*to Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Κυνόσαργες

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

'Bents are lame, but this is clever


There's something about 'bents that brings out the bearded academic in their fans, and my real opposition to 'bents is that prejudice.  For all their performance advantages their disadvantages are legion: can't manoeuvre, jump curbs, manage narrow spaces, be easily portaged, sprint or climb for $#!+, and also cost and weigh double.  However, this is a really cool design!

It's a realistic velomobile!  I'd want the e-bike part taken from it: weight, fuss and expense I don't need.  Almost everything is enclosed from spray, yet open to cooling winds, which is a big deal over velomobiles.  Also the fairing will cut wind yet it is removable.  I almost want one!  Put a trailer behind one of these and your tour is unlimited

Hase has some really clever products, at prices that are merely high, not insane, unlike other 'bents and velomobiles.  Two others that are clever are their upright/'bent tandem, and their tag-a-long trike.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Teaching Jobs in Tokyo

Not as important at the disaster at all, but so many teachers have done a bunk from Tokyo that there are jobs begging.  I don't know about ESL schools, but for 'international schools' there are links below.  If you believe you're going to get cancer coming, stay home.  If you know better than to trust media scare stories, get applications out PDQ.  "Search Associates" is the big agency used here, and it is first among the links below.

Teaching Abroad | International Teaching Jobs - Search Associates

Thursday, 24 March 2011

If you're caught leaving a ship you thought was sinking...

... don't be surprised to be called a rat.
I'm not the first to comment on the fact that a lot of westerner executives quickly bailed on Japan after the quake and the Fukushima nuclear incidents, and that the local staff resent it.  It's a hell of a lesson for the Japanese staff of a western firm to learn what Gen-X did two decades ago: the corporate attitude is "%$#@ you!"  Nor am I the first to point out that it might have something to do with the fact you cannot integrate here:
I think seeing Gaijin flee is an instinctive reaction to them NOT being accepted by the Japanese. They could have gone down to Fukushima and taken a piss on the reactor and they still wouldn't be accepted as a 'we Japanese'. So, if you feel you'll never be part of the group, I think a lot of people will think 'fuck you'! I'm out!  If this kind of disaster was to happen in Aus or even Canada I doubt you would have seen this type of reaction from 'Gaijin'.
Nor do I resent people who have left for no better reason than panic, so long as they did not leave responsibilities in the hands of Japanese who could not leave: which of course many did.

"How I learned to stop worrying, and love the bomb."

The short version: you should be able to drink the water and still "protect your precious bodily fluids."

I received some information from an acquaintance who works for Atomic Energy Canada Limited, which I summarize below.  It's his word and AECL's (which has had minor incidents of its own), not mine, and I did not ask for his permission to put his name on anything, so I cannot supply it or references.  You should be able to corroborate all of this from credible online sources if you need to.  Take it for what it is worth.

Japanese Razor: Electricity

Japanese Razor: if there is a better solution, 'it's not Japanese culture'.
I wonder where that wire goes?

I do not have a handle on the power situation in eastern Japan following the series of disasters (seismic, tsunami and nuclear), but this page makes as much sense as any.   The quick version is that power is short now, and we have had threats of scheduled rolling blackouts which have not all come to fruition.  On the long term there is no easy fix to the shortage, as the link explains, there is a good chance that it will be a less air-conditioned summer, and that there will be a big hit to the Japanese economy if companies cannot rely on electricity.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Quote of the day: mass psychology

"Disasters make stupid people even more stupid, it's a proven fact." - @Not Invented Here

Toronto Star has 'jumped the shark'

Used to respect the CBC and the Toronto Star as the only two news organizations in Canada that uncovered corporate, political and policing malfeasance; however, my trust for both is nearly gone.  CBC news has become full of 'human interest' crap.  The Star has printed misleading articles about Japan's Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima reactor issues, making it sound like all of Japan was threatened by both; never mind the 3000km length of Japan corresponds to a distance of Calgary to Toronto.
The lot of their Japan articles are here, and I cannot list all the $#!+, but here are a few highlights:

Monday, 21 March 2011

KI Redux

I wrote about this already, with lots of caveats.  Well, even though they are explicit that it is not needed at this time, the UK Tokyo embassy is giving them out until tomorrow (Why until tomorrow?  Going French?).  Of course, I let my UK passport lapse, and do not even have the lapsed one to hand.  How about my other passport?
Potassium iodide (KI) is only needed when there is a large amount of radioactive iodine in the environment. At this time, the Government of Canada does not advise using the medication. KI will be available from local health authorities in Japan if the need arises. Government of Canada offices abroad are not in a position to provide medicine or medical treatment to Canadian citizens who have chosen to travel or reside outside of Canada, but will provide information to Canadians to help them obtain medical services available locally.
I don't know if I am more pissed I let my UK passport lapse, the UK is doing this to keep its nationals happy, or that Canada will not manage distribution if necessary.  Thanks, @$$holes. Getting that UK passport for next time.  What I think of the Japanese government's capabilities should not be put in print.

Quotes of the day: Gaijin fleeingTokyo

"Well, this has certainly separated the residents from the tourists." - @sublight
"Even in France nobody likes the French" - @Rob A

'Tokyo Hyper Rescue Squad' is go!!

'Tokyo Hyper Rescue Squad' could be either a cool or stupid name, except these guys are so cool they did the job nobody else in Japan could do, including their military, which is get some damned water on the fuel rods in Fukushima.  They made Tokyo Governor Ishihara and their leader Captain Yasuo Sato cry.  He and his squad went in, found they couldn't get past the debris to where they wanted with their trucks, so they improvised a way to carry the hoses in.  I want Captain Sato to become PM, and his wife whose last words to him were to 'save Japan' to be something more than 'First Lady'.  I want my son to be a fire-fighter... but not at a nuclear plant.

外人が神隠しに!

I spent three hours in Shinjuku today (downtown Tokyo).  I saw not one white person, black person, or Indian person; the only non-Japanese person I saw might have been Filipina or SE Asian, working where I got my lunch.  I could have tried to find more, but I wouldn't usually need to.  I got looked at more than usual (not much, downtown), and the few people I spoke with were very nice...  Everybody here knows that a huge number of Gaijin took off, and not a few Japanese, either.  Shinjuku was hardly the 'ghost town' foreign news would have you think, but at an estimate, one-third of a regular rainy Monday holiday's people were missing.

Quote of the day: Japanese Leadership

You are the wankers who are getting paid the big bucks, you went after these positions of power, well boys it ain't all blowjobs from geisha girls and kickbacks from the yakuza. Fucking lead!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Quote of yesterday: the French embassy's expeditious flight

Q: Why is (sic) the French giving different advice?
Sir John: Their advice is not based on science.

Quote of the day: Tepco.

"This disaster is 60% man-made," said one government official. "They failed in their initial response. It's like Tepco dropped and lost a 100 yen coin while trying to pick up a 10 yen coin."
Just once, Japanese-technocrat-san, try to make a preemptive decision.  Come to think of it, is there a word for 'preemptive' in Japanese... or 'decision'.

Disaster Preparation: What I Learned to Prepare

In a previous post I talked about what I learned about transportation, here in Tokyo, during a disaster that has barely affected us.  Having effective transportation is not the only lesson.  Besides your regular emergency kit, what else do you need to stock?  Take a cue from what has gone short here (though for less than a week).  Everything here I had in the house, though less than I would have liked if we had been in the true disaster zone.  All of the items I list will not spoil quickly, and would eventually be used, so are expense-neutral.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Decided: Anti-Nuclear

There is something to be said for a rational decision, and there is something to be said for an emotional one, and against each; but when both reason and emotion align, listen.  That's where I am on nuclear power, and it's funny that I should read an article today that states the same.
The emotional part is due to being within a few hundred kilometres of multiple reactor failures.  I'm aware that there is limited chance of limited exposure, but I am sitting in my Tokyo apartment with my wife, mother-in-law and infant child, so though I am rational enough not to be one of the first gaijin to flee the country, I am emotional enough to be more than a little care-worn.  I am entitled to chew out anyone, no matter how qualified, who expects me to consider the risks to my family and my planet dryly, who isn't sitting in Tokyo with me.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Six Japanese TV channels as the quake hit, and liquefaction


Next time you're coerced into paying your NHK fee, remember their warning was a couple minutes sooner than the others if it helps.

Few to no fatalities in Kanto, but there is a lot of damage in the parts of Kanagawa, Tokyo and Chiba that were built on reclaimed land.  Got the information from 'Fucked Gaijin' (NSFW), and from a colleague whose house is partly off its foundation and ankle deep in mud.  I sometimes have work in Makuhari Messe, but I wonder if I will anymore, not that it will affect my life in any way like so many others in Tohoku.  At a wild, but conservative guess, up to a million people live on reclaimed land in Kanto (as there are over thirty million in total).  Even before the liquefaction along the port in the '95 Kobe quake, engineers must have known the risk of building that way in Japan.  Utterly irresponsible.  Feel sorry for anyone with property on reclaimed land: damaged or not, it's worthless.

The ground quality makes as much difference as the building.  I was here during '95, watching the Kobe earthquake from Saitama: about the only time I was glad to be in Saitama.  Much of the 'reclaimed land' along the Kobe harbour had 'subsidence' due to 'liquefaction': two words this Torontonian never had to understand before.   If there's one country you want people to consider these words in a literal, not metaphorical sense, it's Japan:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.- Matthew 7:24-27
My wife and child were tossed about in the eighth floor of our building, but unharmed along with the building, because it's on decent ground 10km from Tokyo Bay. I found the earthquake unexceptional, but I was on the third floor of a post-earthquake code building near Kiyosumi-Shirakawa Stationn, which is not on 'reclaimed land'. Well, in fact most of Kanto is reclaimed land. It was all swamp before Mr. Tokugawa got his bright idea.

Disaster Preparation: Transportation Lessons

Still here in Tokyo, with food, water, shelter, communication, electricity and gas.  I appreciate the continuity of them all, and have been given great pause to my family's vulnerability to a cessation of any of them.  The biggest lesson is the 'black swan event'.  People in Japan well know to have a regular earthquake kit, cash on hand, food, fuel, medicines and water in storage, but this level of nuclear incident was not foreseen.  In hindsight that seems pretty stupid of all of us here, because Tepco is well known for lies and incompetence, and tsunami are a well known and geologically regular phenomena.

Transportation is the next concern.  This has been an ongoing problem in the disaster zone, and to a lesser extent the rest of the country which has some fuel shortage.   Here are your solutions.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Was Japan shoved aside by the 'Cho-nan'?

I haven't got the links yet, but a minute's work on Google will get them for you.  For that reason I do not vouch for full accuracy of this, but it rings true to me.  If even half of the incompetencies hinted at in this article are true, including arbitrarily changing safe exposure levels, it is outrageous.

According to the native-wife's translation of the news, the US is sending in nuclear teams and high-pressure pumping units to keep the nuclear pools filled properly.  Very nice indeed, but there are implications:
- Nothing comes for free, so Japan can kiss goodbye any deals on the Japanese bases.
- Japan, so my wife saw on the news, has no emergency nuclear teams, in a nation with a lot of nuclear plants, scary neighbours, natural disasters and the only two cities to take nuclear hits
- Corporate, executive, bureaucratic and academic 'Japan Inc.' have shown what everyone already believed: malignant ossification
- Japan is not meaningfully sovereign (neither is my Canada): they need America to clean their sandbox, and to keep the bully out of the yard (China)

Nobody cares about that at the moment, 'just turn the goddamned things off!'  But that moment will pass, and the Japanese public is going to be deeply ashamed that the Americans had to come, standing a head above their own ministers and say, I imagine, 'get the %$#@ out of the way if you can't do it right'.  Just like in a movie, as the native-wife said.  It's going to be a very politically volatile decade here...

Why are the Americans ready to do this?  Environmentalism?  "Snigger."  Humanitarianism?  "Guffaw!"  A sense of responsibility for the poorly designed GM plant not going to public tender because it was a state-to-state negotiation?  "Give me a %$#@ing break."  American wants a nuclear future, and this is the worst PR since Chernobyl, plus there's nothing like leverage and having someone in your debt.

Worth a thousand words

I got the image from here on a Google search.  It explains a few big things well:
- why Japan has so many of the world's quakes
- why I did not feel the '95 Kobe earthquake (on the Amur Plate), in Kanto
- why people in Western Japan would not have felt much of the recent quake (see epicentre)
- why the nearest shore, which had just got the worst of the quake, also got the worst of the tsunami

When you are feeling calmer

It is worth viewing these links on Japanese culture's way of dealing with these dangerous islands.  It's no consolation, but it helps better to empathize.

On a language note, in my university second-year Japanese class we had a unit on the passive-voice and natural disaster vocabulary.  Both are far more useful in Japanese than in English, lucky for us.  Our professor tasked us with coming up with skits that included both.  I convinced my small group to create a skit which included the line:
東京はゴジラに食べられた!
Tokyo was eaten by Godzilla!
No disrespect meant to the people affected by this disaster.  Most Japanese deal with disaster with stoicism; Anglos deal with it using black, or absurdist, humour.

French Embassy in Tokyo

This summarizes my thoughts on the French embassy being the first to panic:


It doesn't hurt to add this:

Staying

I have decided we are staying (we got 100% of our fare back).  I refuse to be the first one screaming out of the theatre, when the fire is not going to harm me, and get trampled in the doorway.  This is not Chernobyl, for various technical reasons.  The reality is that any increased background radiation will be far less than the radiation we would expose ourselves to on an international flight, much less the stress of getting there, much less the regular petri-dish of viruses among anxious crowds on the train, plane, and in the terminal.

If there is increased background radiation on the long-term, which there is not in Tokyo at present, we will leave in an orderly fashion.  We have food in the house for a month, water and fuel for a week, and power, gas and water are still running.  We have not yet had even one blackout locally.  We have the support of my native-wife's family, and her aunt's access to goods through her store.  We have obligations to my family and to my wife's, but in the final analysis my family is in Canada, and though it isn't really dangerous here in Tokyo, everyone is freaked out and us leaving doesn't help.  Getting to the airport would also be an ordeal we do not need.  I respect the decision to stay or to go, so I am neither advocating nor criticizing anyone.  This is the decision we came to.  Best of luck to everyone, and lets remember who is truly suffering: the dead, their families and the people exposing themselves to danger to help them, and to control the reactors.

The adults are here

From The Guardian:

"One of the men brought in to clean up Chernobyl has strongly criticised Japan and the IAEA over the current problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Reuters reports. Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev said a fire today, which released radiation, involving spent fuel rods stored close to reactors, looked like an example of putting profit before safety. Andreev said:
The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin.
He said of the IAEA:
'This is only a fake organisation because every organisation which depends on the nuclear industry - and the IAEA depends on the nuclear industry - cannot perform properly.
It always will try to hide the reality. The IAEA ... is not interested in the concentration of attention on a possible accident in the nuclear industry. They are totally not interested in all the emergency organisations.'"

"Every square inch"? Guess he's not used to what the average Japanese office looks like.
The idiots asleep on the job come standard.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Fleeing a sinking ship?

My family is looking into going back to Toronto for a few weeks.  Is it an overreaction?  How can I know?  Every indication is that Tepco and the Japanese Government are lying, to reduce panic, which once the public understands they cannot believe anything said, is only bound to induce it.  A good discussion begins here.

I do not know if this is really from Der Spiegel, or a hoax:
I do know that it corresponds somewhat with this Geiger reading in Tokyo (though it stayed under the 100 red-line), which I do not know to be accurate, or not.  If in Eastern-Japan and deciding what to do, please also look at Al Jazeera's 'live blog', and at 'The Guardian's'.  Japanese news is irrelevant in Japanese or in English.  This 'windfinder' is usually used by kite-surfers, but you might be able to put it to use.

I hope this model is accurate, though it won't help the people down wind.

I know two pair of 'international families' who left a few days ago.  I have at least one Japanese friend who has headed towards family in Osaka.  I have a wife who is too stubborn for the timeline when the real radioactivity and public panic makes it impossible to leave.  I can see everyone without family ties bailing, and a lot of teachers en route to a job here cancelling.  Too late for us: 'he who hesitates is lost'.  Cannot get through to get a flight now.

Links:
UK travel advisory
US travel advisory
Canadian travel advisory
French travel advisory
All of these were equivocal when I wrote this, apart from the French, but they ran from the Wehrmacht, too.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Self-editing a rant

I was bitching to my wife about the gross incompetence of Tepco, both in their crisis-management*, and in their PR**.  Something along the lines of:
It's not acceptable to have nuclear plants keep exploding.  I don't need to be a nuclear physicist to know that that isn't supposed to happen, even once!  Then they have botched the rolling black-outs, and all of their communication.  Never mind that they have a decades long history of lying through their teeth.  Now we have to find out from contaminated US sailors that there have been radioactive elements released into the atmosphere.  How is it these idiots are still in charge when their incompetence caused this?  I don't know about (my native) Canada, but the bloody Americans wouldn't put up with this crap.  The President would have their top military nuclear engineers in there, can the top management, and work with the middle managers who might even understand the technology.
Then again...  That isn't what happened with Wall Street...
Somebody needs to grow a pair and make a decision.  Maybe it's time to do a Chernobyl and bury the lot of them in boron laced concrete.  "Them" meaning the reactors, not the management of Tepco, but 'two birds with one stone'...  Maybe something else.  I'm no nuclear physicist but the time for half-measures is well past.

* Letting more than one nuclear plant explode, building it in a seismic zone, building it in a tsunami zone with seawalls too low, and vulnerable pumps...
** Lying to the public at every stage to allay panic or halt the plunge of their share price, causing the public not to trust them even if (they ever) tell the truth.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

If there's a meltdown and on-shore winds.

Caveat to this Post (updated information)
Not sure if the advice below is any good.  Proper KI pills will be superior.  There are two issues: the stuff below is a throat-wash for colds, so I do not know if you absorb any iodine; second, I do not know if it is the type of potassium-iodide that stays in your system.  The online rumours, for which I take no responsibility, is that ingesting two drops a day of this stuff will fill your thyroids with non-radioactive iodine, and block the bad stuff.  The story is that the gov't in Poland pushed this after Chernobyl, while the Belorussian didn't, and the latter now has much higher thyroid cancer rates.

I do know that I do not trust the Japanese government to tell us any of the truth, or to send out the good pills soon enough to matter.  My native-wife says I should calm down.  Wrong approach.  I raised my voice and told her I saw the hash-job they did in Kobe when half of those people did not need to die.  Whoops.

Original Post
Make sure you have potassium-iodide: ヨウ化カリウム (youka-kariumu).



You take it prophylactically, so that your thyroids cannot take up any (radioactive) iodine from the environment, thus protecting yourself from the most commonly lethal side-effect of radiation exposure.  Besides staying in and not drinking irradiated water, this one prevention will dramatically improve your odds of staying healthy. I am not going to wait for the Japanese bureaucracy to suck-wind up and down the hierarchy before handing it out, and neither should you.

March 13 addendum
Here is the English link to the Tokyo power company, where you may find information on the rolling blackouts: the link has not been loading, however.  Here's information about how they have lied in the past.  Likewise the JR East Kanto train delay page in English is 'under maintainance'; the subways do not have useful English pages; here is something in Japanese.  Fill a bunch of bottles, and your bathtub, and go shopping for food.  Shelves are starting to thin.   If you have a camp stove or table-top stove, get some fuel.  This will probably come to nothing, and if it does you will just use this stuff in future for daily life, right?

March 14 addendum
You don't need me to summarize the news, and are probably aware that another reactor building went 'boom'.  If you live here and don't know much about Japanese culture yet, let me put it to you simply: you won't get the truth from the authorities until it is too late to do you any goodThe Japanese don't believe them either.  If the winds come onshore, bunker down.  Use foreign news services, but avoid the exploitative mass-market American ones.  I have not decided to run yet, partly because it may be overreaction, but mainly because it's doubtful I could get my family flights, or to Narita/Haneda by train or car.  Consider your own options, including waiting it out.  Your main risk, if there is fall-out, is what you ingest, if you manage to stay inside.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A very [American] coup?

Americans should have watched this BBC mini-series.
If a spokesman for the US State Department criticizes the Pentagon publicly, it is possible he's grown a conscience, or that the State Department and Executive have lost control over the Pentagon and are using the media to regain some control.  Hmm...

Earthquake Post

Not much to say, as I am glad my afternoon and evening was not too dramatic in Tokyo.  It was like a disaster movie last night (without much damage in Tokyo): everyone walking, cars stuck in jams, loudspeakers giving updates, and helicopters flying north.  I had a 12km walk, but many had a lot worse, or had to stay downtown until train service started limited resumption at 7a.m.  I suppose the tracks had to be checked by eye.

There'll be a lot of children still at schools with the staff, until a guardian can get to them.  Have to give kudos to the Japanese at times like this.  They may not be able to improvise, but they do have a 'stiff upper lip'.  Seems they learned from the debacle of the Hyogo governor not calling on the army soon enough in the '95 Kobe earthquake.  The army starting rolling, and flying, north immediately.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Need a fixed-gear 'rain-bike'





I only have my road bike in Tokyo, but it rains all of June, and more often through the rest of the year than in Toronto, so I need a fixed-gear 'rain-bike' for commuting.

These are the only two appropriate bikes sold in my size in Japan:
Specialized Langster Steel
Fuji Feather


Or I can order one of these from the states and have it sent here, but it requires using a mail-forwarding company, and paying something like $200:
Iro Angus
Windsor Timeline

Monday, 7 March 2011

SAS in Libya? Real smart.

Just when you think the Anglosphere couldn't be more out of touch...  It would have been legitimate to drop them on the spot, if they'd had the men to take them on.  They are nothing less than murderers, as well trained as they are.  Are 'our' 'special forces' becoming more incompetent, or is there a purpose to getting caught?

Costco Japan and getting foreign goods.

A bit of culture-shock today, going to Costco at Lala-City at Shin-Misato station: oversized carts and absurd portion size surrounded by petite Japanese.  I did not know that there was one just a half-hour train ride from where I am, which is great, because I thought they were all the other side of Tokyo.  Finally found a place to get huge pieces of meat and cake, pounds of frozen fruit, though not of the best quality.  Wish I had a bigger freezer and fridge...  There's also an Ikea there, a bunch of other stores, and best of all for the Ikea and Costco, delivery is normal in Japan!

It's a great deal easier to get foreign goods and food, and far more cheaply than when I last lived here fifteen years ago.  Local supermarkets now carry things that I had to go to National Azabu or Kinokuniya Foods for, though they still do not carry everything (never go to Meidi-ya: prices they pull out of their @$$).  Kaldi has a lot of the rest.  I have another post on things to take to Japan, that are too much trouble to get here.  You can check the Foreign Buyers' Club and Flying Pig for other things, or to deliver if you are too far from a city.

It's still a disappointment after decades of many gaijin living in Japan: still so much trouble to get decent deodorant or condoms!  Even through companies selling foreign goods like the ones mentioned above!  I can do without a lot of the other foreign goods sold, but %$#@ing and not smelling like @$$ are basic, no?  Never mind the 10% of Japanese who need stronger deodorant are SOL (Jomon, or hidden Dutch or American genes?).  Nothing ever makes complete sense in this country...

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Kodansha goes belly-up?


This is a big %$#@ing deal if you read English, and have any interest in Japanese culture or language: more than half of the books you've used come from them.  Of course there's plenty online nowadays, but you still need a hard copy now and then.  Kodansha so dominates this market that its influence on Japan's image abroad (idealized) is more important than anything JET, JNTO or The Japan Foundation have done.

Addendum: non-story, 'tempest in a tea pot'... 

Friday, 4 March 2011

Language Errors

At 'Goodandbadjapan's Blog', there is a very funny discussion of errors made by non-Japanese speaking Japanese, with two-cents of my own.  
My favourite errors:
“Is there shit in these buns?”: ‘anko’ (red bean)/’unko’ confusion.
“Does this have human in it?”: ‘ninjin’ (carrot)/’ningen’.
I am still proud of this error to a bar-maid:
“You’re a pretty virgin!”: ‘shojo’ (girl)/’shojjo’.
I have not yet confused ‘omanju’ (red-bean bun) and another one of my very favourite things that sounds much the same, but I live in fear of doing so.
The problem is, as my wife brings home omanju (red-bean buns) several times a week, it gives me so much opportunity to screw up. This wouldn’t be a problem with the Japanese c-word (she is my wife, after all), except she is always serving these when we have guests: making sure I always have c— on my mind, in a sense.
I forgot to add that I had a habit of mixing up the words for 'unique' (koseiteki) and 'sexual' (seikouteki) when talking up the OL at the public junior school where I worked, but that's your average Freudian slip.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Shinjuku growth


The video demonstrates two things: Shinjuku's growth through 'the Bubble', and the extreme Japanese vocalization of surprise.  From here.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

JET alumni survey

A sad fate awaits Charisma Man, just like the rest of us.  With all of the unsightly overhead wires doesn't the cartoon just evoke Tokyo... or Toronto?

On another Japan-blog, I came across a link to yet another online survey of JET alumni.  I cannot imagine how many of these I have seen.  What an industry JET has provided, keeping graduate students employed in the Social 'Sciences'.  I did not complete it, because I am not an American JET alumni, and I couldn't be bothered unless I were going to throw the results.  I read through to see how wide the net of questions is cast. So wide I cannot see what correlations they can draw.  Interesting questions at least, from employment to cultural attitudes, politics and more.

And yet... None of that information is interesting in the slightest, is it?  What are the questions you ask other alumni of a couple years in Japan, if you meet them with a few drinks in you, and the other alumni is a man, or an unusually cool woman?  Vulgar as the following questions are, they're the ones you want answered, but never see on a JET alumni survey.
'How many woman did you sleep with? No, not gaijin, they don't count.'
'Did you sleep with any of the secretaries/English-teachers/PE-teachers at your school?  All of the above?'
'How many of your adult students did you sleep with?  Don't tell me about any others!'
'You married your first Japanese girlfriend?  Moron.'
'Not getting as much from the Japanese-wife as the Japanese-girlfriend despite being the same woman?  So it goes...'
'Did you cheat on your wife/girlfriend/fiancée?  No?  Bullshit.'
'What did you do to get reasonable condoms/deodorant?'
'Did you catch any STDs?'
'How often did you wake with tatami-face'?
'How many obnoxiously drunk salary-men have you pushed: out of a train, off of assaulting a woman, off of assaulting a homeless person?'
'Do you still think 'Japanese are so polite' after riding the trains in rush-hour?'
'Have you ever seen a Japanese man give up a seat for anyone, even if he was in the 'courtesy-seat'?'
I could do this all day.