Sunday, February 28, 2010
It was a proper girl's night, we watched some random dating show, which involved girls telling tales of dating to an actor who was promoting his movie. Said actor was Hayato Ichihara, and his movie is "Saru Lock", a new release about a womanising locksmith which is based on a TV show that I used to love. It's actually much more entertaining than it sounds.
It was the first time I'd seen him as himself, if you get what I mean, and I was somewhat disappointed. In the movies and TV shows I've seen him in, I'm assuming someone else chooses the clothes for him. Apparently, he should continue that in real life. He was dressed like a host from a host bar. Host bar hosts, in case you couldn't imagine, are the epitome of 80s fashion. Shiny suits and big hair that has been ironed perpendicular to their head, or dodgy hats. Mr Ichihara had opted for the dodgy hat option, a leather trilby. Yes, leather. Trilby. Totally hideous. I kept waiting for one member of the all female audience to step in and correct his terrible error, but no one did. JBBF was equally perturbed by the hat, which only served to bond us closer.
Have you ever noticed how that can happen? In a drama, someone appears really cool, and it's somewhat of a shock to realise that that coolness doesn't extend to real life. It's like soap stars who get abuse in the street because they are playing an evil character. Whenever I hear those stories, I always think the members of the public involved must be a sandwich short of a picnic, and then I go and do the same thing, which brings me into the dangerous territory of wondering if I am, in fact, also a sandwich short of a picnic.
But back to the matter at hand. I am starting to wonder if talk shows shouldn't have some kind of warning at the beginning, letting us know that an actor is going to appear and may appear smaller/ thinner/ less well dressed than in the drama we know them for. I mean, they have warnings for fruity language and partial nudity, which I don't find the slightest bit disturbing, but maybe that's me. I'm thinking about putting it forward to the UN. It is, after all, a worldwide phenomenon, which threatens the mental and emotional well being of people everywhere.
What do you guys think?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
I have found myself pondering quite a bit recently and thought I might share my musings.
Have you ever noticed that women involved in any kind of sex scandal are rarely as attractive as the wife being cheated on? Or is that an illusion created by my sympathy for the woman being publicly cheated on? And why do the mistresses always sell a sob story to the papers? One day, I'd love for someone to be interviewed saying "I wasn't really that bothered about his family at home, that's his concern. A multi-millionaire asked me out. I wasn't going to say no. Money talks, people, money talks. Hence the fact I'm now selling my story. God knows, I might have trouble getting work now this has come out.". I'd be quite impressed.
What's the point of wearing tiny shorts with Ugg boots? Wouldn't it be warmer to wear trousers? Or at least tights? Surely Ugg boots are designed to keep your feet warm, suggesting that it is a bit nippy out and, correct me if I'm wrong, last time I checked, shorts were summer wear. Does even thinking that make me stand out as a grumpy old spinster?
Does a dog really need to wear Burberry? Do dogs even really get that cold? Have dogs always worn clothes and I didn't notice?
Why do magazine articles try to convince me that 5 almonds are a perfectly good snack option when we all know that almonds are best served on cake?
When do we officially get too old for spots? Frankly I currently have spots and wrinkles, which just seems unfair. Did I miss the window for being too old for spots and too young for wrinkles? Shouldn't it have been better signposted?
Does string cheese actually count of cheese? It seems like maybe it's made from plastic.
How about you? Have you been pondering anything recently? I'd love to know.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Jamojisan or Uncle Jam
Now Anpanman, somewhat surprisingly, is not a lone hero. He is ably assisted by some other bread based characters. Melonpanachan, based on the Japanese sweet bread shaped like a melon, is the femme fatale of the group, the little minx. The bad guy, Baikinman, is clearly in love with her, but she's having none of it and focuses her attention elsewhere. So much intrigue in a kids cartoon.
There are also other food based characters, Currypanman (based on the famous bread with curry filling that is soooooo good), tokopanman (based on the bog standard sliced white bread, although I may have got his name wrong), and, of course, the dog, cheezu (pronounce it in a Japanese accent and you get cheese).
Now, before you get the impression that this is merely a kids cartoon. Anpanman is a fundamental part of the culture here on the small island. We have an Anpanman train that children stand at level crossings to wave at. We have a plethora of character goods for children. Indeed, I have been known to collect some of them. I'm the proud owner of a number of Anpanman tins, towels and even an Anpanman card game. In the hometown of the artist responsible for this cultural phenomenon, there is even a museum, which I visited a few years ago. The photos included here are from the Anpanman museum, a bizarre mix of children's games and possibly the oddest art gallery I've ever witnessed. It contained a range of paintings inspired by the cartoon with some interesting translations.
If you can read this, I'd just like to remind you that this is a museum dedicated to a children's cartoon. And yes, I know I'm childish and unkind to laugh at the person who translated it, but, really, they should have checked that one out.
And if you weren't already slightly bemused by this whole thing, please check the above street paving, taken direct from the museum. Right there, behind Melonpanachan and Baikinman? Oh, that's Death. In a kid's cartoon. Seriously. Hilariously inappropriate, I love it.
-Cherry blossom season
And this is about an hour away?
OK, maybe not the best picture to illustrate the loveliness of my friends, but really, how often to you get to work with someone in a Scream mask?
Thursday, February 11, 2010
My latest favourite is "If Life is a Game, These are the Rules". If I'm honest, it's basically the same stuff with a different cover. One thing stood out, though. The instruction that I should make a list of things to be grateful for. Why not? I thought. Can't hurt. I might surprise myself.
1. I'm so grateful for the Mama and the Papa. Their support, love and, sometimes annoyingly unsolicited, advice is invaluable. They have spent the last 30 odd years taking care of me and my brother and I'm really enjoying seeing (or hearing about, to be more accurate) them have the chance to enjoy their retirement. I'm truly grateful to have the chance to see them getting older, I know all too many people don't get to see their parents finally get time to take those dance classes, potter in the garden and experiment with new hobbies (the thought of Mum doing Tai chi tickles me no end). The weekly monologues over the phone from England, where they give me an epically long list of that week's activities, entertain me, and I don't care what any techie types say, email just isn't the same.
2. I'm grateful for my good friends. I'm not a particularly sociable person, so I'm not someone who has hundreds of friends. I'm also ridiculously private, so few people really know my thoughts and real character. That combines to makes me truly love the friends I feel I can relax with, safe in the knowledge that my slightly odd sense of humour, dorky hobbies and downright moodiness are outweighed by my good points. They can be trusted to give me balanced advice, while making it clear they're on "Team Sarah", even when "Team Sarah" is being a bit of a child.
3. I'm grateful for the chances I've had to travel and experience so many different cultures. Since leaving school, I've lived in France, Canada, Australia, England and, of course, Japan. Each place has come with it's own unique problems and challenges, but I've learned so much from each place. I've met people doing all sorts of interesting things: schoolteachers, vegetable packers, cattle ranchers, musicians... Not many people get so many opportunities, I'm fully aware of that, believe me, I know how lucky I am. At least, most of the time.
4. Wierd as it sounds, I'm grateful for all the acquaintances who make up the average day. You know, the girl who serves you at Starbucks; the woman at the gym whose name you don't know but who always says hello; the man who you owns the shop down the road that always comments on the weather. I read somewhere that these relationships can be just as valuable as our close friends, and I can well believe it. There's no space for negative feelings in a relationship based upon "hello". They force me to smile, even on the most miserable of days, and we all know that smiling is infectious. I want to say these people help me to turn that frown upside down, but fear that might be a step too far into cheesiness.
5. I'm grateful for chocolate, cheese, wine, beer and other such mood enhancers. Let's face it, when all else fails, a decent glass of wine to wash down enough cheese to keep Dairylea in business for a year, helps. I know all the diet gurus tell us we shouldn't indulge in emotional eating, but I say eat away! The safety of our free world depends upon it, as far as I'm concerned. Me in a bad mood is one thing, but me in a bad mood, in a world with no cheese or chocolate is likely to lead to some kind of one woman driven Armageddon.
Well, there are, of course a myriad more of things I'm grateful for. I could be here all day, but, frankly, I'm not convinced anyone reading this is an ardent enough fan of "Team Sarah" to sit through a list of 50 things I'm grateful for. Perhaps I might suggest being grateful for my awareness that I'm not as interesting to others as I am to myself.
Monday, February 8, 2010
To be fair, but in line with my usual character, I'm being overly dramatic. It was an amazing day. We left early in the morning and watched as the sun rose over the mountains here on the small island. It was a bit cold but we were glad to see it wasn't raining. I was incredibly nervous but ready to run and looking forward to the challenge. I was dumbstruck at the sheer size of the organisation. I've only ever joined local races but this was an International Half Marathon. The clue was in the title, but I had always thought it was a case of self-promotion. I remained convinced that the international element was overstated until I watched several Kenyan runners power back in the opposite direction as I toddled past the 5 km sign. I tried not to compare my race with theirs, clearly the pro runners are in a slightly different league.
The stadium was filled with runners going through their pre-race rituals. Lots of stretching, mysterious powders and creams and even some noodle eating. I haven't been running long enough to really have a ritual, I simply fuss over where to put the race number. This is something no one warns us about. For the larger breasted lady, this can be a bit of a mine field. I usually try to put it on my stomach, under the boobs, but then the rather attractive waist pouch I use to keep my I-pod in gets in the way and it all gets crumpled. I'm determined to solve the problem, and even kept my race numbers to practice as part of the preparation for the next race. Reading that back makes me realise I sound like a bit of a weirdo, but these things bother me. I need to find a way of adapting the race number to the shape of my body. It may require some kind of engineering.
Once I had finished faffing with my race number, I did a bit of stretching and went for a bit of a stroll to warm up. It was at this point I realised I had no sunscreen and the sun had come out in force. I convinced myself the sun couldn't possibly burn me, not in February. Famous last words. By the time I got home I had a serious "Brit abroad" lobster-coloured forehead, which apparently isn't what the cool kids are doing these days. Whoops. Luckily, my generous application of Nivea overnight has helped me out and so far today, I've had no lobster comments.
Waiting for the race to start, I got very nervous and was hopping about, just wanted to start already. The race began at the bottom of the bridge, and the sight of all those runners up ahead, bobbing up and down, was awesome. I was totally fired up and utterly convinced that I could do this.
Fast forward 16 kilometres and it was a slightly different situation. There were far fewer runners around me, although the spectators were still out in force and so supportive. "ganbatte Gaijin-san!" (Fight Ms Foreigner!) rang out around me. I can't really explain what happened, I guess I hit the wall runners talk about. I was tired, but I think I could have continued, had my legs not been so painful. I've never managed to have stiff legs while still running before. They were agony. I tried stopping to stretch, I tried walking for a bit, I tried jogging in the hope that I would find my stride, but I just couldn't do it. I literally shuffled the last five kilometres. It was a combination of half hearted running and determined walking. At this point, my main focus was finishing before the road reopened. That became my new goal. I really didn't want to be running while cars zipped past me, cheering spectators are one thing but tooting horns are quite another.
Finally, I reached the stadium approach. "Great", I thought, "I just have to make it as far as that gate. I can do this." Nope. Whoever designs these marathons is actually evil. Once in the stadium, I had to run two, yes that's TWO, laps of the track before I could finally finish. By that point, I had almost convinced myself that I was going to be in that stadium forever. I crossed the finish line and lay down. The floor was freezing and I knew I needed to get up and put my fleece on before I got too cold. It took a good few minutes of lying on the cold track before I hauled myself up to collect my T-shirt and reclaim my bag. It took another few minutes before I could consider ever doing such a thing again. I may not have run an amazing race, but next time, I will. If only for the T-shirt that tells the world I did it, even if I didn't really.
Friday, February 5, 2010
And yet, it's all made me smile. Strange and interesting things usually do. When I started looking around, I found myself noticing all sorts of interesting and unusual things I'd stopped seeing. When I first moved to Japan about four years ago, every day was weird. Good weird, but weird. The signs were baffling. I had no idea what a shop was selling unless I ventured inside. I very rarely knew what I was eating. And while I had a few nasty surprises, mostly I found it exciting (If anyone ever offers you natto, say no. It's fermented soy beans and it's like eating that stinky glue we used at school.). Fast forward four years and everything starts to become normal. I'm so used to having no idea what's going on, I've pretty much switched off. I usually nod, smile and agree with what people are saying because 9 times out of 10 they're telling me about their third cousin's trip to London, or telling me how white I am. It's so sad that I don't pay so much attention anymore. Well, I decided to start. And here are just a few things I noticed on the way to the gym.
When leaving my house I realised, I either need a smaller gym bag or a bigger basket on my bike. It's all getting a bit precarious.
Please note the random flag on the floor next to my bike. It fell down one day in strong winds, lay in the entrance to the building, getting walked on for a few days until some smart soul tucked it in behind my bike. It's supposed to be advertising the palace that I call my one room studio apartment on the fifth floor of a building with no lift. Can't think why they need to advertise.
There are a few in front of my building. They look like this.
I don't know the lady cycling past. It was a well-timed coincidence. Hope she doesn't mind being included. Oh, and that funny little canal thing? It's a type of drain. Yes, an open one, ripe for falling into. It's for rain water, not sewage, so not that gross, but still surprised me when I first saw it. Actually, surprised me even more when I came out of my building one fine morn to find an old man peeing into it. To be fair, he was facing away from the road. Unfortunately, away from the road meant towards me. Not a good experience.
Anyway, back to my flags. The Japanese as a nation seem rather partial to an advertising flag. See.These lovely pink ones lining the main road are for a manga cafe, where people, mostly men, go to read comic books and use the internet. I'm avoiding the obvious comments about dirty books and dodgy websites. Let'S move on. Oh, and check out the row of bicycles, and the lopsided street lamp I didn't notice until I uploaded this picture.
And here is the proof of globalisation. Starbucks really does look the same everywhere. And boy! was I glad of that when I first got here. Finally, a store I could go into, safe in the knowledge that I had an outside chance of leaving with what I actually wanted. Really and truly, happiness in a cup. And I don't even drink coffee.
And check out the wonderfully named Mister Donut. I'm not sure if these exist in the US, but we don't have them in the UK. Basically, it's the international language of doughnuts that makes this another place I flee to when the Japan-ness of Japan is doing my head in a bit. The world just looks better on the other side of a strawberry iced doughnut.
And the last one for today is the awesome, retro trams they have zipping around the town here. How cute is this? And the inside is equally as retro. I love it.
So there you have it, a few things that made me smile. What made you smile today?What did you noticce about your environment that you normally ignore?