Youtei Yusui Political Water

MJG Food / Drink, Japan 3 Comments

Lots of things get politicized in life. Rock has been political for a long time- Band Aid, Live Aid, U2 are heavy into politics. Food got political with Freedom Fries vs. French Fries for a while. Environmental concerns politicize a lot of regular products, as they switch their packaging and production methods to more eco-friendly ones.

This is the first time I’ve seen water politicized though, especially for such a short term duration. This water is from Mt. Youtei in Hokkaido, where the 2008 eco-summit will be held for 3 days next week.

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Arakawa Cyclo-Campers

MJG Guides, Japan 5 Comments

The Arakawa river stretches up out of Tokyo Bay and into the Saitama mountains, passing straight through the bulk of the city, picking up stray cyclists looking for a place to go as it meanders above and below ground. Some of the cyclists that accrete to its bike-pathed banks come prepped with tents and gear to camp out, BBQ, and generally make merry.

That was us.

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Bruce, Cameron, Arnold, and Tommy

MJG Ads / Signs, Japan 8 Comments

Hollywood actors often do ads in Japan that they would never do back in the US. I don’t know why really, though I suspect it’s because that kind of ‘selling out’ in America is more likely to negatively impact their status than it would here.

A few years back they had David and Posh Beckham in small cars saying- ‘my beautiful small’ at us. Brad Pitt has done low-key advertising for Edwin jeans for as long as I’ve seen Edwin jeans. Back when 24 was huge Kiefer Sutherland reprised Jack Bauer to sell Calorie Mate energy drink.

Below are a few instances of Hollywood, Japan I’ve gathered recently.

That’s Arnie on the Fukutoshin line, grinning at me and telling me to come to California.

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Ikebukuro Excavation Card

MJG Ads / Signs, Japan 2 Comments

On my way through Ikebukuro the other day I spotted this poster for an Ikebukuro ‘excavation card’:

I had a look around and found the same poster on this pillar:

“Curioser and curioser,” I said to myself. Just what is an excavation card?

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Meiji Memorial Gallery, Aoyama Itchome

MJG Guides, Japan 2 Comments

The Meiji Gallery in Aoyama Itchome holds 80 works of art depicting scenes from the life of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912), half painted in the Japanese style and half in a Western style, each about 3 meters square and really quite stunning.

I discovered this Gallery unconventionally. In fact, I’d thought a long time ago that the museum/impressive building scene in Tokyo was played out for me. I’d been through several solid guide-books and already visited every place that seemed of interest. It seems I was wrong.

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Fukutoshin Shibuya Station

MJG Guides, Japan 6 Comments

The new subway station on the F-line in Shibuya is remarkably large, spacious, and modern. It reminds me of the subway system in Washington D.C. for all its brushed concrete blocks and cavernous oval underground spaces.

Even now a week after it opened there are still lots of people with cameras snapping away at its sights- of course, including me.

This is the concrete hub squatting over the escalators down.

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Stopped by the Police

MJG Guides, Japan 9 Comments

Last night I was stopped and questioned by the police. I was riding home on a friend’s tiny BMX-like bike at around 2am, just coming to the hill on Meiji Dori before my house, when I heard something from behind me.

I turned around and saw a policeman running up behnd me. I did a double-take, for a second dis-believing that he was following ME, then realized he was, so stopped the bike.

He came over and explained he was doing a bike-theft check, and proceeded to ask me questions: was it my bike, whose bike was it, was I in a rush and going to work at my company (at 2 am!?), did I have time to answer some questions, who did I work for, did I often ride this way, and so on.

I’ve seen this kind of thing in Japan often. I think maybe 40% of the work I’ve seen police officers in Japan do is related to bicycle theft- stopping people on bikes and checking out their registration details. 50% of their work (that I’ve witnessed) involves giving directions from their ‘kobans’- police boxes, and the other 10% is comprised of standing on boxes in train stations with truncheons in hand looking menacing.

So I explained to the police officer that it was my friend’s bike, yes it was too small for me, no I didn’t know where the registration number was. He searched the whole bike several times checking for the number, then his buddy pulled up in the pato-caa (patrol car) and he came and had a good look at the bike too. They rang in whatever number they could find but I don’t think it was the right number, so they took my gaijin ID card and noted down all my details, then went off on their way.

On the whole I could have happily done without the experience, but contrary to stories I’ve heard of people being bullied by Japanese police these guys seemed very polite and professional. Sure they chased me down on suspicion of bike theft, but they do that all the time to everyone- in fact it almost made me feel like I fit in here that they didn’t pass me up and ignore me, which is more what I’d have expected.

Now they have my address, maybe I can expect a house-call from them in the coming days?

Kit Kat Triple Berry

MJG Food / Drink, Japan 8 Comments

Kit Kat in Japan exemplify the gad-fly product life-cycle model that rules the confectionery business here, in that they constantly release colorful new but very short-lived product variants.

To see a wide range of past Kit Kat flavors- check out my friend Mike’s website, including white, peach, strawberry, bitter, orange, cherry, and cherry blossom.



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