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.