Monday, January 31, 2005

Mowing the drive

There was loads of snow last night, so this was the image that greeted me when I rocked up to school this morning. The caretakers have these brilliant machines for clearing snow from the paths, which are basically lawnmowers for snow. They have a rotating blade at the front which chews up the snow, then it's sucked up and spat out at high speed. It looks like great fun - I wonder if they'd let me have a go on one?

Girls on film

Sam B and I were banished to a bar for two hours on Saturday night whilst the girls got ready for the JET party at Creme in Fukui. Frankly though, the results of two hours preening and decorating were more than worth it! Plus the bar turned out to be a a Hawaiian-themed Italian restuarant - and there's not too many of those around.

The lovely ladies are, from left to right: Sam L, Tilly, Flick and Laura. Sorry the photo's so blurry...

More Engrish

Some people have been emailing me to ask for some more examples of Engrish. Well, you're in luck, because I spotted some absolute gems this weekend... I love these two examples, mostly because someone's obviously gone to a lot of effort to write in English, but yet they've still come up with absolute gibberish.

It still amazes me that no-one bothers to check these kind of things before they go ahead and paint it on a wall, or launch an ad campaign. There was a recent TV ad campaign where the tagline was "Impossible is nothing".

Sorry? What? Surely you mean "Nothing is impossible"? They must have spent millions of yen on that ad campaign, yet they didn't think to just turn round to someone who spoke English and say "Does this make sense?".

Still, I'm not complaining - it's always a pleasure to come across a new example of Engrish. In fact, I salute the dodgy ad writers and naff spell-checkers of this glorious country! Join me now, as I raise my hands to the golden sky and shout: "MAY CACK-HANDED GRAMMAR RULE FOREVER IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN!!!!!!!!!!!"

I spotted this painted onto the wall of a clothes shop called Comme ca ism in the Copa shopping centre in Fukui. It reads: "Comme ca ism gives a flavor of "family ties" to your family's lifestyle with the clothing for ladies, men, children, and the household goods. Every member of a family can find his or her fashion within the same shop. The pleasure of sharing the culture with your friend's family in the form of a present. The famly culture is the very familar and new culture. Succeed the spiritual culture of "affluence and warmth" in a family to children and share with them. We propose a new culture of "family ties" to you." What?Posted by Hello

This is a carrier bag from a 100 yen store (the equivalent of a pound shop, but where everything is 50p). It reads: "SIMPLE STYLE. These articles bring the warmly felt quality of European styles custom fit to bring a full life to all who enjoy them. The soft caress of warm spring winds are the essence of our philosophies of quality ingredients, ability and honesty. Dedication to soft sumptuous, and radiant items for the customer is the cornerstone of our foundation. Complete joy is assured retrospectively to all who partake in this offering. A feeling of complete freedom and individuality is the reward for zealous pursuit of inspiration. This design means the importance of the woods. It was provided by Japanese Oji&Kuri." Posted by Hello


I discovered this game when I was snooping round Hard Off in Sabae. And no, before you ask, Hard Off isn't a sex shop, it's a second-hand goods store with a particularly stupid name. Anyway, the game is called Happy Diet, and it uses a step machine as a controller. The idea of the game is that as you walk on the step machine, you walk forward in the game world. And that's a bout it really. There's a friendly cartoon bear which runs ahead of you and shouts encouragement if you slow down, but apart from that it's as simple as it sounds. There is another mode where there's a bear in an apartment, but I couldn't quite work out what you were supposed to do. As far as I can gather, the bear's supposed to be on a diet, and you have to stop her going to the fridge by spraying water on her. All very strange.

This is the "Stepper Controller" for "Happy Diet". Yes, now you too can go for a countryside walk, without leaving the comfort of your living room! Posted by Hello

Here's the game itself - the katakana reads "Happii Daietto - Daietto Shimyureeta", or "Happy Diet - Diet Simulator". Posted by Hello

Here's the box for the Stepper Controller. It's too small to read from this photo, but under the words "Stepper Controller" it says: "This "STEPPER CONTROLLER" helps your diet life. It connects with your "PLAYSTATION". Then instantly you can change your room into a Sports Gym!! HAPPY DIET! HAPPY LIFE! GET YOUR DREAM BODY." Posted by Hello

Friday, January 28, 2005

How to waste your time

I've just been sent a link to a great website, so I thought I'd share it with you lot. The site is called, and it's got loads of really funny games and videos which are perfect for killing time on those long, winter afternoons at work. I particularly recommend you look at "How to dance properly" in the "Educational Videos" section: if I'd had that instruction video when I was 15, my teenage years may have been a lot less awkward. It's also worth checking out "Christian", "Buddhist" and "Atheist" in the games section, as well as the almightily addictive "Everysecond".

Love Lew.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Evil birds

Here's a photo of the spooky crows I mentioned yesterday. There's literally hundreds of them sat in the trees all along the road to my house, lying in wait for me as I walk home. For some reason they all come and sit there at dusk and make a terrible racket of cawing and croaking. It's almost as if they're talking to each other............ Mark my words, before long we'll all be kneeling before our avian masters. There's revolution in the air! I smells it!

I took this photo just after the crows were startled by a student who thought it would be funny to run and shout at the birds. Poor girl, she'll be the first against the wall come the revolt. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Look out! Cat stampede!

I just found out that a group of cats is called a "clowder" of cats - definitely a word I intend to bring into wider usage.

Every day when I walk home from school (at about 5pm) there are huge flocks of crows gathered in the trees overhanging the road, which is creepy to say the least. If you've ever seen The Birds, you'll know what I mean. Yesterday, as I crept along beneath the gangs of huge black birds, I remembered that the proper name for a flock of crows is a "murder" of crows, which didn't comfort me in the slightest. But it made me curious as to what a group of ravens is called, so I had a look on today: apparently a group of ravens is an "unkindness" of ravens, whilst a group of rooks is a "parliament" of rooks.

Go to and you can have a look at some of the other weird names for groups of animals. I was particularly interested to discover that a group of thrushes is a "mutation".

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Biscuit news

I've just read on that McVitie's are bringing out a new Chocolate and Orange Digestive. If that's not reason enough for me to pack my bags and head straight back to England I don't know what is. Thankfully, I've managed to find a shop near Asahi which sells McVitie's Chocolate Digestives, although unfortunately they only have the Milk Chocolate kind in Japan - I miss the "hardcore" Dark Chocolate variety.

The digestives just aren't the same as the ones in England though. For a start they're far too sugary - you can almost feel the sugar eating away at your teeth as you take a bite. Secondly, they're about half the size of the ones in England, which, frankly, is unforgiveable.

Ooooooh, all this talk about biscuits is making me hungry. I wonder if I could sneak home early for a cuppa?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Snowboarding fun in Nagano

I went to Hakuba in Nagano last weekend for a spot of snowboarding. The trip was organised by some ex-JETs from Nagano, and there were English teachers from all across Japan. Actually, one of the organisers turned out to be Marc Baladi, who I used to go to school with in England! It was quite random bumping into him in the middle of the mountains in Japan...

Hakuba itself was spectacular. It's a proper world class ski resort - it's where most of the events for the Nagano Winter Olymics in 1998 were held - and it's absolutely huge. There are 31 ski lifts on the mountain - which is a lot considering that most resorts only have 4 or 5.

My snowboarding's definitely improving too - this is the fourth time I've been, and it's the first time I haven't hurt myself. In fact I was actually overtaking some people as I careered down the mountain. Well, some of them I overtook, the rest I just crashed into.

I just couldn't believe how much snow there was in Hakuba - in places it was up to two metres, and on the mountain there were snowdrifts even deeper than that. We saw this van on the walk to the mountain - it's going to take some serious shovelling to get that out. Posted by Hello

The view from our pension window. There was about two metres of snow outside. Posted by Hello

Emily bravely (or foolishly) poses underneath snow hanging off the roof of our pension. Posted by Hello

To get to the slopes we had to make a short hike through the woods. Posted by Hello

The weather was really sunny all weekend, which meant we had some amazing scenery. Posted by Hello

Matt and Sarah contemplate the view. Posted by Hello

One of the beginner slopes near the bottom of the mountain, with Hakuba town in the distance. Posted by Hello

So after taking several ski lifts up the mountain and enjoying some breathtaking views we rounded a corner, and what did we see? Yes, that's right. A McDonald's. They have them on mountains now. Chris was overjoyed. Posted by Hello

Bizarrely, the McDonald's was self-service - you just take your burgers and chips off the shelf and then go to the checkout. Posted by Hello

We stopped for lunch on Saturday at the Virgin Cafe, and I was overjoyed to discover that they sold Guinness. The grin stayed until the last drop was gone. Posted by Hello

Then, when we got down from the mountain we discovered an English pub that sold Guinness in pint glasses! I'd almost forgotten what a pint glass looked like... Posted by Hello

This was the view at the top of the mountain on the first day... but luckily the clouds lifted on Sunday which meant we were treated to views like the one below. Posted by Hello

The views from the top of the mountain were fantastic. The summit was about 3000 metres up, so you could see for miles. Posted by Hello

Our merry band of adventurers reaches the peak - from left to right: Flick, Sarah, Matt, Chris, Kyoko and me. Posted by Hello

Flick at the summit. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Tiny wee beer

When I first arrived in Japan, I was shocked by the tiny beer cans: most of them are about the size of a Coke can. At first I resisted buying the smaller sized cans, stating that they were "for girls", but I've since come round to the idea of the small can. For a start, the smaller can means that the beer isn't flat by the time you get to the bottom of it. Plus, since they're half the size, it means you can drink twice as many, then brag about how many drinks you've had.

But the other day I saw these child-size cans. Which, frankly, are a step too far. The normal size cans (500ml) are the silver ones on the top shelf, the Coke size ones are next to them (330ml) and the tiny wee ones (200ml) are on the bottom shelf. Perfectly designed to fit in your lunch box. Posted by Hello

The best van ever

Father: "Come on kids! Let's go for a journey into space in my new van!" Posted by Hello

Daughter: "But Dad, how on earth will your flimsy van cope with the dangerous levels of radiation and freezing temperatures that exist outside our atmosphere?"
Father: "Don't worry my little cabbage, take a closer look at the roof..." Posted by Hello

Father: "You see kids? It's a 'Super Cosmic Roof'! We'll be safe from all possible danger!
Kids: "Oh father, you are so wonderful!"