Saturday, December 15, 2007

me on the Joba

Hey all-

So hopefully I should be seeing a bunch of you back at home soon enough, but in the meantime here's a video of pure Dougitude for you:

I've also uploaded some pics, including those from a brochure I picked up that was riddled with copious amounts of Engrish at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Ok, see you soon!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Go Speed Racer??

Have you guys seen this?? I feel like I have been defiled and violated... the guys from the Matrix bring you - Speed Racer: the Movie. It looks like a cross between the Matrix and that Johnny Depp acid-trip remake of Willy Wonka. I would post pictures, but the homepage won't let you, so you'll have to go search them out for yourself, if you dare.

Now excuse me while I go search for a filthy stray dog to lick and get this nasty taste out of my mouth. Bleh.

Here lies: Hip-hop - R.I.P.

I've been saying it for years now, and it looks like there's a growing voice in the hip-hop community that agrees with me... or maybe we're all just getting old and waxing nostalgic about what I would argue were the golden days of rap.

So I ran across this album rather late considering it came out more than a year ago now, but that would be because it's usually too much hassle to sift through the 50 Cents, Lil' Jons and bad samples of Daft Punk songs of the world to find any rap worth listening to these days. I normally resort to recommendations of others and random stuff I run across from random sources, which have ranged from internet searches to tv/commercials and clubs.

Which recently brought me across this album by Nas - Hip Hop is Dead. Now it seems that in addition to the "Hip-pop" that 50, P-Diddy and all the Dirty Souf peeps come out with (to be fair, I can tolerate some Ludacris and Mystical, but that's about it) I'm starting to hear some more poetic/preachy rap like Mos Def... and finally downright condescending rap with this by Nas.

I like that he's trying to put some meaning back into things and get back to the roots of rap by putting a message in the lyrics, but I have a feeling that his delivery will fall on deaf ears with the intended audience. This album is him looking directly down his nose at pretty much everyone that's come out within the past 5 years or so and only giving props to those who've been around since he came out back in the early 90's. He wreaks of old man with songs about how bling is retarded, and I love him for it. I'm guessing the thought is that he's high profile enough and has paid his dues, so you really have no choice but to listen to him or get blasted. He certainly gets preachy, as he has in a couple other albums, but he can flow with the best of them so I'll let it slide. Besides, the roots of rap were all about giving the people on the streets a voice since they'd rather rap than vote - " The black vote mean nathan, who you gonna elect Satan or Satan?" He's a self-educated man, and even with the things I can't agree with I can see where he's coming from and don't doubt his intelligence.

So is hip hop dead, or dying? This album begs the question, since if it's good (which it is) then it basically proves itself wrong, right? Pretty much anything loses it's soul when it gets commercialized... I think the mainstream is only going to stay bad with the rare exception, with all the good stuff sticking to the shadows only to pop it's head out every now and then. So you keep the Diddy family and Kanye West, your bling and Rocawear, and I'll stick with Nas, Pharcyde, Outkast, Tribe, and Del.

Time to check out what others are saying on the topic....
here, and here

And here's looking forward to his next release, which I'm sure will get people talking just as much, if not more.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


Worst commute EVAR.

So I get up on the early side today, rather pleased that I'm in line to make the early train which is ever so slightly less crowded and affords me the room necessary to read my book in peace (currently reading Battle Royale (with cheese) in Japanese btw - 2x the gore of the movie!!). I get to the station with a good 2 minutes to spare and gaze up to the time ticker and see... nothing! Absolutely not a damn thing.

All the times were blanked out, and in their place was a message at the bottom - some jerkoff decided his life sucked, and he needed to end it while making millions of people's lives a little bit worse in the process, so he jumped in front of a train. I know it's sad that a suicide can be reduced in the minds of so many as a nuisance and delay to their daily lives, but when you don't know the guy and it doesn't happen right in front of you, that's reality. After the shit I went through this morning, I feel like going down to the morgue to stab dude in the face with a fork... I'd kill him if he wasn't already dead, and if you read on you'll know exactly why.

So anyway, I get up to the platform and it looks like what I imagine it'd be like if Lenny DiCaprio and Justin Timberlake base-jumped into an all girls high school campus. Wall-to-wall people as far as the eye can see. No express trains, just normal trains and delays as far as I could imagine. A guy actually came up to me and said he was taking pictures to send people back home. We got on the train and had a nice little chat... er, as nice as chats can be in such circumstances.

This was, for the record, THE busiest train I have ever been on, EVER. I'm talking like this was worse than the time that I pushed all the way up to the front of the moshpit at a Foo Fighters performance at the end of the HFStival a couple years ago... nothing but a sea of people everywhere you look breathing all your air and leaving you with naught but the fiery anger swelling in your bellows to keep you going. There were so many people that the guys on the platform who are normally there to help push people onto the train and make sure luggage doesn't get stuck in the doors were actually telling people to wait for the next train. Inside the train, not only was movement not possible, but there were actually people pushed to the point that they were sitting on the people sitting on the benches with another person hunched over their backs. It was the first time I've ever heard a Japanese person yell out in the train for someone to get off because it was too much to take and the person next to him was about to pass out from the pressure!

This went on for 2 frickin' hours... over twice as long as I'm normally on the train. I would've seriously considered just going back home if I didn't know that it'd take just as long and be just as painful to get back. It's really no wonder that at the end of the day on the way home I noticed that on the exact same line there was yet another jumper that afternoon - probably depressed from the shitty day he had thanks to people like the morning guy. I hear that this is the heavy season for suicides in this country whose citizens kill themselves more than just about all other civilized countries. And that is why I want to impale a corpse's skull with an icepick right now.

But hey, I'll get over it. On the bright side of things, I got my camera fixed under warranty the other day, so I'll be able to take some pictures again soon! Gotta get on that... I hear there's lots of Christmas lights displays that I'd just love to check out before coming home in a couple weeks. Ok, off to bed to do it all over again tomorrow.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Japanese pizza

What is this filthy excuse for a pizza that defiles my vision? Why, it's none other than the newest concoction from Pizza Hut Japan - the "winter double king" pizza.

Some of the toppings included on this pizza:

  • mayonnaise
  • king crab
  • shrimp
  • beef w/ demigras sauce
  • broccoli
  • onion
  • corn
  • egg
  • potato
Now I like Pizza Hut out here, but that's because I don't even bother to look at their menu of "special" (like in the Forrest Gump sense I'm guessing) pizzas, except for a laugh. Corn and mayonnaise simply do not belong on a pizza anywhere, anytime, for any reason or under any circumstance.

And eggs! Ohhh, don't get me started on the eggs... I still look up to the sky and say a silent little "thank you" to the Big Man every time I find a sandwich not desecrated with the vile stench of eggs, with the noteworthy examples of breakfast sandwiches and egg salad.

For more check the original here with video - I like his poll options for whether you want this pizza or not: I went with option #3 - "I cannot answer this question because I'm too busy throwing up".

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Doug gets no sleep

...along with the rest of the frickin country!! Ever since moving down to the Tokyo area, I've been averaging about maybe 4-5 hours sleep. I work sometimes as late as 7:30pm (average of maybe 6-6:30, which I don't mind as I'm paid hourly), and cannot for the life of me get to sleep before 1 most of the time. This is bad considering with the commute I wake up at 6, thus no sleep!

But as I say, I'm not alone in my struggle against the sandman. I read this article at my favorite Japanese weird fact source that says Japanese may cost themselves up to 30bajillion doll hairs per year in productivity from not sleeping, and I for one will agree if it means that they'll let me come in at like 10 or so. But seriously, I totally agree with the whole idea that staying in the office long hours does not necessarily mean you get more done. Work smart not hard, all the way. I'd do an experiment and see how much work I could get done just doing the 9-5 but sleeping more, but as I said I'm paid hourly and like the overtime bonus. That and I don't want to go to sleep all early and miss out on all the fun to be had staying out til last train with friends or vegging out watching downloaded American tv shows and movies.

Now my office certainly isn't one of those places where you automatically have to stay just because your boss doesn't want to go home yet, but they do have enough to keep you busy at times... especially my department. One thing that you might find crazy if you've never worked in Japan though is that every Wednesday is "go home on time" day, implying that no one does any other day of the week. Seriously, it's on the calendar.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The bra of the future is here!

I will never look at rice and miso soup the same again...

So the other day, I run across this article. Someone apparently thought it would be a good idea to make this bra with a built-in chopstick holster and cups made to look like a rice bowl and bowl of miso soup, and I would have to concur. But wait, there's more!! Not only does a collapsible set of chopsticks fit on the side, but see that little ribbon in the middle? That's a little chopstick holder so you don't have to just place them on the table!! Pure genius! The idea is that Japanese use entirely way too many disposable chopsticks, and this will inspire them to save a tree or something.

The one thing I still haven't figured out is how they expect you to nonchalantly whip these out in public without making a scene... then again, if girls can take their bras off without taking their shirt off then I'm sure they'll figure it out somehow. Anyone wanna volunteer?

There are more videos here if you just can't get enough.
Btw, in my search for more pictures of the 「マイ箸ブラ」, this came up too. The USB keyboard bra!! Man, I feel the carpal-tunnel syndrome coming on...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tokyo Motor Show 2007

Ok... I take it back.

You may remember that a few months ago I mentioned I was holding out to see the rally version to make my final judgment call on the new Impreza, and I'm just oh so pleased as peaches that I did! The base model is still butt-ass fugly, which for those of you keeping score makes it as fugly as two asses, but they most indubitably made up for it with the rally car. I saw it this past weekend at... *drum roll*... the Tokyo Motor Show!

Among the attractions and in addition to the new STi and new Suburu STi Rally Car, I saw the new GT-R (technically not a Skyline anymore), the new Toyota FT-HS (successor to the Supra, and a hybrid), the new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X (boring styling, but fast nonetheless), the new Suzuki Rally Car (they've been out of the game quite a while), and booth girls!!! Tons of booth girls! I hear they have a test drive section and some other stuff, but I didn't get around to checking that out. Back to the girls though...

One note of contention at essentially every Tokyo Motor Show is which booth has the best girls - I hear there are myriad magazine articles debating this very point to death. Now believe you me I looked long and hard, and although Suzuki and Subaru had some good contenders my hat goes off to the girls at Mitsubishi. This picture is a thing of beauty... legs as far as the eyes can see.

For more pictures, check out the flickr account on the right.

Oh and as a little note to all those that are paying attention - I'll be in town for the holidays!! Dates TBA shortly, but it'll be basically from Christmas to January 5th. EMAIL ME NOW!!! so we can plan stuff - I'll be spending plenty of time with the fam, but I'm definitely interested in seeing everyone else and doing something fun for New Year's. Hard to believe, but it's actually been a year and a half...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Bizarre Japanese bizness practices?

Dentsu Executive Offends and Humiliates Employee With Brothel & Onsen Trips

AP article

Ok, time for more news that's interesting to me. So apparently there's this guy that worked for the American branch of Dentsu, a major electronics company based out of Japan, that got fired for being sexually offended at some rather, erm, interesting hosting by the Japanese CEO on a couple business excursions.

At first I read this as some American guy getting all uppity about nothing - I mean, it sounds like the guy just took him to an onsen, very normal, and maybe a Soaplands or something. Big deal - maybe the Soaplands was pushing it, but it pretty much sounds like standard "getting to know you" kind of stuff that you'd see around here. When you work in Japan, people like to try and make social ties as well in order to strengthen business ties, so stuff like that's pretty par for the course as I see it.

Then I read more into it... this CEO guy's a real whack job! Apparently it wasn't a Soapland at all - it was an actual brothel on a business trip in the Czech Republic, and the guy was running around taking crotch shots of a bunch of women besides that. I heard in Thailand that Japanese businessmen are among the highest frequenters of Thai massage+++ establishments and love taking sex tours, so this doesn't surprise me. But then! The coup de grace was this little gem of an addendum:
Apparently, defendant Shigeta maintained that having sex with prostitutes was a "Japanese" style of conducting business. For example, defendant Shigeta once told plaintiff (as well as Ronald Rosen and Douglas Fidoten) that he and another Japanese businessman sealed a deal not with a handshake, but by hiring a prostitute in Mexico and having "double penetration" sex with her - i.e., where both businessmen had sex with the same prostitute at the same time. Defendant Shigeta explained to plaintiff that having "double penetration" sex was a way in which Japanese businessmen would commemorate business dealings.
Wha....??? Now I have heard tales of the infidelity and promiscuity of certain "Japanese businessmen", both 1st and 2nd-hand, but.... what??? Getting offended about being asked to go to an onsen is laughable. Being asked to a Soapland, or even a brothel, can easily be declined or avoided by going and simply not having sex. But sealing the deal on a Mexican hooker?? I guess the pen is mightier than... the pen. The American guy overreacted and suing is stupid, but that Shigeta guy could definitely use some straightening out.

There are some rather sick (yet colorful) people in this world of ours.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Yamanote Halloween Party 2007

So last night I went to the annual Yamanote loop Halloween party! I had a few ideas for a costume that I was tossing around - first I was thinking I should make use of my natural blondness and go as a Super Saiyan Gohan from Dragon Ball Z, then after shopping I got the idea that maybe a monkey suit would be good. My roommate Matt actually wound up using that one, but he went with a gorilla suit instead of the monkey suit. It worked. In the end though, I went with Spiderman. Not just any old Spiderman though... the homemade kind. Well, sort of. Just check the pictures... and videos.

This is apparently a party that's been going on for the last 20 years or so in which a few hundred people get all dressed up in costumes, meet up on the platforms of Shinjuku station, and basically take over one train for one entire loop around downtown Tokyo. It's BYOB insanity with a whole bunch of dissidents from both the foreign and Japanese community... or at least from those that know about it. Allow me to present Exhibit A.

Those who are against it say that 1) it gives foreigners in Japan a bad name and 2) that a couple hundred people frolicking and cavorting on the train in a semi-inebriated stupor is disruptive and wrong. Fair enough. They think that they should call up the police to round up the whole lot of them and put an end to the insanity once and for all.

Personally, while I understand the above arguments I don't see anything like that ever happening, and I'll tell you why. Anyone who's ever spend a significant amount of time in Japan knows that drinking in public is hardly illegal - in fact, you will see people walking down the street or even in the train drinking... I don't want to say regularly, but you see it. I mean, this is the country that has beer vending machines on the streets, right? This is not just a foreigner thing, as I have seen many an oyaji cracking open his Kirin Ichiban or just being plain-old belligerent on the train or platform. They sell beer on many train platforms too, btw, as well as in the shinkansens. Until they make drinking on trains or in public illegal, which isn't gonna happen anytime soon, this party will in all likelihood continue. Japanese people like drinking too much to put any limitations on when and where they can drink.

So do things like this give foreigners a bad name? Possibly, but most of the people whose opinions this would influence have already made up their minds from the getgo, whether based on reality or some farfetched and misplaced image of the foreign community they saw on tv or read online.

Is it disruptive and wrong? Disruptive yes, but only for one train on a weekend evening on a line that will always be crowded anyway. If you don't know, Yamanote is pretty much the busiest train line ever - it makes a loop around downtown Tokyo, which takes about an hour. As such there is a train coming every 5 minutes or so, so I simply urge those that don't want to be on a train with a bunch of obnoxious Halloween party goers to catch the next one. Considering its on a Saturday at 9pm I doubt that'll throw off anyone's schedules.

Wrong? Well, I don't know. Personally, if I could do this kind of thing at home I would, but there are laws in place which prevent me from doing so there. In Japan the unspoken rule is to put others in front of yourself and always be considerate enough not to be a nuisance to those around you, but as I said before there's no law against what's being done. If people were fighting or breaking things then I would oppose it, but I just see it as a bunch of people having fun for 1 hour out of the year in public and then going their separate ways. They push the lines and are definitely crossing cultural norms, but it's all in fun and they aren't breaking the law. In my eyes, it's not a big enough deal to raise a stink over - crying over spilled milk and all. I give this one a maybe... or even a yeah, but big deal. There are far more disturbing things going on that they should be concerned with, like having women-only trains because there are enough perverts that'll feel up girls or try and take upskirt shots of school girls to warrant them.

Anyway.... on to the pictures!! I must warn you though, if you don't want to see me half-naked in public then you may want to just move along.

Mask: 2000yen
Body paint: 800yen
1 pair Spidey whities, custom made to please: 300yen + 2 hours
Memories of public pelvic thrusts and "courting women" on the train: Priceless

Pictures on Flickr, videos right here.

EDIT: More pictures from a friend's party here!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Ye tale of olde yore

I stumbled across a wonderful little tale in my websurfing over at another blog. There are plenty of fairy tales out there, including quite a number of old Japanese folktales. This one takes the cake though, and then farts it out. My I present to you - the tale of the farting wife! Yes, you read that properly, the farting wife.

An excerpt for those that don't want to read the whole thing: "If you want to fart, fart," she says. "A fart's only a fart. Everyone farts. Why shouldn't you fart?" This in response to a young wife's embarrassment over being able to knock fruit down off trees with her southern gusts.

For those of you interested in reading the whole thing, click the link above.

Ding dong, the Hulk is... transferred

Yeah, that's right - feast your eyes on this guy. Take in all that manliness, and then zoom in and check out that killer look of determination (you may know it as the "Eye of the Tiger") on the face of a guy that looks like his head is about to explode. This, my friends, is one Hidenori Kasajima - winner of the Mister 40-y.o. division of the 15th Tokyo Open Bodybuilding Championships, 3rd in the Mister 75+ kg division, and last but not least.... the guy that hired me for my current job.

That's right, my boss is Ah-nuld, the Governator. Or more properly, "was" my boss for all of maybe a month and a half. Try if you will to imagine this guy wearing a suit. Not working? Well not to fret, it didn't really work for him either apparently. While I did find him entertaining with his unique and uh, colorful "English" and his laid back attitude, he in the words of a certain coworker who shall remain unnamed was not cut out for this job. I also saw just a little taste of his infamous temper, which I luckily didn't stick around long enough to experience 1st-hand. Let's just say you don't wanna get between this guy and his twinkies.

For sloppily handling probably one of the singly largest projects my company is current undertaking, he got about the worst punishment they delve out to people here - getting transferred. Not only that, but my job as editor-translator meant that it was my honor to write the guy's transfer notice on his last day! Mess with a billion-dollar project? Get transferred. An elementary school teacher gets caught selling the largest hoard of girls gym shorts amassed ever and upskirt shots of 10-year-old girls? Transfer him. Caught embezzling? Fine him $1,000 and then transfer him. Charged with manslaughter or rape a farmland animal? I'm gonna go with transfer to New Zealand, the land of Hobbits and sheep.

Firing just seems so rare out here... with the exception of being in the public eye. Politicians seem to drop left and right, but then again they "resign". I have my doubts as to how voluntary some of the resignations are, but these guys are grade A boneheads. Not that I ever really met a politician that I liked, but you know just sayin'.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I'm happier than...

I dunno, something that's really happy. I'm drawing a blank here. I'm definitely happier than the dog that sounds like he is dying a slow and torturous death outside my window, that's for sure.

More importantly than that! The day of atonement is upon us, for I have received in the mail this day a shipment of some of the finest beers that the monks at St. Bernardus in the sovereign nation of Belgium have to offer. Bask in the glow of my Belgian beauties, and ignore that pool of my drool off camera to the left.

This was a momentous weekend indeed - and not because I was quite deftly swinging a hula hoop around my neck in a bar last night after the bellydancers were finished with them, oh no. What makes it especially sweet is that I found a place that I believe will help quench my thirst for the one and only Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock - the granddaddy of German beers. They had a 4-year old bottle sitting on the shelf collecting dust, which I find to be almost as deplorable as the fact that they would taunt me with it and not even have the courtesy to put it on the menu, but I forgive them that for giving me the opportunity to order some at exorbitantly marked up retail prices.

Finally, I shall leave you with a little gem I found in none other than everyone's favorite (or at least my dad's), Mc Donald's. There is actually a campaign for this girl called "f*ing motesto". Are we supposed to forgive her for what she knows not? Oh, and if you're wonder why the lack of pictures as of late, my camera broke. Bleh.

Wow - I feel safer already

TOKYO — The government will approve a draft ordinance stipulating that a mandatory fingerprinting and photographing of visitors aged 16 or older will enter into force on Nov 20, officials said Thursday. The revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law incorporating such a measure was enacted in May last year in a bid to block the entry into Japan of individuals designated as terrorists by the justice minister.

Full blurb, some other guy's opinion, and the Japan Probe writeup.

So I guess you can't exactly call this news, seeing as it's really something that developed a year or so ago and is just now going into effect, but whatever. As of next month, Japan is enacting a law that will make it so I'll have to get fingerprinted.... but only if I leave the country and try to come back in. Which I will eventually. There was some confusion due to mistranslation by a few news sources, but the only people exempt from this are special status permanent residents (i.e.: Korean nationals who grew up in Japan) and diplomatic staff. Those on regular permanent visas and the lowly work/spousal visas like myself, along with all tourists and the like will have to smile for the camera and stick their finger in some scanner thingy before entering the land of rice balls and Hello Kitty. I think you know which finger I'll be offering them first.

Personally I think it's pointless and stupid, but I'm not going to get all up in arms about it like some seem to want to. Places like the US and England, which is from what I hear leading the way towards the 1984 "Big Brother is watching" world of the future, are still worse if you ask me. More importantly than that though, I don't see why things like this should make anyone feel any safer. I find it highly dubious that countries all around the world are trading people's privacy rights in for the alleged cause of "safety", and even more dubious that general populace is simply letting them get away with it. I'd rather take my chances with the terrorists (because that's who this is all supposedly saving us from... sheah right) than the big bad gub-mintses. I'm sure Arlington Cemetery is a mess right now as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Millard Fillmore (gotta love that name) lead all the POTUS's of yore in a collective rolling over in the graves and a sigh of dismay over the current state of the world. Somehow I doubt this is what the forefathers had in mind. Hideyoshi and Tokugawa on the other hand with their fear of foreigners might see it as par for the course, as I'm sure many Japanese currently do as well.

More importantly however, I just don't wanna have to stand in line for another 30 mins. at customs with all the tourists and new arrivals instead of just hopping in the much shorter citizens/residents line. I like the short line, dammit!

And thus, as the little glow stick entry band from last night's misadventures fades, another weekend in Yokohama comes to a close. How many more will follow is anyone's guess.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Why Japan is Ass Backwards

I'll tell you why.

So I just got back from the store - I've been liking the White Russians lately, so I picked up a bottle of Smirnoff and a bottle of Kahlua to go with the milk I had at home. Price? By current exchange rates, approximately $18. I think the equivalent amount would probably run me something like $45-50 back home.

I also bought some beer online earlier - 18 bottles for somewheres around $90. Now granted, this is stuff that would run you $5/bottle back home as well, so maybe that's not a good litmus test. I've recently gotten a hankering for my favorite beer in the world, and wanted to try a couple others I heard about as well. Oh, and speaking of which, you would not believe how hard it is to find this stuff around here.... I think there's like maybe 2 stores in the entire country that stock it! (...and both of them are out of stock)

So how about normal beer? Well normal beer will cost you something like $1.50-3/beer. Normal, right? Well yeah, except that if you buy a 6-pack, 12-pack, case or whatever, it's the SAME PRICE. WTF?? So basically, a 12-pack of your normal beer out here which I would pick up for like $10-12 back home runs like $20-22 here!

I see this as what some would refer to as "Bass Ackwards". All I can say is that by pointing me towards drinking more liquor it's good in a way since it's less fattening and all, but bad since it's stronger and stuff. Ah well, I'm just gonna sit here and enjoy my White Russian while waiting for my Ayinger and St. Bernardus. Woo.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Working in Tokyo

Ah yes... Monday is a get-out-of-work free day and my roommate's out riding horses or some such nonsense, so I'm enjoying a nice, relaxing evening at home alone for a change. Except for the wannabe biker gang kiddies that keep buzzing by my window, which reminds me that if anyone would like to purchase me a BB gun for Christmas it would be put to good use. In lieu of that, I would also accept some fine beers such as this or this.

So working in Tokyo isn't exactly for the faint-hearted in my opinion. I figured that since I've been working here for at least a good month or so, it was about time for me to give people the breakdown.

Where do I work? I work at IHI Corporation, which is one of the three heavy industries companies in Japan, as a translator in the construction department. Ok, well technically I'm employed by a dispatch company who sends me to IHI, but tomayto-tomahto. Oh, and technically I'm a "translator", but I do very little actual translation work. I do a bunch of editing though, as well as a whole bunch of random stuff which is teaching me all kinds of useful vocabulary, like butt-welding (*snicker*), and the Japanese word for terms like sphere tank and wiring control panel.

As for attire, now that Cool Biz is over I have to wear a tie to work, but I was told that a jacket's only really necessary for big meetings, which I won't be a part of for a little while.

Interestingly enough, most of the people at work can speak English, or at least understand it enough that they can navigate through all the documentation here, which is primarily in English since most all our business is international. Most all of them have been interesting places, either due to work or otherwise. I've talked to people about experiences in India, China, Taiwan, Qatar, UAE, Algeria, Mexico, Houston, Cali, Oxford, Cambridge, and probably some others I'm forgetting. Most of them are pretty cool people actually. With all the business trips people take (it seems half the people are gone at any given time), there's a new snack from somewhere around the world that someone brought back as a souvenir pretty much every day.

So let's see... how about a walkthrough of a normal day. So first off is the commute. I have to wake up at 6 to set out on a 10-min. bike ride to the station at around 7ish, after which I use my ridiculously expensive monthly train pass to take 1 transfer on a 1-hr. train ride to work. This is by far the least comfortable commute I've ever had to deal with ever... driving an hour in rush hour is one thing, but at least there you have your own space. Now I have these oyaji salarymen that sometimes wreak of b.o. because they don't believe in bathing in the morning (that's reserved for after dinner on the nights they don't stay too late at work or drinking) breathing their halitosis all over me and falling asleep on my shoulder as I struggle to find enough space to get a book in my face to pass the time. Oh, and room to breathe - always important, but sometimes a challenge. Seriously, if you have not experienced this first hand then you have no clue what I'm talking about - it's nuts. I seriously believe that there are sardines in cans that have more shoulder space then you do in one of those trains... it's like those old contests where you see how many people can fit in a phone booth or VW Beetle or something. This is easily the worst part of working in Tokyo thus far as I spend 2.5-3 hours daily in overall commute time... that's about the average too, by the way. Definitely moving closer in next year some time, but that comes with its own headaches... and the area's not exactly cheap.

So after arriving at work around 8:30, I wave hi to the guy whose job it is to bow and say good morning 1,000 times in a row as everyone walks in. You may call him a security guard I guess. So I get in the office and greet everyone on my way to flick on the computer in my nice, cushy leather chair with a great view from the 19th floor of a 25-floor building in a huge and open office room. There's nothing but high rises in this high-rent district of town, and my company owns the entirety of the Toyosu district in which it resides. You don't get your own desk here, you sit at a big long desk with no dividers together with all the people in your section instead. So then this chime rings which sounds JUST like the chime that goes off at the beginning of class in schools here, and they have a little 5-min. morning meeting in which they make announcements and then break into sections where everyone says what they have popping for the day. I found out this past week though that once a month they have a bigger meeting a few floors down which you have to go to, and at the end everyone points their fingers towards the front of the room and chants some bizarre company pledge which I didn't quite catch all of.

My "boss", the guy that hired me, has only actually been in the office half of my time here as he's been all over the place. And by all over the place, I mean that he's now in Algeria after a stop in Paris and Ankara (Turkey), from which he'll be back on the 15th. But then he leaves again on the 16th for another couple weeks and meetings with big important people, and I hear that he's set to spend a few months or possibly a year on the site in Algeria starting next year some time. I also hear (and see... it's my job to read/edit the contracts) that working on-site means 10-hr. days, 6 days a week, which makes road trips sound like more fun than a barrel of drunken monkeys. Oh, and apparently due to civil unrest or something, if you're on the site and would like to leave to go into town, you're only allowed to do so with guard escort.

So anyway, my day goes on until 5:30-6ish with me doing different random stuff pretty much everyday and talking to the girl whose job is apparently to flirt with me. Honestly I have no idea what she does besides make copies for people and turn the lights off at lunch (gotta save every little ounce of energy!!!), but she apparently speaks pretty good Chinese which is cool.

Stuff I've done? Editing/arranging/shipping a subcontractor proposal for a 1-billion dollar job with something like 20 lbs. of documentation, corresponding with said prospective subcontractors, hunting down and delivering all kinds of data and info for said clients, a little sudoku, some translation, watching the guy at the desk in front of me fiddle with cool CAD drawings of plane fuselages and LNG tanks, and figuring out what the hell things like gantt charts and event chain diagrams and BoQs are all about and how to read them. Along the way, I have found new functions in Word and Excel that I never knew existed in an effort to make things look nice and purty, since that's my job. Yey.

So that's it in a nutshell... oh, and I just realized the other day that now between me and my 2 brothers, we're now all doing something related to construction at one level or another. Weird how things work out sometimes.

I could go on, but I have a feeling few will have the mental stamina to trudge on further so I'll save it for another day. I think I talk too much sometimes.

"It's up to you"

Radiohead is the new king of musicians, and I'll tell you why: if you go to their website, they're offering their new album for download. Next to a blank where you would expect the price for said download to be is a link to four magic words - "It's up to you." I'd much rather pay $5 directly to Radiohead than really any price at a store for an album considering I think only like $2 or so ever gets directly to the artist in the end.

So yes, Radiohead is setting themselves up as pioneers, and I sincerely hope they start a trend. I don't think this would work for all artists, but the good ones (and the bigger names) can certainly get away with it.

Oh, and I even found an article about the whole thing.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Ok, now I know what all those people that told me that GoogleEarth was addictive are talking about. The coolest thing since... I dunno, shnozzberry-flavored wallpaper, is Wikimapia, which I just discovered this afternoon upon the recommendation of the newer-than-me guy that just got transferred to our section on Monday. It's like Google Earth and Wikipedia combined with links and maps all intertwined and stuff. I think I found my new way to waste time for a while! Then again, I already have too many good ways to waste time...

Monday, October 01, 2007


Ok, it's time for some random thoughts, by Jack Handey (+5 points if you catch the reference).

So I'm in one of those states right now where I'm meeting lots of new people lately, which means that I get to go through the whole inquisition that new people subject you to. I must tell you - some people just simply are not creative when it comes to trying to get to know someone. Where are you from, how long have you been in Japan, where did you learn Japanese... all perfectly valid questions, and yet all boring as hell. Today I met a guy, and he asked me whether I liked the US or Japan better. How am I supposed to answer that??? So my response was to in turn ask him whether he preferred a spoon or a fork. When he gave me that look of contemplation mixed with a whole bunch of confusion, I told him that's how I feel about that question too.

So the whole thing has got me thinking - what kind of questions are good ways to learn about someone? Does knowing where someone's from, or where they work, or whatever other inane question you can come up with about the standard details of someone's life for that matter really tell you anything about that person at all? Is it too optimistic to think that a person is more than where they've been and what they've done? Are Reeses Peanut Butter Cups like the best candy ever, or what?

Ok, I gotta go think up some more good icebreaker questions to save me from explaining my life history yet again. Maybe next time I'll go with snack foods. Mmm, peanut-buttery chocolatey goodness. I like Jenny's question too and George's famous pirate vs. ninja scenario, but then George's question doesn't always wow the ladies. Actually, I think that if you're looking for a way to weird out all but the coolest of Japanese girls then you should ask them whether they would pick pirates or ninjas to win in a fight. The ones that actually answer would be the keepers.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. IV - Okinawa: picture edition!

I love you guys almost as much as I love this fish...

After no less than a 1 month delay, I'm finally getting around to putting up pictures from my trip to Okinawa! As a side note though, this does not yet include the underwater diving pictures, so stay tuned for those. If you give me even more time, I might even comment on what the hell the pictures are about... wouldn't that be something!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

A new milestone in the world of Japanese humor!

This day is a truly great day for Japanese people.

You see, since arriving at my new place of business a few short weeks ago I've been hanging out with this one guy in my section in particular. It only makes sense since he's the only guy on my side of the office that's my age and sits diagonally in front of me - he also knows all the younger people at work and has some interesting friends. So the language of business in the office is usually Japanese, with 2 glaring exceptions: one is my boss, but calling that English is a stretch sometimes, and the other is lunch with my new cohort. We speak Japanese in the office and out with friends since I don't want to alienate anyone else, but I know he doesn't get any other chance to practice and he's good enough to hold a decent conversation, so I don't mind it at lunch.

In fact, I've taken it upon myself to teach him some of the finer details of the English language, including humor, and I think he's catching on pretty well. I'm working hard to dispel the whole concept of the "American joke", which is basically the Japanese way of saying "I think you expect me to laugh, but I don't know what the hell you're talking about."

So I started by trying to explain sarcasm to him and am easing him in slowly - he sees what's going on, but told me that the total deadpan straight delivery I give him still throws him off some. It's to be expected. I swear a tear almost came to my eye today though as he caught me totally off guard today - the exchange went a little something like so:

(he buys an energy drink, complaining of fatigue due to playing Mahjongg too late in celebration of Hump Day, which I of course explained to him in excruciating detail a couple weeks back)

Yudai: I'm sooo tired! *cracks open drink and proceeds to chug*
Me: You know, you should be careful with that stuff - it'll make your breath wreak!
Yudai: You mean, like your mother?
Me: *remembers telling him about "your mom" jokes and struggling to stifle laughter* ...yes, YES!! Exactly like my mom!

Compared to most Japanese people this guy is a comic genius! I've met some that have spent a whole year in the US and still don't understand things like sarcasm, and this guy's telling momma jokes after just 3 short weeks! I think it might be time to up the ante and put him on the fast track. I feel some South Park and Chappelle's Show coming on in his near future.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This just in: the new Impreza is ugly.

Oh, it's true. Don't believe me? Allow me to present exhibit A:

More crappy pictures here

So the other day I saw what appears to be the newest evolution of one of my favorite cars, the Subaru Impreza. All I have to say is I hope they have some awesome body altering kits, because this thing is about as attractive as a pug... or maybe even this dog. Ok ok, maybe that's a little harsh, but I really don't like it.

The back on the wagon in particular is hideous, while the front is just... blah. Very nondescript. You could've told me it was a Corolla and I would've believed it. I'll have to see what the rally team does with the car though as if anyone can make it look good they can. And if they can't? Well, luckily I probably won't be in the market to get another car for a few years, so maybe that'll give them time to sort things out. Or maybe I'll just get an Audi or something.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An ode to Yul Brynner

Yul Brynner was the man. At one point he was the King, then a pharaoh. Then he just let it all hang out with his wang out in a magnificent western based on an Eastern before ending up in Westworld.

And this is where I caught up with him the other day. I was first introduced to Yul in his role in Westworld way back when by a friend, but I feel my recent reacquaintance with him garners at least an honorable mention.

Besides all his acclaims and accolades as an acting god, he also has such wonderful exchanges as:

Yul: we need some good gunmen.
some guy: well that shouldn't be hard - everyone in town's got a gun.
Yul: Sure - just like they all have... pants. (imagine this in the voice of that guy that played Elaine's boss in Seinfeld for full effect)

This is exactly what Matt and I have been laughing about for the past week since seeing the Magnificent Seven, which comes highly recommended by me by the way. Besides looking like the Rock 30 years ago and being the epitome of coolness, he's got a kickass accent that makes just about anything sound awesome. It's like he's the predecessor to Arnold, the Rock, and Bruce Willis all wrapped into one superhuman being that we can only refer to as Yul.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. III - Doug hits the road!

Ok, this one'll be a little long...

When we last left our hero, I finished up my year in Shichigahama on a rather busy note. Ok so that's not exactly true... my job actually left me in Narita with my old boss, and on a Friday night no less. We went out for a drink or two, and that was pretty much that. I'm drawing a blank on what happened that Saturday - I'm sure it was magical and wonderful - but on Sunday we had tickets to Summer Sonic! Summer Sonic is one of the two huge music festivals here in Japan if you didn't know, with this year featuring the likes of the Polysics, the Pillows (another kickass Japanese band), Black Eyes Peas, UNKLE, Social Distortion, and... the Offspring!!! Along with a bunch of other people. There was actually a band called Hadouken, which as cool as it sounds with all its Street Fighter goodness was rather disappointing. Maybe if they had backup dancers dressed like Chun Li doing spinning dropkicks across the stage it'd help a bit. Anyway, it was a wild and crazy time, as you can see.

From there, I took the next Tuesday off from buying stuff and settling in to meet a friend and go to the land of monkeys, Nikko! I was extremely disappointed not to find any actually monkeys, but there was plenty of monkey memorabilia to play with if you remember a certain video. The carving below shows the famous "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" in monkey form outside a world heritage site that is absolutely stunning. The saying in Japanese actually includes monkeys, which automatically makes it cooler than the English.

Another note about Nikko monkeys - they're known for being rather mischievous. Apparently you really have to watch your wallet or they'll swipe it, along with anything else loose in your pockets. I've heard stories of them breaking into unlocked cars and stuff too. It'd almost be worth it to be mauled by these primates just to have them waiting in my car looking for tasty morsels of... whatever. MONKEYS!! My obsession with monkeys is rather unhealthy if you didn't know. But then, if you ask me an obsession with monkeys is never unhealthy.

There was also a really nice waterfall and this crazy and awesome road known as Irohazaka (the other 2 videos previously posted) that you have to go up (and down) to get there and back. See, in Japanese there's this poem that basically contains the whole Japanese "alphabet" called the Iroha poem - 47 characters in total, all used only once including two that have fallen out of usage, to make a perfect pangram. The Irohazaka coincidentally enough has 47 turns, which are each ridiculous if you remember the pictures/video, with one character assigned to each turn. All this in one day!

So from there I go back to Yokohama, took a trip up to Miyagi one more time to finish moving all my luggage and try and sort out some car stuff (still have to work that out!! grrr....) while attending the party of the same friend that went to Nikko with me. From there I went directly to my birthday party, which was a beach bbq with jungle juice and topped off with "Gay Music" (if you don't know then don't ask... or do, whatever).

Then a week later was Okinawa... still need to get the pictures up for that one. I have about 300 to sort through, so it's taking me a while. I believe that one deserves its own post, so I'll break there for now.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Will it blend?

Long night last night... one of those late nights where you wake up in a strange place and take the walk/train ride of shame, then pass out in your little cave-like shelter from the world and it's nasty sunlight, wishing it'd all just go away and leave you alone for 8-10 hours.

So I hear word of this new kick-ass iPod touch that pretty much is like an iPhone, just without the phone and with twice the storage capacity. Looks rather interesting, but I think I'll keep my wallet in my pants for the time being. That's not what I wanted to write about though... looking around at iPod/iPhone stuff brought me to this:

What?!?!??? Absolutely dumbfounded by this quirky goggle-clad genius with his product that belongs on an infomercial at 3:30 in the morning like that guy with the question-mark tie, I click on the video and am not disappointed one bit:

"iSmoke - don't breathe this!"... brilliant!

The website can be found here - I also recommend the glow sticks (must be the old party kid in me - raverrrrz ;P) and the coke smoothie.

And for those not satisfied, more randomness is just a click away.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Spam - more than just a tasty processed meat product

My friend and roomie Matt got the following lovely morsel in his mailbox today and I had to share:

Ave, my friend

I am both nervous and exciting, and it seems to me that I could not find right words in order to express my aim, my wishes and my dreams... Why am I here? I am here in order to become your angel, to become the part of your heart, to come into your world and to stay there forever. What do I want? I want our hearts to be linked, I want to make this distance shorter with my love to you, I want our hearts to beat together, I want to make you happy with me.
What will you find with me? It will be love and care, passionate and friendship, support and understanding. Words can't longer describe my feelings and wishes, but I know that sea separates us till that special day, I know we take each breath with every beat, and always together ... as one. It is my wish, which I tried to bring
to you....
My soul and heart are waiting for you

Waiting for your response

Spam sometimes is like the stuff that dreams are made of - I don't think I could improve on this any no matter how much I tried, although I urge you by all means to try and do so yourself. The internet is a beautiful thing, and cocaine is a hell of a drug.

Summer of Doug, pt. II - closing shop in the Shich

Insomnia and ska music... sigh. For some reason, ska bands can cover just about any song and make it sound more fun.

Alrighty, so the first step in my recent exodus started about 400km away up in lovely Miyagi, which I will not soon forget. Thanks for the memories, Shichigahama peeps. Knowing that this move was coming up meant that I spent the last few months actually trying to both plan things out and make the best I could of the remaining time I had with my friends up north. Good times were had, but those last couple weeks were extremely hectic, both professionally and personally.

The big factor with that at work was that my last week of work was the annual Sister City exchange between Shichigahama and Plymouth, MA in which I was the head interpreter/liason and played a big part in planning. Every year they alternate between Plymouth and Shichigahama visits, and this year was Plymouth's turn to send kids to Shichigahama. Of course, my old boss being the natural entertainer that he was garnered quite a bit of (positive) attention from the town officials over in Plymouth, inspiring them to accompany the normal kids group and double my work load as I now had to organize two delegations instead of one. This basically meant that for the 10 days they were in the country, I was working every waking moment as I showed everyone around during the day and fought crime by night... I mean, entertained the adults. Oh, and just to add, these 10 days just so happened to overstep the length of my one-year contract with the town by 4 days, meaning that I was paid extra to stick around. Sweeeet. This also mean that for those last couple days I was sharing the apartment with the new guy as technically it wasn't my place anymore.

So what does "entertaining" mean, you ask? Well, it means that it was my job to take them out to a baseball game complete with phallic-shaped balloons that they ritually shoot off on the 7th inning stretch (mail me if you wanna see the pics), interpreting a beer factory tour complete with a stop off at the beer garden afterwards, several wild and crazy karaoke sessions, an excellent free concert with Hajime Chitose that I was looking forward to pretty much the whole week, some awesome free meals at 5-star hotels and meetings with governors and mayor-type people, and day trips all over the place from Tokyo to Fukushima to Miyagi. It was exhausting and yet some of the best fun I had in my short year there at the same time.

This took me through to August 10th, which was both my and the delegation's last day in Shichigahama. I accompanied them all the way to the airport and saw them to the gates, after which I and my old boss went downtown to share a few drinks and such along with a CIR from a few years back that's working in Tokyo... or at least is for now. He gave his boss a 2-month notice that he's leaving the country the day we met! I had half my luggage with me at the time and went straight from there to my new home here in Yokohama to sleep on the floor (and by this I of course mean a futon) since I hadn't bought proper bedding yet. I still had to go back and get the rest of my stuff which was left behind and sort out the car situation... you see, a car down here would probably be more of a burden than an asset, so it was with great pain and regret that I bid farewell to the coolest car ever and the fastest wheels I'd ever owned - the party wagon. I hope your next owner appreciates your coolness as much as I, my friend.

Ok, next time I'll pick up with the first days down here in Yokohama with its concerts, clubs, and parties.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Summer of Doug, pt. I

Ok this one's gonna be a biggie, so I'll be parsing it out over a couple posts in the next week or so. First the big news - as of Monday, I start a nice, new shiny job in Tokyo as a translator++ at a big-ass company known as the IHI Corporation! They actually changed the official name recently to IHI from the original Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries, probably because it's just too damn hard to say. So anyway, this means that over the past month or so I finished up my stint as CIR in Shichigahama with most likely the busiest 10 days I had there ever, then took the last few weeks to settle into my new environs with a whole bunch of partying and traveling interspersed between. I'm currently living in (technically) Yokohama, just south of Tokyo with my new roomie and old friend from the Chiba days, Matt.

There's a whole bunch to cover... I've been back to Miyagi, up to Nikko, down to Okinawa, and out to Tokyo a bunch with wrapping up one job and lining up things for another while moving in and all that jazz. This means that I've ridden the shinkansen 7 times, flown twice, and driven the main island of Okinawa from tip to tip, north to south with a whole bunch of stops in between for a grand total in the ballpark of I'd guess 6,000km traveled. It certainly hasn't been cheap (especially weekends in Tokyo), but it has been entertaining! And with that, I'm off to bbq today! I'll be uploading pictures from my last trip and updating you here shortly.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Holy Billy Joba - it's the new Japanese diet wave!

So if you're looking at this picture and wondering why I'm posting sex toys on my blog, you're wrong! This, my friends, is the newest "diet" fad in Japan - the Joba. It's not my fault she's having way too much fun riding the thing, but then maybe that's all part of the marketing scheme. By the by, Joba is Japanese for "ride that thang like you're in a Japanese marriage and want to lose some weight while releasing some sexual frustration in the comfort of your own living room for the low, low price of 39,995¥, or just 10 easy payments of 4,995¥!!!" Oh, I mean horseback riding. But wait - there's more! Here's another blast from the past that just recently graced the shores of Japan: TaeBo!!

That's right, none other than Mr. Billy Blanks has been plastered all over TV promoting Billy's Boot Camp. I think he was on enough that some people were confusing him for tarento or something as you'd see people imitating him on tv and even on the streets. The big talk around work was who was going to try it since they were always going on about how they were all fat.

The lengths that stick-like skinny people will go to maintain their lack of figure seemingly has no bounds... or maybe it just appears that way to an apparently overweight American. It's so true too - I've blimped out coming out here! I mean, I've gained a whole what, like 3-5kg since I got here to Japan? Oh, so fat. Out of shape? Yeah, sure I'll agree. Overweight? Well, maybe according to a stick. Or maybe it's that in going from the 2nd fattest country in the world (thanks Australia) to... well ok, anywhere but the US (or apparently Australia or the UK) that I look fat to the natives. I did however just look it up, and according to the international definition of overweight I'm still safe (barely)!! In your face, Japan!

Now while I do appreciate the fact that these ridiculously high standards for body fat index produce overwhelmingly less lard-ass women than I encountered at home and thus more eye candy, it has to be rough on the other side of the fence. As far back as the early years of my Japanese studies some 8 or so years ago, I still remember my old teacher who I'll call Shinobi-sensei always complaining that she was fat, and was constantly dieting. This one time we caught her taking these pills, and when asked she told us they were these pills with shell fragments and seaweed and stuff, which according to the latest tv show she saw was the latest and greatest way to lose weight. I also recall a certain program last year that started quite a frenzy over a natto diet - as everyone and their mom ran to the store to stock up with a year's supply of their very own fermented soy beans to be consumed with every meal, the program then revealed a week later that they made the whole thing up. This whole country has anorexia, I swear. Except for this guy... and this girl... (I'll save them for another post) oh, and don't forget these guys... and a whole bunch of the people I met in Miyagi... ok, so maybe just all the skinny girls are anorexic and trained to hate themselves if they develop enough body fat to resemble a woman.

The peculiar thing to me about this new wave is that it involves exercising, and yet they still call it a diet. This is of course not to make light of the fact that it involves exercise in the first place, which I thought Japanese girls were averse to given their lack of muscle tone... or maybe they just don't like sweat, which it takes some of to get muscle tone. But then that wouldn't explain why they still wear at least 4 layers of clothing, sometimes including a sweater, a skirt AND pants during the summer in the name of fashion... and once again women have boggled my mind! So long story short (too late?), I've met some girls here into sports/activities, but the vast majority have the muscle tone of a garden slug and see absolutely nothing wrong with it.

So yeah, the diet craze in Japan is amazing... and for me, entertaining. It must suck to be a girl here though.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Internationalization through.... furniture

My apartment smells of SOLSTA.

So yesterday I went to pick up a couch at the mother of all furniture stores, Ikea. This store is absolute genius, and there's no way you can just call it a furniture store - it's so much more than that! I feel old saying this place is cool, but whatever. I'm a simple guy that's easily amused, so this should come as no surprise to those of you that know me.

Now I don't know if American Ikea is exactly like Japanese Ikea, but this place had the standard furniture/home supplies store, a Swedish restaurant, a cafe, a daycare center, and play areas for kids strewn randomly about the store. It was like this guy, in his all-encompassing infinite wisdom thought it'd be a great idea to introduce the world to Swedish culture by way of furniture. Of course they have goofy-ass names for everything, but the restaurant is nothing but Swedish food (not just meatballs!!), and at least at the Japanese one I went to there were loooots of Swedes working there too! I was amazed to see all these Scandinavian tall blondes putzing around the store answering questions to the standard plebian populace. I didn't even know there were that many Swedes in all of Japan! It was really pretty much required that you be either Swedish or female to work there from the looks of things... I saw like maybe one or two Japanese guys, but maybe they were just gay or something. Oh wait, but then there was this one black guy working at the restaurant (definitely not female, and I don't think he was Swedish) who was simply overflowing with emphatic exuberance over his position as... the guy that picks up your tray? Anyway, he seemed really happy to be there and came over to let us know that in a somehow pleasantly freakish way. Maybe Ikea's a great place to work, or maybe he's just in the country on a spousal visa and his wife is extremely hot.

So yeah, intro to Sweden 101 and internationalization, in furniture form. Oh, and of course they had signs out front and stuff with Swedish sayings and phonetic guides and stuff to go along with their utterly bizarre product nomenclature. Like SOLSTA. We seriously spent a good 2 hours or so in this place when all was said and done I think. The kicker for me though was actually when I got home and opened my new purchase. What language do you think they wrote the instructions in? English and Japanese, maybe Swedish? Chinese in there too? No!!! There was not one single, solitary word on the whole damn thing, just a bunch of pictures and goofy naked cartoons (don't worry, not anatomically correct) acting out both assembly and use of the couch.

Wow, who would've thought that buying a couch could take all night. Bravo Ikea guy, whoever you are. Bravo, SOLSTA.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

It's my birthday?

Ok, so yes this might be a tad on the late side, but I just had my birthday party this past weekend. There is a good reason for that though... you see, I was buried under a stack of paperwork and 20 people visiting from Shichigahama's sister city, Plymouth, Mass.

So how was the party? Well, if you've been to any of my birthday parties over the past 5 years then you have a good idea - lots of jungle juice, people, and good times. Here's Mike's take on the whole deal, along with some pictures:

Tokyo beach bash 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New pictures!!

Hi all,

There's been plenty of material going on lately for me to share with you all, but until I get around to that there are some new pictures up on the flickr account, so have fun with that for now!

Edit: and here's some videos too!

The soon to be infamous monkey video:

Kegon Falls - one of the 3 largest in Japan:

Irohazaka - the most insanely fun road I have ever been on in my life! I only wish I thought to take a video higher up as this is the tail end of it, and that I had driven the WRX there:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Shibuya/Corey Hart connection

Shibuya - the district of Tokyo that never sleeps with its bars, clubs, and ko-gals mixed in with the other 2.4 million people that grace the gates of Shibuya station every day (that only makes it the 3rd busiest in Tokyo, btw).

Corey Hart - a one-hit wonder from the 80's who looks sorta like a certain Tom Cruise that left a legacy that has far surpassed his name, which has deservedly faded into antiquity alongside such novelties as the pet rock and those stupid spring shoes that that kid was wearing in the 50's portion of Back to the Future... yeah, you know what I'm talking about. What's the connection you ask?

So walking around downtown Tokyo today, I had a realization about 2 things. The first is the aforementioned connection, which is that way too many people in Tokyo (especially Shibuya) walk around wearing their sunglasses at night, which apparently makes them cool. Woo. Then again, I at one point reveled in the fact that I had glasses light enough for me to dub them the party glasses and wear around at night, that is until that riot patrol cop broke them after a UMD basketball game. Boo cops!!!

The second realization was something someone mentioned to me the other day and just sunk in - there are a lot of foreign workers in the service industry in Tokyo! Every place you go you'll see a "now hiring" sign in the window, and since apparently there just aren't enough Japanese people that are interested in filling said positions Chinese especially are starting to snatch these jobs up. At a few restaurants and even the hotel I stayed at last week, there were either Chinese or Korean staff. One place seemed to be entirely run by Chinese, even through management. Of course Chinese people have been running Japanese restaurants in the States for years, but a Chinese-run izakaya here in Japan? I also ran into people of all different races and creeds working Akihabara today on my mission to get a new ipod (which is sweet btw). Maybe they could work on getting a Thai massage maid cafe going or something... I'm sure that'd be a hit.

So yeah, there's supposed to be a shortage of well-paying good jobs in Japan here I think, and I know there are less people taking jobs due to the declining population thing, but I guess there are still jobs out there and people are taking them... just not the people I, or probably you would expect. It makes sense that there'd be a bunch of Chinese/Koreans in there first though as I think it'd be easier for Japanese to accept them due to having a similarly Asian face to stare back at them. And that's all I have to say about that.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My birthday, interviews, and crowded trains

Ok, so it's no longer my birthday... or birth month since I usually take at least a month or so to celebrate it properly. Although I am currently busier than the Pope on Christmas, I did somehow manage to still keep my non-working on my birthday streak alive and spend some time down in Tokyo before the fiasco that has been the last couple days. Yes that's right - I have never worked, nor gone to school on my birthday. Ever.

So my thought of yesterday that I never got around to posting: riding a crowded train can be cool sometimes. You see, on my birthday I wound up somewhere way the hell out in the middle of nowhere in Chiba to go have all the yakiniku I could eat. Between 6 people we wound up eating 12 pizza-sized dishes of meat, after which I felt like swearing off meat (for at least a week) and knew that no one would want to be anywhere near my smelly poop the next day. Anyway... since I was staying in Yokohama and dinner ended around 9, I knew that this meant I'd be cutting it close getting back, and I was right. I somehow magically caught one of the last express trains going out of Shibuya in my direction, which means one thing and one thing only: crowded trains.

I could definitely see how doing so on a daily basis would become tiresome after a very short period of time, but once in a while catching one of those last trains with your right arm forcibly pressed firmly against your chest and seeing people standing on the other side of the doors waiting for the next train since they know they won't fit is somehow exhilarating. Sure you have no space to yourself, but looking around you can almost feel a certain sense of camaraderie peering into the eyes of your fellow midnight train warriors. On this particular sojourn, there was a couple next to me lovingly sharing a moment in each others' arms as another group of youngsters were grinning ear to ear reliving the night's escapades in nearby Shibuya. Their faces gleamed with a certain sense of satisfaction, which I'd like to think I was quietly sharing in myself.

Besides it being my birthday, I had also just gotten back from a most bizarre interview. I didn't apply for the job - the guy emailed me, and asked me in to talk about things, to which I obliged. I was already in town since I had work-related business in the area the next day anyway, so I figured what the hey. The whole thing sort of felt in parts like the onus was upon his shoulders to impress upon me a sense of urgency to take the position, instead of me showing him that indeed I was the man for the job as is normally the case. I don't plan on taking the job either way, but it made for an interesting afternoon.

So that was pretty much my birthday this year in a nutshell: interview, yakiniku, trains.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bond, James Bond. In Japan!

So the enigmatic job title that I currently hold is CIR, short for Coordinator of International Relations. The title is purposely vague because you never know what might come with it - some translate and interpret all day while I run beach parties and wine tastings, with some English and culture classes thrown in there for variety. I've also recently given a speech about Maryland and attended a couple wedding parties held at work as a sort of liaison of sorts and will also get to go to a concert, a beer factory tour (beer garden visit included), and a baseball game when I'm showing a delegation around in a few weeks as interpreter and tour coordinator.

However, this all pales in comparison to this:

That's right, Bond! A CIR down in Kagawa Prefecture is parading around like Bond on tv and events in this Bond-obsessed area in attempts to persuade the Bond people to shoot their next movie there. Apparently there was a Bond book which features this prefecture in its climax, so they've petitioned for it and do all sorts of Bond events, including picking a local Bond girl to parade around with our young hero, Andrew Cockburn. Lucky bastard.

Now don't get me wrong - the cosplay photo shoots and hula dancing randomness of Shichigahama is cool, and I've been on tv and in print a few times myself, but this is one job that I think anyone could enjoy. Sad thing is though, I'm sure they picked a Brit specifically, and photos come with the applications so I'm sure they screened for that as well. Sometimes being blond sucks... but then there's the rest of the time, so I'll be ok.

By the way, there's vids and all here if you missed it above, so by all means check it out.

And here's a personal account from the lucky bastard himself from the CIR forums:
When I first arrived in Kagawa, there was already quite a lot of 007 stuff going on. The latest (absolutely awful) 007 novel is called "The Man With The Red Tattoo", and the climax of the book is set on Naoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea owned by Kagawa. In the book, there's a G8 summit on Naoshima which is threatened by terrorists with killer mosquitoes, and Bond naturally saves the day. When the people of Naoshima caught wind of this, they realised that if only they could get "The Man With The Red Tattoo" made into a film then THEIR ISLAND would be in a Bond movie!!!!

So starting in 2004, with the help of the prefectural government, Naoshima has been campaigning for the next Bond Film to be made here. So far, efforts have included an 80,000+ signature petition, the creation of a 007 museum on Naoshima (well worth a look if you go to the island - it's free and really cute), and several awareness-raising parties, including the one I participated in 2 weekends ago, with the theme of "Find Kagawa's Bond Girl", and one we had to coincide with the release of Casino Royale last year, which was called 「007電車でGO!!」, and we all took a train to the famous temple in Kagawa, Konpira Jingu, and watched a sacred fan dance and prayed for the success of Casino Royale and that the next film would be made in Kagawa. Then on the way back we had an hour long booze up on the train with live music (a harpist!), and a 007 general knowledge quiz. Truly random. At the party we had a couple of weeks ago, they had me up on stage in only my swimming shorts doing fire-poi at half time in the judging, and then after that some of the contestants wanted to speak in English so I had to interpret that to the crowd still half naked. A cool Martini, shaken, not stirred was very much in order once I had that over with!

It's pretty good fun being Bond.. Every couple of months there's a flurry of media interest in the campaign, and we get film crews coming along to film me and Naoshima, and I dress up as Bond and point my replica Walther PPKand run around catching bad guys! Also at the last party, the final winner was a really cool lady called Sachie Manabe who just got back from a couple of years' study in America, and so is awesome at English and from now on, we'll probably being going on tv together quite a lot. (For instance next Tuesday we're off to the KSB studios to be in a news article!!!)

That's pretty much the whole story. The parties are really good fun, in Kagawa people recognise me as Bond every so often, and I get to be on tv as an action hero!

Monday, July 16, 2007


There was just a rather large earthquake out here this morning - the 6.7 magnitude epicenter was on the other side of Honshu in Niigata about 150 miles or so away, but I still felt it! As you can see from the map so did at least half the country, but anything below the light green isn't even really worth getting up for and the white areas aren't even noticeable. They're still broadcasting about it on tv an hour and a half later, and there have been at least 8 aftershocks closer to the center. Videos they're showing are with broken water manes flowing through the streets and at least one or 2 older buildings totally collapsed... also, a few random cracks in the earth, and there are currently 200ish injured. These things still freak me out, so I'm really glad it wasn't out here!

So how strong is a high 6 you ask? Well Japan has their own scale to measure things separate from the Richter scale called shindo - basically, the difference is that Richter is based on the energy released and shindo is based on the amount felt in any particular area. Here's the breakdown on what each level feels like and my interpretation:

0: Imperceptible to people (did somebody fart?)

1: Felt by some people indoors (something's not right here....)

2: Felt by many people indoors. Slight shaking of hanging lamps (hold everything, feels like a shaker! this is what I felt this time)

3: Felt by most people indoors. Can cause plates to rattle (this would be the point at which I start to freak, as it's about the strongest I've ever really felt. These wake me up)

4: Most sleeping people awake. Unstable items indoors may fall. Felt by most walking people and some in cars. (this would be the point that most reasonable people would stand in a doorway or something - I'm still frozen in fear clenching my butt cheeks)

weak 5: Furniture may move. Books and dishes may fall. Glass may shatter. Could cause some structural damage in older buildings and softer earth. (Feels like Ryu and Ken are simultaneously dragon-punching the building, shaking it to it's core)

strong 5: Large vending machines and shelves may topple over. Driving becomes difficult. Some gas/water manes may break. (Vending machines may what??? I think I just saw Mothra fly by the window...)

weak 6: Difficult to stay standing. Window glass and tiles break. Doors won't open. Sometimes weaker houses collapse, and stronger ones may take damage as well.(Oh my God, we're all gonna die! Godzilla is battling Mothra and Godzilla just got tossed into the building next door.)

strong 6: People can only crawl to move, because standing becomes impossible. Most heavy furniture falls, and doors fly off their hinges. (Son Goku has just gone Super Saiya-jin level 2 - he and Vegita are in a battle of truly epic proportions that is shaking the world to its core. I think I'm dying!!)

7+: People can't move at will. The ground cracks open, landslides occur. Strong buildings take severe damage. (God hates us all - as Lucifer reaches up from the depths of hell opening large rifts in the earth, God's hand has just come down from heaven to squish Goku and quell the maelstrom, taking us all with him. After crapping my pants, I die... or maybe it's the other way around)

I seriously hope a truly major one never hits around me, but one is definitely overdue. Or at least so everyone keeps telling me. Then again, everyone was all worried about a typhoon that killed 4 and was supposed to come through here this weekend too. We got some rain, but if you didn't tell me it was the after-effects of a typhoon I wouldn't have known. Oh, and did I mention there were also smaller tidal waves due to the quake? Well, I'm around to live another day for now, but God still hates Japan. And with that, back to your regularly scheduled life.

EDIT: Just to update people, there have been aftershocks throughout the day of varying strengths, but nothing to be concerned about in my immediate area. The final count that I heard was 7 dead out in Niigata though. There was just a quake of the exact same strength off the coast north of Kyoto that somehow shook us here just as strong as the one this morning, but again no immediate danger here.

Here's an article on it from CNN as well as Japan Probe coverage. In addition to the quake, CNN also reports that the world's highest output nuclear power plant, which happens to be in Kashiwazaki, Niigata very close to the epicenter, took 2 hours to put out fires resulting from the quake.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm living on the other side of the world?

I've been out here for a little bit now - hard to believe it's coming up on a year. Now I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but I was driving down the street to the store today, and I just realized that this country feels entirely normal to me at this point. I'm not sure what you think of Japan, but to me I've internalized it to the point that it's totally lost that sense of exoticism... except for those giant flying robots and mutant hybrid monkey-birds. Seriously though, to me Japan might as well be New Jersey. Ok, well maybe New Jersey's sort of harsh - how about Pennsylvania?

Anyway, the point is that it's just another place, and although I certainly stand out I don't feel out of place. I remember when I was down in Chiba as an exchange student there were certain linguistic milestones I passed - my first full day not speaking one word of English and getting by, giving a speech in Japanese, watching tv and actually understanding what was going on... one moment that vividly stands out in my memory was this one day where I casually spit out a good chunk of lingo without the least bit of effort. At that moment I took a step outside myself and wondered where the hell that came from - it sounded like me, but what the hell? When did my Japanese get that good?

I guess today was sort of like that. It wasn't anything really out of the ordinary that sparked it this time, in fact it was probably more just the mundanity of the entire scene. Setting out on a day off to take care of some errands on a road that I travel everyday going to places I've been
a hundred times or more. I remember that when I first got here last year that I was more concerned with getting myself set up with all the daily necessities here than I was with gawking around at my new environs. There have been linguistic milestones this time around as well, like repeatedly being confused for a Japanese guy on the phone, or reading a 300+pg. Japanese novel, or understand what people at work are going on about in the local dialect, but I think to me the internalization and cultural adjustments stand out more in my mind. As with everything else in life though, the more you learn, the more you find out you don't know. Personal growth rules.

I still wouldn't go as far to call it home, but it is where I lay my head at night.

Friday, July 06, 2007

"Taking responsibility"

Gaijin Smash - "Taking responsibility"

Ok, politics time. This past week, the Defense Minister of Japan said in a public speech that he believed that dropping the atomic bombs back in WWII was an action that "couldn't be helped" (しょうがない), which is not a very popular opinion in Japan. As such, he has since resigned. The above editorial is a take on it from what is normally one of the most entertaining blogs I read... somehow he got through the article without one reference to Transformers or Street Fighter this time, but I feel he's got a pretty good take on things and makes an interesting point or two. It is disturbing the views some of the Japanese public have on WWII - I really wish they would've taken a lesson from the Germans on how to own up to things and not try and make themselves out to be victims. Anyway as he does, I hope this woman doesn't get anywhere close to elected in the upcoming elections at the end of the month.

I'm actually studying the Japanese constitution in Japanese with my tutor right now, so this came up briefly in the last lesson I had in which we were talking about the cabinet. The current Prime Minister's cabinet doesn't really have a very good track record right now - from what I hear he's got an approval rating rivaling Bush's in ickitude thanks not only to his bungling of the pension system, but also the blundering lips of the cabinet members he's selected. Thus far, one minister referred to women as "baby making machines", one committed suicide, and then there's Abe's own statements about "comfort women" that's even made waves in Congress back in the US. My tutor mentioned that there's talk (but no proof, like they'd let that get out) that the Minister of Agriculture offed himself because he wanted to quit but Abe wouldn't let him.

Now Abe actually tried to defend this past Minister's statements, but the way I understood it he stepped down partially to keep Parliament from putting a vote of no confidence on the cabinet, which would mean the entire cabinet is dissolved including the Prime Minister, and that in most all likelihood the majority party would not get voted in again for the replacements. The minority party already wants one, but you need a 2/3rds majority to get anything passed... last I heard the PM's approval rating in Parliament is hovering around 35% though, which means some even in his party are losing faith.

Ok, that's it for politics.