Life in Japan

Observations on everyday life in Japan.

Note: some of the entries in this section are aimed at the "folks back home" and might not be terribly interesting for anyone living in Japan.

Friday, November 21, 2008   8:52 PM

Strapping young (and not so young) lads

Apparently there are still people out there who question why Japanese girls appear so keen on non-Japanese men. In case you still have any doubts, check out this video (SFW outside of sexually repressed Anglo-Saxon corporate environments):

(If, after viewing this, you feel a tingling desire to know more, you can find more information including online ordering options here, but feel free not to tell me about it, because I really don't want to know).

Update: the "original" video that seems to be spreading virally through the tubes is here (complete with warning for sexually repressed that they might see some actual bare skin). Yes, I do have some slight modicum of taste and no I will not be embedding it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008  12:29 PM

Dear Taro-kun

Yes, you. I don't know if your name really is Taro, but it's an appellation I find fitting for males of your ilk. In your early 20s, evidently not quite as in touch with the world around you as the rest of us. You could be a student, and / or some mummy's boy who hasn't suffered the indignities of the boot camp which is Japanese company life, which would have at least given you some sense of perspective in your interactions with your elders and / or betters (estimated at approximately 97% of the human race).

You were at Tokyo Station, weren't you? Behind me in the queue on the platform? Waiting to board the Chuo Line train which starts here, so there were lots of empty seats? And you were going to pull the old Commuter Sneak Through The Doors Ahead Of The People in Front of You Trick weren't you? But you didn't reckon with me stepping into your path in a smoothly executed act of sidesteppery did you? Or me slowing down quite a lot, because I spend all day on my posterior and have no particular desire or need for a seat? Of which there were suddenly none left, and even the last comfy standing place by the doors was nabbed by yours truly. Pity you had to stand all the way to Shinjuku and beyond, unable to engage in whatever otaku-ish occupation (manga reading, game playing, pretending to be asleep so you wouldn't have to feel guilty or even slightly uncomfortable about not giving up your seat to someone who might need it) you were probably intending to, but hey, that's life.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008   8:26 PM

Permission to Reenter

A couple of weeks ago I was going to post a rant about the need to trail all the way over to the bureaucratic facility adjacent to the Minato Ward Garbage Factory and pay the Japanese government some money for the privilege of abusing their hospitality by having the temerity to take a short trip outside of the country, a discriminatory system of foreigner taxation known as "Reentry Permits". The deal is 3,000 yen for a single permit, or 6,000 yen for an all-you-can-leave deal valid until the expiration of one's current visa, which in my case will more than "pay" for itself if I take just one annual visit to that strange and scary place known as "abroad".

However when it came down to it I couldn't be bothered (posting the rant, not obtaining a reentry permit), although in an act of rebellion against the system I did refuse to fill out all the fields on the application form, including the one which required me to provide my "home town" in the country whose nationality I hold.

Then something happened yesterday which caused me to change my mind on the whole system. I reentered Japan. (Hey, I'm allowed to. I have a stamp in my passport which says I can). Even better, rather than queuing with the foreign-passport-wielding hoi-polloi temporary visitors, there was a special "Reentry Permit Holder" counter at immigration which enabled my penguiny self to zip through at a speed which would have probably beaten even the Japanese passport holders from the same flight, had I not made an extended bathroom break to deal with various hygiene issues resulting from the preceding 14 hours of airports and flying.

Now all I need to be really happy with the system is for the Japanese government to realize that maybe they don't need to keep chopping bits off my fingers.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008   2:31 AM

Die Uni mit der Maus

Dokkyo University Ad, Yoyogi

No German university would be caught dead using a Japanese mascot character to advertise themselves (exception: "Die Hello Kitty Universität Hinter den Sieben Bergen"), but that doesn't stop Dokkyo University using the mouse from the popular German children's TV programme "Die Sendung mit der Maus" (warning: Flash-intensive site which caused the fans on my laptop to rev up) on this permanent advertising panel at Yoyogi Station.

The connection is not entirely random: the first line of text on the billboard says "ドッキョウのドは、ドイツのド" - "the 'do' in 'Dokkyo' is the same as the 'do' in 'Doitsu'", "Doitsu" being the Japanese rendition of "Deutschland", aka Germany. (Note to kanji afficionados: "獨" is the historical form of "独").

Which is a roundabout way of indicating I am heading mousewards later today, so don't expect any CTSNBN score updates for a couple of weeks.

Monday, October 6, 2008   6:46 AM

Penguin 3, Cockroaches 0

I'm sure you don't the start of your week, as the start of mine did, to involve the Creatures That Shall Not Be Named (hereafter CTSNBN), so in consideration of your sensitive feelings and possible lack of Mind Bleach in your medicine cabinet I have hidden the story below the fold.

Sunday, August 24, 2008   7:39 PM

Penguin 1, Cockroach 0

So, there I was lying on the floor in my nice new tatami room enjoying the sheer Japaneseness of it all while watching a pirated episode of a British TV series with Hangul subtitles from a Korean YouTube knockoff, when a sudden movement caught my eye.

Yes. One of those creatures. The kind Mr. Foreign Salaryman recently blogged about (warning: contains no-holds-barred picture in graphic detail including the long tendrillic feelers), which caused me a moment of smugness as I've been in this place a week and not yet seen one.

Fortunately it was outside on the balcony.

Unfortunately I have not yet acquired any of the requisite items for an anti-roach rapid deployment arsenal.

Fortunately I have a pair of plastic slippers on the balcony.

Unfortunately cockroaches are quick, wily creatures apt to scurry away at the slightest disturbance.

Fortunately it was a very stupid cockroach and ran in the wrong direction, turned round and came back.

Straight into the path of an expertly (if I say so myself) wielded slipper. One further application was sufficient to ecologically dispatch Mr. Cockroach wherever cockroaches go after entering a deceased status (hopefully somewhere very very far away) and I returned to my illicit TV viewing.

However the thought of a cockroach outside on the balcony, however deceased, was not one I wanted to entertain for very long, so once the programme had ended I found some material suitable for expiditing the aerial disposal of aforesaid insect corpse, when a sudden movement caught my eye.

"Oh noes! Has Mr. Cockroach come back to life?" I thought to myself with a tremor of atavistic fear. Fortunately my angst proved ungrounded, but unfortunately that meant there were now two cockroaches on the balcony. This one was however somewhat more agile than its predecessor and scurried back to whence it came, which appears to be a small hole in the wall between my and my neighbour's balcony, which wouldn't be there any more except that I have no idea where to buy sealant in Tokyo late on a Sunday evening.

Saturday, August 9, 2008   9:50 AM

Six months

Yup, been nigh on six months since I waddled off a plane at Narita with nowt but a suit and a smile. Incredible to think now, at the height of summer, but on that day it was actually snowing.

Anyway, the suit is languishing on its hanger while the smile is gradually broadening. Wonder what the next six months will bring?

Friday, June 27, 2008   6:42 PM

Paper Chase

As a professional emigré (primary occupation since the age of 18) it is always with some trepidation that I approach an unfamiliar Immigration Office, and having read and heard various horror stories about the previously mentioned Immigration Bureau in Tokyo (significantly tucked away on an artificial island in the middle of the docks), the trepidation-o-meter was all over the dial.