Thursday, July 31, 2008


Fly like a piano

William is a French teacher at my school. He speaks pretty good English, although not without a touch of the gallic:

"Wuaaah! Look at zat!"

I wander over to have a look. A gigantic cockroach is in the middle of the floor in plain view. Perhaps unaware that it has been discovered, it doesn't make the trademark lightning dash for safety. I take William's lunch bag (taking care to remove the lunch first) and use it as a glove as I grab our unwelcome visitor. We discuss the possibility of giving him a swimming lesson in the toilet, but decide to release him back into the wild. I take him out onto the fire escape and release him with a cry of "fly my beauty!"

He flies like a piano, fully ten floors down to land almost audibly atop a white truck, where he lies motionless. The truck drives off. My day is just beginning.


Snippet from wikipedagogue:
In September 2006, amusement park Six Flags Great America announced it would be granting unlimited line-jumping privileges for all rides to anyone who could eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach as part of a Halloween-themed FrightFest. Furthermore, if a contestant managed to beat the previous world record (eating 36 cockroaches in 1 minute), he would receive season passes for four people during the 2007 season. This is a difficult record to break because raw cockroaches contain a mild neurotoxin that numbs the mouth and makes it difficult to swallow. The promotion began on October 7, 2006, and ended on October 29, 2006.



Contingency plans

It happened in karaoke. Someone was giving "Wonderwall" a whirl when a comrade's visiting sister started blubbing hot, wet tears all into her boyfriend's t shirt. Apparently, the song had been played at her friend's funeral, which prompted me to ask if he'd died of solvent abuse. Alcohol flowed, songs were sung; I woke up the following afternoon as handsome as ever.

A few years ago, I gave Lewis a cassette of contenders for my funeral song. Rather than just choose one, I listed a number of potential death scenarios and the corresponding song to be played. The most obscene / shocking song out of the lot was reserved for the contingency that I predecease my grandfather.

Last word on the subject- songs not to be played at my funeral:

Wonderwall by Oasis, Orinoco flow by Enya.

Daniel by Elton John.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Dan-kun no eiken

DAN: Ok, next question: what is the name of the disputed islands located between Japan and South Korea?

The ladies, one Japanese, one South Korean mull this over. The Japanese is slightly quicker to decode the English.

SHE: Takeshima?

DAN: Wrong! Dok-do! They belong to Korea!

South Korean girl is delighted. The Japanese, who also happens to be my manager, makes a noise like a cow giving birth and tells me that I'm not nice.

Of course, if the other had been quicker on the uptake, I would have been equally vociferous in my support of Japan's claim. What you might call a win-win situation.


Takeshima vs Dok-do

The Japanese name means "bamboo island", which implies a level of verdancy probably completely alien to the two permanent inhabitants of the rocks (both Korean, sadly- one from each country would have been much more interesting); the Korean name means "lonely island", which is probably a little closer to the mark.

Korea currently holds the island.

The Dok-do problem has resurfaced in the wake of the Japanese government's decision to include the "Takeshima problem" in the JHS social studies syllabus (this despite the fact that the history curriculum generally gives such issues as "comfort women" a wide berth.)


The Liancourt rocks

Japanese-Korean disputes

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Titus ramble

If one good deed in all my life I did,
I do repent it from my very soul.


Although Hamlet is well known to all and sundry, Shakespeare's other true revenge tragedy, Titus Andronicus, is more of an acquired taste.

I term the above "true" revenge tragedies because they tick a lot more of the generic boxes than the rest of the Shakespeare canon.


-Corrupt and defunct state justice systems necessitating the revenge process

-Dubious sanity on the part of the hero

-Hero corrupted by the process of revenge

-Conniving villains matching wits with conniving heroes

-Ridiculously intricate methods of killing that would have Blofeld from the Bond films scratching his bald pate and wondering why they don't simply suspend their intended victim over a shark pool with a time-release laser ray aimed at the rope.

-Blood all over the stage, especially during the last act

-More besides

The tragedies of Shakespeare's time knocked spots off the Greek tragedies that preceded them, largely because, in the latter, some mincing thespian would prance onto the stage wearing a "sad face" mask and spew some rhetoric about the terrible calamity that had just taken place off-stage. By the time Shakespeare's plays hit the stage, blood and guts were also hitting the stage- and often the front couple of rows of the audience as well.

Whilst the above may seem terribly lowbrow, "bums on seats" was and is the governing principal of the theatre. Titus Andronicus was pure 100 % unadulterated lowest common denominator, and there probably wasn't a dry seat in the house after the following:

Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?

Ay, that I had not done a thousand more.
Even now I curse the day--and yet, I think,
Few come within the compass of my curse,--
Wherein I did not some notorious ill,
As kill a man, or else devise his death,
Ravish a maid, or plot the way to do it,
Accuse some innocent and forswear myself,
Set deadly enmity between two friends,
Make poor men's cattle break their necks;
Set fire on barns and hay-stacks in the night,
And bid the owners quench them with their tears.
Oft have I digg'd up dead men from their graves,
And set them upright at their dear friends' doors,
Even when their sorrows almost were forgot;
And on their skins, as on the bark of trees,
Have with my knife carved in Roman letters,
'Let not your sorrow die, though I am dead.'
Tut, I have done a thousand dreadful things
As willingly as one would kill a fly,
And nothing grieves me heartily indeed
But that I cannot do ten thousand more.

How I never got round to recommending this for the wall of hate at FKB I'll never know. It's comparable with the Futurama take on Richard Nixon:

Computers may be twice as fast as they were in 1973, but your average voter is as drunk and stupid as ever. The only thing that's different is me; I've become bitter, and let's face it, crazy over the years. And once I'm swept into office, I'll sell our children's organs to zoos for meat, and I'll go into people's houses at night and wreck up the place. Muahahaha!


Saturday, July 26, 2008


Go smash a pheasant

VMM: ...and I sunged this lady in FKB. We were arguing about whether you wear a Jinbei in summer or winter....


I remembered the incident well enough; Holmes was repeating it for the benefit of a third party. What impressed me was the new bit of vocab he busted out:

Sung, to sung someone: to beat someone so soundly in a battle of Japanese cultural knowledge that they are left looking like a Korean. From the name "Sung."

Example: I sunged my students on Japanese superstitions today.

As soon as I heard the word, I understood it and how it was to be used evermore at every available opportunity. My enthusiasm wasn't even dampened when it turned out that he'd actually said "sonned." (Son, meaning "to school.")

Funny how things get started.


Friday, July 25, 2008


Terrifying tales of travel abroad

As the WaiWai has died (Say what? click here. None the wiser? Click here.) I am in search of an alternative source of badly-written badly-researched baloney.

Fortunately, with what Japanese I have, help is at hand in the unlikely form of The Books You Can Buy In Convenience Stores. Last month, I picked up a volume on the world's poisonous animals, and then last weekend I was doing some window-shopping in Nagoya when I stumbled across this little honey:

The title is Kaigai ryoko no osoroshii hanashi, or "Terrifying tales of travel abroad." ("crimes to make you shudder are lying in wait for a Japanese!")

This thing is a hit from the word go: inside the front cover is a world map on which each country is graded from one to five according to kiken (danger), sabetsu (discrimination) and bukka (cost.)

How does England fare? Two for danger, THREE for discrimination (putting us on a par with the French, for goodness's sake) and a world-record FIVE for cost. Outstanding.

For the record, Japan scores two for discrimination, now show me your alien registration card. Oh, and four for cost, which explains why I'm living like a king after having survived the hardships of British pricing for so long.

The stories are pretty good, though: my favourite thus far is the guy who has his pocket picked in a station in Spain, gets on a train afterwards, turns to look away from a couple who get on board and start snogging right in front of him only for them to start rummaging through his pockets too.

I award this book three bog rolls out of five for recycleability.

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Sunday, July 20, 2008


The only two blokes in the Care Bears exhibit

I'm in Nagoya and it's great. We came last night on the Kintetsu line ("Just in case you forgot you were actually in Asia": my idea for an advertising slogan- makes the Nankai line look like the Shinkansen.) We stayed with the VMM's surrogates last night and went to queue up for sumo tickets this morning.

Mischief duly managed, we opted for a few hours mooching round the city centre before checking in to watch the action. When we got to Parco, it turned out they were having a Care Bears exhibition in the in-store gallery. I put it to the VMM and, surprisingly, he agreed. Or at least, didn't hit me. So in we went.


Surrounded by Care Bears paraphernalia on all sides.

VMM: Hey, they got My Little Pony in here too?

ME: My Little Pony?! What are you- a fucking faggot?

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Saturday, July 19, 2008


How the mighty are fallen

Thanks to Karate Kid (Best Kid to those of us who live in a country where Karate is no laughing matter), the Japanese suffix -san is known to all and sundry. Naturally, I heard no shortage of "Daniel-san" at secondary school and I can even boast a Coventry City shirt with the same printed on the back, courtesy of the SBA.

Less well known in the west are the other suffixes. Whilst -san is a nice generic marker (Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms: delete as applicable), it would be the height of bad form to call someone a -san when their social rank demands otherwise. I caught Machida-sensei referring to me as Dan-san in front of the students once and I gave him A Look. After that, it was Dan-sensei all the way.

Not that I consider myself a sensei, but the "give an inch, take a mile" rule is poignantly applicable in the case of junior high students, and it's a short step from the teachers calling me Dan-san to the third years calling me Dan-kun and owning me in the toilets.

At elementary school, I sidestepped the whole tortuous business by insisting that everyone just call me Dan.

Anyway, for those who can't resist a bit of schadenfraude, here's a nice few examples of suffixes relating to AVON'S erstwhile president Nozom Sahashi:

Sahashi-company-president: used in the newspapers until about November last year.

Sahashi-ex-company-president, used after AVON's collapse, then followed by...

Sahashi-suspect (lit: "suspicious person"), which really brightened up my day the first time I read it in the newspaper, but has since escalated to:


I look forward to the day when I can open up the Mainichi and see the kanji for Sahashi-jailbird.

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Friday, July 18, 2008


Sumo: Nagoya basho

The sun is shining and the cicadas have come out of hiding virtually overnight. Not that I give a toss: the sumo's on!

Yes fans, the Nagoya grand tournament is on at the moment, which means more time in Softmap and similar for YHN.

Big news of the first five days or so:

1. Koto-oshu's bid for a promotion to Yokozuna went bad faster than yoghurt: set a daunting task of overall tournament victory with a record no worse than 14-1 to achieve the level up to sumo's highest echelon, the towering time-waster was dead in the water by the end of day three, having already suffered two defeats.

Was Koto's stunning victory in the summer tournament a flash in the pan? The answer is obviously yes: I fully expect him to be fighting to keep his rank again in the next tournament, the worthless bum.

2. Faring no better is Asa, whose record currently stands at three wins and two defeats. After blotting his copy book on day one (for the second consecutive tournament) Asa came a cropper against perennial palooka Tochinonada yesterday. After a lengthy bout, both fell out of the ring together, the judges conducted a brief discussion and Tochinonada got the nod.

TV replays actually indicated that Tochi's hand had touched the ground first, but as this was due to Asa having been thrown clean off the raised ring, the yokozuna can hardly claim a victory. The best course of action would have been to hold a rematch, but the judges obviously fancied trying to beat the traffic home. Guh.

3. Further bad news for Asa is that arch-rival Hakuho has a spotless 5-0 record thus far. This means that if Asa is to have any chance of winning the tournament, he'll have to keep his powder dry from now on and hope that Hakuho slips up at least once ahead of the 15th day.

Sharing Hakuho's lead, happily enough, is Ama! I'll be pretty surprised if he's still in the running come next weekend, but stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to sort out a trip to Nagoya this Sunday to see the fun. Fingers crossed!


Friday, July 11, 2008


Blame thy neighbour

Dear diary

As you know, there are four seasons in Japan...

We can mark the changes of the seasons by what the Japanese are blaming the Chinese for.

In spring, for example, everybody scampers around 'neath the cherry blossoms, complaining that Chinese gyoza has given them the dire rear. Summer, meanwhile, is famous for the chirruping of cicadas and the chirruping of everyone else about how unagi (eel) of Chinese origin has been scandalously labelled as domestic produce and sold on to unsuspecting consumers, thereby placing them in grave danger of getting the dire rear.

These hot, heavy days are not without their compensations, although I, for one, long for the cooler season, when the serene progress of the archipelago into its autumnal phase will be indicated by everyone clamming up about eels and mouthing off about Chinese matsutake mushrooms instead.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Dropping knowledge

The term "to drop knowledge" is one I have from the VMM: when someone tells you something new and worth knowing, knowledge has been dropped.

Toshi Miyoshi (former NTT representative, aspiring musician and long-term gout sufferer) dropped some knowledge on me last night:

"Tokyo.. argh... Tokyo ramen (noodles) is much, much saltier than Osaka ramen.... argh... because in Tokyo a long time ago, there were many daiku..."

(At this point, he mimed a vigorous fisting motion.)

"You know daiku-san, right? Ahh... they many, many sweat, so Tokyo ramen is really salty... daiku needs the salt..."

Fortunately, readers, daiku is not a katakana slang term for a lesbian: it's an original Japanese term meaning "carpenter." Thus was knowledge dropped, and from someone whom I had long considered to be a pretty unlikely source.



TRICKY: u r playing in the game on july 12 aren't u?

DAN: well, I wasn't planning on celebrating Orange Day at any rate

It turned out that Holmes didn't actually know what Orange Day was, so I enlightened him: it's the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, traditionally celebrated by Protestants by marching around the place in orange sashes with a free escort from Her Majesty's police.

I expressed my hope that we'd be wearing our traditional black shirts rather than our new orange ones. Tricky told me that not only would we be wearing our orange shirts, but we'd be marching around the pitch playing the flute for a warm up.


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