torsdag, desember 21, 2006

Japanese Christmas

In contrast to the Western family-oriented event, in Japan Christmas is very much a couples' affair. As often happens, Japan has adapted a pick-and-choose approach to Western traditions, taking some aspects from the West and giving it an uniquely Japanese twist. The romantic event for couples usually is a fancy dinner and a solid night in a love hotel. In which context season-themed garments as pictured are not uncommon!

Options for single, increasingly desperate Japanese are basically to get tremendously drunk and/or go on a shopping spree. A common alternative possibility for both males and females is escaping societal expectations by holidaying in Thailand.

On a related note, today's papers feature the news that the birth rate prospects has hit an all-time low, causing grave problems for future pension schemes. The Japanese fail to marry and produce offspring, whither Japan Inc without citizens?

lørdag, desember 16, 2006

Iwo Jima

The esteemed Clint Eastwood has delivered again with an interesting cinematic experiment. Had the opportunity to watch both of his Iwo Jima films recently. Flags of our Fathers follows the US perspective on the WWII battle for the tiny island, while Letters from Iwo Jima gives us the Japanese one. No big secret that the latter contains the most tragedy of the two, featuring a devastating death toll. Interestingly enough it also has a more melancholic, arthouse feel to it. Both contain realistic battle scenes and are recommended!

Was somewhat strange watching Fathers as the only foreigner in a cinema filled with Japanese, felt like crying out "hey, I am not American!"

tirsdag, desember 12, 2006

The two faces of Japan

A priceless moment of contrasts in Harajuku. Two of the typical gothic lolitas sitting on the bridge on a sunny Sunday, when behind them up pulls one the the infamous black vans. Note flags and extensive loudspeaker mountings.

The black vans are used by the fringe nationalists of Japan to drive around and spread propaganda. In addition to annoyingly loud militaristic music, rants are mainly directed against the corrupting foreign elements in Japan, and pleas to restore the power of the Emperor and regain lost territorial possessions from Russia and Korea.

Now these guys are largely ignored by the public, which is exactly what happened this Sunday as well. People around took no notice at all and went about their business as the nationalists set up their system, had a long speech and went on their ways. In fact, the delicious irony of the only attention being a foreigner taking a picture seemed lost on the poor bastards!

fredag, desember 08, 2006


Tried the authentic Japanese experience. No, not the tea-ceremonies, kimonos or shinto shrines. Rather, sleeping on a Japanese-style futon, which is basicallly a thin mattress on the floor. It may work if you weigh 40 kilos, but it certainly is not my cuppa, reminding me far too much of uncomfortable camping trips.

Then, commuting on the early morning 1-hour train from suburbia to Tokyo. For each stop getting increasingly filled up with suited salarymen reading porn manga, office ladies plonking away at their mobiles, young punks listening to music and shortskirted girls applying make-up.

Being lucky enough to salvage a seat after 20 minutes I could even enter the classic Japanese state of semi-conscious subway sleep, slowly rocked by the beat of the tracks.

My bout of authenticism happily ends when reaching the city, instead of heading to the office for 10+ hours of wageslavery, off to my hotel-apto to check mail and catch some sleep in a real bed!

Tokyo trainspotters

In ongoing observations of weird things in Japan, the other day I came across this guy and two of his nearby compatriots just off Shibuya station, sitting on a pedestrian gangway overlooking an extremely busy highway crossing. Hand rests on an intricate counting mechanism, which he pressed more or less each 20th second.

Now had my Japanese been up to scratch I would have asked what the hell he was doing, but since it is limited to hai, domo and gomen nasai, I can only guess. Obviously they are counting something, maybe each passing car of a certain mark/colour? My Japanese sources are similarly clueless, but no surprise that nerd-heaven Japan can rival even UK when it comes to trainspotters, nice anorak included.