I’ll be commuting on you in style, someday

There’s more than one way to get from A to B.

As you can see.

Also from C to H.

Not all the ways are equal, though.

Sure, walking is pleasant but it’s pretty slow. Some people prefer to get there by bike.

Eight persons to be precise.

Despite their popularity, there’s no escaping the fact that getting these ways is a little predictable. I mean seriously, walking and biking? Talk about your tired clichés. No, if you’re really looking to get inventive then look to your Japanese history.

There’s lot of good examples of how to move. Boats are one. They used to be pretty popular.

Look at those faces, overflowing with joy they are.

But this doesn’t always go swimmingly.

This wouldn’t have happened to a bike.

Some prefer to sit cross-legged on the shoulders of giants.

Or go for the classic swimming horse.

Many, many horses were harmed during the making of this ukiyoe.

There’s a reason we don’t see these forms of transport these days. Swimming horses and rickshaws have been rendered obsolete by one shining innovation. That’s right. It’s the bullet train.

Suck it.

I’m afraid I’ve got to weigh in with a tedious linguistic point here. I’m not totally enamoured of the name ‘bullet train’. It’s just a crude nickname used in the West, you see. I think it’d be better to begin with the original Japanese word; 新幹線. It has an interesting etymology, so let’s take a closer look at its constituent parts. The first kanji, 新, means “mother”. The second, 幹, is “fuckin’” whilst the final part, 線, is “train”.

Why? Just look at it. That’s why.

The one on the far right is the most 新幹.

It’s faster than walking and probably more comfortable than a swimming horse. It’s all you could want from technology. I could try and say more, but instead I’ll close with this song. It tells you all you need to know.

Posted in All | 2 Comments

Empty Island Mentalities

Aren’t uninhabited islands just the best? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against inhabited ones. It’s just that, when you compare them islands where absolutely no-one lives, it’s impossible to deny that they lack a certain something.

Perhaps you don’t agree with me? Well, prepare to be convinced.

I’m going to introduce you to some of my favourite rocks where no humans live, the Senkaku Islands.

No photoshop.

There’s eight of them in total. They’re tiny and are found somewhere Japan, China and Taiwan. Their obscure location and size doesn’t make them at all insignificant. In fact, the more you get to know about them the more you come to appreciate just how special they really are.

Take the fauna. Did you know that there’s a species of moles that are only found on one of the eight islands? The majestic Senkaku Mole.

Again, no photoshop.

There’s also a lot of of goats. Here’s what goats look like. The ones on the Senkaku Islands probably look similar.

I’m guessing some birds stop by every now and then.

Aside from this wonderful abundance of wildlife there’s not a soul. Which brings us back to the main point; they’re pretty much inhabited.

That’s not a metropolis teeming with life, that’s a rock.

So far so great. The only problem is that this very obvious greatness causes various countries to lay a territorial claim to the entire island chain. The Japanese particularly like uninhabited things and that’s why they’ve claimed the Senkakus for over a hundred years. However, they’re not the only people who love sub-species of moles. Both China and Taiwan have been recently showing an interest in the islands. In fact, they’ve even got their name for them; the Diaoyu Islands.

Different name, same barely describable beauty.

The number of Chinese desolate island lovers is increasing everyday. In fact, they’re scheduled to become the most uninhabited island-loving people in the world by the end of the decade. Here’s a group of Chinese people having a public meeting to show off just how much they love places where nobody lives.

I’m sure the Chinese word for goats is on one of those banners.

Some Japanese have responded by trying to show that they love barren lumps of stone even more.

These countries now love the islands so much that they don’t want to share them with each other. I guess it can’t be helped. Things of such importance always attract a lot of jealously and possessiveness.

How will it all end? All out apocalyptic war?

Totally worth it.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Execute this sick filth now

These are exciting times to be alive. Earlier this week, we had a very important change in Japanese law. The result is that illegally downloading files that contain intellectual property such as music, movies or TV shows can now be given a jail sentence of 2 years. The maximum penalty for those uploading such content is 10 years.

This is obviously a step in the right direction, but we here at the Risible Pun feel that it doesn’t go quite far enough. Think about what kind of deviant would download a copy of a TV show. Such a “person” is a serious risk both to themselves and to society as a whole. Considering the irreparable harm such crimes cause, 2 years is a pathetically inadequate sentence. 10 years for uploading this stuff is more appropriate, but there’s still some way to go.

That’s why we’ve come up with solution that is both elegant and fair.

Did you know that capital punishment is alive and kicking in Japan?

It’s true. There are 131 inmates currently awaiting execution. As it stands, murder and treason are the only crimes for which it is possible to receive a death sentence. Wouldn’t it be fitting if downloading or uploading copyrighted files off of the internet were also punished in this way? It’s hard to see how any right-thinking individual could disagree.

The precise method of execution is most likely to be hanging, as that is what is currently used. Given the sheer depravity of those affected by the new law, hanging seems a little lenient. Perhaps Japan’s lawmakers can look to their own judicial history for some inspiration.

Now you’re talking.

We can always dream.

Aside from the moral case there’s also a more practical reason for decapitating people who download an mp3 without paying for it. This will become apparent when we imagine what life on the inside will be like for those who fall foul of the new law.

To get an accurate idea of what it’s like in the big house I watched a bunch of movies and TV shows about prison. Luckily I have a good internet connection so I was able to download them all for free. Don’t worry. I’m not a monster, I did it all before the 1st of October. Besides, it was all solely for research purposes. I’m pretty sure that exempts me from the law.

I watched many classics, including The Shawshank Reception, American History X and the entire series of Oz. There’s a common theme that runs through all of them, one that’s probably also present in real life prison. Rape, lots and lots of it.

When repeatedly screaming no might still mean yes.

Do those guilty of downloading files off of the internet deserve any better?

No, of course they don’t.

At this point you’re probably wondering what the problem is. Well, my worry is that this law will send too many offenders to prison and so overwhelm the entire system. If there are sufficient numbers they’ll probably form themselves into gangs perpetually locked in a violent struggle for domination. Savage fights and cold-blooded murders will become a daily occurrence. Cigarettes and flash drives with the latest American TV shows on them will be secreted in anal cavities and covertly smuggled in to be used as currency. The penal system won’t be able to deal with the sudden influx of so many hardened criminals. Chaos will reign.

The Isohunt gang square up to the boys from the Pirate Bay

Chilling stuff. It’s clear that the only sensible way to proceed is to kill ‘em all. Contact your local Diet representative. We can make downloading or uploading copyrighted material a capital crime. Stop the madness now.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

A Tedeerious Narative

I went to Nara the other day. For those who don’t know, it was the capital of Japan from 710-784. During this time many nice buildings were built there. A lot of them are still around. I like nice things. So I went to have a look.

Here’s an example. It’s the biggest and nicest wooden building in the world.

Here’s another

 

There’s also some wooden statues. They’re not so nice though.

 

Nara is also famous for its deer. They’re considered sacred for some reason. This has given them a level of protection so that their population is now over a thousand.

This creates a serious problem, as anyone familiar with the deer’s aggressive nature could tell you. They’re like furry sharks, or sociopathic bears. The risk of personal injury or death they pose is so great that warnings are translated into many languages and posted all over Nara.

A cold-blooded mammal.

When I took this photo I had been in Nara for some time but I had yet to see a deer. I thought I was safe. It was quiet, almost too quiet. It was just then I noticed something to the left…

 

It can smell your fear.

I froze like some kind of animal in headlights. This was clearly a dangerous situation, but luckily I was prepared. I had some 鹿せんべい, rice crackers specifically made to give to the deer. They’re sold from special stalls whose owners pay protection money to the deer.

This week’s envelope feels a little light.

They look like this. They may not look like much but provide a temporary distraction which allows you to escape.

I pulled out a stack and fed them to the deer. Its bloodlust seemed to be placated. I turned to run, but realised that I was surrounded by more deer who had been attracted by the crackers. Unfortunately, I had none left. I was out of deer crackers. I was out of luck.

Deer to the left of me.

Deer to the right of me.

Deer all up in my grill.

I was certain that my end was nigh. Just then, a stroke of luck saved me; a mother happened to be passing by with her child. Young mothers are the deer’s favourite prey.

 

Salvation.

They left me and set off in hot pursuit. My life was saved. I was free to look at nice buildings another day.

I never knew what became of that young mother. Knowing what the deer can be like, I don’t want to.

 

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Guns don’t thrill people, gangster movies do

Let’s try an experiment.

Close your eyes and imagine Japan; what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Rampant gun crime, of course.

 

This was the wrong answer.

Now those crooks in the media would have you believe that gun crimes are a rare occurrence in Japan. Don’t be fooled, they’re just covering up what is a near-universal issue. The truth is that the streets are awash with violence, much of it gang-related. This might be difficult to believe, but before you dismiss it as scaremongering take a look at some of my fearless investigative journalism. I ask only that you bear in mind that all of the following images were taken at great personal risk to myself.

I took this first photo at one of Japan’s notorious black markets. They usually accompany summer festivals and sell a wide array of illegal goods.  The pink sign on the right reads ベビー (bebii), as it’s written in katakana this indicates it’s a phonetic transcription of a loan word from a foreign language. Say it out loud to yourself, what English word does it sound like? That’s right, it’s advertising babies for sale.

However, human trafficking is not our concern here, instead I’d like you to focus on the middle stall.

Just 300 yen for an AK-47. Or twelve babies.

It’s clear what’s going on here. These young hoodlums are buying some assault weaponry. Presumably to carry out a hit, or perhaps they want to start a full-on gang war?

Here’s another photo taken later in the day. It shows some pre-teens ‘tooling up’. For those of you not familiar with street lingo, it means that they are preparing to shoot some members of a rival street gang with whom they have ‘beef’.

Would prefer to do a drive-by, but too young to get a license.

This is a more recent photo taken in a park in Osaka.

It might not seem so unusual at first, but look a little closer and you’ll see they’re packing some serious heat.

Something’s about to get whacked just to the right of this picture.

So where does this rampant gun violence come from?

Movies with guns in them. Obvious when you think about it.

Now that we’ve identified the problem we can find someone to blame.

I nominate the director and actor Takeshi Kitano. Have a look at the movies he’s made; there’s Sonatine,

 

Hana-bi


 

there was also Takeshis’ ,

 

 

and more recently, Outrage


Is it a pattern yet, or more of a trend?

Faced with such imagery, what’s an impressionable would-be psychopath to do?

Perhaps I’m judging Kitano too harshly here. After all, he’s made many other kinds of films. In his version of the story of Zatoichi he didn’t use any guns to kill people.

See?

I think that his movie, Dolls, can stand in his defence. This is because in the entire film no-one is murdered. Instead it’s made up of three separate stories that take love as their central theme. There’s very little dialogue and the whole thing looks beautiful. Like you’d expect, not a lot happens.

The first section is about a young couple who are attached to each other by a long red string. They also walk around. A lot.

They walk in Winter.

They stroll in Spring.

They saunter in summer.

They amble in Autumn.

That’s about it. If you watching people walking then it’s pretty good.

I mentioned Outrage earlier. It’s one of his most violent and is soon to be followed up with the first sequel that he’s ever made, Beyond Outrage. There’s a trailer here. There’s not a lot to go on, but I think it’s safe to assume that Japan’s gun obsession isn’t going anywhere soon.

I know what you’re thinking. Are there any other films about modern Japan that could be construed as glamorising gun crime?

Answers on a postcard, please.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Japanese music that might not be awful – 2

As previously threatened, here’s the second part of what I’m sure will eventually be a wildly successful internet thing. Actually, given what’s already out there, I’m a little surprised it isn’t already.

For today’s instalment we have 神聖かまってちゃん (shinsei kamattechan), a four-piece band from Chiba prefecture. I wondered what this name could mean in English so I put it into Google translate and it came up with ‘sacred attention whore’.  This is probably the only time I’ve ever trusted Google translate.

Notice the sacredness. Pay attention to the whoreishness.

The first song of theirs I heard was ロックンロールは鳴り止まないっ (rokkunrooru wa naritomanai) which I loosely translate as ‘Rock ‘n’ roll will not stop resounding’. The lyrics are about liking rock ‘n’ roll even if you don’t really understand what the singer’s talking about.

Here’s an example:

昨日の夜、駅前TSUTAYAさんで、

僕はビートルズを借りた

セックスピストルズを借りた

「ロックンロール」というやつだ

しかし、何がいいんだか全然分かりません

do da turatura

oh yeah! yeah! yeah!

Or in the Queen’s English:

Yesterday evening, at the Tsutaya* in front of the train station

I borrowed something by the Beatles

and some Sex Pistols

It was something called ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’

but, I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND IT IN THE LEAST

do do turatura

oh yeah! yeah! yeah!

 

*A chain that rents out CDs

This is only the tip of the iceberg. You can find some of their other songs on this blog run by their frontman and resident lyrical genius, の子 (Noko). Most of them are linked on the right as youtube videos. Only problem is most of them have been so heavily re-edited/mutilated that they’re unrecognisable from the officially released version. Still, if bizarre self-sabotage is your thing then you can’t go wrong. This one’s a personal favourite.

The personality of の子 also seems to be a big part of the band’s appeal. I might be missing something here, but I think this largely revolves around the fact he’s clearly insane.

Or maybe it’s just a Japanese thing.

Aside from the stream of weird youtube videos, there’s a lot of great gig footage out there. This one gets interesting around 6.30 as の子 is repeatedly dragged off-stage after the gig has finished. The first time it’s by a largely sympathetic bandmate. The second time by a clearly pissed-off roadie. の子’s s stagemanship also shines through on the band’s TV appearances. Here he is freaking out the squares.

Actually, having just sat through all these again, I think I can understand the popularity of nyan cat.

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Japanese music that might not be awful – 1

It’s always fun to try new things.

There’s a real novelty appeal to this.

One of the best sources of novel experiences is the world of Japanese music. It’s always easy to find something that’s intriguing and new. While it’s undoubtedly fun, I worry that I have a significant disadvantage. By not understanding some words or double-meanings that would be obvious to a native Japanese speaker, I could very easily miss the point of what I’m listening to. In other words, I’ll end up inadvertently liking some real bollocks.

It’s an important point. It’s why whenever I hear some Japanese music and find myself thinking ‘Yeah, that’s not total bollocks’, I always stop and remind myself of this conversation I once had.

Scene: one day I was chatting to Yoshimi (I’ve changed her name to protect her identity), a highly intelligent and serious English teacher.

Me:            So, how was your weekend?

Yoshimi:    Ah yes! I finally achieved my goal, I saw Bonjovi live.

Me:             …Is that a fact?

Yoshimi:    Oh yes! I was so happy. I’ve wanted to see them for years.

Me:             Right,…so what songs did they play?

Yoshimi:    I’m not sure. Actually, I don’t really know the names of the songs so well.                         Sometimes I don’t even understand their songs. But I like them anyway.

 

…but I like them anyway.

Clearly, we’re in dangerous territory here. The line between ‘OK’ and ‘insufferably lame’ is one that is easily crossed by the non-native speaker. It seems I can’t be sure that any Japanese music I like is not actually really really bad.

Nonetheless, there is some music that I do like and I want to recommend it. But I have to take all this into account and lower my sights accordingly. So, here’s the first instalment in what I’m sure will be a long-running and much beloved series; “Japanese music that might not actually be really all that bad”.

First up is ミドリ (midori). This means ‘green’ in Japanese, which I’m not entirely sure is a fitting name for ‘a jazz-punk fusion band’. Then again, as the words ‘jazz-punk fusion band’ don’t conjure up images of anything in the least bit good, I guess that most people wouldn’t be interested at all, no matter how good the name.

More pink than green, how ironic.

That’s a shame, however, as ミドリ are far better than their wikipedia description would lead you to believe. They have an interesting sound, one that’s basically made up of a lot of piano and a lot of energy. This ranges from driven to the mildly deranged.

They broke up a few years ago, so it looks like  they’ll remain a cult favourite. Or to put it another way, they’ll never be as big as Bonjovi.

 

 

Posted in All | Leave a comment

Let the all-natural colouring shine in

You can get a lot done with hair.

Don’t believe me? Take a look.

Some like it discreet.

 

Others go for the vintage cool.


But there’s no reason you can’t combine the two.


Why stop at your hair? There’s a lot of other body modifications out there.

 

I wouldn’t take this as an endorsement if I were you.


Some people get adventurous.


Amaze your coworkers!

 

In Japan it’s pretty common to just show the hairdresser a picture of what you want. As consummate professionals, they’re committed to satisfying the customer. In fact, a popular Japanese saying is お客様は神様だ, which means ‘the customer is God’.

For example:

 

Just a little off the top…


Voilà

 

 

Posted in All | Leave a comment

A Bridge over Incredibly Poisonous Water

It’s the rainy season. Guess what it does a lot. Yes, that’s right.

It’s not unlike the opposite of this.

During this time the weather follows a set pattern.

First, it gets hot and humid.

Behold the wall of hair.

 

Then it rains.

Commuting to work is a surprisingly transcendent experience.

Repeat.

This opening of the heavens is taken very seriously here as the vast majority of Japanese people are allergic to rainwater. Upon contact with water from the sky their skin burns and begins to melt. Exposure to the rain for a period of 10 seconds is generally reckoned to be fatal.

Just like opening a certain lost ark, if you will.

This is why, during the rainy season, all Japanese people will always carry an umbrella. If it’s raining you won’t see anyone without an umbrella, because everyone else will have melted.

Here’s an example. A few days ago there was a heavy rainstorm in my area. The following morning there was the mildest of mild precipitation. I was wearing a raincoat as I walked to work. It was doing a good job of keeping me dry. I then had the following exact conversation at least three times.

Random co-worker (*Slack-jawed amazment*):   You don’t have an umbrella. Where’s your umbrella? Don’t you have an umbrella?

Me:   No, today I wore my raincoat. *Points to the raincoat I am wearing*.

Co-worker:    Oh! Hahahahahahahaha. *Walks off, laughing heartily*

This has become something of a routine over the last few weeks. In fact, there are some co-workers who have only ever spoken to me about raincoats and umbrellas. I think that wearing a raincoat may have become ‘my thing’, so that whenever they see me they have something like the following monologue: “look, there’s the guy who wears a raincoat when it rains. Jesus. Don’t make eye contact with him, but if you do, make sure you talk about raincoats and umbrellas.”

I’m beginning to think that this could last beyond the rainy season. I think it’s a reputation I’ll never escape. Ever.

 

Posted in All | 1 Comment

All dori lead to Dotombori

I moved recently. The rat race was just too much.

Every day this was, bloody exhausting.

I wanted a more relaxed pace so I decided to relocate to Osaka. It’s a good place to get away from it all.

Sometimes it’s too quiet.

Osaka, or to call it by it’s literal name ‘Big Slope’, is famous for it’s easy-going and charmingly direct citizens. I’ve had the following conversation at three times now.

ME: Do you think Osaka is different from other parts of Japan?

OSAKAN PERSON: Oh yes.

ME: How?

OSAKAN PERSON: Osakan people are the Latins of Japan.

I believe this is what they mean.

It’s this relaxed attitude to life that explains the election of Toru Hashimoto as Mayor last year. He was originally a lawyer who regularly appeared on the TV show Gyōretsu no Dekiru Hōritsu Sōdanjo (行列のできる法律相談所, The Legal Advisory Office that People Queue Up For). He gave up the exciting life of queueing in offices to become the Governor of Osaka Prefecture in 2008 and then the Mayor of Osaka city in late 2011.

He’s the one with the bigger smile.

He recently made the news for insisting that employees of the city of Osaka would not be allowed to have tattoos. This has involved forcing all public workers to fill out questionnaires about whether or not they have any tattoos, which have led to comparisons with Hitler, although he’s probably a bit more Latin. Hashimoto has dispelled these accusations with various public statements, such as ‘The most important thing in the Japanese political world is enabling dictatorship.’

He has ambitious plans for the future, many of which involve drawing power to Osaka from Tokyo, the ultimate aim being to re-energise the city and assert its independent identity. It’s hard to say what his next move will be, but it’ll probably be pretty Latin.

Tread carefully, Hanshin Tigers

Posted in All | Leave a comment