Saturday, December 23, 2006

Homeward Bound

I've jumped across the pond for a quick fix of a few of my favourite Canadian stereotype-ey things.

Er, and Christmas too. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating with my plans to boost everyone's stereotypes of Canada as a blizzard encrusted land of igloo-dwelling, beer-swilling eh-sayers.

Ok... so sometimes we have blizzards. ... and we do drink beer.... eh?... but dagnabbit, we DON'T live in igloos!!!

On the plus side, now I have a chance to share the highlights of Japan with my friends!!!

Huzzah for Crazy Japanese Christmas Presents!

I assume the divine idea cookie within the fact I am!

This whole "Heading Back To Canada For The Holidays" also means that I probably won't be updating quite as often. On the plus side, I have a huge backlog of random insanity to write about. I'll post every 2-3 days, and you can expect me to edit them and everything! Whee! (EDIT: who was I kidding....?)

Thanks again for reading, dear reader. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and wonderful cheer for wherever you are.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Japanese Cops: Hardcore?

Well... this is a surprisingly good metaphor. You see, the cops in Japan generally exist to give directions to lost citizens. They are courteous, kind, and generally helpful.

That is, until you look at them crosswise. They have ridiculous powers compared to their western counterparts. For example, the cops can hold you for about 21 days in custody without charging you. Oh yeah, and the courts here have about a 99% conviction rate, so if you are charged with something, the courts tend to belive the cops and toss your ass in jail regardless.

I kind of dismissed this as hearsay, until I heard a story from my dear friend Dave. Apparently, one day he was hanging around in downtown Yokohama. Some biker gang was making waaay too much noise and bothering the locals. After about forty minutes of listening to the bikers ciccle the area at an exceedingly high volume, a single cop came out of the station. He was calmly carrying a very large, very black nightstick. When the bikers came by for their next pass, the cop calmly pulled back his five foot steel rod, and cranked one of those poor fuckers in the head as hard as he could. The guy spun off his bike and flew into a crumpled heap at the side of the road. Seeing this, the cop calmly marched back into his station. The bike gang calmly scaped their shattered comrade off the road, and carried him off for what was presumably medical treatment. The cop never came out, and the gange didn't cause any further shit. Clearly the message was "fuck around if you want, but if I start getting complaints, your ass is mine and there isn't a bloody thing you can do about it.

So...uh... don't ride a loud bike...? That's hella scarier than using the force.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sushi: Done Right

I've eaten a lot of raw fish since stepping off the plane, but I just can't get enough. Maybe I have some sort of Mercury addiction. While the downsides of this are cancer and a much longer waiting time at airport security checks, knowing the temperature and eating a lot of damn fine tuna are at least within spitting distance of a reasonably good trade off.

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And the odd tentacle isn't so bad either.

In any case, probably the best place for choppedup chunks of top-o-the-food chain mercury collectors (aka "maguro" or "tuna") is a little joint called "Midori Zushi". Let's just say that it's good enough that I'm not worried about spoiling your appetite with the potential health hazards of Tuna.

I wrote about this shop back in August, but I've taken a few more trips and managed to snag a few more pictures, so it's definitely worth another bout.

There are several locations around the city, including Shibuya and Futakotamagawa, but the flagship store in Umegaoka is still the best. (Umegaoka is about ten minutes or so west of Shinjuku on the Odakyu Line... directions below).

The plastic food out front is enticing but not extraordinary, and in terms of decor, all three places are nice, but not mind boggling. The service actually bordered on slow a few times, but after eating one dish, I'm as likely to bitch about waiting in line to see Cameron Diaz Mud Wrestling Angelina Jolie. **

I mean, it's not like the chef-to-cutting board space ratio is all that bad.
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You see, buck toothed Jehovah's witnesses with unibrows could serve this sushi in an alley decorated with busts of Tucker Carlson, and I'd still eat there three times a week.

But don't take my word for it. Check out these massive cuts.

The "Ultimate Fatty Tuna" is on the left. Midori sells sushi by the plate or by the individual piece. Each of those goes for about 400 yen ($4), and I don't question the value for a moment.
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More Salmon.
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A lot more Salmon!
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The rolls they make are huge... about the same diameter as a can of coke.
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My absolute strongest recommendation, however, is the "blowtorch platter". One piece each of Salmon, Cuttlefish (aka Squid EDIT: ok, it's not all that related to squid, but it has freaking tentacles, and it's freaking delicious. Eat it. ), and Shrimp, Scallops and Tuna. Roasted to bring out the fatty flavour, it melts in your mouth like no culinary cliche I've ever tasted.

Put it this way: given my violent loyalty to unadulterated, still-flipping-raw fish, you can only imagine how "bloody" good this platter has to be for a COOKED dish to take the top spot.
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Sorry that all the pieces aren't in the pic, but... let's just say that my taste buds beat out my camera/bloggind instinct.

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Added bonuses!

1) They sure as hell aren't stingy about the Wasabi!

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2) The Chefs are all willing to mack on girls at the bar!

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/Check out the dude on the left, who totally just lost the "grenade" draw.

3) At least 50% of you stumbled across this site while looking for porn! I'm proud of you for reading the whole post! I took a peek at the referral list, and the number of people googling for some sort of Japanese Fuckfest astounded even my dirty mind. And now that I've included "Japan Fuck Fest" (with both spelling variations), the word "coke" as well as a bit about Cameron Diaz Mud Wrestling Angelina Jolie (twice), I can pretty much guarentee that MORE than 50% of you were looking for some sort of filthy awful porn. I'd like to apoligise to most of you for ruining your excitement. Still, if you're reading this, your probably hungrier than you are horny.


From Umegaoka station, head out the entrance on your left (the one with McDonald's, and yes I am aware of the irony of using a McDonald's to give directions to what might be one of the greatest sushi restaurants in the world). Turn left and follow the road to the first intersection, and take the road that turns 45 degrees to your right. Continue down the road for about thirty or forty metres, and just look for the large crowd of people waiting in line. That's the restaurant. Er... or you could use this map.

Head north out of Futakotamagawa Station on the Tokyu Line (again, towards McDonalds...). Cross the street and head to your right towards the Takashimaya department store. (er, the Red one) It's up in the food court on the fourth or fifth floor. Just ask for directions or read the signs once you get to the Department store. Look for the lineup of people.

From Hachiko statue, head across the street towards the entrance to the Keio line. (If you don't know where this is, stand looking into the eyes of the Hachiko statue. Then cross the street immediately behind it - the crossing is a bit to your left). There is a huge department store called "Shibuya Mark City". Midori is on the fourth floor. Yup. Line up. McDonald's is downstairs if you want to earn a shitload of bad karma after eating at what might be the greatest bang-for-your-buck sushi restaurant in the world.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sushi: Now available in your fridge!

I've always enjoyed a lot of sushi, but have generally restricted its consumption to restaurants and the occasional take-out party. Now, though, the supermarket is fair game, and they are open 24 hours! Woo!

That means I eat a lot more of this:

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Buying a package of sashimi from my local grocer is a relatively new phenomenon in my life. I think I can safely say that most people don't have enough faith in their local supermarket to take home a fish and eat it without cooking it. I was one of them. Here in Japan, though, the packages of fish come with little bits of wasabi or ginger. Well, that's enough to demonstrate to me that the grocer actually does expect you to eat this with little preparation beyond slicing it up. This is a wonderful thing, ladies and gentlemen. It really makes you feel like a culinary artist to be able to carefully select you raw fish slab, drag it home, and prepare it with the sharpest knife you own. Yes, you are indeed an amateur sushi chef!

Well, you are...until the reality that you are nowhere near close to having the skill to make it LOOK all that appetizing.

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I like to call these "Picasso Rolls". Er, not because I'm an artist, but because the proportions are all wrong and everything looks a bit twisted and freakish.
Still, they tasted pretty good.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tentacles off, mister!

Any guesses where I went this weekend?

Close up pictures are ok, mind you.

mmmmmmm..... tentacley goodness. More soon.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

mixed messages are the b'diggity

I love it when stores try to give you two opposite messages at the same time.

"Sort of Welcoming" - We're close to being welcoming. But we're not REALLY welcoming.

/I'd like to buy a consonant, Alex. A "D" Please.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Ho Ho Ho: Let's Frightening Children!

I dressed up as Santa Claus for our school party, so I naturally decided it would be a good idea to wear the suit all day.

Including while shopping...

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...for delicious sushi.

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Ok, shut up. You get sick of eating reindeer steaks, elf puddding and baby seal sashimi when you live at the north pole 364 days each year.

Oooo...while we're discussing disturbing things, I can actually show you a two part photo montage of me scarring some poor child for life!

Mother: It's Santa-san! Take a picture!!!
Child: (fearful silence)
Mother: (silent pushing)
Child: (fearful retreating silence)
Mother: SANTA SAN DESU! (more forceful placing)

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Child: (fearful resignation, plus a lot of caution)

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/note the "safe space" between the child and scary foreign man with the big beard, who is clearly NOT Santa-san.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Truth in Advertising

Now this is an establishment that knows how to advertise!

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I bet the owner isn't 'strong at drink'.

Barf: to vomit, or throw up. aka, what one does after waaaay too many drinks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Japanese High School Introductions

The other night, I was studying Japanese in Shibuya while waiting for my fellow all night dance party revelers. Of course, studying Japanese in public is an easy ice breaker for young J-folk who want to talk to foreigners (ie, study english and/or make dirty jokes).

So, of course, a group of high school boys noticed me studying. Eventually, one of them mustered the courage to ask a question (in Japanese)

"You speak Japanese?"

"I can speak a little." I said. "But I need to study more."
(This is both the appropriately modest answer and the unfortunate truth)

Thus, an opening was made, and a flurry of increasingly personal questions followed. Asking questions about hobbies and interests is the standard introduction method here in Japan. When people meet, it's usually five minutes of a predictable Question and Answer format. Unfortunately, the best questions came into use around 1962, and people have just been recycling them ever since.

So, how long stay in Japan?

Um... about 15 months. How about you? (I always ask this)

hahah.... I'm high school student. What's your favourite food in Japan?

I like sushi. I eat it three or four times a week.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhh? Three times?

Yep. I love it...

(insert the standard few questions about our favourite fish (Eel, Salmon) and Restaurants (Midori)

.... Where are you from?

I'm from Toronto, in Canada. Do you know of it?

Ahhh.... Toront. I want to go.

To Toron-to. Yes, it's very wonderful.
(Japanese folk know that the "to" character at the end of the word usually represents "t", so they always drop the "o" a the end of "Toronto")

Wow! Do you like Japanese girl?
(It ALWAYS comes to this)

Yes, they are very nice.

oooooo.... so...which is better? Japanese girl or Canada girls??
(It ALWAYS comes to this next, and I'm nowhere near dumb enough to give a straight answer)

Well, I like fun girls, so I like both...

Really?!? Both? ... Do you play sex every night?

Actually, we say "have"...

(For a moment, he stares at me with a look of blank expectation)

/I shrug, and give in to the conversation. I show him the stickers on my phone.

"Tokyo Boy Friends Exchange"

恋人募集中 ("lover recruitment in progress")*

To me, these are funny for their shock-value. To him, they were enough to turn rumour into gospel. Sagely, he points to my crotch and nods.

It's very big, isn't it?

Um.... yeah... just promise me that you won't use that line on Western women, ok?


I'm not sure what they teach these kids in Japanese high schools, but the English classes this guy has been taking seem to be entirely focused on making him a dirty, cock obsessed playboy with a love of exotic cultures and short skirts.

In the west, we rely on music videos for that important task.

English help:

1) Regarding introductions: asking questions about hobbies is par for the course here. If you want to introduce yourself naturally in English, try commenting on the situation, or something else you have in common. That's way more fun.

2) a look of blank expectation: he has no thoughts, but he's excited.

3) Shock-value: something that's effective because it's shocking. Like some of my posts, hopefully.

4) Turn rumour into gospel: Change something into commonly accepted truth.

* - Thanks again, Dave!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Japan Does Toronto, Ebi Chan Makes F * ing

As some of you may know, I am very excited to be heading home for the holidays this Christmas. Toronto is a wonderful city, and there's nowhere I'd rather barbeque a huge steak while standing in a two foot snowdrift.

I plan to eat a lot of turkey, drink a lot of wine with my relatives, and watch the good natured insults fly. I also plan on sharing a lot about my exploits here in Japan, and perhaps the best place to do that would be a venue that is based on a Japanese tradition.

This is no problem, as Toronto is a very multicultural city. Apart from being a scary place during the World Cup, multiculturalism means that wonderful traditions from around the world are available. So, for a long time, I figured that my stories might best be told over a few plates of sushi. This setting might even allow me to employ my rather limited Japanese skills to their best effect, seeing as ordering sushi makes up about 28% of what I do with said skills.

And then, I stumbled upon a far more appropriate venue.

Toronto is opening up it's very own Maid Cafe.

If you are unfamiliar with this idea, it's really quite simple.

1) Open a cafe

2) Staff the cafe with cute, submissive Japanese girls. If no cute, submissive Japanese girls are available, any Japanese girls will do nicely. Actually, just about any girls will do nicely for this, but it's best to preserve some of the traditions...

Here's an example of what to look for:
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If you can't find any girls, well... that's why Al Gore invented the Internet.

3) Stuff said cute, submissive girls into French Maid uniforms.

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4) Now, have your cute, submissive Japanese French maids serve irony soaked food to a healthy combination of fetishists, comedy seekers, lonely men, bottomless tops and tourists.

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5) Profit!

If you want to check out the restaurant's's

Things to note:

1) It's in Scarborough! I used to work there. It's a sketchy part of town.

2) Apparently, Hong Kong and Taiwan are Asian, and are close enough to Japanese food fit the menu. I suppose one doesn't really go to a maid cafe for the food...

3) a) Open up the "Staff" page (same as above). b) Sing "one of these things is not like the others...."


Obviously, maid cafes are not for everyone.

Case 2: That is so sexist, what the hell!?! and Case 3: Your clientelle is mostly female: Staff the cafe with cute, submissive boys. If no cute, submissive boys are available, any submissive boys will do nicely. If you can't find any submissive boys, well, that's what ...well... shit. That's what the stiletto heel beat-downs are for. Head for the bar.

If you still can't find any submissive boys...well, you can always fly over here to Japan. You see, the maid cafes are so successful that their gender counterparts have opened. They're called Butler Cafes, and cute boys are stuffed into butler uniforms. Those cute, submissive Japanese boys will do your bidding without requiring even a small stiletto heal beat down!

Case 4 For the gay and lesbian community: Dominant Females: See "maid cafe". Dominant Males: see "butler cafe". Submissive Males and Females: Um.... employment?

The Japanese Girl I used as an example.

Her name is Yuri Ebihara. She's kind of like the Japanese Paris Hilton...but she doesn't seem so mind bogglingly annoying or foolish (perhaps because I don't speak Japanese? Maybe someone can help me out here...) She became famous for being...well...fashionable...and still more famous for being...well...famous.

She's so famous and fashionable, in fact, that she and another fashionista cum celebrity have just released her own new line of clothes and accessories.

Appropriately, they're calling the new line "F*ing Motesto*
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Whether this name comes from "Fucking Modest" (Which they don't seem to be), "Fucking Mo Testosterone" (Which may be part of the reason for their fame) or if they just plain want people to think of "Fucking" and the Motesto part is just for kicks... it will probably still be a huge hit. And by "huge hit", I mean "I'm really looking forward to hearing lots of Japanese people say "F-ING" in department stores all the time."

Final note about Ms. Ebihara.... or "Ebi-chan", as she is commonly known. "Ebi" also means "Shrimp" in Japanese. This coincidence led to a what might be the least believable celebrity endorsement of a seafood-based fast food product that I've ever seen.

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/with bonus random Englishesque words on the left hand side.

EDIT: Courtesy of Ed The Cat, here is a video of Ebi hawking Ebi

Ok... I officially like her better than Paris Hilton.

(That's not a huge compliment, mind you. I feel the same way about kicks to the groin... but Shrimp girl does have...uh...stage presence.)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Safety First

The other day, I was waiting for a friend outside of Shinjuku Station. I noticed that a small crowd had gathered around a strange trailer-like contraption. And by "gathered", I mean "almost entirely ignored".

Still, it is often worth braving public disinterest in the search for randomness.

Fortunately for me, dear reader, and for you, that little contraption happened to be an Air Bag Simulator.

Fortunately, the speed is set to around seven kilometres per hour. Thus, this simulator is only intended to show you what it is like to crash an airbag equipped ride-on lawnmower.

Of course, this is Japan, so a few key things are important.

1) Be sure not to equip the passenger side with an Airbag.

2) Be sure to allow children to come along. Lawsuits? What lawsuits?

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Mind over your pants!

While shopping in Tokyo's equivalent of Wal-Mart, Donki-hote (As I've written before, a horrible butchery of "Don Quixote"), I came across an item of clothing that seems designed to help a man feel more confident about his, well... member. confident about know...confidence...I mean...about his salute! Or his... flag staff.

Yes... down there!



Ok... now that we're all on the same wavelength, we can start talking about that underwear. Specifically, a very interesting name for the underwear brand. I'm not sure I want to know the ego-crushing story that led some fellow to come up with this name, but I can only suspect that he was stopped at the gate, so to speak. Perhaps after being turned down right after pulling down his pants, our unknown product-designing hero vowed to never be caught with his pants down while his pants were down again.

So, he surely thought to himself.... how could he help build excitement with the ladies???

Well.... naming your underwear appropriately is a good start.

Bonus points for calling "13" a medium.

Now if only they could put a picture of Shaft on this, these underoos would be unstoppable. And they could use the money to launch a whole line of "Mind over matter" products, like "FULL WALLET" jeans or "ROLLS ROYCE OWNER" shirts.

Best bit of trivia: Despite the name of the product, they didn't bother to use a Black Man to pose for the box.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I love Japanese game shows

I don't watch a lot of Japanese television, but there are some shows that make me wish I did. You see, not only to a lot of Japanese game shows involve doing horrible things to the contestants, they are also horrible and RIDICULOUS things.

The other thing that Japanese game shows love is involving foreigners. In this case, we add Ernesto Hoost, who is a K-1 fighter. (For those of you who don't follow sports where people kick the ever-loving shit out of one another,"K-1" is one of the more violent iterations). The show in question is "Silent Library", where the contestants randomly dish out strange punishments to one of their group. The twist is that this all supposedly takes place in a library, so everything has to be done as silently as possible.

Here you go...

If you want to experience more of this wonderfulness, I suggest searching for "gaki no tsukai" on youtube.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

I'd like extra bastard, please

This is a classic, but one of my favourites. Even though I'm horrifically lactose intolerant, I still love this product.

Much like the manufacturers of Deepresso,

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...these wonderful folks have taken an English word and slightly modified it. This allows Japanese folk to make the association with the feeling/thing that they want to connect their product to.

Drug companies do this also, by the way.

For example:

Vigour AAAH!---> Viagara

Make Alice Sigh ---> Cialis


Now, imagine that you want to market a creamer for coffee or other hot drinks. You want to make sure that the wonderful Nihonjinsumer makes associations with a word that matches your product.

So, you start with the word "Cream".

Just to make sure there is no confusion, you only change one letter...and you only change it by a few letters in the alphabet. Say... 3 letters further down the alphabet.




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Japanese consumer: Sounds delicious!
Native speaker: What the "#%&!& are you selling in that can???!?!?

You see, here in Japan, no one really cares what the actual meaning is. The sound of the product is much more important for promoting sales. Thus, if you associate your product with bad dates and people that grope girls on the train (Creep), no one really long as it sounds good.

mmmm..... train gropey in my coffee.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Open Season on Cat Crazyness!

Sometimes, I remember that I can't be there to personally witness ALL of the strange shit that happens here in J-land. Sad as that is, I'd like to let you know that I am happy to post suitably crazy things from YOU, dear reader. If you find something vaguely japan related in origin or culture, and that something is batshit insane, feel free to send it to me at merrymanjapan (at) gmail (d0t) com.

If you send me stuff, please let me know whether you'd like to be anonymous (eg, "You"), technically anonymous (eg, "Goshiko") or if you'd like me to splatter your identity across the internet like so much tentacle porn. (eg, I still haven't posted an outline of Dave's house key, but I'm having a copy made for that stalker of his.)



This next video of comes courtesy of the same talented cell phone videographer that brought you the Ninja English Student video in Body, Soul and Mind.

Thanks again for the vids!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NSFW: How To Speak Sexy English

First of all, NSFW stands for “not safe for work”.

Thus, you can probably guess that this post won’t be very clean, seeing as reading it at work is probably grounds for losing your job. So, don’t read this at work. More specifically, don’t play the video.


Because this is a very rude post!

You shouldn't read it unless you already know or want to learn some very dirty English words.


I’ve been teaching English for quite awhile. I think that I am a pretty good teacher, and about lessons are generally rather fun. I will admit, however, that next group of teachers taught such an interesting English lesson that other teachers will even be tempted to sign up.

Watch, enjoy, learn and grow as you see fit.

And by the way, that production was by far the most exciting way to ended in this lesson I’ve ever heard of.

So hold onto your virgin years, as I present to you...HOW TO SPEAK SEXY ENGLISH!

Language and Culture notes:

1) It’s spelled “mastUrbation”, not “mastErbation”.

2) I love that they censored the Japanese word for "Pussy", but not the Japanese word for "Cock". This in spite of the fact that they included a thirty second close-up shot of said (CENSORED).

3) I think they missed the mark with “cockpit”. I’d never heard of this used to describe anything other than the place where you drive an airplane from. I can see how they wanted to show a Pit (eg, a hole) is a good place to put a Cock, but I would have used two words (Cock Pit) and separated this metaphor from the other more widely used terms.

Back me up here, but if some girl told me to get to the "Cockpit" when when we weren’t on a plane, I'd think she was crazy. Mind you, if that girl lifted up her kilt and said “the goal to me in the complex!!!” most people would be able to figure out what she meant. So girls, don’t worry too much. If you show someone your underwear and say “Gargle me timbers and shiver the lasses!” or “Slinky My Cockpit!”, most guys will be able to figure it out.

/and girls complain that guys don’t understand subtle non-verbal communication. You just need to wear a kilt and demonstrate your intentions a little more clearly.

4) "Case of Taro" sounds a bit strange. Any of the following would be more grammatically accurate:

- Taro’s Story

- Taro’s Skit

- Taro’s Case

- Taro's Adventure In GaikokuPussyLand

- The Time That Taro Got Blown By His Teacher During Class...YEAH!!

5) The dialogue is spoken and transcribed a bit strangely. Here' s a revised script. My suggestions are in CAPITALS.

A: Hi Taro!

B: Hi Gloria, what’s up?

A: NOT MUCH…yeah… this is A /MY pussy

B: I see… this is A/MY dick.

A: IT’S A dick, not A cock, IS IT?

B: I'LL BE God Damned, you can say “Cock” too, CAN’T YOU?

I would say that “God Damned” is a bit strong for this situation. Maybe “Oh yeah, I forgot!” would be better).

A: All right, this is MY cockpit, isn’t it?

Cockpit: pussy, vagina, moist neither regions, bearded clam, whatever…. Cockpit is not so clear.

Isn’t it?: I think that she should have used falling intonation here instead of rising intonation. She isn’t asking him whether she just showed him her crotch… she’s telling him. So, “isn’t it.”

B: Yeah! I want to put MY COCK in(to) (there/you/your pussy)!

A: YOU WANT TO PUT YOUR dick inside MY pussy?

B: You are good at GIVING BLOW jobS, aren’t you?

(Dude!!! Why are you backpeddling??? She's so into you!!!)

A: Do you want to FIND OUT?

A & B: YEAH!

(This is exactly correct. When fooling around in English, people turn ninety degrees. Men turn to the right and women turn to the left. After this, both yell “YEAH!” immediately before any sexual activities.)

Overall, a well prepared lesson. Good elicitation and nice use of props and “realia”. Most of all, great job on student participation. Keep up the good work, and maybe bring another teacher to participate for the next lesson. That way, the class is sure to expand.

Language help for the language help:

/fortunately for me, most of the dirty words have already been explained...which is the point of this whole post.

Backpeddling: To go backwards, (as in pedal your bike backwards, or run backwards)... to back away from something you were headed towards before.

GaikokuPussyLand: "Gaijin" (outsider/foreigner) is actually quite a rude word in Japanese... "Gaikokujin" (person from another country) is considered much more polite. "Jin" means "person", so instead of person, I included a crass joke.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Blast from the past

The other weekend, my good friend Dave showed me a delightful little izakaya in Shibuya. I have no idea what the name is, but it probably translates into either "Welcome honourable visitor to our humble and smoky place of drinking. While it is not much, we hope you enjoy your food and bring many hungry friends back to our small and poorly decorated basement" or "EAT CHEAP FOOD GOOD, YES?" I don't know... I always mix up those two characters. It's tough to find, but well worth the time and the effort. For now, let's call it The Downstairs Smack Room, being indeed the place where I acquired said carbonated double entendre.

This little place has a strange but altogether enjoyable vibe. Equal parts bar, small town diner and izakaya, stepping in is like stepping thirty or forty years back in time. Well... back to my stereotypical impression of that time, that is.

Japanese izakayas are fun and interesting places, but many of them are large chains that do away with the local character, unique dishes and perceived lack of hygiene that make the little places so much fun to visit. As soon as you step in, you'll realize that the air is swimming with a mixture of tobacco and roasting meat hanging in the air. Yes indeed, this is a smell that lets you know that now is the time and the place for indulgence.

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Other than the amount of styling gel bracing most male patrons' hair, one would never know that it was 2006. The lights are dim, the walls are lined with old posters, and classic tins of food sit along the bar. The posters were the most interesting, as they seemed to be a mixture of circus burlesque and post-WWII propaganda.

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Contrary to my earlier assertion of health-dismissal, you'll start your meal/drinkfest off with a large plate of cabbage.
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I told Dave that cabbage helps keep you virile.*

After that, you can stock up on lots of reasonably priced yakitori (the meat skewers that perfume the air so nicely), fried plates, pizzas and just about any other cheap, hearty izakaya food that you might want. All of the prices are decidedly less than you would expect to pay. 50 yen for asparagus/bacon skewers or hard boiled egg skewers. Various cuts of chicken, Shitake mushrooms, pork and beef are all on the yakitori menu, and they certainly have a deep fryer if you want to make up for the appetizer.

I also noticed a few things going for just TEN yen. I didn't know what they hell they were at first, but we ordered five on principle.

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This is what came. Sembe, as Dave had explained after ordering, are a kind of crispy snack. Our cheerful waitress plopped these in front of us a speedy fifteen minutes after we ordered (I wouldn't hustle at those prices either).

Perhaps the most amusing price on the menu was actually for Cigarettes. While Japan is known for having cheap smokes (270 yen = $2.70 per pack, anyone?), this place takes the bar to a whole new low. They offer a can of Cigarettes for 800 yen. This presumably comes in a nice tin with a whole bunch of smokes.

But... you can also get cigarettes for the low low price of 'free'.

Yep, that's right. Free.

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Seemingly, if you want a cigarette here, according to the menu, you can just ask for one. Though I kicked my social smoking habit in the most unlikely of nations, I still appreciate this move as a nice gesture.

Mostly, though, I suspect this measure was put in place to cut down on flirting by cheap people. Since the bar is so bloody inexpensive, I suppose the staff had problems with some customers assuming that the other patrons were equally cheap. So, the staff went ahead and made sure that no one would have an excuse to ask for a cigarette. That way, people are forced to invest several hundred yen in a beverage, to show that they are really willing to make an effort.

With these limitations, you need to plan your strategy well ahead if you want to have a good time here. I have two main suggestions:

1) Bringing and being prepared to spend at least three or four of those 500 yen coins (yes, the big ones). You could also buy drinks with your 10 yen coins, but don't ask the waitress for her number after.

2) Bringing your own company and enjoying the fun atmosphere, incredibly well priced food and interesting posters.

3) Same as number 2, but have a lot of Smack.

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Smack, seen here in it's original habitat. You generally aren't allowed to take these out of the restaurant. Fortunately, I always carry both a healthy amount of charm and the severed head of the last waitress that wouldn't let me cart away some sweet comedic gold.


Finding it:

As I said, to find the place, you'll probably need a guide. If you want to take your chances, though, it's located at the bottom of a set of stairs out in the back of Shibuya Station (near where the Hobgoblin is). From the Hobgoblin, head away from the station down to the end of the street until you see a large mall with a bridge over the road. Turn left, and look for that shady looking kung fu guy with noodles. It's around the corner from there.

* I might not actually have told him that at the time, but he knows now. Right Dave?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sales Pitches

I've got a bit of a background in sales, so I know a good sales pitch when I see one. I sometimes even enjoy them. They're kind of like art, but with the goal of inducing a response from the wallet, rather than from the heart.

Bad sales pitches, on the other hand, can be painful. Very bad ones are sometimes even funny.

For example, the owner of this karaoke box is in love with a woman. Not a specific woman, but a general "you" will suffice. In order to convince you (the woman) that he wants to take tender care of you for the rest of your life, he has chosen "killing" as his 'close'.

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If the whole Karaoke master thing doesn't pan out, I'm sure he'll have a great career getting arrested for climbing over celebrities' hedges, microphone in hand.

Here is another sales pitch that is a bit too strong.

This fellow likes eating noodles. He also likes kicking you in the face. Here, he's saving a lot of time.

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Of all the strong sales pitches in Japan though, there is one group that has set itself apart from all others. Anyone living in Japan knows that people are exposed to a huge amount of advertising here, but I have to say that only one organization has managed to get me to interact with their salespeople on several occasions.

I'll get to the name of the advertiser soon, but I'm willing to bet you've seen them in action if you've spent any time in this city.

Most astonishingly, they have established that I don't speak Japanese all that well, and they have actually started to send me English materials and brochures. This happened after two of their Customer Service Representatives realized that I had no idea what they were saying, they were content to press some English materials into my hand, thank me for my time and let me be. I thought they'd given up, but in almost no time, two English - speaking reps came to make sure I was ok. Amazing!

Despite not having taken advantage of their offers, they actually manage to put English-only material in my mailbox on a semi regular basis. They also keep coming back to try to "close the deal", as they say.

Ok? Any idea which group is so persistent and hardworking?

Give up?

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The Mormons

English 911:

Close: The last thing a salesperson says, usually the final push to encourage someone to buy something. eg, "to close the deal".

hedges: Big plants, usually on the edge of someone's property.

glut: like "gluttony", too much, or a huge amount of something.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Japanese Sorry

Visited the Design Festa today.

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Note that it's not a "Fiesta" but rather a "Festa", which is totally different. Also, they have vol. 24 of the Festa Magazine available.

We'll have more on the Festa soon, but I wanted to share my newly prized sweatshirt with all of you wonderful people, to whom I hope never to apologise in this manner.

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