Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Tentacles: A Cultural Legacy

One of the most interesting facts about living in Japan is things that might have seemed strange to you once upon a time suddenly become commonplace. Things like having enough confidence in your grocer to buy raw fish and eat it without any sort of "cooking" crap. Or getting on a train butt-first, because that's the only way to make room for yourself...or even coffee misnomers.

(er... how can it be straight, and still have milk?)

Perhaps the strangest thing I've gotten used to out here is the prevalance of tentacles. Seriously... becoming comforable with tentacles as a lifestyle choice has been a big thing for me.

For example: I didn't deem anything here out of the ordinary the first few times I walked by this shop:

Seriously... take another look at these delicious snacks...

Corn Dogs, Corn, and Squid-On-A-Stick.

I smiled a bit, but didn't think squid-on-a-stick strange enough to actually buy one.

Oh Japan. You and your crazy tentacles have way too much fun. Ever since that Katsushika Hokusai guy back in the Edo era went on a crazy creative trip and laid the seeds for so much modern edu-tainment. Not only did he give us cultural treasures like "36 views of Mt. Fuji", but he also invented the word "manga" and painted the worlds' first "fisherwoman-tentacle-porn-threesome", over 200 years ago!


I'm not making this up.

PS: This is a censored version. If you want to see the *real* deal, and the history of this image, in all it's tentacley, 1820s grandeur... click here.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Pub: A Misnomer

Although English is quite common around Japan, it often doesn't mean quite what you think it means. Usually, you can puzzle it out. If you're lucky, the fuzziness in the meaning comes from the fact that an unintentional (dirty) pun has been made. But... you can still understand what they meant to say.

Intentional meaning: Please don't come here to stare at women, you pervert. This is a WOMEN'S clothing store!
Accidental Filth: You can take her from behind, or take her on the table...but if you aren't regularly humping that chick (preferably RIGHT NOW) you aren't welcome here, buddy.

On the other hand, sometimes the vocabulary is used in a totally unconnected manner.

For example:


To me, these are harmless words that involve food and drink.

Here in Japan, you'll find out very quickly that the menu at the "PUB" is quite different from what you are expecting.

These establishments might give you an idea what to expect.

In case you need some help reading between those lines, these words all refer to "hostess clubs". I like to describe hostess clubs as "emotional strip clubs". You see, rather than paying good looking women to take off their clothes, customers pay good looking women to laugh at their jokes, pour their drinks, and generally make the paying men feel like they are loved and wanted. I'd like to think that this practice draws something from the tradition of geishas as entertainers for hire, who use their talents in conversation and performance to entertain men. Then again, they also bear a strong resemblance to "hookers that play nice".

THIS STORY IS QUITE DIRTY. It is not suitable for work, or for my mother. Mother, you can go now.

For the record: I have a VERY limited number of experiences (ie. one) with hostess clubs. And that experience...was not so good.

A few friends and I managed to stumble into one by accident while looking for a "BAR", after the bouncer promised us 3000 yen for all-you-can-drink. Of course, this is all YOU can drink. The women push you to buy THEM drinks, which is how they make their money. Even though my drunken haze was so thick I could have cut it with a dull spork, I remember one thing:

A very large, very Russian woman plopped herself down on my lap and said "You give 3000 yen, we go."

A few thoughts rushed through my drunken mind, things like

I don't know where this train is going, but I want to get off. No... not THAT get off. Stupid brain... the "escape" form of get off.... gah. 3000 yen? What, does she make it up on volume?!?... Volume!? ewww... ok... AAargh... say something ... anything....alright brain...let's get this crazy chick off of us...

"NO WAY! Get off of me!!!".

After this, I was tenderly - and probably deservedly - escorted (you might say "tossed") out of the bar by one of the large bouncers, who have much less tolerance for drunk people after they choose not to spend 3000 yen on a Jumbo Russian Take Out Special.

Special thanks to Hana, who sent me the top picture while the store(?)... and who will probably be displeased that her pic was posted in a chat about hookers for the mind.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Compotabilty Conspiracy? Let's Go Down!

Ever since a friend of mine spent 2000 yen trying to win an "English Dictionaly" from a UFO catcher, I have admitted the possibility that the writers of some of the hystierical Engrish around me are laughing too. Are we simply falling victim to a massive linguistic conspiracy? Perhaps I am being totally outsmarted by people who might not know how to form a fully correct English sentence, but who certainly know how to form a highly amusing *incorrect* sentence.

Take this video game console for example:

A friend spotted it in Daiei, and you'd better believe that a few thousand yen loosened themselves in my wallet in preparation to fight for this linguistic treasure. Imagine it: a video game console that manages to be inclusive (EVERYBODY!!), instead of judgemental and mocking because you suck at dodgeball. (ahem)... AND....wonderful chance.... EVERYBODY GETS OFF! Ah, geekdom! They've even thrown in an incorrect "Let's" to seal the deal! Rejoice, for your salvation is only a few thousand yen of UFO clawing power away...

Oh! Glorious Temptationing!

(shakes self off...)

So, you see how a well placed "Get off" can make a product so much more desirable to the English consumer.

And then... much like the oft-clutched-at prize, this idea slips between my inept, underpowered mechanical fingers. Assuming that there is a language conspiracy is pretty freaking self-centered.

I honestly feel that marketers simply don't care. They phrase things in ways that they know the Japanese consumer will understand (eg 95% of the market), rather than trying to sneakily con the other 5% (is it even that high?). I don't deny that a few savvy marketers have probably managed to kill those two very different sized birds with a few well placed dirty double entendres, but I have to believe that this is the exception, not the norm.

To boot, my belief in a hyperliterate english-abusing Japanese marketing elite "takes blow" (A!! A!!) every time I teach a lesson on "Phrasal Verbs"
that goes horribly, horribly wrong.

"The other day, I ate out my parents!" (ate out WITH!)

"I came into Masa yesterday" (RAN into!)

Adam Sensei: Come on Keiko! Come on Keiko! Let's go!!!
4 year old Keiko: Come (GAK!!!)

And... besides.... those UFO prizes are all made in China.

... those guys LOVE a good conspiracy!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


So boys.... have you ever been alone at night, and wished that your hand could turn into a beautiful woman?

Wouldn't that be great?

Fear not, handfantasizers! Japan has you covered, so let your mind wander! Imagine if you could stuff your sexy hand into a hot black corset. Picture her long, golden legs and narrow waist. She would cut a neat figure and turn a healthy calf, methinks. Indeed, much like all those rabbit owning ladies, you'd never *really* need to leave the house.

Well, (ladies and) gentlemen, am happy to announce that this magical handywoman exists!

She works in Shibuya, and she sells CORSETS!!

Truthfully, her surroundings are nowhere near as illustrious as she is, but an ill-fitting corset on a twisted mannequin goes a long way to "level up" the illustriousness of a given neighbourhood.

You can see that day she was holding up a Japanese sign with this guy's photo!

You can see that she was holding up a Japanese photo sign with this guy Dave!

In addition to points for "utility" and "poise", Miss Handywoman's creators also scored highly in the "creepy", "twisted" and "imaginative" categories. Bravo! Here's your little gold stat- ...



Rabbit owning ladies - email me, ask in person, or click this link somewhere OTHER than your office.

Olde-ish English:
cut a neat figure - be slim
turn a healthy calf - have nice legs.
methinks - I think.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Self Esteem: Now 50% less!

I'm a big fan of crazy English, and crazyness in general, so I wanted to share a wonderful "little" place with you.

In what has probably become my favourite bit of town, Sakuragicho, head to the World Porters building. It's about about a 10 minute walk from the station - head towards the giant ferris wheel. Look for the giant building that looks like...uh...this:

The whole building is worth a shop, but I particularly enjoyed the fifth floor, the "Broadway Avenue Floor". Here, you'll find lots of wonderful little crazy shops. Fair warning: most of the clothes in these shops are in Japanese sizes, so bring a fair bit of confidence or a smaller friend if you want to buy anything. Still... it's worth wandering.

After all, you wouldn't want to pass up the chance to see about a fashion store that might as well be called "Slutty Susan".

Loosy Lou not only encourages whoring, but also fails horribly in most of its attempts to be "cheerful", despite liberal use of "YEAH! and fluffy bunnies.

YEAH! See our family to realize As it's all running down! Fill your head all full of lies!!!

The back of the shirt isn't too shabby either, as it also matches fluffy bunnies with soul draining insanity.

Overall, it's a wildly optimistic store.

After all that soul-draining, you might want something to cheer you up. Don't worry. They've got you covered next door...

Golden Jesus lights up your life, you know.

Oh, and if you aren't into gramatically challenged depression or God-kitsch, you can always play mini golf on the roof. The view is fantastic, and 18 holes of crazy fun are only 800 yen. always know what time it is!

Still, if golf isn't your thing... I guess you could....

Get your ears cleaned?!?!

This shop is on the 6th floor of World Porters.... ready with immaculately clean people armed with face masks, q-tips and barbers' chairs. Dave and I were running late, and had no time for even the 1000 yen "basic" cleaning... but if anyone else heads out there before I do, please snag some pics and report back!

* Sorry, is my "Geek" showing?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

illegallity for your amusement and education

The transit system in Japan is amazing, and I've written many times that it is a model of how density can improve your life.

But what if you've forgotten your wallet? What if you had no money? In a car based society, one could hitchhike, or beg the bus driver to let you on. Here in Japan, hitchhiking for the train is not so effective....and the bus drivers...well...they don't speak English so well, so "begging" doesn't work.

So, for your education, dear reader, several friends and I engaged in an academic exercise...

(Four Handy Methods and One Disclaimer)

There are several main schools of thought about the best way to engage in this activity (sport?).

SCHOOL ONE: Don't do this.

The first school of thought suggests quite clearly that this is an illegal activity, and you can probably be sent to pounding-you-in-the-behind-by-a-sumo-wrestler prison if you do it too often. Anyway... the penalties are quite severe (so stay tuned!) After all, you are making use of the service, so... I seriously suggest that you buy a ticket. Er...and do remember that cameras have been mounted at all of the station you may get booked if you use this knowledge for the cause of evil.

Of course, unless you feel like making funny videos while you wait for a friend. Then... well... go to town.

SCHOOL TWO: Clueless Drunken Foreigner Bash Through Style

This is probably the most widely used form of train-gate missing. It quite simply means "walking through the gate" and giving your best "I'm a stupid foreigner and I don't know how to work this crazy Japanese stuff" look to any train staff you make eye contact with. They will usually decide that you are too much effort to deal with and wave you through.

It looks like this:

I've used this trick a few times (*almost* exclusively by accident). It works better the less you shave and the more confused you look.

SCHOOL THREE: Super Samurai Somersault Style

I think the name pretty much says it all. This method can be used in two ways. You can either try to barrel through as fast as possible and hope that the gate doesn't bash you in the face. Or... you can strategically note the placement of the sensor beams, cover them, and edge your way through until you think you can jump through before the electronic senors realize that the jig is up. Good, except during rush hour.

For the record, this style is known to be 70% more effective if you provide your own "Mission Impossible" Soundtrack.

EDIT: Some folks have complained of video trouble with this one, so I've reloaded and reposted for your repeated enjoyment.

SCHOOL FOUR: 2 - for - 1 Fire Man Carry Bonus Style

This one is more about strategy than physical prowess, though it takes a slight amount of technique. The trick is to balance one train customer on top of the other so you can use a single ticket. This makes your subterfuge less noticeable, as you will not set off the alarm trigger. On the other hand, you will clearly be carrying someone else. Try it if the guard is sleeping.


This is probably the most satisfying method to use. In it, you attempt to clear the gates in a single bound, avoiding the sensors and thereby winning glory for your entire deadbeat family (you rapscallion). If you manage to limit the size of your hop, you can probably get this done without alerting the station staff. It'll just between you and the maker, so start thinking about whether your eternal soul is really worth 130 yen. Well? Is it?

Here, Ben Sensei answers with a firm "no".

Oh... and stay tuned for the heavy handed response at the end from the station staff. He really fixes Ben good for using their property as a metaphorical transit chew-toy.

Ok, it's poll time... what's in his head?

1) Take that, foreign hooligans!!! It's my shakey hand! You'd better say "sorry" in Japanese or else....

2) Thank you very much for not jumping repeatedly through the gates for the past twenty five minutes!

3) I. hate. this. job.

4) Phew... what's that smell???

5) Look... I know I failed out of cop school...but seriously...where did life go wrong?

I'm open to suggestions, either for the "what's going through the station staffer's mind"... or for other academics' thoughts on this fine art.

Monday, January 22, 2007

And then there was one....

Shortly after my arrival in Japan, a friend tried to prepare me for the cultural differences that are inherent in food (er, "scare the shit out of me") by describing various fanciful and different foods that seem strange to the Western palette. For example, he described how sushi could be pulled still-wriggling from the tank and killed in front of you.

"Yum", I responded at the time, and stand by that assessment after eating said wriggling fish numerous times. My friend proceeded to describe natto (fermented soy beans), taco (octopus), basashi (raw horse meat) and finally suzume (fried sparrows). I've managed to find and consume all of these things during my travels, with the notable exception of the sparrows.

Now, this isn't like eating a chicken, where the meat has been nicely chopped up so as not to resemble a live bird. Sparrows, as you may appreciate, are somewhat smaller. Thus, the easy solution is to skip the whole "chopping" crap, and just spear the suckers on sticks and roast them whole.

Interesting... to say the least. So, I've kept my eye out for them, but my Japanese reading skills aren't quite up to spec yet - without appetizing pictures, I am sometimes not all that sure what I am ordering. Mind you, this plan hasn't steered me wrong very many times.


Fast forward to Saturday night at Hanbey, the basement Shibuya Izakaya that looks like 1950s Japan, and serves everything at 1950s Japan prices (grand total for a huge dinner for seven and three rounds of drinks: 16 000 yen ($160, or about $20 per person). This place is especially fun if you enjoy a few rounds of deep fried everything.

Of course, to compliment this, we were also imbibing a bunch of delicious shochu. Shochu, of course, is a rice or potato based drink that comes with the best designed glass EVER.

I touched on this some time ago, but I still love the system. The glass is served inside a small box. The glass is then filled past overflowing, until the liquor fills up the box as well. Then, as you drink it, any slop that spills out of the glass splashes into the box. You then simply pull the glass out of the box, and pour the box-booze into the glass, and quickly make it belly booze. Genius.

Here, you see our waitress pouring shochu into our eager glasses and boxes.

Be sure to note the amused grin on her face. This picture was taken immediately *after* I made a fateful request.

"Five of what you recommend, please!"

Suddenly, amid some fanfare and laughter from the wait-staff, five very small, very ugly looking bird carcasses appeared. I say "carcasses", because sparrows are generally cute. These looked more like shriveled up zombie-bird skeletons, covered in some sort of demon sauce. I never hesitated on the still-moving fish, or even the scorpion, but suzume are not an appetizing thing.

Especially when it seems to gaze back at you from the skewer.


They taste something like what I imagine zombie birds to taste like too, if they were properly prepared. They weren't all that bad... mainly they were really quite crunchy (a whole skeleton and a beak will do that), but also surprisingly rather bitter. I thought the sauce was the bitter bit, but one of my dining companions informed me that the sauce was actually sweet, and was there to cover some of the bitterness of these skewered swallows. Man, those were some pissed off, bitter birds.

I wonder why they're so bitter. Maybe all the other birds have huge expectations in when they find out what kind of bird the Swallow is. "You're a cute bird, baby... wait... *you're* the *Swallow* bird??? Awesome. Let me give you my number... and you can drop by my nest any time..."

Anyway... I guess I can honestly say that suzume were actually a bit of a bump for me. I had to chase them with a skewer of tentacles to get the taste out of my mouth.

And the "one" food remaining? Why... "fugu" of course. The food that can actually kill you. Of course, I'll certainly take suggestions for other strange things to eat.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sales Pitches!

I love store front signage, as it is a good chance for a store to distill its insanity down to a single sentence.

For example, this store, which seems to be selling "HOP! HOP! HOP!"

I'm sure it's a hot commodity for all those times where "STEP" is not quite joyous enough, "JUMP" seems to reek of effort, and "LEAP!" is both too formal and too optimistic. "HOP!" is a great choice, and one of the more underused forms of personal motion. Great store.

Sometimes, the wit comes out when people don't quite understand the full meaning of a given word. Take the concept of "heat", for example. This would seem to be a very good idea for say... a tanning studio.

Unfortunately, the "heat" that you use to make yourself a nice golden brown is not quite the same as the heat that you use to make, say... a chicken breast a nice golden brown...

Of course, I also like it when people describe EXACTLY what happens at their store.
The gold standard of these types of ads are situations where inadvertent sexual references appear. Such as the sign below, which manages to turn a menswear shop into a rainbow flag waving banner for hiding your sexual orientation. Ah, sweet comic genius.

Of course, what do responsible young coming-out-of-the-closet-mens do with their straight mens??? Have no fear, the neighbourhood of Daikanyama (where all these pictures were snapped) has thoughtfully provided this gem of a shop next door. Just drop your breeder mens off here with pocket money to shop around.

All of this promotion is well and good, but it certainly lacks a certain amount of "wild, overwhelming untruthfulness". This, I think is a highly underrated advertising technique...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Potty Minded

Some of the greatest things about this country are the juxtapositions. Things are connected here in ways that they were never intended to be - socially, physically and even gramatically.

Perhaps this is nowhere more evident than in the bathroom. You see, the Japanese have developed what is likely the world's greatest toilet. This wonderful device includes a heated seat, a butt washer, a bidet (lady parts washer, for all you single men out there), multiple water flush levels, a deoderizer, a fan, "flushing sounds" (so that your internal orchestra can't be heard), and now... motion sensitive seats!

Adding to the technical achievement is the fact that the toilet is not controlled by any sort of crappy knob system, but rather by a wall mounted control panel (computer bank?).

Check out the sweet graphics for "ass" and what they did to avoid depicting "washing a vagina" in cartoon format.

Oh... and with buttons on the top of the control panel, you can also control different aspects of the seat. Now there's no need to use your foot to lift the seat in a skeezy bar bathroom!!!

/I know I promised not to take any more cell phone videos, but I felt weird enough making "picture" sounds in the stall. I didn't feel the need to cart in a giant camera with a huge telephoto lens.

//.... ha ha... very funny.

Of course, much in the way that your sweet old grandma can talk a lot of crap after a bottle of wine, nothing is perfect. Thus, all is not roses in the land of the Japanese bathroom. The "traditional" (aka "train station") bathroom is somewhat less technical. In fact, it consists of little more than a flushable hole in the floor.

While this hole has the admirable benefit of only needing to be cleaned once every winter, it has some significant drawbacks:

1) You have to squat uncomfortably. No magazine reading for you, mister.

2) If you aren't careful, you might crap on your shoes.

3) Drinking and going to the bathroom takes on a whole new risk level. Avoid it.

4) When you finish your business, it's WAAY more "in-your-face".

5) No more "I got it from the toilet seat, baby", excuses.

6) Did I mention that you can poo on your shoes a lot more easily?

7) You. Might. Poo. On. Your. Shoes.

There is a trick to it, which I will share with all of you non-Japanites (just in case you ever drop by, or need to crap in the woods). Pull your pants down to the lower thigh, rather than all the way down to your ankles. This minimizes the chances that you will have any...complications.

And of course, there is one more dirty little secret to the Japanese bathroom. Take a look at this picture.

Do you notice anything missing? Anything.... hygenic? Like SOAP??

For some reason, soap seems to be quite optional here. To all you people at the Fucked Up Shit Department, I would like to know how you can automate a toilet to the point where it is practically qualified to vote for me in municipal elections, yet miss something as essential as soap?!?!

Maybe if we had Robo-soap.

/For the record, I have never pooed on my shoes, but it remains my greatest Japanese bathroom fear.

A small favour

First of all, I love it when things speak for themselves. I mean... what the hell can I say that makes this funnier? Nothing. Spanky Favour. Bahaahhahah...

Er, but I suppose I can add more of the same.

Super extra bonus points for the part of the sign at the bottom, which if you look closely says "Breed". I think they might have meant "Bleed", which can mean "one thing mixing into the other", but it sounds pretty funny when they seem to be offering you the chance to make someone pregnant for an extra 10 000 yen on top of the price of your haircut.

That's not a bad deal, actually. $300 for a hair cut, $100 for some risky sex. Until then, I'd sure like a spanky favour.

/with special thanks to David. Expect more of his awesomeness in coming days.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I am proud to say that I managed to find a sign that was

1) Rude
2) In Japan
3) Gramatically Correct.


I spotted this hand made wood furniture shop in the ultra-trendy (read: expensive, and I'm looking at you, Ralph Lauren!) Omotesando.

I'm kind of out of my element here.... dirty, gramatically correct and actually relevant?

Umm.... come back tomorrow for our talk about Robo-pooping.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Really Sorta Kinda Fast?

The amazing network of trains here definitely one of the greatest parts of Tokyo, as innumerable lines connect more ramen shops, dance clubs and instant - photo booths to your doorstep than anywhere else on earth - and that's a good thing.

Express trains were absent from the handful of lines that serve my native Toronto (which embarrassingly doesn't even have a rail link from the airport!). But here, they are one of the tools that the private companies use to draw business away from the formerly government-controlled Japan Rail (JR) lines. JR uses some limited express trains, but they make do with a much smaller variety of Express systems. Some of the private lines, on the other hand, seem to have gone crazy with the Thesaurus and the word "Fast". This makes it both confusing and amusing to use some of the networks.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Bonus comedy points for "Semi Special Express".

Even more confusing is the fact that all the companies seem to have used different thesauruses (thesaurusi?)

For example, here on the Odakyu Line, the Rapid express is the Express train with the fewest stops, whereas the Keio Line above uses the "Rapid" as the Express train with the most stops.
Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

I'm just going to write down as many words as I can that involve speed. Private rail operators? I'm looking to see at least 10 more train options within a few weeks, ok?


Er.... or you could try a whole new and wonderful palette of words! Imagine the possibilities!!!

Ride the Sensitive Feminine Express for fifteen minutes, get off... then get on the Vapid Whorish Republican Line for a bit. Wait until the Delightful Titillating Verklempt Express comes, then ride it for twenty minutes until it stops completely. Be careful because if you wait on it too long, you'll get thrown off, so get off on your own before that. Finally, you can take the Witty Tender Cheerful Line home. Don't forget to get off at your stop!

Finally, you should have a cigarette.

Language Help:

Verklempt is actually from Yiddish (a Jewish language). It means "overcome with emotion".

Vapid means empty-headed, or stupid.

Titillating means "excited".

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Let's Embarassing!

TV is a wonderful way to learn about culture. While I've mostly given up TV for this new fangled "internet" thing, I do enjoy the bits and pieces of Japanese TV that make it to the net. Here are some of the best ones I've turned up recently.

These shows are amazing because they have no qualms about using "physical pain" as the primary source of entertainment. There's also a healthy dose of shame here. The shame is the interesting bit, because shame is the primary means of enforcing social rules here in Japan. Drinking on the street isn't illegal, but it is discouraged. People will stare and frown and generally express that they feel your behaviour is "shameful". Public shaming is among the worst punishments, as most social discipline is expressed in a private setting. Taboos are fascinating, and therefore, everyone loves watching some poor naked sap get pitched down a ski hill with his willy waving around. It's also dead funny for just about everyone but the doodle dangling downhiller.

On to the "pain" bit. This is fun because pain itself is funny, but we feel a bit guilty when we watch someone else get hurt (even if you sometimes laugh a bit... and I'm looking at you "Three Stooges".) The solution to this little ethical dilemma is to use the THREAT of pain as a driver.

Again, watching someone scream for his life can be pretty funny when you know he'll be ok in the end. Want proof? Take a ride in this taxi.

I wonder what they tell people when they make them sign the waivers. After all, I doubt that they're spoiling the prank...

This next bit is purely about scaring the living crap out of people. It's wickedly funny, because the camera operator knows what sells: people screaming in sheer terror while we laugh at their misfortune. Sounds evil doesn't it? Clicky Clicksity...

I find Japanese TV most intriguing for the use of a studio audience and call-out boxes to display people (often celebrities) reacting to key moments. I suspect that they use this image to let you know which "reaction" you are expected to have. Shocked? Happy? Amazed? What if you're unsure? Well, just follow the guy in the box. They pop them onto the screen and show the viewer that it is socially acceptable to laugh out loud, cry or shout at the contestant.

The in-show commentators are seemingly designed to create the feeling that TV is more of a community-based experience than a personal one, which is very important in a society that pursues unity to such a large extent. The studio audience lets you seek consensus, or at least the generally accepted way to react to a given situation.

After all, the whole audience is laughing. Why aren't you?

Socktual Harassment.

Indespensible socks are the best things ever. I do love a good sock, and the Tokyo crowds are far more foot-fashion-forward than most people. Perhaps it's becase the manufacturers don't tend to promote a choice. Here is the text from a sock package I saw near my school.

Buy this sock. It's indespensible!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Japanese Supermarkets: Rather Superb

One of the things I like best about this country is that my best source of nutrients and my best source of entertainment happen to be the same store. What store, you ask? Why... the humble grocery store, of course.

I've ranted many times about the comic A-list, with our usual comic culprits like Creap and Deepresso.

Sometimes, though, the joyfulness of shopping comes from a more subtle eye. Take these people, who are drastically lacking in confidence. I wouldn't buy "Dirty Pee Flavoured Ice", but these people really ought to do more than wash the stuff.

Some other companies dispense with any sort of modesty or limitation of their claims. Here is a wall of curry... some of them have opted for names like "Indian Curry" or "Dinner Curry", but check out the company selling "THE CURRY". That's it. The only curry that exists and the only one you need. It's kind of like "The Hoff", but in delicious curry form.

You can even find comedy in areas other than packaging, if you know where to shop. Check out this chunk of pre-cooked tuna neck for 800 yen.

If you don't think a kilogram of pre-cooked tuna neck is funny, try declaring it your lunch!

Sometimes you can see clearly what they were going for, but through some seemingly meaningless coincidences, you can end up connecting someone's lunch with, say.... dirt.

Best of all is when you get two or even three products lined up to deliver a punch line. I love the canned coffees. For some reason, the cute size and tough metal exterior seem to make the designers feel that they are well defended from dangerous things like innuendo and grammar.

Are you inspired? I am. I'm inspired to take a shot in the morning and then slurp up some hot sixty nine. Black or creamy... my choice.

Who knew that being lactose intolerant would stop me from enjoying a hot sixty nine every morning.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Skipping over the pond

The Pacific Ocean is big. This fact, plus the usual airport/customs/immigration paperwork/waiting funfest means that a trip across the ocean is a bloody long one.

Oh, and since some bonehead Canadian invented Standard Time, I can also tell exactly how many hours the day will be extended or reduced by.

For example: a 14 hour time difference means......

Departure time from Toronto home: 10:45 AM, January 7th.
Arrival time at Tokyo apartment: 9:00 pm, January 8th.

U G H.

The upshot?

Some more evidence that cell phone cameras should kick ass so you don't always have to dig out your "real" camera. Here are some shots of clouds up near the Arctic Circle. They fly up near the pole for two reasons: 1) actual geography and 2) to uphold the great map-perception conspiracy that makes you feel that Greenland deserves almost as much UN representation as Africa.

Anyway, on to the fun pics.

Mmmm... marshmallow fields.

Yay for global-warming-inducing contrails!!! Whee!!!

Ok... that looks purty.

I learned a few lessons during the flight as well!

Good things to order when flying from Tokyo to Toronto

1) THE SALMON! Very yummy and fresh!
2) Wine! Drinks count for double at 20000 feet. Intercontinental flights are like the world's most expensive AND most effective all-you-can-drink parties!

Bad things to order when flying from Toronto to Tokyo

1) THE SALMON! Very scummy and reheated!
2) "Japanese Rice". Japanese people just say "Rice". You should be very suspicious* if the flight staff leaving Canada feel the need to specify that this particular rice is "Japanese".

*Very suspicious: Very unwilling** to risk.

**Very unwilling: do as I say, not as I do.