Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 2014 Japan Trip, Postscript

Just when you thought I was done photo dumping....Well, I am. Kind of. I just had a couple of more things I wanted to share with you.

First, the eki bento (a.k.a. ekiben). Ekiben are boxed lunches sold in train stations to folks preparing to board the bullet train. I bought mine at a shop like this right before I set out from Kyoto to Tokyo.

As you can imagine from this picture, there seems to be an infinite number of possibilities when it comes to ekiben. Most stations sell station specific ekiben as well as a wide array of seasonal and old favorites. 

Traveling by shinkansen is much more pleasant and enjoyable than any kind of train transportation available in the United States. The cars are clean and quiet, and the ride is incredibly smooth. The seats recline, there is plenty of legroom as well as adequate tray space for a good-sized ekiben and drink.

Of course, none of this matters if you are traveling with small children because then you are holding at least one of them on your lap while also trying to balance your boxed lunch and manipulate chopsticks in such as way as to force your toddler to take a bite of the salmon already. Traveling on a quiet and clean bullet train with kids is worse than flying with them because there's no ambient engine noise to drown out their poorly-timed observations or high-pitched protestations. Plus, the aisles are so darn wide, they can actually race each other down them (not that I would know from personal experience or anything; though I can say with a degree of certainty that you might be asked to keep your children quiet even when that's quite impossible given the excitement-provoking double whammy of TRAINS! and first-time views of majestic Mt. Fuji).
Pink shows Stow Mt. Fuji for the first time (back in June).
But, I digress. Back to ekiben...There was a time in my life, when I was a conservative ekiben consumer, but that time seems to have passed. Last week, before starting my marathon journey from Kyoto back to Tokyo just in time for a 12+ hour flight back to the US, I purchased this makunouchi ekiben.

 Check this out:

The only real surprise was the baby octopus in the bottom middle slot. I'm also not a huge fan of clams (top left). The other stuff was heavenly, though. I especially liked the tofu and pumpkin (sharing space with that darned octopus).

Anyway, the moral of this long-winded story about ekiben is that you should go to Japan and eat one, preferably without small children on your lap.

And now, I promise, the last of my interesting English pictures from this trip.

This is a souvenir shop in Kyoto Station. I looked. The store did not have a single heart, human or otherwise. Talk about false advertising!

This sign hung on the wall just above the toilet paper dispenser in my hotel room taunting me every time I used the toilet. Even now, I can't make sense of it (reading the Japanese doesn't help, either). If I don't need the whole roll, it seems wasteful to finish it, no?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Epic Bad English Photo Dump

On my last day in Kyoto, I found my favorite kids' clothing store on the 5th floor of the Yodobashi Camera. Score!

Nishimatsuya is still the best place to find a seemingly endless supply of bad English clothing, though I think I can now argue that Aeon wins the prize for highest concentration of obscene children's clothing.

The thing is, my kids have enough clothes. Stow needed a couple of long sleeve shirts and they could all use underwear that fits, so I bought those. The rest, though, I photographed at the store. I generally try to avoid this because on top of wanting to fully support the bad English industry, I also don't want to be thrown out of a store (after all, I'd like to think my stupid foreigner days are behind me***). Unfortunately, we just don't have closets big enough to house all of the insane English out there, so I decided to break my own rule just this once.

I MAY have gone a tad overboard. Brace yourselves.

First, the slightly odd:

You just heart to believe if you want to take off.
Clank! It is success.

Sometimes I just can't get enough of those positive donkey feelings.
Wait, what? Universal beating around the back and edge?
Take the high ground and wistfully Boom Out!
The world ties the hand that made me happy. (And, frankly, that makes me very unhappy.)
I'm not sure what to do with all the mixed messages:
You! Just follow your dream, OR ELSE!!
Wait a minute...
Just follow your dream, as long as you're going MY way.
Decisive decide.
No, really, decide already. 
If you don't have BRAVERY, what's the point?:

Now, what I like to call The Warble Trilogy:

My Hot Time--I can't think of a worse tagline for a kid's shirt, but all the awesome SAT words makes it better somehow, especially on a faithful boy.

Raggle taggle you pithy high-spirited kids!
Fly high, you jocund amusing fair boy.
Man, if I had a dollar for every time one of these said jocund I could buy more shirts.
Mirthful? Feeling sanguine? These shirts should help.

I actually bought this one. No bad English, but super tacky and with trains.

Win win.

Last, but not least, these might be my new favorites--t-shirts brimming with grammatically perfect but totally unnecessary English. It's like some overachieving English-speaking genius got a job at the T-shirt factory and didn't know what to do with all that skill.

Such good and pointless English.
As American as apple pie and coveting your neighbor's apples.
This is my FAVORITE. Perfect English in the form of a conversation about playing together after school with a particular focus on making sure they do their jobs well at cleaning time. Unfortunately, these were toddler shirts, so I didn't get one for Stow (who according to size tags is the same size as a Japanese 7 y.o.).
Phew. That's all for now. I just hope the person who proofread those last three shirts doesn't set a new trend. I'm not sure I will survive without a steady supply of bad English children's clothing!

***We have to know each other a lot better before I start to tell you THOSE stories.

Friday, October 17, 2014

One Hundred and Sixteen Days

I'm sitting in a Starbucks waiting for a meeting. As I look at the pedestrian mall across the street, I think about the last time I was here.  Back in June, when I was walking through that space, debating whether to get a coffee before catching my train, a call from Ren's sister stopped me in my tracks.

Ren's brother was dead.

One hundred and sixteen days have past since then. And in almost every way, our daily lives go on just as they would have had Ren's brother not been killed. It's weird to lose someone you didn't see every day (or even every year, for that matter)--somehow the loss is both distant and near, real and imagined. This past week, as I've retraced many of the steps we took through the crowded streets of Tokyo and Kyoto back in June, I've seen the face of Ren's brother on many of the well-dressed businessmen rushing to and from work.

Distant and near. Real and imagined.

Ren's brother is gone and never coming back, a reality that's no easier to grasp than it was four months ago, when I stood in this plaza and heard the inconceivable news from Ren's sister. But, we know more now than we did then. The police report describes in painful detail how a twenty-something driver got distracted by the new iPad sitting on the passenger seat next to him. Stuck in slow traffic, he let the digital images on the screen pull his eyes from the road, and before he knew it, he was on the sidewalk, and Ren's brother was dead mere feet from his front door.

Such a stupid mistake. And with it a trail of destruction that will never be undone. I visited my widowed sister-in-law last week, and together we walked to the spot where Ren's brother died. She pointed out the wall that was damaged by the impact of the car. "It looked as good as new within a week," she said, slow and pointedly, reminding us both that some things can never be fixed.

I wish I could show you the alter erected in his memory, a large photo of Ren's brother watching over the family as they live their new reality--on one side, a white bag holds the ripped and damaged clothes he wore on that day, carefully washed and returned to his family by the policemen in charge of his case; on the other, a plain piece of wood bears his posthumous name next to a mountain of fruits and snacks piled up as offerings to a lost father and husband.

I can't show you these because this is my blog, not theirs, and theirs is a story only they can tell. I can tell you this, though. Turn off your devices. Drive with both eyes on the road. And, while you are at it, say a little prayer for all of us as we still very much struggle to make sense of this senseless loss 116 days later.

For the original post on this topic, click HERE.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sometimes These Posts Just Write Themselves: The Bad English Version

Hallo! Remember me? I know. I know. I know. I fell of the radar again. Call it post-Ren-surgery blues with a side of flying-to-the-other-side-of-the-world-for-a-few-days. So many stories to tell and no time to tell them!

You know what all of this means, though, don't you? That's right! It's time for some more funny English. If you haven't already, take a look at this old post about what makes a good bad English shirt.

And, I know it's kind of lame to rely on the seemingly infinite supply of bad English children's wear to give my blog meaning, but Oh. Em. Gee. you guys, some of these shirts just scream to be seen. 

It turns out I can't turn down overly suggestive children's wear. You'd be proud of me, though, I only bought two of these.


Wait. No. No, this one isn't much better.

This one has a school bus, so how bad could it be? Turns out that misplaced signifiers make a big difference.
Besides, unintended innuendo, I also like the shirts that implicitly (or sometimes quite explictly) reference the illicit drug habits of elementary school students.

Munchies? We are pleased with this happy.

Wait. What?

Hmmm. Apparently, I DIDN'T misread it.

After all of this talk of sex and drugs, I find a simple case of false advertising to be pretty refreshing.

Nothing says "stylish" like a poor-fitting shirt with ugly brown polka dots and a mismatched front pocket sewn hastily on the front of it.