Tuesday, February 21, 2006

...not just buddists...

When I first came to japan I believed there were no churches. After a few months I found a few, most of which were run out of rented rooms in apartment blocks or in convertered warehouses. So I came to believe there were no churches here worth taking photos of.

For a couple of months I filled my photo albums with pictures of temples and shrines, and the massive stone churches I had seen in germany became a distant memory.

I had given up hope to soon! I found one right in the middle of osaka a couple of minutes walk from the main train station. Looking at it i couldnt tell if it was actually built of stone or not, but as things go, it looked pretty authentic.

The only issue with it was the location....

...built 10 stories up the side of a hotel.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

...bunny rabbits...

Japan is obsessed with cuteness, and wherever possible cuteness of the small, cute, fluffy and fuzzy kind. I think everyone probably knows who hello kitty is, but what about totoro? or doraemon? or spulin? or the other million odd characters that live here?

And unlike NZ they arent confined to a solitary life at the foot of the bed or in kids toy boxs, they are everywhere. I cant make it to the kitchen without coming across a few, let alone the end of my street. But more about these little parasites later, because there is another thing certain japanese people seem to like, anything "western" (by which they invariably mean "american").

These two things were bound to combine in some way, so ask yourself what is american, small, cute and could be completely misinterpreted in someway? The playboy bunny of course! You see it everywhere here, on notebooks, bags, keyrings, clothes etc.

The one place you dont see it though is on playboy magazines, i cant remember seeing one in japan! This could have something to do with japans bizzare censorship laws which would leave them very pixelated, but thats another story.

Ive asked a couple of my students who came to class wearing playboy sweatshirts if they knew where the rabit came from, and none of them did. All im going to say about this is can you imagine explaining what playboy is to a group of japanese housewives in their 50s with limited english ability?

One of the most surprising places the rabbit turns up is on school uniforms. School dress codes are much stricter than in NZ, uniforms of course, no jewellery, uniform jackets, uniform schoolbags, I even heard of students being taken out of class to the hairdressers because their hair wasnt the right shade of black!

The one small shred of individuality that can creep into the uniform is in what brand of socks a student buys, with each brand having its own 1cm square logo. Most choose eiffel tower socks, or something similar, alot however choose the bunny.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

...im sorry its having a break...

I thought i should be slightly more scientific about vending machines, so I decided to count how many i passed on my way to Nara today; 67 of them. Now to put this in context its less than a 30 minute walk, so i was passing vending machines about once every 25 seconds...

Considering how well endowed japan is with vending machines, youd think it shouldnt be to hard to find an ATM either. The truth is its not really hard to find one, its hard to find one thats open. Because unlike the inhumanely treated dispencers of tea, sake and cigarettes, which must work 24hours a day, ATMs are allowed to take a break every evening, and on weekends.

After about 8pm on weekends, and maybe 4pmish on saturdays, banks shut down there ATMs, which means if your out of cash your in trouble(because there isnt any EFTPOS here either). I have no idea why they do this, i can only assume that the ATMs in japan have a very good union, because they spend less time working than many office workers here!

Im left to wonder what the ATMs do on sundays, play space invaders?

...midnight watermelons...

have you ever been awake in the middle of the night and thought "what i really feel like right now is a watermelon"? But as you go check the fridge you realise you dont have one? Its never happened to me, but if it does japan has a solution: Watermelon Vending machines!

The number of vending machines in japan is higher than the population of NZ. They can be found in the most unlikely places (shrines) and strangely you will often find 4 or 5 of them sitting right next to each other selling almost identical things (one from each of the main vending machine companies).

And its not just watermelon vending machines, heres a list of some of the others ive seen:

Water melons
ice cream
green tea
soft drink
news papers
Alcohol (upto bottles of whisky)
cup noodles
fresh vegetables
sex toys
rain jackets
hot chips

If someone told me they had found a giant vending machine which you could buy vending machines from, it wouldnt take much for me to believe them.

Annoying thing is though, the vast majority of them only sell drinks, ive been to one place where there was litterally 12 vending machines, and not one of them sold any kind of food!

Friday, January 27, 2006


i honestly cant remeber seeing what i would consider a real dog since i came to japan. There are however plentiful examples of what several thousand years of selective breading (and the occasional random mutation) can acheive, dogs capable of fitting in handbags.

Im not entirely sure why they are so prevalent, whether its the fact that they are the only dogs that japanese people have space for, or if its just because japanese people like cute little things, im not sure. I have nothing against small dogs, they are essentially just cats which wag their tails, the problem i have is that japanese people tend to dress them in clothes.

Naturally the clothes are not home made, this is japan, i know of 2 stores who only sell dog clothes. These arent little stores in someones garage either, one is right in the center of osaka in between fashion stores and shoe shops.

Availability isnt a problem, but i still wondered why, so i asked a student:

"Ahh its winter and hes little so we need to keep him warm"
"Isnt that why dogs are covered in fur?"
"oh not any more, we gave him a summer style haircut"

poor dogs.
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