Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Future of Entertainment is here!

The future of gaming, in the past!
When think of it, it strikes me as a little odd that I haven't really posted more on the topic, but the truth is that I am a gamer. Not the obnoxious type who loves Japanese Role Playing Games though, and I embrace the fact that it is practically a waste of time! I do not play games to grow as a person or challenge myself, I do it because it keeps me entertained for a bit and a happy Salaryman is a good Salaryman. Playing computer/video games is by far my favorite way to entertain myself and has been from when we got our first Spectrum ZX81 home computer. The hour between when the kids and Mrs. Sunshine fall asleep until I go to bed is my gaming time and when I can relax a bit from all the other stuff.

So, for me as a gamer, the recent launch of the Playstation 4 is a big event (and yes, I am somewhat of a Sony PS fanboy, screw xbox!). Probably due to the delayed launch in Japan, almost four months after the US launch, I could order my Playstation off the Sony online store just a week before the launch and got it delivered before lunch last Saturday without having to stand in a line or camp outside!

The thing about new consoles is that usually they are crap when they come out. The user interface and features are not fully implemented and the first wave of games are usually junk. However, I tend to forget this and get swept up in the excitement only to be disappointed that things are basically the same, only with a little prettier graphics.

As I was checking through what the new and improved Playstation had to offer, I found the Playstation streaming TV stations. Basically it’s meant for people to show what they are playing and give their fantastic commentary while doing it. But when I checked it out the number one watched show was that of an American family sitting in front of their TV, having the Playstation camera film them while they are sitting around reading the comments that people wrote to them. Occasionally the overweight lady would flash her boobs, whipping the commenters to a frenzy of “do it again!”, “more” etc. while the guy kept drinking his booze. After a few minutes a younger woman that looked a bit like Ms. American teen pregnancy joined the group in the sofa and also started into the screen while people wrote “you new girl, show your boobs too!” and similar comments at a breathtaking pace.

The whole thing was mesmerizing. I could not stop watching. It was like Youtube with even lower production values and completely devoid of any point. This is the future of Entertainment and again I felt at peace with my purchase.

Yesterday evening I turned it on again, but their show was gone and it felt empty… 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Help! My Children are Japanese! Episode I

Typical Japanese children
The Salaryman family live in our little housing community in the outskirts of Tokyo in an area populated almost exclusively by Japanese. I have seen one white British guy on a few occasions who lives somewhere in the area and our neighbor with a Chinese wife, but that's basically it.

The environment that little Ms. Sunshine and Salaryman Jnr. are growing up in a typical modern Japanese one, but I was anyway hoping that they might grow up with a little broader view of the world than most Japanese kids. However, it seems like my hopes were futile and in this fantastic brand new series I will document the key moments where I have come to realized that my offspring are Japanese...

A few months back I was sent back to the old country for business and since my visit was for a few weeks and the home office very accommodating and helpful, I decided to bring the whole Salaryman family over as a team-building exercise. Some of Mrs. Sunshine's main concerns were the lack of proper Japanese rice in Sweden and the lack of a bath tub in the apartment we were going to stay. I swiftly ignored her concerns with a casual "they're kids, they'll eat whatever cheap rice we put in their feeding through and won't even notice!" and "they'll be fine without a bath, they have strong Swedish genes in them!".

I think it goes without saying that I was wrong... Terribly wrong...

We first tried with regular non-sticky long corned rice but that was met with a frowned nose and refusal to eat by little Ms. Sunshine and Jnr. Salaryman throwing the rice all over the room except in his mouth. Next, we tried with jasmine rice which I sheepishly thought might be received a little more favorably, but again frowning faces and rice ending up all over the room. Finally relenting, we resorted to buying expensive "sushi rice" which was the only thing we could find in the area where we stayed. Annoyingly for me the kids launched into that as hungry wolves while Mrs. Sunshine gave me a "told you so" stare.

That's not to mention the struggle to get the kids in the shower after the dinner. The screams of terror, fear and desperation that we had to endure every day during shower time we have not experienced since that time. After a few days of going through this I was starting to despair and went to a local toy store and luckily found (despite it being off summer season) a small inflatable pool that would fit into the shower room. 

Again... With the inflatable pool inserted as a poor bathtub substitute, the kids turned from miserable hellions to smiling angels, happily giggling away and again cooperating all of a sudden. Of course, while I got the "told you so" stare again from Mrs. Sunshine...

I should just have the bathtub physically removed from our house, after a few years they should been weaned off it!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Top 3 Most Annoying Kid's Shows in Japan - Number Two

You might have thought that things were bad enough with Happy Crappy, but believe me, there are worse things out there... Today we have reached number two of the most annoying kid's shows in Japan on my list.

2. Anpanman
Almost like the Justice League

It might be that I have lived in Japan so long now and have been exposed to so much Anpanman, but my feeling is that this character is by now relatively well known even outside of Japan? I might be wrong, but for those of you who are not familiar with Anpanman, it is a picture book turned cartoon show starring mostly characters made out of some form of bread. The lead character Anpanman is a superhero flying around helping people and fighting his archenemy "Baikinman" (Bacteria Man) who cooks up various devious plans to destroy all that is good. If I tune out and don't think about it the show is not that bad. It's pretty standard fare with Anpanman, together with his friends, helping out someone and thwarting the plans of Baikinman. Baikinman is not completely evil either but more mischievous.

To call the show "annoying" might actually be a bit wrong as I find it a little more disturbing than annoying... The premise of the show with a superhero who is made out of a Japanese sweet bread is odd enough, but that Anpanman sometimes takes pieces of his own head to feed friends in need and that when his head gets dirty (Anpanman's own Kryptonite which makes him lose his powers) his baker Overlord Mr. Jam just bakes up a new head which promptly replaces the old head is bordeline grotesque... Not to mention that most of the characters in the show are based on something edible, little Ms. Sunshine is especially fond of Hamburger-Kid for some reason...

The other annoying thing, which is not directly related to the show, is the extent in which Anpanman permeates the life of people like me with small children. Everything is Anpanman: clothes, toys, candy and even the Kindergarten uses Anpanman characters for decoration and in their games (certainly without paying any licensing fees, those thieves). 

Sexiness: Nothing. 0 out of 5 stars
Pointlessness: The show usually does have some form of point and a story to tell so this is not where I find this show the most troubling 3 out of 5 stars.
Characters: This is where things start to get disturbing with Curry Bread Man, Cream Panda (a pun on "pan" which means "bread" in Japanese), Infant Baby Man etc. -5 out of 5 stars
Total Score: I give it 1 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Top 3 Most Annoying Kid's Shows in Japan - Number Three

As you can imagine, I am nowadays more often than not exposed to Japanese kid's TV shows. There are shows that I might not find particularly entertaining myself, but which I recognize as reasonable entertainment for the kids. For instance, the kid's shows on NHK are of reasonable quality and even if they become a bit grating upon the 103rd time of watching I do not actively hate them (thinking of the Wanwan show, With Mommy (おかあさんといっしょ), Play in English (英語であそぼう) etc.). But there are shows that I am more actively annoyed by and will list them here in the hopes that some of the annoyance will rub off on you.

So, I will present the Top Three Most Annoying Kid's Shows in Japan for your education and as a possible warning for those with small children considering a move to Japan... Here comes place number three with the rest to follow!

3. Happy Crappy
Yep, it's Crappy Alright!

The name is great, I give them that much. I admit that I actually have no idea why they have chosen the title of "Crappy", there might be some meaning in Japanese of this that pass completely above my head (Ok, I guess it could be "Clappy" but "Crappy" is way more suitable here). Happy Crappy is shown on the cable channel Kid's Station and I see it as a little flashier and fast moving version of the NHK kid's shows. Basically a lot of singing, some English and stupid characters. In fact, the stupid characters are what annoys me most with this show. Not only the cute mascots, but also the guest characters in the form of the odd robot man, the Power Ranger like things and the most annoying jungle characters. I admit that I feel that I have not yet adequately conveyed the awfulness of this show, but the below opening theme might convince you?

Sexiness: Ok, this is one of the few areas where this show wins, the host girl looks a little sexier and sluttier than in most shows, but it's still only degrees in hell. 2 of 5 stars.
Pointlessness: This is where this show wins, I am not sure if they want to sing songs, tell stories or what they want to do. Thankfully the offspring seem to feel the same way as they are not too attached to this show. 1 of 5 stars.
Characters: Awful... Plain horrible, just see the picture and watch the video if you are not convinced...
Total Score: I give it 1.5 out of 5 stars

My advice is to avoid at all costs. Usually you can just switch to a recorded NHK show and the kids will thank you for it without putting up a fight. That is the only redeeming quality of this show.

Monday, February 10, 2014

I'm back!

How can it be?!
I have given it long a thoughtful consideration and have decided to once again revive the blog! However there will be a slight shift in focus as I still cannot really write that much about work. Instead I will focus a little more on the perils of being the father of small children here in Japan, something of which there is plenty of craziness involved.

As little Ms. Sunshine and Salaryman Jnr. now have grown to considerable size (for a 4 and 2 year old anyway) and started develop, what I interpret as , personality, and in the broadest possible meaning of the word, interests, means that I am from time to time exposed to their interesting world.

Also, to our great surprise, the little critters have also started to actually sleep at relatively reasonable hours at an almost (!?) predictable time, this has also freed up a little time when I don't need to try to entertain/sedate a rowdy offspring and can instead write blog posts in poor grammar for your entertainment.

Hopefully some of my former readers will at least find something mildly interesting in this new direction and those who are not probably have moved on to bigger and better things anyway in this nasty harsh post-blogging climate. I thought about changing the name of the blog, but since I am still something of a salaryman (although it could be argued that I left that behind me) and "The Adventures of a Foreign Father in Japan" doesn't really sound that great...
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