Sunday, 30 January 2011

Repobitan D - the greatest drink in the world EVER!

At the recent national center tests, all invigilating staff were given Repobitan D, a nutritional supplement it says on the bottle. I skim-read the back and it said it contained various B vitamins. So I drank mine straight away. It tasted like very strong Lucozade. Some teachers didn`t want theirs so before lunch I drank three more. We had 40 minutes for lunch but that was just enough time for me to write all my review classes, all my final exams, tidy my entire office, do A LOT of shredding which I like doing, and have an-depth but animated discussion with the vice president, the subject of which I cannot remember. In the first exam after lunch I was veryveryvery thirsty and I had trouble sitting still for the full hour. In the break I decided to have another bottle and it was at this point that - having read the three novels I`d brought - I decided to read the rest of the back of the bottle. It was then that I realised that the ingredients included nicotine and caffeine and something called taurine. Then I got veryveryveryvery sleepy so I didn`t drink any more.

I brought that last bottle home and today whilst doing my pre-"Devil Out, Good Luck In" cleaning, I found it in the fridge. And I drank it. My house is now reallyreallyreallyreally cleanincludingthewindowsinsideandoutandIpolishedthewhole floorandtookdownandwashedallthecurtainseventhoughIthinkmyneighboursacrosstheroadcanseerightintomyapartmentbecauseIcandefinitelyseerightintotheirsincludingreadingthetitlesofallthebooksthey`vegotontheirshelveswhichareprettymuchjustmanga. And I`d like to go to bed now but I can`t stop blinking.

Repobitan D - gives you wings ... and hallucinations.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Japanese Embassy, "too shy" to complain about this one?

In a recent class on intercultural communication we talked about stereotypes and I showed the students this clip from `Come Fly with Me` with David Walliams and Matt Lucas. I asked the students what they thought of the clip and if they were offended at this stereotypical view of female Japanese high school students. They answered that although it was strange to see two British men portraying Japanese girls they thought the sketch was funny because it was pretty accurate. "Too shy, too shy!" got a big laugh. Because that`s us, the students said.

Two points which were not accurate. I have never seen a Japanese person wearing braces. Crooked teeth are considered attractive here so having them straightened is not considered necessary, although things are slowly changing as more young people watch the OC and Gossip Girl. Having white teeth is certainly becoming more important, for women at least.

The second mistake is that Japanese people do not bow with their hands in prayer position. That`s a Thai greeting.

Still, we all enjoyed the sketch. Little Britain is also popular here. You can buy their DVD with Japanese subtitles. Sebastian is the students` big favourite.

Monday, 24 January 2011

QI and the Unluckiest Man

I think I will weigh in on the QI "Unluckiest Man" uproar. It`s been on a lot of the news programmes here in Japan generally accompanied by scenes from a documentary of the man himself, Tsutomu Yamaguchi, standing on the riverbank in Hiroshima and explaining how after the explosion the water was full of burned people. Then they show his daughter praying for the spirit of her now-dead father at her butsudan (home shrine) and saying that although they used to joke within their family that he was indeed the unluckiest man in the world it is unnacceptable for the British, who have nuclear weapons, to do so. It`s not exactly unbiased reporting. In addition, although several Japanese people have complained to me about the show NO-ONE I have spoken to has actually been able to understand what Stephen Fry or the other contestants are saying. Their English is too just fast.

In fact, Stephen Fry explains how the man is unlucky and the other contestants joke, not about him at all, but about how the Japanese trains kept running even after the atom bomb whereas British trains have to stop if there are the wrong kind of leaves on the line. The joke was at Britain`s expense not Japan`s.

Another news programme noted that when Stephen Fry said that the man then got on a train to Nagasaki and got bombed again it got a big laugh from the studio audience and that this was not an acceptable subject for laughter. On this I take their point. Neither the bombings nor the man`s extremely unlucky experiences nor the war itself is a suitable topic for laughter but I really do not think that the audience was laughing at that or for that reason. They were laughing at the irony of the man`s situation. And after all the man lived to 93. He was in fact extremely lucky.

At the end of the news segments, the announcers say the situation is kanashii (rueful, regrettable) which is generally the sentiment that the Japanese have about their actions in the Second World War in general, including, my Chinese friends note bitterly, Nanking.

Japanese people care a great deal about how they are viewed by foreigners. I think the real issue here is not that a British quiz show seems to be making fun of one Japanese man but that Japan itself is considered a source of mirth.

Here is an extract from one of the Japanese news shows followed by the offending clip from QI:

Flashing Japanese Smiles

It`s been a tough couple of months. I`ve turned completely "Japanese salaryman", regularly staying late at the office to read piles of graduation theses. It`s dark when I walk home and my landlord STILL has not replaced the outside light on the third floor. Luckily I can see my way by the light of my teeth ... They`re `thenewexcitingthingforhighschoolstudents`.

I can picture next semester`s classes already. I close the curtains, turn off the classroom lights and do my PowerPoint presentations to a room full of students wearing flashing LED teeth. THAT would be pretty cool.