Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cell Phone Pics (携帯写真)

I just figured out how to transfer the digital photos I took on my cellphone to my computer. With the exception of the Botchan Train, they were all taken during my trip to Tokyo this past July. A little late, but I thought some of them were cute and worth sharing.



Here is the "Botchan Ressha" or Botchan Train. This is an antique replica train from the days of Natsume Soseki's famous novel Botchan (circa 1906). This small commuter train runs along the tracks throughout the city, but the novelty factor means that it costs more to ride than the standard streetcar.

Hilarity in product form. Here are many different varieties of stick-on fake facial hair. Now I finally have a full-proof way to fill in those patches in my beard or give myself the handlebar mustache of my dreams. Thanks Propia!

Don't these weird face banks look like they stepped right out of Jim Henson's Creature Shop? After putting a coin in the bank's mouth, it chews up the money and swallows it whole! The whole thing looked quite lifelike.

A giant fugu or poisonous blow fish sign. I think I have a pretty good idea of what was on the menu at this restaurant.

Is this not the cutest picture EVER! This was taken in front of Ban-Dai headquarters in Asakusa. Since it was raining in Tokyo that day, Doraemon put on his trusty yellow raincoat to stay dry.

I always smile when I think of what it must be like for the worker whose job it is to dress up these characters. How does he / she describe her job to family and friends?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Made in Prison (刑務所製)

Yesterday I was biking to the grocery store for my weekly shopping expedition when a giant inflatable Anpanman bounce house caught my eye. I happily took the detour and ended up in the quaintest of local craft festivals.

After eating a sub-par set of takoyaki (octopus balls) from a food stand, I took to touring the small craft booths. One table displayed intricately carved wooden key chains featuring a cute owl character, another, freshly polished leather shoes. One particularly popular booth sold handmade towels.

A saleswoman caught me eying her hand-dyed blue neckties and began pointing out the intricacies of the designs. I tried on a fishing hat made of the same material, smiled, and checked myself out in the mirror for kicks. It was about at this time that my mind finally decided to decipher the kanji characters on the sign above the booth: "Tokushima Prefecture Correctional Facility."

I immediately ripped the hat off my head and threw it back on the table. All this stuff was made by cons!

Indeed, I had happily wandered into the annual To-on City Prisoner-Made Craft Festival. The cute owl key chains I spotted earlier were no doubt carved by hands that stole or strangled. The hat I put on my head could have been submerged in dye by someone spending their entire life incarcerated. All their anger and rage funneled into that soft cloth. And I had put it on my head!

I don't even want to begin to think about the towel booth!

Once I got over my initial shock, I was able to appreciate the true craftsmanship and attention to detail present in the furnishings. Who knew jailbirds could make such a comfy chair? Huge chests of drawers and entire dining room sets could be bought and delivered anywhere in Shikoku. Take that IKEA Japan!

Also present were large lacquered wooden carvings and some fantastic inmate paintings as well. These items were on display inside a nearby elementary school gymnasium. The gymnasium contained a small walk-in section that modeled a typical group prison room. The tatami floor and low wooden table in the cell made the room look strikingly similar to my apartment.

Pictures on the wall showed the meals prisoners receive - a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a piece of fish. Sometimes they also got some pickles or a Yakult yogurt drink. The food actually looked pretty yummy.

My purchase from the craft festival was a plastic roll-up necktie case for a mere 10 Yen. I'd like to think that a murdered mobster's bloodstained necktie was once kept inside the very same case.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This is Mr. Contac, the friendly anthropomorphic spokespill who adorns the cover of my cold medicine box.  I paid the extra 150 Yen in order to buy the package with his smiling seal of approval.  Why?  In a sea of indecipherable cold-related kanji, his face just made me feel better.  

I figured if I was going to entrust healing my symptoms to a series of small plastic pouches filled with a mystery white granule reminiscent of cocaine, it might as well be endorsed by a likable character.  And who better to tell me what medication to take than a giant talking pill?  Heck, he's made of medicine!

I've since decided that all my future food, medical, and household item related purchases will be based solely on, A) the presence, and B) the overall likability of the accompanying mascot character.  

...After four days of swallowing this bitter-beyond-belief white powder with a sake glass full of water, my symptoms still persist.  Yet, I remain 100% faithful in the all-knowing Mr. Contac!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Sometimes I need to be reminded why I love Japan. My throat has been scratchy all day and I can feel a cold coming on. In what other country could I walk across the street from my apartment, put one dollar into a vending machine and receive a piping hot can of azuki red bean soup?

And here is the can's contents. Unfortunately, pink and white mochi balls were not included.