Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's a small Internet!

My blog has now been up and running for a little more than two years (the birthday was celebrated here) and there have been some interesting results from that:

1. Google "Tokyo" and "Salaryman" and I come up in the top 5, only "Salaryman" still gives me a top 10 result

2. Google "big bosoms", "girl on girl action" or "naked sex adventure" and I show up in the top 40 for all of them.

3. Google "Tokyo" and "gay toilets" and I come up as number 1, as it well should be.

All is well.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting married in Japan Part 2: Chosing the venue

I am sorry to have kept you all waiting, here comes the second installment in my tremendously popular "getting married in Japan" series and this time I am going to focus on how to pick the correct venue.

As I have previously laid out, we did chose to not do any Japanese wedding thingy ruling out all temples and such questionable areas, and adding to that that neither of us are religious and particularly wanted to have a church wedding, that's the path that we had laid out for us as we pursued option two "Trying to manouver through the whole planning with at least a trace of dignity".

For some strange reason, it seems like a magazine entitled "Zexy" (classy) have an extremely dominant hold of the wedding planning market here in Japan and with alarming frequency (I think it's monthly, but that's alarming enough) they put out a magazine with a list of possible venues with prices, pictures and all that kinda stuff in there. The magazine is slightly larger than the Tokyo phonebook but has a little more color and pictures at least. Not to mention the additional "Japan resort Wedding" and "Overseas Resort Wedding" specials that they also seem pump out with the same alarming frequency.

We quickly realized that we had a three main categories to chose from; the restaurant wedding, the hotel wedding or the wedding facility wedding. The restaurant wedding seemed nice, on paper, but some quick calculations showed that the cost would be pretty horrid unless we could find a restaurant with exactly the same space as the planned number of guests. Also, adding to that, if a separate venue would be picked for the ceremony, would add all kinda logistic problems to the whole deal. The Wedding facility wedding initially looked pretty nice, but after looking at some estimates and discovering some of the hidden costs in there, as well as the mild degree of tackiness (hey, everything's pink!) that this option would mean pretty quickly made us discard this idea as well.

So, as some of you have figured out, we decided to go with the Hotel Wedding option, and I think I will dive deeper into the hazards of that in the next installment!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Tell 'em like it is Captain Awkward!

Earlier today in a teleconference which I was thrown into with little idea what it was about, Captain Awkward is leading from the Japan side in a discussion with head office.

Captain Awkward: (uncharacteristically decisive) We absolutely need this data by the end of the month, otherwise we will not be able to do this!
Head Office person: (without a moments hestiation) That is frankly speaking completely impossible.
Captain Awkward: (looks confused and looks around the room trying to gather support) Uh... Ok... Can we maybe have it by the end of next month then maybe?

Cpt. Awkward is really a great guy, but don't take after him when it comes to negotiating!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The two things I hate more than anything else in the world

(First of all, from looking at my visitor tracking tool there seem to be some people eagerly awaiting my next installment in the "getting married" series, but do not despair, it will be forthcoming soon enough!)

But this is about something different! You see, there are two things I hate more than anything else in the world; (1) dealing with Japanese paperwork outside work and (2) setting up the wireless network properly at home with all the stuff I have that I sometimes connect to the network (including PC, printer, PS3, laptop etc. etc.).

Recently I got a phone call at a point where I was pretty tired and didn't think so much about it, I mistook the call from being from my Internet provider and that they would be coming over to do some upgrade to the network to make it faster, so I booked a time for them to come over and didn't think much more about it. But a few days after the call I started to get all kinds of mail with tons of explanations and paperwork inside sent to me, from NTT, Big Globe, Flet's and who knows who else it was who wanted a piece of the Salaryman Internet cake, all of them with pretty complicated information on how to set up the network and forms for me to fill in. Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman was of course drafted in to try and sort things out, but it didn't take long to figure out that it wasn't really my current provider, it was another company that was trying to sell in their broadband to me that had approached me at a weak moment.

After looking through the stuff we came to the conclusion that a change would mean a minor monthly saving in cost on the flip-side, but having a new provider would mean that I would have to reconfigure all my connections to the new system, something that I of experience know can be quite the nightmare for someone like me who have limited technical knowledge.

Faced with this analysis of the situation, I did what any sane person would do; I called up the company to cancel the whole deal. The phone call went something like this (I should note though that it took quite a while to get hold of the person as well as a number of calls to my mobile phone I ignored since I specifically told them to call my land line):

Mr. Salaryman: Hello, it's about the change to broadband supplier.
Nasty Phone Guy: (Cheery) Yes, what can we help you with?
Mr. Salaryman: Actually, there was a little minunderstanding earlier and we want to cancel the installation of the new network, sorry about the trouble.
NPG: (Suddenly very cold) Why is that?
Mr. Salaryman: Well, to be honest it's actually too much of a hassle to set up a new network at the moment.
NPG: No it isn't, it's easy.
Mr. Salaryman: It actually is quite troublesome so I'd like to cancel. Do you want me to return all the information I have been sent earlier?
NPG: If you read the instructions it will be really easy so I think we should go ahead.
Mr. Salaryman: No, I would like to cancel.
NPG: (irritated) Why? You save money through this!
Mr. Salaryman: (getting pretty irritated in return) Well, that is up to me I think, I would please like to cancel now.
NPG: But you save money and it's really easy to set up!
Mr. Salaryman: If you come over here and make sure everything works like before, sure, otherwise I would like to cancel now!
NPG: We don't do that.
Mr. Salaryman: Ok, so can I please cancel now?
NPG: (pissed off) It's not up to me to decide, my boss will call you back! (hangs up)

10 minutes later we get a phone call back, this time Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman takes it and from what I have been told it went something like this:

NPG 2: (Arrogantly) We heard you want to cancel because it's "too much of a hassle" (emphasized by NPG2)
Mrs. Sunshine Salaryman: (already getting annoyed) Well, we just don't see the need at the moment so cancel it now.
NPG 2: (openly hostile) Fine, whatever, throw away the stuff we sent (hangs up)

In conclusion, I'm still surfing fine with my old network and I will try to not think of all the great things I could've done with the 500 yen/month I would have saved with changing provider. Usually in Japan sales people are pretty polite, but this telemarketing center must have had another policy...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I'm not sure you should be doing THAT here...

Since I recently discovered the huge market segment of toilet blogging, I thought that I should follow up on that now while the iron is still hot. When I think about it, I do realize that I have quite a few toilet related posts since earlier as well.

In any case, during the day I found myself in the toilet since my bowels had drawn my attention to a need to be emptied. This is nothing special or unusual in itself, I think it's something that most of my readers will recognize. As I was happily sitting in one of the three booths in the office bathroom, in the middle as it happened due to the fact that the other booths were taken. The person to the right of me obviously had a bit of a rough time with his stomach based on the sounds coming from there, but hey, it's a toilet so I don't judge the guy. I was peacefully sitting there, doing my thing and contemplating life the mobile phone of the guy to the left of me rings pretty loudly. I expected the guy to just not take it or press the "busy" button but instead, to my utter surprise, I hear the guy taking the phone and answer in a cheery voice.

Please note that during this, pandemonium is reigning in the bathroom, courtesy of the guy in the right hand booth, I'm getting up and flushing the toilet, all the while the guy is happily babbling away on his mobile phone to the (probably) customer on the other end, who must hear some of what is going on in this hostile environment...

Maybe it's just me, but I'd prefer a sales rep to not take my call if he's busy taking a crap... At least I've only heard this happen once...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

You are managing what exactly again?

In any company there are different grades of peons and it all depends on the level you look at them from. Even though I might be a small Mr. Big in the Japan organization, I'm but a mere peon on a more global scale. We of course have the local peons as well in our own organization in our own little hierarchy starting with the "Staff" which is the purest form of peon you are, then moving up to "Senior staff" and then after that "Associate Manager" before we start to reach the management positions and getting a bit removed from the local peons.

This post is more specifically about the "Associate Manager", a title which I in principle have no issues with, it shows that the person is on the verge of moving away from peonship to the next level.

What I do find extremely amusing though is how, I quite often, have seen people with this rank refer to themselves as "Ass Manager" or the slightly better "Ass. Manager" to save themselves a few precious seconds in having to write out the full title. For some strange reason, this is mostly seen in subsidiaries which do not have English as their first language.

Maybe it's just me, but seeing someone refer to themselves as "Ass Manager" always makes me giggle a bit, childish as I am, and for some reason I don't get the picture of someone being an assistant Manager in my head... To me, what they are managing is something completely different...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Maybe you just shouldn't read that stuff?

Back in my former consulting days, I worked pretty closely for a long time especially with the Boy and Luke, resulting in that we got pretty close, which in turn resulted in this weird work tradition of giving each other birthday presents. For his birthday, quite a while back, I gave him the great book "American Psycho" (whatever you do, don't watch the movie and think that you know the book), which is filled with pornography mixed with pretty intense scenes of torture and violence. Don't get me wrong though, it's a great book.

Then a bit later, during our boob trip to Paris I gave him the great Jeffrey Dahmer biography "The Shrine of Jeffrey Dahmer" after I had finished with it. At the time, he didn't bother to read it, but brought it home and during a recent trip overseas he had it with him and finished it.

What happened later on was, that the Boy, for reasons not completely known to me, left both books clearly visible on a table during a visit to his parents, and his mom (not Japanese and not that good at reading Japanese) for some reasons picked them up and read through both of them, cover to cover. Resulting in somewhat of a shock for the Boy during his following visit to his parents when his mom confronted him with the books he had been reading (and she in turn had read), to check that he was not in secret a bloodthirsty sexual predator serial killer.

He explained that both books had been a gift from his former boss (which I'm sure assured his mom of the professionalism of the consulting company he works in...) and during a particular part where his mom, on the verge of tears, expressed her utmost disgust for a description on how Jeffrey Dahmer once cut up the stomach of one of his victims and used the still warm entrails as masturbatory tools, he asked the obvious question "If you find it so disgusting, why did you read through all of it?". From what I've been told, there never came a satisfactory answer to that question.

I have been thinking of sending him more serial killer biographies that he can put at random places in his parents home and see how many of them she'll read before she'll realize that she probably shouldn't read that type of books...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Call me anything you like

As I was sitting at my desk today, happily slaving away, my mobile phone rings and the number is only displayed as "User unset" (which usually means that it's either from outside Japan or that the caller deliberately has set his/hers phone to not display the number when calling which in turn usually is a bit suspicious). After a second of thought I decided to take the phone call and it turns out it was from the bank where I had been on an errand a little earlier. The phone call went something like this.

Clerk: Hello, is this Mr. Salaryman? This is from the UFJ Mitsubishi bank.
Mr. Salaryman: Yes, this is me
Clerk: Thank you very much for stopping by earlier, we just had one question on the application you handed in earlier today.
Mr. Salaryman: Ok...?
Clerk: It is regarding which phone to contact you on if we need to ask you any questions, you noted down both your home phone and your mobile phone, which is best to call during daytime?
Mr. Salaryman: Huh? Well, call my mobile phone.
Clerk: Thank you very much, that was all (in an overly cheery voice)

That was probably one of the most unnecessary phone calls in the history of man! But at least they kept in touch!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What is it you do not comprehend about the usage of the phrase "I understand"?

I am generally a pretty pleasant guy to be around at work, but I do admit that I can be a bit difficult sometimes when I am dealing with the regional head office and their business culture. Since quite a way back I have a pretty well developed allergy to overuse of business jargon and people who believe that "professionalism" means acting and dressing in a certain way without thinking about performance.

In Japan, there is very little use of English business jargon and the atmosphere is pretty relaxed with very few people putting up a facade of fake professionalism, so thankfully I am not very exposed to this source of allergy here in Japan.

Recently I participated in a marketing meeting involving a manager from the Hong Kong office regarding some of the ongoing initiatives. The guy is a really nice guy but throws a little too much jargon around and has this habit of saying "I understand" all the time. Also, he kept asking misdirected questions to which I did my best in explaining and he kept saying "I understand" just before launching into a follow up question that showed that he hadn't really understood at all what we were trying to tell him.

At one point I launched into an explanation, trying to explain something very difficult about the Japanese distribution system in a few sentences and just at the moment I had finished talking I realized that what I just said was completely incomprehensible and I finished with a lame "can you maybe get an idea at all with what I'm getting at here...?", to which, after a few seconds silence came a "I understand".
I have this nagging feeling that this guy hasn't really comprehended the meaning and proper usage of the phrase "I understand", but I'll be damned if I know how to explain it to him...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Are you implying that I might or might not be gay?

Now, this is basically a follow up on my earlier post and the use of "partner" (which I used to avoid typing out and specifying boyfriend or girlfriend) and my dislike for that word.

First of all, one reason I dislike it is because unlike the word "lover", "partner" gives some strange cowboy or police detective vibes, of a couple working together to herd cattle or catch crooks and not that of a couple in love.

There has been a number of times when I have been asked by English speaking foreigners something in the vein of "so what does your partner do?" which in my ears is a slight implication that I might or might not be gay and they don't want to take any risks in guessing whether it's a girl or a boy I am with. I feel that this is a pretty cowardly way of avoiding a potentially mildly embarrasing situation in case the target would reply with a "in fact I'm gay".

My former, openly gay boss was often asked at official events with potential customers here in Japan whether he was married or not, open as he was with his homosexuality I think he always dodged that bullet since being officially a gay man could limit business opportunities from Japanese individuals...

Monday, May 11, 2009

So, thinking of getting married in Japan...?

So, perhaps you came here to the land of the rising sun, as a lad and/or lass with a song in your heart and cheeks red as red apples, and without you really realizing it, you have hooked up with the girl/guy of your dreams. You are enjoying the company of your partner (ok, "partner" is a stupid word for lover, but it saves me the time and effort in typing out "boyfriend or girlfriend") and after a while you start to realize that it's getting time to settle down and think about the future.

So you propose and if you're lucky you might even get a "yes" of varying degrees of enthusiasm back. At this stage you are probably happy, which you should, since you are still unaware of the horrors that lie await in front of you; a wedding in Japan...

Unless your partner (again, it's just to save me the time and effort in typing out "boyfriend or girlfriend") happens to be an orphan without any living relatives you are in for quite a ride... You might think that you can take the easy way out and just get married overseas and then come back to Japan married and avoid all the Japanese wedding fuss, but believe me, if your partners' (again, it's just to save me the time and effort in typing out "boyfriend or girlfriend") group of family and friends is of a reasonable size, you will still be required to hold a "second wedding" like party in any case, making it easier to just get it done with here in Japan.

So, it's been decided that you will be having a wedding in Japan. You now have to make a choice:

1. Leave all pretense of pride and good sense aside


2. Trying to manouver through the whole planning with at least a trace of dignity.

As you might have figured out, I am in this process and I did chose the second option, even though the first might provide more entertainment for you readers, my apologies but I put my own well-being ahead of this blog...

If you decide to go ahead with option "1" above, there is an assortment of things to chose from, doing a traditional "shinto" wedding is one, where you have to get decked out in a kimono, drink alcohol from the same cups and have some general chanting going on.
The second one is going to a crappy made-up chapel pretending to be vaguely Christian and having a fake priest (a foreign English teacher or "model" trying to make some extra money on the side) and go through something akin to a Christian wedding ceremony singing hymns that no Japanese guests obviously knows how to sing (unless there happens to be one or two actual Christians among the guest fluent in Japanese).

But no, me and Ms. Sunshine decided to take option "2", but believe me when I say that there are plenty of hurdles to navigate through there as well. Rest assured that I will guide you through the process here! To be continued...

(I actually did not intend to blog about this topic, but there just has been too many good stories so I can't restrain myself here really...)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Making a "Donburi" - Cooking with Mr. Salaryman

Well, I have been thinking of starting up this great new series teaching out the noble art of Japanese cooking for quite a while but I have finally now gotten around to kicking it off properly.

I would believe that most people reading this blog is somewhat familiar with the Japanese kitchen, and I think it is without discussion that Japanese food ranks among the finest kitchens in the world. I still get surprised when I get to Europe and see the amount of Sushi, Yakiniku and other Japanese restaurants available nowadays (granted, Yakiniku should probably formally be labeled Korean food!). People who have visited here are probably also familiar with other more advanced foods such as the Kyoto kitchen, Shabu-shabu etc., the list of great dishes available here in Japan can easily become very long.

But you might get the urge to cook some Japanese food at home, with limited access to the required ingredients, this is obviously where I, and this new section comes in! Today I will teach you the fine art of cooking a "Donburi".

Making a Donburi is not easy and it requires you to have available a bowl of rice, never mind the type of rice, it can be whichever type you like, and it also requires you to have something to put on top of the rice that can somehow be swallowed and/or digested. This you can legitimately call a "donburi" and claim that it is Japanese food. You also get to call it whatever you want, as long as you put a "-don" at the end.

To get you inspired and started, please see two Donburi's that I recently prepared for you to see, first off I made a God-Jesus-don:

This dish is characterized by a slightly divine flavour and is fitting breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Also, I recently tried making a Salaryman-don as well:

This one is slightly acidic in taste and have a tendency to induce stomach sickness, but is otherwise quite enjoyable.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get cooking with the Japanese kitchen!

Friday, May 8, 2009

I am confused. Are you confused?

Today, I was, as most days, sitting relatively comfortably in my salaryman chair at my salaryman desk (of which actually only the chair is gray, contrary to a normal salaryman environment), happily working away as I received an e-mail from the Supply Chain VP (Vice President) who was going to meet with a possible supplier from Japan and wanted some help from me in getting some information on the Japan market compiled so he could pretend that he knows more than he actually does. No problem for Mr. Salaryman, so a little later I sent out a small information package to this VP and meanwhile he had also mailed our marketing VP (sitting in the same office as him), cc:ing me, with a request for a short summary about our company and the Japan operations. "Absolutely!" was the reply he got from the Marketing VP within a few minutes (in that cheery one word positive mail reply style, with the exclamation mark, that kinda annoys me).

So, I put the whole thing aside in my head and get back to doing whatever it was I was doing, thinking that things were fine. A few hours of peaceful tranquility passes until I get a new e-mail from "to be terminated peon" (that whole mess is probably due for an update from me soon...) where he had received an e-mail from the Marketing VP asking for information about the company and the Japan operations. I looked over the info and ok'ed having it sent, but the whole deal just made me pretty confused and I'm not sure whether this is an example of stupidity, adherance to formal structures or just full blow confusion.

I am sure you too are confused so let me try and break it down for you here, in the order of events:

1. SC VP mails Mr. Salaryman
2. SC VP mails Marketing VP
3. Salaryman mail SC VP the requested information
4. Marketing VP relies back to SC VP saying "absolutely", meaning that she is working on it
5. SC VP replies to Mr. Salaryman "thanks, this is excellent"
6. Peace
7. (unknown to me) Marketing VP mails Peon requesting info
8. Peon forwards mail from Marketing VP to Mr. Salaryman
9. Mr. Salaryman replies to Peon "ok, plz send this out"
10. Peon sends the material to Marketing VP
11. (this is assumed) Marketing VP sends something to SC VP
12. End(?)

I probably should make a flowchart out of this. For some reason there seem to be 5 steps too many here... I just can't figure out if this is an example of stupidity or what?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Targetting new market segments

As I have been doing this blog, I have mainly been going at it in the two main categories of expat and business anecdotes segments with a few forays into baby and fashion (here and here) blogging, unfortunately I cannot say that either of these new ventures proved to be a huge success and pull in the audience of millions of people that I expected.

However, as I saw an opening in the very hot topic of toilet blogging, I thought my recent post on this topic could be my ticket to the big league. For some reason I felt pretty satisfied with this deep analysis of toilets world wide and decided to see if I could find a market and then tap into it. A quick search for "toilet blogs" on google however showed that I'm not the first one to believe in this attractive segment of the blogging market with quite a large number of blogs dedicated to this exciting topic.

I quickly identified the key opinion leader of the toilet blogging segment and sent out an e-mail, alterting this VIP to my recent post and to my great joy, I quickly received a reply by mail as below:

"Topic: cool toilet !‏
From: toilet toilet
Sent: Saturday, May 02, 2009 5:22:43 PM
To: tokyosalaryman(at)hotmail(dot)com

Nice info you put on the blog about toilets :) keep on the good work :)
Any way if you like you can link to my site:
Site name: clogged toilet


This could be my big break!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

This week is golden!

Again, with the risk of feeling like I'm repeating myself, it's time for that Golden Week now in Japan again. One of the issues with keeping a steady stream of postings is that the novelty wears off a bit after a few years, but at least this year offers a slightly better proposition than last year giving us poor overworked salarymen and office ladies 5 days in a row off this time around.

I must admit that I do have issues making a funny spin out of this one with all the influenza business going on (making those poor bastards that actually paid up for those expensive flight tickets out of here feel really bad about it) but since my main agenda is full with exciting home activities with Ms. Sunshine I can't really be bothered.

At some point, I probably should list up the string of stupid holidays that the "Golden Week" actually is made up of (who actually celebrates "greenery day"?!), but at this time I'll just shut my mouth and be thankful that I got a breather!
(Bonus points to whomever can figure out who the doll is made out to be!)
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