My friend came upon these photos from within Japanese Love Hotels. Creative stuff:
As the light turns green it yields way to a vast army of drones in black suits, neckties, and black leather shoes. They walk carrying black suitcases, while wiping away with neatly folded handkerchiefs the unstoppable sweat that drips from their emotionless faces. The majority of them were most likely heavily drinking the previous evening up until the final train home, just to wake up several hours later with their gear set in automatic for the same daily routine. My amused smile vanishes as I am forced back into reality when I look down to see the same black leather shoes, black suit and a small sweat stain gathering on my buttoned shirt. My head pounding, wondering “How do they do this,” I squeeze myself into the Tokyo Metro train along with the horde of Japanese “Salary-men.”
Salary-men is a term used for people in Japan who hold salary-based white-collar jobs. This title is reserved usually for men, and women in similar positions go by “career woman” or, if they hold pink-collar jobs, “OL” – Office Lady. Salary-men can be categorized into three groups – Junior, Mid-Management, and Senior – yet they all share the same stressful and brave lifestyle. A Salary-man’s job is not a 9 to 5 job. A Salary-man’s job is a Salary-man’s life, and he is on call 365 days a year. He works hard and strives relentlessly towards promotions and bonuses. Albeit better working conditions in modern companies, Salary-men traditionally work for about thirteen hours a day with a quick half an hour lunch break. In the good old days, there weren’t any cigarette breaks either, as smoking was allowed in the office. Traditionally, Japanese Salary-men are committed to one company in hopes of reaching a senior level someday, but nowadays they tend to move horizontally (or diagonally if lucky) in the corporate ladder. The higher they go, the more their responsibilities grow, along with their wardrobe expenses.
But surely the Salary-man gets to go home and relax after a long day at work? The office and the company is not just a day-job; as I mentioned, it’s the Salary-man’s life. After working hours, his corporate life simply becomes his social life, as co-workers (including bosses) go out frequently for food and drinks (mainly drinks) – whether on special occasions or simply to unwind. The partying could go up to the last train home, and even beyond. Though when morning comes, it’s a fresh set of clothes and a straight face. It’s no surprise that one research even shows that most of the marriages in Japan are between office co-workers.
Looking for something uniquely Japanese to eat and want it fast? Yakisoba is the answer. It’s a traditional Japanese dish that is very easy to prepare. Yakisoba is basically pan fried noodles. It is a commoner’s food, not very fancy, and it’s usually prepared as a snack or as picnic food. The noodles used in this dish are not regular noodles, but buck wheat noodles. These are thicker and darker than the Chinese Chow-Mien noodles, and are much healthier. Careful though, because most of the buck wheat noodles sold in stores are not made from 100% buck wheat, but rather mixed with regular wheat.
So the ingredients that you will need to cook this mouthwatering treat are: Thinly cut cabbage, pickled ginger, dried green seaweed, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup and finely chopped pork or squid. Add oil into a frying pan and toss in the finely chopped meat and cabbage. When they are cooked take them out of the pan. Next, put in the noodles to fry. Meanwhile, mix together the Worcestershire sauce and ketchup with a spoon in a small bowl. Once the noodles are fried for a few minutes, add the sauce mix and with it the previously fried cabbage and meat. Stir everything up, remove onto a plate and garnish with some pickled ginger and dried green seaweed. Voila!
Yakisoba tastes best when served hot. To make the dish more interesting you can use different sauces like chili, soy sauce, and even sweeten it with some honey or sugar. Instead of pork/squid you are free to experiment with chicken, tofu or shrimp. Toss in some more vegetables like onion, cabbage, snow peas, capsicum, carrots or anything else you can think of for that matter. As with any other food in Japan, this can be bought already prepared in supermarkets and convenience stores, or in an instant cooking form.
Japan’s train system is one of the world’s most advanced and timely, yet there is just one obstacle that stands in its way – physically. Not a day goes by in the otherwise peaceful country of Japan without an announcement of an “human accident” causing a certain route to be temporarily blocked to the disappointment of a frustrated (yet accustomed) mob of neatly dressed corporate businessmen and women. “Human accident” is, in fact, a subtle way of saying that someone deeply depressed, stressed out, disgraced, in serious debt, or all of the above has thrown him/herself onto the tracks as a train was approaching. I’ll let you picture the result.
Suicide bombings are a common phenomenon these days in our war-torn world. Life in the affluent Japanese society is quite detached from the bloody conflicts in Chechnya, Iraq, India, and elsewhere, news of suicide bombings being viewed as alien events or something that prevails only in virtual computer games. Suicide, however, is not a foreign concept in Japan at all. It is a long standing cultural act that has been practiced to save an individual or family’s fame. Suicidal act in Japan is unique as it has often been accompanied by meanings of vindication and valiance. Japan at times even promoted suicide, in order to implant the vocabulary as a way of saving fame and to prevent probability of rebellion against the government.
The Japanese have attempted (and “succeeded” in) peculiar forms of suicide throughout history. The “Hara-kiri,” an act of cutting oneself open with a sword or knife, was once the privilege of Samurai warriors, performed in order to protect themselves from being killed by executioners. Another form of suicide called “Shinjuu,” would be committed by lovers to romantically end their lives. Military suicide, commonly known as “Kamikaze,” was prevalent during Japan’s imperial years, when warriors and soldiers would sacrifice their lives for the sake of victory and glory.
As per studies conducted by Japanese national police, the numbers of suicide cases in the year 2000 were 24 per 100,000 people, rising to 27 in the year 2003. The high suicide rates in Japan became the subject of debate, especially during times of economic recession and dearth in the social welfare system. Only in recent years has the government allotted billions of Yen to curb the suicide rate, and the numbers have been improving.
It is often questioned whether the acts of Kamikaze and Hara-kiri should be considered as suicide, as they are claimed to have been obligatory deaths due to overly strict social norms and harsh circumstances. The same perhaps could be said for the present situation in Japan, where certain actions remain unpardonable in any other way and the stress of everyday life could be overbearing. At least the Japanese know how to accept responsibility for their actions – that’s more than what could be said about politicians, CEO’s of large corporations, and people in general elsewhere.
I’m going to try to put together a comprehensive list of useful words and phrases for when you will be traveling in Japan. I will be updating the list as I think of more phrases. Feel free to send in requests.
1. Excuse me: Sumimasen（済みません／すみません）
2. Where is: Doko Desuka?（どこですか）
3. Thank you: Arigatou-gozaimasu（有り難うございます／ありがとうございます）
4. Hello: Konnichiwa（今日は／こんにちは）
5. Goodbye: Sayounara（左様なら／さようなら)
6. When: Itsu（何時／いつ）
7. What time is it? Ima Nanji Desuka?（今何時ですか／いまなんじですか）
8. Yes: Hai（はい）
9. No: Iie（いいえ）
10. Do you understand English?: Eigo wakarimasuka?（英語分かりますか／えいごわかりますか）
11. Me: Watashi（私／わたし）
12. You: Anata（貴方／あなた）
13. I don’t understand: Wakarimasen（分かりません／わかりません）
14. Could you help me?: Chotto Tetsudatte Moraemasuka?（ちょっと手伝って貰えますか／ちょっとでつだってもらえますか）
1. Could you exchange money? (Can be used to exchange foreign currency or to exchange bills for smaller change) : Ryougae Dekimasuka（両替できますか／りょうがえできますか）
2. Change: Otsuri（お釣り／おつり）
3. One Yen: Ichi-en（一円／いちえん）
4. Five Yen: Go-en（五円／ごえん）
5. Ten Yen: Juu-en（十円／じゅうえん）
6. Fifty Yen: Gojuu-en（五十円／ごじゅうえん）
7. Hundred Yen: Hyaku-en（百円／ひゃくえん）
8. Five Hundred Yen: Gohyaku-en（五百円／ごひゃくえん）
9. Thousand Yen: Sen-en（千円／せんえん）
10. Five Thousand Yen: Gosen-en（五千円／ごせんえん）
11. Ten Thousand Yen: Ichiman-en（一万円／いちまんえん）
12. Bank: Ginkou（銀行／ぎんこう）
13. How much does this cost?: Kore wa Ikura Desuka?（これは幾らですか／これはいくらですか）
1. Order: Chuumon（注文／ちゅうもん）
2. Check please (note that the bill is often settled at the cashier and not at the table): Kaikei Onegaishimasu（会計御願いします／かいけいおねがいします）
3. Could I super-size? (usually for rice but also for dishes in general): O-mori dekimasuka（大盛りできますか／おおもりできますか）
4. Tasty: Oishii（美味しい／おいしい）
5. Seconds: Okawari（お代わり／おかわり）
6. Convenience store: Konbini（コンビニ）
7. Chopsticks: Hashi（箸／はし）
8. Set-meal: Teishoku（定食／ていしょく）
9. Glass of water (when in restaurant): Ohiya（お冷や／おひや）
10. Tea: Ocha（お茶／おちゃ）
11. No fish please: Sakana Nashi de Onegaidekimasuka?（魚無しで御願いできますか／さかななしでおねがいできますか）
12. Is this raw fish?: Kore wa Nama-zakana Desuka?（これは生魚ですか／これはなまざかなですか）
13. What meat is this?: Kore wa Nani-niku Desuka?（これは何肉ですか／これはなににくですか）
14. No meat please: Niku Nashi de Onegaidekimasuka?（肉無しで御願いできますか／にくなしでおねがいできますか）
15. Only tuna / salmon / vegetables is ok: Tsuna, Saamon, Yasai Dakenara Daijoubu Desu（ツナ、サーモン、野菜だけなら大丈夫です／つな、さーもん、やさいだけならだいじょうぶです）
In general, just add “Onegaishimasu” when asking for or ordering something. For example: “Ocha onegaishimasu” would be asking to get some tea. Technically it’s “o Onegaishimasu” but that “o” part is often omitted.
1. Train / Subway: Densha（電車／でんしゃ）/ Chikatestu（地下鉄／ちかてつ）
2. Taxi: Takushii（タクシー）
3. Bus: Basu（バス）
4. Transfer: Norikae（乗り換え／のりかえ）
5. Express: Kyuukou（急行／きゅうこう）
6. Special Express: Tok’kyu（特急／とっきゅう）
7. Local train: Kaku-eki Teisha（各駅停車／かくえきていしゃ）
8. Last stop: Shuuten（終点／しゅうてん）
9. Departure: Shup’patsu （出発／しゅっぱつ）
10. Arrival: Touchaku （到着／とうちゃく）
11. Station: Eki （駅／えき）- For a bus stop it would be “Tei” as in “Basu-tei”（バス停／ばすてい）
12. Left: Hidari （左／ひだり）
13. Right: Migi （右／みぎ）
14. Straight ahead: Mas’sugu （真っ直ぐ／まっすぐ）
15. Back/Behind: Ushiro （後ろ／うしろ）
16. From__To__: __kara__made （＿＿から＿＿まで）
17. Airport: Kuukou（空港／くうこう）
18. Ticket: Kip’pu（切符／きっぷ）
19. When is the next train/bus?: Tsugi no Densha/Basu wa Itsu Desuka?（次の電車｜バスは何時ですか／つぎのでんしゃ｜ばすはいつですか）
20. When is the last train/bus?: Saishuu-densha/basu wa Itsu Desuka?（最終電車｜バスは何時ですか／さいしゅうでんしゃ｜ばすはいつですか）
21. Is it too far to walk?: Aruki Dato To’osugimasuka?（歩きだと遠すぎますか／あるきだととおすぎますか）
Accommodation & Hospitality
1. Thank you [very much] for the hospitality: [Taihen] Osewa ni Narimashita（[大変]お世話になりました／[たいへん]おせわになりました）
2. Lodging: Shukuhaku（宿泊／しゅくはく）
3. How much is the rate?: Ryoukin wa Ikura Desuka?（料金はいくらですか／りょうきんはいくらですか）
4. Are there rooms available?: Heya Aitemasuka?（部屋空いてますか／へやあいてますか）
5. Key: Kagi（鍵／かぎ）
6. Could I store my luggage?: Nimotsu o Azukete Moraemasuka?（荷物を預けてもらえますか／にもつをあずけてもらえますか）
7. Reservation: Yoyaku（予約／よやく）
8. Does this room include breakfast?: Kono Shukuhaku Puran wa Choushoku-tsuki Desuka?（この宿泊プランは朝食付きですか／このしゅくはくぷらんはちょうしょくつきですか）