Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Ramen Girl

The Ramen Girl
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Out on a photo-shoot in Harajuku last Sunday I inadvertantly stumbled into a Hollywood movie! At first I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I had intended to get some photos of The Dancing Elvis's (famous in Harajuku) but I couldn't get anywhere near them. Next thing I saw was a pretty blond girl standing next to me and some guy ushering my friends and I off the road as a camera crew rolled in. The pretty blond girl then went running into the dancing crowd while the camera crew followed.

It wasn't until after all the comotion had died down that I realised the pretty blond girl I'd been standing next to was none other than Brittany Murphy! Later research revealed she is in Tokyo making a movie called The Ramen Girl.

From what I saw of the shoot the movie should be a fun no-brainer. Not usually my kind of thing but I'll be watching this one come September 2007. Hell I was there!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Yakitori Obasans

Yakitori Obasan
Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Having spent the day trying to squeeze English words into the non receptive minds of Japanese children I thought I would treat myself to some Yakitori as I meandered along the paved street leading back to my apartment. To the uninitiated Yakitori is basically grilled chicken on a stick, and there happens to be at least five street vendors conveniently stationed along the main street for anyone who fancies a tasty, if sometimes sticky, snack on the way home.

Whenever I approach one of these vendors I'm always apprehensive about speaking Japanese. It's invariably at the end of the day when I stop in for my fix of chicken-on-a-stick and I barely have the ability to string two words together in English let alone another language entirely. Tonight was no exception. As I approached the Yakitori window I noticed the two old ladies nattering away to themselves at the back of the store. Happily plugged in to my iPod I waited for them to finish their conversation then one of the old ladies wandered over. As she approached she mumbled something I didn't catch.

"Sorry?" I said (in Japanese of course).
"I said do you like Yakitori?"
"Oh. Yes, I like Yakitori"
The old ladied turned to her friend. "Did you hear that? He likes Yakitori!" She turned back to me. "So you like Yakitori then!"
"Oh yes" I replied. "I like Yakitori very much"
"English?" she asked, more as a statement than a question.
"Australian" I replied.
"You have a Japanese girlfriend yet?" she asked, as if she knew someone who might be interested. I don't know why it is but it seems foreign boys are not allowed to be single in Japan, especially not as far as the old ladies are concerned. They are always trying to introduce you to someone.
"Umm, yes I have a Japanese girlfriend, thankyou".
"Oh good" she said as she handed me my chicken and that ended our conversation.

It's funny, but back home a conversation like that would never happen, especially not with a foreigner. People are too busy keeping to themselves to bother taking an interest in those around them let alone people on the other side of the counter. At home the staff at the convenience store are more concerned with getting you out and away as quickly as possible so they can go back to whatever it was they were doing before you so rudely disrupted their life. Here, especially with the older generation, it's quite the opposite. I don't know whether it's out of some kind of fascination because you are a stranger (in more than one sense of the word) or because the people are generally more friendly. What I do know is it can be both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing on those days when you feel the pressures of a foreign world pressing in around you, and it's a curse on nights like tonight when you know you're just going to fall all over the language you've been studying so hard to get right.

Tonight was one of those nights when I fell all over my Japanese and stumbled home embarrassed. Later I realized I'd forgotten to get my bike from the station and had to stumble back again, smiling politely to the old Yakitori lady as I passed.

"It was delicious" I murmured when she saw me. She just smiled and went back to her grill. Probably marvelling at just how odd these foreigners are.

The Mr. Postman Flower

Originally uploaded by Nate-san.
Harajuku: the place where cool young Japanese go to buy trendy clothes with poorly constructed English phrases printed on them. I suppose I should feel some comfort in the fact that English is the "in thing" in Japan (or at least Tokyo) these days, however I can't help but shake my head every time I read another mangled English sentence. A case in point is this t-shirt. It has words on it I'm sure don't even exist!


What the hell is a "cecret" and how the hell is it "supritual"??? Here's another one I read on a bag on the train.


Pure gobbledy-gook! The Mr. Postman flower??? While I love the fact English is becoming more and more popular they could at least spend a little more time getting it right when it comes to putting it on consumer products.

Then again... there's probably hundreds of people back home in Australia walking around with "foreign wanker" tattooed to to their bodies in kanji so I guess that makes us even.

Hell for all I know there may be a Mr. Postman flower wandering around delivering things to signs. There's lots of things I don't know about this country.

Aside from the bad English though (which actually gives me a chuckle when I see it) I'm still loving Japan. What can I say? It's one of the most SUPRITUAL places I've ever been... whatever that means.