Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Vegetarian" Fresh Juice Bar in New Shinbashi Bldg 1F

Shinbashi Vegetarian Juice Bar 20121025The "Vegetarian" Fresh Juice Bar located in the New Shinbashi building 1st floor, has been in business for 40 years. They have various types of juice, but everything is in Japanese, so you would be well served with some ability in it, or to bring a friend to help. Prices are reasonable at 300 to 700 JPY, with egg or veg-fruit sandwiches available cheaply for juice customers.

Example juices - 

  • Parsley パセリ
  • Kale ケール
  • Goya ゴーヤ
  • Celery セロリ
  • Blueberry ブルーベリー
  • Strawberry いちご
  • Melon メロン
  • Aloe アロエ
  • Shungiku 春菊
  • Komatsuna 小松菜
  • "Hard" Veg ハード野菜
… and various others. Most of the juices have a bit of fruit in them, and they seem to be putting red grapefruit in with the parsley and kale juice. The "hard" yasai is 7 types of veg mixed together, and is veg only, and "harder to drink" according to the hardworking ladies of Vegetarian. 
Address - New Shinbashi Bldg 1F, Shinbashi 2-16-1, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-0004
Tel - 03-3591-8676
Hours - 7:30AM to 8:30PM M-F, 9:30AM to 19:00PM Sat.

Shinbashi Vegetarian Juice Bar 20121025Shinbashi Vegetarian Juice Bar 20121025Shinbashi Vegetarian Juice Bar 20121025Shinbashi Vegetarian Juice Bar 20121025Shinbashi New Shinbashi Bldg

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Salary-man Senryu "Sara-sen" Winners 2012

Dai-ichi Life Insurance announced their latest Sarariiman Senryuu (Salaried Worker Senryuu, サラリーマン川柳) competition winners. I'm late to the party by a couple months, but this time was the 25th year for the competition. In this sara-sen competition, people submit and vote on the best humorous senryu that come from the daily life of salaried workers and the news. Senryu are like Haiku but are about human life rather than nature, and have the same familiar haiku cadence of 5, 7, then 5 syllables. Let's look at some of the sara-sen this year, with my annotations and a shot at translations:



Mou, suteki!


Moteki owareba


Mou, suteki.


"How can I refuse you!" 

As I pass my expiration date,

I am so much refuse. 


Mou suteki! is an exclamation a person might use to describe how cool or beautiful someone is. Moteki is the period you are attractive or sexy in your life, and is referring to a comic, and a movie from 2011. The last line's "mou suteki" is the same as the first line and means, "it's already past its expiration date." This is clever for its three lines that sound similar.



Shojo jidai


Utatte hashagu


Jukujo jidai


Girl's Generation:

Brought to you by,

The Mature Generation.


Shojo Jidai is the Korean girl idol group "Girl's Generation". This is referring to a group of middle aged women who go crazy singing Girls Generation tunes at Karaoke. The writer calls them "jukujo" which means mature or aged woman (either pejoratively or as a sort of MILF-ish fetish), and adds the humorous irony to this entry since it's the "Mature Women's Generation" who is doing the singing and partying! 





Itsudemo kimi wa


iPhone chuu


I Want You!

But it looks like I must compete,

With your iPhone, too.


The "I Want You" refers to the AKB48 tune "Heavy Rotation", expressing a girl's desire for her boyfriend, but she laments he is always "iPhone Chuu" or always playing with his iPhone, and the Japanese for those two phrases rhyme, to make the senryu work. 



Moteki kita?


Ogoru toki dake


Yatte kuru


Am I attractive? 

It looks like it, but only when

I pay. 


Pretty much as it reads, and refers again to the comic book and movie Moteki. The manager is saying he is only attractive to the opposite sex, if he pays for dinner. How sad! 



Eco seihin


Setsuden surunoni




"Eco" Products:

To save electricity,

I spend a lot.


This is a big irony this past year given the austerity last summer after the big quake. The government has an "eco points" program, where you can get various discounts and money back, if you buy so called "eco" products, with a lower energy consumption profile. The housewife writer laments how expensive it is to be "eco". 





Tsuma wa joshikai


Ore jamakai


Every sunday,

My wife does what she will.

Am I a fifth wheel? 


The writer says his wife goes to a "joshi kai" or women's club meeting every Sunday, meaning, she does what she wants. He asks "ore jama kai?" which means either "can I come too" or "am I in the way". Kind of a funny and sad state. 



Shikarazu ni


Sodateta buka ni




The staffer I trained, 

With whom I have never lost patience,

Screams at me.


Another literal one showing a sad situation. The writer must have been so sad at the betrayal, after having patiently brought the staffer along. 



Benza sae


Ore ni tsumetai


Kaisha nai


In this company,

Everyone's so cold to me,

Even the toilet seat.


Maybe a little subtle, but one of the things to go when we started having to save electricity was heated toilet seats (Japanese toilets are famously high tech). So this writer says he's rejected by everyone at his company, even the cold toilet seat! 



Tsuma ga iu


Shochi shimashita


Kiite mitai


"Yes Sir!"

Just once I want to hear this,

From my wife. 


Shochi-shimashita is the word you use when telling someone you accept and understand their order. It is used from staff to their manager, or, from a sales rep to the customer, for instance. The writer gets obedience from his staff, in that they say "shochi-shimashita!", but never from his wife. 



Waga ie nimo


Nadeshiko yonin


Ore away


At my house, too:

There are four "nadeshiko".

Another "away game" for me!


This is referring to the hugely needed win from the "Nadeshiko Japan" women's soccer team win, that had perfect timing to give us a little boost, after the big earthquake in Tohoku in 2011. The writer is referring to the fact that his household is all females or "nadeshiko" (the word used generally to describe proud, strong, beautiful Japanese women), and for him, it's always an "away game". I know I can relate to this one! 

Who says the Japanese don't have a sense of humor!?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Japan Cyclists: Aten-hut!

Cycle Fitness 2008Recently Japan law regarding bicycles has been strengthened, and it is a popular topic on TV "wide shows" (variety shows) as I write this, in Autumn 2011.

The scapegoat being used by the media is "fixies" or the fashionable piste-style bikes that usually have a friction brake in the hub. I haven't ridden a friction brake bike since the 6th grade, but the way it works is you stop by reverse-pedaling, or by skid-sliding. A Big Deal has been made about how evil fixie riders are, emphasizing their delinquency and propensity for riding with no brakes. So fixie riders in Japan have been dutifully putting caliper brakes on, lest they get stopped by the overzealous cops. Personally, I think the root of all evil is the mama-chari (cheap utility bike that moms ride) being driven by drunk salarymen, kids texting or listening to music, or the elderly, but anyway, the whipping boy du-jour is the fixie rider.

So I thought I'd post, to organize some information about the situation and laws as I can understand them, and in hopes that this will help hapless gaijin everywhere in Japan.

Just to give some background, I ride an urbanized mountain bike from Centurion, which I bought when I was not sure if I would like cycling. I wanted something decent, but that would not break the bank. Well, I really came to love cycling, and started upgrading my MTB, adding nice Mavic rims, a new Shimano Deore XT groupset, a light saddle and seatpost, and a carbon handlebar to name a few. The bike is lighter with the new components, but certainly it is more of a slog to ride compared to a road bike. Well, I'm busy with work and as much as I would love to ride daily, I am a "weekend warrior", usually cycling here in the Kanagawa area, especially down south to Shonan and up north to around Machida or Sagami-Hara. The bike roads are pretty good, the terrain varied, and the scenery is nice and rural. I love it!

Anyway, to get to the point...

What are the Basic Cycling Rules in Japan?

The basic rules for cyclists in Japan are as follows:

  • Cyclists are supposed to follow the same basic rules as motorists, and heed road signs.
  • Cyclists should use cycling paths if they exist, or the motorway, keeping to the left. If the motorway is impassible, cyclists can use sidewalks or other pedestrian roads unless there is a sign prohibiting it, but must yield to pedestrians. Cyclists should avoid extremely crowded pedestrian areas.
  • Cyclists must proceed on the left. Cycling against the flow of traffic is not allowed. If you are going down a sidewalk, stay on the side closest to the road, unless there is a designated bike lane on the sidewalk. Inside the bike lane, keep to your left.
  • Cyclists take responsibility in any accident involving a pedestrian.
  • Cycling on toll roads or highways is generally prohibited, but it should be marked as such.
  • Bike helmets are not required by law, but are "strongly recommended".
  • At night, lights in front and rear, and reflectors, are required. Cyclists without the required lighting can be stopped by police.
  • Besides the requisite lights and reflectors, bicycles also need a front and rear brake.
  • Cyclists must stop and look at train crossings.
  • Cycling while under the influence of alcohol is illegal and a punishable offense.

Of course reality is always different from a set of rules, so let me make some comments on that:

  • I feel that in Japan, at least where I am (Kanagawa and Tokyo), there is indeed an awareness of cyclists, mostly, but even though you are supposed to ride on the road, there are plenty of motorists and trucks parked along the shoulder. So, you end up having to kind of swerve out into traffic, or up onto the sidewalk as the case may be. I just use hand signals while I edge into traffic, and try to keep going fast.
  • Roads are often pretty narrow, and even when they aren't, you have people who are not so aware, who edge close to the shoulder, making it difficult or dangerous to proceed on the left. I unclip in these cases, and just have to wait for traffic to flow, or, sometimes go up onto the sidewalk.
  • I have had a few close calls especially with angry truck drivers and their dangerous side-mirrors, but mostly, motorists swerve out and around you. However, I would say the most danger has come from a), motorists and cyclists popping out of side roads without looking right, b), people walking diagonally or zig-zag on paths shared with pedestrians.
  • Shoulders are often narrow with a ditch, so it is a little hairy riding on some roads with such a configuration. You end up on the car-side of the white line, since the shoulder is so dicey.
  • There's no rule you have to use hand signals but I always do. Mostly, people see them and yield to you, but sometimes people don't quite get it, and even though you have right of way and are signaling a turn, they come barreling through.
  • I have noticed that "bike roads" tend to morph. One excellent one without too many gate barriers is the Yamato-Fujisawa Bike Road. This used to be marked as a pure cycling road, but there must have been an accident, because a couple years back, they started putting up signs every 200m or so, to be careful of pedestrians. The likely scenario is that some lamebrain stepped out in front of a cyclist, going down the cycling road at 40kph, so the local civic groups petitioned for the signs and a change in the nature of the road itself. Now it is still marked as a cycling road, but it has pedestrians walking down it. I draw the line at people have picnics on the bike road, though. I pulled an "angry gaijin" on the group of ladies having a picnic literally in the middle of the bike road ( ! ), the other week. This is not a park!

There is confusion even amongst authorities who are supposed to know these things, about what the rules are, and I think that is because the rules have changed over time, especially those regarding use of pedestrian roads. Patience is a virtue.

What Exactly are the Police Looking For?

Riding while gaijin? No, probably not, but there are a few items which are mentioned in the law specifically, which you can be sure are the hot topics, so I will list them from least to most severe -

  • Riding two or three cycles abreast or, riding with a passenger perched on the back (not referring to children in proper bike child seats) - JPY 20,000 fine or less
  • Riding without lights at night, or, changing direction suddenly - JPY 50,000 fine or less
  • One-handed riding, which means holding an umbrella, cell phone, texting, iPod and so on, or, failing to yield or drive carefully where required, or, failing to stop at a stop sign or light - JPY 50,000 or less fine and up to 3 months' imprisonment
  • Endangering pedestrians - JPY 100,000 or less fine and up to 1 year imprisonment
  • Drunken operation of a bicycle - JPY 1,000,000 or less fine and up to 5 years' imprisonment

When considering cases in which an accident caused bodily harm, it appears that in terms of responsibility, cars > motorcycles > bicycles > pedestrians. That means, if a car hits a bicycle or pedestrian, the car driver is always responsible and at fault, no matter how boneheaded the action of the cyclist of pedestrian. Same goes for you, on a bicycle. Heaven forbid you hit and seriously injure someone while you are on your bicycle. There might be some exception once in a blue moon, but they pretty much spell it out that the cyclist would always be at fault, and we hear horror stories of the cyclist getting jailed, and his family having to pay off massive debts. This can be more than a little bit nerve-wracking and knowing Japan, it's not an urban legend either.

Japan's Like That

It's probably a good idea to make a couple points now, about how Japan often is.

First, there's the concept of shared guilt. If you are involved in a fender-bender with another car, there is one case in which you won't have to pay. That's if the other guy admits 100% guilt, and the cops are kind enough to write that down. But most of the time, in the case of an accident, the insurance companies get in between, and start the "you're half to blame" dance. This would also happen in the case of two bicycles colliding. Probably, if both parties are genuine, and trying to help each other, it will end up amounting to nothing. But if you slam into a child or an elderly person, you can bet you will be entirely to blame, even if it is entirely their fault. Enough said.

Second, when there's something that gets peoples' ire up, you might see an overreaction or over-adjustment by police or by society in general. When some kid got killed by a crazy guy with a knife a few years back, it was found out that the guy jumped out of a tree. The response? Cut all trees back, so they look like ones from a Dr. Seuss book. Our city underwent serious uglification after that child got murdered.

Noting that there are no firearms here, another knife incident caused the law to be changed so that people could not carry knives with blades over a couple inches in length. When that law went into effect, the cops were so overzealous that a hapless elderly tourist got asked if he had a knife, and when he showed them his little Swiss Army pen-knife, they chucked him in jail! Talk about overreacting.

The point is, these laws just got strengthened, so don't be surprised that cops here and there in Japan will be extra vigilant in enforcing the rules.

Expect to have to stand at attention on this matter, for a while, until they loosen it up again.

Happy riding!


Yamato-Fujisawa BikeroadIgnore the LaneTotsuka Bike ParkingNew lockable gripsNew rear cassetteNew wheelsPresta Cogley Centurion 2008Cogley Centurion 2008Stop, Left OnlyTomare! Stop!Careful! ^Let's cycling road!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

"Memoirs of a Geisha" Film

Hulu is finally available in Japan, for more money and with less content than in the US, but it is nice to be able to see even a limited amount of programming. It seems like they are releasing according to how much translation is done, however, I guess I'll take it.

One film that piqued my interest was "Memoirs of a Geisha", after having put off viewing it, having heard negative reviews. I thought it was well done, with lush visuals and a great attention to detail. There were a number of memorable scenes in the film, which really set the tone of longing of Chiyo / Sayuri, for the Chairman. The story was plausible, as it is well-known that destitute families sold off their daughters, at that time of our history.

Several irritations or questions come to mind:

  • Taking nothing away from the three lovely and skilled Chinese and Malaysian leads, there are plenty of lovely, skilled Japanese actresses, so why not feature more of them? I know some of them speak English too. Kudos to the Japanese they did cast.
  • I read that there was a lot of controversy about the written Chinese kanji characters used for words that mean geisha, because they have different meanings in Japan and China. With all those Chinese speakers involved, you would think that that sort of thing would be vetted better.
  • I understand the book has the narrator telling her story from New York. I would have liked to see that woven in.
  • I've never seen a Japanese with blue eyes, except due to the wonders of Bausch and Lomb. What's up with her blue eyes, pretty though they are?
  • The language coaches worked hard to get the actors less-skilled in English to deliver their lines and for the most part it succeeded pretty well. A very difficult task to be convincing in a language not your own. The Japanese was so limited, though, that you would think they could get that pronunciation right. But to this Japanese speaker, the Chinese accents on simple words like "arigato" and "hajimemashite" were pretty heavy and grating, in this context.
  • It is supposed to be set in Kyoto, so why not get the "background language" right, for the various conversations you can hear but are not part of the dialogue. Pretty clunky, and it had me thinking Edo, not Gion.
  • The musical score is vaguely Chinese-sounding, probably due to instrumentation. Perhaps they could have worked in a slightly more Japanese sound, though they certainly did use a lot of shakuhachi.

I think this could have been a master work, had they just taken the extra steps needed to apply just that extra one layer of polish. I am picky because I live here, but overall, I did like it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Japan Girl Talk - The Secret Code 2011

The creatures called "gyaru" (teenage girls who hang out in the youth spots in Tokyo) have their own slang language that morphs rapidly. Nobody, even them, can keep up with it. Morning TV had a special segment about the latest "gyaru-go" language trends, which I thought were worth sharing:

"Itsumen" - いつメン

From itsumo-no-menbaa いつものメンバー. The usual group we hang out with.

"kamacho" - かまちょ

From kamatte-choudai 構って頂戴. Pay attention to me.

Said to boyfriend who is studiously ignoring your commentary.

tkmr - タカマル?

Takamaru 高まる, meaning, wanna party? Wanna go crazy? Or: are you excited?

I could be down with some tkmr. Itsumen? Kamacho!


Agemotion. Apparently this is more excited than merely tkmr.

So, it's a nuance thing. tkmr < agemotion.


Pii-nige. To touch your RFID school ID on the attendance sensor in the classroom, then beat a hasty retreat.

Cutting class was never so scientific!


Oko-nau. 怒っているなう。She's upset or angry. Now I'm angry (okotteiru).

N.b: Nau is used in twitter language in Japan, to say where you are now, and uiru (will) is used to say you will.

At home now. Work will. Kind of Yoda-like, if you ask me. Just be forewarned: if you engage in pii-nige, your teacher will be okonau, I tell ya.


Roll-cabbage. Used to describe a guy who is a vegetable eater on the outside (nice, sweet & pliant to her wishes), but a meat eater on the inside (a take-charge type).

Roll-cabbages can give you gas so be careful, ladies.


Mental. Means she's depressed, feeling blue.

Kind of how I feel now when I try understanding teenage girls!

Now you can visit Shibuya or Harajuku armed with some understanding. Until the language morphs again!


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Panku Bubu Wins M1 Grandprix 2009

Manzai duo "Panku Bubu" won the M1 Grandprix this year, in a unanimous decision over Waraimeshi and Non Style. I was rooting for Waraimeshi, but there you go. Panku Bubu won 10 million yen (about 100K USD). Better luck next year, Waraimeshi.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

39 Goroawase! - Japanese Word Play

One fun and unique feature of Japanese language is the ease with which you can create easy-to-remember phrases from numbers. I assembled a little database of these "goroawase" mnemonic helpers, for students of Japanese to see. Check out this page, and contribute if you can. (Can you guess what 39 is, before you look at the database?)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Yanagihara Kanako Senryu Haiku

Kanako Yanagihara, ComedienneKanako Yanagihara is so popular these days, that shop assistants are starting to impersonate her right back! I heard a shop full of assistants doing their best Kanako schtick, so a senryu haiku came to mind:


kimi wa ima


kanako san yori



What I mean is, "you're more Yanagihara than Yanagihara Kanako".

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Satirical Shibamata Senryuu

The elections are again upon us here in Japan, and the satirists are hard at work writing Senryuu (川柳) poems about the subject. Senryuu are like Haiku in that they have the well-known 5-7-5 sound structure, but they differ in that they are not so much about mother nature as about human nature.

You can see some Senryuu from my post about the annual Salary-man Senryuu competition held by Dai-ichi Life Insurance, about the trials of the typical salaried worker (meaning, most of Japan's population). This time, the buzz is about the upcoming House of Representatives election, and there are several humorous Senyruu decorating the Shibamata Taishakuten (柴又帝釈天) Temple in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo. These will remain on display until around early September.

Let's take a look at some of the Shibamata Senryuu, with my translations:


Tebukuro no


Shirosa ni kakusu


Hara no naka

White gloves

Seem to be hiding

Your real intentions [1]


Oo furoshiki


ni madowasarete


hyo wo ire

Stunned by your

Impressive large furoshiki

I vote for you [2]


Bara no hana


Saku to kouyaku



As the roses bloom

Your campaign promises

Wilt away [3]


Ji ga yomezu


Otto wa souri to



Can't read the kanji!

With the Prime Minister

My husband freaks [4]


Manga zuki


Otto wa souri to


Musuko iu

The manga freak

My husband, gripes about

The PM and our son [5]

[1] The phrase "hara no naka" is a common Japanese use of the hara or "gut", or "inside your gut", your dirty intentions.

[2] Oo furoshiki means "big talk".

[3] They put out roses when counting votes. This implies as soon as the roses are in bloom, or the votes are being counted, politicians' promises die away.

[4] PM Aso is infamous for making mistakes in reading kanji, which are not really so hard to read either (even I could read some of them.) The PM's and the husband's "freaking" here is for opposite reasons and the original "odateru" is more like "to become agitated".

[5] PM Aso is a big manga-lover. The writer's husband loves manga, but does not hesitate to criticize his son or the PM.

There is considerable humor in Japanese life, so it would be shortsighted to think Japan does not enjoy it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Japan Rail is More Gaijin

I noticed something interesting. The JR East Japan announcements about the next station are done in a female voice, and she used to say the station names with proper Japanese pronunciation.

The next station is, SHIMbashi.

They've re-recorded some of the announcements though, seemingly with the same "voice talent", and there's a subtle difference. She now says the station names with a "gaijin" accent.

The next station is, shimBOSSshi.

What's up with that? Were people not getting the names right? Did some consultant trying to justify their existence tell JR that they needed to say it more like "gaijin" say it? I'd say that would be gaijin of the American English speaking variety, though. How curious.

I noticed it the other day, and today it was the original way, so I am not sure what the pattern is yet. Maybe different lines have different patterns. Japanese are pretty obsessed with regional language differences, though. There's a comedy duo called "Yuji Koji" who hysterically make fun of the difference between the regions and Tokyo. Even my car Navi has a setting to make it talk with an Osaka accent.

300m saki, hidari yade.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Japan Marine Day "Umi no Hi"'s Roots

Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008The third Monday in July is "Marine Day" here in Japan, called "Umi no Hi" (海の日) in Japanese. It was established in 1996, a few years into my life in Japan. It's common knowledge that the day marks the return of the Emperor Meiji from a boat trip. More specifically, it's the day of his return to Yokohama port in Meiji 9 (1876), from a royal light-house inspection tour to the northernmost prefectures, on a Scottish-built schooner called the "Meiji Maru".

That factoid leaves me wondering why that trip was so important, and why the Emperor Meiji's return from the northern prefectures needed to be marked. Was that like visiting ganglands, or something? Or was it just an example of the vast modern bureaucracy needing a "real reason" to call it official and torment hordes of schoolkids with memorizing? In all seriousness, to the Japanese of the time, I imagine that having your image of a God be on a boat, sailing around the coast in rough northern waters would be enough to make people nervous wrecks!

Umi no Hi is a secular, national holiday, so there are no Shinto festivals associated with the day. The government party line is that Umi no Hi is to "express gratitude for the bounty of the oceans and hope for the prosperity of Japan's marine industry". I guess that makes sense, given the importance of the marine industries to Japan's economy.

That said, most people just use it to take advantage of a three-day weekend and have a short trip to the beach! We, on the other hand, are using it this year to go see Harry Potter since the weather's looking pretty bad today!

Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008Cogley Kamogawa Chiba Vacation 2008

Monday, July 13, 2009

Kenkoshindan Health Check

Mr. Happy Poop "Toreeru Paper"My wife and I did our yearly "kenkoshindan" health check via our insurance provider the other day. If you are on the national insurance plan or one of the big alternative providers, you're supposed to get this kenkoshindan once a year. My wife and my secretary at work badgered me into submission, so I finally took the plunge and got the big one-day "ningen dock" (人間ドック, and kind of like "human dry-dock" in its meaning).

So What's this Ningen Dock?

Glad you asked. Being over 40 (ok, ok, I'm 43), this time I signed up for the standard ningen dock set, instead of the wimpy blood and urine test only. Once you get to the center, after NOT eating breakfast, they give you a nice top/bottom to change into, so you to to a locker room, strip to your skivvies and put that on. It's not a paper gown like you might see at an ER, but a proper outfit much like pajamas. The arms were short and the bottoms were held up by a drawstring. They include socks too, in case you wear the ones with the holes (like me!) on the big day.

I wish I could have taken a photo of the waiting room, because it was a trip to see all the men in their green-ish gowns, the ladies in their pinkish gowns, nurses in light blue and docs in white. All organized and color-coded; very efficient and impressive. There were many many magazines in the waiting room, but all were in Japanese, so it might make sense to bring reading materials if you want to read while waiting.

There was not much waiting time, to be frank, and the whole thing was over in 3 hours. Here's what was included in the tests:

  • Urine and Stool - they take the urine on the day, 25 mL, but you get to do the stool sample beforehand, refrigerate it, and bring it along! There's a little sample kit, and the pictured "toreeru" paper poop catcher sheet, onto which you do your business, and then use the included swab set to snag a sample. In the picture, you can see the humorous target con "Mr. Happy Poop" character illustration. Kind of breaks the ice a bit, makes you laugh about having to do the sample, so it works in a perverse way.
  • Chest X-ray - just a simple X-ray from the front and side.
  • Blood Test - simple and quick, they took three vials of blood.
  • Blood Pressure - just a standard BP measurement.
  • Height, Weight, Bodyfat - after they measure your waist, you stand barefoot on an automated reader, which takes your measurements and spits out a little printout with the vital statistics. Of course, males in Japan are "obese" when they have a waist over 85 cm, so, er, I guess I better keep up the exercising!
  • Lung Capacity - you "inhale until it hurts" then "exhale with all your might", and the machine makes a neat little graph. No wonder everyone says I have such a loud mouth!
  • Vision - this was a glasses-on, look at an eye chart exam, followed by a retinal scan and a glaucoma test.
  • Hearing - you go into a sound booth, put giant grape-fruit-sized headphones on, and press a button when you hear something, releasing when you don't. Goes on for quite a while in both ears.
  • EKG - they hook your limbs and several points on your chest up to a heart monitor, but the probes are not designed for hairy foreigners. The suction cups fall off, which causes laughter, which causes more falling off and struggle. The test itself is only 10 seconds or so of measurement.
  • Ultrasound - this is an alternatively ticklish and somewhat uncomfortable test where they are taking pictures of your internal organs. They grease you up, and tell you to inhale so that your navel sticks out, and press the ultrasound wand into your torso in various places. It's not really painful, but it's not a sensation you get every day where people are pressing a relatively hard object into your liver, kidneys or ribs. It took 30 minutes and I was a little bruised. It must not be easy to do, because they switched operators in the middle, which I think is for training.
  • Barium Drink - this is so they can see the surfaces of your stomach and esophagus, so they have you drink a carbonate powder which is kind of like ingesting a Coke in 3 seconds because when it hits your stomach it swells it up. You're supposed to resist the urge to burp! Then you swallow the barium solution, which is a thick white substance, like Pepto Bismol but without the nice taste. Then, following a myriad of rules (no burping, no turning to the left), you hold onto a machine you're lying on, which tilts this way and that, and you turn yourself according to the directions. Very fast, very uncomfortable, and a lot like being on a roller-coaster. All the while, you're suppressing that burp, so when they say "ok, you can burp now" you're ready! After, they give you a laxative, saying that the barium has a tendency to plug you up. You're supposed to take one now, then take another "if the white barium stool" does not come.

To close, you go downstairs where they give you a warm drink and a cookie, you have an interview to discuss your results with a doc, and then after you return your pastel pajamas, you're released into the wild to abuse yourself with food, drink and other vices for another year. :-)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Japan and Its People are Unique

At least that is what they tell me! I like Japan and have had some interesting, enjoyable and indeed unique experiences here, otherwise I would not have stayed in this country since 1987. But over the years, I've had an earful of people telling me directly or indirectly how unique Japan and its people are, and I've had to burst more than one person's bubble. Sometimes incorrectly.

A couple examples of the oft-heard "unique" characteristics of Japan and its people, from my first-hand experience:

  • Only Japan has four seasons. So my teachers lied to me about the nature of Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall? I'm shocked!
  • Japanese intestines are unique, so that is why Japanese cannot digest foreign rice and cannot import US beef. Quick, revise the anatomy textbooks.
  • Foreigners cannot understand the unique Japanese concepts of dignity and morality. Just ask Konishiki who was practically put on trial for not being dignified enough to perform his sumo-ly duties at the highest level, but while you do that, ignore the Japanese abusive Sumo stablemasters.
  • Japanese pregnancies take 10 months (!). It's possible that all that extra moral development occurs in utero, but I kind of bet it's got something to do with lunar months or the ancient Japanese counting 0 as 1.
  • Japanese Kafunsho (hayfever) does not exist in other countries. Put away that Allegra, you buncha fakers.
  • The snow in Japan is special, and unique, and that's why we cannot import foreign ski equipment because it just doesn't work here. Ah huh. A patent on crystallized water?

Of those, I dismissed the Japanese intestines-are-unique thing as being more politician wind-blow, but there is anecdotal evidence I've read in favor of it being true. I have to admit that that's physiologically possible for races (i.e. caucasian vs mongoloid) to be physically different, but the problem arises when eager-beaver politicians try to further some agenda by linking a longer Japanese intestine to Japanese "not being able to digest" certain foods. Same goes for thinking that "Japanese snow is unique", and therefore foreign skis won't work on it. Rubbish.

What I believe is unique are the aspects of the Japanese language that allow a detailed and evocative rendering of the weather, or seasons, a la Basho or a writer like Kawabata. By the same token there are things that Japanese language does not handle well, like anatomical descriptions. That's part of the reason the doctors use German and English and not Japanese, to describe ailments. So it's not necessarily that the Japanese language is "better", but that there are some well-developed aspects and some not-so-well developed aspects.

Rather than have a strange fixation on these comfortable yet largely inaccurate trivialities steeped in the language and (ill)logic of nihonjinron thinking, I would hope that the Japanese would focus on some of the genuinely amazing and far-reaching achievements of their countrymen, like Takamine's isolation of Adrenalin, the various management techniques of Toyota, or their wonderful cultural treasures (and I don't mean manga and maid cafes). I would hope that the government would teach the Japanese children, my children included, the true beauty of Japan, rather than resorting to weak arguments.

I'll leave you with something I saw today that triggered this aside, and thinking about my time here. Eric Hilton wrote in to the the Japan Times that he supplied a student with the (in my opinion very adroit) translation of a popular Japanese proverb "saru mo ki kara ochiru" (even monkeys fall from trees) as "even Homer nods", and he said that the student was amazed that proverbs even exist in English. Now that takes the cake, but at least one can say that the child is just an ignorant student.

That's more than we can say for the people who put such ideas into his head.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Gyaru-go" Girl Japanese

Mezamashi TV had a segment on the lastest gyaru language. If you're not familiar, gyaru are the sort of schoolgirls who hang out in Shibuya or Harajuku, dress in the latest fashion and speak in a sort of code. Here's the three I remember:

  • ムカTK mukaTK - mukatsuku, to be pissed off. The original's just as easy, ladies.
  • モレる moreru - um, to be dressed up, with your hair in a bun with cute accessories. Comes from "moritsukeru" to decorate.
  • シカメ shikame - from shikato and meeru, ignore mail. To have blown off answering someone's text message. I hear that a large percentage of schoolkids get really stressed about "shikame", in all seriousness.

At any rate, remembering these is one thing, but using them is another, so remember this: if an "oyaji" (middle-aged guy) like me uses gyaru-go, he's ostracized by his daughters and subjected to the "uzai" label for all time. :-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

"One Coin" Services All the Rage in Japan

"One Coin" Service TrendJapan morning TV reported that "One Coin" (ワンコイン) services are all the rage these days in Japan, due to the down economy. What this phrase means is that you can buy a good or service with a single 500 yen coin, or about USD 5.00.

Indeed, you can see them here and there:

  • "Makudonarudo" McDonald's has a 500 yen value set.
  • "One Coin" lunches at salary-man lunch joints.
  • Short foot massages for 500 yen.
  • "Test Esthe" at Miss Paris Esthetic Salon for "one coin".
  • Yoshinoya and Matsuya meat bowls for 500 yen.

Next time you're out and about in Tokyo, keep an eye out for "one coin" ワンコイン services.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tokyo Metro "Do It At Home" Manners Posters

Please do it outside. Piston.Artist Bunpei Yorifuji (寄藤文平) is creating a series of manner posters for the Tokyo metro, around the theme of "Do It At Home". Yorifuji was born in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, in 1973, and founded Bunpei Ginza in 2000 to specialize in mainly Art Direction, Illustration and Book Design.

Yorifuji's manners posters address the most common complaints heard by the Metro, such as people who apply makeup, party, sit on the floor, take up too much room, jump through the closing doors at the last minute, wear Everest-assault-sized backbacks and so on.

I have to chuckle at the rather awkward and sometimes double-entendre Engrish, but that's what gives them charm, I suppose. I even found a spoof poster.

Clicking through on the official website, and viewing all of the posters, I can see a trend: the middle-aged and distressed-looking couple present in some form in the posters is supposed to represent Mr. and Mrs. Everyman, and according to an interview I read, Yorifuji says their glasses make their emotions harder to read, letting the viewer assume they're upset by the bad manners in the poster.

What irks me about this set of posters however, is that there are plenty of middle-aged people with awful public manners but in this series it's almost always the children who are portrayed as the offenders. Yorifuji san, what about the drunken salarymen, the obatarians violently charging for seats or the malodorous gyoza-chompers?!

Click the thumbs below for the spoof poster and the official website.

Bunpei Yorifuji Spoof PosterTokyo Metro "Do It At Home" Manner Posters

Ray-Out's iPhone "Jacket" Case Review, DIY Fix for D-Ring Problem

iPhone Case FAIL, so I DIYI purchased Ray-Out's reasonably-priced leather "Jacket" case, model RT-P1LC4/B, perhaps three months ago from Yodobashi Camera. I was looking for a case that had a "strap loop" so that I could hang the iPhone around my neck for going to meetings or lunch, as I don't trust myself to put the iPhone in my pocket and have it survive even one day! The Ray-Out leather jacket was one option, and the other was so bling-bling it wasn't even a choice for me.

DIY Fix for the RT-P1LC4/B Loop Problem

Unfortunately, the D-ring that came attached to the case by a leather loop came off, sending the iPhone plummeting to the ground. At least the case's leather hit the ground instead of the actual phone, so my iPhone still works. Ray-Out should re-design that little loop for the D-Ring, because after even a couple month's of use, it became weak and ripped.

I thought of using a loop of cable in a rubber tube (Tokyu Hands has the parts) but in the end I just took one of those key identifier rings, which are made of strong rubber, and fed the snap-tab through it to make a loop to which my neck strap could be attached.

Ray-Out RT-P1LC4/B Pros and Cons

The pros of the Ray-Out RT-P1LC4/B case are, it looks relatively good (though I'd like an option other than orange for the accents), it's sturdy except for the leather D-ring holder, and it's got a card holder which is perfect for your Suica train pass or whatnot.

I'm afraid the cons stand out, though:

  • The D-ring for attaching wrist- or neck-straps to is held in by a very weak loop of leather. Sure enough, it rotted and came off in only three months since I started using the case. Hence the DIY fix.
  • The strap D-ring is on the "wrong" side of the case. When you attach a neck strap to this D-ring and try to use the phone, things get tangled. It would be much better if the D-ring were on the speaker-side of the iPhone, so you don't have to struggle with straps getting in the way when you're trying to use the phone while it's tethered to you.
  • The edges of the case sometimes get in the way of typing, especially in apps like Photogene, where the function icons are to the hard left of the screen. It's also kind of hard to move the icons around from page to page with this design.

Here are a few photos of the case, just in case.

Ray-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out iPhone Case DIYRay-Out Leather iPhone Case RT-P1LC4/B

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Drop - Enough to Scare the Crap Out of You

Drop - Toilet Paper Horror"Drop" is a horror story novella written by Koji Suzuki, the writer of best-selling horror stories such as "Ring" and "Rasen" (Spiral). Suzuki san was born in 1957 in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, and his books have sold more than 8 million copies.

Thing is, Drop's not your run-of-the-mill novella; it's printed on toilet paper. The Japanese summer is a time for telling horror stories around a campfire or watching the annual scary TV shows, and many Japanese horror stories are set in toilets, so it's quite fitting that there be a horror story written right on your toilet paper, actually.

Drop is produced by Hayashi Paper, and can be purchased in Japan via Banbix. A case of 24 rolls of Drop toilet paper costs JPY 2400 before tax. Banbix says they don't accept orders from or ship outside of Japan, so you're SOL even if you can read it.

Drop is enough to scare the crap out of you, literally, and I'd want my own roll to be able to finish the thing uninterrupted. Either way, stay clear of the toilets in Japan, and have a scary summer. :-)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Street Jazz from Kano, Saito, Kawamoto

Street TunisiaI've seen this good, energetic "Street Jazz" trio at JR Shinjuku before, but today I waited for a good moment and got some materials from them. The musicians were George Kano on drums, Chikara Saito on Alto Sax, and (probably) Sousuke Kawamoto on upright bass. The flyers I got were pretty clear on who the sax and drum players were, but I'm not so sure about the bass player. Either way, they are all really good musicians.

As a drummer myself, I was really impressed with George. He's got a lightweight kit that he can probably pack in one or two relatively small bags, with roto-toms, the sound of which of course reminds me of the Bridgemen and of Bill Bruford.

iPhone Recordings

They were jamming along, so I whipped out the iPhone and snagged a couple of recordings which I hope you enjoy. The top one's Dizzy Gillespie's A Night in Tunisia and I'm afraid I cannot remember the second one. I've heard it before, and at first it sounded a bit like Hancock's Watermelon Man but I think it's not. (If you know, let me know!)


Their flyers had a whole bunch of websites on them, which are all in Japanese. From looking at the sites, it appears these cats play in various combinations. At any rate, here's a few useful links for them in Japanese:


Guys if you'll indulge me for a moment, it takes skill to play as fast and furious as you do, but it also takes huge skill to play slow. Dig "When We Were Free" from Pat Metheny's Day Trip. The musicians can and do stretch in this tune but the basic tempo is really easy-going.

Also, please ditch the long, complicated URLs on your flyers. Sorry, but this sort of URL is absurd to make someone enter:

... because it's too complex. You want to let your potential listeners enter something really simple. Use an URL shortener like TinyURL or Bitly to create permanent, short URLs. I created two from George's site:

Please consider using those, and keep up the great playing!

Drummer George Kano

[1] Mixi is a Japanese SNS.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Family Reunion Sad

Oshogatsu Peace!Every year, we have a family reunion during the New Year holiday "oshogatsu". The photo in this post is of the 2009 edition.

This is A Big Deal for the family here, and they do it without fail. Missing it is also A Big Deal, so I think we've missed it once in the past 15 years. I gather it's an Asian thing to have these big family gatherings, but I always feel like the odd man out, when the conversation turns to whatever it is that 60-ish-year-old Japanese folks like to talk about.

Though I enjoy the company and drink and food, great food, these also make me long for home, to see my Mom and Dad, Sister and Brother and everyone's families and friends. Ah, if only Star Trek teleportation was possible! Oshogatsu omedeto!