A Place Where You Can Pay with KitKats!


How’s this for creative marketing?

Train travelers using the Sanriku Railway network in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture can now use KitKats as train passes.

The concept is part of a scheme by Nestlé to rejuvenate tourism in the northern province, following the devastating effects of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake.

Customers can buy special packs of KitKat for less than the cost of a standard ticket as part of the initiative, which is the first time a Japanese rail company has allowed confectionery packaging to be used as a method of payment.

The move isn’t the first time Nestlé has helped the Sanriku railway get back on track following the natural disaster.

In 2011 the brand discovered that members of the reconstruction team were gifting one another KitKat treats as messages of encouragement, due to the similarity between the its name and the Japanese phrase “Kitto-Katsu,” meaning “you will surely win.”

Consequently, the brand began donating 20 yen (around $0.20) to the rebuilding project for each bar exchanged.

KitKat has also decorated two of the trains and two of the rebuilt stations with cherry blossom motifs, which symbolize hope in Japan.

KitKat train in Japan's Iwate Prefecture.

KitKat train in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture.

The move comes as the Japanese government recently announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi to tourists who register their passport details upon arriving in the country, in a bid to boost visits from foreign travelers.

KitKat train tickets will be available this month and will be valid on Sanriku Railway trains through May 2015.

Five Steps for Drinking With Koreans


If you’ve ever so much as hung out with a Korean person, you know that they can match drinks with anyone. I didn’t even have to go to Korea to first learn this, as I got plenty of education even in the U.S. on what the phrase “Johnnie Black” means to Koreans. We gave you some advice for drinking with the Chinese, and since each culture in Asia has its own strict drinking rules, we thought we’d do the same in case you find yourself drinking with Koreans.

Without further adieu, here are your five steps to drinking with Koreans:

  1. Never, ever, under any circumstances pour your own drink: Just as you are supposed to be looking out for those around you to make sure their glasses are never empty (please, re-fill them if they are), they will be doing the same thing for you. Play along.
  1. Use two hands: When someone does pour your drink, hold your cup with both hands. This rule actually applies to anything given to you in Korea, and while you will probably be given a pass if you don’t do this out of unintentional ignorance, better to impress your hosts.
  1. Turn your back: I’m not sure that I agree with it, but Korea is still an incredibly hierarchical society. When drinking with someone who is considered a superior—a boss, older person, etc.—you should drink while turning your back from them when you take your sip.
  1. Eat when you can: Very rarely do Koreans drink with only one type of alcohol, and it can be considered rude to turn down a drink (also not sure I agree with this). Generally speaking, a night out will involve the traditional Korean vodka-like beverage of soju with dinner, beer with tasty Korean snacks like fried chicken at the next stop (hint: this is where you may want to load up—on food), a stop at another place for more beer, a trip to a karaoke place where you may end up drinking anything, and finally a trip to a club, where you also may be drinking anything. Food won’t be available everywhere, so to soak up your mixed liquor, eat when you can, even if this requires a quick stop by one of the delicious street food vendors selling tasty treats like ddokpoki in between venues.
  1. Selective amnesia: Depending how many people you’re out with, someone is going to drink too much. On a good day, this will just mean that he or she passes out at the table you are drinking at, in which case you will just see to it that he or she gets into a taxi safely. On a bad day, this will turn into a meaningless fight for no reason at all. Either way, this isn’t necessarily considered shameful in Korea, since it is expected to happen to the best of them at times, and simply means you’re making a noble effort to keep your drinking skills up. But when it does, a true gentleman will never mention it again. You’ll hope someone extends you the same courtesy when it’s you who is sprawled out on the floor of a Korean bar.
Listen to this advice when you're having dinner...

Listen to this advice when you’re having dinner…

...because this is to follow...

…because this is to follow…

Yes, that says 4pm to 9am....

Yes, that says 4pm to 9am….

It isn't going to slow down...

It isn’t going to slow down…


…so eat that chicken when you can…


...because there is more of this to follow...

…because there is more of this to follow…

...with no shortage of options...

…with no shortage of options…

...you're likely to end up doing some karaoke...

…you’re likely to end up doing some karaoke…

...and then at a club

…and then at a club

Cut some slack to whoever looks like this first...

Cut some slack to whoever looks like this first…









Argentina’s Spiraling Inflation…


I saw a funny cartoon the other day on Discover Buenos Aires, a blog dedicated to an outsider’s view of living in the Argentine capital, which I’m sharing here. It explains what $6 would get you today in comparison with less than 10 years ago…let’s get it together, Sra. Kirchner!!

2004 con $6: Hola, dame un alfajor, un paquete de pepitas y una Coca Cola mediana.

2007 con $6: Hola, dame un alfajor y una Coca Cola chica.

2010 con $6: Hola, dame un alfajor.

2013 con $6: Hola.

(Translation below…not that it’s difficult!)

2004 with $6: Hello, give me an alfajor (a type of sweet), a pack of pumpkin seeds and a medium Coca Cola.

2007 with $6: Hello, give me an alfajor and a small Coca Cola.

2010 with $6: Hello, give me an alfajor.

2013 with $6: Hello.

American Teacher Exposes Lingering Racism in Japan


Today’s post is in support of our friend Miki Dezaki, a Japanese-American currently living and teaching in Japan. Miki has been in Okinawa since 2007, and has made some videos documenting various elements of Japanese culture from his unique perspective (usually with a humorous kick).

Recently, he made a video chronicling the racism that exists in Japan even today, and how the Japanese themselves are mostly oblivious to it. While the video is in fact a thoughtful analysis rooted in fact and supporting evidence, Miki did not expect that the video would cause the stir that it did, in this case, from the loud, vocal and right-wing netouyou.

Some extremists from this group were so outraged that they began hurling death threats at Miki, and attacking him through his various social media presences online. Armed with the information they could find there, they infiltrated his personal life, tracking down his superiors at school, the school board, and even local government to demand that he remove the video and stop spreading his message. Ironically, that fact alone seems to reaffirm Miki’s original “controversial” claim that racism does still exist in Japan.

“Some Japanese guys found out which school I used to work at and now, I am being pressured to take down the ‘Racism in Japan’ video,” Dezaki posted on Reddit. “I’m not really sure what to do at this point. I don’t want to take down the video because I don’t believe I did anything wrong, and I don’t believe in giving into bullies who try to censor every taboo topic in Japan. What do you guys think?”

You can read more about Miki and his video in a recent Washington Post article here. In the meantime, we at Initial Descent want to express our support for Miki and wish him well as he continues to try to make the country he loves a better place through education.

You can also watch the original video that caused this stir below:

He has also released a follow-up, which can be accessed here.


IDelsalvador: Keeping the Peace Among the Gangs


A few years ago, I read about a girl that I knew from high school who went to meet some friends at a hotel room in our middle-class suburb of Washington, D.C. Hours later, she was dead and dumped in a forest two hours away, a victim of the most violent, intimidating gang around: MS-13.

Mara Salvatrucha-13, or MS-13 for short, is a gang built on violence and intimidation. Rooted in El Salvador, the gang has a significant presence in the United States as well, with Los Angeles in particular being a huge breeding ground. But MS-13 terrorizes its home country the most, with its ongoing territory battle with rival gang Barrio 18 being responsible for El Salvador’s status as having the second highest murder rate in the world.

One year ago today, MS-13 and Barrio 18 agreed to a truce. Surprisingly, the truce is still in place today, and the country’s murder rate has dropped an astounding 67 percent. From a high of between 13 and 14 murders a day, the country is now dealing with about 5—still a number not in line with peace and harmony, but certainly a vast improvement.

It is believed the truce was facilitated by a Catholic bishop—something to be expected in this predominantly Catholic country—and a former rebel commander of left-wing guerillas who battled El Salvador’s military during the country’s civil war some 30 years ago. The negotiations took place among rival gang leaders in some of the nation’s prisons, which are swollen in many cases to five times their capacity.

While El Salvador’s Minister for Justice and Security is credited with the arrangement (though he denies involvement), many people are skeptical, believing that the gangs have either been paid off by the government or strongly influenced by just as violent gangs from Mexico who depend on MS-13 and Barrio 18 for getting their drug supplies through Central America. But all parties involved insist neither is true, and that the gangs’ leaders have come to the realization that the body count has simply gotten out of hand.

What’s important for now though is that the murder rate is down, and if the trend continues, it could go a long way into helping El Salvador reach its potential as a growth economy and a desirable place to visit. And more importantly, a place where the country’s children can play outside without the sound of gunshots ringing.

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

(image credit: Associated Press/WJLA)

IDbarcelona: More Than a Club


FCB Logo

They certainly make Barcelona natives proud for their exploits on the pitch: FC Barcelona has long cemented its reputation as one of the greatest football clubs in the history of the sport. Today, they are widely regarded as the best team in the world. But part of what makes this club so iconic, and its rivalry with Real Madrid the most publicized in the world, is that unlike other iconic sports clubs, the ramifications of this clubs results stretch far beyond the pitch.

If you take a look back through Spain’s political history, you’ll see that nearly every idea that shaped the country’s identity—at various times republicanism, federalism, anarchism, syndicalism and communism—were introduced via Catalonia, of which Barcelona is the capital.

In the middle of the 20th century, thanks to the dictatorships of Miguel Primo de Rivera and Francisco Franco, regional pride within the Spanish borders was restrained. This hit hard in Catalonia, which has always found pride in its linguistic dialect and its own identity, so strong that there have always been and are still today frequent calls for its secession from Spain. Because FC Barcelona at the time represented progressive beliefs, and took on the wider role of representing Catalonia as a whole, the club gained the motto més que un club (“more than a club”) during this time—a motto that continues to thrive today.

The bleachers at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona's home ground

The bleachers at Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home ground


IDseattle: The Three Years That Changed Seattle Forever


Before 1990 or so, Seattle was a blue collar, industrial city tucked away in the Pacific Northwest. A manufacturing stronghold, it was home to one of the world’s largest aircraft makers—Boeing—and an active naval shipyard. It had a few professional sports teams, a large state university, and a lot of rain. Rain, in fact, was probably what the city was most known for.

That all started to change in 1986. It was in that year that Bill Gates decided to take his obscure computer software company public, giving it a home in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue. The next year, a man named Howard Schultz acquired a small coffee company, with just six stores in Seattle. And a year after that, two kids from the coastal town of Aberdeen, Washington—about two hours away—showed up in Seattle with their guitars and a vision.

That obscure software company, Microsoft, would end up becoming the most important name in the beginning of the digital revolution, creating three billionaires and an estimated 12,000 millionnaires among its employees. Seattle was now at the center of the technology world—Silicon Valley before Silicon Valley—and a city with significantly greater purchasing power as well.

What Microsoft has grown into in suburban Seattle

What Microsoft has grown into in suburban Seattle


As for the coffee company, well, it just so happened that Schultz had visited Milano, Italy earlier that year and noticed that there was a coffee bar in just about every corner. People did not just patronize them to fill up on coffee, but rather to meet and greet with friends and colleagues—they were a part of Italy’s social fabric. He decided to try to apply this concept to his new purchase, a little company called Starbucks, and the idea of coffeehouse-as-meeting-place would storm the nation and eventually the world. Today, Starbucks has more than 20,000 stores in over 60 countries.

A look inside the first Starbucks today

A look inside the first Starbucks today

And those kids—Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain—would create a band called Nirvana and with it, an entire counterculture. Grunge music was born, and more significantly, Seattle as the creative hub that spawned it. Seattle had had famous musicians before—think Jimi Hendrix—but he in particular spent the majority of his active years in London and elsewhere. Nirvana truly made Seattle home, and the city that had previously had a small music scene went on to produce Pearl Jam, Soundgarten and Alice in Chains among others.

Nirvana's performances gave life to Seattle's dormant music scene

Nirvana’s performances gave life to Seattle’s dormant music scene

Today, Seattle is regarded as anything but blue collar–a technology hub with an artistic, coffee house culture full of youth and creative energy. For this, it can look back on the years 1986-1988, and those few individuals that sparked the evolution from industrial port city to what it is today, and give thanks.

Seattle is moving at top speed today

Seattle is moving at top speed today