Pokemon, and on…

For anybody who thought (or indeed hoped) that the Pokemon phenomenon was at long last drawing to a close, I suggest you think again. As it seems that the brightly coloured beasties are far from finished. Quite the opposite in fact.

For starters it was announced last month that a Pokemon theme park will open next year along with the 2005 Aichi Expo. And to keep fans content until then, ANA has just unveiled a Pokemon jet.

Here’s a drawing of the aircraft’s paint job in all its glory.

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And here’s the equally gaudy real life version.

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Now I must say that I was really surprised when Pokemon really, ahem, took off. But now several years down the line there are games galore, mountains of merchandise, and a soon to be opened theme park.

Why?

A grim fact

“Suicides that halt rush-hour trains carrying tens of thousands of passengers can result in the victim’s family being billed as much as 8 million yen. “

Karin Amemiya, author of “The Cost of Suicide.”

As if bereaving families don’t suffer enough without being handed a hefty bill to add to their woes.

Now it is rumoured that Japan Railways (the nation’s largest train operator) doesn’t actually charge the families. It says it does, and the families are asked to go along with the lie, but in reality no money is exchanged. The idea being that burdening their family with a huge debt will be enough to deter some people from taking such drastic action. Or rather cynically you could suggest that it will at least tempt them to jump in front of a train run by another operator. Perhaps the real motivation behind Japan Railway’s supposedly compassionate policy?

But like I said, this is only a rumour. As far as I’m aware, families are handed huge bills, and sadly they are expected to pay. And as the above quote says, this could be as much as 8 million yen. A massive amount of money.

Mildly amusing Japanese-English #10

Bar code

Quite often, borrowed English words turn up in the strangest of situations, many of them far removed from their original meaning. But the reworking of bar code is a stroke of genius, as it perfectly describes what in regular English is a plain old comb-over.

Sporting the bar code in the picture below is Japan’s Health, Labour, and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi. Another in the long line of Japanese politicians to have been caught missing payments to the national pension plan. But on the ever-growing list of non-payers, Mr. Sakaguchi is among distinguished friends. As Prime Minister Koizumi, and Tokyo’s obnoxious and racist Governor Shintaro Ishihara have also been found guilty of shirking their pension responsibilities.

But Sakaguchi-san may have got rumbled for not contributing fully to the pension fund, but judging by his impressive bar code, he still feels he can fool us into thinking he’s got a full head of hair.

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Are you going to tell him, or shall I?

Safety in numbers

When abroad, it’s not uncommon for Japanese tourists to travel around in tightly formed groups. More often than not led by a flag waving tour guide. But as you can see from this picture I took recently, such behaviour is not just restricted to trips outside Japan.

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Yet what’s more disturbing is that they all seem to be wearing the same hat!

Soapland insolvency

In Japan, if a man feels that he needs the, ahem, attentions of a young lady, there is no shortage of establishments that will gladly cater to all his needs. Whether this involves (fleeting) friendship, fetishism, fellatio, or anything else for that matter starting with the letter f. Basically, if it’s sexually related and you’ve got the necessary cash, then (for want of a better description) you’ll be able to find whatever is right up your alley.

With the country still in the midst of an elongated recession though, you’d think that such places would be on the decline. But think again. It turns out that the sex industry has adapted better than most in these lean economic times. Somehow it has managed to cut prices, yet at the same time improve the quality of its services. Perhaps not to the degree were you could hope to find offers along the lines of buy one, get one free, but nevertheless good deals are apparently out there for those wanting to indulge.

It seems however that such low price loving has created a new kind of problem. Namely a glut of penniless patrons. As it seems that some men just can’t get enough of these discount dalliances. So much so in fact that they are prepared to run the risk of financial ruin. For one 33-year-old real estate agent, the road to personal bankruptcy began last year.

His story starts like this. “My boss had invited me to a low-priced soapland [a place offering soapy massages complete with extras] in Shinjuku. When we arrived, there was this fantastically beautiful woman. She had the triple whammy of face, long legs, and sexuality. Plus she was nice and quickly made me forget all the stresses from my job.”

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In fact, not only did this soapy siren make him forget his job, but arguably the rudimentary basics of personal finance. His visits to soapland quickly became an addiction (or perhaps obsession is the better word), and despite the reasonably priced services, financial ruin was just around the corner. His frequent soapy sojourns resulted in this sorry state of affairs. “I borrowed a total of 4 million yen from 5 loan shark agencies. But now that I can’t pay it back, I’ve hired a lawyer for personal-bankruptcy proceedings.”

From all accounts this story is not especially unusual, and the internet has helped spread the word and increase promotion. Many parlours (or whatever you want to call them) run their own web sites, and in the process many of the women featured have turned into starlets of sorts. Further increasing interest, and likewise revenue.

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And if all this wasn’t enough, the abundance of camera equipped cell phones has also played its part. One parlour manager said, “In the beginning we got requests asking if they could use them to take photos of the women naked. So now we allow picture taking, depending on how often the customer comes here. We think it improves our sales.”

Judging by the sorry story of the real estate agent, this certainly seems to be true. Still, as long as he is able to keep paying his phone bill, he’ll at least have a few souvenirs to get him through the lean times ahead. On the other hand, bath time will never be quite the same again.

Total tattoo

Now that’s a real tattoo.

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But whatever your personal views on tattooing, it has to be said that the man’s choice in underwear is decidedly dodgy to say the least.