Monday, November 28, 2005

Women: Japan Has Some More

It's been too long since I expounded upon the joys of living in Japan, home of the best-maintained women on earth. In my last look at the fairer sekkusu, I expressed my enthusiasm over Inoue Waka, Ueto Aya and Matsushima Nanako. That was way back in June! Few things stay popular with Japan's fickle public for such a long period, and as such, here's an updated look at the females who constantly usurp my attention.
Ito Misaki
Ito Misaki, 28, has enjoyed increased popularity lately due to starring roles on two very successful TV series: Densha Otoko (Train Man), the story of a nerdy guy who meets the love of his life by saving her from imminent groping on a commuter train, and Kiken na Aneki (Dangerous Sister), the story of a nerdy guy whose annoying sister comes to live with him while she moonlights as a club hostess. It's worth mentioning that, while Japanese TV is often annoying without trying to be, even a Japanese TV series about an annoying sister is watchable if that sister is Ito Misaki. Also boasting endorsement contracts with Vodafone and Shiseido, Misaki is charging headlong towards the precarious, termite-ridden, highly flammable bridge that is TV stardom in Japan.
Just the other day I was in Ginza Subway Station and I saw a big promotional display for Kiken na Aneki, with a life-size cardboard standee of Ito Misaki. The importance of the security guard patrolling the display was obvious.
Ito Misaki's Official Website
Yamaguchi Moe
To be honest, I don't know that much about Moe (two syllables: "Mo-eh"), also 28. She falls into the catch-all category of "talent," a celebrity who makes tons of guest appearances on variety shows and in TV commercials (thanks to support from her promotion agency, which is also home to Shibasaki Kou), but does not yet quite have enough "celebrity capital" to be in high demand for dramatic roles.
Ms. Yamaguchi has won the hearts of men all over the country with her soft voice, which walks a fine line between adorable and deplorable. To anyone who doubts the power of a cute-sounding voice, please witness Moe's endorsement of the anti-diarrhea medicine called Stoppa, in which she appears in a thought balloon above the head of a distressed businessman and reminds him that his Stoppa tablets are in his right pocket. Moe's appeal has also recently been used to promote such unsexy products as ham and vegetable juice.
Yamaguchi Moe's Official Website
Ogura Yuuko
I could claim that Yamaguchi-san's too-cute-for-TV voice was a unique quality, but I'd be doing a disservice to Ogura Yuuko, 22, the best possible Japanese facsimile of a ditzy blonde you'll ever find. Yuuko is an "idol," which is Japanese for "model/singer/sex object." She can be seen in countless DVDs, prancing around in a bikini while her voice-over explains that she loves rabbits and pandas and that her grandparents are so very important to her. Yeah, important, but not so important that she would throw away her career in order to save them the embarrassment of seeing their granddaughter [VOICE="David Brent"] bandied about willy-nilly [/VOICE].
Yuuko's voice, while cute, is most definitely NOT the reason I find her appealing. If I were her high school teacher I would always be saying to her, "Are you asking me, or telling me?" She talks like a child trapped in the body of a slightly older child. Rather, what I like about Yuuko is her eyes, which are ever so slightly crossed most of the time. (I have this weird thing for girls who eyes aren't quite right. Hence, my worship of Lucy Liu.)
CORRECTION: I previously stated that Ogura Yuuko appears in a pachinko commercial. I was mistaken; it's actually a commercial for the amusement hotbed known as Joypolis. My "hail to the king baby" joke, however, stands.
Ogura Yuuko's Official Website

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Show Me "Paint the Fence"

It's only fair that, after talking so much trash about The Karate Kid, I pay my respects to actor Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, who departed for that big karate tournament in the sky on Thursday, November 25, 2005.

In his role as gardener turned karate sensei Mr. Miyagi, Pat Morita gave us all hope that maybe, just maybe, it really was possible to become a karate master if you did enough home improvement work. More importantly, he transformed young pupil Daniel Larusso from his dippy, unlikeable self into a self-defense king capable of netting Elizabeth Shue, Tamlyn Tomita AND Robyn Lively.

While Mr. Miyagi's teaching methods were questionable, Pat Morita showed us the importance of kicking butt and tweaking noses. And, of course, looking one's opponent in the eye.

Always look eye.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Microsoft, You Unfeeling Monster!

Things are tough all over.

Girlfriend found out last week that her (very, very agreeable) temp position at Microsoft's Tokyo localization office will end with the opening of the new year. I'm sympathetic; a video game industry job in one of the best companies in the world is a hard thing to lose.

The good news is that, with her hitherto acquired experience, she has a sporting chance at getting into one of Microsoft's other Tokyo offices (there are three of them). What ever happens, she can proudly remember that, in her tenure with Microsoft up until now, she has been instrumental in the US-to-Japan localizations of Jade Empire for Xbox and Project Gotham Racing 3 for Xbox 360 (released tomorrow in the US, next month in Japan).

Ichi, ni, san, shi! Who do we appreciate? Girlfriend!

My Typing is Louder Than My Speech

Yesterday I went home early from work after losing my voice. My Monday shift is always a challenge; it's earlier than all my other shifts, and it includes three vocally-demanding classes of kids aged 2 to 4 (they attend class together with a parent). I assumed that, as per my usual pattern of recovery, I would be okay to go back to work today after getting a full night's sleep and doing a bit of quality expectorating.

Well, imagine my surprise when Girlfriend called up to me from downstairs, "I'm going to work, see you later!" and all I could muster up as a response was, "...!"

This means I had to call in sick today, as well. My job depends too much on my ability to talk and be polite. My students might not appreciate it if I show up to the lesson talking like Dick Cheney and coughing and spitting everywhere.

I really don't like the idea of calling in sick twice in a row; I get the impression that my boss at Tokyo headquarters sees this and goes, "Well, well, well. Looks like Thomas doesn't like to work." And he'd be right about that,, am I sick. Sick as a dog. And I mean a really sick puppy.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Today I saw a man pull his motorcycle over to the side of the road and take a pee on the curb in broad daylight.

End of item.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Portrait of a Badass: Spike

Character: Spike
Actor: Darlene Vogel
Film: Back to the Future Part II (1989)
Badass Moment: I guess it's the part where she grabs Michael J. Fox by the groin and hoists him over a restaurant counter. Because that's the only scene I can remember.

Prothetic claws. One red eye. Necklace made of bullet casings. White plastic armor-bra. These factors come flying together in a veritable tornado of badass known as Spike. Spike is one of Griff's eccentric toadies in Hill Valley 2015, and she makes the most of her short screentime by being the most terrifying future-babe imaginable.*

It wasn't easy to decide which of Griff's minions to crown "badass" in this post. I've always thought that dude with the chicken sound effect in his vest was pretty cool, and what's not to like about the crazy, laughing Asian guy? But Spike somehow broke out of the pack and stood head and shoulders above her peers as a full-on badass. I ask you this: How cool do you have to be before Elvis Costello names a whole album after you?

Spike is never referred to by name in the movie. She only has one line, and that line contains the word "scrote." I'll say two things about that. 1) Bad, and 2) Ass.

Spike, you are a badass and hoverboards don't work on water unless you've got POWER.

* At the time of the movie's release

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tamiflu: Making Sure You Die of Something Else

Tamiflu has apparently caused the deaths of two Japanese teenagers. But at least they didn't die of the flu.

I cringe at the thought of everyone in the world loading up on what could be a bona-fide LGD (loopy goofball drug) in the face of a bird flu pandemic that may or may not ever actually happen.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Ew, I Stepped in Guam!

Last week's trip to Guam to get our PADI open-water diver certification was a success. Girlfriend and I are now proverbial diving machines. We know the difference between a Picasso trigger and a dusky anemonefish. We can clear our masks of water at fifteen meters. We can even literally breathe water, like Ed Harris does in The Abyss. (By the way: Picasso triggerfish are jerks. Be advised.)

The thing about Guam is that, by virtue of its location, it's a very popular destination for vacationers from Japan...but not so much for Americans. As such, the island is jam-packed with karaoke bars, rotary sushi diners and Japanese signage all over the place. Girlfriend and I, however, chanced upon one particularly strange combination of popular culture references, in the form of a run-down karaoke lounge called Yonsama:

For one thing, notice how they decided to rip off the Mortal Kombat logo for their sign. I don't think Midway Games should bother hassling Yonsama with a lawsuit, but it's still troublesome from a consumer standpoint. If I see a sign like this, I expect to walk in and see people engaged in "karaoke kombat." Know what I'm saying? Stand up, grab the mic, sing a Peter Cetera song and then push back, back, forward, forward, high punch to make your friend's head explode. Flawless victory.

But that's only half of why this sign is funny. Yon-sama happens to be the cute, honorific nickname given by Japanese people to Korean heartthrob actor Bae Yon-Jun, who is best known as "that serene-looking guy with the scarf" in the Korean TV drama series Winter Sonata:

I can only assume that the owner of this establishment intended to capitalize on Yon-sama's huge popularity in Japan in order to attract Japanese tourists who would (somehow) equate this bespectacled, idyllic-looking fellow with an unforgettable karaoke experience. At the same time, they try to attract Americans -- specifically, American males who were 14 years old in 1992 -- via an indirect association with Goro, the four-armed, half-dragon Prince of Outworld.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Let's Learn Japanese: Furyo

Furyo (n.)
Young hooligan (lit. "no good")

It was a real testament to my "turning Japanese."

I attended a company Halloween party dressed as a furyo. The Japanese at the party laughed and told me how funny my costume was. The non-Japanese at the party were like, "What are you, a yakuza?"

Never mind that most of my co-workers have lived in Japan for as long as I have, if not longer. How do you not recognize a furyo when you see one? Have I been wasting my time here, educating myself in popular culture while the other foreigners around me educate themselves in going on all-night benders in Roppongi? What am I, the biggest geek?

Yakuza. Peh! Indeed.

By the way, if the concept of furyo seems foreign and difficult to relate to, consider ruffian heroes Kunio and Riki (AKA Alex and Ryan) who gained stateside infamy as stars of the Nintendo game Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari (AKA River City Ransom):

"Alex listened to the R&B. Alex started jamming. Stamina is maxed out!"