Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Blinded by the light

Our Man found himself driving down Route 16 last night, blinded by the neon light.

These were the very same lights that a few years ago filled him with newbie excitement. Here was the multicolour Japan, so much more alive than monochrome Britain. By the way, anybody reading this who has ever fallen for the Cool Britannia propaganda should fly into Birmingham airport at night. All you can see, once you break through the nuclear-winter cloud cover, is a faint orange glow from the street lights below. No amusement park kitsch here, much less the poor man's Vegas of the pachinko parlour. Nope. Just the street lamp orange that can barely puncture the drizzle.

And then you land and you're... in Birmingham. The centre of the country, but miles from anywhere you'd want to be.

Like Japan.

The Land of the Rising Neon Sign. Try driving for two hours in any direction from Abiko, and you can't escape the suburban pull. The neon. The manshon blocks. The love hotels, and the pachinko parlours stretch to infinity - Route 6, Route 8, Route 16. Yellow Hat. Bikuri Donkey. Jasco. Gasto. McDonald's. Joyful Honda. Yellow Hat. Bikuri Donkey. Jasco. Gasto. McDonald's. Joyful Honda; Yellow Hat. Bikuri Donkey. Jasco. Gasto. McDonald's. Joyful Honda; pi to 5 trillion places.

But lately Our Man has been thinking: hope to fuck we run out of oil soon. It's the only way we'll ever pull the plug.

Pic lifted from here.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Return of the Warrior Lobster Princess of Onjuku. Topless.

> Remember the Topless Warrior Lobster Princess of Onjuku? Of course you do. Well, Our Man is deep undercover in the coastal citadel once more for one night only, and lo, he discovered she has a couple of sisters.
> And here they are. Our Man would love to meet them on his mission to do sod all on the beach tomorrow, but they are probably 120 years old or more. But still with all their own teeth. And pension books.
> Must be something in the water.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Final solution for reporters

Our Man sure knows what a pain those pesky reporters can be, always filing their copy late, burying the news deep in the story and making up quotes, but really, this Japan Times headline seems a little harsh punishment. Surely, just a bollocking from the editor would do.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Ozawa for PM!

You wait 50 years for something interesting to happen in Japanese politics, and bugger me if two things happen in as many days. Our Man is of course referring to the two great Ichiro Ozawa pronouncements:

1. Americans are stupid, British are conniving bastards, but democracy kinda works.

2. He may seek to overthrow the currently unelected prime minister to replace him with, er, himself.

Now, he may be right on the first point. And incidentally, Our Man's army of twitter followers with decent Japanese reckon he was badly translated, but the gist was there.

In fact, he's a lot more interesting than your average unelected prime minister (and believe me boys, they are all average), so Our Man says:

Ozawa for PM! Abiko can't get enough of you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Nothing to add

Our Man has nothing to say, but this chap does.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

What's your plan B when the crazies take over?

This succinct (that means short) piece on the state of flux in the Japanese Prime Ministerial Office is excellent, but top banana goes to this letter written to an aspiring author by Slaughterhouse 5 author Kurt Vonnegut. Read it, it's good.

Secret handshake to Our Man in Scotland.

PS, the headline kind of doesn't fit, but Our Man liked it.

Pic lifted from here.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Backing Our Man into a culture shock cul de sac

It's been a week since Our Man got back from his de-briefing in Blighty, and he can now fill you all in on his reverse culture shock after being away for three years.

1. Britain has whole trees that shed leaves on to the street and everything. Seeing leaves around, just lying there serving no use other than for kids to kick, offended my Japan-accustomed eye. How come all the top branches weren't mutilated to prevent leaf pollution?
2. The Coalition. Sure, by the time this has gone to press the reverse will be true, but Britons are backing the government, by jove. Even a socialist chap Our Man talked to in the People's Republic of North London thought the posh boys in charge were right to cut budgets by 20%. He even thought that might stimulate the economy, though since no-one has any money, he wasn't sure exactly how (ed. neither are the posh boys).
3. Everyone is about to get laid off. This is no doubt part of the brilliant economic plan.
4. At the moment the British muddle-through-and-suffer-together-to-beat-the-Jerries-Spirit is holding up. What happens in six months when the redundancy cash is spent and the budget cuts mean 20 percent of the country is out of a job is another matter.
4.5 There are a lot of fatties in the UK. Maybe there always were, but there are so many really obese folk waddling about it makes Our Man think he is svelte. In fact, if you want to loseweight, don'tbother, just go to Britain for a holiday, you'll feel better about yourself immediately.
5. Customer service was actually really good. Forget this "Japan has the best customer service mentality" mantra. The poor folk back in Britain are genuinely happy to see a customer. Even a skinflint like Our Man.
5.7 By the way, the pic is of the back of a toilet stall door in Birmingham airport that was, as the graffiti implies, missing a coat hook.
6. That's about the sum of Our Man's British knowledge, though he was somewhat chuffed to have a free and frank exchange of views with the pre-eminent Conservative Blogger Iain Dale on Twitter last night, who once kindly listed this dog's dinner of a blog on his genuinely popular Total Politics site and even more well-read Diary blog a year or two ago. Sadly, don't think Our Man made a friend.

Exhibit A Our Man's Twitter feed:

Exhibit B The Great Man's Twitter feed:

Maybe Our Man was being a tad harsh. And a teensy bit jealous? Probably.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Liberated from bookshelves in Blighty

Whether Our Man will ever get a chance to read any of them is another matter, still, he likes the pretty colours.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Boost for T-shirt sales at Yasukuni shrine

Had a lovely Twitter conversation with @neojaponisme about seeing a Japanese cool young thing wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag and the legend "If at first you don't secede..." and it made me think of the Yasukuni Shrine. Seems all the righties hang out there - and not the other day Le Pen led a coalition of right-wing Europeans to the shrine, to show their respect for, er, Japanese war criminals. Not a place fit for the Japanese Cabinet.

So, Our Man wonders if the Yasukuni marketing folk have thought of a T-shirt range along the lines of "You don't have to be a wanker to visit... but it helps."

Anything Our Man can do to help out the economy.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Trying hard to stay awake

Our Man is still alive, and is back where he belongs, in Abiko after his 18-day debriefing in Blighty. While he's waiting for the rolls of film to come back from the chemist's - and gets himself up to speed on Our PM Kan apologising or not to South Korea and North Korea or not, here's a shot left on the microfiche from a mission to the streets of downtown Norwich. Who knew the sleepy city was such a hotbed of sarcastic sedition?

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Scotland, Libya and comfortable misunderstandings

Just a quickie while the kids are in the shower. Our Man is deep undercover in Falkirk (about halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but then everything is in Scotland) when he happened to catch the BBC evening news top story. It was a milk-the-story piece about the release of the Lockerbie bomber (yes, they are still talking about that up here) and they had got some Catholic bishop lecturing the US on forgiveness and telling them to butt out of Scottish politics. A few thoughts:
1. Can you trust the opinion of a bloke who believes good people go to the good place in the sky and bad people go to a bad place and all the rest of it.
2. As Our Man's (Scottish) host said, he'd have more sympathy for the US position if he thought the bomber was remotely guilty as charged.
3. It's comforting being able to understand what everyone is saying again, but still not understand what's going on.