If you read the news you may have read about a donation for disaster relief being found in a public toilet. Apparently it was in a plastic bag, hopefully sealed tight, along with a note saying it was for Tohoku relief efforts. Japanese people are peaches, and the fact that whoever discovered this chose not to pocket the money only goes to show how damn honest most people are in that country. Here’s to wishing that the money gets to the right places to help people in a crappy situation.
Last week I played the part of a confused and then horrified observer. I was on my way to work, riding the always overcrowded Saikyo line, when a nervous and (frankly) gross looking man got on the train. He seemed to be with his girlfriend, a man-ish looking woman dressed all in white with a knee-length frilly skirt. During the train ride I was sure some funny business was going on, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. At first they seemed to be together, but I had a nagging feeling they were not. As a foreigner I was also hesitant to step into a situation I knew nothing about. As we all left the train the pieces fell into place, though. The woman seemed slightly disturbed, the man’s hand left from her side and they parted in opposite directions without so much as a look. Clearly, this man was a Chikan! A chikan is a man who rides (usually crowded) trains and gropes women. The word chikan translates to “molester” or “pervert.” At that time I still didn’t know what I could or should do. I was shocked. After a few moments the shock wore off and was replaced by a nauseating wave of disgust. I was sicken by this sleazy looking man’s actions, but (almost more so) I was also sickened by my useless inaction. I felt like an accomplice and a victim at the same time.
Today on the crowded, crowded train I found my chance for a minor redemption. To my surprise I found myself looking across the train at the same black hat with gold waves, the same scruffy face and beady eyes, the same nervous look of arousal and guilt. The Saikyo is almost always packed so full that people literally can’t move, sometimes moving even an arm is impossible. At first he was surrounded by men, but then after the next stop he managed to get next to a young girl as people shuffled off and on the train. I was separated from him by ten feet. In the packed train it might as well have been a mile. I glared at him as hard as I could and managed to catch his eye. At the next stop he moved from the girl. I saw in her face the same look of disgust and shame that I felt just a week before. I walked towards him.
As I approached I had no plan. He half looked at me and in the moment everything became action. I didn’t think, I moved. I yelled in English, “get off this fucking train!” and I pushed him hard. I am not by any means a large man, but to my surprise he flew off the train like he’d been shoved by Andrea the Giant. Having gotten him off the train my senses began to return and I yelled, “fucking chikan!” to make the situation clear to him and everyone who’d witnessed my actions.
Once I arrived at work I told the staff about what had happened and filed a report with the police.
The shame of having done nothing the first time is still a cinder burning in my gut, but today’s action has dulled that ache a bit. I hope that the people who were around me tell their coworkers and friends about the strange occurrence they observed. I hope that my small action plants a seed that allows people to do something if they see this kind of thing happening. But most of all I hope that this girl he attacked felt some small piece of what he’d stolen from her return.
Things I’ve learned in Japan: “Barcode” is Japanese-English for “combover.
There’s a little known ticket in Japan called the Seishun Juhachi kippu (literally “Youth 18 ticket”). While it was originally conceived as a ticket for the young people, nowadays it’s used by anyone and everyone who likes traveling on the cheap. The ticket costs ¥ 11,500 and is good for five (consecutive or non-consecutive) days of travel. That means you only pay ¥2,300 a day!
You just show the person at the ticket gates, get it stamped the first time you use it, and you’re traveling for next to nothing all day. You can even have multiple people traveling on the same ticket (one day per person though).
The one big drawback is that you can only travel by local or local rapid train (and the Miyajimaguchi ferry). Depending on where you are going that could mean a very long train ride. But on the bright side you’ll see a lot more of Japan through the train window. All things considered this ticket is for people who have time to spare or like traveling slowly.
Sold: Feb. 20-Mar. 31
Valid: Mar.1-Apr. 10
Sold: July 1-Aug. 31
Valid: July 20-Sep. 10
Sold: Dec.1-Jan. 10
Valid: Dec.10-Jan. 20
I used it to travel from Tokyo to Kamakura to Kyoto to Nara, and then back up to Fukushima. In US dollars that trip would have cost a bunch, maybe $600 instead I paid about $120.
If you want to send money from Japan you can use the post office. The JP (Japan Post) used to be the best deal in town. Nowadays there are other ways that are just as good. Short of setting up an account with CitiBank (which is marginally better), it’ll be pretty much the same no matter where you send money from.
Below you find the important pages from the JP booklet. You can send money in two ways.
One way is to send a money order to an address, this is the most annoying way because you have to pay for the EMS mail service and the money order can only be up to a certain amount per check— which means you may have to fill out six money orders.
The second way is to send money to an account. You can do this with cash or from one account to another. I recommend cash, because it is easier. You’ll need to have some bank account info (see below) and you’ll probably be charged by your bank to receive the money.
Translation has always been interesting to me. It is interesting to me how something like a movies are translated. Even before making it to the theater the movie can be changed dramatically through translation. The name of the movie can reshape the expectation and focus of the movie for example. While not lingual, the movie poster can also be “translated” for a different audience.
Meryl Streep’s It’s Complicated is an example of those two things happening at once. The result is that the bakery (which isn’t featured at all in the American marketing) and the character’s family become the focus. While the American version seems to focus on the character’s complicated love life.
It’s really interesting. The big question is how these two marketing campaigns reflect cultural values and whether these reflections are pleasing to witness.
The bird that makes the 14 year old boy in me giggle is the Tit. Without fail I snicker whenever I see anything about one. Do I feel a little stupid for it? Yes. Will that make me stop giggling? No.
Here are two examples of tits that make me laugh. The first is that the city of Fukushima is the tit:
The second, and my favorite, is from the rss feed on my google page. Until I saw which section the story was filed under, I was honestly confused at first when I read the title, “Great tits cope well with warming.”
Brad Pitt has been doing a whole bunch of Softbank ads here in Japan. Softbank is a cellphone company. To be more precise they are the cellphone company that refused to give me a 2 year contract and (nearly) free iPhone just because I wasn’t going to be in Japan for two more years! How dare they see through my evil scheme!!
The question I have is which is cuter for the ladies. Brad Pitt:
I promise you there is no company in the US that can make such bold claims as processing egg, shrimp, eel, sea urchin, salmon, octopus, cod ovum (which apparently can be made to look tastier than it sounds), peanuts, and sesame all within the same facility. Japan, you may win this round, but the US won’t go down without a fight!