[The American Years]

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sorry for the delay in posting. I need to get in the habit of posting every silly thought I come up with, instead of waiting till I have something really good to write. As my own worst critic (and only editor), I round-can almost everything I think of. Let the flood gates open. Publish or die. Please lower your expectations, if that's possible.


Greetings from Japan, where they don't do fractions. The only exception I can think of is half-hours. They acknowledge that fraction. Weight? All in grams. Meat prices are given in increments of 100g. Money? No quarters, half dollars, dimes or cents. All in Yen. 100 yen coin is the primary coin, so it would be awkward to ask someone for half of a hundred. And they don't have a coin for 25 yen, or a "quarter". As appealing a unit as it is for us, they go straight from 10 to 50. Half gallons? Nope again. Liters. Or ml. A can of soda is 330ml, for example.

That's why they exceed at math. They have never had to, nor will they ever have to add 2/7 to 1/5 in 4th grade. All the energy they saved looking for common denominators is redirected towards making the perfect toilet and the perfect ice cream bar, sold separately.

Things I'll miss about Japan.

OK. I need to up the ante in this section. Most items I talk about in this section is met with responses of "I can get that at home", "I am drinking that right now", or "Kentucky is lame, we have that here". (Nobody has mentioned Chu Hi, of course, as I am fairly sure it's only available in Japan.)

Now try this on for size: Japanese packaged ice cream. In America we have the fudgicle, the ice cream sandwich, the chipwich and the drumstick. But we fail. The Japanese are the world leaders. I have not tried every kind, but every kind that I have tried is better than all the American also-rans.

First, the Japanese package the ice cream inside a covering of ice-cream-cone material. It is perfect. No drips, great tasting ice cream, and cake-cone taste as well. Fantastic. Here are pictures of Kathleen and I enjoying a vanilla and a green tea ice cream sammich. Awesome.


I don't usually write about my workplace here. I am afraid I would appear to be in turns petty, boastful, and then possibly fired. So I choose not to tempt fate. But now I break my silence.

I have a theme of 'necessary luxury' that I pay attention to. What things are required luxuries that people are used to and require, and what are frivolous and best done without. The Japanese have different necessary items than you and I require. And they don't have things you and I rely on.

Example: grocery baggers. Someone to bag your groceries in the US is nearly a given. In Japan, not so. Let's consider the American model. Does it make sense for you to stand still at the cashier doing nothing while someone puts your stuff in bags. You move your stuff from shelf to cart to conveyor, then later from cart to car to counter to shelf. The one time you don't touch it is when your stuff gets rung up, when you are doing nothing important anyway.

But I digress. That's not what I want to consider. The real topic is below.

My office offers a ‘necessary luxury’ that I can’t figure out. Gargle. There is a common area between offices that has a trash sorting station, a restroom, a drinking fountain and a vending machine. No surprises there. Then next to the drinking fountain there’s another fountain. It doesn’t have water. It has gargle. Some sort of mouth washing product. And a little cartoon image of people gargling to warn the foreigner that this is not water in this fountain. Gargle on demand.

So it was decided that the workers had to have gargle piped throughout the building, and a disposal method what goes down the drain of that fountain. (Unless it’s a closed system..? Eww.) Somewhere in the recesses of the basement there is a gargle tank and pump system, there’s got to be pipes going all around the building. It was designed, planned, paid for and implemented. There are architectural drawings on file devoted to the piping system in this building. And for what? For gargle. When the building was expanded and a new wing added 3 ears ago, the new common areas have… vending machines, restrooms and gargle fountains. No drinking fountains! (That’s what vending machines are for, silly foreigner!)

A sure sign that my transformation into a Japanese worker at this company is when I use the gargle fountain. And not on a dare.

There is no picture of the gargle fountain here. Pictures from inside my office? Talk about fired!


Valentine's day! It came and went... or did it?

In Japan the day is separated into two. Red Day and White day. Feb 14th is red day (I think). On this day the girls give chocolates to the boys. Then, one month later, it the boys who give to the girls.

It is a Japanese invention, and very clever.

Some may say that it's just a marketing ploy to extend the holiday and increase the buying. But really, it's not such an increase, just splits it in two. But there is genius behind it, and behind the fact that the girls have to go first.

The boys have the advantage of knowing who gave them chocolates. They know whom to buy for, and how extravagant to be. The romantic notion of confessing one's true feelings for another is a big theme over here. And the girls have all the pressure.

Nicely done, Japan!


More things to miss about Japan... wacky Japanese cars. (First in a series.)

Yes, I know this is European, but it's good.

From back when retro was a thing... (back when retro?...)

Short videos of no real consequence.

Z bowls a strike, and acts like it happens all the time.

A robot draws the kids. Very effective safeguarding around it.

Conveyor Sushi for lunch!

Veronica sings her Japanese body parts song.

Japanese proverb:
When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.