Korean Fall Harvest Festival: A Time for Food, Family, and Telling Japan to Passive-Aggressively Fuck Off

Republic of Korea Navy (대한민국 해군): Happy Chuseok (추석)/Hangawi (한가위)

The Republic of Korea Navy (ROK) wishes everyone a Happy Korean Harvest Festival. Also, eat dicks, Japan (via: https://www.facebook.com/ilovenavy)

Ah, Chuseok (추석), Korean Harvest Festival, a time for families to come together, honoring their ancestors, indulging in a plethora of  rice cakes, fruits, and other delights  of a bountiful harvest,  all while getting pissed on wonderful seasonal rice wines.

The ROK Navy would like to take this beautiful autumnal moment to extend their heartfelt well-wishes for a happy and joyous Chuseok (즐거운 한가위 되세요), evoking the beauty of this Asian fall festival through images of copious fruits ready for harvest on fall-colored tree branches (because, duh, autumn) and flying birds (Asians love Asian-y looking birds). Also, the ROK Navy would like to let everyone know, especially Japan, that during this joyous Chuseok: DOKDO IS KOREAN TERRITORY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Chuseok, and stay ever-vigilant, friends, because you never know what those shifty Japanese might do while you’re drunk, full of mochi Korean mochi Songpyeon, and enjoying seasonal, Sumo Korean Sumo definitely NOT AT ALL related to Japan, Ssireum matches.

Because, Fuck It, I’m Shinzo Abe, Dammit

Japanese Hyūga-class helicopter destroyer Celebrates 2020 Tokyo Olympics Selection

Prime Minister Abe alluded to future Olympics conducted entirely on yet to-be-built Aircraft Carriers, editing his remarks to say “Helicopter Destroyers”  while making hand quotes, but continued: “Yeah, we’re gonna need a lot of those for the ‘Olympics’ (more hand quotes).”

Only days after Tokyo rallied to claim the International Olympic Committee’s selection to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe outlined a massive new proposal to fully incorporate the Olympics as a major new cornerstone of his current economic initiatives.

Prime Minister Abe met with the press Thursday morning to outline his new philosophy.

“After winning this bid to host the 2020 Olympics, and analyzing the economic benefits and employment opportunities of such massive public spending, I, and by default, the Japanese government, have decided to move to a fully Olympics-based Economy” said Abe during his time outlining his new vision for the nation.

He proceeded to detail the major tenets of his new plan.

“For this new economic direction to succeed, we’ll have to win all future Olympic bids, both Winter and Summer. We will base our entire economy around building for, and conducting future Olympics. This will help to fuel massive public construction projects throughout our nation, allowing the government to pump money into area economies, creating jobs for all, and really cool buildings that look like the future. It’ll be just like the 1980s again, but better! Remember how cool it was when we just built airports everywhere without a care in the world? We’ll also challenge ourselves by setting the bar higher, sometimes randomly changing it up, like holding a Winter Olympics in Okinawa, or a Summer Olympics on reclaimed land we created just for that Olympics, possibly having an entire Olympics on the decks of a bunch of newly-minted Aircraft Carriers, or um, whatever you people are calling them, “Helicopter Destroyers (Hand quotes).”

Abe went further into auxiliary added benefits, such as doubling or tripling the nations mascot creation industry, currently the third largest industry in the nation, as well as the potential for a massive upward spike (pun intended) that continual international guests will bring to the Japanese Whore Economy (Nikkei: JWE),

While Abe’s new plan immediately awed the Japanese public, who have become experts at listening to anything that comes out of the Prime Minister’s mouth and believing it, some brash reporters, perhaps new to the job and not yet acclimated to the press club’s norm of avoiding tough, un-vetted questions,  grilled Abe on his new direction and its lack of international vision.

Abe responded to his critics with the same gleaming smile that won best in show during the IOC selection process. “Well, you see, we’re creating a highly skilled, events staff workforce, fully adept at running massive international functions. To stimulate global exchange, we’ll surely lend our honed Olympics-hosting abilities to other nations to kick-start their events. Our builders and logistics people can be cross-trained and sent abroad to assist with the soccer World Cups, Super Bowls, NBA All Star Week, and that silly World Cup of that sport that takes days per game and uses weird S&M bats.”

Abe’s ego may have become as bloated as his ever-rising approval rating, and some are beginning to believe that he has superpowers or mind control abilities, skills that apparently translated well to his dealings with the IOC.

In off-the-cuff remarks after his main presentation on Thursday, Abe walked directly amid the crowd of reporters, fielding questions like either Jesus or an American talk show host, assisting and reviving at least two reporters who fainted in his presence, and passing out onigiri rice that appeared magically from his hands to hungry journalists,  all while casually delving into more of what spurred him towards his new economic model.

Boardwalk Empire Napkin Scene

The Genesis of a New Path for Japan (Pic via: http://www.uproxx.com/tv/)

“Yeah, I told the IOC there were no problems at all with that whole Fukushima disaster and they completely bought it! I didn’t even frame it as “for Tokyo,” I just told ‘em it wasn’t a problem AT ALL! Who knew you  could just clear an entire mess like that by just saying it wasn’t an issue? During that final coffee break I pointed out that Istanbul’s a disturbing mess of weird, potential secular terrorists and that Madrid is perennially a hive of unemployed wasters, but that was all just icing on the cake. After we won, during a day or two of prostitutes and binge drinking to celebrate, I thought it would be cool if we could just keep this train rolling forever. So I drew some shit on a napkin in some snack bar at like 5am and handed it to Taro Aso. The rest is history.”

And so Japan charts a bold new path on the global economic stage, the post-modern, Olympics-Based Economy.

99 Logos and a Bitch, Each One

Japan Next Logo

Well, there it is, Japan’s new logo “to be used by Japanese agencies and corporations around the world to promote Japanese culture embodying the idea of Cool Japan.”  After reviewing some 99 entries, the pencil pushing desk jockeys on the Committee to Waste Japan’s Time finally waded thru the apparent complete dearth of ideas and creativity to select this stunning little piece on my left here, courtesy of Kashiwa Sato (whose site melts my fucking brain). Mr. Saito obviously took his inspiration from looking in the mirror every day:

Kashiwa Sato is Japan NextWhile the mind boggles at how there could have been 99 entries worse than this one, I’m willing to roll with it if we perhaps fine tune what we’ve already got. As such, let me propose a few edits and recommendations:

Japan Next Anime Hair

JAPAN: STILL RIDING ANIME

If you want to use your “Cool Japan” or “Japan Next” logo to promote wacky Japanese culture and you’re not going to use school girls and tentacle rape, you might as well give your logo some cool anime spikey hair. Just a slight turn, as seen on the right here, takes Sato’s logo from ungodly conventional and pedestrian to “the Naruto of shitty logos.” You could even put one of those toilet bowl swirlies in the middle of it to make anime fans all cream their pants.

ADDED BONUS: The logo highlights the one disaster that hasn’t destroyed Japan this past year. Japan has not been bombarded with meteors or asteroids……….yet………..

Japan Next Logo Backwards

JAPAN: OUR WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

On the left, you’ll see an edit to Satos’s logo that more adequately reflects Japanese aesthetics.  I was wondering why the initial logo reflected a Western “left to right” model of forward progression when the majority of Japanese books, magazines, manga, and other materials tend to start from the right and progress to the left.

ADDED BONUS: For Western eyes, this logo better explains the actual progession of the Japanese political system and economy.

Japan is Melting

JAPAN MELTING

Finally, on the right, I believe we have the best possible way to sell Sato’s yawn-inducing logo and assure that it brings peoples’ thoughts back to Japan.

This logo will let the world know that despite being forgotten by the entire media of the world, Japan isn’t going anywhere “Next” at this moment, still dealing with a MASSIVE NUCLEAR WASTELAND, giant cleanup, destroyed industries, corrupt corporations still fucking the populace, an inept government, stale economy, apathetic people, and a complete and utter loss in prominence of all the stuff they try to sell to the world as “Cool Japan.”

RANDOM ASIDE: During the creation of #Quakebook there was a great deal of Western-guilt debate on using the Japanese “Rising Sun” icon in any other way than in its original form, for fear of offending the Japanese people, to the point where logos for the book were rearranged and reworked. I suppose this was all silly Western political correctness, as it’s readily apparent that the J-gov couldn’t give too fucks about mucking around with their countries symbology.

Maybe it only hurts when foreigners do it.

As a final note, my favorite logo idea can be found here at Politicomix, which would scare the the Dukboki straight out of Korea and their completely irrational fear of “Fan Death.” That’s a ballsy stance I could really get behind.

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Craig is currently a freelance writer whose works appear on his two blogs (here and here), as well as occasional pieces on Japan and ESL for Language House. He fashions himself as something of a humorist, with a passion for social media, international politics, technology, beer, Asia, New Jersey, the Pacific Northwest (Seattle-ish), puppies, both Footballs, and pizza. He can be found ranting about all of the above and more via Google+ and Twitter.

I Vow to Ride This Shitty White Whale into the Ground

I stand here before you today as the newly elected Prime Minister of Japan. I’m not sure how this actually happened. The other day I was pissing off South Korea, taking a non-Japanese war criminal stance even though I once thought they were kinda/maybe war criminals, and before that, I was doing a pretty ho-hum job as a finance minister, mostly just coming away with a well arranged pencil case and a big pile of potentially important paperwork I never finished.

If I had to describe myself as an ice cream flavor, I’d pick vanilla. Vanilla doesn’t scare anyone. It’s not threatening. I’m not going to jumble your senses. I’m not going to stir the pot. I’m just going to keep on being vanilla. Don’t think there will be any real vanilla beans in me either. That would be overpowering. I’m just regular vanilla, made with fake vanilla flavoring, the way Japan likes it.

I guess I got this job because people hate Ozawa. He’s more of a mint ice cream with peanut butter chunks. The public is always interested in his outlandishness, but his flavor is so divisive and repulsive that they fear actually trying him. He could also be Neopolitan, but only after the vanilla is gone. Neopolitan ice cream is weird. Americans like that kind of ice cream, but to me, it offers too many choices and ideas and an unbalanced mix of tastes.

I promise to just phone things in here, and ride the status quo like those before me.  Judging from the 1970s-era microphone array in front of me, the public wants Japan moving backwards. As such, I’m happy to oblige.

I may or may not have my hand in various tills. Who really knows, right?

I vow to ride this shitty white whale of an economy and a nuclear disaster into the ground. Whales can’t live on the ground. Then we can either eat it or not eat it, depending on what you think would be best, because again, I wouldn’t want to stir the pot with any wild decisions.

Thank You,

Yoshihiko Noda

 

PS: Not only am I boring, but I look like a mudfish or an eel! Use that endlessly in articles on me!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Providing Man-Solutions Since 1980

There are certain instances in time that a man never forgets…

They’re locked into his head as “man moments” for all eternity. He’ll fondly recall them often and without prompting, over and over again for the duration of his lifetime, likely expecting his feats to be carried down as oral legends on through to future generations.

Over two thousand years ago, these moments  would have been something akin to Alexander the Great breaking the back of the Persian Empire at Gaugamela. Now, they’re more likely to be finding a quick route to a party around massive fourth of July fireworks traffic (WHICH I totally did in 2002 by parking across the Sea Bright bridge in the Holy Cross parking lot, walking across the bridge to the fireworks on the beach, catching them, hiking back over the bridge, hopping in the car and taking the back route via Seven Bridges Road to get to my friend’s party in Long Branch in 20 minutes instead of the TWO HOURS it took anyone else to make it to the party. IT WAS TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!).

I bring this up because I’m currently being put to my greatest man challenge of all time. The wife, having existed in the world of Japan for most of her life, is now trying to adapt to life in the States. I’m constantly posed with problems that require on-the-spot man solutions.

The Creepy Mexican Marionette Puppet Clown thing is a warning to those that might seek to pilfer the soccer ball from the vent

Perhaps my crowning achievement was my solution to the air conditioning problem yesterday. In our transitional period, we’re staying with my ‘rents, who love a constant stream of cold air at a temperature that would kill most Japanese people.

The wife was slowly dying, so we taped the vent shut, closed the door, and opened the windows to the hot and humid world outside, allowing her to live like a shut-in hikikomori in relative comfort, packing on Mt. Everest expedition winter gear for journeys to kitchen and bathroom.

But alas, the tape was no solution.  Condensation was gathering on the tape and dripping down the paint, an event that would drive my mother, a member of the Martha Stewart Army of Perfect Household Percetion, completely insane.

What were we to do?

Like the great Alexander, it was time to put up or shut up. While my dad unscrewed the vent and peered at it in desperation, wondering how equilibrium could be achieved between two womens’ warring viewpoints, we were starring at defeat without a single solution to save us.

That was when I saw it…

Recently unpacked and laying on the ground, was my magical soccer ball, sitting there, waiting for its epic glory, a perfect sphere. The vent was cylindrical. Like two pieces of something important, I looked to the circular vent hole and back at the spherical soccer ball.  Then, like a two-year old sticking cylinder shapes in the cylinder holes and triangle shapes in the triangle holes, I quickly (and without a lot of practical thought) picked up the soccer ball and jammed it in the vent.

I struck a pose like Napoleon standing upon a mountain of victory.

Due to the beauty of physics and scientific shit, we later kinda guessed that the air in the ball was the perfect buffer between the warm, humid air and the cold air coming from the vent. I can’t say I really thought about that at the time, but I will say I’d thought of it in future re-tellings of this tale (Hint: Eventually the vent will be a tiger’s mouth).

The wife is now marginally surviving her borderline hikikomori life, the mother is kind of, somewhat able to deal with the vent not being on the wall, and Alexander the Great can eat a dick, cause I’m fucking amazing!!!!

YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!

.

I’ll certainly be telling this story when I’m an 85-year old Alzheimer’s patient to a male nurse named Eduardo in a rest home somewhere in Florida or Arizona. He’ll nod in feigned-approval, knowing it’s best to just let me release some steam, and at at least it’s not the fucking fireworks story for the 1,000th time or telling him they’re secretly poisoning my soup again. It’s best never to get involved in affairs regarding old people and soup.  It never really ends well….

Stuck In The Middle With You: AKA, Being Stuck Between Scylla and Charybdis AND a Massive Love Train, But Not Really a Part of Either

I originally wrote this piece for #Quakebook, but it didn’t make the final cut. After reading through some of the excerpts, I can see why, as they capture the moment, the feelings, and events far better  than I and are more deserving of a spot than the hungover notions that I penned below.

Still, I like what I wrote and I don’t want to see it just disappear, so I’m putting it down right here for posterity.

Should you like what you read here, I HIGHLY recommend that you navigate on over to the afore mentioned #Quakebook Project and pick up a copy. It’s absolutely gripping stuff.  Just think, you’re sitting here potentially enjoying the scraps when you can invest in the full fucking dinner, 100% of proceeds going to help the people in the Tohoku region of Japan.

Anyway, here ya go:

3/19/2011

It was a bizarre mental week…

Foreign media proclaimed the entire country  a wasteland, accusing the Japanese government of hiding incredible evils, and the only good news was that Japanese people still fit the convenient world stereotype of politely not killing each other or devolving into Barter Town-esque dynamics that apparently arise whenever any other country faces crisis.

Friends and family outside Japan heaped a deluge of love and worry upon me. I played the comedian and thanked them for caring so much about my pollen allergies, but by week’s end felt heavy with what might be considered a mild case of survivor’s guilt. As my net-brethren in Tokyo braced for their nightly aftershocks and the clouds of media radiation, there was a moment or two where I’d hoped to feel at least a piece of it all myself so that I could be part of what everyone outside Japan was telling me I was a part of, perhaps a little quake or a tiny-tsunami, just enough to join the club, to be a city on the Japan Quake ’11 tour tee-shirt

I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a strange situation, media and friends consoling me and proclaiming my doom in equal measure, all while I sat in my rainbows and puppy dogs corner of newly ‘post-apocalyptic’ Japan.

Before our power company figured out how to send power across the east/west wattage differential, my wife and I made irrational decisions, canceling her plans to make oatmeal cookies to help spare the power grid while I donated money to the Red Cross knowing full well that they’d just change the rules on CPR again so they could make new CPR manuals to sell.

We all had our mini mental breakdown moments here this week, but it’s a beautiful spring day here and I can still buy batteries.

So, there it is. If you liked that for free, get the real deal at Quakebook and support a good cause.

 

An Intricate Look into the Mind of a Japanese Politician (AKA: You Spin Me Right Round Baby, Right Round, Like a Record, Baby, Right Round, Right Round)

Japanese Political Decision Making Wheel

When Arrow Lands Between Sectors, Take Limo to Park, Lure Homeless Man into Limo, Clean Him Up, Secretly Trade Lives (click to zoom)

Japan: The Ex-Girlfriend of Technological Innovation, Driving by Your Place Constantly, Texting about “Old Times”

obama's robotic seal experience in Japan

Oh, so that's what that shrieking was, I thought you were fluff'n some whores for me in the next room (Picture courtesy of spectrum.ieee.org)

I’ve been a bit out of the loop. My computer crashed and I was torn from the universe. I suddenly found myself indulging in crazy, Luddite activities, reading words printed on pressed trees and (hand quotes) ‘using my imagination’ or ‘having sex with my wife’ instead of  the plethora of media options available to me in the modern era.

So forgive me if I’m a bit behind in catching up, but I couldn’t help but shed a tear for the crushing, utter implosion of Japan’s grip on innovation and technology, convincingly embodied by the above picture and the accompanying video.

The Tale of the Tape

1) Years of Robotic Research and Japan’s developed Robotic Baby Seals?

Say that again with me people:

Robotic…………Baby…………………Seals

I ain’t gonna lie, Teddy Ruxpin was fully anthropomorphic, spoke WORDS, and did all that 25 years ago.  Your seals yelp down a hallway like a two-bit whore from Roppongi in a love hotel.

2) Robots with human qualities are fucking creepy. Don’t take my word for it, listen to accredited, actual journalists and scientists here. Japan is ungodly excited about crossing a point, that no one wants to cross except Japan. I want a Roomba, not a creepy robot that looks like a woman with Parkinson’s disease.

3) Looking above, I can only assume that Japan is on an epic quest to have sex with their robots. My epic quest is to get a robot that does the shit my wife nags me about on a Sunday while trying to watch football. Can’t we all just get on the same ‘epic quest’ page?

4) Stop creeping out foreign dignitaries with weird shit. Listen, when Vladamir Putin visits Bulgaria, he gets a puppy:

Putin and a Puppy

That's REAL World Power right there

You’re creeping out the guy who still has the most nuclear weapons at his fingertips with shrieking pseudo-mammals normally worn around fashionable ladies” necks en route to cold Christmas balls and immobile, nagging  wife-like robotic zombies without all the fun of actual, real zombies.

Where’s our fucking puppy?  Stop making foreign dignitaries go through an endless loop of technological nonsense because you think they’re cool.

We just think you’re weird.

5) After the faux-imals and immobile, yet nagging, vagina-less faux-wives, they ferried President Obama over to their proudest innovation, a really bulky future Segway thing.  Congrats Japan, you took a technology previous known for a) laughing at shorts-wearing American tourists in Paris b) a wildly hilarious story, making them both into a far more cumbersome and useless technology (with rain shield!).

Listen Japan, it’s over. You’re not good at this technology thing anymore. We’re gonna have to see other people. Don’t call me anymore, end the soppy texts, and stop driving by my place.

In the rest of the world, we don’t care about phones that can access analog TV channels, we have smart phones that do everything. We don’t care about how you’ve invented Blu Ray or pioneered 3D TV, because the simple fact remains that most places I go within your so-called ‘technological mecca’ lack basic cable or satellite television.

People still show me ‘mini-discs’. I don’t even know what those are.

Techies used to flock to Akihabara like it was a pilgrimage, but let’s face it, they’re going for the maids now.

Akihabara Japanese Maids

I smell sex and.....coffee?

You’ve gotta stop pretending. When I wanna see wacky Asian tech shit, you’re just not on my list anymore. I’m gonna be check’n underground in Shanghai and Beijing, or hit’n the streets of Seoul.  It’s just cooler there right now.

Warm toilet seats don’t make the world go round.

I know, it’s difficult for me too. I mean, there are some nights when I might still come calling. After all, you still lead the world in creepy squid and octopus pornography and humiliating and painful game show innovation.

But girl, ya gotta understand, me and Obama just ain’t into what you.got anymore. You keep recreating these old moments, hoping we don’t realize it ain’t noth’in new, hoping that nostalgia’s enough to carry us through to a new day.

Well, it’s not.

We’re kinda into these new girls with these new tricks, and the more you try and bring up the past, the more we’re just gonna walk on by.

So if you wanna get us back, stop being a one trick pony. Go get yourself a makeover, take some pilates classes, maybe get a lil’ work done. Hit these scene again with a newer, hotter beau, make us jealous.

Because if you want us back, shoving weird robot seals in our face sure as hell ain’t gonna fly.

 

A Comprehensive Explanation of the Japan/China Situation for Laymen and Yacht Enthusiasts

chun li vs e honda

This is a visual metaphor to help understand the situation visually with pictures

People back on the”‘sane” side of the world often turn to me like I’m actively involved in shaping the future of Asia. They think I have magical inside knowledge of the tensions between North Korea and the rest of the far East, or that I possess a deep understanding of the going rate of worn school girls’ underwear.

They’ve recently been asking me about all this China and Japan ruckus. I’ve decided to put it in simple terms to help the international community better understand this complex situation:

The Beginning

Japanese Whaling Ship

Fuck, we hit another foreigner!

Japanese people are always hitting foreigners with their boats.

Whenever they journey out into the sea, they inadvertently find ways to crash into some other foreign peoples’ ships. This is why the Tokugawa Shogunate gave up on seafaring and Japan never mastered the art of trans-oceanic travel until the Meiji Chocolate Era.

Japanese people know this. They have an intense fear of everything outside the confines of their happy islands. Japanese tourists know that in their travels they might be forced into a boat, slowly turning the wheel of destiny to lead them into an inadvertent collision with outsiders.

This would be tragically stressful for the Japanese tourist, requiring at least three unique apologetic phrases, much like when entering an elevator*

*Japanese people are also afraid of elevators because you smell funny. They apologize when entering an elevator because they feel sorry that they hate your smell so much. Isn’t that nice of them?

The Problem

Fish cocktail

A Traditional Japanese Breakfast, made from live, screaming baby fish and Shochu

Japanese people despise their gods and shake their fists in contempt at the sky because of the irony of hating boats and having an insatiable appetite for fish.

Every year brave men and women are put through rigorous game show segments where they play human tetris or fall into boiling water. This is meant to weed out the weak, who are thrown into meaningless bureaucratic jobs, much like the babies thrown upon the cliffs of Sparta.

The survivors become Noble Fisherman and Defenders of Japan, constantly wrestling with the fact that they will one day literally collide with their destiny.

The Situation:

The Situation

Not a fish, not even a Lobster, despite Red Skin and Lobster Moves

The Situation between China and Japan:

Reenactment China Japan

China was Hang'n Out with Goats, Mind'n their Biz...

China was in their little boats, get’n all out there, explore’n shit. They found a small island with goats, as seen in the picture above. The goats are represented by coins in the picture because of their value*

*The Chinese like goat island because goats are an important resource in China, accounting for about 27% of China’s current energy systems, a figure estimated to rise by as much as 13% by 2020.  They also like to eat goats.

Japan had previously run a bonito flakes* factory on the island and had decided to check into restarting their operation there.

*Bonito Flakes are a fish based breakfast cereal in Japan

China spotted Japan at full steam off their starboard bow*  They waved goodbye to their goat friends, packed up all their opium, and shipped out to avoid the inevitable collision.

…But Opium makes you slow

*Observant readers might take offense to my nautical terminology, but in China, they use nautical terms opposite the way that you do.

The ships collided and the Japanese Noble Fishermen/Defenders of Japan took the Chinese captain hostage for fraternizing with goats*

*Japanese people hate goats because their meat smells like you smell in an elevator. They will complain about mutton incessantly.

The remaining Chinese were allowed to sail off in their junk ships.

The Hostage

Chinese Fisherman

How Many Birds Does Your Soul Weigh?

From there, the poor fisherman was brought to Japan, throngs of people politely jeering at him and calling him names that could possibly be interpreted as offensive, then apologizing to their hostage in case they’d offended him.

He was brought to their Great Hall, to meet their tiny Emperor on his cute little throne. The Emperor commanded his servants to bring the ceremonial birds to weigh the fisherman’s soul in an ancient Japanese ritual of weighing peoples’ souls with birds*

*Birds are important to Asians, look at Asian shit in Asian museums for more information

The Bird Weighing Ceremony was complex, vague,and a waste of time, giving the poor Chinese fisherman valuable insight into the Japanese Political System, but one does not question mystical Asian shit.

The Response

mochi

All Your Mochi Are Belong to Us, Bitches!

The Chinese media caught wind of their fisherman’s capture and the populace responded, suspending all production of Omiyage (translates to ‘Useless Japanese Souvenirs made in China’)  and Omiyage Mochi (‘Crappy Japanese dessert made from beans that functions as a Useless Japanese Souvenir Made in China; A Way to Kill Old People ‘).

Japanese people cannot travel without acquiring Omiyage to bring back to friends and family, even within their own country. This brought Japanese transportation systems to a halt, all people hiding in their homes to avoid travel.

In addition, they were without their Mochi Omiyage supply, the second most important food on the Japanese Food Pyramid next to fish.

Japan was caught in a bind, taking a strong stance against goat fraternization, but now with their populace in fear of leaving their homes. Without people to go fishing and without their mochi imports, Japan was caught between their ideals and their survival.

The Resolution

Geisha

Inside I'm a ball of Hate Rage, but outside I'm passively frown-y

Japan relented and released the Chinese Fisherman. Their stoic response claimed victory, but everyone knew they’d bitched out.

Chun Li Owns Your Soul

U'sa Bitch, Japan!

China welcomed their fisherman hero home with one of those parades with dragons. He became a national hero and they built a Chinese restaurant on the goat island, making him the manager.

He now works there 18 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days per year. You can even go there on Christmas. Lunch buffets are a reasonable $6.99, Dinner $10.99, drinks not included, please tip the waitstaff.

In Conclusion

I hope I’ve been able to better enlighten people on the various political shadow games behind the scenes here in this interesting world of intrigue. Thank you for joining me on this journey through Eastern Asia. I hoped you’ve enjoyed learning as much as I’ve enjoyed helping open your eyes to this mysterious land of mystery.

Now you’ll sound really smart and worldly at your white people yacht club parties and score mad bitches and cougars.

Vuvuleza, How do you not inspire more clitoris mutilation jokes?

Vuvuzela

No really, I like pissing people off too.... (Image Courtesy of MTN Football)

I love the idea of getting into players’ heads.

An old friend of mine made a hobby of attending minor league baseball games to heckle the pitchers with rousing “WHUPPP-BAMMMM!”-s at inopportune moments, causing the poor guys to toss balls in many wildly different directions that were not the catcher’s mound.

Others see tranquility as an important asset in sports, allowing the athletes to gather their heads and concentrate on their skills. The slightest outbursts from the crowd are frowned upon and those with drunken agendas are often outright tossed from the stadium.

I’m not one of those people. I have fond memories of chanting “Fuck’em up, Fuck’em up, go CU!!” with my peers in a full football stadium, hoping to get into our opponents’ heads. I also have awe-inspiring memories of walking into enemy territory and having the home team’s chants and revelry add an element of fear and danger into my life, along with the explosives/fire/possible death (Go to a Turkish soccer match).

When South Africa kicked off their game against Mexico to open the World Cup, I loved the idea of these Vuvuleza horns. They constantly reminded the Mexican team that the crowd was there, breathing down their necks. All fan-bases have their traditions, created to unnerve their opponents. Mexicans in Azteca often throw bags of urine at opposing team’s players and fans to scare them. We all have our ways and those ways are awesome.

We’re all pent-up, testosterone-fueled animals that have somehow chosen destinies with vast expanses of computer screens and inaction, wishing we were something better. When we go to a stadium, we go to get our kicks out, Roman-style.  We go to see our “avatars” kick the shit out of someone else’s and we add a bit of ourselves into the mix to feel like we mattered.

The Vuvulezas are awesome for South Africa in that respect. I’m not sure there’s anything else so droning and omnipresent that it could completely destroy an opponent’s brain stem.

But they’ve transcended their own function.

I tuned into the USA/England match and expected to hear an assault of people bellowing “God Save the Queen” and “The Star Spangled Banner” at each other, cursing 200 years of friendly animosity, talking shit about burning the White House and making fun of tea, with the occasional rousing rendition of whatever Oasis song was clever for the moment.

Instead: BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Has anyone realized that the horns make ABSOLUTELY no sense outside of the fan-bases that regularly use them?

It’s like going to game six of the Lakers/Celtics finals and finding that 75% of the fans there are sporting Knicks jerseys or going to Michigan vs Ohio State in the Big House and suddenly realizing that everyone is doing Penn State Cheers and wearing white. When I go to Koshien to see the Carp and the Tigers play, I don’t expect the Giants’s band to start playing OR be accepted as normal, and when I went to see the Korean National team play Ecuador I neglected to wear a Japanese National team shirt.

Sexy World Cup Girl, Paraguay World Cup Girl, Boobs

Let Paraguay Cheer the Paraguayan Way, with Awesomeness and Tits! (Courtesy of Deadspin and This Guy)

The horns are a completely neutral, third element completely fucking up the friction between the two teams and their fans. The droning buzz does nothing to provide a perceived home advantage for either of the teams playing in their stadiums, aside from South Africa and any other horn-using African teams. They get in the way of everything, equally.

They’re probably impossible to stop. A good portion of the fans filling the stadium are South Africans who scored tickets to whatever match they could get to, and they’re gonna bring their horns and go about their usual business. There’s also a good portion of tourists moved by the magic of South Africa or by savvy plastic horn vendors on their way into the stadium. They wanna give it a shot and do “as the Romans do.”

But I gotta think that the uninspiring play to date could potentially be a result of the great neutrality that the horns afford. They drone equally at all, dig into the minds of everyone. The number of fans in the stands, the national cheers belted out, they mean nothing. They won’t add an ounce of courage to a team, nor an ounce of fear to their opponents.

The oppressive droning levels the playing field, and in turn, extinguishes the cultural flourishes of everyone elses’ World Cup eccentricities.

Of course, if we look beyond the game, to the massive battle of international cultures taking place, perhaps South Africa has one the biggest battle of all, completely silencing all comers with their droning buzz.

South Africa, love the horns, but keep’em for yourselves and your games, let us play too.

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Neon-Pink Enlightenment & Mad Sea Captains

Eastward Expansion

She tried as hard as any of them to win the war and she picked her battles well…

It was the late eighties or early nineties, all the kids hanging out on the beach sporting jams and loud neon colors. I rocked a crazy neon pink shirt scattered with random newspaper clippings about surf heights and how ‘gnarly’ the waves were. There were a few curses words hidden on it, making it the epitome of cool in my little 10-year-old universe.

I was a little righteous bad-ass.

My bad-assery was short-lived though, mom taking it upon herself to destroy and deflate any illusions of coolness.

She pointed to one headline on the shirt, “Mom was right…”

There it was, clear as day, a headline positioned over my heart like she’d bought me slavery apparel. From then on, whenever she saw me in the shirt, she nodded and smiled, throwing it out there again, hoping to let it sink into my brain and grow like she was on-boarding me to a household corporate culture.

I continued to rock the shirt, trying to ignore the tiny headline, hidden among all the other lines scattered about the shirt, but whenever returning from the mischievous adventures of any average ten-year-old  she was always there to remind me again:

“Mom was right…”

…And so the battle raged, her first volleys having damaged my ship, but my imminent teenage cannons eagerly prepping for return fire.

As a college student I ran off to Colorado to free myself from the reigns, to find my independence, strike it rich like all the other American vagabonds that head west for some perceived notion of enlightenment.

In an ironic twist of fate, Colorado was exactly where she’d run from New Jersey to blossom too…

I found myself a few year later at what might be considered an adult, still trapped under parental funding to aid medical insurance, something akin to a second rent, but with shitty levels of care. I gotten to the point where I couldn’t make ends meet and couldn’t exist in the world I’d grown up in without parental help and they were far to slow to remove themselves from the equation as their own parents might have.

Somehow, despite the distance, the strings were still attached. I’d need to quit the word I’d grown up in.

I cobbled together a plan with the girl (at the time). She was stuck in the same boat, our silly little coddled generation. We’d run away together like a Bruce Springsteen song and strike it rich on our own in Asia. The west had failed to enlighten us, but the far east could surely solve our woes.

I brought my hammer down upon the chains and shattered them, running fast and deep for Asia. We didn’t all make it over here, the girl needed to find her own path to enlightenment and I lost her somewhere along the way, keeping my rudder pointing east like a mad captain Ahab (or west-i-er, if you pay attention to flight patterns and don’t fly Emirates).

I washed up upon these shores without much knowledge of the place. I’d thrown a dart at a map with some relation to the ex (Korea, but edited for better surfing opportunities…and never tell a Korean they’re somewhat related to Japan).

Some come here as dedicated otaku, ready to bask in anime and maid-cafes. Some men come here for the pussy,  seemingly possible for even the most hapless foreigner. Others come here for a quick dose of how the other half (of the world) lives.

I came here to escape mom and make my own way.

My first memories of Japan are getting angry at the toilet for shooting me in the face with water. I’m often intensely crabby about the whole place, but the whole thing, the whole 4 years (as of last week) have been my own. It’s been 100% mine, the trials, tribulations, insanity and joy have all been my creation, no strings attached…

…And it all started with a pink neon shirt…

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‘Hitler’ Invades America, Rocks

Tamori

Overlord Tamori encourages you to enjoy Sakura-themed products, or else...

I loathe the Japanese mainstream pop music scene. It’s the most insipid, heartless music to ever have passed through my ears, so utterly disposable and yet so intensely catchy, as if programmed to infiltrate my brain cortex and then melt it.

It creeps into your head like a virus.  Songs hit your subconscious before you realize they exist. Before you know it, you’re bleeding from every orafice of your body. Death follows shortly thereafter. Survivors just become 5% stupider with each infection.

Japan took the America idea of corporate controled pop groups to some insane further end, meticulously crafting every little piece of a group in an assembly line of image creators, songwriters, producers, and studio musicians, all for the sake of moving product.

Band are written into movie scripts and their songs become TV show themes. They play in the background of every convenience store, push variety show pieces forward, and help sell Shiseido products all before you ever catch them on TV as an actual video or performance. By then, the first symptoms have already gripped your brain.

The way Japanese corporations have been able to harness and control the music sent out to the masses is something American corporations must have wet dreams about. They took the Josie and the Pussycats movie to heart.

This leaves little room for Japanese bands to control their own destiny. If you want to hit it big in Japan, you’ve got to let ‘the machine’ run the show. They’ll approve of your new identity and have Marty Friedman play guitar on your album sessions. They’ll get you on Music Station, lipsynching the night away with your new Sakura song:

After seeing that, why do I suddenly feel the need to drive as fast as possible to Nitori and buy a chair? Hmm, anyway….

Without ‘the machine’ on your side, you’re as good as nothing. The average Japanese citizen won’t know who you are, because they’ll be too busy shampooing their hair after buying Namie Amuro’s album (sponsored by Shiseido!).

Before I came here, I’d heard of bands like Boris and Boredoms and I was amazed by the unbridled creativity of the Japanese music scene. Unfortunately, beyond scenes in Osaka and Tokyo, your average Japanese citizen has never unhooked from the collective to experience anything beyond what their machine overlords offer them.

Bands try to fight against the machine, but they never get a piece of the action or they fail to generate enough cash to pay the bills, hanging up their instruments and falling in line with the hammer.

Kat-tun as gay pirates

I seriously didn't think it would take 5 seconds to find a picture that would relate 'Gay Pirates' to 'J-pop'

Some finally cave, signing the dreaded contract that instantaneously transforms them into a boy-band that dresses like gay pirates and sings songs about a lonely Christmas without you. But the rebels are out there, hiding and fighting the good fight…

I am Hitler!” blasts through my speakers. Camisama (sic) sounds likes like the shitty band you created when you were eight as you dreamed of being in Jem and the Holograms and walked around the house banging on a pot (maybe that was only me).

I once had an art teacher who told me she was constantly striving to draw like a child again, but couldn’t overcome the weight of years to find their simplistic, value-free  aesthetic and shrug off  the adult indoctrination that had changed her art.

As Camisama blasts nonsensical lyrics and sloppy drumming, they’re that kid, banging away in the kitchen, pissing off the neighbors, they’ve found how to draw like children again.

While I write this, they’re in some bar in Austin, Texas at SXSW, having gotten there by god knows what means. They’re there with a bunch of other Japanese bands that have made the trip, in hopes of finding the eyes and ears that often elude them in Japan.

I found Camisama via NPR and slowly dug deeper to find information about some of the other Japanese Bands at SXSW. After the festival, they’ll be touring through America. You can download a free sampler of some of the bands’ songs at HearJapan and if you’re in America, can catch many of the bands as they host Japan Nite throughout the US.

Japan Nite 2010

Japan Nite 2010

‘I am Hitler’ might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not sure it’s even my cup of tea, but in a world where all the sakura songs from the last 20 years blend together into one giant commercial to convince me to buy products with pink flowers on them while sipping my Premium Malts and feeling nostalgic, the rebels are out there, breaking the mold.

Take some time to listen to or check out some of the bands. From there dig deeper, find those obscure and wacky acts, the guys that are playing weird shit in dark corners.

Without them out there, fighting, music in Japan is as good as lost.

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Japan: Makers of the Japanese Zero, Ion Cannons Part 2

I have no idea what this is.....

....or where the fuck it came from

I write about Ion Cannons and strange devices appear in my kitchen.

I’m not sure what the hell is going on. It looks like something from Duck Tales has just invaded my life from out of the blue.

Lifting the top, I find eggs.

If I ate eggs, this would make sense.

If I didn’t possess the ability to put eggs in a pot of boiling water  and cook them, it would make sense.

If this machine made eggs faster than boiling them in a pot, this would make sense.

As it stands, none of these are true, creepy Duck Tales machine has appeared as if to defy my previous posts.

I have no idea why it’s appearing in my house, although I pin the blame on an eccentric future mother in law who often makes strange objects appear in the house.

I’ve seen “Batteries Not Included” and I know how this story ends. I don’t need eggs and I don’t need ion cannons.

It’s on, wacky Japanese inventions, machines, and robots.

I’m done with you appearing in my life, making creepy sounds, and telling me how to do things (I’m looking at you, GPS lady).

This is war….

Japan: Maker of the Japanese Zero, Ion Cannons

Hoth Ion Cannon

Star Wars Ion Cannon...

“Did I just buy you a fucking Ion Cannon?”

I looked at the object I’d just paid ¥20,000 for as she removed it from the box, a volleyball-sized  glossy white sphere, resting on a swiveling base, with some kind of protruding nozzle aiming defensively at the sky.

She smiled as she began toying with it, thanking me for the birthday present. “It’s a Nanoe.” She beamed as she ejected the small internal cylinder like someone who knows here way around an ion cannon and began filling it with liquid. After finishing, she reinserted the cylinder into the sphere, causing a clicking sound similar to popping an ammo cartridge into a gun.

“What did you fill it with?”

She gave me a quizzical glance like I’m supposed to know the load-out procedures for warming up intergalactic weapons. “Ionized Water…”

Panasonic Nanoe EHSA-41

....meet Japanese Ion Cannon

I nodded my head as the realization dawned on me. “Right, of course, that makes sense…”

She picked it up and set it on the shelf next to our bed, the nozzle pointing skyward to deter any would-be attackers. As she pressed the button the device warmed up and hummed to life, casting some ominous blue lights on the ceiling.

With her eyes casting heart shapes at her new space laser, she motioned for me to join her in the bed, a look of satisfaction and happiness upon her face, the ion cannon ready to protect us throughout the night.

Hours later, as the creepy blue lights and ominous machinations of the machine continued, sounding earily like Darth Vader, I still had no concrete idea of what exactly I’d bought my her.

Weeks later, as it sits here by me now, buzzing, clicking and humming along with a million other technological creations that I fail to understand I come to a final realization:

I could probably go on the internet and solve my query, perhaps even get some kind of explanation from the girl. In truth though, it’s fun not knowing what that ion cannon actually does. I come from America and I know goddamn well that someone’s gonna sue the shit out of me when I blow up their Star Destroyer and it’s a far better tactic to feign ignorance.

Also: Japanese people like some weird-ass shit, but ya’already knew that, didn’tcha?

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Black Russians and Sammy Huntington, Round 2

glory hole consolation

Buck up my friend, it could be worse

I stand at the bar, swirling around the ice in my Black Russian, searching for meaning in the swishing. I like the Black Russians. When you’re paying ¥500 for whatever’s on the menu, you might as well go for a shot of booze and a shot of lesser booze to help it along. At least it has a legitimate name.

I taught the bar how to make’em and it wows the Japanese clients, who often buy me one as they try it out themselves, the perks of being a celebrity in Japan, also known as being foreign. I never thought I’d live in a world where men bought me so many drinks, but I’m a humble man, and accept what’s given to me with a wink and a nod.

The bar’s an emerging trend in Japan. Men used to frequent ‘snacks,’ paying copious amounts to be worshipped by girls in prom dresses that light cigarettes and pour drinks like doting slaves. The old salarymen still carry a torch for such shenanigans.

Japanese Hostess

...Because a night out helps them remember what they coulda been...kings....

The cynical young folks though, they”re saving their money (for Godot) and don’t have ¥5,000 to ¥20,000 to throw down on a night of entertainment. These kids go to lady’s bars, pseudo-snacks where bartenders ply the men to buy drinks for them to up the revenue. Sometimes there’s a sit down charge, but perhaps this bar lacks that fee because of our inability to actually sit down.

Rats run across the upper structure of the bar as the sun begins to shine, destroying the black-lit purity our imagination.

He’s next to me again, blabbing on about the job. He’s taken my advice about ‘attacking shit’ to heart, but he’s turned his sights on me. He fires volley upon volley of complaints about our boss, our coworkers, women, life, the world, the universe, and the pursuit of happiness.

I’m stuck here in a never-ending cycle of affirmations and head-nods. Such is the life of those who find themselves drinking on Wednesdays.

It’s times like these where I spout out the lyrics to songs that may or may not have anything to do with the given situation. Drunks never notice.

“Sometimes relationships get ill, do doubt.” (The Roots)

I nod my head strongly to add strength to my argument. A strong nod always helps force Japanese folks agree, despite whether or not they actually understand you.

He’s taken my advice of  ‘absolute victory and honesty,’  but I can go buy ‘drunken honesty’ in a bargain bin. He’s missed my point. A man can spout off all kinds of shit in his inebriation, but if he’s not honest enough to act on them sober, then he’s as good as nothing.

Standing here next to me, pissing out every damn feeling under the sun about how he’s getting shit on at work, with a fair bit of  flattery ‘dick sucking’ that I warned against towards me, he’ll be as docile as a Hindu cow when the sun rises.

Hindu Cow

Put me in a Kansas Slaughter House line, no qualms here

He interrupts both my ice-staring time and chatting with the Chinese bartender . He asks for some cash for future drinking (these places demand per drink). I support him, toss ¥5,000 his way but write a drunken, arabic-like nonsensical scrawl of a receipt to him, demanding ¥7,000 for his ¥5,000 investment.

I both jest and test.

Later in the night, as I debate the finer points of ‘shiofuki‘ with a random Japanese bunch over udon, he’ll ask me how I navigate so well with rough Japanese and a shitty understanding of the language.

I stare at him blankly, jaw agape.

It’s then that I get it. It’s then that I understand that no amount of coaching is going to change him. He’s tried so hard to understand my philosophy, he’s taken it to heart.

He gets how Western-folk operate, but he’s still going about it like a scholar of a dead language, like those first-year Kyūdō kids that practice form for a year and never fire an arrow from their bow.

“You’re not studying sharks in a book, you’re swimming with us my friend, so open your eyes or we’ll eat you alive,” I say, loving the art of the cliché.

I try to take his whole confusion about how I could interact with other members our human race without a firm grasp of their language with a grain of salt.

After that night he avoids me for 7 days, knowing I’m waiting for my payback, but unable to interpret that I’d far prefer the “I’ll getcha payday” to ‘I’ll avoid you until payday.’

I’ve disregarded his first night out (for the gods’ eyes only), but count the two previous strikes (now committed to record).

Black Russian

I know it's backwards learning our silly ass ways on your own soil, but globalization's a bitch, yo! Cheers!

One thing our cultures can agree on is the rules for baseball, right?

I want him to step up to the plate, I want him to hit home runs.

Well, step up to the plate my friend, because the game is on the line.

(A three-part, continuing series on a Japanese man’s trials and tribulations to make sense of western-biz, written through the eyes of the man watching him gasp for air in rough seas. Part 1 can be found here)

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“Catch the Drift™”

Akio Toyoda

We came in an Audi, because I don't even like the cars that we make

He walked briskly toward the raised stage and took his seat at the desk, the first hints of sweat forming upon his brow. He adjusted his glasses as he sat, the cameras firing off a continuous volley of assailing light.

The foreign press huddled at the foot of the stage like hungry vultures ready to tear him apart. He suddenly wished he’d brushed up on his English since his Babson days. ‘Toyota cars is safety’ had done absolutely nothing to assure investors’ worries during his last conference. He made a mental note not to ask at the end if anyone had any questions.

In the flashes, he could hardly see, but Akio Toyoda calmly half-nodded, half bowed to the assembled media and began.

“I…the people who drive Toyota, the people who care about Toyota, I am a little bit worried about…the, about the style-free cars we offer them.”

Nervously fondling a pen in one hand, trying to indicate calmly with the other, he continued, a picture of one of Toyota’s 2010 lineup hitting the screen behind him.

Toyota Sai Hybrid 2010“We make bored cars.  I, ah, as head of new quality control committee, which was initiated by me in recent days, have looked beyond the problem of maintaining safety cars…”

He nearly smacked his own forehead as he realized his repeated mistake, but soldiered on.

“Customer first is first priority. What does customers want today? I look into customer needs, I see the needs of people of today. In Japan, we drift upon the roads like the spring’s cherry blossoms on the gentle breeze. I, ah, Toyota has lost sight of this.”

The next slide appeared behind Toyoda.

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

“We must reflect on the mistakes which we have made. We try to increase our style better, so our, this kind of style pleases the customer. Toyota must take sexy back. Asian peoples, we enjoy the drifting. I, Toyota, have failed customers to provide them with the Asian drifting experience. So, as President and CEO of Toyota Motor Corporation, I have chosen to recall Toyota vehicles, all Toyota vehicles. “

The final slide came into view behind him. The cameras fired at their highest intensity.

Shopping Cart Car

“Toyota customers, those which are unhappy with the product which are produced for them, bring their cars to Toyota Dealerships. There, in dealerships, the wheels of the cars will switch with shopping cart wheels to provide better driving experience. If drivers do not wish for the same hope, it is my, ah, our hope that drivers with problems in the current line of cars run their style-free cars off the road without caution.”

Toyoda took a few moments to let the slide speak for itself.

“This reaction is a reaction that is not rash, but I am trying to do this work as soon as possible and with cooperation of our employees and our supplier. I will do my best.”

With that, he rose from his chair bow-nodded one more time to the press, and slowly exited the conference room.

The Flashing Mini Statue of Liberty on the River and ‘Club Feel’ say otherwise…

There is no love in Japan.....oh, except here....

I really enjoyed Jsoc’s recent link to a study in the Mainichi Daily News that revealed studies showing about 1/3 of Japanese couples as basically sexless.

It paints a woefully unromantic picture of a society where couples carry out frigid, business-like relationships with one another, the man working his long, 12-14 hour days, the women, sitting at home, counting out her husband’s salary and calculating his daily lunch allowance while pinning for some Korean Drama Hero to swoop and show her some romance:

Don't say I never did anything for ya, ladies...

But I’m not quite sure that Japan has moved backwards as much it’s moved forward. As I highlighted in a earlier post, Japan hasn’t back-tracked to days of yore as much as it’s forging a new path for its culture, realistically deconstructing ideological paradigms and saying ‘fuck it’ to the silly social constraints that bind the modern world of love and romance.

When I look around Japan, I see these sexless couples, quite happy with the status quo. To paint their situations as some plight that needs remedy might be looking through a lense that the Western World has thrust upon them with their Valentine’s Days, Diamond Rings, and Christmas Cakes.

The Japanese husband isn’t writhing and crying out for a remedy to a lack of romance and sex with his wife. He finishes his work at 9 o’clock and takes a run down to the hostess bar, where Sakura, Hanami, and Momo-chan take care of his every need.

They don't care that you left the toilet seat up, and they light your cigarettes and pour your drinks

Perhaps he uses a bit of his secret bank account to take one of them out for a night on the town once she finishes at the bar. The love hotel industry seems at odds to this whole “sexless Japan” somehow.

The Japanese wife isn’t stressing either. She’s taken up Korean lessons for some reason and is often taking long holiday weekend trips to Korea to enjoy the “shopping” and the “tasty food.”  She also strangely enjoys shoulder massages and has a pretty intense array of  massagers.

For massaging shoulder, back, and anything else that might require vibration

Beyond her hobbies, during the brief moments when stars aligned and blue moons shined down upon the earth, the married couple was fortunate enough to conceive a child. While the man is out for long hours ‘working,’ the woman could care less, because now she’s got this:

The Investment that Makes Japanese Men Borderline Unnecessary (Image by © Dex Image/Corbis)

Shove your silly studies up your asses. Japan isn’t in any dire peril. They’re just doing things the Japanese way. It might be somewhat jaded and practical, but it seems to work.

So during this Valentine’s Day and the coming White Day, as you sit there bemoaning Japan’s lack of sex, take a good look around at the flashing neon lights on the river.

It ain’t really that bad and couples will find a way…

More “Knives Out,” Less Rainbows, Puppy Dog Kisses, and Dick Sucking

Western World

Western Vagabond Teaches Easterner "Knives Out" Policy

I sat there staring at him, wondering how to go about my next move.

So often in this biz, we find ourselves as the confused foreigner, staring down the barrel of a gun we don’t quite understand. We often get shot before we figure out all the ins and outs of this Japanese world.

Today, the shoe was on the other foot.

I slowly pushed the lime down the top of my Corona, as he cradled his cold glass of Nama-Beer, squeezing some of the  juice out of the lime as I pushed it down, turning the bottle upside down, thumb over the top.

As I righted the bottle, removing my thumb to let the pressure out while taking a fresh sip, I began the long task of answering his queries.

“You’re thinking with a Japanese mind my friend, but unfortunately, you’re now a Japanese man working for a company with a western mind.”

He nodded, perhaps understanding the words, but not what lay behind them.

“I understand, but telling me that I was hired via a head-hunter, and that my colleague hired through traditional means was completely outperforming me seems a bit out of line. I’m in my first month!” He brought his drink to his lips while awaiting my response.

I chuckled. “My friend, welcome to the Western World.” I swirled my corona bottle around to let the lime diffuse a bit more and continued on my rant.

“…In the Western world, you are the new guy and we hate the new guy because you’re borderline useless and not a part of the culture. As such, we’re going to set up constant roadblocks to fuck with you. These walls are there to test you…”

I took one last chug, upending the bottle and continuing.

“Your job, as the new guy, is to walk up to that fucking wall, glory-hole the shit out of that fucking wall, climb that fucking wall, rip its fucking head off and scream “I’m fucking lord of this motherfucking wall!!!!”

I raised a finger and shouted the marble-mouthed “excuse me” that always seems to work in Japanese drinking establishments to get another round.

“You get me?” I asked as I pointed to him asking if he needed another.

“I…think…maybe?” He said as he nodded in confusion.

Perhaps I missed him at glory-holing, perhaps he lacks that balls-deep mentality.

“If you understand that, then you’ll have no problem surviving beyond the walls that keep your country separated from the rest of the world, but if you don’t, best stay home in Takamatsu.”

I smiled, grabbed my bottle for the bike ride, threw some sen-yens on the table, and bit the night adieu.

A Lit Cigarette is Carried at the Height of Awesomeness

battle royale smoking manners

For the love of God man, put that lit cigarette away before more people die!

Oh, it didn’t start as a hobby.

In my past life, in America, it wasn’t even something I’d been able to revel in.

Perhaps we have a certain level of awareness about our person, tuned in to the constant barrage of dangers our barbarian society thrusts upon us.

Perhaps we do it differently, like in French films, arm bent casually resting on our knee, slowly inhaling every wonderous gasp of  glory, never far from the wanting mouth.

Maybe on the Great American Plains, while ferrying our cattle across the epic expanse of the great nation, leather jacket, cowboy hat, and boots, that torch a sole beacon of light in the darkness illuminating the great nothing, we have little chance to encounter others around the campfire.

It could also be that in America, people have the sense upon their shoulders not to light children on fire and burn their eyes out with lit cigarettes by mistake (intentionally is quite common). Either that, or they realize that the lawsuits would be intensely draining.

Per chance, we’ve been lucky enough to impart in our children a sense not to run into burning objects. They may have learned that should they see something on fire, it’s best avoided, minus the children who are clever enough to seek lawsuits.

But now I know and I’ve learned to cherish it.

I’ve learned  to love mistakenly burning children with lit cigarettes in my hand.

Who knew it was so common? In America I can’t say I remember a time when I saw that awe-inspiring, 800-degree tiny torch of death ever come dangerously close to a child. It wasn’t something I even knew remotely possible.

I’d burned a few people in bars, even burned myself a few times during some drunken shenanigans, but for some reason, I’d never see many children during these massive nights.

No one ever warned me that if I was completely irresponsible and retarded, I might carelessly burn through a child’s skull with a cigarette dangling idly at my side.

No one ever told me that children are like bears to honey for lit cigarettes, or bomb strapped, navy trained dolphins to enemy vessels.

And no one ever told me how truly flammable children are (Especially the Japanese ones).

I came to Japan and the signs were a constant barrage, everywhere warning me of the dangers.

Japanese Smoking Manners

Big Brother is watching you smoke everywhere, even in helicopters, because Japan is for the Children!

Holding a cigarette in your hand, carelessly burning children had become a gigantic national issue. Japan tobacco itself, continuously conveyed the dangers their own company had unleashed upon the populace.

My students nodded solemnly and in unison not to walk and hold cigarettes, all of them chiming in universally about the dangers children were bound to face.

“You burn childrens!” They Said.

“You will injure childs with flame!” They replied.

“You’ll shoot their eyes out,” They sung.

I didn’t believe them until the day that poor Kintaro found the tip of my cigarette butt like a humming-bird finding the first nectar of spring flowers.

My first victim.

The poor little boy lit up like a Roman candle. As he combusted spontaneously due to my devil’s torch, I gazed in wonderment at the awe-inspiring power I now held in my hand.

Who knew that cigarettes could be so awesomely dangerous? I now understood why Japan had sought to eliminate walking and smoking from the face of the earth! It all made so much sense!

But it was too late…

I’d started smoking more, just for the extra opportunities the addiction allotted me to see fireworks displays of the first order. I started walking around more too, knowing full well that I couldn’t find such displays just sitting in a smoker’s lounge.

I now understood the reason behind their warnings, their failed attempt to keep such awesome power under control.

But I liked mistakenly lighting children on fire with my lit cigarettes, and I couldn’t stop…

As I sit here writing this, in a train station coffee shop smoking section, I see a grandmother enter with two young children in tow. They’re running all over the shop, ambling into chairs and tables, knocking over napkin dispensers.

I slowly take a cigarette out of my breast pocket and raise it to my lips, digging for my lighter deep within my pocket and light the end.

I take a puff of the cigarette and exhale,  letting my arm hang by my side, cigarette smoking at child’s height.

As the child bounds for the flame like a zombie towards brains, the scene fades out…

(Note, the author doesn’t actually smoke, he just thinks it’s absolutely retarded that Japan has to create policy to warn people of what one should naturally have the sense to avoid)


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Japan Commits Tuck of Epic Proportions, Successfully Hides Balls

Japan: Good at this, not so good at useful shit

Defeat is not something I can understand.

I blame my American heritage. Having become what seems like a giant, lumbering example of complete failure, America still refuses to accept, acknowledge or believe in any failure within our borders.

We’re taught from an early age that failure is for weak people, like Canadians and Mexicans.  If you ask me the loser of any event throughout our glorious history, not only will I be completely unable to acknowledge these failures, but neither will any of my kin. Failures have been stricken from the records of our history books, unless of course you attend one of those lame, wussy liberal arts colleges. Good luck with that degree in Latino Chicano Lesbian Feminist Studies, loser.

Losers are deleted so that the most epic achievements of our most triumphant gladiators can be championed in whatever fields they do battle, even if they do steroids and blow lines between plays.

Losers are the people that, shoulders bent in eternal defeat, pump my gas, make my McCafe Carmel Mochas, and help serve me on my Taco Bell Diet.

So as you might imagine, I was in for a bit of a shock during my first couple of years in Japan when I ran into this:

Courtesy of The New York Times (Jake Clennell, 2006)

Watching a few rounds of the Japanese High School Baseball Tournament, I was assaulted by intense camera footage of losers, crying, shoveling little mounds of dirt into pouches, followed by more crying, later to be shown on the news, crying a bit more.

WHAAAAAAA!!!!!!

Where’s the winning team? Why were the cameras so focused on useless rejects? Get them off the field and get to more games involving the victorious! Aren’t there death camps for these failures?

…And so went my first exposure to Japan’s cultural interest in the defeated. I came to learn that the process was more important than the outcome, and through effort and hard work, their effort was also appreciated and cherished.

YAWN

It’s like when a girl applauds you after a tiny-dicked, 3-minute sex session:

“Thanks babe, maybe they should throw me a victory parade down the streets of Tokyo.”

I began to accept  it as Japan’s little thing (pun intended, points up), some wacky culture where losers are beloved and worshiped. Maybe the 3 minute man is a god here. That’s cool man, I took enough cultural communication classes in university to know that things like genital mutilation, kidnapping your wives in Central Asia, and letting sports-men cry on TV isn’t my culture, and that I shouldn’t try to judge it based on my sphere of cultural understanding.

I gave it a pass, I moved on. I even kind of learned to enjoy this quirky little land where people respect failure. I just learned to let it all slide…

…Until now.

The World Cup is coming..  I’d like to root for Japan (Unless they face the greatness that is the USA). Unfortunately, they have so embraced failure as their modus operandi that I can’t even fathom how I could even marginally feel comfortable cheering for such mediocrity and sadness.

If you get the Semis, I'll get you that dress you wanted, Strawberry Shortcake

I like my American heroes, of uber-awesome stature and the belief that we could put our greatest sports-men in any competitive venture and they would emerge victorious, because they are American and thus, like half-god Herculean creatures.

This isn’t a realistic expectation, but we believe it, because we have hopes and dreams for our athletes.

Perhaps I’m over-exaggerating, but Japan needs a dose of this medicine. I know that Japanese people are a humble bunch, but it sometimes seems like a deep and honest belief that Japanese athletes can’t compete on a world stage and that failure should be expected.

I’m sick and tired of qualifiers and excuses.

I don’t want to hear anymore that Japanese athletes can’t compete on a world level due to size, speed, or enlarged vaginas. It sickens me to see people so convinced that they can’t do something.

Apparently, it’s the kind of idea that trickles up, as Japanese coach Okada seems solely focused on his team getting to the Semi-finals of the World Cup, instead of actually winning the fucking thing and JFA’s Ogura seems hesitant to even admit they’ll get that far.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Listen Japan, it’s nice that you honor losers, but if you remain trapped in a mindset where you expect less than complete victory and categorize yourselves as less than that of your opponents, you’re already stepping on the field defeated.

I don’t want to leave you behind, but I far prefer teams that have hopes and dreams.

South Korea, what you doing this weekend?  Wanna hang out?


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Like Some Crazy, Slimey, Dark-Haired, Ghost Bitch, Climbing All Up on Your Ceiling, I’m Back…

Every Pseudo-Legend needs a Pseudo-Jesus picture

Even to this day, mothers still whisper his name as a warning to their children…

Tucking them into bed late at night, they pat their young ones on the head and whisper solemnly, “Don’t suffer the same fate that befell that Douche in Japan!”

They say that if you utter his name three times under your breath before you sleep that Japanese raccoons will climb up your ass while you dream and that on a bitter cold winter’s night his words can cut through you on the wind like premium japanese cutlery…

“Smashed….and….sinking…”

What ever happened to the man who briefly flamed into legend, only to quickly be extinguished by an excess of fame, accolade, and vodka, last seen spewing out nonsense about a French vacation and dancing around Japanese clubs dazed, attacking people with a boat rope?

They say it was the fame that got to him, corrupting his very soul. What started as an angry little rant at what amounted to a very unimportant wall soon grew beyond his wildest expectations. Jsoc was the first to really pay him mind with his tips on getting a job in Japan. His hits grew, his fan-base began, and his soul darkened just a little bit.

That little mountain of hits climbed beyond his wildest expectations. The world wasn’t just his fuck’n oyster, it was his mother-fucking oyster farm…And his ego climbed with the chart’s numbers.

Jprobe set him on fire next with his piece on little shark-riding negroes. From that day, he could be seen about the japan blogosphere, with his “I’m badass”  dark sunglasses on at night, skirting into VIP lounges and ignoring longtime friends like he’d never even known them, tossing around expensive (in Japan) Beaujolais Nouveau like it was going out of style, buying cakes for snack girls just so he could slam their faces in them.

He was getting out of control. Around the time of Our Man’s ‘Blog of the Week’ award, Some Douche’s ego had reached beyond the proverbial point of no return. He’s fallen in with the wrong crowd,  was ignoring those that loved him,  mailing in shitty pieces about Harry Potter, and drowning in copious amounts of booze and whatever the fuck counts for drugs in Japan.

He’d gone beyond Thunder Dome…

He’d become what he’d preached…He was Smashed and Sinking.

Somewhere along the point of recreating a Roman sex orgy with 3 Persian Midget Eunuchs, a live tiger, 400 Pacific Salmon, 6 Extremely Obese Waitresses from Emlenton Truck Stop off of I80 (Home of the world’s worst apple pie), and a mountain of cocaine, he came to a sudden and abrupt realization…

It wasn’t him controlling the people, but the people controlling him. Every day he spend in his orgy of pleasure, rolling around in ‘fuck you’ money was a day that his hits dropped, and that awesome little graph came crashing down like a kamikaze pilot on methamphetamines (too soon, no…too easy, yes).

He became obsessed with the numbers game, throwing most anything out there into the meat grinder in hopes that the masses would eat it up and come back begging for more.

But he’d become distant from those masses, and didn’t even know how to connect with them anymore.  Looking at his platters of bacon-wrapped caviar and roasted Unicorn meat (Well, not truly a unicorn, but it cost a lot of fucking money to fuse that diamond stabby thing to a fucking horse’s head and then cook the fucker), he realized he’d lost the common man along with his mind.

He had to get back to the basics…

So he walked away from it all.

Some say he found a monastery deep in the mountain ranges of rural Florida, others that he’d fallen with a Cult that worshiped Norse Gods, and yet others believe him to be the haunting spirit of failure as mentioned previously.

The truth was far more mysterious, somewhat of a combination of the three..

Now he returns to the world of the living, rising  from the ashes, like Phoenix, and not the mythological creature emerging from the fire, but that quirky French band that’s in every fucking commercial this year.

And like Phoenix, you will have a hard time getting him out of your head again…


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Underground Culture of Baby Shitting Sweeping Japan

baby-rescue-breath (1)

I remember his story like it was just yesterday because it was yesterday…

Yasu didn’t want to help his family. He was a young man, full of the kind of boundless energy that makes young men think they can headbutt bullets for breakfast.

Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself, this is Japan. Twenty five year old men tell me they’ve given up blue jeans and invested in khaki pants because they’ve become old.

But, that wasn’t Yasu (real name changed, though not far from the real one because I’m lazy and lack creativity), the weight of familial obligation weighing down upon his very soul. It was because of this obligation that he had his first encounter with a new phenomenon sweeping Japan and threatening to shift beyond underground subculture and into mainstream society.

I remember his first days in my class, a bright student, but reluctantly shy. I could only imagine some deep-seeded darkness at the very root of his soul, causing his constant inward reflection and shunning of my overtures toward conversation.

I’d asked him how his weekend had been. He hesitated at the time, obviously uncomfortable with the acts he’d witnessed and partaken in his previous weekend.

He slowly leaned forward, as if the very mentioned of the words weighed his soul down further. It was an effort for him to get them past his lips.

“Baby shitting…” he mumbled, the exhaustion of his revelation taking a noticeable toll upon him.

It was then that I had my first encounter with this Japanese subculture, this new underground world of baby shitting.

I couldn’t believe my ears. It was as if my whole world had come crashing down around me, my white, upper middle class upbringing suddenly irrevocably shattered by the strange habits of a culture far distant from my own. With a bewildered stare, I asked him to repeat himself, my mind remaining firmly boggled and unwilling to accept this new revelation.

“Baby shitting…” he uttered, this time somewhat louder than the first, as if defiantly trying to cast off the shackles of his transgressions.

I’m tried to maintain my open mind, tried to be an innocent bystander in all this. Whether it be genital mutilation, underwear vending machines, or wild gay sex, I’m but an observer in this rock we call earth. I shouldn’t seek to judge based on my upper middle class, Anglo western values.

But how can I maintain my neutrality, the boy so obviously burdened by his weekends spent ‘baby shitting!’

I had to get to the bottom of his plight. I gulped down my reactive spirit and kept on…

“Where did you go baby shitting?” I asked, pressing forward, not ready and willing to venture forth into this undiscovered new world, but in desperate need of answers.

He still hesitated to give me more. At first I thought it might be because of his lack of English ability, but it had to be more than that, I was sure of it.

“Niihama…”

He had given me a town name from one of the most conservative areas in Japan. If baby shitting was taking place here, there was no doubt in my mind that it had already moved beyond a subculture.

It had gone national.

It was hard to get much more out of him, and I mean that on two literal levels (the man had shit babies for christsakes), but I had to get to the bottom of it all. I had to talk to others.

I spoke to more students throughout the next day. They’d had their encounters with baby shitting too. At first, I linked it as a possible result of a flailing economy, but as I dug deeper, the ugly truth became more and more apparent.

I met Yuki in a dark corner of a Starbucks. I was sure she’d picked such an out of the way area not because of the more comfortable chairs, or because the other sections of the coffee shop were full, but because she was ready to unleash the details of her dark world upon me.

Yuki told me she’d done it too. She said she’d been baby shitting often lately, to help her mother’s sister. I asked her if perhaps her parents had forced her into it. In horror, she dictated to me how she hadn’t been forced into it by her parents, but felt it was something she’d needed to do to help them out.

When I asked if she’d done it for money, she shook her head. It all related back to her feelings of obligation.

I talked to more students that day and  I heard stories from at least half who’d relayed bits and pieces of their encounters with baby shitting  to me. From this, it appears that among Japanese people of ages 18-34, at least half of them are currently involved in baby shitting activities. You can take that fact to the bank.

But what is this baby shitting, exactly? Yasu and Yuki were coy with their answers, as were the others. From what I gathered, babies are involved, as well as shitting them. It appears that sometimes children partake in this phenomenon as well, as both of them stated they’d been watching over younger children in their family when they were forced into their dire acts.

It’s not clear where the babies are coming from and how exactly they’re being forced to shit them, but it’s obviously apparent that this is now sweeping Japan and threatening the very fabric of their culture and way of being.

I caution readers not to judge baby shitting enthusiasts so hastily. They’re people like you and I, sucked into this world because of deep-seeded obligations that we often cannot hope to comprehend.

But yes, these are acts of both shock and awe.

It is my hope to shine some light on this rapidly growing phenomenon, so that more may learn of this underground world of baby shitting, perhaps bringing more world attention to the issue and the plight of baby shitters throughout Japan.

So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish!

Of course it's schoolsgirls saying goodbye, it's ALWAYS schoolgirls

Of course it's schoolsgirls saying goodbye, it's ALWAYS schoolgirls

With Japan’s suicide rate climbing to record levels, Japanse men choosing to either find 2-D preteen lovers or just opting out of the war of the sexes entirely, women trapped in sexless and unfulfilling marriages, and one of the lowest birthrates in the world, Japan seems to find itself in an extremely precarious situation.

Then again, maybe it’s just the country’s collective culture charting a bold new path for their society.

Maybe, in throwing marriage by the wayside, maintaining virginity until death (well, not pocket vagina or rabbit virginity), and deciding that having cool clothes, fun video games, and a really awesome love doll are better than bothering to meet people, socialize, and potentially fuck, marry and live with them they’re charting a path towards a fresh new model for their society.

They’ve chosen a completely new social paradigm.

Like bees sending signals to their entire hive-mind, Japan has collectively decided to commit suicide as one.

Suicide, once seen as a way out for individuals without hope for their future, as a way to achieve glory in crashing into boats, or as an end to an indoor BBQ party, has gone meta.

Japan is seeking to become a martyr nation, a signpost to future civilizations about the perils of what may lie ahead by quitting and completely opting out of a future.

As their carnivorous girls dream of trips to Korea or beyond, to meet men with a bit of gumption, as their own men, sitting at brunch with their prepubescent love pillow or simply working beyond the realms of their wives and family, and as their children become more and more like the kids in Battle Royale, Japan is collectively deciding to delete its genetics from the face of this earth.

It’s like a 120 million-strong, extreme performance art piece:

As they slowly faded into oblivion, they bowed their heads and walked off into the sunrise, leaving only a note behind…

“Dear world,

We’ve decided to collectively leave you.

Although in life, we were always overly bitchy about how only Japanese people could do Japanese things, we’ve finally come to the realization that the majority of the people who hold our arts, culture and tentacle porn in such high regard aren’t even Japanese anymore.

The average Japanese person doesn’t know Noh from Kabuki and could actually care less about them.

We’ve become more concerned about building a giant life-sized fucking Gundam and creating other escapist entertainment to help salve our wounded and decaying lives than actually trying to deal with any of our social or political problems, just averting our eyes and pining for days of old, pointing fingers at everyone but ourselves, and blaming Korea.

As such, we’ve decided to cash in our chips and close the book on a few thousands years of culture and development. It’s readily apparent that at some point, we took a wrong turn, and while we’re happy to have created a culture that is beloved by many a wide-eyed foreigner, it’s just time we sail on.

So long, and thanks for all the fish,

-Japan”

If it Bleeds, We Can Kill it (Although I hope it stays alive so we can suck it dry some more)

It's not a downward shift really, more of a horizontal shift. I'm just picking a new head.

It's not a downward shift really, more of a horizontal shift. I'm just picking a new head.

I’ve renounced my candidacy for leading Japan.

It’s become apparent to me that whoever ends up in the tops spot justs get shit on. As such, I’ve decided to refocus my campaign on the micro-level.

I’m running for mayor of Takamatsu.

When you’re at the top of this multi-headed hydra, you have to manage a zillion ravenous, begging dogs, all jumping at the slightest hint of a handout.

But as a mayor, I get to over-inflate budgets and carve away bits and pieces of cash on endless projects, pocketing a bit of extra change for myself.

So here’s the platform:

1) I’d fire the people that are occasionally hired to sit at intersections all day and push switches, I’m not sure what the hell they do, but it doesn’t seem like anything has improved. Go home and turn the light on and off.

2) Unicycles are the future. Every elementary school kid learns to use one, and yet my city is still over-cluttered with traditional two-wheeled bikes. Meanwhile, unicycles are compact enough to take into the office with you. Companies short on cash could stop investing in chairs and instead advocate a unicycle policy. They could say it’s part of their campaign to stamp out metabo. With less health care to dish out, we can reduce those costs too, minus unicycle accidents.

3) I’m gonna have a little talk with JR about their employment system in my city’s station. They used to have traditional human ticket stampers. They were recently replaced by machines. Unfortunately, they weren’t fired. Now they just stand around nervously staring at people and trying to thank everyone. Meanwhile, this somehow hasn’t left them any extra time to actually figure out how to do their job. They still completely break down whenever asked a question about anything that doesn’t involve stamping.

4) There will no longer be 10 city workers doing road construction when one would do. I suppose we do this in America too, but the key is that we’re only paying one of them. The other 9 are Mexicans. Here we’re paying 10 people to stand next to arrow signs and assure that people realize there’s a blinking arrow sign there. Go wave flags at home.

5) Those barrier construction frogs? How did those meetings even pan out?

City Worker #1: So, it looks like we’re all set on the budget for this year’s road construction and maintenance.

City Worker #2: Wait, we forgot the frog and kangaroo construction barricades!

City Worker #1: Good Call! Tack on another 20,000,000 yen!

Not only do they use these silly things, but they use about a thousand more than needed.  It’s fucking construction. It doesn’t have to look nice, and drunk foreign people keep trying to steal them anyway.

6) The economy’s in the tank. There are thousands of drunk salarymen wandering around on a Friday night that can’t get more money out of the ATM to hit up the snacks and soaplands. 24 hour-ATMs can save the economy. People will mindlessly pull money out and recklessly spend it like wildfire at 4am, just like they do everywhere else in the world. I’d also consider keeping pachinko parlors open, but that’d just support North Korea. You don’t need to give people gov cash to get them to spend it. Just get them to make poor judgement decisions with epic wads of cash while under the influence. That’s a surefire way to save the economy!

7) I’m scrapping the bus system. Two people in this city use buses. Taxis shouldn’t cost more when I step into one than traveling around for an hour in Seoul. With no buses, taxis will become cheaper.

8) I’m cutting back the putrid, soulless festivals put on near the train station at Sunport. The evening news often shows a sea of old spectators with bored, sad looks in their eyes that somehow felt obligated to attend these weekly debacles even though it’s obviously killing them. These events include attempts by amateurs to do extremely complicated and traditional Japanese arts and other mind-numbing ideas. It’s kind of like getting sucked into someones travel photo presentation. It’s obviously killing the residents of this city to watch Bunraku done by local 85 year olds that picked up the hobby last week or having a culturelogue on Italy by a lady who went there once 40 years ago.

9) In my neighborhood, some ‘neighborhood events organizer’ comes around and takes cash from every household so that they can fund various  events and activities. Good Idea. I’m going to be going door to door asking for direct funds from time to time too. It’s great, cause it’s under the table, so you don’t have to report it to anyone and I won’t tax it or anything. If this ATM thing doesn’t pan out, expect to see me occasionally at around 3 am. We’ll call it “community connecting” time.

10) I’m putting a stop to those damn Lion Dances. Dudes come by my house at 5am and dance around and then want money. If this was America at 5am, I’d be fucking shooting at you for stepping on my property and waking me up at 5am. Yall complain about having to do the dance for an entire weekend, then take the money and just have a party. How about no hard dance to waste your weekend, no taking of my money, and no party? It’s like a happy middle ground.

11) I’d aquire a few predator drones with acoustic equipment for finding vans blaring out advertisments for nationalism, sweet potatoes, 2nd hand goods, or political competition. They’ll be missile equipped. This would have the added benefit of silencing my rivals, since the only way they know how to campaign is through noise pollution.

12) I’d change that thing where you have to visit about 30 different people at your local immigration office to pay for stuff and get stamps and bribe people and waste hours up hours of your life just to get a sticker to leave the country and return. This isn’t fucking Soviet Communist Russia, we shouldn’t have to create such archaic systems just to employ people and waste the rest of the world’s time.

13) I’d pocket all the money saved in the above ideas, which would leave me about on par with anyone else currently leading.

Even Buddha Gets a Cute Beanie When it’s Cold

I find it fascinating that Japan took  Buddhism, Shintoism, hints of Confusism and Christianity, threw them all into a blender and came out with a giant silly mishmash.

newyear trip 093

It’s a place where they take their shrine and temple festivals extremely seriously, yet often have little idea of why they’re doing it or who they’re praying to, whether getting crushed by giant shrines, run over by giant shrines on wheels, or running around in diapers.

There are shrines for getting a spouse, losing a spouse, scoring good grades, getting money, making war, making peace, and getting laid, while the temples pull folks into wacky rituals based on arbitrary bad luck numbers.

On my island the religious pilgrims endlessly march around clockwise, hoping for a piece of enlightenment, whether on foot, bike, or overloaded bus full of senior citizens. A few tricky folks, paying no head to their brethren have figured out that the true path apparently lays in going counter-clockwise.

In the summer, festivals full of shaved ice, barbecued squid, airsoft guns, and minor gambling fill the shrine grounds in a scene that’d be sure to flip Jesus out.

…And in the winter, Buddha gets a skully and some cute threads.

Things I Love in Japan (Part 1: Oden)

oden

Ode to Oden

When we first met, I was scared of you, not having the slightest understanding of what you were.

My parents once described your appearance as trash floating around in dirty bathtub water.

But I’ve learned better, and I now know you’re the best food in Japan.

I don’t know if the Master has ever changed out the broth you’re floating in. I just think he adds a cup or two more every day to keep up appearances.

I might be drinking some broth from 1973, but maybe that’s why you’re so tasty and delicious.

In Japan, the tiniest of details are always managed for me. Everything is done to the height of perfection before it ever arrives on my table.

But not with you. With you, I’m the hunter. I get up, stalking over towards your steaming vat of goodness, searching for my favorites, eagerly picking at the sticks to see if they’ve been broth darkened, to see how long you’ve been idling away in your stock.

Oden eaters are Oden Otaku, dejectedly frowning when another of our clique comes away with a better array of choices, grinning like lotto winners when we find the best pieces.

Don’t fret when I drop you to take one of your older brothers or sisters, I’ll be back later for you too. My appetite isn’t so easily satiated, and by the end of my meal, I’ll have an entire array of pointy sticks aligned across my plate, 100 yen each.

You aren’t the prettiest of sights. I often find that a vat of Oden looks somewhat like a bunch of old cocks floating in a sewer drain.

In Japan, where presentation is everything, somehow this fact  slipped under the bubble, made it past the inspectors.

But we’re all better for it, because on a cold day, there’s nothing better than a plateful of you, some miso paste, mustard and a cold beer.

Somehow it all costs me almost nothing.

When summer rolls around, your numbers shrink, disappearing from convenience stores and restaurants, I can only dream of when the air begins to chill again, when I might find your dirty bathwater goodness once again.

Keep on Keep’n on, Oden.

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Things I Hate in Japan (Part 1: Crocs Won’t Die)

crocs

Why on God’s earth won’t it die? I fled from the shores of America to escape its foul stench.

I suppose it started before we ever noticed, like most plagues do, in hidden places, kitchens and gardens throughout the world.

It  soon spread to children, running around in their colorful little plastic wacky dutch-boy shoes.

We should have seen the end coming, we should have known!

I knew it was truly over when frat boys began sporting them.

Soon friends would come over my house and say “Hey, look at these cool new shoes I bought!”

I had to escape.

I fled to the shores of Japan, hoping against all odds that the Japanese could turn the tide against these foul shoes.

…But they failed.

I retreated to my bomb shelter and waited out the trend. Trends in Japan are supposed to last about a week.

But 2007 and 2008 passed, and as the first rays of summer sun rained down upon us, I was sure I’d waited long enough.

I was wrong, it continues, perhaps even stronger than before.

Everywhere I look, wacky fucking clown-shoes, intensely color-coordinated with wardrobe.

Even fear, so often the most powerful dictator of social norms in Japan, was helpless to stop them.

crocs-escalator-lj

If you’re reading this, you are the resistance….

We must stem the tide of idiot shoes.

Don’t let anyone you know wear these fucking clown-shoes, and please make sure they know that Japanese escalators will kill them if they wear them.

To save the future, we must protect the present.

Japan, let it go…

(Hope you enjoyed part one. The overall plan is to do a weekly hate and a weekly love. Tune in tomorrow for something completely random that I actually like about Japan)

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Maintaining Your Sanity in Japan

Manatee Insanity Dugong!

Manatee Insanity Dugong!

For the last 6 weeks, I’ve been covering the various ups and downs of getting a job in Japan, taking people through the resume, interview process and beyond, until finally covering some of the basics of maintaining your job for the long haul.

Beyond the job, Japan can be a taxing place for the mind. Nothing ever quite appears as it seems, and you’ll always find yourself wondering exactly what’s going on. Whenever you think you’ve connected point A to point B, you’ll find that you somehow ended up at point C, or perhaps even back at point A again. This can drive you insane.

I’ve had friends that tell me there’s a ‘five year rule” with Japan. If you manage to stay here for under five years, you may escape with your sanity intact. Should you eclipse that time, you will be rendered completely and irrevocably nuts.

I’ve yet to approach that milestone, but when I do, I’ll be sure to drop you a line, possibly as a stark, raving madman, tearing off my face and howling, like those people that got too close to hell in that Sam Neil/Larry Fishburn flick with spaceships.

But here’s how I’ve done it for the last three and a half years:

Find People that Like Living Here

sonatine_beat

When I first arrived, it would have been so easy to for me to connect with the giant horde of ‘one year wonders’ that come here, those realize everything is different and fucking weird, and then proceed to drink out their year sitting in a bar complaining about everything in Japan.

They’re everywhere and they’ll poison you.

They came to Japan all wide eyed and joyous, perhaps ready to jump into loads of vagina, or run around in a samurai costume and cosplay outfits all day, but then couldn’t figure out why girls (or guys) didn’t want to come by their place for a home dinner and a movie date and why Japanese people don’t constantly run around dressed as Final Fantasy characters 24/7. This has left them dejected and angry.

I was lucky. When I arrived in my little land of Takamatsu, I fell in with a group of folks that really ‘get it.’  Seeing how much they love the place, whenever I get a bit down on Japan, I try to think of things from their point of view.

It really helps me to keep a good outlook, no matter how bad a day I’ve had, and they’ve been instrumental in introducing me to a ‘below the surface Japan’ that’s often hard to crack into. This is because Japanese people can smell “one years wonders” too and run screaming in the other direction, cept Roppongi whores.

On that same note, I’ve recently found that the Japanese Twitterverse has an immense collection of folks that really enjoy Japan in their own odd ways. Connecting with them is a great way to ‘feel the love.’

Eventually, you’ll have made it long enough in Japan where you’ll see the newbs arrive on the shores, all fresh-faced and new, and you can help steer them towards the “light side” just as others did for you.

Find Some Folks to Bitch With

chappelle-player-haters-ball

Ok, I said it was poison to hang with folks that bitch about Japan all the time, and it is. But everyone needs to bitch about Japan sometimes!  While I’ve avoided crews of angry drunken foreigners that bitch the night away, we all need to vent from time to time.

You’ll go completely insane if you just have to keep frustrations inside over why the convenience store guy follows you around the store, or why no one sits anywhere near you on countryside train trips.

You sometimes need to laugh with someone about that creepy guy who requisitioned your for a “Can I practise English on You” session.

(PS: For the record, I always follow that up with “Only if I can practice Judo on you…”)

It’s Ok to vent, and I highly recommend a session where you can kick back and bitch about you various woes with a friend over a few beers. Just don’t let it become your life.

For me, I have a train ride or two a week that I share with a coworker for about an hour on the way home. We get a tall can or two, rotate a seat around, kick off the shoes, kick up the feet, and share a week’s worth of confusion and insanity.

I find that the hour’s good enough, and it’s fun when all the Japanese leave the train car because they can’t stand foreigners talking loudly (even though a similar scene with drunken salarymen is always ok). It’s like your own little form of rebellion, on a really small scale where rebellion is more like “inconvenience.”

For intense bouts of bitching, I get together with my friend every five months or so for a more epic session of good-humored, hate-filled drinking.

The key is, if you find that these bitching sessions are becoming the majority of your life’s time in Japan, it may be time to reconsider what you’re doing or who you’re hanging out with.

Have a Really Cool Panic Room

panic-room

Keep a lifeline to something you enjoy from your pre-Japan life. For me, I love America Football and during the season, I lock myself away at odd hours in my room, watching the rent’s TV back home over Slingbox. I catch the local games and even the cheesey local commercials. Helps me feel a bit more in tune with the land of my birth.

My SuperBowl parties may be intensely lonely (One lone man at the computer at 8 in the morning with a few cans of that Kagome real fruit booze and some chips), but I’m connected.

I keep in touch with my silly American culture, movies, music, and TV via the internet and Amazon, and my friends with the various social sites out there. It’s really important.

My room is somewhere that I can always go to connect with all my non-Japan loves. When I get a little sick of folks, don’t feel like walking outside and having everyone stare at me, I just retreat to my little bastion of Fantasy Football, Bands that no one here knows, and TV shows not not named Lost, Heroes, 24 or Prison Break.

Connect to Something Here

japan6

You’re not going to like everything here.

I think Tea Ceremony is the most boring thing on earth. I would actually rather go to a seppuku seminar that ended with us all killing ourselves. My girlfriend does it, and I’m ok with that,  but I politely decline most invitations to sit for hours on the floor waiting to drink a cup of tea while someone fawns over a thousand-year-old tapestry.

I’m not really going to change my opinion on that.

In Japan, you’re going to find (just like anywhere) that there are things you like and things you hate. Embrace your loves and maintain an open mind about the things you hate, but feel free to continue on hating them.

People sometimes come here and get sucked into all that is Japanese and feel they must do everything.

Perhaps it’s because Japan always keeps us in that little “gaijin” box and some people believe that if they drink enough tea and understand noh plays, that suddenly they’ll transcend the label.

Well, you won’t, so just do stuff you like and leave the rest to others.

I think tea ceremony is what hell would be like, I can’t really appreciate flower arranging, and I’m a little tired of undokai, but if you call me up and tell me there’s a taikodai that needs throwing in the air, I’m there.

I’m not big on the modern Japanese sex/gore cinema (RoboGeisha, Machine Girl), but if you toss on some 70s Chiba Era flicks  my eyes glaze over (Etsuko Shihomi, yay!).

I don’t actively pursue Japanese through lessons (instead speaking dirty Sanuki-ben like some kind of mongrel human), but I do enjoy studying Kanji symbols and writing them, although I’d never get into calligraphy because it just seems ungodly precise and just the art of copying some other master’s style as closely as possible.

Don’t feel you need to take in everything. You wouldn’t do that in your home country, so don’t stress out about it here.

Find something interesting and Japanese that you really dig, and go diving on into it. Leave the rest for someone else!

What do you all think?  What are some ways you manage to keep your insanity in this wacky land we call Japan?

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Boggling the Mind with Verbs that Sometimes MoonLight as Nouns! (Hope! Change! Fuck!)

Who gives a fuck about Japan? This Guy!

Who gives a fuck about Japan? This Guy!

While I sit here being heckled at by men and women standing on vans, screaming out how they will change Japan without ever actually offering any tangible plans, I figure that I’m as good as anyone to really lead Japan.

Here is my platform:

1) I won’t stand on a van and heckle you, ever. I’ll be sure to get out there and shake babies and kiss women in a civil and educated manner. I’m not Asian, but where I come from, when Asians speak through loudspeakers, people bug out and grab rifles. Even I have war flashbacks when I hear them screaming, and I’ve only been to wars in Asia via movies.

2) I’ll sell all the stockpiled whale to either a country that’s really hungry or some Nordic country that actually likes eating the shit. Cause right now there’s just a bunch of frozen whale sitting around and I think I might be the only one eating it. We could even send it to North Korea, so they’d get even stupider on Mercury poisoning.

3) Ever time North Korea raises a missile, I’ll blow it up, claim self defense, and then egg them on about that awesome brown water navy they possess, then watch as Kim Il-Jong flips out and sends his millions swimming across the Sea of Japan.

4) I’ll fire all politicians above 60. You ever see an American NFL football coach? Those guys put in about 18 hours a day of work during the season. At about 65, their skills suddenly wane. This goes for Generals too (I’m looking at you MacArthur). Why? Because old people need to sleep a lot and take little naps all the time. I want people who are burning the midnight oil to get shit done. Japan needs some fresh thinking, not someone who goes to bed at 7:00 and falls asleep during meetings.

5) I hate washing out containers and cutting juice boxes. I shouldn’t have to worry about that shit. From now on, all trash goes into one bin and it goes to jail, where prisoners sort it out in some wacky jail factory combo thing. You can also send bad junior high school children there until they shape up.

6) I’ll put TV Talents in (Hand Quotes) “Talent Camps” where they’d be reeducated on the exact concept of talent….they might also be put to death.

7) I’ll have traps installed in the vending machines that dispense the “salary man failure” items that men bring home to their wives after spending all night with snack ladies and in a love hotel with their mistress, coming home to a wife with a box of chocolates and some flowers he got by putting some coins in a slot. They will now chop off his hands, cause he’s a useless douche.

8) I’ll change cool biz so that people can wear comfortable clothes in the summer AND use the AC at a normal fucking temperature. Fuck it man, there are other ways to save the environment and work productivity takes a dive when everyone is casually dressed and hot. It takes the average Japanese person about 3 hours to complain about the weather and this nation doesn’t need anymore wasted productivity.

9) New Code: An even number of bows means I’m sincere in my apology, an odd number of bows mean I really don’t give a fuck. Here’s a hint: My lucky number is 7.

10) The Seto Naikai area is famous for its legends of pirates, plundering, striking fear, and hiding out in the thousands of islands of the inland sea. Japanese pirates plying the coasts, towns and vaginas of Korea is also part of a very rich Japanese history. Under my administration, we’ll get back to our pirating roots.

11) Sports festivals will no longer consist of events lacking entirely of sports. We’ll now do things obviously recognized by the world community as tangible and actual sports, not just a bunch of weird shit we made up. There will be no oddly coordinated, semi-homosexual dance routines either, unless your kid goes to a school for semi-homosexuals.

12) People will be allowed to express their actual opinions. When I tell someone that I went to a tea ceremony this weekend, they won’t have to say “Sugoi!” anymore, they can just say “Awe, I bet that sucked ass.” When they eat a piece of food they don’t like, they will no longer have to scream out “Oishii!” They will be allowed to say “This tastes like dog feces, but slimier.”

13) I’ll change the Japanese word for Octopus from Taco to something else. I get really pissed off when I go to a Japanese Mexican restaurants and see ‘tacos’ on the menu and order only to find that I get one lonely, sad and depressing, fucking taco. Don’t do me like that, Japan. Tacos should mean a plethora of Mexican delight, not one.

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Man Up, Japan!!!

Yay, Level 72! Now I am the most powerful man in the universe!

Yay, Level 72! Now I am the most powerful man in the universe!

The other day, while surfing a few links from the twitterverse, @saltypear posted a fun link to a list of “14 Skills All Men Should Possess.”

I joked with him about how you could easily reword the title as “14 Skills Japanese Men Don’t Possess.”

Asking my male students how to do anything with a car is as simple as them telling me “Call JAF.” I’ve taught entire cadres of engineers who not only could miserably fail at explaining how to change oil, but didn’t have the slightest clue as to how a car tire might be changed.

I must make a mental note to never travel on any bridges these guys build.

New entertainment systems are delivered and set up for men, and forget about doing anything around the house. When I recently suggested to my girlfriend that I’d be able to wallpaper the bathroom for her, she looked at me like I was a space alien. Professionals are supposed to do that! (You mean the guy who took a tour of our perfectly stable house to check on the wallpaper with a helmet on?)

The idea of a “handyman”  is  a fantastic world of dreams to my older females students. It’s a magical land where men could save them from roadside disaster, fix broken toilets, and perhaps even cook a dinner. My student told me of how she”d recently gone to Ikea, spinning tales of woe about her husbands failure to assemble Swedish furniture, something she eventually did for him.

The Handyman in Japan is like a Polar Bear. There are a on the verge of  annihilation, clinging to distantly drifting sheets of ice, few and far between.

The Japanese man of today has mom for all his needs, and what mom doesn’t have covered, the modern conveniences of the most technologically savvy country on earth can save him.

Why learn how to cook a steak? There are robots for that kind of thing, or at the very least convenience stores.

Why show off and paint your girlfriend’s room as a gift to her? There are professionals for that kind of thing! Besides, no one ever taught you how to be romantic anyway!

Poor Japanese women! It’s no wonder their thoughts and dreams drift away to the strong and romantic men of Korean dramas. (Got news for ya, Korean Men aren’t all that romantic either, but that’s a topic for another time)

Now comes word that Japanese men are slowly giving up the idea of pursuing women at all. These “Vegetarian Boys” or Soushoku Danshi can’t even be bothered to put down the video game controller or take their eyes off their Gundam anime when a girl walks by, so caught up in their fragile little worlds.

Is manliness going the way of the dinosaur in Japan?

Has it already passed the point of no return?

Will there ever be a time when I don’t see school boys slowly positioning their extremely straight hair into proper alignment with mouses and gels for hours in a train station bathroom so that they look cool to other guys?

I come from a land where a man looks good with a bit of 3 day scruff, a ratty old tee-shirt, and some blue jeans.

We don’t give a shit about what other guys think, and after about 18, we don’t much give a shit what girls think either.

In a pinch we can change your tire and get you off that lonely road, and if the engine explodes, we’re still gonna get under that hood and stare at shit and bang stuff with our hands before calling any other man, even if we don’t really know what the fuck we’re doing.

We know which direction North is.

We can clean out those gutters and BBQ food.

And you best bet that if you’re drowning, we’re gonna be able to jump in the water and save you.

Japan, at some point, you really dropped the ball. If your country’s men are just going to skip out on any and all man skills and duties, you’re going to find a lot of “Vegetarian Girls” too, or perhaps “Carnivorous Girls,” looking for meat in other places.

Man up before you’re all extinct!


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Weird Stuff Japan Loves (Volume One: Celebrity Edition)

Japan’s an isolated island nation with a mind all its own. When you come to these shores, you’re bound to find that people revel in charging ahead against the rest of the universe, like salmon swimming up a river.

This leads to some pretty wacky shit.

While the rest of the worldenjoys a picturesque stroll under a romantic sunset, they climb to the top of Mt. Fuji with vim and vigor to bask in the glow of an early sunrise.

They do things their way…

And so I introduce to you, Weird Stuff Japan Likes.

Today, let’s look at a few of the foreign celebrities that have made it to the shores of bizarro land. These are the folks that people go absolutely apeshit insane over when they arrive at Narita airport:

Harry Potter

harrypotterguy

I don’t use his real name, because no one here knows it here. If you ask a student about Harry Potter, their eyes will glow with creepy childlike sexual desire, but they’ll lack all ability to actually separate reality from a fictional movie about a boy who plays with his broom handle too much.

The movie recently premiered in Japan, and with good reason. The books have done gangbusters here and are translated about as fast as you can churn them out, and the movies have filled theaters with viewers.

Hordes of followers eagerly awaited his arrival at the airport and world premier in Tokyo.

Take a moment to look at the picture above.

Take a good, long look at it. Soak it in, bask in his…

His…

His resemblance to a real life Gollum?

Is this not one of the ugliest people whose ever managed to become famous?

What the fuck is wrong with his hair? If he’s playing “Lenny” in some new take on “Of Mice and Men,” I can totally support this retarded haircut.

It looks like his blind mother dresses him and he’s been hanging out beyond the realm of sunlight for the past 300 years.

This is what causes Japanese girls to cream their pants?

Orlando Bloom

legolas

Ok, you got me, I can at least imagine Bloom as a sex symbol. While searching for pictures, I came across tons of shirtless pictures of him posturing for the camera, and while I didn’t exactly get wood, he’s not exactly ugly, especially when compared to the mess mentioned above him.

At least Japanese people know his name.

Bloom has showered the covers of the various movie and entertainment magazines in Japan for some time. He’s immensely popular. If you look at a year’s worth of movie mags from Japan, he’ll probably be on the cover of about half of them (It’s a constant Bloom to Depp rotation).

He’s also a fucking plank of wood.

There aren’t many actors who can bring a movie to a blank, useless black hole of nothingness.  His vanilla ability to defuse the screen nearly sucked down the immensely fun and silly Pirates movies, even with Johnny Depp lighting things up like a Depp on steroids.

Even as an elf in the Hobbit movies,  he only just managed to pull of a role as a disengaged and distant, mostly emotionless elf, because he’s totally disengaged, distant, and obviously unable to display any form of emotion on the screen.

To save money, they actually could have put a blonde wig on a 2×4.

My students love this guy. Depp gets some good props in Japan and hits the mags too, and he’s obviously won most of the world’s hearts too, but from student opinions and recognition, elf-plank triumphs.

That’s two elves…

What could possibly be next?

Michael Jackson

creepy_jackson

May I present the King of Elves?

He’s dead now, so he probably won’t be haunting any Japanese airports anytime soon, but in these final years, Japan was one of the last places where he could seek comfortable refuge among hordes of adoring fans.

His best hits album, recently released here, was picked up by a ton of folks I know. I hadn’t even known there was a release (and I don’t think there was one in America).

Japan’s the one place where as he got weirder, more elfin, more childlike, and less black, they seemed to embrace him even more.

When he died, Japan was one of the places hit hardest.

His childlike demeanor and life living in an amusement park seemed to endear him more to the people of Japan. Unlike America, they could mostly overlook that whole “diddling kids” stuff.

We’re three for three on elves.

Apparently, Japan loves the elf-men.

I gotta ask, what do you have against actual men?

When I first met my girlfriend, she didn’t immediately like me. She said it was because I was too manly and strong. Eventually, I guess she warmed up to me, as it’s now been a few years and she seems to like guys that can grow beards and can fill out a tee-shirt without looking like a bag of bones.

Honestly, what’s with fay men that could pass for women or aliens? I’ve had women go on for ages about how Brad Pitt wasn’t all that attractive to them here, but Harry Potter lights up their eternal flames of desire?

It’s just weird…

…and that’s Japan.

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Maintaining a Teaching Job in Japan

So you made it to these hallowed shores of tentacle monsters and underwear vending machines. You covered my tips in the five-part “Getting a Teaching Job in Japan” series and now you’re sitting back, lounging in a bath full of Pocky.

Congratulations!

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part 5)


But you can’t just sit around chewing black-black gum all day while visiting maid cafes! You got a job here! You gotta work!

How do you wow your employers and clients so that you can maintain your lifestyle in this wacky land of the rising sun?

Let’s begin!

Dress to Impress

Great Suit for Teaching.....Clowns...

Great Suit for Teaching.....Clowns...

I mentioned this a bit in the last post, but let me restate it:

A lot of people come over here in a patchwork quilt of a suit. Wearing green plaid pants, wacky hiking shoes, a tweed blazer with patches on it, purple shirt, and yellow tie isn’t going to get you anywhere. Who normally wears suits like that?

Clowns.

First Impressions are huge here, so if you look sharp and look like you’re here to do business, you’ll do just fine.

Another slightly unique idea in the realm of dress is to dress for your clients:

Where I work, we teach a lot of businesses, sometimes to people wearing overalls and coveralls. Those “down and dirty” guys feel a bit put off when they enter a classroom and have a man in a suit (not Man-in-Suit!) lording over them. I’ve seen a few teachers borrow some company coveralls, grab a helmet, and dress to their level. The students really warm up to it, although I’d recommend coming in your regular pristine wear and changing.

Dressing like your clients really helps them accept you and feel comfortable.

If you come to Japan dressed like a clown, it’d be perfectly acceptable for you to teach clowns…

Be on Time
If you're late here, it's 'off with your head' time

If you're late here, it's 'off with your head' time

There are a lot of cultures out there where time doesn’t matter. Just across the pond, if you tell a Korean to be somewhere at 7, they have an extremely loose interpretation of 7 and will perhaps show up at 9.

That’s not true in Japan. People are exacting in their timing and arrival. They’re usually not off by more than about 30 seconds plus or minus.

They don’t come early because they don’t want to catch you off guard. They don’t want to be late because that might offend.

I was recently hosting a party at a restaurant where I went outside about 5 minutes before the “stated arrival time” and there were just about 20 Japanese people standing outside waiting for the clock to strike the proper time.

You will crash and burn if you miss classes or come late.

Here’s a recent conversation I had with a client:

Student: “We really like you?”
Me: “Oh really, why is that? Is it because of my teaching style?”
Student: “No, we really like you because you come.”

I’ve known some amazing teachers that had issues with time and dressed badly. I consider myself a mediocre teacher that dresses well and gets to clients early and prepared. Guess who got better client reviews? Showing up is half the battle.

Don’t Date Students

Give me Engrish!

Give me Engrish!

I’ve seen some recent blog posts on this topic that covered the prospective dangers from the teacher’s point of view. This isn’t even the biggest danger.

Listen, I come from America. In America, we often seek some kind of mutual copacetic end to a relationship. This leads to about 6 months of pain and suffering, drunken encounters, retarded text messages, and general foolishness. At the end of that, sometimes those people emerge as friends, sometimes not.

In that situation, maybe that student would continue taking lessons from the teacher they slept with. Maybe they’d just switch teachers (for lessons, not sex…although maybe revenge sex).

Japanese people are a more cynical and (secretly) emotional bunch. When they rip off a band-aide, they rip that shit off in one fell swoop, not slowly trying to tear it off while wincing in pain.

You’re going to find that the person you slept with changed their cellular number and basically disappeared off the face of the earth.

From this standpoint, if you’re working for a company and sleeping with all the customers in failed mini-relationships, you’re going to find yourself absolutely destroying your company’s business. Eventually they’re bound to sniff out what’s going on.

Point A doesn’t lead to Point B

Like this, but with less direction

Like this, but with less direction

Listen, in Japan, nothing makes sense. You’ll often find yourself trying to make logical sense of the culture, people, and country.

Don’t!

It’s absolutely hopeless to try and make sense of it all.

You’ll try to understand why it’s rude to use a cell phone on a train as an airplane buzzes overhead with loudspeakers blaring, trying to get you to shop at the local mall.

You’ll live in a conservative little neighborhood next to a soapland district.

You’ll wonder how people who work 16 hours a day accomplish less than French workers who work 7 hours, and how a government that does nothing somehow brought a country to be the 2nd most wealthy in the world.

Don’t think about any of that. Your mind will explode and you’ll go insane.

Nothing makes sense here, and yet it somehow all works out. Don’t ask questions. Just smile and laugh at the nonsensical nature of it all.

Keep an open mind too. You’re going to come here, and you’re going to see all the weird and wacky differences and you’re going to feel resistant to it all.

“Why the hell do they sweep with that wacky broom that looks like Bear Grylls made it in the wild? My country’s brooms are so much better!”

I’ve seen more than a few ‘high-minded’ teachers come over here and decide to educate their students on why their country and ideas are so much better than Japan’s.

That didn’t work out so well.

Omiyage Chain of Doom

Spend at least one day of your life in here, shopping for mochi that's all the same

Spend at least one day of your life in here, shopping for mochi that's all the same

Listen, Japanese people are going to shower you with gifts. It’s not really cause you’re special, they shower everyone with cheap gifts.

When people travel, it’s perfectly normal for them to spend a day picking out “omiyage,” or small gifts to give to relatives, coworkers, and friends after their travels. Even when Japanse go as little as an hour away, they usually come back with something for others.

Do they expect you to do the same?

No, not really, you’re foreign and they know you play by different rules.

Will they absolutely love you if you do it?

Yup.

Am I saying you should bribe your students with gifts?

Yes, Yes I am. They’re basically bribing you too.

Besides, it’s fairly win-win. I’ve had a lot of teachers that make grand statements to their students like “I don’t do your Omiyage thing, so I won’t bring you anything when I travel.”

Just jump in! If you’ve got a class of 5 people and you occasionally bring a little something to share in class with them, they’ll do the same. This is going to land you at least 5x your initial investment, usually more.

They’ll like you more for your sense to try out Japanese culture and enjoy the travel stories that come with your present, and will do the same back to you.

Work is Life

If you don't know what this is, you'd best learn

If you don't know what this is, you'd best learn

I have loads of students that invite me to stuff. Unless I really can’t go, I always make an effort. I don’t always want to go to an elementary school sports festival, but it’s good business.

In Japan, your job exists beyond the hours of work.

You’re always working even when you’re not. When students invite you out, it’s part of the student-teacher relationship and a way of solidifying relationships. You can be one of those folks who declines to do everything your students want, but A) you’ll miss out on a lot of interesting things and B) you’ll be keeping the students distant from you.

Learn to Drink

Learn to Drink....from small glasses!

Learn to Drink....from small glasses!

Japanese people can’t drink a lot (unless they’re Kochi people), but they do drink often. Drinking after work with coworkers is a continuation of work. It help reduce stress and cement relationships as the alcohol greases the release of what people really think.

When clients take you out to drink, it’s half to have a good time, but it’s also so they can drink a bit and tell you more about how they feel, as well as hopefully getting you drunk enough to hear a bit more about you.

I can actually say that drinking with clients has helped renew contracts as well as land new ones.

It’s an integral part of Japanese culture and an integral part of business relationships.

If you don’t drink, it’s ok. If you’re a women it’s fairly accepted, as many women don’t drink here. They’re often too busy managing their silly, drunk male coworkers at the end of the night.

Although I encounter a fair share of Japanese men who can’t drink or won’t, their expectations are that foreign men drink and can drink a lot.

As such, they will normally attempt to ply you with alcohol.

If you don’t drink, they will be accommodating enough. A good excuse is to be a driver, as the Japanese are very serious about not drinking a drop of liquor before driving.

But If you are a drinker, do expect that there might be a few more days of your life where you’re sharing a few drinks with colleagues, clients, and friends after work.

(That’s it for this week, hope you enjoy the new direction for the series!)

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Japan Ain’t All Hello Kitty: A Government Beyond Change?

If you like the kind of leader you'd find idling around a convenience store looking at porno mags....you'll love Japan

If you like the kind of leader you'd find idling around a convenience store looking at porno mags....you'll love Japanese Politics

The Japanese government likes to lives in a little bubble world all their own. It’s as if they don’t realize that the choices and decisions they make influence an entire country of people under them.

Equally, most Japanese people have become disinterested  in the whole governmental process. They don’t seem to care who leads them, and realize that their government failed long ago They lack all hope for change and care little for politics.

While I enjoy my life in Japan, the good comes with a healthy dose of bad. Much of this bad comes from the political sphere.

Here’s the laundry list of a primer. I hope it encourages further exploration on the issues presented.

Hereditary Positions: The majority of lawmakers are able to hand down their positions to sons upon retirement.  If you thought the Bush, Clinton, and Kennedy dynasties were a problem in America, you’d go nuts here. According to the excellent article mentioned above, some 40% of the LDP benefits from this practice. With Japan’s strong sense of duty towards parents, grandparents, and so on, policies way past their prime are perpetuated via a sense of duty. People continue to vote for candidates because they recognize the name and the platform. Recent events to change this practice seem to have stalled out when politicians realized they wouldn’t be able to easily nominate their kids anymore.

Ministries of Uselessness: The former Health Minister calls women “baby-making machines,” the foreign ministry advocates sending schoolgirl stereotypes and french maid outfitted girls abroad to promote culture, and  with rampant resignations and even suicides, the various ministries exist in absolute chaos. The Prime Ministers quickly fire and change staff as their platforms sink and the PMs themselves flip yearly now so your time as a Minister of _____ is usually about as long as that of a Spinal Tap drummer.

Foreign Descendants: It’s a Xenophobic country in a global world. The recent economy has heightened peoples’ fears regarding outsiders. The government, in their shortsighted ignorance has decided to pay Latin American guest workers to leave the country and never return. These ‘guest workers’ are of Japanese descent, mostly Peruvians and Brazilians whose family lines comes from the Japanese who settled in those areas during Japan’s drive to expand. When they were finally allowed back in country in the 1990s, they found themselves limited to the most menial and dangerous jobs. Now they’re being primed to leave. Not only is this a horrible slight to people that share history and blood with Japan, but it’s a horribly shortsighted idea in a country where the workforce is shrinking drastically because of the falling birthrate.

Gaijin: For those of us without the luck of being a foreigner of Japanese descent, The Ministry of Justice is looking to take over management of the “Alien Registration Card” system, AKA: Gaijin Card to better watch for us pesky foreigners. The centralization of the process away from local governments will lead to a slew of new checks and balances, allowing for more monitoring of our whereabouts and changes. It seems like the country really doesn’t want anyone here.

Child Pornography: You can read my rant on this issue here, but needless to say, Japan’s current stance on child pornography laws is far below the International norm. This is somewhat disgusting, but because of partisan politics, the LDP and DPJ can’t even seem to agree on a bill to bring the laws up to standard. When a government is sitting around debating child pornography, it’s officially hit rock bottom.

Wartime Past: A huge problem with Japan is that they’ve adopted this extremely peaceful mentality, but have never actually come to grips with what happened in WW II. The country just collectively forgot the entire chapter. It’s as if a guy cheated on his gf, she found out, and he just told her “I’ll never do it again, let’s not talk about it any further.” The rest of the world is the gf, they’d like to talk it over are eagerly awaiting, lists in hand, to hear them. It shouldn’t take 67 years to apologize for the Bataan Death March. It’s great that you’ve adopted such a peaceful little world, but if you don’t accept what happened and educate people, history is bound to repeat itself.

Bridges to Nowhere: In America, a big issue of the recent campaign was Governor Palin’s ‘Bridge to Nowhere.” In Japan, everywhere is a bridge to nowhere. The Central Government’s big idea to keep the economy going is to constantly fund public works projects, no matter how useless. Driving through the countryside yields reinforced mountainsides, kilometers away from any forms of civilization, grand roads and tunnels that connect farming villages, and tetrapods covering the entire coastline. Local governments have become akin to beggars or perhaps even little mafias, grabbing money from their central daddy and inventing useless projects and inflating costs to skim money for other things. Congratulations, the whole country is run like a mafia!

No Clear Choice: I sometimes ask my students questions when things are bugging me. I’ve followed the two parties of Japan, the LDP and DPJ, for some time now. In all that time, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the difference. It just seems like a bunch of people that couldn’t hack it in the hierarchy broke away with the same platforms in order to be higher up in a new hierarchy with a different name. My students have failed to explain any differences to me as well. Some have said it’s like a choice between Coke and Pepsi. I’d say it’s more like a choice between last year’s Coca Cola can design and this year’s Coca Cola can.

Whales: I’m not anti-whaling at all. I’m not exactly pro-whaling either, but if you can find me some concrete examples of how whaling is an integral part of the culture, than so be it. From what I’ve seen in Japan, no one really likes the taste and the stockpile of whale meat is currently far outstripping demand to the point where the government has made overtures to the population to get more into eating the stuff so they can get rid of it and have better reason for killing more whales. Their entire platform on whaling seems to stand on others telling them they shouldn’t. Children also practice this annoying habit of doing the opposite of what’s suggested in the face of reason. You’re not children, you’re the government of the second most powerful economy in the world.

Indigenous/Captured People/Burakumin: The Diet only recently recognized the Ainu people as an indigenous people of the country. That’s progressive by Japanese standards. Korean-blooded people, many brought to Japan as laborers against their will or as slaves in past wars still lack the rights of normal Japanese citizens even though they’ve often lost complete connection to their original lands. Congrats, you just recognized the Ainu, refuse to recognize people that were brought here against their will, and won’t recognize Japanese people that settled in other lands. Also, people with past family histories of being leather workers or butchers still can’t get a good job. Awesome!

General Stupidity: Taro Aso is a moron who can’t even read. Listen, I come from a country that knows idiot leaders too, we can smell one of our own. The guy fails at reading Kanji, gaffes a mile a minute, comes from his little bubble land of hereditary politicians, and ran a family company that literally rode its way to the top on the backs of Korean workers and POWs. I could go on and on about him, but by and large, you could say this about everyone currently in the Japanese Government. They’re so backwards that they seem to exist solely to maintain their grips on the little political bubble world they live in. Any attempts to shatter it, via a modernization of the election process, fund-raising, or progressive laws are met with hostility, and again, more stupidity.

I hope you enjoyed this primer on some of the major issues currently plaguing the Japanese Government. It’s my hope that it’ll send folks off researching some of these topics in further detail.

For the record, I’m not really much of a grumpy hater, and I do enjoy my daily life in Japan. The country still manages to soldier on quite efficiently and if the gov has anything to do with train times, I applaud them.

What do yall think? What gets under your skin the most?

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Mom Was Right

woodcutjapanesemotherchild

The battle lines were drawn eons ago.

One army stood spotless and gleaming with perfection, orderly arranged and with well laid battle plans.

The other army, disheveled and disorganized, but with a chaos and fire sure to give their aggressors a brutal fight.

As the two armies dug in across the battlefield, heated stares and words were thrown back and forth in equal measure, constantly parried back upon their hated enemy.

The first volley from the pristine ranks stopped the chaos army dead in their tracks.

“Are you going outside without a coat on?”

But chaos, undeterred, stood again and soldiered forward, spewing forth their own barrage of death.

“Yeah…”

The shining army of righteousness received their first casualties, their bright armor taking its first battering. But they too rose again.

“But you’ll catch a cold…”

This barrage cut across the entire line of the disorderly ranks, but was returned in full.

“No I won’t.”

The sloppy and threadbare ranks had now taken their swords out, their cavalry cutting into the beacons of Order. But Order doesn’t fall so easily.

“Yes you will, it’s cold outside.”

But chaos is wily too, and they’re never felled so easily.

“Colds are viruses, it doesn’t matter what temperature it is outside…”

And so the battle between sons and mother raged on.

And it continues to rage on to this very day…

…except in Japan.

I’m not sure how it happened, but moms won the battle here.  While I spent my entire life outright rebelling against nearly everything my mother suggested, Men here seem to follow their mothers’ ever whim and wish.

Let’s take a look:

1) Winter: Mom used to tell me to put on a coat, wear a scare, gloves, hat, and about a million other things like that. I never did any of that. Oddly enough, I don’t get sick often either. Meanwhile, in Japan, I live in a place with a climate similar to the American South and I see people freaking out about the cold and dressing like a winter Gap ad. People are wearing thermal underwear, stomach girdles, and Haramaki. I didn’t know stomach warmers existed until I came here.

2) Bacteria and Cleanliness: Mom’s worked up the entire nation into a fervor of extreme bacterial fear. Even when there’s no swine flue, people are wildly panicked about wearing masks and avoiding dirt. I’ve never seen people wash so thoroughly. Remember when mom told you to wash behind your ears and you were just kind of “whatever” about it? Well, people go nuts with the back of their ears here. Showers take forever to get up to Mom’s standards.

3) Swimming: Mom always told you not to go swimming after you’d just eaten and then you went and dove in the ocean anyway and found that nothing happened and you didn’t die? Perhaps mothers lost this initial battle, so now when mothers wants their children to stay out of the water, they just tell them that the dead (especially here on the Seto Nai Kai) or Kappa will drag them down to the bottom and drown them.

4) Whistling: My mom wasn’t against whistling. She was pissed at her mom for always telling her to stop whistling (because it was bad for a lady to do). So I got a pass. In Japan though, it’s too imposing to go around whistling, as it might offend others. As such, mothers tell their sons that snakes will come and crawl down your throat while they sleep.

5) Summer: Mom doesn’t want you getting all burned out there on the beach anyway. Not only should you not swim, but you should also shield yourself from the sun. This is why you’ll find people wearing the same amount of clothes when it’s boiling outside as when it’s winter. While everyone is out in the sun and sand this weekend in America, the neighborhoods in Japan will be silent as everyone hides inside or goes shopping in a highly AC-ed mall.

6) Air Conditioners: But Mom wants you to know that AC is dangerous. You might catch a chill when you move from cold rooms to hot rooms or vice versa. The air is also unnatural and will dry you out if you sleep all night with it on. With all the chills and dry air, you’ll get yourself sick! I’ve had far to many people here tell me about the dangers of AC here. It hasn’t killed me yet.

7) Cool Fall/Spring Breezes: But no worries, Mom can’t be so crazy during the nice, temperate Falls and Springs.  Oh yes she can… That refreshing night breeze coming through your window?  That can give you chills too! Better close the windows and put on a stomach girdle!

8) Dependency: In Japan, you never said “I can do this myself, dammit!” Instead, you just stayed with mom, let her cook all your meals, let her do your laundry, let her clean your room, and let her wipe your ass. Until you’re married, you continue on living with mom. Eventually, you’ve become so cluelessly dependent on mom, you can’t actually exist without her unless you find a suitable wife to do the same thing. But watch out, Mom is over your shoulder like worm-tongue, with a heavy say in what girl you’re going to end up with too. Should you go unmarried and should something unfortunate happen to your mom, you’re as good as dead. You can’t even make eggs.

9) Mom Over Wife: Guys here always fall back on their mom. If an issue comes up between their wife and their mother. The mother wins. In days past, it was basically the mother’s job to make her son’s wife a living hell. It was also the son’s job to just sit back there and let his wife take the punishment. Perhaps there’s a karmic thing where the wife is just waiting to have a son of her own someday so he can get married and then she can treat his wife like garbage. I’m not sure how a man can stand around and let anyone berate his wife though.

10) PayBack: So they’ve lost the war, listening to ever whim and fancy throughout their lives. The son’s poor wife has done back flips to deal with her mother-in-law, to no avail. What happens next?  In her old age, mother moves in with them. Now mother can better manage the son through his middle age and (with Japan’s long lifespan) into his senior years…aka: forever!!!

Japan, you’ve won this battle, but you haven’t won the war!

Japan, You Sicken Me….

Japan: Still Cool with Gary Glitter & Friends

Japan: Still Cool with Gary Glitter & Friends

I love sitting around and scanning my favorite news sites before work on rainy weekday mornings.

So excuse me while my eyes pop out of my head when I read newsonjapan‘s link to Yomiuri quotes like “The Diet has begun debate on bills to revise the law banning child prostitution and child pornography” or “[The Current Law] does not forbid possession of child pornography for personal use

Wait, did you just use the word “debate” in the above sentence, cause I’m not really seeing a debate here.

Am I in the right country?

Listen, pornography in Japan is fucking bizarre. If you want to see girls picking through each others’ vomit, eels in vaginas, or intensely strange goo porn, this is the country for you.

I’m not a giant fan but I’m not a fucking Jesuit either. While prone to bouts of extreme wildness, when things get to the bedroom, I’m actually pretty happy with the old school shit.

Call me crazy.

It must be that Catholic upbringing that convinced me that sex was evil unless making babies (I got over that baggage pretty early in life). I don’t have to wear a wacky puppy costume to get off and I’d rather just get into the whole normal sex thing than bring out shackles and chains and whips.

At the end of the day, tying someone up’s just a bit too much of a hassle for me.

So I’ve come to the realization that Japan’s off the charts in that department. Whatever floats your boat, salaryman…

…to a fucking point.

Japan is not Thailand, India, or some other fucked up 2nd or 3rd world country that sells children into slavery so that sex tourists can get their jollies off on an epic sex tour. It’s a G8 country that should be holding itself to a higher standard than that.

So are you fucking kidding me? It’s legal to possess child pornography here as long as you’re just using it for yourself?

Both parties are submitting bills now, but there are major debates over bringing it up to international standards.

Am I truly living in the second most powerful economic nation in the world?

“”Given the spread of Internet services and the great amount of child pornography that is already in existence, the only option is to [completely] ban possession of pornographic images of children to prevent them from being distributed.”

Why thanks for that gem of knowledge, LDP member Yasuhiro Hanashi. Welcome to the 21st century, you stupid fuck.

I can’t believe there’s actually a government body that’s going to even have to vote on this.

It’s ok, just take deep breathes. I’m sure they’ll be able to get beyond partisan politics and have a perfectly rational vote. After all, it’s just a common sense bill that no one in their right mind would ever oppose…

“The DPJ opposes the LDP bill, which it claims would abruptly widen the scope of people subject to punishment.”

What?

You’re opposing a bill that would ban the ownership and viewing of child pornography because you’re afraid of people who love child pornography would be unfairly punished?

Both parties have bills, but it seems that the DPJ is pretty happy with the status quo, just getting their own bill out there to rival the LDP’s bill.

Basically, I’m living in a country with a political partially partially supports the rights of pedophiles.

Japan, with your awesome new plan of sending sexy school girls abroad to increase tourism and publicly fighting over the rights of pedophiles, you’re making yourself look really awesome these days.

Congratulations…

“Japan faced international criticism after it was discovered that a Japanese computer game in which players rape women and girls, make them pregnant and then force them to get abortions”

…and fuck you, seriously, fuck you.

And no doubt, this blog will appear to hordes of douchebag pedophiles searching the internet for child porn. If you’re reading this, fuck you too.

Japan’s Coca Cola Lineup Getting Interesting?

This image is obviously copyright of Coca Cola Japan, if they don't like me using it to talk about how I'm digging their products, they can kiss my ass. PS: This ad is retarded

Coca Cola vending machines are the bane of my existence.

In general, I hate vending machines anyway, but they’re a hated necessity. I often visit companies zoned out in the middle of nowhere, without a restaurant and convenience store in sight.

I try to avoid the machines, but when spending the day at a bleak, grey, concrete client site, vending machines in Japan often become little islands of hope and dreams in a sea of bland.

But Coca Cola, you destroy me.

Most Japanese products diversify and change weekly. Visiting my tiny islands of hope, I yearn to see a bevy of new products that dazzle the sights and senses.

But not you Coca Cola. You have the same damn fucking products I’ve seen for the last 3 1/2 years.

Perhaps since you’re a foreign company you’ve never adjusted to the Japanese need for visual and taste changes.

Perhaps when you’re rolling around in your giant money vault and you just don’t give a fuck.

Or do you?

It started last week…

Dropping by the Marugame train station with an hour to kill before meeting my client, I settled into my usual mode of watching the yankee boys write dirty words in marker on a drunken old man dancing around in a wifebeater, or watching 8 year old deviant girls beat old people with umbrellas.

Hopefully my seat would smell less like homeless shit and vomit today.

I go to the machine to procure a beverage for the visual festivities. What do my wandering eyes do appear but Coca Cola Co’s Georgia Coffee Jelly in a can!

The widemouth version of the Georgia Coffee Jelly can (from conbini, not machine)

The widemouth version of the Georgia Coffee Jelly can (from conbini, not machine)

Shaking the can to break up the jello-like coffee inside and popping the top, I was immediately greeted with design flaws that make drinking jello out of a tab-capped can extremely difficult. The machine version left me loudly sucking coffee jelly out of a can that just wouldn’t yield its prize to me.

Luckily, the conbini version has a wide mouth can, so that you can shake it up, toss it back, and immediately choke on a giant wad of jelly. It’s probably sweetened about the same as a regular can of black coffee with sugar, but tastes a bit less sweet in jelly form.

Coca Cola, you now have my attention.

On a recent day off, after riding back from some shopping with an intense hangover, I stopped by the nearby Lawson’s conbini.

Now, as a warning, I have weird tastes. This is especially true when I’m hungover, where I suddenly become like a pregnant woman. So when I come across Coca Cola’s new line of milk teas my first words are “Wow, that sounds disgusting,” as I eagerly pick it up to buy.

Mango + Milk + Black Tea = Surprisingly Good

Mango + Milk + Black Tea = Surprisingly Good

In every Coca Cola machine and every conbini is Coca Cola’s sweet black milk tea, under the label ‘Kochakaden.’ This new drink, under the same line but with the ‘Desserts’ label adds mango to the original taste.

Mango milk tea doesn’t sound extremely tasty, but somehow the mango flavor smooths it out.

I really dig it, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere but in one Lawsons. I have yet to see it in machines, only in a 500 ml bottle, but it’s worth looking for.

Coca Cola, you’re winning me over.

Today, on the way to an early office meeting I hit up another Convenience store to find Coca Cola’s Georgia Black in a sports-bottle-esque package:

When you need black coffee in the weight room

When you need black coffee in the weight room

It’s apparently for keeping coffee handy in your car, but the packaging reminds me of something you’d see on a sports bottle for a bicycle or gatorade bottle.

Bit strange…

It’s not a different flavor, but Coca Cola, you’re 3 for 3 on me this week.

Isolated in a sea of bland, the lone Coca Cola machine was always a depressing visage sending my mind hoping and wishing for Itoen or other Japanese-based company machines.

I’m now slightly optimistic, Coca Cola. Keep it up.

On the downside, I’m slightly pessimistic that the highlight of my day is my vending machine or conbini selection.

PS: Green Tea Coke is an epic failure…but that was last week… It tastes like diet coke…

But I’ll applaud your willingness to try. Just try harder!

Shiso Pepsi was wacky cool!

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 5: Preparations and Arrival)

I see a lot of people coming to Japan trying to bask in all the anime, wacky game shows, and bondage. As HR/Recruiting director for a company in Japan, it’s my job to prepare potential candidates for their arrival in country.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about coming here that I will a) make the process less difficult  b) increase your survival chances and c) help your overall skills in landing a job here.

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 3)(Part 4)(Part6)

Let’s get on with some of the nuts and bolts of preparing to come on over:

No Contract = Fail

We don't actually teach English at all, but we could use you in our 'English Lettering' Department

We don't actually teach English at all, but we could use you in our 'English Lettering' Department

While there are a variety of ways to deal with the Visa situation, at the very least, you should always get a contract signed by both parties (yourself and your employer) in your hands before departing.

While you’re in your comfort zone, you still have a lot of power to negotiate, but once you come to Japan you’re usually out of your element.

Don’t let a company woo you on over and tell you that you can do all the Visa and contract talk upon arrival. In your jet-lagged, culture-shocked stupor, you may find a devious company suddenly taking more than they are giving.

Accept nothing until you’ve seen a contract.

These days, you can get the Visa all squared away before you come, or you can come in as a tourist and get it processed in country (No more trips to Korea!), but always get that damn contract in your hands!

No Research = Fail

Beware of excessive flames, but fires have merit

Beware of excessive flames, but fires have merit

When a company begins to show some interest in you, it’s a good idea to check the company out on the internet. Not only should you be checking out their site, you should be looking into the various message boards out there where people discuss Japanese companies.

You’re bound to find former or current employees of many companies to answer any of your questions, but you’ll also find threads full of red flags.

Now, when on the internet, do keep in mind that it’s usually the haters who are most vocal, writing intense diatribes against everything and anything. You’re bound to find hate on nearly every company out there, as some people just don’t mesh with some systems.

By and large though, if it’s a small mountain of hate, you’re probably ok. If it’s a thread full of 500 hate messages, it’s probably a place you’d do best to avoid.

In time, it’s pretty easy to tell who was grumpy and what place actually appears to have horrible business practices.

I recommend Dave’s ESL Cafe Japan forums and GaijinPot’s forums, although your best bet is probably just to google the company’s name or the owner’s name to see what comes up.

When I was looking for a job in Japan it helped steer me away from a place with a hellish owner that was prone to canceling contracts on the day before completion in order to avoid paying bonuses as well as splitting employees’ weekends up so that they could never really go anywhere.

No Research Part Deus = Fail

Here's some practice: If this picture seems totally normal to you, do some research!

Here's some practice: If this picture seems totally normal to you, do some research!

Buy books on Japan, read things on the internet, research, research, research!

I tell potential employees that we operate throughout Shikoku. I tell them it’s a rural island. I tell them that Osaka is about 3-4 hours away, but that the tolls can be a bitch and you’ll often find that this isn’t the place for being an Osaka cat.

I tell them that if placed in Niihama, they’ll be hanging out in a pretty small city with about 12 other foreign people total and they’ll be living the real Japan countryside experience.

I tell people all of this and they still get mad at me when they can’t easily go clubbing in Osaka and the Japanese girls aren’t opening their legs for them like in Roppongi because they’re shy and conservative here.

Do your research! Listen to the information you’re given and search for more information to confirm and add to that!

Don’t dive into pools unless you know there’s water in them!

No Money = Fail

So you're saying the last suit you bought was during the Elizabethan Era?

So you're saying the last suit you bought was during the Elizabethan Era?

I wrote an entire blog post on how it can be easy to save money in Japan and cheap to live here. Once you get settled into Japan-life, it IS in fact possible to save money and live well.

However, this is not the time for that. You’ve just landed in the plane and you’re a stranger in a strange land.

You’ll be shitting money on arrival and if you arrive here a pauper, you’re fucked.

While the economy has tanked and the costs of establishing oneself here have gone down a bit with it, there are still tons of hurdles to overcome.

First there’s the transportation cost of getting here. Most companies will NEVER pay for it, so don’t start complaining and throwing a fit when they don’t. You see, thousands of years ago, at the dawn of time, companies DID pay for people to come on over to Japan…

…then those people fucked off and had a free vacation to Japan.

This is why most companies now give you bonuses on the way out, to cover costs of tickets AFTER contract completion.

Beyond travel, when setting up an apartment you’ve got to deal with dreaded key money, security deposits, high rents in the big cities, furniture buying and so on.

Beyond being a JET, you’re going to find that most companies in Japan don’t pay for all that. I’ve had plenty of people that come from elsewhere that say their company in Dubai, Korea or Narnia paid for everything and served them caviar on tiny silver spoons every night, but this isn’t the way Japan works.

I’m sorry, but if you’re looking for that kind of treatment, you may want to look at another country.

Don’t fret though. Most good companies will be more than happy to help you with every little detail in finding a place, learning how to pay your bills, connecting to the community, etc, etc…

You can network with teachers in your company, steal an outgoing teacher’s furniture, and take advantage of some of the more modern apartment options (Like Leo Palace, no key money, yay!)

When I made the jump, I did it with about 3000 USD in hand. That was plenty to get established, but I wouldn’t even ponder trying with less than 2000 USD.

Also keep in mind that most companies pay somewhere around the 20th-25th of the NEXT MONTH. If you worked the month of May, you’re getting that cash around the 20-25th of June. Be prepared for that wait.

Bringing Over an Entire Shipping Container = Fail

Sorry, had a lot of stuff I wanted to bring over

Sorry, had a lot of stuff I wanted to bring over

Japan’s a pretty modern country. There are toilets here that basically give you blow jobs.

They make everything and anything you can imagine.

As such, don’t pack like you’re going into some Congolese jungle. In Tokyo you can find nearly anything your heart desires.

Even on my little rural island, I still find most of what I need. You can pack light and worry about most things when you get here.

I recommend bringing comfortable clothes that are functional for the environment you’re visiting (Japan is a long country, so there are extreme differences). If you have a job here, you’re not going to have to worry so much about having epic tons of social hour clothes.

Make sure you have your work related clothes planned out well and bring enough stuff to be comfortable on weekends.

Yes, Japan is a nation of suit zombies. Many of the jobs you can land here will find you in a jacket and tie. Even without that job, there may be events that require you to dress as such.  If you haven’t invested in the suit-life yet, I recommend doing so and bringing over a few. You’re moving to a country where people aren’t so sure how to live WITHOUT wearing suits or uniforms.

And please don’t dress in some kind of Patchy McGee mix of 5 different suits. People match here and will secretly laugh at you.

Also, if you go Khaki, you’ll be the only one. You might even feel weird in brown. Go with something black and you won’t fail.

For clothes sizes, I find that if you’re a medium/large in the US, you’ll probably want to find Japanese XLs, although there are still a lot of American brands that might work on you. If your pants sizes are above 36 or so, you’ll have to go to a big and tall shop. This also goes for if you feet are bigger than a size 10.

I find I can buy clothes here without problem, even have custom suits and shirts made, but I buy my shoes abroad.

As for what else I have shipped in:

I prefer my American toothpaste and deodorant, although when I’ve ran out I’ve found perfectly suitable alternatives here. I can still get the cologne I like here, although most Japanese people will feel you ruin their entire sushi eating experience when they smell you in the restaurant, which I actually enjoy doing.

I DO recommend bringing a laptop, as if you buy one here, the OS is generally in Japanese and you’re going to find that they cut out a bit of the space bar on the right to make room for a key that switches from English to the various Japanese scripts. You will constantly hit it while writing English and find you’ve typed half your emails in random Japanese symbols.

It’s endlessly frustrating, so I recommend your good old home keyboard until you dive into the world of Japanese Language.

Other than that, bring a few of your favorite books, movies, and music, and pictures of stuff from back home to help you when you’re down and to show nosey people.

Also bring a good attitude, because if you’re one of those foreign people sitting around the bar moping about Japan all the time, Japan has enough of you already!

(I may have a few more bits to cover in a part 6 next week, or I may just call it at 5…we shall see)

The Week in Review (6/29/09)

kanonji_beach4

This Week: I ran into a billion problems this week. Beyond being crushed at learning how much Softbank can rip someone off for a new 32 gig iPhone and the fact that they’re giving DoCoMo folks a sweet deal while doing nothing for their actual customers, my old iPhone just failed when I installed the 3.0 software.

I finally got 3.0 working today. My new hatred for Apple and Softbank means I’m probably going to jailbreak the fuck out of my iPhone now, especially after seeing all the cool things (wait, video was already there?) my friend’s JBed phone could do.

My computer is also apparently on its last legs…It’s been a bad tech week for me…

Stuff on my Radar you May Have Missed: In all the hustle and bustle, I didn’t dig up so much, but I’m still going to recommend that people check out ‘The Pacific” trailer and keep tabs on that show. If you liked “Band of Brothers” and were waiting for the Pacific theater version, this will definitely be your cup of tea.

My Favs from You Guys:

I dug the shit out of Andy Heather’s article on banning Katakana. I agree that it present a serious impediment on learning the English language. I’ve seen people struggle with overcoming problems with English fo years while running off and learning Spanish in months and constantly fight with students to convince them that they should be saying things like “Au-su-to-ra-i-ri-a.”

Slate’s article on Cool Biz is something you already know a lot about if you live in Japan, but it was fun seeing an outsider’s opinions on it and his theory on how it decreases work in a country that’s not producing like it used to.

The plethora of ideas in this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri were the fucking cats pyjamas. Rock on!

Others: @saltypear, for some tips involving doing fake ‘Christian-style’ weddings in Takamatsu on Weekends.

Not sure if I want to do it yet. After viewing, it looked easy, until the mock-priest told me of what a hassle it can be with last minute changes. I also work about 6 days a week already and aren’t exactly pressed for cash.

Still, being a fake priest if only for a little bit would be pretty hilarious.

My Own Stuff: My own stuff was shite this week, but thanks for looking at it anyway. I let the previous week carry my numbers this week as I was overly pressed with the impending doom of my iPhone, computer, and a hectic work schedule.

Observations:  You guys keep checking in even when I’m not writing anything. Kudos to you!

Next Week(s): Some of the pieces I mentioned last time are still in the pipeline. There will be whales eventually, I’ve got more green ammo to unload, moving the “Getting a Job Series” into the planning to arrive stages, etc, etc…

I may also roll out a few changes to the format of the blog. Some people have complained about the extremely basic style, others like that’s it so simple. Regardless, there’s probably a LITTLE more I could be doing with it. I kinda dig just getting my words out there and saying ‘fuck all’ to style too, but it always helps to have some polish.

Japan and the Environment: Part 1 (Good and Bad, with plenty of Ugly)

mtfuji

Japanese people always find time to slip in how environmentally friendly they are.

I’ll be off drinking beers and some Japanese guy will come along an tell me about how Americans are so wasteful and how I’m destroying the world.

And while he’ll lack the balls to go full out, like your average douchey American guy from Boulder, who’d be doing back flips to tell me about how his Prius owns my Camero and how special he is, the Japanese guy will definitely make a few covert gestures in his ride’s general direction.

That’s the Japanese, polite enough to subtly point out how they’re better than you, instead of screaming in your face. Even in a society that downplays the braggart cocksucker, people still love to smell their own farts.

Oh, Japan you do some things right, no doubt, but don’t just go on universally praising yourself just yet.

I’ll say you’re on the right track, albeit, caveats included:

Solar Power

Solar Shoji!

Solar Shoji!

Japan hates the sun. It’s summer now, it’s hot, and yet, people are wearing more clothes now in the middle of the summer than you’ll find them with in the middle of winter to shield their skin.

However, they absolutely love the sun’s ability to power their homes. The Japanese government eagerly jumped on subsidizing the installation of solar power arrays for private and public use early on in the game.

Riding on trains I see a plethora of roofs with their arrays gleaming in the sunshine.

It’s expensive to establish, but once going, folks can sell back energy into the grid, saving cash in the long run.

Unfortunately, the government stopped subsidizing it in 2006 and people stopped caring.

They’re looking to reintroduce them in order to meet epic goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 60-80% by 2050, but with the awesome debt they’ve been able to dig for themselves, it seems like quite a feat.

This all hinges on a government without money and the fact that people are only going to use these systems if they’re cheap to implement. At the end of the day, people here (and most everywhere) don’t see the long term savings when compared next to short term costs.

Good luck on the second Solar Panel Revolution, Japan!  On the plus side, your electronics companies could use something to do to stave off all that bleeding!

Public Transportation Alternatives

How can we increase public transportation in Japan?

How can we increase public transportation in Japan?

Japan does public transportation pretty damn well. As I wrote about in my ‘Living Cheaply” post, a good majority of people are still getting by in my town on bicycles. Unfortunately, government money supporting many of the public systems with little traffic are often finding themselves cut out entirely (I’ve seen a number of bus lines go down recently in my rural neck of the woods).

The expense of travel has often kept people from setting off in their cars to cover large distances, although recent reductions in highway tolls on weekends have increased the number of people getting out across Japan in their cars, perhaps creating more pollution that the government expected.

Getting people out there to spend their yen still trumps reducing pollution. Sorry green movement, economy 1, environment 0.

This is being subsidized again by that government under a mountain of debt.

Cars and the Hybrid Movement

It's amazing that people would want to save the enviroment (or...money) so much as to drive a car this ugly

It's amazing that people would want to save the enviroment (or...money?) so much as to drive a car this ugly

At the very least, Japan’s hybrid movement is still going strong. I see tons of these things on the road, but it’d sure be nice to see some new designs out there. I’d rather choke on a cock then drive something as ugly as a Prius. My girlfriend drives one and while I’m more than happy to be a passenger, I never really feel like getting behind the wheel. It just doesn’t feel like a car.

Japan should watch out. Although the US fell woefully behind in the market, they’ve now hit rock bottom and are really pressing to diversify and get back in the game. Tesla motors had the smart idea to sell a bunch of high-end electric roadsters to rich folks in America. They’re now introducing a sedan for about $50,000 and are hitting the European market. While Toyota and the others invest huge amounts of money to slightly improve the battery size of their hybrids, they might want to keep up innovation in other areas. Their hybrid models make me yawn when I can dream of a car that will take me 0-60 mph in under 4 seconds.

Still, it looks like Japanese consumers are pretty sold on the idea of paying a bit more for a hybrid over the long term savings, something that’s been a harder sell for things like solar arrays and they don’t seem to care so much if their hybrids scream “boring.”

Recycling

Why recycle when we can just toss it in the Pacific Ocean's giant garbage heap?

Why recycle when we can just toss it in the Pacific Ocean's giant garbage heap?

I wonder if there are any countries in the world with more annoying recycling programs. Every day I peel off the plastic labels from plastic PET bottles, wash everything out, toss the cap and label in one garbage, the bottle in another. One of my earliest memories in Japan was learning various Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana symbols just to figure out the recycling labels to know what kind of trash I was holding and where to put it.

It’s extremely annoying, something I really wish they’d leave for convicted felons (or retards) to do in some sorting factory somewhere.

But alas, I do it.

It’s really efficient and one of the few things I see Japanese doing that saves the environment that presents an endless  and absolute hassle to them.

It’s mostly because of social pressure, as in many neighborhoods the old ladies are out in force, using their free time to stare at garbage, making note of the people who don’t sort things correctly, then attacking them with old lady piss and vinegar.

I’ve known foreigners were old ladies dropped by with a marker and instructed them to label their foreign garbage so that they could check and make sure they weren’t fucking up.

I still see a good many Japanese folk throw caution to the wind and catch many people that live on the rivers just tossing their trash in the water. I grew up on New Jersey beaches in the 80s famous for their hypodermic needles and human body parts, but I can’t say I find many beaches on the Seto Nai Kai much cleaner.

There’s also a giant problem with disposing of hazardous things. It’s extremely hard to get rid of an electronic item that’s over 5 years old, despite the condition, and you often have to pay extreme rates to buy stickers and arrange for a pickup.

When I moved out of a place and got rid of appliances my old roommate had left, I paid about 300 dollars to have stuff taken away that wasn’t new enough to go second hand with. Don’t think I didn’t briefly ponder throwing things in the river.

There are a lot of old kitchen appliances in rivers. I can’t understand why the gov would charge so much cash for picking up things it can actively breakdown into recycled materials, reuse, and make money off of. I also don’t understand why they wouldn’t assume that a good % of the population doesn’t feel like paying those kind of rates and would illegally dispose of them.

In my town in America, we had two phone calls to the city gov per year where they’d haul away our junk free of charge. If you don’t want a river full of TV sets, it might be a good option to consider.

(That’s it for part 1. In Part 2 I’ll talk about a few more things I can nearly applaud Japan for, along with getting into a few things that they do horribly wrong.

I’d love to see what yall think in regards to where Japan gets some pats on the back and where they deserve some heat)

Zombie of my Nightmares, Sultry and Corpselike

saikyou_heiki_mb03

I’m deathly afraid of zombies.

I didn’t used to be. I used to love catching zombie movies and laughing at them.

After all, when you create a movie with a zombie fighting a shark, you can’t help but laugh at the awesomeness of it all:

But I can’t watch zombie movies anymore. Something in Japan changed me. I suppose maybe it’s the threat of a very conformist and socialized culture.

I came here knowing the famous idiom about ‘the nail that sticks out getting hammered down,” but as a foreigner, with our weird wacky ways, sometimes there’s an immense pressure to join the horde, do things their way.

“Join us!” they say, “join us!”

Just like that roving mass of zombies clamouring after you. One bite and you’re just like them. I’ve had a number of friends already bitten. They bristle when even the most minor of ‘Japanese’ social norms is broken.

“You didn’t sit in the proper alignment in a restaurant when you brought a guest out to dinner!!!!”

Yeah, so in Japan, I often have extremely vivid zombie nightmares of being torn apart by masses of punctual and precise flesh-eating monsters due to the pressures of trying to be myself (the fucked up nail).

I can’t stand to watch the movies anymore. They’ll keep me awake all night, wondering and formulating my plan for survival against the conformist hordes of brain eaters.

But as I see it, Japan might come out as a pretty good place to survive the apocalypse.

We’ll start with the Good:

Baseball bats, Bad-ass Swords, Sharp Knives

If it cuts through a tin can, it'll cut through a spinal cord too!

If it cuts through a tin can, it'll cut through a spinal cord too!

Baseball’s the national sport, so there will be plenty of zombie smashing devices all over the place. There’s also a plethora of katana swords to be found. On top of that, many Japanese knife makers are considered some of the best in the world, assuring your zombie killing blades will never dull in the face of oncoming hordes of brain chewing salarymen. You’ve seen the commercials man, Ginsu knives cut through tin cans and you can throw tomatoes in the air and slice them in half.

Intense Paranoia

When they all become zombies, it'll be like they all have muzzles on

When they all become zombies, it'll be like they all have muzzles on

I live in the safest country on earth and the house I live in is barred on all the first floor windows and walled off like a cultist compound. I feel pretty damn safe here.  All storefronts have pull-down metal guards to block off the entrances like we live in Mogadishu.

It’s a good thing everyone is so damn afraid of everything here. They’ve planned well for future zombie invasions. Of course it’s always those ‘safest’ places that the zombies are always able to get into somehow.

Also, everyone is always wearing masks. I’m not saying this will stop the spread of infection with zombies trying to bite you, but if you find a zombie with a mask still on their face trying to get at you, it might give you that extra layer of protection for a moment or two that might save your ass.

Elderly People

How fast you think this guy's going to be coming after you?

How fast you think this guy's going to be coming after you?

In 2020 the elderly population of Japan is set to reach nearly 25%. This means that there will be tons of really old zombies out there. Even in one of those ‘fast zombie’ outbreaks, your going to be encountering a lot of really, really slow zombies. Many of them won’t even have teeth.

Beware of strange forms of transportation though, as in remembering small bits of their past life, they may chase after you in wheelchairs, walkers, or perhaps even motorized wheelchairs. They’ll also still probably mutter ‘gaijin’ under their breathe.

When I go to a mall on a weekday, there are so many shambling people, sometimes I think the outbreak has already begun.

The Conbini

This food will last until aliens visit earth in 5,000 years

This food will last until aliens visit earth in 5,000 years

There are convenience stores on every corner of every street in every town throughout Japan (sorry Taketomi-jima, you’re fucked). This leaves literal food depots throughout your entire area of travel. Added to this fact, even the foods they throw out after one day has enough preservatives in them to keep fresh for about the next 500 years. None of the food in those places is ever going bad. You don’t have to worry about finding food here. Hell, the preservatives might even repel zombie viruses.

The Bad:

Not Enough Guns

Bad people and Zombie Killers, you moron!

Bad people and Zombie Killers, you moron!

Unfortunately, it’s a country seriously lacking in the gun department. In America, I know about 20 places where I could quickly get my hands on a gun. This is a bit more problematic here in Japan, where the majority of the ‘guns’ are just replicas owned by war obsessed otaku. This would be a major problem in the event of zombie attack.

Still, it’s not impossible to own a gun in Japan, and there are many hunters on this island in the countryside that own guns. Also, in America, we’d probably all just mistakenly shoot each other.

Tight Alleyways, Rugged Terrain

Yeah, there's a conbini just down at the end of this extremely narrow and dark alleyway!

Yeah, there's a conbini just down at the end of this extremely narrow and dark alleyway!

There aren’t a lot of wide open spaces in Japan. This would make it easy for Zombie attackers to approach at close range. Traveling through both countryside and cities would be a bitch. Getting to some high ground to defend yourself would require some rugged travel, unless of course, you could get the rope ways, gondolas, funiculars, or various other machines that dot the landscape of nearly any mountain up and running. Then you can just cruise to the top in under 7 minutes while the tourist audio tells you all the best spots on the mountain.

Intense Paranoia

"Can we come in to your awesomely defended home, mam?"  "No, hell no"

"Can we come in to your awesomely defended home, mam?" "No, hell no"

The intense paranoia that initially helped stop the spread of infection might also work against humanity in the long run. In the beginning, as people took overly cautious steps to avoid contamination and locked themselves away in their fortress homes, it might slow infection. Unfortunately, as things degrade, there’d be a serious lack of trust and paranoia among survivors, who might be too paranoid to lend a hand.

In America, we’d have that problem of wanting to help each other, always letting in some guy who was bitten, who’d then proceed to become a zombie and fuck everything up.

In Japan, you’d just be locked outside and fucked really.

Paper Doors

579005_breakthrough

‘Nuff said really….

In the end, I suppose I feel pretty good here about my chances in a zombie holocaust.

What do yall think? Any more tips or tricks for getting by in Japan when the ‘big one’ occurs?

‘The Pacific’ Trailer hits the web

Image Courtesy of Pacific Fans

Image Courtesy of Pacific Fans

World War II can often be a touchy subject here in Japan, and I’m often a bit apt to keep my views about it to myself, living in a country that’s never quite come to grips with their role in the war.

It’s a shame, seeing the education students get often neglects exactly what they were doing during the 1930s and 1940s, but at the end of the day, although they resolutely refuse most apologies, at least they’ve become an extremely peaceful country that also refuses most forms of military action.

Anyway, HBO debuted the trailer for their new WWII show, ‘The Pacific’ about two days ago and I haven’t really seen it hit anywhere in the Japan-o-sphere, so I figured I’d link to it and write a bit about it.

It’s produced by Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, and Gary Goetzman for HBO films and looks to chart the same course as ‘Band of Brothers,’ an exceptional miniseries that covered the war in Europe, this time focusing on the US Marines in their island hopping campaign across the Pacific against Imperial Japan.

My grandfather fought in Okinawa and is still haunted by the memories. Although I’ve read as much as possible on the subject, I’m really excited to see this series unfold on the small screen.

The previous series had a gravity and quality to it that made it absolutely amazing to watch. I highly recommend checking it out when it hits in 2010.

Maybe a few Japanese eyes will catch it and learn that my people weren’t just the marauding, nuclear holocaust loving douchebags they sometimes seem to think we were.

Here’s the trailer!

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 4: More Interview Stuff)

I see a lot of people coming to Japan trying to bask in all the anime, wacky game shows, and bondage. As HR/Recruiting director for a company in Japan I interview a lot of people. I often come away from them feeling that an hour of my life has been sucked away into a void.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about getting a job here I will a) make the process less difficult (although slightly less hilarious) for me, b) increase the odds of you getting a job here, and c) help your overall skills in interviewing for a job.

(Part 1) (Part 2 ) (Part 3) (Part 5)(Part6)

Let’s get on with part 4. I just tore through about 300 resumes and I’m feeling the fire.

Yes Man = Fail

"Will you kneel on a little stool to pee for this job?" "Why yes, yes I will..."

"Will you kneel on a little stool to pee for this job?" "Why yes, yes I will..."

As much as employers think they want employees that would gleefully run into a hail of bullets on their command, at the end of the day, this doesn’t always pan out. Look at Japan (and seriously, if you’re looking for a job here, you better bone up on it). Japan loves to train loyal bodies of workers who will lick the floor at their command.

This is a good idea for factory workers and engineers that you need in a cubicle churning out designs. This works somewhat less for teachers. Teaching is something that requires the ability to adapt to a given situation. While an employer likes a loyal and hardworking teacher that will follow the company vision, we also like teachers that bring their own skills and visions to the table to help complement the company’s vision.

We already think you’ve got the loyal and hardworking thing down from your resume.

Japanese students are often trapped in a box. Teachers that think outside the box can often help them break out of that box.

So Do You Provide Housing? = Fail

"Why yes I read your FAQ, I also consider myself an avid student of history..."

"Why yes I read your FAQ, I also consider myself an avid student of history..."

Before the interview we point you in the direction of our website. This website is mostly in Japanese, but does contain an entire section in English with our company FAQ. We provide you with all this and assume you’ll read it before the interview.

This is because it contains a lot of useful information about our company and living in Japan. In reading it, you’re covering stuff that will assure I don’t spend 4 hours interviewing you. Most companies provide some kind of FAQ or basic information about them.

If at any point you ask us questions that are easily found on the company information pages, you have failed quite miserably my friend.

On the other side, if you clarify with amazing sentences like:

“I read in your FAQ that _______, but I still have some questions…”

…then I’m in your wheelhouse man. It shows you prepared. In this game, where about 50% of folks don’t read the FAQ, 10% more don’t read it and then say they did, and a final 25% of folks read it but then ask questions covered in it anyway, you’ve already reached an elite top 15 percentile by just proving you did some research.

“I think in My Resume it said…” = Fail

Because I use this much toilet paper to clean the shit off me after a bad interview

Because I use this much toilet paper to clean the shit off me after a bad interview

You think it said? You think it said? Motherfucker, you BEST know what it said!

Excuse my tiny flameout above, I just get extremely pissed off at a lack of preparation.

I was never a boyscout. I came from Jersey and in the suburbs of New Jersey, the idea of making knots all day and twiddling a stick around to make fire always seemed kind of stupid when I could already tie my shoes and light whatever I wanted to light on fire with matches from 7-11.

Still, they did have that cool slogan: “Always be prepared.”

When you sit down for an interview, whether it be face to face, over a phone, over video chat, whatever, you better know what you’re getting into.

As said above, you have to know the FAQ. Have it printed out, have it highlighted. You should have copies of your own resume. One for your damn self and a few you might have to give to the people interviewing you (if face to face). Have a booklet of previous experiences and recommendations if possible.

If you’re doing a video interview, it’s so easy compared to face to face. In a face to face interview, you’ve gotta have it all lined up and studied and in your head. In a video interview, you can have entire tomes of notes laying around your computer.

When I’ve hit interviews, I’ve had my resume as studied as possible, my potential employer’s information, as well as the area it’s all based in. I also tend to dig into what kind of questions I might be asked and formulate possible responses.

As I said, the boy scouts always kinda freaked me out. With all their wacky badges and that older scout guy always hanging out with little boys, it was more “Always be prepared for your scout master to ram you in the ass.”

But considering I’ve had interviews where people broke down under a barrage of teaching theory questions and simple logic stuff, “Always be prepared for your interviewer to ram you in the ass” too (metaphorically at least).

Answer Man = Fail

You should have a lot to say, questions of your own, and if all else fails, seduce your interviewer

You should have a lot to say, questions of your own, and if all else fails, seduce your interviewer

After a good interview, I feel two things that might sound strange. For one, I had a good time and really enjoyed talking to the person. This is important, but it’s not the sole element that leads to hiring.

In the interview, don’t just agree with everything we say and blow smoke up our asses. My favorite interviews are the ones where the interviewee teaches me something new or forces me to look at a technique or viewpoint in a different way.

I like feeling like the interviewee put me on my toes a few times, almost as if I was being interviewed.

A good interview is like a good conversation. It flows back and forth with both sides asking questions and discussing things in a way that it almost doesn’t feel like an interview. It involves a lot of questions from the interviewee.

After all, it’s not just us deciding upon you. You’re actively deciding if the company that you’re speaking to is one you want to work for. We want to hear you asking (intelligent) questions about our methods, ways, vision, lifestyle, etc…

When an applicant just gives dull responses as expected, it’s not all that interesting. It’s not even always the answer we want. Sometimes we ask questions just to hear your process in getting to an answer. Sometimes even a wrong answer is meaningless when the process of getting to it was fruitful.

And when you start hitting me with questions that even I have trouble answering (about some wild teaching theory or something, this is why I do HR and not head teaching…) I dig it. Employers can sense your hunger, your intelligence, and your passion.

That’s why the best interviews are like engaging discussions.

“So…Did I get the job?” =Fail

We can smell your lack of cofidence a mile away

We can smell your lack of cofidence a mile away

If you’re asking this question, you’re not feeling very confident about your interview. If I’m hearing this, I’m  also smelling, tasting,  seeing, and even touching your complete lack of confidence.

Don’t ever ask this damn question.

Chin up, sport, it’s not the end of the world! It’s just a fucking job interview!

(The Interviews have been covered…next week I’ve move into the whole “preparing to come” phase)

The Week in Review (6/21/09)

blogfun

This Week: Wow, thanks all! It was a real whirlwind of a week. I set out to crank out a post from Monday to Friday, but somehow still pulled out enough ammunition to carry me into the weekend. You guys took me above and beyond my meager expectations for the blog, and I thank you! The Japan Blogging community it pretty badass and welcoming.

Stuff on my Radar you May Have Missed:

I cast a wide net!

I nearly pissed myself and definitely cried laughing listening to Dr. Ken Jeong on the Adam Carolla podcast. It’s not Japan centric per say, but it pokes a lot of humor at Asian Stereotypes and does so in an extremely funny way. If you’re sensitive, you might be offended, so be warned.

On the other hand, I was far less impressed with this clip from Judd Apatow’s ‘Funny People’ in which Adam Sandler hangs out with a Japanese family…

My Favs from You Guys:

Gakuranman’s post on the use of ‘Nau‘ is exactly the kind of Japanese lesson I need. I have the attention span of a puppy dog and love slang. It helps me stick to just using bad Japanese slang and ‘-kure’ form stuff to scary everyone away. Really looking forward to more, although you lost me at the two point mark…I just need a word man, one word!  ;-P

Frugalista’s post on conscious spending was awesome. It took the idea of budgeting in Japan into an entirely new realm I’d never actually thought of. Here I am  hording 500 yen coins and using my razors for an extra week while cutting my face to shreds, and he’s off investing money in banks.

Mutant Frog’s post on badges was kinda cool. I just clicked on it randomly via twitter and was sucked into a world I never even noticed existed. I’ve seen the badges, but never knew they had such specific function. Hopefully I can get a badge too someday. Maybe it’ll be like the one they gave the Jews in Germany.

Others:

I also owe @LostInInaka big time for his help getting my iPhone back up and running. The 3.0 software just ate my iPhone, and he was a big help getting me back to 2.2. Still stuck without 3.0 though, I feel like I’m living in the stone age!

I also want to see @KimonoBox attack that Times article some more about the bloggers getting benefits for writing favorable reviews of tourist sites. My theory is still that it’s mostly the foodie and travel Japanese bloggers, and not us snarky, venom and bile-filled foreign bloggers living in Japan.

Thanks to JoeJones (@redjoe) on JapanSoc for teaching me to spell Visa correctly!

My Own Stuff:

The Getting a Teaching Job in Japan Series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3): I enjoyed writing these, although I never thought they would have created such a landslide towards my blog.  They helped me take out some frustration, although now I’m worried I’ll just be getting piles and piles of well written resumes now!  Anyway, I’m going to be continuing the series, so look for the next installment this Tuesday.

My Own Favorite Post of the Week: Simple humor and silly Japan products always make me laugh the post. I really enjoyed the pictures I got from the Japanese ‘Dentie Tooth Paste’ test. I didn’t really enjoy testing it though. Although I’m actually still using it, cause I’m lazy!

Living Cheaply in Japan: This post exploded beyond my wildest dreams. I actually thought it was garbage. I was apparently extremely wrong. The best parts were your comments though, which I still consider more insightful than most of my own, which all basically revolved around saving money as an alcoholic.

Observations: Was nice to learn how to stay out of a flame war on Japan Probe. I started to get sucked in, then realized I was wasting breath and energy on something I just thought was funny. Was also interesting to trial the Times article about ‘cute ambassadors’ on some of my students to see where they fell. Japanese men thought it was an awesome idea, Japanese women were often horribly offended that the government was portraying them to the world in such a light. Interesting split. If you missed it, read my take here.

Next Week(s): Look for continuing my rant as an angry HR man trying to high quality teachers in a land of few and far between (course, each and ever one of you reading is a brilliant teacher  ;-P  ), some whales, some zombies, a large phone bill, communists, and possibly even communist whale zombies.

I may not churn out a post a day like my epic pledge drive style last week, but I’ll continue to provide yall with my own wacky personal viewpoints on this silly land of Japan.

Ok, gotta head out. Wouldn’t want to miss the last train to Awesometown

Top 10 Things Japanese TV has Taught Me

hanerunotobira

Here’s a little fun Saturday list I threw together about what I’ve learned from watching far too much Japanese TV. I’d love to see people guess at some of the shows and people I’m talking about, as well as adding any new ones that come to mind.

It would make my long Saturday of work all the more bearable!

1)  All food on earth is ungodly and orgasmically delicious.  When women complain about their husbands’ lack of presence in the bedroom, I  should recommend eating something, it just looks better than sex to eat food here.

2) The tiniest and  most subtle of differences are wildly fascinating. If a prefecture puts black sesame seeds on rice instead of regular ones, I should freak the fuck out and scream about how amazing and different it is.

3) All I really needed in life is a speedo and a catchphrase

4) All transsexuals and gay people are extremely silly and fun. I’m often pissed-off when I meet regular homosexuals and they’re just boring, normal people. It’s a shame they can’t all be as 200% outrageously flamboyant as they appear on TV!

5)  I can look like a big-toothed, wet weasel and still be a famous TV show host.

6) If I travel around Japan visiting prefectures I’ll meet nice girls who show me all nice sites and local delights, and then I can go epic freakout on each and every one of those delicacies.

7) When I try to kiss those nice girls, they’ll slap me in the face.  I’ll have more bruises than Foreman after Ali.

8) All Japanese families are quirky, wacky, and overact like they’re in a 1930s film, but the young, chirpy female protagonist will always hold things together.

9) Japan single-handedly keeps poster board companies in business. It’s like the news and variety shows never even learned that computer graphics were invented

10) All  newly-wed foreign people eat enormously gigantic fucking breakfasts

Japan to World: We gotz the Whores!

Come Inside Japan, Where the Magic Happens!

Come Inside Japan, Where the Magic Happens!

Japan, have a seat. We really need to talk….

I’ve heard  about your sending of envoys around the world to promote Japanese culture.

That’s a great idea man, I really think it would be wonderful to get more people around the world turned on to what you’re doing here.

Whoa there, buddy! When I said ‘turned on’ I didn’t mean it like that!

I’ve been reading about these envoys you’re sending around the world, these ‘ambassadors of cute” as the Japan Times mentions, and I dunno man. I’m not getting a good feeling on this one.

I think you might have figured it out all wrong.

You do realize you’re selling your image as a country of cute whores, right?

Awe man, I didn’t mean to say it so bluntly, but honestly, don’t you think this could end up being a bit of a problem?

When we think of Paris we think of art and food, while America stretches forward with its rugged landscapes, vibrant cities, and individualistic, wacky folks. India gets by on its colonial old world adventure vibe, while Africa depends upon its unique environments and animals.

Those are powerful images.

Meanwhile, you’ve decided to embrace girls in maid uniforms and cosplay outfits.

After all the foreign ministry brainstorming, the best you could do was to think of sending a brigade of whores abroad to talking about dressing up as submissive french maids, school girls, or in animal costumes while chatting about fashion and Japanese comic books?

Don’t be so offended. Although I have my own overly personal hatred for most picture books (my students are surprised when I read big books with no pictures), I’m not so biased to be blinded to the fact that there are some great works of manga out there written by very intelligent people.

Why don’t you just send those people abroad to talk about Japan and what they do, along with other authors, artists and creative people?

No, no, I’m not suggesting we dress up manga writers and artists in school girl uniforms. I’m saying we let the merits of their work speak for themselves and attract people to Japanese culture and sensibility.

Oh, stop it, you really need to get off this “kawaii” kick! That would be as silly as Neil Gaiman in a school girl uniform. You really gotta get off the cosplay vibe!

Don’t you realize that in portraying you women as cute, submissive whores in costumes that you’re completely undercutting the abilities, intelligence, and natural beauty of the women in your country.

You’re selling an image of your women as hot, shallow and superficial sluts with knee socks and short skirts that live to exist like real world barbie dolls

While I realize that you’re womens’ rights records is woefully below that of most Western countries, is this really an image you’d like to perpetuate around the world?

I assure you, it’s already a pretty heavy image around the globe. I don’t really think you need to enhance  it with your envoy of barbie sluts. You might actually want to think about downplaying it some.

During my time in America, I remember many an otaku fanatic, woefully wishing for the day they could come to your magical shores and bask in the adoration of overly cute whores who loved them for their intense interest in maid costumes and Dragon Ball.

Thank god, this isn’t actually that country (mostly).

Those type of folks come here by the boatloads already, trawling the streets for their “kawaii” girl, often operating under a completely false presumption of how these women may react to their advances and how they should be treated.

Do you really want to promote this to a whole new level? Do you really want the world thinking that your women are all barbie dolls ready to be played with?

If it’s government sanctioned and an actual government funded endeavour, it just becomes all the more official as a country’s platform.

Is this something your government honestly wants to be known for promoting?

Do you really know what you’re getting into?

Man, we’ve shared some good times together. I don’t want to get mad at you. But seriously, you really need to ponder what you’re aiming for.

Sure, I’ve partaken in some of your wacky snacks and all their ‘kawaii” vibe glory, but at the end of the day, when I want to quantify why you’re my friend and why I keep hanging out with you, it’s not cause of your barbie whores.

So sit back and think for a little bit about a better way. There’s gotta be one.

Best of luck to you, man, I hope we can figure it all out and not strain our friendship anymore…

(Meanwhile, I will someday totally undercut this post (if not already) in a future post where I talk about some beautiful Japanese girl I’m mad about…I’m a hypocrite, sue me)

How Can the Most Expensive Place on Earth Be Cheap to Live In?

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I know a lot of people that never make it over to Japan because they fear the cost.  In recent surveys, Tokyo and Osaka have climbed back up to the top spots as the most expensive cities to live in around the world, having  surged back on the strength of the Yen this year.

Unfortunately, they’re right. Japan can be an extremely expensive place to live. Standard prices across the country means that you rarely see discounts, even when you escape to the countryside. A beer in a conbini in Tokyo is probably going to be the same as in a conbini in the middle of Shikoku, and you might find that taxis in the countryside actually become more expensive. Traveling around by train can destroy your pockets, and you’re not often going to find cheap hostels like you’d find in most other countries.

But I’ve lived here for three and a half years now and I’ve saved more money than I could have possibly ever hoped to save in the US. Here’s how:

Staying In is the new Going Out

Why go out when it can be this good at home?

Why go out when it can be this good at home?

When I came here, one of the first things I realized was that I almost never saw friends’ homes. It’s strange when you come from a culture of home Christmas parties, football BBQs, and summer keggers, but the Japanese don’t often have people over. They’re more prone to meeting out.

This is often because of the fact that their homes just can’t accommodate many people, but even in my countryside city, where people have more space, it’s rare hang out in others’ homes.

It’s also because a home seems to be a more private for Japanese people. While we seek to make our home a sort of meeting place for friends, they often don’t like sharing the intimate details of whats inside their home with acquaintances.

But going out costs a lot!

Lately, I’ve been breaking the taboos down, having people over where my gf and I cook for them and share some beers. I have students who tell me their home Nabe parties have become popular, and a friend of mine now has about 20 people a week over at his tiny Osaka apartment for a wine club.

It’s never impossible, and any festivities at home usually amount to about half the cost of going out.

Of course, you have to live with the fact that people might see your underwear and/or your overzealous Gundam collection.

The Pre-party

At 7% you can get nice and plastered before hitting the town

At 7% you can get nice and plastered before hitting the town

In keeping with the home theme, my girlfriend and I have recently found ourselves staying at home a bit longer to cram in a few extra beverages before going out. If the beer is going to cost 500 yen (5 USD)  a pop at the bar, we can at least drink a few tall cans together at home for around 200-300 yen each. If we can stand skimping on real beer for near beer Happoshu (second category) or the not-really-near-but-dirt-cheap Happousei (third category) we can almost drink at US prices.

Living in Japan I’ve become accustomed to having a drink with my dinner and sometimes even weekend lunches. I’ve recently stopped this to realize about half my bill was turning up drinking related. Dinner at a restaurant where we considered the norm to be about 5,000-6,000 yen was recently a hair above 2,000 because we neglected to drink a bottle of wine with our meal.

All in all, the less drinking at dinner coupled with the increase in cheap beer has left the amount of hangovers at about the same level.

Public Transportation Woes

She may not look like much kid, but she's got it where it counts

She may not look like much kid, but she's got it where it counts

Transportation in Japan can be a pain in the ass and expensive. The highway charges can be insane compared to what I was used to in America (Basically no tolls in Colorado, a bit in the East). A 4ish hour round trip on the highway could sometimes cost about 8,000 yen (80 USD) and forget about getting off Shikoku island to see anywhere else, the Seto Ohashi bridge was a cool 10,000 yen (100 USD) round trip to use.

This seems to make travel suicide, but that’s only if you want to go places! (Sarcasm intended)

In my daily life, I have a bike that takes me everywhere I need to go.

People all ride bikes here in Takamatsu. I ride to work, to the train station, to the grocery store, to the mall, and anywhere else I need to go. As such, I don’t have a car and I don’t have to pay any car insurance. This saves a TON of money.

In America, I lived about a kilometer or two from a grocery store. If I got on a bike and road there, people would assume I’m homeless or insane. It’s normal here and a good way to stay in shape and get around.

Beyond that, my company pays for my travels. I ride to work, so that’s free, and any trips to different company sites throughout the day are paid for. While you’re all gasing up and driving to work, blowing cash on travel, I spend nearly nothing.

But you look worried, perhaps I scared you with the bridge and highway costs?

Don’t worry anymore. Due to the economy and the government’s desire to get people out and spending money, highway charges on holidays and weekends has been reduced. Now a trip on the highway costs about 1,000 yen as far as you can go, with bridges usually falling somewhere around a 1,000 extra as well (well, at least the bridges that get me off Shikoku)

To add to that, highway buses usually run cheap, and while not as fast or comfy as a train or your own car, they’re the best deal when you can’t actually bike somewhere.

Camp!

The cheapest way to see Japan

The cheapest way to see Japan

I’m still never sure how staying in a room with bunk beds and a bunch of people you don’t know could cost around 4,000 o 5,000 yen (40-50 USD). Somehow, those crazy capsule hotels still end up being near that price, but staying in a coffin for a lot of cash just isn’t my cup of tea.

But there are tons of Camping sites in Japan, and you can often stay at them more for the prices you’re looking for. If you’re traveling outside the cities, I recommend finding them.

Also, I know a lot of people that just find a beach and pitch up a tent. While Japanese people may look at you funny, it often does the trick.

I’ve had friends that existed for months in tents before making a move to an actual apartment of some sort.

Medical Insurance, yay!

It won't eat you here...

It won't eat you here...

In my first year in Japan, the medical insurance was about 10,000 yen (100 US dollars). It was a magical wonderland of awesomeness to pay that little for top of the line treatment of whatever ailed me plus 25% of costs for larger problems.

25% sounds scary, until I realized that 25% wasn’t 25% of American costs, where you pay about 100x the actual cost to help fund hordes of lawyers.

In my more recent years I spend about 100,000 yen a year (1000 US dollars), still a bargain, and still the 25%, which amounts to about 5 dollars here, 20 dollars there from time to time.

I don’t know if it’s the best system in the world, but considering I used to pay about a rent’s worth of money a month to be covered in America, I’m all smiles. I don’t always understand the doctors, and the meds are a bit weak, but they’re friendly and always go that extra mile for me.

A Few More Things I’ve done:

I save all my 500 yen coins whenever I find them in my pocket. The first month you’re all “where’d my money go?” But after you learn to budget after the change, you end up with a LOT of extra money hidden away. Last time I paid for a trip, bought a surf board, then put the other half in the bank

Coffee can run you about 5 bucks a pop via the chain shops, we got a coffee maker for your office

We bought a breadmaker, so now we have whole grain bread cheaply

Do it the Japanese Way, we all share the bathwater and use it to do laundry the next day

Recycle Omiyage (gifts), it sounds bad, but do I don’t really want all that mochi

Don’t travel on the biggest Holidays, the prices nearly double for most anything (I fail at this actually, I love to travel)

I use the city library. It actually has a pretty good selection of English books, also bookshare round the office

We shop at the various local vegetable markets  (and eat the cheaper seasonal veggies and fruits)

Mostly cook for ourselves at home, just hit a restaurant or two on the weekends (no conbini food, it’ll kill you!)

Most of all, don’t become such a penny pincher that you forget to enjoy where you’re at! With a little thinking, you can easily save money here and enjoy yourself at the same time.

Japan Stereotypes like it’s 1923

A few weeks ago I was in the city of Marugame with the gf, checking out some cafes and restaurants, a fairly common weekend hobby among the Japanese, foodies as they are, when I pulled her off to visit the Marugame Glass Shop.

The place is filled with thousands (millions?) of carefully crafted and shaped glass pieces. It’s a pretty impressive sight.

And while I’m not sure how well the place will be doing post earthquake, it’s a great place to take in some wacky, tacky, and somewhat offensive glass artwork…

…Such as Creepy Monkeys:

Wherever I go, they just keep looking at me...

Wherever I go, they just keep looking at me...

Or the very Japan-centric, Bondage the Bear:

An army of bears, bound to poles...

An army of bears, bound to poles...

And everyones’ personal favorite, “Shark Riding Negroes:”

Yeah, this won't offend anyone...

Yeah, this won't offend anyone...

Japan, you silly little country that just decides to ignore racial issues  (whether ignoring/destroying the Ainu or refusing citizenship to Koreans in Japan). Your gospel singers paint themselves in black face and your glass makers create nappy-headed, big lipped, tribal negro people riding sharks.

How innocent you are!

Let’s pretend this  planning meeting occured in America for a moment:

Manager: So anyway, I called this meeting today to see what kind of projects you’re all working on for the glass shop. Let’s just go around the table, shall we?

Tim: Yeah, I’m working on some Pandas and Giraffes. Kids really love them and they’re selling really well.

Manager: Great Tim, what about you Jerry?

Jerry: Oh, I dunno, I was gonna do some dragons.

Manager: Ooo…Sounds interesting. Eastern or Western Style?

Jerry: Oh, maybe Eastern this time, I like those whisker things they have, maybe have it holding an orb cause the Western ones always have orbs, but I never see it on the Eastern Ones

Manager: Yeah Jerry, I like your (hand quotes) “outside the box” approach. What about you Bob?

Bob: I was thinking of doing like a Negroid guy with big ‘ol red lips, nappy roots hair, mostly naked and riding on top of a shark

Manager: ::Shivers:: Did you just use the word ‘Negro?’

Bob: Actually, Negroid…like a subhuman Negro…

Manager:  …

Tim: …

Jerry: …

Meanwhile, in Japan, the Japanese Bob just toils along, crafting out armies of horrible shark riding stereotypes…

In the end, I bought one. I’d like to say I did it to rid the shelves of xenophobic ignorance…but I also just wanted to be one of the few people on earth to own the dude from the Bamboozled poster riding on a shark…

Getting a Teaching Job in Japan (Part 3: The Interview)

I see a lot of people coming to Japan trying to bask in all the anime, wacky game shows, and bondage. As HR/Recruiting director for a company in Japan I interview a lot of people. I often come away from them feeling that an hour of my life has been sucked away into a void.

It’s my hope that in writing some tips about getting a job here I will a) make the process less difficult (although slightly less hilarious) for me, b) increase the odds of you getting a job here, and c) help your overall skills in interviewing for a job.

(Part 1)

(Part 2 )

Let’s continue with part 3, where we’ll move beyond the resumes and on to the interview process:

Panic = Fail

The Mothers of Invention could keep their cool on acid, so why panic?

The Mothers of Invention could keep their cool on acid, so why panic?

My mom used to all ways tell me that getting nervous was a useless emotion. It may have worked back in the wild, where you’d be panicked into a fight or flight response, but in human society, it doesn’t serve a whole lot of function except to help you fail. It’s probably not going to get you the job if you try and fight me, and running away mid interview would only create a funny story for me to tell others.

Breathe deep man, this isn’t the end of the world. You will have other opportunities and you will not (in fact) die if you fail at this interview.

Miss the Interview =Fail

Here's a handy hint (and remember all that daylight savings shit too!)

Here's a handy hint (and remember all that daylight savings shit too!)

When a company sets an interview time, they’re expecting you to keep it. If you email  or phone before the date and say that something came up, that’s fine.

If you email or call after, you’re probably screwed.

I have a lot of people that mix up interview times based on the time differences between Japan and wherever they might be. This is unfortunate, as I often lay it out based on both times in my email. I also assume that people can use Internet sites, cell phones, or computers to check on the differences in time.

If you say in your email something like “I dunno what time it is over there, but….” it’s over, buddy.

Tip: If you interviewer suggests that most times are ok and you come back with time that are nearly impossible (4am) your interviewer might  assume you’re retarded.

Get back to them with something that shows you did a little research, ie: “Well, 9PM here is 10AM at your office in Japan, so might that be ok?”


Naked = Fail, No Pants = Ok

Feel free to be free with what the camera can't see

Feel free to be free with what the camera can't see

One time when I was lucky enough to visit the wonderful world of court I was smart enough to wear a sharp suit and tie. I noticed that the judge treated those of us who dressed well with a kind hand, whereas the people who had shown up in blue jeans, a dirty tee-shirt,  and possibly drunk often ended up screamed at and escorted off to jail.

What could this possibly have to do with an Interview?

You might be teaching children’s English in sweat pants or wearing a McDonald’s hat, but if you show up at the interview looking like shit, you’re not getting the job, just as you increase the odds of paying the full amount for that ticket when you dress like a slob.

Always dress well for your interview!

Obviously, when applying for a job in Japan, showing up for the job is often hard, as you might be thousands of miles away.

That’s why, in this modern world of technology, companies often conduct video interviews. Phones don’t give you that “Wow, this guy has no idea how to interview for a job” moment as well as a nice video picture does.

Here’s a hint for those of you interviewing via the net: You don’t have to wear any pants. I don’t give a damn what’s going on where the camera can’t see (just make sure you never get mid-interview to find something), but wear a nice shirt at the very least!

I might even excuse you for not wearing a tie, as it’s summer here in Japan and the current culture allows me to take of the tie and unbutton the top button, but you should look like you care!

Internet Cafes = Fail

Could you repeated that? I was watching the incredible scenario unfolding behind you

Could you repeated that? I was watching the incredible scenario unfolding behind you

Now I’m not going to say you auto fail if you are interviewing from an Internet Cafe, but there’s a good chance for something to go wrong that’s out of your control. You should have as much in your own control as possible going into an interview.

In an Internet Cafe, the connections could vary, the noise levels differ, and you have no chance of verifying what kinda of equipment you have to work with.

It’s quite possible that it’ll all be ok, but in my experience, it’s never very good to play the odds. If I am mucking around with tech or using a different computer (as I recently did when I started doing interviews from my home instead of my office), I might lose you by mistake. Applicants are usually fairly understanding in events like this, they want the job.

But when the interviewer keeps losing someone, he might glance over at his stack of other applicants and get impatient far more quickly.

As a personal example: I once interviewed a girl in India who was in a cafe with wide angle on everything going on behind her. It was so wildly fascinating looking at the very Darjeeling Limited-esque world behind her, I wasn’t able to focus on what she was telling me. I just started tossing around the idea of traveling to India instead.

Find a place where you can reliably convey yourself to your potential employer.

Bitter, Angry, Paranoid = Fail

Trust No One! AKA: My pussy would like to ask some questions about your company

Trust No One! AKA: My pussy would like to ask some questions about your company

I have a lot of people that go off on extreme tangents on how much they hate their old jobs.  I become a bit wary to hire such people.

While an interviewer understands that there are lots of shit jobs out there in the universe, if we hear you going off on a 10 minute tirade of how you hate your old company, it paints a bad picture.

First, being in Japan, perhaps I’ve become a bit overly Japanese-minded. While New Jersey-ites will sit around and bitch from sunrise to sunset about nearly anything, Japanese people tend to keep things like that closer to the vest. Maybe never hearing them complain about work helps make you stand out all the more, but do realize, you’re standing out.

Second, I start to ask myself if you lack the communicative ability to paint things in a better light. If you can’t say anything constructive about your past place of employment, while briefly highlighting the problems you may have faced and spinning this in a good way, I begin to wonder if you’re the type of person that goes to nearly anywhere and complains and starts trouble.

If you’ve been continually fucked by loads of companies and have become an extremely jaded human being, I feel your pain, but oftentimes, some self reflection may be in order.

A smart tip: Ask for some refs from the company of past and present teachers. Then you can hear from them how things were, instead of putting on your tinfoil hat and getting all angry and paranoid and assuming the company will treat you like garbage. There are many ways to figure out what you’re getting into before you do.

(That’s it for this round. Tune in next week for some more interview tips, including not being an asshole)

(Part 1)(Part 2)(Part 4)(Part 5)(Part6)

I Brush My Teeth with EggPlants, Maybe Squid Ink

A smile not even a mother could love...

A smile not even a mother could love...

I’ve lived in Japan for about three and a half years now. I find that there’s very little I need to get from overseas beyond constantly asking people to bring/send spices and hot sauce and perhaps deodorant. They both seem like things that many Japanese people just aren’t very big fans of.

There’s also one more thing that I’m always trying to get from back home, and that’s toothpaste. I like the taste of my American Toothpaste, and in my travels, the Europaste and Japanpaste I’ve come across always tastes like licorice or something equally as horrible.

The other day I ran out of my favorite Arm and Hammer Baking Soda Toothpaste. While I wait for a new tube or two, I asked the girlfriend if she could pick me up a tube of something she’d recommend.

It looked harmless enough…

...Well, it says Tooth Paste

...Well, it says Toothpaste...or tooth paste..

…And whereas I might normally be a bit wary to put a random cream in my mouth in a foreign land, I can rest assured that it’s toothpaste cause it says so in English.

I twist off the top, all excited to dive into my new Japanese Toothpaste and squirt out a bit onto the brush.

Indigo Black?

Indigo Black?

I expect a nice cylinder of white to emerge from the tube, but instead, an inky black substance crawls out  onto my brush. I think I might possibly be able to tattoo someone with this toothpaste.

But I’m a trooper, so I dive right in.

I'll put most anything in my mouth apparently

I'll put most anything in my mouth apparently

The taste can be described with the word ‘ocean.’  If you’ve ever been hit with a wave and had a load of sea water shoved down your gullet, it’s quite similar. It also makes me look like an extra from either a zombie movie or an X-files episode.

brushing9brushing6

brushing5blackgoo2

Now I’m not sure who designs products in Japan, but I’m somewhat certain that if I was a boss in Japan and one of my underlings came to me with the idea for a product that possibly cleans teeth but tastes like ocean water and leaves your mouth looking like an elderly Vietnamese berry chewing lady, I might pass on that idea.

But hey, what do I know?

My girlfriend tells me there might be eggplant skins in the toothpaste. I’m not sure why this would be necessary. To me, it looks more like squid ink or just pain writing ink.

I can now teach my students “This is a pen” along with “This is what happens when I eat a pen.”

Anyone out there have any more info on this wacky toothpaste?

(Update: Added a link to a picture of a Vietnamese berry chewing lady above, for those that were wondering. Also, I found a link with more info here. Apparently, beyond being made from eggplants, I can also use it in a pinch to put on “external wounds.” If I can light fires with it, I can take it into the wild as a survivor man tool)

Damn Girl, You Ate My Heart…Literally…

Just a little snack between lunch and dinner...

Just a little snack between lunch and dinner...

I’m downright amazed at what a Japanese girl can stuff down her throat…

When I first came to Japan I was faced with an interesting conundrum. Everywhere I went Japanese people were telling me how healthy and good-for-you their food was. I looked around me and nodded my head. Everyone was thin except those unmarried, sweaty, glasses-wearing, chubby guys with metabolic syndrome that spent their free time in beef bowl restaurants, udon shops and living with a mom who cooked far too much for them.

I then proceeded to gain about 12 pounds (6ish Kilos) eating ‘healthy.’

What was going on here? I was riding my bike everywhere, something I never did in America, and I swam as much as I could.

My only answer: Japanese people are genetically built eating machines.

I figured out quickly that there were just too many carbs in this country for me. People eat bowls upon bowls of rice with nearly every meal. If they’re not eating rice they’re eating some kind of noodles. If they’re not eating Asian-style noodes they’re eating spaghetti, and if not spaghetti they’re eating pizza or nan bread or something. For breakfast they knock down giant pieces of Wonder Bread-esque Texas toast.

My body just can’t handle this. Two normal-sized bowls of refined white rice in a day and my middle starts expanding.

Since then, I’ve gotten back down to normal weight buying whole grain rice, getting a bread maker and whole grains from the food shop. Now I’m back to normal, mostly through cooking for myself.

But fuck! These people can house carbs like it’s their job!

This next part I will whisper, because if said too loud, stupid people with retarded ideas are bound to swoop down and take my idea and suddenly one of our races will instantaneously be put in death camps and we’ll all be discussing eugenics again, but there might be differences involved in our genetics!

I came from a childhood where I’d go out and beg my dad to take me to the doughnut shop. When I finally twisted his arm enough, I was able to enjoy the glory of a single glazed doughnut! When I came home, my mom yelled at us both.

In general, I’ve always been from a world where we eat two doughnuts and feel pretty guilty about it. To push to three would be like moving from a Moon landing to a Mars landing.  Three doughnuts? I dunno man, I don’t think I can handle it, maybe we should just get like one doughnut and a kroeller, that’s a bit bigger, right?

In Japan, to what do my wandering eyes appear but an entire army of lithe, young women just downing entire trays of bread and doughnuts like they were born to this earth to suck all the carbohydrates off it (and protein too, but that’s another blog, wink wink).

A line of girls ready to assault trays of doughnuts like it's D-Day...measure up the waists..

A line of girls ready to assault trays of doughnuts like it's D-Day...measure up the waists..

When I first saw it, I thought that they were taking all these doughnuts home to an extremely large family. That was until I watched them sit down and just go nuts on the tray. In a Starbucks they’ll hose down a bunch of danishes with a milkshake-like frappaccino.

They haven't even eaten any doughnuts yet and they're supersized people
They haven’t even eaten any doughnuts yet and they’re supersized people

Now I’m not gonna say that American portions aren’t gigantic and that we’re all not a bunch of fat asses, but damn, if we could eat like this for a cafe snack we’d be double our current size.

It’s completely bewildering what my possibly 100 lb gf can eat.

It’s gotta be some super genes.

Turn on Japanese TV. What do you see?  Are people eating on every channel? Are they still somehow magically thin?  Does it look like this:

That’s Natsuko “Gal” Sone, Japanese eating machine. According to Wired Magazine, this 95 pound, petite 5 foot 4 inch woman can down some 20 lbs of food in one sitting, polishing off whatever you put in front of her face. She’s been known to consume 40,000 calories of food in a day and apparently her cells burn off more fat and her gut contains more bifidobacteria for helping digestion.

But Beyond ‘Gal” Sone, Japanese variety TV is just full of beautiful people constantly eating. Perhaps they all burn off a bit more fat than us land-monster barbarians?

So as I swim my thousands of meters and bike around the entire city, watching what I eat every day, trying harder than I ever had to in the US to avoid a barrage of white breads, udon, and rice, I pass by cafe after cafe of women fueling Japan’s entire grains import industry.

I’m not jealous, I’m just scared.

If there’s ever a food shortage, I might find myself at the wrong end of a table of hungry Japanese women.

,