Japanese streets on the weekdays can be extremely colorless. Salarymen in their millions walk about in almost identical black suits, quickly rushing toward their office buildings and clients. But the black suits, for all their ubiquity, is not exactly designed for the hot summers that engulf the island country. As humidity soars and temperatures rise above 40 degrees Celsius in some parts, keeping to the business norm, fashion-wise, can become tortuous. Salarymen constantly wiping off their sweats can attest to the difficulty.
Friday, July 20, 2018
Saturday, July 7, 2018
at 12:50 PM
Right next to the apartment where my girlfriend lives is a construction site where a new partment building is built from scratch. Aside from the half-a-dozen construction workers who are putting together the building itself, there are another half-a-dozen workers who are doing nothing but manning the different roads leading into the construction site. Holding LED-lighted guiding sticks, they direct the trucks transporting materials to the site, and apologize to each pedestrian who happen to walk by the construction.
Monday, July 2, 2018
at 10:19 AM
It is tough to talk about a social problem faced by a social minority, especially in a country like Japan where social minorities are often assumed to be absent or nonexistent. Many people simply do not want to face the uncomfortable fact that there are minorities among them who missed out of the country's general sense of prosperity and order. Instead, they struggle for both society's acceptance and just make ends meet in the direst of material conditions. A recent Japanese film Shoplifters, in such sense, is truly an uncomfortable one to watch for many Japanese people.
Sunday, June 24, 2018
at 9:09 AM
In the Kitay-Gorod (literally "China Town" in Russian) Mall in the northeast suburbs of Vladivostok, there are several shops selling nothing but parts for home improvements. From bolts and nails to wallpapers and plastic railings the shop has everything a person would need to make the interior of a house more homey. The only necessity is for the buyers of the parts to put in the efforts to put those parts in place. That is easier said than done. Customers are assumed to be professionals, and none of the parts come with instructions on how to properly use them.
Monday, June 18, 2018
at 7:41 PM
It is a sight that is hard to miss even during the day time. Drunk men, sleeping on benches and occasionally on the ground, occupying sunburn parks without a care in the world. While in the city center, local police patrols try to get rid of such men to maintain a clean image for the foreign tourist crowds, in the suburbs, they could not be bothered to even more these drunkards. And the drunks seem to be around all day long, whether it is 10am, 2pm, or 8pm. Thankfully, Vladivostok has a relatively warm, but short summer. In the winter, drunkards freeze to death.
Thursday, June 7, 2018
at 9:20 AM
In many Japanese family restaurants, there is something called a drink bar. After paying one price for the drink bar, the customer is entitled to get as many refills as they want from its various vending machines, usually with dozens of juices and sodas. Amazingly, since water (free for all patrons, including those who did not pay for the drink bar) is also located at the drink bar and is taken with the same plastic cups, technically restaurant staff cannot who paid for drink bar at all.
Monday, June 4, 2018
at 2:51 PM
When a person hits 30, the topic of marriage and having children become more and more frequent as a conversation topic among friends. Some undoubtedly extol the joys of the family and how children give meaning to the daily grind that is becoming increasingly monotonous. Others complain about the unaffordably high costs of child-rearing, especially factoring the need for bigger residence, better food, and high-quality education that are pretty much a given if the child is to have any sufficient choice to grow up when both healthy mental and physical conditions.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Dying Traditional "High" Arts of Today are Pop Culture of Yesterday, Being Replaced by Pop Culture of Today
at 8:07 PM
In a previous post, this blog argued that patronage of the arts is often a privilege reserved for the wealthy cosmopolitan elites of the developed world. The sheer cost of maintaining opera troupes, orchestra ensembles, and opera singers ensure that impoverished countries with little extra resources simply do not have the means to allow their populations to enjoy supposedly "higher" forms of entertainment that have been passed down and refined through generations. The absurd concentration of classical concerts, operas, and plays in the developed world's major metropolises reflect such reality.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
at 6:01 PM
Indians are justifiably proud of their cooking. Scrumptious curries result from ingenious combinations of dozens of spices, discovered through centuries of trials and errors. The delicious results are admired and adopted throughout the world. The West, especially, has greatly supplemented its simplistic condiments of the past with the riches of Indian curries, resulting in what some Indians would refer to as an "upgrade" of "tasteless" Western cuisines.
Friday, April 13, 2018
at 10:16 AM
Honestly, keeping in touch with people is not a forte of the author's. Despite having thousands of people that he acquainted (some deeply, many quite briefly and superficially) accumulated as friends on Facebook, he not only barely speak to any of them, but do not even bother to check up on what they share with their friends publicly. The resulting lack of information is so extensive that he is even completely ignorant of big life events of theirs, like weddings, birth of children, moving to a different country, or changing jobs. He can only hope that they know more about his current developments.
Friday, March 30, 2018
at 12:12 PM
As part of the author's Japanese to English translation freelance work, he is currently working on transcribing some Japanese interviews into English. Interestingly, the contents are not of business or mainstream entertainment, as market demand would usually expect, but stories of a niche community of Japanese interested in aspects of the Chicano culture. For people who do not know, Chicano refers to inner-city Mexican-American culture, a distinct immigrant culture that straddles the supposedly "pure" Mexican and "pure" American cultures of the two countries' cultural mainstream.
Monday, March 19, 2018
at 9:18 AM
Undertaking a popular political movement against a government backed by military force is often not the easiest of tasks, and the task is particularly difficult if the government is a military junta with no hesitation to use force to keep itself in power. Organizers of political movements, with no military force of its own, inevitably come up against the barrels of guns when confronting the state, often with devastating consequences that results in endless bloodshed. The state, fearful of losing moral authority and political legitimacy as murderers of unarmed civilians, would of course like to suppress news of such confrontations.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
at 11:49 PM
The movie Black Panther has been all the rage back in the US for quite some time now, particularly among the black community given its depiction of a wealthy, confident, powerful black country not suffering under the yoke of Western colonialism. While the concept of Afro-centrism or Afro-futurism as many have termed it, is worthy of note, a bigger theme that goes beyond race comes to mind when watching the movie. That is the question of whether and how a wealthy nation engages its poorer neighbors.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
at 8:33 AM
It is unsurprising that in many places of the former Soviet Union, people (and middle aged men in particular) love their alcohol. The winters are cold and long, so shots of vodka are great for keeping warm and whirling away the long nights. The wide availability and cheap cost of making and buying the stuff make them friendly on the wallet just as it is on the senses. The public's indulgence has created a very strong distilling culture, in which high quality alcohol is even made at home with different fruits.
Monday, March 5, 2018
at 8:16 PM
Just a few days ago, the author found himself discussing how to increase number of tourists in Azerbaijan with a few locals in an underground bar in Baku. The economy was in dire straits as the GDP dropped along with oil prices. The government's supposed diversification to non-oil sectors involved little beyond investing in infrastructure to increase exports of natural gas. Tourism, for a city as beautiful as Baku, deserves to be one of the main sources of income in a diversified economy.
at 3:30 AM
The restaurant does not look like much from the street level. With a little "restaurant" sign pointing at a dimly lit set of stairs leading down to a basement of a otherwise commercial building filled with fashion shops. But as soon as the set of glass doors dividing the stairs from the streets were opened, the loud sounds from down below were inescapable. Simultaneously, almost disco-like lights from the basement give off the impression that one is entering a nightclub rather than a restaurant.
Friday, March 2, 2018
at 11:11 PM
At the airport in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital city, the author found himself briefly unable to enter the country due to misunderstanding of the country's visa-on-arrival rules. The immigration staff not only helped him step by step through the process, he also did so with smiles, jokes, and even free chocolate to help him get over the three hour wait at 11pm. In the subsequent taxi ride from the airport to city center, the taxi driver got lost but remained good natured, joking about how streets shouldn't have same names.
Wednesday, February 28, 2018
at 7:13 PM
The Mongolian names for dumplings (buuz) and restaurants (guanz) sounds conspicuously like their northern Chinese equivalents 包子 (baozi) and 館子 (guanzi). Simultaneously the southern Chinese name for the same dumplings 饅頭 (mantou) made to both Korea as mandu and Central Asia as manty. The favorite pulled noodles of Lanzhou 拉麵 (lamian) found itself to Central Asia as laghman just as it went to Korea as ramyeon and Japan as ramen.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
at 12:14 PM
The main Koreatown of Shin-Okubo in Tokyo has, unsurprisingly, a neon-washed main street. Shops advertising the latest hip new trends from the world of Kpop, combined with seemingly endless lineup of Korean street foods and restaurants, draw in customers from across the metropolis to experience "cool Korea." Yet, just a few steps away from the neighborhood's brightly colored main drag lies a completely different side. Dark little alleys, home to hundreds of mundane residences, extend away from the main street, at the first sight no different from any other residential area in the Japanese capital city.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
at 1:40 PM
When Japanese firms and government market the concept of "Cool Japan" abroad, a few formulas come in mind. For them, to get foreigners to "like" Japan and its culture, it simply cannot beat a demonstration of what are traditional combined with the country's modern quirks. The likes of martial arts, kimono, and tea ceremonies can expose foreigners to the historical depths, while singing idol groups, cartoon characters, and technological demonstrations can show how the country can combine its traditional values and mold it in a modern sense.