Thursday, 22 September 2011

Life in General

The weekends pass really quickly, but then the weekdays pass quickly too, so I don’t complain. Look, it’s almost Friday!

Monday, 12 September 2011

Recycling of False Tooth

A Guidebook for Sorting Recyclables and Waste of Minato-ku, the ward where I used to live, somehow found its way into my luggage and travelled with me to London. I was reading it yesterday – such is the exciting nature of my weekends – and while a garbage disposal booklet is not exactly a page-turner, I found it strangely fascinating.

There are precise guidelines for disposing of every conceivable household item, and then some. For instance:

  • foamed nets for fruits (wash first if it is dirty, put in a transparent or semi-transparent bag when disposing)
  • hangers made of plastics (you can dispose of them as recyclables even if the hooks are metallic)
  • lighters (put out after using up the content, putting it in a separate bag from other incombustible waste and writing “Danger” on it)
  • motorcycle (find a store showing “Motorcycle Recycling” logo or its designated collection agent)
  • corrugated cardboard (paste one ticket of 10 liters to 2 mandarin orange box sized cardboard, bind with string and take out)
There are also separate sections such as Please, join the group collection and Why not check the furniture recycling display?

My favourite, though, is Recycling of false tooth.

False tooth can be recycled and utilized for social welfare. After cleaning and sterilizing in boiled water, etc., wrap it in rather thick paper and put it in false tooth collection box installed at each Regional City Office. Metal part of the collected false tooth will be donated to Minato City Social Welfare Association and UNICEF.

Friday, 9 September 2011

London, 8:20 pm

Working late is seldom fun, but I am sometimes thankful for the nice view from my window.

Or to paraphrase an earlier post: he doesn’t have a very exciting life, but he does have an office with a view.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


This week I relocated from Tokyo to London. I had lived in London for six months before the Tokyo stint, but it seems six months in Tokyo has reconditioned me in subtle ways.

On the plane, a Japanese flight attendant woke me up to ask, “Would you like a drink?” From my vacant look and incoherent stammering – this always happens if I am awakened suddenly – it was obvious that I hadn’t comprehended. She repeated the question in Japanese, by which time intelligent functions had kicked in. So I replied in Japanese that I would like a Coke, please. And she looked slightly perplexed that someone – evidently a foreigner – could speak Japanese but not English. For the rest of the flight, she solicitously spoke to me in Japanese only.

Unlike the Tokyo Metro, the London Underground, for the most part, has no mobile coverage. But coming from Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line, there is a 23-minute overground section between Hounslow Central and Barons Court. In this span, someone’s phone rang. I wheeled round in shock because in Tokyo this would be a gross breach of etiquette; then I realised no one else had raised an eyebrow.

On the tube-station escalators, I was standing on the left, as they do in Tokyo. I saw some people standing on the right, and said to myself, “Hah, tourists.” It took me a few seconds to realise that of course it was I who was standing on the wrong side. In London, for historical reasons, the convention is to stand on the right.

And most recently, when leaving office last night, I pressed 1 on the lift and got off one storey above ground, because Japan follows the American convention of floor numbering.

The reconditioning process will probably be complete in a week or so, whereupon life will become smoother, but I feel I will have lost a tiny whit of my coolness. Thankfully, I have vast reserves to fall back on.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Ranking Japan

Ranked lists and shopping are both popular in Japan, so I suppose it was inevitable that something like ranKing ranQueen would come to pass.

The philosophy behind this Tokyo chain store is simple and compelling. Let us say you wanted to buy nose-hair trimmers. Now why would you settle for just any nose-hair trimmers? You would want to take your pick from the three best-selling nose-hair trimmers in Tokyo. So, analysing sales data from various department stores and research companies, ranKing ranQueen sells only the 3, 5 or 10 best-selling items in a mind-boggling range of products. And not just the usual stuff like best-selling DVDs or mobile phones: think tooth picks, pasta sauce, party masks, bottled tea, hula hoops.

The Japanese fascination with ranked lists extends to tourism, as evidenced by the array of Top 3 lists. There is even a tongue-in-cheek list of Japan’s top 3 disappointments (sandai gakkari), which includes the Sapporo Clock Tower.

I was in Sapporo recently, and of course I had to go and see the tower. I must say that while it wasn’t the greatest thing I have ever seen in my life, I wasn’t disappointed either. The building is quite fetching in an understated way, the chimes are melodious, and the compound has shady trees. Which brings me to the question: If you expect, indeed hope, to be disappointed but are not, have you or have you not been disappointed?

Today is my last day in Japan; I fly back to London tomorrow. I have loved my six months here.