April 12, 2009

Can't think of a title

Thanks for your comments! (((hugs)))

I went to a spring festival in Kakuozan (a part of Nagoya) on Sunday. Lots of stalls featuring homemade arts and crafts and such, and one featuring the frankly baffling Orepanda (オレパンダー, see left). Those ears are stuck to his head with suction cups, which I found oddly impressive. His website (Japanese) lists such details as his "special moves" ("Panda-blade", "Orepanda-vacuum" etc). Once again I shall leave you, the humble reader, to draw your own conclusions. Thx to Eiko for letting me steal her picture.

A nice man came round from NHK (Japan's main broadcasting company) the other weekend to explain that I have to pay them a small amount each month for the priviledge of having a TV (I finally got round to buying one last December), not unlike the TV Licensing system in the UK (but NHK have commercials! What am I paying for???). So I thought I'd better actually make use of the thing, and subsequently I've been watching more TV. However, for some reason I often wind up watching home shopping (Japan has QVC as it turns out)...there's just something incredibly relaxing about it, and since everyone speaks quite deliberately and there's no background noise the presenters are often easy to understand (and kinda cute as it happens).

Also, I've been watching an inexplicably large amount of UK comedy panel shows (Mock the Week, Would I Lie to You? etc.) and the like on the Interweb. Unfortunately a lot of the news items and such that are discussed are way over my head (Gordon Brown? Who he??) and there still seems to be a distressing amount of national interest in and discussion of Big Brother, which I didn't give a rat's arse about when I lived in the UK and I certainly don't now that I live on the other side of the planet. Many other facets of UK celebrity culture elude me as well...I recall having to ask my family who Kerry Katona was while I was in the UK. But, if I remember correctly, that was part of the reason I wanted to leave the UK in the first place...to get away from the Big Brothers, the Jamie Olivers, the Simon Cowells etc. etc. and to just go somewhere where the mass media can't really effect me because I don't understand it. At least out here I can filter my English-language cultural intake...I'm generally informed about the stuff that's worth watching by my lovely family and UK friends, and it surfaces online or on DVD eventually...and I'm in much less danger of having Jamie Oliver's spittle-flecked mong face rammed down my throat by some Sainsbury's commercial. Win win!

Having said that, as a somewhat inevitable result of my re-kindling of UK TV viewing, I find myself completely, passionately mystified as to why Tara Palmer-bloody-Tompkinson keeps getting TV work. She's appeared in several things I watched recently, and...she's just shit. So, maybe we are all born to be water-cooler TV critics on some fundamental level.

Flight of the Conchords has been a recent favorite as well. I learnt to play "Bret You've Got it Going On" on guitar. Because I'm slightly sad. OK, not slightly, very. Gotta love those jazz chords though.

As some of you may know, I spent February in the UK. I came back to find that my local supermarket had changed name to Piago, and that they have a Piago "theme song" that they play often over the in-store PA, in between bursts of the incredibly heinous muzak Japanese supermarkets seem to favor (and I mean heinous. Surely the point of in-store music is to enhance the shopping experience, not to send the customers fleeing to the doors in terror, as I often feel like doing whenever a shotgun suicide-inducingly bad elevator-music version of, I don't know, "Sweet Child of Mine" or something starts spewing from the speakers??).

Anyway, the Piago song is very jolly and catchy and I find myself smiling everytime it comes on. Possibly because there is something wrong with my head. Anyway, you can hear a snatch of it on this commericial. Everybody! Kokoro-no-pia-pia-pi-a-gohhhh...sing damn you!

April 18th is Record Store day (worldwide? they have it in Japan and the UK, I know that much). So go buy records you swine!!


April 7, 2009

Crap Fact 'o' the Day

VW camper vans and Mini Coopers are apparently very popular with the retro hipster crowd here, despite the fact that they're a bit shit and keep breaking down all the time (the cars, not the retro hipster crowd).

By the way, is "Beetle Bus" commonly accepted nomenclature? It is here, anyway. I certainly hadn't heard it until a friend was explaining their popularity. I thought she was talking about Magical Mystery Tour or something until she drew me a picture.

While we're on the theme of Crap ___ 'o' the Day, Crap Album Cover 'o' the Day ("crap" in this case meaning more "lo-fi" than "bad") goes to Jap group Kabemimi for their new CD-R opus Yokujou Shita Inu (Desired Dog), see right, which somehow manages to be simultaneously cute, funny and downright creepy. Like a fair amount of Japanese culture, in fact.


April 6, 2009

Year 3

Saturday marked my 3rd anniversary of being here!  Banzai!

I have spent most of the last week at work translating a manual about off-road driving techniques. Which is about as exciting as it sounds. I enjoy translation though, and would kind of like to do it professionally even though it makes my head hurt sometimes. So it's all good. What's kind of depressing about translating for a big company though is seeing your handiwork go off to be run through several committees or what have you, who will no doubt have their evil ways with it, stripping the thing of the nuance, prose stylings and distinctive authorial voice I spent so many hours instilling it with. Honestly, these people just have no respect for the struggling artiste. Actually it's probably a good thing in this case since I stuck quite closely to the original Japanese for safety's sake and due to a lack of time, and Japanese manuals never seem to be written with brevity or readability in mind. Strange that.

So if you buy a Land Cruiser Prado next year and it has a manual about off-road driving, that's my handiwork right there! Well, some of it. In there somewhere. Perhaps. I really don't know.

I went a-wondering around Atsuta Jinja (a shrine in Nagoya) on Sunday and saw the statue pictured above. Frankly I'm none the wiser so I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions. The characters below seem to denote it as some kind of "monument to spectacles". Hmm. Nice tits though. And it would look bitchin' in my apartment.


Shameless nepotism

Why not read my brother-in-law Gareth's music blog?



April 1, 2009


Well, I thought it was time to try and start this thing up again, so here goes. I won't go into the reasons for my absence since most of you know what's been happening and the rest probably don't care. And because the title is "Andy's Jap Blog", not "Andy's Blog 'O' Misery". Anyway whatever, I'm back to spew my creative juices onto the Interweb, so let's see what kind of wonderful mess they make.

While we're on the subject (of the blog name, not my juices) I really think I ought to change the name of this thing. Calling it my "Jap" blog seems somewhat constrictive in that I can only post about my life here in Japan, when, obviously, I have a whole universe of other thoughts and wisdom to share. But the only other name I can come up with is the deeply unimaginative "Andy's Blog", which, frankly, is a bit shit. Or there's "Taking it up the Archipelago", which I like but which might sound more than a little gay. So I'm open to suggestions.

In the meantime this blog is under construction as I fiddle with new templates and generally try to update it.

Sakura season is upon us once again! If only it was like this all year round. Hey ho. I did something slightly trainspotter-esque over the weekend for the sake of exploration...I travelled to the north-east of Nagoya (not a hugely taxing journey, considering that I live in the south-east of Nagoya) solely for the purpose of riding the Linimo train line. Linimo is a mag-lev (i.e. a train that is levitated and propelled by a magnetic rail, instead of using wheels). As I boarded I could tell that I was taking a ride...into the future!! Yes, it was next stop year 3000 as I glided (glid?) along on my cushion of magnets. Everything on board is completely automated and the train itself glides like...a thing...through...an analogy. Either way it was well swish, and hopefully I'll find an excuse to ride it again sometime soon.

Yesterday I went to see a live show by Doravideo, aka Yoshimitsu Ishiraku, a jolly chap who somehow looks like he should be a bouncer. He's also a kind of multimedia drummer who connects his drum kit to to some convoluted piece of technology which then projects video images onto a screen in sync with his drumming, accompanied by music. The use of video allows him to work in numerous political and pop culture references (many of which went way over my head), such as a song centered around an old commercial for a bathroom air freshner and another showing looping images of KISS. He played an enormously effective duet with Katsui Yuuji, a rail-thin electric violinist who somehow looks like he should be a science teacher. Really excellent stuff, none of the videos I found online really do them justice so you'll have to take my word for it I guess. I should point out that the above picture isn't mine.


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