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.

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.



Fuckity fuck!

Sorry for the drop-off in posting, dear Readers. Who knew that unemployment could be so time-consuming?

The past week or so has been a flurry of resume-bombing, recruiter visiting, freelance translating and binge drinking (big surprise on that last one there). I’ll get back into the blogging routine as soon as I can, but for now let it just be said that, for as long as I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve felt a certain sense of pride in the rirekisho category you see there on the left. I can safely say it’s the best English-language guide to writing a Japanese resume that you will find, period. It trounces a lot of the Japanese-language guides I’ve seen as well.

It is also, I’ve come to learn, sort of crap.

Last week at the Hello Work employment service center, my counselor turned out to be an absolute rirekisho wizard. Or sorceress, I guess. She claimed not to have been doing the Hello Work thing for long and wouldn’t tell me what her previous job was, but she took a pencil to my rirekisho and the suggestions she made were incredible. My rirekisho pops in a way it didn’t before, and it’s all thanks to her.

peI have also, at long last, encountered that most dreaded of rirekisho — the kind that must be written by hand. Jesus H. Fucking Christ. That was not a pleasant afternoon.

In any case, I’m going to have to do some serious updating to the rirekisho walkthrough to incorporate this new information.


Say a prayer for my rirekisho. Say a prayer for this gaping-ass hole in my mouth where a sideways wisdom tooth used to be.

And say a prayer for my groin. Just because, as I’ve mentioned before, I really like the word “groin.”

p/s – Do magazines here really need to feature Korean actor/girlyman Bae Yong Joon, aka “Yon-sama,” on no less than five covers? I put to you that no, they fucking don’t!


Language fluency is a weird thing.

At the risk of sounding arrogant, my Japanese is good — damn good. It better be, after all the time and effort I’ve put into it. I can deal with tech support, harrass the cable guy and converse with short-tempered doctors, all in Japanese.

I have an insatiable appetite for learning. I read everything from dictionaries to food labels to internet gossip sites. I went through a period where I was obsessed with kanji etymology, triggered by the realization that 空 (sky) is 穴 (hole) with a carpenter’s square, which struck me as rather bizarre. Another phase found me fascinated with onomatopoeia (for which I recommend 現代擬音語擬態語用法辞典). I once read nothing but porn magazines for two months, till I’d learned all the requisite terminology and was really sick of porn.

Thanks to CSI, I can rattle off terms like “bullet casings” and “gunpowder residue.” I learned the word for “night-vision goggles” after watching Silence of the Lambs, and still remember that the dictionary entry was on the left page toward the bottom. And just because I’m weird like that, I know not one but two terms for “rift in the space-time continuum” (時空の割れ目 and 時空断層). A friend of mine shakes his head and calls me “the walking dictionary.”

And yet.

I’ve had a conversation break down because I didn’t know the word for “sieve.” Up until last year, I didn’t know what the Chinese zodiac was called. Just last week, a lovely coworker introduced me to both 温野菜 (“steamed vegetables”) and 連呼 (renko), a pretty lulzy word that means to repeatedly say the same thing in a loud voice. And let’s not forget that time 10 years ago when, for whatever insane reason, it took me a full two months to finally memorize 石けん, or “soap.”

Which brings us to today. When I had to do a double-take because I didn’t know the word appearing in the title of this post — 結露 (ketsuro), meaning “condensation.”


Will there ever be a day when I don’t get my ass handed to me by this language?

A matter of perspective

You stand, motionless, eyes fixed on the sign before you.

You think your mouth is open a little; nowhere near the cliched slack-jawedness of outright shock, but at least open enough that any winged insect with an agenda could whizz its way in if it really wanted to.

You’re aware of this, but you can’t bring yourself to move.

afterIn fact, you stand so completely still, so completely slightly open-mouthed that at least two people passing by glance surprisedly over their shoulders to see what you’re looking at.

It’s not a big sign so far as signs go. Actually, the bluriness of it tells you that it was originally quite smaller and then blown up to make it more visible.

It’s a help wanted ad. For a ramen shop. More specifically, an ad for a cook’s position at said ramen shop.

You’re pretty sure you’ve passed it before, but the details of it have never quite registered. Like most ads, it lists a suggested salary range. The bottom figure is equal to the starting salary for English conversation teachers. You find this somewhat surprising, but not too terribly so — English conversation pay is generally pretty terrible.

Last month, you received a raise. A small one, but a raise nonetheless, the result of the past year of honing your craft, learning concepts and specialized terminology that most native Japanese wouldn’t be able to make heads or tails of.

The salary for the ramen cook position caps out at what you made up until last month.

Your mouth is still slightly open.

And you wonder if that ramen shop hires foreigners.

No more Yukie Nakama!

It hurts to write this post. It really does.

You see, I’ve been a fan of model-slash- actress Yukie Nakama here for a while now. Coming up on 10 years actually, back before most people were aware of her and she was still just a nice, cute girl from Okinawa whose acting was a little rough.

My, how times have changed.

Since then, Ms. Nakama has gone on to literally dominate the industry. We’re saturated with her. No matter where you go, your media experience — be it print or broadcast, film or television — will at least be Nakama-esque, if not positively Nakama-riffic.

And I’m sick of it.

There are only so many products you can lend your image toward before said image starts to become dangerously thin. I mean, seriously, what do you stand for?

Tommy Lee Jones, there’s no surprise: the motherfucker stands for Boss brand coffee, period. Toshiyuki Nishida: the guy stands for fishing movies, beer and the lotto (and playing Pigsy on the epic TV show Monkey).

But Yukie Nakama?

Woman, what the hell are you for?

Cars? Canned coffee? Bottled tea? Cell phones? Makeup? Panasonic’s weird new Nanotechnology line? Because you’re hawking them all. And frankly, I’m tired of seeing you.

Cede the spotlight and go away already.

And take that stupid dancing robot girl from the Yamanote line ad with you.

John Turningpin’s Workload of Fear

A strange, ugly thing has appeared in my inbox, dear Reader.

Eventually, this thing will transform itself into money, something I seem to have offended somehow because it has been so cold and distant recently. In the short term, however, this thing is called hell, a translation project shat out by Belial himself that will unrepentantly gobble up my nights, my weekends, and — if not for sweet, sweet alcohol — my sanity.

October 15 is the date upon which I lash this project to a feathered shaft and fire it back into the stygian depths from whence it crawled, but until then, I regret that posting will be sporadic.

I have a few posts in progress and a few shorter ones I’ll be posting in the interim, so be sure to keep checking in; however, I’m afraid that for the next two weeks, there will be a comparative slowdown in the amount of witty postings on this blog. And you all know how full of wit I am.


See this photo? It’s the view from my balcony. Nice, isn’t it?

It was taken as a way to illustrate Japan’s approach to time zoning, which steadfastly refuses to acknowledge that, even when summer rolls around, it can be 8:00 at night and still be bright as day (though talk is apparently in the works of introducing daylight savings time as of next year).

Unfortunately, in the taking of this picture, it would seem I’ve made a fatal error.

Though yesterday’s bout of drinking left me relatively hangover free, I have apparently rodgered myself of the majority of that night’s memories.

Put simply, what I thought was 5:30 pm of the same day upon which I finally awoke was was in fact 5:30 am the following day.

This would explain why the usual restaurants, the usual supermarkets on my daily route were closed (I thought it was because of obon). It would also explain why the cute thing at the 7-11 down the street looked at me like I was insane for buying so much beer so early in the morning. It is also why, to be honest, I’m a fair bit drunk at 9:30 am on a Sunday as I write this.

Meh, whatever. I’ll just take a nap and watch Buckaroo Banzai again when I wake up.