Monday, September 26, 2011

Slot machines can kill

There is a seriously problem in Japan with Pachinko, or slot machines. They are in essence, a mind-numbing form of gambling, but gambling is technically illegal in this country. But that doesn't mean you can't split your entire paycheck into yakus (dollar coins) and spend every free moment of your life sitting like a loser in front of bright lights and flashy noises. The government may have put a ban on receiving any winnings from these machines, but the clever pachinko owners have found a loophole. If you do "win" you can cash out your plastic chips for, say, a box of peanuts. You then walk across the street where *gasp!* there just so HAPPENS to be a guy who REALLY wants to buy your box of peanuts for ¥10,000. Problem solved. All other forms of gambling seem to have essentially been muscled out by these Pachinko Parlors, so socialized gambling games such as poker, roulette and black jack (where you might have to communicate with another human being), are impossible to find.

Gambling is a serious addiction. One that can affect your personal and social responsibilities to the point of detrimental loss. Since 2004, there have been 12 pachinko-related deaths. And NONE of them were the dirt-bags that were playing the actual game. The deaths were all CHILDREN. That's right; 12 CHILDREN HAVE DIED because their parents locked them in cars in Pachinko parking lots while they play with shiny lights all day. The kids died of heat stroke or suffocation. This is clearly a national problem that no one seems to care about enough to do anything.

Here's the source from a translate news site;

I love Japan, don't get me wrong. But there are some MASSIVE social issues in this country that are not being addressed. Extreme child negligence is not a joke, and suffocation in a car is a terrible way to go. I truly hope the police do something about this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scraps, Odds and Ends of the Summer Part Two

Once in a blue moon, I get the chance to meet someone truly wonderful at my job. I felt truly privileged to encounter such a person today. His name is Takeshi, and by his own accounts, he is a pensioner. He's been traveling the world for decades, promoting international awareness of pre-industrialized countries. As I sat down with this man for his English lesson, I immediately knew I was in for a treat. He is that wonderful grandfather type, with a soft voice and sparkling eyes that speak decades of wisdom. Listening to his adventure stories of Eastern Europe and South America, I felt incredibly humbled by him. He looks and acts like the perfect grandfather figure, and his mannerisms almost brought me to tears in remembrance of my own grandfather who has just recently passed. So I sat for almost 2 hours in total awe of this man. Listening to every word from his opinions of "kids today" to quips on international politics. He spoke perfect English, and he told me that he only continues to come to class to "flex his brain". He doesn't like getting old, and refuses to let his age slow him down.
But this man is more than just an old man with a pleasant demeanor and a million stories to tell. He also volunteers his time at a local university to teach teenagers about global awareness: "because they dont know what they're missing".

I feel truly privileged to have met this man. He not only returned fond memories of my own grandfather to me, but was truly an inspiring and striking individual. And for that opportunity, Universe, I thank you.

Now, for some more random pictures!

The other day we went to a beautiful park with a gorgeous stone-statue garden. Each statue is incredibly old and hand-carved, and there were thousands of them.

 Look! It's a baby car! This thing's like 5 feet long!
 A statue that did not entirely survive the earthquake.
 A giant tower where you can look at the scenery around Utsunomiya.
 More Scenery
Scenery with bridge.

 A restaurant with the menu written on pieces of paper and stuck to the wall.

 A super huge playground named "Adventure University" with a TWO MINUTE LONG SLIDE! Awesome.

 Molesting states.
 Drinking giant beers.
Molesting the same statue.

And then some more randomness;

Goodnight everybody! I'm tired and have to be on a train to Ginza in the morning!

Scraps, Odds and Ends of the Summer

My laziness has been somewhat out of control lately, and I have simply failed to purge my photographed experiences on the internet for the past month. For that, I'm sorry. I know I suck at this. But here's the rest of the pictures from Thailand;
 I need to add this picture to my collection of creepy statues found in Asia. Wasn't Ronald MacDonald created to be an inviting figure for children all over the world? Not the 10 foot ominous piece of plastic seen here.
 This is a poster recruiting for the police department and army in Thailand. Totally badass.
 This sign seems normal at first glance, but if you read it you'll notice something a little abnormal...

(This picture was taken in the Bangkok International Airport. I would be surprised if the employees of this restaurant could have found Canada on a map.)

 I hope you can read this, but in case you can't, # 702 is listed as "Vagetable Noodle". For all the Vagetarians out there :)
 For the low, low price of 400 Baht,  you could enjoy the local custom of "Cockage" where I believe they put a *cough* rooster in the neck of your wine bottle to preserve the flavour for later.

And that concludes our trip to Thailand. Moving On!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Earlier on the in the summer before my vacation, I went to a Taiko Drum Festival in the boring town of Utsunomiya, where I still technically live. Except on that day, Utsunomiya was anything but boring (finally). Thousands of people lined the streets, and thousands more marched in parades or preformed in huge drum demonstrations. It was a colourful, stunning and deafening preformance of tradition and Japanese culture.  Observe;

These pictures would be significantly more impressive with sound, but like the moron I am, I forgot to turn the sound on in my camera, so they visuals lack the necessary impressive *BOOM* sound. I thoroughly encourage you to bang on some pots or pans to simulate the lost effect. Or if you don't feel like acting like a three year old, then you could just look at this;

Carrying a Portable Shrine to the Temple

An example of Taiko Drumming

A friend who has also documented this crazy drum tradition

 These groups of guys dress up in short-shorts and walk around with these giant portable shrines that (I think) represent their family name. Some of the short-shorts were a little too.... short.

 Sometimes there would be a small child standing precariously on top of the 2x4's they used to carry the shrines. It looked incredibly dangerous, but there was always someone holding the kids down so they couldn't fall off. The kids would have the honor of yelling which direction the shrine-holders should go.

 As with any other local festival, the ladies all look their best in kimonos.

 Closer to the heart of the city, the "portable" shrines got bigger. And there were even a couple with Taiko drums built into them. These guys in white g-strings would balance on the beams held high in the air and bang on the drums for hours.

 Does it look like these guys aren't wearing any pants? That's because they're not. It's the middle of July in Japan; it's 42 degrees outside. Pants are no longer an option. I can't tell you how much man-crack I saw that day.

 Hey look! It's white people!

 I didn't have the opportunity to visit "Pub Mistake" but I definitely intend to go there some time and see what happens.
 There's more bits and pieces from the rest of the summer, but I'll put it in the next blog.