...the badly designed and laid-out blog of an Octopus in Japan...
Well, not really an octopus, but technically a British guy with a thick veneer of Old Europeanness in Tokyo doing obscure stuff involving IT
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Thursday, June 6, 2013 5:16 PM
A couple of weeks ago I crossed something off my bucket list, which was to ride a Greyhound bus while listening to Simon and Garfunkel's America. For various technical reasons the bus ride actually took place in Canada, but in global terms that's close enough. Anyway the aforementioned vehicle took me to Montreal, which apart from an unfortunate affliction with concrete pavements is a quite amenable city with copious lashings of free wifi. It's also home to Bixi Bikes, which is a kind of norihodai bicycle rental service. Normally I'm cautious about sticking my credit card unprotected into slots of dubious heritage, but I saw enough people trundling about that I thought it was worth the gamble, and it was.
Monday, March 11, 2013 12:27 AM
In recent days the news has understandingly been dominated by the second anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, and the successful landing of Japan's first Mars landing probe "Donko-ressha" has slipped by almost unnoticed. However contacts at JAXA were kind enough to forward me a copy of the first picture this brave little probe has sent back from the surface of the Red Planet:
Monday, January 14, 2013 3:24 PM
Long time no post, and all that.
Anyway, it snowed in Tokyo today, and not just the usual brief whitening of the ground - the Kanto area was buried in drifts of up to 13cm, which are for the most part still there even though the snow has eased off. People from places like Niigata and Sweden are probably laughing uncontrollably at the way the capital region ground to a halt under whole centimetres of chrystalised water. Luckily it was a public holiday, otherwise the entire Japanese economy would have been paralysed.
So, as you can probably guess, unlike some more warmness-challenged cities Tokyo does not exactly have fleets of snow-removal equipment ready and raring to go at the first signs of white precipitation, and I certainly wasn't expecting our little street to magically be cleared at the expense of the tax payer. However when I went out to shovel snow off our steps as a precautionary measure using the only tool to hand (a 100yen store dustpan) I couldn't help notice some of the neighbours out shovelling snow off the road. Personally I was working on the assumption that the snow would melt away quickly and that no further action would be required on my part. However the Mrs. was of a different opinion and shortly afterwards I found myself clearing the road using the aforesaid dustpan. Which is not quite as impossible as it might sound, even though the handle soon snapped off.
Friday, June 22, 2012 2:15 PM
Like anyone who possesses a mailbox in Japan, I'm constantly bombarded with a flood of leaflets advertising pizza delivery, apartments for sale and unwanted item disposal services. So it came as a bit of a surprise to find a pamphlet extolling the soul-saving properties of a monotheistic deity from a branch of that faith which, among other eccentricities, places great store in prominently displaying disturbing images of a Jewish dude nailed to a stick and engaging in rituals which symbolise cannibalism.
As someone who takes a relaxed attitude to this whole business of believing in sky fairies of various kinds (personally I worship at the shrine of Murphy and also whatever local deities happen to be hanging out in the same places I do), I wouldn't be particularly bothered, except it appears that of all the mailboxes in the apartment bulding (there are six, and I like to make a cursory check of the surrounding ones because the postperson occasionally gets confused by the weird jumble of letters or katakana which make up my name, and has been known to place important missives in neighbours' mailboxes, and also I like to surreptitiously peek at one neighbour's post because it always contains an alarming number of late payment demands and letters from lawyers) the pamphlet was delivered to myself and no-one else. It was clearly not meant for mass distribution (excuse the pun), being a manually-bound multi-page job which looked like it had been printed on an office laser printer or copier.
I can only guess that some acolyte of the religion has seen me going in and out of the apartment building and singled me out as a potential target. They do have a very nice compound a few blocks down the road, so it's not quite enough to have me freaking out in a lather of paranoia, but I can happily live without the special attention (including what I suspect was a follow-up visit a couple of days later).
On the plus side, they do seem to have been keeping abreast of the latest trends in Japanese-foreigner relations and were kind enough not to microaggress me, by providing the pamphlet in Japanese only.
Monday, May 14, 2012 1:37 AM
Recently it has been decided that a House shall be Purchased, and for reasons of neccessity this house shall be within reasonable commuting distance of the centre of Tokyo. Consequently this Octopus has been spending a lot of time over the past few months examining various plots of land with and without structures upon them. He has also been getting a crash course in the finer aspects of planning regulations as they apply to residential structures in this fine city, and they never fail to leave his head spinning in disbelief.
One frequently recurring phenomenon is the so-called "pistol-shaped plot" (ピストル型の変形敷地), which is what occurs when a reasonably-sized plot (say around 200m²) is divided into two plots each just large enough to squeeze a reasonably-sized house and car space onto. The rearmost of the two plots is provided with access to the road via a "driveway" along the side of the front plot, resulting in a shape which resembles a pistol (provided the pistol has a very block-shaped handle and short, thin barrel). Something like plots 2 and 3 in the plan below:
This often happens because the previous owners of the land passed away and the heirs need to sell the land to pay the inheritance tax, and dividing the land into the smallest possible plots makes it easier to market. They also occur in new developments to squeeze maximum profit out of the available area.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 1:19 AM
Having been involved with Japan for the better part of two decades, I've become aware that the more time I spend here, the less I know about the place. This is particularly true of the entertainment world, but due to recent changes in my living arrangements I now get to spend approximately 45 minutes each morning watching Japanese breakfast television (the things I do for love). I feel it would be a pity to retain the knowledge thus acquired for myself, and from now on will endeavour to share with a wider public the insights I have fortuitously gained.
Today's hot news involves a phenomenon called "Neko Hiroshi" (猫ひろし, lit. Cat Hiroshi), who as seasoned Japan observers can tell from the name alone is not an actual cat, but a tarento (a Japanese word meaning "attention seeker with a ridiculous quirk or affection who can usually be seen smiling inanely in the back row of the tarento seats in one of those TV programmes involving hyperactive sound effects, psychotic subtitles and a studio decor which looks like a candy shop has exploded in a little girl's bedroom and which makes TV shopping channels look like an attractive viewing proposition").
Incredibly, and this may come as a surprise to you, Mr. Hiroshi's trademark quirk is acting a bit like a cat.
However (and this may also come as an incredible surprise) this has not been enough to propel Mr. Hiroshi to the coveted front row of the tarento seats, let alone a semi-permanent presence in the box-in-the-corner-of-the-screen-with-a-famous-and-popular-tarento-making-exaggerated-facial-expressions-in-reaction-to-whatever-dross-is-being-shown. Consequently Mr. Hiroshi seems to have resorted to more drastic measures, namely becoming a Cambodian citizen and taking up marathon running with the aim of representing Cambodia at the 2012 London Olympics.
Unfortunately the Olympic Committee For Deciding Stuff (I paraphrase the name slightly) seems to have decided Mr. Hiroshi might not qualify under Paragraph IV of the "Regulations for Olympic Competitors Who Are Failed Comedians And Have Taken Up A Different Nationality As A Desperate Bid For Attention", so there is now some doubt as to whether he will be able to represent Cambodia at the upcoming 2012 London Games With the Heavily Copyrighted Five Rings Logo Sponsored By Nike, Adidas, Pepsi, Burger King Etc., a dramatic development which has the peel-off-sticker-flipchart-makers on primetime TV working double overtime, and who knows where it will all end (a scandal involving a gay fortune teller and the illicitly acquired unwashed socks of a former AKB48 member is my personal guess).
You can read more about Mr. Hiroshi here, which is more than I can be bothered to do.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 5:00 AM
Hah, almost had you there didn't I? I bet you were expecting to see some tacky yet mediocre closeups of sakura which I took while crammed into a park with about 10,000,000 other people all admiring the pretty flowering trees through the LCD display of a camera and/or a happoshu-induced haze.
Tragically I couldn't be arsed to go through the whole rigmarole, but I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the real meaning of hanami, which is this:
Yes, the blue plastic "groundsheet". Where would Japan be without this magnificent, versatile invention? Struggling to keep pace with North Korea, that's where.
* spread it on the ground to sit on
* spread it on the ground to reserve a place to sit on
* spread it on the ground to pass out upon
* use it to secure and protect the goods piled up on your kei-truck
* keep a couple in your emergency escape kit just in case (well I do)
* use it to protect your washing machine from the elements (well I do)
* if times are hard, use it to keep your new parkside residence nice and dry
* and a myriad of other uses which I am sure have slipped my mind
All that for the bargain price of 105 yen (110 yen soon if the politicians have their way) from your local 100 yen store. Your life will not be complete without one.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011 5:14 PM
... you go to the facilities in the departure lounge and are surprised to see a fashionaby dressed, albeit somewhat flat-chested Japanese girl coming out of the men's toilets. Then you realise it's actually a young Japanese guy.
It'll good to be back though.
...check out some other, much more interesting blogs:
"Personal" Japan blogs
"Personal" non-Japan blogs
"Informative" Japan blogs
Japan photo blogs