Who was that masked man? Oh, everyone.

It’s scary sometimes.  My two year anniversary of life in Japan is upon me in April, and it’s amazing how the brain can quickly re-classify some things that once shocked you as normal.  I have to write them down as quickly as possible, before my plane of reality is skewed forever.  Case in point:

Japanese mask ad

Surgical masks!  It’s flu season at the moment in Tokyo, and I would guess that about 25% of my office is wearing white surgical masks (yes, always white).  The really interesting thing is that it’s not a Michael Jackson thing, where everyone is afraid of everybody else’s microscopic germs.  Rather, in line with the “group is greater than the self” nature of Japanese culture, you wear one of these masks as soon as you feel like you might be getting sick, so as to not infect others.  Thoughtful, eh?

You know this is a entrenched cultural element when you see advertising for masks everywhere, and masks sold right next to the chewing gum in the supermarket checkout line.  Incidentally, the subway ad above promises a mask which doesn’t fog up your glasses.  It does this by having a “nose cushion” to close the gap.  If you’re like me, perhaps surgical mask-induced spectacle fogging is not something you’ve ever given a lot of thought to in the past.

If I remember back, I remember being quite taken aback the first time I saw someone wearing a mask around the office.  I immediately had thoughts of Christopher Skase-grade respiratory ailments, and it must have shown in my face because I got a very amused explanation.  Of course, it was just the sniffles.  Being so informed, now I just casually enquire how people are without making too big a deal about it.

So, it sounds like I’ve got this mask thing well in hand, right?  Well, not quite.  I’m now fine with looking at people wearing surgical masks. Wearing one is another matter.   When I was getting over a flu last year, I actually went out and bought a pack of surgical masks.

I opened it.

I took one out.


I just couldn’t bring myself to walk out of the house with it on.  I don’t know what it was exactly.  That I was too presumptuous for adopting such a local custom.  That I would get looked at more than when I’m on the train reading a Japanese comic or in an out of the way place not used to foreigners.  That if even I saw another foreigner wearing a mask, I’d think, “Hey, that’s weird”.  Whatever the reason is, it’s a bridge I still have to cross.  Who knows, maybe I’ll get over my mask complex this year.

Incidentally, when I looked up “fear of masks”, I found out it’s called “maskaphobia”.   Honestly?  They couldn’t dip into the Latin, class it up a little?

Finally, I posted this a few weeks ago, but it’s too cool not to post again.  I’ve never seen anyone wearing a mask as remotely as awesome as this at work:

Giga punk


The weirdness comes to Japan

I don’t think this is exclusive to Japan, but I was very surprised to see this piece of Australia on Omotesando, a famous high-end shopping avenue in Tokyo:

Cosmetics with Dame Edna

I wasn’t familiar with “Mac”, but found out it is a cosmetics chain. This would lead me to believe, if I am not mistaken, that they are using Dame Edna to sell…. cosmetics.

I am not a marketing guy.  However, I am now lead to believe that marketers must operate on a plane far, far away from the one I operate on, for at first glance, this seems like a terrible, terrible idea that I cannot begin to fathom.  I am also assuming that they got paid actual, real money for doing this, and probably a lot of it.

At the very least, I think you’d have to agree that as far as marketing campaigns go, this is, in many respects, ballsy.

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Japan

When you’re mushing dogs across ice and snow one day:

Go, you mighty stallions!

… and seeing this fellow the next:

Giga punk

… you know you’re not in Canada anymore.

Akemashite omedetou gozaimasu (Happy New Year)!  Some time away does wonders for perspective and motivation.  Actually, my New Year’s resolution is to not be so combative to language aquisition.  You know, be like water, the whole Bruce Lee thing.  Which, given the whole immersion situation, would seem to make good sense.

Canada was lovely – my first white Christmas (and Vancouver Island’s first in many years). For a place which gets little snow normally, it was white for two weeks solid, which did actually get a bit old after slipping on ice for the fifth time. However, snow does make snowboarding significantly easier.  As everyone predicted, the first day of learning is hellish, and the second heavenly.  Besides, even if you’re in a seated and agonized position for most of the first day, at least you can enjoy the view:

Mt Washington

Other than learning how to snowboard and living to tell the tale, one of the other highlights was getting enthusiastically dragged through a Siberian-grade forest by these two:

Dog sledders

I ended up taking 300 photos of dog-sledding.  On review, this turned out to mostly include shots of the departing ends of the dogs I was being dragged by.  So if anyone’s in the mood to make a collage out of 200 dog-arse shots, you know where to find me.