Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Japan - the music video

Again proving that some people have way too much time on their hands, allow me to present to you Christmas in Japan - the music video. Think of it like Spaceballs: the flamethrower, just less fun.

It may seem silly if you've never been here, but a lot of the things that show up point out the so very Japanesey things that happen at Christmas here, like the KFC chicken as a substitute for a Christmas dinner and changing the idea of Christmas lights to "winter illumination festivals". So very true and very, very wrong. That being said, I was on the way out to see some "illumination" with my girlfriend on Christmas when the norovirus fairy sent us promptly back home - ghah, scary!!

By the way, for any of you that may in the future think of spending Christmas in Japan then here's some advice:
  1. Don't. Christmas is much better anywhere else, even if it's a vacation spot nowhere near where you're from. Thailand's nice, go check that out instead and come back afterward.
  2. If you really insist on staying and have a Japanese girlfriend (really about the only acceptable reason for staying as I see it since you really have to have someone to share the holidays with around here), remember that everything is celebrated on Christmas Eve and not Christmas. This includes exchanging of presents, seeing "illuminations", going to expensive restaurants and staying at expensive (love) hotels. And yes, this basically amounts to a $500 Valentine's Day and has nothing to do with Jesus. Hallmark, eat your heart out.
  3. Really, just go somewhere else. Just about everywhere in Japan (especially outside of Tokyo) closes down for a few days for New Year's, so you can't even really have fun anywhere unless you want to spend time with family/friends, which can usually be done better elsewhere. This closing includes all banking services, all retail stores, many restaurants... shrines will however be open and busy due to Japanese traditions of visiting them for New Year's Day.
So there you have it: Christmas in Japan. You've been forewarned. Oh, and if you're still not convinced that Japan and Christmas don't mix, read this. Now.

"Merry" Christmas and "Happy" Holidays!?

Ok I know this is a little late, but Merry Christmas everyone. I still made this post in time for New Year's, so enjoy the year of the Oxen. Maybe the milk'll taste better or something, or they'll finally genetically engineer chocolate cows - that'd be awesome.

Anyway, so I hope your Christmas was merrier than mine as I was puking and pooping my brains out with a nasty case of the norovirus. Yes norovirus - you gotta love that the first description I found searching for details actually used the phrasing "explosive diahrrea and projectile vomiting." Luckily it only lasts 1-2 days, but my are those an unpleasant 24-48 hours. I'm now over it with many thanks to the girlfriend for helping out, but now am in turn taking care of her with the left over medicine as she caught it from me.

This means that we will not be making it up to Miyagi today as originally planned, but will be going up on the 31st, meaning no stopover at the Ono residence and a direct trip to New Year's snowboarding excitement. She's pretty strong when it comes to sickness, but we're both just hoping now that she'll be good come the 1st for that first day on the slopes.

I believe this rivals, if not surpasses my Chiba Christmas for quite possibly the shittiest Christmas ever, literally. That year was spent in a lonely dorm almost entirely vacated, except for me and Matt. With both of us rather broke and kept from total loneliness merely by the company of each other, we decided to have the closest we could find to a "Christmas dinner" - KFC. While that was both crappy and depressing, it was not quite as crappy as the 10 times I spent sitting on and 2 times I spent facing the toilet this Christmas.

Not to end things on a bad note, on the plus side I did get a replacement camera from the missus, so hopefully more pictures will be on the way soon! Happy holidays to you all, and I'll let you all know when I'll be getting home next. Until then!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New vids for the week

Found a couple good videos that I wanted to pass along.

The first is about Chinese graffiti in Shanghai - very interesting that the cops almost encourage them in some cases as it dresses up the streets... some of the artists talk about how it'd be more accepted if more artists used Chinese characters instead of English, but that English letters are so much easier to write. It also says that they started off just copying but now many are starting to develop their own style - I'll be interested to see it when they figure out how to stylize the Chinese characters better.

The next video is just totally bizarre: Kei-truck drifting. I don't know how or why someone would do this, but I'm certainly glad that they did as it's hilarious! If you've ever seen these things driving around the streets it would just expound on how incredibly ridiculous this is. Needless to say, I love it.

I have another one, but it opens a whole other can of worms and thus deserves its own post, so hang on for that one.

An interesting take on Beijing

I ran across this editorial from an economist (I think) that just got back from China. I really found his take on Beijing to be rather interesting, and it definitely affirms my desire to get out to China one of these days. Thing is though, as big as China is it'd take an eternity to see it all so you have to be selective... of the two biggest cities on the mainland, Shanghai and Beijing, I think I'd have to lean towards the more culturally-centric Beijing over the economic center of Shanghai.

Anyway check it out - he talks about how Peking Duck is made, the Great Wall, Buicks and Mao, the Olympic buildings, and Chinese hip-hop. Good stuff.

Monday, December 15, 2008

uggh... New "Kempo" Kid

Ok, so when I first heard a few months ago that there was going to be a remake of the Karate Kid, the 80's classic that we all grew up with and loved, it put a small smile on my face. This was in spite of the fact that I heard that Will Smith's 12 year old son was to play the lead role... I was willing to give the shrimp a go.

And now this:
Aside from addressing the Miyagi’s casting, Smith also revealed one interesting twist on the plot. “We’re making it with the China Film Group, so it’ll be based in Beijing,” he said of where the modern version of “Karate Kid” will take place.
...what!? But, but... but then it's not the Karate Kid?? I mean seriously, how can shoot in Beijing and have a Chinese teacher and still call it the Karate Kid with a straight face? Wu Shu Kid maybe, but not Karate Kid. I don't care if Karate was originally adapted from a Chinese art, it still took in some Okinawan influences to get to its current state.

Geez... I don't get why Hollywood feels the need to rape all these good originals from Japan lately - first there was Speed Racer (abysmal and totally lackluster), now they're ruining Dragonball (ack!), the Kenpo Kid (blech!), and even choosing to let Keanu Reeves dude!-ify the classic 47 Ronin story.

I still have a slight hope for this one though...

Who throws a shoe, honestly?

This just in from Iraq:

In the ultimate Islamic sign of disrespect, an Iraqi journalist has thrown his shoes at President (for now) Bush on a surprise visit to the Middle East. When asked about the shoes, Bush responded that they were size 10s. This is just so incredibly comical that I don't really feel the need to comment... just watch!

Update: lol, this just in - rally for "hero" Iraqi shoe-thrower in Baghdad!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

One Inch Punch: cool Asian-ish art and modern culture site

Just thought I would take the opportunity to draw your attention for a second to the "Stuff I check out" section to notice a new member: One Inch Punch.

This is an interesting site I stumbled across the other day that has stuff like Bruce Lee ping pong and ninja magnets... the other day they even had - are you ready - a monkey wedding! Ninjas, monkeys and Bruce Lee: how can you go wrong with that combination!

More than that though, the main point of the site is to show some rather interesting examples of contemporary Asian culture and art, from Japanese to Chinese/Taiwanese and even some Thai and others. I've enjoyed a few of the posts on there and think it's worth checking out if you have the time.

Here's some good places to start:

2008 Asian Beach Games Photos
Face Your Pockets
Chinese Illustrations
True Body Art
Nose Calligraphy

Belated Halloween pics

Ok, so yes it's now December and all, but a friend of mine that threw the Halloween party I went to has pictures up now for all to see, so thought I'd share. Enjoy!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Umm... yeah. My neighbors are psycho.

Ok, I just had the most random experience on Sunday, and it definitely warrants sharing in a public forum as I'm sure that more than a few people will be more than slightly amused by this anecdote. It may freak others out, but luckily for you the reader, you are quite well enough removed from the situation to not be totally irked and weirded out and simply enjoy it for the kooky randomness that it is. Note: this does not, however, make it any less demented or any better in my view, as I am more than just slightly annoyed right now.

Anyway, let's go back to a day that I shall dotingly refer to as Sunday. This particular Sunday was not so fluffy though - let me tell you why. So first, I get a random call from the landlord in the morning telling me that I needed to come in to sign some paperwork - something about the guarantor company or something, I didn't really catch it all as I was still sorta groggy from the Irish Car Bombs from the night previous. Ok fine I say, but then the weird part was that he insisted that I come in that day for whatever reason... small red flag goes up in the head.

But hey whatev, I take the afternoon shaking off the beer groggles and getting a few things done before stopping by the landlord's on the way out to meet a friend. I show up at the landlord's, and he grabs for his briefcase and we start going for a walk - now I know that something is definitely up, but might as well hear it now and get it over with.

So first we take care of the guarantor thing over a cup of coffee - apparently the place went bankrupt and they had to sign me over to another place, so no biggie from my perspective... then he drops the bomb.

I didn't totally understand the whole thing at first... basically all I got from his explanation the first time was him asking if I had any plants in the apartment, which I ironically don't since any plant put in my care will inevitably die from poor care. I say ironically, because I then took the time to look up the word that he kept repeating: 栽培. Once I saw the characters, I feintly remembered it meaning cultivation... wait, what? Things start to click - does this have something to do with drugs?? I ask.

And here's where it all comes out - apparently someone wrote a letter and anonymously sent it to the landlord's office basically accusing me of running a hydroponic weed lab out of my apartment - I hope you now get the irony listed above. I of course tell him how ridiculous this is, and offer to let him check the place out on the spot if he likes. What makes this a tad better, albeit slightly awkward, is that I've talked to this guy a bunch of times - during the application process, then he was helping me with my tickets out to Vietnam, and he's even called me when a plot of land opened up that he though my office might be able to use as a parking lot. So basically we're on good terms, and dude was apparently trying to decide what to do and how to approach this letter all week.

So he comes over and finds no weed, and brings a copy of the letter along to give to me. The strangest thing to him was that the letter came directly to his branch, which means that it pretty much has to be someone living in the building or else they wouldn't know which branch of the company to send it to. He recommended I take it to the cops and report it, as chances were that if they sent something to the landlord they'd try the same with the police as well. I did just to be safe, and the landlord guy offered to put his name in there as a witness on my behalf which was appreciated.

What is not appreciated is that now I know that one of my neighbors is apparently psycho and has it out for me for absolutely no reason whatsoever. I've had little more interaction with the neighbors than a "konnichi wa", and haven't been loud or anything, so even racking my brain I can't think of any possible motive anyone here would have to go all vindictive on me. Now my girlfriend is all scared because of this lame-o felk, which pisses me off about as much as the whole situation itself.

Luckily the landlord and the cops are on my side - the cop I was talking to this morning was basically apologizing on behalf of Japanese society for what he referred to as a mentally unbalanced person who shall be ultimately punished by God for his actions... I shit you not, this is what he said - it was great.

Sigh... I know my life is eventful and all, but what ever happened to events with a fun spin to them, like this or this? I can't think of one way to put a good spin on this one - any help?