Friday 30 December 2011

Back In The Day

The New Year's party season is almost upon us. Unless you live in Japan in which case the New Year's cleaning, eating cold food, and humouring aged relatives season is upon us. Anyhow, it seems an appropriate time to talk about why, while I still drink, I very, very rarely actually get drunk any more.

That sounds fairly dramatic, doesn't it? Don't get your hopes up, it involves very little in the way of humiliation or bodily fluid. At least on my part.

Wednesday 28 December 2011

I, Partridge

We Need To Talk About Alan
Alan Partridge (with Steve Coogan, Armando Iannucci, Rob Gibbons, and Neil Gibbons), 2011
(December 2011)

I didn't read this, but listened to it as an audiobook. Despite hearing good things about them from a fair few people, I'd never really gone for them before, but couldn't pass up the chance to hear it read by the man himself. I listened to it on my commute, so my fellow passengers had to put up with me giggling like a twat every day for a week.

Monday 26 December 2011

Thursday 22 December 2011

Christmas is over (if you want it)

Easter is the most important festival in the christian calander, but christmas comes a pretty close second. Anyone who’s had an even nominally christian upbringing will recognize the significance of gathering together to celebrate - if not the birth of christ - then at least the communal warmth of friends and family in the middle of a long, cold winter.

Not that that’s what christmas is all about these days, of course. These days it’s a graphically indulgent gang-bang of venal (and possibly venereal) grasping and wanton consumerism. I say ‘these days’ but I suspect it was ever thus. You need, at the very least, an appreciation of the irony of it all to shepherd your psyche through the bruising month(s) long assault of branding, annoyance, and false cheer which comprises the ‘holiday period’. Can you imagine experiencing christmas in a country which lacks not only religion, but worse, any sense of irony?

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Monday 19 December 2011

Epistemologically Unsound Conclusions Concerning Japan and the Japanese, Based on Japanese Television

Number five in a series of some.

“Japan is a deeply christian country.”

How else do you explain all that praying? Look at this. And this. Also this. Sure, a few of the early Japanese christians may have been crucified, beheaded, and burned alive, but what religion hasn’t experienced a little youthful exuberance in its formative years?

Japan has to rank as one of the most pious and devout countries in the world, forever and ever, amen.

Friday 16 December 2011

7 Deadly Virtues – Part the Second

Previously, on This is How She Fight Start...


In last month’s exciting episode I said I’d explain myself on issues of equitable treatment. But this is a work in progress, and the vague framework I had mapped out is breaking down already. Yay me. So this time I won’t be talking about equality. No. This time I’ll be talking about Doraemon.

Try to contain your disappointment

Wednesday 14 December 2011

The Last Werewolf

(November 2011)

I’ve talked about horror before. Though that post was basically just a massively long and self-indulgent set-up for a punchline having a pop at a bunch of teenage girls. Still, the sentiments were true enough, in that as a genre I can take horror or leave it. But I’d not really describe this as horror, more like a contemporary James Bond with fangs.

Friday 9 December 2011


One of the unexpected benefits of living in Japan is the lack of annoying ambient noise. That might sound slightly strange if you’ve been here a while. Certain towns do love their pointless communal loudspeakers, and noise pollution is pretty endemic.

It’s more personal than that though, because my Japanese is still at a level where I have to concentrate to make it work. I have to consciously ‘turn it on’, and if I don’t then it’s possible to float around in an innocent, prelapsarian state of incomprehension. There is a lot of noise, but it’s devoid of all meaning. Given that I’ve now reached an age where shouting at the TV news is a legitimate hobby, sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

I remember going back to the UK and getting picked up at the airport. Having listened to the ads on the car radio for all of three minutes, if you’d offered to cut off my bollocks so I could use them as earplugs I’d have given your proposition serious consideration.

Wednesday 7 December 2011


Not funny pictures of cats, but the original coinage’s meaning. Ideas which propagate themselves across time, almost independently of their media of propagation (language, art, thought). It’s one of those comforting ‘we’re not so different after all’ realizations that certain stories, certain characters are universal to all societies, regardless of time, space, culture or race.

There are all the obvious, big, important myths, such as Creation (Kamiyonanayo, Gaia) and Destruction (Revelation, Ragnarok). Character archetypes are also universal, from the Trickster (Anansi, Coyote) to the Sage (Merlin, Mr Miyagi).

Wax on, Wax off

Friday 2 December 2011

The Importance of Context

I know I’ve harped on about this before, but it really is so essential. The prior experiences you bring to any situation inevitably colour your understanding. And as I’ve also said before, that’s good and necessary. That’s sometimes called learning, and it would be nice if more people did it. It would also be nice if more people realized the limitations of their understanding; that their prior experiences aren’t necessarily shared by other people. Take, for example, this oft-quoted trope I regularly hear from otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people –

“Japan is a small country.”

No. No it fucking isn’t.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Transmetropolitan Vol. 1 and 2

Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, 1997
(November 2011)

Comics (and let’s be unapologetic and actually call them that, none of your ‘graphic novel’ guff here please, because then you’re no better than the people who bought the Harry Potter novels with the moody grown-up covers in a cravenly transparent attempt to look like they weren’t reading a children’s book. ‘High’ and ‘low’ culture are such false opposites anyway, and can only exist if you actually feel embarrassed enough by your tastes to fork out an extra couple of quid simply for a cover with fewer cartoon owls on it. For fuck’s sake man up and like what you like) are something I’ve only recently got back into.

Monday 28 November 2011

Epistemologically Unsound Conclusions Concerning Japan and the Japanese, Based on Japanese Television

Number four in a series of some.

“Japanese beer is the infection vector for an ongoing alien invasion.”

You should turn off the sound for this, and don't watch each clip for more than a few seconds, either. I won't be held responsible for any further spread of the contagion. Besides, you’d have thought we’d all know what to look for by now. It’s not like they’re even trying to hide it. Look at this. And this. Also this. Notice how they often (but not always) cut away to wide shots briefly after the initial infection, in an effort to hide the full horror. The male host organisms are able to continue acting in a vaguely human fashion, but the poor female immediately starts to receive orders direct from the mothership.

While I for one welcome our new alien overlords, I do have one small plea to make. It’s all very well making examples of your successful conversions, but please try to avoid showing us the less successful attempts. The looks of pain and fear as they realise what has just happened to them is almost to much to bear.

Friday 25 November 2011

Virtual Light

(November 2011)

‘They shouldn’t oughta said that. About Godzilla, I mean.’
Yamazaki found himself blinking up at the earnest face of the girl behind the counter.
‘I’m sorry?’
‘They shouldn’t oughta said that. About Godzilla. They shouldn’t oughta laughed. We had our earthquakes here, you didn’t laugh at us.’

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Google Image Search is a Joy

But I'm sure you knew that already.

I know my writing can be a bit wordy, so it's nice to break it up with some pictures and pretty shapes and colours. Recently I was doing that and stumbled upon the oeuvre of Jade K Scott. There's been a bit of hand-wringing about people using Kindles and the like for reading smut, instead of the relentlessly improving works they might otherwise be grinding through if people could actually see the covers. I, however, can only applaud Ms Scott and her ilk for identifying a potential market and pursuing it with such verve and consistency. It would be beneath me to suggest that she's just a pseudonym for a bunch of cut n' paste merchants and/or monkeys with typewriters.

I now present a selection of titles from the first two pages of a Google Image search for "jade k scott", for the elucidation of those of you who remain unhappily ignorant of the canon.

Monday 21 November 2011

7 Deadly Virtues – Part the First

Previously, on This is How She Fight Start...


Prejudice has got an unfair reputation. It’s not always a bad thing. In fact it’s often useful, and even necessary. We all make initial assumptions about people based on any number of things, including sex, age, dress, accent and race. No matter how fair-minded you think you might be, this stuff all gets accounted for at the unconscious level. I’m male, young(ish. Stop sniggering at the back there), wear a suit to work, speak with a fairly regionless middle-class English accent, and I’m white.

Got a good mental picture there? You realize that it’s almost certainly wrong, of course, but you just can’t help it. There I am, sitting in your head (clean up in here, will you? It’s filthy), half-formed and you’re already coming to opinions about what kind of person I am. Judging me, even though your mother told you not to.

Friday 18 November 2011

Blood Meridian

Some people apparently keep a notebook of every book they read. This seems a little OCDish to me, but I have several tendencies in that direction anyway so let’s go for it. For the next year, or however long, here are all the books I’ve read/will read. Plus you get the added benefit of my pearls of wisdom. These won't be reviews as such, just stuff I noticed or thought about while reading.

So it's probably best not to expect any searing insights. I did A-Level English Lit., and my understanding really hasn’t progressed all that much since. I have fairly obvious pretensions in that direction (really, just read anything else I’ve written here and you’ll get that), but I often get the feeling that I’m missing a whole lot of stuff as well.

Plus having a kid really cuts into the time you can spare for, well, anything. So this little exercise will hopefully provide a bit of an incentive for me to read more and think more, instead of just wasting time on the Chive. Prepare yourself to be astounded at the depth of my ignorance.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Please Put a Penny in the Old Man's Hat

Because I'm skint. Have you any idea how expensive making a christmas cake is over here? I could feed it with unicorn tears for the next six weeks then ice it with crushed dilithium crystals, and both would be amongst the cheaper and more easily obtainable ingredients.

And of course, shortly after writing that little screed, I see this, which both puts things in perspective and makes me feel like a right arsehole. Go. Donate. Do the right thing.

Monday 14 November 2011


Call me cynical. Go on, I won’t mind. I’d prefer ‘sceptical’ but it’s all good. Regardless, when I saw a segment on the news the other day it did prompt a couple of less than generous thoughts. The first is that Japanese curry is pretty special, and not the good special either. I'm no foodie purist, insisting that my food must at all times be ‘authentic’; that it ‘just tastes so much better when you’re actually there.’ I love Thai food, but some of the most disappointing I've ever eaten was in Bangkok.

In fact this assumption that “authentic=good and inauthentic=bad” extends across all spheres, and is frequently wrong. There’s a real question as to whether pizzas are better in Italy or America, and I’d happily put Baltis up against almost anything India has to offer. And that’s before we’ve even gotten on to Chicken Tikka Masala.

Yum Yum Yum Yum Yum

Friday 11 November 2011

Jumping on my Tu-Tu

I was trying to prepare for a debate lesson the other week. Teaching debates in English class is very popular over here. And like lots of things which are very popular over here it’s a nice idea on paper, but awful in practice.

I love debate, argument. I’m such an ivory-tower idealist that I still cling hopefully to the concept of public discussion as meaningful way of approaching a mutually acceptable truth, as opposed to the diametrically-opposed cock-waving sessions it appears to have devolved to. So I adore the idea of teaching it, and of students learning it.

Thursday 10 November 2011

I Want a Second Opinion

"According to an education ministry report last year, 8,627 public school teachers took a leave of absence for health reasons in fiscal 2009. Of these, 5,458, or 63.3 percent, did so due to psychological problems.
The number of teachers taking temporary leave for mental health reasons has been steadily rising since fiscal 2000, the report said. While 0.24 percent of public school teachers took a leave of absence in fiscal 2000, the percentage rose to 0.60 in fiscal 2009, it said.
The education ministry official cited so-called monster parents, who make unreasonable demands, and an increasingly digitized society as some of the reasons behind teachers' increasing stress."

Monday 7 November 2011

Epistemologically Unsound Conclusions Concerning Japan and the Japanese, Based on Japanese Television

Number three in a series of some.

“Japanese people are Endopterygota.”

Which is to say that young Japanese 'women' are no such thing. They are in fact just the larval phase of the organism, and will eventually metamorphose into their adult stage, more commonly known as 'old Japanese men'.

I know it seems preposterous. “You idiot,” you cry, “They’re different sexes, not different stages of the same creature’s lifecycle!”

Well, I put it to you that it is you, Sir/Madam, who is the idiot in this discussion. Look at this. And this. Also this. In each case we see the typical example of an older male presenter (often with suspiciously dark hair) paired with a much (much, much) younger female. It is never the other way around.

Friday 4 November 2011

7 Deadly Virtues – General Prologue

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a westerner in Japan in possession of half a brain will not be in want of an opinion on race. This is a good thing – race, ethnicity, and national identity are all big, important issues and need to be thought about. Of course in an ideal world they wouldn’t be issues at all, but to ignore it is to bury your head in the sand like the stereotypical bleeding-heart liberal, insisting that ‘we’re all one race - the human race,’ and incidentally that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Epistemologically Unsound Conclusions Concerning Japan and the Japanese, Based on Japanese Television

Number two in a series of some.

“Japan's national psychosis of choice is Puer Aeternus.”

Or Peter Pan Syndrome to you and me. Look at this. And this. Also this. The first involves celebrities answering 'pressure study' questions while dressed as schoolchildren. In the second they actually spend an entire day doing actual exams in an actual (well, fake) classroom while dressed as schoolchildren. In the last they are trying to judge the prices of high-end restaurant food. While dressed as schoolchildren. Because, you know, that whole schoolchild - haute cuisine connection there.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

This Ain't No Technological Breakdown

"Making use of an electronic blackboard, the teacher made expansive gestures to encourage the children to imitate the authentic pronunciation produced by the board."

The authentic pronunciation produced by the board.

Frankly it's too beautiful to sully with any further thoughts. I'll just leave it here for your edification and enlightenment.

Except to say this: I strongly suspect the only parts of the Japanese manufacturing sector which aren't being affected by the ridiculously strong yen are paving slab manufacturers.

Sunday 30 October 2011

The Horror, The Horror

I’ve never really been a huge fan of Horror. I saw one of the Child’s Play movies when I was obviously too young, and I can’t really remember much of it, except Dad stopping it halfway through and taking it back to the video rental shop. I think I’d convinced him that it was a cartoon, based on the picture of Chucky on the box, and in his mind cartoons were inherently childish. An animatronic doll possessed by the soul of a dead serial-killer probably wasn’t what he was expecting for his Sunday evening family viewing. Narnia it was not.

Thursday 27 October 2011

The Answer to Your Question is 'Almost Everything'.

Not to sound offensive, but the author of this piece is clearly a fucking moron. That’s how it works, isn’t it? I write ‘Not to sound xxxx’ at the start of a sentence and it’s like a magic wand, completely negating all the xxxx sentiments I follow it with.

This article reads as if the author has just tossed every exhausted cliché about Japan into a sack, given it a desultory jiggle and let the results come dribbling out. Though for the full set they should have illustrated it with a picture of cherry blossom on Mount Fuji, or a ‘geisha’ using a mobile phone because, y’know, Japan is just such a unique mix of the traditional and the modern.

Monday 24 October 2011

A Little Knowledge

So, here we are again. Having already said that this isn’t an Engrish blog I’m going to talk about it again. Or at least talk around it. It appears that the Japanese media have finally discovered Superdry, the British clothing company whose USP is the Japanese phrases they stick on the front of their shirts. Needless to say, if you can actually read this stuff it’s absolute gibberish.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Epistemologically Unsound Conclusions Concerning Japan and the Japanese, Based on Japanese Television

Number one in a series of some.

“Japanese people can’t taste bitter food.”

Look at this. And this. Also this. Oishii and Umai are (seemingly the only) two Japanese words for delicious. These are to be uttered either at a pitch and volume sufficient to make bats’ ears bleed, or in a muffled grunt as you spray your dining companions with the remnants of your half-finished mouthful. And it's the reason for the latter we're interested in here.

Friday 21 October 2011

"We're gonna need a bigger pan."

I generally want to avoid Engrish on this blog. Other sites have done it better/more authoritatively/to death, and I don’t feel there’s much to add at this point. Plus, after the initial giggling rush has worn off, it’s so pervasive that you barely even notice it’s unusual anymore. Like working in porn.

Yes, exactly like that.

So when I saw this little beauty in Deo Deo the other day, I didn’t really think much of it –


We went back to the UK this summer. Despite my wife and I being together for over eight years now, we’d never actually flown together before; a result of spending much of that time on different continents, so one of us was always flying to meet the other. We’ve had many tearful goodbyes and many joyous reunions, but we’ve never actually done the full day’s trek together - from our regional city in Japan to my hometown in rural England, or vice-versa. Door-to-door it takes pretty much 24 hours.

Given that the real point of this trip was for our son to meet my side of the family, we had to bring him along as well. This complicated matters, but not all that much, to be honest. I won’t go into all the details, except to say that Vantaa airport in Helsinki is lovely; clean, decent enough food, and compact. This last is an important consideration when you’ve got a tight transfer (‘You should see a doctor about that,’ etc). Charles De Gaulle, by comparison, is awful.

Manchester airport though, Manchester airport…