One of my favorite Japanese commercial series. Sapporo Black Label, “Love Beer?”
Intense slow-motion ping pong rocks.
One of my favorite Japanese commercial series. Sapporo Black Label, “Love Beer?”
Intense slow-motion ping pong rocks.
I had a chance to go check out the life-sized Gundam Model in Tokyo this month!
I’m not gonna lie. I have never watched a full episode of Gundam. I am not a true Gundam fan. I do however appreciate a giant robot anime every now and then… So, I’m not a “true” Gundam fan… but I still enjoyed seeing this unbelievably huge and intricate model!
Boom. There it is. Look at the size of the people on the ground to get an idea of the scale. Apparently it’s
80 18 meters (60 feet) high.
It was great seeing this Gundam. Not only is it technically cool, but it was a lot of fun seeing all the different people who enjoy it! There were all kinds of people there! I was most surprised to see how many young women were posing in front of the giant robot getting their picture taken. Yes… Japan really is a country where girl geeks exist. A little off topic, but when I was in Japan last year to see Evangelion 3.0, I was surprised to see how many twenty-something year old girls were in the theater watching it as well. It’s a wonderful thing.
If you visit the Gundam you can also shop at the Gundam Cafe and at Gundam Front Tokyo for some exclusive Gundam swag. If you’re in Odaiba for any reason during a trip to Japan, make a point to check out Gundam. It’s pretty amazing.
Anyway, you don’t need to read about Gundam here — I’m late to the show. This Gundam model has been covered to death.
Here is an older video that shows the Gundam in its previous location also in Odaiba.
Here is a video clip of it at night, showing it emitting exhaust, and also showing the head turning side to side and looking up.
Here they are lowering the hed onto the Gundam… in Shizouka. They move this Gundam around!
Here is a video of the Gundam in Shizouka holding a sword and lighting up at night. A sword?? Is this the same one? Epic.
Living in a foreign country and tired of constantly being bombarded by foreign sounds, smells, and events? Don’t you just wish you could curl up inside an expat bubble and never come out? Well you’re in luck. This article is going to teach you how.
I have lived inside and outside of expat bubbles on three continents. I’m a pro. I know the game. So, let’s get on with it. Here are some things that you can do to greatly increase your chances of getting stuck in an expat bubble regardless of what country you are living in.
(Not sure of what an expat bubble is or why they exist? Check this: Expat Bubbles: The Forces that Suck.)
1. Never go out alone.
If you always go out with your other expat friends you can effectively decrease the chances that a random local will have the guts to start up a random conversation with you.
Just think – if you’re sitting alone at a counter in a Japanese bar it’s possible that a random Japanese person will see you as a lonely defenseless foreigner with some time on his hands and start up a conversation. If you’re trying to maintain the integrity of your expat bubble you want to avoid this at all costs. Never go anywhere alone.
It’s simple, just imagine, if you’re with 2 or 3 other foreign friends all speaking English together and drinking brews from your homeland what are the chances that a random local is going to take the time to bother you? They’re going to see you having a good time speaking rapid and slangy English — they’re not going to touch that with a ten-foot pole. Strength in numbers.
Now, sticking with a group is purely a defensive measure that you should use when you have already entered the heart of foreignness. However, sticking with your expat friends has another preemptive benifit as well.
If you stick with your expat buddies you will be able to feed off of their uncomfortableness with the local language and culture as well, ensuring that you never stray far from the centers of your collective confort zones.
For example, perhaps one day you are feeling dangerously adventurous and want to try out some random restaurant in a local neighborhood you’ve never been to. You’re with your friends so you ask them along too. Chances are that at least one of your friends will save the day and prevent you from going native by saying something like, “I’m getting tired of the local food, let’s hit up Hard Rock Cafe!” This will ensure that the entire group sticks with what they are used to and never leaves the expat bubble. Mission accomplished.
2. Never join a local club unless you know another foreigner already in it.
Whatever city you’re in probably has lots of active informal clubs. Photography clubs, ping pong clubs, kite flying clubs, running clubs, classical guitar clubs… Whatever it is, be sure that you only join a club if you already know for certain that some of your expat friends are in it already, or at least plan to join with you.
If you join a club that no other expats are involved in you will probably be forced to make new local friends, thus destroying your carefully crafted expat bubble. If you do join a club that has another expat in it, be sure that you quit as soon as the last foreigner other than you leaves. If you’re the last one your bubble will surely burst.
The photo with this article shows one episode early in my Japan days when I failed to maintain my expat bubble by foolishly volunteering to participate in Ringon Matsuri in Iida. Bubble destroyed. Don’t let this happen to you.
3. If you work in a mostly foreign environment, be sure that your coworkers are also your best friends.
If your coworkers in a foreign country are mostly other expats, be sure you spend as much time outside of work with them as you do at work.
When work is over invite your fellow expats out to dinner and drinks. Be sure to figure out your weekend plans while you are in the office so you can be sure to travel with a group of foreigners while out and about (see point 1).
4. Never learn the local language.
This is a no-brainer. If you can’t speak the local language you can limit the number of locals who have access to your mind. Furthermore, even if there are locals who speak your language trying to penetrate your bubble at least you can expect that they probably are familiar with your culture and will probably be happy hanging out in your usual expat locations anyway. This way you don’t have to leave your expat bubble, they can enter it themselves.
As a further precaution, do not even attempt to learn the language — zero effort is the safest bet. If you get a private language tutor you open yourself up to being invited out to do local things with your teacher, and worse, your teacher’s friends. In fact, if your teacher is worth their salt they will do this on purpose, as every good language instructor knows that embedding a student into the local culture only speeds language learning and cultural understanding. Dangerous.
5. Stay away from the local communications technology.
Different countries will have different major modes of communication. Facebook is doing a lot to create a unified platform, but there are still country-specific places where people hangout online. Be sure not to join any of them if you want to maintain the integrity of your expat bubble.
For example, in China I made the mistake of joining Weibo, China’s Twitter clone… everyone uses it here. Now I can be constantly plugged into what my Chinese friends are thinking about and doing, I can be informed of all the latest Chinese jokes, and my Chinese friends can reach me whenever they want to share something with me. My Bubble has been breached.
If you are an expat in Japan trying to hold down your expat bubble it would probably be best not to get a mobile phone if you can manage. Japanese people text like crazy, and sharing phone numbers is the first step to building a relationship for most people. If you have to get a phone, which you probably will, try not to give out your number too often — you can make up some excuse like, “I don’t know how to read Japanese so I never look at my text messages anyway.” Or something. Also, stay away from Mixi and Gree, joining such social networks will only further thin the walls of your bubble.
Bonus: Get an expat significant other
Encore! If you really want to augment your expat bubble experience you can get yourself an expat significant other who also lives in their own bubble. This will enhance number 1, 2, and 3 by definition, and will also enhance number 4. You’ll always have an expat around to keep the local culture away! You will be able to cancel any annoying local culture related events by claiming it’s “date night.” The list goes on and on. Note, it is vital that your significant other live in their own expat bubble. If they are one of those people who integrates themselves into the local culture and learns the local language, you’re likely to be dragged out of your bubble with said S.O. Choose wisely.
Seriously though, are Expat Bubbles all Bad? No.
Not all expat bubbles are created equal, and people shouldn’t necessarily feel bad because they are living in one…
In my last expat bubble related post I said:
In Japan, mainly because I spoke the language, was dating (and am now married to) a local, and worked at a company that employed mostly locals, I was able to largely avoid the expat bubble — perhaps I even avoided it so much that it was, in a way, detrimental to my experience in Japan. On the flip side, when I lived in Tanzania I could count the number of local Tanzanian friends I had on one hand… France was somewhere in between, and my situation in Shanghai is a little weird… More on that later.
But expat bubbles are evil! Why would I say such a thing?!
I say this because a lot of expats are really cool and doing amazing things. You can gain a lot of energy and inspiration from the people in your expat bubble. It takes a lot of guts to move overseas and do one’s thing, whatever that thing may be, so a lot of expats who are out there making it happen are really high-calibre folks. I would say that the simple fact that someone is an expat makes them quite likely to be a lot more interesting than the average joe back home, or even the average local in many cases…
Many expats are bilingual, entrepreneurial, international minded, adventurous, willing to share, and fun. Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone — there are some expat idiot jerks as well… but it does apply to a lot of people. I think I met more cool expats on Twitter after I left Japan than I did while I was there. I consider this a missed opportunity, and if I ever move back to Japan long term I will make an effort to embed myself into the gaijin community. Knowing the right expats can really help you navigate the local environment, can help you find jobs, and can help you find fun things to do. Seriously, expats are cool. Don’t completely shut them out for the sake of your overseas experience.
Check out this other recent expat bubble related post: Expat Bubbles, what are they, why are they.
I went to the Osaka Motor Show! (I was in Japan last week, back in Shanghai already though.)
This was my first motor show, but it was basically what I expected. A geeks paradise. Cars, girls, lots of guys with cameras, and an excuse to point your camera at anything and take 100,000 photos in one afternoon. I even saw this one Japanese guy with one of those dual holster side strap sling things so he could have his two DSLR cameras ready at a moments notice. Hardcore.
I put my photos on the usual social photo sharing locations. Check out my Picasa Album here. You can also get to my Flickr via the thumbnails at the bottom of this blog.
Here are some of my favorite shots.
There was one hilarious booth in particular that wasn’t even promoting a vehicle, but they had three girls. Two of the girls were wearing bikini tops and cutoff jean shorts and they came out every few hours to sing and dance and pose for all the cameras. This show attracted a bigger crowd than any of the other booths. The company was U-PohS and the girls are called the U-PohS LipGirls. Apparently the company provides a service where they will give you a quote free of charge for the used car you are considering selling to them.
This is the LipGirls dance I never saw because the crowd was so thick. Luckily it seems that one of the lucky guys up front made this video and put it on YouTube! Enjoy LipGirls! When they start to sing the harmony part you might want to turn down the volume… ouch.
How about a bit of language fun to try to keep this a bit intellectual?
The girls who work at these car shows are called “companions” コンパニオン and “campaign girls” キャンギャル (shortened to kyan-girl). I believe that the “companions” are down on the show floor passing out pamphlets and answering questions, while the “campaign girls” are usually the more elaborately dressed models who are up on stage posing with the cars.
There is a Chinese expression: 香車美人 (xiāng chē měi nǚ in Chinese, or I guess きょうしゃびじん : kyoushabijin in Japanese) which basically means beautiful cars and beautiful girls. 香車美人 is a real phrase, though it seems to be more common in China and not so much (if at all) in Japan. (My wife didn’t know it.) It’s real though. See?
If you search Google and YouTube for “大阪モーターショー2012” you can find a lot of other photos and videos from the event.
Here a YouTube video that is a collection of the Campaign Girls at the event:
Here is a slide show of what must be every single girl at the show… This guy really made the rounds.
That’s all! Remember just Google “大阪モーターショー2012” if you want to see more of the show.
In an effort to boost my pitiful Chinese abilities… I got an App!
A company called Rye Studio makes a series of picture book apps for iPhone and iPad that read you a story while showing you the text in Chinese. Listening to target language text being read at native speed while reading along is a great way to pick up new vocabulary if you ask me.
What’s that you say? You’re not studying Chinese, you’re learning Japanese! Of course! Well, the kicker is that you can watch the story while reading and listening to it in a variety of languages… including Japanese in most cases! (Not that I’m spending all my time in China looking for Japanese language sources… no not at all… I just happened to notice this and decided to tell you about it… yeah that’s it…)
And rest assured, the Japanese seems to be being read by a native speaker as far as I and my Japanese wife can tell. So yeah, it’s high quality stuff.
There are lots more as well!
Also, these apps all run on your iPhone or iPod Touch as well. The screen shots in this post are all from the iPhone and iPod Touch screens. Note, it’s a universal app, so you only have to buy it once and you can run it on both of your devices.
Well worth a look!
So I recently started watching the ひかるの碁 (hikaru no go) anime, and as what I assume is normal for most people who do the same, I now find myself wanting to learn how to play Go.
If you haven’t watched Hikaru no Go I would recommend checking it out. You can stream it (in Japanese language thank-you-very-much) on Netflix. It’s amazing how they can make such an old fuddy duddy game like Go into a fairly exciting Anime!
Anyway, so let’s talk about my quest to learn Go. I figured that there would be an App for that, and after some sleuthing I found SmartGo!
I’ve been running SmartGo Kifu, which is the iPad version. The iPad is a great size for this type of thing. SmartGo is also available for the iPhone and iPod Touch.
I’ve been using SmartGo for a few weeks now, and so far I really like it. One of the greatest features I noticed early on is that the game allows you to create a profile, and it tracks your progress as you play. You get a player rating, and your opponents slowly increase (or decrease) in strength as you win and lose games. If your rating really sucks, like I do now, you even start with a handicap.
As an incentive to not suck, the game starts off allowing you only to play on a 9×9 board and the 11×11 and 13×13 board options are locked. I’m only playing at level 6++ on a good day now, and the 11×11 board unlocks when you reach level 11, and the 13×13 board is unlocked when you beat level 13 playing on a 11×11 board. So I have a long ways to go. One game on the 9×9 board only takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, so it’s a good size for a quick learning match.
Another simple yet great thing about this app is that the computer will make smart decisions about when to resign when you’re winning. One of the hardest things (I think) about learning to play Go is that if you’re playing against another human who is also a newbie, you’ll both have no idea when the game is really over… A pro can look at the game in progress and understand when one side has already been to be defeated, but to a newb this can be tough to judge and you’ll end up placing pieces on the board until it’s full.
The menu interface for SmartGo isn’t the best – it has so many options that it sometimes feels a little cluttered when you’re digging through the menus. But then again, you you’ll be spending most of your time simply staring at the beautiful image of the wooden board and the pieces anyway, so that’s not a big deal. The menu only really comes into play when you’re switching profiles, or when setting it up for the first time.
I’m not there yet skill-wise, but it’s nice to know that SmartGo Kifu also provides a ton of professional games that you can replay and study if you’re so inclined. I’m sure that I’ll be using this app for a long time!
Twitter friend @ciholmer also recommended this online community to play Go http://gobase.org/
Hikaru no Go is currently available on Netflix streaming!
The title is, “Gengou Free” By Masayuki Akamatsu.
It converts the year counting system you’re used to, like 2011, into the Japanese system which is like 平成 (Heisei) 23.
You know how when you’re filling out some form at a service counter Japan, you’re doing alright filling out your 名前 and your 住所 like a rock star, the staff are complimenting your awesome Japanese skills, and then suddenly the form asks for the year you first moved to Japan or something using the Japanese emperor system? And you’re all like… what?! 知るかそんな！It’s 2001 but I dunno what that is in 平成！ But you’re too embarrassed to ask… cause you know, you’re rock star. So then you star sweatin’.
No more! Just whip out this app and you’re good to go!
This 空調服 company has created a line of products that use a low amount of energy to keep us cool in the humid summer months. How do they do it? To put it simply, the clothes and other products incorporate a battery-powered fan.
What? What’s that you say? You ask why their website URL is www.9229.co.jp?
Let’s have a momentary language geek-out session.
The number nine is 九 (kyuu, also pronounced ku).
The number 2 is 二 (ni, or 二つ futatsu).
The company name, 空調服 (kuuchoufuku)
So… 空(9 ku)調(?)服(2 fu, 9 ku).
See? The numbers sound like the name of the company. Not sure about the second 2 though… What is that?? Someone help me out.
This video shows one of their jackets. When it’s hot, flip the switch on, zip up your jacket (zip up when it’s hot?? Yes.) and enjoy the cool breeze.
This video shows the 空調座布団 (kuuchou zabuton). A zabuton is the cushion that many Japanese use to sit on when sitting on the floor, or to place on a chair for added comfort. The fan and airway will prevent your nether regions from getting all sweaty. Don’t you hate it when they get sweaty?
Don’t want to spend the money to buy one of these excellent jackets? Well, this guy figured out that you can make your our 空調服 in your home. All you need is a fan.
Be sure that your cat doesn’t get in the way, and that the fan blades don’t chop off your ちくび though.
Here is another video of 空調服 in action.
Here is a guy actually doing work wearing 空調服.
This guy says that the 空調服 is so nice that he might even wear it on the train on the way to work.
I could use one of these here in Shanghai. It’s brutally humid here!