Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Life, Death and Murder in the Chiba Suburbs

"...and when I'm finished, bring the yellow tape

To tape off the scene of the slaughter"
A while back we had a tragic incident in our neighborhood as the husband of one of our neighbors apparently passed away in a car accident, leaving the wife and young kids behind (granted, the source of the info was the infamous Mama Mafia so he might as well have run of to support the uprising in north Africa for all I know). As sad as it might sound we had no real connection to the family as the accident happened just at the time they were about to move in and we only met them once when they came around for greetings with towels (yes, so we had an ominous feeling from the start). So the house has remained empty for more than a year and we really didn't think about it much more than the occasional talk about whether someone new would move in or not.

Then the other day a cleaning crew was at their house and was sorting out the jungle that the garden had turned into making it likely that something is about to happen with the house. The conversation I had with Mrs. Sunshine went something like this:

Salaryman: I guess they'll sell the house, the wife probably need the money for herself and the kids now that the husband is gone?
Mrs. Sunshine: (matter of factly) Actually there was an insurance included in the contract, so if the breadwinner dies the insurance pays off the loan, so she should be ok.
Salaryman:(surprised) Huh? That's great actually, I didn't realize that but good to know that you and the baby don't have to struggle with that if anything would happen to me.
Mrs. Sunshine: (neutral) Yeah, I thought so too...

(a few seconds of ominous silence)

Salaryman: (jokingly, on the surface) So I guess I should be a bit careful, huh?
Mrs. Sunshine: (not letting anything show) Why?
Salaryman: Well, if you would murder me you could get a lot of money through that insurance!
Mrs. Sunshine: (immediately without a second of hesitation) Yeah, I totally know, but I just don't wanna go to jail?
Salaryman:(feeling constructive) Well you could murder me in a sneaky way, I would totally murder me if I were you! Why not some rare poison that the police is too dumb to figure out?
Mrs. Sunshine: (thoughtfully) That's true... I guess I could do it smart without getting caught...

(another few seconds of uncomfortable silence)

Salaryman: (nervously) Hey! I'm only joking here, you wouldn't murder me, right?!
Mrs. Sunshine: (a bit too long pause before speaking) Of course not, I would never murder you, I love you (big smile)

From now on Toddler Sunshine will have a bit of everything I eat, just to be safe. The whiskey and chili oil might be a tad bit too early for her, but it's for the common good!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Word gets around...

Beware the Mafia!
I do realize that in this blog I seem to start things that I don't really follow up on properly... On my "at some point when I have time, energy and inspiration" list there is to do a follow up post on the "buying a house in Japan" series, as well as "making babies in Japan" and there's also a post on Japanese otaku and how they actual became useful during the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami disaster. But at this stage, the combined force of the summer heat and the stress and stuff going on with recently changing jobs, I have to admit that I am lacking in time, energy and inspiration....

It's a bit depressing to see the visitor numbers dipping a bit in the recent months (up until recently, I've always had a very slow but steady growth in monthly visitors, but hey, since I started the blog the first year with 10 visitors a day there's plenty of room to grow...) and a few "followers" also seem to be dropping off to bigger and better places, but that's something that comes with the territory of the slower pace of posting I guess.

Well, that wasn't really intended to be the main topic of today's post. Today's topic is actual a little follow up on life as a house owner here in Japan, although not chronologically correct at the stage where the story is now. But anyway, we bought our house in an area with a bunch of new built houses clustered together in a little community. The Salaryman family were among the first people who moved into one of the 45 something houses in the cluster. 

It quite quickly became obvious that most of the people who had bought houses in the area were somewhat similar to us in terms of age and family. Basically everyone in our neighborhood is ~30 something with one or two small kids (and others on the way, I think there are at least two women currently pregnant). That everyone is new also means that there still is no clear hierarchy among the housewives (as most are as the kids are small) and alliances are still being forged. 

However, something that we refer to as the "Mama Mafia" has emerged and is a cluster of around ~10 of the women in the area with kids in similar age. Previously, they used to have their gossip meetings just outside our house. Before Baby Sunshine was born, they were a little cold to Mrs. Sunshine, but as soon as the baby came into play, they seemed more eager to recruit her into the mafia. She has so far managed to avoid becoming a full time patched in member, but is something like an "associated member" of the Mafia at this point. 

The amount of gossip that goes around the Mafia is also quite astounding. A few weeks earlier Toddler Sunshine had a bit of a fever, not extremely high, but still high enough to warrant a visit to the doctor for some nice drugs and a few days of taking it easy in the house. As Mrs. Sunshine emerged from that and met with the Mafia when Toddler Sunshine was up and about again she found out that word on the street was that Toddler Sunshine had been infected with some form of really dangerous killer virus and had been between life and death for a week (even more surprising since Mrs. Sunshine barely had told anyone about the babies little cold). More recently we also heard how the area we live in is really dangerous and that a woman had been violently abducted from the local 7-eleven, but a quick scan of the news showed nothing of the kind (and such an event would be nationwide news).

Mrs. Sunshine is keeping to the strategy to stay on the good side of the Mafia but avoid getting too entangled in all the scheming and dirty business that is going on. Recently a non-mafia member mama approached her when the Mafia wasn't looking and was trying to make friends and half-whispered "I'm also a bit left out of the group, just like you" to which Mrs. Sunshine barely managed to repress expressing that she was as involved as she'd like to be... Compared to this, the politics in the office are mild mannered and fun...

Odds and Ends (to borrow a subtitle from Chris)
  • Japan have a new prime minister and I can't really muster up any enthusiasm for it at all, Noda is his name apparently, but he'll probably be gone in a year anyway so no need to remember it...
  • As a father, I am starting to worry a bit as Toddler Sunshine shows no interest at all in toddlers her own age, nor older girls that want to play with her, but older boys (well, for her "older" means age 2-5) seem drawn to her and she giggles like a little girl when they flock around her...
  • I am getting quite annoyed with blogger as I for some reason have not been able to post comments for some reason this last week; I've been trying to comment on Bigger in Japan, Corinne's, Project Me and Saraf recently but kept getting refused to log in (and not being able to post "anonymously" with e-mail and website link either for some reason), this obviously happen AFTER I've written the comment and then after two or three tries of rewriting it I just give up... My apologies, but rest assured that there should be a few very insightful comment in there!  

Friday, August 26, 2011

The porn video booths of the Kintaro Group in Japan are not taking one for the team!

The other day, I passed through Shinjuku and came across a sign for the Kintaro porn video group (ok, to be more specific, this seems to be one for their "Momotaro" brand, but there doesn't seem to be any difference between them apart from the name). They're everywhere so I usually don't really take any notice of them since the basic stuff they advertise never really change, but as I was waiting for the traffic lights to switch I took a little closer look bored as I was.

This is how the sign looked like and I took the liberty of marking the place that I found most of interest...

You should also keep in mind that we here in Eastern Japan are still in the middle of the whole "save electrocity" scare where everyone is encouraged to turn down the aircon, turn off all the lights and generally turn off everything that needs electricity all the time. So far, Tokyo has been doing good and there has been no need for any rolling blackouts, and as long as it continues this way we should be ok as the cooler autumn is now not too far away. 

However... What does Kintaro advertise?! Well, they boldly state that they provide really cool rooms (and have a girl in a bikini top inviting salarymen to come and cool down). First of all, advertising "cool" rooms is a bold slap in the face of every person and industry here in Tokyo that are suffering and sweating our way through the summer for the common good. But when you start look into it a bit more, for the Kintaro porn video booths to have "cool" rooms means that they not only have to have the setting on the aircon to quite cool to begin with, but they also have to compensate from the heat emanating from a whole bunch of salarymen jacking off in unison in their little booths and compensate for that (I would guess that would be around ~5 degrees C or so extra).

So yeah, hey! Kintaro, thanks for helping out, NOT! And to believe that they dare to call themselves the "friend of the salaryman". Oh, and for those of you new here, don't miss the video from the Kintaro Group I posted way back, it's a gem (here)!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Farewell Shimada Shinsuke!

I'm not a huge Japanese entertainment/celebrity buff as I live a typical Salaryman family life here in Japan, watching the Japanese news, morning shows and occasionally, when I'm too tired to check out a real TV channel, bits and pieces of a Japanese Variety Show. So, after more than ten years here I know my way around the basic celebrities.
Wada Akiko and Shimada enjoying the spotlight!

In the Japanese world of so celebrities, there are a few chosen ones that have achieved almost God-like status in the Japanese world of TV. A few that comes to mind are singer/actress/whatever/tv host Wada Akiko, Tamori, Beat Takeshi, Sanma Akashiya and Shimada Shinsuke (I just noticed I wrote the names Japanese style - family name first, can't be bothered to link information about them, if you want to know more you can just google the names). There are probably a few more that could be added to that list of the "elite" and grand-old-men/woman of the Japanese TV entertainment industry, people that up-and-coming celebrities are expected to pay proper respect to.

Of the people above, I've always strongly disliked Shimada, he seemed like an arrogant asshole that got off on making fun of people, using his status as celebrity to put other people down while trying to uphold an image of a upstanding man who places importance on proper manners and respect, if a little mischievous. However, a few years back, the first cracks in the facade started to show when he physically abused a female staff during the shooting of one of his shows (if I remember correctly, it involved slaps in the face, pulling of hair, general shouting and face-spitting, all generously handed out by Shimada). He got a slap on the wrist with a few months of being quarantined from his shows, but the Japanese people seemed to forgive him as he made a comeback and reclaimed his fame. 

However, this morning, I awoke to the pleasant news of an urgent press conference (those urgent ones always signal that something entertaining has happened) where Shimada announced his retirement from the entertainment industry due to connections with the Yakuza. From the official story, it doesn't sound particularly exciting, apparently an old friend of his joined the Japanese mob (after they had become friends) and through the friend, Shimada had occasional contacts with a high ranking Yakuza and after this coming to the knowledge of the agency he works for (the power of these "agencies" is another completely different story, but there most be real and researched articles about it out there) they came to the agreement that it's not suitable for him to have those type of contacts and therefore they came to the "agreement" that he should retire from the entertainment industry. As I strongly dislike him, I'm all for that and never again having to worry about turning the TV on and be met by his arrogant looking mug.

But... there must be much more to this than the official story and it's getting me really curious. I have severe trouble imagining that only this would cause the agency to take such drastic measures, particularly as he's such a heavyweight and moneymaker for them. During the press conference there came some vague hints from Shimada that at one point the Yakuza had "helped him" solve a problem that he had. Maybe it's only me, but I'm getting quite curious on the nature of this "problem" and exactly how the Yakuza could "solve" it for him... I also suspect that there was some blackmailing involved in some form...

Well, post the Noripi deal followed by the Kabuki Actor turned-violent-ashtray-drinking-beat-up-victim deal it's been quite dull on the celebrity scandal front, but this has potential to become more amusing. I'm just a little worried that the press has too much respect for Shimada to dig deeper in it (the Yakuza friends probably doesn't encourage it either...). Well, in any case, good riddance and you will not be missed by me Shimada!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Penis Mnemonics

A magnificent BALLE substitute
Joining a new company is a bit like joining a cult where you're the new guy who's not yet up to speed on what everything is. One particular thing in my new company is the excessive use of abbreviations and special jargong for basically everything they do (I have the feeling that in many cases they deliberately deviate from accepted industry language just to make the newbies confused).

So now I am trying to memorize about >100 different abbreviations for the products, intended use of the products, company meetings, internal titles, diseases and medical techniques as well as a host of names for ongoing projects. But what I fear most is not the hurdles I have in front of me until I get it all in my brain, no, what I fear is when I become one of "them" and forget that it's all made up and casually throw it around, forgetting the official terminology in favor of the corporate one...

However, one project has showed to quite easy to remember as the abbreviation turns out to be the same as a Swedish slang word for penis. So, at least "Project BALLE" will remain firmly in my head. I usually giggle at least a little in my head when I see it written down. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

I guess we all have to pitch in...

Do as it says!
It's not that often that I post pictures of interesting "Engrish" that I have encounter here in in Japan, but this poster, found in a business hotel in Kanazawa was pretty great and topical too, so I couldn't resist posting it.

I'm not really sure what the poster is trying to tell me, that it wants me to save electrocity seems feasible, but it also seems to urge me to save cool biz and not smile much? I guess we all have to do our part! 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Hi, my name is Bitchiko"

We're astounded by her feats of crankiness
When it comes to women's names here in Japan, it's quite common for the names to end in "ko" as in popular names such as Yoko, Keiko, Atsuko and a host of other names. However, don't get fooled into thinking that every name that ends in "-ko" means that it's a woman/girl as there are male names that also have this ending (although, a tell-tale sign for beginners is that the male names are usually a bit longer). For those taking notes, the "ko" at the end of most women's names are written with the character "子" and means child so the meaning of the name usually literally means "child of" (the meaning of the first character).

So, yeah, with that educational segment taking care of, Mrs. Sunshine has recently given (former Baby) Toddler Sunshine a separate name for her when she makes a big fuzz and generally being a nuisance with refusing to do something. The name is "Bitchiko" and apparently at her former job there was a particularly bitchy lady that gave birth to this very descriptive nickname. Granted, literally implementing the meaning "child of..." for Bitchiko when used for Toddler Sunshine carries with it some not very good implications for Mrs. Sunshine... Still, it's a good name and can be quite descriptive at times. other news, the heat is still relentless here in Tokyo now... A weekend like this it's hard to muster up any energy to do anything at all but to lie flat and complain about the heat...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ayaman Japan - "Poipoipoipoipoipopi~"

For lack of energy to do any real significant post that would stimulate and challenge you, instead I thought that I should highlight one of the latest minor fads here in Japan. The girl trio Ayaman Japan with their hit song Poipoipoipoipoipopi~ or "ぽいぽいぽいぽぽいぽいぽぴー" as it's written in Japanese. Take a look here:

I must admit that I find them and the song and group quite entertaining in the absurdity and relative outrageousness. Apparently the girls started out as "party entertainers" for drinking parties to get people going (and yeah, I can actually see how that would work pretty well) and now recently hit some minor fame with their infectious "ninninninnin" and "poipoipoi" thing. One of the girls is also officially in charge of "boobs" in the group, something that I feel plays to their benefit.

Mrs. Sunshine hates them with a vengeance because it's so stupid and ridicilous, me on the other hand often can't resist stuff done in bad taste, and compared to all the AKB48 it's a bit refreshing.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My sincere apologies!!!

Easy! I'd let Aquaman live!
I just realized that we're now already into August in a Tokyo that has "power saving" propaganda constantly on TV, posters around town and constant reminders on the Internet, and I still haven't written my traditional seasonal "It's way too hot and I want to get out of here" post!

I know that for many of my readers, that post is the highlight of the year on my blog and I can't believe that I have still not written this post. And it's hot... ... really hot this summer. The long train ride is almost unbearable as the air conditioning is turned down to a bare minimum in the packed train, today was sunny, humid and almost 35 degrees Celsius making sweat come gushing out of pores of my body that I didn't even know could do that. Previous years, taking refuge in a refrigerator cold store (usually resulting in the annual "summer cold" after going from dripping to sweat into freezer cold store), but now, even the stores have turned down their airconditioning to a mere 28 degrees...

No longer is the office any refugee to speak of either... To begin with, the temperature is set to 28 degrees and gradually lower it as the day progresses and to top it off, they turn it off completely at 17:30. The idea was to make people leave earlier, but since this is a Japanese office (even though the company is foreign) and getting people to leave on time is next to impossible and add to that me feeling some significant pressure to not be among the first to leave as the I'm the new guy and you have some serious sweating going on that doesn't let up until I get comfortably back to the Salaryman HQ.

So, in short, it's sweltering hot all the time when I'm not at home (we do not take any extreme measures when it comes to power saving...) and with little Toddler Sunshine we don't really have any easy escape to cooler places lined up for us either... Two more months of this and it should be getting better... So yeah, it's hot, it's really really hot...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Corporate garbage dump

One of the big ones...
Although the myth of Japanese companies offering "life-time employment" has since many years ago been crushed, I think it is fair to say that generally, the larger Japanese corporations are very reluctant to get rid of any staff unless in really dire straits. Also, ending up in such a situation where staff needs to be downsized is seen as a major failure and the last resort.

In my previous company, we had one guy who had been recruited from the healthcare subsidiare of such a major firm. The change was one from a very stable secure job to one of uncertainty and a solid history of several cycles of downsizing world wide. He seemed to be ok with this (although I doubt that he really understood what he was getting himself into...).

We are quite friendly and during a recent after-work drinks session I was a bit curious on the actual situation in the huge corporation he came from and where the completely useless and moronic people ended up. It went something like this:

Salaryman: So yeah, if someone's completely useless and they want to get rid of them, what do they usually do?
Friend: (upbeat) Well, they usually get sent down to one of the less prestigious subsidiaries!
Salaryman: (interested) Ok, but say that the person is so useless, although not doing anything that legally warrants the person to be fired?
Friend: (thoughtful) Well... I have heard of people like that... They usually just get bumped downwards in the corporate subsidiary hierarchy...
Salaryman: (curious) So, ok, but was there such a thing as the conglomerate toilet where all the useless turds ended up after being proven useless in all the other places?
Friend: (lightning up) Oh yeah! That was the subsidiary in charge of the facility maintenance! That's where all the morons ended up, that's the end of the line! They were completely useless and even managers there earned less than assistants in the healthcare company!

So, there you have it! If you encounter someone who works with facility management, they probably just haven't been flushed down properly!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The most unnecessary loan word in the Japanese language!

Raisu Krinkles!
I'm a bit too beat to go through my old posts and link here now, but my loyal readers might remember that I have discussed the enthusiasm that the Japanese have for loan words borrowed from English and making up new and unique faux-English abbreviations.

I usually don't mind the English words sprinkled in (but mostly pronounced in such a way that a native English speaker might have problems hearing that it's originally an English word) but there are some that are clearly unnecessary as the Japanese language has words that carry exactly the same meaning and is easier to say for a native Japanese speaker.

One example that comes to mind is the use of "ベター" (Betaa) from the English word "Better". So when saying "this is better" instead of the regular way of saying it ("のほうがいいです") they replace the Japanese word with the bastardized version of "better" ("のほうがベターです”). I don't particularly mind this use, but I find it quite amusing and use it as often as I can.

However, the most unnecessary loan word in the Japanese language is... ... ... "raisu": "Rice" pronounced in Japanese. Remember that this is a country where the whole food culture is built on the foundation of rice. I dare you to find a Japanese person who doesn't like rice and most people eat it basically every day, many with three meals. Baby Sunshine quite frequently refuses to eat anything else, showing that her quarter of white genes are fighting a losing battle. So for this, the most fundamental and basic of all foodstuff in Japan, it is not uncommon to use the English word for it here in Japan.

I think that this would be somewhat comparable with Eskimos importing the English words "Ice" and "snow" for daily use instead of the words in the native language...
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