A dream come true (for me at least)

I have a word for people who don’t like capybaras.

In the interest of good taste, I won’t say it here, but suffice it to say that it’s an unpleasant word.

Just look how serene they are

Just look how serene they are

Prior to coming to Japan, I had only glimpsed capybaras from afar, but seeing as they were essentially dog-sized guinea pigs, which can also swim, it’s safe to say that I was smitten. Here in Nagasaki however, we have a “biopark”. The Biopark is like a zoo, except you can interact with the animals. Seeing as capybaras are just about the most amazing animal on the planet, they swiftly became the most popular attraction, with whole sections of the gift shop dedicated to the world’s largest rodents, with t-shirts or dress-up capybara dolls.

You can show your love with t-shirts

You can show your love with style

It's dressed as a cow, our argument is invalid

It’s dressed as a cow, your argument is invalid

 

This coming July, a zoo in Shizuoka Prefecture is opening what they call the “capybara Rainbow Plaza”.

Artist's impression of the fun

Artist’s impression of the fun

The plaza will feature opportunities to play with the capybaras, feed them and learn more about them, but the real attraction… swimming in a hot spring with them! Just imagine it, an entire pack of dog sized, water loving rodents swimming around you!

bathing

Now while that thought may be enough to give some people nightmares, I am not amongst them. I will be leaving Japan in late July, so perhaps before I leave, I will have to pay the Rainbow Plaza a visit to see them in action…

 

 

What’s your type? (A guide to blood and condoms)

So there I was, trawling through the Japanese net, looking for something to post for Friday, and what do I see? A list of odd condoms available in Japan, you can check out the original post here: (http://inventorspot.com/articles/top_10_weirdest_japanese_condoms_5537).

However, the one that caught my eye were the supposed “Blood Type condoms”.

Yes, it's a real thing

Yes, it’s a real thing

I did a little bit of digging into these condoms and found out more information about them.

Type O – It would seem as though the type O condoms are the normal ones, although they do advise the users to seek a woman with type AB blood for “hot love” but also to tolerate how selfish they can be in the sack.

Type A – Or “featherlight”, as they may otherwise be known. In Japanese blood-typing, A’s are the stolid, dependable type, who apparently need a little extra stimulation to get them going, hence the extra-thin material.

Type B – Classic ribbed here, B’s are independent souls, but it appears as though they are not independent lovers, since they seem to care about their partner’s enjoyment too.

Type AB – AB’s are supposedly the most organized and thoughtful, so it comes as no surprise that their condoms are also the most technologically advanced. Not satisfied with mere ribs, AB’s go in for diamond shaped studs, to try to increase their potential.

 

But WHY is blood type such a big deal here?

Well, the answer to that is tied up in a whole load of attempted genetic typing of humans and sub-humans, so we won’t get into it here, but suffice it to say that today, in Japan, one of the first things people will ask of you is your blood type. Seriously, there’s nothing sinister about it, it’s similar to western astrology or other pseudo-science.

I

If there’s one things that can’t be racist, it’s bath salts.

So instead of looking into the all-too-serious-and-depressing history, let’s look at the amusing present, and tell you a little more about the various blood-type personalities.

They wrote BOOKS about the different types

They wrote BOOKS about the different types

Type O people are often referred to as “warriors”. They are flexible, out-going and driven… for a time. They have the perception of being quite flaky, and quick to give up on projects for something else, even if the project is going smoothly. While they are working on something, they can be driven and ruthless, but that doesn’t always last long. However, they are also the most popular and social blood type, and often take the centre of attention. Japanese people view this type as the best type.

Type A’s are called “the farmers”, and have a shy, reliable demeanour. They are supposedly uncomfortable in large groups, but can keep a cool head should the group start to panic or argue. They crave responsibility and will focus on a task obsessively until it is completed. While this makes for very skilled, artistic and succesful people, they can also be very stubborn, arrogant and obsessive.

Type B. Ah, “the Hunter”. This is my own blood type, so you’ll forgive me if I forget some of my own poor traits. Or you would, if my type wasn’t a bunch of forgetful folks. We are apparently also very individualistic, preferring to trust ourselves and follow our own creative instincts than anybody else’s. When we’re not working on a task however, the individualism comes out in a kooky, free-wheeling manner, which creates fun, even if we don’t always remember why we decided to try to cram 10 pieces of sushi in our mouths at once…

Type AB. This is where Japan gets it’s oddballs. The AB’s vacillate between driven and relaxed, reliable and easy to stress, fun and… not fun. Japan likes these people the least, since they’re so unpredictable, and Japan loves order and predictability, their wild side doesn’t have a place here. They are the kind of people who will offer to help you move a couch, but only you pivot around the corners in just the right way.

pivot

 

Proof that the Japanese have made a deal with the devil

(Or at least, one of them has…)

Take a look at this commercial here, don’t try to figure out what they’re selling, it seems to be some sort of beauty product. Just try to guess what age the woman is.

guess it

Go ahead, take your time, I’ll wait…

Have you figured it out? Her name is Masako Mizutani and she is a staggering 45 years old! As in, 45 HUMAN years, I’m not trying to pull some canine-esque trickery here.

Mizutani has been nicknamed “Japan’s Lady of Eternal Youth”, or as I prefer to say “Lady Who Clearly Made a Deal With The Devil”. How else are you supposed to explain how she managed to remain basically unchanged for the last 20 years?

I mean, come on!

I mean, come on!

Mizutani claims that she maintains her looks by keeping a five hour daily beauty regimen. I however think that that is just a cover-up for “animal sacrifice to appease the dark gods”

Look at the fear in the poor dog's eyes

Look at the fear in the poor dog’s eyes

 

Ok, maybe I’m being a little hyperbolic, but can you really blame me?

Why the Japanese TV Show that came to Ireland is just about the best program ever.

Japan, it seems, has embarked on a love affair with the rainy little island in the Atlantic ocean that some people call “Ireland”. It’s not surprising, I guess, Irish bands have been touring around Japan recently, Guinness is fast becoming one of “the usual foreign beers” alongside Heineken and Corona. All of these factors combined with others, have had such an effect that Japan is now Ireland’s 11th largest trade partner.

As such, Japanese people are wantin to know a bit more about Ireland…. So they send a talk show host and actor, Toshiyuki Nagashima, to Ireland to track down a Japanese woman to talk to… Don’t worry, it’s not as creepy as it sounds, it’s part of the show “Japanese over Here”.

Jshow

That sky must be photoshopped…

 

When the guy steps out of Terminal 2 in the Dublin Airport the first thing he notices is the cold and rain. Of course he couldn’t show up on one of the rare sunny days, so the world gets to see Ireland in all its rainy glory. However, when Nagashima realizes that he’s arrived on the wrong side of the country, he asks a nearby market-stall owner how to get to the town of Dowra. (hint, it’s far away). But when our plucky hero pulls out an enormous map of Ireland, the stall owner doesn’t bat an eye and gets down on his hands and knees to locate Dowra.

I think we have to get INTO the map

I think we have to get INTO the map

MUCH better

MUCH better

 

Our hero also gets an education on how to drink a Guinness right. After being reprimanded for getting a Guinness outside of a bar, a fellow train passenger shows Nagashima that for a good Guinness, you have to wait.

jshow3

jshow4

trying to drink Guinness before it’s settled, NOOB!

 

Japan’s public transport is a marvel to behold. The only thing more impressive is the lack of public transport in the Irish countryside! The host encounters this little factoid when he’s trying to get from the “major town” of  Carrick-on-Shannon to the tiny village of Dowra. So he has to hitch-hike. and don’t worry, the Irish show their kind hearts. The third car to pass by stops to give a lift to him and the camera crew. Granted, it took 45 minutes for the third car to even make an appearance, but hey, it’s the thought that counts.

jshow 6

Proper Gentleman

 

Probably the best thing are the kids though. Seeing a half-Japanese, half-Irish girl with jet black hair and masses of curls is a strange sight. Taeko Lowe and her husband Peter have been married for a few years, operate a business together and have 4 kids, all with appropriately Irish names.

jshow5

 

 

The show is almost entirely in Japanese, so get ready for a challenge if your Japanese isn’t up to snuff, but if it is, or you just want to have a quick look, check it out here:

http://www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x1sq8xz

 

What is an Otaku?

akb48-picture

Idol Group AKB 48

A couple of days ago, two members of the Japanese pop idol group AKB48 were attacked by a saw-wielding maniac. The man slashed the faces and hands of two members, and also injured a member of staff who attempted to restrain him. The victims are said to be stable and recovering swiftly. However, when most people heard of the attacker’s details, (he is an unemployed 24 year old man), they dismissed him as being “just another otaku freak”.

They have covered their injured hands and face

They have covered their injured hands and face

For those westerners who are familiar with Japan and Japanese Culture, but  have never spent a long time here, “Otaku” is just another way to say “nerd” “guru” or “geek”. Most are unaware of the pejorative implication it carries, less of a “nerd”, but more of a “basement-dwelling, obsessive-compulsive loner”. To identify yourself as “Otaku” in Japan can cause a great deal of apprehension in Japanese people, but why? I mean, isn’t it normal to want to marry a pillow with your favourite cartoon character printed on it?

This totally happened

This totally happened

Let’s look at the word itself. Taku means a person’s house, and Otaku refers to a person who never leaves their house, passing their time alone. In the west, individualism is prized, and people are often assessed on their ability to function independently, the opposite is true for Japan. Japanese culture is built around consensus and harmony, called Wa (和) in Japanese.

As such, being an outsider is something to be avoided in Japanese society. Outsiders find it difficult to get employment, start relationships, or even just bond with other people. So, being labeled an Otaku is something people generally strive to avoid. They have a reputation for being strange people who take a hobby to the extreme.

otaku

Otaku people have a reputation of being essentially “overgrown man-children”, think of the “Bronies” or “Neckbeards” in western culture, and you’re on the right track.

Pictured: the Western Otaku

Pictured: the Western Otaku

A lot of people have an image of Japan being a technological wonderland, full of strange fashions and oddments, and while this may be true for Tokyo, and some areas in the bigger cities, it is not true for all of Japan. Japan is a country, and like all countries, it has office workers, it has policemen, it has farmers, it has doctors and it has nerds. It is important for people to remember that not all of Japan is like Akihabara (the famous electronic district in Tokyo).

Many Japanese people actually get upset when people assume that all of Japan is like Tokyo, and that the modern anime-scene (which is viewed as being childish) is all Japan has to offer. These people will be quick to point at the hundreds of years of history and culture that survives in Japan today.

Just look at all that culture

Just look at all that culture

So remember, it may be fun to call yourself an Otaku at home, with friends, or at conventions, but should you find yourself in Japan, stick to safer terms, like fan, guru, nerd or geek.