Bottoms up

Does this image make a woman want to buy jeans? It just makes me think of those old scratch and sniff picture books I had when I was a kid. 


Bushido bathroom

Samurai restroom signs at a park in Yotsuya. During the Edo period, there was a gate into the city and a watchtower near here. It's a bit sad to think that these comical images are the only visible reminder of the area's colorful history.


Nightmare interview

This would have been appropriate for Halloween, but I'm only one day late. I love Alice Cooper. And I love when I find any new interview that I haven't seen before, especially one in Japan. This one's from 1990, when Alice was doing his "Trashes the World" Tour. It's about 15-minutes long, but half the time Alice has to sit and look uncomfortable as the cute woman translates to the nerdy guy with bad teeth. During the odd pauses when Alice isn't talking, you can him squirming inside his squeaky leather (snakeskin? plastic?) jacket of nails.

Alice's best line to the Japanese translator: "May I say, you speak great Italian!"



Sometimes you find yourself in a public restroom in Tokyo that doesn't have any toilet paper. It happens. Usually by the time you are inside the stall and realize that there's nothing to wipe with, it's too late to run out of the stall and fork over 100 yen for tissue paper out of a machine. Especially when the machine is located outside of the restroom itself, as seen here. That's when I pull a Bukowski ala Factotum and use my shorts instead and clog the toilet.

Rinse and repeat

Gargling is a popular pastime in Japan. This restroom even has a "gargle device" installed.


Traffic advisory

Despite evidence to the contrary, Japanese people believe that earthquakes are caused by a giant catfish.


Spread 'Em

This is a manners poster. A what!? Yes, I understand your reaction. It is probably much like those punctuation marks. !?

You may have heard that Japanese people are so well-mannered. So polite. Etc. Well if that was true, there would be no need for these kinds of manner posters all over the subway.

This particular poster annoys me more than most. The question it asks in Japanese is "Why are your legs spread?" You may not be as quick as me to notice, but that's a man sitting there. A MAN.

Question answered.


Submarine alley

Help me solve this mystery. This sign is one of a couple placed near my house where there are many narrow streets. The sign says there are alleyways ahead, so watch out for bicycles and children suddenly darting out.

If you look closer, there is a silhouette of what appears to be a submarine.Both signs have it.

What's the meaning of the submarine?


Brown Line Express

Don't you hate it when you're riding to work on the subway and you suddenly have a diarrhea attack? Here's an ad for anti-crap-your-pants medicine called "Stopper."

I like how the bottom of the ad directs people to download a toilet locater app for their smartphone. From my experience, it seems more people here vomit on train cars and platforms than blow a gasket, so they really should be marketing barf bags instead.


Body by Bespin

Here is a woman encased in carbonite hanging on a wall outside a drinking establishment in Hiroshima. Ever since the intergalactic gangster Jabba the Hutt hung the frozen Han Solo up in his palace, it's been a popular way for gangsters in Japan to deal with troublemakers. She most likely worked as a hostess in one of the many pubs sprinkled across this tiny nation. She probably didn't sell enough champagne or enough of herself to customers to make the boss happy. Don't feel too sorry for her. . she should be perfectly fine. If she survived the freezing process, that is.



This is not an uncommon sight in Tokyo. Cars are often too big for garages. Or is it the other way around? There's something kind of cute about this. Like the way a kid might hide behind a curtain when playing hide-and-seek, and not realize that his feet are sticking out from underneath.


Working girls

Don't let those colorful, sexy silhouettes fool you. This is not a poster for a new Charlie's Angels movie. This is a sign for Girls Office Tokyo, an OL-style maid cafe and bar. OL stands for "office lady," a term used for female staff who do clerical work. It's a more modern take on the maid cafes that started years ago in Akihabara and are now all over the country. (I just saw one on my recent trip to Hiroshima.) There are maid cafes where the staff wears French maid outfits, rabbit ears, and even traditional Japanese kimono. I guess someone thought those costumes were too fantastical or realized that some men fantasize about the women in their offices. In many Japanese companies, OLs wear uniforms (that means skirts). I went out with an OL on a date once, and she wore her uniform because she thought I'd be turned on by it. Wrong. Touching the stiff material (polyester?) just made me think of old people in a hospital.


Avengers' acidophilus

The Avengers Assemble has opened in Japan. Back in May, I saw it in the U.S., where it was just called The Avengers. In addition to the plain movie title there, I also had to be content with boring yogurt flavors. Not in Japan, the land that gave us Lipovitan! Here I can eat Energy Yogurt that is fortified with royal jelly and vitamin B. Sorry, Iron Man, but it's not fortified with iron. Its sour flavor, though, might make anyone except the Hulk turn green. Tastes like Oronamin C gone rancid.


Fembot floorshow

Last Saturday night I checked out the new Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku with some friends. Be warned, though. . it's more of a show than a restaurant. All you get for 3000 yen is an unappealing cold bento box (I've had better convenience store bentos) and some drinks. But the flashing lights, silicone in bikinis, and giant mannequins on wheels sort of make up for it. Do not bring your epileptic friends unless you want to see them on the floor, too.


Boyz & the hood

This illustration supposedly shows the proper way to use a squat toilet. In Japan, circle means "correct." X means "incorrect." However, I have a problem here. While it is correct to face the hood while squatting, I do not recommend placing one's hands on it for balance as this person is doing. Maybe that's just me. I know. . . what does it matter since you're going to wash your hands afterwards anyway? I say, why make your hands dirtier in the first place? Especially since a lot of public restrooms don't provide soap.


Gate to the gap

This skinny door enables access to the space between two adjacent buildings. (The sign says "no unauthorized people allowed.") In contrast to a city like Manhattan, buildings in Tokyo rarely share walls. The result is a city full of gaps. This particular gap, though, is pretty wide in comparison to most, which so are often so narrow that physical access to them is impossible. They are great places for all sorts of refuse to build up over the years. Someone should come up with a type of architectural dental floss to clean these spaces. 


Dance Dance Revolution

Stumbled upon this Awa Dance Festival (Awa Odori) in Hatagaya on Saturday afternoon. Whenever I see this kind of stuff in Japan, I get excited. It reminds me of the fire festival scene in Akira Kurosawa's "The Hidden Fortress." The characters in that film are smuggling gold and try to use the festival as a cover; instead they get caught up in the frenzy of the dance. Later, when the princess is facing her death, she recalls how alive the dance made her feel and sings the festival song. Dancing festivals back in the Sengoku and Tokugawa period were a lot more anarchic (and possibly more fun), but since we're here in the 21st century, I'll have to settle for this or the movies.


Kushi Fever

This restaurant sign seems to suggest that Pac-Man eats here, and that he prefers to eat his power pellets on a skewer, kushi-yaki style. While blatant trademark/copyright infringement like this maybe common in China, it's surprising to see it here in Japan. Especially for a character that was created here. Maybe it's permissible because he's not yellow?


Ballot Boy

I spotted this poster on an outdoor public notice board. The "No!" is in reference to political contributions and how giving or receiving gifts and money is against the law. The little yellow guy is called Meisuikun. He's designed to look like a ballot box. Those two black lines on the top of his head are the slots for ballots. He's got wings, too. Maybe that means your vote is just going to fly away and not really count?

This site explains all about the character (Japanese only). Even if you can't read the text, scroll down to the bottom to see some localized versions of Meisuikun as well as some photos of him hanging out with sports teams. And if you find yourself wanting a Meisuikun of your own, here's papercraft instructions on how to make one. Just print, cut and paste! You'll notice that he even has a little lock on his back instead of a tail.


Dragon Clouds

I swear I saw a dragon breathing fire in the sky today. It is the year for them, after all.


Pray for Japan

Tokyo has these electronic public prayer stations all around the city, like in the film THX-1138. You put some coins in, kneel before the screen, punch a few buttons, and you can talk to a priest who speaks through a hole in the wall. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you get connected straight through to God. When you are done, a piece of paper is printed from the machine. The paper tells you where you are going in the future. People hold onto the piece of paper until they get there.


Sad Robot

I love this robot. I think he used to fly one of the Star Tours Starspeeders. Now he just works as a lonely parking lot attendant in Tokyo.


This old lady (hard to guess her age) is often hanging out on the streets of Yotsuya Sanchome. She wears big sunglasses, has long ponytails, and carries a big, gold bag with Ayumi Hamasaki's logo stamped on it. She loves talking, to herself and to anybody that will listen. Snapped this pic months ago, and just today I realized that I haven't seen her around in a while. 


Anti-Smoking Sticker

Smelly. Dirty. Uncool.

I wholeheartedly agree.

I also hate when old men walk around with their shirts off and their lungs exposed.


Ultraman Pachinko

666. The number of the beast. Or the number of Ultraman?

As my friend said to me, "Are you playing for money or for your soul?"


Merry in the Gloom

The other night in Korakuen. In the rain.


Puffy Love

Another recent basement find. This was part of a series of keychains featuring the Japanese female pop duo Puffy. They eventually changed their name to Puffy AmiYumi when they promoted themselves in the US because of possible confusion or legal trouble with Puff Daddy whose nickname was Puffy. But then Puff Daddy became P. Diddy, and then just Diddy. .

Puffy never stopped being Puffy in Japan, though.

This item appears to be worth about $15 or more, but I wouldn't sell it. It's sentimental. The first Japanese song I sang at karaoke was Puffy's "Ai no Shirushi."


New New is the Old New

I have a fascination with the New Shimbashi building. First of all, it's hardly new, although it was at one time when it was built in the late 1960s. Then it's name, when translated literally, ends up reading as New New Bridge Building, because Shin means new in Japanese.

The old Shimbashi Station building has been preserved as a museum to the railroad, although the line no longer runs through it. But when they built a new Shimbashi Station, they didn't bother calling it the New Shimbashi Station.


Book of the Month

Look what I found in the basement. Can't wait to start reading it.


Looney Lodge

You must be crazy to stay at this hotel.


Old Phones Off

One thing people notice when they visit Japan is how unusually quiet it is inside trains and buses. This is mainly because there are signs and announcements asking people to refrain from talking on their mobile phones and turning their ringers off. On most mobiles here the silent vibration setting is even labeled as "manner mode." People still use their mobiles, of course, but mostly just for checking mail or playing games.

In recent years, the courtesy seat area (see this previous post) of trains has been designated as a "no mobile phone" area, and you are requested to actually turn the power off if you are sitting or standing there. Supposedly the signal from a mobile could adversely affect anyone with a pacemaker in the vicinity. The area is sometimes designated with yellow grab handles adorned with the message pictured above.

What strikes me as odd is how outdated the mobile phone graphic is. Unless you have a really old handset, no mobiles have external antennas anymore. The first phone I had in Japan back in 1999 actually looked like this graphic and had a screen about that tiny: J-Phone's JP01 by Panasonic (I had the dark blue one on the right). Wonder when this logo will be phased out to be replaced by a generic smartphone icon.


Alone With Lene

I love Lene Lovich. Who doesn't? Well, back in the day, a lot of people didn't. They thought she was too weird. She wasn't, though. She was just ahead of her time. (Unlike Lady Gaga, who only seems weird to people over 80, and is therefore easily cashing in on ground previously broken by more risk-taking artists like Lovich and Nina Hagen.)

Apparently, thinking that Japanese audiences would love anything weird, Lovich chose to record both an English and nihongo cover version of Tommy James and the Shondells' "I Think We're Alone Now" in 1978. The Japanese version appeared as the b-side to Lovich's hit "Lucky Number," way before Tiffany's cover topped the charts in the 1980s.

Japanese pop idol Chika Nakamura covered the song again in 1989, but it was probably the success of teen pop-star Tiffany's version that inspired her. The lyrics for both songs, however, are completely different, with Lovich's being more of a literal translation.

Nearly two decades later, Lovich's song made it onto the soundtrack of Beverly Hills Ninja, a movie I will probably never watch (sorry, Chris Farley, RIP).

Compare the two versions here, via youtube:

Lene Lovich, (I Think We're) Alone Now (Japanese version)

Chika Nakamura, Hitori Bochi ni Kaeranai

If you want to sing along with Lene Lovich in Japanese, see her lyrics after the jump. . .


Preggers On Board

The trains in Tokyo have courtesy seats for the elderly, disabled/injured people, parents with babies or pregnant women. But it's not always easy to tell if a woman's pregnant. You don't want to embarrass someone who might just be a bit chubby by getting up and offering her your seat. Solution: pregnant woman can wear or attach to their handbags badges that look like the window sticker on the right. The Japanese means roughly, "There's a baby in my belly."

I've got a bit of a belly, so I am considering trying out one of these badges. Since I'm a guy, I'm not sure how well it would work. It'd be funny to see people's reactions, though.

In the meantime, I just walk around carrying a cane and sit wherever I like. 


Butt Security

For 24-hour protection of your backdoor. . . Call ASS.

Whoever came up with this acronym must be a real A-hole.


Zombie Bentos

If it smelled like natto, it would be even more realistic!

funny food photos - Horrifying Bento
see more My Food Looks Funny

Jelly Juice

Anyone who knows me knows that I love jelly beans. I've even been on the Jelly Belly factory tour twice. So this Jelly Belly Very Cherry drink in the convenience store fridge caught my eye. I didn't taste it, but I'm pretty sure it's just cherry-flavored punch.

The funny thing with the name of the product is that the Japanese katakana pronunciation of "belly" and "very" are exactly the same. Belly is also pronounced the same as "berry," so I wonder how many people here misunderstand the meaning of the jelly bean's brand name.


Eyes Without a Face

This is an anti-crime sticker created by Tokyo Metropolitan Police that I see all around the city. The watchful eyes look like a kabuki face (or a lost member from KISS, depending on your point of view). I am sad to report, however, that the police here don't wear any face paint.



No matter how cheap a breakfast combo might be, seeing only a half a piece of toast in this ad makes me feel like I'd be getting ripped off.

Even if it includes unlimited drink bar AND a hard-boiled egg, who thought this was a good idea? Was it because a whole piece of toast wouldn't fit on that plate?


Cucumber Contribution

Kappabashi is a neighborhood in Tokyo that's famous for shops that sell the plastic food displays used in restaurants windows. The area is named after kappa, reptile-like river creatures often mentioned in Japanese folklore. Last week I visited a small shrine dedicated to kappa tucked inside the side streets. I laughed when I saw cucumbers, in varying stages of decay, adorning the shrine's offering box and statues. According to legend, kappa like to eat cucumbers. That's why cucumber roll sushi is called kappamaki.


My Little Pony

For some odd reason, Kanda Myojin Shrine has a pony. Her name is Akari. I took the top photo a couple weeks ago. The bottom one was taken yesterday when she was being walked. At first I didn't think it was the same horse, but I am pretty sure it's Akari with her hair shaved off.

According to the shrine's official website, Akari is going to be 2-years-old on May 15. When she gets older, her coat will eventually turn white. I am not a fan of caged animals, and I wish she she could be living on a farm somewhere instead. I am no equestrian expert, but she doesn't seem to energetic or happy.

The new haircut really shows off her legs and fabulous figure, though.


Robocop Sold Out

Wow, I never knew Robocop stored Japanese cockroach spray in his leg-holster! Looks like he also was a paid spokes-cyborg for UFO instant yakisoba. While I thought he was protecting the poor citizens of Detroit, he was making the big yen over in Japan during the Bubble.

Robocop bug-spray commercial (youtube)


Fairy Toilet

Something about the architecture of this public toilet in a park near Yushima reminds me of fairy tales. Maybe it's the pointed roof. I kind of imagine a stinky version of Pinocchio or Rapunzel living inside of here.


Coffee and Raisin Bread

I am fascinated and scared by this little coffee shop. Or rather, coffee and budoupan shop. It's called Maitsuru, or dancing stork. The fascination stems from the combination of the English word for coffee, instead of the katakana kohi, with the Japanese word for raisin bread (budoupan). I am scared because the bread display in the window looks like it was put out there a few decades ago.

No Parking

This cute little cop is raising his hand as if to say "stop," but this a no parking sign. So why isn't he crossing his arms, the gesture for "dame! (don't do it!)" that everyone understands in Japan? Another mystery that will probably remain unsolved.

Add that to the mystery of the holes in his ears and his missing left hand.



You might think this sign is for a beauty parlor, and you wouldn't be exactly wrong. I didn't go inside and ask about their typical clientele; the description translates as "Mens Hair and Makeup." If that's the case, I say the the three heads at the top can go in, but the chick with a devilish goatee and the androgynous New Waver have to leave. 


Parks Rule!

These rules are posted at the small parks near my office. No baseball, no fireworks, etc. The sign at the top asks people to keep their dogs on a leash. That rule isn't on the bottom sign, though. As you can see, the girl that tagged the house with graffiti (which is not allowed) has her dog running free. Or maybe it's just a stray. 



That is one bizarre haircut for a middle-aged man in a suit. Does this guy think he is Astroboy