Archive | November, 2012

Famous Japanese

27 Nov

People around the world can name American presidents, American movie actors, American pop music artists, American companies, and American fictional characters.

They’re world famous.

It’s been that way for at least a few generations now.

But before I came to Japan, there was no internet back then and Japanese food and pop culture wasn’t popular around the world like it’s become in recent years.
Back then, I wouldn’t have been able to name a single Japanese prime minister.
The only Japanese actor I knew back then was Pat Morita (from “Karate Kid“)…and he was actually a Japanese-American.
The only Japanese musicians I knew were Yoko Ono and the Japanese heavy metal band Loudness.
Of course, I would have been able to name a number of Japanese companies such as Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, Honda, etc.
As for Japanese fictional characters, I knew Ultraman and Godzilla.

I’ve now been living in Japan for most of my life…so, I probably know more about Japan than I know about America anymore.

How about you? How familiar are you with Japan and Japanese culture?

What famous Japanese people do you know?
Japanese characters?
How about Japanese food / dishes?
Actors / actresses?
Bands / musicians?
How about Japanese words?
Japanese cities?
Or any other things you know about Japan?

Unusual pizza coupons

21 Nov

In America, does Domino’s Pizza have funny or unusual coupons?

Or is it another “only-in-Japan” thing?

Because, once again, Domino’s Japan is offering 25% off specials to customers that fit some crazy stipulations.

Some of the funny new Domino’s Japan coupons.

For example, customers in Japan can get 25% off their pizza order if the pizza delivery person sees that they:

– have facial hair (a beard and/or a mustache),
– have “piggy tails“,
– have a last name with four Japanese kanji characters (very few Japanese people have such a long name),
– have a twin sibling,
– are wearing  glamorous clothes,
– are in the eleventh grade (high school ID required),
– have a pet parakeet,
– are wearing a “dorky” T-shirt,
speak with an accent from another area of Japan (than the one they’re currently in), or
– show a receipt that proves they’ve already ordered a Domino’s pizza earlier that same day.

Coupons can’t be combined in one order…but if someone meets all of the above stipulations, they can get 50% off of their order (the odds of such a person existing are probably extremely slim though).

Interview with Bryan Maine

19 Nov

Recently I was contacted by a young man from Canada named Bryan Maine.

He has been to Japan twice and has written the book about his experiences on the most recent trip.

It seems that he met a Japanese girl at his university in Canada when he was nineteen.
They began to date and he “fell head-over-heels” for her.

The following summer, the girl returned to her home in Japan and, though they had only been dating for a short time, Bryan sold his car in order to buy an airplane ticket and follow her to Japan.

Things didn’t turn out the way he expected. He made a number of cultural gaffes by doing things that might seem insignificant to a Westerner.

Bryan Maine asked me if I would do an interview with him about his book and his experiences in Japan, so I sent him ten questions.

Here are my questions (in red) and his replies (in black bold):

1.  Could you give us a short self-introduction?

I am currently living in Vancouver Canada where I have spent the last year performing comedy and writing my book “Grasping at Self Worth“. 

Prior to moving, I lived on Vancouver Island.  A beautiful place with lots of wild life and nature.  It was nice there but I am definitely a city guy.

In high school I was an exchange student for four months and lived in a small town name Oyama at the base of Mt.Fuji.   I came back much more confident in myself and enjoyed the experience.

The second time I went to Japan for two months.  I stayed in Tokyo and came back completely broken.

I feel a strong pull bringing me back to the country every couple of years and am craving a trip back as soon as possible.

I wrote a book about my experiences in Tokyo and am currently raising funds till December 9th for funding and publishing. Check it out.

The cover of Bryan Maine’s book “Grasping at Self Worth”.

2.  Did you study the Japanese language?  How well can you speak Japanese?

I studied Japanese in high school before going to Japan as an exchange student.  I attempted to take it again during my first year of college but accidentally enrolled in the second year course and couldn’t stay in.

 After returning from Japan for the summer, I attempted to take the second year class again and this time the teacher let me in.

I can speak Japanese very well; understanding around 80% of any given conversation.  My problem is with spelling when attempting to write.

3.  What made get interested in Japan?

The aspect of Japanese life that I find most interesting is how honour has been imprinted into their history.  The idea of a person being driven by their own sense of honour is very appealing to me.  I also really enjoy the sense of community that Japan maintains in a way I feel western culture has lost.

4.  You’ve been to Japan twice, haven’t you?  When were you here and for how long each time?

Yes,  the first time I came to Japan I stayed in Shizuoka Prefecture for four months at age sixteen.

The second time I stayed in Tokyo for two months when I was twenty.

5.  What are some examples of culture shock you experienced when you came to Japan?

Going to an onsen (hot spring) for the first time was very nerve racking.  I was sixteen and our high school went on a school trip to Nagasaki.

To conserve water the students all had to bath in the onsen which blew my mind.

In Canada we have more than enough water so being in a country that actively thinks about its water consumption was strange. 

The first time I walked in, everyone stopped what they were doing to fill their curiosity about what a naked white guy might look like but then surprised me how quickly no one cared about the fact we were all naked and was able to relax.  The comfort attached to being naked in public opened my eyes a lot to the idea of being comfortable in my own skin.

6.  What made you decide to write a book about your experiences in Japan?

I came back completely broken and attempted to write the book six years ago.  It was awful.  My mind was all over the place and I couldn’t look at what had happened objectively.  

A couple years passed and I became alright putting the experience behind me.  I had almost put it entirely in my past when the earthquake hit Japan and I saw the footage of the tsunami on the news.  I was working an office job and we were all watching the TV at work.

As I watched the footage, not knowing any details and only seeing as houses so similar to that of my friends were consumed by water I began to cry and worry about the people I had known.  It was at this moment I realized that even though I don’t think about it as much, Japan and my experiences their are a strong part of who I am.

 I decided to attempt to write the book again. Even though I am frustrated with how much of a big pansy I come off in it, it is true to who I was at the time. 

7.  If your relationship with your ex-girlfriend and her family had gone better, what do you think you’d be doing now?  Would you be living in Japan?

This is a question that I have no real answer to.

I do know I loved her very much but feel since she was the first girl I really loved that I probably was too immature and idealistic to have it be a relationship I would still be in today, six years later.

I think we would have broken up still but much later and on much more pleasant terms.  Both leaving stronger people than we went in.

I think I would still be living in Canada at this point but do dream of the day that I can come and go between the two countries freely as both have aspects that I enjoy in life.

8.  In hindsight, what do you think you’d do differently if you could go back to that summer in 2006?

I would maintain my own sense of worth.

Looking back I think, we should have broken up at “this point”, and “this point”, and definitely “this point”.  I should have had lines that I was not willing to cross for anyone, and no one should expect me to.  Because of my youth I believed that if I just keep trying then everything would work out.

Now I understand that some things, like self respect, should never be sacrificed.

9.  What advice would you give to people starting an international dating relationship?

Recognize that they have the potential to be much more fulfilling that dating someone who is just like you. 

An international relationship will give you access to perspectives and ideas that you wouldn’t be able to acquire on your own.  They also have added hardships on varying degrees. Recognize they exist and insist on maintaining a healthy mutual respect for one another.

I believe that respect is just as important as love,  how can someone give you one without the other.

10.  Any message for my blog’s readers?

The articles (on this blog) are crisp and well written.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading them and look forward to being apart of it all.

Japan is an amazing country but as an outsider can be very lonely at times. 

Different people have different experiences and as long as you are confident in who you are, your experiences will come out more valuable than you went in.

I hope you have enjoyed this interview and please check out the link and help the book reach the funding goal.

Last Saturday and today…

13 Nov

Do you know the story about Hachiko ?

I wrote a post about that faithful dog…click here to read it.

I know that there is an event every year on April 9th in 渋谷 (Shibuya, Tokyo) in honor of Hachiko. That date was chosen because it’s the anniversary of the day the famous statue of the dog was erected near the train station where Hachiko patiently waited everyday for his master to return home…even after his master died.

I didn’t know, until I saw the Google logo on Saturday (November 10, 2012) that Hachiko was born on November tenth.

Google’s logo for Hachiko’s birthday (Nov 10).

I probably wouldn’t have even mentioned it…except for the fact that my birthday is also November 10th.


Today (November 13th) is “World Kindness Day“.

This is an event every year on November 13th to remind us to try to do something kind for others. Even a kind word.

I wrote about this day before. Click here to read my post that explains a bit of the history of this event…it started in Japan.

I like to read stories about people being kind rather than the usual unhappy stories that are always in the news.

Have you heard any uplifting stories about someone being kind? Tell about it in the comments!

A million and a half

6 Nov

Today my blog has reached one-and-a-half million (1,500,000) visitors.

It gets an average of 1,400 visitors a day. (On my blog’s busiest day, it got over 10,000 hits!)

I appreciate everyone who visits my blog…especially if you leave a comment! The interaction is what makes blogging enjoyable…so, by all means, leave a comment often!

Just how big of a number is 1.5 million?

Well…1.5 million days, for example, is about 4,109 years!

Here’s an idea of what a crowd of 1.5 million people looks like:

There are an estimated 1.5 million people in this crowd of protestors (according to “Google Image” search).

Please answer my survey and let me know how often you visit my blog:



3 Nov

First of all, today is November 3rd…the Japanese holiday 「文化の日」(“Culture Day”).
If you went to the 浅草 (Asakusa) area of Tokyo today, you would have seen the interesting 「東京時代祭り」(“Tokyo-Era Festival”).

I’ve been to that festival a couple of times before. Click here to see the photos and videos I took of it in 2008.

Anyways, I found out yesterday that the godfathers of heavy metal, Black Sabbath will come to Japan in May 2013!

Ozzy Osbourne will bring his metal festival “OzzFest” to Japan for the first time!

Click here to visit the official OzzFest Japan website.

On Saturday, May 11th 2013, Slipknot will headline.
On Sunday, May 12th 2013, Black Sabbath will headline.

The venue will be the Makuhari Messe not far from Tokyo.

Japanese artist + British band = great video

2 Nov

There is a Japanese artist / comedian who goes by the stage name “Tekken“.

He’s quite easy to recognize on TV since he wears black and white face paint and has a goofy hairstyle.

It says 「金」 (“gold”) on his forehead.

He is an excellent artist and he’s especially known for his amazing flip-animation stories. He draws hundreds…sometimes even thousands of pictures in a sketchbook, and flips them causing them to “move” like a TV cartoon.

Well, his flip-animation story (movie) titled 「振り子」 (“Pendulum”) has become the official music video for a song by a British pop band called “Muse“.

I’ve never heard of that band before but I have seen Tekken and his work on TV here in Japan many times.

You should watch the video. It’s very good…a bit of a “tear-jerker”. It shows a teenage couple falling in love, getting married, having a child, a growing old together. Not all of their days are happy…and near the end of their lives the husband regrets mistakes he’s made.

It’s here: