7 Western Celebrities doing… odd commercials in Japan

If you haven’t yet heard the aural train wreck that is Avril Lavigne’s recent ‘song’ Hello Kitty, I encourage you to listen to it, and all the while, remember that this is no teen idol, it’s a 29 year old woman. She’s married for crying out loud!


Anyway, why is she acting like a child who has had far too many spoons of sugar in her juice? It probably has something to do with her steadily rising popularity in Japan. Many other western celebrities do it too, and sadly (or hilariously) a lot of them are like Joey’s blue lipstick ad in Friends.


Tommy lee Jones is the boss. I think he’s selling coffee here, but with all the superpowers, shouting, and Japanese students it’s hard to tell, I mean… He’s a respected actor, right?


Brad Pitt has always been known as a bit of a beefcake, and people aren’t above using their sex appeal to sell products, but… he literally says that his ass is nice, and that you should enjoy checking it out.


Bruce Willis and Arnold Scwarzeneggar have the power for you, powered coffee, that is. Ok, this one is a twofer, but the sight of two… *ahem* senior gentlemen yelling ‘POWER!!’ is just too god to pass by.


Arnie also had his own series of videos back when he was a younger man, and more open to strangenesss.


Ah Nick Cage, no list is complete without him. He just brings a touch of manic insanity to everything he touches, excluding him would almost send me into a … F-F-F-FEVER!!!!


Quentin Tarantino, the man is clearly a great director, yet his appearance here is not all that ‘visionary’. Perhaps he was brushing up on his knowledge for Kill Bill, but I don’t think even “Taro-chan” (Little Taro) can explain why there’s a talking dog here…


Harrison Ford. A mostly naked Japanese man. Both sweaty. Both making vigorous hand motions and licking their lips. I think it’s a beer ad, but I’m not sure.


Whaling in Japan

Whaling on trial

Whaling on trial

Once, a few months back, I was invited to a teacher’s house, and was served a very special kind of fish. Upon eating it, the teacher eagerly told me  that I had just eaten whale, possibly hoping to get a reaction from me.

He was disappointed. I personally have no problem with the idea of Japanese people eating whale or dolphin meat. This may make me unpopular, but I don’t believe that any group of people should be able to tell another nation or group of people what they can and cannot do in their own territory.

Whale sushi and sashimi doesn't taste that bad...

Whale sushi and sashimi doesn’t taste that bad…

I would call groups of people who behave in such a manner terrorists (or at least extremists), because they use force and intimidation to persuade others to adopt their beliefs. No matter how noble the intents of Sea Shepherd and other groups like them may be, they don’t have the right to impose their values on other people.

Sea Shepherd’s founder, Paul Watson, spent fifteen months evading authorities at sea, after he fled courts in Germany and had an Interpol Red Notice placed on him. Thankfully, many of Sea Shepherd’s supporters and members do not fully support the drastic measures taken by this small minority.

In December, a Japanese whaling fleet left Shimonoseki for the Antarctic Ocean 4. The hunt is went on until March, and the fleet hoped to catch roughly one thousand minke whales.

The stated purpose of this hunt was scientific research, however, the majority of the meat usually ends up being processed and sold to markets and stores.

Whale meat in stores

Whale meat in stores

The Japanese government is quick to defend the tradition, saying that whaling is a part of Japan’s culinary heritage, and that the hunt is done with research and sustainability in mind.

Recently however, the hunts have been encountering problems, reporting a catch of only 103 whales last year. This last hunt was a bigger success, with about 250 whales caught, but that’s still only around a quarter of their goal.

Whales for processing

Arguments surrounding the issue revolve mainly around the twin points of sustainability and sovereignty. The pro-whaling side insists that they are practising sustainable whaling, and that any attempt to interfere with them is a violation of their national sovereignty. The anti-whaling side maintains that there is no such thing as sustainable whaling, and that whales may unknowingly
stray from protected areas into whaling areas.

Regardless of the arguments, the whaling industry—in Japan at least—is facing a serious decline in popularity. In fact, the industry relies on subsidies from the Japanese government to remain afloat. In 2012, those subsidies reached 2.28 billion yen

In modern Japan, with fiscal belts being tightened and Tohoku Earthquake recovery efforts taking top priority, the whaling industry may find itself dead in the water without government funds.

On March 31st, the UN International Court of Justice in The Hague declared the Japanese Whale Research Program(JARPA II) illegal. The decision was made to “revoke any extant authorization, permit or license…and refrain from granting further permits” to carry out annual whale hunts in the Antarctic. Despite global criticism, Japan’s fleet carried out annual whale hunts taking advantage of a loophole within international that permits the killing of whales for scientific research. The sitting judge, Peter Tomka, said that the Japanese program resulted in the killing of thousands of minke whales and a number of fin whales, but that its “scientific output to date appears limited”

The issue initially earned global criticism when Animal Planet introduced “Whale Wars,” which followed Sea Shepherd USA, a branch of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and its attempts to deter the Japanese fleets, through violence if necessary, from hunting whales. The Institute of Cetacean Research initially stated its disappointment, but that it would respect the ruling.

However, on April 11th, the institute stated that they intend to hunt whales in the Antarctic for the 2015-2016 season under a newly designed research program.

Government ministers eating whale

Government ministers eating whale

In the end, though, it appears as though whaling industries will collapse, not because of international sanctions, or action by a small group of activists, but because of a lack of demand. The times of London recently reported that there were over 2,700 tons of uneaten whale meat left in storage last year. Such is the way of the world; old ways often sink into the background and disappear. So if you don’t support whaling, simply don’t support it. Without money, it will fade—not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Only in Japan

The latest in a long line of strange Japanese trends is starting to gain headway… in Tokyo at least. Yes, the city that behaves as though it is in a different country is at it again, and this time, it’s dressed in a full body spandex suit.

hello there

hello there

This new trend is called Zentai, which is an abbreviation of: “zenshintaitsu”, meaning: “full body suit”. People who wear the suits often say that they feel stifled or judged in their normal daily lives, but when they put on the suit, they can feel free to express themselves. In an interview, a woman, calling herself Hokkyoku Nigo remarked:

I have led my life always worrying about what other people think of me. They say I look cute, gentle, childish or naive, I always felt suffocated by that. But wearing this, I am just a person in a full body suit.”

totally normal

You could be forgiven for thinking they are wannabe superheroes or Power Rangers, especially as some of them actually go out of their way to do good deeds. Don’t be expecting them to save you from a burning building now, they’re just limited to helping to helping out with daily life, like the guy who helps young mothers carry their baby’s buggies up and down subway stairs.

With tight pants, comes limited responsibility...

With tight pants, comes limited responsibility…

There are even advertising campaigns featuring Body-suited people, Just look at this one, courtesy of YouTube:

It isn’t likely that this fad will catch on to the mainstream, but the fact that it even caught on at all is odd enough. So if you’re in Tokyo, keep your eyes open for the spandex citizens.

welcome to Japan


Five unforeseen benefits to being a foreigner in Japan

1 You’re tall


When I visited home last summer, I was surprised by how TALL everyone was. I’m an average height guy, but in Japan, I’m well above average. I had gotten so used to just seeing over crowds of people to find my friends it was a bit of a shock. Gone were the days where myself and a friend could have an entire conversation over the heads of a gaggle of commuters on a bus.


And FORGET about crowding a bar. In Ireland, you have to compete with big guys and… well endowed ladies who are perhaps bending over more than necessary. But here? I can always get myself a drink, by just rising out of the crowds and standing out.


2 Sometimes, being singled out is a good thing


Like the tall guy at the bar, sometimes getting noticed can be beneficial.

At the Jameson distillery tour in Dublin, an extended tasting test is given to the four people who stand out the most from the crowd. When I went there, it was given to a group of guys in kilts. But here? I’m the crazy guy who looks different. Which often means that I’m the guy who absolutely gets given the free stuff when they’re starting to run low.

And station attendants? They’re practically jumping out of the walls to help you out.


3 You get to do things that other people can’t


I’m now writing this at home. It’s almost five PM, and I’ve been home for a while now. My co-workers on the other hand… are probably still there. Japanese people rarely want to appear as though they are lazy, which often results in them working very long hours. Me on the other hand…

quittin time

My contracted hours finish at 16:10, and unless I still have work to do, which rarely happens, I am out that door as soon as I can. My co-workers don’t even question it, they know that foreign people leave early. Sometimes, when I stay late to give an extra lesson, I get teachers asking if I realized that I can go home now, they’re actually worried that I forgot to go home! Understandable, since my normal daily game plan is much the same as Tommy Pickles’


nowcomes   I do spare a thought for my coworkers though…




4 Restaurants remember you.


I have mentioned, before, how I don’t like finding surprise eggs in my food. There is a nice curry place near my house that hides a raw egg underneath their curry sauce, letting it cook from the residual heat.

eggpizza  Even PIZZA isn’t safe!!!

After one mis-adventure, I started ordering my food ‘tamago-nashi’ (without egg). Then, a couple of weeks ago, I order my curry, but forget to ask for it without egg. It’s a small enough restaurant, so I can hear what’s going on in the kitchen. Turns out, the chef recognized me and wanted to cook it without egg, and the waiter disagreed.

Eventually, the waiter came over, confirmed that I didn’t want egg, and got shouted at by the chef.

I can’t be angry at the chef though, he saved me from eggs! Truly, a great hero


5 Pizza becomes a delicacy.


I’ll say that again, pizza is a delicacy here. I don’t mean your fancy, notion-filled pizza, topped off with extra notions.

I'm looking at you

I’m looking at you

I’m talking about good, honest pizza, topped off with more meat than is sensible. It’s something to do with the flour here, it’s never quite right… also, they put mayonnaise on everything!



Truly, there is no hope for them

It gets to the point where finding a good pizza restaurant is akin to finding the holy grail, and foodies from all over the city will flock to you to find out where to get that sweet, sweet goodness.


Here, my obsession with pizza doesn’t seem too crazed. Thanks Japan!



Koizumi Yakumo (AKA Lafcadio Hearn)

Arguably the most famous Irish person in Japanese history was the prominent thinker and writer Koizumi Yakumo.


Born Lafcadio Hearn in 1850 in Greece, to an Irish father and a Greek mother, he was raised (from Age two) by an aunt in Rathmines, Dublin, and later emigrated to America. He lived and worked in New Orleans as a writer and Journalist. In 1890 he moved again, to Japan, where he spent the remaining 14 years of his life.

His life as a writer in Japan was prolific. He married a Japanese woman, Koizumi Setsu, and had four children with her. He took Japanese citizenship under the name Koizumi Yakumo, served as a schoolmaster in the town of Matsue and later became a professor of English literature in the Imperial University of Tokyo.


While here, Hearn wrote twelve books on Japan and consequently is credited with providing some of the first information about Japanese society to the Western public.


Hearn was a traditionalist, and staunchly opposed to modernization and the loss of old traditions. He wrote several books on Japanese myths and legends, attempting to preserve the history of Japan in any way he could. His last, Japan, an Attempt at Interpretation (published posthumously), was intended to be a historical analysis of the rapid transformation of Japan from a feudal, agricultural society to a modern industrial one. Today, with Japanese traditions being preserved or revived, Hearn’s work remains popular.


Reviewers of his most famous book Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan, have described it as a ‘series of love-letters to the Land of the Rising Sun’. It contains many myths, legends and stories about Japanese society, culture and history.

Hearns residences in Japan have been preserved as historical sites and his works are on display in the Yakumo museum in Matsue. There are also two statues of him in Ueno Park, Tokyo. His gravestone bears the memorial poem: “A man of faith, an undefiled flower blooming like eight clouds, who dwells in the mansion of enlightenment”.


With Hearn’s prolific work, it is unsurprising that many Japanese people have heard of him. In addition to his written work, Japanese director Masaki Kobayashi adapted four of Hearn’s tales into an anthology of horror films called “Kwaidan” (Ghost Stories) in 1965.


What is surprising, however, is that few enough Japanese people know him by his real name, or that he is a foreigner at all! Many have heard of Koizumi Yakumo, but if you mention Lafcadio Hearn, people look at you in confusion. To day that Hearn mixed with Japanese society is an understatement; his lyrical grasp of storytelling was such that he truly became an influential part of Japanese society.

Patrick_Lafcadio_Hearn_aka_Koizumi_Yakumo_-_grave_2013 (1)