Tuesday, 29 September 2009

2nd Term at Abingdon Boys School

I`ve spotted a marketing opportunity. Watch the video below of ABS in concert flying the flag for Britain and featuring a guest spot with some bloke I`ve never heard of. See the cardy? Pringle of Scotland (one crummy shop in Aoyama), sign these guys up!

They`re a good demographic for knitwear too. Believe it or not, all the band members are 40 years old, except for the lead singer who is 39. And yet they`re still popular with Japanese schoolkids.

A prefect`s badge for me, I think.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Abingdon Boys School

I see Abingdon Boys School have a new single out. Yes, that`s them above. Is that regulation uniform?

Their new song is called Kimi no Uta (Your Song) and it`s the soundtrack to a new anime (animation ...... it`s a cartoon) `Tokyo Magnitude 8`. ABS`s genre is alternative rock and they are touring Europe in November, playing at the Underworld in London on 12th.

What interests me is how this band are tapping into the continuing popularity of the British brand, especially the belief that the British education system is the best in the world. These guys wouldn`t last 5 minutes at an inner city comprehensive. But then they`re not called Inner City Comprehensive, are they? They`re called ABS because Radiohead attended Abingdon School, the prestigious `public` (which in England means private, fee-paying) school.

Since their formation in 2005, ABS have had several hit singles including: Stay Away, White Breath, Howling and Jap. They also sing some of their songs in English – kudos for them.

Take a look at the PV (promotional video) for Innocent Sorrow. Is that any way to treat books?! Detentions all round except for the keyboard player who is obviously way too old to be a student. I bet he`s the music teacher.

And here they are in summer uniform singing `Freak Show` in English. Nice to see a band tackling real issues; what to do when you have too many electrical appliances. Still, not bad for a `live`.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

New Seasonal KitKat

The new seasonal KitKat is ... Vegetable. Actually there are several fruit and vegetable combinations. I tried the apple and carrot-based version. It was orange and tasted of sugar.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Tokyo Autumn Collection 2009 - for dogs

Today I saw a dog wearing a navy and white striped tee shirt and a beret. My first thought was, "That's a good look". I think I have been in Japan too long. The autumn outfits for dogs are just in at Pet Paradise in Kichijoji. Lee are doing casual knitted cardies teamed with jeans (for boy dogs) and denim skirts (for the girls). For toasty evenings around the kotatsu (a low Japanese heated table) wrap your pooch in red brushed cotton all-in-one jammies. Or for a more feminine look how about the yellow leisure outfit with frilly skirt and pom-pom hood to keep those ears warm.

And they say Japan is in a recession .....

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Shop Quiz

A new shop has just opened in my neighbourhood. The sign over the door suggests it is a:

a) sports store
b) shoe shop
c) apartment rental shop

It`s an apartment rental shop. Obviously.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Am I beautiful?

It`s Silver Week here in Japan, 5 consecutive days of late summer national holidays, an event that only occurs once in 20 years. However, like most Japanese, I had to work one day of the holidays. Teachers and staff at my university were supervising the first round of entrance examinations. Because of the new flu we all wore masks, and bottles of disinfectant were available outside the exam rooms. If it saves one life it`s a great idea but it made checking the students` identities impossible. Try looking at their eyes, I was told.

With us all masked up I was reminded of the Japanese legend of the Kuchisake Onna, the slit mouth woman. The traditional story is that a samurai took jealous revenge on a lover by taking his sword and slitting open her mouth from ear to ear. Her spirit continues to wander in modern Japanese urban myths and horror stories, particularly those used to warn children against talking to strangers or to discourage salarymen from picking up women in bars. She appears wearing a mask and asks "Am I beautiful?". If you answer yes, she removes her mask to reveal her slit mouth. She asks again, "Am I beautiful?". If you answer yes, you are safe, if you answer no, she kills the men and disfigures the women.

The slit mouth theme appears in Western stories as well, for example, the Joker in Batman. In his most recent portrayal by Heath Ledger he appears by Harvey Dent`s hospital bedside in a nurse`s uniform and wearing a mask.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Come on SMAP!

While the rest of Japan was sitting around in their yukata (summer kimono), spitting watermelon pips and watching the summer firework displays, those hard-working SMAPsters were getting themselves yet another marketing deal. They now advertise Softbank phones.
I joined this network way back when it was Vodafone and marketed by David Beckham. I figured that if he could work their phones then so could I. I stuck with them when they became J-Phone even though they were then fronted by Brad Pitt and Cameron Diaz (pretty phones but ultimately useless), and then I got the White Plan (the cheap 890 Yen a month plan) when Softbank took over. I was thinking of looking for a new deal but now that SMAP are on board, I have reaffirmed my loyalty. The message I am now getting is that their phones may be nothing special but they work hard and are certainly value for money. Come on!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Train Door Opening 101

To my Japanese students -

For those of you who asked me how to open manual train doors in England, here is your tutorial.

When the train stops at the station, wait for the `Door Unlocked` sign to light up, then pull down the window, reach for the OUTSIDE handle and push it down. Lean against the door to push it open but do not lean too far or you will fall out. Failing that ask a British person to do it for you.
Important Safety Tips: As the yellow sign says, check that the platform is there first.
About the red danger sign: It says that the emergency alarm is in the saloon. The saloon? I`ll get back to you on that one. In the mean time, stay put.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

I`m sorry but ... the British are rude

I`m back in Japan again after the summer vacation. I had planned to blog while in the UK but the reverse culture shock proved too great. I just couldn`t write at all. I hadn`t been back for a year and the place had changed in ways I had not expected. At the time I couldn`t figure it out – perhaps I was the one who had changed – but now that I am back in Japan the cultural differences are leaping out at me. The first is manners or as the Japanese call it, “Etiketto” (etiquette). “Teach us English etiquette”, I am often asked by students and Japanese housewives. And at the start of my Introduction to British Culture and Society course when I ask students what Britain means to them, several will reply, “English gentlemen”. For example? “Ladies first” (It`s actually a gairaigo, an adopted foreign word here, pronounced “Reidees faasto”).
Unfortunately during my UK stay I saw very little gentlemanly or polite behaviour. I did however see and experience a great deal of defensiveness. For example, I was returning a white blouse to Marks and Spencer (because when I put it on the fabric was so thin it was almost transparent, and I teach teenage boys) when a conversation developed between the M & S store clerk and a customer. The customer was told that she couldn`t have her money back but would have to take a credit voucher at which point she said very loudly, “THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS. I PAID WITH CASH, I WANT MY MONEY BACK AND I AM NOT LEAVING HERE UNTIL I GET IT.”

So far, so rude. But what shocked me was that the store clerk then replied just as loudly and aggressively, “LOOK, SWEETHEART, I KNOW MY JOB.” And proceeded to tell the customer that she was going to have to take what was offered. To which the customer replied, “THIS IS AN ABSOLUTE DISGRACE. I AM NEVER SHOPPING HERE AGAIN”.

What struck me about his conversation was that both women had been so defensive. If either one had started her converstion with the Japanese classic, “I`m sorry but ....” and just smiled and spoken more softly the tense situation could have been diffused in a second and the both sides may have made efforts to accommodate the other. Defensiveness is a product of fear. What are British people so afraid of?
More on manners later. Above is the latest in the manners poster series on the Tokyo subway. The bottom tagline reads, "Please be considerate of those around you on the train".