Sunday, July 25, 2010

Filling out forms

Paper work is the lifeblood of Japanese society. So much so that you can't even go to the bathroom without filling out a HR-236 in triplicate with your inkan and banking information. People are so gaga for filling in boxes that wasting paper is practically a national pastime.

With that last date/stamp, the average person gains a feeling of security and confidence few things in life can bring. Having an official document legitimizes the action and gives the signer kick-ass bragging rights. Weather they've just bought a house, signed up for a cell phone plan, or taken the dog for a walk. Forms are were it's at.

This year's, Japanese National League of Professional Form Fillers All-Star Classic, promises to be the most illustrious and painstaking yet. With contenders like the favorite, Moriuchi Kaouto. The man who single-handedly, in the dark, with one hand behind his back did all the paper-work in the Ishikawa Prefectural Office for the month of May, ten years retroactively. And newcomer Hayashi Yukina, who fills out a form every time she sees a truck, and is rumored to have an inkan for every word in the Japanese language. Who can turn away from such thrilling excitement?!

Those wishing to attend the event must apply for appropriate paper work with the, Application for Special Attendance Status to an Event Designated as Recreational for the Subject of Bureaucratic Endeavors, form. Which can be attained between the hours of 13:00 and 13:30, Monday to Tuesday, in the third week of every month. Please wait 3 to 17 weeks for delivery of application forms. Fill out all 36 pages with a new #2, graphite lead pencil, and trace over with a 0.5m, gel, ball-point pen. Stamp the 326 spaces marked in bold black with your inkan, as well as the carbon paper underlay. Please submit documents 8 months prior to the event. Failure to submit a properly completed form will result in a severe tax audit and fine of 50036円. If you require assistance, please call the, Assistance for Incomprehensible Official Document Stipulations and Languages Desk, at your Prefectural Office between the hours of 14:52 and 15:00 on the fifth Thursday of every month. Leave a message on the automated system, after selecting the proper form for your problem to be delivered to your home within 82 - 163 business days of the request week, for a fee of 5000円. Let's all do our best and top last year's outstanding attendance of three people!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fried Chicken

A common misconception many people have is that all Japanese food is healthy and eating a Japanese diet is a great way to lose weight. Just looking at all the skinny Japanese people seems to support this idea. But what many don't realize before they come to Japan, is that there are TONS of fatty foods to be had. New visitors find themselves awash in deliciousness and discover escape to be nigh impossible. If desired at all.

Enter fried chicken. The Japanese love it! It may be Karaage chicken made by Mom for the school bento. It could be bought from a street vendor, grocery store or that old guy who's always hanging around the playground. Fried chicken can be found everywhere. Most all convenience stores have it in one form or another, sitting all day under heat lamps, ready to eat at a moment's notice without even caring.

Then there is the cultural phenomenon that is KFC. They call it "Kentaki", and if all locations outside of Japan were to suddenly close, the company would have no problem staying alive. Birthdays are often celebrated here. KFC has become so culturally prevalent, it is now a common tradition for families to eat it as a Christmas dinner. Kentaki does the most business on Christmas Eve. Employees spend all day stacking up the orders and cooking reserve chicken. There are lines of people stretching far outside franchise locations across the country on Christmas eve. It wouldn't be surprising if they hired temporary employees just for this day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Bay-su-boh-ru (Baseball)

The popularity of baseball has been waning in the USA but there is considerable data to show that it seems to have been siphoning off to Japan for the past sixty years or so. More than likely attributed in it's infancy, to the Japanese obsession with USAmerican culture. Japanese baseball now however, has taken on a life of it's own and become a true part of Japanese culture. Much like a failed experiment in which scientists attempted to play god and inadvertently created a terribly large monster which Godzilla must fight for some reason. You can see baseball everywhere, from comics about baseball to cartoons about baseball. They even broadcast games on television.

Pro, semi-pro and even high school teams are followed with a passion comparable to the psychotic obsession most often attributed to serial killers. And the amount of time put into practice is astounding. The average team of elementary aged children will generally train for 14 hours per day, wearing suits made out of tractor tires and swinging lead pipes. Coaches are registered with the Japanese National Coaching Association and must be retired or semi-retired pro-ball players, who have hit at least two-hundred-fifty-nine career home runs. The salaries of these coaches are meager, as it is considered inappropriate to do the work for anything other than the love of the game. The statements in this paragraph are of course untrue.

It is very important in Japanese baseball to yell a lot, in order to maintain communication with your team and to show your "kiai". Teamwork in baseball, as in many things Japanese, is highly valued and seen as central to the success of the team. This may be true to the thinking of sports teams in many other countries but as is often the case, the Japanese take it so seriously that to foreign eyes it looks a bit over the top. But bear in mind you are not Japanese and a little self discipline does indeed build character.

Above all other things it is most important to know how to count to 8 in Japanese, in order to be a Japanese baseball player. If you do not possess this simple yet crucially important skill you will not be able to participate in warm-up exercises and are most likely a simpleton. The coach will say "1, 2, 3, 4" for most every stretch/exercise, to which you must reply "5, 6, 7, 8." Failure to do so will make you seem as though your heart is not truly in what you are doing and the coach will probably yell at you to have more "kiai".

Thus we conclude this brief and utterly uninformative look into the Japanese national past time of baseball.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Packaging you can actually open.

One of the more delightful surprises foreigners find when they come to Japan is that plastic packaging is designed so that it can be easily opened, with clearly labeled pull-tabs and serrations. Typical of the Japanese knack for simple and practical design that makes you think, "Now why didn't I ever think of that?"

Sadly this convenience is a double-edged sword. The downside being that an incredible amount of packaging is used, creating often times more garbage than the size of the actual product. Little treats meant to be gifts are individually wrapped. Foods are packaged in several layers of plastic in order to preserve their aesthetic quality.

There is however an upside as ecologically friendly ways of living have become quite popular in the past few years and more people are thinking about their environmental footprint. Recycling has become mandatory in almost every city. The term "Eco" is a very popular word and should be encouraged in order to bring about the much needed changes in Japanese product packaging.

The Japanese Way

Japanese people don’t necessarily like the Japanese Way, many of them in fact hate it. But what they do like is using it as an excuse to explain something they’ve just grown up doing and don’t know why they do it. This is the all purpose answer that can be shoehorned into any question an annoying gaijin may ask.

The Japanese way generally goes like this; there is a proper way to do everything. There are not multiple ways of doing something, there is only "The Way", which works out to be, "The Japanese Way". Look no further and don't try to come up with your own way of doing something because, "The peg that stands up will be beaten down."

There are of course exceptions, and this is an over generalized way of looking at the issue.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Japanese people have an odd obsession with the United States. But it’s a strange, skewed, Japanized version of something vaguely resembling the United States of America.

First off, all American people are white people. If you are any race other than Caucasian, you are not from Amerika. If you're Chinese-American, you're Chinese. If you're Pakistani-American, you're from India. And if you're black... they'll make an exception.

American music is popular, in that they like to make Japanese pop music that sounds vaguely American. With the occasional English lyric that makes no sense. Like "Every day alright", or "Love's whispering gentle thesis". They also like to violate international copyright laws by using lots of American music for background on TV. Often the song has nothing to do with the visuals.

They really like food that is traditionally American. The hamburger for instance, is served on a place, with no bun, covered in a soy based sauce. Rice is mixed in with the meat and it is often pork. Hotdogs consist of a very thin wiener, topped with mayonnaise, corn and a drizzle of ketchup, on a bakery bun. Pizza, aside form regular ingrediants oftin has a mayonnaise based sauce with toppings like tuna, corn, squid, ocotopus and more mayonnaise. All on an ultra thin crust. Nachos are usually Doritos, or an equivilant, with cheese sprinkled on them.

The best place to see Japan's mangled perception of The USA is in an area of Osaka called America Mura. Quite litteraly "America Town". There is a resturant there that boasts, "#1 voted American food in all of America Mura." Don't expect to get ketchup with your french fries.

Now all this stuff and more was first introduced after the US military occupation of Japan at the end of WWII. You'd think the Japanese people would resent the culture of their former enemy instead of embracing it. But few see the subtilties of what is really going on. Japan has always taken things from other cultures and made them its own. "Amerika" is no different.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thinking non-Japanese people are weird

In spite of it's far reaching westernization, Japan is a very very very very very weird place. Not just the weird stuff. But the every day, Mom and Pop down at the grocery store kind of stuff, is just really freak'n weird.

Anyway. Japanese people seem unable to grasp this. For argument's sake, it's only natural to feel that your take on "normal" is well... normal. But the Japanese take this much farther with their seeming inability to understand the fact that most of the world's people are in fact, not Japanese.

This comes out in activities such as, marveling at how "foreign" and strange other cultures are. Laughing at people trying to speak their language. And being amazed and dumbfounded when people visiting Japan don't immediately understand what the hell is going on.

They're a strange lot.