Some Pictures from Japan along with some Drivel

Mount Fuji! Taken through the clean window of the shinkansen at 250 km/hr.

Nara Pictures
Himeji Pictures
Inuama Pictures
Nagoya Pictures


It's a fast, expensive train system. And it is sometimes late, but not very often. Unless they are doing this to make me (and any other British people) feel at home. This one ended up being *very* late. At least in the UK you can get some money back. I felt really dumb having spent over 100US$ on a trip from Kyoto to Tokyo which arrived over an hour late. The fact that it wasn't my money made me feel a bit better. Visiting the Shinjuku camera shops made me feel much better until the VISA people decided they needed a little chat with me before paying for some camera stuff.

If you want to find someone's private visa details (mother's maiden name, home address etc.) here is something to consider.

1. Get job in camera shop in NY or Tokyo.
2. Wait for rich foreign customer buying stuff with credit card.
3. Say that the VIsA people need to confim your details.
4. Phone a friend.
5. Give phone to customer. Friend pretends to be VISA person and asks for customer's private details.
6. Swipe VIsA card through your personal card reader. Note security no. on back of card.
7. Process the transaction normally. Give camera to customer. Say thank you. Smile nicely at customer.
8. Duplicate card.
9. Go on cat food spending spree. Make lots of cat friends.

Japan Cats
Would you want to be a cat in Japan? Feel too big? Want more fur?

Well, Japan has a thing about dogs. Dogs rule. Apparently, the 5th Shogun Tokugynoodlepoodle (maybe I am not remembering the name 100% correctly), issued some edicts drastically improving the status of dogs, putting them on or around the same level as people. (I believe that the heinous crime of killing a dog resulted in decapitation. I don't believe it was possible to circumvent the legislation by challenging a dog to mortal combat for offending you in some way). Today, there are pooch parlours everywhere where people living nearby can take their pooch for its regular pampering / shave / shampoo etc. I've seen them. There are also (I'm told) dog only hot springs where assistants are on hand to make a short dip into canine bliss. Maybe the owners have to wait outside in their cars. Serves them right.

And where dogs rule, cats don't. Having said that, Japan does find small cute things very attractive and they do have lots of beckoning cat statues all over the place (one arm of the cat beckons good fortune, and the other holds it close) Sadly, however, those things do not translate into the same quality of life for cats that dogs enjoy. Cat welfare lags behind that found in western european countries and the USA. I suspect that the cat situation in Japan is intricately linked to the country's recent ecenomic problems and that improving one situation, would improve the other. Shinkansen tickets would be a good start, followed by low access sushi bars (hold the rice), and some respect, all free to small purring mammals. Oh, and a ban on cat collars. They're no fun. Generally, if a cat *wants* to run away, it is because it doesn't like its current "owner" (aka current favoured supplier of food & accomodation).

Monkey Park
There are a lot of places to see monkeys in Japan - I think the Japanese like monkeys. I believe many of Japan's youth dying their disheveled hair a lighter shade of brown is an attempt to emulate the thick furry coat of a monkey. If I ever find a tame one, and I happen to have a spare banana, I'll ask.

Bad English (engrish)
There is a lot of English written everywhere, but is usually bad and often wrong. What is with that? You might think that if they were targeting real english speakers, they would go to the trouble of writing correct english. The obvious conclusion is that they are writing Japanese thinking for Japanese people who can speak english. Maybe english is cool. Maybe english text makes some junk into an international product of Mystery.

Dubious Food
Food you would rather not eat. I think that with the right mental attitude, one can eat anything, and if one finds oneself not eating something, I think one should pause for some quiet introspection into why one is being such a wuss. One might find that it helps one to think about poor people, or something, I'm told. Having said that, there are a few culinary gems available that one might want to be on the lookout for, so that one can summon ones fearsome constitution to deal with them in advance.

1.Natto. Fermented soy beans. Requires dedication.
2.Squid. I've heard people can get icky about this. Don't know why.
3.Pig ear. The problem here is more one of severing the cartiledge into small enough pieces to swallow. Quite what the average stomach makes of it, I don't know.
4.Intestine. More easy to sever than pig ear, I suspect one might find the gloopy texture to be challenging.
5.Raw meat. Raw egg yolk + Raw beef. You mix the egg into the beef and eat.
6.Wasabi. This is more of a hazard warning. There is no little sign above an innocuous looking green pile of stuff, but you are really not supposed to just eat it. I didn't know that, and had an interesting experience. I've never been the same since.
7.Curry Noodle. This is more of a culinary faux pas, I think - putting perfectly good udon noodles into a thick curry gravy.
8.Breakfast. Rice for breakfast?

There are some others I've heard people complain about - fish eggs, kitten paws etc. but really they don't deserve to be on this list. Whale meat is worth a mention as I saw it served in a sushi restaurant - must have been for some scientists doing experiments HAHA! I'm a scientist and I want to do an experiment to see if I can down a few Jokis and some exotic whale meat in a restaurant setting, without loosing my cool. Please can I have the scientific discount? My scientific results will be available in a day or two. I may be back next week to try the same experiment again, if I happen to flush my results down the toilet.

Cool Food Inch thick slices of bread.
2.Wide effervescent beverage selection. Scorpion doesn't seem to be around anymore. Gokuri Squeeze is good. Looking at the Kanji Characters on the side of the can / bottle will tell you the percentage of fruit soup in your selection. Vending machines are everywhere with the hot or cold drink of your choice just a few moments and 120->150 yen away behind the beverage portal.
3.Anything involving noodles and/or soup.
4.No twinkies. Why is that? They have twinkies in Egypt, so why not Japan? I'd have thought the Japanese would love twinkies. Personally I'm very wary of twinkies having once eaten too many of them and made myself feel quite sick. Now, everytime I think of twinkies, I think of fat americans. Especially fat american policemen trying to loose weight by eating twinkies instead of their regular donuts. Is that a curse or what?

Pocari Sweat
Basically it is almost as bad as you think whilst being totally safe to drink. It isn't actually >sweat<, but it is designed to be redolent of the body odour of the Pocari monkey, a native of Japan. These are very cute and endearing monkeys which make friends with people easily with their mischievous ways and group antics. Their body odour, especially after vigorous exercise swinging through the trees, is found to be not unpleasant by some Japanese people, hence the popular beverage derivation. Originally, it is said that the drink contained a small quantity of actual monkey sweat, but that the practice was discontinued on health and cost grounds. I believe also the method of collection may have animal welfare implications if it were attempted today.

Pop music
Boy music is just japanese styled american rock. Girl music is teenie group sing stuff. (Man play guitar and sing. Girl just sing) Both are utterly unoriginal, manufactured plastic, and utterly pointless. Not as bad as the christmas album "Jingle Cats" but close. You would be better off listening to Bryan Adams and Britney Spears. Or maybe Bon Jovi. Think image, not substance. Morning Musume! Arrgh! It seems they will never die off, just get new faces. A long time ago, Love Machine was pulling into the Love Station, or something. This time I don't know what they are up to, but they are getting way too much TV time for my good. Or maybe they can't stop - there are so many of them they have to earn a real stack collectively to get a decent sized cut each. And because they're plastic, they have to pay the people with the injection moulding machines. Having said all that, lots of Japanese kids want to be rock gods, and lots of people spend time playing music on the street. Maybe they don't realise you have to worship the media priests to get on in the music buisness - playing to the people is never going to work. And on the street? What sort of sound system can you deploy on the street in a reasonable length of time? In a lot of countries street musicians collect money as well, but not in Japan. Consequently the only place to get rid of those annoying 1yen coins is in the temples. Personally, I wait until nobody is around, and then dump a whole load in the box collection thing. Then I make it clear to the deity concerned that I'll only take it seriously and stump up some serious cash, if I get to see frolicking kittens immediately! It never works. I figure you just can't go trying to strong arm deities. New strategy required. Maybe "immediately" is unreasonable. Maybe 5 minutes would be better - time for your average lazy deity to sort things out.

1Yen coins
Those 1Yen coins are like celery - a totally pointless excercise in consumation. It takes more energy to eat celery than you derive from it. Keep eating celery and you'll die of starvation faster than if you didn't eat anything at all. At least with pebbles you don't have to chew them before swallowing. Or like your average bank account - put in some money, come back in a year and what you get out is worth less than what you put in. The best thing I can think of to do with 1Yen coins is to use them for target practice for when there are no pigs to shoot. Once on TV I saw some americans in a wood shooting a pig. The pig was fat and the americans were fat. They probably drove trucks. I didn't know who to root for.

The bugs in Japan are quite extreme. An average stroll down an average road produces copious quantities of crushed carapaces of insect roadkill. At night the crickets chirping cacophony causes much tossing and turning in the native human population. I was able to make several recordings of the symphony, this one in the morning and this one in the evening. Apparently, bugs are often kept as pets, are sold in vending machines, and change hands for large sums of money. I would change hands for a large sum of money, if I could be sure that my new hands would work as well as my old ones. What the bugs want with money, or why people want to see them change hands, I'm not sure.

"Rinse in" shampoo. So are you supposed to rinse it (out) or not.

Just look at the state of the telephone directories.

These pictures free for non commercial private perusal. ┬ęcip, 2003, 2004

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