Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Commuter Terrorists - The sleeper Agent

Give her a Bag Battering and she'll wake up!

The Sleeper Agent is one of the most basic enemies you will encounter in the commuter war. They're basically cannon fodder and basic grunts that pose no real threat to an experienced Subway Warrior. However they can be highly annoying to deal with. The sleeper agents come in all shapes and can be young, or old, male or female. 

What the Sleeper Agent does is sleep. He/she likes to sleep during the commute and particularly likes to do so when sitting next to you. He/she often finds the lack of pillows on the train inconvenient but makes up for this oversight by using the person next to him/her instead. The sleeper agent typically start nodding off slowly and carefully, probing the ground before a full on assault. It starts with a head briefly brushing against your hand or shoulder and then returning to the upright position as the person seem to be aware that he/she might be causing some discomfort to the subject. However, if you do not strongly mark your territory another intrusion is sure to occur. Depending on the aggressor it can be a series of brushes lasting slightly longer and longer or it can be an immediate and full on "head on shoulder" invasion to the precious private space on the train.

I have now successfully fended off these annoying combatants on a regular basis and the key is to put down your foot early and scare off any further attempts. The basic move that I perform when a sleeper agent is probing the ground is the "Quick Shoulder Shrug". The move consists of a quick shoulder shrug, keeping the body apart from the shoulder perfectly still. Speed is also of essence, it should be performed quickly without any other visible sign of annoyance; you should keep reading that book, playing with your phone or whatever it is you're doing. Often this move is all it takes to scare the aggressor off, either waking them up or going for easier prey on the other side.

The move is sure to at least temporarily stave off any attempts but in many cases once is not enough in which case I repeat the move, a little harder each time until the aggression is halted or more radical moves are deemed required.

One move that is also available is the "Fake Surrender" where I pretend to give in to the invasion for a few minutes lulling the sleeper into a false security then I suddenly do the "Oops I dropped something on the floor and need to pick it up" and in an instant remove the stable ground from the aggressor. On rare very successful occasions this can cause the sleeper to free fall to the seat behind you and is sure to both wake them up an shame them into submission. Remember to look at them afterwards like you think he/she is crazy to amp up the shame a notch.

There are times when the Shoulder Shrug is not enough to scare off determined aggressors and the Fake Surrender is not suitable. Those are the times I take to weapons to hold my ground! My weapon of choice is my business bag that I usually have in my lap during the train rides. I first slyly move my upper body slightly away from the aggressor who slowly follows in hope of regaining its new found pillow. Due to the magic of gravity it usually means that the aggressor also leans slightly forward, I wait for a few precious seconds, move the bag in my lap slightly towards the aggressor and then quickly pump my knee upwards in a quick movement lunging the bag quick and hard against the vulnerable face of the aggressor. This move basically always work leaving the aggressor semi-awake and in pain without realising exactly what really happened. I call this move the "Bag Battering".

Again, during all this, I can't stress the importance enough of acting like everything is perfectly fine. The reason for this is to avoid escalating the conflict to a train rage incidence. After all, these moves are highly effective but should only ever be used in self defence when all peaceful options has been exhausted.

However, there are times when even I surrender, either by getting up and standing or let the invasion run its course... The Drunk Sleeper Agent is the most fearsome type as they are particularly insensitive to pain, reek of sweat and alcohol and are unrelenting in their invasion attempts; The Terminators of the Sleeper Agents if you will. Know when to run and when to make a stand! Another fearsome scenario is having Sleeper Agents on both sides simultaneously attempting an invasion forcing you to fight a war on two fronts...

Remember the first rule of the Subway Warrior: There are no innocents and all aggressors should be dealt with extreme prejudice, women and men alike are fair game. The only people who should be spared are younger children (teenagers are fair game!) and frail elderly. This might sound hard and merciless, but that is the way of the Subway Warrior! Some of the most toughest Subway Warriors are women, so keep that in mind and show no mercy.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Top 3 Japanese Politicians I despise the most

I would be the first to admit that I hardly live and breathe Japanese politics, but as I am currently living here with an eye to keep doing so long-term I do keep an eye on what is going on through the news. It hardly helps that Japanese politics is an awful muddled mess of parties, factions within parties and new parties with names that push the boundaries of sanity. 
In this depressive day and age it is unfortunately hard to find much to like about national Japanese politics and very few politicians that stand out as dependable and likable. On the other hand, there are quite a few rubs me the wrong way when they show up on the news... Without further ado, here comes the list of the top three Japanese politicians that I despise the most!

1. Ichiro Ozawa - Former LDP, former DPJ, current Chairman of "The People's life Comes first Party"

Maria is cuter
When it comes to Ozawa's history I admit to being ignorant to him until the DPJ ousted for LDP party out of power and Hatoyama became prime minister of Japan in 2009. It does seem like he has been around the block, so to speak, and a major player in Japanese politics since the beginning of the year 2000 with a past in the LDP before jumping to the DPJ and then now finally creating the new party with the ridiculous name of "The People's life Comes first Party" (yes, it sounds equally stupid in Japanese).

The reason why Ozawa makes the top of the list is a combination of things. First of all, he both look and act the part of the archetype of an old Japanese career politician. The type that milks it for all it's worth and working more to make his way up the ladder than serving the people that elected him in the first place. Although his path to power has been littered with minor scandals and accusations of embezzlement in various forms, he has managed to dodge the bullet every single time and weasel his way back into the top layer of Japanese politics.

In more recent times, he made the news often due to his opposition to the new leadership of the DPJ after the resignation of Hatoyama. From what I can understand, there was no lack of backstabbing and scheming from either camp inside the DPJ but I still find it highly distasteful that a senior official in a party publicly goes against the party leadership, particularly post the March 2011 earthquake disaster when unification was needed the most. Of course one should not stay in a party if one's belief in the policy is gone, but the correct way to do things is to voice criticisms internally and then resign if the situation is not possible to affect. This is what Ozawa did (
finally, about at least a year too late) when he finally left the DPJ with his homies and created the awfully named new party.

But I guess the main reason why I dislike Ozawa is his smug face. The small redeeming factor here was that when I googled for "Ozawa" images in Japanese 99.9% of the hits that came up was from famous half-Japanese porn-star Maria Ozawa which was easier on the eye than Ichiro Ozawa's smug face.

2. Toru Hashimoto - Mayor of Osaka

He's PISSED OFF because he's right and everyone else are ALWAYS WRONG
Toru Hashimoto first came to fame in Japan as part of a panel of lawyers in a Japanese TV show hosted by the now infamous Shinsuke Shimada (see here for the mess surrounding him). When I first came to Japan, I admit to watching the show occasionally and finding it reasonably amusing. In the first couple of years the show focused on actual feasible situations and what the legal implications/consequences could be, filtered through the all-present celebrity guests and then given the verdict from a panel of four lawyers out of which Hashimoto was one.

I stopped watching the show as the focus started to shift from actual cases to more and more ridiculous scenarios and larger focus on the celebrity guests. The times it was on when I flipped through the channels I quickly got annoyed by Shimada's overbearing presence and moved on to the next channel. In the show, I did not particularly despise Hashimoto, he actually seemed quite reasonable although a bit annoying. For a few years I did not see or hear anything about Hashimoto until he became Mayor of the second largest city in Japan; Osaka. 

To his credit, I should at least give him that he's not a typical career politician from a family of politicians and I do get the impression that he at least tries to act in the best interest of the voters. Some people also seem to appreciate that he's very outspoken, (
relatively) young and different compared to the old-school politicians in Japan.
As I do not live in Osaka and therefore his policies does affect me very little and I have very little detailed insight nor interest in those. 

The reason why he comes so high in the ranking is his extremely obnoxious attitude in press conferences and how condescending and self righteous he behaves. There seem to be some strong inferior complex at work and I find it very hard to trust people like that. He has been surrounded by some minor controversies around his policies, the most recent his aggressive condemnation of people with tattoo's working as officials of the city of Osaka. I can personally understand the reasoning why it might not be suitable to have tattoo's in some positions in Japan where tattoo's still are quite strongly associated with organised crime and delinquency, but the way he basically branded everyone with tattoo's as a lower form of people in his press conference before he launched an investigation of the state of the bodies of the city officials in Osaka just felt very badly handled.

3. Shinjiro Koizumi - Elected Member of the House of Representatives

Would you buy a car from him?
Shinjiro is small fry in comparison to Ozawa and Hashimoto clocking in at 31 years of age and still not a real power in national politics, but gets quite the bit of attention as he is the son of former LDP prime minister Junichiro Koizumi (the guy with the funky gray hair who served as prime minister from 2002-2006 after which Japan started to change prime minster on a yearly basis...). The Koizumi family has politics running in their blood with a long line of politicians in their family tree. It should be said that although I never was a huge Junichiro Koizumi fan, I still think that he did not do too bad compared to some of the people before him and at least there was some degree of consistency to politics back in his day.

So why do I despise Koizumi Jnr then? Well, he just comes off as an attention seeking career politician. Every line he says when interviewed comes off as being rehearsed beforehand (
which, on the other hand, when considering some of the more outrageous things that many major Japanese politicians has thrown out during interviews might not be such a bad thing after all...), including pause for increased drama and a more general self-righteous attitude just rubs me the wrong way. Also, that he is for sure groomed for major positions in the future due to his politican lineage just feels wrong to me...

(Dis)Honorable Mention - Shintaro Ishihara - Governor of Tokyo

If you read Japanese this is even more amusing
Ishihara is a loon. Whatever good he might actually do from time to time will always be overshadowed by his many outrageous, insulting and downright bizarre statements that he gladly throws around. These statements have been reported so many times that I will not waste your time and my energy in repeating them (just google him if you don't know him before).

So why does he not get a higher position in this ranking? Well, I think that most people know that he is a bit of a loon and just tend to disregard that part of him. The only reason I can see for him being reelected last year was that the people of Tokyo felt more comfortable with the Devil they knew than any of the newcomers that ran against him. I also think that there's a feeling of "Sure, he's a loon, but he's our loon!".

There you have it! The top three Japanese politicians that I personally despise the most! If you haven't figured it out, take it with a fistful of salt and enjoy their appearances on tv! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hot and miserable...

Otherwise things might catch fire from the heat
Now the Japanese summer heat has struck with a vengeance after a pretty mild June and first half of July... However, as of the weekend we reached temperatures around 34 degrees Celsius here in the Tokyo area with sunshine further heating things up.

With two small children at home the opportunity for a temporary escape more than to an air conditioned room is non-existing. Two months (or if we're lucky, one and a half) more of this and things should start to cool down a bit but that's a pretty long tunnel to go through. The poor folks in the southern island of Kyushu also had to endure record breaking rainfall during the weekend, killing 20 people and destroying numerous homes and now they have a typhoon heading their way... At least I don't live in Kyushu...

Please forgive me for putting my Internet activity on the back-burner at the moment, between Baby Salaryman, Toddler Sunshine, being busy at work and then the heat on top of that I have little energy to allocate to blogging and leaving comments. Hopefully I should get my act together soon. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Poor poor little Panda baby...

Some pandas are more sexually aggressive
The shocking news came today... The newborn little panda baby at the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo died earlier today from pneumonia after being abandoned by Mommy Panda who couldn't be bothered caring for an annoying screaming little baby when there was bamboo to chew and lots of lying around doing nothing to do.

It was a bit of a big deal with a newborn panda in Japan as the cute little giant panda's apparently have a notoriously low sex-drive so it was all over the news when the baby panda had been born (
every news segment eagerly watched by Toddler Sunshine who happily exclaimed "Panda!" every time a panda was shown and sometimes mistakenly when one of the zookeepers was shown talking).

Ok, it was disappointing and a little sad that the little critter didn't make it but my sadness was kept in line a bit by the fact that newborn pandas looks more like little hairless rats than the cute panda bears that they grow up to be. Also, the fact that the pandas are on loan from China and that the little offspring would have to be handed over to the Chinese authorities at the age of two (
probably for intense debriefing and intense political schooling in communism after his time in Japan).

There you have it, that's the biggest news that Japan have the energy to muster up in the current summer heat that turned up the volume for real from yesterday... Screw power saving, I need those fans, ice-packs and air-conditioning!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Well hello Mr. Fancypants!

Not quite this fancy...
Recently I have managed to stay mostly clear of the creepy security guard (see post here) and almost forgotten that he roamed the hallways of the company headquarters.

However, today, as I was walking through the corridors on my way from a meeting, thinking about one issue that had came up and not completely aware of my surroundings I hear a voice call out "
Well, hello there Mr. Salaryman!". As I look up, I realize that Mr. Creepy Security guard is standing right in front of me with a big creepy smile. Slightly confused and surprised I mumble back "Hello, how are you?". He does a half step out of the way and as I pass by he says "that's some fancy pants you have on today", again confused I stop and turn to him and say "sorry, what?" to which he says "I said that's some nice fancy pants you have on today, really nice" and reaches out to touch them on my thigh... Even more confused and thrown completely off-guard I continue walk and says "You think, this is just ordinary pants you know...", behind me I hear "they're nice..." before I can turn a corner to safety.

For the sake of the matter it should be mentioned that the pants in question were quite regular dark cargo pants purchased at Uniqlo for a modest sum and can hardly be defined as "fancy" anyway you look at it.

A few minutes later I started to feel a bit sexually harassed.... Ok, the touching was very brief and superficial but also completely uncalled for. But I also feel that I brought it upon myself wearing those pants as I should realize that it will cause some people to react like this. I can't really blame him, I just have to take care to not wear as fancy pants to work.

But the laws of nature goes completely against it, I'm a pretty big Western (
at least semi-Western) guy working in Japan and if there's to be any sexual harassment around me I should be the one dealing it out or at least give my implicit approval to inappropriate comments about the female staff made from my colleagues. The world has turned upside down on me and now I need to start hiding from the Mr. Creepy Security Guard...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hard sell

Something like this with less colors
(First of all, apologies for the lack of posting recently, it's a combination of work, early summer heat and little baby that has been draining me of energy to blog lately)

I am currently managing the launch of a new breakthrough medical technology here in Japan and busy trying to convince doctors to start using in and generate plenty of nice cash for us. The sales reps are of course in charge of the actual heavy lifting when it comes to
the sales but I take care of what's called "KOLs" (Key-Opinion-Leaders, i.e. the doctors that have the power to influence other docs to use it) and sometimes get called in to help out for especially high potential but tough sells.

Me and the local sales rep had been working on one of the most prestigious medical university hospitals here in Japan, having quite a few meeting with doctors trying to convince them to start using the technology, but had not yet had any clear success or promises. The docs seemed interested but a little hesitant to change their treatment strategies. A few days ago I got a call from the rep who had set up a meeting with the professor of cardiovascular surgery and the guy who had enough power in the hospital to make a clear decision. From what we had gathered, the professor was very interested but had a few quite big concerns that we somehow had to alleviate him of.

I prepared for the meeting q
uite thoroughly to make sure I could respond to any concerns as this hospital using or not using would have quite significant impact in the surrounding area and in related hospitals.

Although I felt as prepared as I could be we were still quite nervous on the meeting due to the importance and the reputation of the professor to be quite harsh with industry reps.

We got called in to his office and the conversation went something like this:

Sales Rep: (
sales reppy cheery) Good morning Professor, we are from company X and I brought with me Salaryman from our head office.
Professor: (dismissively) Yeah yeah yeah, what's this about, I'm quite busy you know!
Me: (trying to be equally reppy cheery) Well Professor, we would like to get the chance to introduce technology X to you that is completely new to Japan and possibly hear your thoughts on it?
Professor: (suddenly friendly) Oh yeah! I've heard of that, seems like the best thing ever! We're definitely going to start using it!
Sales Rep: (temporarily shaken) You know of it?
Professor: Yeah, I've been waiting for it, we'll use it all the time! Seems great! 
(A few seconds of silence, notably not awkward as me and the rep were considerably relieved and shocked)
Professor: (still friendly) So please, I'm all ears!
Me: (keeping his mouth shut but saying it loudly in my head) Nope, that was all, we're all done, thanks and bye!

As the main reason we came was solved and we really didn't have anything else we wanted to get out of the meeting the rest of the conversation focused on small talk and petty practical stuff as when we could start shipping the product...

If only all appointments would go this smoothly... 

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