Some bright spark came up with the idea of a cola drink flavored with Shiso. Shiso is a herb commonly used in Japanese cuisine. It is a member of the mint family but has a very, very strong flavor. Seeing a bottle of Pepsi Shiso on the shelf in my local Fresco, I was intrigued. How would this strong savory taste combine with the crass sweetness of a Pepsi Cola? The blurb on the bottle claims this new soft drink is “sawayaka” or refreshing. A perfect pick me up for the hot and muggy rainy season perhaps?
Mewby and I gingerly took a sip tonight. Here’s Mewby’s reaction before thrusting her glass of fluorescent green soda away:
She also described it variously as “mazui” (nasty), “mecha mazui” (really nasty) and “egui” (acrid). My own reaction? Well, you can certainly taste that shiso! And you can taste the saccharine sweetness too! Do they combine well? No, they do not! On my initial taste I thought it might be almost drinkable. But then the chemical aftertaste flooded back at me from the back of my tongue and I have to admit Pepsi Cola have outdone themselves in creating something borderline disgusting. I’m sticking to ramune in future.
Tuesday 19th of May: I receive a mail from the company that hires me part time to teach business classes. During Golden Week they effectively forbade me from travelling abroad. I ignored it as I had no plans to travel anyway and do plan to quit the job after my classes end in June. This mail though, kind of wound me up (company and personal names removed):
> Due to deterioration of pandemic flu situation,
> many customers are now requiring us to wear
> a flu mask when we teach at classes.
> Of course, attendees are also required to wear it.
> Please note that all instructors who teach at XXXCOMPANY and
> its subsidiary companies must wear flu masks.
> And also other companies may require us to do same thing.
> If you have any problem with this, please let me know.
> Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
> XXX and YYY
> Please let part time teachers recognize this requirement.
> XYXY XYXY
No way are they going to make me do that, I thought. I considered raising a ruckus and using it as an excuse to quit the job early, but when I wrote to my manager about it (ever so slightly pompously with annotations, references and links to WHO and CDC recommendations) he ….totally agreed with me, so that was a leetle bit of an anti-climax… This kind of thing does make one wonder what would happen if there really was a national emergency though…
Thursday 21st May: I didn’t wear a mask and no-one in my class did either and I had no problem entering the building and my students thought the whole thing was completely ridiculous. Actually there was no such rule from XXXCOMPANY but they had been instructed to wear a mask out of doors (seems kind of random). Still there were a heck of a lot of people in Osaka wearing facemasks – thus marking themselves out as complete buffons. My favorite moment: I’m in a convenience store in Yodoyabashi station, (all employees have to wear masks there now), I ask a nice young man working there if they have a particular product and in order to hear me better he pulls his facemask down around his chin and then leans forward to communicate with me more effectively. Maybe I should sue him for reckless endangerment?
Friday 22nd May: I arrived at work today to find that school is cancelled. Woot! I pass a Japanese colleague on the way out and compliment him on his mask:
Me: Nice mask. He: Thank you. You know you can get them from the school nurse. Me: Ah, that’s ok. Actually, (still small quiet voice telling me not to bother but I say it anyway) they’re actually potentially quite bad for you. He: Eh? Me: That’s right. The World Health Organization recommends we don’t wear them unless we know we are already sick. He: What? Why? Me: Well, think about it, it’s a nice warm damp place next to your nose and mouth. If you wear it for long periods you will increase the risk of infection. He: Well, maybe but you know… one good thing about it is, it keeps my throat moist. If my throat is dry then a virus can enter easily I think. So it’s good because it keeps my throat moist. (as he said this he touched his mask with his hand thus rendering it entirely ineffective.) Me: Uh-huh. OK. Well, see you next week then. (what else can one say when faced with such infallible logic?)
So I am free till next Thursday by which time the “deterioration of pandemic flu situation” or Zombocalpse as we like to call it, will be all over. So that’s nice then.
I was in a pharmacy/chemists yesterday, and I saw this on the shelf and it got me thinking.
It’s a diet supplement, yeah? You take it and the idea is – you get thin. So why the name? I have no idea, so I’m looking for clues. The model advertising it is Kaori Manabe, a fairly average looking girl-next-door type. I’ve no idea about her religious persuasion. Her involvement is probably due to her everyday girl quality and the fact that she is rake thin. I’m thinking they went with her simply because they couldn’t get hold of the man himself. As for the packaging, it depicts a woman in work-out attire swooning in some kind of a mystical red haze. Perhaps she exercised too hard and had some kind of anaerobic revelation? Is the implication that once you take this product people will look at you and gasp “Jesus! What a body!”. Or are they suggesting that you might want to get a body like Jesus? I guess Our Risen Lord is typically represented as being a bit of a skinny. But he also has that mad look in his eyes, gaping holes in his hands, feet and midriff and quite the scabby forehead. So, that can’t be right. Oh, and there’s some English on the packaging too, and it reads as follows:
New discovery to be kept secret from others
This discovery is a secret
I can lay it down because I am correct
We will not make you sorry
Pleasure to have the real thing
I really longed for this
Yep, that sounds like the sort of thing he would say all right. But still, what’s the link? A miracle product? Heavenly bodies? What can it be? Enlighten me! Anyone!
There’s a fresh post up on Deep Kyoto tonight of tasty cafe & bakery Le Petit Mec. I’ll be posting something else French a little further down too, but for now here’s a picture of a Japanese otaku as drawn by one of my 1st year girls last week:
I guess お宅 (otaku) is usually translated as geek, nerd or even freak and this can be a good or bad thing depending on your perspective. For example, if I like comics and describe myself as a comics fanatic or manga otaku then I obviously feel this is a good thing. The girls who explained this particular drawing to me however obviously have less sympathetic feelings towards our otaku bretheren. He is an Akihabara Otaku they told me. “Look,” they said, “his pants are too short and too tight.” “He has hairs growing out of a mole on his nose.” “He has an unnatural love for the figure in his hand – more than he feels for any living human being.” (Yes, she really said that. Only in Japanese of course.) Let’s take a closer look at the figure in his left hand, shall we? They’ve written a helpful note for us, it’s a 涼宮ハルヒフィギュア – a Suzumiya Haruhi figure. Don’t know what that is? Take a look at these images, and then this song, and then this wiki. Like the fellow holding her in his hand, she lives in a parallel universe and has little interest in normal humans. She’s a heck of a lot cuter than he is though.
These kind of toy figures are big business in Japan, but there are some who are taking this mania and exploiting it for more artistic ends. Like this fellow Tei Ryosuke a creative designer and (toy figure maker) who has said (and remember he’s not speaking in his native tongue):
I don’t think that this is toy – only toy. …Now we have a new mania, it’s toy you know. So, we use toy design… and er change the media and send to world… and so many people show this, make happy, yeah? Link to (Dutch?) feature on urban toys.
Here are some figures he has designed himself (I especially like “mummy the rabbit”): LINK
So, you see, otaku can be artists too.
Tei Ryosuke is also an animator and here is a wicked animation he did for DJ Missill’s “Forward” which features (as all French electronica videos should) a giant guitar-playing robo-rabbit. Great tune too. LINK (via Pink Tentacle)
Teaching business English in Osaka this evening, and the current topic being advertising, I asked my salarymen if they could give me an example of a memorable TV commercial. This seems to have made a big impression on them: Yui Aragaki dancing for Pocky.
Here’s an amusing video from the BBC: LINK. Other than being bemused by this guy’s wacky antics, I was really amused by the J-cops’ inept attempts to catch him without actually having to touch him (using shields and long distance grappling equipment etc.).
Being foreign in Japan, one is often told one resembles famous foreigners whether one does so or not (because, you know, we all look alike). During the last eleven years I have been variously told I resemble Gary Oldman and (titter ye not) Johnny Depp, and (somebody did actually say this) Brad Pitt. However, a full 6 years since Philippe Troussier left his job as coach for Japan’s national soccer team, people are still saying that not only do I resemble him but that I am ソックリ!!! i.e. the living spit! I’m beginning to think there might be something in it. What do you think? For your persusal, below left: Philippe Troussier, and below right: Michael Lambe.
Here are some pictures from Gion Matsuri I’ve been wanting to put up all week but bubbleshare has been acting up lately so… Anyway, the first set are from last Sunday, I got a couple of tickets to go and look inside two of the festival floats which was pretty cool. I went a day early to avoid the crowds. Still had to wait though. BubbleShare: Share photos – Powered by BubbleShare
The second set are from Monday, Yoiyoiyoiyama when the festival really gets going and the streets are littered with impromptu street bars and stalls selling chocolate coated bananas, tako-yaki, fried chicken, all kinds of crap. We all put on our best yukata and jimbei and strolled around and soaked up that special festival atmosphere.Thankfully it had rained earlier in the day, so it was relatively cool for us. BubbleShare: Share photos – Play some Online Games.
These last couple of pictures are from 3 am Thursday morning when I encountered a friendly group of riot police on my way home…
Not sure what they were up to. Didn’t stick around to find out.
Before I sign out for the evening, here’s a link to Joss Wheedon’s latest creation, a three act musical super-villain comedy which you can watch for free until Sunday when it is due to vanish from the net like the snow in springtime. I watched the first two acts yesterday, and was entranced. The third and final act goes up tomorrow. Watch it while it’s free! Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog
Ha ha. I was going to write about Edgar Allan Poe’s wacky little novel “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket” today, as I just finished it last night. However, I fear I am too weary for literary criticism, so I’ll just post a few links and offer some lame meanderings on gender issues instead.
Since yesterday there have been a heap of articles on Google News about gay marriages in California. The very same day I spotted this article on the BBC website about “gay brain differences“. It seems brain scans have shown that gay people have brains shaped very much like people of the opposite sex (i.e. gay men’s brains are shaped like heterosexual women’s brains and lesbian brains are shaped like the brains of men). Nothing too surprising there really, (and I wonder why nobody thought of doing this before…) but it does offer proof that, as one scientist put it “there is no argument any more – if you are gay, you are born gay”. In other words, it’s COMPLETELY NATURAL TO BE GAY. Of course those of us living in the 21st century knew that already, but sadly there are still those who have a problem with our queer bretheren (and sisteren). Here’s a short video about the marriages in California. It’s worth watching till the end for an appearance by Star Trek’s Mr Sulu: George Takei, who is going to marry his long-term partner Brad Altman, and looks really super pleased about it. Actually, the infectiously cheesy grins on their faces are really something to behold. Truly a happy couple. I hope they both live long and prosper.