Press freedom

Japan: Hey. What are you doing?

Me: Just reading the news.

Japan: Anything interesting?

Me: Nah. Same shit, different day.

Japan: Yeah?

Me: Yeah. Although, there was one story I read recently. It said that there has been a huge drop in the amount of your press freedom.

Japan: Ah, yeah, that.

Me: Apparently you now rank seventy second out of 180 countries. Six years ago you ranked 11th. What happened?

Japan: Well, it seems that my current government has not exactly been staying away from, interfering and pressuring media outlets. Politicians have advocated punishing news outlets that have critical views of the government. Television presenters who have spoken out about the government have been removed from their jobs. Journalists have reported that they have been marginalised or silenced following pressure from politicians.

Me: So the political administration wants to keep people uninformed?

Japan: Well, I think that’s what most governments want. If the media reports the facts about something, governments are very unhappy if they don’t match their narrative, policies and aims.

Me: But for your lawmakers and officials to be so open about this is not good. It feels like something dictatorial governments do.

Japan: Right, yeah.

Me: So, how do your people feel about it?

Japan: Good question. I’m not sure if people know a lot about it because the government isn’t keen on the idea of everybody knowing everything. I mean, it’s not so dissimilar to other countries it’s just at the moment it seems more covert and dishonest.

Me: I really don’t like this.

Japan: Look, it’s nothing new. Governments all over the world are pretty good at getting in the way of the truth. Recently, after the earthquake in Kyushu the NHK Chairman and friend of the government, Katsuto Momii, gave instructions that the public broadcaster should only give the official government line when reporting on the nuclear reactor situation in Kyushu.

Me: Why?

Japan: To make sure that the government’s version of events get lots of airtime.

Me: And, therefore, not the whole truth.

Japan: Yeah, whatever that is.

Me: Hmm. So what are we going to do?

Japan: Well, i don’t know. There’s not an easy solution. The historical precedent for when people are generally helpless against the government controlling the direction of a country through its media isn’t a fun one.

Me: But this is just so amazingly shit. I like you. You’re a well made, amusing, interesting, bizarre, cultured nation and your leaders are actively screwing over its own media and people. This is not making the world a better place.

Japan: True.

Me: So where does this go next? News outlets being more forcefully censored? More dodging of the truth? And where does that lead?

Japan: Erm, well, if you factor in the new state secrets act, the potentially dangerous change in the interpretation of the constitution and the increase in military spending along with the perceived aggression of the USA, China and North Korea, well, in a worst case scenario…

Me: War, what is it good for?

Japan: Absolutely nothing.

Me: What a fantastic group of arseholes your government seems to be.







May 27, 2016. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Olympics

Me: So, you’re going to host the Olympics, right?

Japan: Yep. Tokyo 2020. I can’t wait.

Me: The summer Olympics? In Tokyo?

Japan: Yeah, right. In August.

Me: Wow. That’ll be uncomfortable. Isn’t it disgustingly hot in summer in Tokyo?

Japan: Well, sure, it’s a bit sweaty.

Me: It’ll be 35 degrees and 90% humidity. How did your Olympic committee convince the IOC?

Japan: They told them that as Tokyo has “many days of mild and sunny weather, this period provides an ideal climate for athletes to perform at their best.”

Me: Well, they’re in the running for a gold medal in Long-Distance Bullshitting. Won’t this be a problem?

Japan: Well, maybe, but it’ll be good for the economy.

Me: I heard there’s been a problem with the stadium.

Japan: Several. The design, the cost, the design again and then the cost again.

Me: Didn’t you have a stadium already?

Japan: Yeah, but it was old. It was from the 1968 Olympics.

Me: So, would it have been cheaper and easier and more meaningful to just refurbish the old one?

Japan: Yeah but new is better and it’ll be good for the economy.

Me: Which month was the 1968 Olympics held in by the way?

Japan: October.

Me: Why?

Japan: Because the weather in summer is too…Look it’ll be good for the economy.

Me: How is your economy?

Japan: Erm…

Me: Couldn’t you just give everyone some cash instead of spending it on the Olympics? Or pay off some of your debt? Wouldn’t that be good, you know, economically speaking?

Japan: Well…

Me: And how’s the rebuilding of Tohoku going since the earthquake and tsunami in 2011?

Japan: Erm…

Me: And the Fukushima nuclear power plant?

Japan: Ah…

Me: Could those areas of the country use some of money that the government will spend on the Olympics?

Japan: Look. Stop being so cynical. The Olympics will be a success, it’ll make me famous and –

Me: You’re already famous. You’ve got sushi, Mount Fuji, Godzilla –

Japan: And now the Olympics. It’ll be good for the economy.

Me: How?

Japan: What?

Me: How will it be good for the economy?

Japan: I’ve got no idea. People just keep saying that it’ll be good for the economy so i just assumed that it was good for the economy. It’ll be good for the economy. Just keep repeating the word ‘economy’ and people nod their heads and understand. The economy. It’ll be good. Lots of people will visit and spend money.

Me: How long does the Olympics last?

Japan: Two weeks.

Me: And how many people will visit?

Japan: Dunno. Maybe a few hundred thousand.

Me: How many people visit you each year anyway?

Japan: About 14 million.

Me: How large is your economy?

Japan: About 4.2 trillion dollars per year.

Me: …

Japan: Wait, but…so it may not even make rational, mathematic or economic sense to continually state that the Olympics will be good for the economy.

Me: Well, it’ll contribute a little i guess.

Japan: Like pissing in a lake?

Me: Or a brand new Olympic swimming pool.

Japan: But only for two weeks.

Me: Hey, at least you’ll have some shiny new stadiums and sports facilities. I’m sure you’ve got some grand, long-term, joined-up, sensible, society-benefiting plans to use the stadiums and venues once the 14 day sports festival has ended.

Japan: …

Me: …?

Japan: Is it too late to give it to Istanbul?

December 17, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Me: Hey Japan. I sometimes hear about you and whaling.

Japan: Oh no. Not this. Why do people always want to talk about the whaling thing?

Me: Well –

Japan: I’m not some kind of evil killing machine you know.

Me: Yeah, I know, it’s just, well, er…We don’t have to talk about whales. What animal would you like to talk about?

Japan: I don’t know…Elephants?

Me: Elephants?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Er, right…So…Erm…Did you know the French eat elephants?

Japan: What? No, i did not know that. Really?

Me: Er, yeah, sure.

Japan: What does it taste like?

Me: Erm…chicken?

Japan: Huh. So, do they have elephants in France?

Me: No. Not really. They have to go to Africa to get it.

Japan: That’s a long way. It must cost a lot.

Me: Oh, yeah, sure. In fact, it’s been reported that they are partially subsidised by the government.

Japan: That’s strange.

Me: Hmm, apparently they go there to manage the elephant population.

Japan: But they’re on the other side of the world from each other.

Me: Yeah, right. And they also kill them for research purposes.

Japan: They kill them for research?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: That seems like quite a radical approach to animal research.

Me: Doesn’t it?

Japan: And what have they found out from this research?

Me: Erm, well, I’m not sure. They never seem to mention that. But other studies state that elephants play a central role in the ecosystems which they inhabit.

Japan: Really?

Me: Yeah, and their dung is extremely useful in feeding other life forms which can absorb Carbon from the atmosphere.

Japan: Seriously? Wow. So these large creatures can fight global warming.

Me: That’s what i read.

Japan: And then they sell the meat that they have?

Me: Right.

Japan: But why don’t they just find some other land based animal to eat?

Me: Ah, well, they use to eat them quite a lot in the past. There was never any research involved before but it was a part of their culture when there wasn’t a lot of food to go around. Lots of people remember eating it for school dinners. People reminisce about it but now sales are really low.

Japan: So, now it’s not so common?

Me: It’s pretty rare I think. Some sort of international laws were passed limiting the amount of countries that could kill them on account of them being generally good or the world and all that. But Norway and Iceland still do it.

Japan: Well they should all stop. It’s just not acceptable.

Me: Isn’t that a bit culturally insensitive?

Japan: A country continues to kill mega fauna in another hemisphere for research purposes because eating them used to be a part of their society and then they hide behind tradition and cultural insensitivity when they’re called out about it even though an ample supply of other food is currently available?

Me: …

Japan: What?

Me: Nah. Actually, I just made all that up. The French don’t eat elephants. Never have.

Japan: Oh, right. Well, thank God for that.

Me: Anyway…

Japan: Yeah?

Me: About these whales. Why is it all so controversial?

Japan: I’ve got absolutely no idea.

October 9, 2015. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Constitution

Japan: What are you doing?

Me: Reading your constitution.

Japan: A good read. Why are you doing that?

Me: Well, I heard that some people want to change it.

Japan: Not exactly. My right wing government wants to reinterpret part of it.

Me: Reinterpret? Which bit?

Japan: Article 9. The Renunciation of War.

Me: Hang on. Let me find it. “The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes”.

Japan: Yeah, that bit.

Me: There doesn’t appear to be much room in there for reinterpretation.

Japan: I agree that it would take quite a linguistic and cognitive leap to think that bit means “War is OK now” but the right wing fellas keep blowing off steam about helping our allies.

Me: Who are they?

Japan: The USA’s foreign policy and anybody who doesn’t like China.

Me: So why don’t they just make an amendment to the constitution?

Japan: See Article 96.

Me: “Amendments to this constitution shall be initiated by the Diet, through a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all members of each house and shall thereupon be submitted to the people for ratification which shall require the affirmative vote of a majority of all votes cast.”

Japan: See the problem?

Me: The bit about it being submitted to the people for ratification?

Japan: People are nice aren’t they?

Me: Right, yeah, I generally find most people have a natural aversion to death and war.

Japan: So far 1.6 million people have signed a petition against the possibility of the government claiming that “War is OK now”.

Me: A petition?

Japan: See Article 16.

Me: “Every person shall have the right of peaceful petition for the redress of damage, for the removal of public officials, for the enactment, repeal or amendments of laws ordinances or regulations.”

Japan: See. People are nice.

Me: So, your media must be all over this story.

Japan: Oh yeah, but they aren’t only reporting the right wing government view.

Me: OK.

Japan: So, at least one politician actually stated that mass media should be punished if they make erroneous reports about the reinterpretation of the constitution and that companies should voluntarily refrain from advertising with media that report the “wrong information”.

Me: “Article 11: people shall not be prevented from enjoying any of the fundamental human rights.”

Japan: Yep.

Me: “Article 21: Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed.”

Japan: Right.

Me: Hmmm. So, can I have a go at this reinterpretation thing?

Japan: What?

Me: Here. Look. Article 45 and 46.

Japan: “The term of office of members of the House of Representatives shall be four years” and “the term of members of the House of Councillors shall be six years.” What’s wrong?

Me: Well, they shouldn’t even be in office. The old governments should still be in power.

Japan: …?

Me: I’m thinking in dog years. Just a reinterpretation.

Japan: Are you saying my law makers are animals?

Me: Or the term of office is now 337.2 years.

Japan: Eh?

Me: If you think of it as four years on Uranus.

Japan: Shall we do a predictable arse joke?

Me: I’m just reinterpreting the constitution.

Japan: Well…

Me: How about this one? Article 49.

Japan: “Members of both Houses shall receive appropriate annual payment from the national treasury.”

Me: And how much debt is your treasury currently in?

Japan: About one quadrillion yen. Approximately ten trillion US dollars.

Me: So, what would be an appropriate amount for the treasury to pay them?

Japan: Well, er…

Me: I guess it depends on the interpretation of the word “appropriate” doesn’t it?

Japan: Yeah, look, none of this matters anyway.

Me: Why?

Japan: Look down at the bottom.

Me: “Article 99. The Emperor or the Regent as well as Ministers of State, members of the Diet, judges, and all other public officials have the obligation to respect and uphold this constitution.”

Japan: Yep.

Me: So…But…Does that mean it’s unconstitutional to reinterpret the constitution?

Japan: …

Me: …?

Japan: I guess that’s open to interpretation.

July 15, 2015. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Comfort Women

Me: Can we do a quiz about comfort women?

Japan: Erm…?

Me: Great. What are comfort women?

Japan: A euphemism.

Me: Correct. What for?

Japan: Well, I’d rather not say.

Me: Correct again.

Japan: Really?

Me: Yes, but i would have also accepted ‘the systematic sexual abuse of women by the Japanese armed forces in military controlled brothels during World War 2’.

Japan: I prefer my answer.

Me: That’s not really a surprise. Which countries were involved?

Japan: A few but mainly Korea, China and Taiwan.

Me: Correct. Is there any evidence of this happening?

Japan: Well, it depends who you ask.

Me: Correct. Can you give an example?

Japan: Well, if you ask historians who are not ultra conservative Japanese men then you’d probably be directed to all sorts of evidence, yeah, sure, no problem. Otherwise the answer would tend to be more towards the negative end of the evidence based spectrum.

Me: Correct. Have any of your prominent politicians or leaders ever apologised for any of this?

Japan: Oh, lots of times of times, yes. All sorts of apologies for this issue and other aspects of World War 2 and allsorts. It was a shitty period of history for everybody wasn’t it?

Me: Correct. So, why is it an issue now?

Japan: Well, you see, it doesn’t matter how many times a politician apologises for something if a different sociopath in a suit stands in front of a microphone a few years later and denies it all. It’s like if one guy punches you in the face and his friend apologises for it and then a little later on the first guy comes back and says, “Fuck off! I never punched you in the face”. It waters down the apology somewhat.

Me: Correct. Can you give me an example of a recent denial of any punch in the face, as it were?

Japan: Well, there’s too many to choose from really. A few years ago my current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said that the issue of comfort women should be about whether or not the women were forcibly taken out of their homes, or if they didn’t want to go but felt compelled to by their environment instead. Then there was the Mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto, who said that these so called comfort women were “necessary” to give soldiers a chance to “rest”.

Me: OK. And who would possibly be offended or insulted by such comments?

Japan: Well, people from other countries who care about the issue. Women. Sentient beings. Peace. Intelligence in general.

Me: Correct. And what does your current government make of all this?

Japan: The prime minister has commissioned a panel to investigate the validity of previous government’s apologies and statements to determine if they need to be revised.

Me: Correct. Recently what did your public broadcaster NHK say about it all?

Japan: The head of NHK said that they will refrain from reporting on the issue until the government stance on the situation becomes clear.

Me: Correct. Is the current right-leaning conservative history-revising government’s view clear?

Japan: It’s about a clear as a clear thing in a clear shop with a sign attached saying, “Hi there. I’m clear.”

Me: Correct again. You’ve done really well. Congratulations. You’ve won a ticket to the inaugural World Let’s All Stop Being Dicks Conference.

Japan: Right, er, OK. When is it?

Me: Erm, let’s have a look at the ticket here. Ah, yeah, there’s no date on it. You’ll just have to fill that bit in if it ever takes place.

Japan: So, you’re denying the existence of something before it’s even had the chance to happen? Wow. You’ll fit right in here. Do you want a job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

March 25, 2015. Tags: , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Japan: Have you got a hanko?

Me: A hanko?

Japan: Yeah. You need one if you live with me.

Me: What is it?

Japan: It’s your stamp.

Me: My stamp?

Japan: Yes. Your official stamp.

Me: My official stamp?

Japan: Oh yes. The hanko is a small round stamp about the size of your little finger with your family name on the end of it.

Me: Okay. An official name stamp. Why do I need this?

Japan: To stamp things.

Me: …

Japan: Official things.

Me: …?

Japan: You know, documents and stuff.

Me: Official documents?

Japan: Yes. You have to use your hanko to stamp your official documents.

Me: Where?

Japan: Official places. The bank, the post office, legal stuff, rental agreements, loans, that sort of thing.

Me: I see.

Japan: I’ve been doing this for hundreds of years. It’s good, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah, sure. Actually, hang on. Why can’t I just sign these official documents?

Japan: Because that’s not a stamp. That’s a signature. You could forge that. You can’t forge a hanko.

Me: Ah, so the hanko is unique to me?

Japan: Yes.

Me: How?

Japan: Because it’s got your family name on it.

Me: And what if somebody has the same family name as me?

Japan: Well, then, yeah, er, they might have the same name on the hanko. I mean, you can buy them in shops and stuff.

Me: So how is the hanko unique to me?

Japan: Because you’re the only person who’s got your hanko.

Me: But somebody might have the same surname and, therefore, the same hanko.

Japan: No, they’ll have a different hanko. They’ll have theirs. You’ll have yours. Plus you can customise your hanko or have it hand-made.

Me: But that’s the same as a signature.

Japan: No. You can forge a signature.

Me: But you can buy the same hanko as somebody else in a shop.

Japan: Yeah, but that’s not your hanko. That’s their hanko.

Me: But –

Japan: Look. Say you go to the bank and sign something but your signature doesn’t exactly match 100% with your original signature that you used the first time you opened the bank account years earlier. What will the bank clerk do?

Me: Erm, ask to see some kind of identification with a photograph and the use their innate, naturally sourced, life acquired common sense and conclude –

Japan: No, no, no. They’ll make you sign it again and again until matches 100% perfectly.

Me: And what if it doesn’t?

Japan: Then you can use your hanko.

Me: But I don’t have a hanko.

Japan: This is why you need one. It’ll be unique to you.

Me: But –

Japan: Just shut up and get a hanko.

November 6, 2014. Tags: , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Japan: Have you ever been to Tokyo Disneyland?

Me: No, never.

Japan: Never? Really?

Me: Yeah, never. Where is it?

Japan: It’s in Chiba.

Me: Chiba? Chiba Prefecture?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: So, Tokyo Disneyland isn’t in Tokyo?

Japan: Well, I couldn’t call it Chiba Disneyland could i? That wouldn’t be much of a global brand would it? Anyway, why have you never been to Tokyo Disneyland?

Me: I’m not much of a Disney fan to be honest.

Japan: But, it’s so popular.

Me: What? Tokyo Disneyland or just Disney in general?

Japan: Both.

Me: Hmm. In England there is no Disneyland.

Japan: Huh? How? What? No Disneyland? That must be terrible for English people.

Me: Not really. Nobody I know really cares for it anyway. There’s one in Paris I think but nobody goes.

Japan: Why not?

Me: Because they’re in Paris. There’s so much better stuff to see and do. Things that are way more culturally interesting and stimulating. Which begs the question, why is your Disneyland so massively popular?

Japan: It’s cute.

Me: It’s the third most visited theme park on Earth. It had 14 million visitors in 2011. The reason for this cannot be “it’s cute”.

Japan: Never underestimate the power of cute and the sway it holds over my population. I’m addicted to cute. And it’s not just cute. They have rides as well. It’s all so exciting.

Me: Do you have a wait long to get on these exciting rides?

Japan: About three hours maybe.

Me: Three hours?

Japan: Yeah, it’s not too bad is it?

Me: People can fly to other countries in that time. Or run a marathon. Or watch a movie.

Japan: A Disney movie!

Me: Yes, no, what? How much is it anyway?

Japan: For one day?

Me: Yeah.

Japan: 6,200 yen.

Me: How much?

Japan: Or you could pay 80,000 yen for a year.

Me: A year?

Japan: Yeah, the yearly pass. Then you can go any time you want.

Me: But why would you do that?

Japan: It’s Disney. You can enter a magical world. A fantasy land. Unreality space. You can escape from everything.

Me: Like what?

Japan: Real life.

Me: But, I like real life.

Japan: What?

Me: Well, you know, music and movies and books and games and sports and food and drink and people and places and travel and friends and relationships. I like real life. It’s good.

Japan: Relationships?

Me: What?

Japan: You’re in a relationship and you’ve never been Disneyland together?

Me: Yeah, no, but –

Japan: You soulless, heartless, boring, practically minded, pragmatic, selfish arsehole.

Me: So, what do you want me to do? Go and spend far too much money, wait for hours to get on a cute roller coaster in a fake plasticised version of a movie I’ve never seen and then eat something in the shape of a cartoon character whilst watching children cry and teenage girls say the word “cute” on repeat mode until my ears bleed?

Japan: Yes. Or you could go to Tokyo Disney Sea.

Me: …?

Japan: …!

Me: Can I run a marathon instead?

August 14, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.


Me: Are you OK?

Japan: Me? Yeah, why?

Me: Well, you’re wearing a facemask.

Japan: Oh, that, right. Sure, loads of people wear them don’t they?

Me: Do they?

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Why? Is there an apocalypse happening that I’m not aware of?

Japan: No, no. I’m just being nice.

Me: Nice?

Japan: Well, if you’ve got a cold or something you can wear a facemask and it’ll stop you sneezing and breathing germs all over other people. I’m just being considerate. I’m being nice.

Me: Couldn’t you just occasionally blow your nose and carry some tissues?

Japan: No, no. You can just sit around sniffing behind a facemask all day keeping your snot in your nasal cavities.

Me: Can I?

Japan: Yes. Also, if you’ve got an allergy it’ll stop the pollen.

Me: Stop the pollen?

Japan: Uh-huh.

Me: So, all these people are wearing facemasks to protect each other from their own germs and pollen?

Japan: Yeah. And pollution.

Me: OK. And pollution.

Japan: And the cold.

Me: The cold?

Japan: Yeah, it’s a handy disposable muffler in winter.

Me: Is it?

Japan: Oh yeah, and they also protect you from your own face.

Me: I’m sorry?

Japan: The facemasks. They can protect you from your own face.

Me: I thought that’s what you said.

Japan: Well, you know, when you’re having one of those days and you just can’t face the world.

Me: Literally?

Japan: But you need to go to work or do some shopping or leave the house, you can just pop a facemask on and off you go.

Me: So it’s also useful for hiding your identity.

Japan: Right.

Me: If you wanted to, say, commit a crime.

Japan: But –

Me: And hide your face.

Japan: Well –

Me: Especially if you’re committing the crime whilst suffering from hay fever and having a “bad face day”.

Japan: Er…yeah…or if you’re performing music on youtube.

Me: But –

Japan: So you can play your music but hide your face.

Me: Well –

Japan: Especially if you’re performing the music whilst suffering from flu in winter.

Me: Er…right…So, your population must be very healthy. It must be very difficult to have any outbreaks of colds or suffer any flu epidemics.

Japan: Erm…

Me: And thanks to the humble facemask you can stop all the pollen. Say goodbye to allergies. People don’t suffer from those anymore do they?

Japan: Ah…

Me: And I guess nobody ever feels self-conscious or insecure.

Japan: Oh…well…

Me: Marvelous. I must get some of these. I’m surprised the rest of the world isn’t constantly wearing them too.

Japan: Yeah, actually, you know what? I’ve just realised…

Me: Uh-huh.

Japan: I’m not 100% sure if they actually work or not.

Me: What?

Japan: I mean, I’m assuming they do because so many people wear the things and I think quite bit has been spent on scientific research and marketing but…

Me: Maybe more on the marketing and less on the research.

Japan: …

Me: Well, at least there’s a cheap and easy socially acceptable way to hide your face if you feel like shit.

Japan: Or if you’re playing the banjo on youtube.

Me: Or just trying to be nice.

Japan: Exactly. It’s nice to be nice.

June 4, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Mount Fuji

Me: Can we do a quiz about Mount Fuji?

Japan: Sure.

Me: OK. How high is Mount Fuji?

Japan: 3776 metres.

Me: Correct. When did it become a World Heritage Site?

Japan: 2013.

Me: Correct. How many people climb Mount Fuji every year?

Japan: About 250,000.

Me: Correct. When?

Japan: In July and August.

Me: Correct. Why?

Japan: Because it’s summer. It’s the only time of year when it’s open and not shut off because of the weather and temperatures.

Me: No, sorry, I mean, why do people climb Mount Fuji?

Japan: Ah, well, because it’s Mount Fuji, isn’t it? It’s the tallest, most famous mountain I’ve got. It’s beautiful. Why wouldn’t you want to hike up it?

Me: Correct. Why wouldn’t you want to hike up Mount Fuji?

Japan: You might get ill and suffer from altitude sickness.

Me: Correct. And –

Japan: Also, most people climb it at night time so they can watch the sunrise from the top. It must be quite difficult doing all that in the dark.

Me: Correct. Next –

Japan: And it’s 3776 metres high. I mean, that’s tall. It’s not easy is it?

Me: Also correct. Now let’s move on –

Japan: And it’s busy. It’s a popular place. You’ll probably find yourself in queue of people in the cold and wind at 3AM on a path that wasn’t designed for thousands of people 3000m above sea level on a Saturday night in July.

Me: Whilst potentially suffering from altitude sickness.

Japan: Exactly.

Me: This doesn’t sound like fun does it?

Japan: No, but it can’t be helped.

Me: Why not?

Japan: Because it’s Mount Fuji. It’s everywhere. There’s no stopping it. I’m consumed by it. And it consumes us. There’s a whole business and culture tied up in it. It’s a never ending river of Fujiness.

Me: Well –

Japan: From Katsushika Hokusai’s 36 Views of Mountain Fuji onwards.

Me: But –

Japan: To umbrellas

Me: What?

Japan: And t-shirts and key rings and hand fans. Who needs those?

Me: Hold on a sec –

Japan: And tissues holders and cups and 3D postcards. Who buys this shit?

Me: Just a –

Japan: And snow globes and tea towels and fridge magnets. Why?

Me: But –

Japan: It’s painted on the walls of onsens and hotels and cafes and restaurants. It’s plastered over posters and billboards and advertisements, in books, movies, TV shows and dramas. Did you know you can buy blueberry cheesecake flavoured kit-kats in a Mount Fuji shaped box? That actually exists. I mean, what the fuck? Blueberry? Cheesecake? Box? What the hell is wrong with us all?

Me: …?

Japan: …

Me: Have you spoken to your doctor about this?

Japan: What’s the point? It’s Fuji. It’s not going anywhere is it? It’s the giant beautiful shining light bulb and we’re the moths forever heading back unquestioningly to the timeless, classical, one true mountain like faithful disciples blind to reason.

Me: …

Japan: …?

Me: Right. So, erm, I guess that’s the end of the quiz then.

Japan: Yeah, er, sorry about that. That kind of got away from me there. Have you ever climbed Fuji anyway?

Me: I have actually.

Japan: How was it?

Me: Well, there was a bit of a mix up so we had to climb it at night even though we didn’t want to and it rained and it was windy and cold and cloudy so there was no sunrise to see and also we got split up on the way back down and we had to launch a search and rescue mission for one person but he was actually further down the mountain and fine and it was all a total mess really.

Japan: That doesn’t sound nice.

Me: Nah, it was fine. I bought a t-shirt.

Japan: I see.

April 18, 2014. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.


Me: I went on holiday recently.

Japan: Nice. Did you get any omiyage?

Me: Erm, what? No, I went to –

Japan: Omiyage. You bought souvenirs and gifts for other people, right?

Me: Not really, no, I –

Japan: What? Why not?

Me: Well, I bought a little box of cookies for some of the people I work with but –

Japan: Some?

Me: Yeah, what’s wrong?

Japan: Omiyage. You went on holiday?

Me: I know. I went to –

Japan: So you needed to buy everybody a gift.

Me: Everybody?

Japan: Yes. Everybody. Everybody in your workplace that you work with and even the ones you don’t. All of them. The people that were doing their job while you weren’t there. Them. You need to buy them a souvenir.

Me: But, I mean, that would be loads of people.

Japan: Yes, right.

Me: Which would mean shopping around and buying loads of gifts.

Japan: Yes.

Me: And spending money.

Japan: Right.

Me: But it’s a holiday. You’re meant to relax and have fun.

Japan: No, you’re meant to go shopping for other people. To show them some gratitude for working while you were away enjoying yourself.

Me: But you wouldn’t be away enjoying yourself. You’d be stressing about buying unnecessary gifts.

Japan: Stressing? You don’t have to stress about it. Lots of my cities and tourist destinations have box sets of speciality local sweets or snacks all individually wrapped. I’ve got a whole omiyage industry built for this network of guilt inducing social conformity. There is no stress.

Me: What if you go on holiday to a foreign country?

Japan: Ah, well, then there’s stress.

Me: Hmm. And then when you get back you give everybody you know a little speciality gift.

Japan: Exactly.

Me: So this must be going on quite a lot?

Japan: Oh yeah. You’ll get a little cookie or pack of sweets or cracker thing every other day if you work in a big office.

Me: Well that sounds nice; everybody sitting in an office happily munching on cookies together.

Japan: What? Don’t be daft. You don’t eat them.

Me: Huh?

Japan: No, you just take them home, don’t you.

Me: But –

Japan: Give them to your kids or your partner or your pet or your bin. I mean, you could eat them but that’s kind of missing the point.

Me: So, sorry, what is the point?

Japan: That you went on holiday.

Me: Oh, yeah, that reminds me, I went to –

Japan: It doesn’t matter. You didn’t get omiyage.


March 27, 2014. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 1 comment.

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