Please Vote for the Guy Doing a Bad Adam Sandler Impression

The poster declares 「生活を守り抜く。」 (defend their lives), but his pose says, I love the part in Billy Madison where Billy acts out Shakespeare.

How could anyone take a man seriously when he has a poster printed that makes it look like someone is dangling a doughnut in front of him? Is he going to defend our lives from doughnuts by eating them all?

One thing is for sure, I giggle every time I see this.

japan, travel

Going to Hokkaido (北海道へ行っています) part 1

I went to Hokkaido (北海道) over Golden Week, which takes place over the end of April and the beginning of May.

In this first installment I want to talk about getting there.

I took the long route. Also know as the ferry. I left from Fukushima City (福島市) to sendai (仙台) and from Sendai I took the ferry overnight.

The ferry is by far, the cheapest way to get to Hokkaido. Roundtrip tickets cost a lot less than half the price of a plane ticket. The price you pay is time, it took about seventeen hours to get there.

The “ferry” is more like a cross between the ferries I’ve been on in the US and a cruise ship. There is a range of rooms from suites that can match any four-star hotel to a giant room with fifty futons spread across in the floor. There is a movie theater, a restaurant, a bathhouse, a game room, and a few more fancy things which I didn’t really care about.

I spent most of my time in the lobby area with my friends. There were tables and slightly comfortable chairs, so we stayed up late played a few games and then hit the hay around 1 or 2am.

I was so tired I thought for sure I’d be out the minute my skinny butt hit the futon, but that was not what the night had ready for me. One treat I was offered was a loud guy talking just outside the room all night. He wasn’t Japanese, but he spoke it well enough to hit on a Japanese girl all night, and I do mean all night. Once I figured out how to close the door to the large room I was tossed another delight, the standard super loud snoring guy. This one came with sleep apnea action. The bonus was when he made sounds like he’d just swallowed a golfball at 4am. …And just for good measure he got up and fell on me, giving my leg a taste of pro-wrestling elbow-drop goodness. What a peach that man was!

The only thing that kept me alive the next day was the bathhouse. I’d never been to one before in Japan, but let me tell you this, if you ever need to function after only sleeping an hour and a half a bathhouse is a pretty good way to fight through the day.


Pleasure Supply: a Lunch Box for Men

One of the joys of living in Japan is finding everyday things with slight twists. For example in the grocery store I found this lunch box.

Let’s go over why this is awesome.
1) Let’s start with the obvious. It’s a “Men’s Lunch Box.” Sorry ladies, you may not place and transport your foods within this.

I’m not sure what makes it a men’s lunch box, I’m guessing the size has something to do with it. But where does that leave the ladies in Japan who have large appetites?

2) It is called “Pleasure Supply.” And I think that is all that needs to be said about that.

3) It carries this description (in English) “The simple form makes a beautiful and practical lunch box. You can have full realization of its high quality, use by use.” The vast majority of Japanese people won’t be able to understand the English here. But let’s ignore that. “Full realization of its quality,” but only “use by use.” …How many uses before the realization is full? I can’t wait to find out!


My Two Otakus

The other night a friend of mine tipped me off to a second, older, meaning for the word otaku in Japanese. I’ve only heard it applied to geeks. オタク go to Akihabara [1] [2] [3] and live for video games, anime, and figurines… or so the legend goes.
akihabara 1
akihabara 2

Apparently it can also mean “your house.” My guess is that it is a little formal and polite, but I’ll have to run that by my Japanese teacher to be sure.

お宅 – your house
オタク – geek


Japan's Emoticons

I’ve always assumed Americans started emoticons in chatrooms, I have no idea if that is true. It doesn’t really matter though. What I do know for a fact is that Japan has taken the emoticon to a level that Americans have never dreamed.

First of all they read horizontally not vertically. While our smiley face is a simple :) the Japanese use (^_^)

But it is much more than just horizontal versus vertical. Emoticons in Japan are a second language. There are thousands of them and they mean different things.

Feel like crying? (T_T ) or ( ;_;)
If you feel tired? (~o~) Maybe you are sleeping already. (-_-) zzz…
Being cheerful is easy too. p(*^-^*)q
Let’s give a kiss. ( ̄ε ̄@)
Maybe you want to talk about a cat? (=^_^=) How about a bear? ( ̄(エ) ̄)

Some are easy to read. Others are a little difficult until you get some explanation.
(。_°☆\(- – ) Means that you’ve just been beaten.
(-_-メ)/~~~~~~~~(T_T) Means you just got smacked.
(^人^) Means that you are praying.

There are others that (for me) are completely incomprehensible. For example I recently got a email with(*>∀<p♡q)and I have no idea what to make of it. Japanese is tough as it is, but there are subtexts that aren’t even using Japanese that make me confused. (- -、)


English Tip: know when to hire someone

Unless you are fluent in English it is absolutely a smart and essential idea to hire someone to proofread anything and everything you print in English. Mistakes in a conversation or writing a letter to a friend are fine. English speakers make mistakes all the time, no big deal. But when you are printing a brochure or using an English word in the name of your company it can lead to some pretty big mistakes. Take スウェットショップ for example. In Japanese it might be OK, but in English a “sweat shop” is a bad place where children are forced to work 18 hour days for a dollar a month making things for export (like crappy t-shirts and shoes for Nike).

The lesson: hire someone who knows all the meanings of what you are writing. 『Sweat Shop』は下手英語です。


Best Place to Stay in Kyoto

An amazing combination of price, friendliness, and experience, Shunkoin (春光院 — Temple of the Ray of Spring Light) is definitely the place to stay. On my recent trip to Kyoto I spent two nights there and it was fantastic.

Located in a large temple complex, the Shunko Temple has two styles of rooms. Most of the rooms are just very simple carpeted areas with a futon in the center. For the cheaper rooms there is are two shared bathrooms and two shared showers. The more expensive rooms have beautiful hardwood floors, a futon (with a heating pad beneath it), a desk and chair, a private bathroom and shower. All rooms have a shared kitchen, which has all the modern amenities. Best of all there are bicycles free for the taking. While the accommodations aren’t luxurious they are more than adequate.

For a very small extra charge you can take part in a short zazen guided meditation. After the meditation you’ll be given a tour of the temple which is beautiful and rich in history. And after that you’ll be served delicious green tea. If you don’t know any Japanese you’ll be extremely comfortable here as the vice-abbot speaks English very fluently (perhaps more fluently than some American’s I know). The mediation and tour are both in English from start to finish.

The temple is located in northern Kyoto very close to Ninnaji, Ryoanji, and Kinkakuji. A short ways to the west is Daikakuji and Arashiyama. It is a few minutes away from a train station (¥190 to/from Kyoto Station) and there are bus stops everywhere. In short, the location is very convenient. While a stay in the central area of Kyoto may put you in a convenient location you’ll pay a lot more to be surrounded by noise and cement buildings. While the station and its surrounding area may be the center, it is just outside of central Kyoto that its real heart lies.

A stay at Shunkoin is a fantastic idea. It is a quiet, peaceful, friendly and cheap cultural experience.