Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Again I break my rule of commenting on current events here in Japan, but since it impacts my daily life I feel that it is, at least somewhat, justified. You see, this weekend is the general elections in which Japan most likely finally will get rid of Taro "The Smirk" Aso and see a change from the Liberal Democrats to the Democratic Party of Japan. In an amazing lack of insight the LDP actually ran television commercials heavily featuring Aso, which is pretty shocking considering that he’s probably the biggest liability the party has at the moment since the sight of him makes most people cringe. You can enjoy it here!
The latest weeks an ongoing theme in the Salaryman-Sunshine household has been Ms. Sunshine lamenting about "having to vote" in the upcoming election while I smugly can boldly state how much I would like to vote but am not allowed since I'm not a Japanese citizen. Ms. Sunshine fluctuates between LDP and the DPJ with the same enthusiasm as a would be self-murderer considers throwing himself before the train or hanging himself. Everytime she's leaning towards the LDP I remind her that that would mean that we would have to put up with more years with Aso which usually swings her right back to the other side. Then Makiko Tanaka (very annoying lady, google her if you’re interested) in a bold move suddenly jumped ship and joined the DPJ which reflects pretty badly on them...
Japanese politics is a nasty dirty mess, you could argue that most politics is, but I would wager that Japan is dirtier and nastier than most. To be honest, I'm kind relieved that I don't have the right to vote in the election since that means that I can keep on complaining without having to take any responsibility.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
I would here like to share with you some highlights of the “out of office replies” I did receive when trying to get some stuff moving this summer.
Mail 1: Sent to Mr. A at the end of July; receiving an out of office reply “I am on vacation until September the 7th with little access to e-mail, in my absence please contact Mr. B”
Mail 2: Sent to Mr. B minutes after this, receiving an out of office reply “I am on vacation until August the 31st and will not be able to read my e-mail, in my absence please contact Mr. A”
I can’t shake the feeling that they did this deliberately and were hoping to catch the mailer in some form of logic loop and avoid the issue…
Mail 3: Sent to Mr. C mid-August, receiving an out of office reply “I am out of the office until the end of August and will not be reading my e-mail, all e-mail received during my absence will be automatically deleted so please mail me again when I am back in the office”
I wish I could pull shit like that...
Monday, August 24, 2009
To: Ms. X in HQ
Cc: Mr. Shachou, Local colleague
Subject: Important marketing plan
Sent: 2009/01/28 17:46
was read on 2009/08/24 16:59."
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Because these characters are part of my overall morning routine, I rely more on them than I do on my watch regarding the timing to my train. If I happen to meet one of them earlier than usually; I automatically assume that I am early, if I meet them later; I assume that I am a bit late and pick up the pace. For some reason I never assume that they would happen to be late or early…
Where I lived earlier, there was this train I always waited for and the biggest check-point for me to know whether I was early or late was “Obese Duck Girl” (who, I’m sure is a really nice person, but she was slightly obese and her mouth for some reason reminded me of a duck and she often wore yellow clothes) who rode in the same train cart on the train before the one I wanted to take. So I always waited at the station home until she had passed with her train, it was actually very convenient. I remember once, during a weekend as I was walking through Shinjuku station (which is not my commuting station) and among the crowds, for a few seconds ended up face to face with Obese Duck Girl by complete chance, we both looked each other in the eyes for a brief moment and I think we both were about to greet each other until we realized that we actually didn’t know each other at all and it would be strange to say hello. The subway is interesting indeed...
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The basic story is that a now 38 year old former teen idol but still very famous, got caught up in a drug scandal where some form of stimulant drugs has been used. The whole drug scandal is from a European perspective pretty petty and nothing that I get worked up about. However, what I find really entertaining here is the relationship between Noriko “Noripi” Sakai and her husband, self proclaimed “pro-surfer” (there is no indication that he actually makes any money out of surfing) Yuichi Takaso, which seems to be pretty complex. They married in 1998 after she ended up pregnant with his baby.
Aug. 4 – Noripi’s husband gets caught by the police for behaving strangely and possibly under the influence of narcotics. He also refuses to show the contents of his pockets and states that the police “better let him go” since he’s married to a celebrity. He calls her up and makes her come to the scene where she tries to argue to the police that her husband is fine and that he can’t show the contents of his pockets because he’s embarrassed since he has medicine for problems with sexual performance. The police aren’t too impressed with this and formally take him in and search him and find… metamphetamine… Meanwhile, Noripi mysteriously disappears.
Aug. 5 – 7 – The news hit the media, a search is conducted of the home of the husband (they live separately) and more drugs are found. Noripi has dropped off the radar with her 10 year old son and people are worried about her, fearing that the shock of finding out that her husband is a horrible drug user has gotten to her. However, pretty quickly Yuichi start ratting his wife out, telling the police that she does at leas as much drugs as him and a search of her apartment follows, where, surprise! More drugs are found. Meanwhile, Noripi has dropped off their son at a friend, who turned out to be the mistress of husband Yuichi and once again disappeared from sight. An official warrant for her arrest is issued by the police.
Aug 8~ - Noripi turns herself over to the police (just about the time when any drugs would've gone out of her system showing negative results in tests...) in the presence of her lawyer and admits to having used metamphetamine “a few times”, encouraged and introduced to the drugs from her loving husband. Her husband states that “a few times” is pretty far away from the truth and that was indeed her who introduced him to the drug. Poor little Noripi changes her story from “a few times” to “around 10 times” but still claim that her husband introduced her to the drugs. As an extra twist, Noripi’s little brother gets arrested on drug charges as well and rumours of her brother being involved with “violent criminal organizations” (read: Yakuza) also start to circulate.
Apparently, neither her, nor her husband are adherents to the “you snitch, you die” philosophy that such a large portion of the honorable criminal world seem to embrace. Aren't they cute in this picture? They must have such a great marriage and relationship!
Meanwhile, the story of the actor who did ecstasy together with a “hostess” after which she ended up dead in his apartment and he delayed calling an ambulance, instead calling his agent (If I was an agent, the 3am “Hey, the whore I brought home seems to have died on me, what should I do?” is the call I would dislike the most). But yeah, Noripi is the bigger star so she gets the headlines, you go girl!
Monday, August 17, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
By doing a broad generalization, I think it’s fair to say that the Japanese prefer thinner and very soft toilet paper, while I, raised in the cold north prefer rougher toilet paper just one step smoother than sandpaper. Normally we solve this by buying something in between which has the results of leaving both of us somewhat annoyed since it's too rough for Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman and too smooth and delicate for me. This has the consequence in a form of guerilla warfare, where either party takes the chance to shop for the toilet paper of preference if they are given the task of filling up the stock without supervision of the other party. As of late, I have been on the losing side of this resulting in a prolonged stint of thin and soft toilet paper.
Theoretically the thin and soft paper is useable as long as proper care is taken in its usage. It needs to be folded quite a number of times, just folding it one time too little runs you the risk of rupture and suddenly ending up with a finger in a place where you do not want to have a finger and then having to go through a rigorous disinfection protocol… This however does not seem to be a point of concern for most Japanese people, perhaps the inherent skills in origami prevents this.
The second drawback besides the extreme folding, is that the paper is so soft that it is not unusual for it to stick to parts of your body after the wiping, requiring you to go through another procedure of trying to remove the remains, something that can be quite challenging...
I find Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman’s claims that usage of my preferred type of toilet paper tear bloody chunks out of her more delicate areas to be rather petty compared to my problems!
The war rages on…
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
After locating a pleasant and reasonable hotel with the facilities we required for our not too elaborate plan of a wedding ceremony followed by a wedding reception/dinner we sat down with the wedding planner to discuss more in detail what could be done and within what budget. Our planner turned out to be a young guy with nicotine stained teeth with a quick sly answer for any of our questions and concerns, if you think Jennifer Lopez in the movie “the wedding planner” and then don’t, you are getting somewhat close to our guy.
After some light probing from his side on how much money we were looking to spend (to which we wisely stated a considerably lower sum than we were actually thinking of spending) he quickly whipped out a quote that looked quite reasonable and within our budget. However, after the initial decision of location and the meetings the following weeks with our planner, the florist and other people from the hotel we quickly learned that things were a bit deceiving…
Before we made the final decision we also attended a dinner where we could try out the dinner course for next to nothing, and see examples of color coordination and flower arrangements together with other hopeful couples. About half way into the dinner it turned into a hardcore sales event where they tried to push a host of “spectacular events” on us that we could pay up a hefty amount of money to have at our reception, most of them involving smoke, bubbles or fluorescent liquids and the most elaborate ones a combination of all of them. Needless to say, the efforts were wasted on us…
Following that, a very common occurrence was discussions like the one below:
Florist: So, what type of flowers are you thinking of?
Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman: Well, we liked the orange ones we saw at one of the tables
Florist: Oh… In your package there are only rotten gray flowers included, but we can upgrade you, no problem
Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman: And we liked that vase
Florist: Oh… no vase is included in your package, but sure, we can upgrade you, what color of table cloth did you like?
Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman: We liked the green cloth with the orange napkins
Florist: Oh… green cloth, that’s extra and the orange napkins will also cost a little extra, but sure, we are more than happy to upgrade you
This type of conversation was repeated a large number of times…
Coming up next: Financing the wedding…
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
And if this wouldn't be enough, I was also confronted with the even more terrifying issue of having over 250 emails in my work mail to go through as I returned to my salaryman desk at work. I think I need another vacation to set things straight since this is painful...
At least Japan is now in the middle of the obon vacation season meaning that things are generally slowing down to a crawl.
Monday, August 10, 2009
This comes purely from the perspective of a person coming from a low-intensity tipping culture like Sweden; you might give a little extra if the food and/or service was good, but no one is going to put a voodoo curse on you if you just pay the amount on the bill. And now living in Japan where there is virtually no tipping at all, and if there is a service charge it's a fixed % added to your bill (and this is very rare to begin with and reserved for some fancy restaurants).
My issues with the tipping culture are very simple:
1. It obscures the price you will pay in the end since you have to throw on tax and 15-20% tip on the prices you see on the menu - I'm sure that if you live in the US this is something that comes naturally, but not to me...
2. I never know what amount is suitable to tip, I've talked to american friends and read general guidelines, but I still find my self at loss whether to tip 10, 15, 18 or 20% and end up tipping more than I probably should to not offend anyone.
3. It makes the service feel a bit "fake", since I feel that the staff only are nice because they want good tip and not because it's who they are.
I know that there are institutional and political reasons for the tipping culture with the low minimum wage etc., but that is another issue. I just wanted to bitch a bit about how annoying it is for me as a foreign tourist in the US to deal with the tipping culture...