Saturday, August 28, 2010

Nana drinks weird stuff for your entertainment: NO GLORY TO THE HYPNO-COW

I'm at the school working right now (yeah, it's Saturday, yeah, that's normal) and needed a snack. Our vending machine provides this option, innocuously masquerading as a Tetra-Pak of milk:

Which bears a striking resemblance to Futurama's Hypnotoad:

A resemblance which may be to blame for my unquestioning purchase of this product. You see, I have no idea what those large katakana letters say. If I'd been smart, however, or less affected by the powers of Hypno-Cow, I'd have noticed the small print in the lower left hand corner, which I can read because it's the same as the Chinese: "Without fruit juice." Now, why on earth would somebody feel the need to specify that their milk is without fruit juice?

Because this is not just any milk, my friends. This is apple milk. Imagine if you took a glass of milk, and said, "Hm, not bad. But maybe I should cut it with a glass of apple juice." You'd be committed, and rightfully so. But in Japan, you'd have a successful career as a product developer for the Kagome corporation.

I suppose it's not so bad, once you get used to it. But that first swig, when you expect the smooth flavor of milk and get something with a distinctly vinegar tang, is not just nasty, but also frightening, as you try frantically to determine whether or not you've just taken a large mouthful of rancid dairy product. I am leaving it on my desk in case I get desperate later, but I fully expect this beverage to finish out its days in the trash.

The Hundred-Yen Shop

The 100-yen shop is a cultural institution in Japan. Like their US counterparts, the dollar stores (100 yen is about $1), they sell a little bit of everything, from fish food to frying pans. Unlike dollar stores, though, 100-yen shops have become the first stop for most small household goods and things like stationery and writing supplies. As newcomers, we've been steered to the 100-yen shop time and time again for things like tupperware, cleaning supplies, lunch boxes, and even sandals.

Here are just a few shots from a 100-yen shop we visited downtown last weekend.

This one was in a long, covered pedestrian street stuffed with shops and restaurants. It's a Daiso, part of the largest chain of 100-yen shops. You can find Daiso shops scattered throughout Asia (converted into the local currency, of course), and there's even on in Canada.
On the one hand, the clutter goes against the usual stereotypes about Japanese minimalism and organization. On the other hand, despite the apparent chaos of the place, it is actually pretty neat and tidy inside.

Daiso also seems to sell the smallest folding stools in the history of mankind. I don't know a single adult who could fit more than one buttcheek on that thing.

(Hand model credit goes to Matt Buck.)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

EdBurgher Repost: My Pink Camera

(Over the next couple weeks, we're going to be re-posting a few Japan-related items from our old blog, The Educated Burgher. For those of you who have seen them already: feel free to ignore them. For those of you who haven't: gape in awe or something.) 

. . . is pink. We decided that means I have to take photos with both pinkies up.

The new camera is also waterproof, dustproof, and shockproof--which is how I ended up with a pink one, since the Besto Denki outlet only had the one Fujifilm WP Z in stock.

I figure, if I can get all that for under $90, I don't care if it's pink!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Follow-up to Stampytown: BoingBoing on Anti-Fraud Hanko

BoingBoing has a brief article up on Mitsubishi Pencil's anti-fraud hanko.

You'll recall from our earlier post that a hanko is a stamp used in Japan in lieu of a signature for legal documents. Even custom-made stamps can be forged, but this one uses a combination-lock to align markings on the stamp to a particular personal sequence, making it much easier to identify forged stamps after the fact, or to dispute documents signed with a stolen stamp.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back to School!

(The view on our commute home the other day, after a hard rain. We live near the little point there between the two rivers. The school is just off to the left of where I took this shot.)

Nana and I had our first day of work today. It was an in-service day--classes start on Wednesday--but already the excitement is beginning to build. After a year away from teaching, we just can't wait to meet our new students. But the start of the year also means we're really busy, so don't worry if you don't hear much from us for a couple days!

We'll probably try to post a little photo tour of the school, or at least of our classrooms, sometime later this week.