11.18.2009

Monsutaa Doggu



I am loving this cover image for the Japanese VHS version of "Monster Dog" starring Alice Cooper.

8.12.2009

Ega-chan's Antics



I originally saw this on TV last summer when the theme song from the anime "Ponyo" was a hit. I finally rented and watched the film last weekend, and I thought it was dumb, even for a kid's movie. But this spoof of the theme song, with lyrics about the comedian Egashira 2:50 and featuring him doing all sorts of crazy stuff, is pretty funny.

8.06.2009

Central Post Office



The Central Post Office in Tokyo was a 1930s structure just across the street from Tokyo Station. It was listed by Docomomo as a historically important Modernist building. Japan Post was slated to build a new tower on the site and preserve only 20% of the original building. Then a politician got involved, made a fuss about getting the site registered as a Cultural Asset, and the plans were revised to "retain more of the building" -- or so the Japan Times said back in March. Even in the Asahi Shimbun, an article stated that Japan Post's plans to demolish the building were "abandoned."

For months the building has been entirely covered up, but on my daily train ride to work, I could see at the rear of the building that demolition was taking place. On Tuesday, though, I noticed that some the screens covering the facade had come down, so I took this photo. It looks like more than just the facade is being preserved (there are actually lights on inside the building), but to me it doesn't look like more than 20% of the original building has been saved. Check out this aerial photo and judge for yourself. Basically, the building was fairly large, as it occupied pretty much most of that site. Sometime after this aerial photo was taken, the middle section of the facade was also demolished, as you can see if you look at the left of my photo. For me, that curved part of the building was most architecturally appealing detail of the post office as it mimicked the flow of the street.

7.13.2009

Whiskey a Go Go

Let's watch as Koyuki shows us how to mix a delicious highball. Don't usually touch whiskey, or whisky according to Suntory, but this ad makes me thirsty.

6.20.2009

Cut and Blow



Seems I am always learning a new word. Today's word: GAYANGO, which apparently means "Hair and a lot of fun." Actually, the pronunciation of the katakana would be "gajango," but the romanized GAYANGO definitely rings more accurate for a beauty salon. Of course, it would work better as a title for a gay western or maybe the sequel to "Brokeback Mountain."

6.19.2009

Frappucino Petito



Does Starbucks in the U.S. have these cute samples that look like a miniaturized version of a Frappucino? Or is it only here in Japan? I am pretty sure the contents of my sample (coffee jelly and frozen coffee) is only on the menu in Japan. The Japanese sure do love coffee-flavored jelly! I had never eaten it until I worked at a Japanese public school. JELL-O Brand apparently tried to market coffee-flavored gelatin in North America, but it was discontinued.

6.18.2009

Rainbows at Night

All buildings should light up at night like the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills.

6.17.2009

Akihabara Anniversary



I should have posted this last week. I went for lunch on June 8 in Akihabara, not far from my office, and passed the street corner where a year ago to the day some nut went on a stabbing spree, killing seven people. News reporters were gathered around the spot where people had placed flowers as a memorial. Akihabara is always crowded, pretty much like the rest of Tokyo's business and shopping areas, and it's hard to imagine what I would have done if I had been one of the people who just happened to be strolling along the street that Sunday. I had passed this street corner dozens of times before the murders and dozens of times since. Random violence like the Akihabara murders is the scariest kind of violence because it could happen anywhere at anytime. Yet, just like with earthquakes, we generally don't let the fear of these kinds of incidents stop us from going about our daily lives.

May Disease


For some reason, I totally lost any desire to blog about anything over the past month and a half. It is quite possible that I was suffering from what the Japanese call "gogatsu-byou," literally May Disease. In Japan, the new business and school year starts in April, so new recruits and students work really hard for the first few weeks. Then, BOOM, we get this great week of national holidays, and it seems to wreak havoc on people's mental ability to function. This leads to a kind of depression. (At least, this is my understanding of "gogatsu-byou." I ain't no doctor.)
But since I didn't just start my job in April, I really have no excuse. And since it's halfway through June already, I must just be lazy.

4.02.2009

Love Sub

Supposedly there's a love hotel in Shibuya with a swimming pool in the room. Supposedly there are geeks who rent the room out to play with their remote control submarines. Supposedly there is a video of this on YouTube. I'll believe it when I see it. . .



This gives a whole new meaning to the euphemism "watching the submarine races."

3.31.2009

Wash and Go



Washlets (toilets with a bidet-like spray nozzle) have become so common in Japan, you not only find them in homes, but also in the restrooms of offices, department store and restaurants. You could say that ass-washing is almost a national sport. (OK, not quite.) I've always made it a point not to use a public sprayer because I figure that any water spraying up has to fall down. . . and where is it falling? Onto the very spray nozzle that everyone is using. Well, bathroom fixture manufacturer TOTO must want to tap into this market of people who are either afraid of using public washlets or are simply afraid of going to toilets without one available. This portable washlet that I spotted yesterday at Yodobashi Camera runs on one AA battery and can fit into your purse or briefcase. The display at the store even had English explanations aimed at making this product appeal to all those foreign tourists who "suffer from hemorrhoids" or those who want to clean themselves "during or after pregnancy."

3.30.2009

Train Robbery



This notice on a train ticket vending machine warns people that gum or other substances may have been placed intentionally in the coin return to rob them of their money. Most people are in such a rush that they probably don't count their change, and after they have gone through the turnstile, someone will place their fingers into the machine and pocket the blocked coins. Some of the machines even let you buy a ticket with a 10,000 yen note, so any change over 1000 yen will come out of a separate bill return. Now if I could only find a way to block that, I could quit my day job.

3.17.2009

Extra Appendages



My gym has a room outfitted with massage chairs, and I often use it after my "rigorous" workouts. There's a poster on the wall that explains, in Japanese and English, how to behave (no sleeping!) and how to use the chairs (15-minute time limit!). I've never really looked closely at all the rules, but the other day some text caught my eye. At first I thought the vibrations of the chair had shaken my retina loose. Upon closer inspection, though, I realized it said exactly what I thought it said. Apologies for the blurry pic -- I rushed in order not to disturb the people that were "not" sleeping. The English says, "Please put the spare prick in the basket." The original Japanese says something like "Please use the basket for your belongings." How that translates to "spare prick," I have no idea.

3.10.2009

The Long Arm of the Claw



This sign, which is found on most train platforms here, has always struck me as odd. Yeah, it's just a notice to tell stupid people not to jump onto the tracks to retrieve dropped items, but still the combination of the faceless silhouettes, the alien-like posture of the little "girl" and the long, skinny claw gives me the creeps. It might be triggering memories of my UFO abduction.

3.09.2009

Shower Suit



Hate those dry cleaning bills? People in Japan apparently do. According to this TokyoWalker article, since last spring when clothing manufacturer Konaka debuted its "Shower Clean Suit," more than 150,000 have been sold. The company's amusing commercial shows men wearing their suits under the showers in a public bath house. The beautiful blue mosaic of Mt. Fuji on the wall, a common decoration for bath houses, makes for an eye-catching ad. But if the ad was trying to emphasize the convenient aspect of the suit, I think they missed the mark. Public baths are no longer in every neighborhood like they once were, and you'd most likely have to go out of your way to find one.

3.05.2009

Hallelujah!



I had read about miracle fruit in the New York Times about a year ago, but yesterday was the first time I had ever seen it in a supermarket. Apparently, if you eat this berry, for about a half hour afterwards, any sour foods that you eat will taste incredibly sweet and delicious. I personally don't see the point of this, especially since I usually eat sour foods because I like the sour taste. The price is another factor that will keep me from trying it: 580 yen for one! Maybe they could reduce the price if they didn't over package the thing. Yes, that is just one tiny miracle fruit inside all that plastic. Even more amusing is how the price sign says one "pack" is 580 yen when you're not getting a pack of anything at all, just a lot of packaging!

3.03.2009

Grate Advertising



This is the second floor window of a tatami-maker. Tatami are traditional Japanese straw floormats. I like how metal grillwork over the window has been manipulated to form the kanji character for "tatami."

2.26.2009

Ultra Can



I'm more of a 100% fruit juice kind of guy, so I almost never buy soft drinks. But how can I resist this? Ultraman-themed cans of cider! Unfortunately for me, cider here does not mean real apple-cider, which I love, but a clear sweet soda. There are six cans representing six versions of the superhero character from over the last four decades, including Ultra Seven. The beverage manufacturer, DyDo, is selling them for only 100 yen to encourage people to buy the whole set. I think if I downed six cans, I would have an ultra sugar rush.

2.25.2009

Green Computers



There's all this talk about green computers lately. Well, you can't get any greener than this Gachapin notebook PC. Not sure whether it does anything good for the environment, but it's loaded with Gachapin and Mukku pics, icons and sounds. Buy it online at LaLaBit Market.

2.19.2009

Big Cans



Most canned coffee in Japan comes in little cans. Not American Coffee. Everyone knows that we Americans like things to be BIG. Our coffee, our cars, and our women.

As most canned coffees are here, it's got tons of sugar in it. I bought a can of it a while back just because I liked the design. It's so retro, I figured it must be intentional, but maybe it actually is an old logo that's been around for decades.

2.17.2009

Bad Manners



It's not uncommon in Tokyo to see posters in train stations that tell people how to behave properly so as not to offend their fellow passengers when riding the rails. I was a bit confused, though, when I came across this one that says "Please do it at home." Do what at home, exactly? Eat heart-shaped snacks? Or fondle my crotch like the man in the illustration is doing here?

2.16.2009

Pig Out



I'm not usually a fan of fried food, but this tonkatsu at Tonki in Meguro was fried pork cutlet heaven. Diligent servers dressed in white kept piling free cabbage on my plate, and I think eating it all helped soak up the grease that would have otherwise collected in the bottom of my stomach.

2.12.2009

Two-story Slice



Tokyo's got a lot of wedge-shaped buildings. This one in Meguro is no Flatiron Building, but it's got its own charm.

2.10.2009

Presidential Pachinko





Obama's already President in the U.S., but it looks like the campaign for "CHANGE" is still going on at this Shibuya pachinko parlor. Actually, the place is just advertising its grand reopening.

2.09.2009

No Yatai



This sign near Tokyo Dome made me laugh. No yatai, or street vendors, are allowed on this corner. The use of a black and white photo of a yatai on the sign is what really struck me. These mostly wooden carts are a remnant of another era, yet there are still enough around that they don't normally strike me as particularly anachronistic. But here I think that the use of the modern-day internationally recognized prohibited symbol (red circle and slash) over the clip art-style photo totally overemphasizes just how outdated these two-wheeled contraptions really are.

2.06.2009

Waste Not, Want Not



Here we have what is known in Japan as a gomi-yashiki. Basically, that means a house full of garbage. This one is near Jimbocho. You can see that this place is filled to the brim with trash -- so much so that junk is spilling out of the windows. Oh, another thing. This is not an abandoned building. Someone actually lives in here. There used to be a little wooden building in the small lot in front, but it was demolished. I walked past it the day it was being torn down, and I thought that was the end of the gomi-yashiki. I didn't realize until after it was gone that the larger building behind it was also part of this garbage-hording compound! Gomi-yashiki are a somewhat common phenomenon throughout the country, and I often see sensationalist news stories on TV about these places and their mentally-ill owners.

2.05.2009

Fisher-Price is Right

If only I still had my Fisher-Price mini-van. This thing's going for 5,040 yen at some boutique toy store in Shinjuku. And the little people themselves are going for 714 yen a piece!

2.04.2009

New Sky Building



The New Sky Building in Okubo looks like a battleship in dry dock. Built in 1970, it is no longer new. Rather, it is in a beautiful state of disrepair, with gray paint peeling from the walls and netting covering the facade. But the elevators work, and signs for businesses on some of the apartment doorways suggests that there are still some tenants working and/or living in the 15-story tower -- though how many is another question. This place reminds me of the something out of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil." If only I could see inside the individual units. A bit of urban exploration got me outside to the 14th floor balcony, where the wind was blowing so hard it was as if the building was riding the high seas.


2.03.2009

Showa Staircase

This staircase is in a building full of hostess clubs. It has a retro-Showa look that I like. The way the openings in the ceiling line up with the staircase makes it seem as if the staircase is actually an elevator that descended from above. Or maybe I am just crazy.

2.02.2009

Ganji Curry


Stopped by my favorite Japanese curry rice place, Ganji, in Shinjuku yesterday for a late lunch. As you can see from the restaurant's sign on the street, it's located right next to Mania Shop Slum. Their beef curry has just the right combination of sweetness, spice, and big chunks of meat. I've had beef curry at many other places where I am left feeling like Clara Peller in the Wendy's commercial, but here I definitely get my 950 yen's worth. There's always some good classic rock playing in the background, and the Charlie Chaplin posters and old record album covers decorating the walls give the place a warm, worn-in atmosphere.


1.30.2009

Pink Slips

When I first arrived in Japan about ten years ago, phone booths in some parts of Tokyo were literally covered with paper fliers and even tiny booklets with photos of nude women advertising all sorts of sex services. An anti-flier law was passed several years ago, and you no longer see that kind of excess. About two years ago, though, I caught this "indecent fliers collection box" on the corner of Roppongi Crossing, a busy intersection of the nightlife district. It amused me. I haven't been to the area in a while, so I don't know if it's still there. Generally, there are no pubic trash cans on the streets of Tokyo, but this particular kind of trash has been targeted as something worthy of a special bin. I wonder what the real purpose of this box is, and what happens after the fliers are collected. Is the paper recycled? Or are the fliers simply reused and redistributed on the streets to save printing costs? It's also interesting to note the pink color of the box. These dirty fliers are called "pinku chirashi" in Japanese. Pink in Japan is the equivalent of red, as in red light district. (Editors note: As I am writing this, I am worried that perhaps the box is not really pink at all. I am color blind, and this is one of those colors that really baffles my eyes.)

1.29.2009

Sondheim's Japan



I seem to have stumbled upon some weird Japan/Stephen Sondheim connection lately. Following my post about how Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" looks and sounds odd when performed by Japanese actors, I have to say the same is true in reverse. Until now, I had never seen Sondheim's "Pacific Overtures," which tells the story of the opening of Japan to the West in the 19th century. Although it is not available on video, it apparently was broadcast in Japan years ago, and someone's put the whole thing online (although in somewhat poor video quality). I like the Japanese aesthetic and even the use of Japanese actors, but the lyrics in English just sound unnatural. Maybe if I saw it live on stage I'd be swept into the world of the play, and I wouldn't care. But I actually think this musical would work better if it was translated and performed in Japanese.

1.28.2009

Poison Puffers

I'm thinking that if tourists keep wreaking havoc at the Tsukiji fish market, maybe the vendors there should just start serving up some fatal fugu.

"Blowfish testicles prepared by an unauthorized chef sickened seven diners in northern Japan and three remained hospitalized Tuesday after eating the poisonous delicacy."
Blowfish poisoning sends 7 to hospital in Japan

1.27.2009

TV Party

This seems somewhat inappropriate to post just after I talked about foreigners behaving badly in Japan. But this video of the Beastie Boys in Japan from 1987 rocks! Adam Yauch sticking a sausage out of his zipper is just wrong in so many ways, not just because he rubs it against the hostess of the show. It's even funnier because in Japanese sausages are called wieners. And the whole performance with some porno actress on a bed is out of control! Yes, this kind of activity in public is B.A.D. As entertainment, though, I give it a big thumbs up.

Ain't Not Misbehavin'

Everyone knows that tourists act dumb no matter what country they are in. Its hard to even say the word "tourist" without it sounding derogatory. But for some reason, tourists in Japan, as well as some long term foreign visitors, feel compelled to act even stupider and ruder than your typical out-of-towner. A couple months ago there was the British guy who stripped off his clothes, jumped into the moat of the Imperial Palace grounds, and swam around while police tried to catch him. I have to say, when I saw the video of this incident, I found myself laughing at the insanity of it all, and the Keystone Cops aspect to it.
But I didn't laugh when I saw the video of drunk white guys licking fish and joyriding in forklifts at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. Behavior like this forced the market to temporarily place a ban on tourists. The ban was lifted on Jan. 19, and I am sure that the antics will begin again. You can read the AP story here. I remember how the Lonely Planet guide book for Japan that I read back in 1998 suggested going to Tsukiji in the early morning hours when you are wide awake due to jet-lag. It's also common for people staying out all night drinking to take the first train to the market, which accounts for some of the alcohol-induced retardedness. There's talk about the market moving further out of central Tokyo by 2012. Will it be far enough to keep gaijin from getting fresh with the tuna? I doubt it.

1.26.2009

Sweeney Todd-san

My mom took me to see "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway with Angela Lansbury when I was 9. It scared and amazed me. Definitely my favorite musical/tragedy/gorefest of all time. Apparently, maybe to tie in with the Tim Burton movie version, there was Japanese version staged in Tokyo last year. I missed it, but after catching this rehearsal video on YouTube, I don't think I missed much. Something a bit weird about this story being performed by an all Japanese cast in Japanese. Doesn't do much for Sondheim's music or lyrics.



On a similar note, this Korean actress seems to get the voice sounding right on another "Sweeney Todd" song.

1.20.2009

Yes, We Can!


I am waiting for the inauguration, and with that in mind, I have to say that I love this Obama mask. It's called "Mr. Obama." It's only 2,310 yen. It's made in Japan. And it looks NOTHING like him! Well, maybe it does, a little. . . if I squint. You can buy it at Loft department store.

1.16.2009

Double Vision


Interesting. Photographer Shouzo Maruta is suing another photographer, Shinichiro Kobayashi, for taking photos of the same ruined buildings in Japan. Some of the angles are similar, but the color of the images and feeling appears to be pretty different. I think this is just a case of sour grapes for a guy who didn't put out a book and establish a reputation for himself like Kobayashi did. Kobayashi is pretty much the preeminent haikyo (ruins) photographer in Japan.

1.15.2009

Octopus Slide



Haven't been posting at all. Here's just some random photo I want to share. An octopus slide in a park in Ebisu.