Thursday, May 29, 2008


Not convinced

One South Korean and two Japanese brokers, who were arrested on suspicion of arranging a fake marriage between a South Korean woman and a Japanese man, allegedly obtained about 40 fake Japanese passports for South Koreans who had been deported, it has been learned.

In order to prevent deportees gaining reentry to Japan, the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law introduced in November requires foreigners to be fingerprinted and photographed when they enter the country.

The deportees asked the brokers to obtain the fake passports, and have admitted to the police they did so in an attempt to avoid fingerprinting.

According to the Metropolitan Police Department, this is the first case since the introduction of the new immigration checks in which people have attempted to skip fingerprinting by using fake Japanese passports.

Brokers ran fake passport scam for South Korean deportees
The Yomiuri Shimbun, May. 27, 2008


Ah, so that's why they introduced all that fingerprinting BS. They didn't manage to come out with any explanation at the time, so I presumed it was just an act of arbitrary racism.

Oh, unless I was right and they're just trying to come up with some sort of flimsy justification after the fact.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Bilbo gets his

Tell (the stalker) pawns that reach the other side don't necessarily become queens.


To my late grandmother Pauline, I will forever be indebted for (amongst other things) my collection of Roger Lancelyn Green books detailing various mythologies, from Arthurian legend to the Trojan war.

One passage that particularly sticks in my mind is that of the unfortunate Greek dawn goddess, Aurora. Falling in love with a mortal man, she asked head god, Zeus, to grant him the gift of eternal life. Perversity and pedantry are hallmarks of all such wishes granted in Greek legend (think of that poor sod Midas, who would have been onto a winner had he thought to include a couple of provisos): true to form, Zeus permitted Aurora's beloved eternal life, but not eternal youth.

Of course, the situation ends up as a complete fiasco. Aurora's husband turns into a shrivelled, barmy old coot under lock and key in her palace, chattering away to himself like a grasshopper: Dawn's dirty little secret.

One reason that this passage is so prominent in my mind is my Tuesday evening Japanese teacher, nickname: Bilbo-sensei. I am convinced that in the next life he'll be coming back as one of those streams out in the countryside, that gurgle incessantly regardless of whether anyone's around listening (much better than falling trees in that respect.)

Couldn't help feeling a bit put upon today. Having made the mistake of using "China" as a discussion topic in the lesson I teach in Kozenji library (normally-genial student outs himself as drum-beating right winger), I now found myself consigned to the "listening" role as Bilbo-sensei cackled incomprehensibly to himself about the vocab list he'd brought to the lesson.

With twenty or so minutes left, BS pulled out his shougi board and asked if I fancied a game. My first attempt at shougi had been the previous week and BS, unsurprisingly, had bull-whipped me. However, given the choice between another bare-ass spanking and further monologue from sensei, I opted for the former.

Shougi is quite similar to chess, but there are a couple of key differences. One is that all of the pieces except the king get promoted if they reach the last three ranks of the board. Another is that you can bring captured enemy pieces back into play on your side.

ME: Zonbi mitai na.

BS: He---eeh?

ME: Like zombies, huh.

BS: Yes, just like zombies. How very apt.

I felt a little guilty that I hadn't used any of the intervening week to swot up on how shougi pieces move, but I figured that I could remember enough to get the game moving, at which point the home team would ride roughshod over my defences and everyone could go home happy, if none the wiser.

Five minutes later and Bilbo-sensei was being treated to a Custer's-eye view of the battlefield. To be perfectly honest, I had little idea how it had come about that I had most of my opponent's decent pieces cooling in my morgue, ready to be brought back as zombies. I showed all the hinkaku I could under the circumstances.

ME: Choushi ga warui na, sensei (Not on form today, eh?)

HE: ...

Bilbo-sensei had perhaps been a bit over-casual with his opening and must have been feeling like the cavaliers as my implacable roundheads ground out victory after victory in a war of attrition. Scandalously, with five minutes left until eight o'clock he tried to call a halt to proceedings, claiming it was the end of the lesson. I poo-pooed this, dumped a wave of zombie attackers on the board and made mincemeat of Bilbo's last stand. No more silky handkerchiefs and pederasty for you, you bunch of goddamn papists. To the winner, the spoils; the loser to the ravens.

I'm sure I'll get crushed next week, but I went home feeling more motivated about Japanese study than I have in months.



Me no doku

Brett, bless him, got me Kodansha's Dictionary of basic Japanese idioms for me birthday. The title of this post (lit: eye poison) means an eyesore. Here it is in Japanese:

First character is eye, second character denotes possession, third character is poison. It's all so simple gaijin-san.

Brett having provided me with such a handsome present, it would have been churlish and remiss of me to deny him a night's accommodation at the Casa Dan ahead of Man Ure and Chelski's European Champion's League Final on Wednesday night. We got to sleep sometime after midnight and had to be up again before 3 am, thanks to the blasted time difference between Europe and Japan.

Brett had had the foresight to bring a fruit salad breakfast for the pair of us. Where he had erred, however, was in leaving his contact lens solution at home, necessitating his purchase of a fresh bottle at the local convenience store.

Sadly, what he bought turned out to be me no doku. After a stifled yelp, Brett announced that his eyes were burning. That shouldn't be, I thought. I had a quick shuftie at the label on the bottle, beneath CONTACT LENS (English characters) there was a bit of a twist:

(Yep, there's that "poison" character again.)

"Dude," I said; "you put disinfectant in your eyes."

"That explains it," said Brett, blinking like an eight-year-old at a funeral.


He didn't cry as much as John Terry, though. How, in this day and age, anyone can allow an English centre half to take a clutch penalty is beyond me.

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Monday, May 26, 2008


The outcome of the summer sumo tournament

Despite my scepticism, Bulgarian ozeki Koto-oshu defeated both yokozuna in the second week of the natsu-basho (Summer sumo tournament) to win his first grand prize. Indeed, had it not been for a painful drubbing at the hands of Aminishiki on day 13, Koto would have finished the tournament unbeaten. His 14-1 record is his best performance to date in any case, and certainly figures worthy of a champion.

Koto-oshu began the tournament under the threat of a rank demotion after his dismal showing and early withdrawal at the spring tournament. This and his previously unspectacular performances as an ozeki may disqualify him from yokozuna consideration in the event of a second successive victory in Nagoya, although his victories against both yokozuna in this tournament reflect favourably on his chances.

The two incumbent yokozuna, meanwhile, lit up the last day's dead rubber with a lack of hinkaku in their bout: Asa won, but then gave the fallen Hakuho an unnecessary shove, to which the latter reacted with a shoulder charge to Asa's chest. The two exchanged glares before returning to their respective sides of the ring. Undoubtedly, both must be frustrated that their showpiece bout was meaningless in terms of the title, Koto-oshu having established an unassailable lead with his 13th victory the previous day. Asashoryu had at least the satisfaction of dragging himself level with Hakuho on the last day, but neither will be satisfied with their 11-4 records.

Of the ozeki, Chiyotaikai will be hoping for a Koto-oshu-esque performance in Nagoya: he will be competing under the threat of demotion, having been dismal here (5 wins, 10 losses.) Both VMM and I were hoping that both of the other ozeki would see their parking spaces similarly jeopardised (see "perks of being an ozeki", previous sumo-related post.) Sadly, Kaio managed to tie up his kachi-koshi (majority win) prior to the last day, then meekly submitted to Kotomitsuki yesterday, giving the latter his eighth win. Fix!

Ama picked up the technique award for the third time. Stablemate Aminishiki got the achievement award, whilst Kisenosato and Toyonoshima won the fighting spirit awards.

Jon Kunimura-lookalike Kisenosato: an ozeki in the making?


Sumo links now available on the right!



Where there's a Will

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right?" Clinton said. "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."

-Hillary Clinton, when asked whether she ought not to concede the Democratic nomination.


Can't say that this didn't make me laugh. Words fail me not, however. In fact, there are so many words available to describe Clinton's latest piece of electioneering, that I'm only going to use words beginning with "D" to simplify matters.

Dastardly, daft.

Deeply disturbing.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Ama! (Safari Joe does it again)

Sumo-watching strategy #55: buy a pack of AA batteries to sweeten the shop owner up, then ask them to stick the last ten minutes of the sumo on one of the display tellies. This is the sumo-watching technique equivalent of the oshitaoshi move, whereby a wrestler, lacking any more laudable ways to beat his opponent, simply pushes them over. Genius stuff. As for the telly watching, there was no way I was going to miss Ama versus Hakuho.

The result was not a complete surprise: Ama had won three of the previous four meetings between the two, and Hakuho certainly seems to find him difficult to deal with. This time, he made the mistake of rushing too much and trying to beat his opponent without the insurance of a dominant belt grip. End result: a couple of salarymen in the front row had the unexpected treat of having the yokozuna plonked down in front of them.

This left Bulgarian ozeki Koto-oshu the sole leader of the tournament with a perfect 10-0 record. If he can upset the odds and beat Asashoryu today, he'll have an excellent chance to win overall. If.

Cozeki (that's a made-up word: co-ozeki, heh heh) Chiyotaikai, meanwhile, is having a wretched time. With seven losses to his name already, he still has to face both yokozuna and Koto-oshu and looks doomed to finishing the tournament with a losing record.


From Wikipedia:

Relegation from ōzeki
Like the other sanyaku ranks, but unlike a yokozuna, an ozeki may be relegated. For an ozeki, relegation is a two-step procedure. First, the ozeki must lose more bouts than he wins in a tournament; losing a majority of bouts is called makekoshi. At this point, the ozeki is called kadoban. If he wins a majority of bouts in the next tournament (which is called kachikoshi), he is restored to regular ozeki status. If, on the other hand, he loses a majority of bouts while kadoban, he is relegated to sekiwake.

Benefits of being an ozeki
In addition to a salary increase there is a number of perks associated with reaching ozeki rank:
He is guaranteed a higher rank in the Sumo Association when he first retires
He will be given a three year temporary membership of the Sumo Association on his retirement if he does not yet own a share.
He will receive a special merit payment on his retirement (the amount decided by his strength and longevity as an ozeki)
He has a parking space in the Sumo Association headquarters
He can vote in the election of the Sumo Association Directors
Normally he will receive additional support from his stable in terms of junior wrestlers to act as his manservants.
He can wear purple fringed ceremonial aprons (kesho-mawashi)
An ozeki can normally act as a dewsweeper or swordbearer for a yokozuna ring entrance ceremony.
He may be called on to represent the wrestlers on formal occasions such as when VIPs visit a Sumo Tournament, or on formal visits to Shinto Shrines.

Red indicates my favourite perk - DM


Monday, May 19, 2008


A slow learner, evidently

It's been a while since I posted anything from the Sofia News Agency, but this was just too bizarre to pass up:


Former Mayor of Bulgaria's Pazardzhik Shoots Himself by Mistake

18 May 2008, Sunday

The former mayor of Bulgaria's town of Pazardzhik Ivan Evstatiev, who shot himself Sunday morning, committed the tragic act by mistake, police reported.

The incident took place in the house of the victim's father-in-law in Semchinovo village.

Evstatiev has been rushed to a nearby hospital, where he is still undergoing a surgery for removing three bullets from his head and chest.

His life is still in danger, doctors said.

According to police reports, the pistol Evstatiev injured himself with is legally possessed by his wife's father.

The investigation on the case continues.


As a comment on the site observed: you'd think he'd put the pistol down after he shot himself the first time.



Summer sumo tournament

Sumo time again! Eight days completed in the Natsu Basho (Summer tournament), although I've been unable to see as much as usual because of irregular working hours and whatnot.

The news:

1. Asashoryu, fighting as the East (higher-ranked) yokozuna for the first time since his suspension last year, got off to a less-than-flying start. Looking confident before his tachiai against Kusonosato (contemptuous sneer as he crouched down), he made a complete mess of the bout and ended up with the pouty Kunimura clone sitting on top of him, and earned himself a first-day shower of cushions into the bargain. Since then, Asa has posted seven straight wins to leave himself in second place at the mid-way stage.

2. Hakuho, on the other hand, has made light work of pretty much everyone so far (including Kisenosato yesterday) to race to his kachikoshi (majority) eighth win. At this stage, he looks to be wrestling the better of the two yokozuna, which bodes well for his chances of capturing the title: in the previous two tournaments, although the outcome was decided on the final day, victory ultimately went to the wrestler who'd huffed and puffed less in the early stages.

Videos of the two yokozuna:

Asashoryu (near side) losing on day one.

Hakuho versus Kotoshogiku.

Asa versus Wakanoho (of whom, more later.)

Hakuho versus Kisenosato.

3. Joining Hakuho on an 8-0 record is Bulgarian ozeki Koto-oshu. The towering yoghurt slurper began the tourny threatened with demotion; a threat which has now been lifted, thanks to his impressive performance over the first eight days. It would be great if he could keep up the pace and make the title into a three-way race, but his wins thus far have been stolid rather than superb (for which reason I haven't bothered to post any vids of him in action.) It would take a braver gaijin than me to bet on Koto taking the title, although stranger things have happened.


Went down to Daie to watch the action on TV yesterday with the VMM. Most interesting match-up of the day was hulking newbie Wakanoho versus my favourite, Ama. Wakanoho, winner of the previous encounter between the two, is a 21 year-old-Russian who comes out of the tachiai like a rat out of a trap. He looked to have the fight sewn up this time as well, but Ama pulled out something a bit special:

A remarkable throw, that had me scratching my butt and wondering exactly how he did it. (Normally I would scratch my head, but my recent bout of unemployment has left me with rather a nasty collection of bedsores.) Wakanoho apparently spoke highly of Ama's technique after the match, but his immediate reaction of shouting "KUSO!" in front of TV cameras (captured in the above clip) ought really to earn him a rap on the knuckles from the powers that be. Or a beer bottle over the head.

Wakanoho, already a high-ranking wrestler, should have a bright future ahead of him. On the other hand, his habit of wearing his heart on his sleeve is proving a bit difficult to digest for sumo purists. Get some hinkaku, rookie!

(Notice that Ama's expression flickers not a jot from his customary baleful glare, even after a spectacular victory. Poker nights must be a pretty nail-biting affair in the Isegahama stable.)


Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Avuncular tidings

So, it seems we are once more a n'uncle, i'faith.

Baby girl #2 (bit unclear as to her actual handle as yet) born yesterday, weighing in at a hefty 7lb something.

Well done, Kate; two more and we'll have enough for a Bangles covers band.

Unless you want to try for the Spice Girls (shudder.)


Tuesday, May 13, 2008


You are not a wrongdoer

After football in Ibaraki on Sunday night, a few of the Real players made the trip to Supporter's Field, a substandard football-themed bar in Umeda to watch the climax of the Premiership season.

Bailey arrived late at the bar, having come by bicycle; I handed him back his phone, which he'd left up at the football pitch by mistake. Much sniggering ensued. It didn't take Bailey too long to figure out what we'd done with the phone in his absence.

"What've you done? Oh God, you haven't gone and proposed to Yuko have you? You complete bastard."



Tricky, Brett and myself, sitting on the Hankyu train heading for Umeda. All a bit grubby after playing football, me clutching Bailey's forgotten phone. The idea hits me: why not pop the question to Bailey's missus?

Brett doesn't object until he realises that I'm actually serious about doing it, but his protests are silenced by me threatening to boot him in the throat. Tricky, despite being mature, married and responsible, is on my side; he knows good entertainment when he sees it.

With Brett trying intermittently to take the phone off me (interesting character, Brett: 70% genuine sweetheart, 30% prurient frat boy pest, this latter being the 30% of the time he's in his cups these days), I painstakingly typed out my first ever proposal of marriage:

Dear Yuko
I propose.
Yours sincerely,

Send, delete evidence from outbox, job well done. Only afterwards did I realise it would have been funnier to have typed:

Dear Yuko,
if United win the league tonight, I'm going to marry you.

It would have been entertaining to see Bailey, a confirmed Man U fan, cheering for Chelsea.

Fortunately for Bailey, Yuko didn't accept.


My phone buzzed this morning with the usual spam, offering to bolster my sexuality. Only interesting thing about this one was the title: you are not a wrongdoer.

Even taking into consideration that this was a randomly-generated e-mail, I thought it was pretty wide of the mark.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008


Ask a silly question

SHE: Dono gurai nihon-go shaberemasu ka?

ME: Kono gurai.

How much Japanese can you speak?

This much.


Friday, May 09, 2008


The impossible dream?

From Grauniad article on Josef Fritzl, the man who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years in a home-made dungeon and sired seven children on her:

He said he had not considered committing suicide. "I don't want to die," he said. "The only thing I want is to make amends."

Yeah, good luck with that one Fritz.


Thursday, May 08, 2008


Another golden oldie

Well I'm standing by a river
But the water doesn't flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
And I'm underneath the streetlight
But the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
And the perverted fear of violence
Chokes the smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bell
This ain't no technological breakdown
Oh no, this is the road to hell

And all the roads jam up with credit
And there's nothing you can do
It's all just bits of paper flying away from you
Oh look out world, take a good look
What comes down here
You must learn this lesson fast and learn it well
This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway
Oh no, this is the road
Said this is the road
This is the road to hell


Monday, May 05, 2008


The gift that keeps on giving

Ousted from my bed by the discordant blaring of my would-be doorbell, (would probably sound a bit less like someone spilling water on a casio keyboard if I replaced the battery) I stumbled to the door, and dragged it open to reveal two men in some kind of uniform. One of them can even speak.


I regard him blearily, he repeats himself, adding the word "cleaning" and explains that Mr Yokoi (Issei) sent them.

"Does such a service even exist?" I ask, temples throbbing and pasty taste in parched mouth.

"It certainly does!" the man cries, perhaps a little nettled by my scepticism. I am forced to take him at his word, his existence on my doorstep being evidential in itself of a wider, more general existence.

For how long am I required to absent myself?

"Around an hour," he says. He leans across my threshhold to peer into the gloom and then, without missing a beat: "Maybe two."

Of course Issei made the necessary arrangements, but the gift of cleaners sent to my room was a collaborative effort amongst the worthy elders of my football team, to whom I now repeat the words which I said to Issei over the phone that morning:

I love you. And I hate you.
But, mostly: I hate you.
And thank you.


Friday, May 02, 2008



Mike and Junko O'Hanley: shortly to leave Japan. Mike failed to win "player of the tournament" in his first run out for Real Osaka, but Junko won best WAG in one of the most secret ballots going.

How the day finished: busking in a weird metal structure located in the middle of one of Osaka's busiest junctions.

Dan gets some birthday zen on.

The stuff Ed brought over from China (smuggled in one of his more spacious orifices) was absolutely rank: it tasted like someone had peed in a jar of peardrops, left it for a week, then peed in it again. One of the characters on the bottle translated as "running" tears, and it wasn't too difficult to figure out why.

Woke up at 2:30am on my birthday (after about 90 minutes of sleep) to go and watch Man Utd vs Barcelona at Murphys, more beer, more running tears pee-peardrop solution, more sleep, then trekked out to see Gamba Osaka. This mascot is doubly scary when you consider that there are children inside it.

Got to bed at midnight, then back out of bed at 3:00 for Chelsea vs Liverpool. My cup runneth over.


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