Archive for the ‘Trivia’ Category

The last time I checked, I was very green. By green, I mean earth-friendly; mostly because of the rules and stuff I have to follow because I live in Japan.

My carbon footprint, according to this calculator, is small. My trips home and occasional travels are the only factors that show a significant increase in my score. Even in other tests, I usually answer positively, making me somewhat closer to being an eco-person. Here are some reasons I think I am friends with the environment:

  1. I recycle. If I don’t, I’ll get my trash back with a note asking me to do so and probably get a reputation as a non-recycling nuisance to the neighborhood.
  2. I walk and cycle. And I take the train. Since I have little choice, and no real need for an automobile, I get around by the healthiest possible way.
  3. I live in a floorspace less than 200 square meters. Property prices are quite high here, so even if I wanted a larger home, there’s just no real way. I don’t have a yard or garden, either. I’ve also learned how to effectively maximize space.
  4. I do “coolbiz”, which is to wear light, summer clothing. The Japanese government and a lot of Japanese companies have been adopting this program, where they do away with coats and neckties, so they can keep the air-conditioners at about 28 degrees Celsius the whole day.
  5. I carry my own water bottle, or my own thermal cup. Vending machine drinks are expensive if you buy more than a couple a day, so I take around my own bottle. I heard pet bottles aren’t recycled in Japan, so in a way, I’m really helping the ozone layer. I also bring my own chopsticks.

A lot of my green practices are sort of enforced by the society. It would be hard to do it by myself if I had to. I love the Earth and all but I have to applaud people who responsibly do their role to save the Earth. They are real heroes.

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Sendai Tanabata

A few years back, I went on a trip to Sendai for the Tanabata Festival. At that time, I was only interested because of the colorful decorations that I heard were so famous. I badgered a Japanese friend to accompany me, and she was so nice she’d even explained everything I thought there was to know about the festival.

The Legend of Tanabata goes something like this…

Ages ago, in the time of the gods and stars and space, there lived the Sky god. He was called Tenkou. Tenkou had a knock-out of a daughter, named Orihime. Orihime was a career weaver. Her line was goddess kimonos. She was too much into her fashion that her dad soon worried about her. So he fixed her up with this guy, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa. Hikoboshi was a workaholic cattle herder himself, and Tenkou thought they’d totally hit it off. And they did.

Orihime and Hikoboshi fell in love and spent each waking hour together. Orihime forgot about her weaving and Hikoboshi let the cows wander. This angered Tenkou so he banished Hikoboshi and forbade the couple from ever meeting again. Orihime went into deep depression and cried all day and all night. Her dad again got all worried and said yeah, maybe they could again see each other. But this time there was a condition: they could only meet on the 7th day of the 7th month of each year.

The thing was, the Amanogawa was difficult to cross, and the only way they could was if magpies helped them cross it. Magpies don’t come out though if it rains. So many Japanese people hope that it doesn’t rain on Tanabata night, else, the star lovers don’t meet again for a whole year.

Since being to Sendai, I’ve been religiously wishing for the rains to stop on Tanabata night. The stars Orihime (Vega) and Hikoboshi (Altair) just have to meet, they just have to. So join me in wishing the skies will be clear tomorrow night…

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A few months ago, I blogged about still being a Gaijin in Japan, in this post: Take the Gaijin Test. Recently, I have come to realize I’ve been doing a lot of things I swore I’d never do, and which I poked fun at in the first few months/years I’d been in Japan. Embarrassing to admit, but here are the Ten Reasons I think I’m Turning Japanese:

1. I sleep on the train (sometimes).

2. I do the bow and single-hand cutting combination to cut through lines and get people to move over in public transport.

3. I take home my “gomi (trash)” in a plastic bag and recycle it.

4. I feel uncomfortable if I’m not wearing stockings or socks, especially when visiting a home of a Japanese friend.

5. I make pretty bento, and own more than three pretty bento recipe books.

6. I do sudoku.

7. I carry two or three bags on the crook of my arm.

8. I don’t get bothered by terrible English signs (but in my case, anymore, as it just got to a point where it ceased to be funny).

9. I understand and use the expressions “natsukashii”, “mendoukusai”, “bimio” and “mottainai” but still can’t properly translate them.

10. I do the head-bending and sucking in of air when asked a difficult question I’d rather not answer…

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Yakitori(焼き鳥), which is literally grilled bird, is Japanese chicken barbecue on skewers. Over the last few weekends, I’ve been subsisting on a diet of Yakitori and Ramune. Festival stalls often sell Yakitori and other Kushiyaki (串焼き, skewered food). Every time I think of Yakitori, though, I remember this one time when I went to a very greasy, seriously low-class, but extremely popular Yakitori place in the city next to where I lived.

I was invited to celebrate the promotion to black belt of one of my dojo sempais. The shihan, our sensei, insisted that we go to this place that was really famous in the area for its Yakitori. I had never been to a place like it before, nor have I been to one since then. It was in a run-down building, between an antique-looking store and some non-descript dwelling of some sort. The place was covered in smoke and the diners looked a bit scary. I wasn’t the least bit scared, however, since there were 5 black belters in our group, and the people there all seemed to know sensei. The servers didn’t look all that hygienic, but the smell from the grill was amazing…

Sensei and the other people in our group started calling out orders, something something yaki and yaki something… and then came the food… there were all kinds of chicken parts on skewers, some familiar-looking, but others slimy- and shiny-looking, I had no idea what they were, but sensei made me eat everything. I’m not exactly sure what went into my tummy that day, but I do remember they were the tastiest Yakitori I’ve ever had.

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I have a dozen of stories about UFO Catchers… mostly involving people I know who are addicted to them. I’m not that into them myself, but I’m sure if I played it often enough, I could quickly get drawn into the dark side of UFO Catching.

UFO Catchers aren’t a new thing in Japan. In fact, they were around years ago, when I first visited as an exchange student. My friends and I had tried it, but since none of us got anything, we were careful not to try again. One boy in our group, though, had gotten hooked, spending all his pocket money on it, but getting nothing back. He said he kicked the machine, which he claims gave the kid after him 2 toys.

A close friend of mine collects Disney dolls from UFO Catchers. She and her husband play all the time. They seem to have mastered the technique of playing, since they have a collection of over 300 dolls!

My favorite story is about a co-worker who got hooked one day, just out of the blue. He spent hours trying to win, saying he was not going home a loser. So he instead spent a total of ¥6000 playing, taking home all kinds of key chains and candies. When he told us later that his wife gave him a budget of ¥1500/day for expenses, we were all teasing him that it was probably because she didn’t want him spending all his money on the UFO Catcher anymore…

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One thing I love about Cherry Blossom Viewing is Hanami Bento. Sure it’s just regular bento stuff decorated with sakura-shaped carrots and pink and green dumplings called dango, but it’s really nice to look at. While I have been to a couple of the big parties where karaoke and nama beer are involved, I sometimes prefer to just head off with a few people who share my interest in photographing the blossoms. About the only time we sit down under the sakura trees is when we have Hanami Bento.

I’m excited about that right now as the Cherry Blossom Season is almost upon us. According to Japan Probe, it could be as early as this weekend. Neil Duckett and Evan Pike of Japan Photo Guide have also put up Cherry Blossom Viewing Forecast Maps.

See Japan Guide’s List of Popular Hanami Spots.

Some tips for enjoying the cherry tree blossoms (Taken form Metropolis Magazine)

  • Repeat the word “kirei” every 10 seconds
  • Remember that volunteering to reserve a spot for your company is a good way to get out of half a day of work
  • Impress your friends by learning an enka song
  • Lose all your friends by singing an enka song
  • Always be the first one to leave so that you don’t have to help clean up
  • Bring a cup with a lid to discourage errant blossoms from ending up in your beer
  • Don’t forget to bring an inconspicuos video camera to catch any memorable behavior by your boss

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Just like horoscopes are sometimes used to determine the (somewhat generalized) characteristics of people in Western countries, blood types (血液型, ketsueki gata) are used in Japan. Anyone who’s been in Japan long enough, would have been asked what their blood type was (何型? なにがた? Nani gata?), then suddenly receive a seemingly knowing nod. Like you’re being type-casted…

A lot of credence is placed on the system of blood type casting. I read on Japan Visitor that some companies base certain employee department structuring on the different blood types, and baseball coaches plan their winning strategies taking into account different players’ strengths (of course based on blood types).

Studies have been made on the different blood types and their connection with personality and temperament, the (pseudo-?) science is called blood typology. Actually, the first study made was in as early as 1927. The science was then developed and further studied by a father-son team, Masahiko and Toshitaka Nomi. They came up with more theories that linked blood types to temperament, and they also researched how one’s blood type affects different areas of our lives, including relationships, work and chosen hobbies.

If you know what your blood type is and are curious as to what the results of the researches on blood typology are, read on.

According to Issendai of Issendai’s Lair:

Type A

People with blood type A have a deep-rooted strength that helps them stay calm in a crisis when everyone else is panicking. However, they tend to avoid confrontation, and feel very uncomfortable around people. A types are shy and sometimes withdrawn. They seek harmony and are very polite, but all the same feel that they never really fit in with others. A types are very responsible. If there is a job to be done, they prefer to take care of it themselves. These people crave success and are perfectionists. They are also very creative, and the most artistic of all the blood types, most likely because of their sensitivity.

Type B

People with blood type B are the most practical of the blood groups. They are specialists in what they do. When they start a project, they spend extra time understanding and trying to follow directions than others might. When they are doing something, all of their attention is focused on it. They tend to stick to a goal and follow it through to the end, even if it seems impossible. They tend to be less than cooperative, as they like to follow their own rules and their own ideas. They are individualists. B type people pay attention to their thoughts a little more than their feelings, and therefore can sometimes seem cold and serious.

Type O

People with blood type O people are outgoing, energetic and social. They are the most flexible of the blood types. They easily start up projects but often have trouble following through because they give up easily. They are flighty and not too dependable. O types always say what’s on their mind. They value the opinion of others and like to be the center of attention. Also, people with O blood are extremely self-confident.

Type AB

People with blood type AB are hard to categorize. They can have characteristics on both ends of the spectrum at the same time. For instance, they are both shy and outgoing. They easily switch from one opposite to another. AB people are trustworthy and responsible, but can’t handle it when too much is asked of them. They don’t mind doing favors or helping out, as long as its on their own conditions. People with this blood type are interested in art and metaphysics.

Interesting but a bit doubtful… I think. Especially since people always insist I have a different blood type.

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