Tuesday, October 27, 2009

J-Pop Stars Be Trippin'!

Famous J-Pop singer and actress Sakai Noriko was arrested in August for "suspicion of possessing stimulant drugs", according to police and her one-day-long trial was earlier this week with a packed house watching the proceedings. I'll spare you my thoughts on Japanese police procedures (they're total crap, and should be illegal), but all that aside, does anyone else think that Japanese celebrities get hit too hard financially when they do stupid stuff like this? Sakai is most likely going to lose millions in endorsement deals and even if she ever gets back on her feet (she only had 0.008g of stimulants in her apartment after all) she will always have this huge stain on her professional career and the public will never trust her again.

Look at this social deviant.

This case really reminds me a lot of when SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi bared it all in Roppongi Park earlier this year after getting really drunk. He was incredibly popular and one could not watch television for more than an hour without seeing his face either during one of the many programs in which he was a regular or in some commercial. But after the incident in April, his name is officially "mud" to the entertainment industry.

Our naked offender, in the top right.

Coming from a culture that idolizes drunken, hopped-up, sex crazed maniac celebrities, (David Lee Roth, Robert Downey Jr, and Lindsey Lohan, I'm looking at you.) it's kind of hard for me to believe that someone's entertainment career can pretty much be ruined because of one little slip up. Sakai wasn't stoned out of her mind all the time, she just took a few stimulants with her huband to get through the day sometimes. Kusanagi wasn't some drunken sex pervert, he just got wasted and and took his clothes off in public once. The average American college student probably does that once a month! Frankly, I'm more appalled by the actions taken by the police to secure evidence against Sakai. They went into her house while she was on vacation, found 0.008g of "stimulants" and then got an arrest warrant.

Am I being too lenient? Do you think these two should be punished to the full extent of the law and socially blackballed? Does Japanese society hold their celebrities to a standard too impossibly high to maintain? I certainly don't approve of drug use, but surely this is a bit extreme for just one isolated incident. Am I wrong?

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Welcome to week number two of my weekly features on what makes Japan so darn great. This week is all about unintentional hilarity as we take a look into the wonderful world of Engrish or, as I like to call it, Nihonglish!

Right about now you're probably thinking to yourself, "Just what the heck is Engrish, anyway?" Well, Engrish is when a particular item (usually something for sale) in Japan has printed English on it that is either totally incomprehensible or just seems out of place, considering the item in question. There are literally millions upon millions of examples scattered throughout Japan for the native English speaker to enjoy. One only need walk about ten feet in Japan before seeing a grammatical train wreck, be it a t-shirt, a can of soda, or even a storefront sign. Engrish is everywhere and there doesn't seem to be anyone in Japan who cares enough to put an end to it. Which is, of course, great for us English speakers, but terribly embarassing for anyone selling this stuff. Although, I suspect most purveyours of Engrish have no idea of the meaning printed on the goods they are selling and are just happy that people are actually buying them.

On a side note, while 'Engrish' is typically the accepted name of this cultural phenomenon, I prefer to call it 'Nihonglish' mostly because I think Nihonglish better portrays the idea behind something printed in English that was translated from Japanese. ("Nihongo" is "the Japanese language" in Japanese.) "Engrish" just changes the pronunciation of the word 'English' to sound more closely to how a native Japanese speaker would pronounce it, which doesn't really occur in "Nihonglish" since the idea is to have something written in English that makes no sense, not necessarily something that is pronounced incorrectly.

Moving on, I have prepared several examples from my own closet for your viewing pleasure. I have dozens more photos of captured Nihonglish in my collection, but for today, I'll just show off the Nihonglish that I can actually wear in public, in full view of the scrutinizing eyes of native speakers. Enjoy!

Let's start off with a perfect example.

"Astronaut, swinging from jay to sorrow. Escape impossible."

"Everyone photographer."

I can forgive the ridiculous 13-year-old macho feel to this one simply because this kind of thing can be found everywhere in America too. But it's spelled wrong.

"Braek the bone."

I have had this for years and I still cannot make heads nor tails of what it is supposed to mean.

"Dream or reality? Fresh discoveries! When the night comes, it is a man who shows his face different from always. Will this be a dream?"

Here is a great example of how to do English t-shirts correctly. Out of context it makes no sense, but it's actually an ad for a file company. I got it at a casual chain store called "Uniqlo" which can be compared to The Gap or Old Navy in America with regards to styles and pricing. Uniqlo is much more professional than most independent clothing makers and, as a result, are much more on the ball with this sort of thing.

"Kingdom of Order. Get filed in your field of interest."

"Want some company tonight night, pretty lady? Lady?"

"American Spirit. Aboidcan become an angel. OKLAHOMA. Earth Spirit."

"Forever Friends. Pleasant Companion.
We are always together when laughing and crying.
Jumps high!! Catch your dream."

To date, this makes the least sense of any Nihonglish I've ever seen.

"Tell me where you are coing may walk along.
Maintain keep peace news program film feel around for.
Positive on function menmory."

This is, by far, my favorite piece of Nihonglish that I own. It's color scheme is ghastly, there are spelling errors everywhere and ostriches. Nuff said.

"If I worry, go to Africa. Because I know my small. Love Africa the powerful Eart and the hot sun. The house of Earth which spreads as far as it's like arounnd, and the sky."

I threw this in to show that not all Nihonglish is on clothing. There is Nihonglish everywhere! Even on stationary.

"Time that eats a sweet feels happiness in me most."

Having seen how bad the situation is in Japan, what is it that brings people to let this kind of silliness loose upon the world? Is it just laziness? Do Japanese type editors just sort of give everything a good "once over" before sending things to the printers? I don't think that's very likely. My hypothesis is that the English education in Japan is to blame. Sure, it's compulsory all the way through high school, but does anybody really learn anything or are they all just going through the motions? Unfortunately I have to go with the latter. Japanese students study hard and pass their tests only to be thrown into the real world with nothing but "This is a pen." to bring to an English conversation. Drastic reform in the realm of English education is necessary to prepare Japan's youth for the global community in which we all live.

In the mean time, let's all just sit back and have a few laughs.

For more info on Engrish, please click here.



Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fighters Edge Past Eagles in Sapporo

If you're anything close to a baseball fan, you know that October is an exciting time of year. But I doubt anyone is as excited right now as Nippon Ham Fighters fans in Sapporo. The Fighters were able to take down the Rakuten Eagles on Wednesday with a 9th inning grand slam by none other than a man by the name of Terrmel Sledge. If that's not the name of a grand slam hitter, I don't know what is. The Fighters won 9-8.

Hit the link for the full scoop.

Also, to mitigate any confusion, I would like to point out that typically, in Japan, baseball teams are owned by corporations and named after those corporations as opposed to the case in America where the teams are owned by individuals and named after the city in which they are located. So, the Yomiuri Giants are so named because they are owned by the national newspaper, The Yomiuri Shimbun despite the fact that they are located in Tokyo and would otherwise be known as the Tokyo Giants. Likewise, Sapporo's own 'Fighters' are owned by Nippon Ham, a food processing conglomerate and are named accordingly. Many foreigners, myself included, tend to make the mistake that the team are called the 'Ham Fighters' when they are, in fact, the 'Fighters', owned by 'Nippon Ham'. *whew*

Sunday, October 18, 2009

柴犬 Shiba Ken

Welcome to my first in a series of weekly features on the idiosyncrasies of Japan that have kept me interested for all these years. My goal with these features is to inform those who wish to know the Japan that you won't find in a travel brochure. Sure, I'll be covering things like Samurai and Sushi and all that further down the road, but I want to present the ordinary everyday Japan with an interesting twist. So, without further ado, let's do this thing!

This week's feature is on the very distinctly Japanese dog breed, the Shiba, also known as the Shiba Inu (Shiba Dog) or Shiba Ken (ken is another word for dog), but for the purposes of this article, I'll simply refer to them as "Shibas."

The typical orange and white color scheme.

This particular feature is very close to my own heart due to the fact, that I have one myself! Her name is Momo (Peach), she was born in Missouri, and right now she is just a few days shy of ten months old. I'll discuss Momo some more in just a little bit, but first, I would like to tell you the history of the Shiba.

Momo at eight months old.

The Shiba is one of the oldest breeds of dog in the world, with modern lines dating back as far as the 3rd Century A.D. They were originally bred as hunting dogs and were very successful in this regard. Their small, agile bodies are perfect for navigating steep, mountainous terrain and thick bushes impassable to most humans. They are the smallest of all Japanese dog breeds and are similar in appearance to the Japanese Akita, although much smaller in stature. The Shiba's orange coat, pointy snout and pricked ears give it a keen resemblance to something akin to a fox. The traditional color of the breed is a burnt orange with white areas on the paws and face, but black and sesame colored variants are very common as well. Cream colored Shibas are the most uncommon of all and are considered to be genetically defective in most dog breeding circles. They are, however, growing in popularity due to a long running ad campaign by Japanese telecommunications company Softbank, in which a cream colored Shiba is portrayed as the talking "father" of a human family of Softbank cell phones users.

People considering getting a Shiba for their exotic looks, should be forewarned that a Shiba is not your typical happy-go-lucky, best friend forever kind of dog. They are a very intelligent breed, yet they are quite aloof around humans and mostly indifferent to their presence. The personality of a Shiba can effectively be compared to that of a cat. They do what they want, when they want, and they are not going to come running just because you call them. They are also very clean animals, often seen licking the dirt off of themselves (much like a cat) and will go out of their way to avoid anything messy or wet. The Shiba is NOT fond of water or swimming. (again, much like a cat). They are also very independent and will run away if given the slightest chance. Being hunters of small game, they will go to any lengths to catch their prey, even if it leads them to an untimely death on the highway, or being lost in the wilderness forever. Intelligent, independent and indifferent: This is the Shiba.

Despite the shortcomings of their ironically less than dog-like personality, they can be quite playful and friendly. When they want to be, that is. Wagging tails and play time come fewer and further between for the owner of a Shiba, but that just makes playtime that much more special.

In closing, I can highly recommend the Shiba to most anyone who has the patience to put up with their colder-than-normal personality and extreme tendency to escape the confines of their human-made prisons. They are small and easy to house train, making them perfect for apartment dwellers and while they don't bark much, they do have a tendency to scream and howl, so this should also be taken into consideration. All things considered, I could not be more pleased with my own bundle of Japanese joy, Momo. She is very quirky and has a very peculiar personality that I wouldn't trade for all the wagging tails and games of fetch in the world.

Click on the links for more information and pictures on the Shiba breed.

As always, thanks for reading. またね!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kidnapping Ex-Husband Released From Jail

Christopher Savoie, an American father of two and ex-husband to Japanese National Noriko Savoie, was released from prison on Thursday. Savoie was arrested for flying to Japan to take his children back from his ex-wife who originally took the children herself and fled to Japan from Savoie's home state of Tennessee. Apparently, there are laws protecting Japanese Nationals regarding child custody in the cases of international divorces. So, even though Savoie was awarded full custody in state court, and despite the fact that the former Mrs. Savoie completely disregarded that custody ruling, she was able to flee to Japan with her two children and remain there with full, legal custody under Japanese law.

Wishing to retaliate and get his kids back, Mr. Savoie flew to Japan, drove to pick up the children on their way to school and tried to escape with them to the U.S. Consulate in Fukuoka. Needless to say, he never made it to the consulate and was swiftly placed under arrest for child abduction.

So knowing the facts, I bring to you these queries: Is it fair for the mother to be able to go against a US Court order and flee the country with her children and get away with it, while Mr. Savoie tries the same exact thing and gets arrested? Should the law in Japan be changed to honor custody decisions made outside of the country?

Hit the link for more details.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Get Out and Vote!

Miyagi Prefecture, in the central Tohoku Region of Japan, is holding a gubernatorial election on October 25th. How are they getting people to get out and vote, you ask? A Bruce Springsteen concert? Nope. Puff Daddy's "Vote or Die!" campaign? Of course not. They're using a great samurai warrior (who has been dead for almost 400 years) to coax people into the voting booths.

That's right, the government of Miyagi-ken is using the image of legendary local hero Date Masamune to get people excited about local politics. Check out the full story and the video here.

I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure a fair amount of young non-voters in this country would probably stand up and at least consider voting if there were something cool like this in the states. But then again, there aren't many one-eyed, sword wielding, terror inducing samurai legends in American history.

Former Prime Minister is... Ultraman?!

Finally, a movie featuring my two favorite things; Ultraman and Japanese politicians! As it turns out, Warner Bros. has snatched up former PM, Junichiro Koizumi to play a small voice over role in the new Ultraman Movie, "Dai Kaiju Battle: Ultra Ginga Densetsu, The Movie." I was already a fan of Koizumi's for his great Elvis impersonations, but this has pushed him past just "a cool politician" and made him into "The King of Awesome Pop Culture Happy Time Fun." Hit the link at the bottom for the full story.

Look! In the sky! It's Koizumi-san!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Welcome to my very first entry into the world of online blogging! This is by NO means the final version, as I just slapped something together while I was at work. (Don't tell.) I should be able to sink my teeth into this thing later in the week, but I've got a lot of work ahead of me in order to get this thing looking and functioning the way I want it to, so please bear with me as I tinker and fine tune this beast into perfection. In the meantime, become a follower so you don't miss out on any of the action! Until next time, Mata ne!