Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Japan and jisatsu

Japan's Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka has died in hospital after apparently committing suicide.

The 62-year-old was found hanged in his Tokyo apartment hours before he was to face questions in parliament over his links to a political funding scandal.

from bbc.co.uk


And there it is: Japan returns to Edo-period politics, courtesy of embattled Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka. I must admit, Britain would have been much better off if Michael Howard had taken a leaf out of this guy's book about twelve years ago. I astounded my students by explaining to them that a British Minister in this position would simply have denied everything, been sent down for two years, served eight months, then come out and made a pile of cash selling his story to the News of the Screws. (Click here if you absolutely have to.)

Further musing: Japan and suicide...

I asked my students what aspects of Japan they thought were the most well known in foreign countries. As usual they opted for "delicious food."

Between gritted teeth, I explained to them that Japanese food does not enjoy such fame (their jaws fell open), whereas the Japanese propensity for killing oneself is the stuff of legend: samurai and their retainers cutting open their stomachs, young men trying to crash their planes into the enemy, angst-ridden salaryman cocking up the running of the keihan line with their inconvenient torsos, and so on and so forth.

My non-gourmands seemed a bit surprised to hear this.


(For previous article on the kamikaze, "The wings of the winds of God", March 2006, click here)


Friday, May 25, 2007


In the park

I got packed off to Top World kids school on Tuesday. Easy life: three lessons, kids I used to teach. Since me, they've had Wes and, more recently, Adam. Some of the older kids were anxious for news about Wes.

HE: Is Wesley-sensei still doing survival?

ME: Er, yes?

(One of the many pitfalls of Japanese is that words with English pronunciation sometimes have a wildly different meaning. At this stage, I was a little baffled.)

SHE: He's living in a park, right?

(Now I recalled that Wes had told his students he was homeless.)

ME: Actually, because it has recently been raining, he has moved under a bridge.

The kids were delighted with this information. It was only after I spoke to Wes the next day that I began to wonder if maybe they actually believed it.

Labels: , ,


Dan in his many guises

Went down to a bar in Ame-mura to watch the FA Cup final the other night, and a mighty non-event it was too.

The one good part of the evening was when I saw a guy I know called Justin in front of me at the bar. He hadn't noticed me and was talking to someone else, I was wondering how best to make my presence known, when Justin accidentally trod on my toe: not heavily, just a touch.

He turned round to apologise. I put on a mock-angry face and called him a very bad word which my mother would not find at all amusing.

What should have happened was that Justin should have said: "Oh wow, Dan! Haven't seen you in ages. What's going on?" Or similar.

What actually happened was that Justin looked very alarmed and turned back round hurriedly.

Puzzled, I rubbed my chin. He obviously hadn't recognised me, but...

Ah, right. Beard.

"Er, Justin...?"

Labels: ,


Yarikaeshi II

I read somewhere of an experiment where a scientist, using a microscope and other expensive equipment, had cut the synapse (?) in a fly's head which told it when it had had enough to eat. Unaware that its stomach was already full, the fly in question continued to gorge itself until it burst.

This experiment seemed to me to explain a lot more about humans than it did about flies.

During my flight from Osaka to Heathrow via Bangkok in 2005, I wrote a short story about a scientist who had designed a machine for inflicting punishment beatings on mosquitoes. Adam told me something the other night which was just as good: apparently, if you tense the body part where the mosquito is feeding, the mosquito becomes unable to disengage and will continue to suck blood until it goes pop.

Labels: ,


NY- there is no why

I got thrown into the voice room for a little one-on-one with sometime nemesis NY.

Starting a conversation with NY is a bit like getting into cold water that somebody's gone wee-wee in. At first it's uncomfortable, then it's just disgusting.

ME: So, how's it going?

NY: Believe it or not, I'm very stressful.

ME: Agreed.

NY: Eh?



According to Adam, one of our acquaintances (I'll give her nickname Fanta- those of you who know why can snigger) put a photo of Adam and myself on her MySpace page. Not a nice photo.

Personally, not a big problem, but Angry A wasn't taking it lying down. And here's what I got this morning.

"Dude, revenge rules. Take a look at hot chicks with douchebags..."

Yes, Adam posted a pic of the fair lady Fanta with her ex-boyfriend to http://hotchickswithdouchebags.com - it went up yesterday, May 24th, 2007.

There is a debate going on in the comments section as to whether ex-boyfriend qualifies as a douchebag or not. I laughed and laughed.

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 19, 2007



Main language

Arguing in favour of whalingOffering an alternative opinion
Whaling is important Japanese culture.I don't see you wearing a kimono...
The whales we hunt aren't the endangered kind.No thanks to you.
Whale tastes good.Ah, there you have me.

So, it seems that Laos has come out in support of whaling in the last week. This being the same Laos that is land-locked.

Incidentally, Laos receives vast piles of yen in aid payments from Japan every year.




I am at the school's front desk, chatting to two students who have just had the pleasure of one of my less well-planned classes. She says, by the way, she has a question, what can we say about victims of nuclear bombs. Hibakusha? Yes.

Well, I suppose we could say A-bomb survivor, I tell her. A-bomb survivor? she asks. That's right, I say. A bomb survivor? he chimes in. At this point, I realise that the words "A-bomb survivor" are getting used a bit much, but my erstwhile scholars seem to be unaware of this. They leave the school, repeating the words "A-bomb survivor" out loud over and over again so they won't forget.

I realise that I am standing with my mouth open. I look round to see if anyone was videoing this exchange. You can never be too careful.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


1499, year of the Jaguar

Out of cash, Johnny or otherwise, with the mosquitoes in the net cafe keen for a bite of the action? You done landed in the 1400s Marty McFly.

(This one's dedicated to VMM.)

Jaguar vs Anaconda- real thing, not one of those dog-shite CGI simulations.

"Life is hard/ and so am I./ You'd better give me something/ so I don't die."

Not bad for a chibi.

It all began when they took me from my home
And put me on Death Row,
A crime for which I am totally innocent, you know.

I began to warm and chill
To objects and their fields,
A ragged cup, a twisted mop
The face of Jesus in my soup
Those sinister dinner deals
The meal trolley's wicked wheels
A hooked bone rising from my food
And all things either good or ungood.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

I hear stories from the chamber
Christ was born into a manger
And like some ragged stranger
He died upon the cross
Might I say it seems so fitting in its way
He was a carpenter by trade
Or at least that's what I'm told

My kill hand's tatooed E.V.I.L.
Across it's brother's fist
That filthy five!
They did nothing to challenge or resist.

In Heaven His throne is made of gold
The ark of his Testament is stowed
A throne from which I'm told
All history does unfold.
It's made of wood and wire
And my body is on fire
And God is never far away.

Into the mercy seat I climb
My head is shaved, my head is wired
And like a moth that tries
To enter the bright eye
I go shuffling out of life
Just to hide in death awhile
And anyway I never lied.

And the mercy seat is waiting
And I think my head is burning
And in a way I'm yearning
To be done with all this weighing of the truth.
An eye for an eye
And a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is burning
And I think my head is glowing
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway there was no proof
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is glowing
And I think my head is smoking
And in a way I'm hoping
To be done with all these looks of disbelief.
A life for a life and a truth for a truth
And I've got nothing left to lose
And I'm not afraid to die.

And the mercy seat is smoking
And I think my head is melting
And in a way that's helping
To be done with all this twisting of the truth.
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth
And anyway I told the truth
But I'm afraid I told a lie.


Monday, May 07, 2007


HS no Hamu-chan

Back in the classroom, Dan v 2.9, avec beard (that's right Dan fans- the beard is back!) Across the desk, all-gaijin-look-the-same high-school student ("your name is Sam.")

ME: Do you have any pets?

SHE: I had a hamster.

ME: Why do I get the feeling that this story has a bad ending?

SHE: Itachi- nan to iu no? What do I say?

I search the McKeown memory bank. Ah, there it is. Sure enough, the tale of HS's hamster has the requisite unhappy ending.

ME: Itachi... that would be a weasel, wouldn't it.

She checks her dictionary

SHE: Yes, weasel.

I decided not to pursue the details of how exactly HS lost her hamster to a weasel. My loss, perhaps.


Friday, May 04, 2007


A sore point

The most macabre thing ever to take place in one of my lessons: on my first day back from K2 I had a lesson with a man dubbed "The Elf." The Elf is a bit of a chronic case, but has the saving grace of being a Kyushu-jin, which provided me with fertile grounds for conversation.

Sure enough, the Elf was happy enough to banter about Kyushu, he was relaxed, urbane, chatty and all seemed to be going well. We spent the first ten minutes gassing about K2, then I asked him what he'd been up to during Golden Week. He replied that he'd been to hospital every day, added that he'd had the top joint of his finger removed after it had been trapped in machinery at the factory, then produced his hand from under the desk for inspection; swathed in bandages and the size of a football.

How dark, I thought. I hadn't realised that he'd been keeping his hand out of sight.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Snake? Snake?! SNAAAAA-AKE!!

Woke up on the boat with a raging headache, an injured hand and zero memory. It seemed we had arrived in Kyushu and Doris Day on the boat wanted us to disembark. One of them was bustling round our cabin. I greeted her with the sort of growl that you don't want to hear behind you suddenly when you're climbing a mountain.

"Daniel McKeown-sama, you don't have your wallet, do you?"

I checked.

"Actually, I don't even have my trousers."


We saw Aso and it was good, but Caesar had to bail back to blighty due to an attack of Liquid Snake and The Man in the High Castle was close behind, thus our quartet has been shrunk down to two.

Nico and I are now on a revised schedule- Sakurajima will have to wait for another time, but we've done pretty well thus far. We're starting in Fukuoka today and we're planning a leisurely tour home along the inland sea.

And now we'd best get cracking.

Labels: ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Listed on BlogShares