Me: Hey Japan. What’s pachinko?

Japan: Pachinko? It’s a pinball arcade game slot machine.

Me: What’s the aim of the game?

Japan: To collect balls.

Me: Collect balls?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Why do you collect balls on a pinball arcade game slot machine?

Japan: Because the more balls you collect the more money you win.

Me: And that’s it.

Japan: Yeah, pretty much. You control the speed that the pinballs are fired up to the top of the machine and then they fall through some pins and if enough balls fall through the correct pins you win some money.

Me: And where do people play this simple pinball collecting, money winning, arcade game slot machine.

Japan: In pachinko parlours.

Me: They have specific buildings for this?

Japan: Oh yeah. I’ve got loads of giant massive places filled with row after row of these pinball contraptions.

Me: And this is popular?

Japan: Well, not massively. Why would it be popular?

Me: Because there’s loads of giant massive places filled with row after row of these pinball contraptions.

Japan: Yeah, but they’re also filled with the non-stop excessive sound effects and blinding levels of flashing lights and cancer inducing levels of cigarette smoke choking the air, all of which dampens your senses to levels similar to that of a terrorist interrogation. If you ever go i recommend wearing sunglasses, earplugs and a facemask.

Me: I don’t get it. If it that’s horrible and it’s not massively popular how come there are loads of pachinko parlours?

Japan: Well, money.

Me: Money?

Japan: Yeah, they make money from the players. They don’t always win. Actually, they normally loose. It’s gambling. The pachinko parlours make a fortune out of a minority of pachinko gambling addicts.

Me: Why don’t they just gamble on something else?

Japan: They can.

Me: What?

Japan: Horse racing on Saturdays and Sundays, specific cycling events and small speedboat racing, all of which may or may not be fixed.

Me: And that’s it?

Japan: Yes.

Me: No casinos or bookmakers?

Japan: Nope.

Me: So, if you fancy a bit of a wager or you’re up to your eyeballs in gambling addiction the only way you can get your kicks is by watching rigged horse, bicycle or speedboat races or by sitting in half empty pachinko parlours with a load of other social dropouts being subjected to ear bleeding, retina killing, respiration ending conditions for hours at a time whilst losing money, all of which seems like just as much of a social punishment as a social problem.

Japan: Yep.

Me: You evil genius.

Japan: Cheers.

June 25, 2012. Tags: , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Learning Japanese

Japan: How’s things?

Me: I’m a bit tired. I’ve been studying Japanese.

Japan: I’ve noticed. It’s nice that you’re trying though.

Me: Nice?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Nice that i’m trying. I spend thousands of yen trying to learn your language. I’ve got half a dozen textbooks and two CDs and apps and flash cards. I’ve got Japanese friends and workmates and students.  I’m surrounded by Japanese all the time.

Japan: And yet you appear to find it all quite complicated.

Me: It is.

Japan: But you don’t make things easy for yourself. You don’t seem to care about the rules.

Me: Rules? Aren’t rules are for fools and the guidance of idiots?

Japan: No. No they’re not. They’re necessary. Your problem is that you’ve got no fear of breaking the rules and people are too kind to tell you that you’re making a mistake. They’ll just nod their head and carry on talking and everybody will assume that you all understand each other.

Me: So why don’t you tell me i’ve made a mistake?

Japan: Because mistakes are bad and i don’t want to embarrass you.

Me: What?

Japan: Maybe you should think about spending a bit more time sitting, reading books and studying instead of playing with the language in context and running headfirst into the social minefield with your mouth flapping open and your brain way behind it.

Me: Well, perhaps i would be more encouraged to sit and read some books and study if you didn’t have three alphabets. Three? Where do i start?

Japan: At the beginning with the rules.

Me: Which ones? And which alphabet? And why, if you’ve got three alphabets do you sometimes not have enough words?

Japan: What do you mean?

Me: For example, you seem to only have one way of saying “hot”. So, when the weather’s hot you just stumble around saying “Hot. It’s hot. I’m hot. Hot.” That’s it? There are no other words for “hot”? No other phrase or combination or sounds? Just “hot”?

Japan: Well, no. If it’s hot, it’s hot.

Me: And then there are some words that are written the same but pronounced half a dozen different ways. Or several different ways of saying one thing depending on who i’m talking to and what day of the week it is. Or there are some words that are pronounced the same but have loads of different definitions. Senkou for example.

Japan: Useful word.

Me: It has the following meanings; preceding, major subject, selection, batting first, submarine voyage, incense stick, underwater navigation, polarimetric rotation, flash of light and perforation. Did you pick these out of hat? How can one word, pronounced the same way, have so many wildly different definitions?

Japan: I like it like that. It makes things more manageable.

Me: No it doesn’t. It’s like walking through a maze of mirrors trying to find a window that’s disguised as a mirror, hidden behind a mirror. Whilst looking into a mirror.

Japan: You spend all your time looking at yourself?

Me: No, everything seems strangely familiar yet i know i’m completely lost with no end in sight.

Japan: Stop complaining and study more.

Me: Well, i’m glad you speak such good English otherwise we-

Japan: Shut up.

June 16, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Learning English

Me: How’s things?

Japan: I’m a bit tired. I’ve been studying English for ages.

Me: I’ve noticed. It’s nice that you’re trying though.

Japan: Nice?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: Trying?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: Nice that i’m trying? I spend millions learning your back to front language. I’ve got books coming out of my ears. I’ve got TOEIC tests every other month. I’ve got vocabulary books infesting corners of book shops. I’ve got thousands of English teachers.

Me: And yet you appear to find it all quite complicated.

Japan: It is.

Me: But you don’t seem to make things easy for yourself. You’ve got a huge complex about making mistakes.

Japan: Mistakes are bad.

Me: Don’t mistakes show you where to improve? You need to make mistakes when you learn a new language otherwise you won’t know where you’re going wrong.

Japan: But going wrong is, well, wrong. It’s against the rules.

Me: That’s the other problem. You’re obsessed with rules. You constantly need to know if any rules have been broken.

Japan: Well of course. Then i can see where i’m going wrong and which mistakes i’m making.

Me: But you hate making mistakes.

Japan: Obviously. They’re wrong.

Me: But that means that you never really experiment with the language or play with it in context. You sit reading books and taking tests being scared of making mistakes and getting consumed by the rules. You’re so obsessed with not making a mistake when speaking English that you treat it like it’s a hazardous chemical about to blow up in your face if you make the slightest infringement.

Japan: I don’t want to embarrass anybody.

Me: How would you embarrass anybody?

Japan: By saying something incorrectly.

Me: Why would would that be embarrassing?

Japan: Because i’d made a mistake and broken the rules. It’s a social minefield. It’s a scary place.

Me: No it’s not.

Japan: Yes, it is. And you don’t make it easy for me either. I have no idea if something is rude or relaxed or formal or informal or a joke or real. Your pronunciation is weird. You’ve got too many tenses. You confuse the brains out of me. You’re constantly updating slang words as if you have to replace half the expressions every other season like some vain phrase whore. And then, if you go to Australia it’s completely different form the English they speak in Canada. It’s just so damn fluid.

Me: I like it like that. There’s so much room to swim about and express yourself.

Japan: But it just makes things more frustrating.

Me: But you’re still continuing to learn English with quite a large appetite.

Japan: I’ve got no choice. The whole world is consumed with it for the time being. It’s everywhere and it seems to be constantly changing. Learning your language is like trying to catch a shadow in the dark. Whilst blindfolded. On one leg. Going uphill. With a cross wind.

Me: It’s unstable and potentially bad for your health?

Japan: No, it feels nearly impossible.

Me: Ah, right. Well, you seem to have done ok during this conversation.

Japan: We’re the same person, dickhead.

Me: Fair point.

June 13, 2012. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.


Me: Some of your pets are a bit strange aren’t they?

Japan: Not really. Why? What do you mean?

Me: Dogs, for example.

Japan: They’re not strange.

Me: I once saw a man on the street pick up his dog’s shit in a plastic bag and then wipe the dog’s arse.

Japan: That’s strange.

Me: And people take their dogs for walks.

Japan: That’s fine.

Me: In bags.

Japan: What?

Me: People carry their dogs in bags. Or wrap them in designer coats. Or in push them in push chairs. Or drive them around in bicycle baskets, which is probably illegal.

Japan: Bicycles have their own laws. We know that already. Anyway, what’s wrong with carrying your dog? It might be tired.

Me: It’s a dog, not a kid. What happens if it needs a dump?

Japan: You drop it pretty quickly and wipe its arse?

Me: A while ago i saw a cute girl in a local bar with a pet hedgehog. She ordered some water for it so it could have drink like everyone else.

Japan: Cute!

Me: I saw a man in central Tokyo stood outside a convenience store having a cigarette holding a lime green dog lead that had a rabbit attached to it.

Japan: Kawaii!

Me: A rabbit? You carry your dogs but walk your rabbits? And then there’re turtles.

Japan: Turtles?

Me: Yeah, massive pet turtles just sat on the pavement munching on some lettuce as people walked past on a Sunday afternoon while the owner sat on a step and watched, effectively taking his turtles for a walk.

Japan: In Tokyo?

Me: Yep.

Japan: Sounds healthy.

Me: Yeah, unlike your cats. What’s going on with them? Are they feral or something?

Japan: Sort of. Why?

Me: They always seem to be skulking around raiding peoples rubbish outside instead of playing with fluffy toys or dead birds and watching TV.

Japan: Not all of them. What about my cat cafes?

Me: Good point. Cat cafes; where people pay good money to sit around with cats and stroke bored looking animals that would probably prefer to be hunting leftovers in dustbins and annoying people. And you’ve got dog cafes as well. Same thing, different animal.

Japan: So, i’ve got turtles having lunch on the pavement as people walk past carrying their dog or walking their rabbit, dodging hungry mangy homeless cats before going to a cafe so they can sit around stroking felines and canines at their own expense or feeding hedgehogs in bars.

Me: It would seem so, yes.

Japan: Some of my cute pets are a bit strange aren’t they?

June 5, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.