Most unfortunate!

October 23, 2008

I’ve been trying to steer clear of the Japanese-English oddities, since they get loads of attention. Also because, I think the scrutiny of  misses the point. Advertisers and business owners use English and English-sounding things to appeal to their (non-English speaking) customer base. Japanese marketing English often has a charming, poetic lilt to it. Here’s a gelato chain’s slogan: “Making you feel Nice and Happy by tasting Dipper Dan’s flavor. That’s Our Happiness. Making heartfelt communication between you and Dipper Dan, that’s our wishness.” It’s sweet. And, it doesn’t matter if the words are made up or strangely used, or if the grammar is not technically correct. For the advertiser, making sure the English is correct for native speakers is not a concern. The English is used in such a way to appeal to Japanese consumers. 

That said, I think this was one of the more unfortunate business/English name combinations I’ve seen. If it didn’t say wedding venue, I’d think it was a really different kind of party place, you know?

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Station Matsuri

October 21, 2008

A few weeks ago G and I were trying to buy train tickets at Meguro station when the neighborhood festival passed through. Once a year or so, the spirit in the neighborhood’s shrine is ritually transferred to a portable shrine and taken for a ride around the neighborhood. It takes dozens of people to shoulder the heavy shrine, and they boisterously chant and bounce the shrine, determined to show the spirit inside a good time. We were shocked to see them come into the station, given the narrow space, low ceilings, and even lower hanging signs. They had to stop the bouncing, carefully lower the shrine, clear the sign, then continue the revelry. Here’s a video, and a few more shots.

Parasite Brain

October 20, 2008

G is surprisingly squeamish, which is why I almost had to drag him to the Meguro Parasitological Museum. It’s one of my favorite free museums in Tokyo, and the only of its kind in the world. The centerpiece of their collection is an 8-meter long tapeworm taken from the belly of a man who ate some trout sashimi. (You’ll want to cook those fresh water fish very, very well.) All of the specimens float in glass tubes with a cobalt-colored wall behind, and seem to be displayed, as a newspaper clipping on the wall noted, “with an unapologetic glee.” As the article also noted: Damien Hirst has nothing on the Parasite Museum– nature itself can be gorgeously disturbing enough.

The Tokyo police have been having a hard time of it lately. A monkey has been eluding them (story here) for more than a month, and then yesterday a naked tourist desecrated the moat of the Imperial Palace by skinny-dipping in it!!

In the video the police seem absolutely terrified of this wild-eyed foreigner. And, also, why don’t they have tasers? That would have taken care of it handily. Instead, it was a 2-hour circus. News reports reassure us that, although the emperor was in residence at the palace, he did not see the naked man. 

I would like to point out how much better the monkey is at eluding police. On the other hand, maybe the monkey is just in Tokyo job hunting….

Autumn– First Sighting!

October 7, 2008

G and I arrived too early for dinner with Tony and Yoshie, so we killed time strolling through Ukima Park in the golden late afternoon light. This row of trees was the first autumn leaves we’ve seen in Tokyo. There are several sightseeing locations that I am holding off taking G to until the leaves turn. Maybe by the first week of November?

I can’t wait.

Zero News

October 3, 2008

G and I have been stopped on the streets for camera interviews three times so far. The latest is embarassingly accessible online.  We were browsing through a flea market in Tokyo and got pounced on by a producer for this News Zero show, which apparently has this “10 second voice” segment of man-on-the-streets interviews. This one was about the impact we feel with the recent financial crisis.

The producer talked to me for at least ten minutes to try and get a sound bite. Is your life in Japan affected by the financial crisis in the US? Nope. Do you send money home to your family? Nope. Is your family worried? Don’t think so. Will your family’s lifestyle change as a result? No, they are careful with money. 

The poor thing couldn’t find anything to put on the air. Finally, I said that maybe, when we return to the US, it might be harder for me to get a job. (I was trying to throw her a bone, really– someone already pointed out that my lack of a job has little to do with difficult financial times.)

She pounced on that. I only got eight seconds, so we practiced what I would say in front of the camera. Then the other producer wanted to change my phrasing, so I had to memorize a different sentence. Then, look straight at the camera, not left or right because that makes the viewers nervous. And, smile, but not too happy, kind of a sad smile. OK, and go! 

(The other foreigner on the page speaks similarly stilted; I think they must have changed her lines too.)

After about half an hour, we got a free tote back and were sent on our way.

End of Days (in Sapporo)

October 2, 2008

Saw these things as I went to photograph the trains. Maybe we were leaving Sapporo just in time? I mean, pigeons laying down– all facing the same direction– has to mean something, right?!?