Thursday, April 21, 2005


One night a few years back I was working late and as I was leaving the building I ran into the sales boss who was also just leaving. She offered me a ride to the station but before we had gone 300 meters she's saying that she'll take me to pachinko. For those who don't know pachinko it's the predominant form of Japanese gambling. Sort of like vertical pinball machines where the object is to get the little ball bearing-like balls into a certian slot, if they go in, more balls come out. Gambling is ostensibly illegal in Japan but that doesn't seem to bother anybody.
Mostly frequented by yellow trash (the Japanese version of white trash) and gangsters (same thing?) the odds are, like most forms of gambling stacked pretty deep. I wasn't too keen to go. It's the stereotypical door to door salesman vice. Sitting there dropping 10 or 20 thousand yen trying to win back enough money to pay back there mounting debts. Besides, I only had 1000 yen (about 13dollars) on me. Not to worry, I was assured, she would lend me some. Great. I ended up borrowing 3000 yen. When the going is good and all the lights are flashing and the balls are flying out at a rapid rate it's called FEVER. A staff member comes over and puts the fever sign above your machine so everyone can gawk and express their envy. At the end of the night I had hit the fever seven times, which meant seven trays full of little balls at my feet.

Taking my balls to the counter, I'm given a bar of chocolate(?) and a number of little plastic cards. Taking them outside to an alleyway where there is a small window in the otherwise nondescript wall, I exchange my little tokens for cash. 53000 yen! That's AUD750!! for an initial outlay of 3000 yen. Unfortunately the rather large and quite frankly scary sales boss informs me that in addition to returning her 3000, I have to give her 20000, that being the amount she lost sitting next to me! I got to keep the chocolate though.

She wants to go again next week but I'm not too sure. Sure as hell looks like beginners luck to me. Plus my girlfriend at the time wouldn't have been too happy with it, her father had a little monkey on his back named pachinko when she was a kid.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The coming China- Japan War. part 1

The past few weeks has seen a sharp increase in anti-Japanese sentiment in China, some of it blatently encouraged by the Chinese government, some of it not so publicly encouraged. Japanese flags burned, (Chinese owned) Japanese restaurants trashed, thousands marching shouting anti-Japanese slogans. This weekend even in Shanghai, the financial capital of China saw protest marches. At the moment there seem to be no signs of abatement.

The apparent causes of the most recent upsurge in sentiment are Tokyo's bid for a permanent U.N Security Council seat, and the publishing of high school textbooks that some Asian countries say distort Japan's wartime atrocities. Another source of irritation appears to be the Japanese Prime Minister's continued visits to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where the remains of Japan's war-dead are entombed, including Tojo.

With the people of a nearby country of over a billion people violently calling for Japanese blood on the street, one would think that the citizenry of Japan would be just a little worried, or even concerned.

Apparently not. China might just as well threaten Africa for all they seem to care.
A few days of canvassing a number of my Japanese friends, people in my neighborhood and co-workers revealed some rather care-free remarks, as well as some outright bizarre ones.
I admit that this was only a small pool of people, however it gives some idea of the general consensus amongst the public here.

Here are some of the responses to the questions asked:

  1. Are you concerned by the current China-Japan tensions?

    • No, it's nothing to worry about.
    • Again??!
    • No, America will protect us.
    • It's ok because we have more money than them.
    • Only a small number of people in China are rich, so no.
    • Only a small number of people hate Japan, it's ok.

  2. Do you think Japan should apologize for wartime aggression?

    • The past is the past, there is no point apologizing now. (everybody I asked said this)
    • If we apologize for this, where will it end?
    • I don't know that much about Japanese history. (Also very common answer)
    • What agression?

  3. What do think about the Prime Minister's repeated visits to Yasukuni shrine?

    • He goes as a private citizen, so it's his business.
    • It's got nothing to do with anybody, especially China.
    • Long live the Emperor!!!!!!

Ok, so that last one I made up, but the lack of concern is quite evident. However I'm not buying it. Do the math: 130 million vs. 1 billion.
As for America coming to protect Japan, look at the choice that America will be facing.
"Hmmm, should we help Japan with 130 million consumers of our crappy products? or should we help China with 1 billion consumers of our crappy products?

It's a no-brainer. Run!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Morizo and Kikoro

Obvoiusly a lot of work went into these guys

The secene: Unknown advertising agency circa 1998.

Section chief walks up to the desk of Mr. Tanaka, one of the company's many employees in the artistic department.

SC: Tanaka, there is going to be a World Exposition in Aichi in 2005, we have been handed the contract to come up with the mascots for the event, they need two. You know, the usual cute generic stuff.
Tanaka: 2005?! That's almost a decade away!
Tanaka: Do we have some kind of theme or something to work with, or do they just want anything?
SC: Apparently the theme is "Nature's wisdom". (Smirks)
Tanaka: Sure chief, leave it with me.

Section chief goes off about his business, while Tanaka throws this project in the bottom of his drawer, thinking, "yeah right, by that time I'll be working for a real, company."

6 years later...

SC: Tanaka!! You got those Expo characters? We have a meeting with the Expo people in 5 minutes! bring you drawing up to the board room.

Tanaka: (In a panic because he hasn't put 2 seconds of thought into the project since it was given to him years ago.) Thinking to himself, "What? Ah shit! expo! what the hell is it they wanted again? 2 mascots, yeah right. theme, theme , what was the damn theme? .....the earth? ,mother nature?, love concrete?, ah yes! nature! Nature's wisdom! (smirks to himself). OK! Nature....oceans....concrete....trees...yes trees! that's it!... Nah,drawing trees will need two colours. need something easier..come on, think!....Shrubs!!! yes one colour AND easy to draw! perfect!
(Hastily scribbles a couple of rough edged circles with dots for eyes.) This will have to do, no concrete but it'll have to do.

And there you have the story of the conception of the world's two crappiest mascots.
But maybe I'm prejudiced because I know a crappy guy who works part time walking around inside Kikoro. That's the small one. Even worse!!! have some dignity man, at least be Morizo.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

2005 World Exposition. Expo 2005 Aichi.

As you probably do not know (as it seems that only people living within 50 klms of the event do know) The 2005 World exposition is being held in Aichi prefecture, Japan from March 25 through to Sept 25.

The theme is "Nature's Wisdom" in English, and Ai-Chi in Japanese. This is a pun on Aichi, which is the name of the prefecture that it is held in. The meaning of the kanji character "Ai" is love. They have changed the "chi" kanji from Aichi-which means "to know"- to the "chi" kanji which is half of the word for "earth". So it reads as "love earth".

Now I find this very ironic since the Japanese people hate real nature because it is uncontrollable and they have done more than any other country to destroy it.
There is not a riverbank in Japan that is not concreted in, no schoolyards have a single blade of grass. A lot of the coastline is littered with huge concrete objects that look like giant throwing jacks- you know, the ones girls used to play with at school.
A more appropriate theme of Japan's Expo would be "love concrete", unfortunately there is no kanji for concrete that can be used in a cute pun.

I also find the theme hypocritical for a number of reasons. Not the least being what was done to the site of the Expo to prepare it. There used to be a small hill on the site (it was a park). This being too natural they tore it down and built an artificial hill right where they had demolished the real one!
This is supposedly an artistic installation. Another alleged artistic installation is the metal trees erected where they chopped down a large number of real ones.

Initially they had banned all food and drink from being brought into the site, "to protect against food poisoning"(!!), they said. However even the Prime Minister couldn't refrain from remarking how expensive and "not so tasty" the food is. At 1000 yen (that's about $10) for a slice of pizza, it would have to be pretty damn good. But the way they Japanify all foreign food, i.e. take the taste out, I doubt any food bought at the Expo would resemble any of the food it is supposed to represent. Latest news is they have relented and will now allow people to bring their own food in, however no bottled drinks may be carried in because of terrorism fears. They had to salvage some of their income.

Official Expo 2005 site in English

Monday, April 11, 2005

Bangkok's Independent Newspaper III

Bangkok's Independent Newspaper
Finally, more than a week later, others have risen to express their disgust at this issue.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Telephone sex in Japan

We all know that when you dial those 1-800 sex numbers, you aren't really talking to a couple of hot lesbians that wanna torture you with their dildo. More than likely it some bored housewife talking to you while doing the laundry. They'll tell you anything- "ooh yeah, it's so big!", ah huh.

Imagine my surprise when I try out some of these numbers in Japan.
This is how it works. Men get the numbers from the back of pornographic magazines(nothing unusual so far), but women also call these services. They get the phone numbers from packets of tissues handed out daily in front of train stations. The men have to pay(of course), something like 10,000 yen for 80 minutes of telephone time. The women can call for as long as they want for free.

Each one of these telephone sex companies has an amazing array of categories to choose from. Each category has its own number to call. Some of the categories might be, 'rich old men looking for office lady', 'pregnant women looking for a fuck', 'water sports', 'scatology'and so forth. you select the category you like and call the number. Now you have a number of choices. You can listen to messages left by members of the opposite sex:an example of one from the pregnant line, "I'm 27 and 8 months pregnant and live in the Nagoya area. If anybody would be interested in someone like me with this huge belly, I'm free on weekdays until 4 pm."
Or you can leave your own message. Alternatively, if you know the ID number of the person you are looking for, you can record and send your own message to them.

Then you wait, check your messages, play phone tag for a bit, and then eventually one of you leaves your number in the other's message box, and you get in touch. Now you aren't charged anymore. You call your new friend at the arranged time and either have phone sex at your leisure or arrange to meet. People sometimes arrange to meet after having phone sex a number of times.

One time I was feeling adventurous and called the line called 'Mean housewives looking for subservient young men'. It was my first time in this role so I wasn't too sure what was expected of me. I thought that she would lead me. I finally hook up with some woman and we start chatting. She's already quite worked up and breathing very heavily into the phone. She tells me to look at her. I tell her I am. Then she says, "look at my pussy." I say that I am looking at it and it is quite beautiful to look at. She snaps at me that no it isn't, it's black and dirty. That's when I realize that I've probably come into the wrong category. But now I'm stuck, I don't want to be rude to this (sick) woman. What can I do? I ended up having to sit there for the next 30 minutes and listen to how dirty her pussy was. It wasn't very fun for me, but I suppose when you are talking to a real person and not a professional who is supposed to say whatever you want to hear, that is the price that you pay.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

You're nobody until somebody disses you via a vanity publisher

Oh my gawd! Somebody actually hates me! I'm devastated

Word on the street has it that a former friend of mine will soon be publishing a 170 page book through a small Canadian vanity press with a collection of letters that he has written over the past 8 or so years here in Japan.
Apparently I cop a right wallopping and I have even been assigned a codename, which I am very happy to announce is, "Hyatt". I would like to think that it is because I have a lot of class, but it is more likely to be because of The Epicurean's obsession with the Hyatt hotel chain (Platinum 6 years in a row baby). I don't want to complicate matters for our budding author friend but I have recently expanded my horizons to the Marriott.

Rest assured that as soon as The Epicurean gets his manicured little hands on a copy of this "novel" I will post the relavant details here.
In the meantime, click below to read a little story that I wrote a few years ago about an event that I suspect was the beginning of the end of the abovementioned freindship

My side of the story

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Not a minute too soon

such is life

Finally! After 6 months of putting up with this crappy Japanese winter, a sign of Spring. For a country that is so obsessed with their four seasons, their goddamn winter is sure long enough. It only leaves 6 months for the other 3 seasons combined.

However finally today a beautiful one and cherry blossoms starting to bud. It is hard to explain the profound lift in spirits this has brought. After March, which sucked to the fifth level,(you know it sucks when it hits the highest level of suckivity), it felt like a huge sack of pea soup had been lifted from my shoulders.

So there I was sitting in a small secluded park eating my little store bought bento box, watching the ants scurry around looking for food, marvelling at their immense strength. I took some grains of rice out of my lunch box and dropped some around the ground near the bench to give the ants something to eat. One of them even tried to haul off about seven grains that were stuck together. He was scrambling around, checking it from evey angle like a little engineer. I was mesmerized.

It must have been an extraordinarily bad winter if the coming of Spring makes me want to feed the ants, and I enjoy it.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bangkok's Independent Newspaper II

Letters to the editor

Well "The Nation" published my letter, albiet slightly modified. I haven't received a response personally from anybody at the paper, and I'm not holding my breathe. I am looking forward to the replies in the "Letters to the Editor" pages in the coming days though.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The navel taste test

You know who you are

I had this girlfriend a number of years ago, who for reasons of her own, (probably to escape me) went off to Hawaii to study.

I was heartbroken and promised to visit her when I saved up enough money. Over long transpacific phonecalls I kept pledging my undying love and occasionally elicited appropriate responses from her.

When the time had come for me to make my trip to Hawaii, I prodded for assurances that she had been faithful during the past six months. She of course responded with the hoped for answer, but I wasn't convinced. I informed her that I would be able to tell if she had had sex recently by tasting her bellybutton(I think I had read it in Cosmo or somewhere). She didn't seem convinced but I carefully explained that a woman's navel has a certain taste if she is sexually active, and a different taste if she isn't. She was sure she would pass the test.

Joyful reunion in Honolulu hotel followed by navel taste test, hastily followed by sex. All was well and good.

Back at her apartment more sex was taking place on her bed. Said bed was banging against the wall rather noisily. Not wanting to disturb the neighbors, I suspend the festivities in order to pull the bed from the wall. There on the floor were three, count 'em three empty condom packets. Needless to say the abovementioned festivities were rained out.

Let this little anecdote serve as a warning. One cannot determine the level of a woman's sexual activity by tasting her navel.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Bangkok's Independent Newspaper: Ding! Round One

Bangkok's Independent Newspaper
This article appeared in the motoring section of The Nation, one of two English language daily newspapers in bangkok, Thailand.

AUTO TALK : Shedding light on flashing lights

Many Americans and Europeans choose to spend their retirements in Thailand. Thais are generally very nice to foreigners, and we sometimes tend to honour them more than fellow Thais. The majority of foreigners who come to Thailand are good people and don’t cause problems. But some capitalise on our generosity and use Thailand as a hiding place to get away from crimes they have committed back home. Some even go further and start committing new crimes in this country.

Today there are certain foreigners who rely on being “farang”, and trick Thai women from the provinces into marrying them. In return they give the women a small amount of money every month in exchange for being able to live in the Kingdom permanently. In the process they also get a partner in bed.

Some of these farangs take advantage of legal loopholes by setting up independent organisations and find ways to publicise themselves. They go to the provinces, donated a petty sum to schools, or take photos at restaurants and small factories in the villages, all so they can send the pictures abroad and claim they are doing charity work. They are angling for support money from international organisations. They lie to people and say that they work for an NGO, even though their work does not benefit the public and is merely a commercial enterprise.

These foreigners, who generally are not well off, usually live in small provinces, like in the Northeast. Sometimes these farangs even trick fellow farangs. As far as I know, the Thai authorities are carefully watching these people and waiting to get their hands on evidence to go after them. Without evidence the police could be accused of violating the bad farangs’ rights.

But today, I have some questions from a good farang concerning the use of indicator lights in Thailand.

When I drive through junctions I can’t help noticing that a large number of Thai drivers like to turn on the headlights while some also turn on the hazard lights. What do these signals mean? Back home when we blink the headlights it means that we are giving way to the car waiting at the junction to proceed first.

Flashing the headlights (usually the high beam) while crossing junctions or passing the top of the soi with cars waiting to come out has a different meaning in Thailand.

In other countries.....blah blah blah......

E-mail your motoring questions to

My hastily fired off email:

re: April fool right?

Surely this must be a joke!

Does your “Auto Mobile” section go straight to press with absolutely no editorial guidance?

How can a journalistically bankrupt piece of trash such as the opening four paragraphs in this week’s column, poorly disguised as an intro be allowed to go to press?

Was the editor asleep on this shift?

I can’t believe the nationalistic vitriol pounded out by Pattandesh, a “journalist” who obviously has an axe to grind, and whose woefully misguided superiority complex has damaged the fine name and reputation of an otherwise outstanding publication, The Nation.

What were you guys thinking when you let this go to print?
What does this racist, non-sensical tirade have anything to do with motoring?

Are you seriously insinuating that I and all the other foreigners who have been fortunate enough to marry a woman from Thailand tricked them into marriage? Oh sorry, that’s right, how silly of me, it’s only the poor and stupid ones from the Northeast who are tricked. Of course so-called “middle class” Chinese Thais would never be tricked by a dirty, shifty foreigner.

I demand an explanation of how this tripe was able to make it to print. I would also like to know how the responsible management at The Nation plans to deal with this situation.

The Epicurean.

strangers on a train

On the train coming home tonight I saw one of those little things that make me marvel at Japan. I've been here a long time and sometimes I get pretty weary of the hectic pace and some of the bullshit that you have to put up with, but then sometimes I see something that is so tiny and so normal here and I remember some of the feelings of awe that I had when I first came here.

The train was very crowded (as usual), I mean really crowded, people all pushed up against one another, trying not to breathe on anybody. We stop at a station called Nishiharu and amongst the ten or so people that are trying to squeeze onto the already over capacity train is this guy, maybe 35 years old. Everyone is quietly trying to readjust their position and this guy bumps up against a woman, maybe 21 years old. His bow of apology is almost inperceivable, her silent, non looking bow in response just as tiny. If you didn't know what you were looking at you would attribute their head movements to inertia.

It's nothing big or profound, just two automatic responses from strangers on a train, but I caught a glimpse of it, and it's utter normalness made me smile within.