Sunday, 18 October 2009

I Hate Mr. James.

Racism is an ugly word. It’s a word that conjures images of bigotry, hatred, lynching, internment camps, heavily armed and heavily ignorant folks.

I’d be lying if I said I’d never been the victim of racism; true, most of it is the not-so-offensive ‘positive discrimination’ kind (people stopping their cars at green lights to let you cross the road, or store-owners giving away extra stuff seemingly randomly, schoolgirls screaming “I love you!” As you go by. etc.) Occasionally though you also get less welcome prejudice: the black vans driven by the ultra-nationalists are a great example, driving by and calling for Japan to be made ‘pure’ through the expulsion of foreigners. It’s not exactly what you’re longing to hear as you wander the streets (although they do often become mysteriously quiet if you smile and wave as they go past).

I don’t think Japan has a problem with racism on the whole, but I’ve often thought the nation does have an issue with racial and lifestyle sensitivity. I can’t believe that TV broadcasters get away with using Bobb Sapp as a ‘substitute gorilla’, or that ‘Hard Gay’ is allowed to continue unchecked. Just about anywhere else, ONE appearance of these characters would be enough to cause a sociological fit.

This is Mr. James. Eating McDonalds for every meal since the mid 80's hasn't made him fat, but it has made him iconographic of modern Japanese xenophobia.

The latest cringe-worthy media phenomenon to make me wince is ‘Mr. James’, the star of McDonald’s newest advertising campaign. Mr. James is American, he dresses and acts sort of like a cross between the Steve Carell’s character from ‘The 40 year old virgin’ and Mr. Bean. He wanders Japan basically looking and acting stupidly and speaking mangled Japanese. Basically he’s a caricature of a ‘foreigner’.

Usually I would have taken the whole campaign and dumped it into the ‘so dumb it’s funny’ basket, where a good 80% of commercial media over here lie anyway. But then I happened across an article in Time magazine, complete with a note that an organization had complained about McDonald’s ‘portrayal of foreigners’. I started wondering if I should be genuinely offended; is Mr. James really an unofficial spokesman for every English-speaker here? Admittedly the fact that there’s a competition that encourages people to act like the man doesn’t really help.

One of the burgers that James-san is trying to sell. It might be an attractive alternative to cannibalism in some cultures I suppose.

Personally, I’m less bothered by Mr. James than by the products he’s pimping; My friend gave me a promo-voucher for a free Mr. James burger, so I decided to try out the cheese-croquet special, which basically turned out to be a crumbed block of liquefied cheese with pieces of shrimp and corn floating in it on a bun. No Mr. James, you will NOT be getting my return business.

Now go back to Oregon, you dirty foreign dog.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

My own private culture dance.

Things have been quiet at school lately for two reasons, firstly there were the mid-term exams, which (as in educational facilities around the world) pushes students into a studying frenzy as they realize just how little work they actually did over the vacation. I sympathize, and every time I visit a Shinto or Buddhist shrine, I throw some loose change and ask that I may never have to take another calculus test as long as I live.

The other thing that’s been sucking time is preparation for the school 文化祭 (kind of a ‘culture festival’). It’s like a fair, and all the classes and clubs have to design some sort of thing to do on the day. Cafes and ‘Haunted Houses’ are quite popular ideas, and a lot of the clubs do demonstrations or exhibitions of their sport or art. My role in proceedings seems to be to provide spelling and grammar assistance in terms of signage and bilingual menus, thus ensuring that Nogatas English-speaking population (of what? 5 people?) Can successfully navigate and order coffee. That’s some cultural sensitivity right there (although if you’re Korean I guess you’re out of luck).

I often wonder if the English teachers of Japan deserve a cultural designation of their own; after all they do seem to gravitate toward each other, and they have a unique social construction and dynamic that sets them apart from any other group of people out there. Where else in the world can you sit in a maid-café with people from five different continents and argue over how to best restore consciousness to near-comatose teenagers, or which piece of animated pornography is most offensive?

It’s interesting to note how your cultural conception of yourself and others changes as you adapt to being ’somewhere else’, we define ourselves in lots of ways, but many of them are intrinsically tied to factors external to us; where we are and who we’re with; I went from not really considering my ethnicity as a factor in my existence, to regarding it as almost my single most defining characteristic. I’m Shaun, and I’m a 外人, a foreigner. Even to my fellow foreigners, I’m ‘Shaun the Scottish-Australian guy’.

Also interesting is the way that foreigners generate a distinct cultural identity of their own, formed from a mélange of western cultures with some hefty slices of Japan; I’m thinking of strange saki cocktails, ‘parties’ in the onsen and perverse obsession over the horrible English grammar found on most fashion. Particularly interesting is the way that foreigners use language, wielding together parts of Japanese and English to form a set of hybrid slang perhaps that only finds use amongst this niche community; a few examples:

Genks? –How are you? (from the Japanese ‘genki’ for fine/healthy)

Iina! – Sarcastic ‘That’s great’ from ‘ii na’, Japanese for ‘great right? or ‘lucky right?’

Bow-fest – An event involving a lot of speeches and bowing.

Gaijin-hunters – Japanese people who have a fetish for foreigners.

‘(That’s) NHK’ – A waste of money, from the fact that the NHK collects TV license fees on a voluntary/honour basis and it’s very easy to evade payment.

So, example dialogue:

A: Hi man, genks?
B: Hai, I’m ok, I’m kind of hungover from my office enkai last night.
A: How was it?
B: Ok, kind of a bow-fest though, and there was this gaijin-hunter who wouldn’t stop bugging me.
A: Iina! What are you up to now?
B: I’m gonna go play some pachinko, wanna come?
A: Ugh, no thanks; I think pachinko’s pretty NHK.

Do you feel elucidated? Perhaps I’ll share some more next time. Right after I finish getting UNESCO to designate my mall as world heritage site.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

New World Order.

Hi! Remember me? Yes, I've been absent for 4 months, which while it doesn't really seem that long in terms of actual linear time, in internet and pop-cultural terms is probably equivalent to the time it took protozoans to turn into amphibians. Consider that at the time of my last post George W. Bush was still running the U.S.A and everyone on Earth could still get a 60 inch plasma TV and an SUV on credit, even if they lived in a cardboard box... seems a while ago, doesn't it?

Truth be told, I had something of a revelation, courtesy of an article by Leonard Twitts Jr. in 'The Daily Yomumuri' wonderfully entitled: 'No Time For Twitter'. (it's here) I think the internet is a great idea, and it’s wonderful that people can share their thoughts and ideas, but do you really need constant on-the-fly updates whenever that guy you once talked to once for a few hours flying from London to Frankfurt has a toothache? In more personally relevant terms, do you really want to hear what kind of fish I get in my bento every day?

I started blogging, because I moved to Japan, and my logic went that it’d be a lot easier to just write about how things were once, rather than sending endless e-mails and accidently leaving people out. I figured there’d be endless wacky tales to relate and strange things to photograph, and that life over here would miraculously always provide a wellspring of subjects of universal interest.

The thing is, life just isn’t wacky and ‘different’ anymore; after 2 + years the endless stream of crazy cartoon mascots, horrendous public displays of English grammar and esoteric supermarket products just seem… normal. I still raise my eyebrows on an all too regular basis, but the thing is that ‘life in Japan’, just doesn’t seem to warrant the wordcount that it used to.

So, I’m gonna shift the focus, and try to get more ‘idea focused’; less ‘I did/saw/went to…’ and more ‘have you thought about…’ perhaps. Of course, I’ll keep putting up photos of stuff that makes me giggle, and you’ll likely see a lot of cross-cultural musing (there’s no escaping thinking about where you are after all). But I’m gonna cut back on the pictures of shrines and ‘I went to the pub and…’ stories, unless specifically requested. Don’t worry, I’m sure you can still fill all your ‘scenery of Japan’ photo cravings with a quick web search.

Back from the carbonite (yet again),


My desk on an average workday. Note the preponderance of manga and the lack of actual work.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Rats out, Oxen in- 2009 Let's Begin! *wave pom-poms*.

Ok, so first off; I guess I owe everyone out there a giant obnoxious all-caps rendering of Happy New Year! (I was remarkably light on the cards this year after all… hey, it saves trees). So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you’re all coming to terms with the Christmas weight gain, and have dealt with the New Years day hangover (both alcohol and credit-card debt induced).

And to all those native Japanese speakers that I neglected to send New Year cards to (hey, it’s not my cultural tradition… and it saves trees) a big Akemaste Omedeto! I hope you enjoyed your time off from the salaryman/salarygal salt-mines. Now back to work!

This is how they party in Tokyo; with precarious steel cables all round! Sometimes I wonder if the city has such a quaint idea as a 'fire code' in force- there is no evidence so far to suggest this.

So here we are, once more with a brand new shiny year to look forward to, full of hope promise and ‘Yes We Can!’ spirit, and a dusty old year we can hopefully look back on with a sense of satisfaction and pride rather than loathing and disgust.

So, in terms of keeping the public record current, I’m here to present a short sampling of some of the more memorable moments of 2008, as witnessed by this humble soul:

  • New Year 2007-2008, it’s best to start at the start; so when the year of the rat ticked round I was sprinting through a throng of people in Harajuku, Tokyo on the path leading to Meiji shrine, head full of ideas about ‘Hatsumode’ and spending New Year partying with Japanese people in a Japanese way, the clock ticks down, there’s screaming, shouting and general cacophony, and then… cold. And the reality of waiting in a queue for hours to have low-denomination coins likely impact the back of your head sets in. We decided to head back to the pub instead. This year I got things right by just curling up with a pint from the get go.

  • Salarymen in the classroom; I love my shiney new high-school gig, but I firmly believe that the world of the Eikiwa (conversation school) is unrivaled when it comes to quality of soundbites. ‘Sensei, please explain ‘Suck me sideways’, I think Japan should be king of the world, like Toyota’, ‘My wife is a whore, it is bad for our health’, ‘Is Australia big, like the ocean?’ ‘You are a man who is worthy of fine death’ and ‘Does this textbook have sexy pictures?’ Are just a few of the question/comments I fielded in the line of duty.

Also how they party in Tokyo; this shot is from a delightful bar appropriately named 'Sex Trumps'. Yes the word stitched into the nuns habit on the right is the four letter expletive that you think it is. (Read that sentence again and adjust your reality appropriately)
  • Leaving Sasebo; It’s fair to say that my leaving party in Sasebo was possibly the biggest ego-trip a person could imagine; I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over walking into a bar plastered with my own visage and standing on stage singing mangled Backstreet Boys songs for a goodly portion of the night. To everyone involved again, a massive ‘Thank You!’

  • Return to Oz; I’d often wondered during my time away what coming back to Adelaide might feel like, but I know I never visualized being semi-conscious and nauseated. My girlfriend pleaded with me to stay a few extra days, (‘Shaun, you might die’ being her exact words) but in the end she dosed me with Tamago-saki (that’s hot saki with raw eggs dumped in it, uhhh… thanks Mina) and gave me a shoulder to lean on as I staggered to the departure gate. I stopped over at Singapore and blacked-out on some benches; then got back and tumbled into my parents arms. A definite candidate for most horrible aeronautic experience ever.

  • Cultural-reaclimitisation; It’s amazing just how ingrained cultural-behavior and expectation can become; after a year of bowing and ‘arigato gozaimas!’ It’s hard to stop, and I’m sure I weirded out more than a few baristas in the Rundle Mall coffee shops, using a knife and fork again seemed novel, and my house seemed HUGE. In terms of food too, switching from bento-boxes and sushi-platters to plates of steak and pasta was kinda trippy. It’s always strange to be reminded just how much you are a product of where you are, some things never change though; I still tingle whenever I take a bite out of a Tim-Tam (no matter which hemisphere I’m in)

  • Reality-checking; Remember that old TV show ‘Northern Exposure’ about that big-city doctor who got sent up to Alaska kicking and screaming? That kinda what moving to Nogata felt like; I remember riding the train in with my luggage and seeing a giant chain of rice paddies and thinking maybe I should be scoping for Viet-Cong out there; images of having to grow my own vegetables and bartering stuffed koalas for baked goods ran through my head. Lucky for me I’ve got a giga-mall next door and I like the wildlife; now I love Nogata, it’s like the ultimate blend of quiet-living and wanton commercial decadence!

  • Parties, parties, parties; End of year parties are a giant deal for the overworked proletariat the world over, and this year was no exception; there are school parties, private parties, company parties, family parties… and as a minor local celebrity (‘cause of y’know… bein’ foreign and speakin’ English and all) I end up going to a lot of these things, which is fun; but often ends up with your colleagues trying to recruit you to sing old sea-shanties… in Japanese, or your students grandma starts quizzing you about your financial independence, just in case romance is blooming, or your girlfriend’s co-workers giggle manically while trying to embarrass you with poorly phrased ‘risqué’ questions (‘girls… you like?’) Sometimes a guy just wants a beer and some cake!

Who knows what wonders/terrors the year of the Ox/Cow/Water-buffalo/Bison (whatever it is) will hold? Only time, and rampant global governmental spending will tell!

Actual snow, in *my* town; which like all snow looks pretty but is actually cold, wet, slippery and dangerous. Making snowmen is still fun though.

Party like it’s 2009 (‘cause it is),


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Shaun's Jolly Anti-Christmas Entry!

Economic downturn aside, there's no doubting that capitalism is still the big kid on the block in terms of global influence; it's trounced pretty much every alternative social idea out there; and even manages to have some weight in all those hold out socialist, theocratic or autocratic regimes that constantly give us streams of headlines (which in turn lets the news-media sell advertising space). Some say that capitalism is the globes defacto unifying force. Maybe we don't all understand Shintoism, Islam, Mormonism, Pastafarianism or whatever; but even kids in the worlds muddiest hellholes who have never been to school get what a fistful of Dollars/Euros/Yen means.

Two events have got me thinking about the power that economic forces have over our lives; the first I read in a newspaper, where a crowd of shoppers broke down the doors to a Wal-Mart before opening time and stampeded inside to get to their 'Black Friday' sale a few minutes early, on the way in they trampled an employee to death. People then stepped over the corpse to keep shopping. I guess those people were really keen to get some cheap consumer electronics.

The second was something I perceived personally, the morning of November 1st I woke up in my old stomping grounds of Sasebo; walked with my girlfriend to her workplace and kissed her goodbye, on my way to the local coffee shop (a quadruple mega-espresso always helps with the post-party hangover) I passed one of those trendy 'lifestyle' stores, just in time to see the employees physically removing their Halloween stock and replacing it with Christmas merchandise. Somewhere deep down I suspected we were always living in a state of perpetual holiday-spending, but such a tangible transition made me pause for a moment; don't we even get a weekend off?

Halloween in Sasebo; Mutia/Pippy Longstocks = cute. Shaun/Schoolgirl = quite scary; admittedly, substituting whiteboard marker for eyeliner may have been a mistake.

When I got back to Nogata my local mall was the same; no more black and orange streamers and faux-cobwebs, now it's green and red balloons and faux-snow. Oh and those ultra-obnoxious tinny, piped Christmas songs; the ones that supposedly cause low-level psychosis if you listen to them more than a few hours a day.

It's possible to debate if Christmas is still a religious holiday in principal, but here in Japan it certainly isn't; there isn't a cross or a nativity in sight. You might see a few Angels, but it's pretty likely that they'll be rendered anime-style, which takes the edge off. What we get around here is 'Xmas' in it's purest form; with all the crazed marketing might that the worlds second largest economic power can muster. J-pop starlets in santa hats, special 'Noel' blends of beer, T-shirts with unintelligible seasonal slogans ("Ho Ho to your reindeer in sled-heart" I saw the other day). The first 'holiday themed' porn mag came out in the local convenience store a few days back too. *sigh*

I got an e-mail question asking 'Are Japanese teachers really tidy?' I present this image as exhibit A in the case for the negative.

Japan is renowned for being ahead of the curve in terms of business enterprise; I wonder if 'Christmas in Japan' is the future of the commercial world as a whole; saturation holiday marketing where cultural relevance and understanding take a back seat to incessant marketing and constructed spending compulsions around the entire calendar; I should probably be bracing for the Valentines day blitz early.

Anyway; happy holidays world, just remember not to crush anyone underfoot on your way into the giant mall we all live in.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Sumimasen, Shirimasen.

The title of today's post roughly translates as 'I'm sorry, I don't know'. It's something that I say a lot. Partially because it's kind of a catch all that's awesome at simultaneously feigning linguistic ability and dodging having to construct a longer sentence, and partially because I'm still pretty new in town and I really don't know a lot of things about bus stops, exam timetables and the new Evangelion film.

Despite all that I feel like I'm making steady progress on the 'personal betterment' front. Me and Linda (now HMS Linda) have a new mutually beneficial arrangement where I get to go to work faster and save myself 150 yen in bus fare and she doesn't get all scratched up from me falling off every 30-60 seconds. I'm slowly adjusting to life as a bike commuter; I just wish someone would send my legs a sharply worded memo that all this 'pain' will not be tolerated. Still, I guess I could be paying money to ride a bike that sits in place at a gym, so I'll keep the moaning to a minimum.

Proof that I'm still being social; I run back to Sasebo every time I feel like life is 'too normal'. This is part of the cast that proves it's really *not*.

The language barrier is slowly starting to crack just a little under my onslaught of flash-cards and persistent listening exercises; I finally managed to get my head around the whole hiragana and katakana sybillary, and can now oficially 'read' all the manga and literature aimed at the under 15 crowd that I want. I say 'read' because being able to phonetically decipher something doesn't mean you understand a word of it; still, it means I can puzzle through the menus at family restaurants and read the names of students in my class lists, so there are some definite lifestyle improvements. I've taken to bringing random pieces of 'shojo-manga' (comics books aimed at young girls) into the staff room to 'study' at work. Consequently I've kinda become a lending library for the whole office. Life is strange.

Shauns latest addiction; berry 'soyjoy' bars. It's soy grain, berries and added iron. Astronaut food never tasted so good (for real!)

I like to think it's helpful though; I can hold down a rudimentary conversation now, which is more than a whole bunch of my students can do in English. I think may main problem is letting go of my cultural ideas about words and how to use them; 'sugoy' is a good example, it translates as 'cool', but only 'cool' as in 'that's really good', you can't use it (like I continue to do) to say 'that's ok with me' or 'good idea'. It can also mean 'that's awful' for bonus confusion.

So really, half the challange of learning the language is getting into a different mindset; the one where negatives and personal pronouns are really rare and you venerate everything about the person you're speaking to. The process is really interesting though; I'm more willing to cut those 'really shy' students some slack, since I'm sure I sound really boisterous in Japanese. Luckily people cut me a lot of slack, and I've got a girlfriend willing to nudge me with hints (even though she's a 'rowdy Okinawian'). I guess I'm destined to always be brash. :P

Today's Engrish signage is from Gion in Fukuoka city; obviously 21st century ideals of non-descrimination never made it to this noodle bar... how sad.

Anyway; life continues, lessons are taught and days become colder. Some weekends I get out and others I don't, some days I drink beer with friends in playgrounds, others I don't. You get the gist. Life is all good and cruisey.

And with that I'll leave it and go back to the non-cyber world; adios global denizens!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Mr. ALT, *this* is your life.

It's been a while again, but this time I'm really gonna protest against being called lazy... I've genuinely been wanting to get into 'cyberspace', 'the blogosphere', 'the cloud'... whatever people are calling wherever this action (typing something that will eventually be made available on the Internet) places me... for a while now. I just haven't had much of anything to write about, and seeing as I'm not one of those people who likes linking news stories or youtube content and adding commentary (Because frankly, I just don't feel comfortable espousing a solution to the subprime mortgage crisis or the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict) it's left me somewhat short of content.

So... I figured I'd give you all (uhhh... all *what*? 5 of you?) a 'day in the life' type summary of what it's like to be me; the life of the quintessential ALT.

6:50AM- Wake up to J-Pop themed phone alarm, stumble blearily from luft-bed trying to avoid ankle sprains or other injury on the stairs. Open the curtains and curse loudly if it is raining again.

7:15AM- Post shower, shave and smacking head on bathroom door consume breakfast; possibly one or a combination of the following: bananas, toast made in the microwave, last nights sushi (retrieved from fridge), yogurt (or yogurt/jelly substance of unknown origin), orange juice, milk, anime-themed cereal.

7:30AM- Leave apartment, consider riding bike if dry otherwise resolutely pop umbrella and trek bravely into monsoonal conditions.

8:00- Arrive at Noko. Smile broadly and yell a combination of 'Ohayo Gazimasu!' and 'Good Morning!' at arriving staff and students to reaffirm 'happy/crazy foreigner' rep. Switch out outside shoes for indoor shoes in staff lobby.

The gates of Noko. The giant clock that greets latecomers with an analog representation of their failure in punctuality is a nice touch.

8:03- Arrive in staff room, continue to say 'Ohayo Gazimasu' constantly to fellow staff while weaving towards desk. Sign up for bento (lunch) on the sign up sheet, dig in wallet for business card when failing to remember how to write your name in katakana (AGAIN).

8:30- Morning staff meeting; stand, bow, sit. Listen to the Vice Principal and various other staff members make announcements and report news, nod attentively and pretend to at least partially understand, clap when appropriate.

8:40- Homeroom. You have no homeroom. Pour a cup of percolator coffee and drink slowly while reexamining the schedule you have memorised. Choose between making flashcards for Japanese study later in the day, reviewing flashcards you already made or reading a few more pages of 'Lonely Planet's guide to Hiking in Japan'.

9:00- First Period. Think about what classes you have tomorrow. Plan, make, and print necessary materials after discussion with the Japanese teacher in question. Alternatively, use the same activity you did yesterday/last week, print the necessary materials and debate with the geography teacher over which Michael Crichton novel is best.

10:00- Second Period. Go to class, nurse somewhat tender hand after high fiving every second student you cross paths with on the way. Greet class, and ask a random person 'how are you?' Appeal to Japanese teacher to explain why the answer 'rain' is not appropriate. Make class repeat key phrases and do a carefully planned activity. Try to keep a straight face when random students (boys and girls) respond with 'I love you!' to questions they don't understand.

11:00- Third Period. Return to the staff room, spend a few minutes studying/practicing Japanese, then make some tea and sit down with the newspaper and get up to date on all the ways the world is going to hell. Silently wonder if you are the only person on the planet who has never actually heard what Sarah Palin's voice sounds like.

12:00- Forth Period. Finish the newspaper cover to cover (even the Sumo news). Return to your desk and practice some more Japanese. When stomach noise becomes audible cave in to temptation and sit down with your bento box. Have fun guessing the identity of the various meat, fruits and vegetables you are eating, and indeed which are which. Briefly feel morally superior to your colleagues due to your use of non-disposable chopsticks, lose the feeling when you realise that you've been given disposables again and they're gonna get tossed anyway.

1:00- Lunchtime. Pour another cup of tea and sit down with staff, attempt to practice your Japanese by joining conversations about which students are most delinquent and whose mother-in-law the most intolerable. Tell the staff about your past and plans for the weekend. Field basic questions about the Western world as a whole.

2:00-Fifth Period. Teach again, assemble materials and go to class, 'help' the Japanese teacher by translating their readily understood Japanese instructions (open your books, stand up etc) into English that the students don't understand. Practice pronunciation and try to make students say 'clothes' instead of 'clothezez'. Have an activity, explain it, have the Japanese teacher explain it, model it and then heap praise on the 25% of students that perform it successfully, more praise on the 60% that try and fail and attempt to look disappointed at the 15% that use the worksheet as a fan as they talk to their friends.

3:00- Sixth Period. Go to locker room and change into PE gear. Go to gymnasium and join in whatever class happens to be in session. Watch kids giggle as you routinely fail to get the ball in the basket or whatever. Use your height to unfair advantage as much as possible and celebrate victory in a completely overblown fashion.

3:50- Cleaning time. Go out and supervise kids while they clean the school. Practice your Japanese by mocking them incessantly for failing to actually do any cleaning. Have basic conversations and teach kids ridiculous handshakes. Fend off girls attempting to solicit your phone number and/or organise coffee dates.

4:10- Seventh (extra) Period. Return to staff room and fill out daily work report. Clean up your desk and think about what you need to do when you get home. Make lists as necessary.

4:30- Say goodbye to colleagues and leave. Walk out yelling goodbye and waving to students as you do so. When clear of the school gates strategically loosen tie and tune into mp3 player.

5:10- Arrive back at apartment. Change into civilian clothes, fire up computer and munch a few cookies to revive flagging blood sugar levels. Sign into facebook, g-mail and blogspot and hammer out wordage as appropriate. Try to ignore the implications of cyber-dependence and thank god again that you don't have a World of Warcraft account to worry about.

6:00- Domestic time- washing, cleaning, ironing, tidying. Turn up the music and attempt to find satisfaction in sanitising your domestic realm. Fail again.

7:00- Shopping. Wander over to AEON, head straight to the sushi section and grab whatever's left now that it's late enough for it to all be half price. Do the same with the milk and whatever desert will hit its use by date in 2 days. Feel awesome about rorting 'the system'. Briefly feel morally superior about using eco-bags, but then lose the feeling when you see that every cookie in the bag is individually wrapped. If you encounter students pretend it is the most exciting thing that happened to you in months. Dodge hugs from schoolgirls by high-fiving when they approach with open arms.

7:30- Return to apartment. Make an enlightened choice between watching TV, DVDs or something on the Internet or perhaps even reading or playing a computer game. Eat and drink as you partake in such activity, try your hand at multitasking by managing more than one recreational activity at a time. Text-messaging, eating, watching TV and saving the planet from space aliens simultaneously will surely be a marketable skill someday.

More of the Shinkansen girl, here in her Autumn getup. I'm still waiting for a Pachinko machine to be made out of this ad series.

10:30- Get into bed and possibly read something deep and mentally nourishing... or whatever you can get your hands on that happens to be in English. It may end up being a bilingual pamphlet about trafficking in human sex-slaves.

And that's about it! Wash, rinse and repeat! Maybe next time I'll write something about the 'average' weekend. Right now though I'm off schedule; and those DVDs don't watch themselves ya know...

Ciao for niao!