madness in the metropolis 

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Onion: Hijackers Surprised to Find Selves in Hell

The Onion - finally they weigh in. Worth the wait.

Posted by chris at 03:08 AM | Permalink

13 Questions for Bush

13 Questions for Bush about America's Anti-terrorism Crusade. (via

Posted by chris at 01:56 AM | Permalink

White American trance kiddies

Nyeeeearrrrrrgh shneeeeerrch mmmmnyah nyah nyah.

Morning all. Hmm, 2:15pm - time to try and find some breakfast.

Went to the Liquid Room last night to see Satoshi Tomiie, a Japanese house / techno DJ. Nice deep house - very similar to how I remember Deep Dish sounding when we saw them last year (but not this year). No hangover, no pulled muscles - success.

Weirdest thing was the sheer number of trance kiddies there - massive pants, fluorescent chains, basketball vests, women's golf visors. Not dancing, though. Doing their frigging glowsticks in he lounge area, getting in people's way. On the actual dancefloor itself, one particular guy just stood stock still in the middle of the throng, like he was waiting for it to turn into a Paul van Dyk set - an oak tree in the midst of a couple of hundred bopping, grooving figures. Fair enough, maybe he was enjoying it... but I think not. A friend of his strode up to him, similarly attired, looking serious and shaking his head, and yelled something in his ear, obviously conveying some kind of bleak situation report from another part of the dance floor ("It's no good, man, it's too damn housy five meters that way, too! How are we expected to dance to this shit, man?") before striding off to the lounge. Oak nodded glumly but stayed put, perhaps swaying a bit. White American trance kiddies - you get my vote for least funky people on the planet.

Right, the afternoon's getting on and I've got a date with a hoagie, a newspaper, some greenery and a two-wheeled fun machine. Laters.

Posted by chris at 02:41 PM | Permalink

It's all happening at the zoo

Looking forward to this weekend... the weather's been great for the last week or so; warm sunny days, cloudless blue skies, and none of the humidity of the past few months. Just beautiful. At least, I assume it's beautiful - I'm stuck in a freaking windowless cell all day at work, so I really can't tell. At least I can flee outside to the fire escape quite easily... maybe I should have requested a laptop after all...

If the weather's anything like last weekend, I'm doing exactly what I did last Sunday: cycle to Yoyogi Park, pick up a subway sandwich along the way, and loaf around reading the papers in the sun. I bought a new mountain bike a couple of weeks ago, and I'm pretty seriously in love with it already. The park's only about 20 minutes away now - and it's 20 *fun* minutes. Last weekend there was so much going on: a juggling convention (a hundred or so people throwing balls, clubs, hoops), some guys doing capoeira by the pond, barbeque parties, tuneless trombone practice, skateboarders, social studies students mapping out pentagrams on the grass - it's all happening at the zoo. The park, I mean the park. Then again, given the proximity of Freak Bridge, maybe that was more accurate after all...

Posted by chris at 06:17 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE mention in the Japan Times

Woo! The Kanji SITE gets a mention in today's Japan Times, an English-language newspaper. This week's Kanji Clinic column surveys cyberspace kanji resources, of which I am one, natch. The site gets the Best Name award as well, actually. Gosh. I can feel it all going to my head already - though that might just be due to the fumes from our copious bug spray antics earlier today.

Posted by chris at 05:48 PM | Permalink

New York pictures added to gallery

Pictures from my trip to Noo Yoik back in July are now up, in the gallery (sadly without Tony Hart).

That last reference probably didn't mean much to some of you. Let's keep it that way, eh?

Posted by chris at 02:18 AM | Permalink

Has anyone got any salmon?

Dan has pointed out a previously unnoticed drugular reference in the New Order lyrics below: "This E was very rough". Hmm. Followed by talk of hits and not being able to get enough, being alive vs. just surviving... hmmm. Ebeneezer Goode clearly has a lot to answer for.

So, Mancunian pop-rockers in pro-drugs shocker - never seen *that* before, have we?

Posted by chris at 02:10 AM | Permalink

I have to push the pram a lot

Oh, yes, yes, absolutely. Spot on. If you thought the Lego Star Wars figures were great, I reckon this will be right up your alley. Pick a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and re-enact it with.... you can see where this is going, can't you? Das ist fantastisch. (via

Posted by chris at 05:40 PM | Permalink

It beats arithmetic

Slow Jam by New Order:

The sea was very rough
It made me feel sick
But I like that kind of stuff
It beats arithmetic

I don't want the world to change
I like the way it is
Just give me one more wish
I can't get enough of this

What it is to be alive
And not just to survive
To hit and not to miss
I can't get enough of this

Posted by chris at 06:34 PM | Permalink

Fingernails that shine like justice

Still making my way through Saturday's purchases - Tower Records had a sale on, and I went a bit crazy - some new stuff, some patching of MP3- and tape-shaped holes in my collection. Napster's all well and good, but you can't physically lick an MP3 like you can a CD. Ahem.

Technically I already owned The Green Album, but this copy seemed to have a different track listing from my existing copy - it turns out all this time I'd been listening to the US version. D' and, indeed, oh - problem now solved.

Posted by chris at 12:57 AM | Permalink

Gallery update

Okay, a few photographs added to the gallery section: some of the first shots taken with my digital camera, and snaps from a typical Saturday night out in Tokyo. New York photos coming soon.

Posted by chris at 07:41 PM | Permalink

Well that ain't right

Well that ain't right.

Plan for last night: go to Tim and Sarah's leaving do at the Dubliners in Shinjuku, get slightly tipsy, rock home about midnight, blog extensively about my excellent weekend and take care of some Kanji SITE admin, retire to bed happy.

Actuality: go to Tim and Sarah's leaving do, develop nagging stomach cramps, move on to iizakaya, be unable to eat anything, feel really rather sick, start shivering, take taxi home, go to bed fully clothed at 24:30, have totally bizarre, restless dreams and wake up feeling better but still kind of icky at 1pm the next day.


Posted by chris at 06:23 PM | Permalink

"It's really hard to say"

Heh heh heh - Kristen quizzes AIM's SmarterChild about the recent terrorist attacks...

Posted by chris at 10:29 PM | Permalink

Please turn off your cellphones for the duration of today's feature

Note: The following post first appeared on [?]. Reproduced here in full but without original comments.

I know it's been said to death but admit it: you couldn't help but reference the events of last week via special effect-laden movies such as Die Hard or The Siege, could you? It's hardly surprising, really - after all, how often do we see this kind of thing in real life? Hardly bloody ever, thank god.

I suppose that one danger with subconciously registering this spectacular as the opening scene of a billion-dollar blockbuster is that we've come to expect happy endings by the time we get to the bottom of our popcorn buckets. Easily-defined enemies, a daring plan, snappy dialogue, gung-ho heroics and possibly a bit of personal sacrifice on the way to a climactic retribution, soot-blackened faces, a satisfying resolution and the closing theme music.

Bush is certainly working on the first three, but how far will we get with the remaining plot devices? Is this going to be a Bruckheimer, a Spielberg or a Malick?

But anyway. The reason I brought you all here tonight was to point you towards this excellent New Yorker article, from a film critic's perspective. Touching and genuine, the first piece I've read that adresses the undeniable cinematic angle so eloquently, while rooting the tragedy very firmly in the real world, where it undeniably belongs. (via, as always)

Then you might go and watch this and this. And then this, I suppose, if you really must; just don't be surprised if things don't turn out quite that way.

Posted by chris at 07:28 PM | Permalink

You absolutely have to check out Homestar Runner. Probably the best, most fully realised set of Flash characters and cartoons I've ever seen. Some reasons why it rocks:

Free up an afternoon and get over there or I'll set Strong Bad on you. Holy crrrrrrap! (via Misuba on Fictionsuits)

Posted by chris at 05:54 PM | Permalink

Mid-Tokyo update

Mid-Tokyo Maps updated again; this edition's offering is a Flash timeline charting Tokyo's history. It uses period photos, artwork and maps of Tokyo (and some of London and New York for comparison) to illustrate how modern Tokyo grew out of pre-Meiji Restoration Edo. If you haven't been to the site before, then you should also check out their extensive archives, addressing various aspects of urbanology.

Mmmm, urbanology.

Posted by chris at 04:04 PM | Permalink

Kanji SITE redesign

This is turning into a bad week.

The Kanji SITE is down at the moment, but should be back on-line shortly. I've been having more problems with my hosting company (no surprises there) and so I'm in the process of switching hosts. The good news is that most of the bugs in the redesigned version of the site have been ironed out, so I'm relaunching with the new version. Cue the rolling back of the swimming pool on my sercret island hideaway and commence the launch sequence...

But first we have to wait for the DNS to sort themselves out. Ah well.

Posted by chris at 10:52 AM | Permalink

Wired magazine: Japan-tech special

Cappuccino, BLT for breakfast at my desk. Bleary eyed, tired, systems at 70% functionality and rising slowly. Database normalization and Web site plumbing. Welcome back to Monday morning.

A shot in the arm for anyone similarly affected: the Japan-tech special edition of Wired that I mentioned a while back has come on line; of particular note is a cool piece by William Gibson giving us his take on Tokyo's futurama. Go read it while I check out cnn on my i-mode cellphone.

Posted by chris at 12:43 PM | Permalink

Blue notes

I really needed last night: an out-of-the-blue trip to Blue, appropriately enough, in Minami-Aoyama. It's a great little club, although I always have reservations about the music on a Saturday. It's generally just plain odd - drum'n'bass for five minutes, then suddenly a bit of salsa, then jazz, then drum'n'bass again, then acid jazz, then eighties power-chord rock. Nice enough for background listening, perhaps, but hardly easy to dance to - though at least if you don't like it you can wait five minutes and be pretty sure it'll have changed. It is, essentially, a club for people who don't go clubbing; compared to most of the crowd on the dancefloor, I actually resemble far less of a badly coordinated crash-test dummy than usual - everything's relative, after all.

Still, last night the DJs surprised me. It was, indeed, mainly a bizarre mix of jazzy trumpets, LTJ Bukem-style, mellow drum'n'bass and plodding Bon Jovi-esque drum lines, but thankfully they couldn't keep it up for long and went instead for a couple of extended periods of drum'n'bass and even (gasp) techno near the end of the night. UFO playing straight-ahead techno? What's the world coming to? Well, whatever it is, I hope it happens quickly.

We met a few JET teachers from Saitama, the prefecture just north of Tokyo where I used to live and work; one of them was, in yet another coincidence of earth-shattering proportions, from Harrow, and worked in Watford (my "home town", for want of a better phrase). We went for breakfast with them afterwards, and they seem like a genuinely nice bunch of people, so hopefully we'll meet up for some more clubbing in the near future.

If it sounds like a bland night, devoid of racy encounters and lacking watermelon-smashing in the street or police intervention, then that's because it was. A nice night. Nice club. Nice people. Nice breakfast. And not in the bland, ineffectual sense of the word, either - just, you know... nice. Alright? Good.

Posted by chris at 03:09 AM | Permalink

Japanese media 9/11 analysis

I started writing a post to go here, just a little piece about some of the Japanese media coverage of the week's events, but decided mid-way through that it would fit better over at Fictionsuits. So that's where it is.

Posted by chris at 02:33 AM | Permalink

Not to scale

Note: The following post first appeared on [?]. Reproduced here in full but without original comments.

The Japanese need for context, the desire to have things explained to them in a precise, detailed manner, manifests itself in some odd ways sometimes. Few TV news features, for example, are complete without one of the presenters holding up a little placard bearing some important statistics, which they then have to hold steady as the camera zooms in on it.

It's not that they can't, or don't, use digital graphics, it's just that sometimes they feel the need to make the presentation of this information more personal, more involved; they'd rather hold the viewer's hand and talk them through something, pointing out the salient bits along the way. Hence the subtitles (yes, in Japanese) on every late-night variety show, making sure that no-one misses a single joke, that everyone shares the experience, that no-one is left behind.

I used to think it was odd; now I just think it's Japanese.

All the same, last week's mission on the part of the TV networks to explain the events of Tuesday to the masses left me a little shocked.

One of the networks on Wednesday used an intricate little desktop model of the World Trade Center complete with scale-model 767s on stalks, which they manoevered, by hand, up to the sides of the buildings. The aircraft nudged lamely to a stop and I noticed, with a mixture of approval and despair, that they'd set the heights of the stalks to correspond to the exact heights of the collisions. Christ, why not go the whole hog? If only they'd bothered to make the towers out of paper, they could have had the planes actually ripping into the interiors of the skyscrapers. Thank god, though, that they stopped short of rigging up pyrotechnics, or pushing scale-model people out of the windows of the immolated floors in their quest to elucidate.

Not to be outdone, one of the other networks followed that the next night with seven-foot-tall models of the towers on the studio floor, with the relevant scorched storeys painted black. Fair enough, they were detailing the respective locations of the many Japanese banks located in the building, a number of whom lost staff in the attack, but still - do you really need a walk-through model to accomplish that?

But the piece de resistance was the network which put a female "reporter" (one of the ones that don't do any actual reporting) in a flight training simulator, the kind that are mounted on massive hydraulic jacks (I'm talking about the simulator now, not the reporter), and had her fly a virtual 767 into a building. Twice. She hit the first one okay but fell short of the second one, grunting as she tugged at the controls and then giggling at her own ineptitude as the plane ploughed into the ground. I will admit that I started, briefly, thinking "Oh, that's a good idea", until I was suddenly overtaken by an angry desire to throw the fucking TV out of the fucking window.

Insensitive? Or just another example of cultural differences? Bit of both, I guess. Maybe I'm all wrong, and there's nothing odd in any of this, but I'm sure that kind of reporting would bring immediate outrage back home or in the States. Someone please tell me I'm mistaken, and that Channel 4 News had Jon Snow throwing airfix jumbo jets at a model of the Pentagon?

Posted by chris at 06:47 PM | Permalink

My TV is sitting at a funny angle

My TV is sitting at a funny angle on the table.

I shifted some furniture around last week, realising only after reconfiguring the entire flat that the aerial cable didn't reach from the wall socket to the relocated TV. So I left it un-aerialed, connected instead to my PlayStation - I use the set more for DVDs than actually watching TV these days anyway.

It got hurriedly connected again at 10:15pm on Tuesday evening (9:15am the same day in New York), minutes after Swerd (Jon) messaged me from his flat in the East Village to tell me the world had changed. The aerial is stretched taut over the back of the sofa towards the TV, which I had to slide to the other end of the table and rotate in order to get the back of the set those vital few inches closer to the wall.

And that's how it's been for the last three nights; me at my desk, e-mailing, IMing, reading news feeds and some amazing personal accounts of the disaster, awkwardly craning my neck round every few minutes to catch the unrelenting, horrifying TV footage, making frequent grabs for the remote and my English-Japanese dictionary.

I haven't really felt like posting recently, but you'll be disappointed to hear that I'm starting again. I'm not ready to say how I feel about this quite yet - in any case I doubt it would make for very interesting or profound reading. I think probably the only vaguely interesting angle that I, personally, can bring to bear on the whole affair is by commenting on my perception of events via the Japanese media, so that's what I'll stick to. Just assume that I'm as shocked and dazed as everyone else, and I'll get on with the foreign correspondent stuff.

*After* I've got some sleep, that is.

Posted by chris at 12:26 AM | Permalink

Blog sources

I'm sure there's nothing I can say that hasn't already been said, so I'll leave it to others. Meg at has a good list of relevant voices, to which I would add and

Posted by chris at 03:26 PM | Permalink

Fictionsuits discussion

Metafilter is busy with traffic on the relevant threads, but you can expect running commentary on this over the next 24 hours or more on Fictionsuits as well, seeing as most of the contributors and audience actually live in NY. Metafilter posts mention more hijacked planes and a 747 crashing (shot down?) outside of Pittsburgh. I can see I'm not going to get any sleep tonight, and I'm cursing my barely adequate command of Japanese. Not that the media here seems terribly up to date; I'm getting things on IM way earlier than from the TV.

Posted by chris at 12:21 AM | Permalink

Missile shield? Useless much?

And now, according to my NY source, a car bomb explosion outside the State Department building (since proved to be a false alarm). How many more can we expect? Is this a one-off day, or are we seeing the beginning of an era of terrorism on American soil?

It all throws Bush's plans for a missile defence system into sharp relief, anyway. I'm sure he'll see this as an excuse for a more comprehensive shield, when if anything it chillingly demonstrates the futility of deploying missile-intercept technology against bombs in suitcases or pistols smuggled onto 767s.

Posted by chris at 11:59 PM | Permalink

WTC destroyed

My god. It's a terrible feeling to realise that you're watching history, not just news, being made.

Both towers of the World Trade Center in New York have now collapsed, about an hour after being hit by two aircraft (one each). A third plane crashed into the Pentagon shortly afterwards, and some / all of the planes are thought to have been hijacked. A Palestinian group is claiming responsibility for the attacks (since disproved), and I think we're just seen any chance of a US-brokered peace deal in the Middle East go up in smoke. (I'll retract that last statement. It's way to early to say anything other than "..." and I didn't mean to sound so premature.)

And I really wish there weren't news services referring to this as a "kamikaze" attack; sensationalism, never mind inaccurate sensationalism, is the last thing we need right now.

Posted by chris at 11:39 PM | Permalink

BBC / CNN sites overloaded

Well *that's* no good: both cnn and bbc servers are nonresponsive - flooded by demand, I suppose . Find yourself a TV NOW.

Posted by chris at 10:41 PM | Permalink

WTC attacked

Holy f**king christ - the World Trade Center in NY has just been bombed.... trying to decipher the Japanese news bulletin as I type... more later.

Posted by chris at 10:20 PM | Permalink


It's been crappy weather for the last few days; pissy, noncomittal rain in fits and starts all weekend, and somehow the climate's managed to be uncomfortably humid without being noticably warm. Tokyo's been feeling the leading edge of the latest typhoon (nowhere near as much damage as the last one, thankfully) and it finally hit the capital properly today.

This morning I caught myself doing something I swore I never would: fighting to control an umbrella in the high wind. I hate umbrellas, won't normally use them, but I must have gone soft over the last few months. I battled it into the lee of a doorway, flapped around with it briefly and then just stopped and thought, no pun intended I swear, "blow this". I stuck it under one arm, made sure my trenchcoat was fully buttoned, and strode the remaining two hundred meters to the office through the thick downpour. I got soaked, but I will NOT let myself be humbled by a 200 yen piece of shit plastic parasol. No. It ends here, and it ends now.

The torrential rain carried on all day, until suddenly at about 5:30 I got dragged out onto the fire escape by a colleague to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen in a long time. The storm had passed just like that and the view west across Tokyo, back along the line that the typhoon had travelled, was superb - the sky over the horizon was red and amber, the ranged buildings were varying shades of brown and ochre, and the clouds were tinged orange against a darkening blue sky. Freaking awesome. We jogged up six flights of stairs to the roof and realised we could see Tokyo Tower and the NTT DoCoMo building in Shinjuku, right on the other side of town.

Oh yeah - and Mt. Fuji. Partly hidden thought it was by a nearby apartment block, there's no mistaking it in silhouette: a chuffing great, perfectly symmetrical trapezoid, towering on the horizon and always, always far bigger than you expect it to be. Just awesome.

Posted by chris at 10:19 PM | Permalink

My new office PC arrived

My new office PC arrived today, so I'm spending most of the day restoring backed-up data and reinstalling software. Not exactly thrilling, but hardly stressful either.

Working in a largely Japanese office, with a Japanese personnel department, means that things are often set in stone for inscrutable reasons. The company's policy on purchasing computers, for example, is as follows: it depends on the size of your desk. If you have a big desk, you get a desktop. If you have a small desk, you get a laptop. Remarkably practical on a certain level, granted, but still... Laptops are of one make, and one make only. They are ordered in bulk and take two months to arrive. English-language machines have to be bought from a particular supplier and take even longer. Things are done for you, without consultation. You mention that you need a new PC, are asked to use a Mac in the meantime and hear nothing back until one arrives on your desk three weeks later with the wrong language operating system on it. And so on.

So I was due to be bought a nasty little Toshiba laptop (despite having a huge desk) with, bizarrely, 56MB of memory. (Is this what I think it is? Advertising a machine as having 64MB of memory and 8MB of video memory but actually meaning "64MB including 8MB video memory"? Bastards.) Instead I intervened and pointed out that I really needed a tower system (because of the size of my desk, of course) and Dell were doing English operating systems on certain models... this was met with consternation until I mentioned that the machine would cost 40,000 yen (£230) less than the laptop they had in mind, at which point the sweet self-explanatory logic of economics took over.

The Dell arrived within a week.

Posted by chris at 03:10 PM | Permalink

"Why my wife owned a shotgun, I had no idea."

Cool - madorangefools has blogged this excerpt from The Second Bakery Attack, which is part of Haruki Murakami's collection of short stories, The Elephant Vanishes.

Murakami's one of my favourite authors, and this seems like as good an opportunity as any to command you to read anything of his you can get your hands on, but especially The Wind-up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase, both of which are complex, surreal and marvellous.

Oh - but you might want to avoid Norwegian Wood, as I found it so infuriating that I just wanted to throw it at people. Luckily it's quite a small volume, so no damage was done, but anyway. You're better off reading this interview with the man himself in this week's Metropolis.

Posted by chris at 07:48 AM | Permalink

I'm going to have to call myself, aren't I?

Bollocks - where is it?

The only downside to having a cellphone that only needs recharging once every couple of weeks (if that) is that it becomes much easier to misplace the recharging cradle in the meantime.

Where. The hell. Did I put it?

Posted by chris at 05:23 PM | Permalink

Major changes

Good grief, it's today, isn't it?

My little brother, Andy, (little in the 6ft-something-tall-but-still-3-years-younger sense of the word) starts at Sandhurst today... wow. But... he's only twelve, for christ's sake. I know, I know; he was born in January 1979 which means he ought to be 22 by now, and being three years younger than me, at 25, also points rather strongly at the 22 hypothesis... but even so. I still end up thinking of him as some short-ass with a horrendous bowl cut and thick glasses, not the 185-cm chiselled hunk that he actually is - the bastard.

So, forgive the oblique Status Quo reference but he's in the army now (whoa-a-whoa he's in the army... naaow. - sorry) and I wish him the best of luck with his first few weeks of boot camp, when he won't be allowed any contact with the outside world. Starting a new school, college, job, training course, whatever, is always a bit of an unknown quantity but when the start of the course also signifies the start of such a radically new lifestyle... well, it's going to be a darn sight more interesting than a group of middle managers running around a forest in Wales in bright blue kagoules trying to build a rope bridge across a 3-ft stream as some kind of teamwork exercise, isn't it?

I can only wonder how he feels, and how his instructors are going to want to make him feel by the end of the first day, the first week, and finally the end of the 42-week course. Excited? Cocky? Scared? Serenely confident in his own abilities? Gung-ho? Humble? Patriotic? I can't wait to see his diary, anyway.

Posted by chris at 02:45 PM | Permalink

Rejection Club

Swerd has written an ace piece on rejection, over at Fictionsuits. I'm starting to get excited about the whole group blog thing, now. Looks like it might... just.... work...

Posted by chris at 02:08 PM | Permalink

Onion: God Finally Gives Shout-Out Back To All His Niggaz

God Finally Gives Shout-Out Back To All His Niggaz SOUTH BRONX, NY - The Lord Almighty finally responded to nearly two decades of praise in hip-hop album liner notes Monday, when He gave a shout-out back to all His loyal niggaz.

Posted by chris at 01:01 AM | Permalink

Under construction

Ok - in my quest for Tokyo bars with Web sites, I'm going to add Fai to my links page. But it's only reluctantly, because it's a prime example of a piss-poor failure of a wannabe bilingual Flash site. Areas "under construction", the Japanese text is in a badly defined character set and because it's Flash I can't be clever and change my browser's encoding manually, and there are a bunch of other pissy little things wrong with it. Many missed opportunities.

Which is a shame, as the bar's really nice. I ought to volunteer to sort something out for them, really, and I will - just as soon as someone finds a way to squeeze 48 hours into every single day.

Posted by chris at 11:07 PM | Permalink

Sidebar update

Added a few more long-overdue links to the disperse sidebar: evhead and many of you will have heard of already, is written by Anna Pickard, sister of's Meg and is the distilled genius of Mike Sugarbaker, a fellow Fictionsuit and all-round polymath (is there any other sort, actually?). Mike's gibberish is also worth a look.

I also decided to split the blogs from the tokyo-referency-whatsit-guidebook-resource-thang links; I ought to try coming up with a couple of sub-titles for the two parts of the list now. Thoughts will be had over long island iced teas after work tonight. (Pardon me while I think out loud for a second - note to self: remember to update the links page, and add those photos to the gallery. And re-launch The Kanji SITE. And finish that Fictionsuits post. And put the Fuji Rock Festival write-up online. That is all - dismissed.)

Posted by chris at 04:47 PM | Permalink

Douglas Copeland feature

The Telegraph (no! wait! come back, it's ok, really!) has an interesting feature article on Douglas Coupland at the moment. Among other things, he talks a bit about his time in Japan; I hadn't even realised he used to live here, let alone the role the place played in the genesis of his writing career. Good stuff. (via linkmachinego)

Posted by chris at 04:13 PM | Permalink

The future is superfuture

Superfuturecity is a great resource for disciples of urban street culture; it features New York and Sydney but the main focus is Tokyo, Tokyo, Tokyo. Mapping any one of Tokyo's component mini-centres is a logistical nightmare, but these guys do it admirably well. In particular check out the frenetic clutter of the Harajuku and Shibuya maps, which manage to give a sense of the makeup of the narrow backstreets as effectively as anything I've seen.

Posted by chris at 11:35 AM | Permalink

Why popbitch rules

Ever wanted to make your own tunes using a sampled tourette syndrome-affected chimpanzee? No? You won't be needing this, then. (via popbitch)

Posted by chris at 10:42 AM | Permalink

JLPT application

Thank god for my Japanese teacher and her impeccable sense of timing. Thursday is the deadline for applications for this year's Japanese Language Proficiency Test - a fact of which I had no clue until she telephoned this morning to "remind" me. That's the good news, anyway - I'll be taking the test in December.

The bad news, of course, is that I've spent the last hour or so filling out the frigging forms. My address, in kanji, how many times? I've lost count. Let's see...eight? four of which on the same piece of paper. Thank you very much, Association of International Education, Japan - I would point you towards their Web site but, frankly, it's shit and they're clearly bureaucratic tosspots who couldn't administer a nationwide language examination in a bakery - or something. You get my point.

"bridge" as in "a steady bridge is essential for good cueing technique"Thankfully I've moved since I took the level 3 exam - my previous address involved the kanji for "bridge", which I could never remember how to write correctly. For old times' sake, there it is on the right, the bastard. Doesn't seem so bad now, but I remember it being an absolute pain to reproduce legibly at normal handwriting size.
lit,:"north-new-lodging" Kita-Shinjuku (left) is actually a far less daunting proposition, though I'm sure my stroke order is complete bollocks. The three coffees and two cans of coke probably aren't helping matters either.

Possibly the most pointless part of the form is the part where you have to enter a code number for how many hours of nihongo study you've done. Ever. I've been studying on and off for four years now - was I supposed to be counting? Shit. I guessed at option 06, which is "501-600 hours"; and I hope I'm being totally inaccurate and screwing up their precious statistics.

Sigh. All this hassle for a test I'm going to fail, too. Realistically there's no way I can pass the ni-kyuu ("level 2"); even my kanji, which I normally do well on (>90% on both levels 4 and 3) aren't ready. It's more for the experience than the shiny certificate.

Though it *is* an awfully nice certificate...

Posted by chris at 01:17 AM | Permalink

GT3 lovers of the world, unite

Okay, has anyone else got a webcam and a copy of Gran Turismo 3 they're particularly proud of? As memes go, it's hardly going to set the world alight but you've got to start *somewhere*, haven't you?

Posted by chris at 09:19 PM | Permalink

Possibly not the most challenging game in the world

Possibly not the most challenging interactive shockwave game in the world, but definitely one of the funniest: Poke Alex in the eye: The Game. Be sure to read the legal disclaimer, kids, and don't try this at home.

Actually, yeah, do try it at home. You might get hurt; it could be fun. Oh, I'm going straight to hell for that one. (via

Posted by chris at 12:46 PM | Permalink

Jen-X shout out

Of the various bloggers arranged below and to the right in serried glory, a special mention must go out to Jen of Jen-X, who it turns out is a fellow Japanophile, even to the extent of getting herself born in the country. I mean, I like it a lot myself but wow - *that's* dedicated. She has a great blog, so "access shite kudasai", gang.

Posted by chris at 11:55 PM | Permalink

Niceties of corporate blandness

I'm bemused by rather than chuffed at my rather flukey score on this brand-awareness quiz - 9 out of 10. Clearly I am a marketing department's dream, finely attuned to the niceties of corporate blandness. (via lukelog)

All this, despite the fact that my desk, chair, washing machine, hoover, all my stationery and a good part of my wardrobe are all Mujirushiryohin - mercifully shortened to Muji in the UK. Hmmm. Imagine Habitat being called just "Habi"; I suppose Ikea could become "Ik", but would have developed (into) BO?

Posted by chris at 11:33 PM | Permalink

How to act convincingly

How to act convincingly, from the zefrank site again, is even funnier than the dancing guide. Favourites: "endorsement" and "distaste".

Posted by chris at 12:54 PM | Permalink

How to dance properly

Oh, good - I remember finding this how to dance properly site a while back and mailing it straight to Nigel, but I don't think I blogged it. Silly me, for 'tis hilarious. Who's your daddy? (happily rediscovered via

Posted by chris at 12:07 PM | Permalink

Ifs, but no buts

So, yes, Friday. The evening was a perfect example of serendipity, beginning as it did with a coincidence so massive that it felt as if Tokyo was playing an impossible card trick on me.

The chain of coincidences runs something like this: if my PC hadn't died on Friday morning (massive and seemingly irrecoverable hard drive failure), and if I hadn't volunteered to take the drive back to the shop myself on the way home from work, and if I hadn't stopped off at an electronics store to play Gran Turismo 3 on one of their demo PlayStation2s (which they set up in the street with chairs and the new force-feedback steering wheel), and if I hadn't stayed for a second race, then I wouldn't have been sitting there when Nick Rosser, a friend from university whom I'd only seen once in the last three-and-a-half years, walked past.

Nick was in Tokyo for a geography conference and was spending his last night cruising for gadgets in Akihabara, along with two friends, Vicky and (another) Nick. I'm the only person he knows in Tokyo (even though he hadn't actually realised I was still living out here), so the chances of bumping into each other in the street were, I think you'll agree, "fairly slim". I'm still in shock, to be honest.

It turned out that they were keen to go for a drink in Shinjuku (another cause for bewonderment, seeing as that's where I live), so we headed off across town and I gave them a quick mini-tour of the sights. We had a couple of beers in The Old Blind Cat and En Bar, two tiny drinking establishments nestled side-by-side a couple of storeys underground, only reachable via a narrow and steeply descending staircase, before walking across to the west side of Shinjuku and going up the Sumitomo building.

The inside of the Sumitomo Building is hollow. No, I mean, of course it's hollow, yes, otherwise you'd have great difficulty getting anyone inside it, but what I'm getting at is that the central core of the building is open to the sky. If you stand on the top floor, press your face up against the inner window and look down the inside, you can see all the way to the glass roof of the lobby, 52 stories below. It's awesome and, being triangular in cross-section, it rather resembles a vertical version of the launch tunnel from Battlestar Galactica, all shiny metal and dull yellow lighting. No Cyclons, though, sadly.

The observatory on the 51st floor was open, so we got a good view of the western expanses of Tokyo and then headed back to Kabukicho on the east side, detouring briefly to take in the NS building and its Star Wars-esque skybridge - the perfect setting for a quick lightsabre fight, if you're into that kind of thing. Ahem.

We made straight for Rock Bar Mother, a great little place that I've been meaning to mention here for a while. It's high on my list of places to show visitors, and hopefully you'll find out why for yourself some time, but suffice to say that it's a marvellously quirky little bar with a rather innovative jukebox policy, decorated with a Mexican day-of-the-dead theme and slides of someone's cat-scan, and so dark that it's impossible even to read the menu. Thoughtfully, you're presented with a pen-sized flashlight as you enter. Yeah - you'd love it.

The first three pages of the menu are the drinks, and the remaining ten or so pages are a list of bands. Flick through, find a group you want to hear and convey this to the bartender ("za sumizu, onegaishimasu!") - though sign language normally works better than yelling. Then you're given a bunch of CDs from the racks which, you suddenly notice, cover most of the back wall of the bar, to pore over and pick tracks from. You tell the barguy/gal what you want to hear, they queue it up, and then a few minutes later it gets played at ablsolutely full volume, no matter what it is. The main diet seems to be American rock and metal but they also have, rather incongruously, everything from Adam and the Ants to Belinda Carlisle to Shampoo to the Wonderstuff - god only knows how they actually choose what to buy in each month. The first time I went there, Cath chose Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush. I will never forget the look on the faces of the three solitary Japanese grungers at one end of the bar, who only minutes earlier had been happily sulking along to the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit, as Chris, Cath and Tami all sang along at the top of their lungs, wailing heartily and swaying from side to side - absolutely priceless.

We left Mother and got sidetracked on the way to the station by Nagurereya, the ex-pro-boxer who spars with people in the street for 1000 yen a time, trying literally to fight his way out of debt - but that's a story for another night.

And so the night ended, leaving me with a huge grin on my face, marvelling at Tokyo's sleight of hand - conjuring up out of thin air an excellent evening's revells with someone who really ought to have been six-and-a-half thousand miles away.

And then the next night, we beat Germany 5-1 - this has to be the most unreal weekend ever. My colleagues tomorrow could all be wearing giant animatronic lion heads and I swear I wouldn't bat an eyelid. I'd better not wear my gazelle-scent aftershave, though - just in case.

Posted by chris at 01:39 AM | Permalink

urg - one last thing

urg - one last thing. reminder to self to tell you about the massive coincidences that came out to play on friday night. tokyo is a city of 27 million. this kind of thing simply shouldn't happen. later, though. much later.

Posted by chris at 05:22 AM | Permalink


5am, just back from Footnik in Takadanobaba (no, I didn't make it up, it's a real place), having watched England thrash Germany 5-1. I'm knackered, dehydrated, drenched in sweat (mine) and Guiness (other people's), and very very content. I'm dimly aware that this was a very important win, and a historic one, but right now I think I just need to sleep. G'nite.

Posted by chris at 05:16 AM | Permalink

Bags of fun

Good grief. The staff who work weekdays in the Cafe Danmark near my office are actually pretty used to me and my odd foreign ways by now. Standard practice when a customer orders a cappuccino and sandwich is to put the coffee cup in a paper bag, sellotape it shut, put the sandwich in another paper bag, seal that shut, and then put both into a third, plastic bag which has handles (ooh!) for easy toting by said customer.

Now I'm not a raving conservationist or anything, but this strikes me as rather a waste. Japan's pretty bad at this kind of thing - environmental concerns don't seem to register terribly prominently on the nations's collective mental radar.

So I'm always trying to get shop assistants to refrain from excessively wrapping things for me. I prefer just to carry the coffee in one hand, and the sandwich bag in the other. My opposable thumbs are the result of millions of years of evolution - it seems a shame not to try using them for things other than PlayStation2 gaming occasionally.

The weekday cafe staff, as I said, are quite used to this eccentricity by now. The only reason I mention it is because today it's Saturday: Different Staff Day. Different staff who tried to wrap the coffee up in a clear thin plastic bag(1), then in a paper bag(2). Then I'm pretty sure they were going to try to put that into the large plastic bag(4), along with the paper bag(3) containing the (already individually wrapped) sandwich.

Thankfully I spotted the wrapper-upper trying to secure the thin clear bag(1), and politely intervened as she was attempting to manoeuver it into the paper bag(2). One cappuccino successfully rescued, two bags unwasted. Then I had to intercept the second member of staff doing the sandwich, although I couldn't quite get to her in time. She presented me the plastic bag(4) containing the sandwich's paper bag(3) so, with a polite "I don't need the plastic one, thanks" I just took hold of the paper bag(3) and tried to lift it out of the plastic bag(4). She was obviously a little confused by this, as evidenced by her unwillingness to actually help remove the plastic bag(4), instead continuing to proffer it higher and higher as I tried to extract the paper bag(3) from it. I was taller, though, so eventally I won.

The day's final score: three bags unwasted, and two more Japanese sandwich makers bemused by a weirdo foreigner. Now if I could just get the MOS Burger staff to stop giving me eight napkins every time I buy a single chicken burger, we might actually start getting somewhere...

Posted by chris at 05:24 PM | Permalink

A group blog with a difference

The road less travelled is an excellent little sapling of a meme whose progress I'll be following with interest. People (you, actually) install pop-up windows on public computers anywhere in the world, and leave them there for others to stumble across; submitting the form posts to the blog whatever they write. And, as Arthur at blog of the day points out, most of them will not have a clue what they're contributing to...

Blogger could change its slogan to "push-button publishing for the perplexed", perhaps?

Posted by chris at 04:44 AM | Permalink

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