Tuesday, March 30, 2010

No, let me tell you what the real scandal is - Criminal use of mascot characters!

Recently the Japanese police department has been shook by a minor scandal involving a high ranking police officer (Hiroshi Nakai in case you are wondering) and his relationship to a hostess girl and how he had given her the card key access to his offices. Now, this scandal in itself is pretty dull and nothing that really raised any real interest from my side.

However, during the press conferences held, Nakai was talking in front of a board filled with a horde of bizarre mascot characters (in case you want to see, you can find it here on youtube, around 20 sec in the fun starts) obviously the clash of cute Japanese mascot characters and a womanizing scandal is bizarre in itself, but this triggered me to go to the bottom of this sordid incident... Some quick and dirty journalistic research yielded these findings; all the mascot characters used by central and local Japanese police departments...

That the tax payers money (i.e. mine!) is diverted into developing mascot characters might be justified in some cases since it can help create interest and awareness of the police and such among the kids and people into that kinda thing in Japan. But a quick glance shows that there is considerable differences in quality in these mascots...

The real horror though is the Okinawa Police mascot and it could be briefly seen during the press conference behind Nakai and completely stole my interest away from anything that he had to say. It is with great pride, mixed with disgust, that I present to you, the only real contender to Sentokun that I have discovered here in Japan; Shiizaa-kun:

The face of this "cute character" seem to be decorated with something that unmistakeably look like turds... What the police really need to go to the bottom with is who developed this mascot and make sure that they get punished to the full extent of the law!

And if it's not criminal as it looks now, the law seriously needs some revisions to criminalize use of mascot characters like this!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Toilet sleeping

As my office is not a huge entity worthy of occupying a building or even a whole floor of a building on its own, we share a floor with 4 other companies. This is basically nothing particularly exciting and doesn't really cause me any problems or discomfort, just some infrequent bouts of curiosity on what our floor comrades might be doing for business (but never really enough to warrant the effort to google them and actually find out). Our floor comrades also seem to be quite regular companies with no particularly freaky people.

Sharing the floor means sharing some other spaces as well. One would be the small sink and wash up space and the other major shared space is the toilets. Again, this is not really any problem since they seem to consist of a regular boring bunch of salarymen of reasonable hygiene who are not punishing the toilets with more wear and tear than the cleaning staff can handle.

There is one issue though... I strongly suspect that a few people among our neighborhood companies are systematically taking post-lunch naps in the toilet booths. I can understand that the pressure on the toilets get a bit higher post-lunch, but every day from 1-3 pm the booths are chronically occupied... Once, when the need was quite pressing, I actually waited outside the booths for around 5 minutes in the hope of an opening but no luck. During my wait, no sound was heard from the booths, none of the regular natural bodily sounds, tearing of toilet paper and spinning of rolls or flushing. Just complete silence.

The thing that would contradict this theory is the lack of snoring noises but I am set to get to the bottom of this matter! With a gap between the door and the floor as well as between the door and the roof, some form of telescope could help me solve this pressing matter.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why the Japanese gaming industry annoys me...

Ok, I understand that most people reading this blog probably couldn’t care less about my gaming habits or insightful comments on Japanese vs. western gaming culture, but I feel a need to address this topic again.

I am getting increasingly uncomfortable with how Japanese gaming companies are ripping off the Japanese gamers in their pricing on domestically produced games. Ok, I can understand that a game such as the recently released Final Fantasy 13 cost tons of money to produce, but charging close to 8,000 yen for it (~$80USD) for it when God of War 3 that just came out goes for almost half that price (~$50USD) is just offensive. Similarly, Bioshock 2 is sold for ~$50USD and released with little lag in Japan, but the next installment in the 無双 (Musou “Dynasty Warriors”) series which just rehash gameplay for at least 3-4 games each year and then having the nerve to charge ~$80USD for each "new" game just pisses me off. Not to mention that the most recent installment in the Japanese strategy game Nobunaga's Ambition carried a retail price of almost $100USD

But then again, the fact that the Japanese gaming crowd actually don’t seem to mind to pay up these amounts for these domestic games is the big mystery. I shouldn't really complain since my preferences go more to the Western games since Japan have fallen behind in recent years when it comes to creating great games, but as long as the people are happy to pay twice the price for bland rehashes of old franchises, it hardly pushes the industry to focus on creating great games...

(Oh, and if you really want to get your hands on Battle Raper 2, hurry up and buy it off Amazon.co.jp since they only have 4 copies left in stock!)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Hmmm... maybe a towel set would be a nice gift?

Just a bit earlier today, two newly moved in neighborhood families came to introduce themselves (ok, I know, just wait a little longer and the "buying a house in Japan" series will start soon!). When you do these type of introductions in Japan, it is customary to bring some sort of gift as well, nothing fancy. I'm sure there are unwritten rules written down somewhere, but they usually are worth something around max $20 something.

Today, both families gave us a towel set... The towel set is the staple of the Japanese gift giving tradition; if you have no idea what to give? Towel! Suspecting that they might be allergic to flowers? Towel! Not sure what sweets they like? Towel!

I have received towels at shops, funerals, weddings, farewell gifts from the company, moving in gifts, you name the event and I'm sure that I have received a towel from it at some point. I especially enjoy the thought of the two newly moved in families exchanging towel gifts with each other.

So yeah, if you don't know what to give a Japanese friend or acquaintance at an event? Go with the towel, I'm sure that they will treasure them with the other 50-100 towel gift sets that they have received throughout the years!

Friday, March 26, 2010

How to conduct a successful job interview

Again coming back to my technical incompetency... During my early job hunting days here in Japan I got in contact with an industrial equipment company who I had sent in my CV to, and they were really friendly and just the day after the European President called me back to do a little interview over the phone.

It went something like this:

President: (very friendly) So, do you have any formal degree in engineering or other technical subject?

Salaryman: (friendly in return) Well, no, can't say that I have, what I have is all in my CV.

President: (still very friendly) Ok, that's not an absolute requirement, but have you had any work experiences working with technical stuff, summer job or anything?

Salaryman: (still upbeat) No, can't say that I have that either!

President: (keeping up the friendliness) Oh, I see, well, do you have any personal interests in engineering, tinkering or technical stuff?

Salaryman: (quickly and friendly) Nope, can't say that I have any interest at all really in that area

President: (keeping up friendliness) Ok, I see, well, maybe this company is not really for you then?

Salaryman: (even more friendly) No, I agree, it doesn't sound like it at all actually.

President: (ending friendly) Well, ok, but let's keep in touch and good luck!

But hey, they seemed like a really nice bunch of people and it ranks up there with one of my most comfortable job interviews!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

...wow, thanks and great that I can be of help

As the training was continuing and since the product in question seemed reasonably fun and easy to operate, I myself did an attempt under the supervision of some of the tech staff and managed to actually get the thing working almost on my own. As I previously mentioned, this is quite a feat considering my general incompetence with anything of a technical nature.

Later on, during a break over coffee as we were sitting around in the conference room and as I was having small talk with the German trainer from head office I noticed that the tech people were discussing training the customers on the device, and they had a quite heated discussion on whether it would be easy to teach the customers or not.

I didn't really listen in or participate much since I was in a conversation with my HQ colleague, but after a while I kept hearing my name being mentioned quite a few times and started focusing my attention a little more on what discussion and overheard something like this:

Tech Guy 1: Look, it might seem easy, but I think it will take quite some time to actually make sure that the customers are capable of operating the machine to the level needed!
Tech Guy 2: Well, it really is quite simple, c'mon, even Mr. Salaryman managed to do it with very limited help!
Tech Guy 1: ...yeah, that's actually true, maybe you're right, even he did ok on it, shouldn't be that hard then really...
Salaryman: Hey guys, I'm right here you know... But hey, great if it could help you guys!

Feels nice that they have that level of confidence in me and again reminded me why I shouldn't work with technical stuff...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

This is why I hate translating technical discussions

Since the English ability in the organization of our little company is severely limited, I sometimes need to help out my fellow salarymen in translating in their interactions when someone from the head office comes over from the great head office. Considering that my technical competency is limited to activating a coffee maker, and even that is pushing it, it can pose some considerable challenges when I need to help out my technical R&D colleagues in Japan...

Last week I was working quite a bit with this and this type of exchange was the norm:

HQ Trainer: So now you need to make sure that the PCP board is communicating properly with the ITC slaves, done through a standard OCP protocol.
Salaryman: (To trainer in English) Uh, ok, what's the ITC slaves again, I don't really understand what you're saying which makes it a bit difficult to translate...
HQ Trainer: Oh sorry, it's the sub-functions of the 4R4 ports that make sure that the ventilation is functioning properly
Salaryman: Uh... Ok, what's the OCP protocol again then...?
Japanese Tech Staff receiving training: (looking with me confused and with expectation glimmering in their eyes that I will soon clarify everything that they didn't understand)
HQ Trainer: (getting in a casual English mode) Well, it's basically the control function that makes sure that communication is going fine across the device, sending signals to the BPB rotor and getting confirmation back.
Salaryman: (resigned) Ok, I don't really have a clue what you're talking about, but I'll try...
Salaryman: (in Japanese to tech staff) Ok, make sure that the whatever-it-is PCP board is doing something with the (asking the HQ trainer what it's called again) ... uh, ITC-something-slaves through something OCP something...? I don't have a clue what I'm saying, do you understand any of this?
Japanese Tech Staff: (looking slightly confused but with some occasional nodding going around)
Salaryman: (pointing at one of the tech guys that seems to understand what it's about) Maybe you can try and help me explain if you understand what this was the hell about?
Tech Guy: Sure Salaryman, it's about... (launching into a detailed explanation that far surpasses what the trainer said, but seemingly correct)
Salaryman: (breathes a sigh of relief and turns to the trainer in English) It seems like Nakamura-san has figured it out so it's ok


Another Tech Guy: (curious) But Salaryman, we usually use the TBB protocol, will this interfere with the OCP? We had some things happening in the past, can you please ask.
Salaryman: (extremely tired) What's a TBB protocol...?

Rinse and repeat.

Usually I find it easier to just herd the tech dorks together and then have them communicate in International technical abbreviations since that seem to be least painful for everyone...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Yes, recently explosive diarrhea seems to be all the vogue

As a minor educational post to break up all the horrible corporate insanity.
There are a few words that can be really difficult for Japanese people to deal with in English, even if they basically are completely fluent. Let me give you two examples I have been running into quite often, and as a special treat I will also tell you the reasons for the mix-ups (pretty sweet, huh?).

1. Japanese Person in English: "Now the traffic light is BLUE, we can walk"

2. Japanese Person in English: "It seems like some virus causing horrible vomiting and explosive diarrhea is really POPULAR among the kids in schools now"

The reason for the common mistake for number one above is because the Japanese word for "Blue" and "Green" are usually interchangable; ok, there is a separate word that can be used for "Green" as well, but commonly "Blue/Green" (青い) is used.

The reason for the example number two, which can cause some more amusing misunderstandings is that the Japanese word for "epidemic" is the same as for "being popular" so if the person thinks in Japanese and applies the same broad definition when talking in English there can be some quite hilarious misunderstandings.

See, you learnt something here (sometime needs to be the first)!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Introducing the fire to the tribe...

Recently I had a project where some help from one of the sales reps was needed, a very nice guy and I do not doubt his skills in his core profession of selling our stuff. But what I needed was some quantative estimates of quite a complicated nature and since this is a recurring thing I spent quite some time making an automated excel spreadsheet where just some inputs were required to get everything automatically calculated.

Stupid as I was, I didn't really think much about and just assumed that he would figure it out if he played around with it a little and just gave him a very quick explanation of how the file worked.

Then he came today and told me that he had finished it and handed me over printed out copies of the sheets where he had, with a pen, written in his figures and apparently struggled a bit with the calculator a bit to try and get the figures right... I looked at the sheets and I think he saw my confusion since he asked "Oh, maybe I should have put them in the file...?". "Nah, it's ok, I'll put it in" I answered and demonstrated to him while he stood there how I just fed in the figures needed and how all the complicated calculations then took care of themselves without any need to do it manually.

He seemed a bit baffled when he realized how simple it was and how the time he had spent on it had been a complete waste of time (he probably spent about half a day on it...). But the next time I think he'll do it the easy way.

It made me feel a bit like introducing firearms to an inca tribe and when coming back realizing that they were just using the guns as clubs... Next time, I'll spend 10 min training them so they don't have to waste more time than needed!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No! Leave Cpt. Awkward alone!

I have mentioned quite a few management techniques and ways to alienate employees previously (whatever management, bigfoot management, management by humiliation (yes, he left btw) and power harassment immediately comes to mind) but today I encountered a new way.

The sales director; Mr. I-have-a-cunning-plan, who I get along fine with and who always have a cunning plan out of any pinches he might find himself in (they don't always work, but by that time he already has a new, even more cunning plan and it doesn't seem like he's running out of them in the near future) has started a new cunning underground project and has let me in on the basic plan since I believe that he cunningly has realized that it's best to keep me informed so to keep me on his good side.

The problem is that his little project really should include Cpt. Awkward as one of the key people, but in the communication with me he asked me to please let him do this without Cpt. Awkward's involvement; "let's not include him for now, I wouldn't want to take his attention away from the important things that he's working on now" being the official reason, but obviously the real reason is because he finds it difficult to work with him...

Now, as faithful readers of this blog might realize, he has a point in Cpt. Awkward perhaps not always being completely on top of things and his tendency to make things awkward. But I have a soft spot for him, he might not be the easiest guy to work with, but at least things don't get boring.

This is basically the corporate version of the cool kids freezing out the awkward guy with the huge glasses. In a way it feels a bit comfortable knowing that even as we grow older and "professional", things never really change much in the end. But I will do my best to sneakingly insert Cpt. Awkward in the project since it will get a lot more interesting then!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The mystery of room no. 882...

The other day I went to an official meeting in work at a government agency, the kind of place which looks really crappy and gray with stacks of books all over the place and which is either uncomfortably hot or cold, never somewhere in between. But nevertheless, a place where most Japanese people dream of working, basically they only recruit out of the top universities among the hordes of people who dream of a job in the slow moving bureaucracy of Japan.

As I had my little meeting around a table in a makeshift space in a corner of the office, I had a clear view of the computer screen of one of the junior women working there, young and junior, but not just a lowly assistant. Her screen was out of sight of the other people in the office and probably only visible from the place that me and my colleague were sitting.

On the screen, she had a word file open and written in large font (probably around size 24-32 something) "What's room 882 got to do with anything?" (in Japanese I think it said "882号室は何も関係ないだろう?). During the time I had the discussions with the people I had come to meet, she sometimes highlighted the whole text, sometimes she removed the questionmark at the end, only to put it back again. Then sitting staring at it for long periods of time.

It really threw me off my balance because I had problems focusing on the other discussion since this mysterious little message kept fascinating me and the obvious dedication she put into this seemingly pointless exercise. Just a few minutes before the meeting was wrapping up, she closed the file without saving and left her desk to go do something else, possibly slightly more productive.

Well, at least it's good to see that the taxpayers money is coming to good use and that our adminstrative functions here in Japan are putting the focus on efficiency!

...but what really was up with room 882...?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mother protect us all!

A conversation a few days ago between me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman.

Mrs. Sunshine: Hey, isn't your mom's birthday coming up really soon?
Salaryman: (confused) huh? Oh yeah, it usually is once every year around this time of year, isn't it? I'll check!

(Salaryman checking through asking Big Bro and sure enough, it's just a few days away)

Mrs. Sunshine: If you're gonna get her flowers like you usually do, you should order soon.
Salaryman: (confused) huh? Oh yeah, but I can do that on the same day, so it's cool.
Mrs. Sunshine: (slightly concerned about my mother now) Try to not order the same type of flowers as last year.
Salaryman: (confused) huh? Oh, right... Wait, does it matter?
Mrs. Sunshine: (even more concerned about my mother) Well, you know how she always makes a painting out of them, wouldn't be as much fun if it's the same flowers, right?
Salaryman: (confused) huh? Oh, yeah, painting, right... But how am I supposed to know what flowers she got last year?
Mrs. Sunshine: (very tired) Well, you ordered them last year, didn't you, so you should know, right? Salaryman: (ashamed silence)... oh, yeah, right... but that was last year...

Somehow it seems like my brain only has room to remember three birthdays in my head at the same time and now Mrs. Sunshine occupies the premier slot, followed by Big Bro and then by old buddy Martin...

Monday, March 15, 2010

Staying a night at the "Manga Kissa"...

In Japan , there are several options for those having a night out with friends and end up missing the last train and without the means to take a taxi or other transportation home.
One of the more famous are the "capsule hotels" which offers a small bed, washing and changing facilities. I have actually never stayed at one, but it doesn't seem that bad unless you have difficulties with confined spaces.

The second option is to take advantage of one of the "all night" offers at one of the many "Manga Kissa" or Manga coffee shops. Those place usually offer a comfortable seat, a large selection of manga comic books that you can borrow and read as you please, perhaps a computer or tv and a small space with a partition giving you at least a bare minimum of privacy. Also they usually offer free soft drinks. I would liken them to Internet cafes if it wasn't for the fact that Internet and tv are the secondary things and the extensive library of manga books is the main pull.

It’s been quite a few years since I frequented one of these places, back in the day when I had just moved here and did not yet have Internet access I went to those to do my mailing and Internet surfing, but in the last ~8 years I have not been to one.

Recently the Boy told me how he had missed the last train and ending up ditched by his friend a bit too far off to take a taxi home. Since it was just a matter of 5-6 hours, he made the decision to spend the night at Manga Kissa until the first train in the morning (they usually start up around six am).

However, the world of after-dark Manga Kissa showed to be a scary place after dark... The place he had picked had semi-private rooms with large partations and "saloon type" doors to your little booth and for some strange reason this place had a pretty extensive collection of hardcore porno manga (usually this is not the case) a section which was pretty heavily in use by a portion of the clientel. As the Boy was walking back from getting his soft drinks, passing by the booths, quite a few of the chairs he could see were shaking more than they should when you’re just supposedly reading a comic book. Also, strangely enough, the booths where shaking chairs could be seen seemed to be the same people who commuted to the porn corner...

Sleeping turned out to be much much harder than the Boy initially expected, despite a pretty comfortable chair and ability to dim the lights. Apparently a manga kissa at night is about as calm and serene as a mental asylum with people banging on the walls, the occasional howling and just when things seem to calm down, some sadistic bastard turns on the soft ice cream machine which operated on a noise level the same as heavy industrial equipment...

In order to turn this post into something a little educational, if finances are limited and you end up in the middle of Tokyo with a few hours to kill before the trains start moving and you don't want to spend the money on a capsule hotel or love hotel, then an all night pack usually doesn't cost more than around 2,000 yen. It's a pretty agreeable price as long as you don't expect to be able to sleep too well...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A War of Cultures – Playing online

Ok, under this very low key title I usually put in cultural differences between me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman, but I thought it could be applied to this post as well. I’m not a huge fan of online gaming since most of it seem to require time that I do not have readily available so nowadays it is mostly limited to some shorter bursts in first person shooting games.

When I log on to a US game server and play with United Stadians the most heard things are usually: Unprovoked racial slurs, accusations of people/team sucking and random cursing.
If I log on to a Japanese server populated with Japanese, the most heard things are: “Hi Everyone”, “Thanks!” and “Nice game”… (in Japanese obviously)

I find it amazing that the Japanese politeness remains even in the dark murky world on anonymous online murdergames…

Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting Married in Japan Part 13 - The Soundtrack

I know I promised to actually close down this series of posts, but just because of that I obviously remembered some other things that I thought I should mention.

One very important thing for the wedding and reception was to put together a soundtrack for all the events and happenings during the reception and wedding ceremony. Considering that me and Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman has quite different taste in music, this required some quite hard negotiations and give-and-take.

For the main "wedding song" for the entrance of the bride, we chose to have the duet song "You're the One" with Shane MacGowan of the Pogues fame and Moya Brennan, partly because it's a really great song that I like with a really good type of "The Beauty and the Beast" contrast in the voices of Shane and Moya which I thought was quite fitting with me and Mrs. Sunshine (yes, she would be the Beauty) and I also really wanted to fit in the full blown boozer Shane MacGowan somewhere in the wedding soundtrack.

Considering all the events and stuff that took place during the wedding, a quite extensive soundtrack had to be put together, here's the full list and for your entertainment you can try and see if you can figure out which songs were chosen by me and which were chosen by Mrs. Sunshine:

Love Story -Taylor Swift: Entry of Guests
Worlds On Fire - Erasure: Entry of Guests Cont.
Celebration - Kylie Minogue: Entry of bride and Groom
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper: Cake Cutting
Gotta Feeling - Black Eyed Peas: Bride and Groom temporary leaves for "image change"
Dancing Queen - ABBA: Re-entry and handing out of small gifts
Together - Thermostatic: Re-entry and handing out of small gifts Cont.
The Joker - Fatboy Slim: Champagne glass pyramid
When You Say Nothing At All - Ronan Keating: Gifts to Parents
New beginnings - Universal Poplab: Bride and Groom exits
Finally Found - Honeyz: People leave the room

I really wanted to put Front 242 and Tiamat in there somewhere, but it proved a bit too challenging... At least I could put in Close with the Mobile homes in the "profile video".

(Couldn't find the Thermostatic and Universal Poplab songs, but linked to other stuff by them so you get the vibe)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Subway Groping - A Beginner's Guide

Perhaps the title of this post is a little misleading since my experience in actual groping unfortunately is extremely limited to only the occasional involuntary crotch pressing incident, so I cannot give any advice in how to perform the actual groping.

However, I do have seen quite a few reports on TV on subway and train groping and how they have apprehended suspected gropers and thought I could share some of the knowledge I have picked up from there. In order to become a genuine subway groper I believe that the following steps would be the best way to go:
  1. Be Unemployed

  2. Spend the rush hour time in mornings going back and forth between a couple of extremely crowded stations

  3. Grope

  4. When caught "bare-handed" by some resourceful girl who gets assistance by a few larger salarymen in getting you off the train and into the care of the station police, continuously cry in panic "what are you doing, I haven't done anything?! Let me go!!!"

  5. When taken into custody continue to loudly exclaim your innocence, cry profusely

  6. When confronted with evidence or just breaking down, continue cry and scream "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to! Can't you just let me go?! Please, please, I'm so sorry! I have never ever done this before"

  7. When/if confronted with having stalked the stations on multiple occassions continue to cry and deny "No, that's not me, I only did it this once, I'm so sorry, please just let me go"

  8. When confronted with evidence or just breaking down, continue cry and scream "I'm so sorry! Can't you just let me go?! Please, please, I'm so sorry! I'll stop doing this, I promise!!!"

  9. A month or so later, start operations all over again on other subway line and stations

  10. (Go back to step 3)

Remember the steps above and you will fit in well with the typical Japanese train groper and who knows, if you get caught on TV, at least you'll represent the hobby very well!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I have become what I despise!

Yesterday as I was making my way from the office to the subway station Tokyo had a quite unusual bout of heavy snowfall... As I was making my way out of the building and seeing all the people with their umbrellas out walking around, in pure instinct I pulled out my own umbrella and used it as I was heading out in the street...

It wasn't really until I basically had reached the subway station that I realized what I had done... I have loudly complained about the usage of umbrellas here in Japan when it's snowing time and time again and despite my strong opinions on this subject, without realizing it, I had become one of them...

When I reached my station and the snow had turned to hail mixed with snow and hail I really wanted to use the umbrella but felt so disgusted with myself because of my betrayal of all that's good and sensible that I put my head down and walked straight through it.

Is this how it starts? Little by little I start slipping, I'm just glad that I still had senses enough to realize what I had done... I feel dirty and ashamed of myself...

(bonus points to anyone who know who the interesting fellow in the picture is!)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

That's a really good name!

As I was enjoying my commute to work this morning I came to think of a Japanese friend of mine. He has a young son who has the name Kaita. They write "Kaita" with the characters 海人. The first character means "ocean" and the second one means "man" or "person".

So, basically, his son's name is AQUAMAN or stretching it a little it's also pretty close to OCEAN MASTER.

Damn! I wish I had thought of that...

Jobs on the side for the Tokyo Tower Noppon brothers

I managed to get hold of this actual documentation of a conversation between the Tokyo Tower image characters the "Noppon Brothers" who someone mentioned in my previous review of image characters in Japan (here and here). Click on it for bigger and better quality!

I just feel sorry for these guys, as the Tokyo Tower is not getting the attention as it used to back in the day, the two Noppon brothers have been forced to taking on additional work to make ends meet. It is really sad to see two such great characters being forced to use their creator given form for services that most of use would like to avoid... I really hope these guys can get back to being full time characters really really soon again...

Monday, March 8, 2010

I no speak foreignerish

Ok, this post might only really make sense to my foreign readers who speak decent Japanese since this is something that you won't really experience otherwise.

Being half-Japanese and my relatively good command of the Japanese language, during a brief encounter with me, a Japanese person might just assume that I am Japanese and not really think more of it. But what happens occasionally when I have to ask some questions in a shop or other place is that I run into a person, who at the beginning of the conversation believes that I am Japanese, but then I make some minor mistake in my spoken Japanese and the person realizes that he/she is talking to a foreigner.

Most of the time things go reasonably smooth in any case, but with a few people something happens in their brain when they realize that they're not talking to a Japanese person; all of a sudden they cannot understand anything that is being said and resort to speaking like they're speaking to a child. It doesn't matter at all if a normal conversation had been ongoing for quite some time before. Over the phone this is also pretty common...

This very rudimentary form of Xenophobia usually is quite frustrating to deal with when it happens, but I can't help finding it quite amusing how some Japanese people's minds just short-circuit when forced to deal with a foreigner and it's usually not malignant, just insecurity playing in...

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Please shoot up your junk here but whatever you do, don't smoke!

After the recent heavy posts regarding corporate insanity and stupidity I feel that I should perhaps again lighten up the mood a little bit. The photo here I took in a public toilet in Sweden a bit earlier.

The witch-hunt against smokers have reached a new height here I think, as far as I can see, seems like the sign is saying "Shoot up whatever junk you want in your veins here and go ahead and cut yourself with razor, but whatever you do, DON'T SMOKE!".

Unfortunately I did not have any syringe, nor substances suitable for injection, on me at that time so I could not utilize this great opportunity...

Friday, March 5, 2010

I made this! ...or wait? Does copy paste count?

Sometimes I am disturbed that I manage to survive all the corporate insanity that is going on in the Japan office. There are a few other nice and smart people in the company, but unfortunately they tend to be in the lower ranks of the organization or spread out over the branches outside Tokyo.

But after the last Cpt. Awkward incident, I thought I had gotten my share for the week and would at least have a not too stupid Friday at work. I was wrong, oh so wrong...

For reasons I have difficult understanding myself, I have been dragged into supporting the creation of a training program for the company. Generally I fully support the idea of having a training program in place but I have been bunched together in this project with Mr. Shachou and Mr. Brownnose rep who have the habit of agreeing with everything anyone says to him as long as they're equal or above him in the organization and then back talking them as soon as they're out of sight. I am aware of this so it doesn't really bother me that much, that's just the way he works.

One part of my annoyance is that most of the training material is really bad if it even exists and the discussion turned to some material regarding a certain aspect and the discussion went something like this:
Salaryman: (very skeptical) Do we even have any material regarding this?!
Mr. Shachou: (excited and a bit upset) Yeah we do, Mr. Brownnose made some amazing material, I'm so impressed with it!
Salaryman: (still skeptical, looks at Mr. Brownnose)
Mr. Brownnose: (aggressive) Yeah, I made a lot of material for this!
Salaryman: (still very skeptical) Ok, do you mind showing me this?
Mr. Brownnose: (confidently aggressive) Sure, look here!

(As I look at the material he's put together I have to admit that it's not too shabby, far from great, but real useable material in quite large amounts)

Salaryman: (still skeptical) Did you actually make this
Mr. Brownnose: (offended) Yes I did!
Salaryman: (frowning) You actually made all of this?!
Mr. Brownnose: (more offended) Yeah! I made all of this!
Salaryman: (more submissive) Well, it actually looks pretty good, sorry about that...
Mr. Brownnose: (smug) It's ok!

Then after the meeting I take another look at the material and after looking a bit more in detail I see that it's clearly out of Mr. Brownnose's competency to put together that type of material. I start googling parts of the text and for every section I get a hit on google. It's obvious that he's lifted everything off educational sites and not even really mixed things up much, just taking stuff straight off pages and putting them in slides. Just 5 minutes of checking clearly shows that the only work he's done is copy pasting.

I approach him where he's sitting

Salaryman: (angry) Hey, I looked a bit closer on the material and it's all copied of sites from the Internet and you haven't even sourced it to make it look like you made it all!
Mr. Brownnose: (caught with his pants down) Yeah... I did that, isn't that ok...?
Salaryman: (tired and angry) Do you know copyright? At the very least you need to source the stuff, this could get us in big problems you know! We can't use stuff like that's not ours just like that without proper permission!
Mr. Brownnose: (very submissive) But I did change some words here and there so it's not really completely straight copied...?
Salaryman: (just tired) Well maybe you don't realize it but that makes it even worse, I've checked and the changes are so minor that it makes it worse, we can't do shit like that!
Mr. Brownnose: (meekly) Oh, so maybe we shouldn't use this...?
Salaryman: (even more tired) You do whatever you want, but remember that I told you this!

At least Cpt. Awkward has that endearing awkwardness that makes me constantly forgive him, but this is probably the most offensive display of stupidity that I have encountered in a long time...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

On the bringe of oblivion - Cpt. Awkward saves the day!

Earlier in the week we had a launch preparation meeting for a new pharmaceutical product that is soon to be launch by our little company and which is expected to basically drive our growth in the coming years. Basically all the launch preparations are now falling into place and the meeting was mainly with Captain Awkward and his peons to make sure that things were prepared from the PMS (Post-Marketing Surveillance - basically monitoring usage of the products and following up and reporting on any adverse events) side of things.

As I was walking down the list and checking that things had been prepared properly and reached one particular document that needed to be submitted to the authorities and as I asked Cpt. Awkward, more as a confirmation, "this was submitted before the end of last year, right?". I do not get an immediate answer, instead there's some awkward silence, his peons are starting to nervously glance at him as he opens his mouth, as to talk, closes it again and then finally says "oh, no, we did not submit that, I wasn't sure it was needed so I was going to ask the authorities on how to do that...". One of his peons immediately react and tells him "well, I have done this thing before and we're definitely going to need to submit that, no way we can avoid that". Again some awkward silence and he finally says "oh..." and stares out in the distance in the cramped meeting room.

As I look around the room, I can see how the impact of this is starting to dawn on the sales manager and his face is turning increasingly red. I'm desperately trying to figure out how we can work around this problem while still maintain our tight schedule. His QA peons are starting to sweat and looking nervously at each other, probably thinking that they're going to take the fall for this.

I try to steer the discussion on how we possibly can mitigate this oversight. Ideas are thrown around but after around 20 minutes they're starting to get more and more desperate and unrealistic. Cpt. Awkward mostly stares off in the distance and chips in with some small comments, mostly of the "yes", "no", "maybe" and "I don't know" variety.

Due to the timing and amount of work that needs to be put into this I'm starting to realize that there is no way that we can get away with less than 6 months of delays and lost revenues, but more likely spilling over into a full year and possibly more and considerable amounts of money as I run the calculations.
The atmosphere in the room is getting close to panic, Christian Lady is starting to pray, the Sales Manager is calling his family to tell them he loves them, one QA peon is starting to sharpen the harakiri (seppuku) knife saved for occassions like this and annoying QA assistant peon has reached a cataconic stage rocking back and forth. I am desperate trying to figure out an escape plan on how to quickly get some fake passports and fly to North Korea with Mrs. Sunshine-Salaryman to start a new life.

Just at that stage, the Government Affairs Director, and Cpt. Awkward's immediate superior comes in late to the meeting and looks around, sensing that trouble is abound, asks what the issue is.

I explain the problem and the impact it looks like this will have on our business and how basically we are in deep shit. The Director looks surprised and turns to Cpt. Awkward and says "no, I know that you submitted that because I reviewed it before we handed it in, that was almost six months ago". Again, a few seconds of awkward silence until Cpt. Awkward responds "Oh, yes, that's right, I did submit that last year". An awkward atmosphere falls over the room and the sales manager asks "so... this means that things are fine? We can keep the original launch schedule?!". The Director confidently responds "yes, this shouldn't pose any problem at all for us".

"Why didn't you say this from the beginning?" I ask Cpt. Awkward and receive a shrug and a reply of "I wasn't really sure this was what we were talking about... Sorry about that..." and he goes back staring off in the distance.

As everyone realizes that things are fine, an awkward atmosphere fills the room and the meeting is quickly finished up as people file out. The Director, Cpt. Awkward and his peons remain in the room to discuss how this misunderstanding could happen but Cpt. Awkward is staring out in the distance and humming a tune to himself. Awkward indeed...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I almost feel a bit bad... Almost...

As I was setting up a smaller party I e-mailed and talked to some friends and invited them, including the Boy. Most of the times it goes something like this:

Salaryman: (cheery) Hey, you need to come to the party I'm setting up, a bunch of people you know will be coming so it'll be fun!
The Boy: (suspicious) But you always have me do stupid shit for you every time you have a party, translating, picking people up and shit like that...
Salaryman: (slightly hurt) What?! C'mon, we're friends and help each other out sometimes, right? But this time you don't have to do anything, I promise!
The Boy: (still suspicious but softening up) You sure? I don't need to translate, buy shit or do anything? I can just come and enjoy the party like everyone else?
Salaryman: (cheery again) Sure, I promise, it'll be fun!
The Boy: Ok, fine, I'll come

Then the morning of the party I give him a call

Salaryman: (cheery) Hey there Boy, you excited about the party today?
The Boy: (again suspicious) I'll come, why are you calling me now?
Salaryman: (overly cheery) Well, I just need you to help out with a few small things...
The Boy: (suddenly very very tired) C'mon, you said I didn't have to do anything this time...
Salaryman: (overly friendly) Well, things have changed, c'mon, help me out here, I need your help, don't be like that!
The Boy: (exhausted) F**k, fine, what is it? But this better be the last time...
Salaryman: (cheery) Of course!

I almost feel a bit bad sometimes, but just barely...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Could I please speak to the person in charge of the mannequins?

As I was merrily walking around in a Japanese department stores the other day I happened to pass by the section for kid's clothes and with graduation times (and also the new school year starting in April here in Japan) closing in rapidly they had a quite large selection of school uniforms on display.
First I saw this display of mannequins with clothes for junior high-school students...
Then a few meters further down the line, another set of mannequins with clothes for high-school students...

Is it only me who find these mannequins uncomfortably creepy? the high-school boys might look reasonably human but the girl mannequin in the background really makes my skin crawl...

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