Monday, December 26, 2005

...for your information...

Some umm useful signs ive seen around the place in japan.

You shouldnt climb into the baggage storage lockers at the trainstation.

And this one should be self-explanatory.

If anyone knows a decent freeware/crackable batch thumbnail converter for windows please send me a link.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


I havent written an email in awhile, and so most of you wont have heard anything about what Ive been upto over here in freezing cold japan. Sadly im not in a story telling mood, so your going to have to wait awhile longer (im back home in 8 weeks).

For now ill just say that I am no longer a german POW, it didnt snow on christmas and despite being upto my third textbook, I still cant speak japanese.

If your looking for more details about my life here, you can stop reading now. All im going to say is abit about christmas in japan.

The only job ive had in japan where i needed to wear a suit. I wasnt complaining until they came at be with the tube of PVA glue...

EMAIL 6: Japanese Christmas traditions

They do have christmas here. They have plastic christmas trees, they have chubby middle aged white men dressed up as santa claus, they have shopping malls covered in christmas lights that tens of thousands of people crowd round to see, but most importantly they have amazingly overpriced cake.

In many ways its like christmas anywhere else in the world, capitalism at its best, the only real difference is that here there is no pretending that christmas means something. Except maybe for the 0.7% of the population who are christian. To everyone else its about kids getting gifts, tacky mass produced decorations, and eating cake.

Cake is from my observations central to christmas here, many people dont give gifts, or have a tree, or realise what the first 6 letters of christmas mean, but cake seems to be universal. And unlike in other parts of the world they arent picky about what kind of cake, there is no traditional christmas cake here, its simply a matter of what you feel like.

I asked my students what they would be having, chocolate cake, cheese cake, strawberry cake, fruit cake, sponge cake, ice cream cake, baum kuchen, melon cake, green tea cake, seasame cake, pound cake, etc. Oh and naturally cake comes either from cake shops or department stores, and all flavours have one thing in common, the price.

For a 17cm diameter cake you will pay $40 or upwards. I have seen cake advertised for as much as $250 (for a 19cm diameter cake, with a 15cm cake placed ontop). Why does cake cost so much? Students answer varied from "the chef is famous" to "strawberries are expensive in winter".

This 20cmish cake cost $47 from the local cake shop.

There is of course the matter of what to have for christmas dinner. For many the logic seems to go like this, in america they eat turkey for christmas, chickens are like turkeys, KFC is american company that sells chicken, lets go to KFC. And so is by far KFCs busiest day of the year here.

Well happy holidays, and see you in a few weeks. If your feeling bored between now and then you can always visit my blog, it has photos...


ps I didnt have cake today or KFC.

Friday, December 23, 2005


well its two days before christmas and id say there is about a 50% chance of it being a white one. Weve had snow on and off for over a week and as its still damn cold I wouldnt be surprised.

Started off just being snow on the occasionally car roof (no it wasnt that localised, the cars brought it with them), which was very frustrating. I wasnt sure how japanese people would react to finding a strange foriegner harvesting snow from their bonnet, and im not sure if my japanese is up to explaining that i needed it to build snowmen with.

I thought it might be easier to explain if i just built the snowmen on the car, but then i realised such snowmen would have had a significantly increased automobile accident mortality rate. Snowmen are generally short lived as it is, and i just didnt think it fair.

Eventually we got more snow, which was when i realised something surprising. Japanese snowmen are of a completely different genus than the ones ive met in the past. Unlike the ones im used to they are made of only 2 balls of snow and consider wearing a bucket as a hat highly fashionable.

A foriegn snowman

I got some odd looks, after having stacked two, when i went away to make a third snowball for the head. I asked my students about this, who seemed a little shocked by the possibility of giant foriegn snowmen, and it seems all japanese snowmen are of the 2 snowball variety.

Im hoping for a big snow sometime, i want to try building a japanese style snow house, which is likely as febuary is the coldest month so there is plenty of time.

have a nice warm christmas.

Monday, December 12, 2005 do you say karaoke in japanese?...

Im in japan to learn japanese, and when im not sitting teaching people english, or pretending to be german, i do spend alot of time studying it. I know im getting alot better at it, but as it always is with languages, i dont actual feel that i am.

Random (slightly) annoying things about japanese.

Vowel length. The difference actually matters between saying "o" and "oo"! When i was in tokyo there were two train stations, oyama and ooyama, which was somewhat confusing. Now the reason this is not just annoying is that oyama means small mountain, and ooyama means the exact opposite, big mountain. I think somehow that could be simpler...

Intonation. Its not as bad as in chinese, but sadly it too, matters in japanese. Depending on it, "kaeru" means either "return", "can buy" or "frog".

And then there are all the loan words from english. I acutally find these quite funny, I was at a restaurant last week when the girl behind me ordered:

chizuu omreisu esu seizu

Looks reasonably japanese right? well its based completely on english words:

cheese ommlette-rice s-size

Oh and just in case your feeling hungry there is also emu and eru sizes:)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

...can you buy this here?...

Had a lesson a couple of weeks ago where i was asked "what do New Zealand people put on their toast at breakfast?". Peanut butter, jam, nutella, were easy enough to explain, but then i came to vegimite. I spent abit of time trying, but knew i wasnt making much progress once i heard "so its like vegetable jam?".

It may have been slightly cruel, but i decided i would have to demostrate. I had one single serve packet of vegimite left from the ones i had borrowed from a cafe at auckland airport so took it to last weeks lesson.

It was my bosses son who had asked the question, so it was easy enough to arrange a piece of toast (butter was harder). I was expecting the normal reaction, one bite, and then a second just to be sure that it really tasted that bad. I was looking forward to a piece of toast for lunch, but in less than a minute my dreams of lunch were gone, as was the toast.

I thought this could just be him being polite, but he then asked me where he could get it in japan. Seemed rather disapointed that i didnt know. Thought it tasted abit like miso. Go figure.
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