Sunday, October 30, 2011

To me every day is Halloween

Admit it, she's adorable!
The Halloween tradition has been picked up a little here in Japan (still I can't figure out why they picked up on Halloween and not Easter with all the cuddly rabbits and chicks). But it's mostly about selling some pumpkin related stuff and getting some candy and stuff sold, not much effort goes into it. For any real Halloween terror, I think you might need to go to Chris place in West Japan.

Generally there is no "trick or treat" tradition at all here in Japan, but our Mama Mafia took it on them to set up such an event for the kids in our little gated community. I do doubt that many who participated actually had any idea what the "trick or treat" phrase actually means, but since everyone got their fair share of candy it didn't matter much in the end anyway. As you can see in the picture, Toddler Sunshine did however look completely adorable in her little Ladybug suit, which was the only thing that mattered in the end.

On a related note, just recently Toddler Sunshine surpassed Mrs. Sunshine in knowledge in using the iPad, expertly manouvering herself exactly to the annoying apps with songs and stuff that we got for her to keep her pacified. I'm not sure if I should feel proud or slightly concerned as when she will pass me by as Mrs. Sunshine knows her general way around computers and regular software...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

How to have lunch with a Japanese person you don't want to talk with

Delicious bowl of Ramen, love the chicken feet touch!
Let me teach you a little trick that might come in handy for foreigners in Japan. Say that a Japanese person that you know, but don't particularly enjoy talking with, invites you out for lunch (reasons for not wanting to talk could be anything ranging from English Vampires, co-workers that you don't really have anything to talk about outside work or generally people you don't want to spend more than necessary time with) and you feel that you can't make up an excuse or decline.

It's almost inevitable that the Japanese person will ask you what you want to eat and you should answer "I'd love some Ramen noodles!". With almost 100% guarantee the person will enthusiastically agree to your suggestion as I've after ten years in Japan have yet to meet a Japanese person who straight up dislike Ramen. You might get dragged into a conversation about which soup base you prefer but just try to stay out of it with a general comment like "I like them all so you pick one in a place close from here".

The geniality with this strategy is that when a bowl of Ramen is put in front of a Japanese person he/she/it will inevitably cease all conversation and focus on eating the Ramen soup, fast and methodically, without talking until the bowl is finished. If it's a popular place there might even be people waiting for a seat allowing you to eat yours more slowly as your lunch partner would be forced to leave the seat for another hungry patron as soon as he/she/it finishes up. If there is no line of people waiting you have two options.
1. You match the eating speed of your lunch partner, this is the most natural way to do it but can be hard as a skilled Japanese person can go through a bowl of Ramen with intimidating speed which can be hard to match
2. You eat as fast a you can and if the lunch partner finishes before you and tries to initiate a conversation while you still have food left you should focus on eating the food just nodding and grunting for replies while eating. This would not be considered as rude as they would relate to the focus on the Ramen and not conversation.

After being seated and ordering a regular Ramen bowl you should have it in front of you within minutes, minimizing any longer unwanted pre-food arrival conversation. However it is of utmost importance that you refrain from ordering anything from the side-dish menu apart from the regular Ramen (gyoza, fried rice etc.) as the rules of Ramen eating would no longer apply as strictly and conversation tries might be initiated.

As this strategy should minimize any conversation to the absolute minimum you could even feel generous and say "Hey, this was really great, we should come back here again for lunch again sometime!". On the opposite side of the coin, if you're going for lunch with a Japanese person you want to have a conversation with, you should avoid a Ramen place and if your partner suggest it, well, the reason might be that he/she/it just don't want to talk with YOU...

Note: This does not work with Udon noodles or Soba noodles so do do not felt tempted to try!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The day we killed a dog in Aomori

This is a story from my sordid Salaryman past that I have been thinking about posting for a few years but never really gotten around to it, partly because I want to make the story justice and partly because it involves the painful death of a little dog which really isn't funny... Just for the record, I probably should state that I'm quite the animal lover (leaning more towards cats than dogs, but like dogs too).

I was travelling in the northern prefecture of Aomori (just below the Hokkaido island) with one of the sales reps that I knew very well and was very friendly with. We had just finished one hospital visit and were heading towards a local Izakaya (Japanese pub/restaurant) for a "grease them up with a free dinner and booze" type of business dinner with our main distributor in the prefecture. As the place was on the other side of the town and we were running a bit late my colleague told the taxi driver to get there fast (although it should be mentioned that it was a quite mild request and not an order for the driver to burn the rubber, break any and all traffic laws and/or drive like a maniac).

The driver was a happy little camper (although you need to picture an old man since all taxi drivers in Japan seem to be around their 70's) and happily obliged, engaging my colleague in talking about how he surely could get us there on time as he knew all the fastest hidden routes through the city. He was driving quite fast through smaller streets, but I didn't really think about it as the speed wasn't obscene or felt dangerous.

It was getting darker outside, although still in the early stages of twilight and the driver was happily chatting with my colleague as he drove in on a smaller street next to a park. All of a sudden I register a shadow in my peripheral vision, coming fast out from the park towards the car, before I could think anything else there was a distinct bump and a crushing sound as something went under the front wheel and then repeated on the back wheel... At this point I'm honestly not sure if I actually heard that cracking sound of bones breaking or if is my imagination who filled that part in for my memory.
Then a female voice screamed out "Fifi! No!!!" in a voice filled with terror. The taxi came to a grinding halt and I remember how I felt wet with cold sweat and thinking "Please tell me we didn't just hit a kid". I looked back through the back window and saw a woman with a desperate expression hunched over a small brown dog that yelped in pain mixing with the crying of the woman.

I looked at my colleague who probably looked as stupid as me with an open mouth and an expression of shock, something that likely was just a fragment of what the driver felt. As the taxi driver feebly opened the car door to see what had happened the female voice screamed at him "You! What have you done to my dog!?", now mixing the terror with a good amount of fury. I could see the dog moving it's head but with the lower half not moving, I didn't feel like looking closer and thankfully the woman was covering that part of the dog. But I realized that we had likely run over the lower half of the dog, breaking any bones in there and making a nasty painful mess of the intestines and that the dog was as good as dead only it would take some time of horrible pain for it to get there...

I looked at my colleague and we exchanged a wordless "what the hell do we do now?!", after a few seconds he said "let's get out of here". By this time the woman was screaming at the driver and he looked completely helpless, standing a few meters from the nasty scene, no longer the happiest taxi driver in Aomori. My colleague quickly pulled out the money that the meter showed and put it on the driver's seat and we got out of the car, quickly withdrawing with a quick "we're good here, the money is on the seat, thank you" to the driver who likely didn't hear a thing. And we sneaked away in the shadows and didn't bother getting another taxi.

Not my proudest moment, the most merciful thing to have done would have been to put the dog out of its misery, but I wouldn't be able to do that to a little cute dog, and I feel quite sure that the woman would not let any of us come close to the dog. So in hindsight, I'm not sure if we could have done anything more useful. Sure, the driver was to blame to some extent as he was driving over the speed limit but the woman should have kept the dog on a leash as well.

As we walked away into the night I said to my colleague "for a while there, I thought it was a kid we had hit...", still white in the face, he just nodded showing that the same thought had struck him. We didn't talk about the incident anything during the evening as it might have put a little shadow over the "grease them up dinner"... I have no idea what happened in the end, but I would guess that the taxi driver took the woman and the dog to a veterinary in his taxi, but I don't think that there was much that could have been done to save the dog. 

Being a Salaryman in Japan is not all fun and games...

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm afraid of Americans!

As avid readers might recall, I pretty recently returned back to Japan from a trip to the big USA (East coast to be more specific), I think that most of my regular readers are smart enough to figure things out without me spelling it out, but in any case... Don't get me wrong, I actually like the US (although I don't necessarily always agree with the foreign politics run by the country) and most of my foreign friends here in Japan are Americans., but there are some aspects of American culture that I find a mixture of amusing, annoying and confusing...

Growing up in the cold, semi-socialist isolated country of Sweden (I'm taking about the late 70's and 80's here) people are just not very outgoing and friendly to people they don't know. However, once you made a friend in Sweden they're usually loyal friends for life, much like dogs, but it takes some time to get there. I mention this to give you a little background where I'm coming from here.

Visiting the US means becoming engaged in conversation with strangers at every turn... Back home in the old world of Sweden, if a stranger tries to engage me in a conversation there are are four questions that immediately run through my head:

1 Is he/she a drunk?
2 Is he/she a lunatic?
3 What the hell does this person want from me?
4 Is it a foreigner that doesn't understand how things work here?

It could probably be charted up as a decision tree thingy although one doesn't necessarily rule out the other. As this basic thought process is not unique to me, but quite normal in Sweden it becomes accurate in a twisted logic as people will not engage people in small talk of fear of being seen as a drunk, lunatic and/or overall strange person (e.g. foreigner) and the only people who will are drunks, lunatics, foreigners who doesn't know basic Swedish manners or people who wants something.

Even though I have lived over ten years in exile here in Japan now, it's very hard to change how my mind works and it doesn't help that Japan isn't a particularly outgoing country either. So coming to the US where everyone is overly social (particularly those who rely on tip...) means that my mind constantly has to go through the above thought process only to deliver the answer "You are now in the US, the thought process you initiated is not compatible here".

The constant talking, chatting and socializing I have to go through in the US is mentally exhausting... In Sweden you can easily go through a whole day without talking to anyone apart from the minimum necessary exchange of words when shopping or so, while in the US I find myself having to engage each and every person I meet in small talk knowing that don't really care at all; they're just doing it because it's the thing that you're supposed to do. Not to mention how paranoid I get when in restaurants and can't shake the thoughts "this waitress is probably a major bitch just pretending to be nice to milk some tip out of me"... After a few days of this, I find myself drained of energy, but still, it's a nice place to visit and the problem is at least not that the people aren't friendly...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's confirmed, we're all the same!

Recently I attended a corporate event where we had a quite large exhibition in Osaka in one of those trade shows that we regularly participate in. Nothing special about it really and it's something that I've done about a hundred times over the years working here in Japan.

I was there quite late and still on site when they brought in the workers that would dissassemble the booth and do all the heavy lifting, ot only for us but for all of the 50-something companies that had participated. As I looked around, all of a sudden I noticed the very high proportion of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden t-shirts and long hair in the guys that helped out with the dissassembly.

The longer I live here, the more convinced I get that people really are fundamentally the same all across the world. I'm sure that even in Saudia Arabia, North Korea or Iran, workers coming in would also be wearing Judas Priest t-shirts and have long hair. Even in one of those rare tribes in the middle of the rain forest with no contact with outsiders, I'm sure that when a new hut is about to be built, the builders will be wearing Judas Priest t-shirts. I really should get one myself since I've always fancied myself as a wannabe working class kinda guy!

(sorry for the lack of image to this one! My iPad is not really cooperating with me now, I'll add it when I get the change)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Count the little blessings...

No Picard, it just looks douchy!
Sometimes I feel like I've been living so long here in Japan now that I've stopped appreciating the little everyday things. I'm of course talking about the people walking around with bluetooth headsets for their mobile phones permanently plugged into the ear that are very common in the old country and I also saw quite a few of when I recently visited the USA...

I was reminded of it the other day in the subway when I saw a westerner walking around with such a headset and how immensely douchebaggy you look with one of those. I can understand that such a device might be helpful if you're working in a call center, but wearing it in the subway (where reception will be fluctuating between bad and nothing) just make you look like a clown.

So, I guess I should enjoy the fact that I live in a country where it's considered douchy and odd to use one of those unless you're driving. Sometimes it's the little things that count!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just a minor fart!

To follow up on my previous posts while we're still on the earthquake theme, I'll just pull another one while I'm at it. Sensational disaster scenarios aside, the last months Japan has been spared of any larger aftershocks/quakes and the frequency seem to revert back to normal, as it was before the March 11 disaster. So, in terms of daily life, quakes are no longer at the top of the mind, at least not for me and the Salaryman family or at work.

However, last week, for the first time in many months, there was one of those "earthquake imminent" alarms in the Nagano region (I became aware of it as I was watching the NHK live news at the time, the warning did not get sent to Tokyo mobile phones). As Nagano is a bit from Tokyo I wasn't really worried about our personal safety, but it's still quite some tension from the time of the alarm until the quake actually comes. The news anchor looked very nervous and they immediately switched to some live feed from a building in Nagano to capture the quake. Seconds passed where nothing happened and the anchor man only repeated that people in the Nagano area should seek cover, a few more seconds passed without any shaking at all until about one minute fom the alarm when a measly "2" on the 1-7 Japanese scale gently shook Nagano.

Ok, it's great that it wasn't a big quake or anything and I assume that the Japanese authorities prefer to err on the side of safety when issuing these alarms nowadays, but the feeling I get is the same one as when you suddenly feel your stomach moving; making a desperate rush to the nearest bathroom under fear of crapping in the pants, but when finally safe sitting on the toilet (assuming it's not a Flaschspüler as you are never safe on one of those) only letting out a fart. It's a mix of relief for the false alarm and annoyance of the emotional trauma and desperate rush I had to endure for nothing...

Monday, October 10, 2011

...and this was the best you could come up with?!

It will look something like this (grandma fire brigade to the lower left)
Just a little bit earlier I was watching tv and one of the news shows did a feature on what could possibly happen when the overdue huge kanto earthquake, aka "the big one" would hit Tokyo. Quite sensational in nature, it showed how the Tsunami would carry with it burning debris and ignite large parts of Tokyo city turning Tokyo into a burning inferno with huge loss of lives and property as a consequence.

Although sensational in tone, it doesn't necessarily rule out that they're not completely wrong, so I watched with particular interest when they turned to the question "so now that we know that this might be a result of the big earthquake, what can and should we do to minimize the damage?".

...what they did show was a unit of voluntary "firemen" made up of old ladies which apparently had been formed in one of the wards of Tokyo city. The sweet old ladies seemed to have considerable problems running in a straight line and managing the fire hose. But yeah, if this is the first and only countermeasure that Tokyo city has put in place to combat the threat of going up in smoke, I feel more, not less secure...

I have however done my calculations... As the Salaryman family lives a bit outside of central Tokyo and I spend approximately ~12 hours of the day at home and also have some travel around Japan and the globe, I should have a slightly less than ~50% risk of being in central Tokyo when the big one hits... With the grandma fire brigade being the best countermeasure put in place, maybe I should see if I can reduce the risk a few percentage more... 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

That's my girl!

Relax, it's not opened!
Earlier in the day Mrs. Sunshine tried to solicit a kiss on the cheek from little toddler Sunshine. First toddler Sunshine stared at her for a while with a skeptical frown, looking like she was considering something, and then with a surprising speed and power she promptly gave Mrs. Sunshine a quite impressive bitch slap. While Mrs. Sunshine was recoiling in surprise, toddler Sunshine followed up with sticking her index finger up Mrs. Sunshine's nose giggling loudly. Then a few seconds later she gave Mrs. Sunshine a kiss on the cheek.

It's times like these that I find really touching, her sense of humor seem to be just like mine although still a little rough around the edges. She's my little girl indeed!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Well, if he's getting some, you really have no excuse!

So, after some adventures in the east coast of the US, I now finally find myself back at the Salaryman HQ in rural Chiba. The jetlag that the trip has given me is of monumental proportions and at 3AM this morning I found myself wide awake and promptly got up to sit and drink coffee in the darkness. 

During my absence, there is one quite interesting piece of news that I picked up on my return and it's related to our favorite Wig-Helmet guy, Nishiyama (aka Nobita-kun) and his personal romantic life... Apparently, last week, he was found to have "improper" relations with a lady in her early 30's in the ministry, kissing and fondling her in public in the workplace and as punishment was promtly put on a one month forced leave of absence. As I checked the news out, I also realized that I had missed a similar incident in June where he had been found to have improper relations with an assistant at work and was removed from the position of spokesman.

There is nothing that implies that these "improper" relations and public displays of kissing and fondling were of anything but mutual nature I must admit that I feel quite impressed with our little Nobita-kun's virility and success with the ladies. He is of course married as well so he's quite the busy little beaver juggling the young girls, work and family life!

So there you have it, there really is no excuse for you, if Nobita-kun can get some with the young girls, there really is no reason why you shouldn't either! But I can't help but wondering how he handles the wig-helmet during an intense session of love-making with one of his younger energetic girls? Does he place it on a hanger before, revealing his true nature or does he keep it on, desperately trying to keep it in place during the act? Much to contemplate indeed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

I need to go home...

Heard earlier today as I was forced to share a ride with a woman apparently from Utah, constantly talking to the driver as we drove around in Maine...
"So yeah, I really think that Utah is a rising state, we got all kinds of events"
(to driver) "I don't see any basements, don't you have any basements here in Maine?"
Driver: "We do, but they're usually under the houses"
Utah Lady: "Oh, that's why I haven't seen any!"

I need to go back home...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad
Related Posts with Thumbnails