Thursday, December 31, 2009

It's the year of the Tiger coming, get ready for it

As we are now finally closing in on the last gasping hours of the glorious year of the cow 2009 and will soon enter the glorious year of the tiger 2010, I think it's about time to do my traditional ranking and summary of the year. In terms of the blog, I guess 2009 was the year that it all of a sudden started taking off a bit and even though it's still a very small and insignificant page on the Internet, the number of daily visitors more than doubled from less than ~50 visitors per day to about ~100 per day by the end of the year. Hopefully it can get a further push in 2010 as well.

All in all,2009 certainly was a pretty eventful years for yours truly on many fronts, but here comes some highlights of the year and the traditional awards:

Biggest Event of 2009 is definitely the wedding with Ms. Sunshine that took place during the year, something that is laid out much more in detail in my "getting married in Japan series" which I probably should finish up soon...

Most Intense Family Gathering in Japan in 2009 was the influx of family that either came to stay at the Salaryman-Sunshine lair in conjunction with the wedding and the family and friends that for some reason had happened to book hotels in the middle of one of the less than family friendly areas in Ikebukuro... A lot of fun, but also a lot to take care of and preventing me from walking around naked in the apartment for several weeks...

Music That Came Out Of Nowhere And Knocked Me Out 2009 was the Swedish group Kite but besides from that 2009 was a pretty poor year musically as far as I'm concerned, with the old men in the Mobile Homes showing the strongest and most unexpected comeback...

Biggest Purchase 2009 was the house that the Salaryman-Sunshine family bought in 2009 and rest assured that you will hear more about it in my next upcoming hit series "buying a house in Japan" here on the blog when I get around to it.

Best toy of 2009 was without doubt the great God-Jesus , I can agree that practically the toy wasn't launched this year, but due to the lack of competition it still wins the award of best toy 2009!

Wishing all my readers a very Happy New Year and hope to see you around here again in the glorious year of the Tiger 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Looking deeply into condoms in Japan

As we are now reaching those slightly stale and awkward days between Christmas and New Year's when you don't really know what to do with all that celebratory atmosphere you built up to for Christmas and hope to maintain the momentum until the New Year's eve, I can't really be bothered to maintain my regular sharp analysis of Japan current affairs and politics.

So, instead I thought I should let you all readers know of the wonders of the Japanese condom market and one particular player with significant share; Okamoto Condoms and their animal condom series (what? I don't have any real source for it but I googled it and someone somewhere on the Internet said it so it's good enough for me!). I'm not going to get into the whole Japanese condom sizes vs. those regularly sold in the western markets, but I think it's pretty uncontroversial to say that the standard Japanese sizes are a bit smaller than the specs of those targeted for the western markets.

But, as in any market, there are niches to fill for those who do not fit into the standard norm and Okamoto does not shy away from this. For those with larger appendixes requiring larger condoms, they have the "Super Big Boy" condom (see the picture below). Note how the key visual to illustrate this is a horse...

I've seen the above brand around for quite a long time, but earlier today by chance I happened to see their newest addition to the family...The "Mega Big Boy"! For those for whom not even the Super Big Boy is enough and if the name isn't enough they have chose to use an image of an elephant as the key visual...

But if you have been blessed with a slightly smaller and perhaps more convenient size of penis where even the standard sizes prove to be a bit too large, what do you do then? Fear not, Okamoto has thought of you too and launched the "Smart Boy" just for you and the key visual is an... ... ... eagle...?

I can see the connection between Horse - Large penis and Elephant - Really Large PENIS but I fail to see the connection between an eagle and a smaller penis and I'm still trying to figure out what's smart about having a small penis?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm not sure this really makes sense...?

Now in the downtime between Christmas and New Year's I thought I could bring up a funny sign that I came across in a supermarket a few days ago. The sign is the one you see in the picture and was put up in the bathroom of a supermarket I for some odd reason was frequenting.

The sign says "For crime prevention purposes, the staff will also use these toilets and we ask for your cooperation". Now, I'm not sure if it's only me, but I fail to see how it would help against crime that their cashiers take a dump in the toilet with the regular customers? Maybe they do it with an open door or something?

I kinda felt a bit disappointed that I didn't see any of the staff in the bathroom, but on the other hand no crimes occurred either during this time so maybe there just wasn't any need?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Well, Merry Christmas to you all!

Since I come from Sweden where we celebrate Christmas as the main event on the 24th and not on the 25th; Christmas Day is more a dull slow day and especially boring since I have memories of having to go to church on that day (the only time of the year we actually went because of Grandma).

But, just to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, happy new year wishes will come later!

No stupid "Season's Greetings", "Holiday Wishes" or stupid thing, we're talking raw hardcore uncensored Christmas here with Santa, nativity scenes and all that stuff. Stuff yourselves full with that Christmas cake!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How to get two bottles of champagne on the honeymoon - A step by step guide

Now with Christmas drawing close and this being clearly seen in a radical drop in visitors down to almost half of what is usual on a regular weekday, I thought I could relax a bit and let my hair out. Everyone outside of Japan is probably celebrating Christmas now anyway and the only one who can muster up leaving a comment is the faithful Penguine, but his usual wit doesn't cut as sharp as it used to.

With that said, I thought I could return back to a side-track of my "Getting Married in Japan" series and a little trick from the honeymoon I could share with you.

How to get two bottles of champagne on your honeymoon:

  • Book a tour through a Japanese travel agency to a place often frequented by Japanese tourists (e.g. Hawaii )

  • Have one or more names that are vaguely Japanese but leaves some room for ambiguity

  • Make sure that the hotel gives a complimentary bottle of champagne for honeymooners

  • Get one bottle with a congratulatory message in Japanese – drink bottle

  • Next day, get another bottle with a congratulatory message, in English this time – drink bottle

  • When bottles has been drunk, be sure to tell every hotel staff you meet that could be working with the catering that you are a Japanese-English bilingual couple and enjoy the expression when you hit someone who gets a little white in the face and laughs nervously

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Keisei Panda revealed...

Ok, first, take a look at this picture and think about what it is you see going on.

The picture was an actual part of an advertisement for the new Keisei Skyliner train that will connect the Ueno station to the Narita airport within 30 minutes and some form of guided tours were offered in conjunction with this. But I'm not sure if it's only my mind that did not see this as a pleasant sightseeing tour. This is what I thought the picture showed:

I also particularly like the disclaimer at the bottom stating that the actual tour will differ from the picture, but hey, you can never be too ensured against complaints!

In case the text is hard to read in the picture is hard to read; to me it looks like the Panda and his latest ho are caught by the Panda police after a gruesome rape-murder in the train and while they are kept at gun-point the Panda forensics are taking the pictures of the scene... This is what you thought too, right?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Can we finish this up?"

Recent days has been a flurry of activity in head office, especially when concerning Japan. Most of us in the Japan team has been taken completely by surprise in this sudden interest in Japan and what we are doing here. The whole organization has been quite surprised until I figured out the real reason...

Basically all of Europe is going on the Christmas vacation from the end of the week... Us poor sods in Japan are still working and will keep working next week as well, so we thought that some relatively "urgent" things would wait for a few days, but this was not to be...Unfortunately there's not much point or punchline to this point more than to consider that not all countries or regions are working on the same clock...

Here in Japan, next week is just a regular week for us to slave away before the very very important new year's holiday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"That's right!"

On occassions I have to work with some of my corporate colleagues from the Hong Kong office, generally they're pretty nice people and nothing I have any big problems with, but some of the have a habit of behaving very "professional". With this I mean throwing a lot of jargon around and generally acting like a real businessman (the female colleagues never really made me annoyed because of that).

Last week I had two visitors from the Hong Kong office that had some business to do with the Japanese business so I took them under my wings during their stay. Both were Hong Kong born Chinese and the male colleage was a pretty nice guy but extremely businessmanish throwing lots of meaningless business jargon around when he had the chance (something which is bound to annoy me to some degree).

But he had this funny habit of very confidently stating "that's right!" and then firing off a confident smile. However, I think he had a habit of overdoing this, let me give you a few examples:

Salaryman: So you believe that competitor B might try to get into the Asian market?
Businessman: That's right!
Salaryman: I'm not sure in doing this will yield the return we're looking for so I think we should wait with this.
Businessman: That's right!

In the above examples I believe the statements were not completely out of place, but he also had a habit of placing this at times when perhaps other words and/or phrases would have been more suitable:

Salaryman: If you don't like raw sea urchin, maybe you shouldn't eat that.
Businessman: (looking at said sea urchin skeptically) That's right!
Salaryman: I think we're probably too tired now to go through this presentation so we'll wrap this up for today.
Businessman: (looking completely exhausted before regaining compusure briefly) That's right!

I thought this was pretty entertaining so I might start using this myself!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Go powder your nose

One thing that has struck me, as an office worker in Japan now for many years, is the tendency among my female colleagues to almost always go to the bathroom before they leave the office. That is, they pack their stuff in their little bags, they say "see you tomorrow" and then move out of the physical office, but unlike me who usually want to get out of the building as soon as possible, they make a pit-stop in the bathroom.

The big question that I have here is whether this is something Japan specific or something that can be considered a world-wide issue among females? If I feel the need to go relieve myself before going home for the day, I usually go to the bathroom before I pack my stuff up and leave the office. Ok, I can understand that some females might have stuff in the little bag they might feel the need to utilize in the bathroom, but they could just bring the bag back and forth, especially now in winter when it must be cumbersome with the jackets? I don't know the number of times I run into female colleagues that I thought left the office a long time ago by the elevators, since they obviously made a prolonged pit-stop at the ladies room... But is this a cultural issue or a gender issue?

On a similar toilet related note, I remember how I a few years back was traveling with a female Japanese peon, visiting customers and doing general work stuff, during the course of the day she went to the bathroom several times, but I never really had the need. Towards the end of the day and her last visit for the working day she looked at me in awe and said "wow, you never need to go to the bathroom, do you?". I never really understood what was so impressive about that, if anything it's probably unhealthy...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All hail King Jim!

In the office environment, there are a number of machines and tools that exist to make our job more efficient. Obviously the sophisticated ones such as computers, printers, scanners etc. but also the smaller one such as the paper cutter, shredder and binding machine, and not to forget the tiny things such as staplers, clips and other standard office fare. But I have a favorite machine; the "King Jim Tepra Label Maker"! This amazing device, which you can see in the picture is a pretty sophisticated piece of machinery with a full keyboard, can handle both full Chinese characters, and roman letters in addition to the Japanese alphabets. In all honesty, I have yet to mastered one third of all the options available on this device, but it is pretty advanced.

What it does? Well, it print labels. I type in "Don’t touch" and press print and a label saying "Don’t touch" comes out. The label size can also be changed in case you want to print out smaller or bigger labels for those special occasions, as well as a rich selection of colors.

I don't use it as often as I want, but when I do actually have a need to make a label, it's pure labeling joy! I remember the primitive device mom had at home when we were kids with only an alphabet dial and a printing trigger and I feel so grateful that humanity has advanced so far in so short time! If only they weren't so expensive I would buy one for the home too...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Commuter Terrorists - Matrix Style?

Just saw this commercial for a "Pachinko" game and found it quite amusing and also quite realistic portrait on how some people react when a seat opens up in the train during the morning rush...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Can I have a "Gundam" please?

With Christmas fast approaching, it's now time to get the Christmas presents in order. All the stuff for the family back home has been taken care of, but the other day me and Mrs. Sunshine were out shopping for presents for her niece and nephew. Christmas presents doesn't really carry the same level of importance here in Japan as in the Western world (Japanese kids get money at new year's instead) but it's still normal that something is given.

As we were looking around in the Toy's R'us store, looking for stuff to get her 12 year old nephew and Mrs. Sunshine pulling towards the lego, with me convincing her that big mean looking giant robot models with huge swords and guns are more suitable for a 12 year old Japanese kid. We ended up in front of a huge selection of models from the popular Gundam anime and giving a call to her brother to hear what we would think is suitable. To my satisfaction in my estimation on what toys a 12 year old kinda wants, he tells us that the nephew are collecting the models in the series we were standing in front of. Having no idea on what's what of the over 100 different type of models, we asked him if he had any recommendation on which one to buy; "Get one of the Gundam robot suits, he likes those". For a few seconds me and Mrs. Sunshine are completely silent, staring at the huge selection of models in front of us, all saying "Gundam" at some place having no idea which one of these "Gundam" figures actually were "Gundam"...

A few minutes later and one Internet search for a certain model, he could give us a detailed name so we could pick a model that apparently should be a "Gundam". When it comes to the dorky Japanese stuff, I'm lost... I feel much more at home with Superman, Spider-man and all those guys than the Japanese robots...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Commuter Terrorists – The Hanger

I sometimes realize how bad I am at actually following up on previous promised posts, but since "the commuter terrorist" series I started back in September deserves to be followed up, here comes the promised description of "The Hanger" and the difficulties that this entity can cause on his fellow travelers. Since I myself have not yet figured out how to properly deal with these people I would appreciate any advice on the subject that I can try out the next opportunity (which will come far far too soon, I'm sure).

Imagine how you enter a particularly crowded train, all seats are taken and there are people lined up in front of the seats, but you see an opening in squeezing yourself in in the middle of the lane. Ending up in the area by the door is commuting torture in a crowded train, not only will you end up with foreign limbs all over the place, the reek of sweat, too strong perfume and warm uncomfortable humidity, no, you will also have to move and rearrange yourself each time the train stops at a station letting people on and off. So, entering the middle of the train is usually a pretty wise strategy even if it means that you will have to use some force and try to manage one or two "Blockers" on the way.

"The Hanger" starts his (I’ve never encountered a female hanger) act as you are standing right behind him (and he’s standing in front of the seat), things are usually pretty tight, but there is usually some room to twist the body a little so you don’t have to stand in constant full-body-to-body contact. It is not an extremely comfortable position, but it's better than standing by the doors and you have a good position to move up when someone in the corridor get off the train. Then the Hanger makes your life unpleasant, as you are standing there in peace zoning out, trying to just endure until things get better or you get off, and all of a sudden you notice how someone's hair is getting in your eyes and mouth. That is the Hanger. The Hanger doesn’t really care that it's crowded and you're standing right behind him, he decides to make his life more comfortable by holding on to the "hand ring handle" (hey, you tell me what they’re really called!) This position might make him feel very relaxed in the crowded train, but that his hair keeps getting in the face of the person behind him doesn't bother him.

I always thought that was a bit odd since I would be uncomfortable knowing that my hair is going all over another persons face. Usually this person is also rocking a little back and forth as well so it comes in waves hair in face – away – hair in face – away. I find this extremely uncomfortable and have difficulties dealing with this, things I have tried is moving and squirming about a bit everytime, but that usually causes more problems to the surrounding people than the Hanger who doesn’t care. An option I have seriously considered is giving in to the train rage and give the Hanger a mild headbutt to alert him to the error of his ways, but that could turn unpleasant...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My boom!

One of the amusing things with the Japanese language is how small phrases become popular, ok, fashion words and phrases exist in any language I believe, but the funny thing in Japan is how they often take some words in English and string them together in new innovative ways which might or might not end up making any sense.

But hey, most of the time it's more amusing than anything and nothing to get excited about. One recent such popular phrase is "my boom" (マイブーム・mai buum) and that phrase is used to express some recent trend, food or basically anything that you have gotten into lately. It could be anything from Tom of Finland Art, C64 retro gaming, reading up on the life of Dennis Nielsen or any other perfectly normal interest.

My recent "My boom" is this 貝入りラー油 which is basically Chinese Chili oil, but not only the oil, it also includes plenty of chopped garlic, red peppers and stuff mixed together with the chili oil. If you like spicy stuff and garlic, this stuff is amazing. There are hardly anything that it doesn't go with and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman, who cannot really handle too spicy food, has now given up when I mention "you know what would go really great with this?" and just sighs as I got get my chili oil stuff. Put it on some plain rice and it'll make it sparkle. Check it out here, you can even get my favorite stuff outside of Asia, let it boom all over the place!

(The picture was taken just a few days before God-Jesus was arrested on the genocide charges and I have put my best lawyers at work getting him out and back home)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A war of cultures – Let them eat cake

As we have entered into December and we are now getting closer to Christmas and getting a little into the Christmas atmosphere; Japanese style, more based on tacky over the top illuminations than traditional Christmas markets or anything authentically Christmassy, in the eyes of Eurotrash such as me. But still, it's starting to feel like Christmas and all the presents to the family back home has now been sent (including the santa rapist/wrestler/robber mask; “don't ever wear that stupid mask again it scares the hell out of me” as Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman told me when I was wearing it just for comfort as I was walking around the home minding my own business).

As we were walking in a subway station and taking the escalator to the surface the other day, we notice the advertisements on the walls showing the greatest and latest “Christmas cakes” that you needed to reserve at the local fancy department store to be guaranteed one in time for Christmas. It should be mentioned that what goes as “Christmas cakes” locally here in Japan usually is nothing more than regular cakes that would work just as well for a birthday. Perhaps, and only perhaps a small edible santa might be included somewhere on the cake. As we pass them Mrs. Sunshine blurts out “oh, these Christmas cakes look so nice, I home mom gets one just like that for our Christmas dinner” and for a brief moment I am ready to go to cultural war again since those cakes have nothing to do with Christmas in my Swedish eyes...

But then, in a rare moment of clarity, I realize that in terms of actual tastiness, the Christmas cakes here taste a lot better than most of the stuff that goes as “traditional Christmas food” in Sweden and I lay down my arms and reply “you know, this is really a Japanese custom and nothing that is Christmas related to me, but sure, let's have lots of cake”. Peace reigns supreme.

Let them eat cake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cabaret Club Hostess Vs. Ginza Snack Mama?

In my little company there are two women who are known to be pretty feminine in the way they dress and the way they behave. One of them tries to use her feminity more aggressively towards the men, doing the pouting lips and trying to look cute when she needs some help or favor from somebody.

The other woman does not do it like that and always tries to behave professionally and not make any difference in behaviour whether the talking partner is a man or a woman. Although I have at times worked more or less close with both of these women I haven't really thought of it so much, but basically just seen that they have chosen different approaches.

But recently I heard from a member of the sales team that some of the apparently had putten some thought into this and played the game "what if..." and the case here was "what if woman A and woman B worked in the "mizushoubai" ("watertrade" i.e. nightlife) woman A would be working in a low grade Cabaret Club in Nishi-Kawaguchi, and woman B would be a Mama-san in a high class "snack bar" establishment".
This gets a bit difficult to explain for those not so informed in how these clubs work, but let's just say that Nishi-Kawaguchi is a more seedy area with girls with too much makeup laughing too loud while a Ginza snack bar is a pretty high class establishment that cater to politicians, doctors and people like that and that the Mama-san of such a place is very elegant.

I hadn't heard of this comparison before, but I could perfectly picture this scenario...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I suspected as much...

Found this little piece of information in the form of a picture earlier and I must say that I should have known as much...

When I listed the 3 worst image characters of Japan earlier, I suspected that there was more maliciousness to these characters than I could uncover...

Friday, December 4, 2009

How about this; instead of doing it at home, maybe you should just try and stop?

Since a while ago, probably at least a year, the Tokyo Metropolitan subway has been running a poster campaign to try and improve the manners of the users of the subway. Nothing particularly wrong with the general idea since some of my fellow travellers can be more than a little annoying on occasion.

The images and the concept itself is really dorky and I know that it has been made fun of plenty among foreign bloggers here in Tokyo and that many Japanese people find it ridicilous. And it's hard to disagree, the posters are ridicilous and beg to be made fun of. But on the other hand, as a professional in the marketing communications business, I must say that I believe that they most likely have been very successful in achieving what they are meant to do; they do make people think of their behaviour and make people aware that certain activities are not appreciated by fellow travellers. In any case, you can take a look here and make up your own mind.

But I have the feeling that they are now starting to run out of inspiration, but are reluctant to kill the campaign just yet and want to milk the attention these posters get, just a little bit more. The latest one you can see here above; it portraits something that looks like a salaryman completely drunk, lost one shoe and lying on the dirty floor of the subway platform with empty cans surrounding him and even if the picture does not contain it, I'm sure there's plenty of vomit everywhere as well. And then the text says "Please do it at home".

My immediate reaction is that this is not a behaviour that is especially good for anyone in the long run and that perhaps this guy should try to cut down a little and not do this in the subway stations, at his own home or any other location? Shoes are not cheap either.

I can see how this concept can be taken to even further heights adding some on the theme of "don't do this at all, anywhere, ever" instead and some concept that could be used are of course smoking meth when you are a famous celebrity and got everything to lose, not calling the ambulance when that nude hooker you were partying with has OD:ed, gassing the subway with sarin gas, rape-murder English teachers and then run from the police, vote for the LDP or whatever you can imagine. Eidan - the ball is on your side now, run with it!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

You think this might be in bad taste...?

If you're living in Japan, and probably even if you're not living in Japan, but have an interest in Japanese current affairs, I think it would be hard to have missed the huge media event that the Japanese guy who murdered an British English teacher and recently got caught generated.

He managed to stay on the run for a little over two years and also had extensive plastic surgery done to change his appearance. Following his arrest the media attention has still been pretty intense with news reporting on his refusal to eat or give any statements to the police regarding the murder. The whole plastic surgery deal added a layer of surrealism to the case which made it reach even regular newspapers back in Sweden. Today, in the morning, just as I had gotten out of the bed with Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman and turned the TV on to the morning news, they reported that the police had now formally charged him with the murder and also rape of the poor victim.

As we were struggling to wake up and I was pouring myself a cup of coffee and I watched the news, not having heard anything about a rape before, I casually commented to Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman as I was sipping my coffee "yeah, that makes sense that he raped her, good for him since he was gonna kill her anyway. If you absolutely have to kill someone it makes perfect sense that you squeeze in the crime of a rape while you're at it since it's lower on the punishment scale, I hope he stole the money in the wallet too". To my surprise this little sleepy morning comment from me on current events proved to be pretty controversial in the household until I managed to convince Mrs. Sunshine that this brought him one step closer to the gallows....

Later on in the day I discussed my logic with a friend and without missing a beat he nodded and added "for sure, if I was going to end up killing someone, I'd probably keep that person locked up in my basement for a few months and torture him or her, if you're gonna do that kinda thing you can at least make it last, make the most of it, you know?".

Disclaimer: The above is a post made in black humour regarding a highly publicized media event in Japan. In no way does Mr. Salaryman actually support violent and/or sexual assaults on any person and believes that such criminals should be punished to the full extent of the law.

The views expressed here by Mr. Salaryman does not represent the views of Mr. Salaryman as a real person.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Can I... eh... have one of those?

Yesterday our company was part of organizing an event with an invited speaker with rich experience in the Japanese healthcare market for an audience of mostly European executives in the business and quite a few Swedish people, all on a study trip to Japan where this event was one of the stops.

As I was sitting in the back in the meeting room close to the coffee machine, half listening to the lecturer drone on (ok, I might be a bit unfair, he wasn't that bad but it was early in the morning) and one in the audience got up and placed himself by the coffee machine, got a cup and then reached in his pocket and picked up a box of snus, the famous brown gold of nicotine I have been talking about earlier and I recently quit. Seeing this, I quickly whispered to get his attention "...hey..." not getting any response "hey", still no attention, so I turn to the whisper scream "hey!" and finally gets his attention and a few heads in turning in front of. He looks a bit startled but I point at the box and whisper "hey... yeah... you don't think I, uh, could have one of those, do you?". Knowing a fellow snuser, he smiles and gives me one.

An hour and a half later the lecture and discussion is over and people are standing around mingling, exchanging cards and doing some small talk, I again approach the guy and the following exchange takes place in Swedish:

Salaryman: Hey, you don't think I could have one more or so of those goodies?
Snuser: Sure, of course!
Salaryman: (Licking my lips and rocking back and forth as he reaches in his pocket)
Snuser: (pulls out a cardholder, showing he's some CEO of something) Here's my card
Salaryman: (Takes the card quickly and impatiently hands him my card) Yeah, fine, here's mine...
Snuser: This was a great event you made here!
Salaryman: (impatiently) yeahyeahyeahrightrightright
Snuser: I wish there was more things like this arranged
Salaryman: suresuresure, yeah, uh, about that snus?
Snuser: (slightly off guard) Oh, yes, of course (reaching into his pocket and actually pulling out the box)
Snuser: By the way, how long have you worked in Japan
Salaryman: (pulling back my claw I had started reaching out with) 8years!
Snuser: (opens the box) Why don't you take a few!
Salaryman: (takes a couple) Thanks, ok, catch you later (runs off to talk to one of the people I actually needed to talk to)

I still maintain that I quit pretty cleanly, but those brown pouches of nicotine can really lighten up a boring dull sleepy morning!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm average at it?

Seen today on a CV submitted to me today, language and language abilities listed:

German - Native speaker
English - Very Good
French - Very Good
Italian - Average

This "Average" made me very confused.

If I, for instance, look into my Swahili speaking abilities I think that on comparison basis with the average person in the world, my non existent Swahili skills would place me slightly below average. But if compared against the average Democratic Republic of Kongolit, I think that I would end up far, far below average. Something to ponder indeed.
Perhaps I have "average" skills in many many more languages than I thought?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Married in Japan Part 7 - The Toastmaster...

From my earlier posts, I think you can see that considerable planning needs to go into a wedding here in Japan . But not only is the preparation phase dealt with very carefully, it is also of high importance that the actual event goes smoothly. I will deal with the program and events for the wedding reception and the planning of that more in detail in an upcoming post since there are quite a few amusing stories in that as well.

But this time, I thought I should discuss the role and responsibilities of the toastmaster during a Japanese wedding reception. Well, in terms of role, there is basically no big difference compared to a toastmaster at a European wedding reception; they are the ones making sure that the speeches and events fit in well in the program, and are in charge of making sure that things go somewhat according to plan.

For a Swedish wedding, this is not an extreme challenge since time does not need to be so strictly managed and there is a lot less risk of offending anyone by mispronouncing the name or having the order mixed up and making relative X hold his/hers speech before the much more important relative Y. As you can understand, it’s much stricter in Japan …

This area was probably the one where me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman had the most arguments (thinking about it, this was basically the only area of friction) since she was very concerned about things going correctly according to Japanese customs so none of her more traditional and conservative relatives would be insulted, while I wanted to have it in a relaxed and personal way. The difficulties we had was in finding a middle ground in this and also how to solve the language problem since the guests would be a mixed bunch of Japanese and English speakers with quite a few not bilingual, requiring either a bilingual toastmaster or a translator to one of the languages.

Most people in Japan probably use a professional toastmaster/MC since that gives some assurance on things being managed professionally and with a minimum of mistakes. The toastmaster/MC would then be exclusively committed to that role and would not participate in the overall dinner and merriment. I was very resistant to the idea of having a professional toastmaster and especially the one bilingual American MC they had available annoyed me with that "HEY EVERYONE LET’S HAVE A GREAT WEDDING, MY NAME IS HARRY" faux-foreign style that some of you fellow foreigners who have lived in Japan might understand (it’s foreign, but packaged in a way that makes Japanese more comfortable with it, but makes the non-Japanese crowd feel awkward). Not to mention that it would cost a significant amount of money (around $2,000 USD…).

Since things were reaching the desperate stage and we needed to decide how to deal with this. After asking around among some of my bilingual friends here who I thought might be up to the task, but considering that these friends live in Japan and know how a wedding here works they also knew what kind of pressure this would mean, and as a result; they politely declined (just enjoying the party probably was a lot more appealing to them).

In the end, I turned to my good old friend Mr. Politician who was coming for the wedding, all the way from Sweden, and used to public speaking. In the normal Swedish way he accepted the task with honor, mentioning who he had been the toastmaster at some weddings in Sweden previously and was very honored to be asked and gladly accepted... I believe that he probably thought it would be a fun and relaxed task...

However, after waiting a few weeks after having him accept the task and making sure that it would be too late for him to turn back on his promise, I started to gradually reveal the extent of the task before him...

I am not sure on how he reacted to the stuff we mailed to him in advance to allow him to prepare for the task at hand; the time schedule charts in excel, down to individual minutes, and long strings of text that it was VERY IMPORTANT that he read exactly as they were at exactly the right time. To solve the issue of translator, with a non Japanese speaking toastmaster, we simply assigned that to The Boy, who I perceive as a cross between my son and an immigrant worker I can abuse. He only needed to follow the toastmasters lead, so the work was considerably lighter.

One of the first things I did after my friend arrived in Japan was to take him to the wedding planner for a detailed review of the activities and his tasks during the reception together with the wedding planner. During the two hour long meeting where all details and events were discussed, my friends face got gradually whiter and whiter as the extent and responsibility of his task sank in, with a tight time schedule to manage, Japanese names to remember and things he needed to take care in, to not risk offending any conservative Japanese family member.

With the risk of ending this post with a little anti-climax, in the end, he passed it with flying colors and managed to keep a nice balance between Japanese time keeping and Swedish informality, making both sides of the family very happy with the event. But at the end, he looked completely exhausted and mentioned to us that "this isn't like a Swedish wedding at all, now I know how it must feel to be the MC of a royal wedding in Sweden...".

So yeah, if someone asks you to play toastmaster at a Japanese wedding, consider it very carefully before you accept...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

...someone's going to have a great Christmas...

Ok, sometimes I do miss the "genuine" Christmas atmosphere of the old country with the Christmas markets, cold, snow and cosy darkness...

But then I remember the cold, the snow and the depressing darkness and when weighed against such wonderful Christmas accessories available here in Japan, such as the ones in the picture; Christmas robber/wrestler/rapist mask and singing hand puppet, Japan isn't too bad and some friends and family in the old country will be able to share in this Japanese Christmas joy.

But no, since my bro got the Raindeer mask last year, the Santa won't go to him...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Treat them well and you can reap magical rewards, but anger them...

Earlier today we had an e-mail and Internet blackout for a few hours, which of course can cause almost panic-like uproar in an office environment. The "I like to wash my hands before I take a dump" IT guy was running around like crazy and even though he pretended to be stressed, I suspect that he basked in the attention he was getting since people were calling his name and wanted to know why it wasn't working and wanted him to fix it. Some people in my vicinity even chewed him out for not fixing it, even though the problem was on the site of our Asian IT overlords in Singapore and completely out of his control.

At 16:34 the mail started working again and I found two mails of particular interest when I finally got it working again, the first one was sent out at 14:35 Japan time and stated "The Internet and E-mail seems to be down, but we are working on restoring the connection as soon as we can and will let you know as soon as things are working again".

The second mail of interest was sent out at 15:52 Japan time and stated "The Internet and E-mail function has now been restored, we apologize for the interruption". Those IT guys seem to think that they can get away with anything...

I also thought that I should elaborate a little on my view on the IT guys. Basically, I see them as the leprechauns or house gnomes of the office. Funny to look at and entertaining in small doses, but hardly something you want to spend any longer time with. If you treat them well, they can show you incredible wealth and benefits, but anger them and you have to suffer their mischief, just like the people of old used to think of these creatures.

I'm currently pretty friendly with them which results in me getting some nice benefits snuck to me before other people, and any computer problem I have is usually fixed quickly as long as I pretend to not notice the BO and the IT guy laughing at all the wrong places and at very non-funny jokes. But I have also seen the people who have angered them and how, all of a sudden, busy they can be with other stuff if it's convenient leaving you hanging for hours and then simply saying "I dunno what the problem is, you have to wait"...

Treat them well and they are harmless, but do not anger them...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We're happy and energetic!!

Just a little while earlier, our company executed a survey on a local Japan level towards all of the employees on the theme, "what do we need to do to become the number one company" and true to form the "number one" was not limited to our particular business, just generally best company *ever*. The survey consisted of some pretty dull open ended questions.

Earlier in the week we received an analysis and compilation of the results of the survey. The answers had been grouped into different categories and ranked. To my disbelief I noticed that "to be a company that deliver results" had received 4 votes out of our approximately 200 employees here in Japan and was in the bottom of the ranking, by far overpowered by such important things as "being full of energetic and happy employees" and "being able to trust other employees".

Sometimes I just wish I was one of them and wouldn't get so annoyed by things like this...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Yes, another men's room story

Seen today in the office shared men's room (where an alarmingly high percentage of my posts seem to play out):

Our IT-guy, true to form of all IT people I have ever known, is a little greasy, has a vague hint of BO and laughs at all the wrong things but is, when all is said and done, a nice harmless guy who mostly manages to stay away from the insanity on the sales and marketing front. As I was walking into the men's room to ease my bladder (without farting) I see the IT guy washing his hands very carefully and thoroughly by the sink, and after drying his hands in the horribly inefficient blow-dryer he turns around and walks decisively into one of the toilet booths…

The question that comes into my mind is how dirty must you be if you feel the need to wash your hands before you go take a dump?

Monday, November 23, 2009

It's not you, it's me

At the moment, I am a relatively free man inside the corporation. I have been relieved of most of my peons and now basically have only one and he is being fired in slow motion. For me, this is more comfortable because I don't have to consider other people as much and I see no value in itself to sit on top of a big pyramid in the organization chart since my work now is best done if I have complete oversight and control myself.

I do however interact a lot with most departments in the company, both as support but also sometimes in a mild steering way (i.e. I don’t boss them around aggressively, but I do have some control over the direction). This works pretty well most of the time and I have good relations with the people. However, recently I have been working more closely with the finance department, something that I find pretty uninteresting, but there is stuff that I need to make sure is done correctly. The finance manager is a nice guy, but not very decisive and since a few weeks ago I started notice how one of his peons was starting to try to attach herself to me in terms of work. She started asking me questions directly on what to do and started reporting stuff to me first, bypassing her boss.

This is the version of infidelity inside the corporation and I can't pretend that I was completely innocent myself, I did play along to some extent. Nothing too serious though, but I had her do some work for me without me asking her boss, but no large important things, just some small menial tedious work I didn't wanna do myself and she volunteered. So maybe we "fooled around a bit" in boss - subordinate way, but I'm now worried that I might have created expectations in her that I can't meet. So recently I have been trying to cool things down, always refer her to her boss and not have her do work for me, however boring it might be, but I am not sure that the signals have gone through.

Maybe I should sit down and have a talk with her and do the “look, it’s not you, it’s me, you do great work. Sure it was great when you helped me and did that boring and tedious work for me, but I just can’t see another peon in my life right now, I have too much stuff to do on my own. Besides, your boss is a nice guy, what would he do without you?”.

Corporate life is difficult...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Mummies, mass murder and pseudo-science! Top 3 Cults of Japan!

Since my previous list of top worst image characters of Japan proved to be such a roaring success I thought I should provide you all with another ranking of a very similar subject: cults.

If you start looking I’m sure there’s plenty of freaky cults out there and please let me know if there’s one out there that you think could provide me with some entertainment and maybe be a candidate for an updated list at some point. The criteria I have used here is to have a cult that for one reason or another has made an impact on the mainstream news.

No. 3 Aleph – Aum Reloaded

To have Aum Shinrikyo on the list is a no brainer I think, but this once evil and dangerous cult has now degenerated into something more pathetic. After the horrible subway sarin gas attack and the subsequent dismantling of the cult, spiced up with good 'ol guru Shoko receiving the death penalty as he's gone completely over the edge flinging his feces around him as he talks jibberish naked in his cell (yeah, he's gone from dangerously insane to outright loon-crazy) the cult has been struggling. However, the cult did not completely die after the incident, although it obviously lost members and financial assets pretty radically. What makes this amusing is how some PR genius in the cult realized that “hey guys, maybe the name “Aum” has too much negativity now, let’s change the name” and the cult officially stated that the sarine attacks had been misguided and disowned former guru Shoko Asahara (but yeah, basically only the mass murder of innocent people, otherwise they still think he’s an all right dude) and changed the name to Aleph. And yeah, for some reason this great PR coupe didn’t create the boom that they expected, but I’m sure they’ll be back in the media later on!

No 2. Life Space – Return of the (Dead) Mummy

This cult was relatively benign, at least compared to Aum/Aleph and without having studied the details of their teachings, I believe that they originated from Sai Baba's new age mumbo jumbo and the cult leader had the pseudo-India cult leader look down pefectly. They were a pretty small cult and hit the news when a member had fallen sick (to be fair, it was an elderly person if I’'m not mistaken) and the cult had refused (probably with the consent of the patient) to get her the proper modern care that could have saved her. Instead the cult chanted and was going to save her through faith and their own interesting treatments. To no surprise the patient pretty soon passed away, but it's here where things took a turn to the bizarre. Instead of accepting that the individual had passed, the cult insisted that she was just recovering in a coma and would wake up very soon if they could just continue their “care”. This “treatment” carried on for considerable time and by the time police had been alerted to strange on-goings and odors and intervened at the apartment, the "sick" cult member had reached a stage of mummification…

Still, the cult would not acknowledge that she was actually very very dead but insisted that she could wake up any second. If I remember it correctly, the guru got a light prison sentence and the cult fell back into obscurity, but they should be credited with putting mummies on the news!

No 1. Pana Wave Research Institute - Whiteout!

This was a really hard choice, but from a personal stand point I do have to admit a weakness for sci-fi cults based on pseudo/bogus-science. I mean, who doesn't have fond memories of something relating to Heaven's Gate and Scientology? Some people probably would argue that a real cult should have a real bearded guru in the top and while I can understand that sentiment I do not completely agree. A large cult like scientology and smaller more radical ones such as Heaven's gate has shown that even the guru or fervent preacher deal is not the only route a cult can take these days.

Pana Wave hit the news some years ago as they were traveling around Japan in huge convoys with their white vans, cars and trucks and randomly (to an observer, internally I'm sure they had perfectly “logical” reasons) set up camps in the country side and only ventured outside dressed in white contamination protection suits, complete with goggles and facemasks. They put up huge white sheets around the areas where they performed their “work” – exactly what they were working with is still a bit unclear, but it seems like it was connected to saving the world from certain destruction (I do that every day so I know it can be tiring).

For a while they were regulars in the news as they moved around the country and made people highly uncomfortable with their mysterious activities. But it does seem that the cult was relatively benign and they were actually out to save the world and not to bring about its destruction… To my disappointment, the cult has been very silent recent years and since the founder and leader (a woman which is nice for a change) passed away a few years ago it is possible that the cult will fall into obscurity again.

Recently there has been few cult news here in Japan, but I'm sure something really bizarre will show up sooner or later, it always does...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The one who dealt it…

Last week we had a manager's meeting of quite some significance since we are starting to solidify the plans for the coming year. The plan was for all the department heads to outline the general direction and strategy for the year ahead. In addition to the big shots quite a number of related staff was also present due to the importance of the discussion.

Just as the meeting started and Mr. Shachou was introducing the outline of the overall company strategy for 2010 and he was launching into a passionate speech about how we need to create better teamwork, someone in the front row let out a loud fart that echoed in the meeting room, but the cramped room made it impossible to locate the culprit. Mr. Shachou looked a little confused for a quarter of a second after which he continued his speech. As I looked around the room, not able to contain my giggling I noticed that I was the only one. Everyone in the audience managed to keep faces of stone.

I’d like to think that someone made a little rebellion to some bullshit in the presentation in his own little way, but it might just have been the bowels…

(Oh yeah, and the image is great, I got it off a real site you can check out here, no need to be shy about it!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I do feel a bit gay actually...

Now, I should start things off by saying that I'm a pretty regular guy who is not overly concerned with my appearance, I'm not particularly a slob, but you can hardly call me metrosexual either.
A little while back I got an offer from the hair salon I use in conjunction with my birthday where they offered me a free "scalp cleansing" the next time I came in for a haircut. I was going to ignore this since I'm happy with my scalp as it is and don't particularly want it cleansed. But when Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman saw the postcard with the offer she convinced me to use it since "You'll really like it, it's almost like a massage".

With nothing to lose, since it was for free, I told the salon that I wanted to use the offer when I booked a time last weekend...

Now, as it turns out, a "scalp cleansing" consists of looking at my hair roots through some special type of "hair camera", getting some stuff massaged into the hair for 2-3min and then sitting in one of those machines that are used for perms for 10-15min with a towel wrapped around my head. It made me feel extremely unmanly. In conclusion, I won't advice you against doing this, but know what you will be exposing yourself to before you take up on an offer like this..

Monday, November 16, 2009

I quit quitting!

As I have mentioned a little earlier, for more than 15 years now I was a user of the Swedish snuff tobacco called "snus". Not only was I a user, I was a pretty heavy user and the volume of nicotine I put into my body was probably equivalent to that of a "one pack a day" smoker. I will in no way try to claim that this snus is good for the body, but since the nicotine is directly adsorbed into the bloodstream through the gums and not through inhaling smoke, it does have the benefit compared to smoking to not subject the body to the nasty by-products of smoking such as tar.

However, a health problem a few months ago, forced me to see the doctor and the verdict was pretty harsh. The doctor told me that to get rid of my problem, I needed to quit the nicotine since it had a very clearly proven connection to my problem. With some active encouragement from Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman who saw an opening to get rid of a habit she dislikes, I did decide to kick the habit. I did take my time quitting, gradually cutting down on the dose week by week until, after around 3 months, I had completely kicked the habit. Probably due to the gradual reduction in nicotine I didn't really have any big difficulties in this.

I did not expect miracles, but I had read some stuff about people stating how their everyday health had been positively affected by quitting nicotine, in terms of having more energy, sleeping better and things like that, so I did have some expectations on feeling better. The original cause for quitting did heal but other physical effects were mostly of the negative nature; I felt like I had less energy, I was more sleepy and generally things were more boring without snus in my life. Ok, the original problem did heal completely with no risk of returning, that much I need to concede and I do save considerable amounts of money since importing the stuff started to cost quite a lot of money after the Japanese authorities realized that they should tax it… But even several months after quitting, when the nicotine dependence should be well out of the system, I did not really feel any different, just more tired and dull.

So, I made my decision, I quit quitting! I’m getting right back at it where I left off. Ok, the volume I am restarting the habit at is extremely small, but still.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Will the real Japanese sports drink please stand up?

One of the more predictable things that a new comer will make fun of when arriving in Japan fresh off the banana boat is the name of the sports drink called "Pocari Sweat" and how they will try to convince the locals how unappetizing it sounds to drink something called "sweat". Sure, I had the same reaction many many years back, but after all the years here now, I've become numb and now it's just a sports drink that is useful for sports or when the body needs to be replinished due to some earlier drinking activities.

Pocari Sweat has held a pretty firm grip on the sports drink market since the 80's but the number two is the dink "Aquarius" which Coca Cola Japan are marketing since quite a few years back. Both of these taste basically identical and also Aquarius also chose to utilize primarily blue and white with an arc around the name. Without being an insider in the sports drink market, it seems pretty obvious to me that they were trying to steal a little share from Pocari Sweat by tapping into the brand awareness of that drink. For many years, these two have been the primary drinks for the casual sports drink market. The other day, as I felt the hankering for some sports drink and purchased what I believed to be Aquarius through a vending machine, I realized that instead I had gotten a newly launched sports drink, somewhat cumbersomely called "Kirin Loves Sport" launched by Kirin Beverages, the drink tasted exactly the same as Aquarius and/or Pocari Sweat and also were using white on blue as the primary colors and using an arc like shap close to the logo.To further shake things up, I found myself in a convenience store recently where I found and purchased a new drink, very straightforwardly called "Sports Drink" launched by some local smaller player. The drink tasted exactly the same as Aquarius, Pocari sweat and/or Kirin Loves Sports and they had chosen white on blue as the primary colors and an arc around the name to add some flair.
To help the consumers of Japan reading this page, I thought a brief review on these drinks could be helpful to guide you in your purchases:

Pocari Sweat: 5 - Slightly sweet but not overly so
Aquarius: 5 - Slightly sweet but not overly so
Kirin Loves Sports: 5 - Slightly sweet but not overly so
Sports Drink: 5 - Slightly sweet but not overly so

Pocari Sweat: 5 - Good combination of blue and white and an arc to add some flair
Aquarius: 5 - Good combination of blue and white and an arc to add some flair
Kirin Loves Sports: 5 - Good combination of blue and white and an arc to add some flair
Sports Drink: 5 - Good combination of blue and white and an arc to add some flair

Value for Money
Pocari Sweat
: 5 - You get a decent sports drink

Aquarius: 5 - You get a decent sports drink
Kirin Loves Sports: 5 - You get a decent sports drink, but they added 55ml for the same price, but you don't really get the same brand value as the veterans
Sports Drink: 5- 5 - You get a decent sports drink, slightly cheaper but you don't get the same brand value compared to the other ones.

For some reason, I personally prefer Aquarius and purchase that when available, but that is actually not based on any rationale or real affection to the brand or anything now that I think of it. I wonder if there are any people confident that they could taste the differences in a blind test of these drinks...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All aboard the CC train!

I think I have earlier talked a little about corporate mail culture and how this can sometimes take amusing shapes. One very useful function for mails is how easily a CC "carbon copy" of the communication can be sent out to people who might benefit from getting the update. To say that this function can be abused is no understatement as well and it can at times take ridiculous proportions. Let me give you a real life recent example.

An e-mail was sent out from some logistic people regarding a special shipment of products concerning both our QA, regulatory and marketing people in addition to our logistics. The mail is addressed to me and another person at the European site and has around 4 people cc:ed that I do not know who they are. However, when replying, I need to involve our local Japan people, so in addition to doing a “reply all” I also add 4 people of my own. The cc train is now up to 8 people.

The other person who was in the "to" line and at another site also replies and he adds an additional 6 people I have no idea who they are; we are now up to 14 people in the cc train.

The person who sent the original mail sends out another mail to confirm and check that everything has been correctly understood as in the earlier communication. She does a "reply all" and then for good measure seem to add another few people giving a record ~16 people cc:ed in the mail. I reply back with "This is ok for Japan" and did consider to trim the cc field a little, but hey, someone made the judgement that they would benefit from the information so who am I to argue?

The more the merrier I guess...?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crash course in mastering corporate communication visuals!

For some reason it seems like illustrations and how pictures can be used to convey messages across cultures has been a topic I touch upon from time to time here. One reason is of course that my good friend Martin has this as his profession and is something that he constantly works with.

But this time I thought I should, completely for free, offer everyone some instructions on how you can become a master of utilizing images to reinforce the message in a corporate communications environment. In fact, the images you need to have available at your disposal are very few and if you use them correctly you can become a master of internal communications, the medium would most likely be some form of coporate intranet or newsletter. I will now show you the four images that you need to master and instruct you in the proper use.

1. The Trophy
The Trophy is a very powerful image and should be utilized in cases when a big tender has been won or a significant objective achieved. As a concrete example the trophy could be used to illustrate an article with the heading “Norwegian subsidiary breaks sales record”. The image can be used with or without hands holding it, hands are preferably included since it also gives an image of teamwork.
2. The Handshake
The handshake is also a very powerful tool and should be used when you need to illustrate something related to teamwork, it can be used for both internal situations when illustrating some work that is conducted across the company and can also be used to illustrate external teamwork with another company, research site or similar. For rare cases it can be used to illustrate large sales deal, but only if the trophy has been used very recently and is best not used.

3. The man climbing a graph
Another very useful and powerful image to be used when illustrating something in progress where the final result is not yet known (but the trophy would likely be used) but to show how hard people are working and how they are heading for success. A concrete example could be to use it in an article discussing how the Iceland subsidiary has made an ambitious plan on how to start marketing canned whale meat and how the company supports this. Please note that this picture needs to be of a man, a woman cannot be used.

4. The Computer
The final image you need to master is the computer, this is the jack-of-all-trades for you, you can use that to illustrate all the things that do not fit any of the images above. It can be used for all those "rental car provider has changed" and "please use this travel agent" or "new meeting tools available" or whatever you can imagine, just use the computer image.

These are all the images you need to master and remember that everything is progress and that there is no such things as negative trends!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pissing on the parade...

The other day I talked to one of the sales reps, a Japanese guy about my age, I'm a personal friend with since earlier, and he was extremely happy as he told me that he had a few weeks earlier had a cancer screeing test that gave preliminary positive result and he had been going for a few more in-depth tests the last weeks but had earlier in the day received the final result that the initial test had given a false positive and that he was perfectly healthy.

He was positively beaming as he told me how he felt like he had gotten a "new lease on life". After listening to this for a while I replied back "well, that’s great you know, but if you think about it, nothing really happened and you’re actually just as miserable as you were three weeks ago" as he had been pretty miserable and fed up with work. It was like a cloud passed over his face as his beaming smile turned into a concerned frown and I walked away to get myself another cup of coffee humming a merry tune to myself.

I actually didn’t mean to ruin his joy, I was just trying to help him get things in perspective and I did feel slightly bad for pissing all over his little parade…

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A postcard from suburbian Tokyo

Ok, for the first time ever, let me introduce an accidental guest blogger here on the page. I mean "accidental" since he wrote it as a comment on this post but I thought it was too funny and insightful to be hid away just in the comments, so after getting the agreement from my man Chris, here it comes in full glory:

"My next door neighbor murdered her husband 15 years ago by poison* and everyone seems to know it. She has a English Juku next to my Eikaiwa and she has never once...not one single time mumbled a word of English.6 years and not a peep no matter how simple mundane or insignificant the occasion. She has ice water in her veins. She looks at me like she wishes I were dead and my School was burned to the ground.He was creamated and the oldest daughters claims of knowing about the poison were never followed up.She still gets student....but then do

The chiropractic clinic 2 houses down has had 2 seperate people fall into a roadside river and die (1 drunk old man who used to yell and scream and make a fuss. He was too old to beat down and then 3 months ago a woman going to the supermarket behind my house fell and died at the same spot in the river) This is at the edge of the driveway to the clinic. I can't believe anyone still goes near there? The city rigged up a small cable to block people from trying to step over that river from the corner of that driveway which is about 2 dead people too late.I was asked after both incidents...weeks later to recall where I was on the evenings in question.

I wonder if they asked my other neighbor...across the street and about 8 houses down...the Yakuza lieutenant who rolls in a Benz but has old school type vibes (in a good way) He always say's "Chris subarashi" when he sees the Christmas lights display and he is the most normal of all my neighbors. Or did the cops ask the laundrymat across from Yakuza that has no customers except for tattoo sporting Yaks getting their shirts pressed?Or the REALLY creepy old lady directly across from me who teaches Japanese tea ceremony and once told an adult student of mine that I had a black aura and she should stay away from me (thanks creepy cult member neighbor lady)If you wanted to be a serial killer Japan would be the place to be. These cops are fucking clueless,old or indifferent."

*Note: Just in case this person actually knows English and is cyberstalking Chris and is looking for people to sue for slander, I would just make it clear that it's obvious that Chris is joking here and that it's so clear that he really doesn't mean that anyone murdered anyone, why would anyone murder anyone in the first place, doesn't really make sense

Friday, November 6, 2009

One of those dull posts about blogging

To be honest, keeping up the blogging now for soon three years is a little up and down. A couple of months ago I felt like I had gotten into a bit of a rut. The visitor number was flatting out a bit and the number of comments posted were also decreasing and people were coming in through the same searches and through the same sites. Basically nothing much was happening for a month or two and it felt a bit dull.

As a blogger, one thing that makes it fun is when I see someone spending a whole day reading through my blog post by post and I can just assume that the person is enjoying it since considerable time is put into reading it all.
It’s also fun when you see a new place linking the blog and/or commenting on it on their blog/homepage (like My Man in Abiko and Karen did way back in the day).
It’s fun when you can be a part of inspiring someone to start writing a blog of their own (thinking of Bizarro Salaryman in Germany who should post more and have a lot more readers, and the pleasant Californian Nikkei).
It’s fun when someone mails you a question or just a greeting (thinking of Ms. Picnic girl who was trying to set up her boyfriend for a romantic picnic in Tokyo and the guy who triggered the whole serious “looking for a job” post earlier).
It’s fun when you find out you have readers from places you wouldn’t really expect it (thinking of Ms. Aethist black woman who has a serious blog about race, religion and more lighter topics like child abuse)
It’s fun when you notice a ton of readers hitting the page hard due to putting a link to a post on their front page or finding out that the site features my “getting married in Japan” series (brothers and sisters are always welcome around, regardless of skin color!)
It’s fun when you see some new people commenting on posts but also always fun to see the regulars commenting (thinking particularly of Chris and the Penguin here)

As long as any of the above is happening it’s fun to keep it up, since I’m not doing it for the money, but yeah, with almost 500 pages of text now if copied down to word maybe I should start to more seriously considering trying to have an actual book made at some point (hey, anyone who has any tips and advice, let me know!).
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