Friday, December 31, 2010

Towards 2011 - the Glorious year of the Rabbit

Now, 2010, the glorious year of the Tiger is coming to an end, to be replaced by the glorious year of the Rabbit (if nothing else, it ensures a quite considerable increase in cuteness in the upcoming traditional New Year's postcards) and is the yearly custom here in the blog, I thought I should go back and review some of the highlights of the year.

Biggest Event of 2010 was without doubt the dramatic (this is the topic of another post when I get around to it) entrance of little Baby Sunshine, who despite her meager size and young age has managed to turn our lives completely upside down, in a good way.

Biggest Purchase of 2010 was probably the hordes of baby toys, baby carriers, baby carts, baby clothes, baby books, baby music etc. I think you get the general idea. At some point I will have to make sure that she pays us back for all our expenses since we consider her a significant investment.

Music That Made Me Feel Like It's 1993 again in 2010 was the Swedish EBM group Autodafeh with their album "Identity Unknown" (listen to a track here) which gave me severe flashbacks of the still excellent "Tyranny for You" album by Front 242 and smoky EBM clubs in Stockholm that I really was too young to go to. Ok, it's a complete rip-off of the Front 242 sound by three overweight Swedes, but it's executed so damn good that it's impossible to not like it.

Music That Stuck in My Head and Refused to Leave in 2010 was the huge hit here in Japan by K-pop group Girl's Generation/少女時代 "Genie" (listen here), my attempts of doing the dance they do in the video never fail to amuse both Baby Sunshine and Mrs. Sunshine, but I nurture a futile hope that they're laughing with me and not at me.

Biggest Food Related Discovery in 2010 was without doubt the Chili Garlic Oil mix (see here), technically I got on it late 2009, but since it became the hit product of 2010 (also named so by several tv shows I've happened to see) it was hard to come by it until the supply chain started working in 2010, now there's millions of different brands out there, most of which are crap though.

Best Post of 2010, to take things a bit closer to home so to speak, my personal favorite post on this blog of 2010 probably was "The Stump", if you, dear Reader, has any other post of mine from 2010 you personally liked, please feel free to say something in the comments section, always appreciated

Best Title of Post in 2010 must be "Captain Awkward have difficulties peeing" (ok, I realize that it should be "has" and not "have", but whatever, that's blogging for you).

So, let me wish you all a fantastic Year of the Rabbit in 2011 and hope to see you around here then as well!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

...oh, so you just came here?

Ok, to my surprise and slight embarrasment, I got a message that I was selected one of the top 10 blogs of Tokyo by (see here) and find myself in good company with Green Eyed-Geisha and other much wittier and more sophisticated blogs than mine (although I do think that Corinne's blog should have been in there though, certainly worth it).

However, I also find myself a bit surprised and unprepared when I noticed the surge in visitors that came from this. A bit like hosting a party and noticing that all the guests were coming while I'm still in the shower... Particularly since I feel that my recent posts might not be that appeaking to a casual visitor dropping in for the first time.

So, if you're a first time visitor and inclined to give the blog a few seconds of your time, I would probably recommend you to manouver through the labels below the "The Old Stuff" to find the stuff that might interest you. If you just have a general interest in Japan and the stuff that's going on here, then you probably should check out "Japanese Oddities", if you're interested in business and want to know what's what in Japan you probably find more interesting stuff in the "Work related Stuff". "General Stuff" is probably something to dive into in case you for some reason find my writing amusing/interesting but might not be best to start with. The other labels deal with smaller more focused topics and might be worth a click if you find any of the topics interesting.

Anyway, hope you find something you like here and feel free to browse around and drop a comment if the mood strikes you!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Baby Sunshine and the video games

During the Christmas party earlier (see the previous post), my Brother in-Law played a little "Wii Party" with his 8 year old daughter to keep her entertained and pacified. The games in question were some cooperative mini-games where they worked together to clear the stage. Something which made the Mother in Law say "Salaryman, I bet you will play games with Baby Sunshine as well when she's 6 years old or so, won't you?". Due to some of the Christmas beer, my mask of sanity temporarily slipped and I quickly replied "No way, I aim to start her on it as early as possible, from two years old is the target age!".

A little off balance, MIL quickly recovered with "So you will play these kind of cooperative games with her, how nice", to which I again snapped back "No, I will only play competitive games with her and the moment she beats me at one game I will switch to another game that I know I'll beat her in and if it comes to that point, I will cheat to make sure she loses. I just, you know, wanna make sure she gets that feeling of just never being good enough compared to her old man".

The silence was a bit awkward for a few seconds until Baby Sunshine giggled out loud and diverted everyone's attention to her. Saved by the baby indeed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas at Salaryman's

As I was somewhat desperate to try and get a little Christmas atmosphere going, we invited over the in-laws and assorted related family over to the Salaryman household for a little Christmas party and some traditional Swedish Christmas food. I must admit that I'm a little proud of myself for the result and the time I put in the kitchen.

The Mother-In-Law proposed, through Mrs. Sunshine, to bring Sushi to the Christmas party to which I responded "No, I won't have my great Swedish table raped by invading Sushi, if she wants to bring something it has to match with the other stuff", expertly, this message was again filtered through the lovely Mrs. Sunshine and instead she brough a salmon salad which matched quite well with the other stuff.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

...with the theme set in the last two posts, I thought I might as well carry on and wish you all a very Merry Christmas with this old classic Swedish Christmas advertisement by insurance company "Locum".

They very cleverly replaced the "o" with a heart and wrote the "L" in small letters to make it more stylish and ran it in all the major newspapers to everyone's amusement!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"Easy Touch Fitta 4-way" (another one for the Swedes)

Ok, again, this post will probably only makes sense to the minority of Swedish readers I have and those who have thouroughly read up on the country through the Rock Manlyfist comic presented in the earlier post.

In any case, since I assume that most of my readers are now focusing on getting into the appropriate holiday spirit (I convinced Mrs. Sunshine that we should watch Gremlins tomorrow to get in the spirit) and have better things to do than to check out this blog, I thought I could get away with it.

Earlier in the day, we were checking out "baby backpacks" as Baby Sunshine is soon clocking in on a good ten kilos and putting quite a strain on most parts of her body and the one we bought since earlier isn't really doing the job. That's when I found this great product (in the picture); the "Easy Touch Fitta 4-way", which made me break out into a giggle and reach for my mobile phone to snap this picture as Mrs. Sunshine was seriously considering the product, and asked me what was so funny about it. After my answer she did the frown and said "well, in that case, I'm not gonna buy that one" and moved on to other brands, despite me insisting that "c'mon, it would be fun to own an Easy Touch Fitta".

I think most of you have figured out that the word "fitta" has an interesting meaning in Swedish and you would be correct. It would be fair to say that it's on par with the word "manko" in Japanese...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Salaryman Recommends - Rock Manlyfist, Master of Space Karate

Now the end of the year is drawing close and as you may have noticed in the frequency of posting, both the adorable Baby Sunshine and the final stretch before the New Year's vacation here in Japan is draining most of my energy.

Instead, this time I thought I should push a great web-comic by cartoon genius Johan Wanloo - Rock Manlyfist not only is it a nailbiting thriller, but also a deep and sophisticated analysis and comment on Sweden as a society, far more accurate than the paradise picture that NHK seems to paint on a weekly basis here on Japanese tv with all the happy old people, free schools and all that stuff that pales in significance. New exciting episodes every Monday.

This is the only web-comic you'll ever need and it's infotaining as well, what more can you ask for?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Hello Kitty with a mouth

Ok, I think I'll let this picture speak for itself. A TV show now just earlier today did a feature on Hello Kitty and had in the show, the current chief designer (apparently since the early 80's) for Hello Kitty in the studio and they did a number on the only time that Hello Kitty had been drawn with an actual mouth. Obviously I couldn't resist snapping a picture of it for your viewing pleasure.

And yeah, don't know what's up with the goats, they're not of the Christmas version at least, but looks like they tried to do some Kitty version of that popular Heidi thing in a cartoon show...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"No Hope"

As the end of the year is now drawing to a close, one of the things that need to get taken care of is the sending of the traditional New Year's greeting cards. This year they're particularly cute since 2011 will be the year of the rabbit.

So in conjunction with this, I go through my quite significant collection of business cards collected over the years to select those worthy of a greeting from me. As I was flipping through my collection I noticed in particular my oldest cards, collected during my first years of work. In order to help me remember who's who, I had written some quite good comments on the to help me remember the person. These comments were sometimes quite interesting and I had written in Swedish to make sure that no one would understand in case they would get their hands on them.

One card from a doctor had the comment; "looks like a homeless guy", another card had written on it "this guy's office looked like a garbage dump" and in one more exotic card I had actually written in English in large letters "NO HOPE", I can't for the life of me remember what I meant by it now almost ten years later, but decided against sending a card, not much point really according to my earlier comment...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

In the grim world of Warhammer, there are only babies sleeping

The always adorable Baby Sunshine has problems with relaxation and sleeping when she is meant to. We've tried all the tips and tricks that we have been able to find including excessive boob, rocking and just letting her cry it out (yes, the conclusion is that she doesn't seem to have an end to it).

However, I have now come up with an almost foolproof way of getting her to sleep! I take her with me to the computer room and play the strategical fantasy wargame "Warhammer - Mark of Chaos" with Baby Sunshine in the lap, the game has the benefit of being playable primarily with the mouse, leaving my left hand available to have a firm grip on the baby, but has the drawback of being a quite dull and boring game. She starts out watching the game intently as my ratmen army scurry across the screen to slaughter the enemy, then after a few minutes, she loses interest and start trying to reach the scissors, needles and other stuff I have lying on the computer table just in case I need them for anything, and then, giving up and falling peacefully asleep with her drool running down my forearm holding her up.

So far this method has turned out to be the most effecient and least exhausting way to get her to sleep. But I'm getting seriously tired of that game, I tried surfing the Internet but id didn't really work since the changes on the screen keep her interest up in what's going on... I guess you just play the cards you have been dealt!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sometimes it's the little things - The Elevator

We have four elevators in our building that goes up to the floor that we have our office in, and if you avoid the morning and lunch rush it's usually no problem to rather quickly push the down button, wait for a little while and the elevator comes. No problem, sometimes it takes a little longer which is no problem either, that's just the way elevators work.

One of the elevators is prioritized for handicaped people and have a separate handicap button (but if no one on some other floor has pushed it, it respons with the same speed as the other elevators so there's no need to push the handicap elevator call button). But something that really annoys me is, when I've pushed the elevator button, one of the elevators down lights has gone on and I know that it's inbound relatively soon. Then all of a sudden comes one of the older creepy looking guys from the office next door; he looks over the elevator section, sees that the button has been pressed and that one elevator is inbound but still he presses the handicap elevator call button in the hopes that it will save him 10-20 seconds by coming quicker. First of all, it never does and secondly, if someone with a real handicap actually needs to use that elevator, that old geezer will force that person to have to wait a bit longer since it will stop at our floor even though he's very much likely to go into the elevator that I called in the first place and comes faster.

It's times at these that I really really want to fart in the elevator when we're going down together... Sometimes it's just the little things...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

....enjoying the commute...?

Recently something very strange has happened, I am now actually looking forward to the commute and have found myself arriving much sooner at my destination than I would have liked and feel annoyed that I need to get off the train.

After I finished up watching all seasons of "The Wire" on the train, I had a bit of difficulties adjusting since I could not really find anything adequate to fill the void and ease the boredom of the crowded and long commute. I tried some other tv series, but nothing really worked that well and could keep my attention on the packed and sweaty trains.

But recently, a friend showed me a "tower defense" game on his iPhone (you know those games where hordes of monsters/enemies come at you and you have to build weapons along the path to make sure that they don't reach the base) that he used to kill the time. Intrigued, I researched a bit and found the game Pixeljunk Monsters that seemed to have great reviews, so I bought it and downloaded it to my PSP... I make a point of only playing it during the commute, but I am getting OCD over getting the "rainbow" (that means clearing each stage perfectly without any monster getting through) on all the levels and have frequently cursed over finding myself at my destination just when I in the middle of a certain hectic wave which I wanted to finish (I can put the game on hold, but those of you who've played it or something similar probably understand my feelings).

So, for the last week, this little game have revolutionized my commuting time, we'll see how long it lasts...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ebizo Ichikawa Press Conference - Live here at Salaryman's!

Ok, for the first time in my blogging history, I will do a live report on the upcoming press conference with Ebizo Ichikawa to hear all the sordid detailed regarding the ashtrays with tequilas, the bikers, the half-breeds and the brutal beeting! Not to mention how curious we all are to see whether he has maintained his good looks or look like Frankenstein!

Not that it'll really be live since this is a blog and not twitter, but humour me here and you can pretend that it's ongoing while you read it.

19:52 - Press conference has yet to begun, Baby Sunshine is sucking on her drool bib and Mrs. Sunshine has apparently prepared a pumpkin salad and gyoza for dinner, I feel excited about this!
19:55 - I had my first gyoza, it taste great, but I got a small frown due to the amount of chili oil mix I poured on the stuff
19:57 - I tasted some of the pumpkin salad and can't say that I'm that excited about it, but apparently it's made by the mother in law so I "should be grateful"
20:00 - Press conference is starting, but I feel more interested in the food (not the pumpkin salad), maybe I should get some more rice?
20:01 - Ebizo comes out shows his face, bows and look pretty normal, I was expecting a freakish face, dissapointing
20:02 - Baby Sunshine gets the boobie beside me, she seems content, some agency dude are talking and I can't really be bothered to listen to him
20:05 - Now Ebizo is gonna talk, I'm so hyped, he talks some boring empty phrases about how much trouble he has caused for all related people, blah blah blah
20:07 - He talks about how he wanted to do this press conference to apologies to everyone, but I wanted to hear about ashtrays and tequila?! I think I need more rice, but he's got a pretty big apology thing going, now he's doing a 30 seconds bow! Oh, one 30 second one wasn't enough, he did another one!
20:10 - Now he sits down after some excessive bowing, the floor is open for questions!
20:11 - I'm getting more rice, maybe a gyoza or two as well
20:14 - They're asking him if he was completely wasted out of his mind or not, he says he wasn't
20:16 - I did pour soy sauce on the rice and eating with knife and fork, please don't tell anyone
20:18 - Now they're asking if he knew the biker thugs that he ended up boozing with, seems like he didn't
20:19 - The question came how long he got beaten up, he says it felt like a long time (wow!)
20:21 - A great question "I think that you maybe thought that you would die at some point, when did you fear for your life?", equally great answer "when I was beaten up"
20:25 - "How many people beat you up?" Came a question, "more than one I think", it's a little entertaining that the person asking the question sounded a bit pissed off and aggressive
20:26 - Whew, I'm getting full, pretty good stuff today, maybe I'll have a cookie afterwards
20:27 - I wonder if it's custom to eat a gyoza in one bite or whether it's acceptable to cut it in half?
20:28 - Apparently Ebizo had quit drinking at some point and now they asked when he got on the wagon again, about a year ago and for the night in question he says that he had three cocktails, one bottle of champagne and some nice hard liqour too including tequila (well done Ebizo!)
20:31 - That was a nice dinner, can't find place for another gyoza, Mrs. Sunshine seems mildly annoyed that I didn't have much of the pumpkin salad
20:32 - "How do you feel about drinking now after this?" came a question "well, I don't think I'll feel like drinking in a long time" (no shit!)
20:34 - It really is a good thing that Ikea sells those tasty "Ballerina" cookies, I prefer the chocolate ones before the jam version
20:37 - Most of the questions are kinda dull, wonder how long this will go on? They should close this soon, I'm getting bored with this, he can't answer any of the interesting questions because "the police investigation is ongoing so I can't talk about this"
20:40 - Wow, most dull questions so far "what did you talk about with your wife in the hospital?"
20:42 - Screw this, this is way too dull, I'm gonna go play with the baby instead!

The Walmartization of Seiyu

The department store chain "Seiyu" is one of the larger ones, at least in the greater Kanto area of Japan. The stores are usually quite cheap and often in conjunction with train stations and feature a regular supermarket and a decent selection of other stuff of stuff ranging from decent to questionable. It's a quite typical small Japanese department store and can be useful if you live close to one, but nothing spectacular that makes it worth going out of one's way to find one.

Since quite a few years back, I knew that American chain Walmart had aqcuired a majority ownership stake in Seiyu and by now, I think it's a fully owned subsidiary of Walmart. The Walmart ownership hardly was noticeable the last time I found myself in a Seiyu department store (a few months back) but as I happened to find myself in one this weekend I was surprised by the total walmartization that the store had gone through.

The selection of goods in the supermarket section was basically identical to that of any other larger supermarket and nothing "Walmarty" or American about it, but this time all of the signs had been replaced by new signs in the blue color of Walmart and looked distinctively "non-Japanese". To my big dissapointment though, the customers looked like normal Japanese people and nothing like those in people of Walmart in the US. Maybe this will have changed by the next time I find myself in one?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ok, thanks for the warning, now what?

The other day last week, as I was getting ready for work and watched the morning news and the weather from the safety of the Salaryman cave with the rain pouring down outside, the news issued a warning for the Chiba prefecture where I currently reside. The warning was to "be careful of tornadoes" during the day.

The warning was fair and straighforward enough, but it failed to answer the main question that I had; so, if I happen to run into a tornado, what do I do then? Should I play dead, build a shelter or just try to run away? I might need to start building a tornadoe shelter in the near future...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A War of Cultures - Decorating for Christmas

One of the recent discussions in the Salaryman-Sunshine household has been about the correct timing of start for Christmas decorations. From late November we have watched as the houses around us has gradually started to roll-out the Christmas pimping, starting with lights in the trees of varying degrees of sophistication (some of them seem to put quite the effort and electricity bill into this...), closely followed by the hanging of Christmas wreaths on the doors.

Come late November, we were virtually the only house in the area without one, and despite my firm stance to at least wait until the beginning of December with the Christmas decorations, Mrs. Sunshine felt a strong peer pressure and I finally relented and the wreath got hung on the front door.

The next debate came onto the subject of dressing the (small plastic) Christmas tree. Initially I favored a slightly later timing for this while Mrs. Sunshine preferred to have it out come start of December. When I told her that "You know in Sweden, people don't dress the Christmas tree until the 23rd of December, just the day before" I was met with a "Why? We're in Japan now and besides, I think it would be nice to have it out soon". Again, I failed to come up with any good (or bad) arguments for why we should wait, and since a few days ago, the Christmas tree got busted out and dressed up.

Above, you can see the actual glory of the Salaryman Christmas tree, please note Baby Sunshine and the Christmas Goat in there for you to get the scale!
(a few seconds later Baby Sunshine pulled down the whole tree with a lot of crying and whining as a result)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tell it like it is Noripi!

Loyal and diligent readers of my blog probably remember all the stuff about Noriko "Noripi" Sakai that I gave you my take on in the wake of the whole meth use ordeal. Those of you with weak memories or newcomers can check it out here.

Ever since the whole exciting revelation of a former teen idol gone "Mama-idol" doing meth, got focused on in the media, I told Mrs. Sunshine that "She'll keep her head down for a year or two, then she'll write a book telling "her story" on how she got caught up in this horrible addiction and probably blame most of it on her self-titled pro-surfer husband, then she'll do some of the milder talkshows for a bit and a little bit later she'll be back full time in the variety tv shows here in Japan and maybe even some parts in primetime tv dramas".

After the whole deal, her sentencing and following press conference after her very quick release, she dressed very conservatively, cried some tears and stated that she now would like to dedicate her life to her son and nursing of disabled people.

Sure enough, a few months later some tv footage showed her attending a school event of her son and her visiting a nursing home (supposedly she went to nursing school, but I think she just "went there physically" and didn't really study anything). Then it has been silent with no public appearances until today.

The news reported yesterday that she will release a book telling "her story" (see here in Japanese). I'm not surprised and Mrs. Sunshine even gave me one of those rare "Wow, it went just like you said it would" without any frown. Well, at least the Japanese entertainment world is getting entertaining again and I thought it was plenty with Kabuki actors getting beaten down to a pulp by half-Japanese bikers!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Well, all things considered...

Since some time back, our head office has been engaged in a bit of a struggle with a distributor in some regions. The distributors wants to keep selling our products according to the somewhat overly beneficial conditions in terms of transfer prices and term of agreement, that was granted them by a previous Vice President who since has made to leave the company, due to, among other things, deals such as this.

The new team took over with vigor and engaged the dealer in what they hoped to be constructive discussions but quickly found themselves in a confrontational situation with very little progress followed by a complete refusal to meet with the new team and the guy who was put in charge to sort things out with no conclusion anywhere in sight.

A senior management member of the company, ultimately in charge of this situation decided to jump in and go hands-on with the situation since he deemed that "personal chemistry" was a big problem between the distributor guys and the internal manager who had been in charge of negotiations with them. So he set up a new meeting with a new team from our company to try and sort things out.

After the meeting he sent out an e-mail reporting to the management team on how things had gone (which I eventually got forwarded) proudly exclaiming that "it was the best that we could have hoped for" (sounds promising, huh?), followed by "the listened politely to us and said that they would get back to us eventually".

As this partly affects our business, I had to fight the urge to not reply back in capital letters "NO THIS IS NOT THE BEST WE COULD HAVE HOPED FOR! THIS IS NO CHANGE TO THE PREVIOUS SITUATION, THE BEST WE COULD HAVE HOPED FOR WOULD HAVE BEEN A CANCELLATION OF THE OLD CONTRACT AND A NEW MORE REASONABLE AGREEMENT! YOU NEED TO TAKE A LONG HARD LOOK AT HOW YOU PLACE YOUR EXPECTATIONS!", but calm and reasonable as I am, I just kept my head down. A few weeks later I asked if there had been any progress but was told "No, I'm still waiting for them to get back to us".

If the best we could have hoped for was nothing, I'm curious how a bad scenario looks like in this guy's eyes...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Did I say too much?

Ok, I know that this comes a bit late since the always adorable little Baby Sunshine is not always allowing me to keep up a timely blogging schedule, so those of you following Japanese news have likely seen this elsewhere, but I felt that I should also comment on the amusing story of the (now resigned/fired) Minister of Justice in Japan; Minoru Yanagida (Mr.).

During an event in Hiroshima, in front of a mostly friendly audience, but also some TV cameras, Minoru jovially shared some interesting things on the take on his job as he had never ever touched on the subject of Justice in his political career up to his appointment, but that he received some great advice when he shared his reluctance on his competency on the job: "That's ok with no experience, you just have to remember two phrases, "I cannot comment on individual cases" and "We are proceeding according to the law and the evidence available to us", if you don't know what to say, just use one of those two and you'll be fine" (a video report on the whole deal you can see here in Japanese).

However, I strongly suspect that his subsequent firing was due to international pressure from the Illuminate of Ministers of Justice across the world as he had publicly revealed their secret in public and broken their wov of secrecy... Since this is very likely how most Ministers of Justice operate across the world... The conspiracy deepens...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Honor the company!

Recently I met up with an old Japanese friend to catch up on stuff, share some drinks and stories, I was particularly interested since my friend had recently changed company due to an acquisition of the Japanese subsidiary of the foreign company he was working in, by a quite old traditional Japanese company.

Although my friend is completely Japanese, he has so far spent his career working for foreign companies and received something of a culture shock when he started his "new/old" job in the company he had ended up in as the foreign operation was quickly completely integrated into the Japanese company. In particular, there were three things that he found most difficult to adjust to:

1. Work not starting from 09:00AM but from 08:50AM (my friend was a bit unsure as of the reasons for this, just that it seemed to be the standard in some old fashioned companies; perhaps any of my readers would know why?)

2. Required morning greeting where all in the department huddle around, say "good morning" in a loud voice together before going back to doing nothing

3. The company anthem and the way that it's sung when opening bigger meetings with everyone singing it with passion and knowing it by heart (my friend so far just pretends and seem to be getting away with it)

All in all, I think that my decision to stay in foreign capital companies seem to be a wise one, a company anthem I would have quite big difficulties adjusting to...
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