Monday, November 28, 2011

The Summit of the Year!

Kumamon in the middle flanked by the runner ups
Yesterday, one of the hottest news was the "Yuru-Kyara" event where image characters from all over Japan gather together for a few days of an intense "summit". It's not really clear exactly what is discussed between the characters at the summit and it seems mostly to consist of said characters prancing around and trying to get elected as the most adorable mascot of the year.

Apparently it was a really intense election where the mascot of Kumamoto prefecture ; "Kumamon" managed to win first place, followed by the chicken-like character of Aichi prefecture "Bari-san" and in third place the distinctively creepy mascot of the Kokubunji area of Tokyo "Nishiko-kun".
I hate him so much...
Actually, I find this kinda amusing and among the herd of image characters (around a hundred) that gathered for the summit, there were very few distinctively creepy and/or disturbing characters. I do find it disturbing though that the Kyoto character "Sento-kun" still seems to be around and about as I had hoped that someone would have put him out of his misery by now. To add insult to injury, it looks even more hideous as a costume than the illustration...

There you have it, the most up to date and exciting information on current events in Japan, presented as always by your favorite Salaryman!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Suburbian neighborhood complications...

I should get Mrs. Sunshine a claw glove for X-mas
After several months of staying vacant, it seems like a new family have moved into the house that has stood empty after the traffic accident that apparently killed the father of the previous family (see here for a recap). As the house is a few rows down from us, we haven't really given it much thought apart from when passing by the garden-turned-jungle so we're neither excited or annoyed by a new family moving in.

However, a few days ago, the new family apparently did their "walk around the neighborhood, say hello and hand out towels" routine. Mrs. Sunshine had been out playing with Toddler Sunshine and seen them a little from a distance as they were ringing the doorbells to the houses around us. She installed herself at home and expected the doorbell to ring and get a nice towel set within a few minutes, but as time passed and no one rung the doorbell she thought that they might just have done the greeting to the houses immediately next to it (not really wrong, but proper manner dictates that people 2-3 houses away also deserve a towel). But as she looked out the window she could see how they now had moved to houses further down ours, but for some reason skipped our house.

As she retold me the story when I came home in the evening, she was visibly annoyed by this breach of etiquette but was thinking that they might come by the next day, temporarily frightened by the foreign name on the nameplate by our house. But no one came around the next day either and the family has been seen scuttling around their new house, much to the annoyance of Mrs. Sunshine, seemingly finished with their rounds of greeting.

Mrs. Sunshine is generally a very pleasant and friendly person to deal with for people that don't know her, but a blatant breach of etiquette such as this ensures that the new family has ended up with a very negative balance to make up for. The politics of suburbia can be complicated and frightening indeed!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Commuter Terrorists: The Giggling Madman

I thought I should follow up the previous Commuter Terrorists posts with another type of commuter terrorists; The Giggling Madman...

To be fair, this type of terrorist is not a very common combatant on the rush hour trains and as far as I know, I've basically the main culprit of this particular form of terrorist.

Imagine a fully packed train, everyone is irritated, uncomfortable and just waiting to grit through it with the least possible difficulty possible. The person standing next to you is a regular Salaryman, watching some form of TV show on his PSP, nothing particularly odd or strange about the scenario so far. But then, imagine how that Salaryman starts to burst out in giggling followed by explosive laughter (maybe even spitting out some saliva on the people sitting in front of him). This is exactly what I have been doing during the commute last week and the cause of it has been watching through the tv-show "An Idiot Abroad - The Bucket List" featuring Karl Pilkington. In fact, after making people uncomfortable on the train a few times due to spontaneous and uncontrollable laughing fits, I have felt forced to turn it off a few times to watch something less funny.

As long as you're not going to watch it in a crowded train, I can highly recommend it. Although I find it slightly disturbing how I, at quite a few times, somehow can't but agree with Karl Pilkington's take on some things...  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hey, was this racist of me?

I'm sure one of the was Ukrainian
The Salaryman base of operations lies in a pretty Japanese little enclave, almost completely ethnically cleansed of everything but the Japanese. I have rarely seen any Westerners at all in the neighborhood or in the vicinity of the station, passing by one or two, probably on their way to the station to go back home after doing some English home tutoring or so. But that's about it, otherwise it's all Japanese.

But last weekend, I took toddler Sunshine to a local playground, but not the closest one we have in connection with our gated community as all the kids in the neighborhood were hiding or just refusing to come out and play. I've been there with her quite a few times and there's always kids running around there, so I thought it would be more fun for her. For some reason, it was even more kids than usual there and a fair number of parents hovering over their little offspring just like me. 

I saw one kid who looked suspiciously half-Japanese/white but didn't really think that much about it, but after a half an hour or so I noticed two white ladies, probably in their 30's or so standing and chatting just outside the playground, obviously with their kids running wild inside. As foreigners are hard to come by in the neighborhood and I thought it could be nice to at least introduce myself and little Toddler Sunshine, I walked over to them and said something like "Hi, I haven't seen so many foreigners around here, I'm glad to see that it's not only me" with an attempt of a smile. I was met with blank stares, and then confused expressions as they realized that I was talking to them. A few seconds of silence followed, me still with the smile attached to my face and toddler Sunshine attached to my arm, then one of them said "No speak English". Slightly confused in turn, I switched to Japanese and repeated the greeting and added, "where are you from?". Then they seemed to catch on and replied back in Japanese "we're from the Ukraine".  A few seconds of awkward silence followed and I squeezed out, "oh, ok, nice to meet you, wave goodbye to the nice ladies now Toddler Sunshine" as I walked back to the playground with Toddler Sunshine. 

I had assumed that they maybe would be European or slightly worse but still acceptable; Australian or even, failing all else, American and thought it could be nice to know some people in the neighborhood coming from something of a similar cultural background as me who might also be interested in having their kids get to know other more international kids. But Ukrainian not able to speak English...? The only thing we probably had in common would be the "whiteness" (and for me, that's only 50% anyway) so my interest in socializing with them quickly dropped down to somewhere below 0 degrees C. 

I almost feel like my shift from friendly interest to complete disinterest in the realization that they were Ukrainian was slightly racist, but hey, in the suburban life sometimes you just have to do some things you are not always proud of to survive!       

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Commuter Terrorists: Win some, lose some

Like being locked in between these guys...

As everyone have figured out by now, the commuting war is harsh and unforgiving. Everyone can be your enemy and having friends with you only serve to drag you down and delay you in getting a reasonable seat and a safe haven from the worst battleground as they might want to "socialize"; talk, sit together and other stupid things. No, the commuter battle is fought alone.

Sometimes split second decisions needs to be made, either to go for it or to stay back and wait for a better opportunity to strike but risk to lose it all. 

This morning I was forced into making such a split second decision... It was in the morning train, at my station with almost 50 minutes on the train in front of me. The train was not too crowded yet, but in just a few stations I know that it will be packed with enemy combatants and if I cannot secure my ground quickly I will leave myself vunerable for attack. Then I see it, an open space even though there are a few people standing, momentarily confused as to why no one has gone for the opening I take a better look and see that the available space is half of what is normally available due to a quite abnormally obese Japanese man taking up one and a half seat by himself. 

I hesitate for half a second before I decide to go for it and forcefully squeeze myself down in the seat between the obese smelly man and the regular sized salaryman on the other side. With some effort and force I manage to wriggle my way in the seat (and I'm of a larger size than the regular salaryman). I quickly realize that I'm sitting extremely uncomfortably between the fat man who's huge, smelly, makes strange noises and have to move his whole arm to turn page in his little book, which makes it even more uncomfortable for me. On my other side, the regular salaryman is obviously pissed off at my invasion and claiming of territority and tries to make me even more uncomfortable through subtle tricks such as pressing his elbow hard into my side while pretending that he's sleeping. 

I knew that I was taking a huge risk and would actually have been more comfortable standing but gambled on one of them getting off at one of the major transit points just ten minutes away, but to my horror I realized that they're not going anywhere... I consider cutting my losses to stand up and just hold on to the best of my ability, but the train is quickly filled up with passengers and I missed the opportunity. 

During the whole 50 min of train time I have to put up with the noises, moving and smell of the obese man while the salaryman keeps up the pressure with the elbow, sometimes moving it a bit to try and find a more painful spot. 

Sometimes you just have to admit that you lost and today was such a day.   

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Breakup...

Ban it!

I guess it started here on the blog a little while ago... I guess I should have seen it coming, but it still doesn't really make it easier...

You see, for many many years, probably from almost my beginning days as a Salaryman here in Japan I have had a very good working relationship with the font Arial. In the beginning it was not that serious, I used is most of the time, but sometimes I forgot and just used the default times roman. But as time passed, our relationship deepened and I started using Arial for basically everything written, both in work and in private. If you sent me a file in Times New Roman, chances are that I did a quick "select all" and quickly changed it all to Arial before I bothered reading through it.

The change happened here on the blog on June the 8th... Suddenly I felt like it would be nice to use another font and changed to trebuchet here on the blog. I guess I should have seen it coming already then, that me and Arial had started drifting apart, our working relationship was still OK, not very dynamic or exciting, I no longer felt any enthusiasm for changing the font in other people's documents to Arial but did it mostly out of habit.

Then, just a few months ago, I started using Calibri a little, just a bit on the side. I had seen the font in use in other documents and found it appealing and started little by little using it more myself. Me and Arial still tried to keep things as normal as possible, but it was clear that the flame had gone out, our relationship was no longer exciting or dynamic, it was just running on fumes and good 'ol times.

Last week I did the breakup. It wasn't easy, but I think it was best for both of us. I changed my default font and font in e-mail signature to Calibri and sticking with that font now for all documents. It feels fresh and exciting, every time I do a "select all" on a document now I feel a rush as I see the document turn into a nice looking Calibri fonted document.

It feels sad to have said good bye to Arial after all the years we spent together and all the documents that it helped me create or make better looking, but it was time to move on. I'm a very monogamous font kinda guy, I have a font and then I stick with it for letters, power point, excel and any other software that uses a font. I hope that me and Calibri can stick it out for many years but we are still getting to know each other. I have toyed with the thought of changing some old documents I'm still using from Arial to Calibri, but have so far resisted since it would feel wrong to ruin all the memories of our good times together. 

But hey, maybe I just once in a while could play around a bit with Courier for some stuff, after all, I have Trebuchet mainly here for my blog and there's no reason why Calibri would ever find out... 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The factory burned down and he stole all my money

This needs dry-cleaning
When we moved into our new Salaryman base of operations we got a sales visit from a dry cleaning company that would come by to pick up our dirty laundry when we called them with quite reasonable prices. The sales rep/driver was a little scabby looking but friendly enough. Although we're not a huge volume dry cleaning user, we used the company regularly and found it reasonably convenient and fast.

After a few months, our regular guy announced his retirement and introduced the guy who would take over after him. The new guy looked normal enough and we didn't really think much of it as our local dry cleaning guy is really a very minor extra at best in our lives and will likely not be mentioned at all in any of my biographies.

However, quite quickly after this transition the problems started. The guy would not come when we called, either he would not pick up his phone or he would just show up unannounced making Mrs. Sunshine quite uncomfortable (especially since he also smelled a bit of alcohol and yes, he drove). So we decided to ditch the service and switched instead to a regular dry cleaning place even though it required the effort to hand in and pick up the stuff at the shop.

Another few months passed and we didn't really think much of it until the owner of the pick-up dry cleaning firm suddenly stopped by when Mrs. Sunshine was home. He then launched into an apology for the previous representative and told her that he had mishandled his job and then taken off with all the money he could get his hands on and now was on the lam. Then apparently the actual dry cleaning facilities had mysteriously burnt down leaving him on the brink of ruin. He then gestured to his shaved head and told her how he had shaved his head as a new start and asked for our continued patronage of his company and ensured us how he would personally manage the pick-ups of our dirty laundry.

...but we found the whole situation a bit too sticky and decided to stick with the safe "big chain located in the supermarket" instead as we felt like we were being dragged down into the dirty world of underground dry cleaning...
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