brick like contraptions, were still less common and horrendously more expensive than these days.


cute animals
When one needed to make a telephone call out and about you could either fumble with change, or use a phone card.  Most everybody had one because no one had change.  The sold them everywhere (even in the famous Japanese vending machines, often next to the bank of phones)


Rather than plaster the phone company logo on the cards (as was done in Canada, and probably made the cards less interesting, and ultimately less successful) various images were placed on the cards.



culture old and new
Japanese telephone cards represented a good blend of commercial advertising and local heritage promotion.  Some cards were cool, some interesting, and some very strange.  I got them from students as souvenirs and I bought a bunch of them so my girlfriend could call me from the hospital.  I got some of them because I mentioned I liked them, and people started giving me their used ones.


I remember poking around Hankyu Department store in Umeda, Osaka and coming across people trading these phone cards (so I know they must still exist somewhere).  It was quite a site to see people bargaining over the price of “rare” phone cards.


and who could forget advertising
When I look back at them now, I am reminded of my life in Japan.  I am reminded of those late night calls (that were early morning calls here), those conversations that spanned blocks as well as continents, plans made, people met, experiences shared and of those bright green phones.


Having seen them on my last vacation in Japan, I know they are still there, but there are not nearly as many of them.  Come to think of it, it must have made a lasting impression on me because I even built a model of that telephone booth


I really never thought I would get a thousand page views (not actually sure what that means) but here we are.  Thank you for everyone who showed up to take a look.  Hopefully you found something that you’d llike to see again.

So, you’re interested in blogging…

In the past month I have encouraged several people to take up blogging.  Maybe, I would even go so far as to say I insisted that they take up blogging.  Who’s kidding who, I practically harassed them.  So, this begs the question, has making other people blog become a hobby?  Not hobby, but certainly it has become a pursuit, and I really don’t know why.

I started this just for a way to express myself that wasn’t related to being an ESL teacher (though I am thinking about a blog on that as well).  Perhaps, I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it, how good it would feel to put my words on the page.  When I started I had no idea if it would go beyond the first few ideas I had.  Granted, it has only been a couple of months, and I haven’t become an internet sensation, but it has lasted longer than some of my endeavours.

Why the need to drag (kicking and screaming) some others into this?  I don’t know.  It certainly wasn’t intentional.  If someone mentions that they have seen my blog, I quickly tell them that they should make one too.  Barely before they can finish a sentence, I start planning their blog for them.  I ask them about titles, I give encouragement, I blather on and on about how easy it all is.  I must have a sickness.

This really isn’t like me at all.  Most of what I do, I do by myself.  I took up some hobbies figuring I would meet people, that it would become social, but not that I would be out there trying to build a community.  I like to settle on the edge of the community, and slowly meet people.  I don’t rush to the centre and demand attention. Hmmm?  I wonder what’s really going on.

I guess blogging has made more of an impression on me than I realized.  I wonder if that means I will be accosting complete strangers on my commute, telling them to get on their smartphones right now and make a blog?  Hopefully, it won’t go that far…but one never knows.


After writing about my CodeWord book the other day, I spent a bit of my commute time thinking about completion.  I have almost completed my book of puzzles.  It might have taken me the better part of a year, but it will get done.  Hopefully tomorrow on the bus I will fill out that last page.  I hope I will feel some sort of satisfaction, or pride, or at least a sense of accomplishment.

Applying this to my other hobbies I see that completion has played a big part in them also.

 Here are some acts of completion which make me feel pretty good.

Putting the last piece in a 1000 (or more) piece puzzle.
Taking the last part of a model from the sprue and attaching it to the model.
Filling in the last square of the Saturday Crossword Puzzle.
Getting the last number of a Sudoku puzzle.
Taking off your skates or ski boots after a long day on the ice or the mountain.
Planting the last artificial tree on the train layout.
Getting the last colour in the Rubik;s Cube
Acquiring that last country in Risk.
Conquering the last civilization in Age of Empires
Getting the last card for your set.
The Stanley Cup Championship game.
The last train stop on the journey.
Writing the last postcard of your vacation.
The match winning tennis shot (forehand, crosscourt lots of topspin)

These completions ring bittersweet.

Reading the last sentence in a great novel.

The last ski run of the day.
Watching the last episode in a TV series you’ve enjoyed.
The last piece of birthday cake.

These are completions which are terrible

Eating the last cookie.

Drinking the last beer.

Though I love completion, I do know that procrastination has a strong hold on my life as well.  I like to see some things done, but I don’t always start them on time.

Commuting Distractions Revisited

For most commuters, a book, even the newspaper would be enough.  For this hobbyist, super enthusiast, if you will, I need more.  Yes, as I mentioned before, I do my best to read a lot of books.  Sometimes, though, books are just a slog, or just aren’t doing it.  When this happens, I turn to puzzles like crosswords, sudoku, the jumble if I can find one, or some other puzzle.  The one that has currently caught my eye is called codeword.

I get the feeling that for people in England what I am about to introduce is old hat.  As for Canada, I have never seen it in a newspaper here.  It sometimes appears in a book of variety puzzles, but I stopped buying those because never get through all of them and the book hangs around for years.

I was introduced to Codeword when I visited my friend in Japan.  He told me that he looked forward to his Sunday Edition of the Daily Yomiuri newspaper because they carried a Times supplement and had a codeword puzzle in it.  I could sympathize with my friend because I look forward to the Saturday Star because of the comics and the huge crossword.  As for Japanese newspapers every Sunday I read the Japan Times online because they have a great Dahl cartoon (check it out, it is pretty cool)

When I visited his place he graciously let me do his codeword (pretty nice considering he would have to wait seven days to do another one)  I was hooked.  It is different from both a crossword and sudoku, but contains some elements of both.  Basically if you like word games you might get a kick out of this.

I decided to repay my friend by sending him a codeword book, and since they had two I bought one for myself.  I have done about 143 of the 150 puzzles in the book.  There were 70 easy ones, 60 moderate ones, and 20 difficult ones.  I am not sure I appreciate the ratio of puzzles, but since it has taken me almost one year to do them, I really shouldn’t complain.  I have enjoyed the puzzles, and even learned a few, slightly obscure words.

I wish a Torontonewspaper would carry these puzzles once a week, but they’ve probably got enough going on right now.  I certainly wouldn’t want them to bump the jumble for this one, but…..

I probably won’t buy a book of these puzzles again, just because it seems like such a big commitment. 

If you want to try some of these yourself, a quick google search and you’ll find some that you can print up.  Let me know what you think.

A Puzzling Development

You’ve probably heard that old cliché that Japan takes something and makes it better.  While I am a big Japan fan (as you might have guessed from previous blogs) and I think Japan is much better at presenting me with hobby opportunities I don’t buy into that cliché wholeheartedly.  Nonetheless, where jigsaw puzzles are concerned, they have made it better.

I know what you’re thinking.  Ridiculous.  There are great jigsaw puzzles available in North America (and I suppose Europe–though I have never checked) so how could Japanpossibly have made this better?

You’re right.  They haven’t made the jigsaw puzzle better.  It is still just a picture on cardboard.  The subject of them might be different (there are a lot of Mount Fuji puzzle pictures in Japan, and some fantastic Ukiyoe puzzles) but beyond that a puzzle is a puzzle.

What they have made better is the building of puzzles.  Maybe it is because they treat it more like a hobby, and less like a diversion.  This has been done in two ways.

Each puzzle usually contains the puzzle (of course) advertising for other puzzles, the ability to send away for a puzzle catalogue,  a service card that tells you how to resolve any problems that arise from missing pieces (quite ingenious actually–you have to trace out the piece and send it to them, and they will send you the piece you are missing), glue for making the puzzle permanent and a small sponge to apply the glue.  All and all, a pretty complete package.  They even have a point system whereby if you buy enough puzzles you can get one for free.

The other thing that they have done is make puzzles in standard sizes–a lot of standard sizes.  The result is that on the puzzle box they will print a number (like B6) which corresponds to a frame that will fit that puzzles– and fit it well.  These frames are available at a reasonable price where you buy the puzzle.  What makes these frames useful is that they tray the puzzles sits on has a lip, so the pieces will stay in place, and can be used in the construction phase to keep everything together, and define height and width of the puzzle.

Granted, my experience with puzzles involves getting them from Zellers whenever I see one with a train theme, so maybe there is this kind of thing available here or in other countries, but Japan just seemed to make it easier.

I have done a couple of puzzles in Canada (as I mentioned, a CP train crossing a river in the prairies)  but it wasn’t quite the same.  I have the glue, but no frame.  I want to put it in the train room (eventually) but I am not sure how that is going to work.

I have seen some high end puzzle at a game room store–I think we only have one in Canada.  The puzzles looked cool, but once again no frame.  I guess the internet will have to provide a solution for this too.

The Inadvertent Collection Part Two

Having written the first Inadvertent collection, I think I may have cursed myself.  Now, when I look around my house, I wonder if the things I am seeing are, in fact, part of my new inadvertent collection.  Before, I thought I just had stuff.  Now, I wonder if I have indeed collected stuff.  I changed my perspective and probably would have been better off if I hadn’t.
I guess it is too late.

Just some of my dictionaries

Today, while looking for a book on one of my many bookshelves, I started to realize that I have way too many dictionaries.  Perhaps it is because I am an ESL teacher.  Perhaps it is because I have the dream of one day being a fluent Japanese speaker.  Perhaps it is because every kid in Canada who doesn’t speak French is expected to study it.  Whatever the reason, I have more than 20 dictionaries.
Of course I have the English dictionary to help me with crosswords and codeword puzzles when I am completely stumped.  It also comes in handy when challenging someone in Scrabble.

Two hard working, well travelled and used books

I have The French-English Dictionary, and it’s fraternal twin the English-French Dictionary.  I also bought a cool paperback French-French dictionary on the advice of my university French teacher.  Since I often tell my students to put away their smart phone translators and use a real English to English dictionary, I can’t fault her logic.  It did make writing essays easier because example sentences reveal lots of patterns.
The bulk of my collection are Japanese dictionaries.  I have them in portable form, and large, backbreaking format.  I have them written in Kanji, and Romaji.  Of course, I have a dedicated Kanji dictionary (I will never complain about alphabetical order again)  I even have a dictionary of Japanese verbs.  In addition to all that I have moved into the 21st century.  I have a Japanese dictionary in the form of software for my Nintendo DS.  It’s pretty cool.  When it is all said and done, I have a lot of reference material for studying.
One of my favourite dictionaries is my Japanese Loan Word Dictionary.  It contains words from other languages that are used in Japanese.  This is absolutely essential because foreign loadwords are written in the often hard to decipher Katakana, and thought by Japanese people to be easily understood by foreigners.  This is of course not true.  Most Japanese people think that they are all from English.  This is also untrue.  This was a great find.  And oddly enough, where I found it is remarkable.  It was on a discount table at a grocery store.  I got it for 2 or 3 dollars.
I may no longer look at my pile of stuff as just stuff, but at least I be able to find a definition when I need one.

A Dollar Store Find

Although “reality TV” is trying to convince me otherwise, I don’t think poking around stores hoping to find some hidden treasure is exactly a hobby.  That being said, I do find it interesting, and occasionally I do find something hobby related.
One such find, years ago, was a box of hockey cards.  As a kid, I never had the financial ability to buy a whole box of hockey cards.  I bought them one pack at a time, carefully sifting through them while trying desperately to make that cardboard like piece of gum soft.  Sometimes I bought three packs in a day, going back to the store for each one.  A whole box was unthinkable.
This treasure find, in a dingy discount store in an even dingier mall,  involved a box of Original Six hockey cards.  The idea was to release a series of hockey cards,  some in black and white, of my father’s hockey heroes.  They probably weren’t a hit, based on the low price for the whole box.  I think the Sporting News did something similar with baseball cards (though I think they were all in black and white)  I found the black and white pictures to be wonderful, even more fascinating than today’s full car, holographic, multi dimensional foil cards.  Maybe it was the deep hues.
I called this a treasure find because I liked it.  Unlike reality shows, I didn’t (and don’t) expect to sell the cards for a profit.  I managed to get two complete sets from that box–the other, when organized into a quality album, made a decent Father’s Day present.  I think my Dad appreciated it because he has more than enough ties, and our taste in clothes differs on a scale I wouldn’t hesitate to call epic.
Someday, I will probably set the cards up in a couple of frames and hang them on the hobby room wall.

About Trash Talking in the Digital Age

Perhaps I am old fashioned, but taunting people about their hockey pool picks on facebook, or by email doesn’t seem as much fun.  I know that cyber bullying is a serious problem, but I am not talking about that.  I am talking about razzing your friends, giving them the business, busting someone’s balls… you know what I mean.
If you read my previous post, you’ll know that trash talking and boasting has been the most exciting part of the hockey pool I am involved in.  Game two of the Stanley Cup Finals happened on a Saturday, which meant that I didn’t have a day to bother, pester and annoy my fellow poolies.  I guess I am going to have to join twitter if I want to make this work.