Monday, September 20, 2010

Tastes like nuts...

I can only assume these are only aimed at the local monolingual market segment.

Monday, May 10, 2010


Just one of those things you spot every now and then about the place. Still largely comprehensible...

Monday, February 22, 2010

Next to no crime

Tokyo has next to no crime. This is generally a good thing, but unfortunately it makes you somewhat complacent. So while I would likely have kept my bike indoors were I still in NZ (or indoors AND locked up if I were in wainui), I thought that leaving my bike locked up in front of my apartment would be safe. Turns out it wasn't.

Anyway, the bike isn't sold in Japan and I imported it myself so there is a chance I will be able to track it down, but if you see a Beone Storm in Japan please contact me or the cops. I would like to think that the cops would find it themselves, but thats extremely unlikely and I think the apology that "We can't make it safe in Japan for foreigners to come and live here" is the most help I'm going to get. They generally do a reasonably good job though...


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Yes We Can

Yes we can, buy awesome Obama masks in Japan.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Theme Dining: Taiwan Style

Themed restaurants in Tokyo offer amazing variety, from christian cathedrals, to prisons, vampire castles, a rabbit hole (of Alice and wonderland fame) and of course many comic book adaptations. Now the boom years before the Asian economic bubble burst apparently offered an even better selection (I am slightly disappointed that I missed the chance to eat ice cream together with real live penguins...), but even then I don't think they would have beaten this particular Taiwanese restaurant in terms of unexpectedness.

How many Japanese does it take to Change a light?

I finally moved to a new flat. The word "Finally" is going to take some elaborating, so I'll save that for another post.

Since moving in I have had to spend two or so weeks sorting out all manor of Japanese paperwork and red tape. Some of it you expect, filling in the real estate contract in triplicate, getting official seals stamped on the contract, getting official documents proving that the official seals stamped on the contract are legitimate, et cetera.

That sort of thing is frustrating, but expected. Its all the unexpected things that are annoying, and there are a LOT of those. Take for example the fact that Japanese apartments don't come with light fittings. I'm not talking a lack of light bulbs, they don't even come with the appropriately shaped hole to insert them into. I was reasonably lucky that the previous resident of my place had left one very old and slightly broken fitting behind. I decided it needed replacing.

Naturally being as old as it was it didn't make use of the now standardized interchangeable power connector so I had to call an electrician to get it changed. The electrician I called wasn't able to tell me what days he was available when I called, and said he would call back later. He did after 3 days to ask "Is now ok?" Not really what I had been expecting, but I was just up the road shopping so thought it would be ok. Met him back at my place, he came in, looked at the light fitting and said "oh, that type, I didn't bring the right tools for that. Is it ok to come back tommorow?"

Next morning he now shows up with another guy, seems to have the right tools, gets halfway through and realizes he doesn't have the right kind of screws, so sends his partner back to the shop to get them. AKWARD 30MINUTE CONVERSATION. Guy comes back with screws and finishes the job.

Payment time. Using carbon paper to write out an invoice he manages to carbon copy my name onto the cover of his notebook, but somehow not onto my copy of the invoice. I can live with that as I know my own name. I hand over some money to pay for it, and the two guys spend the next 5 minutes going through both of their wallets trying to find change.

They give up eventually and leave promising to be back in a few (Of course at this point the combined contents of both of their wallets were at this point sitting in two small piles in the middle of my floor). One of them comes back eventually with my change, and needs me to remind him about the two heaps of coins and notes in the middle of the my floor that he might want to take with him.

How many Japanese does it take to change a light? Only 2, but it takes far more drama than you can imagine. Oh and I have the plumber coming next week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Other Processed Foods

Items such as cookies, crackers, candies, cereals, dried noodles, etc., may be brought into Japan. Most types of nuts (with the exception of walnuts, which are prohibited) may be brought into Japan, particularly if they are salted, dried, or roasted.

I was just looking at the customs laws of what I can import into japan and found the wonderful quote above. I would like to believe there is a nice sensible reason why walnuts are considered particularly dangerous, so if anyone knows please tell me.

On the same page I also found I can import 100kg of rice duty free per year, so if anyone coming to visit me has some left over weight allowance how about bringing me a sack? Preferably long grain, and definitely not that nasty non-stick stuff! (try and eat it with chopsticks if you wonder why)

Monday, April 14, 2008

A wedding gift

I normally use this blog to write about all the strange things that I come across in Japan, well at the moment I am back in NZ which unfortunately isn't quite as weird. I am of course working to change that, and here is evidence of that....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Shopping List

I sent an email to most of my friend in New Zealand with a list of items I could buy and bring back for them when I come next week. The most popular of these was a hello kitty personal massager, so in case anyone had any doubts what I meant heres a picture of what happens when sexual liberation and the Japanese fondness for cute intersect.

(And yes, if you are interested in one let me know by Monday, same goes for ipods)


I was slightly surprised a few months back to see Nazi arm bands for sale in a store in Harajuku, and couldn't help but laugh at the idea of Japanese dressing up in costume wearing them. I passed it off as Japanese people not really knowing the significance, which when you consider how much history of world war 2 they learn in school is entirely plausible.

Recently I was slightly more surprised by the swastika shaped spa pool I saw being advertised in Shinjuku. Yes I know its actually a sensible shape for certain things, but it is one of those things you probably wouldn't see in the rest of the world.

A little bit of history...

One of the things I most enjoyed while traveling around Europe was spending an hour or two going through antique shops in each new city I visited. They were like museums filled with exhibits that if you really wanted to, you could purchase.

Japan of course has antique shops, but for some reason I don't find myself as attracted to them. There is a difference between browsing through 2ooyear old furniture and books, and 30 year old godzilla figures and comic books. I shouldn't compare, its just you don't see "antique" used to describe something made of plastic.

Halloween Special

Can't find a pair of shoes to go with your Jack O' Lantern Halloween Costume? If you live in Japan wouldn't be an issue thanks to the inspired design of these limited edition special Halloween Vans sneakers, available in not 1, but 2 Halloween styles!

Oh and by the way, I took the photo in February so perhaps they weren't enough of a limited edition.

Im lost

Now if you are a person who has trouble with reading maps you might want to take a guide while looking for a toilet at this Tokyo subway station. They kindly provide a map, but its the sort of map that I think Escher might be proud of having drawn. Its still comprehensible, but considering this is a map of only a quarter of the station, I think the full version might be slightly scary.

Perfect for Chocolate Cake

Ok, I have to admit this is neither strange, nor unbelievable, but is simply a good example of Japanese style. Spade shaped spoons. Cute and slightly unpractical, but still very cool.

Umm, well ok

There are times when I just don't know if its a mistake or if they actually know what the English they are using means. This poster advertising a concert locally is a good example of that sort of English.

But I don't want to carry it all day.

The following picture shows the rules for use of coin operated storage lockers at Shinjuku Station. Click for a larger view. All pretty standard until you get to 2.7...

Of so its prohibited to store this corpse I have been lugging round the city with me all day while I go and do some shopping? What am I supposed to do with it then? If I leave it here, someone might steal it and then I'd have to go report it to the police...

Eggs in a hurry

If I had to describe Tokyo in one word it would be "Convenient". The ubiquitous 24hour convenience stores, wonderful public transport, shops selling every service you could imagine, and vending machines selling six packs of eggs. The last being something I discovered while riding in one of the less densely populated parts of town.

Admittedly I don't often wake up at 3am in the morning and think "I need eggs", but if I do I now know where to go. Its not using the services that matter, just knowing they are there if I need them. But to be honest, I think the watermelon vending machine I found in Nara is still my favorite.

I guess you could say I am fluent

In the run up to my entrance exams at Tokyo University I had to deal with all manor of paperwork at a time when I would have much preferred to actually have been studying. I eventually finished all the application documents and took them over to the administration office only to be told that I needed to include my TOEFL score.

Now for those who dont know, TOEFL stands for Test Of English as a Foreign Language, and due to the F component I naturally assumed that it wouldn't apply to me. I pointed this out to the people at the office, who agreed that my taking it would be completely pointless, but continued to insist that I take it. Bureaucracy.

Ok, so I looked into taking the test (and how to pay the $170 it cost) and found out that I had missed the application deadline to have my test results back before my entrance exams, so went back to tell the office that I couldn't get the results in time. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, but their response was that because I am a native speaker my results don't really matter that much... relief, I just saved $170 I thought... but it just matters that I can show I took the test. What? They want me to take the test even though they won't get the results in time?? Apparently.

So I take the test, it wasn't actually all that easy and felt horribly artificial. Moreover it is a completely inappropriate test of English language ability for average Japanese people which is what it is used for. I sadly didn't get a full score, but considering my speling it is lucky that I only lost one make in the essay section. So I am now able to Prove that I speak mostly correct English.

Friday, January 18, 2008


My refrigerator broke a couple of weeks ago, waiting for the replacement could have been quite inconvenient except thanks to the weather the my balcony is quite capable of keeping my food as cold as my fridge ever did. Unfortunately if I wait a few more weeks my milk will start to freeze, which is going to make breakfast unpleasant... Hopefully the replacement will arrive and stop my food from getting to cold before that happens.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Abyss

I must apologise for a month without posts, this is not because my life has suddenly regained some level of normality, but is due purely to a series of run ins with Japanese bureaucracy at its finest. Essentially due to several seemingly minor mistakes in the paperwork concerning my scholarship, I was told that although the Japanese government was quite happy to keep paying me for the next 18months, they wouldn't pay for me to actually do any study during that time or afterwards.

Now an 18 month paid vacation is always tempting, but I am reasonably keen to do a PhD, and I am even more keen to have them pay for me to do it. This lead to an adventure through the Japanese paperwork jungle that took 3 weeks, and was filled with as much weirdness as you would expect from Japan. I won't give a full account, but here are some highlights.
  • Startlines and Deadlines: In Japan Applications not only have a deadline when they have to be submitted by, but they also have a startline which they not be submitted before! Generally the difference between the two is about 1 week.
  • Triplicate: Whenever submitting documents multiple copies are required, luckily this is why we have photocopiers right? Unfortunately in many cases all of the copies have to be hand written!
  • Internationalism: Despite my scholarship being only available to foreign students, with no requirement of Japanese language ability, all information about it is only available in Japanese. And not the sort of friendly Japanese you see in the real world, that type of impenetrable legalistic Japanese that caused several of my Japanese friends to shrug when ask about its meaning.
  • Submission: I went to the office and asked where I needed to submit my application to. They said "here", so I preceded to hand it over, only to be met with shocked faces. Turns out that although it has to be submitted "here", it has to arrive by post.
A few of other interesting points:
  • Less than a third of the staff at the international office speak a language other than Japanese.
  • Any time you apply for anything you must submit a passport photo.
  • CV's in Japan must also be handwritten. And yes, this means if you make a single mistake while writing them out you start again.
  • Students start looking for jobs over a year before they graduate university, and if they haven't got one less than 6 months before its generally seen as too late.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Immoral Effects

From a foreigners prospective living in Japan does seem strange, and unsurprisingly this isn't a new phenomenon. I recently came across scans of a book ‘Sketches of Japanese manners and customs’ from the 1860s written by a British guy living here at the time.

The book is available online here. If you've got a few minutes to kill, which judging by the fact that your reading my blog you probably do, have a look. It reveals a lot not only about Japan but about western attitudes as well.

One nice example is a comment the author makes about the Japanese custom of communal bathing, 'It would seem natural to conclude that such a system must have immoral effects, but the Japanese attribute no evil consequences to it'. Westerners are really such prudes... but they really did a good job of moralising Japan.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

How to avoid being a sexual offender

I forgot to pay my internet bill, again. This means that for the next few days I have to come down to the lobby of my building to use the web, which has the one advantage that I can also watch TV while I'm here. Japanese TV is one of those interesting experiences that is hard to explain without watching. For those wanting to see an example of something I found on the web recently, have a look here.

What I saw today was a little stranger however. A special on one of the talk shows about how to avoid be falsely accused of sexually molesting people on crowded trains. To put that in context, sexual offending on trains is such a big issue here that most trains have carriages reserved only for women. So its not surprising that the occasional innocent person my get accused of doing it, but it seems a bit strange that there is a show in prime time specifically teaching ways to avoid being accused.

The show had a section explaining different ways of standing so that your hands are always visible, or ways so that you can avoid being close to females. This was followed by a section on what to do in case you are falsely accused, and then an interview with one guy who claims to have been falsely accused and spent 3 months in prison for it.

Oh and of course, the excuse the falsely accused guy gave for it not being him, "It wasn't me, it must have been the half standing behind me!". Half is the wonderfully politically correct term for those with one Japanese and one foreign parent, who are invariable considered by most Japanese as criminal foreigners just like the rest of all. Sort of reassuring that they somehow managed to find a way of combine the endemically Japanese phenomenon of train perverts and the fear of criminal foreigners in a single story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Information Density

In Japan you often see small two dimensional bar codes that cellphone cameras can decode as a web address. They are normally about a cm square, and are often found on the bottom of advertisements and occasionally on the business cards of certain Japanese companies that want to seem tech savy.

Last week I came across this somewhat larger than usual example, about 16square meters... which to store a single web address seems like overkill. Interestingly no text, so the only way to know what it was advertising was to scan it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stairway to Heaven

The times when Japan seems the most unusual are generally those times when you are doing something which would otherwise be completely ordinary. Last weekend I went hiking up what the Japanese refer to as a mountain, that is a reasonable high hill with some trees on it and a few souvenir shops at the top.

Now for reasons I don't want to get into the day I went was the middle day of a long weekend, and so was the sort of day where a fair portion of Tokyo's corporate drones decided to take there families to see some 'Nature'. Naturally it wasn't the untamed remote dirty kind of nature you might find in other countries, it was nature that had its own train station, plenty of stairs, handrails and vending machines in case they got thirsty.

I think the only way I can describe climbing the mountain is as "standing in line for 3 hours on a slope". I wish that was an exaggeration, but for your consideration I submit the attached photo as evidence. It shows the suitably tamed nature, the aforementioned slope and the queue of people waiting there turn to get to the top of it.

The two things I found surprising about the whole experience was that this particular hill/mountain was surrounded by other hills/mountains that simply by virtue of not having their own train stations had no one wanting to climb them. And secondly I was also surprised by just how well prepared the Japanese people were for their wait in line. Not only the expensive Jackets, hiking boots, day packs, walking poles that would would normally convince me that these people were going on a multi day cross country trek, but also the occasional person carrying a compass just in case.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Winter is coming, and Tokyo is slowly getting colder. What better way to keep warm, and display latent geeky tendencies from a childhood of video game worship, than these Balaclavas designed like Pacman ghosts?

Friday, November 16, 2007


Vegetarianism is not an affliction that many people suffer from in Japan, but in more progressive areas you occasionally come across a restaurant with a vegetarian option, or even somewhere with an all vegetarian menu. I came across one yesterday, but looking at the first item on the menu I have my doubts about how serious they are. A no meat Beef Bowl, perfect for all those vegetarians out there looking for a no guilt, karma free, beef fix.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Freedom of Choice

This is something I came across when I was in China recently. I had heard that China was taking environmental protection a bit more seriously these days so was pleased to see the recycling bins, but still I can't help but think that giving people the option of unrecycling things is a bit counter productive.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Anti Sale

To replace my last camera which was unfortunately dropped into a hot spring in China, I went shopping last week, found one, but wanted to check its price online before buying it. Turns out the price at the shop was equal to anything I could find online, so the next day I went back to the shop to buy it.

Only problem was when I got there, there was a big sign on the camera "limited time only, special price". Not normally a problem except that the special price was 20% higher than it had been the day before! Had a word with the salesperson and he checked in the computer and said that yes, the price had gone up, but that I shouldn't worry because it was going on sale again next week anyway and I should just come back then.

So it turns out that the price was special, and only for a limited time, but probably not in the way most people would expect. As for me, I brought the camera, on that day, at the cheap price.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

(Sushi) Bar Fight

I have long heard that Japan had a problem with bullying, emotional and physical, in the workplace, but until today I had never actually seen it. I was having a late lunch at a sushi bar near the university and I was the only customer in the shop, sitting at the counter and ordering sushi piece by piece direct from the Chef. Was enjoying it, chatting with the guy and enjoying sushi as fresh as it gets.

Then in walks the Senior Sushi Chef, calls the guy over to him and punches him in the shoulder and complains about something. It was a full on punch to, to which the first guys response was, "sorry". The head chef then back hand slaps him across the face and says something I didn't catch, to which guy one bows slightly and say sorry again, for which he received another back hand slap. This hitting and bowing repeats four or five times at which point the boss storms out.

No other staff member says anything throughout the little incident, and once it was over the guy on the receiving end simply returned to making my lunch, with the impression of his bosses hand still visible across his face. Two other customers had walked in halfway through the exchange, and were doing a very good job of being awkwardly silent, which seems to be the appropriate Japanese response to this sort of thing.

Me, I was shocked, and slightly angry. Random violence is something I think I understand reasonably well after living as I have in NZ, but the idea of someone just standing there and bowing to a guy busy taking swing after swing at him is not something I can understand.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The new flavour sensation

There are many reasons why Japanese food will never completely catch on in the rest of the world. Many find eating raw meat and fish a bit off putting, others have issue with eating endangered animals, and some people just don't like the idea of fried chicken organs on a stick. Unfortunately the above reasons don't seem to be enough for some people, and they have begun a campaign to release even harder to swallow foods into the world.

I came across one such food yesterday. Someone had the wonderful idea of combining two popular Japanese snacks, chocolate, and dried squid. And hence squid-chocolate was born! Unfortunately for me, and anyone else brave (stupid) enough to give it a try tastiness is not addative, yummy chocolate + yummy squid = very very unyummy snack.

I only tried one variety and to be fair it comes in 4 flavours, green tea, white chocolate, dark cocoa, and something yellow, but for me one was enough. Though I will be happy to send a pack to anyone wanting to try the others.

Sadly this is not the only such strange combination I have seen recently, there was also the vanilla and salt flavoured candies, and the ice cream and noodle soup.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Birthday Shopping

As often happens at this time of year, I had a birthday last week. Which thanks to the capitalist culture in which we live, is an acceptable excuse to receive presents. And there was one particular present I wanted to receive, and to ensure that, I went shopping for it myself, a bottle of Sambuca.

Now this isn't exactly a common drink in Japan, but it is something that on occasion I have had the opportunity to pay $8 or $9 dollars for a shot of at a bar, so I know it does exist somewhere. Over the course of a week I visited about 10 different bottle shops that I found on my travels around Tokyo, no luck. Until the day before my birthday.

At a tiny little shop just down the road from where I live, on the back of a shelf, which I had to climb over some packing cases to reach, was a dusty old bottle of Sambuca. I climbed up and got it down, only to find the price tag had faded into unreadability, but then this is what bar codes are for so I took it to the counter.

They scanned it, and well, turns out it had spent more time sitting on the shelf gathering dust than I had expected. The bottle pre-dated the computer system, so its bar code wasn't in the computer! They refused to sell it to me, without a price tag, no offer I could make would convince the people behind the counter to part with their newly discovered rare and pressure drink. Damn it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Saint Che

I've made plenty of comments in the past on the skill with which Japanese people manage to include western ideas and customs in their daily lives without having any idea of the cultural significance behind them. Today's wonderful example of this comes from the women sitting next to me on the train, or more specifically her cell phone's background picture.

The picture was that more than slightly over used poster art picture of Che Guevara, but with the addition of a few love hearts floating around his head. Ok, cute, nice and Japanese. The surprising thing though was the subtitle of the image "Jesus loves you". Umm, ok its hard to be sure what jesus looks like, but I am reasonably sure he didn't have a nice communist star on his hat.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Endangered Curry

Japan often receives a lot of criticism internationally for its whaling program, but Japanese people here normally completely fail to notice any of it as the Japanese media never mentions it. Of course when it does its to explain the fallacy of all there ridiculous reasons the nasty foreigners are trying to use to deprive the Japanese people of there traditional (diesel powered, explosive harpoon) whaling culture.

A lot of this sort of propaganda makes its way into Japanese language text books to educate all those poor misinformed foreigners who end up living here. One such text book had a lovely article summing up the Japanese peoples views and international views, and then asking the reader to decide what they thought and discuss it with the class. Surprisingly it managed to do this without using the words extinction, endangered, threatened or overfishing. Strangely I still don't know the Japanese word for "biased".

But to be honest, perhaps a little to much attention is given to scientific whaling. The Japanese aren't particularly hung up about which threaten animal they eat. The photos are of a range of canned curry products I found at a shop not far from where I live, amongst the different flavours I found whale, bear, and fur seal. So in case you were wondering what the Japanese were studying with their scientific whaling, its quite possibly part of a much larger study of the correlation between how endangered a species is and how good it tastes in a curry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Loose change

Just a two random things that I have discovered recently.

In Japanese Green peas and Greenpeace are written and pronounced exactly the same. Realising this I couldn't help recalling with more than a trace of irony the green pea and whale soup that I saw for sale at a festival several months ago.

People often wonder why Japanese people struggle to learn English, whereas most Europeans seem to get on quite well. One problem I have seen is the quality of dictionaries here, mine is full of mistakes, outdated words, and misleading examples. It is also the most popular dictionary in Japan. Today's discovery, what is it called when a marriage ends? A divorcement (yes, my spell checker is underlining is in red)

apparently not an isolated example, a friend of mine today asked about a datement she thought I was going on.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Warm Welcome From Japan

Ok Japan is mostly a warm and welcoming place. Yes of course there are some arseholes, and a fair portion of the population do think foreigners are mostly criminals, but they are civil about it and don't normally bring it up. Well, except for the nationalist who hold rallies in front of some of the train stations on weekends and shout over the megaphones about how all the nasty "gaijin" should go home. But apart from that, Japan is quite welcoming.

Still seeing this friendly little sign on the door to a shop in Shinjuku was a bit of a surprise. "Japanese Only", somehow I doubt they are talking about the language. Luckily, as those of you who can read the Japanese in the picture probably realise, this is not really a shop I was likely to go into anyway, but still they could of been more polite, "Japanese only PLEASE"...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The prize goes to...

More than occasionally I comment on the wonderfully inventive ways the English language is put to use in Japan, but so as not to appear biased I thought today I would share one particularly fine example from China.

Its not the most surprising, funny or ironic example I have ever seen, but I think it is the most efficient example of an English mistake I will ever come across. Normally in Japan they have to write an entire sentence, or at least a single word before they mess something up, at the Chinese hotel I stayed at they managed to do it in a single letter. More interesting than staying in room F.

Informative Advertising

Shopping in China is quite an experience for many different reasons. Firstly there is the fact that the shop keepers despite not speaking any English are quite willing to make a very valiant and wordy attempt to convince you to buy anything you show an interest in. They aren't picky in deciding what constitutes "showing an interest", in my experience walking past something is normally enough.

If you do decide to actually buy anything there is then the question of price. If you are lucky enough to be buying something that even has a price tag, the amount printed on it normally bears no relation to how much you will have to pay for it. 20%, 50%, 70% discounts from that price aren't just possible, they are normal. Of course if there isn't a price tag, you may face the natural disadvantage of being western in which you have no chance of getting a normal price.

The third interesting point about shopping in China which I didn't realise until I got back to Japan is the problem of accurate advertising. I bought a bunch of cookies and snacks for my friends here as souvenirs (its a Japanese cultural thing), and shared them round while we were having dinner at the university. I had no idea of any of the brands or types of sweets so I just got a random selection of things that looked interesting from the super market.

One such was the box in the photo. Purple, heart shaped, with Chinese writing and fill of big pieces of almonds. Opened the box and found it was fill of the small brown dog biscuit looking things that I'm holding in the picture. Not only are they not purple, heart shaped, un-written on, and completely lacking in almonds, but they tasted like sand. I couldn't believe it, so I showed it to one of my Chinese friends here and she just shrugged as if it was normal.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Final Impressions

I am now back home in Tokyo, and before I forget I thought I should just write a few of my general impressions on China.

Judging from the prices of Chinese imports in NZ and Japan you would possibly expect China to be a reasonably cheap place to live. But in the places I went to at least, this isn't really the case. Guangzhou is a big city, and it has the sort of prices you would expect in a big city anywhere else in the world. Basic stuff is pretty cheap, trains, food stuffs, but anything that could be considered a luxury item in anyway is pricey. Still cheaper than NZ, but not much. Of course, I am sure it would be different if I went to one of the smaller cities, but that is an experience for my next trip.

The food is variable. It is one of the few things that are cheap, and even if you go to the particularly expensive restaurants, it is still less than half what I would normally pay on an average night out in Tokyo. As to the quality, depending on where you go it is either literally poisonous or some of the best tasting I have ever eaten. I say literally poisonous as I got food poisoning twice. But don't think its just my weak western stomach, my Chinese companion did as well, on both occasions.

Of course being China you do see the occasional surprising item on the menu. I saw the standard shark fin and birds nest soups of course. The more interesting fried beetles, stewed cows stomachs, chicken feet and hundred year eggs (which should probably be avoided due to the heavy metal content). But the winner for weird food item that I didn't eat was pigeon and pork spine soup.

ps. I would add photos of some of these dishes but someone dropped my camera into a hot spring.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Chinese Internet

I'm still in China, and ever since I got here I've only had sporadic internet access. Its partially to do with the fact that the hotel I am staying in hasn't updated their network since the early 90's, and partially to do with the fact that I am lost somewhere behind the Great Chinese Firewall.

As soon as your try to goto a blocked page you just get a "problem loading page" message, and thats it. I of course knew the government censored a lot of the web, but its surprising what they censor. For example I can goto where I goto post on this blog, but I can't goto where I go to read it!

I think the most annoying lack is that I can't goto wikipedia, or certain other news sites, but I think it would be worse if I lived here long term because of some of the specifically censored stuff. Just to give it a try I googled "tiananmen square" which is something the Chinese are particularly sensitive about, of the first 10 results that came up, I could load 2, neither of which mentioned the unpleasant events from 1989.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Made in China

Im currently sitting in an internet cafe in Sanya, China, and while they are still fresh and unperverted by too much rational thought, I thought I would share some of my first impressions. China is perhaps the oddest place I have ever been and I would reccomend the experience to everyone. I would also recommend they find someone to show them around because no one speaks English, which unfortunately doesn't stop them trying to rip you off or steal your wallet.

The first thing that really struct me was the view from the bus between Hong Kong and Guang Zhou. Lining the highway on both sides were hundreds of three to six story high, office block looking buildings. It was about nine in the evening and the lights were all still on, so I was able to see in through the windows. Row after Row after Row of sowing machines... I wonder what brand clothes they were working on...

The next thing that really struck me was getting on the plane in GuangZhou to come to Sanya. After having going through security, check-in, boarding and finally sitting down on the plane there was the standard welcome message in Chinese and English. Welcome aboard .... Thanks for flying with ... The flight time is.... the destination is.... please check your tickets and make sure you are on the right flight. The last comment was slightly disconcerting.

Other random things, the guy behind me at the internet cafe is watching SM porn with the volume turned to full. Everything in Sanya costs exactly three RMB, well almost everything, drinks, snacks, coconuts. People stare at me wherever I go, and I don't just mean people in the distance. I had one guy walking about a meter in front of me and just turn round to stare at me for about a minute...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Beetles, not the band

I came across another interesting speciality shop in my travels around Tokyo recently, this one only sells beetles. Well that is not entirely true, it also sells beetle food and beetle cages, oh and books about beetles.

This seemed slightly strange to be then I realised, its sort of just speciality pet store. The only difference between it and the ones that only sell dogs, is that if you are not careful you may end up having to scrape your recently purchased new best friend of the bottom of your shoe.

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