Wednesday, 28 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Milk Manga

Alright. So I took a photograph of the back of two milk cartons. It has the same 4 box style of the ones I showed my adult class. So here is my take on them with my limited Japanese (and especially the local dialect). You might need to click on the picture to see them.

Let's start with the one on the left. It appears the gran has a sore stomach in the first panel. I think the grandson has suggested she drink some delicious hot milk... obviously. Mmm mmm delicious Kochi milk. Wait a second? What's happened to her? Her skirt has blown off and she's about to wet herself? The grandson looks excited by this. Maybe he spiked her milk? The comic concludes with the grandfather waking up to find the bed wet. "Not again!" he says. Deary deary me. This story escalated very quickly from delicious milk to the reality of old age and its accompanying ailments.

Translation: The gran complains that recently she has been sleeping bad. The grandson then mentions that before going to sleep you should drink hotto miruku. I think he means hot milk. Then she replies with some gibberish about sitting. The grandson is excited because there's hot something and then hot underpants! I have no idea what shes says next so I looked it up. She's says "This is effective! or something. It is still uncertain at this point whether she has actually wet herself... that would be an effective way to get hot underwear. I think I was correct. Alright... the grandpa is pretty pleased with the hot underwear. Maybe he likes it. I think the punchline is that he can now sleep because the bedroom atmosphere/mood has become pleasant. Excellent stuff.

I'm so happy that we have a second comic to analysis and breakdown. Especially since the local dialect just throws about letters all over the place. Grandpa looks pretty pleased in the first panel. I think he's sleeping better because the wife is wetting herself. Maybe he has taken it upon himself to try this new milk creation himself and see what all the fuss is about. The grandson appears to be showing him how to drink. I think the Americans introduced it after the war so maybe he isn't aware of it yet. This is Kochi prefecture after all. We have a picture of a cow next. I guess the grandson is showing him where the milk comes from. He asks... what part of the cow is it? Do you squeeze the juices out the head? The head is always the most derishasu. Then the grandson laughs and proclaims "No! We squeeze it out the cow's nipples of course! That's completely natural!". I am suddenly disgusted with milk.

Translation: Alright the grandpa is giving some praise rubbish about the milk and cows being mostly local to Kochi or something. The kid is giving it some oishii. You should know that since I taught you it. Then he talks about two things involving the ground that I don't know. I have no idea what the picture of the cow is talking about. I think it mentions a four panel comic and something else about Kochi cows? The text on the udder says MILK BANZAI! which is just a celebratory cheer I guess. The punchline is a bit weak. I think オチチis meant to mean udder/breast and オチ actually means the punchline of the joke.

HAHAHA that was great stuff. I'm really glad I spent so much time on it. Goodbye.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon How to purposely fail a class

Good evening.

Tuesday night is when I teach my advanced adult class the wonders of the English language. I gave up trying to act like a real teacher as they are near enough fluent. Therefore I spend my hour an a half talking about the news, Scotland, Japan and history. Occasionally I will prepare something of interest with mixed results. As I was running late this afternoon I decided I would teach them some dark humour. I prepared the most simple explanation I could and showed them a web comic that I like. Considering it takes me a short time to process some on them myself... I knew it was going to confuse them in spectacular fashion. So for nothing more than my own enjoyment... I printed off some and sat with anticipated glee at the thought of watching old, countryside women stare vacantly at a cartoon depicting jokes about death and war. It was wonderful. Here are a selection of some of the less... crude.

"I don't understand. The doctor is pointing to the bee? Oh it is an eye test? In Japan, our eye tests are.... different. So bee is wrong? The doctor meant E? Did he say it wrong? Oh it's a mistake? Why didn't they check again before the operation?"

"What's Vernon? Oh, is that the universe? Why is there many capital A? Oh it's a name? What's that? Oh he's burning to death? Is that funny? Snow? I don't understand? The astronaut is a snowflake now? I don't understand"

"Oh the colours are different? Why did the mother and child change? Oh they are different? One is a storybook? I don't understand. So what one is real? So the rabbits are bad? Oh YES YES! I understand! They ate the carrots!"

They were all very valid points of course. This is what happens when you are not in sync with the same language and culture. There is a cartoon on the milk cartons here written in the local dialect. All the old people love it. I'm always confused even when I try and translate it. One had a grandpa and grandson drinking the milk. Then they took off their clothes and started dancing.

Anyway, it was fun. Here is one I really wanted to use but didn't have the bottle despite it being the most relevant in the country of train.... accidents.

Monday, 19 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Infru


Japanese people can be annoyingly naive and cautious when it comes to rather common and mundane things. For example, whenever you participate in anything that might be slightly dangerous then you need to attend an hour or two of meetings to prepare. Then you need to stand about listening to an alpha male (like the chef below) state the obvious. When rafting, don't drown. When using the oven, don't stick your head in it. Don't run with knives when drunk. Don't drink anything from under the sink. It would remind me of being lectured as a child... if you know... I wasn't so young when I was first told such blatantly obvious safety advice that I can't even remember it now.

Moving on... it 'officially' changed seasons here about a month ago but only recently has the weather got comfortable enough to sleep with a cover. As usual, the changing colours of the leaves brings with it the arrival of the dreaded INFRU (shortening of influenza). Japanese people in my work have been harking on about infru for the past two autumns and winters. However, like back home, people catch the common cold rather than the flu. This means everyone spends a few weeks sniffling with blood shot eyes as they drink copious amounts of sickly, hot lemon from the convenient store. Indeed, I have found this the best medicine for the cold here as Japanese drugs are the most embarrassingly weak (and expensive) things I have ever come across. The reason for this is because foreign drugs are too strong for little, tiny Japanese people and their little weak, unique bodies to process. That's what they tell me anyway.

So the result is that half the country buy those white, surgical masks to stop themselves catching it and to stop spreading it. And because this is Japan, nobody in their right mind would think it normal to take a day off work when they're coughing up their brains in bed. Even if a Japanese person has the audacity to stay at home, recuperate and avoid infecting the office then they cannot take a sick day. That is not to say they don't exist but you need to be close to death in order to qualify for one of those. Indeed, your work will kindly take a days holiday on your behalf. I found this out in my first year when someone said I could just use a holiday day to go to the doctor to get my BROKEN LEG put in a cast.

This attitude to come into work no matter what is the opposite when schools are concerned. My first year class has about thirty students and six were off school today because of infru. This means that the WHOLE class has been given the rest of the week off. I don't know if this is to stop the spread or it is so some students don't fall behind in the curriculum. This meant that I had to listen to many, serious conversations regarding infru this morning in work. I can't explain how irritating it is when you're trying to concentrate on understanding Japanese and the conversation is peppered by bastardised English words. Especially when it is said in a tone that suggests the Tano students were at the centre of an outbreak of an evolved and deadly strain of swine fru.

Dear Japan. Infru is just the common cold. Everyone gets it at least once a year. This year's new infru is the same strain as always. If swine fru does go mental and starts to kill everyone then your nation doesn't stand a chance. Occasionally washing your hands with methanol gel will not save you. We will all die. So buy a hot lemon and get on with it.

Update: My school has been cancelled for the rest of the week because 10 students out of about 90 have been off sick.
Wednesday, 7 October 2009

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Oishii

美味しい : Supa Derishasu

This is my gyoza. It IS delicious.

Greetings everyone. I've been finding it difficult trying to find something to write about recently. I don't feel as comfortable going on my usual rants about life because it turns out everyone I know reads this blog and then talks about it in... reality. Indeed, one of my friends asked me the question "Are you happy over there? You sound miserable when I read your blog." This came as a surprise because I thought I was being all dry and witty. I could almost imagine myself chain smoking on stage with a bottle of wine and giving an amusing yet concise social analysis of Japanese society. I failed to steer away from this opinion when I replied with "It's alright" and so the impression that I detest my life and I am only driven every morning by my hatred of Japanese people continues. This is far from the case and I've already deleted three drafts praising Japanese people in an attempt to convince everyone that I am not a miserable naysayer. However... I do not feel comfortable writing positive things... especially about Japan. I'll save that for optimistic Americans eyeing up a cheeky book deal about finding peace and bollocks in the land of the rising sun. Furthermore... I have found that I have no desire to write anything when I am happy and content. So there you go.

Nevertheless, I was handed a golden nugget of material yesterday when I was invited to make "pizza" with Japanese people in my town. It must be said that this is one of the rare times I have been invited to anything that didn't involve me giving up 7 hours on a Sunday. I was quite excited to be going along actually even though the schoolchildren I was expecting were replaced by housewives. I have nothing against them exactly... it's just... they're such irritating busy bodies who are always clogging up MY supermarket when I just want beer and crisps.

Anyway, things went along as I had anticipated. The guy teaching everyone was an old Japanese man who thought he was better than he was. He proved this by wearing his whole chef gear shebang that he probably ordered off the Internet. The housewives listened to him with great respect and then scuttled about doing things in an irritating manner. The ingredients were an embarrassment to anyone who had ever ventured out of the prefecture yet everyone went "ooohhh" and "aaaahhh" and got excited over the fact that the tomatoes were from my town. The pizza itself was made from rice flour which was the reason for the cooking class and my presence. I guess the prefecture is trying to promote the use of local produce or something.

The pizza base was fair enough but the sauce consisted of a poor man's tomato sauce out of a bottle. The toppings consisted of red pepper (no complaints), eggplant and some awful Japanese pickle that I always avoid. I was coping well until I was told that I wasn't spreading the tomato sauce on my base correctly by a housewife. I bit my tongue because she's an idiot and doesn't know any better. That's right old Japanese lady... you spread your tomato sauce on your rice pizza... whilst I'll pretend my first job wasn't making pizza or how I would make a pizza from scratch about once every two weeks. Oh yep... you must be right... I'm so sorry for not spreading my sauce right to the edge.... how stupid of me. Let us cover our delicacies with about five shavings of fake cheese and take them over to sensei for approval. I was just about surviving this pathetic excuse for a cooking lesson until I saw a woman drown my pizza in mayonnaise. She just wouldn't stop squeezing the bottle. I was watching her determined face as she unleashed MSG hell all over my hard work. The final step of this cultural-cuisine exchange was loading the mini-pizzas into the oven... of course they don't have ovens in Japan so we put them in a microwave. The whole lesson reminded me more of an advert for "Your Child's First Cooking Set" that you'd give your 7 year old child for Christmas. You know... those fake oven with the light bulbs.

However, the Japanese in the room didn't see anything wrong with this. The sensei had a chef's hat on after all and we were using very famous Japanese pickle as a topping. Once the the pizzas were cooked we all sat around the table getting ready to feast. The pizzas themselves were not totally vile but were only as good as you'd expect from such a woeful process. Still, the usual Japanese approach to eating then took place. This consists of everyone slurring out the word "Oishii So" in a salivating display of lust that can only be compared to that of a heroin addict getting their methadone. It translates as "That looks delicious". Then they all agree that it is indeed "Oishii" before they have even tasted it. The moment that mayonnaise soaked rice pizza touched their lips they all burst into an agreeable hum of delight. Then the focus of attention was on me as I eyed up my eggplant ridden dough and swallowed as I tried to pretend the mayonnaise was cheese. "Oishii?" they asked me as I nodded and replied "Oishii" without a second thought as I have been conditioned to do so for two years.

I'm not exactly sure what my main argument in this rant was. I only hate Japanese housewives a little bit. I don't exactly hate Japanese people enjoying food but my problem is that they are often dirty liars. I have never heard a Japanese person try/eat something and reply with anything other than oishii. This includes a reporter at a restaurant who was eating some sort of octopus brain. She was definitely trying to respond with approval but her face soon gave way to a startled realisation that she was about to vomit on live television. I'm sure they are all just trying to be as polite as possible but in doing so they have completely removed all meaning in one of their most common words. Therefore, if someone cooks me something in Japan and it is exceptionally good then I almost need to plead with them to understand that I am loving their cooking.

Of course, my relationship with oishii was once completely different. I first encountered her in my first few weeks in Japan. It was an instant way to communicate with people at a work party. I would wheel it out for every occasion and bask in the glory of cultural integration and my new found language abilities. However, time hasn't been too kind. Now, every time I turn on the television I am met by some fake Japanese chef who boasts that he once went to Paris. Of course... he just went on a package holiday but he's sure this is how you make a meal he had once. So he'll throw some garlic into a croissant and add some pickles to give it a unique Japanese flavour. Then the dim lassies who host the show will repeat the process of respect and awe and the oishii cycle will complete its course whilst hundreds of years of French cuisine has just been Nankinged.

My theory about the origins of oishii are as follows. These days the western world likes to go to pretentious sushi restaurants to try and out-impress their friends. (If you're one of them and reading this then you can score bonus points by saying oishii so to the Chinese chef.) Of course, Japanese food is popular for good reasons; it's tasty, healthy and a lot of effort does go into the presentation. Indeed, I like a lot of Japanese food and often make a lot myself. However, people tend to forget that the life of meat, fish, noodles and even rice was far from common for most Japanese people before the war. Even the old women who I teach tell me how their meals used to consist of pickles, roots and miso soup. If anyone has ever had a traditional Japanese meal then they'll realise that all of this is in the small side dishes that you leave because they taste like the bitter tears of failure. The reason that this oishii process developed was because everyone secretly knew that their food was awful. The way to cope with this was to lie to themselves that everything they had was delicious.

Indeed, I don't actually believe my point because they were probably working themselves to death and were near, constant starvation. Still, you've got to feel sorry for the old Japanese. Even the poorest of peasants in Europe could at least experience the delights of meat, bread and beer. Ahhh look at me stand on my Eurocentric platform and patronise the entire Japanese race throughout the whole of history. I cannot beat this.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009


The rice has been cut.

Hello. I am fully aware that I have not been updating my blog this 3rd JET year. It is a mixture of not wanting to, having no time and studying Japanese during any down time at work. I'll try and update it from now on for all my loving admirers around the globe. (I typed glove three times there).
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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.