Monday, September 06, 2004

The Top Ten Signs You Might Be In Japan

10. There`s a 7-11, an AM/PM, a Yoshinoya and a Starbucks on your block. Yup, yup, the spirit of economical empirialism is alive and well. Of course, the actually fare being offered at these places differs ever so slightly from what you might find in the U.S. ;)

9. There`s a shrine (.. or two, or five ...) in your shopping mall -- and a bar in your temple. Shinto shrines are all over the place -- literally! You can therefore conveniently grab a burger, buy a new pair of shoes and sacrifice to the spirit responsible for good grades (shinto being both highly relevant and highly compartmentalized ;), all without ever leaving the building.

8. You`ve never seen so many Catholic schoolgirls in one place -- and you`re just amazed by how greatly the lengths of their hemlines vary. The Japanese anime cliche of the uniform-clad high school student *is* based in reality! And while there are plenty of innocent (or even grudging) uniform wearers, some girls have clearly capitalized on men`s fetish for the attire by wearing their skirts far too short and blouses far too tight.

7. You notice that the national railway mascot is a cross between a duck and a blue turnip -- and no one else seems to find this strange. (It`s called ICOCCU. It`s even vaguely kawaii -- cute ;)

6. The 80s are dead -- long live the 80s! Mullets? Check. "Desperately seeking Susan" style clothes? Check. Neon tights? Check. Japan IS all about recycling -- even fashion trends that should have died a long time ago.

5. Everyone`s wearing T-shirts with English slogans -- and none of them are making any sense. If you thought the clever T-shirt was big in America, take a look at what Japan (and Hong Kong) have done to the trend: Not only are there a frightening number of slogan-wearers (a solid 40-60% of people you`ll encounter on the streets have English print on them in some form), but the slogans themselves are a-grammatical and non-sensical. The most coherent ones are clearly eBay`ed trophies: I even saw a D.A.R.E. shirt on a stoner kid ;)

4. You`d prepared yourself for karaoke bars -- but what`s WITH all those game and gambling halls?! By far the biggest, flashiest structures around are gaming and gambling parlors -- you can`t miss them, especially since there`s one on very nearly every block. I may have to poke my head into one of them before I leave Japan entirely.

3. You`re starting to take the U.S. Surgeon General seriously -- if not for good diet and exercise, this people would have died out long ago, given the smoking and drinking. Healthy cuisine, small portion-sizes (e.g. Starbucks does not feature a Venti option -- the "short" size, on the other hand, is standard), walking, biking and other forms of exercise are standard. And the country has the longevity to prove it.

2. The bathroom you use has no soap or towels -- it does, however, provide you with a pair of plastic slippers. (Alright, I`ve conflated a couple of phenomena here: The truth is, though, that most Japanese bathrooms, even the most elegant ones, have no soap or towels -- just water for your hands. Hotels, inns and other authentic accomodations, on the other hand, not only give you your own set of slippers to wear inside the building (shoes are strictly left at the door), but make you switch those slippers for more bathroom-suitable ones whenever you venture into the loo.

1. You can`t find a diet coke to save your life -- but the vending machines you notice all over the place have a pretty good selection of beer and hard liquor. It`s true! Diet coke is a scarce commodity -- even McDonald doesn`t serve it, and Diet Pepsi is only marginally easier to get. Beer, sake, winecoolers and other spirits, on the other hand, are not only at ever corner-store (and 7-11) but also in every public vending machine. Kampai!


At September 7, 2004 at 11:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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