Sunday, April 27, 2008

Japanese guy can't read... pictures

Doh! If you think back far enough, I mentioned previously how genius the whole Ikea organization is, with their fun store and what I believed to be instructions simple enough for a one-armed Gump to put together... well apparently the Japanese government believes that I am wrong:


The industry ministry has instructed Ikea Japan KK, the Japanese unit of Sweden’s furniture retail giant Ikea, to improve its product manuals after receiving a report that a customer was severely injured while assembling a chest of drawers, the ministry said Friday. The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry has been informed that a man in his 60s from the city of Yotsukaido, Chiba Prefecture, was hit in the eye by a fragment from a cracked screw while assembling a unit of the company’s Mandal chest of drawers in July last year and has been suffering from visual impairment ever since.

Following the instruction, Ikea Japan compiled special assembly manuals written in Japanese, in addition to conventional manuals containing simple illustrations and brief instructions. ‘‘The explanations were not sufficient and we doubt that the accident resulted simply from carelessness on the user’s part,’’ said an official at the ministry’s office in charge of products accidents.

So wait, pictures aren't simple enough?? If you have ever seen these instructions you know how utterly retarded this is as a drunken dyslexic chimp could assemble this stuff with his feet while hanging from a tree, and the whole point is that the instructions don't need languages to confine them to one audience. I guess when people get older some of them lose the ability to read... pictures. Wow.

Yet more proof that governments can only screw things up, so it's best for us to let them do as little as possible. If we could lock them under the basement staircase like the trolls they are then I would shed tears of joy... I wish there were less lawyers and more Ron Pauls in the world.

Monday, April 21, 2008

More commuting misadventures

Hiddley ho, readeroonies!

So yet again, I have a story to rival my former entry on my ongoing escapades on the Tokyo railway system. I can only imagine how entertaining these stories must be from where you are, all comfy and cozy in your nice chair in front of the computer. Well I'll tell you, it's a whole different bag of cookies when you live it on the daily... you snicker as I get shivers down my spine. Train lover's paradise my ass - the whole idea that Japanese trains are never late is a total and utter farce. Unless you ride the Shinkansen everywhere, then you're golden as those things are the bizzomb sheezy faheezy.

Anyway, let's go back in time, to a little thing I like to call Friday. Normally a good day, but not on this bleak and rainy morning. Luckily for me, the new station directly in front of my (soon enough to be former) apartment means that a spirited 10-second dash will get me from my building to the front door of the station, which is awesome because I absolutely hate umbrellas. This particular morning I'm running a tad on the late side, but am still just in time to make the train necessary for my transfer.

Or so I think. Now this is a new route compared to before, which is nice on the way back since I sometimes get to actually sit down the whole way home, but doesn't mean a hill of beans in the morning since Toyoko line is just as packed as Denentoshi line. So I get to the station and follow the herd up the stairs to the correct platform. My train is running a little behind, but no biggie. It takes maybe 5 minutes longer than usual, but I finally get to Shibuya for my next transfer and pry myself from the pole that I had been sticking close and personal with for the previous 20-25 minutes or so. They have these station workers there handing out late passes to show your boss so I pick one up, just in case.

Next train: Ginza line. In case you were wondering, yes I do have to transfer more on this route - 4 times in total, but this is less a 10-minute bike ride that I used to have to the station. I pay more, but that's the price for... I refuse to refer to this as comfort, but I'll just say mildly less discomfort. Back to our tale, I get on the train. It doesn't move. Apparently some putz dropped an umbrella on the tracks a few stations up the line, meaning someone has to 1) retrieve the little 300yen plastic special and then 2) run some dumb safety check for the next 5 minutes. Clock's still running, and my hatred and loathing for umbrellas is renewed.

See now really, up until now this is rather ordinary and mundane, but that was all about to change once I got on the Hanzomon line. Finally back in familiar territory on my old stomping grounds, I get on the train and stand next to the door as usual for my normal 2-stop trek on this train. The train stops at the next station, doors open. Then it happens: just as the doors open, I watch as the guy STANDING DIRECTLY BESIDE ME falls flat on his face with a loud THUD! Seriously, this guy landed face first on the platform, and it sounded like a slap to the face upon impact. He passed out right before my eyes and fell like deadwood, and it was just as freaky as it sounds. NO ONE did ANYTHING for a good half a minute... his feet were still on the train as his listless body lay on the ground with eyes still open and a deadpan face- and by deadpan, I mean this guy looked seriously dead. I picked up dude's bag at my feet and shifted it out of the way as I noticed the white gloved platform people saw the aftermath and came over to help. The stretcher was not far behind.

So what did the guys do? Well, first they checked to make sure he was breathing, then they picked his feet up out of the train and laid him out on his back on the platform, and then I noticed one of the guys talking to the train conductor and telling him to get the train moving - priorities people!! I was in total shock as to what had just occurred - as the doors shut, I noticed the kid (he looked like college age btw) come to in total disarray and obviously confused with no clue as to what had just happened.

Don't ask me how, but I somehow managed to get to work only one minute after the bell. And yes, there is a bell if you're wondering, and it sounds exactly like the one you would hear at a school here. I should write something about work rituals here now that I think about it, I'm sure it'd be interesting to more than just some.

So there you have it- I took a good 30 minutes digesting all that before I actually worked, but went on with the day. With things like that, it's no wonder people around here are stressed out and all... jumpy shall we say. It's no wonder that the same day I noticed a fellow co-worker, 25, has recently gotten his first gray hair.

I have never witnessed such a thing as the train incident right before my very eyes, and hope I never do again. As alluded to earlier though, I shall be forced to move in about 4 months or so due to my current living situation, so I'll be moving closer into town to cut my commute at least in half to reclaim some of the 3 hours of my life that the train steals every single weekday. Maybe I'll take up a new hobby... like sleep!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Things, but very slowly

Sometimes, what would normally seem rather mundane can seem quite profound once you separate yourself from it and take it in from afar... like a moment of silence in a busy intersection, or a snowflake falling, or a child's smile, or... a chubby guy getting bitch slapped in slow motion. Some things are just cooler when you take your time and watch them very slowly, and this one, much like wine or a fine cheese, just gets better with age.

For even more cool things very slowly, check out the rest in this video:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


You know, I never really had much of a problem with rain until I came to Japan... I had no idea what Forrest Gump was talking about with his "sideways rain", and "rain that seemed to come up from underneath." Now I say that unless you've lived in some kind of coastal, island or tropical climate that you know not the evil that rain can bring with it.

Take today for example: it's been raining since mid-afternoon yesterday, and the wind today was blowing people's umbrellas apart all over the place and delaying trains. This isn't even the "rainy season" yet, which is of course separate from typhoon season in the fall. I've never liked umbrellas personally as it's a pain to carry them around and find somewhere to put them and stuff, but there are seriously days here where you cannot avoid it.

The worst though is that there are times when an umbrella just simply does not help whatsoever. With normal wind and rain you can tell which direction it's coming from and adjust accordingly, marking a swath of dryness big enough for you to traverse. Around here though, there have been times where no matter which direction I point the umbrella in I still get totally soaked with the wind blowing directly in my face... almost like it's coming up from underneath. Oh my God, Forrest Gump was right!!!

I still hate umbrellas with a passion and will resist them whenever possible, but if you've ever been in a suit that was totally and utterly dripping wet from head to toe then you'd think about it too.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Kanamara: the Japanese Peni-fest

Hey, so long time no post... first I didn't feel like posting anything, then I was just too busy, but this one's just too good to pass up. I'll probably tell the full story of the past month or so eventually as it is pretty damn amusing once I can distance myself from it a little more, but for now I'll just say that the last month has involved a girl, a girl, capoeira, dancing with many girls, pajamas, drinking, flowers, a train, capoeira, more dancing, a drunk girl, more flowers, yet more dancing, a little tequila, a crazy girl, Britney Spears, tomatoes, another club, guys dressed up like girls, a shrine, and penis-shaped candy. If you got the joke mixed in there then you're one of a growing select few, and if you followed the whole thing then come and get your prize. ;P

So... now on to the main attraction - what you may have heard of referred to as "that Japanese penis festival", Kanamara Matsuri! For the linguistic breakdown, 'kana' is a variation of the word metal and 'mara' is a seldom if ever used word meaning phallus. And there you have it. If you're like my dad and can't even utter the word 'penis' in public or if you just have the attention span of my 2-year-old nephew, you can just skip right to the pictures here. Here's a little taste:

So is this for real you ask? Why yes, it in fact takes place every year on the 1st Sunday of April in Kawasaki Taishi at the Kanayama Shrine (金山神社)and has been doing so since the Edo Period. The purpose? Well, it's supposed to be a shrine for people to pray for protection from STDs... and from what I've heard young Japanese people don't pray too much anymore. Oh, and according to Wikipedia...
"...There's also a legend of a demon that hid inside a young girl and castrated two young men on their wedding nights before a blacksmith fashioned an iron phallus that was used to break the demon's teeth, leading to the enshrinement of the item."
Wow. So before there was Bobbitt, there was giant pink penis demon guy, interesting. Another fun thing about this is that people on the other side of the world are more likely to know about it than people that live even in Kawasaki, the city outside of Tokyo where it takes place. Most Japanese will stare at you in utter disbelief if you try and tell them about this, unless they're the type to feel shame on behalf of their country because of it. The cool ones embrace it and find themselves scattered in amongst the gaijin-filled crowds, grinning ear to ear with the rest of us and taking pictures as they giggle and chortle to themselves at penis pops and phallic floats. Lots of foreigners do show though - I went alone ahead of the roommates and ran into no less than 4 foreign friends, including a couple that has gone together for the past 3 years and counting! The people that run and come to this festival are more laid back than the majority of the populace though and have embraced the foreign element. The festival is currently used to raise and fund research for HIV research.

So what happens at this festival you ask? Well they have three main giant phallic symbols: the main is a big black steely dealy, next comes the one-eyed pink monster, and last we have the classic woody. The black one and the pink one get to play their roles being paraded down the streets by cross-dressers in kimono and guys wearing sumo diapers (yes I know they're really called 'fundoshi', but "sumo diapers" just has such a nice ring to it) in a traditional practice known as omikoshi. Alas I missed the parade due to no less than 5 of the items mentioned above in the intro, but video of last year's can be seen here. The wooden guy has a more passive role as it camps out and watches the fort, sitting there waiting to be ridden for a great photo opportunity. Again, I showed late and missed out, but there are plenty of examples floating around the internet if you search.

Other main attractions include the crossdressers which are all over the place and the erotic lollipops, with both male and female version to please all. There were so many people in line for the candy that the guy making it had everyone standing around waiting play jan-ken just for the chance to pay him 600yen for a penis (or pussy) pop (his wording not mine). I lost, but will most definitely be back for revenge next year.

Now as I noticed a veritable dearth of information online about this in English, I'll give a recap of the specs of this event in the hope that it will help even just one soul find their way to this wondrous happening.

Name: Kanamara Matsuri, aka "the Penis Festival" (金まら祭) 

Kawasaki Daishi (川崎大師), Kanayama Shrine (金山神社)

1st Sunday of April, with the parade starting around 12 noon. Be early!!

Getting there: from JR Kawasaki station, turn right and go down the stairs/escalator. Notice the elevated train tracks in front of you and follow them to your left to Keikyu Kawasaki station.(京急川崎駅)
Take the platform on the right labeled Kawasaki Daishi and it's maybe the 3rd stop.
From the station here, go right out of the station and you'll see the shrine which is just around the corner once you cross the street.

And with that, I hope to see you there next year! Mike? ;P

Once again, pictures here!