The wacky table wacky game

Last time I checked, video game arcades in the West were more or less dying, unable to compete against home consoles.  In Japan, however, game companies are constantly finding new experiences for gamers that they just couldn’t get at home.  For example, I don’t think we’ll be seeing this game on the PS3 or anywhere outsides of Japan any time soon.  It’s translated as “Super Flip The Table Over!”.

The controller you can see is a table, which you can hit with your palms as well as lift up.  The basic idea seemed to be that you are placed in a variety of maddening social situations, like your wife nagging you at the dinner table, your boss is drunkenly telling you off at a work party, or your  kids are misbehaving.

As your in-game character’s stress rises, you start hitting the table in anger to earn points.  When things reach a point of high tension, you can grab the table controller and fling it over.  The table in-game flies across the room, everything that was on it goes everywhere and carves a destructive path through decorations, furniture and diners alike, racking up points.

I really wanted to give this a go, but I’m wondering if it’s a sneaky test to see who is most likely to scale a clock tower in the near future.

See it in action:

The anti-boom boom

With land in Japanese cities at an absolute premium, mammoth parking garages are often eschewed in favour of smaller car parks slotted in wherever they will fit.  Suburban car parks are often nothing more than a single empty lot between towering apartment buildings with space for about ten cars.

The return on such a small car park is likely too low to afford to have any staff on a boom gate – or for that matter, any gate at all.  If the car park needs to be unmanned, what to do?  Here’s a common solution:

Until you pay, the automated toll keeper in front stays firmly up, and the railings on either side make sure you can’t sidle out.  Still, if you had a car with pneumatic lifts or a Humvee, maybe you get to park for free.  Your typical Japanese box-on-wheels doesn’t stand a chance, though.

Import cars

For English speakers learning Japanese, one of the few natural advantages we have is that many English words have been assimilated into Japanese.  Particularly in the business world, you can find transliterated words like chiimu (team), fookasu (focus) and taimingu (timing) everywhere. If you’re grasping for a Japanese word and want to have a punt, take the English word, switch the vowels around a bit, add an extra vowel sound on the end and you may have chanced upon a loan word with the same meaning.

Except when you haven’t.  Frequently, English words imported into Japanese take on subtly different shades of meaning, or are massaged into completely different words altogether.

Here’s an interesting series of reassigned English words I learned recently.  Can you guess their meanings in Japanese?  The words are:

  • baby car – (bebii kaa)
  • open car – (oopen kaa)
  • vacuum car – (bakyuumu kaa)
  • my car – (mai kaa)

<Thinking music…>

Okay, let’s see how you did:

  • baby car = stroller
    • I saw my neighbour walking her son in a baby car today.
  • open car = convertible car
    • I could tell he was having a mid-life crisis when he bought an open car.
  • vacuum car = septic tank pumping truck
    • Thank goodness we don’t have vacuum cars in big towns any more.
  • my car (noun) = privately owned car
    • Not, it’s not a rental, it’s a “my car“.

And there’s plenty more where that came from.  You certainly never run out of things to learn being a language student, even when facing things you thought you already knew inside and out.

Tower burger terror

This is the limited-time-only Tower Cheeseburger from Lotteria, a popular burger chain in Japan and other parts of Asia:

Yes, for about $12, this 10-patty-and-slices-of-cheese in a confectionery-grade bun “Lotteria challenge” can be yours.  I see a pickle hiding up there, so with the vegetable food group represented, we can safely assume there are no health issues.

Funnily enough for a country that eats relatively healthily, this isn’t the first time that Japan has been lured by stomach-bursting fast-food challenges like this one.  Last year, Burger King ran a 7-patty monster in conjunction with the Windows 7 launch last year:

The poster advertises it as an “American-sized burger”, with 13 cm and 113 g of beef patty.  At least it’s not adorned with half a kilo of cheese.  The first thirty people to a store each day got it for about $10, everyone else after that paid around $18.50.

One of my co-workers attempted to eat this and reported that it was really, really disgusting.  Who would have thought?

On the plus side, if Japan can keep this up for long enough, there could be a flow-on demand for new types of clothes tailored to suit more “American-sized” consumers.

Bathing in Osakan light

If you’re ever in Osaka at night, Dotonbori is the place to be.  It’s the central drag in Osaka jam packed full of people, energy, and lots of really good restaurants.  The motto in Osaka, after all, is kuidaore – eat until you drop.

With some much competition for diners on the street, businesses have to do something extra to stand out.  Apparently, it started out with this mechanised crab billboard:

…which was swiftly followed by imitations like this puffer fish:

…or these light-up demons shilling takoyaki (squid balls – highly recommended!):

…or this jolly gentleman, who looks like his mouth should move but didn’t:

One of the famous symbols of Osaka, the Glico Man, is just around the corner, nestled in a wall of writhing neon advertising:

Battle the throngs on a Saturday night, it’s worth it.  Not as Blade-Runnery as Tokyo, not Times Square-sy like New York, but genuinely charming in its own way.

The great seat conspiracy

What is this?

I’ll tell you what this is.

This is a picture of an empty seat next to me on the train in peak hour.

This is a picture of rejection,  ostracization, segregation and isolation.

I don’t want to make it seem overly dramatic, though.

Speak to any number of foreigners in Japan. They’ll tell you about the time they were on a packed train, and a seat next to them became inexcusably vacant while hordes of commuters stood around, pretending the seat did not exist.  “Nobody would sit next to me!” they say.  “My very aura of my foreignness scared them off, I’m sure of it”.

Foreign aura?

I refused to believe them.

Until it happened to me tonight.

The scene: a peak hour Tokyo subway.  Me, commuting home with my Japanese study materials laid out on my lap, two people sitting either side of me.

The person to my left gets off the train.

Now, let me be clear.  Seats are a sacred thing on the cattle-have-it-better Tozai line.  A novice subway rider sees a newly empty seat near them and thinks, “I wonder if I should take that seat?  After all, I am slightly closer to…”. BOOM.  Seat’s gone.  Of all the people to lose to, you just lost your seat to a frail elderly person who could barely stand upright.  Way to lose, loser.

Competition is fierce.  Jungle law.  Black-suited, salaryman jungle law.

So when the hot-ticket seat beside me goes begging like that for three whole stations, questions must be asked.   An empty seat in peak hour is no less than the faux-velour scarlet letter of the outcast, the foreign.

I didn’t want to jump to conclusions.  I firstly assessed whether there was some kind of invisible goo on the seat, remembering my historical weakness at seeing invisible things.  I didn’t think it was that.  And if I might quote Sherlock Holmes: once you’ve eliminated the possible, jump to the most sinister, conspiratorial answer you can think of.

The Great Empty Seat Next To A Foreigner In Peak Hour Conspiracy: more to come.

I’ll work on the name.