Check out this article in the Guardian: Japan’s asbestos time bomb
This is a HUGE problem on my island. Before they built the longest, tallest, and most expensive suspension bridge in the world between Awaji Island and Kobe, the only way to cross was by ferry. Hundreds of ferry boats operated by several companies made the trip between the island and the mainland (mainly Kobe and Osaka) every day. Of course, the bridge eventually killed this industry, and predictably, left thousands of locals without jobs.
My company employs several of those ex-ferry workers. In fact, the guy who sits right next to me is one of them, and he is talking about going in for tests not covered by our yearly physical because his wife is worried sick. You see, his job on the ferry often consisted of tying down stuff with lines, and the ropes they used were apparently partially made of thickly braided asbestos strands. They used the same type of ropes right up until the ferry company went out of business…. There’s not much you can say to someone after they tell you something like that, is there?
Well, I gave him an apple I picked up in the cafeteria today and told him that in the states, we say it “keeps the doctor away.”
The poor bastard grinned at me, then ate the whole thing, core and seeds and all. He is just living day-to-day and hoping for the best, I guess.
What the fuck else can he do?

Matsuda Yusaku

I totally scored an out-of-print DVD box set of the entire Tantei Monogatari (Detective Story) series on Yahoo Auctions last night! This was a very famous TV series in Japan and is virtually unknown overseas; the same goes for the star of the show, Yusaku Matsuda (best known overseas as the character Sato in the movie Black Rain).
He was the shit back in those days, and his popularity hasn’t waned a bit over the years. I take pride in being his greatest gaijin fan – only a real fan would consider a 300 dollar DVD box set a real bargain, figuring, you know, that it’s an investment.

International Symbol of Marriage

Thanks to all you truly compassionate friends and readers who have sent me this over the past couple weeks – HAHA… But the joke’s on you, because in less than a year’s time I’ll be living in the steamy jungles of SE Asia, building my army of monkeys and surveying a nice spot for my teak plantation while my wife teaches all day at the university… I’ll think of you all fondly then.


Bathhouse murals fading fast in Tokyo
I’ve never been to a sento in Tokyo, but I’ve seen these murals in Shizuoka and Nagano. The one in Nagano was at an ancient bathhouse with a single medium-sized bath and rust-colored hot water trickling from corroded lead pipes. The room was lit with a single bare bulb, and besides our group, the only other customers were shriveled old ojisans who claimed the rust was good for their kidneys. All I know is that it smelled like old pennies, and I rolled around in the snow outside to wash the rusty coating off my body afterwards. The one Shizuoka was really funny because on the opposite wall was a window from which you could see the actual mountain depicted in the mural (Mt. Fuji).
Like most other disappearing forms of art, I find this extremely sad, but I’m happy I’ve seen the real thing.
BTW, they sell poster replicas of these murals at the Loft (at the Shinsaibashi branch, at least), but they are quite expensive (over 3,000 yen) IMHO.


Just gotta say that this movie and Sin City have semi-restored my faith in Hollywood. I downloaded the rip (mad props to the FiCO CREW) but liked it so much I’ll buy the DVD just for the extras. I miss Los Angeles (well, the taco trucks at least).

Despite Everything

It’s like the greatest toilet reading material of all time. After all, what’s more depressing than reading about those in search of punk as you take a short respite from your normal, white collar salaryman existence (until you remember that this is existence is actually pretty damn unusual for an American). Anyway, it’s been a steady diet of Cometbus for the past couple weeks, since the last of my post-WWII Japan books ran out. I’m still very interested in that subject, but have pretty much run out of the good material on it. Nothing left now but to write a book on it.

Illustrator Revisited

Just thought I’d show how low the demand for my mad graphic design skillz has fallen. I insisted on making a No Trespassing sign for our department, because it gave me a chance to leave my mark.
On a related note, I may start marketing custom-brushed t-shirts and bondage gear. Nam’s Japanese calligraphy sensei is keen on helping out with this project, and with me heading up the design effort, we are sure to appeal to at least one person… More on this as it develops.

cannot applove

Today I wasn’t allowed to correct the phrase, “for you apploval,” on an official letter because it was “written by someone on the board of directors.” The guy who told me this rolled his eyes as he said it, too. I almost snapped him in two like a pencil, but thought better of it. Instead, I asked the ficus in the break room why the hell they even bother running this crap by me if they won’t let me make corrections.
The ficus thought about it for awhile, then came up with a fairly satisfying answer: Apparently, demi-gods are allowed to make up their own grammar. Duh! Stupid me…

Par Avion

“How to ship hippopotami,” via the USPS website: LINK
You see? There are better outlets for pent-up stress than spraying the whole office with military hardball and demanding your manager pull the skin off his face to show the whole world what a monster he really is.