Friday 6 July 2012


Apparently this is a thing now. Who knew?

I mistakenly visited the Japan Times website on Wednesday. It wasn’t a mistake because I meant to go somewhere else, but because the JT (as those in the know don’t call it) is a steaming mound of shit, and my mistake was in forgetting that. I can’t remember the last time I read anything even vaguely original in the opinion section, and the letters seem to be written almost exclusively by people who’ve decided that whole ‘critical thought’ lark is too much of an effort and it’s fine to just scratch out whatever ignorant dribble they happen to be experiencing at the time and send it to ‘Them Words People’ at ‘Big Paper’.

Christ, just look at the headlines. Just pull random fucking words out of a hat, why don't you? Bolting Tax Hike Foes. Mutual Truck Pact. Nix. Who the fuck ever – ever – says ‘nix’ in any conversation in any place at any time? My favourite from Wednesday though is this pearler from the editorial page –

And who could argue with searing insight like that? The News doesn’t get any newer than this, ladies and gentlemen. I wait in eager anticipation of tomorrow’s op-ed piece on the current situations vis-à-vis night following day and water flowing downhill.

The headlines and standfirsts are all just by way of pleasant hors d’oeurves. For the real idiocy entrées you have to look to the ‘community’ pages. The community in question apparently being an amalgam of Stepford, Brigadoon, and the island from Lord of the Files.

Why can't we all just get along?

Even by the standards of the rest of the paper, this section is utterly bereft of coherent ideas or original opinion. A section devoted entirely to flogging, thrashing, kerb-stomping, flaying, eviscerating and disembowelling, dicing into small chunks then feeding through a series of ever finer mincing machines so eventually reducing to not so much a paste but more of a fine soup verging on mist of atomized particles which may have at one point in their distant past had some tenuous resemblance to flesh the dead horse.

Given the JT will never knowingly pass up an opportunity to run an idea into the ground, it’s revisited the whole monkeyfighting thing again. Woo hoo. Though I’m secretly kind of glad, because it lets me use that Simpsons clip at the top one more time, and also because I can link to this article, and then back to my Spotter’s Guide, and sit back smugly whilst saying, ‘See? I told you so.’

Now you too can play at being an amateur sociological taxonomist. Like present day tourists visiting the Galapagos, see how many of each species you can spot. Look! There’s a Duck-billed Proportionalist. And over there is a Red-crested Playground Lawyer. If we’re very still and pretend that we’re not really here, we may even catch a glimpse of a Lesser Spotted Solipsist. Let us set sail on the good ship Fightstart and see what we can see.

You realize that in this metaphor I’m Darwin, right? Aren’t I just so fucking clever?

Not really. A child could identify the patterns here; it’s all so predictable and tedious.

So, to avoid this being just a rather hypocritical attempt to have my cake and eat it and/or exercise in smug self gratification, I present you with another little tale from one of my past lives. I was trying to work it up into something for my indefinitely postponed ‘Deadly Virtues’ series, but I’ll just leave it here without any further comment and let you make of it what you will. It is relevant, I promise.

*     *     *     *     *

You'll of course remember my glittering career as a lifeguard. The one that scarred me for life by not only making me depressed at the sight of girls in bikinis, but also by giving me an unhealthy fetish for people's shoulders. Given it was the type of pool people came to in order to actually swim, there was limited opportunity for seeing other more traditionally fetish worthy parts of the anatomy. You can only work with what you're given, y'know?

I eventually crawled (ha!) my way up the greasy pole to become duty manager for the pool and the gym attached to it. Paradoxically, the gym offered more opportunity for ogling toned flesh than the pool ever did. And of course that's where the problems start.

You'll also recall that students made up a significant proportion of the gym’s clientele. And where you get lots of young ladies wearing not much Lycra, you'll also get lots of young and no-so young men who like looking at them.

Now, in all honesty, one of the fringe benefits of using a public gym is checking out the other members, and what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, but there are ways and means. Don't be freaky about it and everyone's happy. Copping a quick look at the guy or girl using the pec-dec is acceptable, and if anyone's using those ridiculous abductor or adductor machines than frankly they've only got themselves to blame. Blatantly staring's kind of creepy; following someone round the gym is completely out, though generally hard to prove; and taking photos is so far over the line you've forgotten what it ever even looked like.  

All of these things happened to varying degrees, to the point where we had to ban cameras and anything which could be used to take a photo. This meant mobile phones. All mobile phones. Fortunately I moved on just as smartphones were really starting to take off, so I only had a couple of discussions with people who were quite legitimately annoyed that I was asking them to put their ipod back in their lockers. I probably had a bit of a stick up my arse about it, to be honest, but I tried to be polite all the time. If you obviously let it go for one person, then the next will want to know why you're only enforcing it for them. Do you think they look like a pervert or something?

Yes, yes I do sir. That's exactly why I'm talking to you. Cue heart palpitations from the higher-ups about defamation law-suits and the like, because we're back to that 'hard to prove' area again. So because a few socially inept freaks don't know how to behave acceptably in public, everyone has to suffer.

I asked one gentleman to put his phone in his locker as and when he'd finished up on whatever piece of kit he was on at the time. 10 minutes later and still no dice.

'Sorry sir, but it's part of the policy you agreed to when you joined. I'll really have to insist.'

'Well then you're responsible for it if it gets stolen'

'Sorry sir, but we can't take responsibility for that. Again, as was pointed out when you joined up.'

Back and forth a few times before the gentleman, who was ethnically Asian (in the British sense) decided he'd accuse me of being a racist.

At the time my girlfriend (now wife)'s family were being particularly obstreperous about the fact I wasn’t Japanese. I’ll spare you the full litany of offences, but suffice to say I had, and have, limited sympathy for people playing the race card just because they can’t get their own way. My sympathy was further tested the next day when he made a formal complaint against me. Fun times.

Sadly, I don’t doubt that the guy in question had been subject to any number of genuinely racially motivated slights over the years. Hell, he’d probably been on the receiving end of a couple of real ones that very day. But not then; not from me.

*     *     *     *     *

And there we are. I’m not going to beat you over the head any further with what I consider the moral of this little tale to be – you’re all adult enough to draw your own conclusions. I will, though, close by suggesting that we all go home and have a good hard think about what we’ve done, or else it will all end in tears.


  1. Yes, exactly.

    I'll spell it out for those who couldn't read:
    - there are racists in Japan
    - there are racists where you're from
    - there are jerks in Japan
    - there are jerks where you're from
    - you may be a jerk
    - once you've repeated these in your head a few times, you can decide if you are a victim of racism, or not.

    1. See? You've done it again. Fifteen hundred words reduced to half a dozen bullet points. I might get those printed up on business cards just to really streamline the whole process.

    2. I should have added one more thing: there's enough racism in Japan that you don't need to make any up, and the same goes for your own country, cracker.

  2. That subject is just getting ridiculous now. In no way is this racism everybody is talking about is causing much harm other than adding to stereotypes. I must have gotten dumber reading the responses to debitos article.

    Lets get on to bigger and better subjects such as the sumo tournament coming up on sunday. I'm very disapointed that Takamisakari is in the juryo division.

    1. I'm fining it hard to maintain interest since Asashoryu retired. I first saw him in the year before he got promoted to yokozuna and it was the first time I was able to see sumo as anything more that comedy fat men slapping each other.

      I still enjoy it now, but it needs more genuine competition at the top to keep people involved. Especially after all the recent unpleasantness.

    2. I started watching a couple tournaments before he retired, and I must have to admit that Asa sure was a show himself. One of those "What did he do this time" type of people. They bring the entertainment to a sometimes dry sport. None of the ozeki are really trying or they are getting worse with age and Hakuho is not so exciting to watch without a rival to compete against.

    3. Yeah, no-one's really putting themselves up as a challenger, despite various media outlets talking up random ozeki as the next Great White Hope.

      Actually, does that phrase actually work in Japan? You know what I mean.

  3. "5 weeks ago called and it want's it's dunce hat back"

    There we go again. 1500 words in less than a dozen. You're showing me up for the long-winded gas-bag I am as well. I greatly appreciate yours and Ant's comments but sometime I really wish you wouldn't ;)

  4. Hahaha, excellent way to wrap up with that last paragraph.

    I really like the comic strip, btw. It's abeen so long since I read Perry Bible!

    1. Yeah, I think it's pretty much finished now, more's the pity. If you leave it long enough between visits though, you can forget most of it and it's like reading them fresh again.

      I think my undisputed favourite is this. It's such a slow burner, for me at least.