Friday, April 30, 2010

Yep, time for another one of those golden weeks!

So, now again Japan is in the famous "Golden Week" mode and with three years of blogging behind me, I feel that this is one of those repeat subjects that I tend to mention once every year (check here for past mentions).

This year, the string of holidays has come pretty nicely, giving most regular salarymen and office ladies a possible 11 days off in a row by just taking three paid holidays, pretty good deal, huh? Never mind that actually going anywhere, especially overseas, is a complete nightmare considering the crowds and the unreasonable price raises that the travel agencies take the chance of charging now that basically all of Japan is on vacation.

These somewhat pointless and odd holidays that the Golden Week is made up of is basically remains of past Emperor's birthdays here in Japan. The birthday of the Emperor becomes a holiday (current Emperor Heisei is born on December 23, something that is good for us Christmas celebraters!) but when an Emperor passes, and a new one is crowned, they do not remove the previous holiday since it would be a sign of disrespect; instead they have been "re branding" it like this, resulting in these odd holidays.

That is all good and well, but I am not sure that the Japanese people realize that this will result in, after a couple of thousand years, that the whole year will be only holidays! I wonder how that will be managed or if Japan will just exist in an eternal state of "Golden Time"?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let's all google: Why did a japanese baby have to stay in the delivery room with it's mum for 30 days during medieval Japan

A somewhat irregular feature on this blog is the different fascinating google searches that lead people here and I now have a pretty good recent one:

The search was for:

Why did a japanese baby have to stay in the delivery room with it's mum for 30 days during medieval Japan

Unfortunately I don't have the answer for this, but to my amusement my blog ended up as number three on the search, sandwiched between Japan Wikitravel and the Wikipedia entry for the Nanking Massacre.

And yeah... sorry about that but I don't have any clue to why this would've been the case and if it's even true to beging with, better luck with the next google! But hey, at least it gave me a slightly vague reason to use this fantastic comic panel I've desperately been trying to find a post it could somewhat remotely fit into, just cracks me up!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Well, it is called a "party" after all

As my long time readers probably know, I usually stay out of politics as much as I can here on this blog and leave that sort of stuff to my political advisor. But the recent developments in Japanese politics are so entertaining that I feel the need to do a little post on this subject.

I think it is pretty well known how the large LDP (Liberal Democrats) and ruling DPJ (Democratic Party) are ripe with internal in-fighting, factions and just general political maneuvering internally in the parties. Usually when these internal conflicts reach the limit and the cup flow over, the troublemakers are either ousted or leave on their own to start up their own bigger and better party. The DPJ was originally (at least partly) such a splinter group of the LDP. Butto their credit, there are at least some tiny grains of ideological differences at work here with the DPJ being just a few inches to the left of the LDP.

Last year's catastrophic election for the LDP, who previously had a track record of almost five decades in power without any major interruptions (effectively making Japan a democratic one party state until now), is now obviously starting to take its toll. And now a number of amusing parties have splintered out from the LDP.

One of my favorites is obviously the party with the fantastic name みんなの党 "Everyone's Party" (which is the proper translation, but it seems like they want to use the title "Your Party" in English for some reason). For them it doesn't matter if you're a Stalinist, Conservative, Hitlerist or just old fashioned Anarchist, everyone should be able to find their place in this party as clearly stated by the name.

Then we have my second favorite, the party 立ち上がれ日本 "Rise up Japan Party" (again, this is also the proper translation although they themselves would like to call themselves "the Sunrise Party of Japan" in English) founded, again, by a splinter group of 5 granddaddies from the LDP with an average age of around 85-90 something. One of my favorite things about this party is how the 立ち上がれ/rise up can be applied to other parts of the body you want to have standing erect, but these old men are probably past that and the question is if they can be trusted in making Japan as erect as the name implies?

Just last week we had the final new party 新党改革 "New Reform Party" (I don't think they cheat that badly with making up a completely different name in English, it basically is the same I think) also founded by, who could have guessed it? A splinter group form the LDP! With the (relatively) popular former Minister of Health Labor and Welfare, Yoichi Masuzoe as the mastermind (ok, the party in itself is not completely new, but it was basically a dead shell that he now uses as a vessel to launch this new great party).

What I find most entertaining about these parties is that they don't really try to hide that they're splinter groups and that their names show no ideological standpoint at all and that the simple reason is because there is none. When the question "what is the difference between your new great erect party and the LDP?" is asked, it usually first gets kinda silent until they answer something completely different...

Sometimes I'm just glad that I'm not a citizen of Japan and don't have to feel any responsibility to actually vote for one of these parties...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shock and Awe Japanese Style - The Character Mascots of the Armed Forces

I have previously skimmed the surface of the Japanese tendency to apply cute character mascots, with varying degrees of success, to organizations and events. I previously did a ranking of the worst three characters in Japan (here) and also looked into the character mascots in use by the Japanese police department and the host of image characters in use there (here).

Obviously, the Japanese armed forces felt that they should not to be one-upped by such measly institutions such as the Okinawa PD, historical capital Nara and also have adopted a few mascots of their own. I am pleased to introduce you to the image characters used by the Japanese Self-Defense Forces; the adorable "Pickles" and "Parsley"! I feel that they fully serve their purpose in making the military a bit more warmer and welcoming. They might look a big cute and cuddly, but mess with them and as representative of one of the top ten countries in the world in terms of military expenditure, they can bomb your ass back to the stone age. The Japanese Ministry of War (or whatever they call themselves these days) must be very pleased with themselves indeed!

Then we also have "Adsuma-kun", the image character of the army branch of the military. He might not be as cute and cuddly but compensates for it by carrying a rifle about three times the size of a conventional assault rifle; you don't want to mess with him. I have also received a highly secret picture that I have been told was part of the picture set taken in the Abu Ghraib Baghdad central prison but which was withheld to the media due to the sensitivity surrounding the dispatching of Japanese forces overseas...

But that's not enough, we also have the happy little lad "Mamoru-kun" in the local Osaka branch of the military. He might look like a happy little camper, but rest assured that he can take you on; in the air, on the ground or on the sea.
Now I just need to find the image characters for the different Yakuza families, motorcycle gangs, murderous cults and such, I'm sure that you're not really a real organization unless you have your own character!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I don't give a crap about your personal thoughts on the subject

Sometimes in work I send out information related to the industry or events that I believe is useful and/or helpful information for some of my colleagues. Doing this is of course no big deal at all for me, but what I do find annoying is that an increasing amount of people seem to find it suitable to mail me back and tell me their own personal take on the situation. I find this increasingly annoying and am seriously considering to add a disclaimer to the end of these e-mails

"I mail you this because I think it might in some way be helpful for your work but please note that I don't give a crap about your personal thoughts on the subject

That would for sure make me really popular in the company!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Getting Married in Japan Epilogue – The Wedding Night

With the start-up of the "buying a house" series, I also thought that I should add a little epilogue to this immensely popular series of posts on the subject you probably are most interested in; the wedding night...

Our wedding was booked several months in advance at the hotel and included in all the fees was also one night’s stay at a wedding suite so we wouldn’t have to worry about going back home on our wedding night. Basically our wedding night after the reception was over turned out something like this:

  1. When checking into our room after the ceremony, we realize that the wedding suite that had been booked 3 months before had two separate small beds!!!

  2. After the wedding, we had booked in massage for both of us at the hotel salon and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman had to tell the therapist "just let him sleep" when I fell asleep during the massage and started snoring loudly and flailing my arms and legs, making her job quite difficult...
  3. Since we hardly had the time to eat anything during the actual reception we realized how roaring hungry we were at around 11pm and went down to the convenience store in the hotel and pigged out on fried chicken, rice balls and other delicious convenience store fare!
  4. Then we curled up in one of the small beds and snuggled the night away...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Slightly better than "mediocre"

As I earlier in the week I was going through quite a lot of material from our competitors to compile an analysis and report on the current market situation and give some insightful comments on the future development. Obviously, going through plenty of promotional material makes sure that I get my share of hyperbole claims on performance and greatness of the product compared to those of the competition.

But just as my eyes were growing tired of this and basically mentally ignoring and skipping such hyperbole, I see one English brochure that in huge letters state "better than average performance". Let that sick in a bit. "Better than average", they could have chosen something non-committal like "Superior performance", "Greatly enhanced performance" or anything in that vein, but instead they chose to benchmark themselves with an undefined "average" which I instinctly picture as pretty low.

Well, kudos to them for being honest and after all my years in the industry, I've kinda grown to appreciate anything that doesn't feature nude kids in the promotional material (now I'm sure to get more of those creepy google "nude kids" hits...)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Buying a House in Japan Part 1 - House or "mansion"?

So, now finally I'm getting around to start this new hit educational series on house buying in Japan. In case you have any specific questions that you would like me to dig into on this subject, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail on it and I will see what I can do.

As me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman had tied the not and considered moving out from the relatively small rental apartment in Ikebukuro we were staying at before. When considering our options, we decided that we did not want to rent anymore but invest in buying.

The first question that came up was what to target; a free standing house or a "mansion"? In Japan, what goes as a "mansion" is what is commonly known outside of Japan as an "apartment" and can be just one room and is nothing fancy. The origins as to why the Japanese borrowed that word into the language and decided to apply it, not to a spacious house with a ballroom and tons of bedrooms, but to a regular apartment is lost to me (does anyone happen to know?). There are also "apartments" in Japan and the general difference between a "mansion" and "apartment" in Japan is that the latter usually are older, have thinner walls and is generally quite crappy by Western standards.

There are conveniences you get with a mansion that you don't get with your own house, quite a few places offer dry cleaning services, have rental rooms for visiting family, better security and if something breaks down having it fixed is usually taken care of by the janitor. But we decided that we wanted to have the privacy and freedom of having our completely own place including the plot of land. So that's the direction we headed off to when we started looking for a house!

Coming up next: The search - where to buy and where to not buy...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's cold and miserable - AGAIN!!!

Dammit, now is supposed to be the time when Japan is at it's finest, as we are entering the spring and probably the best couple of months of the year when neither heater nor aircon is needed to exist peacefully...

But for some reason winter decided to return and hit us with snow and nasty cold weather today again. Apparently for the first time in 40+ something years that East Japan has been hit with this kind of snow and cold weather in the middle of April...

I would like to think that this prolonged cold here in Japan harbors a mild summer, but I'm sure that mother nature is just messing with us and is gonna hit us with a record hot summer just to keep us on our toes...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Deer Hunter in Japan – I don’t really think it’s necessary?

One of the more bizarre news from Japan lately was that of the restaurant owner in Japan's ancient capital Nara, which is home to a bunch of Buddhist temples and free roaming tame deer. The restaurant owner shot one of the deer roaming the park with a crossbow. (Japan Times story here)

The roaming deer are tame to the degree that if you happen to have any of the fodder cookies sold there on you, you will quickly get surrounded by herds of them eager to get a piece of the cookie and not hesitating to nib at whatever part of you which happens to be close to it. It can easily turn into a situation where you find yourself hunted by a fray of hungry deer running out of fear of being mistaken for a fodder cookie and eaten alive.

Now, this restaurant owner apparently had a devious plan of shooting a deer with a crossbow and use the meat in his restaurant to save himself some money. He did succeed as far actually shooting a poor deer in the stomach with a crossbow bolt, but instead of dying the deer escaped and was found by the caretakers of the park. It received emergency treatment, but passed away at the operating table. To add to the sob story, the deer was apparently pregnant and is missed by her family of the other thousand free roaming deer in the park.

That someone would get the idea of killing a deer in the Nara Buddhist temple park is bizarre in itself since they are basically sacred animals and Buddhism usually kind of frowns upon killing animals for food in general...

But "hunting" a deer in the Nara park would literally be as easy as going up to one of them, feed them a cookie, hit them in the head with a stick, put them in a sack and carry it home and make a nice deer casserole. There is no need, whatsoever to "hunt" them from a distance with a crossbow, and then also failing at that.

I only hope that his true objective was to murder Sentokun...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Locust of the New Financial Year - the New Hires

The Japanese financial year ends on March 31st and the new one starts the day after (odd, huh?), and the school year follows the same pattern with the new school year starting in the beginning of April. So from this perspective the Japanese system works quite differently from the West where this is coordinated with the end of the year in December and then the second semester starting six months later.

What happens is that the larger Japanese companies have huge hiring events for the new university graduates and hire them en-masse at the same time with huge ceremonies and plenty of training. Now, Japanese larger traditional companies do not necessarily hire new graduates for specific positions since it is widely known that Japanese kids don't learn anything at the university at all, unless they happen to have a Masters or Ph.D. degree. So the companies take care of the training and sort the kids for jobs as they see fit after tests, training etc.

During this time of year they are everywhere and are very easily recognized due to the cheap looking suits; dark suits for both the boys and the girls with white shirts/blouses and discreet neckties for the boys. Sometimes they are seen with some older employee herding them around and they look half-scared to death and focused on behaving like responsible adults. At other times they can be encountered without their keepers, on their home from some company arranged event where they let their hair down and behave a bit more rowdy; reminding me more of high school kids in awkward looking suits than anything else.

This will calm down very soon as they get more settled down in their companies, have to take the manner classes to learn how to answer the phone properly and behave like regular people (ok, Japanese business manners do take some time to learn properly, even for most Japanese kids with university degrees).

The hordes of new employees doesn't really annoy me per se, since it's over pretty quickly and they face into the companies that hired them, but it can be a bit annoying since it can be hard to just drop into a nice looking izakaya since they're fully booked up with welcome parties for the new hires.

Seeing them awkwardly standing around outside an office, waiting for their Shepperd reminds me of baby penguins standing around waiting for their masters to bring them scraps of food...

My little company has gone around this whole issue and just hire new people with previous experience, saving us the trouble of having year long training programs inside the company and getting people who actually know how to behave themselves!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Things to see in Odaiba - a Guide for Tourists

Odaiba is the newly built entertainment area and hot dating spot in Tokyo, built on reclaimed land. Accessible through the Yurikamome line which not only have driverless trains, they also give a great view of the Tokyo harbor and bay area, especiall at night. Also, it is possible to take the water bus from Asakusa to Odaiba, taking in the sights in the Tokyo bay while getting there.

While there, there are quite few amazing sights that you can take in:
  • An amazing replica of the Statue of Liberty, about a hundred times smaller than the real one and a thousand times less impressive

  • About a million couples there on dates

  • A really lame "amusement park" called Joypolis (one step above Hello Kitty Puroland in terms of excitement)

  • A fountain

  • If you're lucky; either a clown or a guy tormenting a hostile monkey to do tricks for trinkets

  • A guaranteed minimum of 30 dog strollers per hour spent there

  • An average of 1.5 dog per stroller fully dressed up in clothing dying to get out of their stupid dog shirts and strollers to run free and pee
I really should write a guidebook...

Monday, April 12, 2010

The glory and splendor of Japan with old friends!

I have had a quite busy weekend with a couple of old friends, "Double D" as I call the two of them collectively, came to visit me in Japan from the old country and I played the tour guide. I haven't really socialized with them in over 15 years, but it was a nice surprise to see that we could still have fun together and that they were basically the same as before.

Throughout the weekend I took them around Tokyo and showed them the sleaze of the deepest parts of Shinjuku (beware of homosexualities), the cool modern hipness of Shibuya at night, the wonders of the Japanese cuisine and alcoholic beverages,the deep cultural heritage of the Kaminarimon at Asakusa and the hyper-modern Odaiba. Basically I took them on a roller coaster of all that is Tokyo today. Through it all they kept politely impressed and seemed to enjoy seeing the sights asking questions and so as we went along.

But... the thing that got them most excited was the excursion to a Japanese supermarket... Although I intellectually can understand that it is fun and interesting to visit a Japanese supermarket as a visitor to Japan, I was still extremely impressed by their enthusiasm for something which to me is a very mundane part of life here in Tokyo... In total, we probably spent the biggest concentrated amount of time in the supermarket as they ran around among the shelves, picking up and looking at everything and forcing me to translate labels for them. When checking out, they probably were the cashier's nightmare, with tons of different purchases, all in the smallest packages available so they could buy different stuff... Oh, and yeah, let's not even mention the time spent in the liquor section...

So now I've basically realized that next time I have friends coming over; I can just put down the serious planning of researching amazing events in Tokyo and just let people loose in a local supermarket and that will probably be a huge hit. What puzzles me though is how they expect to fit all the stuff they bought in their bags for the trip home; I'm not sure they fully realized this when they went shopping...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Makes you think, doesn't it?

I always enjoy the e-mails irregularly sent out from our administration about the office environment; they can vary from the downright critical (how to use the telecon system), minor (remember to sort the garbage) to the downright odd.

The latest one is my favorite, it went something like this:

"Please don’t pour any other liquids than water into the plants in the office. It makes them wither and die. Thank you."

This makes me quite curious on what type of liquids people have been feeding the plants around here… Perhaps we have a budding floronic serial killer in the office...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

"My Boom" boomed everywhere... Why do I have to be such a trend setter?!

In December last year, I posted about my latest culinary obsession; My Boom of Chinese Chili Oil mixed with garlic, onion and other tasty stuff ( 具入りラー油) which can be put on basically anything to spice things up quite a bit (post here).

I still love the stuff and in the Salaryman-Sunshine household, we probably work our way through one can a week at least (and it's only me having it since it's a bit too spicy for Mrs. Sunshine). In the corner of my eye, I've been noticing how this trend I started with my post has started to snowball out of control with one of the big morning shows (Mezamashi TV) doing a feature on this stuff about a month ago about how popular it has become and how great it goes with most stuff, also various cooking shows have featured how to make this by yourself.

This, I don't really mind, it's nice to see that people share my taste in food here in Japan, but recently when we've been out shopping groceries and I've been looking to stock up on the stuff it's been sold out. Since I always have a bit of back-up, it hasn't been a real problem until recently, when, after checking several weeks in a row, no store has had the stuff in stock. Since the stock level now had reached critical levels (basically only left to spice up one more meal) Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman tried to procure it through the Internet, checking both and the company that manufacture my favorite brand (and other brands online shops too) and was met with "SOLD OUT" signs everywhere...

Now I'm at running out of options and might face going cold turkey on the stuff until production can be geared up to meet the growing demand out in the market... If only I wasn't such a trendsetter... Maybe I should go up to Saitama or somewhere out in the countryside where the big city trends takes half a year or so to reach, I'm sure they have plenty of stock up there left in the supermarkets...

Check out here for a TV commercial for the stuff (not my favorite brand, not spicy enough)!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hey, this is something that I find quite important you know!

Today at work I was contemplating something of high importance that might seem easy at first, but really requires some serious thought I believe.

Which old Commodore 64 game had the best digitalized voice? I think I have distilled it down to three main candidates; The Ghostbusters game featured here, or should it possibly be Impossible Mission with the great "Another visitor? Stay a while, stay FOREVER"? Or maybe The Last V8 need to be considered? Not only is the "V8 return to base immediately" voice great, but the music is also quite funky, but it also brings to mind how extremely difficult that game was and the only reason we ever played it was because of the voice and the music since it usually took about 10 seconds to crash and burn...

At least, during these days, I didn't have to be annoyed by crappy Japanese voices... Something to ponder indeed...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

AKB48, Teddybears, Tiamat, Pizzicatto Five and Arashi

There are many things I like about Japan, however Japanese pop music is not one of them. My ignorant impression of Japanese pop music is that it comes into one of the following categories:

  • Girl groups like Morning Musume and AKB48 catering to the Lolico crowd of single men in their late 30's early '40s with a creepy obsession of the girls. These groups are also pretty good at being horrible singers with voices slightly below "that girl at work that is decent at karaoke"

  • Boy Bands straight out of Johnny's like SMAP, Arashi or even worse; Hey Say Jump. I'm not sure who actually likes these bands, but my guess is that the non-threatening appearance makes them particularly appealing to insecure young girls and gay men, I can't imagine who else would listen to it considering that singing usually is not their strong side

  • Visual Kei bands like Glay, Gilgamesh and whatever they are called. I find this category in particular quite offensive since they take the attributes of a sub-culture but play really bland stale regular rock music which is alternative only to appearances, to an old EBM Electrohead like me it's only about posing

  • Shonan Rappers who seem way too happy with life, rapping about how great it is with beach life, girls and generally partying; pretty far off from N.W.A. and Public Enemy

  • The rest, basically normal R&B inspired mainstream music like Ayumi Hamasaki and whatnot, nothing that interests me particularly although it doesn't really offend me

So, I mostly stick with Western music and yesterday I realized that the Swedish band Teddybears had released a new album "Devil's Music" (hey, since they're pretty big now they don't really need much promotion, but check out their song Punkrocker ft. Iggy Pop here) which triggered a frantic search in trying to get hold of the album. After quite some time of searching the options available I could not find any torrent site having the album and iTunes refused to let me buy it since it's not offered on the Japanese site and not officially released in Japan yet either and meeting the similar situation at teasing me with the text "This release is unfortunately not available from this shop in your country".

After being very close to giving up and ordering a physical copy of the CD from the old country I finally managed to find a Swedish record store having it for download, and since the site only was available in Swedish I guess they figured that they could contain sales to Sweden only without locking it for other countries I finally managed to get hold of a copy.

It's good stuff, the groove that Teddybears can create in their best moments is up there with the best moments of Fatboy Slim and My life with the Thrill Kill Kult. Although it didn't reach the heights of their previous album "Soft Machine" I still highly recommend it! After the recent quite disappointing release by Dark Tranquility and the lack of lifesigns from Tiamat it felt good to not be let down by the teddies.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I take it all back! Nex time, I'll import the game!

Just a bit earlier I whined a bit about the pricing on some games (post here), but now I have to take it all back!
Despite my whining, the conclusion in any case basically was that I can get my hands on Japanese issues of new foreign games here in Japan at a price point much lower than those of locally produced games despite the foreign games having production values at least on par with the local games.

As most gamers, I had been looking forward to the next installment in the God of War series and was pleasantly surprised when I saw that the Japan release was close to simultaneous with the US launch (something which not always is the case...). To freshen me up on the gameplay, story and so I also played through the two first installments (yeah, I bought that collection, the US version) and felt quite excited about playing the new game, and of course it was always nice to see the low price point of the game as well.

So far so good, I get the game home and pop it in the Playstation and am looking forward to enjoying the game... Then, the shock! For some reason there is no selection of English audio in the game, the only available audio track is the dubbed Japanese voices! You might think that I was naive expecting English audio, especially if you remember my previous lament about this pressing issue (here), but for a game with such cinematic qualities and obvious effort that goes into the voice acting with big name stars etc.

Not only is the non-availability of English audio highly annoying since I have played through the previous games with the English audio, but the Japanese voice acting is really really bad... I am getting more and more convinced that there actually only is something like 5 people who do voices for dubbed games and that they already have divided up the roles among themselves (guy 1 does Hero, guy 2 does villain, girl 1 does heroine, guy 3 does other etc.)...

As I play the game, I get the creepy feeling that the people who voices this game are exactly the same as the ones that voiced CoD Modern Warfare 2 and Metal Gear Solid and that they don't really make any effort, they just say stuff the way they always do...

I think it was most accurately put by Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman as she was sitting next to me and reading a magazine in the sofa while I was playing: "I have no idea what it is your playing and what the game it is, I'm sorry but I have to say that it sounds sooo stupid". I really need to check things up better before I buy; paying a few extra dollars for an import version with good audio would be a smart investment...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Hanami" the wonderful tradition of admiring the natural beauty of the Sakura blossom

This year, due to a quite busy schedule it looks difficult to be able to fit in a dedicated "Hanami" (花見; literally translates to "watching flowers") session this year.

I won't elaborate on the tradition of "Hanami", I'm sure most of you know about the Japanese tradition of venturing out to a park to enjoy watching the cherry blossom while drinking huge amounts of alcohol while sitting on an uncomfortable blue plastic sheet and eating stale yakisoba.

However, this year I have already taken counter-measures and procured a small cherry tree for personal use and managed to squeeze in a quality hanami with my good 'ol buddy God-Jesus. We enjoyed the beauty of the blossom, contemplated how quickly it passes and how important it is to enjoy each moment of life and got quite wasted together.

Next, I will see if I can apply this micronization to other aspects of life for increased convenience and best use of time!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Here's my card, give me a call if you have any information about the murder and yeah, isn't Pipo-kun cute?

As a follow-up to my previous posts on the incompetency in terms on use of cute mascot characters in the Japanese police department (here and here), the other day I was watching the news on Japanese TV. I didn't follow the details much, but it was about a murder investigation with ties to the US (I believe the suspect had visited the US at some point that was of interest to the investigation). So the Japanese TV team were interviewing some American shop owner who had had some interaction with the suspect previously.

The TV team showed pictures of the suspect and the guy said that he knew of the Japanese suspect and also that the Japanese police had spoken to him about it a few days earlier, and he brought out a business card he had received from the Japanese detectives. So far, so good, but then I saw that, in full color and pretty large, the Japanese Tokyo Metropolitan PD apparently have Piipo-kun printed on their cards!

I can see how Japanese people can ignore the character during interactions with the police, but I wonder if anyone considered what kind of impression it does in other countries to have a bizarre looking orange character printed on the cards when you might need to look like a tough hardened cop...?

(Since I unfortunately have very little interaction with the police and a good picture was hard to find the very very blurry picture here is the best I could find of that of how their cards look)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cpt. Awkward have difficulties peeing

Earlier in the week as the working day was drawing to an end, one of my pleasant colleagues sitting relatively close to me, excused himself a bit earlier since he had caught a bit of a cold and needed to take care of that. As he stood up and excused himself people exchanged some "take care of yourself" and a few jokes with him as he got ready to leave; Cpt. Awkward is sitting silently staring at his computer screen, I too chip in with some comment about this spring being a bit cold and easy to catch a cold.

As there is a half second pause, and just when the guy is about to leave, Cpt. Awkward blurts out "Lately I haven't been able to pee properly". Everyone turns to look at him as he's still looking at his computer screen, the guy with the cold also freezes, an awkward atmosphere spreads and after a few seconds of silence he follows up with "I'm seeing a doctor about it and I'm taking some drugs for it, but it's still really hard to pee...". The awkwardness remains for a few seconds and people mutter some "oh, hope it's ok" and awkwardly try to pretend that something urgent needs to be done, sick guy silently vanishes.

I don't know how he does it, but he has perfected the awkwardness to an art and I am reluctantly impressed! He's definitely my favorite person in the company!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Oh? It's that time of year again?

After almost 10 years now of living here in Japan, salaryman-ing things up I am again reminded that I am now so used to life in Japan and have started to forget about how things are in the old country.

I am very much looking forward to Golden Week (c'mon, that picture is a work of art!) drawing closer now by the end of April which will give about a week's respite from the corporate drudgery. However, today I realized how disconnected I have become with the holidays back home. It was only after sending a few e-mails to some people in Europe and getting auto-replies saying "the office is closed due to the Easter holidays" that I realized that it's actually Easter now...

Not even dear mother remembered to send me an candy filled egg shaped box this year either, something that she has done on a few occassions which has sparked my memory. Well, nothing particularly exciting I guess, just a minor observation on how much more important such fantastic holidays such as "Greenery Day", "Ocean Day" and "Rever the Salarymen Day" has become to me compared to such staples as the Easter.

(Oh yeah, and I guess I should do some April's Fools joke or something, but I can't be buggered so go check out the Penguin's blog and read his thing from last year and pretend that I wrote it, you just mentally have to exchange some details but I'm sure you'll do fine!)
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