Friday, September 26, 2008
Today`s `herd` was no different, and like always I decided to follow. I keep a safe distance though, so I can exile myself if needed. The `herd` had decided to frolick into the staff meeting room. The teachers stood frozen in amazement at how the tables and chairs had been re-arranged so everyone could face the front for today`s lecture. Then they scurried around the room to save their seats by placing magazines or even wallets at their desired spots. It was like watching little kids save their seats on the bus.
The Japanese practice an intricate and cherished system of saving spots. In order to save a location or spot in line, they simply place an object there or X out the spot in tape. For instance, you won`t see them camping out for `Star Wars,` instead you will see a parade of tape with large Xs. The Japanese have developed a system of trust, whereby no man, woman or child will take advantage, except for maybe an American.
To continue the office antics, a few of us actually took turns sitting at the head table. The rules of this game are as follows: 1.) when you are sitting down you must be formal because you are the head boss 2.) when not sitting you must repeatedly bow down to honor the boss. To add to the roleplaying, I said to one of the bowing teachers, "Please..RISE." This guy seriously bowed like 11 times.
Then just like it had never happened, everyone rushed back and put their `I`m working so hard!` earnest faces on.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
What was in this package? Let’s just say parental love. This special rendition of sentiment comes in the form of my soccer keeper gloves, a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 5 boxes of Kraft Macorini and Cheese, two cans of Bush’s Baked Beans, a bulk bag of candy corn, and something I wasn’t expecting. Did someone say Championship? That’s right a$$holes, I now have Lipton dry iced tea mix in my possession, and Captain Morgan is just a 10 minute bike ride away. My world famous liquid satisfier will now grace the island of Honshu. Giddyup!
You might be thinking, “but that’s all junk food.” You are absopositively correct! I want to publicly say ‘Thank you, and I love you,” to my family.
`Party In My Mouth`
Sometimes I’ve wondered where all the products that no one buys end up. Well, now I know. The Village Vanguard is Japan’s answer to Spencer’s Gifts. Some are so willing to get a piece of exotic consumer culture that they will buy $hit that even an American wouldn’t be caught dead with. Take care for instance, the Hollywood Hogan Bashin’ Brawler. Now in the mid ‘90s, this was a hot product. But of course like any trend, too many were produced, and they flooded local Big Lots or any other “crap we can’t get rid of” store. Well, if you’ve had a change of heart and you’re ready to bashin’ brawl brother, you’re just 3990 yen ($40) away! NWO 4 Life!
A blast from the past that I wasn`t ready for.
Now say hello to the American stereotype baby pacifier. At first I thought this was the Japanese mocking us, but when I saw only English on the package and the trademark ‘As Seen on TV’ logo, I stood corrected. There are football pacifers and even camouflage pacifiers for the hunter and soldier within your baby. But what Japanese parent follows football? These are products merely for novelty, and I guess it’s as asinine as people who get kanji tattoos when they have never studied an Asian language in their life. I suppose ignorance is a vital aspect of consumer culture across the globe.
This product lessens the chance of your son turning gay.
The one that took the cake though was the McDonald’s happy meal toys. Once again, the package was only in English. Yes folks, you can buy a Disney’s Stitch McDonald Happy Meal toy. I honestly find this to be both cool and a rip-off all in the same purchase.
The Village Vanguard happens to be infatuated with American Pop Culture. In fact, it’s probably one of the only places to find Spiderman. Of course Winnie the Pooh, Tom and Jery, and Snoopy are well represented, but there’s also a random outpouring of obscure American pop characters.
If I was only into wasting money...these bastards would be coming home with me.
Now, if you’ve ever gone into Spencer’s, then you know the feeling when your eyes explode at the sight of a ridiculously sexual and just useless product. But folks, the Village Vanguard is a Japanese store, meaning their products need to be useful, and boy are they ever.
Look again…those ‘boobies’ are not for wearing. Instead they are for providing a sensual shower experience.
I’ve seen my fair share of unusual products, but today was a different story. While happily strolling through a Village Vanguard, Japan’s version of Spencer’s Gifts, I came across a package of band-aids. But folks, these aren’t for you. Unless of course you are black. Everyone, I’d like you to meet Ebon-Aide First-aid strips. The package proudly boasts their strong message claiming:
“At last, A protective strip that’s made in your shade!”
“Ebon-Aide is the bandage exclusively designed for people of color.”
“Ebon-Aide specially designed first-aid strips blend with skin tone to help conceal as you heal.”
It gets better as there are five colored people friendly shades with Coffee, Licorice, Mocha, Cinnamon, and Honey.
Whooop, there it is!
I’m just curious, did someone think that band-aids are for white people? Maybe I’m just that pale, but I know those strips are quite obvious on my skin. But honestly, if Ebon-Aide is a product useful to people of color, then I’m all for it. However, I’ve got a serious question to ask: WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE OF COLOR TO PURCHASE THEM? I honestly don’t know of one black or Hispanic person who lives in Aomori-shi, a city of 300,000. I’m sure there are some, but come on, this is clearly not being sold for people of color.
And I couldn’t have been more convinced of this strange form of ‘mildly racist mockery’ then when I came across Little Black Sambo. Yep, you got it! Straight from the oppressive Jim Crow laws comes Little Black Sambo. There appears to be quite a nice selection of ‘merch’ with a series of books, toys, and a Little Black Sambo key chain. I honestly can’t determine if this is wrong, because I’m not sure where they are going with it, and I don’t exactly represent any particular race, including whitefolks.
If you`re craving more, there’s also “Black Love,” an incense sold at area stores with a loving black couple on the package cover. Needless to say, I feel kind of bad because of course I had to buy a pack of Ebon-Aides. If you are a person of color with a coffee shade and want to conceal while you heal, I got your back, or wherever the cut is!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Green Tea Donut
The Nihonjin find green tea to be cho umai (super delicious) therefore they have no qualms with enjoying this funky flavor with anything they put in their mouth. Take for instance this midori (green) tea glazed donut from Japan`s reigning donut vendor Mister Donut.
Verdict: Uber gross!
As stated in a previous blog, the Nihonjin love their kit-kats/choco-wafers. They also love exotic fruits, so it`s not surprising to find blue-berry flavored choco-wafers on the shelf. What`s shocking though is the lukewarm taste.
Ice Cream Soda
Japan has a passion for ice cream...apparently it`s so deep that they needed a carbonated beverage version. I honestly only purchased this peculiar bottle for the photo-op and I still don`t have the kintama (Japanese slang for testicles) to try it.
Verdict: TBD once a high level of intestinal fortitude is obtained
Corn Infested Pizza
Corn is rightfully popular in Japan, as corn-on-the-cob is truly a `party in your mouth.`So why not sprinkle a little on your pizza? Hell, why not sprinkle a whole $hitload on your pizza? Yeah, now we`re talking! When it comes to toppings though, you can`t top (small pun) Japanese pizza. Actually the corn was the most normal item and it helped distract me from figuring out what else was on the pie. But...what do you expect when you`re ordering from a pizza place called Strawberry Cones.
Verdict: Yummy in my tummy!
Friday, September 12, 2008
1.) What is the most widely available American chocolate in Japan?
a.) Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
c.) Kit Kat
2.) What group of fictional cartoon icons is big in Japan?
a. Batman, Yogi Bear, Captain Planet
b. Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, Tom & Jerry
c. Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, Beavis and Butthead
d. Garfield, Spider Man, Casper the Friendly Ghost
3.) What American sitcom is syndicated locally in Nihongo (Japanese) and Eigo (English)?
c. Empty Nest
d. Full House
4.) What perennial treat do the Japanese love the most?
a. Ice Cream
1.) What is the most widely available American chocolate in Japan?
c.) Kit Kat
Answer Explained: Kit Kat’s are huge over here. The Kit-Kat wikipedia page reports that the phenomonan may be due to how Kit Kat is similar to the Japanese phrase ‘kitto katsu’ meaning, “You will surely win!” As a result, Kit Kat bars are purchased as a gifts for good luck, much like how lame but cool teachers in America would pass out Smarties before a test. According to the site, there have been a variety of flavours including, maple syrup, melon, vanilla bean, grape, apple, banana, caramel, kiwki, azuki, green tea, and cherry blossom. There is also a knock-off brand called Choco-Wafers ranging from the traditional chocolate to vanilla or strawberry and I’ve heard talk of a mysterious pumpkin flavor. I actually just ate a blueberry Choco-Wafer…not bad actually.
In regards to other American confectionary imports; Snickers, M&Ms, and Crunch bars are scarce but available. Other than that, you’re pretty much out of luck. Shockingly, Reese’s are no where to be found. Peanut Butter is not a big deal over here. Luckily, Jupiter, a nearby foreign food store has Skippy creamy peanut butter in stock. I even snuck in 5 slides in my introduction powerpoint presentation proclaiming my love for peanut butter. Apparently, my new name around school is Mr. Peanut Butter. Sounds good to me!
2.) What group of fictional pop icons is big in Japan?
b.) Winnie the Pooh, Snoopy, Tom & Jerry
Answer Explained: Winnie the Pooh reigns supreme as the king of western merchandising tools. His friends from the 100-acre woods though are rarely seen. Tom and Jerry, the official mascots for Michinoku Bank appear often in Japanese culture. While Snoopy is not as prevalent he shows up once in awhile. Other Disney characters, especially Stitch are fairly common. I also noticed that one of my students had a complete Sesame Street stationary set. I was impressed…and confused. But as far as Scooby Doo, Batman and Spider-Man, from what I’ve seen, or haven’t seen for that matter, you won’t find them in Japan. Shockingly, Hello Kitty appears to be bigger in America than over here.
Tom & Jerry are quite popular in Japan.
Pooh will even hang your clothes. What a gentleman!
3.) What American sitcom is syndicated locally in Japanese and English?
d.) Full House
Answer Explained: Yes, it’s true. Those retards from Full House just won’t go away. There’s a button on the remote that you can press for some shows that will play only English, only Japanese, or both. Sometimes I try watching in Japanese, but then I don’t get the uplifting holistic meaning at the end. The music plays, but the tears don’t shed. It’s probably aired because it showcases universal family values. While America loves Seinfeld, I’m not sure the Japanese would necessarily understand all of the slang and inside jokes.
4.) What classic western treat do the Japanese love?
a. Ice Cream
Answer Explained: They may exist, but I have yet to see any slurpies/slushies or lollipops. You can find smoothies though. While there is the popular Mister Donut franchise, donuts aren’t as popular as they are in the states and can’t possibly compare with the winner: Ice Cream. They love it! Nearly every food court establishment serves up a variety of ice cream, and you can’t walk five steps in a park or at a festival without seeing an vendor dishing out some ice cream. While Dairy Queen withdrew their over 100 locations in 2000, Baskin Robbins is in full force with tempting exotic flavors. They even had the scoops to use the brazen “We make people happy,” as their official slogan. Ice Cream is traditionally sold in a cone. There’s typically one size though for ice cream cones, and yes in Japan one size does feed all. You can also find ice cream wrapped up with a variety of sweets in a crepe. Sundaes exist but not with all the toppings you may be used to. But have no fear, for McDonald’s serves up the McFlurry. Thankfully shakes, floats, and gelati are also available. Best of all though are the Haagen-Daz vending machines! The Japanese scream for ice-cream.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Moving on to my original point, let’s return to the wondrous ‘March of the Children.’ I thoroughly enjoy strutting along the streets with this parade of youngsters. Every morning, around 7:00am they begin. They will start their journey by putting on their cute synchronized outfits and if a boy, a nice little baseball cap. They look so tiny under the weight of their gigantic square backpacks. Japanese book-bags are stupid. They just look so lame. Our (America’s) book bags are far superior with their leather bottoms and endless compartments and colors.
Like all youngsters, Japanese children are playfully innocent. You’ll see an older kid politely bullying another child or little girls giggling in packs as they waddle along. Then it breaks my heart to see the loner...he’s in the back of the parade, usually with his head down low picking a winner in his nose or anus.
I adore the childrens’ reactions when I sidle up behind them. Their jaws instantly plummet to the ground as their eyes open wide. Little girls are more prone to throw me a nice little ‘Ohaiyo gozaimasu (Good morning).’ Though boys remain conservative and prefer to practice their stare-down tactics. If I say ‘konnichiwa,’ I won’t hear it returned until about 100 yards later when a disgruntled ‘konNIchiWA’ is muttered beneath their swollen breath.
The parade is not complete without the high schoolers. They have technologically progressed their methods of transportation and ride in on bicycles. Be careful, for they are wheeled warriors. They will not hesitate to run your sorry behind out of the way. They’re usually so tired from staying at school past 7pm only to study until early morning. Girls wear blue dresses with straps over a white short sleeve shirt. Smart girls wear long dresses, and dumb girls wear short dresses. Consequently, being at the top academic school in the ken (prefecture) we rarely see ‘skin.’ This is good. However, at the other schools my god do those skirts rise. I’m sure the old men don’t mind checking out all that leg. On the other side, the boys adorn a modestly professional white sleeve button down shirt and black slacks.
It wouldn’t be a school morning though without crossing guards. Yes, Japan has crossing guards. But...Japan is smart. They don’t pay people to simply stand at a corner only to walk in front of children. Japan utilizes its team-oriented culture and gathers volunteers. It’s hilarious watching a thirty old man handsomely dressed in a stellar three-piece suit helping youngsters cross a puddle-ridden street in the rain.
So if one wants to kidnap children, come to Japan between 7:00am and 8:00am. They are waiting for you!
So I had just finished wrapping up the projector cords when I lifted up my head. To my utter shock and dismay I was confronted with a Japanese crotch. Thankfully, it was masked by a thin layer of boxer fabric. A quirky smile of confusion erupted when upon looking around I noticed EVERY student changing for gym class. The girls showed more refinement though, as they lifted their shorts, or whatever they were putting on, under their skirts. But it wouldn’t take a pervert to obtain a nice money shot. I then took my culture shock to the sensei (teacher) office and immediately questioned this odd behavior. I was told that there used to be changing rooms, but the students did not care and would rather change clothes in their own co-ed classroom. Talk about strange. It’s not wrong, it’s just different, and maybe convenient?
I would have liked this shame-less behavior to cease in the classroom, but my friend it wouldn’t be blog worthy if it did. Let’s go back to the onnanoko tachi (girls) and throw in onnanohito tachi (women) for good measure. In America, and I suspect most of the civilized world, women are taught at a young age to either close their legs or cross them when wearing a skirt or dress. Apparently, Japanese women think they are Sharon Stone from ‘Basic Instinct’ as they clearly didn’t get that memo. In the classroom, at the bus stop, on the train, and at McDonalds there are beaver shots to be had. Honestly, I’m not sure if they are wearing panties or not, because I have maintained a high level of respect and haven’t looked. But I gotta tell ya, those days are waning thin. If they’re not going to learn to close their legs, then my eyes might as well come inside. It’s so bad that when I was preparing a student for her exchange visit to Maine, I put a section called “Cross the Legs” on the ‘MUST DO IN AMERICA’ list. It’s not that the Japanese are polite and won’t look, because I see many a man, especially the old perverts, taking full advantage of the grand canyon view. I think this behavior is more attributed to the innocence that many young Japanese women embody. Or maybe they just don’t care. I’m not sure, and I’m afraid to ask.
Finally, one cool and crisp morning while shaving, I shifted my gaze just outside the window. “Awwww,” I thought as my eyes spied a little boy all geared up for school. But when the sound effects of his urinating on my front yard storage facility entered my ear, “aww” quickly went to “what the f****!” Whatever happened to finding a tree, or going behind the house? This little prick had no shame. Oh well, welcome to Japan!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
"Hey Kids! We`re lame ass mascots performing for you at the mall! Wait a minute, is that a gaijin (foreigner)?"
So yeah these buttholes decide to stop the show and get everyone to wave at me. Not cool! But...I smiled anyway :).
I`m assuming he`s a mascot for the post office. The Nihonjin (Japanese) love their mascots!
`Bike Ride Panda`
This bada$$ panda rides her bike with baby in tow everday in front of a local bike shop.
`Cravak San Jr.`
It was a very nice gesture for Japan to conjure up this effigy as an ode to my greatness and love of sweets!
Friday, September 5, 2008
There ya go.
Unfortunately, our coffee machine has been `out of commission` for two weeks. You should have seen the desolate faces as the teachers approached the machine each morning only to find an `out of an order` sign. Well today, holy $hit, what a difference kohii (coffee) makes. The second our `coffee coordinator lady` quietly announced how the machine had been fixed, the teachers came out of the wood work. I`ve never seen such a parade of smiles. They crowded the poor lady to the point of suffocation in anticipation of their much needed coffee. Thankfully, I have 8 years until I will enter that addiction, since I won`t start drinking coffee until the age of 35. It`s one of my personal life goals.
Okay, so I thought I was done with this post. But apparently not. It won`t stop. She just poured the beans into the machine, so a few other teachers had to rush over to watch. THEY ARE STANDING THERE WATCHING HER POUR THE BEANS LIKE SHE`S TAKING HER CLOTHES OFF! This one man`s jaw literally fell through the floor.
Oh no! They`ve started to drink it. I need to exit the building before they start overdosing on this stuff.
So I figured, why not spread the love overseas? While, I haven’t exactly taken the Breakfast Club to its late night roots, I offered to cook for two of my favorite co-workers. They agreed. You must realize that in Japan, I could offer to punch their kids in the gut, and they would oblige. They don’t reject ANY kind gesture.
So on Thursday, September 4th 2008 I showed up to school at 7:40am proudly waving my cooler full of prepared food. (Mike you would have so laughed at how obvious I made it look). I had prepared French toast, scrambled eggs with cheese, sausage (cocktail wiener), bacon, and sliced cantaloupe. I forced them to use a fork and knife, saying “an American breakfast calls for American utensils, chopsticks aren’t allowed here.”
I think they enjoyed it, but who really knows. What I do know is that other teachers took notice and one claimed envy. I just hope this doesn’t become a weekly thing. Cheers!
That’s all I got.
Regardless, there is a serious looking chap who sits opposite me in the office. He looks like the offspring of Dracula and an Asian Frankenstein’s monster. An intimidating man, who used to only refer to me as Stephen-San. “Not a fan buddy’o’pal. The name’s Cravak-Sensei.” Of course I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t try to make friends with this “tuff crowd.” Luckily, thanks to yet another casual office chat, it became apparent that Mr. Asian Monster LOVES baseball. I even found an online quiz about American players in Nihon (Japan), had my supervisor translate and this dude ended up scoring a 90%. We bonded. Though, I was unaware of the consequences.
Apparently, this guy has no qualms about abusing the printer. Within minutes I was assaulted with several printouts of famous MLB players. He printed out at least three Reggie Jackson’s. I tried to show him a YouTube video of Reggie Jackson attempting to shoot the Queen in the movie Naked Gun, but thanks to our school’s firewall that wasn’t happening. So anyways, when you’re given something in Japan, you must graciously accept it with two hands and stare at for it awhile. Especially business cards. They ROVE their business cards. The most important part though is that you just can’t tuck it away somewhere. So thanks to my new found friendship, my workspace is now cluttered with black and white photos of Reggie Jackson, Mike Mattingly and who the hell knows who else.
Besides trying to impress me, I thought perhaps he just wanted me to provide him with something baseball related…so I pondered, and boy did I deliver. I discovered that his favorite team was the Rakutan Golden Eagles, and it just so happened this was the very team I was going to see in a few days. After traveling to the bustling metropolis of Sendai to see them lose in an excitingly wet game to the Chiba Lotte Marines (special thanks to Melanie for organizing, and Chris and Bec for driving!) I picked up a stellar piece of omiyage (souvenir) in the form of a Golden Eagles pen and the official program. On Monday morning, I hand delivered these gems in a Golden Eagles plastic bag. I couldn’t understand what he said, but I knew he appreciated it when later that day I received a color printout of White Sox superstar Jim Thome. Not only did I not stop the borage of printouts, but the man evolved into COLOR. Here’s to you Mr. Baseball…may your love of baseball continue to harm the environment and clout my desk!
For example, I needed some basic essentials and on August 26th, 2008 at approximately 6:42pm I was able to pickup the following all for just 3000 ($30).
· Chocolate Chip Cookies
· Blueberry Wafers
· Yakisoba Sauce
· Dish Rack
· 2 Binders
· Dish Soap
· 4 coasters
· Garbage Bags
· Blank CDs
· 4 Glasses
· Ashtray (for my cigars)
· Seasoning Container/Dispenser
· 2 Gel Pens