Night of the living red (snapper)

You may have heard that Japanese people eat a lot of fish.  It’s a staple of the diet, which quite makes sense when you live on a chain of islands.  You can probably imagine, then, that Japanese people are quite particular when it comes to eating sea life, and they’re particularly particular about how fresh it is.

How fresh does it need to impress Japanese people?  How about the remains of a mostly-filleted fish, literally gasping its last next to the sashimi it’s less-than-willingly just provided to you?  Warning, the following movie is not for the squeamish or animal lovers, though mercifully, the insides of the fish are obscured by some kind of garnish.

I have added some subdued background music to hide the actual soundtrack of my girlish screaming at the horror of it all.  Due to said horror, I didn’t partake in eating the fish itself – though strangely, I was somewhat okay about eating the other varieties of sashimi that belonged to other fish we couldn’t see.

The brain is a wonderful organ when it comes to making flimsy justifications and overlooking conflicts in values.  I consider myself someone who would be unable to hurt an animal, yet I eat meat almost daily.  The reason I can eat animals is that they’re presented abstractly, placed on a white foam tray, rather than looking anything like the recently deceased former owner.

I have a theory that Japanese people are far more at ease with knowing exactly where their food comes from than I am, at least.  I showed the movie above to multiple Japanese people, and none even slightly recoiled.  “Wow, that’s pretty fresh.  Looks good.”

Becoming vegetarian is one option to avoid my conundrum.  However, the nominally Buddhist country of Japan is a surprisingly challenging place to go vegetarian.  Although meat portions are in far lower volume than in Western cuisine, they are pervasive in lots and lots of dishes.

Anyone who lives in Japan, don’t argue with me on this.  My not going vegetarian is hinging on my flimsy, poorly researched rationalisation that it would be a difficult thing to do.  Don’t ruin this for me.


Nightmares rendered in plastic

If you know anything about Japan, you know about the art style of Japanese cartoons.  Notably, it features characters with enormous eyes:

It allows the artist to show emotions in an exaggerated, often comic way. Once you’ve seen enough of this style, you cease to really notice how different the proportions are to what we’re used to.

Well, someone at my local consume-a-torium reasoned, if it works for cartoons, why not fashion mannequins used in store displays?

Why not indeed.

The horror…

The horror…

The horror…

We bring you love

So, what political party do you support? Labor? Liberals? Republicans? Democrats? I don’t care. Your party sucks. I’ve got a new party and it rocks:

The Happiness Realisation Party

Wait, what’s that…?

The Happiness Realisation Party

The Happiness Realization Party’s platform promises include: world peace; a unicorn in every house; Polyphonic Spree robes for everyone and, finally; dumping LSD into the water supply to make sure everyone actually believes this will all happen.

Actually, this isn’t your standard case of humorous English translation – the Japanese name, too, literally means “Happiness Realization Party”. They were founded in May this year, and you can read all about them on their website (okay, if you can read Japanese).

According to their site, they’re connected to a 10 million person-strong Buddhist group called “Happy Science“.  According to their Wikipedia entry, Happy Science’s prophecies include:

In 2300-2400 the new continent of Atlantis will be recreated as a result of the United States sinking. After this is complete, Martin Luther and Nichiren will be reincarnated and they will lead a new huge religious movement.

During the years of 2400 through 2500 Jesus will be re-incarnated. Another important event is that the extraterrestrials that visited the Earth in the 1980s return.

You should really read the rest of the prophecies too.  I left some out of this quote because they sounded too wacky.

Back to the secular world, the main platform of the political party is amending  Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.  Article 9 was introduced with the new Japanese Constitution following the end of World War II, and basically states that Japan may maintain a military only for self-defense.  This is taken to the extent that if you happen to say “the Japanese army”, you’ll be quickly corrected to say “the Japan Self-Defense Forces”.

The Happiness Realization Party, founded on Buddhist values of pacifism, wishes to amend Article 9 so they can go and kick some North Korean ass.  Really, that’s what it says on their web site.  Okay, it doesn’t say “ass”, but you can tell that’s what they were thinking when they wrote it.  They want to loosen some of the strict conditions in the constitution so that they can “defend Japan against North Korean missiles”.

What started as a poster that gave me a chuckle when I was at the local supermarket turned out to be quite the rabbit hole indeed.  My planned 5 minute post has turned into a 1 hour mini-research project, and there’s a lot more to read besides.  Look for an update after I’ve had some more research time.

Alternatively, if they find that I’ve met my maker after having realised what would appear to be a suspiciously excessive amount of happiness, you know who did it and that I knew too much.  Tell the world!

Update: Somebody has already done a great job researching this.  Head over there if you want to bask in the craziness.

The distant future, the year 2000

Have you ever seen the delightful romantic comedy Serendipity, starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale (and described as “sheer romantic entertainment!” by Jeanne Aufmuth of the Palo Alto Weekly)? Neither have I, but the title of that film happens to be a nice way to describe an event that happened to me last week.

I received this:

“The Great Robot Exhibition”!? That’s right – after searching Japan in vain for some months for traces of robotic civilisation, here they were, hiding under one conveniently packaged roof! Barely able to contain my excitement, I tore down my posters at home of my favourite robot, the one from Lost in Space whose name I can’t remember, and prepared to submerge myself in a better, brighter future.

This is the first thing you see upon entering. “Robotto ga suki!?”. This means either “do you like robots?”, or “I like robots!”. To that, I would have to answer a mighty “hai” (instead of “hai”, we say “affirmative“). This could only be good.

More pictures and robotic tales of intrigue after the link!

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Walking with Maid-o-saurs

I don’t think I would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself:

(Click to make it bigger)

Very roughly translated, it says:

Walk with a maid

Explanation: walk around Akihabara and spend some time with a maid on a shopping date.  We’ll have an enjoyable time!


1 hour: AUD $60
3 hour “pack”: AUD $165
5 hour “pack”: AUD $250
Additional 35 minutes: $35

Maid cafes are already quite (in)famous in the Akihabara electronics-wonderland district.  Once you enter the cafe (apparently), I hear (through unsubstantiated conjecture) that the waitstaff are usually young ladies who (supposedly) wear maid outfits and address customers very reverentially, as they would an employer.  Allegedly.  To be fair, the equivalent “butler cafes” also exist.

“Walk with a maid” takes it to another level.  As it says, you’re paying for the company of a young lady who’s dressed like a maid or a 60’s airline hostess.  She’ll walk around on your arm (and be seen in public with you, no less!) as you tour the unequalled geeky surrounds of Akihabara, no doubt pretending to be amazed of your exploits about that time you totally owned that guy in World of Warcraft.  I was also told the story of a guy who hired one of these young ladies to go to Tokyo Disneyland for a day with him, which cost over AUD $1000.  That story makes me a little depressed.

So, it’s all generally innocent as far as I can tell, but there is something just a little bit disturbing about it…