Archive for the ‘Events’ Category
Seemingly a lifetime ago, I studied Journalism as my initial University degree. And, as I stood there, proudly clutching my degree, three distinct journalistic paths lay before me. I could apply for the gritty world of print, the lucrative world of radio or the glamorous world of television. As I assessed these glittering possibilities, my own mother remarked to me, “You have the perfect face for radio”.
Yes, it is with some shame that I admit that I am no Brad Pitt. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t even rate William Pitt the Younger. On the “Pitt Beauty Scale”, I rank somewhere between Pittsburg and a Coal Pitt.
I was therefore somewhat surprised when a mere three weeks after my arrival in China, I was asked if I would like to appear in a commercial for the Beijing Olympics.
The offer came to me as I walked the streets of a small tourist town called Phoenix. As I was walking around, snapping with my camera, three beautiful young women began to talk to me. Obviously this unprecedented event was enough to raise eyebrows in itself, but unfortunately “The Cynical Traveller engages in conversation with hot women” is probably of interest to only one of my readers, and that one already knows what happened because he’s writing about it.
Anyway, it turned out I was wasn’t approached for my unsurpassed beauty, my erudite wit or my herculean acting ability, but rather for my uncanny ability to appear Western. In light of their desperate need, my agent (i.e. myself) was able to negotiate a favourable appearance fee of a few cans of beer and a free lunch.
Now, this actually seemed like a pretty sweet deal for what we were being asked to do. Basically, we would be about 2 seconds in a collage of an ad, featuring local people welcoming foreign guests all around China. Naively, I believed that a 2 second ad would take a very short time to film and I could spend the rest of the afternoon making the producers regret ever offering me free beer.
Those of you who have ever been involved in any filming process may be unsurprised to note that it took considerably longer than a few minutes.
For the commercial, three Miao minority girls brought myself and two other foreigners bowls of water, we bowed to them and pretended to drink the water. We were forced to pretend, as the water had simply been taken from the local river, which tended to have a rather unhealthy sheen to it.
Now, I pride myself on my ability to drink water as much as the next man. In my 35 years on this planet, I have actually managed to drink several times without spilling water all over myself, dropping my drinking utensil, or unexpectedly bursting into flame.
However, unsurpassed as my water drinking skills were within my own circle of friends, they were apparently no match for the incomparable drinking skills of a true actor, as the director seemed to routinely find fault with something we were doing. Anyhow, that’s what I managed to gather from one of the minority girls who spoke pretty good English.
So, we waited while the girls had their make-up reapplied, the light, sound and cameras were checked, and the production chiseled some more water from the river to refill our bowls.
Repeat ad nauseum.
After about 2 hours of this, it began raining and we retired to to the local restaurant where our free meal and beer awaited, and I whiled away the hour looking at one of the other Westerner’s photographs, which were uniformly all far better than mine.
As the rain let up we returned to the spot, only to have the producer proclaim that the light was now too poor and that we were all to return tomorrow for another try. Solemnly vowing to be there by eight o’clock the next morning, I picked up my bag and caught the first bus out of Fenghuang.
And to think people actually want to be on TV!
Scene 1 – Ningbo, Workplace
Enter – Cynicallus Traversius and Companion
Companion – How goes the day?
Cynicallus – Forsooth it bode not well, for ere long past the cockerel doth I lie, yet weariness still does descent upon mine eye.
Companion – Oh a happiness, for cannot man be made to wake upon the muse
Cynicallus – Speak plainly friend for now I see thou art implicit in a ruse, to rob me of mine dreams
Companion – Verily I have gather’d by fair and handsome means three passes. I bid thee, change thy scene.
Should I partake upon this night
It has been unappealed within mine sight
And falling on the night of Thor
Shall I awake upon the morn?
But does the cynicaled forsake
The music that the bard doth make
Upon mysteried shore of orient
For nights can be but better spent
And erelong the cynic doth agree
To forsake dreams and thus to see
A most handsomed solliliquy
And experience impart to thee
Scene 2 – Yifu theatre, Ningbo
Cynicallus sits as if bored. Companion is excited.
Cynicallus – These players came from lands of yore
With promised tales steeped in war
Thine promises are rent like straw
And verily I canst but snore
Companion – The cynic has but seen a part. The players stir the still’d heart and soothe the troubled soul with art. What tempered soul coulds’t ever dream of such exquisite bliss.
Cynicallus – Bugger that, I’m going home. I really need a piss.
Well folks, ‘tis the season to be jolly. While the Japanese may not celebrate Christmas (at least not in the non-consumer way), they certainly take the opportunity to get jolly whenever it presents itself.
Yes, it’s the last few weeks before Christmas and New Year’s and that means the end of year staff party or bon enkai.
Anybody who’s lived in Japan for a significant length of time will know all about enkais. If you are down the local izakaya (the Japanese equivalent of a pub) and you see 30 men in suits falling over, vomiting and wearing women’s underwear on their head, chances are you’ve stumbled into one.
Firstly, the rules of the enkai
1. “What happens at the enkai, stays at the enkai.”
An example I was given, is that it is perfectly acceptable to tell your boss he’s an arsehole and then resume a normal working arrangement the next day. Needless to say, I wasn’t really willing to put this to the test.
2. Never fill your own glass, or allow another person’s glass to become empty.
This enables you to get as drunk as possible, without any of that responsible “knowing how much you’ve drunk” nonsense.
3. Talk to as many people as possible
Don’t worry if you can’t speak Japanese. By the end of the night most of the Japanese can’t either.
Let me run you through a typical school enkai.
4.00 – Try to find the restaurant on the map provided
6.00 – Arrive at the enkai. 90% of the teachers are still at school. Take a small random card to determine seating arrangements.
6.20 – Watch as the other teachers arrive and pick seats. Groan as the seat next to you is drawn by the teacher who hates gaijin and has said three words to you in 4 years.
6.25 – Start talking with the teacher next to him in front of his face just to piss him off.
6.30 – The teacher who organized the enkai thanks everyone for coming and introduces the principal who appears in a puff of smoke and saws a lady in half.
6.31 – The principal makes a speech thanking everyone for their hard work during the year. Fell guilty that he’s probably including you in “everyone” but really shouldn’t be.
6.33 – Realise you don’t speak Japanese.
6.35 – “Bloody hell. Is this speech ever going to end?”
6.38 – Speech finishes and teachers say “kanpai” (cheers). Clink glasses together, take a drink and then clap (presumably at the fact that you got it in your mouth without spilling any).
6.40 – First course arrives. Open your dish and realize that you have no idea what it is, or even what planet it came from. Just eat it anyway.
6.45 – Mingle with other teachers and fill their glasses. Have your glass filled by EVERYONE because they want to see what happens when the gaijin gets drunk.
6.45 – 9.00 – Get drunk and make a fool of yourself.
7.45 – “Hey, this Japanese isn’t as difficult as I thought. I must be pretty damn clever.”
9.00 – More speeches. The principal makes another speech and it concludes with everyone performing a special series of claps unique to our school. Rather like a noisier version of the freemason’s handshake.
9.30 – Soft-core teachers go home. The hardcore teachers announce the location of the second party, preferably somewhere involving karaoke.
9.32 – Realise that, while I’m having difficulty standing, I’m still not drunk enough to sing Karaoke and go home with the soft core teachers.
This is a guide to a normal enkai. Christmas enkais are almost the same, except everyone brings a small present and you draw one at random. Last year I got a ceramic rooster statue.
Today’s story is based on Shintoism, a subject about which I actually know bugger all. I’m not even close to being a theologian and my observations are based on information provided by Japanese friends on the day. Some of my interpretations may be way off.
Then again, even my knowledge of Christianity is based solely on repeated viewings of “Life of Brian” and the soundtrack to “Jesus Christ: Superstar”. So, if you want to write in and tell me that my synopsis of this Shinto festival is completely wrong, feel free.
Festivals are of course, a big part of life in Japan. The Japanese are never happier than when they can dress up in traditional clothes and eat fried noodles and crepes.
Living in a largely agricultural area, I was asked to participate in the local mikoshi festival. Mikoshi are large portable Shinto shrines, each weighing roughly a 1000kg. The shrines are supported by two or four large beams and are carried to a blessing site by about a dozen people, usually wearing a kind of loincloth similar to the ones used by Sumo wrestlers.
Each mikoshi is supposed to hold a god, generally of some kind of natural persuasion, like rocks, rivers, mountains or trees. However, it’s not just a case of carrying the mikoshi down to the site (a river in this case). That would be far too simply and not nearly painful enough for the Japanese.
No, it appears that these gods are in fact lazy little things who are constantly falling asleep on the job. Personally, I can understand this. Being god of a rock doesn’t seem to be quite as fun as say, being Thor, God of Thunder or Dionysus, God of Wine and Orgies. Basically, as god of rocks, there wouldn’t be much else to do except sleep and occasionally sediment.
So, in order for the god to realise he is being honoured, the Japanese feel it is necessary to bounce the mikoshi up and down to wake him up. This is done to the cry of, “Washoi, washoi!” which is basically translates to, “Go! Go!”
There aren’t too many times in Japan when I’ve cursed being taller than the locals. Oh, I might get frustrated occasionally when I’m trying to buy shoes or I smack my head on a low door, but generally being a head taller than everyone else has its advantages. Unfortunately, this was one of the times when it didn’t.
Basically, my shoulders were a couple of inches higher than everyone else’s. So, everytime the mikoshi was brought down, I managed to bear the full brunt of the impact before it hit everyone else.
Also, while not personally a religious man, I still wonder about the validity of this idea. I mean, imagine you’re a god of rocks or a river or something. You’ve just had a heavy day of diverting eddies, or sitting around feeling heavy, and you’re looking forward to a nice nap. You start drifting off and suddenly some bastards start shaking your house and shouting at you.
Are you going to wake up and bestow blessings on these people? Or are you going to start thinking it was about time for a rain of frogs or a flood of Shintoric proportions? It would be the god equivalent of your neighbour waking you up at 3am and asking to borrow your lawnmower.
Still, reservations aside, I agreed to participate on the proviso that I didn’t have to wear the loincloth.
Unfortunately for all concerned, I was outvoted…
The Cynical Traveller
Ah, music. “If music be the food of love, play on”. So said William Shakespeare, and he’s got a lot more readers than me, so there must be something in it.
Certainly, the Japanese are fond of music, in much the same way that a monkey is fond of throwing faeces. They do it and they love it, but it can be painful for the audience. We are talking here of the country that gave the world karaoke. The fact that the world didn’t really want it, is besides the point.
Of course, I’m not one to talk. My own voice has been known to kill cockroaches at sixty paces; but at least I have the common decency, not to mention common sense, not to sing in public.
My original apartment in Japan was situated next to a bar that offered karaoke, and many was the night I was kept awake by the wail of the banshee next door. While the best opera singers are said to be able to break glass, the blokes singing next door could break a pewter mug.
Which is why it is so astounding that when the Japanese assemble for a chorus, the result is actually well worth listening to. My only explanation for this is that most Japanese are only truly happy when doing the same thing as a hundred other people.
My junior high school recently held its ongakusai, or chorus competition.
For the three weeks leading up to the competition, I couldn’t walk through the corridors without hearing stirring renditions of various Japanese songs, and one rather disturbing version of Wham’s “Last Christmas”, which I cruelly dubbed “Rast Kurisumasu”.
I know; I’m a bastard.
The disadvantage of all that practice is, of course, that by the time the actual competition rolled around, I was thoroughly sick of the songs and sat in the audience yelling, “Play ‘smoke on the water!’”
Still, they’re a talented little bunch of angels and all in all the day wasn’t too painful.
Unfortunately I had also nominated myself to attend a recital by one of my elementary school students the next day.
The recital was a performance of traditional instruments. My student was playing a shamisen, a kind of three stringed Japanese guitar, all three of which appear to be A flat. Now, imagine what Jimmy Hendrix would have been capable of if his guitar had had only 3 strings.
Other instruments being used were the koto ( a kind of chinese harp) and Japanese wooden flutes. There were also a few old ladies singing in a particularly whiney fashion.
Individually, all these sounds are awful, but when put together, they somehow combine to make a not entirely unpleasant sound. It’s rather like popcorn.
You’d never eat plain popcorn, plain butter or plain salt. But put together and they taste okay.
So, that was my popcorn weekend.
The Cynical Traveller
My regular readers will, of course, realize that I have strong opinions on the objectification of women. However, I’m always open to new experiences, no matter how painful.
My previous school, Iruma Koyo High School, had one of the best cheerleading teams in Japan and were going to the national competition in Tokyo. In the interest of school spirit, and only school spirit, I agreed to tag along.
However, I am once again hesitant to include photographs of my students, so the visible pictures included are of the professional teams who performed a demonstration at the end.
Now cheerleading isn’t a big thing in Australia. To be perfectly honest (and this is probably going to get me in a bit of hot water here) I’ve always considered cheerleading to be the last refuge of a dull sport. It’s the only way they can mildly entertain the crowd.
However, that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate cheerleading’s more salient points.
While the benefits of being able to wrap your own legs behind your head may not be immediately apparent, a little careful thought can bring up several situations where it might come in handy. Such as scratching an unwanted itch, or escaping from the deathtrap of a supervillian.
The competition was held in a large stadium in Tokyo. My cheerleading club teacher furnished me with a pass and I arrived fresh off the train in Tokyo, ready for some
hot sexy action strong school spirit.
Strangely enough, I was stopped at the door by two security guards who wanted to know which school I was affiliated with. Who did they think I was? Some sort of ordinary pervert?
After assuring the guards that I was in fact, a very specific type of pervert, I was allowed entry and attempted to find my students.
My girls were all decked out in their costumes when I arrived. Basically, it looked like they had gone 10 rounds with a bedazzler and lost… badly.
The makeup had been liberally applied, in some case with a trowel, and they looked excited, energetic and, dare I say it, perky.
My girls were on third, so we sat down to watch the other competitors. Basically, it involved bouncing around the stage to techno music and grinning like a skull after a botox injection.
I’m not a huge fan of techno music, but if it has to be endured, I can heartily recommend it be accompanied by thousands of young women in short skirts. It somehow makes the experience more tolerable.
My team went out, pom poms flashing, and performed admirably as far as I could tell. To be perfectly honest, all the performances looked very similar and I have no idea what criteria they were being judged on.
Then, I was subjected to the worst occurrence of the day. One of the schools came out to Tony Basil’s “Mickey”. Now in my book, that should be grounds enough for immediate disqualification, but they actually got applause when they finished!
Anyway, my students came second on the day and there were numerous faces streaked with tear stained makeup. Luckily, there were plenty of people there to “cheer” them up.
The Cynical Traveller
Yabusame is the Japanese art of horseback archery. Myself and my friend from the Tokyo Times, decided to make a little excursion to the small village of Moroyama to see what all the fuss is about.
Despite Moroyama having a population of roughly 7, hundreds of people turned up to the festival, simply for the exciting prospect of actually seeing a live animal. To give you some kind of idea of the scarcity of animals in Japan, I’m going to completely plagiarise a story from a friend of mine.
This man, let’s call him Mr X, is married to a lovely young Japanese lady (whom I hope never reads this). Mr and Mrs X went back to Mr X’s home country of England.
When they saw some cows in a paddock, Mrs X was rather fascinated. Mr X asked her, “Haven’t you ever seen a cow before?” To which Mrs X replied, to the amusement of all, “Yes, in a zoo.”
Animals really are that scarce around here. So, it’s not surprising that people are willing to travel three hours to look at a horse. At least, one that’s not on a plate in a restaurant.
Moroyama lies on the charming, but rather inconvenient, Hachiko train line. Being a predominantly rural line, Hachiko trains leave once an hour in the mornings, have only two carriages and are apparently pulled by a team of oxen.
Still, we managed to leave on time and catch all our connections, only to arrive in town and be informed that lunch had just started and the yabusame would resume in 3 hours.
However, that gave us time to grab some lunch. We passed the usual stalls selling fried noodles, goldfish, and what my friend insisted were chocolate coated sausages. There were also a couple of stalls selling toy guns.
Let me tell you, we’re not talking about little plastic guns here, with blinking lights and semi realistic rattling sounds. Rather, it’s life sized sniper rifles, capable of shooting plastic balls up to a distance of 130 feet and punching through walls (albeit Japanese paper walls). Generally, they looked more imposing than the weapons carried by the Japanese GSDF into Iraq.
It’s an extremely dangerous and irresponsible toy in the hands of either an adult or a kid. Naturally, I was dying to buy one.
Being so early, we were able to get prime seats, right up the front.
This was my second yabusame festival and it turned out to be rather a disappointment. The previous festival was two years ago. That year, there were only two horses and one of them panicked, threw its rider and galloped off down the main street of the town.
Obviously I was hoping for a rather better show this year. Well, it must have been a bumper year for Moroyama, because this year they were able to afford three horses. There were also three riders; one was very good, one could ride but not shoot, and one who should probably just stick to baseball.
Three riders should have meant that there was enough action to keep us entertained. However, rather than send them down one at a time, they simply all thundered down in a row; the worst rider often cannoning into the back of the first two. Then you had to wait 15 minutes for the next bout.
Not that we got to see much of the event anyway, because for ninety percent of the competition our view was obscured by people leaning over to take photos. So much for those good seats!
The Cynical Traveller
Firstly, I have a confession to make. I’m not really into cars. In fact, I wouldn’t know a carburetor from a cam shaft, or an alternator from an altimeter (do cars have those?).
I’m mystified when people who know about cars say things like, “There’s your problem mate! You’ve got a faltermeyer in your axel foley”
So, bearing that in mind, it may seem rather strange that I should choose to go to a motor show. However, I have a very good reason: My friend assured me that there would be loads of scantily clad women there.
Naturally, I saw this as an opportunity to confront the misogyny of contemporary Japanese society and study the Freudian implications of vehicle addiction in the male psyche. If I had to look at a bunch of hot women in the process, it was a price I was prepared to pay.
Well, let me tell you, despite my most altruistic of motives, I was seriously disappointed by both the number of ladies and cars on display.
My friend had tried to go to the show last year, not realizing it is only held on alternate years in Tokyo. What he actually ended up attending, was the industrial vehicles show. So, he spent the day looking at light utility vehicles, tractors, industrial tyres and van for the disabled.
Despite this, he said that each display was still surrounded by scantily clad girls; particularly the tyres. “Well”, we thought. “If they have girls draping themselves over a set of Bridgestone radials, imagine what they’ll be doing to a Ferrari!”
The answer is apparently: “avoiding it”.
The show filled four auditoriums with cars and motorbikes. In between were the occasional hands on displays and driving simulators.
Taking up such a huge amount of space, you’d think they could spare one small room for vouyerism, but apparently not.
And while I may not be an expert in cars, even I was aware that there was a difference between cruising around the high street in this…
Still, despite the absence of the girls, there were enough cars to keep a motor aficionado happy for countless hours.
We left after 37 minutes.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of an ekiden, the literal translation is “station race”, indicating that the participants run between train stations. Unfortunately, when asked to participate, I misunderstood the concept to be a “stationary race”, which seemed right up my alley, and hence I volunteered.
Strangely enough, despite the daily exercise of walking to the fridge and back, and repeated viewings of “Chariots of fire”, I found myself awaiting the race with a certain amount of trepidation.
My leg of the race was held in the local park, and I was gratified that the competitors at least represented a wide variety age groups; if not weight categories.
Now, my own build could be described as “Willowy”, if by “Willowy” you mean I weigh as much as a rather large tree. Generally, my competition was somewhat slenderer and more athletic. In fact, I could probably eat the equivalent of their combined body weight in hamburgers in a single sitting. However, as I was lining up next to both eight year old girls and ninety year old men with Zimmer frames, I felt it imperative that I at least attempt to do my country proud.
For the results, let’s turn to the following report from the Japan times:
The Cynical Traveller
One of the difficulties in writing a story about sports day is that I am reluctant to put pictures of my students on the internet. If I do, I’ll end up getting loads of hits for “Japanese schoolgirl sports panties” and that’s really not the sort of traffic I want.
Therefore, in order to protect the identities of my students and retain enough photos to flesh out my story, I have decided to replace all visible students heads with pictures of David Hasselhoff.
So, sports day.
First things first. It is important to note that the Japanese have a slightly different interpretation of what constitutes a sport, than say, you or I.
In Australia, our school sports day revolved around athletics. The 33% percent of students who were into sports participated in a large athletics carnival. Meanwhile the 33% of nerdie kids watched and tried to avoid the attentions of the 33% of chain smoking rebel kids.
Now, the Japanese sports day has a competitive element, no doubt. The first event is even a 100 metre race. However, that is where the similarities end.
Let’s look at one of the events on offer; the bun eating race. The object of this taxing event is to run 25 metres and then eat a bun hanging from a bit of string.
Now, how many of you have ever thought, “I need to get fit. Perhaps chewing a bun will burn some calories!” In terms of physical endurance, skill and strength, running and eating a bun is hardly the height of aerobic exercise.
Indeed, I’ve prepared this simple graph to demonstrate.
Other events include a skipping rally, pushing a wheel with a stick and throwing a mini basketball. Should any of these sports become olympic events, I’m sure Japan would treble its medal tally.
Yet despite this, they still manage to have an excessively pretentious opening and closing ceremony.
Of course, what would a fun family sports day be without public humiliation and pain.
Generally the pain is reserved for the students.
I’m sure you’ve all seen footage of those Japaense gameshows where some poor contestant has his scrotum attached to a 9 volt car battery, while the host parades a series of skimpily clad models in front of him.
Or perhaps an episode where the contestant has to balance a crate of eggs on a unicycle while a midget slaps him with a fish.
Indeed, many people believe that the damning footage of torture recovered from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, was simply the result of the security camera accidentally being crossed with vision from Japanese TV station, NHK.
While the creators of these shows have recently been convicted of second class war crimes, they will be thrilled to know that the torture continues unabated in public schools throughout Japan.
Take the following example. Everyone loves bobbing for apples, right?
That old Halloween staple, where you place a bunch of apples in water and the kids try to grab them with their teeth.
Well, it’s a great concept, with only one serious drawback. There’s very little chance of the kids choking in a debilitating fashion. So, what to do?
How about replace the water with flour and make the apple a tiny piece of candy? Genius!!!!!
So, at Japanese sports day, we are treated to the sight of 50 students covered in flour, choking, wheezing and, occasionally, coughing up blood or bits of lung.
Of course, if the students receive the pain, that leaves the teachers to receive the humiliation. And what better way to experience humiliation than to dress in a ridiculous costume?
Luckily, your humble author managed to avoid most of the unpleasantness by falling asleep in the changing room.
The Cynical Traveller
Being a teacher in Japan sometimes has its advantages. In this case, I was advantaged by the fact that my school’s PE teacher was a professional soccer referee. He gets free tickets to all the games played in Japan. So, he asked me if I would like to watch the world cup qualifier between Japan, and soccer powerhouses India.
Now, I’ll really have to be careful not to drop any spoilers about the result here, because obviously any match involving India is going to be close.
Despite the relative disparity between the teams, I was entertained from the get go, by the fact that the Indian line up contained a man called, without a word of a lie, Climax Lawrence.
The game was being held at Saitama super stadium. This stadium was purpose built for the 2002 World Cup and has never been full since.
Being a world cup qualifier, quite a few people turned up for this match, but I’ve been here for local games where you can see tumbleweeds blowing through the stands.
Despite the fact that this game happened a year and a half ago, I will now provide up to the minute commentary on the game.
Hello, and welcome to this World cup qualifier between Japan and India. The match was unfortunately delayed when the wheels fell of the team’s Air India flight, but we’re all ready to go now.
The Japan players are on the field, warming up. They looked very relaxed. Indeed, Inamoto is having a smoke and chatting up a couple of girls in the crowd. And… yes, yes, YES! He’s scored!
Obviously football is not as big in India as in other countries, but they’re expecting good things from this team.
Ok, here come the Indian team. And… oh dear, they’re wearing cricket pads. The referee is going over to speak to them. The captain looks confused. He’s miming a few cut shots while the referee shakes his head.
They finally seem to grasp the concept and the players return up the race. While we wait, it might be a good time to update you on the history of these teams. They’ve played 45 times for a result of 44 wins to Japan, and one 0-0 draw when the game in Delhi was cancelled after the Japan team boarded the wrong plane and the Indian team were forced to play out 90 minutes with no opposition.
Ok, the Indian team are back out and play’s about to start.
1 – Near miss – Inamoto breaks through play, and passes to Suzuki who shoots just wide. The Indian keeper, Mukherjee, is wearing a look of terrified surprise on his face.
3 – GOAL – Kubo pirouettes around the defence, stops to tie his shoelaces, and hammers the ball into the top right of the net.
1-0 to Japan
8 - Crowd getting restless here as Japan have gone 28 seconds without a shot on goal.
13 – GOAL – Indian player, Ancheri, manages to hammer a shot into the back of the net. The Indian team engages in raucous celebrations, despite the fact that it was his own net.
2 – 0 to Japan
16 – Yellow Card – Indian player Naik receives a strong warning for taunting Nakamura with the “Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, What are these?” rhyme.
23 – GOAL – Nakamura dribbles a shot straight to the keeper who lets it slip through his fingers and into the net.
Dear me! I’ve seen muppets with stronger arms than that!
3 – 0 to Japan
32 – CORNER – The Indian team have earned a corner, however Singh, who seems to be struggling with the concept of a square field, has put the ball 14 rows back into the crowd. Indian captain, Bhutia, is asking for 6 runs.
40 – GOAL – Suzuki is brought down in a slide tackle and is screaming and clutching his leg. The trainer puts a sponge on it and he miraculously recovers from what must have been several compound fractures and a broken vertebrae, to unleash a 80 MPH shot on goal.
45 – 2 minutes extra time – India have moved all 11 men into defence and captain Bhutia is calling for the twelfth man.
47 – HALF TIME – Inamoto’s mum brings out some orange halves for the players.
55 – GOAL – Nakazawa flies high over the field to header Suzuki’s corner past the keeper.
Amazing leap! He must have risen to nearly 6 feet high there!
5-0 to Japan
63 – Red card – Biswas receives the maximum penalty after giving Kubo a nipple cripple behind play.
74 – GOAL and substitution– Inamoto leaves the Indian team squabbling with the referee to post his first and Japan’s sixth.
India really have to concentrate here and the manager brings out Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to restore some tranquillity.
Japan 6 – 0
77 – Near Miss – Indian player, Mandal, manages to hit the post from close range. Unfortunately, the ball was 20 metres away at the time. The trainers come onto the ground to treat him for concussion.
81 – Substitution – India replace fullback Bisht with a cardboard cut-out of Bollywood actor, Saif Ali Khan.
83 – GOAL – Ogasawa takes a shot from long range. I’ll leave you to guess the result.
Japan 7 – 0
90 – 5 Minutes extra time – Captain Bhutia is asking the referee if he can take bad light. The referee takes pity on them and agrees.
Final Score – India 0 – 7 Japan
Thanks for joining us for our coverage and stay cynical,
The Cynical Traveller
Kabuki is one of those quintessential Japanese arts. It is an artform steeped in tradition and it has a long and glorious history. Which is rather a shame really, as it is so boring.
For those of you unfamiliar with kabuki, it is basically a traditional Japanese play. All the parts are played by men and the actors wear white makeup. Just why they wear white makeup is something of a mystery. There are several theories, but the main one is that it’s so the crowd can’t recognise them afterwards and beat the hell out of them.
Indeed, during the performance, it is accepted for the crowd to shout out to the performers. Fortunately, they are somewhat more civilised than in Australia, and thus there are no cries of “Saito’s a wanker” for the actors to deal with.
In order to heighten the sense of culture you’ll receive from reading about Kabuki, I have decided to write this week’s entry entirely in Haiku.
My trip to Kabuki
I wake up very early
Today is the kabuki
I don’t want to go
Today the play is
Something about samurai
But then, aren’t they all?
At the theatre I
Have to buy an English tape
Five hundred yen gone
The lights are dimming
Our seats are in the middle
The curtain raises
Men with white faces
Screeching in high pitched voices
Just shut the hell up
What the hell is going on?
This tape is useless
“Blah blah samurai”
“Blah blah restore my honour”
“Blah blah secret plan”
Walking through the wood
He meets an old man sitting
Tape says, “he’s a lord”
They just keep talking
Isn’t he a samurai?
Don’t they ever fight?
A brief break from the boredom
All escapes are blocked
Back in the theatre
We’re told there was a battle
It was in the break!
I can’t believe it
The one cool thing to happen
We don’t get to see
Some guy keeps shouting
Encouraging the actors
I’d rather throw fruit
I’m falling asleep
Will this thing ever finish?
Can I go home now?
Ninety minutes in
It’s like a form of torture
My brain has shut down
Finally it’s over
“And what was it like?” you ask
It was utterly…
Damn, I’ve run out of syllables.
In keeping with tradition however, I’d like to invite you all to only comment in haiku.
The cynical traveller
(Oh, and there will be a Peru update appearing on my main site sometime in the next couple of weeks.)
I’ve always found the concept of Renaissance fairs in America strange at best. There’s something wrong with the whole idea of middle aged bankers walking around in aluminium siding and saying things like “Have at ye foul knave”.
However, when the opportunity to take part in the Japanese equivalent arose, I jumped at it.
Yorii is a small town some 80km north of Tokyo. It’s so small, the majority of people living in Tokyo are unaware of its existence. Indeed, a surprisingly high number of people living in Yorii are unaware of its existence as well.
However, once a year Yorii hosts the wonderful Hojo festival. Being Yorii’s resident Gaijin, I was invited to take part. Not only that, but I was to become a Daimyo.
The Hojos were one of the famous clans in Japan during the turbulent sengoku jidai period. In one decisive battle, they rowed up the Arakawa river and lay siege to Yorii’s Hachigata castle, completely destroying it. So, every year the people of Yorii recreate their glorious defeat.
The day starts early as a few hundred people, including myself, get changed into samurai gear in the town gymnasium.
In the modern day equivalent of clans, each samurai team is sponsored by a company and has the company’s flag. So, we represented the City Hall, while we marched behind the post office’s warriors.
Now I’m sure many of you think that this sounds pretty cool. Well in response, I now present ten reasons why it sucks to be a samurai.
1. The shoes - Forget your Nike airs. Samaurai shoes are made from woven hessian, rather like an old door mat. They are bound to your feet with hessian ropes, so they rub like a bastard in between your big and second toes. I also understand that chiropetory was an imprecise science in feudal Japan.
Added to the uncomfortable nature, when it rains (as it did yesterday), these shoes have a life expectancy of around 3.7 seconds. I would have no problems finding my way home because I left a Hansle and Gretle style trail of hessian, from the moment I stepped outside.
2. The armour - That stuff gets heavy. It looks ok and feels ok when you fist put it on. After about an hour it’s the equivalent of carrying say, the new volkswagon beetle on your shoulders.
3. The walking - As anyone who has been to Japan will know, the whole bloody country is made of hills. Add this to the shoe and armour factor and you’re in for a whole lot of fun.
4. The Daimyo – Ok, so you’re a samurai. Your honour is totally dependent on serving your fuedal lord or Daimyo. If he is dead you are Ronin and without honour.
The thing is, when you are pouring your lifeblood on the ground, this guy gets to sit on a horse and watch the whole thing. Doesn’t lift a finger to help. Bloody bastard!
5. The whole suicide thing – When you first put your armour on, you will notice there is a conspicuous area around the stomach where there is no protection. ‘Nuff said.
6. The flag – Each suit of armour has a holder on the back where you can put a flag. This will display your house emblem so enemy archers can single you out easier. The great thing about the flag is that it sticks up behind you and gets caught on every tree you pass. Additionally, when you talk to your Samurai buddy, who also has a flag, the two will become entangled and take you five minutes to separate.
7. The sword – Sure they look cool and they were supposed to be the best in the world, but they can be a real pain in the arse. Damn thing keeps getting caught on stuff when you are walking. You can’t sit down without taking it out of your belt. Because it’s curved, it only goes in the scabbard one way and it’s too long to draw out in one go unless you practice for 10 years. I found my self more likely to cut my own nose off that to attack an enemy.
8. The speeches – Dunno if this is part of a real samurai’s life, but it really sucks having to stand and look noble while 20 middle aged men make long, pompous, boring speeches.
9. The language – You’d have to know Japanese to be a real samurai and that could take ages!
10. Those bloody villagers - So, after you and your six buddies save the village, the bastards go off and have a bloody rice planting festival and completely ignore you. Added to that, you don’t even get the girl! Ingrates!
Until next time stay cynical,
The Cynical Traveller
Of all the things I thought I’d never go to in Japan, a J-pop concert would have been quite high on the list. In fact, I have a list of things I’d rather do with my time, but unfortunately my web provider only has 2 gig of storage space. Suffice to say that “attending a J-pop concert” falls somewhere between “running naked through an abattoir” and “watching an ‘I love Lucy’ marathon”.
However, I received a desperate request from one of my friends. He was being dragged to a J-pop concert by his girlfriend and needed someone to pick on it with.
Obviously, when he was trying to think of someone cynical, my name sprang to mind.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t smart enough to take my camera, so all today’s pictures are examples of J-pop covers. For example:
The concert was in an outside ampitheatre in Ueno Park. Now, normally Ueno park is a favourite hangout for homeless people in Tokyo, yet on this day it was eerily empty. It kind of reminded me of those disaster movies, where the animals can sense the oncoming horror, and desert the area.
The “band” we watched were called Clannbonn, or Kuranbon, or possible Crampon. Strangely enough I don’t have one of their CDs to reference, nor do I have any intention of buying one.
The “Clan”, as their deranged fans probably call them, consisted of a female singer/keyboardist, a bassist and a drummer. The “concert” consisted of squeaky vocals at high decibels.
There was one saving grace however. As we entered the arena, we were each given a fun sized party bag. For the next two and a half hours, this bag was the only thing that saved my sanity.
Each bag contained:
• Promotional flyers for the band’s album (i.e. a warning on what to avoid)
• A pack of tissues (for stuffing in your ears)
• A small tub of detergent (for rubbing in your eyes as penitence for attending)
• A bubble blower (just so the band isn’t the only thing that blows)
• A plastic clapper (presumably for people going to a decent event afterwards)
It really is amazing how interesting a humdrum activity like blowing bubbles can become when faced with the alternative of actually listening. For the next 2 hours, my friend and I continually produced massive bubbles, with the aim of landing them in the sound equipment and hopefully shorting it out.
Of course, you’re not a real band in Japan unless one of your songs has appeared in a commercial. The biggest bands get to advertise cars and electronic equipment. I’m not sure what Clannbonn’s song advertised, but judging from the standard of the music on offer, it was probably hemorrhoid cream or something.
Thinking things couldn’t get much worse, I was once again proved wrong.
I want you to think of the most annoying tunes you possibly can. Now think of those same tunes being played through a mobile phone speaker. It suddenly got a lot worse, didn’t it?
Well, in a truly Japanese moment, Clannbonn invited the crowd to call a number and their mobile phones played along with the music.
This proved too much for me, and I was forced to produce my i-pod in an attempt to placate my ears. Let me tell you, I did not sleep well that night.
As always, stay cynical.
The Cynical Traveller
Computer games shows are the geek equivalent of gay pride parades. For one day of the year, the Star Trek fan can leave his mother’s house, pull on his spandex uniform and be someone.
I’ll confess. I’m something of a nerd. I’m not a trekkie but I am into computers and computer games. Of course, in today’s computer dominated society, being a nerd provides a much higher status than it previously afforded, and it is no longer a sufficient cause for an atomic wedgie.
A regular wedgie will do fine.
However there’s nerds and then there’s NERDS. And then, in Japan, there’s ÜBERNERDS!
Honestly, in a country where the majority of young adults still live with their parents, you really need to do something special to separate yourself for true geekdome.
We’re going past the Star Trek fan who speaks Klingon here. We’ve even progressed beyond the makers of Star Wars fan films. These people make Bill Gates look like the Fonz.
The wonderful thing about the gameshow, is that the manufacturers know their target audience are 45 year old virgins and market their games accordingly. Skimpily dressed young ladies abound within the confines of a neon warehouse. They are the subjects of countless photographs, to be taken, filed and masturbated over at a later date.
Then there’s the cosplayers (costume play). There seems to be a prevailing fascination in Japan with looking like something you’re not. Literally hundreds of people had come as their favourite game and animation characters.
My favourite sight of the whole show came in the cosplay area. A young lady had foregone the difficulty of dressing up as an exact replica of a character and had simply turned up as the generic “girl in an orange bikini”. Needless to say, she was one of the most photographed people on display.
However, I had to laugh when a particularly nerdy looking chap asked her to bend over, lean against the window and spread her legs while he took photos of her arse. Astoundingly she did it! I really wanted to take a picture of him taking a picture of her, but I was scared somebody would take a picture of me and I would run out of syntax.
Of course, somewhere in all this there were a few games on display as well, but I was having far too much fun people watching. Highly recommended, but not for the faint of heart.
The Cynical Traveller
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