When you can't live without bananas

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hokkaido Trip
Day 5 (16/12) - Shopping
(Part 1)

The Japs really like Vienese sausages. We kept getting them for breakfast.

Forget sexist attitudes - I know why Japan's birthrate is so long: hotsprings!

I don't have many u r wt u wr entries because the Japs are too fashionable to wear them, on holiday or otherwise (there're a few examples of bizarre Engrish though). The Koreans on holiday seemed a bit less fashionable, but I haven't seen them on their home ground. There were Hong Kongers and PRCs also, but I didn't see u r wt u wr-ish garments on them, despite my netting a respectable catch on their home grounds in June. Partially it was because it was winter, but that can't be responsible for the noticeable dearth of such garments.

Jap wet towels/wipes all have no scent. The smell of alcohol alone is quite disgusting.

The guide commented that Made in China products are not all of uniform quality - the A grade goes to Japan, and the B and C grades go to other countries. Singapore and the US probably gets the B grade stuff, and Malaysia the C grade stuff.

Sign seen: "Curves. The power to maze yourself." Uhh.

We were first brought to a chocolate/confectionery shop.

The stickers of the various travel agencies means, of course, that all those groups come and the tour guides earn commission. The prices *seemed* comparable to the airport though.

Iced-up and very slippery road.

Next was a seafood market.

Dried fish

Yubari melon
Many things are flavoured with it, but this was the first time I'd seen the fruit itself. The price (3500Y) tells you why.

In one of the shops in the warren of establishments, we found a place which still had stock of Shiroi Koibito, so I bought 10 packs x 12 pieces (most for others).


Then we were brought to Daimaru for, of course, more shopping (gah). Since this was not my area of interest I diverted my attention to other areas.

English signs in the bookstore at the top floor of Daimaru. Naturally, there were no English books in there (as opposed to books with English words like 'Best 10' on their covers).

In the Daimaru I saw a lot more Jap girls in shorts, and 3 more Ang Mohs.

I couldn't tell under all the layers of clothing if Jap girls were as tiny as Singapore girls, but then my cousin from Australia commented that the girls in Singapore all have the same waist size as 6 year old boys, so. Most of the girls were in boots; the guys weren't but were about the same height or a bit higher.

Jap women don't like to tie their hair. I can't recall what it's like in Hong Kong. Maybe it's different in summer.

Even the little girls are quite fashionable. I wonder how much time everyone spends doing themselves up.

I heard a lot more English music than I had in France, despite the fact that their English is much worse. Hah.

I didn't see anyone wearing Crocs, but maybe that's because it was winter.

In the basement of Daimaru I saw Pringles on sale. Of course, these were made in the US and not in Malaysia (the ones so lousy they cannot be exported outside ASEAN).

Huge queue in Daimaru basement for Shiroi Koibito. You can see it extending into the background.

They called a Dutch Ice (ie Slurpee) sherbert. Gah.

Guy standing outside Daimaru holding a "Carpark Full" sign. You'd think they'd have an electronic sign, but apparently not...

"Pleasureland. Food, cafe, drink, eat"

If you're in a wheelchair you press the button for assistance. I assume someone will come out and carry you up the stairs. Wah.

Monks in Japan can marry, eat meat and drink wine. Normal Japs get 200,000Y worth of tax-free goods allowance when coming back from overseas, but monks are not subject to tax. The guide also said they could go to strip shows, and he'd seen a group of them in the front row of one, but I'm guessing that was illegal.

Avenue outside lunch place



For lunch we went to a DIY tempura place. Unfortunately the oil kept spluttering on me (and only me).


The food wasn't very good - too much sodium bicarbonate in the batter, which resulted in a weird aftertaste. For some reason they also didn't give us the usual tempura sauce, but only salt, pepper and wasabi powder.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wah Seagate is damn fast.

I dropped off my Maxtor drive at the Funan service centre on Monday afternoon, and the "new" one just got delivered to me today.

This considering that Tuesday was Christmas.
"My theory is that all of Scottish cuisine is based on a dare." - Mike Myers


Humour 'comes from testosterone' - "Men are naturally more comedic than women because of the male hormone testosterone, an expert claims. Men make more gags than women and their jokes tend to be more aggressive, Professor Sam Shuster, of Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, says... Women tend to tell fewer jokes than men and male comedians outnumber female ones."
But they forget that this is due to hegemonic patriarchy!!!

A slippery slope to kiddie porn - "With her long hair, erotic poses and skimpy outfits that leave little to the imagination, Aira Mihana is a bona-fide sex symbol. But Aira, who appears in a number of popular books, magazines and DVDs, is also 13 years old. She's known as a "U-15 idol," in other words, a sexy female model under the age of 15. And she's not alone. The U-15 market is made up of dozens of girls in their pre- and early teens who are seen in photos and videos dressed in lingerie and G-string bikinis, often in semi-erotic situations."
Damn Japs.

e-Consultation Paper: Legislative Amendments to Unsecured Credit Rules - "Last year, MAS and the Ministry of Law ("MinLaw") conducted a joint public consultation on the proposed changes to the unsecured credit rules for financial institutions and the proposed application of these rules to moneylenders with appropriate modifications."
Great. We're so Orwellian we don't even recognise when we're being Orwellian.b

Japanese moshimoshi culture - "Moshi-Moshi can only be used as a greeting on the telephone. The Origin of Moshimoshi comes from the word "Moushi_age_masu". Moushiagemasu means something like "I am about to say" and is used as a respectful expression when one is about to speak to one's senior or superior."
An answer to the question: "Why do Japs say 'Moshi Moshi' when they pick up the phone?"

Europe.view | Down with democracy | Economist.com - "The trouble with democracy is that the vote in itself means so little. Everything depends on who is allowed to vote, who selects the candidates or drafts the question, and what happens in the years, months, weeks and days beforehand. That raises harder questions about the rule of law, public-spiritedness, and the strength of fair-minded, disinterested institutions. The Soviet Union held a referendum in March 1991 asking (some) voters “Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?”... Russia’s election result may look like a thumping democratic mandate, but it is merely a rigged plebiscite that confirms the continued rule of junta of ex-spooks."
The referendum on Singapore's 'independence' was also very democratic.

Chad Varah | Economist.com - "He liked to tell young Samaritan recruits how he had dealt with a manipulative regular caller who had telephoned him at home and threatened to kill herself if he did not reschedule an appointment: “You do that, sweetie, and I'll piss on your grave.”... As might be expected of a number offering boundless sympathy and plenty of female voices, the Samaritans often attract telephone masturbators, a topic to which Mr Varah devoted one of his many books. Unlike some colleagues, he saw these callers as an opportunity rather than problem—if only they could get beyond their “presenting problem” and talk of their real troubles."
Lucky he didn't do that in Singapore, or he'd be hauled up by the police.

Shutting Themselves In - "After years of being bullied at school and having no friends, Y.S., who asked to be identified by his initials, retreated to his room at age 14, and proceeded to watch TV, surf the Internet and build model cars - for 13 years. When he finally left his room one April afternoon last year, he had spent half of his life as a shut-in. Like Takeshi and Shuichi, Y.S. suffered from a problem known in Japan as hikikomori, which translates as "withdrawal" and refers to a person sequestered in his room for six months or longer with no social life beyond his home."

Everyone knows about the first episode of 5 Rangers, but I think episode 3 and episode 4 are a lot funnier. Or there's episode 8, featuring the After School Electromagnetic Wave Club. And episode 10 is a roll.

Removing Apple Mobile Device Support - Tales from the Crypto - "I'm not a fan of Appple's, particularly because they tend to impose crap on me that I'm not interested in having... I eventually spend a while watching the uninstall procedure, boring as it is to watch a progress bar that reads "11 seconds remaining" then "14 seconds remaining", etc, as progress bars tend to do. But then the progress bar does something magical - it goes backwards, and when it reaches zero, the uninstall program just quits."
In the comments: "I was recently given an Apple Macbook to use at work. iTunes, iPhoto, Garage Band, yeah, a bunch of unnecessary stuff. Apple's official line on uninstalling these and other apps, as far as I can tell, is that you simply drag the application's main icon to the trash can, and that will almost always uninstall the application - or it might just delete the executable leaving the rest of the application on-deck. For years, Jay, I've had you and others telling me that I should come over to the Apple side, because the water's lovely and everything's so intuitive - but now that I'm dipping my toes, I find that there is little intuitive about it... From the Apple camp's reaction to Microsoft's behaviours, I assumed that they believed those behaviours to be wrong - now I see that what is wrong is that Microsoft is big, and Apple is not. The behaviour itself is good if you're small, bad if you're big."
"The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you've got it made." - Jean Giraudoux

Thursday, December 27, 2007

"Humor is always based on a modicum of truth. Have you ever heard a joke about a father-in-law?" - Dick Clark


I was just at the worst concert I've ever been to - Coda 3 (the alumni band of RI, RGS and RJC). From what I've heard of Singapore school bands, they aren't very good (I suspect this is because brass and wind instruments are harder to control than strings, which is why bad brass often sinks orchestras, so when you make them support the piece it's easy to go kaput), but this took the cake.

The band had 2 volume levels - loud and very loud. The brass was simply awful, with little control.

The treatment of many songs was bland. The blending was bad (the small ensembles were somewhat less bad).

It might be surprising that the worst player was the oldest (and presumably the most experienced), but then again the oldest would also have been away from playing in a proper band for the longest period of time.

Cunning Linguist is trying to hoodwink me into going for her alumni band concert in January; presumably it will be better than what I witnessed tonight.

MFM adds: "for the foster variations, it was impossible to hear anything coherent towards the end. the oboe was out of tune"

Addendum: Angst:

"you havent seen coda 1 and 2 yet then
coda 3 is better compared to the previous 2 already I think

and you havent heard tj band yet
they performed a very funeralistic military march last year"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Someone: she's mental
so actually yea i agree she's psychotic

Me: :00000000
"He's the kind of a guy who lights up a room just by flicking a switch." - Unknown


Bizarre Jap national holidays (from Japan Guide):

January 1
New Year (shogatsu):
This is the most important holiday in Japan. While only January 1 is designated as a national holiday, many businesses remain closed through January 3.

Second Monday of January
Coming of Age (seijin no hi):
The coming of age of 20 year old men and women is celebrated on this national holiday.

February 11
National Foundation Day (kenkoku kinenbi):
According to the earliest Japanese history records, on this day in the year 660 BC the first Japanese emperor was crowned.

March 21
Spring Eqinox Day (shunbun no hi):
Graves are visited during the week (ohigan) of the Equinox Day.

April 29
Showa Day (Showa no hi):
The birthday of former Emperor Showa. Before 2007, April 29 was known as Greenery Day (now celebrated on May 4). Showa Day is part of the Golden Week.

May 3
Constitution Day (kenpo kinenbi):
A national holiday remembering the new constitution, which was put into effect after the war.

May 4
Greenery Day (midori no hi):
Until 2006, Greenery Day was celebrated on April 29, the former Emperor Showa's birthday, due to the emperor's love for plants and nature. It is now celebrated on May 4 and is part of the Golden Week.

May 5
Children's Day (kodomo no hi):
Also called boy's festival.

Third Monday of July
Ocean Day (umi no hi):
A recently introduced national holiday to celebrate the ocean. The day marks the return of Emperor Meiji from a boat trip to Hokkaido in 1876.

Third Monday of September
Respect for the Aged Day (keiro no hi):
Respect for the elderly and longlivity is celebrated on this national holiday.

September 23
Autum Equinox Day (shubun no hi):
Graves are visited during the week (ohigan) of the Equinox Day.

Second Monday of October
Health and Sports Day (taiiku no hi):
On that day 1964, the Olympic games of Tokyo were opened.

November 3
Culture Day (bunka no hi):
A day for promotion of culture and the love for freedom and peace. On the culture day, schools and the government award certain persons for their special, cultural activities.

November 23
Labour Thanksgiving Day (kinro kansha no hi):
A national holiday for honoring labour.

December 23
Emperor's Birthday (tenno no tanjobi):
The birthday of the current emperor is always a national holiday. If the emperor changes, the national holiday changes to the birthday date of the new emperor.

That's 15 public holidays a year!

OTOH, Hong Kong has 17 (Singapore has 11, boo)
"For the enjoyment of humorous people and for the annoyance of others"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hokkaido Trip
Day 4 (15/12) - Ishiya Factory, Yakiniku, Susukino
(Part 3)

We then left for the Ishiya Shiroi Koibito factory, in part to see if we could get lucky.

The factory was closed till January 22nd (or thereabouts). The tour guide had claimed it wasn't being made anymore, but I'd bought a packet at Chitose and it'd been made a few days before our arrival so production of smaller quantities was evidently still happening.

Guide with sign announcing closure of factory

Sold out at the factory

Manufacturing process

Shiroi Koibito Factory display area

All their chefs

Outside the factory

I've no idea what this was supposed to be. Maybe Baba Yaga's hut.

Their truck

Playground opposite

Shiroi Koibito Factory animatronic show (wth?!)

The tourguide thought I was 30. Wth.

For dinner we had yakiniku, which was good.

Live abalone on hotplate

Kobe beef

For some reason, none of the items we were given were marinated. At the end I experimented with miso soup (too weak), tempura-ish dipping sauce (okay) and dipping soy sauce and pepper (I put too much pepper, but the soy sauce went well).

Geisha are very expensive. You can spend 20,000Y an hour (at a normal nightclub) or 100,000Y for a night for them just to sit with you (they won't sleep with you). But you pay, among other things, for their tight-lippedness. Unfortunately some women are hired by companies to pose as geishas and then perform industrial espionage.

Apparently the reason Jap restaurants all cover their entrances with cloth pleats is to prevent you from looking in to see how popular they are (and by extension how good the food is). When you pop your head in they will have someone shout greetings at you so you'll be obliged to eat there.

Businesses put cups of salt outside their entrances because the word 'salt' also means 'business'.

Christmas is not a public holiday in Japan, yet the Japs are remarkably fond of and enthusiastic about it, with carols blaring, Christmas decorations up and it being used as a theme.

Sumo wrestlers aren't allowed to eat beef.

We then went to Susukino, the red light "night life" district.


"BoA New Sexy Club"
Notice how you can see the bodies, but not the faces.

Presumably this is a Soapland.

Acidflask informs me that this reads: "Ready for a challenge?"

McPork - only 100Y. Unfortunately I was feeling full from the Yakiniku and didn't think to try it. DAMN (Minrui: "nice teriyaki sauce.. lol. the patty was quite tender.. unlike the usual mac burgers..."). Another reason to visit in May (Minrui: "huh... u will take 6hrs plane to eat macdonalds??").

Club sign. Acidflask informs me that you view possible selections on a TV monitor and then order them.

Tissue paper advertising a similar club my father got handed

Ski masks, presumably for those planning a robbery.

"21st. Jog. for joyful human stage."
Don't look at me.

"Aoyama Flower Market. Holy Flowery Christmas"

Helluva lotta restaurants.

I popped into a Mister Donut for a small purchase and to use the loo, and found that the toilet arrangements were terribly sexist:

The unisex toilet

The female toilet

There were only 2 toilets in the establishment.

The Honey Old Fashioned donut I had partially made up for the outrage, it being very good, which made me wonder just why Dunkin Donuts is so big, with such good alternatives?!

I saw yet another non-CJK (an ang moh) and my first blonde Jap.

The tour guide said Japs in the north speak a lot faster than in the south because it's colder. Right.

Tips for the tour leader (from Singapore), tour guide (from Japan) and driver were collected, but they defeated the point because they were aggregated and of a specified amount - we couldn't show appreciation for varying levels of service.

We were given a feedback form, which didn't say feedback would be confidential. Hurr hurr.

My parents complained about the tour, but when I asked them for feedback to fill in the forms, they didn't want to give any. As Hurr Hurr commented: "i'm singaporean, i like to bitch in the privacy of friends but i'm not passionate enough about the issue to actually protest."

The food they gave us on the trip was alright, ranging from mediocre to quite good, but generally you can get better Jap food in Singapore (and I'm not talking about places like Inagiku). I'm not sure if this is because they brought us to cheap places, but perhaps the fact that we always got red tea rather than green is a clue to this.

The Singapore guide didn't do much. Actually I'm not sure why you need guides from Singapore - in Greece we did fine with just the local one. They're only useful when the local guide has communication problems with the group, and in our case out local guide was a Singaporean who'd lived in Japan for 10 years.

They kept encouraging us to go for expensive extras (the crab for the first steamboat, which we had to buy separately and 7000Y Kobe Beef at Yakiniku) and snowmobiling (which wasn't even in the itinerary), and were suspicious about it. For example, though the crab was expensive we couldn't pay for it with credit cards, and had to tell them the name of our guide before making payment (payment for the Kobe Beef likewise had to be made in cash). Then we were told not to discuss snowmobiling with other tour groups, ostensibly because their guides might not have taken the effort to bring them for it (but probably because snowmobile commissions were not coordinated, and some groups were brought directly to the Snow Resort where there was also snowmobiling, as well as dog sledding and other interesting activities). Meanwhile the dangers of included activities like snow rafting and snow tubing were emphasised to discourage some of us from going (probably so they would pocket the commission) - tellingly, the snowmobiling, probably more dangerous than the previous 2 activities, was encouraged as being a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Paper crane on the bed

Snowing from hotel window

More snowing

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