Random Discoveries and Irreverent Observations

You are horrible people and I hate you. (Examples of legendary Ignorance)

This car is parked. Right smack dab in the middle of the lot. Why? Probably other cars were also parked outside of the actual spaces. Here's an Idea drive further away where there are some spaces. People here park wherevey they want.

Congrats. You are and ignorant ass.

This could be a reason why we aren't getting the language through...

Bottom 4 shelves: Pluto Nash, bend it like Beckham, horror flicks, blue crush, rated from G to R.

Top Shelf: The sex files, Sex Men, and other pornography.

You say your kids dont respect women eh? Huh... well I guess we'll never know why.

Ignorate people of Japan, you are terrible people and I hate you.

Just go straight down the 17...

I am sure that a druken clown is responsible for the civil planning of Japan. For example take a look at this road map. Please notice that there are 3 distinct roads numbered 17. Two of them intersect meaning you can be at the conrner of the 17 and the 17. God help you if you are travelling west to east. "get on the 17 and stay on it. When it splits into the 17 and the 17, stay on the 17." Or How about meeting me on the corner of the 17 and the 14. Which one of the 3?

This is not an isolated incident, and repeated parrallell roads with the same names are very common. Notice the parallell 354's that run through gunma on the map on the south.

When I asked why this is, no one could understand what I was talking about. That is the 354. That is also the 354. What is the problem?

Drunken, Drunken clown.

Who is Electric Jesus?

This is FM 87.6 MIT (Meiwa, Itakura, Tatebayashi) It current broacast radius can be measured easily in Meters. If your not in your car on the north end ot Tatebayashi then you wont get it. Still though, every Monday from 5:30-7:00 you can tune in for the Electric Jesus Variety Hour, hosted by yours truly. I have already made significant improvments in the technology they are using, and the techniques that they use. I am not done yet either... Response has been good, and it is tons of fun and a great stress reliever.


Look at the size of those melons!

I have made passing mention of the high prices here before. Fruit especially is expensive. I am sorry, but I would rather get the scurvy before I shell out 6 bucks for an apple or pear. When someone offers me some fruit, I am truly appreciative. Imagine, they went and took out a second mortgage for little old me...

Watermelons! What a joke! 5 bucks at home... here it is a big event when they come on sale for 15.

Did I mention that they are also small and spherical. about 1/3 the size at home generally. When I saw this one at the international foods store in Maebashi I was surprise. Then I saw the price. This Jumbo watermelon was selling for a mere 6800 yen! At todays conversion price (september 5,2003) that makes it a steal at 79.86 Canadian! Yeah, umm.. I'll take two.

The battle is won!

Since we came here, driving to and from work has been a major issue. The powers that be at city hall tried to forbid us. They pointed again and again at our contract which stated clearly that the use of vehicles during school hours was at the discretion of the principals and the BOE.

We pointed again and again that we drive to and from school before and after school hours respectively. Somehow the idea of private time starting when work was "technically over" was incomprehensible to the Japanese.

But after months of fighting, and Brett translating the constitution we won, all we had to do was fill out a form, mapping our route to and from school, and obey the rules. That seems fair enough. I will be careful traffic accident. I still added a bit of a a rider to my form mind you...

"These are the routes I tend to take. I do however, reserve the right to travle to school by any route I wish. This is a privilege I derive by being an adult member of society. I am sure you are familier with it, you enjoy the same privilage, only without question, or restriction, or need to fight for it."

Nice hips.

I dont know who the wiseguy was who single handedly taught every single Japanese person the wrong word for "Butt" but I am gonna pop him when I meet him.

Every Japanese person calls the buttocks the "hips". Leading to things like "nice hip" or "my hip hurts"

We do what we can to teach them that the hip is a joint a few inches north but it is hard when we have to work with dictionaries like this one from Alex's school library...

AleX marks the spot.

The city published Tatebayashi Street atlas. As you can see it is really very detailed, down to the very house level...

Maybe too detailed considering for some unknown reason, Alex's house is marked out and printed in the atlas...

Just in case you needed to know, A-Re-Ku-Su lives right there...

Please Recycle.

Garbage in Japan is quite an ordeal. Recycling isn't a suggestion, it is the defacto law. If you fail to recycle and seperate your garbage into the catagories of burnables, plastics, metals, and glass, then they wont take your garbage or if they do, they fine you the cost of sorting it...

This is in response to the fact that the natural resources of Japan are so horribly low... everyone is concerned with conservation. Lights are turned off religiously when exiting rooms, water is not left running, everything that can be re-used is re-used. Waste is truely a dirty word.

That is why when you buy a big bag of Jellybeans inside you will find them micro packaged into tiny packages of 2...


On Patrol.

For those of you who didn't know, the fact that we were dumped here and left to our own devices in the beginning formed a rather quick and strong bond. We as a group, tend to get along quite well, and Brett branded us with the nickname Gaijin Patrol. That name stuck, in fact there was an item on the Grow up menu named after us for a while...

Anyway, Andy was bored one day, and whipped up this little drawing... along with customized, hand drawn, laminated ID cards... he has way too much spare time.

This pic now hangs by the door at Grow up. ( You might notice he even drew my purse strap...)

Didn't quite know where to put this...

Attempting to install a Japanese School scanner on my laptop, using Japanese software I recieved the following message...

And just in case you were wondering... Yes of course I got it working...


Credit where credit is due.. That is convenient...

While the name "convenience store" is used often enough in Canada, we haven't even scratched the surface of "convenient" like the Japanese Conbini (=convini=convenience). When I first got here, the conbini was sort of a "safe place" to shop. I was impressed when I discovered they also sold full, hot meals, prepared fresh every day at low prices. Great. Another nice surprise was the discovery of color copying services. Nice, just like home... And of course pre-made meal kits you can take home and cook yourself.. with fresh meat and veggies! Wow... even better than the premade food... Hot soup? Sure grab a can on the way home. Stamps, books, food, alc medicine, and even liquor, all 24 hours a day.

When my first Kei-tai bill arrived (cell phone bill) I asked where to pay it.. "Conbini" Sure enough... all bills come with a set of bar codes that can be scanned at the conbini and paid 24 hours a day. I need to add more money to my prepaid long distance card. Conbini. For six months the conbini continued to get more and more convienient. I assumed it's amazing secrets were all revealed to me by that point. Nope. Sure enough, and as you may have read already... when the time came for me to buy insurance for my scooter... conbini. I can't tell you how well I rest each night knowing that I have the stregnth of 7-11 backing me up eacht time I hit the road...seriously... in this country I put more stock in "sebun-erebun" (7-11 without the benefit of a language that includes "V") than I do in the federal government.

From now on I will never again be surprised when told "maybe conbini" as an answer for any question. And next time you all step into a 7-11 be sure to spend a little more... the contined success of that particular mega-corporation may just be crucial to keeping me sane and healthy over here...

Pray to the Dharma

The assignment: To play a shopping game using the flyers Scott collected (by the way, huge success!)

The question: Where is pop cheapest?

The right answer: Pharma Plus.

The funny answer. Dharma Plus. Maybe not that funny, but it's hilarious if for religious studies majors...


Spam Spam Spam Spam...

Spam anyone? MMMmmm delicious. I managed to find it at a grocery store next town over. all for the bargain price of 598 yen. At the current exchage rate (Feb 25th) that makes it a bargain at 7.57! I'll be sure to stock up and ship some home...

Hey Kid, Get that organ out of your mouth!

I spend a fair bit of time at elementary school, so I usually eat lunch with the kids. One class decided to treat me to some music by one of the students so this kid pulls out this thing...

It turns out that you attach that tube to the side of the unit and then blow into it to charge some unseen chamber. Then using the keys creates a wind powered tone, not totally unlike an accordian. When asked what it was, they had to look up the name... This unit is called a "Pianica" while a competing model manufactured by Yamaha sells as the "harmonian." This instruement is standard practice from kindergarten through to the end of elementary school.

Odd... I doubt there are any professional pianica players, but I will keep you posted...

Hard Off

Not that I should really be surprised, but there are some hiliarous store names in Japan. One such chain is known as the "off" stores. They use the term "off" to indicate a discount, or that the price has some taken off of it. This leads to the chain that includes...

They are all pretty self explanitory in terms of what they sell, except for Hard off that sells discount electronics, musical instruments, golf clubs and anything that doesnt fit in the other categories. I know finding this funny may seem juvenile, but.. oh yeah? Shut up stupid face. I think it's funny.
Off to the hard off!











Let's dance with Mary Jane. Who?

Ok. So there is a zero tolerance drug policy in Japan. To be caught with drugs is a serious offense, and as a foreigner, I especially would be in trouble. Immediate deportation. No question. One might think that this would lead to a glorification of drugs. Quite the opposite. The average Japanese person had not only no interest in drugs, but no knowledge of them either. This has led to a really interesting phenomenon of marijuana decorations. In Canada and America, the symbol of the Marijuana leaf has become well recognized as a symbol for rebellion, free thought, and naturalism.

Here it is a symbol for American culture. This has led to a wide selection of T-shirts, air-fresheners for your car, and other decorations in the shape of the Marijuana leaf. That alone is not funny. What is funny is the fact that the people who buy it don't know what it is! You can find a rack of Marijuana accessories for junior high kids at the local stationary store between the hello kitty and the other books. When I asked a teacher at one of the elementary schools about her air freshener the conversation went like this…

James: Do you know what that is?
Tomoko: Hapa. (Leaf)
J: Do you know what kind it is?
T: Hmm. Mepuru Hapa. (Maple Leaf)
J : No, it is a marijuana leaf.
T: ???
J: me-ri-fu-wa-na.
T: <panic> OH NO. NO. NO. I don't. NO. NO. I Don't know. (I didn't know…)

This is not the only conversation of this type I have had. Invariably, the person has no idea that they are sporting a picture of an illegal narcotic. Ah, the destruction of ignorance was never this fun…

Japanese toilets

A special torture saved over from the war, is the Japanese toilet. I was forced to use one at Yamada Denki (Yamada Electronics) and it was easily one of the most awkward things I have ever had to do. I know that it was probably worse than it could have been, due to a bad case of stomach troubles from Tonkatsu (perhaps) but I think that I deserve partial credit for a contortion course for that little episode…

Where's Barba Poppa?

It turns out that barba poppa and barba momma are doing just fine over here in Japan ( I just saw them doing a commercial for something…) I don't know if you remember them, but If you do you should be happy the amorphous family is doing well…

The Barbas appear in a real estate ad.

Japanese Television

you really have to see it to believe it. Sure during the day everything seems normal, but then in the evening there are all these game shows and variety shows, and umm…other shows… that I can hardly fathom the purpose of. I am currently watching a show where people are dressed in Velcro, throwing themselves against walls, and running around an apartment bashing automated gophers that pop out of random spots in the walls. All the shows are also made like video games with levels and proud "level cleared" announcements at the end of each challenge. Bizarre.

I have found a favorite show. I don't know what it is called, but it seems to be about a custodial staff at an office building. I can't really understand what they are saying, but the show is marvelously overacted and brilliantly obvious. It is pretty funny… and the lead actress is incredibly hot.

The Japanese office woman

One new office protocol I have had to get used to is the total subservience of women. It was not a joke. Several times a day my mug will disappear off my desk while I have my face down in a book, or am typing. It will reappear on a tray, carried by a woman, who had just collected the mugs of the office and served everyone fresh drinks. They bring me tea and water and sports drinks all day. They serve me my lunch. I keep trying to tell them "it's ok", that they don't have to do it, but it just comes out as "ok" and approval of them doing it for me. They do the dishes, the men never do the dishes. I hardly ever see one getting his own drink, it's easier to wait until a woman does it for you. This is the way it is all over. They women don't know anything about bars; the men don't know anything about the home. Each one is the exclusive domain of one sex. Apparently, it is even rare for husbands and wives to go to parties together, and when they do, it is expected that at some point in the evening all the women leave, and the men continue to enjoy themselves now that the wives are out of the way. I am a stranger in a foreign land. I have given up resisting my mug being abducted, I just try to be really appreciative and thank them when it comes back.


Ok. This is my bike. It is in pretty good shape now, but it was a piece of junk when I found it, and it has been in the shop twice already for a new front tube. It is a push bike. They call them that because all old people use them to get around town, but they are always pushing them. They get them rolling before they mount them and thus the pushing start. They walk down the street pushing them along with the front basket full of stuff. Here are my thoughts on bicycling in Japan.

I hate it.

That might not be fair, it's ok sometimes and I like the exercise. What I don't like though is as follows...

1) The roads here are crap. They sometimes have sidewalks, sometimes they have 20 inch concrete shoulders, sometimes they have dirt shoulders, and sometimes they have rice fields. They are uneven and full of gravel, uneven pavement, and obstructions.

2) There are no rules. There is no rule that says you have to go against traffic, or with traffic, or...whoops...damn, there goes my mug again... anyways... you can ride which ever way you like, so often you will meet another bike going down the same path in the opposite direction and that can get really fun when there is a semi on the other side of you.

3) The Japanese people are witless. Oh yeah, you heard me, they are either witless or legendarily ignorant. Any older person on a bike must, by law apparently, have no idea whatsoever what is going on around them at any time. This prohibits them from detecting things like oncoming traffic, or merging traffic, or me. They casually ride out in front of you and go nice and slow. They stop their bikes sideways in front of you while you are moving to mount their bikes. They assume that because you are Gaijin that your velocity and weight are of no consequence and as such, ignore you.

4) The Japanese have not yet discovered the technology of course correction. If I am moving along on my side of the side walk, and they are heading towards me head on, they will not make any effort to move to the other side. If there is another side to move I will have to move to it. Ahhh... my mug is back. Filled with Mugi-cha. Nice. If there is no other side to move to then we have a problem. This tendency becomes most visible when there is anything in the path of a person on a bike because...

5) The default action when in trouble is to stop and get off your bike and stand there. This should not be confused with bailing out. If they see me coming, and I want to pass them, they generally weave nervously across the side walk and then stop and get off their bike. Increasing their size and reducing their mobility. Perfect. It's really bad when someone comes out from a corner or driveway and finds themselves crossing my path. I break and wait and the rule is "you go right through" but as soon as they see that they are in my path rather than exert some pressure on the pedals and accelerate out of the way they stop and dismount and wait for me to hit them. This forces me to make a correction in course (if possible) or else to jump on my brakes before I hit them, as they are sideways across my path and we both start over. They can't ride in a straight line, and no one can counter steer. Yarrrghh!

Just for the record, as of Oct 29, I have gone through 4 tires and 1 brake cable on my bike. It seems that my carriage is not built for men of my carriage.


The phenomena of Japanese pricing is so incredible, I may in time dedicate a page to it entirely. In the meanitme though I thought I would give you an example.

Here is an add for jeans.

These are new jeans at a department store.

12,000 yen.

Add about 20% for exchange

=2,400 yen

add together= 14,400 yen

divide by 100 for canadian dollars= 144.00 $Can

I will probably include more examples in the future.