Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ebizo Ichikawa, bikers, half-Japanese and broken teeth

The recent news in Japan that I find quite entertaining to follow is that of the famous Kabuki actor "Ebizo Ichikawa" (seems like he's the 11th in line of his generation taking the same stage name, see his profile at the theaters homepage here) and the brutal beating that he received a few days ago putting him in the hospital with quite severe facial injuries and probable plastic surgery coming up to recover his most valuable asset up to the previous glory. As usual here in Japan, when the news broke, most people seemed to be shocked by this brutal assault on their favorite innocent actor...

In the beginning, details were quite scarce, but now more and more interesting tidbits seem to be turning up little by little. It probably also should be added that Ebizo has an image of something of a playboy who likes the booze and the girls, but earlier in the year, he snagged up the cute little Tv announcer Mao-chan and got married and people seemed to think that he would settle down and cut down on the nightlife. However, this does not seem to be the case...

It seems like Ebizo went out drinking with his Kabuki buddies late on the 25th and after a few hours, Ebizo broke off from the group and somehow ended up drinking with a bunch of Japanese "Bosouzoku" biker gang members (it should be noted though that Japanese bikers are pretty far removed from the western 1% biker lifestyle; Japanese bousouzoku bikers are more about wearing stupid looking overalls, puny bikes and bad hairstyles). Around early morning, he ended up getting beaten to a pulp by one (or several) of the members of this group, at least one of them "foreign looking", got home to his cute little Mao-chan, who called the ambulance and from there the media frenzy began.

Now in last days, some more details have started to emerge that seem to put a bit of a blemish on the whole story. Now some more additions to the story that Ebizo gave has started to leak out and it seems like he;

A) Bragged about how rich and successful he was and they weren't

B) Repeatedly pulled the hair of the gang leader

C) Poured a drink in the face of the same leader

D) Tried to make some of the group to drink tequila out of an ashtray (this is my personal favorite and I have made a mental note to try this at some company event)

Although these Japanese biker gangs usually are not hulking mountains of men like their Western biker counterparts, it's usually not advisable to pick a fight with them and particularly not if they outnumber you vastly. It would not be fair to say that Ebizo had it coming to him since the beating was quite brutal and the injuries to his face might impact his Kabuki career (which seem to be quite extraordinary if you're into that sorta thing), but it seems like he had a stroke of drunken "good ideas" during that night, the first mistake and biggest was probably to go drink with that gang, especially alone...

Now the police has issued an arrest warrant for the one who affected the beating and... ... ... it seems like the person in question is a "halfu" (a half-Japanese), with an African-American father and a Japanese mother. Perhaps I should fear for the safety of myself and my family in case a "halfu" witch hunt breaks out, or perhaps I could get better at intimidating people to do my bidding? It must all be in the genes after all?

Monday, November 29, 2010

...and now for something completely different...

Today on the top news on one of the major Japanese network news shows;

1. The murder of a 6 year old girl in Hiroshima

2. An accident in a highway tunnel in Mie prefecture leaves three dead

3. A temp staff worker at the amusement park around the Tokyo Dome are was trying to do some small repair on the "freefall" attraction but got her hands stuck in the machinery and broke a finger!!! (no one is to blame though it seems)

4. The South Korean Prime Minister holds a press conference on the recent conflict with North Korea

About the same amount of time was spent on each of the topics... Lots of stuff going on here in Japan now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Deluxe Version!

Ok, the humour of this post might not be that obvious to those who are not following Japanese pop culture and the latest fads and celebrities. One of the latest "hot" new celebrities is the obese transvestite drag queen "Matsuko Deluxe" (for those of you with a soft spot for John Waters, (s)he does bring up some distant memories of Divine). Matsuko Deluxe is now starring in quite a number of TV commercials (everything from the horse races to hair treatment products) and seem to be quite the rage in the TV variety show circuit. Personally I find Matsuko Deluxe mildly entertaining, but harbor no strong feelings either way and most likely won't feel sad when (s)he disintegrates into media oblivion in a few months time.

In any case, this is just to give you a little background to the entertaining story that I recently heard from one of my colleagues I'm quite friendly with. My friend participated in the funeral of the father of another colleague (i.e. my colleague as well) and during the festivities they ran into another former lady colleague, Sachiko, who had left the company since quite a few years back and stayed off the radar since then. This image of Sachiko when she was in the company was that of a quite good looking slim lady in the late 30's, but to the shock of my colleague she had apparently filled out quite a lot in the few years that she's not been seen or heard of from the company people... As my colleague ran into her at the funeral, Sachiko beamed off a huge smile, made a twirl and a bow and said "Hi! What do you think of Sachiko-DELUXE?!". My colleague, lost for words, stuttered something about how nice it was to see her again and how well the newly found weight suited her and then ran off to more fun conversation at the funeral...

I'm not sure if I managed to capture any of the surreal amusement of this little encounter as I experienced it when it was told to me, but in conclusion, anything is better in DELUXE!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's a chore tricked out as a game, don't fall for it!

I own a Wii, but it's mostly collecting dust unless I have some friends over since it can serve as a decent party diversion to bust out some Wii Sports Resort or so, but compared to the Playstation offering the single player games for the Wii just generally suck.

Recently having the brother-in-law over with his family and two Wii loving kids, the kids were let loose on the Wii while the adults enjoyed dinner, drinks and conversation. With some intervals I went over to participate in some of the games and assert myself as the dominant male and kick some ass in some of the more enjoyable mini-games (which are not that many).

After a period of being left unattended I checked in on the kids as they were playing a bicycle mini-game together and seemingly enjoying it immensely. The aim of the game is to cycle through a course and come in first place, simple enough, but what you do to control the game is to repeatedly shake the controllers up and down in some form of rythm for the duration of the course, which can easily go over 5 minutes... Not the most exciting way to control the game and quite exhausting as well, I'm very impressed with Nintendo for making up a pointless chore and dressing it up as a game and having the kids enjoy it.

Now, if only Nindendo could work on this and figure out how to make the kids do actually productive chores like doing the dishes, moving the lawn etc. disguised as games, we could really be onto something big here!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Joy of Japanese Guests

I'm not sure if it's my genes or a personal trait, but I generally like having guests over at the Sunshine-Salaryman base of operations. Something which sometimes clashes a bit with Mrs. Sunshine since the required cleanliness standards that we have in our heads for having guests over is quite different. While I basically don't care that much if there's baby Sunshine vomit and poo in the corners of the rooms, Mrs. Sunshine wants a bare minimum of dust rats smaller than 3x3cms in diameter.

However, I have noticed that when having Japanese guests over, the place is usually left in an even better state than it was in when the party began. It is usually neigh impossible to stop any of the guests from starting to wash things up, scrub the floor and put all the remaining food in suitable containters. This in comparison to having a bunch of foreign friends over, after which it usually looks like a battle zone and a good part of the following day is spent cleaning up.

I have now seriously started to consider maximize the amount of dishes and dirt in the corners until I invite some Japanese friends over to get the cleaning done and also maybe a bit of socializing, I just need to run this by Mrs. Sunshine to see if she'll approve...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A War of Cultures - Big Balls Beaver vs. the Gnome

One thing that is very striking when comparing European (or at least the more northern part of Europe) and Japanese culture is the difference in garden decorations.

One of my favorite items in the European garden is the Garden Gnome statue in all it's bountiful forms, sometimes jolly, sometimes a bit more mischievous and sometimes even a little naughty. When passing by a garden with a Garden Gnome decorating it, I often make a stop to fully enjoy it.

However, here in Japan the Garden Gnome is basically unheard of, on rare occassions it can be seen in a garden of some Japanese person who is trying to get a little European atmosphere going (but it is often mixed-up with Santa Claus anyway). Instead, the Japanese garden has opted to go for statues of the Tanuki; the Japanese beaver racoon dog thingy animal. It has in common with the Garden Gnome that it is often dressed up in various forms and often is carrying a bottle of liquor (for the sake of being correct, I probably should add that the Tanuki statue is often a regular feature not only in gardens, but also outside restaurants and some more traditional shops selling handicrafts etc).

One characteristic of the "Tanuki" animal is that is has unproportionally large testicles compared to most well known mammals, and this is of course taken into account when making the Tanuki Garden statues (see the pictures, yes, those are the testicles).

Since the Salaryman household is a cross-cultural family, I have been considering how to manage our garden in terms of the Gnome vs. the Tanuki, whether I should make sure to have an equal number of each to not create any disharmony.
After much consideration though, I think that I have come to the ideal solution, instead of having a "balance", a blend would be much more interesting and creative; the ideal thing to have in the garden would be a Garden Gnome with huge bared testicles to celebrate both cultures! I have done some preliminary scouting, but I have yet to find such a blend...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Country life

As readers of my blog probably are well aware, since about a year earlier the Salaryman family relocated from central Tokyo to the suburbian outskirts of the city. The area is still just ~30min away from central Tokyo with the train, but sometimes I feel like we ended up in the real countryside.

Last year, on my way to and from the station, I usually passed by a number of pretty run-down homeless people, a large number of "Izakaya" style bars/restaurants, one or several low level Yakuza looking "Chinpira" ("small prawn" - small time gangsters) hanging around their turf and quite a few more or less seedy looking girl bars.

In the new Salaryman Family area we recently passed by the local elementary school who had drawn quite a crowd with today's event of "sweet potatoe picking contest" and a small restaurant located in what looked like a residential home called "Loghouse Country Diner".

Well, at least the Chinpira guys are just 30 minutes away if we take the train!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Day of the Living Dead Non-Profit Organizations...

A new interesting word has emerged here in Japan, a word that is unlikely to become an established "False Friend" (as my big bro taught us earlier). The word is "Zombie Organization" (ゾンビ事業).

When the DPJ ousted the LDP out of power in Japan, they started a public hearing of government sponsored NPO's (Non-Profit Organization) to sort out the inefficient and unnecessary organizations and "put and end to the wasteless and irresponsible spending of tax payer's money of the LDP". But also, making the hearings public and televising them made quite a spectacle of it and brought the chairwoman Rehno to further public fame. The hearings likely was mostly boring and dull, but some amusing bits were shown repeatedly on tv where bitchiness reigned supreme, both from the committee and and NPO's getting the sharp end of the stick.

In theory, I guess the principle was good since it seems like there's a lot of NPO's there whose prime objective seem to secure government money and comfy jobs with no real demand for any output or results and the change in government probably severed a lot of networks from any " 'ol boys club" where mutual back-scratching was rampant.

But, like most of the DPJ's initiatives, it seems like it was well meant but just horribly poorly implemented. What has happened now is that many of the NPO's that got their grants cut in the first round have changed their names and resurrected themselves as a completely new organization and again managed to get the government money crane flowing. These old-new NPO's have gotten the name Zombie Organizations now in the media as they come back to life after being killed once (see an article in Japanese here).

I think it's common knowledge that for the modern zombies, the only way to really kill them is to shoot them in the head and destroy their brains (filling the mouth with salt and sewing it shut is old school), but how do you kill a zombified organization? I will eagerly follow the news here to see if they come up with an answer!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The sleep of the just

Baby Sunshine is, as the name indicante, a quite small baby. And although it's not the easiest thing to get her to wind down enough to relax and get the naps that she needs, she does sleep quite deeply when she gets down to business, sometimes doing those adorable baby snores as well.

Most of the time, WWIII erupting in her room, loud music, bears scavenging for food, shouting, Chinese boats slamming into her side could not bother her less, she'll just sleep through it. However, one thing that I have noticed is how extremely delicate her ears seem to be to any sounds related to the nose. Sniveling a little or blowing one's nose will immediately result in one cranky little baby girl, even if it's done very softly and not in the immediate vicinity of the sleeping baby...

With an onset of allergy that hits the mucus production, I now usually try to put at least two closed doors between me and the sleeping baby to keep things peaceful. Why didn't any of those baby books mention this?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Japanese English...

Ok, this post is actually not about misuse of English here in Japan (a post on that subject you can find here), but on the invention of new words in English in Japan that end up only existing here in Japan.

When Mrs. Sunshine was brought back to the old country and a question came up from some of my Swedish relatives whether she was planning to buy something in particular at one tourist destination we were planning to go to. In her regular basically flawless English she answered "Well, I don't want to buy anything big, but maybe an "eco-bag" or something small like that". This was met with considerable confusion until I realized that "eco-bag" is not a generally accepted word in the English vocabulary and could explain that she meant reusable shopping bags.

The term "eco-bag" is (as far as I know) invented in Japan and means a reusable bag used for grocery shopping and the "ecology" part comes from that no disposable plastic bags is needed and thus is more environmentally friendly. From an English language perspective, I think the word is perfectly reasonable, but deceptive... I'm sure there are plenty of more examples out there, but none come to mind at the moment.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Buying a house in Japan Part 9 - Finding the lawyer

(Again, check out here to catch up on the ongoings so far)

As we now found ourselves with the issue of finishing up and submitting a "permanent residence" visa application to the immigration office within just a few days in order to secure the loan that we had filed for, things were a bit tense in the Salaryman household. Since neither of use had any experience in putting together such an application and the amount of documents are quite significant, it seemed like an almost impossible proposition for us to manage within just a few days, and to add to that, working days for me where I would had to spend most of the time toiling away in the office.

While my outlook was basically that of quite defeatism, Mrs. Sunshine had a burst of energy and located a lawyer working with things like this, relatively close to our previous apartment in Ikebukuro and as I came home after an exhausting day in the office, basically resigned to the fact that we would never get the application done and submitted and that we would have to give up the dream house we had seen the previous day, she had located a small one man law office.

(The conversation we had when I came home could've been taken from the movie Aliens, where I would play the part of Hudson and Sunshine that of Ripley:
Hudson: "That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?"
Ripley: "You better just start dealing with it, Hudson! Listen to me! Hudson, just deal with it, because we need you and I'm sick of your bullshit.")

So, as the phonecall was placed around 9PM and we explained the situation, to our surprise the lawyer said "Sure, we can do this, can you come over now immediately so I can start working, I'll be here all night?". As we headed out into the night with our documents towards the middle of the most sleazy area in Ikebukuro to have this midnight meeting with this lawyer, the real excitement started, but that's for the next post.

(Educational Piece: I think that most people put together their own applications for the "permanent residence" visa based on the instructions from the immigration office instead of paying an external person to handle this and assuming that time is available this is probably the best way to go. If you google around a bit I'm sure that you can find several homepages that give advice and instructions on how to do this)

Monday, November 1, 2010

I had a dream...

Last night I had an interesting dream...

I dreamt that I had ended up at a concert with the Japanese boy-band Arashi (see the picture) and was walking around in the audience. I had no idea what I was doing there since I'm hardly a fan of their music, but I was walking around, mingling with the audience and enjoying myself before the show had started...

...somehow my wandering took me backstage and I opened a door and found myself face to face with the whole group as I accidentally had walked into their dressing room. To my surprise all of them were in the nude as they were about to change into their (fancy) scene costumes and to my great surprise none of them had any genitalia, instead of genitalia they just had a small hole to pee from. They seemed happy to see me and we did some cold talk about the weather and other things until I breached the question and asked why they were lacking their genitalia. The dressing room erupted in disgusted "ewww! It's so disgusting", "oh, I hated those filthy things" and they explained to me that they had their organs it surgically removed because it was so disgusting and how much more comfortable they were with the small pee-holes that they had replaced it with. After that I waved goodbye and wandered out on my merry way, thinking "they seemed like nice guys, a bit odd with the genitalia but not surprising really".

...then I woke up and had to go pee and felt quite thankful that I still had it all where it was supposed to be. I guess this is what happens when you have tacos just before going to bed?
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