a The Transit Lounge: April 2010

Back in the Day: I had a quarter life crisis, headed to Osaka, Japan for the unknown–only to discover that a passport plane ride are not necessarily a ticket to escape. Some Years Later: Settled back in Oz, the man of my dreams ended up in Tokyo for work–which is how a passport and plane ride showed me home is where the heart is. And Now: Well as luck would have it, we are about to embark on Japan Mark 3, with a baby in tow and another on the way...

Thursday, April 29

Wings Versus Wins

One thing I will never understand about Japanese companies is the way they budget and handle their finances.

For instance, JAL (Japan Airlines) is going bust (read here) and they are slashing flights, reducing staff and doing generally what a bankrupt airline would do.

You think they would start by cutting all non-essentials right? Wrong. Which is why their 2nd Division rugby team is still training and preparing for the start of the season...which doesn't actually begin for another 5 months. Oh and they have held family and children's days the past few weekends too!

My new apartment is right next door to the JAL training ground. Granted, it is under water due to recent rain - which begs the question, what on earth is under that...earth? - but don't let a financial mishap like the entire company going under let it stop a CEO's sporting dreams!

If I was a JAL employee I would be livid that the team still continues to play, particularly when jobs are not stable. Yet I suppose if I was JAL employee I would probably be more bitter about the fact that company policy says I must attend all matches...

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Wednesday, April 28

Warning: Too Cute

There is something so cute about this warning sign on the subway trains that almost makes me want to stick my hand in the "door pocket" to see what happens...What? No raccoons?

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Tuesday, April 27

Kindness Campaign

For the last 2 years, the Metro (Japanese subway system) has put out a poster campaign to encourage appropriate behaviour on trains. I believe it will run through until March or April in 2011. There have been some very funny posters. This is the poster for April 2010:

If there is one place in the world where people do not budge from their train seats - not even for the old, the sick, the disabled or the pregnant - it is definitely Japan. Even when they are sitting in the seats designated for people with needs. People on the train avoid eye contact or they generally tend to look down the train at which ever foreigner is on the carriage and silently urge said needy person to stand near them because they know the foreigner will get up and move.

Hopefully this campaign works...but notice how unhappy the "kind" person in the poster looks about having to give up his seat?!

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Monday, April 26

Ginza Goodies

Ginza never fails to deliver....whether it is people walking their pet monkeys, ice sculptures or this bus, Ginza always has a touch of wacky mixed in amongst the high class fashion.

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Thursday, April 22

Traffic Stopping

Spotted just outside Aoyama 1-chome station:

I love it - even the driver is asleep!

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Wednesday, April 21

Waves of Summer

The oppressive summer heat of Japan is just around the corner. I am going to head out to Tokyo Summerland for some respite. Fancy on joining me? I will meet you in the wave pool. I will be the pink arm floaties on.

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Tuesday, April 20

International Japan

I had a reason to visit the local Shin-U International Centre this week. This is the place foreign residents are encouraged to go if they have any queries above living in Japan or the local area. The Centre even has "welcome" written on the front door in about 15 different languages and other paraphernalia about the place suggests staff there do speak English and several other languages.

So I approached the counter and judging by the scared/horrified/"I hope I don't have to talk to this foreigner" looks of the 4 Japanese people behind sitting behind it, I already knew the answer to my first question.

I asked in my best Japanese if anybody spoke English. They said no. Out of curiosity, I asked which languages they did speak. I was not surprised to be told Japanese only.

So I asked for directions to the place I was headed. They staffer helping me happily obliged by pulling out a map, circling the place in question and handing it to me. Here is what I got:

Thankfully, I am not new to the area, am able to read some Japanese and can figure out roughly where it is I need to go...

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Monday, April 19

Cauliflower, Gyoza and Ears

I never really knew what a cauliflower ear was until I met my husband. Even then, it still took me a while to figure it out - who ever looks at peoples' ears? For those who don't know, a cauliflower ear is when the skin of the ear is separated from the cartlige, with bleeding occurring in between. The blood then calcifies or hardens, and as a result, the ear then becomes bumpy, hard and somewhat enlarged. So it is a common injury with rugby players and wrestlers.

My husband was lucky. When he played rugby and it happened to him, the doctor lanced his ear right away to reduce the problem. In Japan, cauliflower ears are referred to as mimi gyoza, which literally translates into dumpling ears. Until yesterday, I never understood just how bad a cauliflower ear could be.

My own experience with the Japanese medical system tells me it is no wonder they were not able to fix his ear.

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Friday, April 16

Motivational Japan

I got sent a bunch of motivational posters specifically related to Japan, and quite spot on. Scary stuff.

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Thursday, April 15

Shaking All Over

I have no words to describe the "Shaking Hip". The picture really says it all. It is what it is...shaking hip.

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Wednesday, April 14

Welcome Back To Crazy

My husband and I arrived in Tokyo this morning...and within a short time, we had created ultimate chaos.

To fill you in. Whilst we were back in Oz, we moved apartments here in Tokyo. Well, somebody moved to us, so today we returned to our new home for the first time. We were exhausted to say the least.

A few hours later, we were both woken up by this gentle sound floating through the house. It entered my dreams until I was awake. It took us a few more minutes to figure out that noise was indeed our new doorbell, with someone downstairs wanting to be buzzed in.

Here is where the craziness started. For the life of us, we could not figure out how to let this person in. Buttons were pressed, alarms were going off and phones were ringing. Finally the person walked away although our downstairs doorbell was still ringing...

A few minutes later, we had someone actually at our door yelling and demanding to be let in. Problem was we had both fallen asleep in our underwear. So I called out in Japanese to please wait a moment. Still dazed and confused from our deep sleep, we had no idea where anything was - remember we were 2 hours into being in our new apartment, with all of our things unpacked and put away in places by other people.

We finally found our clothes and made it to the door a good 5 or 6 minutes after the knocking began. The door itself posed another question - how the hell do you open it? 3 locks and a huge handle did not bode well for two jet lagged, sleepy people in a fresh place.

Finally we get it open. An old man tells us someone else will be there in a minute. What on earth did he mean? And why was he laughing his ass off??

So that was when the 1-man SWAT team arrived. Apparently in all the fuss, we had accidentally called in an emergency. He came in, dressed entirely in black, helmet on with some sort of bullet proof vest and a whole heap of walkie talkies going off on his tool belt. He seemed really disappointed to learn we were just new to the apartment and really had no idea how to work anything. Still, an incident report was filed.

And then the door bell rang again. Mr SWAT team showed us what to do we and we managed to let the J-Com people in to connect our internet, which was another 2 hours and a different story altogether.

It was awesome. Oh Japan. How I have missed you.

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Tuesday, April 13

Off The Rails

Sosumi Sushi Train, located in the basement of the Westin Hotel in Sydney, is one Japanese restaurant I will not be hurrying back to. To say I was disappointed was an understatement!

With a menu including various traditional sushi train dishes such as agedashi tofu, seaweed salad and of course a range of sushi, I thought my hubby and I were in for a treat at Sosumi.

Not so.

First of all, the restaurant said it was open for lunch until 3pm. We walked i at 2.15 and sat down. After having waitresses rush past us, a lack of food being put on the "sushi train" and several attempts to get someone's/anybody's attention, we were told the kitchen was closing. Now the restaurant is not that big. It took us 15 minutes to get somebody's attention and to have them tell us this. As far as I am concerned, if a place says they are open for lunch until 3, the kitchen should not start closing until 3.

Secondly, any dish we asked for was not available. All that was available were the old and tired dishes making the rounds. I tried to eat a seaweed salad but it was very warm and suddenly I lost my appetite. My ex-prop husband still managed to down another 6 or 7 sorry looking sushi morsels but he too could not eat anymore (something he only usually says when he is sick).

Thirdly, for this kind of service and the quality of food available, Sosumi was well over-priced. At one point, a patron, who grew tired of waiting for his waitress and was appalled by the quality of the food served, tried to walk out.

I don't agree with doing a runner. Instead I would rather write a review and email it to them...

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