Calendars aren’t something you go out and buy – you get given them, usually by companies you have some dealing with and who’d like to have their name on your wall through the next year. Unfortunately, along with cutting “entertainment” expenses, calendar budgets have been trimmed too and there’s a nationwide calendar deficit apparently.
A story 23 October, 2010
An old friend K was in Raffles the other day, and told us this story about a friend of hers. It dates back to 1976 (about the time I got here) but it’s true, and so ridiculous I thought I’d pass it on.
OK, K’s friend – let’s call her Jill – got back to her apartment somewhat late after a few drinks with friends; it’s a Japanese-style wooden apartment with rickety doors and primitive locks, as was the norm then. Gets into her futon, and…, and…, there’s this guy in it!! Of course she freaks out and starts screaming, like “What the f@$k’s going on!! Who are you?!! What are you doing in my futon?! Get the f&#k out of here!!” and presumably other stuff on similar lines…
So, the guy’s answer: “Speak more slowly please”.
Longevity 7 August, 2010
Japan has one of the longest life expectancies in the world, ranked up with those yoghurt-eating Bulgarians and clean-living Scandinavians (socialism is good for your health). It can’t be the laid-back lifestyle, except maybe in Okinawa which does indeed come at the top in Japan, so a lot of people put it down to the healthy Japanese diet, which is low in animal fat, high in fish, fibre, grains, vegetables… all that stuff that’s supposed to be good for you. The main thing wrong with traditional Japanese food is that it’s a bit salty, causing a lot of stomach cancer, especially in the north where a lot of pickles get them through the cold winter. Or, rather, got them through. Now there’s a Macdonalds on every street corner (ugh! I’ll tell you how much I hate that stuff some other time), young Japanese are raised on all kinds of prepackaged junk and no-one expects the next generation to live to 100 like the current lot.
Even so, you don’t yet see the kind of obesity problem here that’s hit the US and northern Europe in the last 20 years or so, and there are now some 40,000 centenarians here. Of course, carrying on an active lifestyle into old age has its limits and a lot of these old folk tend to live quietly, not going out so much… One such in Tokyo last week reached 110 I think it was, and some people from the local ward office went round to offer their congratulations, and a small present. Apart from his old age pension, this old guy had also got a little something on turning 100 but at that time his family said he didn’t want to talk to anyone, so the officials had just left it with them. This time however they were let in to Granddad’s room and there he was, but obviously not in a talkative mood.
He’d been dead for thirty years.
Queuing for Doughnuts 4 April, 2010
If you live in the US you presumably know all about Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but here in Japan they’re an exotic import, like sushi over there perhaps. I’ve never tried one but apparently it’s the crispy sugar glaze over the soft doughnut inside that does it. When KK opened a shop in Tokyo they had some 500 people queued up for 5 hours on the opening day to be among the first to sample this delicacy, so when the first Nagoya branch opened the other week they were well prepared for something almost as big here (Nagoya is about a fifth the size of Tokyo).
As it turned out, they had some 900 people waiting for eight hours for their first taste of a Krispy Kreme Doughnut.
Nagoyans like to queue apparently.
Crows nests 18 March, 2010
It’s nesting time for crows again, and the power-cut warnings have gone out. This time of year they’re caused by urban crows building their nests on top of electricity poles, using metal coat-hangers to supplement the meagre supply of twigs they’d otherwise use. You know, those hangers that come back from the dry-cleaners and people use to dry shirts on the balcony. Turn your back for a moment and the crows are off with them, and they make short-circuits on the power lines. The electricity company are kept busy clearing them out, and meanwhile we’re warned not to leave unused coat-hangers lying about.
The city crow population has been going up and up, so in Tokyo they’re becoming a major problem, but they’re fascinating birds actually – one of the few species to have free time after making a living just to play. Putting golf balls on railway lines just to see what happens, dropping things on people they don’t like… last year I saw a crow funeral for one who had maybe been electrocuted – lying on the ground under a pole anyway. I wish I could speak their language.
Aso’s sayonara present 24 October, 2009
Yesterday I finally went and picked up my 12,000 yen. This has been in the works since last Autumn. The current LDP government wanted an economic boost that would appeal to the electorate, and proposed a tax cut. Their partners the Komeito party said it wouldn’t help those too poor to pay income tax, and insisted on a cash handout instead. Twelve thousand yen – just over a hundred dollars. It’s nothing to get that excited about; I thought it would be better spent tackling youth unemployment or helping the homeless, and opinion polls showed most people didn’t want it! If it had come in December as was originally planned it might have worked a bit – I would probably have gone out for a couple of drinks – but bureaucracy meant it would take a bit longer…
People in smaller towns got theirs in the Spring but here in Nagoya the local government said there was no way they could organise a cash handout for 2 million people before August or so, and so it proved. First I got an envelope with a couple of forms and several leaflets explaining how to send off your application. Hardly anything in English of course. I think they were trying to make it as complicated as possible so some people would just not bother. I sent mine off and eventually got another paper-stuffed envelope telling me exactly where and when to show up to collect this money.
Waiting at the reception area was a security guard and a lady who checked my name and gave me a plastic token to hand in when a processing desk was free. There were 20 or so seats in the waiting area and 3 or 4 desks with a couple of clerks at each. I was the only person waiting so right away they checked my papers, got me to sign at the bottom and gave me a slip to hand in at another counter round the corner with 2 more people. There I finally got an envelope with my name on it and the money inside. The whole thing took 10 minutes maybe, but at least 10 people were employed dealing with this complicated transaction. Along with all that paper, I wonder how much the administration added to the cost of giving away 12,000 yen?
The ironic thing is if this does boost the economy a little the credit will go to the current DPJ government!
Crime in Okayama 6 June, 2009
The TV news has been full of this today – a bag snatching, two high school boys and a 29 year old policeman.
Yes, an old lady of 75 had her handbag snatched by the policeman, who was followed and caught by two high school boys.
Really – would I lie to you?
It’s an ill wind… 10 February, 2009
Maybe somewhere in the back of the Magic Castle there’s a secret doorway through to another, happier, dimension… Anyway escapism is obviously making money these days as Tokyo Disneyland reports record profits. It’s also high up on the list of popular employers for university graduates, can you believe?
Another company making incredible money these days is MacDonalds. Ugh! Apparently their new 100 yen (about a dollar – bit more these days) menu has been really successful. Our waitress says some of her friends often go there when money is low. I hate MacDonalds, but if they had 100 yen MacBeers…
… again? 10 January, 2009
Watching our usual news programme on the box today just before opening up the shop, and as usual there was a promotion where some company offers a free sample of their latest product for the first so many viewers to send in a postcard. I suppose it’s good market research or something, and occasionally I might have got a case of beer if I’d been quick enough to read the address off the screen. I keep meaning to get a postcard ready for such times…
Today the “present” was 20 packs of Toyota Museum Curry.
Er, … what? As you know, Toyota is a huge car manufacturer based at Toyota City, just down the road, and they’ve got a museum just outside Nagoya, with cars, I suppose. “Oh yes”, says T, “the Toyota Museum cafeteria’s curry is famous.” (!)
So, having gone into the red for the first time since the war on their car sales, I suppose Toyota have decided to diversify a bit.