Mr. Balls

It is your second week at the new job.

The work is challenging, but rewarding. You find yourself once again cursing your old job, which — during the year and a half in which you were employed — was of no benefit whatsoever.

Except, that’s not entirely true.

The job itself had as much merit as a pile of dried faeces, but the bizarre folk that were your co-workers provided you with no end of entertainment. Your new job, however, pales in comparison; sure, a few people have their quirks, but there simply isn’t anyone around of the caliber you’d grown used to.

That is, until Mr. Balls decided to announce himself to the world.

You are seated at your desk, trying to wrap your head around an extremely technical piece of Japanese writing. Mr. Balls sits at the cubicle directly opposite yours, the partition between which is high enough that you’ve never actually seen Mr. Balls, only heard his voice.

ballzAnd seen his slippers.

You’re gnawing on the end of your thumbnail and staring at a page of nigh-impenetrable text when someone approaches, starts engaging Mr. Balls in conversation.

“Hey,” the newcomer begins. “What’s up?”

“Nothing much. I’ve got this weird rash thing going on, though. I’ve got like itchy-rash disease!” Short burst of laughter. “Is that even a disease?” Mr. Balls chides himself.

“A rash, huh? Where?”

“Right here. But also on my balls!”

“Your balls?!” comes the startled reply.

“Yeah, my balls! Look!”

“Dude, I don’t want to see your balls!”

“No, not my balls! Here. Look.”

“Whoa…”

“I know! And it’s on my balls!”

By this point, you’re plugging your nose to hold back laughter at the sheer number of times the word kintama, or “balls,” has already been uttered in this short exchange. Just then, you hear someone else walk up.

“Hey guys,” a female voice calls out, “what’s going on?”

“Mr. Balls here has a rash — and it’s on his balls!”

“His balls?!”

At this, you’re reaching for your iPod and cranking the volume to drown out the rest of the conversation before you lose it completely.

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Through the looking glass

You walk through the revolving doors that take you from the lobby of your new office to the sprawling concrete courtyard beyond.

A looped recording cautions you to be careful, as failure to do so could — regardless of the fact that the winged panes of that door revolve at a pace that would have geriatric turtles tapping their watches in impatience — apparently have dangerous results.

The area that opens up before you presents various options.

Bars.
Restaurants.
Train lines.
A sprawl of as-yet unexplored office buildings.

You opt for the last of these, feeling a twinge of something like sadness as you do so.

You hated your last job. For the last few months before you were mercifully let go, showing up to the office was little more than a formality. But you miss your co-workers, and you miss the area in which you used to work.

spurtRegardless, when applying for this job, you hoped it would be located at least somewhat closer to your current residence. And as it turned out, it was indeed closer.

Exactly one station closer.

A bit of a burn, but still, there can be quite a distance between stations … right?

You walk through the revolving doors of your new office. The recorded voice reminds you — multiple times, lest you have forgotten in the precious seconds prior to your previous reminder — that you should be walking slowly.

You descend the steps, begin walking at random … and suddenly realize you know exactly where you are.

Welcome to your new job. Same as your old job.

In that it is exactly a 10-minute walk from where you used to work.

Sigh…

Identity theft, redux

You are walking down the street drinking a beer.

There is nothing unusual about this: Since having become unemployed, it’s been pretty much a given that if you are walking down the street — hell, if you are engaged in any ambulatory act whatsoever — you will be drinking a beer. Today’s beer is a sweet, hoppy microbrew, a splurge from the bargain-basement stuff you’ve been imbibing recently to save a bit of coin. You take another sip, savor it.

menuAnd that’s when you notice Mr. Charisma bicycling toward you.

You’re not on close enough terms with Mr. Charisma to call him a friend, but he’s at least an acquaintance. He’s a bit older than you, married with a third kid on the way — but with his dashing blonde-haired, blue-eyed American looks, he’s still got charisma to spare. He’s a good deal more charismatic than your jaded and bitter ass, that’s for sure.

Mr. Charisma is pedaling while talking to someone on his cell phone. As he approaches, you hear that his conversation is in English. Again, there’s nothing too unusual about this; he and his wife communicate mainly in English, and his Japanese is still a bit shaky.

The two of you make eye contact. Mr. Charisma lowers the phone to his chin and calls out to you.

“You doing all right?” he asks in Japanese.

“Doing great,” you reply, reflexively, in Japanese.

“Keep fighting the good fight,” he says. Again, in Japanese.

And then he goes back to his phone conversation.

In English.

He pedals past you toward a nearby intersection. You take a sip of your beer, cock your head a bit to the side.

And wonder just what the hell that was all about.

Fast times at Ojisan High

This is my first entry into the Japan Blog Matsuri. Thought I’d give it a shot.

You are in the bathroom.

You’ve been in Japan for just over a week. Having studied the language before you got here, you’ve been able to at least navigate your way around this new environment … but to say that things have been “unfamiliar” would be an understatement.

Moments ago, you and your friend had entered the restaurant bathroom together. A few seconds later, Lady Forthright — a mutual acquaintance who had come with you to the bar — had swung the door open and peered in, laughing loudly.

“I wanna see!” she said, her voice full of mirth.

“Get the hell out of here!” you said, shooing her away, equipment still in hand. Lady Forthright, laughing, closed the door and retreated.

A moment later, the restroom door again opened. You are about to berate Lady Forthright for her continued shenanigans when you realize that the person opening the door is in fact a middle-aged Japanese fellow. He walks forward, takes the urinal that separates you from your friend, and begins to relieve himself. There is a slightly awkward pause.

It is then you realize that the fellow has his eyes fixated upon your junk.

There’s a moment where you think to yourself, This isn’t right. I’m not quite sure what to say, but I know this isn’t right!

It is a rather unpleasant moment.

It’s also at this moment that Mr. Peeper straightens himself up, looks both you and your friend in the eye. He seems a bit unsteady.

“I am!” he exclaims loudly, in English, “A rice…”

There is a long, bizarre pause as you wonder what exactly this fellow is trying to convey to you. Or why. Frankly, you’re a bit lost.

“Farmer?” your friend asks timidly.

“Yes!” Mr. Peeper exclaims, his face alight. “I am a rice farmer!”

He gives you both a slap on the back before leaving the bathroom looking quite pleased with himself. You and your friend exchange glances, shrug.

Japan.

You exit the bathroom and re-enter your drinking hole of choice, which consists of several restaurants and drinking establishments gathered under a single roof.

A girl in a yellow-and-black bunny outfit runs up, offers you a few darts.

“Would you like to try?” she asks, gesturing toward a large dartboard. “Hitting the black bars gets you a gift. Anything else is free drinks.”

You and your friend exchange glances.

And with the strength of champions behind you, you play to lose.

刎ね飛ばす

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a language nut, and am constantly reading material to pick up new vocabulary words. Learned 掻い潜る (kaikuguru) earlier, which means to quickly and expertly make one’s way under cover or between objects (as in, weave one’s way through a crowd). I thought that was a pretty cool word.

bladeBut then I came across 刎ね飛ばす.

This is a compound word that combines two verbs; the first, the stem form of 刎ねる (haneru) means to cut someone’s head off. Pretty neat to think that Japanese has a verb that specifically means to cut someone’s head off. But the giggle factor gets upped when it’s paired with 飛ばす (tobasu). Combined, this word means, “to cut off someone’s head and send it flying.”

Hanetobasu.

That’s really friggin’ awesome.

I will find a way to work this word into a conversation somehow.

How to usurp the slogan of a foreign politician

Being unemployed, I’ve found, tends to give one rather a lot of free time.

Staying cooped up indoors for too long drives me crazy, so I’ve been going on lots of long walks recently (actually got lost for about half an hour yesterday, which was quite the adventure).

Anyway.

changeAs I was out wandering around, I happened to pass by several promotional posters for politicians running for local elections. Of those posters, this one couldn’t help but enter my eye.

The pic came out a bit blurry (again), but all the important bits are visible. In the center is こんどは女性市長, or “This time around, let’s have a woman for mayor.”

Hell, sounds good to me. Change is a good thing.

And apparently this campaign shares that sentiment, as the word “change,” rendered here phonetically as チェンジ rather than via a Japanese equivalent, appears at the top of the poster.

And as you can see, at the bottom of the poster, the phrase “Yes! We will!” appears in English.

“Change!”

“Yes! We will!”

I feel I’ve heard variants of these campaign catchwords somewhere before…

My keitai strap

For damn near a decade, I refused to put any kind of ornamentation and/or dangly business on my keitai, or cell phone (more properly referred to as a 携帯電話, lit. “portable phone,” but these days often seen in print as ケータイ). However, when I saw this number, I knew my keitai was in for a bit of decoration.

strapWhat you see here is a BE@RBRICK figure that was included as promotional gift along with select bottles of Pepsi NEX. There were quite a few different ones available, including one of Neo from The Matrix, but it was this Heath Ledger-inspired Joker version that I just had to have.

Oddly enough, I haven’t seen these anywhere here in Tokyo — I picked this up late last year when I spent a week visiting some acquaintances out in the country (ugh, that’s a blog post in and of itself).

Anyway, just look at this little guy! Isn’t he great? And he apparently shares my love of Tokyo Black Porter, which makes him that much cooler.

Click here to see a clearer picture of what it looks like (don’t know what’s up with the blur in my photo), or here to see some guy’s big-ass digicam pic of it.