Monday, July 28, 2008

I seriously need to start reading more Japanese tabloids!

Now I'm getting back to the Japanese climate, sweating together with my fellow salarymen again on the packed train to and from work, feeling like one in the gang again. All is well.

On my way back home from the airport after the trip to Australia I happened to see a headline in one of the weekly Japanese tabloid magazines directed at a male salaryman audience (namely "Spa!") that boldly stated: "Monster supervisors, sharply on the rise - report inside!". Since this appealed to my sense of humour and I recently got a new set of subordinates at work, I bought the magazine thinking that I need to copy the article and hand it out to them so they can classify me according to the article.

But did I make a mistake in thinking that would be the only article of interest! The magazine is great, it also featured an article entitled something like "Ikebukuro - Filth increasing rapidly" (astute readers might remember that this is the area I live in), "Is it true that if you're ugly you have no human rights?" and "Secret work sex dreams of new female employees"! This type of weekly tabloid magazines are very chauvinistic and sensationalistic in their journalistic approach, something which appeals to my sense of humour, if you're looking for subtle intellectual in-depth reporting, you won't find it there, but you'll find plenty of outrageous and shocking news!

Let me give you some examples from the "Ikebukuro - Filth increasing rapidly" article which argues that the sex industry is increasing rapidly in Ikebukuro and hints that it's out of control due to the aging Yakuza in the area who are not effecient enough in taxing and controlling the prostitutes resulting in it going to the street. They also interview a pimp who boldly states that "Ikebukuro has always been a place where people with no money gather, before and now as well" and describes how sexual services are provided in parked vans to cater to this financially challenged crowd who cannot afford the pittance a "love hotel" would cost them.

The "Secret work sex dreams of new female employees" article summarizes a survey that boldly state that 7% of the interviewees dream of forcibly having their boobs copied in the office copy machine and that a shocking 45% would like to have their butt groped in the elevator by their boss. It's slightly shocking to me since that's not really what I thought women dreamed about, but it's written in a magazine so it must be true!

I really need to start reading these magazines more regularly for the comedy!

(Today in the iPod: "Me and my Ding-Dong" by classic EBM group Pankow, ok, the lyrics are pretty puerile but the song is funky and reminds me why EBM was so great in the late '80s and early '90s. Anyone who still remembers Pankow?)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Adventures of a Foreign Salaryman in Tokyo in Sydney

Ok, so formally the title is lying a little bit since I went and just returned from just under a week of vacation down under. All in all, it was a very pleasant trip, containing all of the things I expected out of a vacation to Australia, plenty of Ms. Sunshine, extremely cute Koala bears, kangaroo steaks and cold beers for lunch and a nice, if slightly cold, climate.

But now I'm back in Japan and the heat here is getting pretty intense now, but at least we're soon entering August and the end is getting in sight. On Monday it's back to my old salaryman self slaving away in the office and manouvering through the intricate web of office politics. Well, nothing lasts forever!

Friday, July 18, 2008

I'm outta here to try some new things!

That's it, today I'm outta here to explore new worlds in a country founded by rapists and thieves. Please see the picture for some of the new things I'd like to try - cross cooking at it's best!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's hot and miserable and I need to get out of here!

Ok, I know, I know, I do complain about the weater again and again, but it is really hot and miserable here in Japan now. I sleep in my nice room with the aircon on since I'd just be rolling about in my own sweat otherwise without any sleep (at least I keep it on "dry" which doesn't use that much energy). Every morning I get out of the bedroom to get ready for another exciting life as a high-powered corporate executive I get hit by a heatwave.

Even worse is on the trains and with a significant portion of my fellow salaryman not yet having discovered the invention of deodorant it can be both smelly and sweaty. Nothing I'd recommend.

I need to get out of Japan for a while, but thankfully plans are set in motion and in the very near future I will be able to cool of for a bit! If you're thinking of coming to Japan now, my recommendation is "don't"...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Rape, robbery and violence

Sometimes Ms. Sunshine heads over to my lair pretty late at night since her company sometimes makes her work pretty late. Since the area I live in can be pretty dodgy late at night ,and you have to pass through the drinking area among other things, she usually takes a taxi from the station. When she did this one weekday in last week, the taxi driver pointed out a certain area I pass through on a daily basis as the second most dangerous area in Japan, only out-dangered by Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku. A taxi driver said it, so it must be true!

Do you believe I'm

gangsta now?

On a related note, I just have to share with you a wonderful little essay I found
here (bottom of the page), I've taken the liberty of highlighting my favorite parts for your convenience:

"Kabuki-cho by Aya, Yoko, Miwa, Natsuko, Baihua

Kabuki-cho is an exciting and dangerous place in shinjuku, we’d like to introduce you to this famous area in Shinjuku. First, there are many amusement places and fast food shops. For example, there are karaoke boxes, bars game centers, the Koma Theater, and so on. Also, there are many porno shops, which are dangerous and strange for us. Second, there are many young people. It is especially crowded every Friday night to Sunday night. Also, there are many homosexualities, hostesses, and homeless people. Therefore, we have to be careful! Finally, the atmosphere is mysterious. It creates a dangerous, strange, and modern atmosphere. Therefore, sometimes we be tempted by that atmosphere. In short, it is an adult world, so it isn’t a proper to us. If you want to go to there, you must understand that it has a lot of dangerous things, and it is one of the most dangerous places in Tokyo."

Savor this text and keep their words of wisdom in your head should you ever feel the urge to venture out to Kabuki-cho, you don't want to run into some dangerous homosexualities!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wow, this must be the greatest drama ever!

I am not going to elaborate or describe in detail the culture of Japanese televison and especially all the fuzz surrounding the latest "Drama", which basically is a drama tv-series with a start and an end, based on popular "manga" or original scripts. Normally, this is nothing that concerns me since I just plain don't watch them so they neither bother nor entertain me.

However, one new drama has caught my attention is the drama 魔王 "Maou" (basically means "King of Magic") that has been pushed quite heavily. Apparently it's a Japanese remake of a successful Korean drama that a Japanese channel bought the rights to and remade. I don't know the details of the story, but it seems to be a dark story involving a diabolic lawyer, a well-meaning but sometimes rough cop, murders and tarot cards. That is about as much as I've picked up from the commercials. From the sound of it, it might sound a bit scary and exciting, right?

Well, here's the catch; in the casting, they seemed to rely on the great talent in the "Johnny & Associates" talent agency who has created such well-polished Japanese acts as SMAP, Kinki Kids, Ka-Tun and countless others. The common thread of these acts is that they are very well mannered and they all have a generic "pretty boy" look going for them.

So the main characters; the diabolic lawyer and the rough cop are played by very harmless looking skinny 25 year old guys with fancy haircuts. Seeing one of the play the role of a hard cop is just plain twisted. It's not enough of a fun factor to make me sit through an episode, but still, it's pretty entertaining.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Working with Koreans...

In my current work and from previous jobs, I've sometimes found myself working quite closely with colleagues in the Asian region. Something that can be both interesting and challenging with cultural differences and all that. This post however is my view on working together with Koreans!

Generally, Korea is probably the country most culturally close to Japan and there are a number of similarities as well as some differences. When talking about similarities, Korea is very similar to Japan in terms of relationships between customers, colleagues and women. However, Korea feels more like Japan was twenty years ago with very strict rules. If you are a younger employee, your job is to serve the elders and if you're a woman you are expected to serve the men regardless of age and/or position in the company. The same structure exists in Japan but it is less harshly enforced now in modern Japan.

Also, like Japanese salarymen, the Korean salarymen enjoy drinking *a lot*. If you think that the Japanese sometimes overdo it when you see the drunk salaryman on their way home with the vomits in the street in the morning serving as evidence of a hard night out on the town (but, regardless, they show up at work the next day and keep working), the Korean do the same, but they take the drinking to another level until people are passed out in the corners in the rooms. Still, the next day you are supposed to come to work with a smile, like nothing special happened the night before.

One of my Korean colleagues with whom I am on a friendly basis is usually very opinionated in meetings and doesn't like corporate bullshit, something I share with him so we usually end up on the same side, but the second his boss enters the room he turns into a mild lamb.

Also, every time I've worked with Koreans, the first question you get is "What do you think of the Japanese primeminister visiting the Yasukuni temple?". This is a question with a very obvious "right" and "wrong" answer. But as long as they get the right answer things usually go very smooth from there on. It's almost like some of them enjoy asking the question and when I was asked and responded "well, you know that even if I'm half-Japanese I'm a Swedish citizen and don't really have a strong opinion" I was met with dissapointment that they could not push it further.

But generally, in my limited experience, Koreans and Japanese work together pretty well and have plenty of things to bond over. Drinking is a big one, however, the Japanese generally don't eat the dogs...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Introducing: Dr. Genki

My local supermarket where I go to buy my salaryman groceries has an extremely annoying jingle playing almost everytime I go there. The jingle is a commercial for a line of healthcare products that goes under the name "Dr. Genki" ("Genki" is Japanese for feeling healthy).

The jingle takes the price of annoying jingles, it's an extremely repetitive melody with a femal voice singing "Dr. Genki" over and over again with slighly different tone of voice and intonation. The annoyingness of this by far outclasses other annoying jingles such as the "Bicamera" jingle...

In terms of brand recognition, I just need to hear the first half second to get the name "Dr. Genki" in my head, but I really don't feel like buying the product, more like smashing the sound system...

Friday, July 4, 2008

My very own Reality Show

Once upon when I was still a young pup, living and studying in Sweden I wasted some parts of my youth watching reality tv shows. As an exchange student in rural Japan, I had a brief fling with the show "pink love bus", but otherwise it's not a popular genre here so I haven't seen any and can't really say I miss the genre really either.

However, since I left the craziness of the consultant company behind me to the more rigid corporate stupidity I do miss some of the insanity that went on there and it's a lot more fun when you're on the outside looking in. I also still keep in touch with quite a few of the people there through instant messenger, during working hours and I've realized that I treat the ongoings there very much like my own slightly interactive reality drama. The main characters I follow are The Boy and Luke with a large host of supporting characters and the drama in the ongoing projects serve as different plot lines that I eagerly follow. It's got everything, comedy (especially the antics of El Presidente), action (especially the antics of El Presidente) and tragedy (especially the fallout of the antics of El Presidente), basically anything you could wish from a reality show. Granted, there's not much sex or romance, but you can't have everything.

Like Friday last week, in the middle of a nonsense convoy with the Boy about nothing in particular I suddenly get the message:

"Oh shit, El Presidente is going monkey!"
"He's losing it, saying fuckfuckfuck loudly to himself!"
(imagine the entertainment for me to follow this in realtime)
"now he's screaming to himself, saying that he needs paper"
"it's gone quiet now"

Obviously this raises my interest so to get another perspective on this I message Captain Britain and he can give me another perspective on the "how"s and "why"s of this monkey episodes. They basically act as my cameras into the action and allows me to see the action from different perspectives. The greatest reality drama ever and there is going to be a 360 review (which I have described earlier) which will yield plenty of interesting drama and I will tune in to catch this!

Also, on rare occasions I get the opportunity to guest star as I did pretty recently when I had lunch with El Presidente and Mr. Shachou to discuss possible areas to work together in the future (none I made sure). If they filmed this I promise that it would be a reality tv-show hit!

Happy Male Rape Adventure and lunch boxes!

I've done a few of these posts (here and here) previously, but sometimes I'm still surprised what searchwords has led visitors to my little blog, first surprised and then a bit scared that those search words actually led them to my blog...

The current new favorite is the following search phrase:
Male Rape Adventures
Please, let that sink in for a bit... "Male Rape Adventures". The first scary thought that runs through my mind is that someone is actually googling for this, the first two words I can at least theoretically understand, but then the addition of the "adventure" just make me stunned...

And then, just then I thought I've accepted this and feel ready to move on, the second insight hits me; with this search he came across my blog, so those search words in google can lead people to my blog... Thirdly, the person visited once and then never came back, maybe I should make the site more attractive to this audience? Questions, questions...

Second favorite is this search:
Do Japanese Salaryman Lunch In Office Or Bring From Home
(Mr. Salaryman clears his throat, checks his hair and turns towards the audience with a slightly fake smile)
"Well, indeed, this is a very important and relevant question indeed and I'm glad you came her so I can set the record straight"

(frowns and looks serious)
"There's no clear answer to this question since it depends on many factors, such as personal preference, disposable income, availability of lunch restaurants in office vicinity and whether there's a person at home that makes a bento for the salaryman in question!"

(Dramatid pause)

(Points finger at audience with a serious look)
"If you ask me, as a seasoned veteran and student of this important subject, I'd say that most salarymen in the metropolitan Tokyo area prefer to have their lunch outside the office in a restaurant and not a bento lunch box, but situations do not always allow for this luxury!"

(leans back, smiles a little and gives a wink)
"I hope this has cleared the air a bit and remember that if you have any other questions that has kept you up at night, I'm here to help clear out things like this!"

(turns away, mumbling to himself)
"...of all the stupid questions I've ever heard, doesn't some people have more important things to do than..." (inaudible)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Taking it up a notch

With some organizational changes going on at the moment I've all of a sudden found myself working closer to the sales division manager which only has further highlighted his incompetency in my eyes. So I've stepped up my efforts in my "don't ask I'll tell" policy.

This latest thing happened earlier this week and the scenario is that we were preparing for a meeting with a partner company who distributes some of our products. The product manager had prepared a presentation for it and sent it out to me and the sales manager for feedback. I looked through it and discovered some quite serious errors and misunderstandings about the market that I pointed out to her and after some discussion we changed the questionable items. So far all well and good, no problems really since it was done in good time before the meeting. But nothing in feedback from the sales division manager...

That he provided no feedback and would allow some serious errors about the market situation slip through his check annoyed me immensly since a person of his position needs to have a basic understanding of the market and can't allow things like that to be in a presentation to an external partner.

So this morning I sent an e-mail to him that looked a bit like this:
"I was a bit surprised that you did not provide any feedback on the presentation done by Ms. Product Manager, what is the reason for this?"
(Remember that this is an e-mail to a Japanese person 20 years older than me and higher in rank so this should already humiliate him a bit)

...then the reply came:
"I talked to her before the meeting so I gave my feedback at that time"

...making the trap snap shut and to which I replied with:
"I see, well, the presentation contained a number of serious errors. You need to understand this. I can teach you later"

I've notched up the pressure quite a bit now, but his incompetence is getting to me. Stay tuned. I don't think he's very happy about getting told off by a snotty young foreigner, but since I am right I am not particularly worried.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I've got turtles in my pond!, that is not an interesting new metaphor for any interesting veneral disease I'm sorry to say. This is more one of those boring everyday things. Like those boring nonsense columns someone writes about how nice spring is and how wonderful it is when the flowers blossom.

You see, in my great neighborhood, when I walk the pleasant "garden road" up to the station to get in in those cattle trains that transports us poor salarymen in the morning to our place of mindless work, I pass by a little man made pond. It got fish in it and everything, but I recently noticed that a family of turtles also seemed to live there. I can't believe that the caretakers of that area actually planted turtles in a very small pond, so it must've been something comparable to the alligators I've heard people in New York keep as pets and then flush down the toilet. Someone must've left them there and they've survived through eating the smaller fish swimming around in the pond.

That was all, nothing especially funny or any major point to this, feel free to carry on with what you were doing.
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