Friday, January 29, 2010

Japanese second hand sporting goods: cheaper than renting

A quandary:

So we want to give snowboarding a try. There's a bus that will take us straight to the resort so that's no problem. The problem is that renting a snowboard setup costs about $40 whereas buying a decent looking board complete with boots and bindings at the second hand store a couple of miles from us costs only $25. We have no idea if we're going to enjoy snowboarding enough to ever do it again. WHAT DO WE DO?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


These days, it seems like whenever you're sitting down to a nice, relaxing meal containing peas, beans, or pretty much anything round or oval, one of the little buggers wakes up and starts telling you things you'd rather not know! Or at least, that's the way it is according to this set of commercials:

As you might've guessed Mameshiba is Mame (the Japanese word for bean, as in 'edamame') plus Shiba (as in Shiba Inu, the Japanese breed of dog!). You can see these odd bean-dog characters on all sorts of merchandise around here, but I have no idea if they are trying to sell anything beyond that. If anything, they might make you less likely to eat beans.

(via Japan Newbie)

Monday, January 25, 2010

You're Easy Breezy and I'm Japanese-y

Although I enjoy more than the occasional Japanese film, I must say the music in these parts has failed to capture my interest in any way. The closest thing I've found to a decent Japanese indie-rock group is Eastern Youth, but they, like almost all Japanese bands I've stumbled upon, are a bit over produced for my tastes and pale in comparison to the American bands they list as their influences. The singer does get points for dressing up like Enid from Ghost World for no apparent reason, though.

My students are no help. In various classes I've given out "about me" surveys where the students are supposed to list their favorite Japanese and international bands. In the international category all but one student listed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as their favorite song. The one that differed? He picked NOFX's "Bob", so he is my new favorite simply because he has the exact same taste in music as I did when I was a freshman in high school. There is always one and only one kid who differs from the crowd in each class. In another class when I surveyed students about their favorite movies I got 29 Harry Potter's and one "The Godfather parts 1 and 2 but not 3." Guess who my favorite kid in that class is?

The other interesting thing about these surveys is getting to know the completely nonsensical names of various Japanese bands. Here are a few:
Funky Monkey Babys
GReeeeN (capitalization and number of e's has been crosschecked)
Glay (a purposefully Japan-ized version of the word "gray")
Porno Graffitti
And my personal favorite, Mr. Children, which is an incredibly popular band fronted by men in their 40s and not, to my surprise, Pedobear.

P.S. The title of this post comes from a very popular song with hilariously terrible English lyrics, although admittedly not as terrible as this awful "I almost didn't realize that's supposed to be English" heavy metal song.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Japanese movies, please

Some Japanese cinema weirdness for your consideration:

From the Academy Award winning studio that brought you Spirited Away comes a children's film about raccoon-dogs and their magical inflatable testicles that save the day:

Next up we have a film appropriately named Robgeisha. FRIED SHRIMP:

The question here isn't why are the buildings bleeding. I think the question here is why in other movies are the buildings not bleeding.

Finally, here's a movie I've come to appreciate more since working at a Japanese school. The plot of Battle Royale is that every year the government selects one poorly behaved class, ships them off to a deserted island, hands each student a deadly weapon, and informs them that only the last person standing will make it out alive. Lots of blood follows.

Perhaps the best thing about the movie is that every time one of the 42 students is killed, a counter appears so you can keep track of the score.

Yes, Japan has many excellent, more serious films, but it the end it's lowbrow weirdness that keeps me coming back for more.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Indoor thoughts on outdoor frigidity

Attention West Coast/Southwest people: you ain't got nothin' on us, weather-wise.

Not only do we have a bone-chilling snowstorm, we're also getting thunder and lightning. Fortunately, today is one of my days off, but in a few hours I'll go trudging through the foot-high piles of snow and slush that have accumulated on our street to Japanese class. Fun!

Though if you are reading this and live anywhere that's substantially colder/snowier (Colorado, etc.), I'll add that we have to go through the winter with no central heating or insulation. So suck on that!

What we do have in the way of staying warm is this:

Kerosene heater! This magical device makes things non-Arctic while indoors, all while emitting poisonous carbon monoxide fumes, requiring you to periodically open a door, window, or vent, thus sucking out all the accumulated hot air. Kinda defeats the purpose, but I'll take what I can get; we went through all of December without turning this sucker on, and that's not a mistake I intend to repeat!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Now I can finally check off "ride around in a giant pineapple" on my must-do list

How was your Christmas Eve? Besides the aquarium, ours was primarily spent here:

One of the first things we knew we had to seek out in Okinawa was Nago Pineapple Park. It's an entire theme-- well, I shouldn't say theme park, because that implies something a lot bigger and more expansive than what's actually there-- but it's dedicated completely to pineapples and various pineapple-derived products. That said, it's pretty great, for reasons that'll be obvious:

Within seconds of entering the park, you're offered the chance to buy a picture of yourself with a person in a giant pineapple costume. We declined. We were more interested in the big-shot feature of Nago Pineapple Park: that you can ride around in one of the above self-guided pineapple carts on a track around the fields and through a big greenhouse. All the while, you're treated to an incomprehensible and grammatically questionable tour recording in the language of your choice, explaining how the same kinds of pineapple plants, ferns, and various tropical foliage you can see there were also featured in "The Jurassic Park."

If you'd like a taste of the tour, here's a brief 19-second video I shot while inside:

And this is a baby pineapple:

Alas, the tour didn't last forever. I did manage to capture the last moments we had before our cart disappeared from sight:

Once you're done with the tour, you get to head indoors, where there is (inexplicably) a history lesson regarding Christopher Columbus:

Columbus was a controversial figure in history, but this is the first time I'd seen him accused of being a pineapple.

After that is (inexplicably) a little Christmas display:

And then, (inexplicably) a mini-museum dedicated to some neat-looking shells:

And finally, a treat for the boozehounds: the wine tasting! They make all sorts of crazy wines out of pineapple, four of which you get to try in a little Dixie cup. Verdict: I'm not a fan of alcohol. I was much more into the subsequent juice tasting, which included various pineapple blends, and even bitter gourd juice, which wasn't half bad. Following that, you can try all sorts of pineapple-based cakes, chocolates, pies, and whatever other ridiculous other things you can think of. They even had pineapple soap.

And last but not least is the obligatory gauntlet of every Japanese tourist trap, the omiyage shop! Because a cultural site just isn't complete without a crowded store to buy various overpriced boxes of individually wrapped sweets for your co-workers. Most of this stuff wasn't even pineapple-related.

And thus ended our magical day at Nago Pineapple Park. But we didn't come away empty handed! We had to own a piece of the memory. We may not have a full-size pineapple cart to ride around the cold, slushy streets of Kanazawa, but we did bring home a little one of our own:

On top of everything else, at the stand out front, you can get a mixed mango/pineapple juice with tapioca pearls. That stuff is heavenly.

And when you consider that it's only a ~$5 USD admission price, you can't possibly go wrong. If you're in Okinawa and going to be anywhere near the aquarium, you have no excuses.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

We're back from our lovely Okinawa week. I'm sure we'll post a lot about our trip, but if you're a picture person you can see my pictures from the trip here.

On our second day we went to the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. It's the second largest aquarium in the world, and one of only four aquariums that house whale sharks. The 1,981,290 gallon tank also holds the largest manta rays I've ever seen. It's been done a million times (and by people with better equipment), but here's a video I took of the tank: