Tuesday, March 31, 2009

One of these days you have to decide you know

Seen today on my happy way home from a long day at the office:

1. An elderly woman praying at the small roadside shrine with a can of Coke Zero in her hand she was drinking from

2. A woman doing some form of improvised aerobic exercise on a parking lot in front of a MacDonalds while smoking a cigarette

I'm not going out any more today!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Are you coming or going?

I've previously touched a bit upon some aspects of Japan and sex here in the blog and thought I should follow up with some concrete advice.

One thing that I always found a bit difference and a concrete difference between English and Japanese is that while you in English "come" to an orgasm, in Japanese it's expressed as "going". So basically the orgasm is not anything you arrive to here in Japan, it's something you depart for. As far as I know, Swedish and German share the same "arrival" vocabulary as English, but I have no idea in other languages...

I will leave it to my betters to sort out what significance in terms of cultural views on sex that the Japanese choice of vocabulary reveals, but just in case, if you end up in an intimate situation with a Japanese person and he/she is "going" somewhere just when things are heating up, don't worry, it's probably just a cultural misunderstanding.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rubbing it in

Earlier today I participated in an Asian telecon discussing some upcoming events and since I know and am friendly with the Korean manager, I squeezed in a quick phrase about it as the meeting started, it went something like this:

Meeting Chair: So we got Mr. Pak from Korea calling in, good

Mr. Salaryman: (in an overly friendly voice) Hey Mr. Pak, too bad about the baseball, better luck next year, huh?

Mr. Pak: (audibly upset) Who said that?!

Meeting Chair: Hehe, ok, so let's get the meeting started, if you all take a look at the agenda... (interrupted)

Mr. Pak: Hey! Who said that about the baseball earlier!?

Meeting Chair: Mr. Salaryman from Japan, of course

Mr. Pak: (noises which I interpreted to be loud cursing in Korean, but I am not sure)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yeah, that'll show those Koreans

Now, as a Swede here in Japan, there are two popular sports that are completely alien to me and, as you might be able to guess, it's sumo wrestling and baseball. For the first sport, the basic rules are simple enough to understand, but I just never really saw the allure and/or any ceremonial significance. When it comes to baseball, I have severe problems in understanding the rules and an urgent lack of any motivation to actually try to understand them either in any case.

Both of these sports are basically non-existent in Europe and my image of these sports are that they are shown as fillers on the EuroSport channel when they lack any exciting sport, such as bicycling, to fill their schedule with. The commentators usually seemed to have roughly the same understanding of the sports as me as well, further detracting from any potential enjoyment that could be had out of watching these.

However, recently the World Baseball Cup has been going on and yesterday Japan beat the US team and squared off against the Korean team for the final match earlier today. Normally, I wouldn't care less about a baseball game, but the media has been quite successful in hyping up the event here in Japan to the degree that even I started caring a little bit. The game against Korea was further hyped up since Japan had played against Korea for 3 matches earlier in the cup and had lost two of the three games, making it quite intense. My general feeling was that the atmosphere between the two teams/countries is a bit like that of Sweden vs. Finland in the Hockey world cup, with Korea taking the role of the finns. As any Swede knows, Finland doesn't care what place they end up in the hockey cup, as long as they beat Sweden.

The game took place this morning Japan team (with the game played in California) and I actually followed it over the Internet with a tied score at the end of the 9th inning and the Japanese baseball star Ichiro ensuring the victory in the 10th inning with a final score of 5-3 to Japan. It was exciting to the degree that during a meeting we had during this time, that one of our senior directors actually succumbed to the excitement and brought out his mobile phone with tv receptor and had us all watching it for the final inning. However, not until he made us promise not to tell anyone and had it hidden from view of anyone passing by the meeting room.

So, Japan are now the world champions in baseball, which is great, but now I can finally go back to not caring about this sport anymore. At least there's no Sumo wrestling world championship that I would have to get excited about...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Tell the Rear Admiral!

I have recently confirmed that the following exchange might theoretically take place in the US Navy!

Captain: Rear Admiral! I need seamen on my poop deck!

Rear Admiral: ...nice...

Just thought it could be good to know!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Travelling back in time

Since I'm a full blown salaryman, I use a fair amount of business shirts per week, to be more precise, I can say that I use business shirts basically every day. Since ironing is not one of my favorite ways to pass the time, this means that I have a pretty large amount of shirts that I take to the dry cleaner when I get around to it (which can be anything between two weeks and two months from the previous time).

I do really like my local mom and pop dry cleaning shop, run by a couple somewhere in their 70's, always friendly, knows my name and allow me to pay when I get around to it in case I forgot to bring enough money some time.

One of my favorite things is by the counter where they have placed a radio (that always is on) and an old clock. The radio probably was probably hot in the 1950's and the clock probably was fashionable in the early 1970's. So I got my shirts laundered and getting in the store almost feels like a little time travel trip! Good stuff and check the picture to experience this yourself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Springtime time for EBM

For some reason, spring time usually brings with it a certain music nostalgia for classic EBM (Electronic Body Music) and the recent days I've been going through my iTunes library bringing out tunes from such old classics such as A;Gruhm, Poesie Noire, A Split Second, Front 242, Die Krupps, Frontline Assembly, The Neon Judgement, KMFDM and other such classic bands. Does anyone but me actually own a full album by Borghesia?

However, the conclusion is usually the same when I realize that A Split Second actually really sucked, The Neon Judgement's only really good song was "Chinese Black" (Ok, you could argue that "TV treated" also is good), A;Gruhm was more funny (in that fat gay man way) than actually produced great music and that the old Die Krupps only really great songs were "Wahre Arbeit wahren Lohn" and "Machineries of Joy" (and that's probably only because Nitzer Ebb helped anyway).

But I also get floored by Front 242 and how great their albums "Front by Front" and "Tyranny for You" were and how well they still hold up now almost 20 years later, trying to not "sing" along in the samples and dance in the subway, also it reminds me how great FLA were with "Tactical Neural Implant" and how cool I thought the voice on the song "Victim" on the "Caustic Grip" sounded back in the day. Also, in my head I'm trying to pinpoint the exact time that KMFD lost "it" (probably just after the "Symbols" album) and started producing crappy metal...

You might wonder why I don't mention Laibach and Nitzer Ebb as well, but the truth is that I always kept on listening to those albums, so they don't carry that much of nostalgia to me.

Well, I think this nostalgic wave is over for now and I guess it'll be calm until next autumn when I dig out the old Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and Catherines Cathedral songs!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Is it just me or is this really freaky?

Today I had to call one of my company's European subsidiaries to discuss an issue that has come up that concerns both our countries. For some reason my colleague is hiding his direct number pretty well, so I had to call to the general line and have a 5 minute battle in trying to explain who I was, where I was calling from and whom I was trying to reach with the not so English gifted receptionist. After that ordeal she put me on hold as she was transferring my call...

The pause music they had running was Cyndi Lauper's "Time after time" and I had to sit and listen to basically the whole song since I probably was transferred all over the company before I reached the colleague I wanted to reach.

It just felt kinda surreal to listen to that song as I was waiting to talk realtively unpleasant business issues with a colleague whom I knew I would have another English battle... Nevertheless I started humming along to the song and completely lost my composure when he picked up the phone and distrubed me and Cyndi's time (after time).

Is it just me or isn't it kinda freaky to have that song as pause music for a surgical equipment company? I'm not against it, but it did feel kinda surreal...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's Springtime!

Finally some light in the darkness! After two long gray weeks of rain and cold it seems like springtime is now finally reaching the Tokyo area!

Wonderful sunny morning today with almost 15 degrees outside and even warmer in the sun, it's finally getting to be nice to live in Japan again. I do realize that there will be some back and forth now in the coming weeks between cold weather and warm nice springtime weather, but I still think that it's fair to officially open springtime.

If you plan on visiting Japan, mid- late-April and May is the best time, before the summer heat and humidity comes down on this little island.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There came a note...

Today as I was happily slaving away at my computer I received a small handwritten note from the peon that I have been trying to save from termination last week saying:

"Now he's making me print out organization charts with my name removed from them!"

I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, it kinda reminds me of evil nazis making you have to execute your own family before they execute you, just to have you suffer a bit more. It's a hard life in the corporation...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Defiling the pure white beauty

I have a deep dark secret that I have managed to keep concealed from the Japanese people in my vicinity for all these years in Japan but that I thought I should get off my chest here in this blog.

You see, I do the unthinkable when no Japanese person is around to see me... If I eat something with rice at home, first of all I put away the chopsticks and use a knife and fork or even a spoon, but this could be forgiven by the Japanese, just mildly scorned upon. What I do is the unthinkable... I pour some soy sauce over the rice...

Now you might understand how heavy this burden has weighed upon my chest, if there is one thing you just don't do here in Japan, it's pouring soy sauce over the rice, defiling the pure white beauty that is the rice. Pissing all over the centuries of labor and love that Japanese farmers have put into delivering pure white rice to the Japanese households who know to enjoy the taste of white rice. If any of my Japanese friends knew of this secret I am sure that they would cut off all contact with me, I would become an outcast, a freak in the eyes of the Japanese, but yet I cannot stop myself in the darkness of my own apartment, alone, with the curtains drawn. Pouring the soy sauce over the white rice, coloring it brown and enjoying it...

Out in public, I pretend like everyone else, using the chopsticks, keeping the rice white and pure, pretending that I'm normal. But it's all an act... The fact that I have 50% Japanese genes in me would make my soy sauce and rice habits even more unforgivable since I am supposed to know better.

Oh yeah, I don't wash it either before cooking, but I can pretend that it's out of sympathy with the Japanese troops in Iraq.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Can I take a picture?

I still regularly meet up with my former colleagues from my consulting days, mostly Captain Britain, Luke and The Boy, but I am on friendly terms with most of the guys and gals back from those days. Last week I met up with the gang for some drinks at some fashionable Japanese type semi-standing bar in Shibuya. There were about 6 of us and we were having a pretty good time, laughing, drinking and talking in the otherwise empty place.

Since the next day would be a working day we were getting ready to pack up and go home around 10pm, but just as we were about to finishing our drinks a "reporter" with a cameraman had come into the bar and approached our table and asked if we would mind if she took some pictures of us enjoying the place since she was going to write a feature of the place for some magazine. Since the place was otherwise empty and our crowd probably looked international and all with a mix of Japanese, westerners and half-breeds like me, we were probably her only chance to get some pictures of customers having a good time.

She asked us just about the time we were reaching for our jackets, and Dr. Y became the representative of our group, telling the reporter that we really were on our way home and didn't want to stay for 10-15min longer just to let them take some pictures. He expressed this and after a few seconds of silence added "but... if you buy us a round of beer, we can stay for 15min longer...". She immediately answered "Sure!" and actually ran to the bar to get us our drinks.

We stayed for 30min longer and had a plenty good time. They'll send me the magazine as well when it's out. So, if this happens to you, do like Dr. Y and negotiate!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Under Siege - Worst week ever?

This is actually not one of my standard entertaining fun filled post, I probably have been through one of the worst weeks in my professional life, at least outside consulting... The amount of craziness, nastiness and overall in-your-face stupidity I have endured during the week could easily break much stronger men than me. Perhaps after the weekend I might feel encouraged to bring out some of the more entertaining outbursts of stupidity, but at the moment I am still in shock.

The week started off with a late evening meeting in which Mr. Shachou tried to get my support in "pushing out" (as discussed in my previous post), a person which I personally work well together with and has consistenly performed well but with the only issue that he has been pretty vocal about what he thinks about our local management. For some reason I ended up in the middle of all this and had to try and broker peace and/or make sure that the treatment of this person wouldn't be too nasty. This carried on for the first two days of the week with me having to spend my evenings talking over the phone to the targetted employee and try to ensure him that things might not be as bad as it seems.

Then, later in the week we were hit by some pretty hardcore phone conferences with head office management where we got cross checked on some things we had no idea about but which were committments from our organization from a couple of years ago which they remembered but which I had never heard about... This resulted in a flurry of pointless meetings keeping me in the office much later than I would've wanted to be. To top it off, the weather in Tokyo this week has been mostly gray, rainy and depressive, not the kinda of weather that makes me jump out of bed full of energy.

I feel completely drained now, but a weekend with some R&R and plenty of Ms. Sunshine should help me recover a bit by next week, it can't really be worse than this week... or... can it...?!
(Bonus points to anyone who can name the movie from the screenshot!)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Firing and hiring in Japan

In Japan, the labor laws are quite protective of the employees and it can be really hard for a corporation to get rid of any unwanted empolyees assuming that no things such as blatant theft of company property, deliberate attempts to hurt the company or such has occurred. Basically, even the most incompetent employees are pretty well protected as long as the company is not in a harsh financial downturn in which they can cite money troubles to get rid of people.

So what do you do then, if you're in a management position and want to get rid of that annoying peon who keeps interrupting you, being in your face and just annoying you with stupid questions? You can't just straight up fire him/her because that could make you end up with plenty of problems in case they would decide to take it to court to sue the company for mistreatment.

You're getting worried? Now, relax, there is still a way that you can get rid of that annoying peon without breaking a sweat. You did the talk and expressed your wish for the person to leave the company, but he/she refuses to accept the package, probably knowing that he/she was lucky to get the job in the first place? Here's what you do! You see, the labor laws are pretty hard on firing people, but it allows for relocations without much limitations. That annoying guy who keeps sleeping in the meetings? That horrible girl who takes hours to send an e-mail?

Annoying guy who sleeps in meetings? - You send him off to man a new sales office in some asshole part of Japan, far away from his family with a minimal expense package giving him unreasonable sales targets that will allow you to lower his salary considerably when he fails to achieve the targets. Trust me, even if he would be stupid enough to accept in the first place, he'll leave soon enough and even if he doesn't you can take pleasure in the fact that you're making his life a living hell.

Horrible slow girl? - You allocate her from her finance position to one of handing out tea and counting the stock of papers from the warehouse, even if that is not to make her leave, at least she's out of your face for considerable time.

In all seriousness, during my time in business here in Japan I've seen some pretty horrid measures taking against people from management to ruthlessly make them leave the company and continously punishing them in case they refuse... We currently have things like this ongoing in my little company and it makes me somewhat sick since the person(s) on the receiving end actually don't deserve it since the only thing they've done is telling unwanted truth to management.

To tie it back to the picture illustrating this post, they need to wear an armor like that to suffer the abuse!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Girl on Girl Action

Generally I work pretty well with women and get along well with most women in my workplace but for reasons completely unknown to me, I've ended up smack in the middle between two; one of them is a direct peon and the other one is an indirect peon of mine.

The thing is that I get along pretty well with both of them, and they both have their strenghts and specialities in work that are quite different considering their backgrounds, which I can respect while recognizing the areas where they need a little more support.

Sitting in a meeting with both of them and me is generally pretty non-exciting, they keep happy faces and seem to be speaking almost normally together in an, at least decent, professional way. However, the minute I turn my back for just a second they're at each others throats with accussations of incompetence and general fighting (not physical though...). Then, when I happen to be alone with one of them, discussing a common area, comes the efforts in trying to convince me of the other woman's incompetence. It's actually pretty annoying to try and break this up time and again...

I've been thinking, maybe I should make them settle the score once and for all in a no holds barred fight, but it might be against the company rules to encourage violence, I think I should double check before I start selling the tickets...
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